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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Healthcare funds in intensive care; Govt caves in on rice; Secret Deep South talks; Supercar probe: DSI IDs BMW

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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Healthcare funds in intensive care; Govt caves in on rice; Secret Deep South talks; Supercar probe: DSI IDs BMW | The Thaiger
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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH
– Thailand news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Govt urged to find new funds for health security
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Given the rising cost of the country’s healthcare costs, prominent health economists yesterday urged the government to seek alternative financial sources to support medical insurance schemes.

Collecting tax from the sale of unhealthy food products such as fast food and soft drinks – as well as from airfares and luxury products – would be a potential source of financing for the healthcare funds, according to International Health Policy Programme Thailand director Dr Phusit Prakongsai. He was speaking at a seminar titled “New Thoughts for Thailand’s Health Security System” at the Thailand Development Research Institute.

He said Thailand in the near future would need a lot more funds for medical services, as it now faces new healthcare burdens such as an elderly population increase and the rising number of patients suffering from road-accident injuries, non-communicable diseases, diabetes, alcohol-related illnesses and HIV/AIDS.

These healthcare burdens require a lot of money to invest in health promotion and prevention programmes for communicable and non-communicable diseases, he said.

“The government should play a pro-active role in handling these health burdens,” he said.

To date, the government has spent only 5 per cent of the total healthcare budget for health promotion and prevention programmes.

In 2004, the Thai government spent Bt100 billion to provide medical services to 48 million National Health Security Fund members and Bt25 million for the Social Security Scheme to provide health benefits for 9.9 million subscribers.

The government also spent Bt61 billion to support the Civil Servant Medical Benefit covering 4.4 million people.

Meanwhile, prominent economist Ammar Siamwalla suggested the government should collect tax from medical services provided to foreign patients via private hospitals, in order to use this tax money to support healthcare schemes and medical personnel. He said private hospitals benefited from the government’s medical manpower.

TDRI scholar Duenden Nikomborirak urged the government to harmonise the management of the country’s three national healthcare schemes, to handle rising healthcare costs and to reduce the bag of medical services among these schemes.

For example, the basic essential medical services for all Thais should be provided and managed by the National Health Security Fund, she said, while the extra medical services – such as receiving medical services at private hospitals or compensation for maternity leave for eligible subscribers – should be provided by the Social Security Fund and Civil Servant Medical Benefit Fund.

Rice back at Bt15,000
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: The Yingluck government has given in to pressure from farmers by maintaining the Bt15,000 per tonne pledging price for the second rice crop in the 2012/13 harvest year. But it has left the price for the next harvest year open for a cut.

After the National Rice Policy Committee meeting yesterday, Deputy Premier and Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong said the decision was based on the finance available, as well as the well-supported stockpile release plan by new Commerce Minister Niwatthamrong Boonsongpaisal.

But the price for next year would be reset, taking the global market and forex rate moves into consideration. The price would be announced some time ahead of the next harvest year, so farmers can make a decision if they want to grow more rice or switch to other crops that could generate more cash.

“This is in line with the government’s agricultural zoning scheme, to promote other economic crops like sugar cane,” he said, adding that Thailand still needs an additional 30 million tonnes to satisfy demand from the sugar and biofuel industries.

In the latest harvest year, Thai sugar cane output hit a new record high – over 100 million tonnes. Other possible crops are rubber and palm oil. Under the zoning scheme, lists of crops suitable for each area will be announced as a guideline to farmers.

Thai Agriculturist Association chief Wichian Puanglamjiak said farmers should be consulted before the government possibly reduces the minimum price. And the government should also help farmers by reducing prices of fertiliser, seed, insecticide via subsidies or reduction in tariffs, along with government loans with lower interest.

The government has been under huge pressure over the past week from farmers to maintain the Bt15,000 price for 100 per cent paddy rice, at least until the end of the 2012/2013 harvest year. Earlier, the rice committee resolved to revise the second-crop price to Bt12,000 per tonne, to limit losses.

Stockpile releases to ‘create room’

Kittiratt said yesterday there was room to accommodate the change based on Agriculture Ministry data that the second-crop output is only 2.9 million tonnes. Plus, based on a talk between Niwatthamrong, his deputy Yanyong Phuangrach, plus Foreign Trade and Rice Department officials and exporters, stockpile releases should improve in the second half of this year and the proceeds would support the current price without hurting fiscal discipline. Even with the old price, the cost of the pledging scheme, which involves some 22 million tonnes of rice, would be within the Bt345 billion target for the harvest year.

“We’re in the condition that we can still take care of farmers while concurrently upholding fiscal discipline,” he said.

Taking the new job yesterday, Yanyong unveiled a plan to release more than four million tonnes of rice from July-September so the government can cut its spending on rice stocks and get money to send to the Finance Ministry. The release price should be more flexible – in line with the market or about US$500 a tonne of white rice. They would allocate big lots to major consuming countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines, but may not strike government-to-government deals with buyers. They could allow private exporters to handle the stocks, as they were more efficient. Stocks from pledging amount to 17 million tonnes.

Yanyong and Niwatthamrong also vowed to reduce corruption, and boost transparency and flexibility in rice selling to rebuild the ministry and country’s image.

Niwatthumrong said: “Handling the rice project is one of my priority tasks. The ministry will consider a price that can help farmers, as well as ensure that Thai rice exports can compete and sell in the world market. Rice pledging and releasing should be more transparent. I will look for ways to prevent corruption under the project.”

The government is under pressure to release rice and cut associated losses. But doing this now will mean losses. The cost, insurance and freight price of Thai 100-per cent polished rice is now quoted at around $500 per tonne (Bt15,000), above $450 from Vietnam and India. After losing over Bt130 billion in 2011/12, it has vowed to keep the annual loss below Bt100 billion.

But storing rice further may incur problems. Old stocks requiring heavy use of anti-pest chemicals, which has led to negative reports.

Some consumers have complained that old and possibly contaminated rice was sold in supermarkets. Lab tests are underway. And one Thai exporter was named in a US warning that related to 70 countries

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Protests

3 protesters denied bail as 10pm deadline for the PM’s resignation looms

The Thaiger

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3 protesters denied bail as 10pm deadline for the PM’s resignation looms | The Thaiger
PHOTO: The arrest of protester Panupong Jardnok, aka. Mike Rayong - Thai PBS World

Whilst 1 protester was freed from the Bangkok Remand Prison last night, 3 of his peers remain in custody after being denied bail this afternoon. Supporters of the group protested last night outside the Bangkok Special Remand Centre, demanding their release and dropping of all charges against them. They disbanded around 5am this morning but have been re-assembling as Saturday goes by.

Chatupat Boonpatthararaksa, aka. Pai Daodin, was released from the Bangkok Remand Prison last evening after a hearing by the Appeals Court. Protesters were waiting outside demanding the release of 3 other key protest leaders, still being held at the prison – Parit Chivarak, Panasaya Sitthijirawattanakul and Panupong Jardnok, aka. Mike Rayong. Panasaya was the university student who first read out the now-infamous 10 point manifesto listing the protesters persistent list of demands.

The group of protesters continues to call on the Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, to resign by 10pm this evening. They have not clarified what may be the consequences if their demands are not met.

The 3 protest leaders were deemed by the Court of Appeals as “potential flight risks” as well as likely to break conditions of their bail, eg. participating in, and organising, more anti-government rallies. Charges for the 3 include using a sound amplifier without a permit, assembly of more than 5 people (during the State of Emergency), posting social media deemed to be a threat to national security, and sedition.

As the 10pm deadline passes this evening, earlier being set as Sunday night at 10pm, the situation will be ripe for more protests as we head into the new week. Parliament has been called to a joint emergency parliamentary session on Monday and Tuesday where the protesters demands will be discussed and debated.

Opposition MPs are demanding that motions can be put to a vote whilst the ruling coalition has stated that it does want any votes on debate matters. The opposition is also calling on debate of the most contentious issue, the future role of the Thai monarchy, whilst the government has ruled that out in this emergency session.

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Thailand

More catchy than Covid, K-Pop fans raise millions to support Thai protesters

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More catchy than Covid, K-Pop fans raise millions to support Thai protesters | The Thaiger

More catchy the Covid and spreading out around the world, this time from South Korea.

Fans of K-Pop groups, South Korea’s slick pop music genre, have already raised millions of baht to support Thailand’s anti-government protests. The young Thai protesters have been showered with support, supportive K-Pop lyrics, Tweets, messages. And money.

The incredible worldwide reach of K-Pop fans, for over 20 ‘idol’ groups and South Korean celebrities, has been a major force in spreading the plight of the Thai protest movement to a younger audience, across the world.

K-pop fandom have rallied together and pooled their resources to support the anti-government protesters who have been holding rallies around Thailand, mostly in Bangkok, since July. The Girls’ Generatin ‘Into The New World’ is just 1 K-Pop song being taken on as an unofficial anthem for the Thai protesters.

Political statements are relatively unusual from South Korean idols but some defy their tightly controlled public image. It’s even led common in Thailand where lucrative endorsements rely on the billionaire clans that control the country’s ‘establishment’. But last week’s use of water cannons against the protesters at the Pathumwan intersection has pushed some to publicly voice their support for the protest movement.

Thai-American K-Pop idol Nichkhun, the so-called “Thai Prince”, Tweeted to his nearly 7 million followers that he cannot “stand idly by”. Nichkhun is a member of popular South Korean boy band 2PM

“The use of violence is something I cannot watch and stand idly by.” His message has been retweeted nearly 100,000 times.

Even Thailand’s BNK48 member Milin “Namneung” Dokthian – the group criticised in the past for doing paid promos for the Thai government – has made it clear where she stands in regards to the protests, posting “stay safe” this week.

“We wouldn’t have to say ‘be safe’ if we had a true democracy”. Her post was shared by the other band members.

Amanda Obdam, the current Miss Universe Thailand, posted on her Instagram a photo of a young protester facing off against a cordon of riot police.

“A picture says a thousand words. Your job is to protect the people not harm them.”

Former Thai beauty queen and TV presenter Maria Poonlertlarp posted on her Facebook page that the treatment of protesters was “completely unjust”.

“People have been silenced from speaking up about the double standards and the abuse of power. We’ve had a lot of injustice going on in Thailand for decades, fighting against our government for democracy.”

Thai daily Khaosod reported last week that K-pop fan groups had collectively raised more than 3 million baht to help the anti-government protest organisers. It’s now well past 5 million baht.

Thai Actress Intira “Sai” Charoenpura Tweeted that the funds raised from fans of groups including BTS , Exo , Got7 , and Girls’ Generation had helped buy equipment such as helmets and raincoats.

Mega group BTS (last week they held the Number 1 and 2 positions on the US Billboard Top 100 singles chart, this week 5 and 6), tweeted that they wanted fans (aka. ‘Army’) to stop spending money on fan posters for members’ birthdays with the owners of the Thai public transport system. The BTS fandom frequently buy expensive poster spots in the Skytrain and MRT statins to wish their favourite idol members happy birthday. Bangkok’s skytrain system was closed down last Saturday in a move by the operators to prevent the movement of protesters to rally around the city. The command had come from the police.

The Thai protesters are being funded by donations, in-kind support and the selling of merchandise on their social media platforms. But they’ll be happy for the support from the huge worldwide K-Pop fan base.

BTS, ‘Not Today’ lyrics

All the underdogs in the world
A day may come when we lose
But it is not today
Today we fight!

No not today
Someday the flowers will fall
But no not today
That time is not today
No no not today
Never die, not today
The light pierces through the darkness
The new world. You want it too
Oh baby yes I want it.
If you can’t fly, then run
Today we will survive
If you can’t run then walk
Today we will survive
If you can’t walk, then crawl
Even if you have to crawl, gear up
Aim gun! Ready! Fire!
Click here to watch… https://youtu.be/9DwzBICPhdM
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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

TAT announces update to compulsory Covid-19 insurance for foreign visitors

The Thaiger

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TAT announces update to compulsory Covid-19 insurance for foreign visitors | The Thaiger

The Tourism Authority of Thailand has announced today an update about compulsory Covid-19 insurance. They say it’s now “conveniently” available online in a one-stop-shop. Up to now the compulsory Covid-19 insurance, a pre-requisite before foreigners can come to Thailand, under any visa, was through selected insurance providers at their own websites. The Thailand Office of Insurance Commission has allowed the review of its policy, making it easier to find and purchase the compulsory insurance.

“Foreign travellers will enjoy the following advantages of purchasing an OIC-endorsed medical insurance policy, which is available online HERE.”

The update provides additional clarity and ease for people looking to travel to Thailand at this time.

“The Tourism Authority of Thailand is pleased to share the latest announcement that foreign visitors will be able to purchase compulsory Covid-19 insurance policy online prior to visiting the Kingdom.”

TAT Governor, Yuthasak Supasorn says the compulsory insurance is part of any package of documents that will need to be completed by foreigners entering Thailand at this time.

“A medical insurance policy with at least US$100,000 coverage or about 3.16 million baht for possible Covid-19 treatment is among the official documents required from foreign visitors planning to visit Thailand.”

“TAT hopes the Covid-19 insurance protection program, under the regulation of the OIC, offers additional peace-of-mind for foreign visitors and hopefully makes it easier for inbound travellers before departing from their country of origin.”

TAT announces update to compulsory Covid-19 insurance for foreign visitors | News by The Thaiger

The Thai General Association and the Thai Life Assurance Association, plus 16 leading and non-life insurance companies in Thailand are partnering together with the oversight according to regulations from the OIC to offer the Covid-19 insurance protection program to foreign visitors.

  • The insurance policy has been approved by the Thai government and can be used in the Thai visa application process. Coverage begins immediately upon arrival in Thailand.
  • No need for advance payment or out-of-pocket expenses when admitted at private hospitals nationwide. Insurance coverage does not exceed US$100,000 or about 3.16 million Baht.
  • In the case of death from Covid-19 infection, the insurance company will provide a life insurance benefit of USD $100,000 or about 3.16 million Baht to the beneficiary.
  • The insurance premium cost is reasonable, the process is overseen by the OIC, and purchase can be done efficiently online.
  • Thailand’s public health infrastructure and healthcare facilities, as well as healthcare professionals are recognised as some of the best in Asia for treating infectious diseases.

Here’s an example of some of the costs for packages that vary from 30 days to 1 year. The premiums range from 1,600-4,800 Baht for 30 days of coverage; from 2,880-8,640 Baht for 60 days; from 3,840 – 12,160 Baht for 90 days; from 7,680 – 23,040 Baht for 120 days, and from 14,400 – 43,200 Baht for one year.

The Thaiger recommends that, before you make any other travel arrangements about a trip to Thailand, including the booking os flights or ASQ hotels, you should make general enquiries at the Thai Embassy or Consulate-General in your country.

SOURCE: TAT

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