Thaksin: did the jihad reach into his government?
A prominent Thai governing official has been arrested in connection with jihad attacks in southern Thailand. From The Straits Times, with thanks to Nicolei:
A prominent member of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s ruling party faced treason charges yesterday over a deadly January attack on an army base in the Muslim south after a court ordered his arrest.
Najmuddin Umar, a Muslim member of Mr Thaksin’s Thai Rak Thai party, was implicated by one of five people arrested last month over the highly planned raid in Narathiwat province which left four soldiers dead.
‘The court has approved the arrest warrants for Najmuddin and eight others,’ a court official said, declining to identify the co-accused.
The charges relate to treason, rebellion, separatist activities and the theft of weapons, he said.
Najmuddin, along with another Thai Rak Thai parliamentarian and a senator, were named by police investigating the Jan 4 attack which sparked a spate of violence in the region that the government is struggling to control.
More than 50 people including soldiers, police, government officials and even Buddhist monks have been killed this year.
Suspicions about Najmuddin’s involvement – which surfaced earlier this month – have severely embarrassed Mr Thaksin’s Thai Rak Thai party.
He told reporters yesterday that he was not concerned about the allegation against his party member.
‘We’re not going to look at the political angle because even though I’m the head of a political party, I have to put the nation first,’ he said.
According to police documents submitted to court, Najmuddin took part in three secret meetings to plan the raid in Narathiwat province.
The police had also sought arrest warrants against another Thai Rak Thai lawmaker and a non-partisan senator, but the request was turned down by the court.
Najmuddin said earlier yesterday that he would not use political privilege to avoid arrest.
A decades-old separatist movement in the south was contained in the late 1980s, but violence resurfaced two years ago. It intensified after the Jan 4 raid.
Earlier yesterday, a police officer died after he was shot on Wednesday night in Songhkla province, which neighbours the violence-scarred, Muslim-dominated Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala provinces.
The killing raised fears that the violence was spreading to Songhkla, a Buddhist majority province with a sizeable Muslim province.