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Weekly Intelligence Report: Monitoring in Thailand

 

Date: 26 September 2017
Period Covered: 00:00hrs, 16 SEP 2017 â 12:00hrs, 24 SEP 2017 (GMT+7)

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N.B. â The orange zone shown in the âThailand Incidents â Las 7 Daysâ 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). As at the time of this report, no major changes have occurred in the travel advisories issued by these governments.
INTRODUCTION
This Intelligence Report aims to display all the incidents that have occurred during the past week in Thailand and expand on the key incidents that have occurred across the country. Over this period there have been 40 incidents throughout Thailand which have been logged on the Intelligence Fusion platform. This week has seen an increase by 13 incidents compared to last weekâs report. This reporting period has seen September overtake Augustâs total incidents, reversing a trend of decreasing monthly activity that began in July (McCabe and Harrington, 2017).

COUNTRY WIDE SIGNIFICANCE

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1. 16-23 SEP 2017: Floods and Landslides Across Thailand
This week has seen a number of hazard incidents occur across the country, predominantly as a result of Tropical Cyclone DOKSURI crossing into the North of Thailand where it weakened to a tropical depression in Nan Province which borders Laos. The wind and heavy rains from the cyclone caused flooding and infrastructure damage across the North and North-East â pictured above â which included:
– Nakhon Phanom – strong winds knocked down almost 30 high-voltage poles and many roadside trees in Mueang district causing blackouts in several communities as well as flooding caused by prolonged, heavy rain.
– Chaiyaphum – forest runoff from the Phu Laen Kha mountain range flooded many agricultural areas and communities. In Mueang district, more than 50 households were flooded as a result. Roads were under 70 centimetres of water, making them impassable for small vehicles.
– Kalasin – runoff caused flooding resulting in the Kalasin-Somdet Road, the main road in the north-eastern province, was under 1-2 metres of floodwater and impassable for vehicles.
– Uttaradit – heavy downpours triggered flooding in Nam Pat and Thong Saen Khan districts, affecting up to 90 households. In addition, a landslide blocked Road 11, one of the main highways linking the central and northern regions, in Pichai district.
– Flash flooding triggered by heavy downpours flooded Tambon Nong Luang along the Thai-Myanmar border in Umphang district, inundating Ban Serta and Ban Nong Bua villages. In Nong Bua, 42 houses were flooded, affecting 200-300 people. In Ban Serta, two people were killed by the flooding.
COMMENT. TC DOKSURI appears to have caused the most damage so far during this wet season, with what appears to be several main routes cut off and two people being killed form the flooding. The path and assessed strength from the Global Disaster Alert Coordination System (GDACS) appears to have been very accurate in the predications it made before it hit Thailand (PRATTEN 2017c). Current data from GDACS indicates Tropical Cyclone TWENTYTWO-17 â pictured below â has originated from the same area as DOKSURI; however it is assessed to head North (Joint Research Centre, 2017). COMMENT ENDS.

In the south, a strong southwest monsoon in the Andaman Sea to the West of Southern Thailand has triggered flooding in Trang and Satun provinces. Seven districts have been flooded in Satun province and four districts have been affected in Trang province as of 23 SEP 2017.
COMMENT. Flooding from monsoons in the Andaman Sea has previously caused flooding in Phuket to the North West of Trang and Satun. Furthermore, Trang and Satun provinces provide access to Malaysia that allows the ongoing violence in Pattani, Songkhla and Narathiwat to be bypassed by travellers. These flood conditions will make using roads in these provinces difficult and therefor access to Malaysia.

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2. 20-22 SEP 2017: Numerous Protests Across Thailand
Over the week there have been three protests conducted in Bangkok, Samut Songkhram and Prachuap Khiri Khan provinces. In all cases, the protests consisted of large groups of people; the Samut Songkhram protests by fisherman regarding European Union regulations regarding fishing consisted of 3,000 people. In Prachuap Khiri Khan, the protest march by approximately 300 of mostly elderly people over payment of state allowances affected traffic along the Phetkasem highway â pictured above â to slow down for several kilometres.
In Bangkok, a group of around 50 environmental activists gathered at the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry yesterday to address their concerns over flaws in the Environmental Impact Assessment and Environmental and Health Impact Assessment bills. The groups involved in the protests – the Environmental Litigation and Advocacy for the Wants Foundation and People’s Network for Sustainable Development â went on to state their intentions to conduct further protests in November.
COMMENT. At this point in time, gatherings of more than 5 people are banned in Thailand due to previous large-scale protests and demonstrations causing widespread unrest; although these protests have mainly been from the Red and Yellow Shirts groups. It is unknown at this time if the Thai government was aware of these protests. While all of these protests have not been conducted by the Red or Yellow Shirts groups, future actions by these groups may spur other groups to conduct protests if there is no response from the government or Thai authorities in the future. COMMENT ENDS.
NORTH & NORTH EAST3.
3. Refer to COUNTRY WIDE SIGNIFICANCE
CENTRAL

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4. 20 SEP 2017: UXO Found and Destroyed in Mae Sot, Tak
Thai media has reported during this week that an artillery shell â in very new condition â was found by residents in the Mae Sot forest reserve in Tambon Phrathat Padaeng, Mae Sot district. An Explosive Ordnance Demolition (EOD) team destroyed an unexploded artillery shell found in a community forest in Mae Sot district.
COMMENT. This incident occurred right near the Thai- Myanmar border. Imagery of the shell â pictured above â does not appear to be consistent with conventional artillery shells. The unexploded ordnance appears (UXO) to be more consistent with a 40mm round usually fired from a Grenade Launcher. The condition of the UXO would suggest it had not been fired, indicating it may have been a round which fell off a shipment of illegal weapons and ammunition.
Incidents of weapons trafficking in Thailand has been occasional but information from incidents â pictured below â indicates that just like drugs, Thailand is a transit country for weapons trafficking. Previous incidents indicate that weapons being trafficked through Thailand originate from Cambodia and are often destined for Myanmar to the West. As shown in the imagery below, this UXO incident has occurred away from previous incidents of weapons trafficking (McCabe and Harrington, 2017).

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5. 20 SEP 2017: Police Arrest Two Illegal Firearms Manufacturers in Thung Khru District
Two gunsmiths were arrested by police while they were at a Kerry Express private package delivery service office in Bangkok’s Thung Khru district to dispatch handguns to customers. Both were later escorted to their home on Soi Pracha Uthit 125 where 10 locally made handguns, 200 accessories for modifying BB guns, 200 rounds of ammunition, specialised equipment for modifying guns such as hammers, files, a boring machine and an indoor test-fire facility were discovered. The two suspects admitted that they had been converting BB guns into actual weapons and selling them on Facebook.
COMMENT. These gunsmiths appear to have been working separately to illegal weapons traffickers. However, the courier service Kerry Express has been a feature of several previous incidents of drugs and weapons trafficking going as far back as 01 May 2017 (McCabe and Harrington, 2017). COMMENT ENDS.
6. 21-23 SEP 2017: PAD Ordered to Pay For 2008 Protests, May Need to Seek Donations
13 leaders from the Peopleâs Alliance for Democracy â PAD or âYellow Shirtsâ â will have to pay damages worth 522 million baht (US$15779929.50) to the Airports of Thailand Plc for the blockades of Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports in 2008 after the Supreme Court refused to extend a request to extend deadlines for the PAD to lodge an appeal. The amount was calculated from the damage incurred by the seizures of the two airports from Nov 24-Dec 3, 2008. The blockades caused chaos for airlines and air travellers who were forced to use other airports, mainly U-Tapao in Rayong.
Those who are required to pay the compensation are in addition to Suriyasai Katasila are Suriyasai Katasila, Maleerat Kaewka, Maj Gen Chamlong SriMueang, Sondhi Limthongkul, Pibhob Dhongchai, Somsak Kosaisuk, Chaiwat Sinsuwong, Somkiat Pongpaiboon, Saranyu Wongkrajang, Sirichai Mai-ngam, Amorn Amornratananont and Therdphum Jaidee.
Samran Rodpetch told the Bangkok Post he and other leading figures of the group will hold a meeting to discuss the compensation order. Suriyasai has said the group respects the court’s ruling and is ready to face the consequences.
COMMENT. The PAD, along with their opponents the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship â UDD â have previously conducted protests which have caused large scale unrest. Recent analysis of these two groups assessed that:
âWhen the 2018 election occurs in Thailand, both these campaign groups will have a major impact on how the conduct of the election occurs and whether the transition back to democracy is smooth or not. Even if both groups get their wishes in having those behind the 2008 and 2010 crackdowns convicted and imprisoned, both these groups have deep seated animosity towards their political opponents and each other. This animosity will POSSIBLY see political protests carried out that will threaten not just the conduct of the election but could POSSIBLY see the country remain under military rule due to instability they cause POSSIBLY being able to shut the country down through occupations of government buildings and occupation of airports (PRATTEN 2017a).â
With the requirement to pay this amount of money, the PAD will no doubt have a less amount of financial resources at its disposal which could impact on its ability to affect stability in Thailand at the next election. COMMENT ENDS.
7. 24 SEP 2017: Three Vietnamese Nationals Arrested for Smuggling Rhino Horn
Three Vietnamese nationals were arrested at Suvarnabhumi International Airport after Customs officials found 15 rhino horns weighing 7.4kgs, worth about 15 million baht (US$453446.25) hidden in their luggage. Customs officials at the airport were alerted to look out for passengers arriving from Angola by Ethiopian Airlines.
After the landing of Ethiopian Airline’s flight ET628 from Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, the three were spotted acting suspiciously as they arrived with luggage to connect to a flight to Hanoi, Vietnam. The three Vietnamese claimed they were each offered 32,000 baht (US$967.35) to bring the horns from Angola via Thailand to Vietnam.
COMMENT. Examination of previous incidents of smuggling at Suvarnabhumi Airport indicates this is a common occurrence. This incident would appear to be the third since 01 May 2017 where Vietnamese nationals were arrested attempting to smuggle Rhino horn form Africa. According to previous incidents, Rhino Horn is in high demand in Vietnam and neighbouring Asian countries as it is believed to be an effective medicine. Despite the seizures and arrests, these incidents appear to keep happening; indicating this airport is a favourite for smugglers (McCabe and Harrington, 2017). COMMENT ENDS.
EAST, WEST & SOUTH
8. Refer to COUNTRY WIDE SIGNIFICANCE.
SOUTH EAST

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9. 23-24 SEP 2017: Combined Search Operation Launched, Two Arrested for Links to Complex Attack
Refer to Post Incident Report: Pattani Complex Attack dated 23 SEP 2017 for context.
Following the attack which killed four Thai Rangers in Tambon Tabing, Sai Buri district, a 500-strong force of military, police and civilians supported by tanks, personnel carriers and a helicopter conducted searches at several spots in Sai Buri district for the insurgents who carried out the attack. The search operation was led by
Maj-General Jatuporn Klampasut, the commander of the Pattani Taskforce.
Maj-General Jatuporn Klampasut said his intelligence officers had learned that young Muslim fighters belonging to two groups led by Yakarina Bagno and Samal Sani carried out the bomb attack. As of 24 SEP 2017, two men â whose identities were withheld â have been arrested under suspicion of involvement in the attack.
COMMENT. Pattani province has seen the largest amount of insurgent activity since May 2017. The attack that occurred on 22 SEP 2017 had similarities to an earlier, nearby attack which killed six Thai Rangers (PRATTEN 2017b). The similarities in the recent attack and the attack which killed six nearby would indicate both attacks were from the same groups.
The large number of personnel responding to this attack and the two arrests so far would indicate the current operating environment for insurgents in Pattani is not in their favour. COMMENT ENDS.
ASSESSMENT

This week has seen a period of high activity in Thailand with the total number of incidents for September so far having overtaken the total number of incidents that occurred in August, reversing what appeared to be a trend of decreasing activity in the country. At this point in time, it appears that September will PROBABLY continue this way and POSSIBLY come close to being level with the amount of incidents that occurred in July.
TC DOKSURI has so far caused the largest amount of damage to the North and North-East from strong winds and heavy rains. While such conditions will continue until the end of the monsoon season, at this point in time it is POSSIBLE these areas of Thailand will have a respite from further floods and strong wind conditions due to the active TC TWENTYTWO-17 assessed to proceed North and has already weakened.
The protests that have occurred this week are POTENTIALLY an anomaly given the current climate surrounding gatherings in Thailand. If such activities continue over next week and the weeks afterwards, authorities will PROBABLY come down heavily on such demonstrations in order to discourage groups such as the Red and Yellow Shirts from following suit.
Trafficking incidents this week have CONFIRMED that Thailand remains a transit country for trafficking in not just drugs but also for weapons sourced from Cambodia and illegal animal products sourced from Africa; predominantly Rhino Horn that is destined for Vietnam and neighboring Asian countries. This weekâs trafficking incidents have pointed out that Suvarnabhumi International Airport is PROBABLY a favourite transit point for those trafficking Rhino Horn form Africa. The continuation of seizures by Thai authorities would POSSIBLY indicate that only a small amount of these illegal goods are being intercepted.
The UXO find and detonation in Mae Sot district makes it POSSIBLE the area of Mae Sot is currently a crossing point for weapons from Cambodia destined for Myanmar in addition to Mae Hong Son province further north. The discovery of this UXO has POSSIBLY identified a trafficking route for Thai authorities to monitor for weapons trafficking into Myanmar.
In the South East, the current operation that is underway to find those behind the recent bombing will PROBABLY force insurgents to lay low, cease their activities and POSSIBLY move to neighboring provinces. This will POSSIBLY mean that Pattani province will have a temporary respite form insurgent activity until the 500-strong force is withdrawn from the area. In addition, the floods that have been occurring in Trang and Satun provinces will POSSIBLY force those wanting to cross into Malaysia to travel through Songkhla, Pattani and Narathiwat provinces; POSSIBLY increasing the chances of more civilians being caught between insurgents and Thai Army and Police.
References
BUREAU OF CONSULAR AFFAIRS. 2017. Thailand [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. 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].
FOREIGN AND COMMONWEALTH OFFICE. 2017. Thailand [Online]. London: Foreign and Commonwelath Office. Available: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/thailand [Accessed 01 July 2017].
GLOBAL AFFAIRS CANADA. 2017. Thailand [Online]. Ottawa: Global Affairs Canada, . Available: https://travel.gc.ca/destinations/thailand [Accessed 01 July 2017].
JOINT RESEARCH CENTRE. 2017. Global Disaster Alert Coordination System [Online]. Brussels: European Commission. Available: http://dma.jrc.it/map/?application=GDACS [Accessed 25 September 2017].
MCCABE, M. & HARRINGTON, D. 2017. Intelligence Fusion Platform [Online]. London: Ambix. Available: https://www.intelligencefusion.co.uk/ [Accessed 12 August 2017].
NEW ZEALAND MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND TRADE. 2017. Thailand [Online]. Wellington: New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Available: https://www.safetravel.govt.nz/thailand [Accessed 01 July 2017].
PRATTEN M. 2017a. Fortnightly Snapshot: Thailand’s Red and Yellow Shirts. Intelligence Fusion [Online]. Available: https://www.intelligencefusion.co.uk/single-post/2017/09/21/Fortnightly-Snapshot-Thailands-Red-and-Yellow-Shirts [Accessed 25 September 2017].
PRATTEN M. 2017b. Post Incident Report: Pattani Complex Attack. Intelligence Fusion [Online]. Available: https://www.intelligencefusion.co.uk/single-post/2017/09/25/Post-Incident-Report-Pattani-Complex-Attack [Accessed 25 September 2017].
PRATTEN M. 2017c. Weekly Intelligence Report: Monitoring in Thailand – 18 September 2017. Thailand [Online], 16 September 2017. Available: https://www.intelligencefusion.co.uk/single-post/2017/09/17/Weekly-Intelligence-Report-Monitoring-in-Thailand [Accessed 18 September 2017].
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