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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Haze hits South; BRN demands troops out before Ramadan; Thailand off money laundering watchlist

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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Haze hits South; BRN demands troops out before Ramadan; Thailand off money laundering watchlist | The Thaiger
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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH
– Thailand news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Narathiwat haze level now ‘adverse to health’
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Seven provinces in Southern Thailand were affected by smoke from Indonesian forest fires yesterday, with Narathiwat the hardest hit after particulate-matter levels there reached the 129 micrograms/cubic metre considered adverse to health.

Meanwhile, Pollution Control Department deputy chief Araya Nanthaphothidet is scheduled to preside over a meeting of relevant officials in Songkhla today to discuss the impact of the forest-fire smoke.

Environment Region 16 Office director Halem Jehmarikan said Narathiwat’s airborne particulate-matter level rose from 104 micrograms/cubic metre on Monday to 129 yesterday, a level that can affect people’s health and respiratory systems. He advised residents to wear face masks when going out and to avoid exercising outdoors. He warned that the elderly and children, as well as those with heart disease and asthma, were especially vulnerable to health risks from the air pollution.

Songkhla’s devices for measuring air quality were damaged by lightning strikes in Hat Yai district a few days ago, which meant no report on particulate levels was available for the province, said Halem. New devices would be sent to Hat Yai and Satun this Friday, he added.

Halem said his office had also instructed authorities in Nakhon Si Thammarat, Trang, Satun, Songkhla, Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat to monitor air pollution, after smoke from Indonesia’s forest fires reached Thailand faster than had initially been anticipated.

BRN wants troops removed
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Thailand’s peace dialogue with the Barisan Revolusi Nacional (BRN) has reached another tumultuous stage after the BRN posted new demands – including the withdrawal of most troops from the southernmost region ahead of Ramadan – via YouTube on Monday.

However, most observers say it would be near impossible for the government to accept and proceed with the demands.

Hassan Taib, who usually represents BRN in the peace dialogue, has demanded that Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra officially accept the demands by July 3. He has also threatened to never return to the negotiation table if the government chooses not to present his demands to the Parliament.

“It’s not possible for the Thai prime minister to sign the acceptance of the demands based on just what Taib says,” Justice for Peace Foundation’s chairperson Angkhana Neelapaijit said yesterday.

She also ruled out the possibility of the demands being put before the Parliament immediately.

“Before any issue reaches the Parliament, it must be carefully studied,” she said.

Nimu Makajay, a specialist on the Muslim community, believes the latest demands from Taib were a threat to the ongoing peace dialogue.

Though National Security Council’s secretary-general Paradorn Pattanatabutr began peace talks with the BRN in March, the violence in the deep South has not eased.

Move seen as a way to avoid responsibility

Prasit Meksuwan, who previously sat on the National Reconciliation Commission, suspected that the BRN was in fact unable to control each and every insurgent group in the region.

“Some are not affiliated with the BRN,” he said, adding that Taib had perhaps presented the latest demands in a bid to find a way out.

“Then, the BRN can claim that violent incidents are continuing because the government is not heeding their demands,” Prasit said.

Dr Panitan Wattanayagorn, a security expert at the Chulalongkorn University, also believed that Taib might be looking for an exit strategy – an opinion that was shared by Democrat MP Phirayot Rahimmula.

“I think the BRN just wants to avoid having to accede to its agreement that the violence will ease during Ramadan,” Panitan said, adding that the latest demands were difficult to accept, and even if the government agreed to them, the process would take time.

Panitan believes the government should delay going to the next round of negotiations with BRN and set up a small team to talk directly to armed groups active in the deep South.

“We have a list of armed groups. To date, we have tried to surround and arrest their members. Now, let’s see if the authorities can talk to them,” he said.

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung said he would certainly not respond to the BRN’s demand for the withdrawal of most troops from the South, adding that the government was thinking about talking to other groups too, not just BRN.

Door to talks ‘will not be shut’

Defence Minister Sukampol Suwannathat said he would not accept the demands because they were unjust and insincere, though the door to peace talks will not be shut.

“If the other side still wishes to talk, the peace dialogue will continue,” Sukampol said. “If it doesn’t want to talk anymore, that’s fine too. We will find other ways to restore peace in the South”.

Paradorn, meanwhile, said based on the peace dialogue, the BRN would have to submit its official demands via Malaysia as all three rounds of negotiations took place in the neighbouring country.

“Malaysia, as the facilitator of the peace dialogue, has yet to forward the demands to us. It remains to be seen whether the official ones are the same as what we have seen on YouTube,” he said.

Paradorn said the authorities would have to respond to the needs of people, not just a specific group. “We have listened to the opinions of locals and we have not noticed any wish for the soldiers to pull out.”

Thailand fully withdrawn from FATF’s Public Statement
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Thailand is fully removed from the “Public Statement” of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) for improvements in compliance with the global anti-money laundering (AML) and counter-terrorist financing (CFT) standards.

Secretary-General of the Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO) Pol. Col. Sihanart Prayoonrat said the removal followed the discussion in Oslo, Norway, during June 17-21, where Thailand informed FATF of further progress.

Removed from the “Public Statement” means Thailand is no longer on the list of countries at risk of money laundering by terrorist groups. Included on the list, countries could face sanctions by FATF member countries which could affect cross-border business and financial transactions.

Thailand has improved the compliance by a number of actions including the issuance of ministerial regulations on cash threshold transactions. FATF also required member countries to adequately criminalising terrorist financing and establishing and implementing adequate procedures to identify and freeze terrorist assets.

According to Sihanart, during the discussion in Norway, Thailand was urged to raise awareness on legal enforcement among all parties, as some non-financial business operators still lack understanding in the counter-terrorist financing standards. AMLO is also urged to impose penalties on blacklisted individuals.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Thailand News Today | German Embassy rally, permanent residency prospect, crowds in Pattaya | Oct 26

The Thaiger

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Thailand News Today | German Embassy rally, permanent residency prospect, crowds in Pattaya | Oct 26 | The Thaiger

Today’s latest news from The Thaiger, looking at the latest in the protests, a surge of crowds in Pattaya and the latest proposals from the Thai government to increase a new stream of revenue.

Permanent residency, changes to quarantine period – Government mulls strategies to revive economy

Thailand’s energy minister has outlined a number of new strategies the government is discussing tohelp the Thai economy recover from the fallout of Covid-19 fallout.

Permanent residency for some condo purchases, changes to the mandatory quarantine and incentives for foreign investment are all under discussion.

The Eastern Economic Corridor, the special economic zone covering the eastern provinces of Rayong, Chon Buri and Chachoengsao, continues to eye foreign investors with a number of large infrastructure projects in the pipeline.

Of particular interest in the topics for discussion are that the government is considering offering permanent residency to people buying condos in the Kingdom, provided they don’t mortgage, transfer, or sell the units within 5 years of purchase.

In relation to foreign arrivals, he says the government will clarify its plans on any further reduction in quarantine time. He says that if the current 14 day quarantine period is to be reduced, this would only apply to those coming from countries considered “low risk” for Covid-19. It’s understood the Public Health Ministry is working on categorising countries into low, medium, and high risk.

Parliament in the middle of a 2 day session to discuss political impasse

An opposition spokesperson opened the special joint session of parliament today with a call for Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to step down, as anti-government protesters continued to keep up their pressure.

Mr Sompong also called for the release of detained protesters as a goodwill gesture to try and end the current impasse. “ He said… The prime minister should be open-minded to the young protesters’demands, and stop delaying the process of writing of a new constitution.”

Meanwhile a Palang Pracharath Party MP Paiboon Nititawan defended the PM saying the country needed his leadership to get through the economic crisis and to protect the institution of the monarchy, which was under attack by protesters.

Protesters march on German Embassy in Sathorn Road

Meanwhile protesters gathered at the Sam Yan intersection today at 5pm, near Chulalongkorn University, and marched to the Germany embassy on Sathorn Road, to submit a controversial petition.

Protesters are asking German authorities to look into whether His Majesty the King had violated German sovereignty by exercising his power from German soil. It is the first time a foreign government has been targeted by the anti-governmentprotesters.

Protesters say the intention is to push for the restoration a “truly” constitutional monarchy in Thailand, under law.

A ‘spoiler’ rally is also underway by government supporters and ‘royalists’ at Lumpini Park, right in the middle of the march route to the German Embassy.

Protesters massed at the Ratchaprasong intersection in Bangkok last night

Last night crowds gathered at the Ratchprasong intersection, one of the promised locations for a rally in response to Saturday night’s refusal of the Thai PM to resign. Thousands gathered, mostly along the Ratchadamri Road, to hear speeches and musical performances.

Messages on some of the banners read “We are the people”, “Everyone is a leader”, “Thailand is for the people”, “Police should protect the people”.

Whilst blocking the intersection for 3 hours, with little police presence, the protesters disbanded peacefully just after sunset.

Pattaya springs back to life over the long weekend, more to come

Pattaya, struggling along for the past 7 months with a handful of domestic tourists and Bangkok weekenders, has had its busiest weekend for a long time, albeit a long weekend created by the public holiday in commemoration of King Chulongkorn.

Much of the increased traffic were Thai faces, a big change to the city’s old demographic of international tourists and expats.

Tourists flocked to the city for the long weekend which included the Eastern Colorful Food, Culture and Music festival stretching along the Beach Road foreshore.

The focus of the weekend’s events was the Beach Road which was visibly busy with locals and tourists joining in the foreshore festival, talent shows, music concerts and local food.

Schools advised to improve online learning in case of second Covid-19 outbreak

Thailand schools are told to get ready for a possible second wave of Covid-19 and prepare to for lockdown measures, just in case, to make sure all children have equal access to education.

A Thai economist warns that the education gap between rich children in urban areas and poor children in rural areas could widen if schools are shut down again and resort to the same online learning measures tried out months ago.

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Expert says all rail crossings should be upgraded after fatal train-bus collision

Caitlin Ashworth

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Expert says all rail crossings should be upgraded after fatal train-bus collision | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Facebook: @pr8riew

After the fatal freight train-charter bus collision earlier this month, authorities are looking into ways to make the rail crossings safer and to prevent potentially deadly incidents from happening in the future.

An expert in rail engineering says all rail crossings need to upgraded, urgently, while unofficial or illegal crossings should either be permanently closed off or upgraded with the proper safety equipment. Unofficial crossings are those that are used by locals, but are not approved by the State Railways of Thailand.

Chairperson of the Rail Engineering Committee at the Engineering Institute of Thailand, Rattapoohm Parichatprecha, gave suggestions about how to improve the rail crossings after an incident in Chachoengsao. On October 10, a train collided with a charter bus crossing the railway, killing 18 and injuring 44 who were on their way to a merit-making ceremony. Officials say the signal was broken and the crossing didn’t have a barrier gate to block traffic.

Then, a passenger train collided with a car, killing a woman and injuring 2 others at a railway crossing in Phetchaburi’s Khao Yai district on October 15.

The State Railway of Thailand says an average of 77 railway crossing incidents happen each year, killing an average of 28 people yearly and injuring 74. Some crossings are known as “black spots” where accidents occur more frequently, sometimes up to 4 times a year.

Rattapoohm says all legal crossings upgrade the warning signs and barricades, but warns that revamping the crossings could be expensive. In a previous report, Transport Minister Saksiam Chidchob acknowledged that the State Railways of Thailand’s budget to install railroad crossing gates has been cut.

The size of the rail crossing as well as the direction also comes into play, according to Rattapoohm.

“The width of the crossing must not be at least three metres. The road should also cut through the rail tracks in a straight line and not in a diagonal direction which would create blind spots.”

He says tree canopies must also be trimmed regularly to prevent branches and leaves from obstructing the view for both train conductors and drivers crossing the railway.

For illegal crossings, Rattapoohm says some can stay put since they are just used by the locals who are familiar with the terrain and know where the blind spots are, but says they should make sure the unofficial crossings stay off Google Maps.

“People outside the areas are unaware of the lurking danger the illegal crossings pose and many just follow directions in Google Map.”

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Schools advised to improve online learning in case of second Covid-19 outbreak

Caitlin Ashworth

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Schools advised to improve online learning in case of second Covid-19 outbreak | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Equitable Education Fund Facebook

Thailand schools are told to get ready for a possible second wave of Covid-19 and prepare to for lockdown measures – just in case – to make sure all children have equal access to education. An economist warns that the education gap between rich children in urban areas and poor children in rural areas could widen if schools shut down again and resort to the same online learning measures tried out months ago.

In an online seminar called “My school and Covid-19,” human development economist Dilaka Lathapitate stressed that school closures and the switch to online learning during the lockdown period led to an increase in the country’s education disparity. Dilaka, from the education unit of the World Bank in Bangkok, says Thailand’s education system isn’t ready for another outbreak.

“The pandemic denied many children, particularly those in rural areas, learning and self-development opportunities.”

Thailand tried the “distance learning” experiment during the lockdown, but it was deemed a failure. Many in remote areas had problems like the lack of WiFi, faulty reception and limited to no access to working computers. At one point, hundreds of volunteers were sent out by the Equitable Education Fund teach children in remote areas.

Taking students out of the classrooms and moving to online learning hit poor students the hardest, according to chairperson of the Princess Maha Chakri Award Foundation, Krissanapong Kirtikara. He says those students are often the most in need of comprehensive support.

Thailand isn’t ready to implement online learning, Dilaka says. If there was another coronavirus outbreak, the education gap between the rich and the poor would likely widen due to access to technology. Dilaka cited a survey that showed a “digital divide” between children in urban and rural areas.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

 

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