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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: First rally leader detained; Labour Ministry compiles human-trafficking report; Threat to block rice storage

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

Sonthiyarn arrested; first rally leader to be detained
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Sonthiyarn Chuenruethai-naitham, owner and director of T-news agency, yesterday became the first anti-government protest leader to be arrested. He was having a meal alone in the Central Lat Phrao shopping complex when apprehended by police.

Mr Sonthiyarn, a former leader of the now-defunct yellow-shirt movement, was charged with sedition and escorted to the Border Patrol Police Region 1 facility in Pathum Thani province, where he will be detained.

His arrest was the first under the state of emergency laws.

“I’m not troubled by the arrest, as my roles in the anti-government movement were protected by the Constitution,” he said shortly after beIng arrested.

Assistant police chief Pol Lt Gen Winai Thongsong said Sonthiyarn did not resist arrest when confronted by the police while he was dining.

“He is entitled to request a temporary release through his lawyer, but the final decision on whether it would be granted would rest with the police,” he added.

Tarit Pengdith, a member of the government’s anti-protest operations unit, the Centre for Maintaining Peace and Order (CMPO), said Mr Sonthiyarn was the second-most important protest figure after core leader Suthep Thaugsuban.

Mr Tarit described Mr Sonthiyarn as one of the brains behind the running of the entire anti-government movement, while also managing financial aid and other assistance from its sponsors.

“He also acts as a contact in dealing with groups of individuals who support the movement behind the scenes,” Mr Tarit added.

“Mr Sonthiyarn is also a key sponsor himself. His name is on the list [of sponsors of the rallies] to be made public today,” said Mr Tarit, who is also head of the Department of Special Investigation (DSI).

Mr Sonthiyarn’s initial detention lasts seven days, and can be extended seven days at a time but not for more than 30 days.

Meanwhile, a People’s Democratic Reform Committee leader, Sathit Wongnongtaey, vowed to obtain temporary release for Mr Sonthiyarn. He said he learned that the CMPO was now planning to seek arrest warrants for pro-People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) academics who spoke on rally stages.

“These academics have done nothing wrong. The CMPO’s plan to arrest them is an act of intimidation, which threatens people’s rights in a blanket manner, as a scare tactic,” he said.

Arrest warrants have been issued for 19 rally leaders, including Suthep Thaugsuban, secretary-general of PDRC, for their involvement in the rallies, but Mr Sonthiyarn is the first to be detained.

Earlier, caretaker Labour Minister and CMPO director Chalerm Yoobamrung said Mr Sonthiyarn was the only wanted leader residing in a condominium.

The 18 other leaders have taken refuge at the protest sites, where they were being shielded by protesters, he said.

Other “stars” of the rally are also facing arrest, Mr Chalerm said.

“I want to tell Mr Suthep that I will no longer tolerate what he has done, laying siege to many government offices and chasing away officials who wanted to work. That’s unacceptable, and I will use the law to handle the situation,” he said.
Labour Ministry compiles human-trafficking report
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: The Labour Ministry is compiling a report on the human-trafficking situation in Thailand in a bid to remove the country from a US watch list.

Deputy permanent secretary for labour ML Boontharik Samiti said the ministry had managed to get many immigrant workers in the fisheries sector to register with the authority.

ML Boontharik said the ministry had also got 178 business operators to join the Good Laboratory Practice scheme.

She said the report would cover Thailand’s measures to stop human trafficking and its progress in combating forced labour in the fisheries sector and child labour.

In the fisheries sector, she said measures to check the background of workers were clearer, stricter and more actively participated in by related agencies.

The ministry’s Department of Labour Protection and Welfare had allocated a budget to examine some 38,000 fisheries workers for signs of human trafficking.

Migrant workers now have better access to registering their names, with 6,188 registered so far. Of that number, 4,250 have already obtained an annual work permit.

ML Boontharik said the department would amend related laws such as changing the minimum age someone can work on boat from 16 to 18, as fisheries work would be declared hazardous for minors.

“The ministry has been trying to solve the issue of alien workers by signing a memorandum of understanding with Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia to bring in workers from these countries legally at a reduced commission-fee rate between 2010 and 2013, which we succeeded to do so with 312,737 workers,” she said.
Threat to block rice storage
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Frustrated by the government’s failure to find a solution for their debts – caused by the pledging scheme – rice farmers threatened yesterday to lay siege to state rice warehouses nationwide.

Kittisak Rattanawaraha, president of the northern farmers, said the siege would seek to prevent the government from doing anything with “our rice”.

He encouraged farmers across the country to join in the siege today.

The threat was made after a high-profile meeting between the farmers’ representatives from 20 provinces with senior government officials could offer no solution for long-overdue payments owed to them under the pledging scheme.

Farmers have also called for the seizure of assets from caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and ministers involved in the rice-pledging scheme to make up for their losses.

The farmers said they abandoned the meeting after being told to ask banks to release loans to the government so that they could pay the rice growers.

As they walked out, the farmers said they would continue their demonstrations and pressure the government to resign because it lacked the capability to handle its rice-pledging policy.

The meeting was held at the Defence Ministry, and joined by three caretaker ministers – Deputy Prime Minister and Commerce Minister Niwatthumrong Boonsongpaisan, Deputy Commerce Minister Natthawut Saikuar and PM’s Office Minister Varathep Ratanakorn.

Rawee Rungreung, a leader of the farm protesters, said that all the farmers wanted was to get payment under the pledging scheme from the government. The farmers had no political agenda to destroy the government.

“If we [farmers] can get our overdue payment within a short period, we [will recommend] stopping the protest and going back home. But as the government [is not paying] us, we will continue our activities and pressure them to get out as [they do not have the] efficiency to administrate the country,” Rawee said.

Meanwhile, the Public W

— Phuket Gazette Editors

 

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Thai government expects to open vaccine registration to foreigners by August

Maya Taylor

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PHOTO: Mehmet Turgut Kirkgoz on Unsplash

A Health Ministry spokesperson has confirmed that foreigners living in Thailand should be able to register for Covid-19 vaccination by August. Ratchada Thanadirek says the government is working on a dedicated registration platform for foreign nationals living in the Kingdom, which it’s hoped will be ready in 3 months’ time.

Meanwhile, Thai Visa News reports that vaccine registration for Thais has been extended to those aged between 18 and 59 years old, who can now sign up from May 31. Registration had initially been limited to Thai nationals over the age of 60, as well as those with underlying health conditions. However, the third wave of the virus means registration for younger Thais has been brought forward from July.

Thai nationals can register for vaccination through the Mor Prom platform or the Mor Prom Line account. They can also register at government hospitals. According to Ratchada, the vaccines that will be used in the government rollout will primarily be AstraZeneca, manufactured in-country by Siam Bioscience.

However, she points out that there are 3 other vaccines that have been approved by the Thai Food and Drug Administration. They are the Chinese-made Sinovac, the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and the vaccine from US manufacturer, Moderna. The latter is expected to be available for purchase at private hospitals, although there has been no confirmation of when supplies might arrive.

SOURCE: Thai Visa News

 

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Some Covid-19 restrictions relaxed across Thailand, fewer “dark red” provinces

Maya Taylor

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PHOTO: Facebook/PR Thai Government

The Thai government has relaxed some Covid-19 restrictions across the country, while downgrading the risk level of a number of provinces. The number of provinces designated as “strictly controlled” areas, or “dark red” zones, has been reduced from 6 to 4. They are Bangkok and the central provinces of Nonthaburi, Pathum Thani, and Samut Prakan.

So, what, if anything, has changed where you are? Below is a summary of the situation across the country, courtesy of TAT News.

The “red zone” or “maximum control” areas now consist of the following 17 provinces:

Central Thailand: Ayutthaya, Kanchanaburi, Nakhon Pathom, Phetchaburi, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Ratchaburi, and Samut Sakhon

Eastern Thailand: Chachoengsao, Chon Buri, and Rayong

Northern Thailand: Tak

Southern Thailand: Nakhon Si Thammarat, Narathiwat, Ranong, Songkhla, Surat Thani, and Yala.

There are now 56 provinces designated as “orange” or “controlled areas”, up from 26. They are as follows:

Central Thailand: Ang Thong, Chai Nat, Lop Buri, Nakhon Nayok, Samut Songkhram, Saraburi, Sing Buri, and Suphan Buri

Eastern Thailand: Chanthaburi, Prachin Buri, Sa Kaeo, and Trat

Northern Thailand: Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Kamphaeng Phet, Lampang, Lamphun, Mae Hong Son, Nan, Nakhon Sawan, Phayao, Phetchabun, Phichit, Phitsanulok, Phrae, Sukhothai, Uthai Thani, and Uttaradit

North-Eastern Thailand: Amnat Charoen, Bueng Kan, Buri Ram, Chaiyaphum, Kalasin, Khon Kaen, Loei, Maha Sarakham, Mukdahan, Nakhon Phanom, Nakhon Ratchasima, Nong Bua Lam Phu, Nong Khai, Roi Et, Sakon Nakhon, Si Sa Ket, Surin, Ubon Ratchathani, Udon Thani, and Yasothon

Southern Thailand: Chumphon, Krabi, Pattani, Phang Nga, Phatthalung, Phuket, Satun, and Trang.

Restaurants across the country can now resume in-house dining, with various restrictions based on their risk status. In the dark red zones, dining in is permitted until 9pm, with take away service allowed until 11pm. In red zones, dining in has been extended to 11pm. In orange zones, dining-in hours can return to normal. Of note, however, is that the ban on the sale and consumption of alcohol in restaurants remains in force across the country.

All other disease prevention measures remain in place, including mandatory mask-wearing outside of the home and the closure of “high risk” venues such as nightclubs, bars, karaoke bars, and massage parlours. Department stores, shopping malls and community malls must close by 9pm and refrain from holding promotional activities.

In dark red zones, there is a ban on gatherings of more than 20 people, with this number extended to 50 people in red and orange zones. In Phuket, an orange zone, officials have stipulated a ban on people visiting each other’s homes, with only those residing at a property permitted to be there.

In dark red and red provinces, convenience stores and markets can only open between 4am and 11pm, while they can return to normal operating hours in orange zones. In addition, people in dark red zones are urged to cancel interprovincial travel or to submit to strict health screening. Businesses in the private sector are asked to allow employees work from home if possible.

SOURCE: TAT News

 

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Covid UPDATE Wednesday: 3,394 new infections and 29 deaths

Tim Newton

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Today the public health department has reported 3,394 new cases and 29 new Covid-related deaths. 1,498 of today’s cases come from Thailand’s prisons (more below). Taking the shameful inmate toll out of the equation and the trend is still steady with around 2,000 – 2,500 new cases each day over the past 3 weeks across Thailand.

Around the world the trends for new infections and deaths are starting to fall quite quickly.

Covid UPDATE Wednesday: 3,394 new infections and 29 deaths | News by Thaiger

• Roll up, roll up your sleeves. But the Thai PM says… hold on! PM Prayut Chan-o-cha has poured cold water on walk-in vaccination centres for Covid vaccinations. In the past week the public health department has been rushing to set up private vaccination locations around the country to hasten the roll out of vaccines for the first public vaccine category next month.

PM Prayut told a cabinet meeting yesterday he didn’t prefer the idea of the walk-in centres (Central Lad Phrao was already to open as yesterday) because “people would turn up in droves causing chaos”. He was particularly worried about centre around Bangkok where there is a population of 8 million+

The PM has asked that the Mor Prom app is working properly with registrations preferred so the Government can monitor the demand and act accordingly. The government says they’re working on an English, and other languages, version of Mor Prom to open registration for non-Thais soon.

• The Department of Corrections reports that there are now 11,670 prisoners infected with Covid in 13 prisons across Thailand.

• A major Japanese medical association is calling on Tokyo and the International Olympic Committee to cancel the 2020 Tokyo Games. The Games are set to start on July 23.

The appeal, made in a letter to Japanese PM Yoshihide Suga and comes amid concerns that the health-care system in Asia’s second-largest economy cannot accommodate both the potential medical needs of thousands of international athletes, coaches and media while fighting yet another spike in coronavirus infections.

• The Chon Buri (including Pattaya) public health officials announced 39 new and confirmed cases of Covid and 1 more death today. According to The Pattaya News, “officials are asking for the public to remain working from home if possible and especially to avoid small social gatherings with people who are not members of your own household until the situation improves”.

As usual we will have an update of all the provincial totals this afternoon.

SOURCES: Nation Thailand | FRB

 

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