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Boom boom on the border – Thailand’s unlikely red-light district

The Thaiger

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Boom boom on the border – Thailand’s unlikely red-light district | The Thaiger
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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.

Boom boom on the border - Thailand's unlikely red-light district | News by The Thaiger

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.

Boom boom on the border - Thailand's unlikely red-light district | News by The Thaiger

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.

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Tourism

Bangkok Airways add 3 new local routes to their schedule

The Thaiger

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Bangkok Airways add 3 new local routes to their schedule | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Bangkok Airways' ATR72, servicing the re-introduced routes

Some domestic routes are being added as local routes continue to expand. This time Bangkok Airways has announced it’s resuming its Samui-Phuket, Phuket-Hat Yai and Phuket-Pattaya/Rayong (U-Tapao) flights.

The first additions to the schedule will be the Phuket-Samui flights resuming this Sunday, October 25, and the Phuket-Pattaya flights start again next Tuesday, October 27. The Phuket-Samui flights will be operating on Sundays and Wednesdays only on the airlines’ ATR72 turbo prop regional planes, same as before.

A casual search on the Bangkok Airways website, for a return flight from Phuket to Samui on November 1, then back to Phuket on November 8 indicates the cheapest fare (promo) is 2,430 baht. Coming back, the cheapest fare we found, again labelled ‘promo’, was 2,630 baht. Bangkok Airways operate as a “full service” airline and don’t compete with the country’s discount airlines. But they operate these three routes exclusively – like it or leave it.

Bangkok Airways say that the flights will be operated “with the highest preventive measures and standards”. Around the country the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand have eased a few of the onboard restrictions, including the start of catering services which were originally banned under the initial flight rules when domestic routes started flying again at the start of July.

The daily direct services between Phuket and Hat Yai are also being operated on the ATR72 aircraft. The flight to Ha Yai leaves Phuket at 8.40am and arrives at Hat Yai at 9:.45am. The return flights leave Hat Yai back to Phuket at 10.25am each day. The route was very popular for the airline before the ‘disruption’ when airlines had their fleets grounded in April.

The service between Phuket and U-Tapao, linking the party city with the party island, will operate on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, again with the ATR72. Phuket to U-Tapao will leave at 12.10pm and then from U-Tapao to Phuket at 4pm on the three days. U-Tapao is about a 50 minute drive from Pattaya and the airport also serves the greater Rayong area.

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Transport

Thailand’s land bridge plan still floating

Maya Taylor

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Thailand’s land bridge plan still floating | The Thaiger
PHOTO: www.skyscrapercity.com

Deputy government spokeswoman Traisuree Taisaranakul says the government is still mulling the idea of a land bridge between the southern provinces of Ranong and Chumphon. The project’s aim would be to improve the infrastructure in the region by connecting the Gulf of Thailand directly with the Andaman Sea, “thereby making the Kingdom more competitive”. In a report in the Bangkok Post, she says the idea would be to better connect Middle Eastern and European oil producers with importers and manufacturers in Japan, South Korea and China.

Currently shipping from the two parts of the world needs to detour down the Mallacca Straits and swing around Singapore before continuing their journeys northward again. The land bridge would provide a more direct route but needs infrastructure for cargo to pass across the Malay Peninsula, aka. the Isthmus of Kra.

“Prime Minister Prayut gave us the guideline that we must be prudent and look at financial feasibility, cost-effectiveness, environmental impact and public acceptance. This land bridge project is a strategy to link the Middle East and East Asia via Thailand.”

It’s understood a feasibility study being carried out by the Ministry of Transport will take around a year to complete, followed by 2 more years to get all the necessary approvals and processes lined up prior to construction beginning. The land bridge would consist of a 130 kilometre motorway and a 2-track railway between the provinces of Chumphon and Ranong. These would connect deep-sea ports in both the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea, reducing travel time by 2 days.

The government is looking at development that can connect the Southern Economic Corridor region, which includes Chumphon, Ranong, Surat Thani, and Nakhon Si Thammarat, with the Eastern Economic Corridor of Chon Buri and Rayong.

The latest plans replace the much-discussed about Kra Canal project, which would have seen a canal crossing the country just south of Phuket and Krabi, creating a shorter journey time from the South China Sea to the Indian Ocean. After being discussed for decades, the project has currently been shelved “on environmental grounds”.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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South

Pattani ranger volunteer killed in bomb explosion, 2 others shot in ambush

Caitlin Ashworth

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Pattani ranger volunteer killed in bomb explosion, 2 others shot in ambush | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Thaisaeree

A ranger volunteer was killed from a bomb explosion after an ambush in Pattani’s Sai Buri district in Southern Thailand. Gunmen in the ambush shot and injured 2 volunteers.

A team of officers protecting teachers were driving on motorcycles through the district when they were ambushed by gunmen, police say. The alleged gunmen opened fire on the group, shooting 33 year old volunteer Watchara Chaikaew in the cheek and 35 year old volunteer Sutthichai Yawa in the right shin.

The wounded volunteers were admitted to the hospital. The Bangkok Post did not report on their condition.

About 2 hours later, while rangers were combing the site, a ranger volunteer accidently stepped on a bomb that was hidden in the bushes, killing him. 3 other volunteers reported chest pain and ringing ears after the explosion.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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