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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Bangkok bunkers stay; Yingluck faces NACC probe; Ya bah-heroin drug raises fears; Toxic fire nearly out

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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Bangkok bunkers stay; Yingluck faces NACC probe; Ya bah-heroin drug raises fears; Toxic fire nearly out | The Thaiger
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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

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

Military to maintain bunkers despite lifting of emergency
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: The military will maintain its force and 176 street bunkers across Bangkok, even though the government has lifted the emergency decree.
A military source said the reason the government scrapped the state of emergency was not only because the Civil Court had put restrictions on its clamping down on anti-government protesters, rendering the emergency decree meaningless. Another reason was that “Thaksin supporters” wanted to gauge the military’s power over maintaining its 176 bunkers on Bangkok’s streets.

After lifting the state of emergency, the government has been pressuring the military to remove the bunkers, citing adverse effects on business and foreign investors’ confidence.

Government strategists want to close in on the People’s Democratic Reform Committee protesters in April by choosing to be on the offensive and not defensive. As a result they have replaced Thida Thavonseth with Jatuporn Promphan as chairman of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD). They are also recruiting a new PM should caretaker Prime Minister and Defence Minister Yingluck Shinawatra be suspended from duty if independent agencies file indictments against her.

The government sees the military bunkers as “obstacles” to reducing the number of PDRC protesters who have staged a sit-in anti-government protest already five months long.

“The government is doing everything it can to hold on to power. It lifted the state of emergency only to test the military’s strength, especially that of Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha. The government’s supporters are not very happy with the presence of bunkers in the capital,” the source said.

The military will not remove the bunkers just yet because the situation is still at a turning point and assailants continue to launch their attacks almost on a daily basis. The violence takes place even with a heavy military presence. “If we withdraw our force, how is the government going to deal with the violence? The military is concerned about the safety of independent agencies and courts, which have faced daily intimidation,” the source said.

Deputy Army spokesman Col Winthai Suvari said soldiers are still currently stationed at the checkpoints as it was the duty of the military and soldiers to ensure safety for the people.

Moreover, any change to those measures would be considered according to the situation.

So far, the military bunkers have been adapted to harmonise with the locations. Some had been moved for the same reason, he said.

Deputy police spokesman Col Wichayakorn Nichaboworn said police officers had been told to adapt their strategies and operational plans to suit the situation. They were also ordered to carefully follow up and expedite related cases of law violation.

Moreover, police officers had been told to closely keep an eye on the movement of groups of people in the provinces, to prevent situation instigation. At the same time, investigators were deployed to get information from the security guards for each group of protesters, she said.

Ya bah-heroin mix a new threat, police warn
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: A drug bust in Chiang Mai on March 17 that saw police seize 400,000 ‘ya bah’ pills exposed a new formula of ya bah mixed with heroin, Office of the Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) secretary-general Pol Gen Pongsapat Pongcharoen said yesterday. The drug carried a logo of a lion on a globe.

The narcotic – the first of its kind discovered by the ONCB in 37 years – was suspected to be a new product of a Lahu tribal factory on the Myanmar side, in order to make the ya bah more addictive, he said.

If an addict took one ya bah pill, worth Bt120, per day, this new product would make the addict want to take 2-3 pills per day, he said – boosting the dealer’s income accordingly.

Warning that heroin in Thailand and neighbouring countries contained pure heroin of 80-90 per cent – compared to other countries’ rate of only 20-30 per cent, Pongsapat said this drug batch could be fatal.

ONCB would contact Laos and Myanmar to help locate and crackdown on the factory, he said. Although police had intercepted this batch of drugs from smugglers, some of it might have spread already to communities. Pongsapat said anyone spotting narcotics with a logo of a lion on a globe should alert the ONCB hotline 1386.

Court to decide fate of Feb 2 poll tomorrow
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: The Constitutional Court will, tomorrow, make a much-awaited ruling on the validity of the February 2 election, a judgement that could end the ongoing political stalemate or further fuel conflict.

The court set the schedule after hearing accounts of all parties concerned in the dispute. The petition asking the court to rule on the validity of the poll was forwarded by the Ombudsman on behalf of Thammasat University law lecturer Kittipong Kamolthamwong, who claimed the election process was flawed, unfair and unconstitutional.

Ombudsman Pornpetch Vichit-cholachai, as plaintiff, told the court that the fairness of the election had been undermined. He cited the failure to conclude the poll on a single day as stipulated by the Constitution because the election could not be held in 28 constituencies in the southern provinces, where there were no candidates, and candidacy registration was problematic.

Also, ballot counting in other constituencies, which were made public, would impact on the judgement of voters in the 28 constituencies rendering the election unfair, according to Pornpetch.

Moreover, the issuing of several orders by the caretaker government, including the emergency decree, was unfair to other political parties contesting the election, he argued.

Pornpetch said the general election had a severe social, political and economic impact. Although the government had returned power to the people, there were political rallies against the government, which made the caretaker government unable to completely perform its duties and risked becoming unlawful.

“This election exacted a high price as there were fatalities and many were injured. Some people even said if this electoral problem is prolonged and the caretaker government still performs its duty until the end of June, it could affect the country’s GDP growth rate,” he said.

“Why don’t we hold a legitimate election to pave the way for ‘good’ people to govern the country?” he said, adding there was no guarantee the EC would complete the poll in all constituencies.

Pornpetch insisted on the legal power of the Office of the Ombudsman to file the petition with the Constitutional Court.

Caretaker Deputy Prime Minister Phongthep Thepkanjana, who represented the prime minister, said The Office of the Ombudsman is not empowered to petition the Constitutional Court and the court has no power to accept the case.

“Actually, only 10 per cent of voting in the total of 375 constituencies were disrupted and the law empowers the EC to conduct a new round of voting. If you regard the new ball

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Thailand beaches may limit visitors until Covid-19 vaccine is available

Caitlin Ashworth

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Thailand beaches may limit visitors until Covid-19 vaccine is available | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Unsplash: Merve Selcuk Simsek

Beaches and national parks might not fully open to international tourists until a Covid-19 vaccine is available. Around 120 to 150 tourists departing from China are set to arrive in Phuket on October 8 after a 6 month ban on international tourists. They’ll have to go through a 14 day state quarantine, but after that, they may not be able to enjoy some of the island’s beaches. A report from Bloomberg says it’s “unlikely” beaches and parks will fully open to overseas travellers until a vaccine is out.

Thailand’s borders won’t fully reopen to international tourists until a vaccine is widely available to the public, according to Tourism Council of Thailand president Chairat Trirattanajarasporn. For the time being, only tourists on select charter flights with a 90 day Special Tourist Visa can enter the country.

“It’s good for the country to reopen even if it’s just for trial … Once we’ve tested our reopening plan for a month, we can assess how to go forward and allow more visitors to come in.”

The new Special Tourist Visa is an effort intended to help revive Thailand’s tourism industry which has been crippled by the coronavirus pandemic. According to Bloomberg, the sector makes but about a fifth of the nation’s economy. Last year, the tourism industry generated 1.9 trillion baht with about 40 million foreign visitors. With travel restrictions in place to control the spread of the coronavirus, Chairat predicts tourism revenue will drop 82.6% to 336.5 billion baht by the end of the year.

“Businesses that rely on foreign tourists, especially in Phuket, Samui, Pattaya and Chiang Mai, will continue to close in the coming months because there would only be a small group of people coming in after the reopening.”

SOURCE: Bloomberg

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Thailand News Today | Phuket re-opens, TripAdvisor review saga, Samut Prakhan chem spill | Sept 30

The Thaiger

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Thailand News Today | Phuket re-opens, TripAdvisor review saga, Samut Prakhan chem spill | Sept 30 | The Thaiger

Daily TV news about Thailand. Updates and all the latest information from thethaiger.com.

Phuket prepares to welcome first Chinese tourists in over 6 months

The first group of tourists to arrive under Thailand’s new Special Tourist Visa scheme will land in Phuket on October 8.

The flight from Guangzhou in southern China will carry 120 tourists, who will spend their first 14 days in alternative state quarantine. They are reported to be travelling under the government’s new STV.

The resort islands of Phuket and Koh Samui will be the first to welcome travellers under the Special Tourist Via scheme. Guangzhou has not recorded any new cases of the Covid-19 virus for a prolonged period.

The CCSA reports that there will be a limit of 300 foreign tourists admitted each week, but this will be reviewed after the first phase of the re-opening. All arrivals will be subject to 14 day quarantine.

Minister calls for all complaints against Sarasas schools to be monitored amid abuse allegations

The Education Minister is asking the Office of the Private Education Commission to closely monitor all complaints filed against all Sarasas Witaed School branches around the country.

34 out of 42 of the schools have had complaints filed against them. Allegations of abuse first emerged when the actions of an abusive teacher at a branch of the school in the central province of Nonthaburi, just north of central Bangkok, were captured on CCTV.

Additional complaints made against several other branches of the private school allege harsh punishment, the charging of fees not sanctioned by the Education Ministry, and the use of unqualified teachers. The Thonburi school was also accused of using babysitters as teachers

The man who wrote the bad reviews for Koh Chang’s Sea View Resort has a criminal record

In the ongoing stoush between the American, Wesley Barnes, and Koh Chang’s Sea View Resort, it’s now been revealed that Mr Barnes has been of interest to the US judicial system in the past, being accused of firing a weapon at a bar in Jackson County, Missouri.

Wesley Barnes, who has been working in Thailand as a teacher, posted a number of negative reviews on different platforms, including Trip Advisor, allegedly accusing the Koh Chang resort of “modern day slavery”, amongst other complaints. He stayed at the resort in June this year.

But this isn’t the first time Mr Barnes has come to the attention of police.

In the US there was an incident which is now public record. There was an official police complaint against the 34 year old in 2017. He was accused of firing a weapon near Waldo Bar, and later at a convenience store, told people he was a federal agent prior to the initial incident.

Of course the man’s criminal record doesn’t prevent him from posting negative reviews but provides just a little more context to the ongoing saga between the hotel and Mr Barnes.

PM dismisses rumours of alliance with opposition to form new government

Thai PM Prayuth Chan-o-cha has rubbished rumours that the ruling coalition parties plan to join forces with the opposition Pheu Thai party to form a new government.

While the PM initially didn’t respond to the question, instead bidding reporters a good day and walking away, he did mumble that he had enough “headaches” with one of his coalition partners.

Meanwhile Deputy PM, Prawit Wongsuwan, also dismissed the question, accusing the media of being behind the speculation. Under the current constitution the Thai PM is elected by a parliamentary majority, and not automatically coming from the leader of the party with the most number of votes. But a coalition between Prayut and Pheu Thai does seem, at face value, extremely unlikely.

Around 10 villagers hospitalised after chemical spill in Samut Prakan

Around 10 people were hospitalised after a chemical tank spilled at a village in Samut Prakan, just southeast of Bangkok.

Those near the spill reported feeling nauseous and some had trouble breathing. Officials do not known what chemical was in the tank.

The 1 metre tank had been taken into the forest by 2 employees at a second hand shop who hoped they could take it apart and sell the scrap metal. The 2 employees fainted when the tank spilled. Trees and grass in a 100 metre radius of the chemical spill also died.

The chemical let off a strong odour and Thai media says the fumes spread to a nearby village. Those at the second hand shop, close by to the chemical spill, started to feel nauseous and some had trouble breathing. Some people reported skin rashes after the incident. Around 10 villagers, including children, were sent to hospital.

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Thailand farmers hope to grow and export cannabis by next year

Caitlin Ashworth

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Thailand farmers hope to grow and export cannabis by next year | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Unsplash: Esteban Lopez

Under a proposed law, Thailand farmers would be allowed to grow cannabis and hemp for export without going through cannabis certified universities or medical institutes. The National Farmers Council president Praphat Panyachatrak says he hopes the new law will be in place by next year. The legislation is still being reviewed by the Public Health Ministry and National Legislative Assembly, but Praphat says he expects an announcement will be made soon.

Thailand’s recent rush to decriminalise and even legalise marijuana follows the Bhumjaithai Party joining the government coalition in 2019, headed by current Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul. His elected MPs provide essential votes for the fragile coalition. His party ran on a platform of legalising marijuana.

Thailand has been gearing up for the global cannabis trade with talk of classifying medical cannabis as an economic crop. The classification would allow the plant to be exported to other countries. The government has also talked about adding a variety of cannabis cultivars to keep up with the demanding cannabis industry.

The National Farmers Council has been advocating for the cultivation of cannabis and Praphat says the new law will make it easier for farmers to grow the plant. He adds that farmers would be able to get a permit to grow cannabis as soon as they got an order from overseas.

Recreational marijuana is still illegal in Thailand and is considered a Category 5 narcotic. Those charged with distributing cannabis face 2 to 10 years in prison and a fine from 40,000 baht to 200,000 baht. Those caught distributing over 10 kilograms of cannabis face up to 15 years in prison and a fine from 200,000 baht to 1,500,000 baht.

SOURCE: Nation Thailand | Chiang Rai Times

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