Thailand put out alert for Iranian spies - report

The reported alert comes after an alleged Iranian spy was caught in Indonesia.

 Police officers stand guard before the start of the funeral procession for Thailand's late King Bhumibol Adulyadej before the Royal Cremation Ceremony in front of the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, October 26, 2017 (photo credit: ATHIT PERAWONGMETHA / REUTERS)
Police officers stand guard before the start of the funeral procession for Thailand's late King Bhumibol Adulyadej before the Royal Cremation Ceremony in front of the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, October 26, 2017
(photo credit: ATHIT PERAWONGMETHA / REUTERS)

Thai authorities are on alert for the presence of Iranian spies in their country after an Iranian spy was caught in Indonesia last year, the Bangkok Post reported on Monday based on a police source.

Thai security agencies are monitoring the movements of Iranian nationals and some Thai Muslims under suspicion, according to the source.

In national police chief Pol Gen Suwat Jangyodsuk's order to the country's security agencies to go on alert, he cited the arrest of Ghassem Saberi Gilchalan, an Iranian national, who was found to have entered Indonesia multiple times with a fake Bulgarian passport last year.

The Indonesian newspaper Kompas reported in December that when Gilchalan was arrested at the Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in May 2021, police officers found that he was carrying multiple passports, including an Iranian and Bulgarian passport, as well as a number of Persian-language documents, cash in 16 currencies, 11 cellphones, one tablet, one iPod, two modems and several local and foreign SIM cards.

From 2012 to 2021, Gilchalan entered and left Indonesia 30 times using Iranian and Bulgarian passports. He also traveled to Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Australia using Bulgarian passports. Kompas reported at the time based on testimony from law enforcement officers that the Iranian citizen had told them that he had worked to gather intelligence for the Iranian government.

A policeman gestures at the site where a man was injured when a bomb he was carrying exploded, in central Bangkok February 14, 2012 (credit: DAMIR SAGOLJ/ REUTERS)A policeman gestures at the site where a man was injured when a bomb he was carrying exploded, in central Bangkok February 14, 2012 (credit: DAMIR SAGOLJ/ REUTERS)

Gilchalan stressed that the work that was assigned to him by Sayed Alireza Mir Jafaria, an employee at the Iranian Embassy to Malaysia, did not pose a danger to Indonesia. At least one of his missions involved working to free the Iranian MT Horse oil tanker. The tanker was released in May 2021.

According to the Bangkok Post, the mobile phones carried by Gilchalan had the names of some Thai Muslims saved.

"The exposure of Gilchalan has caused a stir among several countries which are worrying about Iran's secret operations and spies, which are perceived to be a national security threat by each country," said the police source to the Bangkok Post. "Such operations may also be taking place in Southeast Asian countries, including Thailand."

The source added that it is possible that Iranian spies could be conducting intelligence operations in Thailand using fake passports and that Thai citizens could be working as spies for Iran and receiving financial aid or other kinds of support.

The source stressed that Thai authorities were working to avoid a repeat of the 2012 Bangkok bombings, in which Iranian nationals carried out a series of bombings in a suspected attempt to target Israeli diplomats in the city.

The report comes about a week after Israel's National Security Council issued a travel warning advising Israeli citizens not to travel to Turkey and other countries bordering Iran due to threats by Iran to carry out terrorist attacks against Israelis abroad.