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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 Gazette Thailand News: First rally leader detained; Labour Ministry compiles human-trafficking report; Threat to block rice storage | The Thaiger
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– 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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Ministry of Labour, CP Foods to hire 8,000 graduates to help reduce unemployment

Caitlin Ashworth



Ministry of Labour, CP Foods to hire 8,000 graduates to help reduce unemployment | The Thaiger

To help reduce unemployment and boost the economy after the pandemic, 8,000 graduates will be hired by the company Charoen Pokphand Foods, known as CP Foods. Thailand’s Ministry of Labour recently signed a memorandum of agreement with the company.

4,000 of those jobs will be in Bangkok and metropolitan areas while the other 4,000 more in the upcountry. The job offers vary from positions in the computer science field to positions in the culinary industry.

Labour Minister Suchart Chomklin says the government has a policy to unite all sectors of the society to revive the economy from the coronavirus crisis that caused job cuts, leaving many unemployed, especially new graduates.

He adds that CP Foods has been constantly supporting the government in Covid-19 relief effort since the beginning of the outbreak. This post Covid-19 collaboration will create stability for people at all levels and build more small and medium sized enterprise, or SME, owners that are the foundation of Thai economy.

There’s also a discount coupon giveaway from CP Foods and the minister says it will help reduce cost of living for people who are eligible for social security benefits.

CEO of CP Foods Prasit Boondoungprasert says CP Foods is managed in line with the parent group CP Group’s policy, to solve the Thailand’s unemployment problem, particularly for new graduates, by creating job opportunities and job security. He says it’s an “engine for economic revival.”

CP Foods will also provide a business opportunity for SME franchises like FiveStar and STAR Coffee, which need a small budget and small space to kick off.

The company will also offer training courses with experts to guide them to start up the business. It expects to create 4,500 franchise owners nationwide.

CP Foods will have a book at the Job Expo Thailand 2020 this Saturday until Monday at the Bangkok International Trade & Exhibition Centres, or BITEC. Those interested can click HERE for more information.

To learn more about starting a FiveStar franchise click HERE and for a STAR Coffee franchise click HERE.

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Empire strikes back: Thai royalists oppose constitution changes

Caitlin Ashworth



Empire strikes back: Thai royalists oppose constitution changes | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Facebook: Warong Dechgitvigrom

Just after proposed constitutional amendments, backed by pro-democracy supporters, were submitted to the Thai parliament, the Thai Pakdee royalist group filed a petition with 130,000 signatures saying they are against making changes to the constitution.

Pro-democracy activists have been demanding a rewrite of the Thai constitution at protests over the past few months. The nonprofit organisation Internet Law Reform Dialogue, known as iLaw, drafted amendments including one that would require all senators and local administrators to be elected. Currently Thailand’s entire Senate is hand-picked by the ruling party. More than 100,000 people back the proposed changes.

“There’s no need to make changes”, according to Former Democrat MP and leader of Thai Pakdee Warong Dechgitvigrom. He says the 2017 Constitution was approved by 16.8 million people (Thailand’s population is 69.4 million).

“Redoing the process would cost 15 billion baht in taxpayer money. On top of that, it would require 2 referenda and a general election.”

According to Thai PBS, 84 of the 250 senators need to be on board to move forward with revisions to the constitution. At the moment, around 60 of them are in favour of constitutional amendments while 100 oppose any changes and the rest are undecided. But Senators against the amendments might change their minds, according to Senate whip Sangsit Phiriyarangsan. He says he believes more senators will be in favour of making some amendments after hearing debates in parliament.


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Video & Podcasts

Thailand News Today | Surachet sues, The Nude Panda | September 23

The Thaiger



Thailand News Today | Surachet sues, The Nude Panda | September 23 | The Thaiger

Daily TV News from The Thaiger

Former immigration chief, “Big Joke” suing Thai PM over transfer

The former head of Thai Immigration, and poster boy for Thai officialdom, Surachet Hakparn, is taking legal action against Thai PM Prayut Chan-o-cha, after the PM had him unceremoniously transferred to an inactive post last year.

Surachet, commonly known by the nickname “Big Joke”, (a nickname given to him by Thai media) accuses the PM of transferring him without just cause and has been petitioning for a review of the decision ever since.

At the time there was no reason given for the high-profile head of Thailand’s Immigration to be ‘side-lined’ to desk duties at the PM’s office.

Surachet’s lawyer says that in the 1 year and 5 months since his client’s transfer, there has been “no investigation launched against him” and that he should immediately re-instated.

At the height of his fame, in 2017 and 2018, Surachet’s face was everywhere in daily media reports, often seen with hordes of foreigners his team had ’rounded up’ in immigration crackdowns around the country.

But at some point, he appears to have stepped on the wrong toes, calling into question procurement practices at the Immigration Bureau, amid plans to spend billions on smart cars and the airports biometrics system. Surachet was dumped and sidelined… the purchases went ahead.

4 Thai banks to be investigated for “suspicious transfers” after FinCEN files report

4 Thai banks are being investigated after an international money laundering report said the Thai banks had “suspicious financial transactions.” The report found 92 “suspicious” transactions in and out of Thailand totalling to $9,558,752 USD received in Thailand and $31,750,000 USD sent out.

Files were allegedly leaked from the US Financial Crimes Enforcement Network.The FinCEN Files report“reveals the role of global banks in industrial scale money laundering,” citing a total of $2 trillion USD in suspicious global transactions from 1997 to 2017.

The Thai Anti-Money Laundering Office plans to investigate Kasikorn Bank, Bangkok Bank, Krungthai Bank and the Export Import Bank of Thailand. But he says the information from the international report needs to be verified first.

Thai sex workers push for prostitution decriminalisation

Prostitution could become further decriminalised in Thailand. A petition is being passed around calling on the government to stop arresting and fining sex workers.

The Empower Foundation, which supports sex worker, is trying to collect 10,000 signatures before they send it to parliament. Also known as the Centre for Sex Workers’ Protection, Empower is a non-profit organisation in Thailand that supports sex workers by offering free classes in language, health, law and pre-college education, as well as individual counselling.

“Prostitution is not illegal in Thailand, although many activities associated with it are… like brothels, soliciting, pimping and causing a public nuisance etc. Still the underground industry is estimated to be worth US$6.4 billion a year.

Activists say prostitution laws do little to protect sex workers. Fines and arrests for soliciting sex, have pushed some sex workers into poverty, most of them being women. Thailand is estimated to have up to 200,000 sex workers, many of them now unemployed with no recourse to unemployment benefits or official help during the pandemic.

Thai cabinet adds 2 more 4-day long weekends

A holiday-led economic recovery. That appears to be a part of the government’s agenda following yesterday’s meeting of the Thai cabinet. 2 new holiday weekends have been created, one in November, one in December.

In both cases the extended weekends will be 4 days each, adding the Thursdays and Fridays before the weekend. Given the exodus of foreigner this week, there will be fewer of the ‘stranded’ expats and foreign visitors to add to the economic tally of the additional holidays.

So, put it in your diaries…

• November 19-22

• December 10-13

Nude Panda: naked food delivery man hit with 500 baht fine

A man working as a food delivery driver in the southern province of Songkhla, has been filmed riding his motorbike totally naked. The 24 year old later handed himself in to police, explaining that he’d taken his clothes off due to “a personal problem”.

The nature of the problem is not known, and police let the man go with a 500 baht fine.

A video was posted on social media, showing the naked young man hurtling along on his motorbike, which had a food delivery bag on the back. The video has now been deleted. According to a motorbike taxi driver witness, the man parked his bike in front of a local temple, removed his clothes, then got back on the bike and drove off.

Social media response was mixed with most just inquisitive about his motives to ride “commando” with little protection, actually no protection at all.

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