Connect with us

Thailand

Bangkok terror alert: Deputy PM Chalerm denies threat

Published

 on 

Following US Embassy warning to Americans, Thai authorities confirm arrest of suspect linked to Hezbollah

PHUKET: Senior Thai officials scrambled yesterday to deny that Thailand faced an immediate terrorist threat, following a dramatic warning by the US Embassy to Americans living in Bangkok.

The Thai authorities, led by Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung, however, confirmed the arrest of a terrorist suspect and admitted that security was being stepped up.

The officials, however, were ambiguous and even confusing in their statements, and the US ambassador to Thailand insisted afterwards that the embassy warning “still holds”.

Chalerm said police had detained a Lebanese man with suspected links to the Hezbollah militant group. In other interviews earlier, Chalerm had talked about two arrests.

The Thai Foreign Ministry and the police both said the Bangkok government had been on a constant terrorist alert for some time, but the situation was now “under control” following cooperation with international intelligence authorities and stepped-up local measures.

Unclear, of course, was the status of the person or persons in custody. The latest information indicated that only one person was interrogated and no charge had yet been leveled.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra also said the situation was under control, and that the alert was nothing unusual.

Surveillance intensified

An intelligence source told The Nation that one foreign man had been detained, but he was one of a few suspected terrorists who have entered the country. The man was still in custody yesterday but he had refused to give any statement, according to the source.

“This suspect has entered Thailand many times,” the source said. “Security measures have been on-going. Police in plain clothes have been deployed at Khao San Road and surveillance has also been intensified in Pattaya.”

The Thai government’s frantic denial of an immediate and serious terrorist threat came hours after the US Embassy posted on its home page the no-nonsense warning, which Ambassador Kristie Kenney would describe later in one of her tweets as “real and Bangkok specific”.

“Foreign terrorists may be currently looking to conduct attacks against tourist areas in Bangkok in the near future,” the US Embassy in Bangkok said in the emergency message posted on its website.

“US citizens are urged to exercise caution when visiting public areas where large groups of Western tourists gather in Bangkok.”

Thai officials said the man in custody had suspected links to the Hezbollah militant group.

A senior Thai intelligence officer, who did not want to be named, told news agency AFP that the Kingdom had been informed before the New Year by Israel of a possible threat. The suspect was detained on Thursday while the other man had already fled the country, he said.

‘Nothing to worry about’

Deputy PM Chalerm told AFP by telephone that the detained suspect was being questioned by Thai authorities.

“We already have one suspect in custody for interrogation at a government building in Bangkok. He is a Hezbollah [member] from Lebanon,” he said.

“I want to assure people that there is nothing to worry about. The police will take care of the situation and everything will be under control.”

Defence Minister Army General (Rtd) Yuthasak Sasiprapha seemed to take the threat more seriously. He said security would be increased yesterday evening if no more information emerged on the hideout of other suspects.

According to Gen Yuthasak, quoted by Thai Rath online, Israelis living in Thailand were feared to be targets, a situation that naturally worried the American Embassy. He said the feared period of attack was between January 13-15.

In response to a Twitter inquiry after the Thai government’s denial of immediate threat, the US ambassador said that her embassy’s warning to American citizens remained in effect.

Hezbollah, an Iranian- and Syrian-backed Muslim Shi’ite group, is blacklisted as a terrorist organization by Washington and currently dominates the Lebanese government.

“Israel was suspicious that these two men might be terrorists, so they gave information, including their names, to our police before the New Year,” the senior intelligence officer told AFP.

“These two men entered Thailand a while ago but did not conduct any terrorist activity. I wonder why Israel was suspicious about them.”

After last year’s devastating floods, the embassy warning is another blow to Thailand’s tourist-friendly image, adding to years of political turmoil that sometimes turned violent and bloody.

In August 2003, alleged mastermind Riduan Isamuddin, an Indonesian known as Hambali, was arrested in Thailand. He was suspected of being al-Qaeda’s representative in Southeast Asia and operational chief of the Southeast Asian militant group Jemaah Islamiyah.

— The Nation

 

Get more from The Thaiger

Join the conversation and have your say on Thailand news published on The Thaiger.

Thaiger Talk is our new Thaiger Community where you can join the discussion on everything happening in Thailand right now.

Please note that articles are not posted to the forum instantly and can take up to 20 min before being visible. Click for more information and the Thaiger Talk Guidelines.

Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Follow Thaiger by email:

Destination Guide8 hours ago

Best areas to live in Phuket (2022)

Video9 hours ago

Thailand News Today | Fears of shenanigans in Mountain B Pub fire investigation

Travel9 hours ago

5 vineyards and wineries in Thailand all wine lovers should know

Sponsored18 hours ago

Super luxury villas in Phuket with breathtaking ocean views

Thailand9 hours ago

Thai neitzens angry at SUV driver using a siren just to use toilet

Thailand10 hours ago

New poll says people from Thailand more relaxed about Covid-19

Thailand10 hours ago

Rama 2 Road guilty of being a repeat accident offender

Join the conversation on the Thaiger Talk forums today!
Thailand11 hours ago

Body of one teacher found in double suicide pact in SE Thailand

Thailand12 hours ago

Son who tried to starve mother to death dies of TB in NE Thailand

Crime13 hours ago

Mystery 911 emergency service call turns out to be a monkey

Thailand14 hours ago

Hot gran bowled over by Shane Warne before he died in Thailand

Thailand14 hours ago

Soi Dog Foundation pledges to neuter 1 million animals in 2 years

Thailand15 hours ago

EPL praises Thailand for crackdown on illegal footie sites

Pattaya15 hours ago

Sick German man fails in suicide attempt in Pattaya

Video15 hours ago

Thailand approves all time high electricity price | GMT

Economy16 hours ago

Instant noodles, a staple budget food, fighting to increase prices

Thailand11 months ago

Morning Top Stories Thailand | Police to end protests, Human Trafficking | September 14

Thailand1 year ago

Thailand News Today | Thai Airways in rehab, All go for Songkran | March 4

Tourism1 year ago

Phuket’s nightlife. Yes, bars and clubs are still open | VIDEO

Phuket1 year ago

Thailand News Today | Covid passport talks, Thai Airways heads to court | March 2

Tourism1 year ago

Phuket Thai food treats you need to try | VIDEO

Thailand1 year ago

Thailand News Today | Bars, pubs and restaurants ‘sort of’ back to normal | Feb 23

Tourism1 year ago

In search of Cat & Dog Cafés in Phuket Town | VIDEO

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Gambling crackdown, Seafood market to reopen, Vlogger challenge | Jan 21

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Covid testing for visas, Business impact, Vaccine approval | January 19

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Weekend Bangkok bombs, Thailand fires, Covid update | January 18

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Stray car on runway, Indonesian quake, 300 baht tourist fee | January 15

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Governor off respirator, sex-trafficking arrest, condo prices falling | January 14

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Chinese vaccine, Thailand ‘drug hub’, Covid update | January 13

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Bangkok may ease restrictions, Phuket bar curfew, Vaccine roll out | January 12

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Covid latest, Cockfights closed down, Bryde’s Whale beached | January 11

Trending