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Thailand Launches Bangkok Area Security Sweeps Amid Terror Warning

Nontarat Phaicharoen
Bangkok
2016-10-11
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A Crime Suppression Division officer searches a car in a shopping mall parking lot in Bangkok, Oct. 11, 2016.
AFP

Thai authorities said Tuesday they had detained 10 people as part of security sweeps in and around Bangkok, following a warning from the government that it had obtained intelligence about potential bomb plots against the greater metropolitan area at the end of October.

Police seized 400 guns and a stash of drugs while arresting the 10 during raids in three districts in Bangkok and neighboring Samut Prakarn province, officials said, but they could not confirm whether the suspects were connected to an intelligence report publicized on Monday about car-bomb plots targeting the region from Oct. 25 to 30.

Authorities said police and security forces on Tuesday combed the greater Bangkok area and nearby provinces, including Bangkok International Airport and popular spots such as shopping malls, to safeguard the region in the aftermath of the warning.

“We have to take care of the whole metropolitan area,” Maj. Gen. Songpol Wattanachai, deputy spokesman for the Royal Thai Police, told BenarNews.

On Tuesday, a member of a southern Thai rebel group in Pattani province told BenarNews that it was incapable of mounting any bomb attacks in the greater Bangkok area.

“The Bangkok capital is not a target,” the source said on condition of anonymity. “Our group doesn’t have that capacity.”

Bangkok last year was targeted in a bomb attack that killed 20 people and injured more than 125 others at the Erawan Shrine, a Hindu monument popular with tourists. In August, a string of bombings killed four people and injured dozens more at tourist hotspots across southern Thailand.

Thai police have linked last month’s bombings in the upper south to people in Thailand’s insurgency-wracked Deep South, but have denied that those attacks signaled an expansion of the separatist conflict. More than 6,000 people have been killed in the conflict in the predominantly Muslim and Malay-speaking border region since 2004.

‘Let the authorities do their jobs’: PM

Bangkok Metropolitan Police Deputy Police Chief Gen. Srivara Ransibrahmanakul met on Monday with the Australian ambassador and an Australian counter-terror official, which led to information being publicized about the potential bomb plots, the Associated Press (AP) reported.

Srivara said security services had received orders to monitor people in the Deep South, because the end of October marked anniversaries related to the insurgency, according to AP.

On Monday, a police memo circulated to reporters warned of potential attacks in late October targeting “areas such as malls, car parks and tourist attractions,” Agence France-Presse reported.

ABC News of Australia reported the memo said that an armed group was plotting as many as three car-bomb attacks, and one of the main targets was the international airport. Other targets named were Bhumibol Bridge and the Ancient Siam open-air museum, the Australian network reported.

Meanwhile on Tuesday, Thai junta chief and Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha urged the public to remain calm despite the warning about the alleged terror plots.

“The [intelligence service] always gives warnings. Let the authorities do their jobs and be confident in them,” Prayuth told reporters at Government House in Bangkok.

“The warning is part of the intelligence process. Wait until everything is clear,” he said.

BenarNews staff in Pattani, Thailand, contributed to this report.

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