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Thailand News: Park fees cut; BMA told to pay; Myanmar opium output rises

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Thailand News: Park fees cut; BMA told to pay; Myanmar opium output rises | The Thaiger
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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

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

New parks chief cuts entry fees
Phuket Gazette / The Nation
PHUKET: Admission fees to 29 national parks have been significantly reduced thanks to an order signed by new Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) chief Rerngchai Prayoonvej.

Rerngchai signed documents yesterday canceling rules set by his predecessor, Damrong Phidej.

On September 14, then-DNP chief Damrong ordered that the admission fees to many national parks be increased in order to boost income so the DNP could upgrade the parks in line with national standards.

As per Damrong, admission fees to 29 national parks were set at B100 per Thai adult, B50 per Thai child, B500 per foreign adult and B300 per foreign child. However, Rerngchai canceled the order and reverted to the old rate: Bt40 per Thai adult, Bt20 per Thai child, B400 per foreign adult and B200 per foreign child.

The 29 national parks include Mu Koh Angthong in Surat Thani, Mu Koh Similan in Phang Nga visited by many during their stays in Phuket, Suthep-Pui in Chiang Mai, Phu Hin Rong Kla in Phitsanulok, Pha Taem in Ubon Ratchathani and Kaeng Krachan in Phetchaburi.

Damrong had to go into mandatory retirement at the end of September.

Meanwhile, an official at the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry said Rerngchai’s decision would hurt plans to upgrade facilities at national parks.

“The increase in admission fees, after all, had been applied to big national parks only,” the official said.

However, Rerngchai said the reduced admission fees would attract more visitors to the parks and reduce the risk of vendors in the area losing business.

Meanwhile, an informed source said DNP was planning to collect fees via Counter Services from January 1 in order to prevent corruption on the part of ticket collectors stationed at the entrance of national parks.

In a related development, Tak Governor Suriya Prasartbundit said the road to the Ti Lor Su Waterfall was now open after a five-month closure for maintenance.

“Please use pick-up trucks instead of for four-wheeled drive vehicles,” he said.

BMA told to pay B3.4mn over Santika
Phuket Gazette / The Nation
PHUKET: The Central Administrative Court yesterday ordered the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) to pay 3.4 million baht in partial compensation to the parents of 12 victims of the New Year’s 2009 Santika nightclub fire.

This amount is equivalent to 20 per cent of what the court believes the plaintiffs should get for the damages they suffered in the blaze.

The Santika fire, which broke out in the early hours of January 1, 2009, killed 67 people and left more than 100 others seriously injured. The parents of some victims lodged a complaint against the BMA on December 28, 2009, on grounds that the city had failed to strictly enforce building regulations and fire codes. According to them, the tragedy could have been avoided if regulations had been strictly enforced.

The lack of enough fire exits was cited as one of the reasons why many revelers were unable to get out of the nightclub, which caught fire due to a fireworks display.

The compensation amount for each of the 12 plaintiffs ranges between 68,000 and 740,000 baht, and will be subject to an interest rate of 7.5 per cent, calculated from the day the court order was issued to the day the payments are made.

No BMA representative was present in the courtroom yesterday. Deputy Bangkok Governor Malinee Sukvejvorakij said BMA will file an appeal in line with normal legal procedures. “We understand the victims’ losses and really want to help. However, at this point, we need to proceed in line with legal procedures. Without an appeal, the BMA might face a probe by the Office of the Auditor-General,” she explained.

She added that the BMA would only pay if the Supreme Administrative Court rules that it do so.

Chairat Saeng-arun, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said the court had instructed the BMA to pay the compensation within 30 days. “This is separate from the civil case filed by the victims and their relatives,” Chairat said.

The BMA was ordered to shoulder 20 per cent of the compensation because there were many parties found responsible, among them the owner, Wisuk Setsawat.

Malee Thanompanyarak, whose sister died in the fire, said yesterday that Wisuk had initially offered 50,000 baht in compensation but had paid only 40,000 baht . “He has never contacted us again,” she said.

Last year, the Bangkok Southern Criminal Court sentenced Wisuk to three years in jail for negligence. The court ruled that Wisuk had failed to obey building regulations and to provide safety equipment and emergency exits at his Ekamai nightclub. The court also found him guilty of allowing minors to enter the site. Wisuk is free on bail pending his appeal of the ruling.

Myanmar opium output rises despite eradication effort
Reuters
PHUKET: Opium poppy cultivation in Myanmar has risen for the sixth consecutive year despite a state eradication campaign, a United Nations report said yesterday, throwing doubt on government assertions the problem would be over by 2014.

Unprecedented eradication efforts managed to destroy almost 24,000 hectares (59,280 acres) of poppy fields in the 2012 season, running from the autumn 2011 to early summer this year, more than triple the previous year’s total.

But the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said land used for cultivation in Myanmar, the world’s second top producer of opium after Afghanistan, still increased 17 percent to its highest level in eight years.

Myanmar is forecast to produce 690 tonnes of opium in 2011/12 according to the report, up from 610 tonnes – about 10 percent of the world’s opium – the previous year, the UNODC said. Afghanistan produces around 90 percent.

Land in the Burmese part of the Golden Triangle – a lawless region of Myanmar, Thailand and Laos home to vast drug trafficking operations – is scarce and many poor farmers opt to use it for poppies, which earn them 19 times more per hectare than rice, according to the UNODC report.

Four out of every ten households surveyed in poppy-growing villages grew the crop themselves, but other households participated in the cultivation and harvesting, making it vital to the economies of whole communities.

Production of opium is closely linked to ethnic insurgencies inside Myanmar, said Gary Lewis, UNODC regional representative.

“There is no question that there is a strong connection between the conflicts in the country and the most immediate sources of revenue to purchase weapons, and in many instances this is both opium and heroin and methamphetamine pills,” Lewis told Reuters.

“The areas of highest cultivation intensity are also the areas of ongoing or suspended conflict. The emergence of peace and security is therefore an essential ingredient in tackling the poppy problem.”

The government of President Thein Sein, in power since March 2011, has reached ceasefire agreements with many of the ethnic minority rebel groups that had fought central government for decades, but full resolution of the conflicts is some way off.

Sit Aye, legal adviser to Thein Sein, told Reuters in February that the government wanted to wipe out the opium problem by 2014.

Neighboring Laos has also seen an increase in cultivation. The UNODC report estimated that land dedicated to growing poppies jumped 66 percent

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Thailand News Today | Waiting for vaccine, new face of Thailand expats, teacher complaints | Oct 1 | The Thaiger

Daily Thai news on The Thaiger. All the latest information about Thailand, Monday to Friday on Thaiger News Today.

Thailand beaches may limit visitors until Covid-19 vaccine is available

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More reports of alleged student abuse, parents file complaint against teacher

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Contestant eliminated from Miss Universe Thailand after manager infiltrates organising committee

One of the favourites to take the Miss Universe Thailand title when the contest is held on Saturday, October 10, has just been kicked out for breaking the rules. Chayathanus Saradat, also known as “Cheraim”, is accused of allowing her manager and chaperone to infiltrate the organising committee. It’s understood he manager, aka “Ken”, attended numerous committee meetings, potentially getting the inside scoop on what questions contestants might be asked, and giving his client an advantage. Thailand still has a fascination for the ‘beauty contestant’ format and there are hundreds of such contests conducted around the country each year.

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A drugs bust in the central province of Nonthaburi, just north of central Bangkok, has netted 300 kilos of marijuana, valued at around 2 million baht. Anti-narcotics officers confiscated the haul yesterday when they apprehended 3 men in a department store car park. Thai Residents reports that dried marijuana usually fetches around 6,500 baht per kilo on the black market. It’s understood this consignment was on its way to a Bangkok-based dealer when it was intercepted.

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Tourism

Travel agents push to end quarantine for tourists from countries at low risk for Covid-19

Caitlin Ashworth

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Travel agents push to end quarantine for tourists from countries at low risk for Covid-19 | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Qui Hotel

Travel agents are pushing to end the 14 day quarantine required for foreign tourists arriving from countries classified as a very low risk for spreading Covid-19, hoping the government will agree with the idea and start in December. The move could bring in at least 100,000 tourists per month, according to president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents, or ATTA, Vichit Prakobkoson.

The thought of 2 weeks in isolation before enjoying a vacation turns away a lot of potential tourists. Vichit says the idea of quarantine “repulses” them. But some tourists are still onboard with travelling to Thailand, even if that means spending 14 days in quarantine.

Around 120 to 150 tourists on the new Special Tourist Visa are set to arrive next week from China to Phuket after a 6 month ban on international tourists. The tourists are required to quarantine for 14 days at a state approved facility. The new visa allows a 90 stay and can be renewed twice, adding up to about 9 months.

Vichit says new measure won’t be enough to revive Thailand’s crippled tourism industry which took a hit when the country halted international travel to control the spread of the coronavirus. 1,200 foreign tourists are expected to arrive each month under the new Special Tourist Visa, but Vichit says the number of monthly tourists could increase to 100,000 each month if the quarantine is waived for people from countries consider low risk.

“The government should challenge and revoke the state quarantine, if possible, by this December for certain countries. If so, approximately 100,000 foreigners a month would travel to Thailand and might stay for 5 to 7 days.”

SOURCE: Pattaya News

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Opening borders could cause a second Covid-19 outbreak, epidemiologist says

Caitlin Ashworth

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Opening borders could cause a second Covid-19 outbreak, epidemiologist says | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Thai Post

Opening Thailand’s borders to foreign tourists may open a “Pandora’s box” of Covid-19 infections, according to leading epidemiologist on the Chulalongkorn University Faculty of Medicine Thira Woratanarat. After a 6 month ban on international tourists, the first group of travellers on the new Special Tourist Visa are set to fly from China to Phuket on October 8. Thira says the move puts the country at risk of a second coronavirus outbreak.

“If the country decides to take risks, everyone must rely on themselves because this is a war between virus and humans and people need to survive… The country will be a new endemic area if the government cannot contain the spread of the disease effectively. And even if there is a Covid-19 vaccine, it might be too late.”

The 120 to 150 tourists arriving next week on the Special Tourist Visa are required to quarantine at a state approved facility for 14 days. They are also required to be tested for Covid-19 before their flight and before being released from quarantine.

Thira has been vocal for months on his disapproval for opening the borders to foreign tourists and has stood firmly against proposals like so called “travel bubbles.” He says the coronavirus cases across globe have continued to raise and warns that people in Thailand should still abide by coronavirus prevention measures like wearing a mask.

“Many countries are still under the severe pandemic and have an infection rate 20 times that of Thailand’s, so Thailand will be at a risk of becoming a pandemic hotspot after the country is reopened.”

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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