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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Rising costs new threat; PM mum on Cabinet; Teacher cheats to be sacked; Four arrested over Asia Hotel blast

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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Rising costs new threat; PM mum on Cabinet; Teacher cheats to be sacked; Four arrested over Asia Hotel blast | The Thaiger
PHUKET MEDIA WATCH
– Thailand news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Rising costs greatest threat to govt
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: The increasing cost of living was cited as the major factor threatening to weaken public support for the Yingluck government in a poll by Assumption University.

Higher cost of living was cited as the most likely cause of a drop in support for the government by 85.2 per cent of the 2,115 respondents in 17 provinces. Charter amendment (81.9 per cent) was the second most cited threat to the government’s stability.

Of all respondents, 73.8 per cent believed that constant efforts to explain its policies to the public could strengthen the government’s stability, while 55.9 per cent said they want the Yingluck government to complete its four-year term.

A separate poll by Suan Dusit showed that the Thai public expects the political conflict to intensify, following opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva’s speculation that a general election may take place late this year.

The Yingluck government took office in August 2011.

Of 1,316 respondents, 43.35 per cent believed that Abhisit’s speculation would intensify political conflicts, while 20.23 per cent said the government’s performance will be the best sign of whether a general electionwill be called early. Only 6.95 per cent believed that there would be a general election late this year as Abhisit suggested.

Asked if they wanted to see a vote late this year, 44.80 per cent said no, saying it would be a waste of money and lead to political instability.

PM has no plan to reshuffle Cabinet
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: PM’s secretary-general Suranand Vejjajiva yesterday dismissed media reports that Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is planning a Cabinet reshuffle.

Red-shirt leaders Jatuporn Prompan, Apiwan Wiriyachai and Pakorn Buranupakorn were reported to be likely appointments as ministers in the next Cabinet reshuffle expected early next month, according to a source from the ruling Pheu Thai Party.

Suranand said although all the names shown in the press are knowledgeable and suitable candidates, the PM has not thought of reshuffling the Cabinet now, adding that Yingluck has a tight work schedule in May and June.

Suranand said the party had been checking who was behind the rumour as it suspected the role of political opponents trying to shake the government’s stability.

Dr Weng Tochirakarn, a leader of the Democratic Alliance against Dictatorship (DAAD) denied having any knowledge of Jatuporn’s likely appointment as deputy Interior Minister. He also disapproved of criticism that Jatuporn’s taking up of a Cabinet post would affect the longevity of the government.

Pheu Thai Party spokesman Prompong Nopparit said the Cabinet reshuffle report was just a rumour, adding the PM has not sent any signal to the party executive board about her intention to make changes to the Cabinet.

He also rejected criticism that Jatuporn would be like “lightning rod’ that would cause the government to collapse, saying if Jatuporn is given a Cabinet post, it means he has the potential to help push government policies in Parliament.

Suporn Attawong, deputy secretary-general to the PM, said Jatuporn deserved a Cabinet post because he had “helped the party to the best of his ability on the battle frontline”.

Suporn asked reporters if his name is also in the list with Jatuporn, adding while wiping away mock tears that he would be hurt if he was not included.

DAAD leader Thida Thawornseth congratulated Jatuporn if the report about him is true.

Assistant teachers to be fired in cheating scandal
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Six newly appointed assistant teachers in Nakhon Ratchasima accused of being involved in exam cheating will be dismissed – while the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) has called for an ultimate total of 344 people allegedly involved in the scandal to lose their jobs as government officials.

Education Minister Phongthep Thepkanjana will soon discuss with his deputy minister if he will set up a disciplinary committee to inspect high-ranking officials suspected of wrongly declining to perform duties, which led to the exam scandal.

Pisit Chotking, director of Nakhon Ratchasima Primary Educational Service Area Office 3, said yesterday that it was preparing to dismiss six newly appointed assistant teachers at schools under his office’s supervision.

The DSI had advised the office and 118 other offices to dismiss 344 assistant teachers accused of cheating in the exam.

Of these 344 suspects, 48 assistant teachers allegedly involved in the scandal were from Nakhon Ratchasima.

Pisit said his office was reported to have eight people accused of being involved. He was waiting for an official letter from the Office of the Teacher Civil Service and Educational Personnel Commission (OTEPC) to allow OTEPC’s subcommittees in each educational zone to revoke the appointments of the alleged cheaters. He will then attend a meeting with the subcommittee in his educational zone and later send a letter to instruct schools to dismiss six of the assistant teachers.

The DSI could also summon for interrogation another two alleged cheats who had not been appointed assistant teachers.

Previously, Phongthep insisted that OTEPC’s meeting clearly resolved last Friday that the 344 cheats would be removed from their positions as government officials.

Phongthep said Deputy Education Minister Sermsak Pongpanich would soon report to him findings concluded by a fact-finding panel on the exam cheating. They would discuss if he should set up a disciplinary committee to inspect four high-ranking officials at Office of the Basic Education Commission accused of wrongly refusing to perform duties or not.

He added that the accused officials would be allowed to explain.

Four arrested for blast at hotel
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Four suspects were arrested on Saturday in connection with an explosion at a Narathiwat hotel in the morning that left six people injured.

The bombing took place at around 11am at Asia Hotel, in Sungai Kolok district of the southernmost Muslim-majority province. Rooms 306 and 307 on the third floor of the hotel were severely damaged. The impact of the explosion brought down the ceilings of both rooms.

An explosive ordnance disposal team inspected the hotel following the explosion. Police said they believed the explosion was caused by a home-made explosive device weighing at least five kilograms. The bomb was hidden in a bin that served as an ashtray.

Police are trying to find out whether the hotel was the target of the insurgent attack or whether a bomb intended for an attack elsewhere went off prematurely while insurgents were putting it together, according to hotel owner Amporn Wongthirarit.

Six persons – five women and one man – were wounded in the explosion. All of them were sent to Sungai Kolok Hospital for treatment.

Asia Hotel is not far from the Pro Computer and OA Thailand companies, which were severely damaged by

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Koh Samui

Blackout on Koh Samui, Koh Pha Ngan after navy ship anchor damages underwater cable

The Thaiger

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Blackout on Koh Samui, Koh Pha Ngan after navy ship anchor damages underwater cable | The Thaiger
Photo via Facebook/โฆษกกองทัพเรือ (Royal Thai Navy spokesperson)

A widespread blackout swept over Koh Samui and Koh Pha Ngan after a Thai navy ship anchor dropped on an underwater cable which supplies power to the islands in the Gulf of Thailand off the Surat Thani coast.

The 115kv cable runs from Nakhon Si Thammarat’s Khanom district to Koh Samui. The anchor damaged the cable about 2 kilometres out from the island, blacking out the tambons Bo Phut, Mae Nam and Maret, the Provincial Electricity Authority district manager Jakkrit Meedet told the Bangkok Post. The repair will take several days.

On the PEA Koh Samui Facebook page, the authority said electricity supply will be circulated for 1 hour per area and outage for 3 hours per area. Additional power generators are being sent to the island today. The authority is still supplying electricity to hospitals on the islands.

Apparently a similar incident happened back in 2018, Jakkrit says, and 6 mobile power-generating trucks were used to supply electricity to the island.

SOURCES: Bangkok Post | Facebook

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

AstraZeneca rollout confirmed for Thursday, with PM first in line

Maya Taylor

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AstraZeneca rollout confirmed for Thursday, with PM first in line | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Flickr

First, there was the unexpected arrival of the AstraZeneca vaccine on the same day Thailand took delivery of the Chinese one. Then there was the announcement that PM Prayut Chan-o-cha was too old for China’s Sinovac jab and would get the AstraZeneca one instead. And then there was the delay to the PM’s inoculation, blamed on paperwork that was missing from the AstraZeneca shipment. Now, finally, the rollout of the Oxford University/AstraZeneca jab is scheduled for Thursday and the PM will be first in line.

The Bangkok Post reports that Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul has confirmed that quality checks on the 117,000 AstraZeneca doses are nearly complete and the PM will be vaccinated this week.

“(The rollout of) AstraZeneca vaccines in Thailand will take place on March 11 at the earliest, with the PM to be the first to receive the vaccine.”

According to Anutin, a number of senior politicians, including the foreign affairs minister and the acting education minister, have requested the AstraZeneca jab. Those over the age of 60 are being prioritised, while younger people will receive the Chinese vaccine, whose efficacy and safety have not been tested in those over 60.

Meanwhile, the Health Minister adds that China has asked for Thailand’s help in inoculating 200,000 Chinese citizens living in the Kingdom. Beijing has also floated the idea of making Thailand a regional vaccination centre for Chinese people living in the ASEAN region and says it will provide the necessary vaccines for free.

Thailand’s Public Health Ministry has confirmed it will issue vaccination certificates to everyone who receives the required 2 doses of a Covid-19 vaccine. Apisamai Srirangson from the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration says such certificates have been approved by the World Health Organisation and can be used in the future to obtain a vaccine passport.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Economy

Economic think-tank says the future of tourism in Thailand hangs on vaccination

Maya Taylor

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Economic think-tank says the future of tourism in Thailand hangs on vaccination | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Wikimedia

The research division of Thailand’s Kasikorn Bank says everything hangs on vaccination strategies, both here and abroad. Kevalin Wangpichayasuk from the Kasikorn Research Centre says the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines globally will have a significant impact on the recovery of tourism in the Kingdom, with 2 million foreign tourists expected to arrive in the last quarter of the year. However, she points out that this is a huge drop from tourism’s hey day and the country will still be heavily reliant on the domestic market.

“Thailand’s path to economic recovery will mostly depend on the tourism industry (outlook) as to when the country will reopen for foreign tourist arrivals. The Covid-19 vaccines and the (re-opening) policy of each country will have a significant impact on the recovery of Thailand’s tourism industry in 2021.”

According to a Bangkok Post report, Kevalin says the rollout of vaccines in countries from where most visitors to Thailand originate, coupled with the administration of vaccines in the Kingdom, will be instrumental in how quickly tourism recovers. Specifically, the revival of foreign tourism hinges on vaccine rollouts in 10 countries, including China, Japan, the US, and several European nations, as well as the progress of the Thai government’s Covid-19 vaccine programme.

“Other crucial factors are whether Thailand’s quarantine period is reduced, the clarity of vaccine passport policy, and if countries would allow their citizens to travel to Thailand.”

The Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration has announced that the mandatory quarantine period may be reduced for vaccinated arrivals from October. The proposal will go to the CCSA board, chaired by PM Prayut Chan-o-cha, on Monday.

Last year, Thailand welcomed just 6.7 foreign visitors, a year-on-year decline of over 83%. In January, the number of international tourists was 7,694, a massive year-on-year drop of 99.8%. The current mandatory quarantine of 14 days is widely seen as the most significant obstacle in the battle to revive the sector.

The Kasikorn Research Centre says the Kingdom’s GDP is expected to grow by 2.6% in 2021, primarily due to a recovery in exports, various economic stimulus measures, and Covid-19 containment measures being less severe than last year. However, the think-tank warns that should the number of foreign visitors not reach the expected 2 million, that growth forecast could drop.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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