Two members of China’s Uighur minority appear in military court over last year’s blast that killed 20 people in Bangkok.
Two Chinese nationals are going on trial for their alleged roles in a deadly bombing at a Bangkok shrine one year ago, but more than a dozen suspects allegedly involved in the incident remain at large.
The trial, which has started on Tuesday, is being held at a military court in Bangkok and is expected to last more than a year.
It is taking place just days after a wave of unexplained explosions hit Thailand’s resort areas, killing at least four people and wounding 35 others, including tourists.
The August 2015 bombing - the worst assault of its kind in Thailand’s recent history - killed 20 people and wounded more than 100 others. The motive of the attack remains unclear.
The attack, which was carried out with small but powerful bomb packed with ball bearings, targeted the Erawan shrine in the heart of Bangkok’s shopping district.
The Hindu shrine is popular among ethnic Chinese visitors, who made up a majority of the dead with five from Malaysia, five from China and two from Hong Kong.
Members of China’s Muslim minority Uighur population, Yusufu Mieraili and Bilal Mohammed have been charged with involvement.
"The suspects appearing at the court are alleged to have acted as foot soldiers in the attack," said Al Jazeera’s Scott Heidler, reporting from just outside the court in Bangkok.
"However, more than a dozen suspects officials are trying to get hold of are still at large."
He said analysts and officials believe the Erawan shrine blast and the recent bombings around the country were not related on the basis of available evidence, including the differences in the type of ammunition used.
Analysts have largely coalesced around the theory that the shrine bombing was in revenge for the Thai military government’s forcible return of 109 Uighurs to China weeks earlier.
Thai authorities insist the bombing was carried out by a people-smuggling gang angered by policing successes against human trafficking.
The Uighur minority say they face cultural and religious repression in their homeland of Xinjiang in northwest China, and many are believed to have fled the region in recent years.
The military government’s deportations led to international condemnation and violent protests outside Thailand’s diplomatic missions in Turkey, which has given refuge to many of the Turkic-speaking group.
- The Bangkok blast was the worst assault of its kind in Thailand’s recent history