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Border agreement reached by Thailand and Cambodia; Burma and Thailand economic co-operation

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Border agreement reached by Thailand and Cambodia; Burma and Thailand economic co-operation | The Thaiger
PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

– Thailand news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Agreement reached to withdraw troops from border
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

Thailand and Cambodia agreed yesterday to comply with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) order to withdraw troops from the disputed border area near the Preah Vihear Temple following a meeting of the General Border Committee.

Both sides have also agreed to set up a Joint Working Group to work towards complete troop pullout from the provisional demilitarized zone (DMZ) determined by the ICJ, according to China’s Xinhua news agency.

The meeting was chaired jointly by Defense Minister General Yuthasak Sasiprapha and his Cambodian counterpart Tea Banh. A joint statement issued after the meeting said the group would work for a complete and simultaneous redeployment of the two countries’ military personnel from their current positions in the DMZ “at the earliest” in a transparent manner under the watchful eyes of Cambodian, Thai and Indonesian observers.

The Joint Working Group will comprise representatives designated by each side and convene a meeting at the earliest date, it said, adding that Thailand had agreed to host the first meeting.

Both sides have also agreed to cooperate on clearing landmines in the DMZ, which covers some 17 square kilometers near Preah Vihear.

The court’s injunction is pending an interpretation of the ICJ’s 1962 ruling, requested by Cambodia to clarify whether the land in the vicinity of the temple comes under Cambodian sovereignty. In 1962, the court ruled that the temple is situated in Cambodia, but Thailand argued that it owns the area adjacent to Preah Vihear.

The withdrawal will take place in the presence of Indonesian observers, according to the AFP news agency.

Thailand does not dispute Cambodia’s ownership of the World Heritage-listed temple, but both sides claim some of the surrounding area.

Tension had been increasing between Cambodia and Thailand since Unesco awarded Preah Vihear World Heritage status in 2008.

The tension escalated in February 2011, when at least eight people were killed in several days of fighting.

Yingluck focuses on economic benefits
Phuket Gazette / The Nation

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has sidelined democratization and instead placed economic interests at the core of bilateral relations between Thailand and Burma.

Her Cabinet is expected to fully endorse the Dawei special economic zone project and an energy deal.

Yingluck’s meeting with Burma’s democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi on Tuesday to highlight political reform in the military-dominated country was also aimed at raising the profile of Thailand’s first female prime minister.

Yingluck became not only the first Thai PM but also the first head of government to formally meet Nobel Laureate Suu Kyi.

The Burmese government deserves some credit for its openness in allowing the meeting, which gave Yingluck the chance to praise and respect the role of Aung San Suu Kyi as a democratic leader.

Former premier Thaksin Shinawatra claimed it was he who had paved the way for the meeting of the two ladies.

Rangoon-based analysts said the meeting did not yield any significant outcome on political reform in Burma or for bilateral relations between the two countries. Other than being a woman, Yingluck has nothing in common with Aung San Suu Kyi in terms of political struggle, they said. On the other hand, the meeting was good for Yingluck as Aung San Suu Kyi could become an inspiration for her to fight for real democracy in Thailand.

Political reform and democratization in Burma are not high on the agenda of the current Thai government in building relations with this neighboring country. What Yingluck really pushed in her discussions with Burma’s President Thein Sein earlier in Naypyidaw was economic cooperation in the Dawei special economic zone and in energy.

Yingluck was in Burma early this week for the 4th summit of Greater Mekong Subregional (GMS) economic cooperation. She was accompanied by Foreign Minister Surapong Towichukchaikul and Energy Minister Pichai Naripthaphan who focused on energy cooperation.

Pichai said yesterday in Bangkok that he was successful in clinching a deal with his Burmese counterpart Than Htay for an on-shore petroleum resource in Block M9 near Naypyidaw and offshore Block M3 in the Gulf of Martaban, north-east of Phuket, often described as an arm of the Andaman Sea.

Meanwhile, Surapong said the Cabinet would be soon endorsing the energy project and the Dawei economic zone project, which would be linked to the western part of Thailand.
The Dawei project, run by construction firm Italian-Thai Co, would be a special economic zone. It would include a deep sea port, and an industrial estate to become the ‘western gate’ of Thailand to the Indian Ocean as well as Burma’s port to the Pacific via the East-West Corridor of Thailand, Laos and Vietnam.

Surapong, together with the ministers of finance, energy, industry and transportation, will visit the Dawei project early next month to help speed up development.

Yingluck and her ministers’ moves closely followed those of Thaksin, who was in Burma a few days ahead of the visit by his sister.

A Burmese source said Thaksin flew directly to Dawei to see the project, in which he was likely interested in having some stake.

The former premier was also aware of the Thai government’s deal on the petroleum resource.

However, Yingluck said her government had nothing to do with Thaksin’s moves and his personal business deals.

The Thai government has negotiated directly with the Burmese government under a legal framework, and not for the personal interest of anybody, she said.

Asked if the energy deal with Burma would benefit only the government’s cronies, Yingluck insisted that she represented the government of Thailand and has not negotiated for personal interest.

Asked about Thaksin’s claim that he had paved the way for the government in its negotiations with Burmese government, Yingluck said her Cabinet did not reject good things but the decision would be made by her Cabinet under legal procedure.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Thailand

Points deduction system for drivers to be introduced mid-December

The Thaiger

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Points deduction system for drivers to be introduced mid-December | The Thaiger

The point deduction system, for traffic and road infringements, is tentatively scheduled for activation for motorists and motorcyclists in mid-December. It is hoped that the system will help reduce road fatalities and injuries on Thai roads.

The deputy commander of Highways Police Command says that every licensed driver will be given an allocation of 12 points. Each time the driver commits a traffic law violation, points will be deducted. When there are no points left, the driver’s license will be suspended for 90 days, after which the driver or motorcyclist will have to undergo training administered by the Land Transport Department to get their licence back, and another 12 points.

Those who don’t attend the training, however, will have their licence returned after 90 days, but with only 8 points.

Points to be deducted differ, depending on the offence. Offences are divided into four categories:

• One point deduction

Using a cell-phone while driving; exceeding the speed limit; not wearing crash helmets for motorcyclists; not wearing seat belts; not giving way to emergency vehicles, riding on the sidewalk and not stopping for pedestrians on zebra crossings.

• Two points deduction

Running a red light; driving on the wrong side of the road; reckless driving; driving while his/her license is suspended and drunk driving.

• Three points deduction

Organising or promoting street racing without permission; hit-and run; driving while under the influence of narcotics; driving while under the influence of alcohol exceeding 150mg per ml.

• Four points deduction

Driving under the influence of alcohol exceeding 200mg per ml, drunk driving in a way which may cause serious injuries or death to the other people; driving in a manner disregarding the safety of the other people or causing trouble to other people.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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Economy

Opposition hits out at government’s military spending in 2020 budget

May Taylor

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Opposition hits out at government’s military spending in 2020 budget | The Thaiger

PHOTO: Reuters | The Business Times

The opposition is accusing the government of being more concerned with military arms than the daily struggles of Thai citizens. During a debate in Parliament on the budget bill, the government was accused of caring more about the growth in military spending than citizens’ financial woes.

The opposition levied the attack after PM General Prayut Chan-o-cha delivered the 3.2 trillion baht bill to the House of Representatives. The debate on the 2020 budget is expected to continue for two more days and if approved by Parliament, the bill will come into force early next year.

The PM says the budget aligns with the “20 year strategy” to improve the living standards of the nation’s citizens while growing the economy, but opponents accuse him of making defence spending a priority.

The leader of the opposition, Sompong Amornvivat, claims that in the five years the PM has been in power, total spending has hit 14.3 trillion baht, with loans of 2.2 trillion baht, without any significant growth in the economy. He accuses the government of spending more than 6 billion baht on defence, with the Interior Ministry getting 25 billion baht more than last year.

It’s also understood that the government has also put 518.8 billion baht aside, which it can spend as it wishes, without the consent of Parliament.

The government’s tourism stimulus plan, whereby domestic tourists would be given cash incentives, also came under fire as Sompong declared it a waste of money that would do nothing to boost productivity.

The subject of the PM’s oath-taking fiasco reared its head again, as the leader of the Seree Ruam Thai Party, Pol General Sereepisut Temiyavej declared the PM and his government unfit to rule or propose a budget bill as a result of it.

Anudit Nakorntab from the Pheu Thai party said the government should postpone unnecessary spending on military arms while the country’s citizens battle economic hardship, accusing the previous junta-led administration of also prioritising the military in its spending.

SOURCE: The Nation

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Environment

Academics warn of high cost of Thai ban on agri-chemicals

May Taylor

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Academics warn of high cost of Thai ban on agri-chemicals | The Thaiger

The chairman of the Thai Sugarcane Farmers Association, Thongkam Cheongklad, says a ban on the weed-killer paraquat would have a severe impact on production costs. Academics and Thai sugarcane farmers have also expressed their concern over the ban, saying it could cost the industry up to 570 billion baht.

The Nation reports that up to 1.2 million people working in the sugarcane industry are understood to be against the ban, saying the proposed paraquat substitute is both expensive and ineffective.

The president of the Thailand Society of Sugarcane Technologists, Kitti Choonhawong, says Thailand has approximately 11 million rai dedicated to sugarcane plantations, generating about 300 billion baht a year.

He claims that a ban on agri-chemicals may lower sugar production, which in turn would affect sugar factories and cause the export market to lose as much as 94.6 billion baht. Thailand is currently the world’s second biggest sugar exporter, behind Brazil.

A research director from the Thailand Development Institute says the ban could ultimately mean the country is not allowed to produce enough food, unless chemical fertilisers are still allowed if chemical pesticides are banned.

Viroj Na Ranong says production costs will still rise however, along with labour costs, adding that the government needs to do its homework.

“The government has to implement measures based on research, not on social trends and politics.”

It’s understood that The National Hazardous Substances Committee will meet on October 27 to decide if a ban on three chemicals currently used in farming will go ahead. The substances involved are paraquat, glyphosate and chlorpyrifos and the proposal is for them to be banned from December 1.

SOURCE: The Nation

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