by Nick Upton
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Unrest in the South claims the Life of Foreigner

Hala-Bala Wildlife Sanctuary really is one of the best birding locations in Thailand. I was lucky enough to go there for 5 days in 2003 when I saw 7 species of hornbill; Great, Rhinoceros, Wreathed, Wrinkled, Bushy-crested, White-crowned and Helmeted. Many of these species were seen every day.

I am asked quite frequently whether it is currently safe to visit Hala-Bala; the answer at the time of writing is NO! Although not widely covered by the media, the violence in the southern provinces of Narathiwat, Yala and Satun shows no sign of abating with deaths reported in the Thai newspapers almost daily. Well over 3000 people have been killed in the current bout of violence (since 2004) and the recent death of a Chinese man proves that foreigners are certainly not immune to being attacked, indeed they may make a very newsworthy victim.

"A Chinese man was found shot dead in Thailand's Muslim-majority south on Sunday, police said, blaming separatist rebels for the rare killing of a foreigner in the insurgency-hit region.

Cai Wensheng, a 55-year-old carpet vendor, was found at a local teashop in Narathiwat province with two bullet wounds to the head.

Local police said Wensheng and two Chinese colleagues were in the area to sell carpets, but were fired upon by two suspected militants on a motorcycle who were posing as clients.

The two other men escaped without injury, police added."

Extract from Channel News Asia. Full article here: Chinese man shot dead in Thai south.

The advice is not to attempt to go to Hala-Bala in the current situation and don't be tempted to try and find the same species on the other side of the border; a quick look at the google earth image for the area will reveal that almost all the forest has been converted into plantations. Taman Negara further into Malaysia would probably be the best place to find many of the species that one could wish for at Hala-Bala.

Nick Upton, 2nd June 2008.
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