Thai General Denies Making Cham-JI Link

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)

 

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