Monday, 20 June 2011

A Day in Narathiwat (Nara)

Having been told by everyone in Pattani that Nara was the really dangerous province of the ‘deep south’ it was with some trepidation that I bordered the bus for the 90km journey from Pattani to Nara. While on the bus I will confess that my imagination went into overdrive on a few occasions. I saw myself dragged from the rickety "local" bus and incarcerated as a hostage, suffering all privations of the same—while of course writing an account of my adventure, in movie script format. The fate of Julius Caesar in such a situation flashed through my mind, though I would never consider myself to be so persuasive. However none of that occurred. I bordered my bus @ 08.00 in central Pattani city for the two or so hour trip to Muaeng Narathiwat, and the entire trip was uneventful. 
a journey.
election time.

your first stop, province bus station.

The bus, the usual: old, slow, noisy, but entirely serviceable. The country side green and lush, with lots of small towns and villages, people and lots of soldiers. As with my trip to Yala, the highway was protected by armed soldiers. I did notice that the further south we got the greater the armed presence felt. More sand bags, bigger guns, more troops. The trip did include a digression of a few kilometers from the direct route to stop at the small town of Sai Buri.

streets of the city,
a cultural landmark
a '7'.

downtown Narathiwat.

one of the attractions
of the town—the clock tower.

After arriving at Nara, I soon realised that there was not much to see. I only spent a handful of hours in the city. Long enough to see the standard features, but little else. What I can say, while I am sure that the people are good and wish no more than to live their lives, the city itself was far from the most attractive I have seen, and the people seemed less than totally happy. To be blunt, it was a dull and unhappy place. The streets are filled with what one travel site described as “concrete egg-carton” style buildings—correctly so. Business looked slow. Outside this central area are surrounding suburbs of small houses. The streets are clean, maybe a little dusty, but few attractions.
elections !

elections !

the streets of the city.

swans seem to be a local icon.

What I did discover, which surprised me, is that a new government centre, is being built outside the city to the north. Entirely new buildings, and nearing completion in the mid-2011.
Unlike Pattani or Yala the streets of the city of Narathiwat were filled with soldiers, and barbed wire, and small fortifications. Perhaps not than many, but there were few times when a soldier was not seen. 
soldiers on the roads.

always there.

soldiers on the streets.

coming into town.

I did have an opportunity to talk to a local at length, a local rubber plantation owner, 10 hectares of rubber trees. He told me that the people here did not wish to secede from Thailand, rather they just wanted better treatment. A central request of the region is for autonomy, which essentially means that they be allowed to elect their own provincial governor. At the current time, and for all times previous, the governors of the various provinces have been appointed by the central government. I have noticed that most if not all areas in Thailand, outside Bangkok, would like this change.
I returned to Pattani after a day in Narathiwat. I will say that the country side is attractive, green and lush. I also understand that the beaches are ready and waiting for tourists to arrive. Here’s hoping that the troubles here are speedily and justly resolved and that the locals can begin to fleece foreign tourists, rather than fight amongst themselves. 

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