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Flights to Chiang Mai disrupted as smog levels soar in North

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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

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Flights to Chiang Mai disrupted as smog levels soar in North
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: The volume of tiny dust particles in the upper North rose beyond the safety level again yesterday and poor visibility reportedly prevented at least four flights from landing at Chiang Mai Airport.

Meanwhile, a 60-year-old Mae Hong Son man was the first person arrested this season for violating the outdoor-burning ban, which is a key measure to alleviate the smog problem.

Readings of small particulate matter up to 10 microns in diameter (PM10) were very high at Mae Hong Son and Chiang Rai at 311 micrograms per cubic metre as of 1pm.

Readings at other towns in the North were: Phayao 271mcg, Chiang Mai 279mcg, Lampang 189mcg, Lamphun 189mcg, Phrae 152mcg, Nan 141mcg and Tak 130mcg. The maximum safety level is set at 120mcg per cubic metre.

Local bodies were trying to combat the haze with various measures; Chiang Mai sent fire trucks to sprinkle water into air while Mae Hong Son requested an artificial rain-making operation to reduce the dust.

An informed source said that from 11am to 1pm, haze reduced visibility at Chiang Mai Airport to only 800 meters, which caused pilots to make a decision on whether to land.

At least four decided not to: Thai Airways Flight 102 from Bangkok had to u-turn to Suvarnabhumi Airport; SL 8504 (Lion Air) flew back to Don Mueang; while PG 241 (Bangkok Airways) from Samui and FD3161 (Air Asia) from Phuket landed at Mae Fah Luang Airport in Chiang Rai, which reportedly had its lights turned on to improve visibility.

Other flights to or from Chiang Mai continued as usual.

Meanwhile, in Myanmar, all flights to Tachilek Airport in Shan state were reportedly cancelled because of poor visibility.

In regard to the arrest for outdoor burning, Mae Hong Son Provincial Police commander Pol Maj-General Jaruek Limsuwan said yesterday that police used satellite data to detect hot spots. This led to the arrest on Sunday of Dang Maneejan, 60, as he burned weeds in his property during the ban period.

“Police are now taking violations of the burning ban seriously, so we ask people to avoid burning anything even in their own house area during the province’s 60-day ban period. And police can detect a fire from the satellite surveillance,” he warned. The ban period is March 1 to April 29.

In Phitsanulok’s Chat Trakan district, a wild fire ravaged around 500 rai (80 hectares) of forest. The blaze started on Sunday evening but was brought under control yesterday, although smoke affected 100 families living within a 2-kilometre radius.

The haze problem has hit local people’s health and daily lives, with thousands seeking medical treatment for respiratory problems. However, Isara Sathapanaset, director the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s Chiang Rai office, insisted yesterday that the tourism sector was not affected, as this is the low season.

Mae Hong Son Chamber of Commerce chairman Thanit Thaitrong also said the haze wasn’t the main factor contributing to a lower number of tourists.

After a joint private committee met yesterday to discuss the impact the 10-day haze is having on Chiang Mai’s tourism sector and economy, Chiang Mai Chamber of Commerce chairperson Wipawan Woraputipong said a survey showed that hotel bookings had not yet been cancelled.

However, visitors from other regions of Thailand have either dropped or postponed their visit to the province, she added. Calling on all sides to help solve the haze problem, she warned that the impact would worsen if the haze continued for a prolonged period. The joint private committee will also offer recommendations to the Chiang Mai governor later, she added.

Since the biggest contributor to haze was the burning of agricultural waste and setting fire to clear land, she said they could not just blame villagers. Instead, she said, the authorities should also look at business operators who buy the produce, like contract-farming companies or the public sector that supports cash crops.

She said these groups should be responsible of finding ways to properly dispose agricultural waste or the government could consider raising tax as a means of resolving the problem at the root.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

 

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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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Thailand

3 journalists from Myanmar arrested in Chiang Mai

Tanutam Thawan

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Stock photo / Photo by Macau Photo Agency for Unsplash

Police in Northern Thailand arrested 3 senior journalists who had fled Myanmar due to orders from the military junta to stop reporting, the director and editor of the news agency Democratic Voice of Burma said in an email to the Associated Press.

The journalists, along with 2 associates, were arrested yesterday in Chiang Mai for allegedly illegally entering Thailand. Police were doing a random search, the editor says.

Since the February military coup in Myanmar, ousting state counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi who had won the election in a landslide, more than 750 people have been killed by security forces. The military takeover also led to a clash with ethnic armies who support the anti-coup movement, including the prominent armed wing of the Karen National Union. Around 2,000 Karen refugees have fled to Thailand’s Mae Hong Son province due to violence between the Karen troops and the state military.

The junta has attempted to silence independent news media by arresting dozens of journalists and by revoking licenses that had allowed agencies to report in Myanmar. The Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand, or FCCT, says more than 70 journalists have been arrested since February. The Associated Press says there are currently around 40 journalists in detention in Myanmar, including at least 2 that work for DVB.

Many of the journalists arrested by the military junta are being held for violating Myanmar’s Penal Code which prohibits comments that “cause fear,” spread “false news, agitates directly or indirectly a criminal offence against a Government employee.” The charge carries a punishment of up to 3 years in prison.

The editor of DVB is urging Thai authorities not to deport the detained journalists and activists, saying “their life will be in serious danger if they were to return.” Photos in Thai media shows what looks like a video production studio set up at a home.

“They have been covering the demonstrations in Burma until March 8 – the day the military authority revoked DVB’s TV license and banned DVB from doing any kind of media work.”

The FCCT also released a statement calling on Thai authorities to release the journalists and offer them protection in Thailand.

These 5 individuals would face certain arrest and persecution, if not worse, for their work and association with the DVB, and under no circumstances should they be deported back to Myanmar.

Rather, the DVB journalists and their associates should be released from detention, urgently offered protection, and granted the right to remain temporarily in Thailand.

SOURCE: Associated Press

 

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Crime

Murder of Thai wife may have been 2nd attempt by US man

Neill Fronde

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PHOTO: Jason Balzar, pictured with his wife before he murdered her, and during his arrest. (via uk.granthshala.com)

The American man accused of the murder of his Thai wife in Chiang Mai has now confessed to the brutal crime. And it may not have been the first time he tried to kill her. The 32 year old man, who was a computer programmer in the United States, admitted that he killed his wife while she was 3-months pregnant. Jason Matthew Balzar is now in custody at Muang Nan police station and has reportedly told police that he stabbed his wife Pitchaporn “Som O” Kidchob in the chest with a knife while she slept.

Police said after stabbing his wife, Jason put her body in a plastic bag and dumped it on the side of the road on Ban Srikerd-Samun Road, about 10 kilometres from their rented home at Tambon Chaiyasathan in the Muang district. A crime re-enactment was held at their home, a common occurrence in Thailand for police to piece together criminal acts and record details.

The murder was not Jason’s first accusation of violent crime, with details surfacing of his 2019 conviction for threatening to murder a woman in the US. There is unconfirmed speculation that the victim of that attack was the same Thai wife murder victim, but in Colorado domestic violence cases withhold the names of victims.

He was sentenced to 2 years of probation after an attack in Longmont, Colorado that was originally charged as attempted murder, but lessened due to a technicality. According to the arrest report, Jason attacked her after she refused sex, hitting her head and pointing a gun at her, which fired near her head. He was again arrested for violating his probation by possessing 73 guns in December 2020.

After confessing to killing his pregnant Thai wife, Jason is being charged with the murder and with concealing her body. The American man claimed that he decided to kill her in her sleep because he was upset that she wanted to leave him. The couple had plenty of rough patches with frequent arguments being common in their household.

The victim’s family don’t believe the murder was a sudden crime of passion. Her sister and mother said they have often seen him carrying a knife.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

 

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