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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Fears rice scheme will break budget; Taxi CCTV on the radar; Singles say no to more taxes

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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Fears rice scheme will break budget; Taxi CCTV on the radar; Singles say no to more taxes | The Thaiger
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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH
– Thailand news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community


Fears rice scheme will break budget
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: The Finance Ministry’s sub-committee assessing the cost of the rice-pledging scheme plans to finalise figures for the first year of operations next week, with or without the latest information on inventories, a ministry source said yesterday.

The panel chaired by deputy permanent secretary Supa Piyajitti is rushing its report, as the scheme is entering its third year and there are concerns over inconclusive results from the first two years.

Indeed, there are fears that the scheme’s expenditures, which have reached Bt700 billion, could spiral out of control and threaten plans to run a balanced budget by 2017.

The report has been delayed for months as the Commerce Ministry has asked for more time to submit the latest data on remaining stocks and the quantity of rice released.

“As the Commerce Ministry could not yet trace all stockpiles, the committee will need to conclude our report with the available information,” said the official, who asked not to be named. All unaccounted for stocks will be deducted, based on the average price of rice sold by the ministry, the source said.

The Commerce Ministry earlier informed the committee that 2.9 million tonnes of rice was missing from granaries. However, after inspection by police and other agencies, the figure could rise to 3.9 million tonnes.

Kicked off in 2011 for the 2011/12 harvest year, the scheme is expected to show a loss of at least Bt100 billion.

The Cabinet recently approved a Bt270 billion pledging budget for the 2013/14 harvest year. However, under the government’s vow to practice fiscal discipline, by the end of this year it is committed to lower outstanding spending under this scheme from Bt700 billion to Bt500 billion by disposing of rice stocks.

Churarat Sutheethorn, head of the Public Debt Management Office, said the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives, which is in charge of implementation, had not yet put a fund-raising plan to the office.

Although the office’s loan guarantee for fiscal 2014 is set at Bt250 billion, the office’s loan guarantees for the rice-pledging scheme have hit the ceiling of Bt410 billion.

“Bringing down the scheme’s outstanding expenditure to Bt500 billion at the end of this year is set to balance the budget in 2017. If this can’t be done, we may not achieve the target,” she said.

Under new Commerce Minister Niwatthumrong Boonsongpaisan, the ministry is accelerating stock releases. Two weeks ago, after returning from China, he said Chinese state enterprises had agreed to place orders for 1.2 million tonnes of Thai rice.

The pledging scheme raised the government stockpiles to about 15 million tonnes, and given the high pledging price of Bt15,000 per tonne against a lower market rate, it may be difficult to unload stocks, even at a loss.

In July, 5-per-cent broken milled white rice from Thailand was quoted internationally at $538.26 per tonne on average or Bt16,148. The price included all freight costs.

Democrat MP Ong-Art Klampaiboon said yesterday the government could make the rice scheme transparent by revealing details of government-to-government rice deals.

“If the government can do this, I believe that the scheme would be more transparent,” he said, calling for details on the G2G rice deal with China.

Niwatthumrong announced earlier this month that China’s state enterprises would place orders for 1.2 million tonnes of white rice from Thailand.

Ongart said some rice traders were profiting from the deals, with rice prices quoted below market rates. Once selling the rice, they benefited from the difference.

He said bosses of some warehouses used to stock the rice were also benefiting.

He promised further probes and said if any irregularities were found, the Democrat Party would submit a petition to the National Anti-Corruption Commission.
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Taxi cameras being mulled
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: All taxis may need to be equipped with closed-circuit cameras for the safety of passengers and to prevent drivers from rejecting passengers, Transport Minister Chadchart Sittipunt said.

The camera would be used like an aircraft’s flight-recorder when crimes or other incidents take place inside a cab, he said. “The footage in the cameras could be used as evidence to prove allegations against taxi drivers, like the ‘blackbox’ in a plane.”

In addition, the equipment would help discourage the driver from refusing to pick up passengers. Many potential passengers had complained about being turned down by taxi drivers who claimed they were about to beat the deadline to return their rented cabs, or they did not know the destination.

Chadchart said if the measure proved effective, all vehicles in future may be required by law to have the equipment to monitor and protect passengers.

Land Transport Department deputy director-general Asdsathai Rattanadilok Na Phuket said new regulations to take legal action against cab drivers who refuse to carry passengers are expected to be announced within three months. The maximum penalty would be the revoking of the taxi licence of that cab or it would not be renewed. In such a case, the taxi will no longer be able to ply the streets.

Improving English skills is vital: Surin
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: English could be the key to help improve Thailand’s serious educational problems, Surin Pitsuwan, a former secretary-general of Asean, said last week.

The latest World Economic Forum’s report on global competitiveness described Thailand’s quality of higher education as “abnormally low” in comparison with other Asean countries.

“We must pay attention to the content of the WEF’s findings. Our standing is getting worse. We have seen Thailand’s scores sliding down the scale in all categories survey after survey, year after year. This is a serious matter that calls for a national strategy to reverse the trend,” he said.

Thai education has been in a crisis state for a while now and efforts to bring about reform have not borne fruit due to political interference and bureaucratic resistance, he said.

“We talk a lot about teaching our students to be critical, to think independently and to solve problems, not use rote learning and memorisation. But we are getting nowhere.

“English could be an answer to our educational malaise. With a higher proficiency in English, Thai students can change the dynamics of the classroom. They will have access to more information before going to class, forcing teachers to be better prepared and turning traditional lecture rooms into seminars where active exchanges can take place,” he said.

In the current sad state of Thai education, teachers have little motivation to prepare their lessons and students have no tools to access information relevant to their courses due to their universally low fluency in English.

English must be an urgent national agenda item. A high percentage of Thai students, even at secondary school level, already carry smartphones.

“But they are IT-savvy only for digital games. And not to access useful information for learning and intelle

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Thailand News Today | Big Bike licenses, Parliament latest, Zombie saleswoman | October 28

The Thaiger

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Thailand News Today | Big Bike licenses, Parliament latest, Zombie saleswoman | October 28 | The Thaiger

Daily TV news from The Thaiger, the most watched English-language news service in the Land of Smiles, and hosted by Tim Newton.

Thailand to introduce separate test for big bike riders from next year

From next February, motorbike riders in Thailand will be required to pass a separate driving test and training session if they wish to receive a licence for a “big bike”.

The regulation has been formalised in a bid to cut road traffic accidents which are predominantly motorbikes (about 75%) and predominantly male. From February 19, anyone with a bike over 400cc will need to attend additional training sessions and take a test in order to comply with the law.

What has not been made clear at this stage is whether foreign riders in possession of a big bike licence from their home country will also be required to take the test.

PM refuses to resign, citing concerns over political divide, the economy, Covid-19

The latest word on Thai politics and the protests and the Thai PM has made it clear he will not resign, saying he has no intention of “abandoning the country during a crisis”.

Addressing Parliament, Prayut Chan-o-cha pointed to the current problems facing Thailand, including the political divide in society, the crisis brought on by the slowdown of the economy, and the dangers of a Covid-19 resurgence. He said…

“You should think back to the political rallies in 2006 and 2014, when the ones in power also did not resign. I refuse to comply with the proposals that do not represent the needs of the majority of the people and will not run away from problems or abandon the country during a crisis.

He went on to say…

“The political rallies could undermine the confidence in our economy, but what worries me is that it could cause a rift in Thai society.

Meanwhile an opposition party MP has slashed his arm in front of officials in Parliament, in protest at the treatment of the country’s political activists. Visan Techatirawat, a party member of the opposition Pheu Thai Party, says the gesture was his own personal protest to oppose the government’s action against peaceful protesters at a rally in the capital on October 17.

Visan slashed his left hand and arm 3 times on the second day of the joint parliamentary debate aimed at finding a way out of the current political impasse.

2 foreigners in same hotel as the Koh Samui woman test positive for Covid-19

Officials are reviewing the use of a Samut Prakan hotel, just outside Bangkok, as an ASQ quarantine facility, after 3 foreign nationals staying there tested positive for Covid-19. The first was a 57 year old woman who developed symptoms of the virus after she had completed 14 days’ quarantine and had returned to her home on the island of Koh Samui.

Yesterday, 2 more foreigners staying at the same hotel also tested positive. All 3 are now receiving hospital treatment, but officials are still not sure how they became infected or if their cases are even linked. He added that the hotel, the Siam Mandarina, may not meet the required standard of an alternative state quarantine facility.

Don’t forget to extend your visa! Thai Immigration warns about fines for late applicants

Still need to extend your visa? You have until Halloween, October 31. With the visa amnesty deadline approaching, Thai Immigration Bureau is reminding foreigners to get their visa in order by the end of this month.

Late applicants will be fined.

No matter when your visa is extended, as long as it’s before the deadline of October 31, it will go into effect on November 1 and allow a 60 day stay.

Since the recent amnesty period was put in place a few days after the initial September 26 deadline, those who paid 1,900 baht for 30 day visa extensions last month are now allowed to stay until November 30, but they need to go to immigration to get a stamp with the new expiration date.

If you’re not sure about your visa status, you should go to your local immigration office or speak to a qualified visa agent.

13 new Covid-19 cases in quarantine

Just briefly, 13 new Covid-19 cases have been detected in Thai quarantine over the past 24 hours, including 4 Thai students, according to the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration.

The total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in Thailand is at 3,759 with 3,561 recoveries and 59 deaths. 139 people are currently receiving medical treatment for the coronavirus.

Thai woman dressed as a zombie sells dead people’s clothes

And it might not work in many countries but it’s sure working well for this enterprising Thai woman. The zombie saleswoman is selling dead people’s clothes online.

32 year old Kanittha sells the clothes of deceased people on a Facebook live stream while dressed as “the living dead”. She gives a story behind every pieces of clothing, explaining how each person died. Perhaps it would be a real business kill in most countries, but not in Thailand where the spirit world and superstition are just as real to some Thais as the world of the living.

Traditionally in Thailand, clothes of the deceased are burned.

She gets the clothes from a local temple. She says a monk does a blessing for the deceased before the clothes are given to her. The prices range from 10 to 100 baht. Some brand names and designer clothes are also sold at vastly reduced prices. She’s donated some money from the sales back to the temple. In addition to the dead’s clothes, Kanittha sells handmade zombie dolls.

Kanittha live streams each week from her home in the Northern province of Phetchabun. It takes her up to 3 hours to apply her zombie makeup, but she says the costume helps draw in viewers.

Storm warnings as typhoon enters Vietnam

Flooding is being reported in at least 6 provinces, with warnings of heavy rains and flash-flooding up to Friday. Typhoon Molave has reached the Vietnamese coast, just south of Da Nang, and is slowly moving westwards towards Laos and then north eastern Thailand as it weakens.

It is the fourth tropical storm to batter the southeast Asian country since 11 October and the ninth since the start of the year.

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Woman faces charges after allegedly slapping a student for not standing during national anthem

Caitlin Ashworth

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Woman faces charges after allegedly slapping a student for not standing during national anthem | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Twitter: @mashihoismine

A woman is facing assault charges after she allegedly slapped a 15 year old student who didn’t stand up for the national anthem at a train station in Ayutthaya.

The woman, a food vendor at the train station, allegedly approached the student when the anthem ended. In a video shared by thousands on Twitter, the woman said “Stand up. Come here …What a waste. You’re a student wearing the student uniform.”

The student says she told the woman that she didn’t stand up because she was in pain from menstrual cramps. The student’s family later filed a complaint with police.

Thailand’s national anthem plays at schools and public places everyday at 8am and 6pm. People stop what they are doing and stand in silence until the song is over to show respect for the Thai Monarchy and the country.

With the recent pro-democracy movement, some have shown defiance against the government and monarchy by holding their hands up in the movement’s 3-finger salute, borrowed from the Hunger Games films, during the national anthem. Royalists have rallied and called on the protesters to stop “insulting” the Thai institution.

There are also cases of people not standing up before cinema films during the playing of the Royal Anthem.

SOURCES: Nation Thailand | Coconuts Bangkok

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Reminder from Thai Foreign Affairs about staying in Thailand after October 31

Caitlin Ashworth

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Reminder from Thai Foreign Affairs about staying in Thailand after October 31 | The Thaiger

The following was sent by Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, reminding foreigners about staying in Thailand after the current visa amnesty expires…

“Mr. Tanee Sangrat, Director-General of the Department of Information and Foreign Ministry Spokesperson reiterated that all stranded foreign nationals who wish to stay in the Kingdom of Thailand beyond 31 October 2020 need to submit an application for extension of temporary stay at the Immigration Bureau within 31 October 2020.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has circulated a Note Verbale to all diplomatic missions, consular representatives and international organisations in Thailand, to seek their cooperation in informing and advising their foreign nationals regarding this matter.

According to the Notification of the Ministry of Interior on Permission for Certain Groups of Aliens to Remain in the Kingdom as a Special Case (No. 4) issued on 30 September 2020, foreign nationals are permitted for temporary stay in Thailand until 31 October 2020.

Late application submission is allowed within 90 days after 31 October 2020, subject to a fine. Those who remain in the Kingdom without application submission within such grace period shall be deemed as overstaying and will be prosecuted, deported and prohibited from entering Thailand.”

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