BANGKOK, Thailand -- China's harsh control over the ancient Silk Road
across the Taklimakan Desert found a friendly and seemingly naive
collaborator five weeks ago, when Thailand's coup-installed military
junta forcibly deported 109 minority ethnic Uighur Muslim men and
women back to Beijing.

Today however Thailand, China, Turkey, Malaysia, Bangladesh and other
countries are grimly investigating how a group of Uighurs
("WEE-gurs"), allegedly traveling on Turkish and Chinese passports,
enabled an unidentified man to explode a pipe bomb on August 17 at a
Hindu shrine in Bangkok crowded with mostly ethnic Chinese visitors.

The evening blast killed 20 people, most of them ethnic Chinese
visitors, and injured more than 100 others in the bloodiest bombing in
Bangkok since World War II.

Uighurs and their supporters may have bombed the shrine as revenge for
Bangkok's mass deportation in July, and Thailand's earlier crackdown
on human smuggling routes which were helping China's distressed
Uighurs and other refugees find sanctuary abroad.

"It was because Thai authorities destroyed the illegal businesses of a
transnational human trafficking network. They were obstructed, so they
were angry," Thailand's Police Chief Somyot Pumpanmuang told reporters
on September 15.

"The other issue was the Thai authorities' decision to send 109
Uighurs back to China," Police Gen. Somyot said, echoing the
conclusion of others.

Police have issued wanted posters for most of their nearly 30 suspects.

They are illustrated with closed-circuit TV (CCTV) photos, passport
pictures, identikit portraits, photographs of people arriving or
departing through Bangkok's international airport, and rough sketches
based on witnesses' recollections.

Police also arrested a handful of people, and were hunting others here
and abroad.

Their main suspects include:

-- An unidentified man wearing a distinctive yellow T-shirt.

He appears on CCTV video depositing a black backpack at the Erawan
Shrine, walking away minutes before the explosion, and then
disappearing as a passenger on a motorcycle taxi.

-- Yusufu Mieraili, apparently a Uighur from China's Xinjiang
province, was arrested trying to cross Thailand's border into Cambodia
days after the blast.

Under interrogation, he allegedly "confessed" to giving the bomb-laden
backpack to the man in the yellow T-shirt on the day of the attack,
and has been charged with possessing explosives.

Security forces said Mr. Mieraili confessed, after they presented
evidence against him, because he wanted to be prosecuted in Thailand
rather than China -- apparently fearing Beijing's punishment would be

-- Zubair or Abdullah, a man sought for allegedly exploding a similar
bomb across town the following day.  CCTV showed a bomber harmlessly
shoving his device into a canal, possibly aborting another planned

-- Bilal Mohammed, who was reportedly born in China but living in
Turkey for the past decade.

Mr. Mohammed denied charges of possessing the bomb-making components
and forged Turkish passports found inside a Bangkok safe house where
he was arrested on August 29.

According to his lawyer, Mr. Mohammed was traveling on an obviously
fake Turkish passport as Adem Karadag, arrived in Thailand on August
24 after the bombing, and was going to Malaysia to work as a driver.

-- Abdullah Abdulrahman, believed to be a Uighur from China's Xinjiang
province, allegedly smuggled Mr. Mohammed and other Uighurs into
Thailand before departing at the end of August.

Mr. Abdulrahman escaped by flying from Bangkok to Dhaka, Bangladesh,
then to New Delhi, India, and onward to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab
Emirates before arriving in Turkey, according to Thai officials.

Turkey's government said it was not immediately able to confirm his
arrival and asked Thailand for details.

-- Other suspects in Turkey include a Thai Muslim woman, Wanna
Suansan, and her Turkish husband Emrah Davutoglu who allegedly rented
out cheap rooms in Bangkok to some suspects.

She denied the charge before disappearing.

Some people in Turkey allegedly helped arrange Turkish entry visas for
China's Uighurs or transferred thousands of dollars to their network's
members in Thailand.

-- Thai security forces also detained a handful of Thai men and women
for allegedly providing transportation and other help to various
suspects in Thailand.

The five-week-long investigation by police and military officials
appeared to be haphazard and intentionally deceptive at times.

Thailand's unpopular Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha seized power as
army chief in a 2014 coup and tried to cloak the investigation and
public announcements in a controversial form of censorship.

He repeatedly rejected clues and speculation linking the attack to
Uighurs, China, Turkey, international terrorism, or revenge for his
deportation order, which was condemned by the U.S. State Department,
the United Nations, and human rights organizations.

As a result, the regime's statements were frequently contradicted
hours later, and some facts officially denied until different
officials leaked the information or confirmed key details.

Most of China's Uighurs live in western Xinjiang province in and
around the rugged Takliman Desert, along the ancient Silk Road caravan
route which Marco Polo wandered in the 13th century when it connected
China and the Mediterranean Sea.

During the 1930s, both Beijing and London feared Moscow wanted to
seize Xinjiang, which Russia's political supporters were infiltrating.

Since then, Beijing moved millions of atheist ethnic Han Chinese into
Xinjiang to form a majority against the Muslims there, and exploit the
zone's minerals, petroleum and other natural resources.

Several Muslim non-Chinese ethnic groups live in Xinjiang.

Most speak Turkic languages and use Arabic script on signs and in

They include Kazakhs, also known as Cossacks, plus Kyrgyz, Tajiks,
Tatars and some anti-communist "White Russians" who fled purges in
their homeland.

Uighurs are the most numerous, and traditionally farmed oasis fields
amid bleak, unlivable desert, or bred horses and camels.

Suffering under China's discriminatory regulations and treatment --
forbidding long beards on men or face veils on women -- many Uighurs
aspire to escape to Turkey or other Turkic-speaking communities.

Many simply want to find work because Xinjiang's job market prefers Han Chinese.

Other Uighurs allegedly join Islamist guerrillas in the Middle East
for training and then return to Xinjiang to fight, which may explain
who inspired or carried out the Bangkok attack.

Some Uighurs are inspired by a tiny East Turkestan Islamic Movement
whose sometimes violent strategy is to create a seemingly impossible
pan-Turkic nation across Central Asia including Uighurs, Azeris,
Kazakhs and others.

During the past few years, hundreds of Uighurs illegally escaped
China, mostly by sneaking across the mountainous southeast border into
Vietnam before traveling through Laos and Cambodia into
Buddhist-majority Thailand.

Cambodia deported some Uighurs to China several months ago, prompting
an outcry but no violent backlash.

Last year, hundreds of China's Uighurs crossed from Laos and Cambodia
into Thailand on real or fake passports, sometimes bribing Thai border

Uighurs were welcomed in safe houses in a Bangkok Muslim neighborhood
and transported south, either to promised jobs in Muslim-majority
Malaysia or to apply for refugee status, visas and flights to
Muslim-majority Turkey.

That route, and its profits for human traffickers, disappeared when
about 350 Uighurs were caught in southern Thailand near the Malaysian
border last year.

They were detained for several months while China, Turkey, the U.N.
and human rights groups pleaded with Bangkok to give them
authorization to decide their fate.

Squeezed on all sides, Mr. Prayuth tried to satisfy Turkey but
especially China, Thailand's centuries-old partner.

He allowed 180 Uighurs, mostly women and children, to fly to Istanbul
before forcibly deporting 109 men and women to Beijing.

Unfortunately for Mr. Prayuth, China broadcast their fate on China
Central Television.

Those pictures were published worldwide and went viral on social media.

They showed Chinese security forces had encased the 109 Uighurs' heads
in black bags during their flight from Bangkok and frogmarched them,
handcuffed, onto the tarmac in China toward detention.

China charged more than a dozen of them with "terrorist activities"
but did not publicly provide evidence.

"If we don't do this, what else are we going to do?" Mr. Prayuth said
to reporters on July 9 amid an international outcry against his

"Do you want to feed them until they breed litters of offspring?" he
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