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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: 5 Thais killed in Lao Airlines crash; Ministers defend rice-pledging loss; DSI presses for charges in police station fiasco

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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: 5 Thais killed in Lao Airlines crash; Ministers defend rice-pledging loss; DSI presses for charges in police station fiasco | The Thaiger
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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

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

5 Thais among 49 killed in Lao Airlines crash
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: Five Thais were among 49 passengers and crew killed when a twin-engine Lao Airlines plane plunged into the Mekong River yesterday as it attempted to land at an international airport in Laos’ Champasak province, Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman Sek Wannamethee said.

Some of the five Thais killed on the flight from Vientiane were reportedly employees of the Petroleum Authority of Thailand travelling to Champasak on a working visit, according to a senior PTT official.

Flight QV301 was scheduled to land at Pakse International Airport at 4pm. A well-informed source said the aviation control tower at Pakse Airport recommended the pilots not land at the airport because of the poor visibility caused by Typhoon Nari.

The storm has brought severe weather to Thailand, Laos and Vietnam.

Despite the warning, the pilots insisted on attempting to land, but failed to do so because strong winds buffeted the aircraft. The pilots tried to raise the nose of the aircraft but were blown off course and crashed into a rocky island in the middle of the Mekong River about eight kilometres from the airport.

The aircraft broke into two parts on impact and sank into the river in the Ponethong district of Champasak, which is opposite Thailand’s Ubon Ratchathani province.

Ministers defend rice-pledging loss figure
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: Three economic ministers involved in the rice-pledging scheme yesterday came out to defend the government in the face of criticism by academics and a former minister over what they claimed was a massive loss to date.

The ministers said the loss should not in fact exceed Bt100 billion a year, while insisting that the government would continue with the pledging programme.

Their defence of the scheme followed comments by former deputy prime minister and ex-Bank of Thailand chief MR Pridiyathorn Devakula and the Thailand Development Research Institute that two years of pledging had created a cumulative loss of Bt425 billion.

Of this amount, only Bt210 billion had gone to farmers, but more than Bt115 billion had benefited other persons, according to Pridiyathorn and the TDRI.

Deputy Prime Minister Niwatthumrong Boonsongpaisan said the accusation was false.

The information and figures revealed by Pridiyathorn are too concise and have not been proved, he said, adding that anyone in possession of information about corruption in the rice-pledging scheme should share it with the government, so that it could be investigated.

“Pledging was a choice made by farmers, and it has been created to help farmers. The Bank of Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives has directly transferred Bt330 billion from the pledging project budget to 2 million farmers. Besides farmers, nobody can earn money from the pledging,” he said.

Niwatthumrong said the government would only tote up the total loss from the scheme after selling all its stockpiles of pledged rice.

The latest balance account was undertaken in January, which showed losses of about Bt100 billion a year, he said.

The minister also explained that without pledging, farmers would earn only Bt7,000 a tonne, while the scheme meant they could bring in about Bt11,000 per tonne. Deputy PM and Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong said the government would continue the pledging scheme as it benefited farmers.

However, the administration is prepared to listen to all concerns and suggestions about the programme, he said.

He said Pridiyathorn should be careful about expressing his opinion, as there was a difference between a loss-on-account balance and an actual loss.

“I understand that some economists are not educated about accounting. Any figures referring to losses should be presented with care,” said Kittiratt.

He added that the government would have an adequate budget to continue its rice-pledging scheme, as the Cabinet’s authorised limit was as high as Bt500 billion. Deputy Commerce Minister Yanyong Phuangrach, meanwhile, said the government’s pledging was aimed at helping farmers, and it was normal to face losses in such a programme.

However, the losses would not be as high as critics have claimed, and should not be more than Bt100 billion a year, he said. Yanyong said that if the government faced a huge loss of Bt425 billion, as Pridiyathorn and the TDRI claimed was the case, it would need to sell rice at a very low price – at less than half its costs, which would be impossible.

DSI presses for prosecution of firm in police-station fiasco
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: The Department of Special Investigation is still demanding criminal prosecution of the construction company involved in the scandal over police-station renovations, despite reports that the Office of the Attorney-General decided to drop the case.

DSI director-general Tarit Pengdith said yesterday that he had insisted that criminal action be taken against PCC Development and Construction for failing to rebuild 396 police stations across the country, but it would be up to the attorney-general to indict them.

The company was well aware that its quote for the project was ‘low-ball’ and it could not complete the work on schedule, he said.

Witnesses had testified that the firm had bribed politicians after it secured the contract, he said.

“If [the state] does not sue the company, it might affect the case against former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and former deputy prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban that has already been submitted to the National Anti-Corruption Commission, as there must be a link between a private company and government officials in a corruption case,” he said.

PCC executives had confessed that they paid kickbacks to politicians after winning the bidding, Tarit said. There was also evidence that politicians were involved in changing the bidding procedures and specifications.

— 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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