Thailand’s Foreign Ministry has instructed the Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh to tighten screening measures for Cambodian applicants seeking visas, according to Bangkok-based newspaper The Nation.
Piriya Khempol, the Thai Foreign Ministry’s deputy spokesman, said the measure was a reaction to concerns voiced by a Thai general Thursday that extremists from Cambodia and Indonesia were training separatists in Thailand’s largely Muslim south, the Nation reported Friday.
General Watanachai Chaimuanwong, a senior security adviser to Thailand’s prime minister, said Thai authorities were investigating the possibility that hundreds of Cambodian Muslims connected to regional terrorist network Jemaah Islamiyah had made their way into Thailand, Agence France-Presse reported Thursday. Cambodian officials have denied the allegation.
The Nation did not state how visa screening at the Thai Embassy would be tightened, but said that Thai embassies in other countries have also been told to make similar adjustments.
Officials at the Thai Embassy could not be reached for comment on Sunday.
Information Minister and government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said that if the embassy is making its visa screening more secure, this would be a positive development.
“Tightening the visa is okay, but don’t use Cambodian Muslims as a scapegoat,” he added. On Friday, Khieu Kanharith dismissed Watanachai’s allegations, adding that they were not the official position of the Thai government.
Ahmad Yahya, an SRP lawmaker and prominent member of the Cham Muslim community, said he had never heard of any Cambodian Muslim crossing the border to aid the Thai insurgency. Most Cambodian Muslims in Thailand go there for school, he said, though he added that Thailand would be right to take defensive measures where visas are concerned.