#Thailand – Answers to the puzzle of Pattani Big C bombing.

Pattani answers

Attack on mainly Muslim shoppers may have been launched by rogue BRN militants, even as their handlers’ express willingness to talk peace

Within hours of Tuesday’s bomb attack at a Big C supermarket in Pattani, Thai security officials were pointing the finger of blame at Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN), the longstanding separatist movement that controls virtually all the insurgent combatants.

Twenty-four hours later, authorities announced they had identified the four culprits but would not make their names public.

Photos and video were released of the stolen pickup loaded with a homemade bomb as it passed through the store’s security checkpoint.

Tinted windows that disguised the assailants’ faces were lowered just far enough to hand over an identification card, which belonged to the owner of the stolen vehicle, whose body was later found in a village in Pattani.

The security guard apparently didn’t bother to check if the face of the driver matched the photo ID. As at most security checkpoints in Thailand, it was a case of going through the motions and waving the customer through.

The two attackers transporting the bomb made it through with ease. Waiting for them on getaway motorbikes nearby were two accomplices.

Despite the forest of checkpoints and security cameras across this conflict-affected region, where an ongoing insurgency has claimed nearly 7,000 lives since January 2004, insurgents continue to evade detection by security officials and their network of informants. 

For the past 13 years, this has been a cat-and-mouse game for the Thai security apparatus. Preventive measures and the security grid have failed to curb hit-and-run attacks against patrols and remote military and police outposts. Soldiers patrolling back roads are sitting ducks for militants manning detonators, with weapons locked and loaded to finish off casualties from the blast.

Many of the soldiers are young and sent to this historically contested region with little understanding of the conflict’s nature. They find themselves up against “ghosts” – no state official really knows who is an active insurgent – but also an entire Patani Malay community that is indifferent to the government’s counter-insurgency operation and wider plan for the region.

The authorities are quick to blame separatists for almost every violent incident. For the local Malays, however, it is clear that pro-government death squads are also part of the picture. When a group of armed men jump out of a pickup and start firing into a teashop full of Muslim villagers, it is difficult to reach any other conclusion.

On the other hand, coordinated and simultaneous attacks, roadside bombings, and ambushes against security units are generally understood to be the work of insurgents. News travels fast in this restive region. Yesterday’s incident is chewed over at breakfast the next morning in village teashops. “Were the victims goats or pigs?” is usually the first question as the men sip tea and eat roti. “Goats” means Malay Muslims while “pigs” refers to Thai Buddhists.

But on Tuesday in Pattani, the “goat and pig” distinction got all mixed up as both Malays and Thai Buddhists lay injured outside Big C waiting to be treated by paramedics.

More than meets the eye

A government spokesman wasted no time in lashing out at separatist militants. But senior officials monitoring the situation closely were scratching their heads over why the BRN would launch an attack against the people they are supposed to be “liberating”. Nothing is being ruled out, including the possibility of an attack by a rogue unit upset with BRN leadership for stating their willingness to negotiate with the Thai state last month.

Evidence from many attacks prior to Tuesday’s bombing suggests insurgents had not been targeting civilians. The raid on a Narathiwat district hospital last year saw 30-plus insurgents evacuate the building of medical staff before using it as a staging ground to assault the Paramilitary Ranger camp next door. Buddhist doctors and nurses even told reporters how polite the insurgents were.

In other incidents, innocent bystanders have been killed by insurgents’ stray bullets, though Thai authorities don’t make a distinction between such accidental killings and murder. In their eagerness to demonise the insurgents, they purposely leave out certain facts. In doing so, they also undermine their own analysis and credibility.

Insurgent sources in the South say they don’t believe anybody in their movement could have carried out Tuesday’s attack, given the fact that most shoppers at the supermarket were Muslims. However, the fluidity of the BRN command-and-control structure means that each cell is given freedom to decide which targets to hit. And given such leeway there is naturally a tendency to escalate the intensity and scale of the violence.

Attack on peace process?

One senior Thai security officer suggests the Big C bombing could be the latest in a wave of attacks avenging the extrajudicial killings of two militant suspects on March 29 by Rangers.

Sources in the BRN said the April attacks were also aimed at discrediting the ongoing peace dialogue between the government and MARA Patani, an umbrella organisation of several longstanding separatist movements.

It’s an open secret that MARA Patani and the BRN are competing to strengthen their constituencies – winning over combatants, as well as civil society organisations and community leaders in the region, to further their cause and agenda.

One advantage that MARA Patani has over others lies in its inclusion in the peace dialogue – the quasi-official track with the Thai state that is being facilitated by Malaysia.

The BRN insisted last month that it was the legitimate dialogue partner for talks with the Thais but that other foreign governments must also be involved as facilitator-observers.

Hope in BRN statement 

Needless to say, the BRN statement generated a great deal of interest at all levels of Thai officialdom. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha didn’t shoot the idea down but instead suggested that the BRN talk to the facilitator, Malaysia.

But for Thai soldiers in the far South, the statement was a welcome one.

“It would be great to be able to talk to somebody who has command and control [over the insurgents],” said one Thai army intelligence officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity. 

When asked if he thought Bangkok was prepared to make meaningful concessions to the BRN or the Malays in the far South, he replied, “Probably not. But at least it’s an opportunity to go over issues that are within our reach and to exchange ‘pigs’ and ‘cats’,” said the officer, using the Thai expression for horse-trading.

“We can go over things like rules of engagement, and use the meeting to verify which side was responsible for this or that particular incident. After all, there are many competing actors who have no qualms about using violence to get what they want in this region.” 

 Don Pathan is a security analyst and freelance consultant based in the far South and a member of the Patani Forum (www.pataniforum.com), a civil society organisation promoting critical discussion on the conflict in the far South. 

Source – TheNation

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Thailand – Memories of the late monarch

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An auto shop in downtown Bangkok comes up with a way of preserving newspaper cuttings

GLO AUTO, which bills itself as an expert in internal maintenance and repairs to cars, planes and yachts, pays respect to the His Majesty the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej by introducing a new technology that prevents newspaper pages from deteriorating and fading, thus allowing loyal subjects to keep alive their printed memories of the late monarch in the years to come.

“After the passing of King Rama IX, my family and I donated food to those paying respect to His Majesty. I read the papers so I am well aware of the articles and historic pictures published during this time. So I decided to look at how these memories could be made to last. I adapted a technique called Age Stop, which coats the paper and keeps it in good condition,” Phumipat Rongrat explains.

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The preservation is done by spraying the page with a solution called Agestop Paper Shield: Hydrophobic Coating, which is non-soluble, chemical-free solution. It slows down the deterioration of paper, such as the fading of colours and letters caused by humidity and UV rays while enhancing the sharpness of images and text.

The launch, which was held at Crystal Cord Zone on M Floor of Siam Paragon, consisted of a demonstration led by Italian expert in preservation Antonio Di Maio.

Guests included Sopin Rongrat, Sikanya Sakdidech Panubhan, Akkararat Wannarat, Preawpreeya Chumsai Na Ayuthhaya, Olarn Puiphanthawong, Suwadee Peungboonphra, Suriyon Sriorathaikul, Shasha Pakpaibul, Tassanai Raiva, Dungkamol Vepulla Vagenzen, Doithibet Datchani, Natapohn Temiraks, Nicharee Chokprajakchad, Sarah Casinghini, Ornanong Panyawongse, and Saranyu Prachakrit.

“We all want to keep things we love as long as possible. I’m very glad to know that there’s a technology to preserve paper since I love King Bhumibol Adulydej and I have a collection of the king’s pictures,” Akkararat said.

“I am personally interested in leather maintenance and preservation. So I think a technology that preserves paper and could be applied to artworks, which also fade after a while, is a great idea,” Doithibet added.

Natapohn was also enthusiastic, saying: “When I buy new leather products like bags or shoes, I always coat them to keep them in good condition. This Age Stop technology is amazing, and I’m very glad since I’m also would like to keep the images of King Bhumibol Adulyadej in good condition.”

Glo Auto is offers the service for Bt89 per double page. The total income without deduction will be donated to The Chaipattana Foundation, dedicated to King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

n Glo Auto is at 59 Lang Suan Road in Pathumwan district and the service is being offered through January 31. Find out more at (061) 919 4545 and (063) 591 6366.

Source: TheNation

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Thai-Myanmar film “TT & Donut” has its premiere in Yangon

THE FIRST-EVER cinematic collaboration between Myanmar and Thailand, “TT & Donut”, finally had its premiere last Sunday at the National Theatre of Yangon, drawing a celebrity crowd as well as such VIPs as the Chief Minister of Yangon, the counsellor (commercial) from the Royal Thai Embassy, Pakainay Leng-ee and ET, a fortune teller whose clients include Asia’s rich and powerful especially Thai politicians and high-ranking soldiers.

The event, which also featured a live broadcast for Myanmar TV, cost a small fortune to organise but the producers, Myanmar’s Golden Princess and Thai entertainment giant Bec Tero, felt it was well worth the price.

“TT& Donut” was introduced to the Thai media back in September at Paragon Cineplex as the first collaboration between Golden Princess and Bec Tero. The former had been looking for a Thai company with whom to work while Bec Tero was looking to expand its interests in Myanmar having successfully entered into a joint venture with Yangon-based media company and broadcaster Forever Group. Forever BEC Tero, as the company is known, produces TV shows and dramas for Myanmar’s MRTV-4 and Channel 7.

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But while the film has now enjoyed its premiere, it isn’t actually going on release until a little later. The latest schedule shows a Myanmar release either just before 2016 draws to a close or in January followed by a Thai release in March.

The film was originally to come out in Thailand in January but Golden Princess’s producer Thet Lwin preferred to delay out of respect to the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej. He is also hoping to open back home with a bang, feeling it will serve as a springboard for the film’s success in Thailand. And while the film will have a broad release, the focus, he says, will be on Myanmar communities living across Thailand in areas such as Mae Sot in Tak province, Samut Songkhram, Ranong and Bangkok.

The film stars Myanmar superstar Pyay Ti Oo as wealthy bachelor Ti Oo or TT who is on a visit to Thailand when he is accused of kidnapping Donut (Chattarika Sittiprom), the daughter of a powerful mobster who is about to marry a prominent businessman. Life becomes complicated when she loses her memory after an accident, and she and TT are forced to go the run. When her memory finally returns, she wonders which of the two men she truly loves.

The film is directed by Adsajan Sattagovit who worked closely with the Myanmar producers and actor Ti Oo to develop the story. As it is his first time working with a foreign production, Adsajan tried to find out what Myanmar’s cinephiles like, while taking into account cultural differences and the strict censorship in Myanmar.

“It’s a romantic comedy but due to cultural differences, it’s hard to deliver comedy through dialogue so we use gestures and situations. But I believeit can communicate with a Myanmar audience,” says the director.

The film was shot mostly in Thailand at the request of Myanmar’s main investor. Like Thai producers, who prefer to use the beautiful scenery of Japan and South Korea as the backdrops for their films, he wanted to give the film a more exotic feel.

Adsajan satisfied those wishes by using such unseen places as a sheep farm in Ratchaburi and a warehouse by the Chao Phraya river with the Rama IX Brigde as the backdrop.

The shoot itself was stressful for Chattarika, the second runner-up in the Miss Thailand World 2014 pageant, who made her acting debut with the film.

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“Ti Oo helped me a lot. He is very talented and charming both in front and behind the camera,” says the actress, who has since appeared in a few TV dramas including the popular soap “Nakhee”, which has just finished showing on Channel 3.

The 38-year-old Ti Oo enjoyed working with a Thai film crew, saying he found them more systematic than their peers in Myanmar. The actor, who started his career as a 17 year old, has since found himself working in English, South Korean, Malaysian and Indian productions.

“I just do my best and never dream high when working with foreign films, I just work step by step and take all the new experiences as a way of improving my acting skills,” he says.

Actor and writer Lu Min, who has served as the president of the Myanmar Motion Pictures Organisation, for the last four years, is confident the co-production will help the Myanmar film industry become more systematic in its approach thus opening itself up to the international market.

“Our film industry is in transition,” he says. “Technically we are pretty well up-to-date and screening in digital format, but other aspects still need improvement, such as censorship and venues.”

Currently there are around 70 cinemas for 60 million people and half of them are in Yangon, where ticket prices range from Bt30 to Bt100.

More than 100 movies are currently being made every year – and the figure is rising – but theatre capacity is such that cinemas can only allocate showtime to around 20 films and the others have to wait in line. Censorship is another problem and Lu Min has been in recent discussions with the authorities to ease the rules. “Producers find it very difficult to work and often have to allocate bigger budgets to re-shoot the scenes the censors don’t like,” he says, adding that these challenges must be overcome if filmmaking is to develop,

Lu Min says he still loves acting and writing but that he is too busy as MMPO president to help fellow filmmakers.

“I think collaboration will help us to improve not just the quality of our films but also our marketing. Our film market is quite small and I would really like to see a bigger variety in stories and genres and an increase in movie theatres. Only then will we be able to expand,” he says.

Source: TheNation

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THAILAND – Ritual felling of cremation trees to be held at Kui Buri

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PEOPLE can witness a sacred ritual at the Kui Buri National Park today before the felling of four agarwood trees chosen for the royal crematorium.

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The ritual will take place between 2.09pm and 2.39pm. It will begin as soon as His Majesty’s Deputy Principal Private Secretary Wud Sumitra pours holy water and anoints the No 15 agarwood tree at the park to the sound of holy music from gongs and other instruments.

Chatchai Pinngern, chief of the Brahmin rituals office, will also take part in the ceremony, reading out loud the worship script and chopping the tree with a golden axe.
The royal astrologer will be present to sound the gong and three other chosen agarwood trees will be cut at the same time. The sacred ritual will be recorded by the National Archive of Thailand. HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej passed in his 89th year on October 13. Preparations are now ongoing for his royal cremation, for which agarwood is considered important. The four were among 19 agarwood trees found dead inside the park. Their heights range from 11 to 15 metres with widths from 142 to 203 centimetres, in accordance with criteria for the royal cremation.

The trees, which are labelled 10, 11, 14 and 15, were selected by Chamlong Yingnuek, director of the Royal Household Bureau’s Royal Rituals Division, and Chatchai Pinngern, chief of the Brahmin rituals office, as well as other officials from relevant departments.

11 Elephants and mahouts pay respects for the late King

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A PROCESSION of 11 elegant elephants and hundreds of mahouts performed a show of respect to much-revered HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej in front of the Grand Palace yesterday morning.

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They were all in elaborate, black attire as they joined the rest of the nation in mourning the passing of the great monarch.

His Majesty passed away at the age of 89 on October 13 this year.
All of the elephants performed in front of His Majesty during his visit to Ayutthaya’s Thung Makham Yong in 2012.

“This is the biggest mission in my life,” Pra Kosjaban Foundation’s chairman Laithongrien Meepan said yesterday leading the mahouts and tuskers.

In the capital, the procession started a respectful march from a military unit near the Grand Palace at 9.09am. His Majesty was the ninth king of the Chakri Dynasty.

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The leading elephant carried a portrait of the much-beloved King and his first white elephant during the march.

The awe-inspiring procession stopped in front of the Defence Ministry. All participants then faced the Grand Palace and observed a moment of silence in remembrance of the King. Mourners as well as the pachyderms laid prostrate before the late head of the state to express their full loyalty.

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Source: TheNation

Paris – Phuket – Bangkok – Magazine

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NEW IS OUR PARIS / PHUKET / BANGKOK MAGAZINE

In a short time, our magazine has known quite a few improvements: a more luxurious formula earmarked to seduce a wider audience, a new name to rubber stamp its national-scale calling (le Paris Bangkok outside Phuket), and content now fully translated into English in order to reach the whole expatriates community as well as Thai readers.

This cycle of evolution is coming to an end with a last innovation: as of September, the magazine comprises 100 pages (16 more pages) and becomes bimonthly (every two months). In order to guarantee an ever-growing exposure to our advertisers, its circulation is doubled to ensure its presence all the way through the two months that each issue will henceforth cover. Distribution will be widened and a restocking will occur for every distribution spots after one month.

The additional pages at the end of the magazine will be devoted to highlight businesses through a “Hot Spot” formula, offering our readers a choice of places to go and services to use.

Thailand – Tears of grief wash away conflict, divisions

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Mourners gather at Sanam Luang Saturday nigh to sing the royal anthem and light candles in memory of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

Many tears have flowed over scenes of Sanam Luang depicted in millions of stories and photos shared in the past 11 days. But the grief also contains deep feelings of generosity and unity.

Since the passing of His Majesty King Bhumibol Aduyadej on October 13 in the 89th year of his life, loyal subjects across the country have thronged the Phra Mane Ground (Sanam Luang), a park adjacent to the Grand Palace, where the royal urn rests and royal and religious rites are taking place in tribute to the monarch.
At least 50,000 black-clad mourners have poured into Sanam Luang each day since the King’s passing, according to Maj-General Pongsawat Panchit, deputy commander of the First Region Army, which is responsible for security in the area.
Maintaining a calm and orderly atmosphere among such huge crowds is a challenge.
The social media is abuzz with complaints that not everyone is respecting the mourning period at Sanam Luang. Dismayed netizens say the sombre mood is being turned into a festive atmosphere. They complain about people taking selfies rather than paying respects to His Majesty, posing for the camera while they prostrate at the Grand Palace wall. The pictures and similar inappropriate posts are being shared on sites like Facebook, and street vendors shouting out their wares is increasing the carnival-like atmosphere, say critics.
But the negative perceptions are outweighed by the overwhelmingly positive feelings at Sanam Luang.
The criticisms are minor when you consider the bigger picture: Mourners in their hundreds of thousands sharing their sorrow, sometimes pausing to comfort one another with smiles of support.
I can see and feel love and sympathy everywhere I turn at the scene.
The crowds here can also feel the caring that exists between siblings. Photos released by the Royal Household Bureau show His Royal Highness Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn comforting his elder sister Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya at the funeral rites for their father in the Grand Palace. Another shot shows him comforting his younger sister, Her Royal Highness Princess Chulabhorn.
We saw, too, Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn give a “wai” to her elder sister Princess Ubolratana as they were about to leave the funeral rites.
We can also feel the love and concern directed by the Royal Family towards loyal subjects. HRH the Crown Prince last Friday graciously provided free food via his royal guards to people who showed up in huge numbers at the Grand Palace to mourn the passing of his much-loved father.
During the day, Her Royal Highness Princess Soamsawali fried chicken at a Princess Pa Foundation food truck as free food for mourners at Sanam Luang.
The nighttime saw Princess Ubolratana emerge from the Grand Palace to greet the crowds outside, addressing them with a very touching speech that has since gone viral after being shared on social media.
“We are all from the same family. He [the King] is my father and also everyone’s father. … Next we must work together, move forward and not backwards,” the Princess told the crowd last Monday night.
She also distributed food, ranging from grilled pork with sticky rice to Chinese buns, and other necessities to the people.
The atmosphere of sharing and harmony has grown, fed by stories and photos, sympathy and generosity, shared among fellow citizens as they help each other through this time of grief and loss.
From the public sector to private companies to individual volunteers, ordinary people and students – Good Samaritans are helping without being asked to do so.
A friend of mine who joined more than 200,000 people in a heartfelt rendition of the Royal Anthem at Sanam Luang last Saturday offered a touching description on Facebook:
“I met good people at Sanam Luang,” he began.
“Yesterday I joined the singing. I came with nothing but my heart full of love for the King. I stayed there all day and night. I saw police ease the heat by spraying the crowd with water. I saw students help collect the garbage. People handed out black ribbons, desserts, foods… . Some helped push the elderly in wheelchairs.”
“Even at night [when candle-lit singing of the Royal Anthem rang out again] people shared candles and space for others to stand. When the ceremony ended many took transport services offered for free.”
“I felt the loving care and respect in their good deeds on the day. They sacrificed and followed the King’s teaching of ‘giving’. If the King were looking down to see how united and caring his children are, I believe he would smile happily. Thank you again.”
Last but not least, we can see and feel the loving tribute to the King.
The scene outside the Grand Palace demonstrated to the world the depth of feeling among Thais for their King and father of the nation.
Defying the heat and the rain, mourners queued in their tens of thousands at Sanam Luang to pay their respects. No words were needed; the scene was captured in pictures that revealed instantly the place His Majesty holds in Thai hearts.
When a loved one passes away, the feelings of loss reunite us as a family. But I would ask, why do we have to wait for such a terrible loss before we unite and love each other?

Source: The Nation