Muslim influx alarms govt as Ramadan ends

Thousands enter from Cambodia every day

Authorities are keeping a close watch on thousands of Muslim Cambodians streaming to Thailand amid security concerns in the deep South after Ramadan.

Deputy Prime Minister Yutthasak Sasiprapa said yesterday thousands of Cambodian Muslims are entering Thailand as tourists every day.

The Immigration Bureau has been instructed to monitor their movements and the Cambodian government will be asked to exchange information about its citizens coming to Thailand, Gen Yutthasak said.

He said the police have been asked to track information about their movements in Thailand.

Gen Yutthasak reiterated the movement has been ongoing but was not reported in the public.

Pol Col Sangkom Tadso, superintendent of Sa Kaeo Immigration Office, said his unit could not identify the religious faith held by the Cambodians entering Thailand as their passports did not contain such information.

The Foreign Ministry could best provide such information as the agency held visa application information which contained details of their religions, he said.

He said those who applied for stays longer than seven days mostly travelled to the southern border provinces and Malaysia where they could meet their relatives.

However, the number of Cambodians crossing to Thailand in Sa Kaeo's Aranyaprathet borders and nearby checkpoints remains at normal levels at present, he added.

Maj Gen Ditthaporn Sasasamit, spokesman of the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc), said police have been assigned to monitor Cambodia's Muslims in Thailand.

He said their movements were reported constantly, but state agencies had previously paid little attention to them.

Intelligence agencies believe insurgents would carry out attacks against state officials after the holy fasting month of Ramadan, which ended on Sunday.

The insurgents want to challenge the government's new approach to solving problems in the deep South, he said.

The government is setting up another command centre for solving problems in the southern border provinces.

Maj Gen Ditthaporn said the creation of the new command centre would not lead to an overlap of authority among responsible agencies.

The National Security Council (NSC) will iron out responsibility of staff at a meeting tomorrow, he said.

Meanwhile, nine out of 10 people in the restive southern border provinces think the government is not sincere in its handling of the insurgency problem, according to the results of a Bangkok Poll released yesterday.

The poll, commissioned by Bangkok University, was conducted among 427 people aged 18 or older in Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and Songkhla provinces on Aug 7-14. The margin of error was plus or minus 5%.

Asked if they thought the government was sincere about solving the problems, 90% of the respondents said "no" and only 10% said "yes".

A majority, 59%, thought the government was not on the right track in trying to solve the problem, while 35% said they were still uncertain. Only 6% said the government's approach has been correct.

When asked whether a curfew would help reduce the violence in the region, 43% thought it would not be of any help; 17% believed it would, and 40% were uncertain.

Asked if they were satisfied with the way security forces were operating in the area, 70% said they were not, while 29% said they were. More than 90% of respondents said they could not see any sign that the situation would improve in the next three to six months.