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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: World Peace under fire; Cabinet wows with vows; Five supercars seized; White masks suspend protest



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

World Peace chief welcomes DSI probe
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: The World Peace University (WPU) yesterday denied any wrongdoing in the wake of emerging evidence that it has never been accorded the status of a “higher-education institute”.

“We don’t cause any trouble. We just confer honorary doctorates,” WPU president Supanut Donchan said. Its objective was to grant honorary degrees to people who have made contributions to society in fields related to world peace. It had never conducted any classes, he said.

“We welcome any investigation,” Supanut said. He spoke after a decision by the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) to launch a probe into the “university”.

The WPU has come under scrutiny after a follower of Luang Pu Nenkham, a controversial monk, identified himself as a doctorate-degree holder.

Luang Pu Nekham has been the subject of many negative reports since he was filmed flying in a private jet and carrying a luxury bag.

A probe into his bank accounts found transactions totalling millions of baht per day, which the Anti-Money Laundering Office suspects is evidence of fraud.

The monk has identified himself as the abbot of Wat Pa Khantitham in Si Sa Ket but his monastery has never been officially registered.

Several agencies have launched probes into the monk, who has failed to return from abroad since the scandal erupted. Si Sa Ket monastic chief, Phra Khru Wisuttiyarn, said if Luang Pu Nenkham did not report by July 31, he would not be allowed to return to Wat Pa Khantitham.

New Cabinet unveils strategies
The Nation / Gazette
PHUKET: Newly appointed Natural Resources and Environment Minister Wichet Kasemthongsri has vowed to launch a renewed battle against those who encroach on forest reserves and has also ordered senior officials to review forest-protection laws.

The minister, who formerly chaired PTT’s board of directors has also instructed his officials to monitor forested areas using satellite imagery every three months. He said this would help judge the performance of high-level officials and would also enable officials to better protect national reserves nationwide.

In the past few years, the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) has been cracking down on encroachers, especially in Nakhon Ratchasima’s Wang Nam Kheow district, where luxury resort owners and private residents have taken over large tracts of forestland. However, the crackdown lost steam after DNP decided to let these encroachers rent the land instead of prosecuting them.

Wichet said he would consider getting civic groups involved in the management of natural resources in their respective areas and would also put preparedness for natural disasters on the top of his agenda.

The minister added that he would comply with the Central Administrative Court’s verdict, in which the government was ordered to conduct environmental and health impact assessments of its water-management scheme. He said he had recently spoken to the Royal Forest Department and the DNP on whether to go ahead with the ministry’s plan to plant more than 800 million trees to rehabilitate damaged forest areas.

Meanwhile, Education Minister Chaturon Chaisang vowed yesterday to urgently push for the reform of school curriculum as well as improving teaching and learning methods. He has also promised to push for the development of teachers and improve performance assessment schemes. Chaturon was speaking to reporters after meeting with executives in charge of the ministry’s five key agencies.

Chaturon went on to say that the curriculum reform initiated by his predecessor Phongthep Thepkanjana would take at least five to six years to go into full effect.

“Over this period, we will have to change teaching and learning methods as well. They must evolve in line with new developments. For instance, we should encourage children to hunt for knowledge on the Internet, but at the same time, they should be taught to analyse the information. It’s not just about accessing information,” the minister said.

On assessing academic performance, Chaturon said it was necessary to have standard tests.

Meanwhile, the newly-appointed Social Development and Human Security Minister Pavena Hongsakul told her ministerial executives yesterday that all agencies under the ministry need to work proactively, accept public complaints quickly, forward cases, help the affected and implement preventive measures. She said they would initially focus on four issues: unprepared pregnancy, human trafficking, child labour and domestic abuse.

She said she would unofficially open the ministry’s 24-hour complaint centre before it is officially launched on July 24, and would also set up four working teams, which would work hand-in-hand with the police. She is also scheduled to meet the national police chief next week and possibly the Foreign Ministry for cooperation to curb human trafficking.

Pracha will continue talks with BRN to know separatists’ issues
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: While Thai agencies are keen to assess and review talks held with Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) once the holy month of Ramadan is over, Deputy PM Pracha Promnok said yesterday he would like the dialogue to continue.

Ramadan starts on Monday.

Pracha, who was chosen by Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to oversee the South, said he had also been put in charge of measures related to the development of border provinces in the South, including education.

He said he needed to discuss this issue in detail with related agencies.

Pracha also said he will continue using the moves in place to tackle the unrest, but would make some adjustments.

While peace talks should continue with BRN, he thought success hinges a lot on what happens in the future.

“But if we don’t talk [with the separatists], we won’t know about their issues,” he said.

“He also called on the public to give the government time to resolve the southern crisis.

Meanwhile, violence in the South continued yesterday, with a bomb exploding at 6.35am outside an electronics repair shop in Yala’s Bannang Sata district. A police officer was slightly wounded after the shop owner called the police to investigate a suspicious item.

Police managed to defuse another bomb found in front of a Krungthai Bank branch in the same district. It is believed that an insurgency group, led by Sakariya Hayisamoh, who is wanted for six national security cases, carried out these attacks.

In related news, Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha said Yingluck was within her rights when she decided to take over as defence minister.

He said the PM had promised she would not do anything to damage the Army.

Turmoil in the South was a complicated issue that needed speedy decisions, and having Yingluck at the helm of the ministry should help things move forward faster, he said. He spoke to reporters just before leaving for the deep South.

White-mask group suspends its protests in Bangkok
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

— Phuket Gazette Editors


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