As I found out to my peril this past fall, Bangkok is an important logistics hub where supplies come into and through Bangkok to those of us who live in Thailand’s hinterland. But, an article from Stratfor makes it plain that Bangkok is not only vital to the ordinary logistics for someone like myself who enjoys orange Fanta and strawberry Dewberry cookies, but it is also a vital logistics hub for terrorists .
This is a worthy story, though not one that has made the press as far as I have seen (for good reason). A man identified as Hussein Atris, Lebanese born but with a Swedish passport, was arrested and accused of being a Hezbollah logistics agent in Bangkok, and he was caught with a large amount of fertilizers often used for IUDs as well as vehicle bombs. Intriguingly enough, the fertilizer was to be stored (presumably for shipment) in fan boxes, and it appears that Atris was a logistics agent whose expertise was in shipping and storing terrorist supplies across international borders, using Bangkok as his base, and not involved in any kind of operational planning for terrorism.
While there are undoubtedly tempting terrorist targets within Thailand (unfortunately), it would appear, according to Stratfor’s analysis, as though Yingling Shinawatra’s government is correct in claiming that the terrorist plot was outside of Thailand and that was not devoted to being in Thailand. Unfortunately, the reasons why that is likely are not very flattering to Thailand, and while it is impolitic to speculate too much on why Thailand remains a logistics hub for rogue arms dealers and terrorists, the fact that it is so is quite an embarrassment, but worth discussing at a little length.
Bangkok in specific is known worldwide as a hub of counterfeit documents (and counterfeiting in general, one of the reasons I am limited as to what music videos I can watch here). It would be a foolish strategic move to attack a key logistics hub in one’s illicit operations. It is better to use such territories for one’s purposes rather than to provoke a harsh anti-terrorist backlash where one has been comfortably doing business for years. Terrorists are often businessmen after all–Hezbollah has transitioned from ideological terrorism using drug smuggling and counterfeiting to fund them to a political movement whose leaders profit off of drug smuggling and counterfeiting and leveraging their terrorist expertise to third parties for fun and profit. For a terrorist to willfully strike at their bottom line is not generally done unless there would be a very serious reason to do so (and that does not appear obvious).
It seems curious how a nation with the biggest military within Southeast Asia, one trained and armed by the United States military, would acquire a notorious reputation for illegal arms dealing and terrorist logistics services. The are the precise sorts of problems that a morally upright institution would be most anxious to fight against. Such a lamentable and alarming state of affairs suggests that there is deep corruption that provides a mostly safe place for evildoers and their profiteering to thrive, a state of affairs that is dangerous for other countries.
As far as where the fertilizer for explosives was to be going, the best guess so far suggests that it was designed to go to the Philippines, which has been fighting an eternal warfare against radical Islamist groups based out of Mindanao for a very long time. It would appear, based on such evidence as exists, that terrorists are using a familiar business model of outsourcing certain tedious but vital areas of expertise (like logistics) to qualified third parties so that they can most effectively focus on their own core competencies like using local knowledge to engage in acts of terror. This would suggest that terrorists are very much like those they wish to destroy. In the end, if we are rabidly hateful enough, we become what we hate, and it would suggest a high level of sophistication in the way terrorism operates, something that ought to cause us to reflect on the complications of our world.