Bangkok: Thai authorities on Friday said that they
had detained a Lebanese man with suspected links to the
Hezbollah militant group, after the United States warned of a
terrorist threat against tourists in the kingdom.
"Foreign terrorists may be currently looking to conduct
attacks against tourist areas in Bangkok in the near future,"
the US embassy in Bangkok said in an emergency message posted
on its website.
"US citizens are urged to exercise caution when visiting
public areas where large groups of Western tourists gather in
A Thai senior intelligence officer who did not want to be
named said that the kingdom had been informed before the
New Year by Israel of a possible threat.
The suspect was detained on Thursday while the other man
had already fled the country, he said.
Thailand`s Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung said by telephone that the detained suspect was being
questioned by the Thai authorities.
"We already have one suspect in custody for interrogation
at a government building in Bangkok. He is a Hezbollah from
Lebanon," he said. "I want to assure people that there is
nothing to worry about. The police will take care of the
situation and everything will be under control."
Hezbollah, an Iranian- and Syrian-backed Muslim Shiite
group, is blacklisted as a terrorist organisation by
Washington and currently dominates the Lebanese government.
"Israel was suspicious that these two men might be
terrorists, so they gave information, including their names,
to our police before the New Year," the senior intelligence
The suspect has denied involvement with any terrorist
activities, he added.
"These two men entered Thailand a while ago but did not
conduct any terrorist activity. I wonder why Israel was
suspicious about them."
The warning is another blow to Thailand`s
tourist-friendly image, which was badly dented last year by
devastating flooding across much of the country, as well as
rounds of rival political protests in recent years.
An eight-year-old shadowy insurgency continues to plague
the country`s Muslim-majority deep south, but the rebels have
never been known to attack outside of the region.
The insurgents are not thought to be part of a global
jihad movement but rather are rebelling against a long history
of perceived discrimination against ethnic Malay Muslims by
governments in the Buddhist-majority country.
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra also told reporters
that authorities in the kingdom had the current situation
"I would like to tell our people and tourists that there
is nothing to worry about," she said.