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Lifting of martial law gets the thumbs up

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Lifting of martial law gets the thumbs up | The Thaiger

PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

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

Lifting of martial law gets the thumbs up
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha yesterday sought royal approval for lifting martial law, which was imposed shortly before the coup in May last year, and replacing it with Article 44 of the interim charter.

The move was welcomed by the business sector, but a human-rights lawyer criticized it, saying conflicts of interest would persist under Article 44 as the prime minister would have more absolute power.

PM Prayut said after chairing a weekly Cabinet meeting that his power under Article 44 would be mainly used to arrest and detain quickly those violating security laws and committing severe crimes.

As head of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), PM Prayut assured the public that ordinary folks had nothing to fear. He added that he was not doing it to remain in power but to enable the Kingdom to move forward “more conveniently”.

“Don’t just talk about freedom or democracy alone. I am [for] democracy. If I am not democratic, you people won’t be around like this with me,” he told reporters. “If you have done nothing wrong, why should you be worried?

“I need to use power under Article 44 of the provisional constitution to allow the authorities quickly to conduct searches and arrests without having to wait for a court warrant.”

There would have to be five to six orders issued under Article 44, he said.

The maximum period for military detention without charge under Article 44 would be seven days, just like under martial law, and after the period the detainee would either be released or turned over to the police and prosecutors, depending on whether the person had violated any security law.

Under Article 44, civilians facing a military court will have the right to fight through the appeal and supreme military courts system. Absolute power under Article 44 will also be used to pass legislation that the previous government had failed to and the National Legislative Assembly may not have the time to or finds it difficult to pass.

Anon Nampa, a key member of the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, reacted negatively to the latest development, saying conflicts of interest persisted.

All military court judges, said Anon, are under the chain of command of the Ministry of Defence and not truly independent. Defence Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan is also the deputy head of the NCPO, while those facing military courts for violating security law are opposed to the NCPO, Anon noted.

“Why don’t they put these people through an ordinary court if they truly believe it’s the same?” Anon asked.

As for PM Prayut’s promise to use Article 44 to detain people without charge for no more than seven days, Mr Anon said the junta leader could in the end extend that, given the absolute power he holds under Article 44.

‘Article 44 little understood’

Meanwhile Isara Vongkusolkit, chairman of the Board of Trade and the Thai Chamber of Commerce, said the cancellation of martial law should create better sentiment for private enterprises, but would not help tourism, as the sector has been affected by other factors, mainly volatile currencies.

He said the tourism structure had been changed to rely on the global economy.

Darren Buckley, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Thailand, said Article 44 was little understood by foreigners and the effectiveness of the changes in law on the confidence of tourists would depend on how the article is used by the prime minister, who now has the de facto power to control many things.

“The good news is that tourism has been increasing, and that is a positive sign. The fact that martial law can be lifted is also a positive sign, not just for tourists but also a positive sign that the government feels [that] perhaps the situation in Thailand is much more stable now,” he said.

Ittirit Kinglake, president of the Tourism Council of Thailand, said tourists – especially from Western countries – would no longer worry about travelling to the country, as the government was lifting martial law.

“A new problem regarding concerns over civil-aviation safety is expected to hit tourism as well as the country’s image. It needs to be solved as soon as possible,” he said.

Nats Santivipanon, head of brand and communications of AXA Insurance, said that in principle insurance companies overseas would offer coverage to policyholders who travel in countries that are not under martial law.

Thai General Insurance Association chairman Anon Vangvasu said Article 44 was unlike martial law, as the latter affected insurance coverage for foreign travellers, adding that foreign countries are more concerned about martial law as it is seen as unsafe.

Article 44 is likely to give more power to the prime minister, but he said Article 44 was better than martial law as the latter covered the whole country. Under Article 44, the prime minister might consider each case individually, he said.

ML Jiriseth Sukhavasti, chief life officer at AIA Thailand, said international markets only knew about martial law, as insurance companies will not cover customers who travel to countries with this law. Therefore, even though Thailand has replaced martial law with Article 44, foreign insurance companies will cover their policyholders who travel in Thailand.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Koh Samui

Blackout on Koh Samui, Koh Pha Ngan after navy ship anchor damages underwater cable

The Thaiger

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Blackout on Koh Samui, Koh Pha Ngan after navy ship anchor damages underwater cable | The Thaiger
Photo via Facebook/โฆษกกองทัพเรือ (Royal Thai Navy spokesperson)

A widespread blackout swept over Koh Samui and Koh Pha Ngan after a Thai navy ship anchor dropped on an underwater cable which supplies power to the islands in the Gulf of Thailand off the Surat Thani coast.

The 115kv cable runs from Nakhon Si Thammarat’s Khanom district to Koh Samui. The anchor damaged the cable about 2 kilometres out from the island, blacking out the tambons Bo Phut, Mae Nam and Maret, the Provincial Electricity Authority district manager Jakkrit Meedet told the Bangkok Post. The repair will take several days.

On the PEA Koh Samui Facebook page, the authority said electricity supply will be circulated for 1 hour per area and outage for 3 hours per area. Additional power generators are being sent to the island today. The authority is still supplying electricity to hospitals on the islands.

Apparently a similar incident happened back in 2018, Jakkrit says, and 6 mobile power-generating trucks were used to supply electricity to the island.

SOURCES: Bangkok Post | Facebook

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

AstraZeneca rollout confirmed for Thursday, with PM first in line

Maya Taylor

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AstraZeneca rollout confirmed for Thursday, with PM first in line | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Flickr

First, there was the unexpected arrival of the AstraZeneca vaccine on the same day Thailand took delivery of the Chinese one. Then there was the announcement that PM Prayut Chan-o-cha was too old for China’s Sinovac jab and would get the AstraZeneca one instead. And then there was the delay to the PM’s inoculation, blamed on paperwork that was missing from the AstraZeneca shipment. Now, finally, the rollout of the Oxford University/AstraZeneca jab is scheduled for Thursday and the PM will be first in line.

The Bangkok Post reports that Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul has confirmed that quality checks on the 117,000 AstraZeneca doses are nearly complete and the PM will be vaccinated this week.

“(The rollout of) AstraZeneca vaccines in Thailand will take place on March 11 at the earliest, with the PM to be the first to receive the vaccine.”

According to Anutin, a number of senior politicians, including the foreign affairs minister and the acting education minister, have requested the AstraZeneca jab. Those over the age of 60 are being prioritised, while younger people will receive the Chinese vaccine, whose efficacy and safety have not been tested in those over 60.

Meanwhile, the Health Minister adds that China has asked for Thailand’s help in inoculating 200,000 Chinese citizens living in the Kingdom. Beijing has also floated the idea of making Thailand a regional vaccination centre for Chinese people living in the ASEAN region and says it will provide the necessary vaccines for free.

Thailand’s Public Health Ministry has confirmed it will issue vaccination certificates to everyone who receives the required 2 doses of a Covid-19 vaccine. Apisamai Srirangson from the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration says such certificates have been approved by the World Health Organisation and can be used in the future to obtain a vaccine passport.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Economy

Economic think-tank says the future of tourism in Thailand hangs on vaccination

Maya Taylor

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Economic think-tank says the future of tourism in Thailand hangs on vaccination | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Wikimedia

The research division of Thailand’s Kasikorn Bank says everything hangs on vaccination strategies, both here and abroad. Kevalin Wangpichayasuk from the Kasikorn Research Centre says the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines globally will have a significant impact on the recovery of tourism in the Kingdom, with 2 million foreign tourists expected to arrive in the last quarter of the year. However, she points out that this is a huge drop from tourism’s hey day and the country will still be heavily reliant on the domestic market.

“Thailand’s path to economic recovery will mostly depend on the tourism industry (outlook) as to when the country will reopen for foreign tourist arrivals. The Covid-19 vaccines and the (re-opening) policy of each country will have a significant impact on the recovery of Thailand’s tourism industry in 2021.”

According to a Bangkok Post report, Kevalin says the rollout of vaccines in countries from where most visitors to Thailand originate, coupled with the administration of vaccines in the Kingdom, will be instrumental in how quickly tourism recovers. Specifically, the revival of foreign tourism hinges on vaccine rollouts in 10 countries, including China, Japan, the US, and several European nations, as well as the progress of the Thai government’s Covid-19 vaccine programme.

“Other crucial factors are whether Thailand’s quarantine period is reduced, the clarity of vaccine passport policy, and if countries would allow their citizens to travel to Thailand.”

The Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration has announced that the mandatory quarantine period may be reduced for vaccinated arrivals from October. The proposal will go to the CCSA board, chaired by PM Prayut Chan-o-cha, on Monday.

Last year, Thailand welcomed just 6.7 foreign visitors, a year-on-year decline of over 83%. In January, the number of international tourists was 7,694, a massive year-on-year drop of 99.8%. The current mandatory quarantine of 14 days is widely seen as the most significant obstacle in the battle to revive the sector.

The Kasikorn Research Centre says the Kingdom’s GDP is expected to grow by 2.6% in 2021, primarily due to a recovery in exports, various economic stimulus measures, and Covid-19 containment measures being less severe than last year. However, the think-tank warns that should the number of foreign visitors not reach the expected 2 million, that growth forecast could drop.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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