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Southern Thai people turn from tourism to gold panning

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Southern Thai people turn from tourism to gold panning | Thaiger
PHOTO: Traditional panning for gold replaces tourism for income in Southern Thailand

Thars gold in dem hills!

With tourism in Thailand struggling due to Covid-19, and an economy needing some help, some people in the southern Thai region of the country have found income in an unusual source: panning for gold. The Sukhirin region close to the Malaysian border is known for gold deposits in the Sai Buri River and surrounding mountains. Villagers who made money before with tourism have now returned to panning for gold using old-fashioned manual techniques their ancestors used, without the aid of any machinery. Well, just an old pan.

Locals had previously made money selling food to passing tourists or acting as a tour guide to take people around the area, where travellers seeking to get away from the crowded and overdeveloped tourist areas that attract the most foreigners find many unique activities. Kayaking was a popular local activity with up to 150 people a day sailing down the rivers that are now filled with locals panning for gold. The prospectors are now making their income from the gold they collect which sells for 1,500 baht per gram. Families that work together can often collect at least one gram a day.

Thai Gold prices have reached record highs over the last 2 years and many Thai people have traditionally used gold and gold jewellery as a form of savings and investment, pawning their gold rings and bracelets in times of financial emergencies. The gold collected from these Southern villages will be used to make jewellery in Bangkok.

The region had invested in expanding into ecotourism but the pandemic put all their construction plans on hold. A cable car was being built to transport people up to the tops of the mountains to beautiful temples. The area’s unique history attracted people to their annual Rocket Festival, typically a north-eastern celebration.

In 1932, France was granted a 25 year mining contract in the jungles. They extracted almost 2000 kg of gold before World War II forced closure. The mining tunnels still exist and sometimes attracted adventurous tourists, but now sit vacant aside from snakes. In the 1960s the Thai government incentivised northerners with 18 rai of land each to move to the region. As a result, the area stands out in the Muslim region with 90% of the population being Buddhist, and most still speaking Isan dialects.

SOURCE: France 24

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    toby andrews

    Saturday, April 3, 2021 at 9:48 pm

    Good for them.
    One thing is sure if a foreigner tries to pan for gold there, and he is not in some tour, he better not find gold or he will be arrested for working in Thailand.
    An Australian company is in a major law dispute with Thais concerning mining gold at the moment.

  2. Avatar

    Mr cynic

    Tuesday, April 6, 2021 at 3:53 am

    Best of luck to them,good to see people thinking outside the box a bit and doing something proactive.

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Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10 years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.

Economy

2 emergency decrees provide businesses financial help

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2 emergency decrees provide businesses financial help | Thaiger
PHOTO: 2 Decrees aim for financial relief for struggling businesses

Thailand enacted 2 new emergency decrees today aimed at providing assistance to businesses and reducing default interest rates to help people affected by Covid-19. A deputy government spokeswoman confirmed the needed action was critical to protect and aid entrepreneurs and small and medium-sized enterprises during the time of pandemic-driven economic crisis.

The goal was to combat unfair interest rates on debt many are suffering, and to provide loans to help keep businesses afloat as the end of the Coronavirus is nowhere in sight.

The Emergency Decree on the Provision of Financial Assistance for Entrepreneurs Affected By the Covid-19 Pandemic allocates 250 billion baht in loans for businesses to recover from the devastating economic effects of the global pandemic. 100 billion baht of this is specifically set aside for those businesses in debt to participate in asset warehousing or debt repurchasing plans.

Asset warehousing allows businesses, like hotels, to essentially store their property in the care of a creditor for a fee until the economy recovers enough to take over the property again and start making money with it again. Debt repurchasing is a process for a business to buy back its own debt with better terms or a lower rate with the purchase price considered a payment to the principal debt not the interest, similar to refinancing a home.

The second of the emergency decrees, an amendment to the Civil and Commercial Code, looks to close loopholes caused by ambiguity in the law that allowed predatory creditors to charge unreasonable interest rates.

If someone missed a loan payment, the original law did not set a default rate, so lenders could charge additional interest. Debtors can now base default rate calculations on the unpaid principal in the updated law. The new decree sets a 3% yearly interest rate and lowers the default rate to 5% a year from the originally 7.5%. The Finance Ministry declared interest rates would be revised every 3 years.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Pattaya

Unemployed elephants walk 500 kilometres from Pattaya to Surin

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Unemployed elephants walk 500 kilometres from Pattaya to Surin | Thaiger
PHOTO: Elephants walking down the road because their car is in the shop.

A group of 5 elephants and their owners began the long walk today from Pattaya to Surin after giving up on the return of tourism anytime soon. The 500 kilometre journey has to be done on foot as they couldn’t afford to hire trucks large enough to carry each elephant.

After waiting a year for the Chinese tourists that make up a majority of their customer base to return, the families decided to embark on the long journey with the 5 elephants to their home in the northeastern province of Surin. As they walk they’re protected on both sides by pickup trucks to keep them safe from cars.

5 years ago Napalai Mai-ngam came with her relatives to work in an elephant resort in Tambon Lam Huay Yai of Bang Lamung near Pattaya with their 5 elephants. They told the Bangkok Post that their earned a good living, about 75,000 baht (15,000 per elephant) plus tips from the tourists to ride elephants on nature trails, each month.

But with the borders closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic the tourists from China who usually flocked to elephant activities, were stuck back in China and Napalai’s boss had to cut their pay. Even with vaccinations finally underway, tourists in numbers, enough to sustain activities like elephant camps, may not be back anytime soon. The families finally had to surrender to the reality and start the long walk home.

They avoid the blistering Thai sun by walking early mornings while the weather was still cool, and hope the roadways out of Pattaya would provide snacking opportunities for the elephants to graze. They expect the journey to take about 2 weeks. The families have turned down offers of cash donations for fear that their long walk will be viewed as a publicity stunt.

That said, the families have expressed gratitude to the locals in towns they pass who have donated drinking water, food and fruit to the entourage of people and elephants. If you would like to donate resources you can contact them on phone number 093 335 7062.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Economy

Thai baht performs worst of all Southeast Asian currencies

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Thai baht performs worst of all Southeast Asian currencies | Thaiger
Photo by Peter Hellberg for flickr

Among common currencies in Southeast Asia, the Thai baht was the worst performing in the first quarter of 2021, mostly due to Covid-19’s effect on tourism in Thailand.

This week the baht hit its lowest point in half a year, falling 4% against the US dollar to 31.24. The decline was the sharpest in all of the Southeast Asian nations. The Indonesian rupiah fell 3.4% and the Malaysian ringgit fell 3.1%, while the Philippine peso and Singapore dollar dropped 1% and the Vietnamese dong basically held steady. Kyats, the Burmese currency did plummet further, 5.6%, following the military coup in Myanmar on February 1, but it’s not considered a common currency.

Thailand’s depreciation is heavily due to the economic downturn as a result of the pandemic which has all but killed Thailand’s tourist-heavy economy. With borders closed, the drop in foreign tourism pumping money into the economy has left a glaring hole. Before Covid-19, in the third quarter of 2019, Thailand held a surplus of US$11.5 billion baht. By the third quarter of 2020, the surplus had fallen to $6.6 billion, and by the end of the year, it had slid to a deficit of $1.4 billion.

Thailand had been bolstered by the surplus and by the constant influx of tourist spending supporting the economy. Tourism money fell to $742 million due to the pandemic border closure, just 5% of the equivalent period last year. The government is hoping to restart the tourism economy and pump more Thai baht into the country with a variety of actions to shorten quarantine, reopen key tourist locations like Phuket, and eventually allow in vaccinated travellers without any quarantine.

Many are still unsure of Thailand’s stability, with investors, importers and exporters still having doubts. The Finance Minister believes there’s no need to panic, as he was expecting a backlash when the Thai baht hit a 7 year high. They have acted by increasing investment limits to US$5 million for Thais to buy foreign securities, up from US$200,000 and loosened restrictions on foreign currency deposits.

SOURCE: Nikkei Asia

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