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Monday, May 23, 2011

WikiLeaks: Eskay had dealings with insurgents

Sulaiman Kamal | 3:01 PM | Best Blogger Tips

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A leaked US embassy cable from 2006 reveals businessman Shazryl Eskay Abdullah's indepth knowledge on the Southern Thailand armed conflict.

KUALA LUMPUR: A leaked confidential US embassy cable from 2006 has revealed the extent of influence wielded by businessman Shazryl Eskay Abdullah in dealing with Thai Malay separatists who are still involved in a war with the Thai government.
Eskay, who was then the honorary Thai consul in Langkawi, had shared his indepth knowledge of the separatist movement and their activities with the US embassy high-ranking officers in a meeting on Feb 5, 2006.
Details of the meeting were sent in a confidential cable by political counsellor Mark D Clark to the US State Department in Washington.
Details of the cable were leaked by WikiLeaks to popular blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin who had published the leaked cable in his Malaysia Today website today.
Clark, in the cable, had revealed some of Eskay’s insight and knowledge of the separatist movement and their acts, including:
  • the use of Malaysia as a safe haven;
  • the role played by older generation insurgency leaders in providing support to the younger leaders;
  • identifying one veteran insurgent as actively ordering attacks;
  • the insurgents receiving financial assistance via Singapore from unknown sources;
  • younger generation separatists entering Malaysia, particularly when the situation became “too hot”; and
  • young insurgents given jobs at Thai restaurants and on rubber estates.
Clark noted that Eskay’s information on the insurgents were the most detailed the US team had received.
“Eskay credibly appeared to have contacts with a large pool of old guard leaders, insurgents, and sympathisers from Thailand’s Malay south.
“His views on the insurgency were the most detailed we heard during five days of travel in northern Malaysia and tracked well in many respects with information and opinions from others,” Clark said in the cable.
The cable added that Eskay had described his significant “mediator” role in the 2005-2006 dialogue with Thai Malay insurgents and his frequent interaction with separatists on both sides of the border.
“Eskay said he carried out his work on the Thai insurgency largely independent of the Thai and
Malaysian governments, and maintained direct links with most known Malay separatist leaders resident in Malaysia.
“To bolster his credentials, he showed video footage he had recorded of various meetings with men he described as elder separatist leaders and younger operators,” added Clark’s cable.
Clark, however, warned that Eskay’s belief in the usefulness of engaging the old guard contradicted the opinion of Malaysian politicians, officials and police who generally dismissed the old-timers as irrelevant.
He also said that several Malaysians volunteered they were suspicious of Eskay’s contacts with
Malay separatists and alleged Eskay had been involved in controversial business deals in the past.
Clark also pointed out in his cable that the identity of Eskay is protected throughout.
The old guard
The cable said that Eskay had informed the US officials that most of the older generation of
Malay separatist leaders lived in Malaysia with the Malaysian government’s knowledge and acquiescence.
“Eskay confirmed that younger generation separatists, including those involved in recent attacks in southern Thailand, frequently entered Malaysia, particularly when the situation became ‘too hot’ and they required safe haven,” the cable said, adding that the Malaysian government was not always aware of the identity and travel of younger separatists.
The cable said that the older leaders, with well-established networks in Malaysia, constituted the support service for the insurgents, providing shelter and transportat, and arranging jobs, including in Thai restaurants and on rubber estates.
Clark also said that Eskay named one veteran insurgent, Abdullah Idris, the vice-president of National Revolutionary Front, as responsible for ordering some of the ongoing attacks in southern Thailand.
However, Eskay believed that the Malay separatists accounted for only 30% of attacks in the south with Thai army, policy and intelligence agency factions, along with criminal gangs, responsible for the balance.
“Eskay relayed that many insurgent leaders believed deposed Prime Minister Thaksin (Shinawatra) and Thai Rak Thai party adviser General Chavalit (Yongchaiyudh) were funding much of the recent violence.”
The cable also said that Eskay admitted arranging meetings between Malaysian intelligence and various insurgents operating in Thailand, meetings which included an understanding of safe passage within Malaysia.
However, he had said that even on Malaysian soil, Thai Malay militants did not feel safe from possible assassination or kidnapping.
“On at least one occasion, a Thai bounty hunter had bribed local Malaysian police to abduct a separatist who was in Malaysia.
“Eskay had intervened to release the target, whom the Malaysian police officer had locked in the trunk of his police car,” added the cable.
Foreign funding and international links
The cable also noted that Eskay had revealed that some insurgents received funds from a bank in Singapore, which passed through money changers in the border town of Padang Besar, in Perlis.
Eskay had also informed the US officials that he saw no evidence the Malay separatists had linked up with external terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda or Jemaah Islamiyah.
“Eskay did not know the origin of the funds… though there was in his view a clear potential for a link-up with terrorist groups,” said the cable.
Eskay commented that Malaysian intelligence did not pay adequate attention to this risk and he encouraged the US to keep a close watch on developments.
The US officials’ meeting with Eskay took place just days before a visit to Thailand by the then Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to offer a Malaysian “facilitator” role for future informal talks between Malay separatists and Thai government intelligence.
Eskay, however, felt that the Malaysian mediation role would not make progress.
“Instead, Eskay anticipated continued violence,” said the US cable, which also stated that Eskay had shared with the US officials a 12-page “confidential” paper on the insurgency and Thai Malay views, resulting from his interviews with numerous separatist leaders.
More than 4,500 people, both Muslims and Buddhists, have died since shadowy insurgents launched an uprising in Thailand’s southernmost region bordering Malaysia in early 2004.
The three southern provinces have been under emergency rule since 2005, giving the military broad powers of arrest.
Eskay is back in the news again in March this year after releasing a sex video which he claimed showed Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim having sex with a Chinese prostitute.
Anwar has denied it was him in the video but Eskay is adamant that he is right, claiming that he was in the video together with Anwar.
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