Deputy PM vows to check every dwelling with Middle Eastern tenants
The three Iranian men detained for allegedly plotting bomb attacks in Bangkok on Israeli diplomats had more than terror on their minds in Thailand. Police said that they had also cavorted with working girls in Pattaya.
The news comes as Thai authorities announced they were searching for two more suspects in the botched bomb plot, including a possible explosives specialist who may have been training the Iranians.
This image taken from a Thai woman’s cell phone shows the 3 suspects cavorting with bar girls in South Pattaya.
The foiled plan was discovered Valentines Day when explosives in the men’s rented house blew up by mistake, forcing them to flee. Two were detained in the Thai capital, and a third was captured the following Day in neighboring Malaysia as he reportedly tried to return to Iran.
After flying into the southern city of Phuket on Feb. 8, the men moved to Pattaya and stayed there for at least two nights before heading to Bangkok.
The Iranians hung out with several female companions during their stay there, and one of the women was brought to Bangkok to identify the suspects, said Lt. Col. Noppon Kuldiloke, a senior immigration police investigator in southern Thailand.
A cellphone image taken by one of the women purportedly shows the three Iranians at a Middle Eastern bar or restaurant surrounded by hookah water-pipes, two of them cradling women in their arms. The men posed for the photo around a low, drink-filled table on which there appeared to be at least one bottle of beer.
In this combination of images made from surveillance video on Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2012, three Iranian bomb suspects, identified by police from left, as Saeid Moradi, Mohammad Kharzei and Masoud Sedaghatzadeh, walk down the middle of a residential street in Bangkok after the first blast at an explosives-filled house where the three were staying. (AP Photo/Spokesman Office of National Thai Police)
The woman who took the image said one of the now-detained suspects, Mohammad Kharzei, had asked her to escort him “because he was not good at speaking English.”
She said she brought two companions for Kharzei’s friends, and they had drinks and played snooker together. The woman detected nothing awry, except when one of the Iranians “barred her from approaching a closet” in his hotel room.
She later revealed that whilst laying in bed with Kharzei, news came on the television of the botched bombing in Bangkok. She said Kharzei became very agitated and asked her to translate. As she did so, he packed his belongings and soon after, checked out, and hired a cab to take him to Bangkok. She said she believed he was going to the airport.
The botched plot has ratcheted up tensions between Iran and Israel, which is accusing Iran of waging a covert campaign of state terror that included a bombing the previous day in New Delhi that tore through an Israeli diplomatic vehicle, wounding an Israeli diplomat’s wife and driver, and a failed bomb attempt the same day in the former Soviet republic of Georgia.
Iran has denied responsibility for all three bomb plots, and blames the Jewish state for the recent killings of Iranian atomic scientists.
Thailand’s national police chief said Thursday that the detained Iranians were plotting to attack Israeli diplomats, citing the similarity of so-called “sticky” bombs that can be attached magnetically that were used in New Delhi and Tbilisi.
Video cameras captured each of the three Iranian men leaving the residence shortly after an explosion ripped the roof of the house that afternoon.
Winai said police also are looking for an additional suspect who had rented the destroyed home with an Iranian woman named Leila Rohani who is now believed to be back in Tehran.
Besides Kharzei, the two other detained suspects are Saeid Moradi, whose leg was sheared off by explosives he was carrying on a busy Bangkok street as he tried to flee, and Masoud Sedaghatzadeh, who was arrested in Malaysia and was trying to return to Iran.
Locally, Pol. Lt. Gen. Punya Maamen, commander of Region 2, is calling for a thorough inspection of all hotels, and is demanding that all hotels, guests houses, apartments and rented houses strictly obey the law requiring them to provide police with details of all tenants within 24-hours of them checking in.
Punya went on to say he is confident that Pattaya City does not have any bombers or terrorists. However, he is asking cooperation from all sectors of society to report any suspicious behavior.
Later, on Feb. 17, Chonburi Governor Khomsan Ekachai, Pattaya Mayor Itthiphol Kunplome, Pol. Maj. Gen. Jamnong Rattanakul, commander of Chonburi police, and Banglamung Mayor Chaowalit Saeng-Uthai gathered Pattaya business people to brief them about heightened security.
They showed a video of the botched Iranian bombing in Bangkok, reassured them a similar event was unlikely here, but nonetheless asked for their cooperation in reporting anything suspicious. They asked these business people to post safety measures in their hotels and entertainment venues, warning people to be cautious of foreigners in entertainment areas.
Police have also set up 24-hour terrorism watch hotlines and email addresses, as follows: Chonburi police station: email [email protected], Banglamung police station phone number 038-822-2480 038-221-124, email [email protected] .go.th, Pattaya police station phone number 038-420-802-5, email [email protected] .com, TCCC phone number 038-424-185, email [email protected] Police are asking citizens to help the officers by being their ears and eyes.
Finally, Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung this week said police are now conducting a thorough check of all hotels, condos, apartments, and houses that have Middle Easterners as tenants. (AP & Pattaya Mail)