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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Rubber protests hit tourism, Expat fund scam bust; Education fails test

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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Rubber protests hit tourism, Expat fund scam bust; Education fails test | The Thaiger
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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH
– Thailand news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Rubber protest impacting South tourism revenue
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: The rubber farmers’ protest in Surat Thani is causing a loss of at least Bt10 million a day to the domestic tourism industry in the South.

“Sales of salted eggs as a flagship product of Chaiya in Surat Thani are an example. The business is being hit because of a drop in tourist numbers,” Yutthachai Soonthronrattanavate, president of the Association of Domestic Travel, said yesterday.

Related businesses like restaurants, souvenir shops, local bus operators and vendors are also feeling the pinch. As a whole, the rally is making a psychological impact on the industry. The scene is tending to decimate tourist sentiment, he said.

Tourist destinations south of Surat Thani or islands such as Krabi and Phuket are also impacted because the flow of visitors to the area is obstructed due to blockades facing land transport.

The evidence is clear that foreign tourists in Khao San in Bangkok are having a hard time. It is becoming inconvenient to travel to the South by bus. The bus they board gets delayed.

The government needs to find a solution very quickly or else the tourism industry will take a bigger hit. It is a key industry with liquidity to fuel the national economy.

If the government does not solve the problem soon, the association and tourism operators would submit an open letter to the prime minister, calling for the government to treat all industries equally, not just any single one. What the government does unfairly to industries has a domino impact on other industries, including tourism, he said.

He said he understood the hardship of rubber growers under current market conditions. Although their movement is giving the tourism industry a big headache, he could accept and share their suffering. However, they should stage their demonstrations in limited areas, not spread out to other locations, especially the airport, as that is the heart of tourism.

If the airport is closed or becomes enwrapped in the chaos, the whole tourism industry may be ruined. Then the country would need a long time to restore its image, he warned.

Clearly, what the government should do right now is to try to create a good atmosphere. Tourism feeds on sentiment, not just economic boost to enhance spending power. The country needs a peaceful environment to encourage travelling, he added.

Thanongsak Somwong, president of the Koh Samui Tourism Promotion Association, called on the government to solve the problem quickly, otherwise its impact would be big and wide, especially on Phuket, Trang and Krabi.

Rubber protesters, govt in tense talks
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: The ongoing protests by rubber farmers in several southern provinces have hit logistical networks and the tourism industry in several areas adjacent to the rally sites, halting bus services as well as the transport of frozen seafood products. The authorities are worried that protesters might seize airports in four provinces where they are rallying.

Senior officials held a tense negotiation with a group representing rubber farmers yesterday as part of government efforts to end the rallies. Both sides met at the government complex in northern Bangkok, after 20 people representing four groups of rubber farmers based in Nakhon Si Thammarat agreed to seek an end to the problem through talks. The farmers are demanding that the government intervene to raise the price of raw rubber sheets.

Other groups of protesters, including those based in Surat Thani where the largest protests are taking place, refused to join the meeting with the 20-member delegation, which was flown to Bangkok on a specially chartered flight.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra held an urgent meeting with her three deputies at about 2pm at Government House yesterday, where they discussed the problems caused by the large-scale rallies. The talks with the protest delegation then began at 6pm, an hour later than scheduled, and continued behind closed doors into late evening, and beyond press time.

Fears that the protesters would seize Surat Thani Airport proved unfounded when they decided merely to camp out in its compound. However, the airports in Nakhon Si Thammarat, Krabi and Trang are still a subject of worry and authorities fear a repeat of the situation in 2008, when airports in Phuket, Krabi and Hat Yai were seized by yellow-shirt protesters.

So far, the disruption at Krabi Airport has caused 20 tourists to miss their flights, Chamnan Srisawas, chief of the Krabi tourism association said, as he called on protesters to stop blocking roads leading to the airport, especially the Tham Sua intersection.
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Govt warned of airport seizures
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Rubber growers in the South are threatening to lay siege to important places like airports and provincial halls if the government fails to answer their demand for a higher price for their produce.

Meanwhile, authorities have vowed strict law enforcement against protesters who cross the line.

“We will take legal action against protest leaders who are behind road and railway blockades,” police spokesman Maj-General Piya Uthayo said yesterday.

He added that authorities would most certainly not allow anybody to block the entrance of airports.

“If the protest spirals into airport seizures, we will invoke Article 135/1 of the Criminal Code. The maximum punishment under this clause is death,” he warned.

Piya said that in the face of threats from rubber farmers, police were now keeping a close eye on Surat Thani, Krabi and Trang airports.

“We are working with the Royal Thai Air Force in protecting these facilities,” he said.

As of press time, about 2,000 farmers had gathered and were blocking a road about 500 metres from Surat Thani Airport. However, passengers were still able to get to the airport using another road.

Deputy Prime Minister Pracha Promnog, meanwhile, has called on the protesters to talk to the government, adding that even though the authorities could not increase the rubber price significantly, it would help by reducing their costs.

“The Cabinet approved cost-lowering measures on Tuesday,” he said.

He also warned the protesters against seizing the airports, saying that relevant authorities might need to use force if the demonstrators go too far.

“We can’t allow any airport seizures,” he said.

Preparing for the worst

About 200 police officers were deployed at Surat Thani Airport to ensure immediate response if protesting farmers decided to raid the airport’s compound.

Manoon Upala, a protest leader in Surat Thani, said he would wait to hear what the National Rubber Policy Committee says today before planning his next move.

“If there’s no satisfactory response, I will coordinate with other protest leaders to seize provincial halls in various provinces, and then we will negotiate with the government from these halls,” he said.

In Nakhon Si Thammarat, rubber growers have blocked three intersections, while another major road was being blocked in Trang.

In Rayong, some 100 farmers blocked the road leadin

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Thailand beaches may limit visitors until Covid-19 vaccine is available

Caitlin Ashworth

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Thailand beaches may limit visitors until Covid-19 vaccine is available | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Unsplash: Merve Selcuk Simsek

Beaches and national parks might not fully open to international tourists until a Covid-19 vaccine is available. Around 120 to 150 tourists departing from China are set to arrive in Phuket on October 8 after a 6 month ban on international tourists. They’ll have to go through a 14 day state quarantine, but after that, they may not be able to enjoy some of the island’s beaches. A report from Bloomberg says it’s “unlikely” beaches and parks will fully open to overseas travellers until a vaccine is out.

Thailand’s borders won’t fully reopen to international tourists until a vaccine is widely available to the public, according to Tourism Council of Thailand president Chairat Trirattanajarasporn. For the time being, only tourists on select charter flights with a 90 day Special Tourist Visa can enter the country.

“It’s good for the country to reopen even if it’s just for trial … Once we’ve tested our reopening plan for a month, we can assess how to go forward and allow more visitors to come in.”

The new Special Tourist Visa is an effort intended to help revive Thailand’s tourism industry which has been crippled by the coronavirus pandemic. According to Bloomberg, the sector makes but about a fifth of the nation’s economy. Last year, the tourism industry generated 1.9 trillion baht with about 40 million foreign visitors. With travel restrictions in place to control the spread of the coronavirus, Chairat predicts tourism revenue will drop 82.6% to 336.5 billion baht by the end of the year.

“Businesses that rely on foreign tourists, especially in Phuket, Samui, Pattaya and Chiang Mai, will continue to close in the coming months because there would only be a small group of people coming in after the reopening.”

SOURCE: Bloomberg

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Thailand News Today | Phuket re-opens, TripAdvisor review saga, Samut Prakhan chem spill | Sept 30

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Thailand News Today | Phuket re-opens, TripAdvisor review saga, Samut Prakhan chem spill | Sept 30 | The Thaiger

Daily TV news about Thailand. Updates and all the latest information from thethaiger.com.

Phuket prepares to welcome first Chinese tourists in over 6 months

The first group of tourists to arrive under Thailand’s new Special Tourist Visa scheme will land in Phuket on October 8.

The flight from Guangzhou in southern China will carry 120 tourists, who will spend their first 14 days in alternative state quarantine. They are reported to be travelling under the government’s new STV.

The resort islands of Phuket and Koh Samui will be the first to welcome travellers under the Special Tourist Via scheme. Guangzhou has not recorded any new cases of the Covid-19 virus for a prolonged period.

The CCSA reports that there will be a limit of 300 foreign tourists admitted each week, but this will be reviewed after the first phase of the re-opening. All arrivals will be subject to 14 day quarantine.

Minister calls for all complaints against Sarasas schools to be monitored amid abuse allegations

The Education Minister is asking the Office of the Private Education Commission to closely monitor all complaints filed against all Sarasas Witaed School branches around the country.

34 out of 42 of the schools have had complaints filed against them. Allegations of abuse first emerged when the actions of an abusive teacher at a branch of the school in the central province of Nonthaburi, just north of central Bangkok, were captured on CCTV.

Additional complaints made against several other branches of the private school allege harsh punishment, the charging of fees not sanctioned by the Education Ministry, and the use of unqualified teachers. The Thonburi school was also accused of using babysitters as teachers

The man who wrote the bad reviews for Koh Chang’s Sea View Resort has a criminal record

In the ongoing stoush between the American, Wesley Barnes, and Koh Chang’s Sea View Resort, it’s now been revealed that Mr Barnes has been of interest to the US judicial system in the past, being accused of firing a weapon at a bar in Jackson County, Missouri.

Wesley Barnes, who has been working in Thailand as a teacher, posted a number of negative reviews on different platforms, including Trip Advisor, allegedly accusing the Koh Chang resort of “modern day slavery”, amongst other complaints. He stayed at the resort in June this year.

But this isn’t the first time Mr Barnes has come to the attention of police.

In the US there was an incident which is now public record. There was an official police complaint against the 34 year old in 2017. He was accused of firing a weapon near Waldo Bar, and later at a convenience store, told people he was a federal agent prior to the initial incident.

Of course the man’s criminal record doesn’t prevent him from posting negative reviews but provides just a little more context to the ongoing saga between the hotel and Mr Barnes.

PM dismisses rumours of alliance with opposition to form new government

Thai PM Prayuth Chan-o-cha has rubbished rumours that the ruling coalition parties plan to join forces with the opposition Pheu Thai party to form a new government.

While the PM initially didn’t respond to the question, instead bidding reporters a good day and walking away, he did mumble that he had enough “headaches” with one of his coalition partners.

Meanwhile Deputy PM, Prawit Wongsuwan, also dismissed the question, accusing the media of being behind the speculation. Under the current constitution the Thai PM is elected by a parliamentary majority, and not automatically coming from the leader of the party with the most number of votes. But a coalition between Prayut and Pheu Thai does seem, at face value, extremely unlikely.

Around 10 villagers hospitalised after chemical spill in Samut Prakan

Around 10 people were hospitalised after a chemical tank spilled at a village in Samut Prakan, just southeast of Bangkok.

Those near the spill reported feeling nauseous and some had trouble breathing. Officials do not known what chemical was in the tank.

The 1 metre tank had been taken into the forest by 2 employees at a second hand shop who hoped they could take it apart and sell the scrap metal. The 2 employees fainted when the tank spilled. Trees and grass in a 100 metre radius of the chemical spill also died.

The chemical let off a strong odour and Thai media says the fumes spread to a nearby village. Those at the second hand shop, close by to the chemical spill, started to feel nauseous and some had trouble breathing. Some people reported skin rashes after the incident. Around 10 villagers, including children, were sent to hospital.

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Thailand farmers hope to grow and export cannabis by next year

Caitlin Ashworth

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Thailand farmers hope to grow and export cannabis by next year | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Unsplash: Esteban Lopez

Under a proposed law, Thailand farmers would be allowed to grow cannabis and hemp for export without going through cannabis certified universities or medical institutes. The National Farmers Council president Praphat Panyachatrak says he hopes the new law will be in place by next year. The legislation is still being reviewed by the Public Health Ministry and National Legislative Assembly, but Praphat says he expects an announcement will be made soon.

Thailand’s recent rush to decriminalise and even legalise marijuana follows the Bhumjaithai Party joining the government coalition in 2019, headed by current Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul. His elected MPs provide essential votes for the fragile coalition. His party ran on a platform of legalising marijuana.

Thailand has been gearing up for the global cannabis trade with talk of classifying medical cannabis as an economic crop. The classification would allow the plant to be exported to other countries. The government has also talked about adding a variety of cannabis cultivars to keep up with the demanding cannabis industry.

The National Farmers Council has been advocating for the cultivation of cannabis and Praphat says the new law will make it easier for farmers to grow the plant. He adds that farmers would be able to get a permit to grow cannabis as soon as they got an order from overseas.

Recreational marijuana is still illegal in Thailand and is considered a Category 5 narcotic. Those charged with distributing cannabis face 2 to 10 years in prison and a fine from 40,000 baht to 200,000 baht. Those caught distributing over 10 kilograms of cannabis face up to 15 years in prison and a fine from 200,000 baht to 1,500,000 baht.

SOURCE: Nation Thailand | Chiang Rai Times

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