Thailand Weekly Intelligence Report
Date: 14 January 2018
Monitoring Period: 00:00hrs, 18 DEC 2017 to 12:00hrs 13 JAN 2018 (GMT+8)
As the first report for 2018 and considering the length of time between this and the last report of 2017, Thailand’s situation does not appear to have changed much. However, events in Bangkok indicate the NCPO is preparing for the election with the advantage of other parties being banned from political activities.
This Weekly Intelligence Report on Thailand is intended to analyse what has been happening through providing a brief overview on what has been happening country wide then delve into what has been happening within 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. Doing so will avoid instances of NSTR for a reporting region. The region to be examined alongside Bangkok this week is the South reporting region.
COUNTRY WIDE REPORTING
Over this period there have been 100 incidents throughout Thailand which have been logged on the Intelligence Fusion platform. As shown in the imagery below, Bangkok and the South reporting regions continue to be the areas of highest activity by a large margin.
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 has been a slight increase in the quantity of incidents and their severity. While Crime, Hazards and Other incidents continue to lead as per prior reports, this period has seen higher than normal levels of activity in terms of IEDs and SAF; with several of these incidents occurring in Bangkok and the South. Outside of these regions, there have not been any incidents which warrant close attention at this time.
Comparing this monitoring period to previous months, the rate of incidents per day for December has been on par with September-October wile January has is quite low given that it is close to the halfway through the month.
COMMENT. It is important to note that this monitoring period is much longer than periods in previous reports given the time of year. In addition, there are still incidents to log which have occurred between this and the previous report. These factors make judging what kind of situation is occurring in Thailand at the moment. However, what can be said with a high level of confidence is that Crime, Hazards and Other being the highest occurring incidents means that the status quo remains largely intact at this time. COMMENT ENDS.
BANGKOK REPORTING REGION
This reporting period has seen major political developments for the upcoming election, the re-emergence on Yingluck Shinawatra’s whereabouts as well as an interesting development in terms of the political ban that would appear to still be in place. Various incidents of crime involving drug use and scam operations continue throughout the city as well as Human Trafficking – although this kind of trafficking is rarely found in monitoring of open sources. However, last year’s trafficking report from the United States and reporting from the UNDOC make it very clear this kind of activity is constant in Thailand (Office of the Under Secretary For Civilian Security Democracy & Human Rights, 2017, UNDOC Regional Office for Southeast Asia and the Pacific and Thailand Institute of Justice, 2017).
2. 19 DEC 2017: Myanmar Migrants Hold a Protest in Front of The Myanmar Embassy in Bangkok
Approximately 800 Myanmar migrants gathered outside the Myanmar Embassy in Bangkok to demand that Myanmar officials give them protection. The protestors wanted protection as migrant workers under the law against discrimination, sexual abuse, wage violations, and illegally being let go from jobs.
COMMENT. Many of the grievances being expressed by these protestors could be attributed to the issue of businesses hiring illegal immigrants. The NCPO has been attempting to introduce a migrant labour law which since mid 2017 that imposes harsh penalties on the use of illegal labour on both illegal immigrants and businesses that hire them. The registration process for migrants to legally work in Thailand has been extended until mid 2018(McCabe and Harrington, 2017).
Of greater interest, no reporting has been found at this time of this protest being broken up by authorities. Current laws under Thailand’s interim constitution ban public gatherings of 5 or more people for the purpose of political activities. The last known protest in Bangkok occurred on 15 DEC 2017 and was aimed at criticising the NCPO. This protest drew the attention of police but no arrests were made and no clashes were featured in available reporting (PRATTEN 2017d). This protest by Myanmar nationals may have had the same occur, authorities would have been present but did not have the need to make any arrests. If so, this could indicate the willingness of when authorities will enforce the ban on public gatherings. COMMENT ENDS.
3. 07-10 JAN 2018: Yingluck Shinawatra Emerges in The United Kingdom, Authorities Working to Extradite Her
During this reporting period, there have been photos circulating on social media of former PM-turned-fugitive Yingluck Shinawatra indicating that she is currently in London, England. Since the photos emerged, there has been confirmation of Yingluck being in London by the Chief of Police, the Foreign Minister and unnamed sources within the Pheu Thai Party. There has not been confirmation yet as to how she has been able to flee to England as all her Thai passports have been revoked after she fled Thailand in August 2017. Furthermore, there have been mentions of those confirming her fleeing to England that they are unsure about whether she is applying for political asylum or not.
COMMENT. Yingluck and her brother, another ousted former PM-turned-fugitive Thaksin Shinawatra, have been at the centre of a power struggle that has dominated Thai politics for more than a decade. The power struggle broadly pits the supporters of the country’s traditional elite – commonly known as the ‘Yellow Shirts’ – against the Shinawatra family and its supporters – commonly known as the ‘Red Shirts (PRATTEN 2017a).’ COMMENT ENDS.
Since the confirmation of her being in England, National Police Chief Chakthip Chaijinda says police are expediting efforts to bring Yingluck Shinawatra back to Thailand. There have been additional statements from Deputy PM Prawit Wongsuwon that those officials who delay or hinder her extradition will face harsh penalties.
COMMENT. Extraditing Yingluck back to Thailand from England is a possibility as Thailand and the United Kingdom have an extradition treaty. However, Yingluck’s conviction as well as past actions against Thaksin have been seen by their supporters in the ‘Red Shirts’ and amongst the political parties they led as mere efforts to undermine the influence they have in Thai politics and the challenge they pose to traditional elites and structures in the country. Bringing Yingluck back to Thailand could have the potential to cause unrest.
In addition, Yingluck’s ability to flee to another country – with or without an extradition treaty – without Thai passports shows that she would be able to sovereign cross borders without Thai documents. With the police publicly stating their intentions to bring her back but without knowledge of where she is within England could in fact be a providing an indirect ‘heads up’ for her to move and avoid extradition. COMMENT ENDS.
4. 07-10 JAN 2018: Political Developments
Over the past three weeks a number of developments have come to light in relation to the intentions of the NCPO and PM Prayut Chan-o-cha:
15 DEC 2017: Deputy PM Wissanu Krea-ngam brushed aside talk the NCPO has given a signal for changes to be made to the Organic Law governing political parties in order to delay the general election and retain the regime’s grip on power. He insisted that the constitution stipulates time frames leading to the election tentatively set for November next year. This statement came about amongst the calls from political parties for the NCPO to lift the ban on political parties so they can prepare for the election. 31 DEC 2017: PM Prayut Chan-o-cha has stated the nation needs to stand together as the often deeply divided nature of Thai society poses a threat to this year’s general election. He has stressed he did not expect the poll to be delayed again but merely wanted to point out that an election marred by divisiveness was unlikely to bring peace but rather trigger social unrest and conflict. He did not make it clear which factions were creating problems but he has previously blamed the two major parties, the Democrat Party and Pheu Thai Parties for calling street protests against each other over the past decade. 08 JAN 2018: Former Senator Paiboon Nititawan announced his intention to form his own party – People’s Reform Party – on March 1 and openly pledged his support for PM Prayut Chan-o-cha to resume his position as PM after the election. Paiboon has stated that in his view, Prayut will likely gain more than half the vote in parliament, or 375 out of 750 votes from 500 MPs and 250 senators to become an outsider PM.
COMMENT. The move comes after Prayut had recently declared that he is no longer a soldier and is now a politician, fuelling speculation that plans are being made to pave the way for him to continue as PM after the next election. COMMENT ENDS. 11 JAN 2018: Deputy PM Prawit Wongsuwon has thrown his support behind a plan to set up a political party to back PM Prayut Chan-o-cha to return as an outsider PM after the general election expected late this year. COMMENT. Under the constitution to take effect once all Organic Acts become law, Prayut could become PM after the next general election if he is chosen as an outsider PM by parliament after the polls. If MPs fail to select a new PM from candidates nominated by party lists.
Considering all of the above, the date of when Paiboon intends to form his own party – March 01 – would hint at when political parties will be allowed to resume their activities. The NCPO does not appear to be planning to delay the election at the moment and does not appear that it would not need to; it would just need to keep the bans on political parties in place, giving it a head start in preparing for the election with the goal of keeping Prayut in power afterwards. These developments add credibility to what overseas political analysts have claimed about the NCPO’s intentions since it drafted a new Constitution; to return Thailand to a democracy that ensures the military has a major influence in how the country is run (Demetriadi, 2017). COMMENT ENDS.
SOUTH REPORTING REGION
Southern Thailand has continued to be the area of highest activity outside of Bangkok; with much of the same kinds of activity being seen. Actions by insurgents – IEDs and SAF attacks – continue between the Thai-Malaysia border up to the provincial borders separating Pattani-Yala and Songkhla. These activities and the continuing operations of security forces finding caches of IED components and small arms weapons have justified the continued state of emergency in these areas. From Songkhla up to Prachuap Khiri Khan, activities in these parts of the South continue to revolve around crime; particularly trafficking in methamphetamine – ice and yaba – along with heroin, marijuana and kratom from countries to the north over the borders in the North and North-East reporting regions.
6. 27 DEC 2017: Ivory Coast National Arrested for Smuggling Cocaine in Phuket
A 27-year-old woman from the Ivory Coast arriving from Doha, Qatar was arrested at Phuket Airport after an X-ray scan found more than 1kg of cocaine in her stomach, wrapped in more than 60 small packets. According to Sirinya Sitdhichai, Secretary-General of Thailand’s ONCB, the drugs were likely bound for wealthy clients in Bangkok. He added that drug traffickers based in West Africa routinely hire African or Asian women to smuggle narcotics into Thailand. Smugglers often fly into smaller airports outside Bangkok and then travel by road to sell the drugs in the capital (McCabe and Harrington, 2017).
COMMENT. Seizures of cocaine in Thailand are a rare incident. The imagery below indicates only 8 incidents of this drug being trafficked in Thailand. While all bar the incident in Phuket are concentrated in Bangkok, there are several international airports around outside of Bangkok. Three such airports – Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Hat Yai – are located in areas where other drugs are frequently intercepted. The lack of incidents in these areas alongside the ONCB Secretary-General’s comments would suggest cocaine traffickers are coming through elsewhere. Considering the amount of trafficking occurring in Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Hat Yai, cocaine traffickers would be hiding in plain sight if they traffic through these airports (PRATTEN 2017c, PRATTEN 2017b). COMMENT ENDS.
7. 28 DEC 2017: Two Arrested with Bomb Making Equipment in Takua Pa District, Phang Nga
Two men from Yala have been arrested by Phang Nga police with bomb-making materials. Muhamad Haji Hayo, 25, and Muhamad Soli Chelong, 22, both from Raman district of Yala, were stopped for a search when they arrived at a security checkpoint in Takua Pa district. During a search of their rented accommodation, the police found one empty gas cylinder, a glass tube 1 cm in diameter and 67cm long, a two-inch stapler, and a computer keyboard hidden in the house. The police suspected the two might have been involved in the Southern insurgency and might had plans to create unrest during New Year celebrations.
8. 25-26 DEC 2017: Multiple Attacks Across Southern Thailand
Over the course of Christmas and Boxing Day, insurgents carried out a string of attacks across Southern Thailand. These attacks were a combination of IED attacks on infrastructure, SAF attacks on Army, Police and Paramilitary Ranger posts as well as blocking roads through felling trees and starting fires with vehicle tyres. At this time, available reports indicate only one has been killed. However, reports are still being compiled this time on these and other incidents.
COMMENT. While casualties appear to be low at this time, the number of incidents and time between them would indicate that insurgent groups have considerable freedom of movement. Reporting on the arrest in Phang Nga province mentioned the police suspected the two men from Yala province found with IED material were suspected of having plans to create unrest during New Year celebrations.
The attacks which have been logged so far have been over short periods of time on both Christmas and Boxing Day; suggesting these have been planned well in advance. Prior reporting on insurgent activities has shown that insurgent groups – who could be the BRN or RKK – can carry out such attacks. The timings of these attacks and the details surrounding the arrests in Phang Nga would indicate this is a planned offensive by insurgent groups.
There have been additional incidents of IEDs, cache finds and killing of security personnel across the South after the above incidents on Christmas and Boxing Day; but not over the same timeframes as the above incidents at the time of this report. COMMENT ENDS.
WEATHER EFFECTS – NEXT 7 DAYS (Thai Meteorological Department, 2014)
COMMENT. There have not been any incidents of flooding found in open source reporting at this time. However, prior reporting featured several incidents of flooding occurring in the South of Thailand, causing several provinces to be declared disaster areas by local authorities (PRATTEN 2017d). COMMENT ENDS.
Thailand’s overall situation appears to have lessened but remains at MEDIUM at this time. While there have been several incidents recorded, many of these are incidents of the status quo in the country and the situation surrounding the floods in the South appears to have dissipated at the moment. In addition, the length of time covered in this report is longer than usual reports.
Events in Bangkok over this period indicate the NCPO is preparing to continue its control on Thailand after the anticipated election. The announcements by former Senator Paiboon Nititawan of starting up a party which will support PM Chan-o-cha as an outsider PM, Deputy PM Wongsuwon’s support and PM Chan-o-cha’s remarks of no longer being a soldier CONFIRM the NCPO – and wider military – intend to maintain control over the country after the anticipated election. The remark by Senator Paiboon Nititawan of starting up his party on 01 MAR 2018 indicates this is POTENTIALLY when other parties will be able to resume their activities. With the continued ban on political activities and the above incidents, it is PROBABLE the NCPO is using its power over banning political activities to prepare itself for the election with a head start over other, well-established parties; especially the Pheu Thai and Democrat Parties.
While the ban on political activities remains, the lack of response by the authorities towards the protest being conducted by Myanmar nationals indicates a POSSIBLE threshold of when authorities will respond. It is POSSIBLE that Police will crack down on protests if signs of the protest turning violent appear or POTENTIALLY if the protestors are linked to the Democrat or Pheu Thai Parties.
As for incidents surrounding Yingluck Shinawatra, her return to Thailand before the election would pose a POTENTIAL problem for the NCPO. If returned and imprisoned as per her court conviction, this would be a POTENTIAL cause for unrest in the country by her supporters. While the Police and the Deputy PM have stated they intend to extradite her from England, the public disclosure of this intent is POSSIBLY to warn her to move elsewhere; limiting the chances of her being extradited back to Thailand at this time.
The incidents in the South have indicated that trafficking of cocaine is POTENTIALLY limited to women bringing it into Thailand through ingesting it in their stomachs. With the lack of incidents logged and the remarks by the Secretary-General of the ONCB, cocaine is POTENTIALLY being brought in via airports outside of Bangkok – Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Hat Yai – where drug trafficking across the borders in large quantities is occurring; allowing cocaine traffickers to hide in plain sight.
The incidents across Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala indicate that insurgents have POSSIBLY conducted – or are conducting – a major offensive. These attacks do not appear to have caused a lot of casualties but the number, locations and timings of the attacks indicate insurgents continue to have a lot of freedom of movement. Further logging of incidents will clarify whether this offensive is continuing or not. Finally, the number of insurgent attacks logged so far indicate the floods which were previously causing several provinces to be declared as disaster areas have POSSIBLY dissipated.
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ï¿¼NB – For the sake of efficiency and to avoid potential misunderstandings, references mentioning myself or the Intelligence Fusion platform are built upon the collection and logging of incidents based on the combination of numerous open sources such as mainstream media, social media and open source mapping tools.