BANGKOK — Pakistani authorities have released four of the five Thai students who were arrested for trying to smuggle a firearm and ammunition past a security checkpoint at an airport in Pakistan, a Thai official said.
The students were reportedly arrested at Allama Iqbal International Airport in Lahore on the night of 8 June, shortly before they boarded a Thai Airways flight bound for Bangkok. Thai officials say they were informed by Pakistani authorities that the five men attempted to carry a handgun, its magazine, and some ammunition onboard the aircraft.
Anusith Kunakorn, secretary-general of the National Security Council, said four of the five students have been released and are on their way back to Thailand. He said they are expected to arrive in Bangkok today.
Pakistani authorities are reportedly still investigating the fifth student.
According to Anusith, all five students arrived in Pakistan in 2013 to study at Islamic schools.
He declined to give further information about why they were attempting to carry the firearm onboard the aircraft, telling reporters that there has been a lot of speculation about the incident that he is unable to verify.
"I haven't talked to them [the five students]," Anusith said. "But when the four students arrived, I will speak with them. I expect that we will have many more clues and information."
The five students are from Pattani, Trang, Chachoengsao, Songkhla, and Krabi provinces.
Asked whether the students are related to the Islamic State (IS) movement, as the Bangkok Post reported, Anusith replied, "I don't think they are related. Their families are not related neither. But in terms of an in-depth investigation, I cannot verify that. We are expanding our investigation."
There is also no information that links the students to the Islamic insurgency in Thailand's southern border provinces, Anusith said.
"Thai students have been travelling to study in Middle Eastern countries for some time now," said Anusith. "A majority of Thai Muslim students that I have met and visited tell me they expect to return to their homes in the three southern border provinces and develop the region."
He continued, "A majority of them are lovely. They don't understand why people interpret that anyone who goes to study abroad wants to train for combat or have certain ideologies. In reality, it isn't like that."