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Thailand Recieves Anti-Terror Training From US DoD

Thailand Recieves Anti-Terror Training From US DoD


by Richard S. Ehrlich

BANGKOK, Thailand -- The U.S. Defense Department has trained and equipped police on the tourist playground island of Phuket to prevent "international terrorists" staging a copycat of the Bali island bombing, a Thai official said.

"The Bali bombing made us aware of the need to prepare ourselves for any situation within our area of control," Phuket's Police Deputy Commissioner, Major-General Phuvadol Krasaein, said after receiving the U.S. equipment.

He was referring to the October 2002 bombing by convicted Indonesian Islamists at a nightclub on Indonesia's Bali island which killed 202 people, mostly foreign tourists.

"The equipment is part of a training program granted by the U.S. government to upgrade the Thai police's ability to deal with international terrorists," Maj-Gen Phuvadol said, according to the government-run Thai News Agency.

"Terrorists are a threat to peace in the society. They often target attacks on Western tourist attractions. Although there is no indication of any terrorism in the area, Thai police should be ready for the situation," Maj-Gen Phuvadol said.

He received the donated equipment, worth about 50,000 U.S. dollars, in a ceremony at the Phuket Provincial Police Headquarters on Wednesday (Nov. 17).

David Turner, chief of the U.S. Defense Department's Force Protection Detachment at the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok, presented the equipment to Maj-Gen Phuvadol, according to the Phuket Gazette.

The equipment included hand-held metal detectors, lights, mirrors to check under cars for concealed bombs, and other unidentified items.

It was presented after the U.S. Defense Department finished administering a five-day anti-terrorism training course in Phuket for 57 Thai police officers from Phuket island and the nearby southern tourist destinations of Phang Nga, Krabi and Koh Samui.

Phuket offers five-star tourist facilities, including luxurious spas, ornate resorts and lively entertainment, and is a favorite retirement destination for wealthy foreigners, giving the southern island a booming, parallel economy compared with the rest of Thailand.

Phang Nga is infamous worldwide among backpackers for hosting a "Full Moon Party" every month on the tiny island's beach which attracts thousands of foreigners, including many who take Ecstasy and other illegal drugs while dancing in the sand to loud "trance" and "techno" music.

Krabi, along Thailand's southwest coast, boasts gorgeous rock formations and allows visitors to spend the day boating, exploring caves and scuba diving.

Koh Samui island competes with bigger Phuket for international tourists who, along with Thai developers, have turned the tropical paradise into a rapidly modernizing venue.

Those areas have not suffered any major terrorist attacks, though worries were heightened after the Bali bombing.

Three weeks ago, suicide Muslim insurgents in the shadowy Pattani United Liberation Organization (PULO) threatened to use "fire and oil" to "burn down" Bangkok in revenge for the deaths of 85 people, including 78 Muslim men who suffocated on Oct. 25 after Thai security forces crammed them into army trucks.

For the past year or so, southern Thailand's three Muslim-majority provinces of Pattani, Narathiwat and Yala have been hit almost daily by bombings, shootings, arson and other assaults, which have killed more than 500 people.

The government tried to restore peace in the south after the 78 suffocation deaths, but many officials fear the situation is rapidly deteriorating.

The 78 Muslim men were among 1,300 arrested in Tak Bai during an unruly demonstration in which seven other civilians were shot dead.

The 1,300 men had their hands tied behind their backs before being loaded into tarpaulin-covered, six-wheeled army trucks in Narathiwat province.

They were forced to lie down on the floor of the trucks while other detained men were piled on top of them in layers, officials and survivors confirmed.

"Seventy-eight people were found dead on arrival, in the [army] vans, at the military camp," Justice Ministry pathologist, Dr. Pornthip Rojanasunan, said in an interview on Oct. 26 after examining the dead.

"They showed bleeding in the eyes, in the white part of the eyeballs, and bleeding on the body underneath the skin, only tiny spots of bleeding" which are evidence of "suffocation," said Dr. Pornthip, the respected deputy director of Thailand's Forensic Science Institute.

Muslim insurgents demand autonomy or independence in the south amid claims that southern Muslims suffer brutal injustice in Thailand, which is 95 percent Buddhist.

The government denies most of their charges and has experimented with various ways of crushing the rebellion by minority ethnic Malay Muslims.

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Richard S. Ehrlich, a freelance journalist who has reported news from Asia for the past 26 years, is co-author of the non-fiction book, "HELLO MY BIG BIG HONEY!" -- Love Letters to Bangkok Bar Girls and Their Revealing Interviews. His web page is www.geocities.com/glossograph/

-ENDS-


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