Michael McCabe (CEO)

Michael McCabe (CEO)

Management

18/02/2018

18/02/2018

Thailand Weekly Intelligence Report

Date: 18 February 2018

Monitoring Period: 12:01hrs, 11 FEB 2018 to 12:00hrs 18 FEB 2018 (GMT+8)

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Overall, Thailand’s situation appears to have increased significantly this week. The numerous incidents across the country have doubled the rate of incidents per day and the overall severity of these incidents appears to warrant a HIGH overall rating. The several statements made by PM Chan-o-cha and DRG activists – particularly Rangsiman Rome – on their respective intentions towards future protests make it PROBABLE from the 18 FEB 2018 through to MAY 2018, not only will there be future protests conducted by the DRG but there is POTENTIAL for other like-minded groups to be more willing to carry out protests. Furthermore, these protests will PROBABLY be dealt with by police in a harsher manner.

In terms of the bigger picture for the Deep South; 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.

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.

COUNTRY WIDE REPORTING

Over this period there have been 67 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. At this time, levels of activity in Thailand for February are at a total of 124 incidents averaging at 4.43 incidents/day.

COMMENT. This week has not only seen a jump in total incidents but in the space of a week, the total amount of incidents for February so far has – broadly - doubled; and with the increase in total incidents has seen the incidents/day across the country has doubled from 2.14 incidents/day. While Bangkok and the South are the main areas of activity in Thailand, this week has seen increases in activity across the rest of the country, in particular the North East (Pratten, 2018c). 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 increases in the number and severity of incidents. Incidents of ‘Criminality’ and ‘Other’ continue to as the highest levels of incidents; at 45% and 30% of total incidents across Thailand respectively. While the number of incidents this week have not changed their overall levels, this week has seen the largest number of ‘Bombing’ incidents occur and the number of ‘Protest’ incidents this week appear to be at the highest levels yet (McCabe and Harrington, 2018).

 

COMMENT. With regards to the protests, the majority of these incidents have occurred outside of Bangkok. Furthermore, the majority of them have been related to issues other than the election. COMMENT ENDS.

BANGKOK REPORTING REGION

 

1. SUMMARY

This week has seen Bangkok’s overall activity returning to similar levels seen from SEP-DEC 2017. In addition, there has been a reversal in overall incident trends with ‘Other’ incidents overtaking ‘Criminality’ at 56% and 34% of overall incidents respectively. While there have been ongoing developments relating to protest groups, this week has seen protests decrease and a change in focus on issues relating to the construction of coal-fired generators in Southern Thailand. However, information from incidents logged this week indicate that this reduction in protest activity and progress towards an election will be short-lived; with members of the DRG providing a schedule of future intentions and an indication unrest that has seen governments dismissed or overthrown still being possible (Pratten, 2018c; McCabe and Harrington, 2018).

SIGACTS

2. 10-17 FEB 2018: The Intentions of the DRG and the NCPO

On 10 FEB 2018 – the same day of the DRG protest at Democracy Monument – DRG leaders Ekkachai Hongkanwan, Rangsiman Rome, Anon Nampa and Sirawith Serithiwat – were released on bail by Pathumwan police on the condition that they must to police every 12 days. Upon release, Rangsiman Rome was escorted by police to the Khon Kaen Provincial Court up in the North-East of Thailand but was later granted bail by the court. These leaders were arrested last week following protests they had been organising against the NCPO that began in late January, violating the current ban on political activities.

Since then, PM Chan-o-cha stated on 13 FEB 2018 the NCPO will take tougher action against political activists. He emphasised the NCPO has no intention of gagging or hurting anyone but while the administration has already been lenient by giving warnings or granting bail, the same groups of people still make trouble; referring to the actions of the DRG (Pratten, 2018c; Thai PBS, 2018e; Bangprapa and Sattaburuth, 2018).

On 17 FEB 2018, DRG activists – including Rangsiman Rome – unveiled a schedule at Thammasat University for future demonstrations to be held to demand the government to hold the election this year. Rangsiman Rome was quoted by Thai PBS with, “as long as the NCPO stays in power, we will step up the show of power. Whoever wants to join with us, please join, especially in May which coincide with the 4th year anniversary of the coup by the NCPO. If it were an elected government, it would have started thinking about the election. (Thai PBS, 2018c)"

The upcoming schedule of the DRG’s activities are as follows (Thai PBS, 2018c):

18 FEB 2018 - The ‘Start Up People Group’ will gather at the Thao Suranari monument in Mueang district of Nakhon Ratchasima before the start a long march to other North-Eastern provinces.24 FEB 2018: A political event will be held at Thammasat University's Tha Prachan campus, starting at 3 pm.10 MAR 2018: A major rally will be held (location yet to be announced).24 MAR 2018: A major rally will be held (location yet to be announced).MAY 2018: Public gatherings to be held every Saturday.19-22 MAY 2018: Overnight rallies until May 22 which marks the 4th year anniversary of the coup.

COMMENT. So far, the NCPO and Thai authorities have appeared to show leniency to DRG activists whose activities have been peaceful demonstrations. While they have been arrested for violating bans on political activities, these have occurred after the protests have been conducted. However, the PM’s remarks and the declared intentions of the DRG indicate that future actions could come to a head. With the PM stating that tougher measures will be implemented, Thai police could start taking proactive actions against this group. COMMENT ENDS.

3. 12 FEB 2018: Man Arrested with Stockpile of Explosives in Nonthaburi

The Army is questioning a man accused of stockpiling explosives in his apartment. Kritchapon Poonsilpa, 53, confessed to receiving various explosive devices from a man with ties to a missing ‘Red Shirt’ militant. He was arrested at an apartment in Nonthaburi where police said they found a cache of 33 IEDs; from a hand grenade to homemade pipe bombs.

Deputy Police Commissioner Srivara Ransibrahmanakul said Kritchapon belonged to what the authorities call the "Ko Tee Network," an alleged militant cell run by a hard-line ‘Red Shirt’ activist named Wutthipong "Ko Tee" Kochathmmakun last known to be in Laos, who has advocated the use of force against the NCPO up until he was apparently abducted there in July. According to police, Kritchapon said he received the bombs from an in-law of Wutthipong who was arrested on similar suspicions at his family home in March 2017. The in-law, Thirachai Udonwichian, is awaiting trial in prison (Charuvastra, 2018a; McCabe and Harrington, 2018).

COMMENT. The UDD or ‘Red Shirts’ have carried out attacks using explosives in the past and prior reporting indicates that Thai authorities found a weapons cache last year linked to the UDD in Chachoengsao province to the East of Bangkok. However, background knowledge of the Red Shirts at this time does not indicate a man named Koh Tee being among the Red Shirts leadership cadre. Koh Tee appears to be a self-proclaimed member of the UDD (McCabe and Harrington, 2018; Charuvastra, 2018b; Thabchumpon and McCargo, 2011). COMMENT ENDS.

4. 17 FEB 2018: Organic Bills Crucial for Election to Be Returned to The NLA By End of February

The tripartite panel scrutinising the Organic Bills on the Election of MPs and Selection of Senators will finish its work by the end of the month before the bills are returned to the NLA for a vote by the end of February. A rejection of the bills by the NLA could cause a lengthy delay in holding the next poll now set for around February. These two bills are key to the timing of the general election. On 01 MAR 2018, the bills will go back to the NLA which will vote whether keep or drop the bills after they have been vetted by the joint panels.

COMMENT. The delay in passing these two bills has been the cause of the recent protests by the DRG and went against PM Chan-o-cha’s public statements that an election would be held in November this year. Any further delays in passing these Organic Bills – whether they are necessary or not – will add to what appears to be growing discontent with the progress towards Thailand’s return to democracy (McCabe and Harrington, 2018; Pratten et al., 2018). COMMENT ENDS

SOUTH REPORTING REGION

 

5. SUMMARY – 14 JAN 2018 TO PRESENT

The South Reporting Region continues to be a close second to Bangkok when it comes to incidents occurring in Thailand. Since the last the South was examined closely, there has been a large number of incidents occurring in this region; based on the above imagery, an estimated 81 incidents have occurred stretching from Kanchanburi province all the way down to Narathiwat province.

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: Bombings, 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. Within the ‘Deep South,’ there has been an estimated 50 incidents of these 81 since the last time it was reported on (McCabe and Harrington, 2018; Pratten, 2018d). For the remainder of the region, ‘Criminality’ makes up the vast majority of incidents.

The quantity and nature of the incidents in the South Reporting Region shows that in order to analyse this region as closely and concisely as possible, it will have to be done in two parts. For this report, the ‘Deep South’ will be examined.

6. DEEP SOUTH - OVERVIEW

 

Starting from Trang, Phattalung and Songkhla provinces in the North and finishing along the Thai/Malaysia border, this part of Southern Thailand has long featured an insurgency carried out by various groups all aiming to achieve secession from the wider Thai state. The ongoing nature of it has earned it travel advisories of ‘Do Not Travel’ to Songkhla, Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat provinces for citizens from the UK, Australia and similar advice from the USA, Canada and New Zealand due to incidents of IED attacks; Crime revolving around Drug Trafficking and Murder; deadly Suicide/Complex Attacks and Direct Weapons Attacks which have consisted of Skirmishes, Small Arms Fire and Close QuarterAssassinations (McCabe and Harrington, 2018; Foreign and Commonwealth Office, 2018; Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, 2017; Pratten, 2018b).

At slight odds with the travel advice has been the tracking carried out from incidents logged on the Intelligence Fusion platform and ongoing logging and monitoring of the situation by the Deep South Watch located in Pattani. Contrary to the FCO and DFAT warnings, incidents revolving around the insurgency have occurred within Narathiwat, Yala and Pattani - with most of the casualties occurring within Pattani and Narathiwat provinces – and only the southern parts of Songkhla province; Chana and Na Thawi districts whose district borders are broadly emphasised with the red, dashed lines in the imagery above. From these districts and further north, the insurgency appears to be inactive or even non-existent. However, further north into the remainder of Songkhla province and the surrounding provinces in the Deep South, ‘Criminality’ incidents revolving largely around drug trafficking from the North and North-East via Bangkok are a frequent feature, with Hat Yai district continuing to be a storage/distribution point for access to Malaysia (McCabe and Harrington, 2018; Deep South Watch, 2017b, 2017a, 2018).

COMMENT. While tracking done on Intelligence Fusion and the Deep South Watch would indicate a smaller area warranting a ‘Do Not Travel’ warning rating; including the remainder of Songkhla for a ‘Do Not Travel’ advice does provide a buffer of sorts in order to avoid the risks being caused by the insurgency. COMMENT ENDS.

7. DEEP SOUTH – SIGACTS

 

8. 11-15 FEB 2018: IEDs Across Pattani and Yala

Over the course of 4 days, several IEDs were detonated or found across Pattani and Yala provinces, wounding several soldiers, police and civilians including a district chief. Of particular significance of these IED incidents were their timing and construction. Key points from all these incidents are (Harai et al., 2018; Benjakat, 2018; Thai PBS, 2018f, 2018b, 2018a):

the majority of IEDs were small devices, using a plastic bottle as a casing and placed on bicycles;multiple IEDs were placed in the locations shown above;the incidents began in Sai Buri district of Pattani, travelled West to Yaring district, then south through Yarang district onto Yala province; andnone of these IEDs caused deaths, only injuries.

COMMENT. These IEDs are much smaller than prior IEDs in the Deep South. Previous attacks conducted by insurgents have been successful in causing casualties through utilising motorcycles, radios and gas cylinders either as one device or with at least one as a ‘come on’ to lure authorities towards a larger IED which is designed to wound and or kill. Prior incidents of this kind include the recent Pimolchai market bombing in Mueang district, Yala. With these small IEDs being utilised and attached to bicycles, the intent may not be to kill or even wound but rather be a demonstration of force (Pratten, 2018b, 2018a). COMMENT ENDS.

9. 15 FEB 2018: Safety zone to be established in Southern Thailand

The Kuala Lumpur-facilitated peace talks between the Thai government and MARA Patani has resulted in an agreement to designate a district in the Deep South as a pilot "safety zone." Gen Aksara Kerdphol, chief of the government's negotiating team and an advisor to the PM briefed the ISOC on the progress of the peace talks.

While declining to disclose the name of the district designated as the pilot "safety zone", Gen Aksara said the next step is to set up a coordinating centre where all stakeholders concerned with realizing the safety zone to come together to work on various aspects besides safety such as development of quality of life and drug abuse problem (McCabe and Harrington, 2018; Thai PBS, 2018d).

COMMENT. MARA Patani is an umbrella organization represented by southern rebel groups and factions. However, it has long been a tactic of insurgent groups operating in the Deep South to never claim responsibility for attacks; providing little to fully identify the groups that are active, who leads them, where they are located and what allegiance – if any – they have to MARA Patani.

Considering this with available data from the Deep South Watch on the locations of incidents over the last three months, not only would the viability of all parties involved complying with the setup of a ‘safe zone,’ the location of a viable safe zone would be very limited. At this time, the western districts of Yala and south-east districts of Songkhla would appear to have the greatest chances of success (Deep South Watch, 2017b, 2017a, 2018).

This announcement came at the conclusion of the string of IED attacks in Pattani and Yala. The IEDs were small and placed in close proximity to each other within Sai Buri, Yaring and Yarang districts of Pattani and Mueang district of Yala. Their intent may have been to demonstrate force in anticipation of this announcement. COMMENT ENDS.

WEATHER EFFECTS

 

 

COMMENT. Heavy rains in Bangkok have previously resulted in streets being flooded. While they have not caused significant damage, such conditions can slow down traffic significantly on the city’s roads (Thai Meteorological Department, 2018). COMMENT ENDS.

ASSESSMENT

Overall, Thailand’s situation appears to have increased significantly this week. The numerous incidents across the country have doubled the rate of incidents per day and the overall severity of these incidents appears to warrant a HIGH overall rating. The several statements made by PM Chan-o-cha and DRG activists – particularly Rangsiman Rome – on their respective intentions towards future protests make it PROBABLE from the 18 FEB 2018 through to MAY 2018, not only will there be future protests conducted by the DRG but there is POTENTIAL for other like-minded groups to be more willing to carry out protests. Furthermore, these protests will PROBABLY be dealt with by police in a harsher manner.

In the best-case scenario, police will POSSIBLY move to arrest DRG leaders before these protests occur, disrupting their ability to organise. However, in the worst-case scenario, police will POSSIBLY attempt to arrest DRG leaders and subsequently break up any crowds that have gathered. Such a move will POSSIBLY be a cause for more violent protests to begin and POTENTIALLY feature hard-line members of the UDD joining in who still have access to weapons.

As for the Deep South, the recent IED attacks – as well as various others that have occurred – will no doubt continue. At this time though, IED attacks appear to be more focussed on demonstrating force given the agreement by MARA Patani and Thai negotiators to begin establishing a ‘safe zone.’ With regards to setting up a safe zone, this concept will POTENTIALLY – at best – be viable and achievable. The continuing attacks in Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat and the lack of an accurate picture of what groups will or will not comply with this ‘safe zone’ concept will PROBABLY undermine any chances of a ‘safe zone’ being successful.

In terms of the bigger picture for the Deep South; 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.

References

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Bangprapa, M. & Sattaburuth, A. (2018) Prayut Vows To Go After Democracy Activists [online]. Available from: https://www.bangkokpost.com/news/politics/1411770/ (Accessed 18 February 2018).

Benjakat, A. (2018) Four Bombs Explode in Pattani, District Chief Wounded [online]. Available from: https://www.bangkokpost.com/news/security/1410583/four-bombs-explode-in-pattani-district-chief-wounded (Accessed 18 February 2018).

Charuvastra, T. (2018a) Bangkok Man’s Bomb Stash Linked to Domestic Terror: Police [online]. Available from: http://www.khaosodenglish.com/politics/2018/02/14/bangkok-mans-bomb-stash-linked-domestic-terror-police/ (Accessed 18 February 2018).

Charuvastra, T. (2018b) Warrant Out for Missing Redshirt Militant Over 2014 Bomb Attack [online]. Available from: http://www.khaosodenglish.com/politics/2018/02/17/warrant-missing-redshirt-militant-2014-bomb-attack/ (Accessed 18 February 2018).

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Thai PBS, (2018b) Hunting for Pattani Bombers Ordered [online]. Available from: http://englishnews.thaipbs.or.th/hunting-pattani-bombers-ordered/ (Accessed 18 February 2018).

Thai PBS (2018c) Pro-Election Activists Vow To Organize Major Rallies In March And May [online]. Available from: http://englishnews.thaipbs.or.th/pro-election-activists-vow-organize-major-rallies-march-may/ (Accessed 18 February 2018).

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Thai PBS, (2018e) Three DRG Leaders Released On 100,000 Baht Bail Each [online]. Available from: http://englishnews.thaipbs.or.th/three-drg-leaders-released-100000-baht-bail/ (Accessed 18 February 2018).

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