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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Swede bombmaker jailed; Rubber hoarders warned; House set for Bt2tn row; Same-sex marriage advances

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

Bomb-making material earns Swedish man jail term
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Bangkok’s Ratchadaphisek Criminal Court yesterday sentenced a Swedish man of Lebanese descent to two years and eight months in jail for possessing without permission almost three tonnes of ammonium nitrate, which could be used for bomb-making.

The court heard that, following an Israeli warning that members of a Lebanese militant group, Hezbollah, planned to enter Thailand and plant bombs at various locations, Thai officials arrested 49-year-old Atris Hussein on January 10, 2012.

They seized the ammonium nitrate at his rented house. Hussein denied the charges and claimed the material belonged to a foreign friend and was to be exported later.

The court found Hussein guilty and initially gave him a four-year imprisonment term, but reduced the sentence due to his useful testimony. Hussein, hugging his wife and daughter, said he was content with the ruling. Hussein’s lawyer Wittaya Buranasila said they would appeal for his acquittal.

Govt issues warning to rubber hoarders
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Aiming at organisers and supporters of rubber farmers’ protests in Nakhon Si Thammarat, Interior Minister Charupong Ruangsuwan yesterday vowed to launch a crackdown on hidden stores of rubber products.

He did not identify any group, but hinted that “hoarders of rubber supply”, who he said would benefit handsomely from government permission to intervene in raw rubber sheet prices, may be behind the protests.

“The government now knows who is supporting the protests, and demands that you stop, or government inspections will be conducted to check out your rubber stockpiles,” he said, without elaborating.

Citing an effort by Deputy Interior Minister Visarn Techateerawat to talk with the Democrats about the situation, Charupong said Visarn personally knew many Democrat Party MPs based in the South.

Charupong said certain Democrat MPs in Nakhon Si Thammarat, where the protests and clashes took place, had called him and promised to mediate with the protesters to seek an end to the rallies.

Visarn had earlier said that three senior Democrat MPs had met with protest leaders and helped calm them down, and that some protesters said yesterday they would be willing to negotiate with the government through the chief of Cha-uat district, and began dismantling a number of tents erected at the rally site.

He said owners of rubber plantations, as well as tappers, needed to agree among themselves about sharing of benefits resulting from a government promise of a per-rai subsidy of Bt2,520 to owners of no more than 25 rai.

A leader of rubber farmers in Surat Thani, Kittisak Wiroj, called on the media to report the incident impartially, and complained about television news coverage reporting only on action and statements by authorities and the police.

Meanwhile, the Thai Journalists Association and the Thai Broadcast Journalists Association issued a statement yesterday urging both protesting rubber farmers and police in Nakhon Si Thammarat to refrain from using violence and harassing journalists. The groups vowed journalists would remain impartial in carrying out their duties.

The statement came after a major clash between protesters and police on Monday in the province’s Cha-uat district left many people injured.

While stressing the need to ensure the safety of journalists covering such conflicts, the associations also urged the media not to report in a way that could fan hatred and to be well-rounded in their coverage. Both police and protesters, the statement said, must understand the important role of the media in presenting multifaceted accounts of what is happening on the ground, and should refrain from harassing or threatening reporters.

In the event of any unfair reporting, the groups called on the affected parties to take legal action and not to resort to violence.

Thai PBS also issued a statement saying its staff covered the news impartially and professionally. The statement followed an attack on a vehicle and some journalists from the TV station.

House set for big rows over Bt2-tn bill
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: The importance of the House deliberations in the second reading of the Bt2-trillion borrowing bill for development of transport infrastructure is reflected in the postponement of the mobile Cabinet meeting scheduled in Lop Buri.

The Cabinet meeting was deferred so that the government could devote all its resources to defending the bill.

While the government whip has set the debate for only today and tomorrow, the opposition says that timeframe would be impossible.

The atmosphere of the debate might be similar to that of the joint meeting considering constitutional amendment that took 12 days to finish deliberation of the Article 13 bill.

The Bt2-trillion borrowing bill has 19 Articles, while 143 MPs have submitted motions to alter the law draft.

The proposed changes range from very small issues or sarcastic messages to serious issues like the measures to prevent corruption.

MP Boonyod Sooktinthai proposed that the name of the bill be changed to “The Bill to Authorise the Finance Ministry to Borrow Bt2 trillion for the Development of National Transportation Infrastructure in All Aspects up to 50 per cent of Gross Domestic Product.”

MP Chuti Krairiksh proposed an addition to the bill’s name: “…topping up the [national] Debt Burden for 50 Years.”

MP Jua Rachasi, who is a committee member, proposed “…according to necessity and justice” be added to the bill’s title.

MP Watchara Petthong added: “…without Thinking of the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy.”

MP Sathit Pitutecha wants to add “…for Excessive Use Without Monetary or Financial Discipline”, to the bill’s name.

Many Democrat MPs proposed an addition to the definition in Article 3 of the Bill that, “… the borrowing must be used according to the national strategies on transport-infrastructure, it must be according to the national anti-corruption laws.”

Boonyod said the bill should state that the authorities, according to this law, “must maintain monetary and financial discipline”.

He also added a clause in the bill saying the borrowed money must be used “for sustainable development of the country in every aspect, while the implementation is transparent and according to good governance”.

Patchara proposed that a national referendum be held.

Many Democrat MPs, including chief adviser Chuan Leekpai, proposed the definition of “projects” identified in the bill as the projects according to the strategies listed in the law’s appendix.

The MPs also proposed the roles of private organisations recruited to take part in the fight against corruption. They also proposed agreements by related organisations to work transparently and to declare information. They also require declarations of contract details, including procurement plans, scope of work, name lists and the cost bid by each contender, the winning contractors as well as the contract details.

If the agencies involved or contractors refuse to give such information, the private organisations wo

— Phuket Gazette Editors

 

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Illegal border crossings bringing in new Covid-19 infections

Neill Fronde

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PHOTO: Covid-19 infected border hoppers cross borders like this one betwen Malaysia and Thailand (via Wikimedia)

Authorities are worried about illegal border crossings into Thailand bringing in the Coronavirus after 5 recent Covid-19 infections from such crossings. Bypassing all health and security checkpoints along the border, 5 Thai nationals were identified today as being positive for Covid-19 after they snuck into the country, according to the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration.

Authorities nabbed 2 after border crossings from Malaysia illegally on April 28 and May 3rd, while another snuck across the Burmese border into Tak on May 2. The last 2 came from Cambodia on Thursday across the Sa Kaeo border. All 5 illegal border crossers are now in state hospitals for Covid-19 treatment.

According to CCSA data in the first four months of 2021 a total of 15,378 people were arrested by Thai authorities while sneaking across borders. Even after security forces increased patrolling along the borders, people managed to sneak in from Myanmar, Malaysia, Laos, and Cambodia. 6,700 of those who crossed the border were Burmese citizens, while another 1,700 of them were Thai nationals.

With nearly 400 lives lost to Covid-19 and over 83,000 people having been infected in the pandemic, the CCSA declared that Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and National Security Council Secretary-General Natthapol Nakpanich agree that these illegal border crossers without Covid-19 screening are a serious problem.

Many Thai people work in Malaysia and as the pandemic drags on they are sneaking across the border, desperate to make it home to their family. Another recent case found illegal Burmese border hoppers in a taxi en route to Hat Yai after they crossed into Thailand from the Malaysian border. They were trying to travel incognito across Thailand in order to cross the border again back into their home country of Myanmar.

The dilemma is even worse at the Burmese border as the often violent protests following the February 1 military coup has been pushing much of the country into poverty, and creating refugees who are flocking to the border in hopes of crossing over to safety. Many are seeking to escape the conflict and find work in Thailand.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

 

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Economy

Thailand Consumer Confidence Index hits record low

Neill Fronde

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PHOTO: Thailand's Consumer Confidence index slips again to below the pre-pandemic record. (via CNN)

The University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce has reported that the Consumer Confidence Index has hit another new record low of 46.0 in April. The Covid-19 global pandemic has had a devastating effect on the economy and consumer confidence has fallen frequently to the lowest points that it has seen since 1998.

The president of the UTTC believes that consumers generally don’t feel like there has been much of a recovery for the economy since the global pandemic began and without a stimulating event to motivate economic growth, the index is expected to continue to fall further. The university estimated that if the third wave of Covid-19 continues past the end of May the economy can expect to lose 400 to 600 billion baht.

The UTTC president stressed that the government should hasten to step up relief measures and make sure they continue relief and economic stimulus throughout the pandemic to avoid economic catastrophe. He predicted that the economy and the Consumer Confidence Index will continue on a downward slope without any hope of improvement until the vaccine rollout gets well underway towards herd immunity, and new Covid-19 infections are decreased dramatically.

Today saw another 2,101 new Covid-19 infections and 17 deaths in Thailand. Vaccination efforts are continually being stepped up, but still remain woefully slow.

The Consumer Confidence Index first started falling last year, with a drop below the previous record low in 1998 in April of 2020, when it fell to 47.2. A few months later, by July of last year, it had recovered significantly, climbing back over 50. But by March of this year, the index had fallen again to 48.5. With April’s tumble of 2.5 points, the Consumer Confidence Index pushes once again to a new record low.

SOURCE: Thai Business News

 

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Thailand

Thailand searches for cow vaccine for lumpy skin disease

Neill Fronde

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PHOTO: An example of a cow with Lumpy Skin Disease. (via newindianexpress)

Move over Covid-19 there’s a new disease sweeping the country as Thailand’s cow population is afflicted with a lumpy skin disease. The Department of Livestock Development is now working on procuring vaccines from overseas manufacturers to import and treat the cattle population in Thailand. The lumpy skin is caused by pustules that are the most visible symptom, perhaps more detectable than other bovine signs such as drooling, loss of appetite and drowsiness.

The cow disease is spreading in the North, Northeast, and Central Plains area of Thailand and has been found in 18 provinces total. First identified in Roi Et, it has now spread in Chiang Rai, Kalasin, Kanchanaburi, Khon Kaen, Maha Sarakham, Nakhon Pathom, and Nakhon Phanom. The first case of the lumpy skin disease was reported in Don Daeng village last month and on April 9th officials reported it to the World Organisation for Animal Health.

The lumpy skin disease is found in cow pens and spread through flies, ticks, and mosquitoes, but the DLD says not to panic, it is not transmissible to humans. The department is distributing important information about symptoms and how the disease spreads to breeders and farmers in the area. They’re requiring the breeders to monitor their cattle closely and have imposed measures to control the disease in heavy hit areas.

To prevent the spread of disease in livestock, traders are being requested to not buy and sell cattle within 50 km from disease-stricken regions. And for farmers caring for cattle, the DLD recommends spraying insecticide in all areas to prevent transmission via insects. Finally, in case the cattle were jealous of traveling humans, the DLD is advising farmers to prevent disease spread by isolating any new cow that comes into their farms with a 28-day bovine quarantine where they should be kept under nets to keep insects away.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

 

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