Emerging from a cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said today that she had been briefed on the information and had ordered the police to step up security at the US consulate in the North, although the US embassy had not made any special request.
Police armed with HK33 rifles are reportedly on security duty at the consulate around the clock in shifts of seven members each. A checkpoint has been set up in front of the consulate. Incidentally, the Cobra Gold joint military exercise, involving troops from many countries including the US, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia and Thailand, is scheduled to take place in Chiang Mai from February 11-21.
Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung said that as per the information, al-Qaeda and Salafist terrorists planned to launch a three-pronged attack on the US consulate in Chiang Mai in an operation codenamed "Billiard Ball", Bangkok Post online said.
The terrorists would be equipped with small arms, grenade launchers and C-4 charges provided by drug traders who were not satisfied with the role of the US consulate in Chiang Mai in drugs suppression in the region, the paper quoted the deputy premier as saying. Thailand, a magnet for global tourists, has not been a major target for terrorism attacks.
However, in last January, US and the Israeli embassies had sent out warnings of a possible terror threat in the capital. A Lebanese-Swedish suspect was arrested and was accused of possessing nearly 3,000 kg of ammonium nitrate, a fertilizer that can be used to make explosives. A month later, two Iranian suspects were detained following an explosion on Valentine's Day that saw four civilians wounded.
The blast came a day after an Israeli diplomatic car was bombed in India -- an attack Israel blamed on Iran. Thailand is a long-standing partner of the US and a non-NATO ally.