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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: U.N., U.S. call for investigations into Thai trafficking of Rohingya

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: U.N., U.S. call for investigations into Thai trafficking of Rohingya | The Thaiger

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

U.N., U.S. call for investigations into Thai trafficking of Rohingya
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: The United Nations and the United States on Friday called for investigations into the findings of a Reuters report that Thai immigration officials moved Myanmar refugees into human trafficking rings.

The report (story here), published Thursday and based on a two-month investigation in three countries, revealed a clandestine policy to remove Rohingya refugees from Thailand’s immigration detention centres and deliver them to human traffickers waiting at sea.

The Rohingya, stateless Muslims from Myanmar, are then transported across southern Thailand and held hostage in camps hidden near the border with Malaysia until relatives pay ransoms to release them, according to the Reuters report. Some are beaten and some are killed.

“These allegations need to be investigated urgently,” U.N. refugee agency spokeswoman Vivian Tan said in a statement. “We have consistently asked countries in the region to provide temporary protection, including protection against abuse and exploitation.”

Washington issued a similar call hours later. “We are aware of reports alleging that Thai officials have been involved in selling Rohingya migrants to human traffickers,” U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said. “We urge the Thai government to conduct a serious and transparent investigation into the matter.”

“We remain deeply concerned about the safety of and humanitarian conditions for vulnerable communities in Burma, including refugees and asylum seekers on Burma’s borders and elsewhere in the region,” Harf added.

Major General Chatchawal of the Royal Thai Police in Bangkok was quoted in the Reuters report saying that there was an unofficial policy to deport the Rohingya to Myanmar. He called this “a natural way or option two.” But he said the Rohingya signed statements in which they agree they want to return to Myanmar. These statements, however, were at times produced in the absence of a Rohingya language translator, Reuters found.

“The detainees also need to be informed about their options in a language they understand,” said Tan, the U.N. spokeswoman. “Any decision to leave must be voluntary, and those who choose to leave must be protected against abuse and exploitation by smugglers.”

Possible sanctions

Separately, New York-based watchdog group Human Rights Watch criticised Thailand for moving detainees into established smuggling and trafficking rings, and warned Thailand could face a possible downgrade in a U.S. list of the world’s worst enforcers of human trafficking laws.

Such a downgrade would place Thailand, a close U.S. ally and Southeast Asia’s second-biggest economy, at risk of U.S. sanctions and put it on par with North Korea and Iran among the worst performers in fighting human trafficking.

“The Thai government has some serious explaining to do before the international community,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

The U.S. State Department is gathering information for its next Trafficking In Persons (TIP) report, due to be published in June. Thailand faces an automatic downgrade to Tier 3, the lowest rank, unless it makes “significant efforts” to improve its record in combating trafficking, the State Department says. The Tier 3 designation could leave Thailand subject to U.S. sanctions.

“Unless Thailand makes it a top priority to clean these rackets up, and investigate and prosecute all those involved, Bangkok should kiss goodbye any prospect of escaping Tier 3 in the annual U.S. anti-trafficking report,” Robertson said.

Sek Wannamethee, a spokesman for Thailand’s Foreign Ministry, said the Rohingya issue was one of several the United States would take into consideration before deciding whether to downgrade or upgrade Thailand.

“The United States will look at the overall progress of Thailand,” he said. “The focus is on persecution and convictions, and Thailand has made substantive progress.”

The numbers suggest enforcement is losing steam. Nine people have been arrested in Thailand in relation to Rohingya-smuggling in 2013, including two government officials, according to police data. None of the arrests has led to convictions, however.

Thailand prosecuted 27 people for trafficking in 2012, down from 67 the previous year, according to the 2013 TIP Report by the U.S. State Department.

Clashes between Rohingya and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists exploded in Myanmar last year, making 140,000 people homeless, most of them Rohingya. Since then, tens of thousands of Rohingya have fled from Myanmar by boat.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Thailand

Smoking at home in Thailand has been banned from today

Tanutam Thawan

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Smoking at home in Thailand has been banned from today | The Thaiger

The ban on smoking at home in Thailand comes into effect today. From today people can be prosecuted for “domestic abuse” by lighting up a cigarette inside a home.

People can call Family and Protection centres on 1300 to report a smoker.

According to the new law, women and children are often the recipients of second hand smoke and the new legislation and fines is designed to assist in protecting them from the harmful effects of cigarette smoke.

Speaking to Manager Online, Dr Ronachai Khongsakon from a tobacco research group, says that women were particularly vulnerable with 81% suffering second hand smoke in their homes. He claims that 430,000 people die worldwide annually from second hand smoke, and that two out of three of the victims are women.

The ‘Report a Smoker’ hotline is 1300. Cases may then be referred to juvenile and other courts. The government says the move is the latest measure to stop people smoking in Thailand in public places, and now in their homes in the presence of other people.

Smoking has already been banned at airports, including the internal ‘smoking rooms’, now replaced with rooms outside terminals for smokers. Smoking on many Thai beaches was banned back in February 2018.

There is an estimated 10 million smokers in Thailand resulting in 72,000 deaths annually.

SOURCE: Manager Online

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Thai Life

Thai Government seeks public opinion on civil same-sex union bill

Tanutam Thawan

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Thai Government seeks public opinion on civil same-sex union bill | The Thaiger

PHOTO: Chiang Rai Times

The Thai justice minister is insisting that draft legislation for civil partnerships of same-sex couples won’t be rushed and that the department is waiting for public feedback on the proposal.

Justice Minister Somsak Thepsutin says the process will take time as it requires “careful deliberation to prevent any misunderstanding”.

Somsak made the comments yesterday whilst chairing a forum on the Bill. The Bill was agreed in principle on December 25, 2018 and relevant departments are now working on a final draft. The Bill will need to be passed by the new Lower House but there is no timeline on the legislation reaching the House at this stage.

The Justice Ministry is holding public forums to evaluate public opinion on some of the legislation’s contentious issues.

• The Bill stipulates conditions for terminating registration of civil partnerships.

• The Bill fails to include the right for same-sex couples to adopt children or the right to receive state welfare benefits, even though same-sex couples have the right to adopt children under the existing Child Adoption Act.

• Those who register for civil partnership must be a minimum of 17 years old and obtain their parental consent. 

• Feedback on the Bill must be sent back to the Council of State by next month for a final draft to be prepared for Cabinet.

Speaking in the third person, Somsak said “The Justice Ministry will neither rush nor put the brakes on the Bill.”

The Civil Partnership Bill doesn’t allow same-sex couples to marry but it would grant partners the legal right to jointly own and manage assets, and to give or receive inheritances.

Activists, on both side of the argument, are critical of the Bill. On one side same-sex GLBT proponents say it doesn’t provide same-sex couples the same rights as heterosexual couples. On the other, critics say the Bill would reduce the ‘value’ and ‘values’ of marriage in Thailand.

But supporter say the Bill is a first step towards equality in Thailand.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Expats

Thai Department proceeds with crackdown on shameless price gouging on medications

The Thaiger & The Nation

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Thai Department proceeds with crackdown on shameless price gouging on medications | The Thaiger

Despite a lot of resistance from the local Thai private hospital networks, The Department of Internal Trade says they will proceed with its crackdown to control prices of medicines now that it has received their price lists.

Once legislation is enacted, hospitals selling medicines above the median price set by the department will face fines and/or imprisonment. Since August 16, every hospital has been required to print out QR codes so patients can compare prices.

Many Thai private hospitals have been price gouging patients for medications sold through their in-house dispensaries for years, sometimes inflating prices for prescription medications up to 3,000% the price of a local pharmacy.

Prayoth Benyasut, the department’s deputy director-general, says private hospitals, manufacturers, importers and dealers provided the department with their price lists on July 31, and DIT has used this data to set a price for each item, which will be made accessible to customers.

“If hospitals are not able to explain why a medicine is overpriced, they will be fined 140,000 baht or be imprisoned for seven years, or face both a jail term and fine.”

The DIT says it will summon 20 private hospitals to testify after they failed to meet the July 31 deadline to provide their price lists.

“If they don’t show up, they will face three months in jail and/or fined 5,000 baht. Those who have failed to provide complete data will be fined 2,000 baht, while those that have failed to respond to the deadline will be fined 20,000 baht and/or imprisoned for a year.”

The DIT will release a list of pharmacies on its official website, www.dit.go.th, so people can have their prescriptions filled there, though this option is still being considered by the Pharmacy Council of Thailand.

The department has also sent its agents to check if private hospitals are displaying the QR codes. People can also check the price of drugs on the www.hospitals.dit.go.th website, according to The Nation.

Private hospitals will also be required to follow the Joint Standing Committee on Commerce, Industry and Banking’s notification on regulations on drugs, medical supplies and medical services, which insists that patients be provided with estimated costs before they are admitted to hospital. Hospitals are also required to provide patients with prescriptions that have clear information and instruction.

SOURCE: The Nation

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