Business communities in far South remain closed

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NARATHIWAT, Oct 5 – Businesses in Narathiwat, Yala and Pattani provinces are quiet as merchants and shoppers fear bombings or being shot if they open their businesses on Fridays, even though Thailand’s security agencies have assured them of their safety.

Leaflets were distributed in the three mainly ethnic Malay Muslim provinces for several weeks ordering businesses to stop operating on Fridays. Most shops in and around busy marketplaces were closed last Friday and are closed today as well.

Most traders in the three southernmost provinces said they would rather be safe than sorry. They don’t want to take a chance of being targeted with violence.

Light trading was witnessed at markets in Narathiwat municipality and nearby districts as more than 70 per cent of shops remained closed. Most vendors in the fresh market closed their shops and stalls for fear of their safety. More shops are closed, compared with last Friday, even though more police were deployed to provide security to the public at markets.

The passenger van services from Narathiwat to Yala, Pattani and Songkhla’s Hat Yai district also stopped operating. More than 300 vans suspended services almost 100 per cent, forcing passengers to use bus services.

The atmosphere in Yala municipality market was also quiet. Leaflets were distributed to the public quoting Thailand’s official national Muslim spiritual leader, the Chula Ratchamontri, to assure faithful Muslims and the wider public that working on Friday was not against Islamic practice.

Yala governor Dechrat Simsiri led civil servants and security officials to give moral support to traders and shoppers at the market.

Joint operation of military, police and administrative staff provided security to the public, all vehicles, motorcycles to market were under tight security check.

This was the third Friday that most businesses have been closed and public transport also halted services, causing difficulties for government officials, students and residents who normally travel between the districts and provincial seat.

In Pattani, Southern Border Provinces Administration Centre (SBPAC) Secretary-General Pol Col Tawee Sodsong and new Pattani governor  Pramook Lamool accompanied by a Muslim religious leader met shop owners and shoppers in Pattani municipality to give moral support.

More than half of shops suspended service–particularly food and tea shops–for fear of their safety.

In Songkhla, more than 80 per cent of shops in Chana district are closed, while at Thepha, Na Thawi and Saba Yoi districts some shops remained open.

Governmor Kritsada Boonrat met residents to assure them that security measures are in place.