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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Soldiers killed; Cadmium contamination; Push to legalize kratom

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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Soldiers killed; Cadmium contamination; Push to legalize kratom | The Thaiger

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

Two soldiers killed, schoolboy injured in Yala blast
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Two soldiers were killed and two others, including a 12-year-old schoolboy, were wounded in a bomb attack at Kanarasdornbumroong 2 School in Yala’s Muang district yesterday.

The home-made bomb exploded at 10am, killing Sergeant Prathes Jan-on, 34, and Private Wuth Khongwoon, 22. Private Theerapong Sonjit, 22, and student Atthawut Boonthien were wounded by shrapnel.

The bomb created a two-meter-wide, one-meter-deep crater behind a security guard’s booth in the school compound. Police investigation found that a five-strong team led by Prathes was guarding the teachers and students when suspected insurgents led by Roki Doloh set off the bomb.

Meanwhile, National Security Council (NSC) chief Paradorn Pattanatabutr said a new round of peace dialogue with the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) would be held in the third week of October. He said the Thai negotiating team would submit details of BRN’s five demands to the Committee to Mobilize Policy and Strategy to Solve Problems in the South on Friday.

Regarding the September 5 arrest of two Thai men in Malaysia’s Kedah state for possessing war weapons, Paradorn said Thai Special Branch Police and their Malaysian counterparts were working on getting more information from the suspects. Initial results of the investigation found the two suspects had links to the southern unrest.

PCD needs time to restore affected villages
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: The Pollution Control Department (PCD) will seek permission from the Supreme Administrative Court to delay the declaration of environmentally protected areas of Tak’s Mae Tao River Basin, that have been affected by cadmium contamination for decades.

PCD’s measures to rehabilitate the cadmium-affected villages would cost Bt438 million. Its appeal to the Supreme Administrative Court follows a decision by the Phitsanulok Administrative Court last month ordering the National Environmental Board (NEB) and PCD to declare the Mae Tao River Basin as an environmentally protected area within 90 days.

PCD director-general, Wichien Jungrungruang, said his department could not work within this period to designate the cadmium-affected villages as environmentally protected zones because many procedures were required for the zone designation. “We need at least three years to work on this,” he said.

Citing guidelines set by the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning (ONEP) for an environmentally protected area, he said the department must draft the plan and hold public hearings to listen to local opinion. Then it would submit the plan for the NEB’s deliberation before issuing the declaration.

The International Water Management Institute and Agriculture Department reported cadmium contamination in the Mae Tao River Basin in 2004. After getting no response from agencies, 31 residents lodged a complaint with the Phitsanulok Administrative Court. They claimed agencies, including NEB on December 11, 2009, allowed a zinc mine to operate in their upstream area. According to the complaint, the mine spread cadmium over paddy fields in tambons Mae Tao, Mae Ku and Phra That Pha Daeng.

Even though the department plans to file an appeal to the Supreme Court, Wichien said the NEB had ordered agencies such as the Industry Ministry and Agricultural and Cooperatives, to restore the affected areas.

Under PCD’s recovery measures, 248 rai of tainted soil will be dredged up, while over 3,566 rai will be covered by a plantation. These measures are expected to be worked on as soon as possible, Wichien said. Separately, the level of hazardous chemicals in waters around Koh Samet after the July oil spill is now lower than standard criteria. Officials said the seawaters were safe for swimming and diving – except for the Ao Phrao area.

Push for legalization of kratom
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Relevant authorities have decided to push for the legalization of kratom (Mitragyna speciosa), an herb that for years has been included in the prohibited narcotics list.

Tomorrow, a committee tasked with the development of kratom policy/law will officially recommend that Justice Minister Chaikasem Nitisiri ask the Office of the Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) via the public health minister to consider three options:

– Remove kratom from the banned narcotics list;

– Declare that kratom is just a psychoactive substance;

– Come up with ways of maximizing the use of kratom for economic benefits if it decides to continue including the herb on the narcotics list.

“The committee has already discussed this issue with representatives of relevant authorities including the National Security Council and the Food and Drug Administration,” ONCB secretary-general Pongsapat Pongcharoen said yesterday in his capacity as the panel’s chairman.

He added that the ONCB, meanwhile, would continue researching the impact kratom users might have on national security.

FDA deputy secretary-general Viroj Verachai said yesterday that if the ONCB agreed to remove kratom from the banned narcotics list, then the public health minister had the mandate to immediately announce its removal.

An ONCB report estimates that 404,548 people in Thailand used kratom in 2011, and of them, 200,000 were in the South.

As per the report, 11,339 kilograms of kratom has already been seized this year and most of the users were farmers and workers aged between 15 and 24. The report revealed that in Australia kratom was described as a herb containing controlled substances – alkaloids – while in the US, kratom is openly sold in shops for about Bt1,000 per packet.

However, the sale of this herb is controlled in Malaysia and Myanmar. In Malaysia, the Mitragyna genus in kratom is included in the list of controlled substances and any possession of it for sale is punishable by two years in jail.

Pongsapat said if the kratom was legally listed as a psychoactive substance, the authorities would need to ensure that kratom is not processed into more powerful drugs. “Chewing kratom leaves can be allowed provided they are not processed or mixed into anything else,” he said.

Keep checking the Phuket Gazette’s Thailand news pages, join our Facebook fan page or follow us on Twitter @PhuketGazette for the latest national news updates.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Crime

Convicted human traffickers ignore 99% of court orders in Thailand

Greeley Pulitzer

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Convicted human traffickers ignore 99% of court orders in Thailand | The Thaiger

Human traffickers in Thailand have ignored court orders to pay compensation to victims in more than the 99% of convicted cases in recent years. The flouting of the court orders is fuelling fears that many survivors could be victimised again.

Thai courts have ordered traffickers to pay their victims more than $4.3 million for damages caused in about 1,335 cases since 2014, but the compensation was paid in only five cases, excluding cases settled out of court, according to Reuters.

While Thailand has rescued a record-breaking 1,000+ trafficking victims this year along, activists are concerned that the failure to pay compensation leaves them in fresh danger. A spokesman for the Human Rights and Development Foundation says… “It’s an important issue that is unfortunately being neglected.”

The Human Rights and Development Foundation provides free legal aid to migrant workers and trafficking victims.

The Thai government is considering amending its 1999 anti-money laundering laws to allow offenders’ assets to be seized to compensate victims. Seized assets are currently state property but it’s unclear when this will be reviewed by the cabinet.

“This money will enable victims to start a new life and prevent them from being re-trafficked. However the government’s role in assisting victims in pursuing the claims is still not clear.”

Thailand is home to about 610,000 modern ‘slaves’, according to the Global Slavery Index published by the rights group Walk Free Foundation. This means that about one in 113 of its 69 million people is enslaved – forced or blackmailed into working against their will, often with little or no pay.

Trafficking victims are automatically compensated through a government fund which provides living and rehabilitation expenses and lost wages. But the Human Rights and Development Foundation says these sums are insufficient for victims to rebuild their lives.

While Thai law allows victims to claim compensation from convicted traffickers, offenders have refused to pay in more than 1,000 cases.

The US called on Thailand in June to increase compensation to victims in its annual Trafficking in Persons report. They ranked Thailand as a Tier 2 country, meaning it is making significant efforts to combat the crime.

SOURCE: Reuters

Convicted human traffickers ignore 99% of court orders in Thailand | News by The Thaiger

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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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