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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Highway blockade holds fast as economy braces for B240bn hit

Legacy Phuket Gazette



Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Highway blockade holds fast as economy braces for B240bn hit | The Thaiger
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– Thailand news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Desperate farmers seek help from King to get rice-scheme payments
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Farmers will appeal to His Majesty the King on Thursday over their plight resulting from overdue payments owing from the rice-pledging scheme.

A farmer leader, Prakasit Jaemjumrat, said the group was gathering names and signatures of affected farmers in Phichit, Phitsanulok, Kamphaeng Phet and Nakhon Sawan to submit a petition to the Royal Household Bureau on Thursday.

They said after all previous attempts to gain attention, including road blockades, their complaints had fallen on deaf ears. Prakasit said that Phichit province alone saw the caretaker government owing Bt7.5 billion in pledged rice payments to 40,000 farmers.

Meanwhile, some 1,000 farmers from Nakhon Pathom, Kanchanaburi, Suphan Buri, Samut Songkhram, Phetchaburi, Prachuap Khiri Khan and Ratchaburi gathered at Ratchaburi’s Wang Manao intersection yesterday and totally blocked the Phet Kasem Road (story here).

Southbound traffic flows through Phet Kasem and Rama II roads formed 10km-long traffic congestion.

Farmers’ representative Ravee Rungreung said if the caretaker government wouldn’t send a representative to negotiate with them, they would continue the road blockage – for months if needed – until they were paid. Apologising to motorists for the inconvenience, he said the farmers were severely affected and had run out of solutions to get the caretaker government’s attention on the issue.

Some 500 farmers from Phichit, Nakhon Sawan, Khamphaeng Phet, Sukhothai and Phitsanulok blocked one Bangkok-bound lane of a road in front of the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Co-operatives (BAAC)’s Bung Na Rang branch in Phichit yesterday, calling for the pledged rice payments. The group said this would be their final battle to get answers about pledged rice payments from the caretaker government.

The farmers at the rally also registered and submitted their documents for the royal petition. Ang Thong agriculture council president Songpol Pulsawat said that a letter from Ang Thong farmers to the caretaker government – via the provincial governor on January 22 – for the overdue payments to be paid by January 31, hadn’t seen any progress. As a result, the farmers would block a main road in the province on February 6.

The group wanted the caretaker government to pay them for the pledged rice or let the farmers borrow money from the BAAC, with the caretaker government covering the loan interest for them. The farmers expected a caretaker government representative to pick up their demand by February 6 at the rally site – or else the road blockade would continue, he added.

Govt plans rice auction next week
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: The caretaker Commerce Ministry will try to release 500,000 tonnes of rice from its stockpiles via auction next week, while Minister Niwatthumrong Boonsongpaisan says he has approved the sale of another 860,000 tonnes.

This is to ensure that the government will earn additional of Bt10 billion this month to fund the rice-pledging project. It has come under heavy pressure from farmers over delayed payments for their crops, but faces restrictions on fund-raising because of its caretaker status.

Niwatthumrong said the ministry had already returned Bt180 billion to the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives, which is responsible for financing the programme.

The ministry has also drawn up a plan to sell rice to the Philippines after Vietnam just won a bid with Manila to supply 500,000 tonnes of rice.

Krungthai Bank’s board yesterday refuted “misleading” reports on social networks that it would provide loans for the rice-pledging project.

Payungsak Chartsutipol, chairman of KTB’s board of executive directors, said he had not received any proposal from bank president Vorapak Tanyawong on this matter. Vorapak has also previously denied rumours that KTB’s board would consider such a loan.

Though it is a state-owned bank, KTB is a listed company and regulated by the Bank of Thailand, and therefore will comply with the law and good-governance practices, Payungsak said.

He also denied that caretaker Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong had ever asked him about a loan for the project, and pointed out that no news on this matter had reached him yet because it had to pass through management.

“Whatever agenda the board discusses will be proposed by the management, and the board meeting [on Tuesday] will contain a normal agenda,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Public Debt Management Office cancelled a meeting scheduled for yesterday with financial institutions to discuss the legal issues in regard to loans for the pledging project.

The Office of the Auditor-General on Friday warned Kittiratt that the government should strictly comply with the law in regard to funds for the rice-pledging scheme, according to the Isara news agency.

“The office was worried [about] operations of the government and related agencies involving the rice-pledging project. Securing funds to pay for paddy pledged in the 2013-14 main crop would have to comply with the law and not be against the Constitution. If the action of seeking funds is found to breach the law, those who approve [such action] or who are involved with the action will take responsibility for damages that may occur,” Isara said, citing the office’s letter to the caretaker finance minister.

In another letter dated January 30 to caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, the office said the government should consider suspending the pledging project for the next crop after problems had been found with every process of the scheme, resulting in several hundreds of billions of baht in revenue losses.

Private sector warns country could face GDP loss of Bt240 bn
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: A prolonged political conflict would dampen Thai economic growth, shaving up to Bt240 billion off gross domestic product (GDP) and causing the country to lag behind its neighbours, a private-sector group warned yesterday.

Meanwhile, other Southeast Asian countries such as Indonesia, Vietnam and Cambodia are expected to enjoy GDP growth of 5-6 per cent this year.

The Joint Standing Committee on Commerce, Industry and Banking said a political vacuum in the first half of this year due to the unresolved political conflict would have a profound impact on the growth of Thailand’s economy. This would be due to a lack of stimulation from the government, a slowdown of domestic investment and consumption, and decreased investor confidence due to higher risks, leading to missed opportunities for new investment.

The group, which includes members of the commerce, industry and banking sectors, convened its meeting yesterday.

Payungsak Chartsutipol, chairman of the Federation of Thai Industries, said the committee estimated that if the political conflict is prolonged, the Thai economic growth rate would be 1.5 to 2 percentage points lower than the previous forecast of 5 per cent. If it lasts

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Thailand beaches may limit visitors until Covid-19 vaccine is available

Caitlin Ashworth



Thailand beaches may limit visitors until Covid-19 vaccine is available | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Unsplash: Merve Selcuk Simsek

Beaches and national parks might not fully open to international tourists until a Covid-19 vaccine is available. Around 120 to 150 tourists departing from China are set to arrive in Phuket on October 8 after a 6 month ban on international tourists. They’ll have to go through a 14 day state quarantine, but after that, they may not be able to enjoy some of the island’s beaches. A report from Bloomberg says it’s “unlikely” beaches and parks will fully open to overseas travellers until a vaccine is out.

Thailand’s borders won’t fully reopen to international tourists until a vaccine is widely available to the public, according to Tourism Council of Thailand president Chairat Trirattanajarasporn. For the time being, only tourists on select charter flights with a 90 day Special Tourist Visa can enter the country.

“It’s good for the country to reopen even if it’s just for trial … Once we’ve tested our reopening plan for a month, we can assess how to go forward and allow more visitors to come in.”

The new Special Tourist Visa is an effort intended to help revive Thailand’s tourism industry which has been crippled by the coronavirus pandemic. According to Bloomberg, the sector makes but about a fifth of the nation’s economy. Last year, the tourism industry generated 1.9 trillion baht with about 40 million foreign visitors. With travel restrictions in place to control the spread of the coronavirus, Chairat predicts tourism revenue will drop 82.6% to 336.5 billion baht by the end of the year.

“Businesses that rely on foreign tourists, especially in Phuket, Samui, Pattaya and Chiang Mai, will continue to close in the coming months because there would only be a small group of people coming in after the reopening.”

SOURCE: Bloomberg

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Thailand News Today | Phuket re-opens, TripAdvisor review saga, Samut Prakhan chem spill | Sept 30

The Thaiger



Thailand News Today | Phuket re-opens, TripAdvisor review saga, Samut Prakhan chem spill | Sept 30 | The Thaiger

Daily TV news about Thailand. Updates and all the latest information from

Phuket prepares to welcome first Chinese tourists in over 6 months

The first group of tourists to arrive under Thailand’s new Special Tourist Visa scheme will land in Phuket on October 8.

The flight from Guangzhou in southern China will carry 120 tourists, who will spend their first 14 days in alternative state quarantine. They are reported to be travelling under the government’s new STV.

The resort islands of Phuket and Koh Samui will be the first to welcome travellers under the Special Tourist Via scheme. Guangzhou has not recorded any new cases of the Covid-19 virus for a prolonged period.

The CCSA reports that there will be a limit of 300 foreign tourists admitted each week, but this will be reviewed after the first phase of the re-opening. All arrivals will be subject to 14 day quarantine.

Minister calls for all complaints against Sarasas schools to be monitored amid abuse allegations

The Education Minister is asking the Office of the Private Education Commission to closely monitor all complaints filed against all Sarasas Witaed School branches around the country.

34 out of 42 of the schools have had complaints filed against them. Allegations of abuse first emerged when the actions of an abusive teacher at a branch of the school in the central province of Nonthaburi, just north of central Bangkok, were captured on CCTV.

Additional complaints made against several other branches of the private school allege harsh punishment, the charging of fees not sanctioned by the Education Ministry, and the use of unqualified teachers. The Thonburi school was also accused of using babysitters as teachers

The man who wrote the bad reviews for Koh Chang’s Sea View Resort has a criminal record

In the ongoing stoush between the American, Wesley Barnes, and Koh Chang’s Sea View Resort, it’s now been revealed that Mr Barnes has been of interest to the US judicial system in the past, being accused of firing a weapon at a bar in Jackson County, Missouri.

Wesley Barnes, who has been working in Thailand as a teacher, posted a number of negative reviews on different platforms, including Trip Advisor, allegedly accusing the Koh Chang resort of “modern day slavery”, amongst other complaints. He stayed at the resort in June this year.

But this isn’t the first time Mr Barnes has come to the attention of police.

In the US there was an incident which is now public record. There was an official police complaint against the 34 year old in 2017. He was accused of firing a weapon near Waldo Bar, and later at a convenience store, told people he was a federal agent prior to the initial incident.

Of course the man’s criminal record doesn’t prevent him from posting negative reviews but provides just a little more context to the ongoing saga between the hotel and Mr Barnes.

PM dismisses rumours of alliance with opposition to form new government

Thai PM Prayuth Chan-o-cha has rubbished rumours that the ruling coalition parties plan to join forces with the opposition Pheu Thai party to form a new government.

While the PM initially didn’t respond to the question, instead bidding reporters a good day and walking away, he did mumble that he had enough “headaches” with one of his coalition partners.

Meanwhile Deputy PM, Prawit Wongsuwan, also dismissed the question, accusing the media of being behind the speculation. Under the current constitution the Thai PM is elected by a parliamentary majority, and not automatically coming from the leader of the party with the most number of votes. But a coalition between Prayut and Pheu Thai does seem, at face value, extremely unlikely.

Around 10 villagers hospitalised after chemical spill in Samut Prakan

Around 10 people were hospitalised after a chemical tank spilled at a village in Samut Prakan, just southeast of Bangkok.

Those near the spill reported feeling nauseous and some had trouble breathing. Officials do not known what chemical was in the tank.

The 1 metre tank had been taken into the forest by 2 employees at a second hand shop who hoped they could take it apart and sell the scrap metal. The 2 employees fainted when the tank spilled. Trees and grass in a 100 metre radius of the chemical spill also died.

The chemical let off a strong odour and Thai media says the fumes spread to a nearby village. Those at the second hand shop, close by to the chemical spill, started to feel nauseous and some had trouble breathing. Some people reported skin rashes after the incident. Around 10 villagers, including children, were sent to hospital.

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Thailand farmers hope to grow and export cannabis by next year

Caitlin Ashworth



Thailand farmers hope to grow and export cannabis by next year | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Unsplash: Esteban Lopez

Under a proposed law, Thailand farmers would be allowed to grow cannabis and hemp for export without going through cannabis certified universities or medical institutes. The National Farmers Council president Praphat Panyachatrak says he hopes the new law will be in place by next year. The legislation is still being reviewed by the Public Health Ministry and National Legislative Assembly, but Praphat says he expects an announcement will be made soon.

Thailand’s recent rush to decriminalise and even legalise marijuana follows the Bhumjaithai Party joining the government coalition in 2019, headed by current Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul. His elected MPs provide essential votes for the fragile coalition. His party ran on a platform of legalising marijuana.

Thailand has been gearing up for the global cannabis trade with talk of classifying medical cannabis as an economic crop. The classification would allow the plant to be exported to other countries. The government has also talked about adding a variety of cannabis cultivars to keep up with the demanding cannabis industry.

The National Farmers Council has been advocating for the cultivation of cannabis and Praphat says the new law will make it easier for farmers to grow the plant. He adds that farmers would be able to get a permit to grow cannabis as soon as they got an order from overseas.

Recreational marijuana is still illegal in Thailand and is considered a Category 5 narcotic. Those charged with distributing cannabis face 2 to 10 years in prison and a fine from 40,000 baht to 200,000 baht. Those caught distributing over 10 kilograms of cannabis face up to 15 years in prison and a fine from 200,000 baht to 1,500,000 baht.

SOURCE: Nation Thailand | Chiang Rai Times

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