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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
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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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Thailand News Today | German Embassy rally, permanent residency prospect, crowds in Pattaya | Oct 26

The Thaiger

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Thailand News Today | German Embassy rally, permanent residency prospect, crowds in Pattaya | Oct 26 | The Thaiger

Today’s latest news from The Thaiger, looking at the latest in the protests, a surge of crowds in Pattaya and the latest proposals from the Thai government to increase a new stream of revenue.

Permanent residency, changes to quarantine period – Government mulls strategies to revive economy

Thailand’s energy minister has outlined a number of new strategies the government is discussing tohelp the Thai economy recover from the fallout of Covid-19 fallout.

Permanent residency for some condo purchases, changes to the mandatory quarantine and incentives for foreign investment are all under discussion.

The Eastern Economic Corridor, the special economic zone covering the eastern provinces of Rayong, Chon Buri and Chachoengsao, continues to eye foreign investors with a number of large infrastructure projects in the pipeline.

Of particular interest in the topics for discussion are that the government is considering offering permanent residency to people buying condos in the Kingdom, provided they don’t mortgage, transfer, or sell the units within 5 years of purchase.

In relation to foreign arrivals, he says the government will clarify its plans on any further reduction in quarantine time. He says that if the current 14 day quarantine period is to be reduced, this would only apply to those coming from countries considered “low risk” for Covid-19. It’s understood the Public Health Ministry is working on categorising countries into low, medium, and high risk.

Parliament in the middle of a 2 day session to discuss political impasse

An opposition spokesperson opened the special joint session of parliament today with a call for Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to step down, as anti-government protesters continued to keep up their pressure.

Mr Sompong also called for the release of detained protesters as a goodwill gesture to try and end the current impasse. “ He said… The prime minister should be open-minded to the young protesters’demands, and stop delaying the process of writing of a new constitution.”

Meanwhile a Palang Pracharath Party MP Paiboon Nititawan defended the PM saying the country needed his leadership to get through the economic crisis and to protect the institution of the monarchy, which was under attack by protesters.

Protesters march on German Embassy in Sathorn Road

Meanwhile protesters gathered at the Sam Yan intersection today at 5pm, near Chulalongkorn University, and marched to the Germany embassy on Sathorn Road, to submit a controversial petition.

Protesters are asking German authorities to look into whether His Majesty the King had violated German sovereignty by exercising his power from German soil. It is the first time a foreign government has been targeted by the anti-governmentprotesters.

Protesters say the intention is to push for the restoration a “truly” constitutional monarchy in Thailand, under law.

A ‘spoiler’ rally is also underway by government supporters and ‘royalists’ at Lumpini Park, right in the middle of the march route to the German Embassy.

Protesters massed at the Ratchaprasong intersection in Bangkok last night

Last night crowds gathered at the Ratchprasong intersection, one of the promised locations for a rally in response to Saturday night’s refusal of the Thai PM to resign. Thousands gathered, mostly along the Ratchadamri Road, to hear speeches and musical performances.

Messages on some of the banners read “We are the people”, “Everyone is a leader”, “Thailand is for the people”, “Police should protect the people”.

Whilst blocking the intersection for 3 hours, with little police presence, the protesters disbanded peacefully just after sunset.

Pattaya springs back to life over the long weekend, more to come

Pattaya, struggling along for the past 7 months with a handful of domestic tourists and Bangkok weekenders, has had its busiest weekend for a long time, albeit a long weekend created by the public holiday in commemoration of King Chulongkorn.

Much of the increased traffic were Thai faces, a big change to the city’s old demographic of international tourists and expats.

Tourists flocked to the city for the long weekend which included the Eastern Colorful Food, Culture and Music festival stretching along the Beach Road foreshore.

The focus of the weekend’s events was the Beach Road which was visibly busy with locals and tourists joining in the foreshore festival, talent shows, music concerts and local food.

Schools advised to improve online learning in case of second Covid-19 outbreak

Thailand schools are told to get ready for a possible second wave of Covid-19 and prepare to for lockdown measures, just in case, to make sure all children have equal access to education.

A Thai economist warns that the education gap between rich children in urban areas and poor children in rural areas could widen if schools are shut down again and resort to the same online learning measures tried out months ago.

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Expert says all rail crossings should be upgraded after fatal train-bus collision

Caitlin Ashworth

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Expert says all rail crossings should be upgraded after fatal train-bus collision | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Facebook: @pr8riew

After the fatal freight train-charter bus collision earlier this month, authorities are looking into ways to make the rail crossings safer and to prevent potentially deadly incidents from happening in the future.

An expert in rail engineering says all rail crossings need to upgraded, urgently, while unofficial or illegal crossings should either be permanently closed off or upgraded with the proper safety equipment. Unofficial crossings are those that are used by locals, but are not approved by the State Railways of Thailand.

Chairperson of the Rail Engineering Committee at the Engineering Institute of Thailand, Rattapoohm Parichatprecha, gave suggestions about how to improve the rail crossings after an incident in Chachoengsao. On October 10, a train collided with a charter bus crossing the railway, killing 18 and injuring 44 who were on their way to a merit-making ceremony. Officials say the signal was broken and the crossing didn’t have a barrier gate to block traffic.

Then, a passenger train collided with a car, killing a woman and injuring 2 others at a railway crossing in Phetchaburi’s Khao Yai district on October 15.

The State Railway of Thailand says an average of 77 railway crossing incidents happen each year, killing an average of 28 people yearly and injuring 74. Some crossings are known as “black spots” where accidents occur more frequently, sometimes up to 4 times a year.

Rattapoohm says all legal crossings upgrade the warning signs and barricades, but warns that revamping the crossings could be expensive. In a previous report, Transport Minister Saksiam Chidchob acknowledged that the State Railways of Thailand’s budget to install railroad crossing gates has been cut.

The size of the rail crossing as well as the direction also comes into play, according to Rattapoohm.

“The width of the crossing must not be at least three metres. The road should also cut through the rail tracks in a straight line and not in a diagonal direction which would create blind spots.”

He says tree canopies must also be trimmed regularly to prevent branches and leaves from obstructing the view for both train conductors and drivers crossing the railway.

For illegal crossings, Rattapoohm says some can stay put since they are just used by the locals who are familiar with the terrain and know where the blind spots are, but says they should make sure the unofficial crossings stay off Google Maps.

“People outside the areas are unaware of the lurking danger the illegal crossings pose and many just follow directions in Google Map.”

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Schools advised to improve online learning in case of second Covid-19 outbreak

Caitlin Ashworth

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Schools advised to improve online learning in case of second Covid-19 outbreak | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Equitable Education Fund Facebook

Thailand schools are told to get ready for a possible second wave of Covid-19 and prepare to for lockdown measures – just in case – to make sure all children have equal access to education. An economist warns that the education gap between rich children in urban areas and poor children in rural areas could widen if schools shut down again and resort to the same online learning measures tried out months ago.

In an online seminar called “My school and Covid-19,” human development economist Dilaka Lathapitate stressed that school closures and the switch to online learning during the lockdown period led to an increase in the country’s education disparity. Dilaka, from the education unit of the World Bank in Bangkok, says Thailand’s education system isn’t ready for another outbreak.

“The pandemic denied many children, particularly those in rural areas, learning and self-development opportunities.”

Thailand tried the “distance learning” experiment during the lockdown, but it was deemed a failure. Many in remote areas had problems like the lack of WiFi, faulty reception and limited to no access to working computers. At one point, hundreds of volunteers were sent out by the Equitable Education Fund teach children in remote areas.

Taking students out of the classrooms and moving to online learning hit poor students the hardest, according to chairperson of the Princess Maha Chakri Award Foundation, Krissanapong Kirtikara. He says those students are often the most in need of comprehensive support.

Thailand isn’t ready to implement online learning, Dilaka says. If there was another coronavirus outbreak, the education gap between the rich and the poor would likely widen due to access to technology. Dilaka cited a survey that showed a “digital divide” between children in urban and rural areas.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

 

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