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Missing temple cleric charged over court grenade attack

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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

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

Missing temple cleric charged over court grenade attack
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: Police yesterday took custody of a key suspect – accused of involvement in the grenade attack on the Criminal Court – from the military.

The woman was then charged with terrorism and criminal conspiracy for her alleged roles in the March 7 attack and also allegedly planning attacks on four other locations in Bangkok.

Natthathida Meewangpla, or Waen, was reported to have been taken away by military officials on March 11, according to a human rights group.

Free Thai Legal Aid coordinator Winyat Chartmontree said on the FTLA Facebook page that two uniformed Army officers and three others in plain clothes were seen entering her Samut Prakan home and taking the former volunteer nurse away.

On Monday the National Council for Peace and Order and Army spokesman Coll Winthai Suvari denied that the military had apprehended or detained Ms Natthathida. However, yesterday he was forced to backtrack on that.

First Army Area commander Lt Gen Kampanart Ruddit said the apprehension and questioning of high-profile suspects was conducted secretly in accordance with martial law. But he said all suspects would be processed openly once police take over their cases, with evidence from the military.

Gen Kampanart said all actions of the military had not been reported to him, as commander of the military’s security force. That was why Col Winthai made the denial about Ms Natthathida on Monday, he explained.

Senior police investigator Chaiyaphol Chatchaidej accused Ms Natthathida of seeking people to carry out five attacks through a suspect – Suraphol Iamsuwan – as well as deciding on the locations for each attack, at a price of 10,000 baht for each.

The grenade attack at the Criminal Court on March 7 was the second, but number four among five targets chosen under the plan.

A second pair of attackers was recruited and contacted by another suspect, Wirasak Towongjorn, an alias for ‘Yai Pattaya’, who is on the run, Maj Gen Chaiyaphol said.

FTLA officer Winyat said yesterday that Ms Natthathida was a key witness in the fatal shooting of six people in Wat Pathum Wanaram temple after the military dispersed the red shirts’ protest in Bangkok on May 19, 2010.

Her disappearance, albeit brief, was an obstruction to the ongoing trial over the temple shootings.

He called on the NCPO to do things in a straightforward manner, saying that apprehending Waen or any citizens without notification to relatives was violated people’s rights.

Separately, the Criminal Court yesterday handed a five-month prison term for contempt of court to motorcycle rider Mahahin Khunthong and grenade-thrower Yutthana Yenphinyo. who were arrested by soldiers shortly after carrying out the Criminal Court attack.

The two men were among 16 suspects accused of related crimes. This includes three still on the run.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Pattaya

Pattaya – fighting to survive its Covid crisis

The Thaiger

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Pattaya – fighting to survive its Covid crisis | The Thaiger

Pattaya, like some of Thailand’s other former tourist hotspots, is facing some critical challenges. Hundreds of thousands of workers have left the city because there’s simply no work and up to 50% of the city’s shops are closed, some never to re-open. The Thaiger filmed most of this video on a long weekend at the end of October, the busiest Pattaya had been in 7 months.

Please LIKE the video and SUBSCRIBE to the Thaiger YouTube channel…

As Thailand struggles along without the benefit of its usual tourist traffic, four key former tourist magnets are facing particular hardships. Phuket, Koh Samui, Chiang Mai… and Pattaya. Whilst there are patches of business activity, just about everything connected directly with the city’s tourism business are perilously quiet, particularly on weekdays. That means the employees, the business owners, their families, the landlords and their bank are all suffering as the chain of woes reaches deep into Pattaya’s broader community.

Despite the Thai government’s attempts to deny the true reason for Pattaya’s popularity over the past 6 years, including the annual walk-through the city’s red light hot spots and declaring there was no crime or prostitution, the sleazier side of Pattaya has continued to grow, with a growing number of proprietors trying to glean an income out of a slowly declining western patronage. Things were changing and business was getting tighter long before the Covid-19 and Thailand’s border closures.

n 2016, Thailand’s first female Minister of Tourism, Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, announced that Thailand was “closed to the sex trade”. Walking Street was to be gentrified and some of the red lights moved back from the foreshore to establish new bar and bar girl districts.

Several NGO reports have published the number of prostitutes in Pattaya were between 27,000 up to 30,000, depending on the report you read. The plight for these sex workers, post Covid, is bleak. As their work wasn’t officially recognised they weren’t able to access any of the government’s unemployment stimulus payments and weren’t protected under any of the country’s labour laws. Luckily for some of them, their employees worked hard to help them through the crisis. One of those is manager Timmy who works for the Night Wish Group.At their peak they ran up to 29 bars in Pattaya. Many of those have closed. At the moment they have about 13 open, as of the end of October.

For now Pattaya’s red lights have dimmed somewhat although it’s hardly all closed up. Some of the bars have also pivoted to an online model, with mixed results, where the bar girls, and bar boys, are able to ‘chat’ to online customers, viewers can buy them drinks and business continues as usual. Some bars have even stayed closed and are going 100% online with their digital bars. One proprietor told The Thaiger the online bar scene had become very lucrative but was unsure how long the novelty would last.

Apart from the steep decline in total tourist traffic, there’s been a big change in the mix, now mostly domestic tourists. Many businesses are switching up their business models to suit. Many just closed down, seemingly waiting it out to see what happens.

With much of the city’s old workforce abandoning Pattaya and heading home, there are still pockets of local life where communities have banded together to help each other through, whilst waiting for some sort of normality to return. For the tourist areas, mostly closer to the beaches, businesslike is patchy indeed.

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Tourism

Pattaya springs back to life over the long weekend, more to come

The Thaiger

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Pattaya springs back to life over the long weekend, more to come | The Thaiger
PHOTO: The Pattaya News

Pattaya, struggling along for the past 7 months with a handful of domestic tourists and Bangkok weekenders, has had its busiest weekend for a long time, albeit a long weekend created by the public holiday in commemoration of King Chulongkorn. Much of the increased traffic were Thai faces, a big change to the city’s old demographic of international tourists and expats.

Tourists flocked to the city for the long weekend which included the Eastern Colorful Food, Culture and Music festival stretching along the Beach Road foreshore.

The focus of the weekend’s events was the Beach Road which was visibly busy with expats, locals and tourists joining in the foreshore festival, talent shows, music concerts and local food. Central Festival, in the middle of the Beach Road, hosted a range of activities and shows.

Several proprietors with businesses in the city’s red light areas also told The Thaiger that it was the busiest they’d seen areas like Walking Street and Soi 6 since the tourist tap slowed to a dribble after the borders were closed down in late March.

The city, along with the rest of Thailand, might have a few more good weeks ahead with the Loy Krathong and Halloween celebrations. The Central Festival Bikini Beach Run is also being held next week. Around the corner the Fireworks Festival on November 27 and 28, a seafood festival, and not too far away, Christmas and New Year celebrations.

Speaking to a number of participants in the foreshore festival on Friday evening, some people said they’d come down from Bangkok to escape the threat of disruptions from the ongoing government protests. Chad said he needed a Bangkok Break…

“Just had to escape for the weekend and get out of the city. All anyone is talking about now is the protests and I needed a bit of Pattaya pampering.”

Another expat, working in the tourism sector, (who didn’t want to be named) noted that Pattaya’s famous (or infamous) nightlife had sprung back to life.

“It didn’t take long for the bargirls to flood back and the shutters open on the bars again. Most of the faces I’m seeing are Thai. I figure it may be the first visit to Pattaya for many of them. Let’s hope they keep coming.”

“Very happy to see the events and festivals are coming back to Pattaya. We will see more in the last 2 months of the year,” said Sawas Dee.

Beyond the foreshore area there was still much of the city still closed up and hotels were offering excellent rates through the usual OTAs. Pattaya is still in a struggle to keep its businesses open but at least the last 3 days have given a much-need boost to city life.

The Thaiger has a full story about Pattaya’s struggles on our YouTube channel tomorrow.

Watch a quick video from Sawas Dee here…

SOURCE: The Pattaya News

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Tourism

Bangkok Airways add 3 new local routes to their schedule

The Thaiger

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Bangkok Airways add 3 new local routes to their schedule | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Bangkok Airways' ATR72, servicing the re-introduced routes

Some domestic routes are being added as local routes continue to expand. This time Bangkok Airways has announced it’s resuming its Samui-Phuket, Phuket-Hat Yai and Phuket-Pattaya/Rayong (U-Tapao) flights.

The first additions to the schedule will be the Phuket-Samui flights resuming this Sunday, October 25, and the Phuket-Pattaya flights start again next Tuesday, October 27. The Phuket-Samui flights will be operating on Sundays and Wednesdays only on the airlines’ ATR72 turbo prop regional planes, same as before.

A casual search on the Bangkok Airways website, for a return flight from Phuket to Samui on November 1, then back to Phuket on November 8 indicates the cheapest fare (promo) is 2,430 baht. Coming back, the cheapest fare we found, again labelled ‘promo’, was 2,630 baht. Bangkok Airways operate as a “full service” airline and don’t compete with the country’s discount airlines. But they operate these three routes exclusively – like it or leave it.

Bangkok Airways say that the flights will be operated “with the highest preventive measures and standards”. Around the country the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand have eased a few of the onboard restrictions, including the start of catering services which were originally banned under the initial flight rules when domestic routes started flying again at the start of July.

The daily direct services between Phuket and Hat Yai are also being operated on the ATR72 aircraft. The flight to Ha Yai leaves Phuket at 8.40am and arrives at Hat Yai at 9:.45am. The return flights leave Hat Yai back to Phuket at 10.25am each day. The route was very popular for the airline before the ‘disruption’ when airlines had their fleets grounded in April.

The service between Phuket and U-Tapao, linking the party city with the party island, will operate on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, again with the ATR72. Phuket to U-Tapao will leave at 12.10pm and then from U-Tapao to Phuket at 4pm on the three days. U-Tapao is about a 50 minute drive from Pattaya and the airport also serves the greater Rayong area.

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