Were Rohingya arrested for involvement in Thailand insurgency?
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Were Rohingya arrested for involvement in Thailand insurgency?

In the previous post, as per The Nation:

Some Rohingya migrants arrested for illegal entry have confessed to being trained by insurgents to undertake attacks in the restive deep South, according to a highly-placed source in the Justice Ministry’s Forensic Science Institute.

The source said the men had entered Thailand through Mae Sot in northern Tak province and later moved to Sungai Kolok in Narathiwat in the far south. Their case was discovered in 2009.

“These two men confessed that they were trained by the RKK and later were sent back to carry out attacks in the southern border provinces. This is very worrying,” the source said.

In 2009, a number of Rohingya carrying Malaysian ID cards were arrested after having carried out attacks in the southern border provinces, according to the source. “But a case like this was not common,” the source said.

Authorities also found that some illegal immigrants had smuggled explosive substances from India, she said.

The source said it was possible the illegal immigrants got help from smuggling rings to transport them from border areas to other parts of the country. “Many Rohingya are smuggled to the coastal provinces of Satun and Ranong, and some of them are sent to Malaysia.”

A source at the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc) yesterday denied having such information about Rohingya in Thailand.

BP: Based on other interviews, the above source is clearly Dr. Pornthip, the head of the Central Institute of Forensic Science. As blogged last week:

Four years have passed now and while prosecutions often take a long time, but have those who confessed been prosecuted? Is there any other outside source that can corroborate what Dr. Pornthip is saying? So far haven’t seen one. Aside from the allegations above, BP does not recall any other evidence linking the Rohingya with the insurgency in Thailand’s Deep South.

BP: BP communicated with Jason Johnson, an independent researcher and consultant based in the Deep South.* Jason passed on the following information he received from some security sources (it is BP’s paraphrasing based on what he has passed on):

The two individuals who had been trained by southern insurgents were actually Malaysians. The house where these two Malaysians were found, in Sungai Kolok district (which borders Malaysia-Thailand Border in Narathiwat Province) had Burmese literature. It was because of this there was some speculation that the two may have come from Burma. However, the previous occupants of the house were Burmese immigrants. Hence, the explanation why there was Burmese literature at the house.

One of the sources said that some Rohingyas had long been linked to mafia groups in southern Thailand. One of these mafia groups are based out of one southern province (not one of the 3 southern border provinces) and are run by a Thai Buddhist who is involved in the smuggling of oil, drugs, and bombing materials. In 2009 authorities found bomb material in another southern province (not one of the 3 southern border provinces) that was destined for the far South region. The source said that the material was shipped by that group from their base.

Sources stressed that Rohingyas are not directly involved in the far South insurgency, but because of their dire circumstances they could become involved with criminal groups, possibly even groups with ties to the insurgency.

BP: Jason provided details via e-mail why one of his sources would have direct knowledge of some of the information.

To be honest, BP had serious doubts on what Pornthip said because the involvement of foreign nationals involved in the insurgency has previously made news – see here. In fact, in  that previous case of foreign nationals is interesting. A BP reader alerted BP to the case again. From the ICG report Recruiting Militants in Southern Thailand (2009), p. 12:

However, Tak Bai and Krue Se attracted the attention of Muslims outside southern Thailand, including two Malaysian would-be jihadists. When arrested in Narathiwat’s Sungai Golok district in June 2008, both volunteers cited their anger with these cases as the motivation to cross the border to help their “oppressed” Muslim brothers wage jihad. Later charged with insurrection, seventeen-year-old Omar Hanif Shamsul Kamar said he was inspired by a VCD on Tak Bai.

[from the footnotes] Crisis Group interviews, Omar Hanif Shamsul Kamar, child and juvenile detention centre, Narathiwat, 25 August 2008 and Muhammad Fadly bin Zainal Abidin, Narathiwat prison, Narathiwat, 26 August 2008. Fadly was a student at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, the alma mater of prominent JI members Noordin M. Top and the late Dr Azhari Husein. He said he received one month’s physical training in Malaysia before coming to southern Thailand. Hanif said he had been recruited by a Malaysian man from Kelantan. The two Malaysians, together with their leaders, Malaysian ustadz “Muhammad” and a South Asian man called Omar, crossed the border in late May 2008 and rented a house in Narathiwat’s Sungai Golok, where they carried out physical and military training. They tried unsuccessfully to attack security forces with knives. Fadly and Hanif were arrested on 28 June 2008, as they attempted to steal a motorcycle; the other two escaped.

BP: Ok, the year is wrong (2008 vs 2009), but we have Sungai Golok and a South Asian connection. Perhaps, Pornthip was confused and was conflating information from some different cases. It is hard to tell.

Back on point, just because previous instances of foreign involvement in the insurgency has made the news does not necessarily mean that every case would, but in the past, the mere mention of foreign involvement has made the news. Now, if there was an actual case and a confession, it would really be surprising that this case did not make the papers. As of now, BP has searched for and been unable to find any other source to support what Pornthip said. Given at least 4 years have passed and Pornthip is the sole source of the information, in BP’s view the above information from Jason casts enough doubt on what Pornthip said that BP thinks you can no longer treat it as being reliable. Until there is other external, reliable evidence to back up what she states then BP thinks there is still no evidence directly linking the Rohingya to the insurgency in Thailand’s Deep South..

On possible Rohingya involvement in the insurgency in the future, BP would concur with what the sources said to Jason and it matches what BP said in the previous post (i.e it is likely to be indirect and it would be connected with criminal gangs).

*See previous posts on Jason’s work here, here, and here.