Illicit South cash targeted

Amlo suspects money used to fund terrorism

The Anti-Money Laundering Office (Amlo) has detected unusual money transactions in the southern border provinces and suspects they are related to terrorism activities and illicit businesses in the region.

Amlo secretary-general Seehanat Prayoonrat said Wednesday the southern violence acts as a damper on legal businesses in the three southern border provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat and four adjacent districts of Songkhla.

Despite that, Amlo had found evidence in those provinces of cash transactions amounting to 50 billion baht a year, from 2010 to 2012, which was unusually large for such a troubled region.

He said cash transactions in Yala came to about 8 billion baht a year.

That was more than the total value of financial transactions which took place in Sa Kaeo, Mukdahan and Prachin Buri provinces, where the border trade is highly active.

Cash transactions in Pattani amounted to 17 billion baht a year, even higher than those in Lamphun which is packed with industrial factories.

Cash transactions in Narathiwat were estimated at 13.2 billion baht annually in the past three years, higher than the value of business in Ranong and Samut Songkhram provinces, which are fishing centres.

The value of cash transactions in the region grew by 64 per cent a year.

Pol Col Seehanat said some transactions funded separatist movements and violent attacks, which were designed to protect illicit businesses such as drugs and smuggling.

Amlo was determining the amount of money spent particularly on financing terrorist attacks in the far South.

"Attacks require people and weapons. Attacks on government officials and their bases need money. Further calculations will show that each attack is a terrorist business.

"It is spending to support illicit businesses, and salaries from terrorist organisations," Pol Col Seehanat said.

He would invoke anti-money laundering laws to block financial support for terrorist attacks.

"From now on, after shooting teachers, terrorists cannot receive money through ATMs. Money in all accounts and all assets will be frozen and confiscated.

"We will remove them from our list if they stop murdering people and committing other terrorist acts," the Amlo secretary-general said.

He said Amlo wanted to encourage insurgents to enter rehabilitation under Section 21 of the Internal Security Act, which allows insurgents who wish to lay down arms to enter an education programme in exchange for them not being prosecuted.

Pol Col Seehanat said he believes there are also rewards for terrorists who can kill important people in the far South.

Justice Minister Pracha Promnok Wednesday announced 135 government organisations which he said will impose with new zeal the anti-money laundering law and the counter-terrorist financing law.

The move was intended to convince the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to remove Thailand from its list of countries likely to face international financial sanctions for failing to crack down on these types of crime.

The minister said the FATF will send staff to inspect enforcement measures related to money laundering and terrorist financing in Thailand next month and its next meeting will take place in Norway this June.

Pol Gen Pracha hopes the FATF will not include the government's negotiations with the southern insurgency movement and violence in the far South in its consideration of activities relating to money laundering in Thailand.

Parliament recently amended the anti-money laundering law and a counter-terrorist financing law.

Amlo secretary-general Seehanat said Amlo would announce on April 22 a list of international terrorists whose transactions would be banned here.

The list would be based on about 300 names on an anti-terrorism list kept by the United Nations. Amlo was verifying the list.

Later Amlo would announce a list of about 100 locals to be banned from transactions.

Amlo would seek approval from the Civil Court late this month for its announcement and the list would include southern insurgents.

Pol Col Seehanat said about 4,000 Thais in total would be banned from the transactions. They comprise those wanted under arrest warrants for being involved in terrorist acts and those who fund terrorists.

Pol Col Seehanat said money laundering activities in Thailand mostly involved cash. He noted that in Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat, there were more transactions related to property sales than even in Lamphun, Ranong and Sa Kaeo, provinces with high levels of real estate development. Lamphun and Sa Kaeo are also border provinces where commerce thrives.

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