The bombing of two railway lines in Narathiwat province on Wednesday, which forced 14 trains to suspend their services, has dealt a major blow to locals, because trains are a major means of transport in the South.
It is going to take up to 15 days to repair the tracks, with the service to Sungai Kolok district not expected to open before June 1.
The line going through tambon Bukit, about 2 kilometres from the Joh I Rong district train station, was bombed at around 7am. Earlier, at about 4am, a railway bridge in tambon Tanyongmas of Rangae district, 2km from Tanyongmas train station, was bombed and split in half.
Both sites are just about a kilometre from a paramilitary ranger outpost, and the bombings took place when the rangers were patrolling the railway.
Though these bombs did not take any lives, they affected thousands whose daily routines depend on trains.
Caretaker Transport Minister Chadchart Sittipunt said the State Railway of Thailand (SRT) had suspended 16 trains from Tanyongmas to Sungai Kolok district.
Of these, four are from Bangkok, 10 are local passenger trains and two are cargo trains.
A security volunteer, who asked not to be named, said this bombing had made the situation even more tense and that tighter security was needed.
Until the repairs are made, people heading for Bangkok need to catch a train from Yala, while those wishing to go to Sungai Kolok need to find other means of transport, he said, adding that the people most affected were students and vendors.
Difficult to get to school
“Now that the free train service has been suspended, parents have to spend extra money to get their children to school. Also, vendors can no longer sell their goods inside trains,” he said.
The source added that many shops were also badly affected as it was difficult and costly to transport goods from Sungai Kolok, and this in turn would increase the price of things.
Amanee Poh-ka-poh, a 14-year-old student at an Islamic school in Rangae, said the suspension of the train service would add to the cost of her getting to school.
“I don’t want the trains to stop. I don’t understand why they bombed the railway. It has made life difficult for everybody. So many people use trains here.”
She said she wished that peace would return to the region and people would stop being killed.
“I believe people can end the unrest, but they are refusing to do so,” she lamented, adding that the problem was that state officials looked at villagers as culprits and that some even benefited from the unrest.
She also put the clashes down to insurgents competing for power.
“So it is the normal people who end up getting affected,” Amanee added.
Poor vendors affected
Patimoh Kha-de, 37, a vendor at one of the affected train stations, complained that she could no longer sell anything.
“We are all distressed. Life has become more difficult, especially since the economy is so bad.
“It was already difficult to sell goods as people don’t spend so freely anymore, and now I can’t sell anything. Now, I can only afford to feed my children plain rice congee. I need to earn money to put food on the table. I can’t find another job,” she lamented.
She said the price of rubber now was so low that her friend now earned just Bt100 from tapping rubber instead of Bt500 as it was earlier, and even this Bt100 has to be split with the boss.
Hence, she said, tapping rubber was not an option.
The railway track from Songkhla’s Hat Yai station to Narathiwat’s Sungai Kolok district is 200km long and covers 27 stations.
There are 12 risky spots along the track, mostly in the mountainous terrain between Yala and Sungai Kolok. There have been dozens of railway bombings over the past decade and many locals know Wednesday’s will not be the last.