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Thailand News: No retreat from democracy; Reporter freed; Soldiers play cat-and-mouse with protesters

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Thailand News: No retreat from democracy; Reporter freed; Soldiers play cat-and-mouse with protesters | Thaiger

PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

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

‘No retreat from democracy’
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: Thailand is not retreating from democracy and seeks understanding from its economic and strategic partners while the country undergoes political reforms, a top Thai official said yesterday.

Sihasak Phuangketkeow, Thailand’s permanent secretary for foreign affairs, was responding to criticism by US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel who noted Thailand’s “retreat from democracy” and announced that the Pentagon was suspending military assistance and engagements with Thailand.

“We urge the Royal Thai Armed Forces to release those who have been detained, end restrictions on free expression, and move immediately to restore power to the people of Thailand through free and fair elections,” Hagel said on Saturday at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore.

“Until that happens, as US law requires, the Department of Defence is suspending and reconsidering US military assistance and engagements with Bangkok,” Hagel said.

In a press conference in Singapore, Sihasak said he hoped the US would look at the relationship in the long-term.

“Thailand is not going to disappear. It is the second-largest economy in Asean,” Sihasak said.

“We are an economic force to reckon with. We will continue our engagement with the international community. We hope our friends will take that fact into consideration.

“We are committed to staying the course of democracy. We want to consolidate. If you look at the events in Thailand, before the actions taken by the National Committee for Peace and Order, we did not have the kind of democracy we should have.

“There was protracted political conflict and violent incidents and our society was headed towards greater divisiveness. The government was not functioning. Had we continued in that direction, that would have been detrimental to Thailand’s stability, to the region’s stability.”

The US, which has close ties with Thailand’s armed forces, cancelled a military exercise.

Sihasak said all those detained had been freed and curbs on the freedom of expression were being lifted.

Warrants sought for nine over attacks on PDRC
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: Police will issue arrest warrants for nine people wanted in relation to violent incidents during the anti-government protest, Deputy National Police Chief Pol General Aek Angsananont said yesterday.

The incidents include grenade attacks that killed and injured many people, the shooting of a Ramkhamhaeng University student, clashes at Din Daeng and the brutal attack on a People’s Democratic Reform Committee event in Trat.

Aek was speaking after a meeting of top police called by acting National Police Chief Pol General Watcharapong Prasarnrajakit, who wants investigations sped up.

Some 28 people were killed and more than 800 injured over the past six months. The victims were mostly anti-government protesters.

Under the former national police chief Adul Saengsingkaew, the police were not able to capture anyone for these offences. After the declaration of martial law by the National Council for Peace and Order, the military has discovered at least four caches of war weapons that belong to pro-government supporters.

The NCPO transferred Adul and eight key police to inactive posts, They included Department of Special Investigation chief Tarit Pengdith.

Aek said police had issued arrest warrants for suspects wanted for alleged committing lese majeste. They are Ekapop Luara, who is also known as Tang Archiva, and Pathum Thani red hard-liner Wuthipong “Ko Tee” Kotthammakhun.

Aek said he would check to see if it was true that both suspects had fled the country. If they had, he would request their extradition. Police would also speed up investigation into allegations of lese majeste against Chatwadee “Rose”Amornpat.

Watcharapong said police must resolve every case as soon as possible and explain to the public who was behind the violence.

Military, protesters in cat-and-mouse game
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: The military and fast-moving anti-coup protesters played a cat and mouse game yesterday as security measures were stepped up at about seven prime locations in Bangkok and major provinces.

Security forces descended on key business centres in the capital and the provinces, including Chiang Mai in the north and Nakhon Ratchasima in the northeast, after receiving intelligence that anti-junta protesters would demonstrate.

In Bangkok, Victory Monument, Ratchaprasong, King Taksin Monument, Democracy Monument and the Central shopping mall in Bang Na were closed shortly before noon in the wake of demonstrations.

Pro-democracy activist Sombat Boongnarmanong, who is wanted by the junta, used Facebook to call for demonstrations in Bangkok.

At around noon, a small number of people appeared at the Ratchaprasong intersection but dispersed inside the Terminal 21 shopping centre at Asok when security forces appeared.

However, security forces arrested a 60-year-old woman at the Ratchapasong intersection who wore a mask to show her disapproval of the coup.

As police arrested her, she shouted “help me” and said she did nothing wrong.

The ruling junta has prohibited groups of more than five people assembling in public for political purposes, but the woman said she had come alone before she was taken to nearby Lumpini Police Station.

Meanwhile, rapid-deployment forces rushed to Asok intersection a few kilometres away to block protesters. Hundreds of people held anti-coup signs and shouted their objection to military seizing power.

Terminal 21 was closed and trains did not stop at Asok BTS station. The BTS announced earlier that trains would not stop at Ploenchit, Chit Lom and Ratchadamri in a bid to stop protests.

Deputy national police chief Lt-General Somyot Pumpanmuang oversaw the operation at Ratchaprasong. Although demonstrators left quickly, plainclothes officers were left at trouble spots in a bid to prevent protesters from returning. Police will check with fast-food giant McDonalds to find out how many branches it has in the capital, with officers dispatched to restaurants. Activist Sombat usually arranges protests from these fast-food outlets.

In Chiang Mai, numerous small protests popped up. They expressed their views, sprayed anti-military graffiti on roads but disappeared before security officials arrived. The graffiti included “No Coup” and “Democracy was seen in Chiang Mai”.

In Nakhon Ratchasima, the pro-democracy White Korat group gathered briefly at The Mall shopping centre before running away.

No protesters in Chiang Mai and Nakhon Ratchasima were arrested.

Security officials stepped up measures in many other provinces, including Samut Prakan, Lamphun and Ratchaburi, but there were no protests.

Junta chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha monitored the protests closely and instructed troops to handle them accordingly, the Army’s deputy spokesman Veerachon Sukhontapatipak said.

The operation to subdue protests woul

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Thailand

THAILAND NEWS TODAY | Slight drop in new cases, Pattaya Pit Bull aftermath, Australia and NZ travel bubble | April 19

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THAILAND NEWS TODAY | Slight drop in new cases, Pattaya Pit Bull aftermath, Australia and NZ travel bubble | April 19 | Thaiger

 

Thailand’s CCSA reported a total of 1,390 new Covid infections today, tallied from Thailand’s provinces in the past 24 hours. The good news is that the tally is a welcome drop in new case reports. The bad news is that it’s still a record levels of new infections, compared to the last surges in December last year and earlier in April 2020. Yesterday there were 1,767 new infections reported by the CCSA.

3 more people have died of Covid-related illnesses, 14,851 people remain under state supervision.

After Bangkok with 293 new infections, Chiang Mai reported 197 cases, Chon Buri 98, Samut Prakan (south east of Bangkok) 82, Nonthaburi (directly north west of Bangkok) 39, Nakhon Pathom 38, and Samut Sakhon 32 and Songkhla 32.

Only 6 of today’s new infections were reported.

Meanwhile, the next school term, scheduled to kick off again next month, could be deferred until June due if the current situation persists. Thai Education Minister says the proposed postponement will be discussed with the Office of the Basic Education Commission today.

And, the Ministry of Interior has just updated their ‘List of Provinces with Entry Restrictions’ bringing the new total to 47 provinces that have restrictions to get in. The message from the government is that if you’re in a red zone province you should try and stay there and not leave your province.

Local provinces continue to upgrade their arrival restrictions. It’s impossible for us to keep track of the 77 provinces and whatever we say now will be wrong before we even post the video. So please keep an eye on your local province’s official notices about travel.

Thailand’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment is working with other environmental departments to determine how best to save a popular tourist attraction in Phang Nga bay. Khao Ta Pu, locally known as James Bond island for tourists, in at risk of collapse, due to seawater erosion. The ministry is working with counterparts in the Department of Mineral Resources and the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, in efforts to save the popular day trip attraction.

Whilst travel bubbles remain a bureaucratic nightmare for most SE Asian countries, Australia and New Zealand have opened their first green lanes since April last year, nearly 400 days. For the two countries it allows family and friends to re-unite. For New Zealand it opens the gates for its largest chunk of tourists. In 2019 some 1.5 million tourists visited New Zealand from Australia.

Thailand’s Public Health Ministry insists the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Chinese firm Sinovac, is effective in protecting recipients against the virus. Dr. Supakit Sirilak from the Department of Medical Science was responding to a claim on social media from a man who says he took a rapid test after receiving the CoronaVac vaccine and it showed he’d developed no immunity whatsoever.

Things have gone from bad to worse to worse in the story about the man attacked by his pit bull in Chon Buri last week. After being rescued from the attack, the man died the next day from neck bites and loss of blood. Now his widow is lashing out at the wave of online attacks levied against the family and their treatment of the dog, threatening legal action using Thailand’s strict computer crime and defamation laws.

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Current list of restrictions for provinces around Thailand

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Current list of restrictions for provinces around Thailand | Thaiger

The situation continues to be quite fluid. But if you need to travel at this time, here are the latest restrictions in the red and orange zone provinces. If you planning on travelling, you need to get acquainted with the latest restrictions in your destination province, and you should check if you need additional travel documents.

The could change at any time, so if you are going to be doing any travelling (the government are advising against it), you should get your paperwork ready in advance.

Provincial governors are also being given latitude by the central government to upscale any of the restrictions to meet local situations.

The infographic was compiled by the NBT.

Current list of restrictions for provinces around Thailand | News by Thaiger

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Tourism

Thailand’s 3rd wave wreaks havoc on the Tourism Restart Plan – where are we now?

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Thailand’s 3rd wave wreaks havoc on the Tourism Restart Plan – where are we now? | Thaiger
PHOTO: Empty beaches of Hua Hin - AJ Wood

OPINION by Andrew J Wood

Thailand Ministers ponder the next steps to re-start it’s massive tourism industry, initially set for July 1, 2021 in Phuket. The plan may need to be overhauled as Phuket struggles to immunise the whole island in the wake of the third wave of hotspots. Phuket, prior to the third wave had already secured more than 100,000 doses and planned to receive an additional 930,000 doses by June.

This would be enough for 70% of the population – the target needed to achieve herd immunity. The spike in Covid-19 cases has interrupted this plan, as vaccines must also be allocated to other provinces urgently to help fight the latest outbreaks.

Not deterred, the Tourism and Sports Minister Pipat Ratchakitprakarn said he plans to meet next week with all relevant agencies to discuss the reopening plan, previously set for July this year. Eighteen provinces have now been declared red zones, with a partial lockdown and stay at home order. The alert warning was also raised across the rest of the country to orange, in all the remaining 59 provinces many of which had previously been green and considered safe.

Deciding to ignore expert warnings, the government allowed the Songkran holidays to go ahead, even adding an extra day. However no mass gatherings or water splashing were allowed.

(Songkran is the Thai New Year celebration which typically lasts 3-4 days, leading to a mass exodus of cities like Bangkok).

Last year, due to Covid-19, the holiday was cancelled. As a result of the holiday this year, a few outbreaks in Bangkok allowed the virus to spread widely. The Bangkok outbreaks centred on entertainment places; restaurant-pubs and nightclubs around the Thonglor area, plus a high-society wedding at a new riverside hotel, whose guest list included a number of government Ministers and prominent business leaders.

The Covid virus from these few hotspots were quickly spread throughout the whole country, as people returned to their homes for the holidays. Unfortunately this was a perfect storm for spreading the virus. Up until this point, since the beginning of the pandemic, Thailand had only recorded 28,889 cases and 94 deaths as at April 1, 2021. Eighteen days later this has risen to 43,742 cases and 104 deaths. An increase in cases of 51%.

During my recent visit to Hua Hin, empty beaches were very much in evidence already with the third wave leading to mass cancellations. Some resorts, previously 70-80% occupied, saw domestic arrivals decimated. Already hurting from a lack of international visitors, this latest outbreak was a most unwelcome guest.

The question of re-opening Thailand to Tourism, starting with Phuket, has obviously taken a knock backwards.

“The key determinant is insufficient vaccines, we are concerned about the re-opening timeline. We still need to discuss the vaccine administration plan. If the herd immunity goal cannot be achieved, we may have to consider opening only certain areas in Phuket”.

However, to continue with the same plan, even with restricted zones, will not be easy as long as the country still has increasing new daily infections, said Minister Pipat.

“Most importantly, we still have to hear from other countries that we already started travel bubble negotiations with about their confidence regarding the same timeline.”

Like Hua Hin, hotels in the North reported cancellations of more than 70% with Chiang Mai a cause for concern and currently experiencing increased coronavirus cases. Prior to the pandemic, the province was a popular destination to celebrate Thai New Year.

Regrettably Minister Pipat is in self-quarantine after being in close contact with Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob, who was diagnosed with Covid-19. The Minster fortunately has already received his first vaccination jab last month (AstraZeneca) and will remain in isolation until next week when all tests are complete (3 swab tests).

ANDREW J WOOD

Andrew J Wood was born in Yorkshire England, he is a professional hotelier, Skalleague and travel writer. Andrew has 48 years of hospitality and travel experience. He is a hotel graduate of Napier University, Edinburgh. Andrew is a past Director of Skål International (SI), National President SI Thailand and is currently President of SI Bangkok and a VP of both SI Thailand and SI Asia. He is a regular guest lecturer at various Universities in Thailand including Assumption University’s Hospitality School and the Japan Hotel School in Tokyo.

The content of this article reflects the writer and does not necessarily reflect the editorial stance of The Thaiger.

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