THAI Police have found Islamic State (IS) links and supporters among some residents in the country’s deep south, despite earlier denying the existence of the militant group’s sympathizers in the restive provinces.
According to the Bangkok Post, the police’s confirmation of the group’s supporters came after their Australian counterparts warned of “over 100,000 Facebook users from Thailand (who) visited IS-related online communities this year.”
The paper, however, says Australia has not publicly commented on the claim by Thai police, adding insurgents in the south have yet to establish any links with foreign groups such as the al-Qaeda and Southeast Asia’s Jemaah Islamiyah group.
As a precaution, security agencies in Thailand were ordered to investigate the claims to avoid terror attacks in the country, The Nation reported.
The news site also received confirmation from Thai Police that the authorities are checking usernames and have obtained user information about their identities and whereabouts. They added there were no information linking the suspects to the unrest in the deep South.
The police also insist that the links to the militant group does not necessarily mean attacks are being planned.
Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, on its website, advised its citizens to exercise a high degree of caution when travelling to Thailand due to possible terror attacks and civil unrest. It has listed the provinces of Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat and Songkhla as ‘do not travel’ areas.
The Islamic State and South East Asia
There has been a significant rise in the influence of the IS in Southeast Asia with local terrorist groups pledging allegiance. With the rising influence in the region, Southeast Asian governments are facing the increasingly challenging task of containing IS militants who returned home from conflict-ridden Syria and Iraq following the group’s multiple losses in the region.
According to Reuters, alleged IS militants announced that they had chosen Isnilon Hapilon, who was on the most wanted list in the Philippines, to lead their Southeast Asian faction, in a video that also called on supporters to launch attacks in the region.
This has lead to the consolidation of an alliance between Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines which have signed agreements on intelligence sharing to combat the security threat.