Date: Sunday, 23 July 2017
Monitoring Period: 00:00 15 July 2017 to 23:59 21 July 2017.
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).
The following report is intended to highlight key incidents in the above reporting regions over the past week and provide analysis on what it means for the country. Numbered paragraphs provide details of the incident(s) in while paragraphs between âCOMMENTâ and âCOMMENT ENDSâ are intended to provide context to the incident(s) detailed above them. Where it cannot be clearly seen on incident maps, lines and â where necessary – numbers point out the incidents written about in this report.
Over the reporting period there has been a total of 37 incidents across Thailand, an increase from the previous monitoring period. A number of incidents that have occurred in each of the reporting regions are the norm for their respective areas (while they would appear to be irrelevant at this time, future reports will utilise them for trend analyses).
However, the number of incidents has not changed the trend seen so far for July; a lower number of incidents than what occurred in June 2017. Table 1 below shows the total incidents by region with the trends for the two prior months and what has been recorded so far in July.
Table 1. Incidents by Region, May 2017 to 21 July 2017
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1. 15 July 2017 – Thailand To Send Investigation Team To Penang To Probe Alleged Crime Syndicate:
A consequence from the meeting between Thailandâs and Malaysia Counter-Narcotics authorities has been the decision to send a multi-agency team comprising Thailandâs Office of Narcotics Control Board, Narcotics Suppression Bureau, Department of Special Investigation, Anti-Money Laundering Office, Department of Business Development and the Bank of Thailand.
The purpose of the task force is to investigate a Penang-based company which has been accused of being a front for a transnational crime syndicate. This company is suspected to have established a foothold in Thailand several years ago with operations in property, entertainment, theme parks and restaurants. These operations are well established in the south of Thailand, especially in Danok and Hat Yai.
COMMENT. Incident monitoring and previous Intelligence Reports feature a number of arrests throughout the country. They point to a network spanning across and through Thailand. Starting in Chiang Mai, the drugs are trafficked south, making stops along the way to repackage the drugs into smaller shipments to make them more resilient against law enforcement seizures. The main locations for this to occur are Chiang Mai, Bangkok then southern cities (PRATTEN 2017b, PRATTEN 2017c, PRATTEN 2017d). COMMENT ENDS.
2. 17 July 2017 – Academics Issue Statement Demanding Return To Democracy At Chiang Mai University:
During the 13th International Conference on Thai Studies at Chiang Mai University, 176 scholars signed a joint statement at the forum calling for the return of democracy. In addition, three people attending the conference came to the attention of the Deputy Governor of Chiang Mai. On 18 July 2017, Deputy Governor Puttipong Sirimart submitted a letter to the Ministry of Interior reporting three scholars who allegedly held up placards reading, “An academic forum is not a military camp.” The three scholars are identified as:
Prajak Kongkirati, a political scientist from Thammasat University; Pakawadee Weerapaspong, an independent writer, activist, and translator; and Chaipong Samnieng, lecturer of Sociology and Anthropology, Chiang Mai University.
The letter added the three scholars have consistently been involved in movements against the junta through the Thai Academic Network for Civil Rights (TANCR). So far, no arrests have been reported.
COMMENT. Under the current government, political gatherings of more than five people are prohibited in Thailand; a law set by the military junta â the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) â since seizing power in 2014. The coup was carried out in the wake of instability and unrest from protests turning violent. This kind of demonstration would appear to be in line with the current laws surrounding protests.
Thai University Scholars appear to have been vehemently opposed to the NCPO at all costs. There have been numerous statements, arrests and attempts at petitions by activists and professors around the country, particularly in the North East at Khon Kaen University and in Bangkok. These activities have been occurring despite the NCPOâs focus on developing infrastructure to improve the economy and efforts to have Organic Acts drafted and passed in line with the Constitution that will result in the countryâs return to democracy by mid-late 2018 (PRATTEN 2017c, PRATTEN 2017d). COMMENT ENDS.
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3. 21 July 2017 â Flooding In Kalasin And Nakhon Phanom Provinces:
Reporting on 21 July indicates that heavy rains have continued, with this week seeing more than 395 acres of farmland in Nakhon Phanom being flooded after heavy rain and inflow from the Mekong River. Furthermore, 18 districts in Kalasin have been warned of flooding as a result of heavy rain and inflows from neighbouring Khon Kaen and Maha Sarakham provinces causing the Chi River to break its banks. Figure 1 below shows the areas most affected by these conditions so far.
Figure 1. Areas affected by the Mekong River flooding (L) and Chi River flooding (R and shown in blue)
COMMENT. Prior to these incidents, flooding has been occurring in predominantly in the Central reporting region, mainly in Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya where flooding has affected nearly 10,000 households in the districts of Phak Hai, Sena, Bang Ban, Bang Sai, Phra Nakhon Si and Bang Pa-in. Both this week and last, areas in the Central parts of Thailand have been flooded or at risk from flooding due to the requirement to reduce the capacity of the Chao Phraya dam (see map of Central reporting region below).
The source of flooding in these cases are from river systems themselves. The Mekong River serves as a border between Thailand and Laos, spanning across nearly the entire northern and eastern edges of the North-East reporting region. Kalasin provincesâ location towards the centre of this region would indicate all the provinces in this reporting region have the potential to be at risk from flooding. Especially due to the weather conditions contributing to these floods are expected to continue until approximately October (PRATTEN 2017d). COMMENT ENDS.
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4. 21 July 2017 – Police Seize Almost 2 Million ‘Ya Bah’ Pills And Suspected Gunman In Bang Pa-In District, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya:
Police have seized almost two million âya bahâpills from the house of a suspect also wanted for the shooting of a man in Ang Thong province in February this year.
COMMENT. Seizures of drugs have been few in the Central reporting region. Previous reports and incidents have seen these drugs being seized in Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Phuket and in the South East. The absence of any other drugs, such as âIceâ wold indicate these were being sold in the area rather than transported through. COMMENT ENDS.
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5. 16-17 July 2017 – Crown Property Arrangements:
Thailandâs King Maha Vajiralongkorn has been given greater authority over the management of Crown Property through the amendment of the Crown Property Act. The amendment gives him direct supervision of the Crownâs assets; which includes property as well as shares of Siam Commercial Bank Pcl, Thailand’s third-largest commercial bank, and Siam Cement Pcl, Thailand’s largest industrial conglomerate. The exact size of the Crown Property Bureau is not made public, but recent estimates have run to more than US$30 billion through its holdings in real estate and other investments.
Following this amendment, reporting on 17 July 2017 indicates the King appointed his former private secretary – Air Chief Marshal Satitpong Sukvimol – as chairman of the Crown Property Bureau. Traditionally, the role was given to whomever was finance minister in the elected Thai government.
COMMENT. The secrecy surrounding the Crownâs assets is a long-established practice and was around during the reign of King Bhumibol Adulyadej. However, the greater authority given the to the King during a time of quasi-dictatorship in Thailand will be a cause of concern given Thailandâs King Vajiralongkorn does not have the same authority and reverence from the people as his father did. This situation may be the motivation for this amendment and a means of protecting the crownâs assets from whatever government is elections in 2018.
6. 19 July 2017 â 21 Guilty Verdicts Handed Down So Far In Thailand’s Biggest Human Trafficking Trial In Bangkok:
This week has seen a large number of guilty verdicts handed down in Thailand’s biggest human trafficking trial; most of those tried have been found guilty which includes a former senior officer in the Royal Thai Army – Lt. Gen. Manas Kongpaen â as well as police officers, local politicians and Myanmar nationals. In addition to the smuggling and trafficking migrants on the Thai-Malaysia border, some of those found guilty were also convicted for taking part in organized transnational crime, forcible detention leading to death, and of rape.
COMMENT. The trial began in 2015 after the discovery of shallow graves near the Thai-Malaysia border. Authorities said it was part of a jungle camp where traffickers held migrants as hostages until relatives were able to pay for their release. The discovery led to a crackdown on human trafficking in the country. These guilty verdicts come in the wake of Thailand receiving a Tier 2 rating from the US State Department in relation to human trafficking (PRATTEN 2017b).
While significant in the amount of people convicted and prominence of those involved, there have been numerous reports of human trafficking continuing throughout the country. However, these convictions will no doubt be a âbargaining chipâ of sorts when it comes to a future review of Thailandâs rating. COMMENT ENDS.
7. 21 July 2017 â Court Cases Surrounding The Pheu Thai Party:
During this reporting period, Thailand’s Supreme Court sentenced Pheu Thai politician and chairman of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship – a.k.a. ‘Red Shirts’ – leader Jatuporn Prompan to one year in prison for defaming former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva. Jatuporn Prompan to one year in prison for defaming former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva. Jatuporn was convicted for calling Abhisit a “tyrant who has his hands stained with blood for ordering the killing of people” during a rally in 2009. The Supreme Court, overruling two lower court decisions, said that Jatuporn was guilty because his statement had not been fact-checked.
In addition, the final hearings for the trial of Former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra concluded on the same day. Yingluck Shinawatra is being tried for alleged malfeasance and negligence of duty in failing to prevent corruption in her governmentâs rice pledging scheme. The verdict is scheduled to be handed down on 25 August 2017; she faces 10 years in prison if found guilty.
COMMENT. Yingluck Shinawatra is the sister of former Prime Minister â and now living in exile â Thaksin Shinawatra; whose Pheu Thai party is a reincarnation of sorts of Thaksinâs Thai Rak Thai party. Both parties were extremely popular amongst Thai citizens in rural areas as their rice pledging policies provided a high degree of security for rice crops; but were disastrous for Thailandâs economic performance which were both driving factors in previous and the current military coups. A guilty verdict and subsequent prison sentence would be a favourable outcome for those wanting to limit or even remove the influence of the Shinawatra family in Thailandâs political system when the country returns to democracy.
As for Jatuporn, his imprisonment comes in the wake of numerous members of the âRed Shirtsâ being imprisoned along with a spate of bombings in Bangkok that included the Phramugklatao military hospital in May 2017 as well as a history of unrest being carried out by this group. With an imprisoned leadership, the capability of the âRed Shirtsâ and the Pheu Thai party it supports will be lessened over a 12-month period that may see Thailand have an election.
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8. 18 July 2017 – Police Arrest Weapons Traffickers In Mueang District, Sa Kaeo:
After receiving a tip-off of weapons being trafficked through the province for delivery near the Thailand-Myanmar border, police spotted the vehicles believed to be the ones they were seeking and followed them through Aranyaprathet district. When the vehicles stopped from the border in Ban Khlong Nam Sai in Aranyaprathet district. When the vehicles made a stop at the petrol station on Highway 359, the five men were arrested and police discovered the following in their vehicles:
2 x 82mm grenade launchers; 1 x 81mm launcher; 3 x 82mm grenades; 3 x ignition devices; and 6 x mobile phones.
The men confessed to taking the weapons from Cambodia through tambon Thap Prik in Aranyaprathet for delivery near Thailand-Myanmar border. The information provided by these men led to the arrest of the buyer of these weapons in Mae Hong Son province; in the North on the Thailand-Myanmar border (see Weapons Trafficking Incident shown in North region incident map).
COMMENT. This is the second instance so far since June 2017 where weapons have been trafficked across the border and were supposedly heading for Myanmar; there had previously been a discovery of a Royal Thai Air Force Sergeant accompanied by a Cambodian trafficking a significant number of small arms across the border in Trat province.
Tambon Thap Prik sits right on the border with Cambodia. On both sides of the border, there appears to be roads to enable vehicle movement but little in the way of border protection on either side. While this area would need to be examined more closely, at the moment this appears to be an ideal area for traffickers to move between countries.
Nothing Significant To Report.
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9. 15-21 July 2017 â Krabi Massacre Suspects Arrested And Handed To Police:
Over the course of this reporting period, the eight suspects involved in the massacre of the Au Luk village chief and most of his family by eight gunmen dressed in fatigues were found, arrested and handed over to the Royal Thai Police for further questioning and prosecution. Due to their use of military fatigues, the gunmen were suspected of being linked to the Royal Thai Armed Forces. However, investigations done so far have revealed the suspects were not linked to the military and the motive for the killings was over an unsuccessful business deal.
COMMENT. This multiple murder received nation-wide attention by the media in Thailand. The tempo and swift action by the police to close the case and arrest those involved is similar to a violent murder that occurred up in Khon Kaen province in May-June 2017; a barmaid was murdered by three women linked to the drug trade. The murder grabbed nation-wide attention due to how the woman was killed; within a fortnight the suspects had all been arrested and in the case of the women, they were quickly found in Myanmar and extradited back to Thailand. The speed shown by the police indicates a capability to act quickly and decisively when crimes receive national attention. COMMENT ENDS.
10. 19 July 2017 – Two Arrested Possessing ‘Ice’ And ‘Ya Bah’ In Phuket:
Police arrested two members of a major drug dealing network with about 7.5 kilograms of ‘ice’ 177 pills of ‘ya bah,’ a gun, ammunition and a motorbike. The seized drugs had an estimated worth of more than 5 million baht (US$148809.55). The suspects confessed to ordering more than 50kg of drugs each time from a dealer in the North in order to sell them in and around the Andaman provinces.
The seizures and arrests came from multiple actions around the province police. The first arrest occurred in Patong but available reports indicate the police identified information of immediate intelligence value which they were acted upon quickly. The follow up efforts resulted in seizures and arrests occurring in Talad Yai up to the north of Phuket Island as well as a condominium in Rassada in Phuketâs South East.
Information gained from these arrests indicates the men who were arrested were working for a man known as âMogkolâ who orders the drugs to sell in Phuket and surrounding provinces. Their supplier is based in the Northern hill-tribe area in Chiang Rai.
COMMENT. The name âMongkolâ appears to be a nickname as the word in Thai refers to a head-dress worn by professional Muay Thai / Kickboxing fighters as they enter the ring and carry out the ceremonial aspects of the contest. However, the nickname definitely indicates a position of authority.
Examination of the location of Hill-Tribes in Chang Rai based on the information from this incident has identified an area in Chiang Rai that is on the border with Myanmar. Prior reporting has indicated the North as a âbottle-neckâ that traffickers across the border have to cross through to get âiceâ and âya bahâ into Thailand and further south. The arrest of these men and any flow up arrests may indicate a route through which traffickers in Myanmar / China bring âiceâ and âya bahâ through in large quantities.
Prior reporting indicates that the Pha Mueang taskforce up in Chiang Rai located a large cache of âya bahâ and âiceâ in Mae Sai district. Given the quantities of drugs found in this incident, the claim these men ordered 50kg at a time and previous reporting up in the North region; there could be a link between these men and drug suppliers up in the North (PRATTEN 2017c). COMMENT ENDS.
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11. 15 July 2017 – IED Wounds Two Policeman And One Woman In Narathiwat:
At approximately 09:30, two policemen and a woman were injured when an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) on a stationery motorcycle detonated at the Kampung Pupuk Bridge in Sungai Golok, Narathiwat. The policemen and the 41-year-old woman were walking in the vicinity when the 10kg bomb exploded.
COMMENT. This IED is similar to an incident on 02 June 2017 in Tak Bai district, Narathiwat where Thai soldiers were hit by an IED consisting of 10kg of explosives being fitted to a motorcycle. COMMENT ENDS.
12. 15 July 2017 – Seven Wounded In Small Arms Fire Attack In Nong Chik District, Pattani:
At approximately 19:30, a group of armed men opened fire at several houses along the Don Yang-Hat Yai Road. Available information on the attack is that all those caught in the small arms fire were Buddhists.
COMMENT. This attack comes in the wake of three insurgents linked to the Big C Supercentre bombing being killed in the previous fortnight along with a number of small arms fire incidents against teachers. While little information is available on the types of weapons used, the similarities in attacks occurring along roads indicates this could be the same group behind previous incidents (PRATTEN 2017a).COMMENT ENDS.
13. 20 July 2017 – IED Attack Kills One Policeman, Wounds Another In Bacho District, Narathiwat:
At approximately 00:55, a group of insurgents snuck behind a police checkpoint in Bacho district and threw six pipe bombs at it, each weighing 700-800 grams. Only one of the bombs that exploded caused casualties with one police officer being killed and one wounded.
COMMENT. Pipe bombs have previously been used elsewhere; in Banang Sata district, Yala province back in late May 2017. Between that incident and this one, IEDs in the South-East region consisted of gas cylinders packed with explosives. These were assessed to be gas cylinders stolen from a vendor in Pattani before the Big C Supercentre bombing on 09 May 2017. These types of IED appear to have ceased with the death of Lakman Mading who was wanted on charges that included possessing explosives and terrorism (PRATTEN 2017c, PRATTEN 2017a).
In all of the reports this week and in previous weeks, there has been an absence of which groups are behind these attacks. It is understood that two insurgent groups exist in this region; the Barisan Revolusi Nasional-Koordinasi (BRN) and the Runda Kumpil Kecil (RKK). The former is regarded as focusing on gaining support through involvement in religious groups while the latter is believed to be focussed on armed attacks (Fevrier, 2017).
16. Nothing Significant To Report
Overall, incidents that have occurred this week do not appear to cause any immediate change in Thailandâs situation. In fact, the trend being seen so far from recorded incidents would point to July POTENTIALLY being a period of low activity for the country.
However, the deployment of a joint investigative task force to Penang, Malaysia will POSSIBLY reveal greater details with regards to drug trafficking and POSSIBLY human and weapons trafficking in Thailand. Examination of incidents this week along with upcoming analysis on âcrime and conflictâ will PROBABLY reveal the general areas and routes for these types of trafficking; but the arrests and raids that will PROBABLY occur from the investigation teamâs work in Malaysia will POSSIBLY narrow down the specific areas/locations for storing and repacking of drugs along with identifying additional networks of dealers similar to the ones arrested in Phuket and Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya. Depending on what kinds of actions follow on from the taskforceâs work, there is a POSSIBLE chance that drug trafficking activities in Thailand will be reduced for the short term.
With the monsoon season being in effect and expected to finish in October, floods will PROBABLY begin to pose a greater threat to provinces in the Central and North-East reporting regions; especially those in vicinity of the Chao Phraya and the Mekong Rivers. The continuation of flooding seen in the Central region and the inundation that has occurred in the North East makes it PROBABLE that floods in these areas will worsen and spread to neighbouring provinces, threatening those currently there and POSSIBLY restricting entry/exit.
The activities carried out by scholars in Chiang Mai this week presents a POTENTIAL method for scholars and those opposed to the NCPO to carry out protests without reprisal as they have POTENTIALLY found a way to work around current protesting laws. Based on current understanding of laws, as long as any protests are done in groups less than five and within education institutions â or anywhere else not immediately visible to the public â opponents to the NCPO will POTENTIALLY become more vocal as long as it is in line with current laws. Although this has the POTENITAL to be self-defeating; any protests carried out without reprisal or punishment will be contrary to claims of freedom of speech being undermined in the country.
The guilty verdicts in the countryâs largest human trafficking trial along with the speed of arresting the Krabi massacre gunmen shows how quick Thai authorities are willing to work when crimes gain national attention. These incidents will POSSIBLY used as a means of gaining international support and undermine any criticisms raised towards the effectiveness of the Royal Thai Police along with improving the chances of positive assessments or ratings in relation to human trafficking.
The incidents in the South East indicate the presence of two active groups of insurgents. While it canât be determined whether they are part of the BRN or RKK, the incidents this week show there is one group in Pattani province focussing on small arms attacks targeting those linked to the Thai government or perceived as helping government and security forces. The second group appears to have moved from Yala province to Narathiwat. It is PROBABLY targeting police and security personnel at static checkpoints and on chokepoints such as bridges. Their preferred types of IEDs appear to be in the form of pipe bombs and motorcycles fitted with 10kg of explosives. Given the successes of these two groups this week, it is PROBABLE there will be an increase in attacks on â against police checkpoints especially â over the next week.
Finally, the greater control granted to the King over the Crownâs property will POTENTIALLY be a concern based on King Maha Vajiralongkornâs apparent low popularity in the country. However, this move is POTENTIALLY a means to secure and protect the Crownâs assets after the next election should the next government have the same fate as most governments in Thailandâs history, ending in military coups due to unrest and instability occurring due to damaging policies. However, the imprisoning of Jatuporn and a POSSIBLE guilty verdict for Yingluck Shinawatra on August 25 will have a POTENTIAL chance of reducing this likelihood.
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