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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Rice tests approved; Abhisit for vox pops amnesty; Ranong border dispute; Nenkham’s 8 tonnes of gold; Chiang Mai trains resume

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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Rice tests approved; Abhisit for vox pops amnesty; Ranong border dispute; Nenkham’s 8 tonnes of gold; Chiang Mai trains resume | The Thaiger
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– Thailand news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Rice importers unfazed as tests approved
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: As the government scurries to restore consumer confidence in Thai rice, buyers abroad are unfazed by problems with pesticides and fumigation.

“Foreign importers are still placing orders for our rice,” Wallop Pitchyapongsa, secretary-general of the Thai Rice Exporters Association, said yesterday.

“Those countries understand there’s a need for fumigation to get rid of insects,” Wallop, who is also managing director of Capital Rice, told a seminar on Thai rice quality that was held after the use of methyl bromide and phosphine became controversial.

The Thai Rice Packer Association and Foundation for Consumers yesterday agreed to conduct regular joint tests on all brands of packed rice registered with the association and sold in the market. This move came after tests ordered by the foundation and conducted by an independent lab found traces of methyl bromide in more than 70 per cent of 46 bagged rice samples.

State agencies also plan to launch a programme of quality checks of rice in granaries and wholesale and retail shops.

The random tests will be performed by a third party accredited by international inspection agencies, said Krongthip Thanatvornlap, secretary-general of the rice packers association.

The laboratory is expected to take four days to study the samples and the test results will be revealed to the public via the association’s website every month. People can learn the contamination level of agricultural chemical substances of each brand registered with the association.

“All manufacturers who are association members have complied with the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation’s codex,” she said.

Saree Ongsomwang, secretary-general of the Foundation for Consumers, said her organisation agreed to regular joint tests of packaged rice. She claimed that the lab the foundation used was certified, but declined to identify it.

The foundation said it wanted to protect the lab’s privacy and did not want the lab to suffer from any political pressure.

Representatives from the consumers foundation and Bio Thai Foundation, which co-organised the tests on packed rice, also agreed to meet with the prime minister to discuss the matter. In their statement, the foundations said that in reference to the prime minister’s invitation for them to meet with her, they would like to discuss the protection of consumers.

The Thai Rice Packer Association has pressured the Foundation for Consumers to identify the lab.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said all parties should help prevent small issues from affecting Thai rice exports. She was visiting the rice packing premises of CP Intertrade Co in Ayutthaya with a large contingent of officials and media personnel.

The association’s Krongthip, who is also a vice president of Sandee Rice Co, said the association needed to know the name of the inspection agency hired by the foundation so that it could show the test results to its 140 members and help them improve their production process.

“We really want to know the lot number of the packed rice samples that had been taken to run the test and the date that they had taken the samples from the shelves. We also want to know the inspection agency that had done the test,” she said.

“The allegation about contamination in Thai rice has really hurt the local rice industry,” she said during the seminar on “Is the quality and contamination in Thai rice in crisis?” organised by Kasetsart University.

Krongthip is now considering whether to sue the foundation, she said.

Abhisit ready to back people’s amnesty bill
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said yesterday that he was prepared to back an amnesty bill proposed by relatives of the victims of the 2010 crackdown, provided the government withdraws all previous versions of the amnesty bill proposed to Parliament.

“I am discussing with others in my party whether or not the opposition can accept [the bill], if the government withdraws all versions of the amnesty bill that has already been proposed to Parliament, and uses this ‘people’s version’ as a model for unofficial dialogue. The core principle of the bill would cover all groups but would not let those who set fires and those who violated Article 112 [the lese majeste law] go unpunished. I think we can move on with this,” he said.

Payao Akahad, mother of Kamolked – a paramedic who was killed in the crackdown – and Punsak Srithep, father of 17-year-old Samapun, who was killed in crossfire, on Tuesday submitted the group’s version of the amnesty bill to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, via her deputy Phongthep Thepkanjana.

Ranong authorities asked to mark border
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: A group of people who are relatives of the 92 Thai nationals who were apprehended in Myanmar last year for alleged trespassing submitted a request to Ranong provincial authorities yesterday asking for officials to help redo the border demarcation in a section of Kra Buri district.

The group, travelling in a 30-vehicle convoy, submitted a written request with a senior official. In the request, the group called on Ranong Governor Cherdsak Jampathes to push for a provincial committee to be set up to work further on the demarcation line and retrieve all belongings of the 92 Thais that were seized by the Myanmar authorities.

Jeerawat sae-Ueng, one of the group’s leaders, said he believed that the 44-square-kilometre area where the 92 Thais had settled and taken up farming before being apprehended by Myanmar troops was actually Thai territory.

DSI uncovers first clue in Nenkham’s eight tonnes of gold
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: The Department of Special Investigation yesterday found the first clue in its hunt for the eight tonnes of gold bars and ornaments that were allegedly donated to Wirapol Sukpol during his time as a monk. The clue was found in a gold shop in Ubon Ratchathani.

Quoting the owner of Song Charoen Gold Shop, a senior DSI official said the former monk – known as Luang Pu Nenkham – had sold gold ornaments to her through his relatives on several occasions.

The shop owner Kesinee Obomkul, who also owns a housing estate in Muang district, said Wirapol had bought three houses from her but only paid for one.

DSI official Angsukate Wisutwatthanasak said the home that Wirapol had paid for in the Phet Phailin estate would be seized if it was found to have been bought by money donated to him for charitable purposes.

Angsukate also quoted Kesinee as saying that Wirapol did not pay for the Bt2.8-million house in the form of gold ornaments, though she did not provide details on the amount of gold he sold to her.

Separately, a DSI team visited a used-car dealership and spoke to the owner, who said he had nothing to do with Wirapol’s purchase of luxury cars or the transfer of ownership.

More details about the former monk’s assets keep emerging from either th

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Chiang Mai

Russian man allegedly stabs Chiang Mai park officer, tries to break into tourist bungalow

Caitlin Ashworth



Russian man allegedly stabs Chiang Mai park officer, tries to break into tourist bungalow | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Thairath

A Russian man has been arrested after he allegedly tried to break into tourist bungalows and stealing property at a Chiang Mai national park and stabbed a park officer with a pair of scissors. The incident follows months of complaints from Thai tourists at the national park reporting missing property.

Thai media reports the 32 year old Russian man as ‘Cemnh Semin’ allegedly tried to rob a tourist bungalow at Doi Suthep-Pui National Park. Cemnh allegedly stabbed a night patrol park officer in the neck and head with a pair of scissors and ran off. Other park officers on duty were able to catch the man and call Chiang Mai Police. The wounded park officer was taken to a local hospital where he has been reported as being in a stable condition.

For months, Thai tourists at the Doi Suthep-Pui National Park say they’ve woken up in the morning with some of their belongings missing. Park officers stepped up their night patrol after the complaints. The officers say they were surprised at finding out the alleged robber was a Russian man.

The man will face a range of charges following further investigation.

SOURCES: Chiang Rai Times | Thai Residents

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Thai Chamber of Commerce urges visa amnesty to be extended after today’s deadline

The Thaiger



Thai Chamber of Commerce urges visa amnesty to be extended after today’s deadline | The Thaiger

The Thai Chamber of Commerce is urging the government to extend the visa amnesty for the country’s 400,000 tourists after today’s deadline but has so far been turned down. The move comes as such provinces like Chiang Mai’s immigration office sends messages giving tourists until Monday to sort out their visas (which is under the law as Saturday, the final day of the visa amnesty, is usually closed).

“For the foreigners that visas will expire on September 26, 2020, if come to continue the visa on Monday, September 28, 2020, no need to pay for overstay. If you haven’t been able to sort through the queues and online bookings for an appointment, you also have Monday (at any immigration office) to get things sorted. Many of the country’s immigration offices are open today. Good luck.”

TCC chairman Kalin Sarasin says they have repeatedly asked the Immigration Bureau to extend the amnesty by 90 days but have been met with unclear answers as the deadline for sorting visas hits today.

“We were told that this agenda was in the process, but there’s been no progress so far.”

Kalin says the deadline will bring even more chaos to those who await flights out of the country as they are not yet fully allowed. Furthermore, such provinces as Chiang Mai attribute stranded tourists as helping generate revenue at a time when the country desperately needs it. As these tourists need long-term accomodations, they undoubtedly bring revenue to the domestic tourism sector at a time when hotels and other types of accommodations are struggling.

“Instead of blacklisting those foreigners, the government should accommodate them with a more flexible period, particularly when the country cannot reopen for inbound tourists. The uncompromising stance towards visa extension scares tourists away despite the fact that they help drive the local economy in these tough times.”

This week has been the busiest on record for stressed out Immigration officials who have been trying to cope with the last minute influx of tourists and expats whose visas had expired and were trying to extend, or apply for, visas to stay in the country.

Anantorn Hochindarat, president of the Tourism Association of Chiang Mai, says some businesses have received recurring revenue from international tourists which can help a lot when facing difficult times.

Although the profits from such tourists are much lower now, Anantorn says it can help businesses stay afloat. Despite such calls for an extension of visa amnesty, the Immigration Bureau has yet to announce any leeway to be given after today’s deadline.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Air Pollution

PM to tackle Northern Thailand’s seasonal haze… again

Caitlin Ashworth



PM to tackle Northern Thailand’s seasonal haze… again | The Thaiger

The Thai prime minister says he’s working on a plan to tackle Northern Thailand’s seasonal haze problem by cutting back manmade bushfires known to largely contribute to the air pollution. The issue has been broadly covered in Thai and foreign media for years, and been followed up with ministerial visits, promises, and little else.

PM Prayut Chan-o-cha spoke with governors of 17 northern provinces affected by seasonal haze, saying that he plans to supply villagers and local organisations with equipment, but reports did not go into much detail about what tools locals would get. He says authorities and state agencies need to step in to help combat the haze problem, suggesting that provincial governors head the local fight against wildfires.

“It’s important to eradicate the root cause of wildfires that result from villagers’ way of life… Even more farming space should be provided to farmers who need it to protect natural resources from being destroyed.”

Prayut added that it’s important for state agencies to collaborate on the firefighting effort and said members of the public can help raise awareness about wildfires.

The annual haze/smoke/air pollution problem is not just a Thai issue with the neighbouring countries, particularly Myanmar, causing their fair share of the illegal plantation fires, as shown in sharp detail in the satellite images.

Read The Thaiger’s take on the annual ‘smoke’ problem HERE.

SOURCE: Chiang Rai Times

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