Bangkok – The possibility of an Indonesian link in the current unrest in southern Thailand has emerged following the arrest of 22 Achenese onboard a trawler off the coastal province of Satun. Thai Navy Chief, Admiral Sathirapan Keyanont, believes that the Achenese were on a mission to stir up trouble in Thailand.
The Indonesian-registered fishing boat was intercepted on Nov 28. An initial investigation found that the 22 Achenese intended to commit offences although it was not clear what their exact plans were. Adm Sathirapan said the suspects might be linked to separate militants in the three deep South provinces, Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat.
The arrests came amid reports that insurgents in southern Thailand were recruiting members of terrorist networks outside of the country to engineer large-scale attacks in the deep South.
Adm Sathirapan said security forces had been instructed to step up patrols and tighten checks, especially in violence-prone areas.
In another development, Narathiwat Governor Pracha Therat has ordered an immediate ban on mobile phone SIM cards from Malaysia in his province after the authorities found that a bomb in Sungai Kolok district was detonated on Nov 20 by a mobile phone using a Malaysian card.
Mobile phones with pre-paid SIM cards from Malaysia are widely used in the border district as network coverage is available there, making international roaming unnecessary.
With the new ruling, it is now illegal for all telephone outlets in Narathiwat to sell SIM cards for imported cell phones. Interior Minister Khongsak Wantana said he would consult the Information, Communication and Telecommunication Ministry about blocking Malaysia’'s telephone network in border areas.
The authorities have failed to block militants from using mobile phones to detonate explosions, although they have restricted the use of pre-paid mobile-phone services and cut the signals of users who failed to give their names to phone operators.
More than 1,000 people have been killed since unrest broke out in January 2004 in southern Thailand.
* Achehnese 'planning to make trouble' (Bangkok Post, Nov 30)
* Narathiwat bans M'sian SIM cards (The Nation, Nov 30)