BEING THE target of no fewer than three major insurgent attacks has only increased the Sirichai family's determination to keep its Yala-based Sri Samai group of companies running in the province.
If we decided to leave, it would be like abandoning Yala. And if we do, what would become of Yala? We don’t know,” said Uppatham Sirichai, a key member of the second generation of the clan to run the family businesses.
Since the violence erupted in the far South in 2004, there have been three major attacks, including arson, on the Sri Samai business group, along with nearly 10 smaller attacks, Uppatham said. He added that he was trying to determine why insurgents have targeted his family business.
“There are many theories, but no one knows the motive for sure,” he said.
“Maybe the motive is to drive out local businesspeople, or to scare Chinese businesspeople away, but never mind that. We are Yala residents, and if we don’t stay on, it’s not possible to rely on people from elsewhere to maintain Yala – if outsiders dare to come and stay here,” he said.
He questioned the official policy of encouraging people from outside the far South to come and invest locally, saying that local people and businessmen should instead be incentivised or given more support to expand their ventures.
The Sri Samai group has suffered around Bt500 million in losses and property damage, with Bt400 million of the damage being done in a series of major attacks in the past three years. The company received compensation from authorities of around 20 per cent in the second attack, and around 20 per cent for the latest attack on Monday.
The Sri Samai group was established 60 years ago, and now runs several businesses in the three southernmost provinces, including all local 7-Eleven outlets, a hotel, a distribution network, and three department stores. All of these had come under attack at some point, Uppatham said.