Narathiwat “still safe’ say tour agencies
PHUKET: Visa runs through Narathiwat are still safe despite a wave of attacks on police, soldiers and schools across provinces close to the border with Malaysia, travel agents from Phuket and Narathiwat said yesterday. Attacks on Sunday morning in Narathiwat province left four soldiers dead, 20 schools torched and a small arsenal of weapons seized. Two police officers in neighboring Pattani were killed yesterday when a suspect device they were examining on a motorcycle exploded. The Gazette contacted tour agencies that specialize in visa runs (foreigners must leave the country to extend or renew their visas) and the general view was that people will continue to travel south to the border because there are few other practical alternatives. A spokesperson at one visa-run agency, based in the city of Narathiwat, said that incidents happened every so often but people still traveled to renew their visas, regardless. She said that that the attackers targeted police and the army, not civilians or foreigners. Elsewhere in Narathiwat, a woman who gave her name as Kanitta, a sales consultant for Royal Silk Travel, said, “There are not so many people booking visa runs right now but I don’t think it has anything to do with the unrest. “We have customers coming all the way from Bangkok and it isn’t always easy for them to travel so far, so that affects the number of people doing a visa run sometimes.” Wineeporn Sinseangwat, secretary to the general manager of the Royal Princess Hotel in Narathiwat, reported that the number of people staying at the hotel on visa runs to the Thai consulate in Kota Bahru, Malaysia, had yet to change significantly. Supornparn Tetinpai, a sales consultant for the Queen Air booking center in Patong, said, “We have had a lot of people asking about making a trip down to Narathiwat today, so I don’t think it [the unrest] has affected us.” But she added that it might be a few days before everyone became aware that martial law has been declared in three southern provinces.
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