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Govt rejects Amnesty allegations on torture

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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

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

Govt rejects Amnesty allegations on torture
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: The Foreign Ministry will defend the government against allegations that suspects behind grenade attacks were tortured while in military custody. It will also explain while the country remains under martial law, PM’s Office deputy spokesperson Maj Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd said yesterday.

Gen Sansern said the Foreign Ministry would disseminate a message to foreign correspondents and various foreign organizations to create a better understanding of the government’s actions.

The move came after Amnesty International (AI) launched a global action urging its international members outside Thailand to voice concern over allegations of torture by the Thai Army and police.

The London-based organization asked members to send letters to chiefs of both the Army and the police in order to get civilian agencies independently investigate the torture allegations and make their findings public. It also asked members to pressure the government of Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha to allow grenade-attack suspects to have access to their family, lawyers, and independent physicians, as well as have their cases tried in civilian courts.

Gen Sansern said AI and other organizations, including the United Nations, could pursue their activities in relation to Thailand. But he said they should treat the government with respect, particularly when it comes to information provided by the government in defence of itself.

He said the government was trying to explain to the world about the Thai justice system and noted that special laws, such as martial law, were applied only when necessary and that they did not make Thais feel uncomfortable.

Those who were uncomfortable with martial law were people who harbored “violent ideas”, he said, adding that the government had to rely on martial law in order to help arrest more than 10 grenade-attack suspects.

Gen Sansern defended the use of military courts against some civilians, saying the standards of military courts were no different from other courts. Only major security-related charges against civilians and lese majeste offences were handled by military courts.

He asked international organizations to have confidence in the Thai judicial system as the government and the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) were prepared to be scrutinized.

In a related development, Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, lashed out at Amnesty International and those accusing the military of torturing bomb suspects, by asking: “Whom have I tortured?”

Gen Prawit said martial law did not allow torture. The deputy premier said the government was looking into the issue of martial law, which he acknowledged had reduced confidence in the government in the eyes of some foreign states. But he stressed the law was applied for two key tasks: search and arrest without having to wait for a court warrant.

Regarding efforts to extradite people accused of violating the lese majeste law, Gen Prawit acknowledged that sometimes it was not possible because there were countries that do not recognise the law, so it would be impossible to extradite some people. Individuals charged with terrorism could be extradited, however.

NCPO spokesperson Col Winthai Suvari also denied yesterday any suspects had been tortured.

“I insist that there’s no reason or necessity for officers to torture or assault those in [military] custody under martial law. Officers chiefly rely on requesting cooperation and creating understanding among those detained by the military in solving the country’s woes. I insist we don’t treat those detained [under martial law] like suspects, which falls under the next step under the police.

In a related development, Deputy Prime Minister Wisanu Krea-ngam said he met yesterday with officers from the Judge Advocate-General’s Department to explore the possibility of transferring civilians from military courts to ordinary courts.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

No vaccine, no entry – the world’s next travel challenge

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No vaccine, no entry – the world’s next travel challenge | The Thaiger

OPINION

UPDATE: Australia’s national airline has already said it will impose “proof of vaccine” on all inbound and outbound international flights, a situation that IATA says they are likely to follow. Read more HERE.

ORIGINAL POST: With the announcements this week about several vaccine candidate trials, either being completed or at the end of their Phase 3 testings, and the applications to government bodies for ‘emergency approval’, we now have to face the next question.

What restrictions will be imposed on those people who don’t have the vaccine, or even actively choose not to have the vaccine?

And more locally…

Will Thailand allow people to enter Thailand without first having the Covid-19 vaccine?

Given the Thai Government’s low-risk strategy, well almost zero-risk strategy, and reluctance to take any chances with a second wave of Covid 19, it is highly likely there will be a stipulation that anyone entering Thailand will need a vaccine certificate or stamp in their passports.

Couple this with the Thai population’s continued fear of allowing foreigners back into the country at this time, in poll after poll, and it’s a safe bet there will be a “no vaccine, no entry” restriction imposed.

On a positive note, the Thai government may drop the 14 day quarantine for people that have had the vaccine (but not in the early days).

At this stage we know that most of the vaccine trials have had a 95% efficacy. We also know that the leading BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine needs an original jab plus a booster and has to be transported at extremely low temperature.

To complicate matters, there is not yet sufficient evidence that having had a bout of Covid-19, whether asymptomatic or not, guarantees you immunity. Or, if it does, for how long?

All these factors will mean that some level of quarantine will probably be in force as the Thai government slowly re-opens its borders to a wider groups of vaccinated travellers. This would remain in force until the world has a better knowledge of both the proven efficacy of the vaccine, or vaccines, and the re-infection rates.

So, even if we start getting groups of the world’s populations vaccinated before the end of the year, and that’s still a very big IF, there’s a lot more water to pass under the bridge until a coherent, reliable vaccine strategy can be understood and implemented.

Then there will be a rump of people, either hard core anti-vaxxers, or others who are at least skeptical of a new vaccine, who will want to wait or not want the vaccine at all. Public education, some strong science and a successful roll out of the early vaccines will be a key to winning over a lot of the world’s population.

Somehow governments and health authorities are going to have to wind back much of the disinformation floating around the internet about vaccines that is so factually out of whack with reality, it’s going to be one of the greatest public health challenges of all time, to reassure people about the science of vaccines and vaccination.

All this, in the middle of a pandemic that, for now, is still on the ascendency as far as new cases and deaths are concerned.

But there is little doubt rejoining the world of international travel, even local travel, could become restricted to only those who are vaccinated. The rest will be stuck roaming around their own countries, or states, for… years with a raft of restrictions on their lives. Who knows.

Will shopping centres or public buildings also impose a “no vaccine, no entry” policy? Hotels? Public buildings? Job applications?

On top of the economic stress which has fallen on a lot of the world, with so many governments now facing the headwinds of deep recession, the vaccine ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ will add even more public disquiet.

At this stage nobody is sure how the vaccine will be rolled out in Thailand. The Thai government has already signed up for several of the leading vaccine candidates and will most likely provide the vaccine for free to citizens under its public health system.

What does that mean for foreigners living here? If you are covered, with a work permit, under the country’s public health, are you able to get the vaccine for free too? Will the thousands of foreigners on private health insurance be covered?

Surely the insurers will want its customers to be vaccinated. Sick customers cost them money. So, will insurance renewals be limited to only people who have been vaccinated? Will visas be renewed only if you have been vaccinated?

At this stage there are no firm answers to any of these questions.

Added to all this confusion, there is more than one vaccine, and some of the vaccines work in a different way than others. So do airlines and governments and shops and hotels and bowling alleys allow one vaccine through their doors but not another?

We’re certainly now entering a new phase of this pandemic. New challenges, new questions. The rising numbers of cases throughout 2020 is only the first chapter of a book that will be many more years in the making.

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Thailand

Thailand News Today | Holiday road toll, protests tomorrow, GDP recovery | November 24

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Thailand News Today | Holiday road toll, protests tomorrow, GDP recovery | November 24 | The Thaiger

There’s been some heavy downpours around sections of Bangkok over the past few days. We start with some video of the flooded streets. Then, into the news…

139 killed, 653 injured, as Thailand’s holiday weekend sees surge in road accidents

The Ministry of Transport has confirmed that hundreds of road traffic accidents have taken place over Thailand’s 4 day holiday weekend.

139 people have died and 653 have been injured in the course of the 4 day break, which was introduced to boost domestic tourism.

455 car accidents were recorded, with nearly 79% of them being caused by excessive speed. 82 people died in car accidents, with another 466 injured.Another 153 accidents involved motorbikes, with 47 bike riders killed and 165 injured.

Public transport vehicles and trucks accounted for 21 accidents, with 13 caused by trucks, 5 by buses, and 3 by trains. Over 10.7 million people took to public transport between last Wednesday night and Sunday night.

Protesters target the Crown Property Bureau tomorrow, taking direct aim at the country’s Monarchy

Tomorrow the protest road show moves to the Crown Property Bureau in Phitsanulok Road, taking aim directly at the the management of the Thai monarch’s affairs.

Protesters, who first brought up the issue of the role of the Thai Monarchy in July this year, say they have “a big surprise” in store. This will be the first time when the entire focus of the protest will be Thailand’s Head of State, previously considered a taboo topic in Thai society and the media.

The Crown Property Bureau is the quasi-government agency responsible for managing the property of the Thai Monarch. The bureau is legally defined as a juristic entity and is not a government agency. It also has no tax obligations.

In speeches during last week’s protests, speakers at the rally said… “we demand the return of taxpayers’ money”.

But Thai PM Prayut Chan-o-cha questioned the protester’s plans…

“Why they want to get close to the Crown Property Bureau? I think you know their purpose.”

There’s a longer article with some history about the Crown Property Bureau at TheThaiger.com

Protester slammed for dressing as schoolgirl to highlight sexual harassment in Thai schools

2 government MPs have criticised a member of the “Bad Students” protest movement after she dressed as a schoolgirl to highlight sexual harassment in Thai schools.

In an online protest, the activist put on a school uniform and held up a sign condemning sexual harassment in the Thai education system.

Whilst her actions have generally been supported by netizens, some pro-establishment figures have hit out at the protester including 2 Palang Pracharat MPs, who says the protester’s decision to wear a school uniform will bring Thai schools into disrepute.

His accusation comes as sexual harassment figures from the Office of Basic Education Commission have been released, showing hundreds of sexual harassment incidents recorded between 2013 – 2017. In January this year alone, there were over 700 cases reported of sexual harassment. The report says that many other victims remain too scared to come forward.

Finance Minister says Thailand’s GDP will take 2 years to recover

Thailand’s finance minister says the country’s GDP will take 2 years to recover the 9% it has lost since the Covid pandemic ravaged the economy.

The Finance Minister says the economy would have expanded by 3% this year if it weren’t for the pandemic.

“The pandemic crisis will make the economy contract by around 6% in 2020, therefore there is a 9% gap that needs to be recuperated. If Thailand’s GDP growth could arrive at 4% in 2021 and 2022, this would propel the country’s economic growth momentum to return to a normal ratio.”

As for the 2022 budget, he says it is still being designed to support economic growth through public investments in infrastructure and energy, with some projects relying more heavily on help from the private sector.

Police have yet to investigate illegal hiring of foreign teachers at international school in Phuket

Chalong police in Phuket say they have yet to start investigating the illegal hiring of foreign teachers at an international school in Rawai.

Palm House International School allegedly hired foreign teachers illegally where 2 were arrested by Phuket Immigration police on November 4.

The Chalong police leading investigations into the case, says the 2 Brits were informed that police were processing a charge of working illegally in the country against them, where both denied the charges. The 2 men have been released on bail.

But he says the investigation is yet to begin with police saying they haven’t even questioned the owner of the school.

“The investigation into the school will take time. The investigation into the two British people must be finished first.”

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Drugs

Positive test for ketamine was a “technical error”

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Positive test for ketamine was a “technical error” | The Thaiger

A “technical error” in field testing had led to the false claim that 11.5 tonnes of ketamine had been seized at a warehouse in Chachoesngsao province. Justice Minister Somsak Thepsuthin, made the admission at a media briefing called to clear up the matter.

The 475 sacks containing were seized by ONCB officials during a raid on a warehouse at tambon Tha Kham in Bang Pakong district, in Chachoengsao province, on November 12 which prompted authorities to tout the discovery as the biggest drug bust ever. But officials jumped the gun as the testing fluid that turned purple, indicating ketamine was found, was wrong after 66 sacks were further tested.

The further testing revealed the sacks were filled with trisodium phosphate, a compound used legally as a food additive and stain remover. Somsak said a “technical error in the field” led to the assumption it was ketamine as trisodium phosphate would also turn the testing fluid purple. The large TSP labels on the sacks could have been a valuable clue as Thai police paraded proudly in front of the contraband.

“No matter, we have admitted the mistake, and it may not be corrected in the short term.”

Asked if the blunder could affect the credibility of the Justice Ministry and the ONCB, Somsak said he accepted all criticicism and to make the matter clear, he would ask the police Forensic Science Division, the Department of Medical Science and the ONCB to make lab tests with results being known this week.

“I accept the fact it might have been premature to hold a press conference to announce the seizure of a substance suspected to be a kind of drug. But in this case, the ONCB had been informed of the seizure of ketamine in Taiwan, investigated and found an undeniable link to it. It would have been a mistake if I did not make it public.”

“The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime said this also happened two or three times in other countries. This was the first time in Thailand. Moreover, on the day I held the press conference, I did not say it was 100% ketamine.”

Authorities are saying they would find out where the substance in the warehouse came from, and for what purpose as they believed it could be used to conceal illicit drugs, including ketamine. The ONCB chief said the man who rented the warehouse to store the sacks had fled before the raid and avoided arrest. However, they are currently compiling a case to apply for a court warrant for his arrest in connection with the seizure of ketamine in Taiwan.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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