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Thailand News Today | Bangkok exodus, Pattaya air pollution, Vaccine next month? | November 20

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Last day of the week, and the second day of official public holidays in Thailand. We’ll be back on Monday with another Thailand News Today.

Over 5 million escape Bangkok by car and public transport as holiday begins

The Transport Ministry says just under 5.3 million Bangkok residents have left the capital as the long holiday gets underway. Not bad when the official population is 10.7 million.

The exodus began on Wednesday, a day before the holiday period began. Some 2.25 million have left by bus and van. And another 2.74 million personal cars have headed out of the capital, around nearly 40% higher than expected.

The 4 day long weekend was announced 2 months ago as substitute holidays for Songkran and attempts to get Thais and expats, able to get the time off, to travel and stimulate the domestic travel economy.

The state transport service, the Transport Company, says that it laid on 4,502 bus and van services, accommodating over 63,000 travellers. Yesterday, the number rose to 6,000 bus services and 200,000 passengers.

Vaccine could be ready by the end of next month – BioNTech/Pfizer

BioNTech and Pfizer have jointly announced their candidate Covid-19 vaccine could be released for public distribution before the year, at least in the US and Europe.

BioNTech co-founder Ugur Sahin says that both companies plan to apply for “emergency use authorisation” of their candidate vaccine in the US today, while European regulators are still in the latter part of the Phase 3 trials.

The 2 companies announced the completion of their trials involving 43,000 volunteers, more than 21,000 of who received the vaccine without any serious side-effects or consequences.

One of the key challenge with BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine candidate is the distribution. It will need to be stored at minus 70 degrees Celsius (-94 degrees Fahrenheit).

Responding to vaccine sceptics and the vocal “anti vaxxer” movement, Mr. Sahin says the only option was to keep providing “answers, information and transparency”. He hoped that once people were inoculated, “numbers would only grow when those people shared their positive experiences”.

The vaccine, if successfully released, will require an initial dose and a later booster injection.

PM threatens protesters with full force of the law if unrest continues to escalate

Thai PM Prayut Chan-o-cha has warned pro-democracy protesters that they face the full force of the law if ongoing political rallies continue to escalate.

On Tuesday, thousands of anti-government protesters gathered outside the Parliament building, where MPs and senators were voting on draft amendments to the constitution.

The PM insists the government has attempted to resolve the situation through peaceful means, accusing protesters of not co-operating. He says the authorities have dealt with protests lawfully, but the situation is now worsening and tending towards violence. He adds that the ongoing unrest risks undermining the national interest and the Monarchy, as well as being a risk to the safety of people and property.

Police violence against democracy demonstrators – letter from Human Rights Watch

In response to Tuesday’s protests outside the Thai Parliament, and the police response, Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, responds. Published in full…

Unnecessary Use of Water Cannons, Teargas; 55 Reported Injured

Thai police unnecessarily used water cannons and teargas against peaceful democracy demonstrators outside the parliament in Bangkok on November 17, 2020, in violation of international human rights standards.

“Human Rights Watch observed crowd control units using water cannon laced with purple dye and an apparent teargas chemical, as well as teargas grenades and pepper spray grenades to disperse thousands of demonstrators, including many students.”

“The Thai authorities should heed the advice of the UN Secretary-General and stop using excessive or unnecessary force against demonstrators”

“The Thai authorities should promptly and impartially investigate the violence, including the alleged use of firearms by pro-government demonstrators, and prosecute all those responsible for abuses regardless of their political affiliation or rank.”

9 arrests as police net huge drugs haul in 4 cases in north, north-east

Millions of methamphetamine pills, over 800 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine, and over 700 kilograms of cannabis have been seized by police in 4 separate cases.

The Narcotics Suppression Bureau confirmed the seizures, along with the arrests of 9 suspects, at its headquarters in Bangkok. The parade for the media of police and the seized narcotics are a staple in Thai police PR.

Residents express health concerns as smog engulfs Pattaya

Pattaya residents are expressing concern over a recent spate of air pollution, as the coastal city finds itself engulfed in smog.

The deterioration in air quality has been ongoing for a number of days, with a cloud of haze obscuring the bay and neighbouring islands.

It comes as mass sugar cane burning is again taking place in farming communities around the country, an activity that has caused air quality problems in the past. While sugar cane burning is technically illegal, residents say the law is not strongly enforced, resulting in an annual rise in air pollution levels.

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Thailand

Thai netizens say pro-government royalists carried out Wednesday’s protest shootings

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Thai netizens say pro-government royalists carried out Wednesday’s protest shootings | The Thaiger
Thailand’s netizens are refuting police’s claims that pro-democracy protesters carried out Wednesday’s rally shootings. The shootings occurred at the rally site near Bangkok’s Siam Commerical Bank head office, where the rally site was originally planned but was then moved after protesters tried to avoid a clash with pro-government royalists. However, shots were fired, with police arresting a suspect on charges of attempted murder, shooting in public without reason, and carrying a firearm in public.

The netizens found footage of the scene, in which they say they identified the faces of the offenders. The revelation came after Deputy Metropolitan Police Bureau commissioner Piya Tawichai blamed Ratsadon guards for the shootings and injuries.

Meanwhile, the pro-democracy leaders have been called into questionby donors to the movement, as they have criticised how the leaders have used the donations, when a guard was shot and injured. Netizens took to social media to ask what “fairy godmother” Inthira “Sine” Charoenpura and Pakorn “Hia Bung” Pornchewangkurn were buying with the donation money with some online comments mentioning the display of yellow ducks and props as a poor use of donation funds. Some criticisers pointed towards using the donations to buy protective gear for protesters after the shootings occurred, prompting the 2 leaders to issue a statement that they would now use such funds for the injured guards.

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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Thai protests to continue in full force into December in line with symbolic calendar events

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Thai protests to continue in full force into December in line with symbolic calendar events | The Thaiger

The pro-democracy protests are set to continue well into December, according to Thai security officials. Officials have been preparing to cope with a rise in anti-government activities as symbolic calendar events are coming up. Today the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration group says a protest will take place outside the 1st Infantry Battalion on Vibhavadi Rangsit Road in Phaya Thai District, giving credit to the predictions that there will no end in sight to the protests.

Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana, a secretary to PM’s Office Minister Anucha Nakasai, made the announcement yesterday in light of the Constitutional Court being set to pass a ruling this Wednesday on whether PM Prayut is guilty of occupying a house that is meant for military officials.

Prayut is accused by the opposition of engaging in the conflict of interest by occupying the army residence. Such a move should have ended with his army chief tenure in 2014, according to critics.

Following the upcoming ruling on Wednesday, the symbolic calendar event of Constitution Day falls on December 10, a day which will ignite more protests as one of the main demands of pro-democracy demonstrators is to have a new Thai charter, along with the resignation of Prayut and reform of the Thai monarchy.

But despite the anticipated rise in rallies, security officials have ruled out the possibility of a military coup. Critics remain sceptical as many demonstrators claim the government has put police on the front lines of the protests, dressed in yellow shirts, in an attempt to spark a clash to pave the way for a coup. The current PM, when he was the head of the Thai Army in 2014, also said there would be “no coup” against the elected Yingluck Shinawatra government. A month later the NCPO led a bloodless coup and installed Prayut Chan-o-cha as the interim prime minister.

Piya Tawichai, the deputy commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Bureau, says protesters yesterday gathered near the Imperial World Samrong shopping mall in Samut Prakan before marching to the Bang Na intersection to rally, partially blocking the road. According to Kissana Phathanacharoen, the deputy spokesman for the national police, the protesters did not obtain permission for staging the rally.

Some protesters also reportedly spray-painted traffic police kiosks with messages that criticised the police for “ditching the people,” and smashed kiosk windows. Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul, a protest leader, posted on Facebook yesterday that she has been summoned for violating Section 112 of the Criminal Code, which bans anyone from criticising the King which states:

“Whoever defames, insults or threatens the King, the Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent, shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years.”

Rung says she believes the summons is linked to the September 10 anti-government rally.

SOURCE:The Phuket News

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Chiang Rai

Ron Howard to direct cave rescue feature film ‘Thirteen Lives’ in Australia

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Ron Howard to direct cave rescue feature film ‘Thirteen Lives’ in Australia | The Thaiger
PHOTO: The entrance to the real Tham Luang cave near the Myanmar border in far north Thailand

The Australian Government is putting up A$13 million to Imagine Entertainment and film giant MGM to shoot a live-action feature film called Thirteen Lives, based on the Chiang Rai Tham Luang cave rescue story. The film will be shot in Queensland, Australia in the hinterland areas behind the Gold Coast.

The film will be directed by Ron Howard (A Beautiful Mind, Apollo 13, The Da Vince Code, Cocoon, Solo: A Star Wars Story, Splash, Frost/Nixon), and start filming in March 2021. The state’s Gold Coast hinterland will double for Thailand with a similar hot, humid climate.

The Australian Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, Paul Fletcher MP, says the production ishould inject more than A$96 million into the Australian economy, “directly creating around 435 jobs for cast and crew”.

Thirteen Lives will tell the remarkable story of the effort by many volunteers, including Australians, to undertake an incredibly complex rescue. And I am proud to say that this story will be told here in Australia.”

“I understand this project will also undertake a significant amount of cutting-edge visual effects work here, a great opportunity for our local post, digital and visual effects companies.”

Thirteen Lives follows the true story of the 2018 Tham Laung cave rescue of the Mu Pa (Wild Boar) football team, trapped in a cave by heavy rain and flooding in Chiang Rai, far north Thailand. After the team was stuck for days with no supplies and falling oxygen levels, a group of diving and rescue experts from all over the world were called up to work together with their Thai counterparts to save the 13 young men. Among those experts were a group of divers from the United Kingdom and Australia.

The first major feature film about the rescue operation was The Cave, released in October 2019. The film was quite critical of the Thai red-tape which hampered much of the early rescue efforts.

Ron Howard has worked with plenty of Australians in the past.

“From Thirteen Lives to the animated projected I am directing with Animal Logic in Australia, I am excited about the opportunity to film and work in Australia and dramatically expand on that list of collaborators whose sensibilities and work ethic I have long admired and respected.”

Imagine Entertainment and MGM’s Thirteen Lives will be distributed by Universal Pictures International.

Watch a message from director Ron Howard HERE.

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