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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Rohingya plight in focus

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Rohingya plight in focus | The Thaiger
PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

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

Rohingya in peril as Thailand struggles to pay for shelter
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: On the night Muhammad Sultan was born, he was on a perilous journey at sea. Days after, the boat that carried him and his family would be found, nearly sunk, on the shore of an island off the coast of the southwest province of Phang Nga in Thailand.

Upon arrival, he and over 100 more Rohingya from Myanmar’s western Rakhine State were carted off and segregated – the men detained and the women and children placed in shelters.

“But we’d rather be here than in Myanmar, where we will surely die,” his mother, Nguru, told Asia News, as she adjusted the thin fabric wrapped around Muhammad’s frail body, shielding his blistering skin from the heat.

The 24-year-old mother, along with the women at the shelter in Phang Nga, said they would risk all, resort to anything, except going back to Sittwe, where they had been deprived of their homes, burned to the ground by Rakhine people. The savage persecution of the Muslim Rohingya in Myanmar has led to the displacement of over 100,000 people, and the deaths of many since riots broke out in June 2012.

In Thailand, fleeing from ghettos, from a country where they are branded “stateless”, the Rohingya seek a better life, free of bloodshed.

Over 1,500 Rohingya have arrived in Thailand since January, and authorities predict more boats will arrive in the coming months. The recent, unprecedented arrival of the Rohingya has put pressure on the Thai government, and the absence of a policy to dealing with the crisis has exacerbated the problem.

For now, the government has decided to provide humanitarian assistance to them in detention centres and shelters across the country, for six months. After that, it is unclear whether they will be sent back to Myanmar or be resettled in another country.

“It’s a very complex issue, and finding a solution is not easy,” said Chis Lewa of the the Arakan Project, a group that does research-based advocacy on the situation of the Rohingya in Myanmar.

“The whole region, not just Thailand, must recognise that this is a mass exodus. Everyone is aware of the situation in Rakhine State but most countries are not open to providing protection,” she said. In the meantime, she added, they must be treated more humanely.

“Thailand has no domestic [refugee[ laws and we are not party to the UN Convention on Refugees. Therefore, we cannot properly handle the issue,” Thai Committee for Refugees Foundation executive director Veeravit Tianchainan said during a recent meeting on the Rohingya at the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in Bangkok.

Experts are saying that had there been laws in place to deal with refugees like the Rohingya, Thailand would not be facing this magnitude of a problem today. The arrival of the refugees in Thailand is proving to be too costly: an estimated Bt3.37 million for food for a month, at Bt75 per person a day for 1,500 refugees. That’s over Bt20 million, minimum, for six months, assuming there will be no more arrivals.

A law on refugees would allow for a systematic screening, registration, and status determination of refugees entering Thailand. With a law, there would be no arbitrary arrests and detention; illegal migrants would be dealt with accordingly, and asylum-seekers treated more humanely. Veeravit said a refugee law has to be finalised before it can be submitted to Parliament.

For now, Thailand considers a non-Thai who illegally enters the country as an illegal migrant, to be charged under the law. Deputy Prime Minister Surapong Towichukchaikul said the Rohingya should be prosecuted for illegal entry, along with those who smuggle them into the country.

“Arresting and detaining them is a violation of human rights,” Veeravit said.

As a signatory to the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), Thailand cannot subject refugees to arbitrary arrest and detention. But since the Rohingya in Thailand do not fall under that category, at least not yet, they continue to be treated as illegals.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, during a recent meeting on the Rohingya, said the government needs more information on the refugees’ identity, place of origin and reason for coming to Thailand before it could determine the status of the Rohingya and the proper way to deal with them.

In Thailand, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee (UNHCR) would be in the best position to properly screen the Rohingya. But the agency is barred from conducting full refugee status determination for asylum-seekers in Thailand, although the government has granted the UNHCR access to the Rovings recently detained in the southern provinces.

Under CAT, the principle of non-refoulement also prohibits Thailand from returning refugees to a country where their “life or freedom would be threatened”.

Thai officials are still attempting to determine if the Rohingya who have recently arrived can be classified as “refugees” or merely migrants seeking jobs here. A refugee screening process would be crucial to protecting the Rohingya.

Sources said that most of the Rohingya coming to Thailand are en route to Malaysia. The Thai government in 2008 in fact came under fire for its policy of pushing Rohingya boat people back out to sea, so they can move on to Malaysia, where nearly 60,000 Rohingya are. Others proceed to Indonesia, their next choice of destination.

A source told Asia News that that those coming from Maungdaw in northern Rakhine State pay brokers Bt60,000 to go to Malaysia. The money covers the boat fee and payoffs to border guards, defence authorities, immigration officers and the police. According to the source, if the refugees cannot pay in full, they are hauled off to so-called “smugglers’ camps”, tortured and sold to “labour brokers”.

The men, for instance, are forced to work on fishing trawlers for months to cover their debt. Once fully paid, they are brought back to the Thai mainland, where they can get a boat and proceed to Malaysia.

“The women [referring to the recent arrivals] want to follow their husbands to Malaysia, since the men can never go back to Myanmar,” Lewa said.

But women like Nguru will find it difficult to reunite her family. At the immigration detention centre in Phang Nga where her husband is detained, authorities are planning to transfer them to several jails in the South, and even to the northeast of Thailand. NHRC investigating officer Kessarin Tiawsakul said the centres can no longer hold the swelling number of detainees. Phang Nga, for example, has over 300 Rohingya cramped in a centre suitable for only 100 people.

The detainees’ phones were also confiscated, leaving them with no means of communicating with their wives and children.

But for Nguru, it is enough for now that her newborn son and three other children are safe. “We leave it all to Allah,” she said, fervent in her prayers that there will be a future for her and her family. She remembers, too, that just as Muhammad was born, it started to rain, as if it was a blessing from the heavens.

Officials urge talks with Myanmar, UN on Rohingya
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: House Standing Committee on State Security chairman Weng Tojirakan on Wednesday discussed the Rohingya migrant issue and recommended talks with Myanmar to repatriate the

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Economy

Twin TAT campaigns will boost domestic travel

Greeley Pulitzer

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Twin TAT campaigns will boost domestic travel | The Thaiger

In November the Tourism Authority of Thailand plans two campaigns – “Visit Thailand with 100 Baht” and “Shocking Price Weekday Travel”, – aimed to generate 400 million baht in local tourism revenue before the end of the year.

The TAT’s executive director of product promotion said “Shocking Price Weekday Travel” would encourage upper and middle-class Thai tourists to travel more on weekdays, enjoying discounts of up to 80% on high-end tourism products, including five-star hotels, airlines, spas, yachting, Michelin-star restaurants and other privileges from online travel agents. The TAT says at least 4,000 tourism operators and members of tourism associations have registered to take part in the scheme.

A second campaign, “Visit Thailand with 100 Baht”, will feature 40,000 tourism products priced at just 100 baht, offering 10,000 products per day on November 11-12 and December 11-12. You’ll need to be 18 or older and have e-banking and a mobile phone number to join the campaign via the TAT’s website, and can shop for only one tourism product outside their hometown.

Registration will run from 6am until midnight or whenever the 10,000 products for that day run out, the TAT said. The campaign will offer air and bus tickets, hotels, food and drink, tour packages and attractions.

The TAT’s governor said 116 million baht will be used for the two additional programs, above the government’s 1,000 baht cash giveaway Chim-Shop-Chai (Taste-Shop-Spend) scheme, and a 15% cash rebate for spending on tourism products. He expects the new campaigns should add about 400 million baht in tourism revenue and increase the number of Thai tourists travelling domestically by 10-20% .

“The new campaigns, are expected to raise domestic tourism revenue to 1.12 trillion baht this year.”

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Economy

Thailand resume free trade talks with EU, reducing reliance on China

Greeley Pulitzer

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Thailand resume free trade talks with EU, reducing reliance on China | The Thaiger

The European Union has restarted talks with Thailand about a potential free trade agreement. The talks started just days after unfreezing a deadlock put in place by the previous military junta. The resumption of talks comes as Thailand seeks to diversify its economy and reduce reliance on China, which accounted for 14% of the its total foreign direct investment in 2018.

The director-general of the Thai foreign ministry’s department of European affairs held talks in Brussels yesterday with top EU officials in charge of Asia. The talks underlined the EU’s interest in developing closer ties with Southeast Asia, with the ultimate goal of a strategic partnership with ASEAN, which 10 countries in the region.

ASEAN represents the EU’s third-largest trading partner outside Europe, after the US and China, with more than 237.3 billion euros (263.9 billion USD) of trade in goods in 2018. According to latest available statistics bilateral trade in services amounted to 85.5 billion euros in 2017.

Free trade talks between Thailand and the EU also started in 2013 but were put on hold by the EU after the military coup that ousted the democratically elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra.

The EU said at the time that “political and civil rights and liberties in Thailand had been severely curtailed” during its years of military rule.

SOURCE: South China Morning Post

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Technology

The dangers of 5G – coming to a mobile phone near you

Tim Newton

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The dangers of 5G – coming to a mobile phone near you | The Thaiger

MONTAGE: The Thaiger

5G, the next generation of mobile phone technology is coming, within months here in Thailand. It will continue to roll out over the next few years, replacing the earlier 4G technology.

Along with any new technology there’s also valid concerns about potential health risk of this new, more powerful network. There’s also been a lot of misinformation and scare-mongering. So is there a looming 5G health apocalypse?

The key concerns, or claims, about 5G is that it’s a dangerous escalation of traditional mobile technology, higher energy radiation that delivers potentially damaging effects on humans. Some 5G decriers contend that the new network generates radiation that can damage DNA, lead to cancer, cause oxidative damage, premature ageing; disrupt cell metabolism and hosts of other diseases. There are articles citing research studies and even opinions by the World Health Organisation.

But first, some science.

5G is the industry standard that will supersede the current widespread 4G LTE standard, just as 4G took over from 3G. 5G just stands for the “fifth generation” in mobile cellular technology.

This standard is designed to be much faster than current 4G and 4GLTE technology. Simply, it will allow faster wireless internet everywhere for everything, as long as you’re in signal range of course.

The speed, and it’s a LOT faster, will allow virtual realtime connection, even faster that human reflexes, to provide more accurate and real experiences. For the new world of auto-drive cars, remote surgery, even gaming and other internet-of-things products and services, 5G will take the online world to the next level. Words like ‘latency’ will vanish as there simply won’y be delays.

5G is poised to deliver peak speeds between 10 and 20 Gbps – that’s 10 – 100 times faster than the current 4G services.

Health concerns

Concerns about 5G are just the latest evolution of decades of headlines about the dangers of electromagnetic radiation. We’ve seen controversies about everything from the health risks of Wi-Fi, smart metres, fluorescent tubes, overhead electric wires, even our mobile phones we use all day. So far there has been no conclusive studies about any of these causing reliable, repeatable, measurable or sustainable health concerns.

But the concerns persist, swirling around the internet and sparking off renewed concerns every few years.

Electromagnetic hypersensitivity, for example, is a hypothetical disease in which certain people experience debilitating symptoms in the presence of radiation like mobile phones and Wi-Fi.

But despite thousands of people claiming these sorts of sensitivities for at least 30 years, extensive scientific studies have shown that people claiming to be afflicted with this ‘disease’, when blind-folded, are unable to tell or ‘feel’ when they’re in the presence of an electromagnetic field. The World Health Organisation now recommends psychological evaluation for people who continue with these alleged symptoms.

Beyond that, decades of studies have found no link between mobile phones, wi-fi and cancers, including brain tumours from holding your mobile phone to your ears when calling people.

The dangers of 5G - coming to a mobile phone near you | News by The Thaiger

PHOTO: echo.net.au

RF or Radiofrequency Radiation?

At the root of all concerns about cell phone networks is radiofrequency radiation. RF could be anything from microwaves to x-rays to radio waves to light from your screen or light from the sun. Even when you turn on a light at home. It’s all electromagnetic radiation.

We walk through a sea of RF, all day, everyday, it’s impossible to escape – from the sunlight, to the power sources around our house, to the TV screens, to the electric kettles, microwave ovens and electric cookers in the kitchen.

In the RF spectrum there are ionising or non-ionising radiation, only the ionising radiation has the potential to interfere with breaking up chemical bonds.

Ultraviolet light, visible light, infrared light, and everything with a lower frequency – radio waves, power lines, FM radio, Wi-Fi and our mobile cellular services – these are all considered non-ionising radiation.

Frequencies above UV, like x-rays and gamma rays, are ionising.

The assistant professor of neurology at Yale and the editor of Science-Based Medicine, Dr. Steve Novella, says there’s been decades of misunderstanding about the ill-effects of lower frequency radiation.

“Using the term radiation is misleading because people think of nuclear weapons – they think of ionising radiation that absolutely can cause damage. It can kill cells. It can cause DNA mutations.”

“Most concern about mobile phone RF radiation is misplaced. There’s no known mechanism for most forms of non-ionszing radiation to have any biological effect.”

It’s not a tumour!

But researchers continue to conduct studies. A recent study was released by the National Toxicology Program, an agency run by the US Department of Health and Human Services. In this widely quoted study about cell phone radio frequency radiation, “scientists found that high exposure to 3G RF led to some cases of cancerous heart tumours, brain tumours, and tumours in the adrenal glands of male rats.”

But as RealClearScience points out in their response to the study, “the number of tumours detected were so small that they statistically could have occurred by chance (which may be more likely since they were only detected in male subjects).”

“The level and duration of the RFR exposure were well in excess of what any actual human would ever be exposed to, and in fact, the irradiated test rats lived longer than the unexposed control rats.”

“Experienced researchers look at a study like that and say that doesn’t really tell us anything.”

The dangers of 5G - coming to a mobile phone near you | News by The Thaiger

PHOTO: Asiatimes.com

5G risks

A common complaint about 5G is that, due to the lower power of 5G transmitters, there will be more of them around our towns and cities. The Environmental Health Trust contends that “5G will require the buildout of literally hundreds of thousands of new wireless antennas in neighbourhoods, cities, and towns. A cellular small cell or another transmitter will be placed every two to ten homes according to estimates.”

Despite the estimate being exaggerated, the contention is reasonable.

But skeptics caution you shouldn’t conflate asking the question with merely asserting that there’s a risk. The reality is that the power and frequency of the radiation is still less than light outside or even inside your office or home. You go out in the sun, and you’re bathed in electromagnetic radiation that’s far greater than these 5G cellular towers and transmitters.

The US FCC, responsible for licensing the spectrum for public use, says that 5G equipment, the signals from commercial wireless transmitters are typically far below the RF exposure limits at any location that is accessible to the public.

The FCC defers to the FDA concluding that the weight of scientific evidence has not linked mobile phones with any health problems.

But scientists will continue to test new networks as technology evolves, to make sure the technology we use every day remains safe. Research into radiation risks is difficult and often inconclusive, meaning it can take a long time to make real progress. But the research will continue as the technology evolves and new claims will continue to be made asserting dangers from 5G.

SOURCES: US FCC | World Health Orginisation | howtogeek.com | Real Clear Science

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