Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Red shirts to march on Bangkok; Smoking ban at airports; ICT Minister defends web censorship

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

Concern as red shirts threaten mass protest
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Concern over the announced mass protest by red-shirt supporters – touted to attract some 100,000 supporters – has prompted Bangkok Governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra to instruct municipal police to tighten security at government compounds and landmarks in Bangkok.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has also voiced her concern and assigned Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung to take charge of security in the capital.

However, the National Police chief and national security agencies said the imposition of the Internal Security Act (ISA) to cope with possible violence was not necessary and there was nothing to worry about.

A police spokesman said the red-shirt rally conditions did not meet the criteria for the ISA to be imposed. The rally showed no sign of being a threat to national security or of prolonged violence, sources said.

Early this morning there were about 500 supporters at the rally site. There were likely to be less than 100,000 people joining the protest, and they would disperse, it was reported.

The red shirts have accused the Court judges of doing their duty beyond the scope of the charter.

Call for total smoking ban at all airports
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: A health advocate called for a total ban on smoking at major airports nationwide yesterday after many areas of passenger terminals were found to have “second-hand” smoke levels two times higher than World Health Organisation (WHO) standards.

Mahidol University public health researcher, Assoc Prof Dr Niphan Kungskulniti, said her team found that smoking rooms, areas near smoking rooms and non-smoking areas at four airports – Suvarnabhumi, Don Mueang, Chiang Mai and Phuket – had high second-hand smoke levels with small particles under 2.5 micrograms exceeding WHO air-quality standards.

The levels of second-hand smoke in the smoking room, areas near the smoking rooms and non-smoking areas at the airports were 773.4, 54.6, and 14.3mcg per cubic metre, respectively. The WHO sets the air-quality standard at 25mcg pcm, though Thailand sets its standard at under 50mcg pcm.

Thailand has passed a law to ban smoking at airports but this is enforced only at domestic airports, not at international terminals.

“The Public Health Ministry needs to amend its announcement to not exclude international airports from the ban on smoking,” Dr Hatai Chitanondh, president of the Thailand Health Promotion Institute, said.

Phuket Airport in particular was violating the law by letting people smoke at a restaurant, he alleged.

In a related development, Asst Prof Dr Nithat Sirichotiratana of Mahidol’s Faculty of Public Health, said a poll of 200 foreign tourists – half smokers and half non-smokers – showed that 58 per cent supported smoking-free zones at airports and 66 per cent said they would return despite smoke-free rules.

Officer suspended for demanding bribes
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: A policeman was suspended from duty yesterday after a video clip was posted on social media showing Pol Snr Sgt Maj Nipon Sokhai, from Bang Na Police Station, extorting money from motorists who broke the law in his area.

The Metropolitan Police Bureau also set up a fact-finding panel to investigate if another officer seen in the clip was involved and if his chief knew he had committed wrongdoing.

The investigation result will be known in three days before the bureau considers punishment. Police also want the person who made the clip and other motorists to provide more information.

My right to close anti-PM websites, minister claims
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: The Information and Communications Technology Ministry had been misunderstood and inappropriately accused of blocking people’s right to free speech following attacks from “ill-intentioned people”, Minister Anudith Nakornthap said.

The ministry had no mandate to shut down websites on its own, and would normally need a court order to do that, he added. However, defamatory remarks about the prime minister could cause a site to be immediately suspended.

On Monday, Anudith was criticised for overstepping his authority by threatening to shut down pages that carried allegedly defamatory remarks against PM Yingluck Shinawatra by cartoonist Chai Rachawat on Facebook.

Meanwhile, the ICT minister confirmed reports of his vow to take action related to criticism against Yingluck. He insisted he was doing his duty and that he had the authority to do so.

He urged anyone who finds offensive messages on the Internet to report them so the ministry could ask the web administrator to immediately remove the messages.

However, he added that if the intention of the website was to defame the PM, the ministry had the mandate to “suspend the site immediately” and the people responsible could be prosecuted under Article 326 of the Criminal Act, which could lead to a year in prison and a fine of Bt20,000.

Anudith became the target of criticism following his comment on Sunday.

However, Thai Rath newspaper’s website published an interview on Monday in which he claimed the ministry expedited the suspension process in the case of PM Yingluck because she was a leader and her situation received public attention.

PM Yingluck said yesterday that the MICT should not focus only on defending her from being defamed in cyberspace, but should protect everyone. She was reacting to reports about the ministry threatening to shut down websites and take action against people involved in posting defamatory messages against her.

Everybody had the right to question the government’s policies, but the ICT Ministry would take action if any unfounded allegations were posted against anyone, not just her, the prime minister said.

PM Yingluck had been severely criticised after giving a speech in Mongolia which attacked courts and independent organisations and said Thailand had not achieved full democracy after the 2006 coup.

Asked whether she regretted that her speech led to negative comments, PM Yingluck said she had cited what really happened as an example so that they would not happen again.

“I was telling the truth. We would like everything to be an example so that they will not happen again,” she said.

Kingdom to clean up image on terrorists
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Thailand will likely release the names of five to seven alleged terrorists and their sponsors this week, Anti-Money Laundering Office’s secretary-general Seehanat Prayoonrat has announced.

The move is the start of a national effort to get Thailand removed from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF)’s list of high-risk and non-cooperative jurisdictions.

This week, FATF will listen to Thai authorities’ explanation on the enforcement of laws against money launde

— Phuket Gazette Editors

Thailand News
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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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