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Rabbi Says No Danger to Jews in Thailand

Chabad rabbi says despite martial law and terror warnings, Jewish community and visiting Israelis need not fear. 'Not a new situation.'
By Chaim Lev, Ari Yashar
First Publish: 5/21/2014, 12:01 PM

Thai soldier in Bangkok enforces martial law
Thai soldier in Bangkok enforces martial law
Reuters

Despite the imposition of martial law in Thailand on Monday by the military, and the Foreign Ministry's raising of Thailand's terror threat level to "very high concrete threat" after the arrest of two Hezbollah-linked terrorists who were targeting Israelis, Thailand's Chabad delegation argues there is nothing to fear.

Rabbi Nehemiah Wilhelm, the Chabad emissary to Bangkok, told news media that "as of now there's no great change other than that we see a deployment of soldiers in the streets. It doesn't affect us. Not the local Jewish community, and not the Israelis here. There's no concern, it's not a new situation; a few years ago there was a revolution, now it's just a military regime."

The Thai military insisted that it was assuming responsibility for national security but that the move is not a coup, even though the army has staged 11 successful coups since the end of absolute monarchy in 1932.

Thailand was rocked by mass protests late last year, as tensions boiled over between opponents and supporters of allegedly corrupt and exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, over his sister Yingluck, then-prime minister. She was dismissed from by the Constitutional Court two weeks ago for "abusing" her post.

Acting Prime Minister of Thailand, Niwatthamrong Boonsongpaisan, has announced elections for August 3, and said he would talk with the army about ending the military rule.

Rabbi Wilhelm added "to the many who ask, I said there's no need to get into an unnecessary panic; in recent years we've seen similar periods to this, and thank G-d in the end they pass in peace, this is a temporary issue. We're sure that with G-d's help no evil will befall any Jews."

The arrest of the Hezbollah-linked terrorists was likewise met with reassurances by Rabbi Wilhelm. One of the suspects admitted planning a bombing against Israelis during Passover. A Thai security source said at least nine Hezbollah-linked foreign terrorists were believed to be in Thailand at the time, and that authorities were searching for them.

In response, Israeli authorities asked Thailand to step up its security in tourist hot spots frequented by Israelis.