Threat spurs Khao San security boost

Security has been tightened along Rambutri and Khao San Roads in Phra Nakhon district where the Jewish community is located, after a terror threat over the Songkran festival.

The Metropolitan Police Bureau (MPB) has stepped up safety measures on the two popular backpacker roads after the Israeli embassy on Friday asked it to provide extra protection for Israeli tourists and other Israeli groups staying there.

The safety measures came in response to the arrests of two suspected terrorists in Bangkok at the start of Songkran, which coincides with the Jewish Passover.

The pair, identified as Lebanese-French national Daoud Farhat and Lebanese-Filipino national Youssef Ayad are accused of planning attacks on Israeli tourists on Khao San Road and of having ties to the Hezbollah terror group.

A Thai waitress at Suksabai restaurant, located close to the Jewish synagogue on Rambutri Road, said she had seen many police patrolling the area and in front of her restaurant over the last few days.

“When police set up yellow barriers to protect the entrance of the synagogue, I suspected another bomb threat might have been made against the Jewish people residing here.

''But I’m not afraid. This is not the first time. I understand there are people who love the Jews and those who hate them,’’ she said.

She said security has always been heavy at Chabad House, a Jewish cultural centre on Rambutri Road which houses a Jewish restaurant, synagogue and community hall.

The restaurant hired guards from Israel. Here, customers who are not Jewish are not allowed to enter the restaurant, she said.

A Thai cook who has been working for over a decade in the Jewish restaurant said he was not afraid of threats because many police were stationed nearby.

Another Thai woman in her 40s working at a restaurant opposite Khao San Road said she has no fear of the situation.

She said an attack on Israeli tourists was unlikely, as few Israeli tourists are visiting Khao San Road.

Despite the news about the supposed terror threat, Israeli tourists yesterday were spotted wandering on Rambutri Road.

Tourists approached by the Bangkok Post refused to comment about the Hezbollah threat.

A hotel staff member nearby said the number of visitors has dropped due to the low tourism season.

Only 80% of rooms have been occupied compared to almost 100% during the New Year's peak tourism season.

“I am afraid of a bomb (at the restaurant) because my hotel is just across the street from the synagogue and I work on the front desk,’’ said one staff member.

Pol Col Sarayut Puangthong, chief of Chana Songkram police station, said 40 officers from Chana Songkram station, the Tourist Police Division, Crime Suppression Division and the MPB's 191 unit were patrolling the area around Rambutri and Khao San Roads as requested by the Israeli embassy.

A Thai police source said Mr Ayad admitted his group entered Thailand to carry out a bomb attack against Israeli tourists on Khao San Road during Songkran.

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