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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Baht slides; House of shame; E-tags for inmates; DNA ID checks in Ranong

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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Baht slides; House of shame; E-tags for inmates; DNA ID checks in Ranong | The Thaiger
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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

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

Baht further slides against US$
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: Falling to a one-year low yesterday at 31.82, the baht has suffered from depreciation against the US dollar along with most emerging-market currencies.

Compared with this year’s peak of 28.62, registered on April 19, the baht has fallen by 11.18 per cent. It has weakened by 4 per cent from 30.60 at the end of 2012.

Foreign investors are pulling money out of developing economies amid speculation that the US Federal Reserve will pare stimulus that has fuelled demand for emerging-market assets.

Investors pulled US$8.4 billion from developing-nation exchange-traded funds this year as economies from Indonesia to India weakened while the Fed is pulling out of its quantitative-easing programme. At press time, the Federal Open Market Committee’s minutes of its July meeting had not yet been published. A Bloomberg survey of economists found that 65 per cent of respondents predicted the Fed would taper bond purchases next month.

Data showed that net sales of Thai bonds this month have reached $530 million or nearly Bt16.9 billion. Meanwhile, after the single-day net-sale of Bt11.4 billion in Thai stocks on Tuesday, and then Bt5.7 billion yesterday, year-to-date foreign net-sales of Thai shares reached Bt106.7 billion.

“Basically, sentiment for emerging-market assets is weak due to speculation about the Fed’s tapering,” Tsutomu Soma, a manager of the fixed-income business unit at Rakuten Securities, Inc in Tokyo, told Bloomberg. “Funds are flowing out from emerging markets. On top of that, Thailand’s growth concerns are adding downward pressure.”

A day after the National Economic and Social Development Board announced the second-quarter economic data on Monday, the baht fell from 31.20 to 31.53. The currency yesterday dropped 0.5 per cent to 31.82 per dollar as of 3.41pm in Bangkok after touching 31.83 earlier, the weakest level since July 2012, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Thailand, RP in better shape

Darren Buckley, head of Citibank Thailand, said outflows from Thailand should not be as bad as in India and Indonesia. Some markets such as Thailand and the Philippines are in a better shape to withstand external challenges and the situation should not be as bad as in 1997. Thailand’s foreign reserves are huge, while its financial sector is much stronger.

Elsewhere, the plunge for some currencies has been steep.

India’s ailing rupee hit a new record low yesterday after the central bank’s plans to inject 80 billion rupees into financial markets failed to calm investor jitters. The rupee, the worst-performing Asian currency this year, fell to 64.60 to the dollar (2.02 per baht) in late-afternoon trade, down from its previous all-time low of 64.13 reached on Tuesday.

The Brazilian real has fallen by a similar amount, hitting 2.4282 to the dollar (7.34 to Bt100), a rate unseen since March 2009. On Tuesday, it dipped to the lowest level in four years, hurt by market expectations of higher US interest rates. On Monday, the Brazilian currency closed at 2.4169 to the greenback, trading above the 2.4 mark for the first time since March 3, 2009.

The Turkish lira has fallen by around 10 per cent since a February peak. The central bank on Tuesday unexpectedly raised its overnight lending rate by 50 basis points to 7.75 per cent.

House bedlam comes in for scathing criticism
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: The bedlam in Parliament on Tuesday while discussing a constitutional amendment has drawn heavy public disapproval and media criticism, as ugly scenes of pushing and shoving between protesting MPs and policemen amid screams and inflammatory comments were a reminder of similar chaos last May.

However, many consider the filibuster tactic employed by the opposition as acceptable. The Democrats put up strong opposition to a crucial amendment, which would potentially decide that all future senators must be elected. Scrutinising important amendments in early stages in a row with other key bills proved to be perhaps a wrong decision by the Pheu Thai-led coalition and the government whip. They agreed to allow this bill to be put higher up on the agenda reportedly after heavy lobbying by elected senators, whose terms will end next March.

A senior Pheu Thai source said all the senators, especially those elected who are friendlier to Pheu Thai, wanted to know their future as soon as possible. They offered to support any future bills or amendments proposed by the Pheu Thai-led government if this amendment was taken up early. “If they can run in a future general election after the amendment is complete, Pheu Thai anticipates support from up to 70 [Pheu Thai-friendly] senators in return, from all 150 senators,” the source added.

The amendment contains several conditions in favour of elected senators, especially on allowing their spouses, family members or relatives, or those of any politician, to run in a future senatorial election. However, the 73 appointed senators whose terms will end in the next three years, and who are not allies of Pheu Thai, disagree with these conditions, and strongly oppose this amendment along with the opposition Democrats.

Core Pheu Thai leaders originally agreed that the 2014 Budget Bill and a borrowing bill for Bt2 trillion for infrastructure projects be a priority, but underestimated the Democrat Party’s stance on this. “We did not think the Democrats would use such tactics to disrupt the debate on the senator-related amendment, which should have taken one or two days, so we agreed to put it higher up on the agenda, the source said.

The Pheu Thai-led government put important bills and amendments in a tight order on the agenda: the controversial amnesty bill on August 7; the 2014 Budget Bill on August 14, which has been halted and would be discussed again on August 23; and the senator-related amendment on Tuesday.

Pheu Thai MP Udomdej Rattanasathian, an adviser to the government whip, echoed the source’s account on the lobbying by the elected senators. He said Pheu Thai might allow the Democrats and appointed senators to debate against the amendment for another day today, and possibly again next week.

Chaiyan Chaiyaporn, a lecturer on political science, said filibuster – a technique by minority MPs used to stall issues they are opposed to – was a rightful tactic and widely practised in parliaments worldwide. He said both Parliament President Somsak Kiatsuranont and Senate Speaker Nikom Wairatpanij, as the presiding speaker, lacked knowledge about such a practice and skills to maintain order.

Another lecturer, Pornsant Liangbunlertchai, said he considered the “tyranny of minority” more worrying in than chaos. While not defining the phrase coined by him, he said “political play without conscientious care” would affect the functioning of the legislative branch as a whole.

Somsak, who chatted jokingly with reporters, said he was “a bit bored” with the commotion during Monday’s session, apart from “being a bit tired”, but “did not have a headache”.

Opposition whip chief, Democrat MP Jurin Laksanawisit, said what had disgraced Parliament was not the protests by the Democrats but the deployment of a company of riot policemen near Parliament, which he said was an intimidation of lawmakers.

Pol Maj-General Parinya Chansuriya,

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

No vaccine, no entry – the world’s next travel challenge

The Thaiger

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No vaccine, no entry – the world’s next travel challenge | The Thaiger

OPINION

UPDATE: Australia’s national airline has already said it will impose “proof of vaccine” on all inbound and outbound international flights, a situation that IATA says they are likely to follow. Read more HERE.

ORIGINAL POST: With the announcements this week about several vaccine candidate trials, either being completed or at the end of their Phase 3 testings, and the applications to government bodies for ‘emergency approval’, we now have to face the next question.

What restrictions will be imposed on those people who don’t have the vaccine, or even actively choose not to have the vaccine?

And more locally…

Will Thailand allow people to enter Thailand without first having the Covid-19 vaccine?

Given the Thai Government’s low-risk strategy, well almost zero-risk strategy, and reluctance to take any chances with a second wave of Covid 19, it is highly likely there will be a stipulation that anyone entering Thailand will need a vaccine certificate or stamp in their passports.

Couple this with the Thai population’s continued fear of allowing foreigners back into the country at this time, in poll after poll, and it’s a safe bet there will be a “no vaccine, no entry” restriction imposed.

On a positive note, the Thai government may drop the 14 day quarantine for people that have had the vaccine (but not in the early days).

At this stage we know that most of the vaccine trials have had a 95% efficacy. We also know that the leading BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine needs an original jab plus a booster and has to be transported at extremely low temperature.

To complicate matters, there is not yet sufficient evidence that having had a bout of Covid-19, whether asymptomatic or not, guarantees you immunity. Or, if it does, for how long?

All these factors will mean that some level of quarantine will probably be in force as the Thai government slowly re-opens its borders to a wider groups of vaccinated travellers. This would remain in force until the world has a better knowledge of both the proven efficacy of the vaccine, or vaccines, and the re-infection rates.

So, even if we start getting groups of the world’s populations vaccinated before the end of the year, and that’s still a very big IF, there’s a lot more water to pass under the bridge until a coherent, reliable vaccine strategy can be understood and implemented.

Then there will be a rump of people, either hard core anti-vaxxers, or others who are at least skeptical of a new vaccine, who will want to wait or not want the vaccine at all. Public education, some strong science and a successful roll out of the early vaccines will be a key to winning over a lot of the world’s population.

Somehow governments and health authorities are going to have to wind back much of the disinformation floating around the internet about vaccines that is so factually out of whack with reality, it’s going to be one of the greatest public health challenges of all time, to reassure people about the science of vaccines and vaccination.

All this, in the middle of a pandemic that, for now, is still on the ascendency as far as new cases and deaths are concerned.

But there is little doubt rejoining the world of international travel, even local travel, could become restricted to only those who are vaccinated. The rest will be stuck roaming around their own countries, or states, for… years with a raft of restrictions on their lives. Who knows.

Will shopping centres or public buildings also impose a “no vaccine, no entry” policy? Hotels? Public buildings? Job applications?

On top of the economic stress which has fallen on a lot of the world, with so many governments now facing the headwinds of deep recession, the vaccine ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ will add even more public disquiet.

At this stage nobody is sure how the vaccine will be rolled out in Thailand. The Thai government has already signed up for several of the leading vaccine candidates and will most likely provide the vaccine for free to citizens under its public health system.

What does that mean for foreigners living here? If you are covered, with a work permit, under the country’s public health, are you able to get the vaccine for free too? Will the thousands of foreigners on private health insurance be covered?

Surely the insurers will want its customers to be vaccinated. Sick customers cost them money. So, will insurance renewals be limited to only people who have been vaccinated? Will visas be renewed only if you have been vaccinated?

At this stage there are no firm answers to any of these questions.

And then there is the SARS Cov2 virus (Covid-19) itself, a living virus which has the ability to mutate and adapt. Will these new vaccines be effective against all mutations? Again, this is all ahead of us.

We’re certainly now entering a new phase of this pandemic. New challenges, new questions. The rising numbers of cases throughout 2020 is only the first chapter of a book that will be many more years in the making.

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Thailand

Thailand News Today | Holiday road toll, protests tomorrow, GDP recovery | November 24

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Thailand News Today | Holiday road toll, protests tomorrow, GDP recovery | November 24 | The Thaiger

There’s been some heavy downpours around sections of Bangkok over the past few days. We start with some video of the flooded streets. Then, into the news…

139 killed, 653 injured, as Thailand’s holiday weekend sees surge in road accidents

The Ministry of Transport has confirmed that hundreds of road traffic accidents have taken place over Thailand’s 4 day holiday weekend.

139 people have died and 653 have been injured in the course of the 4 day break, which was introduced to boost domestic tourism.

455 car accidents were recorded, with nearly 79% of them being caused by excessive speed. 82 people died in car accidents, with another 466 injured.Another 153 accidents involved motorbikes, with 47 bike riders killed and 165 injured.

Public transport vehicles and trucks accounted for 21 accidents, with 13 caused by trucks, 5 by buses, and 3 by trains. Over 10.7 million people took to public transport between last Wednesday night and Sunday night.

Protesters target the Crown Property Bureau tomorrow, taking direct aim at the country’s Monarchy

Tomorrow the protest road show moves to the Crown Property Bureau in Phitsanulok Road, taking aim directly at the the management of the Thai monarch’s affairs.

Protesters, who first brought up the issue of the role of the Thai Monarchy in July this year, say they have “a big surprise” in store. This will be the first time when the entire focus of the protest will be Thailand’s Head of State, previously considered a taboo topic in Thai society and the media.

The Crown Property Bureau is the quasi-government agency responsible for managing the property of the Thai Monarch. The bureau is legally defined as a juristic entity and is not a government agency. It also has no tax obligations.

In speeches during last week’s protests, speakers at the rally said… “we demand the return of taxpayers’ money”.

But Thai PM Prayut Chan-o-cha questioned the protester’s plans…

“Why they want to get close to the Crown Property Bureau? I think you know their purpose.”

There’s a longer article with some history about the Crown Property Bureau at TheThaiger.com

Protester slammed for dressing as schoolgirl to highlight sexual harassment in Thai schools

2 government MPs have criticised a member of the “Bad Students” protest movement after she dressed as a schoolgirl to highlight sexual harassment in Thai schools.

In an online protest, the activist put on a school uniform and held up a sign condemning sexual harassment in the Thai education system.

Whilst her actions have generally been supported by netizens, some pro-establishment figures have hit out at the protester including 2 Palang Pracharat MPs, who says the protester’s decision to wear a school uniform will bring Thai schools into disrepute.

His accusation comes as sexual harassment figures from the Office of Basic Education Commission have been released, showing hundreds of sexual harassment incidents recorded between 2013 – 2017. In January this year alone, there were over 700 cases reported of sexual harassment. The report says that many other victims remain too scared to come forward.

Finance Minister says Thailand’s GDP will take 2 years to recover

Thailand’s finance minister says the country’s GDP will take 2 years to recover the 9% it has lost since the Covid pandemic ravaged the economy.

The Finance Minister says the economy would have expanded by 3% this year if it weren’t for the pandemic.

“The pandemic crisis will make the economy contract by around 6% in 2020, therefore there is a 9% gap that needs to be recuperated. If Thailand’s GDP growth could arrive at 4% in 2021 and 2022, this would propel the country’s economic growth momentum to return to a normal ratio.”

As for the 2022 budget, he says it is still being designed to support economic growth through public investments in infrastructure and energy, with some projects relying more heavily on help from the private sector.

Police have yet to investigate illegal hiring of foreign teachers at international school in Phuket

Chalong police in Phuket say they have yet to start investigating the illegal hiring of foreign teachers at an international school in Rawai.

Palm House International School allegedly hired foreign teachers illegally where 2 were arrested by Phuket Immigration police on November 4.

The Chalong police leading investigations into the case, says the 2 Brits were informed that police were processing a charge of working illegally in the country against them, where both denied the charges. The 2 men have been released on bail.

But he says the investigation is yet to begin with police saying they haven’t even questioned the owner of the school.

“The investigation into the school will take time. The investigation into the two British people must be finished first.”

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Drugs

Positive test for ketamine was a “technical error”

The Thaiger

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Positive test for ketamine was a “technical error” | The Thaiger

A “technical error” in field testing had led to the false claim that 11.5 tonnes of ketamine had been seized at a warehouse in Chachoesngsao province. Justice Minister Somsak Thepsuthin, made the admission at a media briefing called to clear up the matter.

The 475 sacks containing were seized by ONCB officials during a raid on a warehouse at tambon Tha Kham in Bang Pakong district, in Chachoengsao province, on November 12 which prompted authorities to tout the discovery as the biggest drug bust ever. But officials jumped the gun as the testing fluid that turned purple, indicating ketamine was found, was wrong after 66 sacks were further tested.

The further testing revealed the sacks were filled with trisodium phosphate, a compound used legally as a food additive and stain remover. Somsak said a “technical error in the field” led to the assumption it was ketamine as trisodium phosphate would also turn the testing fluid purple. The large TSP labels on the sacks could have been a valuable clue as Thai police paraded proudly in front of the contraband.

“No matter, we have admitted the mistake, and it may not be corrected in the short term.”

Asked if the blunder could affect the credibility of the Justice Ministry and the ONCB, Somsak said he accepted all criticicism and to make the matter clear, he would ask the police Forensic Science Division, the Department of Medical Science and the ONCB to make lab tests with results being known this week.

“I accept the fact it might have been premature to hold a press conference to announce the seizure of a substance suspected to be a kind of drug. But in this case, the ONCB had been informed of the seizure of ketamine in Taiwan, investigated and found an undeniable link to it. It would have been a mistake if I did not make it public.”

“The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime said this also happened two or three times in other countries. This was the first time in Thailand. Moreover, on the day I held the press conference, I did not say it was 100% ketamine.”

Authorities are saying they would find out where the substance in the warehouse came from, and for what purpose as they believed it could be used to conceal illicit drugs, including ketamine. The ONCB chief said the man who rented the warehouse to store the sacks had fled before the raid and avoided arrest. However, they are currently compiling a case to apply for a court warrant for his arrest in connection with the seizure of ketamine in Taiwan.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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