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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Rice contamination fears grow; Floating parade marks Buddhist Lent; Sadao named in Deep South ceasefire; Ramkhamhaeng bombers in court

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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Rice contamination fears grow; Floating parade marks Buddhist Lent; Sadao named in Deep South ceasefire; Ramkhamhaeng bombers in court | The Thaiger
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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

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

Govt urged to inspect rice for contamination
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: A consumer watchdog is calling on the government to inspect packaged rice after random tests found several samples to be tainted with high levels of methyl bromide, which is used to kill rice-eating bugs.

Meanwhile, three state agencies – the Agriculture Department, the Medical Sciences Department and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – said they found no contamination in tests they conducted earlier.

Saree Ongsomwang, secretary-general for the Foundation for Consumers, said her agency had teamed up with the Bio Thai Foundation to collect 46 random samples of packaged rice sold under 36 brands to test for chemical substances, including methyl bromide, organophosphate, carbamate compounds and fungicide.

All samples, collected between June 19 and 27 from supermarkets, retail shops and department stores, were tested at an independent laboratory.

Tests found that 12 of the 46 samples were free of contamination, but traces of methyl bromide were found in 34 samples, of which one sample was found to have exceeded the safe level with 67.4 milligram per kilogram of the chemical. As per the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) codex, levels of methyl bromide in food should not exceed 50mg per kg.

“We do not intend to damage anybody’s reputation. We just want to raise public awareness on the safety of packaged rice and urge related agencies to boost the standards,” Saree said.

Meanwhile, Niphon Popattanachai, director-general of the Medical Sciences Department, said he had instructed officials to inspect the brands found to have been contaminated and check if these products have been registered with the FDA.

“People should not panic over the report as the contamination is still within safe limits,” he said.

Previously, the department teamed up with the FDA to conduct tests on 54 samples of packaged rice and found very small traces of methyl bromide and no sign of any other related pesticides.

Separately, the Agriculture Department tested 10 brands of rice and found no contamination.

A representative of the packaged rice brand that was found to have high levels of methyl bromide said his firm would recall all tainted products from the market, but wanted the Foundation for Consumers to provide them with more details such as lot numbers. He said he would conduct further investigation.

“No related agencies have said anything about the health impacts of consuming rice with high levels of methyl bromide,” he said, adding that he was not thinking of filing a lawsuit against the foundation yet.

Concern over Sadao’s link with far South
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: Concern is growing among the business sector in the South about a Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) statement that includes Sadao district in Songkhla in a temporary ceasefire for the terror-plagued region. The statement is a threat to Sadao’s vibrant economy, the Songkhla Chamber of Commerce said.

Democrat Party deputy leader Thaworn Senneam yesterday urged Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra as well as National Security Council Secretary-general Lt General Paradorn Pattanatabutr to officially deny that Sadao is a part of the violence-ravaged zone. “From 2004 until now, Sadao has never seen any unrest,” the Democrat said.

Somporn Siriporananon, who chairs the Songkhla Chamber of Commerce, said the recent BRN statement had already had some psychological effects.

“The private sector, in particular investors, is worried. If Sadao becomes a part of the unrest zone, the business framework and guidelines may have to change,” he said.

Somporn said he therefore supported the call for the government to announce firmly that Sadao is by no means part of the zone of unrest. “Without a clear stance from the authorities, problems will arise,” he warned.

According to Thai authorities, the unrest only affects Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat, and four districts in Songkhla – Chana, Thepha, Na Thawi and Saba Yoi.

BRN, which has had several rounds of talks with Thai officials, announced a ceasefire plan for Ramadan. While the announcement was welcomed, several figures were concerned about its inclusion of Sadao.

According to Thaworn, Sadao attracts about 2 million tourists each year. Imports and exports via this border town are in the tune of about Bt500 billion. “I ask why Thai authorities have kept silent for many days – the BRN statement came out last Friday,” Thaworn said.

Paradorn yesterday tried to play down concerns about the inclusion of Sadao, explaining that a number of Thais would return from Malaysia to Sadao during the Ramadan – that was why the BRN included Sadao in the ceasefire plan. “BRN wants peace for Sadao too,” he said.

Deputy PM Pracha Promnog, who oversees security affairs, said he would need more time to discuss the matter with relevant officials before deciding whether the government should issue a letter of protest over BRN’s inclusion of Sadao.

With the start of Ramadan, unrest in the South looks to have subsided.

“During the first six days of the Ramadan, only one violent incident erupted and the two victims sustained minor injuries. The situation was much better than the same period in recent years,” Pracha said.

However, Yala saw three shootings on Monday and yesterday. Two victims died and the other sustained injuries. “We are investigating these cases,” Yala police chief Maj-General Phira Boonliang said.

Parade of floating candles marks Buddhist Lent
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: Ladchado, a small community in Ayutthaya province, marks the arrival of Vassa, the Buddhist Lent on Monday with a modest yet spectacular candle festival on Monday that sees the candles carried to temples in a long and colourful procession of boats..

“Like many things in Ladchado, the candle festival is celebrated along the waterway. Boats and canals play a major role in our lives,” says an official from Ladchado Administration Office. “Imagine hundreds of small sampans and other boats, decorated with flowers and colourful parasols bobbing in the water as they emerge from the far side of canal.”

Tucked away in Phak Hai district, Ladchado is about 40 kilometres west of downtown Ayutthaya. Named after the canal that links Ayutthaya and Suphan Buri, the old community dates back to the 16th century, when the Ayutthaya Kingdom ruled over the Chao Phraya Basin and the Central Plain. Ladchado had to wait until the 21st Century before it drew attention from outsiders, although two early episodes of the popular Boonchu movies were shot in the area.

The peaceful lifestyle, remote setting as well as the old, charming marketplace of Ladchado are gradually becoming known among weekenders, who come to the community to get away from the stress of city life and take advantage of the home-stay facilities offered by the villagers.

With amateur lensmen uploading spectacular photos to the Internet, Ladchado has also become known as one of the best places to see the candle festival.

Together with other Buddhist communities across the country, Ladchado will celebrate the candle f

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Tourism

The future of Thailand’s hotels, tough times ahead – VIDEO

The Thaiger

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The future of Thailand’s hotels, tough times ahead – VIDEO | The Thaiger

Thailand’s hotels are facing a very dark time with the Thai borders still largely closed and many of them remaining closed for business. Whilst some local domestic stimulus has provided a bit of a minor reboot for the battered industry, there is still more than 90% of the rooms in the country remaining unoccupied with staff unemployed, debts and leases unpaid.

C9hotelworks.com MD, Bill Barnett, is of the region’s most respected consultants for the industry and has been in constant contact with them during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Phuket’s hotel industry is reaching breaking point and drastic economic support from the government will be needed for it to survive the high season. The warning from a slew of industry leaders who fear the island has reached a crucial turning point.

In the wake of the controversial “Phuket Model” international travel reopening scheme, reality is biting back as hotels in Thailand’s leading resort island are unable to sustain operating viability based on domestic tourism.

According to the Airports of Thailand, passenger arrivals at the aviation gateway have plunged 65% year-on-year from January through July of this year.

What is clear is that the 86,000 rooms in Phuket’s registered accommodation establishments cannot realistically break-even or even be cash-flow positive with only domestic demand. This realistically could set the scene for 50,000 job losses in the hotel sector this year if there’s no support forth coming or international visitors are not allowed in.

One of the green shoots is the Alternative Local State Quarantine program, with over 60 island properties applying. While this program is meant to emulate the ASQ program in Bangkok, given there are no direct international flights to Phuket, the government needs wider support of a return of international travellers at a local level and implement inter-ministerial coordination before it could materialise. But this may take months.

Anthony Lark, President of the Phuket Hotels Association that represents 78 hotels in Phuket said: “The math simply doesn’t work with single-digit occupancies being reported. No amount of induced local demand can prevent the dramatic continued loss of jobs and rapidly eroding financial crisis for owners and operators. We strongly advocate a safe, pragmatic, and strategic reopening for foreign travellers.”

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Business

Air Asia seeks to mitigate economic losses with launch of “super app”

Maya Taylor

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Air Asia seeks to mitigate economic losses with launch of “super app” | The Thaiger
PHOTO: www.lowyat.net

Air Asia is introducing a super app, in an attempt to off-set – at least partially – the significant financial losses brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic. The mobile application shuffles Air Asia’s model as a flight and accommodation provider, to a broader platform of complimentary services. The app will offer users a variety of options, including digital payment services, delivery services, and an e-commerce platform. Air Asia Chief Executive and founder, Tony Fernandes, says the idea for the app was floated prior to the pandemic, but Covid-19 hastened its development.

Air Asia’s Thai subsidiary, the majority Thai-owned Thai Air Asia, has been back flying domestic routes around Thailand since the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand lifted restrictions in June.

“This journey didn’t start during the pandemic, this journey started 2 years ago, but it was accelerated because of the outbreak. This is not a Plan B, this was always our Plan A, but we still think aviation will definitely come back.”

Air Asia was hit with losses of US$238 million in the second quarter of 2020 and says it desperately needs to seek new sources of revenue while the economic effects of Covid-19 continue to be felt around the globe. The Bangkok Post reports that from October 8, users in Thailand and the wider ASEAN region can access the new app through the company’s website or through its existing mobile app.

Fernandes says payment and logistics services will be provided by the airline’s subsidiary operation, Air Asia Digital. Users will be able to book flights (including those of other airlines) and hotels, as well as enroling in a rewards programme.

“Air Asia’s roots are from moving people from A to B and moving cargo from A to B, and that is the basis of Air Asia Digital and the basis for our platform AirAsia.com.”

The app is expected to face tough competition from super apps Grab and Gojek, currently understood to be in merger talks. Should a merger go ahead, the combined operation would create a monopoly on food delivery and car-hailing services in the ASEAN region. However, Fernandes remains optimistic, with the airline hoping to complement existing services.

“I don’t believe we are here to compete, but here to complement. Airlines always see us as competitors, but we complemented the full service and created a new market that was not there. Before, only a few people could fly, now everyone can fly, and in the same way we will complement the market.”

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Thailand

Charter vote delayed, committee formed and Senators escape Parliament by boat – VIDEO

The Thaiger

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Charter vote delayed, committee formed and Senators escape Parliament by boat – VIDEO | The Thaiger
PHOTOS: Protesters gather outside the Thai parliament - Tanaporn Choopanya

Thailand’s MPs and Senators have kicked the constitutional can down the road at least a month after the parliament failed to agree on charter amendments. A panel will be sent up to examine 6 motions that were proposed and debated over the past 2 days. Meanwhile, up to 2,000 protesters were gathered outside the unfinished parliamentary buildings as an act of solidarity for the MPs supporting the changes to the current Thai Constitution.

The reality of the vote, and the setting up of an investigative committee, could push any votes on real reform well into 2021.

The 2 Houses of Parliament voted 431-255 to delay the vote. Opposition Pheu Thai and Move Forward MPs stormed out and missed the opportunity of nominating anyone to the new 45 member parliamentary committee to examine the motions, whilst the remaining members chose members for the committee. Move Forward Party’s, Pita Limjaroenrat, described the vote as “a way to stall for time” complaining that the decision “was moving the country towards a dead end”.

It was not known how the NCPO hand-picked Senators would vote on the bills. Many were thought to side with the idea of constitutional reform but the reality was that, in most scenarios, they’d be voting themselves out of a job if any reforms went ahead. Thailand’s entire upper house is a military-appointed rump of conservative former businesspeople and Army officials, mostly men.

Charter vote delayed, committee formed and Senators escape Parliament by boat - VIDEO | News by The Thaiger

The protesters viewed the afternoon’s proceedings as a blunt stalling tactic to keep the current parliament, and its unelected senators, in power. The session ran until 8.30 last night. Rather than face the angry mob of anti-government protesters at the front of the building, most of the senators escaped on boat at the rear of the building, which backs onto Bangkok’s Chao Phraya River.

The demonstrators, with a consistent theme of reform over 3 months of rallies, are demanding changes to the current constitution because it was drafted by the NCPO who kicked out the elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra in 2014.

The protesters specifically point to the NCPO-appointed senate and the power they wield to elect the country’s prime minister, even though none of them were elected (nor was Prayut Chan-o-cha).

Protesters say they will now organise the next lot of rallies in October. Meanwhile, the Parliament is now is recess.

PROTESTSLive scenes from today’s protest rally to lend their voices, albeit from outside the The Parliament, to the debates inside about amendments to the Thai Constitution. The Thai parliament buildings are unfinished and, so it seems, are the student and anti-government protesters.

Posted by The Thaiger on Thursday, September 24, 2020

 

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