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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Royal Thai Navy Commander-in-Chief dismisses Human Rights Watch’s report

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH
– Thailand news selected by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Navy dismisses reports on Rohingya killings
Phuket Gazette / The Nation
PHUKET: Royal Thai Navy Commander-in-Chief Admiral Surasak Rounroengrom dismissed the report as impossible and untrue and asserted that the Thai navy had not killed any Rohingya people as it did no more than offer them humanitarian aid.

“I state that no [Thai] Navy officer could be that ruthless,” he said.

Admiral Surasak said he had given orders to the Thai Navy Region 3 and Phang Nga naval base that Rohingya boats found attempting to reach Thai shores should be provided with food, water, medicines and gasoline before being towed back to sea to reach their intended final destination, as Thailand could only be a transit location. He said Thailand’s policy was not to shelter or care for Rohingya refugees, but to send them back to the sea in accordance with humanitarian principles.

“I assure you that navy officers have no reason to kill Rohingya, because they are not an enemy.

“Since the policy is to push them back out to sea, we provide humanitarian aid with food and water, medicine and gas for them to continue their journey. All we do is help them, even fixing their boats [if necessary], before sending them back on their way,” Surasak said.

He was speaking in response to Human Rights Watch’s claim that sailors from Thailand’s Navy shot at ethnic Rohingya “boat people”, causing at least two deaths.

The Thai government should immediately investigate the incident, and direct the Navy to abide by international standards on the use of force, the rights group said.

On February 22, Thai sailors near a pier in Phang Nga province fired on a group of about 20 Rohingya asylum-seekers who had been in Navy custody since the previous day, when their boat with about 130 on board had run out of fuel on its journey from Burma to Malaysia, the rights group said.

“Rohingya fleeing Burma should be given protection, not shot at,” said Brad Adams, Human Rights Watch’s Asia director. “The Thai government should urgently investigate why sailors opened fire at boat people helpless in the sea and prosecute all those found responsible.”

The survivors said that on the morning of February 20, Thai fishermen had helped their drifting boat ashore on Surin Island off the coast of Phang Nga province. On that same day, at around 6.30pm, a Thai Navy patrol boat numbered TOR214 arrived on the island and towed their boat back to the sea.

Navy patrol boat TOR214 and the Rohingya boat arrived near a pier in Kuraburi district of Phang Nga province at around 5am the next morning.

According to the survivors and Thai villagers on the shore, Navy personnel from the patrol boat began to divide the Rohingya into small groups in the boat and ordered them to get ready to board smaller boats.

At that point, the Rohingya were uncertain whether they would be taken to immigration detention on the mainland or be pushed back to the sea.

When the first group of 20 Rohingya was put on a smaller boat by the Thai navy, some panicked and jumped overboard.

“Navy personnel fired into the air three times and told us not to move,” one survivor told Human Rights Watch. “But we were panicking and jumped off the boat, and then they opened fire at us in the water.”

Four Rohingya who swam ashore were rescued by local Thai villagers. Thai security forces searched the area for two days after the incident, but the villagers kept the survivors hidden, the survivors said, according to the rights group.

The bodies of two Rohingya showing bullet wounds were later pulled from the sea and buried in a Muslim cemetery in Kuraburi district. Thai fishermen told Human Rights Watch they saw more dead bodies in the water but had no more information. The fate of the remaining passengers on the boat remains unknown after it was towed away by the Thai Navy.

Human Rights Watch called on the Thai government and the National Human Rights Commission to conduct thorough and transparent investigations into the shooting.

If unnecessary or excessive force is found to have been used, all those responsible, including officers who gave orders to fire, should be prosecuted, Human Rights Watch said.

Thai security forces, when performing law enforcement duties, should abide by the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, Human Rights Watch said.

Each year tens of thousands of ethnic Rohingya in Burma’s Arakan state set sail to flee the dire poverty and persecution they suffer at the hands of the Burmese government, the report said.

The situation significantly worsened in 2012 following communal violence in Arakan state in June and October targeting Rohingya and other Muslim groups.

“The Thai government should scrap its “push back” and “help on” policies that deny Rohingya boat people their right to seek asylum,” Adams said.

Under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, everyone has the right to seek asylum from persecution. While Thailand is not a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention, under customary international law the Thai government has an obligation of “nonrefoulement” – not to return anyone to places where their life or freedom would be at risk.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

 

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Thai government expects to open vaccine registration to foreigners by August

Maya Taylor

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PHOTO: Mehmet Turgut Kirkgoz on Unsplash

A Health Ministry spokesperson has confirmed that foreigners living in Thailand should be able to register for Covid-19 vaccination by August. Ratchada Thanadirek says the government is working on a dedicated registration platform for foreign nationals living in the Kingdom, which it’s hoped will be ready in 3 months’ time.

Meanwhile, Thai Visa News reports that vaccine registration for Thais has been extended to those aged between 18 and 59 years old, who can now sign up from May 31. Registration had initially been limited to Thai nationals over the age of 60, as well as those with underlying health conditions. However, the third wave of the virus means registration for younger Thais has been brought forward from July.

Thai nationals can register for vaccination through the Mor Prom platform or the Mor Prom Line account. They can also register at government hospitals. According to Ratchada, the vaccines that will be used in the government rollout will primarily be AstraZeneca, manufactured in-country by Siam Bioscience.

However, she points out that there are 3 other vaccines that have been approved by the Thai Food and Drug Administration. They are the Chinese-made Sinovac, the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and the vaccine from US manufacturer, Moderna. The latter is expected to be available for purchase at private hospitals, although there has been no confirmation of when supplies might arrive.

SOURCE: Thai Visa News

 

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Some Covid-19 restrictions relaxed across Thailand, fewer “dark red” provinces

Maya Taylor

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PHOTO: Facebook/PR Thai Government

The Thai government has relaxed some Covid-19 restrictions across the country, while downgrading the risk level of a number of provinces. The number of provinces designated as “strictly controlled” areas, or “dark red” zones, has been reduced from 6 to 4. They are Bangkok and the central provinces of Nonthaburi, Pathum Thani, and Samut Prakan.

So, what, if anything, has changed where you are? Below is a summary of the situation across the country, courtesy of TAT News.

The “red zone” or “maximum control” areas now consist of the following 17 provinces:

Central Thailand: Ayutthaya, Kanchanaburi, Nakhon Pathom, Phetchaburi, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Ratchaburi, and Samut Sakhon

Eastern Thailand: Chachoengsao, Chon Buri, and Rayong

Northern Thailand: Tak

Southern Thailand: Nakhon Si Thammarat, Narathiwat, Ranong, Songkhla, Surat Thani, and Yala.

There are now 56 provinces designated as “orange” or “controlled areas”, up from 26. They are as follows:

Central Thailand: Ang Thong, Chai Nat, Lop Buri, Nakhon Nayok, Samut Songkhram, Saraburi, Sing Buri, and Suphan Buri

Eastern Thailand: Chanthaburi, Prachin Buri, Sa Kaeo, and Trat

Northern Thailand: Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Kamphaeng Phet, Lampang, Lamphun, Mae Hong Son, Nan, Nakhon Sawan, Phayao, Phetchabun, Phichit, Phitsanulok, Phrae, Sukhothai, Uthai Thani, and Uttaradit

North-Eastern Thailand: Amnat Charoen, Bueng Kan, Buri Ram, Chaiyaphum, Kalasin, Khon Kaen, Loei, Maha Sarakham, Mukdahan, Nakhon Phanom, Nakhon Ratchasima, Nong Bua Lam Phu, Nong Khai, Roi Et, Sakon Nakhon, Si Sa Ket, Surin, Ubon Ratchathani, Udon Thani, and Yasothon

Southern Thailand: Chumphon, Krabi, Pattani, Phang Nga, Phatthalung, Phuket, Satun, and Trang.

Restaurants across the country can now resume in-house dining, with various restrictions based on their risk status. In the dark red zones, dining in is permitted until 9pm, with take away service allowed until 11pm. In red zones, dining in has been extended to 11pm. In orange zones, dining-in hours can return to normal. Of note, however, is that the ban on the sale and consumption of alcohol in restaurants remains in force across the country.

All other disease prevention measures remain in place, including mandatory mask-wearing outside of the home and the closure of “high risk” venues such as nightclubs, bars, karaoke bars, and massage parlours. Department stores, shopping malls and community malls must close by 9pm and refrain from holding promotional activities.

In dark red zones, there is a ban on gatherings of more than 20 people, with this number extended to 50 people in red and orange zones. In Phuket, an orange zone, officials have stipulated a ban on people visiting each other’s homes, with only those residing at a property permitted to be there.

In dark red and red provinces, convenience stores and markets can only open between 4am and 11pm, while they can return to normal operating hours in orange zones. In addition, people in dark red zones are urged to cancel interprovincial travel or to submit to strict health screening. Businesses in the private sector are asked to allow employees work from home if possible.

SOURCE: TAT News

 

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Covid UPDATE Wednesday: 3,394 new infections and 29 deaths

Tim Newton

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Today the public health department has reported 3,394 new cases and 29 new Covid-related deaths. 1,498 of today’s cases come from Thailand’s prisons (more below). Taking the shameful inmate toll out of the equation and the trend is still steady with around 2,000 – 2,500 new cases each day over the past 3 weeks across Thailand.

Around the world the trends for new infections and deaths are starting to fall quite quickly.

Covid UPDATE Wednesday: 3,394 new infections and 29 deaths | News by Thaiger

• Roll up, roll up your sleeves. But the Thai PM says… hold on! PM Prayut Chan-o-cha has poured cold water on walk-in vaccination centres for Covid vaccinations. In the past week the public health department has been rushing to set up private vaccination locations around the country to hasten the roll out of vaccines for the first public vaccine category next month.

PM Prayut told a cabinet meeting yesterday he didn’t prefer the idea of the walk-in centres (Central Lad Phrao was already to open as yesterday) because “people would turn up in droves causing chaos”. He was particularly worried about centre around Bangkok where there is a population of 8 million+

The PM has asked that the Mor Prom app is working properly with registrations preferred so the Government can monitor the demand and act accordingly. The government says they’re working on an English, and other languages, version of Mor Prom to open registration for non-Thais soon.

• The Department of Corrections reports that there are now 11,670 prisoners infected with Covid in 13 prisons across Thailand.

• A major Japanese medical association is calling on Tokyo and the International Olympic Committee to cancel the 2020 Tokyo Games. The Games are set to start on July 23.

The appeal, made in a letter to Japanese PM Yoshihide Suga and comes amid concerns that the health-care system in Asia’s second-largest economy cannot accommodate both the potential medical needs of thousands of international athletes, coaches and media while fighting yet another spike in coronavirus infections.

• The Chon Buri (including Pattaya) public health officials announced 39 new and confirmed cases of Covid and 1 more death today. According to The Pattaya News, “officials are asking for the public to remain working from home if possible and especially to avoid small social gatherings with people who are not members of your own household until the situation improves”.

As usual we will have an update of all the provincial totals this afternoon.

SOURCES: Nation Thailand | FRB

 

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