A Thai military official has denied saying that Cambodian Cham Muslims are linked to the Islamic insurgency in Thailand, explaining that he only said a large number of Chams have entered Thailand and disappeared, a Thai newspaper reported Tuesday.
The Bangkok Post reported Saturday that General Wattanachai Chaimuenwong, a close aide to Thai Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont, had said that Cambodians linked to Jemaah Islamiyah were joining the separatist insurgency and infiltrating religious schools in southern Thailand.
But Wattanachai denied making the allegations Tuesday and said that he issued a clarification that he asked Thai officials to send to the Cambodian government, according to The Nation newspaper’s website.
“What I said is that there are a large number of Cambodian Muslims entering Thailand but they disappeared,” The Nation quoted him as saying.
Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said that he had not yet received Wattanachai’s clarification, but added that the statement should have also addressed the request made by Thai military officials to stop issuing visas for Cambodian Muslims.
“The whereabouts of [Cambodian Muslims] is not sufficient to make that sort of request, in fact the Thai security service must do its homework,” Khieu Kanharith wrote in an e-mail.
Othsman Hassan, CPP secretary of state for the Labor Ministry and prominent member of the Cham community, said that the majority of Cambodian Muslims traveling to Thailand were looking for work.
The Foreign and Labor ministries have already banned all Cambodians from working in the three southernmost provinces of Thailand because of the escalating violence in the region, he added.
Pich Saran, immigration police chief at the Poipet border checkpoint, said Sunday that only about two or three Chams are crossing into Thailand each day, due to Thailand’s tightened immigration policy.
(Additional reporting by Kim Chan and Thet Sambath)