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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Man jailed for lese majeste; Deep South peace dialogue stumbles; B2trn loan under fire

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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Man jailed for lese majeste; Deep South peace dialogue stumbles; B2trn loan under fire | The Thaiger
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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

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

Man jailed for 3 years and 4 months for lese majeste
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: A man who was arrested in March 2011 for selling pirated copies of an Australian documentary critical of the Thai monarchy, as well as WikiLeaks papers, was sentenced to three years and four months in jail yesterday for violating the lese majeste law.

The Criminal Court found Ekachai Hongkangwan guilty of violating the Constitution’s Article 8, which stipulates that the monarchy must be held in reverence. The judges said the content of the documentary produced by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) defamed the Crown Prince, his consort and the monarchy in general.

WikiLeaks papers, which were found inside Ekachai’s satchel when he was arrested, contained text defamatory to Her Majesty, the court said. The court said Ekachai should consider “the feelings of [Thai] people” who revere the monarchy and that his intention to “make people believe in this information caused damage to the monarchy’s reputation”.

The original sentence was five years, but as the defendant admitted to owning and selling the material, judges decided to cut it to three years and four months. He was also fined 66,666 baht for selling videos without permit.

The 37-year-old was visibly disappointed and said he would appeal the verdict, insisting that both the documentary and the WikiLeaks papers were only a simple criticism, not slander. He was waiting for the result of his bail request at press time.

Nine of 15 delegate members attend Southern peace dialogue
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Only nine of the original 15 members of the Thai delegation turned up in Malaysia for a peace dialogue with insurgents’ representatives yesterday. The dialogue is taking place at a police facility in Kuala Lumpur.

The delegation of the Barisan Revolusi Nasional Coordinate (BRN), representing the insurgents, had also shrunk to just five, including Hassan Taib, chief of the BRN liaison office in Malaysia.

Details of the discussion were kept confidential, pending a statement from both sides.

The nine Thais included National Security Council secretary-general Paradorn Pattanathabutr and South Border Provinces Administrative Centre director Tawee Sondsong, as well as former members of the police, the Army and civilians. No explanations were given as to why the team had shrunk.

After arriving on Wednesday, the delegates held a meeting to work out what issues would be on the agenda. Paradorn said a late change in conditions for the number of attendees meant each side would include the same number of people at the talks, but did not say yesterday how many were present.

Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha yesterday responded to reports that insurgents had demanded the withdrawal of troops from the far South as a precondition for ending their armed struggle, saying such a move was possible. Paradorn has since denied that any such precondition was ever proposed, while Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yoobamrunghas blamed the media.

Prayuth said a bomb attack yesterday in Narathiwat, which killed three soldiers, was not connected to the peace dialogue. The next round of talks will take place in Indonesia next month, a source said.

Loans not needed: Abhisit
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: The opposition yesterday agreed that the country needs massive infrastructure investment but found fault with the government’s plan to seek a Bt2-trillion project loan through issuing a special decree and bypassing the annual budget, which could lead to lax fiscal discipline and ballooning public debt.

During the House-Senate debate on the bill authorising the Finance Ministry to arrange the loan, opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said the government has no need at all to ask for Bt2 trillion from the financial market, the biggest borrowing in Thailand’s history, because it could rely on the annual budget or run additional budget deficits. That would be enough to finance the projects without pushing public debt up to the ceiling as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP), said the Democrat Party leader.

While the government estimates the total financing cost at Bt5 trillion – Bt2 trillion in principal and Bt3 trillion in interest – this assumes that interest rates will remain low throughout the 50-year repayment period. That is rather doubtful given the global economic uncertainty. The resulting rise in public debt per GDP, which is currently at 45 per cent, was a major concern, he added.

Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong said the borrowing would not upset the fiscal balance. While it will take time to completely pay off the debt, what the country will get in return is infrastructure assets, which will serve the country for decades.

The government could accelerate debt repayment by just paying more principal back to reduce the interest burden.

Most of the funds will come from the local market, so the income from interest payments will end up in the pockets of the Thai people.

To ensure spending transparency, the projects proposed by state agencies will be scrutinised by the Finance Ministry, NESDB and Budget Bureau, he added.

Kittiratt said the government wants to maintain its goal of achieving a drop in the budget deficit until it achieves a balance.

Abhisit said the government could also employ existing mechanisms such as the public-private joint venture law to encourage private sector investment to support the projects. Then the government might not need to seek such a huge loan.

Transport Minister Chatchart Sithiphan said the government should be the main investor while the private sector would be encouraged to take part in some projects on a case-by-case basis.

These projects are not aimed at generating revenue, but rather at developing the economy and cutting the country’s logistics costs. If the private sector played a role, they might charge high fees or fares for people to use the infrastructure, he said.

Abhisit said the government must exercise strict fiscal discipline and prioritise which projects it would finance. The government has spent heavily on its populist policies and it would be better to channel some budgets of populist policies to this infrastructure development scheme, he said.

Kittiratt said the country needs to build up its resources to boost the economy, promote connectivity within the country and with neighbours and enhance the country’s competitiveness. The borrowing will also ensure the continuity of project development to completion.

Abhisit said the government should not just spend profusely on upgrading infrastructure and ignore spending to improve other not less important areas such as education and healthcare.

MP Boonjong Wongtrairat, from the opposition Bhum Jai Thai Party, said at yesterday’s House debate that the Finance Ministry did not have any clear plans about how it would repay the huge public debt, adding that there would probably be a tax hike.

Boonjong said he was also not convinced that the transport minister would be able to manage the projects successfully, judging from the fact that its State Railway of Thailand was making big losses.

Prime Minister Yi

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Thailand News Today | Thai Airways corruption, Southern floods, Border Covid outbreak | Dec 3

The Thaiger

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Thailand News Today | Thai Airways corruption, Southern floods, Border Covid outbreak | Dec 3 | The Thaiger

Thursday’s edition of Thailand News Today, including the latest in the local cases popping up in Northern Thailand. Thailand’s most watched English language news.

20 more people suspected of being involved in corruption at Thai Airways

20 people are now under suspicion of corruption and mismanagement within Thai Airways as accountants unravel the massive losses for the airline, spanning a decade

The news, announced by police and deputy head of the commission investigating the airline, comes as little surprise to anyone who has been following the demise of Thailand’s legacy airline. The airline is tackling a debt of around 300 billion baht.

The story follows many other tales of corruption and bad deals that have been part of a larger puzzle that is now being unraveled by accounts and committees who are handling the airlines’ bankruptcy.

Now, 20 people are suspected of corruption in 6 different parts of the company’s management.

The investigation into alleged corruption at the airline started in August. In September, 18 documents showing evidence of corruption and mismanagement at the airline was submitted to the Finance Ministry, still a major shareholder for Thai Airways.

The airline’s decision to buy 10 Airbus A340 aircraft for 100 billion baht in 2004 was catastrophic. The airline lost money on every single flight of these aircraft. All but 1 of them have been decommissioned and stored at the U-Tapao airport.

2 infected Thai women took domestic flights after illegal crossing from Myanmar

2 Thai women, both infected with Covid-19, took domestic flights after entering the Kingdom illegally from Myanmar and bypassing health checks and quarantine.

A total of 10 Thai women have now tested positive for Covid-19 after crossing the border from Myanmar, several having worked in the same hotel and entertainment establishment in the Burmese border town opposite Mae Sai in Chiang Rai.

Health officials are tracking and tracing anyone who could have been in contact with the women, a number well into the 100s. Some have travelled to Chiang Mai and Bangkok.

Thai economists say new local Covid-19 cases will slow tourism recovery

Meanwhile, the National Economic and Social Development Council says that the mini outbreak in Northern Thailand will re-ignite fears of a second wave of infections in Thailand, stifling travel and tourism in the northern cities.

Operators already note that there has been a drop off of bookings and cancellations related to the publicity from the cross border infections. Airline bookings have also dropped off to both Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai.

Government to raise 5-year Elite visa fee by 20%, as foreigners flee Covid countries

As more foreigners opt for one of Thailand’s “elite” visas, allowing stays of between 5 and 20 years, and costing anything from 500,000 baht to 2 million, the most popular version is up for a price hike.

The cost of the 5-year “Easy Access” visa will go up by 20% from January, to 600,000 baht.

An additional 2,674 applicants signed up for an elite visa so far this year. That’s an increase of nearly 25%, with the scheme generating revenue of 1.6 billion baht.

By the end of September this year, over 11,100 people hold an elite visa in Thailand, as part of 9 different packages offered by Thailand Privilege Card.

Heavy rain wreaks havoc in flood-ravaged Nakhon Si Thammarat

The governor of Nakhon Si Thammarat has put the province on high alert, following 6 days of heavy rain in the southern province.

Nakhon Si Thammarat is directly east of Phuket, on the Gulf of Thailand.

Large swathes of land are underwater after extensive flooding that has affected tens of thousands of people in the region. Floods have been recorded in 351 villages in 15 districts, with some 48,000 people affected.

Heavy rain and flash flood warnings were issued for all southern provinces except Chumphon and Ranong

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5 people killed in Nakhon Si Thammarat flash flooding

Caitlin Ashworth

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5 people killed in Nakhon Si Thammarat flash flooding | The Thaiger
PHOTO:ฉ่าริฟ ริฟ ดีนนุ้ย

5 people died from the flash floods in Nakhon Si Thammarat after several days of heavy rain, according to Governor Kraisorn Wisitwong. Disaster mitigation officers have rescued locals from several districts who had to evacuate their homes due to the extensive flooding.

The 5 deaths were in the districts Noppitam, Phra Phrom, Chalerm Phra Kiat and Chawang. Thousands of households have been affected by the rising waters. This morning, reports say 942 villages in 19 districts were flooded, affecting more than 180,000 people.

SOURCE: Pattaya News

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Tourism

4 years until tourism industry gets back to pre-pandemic levels – Finance Ministry

Caitlin Ashworth

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4 years until tourism industry gets back to pre-pandemic levels – Finance Ministry | The Thaiger

It could take 4 years for Thailand’s tourism industry to recover after being battered by the lack of travel due to the coronavirus pandemic, the government’s reaction and the economic fallout, according to the Finance Ministry.

While local and international experts project Thailand’s economy will continue to recover over the next 2 years, the tourism industry, which directly contributes 12-15% of the country’s GDP, is forecasted to take at least 4 years to get back to the pre-pandemic level, if ever. Last year, Thailand had nearly 40 million foreign tourist arrivals, generating 2 trillion baht.

Finance Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith says he expects 8 million foreign tourists to arrive in 2021, followed by 16 million in 2022, 32 million in 2023 and 40 million in 2024. But the projections are just broad speculation.

No foreign tourists entered the country between April and September this year. In October, 1,201 foreign tourists were issued Special Tourist Visas for 90 day stays that can be renewed twice, adding up to about 9 months in total. Under the current arrangements there will only be a trickle of tourists coming under the current regime including 14 day quarantine, at the tourist’s expense, and lots of paperwork and red tape.

IF Thailand does end up. with 8 million foreign tourist arrivals next year, and the cash subsidy scheme is extended, the country’s GDP is expected to expand by 4% to 4.5%, according to the National Economic and Social Development Council.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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