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Southern Thailand: Another Failure for Yingluck

Photo: World Economic Forum In the latest twist in the increasingly violent saga of Thailand’s southern problem, last month’s triple bomb blast in the province of Yala highlighted another failure of the administration of Yingluck Shinawatra’s eight-month old government: the campaign vow to grant the three southern provinces of Yala, Pattani, and Narathiwat ‘special administration zone’ status. Much like the rest of her first year in office, this issue was big on rhetoric and small on action. In August, when Ms. Yingluck was being inaugurated as the first female Prime Minister in Thailand’s history, I wrote that her stump speeches in the heart of Thailand’s largely Muslim south were cause for much optimism. This was especially so considering that her brother, and former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, had left a legacy of hostility with respect to his southern policy. The Muslim south has spawned several insurgent groups over the years, the most notable being the Pattani United Liberation Organization (PULO). No group has claimed responsibility for the latest attack on March 31st which ultimately killed fourteen and wounded hundreds more. But it fits the pattern of acts of terror which have become the hallmark of some of the armed groups in the region, formerly an Islamic sultanate until annexed by the Kingdom of Siam in the early 1900s. However, it would be overly simplistic to label this as just another religious conflict: Muslim extremists waging war against a primarily Buddhist country. This is more of an economic struggle; the conflict is about the land, after all, and who has control of it. Groups like the PULO have called for total independence from Thailand, but they have also showed a willingness to negotiate. It was the hope of many observers that Yingluck would be the one to deliver to the southern provinces the title of ‘special economic zone’ which would signify autonomy more so than independence. It is the same status endowed to the capital city of Bangkok. It was a promise met with some hope when Yingluck was campaigning in the south of her country in the run-up to the July 2011 elections. There, Muslim women serenaded her with chants of ‘yamila,’ or beautiful girl. Last month’s bombing was certainly an act of terror, but it also shows the extent to which Yingluck has failed to follow through on some of her campaign rhetoric as well. Additionally, the tragic event in the hub of the region’s commercial capital has unleashed a Pandora ’s Box of questions. How will the military respond? Thaksin was overthrown in 2006 by the army, and Yingluck’s relations with the military are uneasy. The military might want to respond more forcefully in the south than Yingluck and her advisors want to. Will this bombing negatively affect the country’s tourism industry? Tourism is a huge source of income for Bangkok, representing roughly 6% of GDP. But between the massive flooding problem which inundated large swaths of the country last Fall, large scale street protests between a segregated electorate based on class, and now more violence and uncertainty in the south, many tourists may decide to go some other place, less on edge. Lastly, will large scale terrorism begin to take a more firm root in Thailand? The south has had problems for decades, and there was also a botched bombing in Bangkok back in February, blamed on three Iranian men. It’s a troubling trend for a country known by both locals and tourists as the “Land of Smiles.” Yingluck has been particularly weak on several of these issues. If she doesn’t begin to take a firmer stand and elucidate her policies in coming weeks, her governance problems are sure to be augmented.

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Photo: World Economic Forum In the latest twist in the increasingly violent saga of Thailand’s southern problem, last month’s triple bomb blast in the province of Yala highlighted another failure of the administration of Yingluck Shinawatra’s eight-month old government: the campaign vow to grant the three southern provinces of Yala, Pattani, and Narathiwat ‘special administration zone’ status. Much like the rest of her first year in office, this issue was big on rhetoric and small on action. In August, when Ms. Yingluck was being inaugurated as the first female Prime Minister in Thailand’s history, I wrote that her stump speeches in the heart of Thailand’s largely Muslim south were cause for much optimism. This was especially so considering that her brother, and former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, had left a legacy of hostility with respect to his southern policy. The Muslim south has spawned several insurgent groups over the years, the most notable being the Pattani United Liberation Organization (PULO). No group has claimed responsibility for the latest attack on March 31st which ultimately killed fourteen and wounded hundreds more. But it fits the pattern of acts of terror which have become the hallmark of some of the armed groups in the region, formerly an Islamic sultanate until annexed by the Kingdom of Siam in the early 1900s. However, it would be overly simplistic to label this as just another religious conflict: Muslim extremists waging war against a primarily Buddhist country. This is more of an economic struggle; the conflict is about the land, after all, and who has control of it. Groups like the PULO have called for total independence from Thailand, but they have also showed a willingness to negotiate. It was the hope of many observers that Yingluck would be the one to deliver to the southern provinces the title of ‘special economic zone’ which would signify autonomy more so than independence. It is the same status endowed to the capital city of Bangkok. It was a promise met with some hope when Yingluck was campaigning in the south of her country in the run-up to the July 2011 elections. There, Muslim women serenaded her with chants of ‘yamila,’ or beautiful girl. Last month’s bombing was certainly an act of terror, but it also shows the extent to which Yingluck has failed to follow through on some of her campaign rhetoric as well. Additionally, the tragic event in the hub of the region’s commercial capital has unleashed a Pandora ’s Box of questions. How will the military respond? Thaksin was overthrown in 2006 by the army, and Yingluck’s relations with the military are uneasy. The military might want to respond more forcefully in the south than Yingluck and her advisors want to. Will this bombing negatively affect the country’s tourism industry? Tourism is a huge source of income for Bangkok, representing roughly 6% of GDP. But between the massive flooding problem which inundated large swaths of the country last Fall, large scale street protests between a segregated electorate based on class, and now more violence and uncertainty in the south, many tourists may decide to go some other place, less on edge. Lastly, will large scale terrorism begin to take a more firm root in Thailand? The south has had problems for decades, and there was also a botched bombing in Bangkok back in February, blamed on three Iranian men. It’s a troubling trend for a country known by both locals and tourists as the “Land of Smiles.” Yingluck has been particularly weak on several of these issues. If she doesn’t begin to take a firmer stand and elucidate her policies in coming weeks, her governance problems are sure to be augmented.

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Southern Thailand: Another Failure for Yingluck

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Asean

ASEAN Meeting on the Environment and Transboundary Haze Pollution

The Meetings recognised the high and rapidly increasing levels of marine debris, and reaffirmed their commitment to implement the Bangkok Declaration on Combating Marine Debris in ASEAN Region and the ASEAN Framework of Action on Marine Debris.

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The 16th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on the Environment and the 16th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution were held on 21–22 October 2021 via video conference hosted by Indonesia.

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Tourism

Thailand welcomes first Finnair flight from Stockholm to Phuket

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Bangkok, 25 October, 2021 – The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) today welcomed the start of Finnair’s latest direct non-stop service from Stockholm to Phuket during the 2021-2022 winter season.

The welcoming ceremony was presided over by Mr. Piyapong Choowong, Phuket Vice Governor, and Mrs. Titiporn Manenate, TAT Executive Director for Europe, Africa, and the Middle East Region, as well as representatives from the tourism-related public and private sectors.

Mr. Piyapong Choowong, Phuket Vice Governor, said, “Finnair’s Stockholm-Phuket flight marks a milestone for the reopening of Phuket to international tourism, following the successful Phuket Sandbox programme, which was launched in July under well-planned health and safety precautions, and has now become a model for the reopening of other Thai destinations.”

Finnair will operate on the Stockholm-Phuket route from 24 October 2021-24 April 2022, starting with 2 flights per week. It will increase to 3 flights per week from 29 November 2021-17 April 2022.

Also, during this winter season, the airline will operate on the Stockholm-Bangkok route with 2 two flights per week from 22 October 2021 to 21 April 2022.

In addition, Finair will be operating from Helsinki, Finland, to Phuket and Bangkok, with 2-4 flights per week during November this year and March next year.

Mrs. Titiporn Manenate, TAT Executive Director for Europe, Africa and Middle East Region, said, “This latest Stockholm-Phuket flight also marks Finnair’s first non-stop service from Sweden to Thailand, allowing visitors from Sweden to escape winter and enjoy Thailand at its finest during the annual cool season. The flight also reiterates the airline’s confidence in Thailand as a destination.”

Sweden is Thailand’s largest source of visitors from the Nordic region. Also, Phuket is one of the most popular holiday destinations among the Swedish, whose spending per trip is averaged at 85,000 Baht per person and length of stay is 19 days.

Sweden and other Nordic countries – Denmark, Finland, Iceland, and Norway – are among the 46 approved countries and territories from where travellers may enter Thailand under the ‘Test & GO’ quarantine-free entry requirements from 1 November, 2021.

The post Thailand welcomes first Finnair flight from Stockholm to Phuket appeared first on TAT Newsroom.

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