Betong is the southernmost town in Thailand. It sits high in the hills, 3 miles (5 km) from the Malaysian border and 87 miles (140 km) from Yala. The surrounding countryside is of more interest than the town itself, which has few sights other than the 130-ft-high (40-m) stupa in Wat Phuttha Tiwat. This was built in the late 1980s in a modified Srivijayan style.
The winding road from Yala to Betong climbs through remote mountain forests where bands of the Sakai tribe still hunt. From the 1940s until the 1980s this dense forest was home to an active unit of the Communist Party of Malaya, taking refuge in Thailand. A paved road leads to their former underground guerrilla camp, Piya Mit, which has now been converted into a museum. Around 180 Communists lived here undetected in 1,100 yds (1 km) of tunnels, 33 ft (10 m) below the surface.
The end came peacefully in 1989 when “an honorable settlement” was reached with the Malaysian and Thai governments. Most of the former revolutionaries settled in the area, and some now guide visitors through the network of dank tunnels and explain the camp’s facilities. The cleverly constructed kitchen area has a flue that would disperse smoke on the other side of the hill, thus concealing the camp’s location. It was so successful that the stronghold remained undetected until the end. Other items on display include old shoes, uniforms, knives, and torches used by the fugitive comrades. Simple modern bungalows are available.