When Faulty Technology can Cost Police Lives
By: Abdulloh Benjakat
Published: 28/06/2009 at 12:00 AM
Newspaper section: News
A number of technology-based security measures has been introduced in the strife-torn deep South to tackle militancy and aid police investigations.
But several incidents have proved that authorities cannot absolutely trust the technology, which could lead to misunderstandings among local residents.
Bomb detectors and surveillance cameras are among the tools used to give security authorities an edge in their struggle to restore peace and order.
Known as GT 200, the remote substance detection device is popular among international security forces.
There are more than 100 of them in the South where explosives have now become the insurgents' weapon of choice.
The 700,000 baht GT 200 not only prevents explosions, but can track down bombers by detecting traces of explosives on their clothes.
However, the device has given wrong readings on several occasions and even failed to detect explosive materials, resulting in the loss of life.
Three members of a border patrol police unit were killed in a blast while they were inspecting a suspected bomb planted on a road in Panare district. The GT 200 they were using apparently could not detect traces of explosives.
In another blast in Muang district, security forces narrowly escaped death when a bomb exploded while they were investigating the murder of three officials.
Using a GT 200, security forces scouted the scene of the shooting five times and declared it clear of bombs.
Just as forensic officials began pulling out their tool kits, a bomb went off. It was a sheer luck that no one was hurt.
The deployment of GT 200s has also led to intense stand-offs between security forces and villagers.
Following an ambush in Ban Pakageenor in Nong Chik district in Pattani, security forces sealed off a ponoh school and lined up students for examination for traces of explosives.
The devices readings suggested three of them had traces of explosives on them. The three were detained for questioning only to be released because a conventional investigation could not find evidence to link them with the ambush.
However, their families and neighbours were angered by the incident.
In Yaring district, three men were detained for questioning over a bomb blast after the explosives scanner suggested traces of explosives on them.
An inquiry coupled with witness questioning cleared them of any involvement. They just happened to pass by the blast scene when police were investigating the site.
Similar erroneous readings caused pandemonium at Pattani Hospital.
According to the GT 200, a bomb was inside a briefcase that had been left unattended. But when a bomb disposal squad arrived, their GT 200 found nothing. The briefcase was then opened and found to contain documents and a clock. The owner had left his belongings as he rushed for a kidney dialysis appointment.
In addition, several thousand surveillance cameras which have been installed across the violence-torn region have never become operational.
The equipment procurement was approved under a budget of 972 million baht by the interim government of Surayud Chulanont.
The battle against insurgent attacks in the troubled region is not just about having technology-based security measures. It is also about putting them to good use - otherwise any attempts to solve the problems will be perceived as perfunctory.
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