Updated at 4:02 p.m. ET on 2019-10-07
A student from Thailand’s Deep South has returned home to Yala province after being freed by authorities in Egypt who had arrested him on suspicion of ties to Islamic State extremists, the young man and officials said without explaining how he came to be released.
Aiproheng Malee, 25, a student at Al-Azhar University in Cairo, was taken into custody by Egyptian security officials on Sept. 24 for having photos on his cell phone that allegedly showed a link to Islamic State (IS), the Thai Embassy in Cairo had said last week on its Facebook page, adding it had undertaken step to help him.
Aiproheng, who arrived in Yala on Saturday evening, expressed gratitude to Thai officials who helped secure his release.
“Thank you, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha, Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, the Thai embassy in Cairo and the ISOC-4 (the army’s regional security command) who helped me, Aiproheng Malee, arrive home,” he said in a Facebook post on Sunday.
On Oct. 1, Prayuth told reporters in Bangkok that there were “no links” in Thailand with Islamic State or any foreign militant organization.
He said then that Thailand’s ambassador to Egypt had discussed the student’s arrest with senior official in the Egyptian foreign ministry who “promised to follow up the case and cooperate with Thailand.”
On Monday, an official with the Southern Border Province Administration Center, a government agency that oversees civilian-related matters in the Deep South, confirmed details of Aiproheng’s trip back to Thailand.
“He traveled with a Thai embassy official, arriving at Bangkok’s Suvarnbhumi Airport before connecting to Hat Yai, and ISOC-4 Army officials then drove him home in the evening,” the official, who was not authorized to speak on the record, told BenarNews.
A BenarNews correspondent visited the home of Aiproheng’s family, but the young man was not in at the time. His father, Mahama Malee, who was at home, thanked Thai authorities for helping secure his son’s release from Egypt.
Meanwhile in Bangkok, a Thai foreign ministry spokeswoman had little to say about Aiproheng.
“[We] learned about his arrival at home, but we don’t have any further information to share,” Busadee Santipitaks told BenarNews.
The Thai embassy in Cairo as well as the Egyptian embassy in Bangkok did not reply to requests for comment.
Predominantly Buddhist Thailand has a majority-Muslim population in its Deep South region, where a separatist insurgency has killed almost 7,000 people since the conflict reignited in early 2004, according to rights groups.
In 2015, IS supporters in Thailand posted propaganda videos on the internet – the first such videos produced by the militant group with Thai subtitles, a senior Thai security official told BenarNews at the time.
Thai officials have said that IS has no presence in Thailand and that Malay-speaking insurgents in the Deep South are fighting for a separate state and not for a foreign ideology.