BANGKOK – As Songkran approaches next week in Thailand, police are on high alert according to a leaked memo issued by Surat Thaniâ€™s governor to local police, warning that four Uighur and Chechen militants could be planning terrorist attacks on foreigners in the kingdom.
According to local news website Khaosod English, the warning originally came from Thailandâ€™s intelligence information agency and was passed on by the governor of Surat Thani province to local police.
It warned that two Uighur men had entered Thailand via Phuket on March 23 and â€œmay stage attacks on Chinese targets and interests in South-East Asiaâ€, said Khaosod.
The two Chechens, meanwhile, were alleÂgedly planning to attack Russians in Thailand.
Thailand’s Chief of Police Chakthip Chaijinda said the warning was real, but called for calm.
Police were checking if the suspects â€“ who entered Thailand via regular channels â€“ were still in the country or had left.
â€œI have been proceeding with this matter in secret for a week now,â€ he was quoted by Khaosod as saying. â€œRight now, we still donâ€™t know the intention of their entry into the country. We believe they arenâ€™t here with good intentions.â€
He assured reporters that Thai security agencies were doing their utmost to guard against attacks.
A rush-hour bomb in central Bangkok last August killed 20 people â€“ mostly foreign tourists â€“ and injured more than 100 people.
Two ethnic Uighurs from the restive Xinjiang region of China were arrested and are now on trial in a Thai military court for the attack. But the two men, Mieraili Yusufu and Bilal Mohammed, have denied their involvement.
A Reuters article revealed that the perpetrators of the attack had originally picked a pier that was used by Chinese tourists and that they had enough chemicals to make 10 similar bombs.
The Muslim ethnic minority Uighurs accuse Chinese authorities of persecuting them. While analysts believe the bombing was retaÂliation for Thailandâ€™s deportation of 109 Uighurs to China last July, however Thai authorities have maintained it was not an act of terrorism.
They said instead it was carried out by human smuggling networks striking back against tightened policing.
Tourism is one of the few bright spots in Aseanâ€™s second-largest economy, which has been weighed down by the depressed global economy as well as slower-than-expected public investment in infrastructure.
Nearly 30 million foreigners visited the kingdom last year, and the government expects this to rise to 32 million this year.