Reprinted from Asia Times
BANGKOK -- The Guy in the Yellow T-shirt -- long shorts, unruly black hair, thick dark glasses -- arrived at the Erawan shrine in a tuk-tuk. No one may have noticed him; just another nondescript backpacker in one of the busiest crossroads in Asia. He may have come to pay his respects to the golden statue of Brahma at the center of the shrine -- and gaze on the Thai dancers and musicians in the background.
He sits on a bench. Then, slowly, he gets rid of a black backpack. He stands up, checks his mobile. Then he walks away. Stops. Actually seems to be calling someone on his mobile. Then he finally leaves Erawan, hitting the crowded intersection, clutching a white plastic bag, but always checking his phone.
He may -- or may not -- have known all his movements were being tracked by multiple CCTV cameras. A few minutes after he disappears from their sights, and allegedly takes a motorbike taxi, he enters, with a lethal bang, the wilderness of mirrors that is contemporary Thailand.
Who is he? Thai police is convinced he is none other than the Bangkok Bomber. And there seem to be no other prime CCTV-captured candidates.
The first leak described him as an "Arab-like man." That's quite vague -- as there is a huge, bustling mini-Middle East only two Skytrain stations away from the Erawan shrine. But that was enough to ring all al Qaeda/ISIS bells across the planet.
Then a quote was wrongly attributed to General Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, the head of the -- quaintly Orwellian -- National Council for Peace and Order which rules over Thailand after a coup in May 2014. Prayuth was actually referring to someone else when he stated that the suspect was believed to be a northeast-based Red Shirt member -- as in a faithful follower of self-exiled, corruption-tainted, billionaire tycoon/former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
And that's Thai wilderness of mirrors in full regalia. The Guy in the Yellow T-shirt may be an Arab terrorist; he may be an indigenous anti-military Red Shirt operative; he might even be something in between -- a Thai Muslim separatist.
The blowback dervish dance
Royal Thai Army chief and Deputy Defense Minister General Udomdej Sitabutr stressed the 3 kg pipe bomb at the Erawan shrine did "not match" the tactics of Muslim separatist rebels in Thailand's Deep South, even though there has been a recent surge of IED attacks (27 in July alone), but just confined to the Deep South.
Thailand's Muslim guerrilla is all about separatism -- not religion. The key guerrilla outfit is the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN). What they want is essentially full autonomy for Thailand's three southern border provinces -- Pattani, Narathiwat and Yala.
So this may not be prime al-Qaeda-style Jemaah Islamiyah territory, not to mention ISIS/ISIL/Daesh; what conservative Muslim clerics in the Deep South worry about is Thai cultural imperialism.
But that does not preclude, of course, insidious attempts at hardcore Islamization; and combative Salafi-jihadis gestated by their Wahhabi matrix are quite adept at that. By the way Jemaah Islamiah, on the record, fully supports Muslim separatism in Thailand. And the separatists and the military junta in Bangkok are not talking -- "peace" or otherwise.
Is The Guy in a Yellow T-Shirt a Uyghur? The connection remains plausible -- as the Erawan shrine is extremely popular among Chinese (and most Asians, for that matter). Thailand was rocked last month by a Uyghur scandal; more than 100, suspected of "terrorism" by Beijing, were deported to China.
It's a fact there is a Uyghur connection in the Deep South itself; that's a training stopover, after they leave Western China to their idealized future as "moderate rebels" in Syria. Some of the deported were indeed planning to wage jihad in "Syraq," as Beijing intel was convinced. Hardly surprising that Chinese TV showed them on the plane back to China enveloped by black hoods.
The proverbial blowback dervish dance followed; an attack on the Thai consulate in Turkey. With the proverbial American connection; the attack was coordinated by the World Uyghur Congress, which is essentially financed by the now-banned-in-Russia NED and supported by the Nulandistan faction of the State Department.