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Weekly Intelligence Report: Monitoring in Thailand

 

Date: Saturday, 09 September 2017
Period Covered: 00:00hrs, 02 September 2017 to 23:59hrs, 08 September 2017 (GMT+7)

Thailand Incidents – Last 7 Days

N.B. â The orange zone shown in the âIncidents â Thailand Wideâ 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).
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
The reporting over this week has indicated that Thailandâs overall situation appears to have stabilised. Despite the number of incidents reaching 44% of last monthâs total within the first week of September, the nature of the incidents recorded indicate a âbusiness as usualâ situation is occurring at the moment.
INTRODUCTION
This Intelligence Report aims to display all the incidents that have occurred during the past week in Thailand, expand on the key incidents and assess what they mean. Over the past 7 days there have been 45 incidents throughout Thailand which have been logged on the Intelligence Fusion platform. The data indicates that the first week of September has already reached 44% of the total incidents which happened in August. (McCabe and Harrington, 2017).

Table 1. Incidents by Region, May 2017 to Sep 2017
COMMENT. The incident rates are calculated on the basis on dividing the Grand Total for each month by the number of calendar days in said month. While the trends and incident rates are â predominantly â way below totals in previous months at this time, the total number of incidents for September reaching 44% of Augustâs total after barely a week into the month would indicate the start of a higher level of activity in Thailand. COMMENT ENDS.
Country Wide Significance

1. 08 September 2017 â DPMD Warnings and Flooding Across Thailand:
Thailandâs Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Department (DPMD) has warned that 33 provinces across the country will be at risk of river overflows, flash floods, and mudslides until 10 September 2017. The sources of these hazards are from a monsoon storm lying across the upper North and Northeast of Thailand while the southwest monsoon over the Andaman Sea in the South is gaining strength; causing heavy rain in these regions. There has already been flooding reported in Pang Mapha district, Mae Hong Son province.
The areas at risk are depicted in red shading in the imagery above. The specific provinces are:
· North – Mae Hong Son, Chiang Mai, Lampang, Lamphun, Chiang Rai, Phayao, Phrae, Nan, Uttaradit, Tak, Sukhothai, Kamphaeng Phet and Phitsanulok provinces.
· Northeast – Loei, Nong Bua Lamphu, Nong Khai, Bung Kan, Udon Thani, Sakon Nakhon and Nakhon Phanom provinces.
· East – Prachin Buri, Chachoengsao, Sa Kaeo, Chon Buri, Rayong, Chanthaburi and Trat provinces.
· South – Ranong, Phangnga, Phuket, Krabi, Trang and Satun provinces.
COMMENT. Thailand is still going through its wet season which is scheduled to end by October, conditions such as these appear to be the norm for the country. Previous analysis on Thailandâs physical terrain has shown that Thailandâs landforms and drainage divide the country into four natural regionsâthe North, the North-East. The Centre, and the South. This terrain makes the South of the country the only exit point for water to drain from up in the North (via the Central region) and for the North-East it has to flow East into the Mekong River before heading south into the Gulf of Thailand. The narrow Isthmus of Kra in the South provides little in the way of absorbing opposing coastlines from weather conditions such as storms coming for the East or West (PRATTEN 2017a). The imagery above shows that that Central Thailand is currently surrounded by the at-risk provinces in the North, North-East and East. COMMENT ENDS.
North

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2. 06-07 September 2017 â Earthquakes in Chiang Mai and Lamphun:
Three earthquakes were reported in the North over the past week; the highest reaching a magnitude of 2.9 with no damage reported.
COMMENT. Examination of current data from Thailandâs Earthquake Monitoring Bureau indicates these earthquakes are a common occurrence in this part of the country. However, nil have been found at the time of this report to have exceeded a magnitude of 3.0 or cause damage above ground (Seismological Bureau, 2017). COMMENT ENDS.
North East
3. Nothing Significant to Report.
Central

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4. 03 September 2017 â Girl Dies of HFMD In Ban Tak District, Tak:
A three-year-old girl died of hand foot and mouth disease (HFMD) after contracting the it from a nursery in Ban Tak district. The girl went to the nursery of the Tambon Thong Fah Administrative Organisation for the first time this year; a nursery that was closed for a week following a previous case HFMD there.
COMMENT. This is the third case of HFMD being recorded on the Intelligence Fusion platform. This latest incident is quite a distance away from the previous two cases. However â as shown in the imagery below â all the cases of HFMD appear to be in areas close to neighbouring countries (McCabe and Harrington, 2017). COMMENT ENDS.

(Click on above image to expand)
5. 05-07 September 2017 â Illegal Logging in Nakhon Sawan:
On 05 September, Rangers and Wildlife authorities were patrolling through the Mae Wong National Park when they encountered a group of log poachers illegally entering the park to cut protected Eagle wood. The poachers fired at the group with the resulting skirmish resulting in one poacher killed and one ranger wounded.
The three remaining poachers escaped but three were found hiding in nearby farmland on 07 September by a combined military, police and wildlife authority patrol responding to the initial clash. Found in their possession were four mobile phones, one knife, an amount of Vietnamese currencies and three passports; no weapons were found on them.
Forestry rangers believed the poachers were led to the park area by locals to cut Eagle wood which is fragrant dark resinous wood used in incense and perfume.
COMMENT. Incidents of illegal logging recorded since 01 May 2017 so far indicate this activity occurs from poachers crossing into forest areas near borders with neighbouring Cambodia, Laos and now Myanmar (McCabe and Harrington, 2017). COMMENT ENDS.
Bangkok

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6. 04 September 2017 â Former PAD Leader Warns of Potential Return of PAD in Bangkok:
A former co-leader and spokesman of the now-defunct Peopleâs Alliance for Democracy (PAD) or âYellow Shirts,â Parnthep Pourpongpan, is warning of the possible return of the Yellow Shirts if justice is not served in a case concerning the 2008 deadly dispersal of the groupâs demonstrators. The PAD has since turned to the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) in order to have those behind a fatal 2008 crackdown against the group prosecuted.
The anti-graft agency last Tuesday decided to appeal against the ruling, but has only targeted only Pol Lt Gen Suchart. The decision has upset the PAD, which later vowed to pursue a criminal suit against the corruption watchdog. Concerning the chances of success regarding a suit against the NACC, Parnthep Pourpongpan has stated, âin the end, if no justice is served, no one can tell whether the PAD will return or not (to an active protest role).â
COMMENT. The Supreme Courtâs Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions on 02 August 2017 cleared then Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat, his deputy Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, and then National Police Chief Patcharawat Wongsuwon, of dereliction of duty in the fatal crackdown. It also cleared then-metropolitan police commander Suchart Mueankaew of malfeasance in the crackdown carried out against the Yellow Shirtsâ occupation of Government House in 2008 (PRATTEN 2017f).
The Yellow Shirts consist of supporters of the Thai Monarchy and establishment but most of all, are âanti-Thaksin,â they are against the dominance of the parties influenced by the Shinawatra family. This group, along with the pro-Thaksin United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship or âRed Shirtsâ have been the main sources of political unrest in the country. COMMENT ENDS.
7. 05 September 2017 â Deputy Prime Minister Casts Doubt on Election Schedule at Government House, Bangkok:
Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan has told the media at Government House that the next general election remains unscheduled as the drafting of organic laws is not yet finished. The juntaâs lawmakers have been drafting organic laws related to elections, involving the election of members of the lower house, the selection of senators, the Election Commission, and political parties. According to the roadmap, the organic laws were to be finalised in late 2017 with the election held five months after they are endorsed.
COMMENT. The source of this reporting â Prachatai â has shown a propensity to publish articles criticising the current government. Previous analysis on the progress towards elections indicates Thailand is on track for elections to be held next year; at least four of the ten Organic Laws or Organic Acts have been passed (PRATTEN 2017g). COMMENT ENDS.
8. 06 September 2017 â Bangkokâs Governor Opens Flood Water Tunnel in Bang Sue, Bangkok:
Bangkok Governor Aswin Kwanmuang formally opened a 6.3-kilometre-long water tunnel under Khlong Bang Sue / Bang Sue Canal that will flow into the Chao Phraya River. Construction of the underground water tunnel â which is five metres wide and 6.3 kilometres long â and the installation of water pumps took four years for completion at a total cost of 2.4 billion baht.
The tunnel â assessed to flow under the area of the Khlong Bang Sue below â will help ease flood problem in the northern part of Bangkok by diverting excess water in six districts shown below â Dusit, Bang Sue, Phraya Thai, Chatuchak, Din Daeng and Huai Khwang â into the Chao Phraya river. It aims to ease flood problems occurring on main roads.

COMMENT. While this development will no doubt assist in draining excess water out of these areas, the Chao Phraya River flows from Nakhon Sawan up in the Central region and serves to drain water from these areas into the Gulf of Thailand via Bangkok. Furthermore, the Chao Phraya river begins at the meeting points of two other major river systems that drain water from the North and North-East; the Ping and Nan Rivers respectively. Given the current flood warnings and previous floods that have been occurring up in the Central region especially, this tunnel development may simply drain heavy rain into a river that is already flooding.
Combined with the ongoing problem of current waterways in main cities being constantly blocked up by people dumping garbage in them, this tunnel could in fact exacerbate an already serious problem (PRATTEN 2017e, PRATTEN 2017a). COMMENT ENDS.
East

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9. 03 September 2017 â Man Arrested for Illegal Possession of Phayung Wood in Watthan Nakhon District, Sa Kaeo:
Following a tip-off, officials from the Pang Sida National Park in Muang district arrested a man in possession of a large quantity of protected âPhayungâ wood, or Siamese rosewood. The arrest was made after the officials followed a pick-up truck suspected of carrying the Phayung wood from Ban Huay Chan to a house in Ban Tho Sam in Tambon Watthana Nakhon. The search of the vehicle found 50 pieces of Phayung wood stuffed behind the front seat.
COMMENT. Sa Kaeo province has been an area where illegal logging has been previously recorded. Phayung or Siamese Rosewood is in high demand for making furniture in China; owning furniture made from Siamese Rosewood is seen as a status symbol there. Thailand contains the highest remaining stocks of this particular wood and with it being illegal to export from Thailand, a black market exists that has made poaching from Thailandâs neighbours a major problem (Arnold, 2013). COMMENT ENDS.
West

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10. 05-07 September 2017 â Leadership of the National Office of Buddhism:
The cabinet has approved the transfer of Manas Taratjai â Director-General of the Religious Affairs Department under the Culture Ministry â to become director of the National Office of Buddhism (NOB). The transfer was proposed by Prime Ministerâs Office Minister Ormsin Chivapruck and approved by Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam. Manas Taratjai replaces Pol Lt Col Pongporn Pramsaneh who had been trying to reform the organisation despite the anger of influential monks.
Pol Lt Col Pongporn Pramsaneh was to be transferred to an Inspector-Generalâs position in the South-East. However, he has since been defying the order to transfer him. He has written to Prime Ministerâs Office claiming he was neither aware of nor did he agree with the transfer. Furthermore, the transfer had not received Royal Approval. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has since stated the new director had been assigned to solve problems without stirring up conflict.
COMMENT. The NOB is responsible for state administration of Thailandâs dominant religion â followed by 90% of the countryâs 67 million people â but religious affairs are handled by a Sangha Supreme Council of elderly monks. The position of NOB Director has become a hot seat since the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) tried to arrest Phra Dhammajayo, the abbot of Wat Phra Dhammakaya, in February this year. He was wanted for money laundering and other charges. The attempts to arrest him were met with strong resistance from the templeâs disciples and monks. By the time the officials managed to enter and search the temple the abbot was nowhere to be found.
At the heights to the standoff in February, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha used Section 44 to remove Phanom Sornsilp as NOB Director and replaced him with Pol Lt Col Pongporn Pramsaneh, one of the DSIâs top officials at the time. Despite high-profile temple scandals over murder, drugs and sex as well as improper financial dealings, Pol Lt Col Pongpornâs subsequent call for change had angered some monk groups, who sought to remove him.
These recent developments surrounding the appointment of Manas Taratjai could be an attempt to have new leadership put in place in a manner intended for Pol Lt Col Pongporn Pramsaneh to save face. COMMENT ENDS.
South

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11. 04 September 2017 â Authorities Meet to Plan for Potential Influx of Rohingya Fleeing Rakhine State, Myanmar:
Authorities in Ranong and Phang Nga provinces met with the military in response to fighting in neighbouring Myanmarâs Rakhine state that resulted in an influx of Rohingya displaced persons to Bangladesh. They discussed the possibility that Rohingya may try to escape the violence by sea, and come ashore in southern Thai provinces. In addition to the Navy patrolling the sea, official agencies will set up checkpoints along in both provinces to intercept Rohingya coming into the country.
COMMENT. In the past, Muslim Rohingya have used Thailand as a transit point to travel to Malaysia. Ranong and Phang Nga provinces are considered possible points for migrants to land compared to other southern provinces because there are more shelters from storms. The lack of Rohingya coming to Thailand at this point in time appears to be from weather conditions as it is still the wet season and there is currently a tropical low in the Andaman Sea.
Thailand, like many South-East Asian countries, is not a signatory to the Refugee Convention and is therefore not bound to take in those who are even deemed to be refugees by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. Rohingya have previously been subject to indefinite detention in Thailand or stranded on the boats they have fled Myanmar on. Furthermore, the Thai government has been attempting to reduce the number of illegal migrants in the country in recent months, introducing harsher penalties for illegal migrants and business owners who employ them causing a number of arrests and deportations (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 1951, Tran, 2015, Davies, 2006, McCabe and Harrington, 2017).
These situations may result in the government trying to send Rohingya back to Myanmar; influencing Rohingya to try and flee further south into the provinces of high insurgent activity; exposing them to insurgent groups may try and recruit Rohingya for their own purposes in return for shelter. COMMENT ENDS.
South East

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12. 05 September 2017 â Couple Wounded by Gunmen in Yaring District, Pattani:A couple were attacked and wounded by gunmen in Tambon Pulakong, Yaring district. The motive for the attack is currently unknown; the couple were reportedly sitting in front of their house when armed men entered through the back of the residence and fired at them.
COMMENT. These kinds of attacks have been common in Pattani; insurgents operating in this province have shown a willingness to target anybody with small arms fire. However, since the Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device (VBIED) raids in mid-August, insurgents throughout the South-East appear to have been lying low. This shooting appears to be the first attack carried out since the failed raids as the fallout from that incident named the leaders of the attacks and identified supply lines they have been using (PRATTEN 2017b, PRATTEN 2017c, PRATTEN 2017d). COMMENT ENDS.
13. 07 September 2017 â Police Begin Motorcycle Registration Initiative in Muang District, Narathiwat:Police carried out a registration process at Narathiwatâs municipality market for people to register their vehicles, particularly those owning motorcycles with sidecars. The aim of this initiative is to prevent the vehicles from being turned into VBIED.COMMENT. VBIED attacks using motorcycles has been a favourite tactic of insurgents operating in Narathiwat. Although they appear to have been largely unsuccessful in causing casualties, insurgents in this area have constantly made VBIEDs by attaching 10kg of explosives to motorcycles and detonating them. Such methods have been used previously where the Thai government brought in a law requiring those purchasing mobile phones in the South East to have their finger prints taken as mobile phones were being used as detonators for IEDs. This law forced insurgents to adapt, changing form mobile phones to radios instead (PRATTEN 2017c). COMMENT ENDS.
Assessment

The reporting over this week has indicated that Thailandâs overall situation has appeared to have stabilised. Despite the number of incidents reaching 44% of last monthâs total within the first week of September, the nature of the incidents recorded indicate a âbusiness as usualâ situation is occurring at the moment.
The warnings of flooding and landslides across the country will PROBABLY continue beyond the 10 September 2017; PROBABLY until the end of this month or end of October where the weather will PROBABLY begin to change and reduce the amount of rainfall across Thailand. While these are very real risks, these conditions will POTENTIALLY be a lesser threat than what has been seen in previous reporting. Any floods or landslides which do occur across Thailand will PROBABLY be within the capacity of Thai authorities to handle and limited to the provinces in the North, North-East, East and South reporting regions; although it is PROBABLE that the Central region will receive runoff from the North and North-East regions and experience further flooding. As for the earthquakes that have been recorded during this period, they do not appear to pose a threat at this time.
As for Bangkok, it will POSSIBLY experience flooding that comes from the Central region via the Chao Phraya river draining water from the provinces in the Central region. While the new drainage tunnel it has opened will assist in mitigating the risk of flooding in areas such as Dusit, Bang Sue, Phraya Thai, Chatuchak, Din Daeng and Huai Khwang, the impact will POTENTIALLY be minimal as ongoing problems such as garbage blocking drainage infrastructure and runoff from further north will mean this new tunnel will POSSIBLY be sending water into a river that is already at higher water levels.
The incidents surrounding the deaths from HFMD and illegal logging would at this time appear to be cases of the âstatus quoâ in these areas. Such incidents are PROBABLY common in areas near the borders with Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia.
The situations surrounding the appointment and transfers of NOB Directors, election progress and return of the âYellow Shirtsâ do not appear to pose a threat to Thailandâs stability at this time. However, depending on how developments unfold with regards to prosecuting those involved in the 2008 crackdown, there is the POTENTIAL for the Yellow Shirts to return. If that happens, the chances of unrest will POSSIBLY increase when the elections occur next year. Further analysis on the Yellow Shirts and their Red Shirts counterparts will be required to ascertain how much of a threat these groups can actually pose.
The shooting incident in Yaring district POTENTIALLY appears to be an attempt by insurgent groups to resume their activities. It is POSSIBLE that over the next week or fortnight, insurgents in Pattani will begin to carry out further incidents such small arms attacks against anyone in order to regain the momentum they had prior to the VBIED raids in August. In other parts of the South East such as Narathiwat, insurgents will POSSIBLY continue to lay low while they find a way to adapt to the vehicle registration efforts being carried out by police; the efforts by police to register motorcycles will POSSIBLY deny them what has been a ready supply of materials for VBIEDs.
While conditions in the Andaman Sea are PROBABLY preventing Rohingya from fleeing to Thailand at this time, once the weather improves it is PROBABLE that Rohingya will begin to flee Rakhine State by heading to Thailand. While they have previously fled to Phang Nga and Ranong provinces, there is POTENTIAL they could head further south instead due to recent efforts by the Thai government to crack down on illegal migration. If Rohingya head further south, they will POTENTIALLY be a source of recruitment for insurgent groups.
References
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DEPARTMENT OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND TRADE. 2017. Thailand [Online]. Canberra: Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade,. Available: http://smartraveller.gov.au/countries/asia/south-east/pages/thailand.aspx [Accessed 01 July 2017].
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GLOBAL AFFAIRS CANADA. 2017. Thailand [Online]. Ottawa: Global Affairs Canada, . Available: https://travel.gc.ca/destinations/thailand [Accessed 01 July 2017].
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PRATTEN M. 2017b. Post Incident Report: Songkhla VBIED Raids and Pattani Car Bombing. Intelligence Fusion [Online]. Available: https://www.intelligencefusion.co.uk/single-post/2017/08/18/Post-Incident-Report-Songkhla-VBIED-Raids-and-Pattani-Car-Bombing [Accessed 19 August 2017].
PRATTEN M. 2017c. Thailand Fortnightly Snapshot: Armed Conflict in Thailand. Intelligence Fusion [Online]. Available: https://www.intelligencefusion.co.uk/single-post/2017/07/24/Thailand-Fortnightly-Snapshot-Armed-Conflict-in-Thailand [Accessed 24 July 2017].
PRATTEN M. 2017d. Weekly Intelligence Report: Monitoring in Thailand – 02 September 2017. Thailand [Online], 04 September 2017. Available: https://www.intelligencefusion.co.uk/single-post/2017/09/04/Weekly-Intelligence-Report-Monitoring-in-Thailand [Accessed 04 September 2017].
PRATTEN M. 2017e. Weekly Intelligence Report: Monitoring in Thailand – 04 July 2017. Thailand [Online], 04 July 2017. Available: https://www.intelligencefusion.co.uk/single-post/2017/07/03/Weekly-Intelligence-Report-Monitoring-in-Thailand [Accessed 08 July 2017].
PRATTEN M. 2017f. Weekly Intelligence Report: Monitoring in Thailand – 07 August 2017. Thailand [Online], 07 August 2017. Available: https://www.intelligencefusion.co.uk/single-post/2017/08/06/Weekly-Intelligence-Report-Monitoring-in-Thailand [Accessed 07 August 2017].
PRATTEN M. 2017g. Weekly Intelligence Report: Monitoring in Thailand – 20 August 2017. Thailand [Online], 21 August 2017. Available: https://www.intelligencefusion.co.uk/single-post/2017/08/21/Weekly-Intelligence-Report-Monitoring-in-Thailand [Accessed 02 September 2017].
SEISMOLOGICAL BUREAU. 2017. Local Earthquake [Online]. Bangkok: Thailand Meteorological Department. Available: http://www.earthquake.tmd.go.th/inside.html [Accessed 09 September 2017 2017].
TRAN, C. 2015. South-East Asian migrant crisis: Who Are The Rohingya Feeing Myanmar By Boat? [Online]. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Available: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-05-21/explainer-who-are-the-rohingya-fleeing-myanmar/6487130 [Accessed 3 October 2015].
UNITED NATIONS HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR REFUGEES. 1951. Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees,. Available: http://www.unhcr.org/ [Accessed 09 September 2017].
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