Bangkok Terror Alert 16/01/12

(UPDATE: On January 26th 2012 Israel's Counter Terrorism Bureau cancelled the terror warning for Bangkok because of "the work of the Thai security forces...". However the Bureau warned because there remains a possibility that some terrorist infrastructure remains in Thailand,Israeli visitors should exercise caution on the February 12th anniversary of the death of Hezbollah commander Imad Muganiyah.)

Visitors to Bangkok are being warned of the possibility of “severe” terrorist attacks following the arrest of a suspected terror cell leader on Thursday night.

Atris Hussein, a Swedish-Lebanese man, who is a member of the Hizbollah militant group was arrested at Suvarnabhumi airport. Mr Hussein allegedly told police his group had planned to attack public areas in Bangkok.

Thai authorities have increased security at popular tourist spots including Khao San Road and Sukhumvit Soi 22. However the Deputy Prime Minister, Kowit Wattana, who is also a general of police and in charge of security, said the situation was under control and visitors should not be concerned.

General Kowit said other suspected members of the terror group fled Thailand after the arrest of their leader and their plans to launch attacks had been “cancelled”.

Terror Plot Uncovered

The existence of the terror cell and possible plans to launch attacks in Bangkok had been known since mid December when Israeli authorities alerted Thai and US counterparts that they’d discovered evidence of a plot.

According to a report by Reuters news agency::

“A Thai defence ministry source said Israeli intelligence had contacted Thai officials on December 22 with information that two or three suspects could be planning an attack. However, the individuals travelled to the south and left the country.

The Israelis alerted Thai officials again on January 8 to the danger of an attack around January 13 to 15 in areas where there are often large concentrations of Western tourists. The arrest was made after the second Israeli warning, the source said.”

Thailand’s Defence Minister, General Yutthasak Sasiprapa, said Israel, the US and Thailand had initially agreed to keep the suspected plot secret to avoid panic and to protect the tourism industry. He said they were unhappy with the decision by the US to unilaterally release a travel alert on the issue.

The US has been joined by ten other nations, including Israel, Australia, and the UK, in warning their citizens to be extra vigilant.

What Should I Do?

Expect to see extra police and security forces on the streets of popular tourists spots. This is true not only of Bangkok but also Chang Mai and Phuket where patrols have been stepped up.

Expect to have your bags checked at popular public places. Do not leave any of your bags unattended, and if you do see a bag or parcel report it to the authorities immediately.

According to Israeli authorities, the terror plot was intended to specifically target Israeli and American interests. You should exercise caution while in the vicinity of those countries respective embassies, or institutions closely associated with them.

Heere are some tips on preparing for, and surviving, any terror attack.

Surviving a terror attack

Travellers involved or close to a terror incident are advised to exercise heightened security awareness and to follow the directives of local authorities. Here are a few safety first tips:

  • Stay within the confines of your residence or accommodation.
  • Do not go out into the public streets.
  • Be alert to local news developments.
  • Adhere to any imposed curfews or security restrictions.
  • Be aware of conspicuous or unusual behaviour. Unusual behaviour and strange devices should be reported to the police or security personnel promptly.
  • If you are in a building located close to the site of a terrorist attack, stay away from the windows.
  • If in the vicinity of an attack, do not stay to watch what is happening, as you will only get in the way of the emergency services. There is also a risk that additional attacks may occur.
  • Make a mental note of safe havens, such as police stations and hospitals.

If there's a bomb blast

  • Leave the area as soon as possible
  • Do not run you may be suspected as the bomber. If you are in a crowd stay at the fringes.
  • Stay clear of glass shop fronts.
  • If you are injured attend to yourself before others.
  • Obey all instructions and orders that are given by local police.
  • Make your way to a pre planned secure area.
  • If you return to your hotel stay away from the windows.
  • Listen to television and radio reports.
  • Contact family or friends and let them know your situation.
  • Write down what you saw before and after the blast it may help the authorities in their investigation.

If you are injured

If you are injured or become ill please seek medical aid and contact your 24-hour Medical Assistance Service (numbers below).

Be aware that any functioning hospitals and clinics will be busy caring for large numbers of people who have been injured in the incident. 

Preparing for terrorism

Before visiting a country where there is a risk of terrorism you should first obtain as much information on that country as possible. 

  • When you arrive, stay away from those areas that may have been the target of terrorism in the past. 
  • Identify the main tourist areas and stay away from those which appear less secure. 
  • Make yourself aware of your surroundings. Be aware of the conduct of people near to you. 
  • Stay away from large gatherings or demonstrations. 
  • Know the telephone numbers of local police, hospitals and your Embassy. 
  • If you are with friends identify a rendezvous point to meet should there be an incident. 
  • Prepare a plan to evacuate should there be an incident. 
  • Know the telephone numbers of local transport and hire car companies.