PRIME Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said yesterday that the authorities are checking for the possible movement of Islamic State members in southernmost Narathiwat province and urged people not to panic.
“But it is a secret matter which might have some impact on other countries. We should not talk about this issue in public,” Prayut told reporters when asked there had been reports of IS movement in Thailand.
He said the government had strategies to deal with the issue. “Officials are working [on this matter]. They have meetings, they have information and they have intelligence cooperation with foreign countries. But such information should not be publicised,” he said. Panitan Wattanayagorn, a security adviser to Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, rejected a report that members of the group that staged Jakarta’s deadly terrorist attack had passed through Narathiwat. “At this stage, our intelligence agencies have not found any indicators to suggest they have been in Thailand,” he said.
He said there might be problems in Indonesia and the Philippines in connection with terrorist movements but there had been no direct link to the problem in southern Thailand. “We have tightened security checks along the southern border after warnings from Malaysia and Singapore over the [terrorist] movement, but so far we have found no evidence,” Panitan said.
The Fourth Army Region Commander, Lt-General Wiwat Pathompak, rejected an unconfirmed report of three terrorists being arrested in Narathiwat. The report indicated that the suspects, said to be from Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore and perhaps connected with IS group, were arrested after donating money to a mosque in Narathiwat’s Tak Bai dist1rict.
“There was no arrest of anybody on that matter,” Wiwat said. “Our intelligence agencies have checked the report and found it groundless.” Academic Srisompop Jitpiromsri, an expert on the separatist situation in the deep South, said separatists in the predominantly Muslim region had no link with IS.
He said that while there had been a lot of speculation of an IS presence in the deep south, it had not been confirmed.