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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Army decries crisis decree; EC revises election strategy; Pregnant panda; Deep South toll surpasses tsunami

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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Army decries crisis decree; EC revises election strategy; Pregnant panda; Deep South toll surpasses tsunami | The Thaiger
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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH
– Thailand news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Army against crisis decree
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: The top brass disagree with the imposition of an emergency decree despite the People’s Democratic Reform Committee’s threat to “shut down” the capital on January 13 to force Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to step down, military sources said yesterday.

The armed forces have made it clear that the soldiers assigned to deal with the protesters will carry only batons and shields, so the emergency law would not be of much help to the government, a security source said.

The government is considering an emergency decree in light of possible civil unrest after PDRC leaders said they would stage a mass rally to step up pressure on the Yingluck government to leave office to pave the way for “reform” of the country.

At the Supreme Command Headquarters, a meeting of the commanders of all three branches and the national police chief was called to evaluate the political situation. Paradorn Pattanatabut, secretary-general of the National Security Council, which proposed the emergency decree, also attended the meeting.

Military sources said the top brass feared a repeat of the confrontation with protesters during the 2010 political riots. Besides, the military does not play a major role in riot-control operations, they said.

The security law was also not yet deemed necessary at this stage and in fact might aggravate the situation. It would undermine the country’s image and the economy, especially the stock market, which is sensitive to political instability.

The sources said imposing the Internal Security Act and deploying police to control the situation were adequate. Security and intelligence officials have been instructed to monitor the PDRC’s mobilising of protesters from January 5-8 to evaluate the situation.

Paradorn said a meeting with the government’s Centre for the Administration of Peace and Order, which Yingluck also attended on Wednesday, discussed whether to levy the emergency decree to handle defiant protesters and brace for possible violence.

Security officials were informed that protesters from the provinces were being drafted to gather in the capital.

The officials will assess again on Sunday whether the situation is moving in the direction that the PDRC leaders have announced.

“If violence erupts or the situation develops into something that creates public terror, it fits the criteria that we can use to activate the emergency decree,” he said.

Yingluck can enforce the emergency decree for three days and if she wants to extend the period, she needs the Cabinet’s approval, he said.

The pro-government red-shirt camp said it would counter the PDRC with a “Bangkok open up” campaign.

Jatuporn Promphan, a core leader of the red shirts, told a press conference that the time had come for the people, red-shirt protesters among them, to stand up and fight against what he called the elite’s network, which planned to recruit southerners to oust the elected government.

Seizing Bangkok would lead to civil war, he said.

“We are ready but it depends when we will make a move. If we lose democracy, we don’t know what will happen. This month is the month of ‘make or break’. Please wait for a signal from us. We will fight under peaceful principles,” he said.

He also asked other provinces to stage warm-up rallies starting on Sunday, the same day that PDRC leader Suthep Thaugsuban has called for a dry run before the real operation on January 13. Further details will be disclosed later, Jatuporn said.

The National Anti-Corruption Commission and the Constitutional Court are moving in the same direction against the government – a manoeuvring in accord with the PDRC’s declared Bangkok shutdown that, he claimed, will open the way for a coup.

Red-shirt leader Thida Tavornseth said a Bangkok shutdown would be a setback for Thailand and democracy.

Seizing the capital would cause problems for the public. The PDRC and the Democrat Party were only serving aristocrats who were intent on obstructing democracy, she added.

EC to try again to sort out candidate registrations
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: The Election Commission will try again today to decide what to do about the districts, mainly in the South, where MP constituency candidates were prevented from registering by barricades and other physical measures taken by protesters.

The EC met yesterday from 10am-1.15pm and was expected to reach an agreement on a course of action but concluded that there were not enough facts and legal details to come up with a concrete solution.

Secretary general Puchong Nutrawong said 123 candidates in the South failed to file applications and two political parties, including Pheu Thai, suggested extending the filing period, which has ended. The matter will be decided today. So far, 53 political parties and 1,272 candidates have registered.

Some people have lodged complaints that people had obstructed the election and that the EC was not punishing them, so the commission itself was guilty of dereliction of duty, he said. However, he insisted the EC was still collecting evidence to take criminal action against these people.

MP candidate Varanchai Chokchana has suggested that the remaining candidates be allowed to file online, but the commissioners were worried about the authenticity of that method and have no experience with it and so will not be taking such an initiative, Puchong said.

Somchai Srisuthiyakorn, the commissioner in charge of elections, said he had met with a very high-level representative of the ruling Pheu Thai Party and the person recognised the challenges and what may happen if the polling does not go smoothly on February 2.

This was a good sign, as everyone seems to have a common understanding, he said. The caretaker government must acknowledge the possible repercussions and the reality that it may be necessary to defer the balloting. Some solution may be announced in 10 days’ time and the public should be relieved to learn about it, he said.

Abhisit Vejjajiva, opposition leader and head of the Democrat Party, said the EC should recommend to the caretaker administration of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra that she postpone the election. The suggestion was made during his meeting with the EC.

The government should also listen to the voices of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee, he said, and warned that if the government insisted on going ahead with the February 2 poll, it could fail like the one in 2006.

Abhisit did not meet with EC as planned but sent another person in his stead as Pheu Thai had changed its representative, Democrat Party spokesman Chavanond Intara-komalyasut said.

Police on defensive over protest shootings
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: National Police chief Pol Gen Adul Saengsingkaew has become the first senior official to admit that some policemen were indeed on the rooftop of a Labour Ministry building during the confrontation between police and anti-government demonstrators on December 26.

After Adul’s statement, Deputy National Police Commissioner Gen Worapong Chewprecha and National Police Office adviser Gen J

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Thailand News Today | State of Emergency lifted, Quarantine latest, Phuket Light Rail | October 22

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Government lifts Bangkok’s State of Emergency

Bangkok’s State of Emergency has been lifted, according to a statement published in the Royal Gazette, making it official.

The order, that banned public gatherings over 5 people, and censoring critical media commentary, was imposed last Thursday morning by PM Prayut Chan-o-cha, leading to the breaking up a protest and the arrests of a number of activists.

Despite the State of Emergency, protesters ignored the orders and rallies only grew over the past week.

The emergency order also banned content on websites and social media considered to be a “threat to national security.” Some Thai media outlets covering the protests were under fire, and authorities tried to suspend them under the emergency order. The court dismissed the requests to block those media companies, saying the Thai Constitution does not give the court power to shut down media platforms.

Large protest group amassed at Government House

The lifting of the State Emergency follows two key events last night.

A large, prepared protest group that marched on Government House demanding the resignation of the Thai PM – they even prepared a letter for him all ready to sign. Police had 2 buses, barbed wire and water cannon trucks, along with riot police, awaiting them. Both sides seemed poised for a confrontation but protests leaders peacefully dispersed the crowd at 9.35pm. The other was an address on national TV by Prayut Chan-o-cha, asking protesters to stand down and participate in dialogue with the government.

Negative Covid-19 results for first group on the Special Tourist Visa

Surely, the most anticipated and followed tourists ever to grace Thailand’s shores. All 39 visitors who flew in from China this week on the new Special Tourist Visa have tested negative for Covid-19. While it’s a small group, they’re the first foreign tourists to arrive since travel restrictions were imposed in late-March.

More international tourists are expected to arrive next week under the auspices of the new Special Tourist Visa. If there are no positive Covid-19 cases in the first groups, the government says they could start to lift restrictions, like cutting down the mandatory quarantine period, or allowing more applicants under the STV.

Groups from China and Scandanavian countries are the next arrivals under the STV in the next few weeks.

Health Minister says quarantine could be reduced to 10 days, maybe eventually zero

Health officials have confirmed that they are ready to reduce the mandatory quarantine period for foreign tourists, provided other relevant bodies agree.

The current quarantine period is set at 14 days, but the Public Health Minister says this could be reduced to 10. He adds that if the reduction is successful, quarantine could be further reduced, eventually reaching a point where quarantine is no longer a requirement.

“The truth is, the Public Health Ministry is ready for the change, but other relevant agencies still have requested time to adjust. So, we have to wait and work together.”

4.4 million methamphetamine pills seized near Laos border

Police seized 4.4 million methamphetamine pills worth more than 400 million baht after a police chase in the northeast near the Thai-Laos border.

Thai media reports that the alleged drug traffickers threw black bags full of the drugs out onto the road during the police chase and drove off into a rubber farm in the Bung Kla district.

Police had received a tip about drugs allegedly being trafficked across the Mekong River and were tracking a truck driving fast by the river.

Police searched the bags which contained over 4 million methamphetamine pills. Police also found 2,970 ecstasy pills.

Since October 1, the Royal Thai Navy has been involved in 18 drug trafficking busts, seizing methamphetamine, ecstasy, heroin and marijuana, totalling around 2.7 billion baht.

Phuket light rail study goes to Cabinet for approval

The Mass Rapid Transit Authority of Thailand has approved the findings of a study on Phase 1 development of a light rail system in Phuket.

The first phase, budgeted at 35 billion baht, will run 42 kilometres from Phuket Airport to Chalong intersection.

The findings of the study will be tabled in the Cabinet in 12 months time. If approved, bidding for joint investment will begin in early 2022, with trams expected to start running in 2026.

The service will have 21 stations, of which 19 will be at ground level, one at elevated level and one underground.

Critics say the route won’t do much to benefit local communities and that the main Thepkasattri Road artery will be severely disrupted during the years of construction.

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Foreign yachts allowed to dock in Thailand, tourists to quarantine onboard

Caitlin Ashworth

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Foreign yachts allowed to dock in Thailand, tourists to quarantine onboard | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Unsplash: Marcin Ciszewski

Overseas yachts are now allowed to dock in Thailand, but foreign tourists and crew members still need to adhere to strict health measures, according to the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration. Tourists will need to quarantine onboard the yacht for 14 days and be tested for Covid-19 tests 3 times before entering Thailand, according to the CCSA spokesperson Taweesilp Visanuyothin.

So far, there’s around 60 yachts, each with about 600 to 650 tourists and crew members, that looking to dock in Thailand. The 27 superyachts and 33 cruisers could generate an income of 2.1 million baht.

Along with yachts, foreign ships are allowed to dock in Thailand to change vessels and head back to sea, the spokesperson says. Seafarers must also go through a 14 day quarantine period.

The spokesperson didn’t go into detail about the visa requirements for the tourists and crew members travelling to Thailand on a yacht. Recently, Thailand started issuing the Special Tourist Visa to travellers from countries considered a low risk for spreading the coronavirus.

“At this stage, the countries considered as low-risk by the Department of Disease Control are China, Macao, Taiwan, Sweden, and Finland, Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand.”

SOURCE: Phuket News

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Thailand at the crossroads. The anti-government protesters vs Thai establishment – VIDEO

The Thaiger

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Thailand at the crossroads. The anti-government protesters vs Thai establishment – VIDEO | The Thaiger

Click to watch the video…

This video provides some background of the protests and their challenge ahead. They are battling a deeply entrenched “establishment”, including the Army, the government, the Bangkok ‘elite’ and years of conservative traditions protecting the revered Thai monarchy. The protesters are young, educated and motivated. The government controls the levers of power. What will happen?

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Whilst the daily media coverage of the current protests in Thailand might give you the impression that Thailand is in some sort of chaotic mess, it’s really nothing like that.

Yes, there are some protests going on in isolated parts of the city. Yes, they’re disruptive to local traffic and they are getting plenty of media attention. But the vast majority of Thais, whilst many will be keeping abreast of the developments, are just getting on with their life and much of what you’d call Thai life is bubbling along like usual.

On the other hand Thailand is coming to terms with an economy mostly devoid of tourism. People are rearranging their lives and finding new jobs, but again, it’s not as if there are long lines of unemployed, beggars or starving people. In most locations around Thailand, leaving out some of the tourist hot spots, like Phuket, Pattaya and Koh Samui, life is just plugging on. Even in those locations, once out of the touristy parts, the local economies are adapting and managing.

The people losing their work from tourism have, mostly, headed home to their families and are getting absorbed into family businesses or community life. It’s a cultural resilience that is helping Thailand adapt and survive, even thrive in some sectors, during the worldwide pandemic.
There isn’t even any tangible link between the two issues – the Covid-19 pandemic and the current protest movement. The push for change of the political status quo has been brewing ever since the current government seized power in 2014, firstly as an Army-led coup against the elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra, and then after the March 2019 election, when the coup leaders were able to cobble together a workable, and at least on paper, legitimate government.

But be assured, Covid-19 pandemic or not, this protest movement would have surfaced anyway and is driven by idealism and political evolution, not the pandemic or economy. The protesters are mostly educated students from middle class families and they’ve never once made mention of the lack of tourists or even the broader Thai economy. They’re not disaffected opposition politicians, or even identify with the old red shirt/yellow shirt protests. They are mostly fresh, younger voices.

The protesters’ demands have been unfalteringly consistent. Based on a 10 point manifesto, first read out at Thammasat University’s Rangsit Campus on August 10 this year.

The demands are that the Thai PM resign, that the parliament is dissolved for a fresh election, that a new constitution is written to replace the 2017 Charter and that officials stop harassing protesters and people speaking out against the government. Most of those would be the sorts of things you may expect from opposition MPs or anti-government protesters. But this time they spiced up their wish list with a controversial demand for changes in the role of the country’s revered monarchy. They have strenuously denied that they want to get rid of the Thai monarchy, instead, they want a new constitution to codify the role of the Thai monarch and limit the powers which they claim, are currently unfettered.

The hurdle for change, however, is that the current system is stacked against just about everything the protesters are demanding, especially the changes to the role of the Thai monarchy.

For any of these changes to take place there will have to be a national consensus, a new constitution and some sort of response, even involvement from the Palace.

The students are demanding change, now, but the reality is that, for a peaceful transition, there will certainly need to be constructive discussions, a desire to change and a passage of time. None of that, given the history of Thai coups and the role of the Army, appears likely at the moment.

Whilst the government is trying to diffuse the situation by calling emergency sessions of parliament, even offers to drops the State of Emergency or release some of the arrested protesters, there is still an enormous political gulf between the demands of the protesters and the government’s preparedness to change.

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