Authorities in Thailand’s southern Pattani province on Monday arrested 11 Cambodian Muslims over suspected links to a militant insurgent group in the country.
Thai media yesterday reported that the 11 teenagers were arrested by Thai soldiers during a raid on a pondok, or Muslim religious school, in the province’s Ma-Yor district. Reports said the teens were found in the forest behind the school.
The operation by Thailand’s Forward Command of the Internal Security Operations Command Region 4 culminated with the arrests of 13 suspects aged between 16 and 26 years old.
Nine of the arrested Cambodians were living in Thailand with expired passports and one had no identification documents, The Nation reported yesterday.
Lieutenant General Chhay Kim Khoeun, Cambodian National Police spokesman, yesterday said that he had not received any report regarding the arrests and declined to comment.
Colonel Pramote Prom-in, spokesman for the Internal Security Operations Command Region 4, told Thai media that the Cambodian suspects will be interrogated before being deported.
“We went there after receiving a tip-off that a group of men were practising hand-to-hand combat in the premises,” he said. “We recorded their activities on film as evidence and only decided to take action after seeing that they were conducting military-style training.”
“The pondok owner has been charged with sheltering foreigners without informing the authorities,” Col Pramote added.
Cambodian government spokesman Phay Siphan yesterday said that he also had not heard about the arrest of Cambodian citizens in Thailand.
However, Mr Siphan noted that Cambodia does not interfere in Thai investigations.
“It could be purely an internal action and Cambodia is absolutely against interfering in other countries’ affairs,” he said.
Mr Siphan said that Cambodia also does not support any Cambodian citizens who join rebel groups or conduct military activities in other countries.
Thailand’s southern Muslim-majority provinces of Pattani, Songkhla, Yala and Narathiwat have been struggling with a bloody insurgency since 2004 and nearly 7,000 people have died.