Bangkok blast probe hindered by broken security cameras


Taxi Driver: 'I Gave Lift to Bangkok Bomb Suspect'

BANGKOK (AP) — Up to 75 percent of the security cameras were broken along the getaway path taken by the main suspect in last week's deadly Bangkok bombing, Thailand's police chief said Monday, revealing a major obstacle to an investigation that has only fuzzy images of the still-unidentified man.

Investigators are trying to "put pieces of the puzzle together" but have had to use their imagination to fill holes left by cameras that failed to record his movements, said national police chief Somyot Poompanmoung, openly frustrated as he spoke to reporters one week after the blast.

"For example, the perpetrator was driving away — escaping — and there are CCTV cameras following him. Sometimes there were 20 cameras on the street but only five worked," Somyot said. "Fifteen were broken, for whatever reason, they didn't work."

SEE ALSO: Bangkok police say grenade unlinked to bombing

"The footage jumps around from one camera to another, and for the missing parts police have had to use their imagination," he said. "We've had to waste time connecting the dots."

Another challenge is that investigators lack sophisticated equipment like police use on the popular TV crime series "CSI" to render blurry video clear, he said.

"Have you seen 'CSI'?" Somyot asked reporters. "We don't have those things."

One week after last Monday's bombing at the capital's revered Erawan Shrine, which left 20 people dead and more than 120 injured, police appeared no closer to tracking down suspects or determining a motive for the attack.

At 6:55 p.m. Monday, a crowd gathered at the shrine in central Bangkok and observed a minute of silence to mark the moment the bomb exploded. Chanting Buddhist monks led prayers as onlookers held lit candles to commemorate what authorities have called the deadliest attack in modern Thai history.

Police have faced criticism for sending mixed messages and stating theories as fact, only to later retract them, adding to the confusion at a time of public concern.

Grilled about what progress has been made in a week, the police chief said that basic questions about the suspect's identity and whereabouts remain unknown.

Asked if he is still in Thailand, Somyot said, "I don't know."

"I still believe he is in Thailand because I have no evidence to confirm otherwise," he said. Over the weekend, police spokesman Prawut Thawornsiri said he suspected the man may have left the country.

Police have released an artist's sketch of the suspect who was seen in security camera video from the open-air shrine leaving a backpack at a bench and walking away 15 minutes before the explosion. A separate camera showed the suspect, wearing a yellow T-shirt, on the back of a motorcycle taxi leaving the site.

"We only have those pictures," said Prawuth, the police spokesman. "The problem is the pictures aren't clear."

Police have questioned a motorcycle taxi driver believed to have driven the suspect away. The driver told police the man handed him a piece of paper saying "Lumpini Park," the city's largest park, which is near the shrine.

But none of the security cameras worked along the route to the park, Somyot said.

Police have tried to chase a report that after the suspect got off the motorcycle at the park, he went into a nearby hospital and changed into a grey T-shirt, Somyot said.

"We went to see if this is true and checked the CCTV cameras at Chulalungkorn Hospital. But we found that all the cameras were broken," he said, laughing nervously, and asking for understanding because police had been working nonstop and were tired.

"Since the bombing, we've barely slept," he said. "We're doing the best we can."

On Friday, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said he had received offers of assistance from the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok to help track down suspects and had assigned his deputy "to cooperate on borrowing equipment that includes facial-recognition technology."

However, Prayuth ruled out working with U.S. investigators, insisting Thais can do the job.

See photos of the aftermath in Bangkok:

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Bangkok blast probe hindered by broken security cameras
BANGKOK, THAILAND - AUGUST 19: People pray in front the Erawan Shrine on August 19, 2015 in Bangkok, Thailand. On Monday evening Bangkok was hit by what has been described as Thailand's worst ever attack. Security across the country has been stepped up following the explosion which went off near a popular tourist site killing at least 20 people and injuring hundreds more. (Photo by Nicolas Axelrod/Getty Images)
Monks make offerings at the reopened Erawan shrine in Bangkok on 19 August 2015. Thai monks led prayers for the reopening of Bangkok shrine where a blast killed 20 people, as police hunted a man shown on security footage calmly planting what is believed to be the bomb. AFP PHOTO / Jerome TAYLOR (Photo credit should read JEROME TAYLOR/AFP/Getty Images)
ERAWAN SHRINE, BANGKOK, KRUNG THEP MAHA NAKHON, THAILAND - 2015/08/18: A memorials are set up outside Erawan Shrine a day after a bomb exploded close to the shrine in the center of Thailand's capital, Bangkok, killing at least 22 people and injuring more than 125. Reports say a second bomb has been found in the area and made safe. No-one has yet said they carried out the attack, which took place close to the Erawan shrine in Bangkok's central Chidlom district. The shrine is a major tourist attraction. The Thai government said the attack was aimed at foreigners. Local media report that tourists, including Chinese, are among the casualties. (Photo by Stephen J. Boitano/LightRocket via Getty Images)
ERAWAN SHRINE, BANGKOK, KRUNG THEP MAHA NAKHON, THAILAND - 2015/08/18: A memorials are set up outside Erawan Shrine a day after a bomb exploded close to the shrine in the center of Thailand's capital, Bangkok, killing at least 22 people and injuring more than 125. Reports say a second bomb has been found in the area and made safe. No-one has yet said they carried out the attack, which took place close to the Erawan shrine in Bangkok's central Chidlom district. The shrine is a major tourist attraction. The Thai government said the attack was aimed at foreigners. Local media report that tourists, including Chinese, are among the casualties. (Photo by Stephen J. Boitano/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Mourners pray for the victims of a bomb blast at the reopened Erawan shrine in Bangkok, Thailand, on Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2015. Bangkok's deadly bomb attack this week is set to hit Thailand's last remaining growth pillar with travel warnings and canceled trips, adding pressure on authorities to restore confidence and stimulate the economy. Photographer: Dario Pignatelli/Bloomberg via Getty Images
ERAWAN SHRINE, BANGKOK, KRUNG THEP MAHA NAKHON, THAILAND - 2015/08/19: People visit Erawan Shrine after it reopened two days after a bomb exploded close to the shrine in the center of Thailand's capital, Bangkok, killing at least 22 people and injuring more than 125. CCTV shows a man leaving a backpack on a bench at the shrine minutes before the bomb exploded. No-one has yet said they carried out the attack, which took place close to the Erawan shrine in Bangkok's central Chidlom district. The shrine is a major tourist attraction. The Thai government said the attack was aimed at foreigners. Local media report that tourists, including Chinese, are among the casualties. (Photo by Stephen J. Boitano/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Thai office workers light candles for victims killed in a bomb blast outside a religious shrine in Bangkok on August 18, 2015. The death toll from a bomb blast in the Thai capital rose to 20 on August 18 with 123 wounded, police said, with eight tourists from China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore among those killed in the attack. AFP PHOTO / PORNCHAI KITTIWONGSAKUL (Photo credit should read PORNCHAI KITTIWONGSAKUL/AFP/Getty Images)
Thai office workers lay flowers for victims killed in a bomb blast outside a religious shrine in Bangkok on August 18, 2015. The death toll from a bomb blast in the Thai capital rose to 20 on August 18 with 123 wounded, police said, with eight tourists from China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore among those killed in the attack. AFP PHOTO / PORNCHAI KITTIWONGSAKUL (Photo credit should read PORNCHAI KITTIWONGSAKUL/AFP/Getty Images)
A Thai office worker lights candles for victims killed in a bomb blast outside a religious shrine in Bangkok on August 18, 2015. The death toll from a bomb blast in the Thai capital rose to 20 on August 18 with 123 wounded, police said, with eight tourists from China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore among those killed in the attack. AFP PHOTO / PORNCHAI KITTIWONGSAKUL (Photo credit should read PORNCHAI KITTIWONGSAKUL/AFP/Getty Images)
Thai office workers lay flowers for victims killed in a bomb blast outside a religious shrine in Bangkok on August 18, 2015. The death toll from a bomb blast in the Thai capital rose to 20 on August 18 with 123 wounded, police said, with eight tourists from China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore among those killed in the attack. AFP PHOTO / PORNCHAI KITTIWONGSAKUL (Photo credit should read PORNCHAI KITTIWONGSAKUL/AFP/Getty Images)
BANGKOK, THAILAND - AUGUST 18: People leave flowers near the site of a blast at the Erawan Hindu shrine at the Ratchaprasong intersection in Bangkok, Thailand, on Tuesday, August 18, 2015. The death toll rise to at least 21 and 123 injured from the deadly blast in Central Bangkok last night. (Photo by Guillaume Payen/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
A Thai office worker holds flowers for victims killed in a bomb blast outside a religious shrine in Bangkok on August 18, 2015. The death toll from a bomb blast in the Thai capital rose to 20 on August 18 with 123 wounded, police said, with eight tourists from China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore among those killed in the attack. AFP PHOTO / PORNCHAI KITTIWONGSAKUL (Photo credit should read PORNCHAI KITTIWONGSAKUL/AFP/Getty Images)
Thai office workers lay flowers for victims killed in a bomb blast outside a religious shrine in Bangkok on August 18, 2015. The death toll from a bomb blast in the Thai capital rose to 20 on August 18 with 123 wounded, police said, with eight tourists from China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore among those killed in the attack. AFP PHOTO / PORNCHAI KITTIWONGSAKUL (Photo credit should read PORNCHAI KITTIWONGSAKUL/AFP/Getty Images)
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The attack has raised concerns about safety in the capital, which attracts millions of tourists, and has left the city on edge. Police have responded to several calls in the past week about unattended bags which turned out to be false alarms, and have tried to reassure the public and international community that Bangkok is safe.

On Monday, police said a worker digging at a construction site found a grenade buried in the ground and a police explosives squad was sent to defuse it. The grenade was found in a residential area far from the city center.

Police Lt. Sakon Rungkiatpaisarn said the grenade appeared to have been buried for a while and authorities "do not think it has anything to do with (last Monday's) bombing."

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