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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
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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

Thailand News Today | Army deny Twitter spin, “Don’t Reopen”, English proficiency low | Nov 27

The Thaiger

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Thailand News Today | Army deny Twitter spin, “Don’t Reopen”, English proficiency low | Nov 27 | The Thaiger

Last day of the week. Thought we’d go outside. Bad idea! Welcome to Friday’s Thailand News Today.

Royal Thai Army denies claims about Twitter campaign to spread pro-government propaganda

Following a shutdown of 926 Twitter accounts linked to the Royal Thai Army, documents were leaked of what appears to be a contract between the Army and a private company supposedly hired to spread pro-government propaganda.

But Thailand’s Army chief is denying the claims and says the Army never hired a company to spread pro-government propaganda through the over 900 Twitter accounts.

Last month, Twitter announced that it had suspended 926 accounts linked to the Royal Thai Army for violating the social media company’s “platform manipulation” policies.

A report by an independent Cyber Policy Centre says the Army used Twitter to “cheerlead” with pro-government propaganda. The report says the Army used Twitter to criticise the now disbanded Future Forward Party and neutralise criticism after February’s mass shooting where an Army soldier killed 30 people and injured 57 others.

Former WTO director cautions against re-opening Thailand too quickly

The former director general of the World Trade Organisation has issued a caution against Thailand throwing open its borders too early.

Supachai Panitchpakdi says Covid-19 is still very much a threat, pointing to other countries that appear trapped in a cycle of restrictions and lockdowns. He said that the cycle in many Western countries is not just damaging their economies, it’s also leading to more infections and deaths and prolonging the time until the affected countries can restart their economies. He warns that re-opening Thailand’s borders too quickly could have long-term negative impacts for the Kingdom.

Within Thailand there is a polarised view as to whether Thailand should be broadly re-opening its borders or not. Successive polls show that the Thai population is, generally, suspicious about re-opening too soon, especially whilst parts of the rest of the world are still trying to contain their infection rates. On the other hand Thailand’s tourism and hospitality industry has been decimated with millions unemployed.

Bangkok’s canal boat services go electric

A new electric passenger boat service started operating on Bangkok’s Khlong Phadung Krung Kasem today. The klong traverses the eastern side of Rattanakosin Island.

The Thai PM launched the service at the Hua Lamphong Railway Station Pier, and was a passenger on the first boat ride this morning.

There’s seven electric fibreglass boats in the initial service, each carrying 30 passengers.

The boats can run for four hours per charge at a speed of 10-15 kilometres per hour. There’s solar roof panels to help power the electric outboard motors.

The new e-boats operate from 6am-7pm, with a boat departing every 15 minutes. Good news, passengers can travel for free for the first six months of the service.

Thailand’s English level drops for the third year – English Proficiency Index

English skills in Thailand have dropped for the third year in a row with an English language proficiency score considered to be “very low.”

In the past year, Thailand’s ranking dropped from 74 out of 100 countries to 89, according to the 2020 English Proficiency Index by EF Education First. The index is based on test results from 2.2 million adults from 100 countries and regions.

Thailand scored 419 out of 800, which is considered “very low.” Thailand ranks 20 out of 24 countries surveyed in Asia and 7 out of 8 countries in Southeast Asia, just ahead of Myanmar in last place.

According to the report, the lack of English proficiency in Thailand, Cambodia and Sri Lanka hampers access to jobs in the tourism industry which makes up more than10% of their economies.

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Crime

9 arrested for allegedly embezzling more than 2.8 billion baht from Railway Club Cooperative funds

Caitlin Ashworth

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9 arrested for allegedly embezzling more than 2.8 billion baht from Railway Club Cooperative funds | The Thaiger
Line Today

Police arrested 9 people involved in the Railway Club Cooperative, including the former chief, on collusion charges for allegedly approving loans behind closed doors to embezzle a total of 2.8 billion baht from members’ funds.

Officers from the Central Investigation Bureau have been investigating since June 30 of last year. Investigators say the suspects approved loans without calling meetings for the roughly 2,300 cooperative members and used falsified documents to take out loans of about 15 million baht each.

When reviewing loan approvals made between January 2012 and November 2016, investigators say they found loans given to a hotel, housing estate, resort and property project. They say loans were also used to buy luxury cars and other valuables.

Officers from the bureau along with the Department of Special Investigation and the Anti-Money Laundering Office recently raided 26 locations in Bangkok, Phetchaburi, Samut Prakan and Nonthaburi. Officers seized a total of more than 10 million baht as well as luxury cars.

The 9 suspects face charges of colluding in theft, falsifying documents, using fake documents and money laundering. Along with arresting the cooperative’s former chief executive, 70 year old Boonsong Hongthong, police arrested committee members 49 year old Pimpa Rodrassamee, 31 year old Orchanok Sa-ngadsap, 59 year old Weerachai Srisawat, 69 year old Surat Srisawat, 37 year old Prapat Srisawat, 44 year old Supakit On-aree, 63 year old Preecha Thanapairin and 40 year old Natyanit Mahachot.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Thailand

Protected hornbill dies from gunshot wound, 2 suspects in police custody

Caitlin Ashworth

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Protected hornbill dies from gunshot wound, 2 suspects in police custody | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Facebook: เผด็จ ศิริดำรง

A protected great hornbill died after 5 days of medical treatment for a severe gunshot wound. 2 suspects are now in police custody and officers have seized a .22 calibre rifle, according to Thai PBS.

A tourist found the injured bird near the Khiriphet waterfall on Koh Chang. The hornbill, known in Thai as a nok nguek, was treated at the Nuern Plub Wan animal hospital in Chon Buri. The great hornbill’s condition rapidly deteriorated and veterinarian Phadet Siriadmrong says the hornbill suffered brain stem death.

The great hornbill, Buceros Bicornis, is listed as a vulnerable species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species. According to IUCN, hunting his substantial threat to the great hornbill.

Hunting poses a substantial threat to the species. Because of its predictable behaviour when regularly visiting the same feeding sites, it is easily targeted by local hunters.

Thailand’s Wild Animal Reservation and Protection Act prohibits hunting preserved or protected wild animals. Those found guilty of violating the act could face up to 4 years in prison and a fine up 40,000 baht.

SOURCES: Thai PBS | Bangkok Post | IUCN

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