Matt Pratten

Matt Pratten

Associate Analyst

03/07/2017

03/07/2017

Weekly Intelligence Report: Monitoring in Thailand


Period Covered: 00:00 hours, 24 June 2017 to 23:59 hours, 30 June 2017
N.B. – The orange zone shown in the “Incidents – Thailand Wide” graphic represents areas of Southern Thailand where the UK, USA, Australian, New Zealand and Canadian governments have advised to avoid travelling to (Bureau of Consular Affairs, 2017, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, 2017, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, 2017, Global Affairs Canada, 2017, New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, 2017).
The following report is intended to highlight key incidents in the above reporting regions over the past week and provide analysis on what it means for the country.
North
1. Nothing significant to report over this period.
North East
2. Nothing significant to report over this period.
Central
3. 6 June 2017 - Thai Police, Ministry Of Public Health Burn 9.3 Tonnes Of Drugs In Bang Pa-In, Ayutthaya: The operation coincided with similar actions being carried out in Myanmar as part of marking the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. The drugs came from over 6,500 completed court cases. Of the burnt narcotics, methamphetamine alone weighed 7.88 tonnes. The street value of the burnt narcotics was estimated at 20 billion baht.
4. 28 June 2017 - Narcotics Suppression Bureau arrest 2 drug traffickers with "Yaba" pills and "Ice" in Phitsanulok Province: Following a tip-off, officers from the Narcotics Suppression Bureau (NSB) officers tracked the vehicle from Chiang Rai province, through Tak, Kamphaeng Phet, Phichit and Nakhon Sawan provinces, later arresting the traffickers in Phitsanulok province. The arrest resulted in police seizing 1.27 million amphetamine pills - a.k.a. 'Yaba' pills - and 2 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine - a.k.a. 'Ice' - along with four mobile phones.
COMMENT. ‘Yaba’ is the Thai term for ‘crazy medicine or ‘crazy pills.’ This drug is very popular in Thailand and across South East Asia. It is a combination of methamphetamine and caffeine (National Drug Intelligence Center, 2006). Numerous incidents in June 2017 across the whole country have occurred where this drug has been transported in large quantities. Monitoring of the South-East Asia region points to ‘Yaba’ coming from the Northern and North-East regions and in neighbouring Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia (Fevrier, 2017).‘Ice’ is a form of methamphetamine that is in large demand in countries outside the South-East Asia region in countries such as Australia and New Zealand. The seizure of these drugs indicates they were intended for distribution within Thailand and within and outside the South-East Asia region. The popularity of these drugs and the amount burned by authorities indicates the burning operation would have merely been a symbolic action. COMMENT ENDS.
Bangkok
5. 24 June 2017 - Metropolitan Police detain man trying to install mock-up of 1932 plaque at Royal Plaza: Bangkok's Metropolitan police detained a man who tried to install a 'mock-up' version of the historic 1932 plaque at Royal Plaza during the anniversary of the 1932 Siamese Revolution. His attempt was made despite public warnings from police that political activities were not allowed at the Royal Plaza.
6. 25 June 2017 - New Democracy Movement activist arrested at October 14 Memorial: Student activist Rangsiman Rome - from the New Democracy Movement - was arrested on charges of campaigning against the charter referendum in Samut Prakan province in August last year. His arrest took place one day before the group was to submit a petition at Government House demanding the government disclose details of the Thai-Chinese train project.
COMMENT. Political demonstrations are currently banned in Thailand under the current government; in addition to Thailand having very strict laws – known as ‘lese majeste’ – towards behaviour that would be insulting to the Thai monarchy. Political activists also remain a focal point for Thai authorities, especially in the case of the recent Thai-Chinese rail project approved by Prime Minster Prayut Chan-o-Cha’s use of Section 44 of the Constitution that allows normal processes to be bypassed. COMMENT ENDS.
7. 26 June 2017 - Thailand's Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Department warns of potential flooding in East and South of the country: The Department warned that the provinces of Rayong, Chanthaburi, Trat, Ranong, Phang Nga and Phuket were at risk of possible flooding after monitoring a strong southwest monsoon over the Andaman Sea and a low-pressure ridge over upper Vietnam.
COMMENT. Flooding has been an ongoing hazard in Thailand, often exacerbated by entrenched behaviours of dumping rubbish in waterways. COMMENT ENDS
8. 27 June 2017 - Joint Thai ONCB-Australian Federal Police operation results in arrests and seizures of 'Yaba' and 'Ice' in Bangkok: Thailand's Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) and Australian Federal Police conducted a joint operation resulting in the arrest of four Thai nationals, an Australian fugitive; and the seizure 1.7 million Yaba pills and 296 kilograms of ‘Ice.’ The Australian fugitive had reportedly snuck into Thailand and sent the drugs back to Australia by concealing them in water filter machines.
COMMENT. These arrests stemmed from previous arrest of drug suspects in Chiang Rai (North region) and Trang (South East region) Provinces. This incident adds weight to Thailand being an established transit route for drugs from countries on its northern borders for the wider South-East Asia region and countries outside of it (Fevrier, 2017). COMMENT ENDS.
9. 30 June 2017 - DSI seize more stolen luxury cars imported from Britain in Bangkok: The Department of Special Investigation (DSI) seized 15 of 42 luxury cars that British authorities have listed as stolen. Two of the seized vehicles - a Mercedes GLE 350 and a Nissan GTR - were seized when the Thai importer attempted to ship them out of Thailand to Hong Kong, China to evade officials.
COMMENT. These latest seizures come from previous raids in May where several cars were seized around Bangkok by the DSI. The vehicles that British authorities have been seeking were partially paid for but stolen and sold on the black market after the buyer had paid between 5-10% of the vehicle's cost. COMMENT ENDS.
East
10. 20 June 2017 - Kindergarten Closed After Student Dies From HFMD: the Kilosong Tessaban kindergarten in Sa Kaeo province was closed after a 2-year-old student died from hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD). A potential source of the disease was Rongklua border market to the South East of the school just short of the Cambodian border.
COMMENT. The Thailand Bureau of Epidemiology has reported a total of 7684 cases of HFMD from around the country. While this disease’s presence is well known, this case has occurred outside the areas with the highest rates of infection (Suratthani, Chanthaburi, Chiang Rai, Lampang, and Phuket provinces). COMMENT ENDS.
11. 20 & 21 June 2017 - Three Politicians, Resort Caretaker Linked To Underage Prostitution And Trafficking Ring: Police in Nakhon Ratchasima province arrested three local politicians alleged to have bought sexual services from underage prostitutes. Following the arrest of three politicians, police arrested the caretaker of the Pak Chong Resort on charges of raping underage girls. These arrests come as part of an investigation into human trafficking and underage prostitution linked to a woman known as "Ms Poo."
12. 26 June 2017 - Police Arrest Human Trafficker "Ms Poo" In Si Racha, Chon Buri: Police from the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Division arrested a 36-year-old Thipaporn Maneenoi - a.k.a. "Ms Poo / Madam Poo" at a hotel in Si Racha, Chon Buri.
COMMENT. These arrests followed a raid of the V2 Massage Parlour in Lat Phrao, Bangkok on 22 June 2017 that discovered underage girls from Nakhon Ratchasima and elsewhere working as sex-workers. Raids and arrests followed Thai authorities discovering “Ms Poo” using a Facebook profile to contact and procure the girls. These arrests represent an issue as prevalent as drug trafficking in Thailand. Thailand remains a source, transit, and destination country for human trafficking in men, women, and children for the purposes of forced labour or sex trafficking and currently a Tier 2 country according to the US State Department; it is an ongoing problem but Thai authorities are making significant efforts to combat it (Fevrier, 2017, Office of the Under Secretary For Civilian Security Democracy & Human Rights, 2017). COMMENT ENDS.
13. 28 June 2017 - Navy Police Arrest Navy Special Warfare Sailor Behind Anan Klungchan Assassination: Royal Thai Navy (RTN) Police arrested a member of the its Underwater Demolition Assault Unit at the unit's base in Sattahip district, Chon Buri. CPO2 Sahatpattharapol Duangsawat is suspected of shooting Thai politician Anan Klungchan. After being handed over to the Cha-uat police, Sahatpattharapol confessed and provided the names of the others involved; the two spotters Chaowalit Thongduang and Suriya Kaewsook from Phatthalung, and the driver Sarayut Sunrat. The team was reportedly paid one million baht for the task.
COMMENT. On 27 May 2017, Anan Klungchan was shot several times and killed outside his home in Nakhon Si Thammarat in the South reporting region. The assassination initially appeared to be a drive by shooting by an accurate shooter supported by spotters and a driver. Klungchan was a member of the Democrat Party and later Chart Thai Pattana Party. While information on who paid this team to carry out the assassination has not yet been disclosed, this has the potential to be very damaging to the current military government if senior military officers are involved since Thai military involvement in politics has predominantly been executing coups and governing until a return to democracy is organised (Kongkirati, 2014, McCargo, 2015). COMMENT ENDS.
West
14. 26 June 2017 - Immigration police and soldiers arrest 15 illegal migrants in Pak Phraek, Kanchanaburi: Following a tip-off, immigration police and soldiers raided a house in Pak Phraek; arresting 15 Myanmar nationals with forged visas on their passports. They had paid the equivalent of 12,000 baht each to a Myanmar job broker known as Wiang Ku.
15. 29 June 2017 - Vehicle crash kills 2 Myanmar migrants, injures 11 others in Sanam Chan, Nakhon Pathom: A truck carrying Myanmar migrants collided with another truck on the Nong Khayang intersection on Yingpao Road. The crash resulted in two Myanmar migrants being killed and 11 others being injured. Police investigators have so far learned the vehicle carrying the migrant workers was travelling at high speed when it crashed.
COMMENT. These two incidents and the proximity to the Myanmar border indicates comments made elsewhere of human trafficking being an ongoing issue in Thailand. COMMENT ENDS.
16. 27-30 June 2017 – Rape and Murder of young woman in Pran Buri, Prachuap Khiri Khan: On 27 June 2017, police district discovered a young woman who had been raped and murdered approximately 2-3 days prior in a room she was renting. A suspect who had been seen leaving the premises at the time of the murder was later poisoned – either by himself or his wife – at a shop he barricaded himself in on 30 June 2017 when police tried to arrest him.
COMMENT. Violent crimes such as these tend to be perpetrated against Thais only and can have a link to drug trafficking networks. Reporting prior to this period featured a violent murder in Khon Kaen province (North East reporting region) where a waitress was murdered by the wife and associates of an imprisoned drug trafficker with alleged links to drug networks in Myanmar. COMMENT ENDS.
South
17. 27 June 2017 – Police arrest Two Chinese nationals fitting a card-skimmer to an ATM in Thalang, Phuket: Following a tip-off, police arrested two Chinese men on Thepkrasattri Rd in Ban Liphon, central Phuket. Police found them in possession of the card-skimming equipment that would have enabled them to obtain the electronic data from ATM cards as well as the PIN codes of ATM users who did not cover the keyboard when making withdrawals.
COMMENT. This is the second incident of this kind of activity in Phuket recently. Police had previously arrested three Malaysians in early June that had been skimming ATM cards. This type of fraud is quite common for Phuket (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, 2017) COMMENT ENDS.
18. 29 June 2017 - Vehicle accident in Patong, Phuket: A vehicle crash between a tourist bus and a motorcycle near Patong Hill killed a motorcyclist and injured up to 26 people. The bus was transporting a group of Chinese Tourists. Following the collision with the motorbike, the bus crashed into the concrete wall at the foot of the hill, a place where numerous buses have previously crashed according to Thai media. Further investigation from police has indicated the air brakes failed to function when the driver tried to slow the vehicle down.
COMMENT. Australia’s latest travel advice on Thailand states Thailand has one of the highest traffic-related fatality rates in the world. Motorcycle and other road accidents are common throughout Thailand, including in resort areas such as Phuket, Pattaya and Koh Samui. Speeding, reckless passing, and failure to obey traffic laws are common in all regions of Thailand. Serious bus crashes occur, especially on overnight trips (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, 2017). COMMENT ENDS.
South East
19. 24 & 25 June 2017 – Arrests & Seizures In Phattalung Province: A search of a house in Khuha Sawan of Muang district resulted in the arrest of the occupant when police found 1,993 methamphetamine pills. Information gained from the arrest led police arresting his accomplice outside of City Hall in Kong Ra District the next day. A subsequent search of the accomplice’s house in in Khlong Sai Khao discovered 8,767 ‘Yaba’ pills, a 9mm pistol with 10 rounds of ammunition, one AK-47 assault rifle with 87 rounds, one M16 rifle with 47 rounds and one Uzi submachinegun with 75 rounds.
COMMENT. Reporting from around the country indicates kind of activity is rife and shows no sign of reducing despite efforts by Thai authorities. However, what has been noticeable is the ability of Thai authorities to quickly follow up on information that appears to be time-sensitive. COMMENT ENDS.
20. 30 June 2017 - Police arrest man possessing assault rifle and ammunition in Sungai Padi district, Narathiwat: Acting on a tip-off, a combined force of Army, Police and Defence volunteers conducted a search on a man’s house in Tambon Paluru, Sungai Padi district. The search resulted in the seizure of an assault rifle in new condition and just over two magazines worth of ammunition.
COMMENT. The rifle that was seized was a Type 58B assault rifle; a longer version of the AK-47 (pictured). This rifle is utilised in neighbouring Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam; all of which are close to the northern parts of Thailand. Reports of Eastern bloc assault rifles seized in the South East have predominantly been AK-47 rifles. With prior incident reporting featuring military personnel trafficking weapons in norther parts of Thailand, this weapon could have been brought via military personnel trafficking weapons to the South East. However, the similarity this weapon has with the AK-47 could easily mean there have been previous finds of this weapon but it has been mistaken for the AK-47. COMMENT ENDS.
21. 30 June 2017 - Two men shoot dead head of 'Bali Kampung' in Sun-gai Kolok, Narathiwat: Two unidentified men entered the home of Faisal Deramae 56 in Sun-gai Kolok early Thursday afternoon and shot him dead while he was working at his desk. The Sungai Golok Police investigating the murder have so far disclosed that the assailants shot him four times in the back. Deramae was said to be actively involved in the Thai government's de-radicalisation efforts.
COMMENT. This is the third incident of in recent weeks where an individual working directly with or assisted the efforts of the Thai authorities has been directly targeted and successfully killed; while there have been few of such kinds of attack against police or the Army. Generally, attacks against Army and Police have been predominantly through improvised explosive devices against soft-skinned vehicles (Fevrier, 2017). These kinds of attacks can easily undermine counter-insurgency efforts by the Thai government with much less risk of being successfully counter-attacked and separate links between people living in the south and Thai authorities. COMMENT ENDS.
Gulf
22. Nothing significant to report over this period.
Assessment
Overall, there appears to be no major change in Thailand’s situation based on this week’s key incidents. The situation over this week appears to be ‘business as usual’ in the country in line with Intelligence Fusion’s reporting on the wider South-East Asia region along with advisories from the US, UK, NZ, Australian and Canadian Foreign Ministries. Organised crime, human and drug trafficking remain a major issue despite the abilities of Thai authorities to quickly intercept large drug shipments and make arrests; the government is willing to act on those engaging in political demonstrations; ATM fraud remains prevalent in Phuket and other tourist areas and traffic risks remain a high threat, and; the situation in the South-East region remains an area of high risk.
However, if further investigation into the assassination of Anan Klungchan reveals the involvement of senior officers, this will POSSIBLY be very damaging to the military government domestically and internationally and also will POTENTIALLY represent a willingness by the military to assassinate politicians and have the POTENTIAL to lead to civil unrest.
While not directly relevant to Thailand, the DSI seizures of stolen luxury cars has provided a POTENTIAL indicator for future stolen luxury cars in the UK. Future thefts of luxury cars in the UK will POTENTIALLY be headed for Thailand or South-East Asia if they are stolen when 5-10% of the price has been paid. However, future seizures will confirm or deny this.
References
BUREAU OF CONSULAR AFFAIRS. 2017. [Online]. Wahington D.C.: US Department of State. Available: https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/country/thailand.html [Accessed 01 July 2017].
DEPARTMENT OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND TRADE. 2017. [Online]. Canberra: Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade,. Available: http://smartraveller.gov.au/countries/asia/south-east/pages/thailand.aspx [Accessed 01 July 2017].
FEVRIER, V. 2017. South East Asia End-Month Update – June 2017. [Online], July 2017. Available: https://www.intelligencefusion.co.uk/single-post/2017/06/30/South-East-Asia-End-Month-Update-%E2%80%93-June-2017 [Accessed 01 Jul 2017].
FOREIGN AND COMMONWEALTH OFFICE. 2017. [Online]. London: Foreign and Commonwelath Office. Available: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/thailand [Accessed 01 July 2017].
GLOBAL AFFAIRS CANADA. 2017. [Online]. Ottawa: Global Affairs Canada, . Available: https://travel.gc.ca/destinations/thailand [Accessed 01 July 2017].
KONGKIRATI, P. 2014. The rise and fall of electoral violence in Thailand: changing rules, structures and power landscapes, 1997-2011. 36 386+.
MCCARGO, D. 2015. Peopling Thailand's 2015 draft constitution. 37 329+.
NATIONAL DRUG INTELLIGENCE CENTER. 2006. [Online]. Washington D.C.: National Drug Intelligence Center,. Available: https://www.justice.gov/archive/ndic/pubs5/5048/index.htm [Accessed 01 July 2017].
NEW ZEALAND MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND TRADE. 2017. [Online]. Wellington: New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Available: https://www.safetravel.govt.nz/thailand [Accessed 01 July 2017].
OFFICE OF THE UNDER SECRETARY FOR CIVILIAN SECURITY DEMOCRACY & HUMAN RIGHTS. 2017. Trafficking in Persons Report 2017. [Online], 2017. Available: https://www.state.gov/documents/organization/271339.pdf [Accessed 29 June 2017].
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