Thailand said Wednesday it is hunting
for several surface-to-air-missiles smuggled into the country from Cambodia.
Although Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra is dismissing the matter as rumor,
some authorities fear the weapons could be used to disrupt this month's meeting
in Bangkok of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, or APEC.
Deputy Prime Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, who is in charge of national
security, says the portable surface-to-air missiles were smuggled into Thailand
via its eastern border with Cambodia, which has a thriving illegal weapons
Mr. Chavalit said that the government has known about the missiles for some
time and has urged the police to find them for fear that terrorists might use
them to mount an attack during APEC's summit meeting next month.
He added that the government is taking elaborate security precautions before
the meeting, where 21 heads of state will be staying in Bangkok, including
Terrorism expert and author Rohan Gunaratna says the missiles are not a particular
threat to Bangkok's international airport because airplanes can only be hit
during takeoff and landing. "As long as the security forces are alert, it will
be very difficult for a terrorist group to mount a surface-to-air missile attack," said
Mr. Gunaratna. "If the flight path is secured, then a terrorist group cannot
mount a surface-to-air missile attack against an aviation object."
Thailand has stepped up security in general since the capture in August of
top Southeast Asian terror suspect Hambali in the central Thai city of Ayutthaya.
Hambali, an Indonesian, is believed operations chief of the al Qaida linked
Jemaah Islamiyah or JI, which reportedly aims for a pan-Islamic state across
parts of Southeast Asia.
Thai authorities say JI was recently planning terrorist attacks on the embassies
of the United States, Israel, and Australia in Bangkok.
JI is believed responsible for a series of deadly bombings in Indonesia and
the Philippines, including one a year ago on the Indonesian island of Bali
that claimed 202 people, many of them foreign tourists.