Despite the ongoing insurgency in the region, more than 1,000 Thai and Malay off-road enthusiasts enjoyed a weekend of fun at Narathiwat BigBike-OffRoad events in Narathiwat's Muang and Sri Sakorn districts last month.
The annual three-day event, held this year May 16th-18th, promotes cross-border tourism and friendship. It was sponsored jointly by the Narathiwat Office of Tourism and Sports, the Narathiwat Big Bike Club, and the Offroad Association of Kelantan State (Malaysia).
Asharee Hakrun, Malaysia Big Bike Club president, told Khabar Southeast Asia, "When we talk about Thailand's southern border region, most people's initial reaction is fear because of all of the incidents of unrest that are reported from there.
"But when officials as well as organisers briefed us on security measures, our team felt comfortable and [we] were happy to come and take part."
Ali Afandee Areefin rode the Sri Sakorn Offroad Challenge. "I feel very honoured at the welcome we have received from the organisers, who did an excellent job in looking after our safety," Ali told Khabar.
Biking for a good cause
Proceeds from equipment and biking merchandise on sale in Muang district during the events were donated to assist local children orphaned by the insurgency.
Four-wheel drive off-road activities were held in Sri Sakorn district, to the southeast, about 115km from Kelantan State. Remote and pristine, it has been largely spared from insurgency violence More than 800 people in 200 vehicles took part in events there.
"Sri Sakorn is a very good place for off-roading because it has it all: rivers, hills and nice, friendly people. I am very happy with the way this event has turned out," Asharee told Khabar.
He said most Malay participants hailed from Malaysia's five northernmost states. They were happy to experience Thailand first hand, promote peace in the three southern provinces and cement relations between Malays on both sides of the border at the same time, he said.
Sunkiflee Bin Saleh, adviser to the Kelantan Offroad Club, said his club participated with the primary purpose of fostering cross-border relations.
"Despite the ongoing unrest, our goal is always peace and harmony. With that in mind, this has been a great chance to build friendships among Thais and Malaysians," he said. Governments of both countries need to work closely together to restore peace to the Deep South, he added.
"In this sense I think this event has been a real success. It has also put the area on the map as a real place of interest for tourists on both sides of the border," Sunkiflee said.
Narathiwat Tourism and Sports Office Director Sawang Srichai told Khabar the event injected an estimated Bt. 4m ($123,550) into the local economy and boosted the province as a tourist destination.