BANGKOK — An investigation will be launched into who leaked an police internal memo about Islamic State militants infiltrating Thailand, the chief of national police announced today.
In an apparent effort to dispel anxiety, Gen. Chakthip Chaijinda said police need to take action against the whistleblower behind the memo because it may cause panic. He also sought to play down the significance of the memo, which disseminated a Russian intelligence warning that 10 ISIS-related Syrian militants may be on the loose in Thailand.
“I’m afraid that people may panic, but in fact, it’s routine for us,” Chakthip said. “It’s usual for Syrians to travel here for tourism.”
The internal memo – marked “Secret” and “Urgent” – was issued by the Special Branch Police to all of its investigative divisions on Nov. 27 and leaked to the media Thursday night.
As of this morning, that memo seemed to have little impact. Several high-ranking police officers, including commanders of the cities mentioned as possible targets, reached by Khaosod English this morning for comment, said they only learned about the issue from the media.
Emergency meetings were called throughout the Royal Thai Police force today, after which Chakhtip confirmed the memo’s authenticity.
He said it was an internal warning notice for police use only, and vowed to hold the person who leaked it responsible.
“I have assigned deputy police commander Sriwarah Rangsipramnakul to investigate the procedures and facts, to find out how the document managed to leak out,” Chakthip said at today’s news conference. “Once we find the person who leaked it, they will be summoned to tell us how the document was leaked, and what kind of intention they had.”
As was the case following the August bombing of the Erawan Shrine, police officials seem intent on dispelling any notions that Thailand is unsafe to shore up the vital tourism industry.
Yet the ease with which the shrine bombing network, thought to include upward of 20 people, entered the kingdom, carried out the attack and exited highlighted deep-rooted security vulnerabilities in the kingdom.
Chakthip said the whistleblower must be be found for two reasons, because it was “a secret document and it may cause the people to panic.”
Sriwarah threatened legal action against anyone found to have published the secret memo, including the media.
“There must be legal action against those involved in this, including all the media agencies that published this document. We want to know how they got their hands on it, and whether they’re liable for criminal offenses,” Sriwarah said.
The memo cited intelligence from the Russian Federal Security Service, or FSB, that 10 members of the Islamic State had entered Thailand between Oct. 15 and Oct. 31 to conduct attacks on Russian interests.
According to the memo, four traveled to Pattaya, two to Phuket, two to Bangkok and two to unknown destinations. Their names were not identified.
Nevertheless, Chakthip, the police commander, told reporters that the Russian warning may eventually come to nothing, because Thai police have so far found no evidence of the Islamic State movement in Thailand.
“I have been working with the intelligence service all along, and I have been saying all along that there is no ISIS in our country,” Chakthip said, adding, “You must understand that we are not involved in any conflict.”
Asked about the report of the 10 Syrians, Chakthip said around two hundred Syrian tourists entered Thailand in the period of Oct. 15 – 31 Oct., most of which had already left for home. “Right now, there are less than 20 people here, and these 20 people, once their visas expire, they will have to go home anyway.”
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