BANGKOK — Several high-ranking police officers said they only learned about an internal police memo that 10 Islamic State militants may be on the loose in Thailand from the media.
Police officers in Pattaya and Phuket – the two tourist destinations named in the Special Branch Police memo as possible attack targets for the alleged militants – said they knew little about the document, which was issued Nov. 27 and leaked to the media Thursday night.
The document, classified as “Urgent” and “Secret,” cited an intelligence report from the Russian Federal Security Service, or FSB, that 10 alleged members of the Islamic State terror group 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.
But Col. Sukthat Pumpanmuang commander of Pattaya City Police Station, said he only found out about the memo from reports in the media. The Special Branch Police did not send the warning to his station, he said.
“We have no further information than what is in the letter,” Col. Sukthat told Khaosod English. He also suggested that the report about the 10 Syrians on the loose in Thailand mentioned in the letter “could be just rumor.”
Asked whether police will beef up security in Pattaya – a popular destination for Russian tourists – Sukthat said, “We are already operating at the highest security.”
Responding to an inquiry from a second reporter, Sukthat said Pattaya police were taking additional security measures in response.
Peerayuth Karajedee, acting commander of the police force in Phuket, another popular Russian destination, simply said he had no information about the warning and declined to answer further questions.
Even the new deputy commander of the Special Branch Police, the intelligence arm of the Thai police force, said he wasn’t aware of the memo because it was signed by another officer before he took up the post.
“I didn’t sign that document. I haven’t even seen the actual copy of it,” said the deputy commander, Pittaya Sirirak.
The officer who signed the document, Sarawuth Kanpanich, could not be immediately reached for comment.
Possibly in response to the leaked memo, Immigration Police issued an internal memo last night urging all units to tighten security measures for ID inspection to prevent Islamic State members from causing incidents in Thailand.
Meanwhile, Banpot Poonpian, a spokesman for the national counter-insurgency agency, said it's up to the Special Branch Police to confirm the authenticity of the document to the media.
Maj. Gen. Banpot, of the Internal Security Operation Command, said he’d like to stress that Thailand "is not an enemy of any country,” and advised the media to be cautious in reporting about the Special Branch memo.
"Every national security agency already has measures to carry out its missions," he said. "And I think that news about national security that doesn't get confirmed in facts may cause society to be overtly concerned."
Additional reporting Sasiwan Mokkhasen