According to reports by local media outlets, based on copies of a “leaked Thai police memo citing information from the Russian Federal Security Service” (FSB), 10 Syrian ISIS members have entered Thailand in late October, possibly to carry out terror attacks against Russian tourists in Thailand.
According to an unnamed tourist police source quoted by Thaivisa.com, authorities believed there were specific “plots to target foreign tourists in Bangkok’s Khao San Road, as well as on Walking Street in Pattaya.” The large Russian community in Pattaya, where four Syrian ISIS members are suspected of hiding, has particularly been mentioned as a possible target.
Thai authorities on Friday practically confirmed the authenticity of the leaked memo but urged the public not to “panic” and insisted that security agencies would “be able to cope with the threat.” There is no evidence either that Russia’s concerns are based on actual facts: “Thai authorities looked into the information [provided by the FSB] and as of yesterday, we found no clues on Russia’s concerns,” the PM’s office minister commented Friday.
In fact, there is no evidence that any IS fighters had entered the country or were plotting attacks against tourists. The national police chief also assures that no unusual movement has been detected of Syrians with alleged links to the Islamic State.
The 10 alleged Islamic State members reportedly slipped into Thailand separately between October 15 and October 31. Khaosod English reports that the “urgent” and “secret” memo issued a week ago
specifically indicates that four traveled to Pattaya, two to Phuket, two to Bangkok and two to unknown destinations. The alleged terrorists’ whereabouts and names were not identified. According to the FSB warning, their goal is to perpetrate attacks against Russian interests in the kingdom.
According to Pattaya One, the FSB has urged Thai authorities to step up security in key tourist destinations as the alleged terrorists were
likely to disrupt Russian interests in Thailand, presumably in revenge for Russia conducting air strikes against Islamic State targets in Syria.
The leaked memo explicitly warns that the threat against Russian tourists and expats may well extend to other foreign nationals from countries who “have joined attacks on ISIS in Syria [or are planning to do so] such as the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Belgium and Australia.”
Although Thai authorities on Friday practically confirmed the authenticity of the leaked memo, police said they had not received any specific warnings about IS activity in the kingdom, adding that police had no information either about the whereabouts of the 10 alleged Syrian ISIS members, their identity or possible targets. “We’re still trying to work out whether they even came in,” a deputy police spokesman has been quoted as saying.
On the other hand, Russia’s Deputy Honorary Consul to Phuket insists that Thai authorities had been aware of the arrival of the alleged Syrian terrorists on Phuket since the FSB issued the warning in late October.
This was confirmed by the provincial police commander who reassured there was “no reason to make a big deal about this and cause panic. We have been on full alert and taking all necessary actions to prevent any attacks.”
Thai immigration also conceded Friday that “the National Security Council had asked [the immigration bureau] two weeks ago to monitor Syrians entering and leaving the country.”
According to the immigration bureau commissioner, only 21 Syrian passport holders who entered the kingdom during the second half of October were still staying in the country, six of whom were “working for embassies.” The remaining 15 Syrians, he said, were traveling on two-month tourist visas which would start to expire from December 15 and “four of them are women.” There is no evidence so far, however, that either of them is an IS member, or that any terror attacks were being plotted by them.
UPDATE (December 6) – On Sunday, immigration police released names and images of four Syrian men, aged between 29 and 57, who have entered Thailand between January and August this year and were believed to have overstayed their visa.
Three of the four men have since been questioned by police, with two of them turning themselves in after they saw their names in the media. The fourth man was tracked down to Chaiyaphum province in the Northeast, where he was living with his Thai wife and their three children. The wife insisted her husband had a valid visa and her family ran a legal export business. In fact, only one of the four men was found to be overstaying.
Police have confirmed that none of them were among the 10 Syrian suspects with alleged ties to the Islamic State who may (or may not) have entered Thailand in October.