KL tight-lipped over report of Thai militants' arrest

Updated On: Mar 25, 2005

Kuala Lumpur- Was the central train station in the Malaysian capital the scene of a dramatic arrest of five armed Thai Muslim militants earlier this month? TIME magazine, quoting two unnamed Malaysian intelligence officials, reported that there was indeed such an incident.Malaysia's Defence Minister Najib Abdul Razak would neither confirm or deny the report.

In its latest issue, TIME reported that the five militants were nabbed on March 9 at the Sentral Station, one ofKuala Lumpur's newer landmarks. "Perhaps, in an indication of the sensitivity of the arrests, Malaysian police spokesmen denied they had taken place. But TIME confirmed the incident with two Malaysian intelligence officials familiar with the case," the magazine said.

The intelligence sources told TIME that the Thais' presence inKuala Lumpurwas a disturbing sign.

"We were safe whenMalaysiawas seen as a place to hide," a Malaysian intelligence officer said.Thailandhas often complained that Thai Muslim militants useMalaysiaas a refuge.

"But now we are arresting militants, and they are angry," he said, referring to the Malaysian government's crackdown aimed at preventing rebels from slipping over the porous border betweenMalaysiaandThailand.

When asked to comment on the report, Mr Najib, who is also the Deputy Prime Minister, said an official statement would be issued at an appropriate time if militants were arrested inMalaysia.

"I am neither confirming nor denying such claims," he said on March 23. He refused to comment further on the reports.

* Najib: No cover-up if there are arrests (The Star, March 24)