Date: 22 October 2017
Period Covered: 00:00hrs 14 OOCT 2017 to 23:59hrs 21 OCT 2017 (GMT+7)
This week has seen activity increase significantly in Thailand due to the floods up in the North, North-East and Central reporting regions, preparations for the upcoming Royal Funeral and Cremation in Bangkok and attacks occurring in the South-East in the lead-up to the Tak Bai protests anniversary. It is PROBABLE that the level of activity seen this week will continue right until the end of October; with incidents being concentrated in the above-mentioned reporting regions.
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This Intelligence Report aims to display all the incidents that have occurred during the past week in Thailand, expand on the key incidents and analyse what it means for the country. Over this period there have been 46 incidents throughout Thailand which have been logged on the Intelligence Fusion platform; an increase from last week and the week before. This week has seen the number of incidents per day increase dramatically from 0.87 incidents per day from last week to 3.26 incidents per day; making it the most active week in October so far (PRATTEN 2017f, PRATTEN 2017d, McCabe and Harrington, 2017). Bangkok and the South-East reporting regions have continued to be the most active areas of Thailandso far; although the Central, East and South reporting regions have begun to show higher levels of activity this week as well, with the types of incidents predominantly consisting of Crime, Hazards and Other types of incidents – such as Statements.
Hazard Incidents Across Thailand 14-21 Oct 2017. (Click on above image to expand)
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1. 14-21 OCT 2017: Dams Begin to Overflow, 6 Killed from Landslides and Floods
This week saw continued heavy rain from the North right down to Bangkok itself, causing or exacerbating flood hazards which occurred in previous weeks, even as far back as September 2017. Additionally, several dams across Thailand had reached or were over their capacity and had to increase the rate they discharged water, adding to the floods already occurring from the heavy rainfall. One dam in particular â the Ubonrat Dam in Khon Kaen province â has been contributing to the flooding in Khon Kaen since the 15 OCT 2017 due to the requirement to discharge excess water. The severity of the floods has resulted in five killed across the Central reporting region from flooding and one killed from a landslide caused by heavy rainfall up in Mae Ramat district, Tak province and restricted traffic movement in Bangkok.
Following these incidents, the Thai Meteorological Bureau has warned that outbreaks of variable weather conditions will be likely with thunderstorms, gusty winds and some heavy rain spells up to the 26 OCT 2017. It has also assessed that these weather conditions will mark the end of the wet season, with temperatures decreased as well as the heavy rainfall. Affected areas are as follows:Â·
North: in Chiang Mai, Chaing Rai, Lamphu, Lampang, Phayao, Nan, Phare, Uttardit, Phetchabun, Phitsanulok, Phichit, Sukhuthai and Kamphaeng Phet.Â·Central: in Nakhon Sawan, Lop Buri, Saraburi, Pra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, Sing Buri, Ang Tong, Chai Nat, Uthai Thani, Suphan Buri, Nakhon Pathom, Samut Songkram including Bangkok and its vicinity.Â·East: in Nakhon Nayok, Prachin Buri, Sa Kaeo, Chachoengsao and Chon Buri.
COMMENT. Incidents of flooding have been a consistent feature of reports since May 2017, with the highest number of incidents occurring in September. While the heavy rainfall may cease after the 26 October 2017, the consistent flooding will no doubt prolong the flooding that has been occurring. In addition, the numerous dams across Thailand appear to be now incapable or close to incapable of absorbing any future rainfall and mitigating any flooding due to their being full or over-capacity. Their requirement to get rid of excess water will add to the prolonged flooding as well. COMMENT ENDS.
NORTH & NORTH EAST
2. SEE COUNTRY-WIDE SIGNIFICANCE
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This week has seen â despite the large focus on the upcoming Royal Funeral â a number of arrests occur from authorities targeting foreign organised criminal gangs. Several Nigerians operating online âromance scamsâ or overstaying their visas have been arrested around Bangkok and in Samut Prakan. In addition, a call centre scam operated by Taiwanese nationals was shut down by police (McCabe and Harrington, 2017). These developments â along with crime incidents elsewhere in Thailand â will be examined in a future âSnapshotâ report.
4. 15-19 OCT 2017: Completion of Royal Crematorium, Rehearsals and Dignitaries to Attend
Rehearsals for the upcoming Royal Cremation of the late King Bhumibol Aduljadej (King Rama IX) at Sanam Luang have been drawing large crowds of spectators during the week as the ceremonies to be held over 25-29 OCT 2017 approach. On the 18 OCT 2017, King Maha Vajiralongkorn installed the nine-tiered umbrella at the top of the elaborate Royal Crematorium, marking the official completion of the Royal Crematorium for the late King. Reporting on the 19 OCT 2017 indicates that several businesses will closed or will close early on the day of the Cremation. After the Royal Cremation Ceremonies, an exhibition will be held for 30 days, from November 2 to 30 at Sanam Luang, where people will be able to view the Royal Crematorium and supplementary structures.
COMMENT. Prior analysis assessed the upcoming Royal Funeral and Cremation of King Bhumibol Adulyadej will PROBABLY mean that movement around the city of Bangkok â particularly the areas near The Grand Palace and Sanam Luang â will be heavily restricted over the period of 25-29 OCT 2017 and POSSIBLY afterwards. Movement around The Grand Palace and Sanam Luang will PROBABLY be limited to foot traffic only and this could POSSIBLY be the case for the assessed restricted movement areas or even beyond them (PRATTEN 2017d). The month-long exhibition following the Royal Funeral and Cremation will increase the likelihood of restrictions to traffic whether they are imposed or not. COMMENT ENDS.
During this period, Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai disclosed on the 17 OCT 2017 a list of dignitaries attending the Royal Cremation. While it was not finalised, 30 have been confirmed to attend the Cremation on 26 OCT 2017. The list includes several members from Royal Families across the globe and various heads of state or senior government figures; one of which is United States Secretary of Defence James Mattis â pictured above â who will lead a delegation of US officials to represent the US during the Cremation.
Two days after this disclosure â 19 OCT 2017 â the Royal Thai Armed Forces Headquarters announced details of Exercise COBRA GOLD to be held in February 2018. This is the largest multilateral military exercise in South-East Asia and will comprise of 12,000 personnel. The US will bring the largest number of personnel with 5,800, followed by Thailand with 5,600 and the South Korea with 200. Meanwhile, China and India will send 44 personnel each.
COMMENT. Earlier this month, Thai Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha led a Thai delegation visiting the White House from 02-04 OCT 2017; with PM Chan-o-cha meeting with President Trump on 03 OCT 2017. Analysis conducted on the visit assessed
Prime Minister Chan-o-chaâs recent visit to President Trump represents only a POTENTIAL return of friendly, public ties as this seems to be the only change in US-Thai relations since 2014. However, the US has PROBABLY taken Thailandâs increase in ties with China as intended by Thailand; not to take Thailandâs support for granted as its location in South-East Asia makes it a country of interest to several states throughout the Asia-Pacific region. Future reporting which features efforts working to realise the pledges made in the joint statement by the two leaders â in bilateral security, economic cooperation, trade and investment â will PROBABLY be the indicators to look for in terms of the kind of normalization that Thai media reports have been claiming. Such indicators can include, but are not limited to, increase in the size of the COBRA GOLD and CARAT exercises, US arms sales to Thailand and increases of foreign direct investment throughout the country (PRATTEN 2017b).
The feature of Secretary Mattis leading the US delegation and the announcement of Exercise COBRA GOLD 2018 appear to be too close to be a coincidence. Mattisâ attendance would appear to be an indicator stipulated in the analysis of PM Chan-o-chaâs visit to the US. Mattisâ visit and leading a US delegation would also appear to be more than just to attend the upcoming Cremation. COMMENT ENDS.
5. SEE COUNTRY-WIDE SIGNIFICANCE
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The East reporting region has seen a return of Crime incidents which occurred alongside police operations in Bangkok as well as arresting two German nationals as part of Thailandâs contribution to Operation Cross Country XI; a multi-national law enforcement operation to counter child sex trafficking. Like those seen in Bangkok, these incidents will be the focus of an upcoming âSnapshotâ on Crime.
7. 17 OCT 2017: Over 500kg of âIceâ Seized in Bua Yai District, Nakhon Ratchasima
A 30-year-old Nakhon Phanom man was arrested in possession of 508 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine or âice,â with a reported street value of Bt1 billion (US$783,200,000.00). Thinnakorn Khomsing was spotted walking suspiciously with another in Bua Yai district where they had ditched the pick-up truck that police were seeking after it was reported to have fled a police checkpoint earlier. The drugs were retrieved from the abandoned truck when the police located it. Thinnakorn told police he had been paid Bt20,000 (US$15664.00) to take the drugs to an unknown location.
Deputy Police Commissioner Police General Chalermkiat Srivorakarn said drugs had traditionally been smuggled in the North but this changed after police had increased their interception of drug smugglers in that region. Gangs had now started using the North-East as their main smuggling routes for transporting drugs to southern Thailand and Malaysia.
COMMENT. To date, this is the largest seizure of âIceâ in Thailand recorded on Intelligence Fusion for 2017. As shown in the Picture Intelligence Summary â PICINTSUM â graphic above, the second highest was a 400kg shipment bound for intercepted in Khon Kaen province back in July. However, this 508kg seizure is the second largest overall shipment of drugs seized with border police finding a tonne of marijuana on the Thai-Laos border in June this year (McCabe and Harrington, 2017). While this seizure was a large shipment, previous incidents indicate this is the norm for Thailand.
Prior and separate analyses of drug trafficking in Thailand and South-East Asia support the statement made by Deputy Police Commissioner Police General Chalermkiat Srivorakarn. The North reporting region â from Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai and further south to Tak had previously been the preferred entry points into Thailand for traffickers to transport large shipments of âIceâ as well as âYabaâ â a form of methamphetamine cut with caffeine (PRATTEN 2017a). Prior seizures in this area indicated the source of the drugs was from the mountainous border area between Myanmar, Laos, and Thailand known as the âGolden Triangleâ which is pictured above. There, producers benefit from a high addiction rate, a well-established narcotics network that has operated since the 1950s and the backing of local paramilitary groups (Elswood, 2017). However, reporting has indicated that the North-East has become a preferred route utilising Nong Khai and Nakhon Phanom provinces as the entry points from Laos. This part of Thailand offers a multitude of entry points in addition to Nong Khai and Nakhon Phanom due to the Mekong River marking the Cambodia-Laos-Thailand borders; providing a way to avoid police checkpoints easily.
Prior to going further on to Malaysia and the wider region, previous analysis indicated these drugs would have gone to Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya province; a place which was previously assessed as a storage/distribution area and has recently been labelled by separate media reporting as a âdrug warehouse (PRATTEN 2017a, Promyamyai and Jones, 2017).â
8. NOTHING SIGNIFICANT TO REPORT
This week has seen a number of incidents occur which appear to be out of the ordinary for this part of Thailand â with the exception of the armed robbery on Koh Samui. At this point in time, the variety of small arms weapons being seized in Phang Nga and incidents relating to illegal activities in forests on Phuket will need to be compared with long-term trends in order to identify if these are new kinds of threats or have just been absent during the last few weeks due to weather conditions.
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10. 15-19 OCT 2017: Insurgent Attacks Across Narathiwat
Correction: The Threat Warning on the 18-19 OCT 2017 attacks provided incorrect details on the shooting incident in Sungai Padi district. The Malaysian National was not killed in that shooting incident, he was killed in Tak Bai district three days earlier. Nonetheless, the analysis for the threat warning remains; It is PROBABLE attacks across the South-East of Thailand will increase in Narathiwat and POSSIBLY in Yala and Pattani provinces. Crowded areas like markets and security checkpoints will POSSIBLY be the preferred targets by insurgents (PRATTEN 2017e).
The two shootings and two improvised explosive device (IED) attacks have occurred in the lead-up to the 13th anniversary of the Tak Bai protests which will occur on 26 OCT 2017. With regards to the IED attacks, the IED attack in Chanae district consisted of a 700g pipe bomb being thrown into an outpost of defence volunteers near a local market by the pillion rider of a motorcycle. No casualties were reported.
Meanwhile, the remote controlled IED â RCIED â attack in Sungai Padi district on 19 OCT 2017 wounded 6 soldiers. The RCIED detonated just 5m before the military vehicle drove over it. The RCIED was planted under a roadside electric pole and consisted of a cooking gas cylinder and assessed to weigh about 20kg as the RCIEDâs main charge.
COMMENT. These anniversaries have been â according to previous analysis â been marked by violence across the South-East (PRATTEN 2017d). When considering the location of these attacks, they have occurred in areas where there has indeed been a lot of activity by insurgents but their attacks have largely failed to inflict casualties. However, by comparison to other parts of the South-East â such as Yala and Pattani provinces â this part of Narathiwat has been a low area of activity by insurgents. Additionally, attacks in these areas of Narathiwat have either been shooting incidents or IED incidents, with only one of the complex attacks which been much more effective. Examination of previous analysis of insurgents in the South-East indicates little is known about the insurgents operating in Narathiwat. Whereas insurgents in other parts of the South-East have been widely reported on due to the frequency and severity of attacks (PRATTEN 2017c).
This week has seen activity increase significantly in Thailand due to the floods up in the North, North-East and Central reporting regions, the upcoming Royal Funeral and Cremation in Bangkok and attacks occurring in the South-East in the lead-up to the Tak Bai protests anniversary. It is PROBABLE that the level of activity seen this week will continue right until the end of October; with incidents being concentrated in the above-mentioned reporting regions.
The floods across Thailand will PROBABLY continue well after the forecasted conditions detailed in the Thai Meteorological Bureauâs warning. It is PROBABLE that â while weather conditions will improve and may even see a cessation of the heavy rainfall that has been the source of floods and associated hazards â the inundation across affected areas of Thailand will take much longer to drain. With the state of several dams being over-capacity at this point in time, drainage of floodwaters across these areas will PROBABLY be much slower and even extend the length of time it will take for the flooding to stop. It is POSSIBLE that flooding and associated hazards will remain for at least the duration of November.
With the eventual drainage of floodwaters up in affected areas, it is PROBABLE that incidents involving drug trafficking will begin to increase in the North-East and East reporting regions especially. It is POSSIBLE that drugs coming from the âGolden Triangleâ area will enter Thailand through provinces on the Mekong River and will head to Ayutthaya for storage and distribution elsewhere. The particular types of drugs that will be trafficked through these areas will POSSIBLY be âIceâ and âYaba.â
The upcoming Royal Funeral and Cremation will no doubt see a huge amount of people gathering around Sanam Luang and areas within the immediate vicinity of Bangkok. While preparations have been made by authorities to effectively manage a huge amount of people congregating around Sanam Luang, the month-long exhibition following the Funeral and Cremation will PROBABLY see a continued presence of large groups of people in the area which will POSSIBLY affect traffic and mobility in the immediate vicinity of Sanam Luang as well as main roads in the immediate area.
Additionally, the attendance of US SECDEF Mattis and his delegation at the upcoming ceremonies will PROBABLY have a secondary purpose of building upon the prior visit by PM Chan-o-cha to Washington. It is PROBABLE there will be meetings occurring between Mattis and members of the Royal Thai Armed Forces not just for Exercise COBRA GOLD next year, but for additional strategies to increase the pubic ties between Thailand and the US to the same level as they have been in private in order to ensure the US can benefit from improved bilateral relations with Thailand and convince the Thai government that the US takes them seriously.
The incidents seen in South-East Thailand have so far been limited to the regions of Narathiwat where insurgents do not appear to be as capable as their fellow groups in neighbouring areas. It is PROBABLE that attacks in Sungai Padi, Tak Bai and nearby districts in the lead-up to the 26 OCT 2017 anniversary will be limited to separate and largely ineffective small arms and IED attacks. However, there is POTENTIAL that insurgents in other parts of the South-East are waiting until closer to the date to carry out attacks. Should this be the case, it is POSSIBLE there will be complex attacks occurring in nearby Yala and Pattani provinces as well as northern parts of Narathiwat province. Attacks form insurgents in these areas will POSSIBLY see much deadlier attacks occur and thus greater chances of casualties.
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PRATTEN M. 2017e. Threat Warning: Multiple Attacks In Narathiwat Province. Intelligence Fusion [Online]. Available: https://www.intelligencefusion.co.uk/single-post/2017/10/21/THREAT-WARNING-MULTIPLE-
ATTACKS-IN-NARATHIWAT-PROVINCE [Accessed 22 October 2017].
PRATTEN M. 2017f. Weekly Intelligence Report: Monitoring in Thailand – 10 October 2017. Thailand [Online], 10 October 2017. Available: https://www.intelligencefusion.co.uk/single-post/2017/10/09/Weekly-Intelligence-Report-Monitoring-in-Thailand [Accessed 14 October 2017].
PROMYAMYAI, T. & JONES, A. 2017. Shallow Graves in Thailand’s Drug Warehouse. Digital Journal [Online]. Available: http://www.digitaljournal.com/news/world/shallow-graves-in-thailand-s-drug-warehouse/article/505515 [Accessed 21 October 2017].
NB â For the sake of efficiency, 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.