Amlo acts to cut of militants’ lifeline
It has been long suspected that Islamic militant groups in the troubled deep South must have received financial support from underground business and foreign donations for education. However, no action has been taken to cut off this financial lifeline for the militants until recently.
On September 4 this year, the Anti-Money Laundering Office under the command of the new secretary-general, Pol Col Sihanart Prayoonrat, announced the confistigation of the assets of four individuals in the four southernmost provinces who were suspected of involvement in illicit drug trade, money laundering, human trafficking and terrorism.
The four suspects are Suriyant Pongmanawuth, Saengthit Katisomsakul, Mrs Pranom Praekoksoong and Useng Purong.
Suriyant was suspected of money laundering. Sixteen million baht worth of valuables which include gold ornaments and cash in Thai and Malaysian currencies were sequestered by Amlo. Also suspected of money laundering was Saengthit whose assets worth about one million baht were temporarily confiscated.
Mrs Pranom, meanwhile, was suspected of human trafficking and illicit drug trade. Police raided a brothel in Sadao district of Songkhla on July 29 last year and rescued 71 Laotian women who were forced into prostitution in the premise which was jointly operated by Mrs Pranom and her Malaysian partners. 60 items of her valuables with unspecified value were sequestered.
Of the four cases, Useng’s case is most watched. Useng was the licence holder of Islam Burapha religious school in Narathiwat’s Muang district which was suspected of housing suspected militants and being a bomb-making factory. A bomb blast in a rubber plantation left traces leading security forces to the school which was eventually searched. Seven suspects were arrested and one of them admitted that he was involved in 17 bombing incidents and over ten arson attacks. He also admitted of making bombs in the school compound.
The school was padlocked on July 5, 2007 but was reopened last December 26 with the help of Pol Col Thawee Sodsong, secretary-general of Southern Border Provinces Administration Centre.
As for the suspects, seven of them were charged in the court with terrorism, illegal assembly and illegal possession of firearms. Five of them were sentenced to death by the Narathiwat provincial court on March 16. The other one was given 27 years jail term and the seventh, Mama Koiree Luemae, jumped bail during the trial and escaped to Malaysia. He was arrested in Kelantan state of Malaysia and prosecuted on charge of possessing explosives but was acquitted by the Kelantan court in May this year.
Amlo chief said that assets worth more than three million baht belonging to Useng and his associates which mainly include the 18 rai land plot where the school is located were sequestered. Despite the order to sequester the land and the school, he said that the school remains operational “because we do not ban teaching.”
Pol Col Sihanart said that a few more pondok schools had been under investigation for suspected illegal activities in support of the insurgency. Amlo, he added, is investigating money trail from the Middle East in support of foundations or non-governmental organizations in the deep South.
Ms Subaida Dolor, the headmistress of Islam Burapha school, said the school now has 163 students and 32 teachers. The school now teaches Mathayom 1-4 classes and plans to expand up to Mathayom 6 next year.
She went on saying that the school will give special emphasis on English and Bahasa so that the students will be able to speak, read and write the two languages. Narathiwat is close to Malaysia and most people there speak Bahasa but their accent is not proper and we have to teach them to speak properly, she said.
Caption : Islam Burapha religious school in Narathiwat’s Muang district
Photo by Abdullah Wangni