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Thailand News Today | US consulate in Chiang Mai denies covert military activities

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The US denies allegations that a new American consulate in Chiang Mai is supplying weapons to rebel groups in neighbouring countries and is being used for covert military operations. A local Thai group wrote an open letter requesting US President Joe Biden to rethink the purpose of the consulate, which is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2023.

The allegations were made in an open letter written by a representative of the “Peoples of Thailand” group. A spokesperson for the US Embassy in Bangkok Nicole Fox said the allegations are without merit. She said the construction of the consulate is part of the US’s effort to upgrade diplomatic facilities in various locations worldwide. The letter also requested the US to lift its arms embargo on Myanmar, citing Thailand’s neutral political state on the current unrest in the country.
The purpose of the facility is to allow Thailand and the US to coordinate better on future bilateral programs, according to the spokesperson.
In February, the US and Thailand conducted their annual Cobra Gold military exercise. The event was necessary to prepare both nations for future emergencies, according to the Thai military.

Last month, US chargé d’affaires in Thailand Michael Health denied allegations that the new consulate building will be used as a US centre for monitoring military operations in southern China, or be used as a missile base. The consulate’s high construction cost of US$280 million sparked the rumours, but the high price tag is in line with the budget allocated by the

US government, according to Heath.
Former media tycoon Sondi Limthongkul – a famous “yellow-shirt” – said he expects the consulate will become a US spy centre in Southeast Asia. He said that Chiang Mai is an ideal location to spy on Chinese military communications in Sichuan province, especially in its capital Chengdu, which is home to several military installations and the Qionglai Air Base.

The US has denied all the allegations, arguing that the consulate has several roles and responsibilities, such as cooperating with Thai security agencies in joint efforts to battle human, wildlife, and drug trafficking.

The Thai Department of Health says that the survey on face masks done during Songkran reveals that 90%+ of the population in Thailand wore face masks in public spaces. However, another 5-10% ‘refused’ to wear the face masks, saying it was “uncomfortable”.

Yesterday, the Deputy Director-General of the Department of Health, Ekkachai Piensiwatchara, reported that 5-10% of the Thai population didn’t wear face masks in public

The authority explained that some of the respondents who were ignoring wearing face masks in public said they “weren’t worried about the risk of being infected” and “felt uncomfortable” wearing them, especially in the hot season (and it has been a HOT hot season this year).
Over respondents noted that they and their family had already been infected before and had “nothing to worry about”.

Ekkachai said it was a misunderstanding because everyone remained at risk of being infected with other different variants of Covid-19. He insisted that people should wear face masks when gathering in groups whether they had already got infected with Covid or not. He also urged people to keep washing their hands and practicing social distancing.

Wearing face masks in public is still a requirement of Thailand’s emergency decree. The emergency decree is in place at least until the end of May. Different provincial public relations departments also encourage residents to keep wearing face masks.

The government launched Thailand Prevention Project, which spread Covid-19 information and suggestions to Thai people via videos. One video shared on Phuket Province’s official Facebook page suggests that people should keep their masks up even before reaching home. The footage also recommended that family members wear masks at home if having more than 2 members in the family.

Following the report of a drunken foreigner who got robbed by a taxi driver while sleeping on the sidewalk in Bangkok, police have already arrested the suspect. The taxi driver said he meant to just wake the foreigner up, but the man’s assets enticed him.

Last Sunday, a local Thai news Facebook page reported that a taxi driver had robbed a drunken foreigner who was sleeping in front of a convenience store. His gold necklace, cash, passport, and other important documents were all stolen. CCTV footage showed a taxi driver parking his car beside the foreigner, stealing his assets, and fled, leaving him lying on the floor.

The foreign victim was later reported to be a 32-year-old Frenchman who works at an IT company in Bangkok. He filed a complaint to the police saying he lost assets worth about 54,200 baht in front of Lawson’s convenience store on Soi Sukhumvit 22.

On Thursday, officers from Thong Lor Police Station investigated the crime. They were able to track down and arrest the 49-year-old taxi driver in front of a hotel in Bangkok. The police seized the wallet and mobile phone as evidence from a shop where the suspect had sold it. The suspect told police that he meant to wake the foreign man up and aimed to offer him his taxi service. He said the assets were too enticing, so he decided to steal them.

The taxi driver was charged for committing a nighttime robbery by using a vehicle to assist his escape. The police also revealed the driver had a criminal history, saying he had previously been charged in drug cases in 2012 and 2015.***

There are almost 300 Thai women who have been allegedly forced into prostitution at a casino near the Thai-Myanmar border in Tak province. The story has emerged from a 25-year-old escaped victim who wished to remain anonymous.
A social media ‘influencer’ did a Livestream earlier this year, inviting ladies to apply for public relations and entertainment roles for businesses near Thailand’s border. The influencer had said that the jobs had nothing to do with sex.

The woman, and around 300 other women, accepted the jobs, but once arrived at the casino in Myawaddy, the tables turned and she was told she must pay 25,000 baht unless she becomes a sex worker.
The woman was able to escape and was searching for help in early April. She was found around 400 metres from the Moei River, which divides Myanmar and Thailand, according to a Survive Network representative, Ekapop Lueangprasert.

She and another Thai woman managed to flee from the casino late at night while Burmese soldiers were changing posts. Before Burmese soldiers were able to catch the ‘escapees’, the victims rushed to the Thai border yelling to be rescued by Thai soldiers. The Thai troops told them to swim across the river and were then able to rescue them.

The police are still questioning the victim before taking further action, according to the commander of the Anti Trafficking in Person Division, Major General Wiwat Khamchamnan.

The Burmese border town of Tachilek, just over the Thai border from Chiang Rai province, is another border area where illegal casinos and upscale brothels have been allowed to proliferate, mostly serving Burmese military personnel.***

Chon Buri residents believe a woman is “possessed” after she jumped out of her car near a gas station in the Mueang district, and started acting strangely. The 31-year-old woman reportedly started acting with a number of bizarre behaviours, according to police from Chon Buri Police Station. These behaviours included rubbing her body with a Chinese talisman, and chanting to a passerby to summon a monk for her. Other behaviours reportedly included shanking and inattentiveness.

The manager of the gas station said locals in the area have superstitions about the nearby cemetery and were alarmed by the woman’s behaviour, thinking she had been possessed by ghosts. The manager called the woman’s mother to tell her about her daughter’s behaviour, and was told the woman had just broken up with her boyfriend and had a mental breakdown and anxiety problems.

The woman’s mother, as well as the police, dismissed claims the woman was possessed by ghosts.

Police took the woman to Chon Buri Police Station to wait for relatives to pick her up. The Pattaya News reports that it was unclear if she would be taken for mental health or medical evaluation. Police said that they found a battery, an amulet string, and another Chinese talisman in the woman’s truck.

Some Thais believe that strange behaviour is due to people being possessed by ghosts or spirits. At a Phuket festival in 2017, some people thought a foreign woman was possessed by Chinese angels when she closed her eyes and started shaking her head. In 2016, locals in Phuket thought a Belorussian man must have been possessed when he had hallucinations and said he could see dead people.

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