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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Amnesty is over; Bangkok ATMs hacked; Russian boy in ferry tragedy dies

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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Amnesty is over; Bangkok ATMs hacked; Russian boy in ferry tragedy dies | The Thaiger

PHUKET MEDIA WATCH
– Thailand news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Push for amnesty has ended: PM
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: As opposition rises and protests spread to key areas of capital, govt withdraws all six draft bills from the house

The embattled Pheu Thai government yesterday yielded further to the spreading public outrage over the bill for blanket amnesty by withdrawing all draft amnesty bills from the legislature, except the one to be debated by the Senate today.

The move came after many groups of people staged protests at different locations in Bangkok, some even moving into the area where the Internal Security Act (ISA) has been imposed by the Cabinet and some even calling on the government to “get out”.

The Network of Students and People for Thailand’s Reform, which yesterday moved their protest closer to Government House, now plan to campaign for the Yingluck government’s ouster, according to group leader Uthai Yodmanee.

A number of people yesterday also called on the prime minister to dissolve the House of Representatives and call a new election to “return the power to the people”. These included Ramkhamhaeng University rector Wuthisak Lapcharoensap and a number of senators.

Senate Speaker Nikom Wairajpanit brought forward a meeting of the upper house today, from next Monday, to discuss the amnesty bill passed last week by the House of Representatives.

A source from the group of 40 senators said yesterday that they would not attend the meeting today in order to deprive it of quorum.

Bangkok Senator Rossana Tositrakul said there was an attempt to undermine the protesters’ legitimacy by rushing the Senate debate to approve the original amnesty bill proposed by Pheu Thai MP Worachai Hema. The original bill seeks amnesty for protesters who committed criminal offences during the recent political conflicts.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra affirmed yesterday that all draft bills related to amnesty have been withdrawn from the legislature. “I want to alleviate the people’s concern – the amnesty bill has already been dropped and all amnesty-related drafts are withdrawn,” she said.

The embattled premier has made statements on three successive days since Tuesday on the amnesty bill, aiming to pacify the anti-amnesty protesters.

She said her Pheu Thai Party had sought and received House approval to remove the draft legislation on political clemency. “The people should rest assured that the push for amnesty has ended,” she said.

Yingluck said there was no truth to the allegation that the amnesty bill was designed to void corruption cases. She also dismissed concerns that her government would crack down on the protests.

The prime minister said she wanted to see the restoration of peace and a return to normalcy. Therefore, only police were deployed to keep the peace, she said.

There were no plans to deploy soldiers to control the crowds, she said, pledging not to use force to disperse the rallies. She called for an end to the street protests. “My government will not do anything contrary to the people’s feelings,” she said.

She urged her opponents to submit their demands and grievances to the government instead of protesting on the streets.

The House yesterday cast a 310-1 vote to drop six draft bills related to political clemency. The six include the reconciliation bill sponsored by Matubhum Party leader Sonthi Boonyaratglin.

In removing his draft, Sonthi said he wanted the political conflict to end. “The country will become extinct should divisiveness persist,” he said, urging all sides to talk and forgive each other.

The remaining four bills were sponsored by Pheu Thai MPs.

Yesterday, thousands of Thammasat University lecturers, staff members and students marched from their Tha Phachan campus to the United Nations office on Rajdamnoen Road to show their opposition to the amnesty bill.

Surin Pitsuwan, former Asean secretary-general, also took part in the march.

At midday, a large group of people gathered near the Asoke intersection in a protest against the bill organised by the Business Club for Democracy. Another large group, organised by the Anti-Corruption Organisation of Thailand, gathered at the Ratchaprasong intersection in the evening. The protesters whistled for a long period to show their opposition.

Meanwhile, Air Force commander-in-chief ACM Prajin Jantong yesterday commented that the government’s retreat over the amnesty bill appeared to have reduced the political temperature. He suggested that a law should be written in a way that respects the legal principle and the public sentiment.

Political protests to take a toll on GDP growth: UTCC
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Gross domestic product growth could reach only 3.3-3.4 per cent, short of the forecast of 3.5 per cent, if the political tensions smoulder till the end of the year, the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce said.

“The government needs to solve the problem soon, as the political conflict is a key factor in destroying consumer confidence, tourism growth and investment. And it would hit the economy severely,” Thanavath Phonvichai, director of the university’s Economic and Business Forecasting Centre, said yesterday.

Consumer confidence has plunged to its lowest level in 19 months, amid concern over demonstrations against the blanket amnesty bill.

The Consumer Confidence Index has drifted down for the seventh month from 77.9 points in September to 76.6 last month. Other confidence indices and spending power also fell to their lowest in almost two years.

The expected drag on economic growth would come mainly from the fall of 5-10 per cent of foreign visitors and the loss of Bt10 billion-Bt20 billion from their spending.

The economy next year would expand only 4.8-5 per cent instead of 5.1 per cent.

Based on 1,200 survey responses, if the demonstration is prolonged to the end of this year, and some serious conflict arises, the economy would expand by only 3-3.2 per cent this year, or Bt30 billion to Bt60 billion less than it should have, as arrivals would drop 10-20 per cent.

Economic growth next year would be only 4.8-5 per cent.

In the worst-case scenario, growth could go down to 3-3.2 per cent this year and recover to only 4.5-4.7 per cent next year, if the political mess extends into next year.

The ball is now in the government’s court. It could do its best to calm down the situation if it was still worried about the economy.

“The lower confidence and the current chaos were caused by an unnecessary event. The government needs to fix the situation as quickly as possible. Confidence has dropped to nearly the lowest point of the political turmoil in 2010,” he said.

Saowanee Thairungroj, president of the university, said the poll suggests that the government should withdraw the amnesty bill as the best solution to end the current political strife.

Other possibilities are to amend the draft bill, create a better understanding of the proposed act, conduct a public survey before passing the bill and focus more on economic growth.

Almost 70 per cent of the respondents believe the political confrontations would end if the government kills the bill. About 20 per cent said the protests would disperse if the government revised some details, and almost 10 per cent said the demonstrations would disa

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Business

Thai Airways must modify rehabilitation plan to survive: Airline President

The Thaiger & The Nation

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Thai Airways must modify rehabilitation plan to survive: Airline President | The Thaiger

PHOTO: gta5-mods.com

“Thai Airways will have to modify its rehabilitation plans to survive in the face of tight competition.” This frank admission by the airline’s president Sumet Damrongchaith.

The national carrier is now carrying a total debt of over 2.45 billion baht and losses of more than 20 billion, despite being able to reduce its debts by 48 billion baht over the past five years.

Sumet says the first step will be to restructure the airline’s management and finances as well as reconsider its plan to spend 1.5 billion baht on 38 new aircraft. He admits the biggest problem is that Thai Airways has low capital but a high debt-to-equity ratio of eight times.

In order to maintain its competitiveness, the carrier will have to reduce its debts versus assets and boost its working capital with support from the ministries of Transport and Finance. Hence, it plans to borrow approximately 3.2 billion baht in fiscal 2020 in line with the budget limit set by the Office of Public Debt Management.

This loan will be taken to support the airline’s investments as well as for its working capital, to update equipment and maintain existing aircraft, but will not be used to repay old debts.

The Nation also reports that the airline is also concerned about maintaining its liquidity because at the end of June this year, its revolving credit line stood at 13.4% of the total revenue forecast for 2019.

Sumet admits that, though the original rehabilitation plan has a set framework, the situation has now changed due to the appreciation of the baht, so in order to achieve goals, the work method has to be redesigned, such as finding a way to procure more passengers.

“We are now in the process of analysing new markets.”

Meanwhile, Thai Aiways’ board chairman Aek-Niti Nitithan-Praphas says the board is reconsidering plans to procure a new fleet taking into consideration the state of the global and domestic economies as well as the US-China trade war.

“The growth of the tourism industry and the airlines’ financial status needs to be reviewed in line with strong competition and routes that are no longer popular. It’s better to carefully revise the plan instead of exposing the airline to greater risk. The target should be reduce expenses by 20%.”

Meanwhile, Thai Airways aims to boost the sale of tickets, find ways of increasing online shopping of duty-free goods and reducing unnecessary expenses by 10%without affecting the quality of service in the last three months of 2019.

The airline is also negotiating the option of cutting down overtime expenses and is looking into curbing losses incurred by it’s semi-budget offshoot Thai Smile by increasing its flying hours to 10.5 hours daily. These steps are expected to help the airline reach breakeven point in the short term.

The airline is also considering long-term goals such roping in more passengers by offering greater benefits to Royal Orchid Plus members, focusing on digital marketing, retiring non-performing assets as well as increasing revenue from related businesses such as kitchens and aircraft repair centres.

SOURCE: The Nation

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Expats

Thai app will ease expat immigration woes and make 90 day reporting simple

May Taylor

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Thai app will ease expat immigration woes and make 90 day reporting simple | The Thaiger

The “OSS Foreigner” app is coming, and you will be able to use it for 90 day reporting, according to the Secretary-General at the office of the PM.

Dr Kobsak Pootrakool says the planned app can be used for all immigration reporting, including 90 day reports, adding that typing in the required data and uploading a selfie will accomplish the same result as filling out paperwork at the local immigration office but without having to make the trip there.

Dr Kobsak has been given responsibility for sorting out the TM30 debate and says the immigration app, called OSS Foreigner, is nearly complete and should make all those who live and work in Thailand feel more welcome and make compliance easier and more convenient.

The TM30 form, and its companion, the TM28, have been a source of expat displeasure over the past five months since the immigration department decided to enforce a little-used 1979 law that required foreigners to report their whereabouts if they had stayed overnight at an address different from their registered address.

This latest move comes as part of a wider program to make Thai public services more efficient, with Dr Kobsak making the announcement while outlining plans for all Thai government departments to embrace digital technology by as early as 2022. Meanwhile, the Deputy PM Somkid Jatusripitak is championing a programme to improve Thai public services for both Thai citizens and foreigners.

“The government’s new approach to IT and digital technology is designed to deliver a smarter, easier service as part of the Thailand 4.0 economic model.”

SOURCE: The Pattaya News

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Crime

Karaoke premises raided in central Thailand, 3 underage sex workers rescued

May Taylor

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Karaoke premises raided in central Thailand, 3 underage sex workers rescued | The Thaiger

The Nation reports that 3 underage sex workers have been rescued after raids on a karaoke restaurant and a karaoke massage parlour in Ang Thong, central Thailand.

The raids were confirmed at a press conference held by Ronnarong Thipsiri, Head of the Department of Provincial Administration’s investigation and suppression division, along with Sakda Bandasak, sheriff of Ang Thong’s Muang district. Ronnarong alleges both premises were using the underage girls as prostitutes.

“We collaborated with Damrong Dhama Centre and anti-human trafficking organisations and learnt that two karaoke joints in Ang Thong were employing underage sex workers. These were the Chil Chil Karaoke on Highway No. 3064, Pa Ngiew sub district of Muang district, and Jittra Karaoke on the ground floor of a hotel in Muang district.”

During the raids, police identified 6 sex workers offering services to a group of customers. Four of the girls were Thai and two were from Laos. Three were under the age of 18, with the youngest being 15 years old. A large number of used condoms were also found.

Somjit Phetwijit and Aphirom Pheungpracha, the owners of Chil Chil Karaoke and Jittra Karaoke respectively were arrested and charged with human trafficking, solicitation of prostitution, prostitution of an underage person, and opening an entertainment facility without a licence.

A 17 year old girl from Jittra Karaoke told the press she was hired to sit and drink with clients and was paid 50 baht each time a client ordered a drink.

“Clients can buy sex for 1,500 baht a time or pay 3,500 baht for a whole night. They can either use massage rooms in the back or bring the girls to other hotels of their choice.”

SOURCE: The Nation

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