Deep South train service resumes, but locals fear attacks

The 16-day service break due to insurgent attacks, caused great hardship for local people.

By Rapee Mama for Khabar Southeast Asia in Narathiwat

June 04, 2014
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Some Deep South residents uneasily resumed their railway commutes as train stations re-opened with a visible police presence on Friday (May 30th).

  • Security personnel outnumbered commuters as service resumed at Tanyong Mat Train Station in southern Thailand on Friday (May 30th). [Rapee Mama/Khabar]

    Security personnel outnumbered commuters as service resumed at Tanyong Mat Train Station in southern Thailand on Friday (May 30th). [Rapee Mama/Khabar]

Service to Sungai Kolok in Narathiwat was restored after a 16-day hiatus following two coordinated bomb blasts on May 14th, but ridership was sparse due to widespread fear of more insurgent railway attacks.

The bombs severed tracks at railroad bridges in Tanyong Mat subdistrict of Ra-ngae district and in Bukit subdistrict of Cho-airong district, and forced the State Railway of Thailand (SRT) to cancel 14 daily routes while some 20 specialists from Bangkok and Hat Yai worked round-the-clock on repairs, under tight security.

Commuter Yusoh Jehmamu told Khabar Southeast Asia the railways are vital for low-income residents, and targeting them causes more suffering and hardship for the poor.

"So I really hope all of the responsible authorities take the right measures and do whatever it takes to ensure our safety in all areas though which the train passes," Yusoh said.

A vegetable vendor, he runs a stall at Sungai Kolok Train Station Market. When trains don't run, he's forced to hire a vehicle to transport his products to market. "It is very expensive to do so and completely ruins any chance I might have to make a profit," he said.

"No signals there is any end in sight"

Sungai Kolok shop assistant Sorheela Deureh, 35, told Khabar the disruptions also make for more expensive commutes back to Muang district for herself and her friends.

"When the service was disrupted our only option was to use the air conditioned van service, which costs 150 baht round trip, more than half of my daily wage of 250 baht."

Among the few Tanyong Mat Station commuters was merchant Areerat Sae-ang, 50, who operates a shop in Tanyong Mat Municipality.

"This has been going on for ten years now and there are no signals that there is any end in sight," she said of the insurgency. "I was born and raised here and I can assure you I have no intention of leaving my hometown and moving to another region."

Areerat doesn't understand the Deep South's ongoing and deep-seated violence – especially under martial law, after the military's recent coup – but believes education could help end it.

"We all talk together and get along fine day in and day out, but at the same time we also have these violent attacks also on a daily basis. It's really scary," she said.

"The government needs to do everything possible to raise educational standards," she continued. "This is the only way to raise our youth to be well-informed people with global world views; people who can tell the difference between right and wrong."

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