I urgently require help with this.
I was planning on travelling from Thailand to the Perhentian Islands but have become very worried by the UK Foreigns Office advice to not travel to this region.
Personally I feel that the Foreign office always take things a bit too far, but I've seen quite a few websites advise against travelling here - flying into Narathiwat and then overland to Kota Bharu.
Question is, am I going to get shot or bombed? Are the attacks targeted at westerners?
Depends if you act like a westerner (or not).
Honestly, there is no such thing as risk free travel FULL STOP.
The locals in the very southern part of Thailand area have long believed the British should have allowed them their own state. Many are Muslim, and the Imam's look across the border to the Muslim state of Malaysia, and tell the people that life is better there under a Muslim gov't than at the arse end of a Buddhist country. So, there has been a long running tension between the Thai 'officials' and the local 'seperatists'.
Kota Bharu is very very Muslim (the inhabitants would also like to join with the southern Thai Muslims for a seperatist state). I found the city really 'identifies' against westerners. I got the feeling that Kota Bharu is an icon for the Thai seperatist's.
So, I'd suggest not taking a rail journey from Hat Yai to Kota Bharu. Rather, the more popular (and less problematic) route to the west coast of Malaysia.
Also, the 'warring' has affected areas near Hat Yai, I'd probably start the train journey at Thung Song.
In principle, if you try and avoid entering areas south of Phattalung - except for a train journey - I suspect you'll not have any problems.
- - - -
ps. The UK 'advice' is like that from Australia's - intent on propping up the right wing fear mongerers. And, coercing people to keep voting Conservative (or Republican if they are US citizens, or Liberal if Australians, etc.)!!!
I have to disagree on the political motives of travel warnings. Why would an Obama administration issue travel warnings to prop up the poitical right? Why would the current Australian government do the same. I don't think Kevin Rudd has a vested interest in losing power to the conservatives do you? Yet the travel advisories remain in effect.
There is a level one insurgency going on in the area around Pattani . This insurgency is motivated by political Islam. Political Islam is an enemy of western civilization. It's pretty easy to follow this one really. Westerners traveling there (and if you go "trekking" there, you are asking for it) are a target of opportunity. The militant of Pattani would like nothing better than to chop of the head of a westerner! Travelling through on train should be OK - because you are transiting through on a mode of transportation that would be difficult to attack. Current MO attacks vehicles on roads and blows up bombs outside shops and clubs. But 3,000 people have been killed there in the last four years, so it's no joke. There is a real threat there.
#3 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
Ask a question, get a few different opinions...
In my personal opinion, govt warnings tend to be conservative -- after all they have to cover their backside.
Yes there has been a long running insurgency in the far south of Thailand, and yes thousands have been killed. The vast majority of those killed have been in rural areas, well away from the provincial capitals (where you would most likely find yourself). Yes there have been bombings in the cities -- my favourite seafood restaurant of all time was blown up in Yala -- but the vast majority of the action is taking place in rural areas.
While a couple of foreigners have been killed, at no stage have foreigners been specifically targeted.
The quickest route for you is from Hat Yai by minibus to Sungai Kolok and then cross the border from where you can get onward transport to KB and the Perhentians. There are direct minibuses from hat Yai to SK on the hour throughout the day. Don't be surprised when your bus is pulled over by soldiers and all local guys under about 35 taken out and questioned.
You can also go by train to SK and then onwards again on the Malay side, but the minibus is quicker.
The "safest" route is train south via Pedang Besar then crossing the peninsular by bus on the Malay side -- this is time consuming, and, in my opinion, unnecessary.
At the end of the day, it's your call - the warnings are there for a reason, but the chances of your minibus being hijacked and you dragged off into the woods to be beheaded are extremely remote - and I say "extremely" with a capital E.
Thanks for your responses guys & girls(?).
As for acting like westerner's, I guess we may have a problem blending in! My girlfriend is a sweet little blue eyed and blonde haired little thing. She usually gets a lot of attention, particularly in muslim countries.
I suppose my largest concern was if they were targeting westerners - somthing I've had mixed responses to. Afterall, there are bombings in every country. Brucemoon, you seem to be of the opinion that westerners may be targerted or made to feel extremely uncomfortable, Madmac goes further by saying that they'd like to chop my head off and then sontam2000 tells me not to worry, just so long as I don't head off into more rural areas and that westerners are not targeted.
Nobody commented on Narathiwat, where I was planning in flying into there (from Bangkok) and I was planning on getting a private taxi from there to the border and then another to Kota Baharu. I thought this may be the fastest and so safest option.
Another option would be to fly from Bangkok to KL and then head overland. But I suspect that although this would be around the same cost it would take a lot longer. I've nto really researched this at all so have no idea how easy it would be.
Don't take your girlfriend there... I mean, I might go on my own, but I would not take someone I cared about to a place where there is a level one insurgency. Why do that when it's just unneccessary? There are plenty of very safe places to travel here.
"Your second paragraph describes it all (though vague). The right are dominated by Christian fundamentalists. NOW do you get it?"
This is not a conflict between Islam and Christendom... this is a conflict between Islam and all others. Militant Islam is seeking to impose Islamic government on the entire world. That is their stated agenda. Believe them when they tell you this - because it's true.
The political right is not controlled by Christian anything. This is not an accurrate statement. Within the US ever since the mid 80s the Republican party has largely (although there were some very notable exceptions, such as John McCaine)abandoned it's libertarian roots to pander to the Christian voting block, this is true. In general, practicing Christians tend toward the conservative on values based issues. This is true as well. But Chrisitianity does not have an equivelent of Militant Islam. It's closest relative died with the reformation. Militant Islam, like fundamental Judaism and it's political elements, are not rationale and reject secularism. Chistianity is closer to (and still not as radical as) mainstream Islam in how it thinks laws should be derived. But even then, it falls well short, as Christianity has no equivelent to Shari'a and the Dar Al Islam has no equivelent to secularism.
#7 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
Narathiwat town is a great spot - I really like it! As you suggest flying in and then private taxi will be the quickest route, but if you're not above flying to KL, then consider flying to KL then to KB -- AirAsia fly it and are very affordable.
Re comments tying this into to the global jihad thang, International Crisis Group has a number of reports out (one just this monday) that surmise that there is very little, if any, evidence of this.
Probably overkill for researching a simple border crossing, but others may be interesting in especially these two reports:
Southern Thailand: Insurgency, Not Jihad (2005)
and, far more recently:
Recruiting Militants in Southern Thailand (June 2009)
Both of the above are extremely well researched and also very readable.
The main summary of their Thai-related stuff is here
Political philosophy is clearly not your game.
Trying to explain Christian fundamentalism in terms of Islamic fundamentalism is absurd.
For the impact of Christian Fundamentalism in US politics go look at the 'Bush Doctrine' and the influences such as Rumsfeld, Chaney, and especially Wolfowitz. To some, the neo-Austrian roots of Wolfowitz's rationale made it clear who was the architect of the pro-Christian fundamentalist and anti-Islamic agenda of the US.
Bruce, Madmac - perhaps continue this over on the the politics, sex, religion etc etc thread that I specially set up for this kind of, umm, discourse, and stick to helping Sparts through southern Thailand on this one.
As always - thanks.
But of course.
Bruce - new thread opened there.
#12 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957