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Thailand and Lebanese Terrorists!

Interesting Article: "Is Thailand a new terrorism playground?" by Kavi Chongkittavorn / Thailand published Monday, January 23rd, 2012

An interesting article mentioned that Hussein Atris, 47, a Lebanese-Swedish passport holder, was apprehended at Suvarnaphoumi Airport near midnight on Thursday, the 12th of January. U.S. government had issued a warning of terrorism attack in Bangkok prior to that. Atris was under the watch list since Dec 10, 2011 when the Thai intelligence was alerted that a group of Hezbollah operatives, who were in and are coming to Thailand, could plan terrorist attacks in Bangkok, targeting foreigners, in particular Israeli citizens and assets. It was a stroke of luck that Atris was not aware that his name was on the wanted list. Had he chose to exit through land check-points, say, at Nongkai on the Thai-Lao border, he could slip out without notice—indeed not all computers at land border check-points are linked to the immigration's headquarters. After hours of intense interrogation, Atris disclosed the location of a three-story building in Mahachai, Samutsakon on the outskirt of Bangkok where he has accumulated explosive materials—urea-based fertilizer and ammonium nitrate. The Thai authorities believed that they were destined for the third countries not for local targets. What to know more?

Thailand is no stranger to such terrorist plots targeting Israeli assets and citizens. In March 1994, a Hezbollah-linked group planned a car bomb attack at the Israel Embassy, which was situated in Langsuan. Again, by sheer lucks, the mission was aborted as the car-bomb miraculously broke down. The incident, known among the Thai intelligence, as "Lung Chum (Uncle Chum)" affairs--referring to the hijacked Thai driver who was killed and tied up to the bomb hidden inside the car—serves as a fresh reminder that changes have been for too little and slow in the ways and methods the Thai security apparatus and policy makers reacted including the public's benign attitude on the perceived terrorist threats. It is an open secret that Thailand is a haven for terrorists as well as transnational criminal groups. For decades, they have been using the country as a center to procure illegal materials (arms, drugs or banned chemical and explosive substances), laundry money, forging foreign currencies and travelling documents. Given its centrality in the continental Southeast Asia with nearly one-thousand flights daily in operation, Thailand remains "the" ideal logistic hub for terrorist operations elsewhere. Still, the concerned Thai authorities are not up to the task. For instance, the Immigration Bureau and Special Branch Police are still under staff and lack counter-terrorism training. They have not yet tightened immigration regulations, improved surveillance or set up a viable IT system to anti-terrorism global networks. While terrorists have changed their strategies but the Thais have not changed their mindset. They naively think that Thailand is a friendly country and has no enemy. Their mantra is still the same: we can turn blind eyes on activities if they do not harm the Thai people. Otherwise, there would be better diplomatic cooperation and communication as well as the display of more humility from the Thai side. In the future, if the Thai vulnerabilities continue, terrorists will continue to exploit gaps and the casualties might not be just words. The materials found Monday included 400 boxes of fertilizers weighing a total of more than 4,000 kilograms and 1,500 liters of liquid ammonia nitrate, together with 400 electric fans, according to CNN affiliate MCOT. They were found in a shop house, a type of store common in Southeast Asia that gives onto the sidewalk and also serves as the owner's residence. On Thursday, the Criminal Court approved an arrest warrant for another man called Jieme Paolo or Sami Sam, a 42-year-old Lebanese national, on a charge of colluding with Atris to possess restricted supplies _ ammonium nitrate _ without permission.



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