Period Covered: 00:00 hours 01 July 2017 to 23:59 hours 07 July 2017 (Australian Western Standard Time â GMT +7hrs)
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).
1. The following report is intended to highlight and comment on the key incidents that have been captured over the time period mentioned above and provide analysis on what it means for the country. Incidents shown in graphics but not reported on are shown for the purpose of displaying overall activity in the country and in each reporting region.
2. Numbered paragraphs detail a summary of the incident(s) in the report while paragraphs between âCOMMENTâ and âCOMMENT ENDSâ are intended to provide context. Numbers on graphics are intended to highlight incidents linked together in paragraphs or not easily identified in the âMarker List.â
3. 01 July 2017 – Pha Muang Task Force finds large cache of Yaba and Ice near Thai-Myanmar border in Mae Sai District, Chiang Rai: following a tip-off about plans to smuggle drugs through this area, the task force conducted patrols and set up checkpoints around the district. At about 03:00, a checkpoint near the Tesco Lotus Hypermart, Mae Sai District stopped two males travelling in a pickup truck. Their answers to questions arose suspicion and prompted further searches. Search efforts eventually found a cache of drugs in a forest area behind the Tesco Lotus Hypermart; just over 80 backpacks that contained a total of 4.3 million âYabaâ pills and 81 kilogrammes of âIce.â
COMMENT. This cache â particularly the quantity of âIceâ â is a large find. The Yaba would appear to be for sale throughout South-East Asia while âIceâ is profitable in the wider Asia-Pacific region (PRATTEN 2017). The packaging into backpacks would suggest the drugs were to be picked up quickly by multiple traffickers in order to move the drugs with less risk of having the whole shipment seized.
Chiang Rai makes up the southern part of the âGolden Triangle,â but there appears to be a lack of incidents of manufacturing facilities being found in Thailand. Considering the amount of cache finds, arrests of traffickers yet lack of manufacturing facilities (so far), this would indicate Chiang Rai is a transit point, the manufacturing is done across the border. The frequency of finds and arrests would suggest Chiang Rai is âbottleneckâ for traffickers that Thai authorities are able to exploit very well; but not enough to impact on supply. COMMENT ENDS.
4. 03 July 2017 â Police issue summons orders for 11 activists in Khon Kaen: Police issued summons orders for 11 activists to report to the 23rd Military Circle in Khon Kaen by 31 July 2017. The orders come from police accusing them of violating the National Council for Peace and Orderâs (NCPO) Head Order No. 3/2015 on 31 July 2016 – the junta’s ban of political gatherings of five or more persons. These activists participated in a public discussion about the 2017 Constitution held at Khon Kaen University. If found guilty, they could face imprisonment, a 20,000 baht fine, or both.
Those summoned by police to appear include:
Cherdchai Tantisirin: former Member of Parliament for the Pheu Thai Party;Panwadee Tantisirin: lecturer in the Nursing Faculty of Khon Kaen University;Rangsiman Rome: key member of the Democracy Restoration Group (DRG);Panupong Sritananuwat, Jatuphat ‘Pai Dao Din’ Boonpattararaksa and Akhom Sributta: activists from the Dao Din Group;Nattaporn Ajharn: an environmental activist; and,Duangthip Khanrit and Niranut Niamsap: staff from the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) group.
COMMENT. Rangsiman Rome has been a recent subject of police attention; Rome was arrested last week on charges of campaigning against the charter referendum last year. His arrest took place one day before his group was to submit a petition demanding the government disclose details of the Thai-Chinese rail project (PRATTEN 2017). Given the length of time between the offences, the summons orders relating to them and circumstances behind Romeâs arrest last week, there may be an intent by police to disrupt political activists through delaying arrests for prior offences. COMMENT ENDS.
5. 01-02 July 2017 – Vehicle Accidents involving Myanmar migrants: During this week, there were two separate vehicle accidents where Myanmar immigrants were among the injured. The first occurred in Khlong Kklung district, Kamphaeng Phet on July 01 (11 migrants injured) with the second occurring the next day in Chaiyo district, Ang Thong (two Myanmar migrants injured). In both accidents, the drivers fell asleep at the wheel.
COMMENT. Similar kinds of movements by Myanmar and Cambodian migrants have been occurring in several parts of the country this week. These incidents appear to be a part of a larger amount of cross-border movement by Myanmar and Cambodian citizens rushing back to their countries to obtain or renew working permits in light of harsher penalties for illegal labour under a new Labour law decree by the NCPO. COMMENT ENDS
6. 04 July 2017 â 11 people confirmed infected with Zika virus in Bung Na Rang District, Phichit Province: Thailandâs Department of Diseases Control reported that 11 people in Bung Na Rang district have been infected with the Zika virus while another 16 are believed to have been infected with 33 more people are being tested and monitored.
COMMENT. Since January 2017, Thailand has had 81 cases of Zika virus infection and is as a country that poses a risk of infection to all inhabitants and visitors (Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017, 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). COMMENT ENDS.
7. 06 July 2017 â Heavy rain causes flooding in Takhli & Chum Saeng districts: Overnight rain in Takhli and Chum Saeng districts resulted in flooding to heights of up to one meter in these districts, cutting off electricity and affecting agricultural crops.
COMMENT. While the floods appear to be severe, no reporting has been found elsewhere of such a hazard occurring this week, suggesting the impact has been to local residences, businesses and services only. COMMENT ENDS.
8. 07 July 2017 â Riot following concert in Phop Phra district, Tak province: More than 100 youths were involved in a riot at around 01:00 following a brawl during a concert. The riot reportedly lasted almost an hour before the youths fled. Damage caused by the riot included a burnt motorcycle, a damaged car and damaged nearby shops. A police officer was injured and several teenagers taken to hospital. Initial reporting of this incident has suggested that authorities were overwhelmed and unable to break up the disturbance.
COMMENT. The district is in a remote area of Thailand, close to the Myanmar border. While police capabilities in this area will become clearer over time; the recent, large movements of Myanmar migrants heading back to their country to obtain work permits for Thailand may have diverted police resources to support immigration and border protection elements, leaving little manpower available to respond to other incidents.
(Click on above image to expand)
9. 03 July 2017 – Police and Army seize large 1.8m ‘Yaba’ pills and 39kg of ‘Ice’ in Sai Mai: A combined police and army force executed a raid resulting in the seizure of 1.8 million âYabaâ pills and 39 kilograms of âIce.â The caretaker of the nearby Muay Thai camp was arrested as part of this raid. The caretaker confessed that that he took the drugs from a âWaâ tribal group, smuggled them into Thailand via the northern border and stored them pending distribution to sellers in Sai Mai, Don Muang, Nong Chok and Lat Krabang areas as well as nearby provinces.
COMMENT. The âWaâ tribal group is located in vicinity of the China-Myanmar border area. Reporting during this week (see North Region) and previous reports features caches of ‘Yaba’ and ‘Ice’ being found in Chiang Rai near the Myanmar border as well as arrests of traffickers travelling south from this area. The information gained from police in this incident supports a prior comment that the manufacturing facilities for âYabaâ and âIceâ are outside of Thailand. COMMENT ENDS.
10. 03 & 07 July 2017 â Arrests at the New Empire Hotel and in Bangkapi district: On 03 July, police arrested two Chinese men at Bangkok’s New Empire Hotel for stealing a credit card from a Japanese tourist at Suvarnabhumi airport and credit card fraud. Police were able to identify the two men stealing the manâs wallet and track them to the hotel through examining closed-circuit camera footage. According to the police, these two men stated they usually stole at the airport and used victims’ credit cards to buy luxury goods which were taken by associates to China to be sold there.
On 07 July, a combined force of local, immigration and police from the Narcotics Suppression Bureau searched the i-House condominium on Rama IX Road. They were searching for a gang of Africans linked to drugs and immigration offences. No arrests for drug offences appear to have taken pace but 16 Africans (1 Ethiopian male, 11 Ugandan women, 4 Tanzanian women) and a Syrian were arrested for being in the country illegally. Immigration chief Pol Lt Gen Natthorn Phrosunthorn said the operation was in line with the government’s policy to crack down on foreigners linked to drugs and other activities threatening national security.
COMMENT. A focus on illegal foreigners in Thailand does indeed appear to be the case. These arrests and introduction of tougher illegal labour laws indicate the government is focussed on addressing foreign criminal activities. COMMENT ENDS.
11. 04 July 2017 â 25 Members of the NRSA resign: Twenty-five members of the National Reform Steering Assembly (NRSA) have resigned as the NRSA will be dissolved on 31 July. These resignations have occurred on the last day NRSA members would be able to resign and be eligible to contest the next election. According to reporting, Thailandâs 2017 Constitution states NRSA members wishing to contest the next election had 90 days from the new charter coming into effect to resign their posts.
COMMENT. While these resignations and the reasons for them are indeed a requirement under the Constitution, the chances of Thailand having an election before the end of this year are small. There are a number of Organic Laws that need to be passed into legislation before the next election can occur in Thailand (Office of the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Thailand, 2016). COMMENT ENDS.
12. 01 July 2017 – 150 people arrested for positive drug tests in Pattaya: Acting on a tip-off, a team of 50 military and police officers detained 150 people (90 men, 60 women; Thais and foreigners) after they tested positive for banned substances during a raid at The Cliff Pool Club in Nong Prue. The team also found 80 grams of ketamine, 80 ecstasy pills and 90 “Happy Five” tranquilliser pills at the venue.
COMMENT. Pattaya is renowned for its nightlife, attracting a large amount of tourists but has had a number of instances of sexual assault caused by drink spiking; Ketamine and the tranquillisers are two such drugs for this purpose (Bureau of Consular Affairs, 2017, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, 2017). COMMENT ENDS.
13. 03 & 06 July 2017 â Arrests of illegal Cambodian migrants in Aranyaprathet District, Sa Kaeo: Immigration Police detained and deported 250 Cambodians at Aranyaprathet train station on 03 July when they were unable to present travel documents. The Cambodians had been sacked from their jobs in the wake of the new labour decree from the NCPO. They had been urged by their employers to return home and apply for passports so they could re-hire them.
On 06 July, paramilitary rangers discovered 11 Cambodians hiding within a sewer pipe near the Rong Klua market. They had been brought to that location and told to wait for a Cambodian to pick them up and take them across the border, avoiding checkpoints and authorities.
COMMENT. The Labour law decreed by the NCPO has influenced a large number of illegal migrants to return to their countries. It appears to have created opportunities for human trafficking back to their home countries in order for them to obtain necessary documentation and return to work in Thailand legally. This activity has led to a number of vehicle accidents elsewhere due to driver fatigue. COMMENT ENDS.
14. 01 & 03 July 2017 â Movements of Myanmar migrants: Reporting on 01 July indicates that since 23 June 2017, 2,894 Myanmar workers have returned home via the checkpoint in Sangkhla Buri District, Kanchanaburi province for fear of being caught violating Thailand’s new labour law. On 03 July, a pick-up truck skidded off the road and rammed into a tree in Cha-am district, Phetchaburi. The accident killed the driver, three passengers and injured two others. The cause is believed to be from the driver falling asleep at the wheel.
COMMENT. While the nationalities of those killed are unknown at this point, this accident shares similarities with accidents in other provinces, suggesting this vehicle was transporting illegal migrants.
The Labour law decree appears to have created opportunities for human trafficking illegal migrants back to their countries of origin; and this activity has led to a number of vehicle accidents caused by driver fatigue. Factors contributing to drier fatigue could be an urgent desire for illegal migrants to cross the borders and what appears to be numerous money-making opportunities for traffickers
The arrests and deportations that have occurred in Sa Kaeo make the claims made by migrants a credible concern for them to have. While the vehicle accident report did not state the nationalities of those in the crash, the suspicion of driver fatigue is a viable indicator that this vehicle was transporting illegal migrants; driver fatigue has been the cause of a number of vehicles carrying illegal migrants elsewhere this week. COMMENT ENDS.
15. 06 July 2017 – Business operators and contractors conduct protest at Phuket City Hall: Over 20 business operators and contractors gathered to protest against the newly announced migrant worker labour law. In a statement to the media, the chief of the Association of Phuket Operators said the new labour law “has caused thousands of labourers to return to their home countries for fear of up to five years of imprisonment for not being properly registered.” The group has requested the government start a registration process for illegal foreign workers and reorganise the Phuket Provincial Employment Office to make the process faster and more efficient.
COMMENT. Protests are illegal in Thailand as has been seen in the arrests and summons orders for political activists in Bangkok and Khon Kaen. The willingness for business owners and contractors to conduct a protest that would risk legal action suggests the mass exodus occurring around Thailand at the moment is diminishing the size of the labour market greatly. COMMENT ENDS.
16. 30 June & 02 July 2017 – Insurgent leader killed in Raman District, Yala Province, rumours circulate of ban on public gatherings: on 30 June, the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) learned that an insurgent leader – Lakman Mading – was hiding in a house in Ban Piyae, Bue Mang. An ISOC element attempted to arrest him but Lakman shot at the group, causing an exchange of fire resulting in his death. Lukman Mading was wanted under five warrants issued between 2013-2016 for terrorism, arson, robberies, possession of illegal weapons and explosives and attempted murder.
Following his death, Maj Gen Chatuphon Klamphasut and Col Yutthana Phetmuang from ISOC issued a statement on 02 July countering rumours which had been circulating that gatherings of more than 3 people had been banned. The same report of this incident indicated ISOC units were on high alert due to rumours of insurgent groups in Songkhla and Pattani plotting new attacks in retaliation to Lukman’s death.
17. 05 July 2017 â Bounty posted on Facebook for killing Commander of 4th Army in Pattani: ISOC disclosed that it is investigating who a Facebook post offering 1 million baht for killing Lt Gen Piyawat Nakwanich, the 4th Army Commander.
18. 06 July 2017 â Three shootings in Mayo District, Pattani: Three shootings occurred between 18:30-19:00 in Mayo district, killing two civilians and one defence volunteer. In the case of the defence volunteer, he was shot dead by two men on a motorcycle. At this time, no further information is available.
COMMENT. Reporting from May to last week has seen a number of incidents where ISOC personnel were killed by improvised explosive devices (IEDs); while civilians linked to the Thai government or assisting in counter-insurgency efforts have been shot. These activities indicate a general preference by insurgents to engage civilians directly but utilise indirect means to engage ISOC in order to avoid scenarios such Lakmanâs death.
The rumours, bounty and shootings that have occurred since Lakmanâs death would appear to be insurgents trying to mitigate the impact of losing a leader, prevent ISOC from capitalising on the success and undermine any perceptions of weakness or disarray on their part without getting drawn into direct engagements with ISOC. COMMENT ENDS.
19. Nothing Significant to Report
Reporting over this week indicates threats from natural hazards remain an unchanged concern, especially outside of Bangkok and tourist areas. Despite the resignations of NRSA members, Thailand has a POTENTIAL chance â at best â of having an election any time this year.
Thai security forces (with the exception of ISOC) are focussed on targeting foreign criminals, illegal migrants, political activists, drug traffickers and users. While they appear capable of working in combined operations throughout the country (thus pooling resources and experience), can react quickly to tip-offs, conduct large scale operations as well as identifying and following leads; the nature of the threats they are trying to counter are too widespread and resilient at this time for their efforts to have an impact. Their efforts will POTENTIALLY have a short-term impact at best. The efforts against political activists continue to highlight the risk of engaging in political-related activities in the country at this time, political demonstrations of any kind in Thailand are PROBABLY best avoided.
A key example of the resilience and widespread nature of threats faced by Thai security forces at the moment is the drug trafficking that is occurring through Chiang Rai province. The amount of drugs being seized and arrests of traffickers over the past few weeks shows that Chiang Rai is a transit and exchange area for Yaba and Ice; with the manufacturing facilities being located outside of the country, PROBABLY Myanmar and China based on the arrest that occurred in Sai Mai, Bangkok. However, the frequency of arrests and cache finds lately make it PROBABLE that Chiang Rai is a âbottleneckâ the drugs have to go through before distribution elsewhere, making it a PROBABLE weakness that can be targeted by Thai security forces.
The recent shootings, rumours and threats in the South East are POSSIBLY the beginning of an increase in insurgent activities in order to prevent ISOC from gaining further success from the death of a key leader. Over the next week, any POSSIBLE increase in insurgent activity will PROBABLY focus on targeting civilians directly in through shootings in order to undermine ISOC operations without risking direct engagement against ISOC personnel, there will POSSIBLY be IED attacks against ISOC personnel too.
The most concerning development at the moment is what appears to be an exodus of illegal Cambodian and Myanmar immigrants in light of the new labour law. While the law appears to be having its desired effect on reducing the amount of illegal labour, it is POSSIBLY having a significant impact on the Thai labour market through reducing the amount of labour available to Thai businesses. Additionally, the new law has POSSIBLY created an opportunity for human traffickers to offer illegal migrants transportation services out of Thailand in order for them to return to their countries of origin, obtain necessary documentation and return to work in Thailand legally. Services such as this will PROBABLY lead to higher risks of traffick accidents driver fatigue and will PROBABLY undermine efforts by Thai authorities to address their Tier 2 rating in the US State Departmentâs Trafficking in Persons Report.
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