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Thailand News Today – Wednesday, March 18

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New cases of Covid-19 takes Thai toll beyond 200

35 new cases of Covid-19 coronavirus have been confirmed in Thailand today.

29 of the new cases were linked to what’s now being referred too as the Lumphini cluster…. the Lumphini Boxing stadium north west of Bangkok city.

Since Sunday 130 new cases have been announced, almost tripling the total cases from last week. A professor at Mahidol University faculty of Medicine is urging the government to announce Stage 3 restrictions. After today all schools will be closed as well as bars, entertainment venues and massage parlours in Bangkok and most of the tourist areas.

Narathiwat/Malaysia border checkpoints closed March 18-31

After Malaysia announced its nationwide lock down, the Army has announced the temporary closure of the customs checkpoints in Narathiwat, along the Thai/Malaysia border.

After seeing that only Malaysian nationals are allowed to enter into Malaysia, the 4th area command said the border will now be totally closed to help combat the spread of Covid-19. The order was effective from 5am yesterday morning.

Airlines offered drop in landing fees and fuel excise at Thai airports

Airlines, international and domestic, have been hit hard with the impact on travel following the Coronavirus outbreak. Over the past month there’s been daily announcements of cancellations of flights and rescheduling to cope with border closures and daily changes in the coronavirus evolution. The Thai Cabinet has confirmed there would be a 50% reduction in landing and parking fees for all airlines up to December 31.

There will also be an extension of the reduction in jet fuel excise up to the end of this year, extended from September 30. From March 1 to 16, the number of arriving passenger fell 49% and was as low as 60% on some days.

Cabinet approval to reduce water, power bills by 3%

And the Cabinet has approved 17 billion baht in measures to tackle the Covid-19 crisis and drought. They are reducing water and electricity bills by 3% and returning deposits for installation of electricity meters.

And during a ‘grace period’ of not more than six months, the cabinet has also approved extending the period of electricity payments for specific businesses such as hotels and housing for rent, without interest.

3 insurgents killed in shootout

More violence in Thailand’s restive South yesterday as three insurgents were killed in a shootout with government forces near a Pattani dam.

Pattani and its neighbouring provinces are home to a bloody separatist insurgency which has rocked the region for decades. An Army spokesman said the clash occurred about 5pm yesterday, the sixth day of an operation to pressure southern insurgents to surrender. The operation began on March 12 after a clash in which four members of a government force were injured.

Vendors flock back to Phuket’s Surin beach

Driving past Surin Beach, Phuket, over recent weeks you’d be wondering if you hadn’t travelled back in time to the days, pre-military coup (2014), when the umbrellas and cheap white plastic sun lounges were ubiquitous lined up along Phuket’s beaches.

Cherng Talay President Ma’Ann Samran, has confirmed that the beach chairs and umbrella operators have, indeed, returned to Surin Beach last week. But locals say the vendors have been back in full swing since at least last December.

The Army kicked the pesky vendors, umbrellas and cheap plastic white sun lounges off Phuket’s beaches following the coup in 2014 and designated Surin Beach a cleared beach in honour of a visit from HM King Bhumibol back in 1959.

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The Thai government threw a tourist party (sound of crickets) | VIDEO

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The Thai government threw a tourist party (sound of crickets) | VIDEO | The Thaiger

The Thai Government, flushed with the success of their containment of Covid-19, decided to market the Land of Smiles to the world as the safe place to travel. With the annual wet season starting to weaken the tourists would flock back to the S E Asian country that had such a remarkable success containing, then almost eradicating itself, of the coronavirus.

Then they came up with the STV – the special tourist visa which would have the world’s eager travellers packing their sun cream for up to 270 days of Thai tourism.

There were promises of plane loads of tourists and even published flights and carriers. A few flights arrived, most didn’t.

In fact, since the start of the STV, the Special Tourist Visa, with its long list of restrictions and requirements, was floated, along with a re-vamped Tourist Visa, less than 400 people have arrived per month, on average, since the end of October. In the October and November of the year before more than 3 million people arrived in Thailand. Even the government’s limit of 1,200 new tourist arrivals per month was even slightly tested.

The government had bought all the streamers and a pretty new dress for the party but no one came.

What went wrong?

Where was the much-anticipated pent-up demand and people banging on the doors of the world’s Thai embassies?

It was the European winter and the ‘snowbirds’ would surely be back to soak in some Thai sun rays. But no.

The first problem was there wasn’t much for them to come back to. They would have the beaches of the islands all to themselves, they wouldn’t have to wait in line for anything, the domestic airlines were still selling low fares to Tavel anywhere around the country.

But otherwise there wasn’t a lot for them to do. The tourism magnets were a shadow of their former selves. Walking Street, Bangla Road, tours and tour boats, all the tourist strip restaurants. The buzz of the crowds was gone and more than 90% of the tourist-related business had closed up.

Their staff, their families, their bank loans, their stock and investments – all on hold and forced to find come other means to make ends meet. 931 of some of the larger official tourism operators have now gone out of business, according to Bloomberg News. There would be thousands of the smaller family operations that have also been swept aside by the Thai government’s responses to the world pandemic.

 

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Myanmar cancels Thai investment in the Dawei Special Economic Zone

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Myanmar cancels Thai investment in the Dawei Special Economic Zone | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Environment Justice Atlas

The Dawei Special Economic Zone Management Committee has announced the cancellation on the deep seaport project contract with Italian-Thai Development (ITD), one of Thailand’s leading industrial firms, by saying that they “lost confidence” in the company after long, controversial issues.

The Dawei Special Economic Zone Management Committee said that the Thai company has caused them “repeated delays, continuing breaches of financial obligations under the contracts and the concessionaires’ failure to confirm their financial capacity to proceed with development”.

They say they will look for new development partners to continue the projects. Currently, there are still no comments from ITD.

The Dawei Special Economic Zone is Myanmar’s initiative to encourage international investments into the country, but the project has been delayed because of funding problems and local opposition.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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SRT studies alternative plans for Bang Sue Grand Station after no show of interested bidders

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SRT studies alternative plans for Bang Sue Grand Station after no show of interested bidders | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Bang Sue Grand Station

There seems to be little interest in the new Bang Sue Grand Station project, which is planned to be Thailand’s new railway hub in place of Bangkok’s Hua Lamphong Railway Station and the largest railway station is Southeast Asia. Bidding for the station’s Plot A opened 3 weeks ago, with envelopes each costing 500,000 baht, but not one was sold.

With the bidding closing in January and no interest so far, the State Railway of Thailand is finding alternative plans for the Bang Sue Grand Station’s Plot A, a source told Nation Thailand.

“It is believed that nobody has shown interest in the project because of the new wave of Covid-19 infections. Also the Plot A project has low potential for commercial profit as an elevated expressway passes over it and it has limited access.”

If no one buys a bidding envelope in the next 10 days, then the bidding will close and the SRT will make changes to Plot A’s development plan. The source told Nation Thailand that railway officials might make the site a SRT office building or let other state agencies rent the land, which would not require any more bidding.

SRT is also studying any possibility to pack Plot A into Plot E which has a greater potential for commercial profit and may attract more bidders.

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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