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Rohingya terrorist suspects captured

Bangkok Post

Anupong, Prawit under fire for 'failing in South'

Security authorities have arrested three Rohingya allegedly involved in passport forgery and human and weapons trafficking, and said to be linked to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in Sri Lanka and insurgents in the far South.

They were also suspected of being connected with al-Qaeda terrorists.

The arrest of Mohammad Ali Hussein, Mohammad Mudbahem and Chubri Awae followed a joint operation between the Department of Special Investigation, armed forces and immigration police.

Mr Mohammad Ali was arrested on Monday at his Thai wife's house in Chaiyaphum's Kaset Sombun district after he sneaked into Thailand early this month. His former aide, Mr Mohammad Mudbahem, was nabbed in Songkhla's Hat Yai district on the same day. The date and place where Mr Chubri was caught remained unclear.

Mr Mohammad Ali was alleged to be the leader of a transnational gang trafficking illegal migrant workers to a third country through Thailand and forging and supplying fake passports, DSI chief Pol Col Thawee Sodsong said.

He was also said to be a war weapons broker who did business with the Tamil Tigers and human traffickers, Pol Col Thawee said. His stronghold was in Hat Yai before moving to Bangkok. He also allegedly supplied fake passports to people who possibly included al-Qaeda members who travelled to the US to carry out the terrorist attacks on Sept 11, 2001, the DSI chief said.

Mr Mohammad Ali was released from jail in Malaysia in April after serving two years. He was convicted of posing a national security threat.

Mr Mohammad Mudbahem was said to have succeeded him as the most influential transnational criminal in the South.

DSI deputy chief Pol Col Naras Savestanan claimed the pair trafficked people, most of them Rohingya, Sri Lankans and Pakistanis and charged them at least 200,000 baht each.
He said their gang was involved with war weapons and the drugs trade in the southern region.

"The large criminal syndicate is still moving in certain areas in Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat," Pol Col Thawee said. "Some evidence tracked from mobile phones also shows the group is linked to the southern violence."

The three suspects will be charged with brokering human trafficking to a third country, forging and selling fake passports, and assisting illegal migrants to enter Thailand in order to pass to another country.

Meanwhile, in the far South, two non-commissioned police officers were killed by a bomb planted on a motorcycle in front of their Sai Buri police station in Pattani yesterday.

In Yala's Raman district, a 54-year-old woman teacher at Ban Pomeng School was shot in the head and killed while riding her motorcycle from her house to the school yesterday morning.
In Narathiwat's Yi-ngo district, police destroyed a 10kg bomb found in a palm plantation.

The continued violence prompted Gen Pathompong Kaysornsuk, former armed forces chief adviser, to criticise Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon and army chief Anupong Paojinda for failing to get the situation under control.

He said Gen Prawit and Gen Anupong should spend more time in the far South to better assess the situation.

"Both of them should stay in the South at least a month," Gen Pathompong said. "Spending time with subordinates, they will know the truth and the feelings of local people. Visiting the region only once a week is useless. Don't pay attention only to politics or figure out how to keep this government. That's not the duty of the armed forces."

Gen Watanachai Chaimuanwong, former deputy army chief who was in charge of the southern insurgency under the Surayud Chulanont government, warned that the situation in the far South could escalate as more terrorists are trained by Jemaah Islamiyah and al-Qaeda.

"The terrorists have completely overhauled their plans," he said.

"Their war will be more violent. Government authorities cannot fight them because we still adhere to conventional strategies."

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