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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Amnesty bill begins; Democrats happy with rally; Nok Air plane slides off runway; Corals damaged in oil spill areas

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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Amnesty bill begins; Democrats happy with rally; Nok Air plane slides off runway; Corals damaged in oil spill areas | The Thaiger
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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH
– Thailand news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Parliament begins amnesty bill process
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: The controversial amnesty bill cruised through the initial parliamentary process last night when the House voted 301-160 against a proposal by opposition and Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva to postpone deliberations on the bill. Last night’s vote kick-started a process for the first reading that is certain to be hotly debated and see an increase in political tensions.

The vote followed a long intermission and closing statements from the two sides, made by Abhisit himself and Pheu Thai MP Sunai Chulpongsatorn. The Pheu Thai-led government, which pushed for the bill, and the opposition had spent almost five hours debating other issues and engaging in related protests, which were seen as a tactic by the opposition to waste time.

After the vote, Democrat MP and opposition whip chief Jurin Laksanawisit made a final attempt to halt the process by making a plea to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra – who was absent throughout yesterday’s session – to withdraw the bill, citing political tensions.

The Democrats yesterday tried to shoot down the amnesty bill proposed by Pheu Thai MP Worachai Hema during the House meeting, claiming the bill was a financial law that needed the prime minister’s prior endorsement.

Democrat leaders started the anti-amnesty bill campaign in the morning with a march by thousands of supporters to Parliament. But the supporters had to go home after police refused to allow them inside the zone around Parliament covered by the Internal Security Act.

In Parliament, there were protests from the Democrats before and after Worachai successfully proposed and read his bill to the House.

Democrat Party and opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva and his MPs told the floor that Worachai’s bill is a financial law that needs the prime minister’s endorsement prior to deliberation.

“The content is about demanding compensation and allocating a budget to pay for rebuilding the burned buildings [during the protest]. Any bill that imposes a financial obligation on the government needs the PM’s endorsement,” he said.

Article 143 of the current Constitution states that in case of doubt as to whether a bill is a financial bill which requires the endorsement of the prime mMinister or not, it shall be the power of a joint sitting of the House Speaker and President of the all standing committees to make a decision thereon.

So, if there is doubt whether any bill is a financial law, the House Speaker needs to call a meeting of 35 chairmen of House committees to decide, Abhisit pointed out.

Abhisit also asked House Speaker Somsak Kiatsuranont to explain why he made different decisions on the amnesty bill and a reconciliation bill proposed by Sonthi Boonyaratglin. Somsak had once decided that the Sonthi bill was a financial law and had called a meeting of 35 committee chairmen to decide. “If the process is not legal it could lead to legal trouble. And we will ask for a judicial review for sure,” Abhisit said.

Somsak said some MPs, including himself, had doubts about the Sonthi bill hence he had called the meeting.

“But I and the bill’s sponsor have no doubt about Worachai’s amnesty bill,” he said.

The Democrats and the ruling Pheu Thai MPs also locked horns over technical issues. While the Democrats claimed that anyone can raise an issue over whether a law is a financial law, Pheu Thai argued that it was a right reserved for only the House speaker or a bill’s sponsor. MPs from the Pheu Thai camp also insisted that the bill is not a financial law.

Democrat MP Atavit Suwannapakdee said last October a court had ordered convicted arsonists who torched the Udon Thani City Hall to pay for the damage. If the amnesty bill was passed, who would take responsibility for the compensation, he asked.

After three hours of debate, Abhisit proposed that the amnesty bill be postponed to discuss more important issues, including the oil spill, and the meeting agreed to vote for it. A 10-minute intermission was ordered before the vote, two-thirds for the postponement, to be agreed on, as of press time.

Earlier, Somsak had to order a break during Worachai’s reading of the bill to the House. Before Worachai read the bill, a Democrat MP from Yala, Prasert Pongsuwansiri, suggested that the House postpone the State Audit Bill, which was passed by a vetting committee and placed on the agenda for its second reading, ahead of the amnesty bill. But Worachai continued to read his proposal. After that some Democrat MPs shouted in protest so Somsak ordered the break.

Before the House deliberated the amnesty bills, the House took around one hour to protest against Somsak. MPs from the Democrat Party raised their concerns about the obstruction at the entrance to Parliament as some of their assistants were barred from entering the venue.

Democrats pleased with symbolic rally
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: The Democrats are happy with their symbolic anti-government challenge yesterday, although the rally was dispersed before noon, a Democrat source said.

According to a key Democrat member, the opposition party had accomplished its goal with a symbolic fight against the amnesty bill, confirming the number of supporters and alerting the community to keep a close eye on the deliberations.

Thousands of Democrat supporters who accompanied the MPs in the rally against the amnesty bill were told to go home yesterday after police refused to allow them into the Internal Security Act-imposed area near Parliament House.

They were blocked near the Rajavithi intersection and informed that anti-government protesters were not allowed to march to Parliament with Democrat MPs.

Democrat leaders, including Abhisit Vejjajiva, Chuan Leekpai and Suthep Thaugsuban, yesterday morning led thousands of protesters from the rally site near the Urupong intersection to Parliament to protest against the amnesty bill.

Former Democrat secretary-general Suthep Thaugsuban told them this was not the final round. The Democrats had vowed to keep on fighting the amnesty bill and would step up activities when the bill was passed on the third reading.

He told supporters to look forward to the next “Reveal the Truth” rally.

“Now people can see how the government is trying very hard to block us when our supporters just want to send us off to Parliament. They now realise [the situation] and the pressure will increase. When the bill is passed on the third reading, the pressure will make them more than ready to fight,” the source, a key person in the Democrats’ “Reveal the Truth” rally but did not want to be named, said.

He said the idea to lead supporters to Parliament came in a meeting of the party’s strategic team last week and was developed over the weekend.

“A key message that we have kept in mind is that, ‘whatever the Democrats do today [yesterday], will be recorded in history.’ Therefore, we cannot allow any violence,” he said. He added there was an informal agreement that protesters from the People’s Army to Overthrow the Thaksin Regime, who have been rallying at Lumpini Park, should not join them.

Groups testing the water

Another reason the two anti-government groups acted separately yesterday was to test the water on how many people really supp

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Thailand

Alcohol ban for the end of Buddhist Lent this Friday

Maya Taylor

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Alcohol ban for the end of Buddhist Lent this Friday | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Coconuts

An alcohol ban is looming for this coming Friday, as Buddhists mark the end of the Lent period. While officials have so far remained silent on the possibility of a ban on the purchase and consumption of alcohol, previous years have seen one implemented at the end of Buddhist Lent. The ban has not been formally announced but our Thai staff have confirmed that it will be in place.

The Buddhist Lent is when monks finish their 3 month retreat and leave the temples to travel and resume normal life. It also marks the end (in theory) of Thailand’s rainy season. This year, the end of Buddhist Lent falls on Friday, October 2, and is almost certain to bring a ban on alcohol sales, as in previous years.

This will mean bars, clubs, and other nightlife venues will need to close from midnight the night before, and cannot re-open until midnight Friday night/Saturday morning. The ban on alcohol sales will also apply to supermarkets, hotels, and restaurants.

As with similar alcohol bans, the enforcement by officials can be ‘selective’ but will attract a fine if caught.

SOURCE: The Pattaya News

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Kanchanaburi

Luxury resort built on national park land given demolition order

Maya Taylor

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Luxury resort built on national park land given demolition order | The Thaiger
PHOTO: www.thailandadventureguide.com

“Tear it down, or we will.”

That’s the ultimatum officials have given the owner of a luxury resort built on national park land in Kanchanaburi, western Thailand. The Phatsapada Resort, which consists of 17 chalets, has been built on land belonging to Khao Laem National Park. A demolition order, posted outside the property yesterday, gives the owner 7 days in which to pull it down.

“Failure to do so will see officials take charge of the demolition, at a cost of 200,000 baht, which the owner will be obliged to pay.”

The Bangkok Post reports that the resort was recently inherited by the heirs of its former owner, Ms Jarupha Detchinda, after she died. It’s understood Jarupha represented an alleged “high-ranking member of the military” who built the resort, according to Niphon Chamnongsirisak, from the Protected Areas Regional Office 3.

Jarupha had previously been fined 30,000 baht and sentenced to 6 months’ imprisonment in January 2018. She was also required to pay 103,379 baht to the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation. A subsequent appeal upheld the prison term, but suspended it for 2 years, and her fine was reduced to 10,000 baht.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Top 10

Top 10 things that changed in Thailand during the Covid outbreak

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Top 10 things that changed in Thailand during the Covid outbreak | The Thaiger

Things have changed. In some cases they’ve changed a lot and may never be the same again. Many people are suffering as a result of the impacts of lockdowns and the border closures. Entire industries, like aviation and entertainment, have been profoundly affected. Some people are being forced to re-invent their lives as a result. Fears over Covid-19 are causing people to change their habits and re-evaluate their lives. Here are some of the main things we believe have changed since January this year.

Face Masks

The now ever-present face mask will be with us for a long time. In Asia, it was never uncommon to see people wearing face masks for traffic, air pollution, fears of disease or just as a fashion statement.

In the Covid-era, mask wearing will now just become part of what we wear when in public spaces. When we leave home we’ll check if we have our keys, our wallet AND our face mask. Even when the government relaxes the current laws about the wearing of face masks, most people, we predict, will continue to wear them anyway, at least in the medium to long term.

Taking Your Temperature

It’s everywhere, it doesn’t appear to be very effective or reliable, but it’s not uncommon to have your temperature taken by someone pointing an infra-red thermometer at your head numerous times a day. The only people that appear to have benefitted from these temperature checks are the manufacturers of infra-red temperature check machines. But in the Covid-era they remain an ever-present reassurance that at least businesses are trying and want to be seen as contributing to the broader public health safety.

Xenophobia

Top 10 things that changed in Thailand during the Covid outbreak | News by The Thaiger

As Thais have pondered the reason their shops closing, their tourist customers vanishing and their income dropping, thoughts turn to the foreigners that brought the virus here in the first place…. and the vast majority of new cases recently, from OVERSEAS!

Either real or imagined, xenophobia and racism always creep in during times of national stress. Many politicians perpetuate the fears to their advantage and right-wing groups thrive on the blame game.

During Covid-19, Thailand has been a wonderful host to the hundreds of thousands of foreigners stuck here to share this testing time. And many foreigners have responded to the crisis by volunteering their time and resources to help struggling locals get through the worst of the local lockdowns and closures.

There has been a few, luckily very few, outbursts by some mis-informed Thai politicians, journalists and local keyboard warriors expressing their frustrations and targeting the foreigners as the butt of their frustrations.

Flying in the Covid-era

While the domestic carriers are all flying again, they’re doing it tough. Planes are sometimes half-empty and there’s certainly less choice of times and destinations, compared to before the Covid travel restrictions set in.

But it hasn’t stopped the budget airlines from making the situation extremely competitive with the fares still very low. The aviation industry will certainly re-emerge with fewer airlines as some will be unable to weather the Covid storm. Even the Thai government’s announcement of soft-loans to airlines, with 2% interest, will do little to help and simply kicks the bankruptcy can down the road a few more months.

Confidence

Many business had to close during the lockdown. Some have re-opened. Others tried to re-open but have since closed again. Some are struggling along as best they can, tweaking their business models to cope. But people, through fear or simply being unable to afford it, are going out less and spending less. People are rediscovering the values of close communities, family or the joys of Netflix and at-home entertainment.

The impacts of recessions across the region will have long-lasting, profound effects on consumer confidence and behaviour. People’s renewed confidence will lag behind any eventual economic recoveries.

Eating Out

There’s been few clear winners in all this Covid mess. But delivery companies are one of them and the local motorcycle delivery services in particular. Grab Food and Food Panda are just two examples of the new way we eat and many restaurants are changing their table service model, and even their take away services, to suit the new normal of food-on-demand. Some restaurants have even closed their doors forever and turned into virtual restaurants, delivering food exclusively through the convenience of app ordering and delivery.

Even as the situation has eased to a large degree in Thailand where a lot of daily living is back to ‘normal’, people simply aren’t going out as much, have pivoted to the delivery services for some shopping and eating, and finding new ways of running their lives, closer to home and with less household outlay.

The Travel Industry

Apart from the obvious lack of international tourism, there’s no doubt we’re simply going to be travelling less in the short to medium term. Many people will be unable to afford the long holidays of the pastand may travel less, or not at all. For business we’ve found efficient ways to keep in contact without meeting face to face. Had anyone ever heard of “zoom’ video conferencing software before Covid?

For the communities that relied on tourism, the changes in their situation has been profound. Businesses are having to reinvent their model to cater for domestic tourism or simply find other ways to diversify their business plan, or just wait out the situation. That wait will eventually kill off a large chunk of local and foreign businesses.

The Economy

Thailand is in recession. So is everywhere else, and the situation, sadly, is likely to get worse as the Covid-era stretches out beyond 2020 and restrictions hold back investment. Some previously good businesses are now out of business. Businesses that were struggling before have been proven unsustainable and closed, probably never to re-open.

Globally, the government stimulus poured into local economies has caused artificial spikes in some stock markets. All this debt will need to be repaid at some stage. In other countries, where the government paid salaries for companies that were forced to close up or sack staff, are finding it hard to ween people off the grants and get them back to work.

In Thailand the economy has been hit hard, particularly in the export , tourism and hospitality industries. The downstream effects of all the staff losing their work, will have an effect on the local economy for many years.

Thailand, reliant on international tourism, has found itself exposed once the borders were closed. As the situation extends way past the ‘few months’ people were expecting, the full impact is starting to hit hard, particularly in places like Pattaya, Phuket and Chiang Mai. Their reliance on tourism has exposed their economies and left thousands wondering what else they can do to sustain themselves.

Whilst Thailand has recovered quickly from past political unrest, tsunamis and past pandemic threats, this time there will be a much longer path to recovery and will force many businesses to re-evaluate their businesses.

Work from home

Both Thailand’s commercial property market and businesses that have previously had centralised offices, have seen a big shift in behaviour. Driven by the need to work from home during the lockdown in April and May, many businesses magically discovered that they can actually function perfectly well with their employees working from home. The flow-on effects of all this is reducing traffic on the roads, lighter peak traffic loads, flexible hours and, of course, larger businesses wondering why they’ve been renting all this expensive commercial building space. Freelance work is a boom industry as company’s work forces move online instead of in-office.

The red light industries

The reality has certainly hit home for tens of thousands of Thailand’s sex workers. Although not officially recognised in Thailand, prostitution has been a huge local underground (and not-so-underground) industry in the past, creating its own micro-economy involving locals and international tourists.

Without official government acknowledgment, the jobs of Thai sex workers are not recognised and their salaries vanish once the bars and borders close. No rights, no unemployment pay. The number of prostitutes in Thailand is upwards of 100,000, and these workers have had to head home, many back to the northern and northeast provinces. Thailand’s red light districts were locked down for almost 3 months and bars and clubs, and the bar girls and boys, have been struggling ever since.

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