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Old 07-25-2012, 09:02 AM   #1

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Oct 2005
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Default Cops in North uncover drugs for bombs racket
Muslim extremists from South thought involved

LAMPANG : Police have uncovered what they suspect is a drugs for explosives racket in Lampang which they fear could be funnelling dynamite and bomb-making materials to southern Muslim extremists operating in the North.

Lampang police last Thursday arrested Pongthep na Lampang, alias Tu Phrabaht, at a hotel in Muang district for possession of explosives and drugs.

They confiscated two sticks of dynamite, a gel bomb and an explosive-triggering device along with 10 methamphetamine pills and 4kg of crystal methamphetamines.

Police say Mr Pongthep, 37, told them the explosives came from a lignite mine owned by Mae Moh power plant under the jurisdiction of the state-owned Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand.

He said an officer at the power plant was behind the theft of the explosives and they were traded for drugs that were sold to workers at the mine.

The unidentified officer had made a lot of money out of the illegal business, Mr Pongthep allegedly told police.

Police said the suspect planned to sell the bombs in the black market but he did not know where and what the explosives would be used for.

A source at the Surasak Montri military camp in Lampang said the report of such powerful explosives being stolen and sold to a drug sgang had sparked serious security concerns.

They could pose a real threat to the province's security as it is home to a large power plant, fuel depots and several important government agencies, the source said.

According to the security source, some of the explosives were expected to be sent to the deep South.

There are also concerns that Lampang and other provinces in the North could be targets of sabotage, the source said.

Intelligence authorities are aware of Muslim extremist groups from the turbulent South operating in the North.

During the past two years the extremists have been involved in the illicit drug trade, money-laundering and a vast amount of land purchases in the North, raising concerns among security authorities in the region, another source said.

Illegal logging and drug trafficking had become two major problems in Lampang, provincial governor Thawatchai Therdphaothai said.

Stateless workers were being hired by some capitalists to encroach on forest land in the province, while some locals were being used to acquire large swathes of land, he said.

Mr Thawatchai said the province is closely monitoring a number of people believed to be behind illegal logging and land brokering.

The province also has received a report about the movements of an insurgent group in the province and is still verifying the information, said Mr Thawatchai, adding that state agencies had been alerted.
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