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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Oil spill update; Pension issues; Thaksin clip was foreigners; Emergency decree before amnesty bill

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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Oil spill update; Pension issues; Thaksin clip was foreigners; Emergency decree before amnesty bill | The Thaiger
PHUKET MEDIA WATCH
– Thailand news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Black day for Samet
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET:Authorities yesterday feared the entire tourist island of Koh Samet in Rayong would be affected by Saturday’s oil spill.

The island’s Ao Phrao (Phrao Bay) is being closed for three days to permit a cleanup of spilled crude oil that has washed ashore.

Koh Samet was yesterday declared a marine disaster area, according to Rayong Governor Wichit Chatphaisit, who said action was being taken to prevent the leaked oil from spreading from Ao Phrao to other beaches on the island.

“The spill is definitely having an impact on the environment, but we have not detected any deaths of marine animals yet,” he said.

It is expected to take about 15 days to restore the polluted beach of Ao Phrao, according to Sumet Saithong, chief of the Laem Ya Samet Islands National Park.

He said about 500 officials from the Pollution Control Department; Depart-ment of Environment Quality Promotion; petrochemical firm PTT Global Chemical, from whose pipeline the oil leaked; and those sent by the Rayong provincial governor, were cleaning up oil that had washed ashore.

Film from the floating crude oil has spread over eight kilometres west of Ao Phrao, on the western coast of Samet, and about 400 metres into the bay, he said.

The Stop Global Warming Association yesterday asked the government to demand compensation from PTT for allegedly causing damage to the country’s natural resources and the environment. It would take legal action by itself if the government failed to do so, the association’s representatives said.

Koh Samet, about 3 kilometres off the coast of Rayong, is a popular getaway for Bangkok residents. The island attracts about 1 million visitors a year, mostly on weekends. Known for its quieter scene and serene beach, Ao Phrao is now blackened by waves of oil lapping on the shore.

The leak reportedly struck an offshore pipeline belonging to PTT Global Chemical on Saturday morning, releasing about 50,000 litres of crude oil into the Gulf of Thailand. The pipe is about 20 kilometres off Rayong’s coast. Authorities had contained much of the oil spill by Saturday evening, although portions evaded the floating barriers used to try to contain the spill.

“We closed off Ao Phrao to tourists so authorities can clean up the water and beach,” said Chuchart Oncharoen, the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s director for Rayong. “Ao Phrao is on the west coast of Samet, but most of the island’s hotels and resorts are on the east coast, which has not been affected by the spill,” he said.

Immediate priority

Rayong Deputy Governor Supeepat Chongpanish said the immediate priority was to clean the oil from the sand and water, and to make sure the spill didn’t spread to other beaches. “This is a very beautiful, white, sandy beach, so we want to clean up the spill as soon as possible,” he said.

Authorities said it would take some time to assess the environmental damage caused by the spill. However, the tourism industry has already felt some impact.

“The black waves have been rolling in since [Sunday] night and by [yesterday] morning the beach was all tainted with oil,” Kevin Wikul, the assistant front-desk officer of a resort in Ao Phrao, was quoted as saying by The Associated Press. “We have advised our guests against going near the beach and some have asked for early check-outs.”

Chuchart, TAT’s Rayong director, said: “We’ve had some hotel cancellations on Samet. Whether this will have a long-term impact on the island depends on how quickly PTT cleans the mess up.”

PTT Global Chemical president Bowon Vongsin-udom said yesterday the company would eliminate the oil slicks as soon as possible.

According to the company, hundreds of soldiers are helping in the effort to remove oil from the beach. However, it would take some time before oil slicks on the sand and between stones could be removed, it said.

Energy Minister Pongsak Ruktapong-pisal said the ministry had set up a fact-finding committee headed by PTTGC chairman Prasert Bunsumpun to determine the cause of the oil leak. He said it was the fourth oil spill to have hit Thailand, and the largest in terms of the amount spilled.

Prasert expressed regret over the incident, adding that the company would determine the cause as soon as possible.

Foreigners ‘had a hand in Thaksin death-threat clip’
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Deputy Prime Minister Pracha Promnog yesterday said anti-government groups with both Thai and foreign members were responsible for a YouTube clip in which a death threat was issued against ex-PM Thaksin Shinawatra by a man dressed to look like a terrorist.

Pracha refused to reveal the nationality of the suspected foreigners, saying it could damage bilateral relations, though he insisted they did not come from Malaysia.

Meanwhile, intelligence officials have obtained information identifying the three men in the clip, two of whom had their faces covered and were armed with assault rifles. He said police would first check with intelligence community sources in several countries before deciding whether to prosecute those featured in the clip, especially since one of the men revealed his face.

Pheu Thai to push emergency decree ahead of amnesty bill
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Pheu Thai Party’s Strategic Committee will propose the imposition of the Internal Security Act to control any protest after the Parliament reopens, a source said after the panel’s meeting yesterday.

The committee will consult with police about the issue first before proposing it to the government, the unnamed source said.

Meanwhile, security at Parliament and Government House was beefed up yesterday as a precaution against protesters, as the controversial amnesty bill is tabled next Wednesday. Concrete barriers were placed at all entrances and exits of Government House yesterday in a move to keep out the Pitak Siam group, which is expected to show up on Sunday morning.

A police truck was also seen parked nearby along with a vehicle armed with a long-range acoustic device that emits an ear-splitting siren.

Two police tents were also set up and a photograph of the group’s leader posted on a metal barricade near one of the tents.

However, police said it was not a “wanted” poster. Deputy House Speaker Wisut Chainarun said 700 police would be deployed near Parliament on the days the controversial bill is debated.

Pension Network lodges complaint over failure to launch savings plan
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: The Pension Network for the People Sector is stepping up pressure on the government to demand that it start the National Savings Fund (NSF) scheme before the end of 2013.

Yesterday, the group lodged a complaint at the Central Administrative Court against Prime Minister Yingl

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Thailand

Thailand News Today | Thai Airways in rehab, All go for Songkran | March 4

The Thaiger

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Thailand News Today | Thai Airways in rehab, All go for Songkran | March 4 | The Thaiger

Thai Airways has submitted a rehabilitation plan in accordance with a Central Bankruptcy Court order after the the receiver’s appointment last September. The airline’s acting president says the rehabilitation plans aim to fully restructure and help the national flag carrier to regain profits.

The company has revealed its planned recovery to the media and says the savings and new profit centres will come from multiple aspects of the airline.

The Thai government is looking at offering free C‐19 vaccines to migrant workers who are covered under the nation’s social security program. The Thai Ministry of Labour is set to discuss the move with the Social Security Board. If approved, over 2.3 million migrant workers would be inoculated for free, estimated to cost around 3 billion baht. The Labour Minister says migrant manual labourers are vital to Thai industries and the economy, therefore, they should not be left out of the vaccination program.

Chiang Mai has ranked as the 3rd most polluted city in the world yesterday, according to AirVisual, following Lahor in Pakistan and New Delhi in India. The northern Thai city’s was recorded to have an average PM2.5 dust level higher than 200.
All 4 air quality monitoring stations in the municipal area reported the PM as exceeding the safe level, with the deputy chief of an air pollution command citing some 928 hotspots detected across the nation’s 17 northern provinces.

The Thai musician and anti-government activist, known as “Ammy”, has had his bail request declined. The singer was arrested at Ratchathani Hospital, in the central province of Ayutthaya on charges of lèse majesté, arson, and violation of the Computer Crimes Act. He is accused of being 1 of 3 people to set fire to a portrait of HM the King outside Bangkok’s Khlong Prem Central Prison on the night of February 28.

Thailand has hosted the first group of international tourists to carry out a “golf quarantine”. 42 golfers (41 from South Korea and 1 from Japan) flew into Thailand on February 19, entering quarantine at the Artitaya Golf Resort in the central province of Nakhon Nayok.

Guests following Thailand’s golf quarantine program are required to remain in their rooms for the first 3 days of their stay, after which they can roam freely around the resort and play golf. During their stay, guests are tested 3 times.

Thailand’s annual waste of water, the traditional Songkran festival, has been given the ‘all clear’ as long as the festivities are in line with C-19 prevention measures. PM Prayut Chan-o-cha says people will have to to abide by social distancing rules during the Songkran holiday from April 13 to 15. Looks like you’re going to need a bigger water pump pistol as short range shooters may infringe on the social distancing guidelines.

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Thailand classified as a “not free” country in Freedom House report

Caitlin Ashworth

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Thailand classified as a “not free” country in Freedom House report | The Thaiger
October protest at the Asok-Sukhumvit intersection in Bangkok / Photo by Caitlin Ashworth

On a scale of 0 to 100, with 100 being absolute freedom, Thailand scores at 30, a “not free” country, according to the nonprofit Freedom House. Each year, the organisation reviews the political rights and civil liberties of countries around the world. According to their recent assessment, Thailand has declined in terms of rights and liberties, dropping on the scale from “partly free” to “not free.”

The main reason for the drop on the freedom scale, the organisation says, is “due to the dissolution of a popular opposition party that performed well in the 2019 elections, and the military-dominated government’s crackdown on youth-led protests calling for democratic reforms.”

The Future Forward Party was dissolved in February 2020 after the court found that the founder, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, had made a large donation to the party that exceeded the legal limit. The party’s leaders were then banned from politics for the next decade.

Youth-led protests started in February, but the demonstrations were put on pause due to Covid-19 restrictions banning large public gatherings. Protesters gathered in July as restrictions lifted, but some leaders then faced charges for holding a public gathering, which was still banned under emergency orders.

In October, the prime minister imposed what Freedom House calls a “severe” State of Emergency order in Bangkok that banned gatherings of more than 5 people. Some protesters were arrested for violating the order nearly immediately after it was imposed.

With activists pushing for monarchy reform and an end to the military’s involvement in government, raising subjects considered taboo and unprecedented in Thai society, the Thai government has increased its use of the draconian lèse majesté law. Since November, dozens of activists have faced charges for insulting or defaming the Thai Monarchy.

Freedom House scores countries on topics like the electoral process, questioning if politicians and leaders were elected in free and fair elections, as well as freedom of expression and individual rights.

Thailand’s military seized power in 2014 in a bloodless coup. The 2017 constitution was drafted by a committee appointed by the military’s National Council for Peace and Order. In 2019, the country transitioned to what Freedom House calls a “military-dominated, semi-elected” government.

The 2019 elections were overseen by the Election Commission of Thailand, whose members were appointed by the military. All 250 senators were appointed by the military in 2019 to serve 5 year terms.

In 2020, the combination of democratic deterioration and frustrations over the role of the monarchy provoked the country’s largest anti-government demonstrations in a decade. In response to these youth-led protests, the regime resorted to familiar authoritarian tactics, including arbitrary arrests, intimidation, lèse majesté charges, and harassment of activists. Freedom of the press is constrained, due process is not guaranteed, and there is impunity for crimes committed against activists.

SOURCE: Freedom House

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Riot police officer in Bangkok tests positive for Covid-19

Caitlin Ashworth

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Riot police officer in Bangkok tests positive for Covid-19 | The Thaiger
Protest in Bangkok on February 28 / Photo by Thai News Pix

A riot police officer, who was deployed at the recent pro-democracy protests in Bangkok, has tested positive for Covid-19. His supervisor, chief of Wang Thonglang station Ekapop Tanprayoon, says the officer had visited Samut Sakhon, a coronavirus hotspot.

Riot police who worked closely with the infected officer, Somyot Nuamcharoen, are ordered to quarantine. The Wang Thonglang police station and any items the police officer handled are being disinfected, the chief says.

The officer had met up with friends during a visit to Samut Sakhon, just southwest of Bangkok. He travelled to the coastal province on February 18 and returned to Bangkok the next day.

On the 20th, he was deployed to a protest outside of parliament, just after returning from his trip to the “red zone” province. On Sunday, he deployed the protest outside the military barracks in Bangkok. The demonstration turned violent and numerous people were injured.

On Tuesday, his friend from Samut Sakhon tested positive for the virus. The infected officer was tested for Covid-19 that day and his result came back positive yesterday.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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