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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: PDRC sows seeds of rice farmer alliance; Finance Ministry silent on payment methods; Army ramps up lese majeste action

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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: PDRC sows seeds of rice farmer alliance; Finance Ministry silent on payment methods; Army ramps up lese majeste action | The Thaiger

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

Suthep keen for alliance with angry farmers
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: The anti-government movement led by Suthep Thaugsuban appears to be seeking an alliance with rice farmers as the embattled caretaker government struggles to find the money owed to the farmers under the price-pledge scheme.

Yesterday, Suthep, the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) leader, led another march in Bangkok to raise money for farmers who have not been paid for their crops by the government. A further fund-raising march is planned for Monday.

Suthep said yesterday’s march through the main business district of Silom and adjacent areas aimed to collect at least Bt10 million in donations from the public. The money would go towards financing the farmers’ own protests, said PDRC spokesman Akanat Promphan.

In a repeat of previous PDRC marches on Bangkok streets, supporters and sympathisers lined the street to hand cash to Suthep.

The government owes more than a million farmers a total of Bt140 billion under its rice-pledging scheme, a policy that helped the ruling Pheu Thai Party win the 2011 general election but has now run dry of funds. The rice scheme is also the subject of an investigation by the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC).

However, rice growers are split over who should be blamed for the authorities’ defaulting on debts owed. One group of farmers blames the government while another group points the finger at the PDRC.

More than 400 farmers left their road blockade in Kanchanaburi yesterday to join farmers who have been protesting at the Commerce Ministry in Nonthaburi since Thursday.

Many also marched from the ministry to the NACC office to request that the anti-graft agency speed up its investigation into the rice-pledging scheme. After an hour-long meeting between representatives of both sides, the farmers said they were satisfied with a promise that the results of the investigation would be delivered within the next few months.

About 100 Nakhon Phanom farmers gathered yesterday at the Third Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge, threatening to blockade it with a force of 10,000 protesters if the government failed to pay what it owed them within seven days. The 18,789 Nakhon Phanom farmers under the scheme are owed a total of Bt1.39 billion by the government. Elsewhere, more than 250 farmers in Kamphaeng Phet and more 1,000 in Suphan Buri yesterday submitted letters to provincial governors asking Suthep to help push through loans to pay the rice scheme’s debts.

The Kamphaeng Phet growers also asked him to help alleviate the plight of more than 30,000 farming households in the province that have not had rice-pledge payments for the past four to five months.

In Phitsanulok, a group of about 200 farmers gathered at the city hall, calling on Suthep’s help to push through funds for the rice scheme.

A government proposal that rice millers accept receipts from farmers under the scheme has met with reluctance on the part of the rice millers.

Rice Millers Club of Phichit vice chairman Wirat Limthongsomjai said it was unlikely rice millers would accept the pledge receipts because they were already under financial stress. Banks have extended a total Bt300-million credit limit to farmers, while the farmers’ debt totals billions of baht.

“Moreover, each miller will have to reserve cash to buy rice from the next crop,” Wirat said.

Democrat spokesman Chavanond Intarakomalyasut agreed with the government’s idea to encourage rice millers to lend farmers up to 50 per cent of the value of their pledge receipts. But he said the government would have to pay the interest incurred from this deal.

‘We will find the money’
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: The Finance Ministry says it will continue finding funds to pay farmers under the rice-pledging scheme but will keep it methods quiet for fear protesters striving to overthrow the regime will try to block them.

The Finance Ministry’s permanent secretary Rangsan Sriworasart said yesterday that there were many lawful ways to secure funds for the scheme.

However, he declined to provide examples.

“The Finance Minister [Kittiratt Na-Ranong] is trying to do so [find funding] quickly,” he said. “But we can’t reveal what channel it should be. Otherwise, the anti-government protesters will block what we do.”

Rangsan said the Commerce Ministry would accelerate the sale of rice from the stockpiles as quickly as possible so farmers could be paid.

In the meantime, he said the Finance Ministry would try to secure more funds.

There are 14 million tonnes of rice in the state’s inventory.

The paddy pledged by the government under the scheme from crops between October 2013 and this month totalled some 10 million tonnes worth Bt177 billion.

Of that, about Bt60 billion has gone to farmers.

Rangsan said that while the ministry had so far failed to get a Bt20-billion bridging loan tender put out to commercial banks, borrowing via this channel was still an alternative.

He said the staging of another loan tender was dependent on the situation.

The Finance Ministry was reopened yesterday after being closed for 2weeks.

Army to raise pressure over lese majeste cases
The Nation/ Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: The Army will push for police action over cases of lese majeste, amid concern over spread of messages deemed damaging to the monarchy on the Internet.

Deputy Army spokesperson Colonel Sirichan Ngathong said on Friday that the Army would provide information about such acts against the monarchy to the relevant authorities.

“The Army will attempt to stop acts that are offensive to the public. Information will be supplied to relevant authorities and agencies for further action. The Judge Advocate General’s Department will work with the police to keep track of the progress of such cases,” Sirichan said.

She also said Army commander-in-chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha has expressed his concern about the spread of information deemed offensive to members of the Royal family.

The legal action would be taken along with social sanction against people responsible for such acts and comments, according to the spokesperson.

The move followed a controversy in which Somsak Jeamteerasakul, a History lecturer at Thammasat University, posted some messages in the social media that were described by the military as inappropriate and violating the monarchy.

Defence Ministry spokesman Colonel Thanathip Sawangsaeng said that honest comments by academics about the monarchy could be done under the rights guaranteed by the Constitution. However, he did not think Somsak’s recent remark was appropriate. He said the Defence Ministry and its personnel were “deeply concerned” about this matter.

“Such an act has caused bad feeling for military personnel and public members who are loyal to His Majesty the King. His Majesty has long made great contributions to the country,” the spokesman said.

Bombs, banners and a murder in the far South
The Nation / Phuket Gazett

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Business

Thai Airways must modify rehabilitation plan to survive: Airline President

The Thaiger & The Nation

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Thai Airways must modify rehabilitation plan to survive: Airline President | The Thaiger

PHOTO: gta5-mods.com

“Thai Airways will have to modify its rehabilitation plans to survive in the face of tight competition.” This frank admission by the airline’s president Sumet Damrongchaith.

The national carrier is now carrying a total debt of over 2.45 billion baht and losses of more than 20 billion, despite being able to reduce its debts by 48 billion baht over the past five years.

Sumet says the first step will be to restructure the airline’s management and finances as well as reconsider its plan to spend 1.5 billion baht on 38 new aircraft. He admits the biggest problem is that Thai Airways has low capital but a high debt-to-equity ratio of eight times.

In order to maintain its competitiveness, the carrier will have to reduce its debts versus assets and boost its working capital with support from the ministries of Transport and Finance. Hence, it plans to borrow approximately 3.2 billion baht in fiscal 2020 in line with the budget limit set by the Office of Public Debt Management.

This loan will be taken to support the airline’s investments as well as for its working capital, to update equipment and maintain existing aircraft, but will not be used to repay old debts.

The Nation also reports that the airline is also concerned about maintaining its liquidity because at the end of June this year, its revolving credit line stood at 13.4% of the total revenue forecast for 2019.

Sumet admits that, though the original rehabilitation plan has a set framework, the situation has now changed due to the appreciation of the baht, so in order to achieve goals, the work method has to be redesigned, such as finding a way to procure more passengers.

“We are now in the process of analysing new markets.”

Meanwhile, Thai Aiways’ board chairman Aek-Niti Nitithan-Praphas says the board is reconsidering plans to procure a new fleet taking into consideration the state of the global and domestic economies as well as the US-China trade war.

“The growth of the tourism industry and the airlines’ financial status needs to be reviewed in line with strong competition and routes that are no longer popular. It’s better to carefully revise the plan instead of exposing the airline to greater risk. The target should be reduce expenses by 20%.”

Meanwhile, Thai Airways aims to boost the sale of tickets, find ways of increasing online shopping of duty-free goods and reducing unnecessary expenses by 10%without affecting the quality of service in the last three months of 2019.

The airline is also negotiating the option of cutting down overtime expenses and is looking into curbing losses incurred by it’s semi-budget offshoot Thai Smile by increasing its flying hours to 10.5 hours daily. These steps are expected to help the airline reach breakeven point in the short term.

The airline is also considering long-term goals such roping in more passengers by offering greater benefits to Royal Orchid Plus members, focusing on digital marketing, retiring non-performing assets as well as increasing revenue from related businesses such as kitchens and aircraft repair centres.

SOURCE: The Nation

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Expats

Thai app will ease expat immigration woes and make 90 day reporting simple

May Taylor

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Thai app will ease expat immigration woes and make 90 day reporting simple | The Thaiger

The “OSS Foreigner” app is coming, and you will be able to use it for 90 day reporting, according to the Secretary-General at the office of the PM.

Dr Kobsak Pootrakool says the planned app can be used for all immigration reporting, including 90 day reports, adding that typing in the required data and uploading a selfie will accomplish the same result as filling out paperwork at the local immigration office but without having to make the trip there.

Dr Kobsak has been given responsibility for sorting out the TM30 debate and says the immigration app, called OSS Foreigner, is nearly complete and should make all those who live and work in Thailand feel more welcome and make compliance easier and more convenient.

The TM30 form, and its companion, the TM28, have been a source of expat displeasure over the past five months since the immigration department decided to enforce a little-used 1979 law that required foreigners to report their whereabouts if they had stayed overnight at an address different from their registered address.

This latest move comes as part of a wider program to make Thai public services more efficient, with Dr Kobsak making the announcement while outlining plans for all Thai government departments to embrace digital technology by as early as 2022. Meanwhile, the Deputy PM Somkid Jatusripitak is championing a programme to improve Thai public services for both Thai citizens and foreigners.

“The government’s new approach to IT and digital technology is designed to deliver a smarter, easier service as part of the Thailand 4.0 economic model.”

SOURCE: The Pattaya News

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Crime

Karaoke premises raided in central Thailand, 3 underage sex workers rescued

May Taylor

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Karaoke premises raided in central Thailand, 3 underage sex workers rescued | The Thaiger

The Nation reports that 3 underage sex workers have been rescued after raids on a karaoke restaurant and a karaoke massage parlour in Ang Thong, central Thailand.

The raids were confirmed at a press conference held by Ronnarong Thipsiri, Head of the Department of Provincial Administration’s investigation and suppression division, along with Sakda Bandasak, sheriff of Ang Thong’s Muang district. Ronnarong alleges both premises were using the underage girls as prostitutes.

“We collaborated with Damrong Dhama Centre and anti-human trafficking organisations and learnt that two karaoke joints in Ang Thong were employing underage sex workers. These were the Chil Chil Karaoke on Highway No. 3064, Pa Ngiew sub district of Muang district, and Jittra Karaoke on the ground floor of a hotel in Muang district.”

During the raids, police identified 6 sex workers offering services to a group of customers. Four of the girls were Thai and two were from Laos. Three were under the age of 18, with the youngest being 15 years old. A large number of used condoms were also found.

Somjit Phetwijit and Aphirom Pheungpracha, the owners of Chil Chil Karaoke and Jittra Karaoke respectively were arrested and charged with human trafficking, solicitation of prostitution, prostitution of an underage person, and opening an entertainment facility without a licence.

A 17 year old girl from Jittra Karaoke told the press she was hired to sit and drink with clients and was paid 50 baht each time a client ordered a drink.

“Clients can buy sex for 1,500 baht a time or pay 3,500 baht for a whole night. They can either use massage rooms in the back or bring the girls to other hotels of their choice.”

SOURCE: The Nation

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