A woman in Thailand’s Deep South identified her son on Monday as a student being held by Egyptian authorities on suspicion of links to Islamic State extremists.
News about the student’s arrest broke after the Thai Embassy in Cairo posted a statement on its Facebook page Saturday, saying it had taken steps to help him. The statement did not identify the detained student.
“A Thai student in Egypt was arrested by Egyptian security officials on Sept. 24, 2019, because they found photos that might indicate a link to IS,” the embassy said, using an acronym for the Islamic State.
The embassy said the arrest took place after a local TV station in Egypt had “disseminated a clip” online allegedly showing him confessing during an interview that he was an IS supporter.
Officials in Thailand’s Deep South who had dealt with the embassy in Cairo confirmed to BenarNews that the student was Aiproheng Malee, 25.
Aiproheng’s mother, Ya Malee, citing information relayed to her by one of his friends, also identified him as the student who was alluded to in the embassy statement.
“[Egyptian] officials found photos of IS on his cell phone. They forced him to confess, so Aiproheng did,” Ya, a resident of Yala province, told BenarNews on Monday. “I am seeking help from the government, please help him.”
“One of his friends called my husband and me saying Aiproheng was arrested. The friend said Aiproheng has nothing to do with the IS,” said Ya. “He was wrongly accused.”
The Thai embassy in Cairo was trying to gain permission to visit the student to provide legal and consular assistance, said Rear Adm. Somkiat Polprayoon, director of the Southern Border Province Administration Center (SBPAC), which oversees civilian-related matters in the Deep South.
“We dispatched officials to work with his family today. We expect to hear progress by tomorrow,” Somkiat told BenarNews.
On Sunday, the embassy said that Thai Ambassador Chainarong Keratiyutwong met with Hazem El Tahry, deputy vice minister of the Egyptian foreign ministry, and discussed the student’s arrest.
The embassy also posted on its Facebook page a photo of the two officials, but did not give details on what transpired during the meeting.
“[We] expressed concern over the arrest and hope the student is treated fairly according to international judicial system and practices,” the embassy said on its Facebook page.
It was not immediately clear if charges had been filed against Aiproheng. BenarNews could not contact the embassy for an update on Monday. Officials at the Egyptian embassy in Bangkok also did not immediately respond to a related inquiry from BenarNews.
Arrested during crackdown
Thailand, a predominantly Buddhist country, 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.
While Thai officials have brushed off the threat of an IS presence in the country, officials in neighboring Malaysia and Indonesia have been warning about the group’s growing influence in recruiting local youths on their countries’ home soil.
Pro-IS videos have surfaced online that are clearly targeted toward audiences in those countries. IS has its own Malay-speaking combat unit made up of Indonesian and Malaysian fighters.
According to Thai officials, IS has no presence in Thailand and Malay-speaking insurgents in the Deep South are fighting for independence, and not for a foreign ideology.
“To promote IS ideology is counter-productive to their cause for Merdeka or independence,” a security official told BenarNews on Monday. The source spoke on condition of anonymity, saying he was not authorized to speak to the media.