Why do Thai government authorities in the deep South continue to use a bomb detection device that has failed to protect people and property in recent bomb attacks?
Did operating officers on the ground receive proper training on how to use the equipment?
Have the militants developed the skill and ability to neutralise the bomb detector?
These questions are at the centre of a controversy swirling around the purchase of more than 200 GT200 devices, made under a secret budget which gives unaccountable authority to the Army without need of approval from Parliament.
Made by UK-based Global Technical Ltd, GT200 is considered an important device by security officials in detecting bomb-making substances in the three southernmost provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat, where militants have been using motorcycles and cars to place bombs or to pack timer-triggered explosives.
However, on several occasions during the past 12 months the device is reported to have shown false-negative and false-positive results, leading to fatal bomb attacks .
On Oct 19, insurgents detonated a homemade bomb at a morning market in the Yala provincial town, injuring 26 people. The blast occurred at 7.35am. Witnesses said two men parked their motorcycle and walked away. A soldier alerted by a vendor then scanned the motorcycle using a GT200, but no bomb was detected. About 15 minutes later, the bomb hidden in the motorcycle exploded.
Earlier, on Oct 6, a bomb hidden in a car opposite the Merlin Hotel in Narathiwat's Sungai Kolok district went off, killing one and injuring 20. Security officials armed with a GT200 scanner had checked the car, but the test showed that it was free of explosives.
Doubts about the scanner's reliability were first raised on July 28, when a GT200 failed to detect a bomb planted under the bodies of a husband and wife in Kok Po district of Pattani.
The bombs went off when soldiers moved the bodies. On Nov 7 last year, three Border Patrol Police officers were killed when a bomb exploded as they were examining a suspicious object in Panareh district of Pattani.
Again, the GT200 failed to detect the explosive substance.
In an article published last Tuesday, November 3, the Working Group on Justice for Peace (WGJP) said: ``The operation of the device is causing a lot of suspicion among scientists in Thailand for several reasons. According to them, the procedure of finding suspicious objects is not based on a reliable scientific method. Besides, GT200 is not being used by credible international organisations.''
The manufacturer claims that it is used by the armies of the UK and the Netherlands, but both countries have denied this. A similar device with the trading name MOLE had been tested by US authorities, who concluded that the device was faulty and prepared to sue the company. MOLE is believed to be a predecessor of the GT200. (Other names such as Sniffex, Squard, etc have also been used for similar products).
Meanwhile, the Pattani-based Isara News Centre quoted a Thai security source as saying that only commissioned officers are trained to use GT200, but it is lower-ranked officers who actually use it.
Pol Sen Sgt Maj Chaen Warongphaisit, a member of a bomb disposal squad working in the South, was quoted as saying that he could trust the detector's readings in only half of all cases, as environmental factors can interfere with readings. Residues left over from past explosions in the same area could influence the scanning as well.
The Army and those in favour of GT200 maintain that the effectiveness of the device depends on the knowledge and physical readiness of the user. They claim that due to the user being exhausted or not trained well, the device might not work correctly.
Lt-Col Yuttanam Petmuang, commander of the Yala 11 Special Task Force, told Spectrum that misreadings may have resulted from human error, not a failure by the detector.
According to the website of Electronic K9 Singapore Private Limited (http://www.e-k9.net/gt200faq.php),the Asia distributor of GT200, the device ``works on the principle of dia/para magnetism. All substances carry a magnetic charge that, when stimulated by an impulse of electricity, (static) creates an attraction between the substance being detected and the GT200 unit itself. This is called electro-magnetic attraction (EMA).
``What the GT200 is doing is creating an attraction between itself and the substance it wants to detect. Through the substance sensor ard and the movement of an operator, an attracting field is created in the card reader that, in turn, causes the receivers antenna of the GT200 to lock onto a signal, indicating the direction in which the substance can be located,'' says the website.
The website admits, however, that GT200 is not a pin-point detection device. Rather, it ``is designed to identify the existence of the target substance(s) and define the close-in search area to approximately 4 cubic metres. After the GT200 identifies the existence of the substance, it is up to the trained operator to use other search techniques to identify the exact location of the target substance.''
Is there anything that can stop or block the GT200 from detecting substances?
``To date, we have not found anything that will totally block or stop the substance signal being detected,'' says the website. ``But, as with any equipment, there are limitations as to its use and for that matter, the GT200 has some guidelines for its use.
``Used correctly, the GT200 can detect substance(s) through walls, (even lead-lined and metal ones), water, (fresh and salted), fresh and frozen food, (fish, fruit, tea, coffee, ice), vacuum flask, containers, petrol and diesel fuel and even buried in the earth.''
That sounds fantastic, but the catch is that you can totally miss the target substance if you are too close.
``Remember that the GT200 is a long-range detector and operates by triangulating locks obtained from the perimeter scan of the defined search area. In other words, the scan of the area should allow for a minimum of 4-5 meters outside of the search area,'' says the website.
That may or may not explain why the device failed to detect the bombs that went off in Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat during the past 12 months. But GT200 is also known to show false positive results as well.
According to the WGJP, a villager informed it that GT200 was used to check her house at which time the device incriminated the top of a coconut tree. One of the soldiers found a plastic bag with vegetable oil inside.
At a raid at Saengtham Islam Witthaya School in Bajo District of Narathiwat on Oct 12, teachers and students from a private Islamic school were invited for questioning when the device pointed them out as carriers of explosive substances. As the WGJP noted, ``the results of the device were used as evidence to detain hundreds of people''.
FAILED FIELD TEST
Driving out of Yala city last week, Spectrum stumbled upon a group of soldiers testing the accuracy of the GT200. Various types of explosives had been placed at different spots, unknown to the personnel using altogether four GT200 devices.
After more than 30 minutes, all four devices failed to locate the explosives. Eventually, the head of the bomb disposal squad showed them where the bombs were hidden, much to the embarrassment of all concerned.
One of the writers of this story, Mr Surapan, did his own detective work as well. While the bomb squad was busy scouring the roadside bushes, he drove into town and borrowed a few sticks of dynamite from a security officer, who is a longtime friend.
He wrapped the dynamite with tin foil and black carbon paper and drove back to the same location.
Mr Surapan parked his car on the roadside about a metre behind a car belonging to one of the officers. Then he placed the wrapped dynamite sticks under the bonnet of his car. All 4 GT200 devices indicated nothing unusual as the handlers walked past his car. But they led the officers to the car in front, where several automatic rifles were kept.
As it stands there are more questions than answers to the GT200 saga, and many critics wonder if the government will ever find a solution to bombings in the South.
According to the WGJP article, the cost per device is approximately 900,000 baht. However, the Army reportedly bought each of its devices for 1.4 million baht, compared with 1.2 million baht reportedly paid by the Interior Ministry. By Songpol Kaopatumtip[ and Surapan Boonthanom Sunday Spectrum section, Bangkok Post.
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The bomb went off on a road leading to a market in Khok Pho district of Pattani yesterday, wounding Cpl Sommai Homhuan, 27, and Sgt Chuchawat Matsi, 28, who were guarding the market, said Pol Col Krissada Kaewchandi, the district police chief.
The two were among 12 soldiers providing security at the market. The injured were rushed to a nearby hospital.
The blast impact also damaged two pickup trucks parked nearby.
Police investigating the attack said the bomb weighed about 5kg and was detonated by mobile phone.
Immediately after the attack, an area within a 1km radius was searched but no suspects were captured.
Half of the 12 soldiers at the market had earlier patrolled the area using a GT200 to detect explosives but had failed to find any sign of a bomb, a police investigation found.
The incident has added to growing doubts over the efficiency of the device.
The British-made hand-held scanner was only able to detect concealed targets four out of 20 times in recent field tests conducted by the Science and Technology Ministry.
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva issued an order following the tests suspending any further purchases of the GT200, but the army insists on using the scanner.
In another incident, two police officers were killed in a drive-by shooting yesterday as they were standing guard at a gold shop in Rangae district in Narathiwat. Four attackers passed on motorcycles and sprayed them with bullets.
Pol Capt Sornpetch Tantiamornchaikul of Rangae station said the shooting was the work of insurgents who wanted to eliminate security authorities in the restive region. Muhammad Ayub Pathan and Waedao Harai
23/02/2010 Bangkok Post
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What surprises me most, is that this supposedly high technology military continues to use the GT200 - that must be truly worrying for anyone who relies on the military for their personal protection.
And how about the 'test' which gave it a 20% success rate - were they kidding? A real test would have given it a zero percent success rate. 1 in 4 boxes, 25% chance, 1 in 10 boxes, 10% chance, and 1 in 100 boxes, no chance.
A very sad state of affairs.
"... Troops cheered by Kalaya's visit
Published: 1/03/2010 at 09:32 AM
Online news: Breakingnews
Field units in the three southernmost provinces felt much better after meeting with Science and Technology Minister Khunying Kalaya Sophonpanich on Sunday, Army Region 4 commander Lt-Gen Pichet Wisaijorn said on Monday.
Lt-Gen Pichet said the minister had explained that the government did not ban the use of the GT200 explosives scanner, but just wanted those using it to be more careful as it could be very dangerous.
Scientific field trials peformed by the ministry found that the bomb detector did not work.
“We have no alternative equipment available so the soldiers have to use the GT200 in their efforts to keep peace in the far South. Most soldiers believe that the device is effective,” Lt-Gen Pichet said. ..."
Now, what is really stunning is that althought it doesn't work, soldiers are told to be 'more careful' using it.
Now, that's technology in action - oh, the poor Thais must be very embarassed.
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dammon2 wrote:You would have as much likelihood of the GT 200 finding a bomb as if you asked a "ghost" to find one. In a country that finds the latter believable, it is understandable that this "bomb-witching" updated forked tree branch is foisted on the tax paying public. Who in the Army is getting the kickback from the contract? Perhaps all the adherants to it's efficacy should be required to wend their way through 100 meters of minefield with the GT 200 and their own shoes as their sole (pun intended) detectors? What, no takers? They are party to the murders of the poor soldiers and civilians who counted on this piece of crap to protect them and should be jailed along side the fanatical terrorists who plant the bombs. Profit motive over public concern and protection is a crime against humanity.
Yep, the GT200 seems to have made fortune telling a legitimate calling.
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URL for search on, "buying a pig in a poke" -
http://www.google.co.th/search?q=buying ... =firefox-a
The links in this search list give many examples of what this phrase means!
Has the Thai government/Army bought a "pig in a poke" with their purchase of the GT200?
The reader may make their own decision -- JDWilliams
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