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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Businesses rail against blackout; Minister blames lightning; Academics say no excuse

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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Businesses rail against blackout; Minister blames lightning; Academics say no excuse | The Thaiger

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

Businesses demand action as officials downplay power cut
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Tourism officials downplayed the impact of Tuesday night’s power outage in the South, but tourism operators and the country’s biggest private-sector association expressed fears for their business and demanded the government take steps to ensure that such a situation does not happen again.

Suraphon Svetasreni, governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, said its office in the Southern region had collected information on the effects of the power cut, which hit 14 southern provinces on Tuesday evening, and found nothing to worry about so far. Phuket International Airport continued normal operations because it has generators able to provide power for more than three hours.

The blackout hit at around 6.45pm, and lasted until 10.45pm in some parts of the South.

Most of the big hotels also have their own generators. The businesses that suffered the biggest impact were stand-alone spa outlets without their own backup generators. Some bookings were cancelled as a result.

“This blackout had a minimal impact because it lasted for a short period and operators had generators,” he said.

However, Piyaman Tejapaibul, president of the Tourism Council of Thailand, was more concerned about the possible impact of the blackout, saying it could lead to a slight drop in confidence among foreign tourists.

She said precautionary plans should be put in place. She will bring this issue up with the tourism committee chaired by the minister of tourism and sports.

But Suraphon was confident the tourism industry will still move ahead in the remaining months of the year and attract 24.5 million foreign visitors for the whole of 2013. From May 1-20 alone, there were about 1.2 million foreign tourist arrivals into the Kingdom, an increase of 21 per cent year on last year.

The strengthening baht is not a threat to the tourism industry, Suraphon said. The number of tourist arrivals from the United States, Germany and France is on the rise, while those from Britain and Australia have declined slightly. It’s likely that they chose to go to other countries with weaker currencies for their travel.

Thanavath Phonvichai, director of the Economic and Business Forecasting Centre, said the blackout in the South would create only small business losses as it only lasted a few hours. Losses are estimated at Bt20 million to Bt50 million.

Businesses that would be hit hard are seafood processing, tourism and department stores. He said it should not have a huge impact on the business sector. However, as it occurred in the South, repeating an earlier similar incident on Koh Samui, it could have a psychological impact on investors.

“The government and responsible agencies need to announce that the repeated accident would not occur again and [that they] have clear prevention measures.

Otherwise, it would affect foreign-investor confidence in the Southern region in the future,” Thanavath said.

Pornsilp Patcha-rintanakul, vice chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, called on the government to provide a prompt and clear explanation to the public, because blackouts in the South were a sensitive issue.

Federation of Thailand Industries secretary-general Thanit Sorat called for the government to ensure that similar events would not recur and said it had to find out which party would take responsibility in this case.

The FTI will confer on Monday on the estimated damage and what measures the government must launch to prevent the problem from happening again.

Surat Thani Chamber of Commerce chairman Suthat Lertmanorat said the blackout had hit businesses’ long-term confidence in the provincial power utilities. He is worried that such blackouts will recur, but added that the major industries in the province were not hit hard as they had backup power and the incident only lasted for a brief period.

Suthat also urged the government to devise a long-term solution to this problem.

Wannee Thaiphanit, president of the Pha-ngan Tourism Promotion Association, said the blackout had severely hurt the tourism industry. Fewer than half of the major hotels in Surat Thani province have power generators, while small restaurants were fully hit by the blackout.

She is also worried about the confidence of tourists, as Pha-ngan will hold a full-moon party this weekend during which around 20,000 tourists are expected to flock to the island.

Songkhla Chamber of Commerce chairman Somporn Siriporananont said the blackout was roughly estimated to cost the business sector in the province at least Bt500 million, as some major manufacturers’ production processes were disrupted.

Kritsana Iamwongnatee, chairman of the FTI’s Ranong Chapter, said the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand and related agencies had to improve the electricity-transmission and backup systems to make them much more reliable.

He said the government should set up a centre to inform people of emergencies by mobile-phone text messages.

According to Airports of Thailand, Hat Yai and Phuket airports were not affected by the blackout because of their access to backup power. The state agency has ordered both airports to increase power reserves to enhance safety further.

Minister blames blackout on lightning strike
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Energy Minister Pongsak Ruktapongpisal yesterday described Tuesday evening’s blackout in all 14 southern provinces as “unavoidable” but did not come up with long-term measures to prevent a repeat in the region.

The plan to build more power plants, including coal-fuelled plants, in the region is still on track, he said.

“I insist that the [blackout] problem has nothing to do with the policy of building a coal-fired power plant,” he said.

The plan has faced opposition from local residents and environmental activists.

Some academics and activists suspect that the blackout was a conspiracy aimed at stressing the need to construct more power plants in the South.

Assistant Professor Prasart Meetam of Prince of Songkla University’s Faculty of Sciences, warned the government against trying to use the blackout as an excuse to push ahead with the construction of more power plants.

“Various agencies have now given conflicting information, especially on power demand in the South,” he said.

Wichai Nakjon, an environmental activist from Krabi, said he suspected the power outage was a conspiracy aimed at pointing to the need for more power plants, particularly coal-fired ones.

In April, the energy minister had warned that there would be a widespread blackout because a natural gas facility in Myanmar that supplies Thailand’s power plants was under maintenance.

Pongsak blamed lightning striking a high-voltage transmission line that supplies power from the Central region to the South. There are two such lines but the other one was under maintenance.

In the short term, another line would be added linking the Ratchaburi power plant in the Central region to the South to prevent such a problem. He has ordered a study to expand the power distribution system in the South that was estimated to cost more than Bt10 billion.

“A cause of the problem is that power produced in the South does not meet local demand. And more elect

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Thailand

Points deduction system for drivers to be introduced mid-December

The Thaiger

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Points deduction system for drivers to be introduced mid-December | The Thaiger

The point deduction system, for traffic and road infringements, is tentatively scheduled for activation for motorists and motorcyclists in mid-December. It is hoped that the system will help reduce road fatalities and injuries on Thai roads.

The deputy commander of Highways Police Command says that every licensed driver will be given an allocation of 12 points. Each time the driver commits a traffic law violation, points will be deducted. When there are no points left, the driver’s license will be suspended for 90 days, after which the driver or motorcyclist will have to undergo training administered by the Land Transport Department to get their licence back, and another 12 points.

Those who don’t attend the training, however, will have their licence returned after 90 days, but with only 8 points.

Points to be deducted differ, depending on the offence. Offences are divided into four categories:

• One point deduction

Using a cell-phone while driving; exceeding the speed limit; not wearing crash helmets for motorcyclists; not wearing seat belts; not giving way to emergency vehicles, riding on the sidewalk and not stopping for pedestrians on zebra crossings.

• Two points deduction

Running a red light; driving on the wrong side of the road; reckless driving; driving while his/her license is suspended and drunk driving.

• Three points deduction

Organising or promoting street racing without permission; hit-and run; driving while under the influence of narcotics; driving while under the influence of alcohol exceeding 150mg per ml.

• Four points deduction

Driving under the influence of alcohol exceeding 200mg per ml, drunk driving in a way which may cause serious injuries or death to the other people; driving in a manner disregarding the safety of the other people or causing trouble to other people.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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Economy

Opposition hits out at government’s military spending in 2020 budget

May Taylor

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Opposition hits out at government’s military spending in 2020 budget | The Thaiger

PHOTO: Reuters | The Business Times

The opposition is accusing the government of being more concerned with military arms than the daily struggles of Thai citizens. During a debate in Parliament on the budget bill, the government was accused of caring more about the growth in military spending than citizens’ financial woes.

The opposition levied the attack after PM General Prayut Chan-o-cha delivered the 3.2 trillion baht bill to the House of Representatives. The debate on the 2020 budget is expected to continue for two more days and if approved by Parliament, the bill will come into force early next year.

The PM says the budget aligns with the “20 year strategy” to improve the living standards of the nation’s citizens while growing the economy, but opponents accuse him of making defence spending a priority.

The leader of the opposition, Sompong Amornvivat, claims that in the five years the PM has been in power, total spending has hit 14.3 trillion baht, with loans of 2.2 trillion baht, without any significant growth in the economy. He accuses the government of spending more than 6 billion baht on defence, with the Interior Ministry getting 25 billion baht more than last year.

It’s also understood that the government has also put 518.8 billion baht aside, which it can spend as it wishes, without the consent of Parliament.

The government’s tourism stimulus plan, whereby domestic tourists would be given cash incentives, also came under fire as Sompong declared it a waste of money that would do nothing to boost productivity.

The subject of the PM’s oath-taking fiasco reared its head again, as the leader of the Seree Ruam Thai Party, Pol General Sereepisut Temiyavej declared the PM and his government unfit to rule or propose a budget bill as a result of it.

Anudit Nakorntab from the Pheu Thai party said the government should postpone unnecessary spending on military arms while the country’s citizens battle economic hardship, accusing the previous junta-led administration of also prioritising the military in its spending.

SOURCE: The Nation

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Environment

Academics warn of high cost of Thai ban on agri-chemicals

May Taylor

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Academics warn of high cost of Thai ban on agri-chemicals | The Thaiger

The chairman of the Thai Sugarcane Farmers Association, Thongkam Cheongklad, says a ban on the weed-killer paraquat would have a severe impact on production costs. Academics and Thai sugarcane farmers have also expressed their concern over the ban, saying it could cost the industry up to 570 billion baht.

The Nation reports that up to 1.2 million people working in the sugarcane industry are understood to be against the ban, saying the proposed paraquat substitute is both expensive and ineffective.

The president of the Thailand Society of Sugarcane Technologists, Kitti Choonhawong, says Thailand has approximately 11 million rai dedicated to sugarcane plantations, generating about 300 billion baht a year.

He claims that a ban on agri-chemicals may lower sugar production, which in turn would affect sugar factories and cause the export market to lose as much as 94.6 billion baht. Thailand is currently the world’s second biggest sugar exporter, behind Brazil.

A research director from the Thailand Development Institute says the ban could ultimately mean the country is not allowed to produce enough food, unless chemical fertilisers are still allowed if chemical pesticides are banned.

Viroj Na Ranong says production costs will still rise however, along with labour costs, adding that the government needs to do its homework.

“The government has to implement measures based on research, not on social trends and politics.”

It’s understood that The National Hazardous Substances Committee will meet on October 27 to decide if a ban on three chemicals currently used in farming will go ahead. The substances involved are paraquat, glyphosate and chlorpyrifos and the proposal is for them to be banned from December 1.

SOURCE: The Nation

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