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UPDATE: 3,000 baht Phuket van fare for Australians tourists “all a misunderstanding”

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As a follow up of the complaint about an overcharged van fare of 3,000 baht from Phuket International Airport to Kata by two Australians, a meeting was held yesterday between the driver, the tourists and a representative from the Phuket Land Transport Office.

They agreed, in the end, that it was all “a misunderstanding”.

The complaint about the expensive fare went viral an even got to the desk of the Thai PM. PM Prayut Chan O-cha ordered all departments involved to investigate and prevent the overcharging of taxi and van fares in the future.

(The Thaiger notes that Phuket’s expats and tourists have heard this rhetoric for decades with ZERO advances in the systemic problems)

Meanwhile, a meeting was held at the Karon Police Station, where the media were barred from attending. Following the discussions, the Phuket Vice Governor, Supot Rodruang Na Nongkhai, reported that after investigating the story from the two Australian tourists, it appears that they negotiated the taxi rate at the airport.

Naruemon Jampathong was the tout in the negotiations, who approached them in the arrivals hall and called the van driven by Poompat Chankaew to take the pair to Kata. The Vice Governor explained that the tourists and the taxi driver told police different stories regarding the price. The tourists said they were offered at 3,000 baht ride while the van driver said he agreed on 2,000 baht (which is still 400 baht above the advertised and signed price for a private van hire for the journey).

However, Naruemon was found guilty of entering the airport without a permit and the AoT has fined him 2,000 baht for this transgression.

Regarding the amount for the van fare, there were further investigation as the two sides have offered conflicting stories.

He noted that the PM emphasised to make justice for this case, especially to the Australian tourists and also to prevent these types of incidents in the future. The taxi driver told the media that, as soon as he was made aware of the controversy, he rushed to Karon Police Station to report in person to the police that he only charged them 2,000 baht, which was the negotiated price and the passengers were willing to pay as they didn’t want to wait for the van to be filled up (with other paying passengers – usually charged 200 baht each, as advertised and signed around the arrivals area).

He insisted there was no mention of a 3,000 baht fare. However, in the end, police called the tourists and the driver for another round of talks. This time, according to police, both sides agreed that they negotiated for a 2,000 baht fare and the complaint was “all a misunderstanding”.

The taxi driver was taken by police to the airport to pay the fine for picking up passengers at the airport without a permit.

 

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Protests

University student carves “112” into chest after being charged with violating lèse-majesté law

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Stock photo via Thai PBS World

A Chiang Mai University student now has the numbers of “112” carved across his chest after using a razor blade on himself in defiance of the Section 112 of the Criminal Code, also known as the lèse-majesté law. The student took to cutting himself after arriving at the police station to face charges of violating the law. He was also charged with breaching the National Flag Act.

The 23 year old student and his colleague, are facing charges brought by political activist Srisuwan Janya after the duo allegedly placed an altered Thai national flag, featuring critical words against the monarchy, at an exhibition site at the university. Police tried to prevent him from harming himself further, as Vitthaya claimed it was an act of freedom of expression, but he was taken to the police station for first-aid treatment. The other student told reporters that he did not amend the Thai flag as police alleged, citing again, that it was a work of art. Both students are now released, but must come back to report themselves on May 31.

Thasanai Sethaseree, a university lecturer at the Faculty of Fine Arts, says the use of the Thai national flag in a work of art does not constitute a violation of the Thai National Flag Act. However, the lecturer didn’t comment on whether the words adorning the flag would constitute a violation of the lèse-majesté law, or Section 112 of the Criminal Code of Thailand.

Last Thursday, jailed student activist leader Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul was granted bail of 200,000 baht after repeated denials of bail requests over the last 2 months. Rung was detained on charges using Thailand’s strict lèse-majesté laws that carry a 15-year maximum sentence for insulting the royal monarchy and has been held without bail since March 8.

She joined her fellow activist leader Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak on March 30 in his hunger strike to protest the bail denials. Penguin was recently hospitalised over health concerns due to his hunger strike that began March 16.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

 

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Crime

Police step up border patrols and checkpoints, arresting 49 illegal migrants today

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Stock photo via Flickr

Police are stepping up border checkpoints and patrolling as 49 more illegal migrants from Myanmar are arrested today. In the North, Trairong Piewpan, deputy commissioner of Provincial Police Region 6, says checkpoints have been set up along the roads, waterways and natural foot trails in an effort to block all possible channels for illegal border crossings from Myanmar. In Songkhla, a southern border province, combined police units were deployed heavily among the mountainous areas of the border with Malaysia, to stop border crossings.

The border crossings bring fears of the Indian and South African Covid-19 variants, as well as more infections of the original virus. Yesterday, 10 Burmese job seekers were arrested after crossing over the Malaysian border and into Thailand. And, today, 49 illegal Burmese migrants and 3 guides were arrested near a border village in Lat Ya province. None of them were carrying travel documents.

Soldiers in PPE suits took their temperatures, with none displaying a fever. The illegal border crossers said they had walked 3 days along natural trails from Dawei to the Thai border. They were to pay 13,000-20,000 baht each in brokerage fees for jobs in Thailand, but say they had not made a payment yet. The 3 guides were charged with human trafficking as well as illegally entering the Kingdom and violating the emergency decree. The others were charged with the same offenses minus the human trafficking. Police say they were given food and water before being handed to the Muang district police to face legal action on the charges detailed above.

It has not been disclosed whether the migrants were tested for the Covid-19 virus, but we will update the information if more is given concerning the migrants’ virus status.

Meanwhile, Thailand reported 1,630 new Covid-19 cases and 22 coronavirus-related deaths today. There are now 29,376 active Covid-19 cases. Since the start of the pandemic last year, the CCSA has reported 85,005 Covid-19 cases and 421 Covid-related deaths.

 

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Travel bubble talks to pick back up once Covid-19 is under control

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Stock photo by Bao Menglong for Unsplash

Once the Covid-19 outbreak is under control, Thailand will pick back up on travel bubble discussions with countries such as Vietnam, Singapore, Laos and Malaysia. Travel bubbles could start as soon as October if the daily Covid-19 count significantly decreases by the end of the month.

The country’s Covid-19 immunisation plan needs to be accelerated and the daily Covid-19 count needs to drop, Thailand’s Tourism and Sports Minister, Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn, recently told the Bangkok Post.

“We have to speed up inoculations, particularly in Bangkok, to achieve herd immunity by the fourth quarter. The number of daily infections should be below 200 by the end of this month to restore international tourism confidence.”

Thailand has experienced a drastic spike in Covid-19 infections, with more than 50,000 confirmed infections since April 1, making up the majority of the cumulative case count since the start of the pandemic last year. Deaths related to Covid-19 increased from just under 100 at the end of March to more than 450.

Phiphat says Thailand needs the situation to be under control before resuming talks with other countries about potential travel bubbles because no country will want to make a deal while the infection rate is high.

SOURCE: VN Express

 

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