Matt Pratten

Matt Pratten

Associate Analyst

04/03/2018

04/03/2018

Thailand Weekly Intelligence Report

Note from the CEO: This is the last Thailand Weekly Intelligence Report by Matthew Pratten, which I feel has been a fantastic series of reports with accurate in depth reporting and insightful analysis. Matthew has almost completed a highly successful internship with us, and he can be contacted via his LinkedIn profile in relation to this report, his historical work, or any opportunities moving forward.

Date: 4 March 2018

Monitoring Period: 12:01hrs, 18 FEB 2018 to 12:00hrs 03 MAR 2018 (GMT+8)

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Overall, Thailand’s situation appears to have decreased towards MEDIUM-HIGH due to the reduction in incidents compared to the last report and while the severity of incidents remains at similar levels, these appear to be largely concentrated in Bangkok. In addition, the conduct of protests throughout this reporting period and in previous reports indicates that a repeat of unrest seen in the past is unlikely at this time.

Given the absence of such activities outside of Bangkok – especially the South – it is PROBABLE the rest of the country will continue to be in a ‘status quo’ type of situation. Incidents of Drug trafficking will no doubt continue despite efforts by authorities to counter them. It would now appear to be CONFIRMED that unless Thai authorities are able to directly target the producers such as Yi Se; large quantities of Yaba, Ice and Marijuana will continue to come into and through Thailand.

The forecasted weather conditions though could POTENTIALLY see the beginnings of flooding, particularly in the North, North-East and Central reporting regions.

INTRODUCTION

This Weekly Intelligence Report on Thailand is intended to analyse what has been happening country wide then delve into Bangkok due to its significance as the nation’s capital and analyse events on one other reporting region – carried out on a rotation basis – in order to delve into SIGACTS as well as examine trends occurring elsewhere more easily. The region to be examined alongside Bangkok this week is the South Reporting Region again.

COUNTRY WIDE REPORTING

Over this monitoring period there have been 110 incidents throughout Thailand which have been logged on the Intelligence Fusion platform; with Bangkok and the Southern Reporting Regions continuing to be the areas with the highest levels of recorded activity.

February has finished with the second highest level of activity to date; with 226 incidents recorded and an average of 8.07 incidents/day. This kind of activity has not occurred since November 2017.

COMMENT. Based on the previous report, overall activity appears to have continued to increase across Thailand; on 19 FEB 2018 the level of activity was at 4.43 incidents/day, prior to that it was 2.14 incidents/day. February appears to have been a month where overall activity broadly doubled with each report (Pratten 2018a, 2018b). COMMENT ENDS.

 

In terms of what types of activity is occurring throughout the country, the graphs and table below indicate that over the period since the last report, there have been decreases in the number of incidents and a slight decrease in the severity of incidents. While the graphs would indicate large increases in ‘Criminality’ and ‘Other,’ this report covers a fortnight rather than a week. When considering that 57 of the 110 incidents happened over the first part of the last fortnight, this would mean that activity across the country is de-escalating.

Incidents of ‘Criminality’ and ‘Other’ continue to as the highest levels of incidents; at 45% and 31% of total incidents across Thailand respectively. While the number of incidents in this fortnight have not changed overall levels, there have been continued Bombings, Direct Weapons and Protests with an increase in Hazards, one Complex Attack and a Maritime incident. Such incidents tend to be out of the ordinary for Thailand (McCabe & Harington, 2018).

BANGKOK REPORTING REGION

 

1. SUMMARY

February has finished with the highest level of activity yet with an average of 3.06 incidents/day. This fortnight has seen a number of major developments regarding the election which will be covered in the SIGACTS below and in an upcoming SUPINTREP. These developments have not changed the overall picture of activity in Bangkok.

Protests have continued mainly at Thammasat University with no unrest occurring; at this time no arrests have been reported nor has there been any mention of DRG leaders behind previous protests being present at them. During this time, activists have also petitioned the Constitutional Court to lift the ban on political activities; with the NCPO opposing the petition and revealing the ban will probably be lifted in June to allow local elections to occur. In addition, the Pheu Thai Party released a statement during this period that it will not participate in the protests being carried out by student activists and there have been other groups – their issues and membership are unrelated student activists and the election – saying they are willing to carry out protests at Government House to voice their concerns.

COMMENT. The continuing protests, the petition and willingness by other groups to carry out protests indicates there is a growing willingness to violate the NCPO’s ban on political gatherings and activities. The Pheu Thai Party’s statement to stay away from student protests would mainly be for the purpose of avoiding its members being arrested. However, their statement would also indicate that the UDD may also avoid them, lessening the chances of protests turning violent. COMMENT ENDS.

SIGACTS

2. 21 FEB – 02 MAR 2018: Political Developments

Over the last fortnight, there have been several conflicting incidents relating to the progress towards the next election. On 21 FEB 2018, the NLA is apparently unlikely to shoot down two organic bills on the election of MPs and the selection of Senators that must be passed in order for the general election to be held either later this year or early in 2019. The assembly is also seeking to close a legal loophole in the organic bill on the Senate to prevent people with ties to politicians from becoming senators.

According to available reports, the NLA needs to be sure that the first chamber of 250 appointed senators serving a five-year term during a transitional post-election period as stipulated by the constitution will be free of people affiliated with political parties. This is because the first 250 who are appointed will play a crucial role in choosing an "outsider" Prime Minister. They will also oversee the implementation of the regime's reform strategy, putting pressure on the NLA to keep politicians and their associates at bay. NLA whip spokesman Jate Siratharanon said they are expected to be taken to the NLA for deliberation on March 8.

On 22 FEB 2018, the NLA voted down all seven candidates for the new EC in a move that will force the search process to start anew. The NLA cast secret ballots for the EC candidates and every single one failed to pass the vote. Each candidate needed 124 out of a total of 248 legislators' votes; none got even half the required amount. The rejection of all seven candidates means the process for officials to oversee the election much start again and within 90 days.

COMMENT. The NLA has carried out a move like this back in January with its decision to delay enforcement of the Organic Act on the Election of MPs if it became law. This move was a catalyst for the commencement of protests by the DRG and the PGN; who have been claiming the NCPO is aiming to hold on to power through these measures (Pratten, McCabe & Harrington 2018). COMMENT ENDS.

On 27 FEB 2018, PM Prayuth Chan-o-cha stated the country will have elections by February 2019, though he suggested the date is conditional on the political situation remaining calm. The election was scheduled for November this year after it had previously been delayed. The repeated delays, along with several corruption scandals, have raised discontent with the ruling junta among the public and media. There was little open opposition to the military when it seized power in May 2014 after an extended period of political street violence that paralysed the running of government.

COMMENT. This is not the first time where the election has been delayed. PM Chan-o-cha has made multiple promises for the election to be carried out only to delay them. This recent delay will add to growing criticism of the NCPO and PM Chan-o-cha of wanting to hold on to power and cement the military’s hold on the country. COMMENT ENDS.

Finally, 02 MAR 2018 a total of 42 political groups applied for registration as political parties on the first day of the registration at the EC’s head office. EC chairman Supachai Somcharoen said that the EC would take about a month to check all the related documents before approving their applications for registration.

Commissioner Somchai Srisuttiyakorn said although there was not a timeframe for the application for registration, parties that want to contest the next election must apply for registration within March so that they would be able to start political activity in April simultaneously with the old parties.

COMMENT. Among these 42 parties were parties which are supportive of PM Chan-o-cha staying on as PM after the election as an ‘outsider’ PM. While this incident would add credibility to an election occurring, the delays with the election and the NLA’s recent decisions surrounding the Organic Acts on the Election of MPs, Selection of Senators and rejection of all seven EC candidates indicate the election will not occur without significant controversies and claims that the NCPO and PM Chan-o-cha will aim to hold on to power. COMMENT ENDS.

3. 21 FEB 2018: Protest Groups to be Dealt With in a 'Soft Manner' by Thai Government

As protesters increase pressure on the NCPO, the NSC has stated they would use a soft approach to maintain order, but also look into financiers who allegedly backed anti-junta groups. The NSC is apparently not concerned with the activities of the pro-election movements unless there are “third hand” elements to stir up trouble. The pro-election groups – namely the DRG – have vowed to carry on their activities to call for an election within this year in March and May in defiance of the junta’s order against illegal public gatherings.

COMMENT. Police have been allowing groups to carry out protests recently but their leaders have usually been summoned by police afterwards and charged. In contrast, during this statement by the NSC 84 members of the PAD known as the "Srivichai Warriors" received prison sentences of up to 8 months by the Supreme Court for their role in the siege of the state-run NBT TV station in Bangkok during the anti-government protest in 2008. The Supreme Court's verdict reconfirmed an earlier verdict of the Appeals Court which found the 84 former security guards guilty of illegal assembly and illegal association of more than ten people to commit offences, causing unrest (The Bangkok Post, 2018; Thai PBS, 2018).

At this time, the NSC and NCPO are allowing DRG protests to occur and are instead focussing their efforts on any groups previously responsible for unrest. COMMENT ENDS.

4. 22 FEB 2018: Criminal Court Rejects Police Requests to Detain Pro-Election Activists

Following the developments surrounding the NSC’s and NCPO’s approach to current protest groups, the Criminal Court turned down a request by police to detain four pro-election activists including Sukrit Piansuwan, Sirawith Seritiwat and Anon Nampha for staging a rally near Democracy Monument in Bangkok on 10 FEB 2018. The court said the suspects' addresses are known, they do not appear to be flight risks and the court apparently dismissed claims by police of these activists organising more rallies as speculation.

COMMENT. Sukrit Piansuwan, Sirawith Seritiwat and Anon Nampha are leaders in the DRG. Following their release on bail after being arrested for that protest on 10 FEB 2018, this group released a schedule of further protests that will stretch out to May 2018 (Pratten 2018a). With the court dismissing the Police’s concerns as speculation, this may embolden the DRG to escalate their activities. COMMENT ENDS.

5. 24 FEB 2018: DRG Holds Rally at Thammasat University, Pathum Thani

Pro-democracy activists have staged protest rallies in Thailand. The protesters, wearing Pinocchio masks that portrayed PM Prayut Chan-o-cha with a long nose, rallied in the capital calling him a "liar" for delaying the general elections promised this year. The main organizer of the protests was the DRG, which had announced a roadmap of protests for every Saturday in March and May. The largest gathering is expected between May 19 and 22 to mark the four-year anniversary of the coup.

COMMENT. This protest follows the DRG’s previously released schedule of activities. What is noticeable about these protests so far is an absence of the unrest seen in previous years – such as the Bangkok Shutdown perpetrated by the PDRC in 2013-2014 that saw the NCPO take over. The conduct of these protests so far not only matches the NCPO’s intentions of dealing with these groups in a “soft manner” but reduces the chances of a repeat of the unrest seen previously; removing the necessity at this time for an IPB to analyse how future unrest could play out. It would appear necessary to now look at how the election itself will play out rather than analyse how will future unrest occur (Pratten 2018c; Duncan McCargo 2018; Hodal 2018; Lefevre et al. 2018). COMMENT ENDS.

SOUTH REPORTING REGION

 

6. SUMMARY – 14 JAN 2018 TO 02 MAR 2018

The South Reporting Region continues to be a close second to Bangkok when it comes to incidents occurring in Thailand. While ‘Criminality’ incidents make up the vast majority at 46% and stretches across the region; unlike many other parts of Thailand there are a variety of other kinds of incidents occurring: IEDs, Hazards, Direct Weapons Incidents as well as Other incidents and are almost exclusively occurring in the provinces of what is referred to as the ‘Deep South’ of Thailand.

Analysis carried out in the previous Weekly Intelligence Report and several incidents since continue to show the provinces of Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala provinces remain CONFIRMED areas for foreigners to comply with ‘Do Not Travel’ warnings for these areas of Thailand. While Songkhla along with Phattalung, Trang and Satun see little in terms of insurgent activities, these provinces would also be best avoided by foreigners so as to avoid any chance of being caught up in drug trafficking and associated crimes that come with it; especially in Hat Yai district of Songkhla (Pratten 2018a).

Looking at the South Reporting Region from Songkhla all the way up to Kanchanaburi province, plotted incidents indicate the main areas of activity are the provinces of Nakhon Pathom, Kananchanaburi, Ratchaburi and Samut Sakhon where incidents revolve around corruption and hunting of illegal wildlife. In addition, the tourist hub stretching from Phuket Island to Koh Samui in Surat Thani appears to see significant levels of Crime-related activity – Drug Trafficking, Driving Offences and Murders – and Hazards that appear to be caused by poor safety standards (McCabe & Harrington 2018).

While none of the incidents above would constitute SIGACTS on their own, examination of trafficking incidents across the South have confirmed the sources of much of the Yaba, Ice and Marijuana remain the same. Link analysis conducted on arrested traffickers across the South has shown that despite efforts by authorities up in the North and North-East reporting regions, the drug producers in neighbouring states – Yi Se in Myanmar and associates of Nakhon Phanom based “Dam” – continue to successfully traffic large quantities of these drugs. These drugs are often shipped into Thailand in hundreds of kilos – in some cases by the tonne – and proceed South via Bangkok to areas popular with tourists as well as the East to Pattaya in Chon Buri but also further South where they cross the border into Malaysia for shipping across the wider region and across the globe (Elswood 2017; Pratten 2017a).

 

COMMENT. While the continued trafficking of Yaba, Ice and other drugs from Myanmar and Laos is an ongoing problem in the South, it’s entrenched enough to be considered the ‘status quo’ for the South and not an activity which will affect the overall stability of the country. Furthermore, largely absent from the South Reporting Region is the occurrence of election-related Protests which have been increasing of late in Bangkok (McCabe & Harrington 2018). COMMENT ENDS.

WEATHER EFFECTS (Thai Meteorological Department 2018)

 

COMMENT. The forecasts of tropical cyclones impacting the northern areas of Thailand has not occurred for quite some months. Heavy rains which have occurred as a result of such weather conditions have previously led to severe and ongoing flooding across the North, North-East and Central regions (Pratten 2017b, 2017c). COMMENT ENDS.

ASSESSMENT

Overall, Thailand’s situation appears to have decreased towards MEDIUM-HIGH due to the reduction in incidents compared to the last report and while the severity of incidents remains at similar levels, these appear to be largely concentrated in Bangkok. In addition, the conduct of protests throughout this reporting period and in previous reports indicates that a repeat of unrest seen in the past is unlikely at this time. Adding further weight to this has been the prison sentences handed down to PAD members and the Pheu Thai Party stating it will not join in the protests carried out by the DRG. These developments surrounding the DRG protests make it PROBABLE there will be an absence of UDD, PAD or PDRC members in current protests being carried out, making it POSSIBLE that protests will remain peaceful.

With that in mind though, the PM’s statement that the election has again been pushed back – now to February 2019 – along with the NLA’s voting to reject all seven candidates for the EC make it PROBABLE there will be a continuation of protests by the DRG and POTENTIALLY the beginning of protests by other groups. While the registration process has begun for new political parties which provide proof that an election will occur, the continued delays and setbacks will no doubt fuel claims made by those critical of the NCPO and PM Chan-o-cha they are simply trying to set themselves up to maintain their hold on power. With a number of the new political parties featuring those supporting the idea of an “outsider PM” and the NLA’s intentions for the Organic Acts on the Election of MPs and Selection of Senators; it is PROBABLE this is actually the case. If and when further protests do occur, the preference of the NCPO and the NSC to deal with these groups in a soft manner will POSSIBLY mean that actions to curb protest groups will focus on leaders and contributors rather than targeting those who attend protests.

Given the absence of such activities outside of Bangkok – especially the South – it is PROBABLE the rest of the country will continue to be in a ‘status quo’ type of situation. Incidents of Drug trafficking will no doubt continue despite efforts by authorities to counter them. It would now appear to be CONFIRMED that unless Thai authorities are able to directly target the producers such as Yi Se; large quantities of Yaba, Ice and Marijuana will continue to come into and through Thailand.

The forecasted weather conditions though could POTENTIALLY see the beginnings of flooding, particularly in the North, North-East and Central reporting regions.

References

Duncan McCargo 2018, ‘Divided and self-destructive, Thailand is a long way from compromise | Duncan McCargo’, The Guardian.

Elswood, J 2017, ‘South East Asia’s Amphetamine Crisis’, Intelligence Fusion, retrieved March 3, 2018, from <https://www.intelligencefusion.co.uk/analysis/author/Jonny-Elswood>.

Hodal, K 2018, ‘Thai Protesters Blockade Roads in Bangkok for “Shutdown”’, The Guardian, retrieved March 4, 2018, from <https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jan/12/thai-protesters-blockading-roads-bangkok-shutdown>.

Lefevre, A, Petty, M, Thepgumpanat, P, Sagolj, D, Marshall, A & Jantrapap, V 2018, ‘Thai Protesters Step Up Action, PM Forced to Leave Building’, Reuters, retrieved March 3, 2018, from <https://www.reuters.com/article/us-thailand-protest/thai-protesters-step-up-action-pm-forced-to-leave-building-idUSBRE9AT01S20131201>.

McCabe, M & Harrington, D 2018, ‘Intelligence Fusion Platform’, Intelligence Fusion, retrieved January 29, 2018, from <http://intellfusion.ambix.io/#login>.

Pratten, M 2017a, ‘Thailand Fortnightly Snapshot: Crime Analysis in Thailand’, Intelligence Fusion, retrieved February 3, 2018, from <https://www.intelligencefusion.co.uk/single-post/2017/08/07/Thailand-Fortnightly-Snapshot-Crime-Analysis-in-Thailand>.

Pratten, M 2017b, ‘Post Incident Report: Flooding Continues Across Thailand’, Intelligence Fusion, retrieved March 3, 2018, from <https://www.intelligencefusion.co.uk/single-post/2017/08/15/Post-Incident-Report-Flooding-Continues-Across-Thailand>.

Pratten, M 2017c, ‘Fortnightly Snapshot: Thailand’s Flood Hazards’, Intelligence Fusion, retrieved March 3, 2018, from <https://www.intelligencefusion.co.uk/single-post/2017/09/04/Fortnightly-Snapshot-Thailands-Flood-Hazards>.

Pratten, M 2018a, ‘Thailand Weekly Intelligence Report - 18 February 2018’, Intelligence Fusion, retrieved March 3, 2018, from <https://www.intelligencefusion.co.uk/single-post/2018/02/18/Thailand-Weekly-Intelligence-Report>.

Pratten, M 2018b, ‘Thailand Weekly Intelligence Report - 11 February 2018’, Intelligence Fusion, retrieved March 3, 2018, from <https://www.intelligencefusion.co.uk/single-post/2018/02/04/Thailand-Weekly-Intelligence-Report>.

Pratten, M 2018c, ‘Thailand Intelligence Preparation of the Battlespace. Part 1 of 4: Defining the Battlespace.’, Global Intelligence - Local Context - Experienced Support, retrieved March 3, 2018, from <https://www.intelligencefusion.co.uk/single-post/2018/01/22/Thailand-Intelligence-Preparation-of-the-Battlespace-Part-1-of-4-Defining-the-Battlespace>.

Pratten, M, McCabe, M & Harrington, D 2018, ‘Thailand Weekly Intelligence Report - 28 January 2018’, Intelligence Fusion, retrieved February 3, 2018, from <https://www.intelligencefusion.co.uk/single-post/2018/01/28/Thailand-Weekly-Intelligence-Report>.

Thai Meteorological Department 2018, ‘Weather Forecast’, Thai Meteorological Department, retrieved March 2, 2018, from <https://www.tmd.go.th/thailand.php>.

Thai PBS, 2018, ‘Supreme Court jails 84 Former PAD’s Security Guards for NBT’s Siege’, Thai PBS English News, retrieved March 3, 2018, from <http://englishnews.thaipbs.or.th/supreme-court-jails-84-former-pads-security-guards-nbts-siege/>.

The Bangkok Post, 2018, ‘PAD 79 Get Jail For NBT Protest’, https://www.bangkokpost.com, retrieved March 3, 2018, from <https://www.bangkokpost.com/news/politics/1415943/pad-79-get-jail-for-nbt-protest>.

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