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Weekly Intelligence Report: Monitoring in Thailand

 

Date: Monday, 31 July 2017
Period Covered: 00:00 22 July 2017 to 23:59 28 July 2017(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).
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 detail a summary of the incident(s) in the report while paragraphs between âCOMMENTâ and âCOMMENT ENDSâ are intended to provide context to the incident(s) detailed above them.
Introduction
Over the past week a total of 15 incidents occurred across Thailand. To date, this week has seen the lowest number of incidents occur for July 2017 and since the beginning of these reports. Table 1 below shows the number of incidents per region and the trends emerging so far; those being a lower overall number of incidents this month compared to June in all bar the Central, North and North-East reporting regions.

Table 1. Incidents by region from 01 May – 28 July 2017
North and North East

North Incidents (Click on above image to expand)

North East Incidents (Click on above image to expand)
1. 27 July 2017 – Four Lao Traffickers, 495kg Of Marijuana Seized In Ban Phaeng District, Nakhon Phanom:
A combined patrol team of navy officers, police and local officials spotted a long-tailed boat crossing the Mekong River from Laos to Ban Phon Thong village. The patrol deemed then saw 10 men carrying sacks of fertiliser from the boat to the river bank. When the patrol confronted the group, ordering them to submit to a search, all but four successfully fled.
Closer inspection of the sacks and searches discovered 495kg of compressed marijuana with an estimated worth of at least 10 million baht (US$299670.40). The four men also had a grenade in their possession to cover their escape if they were found by Thai authorities. The suspects confessed they had been hired for 5,000 baht (US$149.84) each by a Lao drug trafficker to deliver the marijuana from Laos to a Thai customer.
COMMENT. There have been three previous trafficking incidents in this vicinity since 01 May 2017. In all incidents, large quantities of marijuana were discovered. This area appears to be a favourite crossing point for marijuana traffickers from Laos. Also, the three previous incidents all being seizures of marijuana would indicate Laos appears to have an almost exclusive, large scale drug supply to bring into and through Thailand.
Considering the tropical depression that has been hitting the North East and causing floods, the increase in water levels could actually provide additional routes and areas to cross the Mekong River. COMMENT ENDS.
2. 24-28 July 2017 – Tropical Depression Sonca:
After making landfall on Tuesday and downgrading from a cyclone to a tropical depression, Tropical Depression SONCA has since moved through Laos and has caused heavy rains in the North East and Northern reporting regions of Thailand. It was assessed to bring abundant rain to the vast majority of the North-East reporting region and bring additional rain to the East and some Central Thailand provinces including Bangkok. So far, Tropical Depression SONCA has caused the following:
Severe flooding in Ubon Ratchathani province. Heavy overnight rain has caused flooding up to 2 metres deep in the districts of Si Muang Mai, Khong Chiam and Nam Yuen.The rain and associated runoff are also raising the level of the Mekong River in Nakhon Phanom province, where tributaries are overflowing their banks and flooding low-lying paddy fields.Heavy downpours in Sakhon Nakhon. Most parts of Sakon Nakhon city and various roads have been submerged. Sakhon Nakhonâs airport has been temporarily closed due to flooding on the runway. Muang district’s Huai Sai reservoir also overflowed worsening the situation, forcing many families in downstream villages to evacuate to higher ground.Yom River bursts flood dam in Sukhaothai province. Days of heavy rains and northern runoffs have led to the Yom River bursting the flood barrier dam in Sukhaothai’s Muang district.
COMMENT. Prior to Tropical Depression SONCA hitting Thailand, there were a number of incidents where heavy rainfall was causing flooding or forcing Thai authorities to release water from dams at a higher rate. Consequently, a number of areas in the Central and North East regions inundated with water (PRATTEN 2017b). SONCAâs effect on rivers and reservoirs will no doubt exacerbate current areas experiencing flooding and add additional provinces and districts. COMMENT ENDS.
Central
Nothing significant to report.
Bangkok

Incidents in Bangkok (Click on above image to expand)
3. 22 July 2017 – Police Arrest Suspected Human Trafficker In Pathumwan District, Bangkok:
Crime Suppression Division police have apprehended Boonyasit Rungthanakiart, 65, at the Siam Kempinski Hotel. He is the elder brother of Kasem Rungthanakiart, a former executive of the now-defunct Thai Rak Thai Party and former Surin MP. Boonyasit was wanted on an arrest warrant issued by Chiang Mai (North reporting region) provincial court on June 12 for colluding in human trafficking, allegedly luring girls aged below 18 into the sex trade and running a sex services business. Boonyasit’s network allegedly misled girls into believing they were going to jobs paying 40,000-50,000 baht a month (US$1195.46 – $1494.32).
COMMENT. There has been a previous network discovered in Bangkok which had a similar method; procuring girls from regional provinces, Nakhon Ratchasima (East reporting region) in the previous case. These areas of Thailand would appear to be attractive for human traffickers to procure girls as they are aiming to obtain employment in cities.
4. 26 July 2017 – NCPO Takes Action Against 70 Officials And Local Politicians For Alleged Corruption:
Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha, exercising his power as the National Council for Peace and Order chief, has either suspended from duty or transferred up to 70 officials for alleged corruption or abuse of authority. Among them are:
Phetchabun Provincial Administrative Organisation’s chief executive Akaradej Thongjaisod;Pathum Thani Provincial Administrative Organisation’s chief executive Chan Puangpetch;Loei Provincial Administrative Organisation’s chief executive Thanawut Timsuwan;Sakon Nakhon Provincial Administrative Organisation’s chief executive Chaimongkhon Chairop;Samrong Nuea municipality’s mayor Leukrit Petchbodee;Sanan Silarat – Chief Administrator of the Nakhon Si Thammarat Provincial Administrative Organisation; andDecha Puang-ngarm – Chief Administrator of the Pathum Thani Provincial Administrative Organisation
COMMENT. The links of Boonyasit Rungthanakiart â his brother being a former Surin MP â along with the recent convictions of at least one high ranking Thai Army officer would indicate an effort to further undermine the political connections of organised criminal networks.
However, there is also an angle of the NCPO removing political rivals before the next election. Previous reporting has indicated the NCPO is particularly focussing on members of the Pheu Thai Party and those associated with the âRed Shirtsâ or United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (PRATTEN 2017b).
Additionally, another factor of Thai politics for quite some time has been the vote buying and misappropriation of public resources by politicians at the local level, particularly in rural areas where Thai voters have been less educated (Kongkirati, 2014). The dismissals and transfers carried out would have an effect on reducing that kind of activity.
5. 29 July 2017 – Justice Ministry In Bangkok Blacklists 10 Loan Shark Syndicates In North East Thailand:
Ten influential loan-shark syndicates operating in the Northeast have been blacklisted by the Justice Ministry as part of government efforts to stamp out illegal money-lending rackets in the country.
Deputy permanent secretary for justice, Police Colonel Dussadee Arayawuth, said a ministry probe indicated 10 major loan shark networks were operating using several dubious methods the most profitable being targeting people’s land. These gangs were also backed by influential state officials including police and military officers.
Loan sharking can be categorised into three groups:
operators who collect interest at rates higher than usual;operators who exploit consignment land sale contracts to acquire ownership of debtors’ land. Villagers will be forced to sign a consignment land sale contract which requires the debt to be cleared within two or three months. It is almost certain debtors will be unable to settle huge debts within the period stipulated in the contract, resulting in the loss of their land to illegal money lenders; andlarge-scale loan shark rings operating across several provinces. This group will often threaten or use violence to demand payment from debtors with support from influential state officials. The country’s largest loan shark network, allegedly led by Wichai Panngam, in Uthai Thani, falls into this group.
COMMENT. This kind of threat has not emerged in previous incident reports relating to organised criminal activities. With the flooding caused by Tropical Depression SONCA, land owners may need to borrow money. Given the suspensions or transfers of public officials, this kind of criminal activity may be connected to those suspended or transferred by the NCPO. COMMENT ENDS.
East
Nothing significant to report.
West

Incidents in the West (Click on above image to expand)
6. 22 July 2017 – Couple Arrested Trafficking Ya Bah In Sam Roi Yot District, Prachuap Khiri Khan:
Acting on information from informants, police manning the Sam Roi Yot security checkpoint on Phahon Yothin highway stopped a couple driving a white Chevrolet pick-up truck for a search. A couple were arrested after 110,000 methaphetamine pills – ‘ya bah’ – were found in their pick-up truck concealed with loaded sacks of animal feed.
The couple are from Sing Buri province (Central reporting region). They were hired for 12,500 baht (US$374.25) to drive the Chevrolet truck loaded with animal feed from Fang district of Chiang Mai (North reporting region) to a client in Nakhon Si Thammarat.
COMMENT. The map notes showing the pickup point and destination fit in line with previous trafficking incidents in the West reporting region. Previous incidents in this area have predominantly been seizures of drugs on their way to the South to Nakhon Si Thammarat and further south. The map notes indicate like previous incidents, these pills were produced and brought in from the North West, near the China/Myanmar border. COMMENT ENDS.
South
Nothing significant to report.
South East

Incidents in South East (Click on above image to expand)
7. 23 July 2017 â Shooting Spree In Pattani:
The group of insurgents assessed to be members of the Barisan Revolusi Nasional have been assessed as the ones behind the two murders and the shooting at a Thai Army base in Nong Chik district. Analysis of these incidents has pointed to this group preferring to attack on weekends. This coming weekend, there will POTENTIALLY be more of these attacks carried out which will be done in a sequence of 2-3 murders of civilians and defence volunteers in the space of 2 hours, followed by a larger small arms attack which could POTENTIALLY be against another army base or could be a drive by shooting of civiliansâ houses (PRATTEN 2017a).
COMMENT. At the time of this report, the window for this group to carry out another attack still exists for this group COMMENT ENDS.
8. 27 July 2017 – Complex Attack/Ambush Against Patrol In Rueso District, Narathiwat:
At approximately 11:20, two members in an 8-man patrol were wounded after a roadside bomb blast in Ban Ku Bo in tambon Suwari. The bomb â estimated to weigh 20kg â was concealed under a roadside bush and detonated by radio (making it a radio controlled, improvised explosive device or RCIED). Shortly after the RCIED detonation, the patrol was hit by small arms fire from within dense vegetation along the road.
After the incident, investigators found a location approximately 30m off the road where the bombers were believed to have waited for the patrol detonated the bomb. Four people were detained early Thursday morning for questioning.
COMMENT. The last attack of this kind occurred in Yala province on the 23 May 2017, a Thai Army patrol was hit by an IED weighing about 30kg which killed two soldiers and wounded two others. After the detonation, a skirmish lasting approximately 15 minutes occurred.
Both Yala and Narathiwat are areas where the second group of insurgents, assessed to be part of the Runda Kumpilan Kecil, have been active. However, this tactic appears to be quite rare for the group as previous incidents attributed to this group were IED attacks only; utilising explosives strapped to stationary motorcycles or pipe bombs. Up until this incident, reporting indicated that Thai authorities were having difficulty with taking action against this group. There is the chance this may be a third group.
The mention of four people being detained has not mentioned who specifically; they could be supporters, insurgents involved. COMMENT ENDS
Gulf
Nothing Significant to Report.
However, activities relating to the Gulf of Thailand are going to be summarised in an upcoming snapshot on Crime.
Assessment

The low number of incidents over this reporting period is PROBABLY due to the effects of Tropical Depression SONCA. It is PROBABLE the flooding caused by SONCA has limited the means for trafficking and other related criminal activities. As the tropical depression continues to bring heavy rain to many areas in the North East and spread to other parts of the country â namely the North, Central, Bangkok and East reporting regions â the flooding will PROBABLY cause further infrastructure facilities such as airport closures cut off roads. Provided the tropical depression is not followed by another, over the next week at the earliest will POTENTIALLY feature a spike of incidents of trafficking and movement as the water levels will lower and provide greater access to and through Thailand.
The effects of the weather will POSSIBLY reduce the number of drugs being trafficked into Thailand from Myanmar due to road closures, making the trafficking incident in Prachuap Khiri Khan POTENTIALLY among the last amounts of Ya Bah to be transported through Thailand until SONCA clears. However, along the Mekong River borders with Cambodia and Laos, this weather POTENTIALLY presents an opportunity to bring marijuana in while authorities are focused on assisting those affected by the flooding along with the POSSIBLE emergence of additional trafficking routes for boats to use when crossing the Mekong River.
In addition, the damage caused by the recent flooding will POSSIBLY provide opportunities for the loan shark networks identified in the North East. As farmers will POSIBLY require financial assistance, there is the chance for loan sharks to fill this need in a quick manner, exacerbating the problems loan shark networks are posing.
The shootings in the South East have indicated a pattern emerging where the next 24 hours may see another attack similar to the shootings that occurred this week in Pattani. As for the complex attack, it is POSSIBLE the four individuals detained during this incident are those responsible or are linked to them. While confirmation will PROBABLY be unavailable, it is POSSIBLE Thai authorities will gain additional leads against the group that has been conducting IED attacks in Narathiwat and Yala beforehand. It is POSSIBLE there will be a number of follow up arrests over the course of the next week against the group operating in Narathiwat. However, the difference in tactics (Complex attacks vs IED attacks) could POTENTIALLY mean a third, occasionally active group is in the mix.
As for what has been occurring in Bangkok, the dismissals and transfers that have occurred in Bangkok could be for a number of reasons; from actual corruption and dereliction of duty to the NCPO removing rivals from Thailandâs political environment before the next election. Or it could be a combination of both scenarios. Further analysis of Thailand politics outside of Bangkok will need to be conducted to assess what actions like this will mean for the country.
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].
KONGKIRATI, P. 2014. The rise and fall of electoral violence in Thailand: changing rules, structures and power landscapes, 1997-2011. Contemporary Southeast Asia, 36, 386+.
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. Post Incident Report: Shooting Spree in Pattani Province, Thailand. Intelligence Fusion [Online]. Available: https://www.intelligencefusion.co.uk/single-post/2017/07/25/Post-Incident-Report-Shooting-Spree-in-Pattani-Province-Thailand [Accessed 26 July 2017].
PRATTEN M. 2017b. Weekly Intelligence Report: Monitoring in Thailand – 24 July 2017. Thailand [Online], 24 July 2017. Available: https://www.intelligencefusion.co.uk/single-post/2017/07/24/Weekly-Intelligence-Report-Monitoring-in-Thailand [Accessed 24 July 2017].
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