Thailand’s regime says ‘no lesson to learn’ from bogus bomb detector fiasco

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Thailand’s number two official on Thursday denied the army had “lessons” to learn from spending millions of dollar buying fake bomb detectors, after a businessman became the first Thai to be convicted over the scandal.

Thailand fell victim a decade ago to a scam run by British fraudsters selling the ‘GT200’ detector, a useless home-made plastic box with a radio antenna – made for a few dollars but sold for between US$3,300-13,000 per unit.

From 2008, Thai security forces bought around US$20 million worth of the ineffective equipment.

Its soldiers in the restive Muslim-majority south detained hundreds of people after security sweeps with the device, claiming they had come into contact with explosives.

Some of those arrested were held for a number of years, leading to accusations of human rights violations against the country’s Malay-Muslim population.

Thai soldiers also continued to die from undiscovered bombs laid by insurgents while the devices were in use.

Two British fraudsters were jailed in 2013 for making millions selling the GT200 and similar devices to governments including Thailand, Mexico and Iraq.

On Wednesday businessman Suthiwat Wattanakit, from Thai military tech firm AVIA Satcom, became the first Thai to be held accountable over the scandal.

He was given a nine-year sentence for fraud after hawking US$275,000 worth of the devices to the army – a small portion of the overall procurement – between 2008 and 2009. He was bailed pending appeal.

But a day after the sentencing Prawit Wongsuwon, the junta number two who was defence minister at the time the orders were made, batted away questions about what lessons could be drawn about army procurement.

“We did nothing wrong so what is the lesson? [The army] didn’t commit any wrongdoing,” he told reporters.

Continue reading: South China Morning Post

 

 

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One Dead, Four Wounded in Roadside Ambush in Conflict-Torn Thai South

Suspected insurgents killed one person and wounded four others in a roadside ambush in southern Thailand, a region where a Muslim separatist rebellion has been active for more than a decade, police said Thursday.

Also on Thursday, a court convicted two men of involvement in the May 2017 car bombing of a busy shopping center in Pattani province in which 61 people were hurt when the building was partly blown apart.

The men, charged with attempted premeditated murder and use of bombs, were given the death penalty, but the penalty was commuted to life in prison because they confessed.

Police Capt. Sanguansak Kaewmoon said an unknown number of gunmen used assault rifles to open fire Wednesday on a pickup truck carrying seven people returning from a hunting trip in Yala province. The ambush left the truck riddled with bullet holes.

Police suspect the assault was carried out by Muslim separatists who have been conducting a low-level but deadly insurgency in Thailand’s three southernmost provinces of Pattani, Yala, and Narathiwat. Their campaign has led to the deaths of almost 7,000 people since the rebellion flared in 2004.

Government efforts to curb the violence have had minimal results.

There have been on-again, off-again talks between officials and a variety of Muslim insurgent groups, but they have failed to make headway, and it remains unclear if the groups participating even have control over the people carrying out the attacks.

Source Khaosod English: 1 Dead, 4 Wounded in Roadside Ambush in Pattani

Conflict-torn ThaiSouth: Two killed, two wounded in Narathiwat attack

Two village defence volunteers were killed and two others wounded in a gun attack by a group of gunmen in tambon Chang Phuak of Chanae district on Saturday afternoon.

Pol Lt Adipong Promnu, a Chanae police investigator, said that according to eyewitnesses, at about 5.20pm approximately five armed men emerged from roadside bushes and opened fire at house No 281 and a sentry box near a building used as the village’s learning centre.

Four village defence volunteers,  two men and two women, were hit by gunshots. One of them, Mrs Uab Uthai, the house owner, was killed instantly in front of the house. The three others — Siboonruang Uthai, Wanpen Uthai and Boonlert Chotchoi — were injured.

Siboonruang died shortly afterwards. The two others were admitted to Sungai Kolok Hospital.

The gunshots also damaged a Toyota Yaris car parked in front of the learning centre.

The gunmen then set fire to a pick-up truck before fleeing the scene.

Police were investigating. It was initially believed the attack was the work of separatists.

Source Bangkok Post: 2 killed, 2 wounded in Narathiwat gun attack

Intolerance in the Deep South – Junta leader annoyed at Islamic dress row

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha ordered the Education Ministry Tuesday to settle a dispute over a ban on students wearing Islamic dress at a school in Pattani in the insurgency-plagued deep South.

Speaking after a cabinet meeting, he said a deputy education minister was told to hold a meeting to determine whether the clothing was considered appropriate to wear in class.

He said this issue should not be presented to the government to resolve.

“The issue is about rules and if the rules are not followed, the problem will never end,” said Gen Prayut.

The dispute erupted at Anuban Pattani School in Muang district in May after some Muslim parents asked the school to allow their daughters to wear headscarves to school and let boys wear long trousers.

The request to wear Islamic dress goes against a school regulation that has been in place for over four decades. The school is located on the property of a Buddhist temple.

Some parents ignored this however and pressed on with their demands.

Their persistence led to the Education Ministry revising its rules in June by allowing students who attend schools situated on the grounds of a Buddhist temple to wear religious clothing as long as the school in question agrees.

The ministry clarified later that month that in the event of a dispute, the school would have the final say.

Continue reading: Bangkok Post

Thai ranger shot dead near military outpost in conflict-torn Pattani

A volunteer ranger was shot dead in an ambush at a roadside pavilion opposite a military outpost in Panare district on Saturday morning.

The attack occurred shortly after Phumsak Yenthua, 21, crossed Highway 42 on the Pattani-Narathiwat route, opposite the ranger outpost where he worked, to the pavilion.

As he was about to turn off the lights in the pavilion, an unknown number of assailants waiting in ambush in a nearby forest fired shots at him, said Pol Lt Tunlakorn Suriywong, a duty officer at Panare police station, who was alerted at around 6.15am.

The sound of gunshots prompted other rangers to rush to the scene, where they found Phumsak seriously wounded. He was rushed to Panare Hospital but died shortly later.

Police found 25 spent M16 cartridges scattered at the scene of the attack and one bullet in the roadside forest, where the assailants had hidden, about 50 metres from the pavilion.

The body of the 21-year-old ranger was taken by helicopter to his home province of Phatthalung on Saturday afternoon.

Authorities were investigating whether the attack was related to the ongoing insurgency in the three southern border provinces.

Around the same time, a suspicious object was found in Thung Yang Daeng district of Pattani. Bomb disposal officers were called in to examine the object, which turned out to be a bomb. It was destroyed.

Source Bangkok Post: Ranger shot dead near military outpost in Pattani

Thai Junta Has Little to Show for Deep South Peace Efforts

As Thailand moves closer to a general election, expected sometime early next year, the current junta members who came to power through a coup four years ago are concerned that they would not have much to show for peace efforts in the Muslim-majority Deep South.

The Safety Zone pilot project is pretty much the only thing they have to talk about when it comes to their legacy for this restive region that has claimed about 7,000 lives since January 2004.

There are other projects, such as Bring People Home, a half-baked amnesty program that nobody, especially the militants, takes seriously. There is also the 50-million baht (U.S. $1.5 million) civil-military program that involves giving money to local civil-society organizations (CSO) believing this will undermine local support for the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN), the one long-standing separatist movement that controls virtually, if not all, of the militants on the ground.

But that, too, flopped, as most longstanding CSOs in the far South shunned the offer.

Already, a local political party, Pracha Chat, is in the making and its aim is to cash in on the anti-military sentiment among the general public.

It’s hard for the Thai leaders to talk about successes and continuity because Thailand’s counterpart, the MARA Patani, has suspended the dialogue process.

Source from BenarNews – Continue reading: Thailand: Junta Has Little to Show for Deep South Peace Efforts

Insurgents Use Landmines in Conflict-Torn ThaiSouth

Separatist insurgents have used landmines to maim rubber plantation workers and seriously disrupt the daily life of people in Thailand’s southern border provinces, Human Rights Watch said today. Ethnic Malay Muslim insurgents affiliated with the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) separatist movement should immediately cease using antipersonnel landmines and end attacks on civilians.

On July 2, 2018, Suthin Haewkhuntod, an ethnic Thai Buddhist latex tapper in Yala province’s Krong Penang district, lost his foot after he stepped on a landmine reportedly laid by insurgents on the rubber plantation where he worked. Two other ethnic Thai Buddhist latex tappers, Wipawan Plodkaenthong and Chutipon Namwong, were seriously wounded by landmines, in Yala’s Yaha district on June 28 and in Muang district on July 2.

“Laying landmines on rubber plantations and in paths used by villagers is cruel beyond words,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “Insurgent groups should stop using these unlawful weapons and clear the landmines they have already laid.”

The separatist groups should observe the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, which Thailand ratified in 1998. Antipersonnel mines are prohibited because they cannot discriminate between civilians and combatants, and because they kill and maim people long after they are laid.

Continue reading: HRW