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In case you missed it… Here’s a weekly roundup of top news in Thailand

Caitlin Ashworth

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In case you missed it… Here’s a weekly roundup of top news in Thailand | Thaiger
Protest in Bangkok on February 28 / Photo by Thai News Pix

Social distancing for Songkran, Thailand’s New Year water festival

Thailand’s massive water festival Songkran, celebrating the Thai New Year, got the “okay” as long as the festivities are in line with Covid-19 prevention measures. PM Prayut Chan-o-cha says people need to abide by social distancing rules during the Songkran holiday from April 13 to 15… So make sure your water gun shoots at a long range.

Allowing Songkran to take place this year is intended to help stimulate Thailand’s battered economy. The culture minister insisted that disease prevention must be strictly maintained, adding that social distancing and capacity limits are “chief” among the measures.

Read the full story HERE.

Facebook removes “information-influencing” pages linked to Thai military

Facebook has confirmed the removal of 185 accounts run by the Thai military and allegedly involved in information-influencing. The social media giant says the accounts were deleted for engaging in what it calls, “coordinated inauthentic behaviour”. In total, 77 accounts, 72 pages, and 18 groups have been removed from the platform, in addition to 18 Instagram accounts. It’s the first time Facebook has taken such action against accounts linked to the Thai government.

Read the full story HERE.

Deceased Phuket expat’s body stuck in hospital due to passport mix-up

In a nightmarish scenario, a deceased Phuket expat’s body is stuck in a Thai hospital as his step‐daughter claims hospital administrators won’t release the body due to a passport mix‐up.

Gemma Swift, the step‐daughter of 75 year old David Donoghue, who died 2 weeks ago, says she is pleading with embassy staff in Thailand to resolve, what she says, is purely an administrative issue after Donoghue’s passport number at the hospital was from that of an expired one.

Read the full story HERE.

Houseowner discovers 3,000 year old skeletons on land in Ang Thong province

A houseowner in the central province of Ang Thong, has discovered 3 skeletons on his land that are thought to be over 3,000 years old. 54 year old Somkiat Briboon says this most recent discovery isn’t the first, as the first lot of bones was found last year after preparing his 17 rai worth of land, in Sawang Ha District, to be rented out for sugarcane farming.

Read the full story HERE.

Gunman kills mayoral candidate, injures 4 other municipal candidates at funeral

A gunman shot and killed a woman running for mayor and wounded 4 others at a funeral in Ratchaburi, a province west of Bangkok near the Myanmar border. Police say they suspect the shooting was politically motivated. Out of the 4 people injured, 3 were running in the March 28 municipal election while another was the kamnan, a government official of a tambon, which is a sub district.

Read the full story HERE.

At least 22 people arrested at Bangkok protest, officer dies of heart failure

At least 22 people were arrested during the Bangkok protest last Sunday, which turned violent as pro-democracy activists marched toward the prime minister’s residence, according to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights. An officer died during the rally, which the human rights group says was due to heart failure.

Some protesters threw ping pong bombs and firecrackers in the violent clash with police, the group says. Police armed in riot gear fired rubber bullets and hit protesters with batons. Water cannons and tear gas were used to break up the crowds after some protesters had breached the barricade of shipping containers that had been blocking the way to the prime minister’s residence at a military base on Vibhavadi Rangsit Road, according to the Bangkok Post. At least 33 people, including 23 police officers, were injured.

Read the full story HERE.

Thai army medic accused of injecting troops with fake Covid-19 vaccines

The Bangkok Military Court has issued an arrest warrant for a Royal Thai Army medic who is accused of injecting troops with a fake Covid-19 vaccine, which ended up just being saline solution. The troops were on an United Nations peacekeeping mission in South Sudan. The army says the medic, who is also a lieutenant, charged troops 500 baht for a legitimate vaccine for tetanus as well as a saline solution shot he claimed was the Covid-19 vaccine. An investigation was prompted after a soldier noticed the bottles of “Covid-19 vaccines” were unlabelled.

Read the full story HERE.

Thailand’s vaccine campaign kicks off, health minister gets the first dose

Thailand’s Covid-19 vaccine campaign started with Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul who was jabbed with China’s Sinovac vaccine. PM Prayut Chan-o-cha was initially planned to be the first to kick off Thailand’s immunisation plan with the AstraZeneca vaccine, but due to problems with paperwork, the prime minister’s injection was postponed. Doctors advised Prayut to get the AstraZeneca vaccine due to his age. Prayut is 66 and doctors say the Sinovac vaccine has been declared safe for people ages 18 to 59.

Read the full story HERE.

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Read more headlines, reports & breaking news in Thailand. Or catch up on your Thailand news.

Caitlin Ashworth is a writer from the United States who has lived in Thailand since 2018. She graduated from the University of South Florida St. Petersburg with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and media studies in 2016. She was a reporter for the Daily Hampshire Gazette In Massachusetts. She also interned at the Richmond Times-Dispatch in Virginia and Sarasota Herald-Tribune in Florida.

Road deaths

Songkran’s 7 dangerous days: 2,365 road accidents, 277 deaths

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Songkran’s 7 dangerous days: 2,365 road accidents, 277 deaths | Thaiger
FILE PHOTO: This year saw 30% less deaths and accidents over Songkran week.

We’ve finally reached the end of the Songkran holiday “7 dangerous days”, where over 2,300 road accidents resulted in 2,357 injuries and 277 deaths. Every year Thai officials brace for the surge in holiday travel that brings a surge in accidents as well, but the silver lining of Covid-19 is the reduction in accidents. This year saw a drop of nearly 30% from pre-Covid totals over the 2019 Songkran holiday period. Here’s the final day’s summary and the totals for the week:

DAILY FIGURES

On the final day of the Thai government’s weeklong safety campaign, there were 253 road accidents with 255 injuries and 26 deaths. The provinces with the most deaths were Ubon Ratchathani with 3 deaths, and then Chanthaburi and Phetchabun, both with 2 fatalities in each.

TOTALS

The 277 deaths and 2,357 injuries as a result of 2,365 accidents is a significant reduction from non-Covid years where road accidents and deaths were 30% higher. In 2019, the Songkran “7 dangerous days” totalled 3,338 accidents, with 3,442 injuries and 386 deaths. 2021’s muted Songkran holiday period saw about a thousand fewer accidents and injuries and over 100 fewer fatalities.

Final figures following the trends we saw daily, with 79% of all accidents involving motorbikes with 7% involving pickup trucks, a distant second. Drunk driving was the number 1 cause of road accidents with nearly 37% of all accidents involving alcohol. 28% of accidents were caused by speeding, while sudden lane changes accounted for 18% of incidents. Late afternoons from 4 pm to 8 pm had 29% of road accidents, followed by 21% of incidents that happened earlier from noon to 4 pm.

Highways were the most dangerous, with nearly 40% of accidents happening there. Community or village roads accounted for 36% of accident locations. Teenagers made up the biggest demographic of fatalities, with 15 to 19 year olds making up 15% of deaths. 30 to 39 year olds made up just over 14% of road deaths.

The deadliest provinces over the 7 dangerous days were Pathum Thani with 10 deaths, followed by Bangkok and Chiang Mai, both of which had 9 fatalities. Nakhon Si Thammarat, with 106 incidents, recorded the most road accidents of any province, followed by Chiang Mai with 77 crashes and Songkla with 69.

During the course of the road safety campaign, police and traffic authorities pulled over 2.3 million motorbikes and 100,000 other vehicles, issuing almost 460,000 citations, notably for not wearing helmets, having a driver’s license, or fastening seatbelts.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Economy

Officials not worried Thailand remains on US currency watch list

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Officials not worried Thailand remains on US currency watch list | Thaiger
PHOTO: Thailand is on the watch list for possible currency manipulation.

Thailand remains on the United States Treasury’s “Monitoring List” of countries whose currency trade practices need to be watched, though Thai officials say they are not worried. US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen releases a foreign exchange report twice a year including labelling alleged currency manipulators and flagging suspect trading partner countries to be monitored.

The Bank of Thailand said remaining on the US currency watch list poses no threat to Thai businesses or the government’s ability to enact policies to promote financial stability. They stress that Thailand has never manipulated currency, using the exchange rate to get a competitive edge or an unfair trade advantage over other countries.

This most recent report tags 11 countries as warranting a closer watch: China, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Singapore, South Korea, and Thailand. Mexico and Ireland were the 2 new inclusions, not on the previous report in December 2020. Also in the report, the US Treasury Department toed the line of accusing Switzerland, Taiwan, and Vietnam of manipulating currency.

They stated yesterday that the 3 countries had crossed the line of 2015 US trade laws, but didn’t officially brand them as currency manipulators. The thresholds of that 2015 rule include either global current account surplus or foreign currency intervention over 2% of GDP, and having a trade surplus with the US over US $20 billion trade.

The flagging of Taiwan, Vietnam and Switzerland falls short of applying the manipulator label due to a 1988 law requiring evidence of manipulation to stop balance of payment adjustments or to gain a trade advantage. The US is already engaged in talks with Vietnam and Switzerland and will enter into “enhanced engagement” with Taiwan as well. Not being upgraded to the manipulator title relieves pressure from Switzerland and Vietnam, who both received the label in the last report issued by the Trump administration.

SOURCE: Yahoo Finance and Live Mint

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Thai Hotel Association pushes “hospitels” – hotels as hospitals

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FILE PHOTO: Artist rendering of a "hospitel" - a hotel converted to a hospital.

With the third wave of Covid-19 ripping through Thailand, hospitals are rapidly filling up and the Thai Hotels Association has proposed “hospitels” as a creative solution. The portmanteau of “hospital” and “hotel” is the THA’s brainchild for creating more space for the growing number of Covid-19 infections that require treatment or at least observation as Thailand hits record daily case numbers. The idea of turning hotels into temporary hospitals was promoted by association president Marisa Sukosol Nunbhakdi this week.

“The move aims to reduce crowdedness at hospitals and promote continuous care for Covid-19 patients after new cases increased rapidly since late March.”

23 hotels have already registered to be hospitals, with 2,000 patients currently receiving treatment in the 4,900 available beds. The Ministry of Public Health laid out guidelines for hotels interested in participating. Hotels must have a minimum of 30 rooms and pass the alternative state quarantine evaluation. The ASQ-approved properties must have evidence of acknowledgement by the surrounding community to confirm their validity and eligibility. The hotel must be able and willing to take care of hospitalised patients for 5 to 7 days, even with no signs of symptom progression. Conversely, patients checking in must agree to stay in the hotel and be relatively self-sufficient.

Strict medical requirements must be met as well. Each patient must be provided with their own digital thermometer and pulse oximeter, and a portable x-ray machine must be available. The hotels must be staffed like hospitals, with at least one doctor, a clinical psychologist, a pharmacist, a radiologist, and an infection control nurse. There must also be one nurse per every 20 patients staying at the property.

This proposed solution might provide a welcomed supplement to the rudimentary field hospitals the Thai army has been hastily building to accommodate the influx of newly infected patients. While the quick work is commendable, some have hypothesized that at-risk foreigners may be ignoring calls to come forward for Covid-19 testing in part because being diagnosed may land them in these less-than-posh field hospitals for days on end. A more comfortable “hospitel” would allow infected foreigners to be treated in more pleasant surroundings thus encouraging them to come forward for testing.

SOURCE: National News Bureau and Nation Thailand

 

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