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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Oil spill mop up continues; Bangkok under ISA ahead of rallies; North braces for more floods

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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Oil spill mop up continues; Bangkok under ISA ahead of rallies; North braces for more floods | The Thaiger
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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH
– Thailand news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Oil spill probe to be finished in 7 days
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: The Energy Ministry promises to complete its investigation into the cause of the disastrous offshore oil spill within seven days and to ensure full compensation by PTT Global Chemical (PTTGC).

“The situation is under control now as no oil stain is found on the waters off Koh Samet,” Energy Minister Pongsak Ruktapongpisa said yesterday.

The fact-finding committee, to be led by Thongtip Ratanarat, former executive director of the Petroleum Institute of Thailand, would start its work today to find out why the crude oil leaked from PTTGC’s platform in the Gulf of Thailand and whether the operator had complied with protocol. Initially, PTTGC insisted that it had followed protocol to mitigate the situation. A 1,500-metre-long boom was laid on the surface, but probably because of high waves, the oil slick slipped outside the containment area.

Pongsak said the leaked volume was within their handling capacity and the operators had conducted regular drills.

He held a meeting with high-ranking officials from the Energy Ministry and PTT Group.

Anon Sirisangtaksin, CEO of PTTGC, promised Ao Phrao would be cleaned up within seven days.

The company and independent experts would cooperate in designing the rehabilitation plan and assessing the marine environmental damage, he said.

The use of the dispersant called Slickgone NS would not threaten marine life, he said.

About 35,000 litres of the chemical have been sprayed on the oil slick in the past days, prompting concern among environmentalists.

Nattachart Charuchinda, senior executive for the downstream petroleum business at PTT, said that authorities should call for annual drill instead of one every three years. Some drilling conditions must also be improved for higher efficiency. The oil platform involved in the accident would remain closed until the investigation is completed.

The Marine Department is in charge of the drills. The latest was held in May with the Navy, Natural Fuels Department, oil refineries, oil exploration companies and an oil-spill-related unit from Singapore.

An Energy Ministry source said the ministry plans to bring the drill under its supervision for flexibility.

Pongsak told reporters that all businesses and individuals affected by the oil slick should refrain from suing PTTGC, as the company had promised to take full responsibility for the damage. While those directly impacted would be immediately granted compensation, a committee would be set up to appraise compensation for those indirectly affected.

However, the Prevention and Elimination of Marine Pollution Caused by Oil Spill committee under the PM’s Office resolved yesterday to have the Marine Department file a compensation lawsuit against the company.

“We haven’t yet concluded the amount. It’s too soon as this affects natural resources and properties and incurs expenses for agencies,” Wichien Jungrungruang, director-general of the Pollution Department, said after the meeting.

The department has ordered PTTGC to submit a rehabilitation plan for the damaged natural resources and related losses by the oil spill by the end of this month.

PTTGC must seek the opinions of stakeholders and locals on suitable methods to restore natural resources as well as Phrao beach to their original condition.

If the PTTGC does not follow the department’s order, it will be faced with legal action, said Sorasak Saensombat director-general of the Marine Department, during his trip to observe the progress in the clean-up at Phrao beach.

The Thai Hotels Association is calling for immediate measures from the government to cope with the oil spill through four senate committees, for fear that the problem could not be dealt with in time before the next high tourist season.

Chairman Surapong Techaruvichit said the four objectives were an investigation and problem-solving process, compensation for profits lost, recovery and restoration plans for the loss of Thailand’s image as a tourist destination, and long-term preventive and preparatory steps to be led by authorities.

The association’s meeting concluded that it would bring its concerns and proposed measures to the senate committees on energy, tourism, natural resource conservation and good governance.

Buntarik Kusolwit, the head of the association’s eastern region committee, said room reservations on Samet have all been cancelled. The recovery in tourism would likely take more than one year, and hotels should be compensated throughout the period.

Experts scoff at PTTGC’s response
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: When the oil first leaked from the PTT Global Chemical (PTTGC) offshore platform near Rayong on Saturday, relevant officials decided to deploy a 200-metre boom to contain the spill, which later proved to be far too short.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a PTTGC staff member said this 200-metre boom was the only size available in large ships.

“But we also inflated spare booms to deal with the spill,” the source, who is part of the PTTGC emergency-response team, added.

Later, in response to a model assessment produced by the Pollution Control Department, the team put out a 1,200-metre boom about 1,000 metres from Koh Samet’s Ao Phrao beach.

The PTTGC staff member added that after the booms were deployed, oil skimmers were also put into action. In addition, boats and aircraft have been spraying dispersant chemicals on Sunday.

“We have been proceeding in line with international practice on responding to oil spills,” he said, adding that nobody thought the oil would wash up at the Ao Phrao beach on Sunday night.

“In fact, we believed we could stop the oil about 4 kilometres from Ao Phrao,” he said, adding that the oil was possibly pushed toward the beach by high tides and strong winds.

He added that since Thailand did not have chemical-spraying aircraft, PTTGC had to wait for help from Singapore-based Oil Spill Response Ltd. “The aircraft started spraying the chemicals at about 3pm on Sunday,” he said. “By then, the oil slick had already spread over quite a wide area.”

Dispersants ‘safe’

He went on to say that he was confident the dispersants would not affect the coral or marine life because the droplets would go just a metre or two under the surface of the seawater.

“At that depth, the chemical won’t reach the abode of aquatic animals. Then within three to four weeks, sunlight and bacteria will naturally dispose of all those droplets,” he said.

However, academics remain unconvinced.

Phaitoon Mokkongpai, a researcher at Burapha University, explained that the coral around Koh Samet did not lie that deep below the water surface. “Most of them will be affected,” he said.

Thon Thamrongnawasawat of Kasetsart University’s Faculty of Fisheries said several studies show that when chemicals are used in waters less than 20 metres deep, they pose some risks.

According to Phaitoon, the PTTGC boom was also shorter than is required, which explained why the spill spread. “If you ask me, PTTGC’s response was not the best,” Phaitoon said.

3 Bangkok districts under ISA
— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Thailand News Today | Waiting for vaccine, new face of Thailand expats, teacher complaints | Oct 1

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Thailand News Today | Waiting for vaccine, new face of Thailand expats, teacher complaints | Oct 1 | The Thaiger

Daily Thai news on The Thaiger. All the latest information about Thailand, Monday to Friday on Thaiger News Today.

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

Beaches and national parks might not fully open to international tourists until a Covid-19 vaccine is available. The claim comes from the Tourism Council of Thailand president. 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 becomes available. At this stage there are still many questions about a successful vaccine either becoming available or the efficacy of such a vaccine even when it is. Then there are questions about whether getting a vaccine will become a condition of travel to Thailand or internationally. 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.”

Changing face of Thailand’s expats

Thailand’s dominant working expat nationality in past decades has been Japanese, currently making up 18% of expatriates in the country. But that dominance is about to be overtaken. While Japanese expatriate numbers are decreasing, a CBRE report notes that Chinese and Filipino expats are on the rise in Thailand. There were 28,560 Japanese expats in Thailand as of Q3 2020, just ahead of the Chinese expat contingent at 25,811. As China’s manufacturing has shifted overseas and Filipino expatriates have increased in line with local demand for teachers fluent in English, there’s been a continuing de-centralisation of the expat communities living in Thailand. You can read more about that report, and the effects on the Thai property market at thethaiger.com

More reports of alleged student abuse, parents file complaint against teacher

More reports of teachers allegedly abusing their students have come to light after a Nonthaburi teacher was caught on video pushing a kindergarten student to the floor, pulling a student across the floor and repeatedly hitting other students. Now more classroom videos of teachers allegedly abusing their students are being widely shared online as well as photos of children’s marks and injuries from the alleged abuse. Meanwhile, the main Thonburi school, at the centre of the current allegations, has agreed to pay compensation, including refunding school fees, paying medical costs, and better screening and scrutiny of teaching staff.

Contestant eliminated from Miss Universe Thailand after manager infiltrates organising committee

One of the favourites to take the Miss Universe Thailand title when the contest is held on Saturday, October 10, has just been kicked out for breaking the rules. Chayathanus Saradat, also known as “Cheraim”, is accused of allowing her manager and chaperone to infiltrate the organising committee. It’s understood he manager, aka “Ken”, attended numerous committee meetings, potentially getting the inside scoop on what questions contestants might be asked, and giving his client an advantage. Thailand still has a fascination for the ‘beauty contestant’ format and there are hundreds of such contests conducted around the country each year.

Police confiscate 300 kilos of marijuana in central Thailand drugs bust

A drugs bust in the central province of Nonthaburi, just north of central Bangkok, has netted 300 kilos of marijuana, valued at around 2 million baht. Anti-narcotics officers confiscated the haul yesterday when they apprehended 3 men in a department store car park. Thai Residents reports that dried marijuana usually fetches around 6,500 baht per kilo on the black market. It’s understood this consignment was on its way to a Bangkok-based dealer when it was intercepted.

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Tourism

Travel agents push to end quarantine for tourists from countries at low risk for Covid-19

Caitlin Ashworth

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Travel agents push to end quarantine for tourists from countries at low risk for Covid-19 | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Qui Hotel

Travel agents are pushing to end the 14 day quarantine required for foreign tourists arriving from countries classified as a very low risk for spreading Covid-19, hoping the government will agree with the idea and start in December. The move could bring in at least 100,000 tourists per month, according to president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents, or ATTA, Vichit Prakobkoson.

The thought of 2 weeks in isolation before enjoying a vacation turns away a lot of potential tourists. Vichit says the idea of quarantine “repulses” them. But some tourists are still onboard with travelling to Thailand, even if that means spending 14 days in quarantine.

Around 120 to 150 tourists on the new Special Tourist Visa are set to arrive next week from China to Phuket after a 6 month ban on international tourists. The tourists are required to quarantine for 14 days at a state approved facility. The new visa allows a 90 stay and can be renewed twice, adding up to about 9 months.

Vichit says new measure won’t be enough to revive Thailand’s crippled tourism industry which took a hit when the country halted international travel to control the spread of the coronavirus. 1,200 foreign tourists are expected to arrive each month under the new Special Tourist Visa, but Vichit says the number of monthly tourists could increase to 100,000 each month if the quarantine is waived for people from countries consider low risk.

“The government should challenge and revoke the state quarantine, if possible, by this December for certain countries. If so, approximately 100,000 foreigners a month would travel to Thailand and might stay for 5 to 7 days.”

SOURCE: Pattaya News

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Opening borders could cause a second Covid-19 outbreak, epidemiologist says

Caitlin Ashworth

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Opening borders could cause a second Covid-19 outbreak, epidemiologist says | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Thai Post

Opening Thailand’s borders to foreign tourists may open a “Pandora’s box” of Covid-19 infections, according to leading epidemiologist on the Chulalongkorn University Faculty of Medicine Thira Woratanarat. After a 6 month ban on international tourists, the first group of travellers on the new Special Tourist Visa are set to fly from China to Phuket on October 8. Thira says the move puts the country at risk of a second coronavirus outbreak.

“If the country decides to take risks, everyone must rely on themselves because this is a war between virus and humans and people need to survive… The country will be a new endemic area if the government cannot contain the spread of the disease effectively. And even if there is a Covid-19 vaccine, it might be too late.”

The 120 to 150 tourists arriving next week on the Special Tourist Visa are required to quarantine at a state approved facility for 14 days. They are also required to be tested for Covid-19 before their flight and before being released from quarantine.

Thira has been vocal for months on his disapproval for opening the borders to foreign tourists and has stood firmly against proposals like so called “travel bubbles.” He says the coronavirus cases across globe have continued to raise and warns that people in Thailand should still abide by coronavirus prevention measures like wearing a mask.

“Many countries are still under the severe pandemic and have an infection rate 20 times that of Thailand’s, so Thailand will be at a risk of becoming a pandemic hotspot after the country is reopened.”

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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