Bombs Seized from Suspected Thai Rebels Possibly Built in Malaysia: Authorities

Alfian ZM Tahir, Mariyam Ahmad and Matahari Ismail
Kuala Lumpur, Pattani and Narathiwat, Thailand
2018-06-26
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180626-TH-MY-bombs1000.jpg Thai police inspect a site where three bomb-squad officers were killed in an explosion while inspecting a suspicious item beside a road in insurgency-plagued Narathiwat province, Oct. 28, 2013.
AP

Malaysian police are increasing security along the Thai border, Malaysia’s deputy police chief said Tuesday while conceding that insurgents from Thailand’s Deep South may have made bombs just across the frontier in Kelantan state.

Meanwhile in Narathiwat, a neighboring province in Thailand where police recently arrested a suspect transporting 41 pipe bombs “from a neighboring country,” the provincial police chief expressed frustration that his jurisdiction would be peaceful if Malaysia cracked down on suspected militants residing within its borders.

“There is a possibility that the southern insurgents sneaked into Malaysia and produced the bombs in Kelantan,” Malaysian Deputy Police Inspector-General Noor Rashid Ibrahim told BenarNews.

“We are looking into that angle and we are probing it.”

“So far there have been no arrests in Kelantan,” he said. “The police are stepping up security in the area.”

Noor Rashid was reacting to a report from the Malaysian state news agency Bernama that the homemade bombs seized from a suspected insurgent in the Thai Deep South five days earlier were assembled in Malaysia.

The news service quoted the Thai Army’s Fourth Army Region commander, Lt. Gen. Piyawat Nakwanich, as saying that the bombs were meant for use in staging militant attacks after Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, which ended in mid-June

“From our investigations, we found that the bombs were smuggled in from Malaysia,” Piyawat, Thai Army's highest-ranking officer in the Deep South, was quoted as saying.

The bombs were seized at a checkpoint when Thai police intercepted a suspected insurgent who was driving a pickup truck from Sungai Kolok town to Yi-ngor, a district in Narathiwat, officials said.

The 39-year-old suspect, identified as Zanuzi Yatae, was attempting to smuggle the pipe bombs into the inner areas of Narathiwat, police said, adding that an alleged accomplice, identified by Zanuzi as Abdulaziz Samoe, escaped.

Police found the metal tubes with explosives and timing devices, along with walkie-talkies and other devices that can be used to remotely detonate the bombs.

Maj. Manas Sikasamat, commander of Narathiwat provincial police, said many suspected supporters of Deep South insurgents are dual citizens.

“Some are couples or have relatives on both sides of the borders, very hard to control,” he said. “But it would be easy if Malaysia could help tighten border-crossings and crack down on the accused who reside there.”

Col. Pramote Prom-in, spokesman for the Thai military’s ISOC Region 4, said he could not confirm that the pipe bombs were built in Malaysia.

“I cannot name the country of origin,” he told BenarNews, citing lack of documents. “I am not sure about the report quoting the 4th Army Region as saying the bombs were from Malaysia. Initially, I don’t see official reports saying so.”

Pattani is one of the provinces of the Deep South, where nearly 7,000 people have died in violence since a separatist insurgency re-ignited in the predominantly Muslim and Malay-speaking region 14 years ago. On May 20, 16 bombs exploded within 50 minutes in four provinces in the insurgent-wracked region, police said.

Senior Assistant Commissioner Din Ahmad, the deputy police chief of Kelantan, told BenarNews that smuggling contraband was “not a new thing” for people living near the Sungai Golok River, which acts as a natural border between Malaysia and Thailand.

“The police can’t be checking each car and vehicle entering Malaysia,” he said. “But now since the bombs are believed to be made in Malaysia, the police are stepping up its investigation and tightening the border. Every car is searched thoroughly.”

Malaysian officers are working closely with their Thai counterparts to get more information and are “on the hunt” to detain the perpetrators in the smuggling attempt, Din Ahmad said.

“Police are digging more information from Thai police and from the details they have,” he said.

“They will ascertain which cell, which house, which shop these insurgents want to deliver their supply.”

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