BANGKOK, Thailand -- Police hoping to boost tourists' confidence
visited one of Bangkok's raunchiest red-light enclaves and described
the security situation to foreign men drinking beer with Thai bar
girls, five nights after a pipe-bomb killed 20 people at a shrine.

Grinning foreigners, clutching chilled bottles of beer while sitting
next to dolled-up Thai women at bars in the Nana Entertainment Zone,
listened with surprise to National Police Chief Somyot Poompunmuang
and his uniformed officers.

The garish, multistory Nana cul-de-sac is popular for its sensational
striptease bars, uninhibited nude lesbian cabaret, campy transsexual
clubs and illicit prostitution.

The August 22 nighttime meet-and-greet was one of several examples of
damage control, including earlier assurances by Thailand's military
regime to international diplomats that their embassies, staff,
commercial interests and citizens would be protected.

Detectives meanwhile appeared on August 22 at apartment buildings in
various neighborhoods, handing out a wanted poster showing their only
suspect -- a young man in a yellow T-shirt.

Gleaned from CCTV pictures in and around the Hindu shrine where the
explosion occurred, the identikit picture showed a pale, bushy-headed
man with wispy facial hair, wearing black-rimmed glasses, short pants,
tennis shoes and wide bandages wrapped around both forearms, while
carrying a black backpack and small blue bag.

The wanted poster of the unidentified "Bad Man" also portrayed him in
three other versions:  without glasses, bald with glasses, and wearing
a hat and glasses.

At this reporter's apartment building on August 22 afternoon, two
plainclothes detectives politely questioned a 40-year-old unshaven
German man who arrived in Thailand one day earlier to stay with

"I heard about the bomb story, but I don't know why they are
questioning me," the German said.

"We do not know the nationality of the bomber," Detective Athiphat
Thammasri said in a brief interview while photographing the German and
his passport in the building's parking lot where they stopped him.

"We do not have a name either," Mr. Athiphat said.

After the detectives departed, the wanted poster was pasted inside the
building's elevator.

The wanted poster also began appearing on gigantic billboards
scattered across Bangkok.

Several people said the picture resembles convicted Boston bomber
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

The mysterious young man who allegedly planted the pipe-bomb at the
glistening Hindu shrine in the congested heart of Bangkok did not know
his way around this city very well.

He directed taxi drivers to and from the shrine by showing them pieces
of paper and directions from Google maps on his phone's screen, police

But one week after the blast on August 17, it is the military regime's
apparent cluelessness about who bombed the shrine or why, that has
resulted in criticism of the junta's self-proclaimed prowess.

In May 2014, just before his required retirement as army chief,
General Prayuth Chan-ocha led an unpopular bloodless coup against the
elected government of premier Yingluck Shinawatra and arranged for
himself to be prime minister.

But the shrine bomb shattered the dictatorship's 15-month-long
expensive propaganda campaign which monotonously boasted that Mr.
Prayuth seized power to "Return Happiness to the People."

Many among Thailand's 66 million mostly Buddhist population had
already been ignoring Mr. Prayuth's weekly lectures which he requires
to be broadcast nationwide simultaneously on all domestic TV channels.

Immediately after the explosion of ball-bearings, flames and shrapnel
at the revered Erawan Shrine, many Thais went online, exchanging
information with each other faster than the regime's censors could

"If happiness couldn't unite us, perhaps tragedy can," wrote Bangkok
Post's influential and astute columnist Kong Rithdee.

Mr. Prayuth's post-bomb behavior also made many people unhappy,
because he was conspicuous by his absence.

He did not personally visit any of the more than 100 wounded survivors
in Bangkok's hospitals.

"Our prime minister -- who says he is here to serve and bring about
peace in this country -- has failed to undertake a basic principle of
being the leader of a nation," wrote Asia Focus editor Umesh Pandey.

"A visit by Gen. Prayuth would show he is more than a military
general, but a human being as well."

Mr. Prayuth also did not attend a cathartic multi-faith prayer
ceremony at the shrine on August 21, or any funerals in Thailand.

"I am not afraid of dying, but I am afraid others may die with me, as
my risk is increasing by the day," Mr. Prayuth said, explaining his
refusal to attend the public prayer ceremony which attracted others in
his junta, alongside religious leaders and diplomats.

Bizarrely, he instead suggested Thailand's senior police should
educate themselves about how to investigate the bombing by watching
"Blue Bloods," a fictional American crime series about the New York
Police Department, starring Tom Selleck.

"Police investigators, especially the national police chiefs, should
watch this series," Mr. Prayuth told journalists.

"They will get tips, ideas and insights into their case," Mr. Prayuth said.

"The host of contradictory statements emanating from police -- and
especially from the erratic and incompetent dictator General Prayuth
Chan-ocha -- suggest severe internal disarray, making it unclear
whether the perpetrators will ever be caught," wrote Lee Jones, London
University's senior lecturer in international politics who recently
authored a book about "borderless threats and non-traditional

The military regime meanwhile freshened its public image on August 23.

"The Thai government would like to send a message to all foreigners
who who plan to travel to Thailand for a visit -- be it for tourism,
business, education, a meeting, a seminar, a study tour, trade
exhibition or any other purpose -- that they can be sure of their
safety during their stay in the country," announced junta spokesman
Maj. Gen. Sansern Kaewkammerd despite the bomber still on the loose.

"As always, you will be greeted with Thai hospitality, Thai smiles and
Thai hearts."