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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Dam protesters in Bangkok; Turtles dumped at airport; Gold mine gunmen intimidate villagers

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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Dam protesters in Bangkok; Turtles dumped at airport; Gold mine gunmen intimidate villagers | The Thaiger

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

Anti-dam marchers win warm welcome in capital
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Campaigners staging a 13-day, 368-kilometre march against the controversial Mae Wong Dam project in Nakhon Sawan arrived in Bangkok yesterday, receiving a warm reception from non-governmental organisations and other dam opponents.

Momentum has been building since the symbolic march from the project site by a group of conservationists led by Sasin Chalermlarp, secretary-general of Seub Nakhasathien Foundation, kicked off 13 days ago. Support among anti-government groups built steadily throughout the course of the march.

Along with comments on social media supportive of the 368-kilometre march, a large number of people representing several anti-government groups welcomed the team’s arrival in Bangkok yesterday. They held small gatherings to usher Sasin’s entourage along the capital’s streets to the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre, where the march team stopped and rested.

In a brief interview upon his arrival yesterday, Sasin said he was not worried over the vow by the government, and by Deputy Prime Minister Plodprasop Suraswadi in particular, to go ahead with the dam project. “I believe in the power of those who agree with me, which makes me feel confident that we can stop the dam project from progressing,” he added.

Sasin later issued a statement, read out at the site, dismissing the credibility of the government-commissioned environmental health impact assessment (EHIA) and other details regarding the dam project. The statement also said the Mae Wong project could not effectively solve flooding in the region around Nakhon Sawan, and that the dam was capable of holding less than 1 per cent of the water volume that flowed through the Central region in the massive flooding two years ago.

The march has been hailed by middle-class people, conservationists and environmentalists as a crusade against an array of government projects they deem devastating to the natural environment. It comes despite demonstrations of support for the project by locals living near and around the projected dam site, who believe they would profit from it, as suggested in government documents and based on their own long experience of seasonal droughts and floods. They believe these problems would be solved if the Bt13-billion dam is built.

Sasin, supported by 28 NGOs who signed the statement, submitted a list of eight demands to a representative of the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry, and vowed to further campaign against the dam project, which has been backed by all previous governments over the past three decades.

A panel of National Environmental Board experts will today consider postponing deliberations on the Mae Wong Dam project, said Udom Kraiwatnusorn, a ministry representative. The possible postponement is seen as resulting from the march and the show of support for it by the project’s opponents.

Irrigation authorities say the Mae Wong Dam is needed to cope with drought and flooding problems each year, especially in the region connecting the lower North and the upper South. There are only two areas fit for building large-sized dams – Nakhon Sawan’s proposed Mae Wong Dam project site, and an area spanning the Upper and Lower Yom River (Mae Yom) mostly located in Phrae province.

Sasin’s statement said the EHIA also failed to designate an area for forestation to make up for around 13,000 rai of fertile forests in Mae Wong National Park that would be lost to the dam project. The statement also alleged unfair changes to personnel on a number of advisory committees, with those showing opposition to the project being replaced, adding that some panels had no representation of experts from NGOs or departments relevant to animal and wildlife conservation.

The march arrived at Bangkok’s Kasetsart University at 8.30am yesterday, welcomed by a large group of people who had followed it along the route to the Bangkok arts centre.

Sasin said the march covered around 368km – 20 km short of an early estimate of 388km. He repeated that Mae Wong’s jungles were the heart of the area’s overall ecological system.

Sa Kaeo hospitals flooded
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Two hospitals in Sa Kaeo have suspended service due to flooding in the province, Health Minister Pradit Sinthawanarong said yesterday.

He said Tambon Non Mak Moon and Tambon Klong Takian health-promotion hospitals had been forced to temporarily stop offering services because they were under water.

“Floodwater levels there are between 50 and 70 centimetres.”

Pradit said he also ordered hospitals in Lop Buri and Ayutthaya to closely monitor the flood situation.

“[If the flood threat is imminent] medical supplies and medicines must be moved to safe areas. Power reserves must be available to ensure that floods won’t disrupt the electrical system and treatment for patients,” he said.

The armed forces are now delivering help to flood victims in various provinces. Since last Wednesday, flooding has already ravaged many provinces in the country including Nakhon Ratchasima, Surin, Si Sa Ket, Ubon Ratchathani, Kanchana-buri, Nakhon Nayok, Ayutthaya, Angthong, Sing Buri, Lop Buri, Nakhon Sawan, Phitsanulok, Phichit, Kamphaeng Phet, and Prachin Buri.

“We have deployed flat-bottomed boats to help victims move their properties to higher ground. We have also fixed bridges that were damaged by raging floodwaters,” Defence Ministry spokesman Thanatip Sawangsang said.

He said PM Yingluck Shinawatra had instructed the Armed Forces Headquarters to support relevant agencies in flood-relief operations to minimise damage or casualties.

Deputy Prime Minister Plodprasop Suraswadi, in his capacity as chair of the Water and Flood Management Commission, was most concerned about Ayutthaya. He said people living along the Chao Phraya could be affected the most, as farmers were releasing water from paddy fields to prepare for harvesting.

Ayutthaya Governor Wittaya Phewpong said the river had already overflowed in eight districts.

As for the situation in Bangkok, Thanatip said the Navy had deployed 16 boats to use their propellers to push floodwater to less flood-prone areas of the capital such as Bang Khen and Thawi Watthana canals.

“We want to assure Bangkok residents that they won’t face a repeat of the 2011 flood crisis,” he said.

Villagers near gold mine seek police help
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Residents of six villages in Baan Khao Lueng of Loei’s Wang Saphung district called on the government yesterday to maintain peace and order after a group of some 20 armed and camouflaged men destroyed a barrier set up to protect the communities from the operations of the Tungkum gold-mining company.

“We demand that police bring the perpetrators to justice,” the residents said in a statement.

The villagers, calling themselves the Love Homeland Group, said in the statement that the firm, which has been in the area since 2006, had its mining operation suspended due to its adverse impact on the environment and the potentially fatal health hazard it posed to villagers.

Since the firm entered the area, villagers have also been

— 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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