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Thailand News: Kratom may be decriminalized; Govt firm on rubber; Chinese tourists in speedboat crash; Blair’s visit confirmed

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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

Kratom may be taken off narcotics list
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: The Office of the Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) is responding positively to the proposed legalisation of kratom (Mitragyna speciosa), which is currently on the narcotics list.

The ONCB will be meeting with the Food and Drug Administration, the Public Health Ministry and the National Police Office next week to discuss whether kratom should be removed from the list. Available records show that Thailand is the only country that describes kratom as a narcotic.

“We will listen to the opinions of all relevant parties,” ONCB secretary-general Pongsapat Pongcharoen said yesterday.

Justice Minister Chaikasem Nitisiri, who is pushing for the legalisation, said he grew up in Bangkok’s Thon Buri area where kratom was grown and used, and he had never encountered anybody going into a drug-crazed stupor from its consumption.

“In fact, kratom was used as a traditional medicine in the past,” he said, adding that he did not wish to promote the use of kratom, but believed it may distract people from using harmful drugs like methamphetamine or crystal-meth.

“Caffeine in coffee and energy drinks is also more addictive than kratom,” he added. Meanwhile, Dr Anek Yomchinda, chief of the Central Institute of Forensic Science, admitted that preliminary studies showed that kratom did indeed have medicinal properties.

“In New Zealand, it is a component in the production of painkillers and antibiotics,” he said.

A Senate-appointed committee, tasked with studying the pros and cons of kratom use, has found that the plant contains mitragynine, which serves as an analgesic. While its pain-easing effect is about 10 times weaker than morphine, it does not have an adverse effect on the respiratory system nor does it cause nausea, the committee said.

There are also no records to show that kratom consumption might be behind crimes. The study suggests that relevant authorities decided to ban kratom in 1943 because they could not collect tax on it like they did on opium consumption. The committee also pointed out that if kratom were to be legalised now, it could deliver economic benefits to Thailand, where it is an indigenous plant.

“It can be used in the production of several medicines, and can also cut down on Thailand’s dependence on imported morphine,” the panel said.

A survey shows Satun province had the highest number of kratom trees. Also, truck drivers and labourers widely consume kratom leaves because it keeps them alert. In addition, kratom is cheaper than coffee and energy drinks costing between Bt1 and Bt3 per leaf.

Govt stands firm on rubber price
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Agriculture Minister Yukol Limlamthong yesterday stood by the government’s offer of Bt80 per kilo during an hours-long negotiation session with farmer representatives.

Farmers’ leaders from the North and the Northeast walked out of the negotiation room at Government House and lambasted the government for ignoring rubber farmers’ plight. Meanwhile, the Ramkhamhaeng University Student Organisation plans to join the mass rallies of rubber farmers across the country next Tuesday.

“We are the children of farmers,” president Uthai Yodmanee said yesterday.

Rubber farmers are preparing to stage huge protests in various provinces on September 3 to demand that the government shore up the rubber price, which has plummeted during the past two years. Uthai said the government had ignored farmers’ problems and was apparently engrossed in the granting of political amnesty. He showed up at Parliament to submit an open letter to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, urging her to show her sincerity by addressing the crisis of plunging crop prices, stopping the politicisation of the protest and investigating the use of force against rubber planters in Nakhon Si Thammarat.

Last Friday, some police and farmers were injured during clashes when the protesters cut off a road. The blockade of the road and a railway continued in the southern province. While some rubber farmers in other areas have said the railway action is not appropriate, they do not rule out the possibility of occupying roads next Tuesday if their plight continues to be ignored.

“Whether we will block roads depends on how the situation develops,” said Manoon Uppala, chairman of the Wiang Sa Agricultural Cooperative based in Surat Thani.

He believes the rally on Tuesday in Surat Thani will draw more than 5,000 participants. Songkran Khampisai, chairman of the Beung Kan Rubber Farmers Network, said more than 30,000 farmers in the Northeast would head to the mass rally in Nakhon Ratchasima’s Sikhiu district on Tuesday, where the seizing of a road has been planned.

Prompong Nopparit, spokesman for the Pheu Thai Party, said the government was ready to listen to what rubber farmers had to say.

2 Chinese tourists killed in speedboat accident
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Two Chinese tourists were killed and four others injured yesterday when their speedboat crashed into a long-tail boat anchored in waters off southern Pattaya in Chon Buri’s Bang Lamung district.

The “Chok Suwannee” speedboat was carrying about 20 tourists from Koh Lan to the Pattaya Pier when it struck the second boat at 1.45pm about 200 metres from the pier.

Two passengers fell out of the vessel and were fatally struck by its propeller.

Blair confirms visit to Bangkok
Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul, who is also a deputy prime minister, said yesterday that former British leader Tony Blair would definitely deliver a speech in Bangkok next Monday despite protests against him this week.

He also called on those protesting against Blair and the government’s forum, “United for the Future: Learning from Each Other’s Experiences”, to become part of the solution, adding that the ministry was holding the forum so Thais could learn from other countries’ experiences.

Though he did not wish to brand the protesters as people who wanted to drag society down, he said he really did not understand why they were against Blair so much. The former British PM has been widely condemned for his key role in the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

The protesters claimed that Blair was paid 20 million baht to deliver a speech – a charge the government has denied.

Keep checking the Phuket Gazette’s Thailand news pages, join our Facebook fan page or follow us on Twitter @PhuketGazette for the latest national news updates.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

 

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Monks gather for a special ceremony in Pattaya to pray Covid-19 away

Tanutam Thawan

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Hands placed together in the “wai” position and seated in chairs placed a safe “social distance” apart, monks in Pattaya gathered together at a local temple for a special ceremony to pray Covid-19 away.

The Wat Chai by the Pattaya Walking Street was given special permission to hold the event where dozens of monks from other temples in the area came together to pray. To prevent the spread of Covid-19 at the ritual, monks wore face masks, practised social distancing, used hand sanitiser and had their body temperature checked.

The monks chanted several mantras and performed rituals that they believe will help slow the spread of Covid-19 in Chon Buri and help the local economy recover.

SOURCE: Pattaya News

 

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Bangkok

Protest leader tests positive for Covid-19 a week after being released from jail

Tanutam Thawan

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Photo via Facebook/ Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul

A pro-democracy movement leader has tested positive for Covid-19 after she spent 8 weeks in jail awaiting a trial on lese majeste charges which prohibit statements that insult or defame the Thai Monarchy. 2 other protest leaders facing similar charges have tested positive for Covid-19 while in court detention.

After being released from the Central Women’s Correctional Institution on May 6, Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul spent most of her time at home. She went to a drive-through Covid-19 testing venue on May 10. She went by the Bangkok Remand Prison the next day for the release of 2 other protest leaders, Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak and Chai-amorn Kaewwiboonpan. Rung has now been admitted to the Thammasat University Hospital in Pathum Thani for treatment.

Rung says had been denied an earlier Covid-19 test because she did not have some of the symptoms of the virus.

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

 

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Covid UPDATE: 1,983 new infections and 34 deaths, provincial totals

Tanutam Thawan

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Photo via Facebook/ อนุทิน ชาญวีรกูล (Public Health Minister)

The daily Covid-19 death toll hit a record high today with 34 deaths reported. 1,983 new Covid-19 infections were reported today in the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration’s daily briefing. Since the start of the pandemic last year, the CCSA has reported 88,907 Covid-19 infections and 486 coronavirus-related deaths.

There are now 29,378 active Covid-19 cases in Thailand. Active cases peaked at just over 30,000 infections last week and have been on a very slight downward slope. The number of patients with severe symptoms has slightly increased to 1,200 with 401 of them on ventilators.

Around 75% of the new Covid-19 infections are in Bangkok and surrounding provinces. While the infection rate remains high in the capital, several provinces have reported no Covid-19 infections and many provinces report under 10 infections.

Most of the new Covid-related fatalities reported today are patients with underlying conditions of high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes. 12 of the 34 patients who died had contracted Covid-19 from family members, a trend in the deaths of patients. The elderly and those with chronic illnesses are at the highest risk of a severe Covid-19 infection.

A CCSA spokesperson notes that migrant workers are entitled to treatment under social welfare programs regardless of their legal status in Thailand.

“Legal or not, they will be treated. Legal status is not an issue at all. The priority is to get them treated and recovered as soon as possible.”

To combat the spread of Covid-19 in Bangkok, the CCSA is expediting the Covid-19 vaccination campaign in high-risk areas like Bangkok’s Khlong Toey slum. Since the nationwide vaccination campaign was launched in late February, 1.89 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine have been administered. Only 530,000 people have received both doses of the vaccine.

Provinces with the highest number of new Covid-19 cases…

Province New cases Total since April 1
Bangkok 976 21,405
Nonthaburi 266 4,035
Samut Prakan 110 3,420
Chon Buri 57 3,489
Surat Thani 53 1,256
Ayutthaya 38 743
Samut Sakhon 36 1,627
Chanthaburi 32 562
Pathum Thani 29 1,477
Pattani 28 240
Covid UPDATE: 1,983 new infections and 34 deaths, provincial totals | News by Thaiger

Daily Covid-related deaths in Thailand as of 11 May 2021, according to Worldometers.

Covid UPDATE: 1,983 new infections and 34 deaths, provincial totals | News by Thaiger

Active Covid-19 cases in Thailand as of 11 May 2021, according to Worldometers.

 

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