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Thailand News Today – Monday, April 13

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Thailand News Today – Monday, April 13 | The Thaiger
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New virus cases nationwide fall to 28

Health officials confirmed 28 new cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus in the country today as the trend continues down.

Today’s total brings the reported country total to 2,579 since the outbreak began in January. There were also 2 additional deaths announced today, bringing the national tally to 40. Today’s new infections are fewer than yesterday’s 33, marking it the fifth consecutive day of declines since a spike of 111 cases on April 8.

Of today’s cases, 12 are in Bangkok, 6 in Phuket, 2 each in Chon Buri, Satun and Yala provinces,and Nonthaburi, Nakhon Phanom and Chumphon each had 1 case.

4 teenagers violate the order not to celebrate Songkran outside

The postponement of this year’s Songkran festival, and the water fights that go along with it these days, didn’t stop 4 enthusiast teenagers in Roi Et, in far north eastern Thailand to disregard the orders and have their own celebrations, water and all. But their enthusiasm to live-stream their activities led to their eventual downfall. You see the local police have smartphones too. One of the four was boasting that he was the son of one of the leaders in the local municipalitly and that no one would dare arrest him. Well, police did arrest the other three, but the son of the local leader, who goes by the name of Tee, has gone missing at this stage, along with the rest of the family.

Thailand’s developers struggle with ‘guaranteed returns’ in Covid-19 property crisis

The fallout from the Covid-19 crisis has not only flattened property sales in the short term, it’s also causing problems for people who bought a property with a guaranteed rent return. Some of the published promised returns were up to 10% a year. But without people staying in the managed property rooms, there are no customers and, well, no returns at the moment.

At least three of these managed property developers have told their buyers this week that they can’t pay the guaranteed returns. Expect more hard-hit developers and hotel groups to follow suit in coming weeks and months.

Education minister does U-turn on ‘tablets for students’ plan

The government has done a swift U-turn on last week’s plans to purchase tablets for Thailand’s students for home learning during the Covid-19 crisis.

The Thai Education Minister says his ministry will now focus on maximising existing resources and “not invest money buying new equipment unnecessarily”.

He said.. “We will ask for digital TV channels from the National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commission for teaching via Digital Learning Television instead.”

Last Wednesday the minister said he would seek a budget from the government to purchase tablets for high school students in state schools across the country.

Another proposed “One Tablet per Child” program was ditched by the military government shortly after they came to power in 2014. 4 billion baht had been allocated for the program at that time.

Chon Buri police raid late night ‘ladyboy’ cam show, arrest dozens

The show must go on! But perhaps not at the moment. Police in Chon Buri province, southeast of Bangkok, arrested dozens of people in a raid on an underground “cam show”

The arrests happened at a luxury home in Pattaya just after midnight yesterday.

The raid nabbed 32 people, comprising 27 Thais, 4 Chinese and 1 Pakistani man.

They were allegedly performing shows over the internet for members of online applications and websites involving cabaret, gambling, interviews and entertainment.

All 32 have been arrested and detained under the Emergency Decree currently in effect in Thailand to help prevent the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus.

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Air Pollution

Stop the burn – Thai Governors told to stop farmers burning off agricultural waste

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Stop the burn – Thai Governors told to stop farmers burning off agricultural waste | The Thaiger

Provincial governors in Thailand’s farming areas are being told to mitigate the burning off of agri-business waste by farmers in their provinces. The annual burn-offs are the biggest cause of the December to April air pollution in Bangkok and Central Thailand which lie in the wake of the light north-easterly breezes this time of the year. The burn-offs partly co-incide with the lighter annual north-easterly monsoons.

Lt-Gen Kongcheep Tantravanich, a spokesman for Deputy PM Prawit Wongsuwan, has been one of the first to openly admit that the agri-fires are the common denominator in the capital’s annual smog woes. Over recent decades Bangkok’s Pollution Control department has trotted out any number of PR stunts, including water-spraying drones and asking temples to stop lighting josh sticks.

Now that spokesperson says that the accumulation of PM2.5 micron dust in the atmosphere… “mainly caused by outdoor burning of waste, especially on farms, combined with poor air circulation, has been posing a health risk for the past several days”.

Deputy PM Prawit has now ordered all provincial governors to send teams to warn farmers to stop the burning or face prosecution. It’s not the first order from the top directed at farmers trying to find cheap ways to get rid of agri-waste and prepare their plantations for the next crop. But, despite the ‘warnings’ in the past the practice has continued largely unenforced.

Thai farmers conduct the burn-off activities to reduce the amount of leftover materials – biowaste – like stalk tops, leaves and refuse left after the harvesting. Rice farmers also routinely burn rice stubble – the residual plant waste to prepare fields for the next season of crops.

Around 70-75% of Thailand’s sugar production is sent overseas and the country ranks second in exports just behind Brazil. It’s a big industry. The government also introduced a quota, distribution and price support system between growers and millers which has helped to artificially keep a ceiling on the export prices. Most of Thailand’s sugarcane plantations are in the Central and Northeast regions, some of them, evidenced by the fire maps, are less than 100 kilometres north of the capital.

But the Natural Resources and Environment Minister Woravut Silpaarcha is resorting to the old government narrative, repeating that officials at the Pollution Control Department will have to coordinate with the Interior Ministry and the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration to “intensify efforts to reduce emissions of PM2.5 dust from vehicles and factories”.

He’s also suggested that companies should allow employees to work from home to reduce the amount of vehicles on the city’s roads.

The Pollution Control Department is now estimating that the biomass burn-off contribution to the PM2.5 levels could vary between 24 – 38%, with the majority of it coming from sugarcane and rice burning. Most of the concentrations of agri-burning is around Northern Thailand and in the farmlands north of Bangkok. These areas also suffer considerably from the direct effects of the smoke. Fire maps also indicate that an even worse problem exists in northern Cambodia and north-west Myanmar where the burning carries on un-abated.

Stop the burn - Thai Governors told to stop farmers burning off agricultural waste | News by The Thaiger

GRAPHICS: firms2.modaps

The Thaiger has waged a long campaign to provide fire maps and air-pollution readings over the past 3 years as evidence of the contribution of the agri-burning to Bangkok’s annual smog problem. But officials have kept beating the same drum, blaming factories, vehicle traffic and old diesel buses (which certainly need to be regulated as well but are not the main cause of the December to April haze and smog).

 

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Thailand

34.7% of Thai tourist businesses closed down

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34.7% of Thai tourist businesses closed down | The Thaiger

“When the tourists start coming back it will be a very different holiday experience for them. Will it ever get back to the numbers before Covid? Never.”

A Tourism Authority of Thailand survey, conducted between January 10 – 12, indicates that more than a third of the country’s tourism-related businesses has already shut up shop and gone out of business. But industry players estimate the number is much higher. In regions almost solely relying on tourism for an income – Phuket, Pattaya, Koh Samui, Gulf and Andaman islands and touristy areas around Bangkok – up to 90% of the front-line tourism businesses have closed.

1,884 tourism businesses in Thailand were surveyed by the TAT about their current situations and how they were coping with the long-term closure of the Thai borders and the local restrictions on travel. Businesses covered areas like accommodation, travel agents, tour companies, restaurants, car and bike rentals and public transport businesses.

34.7% said they had already shut down or gone out of business.

That the TAT admit that more than a third of their front-line organisations have gone to the wall already is a big turn-around from the perennially optimistic tone and often cringe-worthy predictions. The TAT and the Thai Minister of Tourism and ports are now staring down the barrel of an industry, not only diminished, but changed forever after decades of stunning growth.

But speaking to several major tourism players during the week The Thaiger heard a much bleaker prediction from both foreign and Thai-owned tourism related businesses. One long-term hotel manager in the south, who is responsible for 11 hotels in Phuket, Krabi and Khao Lak, says they’ve had to lay off almost all of their staff after “hanging in” over the past 9 months.

“We can no longer keep even a small number of rooms open without any hope of the borders opening up in the next few months. We’re finished. And even when they do start allowing tourists back into the country it would take us up to 6 months to get staff and maintenance ready again.”

“I would say that 90% of tourism-related businesses are gone. And gone forever. A lot were small family businesses who had taken the punt and invested their savings into the booming tourism business down here. They’ll never return.”

“When the tourists start coming back it will be a very different holiday experience for them. Will it ever get back to the numbers before Covid? Never. People will be looking for something different as the world travel industry reinvents itself.”

Last week Thailand’s Tourism and Sports Minister claimed that 10 million tourists would start arriving in Thailand from the middle of this year for the rest of 2021. Just 3 months ago he also predicted that domestic tourists would undertake some 10 million trips a month during the forthcoming high season (December to February).

In 2019 nearly 40 million overseas tourists arrived in Thailand. In the second half of 2019 there were just over 20 million tourists, twice the amount the Minister predicts will arrive from July to December this year.

This week’s prediction was that tourists, foreign and local, would be spending 1.2 Trillion baht on the battered tourist industry during 2021. The Minister failed to provide details about where these tourists would come from or where they would visit during their stays – stays that still have to begin with a 14 day mandatory quarantine.

The break out of a cluster of infections in the Samut Sakhon province, just south west of Bangkok, and now spread to the majority of other Thai provinces, on December 20, forced the government to restrict inter provincial travel. The not-quite-a-lockdown that followed severely dampened the travel plans of locals and foreigners inside Thailand over the traditional December/January holiday season. This week the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority loosened some of the earlier restrictions and allowed some formerly closed businesses to re-open.

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Thai people hope Covid-19 vaccine will help end pandemic – survey

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Thai people hope Covid-19 vaccine will help end pandemic – survey | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Wikipedia

A Bangkok University poll indicates that around half of the Thai population are holding out hope that the Covid-19 vaccine will help end the pandemic. But the same respondents fear the vaccines’ side effects.

The poll was conducted on January 18-20 on 1,186 people nationwide, aged 18 and over. A bare majority, 50.1% say their jobs and incomes would be affected if the pandemic continues without the masses being inoculated. About 27% said the most worrisome effect of the continued pandemic would be getting infected by the virus. 15% said they would be most worried about travelling. The rest of respondents said the availability of necessities and food, expenses for protective gear, children’s education topped their lists of worries.

Asked if vaccines would help curb or end the pandemic in the country, 51.3% said they are moderately hopeful, with a smaller percentage, 32.8%, very hopeful, and almost 16% had little or no hope. When asked about their concerns surrounding vaccines, almost 40% chose side effects.

Almost 13% said they were concerned about new vaccines being needed to fight new Covid-19 variants, with the same amount worried they wouldn’t receive free vaccines. About 8% worried about receiving smuggled vaccines without the Food and Drugs Administration’s approval.

The biggest lessons Thais say they learned from the Covid-19 outbreak during the past year focused on the illegal entry of migrants – 40.2%. About 20% say they learned that hiding information could put other people at risk, while about 18% said recklessness on the part of some people could put the majority at risk.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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