National Security Council chief Gen Thawip Netniyom on Friday urged the public to remain calm following the revelation that 10 Syrians linked to the Islamic State group had entered Thailand with plans to attack Russians in popular tourist-resort cities.
A leaked police memo widely circulated Thursday night said the Syrians arrived separately in the last two weeks of October, with four dispatched to Pattaya, two to Phuket, two to Bangkok and the final pair to an unknown destination to target the interests of Russia and its allies in the country. The militants identities were not disclosed.
Gen Thawip said the public should not panic and maintained that Thai security agencies will be able to cope with the threat. At the same time, he warned the media and public to stop publishing the document, saying those doing so could be charged with violation of the Computer Crime Act.
There will be a meeting of all security agencies today to discuss this matter, Gen Thawip said.
Police had not received warnings about IS activity from any other foreign intelligence agency, Deputy Police Spokesman Songpol Wattanachai told reporters Friday, adding that police had no information about their whereabouts, identity or possible targets.
"We're still trying to work out whether they even came in," Reuters quoted him as saying when asked if they could still be in the country.
The Nov 27 memo was signed by Pol Maj Gen Sarawut Karnpanich, deputy commissioner of the Special Branch Bureau, on behalf of the commissioner. It informed commanders of the 1st-3rd divisions of the Special Branch -- which handles national security matters -- of a warning received from the Russian Federal Security Service that 10 Syrians related to the international terrorist group had entered Thailand between Oct 15-31.
The commanders were instructed to verify the Russian FSB information and step up security measures around "target areas that Russian authorities are concerned about" including venues associated with allies that have taken part in attacks against the Islamic State group in Syria. Allies include the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Belgium, Sweden and Australia.
The three divisions were also ordered to update information on important locations, residential areas and tourist attractions frequented by foreigners with an emphasis on countries in conflict with the IS group.
The 3rd Special Branch Division was ordered to augment security for places and individuals related to the mentioned countries. All three divisions were to report their progress every Wednesday starting Dec 2.
Gen Thawip said the Special Branch police had been assigned to clarify the report.
He admitted the leaked letter had caused people to panic and grumbled that security work should be carried out in secret. What the public saw in the document, he added, was the cooperation of intelligence and security agencies of friendly countries.
New Zealand's safe-travel website on Friday warned travellers to exercise a high degree of caution in Thailand due to the possibility of civil unrest in Thailand and the threat of terrorist attack. The advisory did not specially mention Russian intelligence.
As news of the IS group threat spread, Thai officials on Friday lined up to urged restraint and call for further verification of the information in the letter.
Maj Gen Banpot Poonphien, the Internal Security Operations Command spokesman, noted that Thailand is not the party to any direct conflict the Islamic State group.
But with a raging Muslim insurgency in the Far South, the threat of an Islamic State group incursion into Thailand has been a continual worry. Yet just last month, Gen Thawaip said no IS members had come to deep South.
"The intelligence community, including our neighbouring countries, insist no IS members have entered the southern border area of Thailand," he said Nov 18.