Online Thai sleuths try to crowdsource bomber's identity

GMT 12:53 2015 Wednesday ,19 August

Arab Today, arab today Online Thai sleuths try to crowdsource bomber's identity

A woman prays at the reopened Erawan shrine in Bangkok
Bangkok - AFP

Thais have taken to the Internet to crowdsource the identity of the prime suspect in Bangkok's shrine bombing, but police have appealed for online calm after an Australian model was falsely accused.

Netizens went into overdrive after police on Tuesday released grainy security footage of a man appearing to place a bomb-laden backpack at the crowded shrine a few minutes before the blast.

The explosion killed 20 people and injured more than 100 others in what Thailand's junta chief branded the kingdom's "worst ever" attack.

But police have not been unable to identify the apparently young man wearing a bright yellow T-shirt and glasses who left the backpack.

Internet-savvy Thais believe they can help.

On social media, Thais have been using the hashtag #bombercluephoto to collate images taken in the area where the bomb exploded.

"All camera around there before bomb. Please share and hashtag," wrote Thai Twitter user @Khemkrithera in English.
Another post, which was heavily retweeted, featured similar appeals in Thai, English, Korean and Japanese to submit any footage to police.

The area where the bomb went off was packed with office workers, tourists, shoppers and commuters, some of whom captured the moment on mobile phones and dashcams.

Netizens hope those in the vicinity at the time may have captured the suspect.

Other Internet sleuths have focused their search on locating where that T-shirt could be bought.

One post, written by Thai Facebook user, Sa-nguan Khumrungroj, featured an Internet search for a very similar looking T-shirt available in Indonesia.

"This shirt is sold in Indonesia," he wrote.

"I've seen this (for sale) in Pratunam," replied a friend, referring to a large clothes market in Bangkok.

- Falsely accused -

But the amateur sleuthing has already seen people falsely accused of being the man in the yellow T-shirt, including Australian model and actor Sunny Burns, a Bangkok resident.
Burns, who appears in Internet photos with similar dark wavy hair and glasses as the man in the security footage, said he went to Bangkok police on Tuesday after netizens named and shamed him.

"Many social media outlets released my photo in Thailand saying that I was a suspected terrorist as I looked like the suspect in question," Burns posted on his Facebook account on Wednesday.

"All my private information from immigration was leaked online and people were looking for me -- They even knew my home address."

Burns said he also had received death threats.

National police spokesman Prawut Thavornsiri confirmed to AFP that an Australian was briefly questioned and released.
Police have appealed for the public's help in identifying the culprit, and on Wednesday released a sketch of his face as well as a one million baht ($28,000) reward for information leading to his capture.

But junta chief Prayut Chan-O-Cha on Tuesday also called on social media users, as well as traditional media, to avoid writing anything which "may have a misleading effect on ongoing investigations and create misunderstandings in our society".

Internet vigilantes have been a problem in previous attacks elsewhere.

After the April 2013 Boston Marathon bombing in the United States, people were wrongly identified online as suspects, particularly by Reddit users.


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