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Malaysian PM in a fight for his political life

Tim Newton

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Malaysian PM in a fight for his political life | The Thaiger
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Just south of Thailand there is a looming political showdown that is likely to reshape Malaysian politics, no matter what happens at Wednesday’s polls.

It’s the country’s 14 election since independence.

On one side a politically-stained, long-sitting incumbent trying to cling onto power. On the other side an opposition led my the incumbent’s former mentor – the 92 year old Mahathir Mohamad, the country’s former PM.

By numbers, current PM Najib Razak should win, but a reinvigorated opposition led by the former PM is mounting a strong challenge in polls leading up to the election this week.

Even if Najib’s Barisan Nasional coalition wins, a drop in the party’s majority would likely see an immediate challenge to his leadership. After asking for solidarity within his party’s ranks over the the IMDB scandal there would be little latitude for sympathy if the people didn’t back the current PM in the polls.

1Malaysia Development Bhd (IMDB) was set up by PM Najib in 2009. The program was meant to turn KL into south east asia’s newest financial hub and boost the economy through strategic investments in digital and infrastructure projects.

But it started to attract negative attention three years ago after it missed payments for some of the $11 billion it owed to banks and bondholders.

The Wall Street Journal then reported it had seen a paper trail that allegedly traced close to $700m from the fund to Mr Najib’s personal bank accounts.

Mr Najib has denied the claims and his party has continued to back the bruised leader. A loss of seats for his party would be a disaster for the PM, his party already hanging on by a tiny majority. An electoral loss would be even more devastating and would surely spell the end of his career as Prime Minister, leader of BN and most likely curtail any future as a politician.

With the stench of IMDB still hanging in the air and a resurgent opposition smelling blood, the poll is turning out to be a referendum on Najib’s integrity as a leader, financial administrator and a man who can lead Malaysian into the future.

Five years ago, he and BN performed poorly. While his coalition stumbled across the finish line – a thin parliamentary majority it needed to form a government – it garnered only about 47% of the vote. Before then the coalition had won every election since Malaysia gained independence in 1957.

On the other side an unlikely contender, a 92 year old former strongman who was the Malaysian PM for 22 years. He retired in 2003. He’s now become the front man for an opposition he spent most of his years as PM vilifying – sworn enemies enduring countless legal battles. Not the least is Anwar Ibrahim, the deputy prime minister Mahathir once imprisoned for corruption and sodomy. Now they’re the political odd-couple trying to oust the standing PM.

The defacto opposition leader Anwar has given his support for Mahathir to stand as the prime ministerial candidate for the opposition, with Anwar’s wife Wan Azizah as Mahathir’s running mate. Anwar remains unable to contest because he is once again serving a prison term for sodomy.

Strange times indeed for the young south east nation that continues to struggle to find its feet amid its ongoing political turmoil and the creep of national religious ferver forcing politicians to shape policy around the country’s majority Islamic interests.

Malays go tot he polls this Wednesday.

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Tim Newton has lived in Thailand since 2012. An Australian, he has worked in the media, principally radio and TV, for nearly 40 years. He has won the Deutsche Welle Award for best radio talk program, presented 3,900 radio news bulletins in Thailand alone, hosted 450 daily TV news programs, produced 1,800 videos, TV commercials and documentaries and is now the General Manager and writer for The Thaiger. He's reported for CNN, Deutsche Welle TV, CBC, Australia's ABC TV and Australian radio during the 2018 Cave Rescue.

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Another family kept apart by Thai red tape and quarantine confusion

The Thaiger

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Another family kept apart by Thai red tape and quarantine confusion | The Thaiger

Sometimes you cross all the T’s and dot all the I’s and it’s still not enough to satisfy the paper-pushers, especially at this disruptive time in Thailand, and everywhere else. One Australian father has ended up separated from his family – he’s in Australia and his wife and 2 children are in Thailand being shuffled around Phuket and Bangkok in a Thai paperwork nightmare. Sam Kelly wants his family onto a repatriation flight being organised by the Australian Embassy out of Bangkok on June 6. For now, for reasons not immediately apparent, that’s not going to happen.

“I just want to get my family out of quarantine and onto this flight. I understand that this is not normal circumstances. But the facts are: The Thai and Australian governments have put on this flight to repatriate citizens to Australia. The Thais and the Australians have already shown they can be flexible, but now it looks as though my family might miss this flight. They have been tested and are Covid-19 free.”

The full story of Sam and his family’s plight is below. But Sam is grateful for the help from Australian consular officials up to now.

“I want to thank all the Australian consular staff in Bangkok and Canberra that have been helping me. You have been a great help in a very difficult situation.”

Sam’s story is one among thousands of families separated by the lockdowns and border closures in Thailand, and around the world. The Thaiger believes Sam’s wife and kids, and similar families, should be put on the top of the list of repatriation efforts when bans are lifted and flights resume.

The Thaiger hopes cooler-heads prevail in this case and that Sam, Kanny, Ronny and Adam are back together again soon.

Here is the full unedited text from Sam…


Help me get my family to Australia.

I’m one of the many offshore workers around the world that have been prevented from re uniting with their families

My base is in Phuket Thailand and has been for the last 15 years, I have a wife and 2 children. My wife’s name is Kannika “Kanny” Polngam who is a Thai national and my 2 kids Ronald “Ronny” Kelly (2) and Adam Kelly (5), who are dual Thai and Australian citizens with passports.

On the 12th of February I left Phuket to go on a 4 week on 4 week off rotation. I saw the situation regarding Covid-19 was deteriorating, so I started the process of getting my family out to Australia. I chose to stay here in Australia, so I was available for work, and still be able to provide for my family.

On the 5th of March my kids were taken out of school in Phuket and very strict curfews were imposed to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic.

Flights in and out of Thailand all but stopped with the occasional charter/repatriation flight going out of Bangkok to a few different airports in Australia. I managed to secure a flight on only one of 2 flights from Thailand to Australia for the whole month of June. I spoke with Australian consular officials in Bangkok on the phone and was told that it was a good idea to get the family up to Bangkok in case they needed to do more paperwork, etc.

On around the 19th of May, I told Kanny to just lock the house up, throw away anything we don’t need, just pack a few bags and drive off the island, stay with her parents in Bangkok and wait for the flight. She obtained permission from the Wichit Police Department in Phuket Town to leave the island and drive to make the long 12 hour drive to Bangkok. After being granted permission to get off the island my family was stopped at a Surathani checkpoint which is a few hours north of Phuket and directed to drive directly to:

Queen Sirikit Stadium
Klong 6, Tanyaburi, Pathumthani, Bangkok

When they arrived on the 21st of May they were all locked into a very small apartment that was once student housing at a university.

Kanny contacted the authorities and started to make noise. Everyone in my family has been self isolated for months. The kids actually had more people from the schools and government checking on their welfare in our Phuket house than in this little state sanctioned Bangkok student accommodation. No Thais authorities are checking on their welfare now, they just get a few bags of food thrown on their doorstop every day.

After Kanny made some noise the Thai authorities came and did a Covid-19 check on everyone. The results came back negative the next day and it was agreed that they would all be released and go to my mother and father in laws house nearby in Bangkok.

Now today it is Friday, my wife just got a phone call and one of the head honchos there by the name of Mr Boonlert, he has decided to revoke what he promised which was them being released into self isolation. The date that they will be released now is the 6th of June. This is one day after this flight leaves from Bangkok to Brisbane.

Another family kept apart by Thai red tape and quarantine confusion | News by The ThaigerAnother family kept apart by Thai red tape and quarantine confusion | News by The Thaiger

PHOTO: Kannika and the two boys are removed from the self-isolation they had been granted and returned to state quarantine – khaosod.co.th

During this time the Australian Consulate and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade have been in touch with me stating, they cannot issue a ticket for my family to fly to Australia on this special flight until the family are out of quarantine. The Thai authorities have quite happily let people transit through Bangkok who have tickets out of Thailand, but as the Thai authorities have my family in detention, the Australians authorities will not issue a ticket to fly out.

So I am stuck between a rock and a hard place, my family has:

• Been in self isolation for months
• Been checked regularly by the Thai government and their school teachers doing home visits during the time schools closed on the 5th of March
• Have attended regular doctors appointments, including a health screen for my wife to apply for an Australian visa
• Have been in enforced state quarantine for over a week now and passed a Covid-19 test which was a horrible experience for them
• Look like they might miss one of the last flights back to Australia due to this Thai state quarantine period and if by some miracle they make the flight, they have the absolute joy of doing another 2 week quarantine in a hotel in Australia

Thousands of people have travelled to Bangkok from Phuket and none of them have been quarantined, the quarantine is actually a DISCRETION. There has been Australians being repatriated from Phuket, and they have been able to travel hassle free to Bangkok and wait for their flights out. Why are my kids the only Australians that have been locked up? I’m having serious concerns about their mental health at the moment.

All I want is the best for my kids, and neither the Australian or Thai public servants are providing that now.

These boys have not played with another kid or seen a blade of grass since the 5th of March, that means that if they went to Australia, it would be over 3 and a half months by the time they finished their last isolation period.

I have paid taxes in both countries for many years. I want some sort of communication between the Thai authorities and the Australian authorities.

Why are these Australian children being detained? They don’t have Covid-19 and they need to get out of quarantine to get back to Australia on the 5th of June.

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Thailand

Thailand News Today – Monday, June 1

The Thaiger & The Nation

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Thailand News Today – Monday, June 1 | The Thaiger

Returnees from UK found with high fever, hospitalised

Of the 251 Thais who repatriated from the UK yesterday 20 were found to have high fevers and rushed to hospital, according Suvarnabhumi Airport’s deputy director.

The Thai Airways charter flight arrived at the airport at 2.20pm. Screening found that 20 passengers had high fever and they were rushed to hospital. 16 passengers also opted for the alternative 5 star state quarantine facilities, while the rest were transported to the government’s specified facilities in Bangkok and Samut Prakarn.

A Korean Airlines flight arrived last night, also at Suvarnabhumi, bringing 194 Thais from South Korea. Screening officers found 13 of the passengers with high fever. 18 of them upgraded their mandatory 14 day quarantine at a designated hotel.

Thailand has registered on only new Covid-19 case today, another Thai returnee, this time from Russia.

No “new normal” for Thailand’s deadly road toll

In what will come as no surprise to most, the death toll on Thailand’s roads has resumed its upward trend after a brief interruption during the Covid-19 lock-down.

More people are back behind the wheel or the handlebars, and with that, the carnage has returned to Thailand’s roads.

In Phuket, a truck ploughed into a power pole on Saturday, killing the Thai driver and a Burmese national who was hit by the falling power pole as he rode his motorbike on the opposite side of the road.

In the west of the country yesterday, a mother and 3 year old daughter were killed, when the car they were travelling in, left the road and slammed into a tree in Kanchanaburi.

Another accident in the south killed an 80 year old woman in Nakhon Si Thammarat, when the motorbike she was a pillion passenger on was hit by a car.

As of our recording time, 29 people have already died on Thailand’s roads today and another 1,629 have been injured. Annually some 21,000 Thais die on the road, putting it into the Top 10 countries in the world for the most dangerous roads.

Police identify individuals seeking bribes from Pattaya hotels, no charges filed

Pattaya police say they’ve identified a number of individuals chasing kickbacks from hotels in exchange for being listed as a Covid-19 quarantine facility.

However, as none of the hotels involved have filed a complaint, the individuals in question have not been charged. Well, yet anyway.

With hotels across the city shut down as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, some people have attempted to exploit the desperation of those in the hospitality sector. The statement from the Pattaya police comes in the wake of the government pledging to crack down on such extortion and identify those responsible.

Thai PM Prayut is pressing for legal action to be taken against those involved

Southern mayor backs bounty for shark hunt after boy’s foot was bitten

People are searching for a shark after it apparently bit a boy’s foot at a pier in the southern province of Satun. The local mayor even said he’ll give a cash reward of 1,000 baht to whoever catches the shark. He even took a long tail boat out on Saturday afternoon to scope out the scene and try and track down the shark.

Last Thursday, a 12 year old was playing on the pier with two of his friends. Something bit him when he was swinging his legs in the canal. The boy is okay, but he needed 50 stitches (yikes!!).

Researchers from the Marine and Coastal Resources Department say the bite is most likely from a bull shark.

14,000+ people contract dengue this year

More than 14,000 people have contracted dengue fever and 11 have died so far this year, the country’s north and east the hardest hit.

From Jan 1 to May 25 this year, 14,136 people were found to have caught dengue fever, or 21.2 per 100,000 population. Eleven people died from the disease during the period.

The five provinces with the highest numbers of dengue fever cases were Rayong, Chaiyaphum, Khon Kaen, Mae Hong Son and Nakhon Ratchasima.

25 arrested after police raid online gambling base in Mae Sot

Police arrested 25 people involved in online gambling after a raid Saturday night at a house in Mae Sot, Northern Thailand, right on the Burmese border.

Police also confiscated equipment used for the online gaming. Out of the 25 people arrested, 5 of them were Thai and the rest were foreigners, mostly from China.

Police seized 7 computers, 14 smartphones and 2,000 to 2,500 SIM cards. The gambling operation also has 50 bank accounts with a total of around 100 million baht.

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Environment

Black water pours into the Gulf of Thailand right next to Pattaya’s Walking Street – VIDEO

The Thaiger & The Nation

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Black water pours into the Gulf of Thailand right next to Pattaya’s Walking Street – VIDEO | The Thaiger
PHOTO: We Love Pattaya

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water… some disgusting black water gushing back onto the Pattaya foreshore. It’s meant to be the Gulf of Thailand, not the Black Sea. The video on the ‘We Love Pattaya’ Facebook page (below) showed the black water pouring into the sea from a pumping station near the entrance to Pattaya’s Walking Street.

By the time reporters got there to collect more pictorial evidence, the damage done was evident although the flow of dirty water had stopped. Heavy rains from late last week had mixed with heaven-knows-what and ended up being deposited on Pattaya’s foreshore, basically pristine up to this event after a ‘rest’ from tourists for nearly 3 months.

The local media called on Pattaya authorities to “act on the reports” but nothing is expected to happen. At this stage, seeing this video, social distancing may be more than just staying away from other people.

It seems the new Pattaya Beach Road drains are WORKING 🇹🇭🙏🇹🇭Big rain no beach road floods ❤️🤍💙

Posted by We Love Pattaya on Thursday, 28 May 2020

SOURCE: Thai Visa | We Love Pattaya

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