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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: DNA tests proposed for migrant workers; Rubber farmers fight on; Mahouts fear losing elephants

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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: DNA tests proposed for migrant workers; Rubber farmers fight on; Mahouts fear losing elephants | The Thaiger

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

Proposal to DNA-test migrant workers panned
The Nation/Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Prompted by concerns over the ease with which foreigners will be able to travel in and out of Thailand once the Asean Economic Community (AEC) commences in 2015, the Institute for Forensic Medicine (IFM) is calling on the government to collect the DNA of all migrant workers entering the country, to be stored in a national database for future identification.

The proposal has been met with criticism from all sides, ranging from employers, who cite the high cost, to human rights advocates, who say the idea is a blatant violation of basic human rights and would generate xenophobia.

IFM commander Pol Maj Gen Pornchai Suteerakune cited a scenario he dubbed “foreign murderers lurking in the country” as the reason for collecting DNA samples. “We have to be wary of the increasing number of foreigners travelling to Thailand. Without a well thought-out plan in place, problems will arise.

“Migrant workers will be able to commit crimes in Thailand, then escape the Thai justice system by fleeing to their own countries where Thai law is not applicable,” he explained.

The IFM’s proposal suggests that employers – initially those running factories – be required to pay up to 5,000 baht for each DNA sample collected from a migrant worker, and that the cost be deducted from the worker’s salary in small monthly increments.

“We need to work on a solution as a defensive measure in preparation [for the AEC],” Maj Gen Pornchai added.

Another plan in the pipeline is to set up a provincial IFM office in Southern Thailand’s Provincial Police Region 9, where DNA samples could be taken from crime scenes to assist counterinsurgency operations. Under the plan, the IFM would eventually establish regional offices in all 10 provincial police regions, enabling the IFM to easily assist police investigations across the country.

Department of Employment director-general Pravit Khiengpol said “no country in the world does such a thing [to migrant workers].”

He added that it would lead to a backlash from international human rights advocates, as migrant workers, who already have to pay for their medical examinations and health insurance to ensure they can secure employment, would be seen as being doubly exploited by Thai authorities.

The DNA proposal also goes against the policy of the department, which aims to further reduce the costs shouldered by migrant workers, while encouraging employers to register illegal workers and legitimise their employment.

“The higher cost [of DNA collection] would drive migrant workers underground and force many of them to continue working illegally. The department already collects biodata of these workers – their fingerprints – in addition to their photos and other details. The police can always request access to this additional information from us,” Pravit added.

Human Rights Commissioner Dr Niran Pitakwatchara said taking non-consensual DNA samples was a violation of one’s basic human rights, and doing so was regarded as discriminatory and portrayed migrant workers who have not committed crimes in a negative light.

“Their human rights should be respected even further [by Thai authorities] when the AEC 2015 takes affect. The protocol should not focus only on the economic gains generated by migrant workers, while at the same time treating them as inferior,” he added.

Wiriya Sirichai-ekkawat, head of the Thai Overseas Fisheries Association, said the idea had some merit but was too costly and impractical, because collecting someone’s DNA could not be forced on anyone against their will. He said mandatory DNA collection would encourage fishing trawler skippers or employers to hire workers secretly at much lower fees, while organisations like the International Labour Organisation (ILO) would certainly oppose it, he said.

The head of a network of advocacy groups for migrant workers said identity records and registration details of migrant workers could be retrieved easily through the Department of Employment and the immigration police database.

The majority of crimes committed by migrant workers were related to illegal entry and overstaying their residency permits.
Rubber farmers vow to fight on
The Nation/Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Rubber farmers from Prachuap Khiri Khan set up roadblocks on a key section of Phetkasem Road yesterday in Bang Saphan district and vowed to continue their protest against the government, after it failed to heed their calls for subsidies in order to hike rubber prices.

Heavy congestion caused by the roadblock was eventually eased after the farmers reached an agreement with police and allowed several lanes to be re-opened.

It is a second attempt made by around 400 farmers to make their demands heard, after the first roadblock last month was dismantled during violent clashes with police.

Motorists travelling south have been advised to take an alternative route along the coast to avoid long tailbacks on Phetkasem Road. The protest site is located at Si Nakhon intersection not far from Thammarat intersection, which saw scores of protestors and anti-riot police injured during the farmers’ first protest in September. Several police vehicles were also set on fire during the protest.

Police said that yesterday they had arrested three men who were acting as security for the protesting farmers. Officers found a number of home-made bombs and weapons, including slingshots, in their possession.

A network of rubber and palm-oil farmers from the 16 southern provinces declared their support for the roadblock yesterday and threatened to escalate the protest if no one from the government met to discuss their demands. In response, Deputy Prime Minister Pracha Promnok arrived in the province at 4pm yesterday, however, the outcome of the talks is still unknown.

In addition to barricades, a number of trees were felled to block Phet Kasem Road – the main route to the south. Protestors then delivered a series of blistering attacks on the government, criticising it for not delivering a price guarantee that would benefit rubber tappers, and instead granting per-rai subsidies to wealthy plantation owners.

Speeches also attacked the Yingluck administration’s amnesty bill, suggesting that the renewed protests could be politically motivated.

Meanwhile, provincial authorities have submitted a petition to the provincial court asking for an injunction to immediately order protesters to vacate the site. The court is expected to issue its ruling today. Authorities in neighbouring Chumphon province have also called an urgent meeting to discuss measures to halt possible rallies supporting the Prachuap Khiri Khan roadblock.
Mahouts fear losing their elephants
The Nation/Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: It would be hard for a 45-year-old mahout from Sur

— Phuket Gazette Editors



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People

Alive and kicking. Tony Jaa says he’s very much alive.

The Thaiger & The Nation

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Alive and kicking. Tony Jaa says he’s very much alive. | The Thaiger

Photo“The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.” – Mark Twain

Tony Jaa, the internationally famous Thai martial arts star, says he’s alive and well, dismissing rumours that he died during the shooting of a Hollywood movie in the US last Saturday.

‘Tachakorn Yeerum’, his real name, has told reporters he was aware of the rumours of his death that had been spread on socia media. To prove he is alive he posted a newly recorded video on his Facebook page under the headline: “A little message for my friends in Thailand”.

In the video clip, he denies rumours that he is dead, saying he is alive and kicking, and plans to make more films.

He is best known for his roles in “The Protector” and “Ong-Bak”, which brought him international fame.

Alive and kicking. Tony Jaa says he's very much alive. | News by The Thaiger Alive and kicking. Tony Jaa says he's very much alive. | News by The Thaiger

News of Tony’s “death” had spread in both Thailand and other countries. One Thai website said that the legendary action star was dead and that his body would be returned to his hometown in Surin province. The website claimed that the actor had died during the final shoot of “Fast and Furious 9” after getting the director’s go-ahead to leap about 10 metres from one rooftop to another at 11pm on Saturday.

He was reported to have fallen to his death while attempting the stunt. The website even showed what was claimed to be the scene of the accident, including police yellow tape.

At about 11am ET on Saturday… “our beloved actor Tony Jaa passed away. Tony Jaa was born on February 5, 1976 in Isaan. He will be missed but not forgotten. Please show your sympathy and condolences by commenting on and liking this page.”

Hundreds of fans immediately started writing their messages of condolence on the Facebook page, expressing their sadness that the talented 43 year old actor was dead.

Whereas some trusting fans believed the posts, others were immediately skeptical of the report, perhaps learning their lesson from the huge amount of fake death reports emerging about celebrities in recent months.

On Sunday, the actor’s representatives officially confirmed that Tony Jaa was not dead.

“He joins the long list of celebrities who have been victimised by this type of hoax. He’s still alive and well; stop believing what you see on the internet.”

SOURCE: The Nation

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Election

Thailand’s pro-army party hopes to seal deal with Democrats and Bhumjaithai today

The Thaiger

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Thailand’s pro-army party hopes to seal deal with Democrats and Bhumjaithai today | The Thaiger

PHOTO: The Nation

Palang Pracharat, the political party supporting Thailand’s Junta, is hoping it can complete negotiations and make a deal today to which would see it with enough parliamentary seats to keep Prayut Chan-o-cha in power as prime minister. This analysis from a lawmaker who is a board member of the Palang Pracharat party in a Reuters article.

The deal would be the end of opposition hopes to keep the military out of politics, five years after the NCPO seized power from the elected government on May 22, 2014.

Palang Pracharat party contested the March 24 election as a proxy party for the army with Prayuth Chan-o-cha as their prime ministerial candidate.

Puttipong Punnakanta, one of Palang Pracharat’s board members and a member of parliament, has told Reuters the party – which gained the second-largest number of seats in the election – would formally invite two other parties, the Democrats and Bhumjaithai, to join in a coalition government.

“It’s certain that we will be forming a coalition government, with at least 251 seats and more. We will see Prayuth Chan-ocha as PM next month.”

The Reuters story notes that the opposition Pheu Thai party, which was ousted from power in 2014, won the most seats in the 500 member House of Representatives on the March 24 election, but its coalition of anti-Junta parties has been unable to form a majority when final results were announced.

SOURCE: Reuters

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People

HM The King acknowledges the passing of General Prem

The Thaiger

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HM The King acknowledges the passing of General Prem | The Thaiger

PHOTO: Matichon Online

HM the King has acknowledged, with great sadness, the loss of General Prem Tinsulanonda, whom he described as a great national benefactor. The announcement said HM the King has agreed to sponsor the funeral rite at Wat Benjamaborpit Dusitwanaram for seven days from today and presented a Royal urn for the late statesman.

General Prem had served the country, and the current and former monarchs, in various capacities – as the army commander-in-chief, prime minister, privy councillor, statesman, president of the Privy Council, as well as a regent.

HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn will preside over the bathing rites on behalf of HM the King tonight at 6pm. HM The King and HM The Queen will preside over a merit-making ceremony on June 2. Merit-making ceremonies are to be held on June 10, July 15 and on September 3.

Palace officials were ordered to observe the mourning period by wearing black for 21 days from today until June 17, with the exception of June 3 which coincides with the birthday of HM Queen Suthida.

Meanwhile, the government has ordered Thai national flags at all government and state enterprise offices, as well as educational institutions, to fly at half-mast for seven days from today as a gesture of respect and condolence for Statesman General Prem.

All state officials were also ordered to observe the mourning until June 17 while members of the public in general were advised to act as they think appropriate.

SOURCE: Thai PBS | Matichon Online

HM The King acknowledges the passing of General Prem | News by The Thaiger HM The King acknowledges the passing of General Prem | News by The Thaiger

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