The Royal Thai Police issued a “secret order” to police officers nationwide to stay on high alert over the potential presence of Iranian spies in the southeastern Asian country.
The Bangkok Post on Monday cited a police source saying that Thai security agencies are closely monitoring the movement of Iranian nationals who are believed to be operating as spies in Thailand.
The newspaper quoted a source saying that on May 24 last year, Thai police received information about Ghassem Saberi Gilchalan, who arrived in the country carrying a Bulgarian passport which was later found to be fake.
It added that on May 27 last year, the man was arrested by Indonesian authorities at Soekarno–Hatta International Airport just before departing for Qatar.
Indonesian police found that he had entered the country at least 10 times using false papers. A court sentenced him to two years in jail for the offenses and that the man had 11 mobile phones, one tablet computer, a number of SIM cards and cash worth more than B320,000.
The source added that after further interrogation, Gilchalan told police that he had been given several assignments by a former Iranian diplomat in Malaysia to act as a spy both there and in Indonesia several times.
The latest attempt involved lobbying Indonesian authorities to release the Iranian-flagged MT Horse oil tanker apprehended in the country’s waters in January 2021.
The man also set up a company as a front in Bali which was use as a safe house for his covert operations, the source added.
“In light of this, it is possible that spies from Iran may also be engaging in secret operations in Thailand using fake passports,” the source said, adding there have been concerns over Thailand’s’ hosting of the APEC Summit in November which will be attended by world leaders.
“We can't afford to let any unrest or violence happen,” the source stressed, adding that authorities wanted to avoid an attack similar to the February 2012 Sukhumvit 71 explosion.
Three Iranian men were arrested and jailed in connection with a bomb believed to have gone off prematurely targeting Israeli diplomats in Bangkok.
One man had his legs blown off after he tried to throw a bomb at police.
In November 2020, the Iranian prisoners were sent home to serve out their sentences under a prisoner swap agreement to release British-Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert.
The lecturer was held in Tehran on spying charges she denies.
Two Iranians had been deported, while a third was pardoned in August, Thai officials said.