24 Aug 2015

Q & A with Bangkok bomber's 'getaway driver'

11:49 am on 24 August 2015

A man who unwittingly helped the alleged Bangkok bomber flee the scene of last week's deadly attack says he fears for his own safety.

The suspect in the Bangkok bombing.

The bombing suspect caught on camera by CCTV. Photo: AFP / Thai police

Thai authorities are still on the hunt for a man suspected of being behind last week's bombing.

They have blamed a lack of sophisticated forensic equipment for not having tracked down whoever is responsible.

The pipe bomb exploded at the popular Erawan shrine in central Bangkok, killing at least 20 people, with more than 130 now listed as injured.

ABC's Indonesia correspondent George Roberts spoke to a man who did not want to be identified but goes by the name of Manop.

He was the motorcycle taxi driver who gave the bomber a lift from the shrine and is the last person known to have seen the suspect.

Q: Can you tell us what happened on the night of the explosion?

A: We asked each other, "What was that noise?" One of us said that it might be from an electric transformer explosion. But another one said the power should be off in this area if it was transformer. We were all at our motorcycle stand.

Q: What happened next?

A: It was my turn to take passenger. He showed me a piece of paper to read; it said in English "Lumpini Park". I told him the price was 30 baht. He nodded but he did not say anything. So I drove down the main street towards the park.

After a while he started to talk on the phone - I don't know if someone called him or he made the call. While talking on the phone he was making it a bit difficult to drive, the motorbike was shaking; it was difficult to control my motorbike. I wondered why he talked all the time on the phone. He stopped talking when we almost arrived at the park.

Q: How was he behaving? Did he appear nervous, or in a hurry?

A: It was normal, he was not in a hurry. When he spoke on the phone, it was a normal tone. It was not aggressive. It was a normal tone just like other passengers when they talked on the phone.

Emergency workers at Bangkok explosion

At least 20 people were killed and 130 injured in the explosion. Photo: AFP

Q. Did you see where he went or whether he met anyone at the park?

A: No, I did not notice. He paid and then I drove to do a u-turn. I dropped him off about 30 metres from the intersection. It is the entrance to the car park. There were lots of trees and it was getting dark so I didn't notice much.

But when I gave him change, his face was at my eye level. His chin struck me; he has long chin and big nose. That's the only thing I noticed at that time.

'I know that he is a foreigner'

Q: What sort of background do you think he was from? Did he look like he was from a particular country?

A: I can't tell but in my opinion he looks like Arabic [or] Middle Eastern. He is not Thai at all. He is not Thai. I know that he is a foreigner. But I didn't stare at him or observe him fully. It was a rush hour. I had to rush to take passengers.

Q: When did you realise that the passenger you took is the prime suspect from the bombing?

A: I knew after police came to see me on Tuesday [and] I saw security camera footage. My motorcycle colleagues said it was my motorbike that took him, then I realised "Oh, it was mine". Then I was shocked that it was mine.

Q: Now you know that it was that passenger, how do you feel about the fact that you accidentally, unwittingly gave this guy a lift from the crime scene?

A: When I knew that it was me who took him I was shocked that I was involved in this. I really want to help the authorities and police to give them much more information but I could tell them only what I knew and what I saw. I really wanted to tell more but that's all I knew.

Q: You asked for your identity to be withheld and protected. What are you afraid of?

A: For my safety. If the suspect is still in Thailand and he is worried that I recognised his face he might come back to harm me. But I only saw what I told you.


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