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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Army ponders ending deadlock; Bangkok Gov steps down; Police acquitted of Saudi diamond murder; Cadets die in parachute plunge

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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

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

Top brass to step in, assess strategy to end political strife
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: In a rare move, top military leaders will meet tomorrow to discuss a possible solution for the country at a time of political deadlock and likely confrontation between pro- and anti-government groups this Saturday.

Armed Forces Supreme Commander General Tanasak Patimapragorn has invited top military commanders – Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha, Navy chief Adm Narong Pipatanasai, and Air Force chief ACM Prajin Juntong – for a meeting with him tomorrow, a source familiar with the matter said yesterday.

The Supreme Commander felt that if the political deadlock was allowed to continue further, more damage would be done to the country, according to the source, who said the number of tourist arrivals had greatly declined.

This move by the military was not aimed at pressuring any side in particular, but intended to find a way out for the country, according to the source, who is a senior officer in the armed forces.

The source ruled out any chance of a coup, saying it would not be a “perfect way” to solve the problems and that the military had learned lessons from the past.

The red shirts plan their rally on Saturday, a week after the anti-government People’s Democratic Reform Committee held its mass marches in Bangkok.

The military’s move came as caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra met with the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) on the last day of a deadline she was given, to explain allegations of her condoning corruption and dereliction of duty, in regard to the controversial rice price-pledging scheme.

The national anti-graft agency will decide today whether to grant Yingluck’s request yesterday for additional testimony from 10 more witnesses and to submit more documents to support her case in its investigation, Prasart Pongsivapai, a member of the NACC, said. The NACC would base its decision on relevant laws and it would see whether there was a need to question more witnesses, Prasart said.

If the NACC agrees to the PM’s request, the case will be delayed further. The agency was earlier expected to make its decision about the case during April. A decision to pursue the case would mean Yingluck would be likely to face an impeachment motion in the Senate, and a possible legal case with the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Political Office Holders.

More than Bt400 billion in state funding has been lost in the scheme, which buys rice from farmers at well over the market price.

The prime minister is accused of failing to prevent corruption in the loss-making and graft-plagued scheme.

Yingluck arrived at the NACC office yesterday afternoon with her lawyers and a number of Cabinet ministers. Only her lawyers and Justice Minister Chaikasem Nitisiri were allowed to accompany the PM in her meeting with the NACC commissioners.

Waiting for her was an army of reporters, photographers and cameramen. The PM wore a cast on her left foot and was seated on a wheelchair shortly after her arrival. She recently suffered a damaged ligament from a fall.

All five NACC commissioners took part in the meeting, which lasted about 30 minutes. The prime minister later left without giving any interviews to the media.

Prasart said yesterday that the caretaker prime minister’s presence indicated that she accepted the scrutiny process. He said the PM defended herself in writing as well as verbally.

Sukhumbhand steps aside
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: Bangkok Governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra yesterday announced he was suspending his duties as governor due to legal proceedings that alleged he had benefited from a slanderous election campaign.

He said, however, he would be back when the country needed him. “From the 1.2 million votes I won, I can’t abandon people who voted for me. We will meet again when the country needs me,” he said in a press conference at City Hall.

Sukhumbhand’s duty suspension is required by law after the Court of Appeals agreed, at the request of the Election Commission (EC), to consider whether a new gubernatorial election should be held in Bangkok.

The EC voted early in March to disqualify Sukhumbhand as the winner of the Bangkok governor election a year ago on allegations he framed his opponent during the election campaign.

Although Sukhumbhand was not personally engaged in the so-called campaign, the process was said to have helped him win last year’s election to return as city governor.

The EC recommended that a new gubernatorial election be held in Bangkok, with Sukhumbhand allowed to stand again. However, the final decision would depend on a ruling from the Court of Appeals.

Sukhumbhand said he did nothing wrong, but he would respect the law and the court and believed he would get justice from the court.

During his conference, the governor took a life-size effigy of himself along with him. He jokingly said he would put the effigy in front of his office so people would not forget that he remained the governor.

High-ranking officials at the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration later gave roses for moral support to Sukhumbhand, who was close to tears from time to time.

“I’m still your governor. I [will] just take a vacation. I will now take a rest, have a medical check-up, and stay with my grandchildren,” he said.

Reports said earlier he would hand the job over to his first deputy, Pusadee Tamthai, until a final decision was made.

Policemen acquitted over abduction, killing of Saudi businessman in 1990
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: A key defendant in the high-profile abduction and murder trial of missing Saudi Arabian businessman Mohammad al-Ruwaili said it was now clear that he was innocent after a trial against him and four other active and retired police officers ended with their acquittal yesterday.

The defendant, retired police inspector general Lt General Somkid Bunthanom, said he had plenty to say about the 24-year-old case but would remain silent as the case had been a complicated matter and had strained bilateral relations.

He also said he was not allowed to provide a post-acquittal statement under a restrictive Criminal Court ruling.

Somkid and the other four defendants were acquitted after the court cited insufficient evidence.

The other defendants were Pol Colonel Sorrarak Joosanit (now chief of Sob Moei police in Mae Hong Son), Pol Colonel Praphas Piyamongkhol (now chief of Nam Khun police in Ubon Ratchathani), Pol Lt Colonel Suradej Udomdee (retired) and Pol Sgt Major Prasong Thorrang (retired).

The court ruled that the case should be dismissed because the evidence presented by the prosecutors was either inadequate, circumstantial, suspicious or appeared to be based on false evidence. Key allegations centred on a man who took al-Ruwaili to a love motel on the orders of the five defendants and a ring which a non-defendant policeman said was owned by al-Ruwaili and given to him by one of the five defendants.

The ring,

— Phuket Gazette Editors

 

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Illegal border crossings bringing in new Covid-19 infections

Neill Fronde

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PHOTO: Covid-19 infected border hoppers cross borders like this one betwen Malaysia and Thailand (via Wikimedia)

Authorities are worried about illegal border crossings into Thailand bringing in the Coronavirus after 5 recent Covid-19 infections from such crossings. Bypassing all health and security checkpoints along the border, 5 Thai nationals were identified today as being positive for Covid-19 after they snuck into the country, according to the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration.

Authorities nabbed 2 after border crossings from Malaysia illegally on April 28 and May 3rd, while another snuck across the Burmese border into Tak on May 2. The last 2 came from Cambodia on Thursday across the Sa Kaeo border. All 5 illegal border crossers are now in state hospitals for Covid-19 treatment.

According to CCSA data in the first four months of 2021 a total of 15,378 people were arrested by Thai authorities while sneaking across borders. Even after security forces increased patrolling along the borders, people managed to sneak in from Myanmar, Malaysia, Laos, and Cambodia. 6,700 of those who crossed the border were Burmese citizens, while another 1,700 of them were Thai nationals.

With nearly 400 lives lost to Covid-19 and over 83,000 people having been infected in the pandemic, the CCSA declared that Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and National Security Council Secretary-General Natthapol Nakpanich agree that these illegal border crossers without Covid-19 screening are a serious problem.

Many Thai people work in Malaysia and as the pandemic drags on they are sneaking across the border, desperate to make it home to their family. Another recent case found illegal Burmese border hoppers in a taxi en route to Hat Yai after they crossed into Thailand from the Malaysian border. They were trying to travel incognito across Thailand in order to cross the border again back into their home country of Myanmar.

The dilemma is even worse at the Burmese border as the often violent protests following the February 1 military coup has been pushing much of the country into poverty, and creating refugees who are flocking to the border in hopes of crossing over to safety. Many are seeking to escape the conflict and find work in Thailand.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

 

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Economy

Thailand Consumer Confidence Index hits record low

Neill Fronde

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PHOTO: Thailand's Consumer Confidence index slips again to below the pre-pandemic record. (via CNN)

The University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce has reported that the Consumer Confidence Index has hit another new record low of 46.0 in April. The Covid-19 global pandemic has had a devastating effect on the economy and consumer confidence has fallen frequently to the lowest points that it has seen since 1998.

The president of the UTTC believes that consumers generally don’t feel like there has been much of a recovery for the economy since the global pandemic began and without a stimulating event to motivate economic growth, the index is expected to continue to fall further. The university estimated that if the third wave of Covid-19 continues past the end of May the economy can expect to lose 400 to 600 billion baht.

The UTTC president stressed that the government should hasten to step up relief measures and make sure they continue relief and economic stimulus throughout the pandemic to avoid economic catastrophe. He predicted that the economy and the Consumer Confidence Index will continue on a downward slope without any hope of improvement until the vaccine rollout gets well underway towards herd immunity, and new Covid-19 infections are decreased dramatically.

Today saw another 2,101 new Covid-19 infections and 17 deaths in Thailand. Vaccination efforts are continually being stepped up, but still remain woefully slow.

The Consumer Confidence Index first started falling last year, with a drop below the previous record low in 1998 in April of 2020, when it fell to 47.2. A few months later, by July of last year, it had recovered significantly, climbing back over 50. But by March of this year, the index had fallen again to 48.5. With April’s tumble of 2.5 points, the Consumer Confidence Index pushes once again to a new record low.

SOURCE: Thai Business News

 

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Thailand

Thailand searches for cow vaccine for lumpy skin disease

Neill Fronde

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PHOTO: An example of a cow with Lumpy Skin Disease. (via newindianexpress)

Move over Covid-19 there’s a new disease sweeping the country as Thailand’s cow population is afflicted with a lumpy skin disease. The Department of Livestock Development is now working on procuring vaccines from overseas manufacturers to import and treat the cattle population in Thailand. The lumpy skin is caused by pustules that are the most visible symptom, perhaps more detectable than other bovine signs such as drooling, loss of appetite and drowsiness.

The cow disease is spreading in the North, Northeast, and Central Plains area of Thailand and has been found in 18 provinces total. First identified in Roi Et, it has now spread in Chiang Rai, Kalasin, Kanchanaburi, Khon Kaen, Maha Sarakham, Nakhon Pathom, and Nakhon Phanom. The first case of the lumpy skin disease was reported in Don Daeng village last month and on April 9th officials reported it to the World Organisation for Animal Health.

The lumpy skin disease is found in cow pens and spread through flies, ticks, and mosquitoes, but the DLD says not to panic, it is not transmissible to humans. The department is distributing important information about symptoms and how the disease spreads to breeders and farmers in the area. They’re requiring the breeders to monitor their cattle closely and have imposed measures to control the disease in heavy hit areas.

To prevent the spread of disease in livestock, traders are being requested to not buy and sell cattle within 50 km from disease-stricken regions. And for farmers caring for cattle, the DLD recommends spraying insecticide in all areas to prevent transmission via insects. Finally, in case the cattle were jealous of traveling humans, the DLD is advising farmers to prevent disease spread by isolating any new cow that comes into their farms with a 28-day bovine quarantine where they should be kept under nets to keep insects away.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

 

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