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Thai foreign minister criticises visa waiver proposal

Maya Taylor

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Thai foreign minister criticises visa waiver proposal | The Thaiger

The Foreign Ministry opposes the Tourism and Sports Ministry’s proposal to waive visas for Indian and Chinese tourists, calling it a “risk to national security”. The proposal was put forward at a meeting last Friday, as part of a series of measures to boost the economy through an injection of over 300 billion baht in tourism.

It would permit Chinese and Indian nationals to remain in Thailand for up to 30 days, 15 days without a visa, with hopes of boosting numbers from those countries. However, it could cost about 12-13 billion baht a year in lost visa fee revenue.

Approximately 11 million Chinese tourists will have visited by the end of this year, along with 2 million Indian visitors, and Indian numbers are expected to grow to 3 million next year.

However, Foreign Affairs Minister Don Praramudwinai has written to the PM to oppose the plans, arguing that the visa stamp helps with visitor screening and national security.

With a population of more than 1 billion each, there is also concern about how Thailand would cope with a huge surge in Chinese and Indian visitors. The ministry argued that many may see it as a chance to escape hardships in their own countries.

Minister Don added that visa requirements are not solely to blame for an economy hampered by a strong Thai baht and the US-China trade war. He suggests that waiving visas for Indian and Chinese visitors could make managing tourist arrivals chaotic.

He voices concern that the Thai embassy in India has detected false documents provided by some visa applicants. However, an immigration officer at one of the country’s international airports was unconcerned about the proposal, saying Chinese and Indian tourists rarely overstay their visas.

SOURCE: The Bangkok Post

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Thailand

Thailand News Today | Thai Airways in rehab, All go for Songkran | March 4

The Thaiger

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Thailand News Today | Thai Airways in rehab, All go for Songkran | March 4 | The Thaiger

Thai Airways has submitted a rehabilitation plan in accordance with a Central Bankruptcy Court order after the the receiver’s appointment last September. The airline’s acting president says the rehabilitation plans aim to fully restructure and help the national flag carrier to regain profits.

The company has revealed its planned recovery to the media and says the savings and new profit centres will come from multiple aspects of the airline.

The Thai government is looking at offering free C‐19 vaccines to migrant workers who are covered under the nation’s social security program. The Thai Ministry of Labour is set to discuss the move with the Social Security Board. If approved, over 2.3 million migrant workers would be inoculated for free, estimated to cost around 3 billion baht. The Labour Minister says migrant manual labourers are vital to Thai industries and the economy, therefore, they should not be left out of the vaccination program.

Chiang Mai has ranked as the 3rd most polluted city in the world yesterday, according to AirVisual, following Lahor in Pakistan and New Delhi in India. The northern Thai city’s was recorded to have an average PM2.5 dust level higher than 200.
All 4 air quality monitoring stations in the municipal area reported the PM as exceeding the safe level, with the deputy chief of an air pollution command citing some 928 hotspots detected across the nation’s 17 northern provinces.

The Thai musician and anti-government activist, known as “Ammy”, has had his bail request declined. The singer was arrested at Ratchathani Hospital, in the central province of Ayutthaya on charges of lèse majesté, arson, and violation of the Computer Crimes Act. He is accused of being 1 of 3 people to set fire to a portrait of HM the King outside Bangkok’s Khlong Prem Central Prison on the night of February 28.

Thailand has hosted the first group of international tourists to carry out a “golf quarantine”. 42 golfers (41 from South Korea and 1 from Japan) flew into Thailand on February 19, entering quarantine at the Artitaya Golf Resort in the central province of Nakhon Nayok.

Guests following Thailand’s golf quarantine program are required to remain in their rooms for the first 3 days of their stay, after which they can roam freely around the resort and play golf. During their stay, guests are tested 3 times.

Thailand’s annual waste of water, the traditional Songkran festival, has been given the ‘all clear’ as long as the festivities are in line with C-19 prevention measures. PM Prayut Chan-o-cha says people will have to to abide by social distancing rules during the Songkran holiday from April 13 to 15. Looks like you’re going to need a bigger water pump pistol as short range shooters may infringe on the social distancing guidelines.

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Thailand

Thailand classified as a “not free” country in Freedom House report

Caitlin Ashworth

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Thailand classified as a “not free” country in Freedom House report | The Thaiger
October protest at the Asok-Sukhumvit intersection in Bangkok / Photo by Caitlin Ashworth

On a scale of 0 to 100, with 100 being absolute freedom, Thailand scores at 30, a “not free” country, according to the nonprofit Freedom House. Each year, the organisation reviews the political rights and civil liberties of countries around the world. According to their recent assessment, Thailand has declined in terms of rights and liberties, dropping on the scale from “partly free” to “not free.”

The main reason for the drop on the freedom scale, the organisation says, is “due to the dissolution of a popular opposition party that performed well in the 2019 elections, and the military-dominated government’s crackdown on youth-led protests calling for democratic reforms.”

The Future Forward Party was dissolved in February 2020 after the court found that the founder, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, had made a large donation to the party that exceeded the legal limit. The party’s leaders were then banned from politics for the next decade.

Youth-led protests started in February, but the demonstrations were put on pause due to Covid-19 restrictions banning large public gatherings. Protesters gathered in July as restrictions lifted, but some leaders then faced charges for holding a public gathering, which was still banned under emergency orders.

In October, the prime minister imposed what Freedom House calls a “severe” State of Emergency order in Bangkok that banned gatherings of more than 5 people. Some protesters were arrested for violating the order nearly immediately after it was imposed.

With activists pushing for monarchy reform and an end to the military’s involvement in government, raising subjects considered taboo and unprecedented in Thai society, the Thai government has increased its use of the draconian lèse majesté law. Since November, dozens of activists have faced charges for insulting or defaming the Thai Monarchy.

Freedom House scores countries on topics like the electoral process, questioning if politicians and leaders were elected in free and fair elections, as well as freedom of expression and individual rights.

Thailand’s military seized power in 2014 in a bloodless coup. The 2017 constitution was drafted by a committee appointed by the military’s National Council for Peace and Order. In 2019, the country transitioned to what Freedom House calls a “military-dominated, semi-elected” government.

The 2019 elections were overseen by the Election Commission of Thailand, whose members were appointed by the military. All 250 senators were appointed by the military in 2019 to serve 5 year terms.

In 2020, the combination of democratic deterioration and frustrations over the role of the monarchy provoked the country’s largest anti-government demonstrations in a decade. In response to these youth-led protests, the regime resorted to familiar authoritarian tactics, including arbitrary arrests, intimidation, lèse majesté charges, and harassment of activists. Freedom of the press is constrained, due process is not guaranteed, and there is impunity for crimes committed against activists.

SOURCE: Freedom House

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Riot police officer in Bangkok tests positive for Covid-19

Caitlin Ashworth

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Riot police officer in Bangkok tests positive for Covid-19 | The Thaiger
Protest in Bangkok on February 28 / Photo by Thai News Pix

A riot police officer, who was deployed at the recent pro-democracy protests in Bangkok, has tested positive for Covid-19. His supervisor, chief of Wang Thonglang station Ekapop Tanprayoon, says the officer had visited Samut Sakhon, a coronavirus hotspot.

Riot police who worked closely with the infected officer, Somyot Nuamcharoen, are ordered to quarantine. The Wang Thonglang police station and any items the police officer handled are being disinfected, the chief says.

The officer had met up with friends during a visit to Samut Sakhon, just southwest of Bangkok. He travelled to the coastal province on February 18 and returned to Bangkok the next day.

On the 20th, he was deployed to a protest outside of parliament, just after returning from his trip to the “red zone” province. On Sunday, he deployed the protest outside the military barracks in Bangkok. The demonstration turned violent and numerous people were injured.

On Tuesday, his friend from Samut Sakhon tested positive for the virus. The infected officer was tested for Covid-19 that day and his result came back positive yesterday.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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