According to intelligence reports, authorities are currently investigating the possibility of an ISIS presence in the South of Thailand last year. Prime Minister Prayut revealed that IS terrorists might have met with religious leaders in Narathiwat last year.
Security intelligence sources report that the three IS suspects were Singapore, Malaysian, and Indonesian nationals. They allegedly donated to religious mosques of Narathiwat's Sungai Kolok district. The sources also claimed that the IS suspects also asked that local students be taught about the Islamic State.
The PM said these reports are in the process of being verified. The Post cites him as saying, “We have to watch out for things that have an impact on other countries or the world community," Gen Prayut said. "Sometimes, talking about some issues will yield no benefit. It will help perpetrators escape. There is no need to know everything. Some things have to be kept secret. Some things need managerial skills to make sure the country is not troubled and the people do not panic."
According to the Prime Minister, Thailand is continually improving its security defenses. He claims that the “efficiency of security officers” is constantly being upgraded. Thailand is also boosting its technological defenses, and is cooperating with other countries in defense matters.
On Thursday, Fourth Region Army commander Wiwat Pathomphak said he has dispatched Narathiwat Special Task Force 36 to investigate this “sensitive” situation. No arrests have been made, however.
BK post reports that “According to the Isara News Agency, residents in Sungai Kolok admitted late last year suspects from Indonesia and Malaysia visited religious leaders at the mosque, although the residents did not know whether the suspects were linked to the Islamic State.”
Wichuda Awae, deputy chief of the Tambon Muno administrative organization at Sungai Kolok, explains that representatives from organizations from Muslim countries usually visited the mosque, and donates scholarships to religious schools around the area. The reports that the three suspects were connected to IS needs to be further verified, she continued.
The special Task Force commander, Ekkarat Changkaew, claimed that the intelligence reports suggested that groups associated with the Islamic State may have snuck into the southern border provinces, and used Sungai Kolok as a hideaway point.
Changkaew said that security presence around those borders has been boosted. He added that security is on “high alert” and there have been no IS activities discovered so far. The schools or religious leaders that have accepted donations from abroad are being asked to cooperate with the authorities while they investigate the sources of the donations in order to prevent insurgent infiltration.
Panitan Wattanayagorn, an adviser to Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwon, admitted intelligence suggested that a group of suspects with alleged links to the IS visited religious leaders in Sungai Kolok.
The current main issue is figuring out whether the suspects attempted to “convince” the religious leaders, or if they held "normal talks."
Previous reports show that a group Shia Mulsims attempted to enter the three southern border provinces by proposing their financial support to local mosques, but residents who oppose the use of violence resisted them.
Deputy national police chief Pol Gen Srivara Ransibrahmanakul, will meet with Australian Justice Minister Michael Keenan on Friday to discuss terrorism in the region. So far, the authorities confirm there is no current IS presence in Narathiwat.