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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Mass refugees found may be Uighurs; Budget deficit to double; Yingluck pleas for clemency

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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

โ€“ Thailand news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Unidentifiable group of Muslims nabbed
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: A group of 220 reportedly Muslim immigrants, whose nationality and origin was not known to Thai authorities as of press time yesterday, have been arrested at a rubber plantation in the southern province of Songkhla.

The police are unable to communicate with the group, which consists of 82 children, 78 men and 60 women, as they speak a tongue that has yet to be identified by Thai immigration and authorities. A Turkish-speaking interpreter was called in to interview them because it was initially believed that the group might hail from Turkey. The detainees were moved to an immigration office in Hat Yai district, before the women and children were moved to a shelter.

The women in the group were wearing hijab, with a netted opening for the eyes, while the men were found wearing casual attire. An immigration police officer noted that the group was comprised mostly of families and carried luggage like the sort used by normal international travellers. He added that their clothes were still clean, which possibly indicated that they had only just arrived in Thailand. He also said that they appeared to be Chinese looking.

Reporters’ also observed that the detainees were dressed in expensive-looking clothes and had sophisticated mobile devices.

“We are trying to check if they are Uighurs from China,” said Sunai Phasuk, Thailand’s representative for Human Rights Watch. Uighurs are a Muslim group from China’s Xinjiang province, whose language has Turkish roots.

Upon detaining the group, the authorities first provided them with food and water, along with medical assistance for those appearing unwell. Police initially thought they might be Rohingya boat people entering Thailand illegally from Myanmar.

Officials from the United Nations Head Commissioner on Refugees have been coordinating with the authorities to take care of the group, and have enlisted help from Arab speakers to try and communicate with the group. So far, no charges of illegal entry or criminal activities have been pressed on them.

A few men reportedly escaped when the police closed in on the group in response to an alert from local residents. No details were available about the escapees as of press time.

Immigration police commander Pol Maj-General Thawatchai Pitanilabutr, who led the inspection of the plantation, said several Rohingya were also being sheltered near the farm and police are checking to see if the two groups had anything in common in relation to their travel into Thailand.

Pol Lt-Colonel Paisith Sangkhahapong, director of the Department of Special Investigation anti-human trafficking centre, said the agency had not yet looked into the incident, hence it could not determine if it was related to a crime under its jurisdiction.

He said if the group hailed from Turkey, this would be the largest group of Turkish people travelling via Thailand. He went on to say that Thailand should not be a route for human trafficking from Turkey as there were other routes available via Europe.

Budget deficit to double
The Nation Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: Bureau projects Bt500 billion to give the next government more flexibility in investment plan; Pheu Thai shrugs off calls for govt to take responsibility for ‘unconstitutional’ loan bill

The national budget deficit is projected to hit Bt500 billion in fiscal 2015, double this year’s level, the Budget Bureau will propose to the next government, after the charter court ruled the current administration’s Bt2-trillion loan bill unconstitutional.

A deficit equivalent of 4 per cent of gross domestic product will likely be designed to accommodate the government’s investment plan more flexibly. This means the government will be able to raise loans of up to Bt500 billion.

Somsak Chotrattanasiri, budget director of the bureau, said yesterday that expenditure for 2015 would include some investments, part of the scrapped Bt2-trillion loan bill for infrastructure development, increasing the deficit for 2015 to Bt500 billion when compared with the Bt250 billion in 2014.

“How much the investment budget should be is up to the next government. But it will be on the condition that the borrowing will not exceed 20 per cent of the expenditure budget,” he said.

However, an increase in the deficit would defer the plan to balance the budget by 2017.

Somsak said the bureau has already prepared the estimated expenditure for 2015 before conferring with three other agencies – the Finance Ministry, the National Economic and Social Development Board, and the Bank of Thailand.

The expenditure budget for 2015 was proposed at Bt2.7 trillion, up Bt200 billion from this year.

“When altering the investment plan, the development time frame will be stretched to 10 years from seven years of the investment plan under the Bt2-trillion loan bill,” Somsak said.

In normal circumstances, the Cabinet would have passed the expenditure budget plan in May before seeking approval of the House of Representatives so as to become effective in October.

Take responsibility

On Wednesday, the Constitutional Court voted 9-0 to rule that the content of the Bt2-trillion borrowing bill was unconstitutional. The judges voted 6-2, with one judge abstaining, over the bill being passed in procedural violation of the charter, after some ruling-coalition MPs voted with others’ identity cards.

Calls grew yesterday for the caretaker government to take responsibility for the court verdict against its borrowing bill.

Senator Paiboon Nititawan said the administration of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra should take responsibility, as it was the government that had proposed the bill.

The anti-government People’s Democratic Reform Committee yesterday also made a similar call. PDRC spokesman Akanat Promphan said Yingluck and her government had yet to show any sense of responsibility for their proposed law being found by the court to be in violation of the Constitution.

“Yingluck has not only denied responsibility but also blamed others for the wrongdoing,” he said. “Still, she is calling for justice.”

The ruling Pheu Thai Party yesterday said the government did not need to take responsibility because the bill had already been approved by Parliament.

Pheu Thai spokesman Prompong Nopparit said the calls for the government to take responsibility were just a political game aimed at finding fault with the prime minister and her Cabinet.

Yingluck urges foes to hold off on legal salvoes
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, facing an impeachment threat and the court defeat of her Bt2-trillion infrastructure loan bill, yesterday pleaded with her political adversaries to show her mercy and create a space for everyone to live together instead of trying to corner her with legal weapons.

“If you are going to use laws to hunt us down every day, how can we find peace in this country?” she asked with a strained voice.

She was respon

— Phuket Gazette Editors

 

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Myanmar

Former pageant queen in Myanmar sides with ethnic armies opposing military coup

Tanutam Thawan

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Photo via Facebook/ Htar Htet Htet

A former pageant queen Htar Htet Htet has been vocal about her opposition to the military takeover in her home country, Myanmar. But recently, she took her stance even farther by posting a photo of herself in a black combat outfit with an assault rifle, showing support for the ethnic armies fighting against the state military.

The Myanmar military took over the civilian government in February, ousting the state counsellor who had won the election in a landslide. Since then around 750 people have been killed by security forces.

Ethnic armies that occupy border regions have opposed the military takeover, including the prominent armed wing of the Karen National Union. Recently, Karen troops attacked and took over a state military outpost near the Thai border. Around 2,000 people have fled to Thailand to escape the violence.

The 32 year old, who represented Mynamar in the 2013 Miss Grand International pageant in Thailand, wrote on Facebook saying “the time has come to fight back.”

“Whether you hold a weapon, pen, keyboard or donate money to the pro-democracy movement, everyone must do their bit for the revolution to succeed.

I will fight back as much as I can. I am ready and prepared to give up everything. I am even ready to pay with my life.”

Former pageant queen in Myanmar sides with ethnic armies opposing military coup | News by Thaiger

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

 

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Bangkok

More than 2,000 inmates in Bangkok test positive for Covid-19

Tanutam Thawan

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Bangkok Remand Prison / Google

More than 2,000 inmates at the Bangkok Remand Prison and at the Women’s Correctional Institution have tested positive for Covid-19. The announcement from the Department of Corrections follows the recent news that a protest leader tested positive for Covid-19 after spending 8 weeks in jail awaiting trial for lese majeste charges.

Pro-democracy activist Panusya “Rung” Sithijirawattanaku made a post on Facebook saying she tested positive for Covid-19. She had been held in the Women’s Correctional Institution for 59 days and was released on bail on May 6.

The Department of Corrections says 2,835 inmates have tested positive for the virus including 1,795 at Bangkok Remand Prison, making up more than half the prison population. A source told the Bangkok Post there is a total of 3,238 inmates at the prison.

The other 1,040 infections are inmates at the Central Women’s Correctional Institution. The prison has a population of 4,518 inmates.

Those with severe symptoms are admitted to hospitals outside the prison while the other infected inmates are being treated at field hospitals set up at the prisons or at the Corrections Hospital, according to Corrections Department director-general Aryut Sinthoppan.

“The Corrections Department has ordered all correctional facilities to set up an area for quarantine and a field hospital, with doctors and nurses on duty to provide treatment for the infected inmates… We also plan to inoculate all detainees. We are only waiting for an allocation of vaccines from relevant agencies.”

Aryut says those at high risk of infection are now in quarantine. New inmates are in quarantine for 21 days and must test negative for Covid-19 twice before being released to the general prison population.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

 

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Thailand

Thailand News Today | Thai Airways decision, Covid Update, farmer hit by lightning | May 12

Tanutam Thawan

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34 Covid-related deaths reported today, today is a big day in the long-running Thai Airways saga, with 13,000 creditors voting on whether or not to accept the struggling airlineโ€™s rehabilitation plan, An unfortunate farmer has been struck and killed by lightning in his rice field in the Phon Sawan district of Nakhon Phanom, British activist Andy Hall has been finally cleared of the last pending charge and anti-government protest leader has finally been granted bail after 10 requests

 

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