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Martial law more bad news for embattled tourism industry

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Martial law more bad news for embattled tourism industry | The Thaiger

PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

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

Martial law more bad news for embattled tourism industry
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: Tourists may start avoiding Thailand in droves now that the military has declared martial law, as many countries have issued advisories warning their citizens about the political crisis here.

Travel and related associations yesterday met with tourism authorities to hash out some measures to deal with the expected negative impact on the entire tourism industry.

Martial law was declared early yesterday. The military stated that it intended to preserve law and order more efficiently after the crisis dragged on for months without any solution in sight.

Chidchai Sakonbadi, vice president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents (ATTA), said the tourism industry had been in decline now for more than six months since the political conflict flared up. More than 50 countries have issued travel warnings, mostly advising their citizens to avoid travelling in protest areas.

“I expect that we may not attract a lot of tourists now because of this martial law,” he said.

According to the Department of Tourism, the number of visitors to the country may fall by 5 per cent this year, the biggest drop since 2009. In the first four months, arrivals were down by 4.9 per cent from a year earlier, to 8.62 million.

Bank of Thailand statistics showed that three-month advance bookings for hotels in Thailand were 26 per cent in March, compared with 32 per cent a year ago, while the occupancy rate was 58 per cent compared with 72 per cent a year earlier.

Mario Hardy, chief operations officer at Pacific Asia Travel Association in Bangkok, warned that the announcement of martial law would not be good for Bangkok tourism.

ATTA, for its part, urged the military to repeal the law as soon as possible to regain tourists’ confidence, especially from short-haul markets.

ATTA members are advising tourists who arrive in the Kingdom to adjust their schedules and head to places other than Bangkok, such as Chiang Mai, Phuket or Samui. The association is also working with travel associations in the provinces to come up with strategies.

James Ramage, group managing director for sales and marketing at one of the giant inbound operators, Diethelm Travel Group, yesterday advised all visitors to Bangkok to avoid protest sites and surrounding areas, political rallies and marches, as previously communicated.

However, beach resorts and other destinations within Thailand have not been affected by the political situation and the airports and other transportation systems are running as normal.

Thai Airways International, AirAsia and Singapore Airlines affirmed they would continue operating, but strongly recommended that passengers allow at least three hours’ travel time to either of Bangkok’s airports and closely follow traffic updates.

— 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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