BANGKOK: Ismail Ternang, a former senior leader of the Pattani United Liberation Organisation (Pulo), was arrested in Malaysia several days ago for security offences allegedly related to arms smuggling.
Thailand's Fourth Army Commander Lt Gen Piyawat Nakwanich confirmed the former leader's arrest when contacted by Bernama Thursday.
"I was informed that he was arrested by the Malaysian authorities. My men double-checked (with reliable sources) on his reported arrest, " he said, without elaborating.
He said the former Pulo leader was neither wanted for any security offence nor was a warrant of arrest out for him in Thailand since his release from prison two years ago, but Thai security authorities exercised normal monitoring to "keep an eye" on him.
Piyawat said the former leader's arrest was Malaysia's affair and Thailand had nothing to do with it.
According to a source, Ismail was arrested several days ago at his family-run restaurant in Perak following investigations by Malaysian police into an earlier case.
His arrest followed a police operation in Kedah several days ago where a man was shot dead after a brief gunfight.
The deceased was suspected to have been involved in arms smuggling at the Malaysian-Thai border area.
"The police checked the deceased's handphone and found Ismail's handphone number, which led to his arrest days later," said the source.
Ismail once led the armed wing of Pulo in its long struggle in southern Thailand.
The source also claimed that Ismail has since been released by the Malaysian police, but Bernama could not confirm it.
Ismail, 72, who resided in Kampung Ternang, Panarek in Pattani, was only released from a Thai prison two years ago after serving 17 years in jail, following a pardon from the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
He was released in 2015 on the eve of Aidilfitri as a goodwill gesture from the Thai government.
In an interview with Bernama at his house in Pattani last year, Ismail said that after his release from prison, he had been working together with southern Thailand authorities, especially the Southern Border Provinces Administration Centre (SBPAC), to bring economic development to the people.
He had said that the Government should pay more attention to the economic and social wellbeing of locals by implementing relevant programmes that could uplift their livelihood, as it could be effective in discouraging them from engaging in violence and criminal activities. – Bernama