– World news selected by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community
PHUKET: Thailand said on Sunday it was looking for four Syrian nationals who have overstayed their visas, as the country is on high alert after a Russian warning of possible attacks by suspected Syrian members of Islamic State.
The authorities did not suggest the four men were a security threat but said they were unaccounted for, and released their names and photographs.
Last week, a document from the Thai Special Branch police leaked to social media showed it had been warned by the Russian intelligence service that 10 Syrians linked to Islamic State had entered Thailand in October intending to attack Russian interests.
The warning prompted Thailand to step up security around potential targets, including in the cities of Pattaya and Phuket, both popular with tourists and home to large Russian expatriate communities.
However, the Immigration Bureau said the four Syrian men being sought had entered Thailand between April and October, not in the timeframe specified by Russian intelligence.
“Of the four who are unaccounted for, we may just want to locate them to charge them for overstaying, that is all,” Immigration Bureau commissioner Nathathorn Prausoontorn said.
Russia began air strikes in Syria on Sept. 30 and has stepped up attacks in recent weeks. An IS affiliate claimed responsibility for downing a Russian airliner over Egypt’s Sinai peninsula in October, killing all 224 people on board.
Some foreign embassies in Bangkok and the United Nations, which has its regional headquarters in the Thai capital, issued security warnings for staff following the warning from Russia.
In August, 20 people were killed in a bombing of a Bangkok shrine, the worst incident of its kind in Thai history. It dealt a fresh blow to Thailand’s important tourism industry, which had just begun to recover after political protests last year.
— Phuket Gazette Editors