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Thailand News Today – Wednesday, May 20

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Thailand News Today – Wednesday, May 20 | The Thaiger
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Start off today with a sign of one of the new normals, at the Seacon Mall near Bang Na in Bangkok.

Here you can see that they’ve installed foot switches for the elevator system. First to call the elevator and then,once you’re inside, to select the floor and close the doors. Luckily in the case of this elevator there were only 5 floors. Going to be a mess of foot switches for some of the higher buildings.

Most of Thailand placed on storm alert

As Thailand continues to feel a few effects of cyclone Amphan, officials from 62 of Thailand’s 76 provinces have been ordered to monitor for possibilities of flash flooding until tomorrow.

Authorities say 223 households in Nan, Lampang, Kalasin, Surin, Amnat Charoen, and Uthai Thani have already suffered damage from thunderstorms influenced by the wider effects of the huge cyclone, which is centred to the west in the Bay of Bengal and heading north towards the Indian-Bangladeshi coastal areas.

The effects on Thailand’s weather are not direct but the size of the storm has intensified the south-west monsoon.

Redshirts leader says “justice will never be served” over 2010 military crackdown

The leader of the “Redshirts”, political activists supportive of former Thai PM Thaksin Shinawatra, says the military government will never be held to account for a 2010 crackdown that cost the lives of nearly 100 people, most of them civilians.

His comments come just days after a spokesman for the Democrat Party, a member of the ruling government coalition, claimed the crackdown was legal.

Jatuporn Prompan was speaking at a Buddhist ceremony to mark the 10th anniversary of government action that ended 3 months’ of anti-government protests in Bangkok during 2010.

And a Bangkok temple, where 6 people were shot and killed by the military during the 2010 “redshirt” political protests, was closed today.

A sign was put in front of Wat Pathum Wanaram saying it was closed for “disinfection”. But most Thai’s recognise the significance of the closure relating to the events a decade ago.

More about those events at thethaiger.com

Thai Airways’ credit rating downgraded

The credit rating for Thai Airways is being downgraded before bankruptcy and restructuring process start.

The Thai Rating and Information Services has downgraded the rating for Thai Airways and its rating for Thai Airway’s senior unsecured debentures from “BBB” to “C” while maintaining a negative Credit Alert.

Following the government’s resolution yesterday it seems that the national carrier has anticipated a freeze on all Thai Airway’s debt obligations under bankruptcy law. They will also be filing a petition for restructuring via Thailand’s Bankruptcy Court. It’s expected that once the court accepts the petition, it will trigger an automatic freeze on debt obligations.

Security guard stabbed to death in Samut Prakan

A female motorbike taxi driver has allegedly stabbed a security guard to death after a quarrel at a parking building in Samut Prakan, just south of Bangkok.

Police heard about the fatal stabbing of the 37 year old at 10am this morning. The victim was found lying in a pool of blood and had a stab wound on the left side of his chest.

The 66 year old suspect and her husband, aged 73, both motorcycle taxi drivers, waited for police at the scene of the crime. They told police they got into an argument with the security guard, a scuffle broke out and she accidentally stabbed the man in his side. The man died before help could arrive. The pair have been charged with manslaughter and police are continuing their investigation.

Thai massage shops may reopen soon, from the waist down only

The Thai Government is debating whether to allow massage shops to reopen soon, provided treatment is limited to the lower body only.

Upper body massage, including the back, shoulders and neck, will not be permitted for now as it may involve a higher risk of Covid-19 infection.

But massage shops might be able to offer massage treatments from the waist down. Representatives from Thailand’s massage shops have petitioned the government saying that they’re suffering financial hardship as a result of the enforced closure of their premises.

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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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