At precisely the same time the Thai government are trying to lure even a few travellers to come back to the Kingdom, the government will start collecting a 300 baht entry fee from foreign tourists starting on April 1. The fee is included in the Tourism and Sports Ministry’s “Amazing Thailand New Chapter” plan and the money will be for the maintenance and development of tourist attractions as well as accident and life insurance for tourists if, in the unfortunate event, a tourist is seriously injured or dies whilst on their trip.The new charge will be included in airfares. For land travel, there might be an application for visitors to pay before entering.According to the government spokesperson, if foreign travellers report an accident, up to 500,000 baht in medical costs can be claimed. If visitors happen to die in Thailand, up to one million baht in compensation to the family will be paid.The Tourism and Sports Minister says the entry fee was expected to start at the beginning of January, but was postponed for consultation with the International Air Transport Association. But the president of the Thai Hotels Association says the tourism fee has to be put off until at least 2023 as the sector has to be rebuilt from the ground.After the Royal Thai Air Force announced last week that they are pushing ahead with the purchase of 8 fighter jets, yesterday the Cabinet approved the plan to fund the purchase of just 4 of the planes. They estimated a budget of about 13.8 billion baht which will be spread across the next 4 fiscal years.The Air Force says the purchase is necessary to replace the F-16 Falcon jets that have been in operation for nearly 40 years where, they say, continued use runs the risk of accidents as well as continued high maintenance costs. The decision has not yet been made on exactly what type of jets to purchase, but it will be determined by a procurement committee later, according to the RTAF spokesperson.But the Air Force has been leaning towards Lockheed Martin, the US company that produces the F-35 stealth fighter and its variants, the F-35A, B, and C that have different takeoff and landing characteristics. And they argue that now is the time to purchase, as prices have dropped since the F-35 first came out and planes can be picked up for about US $82 million a pop…. Sounds like a bargain to me.The Bangkok South Criminal Court has extended bail for Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, aka “Rung”, one of the key leaders of the Ratsadon protest group that led the way in anti-government protests since the middle of 2020.Her bail conditions have been extended to May 25 but have eased restrictions on her movements.The Thai Lawyers for Human Rights say that the court’s decision spared Rung from being sent back to jail on remand, as her bail was scheduled to expire today.The TLHR said that the bail conditions imposed by the court remain unchanged, except that the court has allowed Rung to leave home between 6am and 6pm, instead of being subjected to a 24 hour curfew.Rung famously read out a ten point manifesto at a July 2020 protest which, among other things, called for a new Thai constitution that would codify the powers of the Thai monarchy… the first such public utterings of this highly sensitive topic in Thailand.A team of park rangers patrolling in Thong Pha Phum National Park in Kanchanaburi near the Thai-Burmese border followed a smoke trail to uncover a camp of poachers. 5 suspects fled into the forest and the rangers were left with the horrific sight of 2 Bengal tiger pelts strung up to dry while a campfire grill sizzled with the flesh of the tigers cooking on it.The Protected Area Regional Office 3 released details today after the patrol that took place from January 8 to January 10 that was intended to curb forestry violations but tracked down the illegal poachers after receiving a tip-off that a wildlife hunt had been planned along the border.New studies show that between Sinovac and AstraZeneca, combined with Pfizer, the most effective vaccine cocktail combination is 2 doses of Sinovac followed by a full dose of Pfizer as a booster shot. The studies have been collected by Siriraj Clinical Research Centre in Bangkok, and directly contradicts a study at Yale University last week that said the Sinovac-Pfizer combination is less effectiveThe study measured the Geometric Mean Titer… a titer is a lab test that measures the number of antibodies in blood…. a non-linear measurement that gives a clear picture of antibody levels and vaccine effectiveness. They measured the GMT levels for antibodies against both the Delta variant and the Omicron variant.The study showed that a Pfizer booster after 2 AstraZeneca vaccines is a fair amount less effective than starting with 2 Sinovac injections. But the Pfizer booster still gives the 2 AstraZeneca doses a big boost over using a third AstraZeneca vaccine as a booster.Bottomline, the Siriraj Clinical Research Centre is recommending a Pfizer booster shot for anyone who received either the Sinovac or AstraZeneca vaccine for their first 2 doses in order to have the highest level of immunity and protection at this time.The famous African mine detection rat named Magawa, who has saved hundreds of lives by finding over 100 landmines in Cambodia, died over the weekend, according to his organisation, APOPO, which trains fellow rats like Magawa to detect landmines that still litter the country, some 40 years after the Khmer Rouge brutally dragged the country back to what was called Year Zero.The APOPO in a statement released yesterday….“A hero is laid to rest. He will leave a lasting legacy in the lives that he saved as a landmine detection rat in Cambodia.”Magawa, who was originally born in Tanzania, arrived in Siem Reap, Cambodia after three years, was part of a HeroRAT program that currently has 96 rats finding landmines.His responsibilities included sniffing the air for TNT and marking the ground with his paws when a landmine was spotted. He used to receive his payments in bananas.Magawa found more than 100 land mines and other explosives during his career.The parliament of Vietnam has approved a stimulus package worth around US$ 15.3 billion for people severely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, especially businesses as well as expanding infrastructure expenditure amidst harsh lockdowns.Officials say they are attempting to repair an economy that has been harmed by strict anti-virus restrictions that have resulted in industrial closures and crippled global supply lines.The Vietnamese central bank will also intervene in the money exchange market by selling US dollar reserves to stabilise foreign exchange prices.A Covid-19 vaccine developed in Taiwan has been recognised by the Thai government, allowing travellers who have been fully vaccinated with the new Medigen vaccine to enter Thailand under the current Sandbox schemes.
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