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Army repels major insurgent attack in South; Marines credit villagers for help

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Army repels major insurgent attack in South; Marines credit villagers for help | The Thaiger
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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

– Thailand news selected by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Thai insurgents attack southern army base, 16 dead including Maloso Jantarawadee, leader of the Runda Kumpalan Kecil insurgent group
Reuters / Phuket Gazette / The Nation
PHUKET: A pre-dawn raid on a Thai military base ended with 16 Muslim insurgents killed today in the deadliest violence in Thailand’s south in nine years, marking a dangerous escalation in the conflict.

Acting on a tip-off, marines lit flares and opened fire as insurgents wearing military fatigues approached the base at about 1am in Narathiwat province on the Malaysian border, said Internal Security Operations Command spokesman Pramote Phromin.

The number of insurgents involved in the attack has been estimated between 60 to 100 combatants.

He revised down the death toll to 16 from an earlier reported 17. None of the Thai military defenders of the base were hurt, he said.

Violence is common in Thailand’s south but the scale of the attack and targeting of a marine base illustrate the difficulty Buddhist-majority Thailand faces in preventing the low-intensity Muslim insurgency from turning into a more dangerous conflict.

Although there is no indication of the fighting spreading beyond the provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat, it lies just a few hours’ drive from some of Thailand’s most popular tourist beaches.

“It was only going to be a matter of time before this type of incident happened,” said Anthony Davis, a Thai-based analyst at security consulting firm IHS-Jane’s.

“The insurgents have been moving towards larger attacks on military bases since 2011. At the same time, there has been more pro-active security intelligence work.”

The violence comes as Southeast Asia seeks to present an image of stability to foreign investors who have poured into its financial markets. The Philippines government signed in October a pact with the country’s largest Muslim rebel group. Long-running communal conflicts in Indonesia have mostly abated in recent years.

The 2011 election in Thailand ushered in a period of relative stability after more than five years of sometimes-deadly street protests. The economy is flourishing and the stock market was one of the world’s best performers last year, rising 36 percent.

A political scientist with Deep South Watch, a think-tank that closely tracks the violence, said he feared the insurgents’ failed attack would only spur them on. “If anything, it will make them more determined because of the high casualties incurred,” said the analyst, Srisomphob Jitphiromsri.

He and other experts say the insurgency is becoming better organized. Today’s death toll was the highest since security forces stormed a mosque, known as the Krue Se mosque, in 2004, killing 32 Muslims in a raid that intensified the insurgency. Since then, more than 5,300 people have been killed in the three provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat where insurgents are seeking greater autonomy.

About 94 percent of the region’s 1.7 million people are Muslim, the main religion in neighboring Malaysia and in nearby Indonesia, and about 80 percent of them speak a Malay dialect as a first language, according to a 2010 survey by the Asia Foundation.

In recent weeks, attacks have appeared bolder. Five soldiers were killed by suspected insurgents on Sunday. That followed a spate of attacks on civilians, including one this month in which four fruit traders from outside the region were found shot dead with their hands and legs bound.

The government is considering imposing a curfew in parts of the south, where the military already has wide-ranging powers of search and arrest under an emergency decree.

A temporary, 24-hour curfew was imposed in four sub-districts of Narathiwat and two in Pattani from 6pm this evening while authorities scour the area, said Pramote.

The three provinces were once part of an independent Malay Muslim sultanate until annexed by Thailand in 1909. Muslims in the area largely oppose the presence of tens of thousands of soldiers and armed guards in the rubber-rich region.

The violence has ranged from drive-by shootings to bombings and beheadings. It is often aimed at Buddhists and Muslims associated with the Thai state such as police, soldiers, government officials and teachers.

Most believe the attacks are organized by the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) Coordinate, an offshoot of the Patani Malay National Revolutionary Front established in the 1960s to seek independence. Another group, the Patani United Liberation Front (PULO), publicly calls for a separate state.

Better understanding
Captain Somkiat Ponprayoon, marine commander of the Southern region praised the cooperation of villagers in repelling the attack by insurgents on their base in Narathiwat province this morning, saying it had been key to their success.

He said their cooperation was the result of better understanding about the work of the security authorities after being updated and following the news everyday.

Confiscated from the scene were 13 assault rifles and three pistols, a pickup and two motorcycles.

Among the dead was Maloso Jantarawadee, a leader of the Runda Kumpalan Kecil insurgent group blamed for much of the violence. Maloso had been wanted for the killing of a teacher earlier this month.

Authorities said they believed the attack was revenge for the recent death of a rebel leader.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Business

Air Asia seeks to mitigate economic losses with launch of “super app”

Maya Taylor

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Air Asia seeks to mitigate economic losses with launch of “super app” | The Thaiger
PHOTO: www.lowyat.net

Air Asia is introducing a super app, in an attempt to off-set – at least partially – the significant financial losses brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic. The app will offer users a variety of options, including digital payment services, delivery services, and an e-commerce platform. Chief Executive Tony Fernandes says the idea for the app was floated prior to the pandemic, but Covid-19 hastened its development.

“This journey didn’t start during the pandemic, this journey started 2 years ago, but it was accelerated because of the outbreak. This is not a Plan B, this was always our Plan A, but we still think aviation will definitely come back.”

Air Asia was hit with losses of US$238 million in the second quarter of 2020 and says it desperately needs to seek new sources of revenue while the economic effects of Covid-19 continue to be felt around the globe. The Bangkok Post reports that from October 8, users in Thailand and the wider ASEAN region can access the new app through the company’s website or through its existing mobile app.

Fernandes says payment and logistics services will be provided by the airline’s subsidiary operation, Air Asia Digital. Users will be able to book flights (including those of other airlines) and hotels, as well as enroling in a rewards programme.

“Air Asia’s roots are from moving people from A to B and moving cargo from A to B, and that is the basis of Air Asia Digital and the basis for our platform AirAsia.com.”

The app is expected to face tough competition from super apps Grab and Gojek, currently understood to be in merger talks. Should a merger go ahead, the combined operation would create a monopoly on food delivery and car-hailing services in the ASEAN region. However, Fernandes remains optimistic, with the airline hoping to complement existing services.

“I don’t believe we are here to compete, but here to complement. Airlines always see us as competitors, but we complemented the full service and created a new market that was not there. Before, only a few people could fly, now everyone can fly, and in the same way we will complement the market.”

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Thailand

Charter vote delayed, committee formed and Senators escape Parliament by boat – VIDEO

The Thaiger

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Charter vote delayed, committee formed and Senators escape Parliament by boat – VIDEO | The Thaiger
PHOTOS: Protesters gather outside the Thai parliament - Tanaporn Choopanya

Thailand’s MPs and Senators have kicked the constitutional can down the road at least a month after the parliament failed to agree on charter amendments. A panel will be sent up to examine 6 motions that were proposed and debated over the past 2 days. Meanwhile, up to 2,000 protesters were gathered outside the unfinished parliamentary buildings as an act of solidarity for the MPs supporting the changes to the current Thai Constitution.

The reality of the vote, and the setting up of an investigative committee, could push any votes on real reform well into 2021.

The 2 Houses of Parliament voted 431-255 to delay the vote. Opposition Pheu Thai and Move Forward MPs stormed out and missed the opportunity of nominating anyone to the new 45 member parliamentary committee to examine the motions, whilst the remaining members chose members for the committee. Move Forward Party’s, Pita Limjaroenrat, described the vote as “a way to stall for time” complaining that the decision “was moving the country towards a dead end”.

It was not known how the NCPO hand-picked Senators would vote on the bills. Many were thought to side with the idea of constitutional reform but the reality was that, in most scenarios, they’d be voting themselves out of a job if any reforms went ahead. Thailand’s entire upper house is a military-appointed rump of conservative former businesspeople and Army officials, mostly men.

Charter vote delayed, committee formed and Senators escape Parliament by boat - VIDEO | News by The Thaiger

The protesters viewed the afternoon’s proceedings as a blunt stalling tactic to keep the current parliament, and its unelected senators, in power. The session ran until 8.30 last night. Rather than face the angry mob of anti-government protesters at the front of the building, most of the senators escaped on boat at the rear of the building, which backs onto Bangkok’s Chao Phraya River.

The demonstrators, with a consistent theme of reform over 3 months of rallies, are demanding changes to the current constitution because it was drafted by the NCPO who kicked out the elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra in 2014.

The protesters specifically point to the NCPO-appointed senate and the power they wield to elect the country’s prime minister, even though none of them were elected (nor was Prayut Chan-o-cha).

Protesters say they will now organise the next lot of rallies in October. Meanwhile, the Parliament is now is recess.

PROTESTSLive scenes from today’s protest rally to lend their voices, albeit from outside the The Parliament, to the debates inside about amendments to the Thai Constitution. The Thai parliament buildings are unfinished and, so it seems, are the student and anti-government protesters.

Posted by The Thaiger on Thursday, September 24, 2020

 

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Covid task force calls for extension to Thailand’s emergency decree

Maya Taylor

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Covid task force calls for extension to Thailand’s emergency decree | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Thai PBS World

Thailand’s Covid-19 task force is advising the government to extend the country’s state of emergency by a further month… again. The Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration plans to discuss the matter next Tuesday and put it to Cabinet for consideration on Wednesday.

The state of emergency, or emergency decree, which has been extended several times since its introduction in March, is due to expire at the end of this month. It has been extended, on a month by month basis, many times this year since it was introduced in April to short-circuit the process of implementation of Covid-19 preventative measures. However, the CCSA says an extension is vital to ensure various government agencies can work speedily to combat any threat from Covid-19, particularly as neighbouring countries experience a spike in infections.

Thailand has already taken steps to seal the porous border with Myanmar after a surge in cases means that country is now recording over 500 new infections a day.

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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