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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Suthep sets D-Day Monday; Referendum proposed; Baht falls; Fears over New Year gouging; Floods in South

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

Suthep sets December 9 as D-day against Thaksin Regime
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Anti-government rally leader Suthep Thaugsuban on Friday night set December 9 as the D-Day for what he called “people’s uprising” against the Thaksin Regime and Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s government.

Speaking at the rally site at the Government Complex, Suthep, who is charged with sedition, said that on the morning of December 9, he would lead protesters on a march to the Government House despite the time this would take. Protesters from other rally sites at Rajdamnoen and Makkawan would also start to march simultaneously at 9.39am.

Once when they arrive at the Government House, they will not force entry into the premises with the intention of occupying it. Instead, they will conduct the protest outside the venue.

He called for people to leave their offices and homes to join the demonstrations and show their desire to uproot the Thaksin Regime as well as the corrupt and illegitimate government of Yingluck Shinawatra. He challenged people those who preferred to stay home or did not want to join, saying “you can do that if you want to let the Thaksin Regime control you for the rest of your life.”

He reiterated that once he leaves the rally site, he will not go back. “I will not turn back. I will fight until the end. I will accept the results of the December 9 battle. If we don’t win, I will turn myself in to face the charges against me,” he told the cheering crowds. He once again underlined that there would be no violence as the protesters are not armed.

He also warned people of heavy traffic that day because of the march by protesters from the rally sites.

Referendum proposed on setting up people’s council
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Ukrit Mongkolnavin, chairman of the Independent National Rule of Law Commission, yesterday proposed that Article 165 of the Constitution be invoked to hold a public referendum on the proposal to establish a people’s council.

Ukrit raised the proposal during a discussion with House Speaker Somsak Kiartsuranon and Senate Speaker Nikom Wairatpanij at Parliament.

Ukrit said the referendum would end disputes between the People’s Democratic Reform Committee and the government over the issue.

“Under the democratic system, the voice of the people is the most important. If we want a real solution, we should invoke Article 165 for all people to have a say. All 60 million Thais should be asked instead of having just 200,000 decide what should be done,” Ukrit said.

Political science students from 14 universities yesterday called on the government and protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban to hold transparent talks to achieve a constitutional solution for the country.

The two-point proposal was submitted in the morning by 20 student representatives to Deputy Prime Minister Phongthep Thepkanjana at Government House, who promised it would be considered by the government along with other proposals. The universities include Thammasat, Chulalongkorn, Kasetsart, Chiang Mai and Khon Kaen.

The student representatives told Phongthep political science students from the 14 universities came up with the proposal during a recent seminar. They called on the government and the Suthep-led People’s Democratic Reform Committee to urgently and transparently negotiate a solution that is possible under the charter.

Their second proposal was that political reform should be carried out via charter amendments that provide a level playing field for all groups to express their opinions.

Phongthep replied that the government was gathering opinions on a solution and that the students’ proposal would be considered along with other proposals put forward by academics.

He said he would later invite people with interesting ideas to discuss them. Permanent Secretary for Justice Kittipong Kityarak had been assigned to gather all the opinions and proposals, he added.

The deputy prime minister said the government would give its full attention to the opinions put forward as soon as possible.

But he said Suthep’s proposal to seek a royally-granted prime minister, by invoking Article 7 of the charter, was impossible. It had been achieved in 1973, he said, because the charter at that time allowed it.

Education Minister Chaturon Chaisang said yesterday it was unconstitutional to invoke Article 3 and 7 to set up a people’s council and seek to have a prime minister appointed by His Majesty. He said Article 291 needed to be amended first to make Suthep’s proposals possible.

“But someone must sponsor this charter amendment bill. The protesters are refusing to propose a charter amendment bill and instead are resorting to intimidating and creating turmoil,” Chaturon said.

Internal, external factors combine to drag down baht
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: The protests that have rocked Bangkok, and uncertainties over US intentions on its quantitative easing (QE) programme have put pressure on the baht, which continues to depreciate.

Benjarong Suwankiri, head of TMB Analytics at TMB Bank, said the depreciating baht and the stock market’s slump resulted from a mix of internal and external causes.

Externally, the United States is expected to taper its asset purchases soon, while locally, the protests against the government have been prolonged, prompting foreign capital to flee Thailand consistently. If the political protests, which started on November 1, drag on much longer, more foreign capital would move out, which would pull the Thai currency down further, Benjarong said.

The baht softened to 32.359 per US dollar yesterday, the weakest level since September 6, according to Bloomberg. It has declined 3.7 per cent since the demonstrations began.

The baht has weakened faster than expected, he said. The earlier estimate was 32.50 per dollar by mid-December. However, the currency weakened early in the month, reflecting consistent foreign-capital outflows, while the Thai capital markets have seen shorter foreign investors’ equity holdings on expectations of QE tapering in the near term.

The local protests, which have continued for more than a month, have been affecting the Thai economy and investor confidence at a certain level and could affect next year’s growth, Benjarong said. Foreign tourists have recently changed their behaviour, spending less time in Bangkok and more in other provinces.

Gross domestic product expanded by 2.7 per cent in the third quarter year on year, the slowest pace since the first quarter of 2012. The Bank of Thailand and the Fiscal Policy Office have lowered their 2013 growth estimates to about 3 per cent, while Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong has conceded that the actual figure could be even lower.

Benjarong said the markets had been waiting for the government’s measures to stimulate growth next year.

The SET Index has dropped 16 per cent since the US Federal Reserve said on May 22 it might reduce its US$85 billion (Bt2.7 trillion) of monthly bond purchases, according to Bloomberg. The index yesterday slumped by 15.06 points to 1,361.57.

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Kittirat Na Rano

— 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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