An official document leaked in Thailand exposes concerns that conflict between Russia and Islamic State (IS) militants could manifest itself within the country.
According to a document produced by Thailand's Special Branch police which was leaked on Thursday, ten Syrians linked to IS entered Thailand last October. Officials fear they could target Russian interests in the country. The document instructs law enforcement to increase security around any potential target areas.
“The document is real. We received it from Special Branch,” a police officer told Reuters. “The original communication was by word of mouth between Russian and Thai police. I don’t know how the document leaked.”
According to the document, four of the suspects traveled to the seaside city Pattaya, two to Phuket, two to Bangkok and two to an unknown destination. The men allegedly are in Thailand to target Russians, who frequently vacation in Thailand. In 2013, over 1.5 million Russian tourists visited the country.
Authorities, however, are still working to confirm the facts – including whether the threat is real.
“We’re still trying to work out whether they even came in,” Deputy Police Spokesman Songpol Wattanachai told reporters. “We have yet to find any unusual movement. Everything is safe, rest assured.”
There are an estimated 700 to 1,000 foreign Islamist fighters in the Southeast Asian region, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
“There is a definite connection between Southeast Asia and Syria,” UNODC regional representative Jeremy Douglas told Reuters. “It’s very plausible that foreign fighters could transit through Bangkok to and from the Middle East.”
“Post-Sinai, Russian intelligence is going to be asking ‘Where globally are our vulnerabilities?’” said Anthony Davis, a Bankok-based security analyst told Reuters. “Thailand is going to be right at the top of their list.”
The released document comes just one month after a Russian plane was attacked over Egypt's Sinai Peninsula killing all 224 passengers. Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack.