Thursday, January 19, 2012

US 'wants to question suspect' Ex-NSC chief says terror alert aims for joint fight

The US has refused to lift a terror alert in Thailand because it wants to pressure the country into allowing its authorities to take part in the questioning of a Swedish-Lebanese terror suspect, a former National Security Council secretary-general says.
Watchful eye A security officer looks through an opening in the gate of a synagogue on Sukhumvit Soi 22 yesterday amid fears the Israeli community in Thailand may be a target for terrorism. SOMCHAI POOMLARD
Kachadpai Burusapatana said he believed the US warning about possible terror attacks here remains in place because the US wants Thailand to collaborate more with it against terrorism.
The US wants Thailand to lets its investigators join in the questioning of terror suspect Hussein Atris, who was arrested at Suvarnabhumi airport last Thursday.
Police suspect he might have links to the Hezbollah militant group.
Mr Kachadpai also said police should avoid publicising the issue too much if they had not gathered clear evidence.
In his view, evidence was insufficient to point to terrorist plots in Thailand, and careless handling of the issue could get Thailand embroiled in a conflict between the US and terrorists, he said.
Panitan Wattanayagorn, a security analyst at Chulalongkorn University, said he had detected signs of a possible problem in communication between the US and Thailand.
He noted a report on Tuesday which said Thai investigators had not allowed US authorities to take part in the questioning of the terror suspect.
The next day, US ambassador Kristie Kenney posted a message on her Twitter account that the US terror alert for American citizens in Bangkok had not been lifted.
Mr Panitan believes the US may want Thailand to give a reassurance that American people are safe before considering lifting the alert.
"A superpower like the US will not easily bow to a demand by Thailand to lift the alert straight away," he said.
He also said Thai authorities must show tact and diplomacy in dealing with the US. Summoning the US ambassador to discuss the terror alert may ruffle Washington's feathers.
Mr Panitan said it would be best if the foreign minister met the US ambassador and told her what Thailand was doing about the terror threat. He believes the US will understand and eventually lift the warning.
Meanwhile, police have denied setting up the seizure of a huge cache of bomb-making materials in the Mahachai area of Samut Sakhon on Monday.
Police raided the building after questioning Mr Atris.
They found 4.4 tonnes of urea-based fertiliser and 290 litres of ammonium nitrate.
Deputy national police chief Pansiri Prapawat, head of the investigators handling the case, yesterday rejected claims by Democrat spokesman Chavanond Intarakomalyasut that police had set up the raid to clear themselves of suspicion in the cache.
Mr Chavanond said it was widely known among residents that it was actually police who rented the building.
Pol Gen Pansiri insisted Mr Atris had rented the building for 15,000 baht a month for two years and was close to reaching a deal to buy the building for 6 million baht.
Checks had found a policeman also rented the building for workers to stay, but only for two months.
Mr Atris had told them the materials were not intended for use in any attacks in Thailand, and were to be exported.