A THIEF who blasted open an ATM in Bangkok’s Saphan Sung district in the early hours of yesterday made off with Bt314,100 in cash, Metropolitan Police chief Pol Lt-General Sanit Mahathavorn said.
Every surveillance camera in the area – including the camera inside the Bangkok Bank ATM at the car park in front of the Tesco Lotus Krungthep Kreetha superstore in Saphan Sung subdistrict – was malfunctioning, Sanit said.
The explosion, which took place at 3am, was unprecedented in an ATM robbery in Thailand, Sanit said, but he added that it was not believed to have been an act of terrorism or politically motivated.
However, First Army Region |commander Lt-General Apirat Kongsompong, who oversees security in the capital, said it was premature to jump to conclusions regarding political links to the incident.
The machine was seriously damaged and the thief absconded with boxes containing Bt1,000 and Bt100 notes but apparently forgot the box containing Bt500 notes.
Sanit said the robber definitely had knowledge about bomb-making, but it was not known whether the suspect had police or military experience.
Sanit said the robber drove a black Honda Click motorcycle that did not have a licence plate.
A witness said a black-clad suspect wearing a helmet, who appeared to be about 30, spent five minutes setting off the bomb and robbing the ATM.
Pol Colonel Kamthorn Uicharoen, deputy commander of the Patrol and Special Operation Division, said the powerful bomb was made with either TNT or C4 and had been detonated with a lit fuse. The bomb contained about 200 to 300 grams of explosive material, he added.
Evidence at the crime scene and the theft taking place at night suggested that the bomber did not intend to harm anyone and was simply after the money, Kamthorn said, but he added that the initial investigation had not indicated any suspects.
Thongthiew Chuenkham, 58, a security officer at Siam Warin Shipping International Co, which is on the opposite side of the road, told police that he heard a loud explosion at about 3am and found the ATM on fire. He saw a motorcyclist fleeing the scene.
The Prawet Police Station was alerted to the incident at 4.30am. Police officers went to the scene and cordoned off the blast area to enable forensic officers to gather evidence.
Polwat Yaibua, 23, who lives in a boarding house next to the store, said he also heard a loud explosion and when he looked out of his window, he saw a man pulling a metal box out of the ATM.
Prawet Police Station chief Pol Colonel Alongkorn Sirisongkram said the bomb apparently was powerful and appeared to have been placed at the back of the ATM.
Bank officials have not confirmed how much money the thief stole.