PHOTO: The attractions of Thailand’s southern border town usually become apparent after sunset
On one side of the Thai/Malaysian border is Sungai Golok, on the Malaysian side it’s the town of Rantau Panjang. The two towns are separated by the Golok River as well as decades of furious fighting between Muslim separatists who want to reclaim some of the southern areas in Thailand under the Malaysian flag.
The Thai Buddhists on the other side are happy for it to remain part of the Kingdom of Thailand. Enough of the politics…
The real story in Sungai Golok is the thriving little border town that attracts Malaysian men nightly to enjoy the ‘pleasures of the flesh’, loud music, karaoke, copious booze and ‘the ladies’. All the same ‘lifestyle items’ frowned upon just south of the river in Malaysia.
Although the border town’s most infamous days are in the past it still lures plenty of traffic across the river nightly.
Thai merchants, nowadays cross the major border checkpoint in Sungai Kolok to enter Kelantan, the Malaysian border city, to sell food and household goods as the neighbours now have more purchasing power than before.
Poised at the very south of Narithawat Province, Sungai Golok is ground zero for border boozing and debauchery. With a population of around 38,000 it’s hardly a thriving metropolis but when the sun goes down the men from south of the border flock across the river to enjoy entertainment unavailable to them in the strict Muslim province of Kelantan.
The death toll in the deep south is equivalent to the toll in the Gaza Strip
If it wasn’t for its strategic location on the main road heading south from Thailand you would never hear of Sungai Golok. But apart from its rising reputation as the southern red light district it’s also a strategic target for bombings and outrage from people south of the border who see the town as the epitome of everything wrong with ‘Thai and Western decadence’.
The death toll in the deep south is equivalent to the toll in the Gaza Strip conflict – around 7,000 since 2004. But the violence in the Deep South is rarely reported in international media.
Violent attacks happen almost daily in the southern provinces of Thailand – Pattani, Yala and Narithawat – with little sign of any drop in attacks from the insurgents.
Back in Sungai Golok it’s just part of the nightlife where the noise from the discos is occasionally interrupted by a bomb. Does it deter the men heading across the border for their nights of revelry or the Thai women working in the bars? Hell no.
The Golok River is very small and easy to cross without using the main bridge road – Malay Mail
The nightclubs and bars are regular targets for the indiscriminate home-made pipe bombs and car bombs, almost daily, but it does little to dampen the enthusiasm for a good night. In fact the reputation of Sungai Golok as the ‘place to go’ for a good time continues to rise – which just puts it higher up the target list for the insurgents who want to make their point.
The troubles in the town do little to dampen the enthusiasm for the men that visit and most of them will head home after their night of fun to the conservative Malaysian state over the river unhurt. But for the girls that work in Sungai Golok it’s a constant threat to their lives. The stakes are high.
The men are paying good money for the services provided in the town – the girls are eager to part the men from their money and are willing to take the risks of plying their trade in such a dangerous location.
With a single bridge across the Golok river you would think that police and army can control the flow of traffic across the waterway but many of the visitors slip across by boat and cross the border undetected, usually without passports or any means of identification if the worst happens.
If you’re heading south from Thailand and wanting to cross the river border into Malaysia there’s only one official road, through Sungai Golok. So it seems the little towns future, and reputation, will continue to grow along with it the violence that sees no signs of abating.
Southern insurgency: Ranger shot dead in Songkhla house
FILE PHOTO: The latest shooting in a spate of recent violence in the southern provinces – The Nation
A ranger based in Yala has been shot dead at his home in Songkhla’s Muang district.
Pol Capt Adirek Burintrapibal, the deputy inspector of Muang Songkhla police station, was alerted at 8.30pm last night of the shooting at a house in Moo 10 village in Tambon Pawong.
The Nation reports that 43 year old Charoen Moraphan died when a bullet hit him in the left side of his chest.
His wife, Khiew, says she was at the back of the house while Charoen was watching TV in the living room facing towards the front door. She says her husband was on leave from his Yala ranger base for two weeks.
Police claim a gunman inserted a gun barrel through the front door and opened fire at Charoen, hitting him once in the chest.
Police are yet to identify the motive for the killing, the latest in a spate of violence in the southern provinces.
50+ motorbike taxi drivers blockade southern border
50 Thai motorcycle taxi drivers have set up a blockade at the Thai-Malaysian border checkpoint to protest what they allege are unworkable, stricter immigration checks now imposed by Malaysian immigration officials.
The taxi drivers say they have been bringing Thai tourists across the border in Songkhla’s Sadao district to the duty-free shops in Malaysia’s Padang Besar for years.
Yesterday morning’s temporary blockade delayed several buses and cars carrying dozens of Malaysian tourists heading to Hat Yai.
Thai immigration police, army troops and local administration officials intervened and persuaded the taxi drivers to move their 50+ bikes blocking the road.
Drivers initially refused, demanding that Thai immigration officials negotiate with their Malaysian counterparts to ease the border crossing restrictions.
The border crossing process has been tightened in recent months by requiring production of a valid passport instead of border passes as was the case in the past. But many Thai motorcycle taxi drivers do not have passports and say the new restrictions are overly restrictive and an alternative solution should be accommodated.
Four rangers escape unharmed after insurgents’ attack in Narathiwat
MAP: Narathiwat’s Ra Ngae district
Four rangers have escaped unhurt after southern insurgents detonated a roadside bomb in an attack in Narathiwat’s Ra Ngae district this morning.
Police say the attack happened at 8.10am on a main road in Ban Pa Phai village in Tambon Tanyong.
The bomb damaged a makeshift shelter for vendors to buy rubber latex from local villagers.
Police say the patrol of four rangers was approaching the area when the homemade bomb was detonated. But the timing was not right and the blast didn’t harm the rangers.
SOURCE: The Nation
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