Fri, 03 Jan 2003


Overhaul needed to identify terrorists

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra made good sense in dealing with the issue of terrorism as he ordered an overhaul of the national intelligence system in late December so as to have more accurate and systematic information to detect the movements of terrorists. The prime minister has come to realize that this country has some involvement with terrorists, rather than denying the presence of terrorist cells networking in the Kingdom, as his government had done previously.

But the premier also needs to tell security and intelligence agencies that the proper way is not just to come out and say: "We have seen many terrorists at home."

The Foreign Ministry became the first agency to officially admit some "suspected terrorists" were in Thailand. The ministry announced Riduan Isamuddin, or Hambali, the alleged operational commander of the extremist Muslim group Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), had transited Thailand within a day, but officials at the ministry have no idea why he was in our country.

Commander of Special Branch Police Tritos Ronnaritivichai said that not only Hambali but also alleged al-Qaeda operative Mohammad Mansour Jabarah and high-ranking JI member Mukhlas visited Thailand early in 2002. But it remains unclear why the commander informed the public nearly a year after their visits.

Chief of the National Security Council (NSC) Winai Pattiyakul accused unidentified Thai Muslims in the South of supporting JI members. He made the statement without solid evidence, saying only that Thais who were educated in the same places as JI members might shelter the militants.

Such reactions reflect nothing but paranoia in response to mounting reports of a terrorist presence in the Kingdom by the international media.

The government should also speed up its entry as a party to the International Convention Against Terrorism.

-- The Nation, Bangkok