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Two key tests for the Land of Smiles in 2019

The Thaiger & The Nation

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Two key tests for the Land of Smiles in 2019 | The Thaiger

Thailand faces two major challenges in 2019 – conducting a general election and chairing the Association of South-east Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Mishandling either task would invite serious damage to both the country and the wider region, according to a New Year editorial in The Nation.

“Junta chief General Prayut Chan-o-cha has made a bad start in tackling the first challenge, repeatedly announcing an election date only to break his pledge.”

Domestic and international pressure has grown with each postponement, and the world is now watching to see whether Thailand will actually return to the fold of civilian rule this spring.

The year’s end brought yet more rumours of a further delay, with the Election Commission reportedly uncertain whether ballot cards could be printed up in time for February 24. They have since clarified their stance on the matter and say the ballots can easily be printed in time.

Senior politicians dismissed the notion that technical problems were a valid reason for another postponement. The speculation and rumours won’t end until the date is officially confirmed by an announcement in the Royal Gazette.

Meanwhile, public doubts surrounding the poll are damaging the credibility of concerned agencies and therefore of the election itself. Already, few neutral observers believe it will be conducted in a free and fair manner.

The election will have ramifications for the ASEAN chairmanship too.

Thailand raised eyebrows in the region by proposing that the year’s first ASEAN summit be held in late June, rather than early in the year to give regional leaders as much time as possible to work on the ASEAN agenda.

The ASEAN chair usually hosts summits twice a year, the first one around March or April followed by another in November. But the schedule has been put back to make way for the Thai election, to establish a new government to lead the regional grouping.

The region is now waiting to see whether the poll delivers the kind of political turmoil that ruined the ASEAN summit of 2009 in Pattaya.

ORIGINAL STORY: The Nation

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Environment

Thai government to consider bringing forward plastics ban

The Thaiger

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Thai government to consider bringing forward plastics ban | The Thaiger

That’s a ban on of single-use plastic bags, styrofoam (polystyrene) boxes, plastic straws and single-use plastic cups

In a surprise announcement, the Thai Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment says they’re considering bringing forward, by 1-2 years, a complete ban on the use of the key plastic polluters.

Varawut Silpa-archa, the Natural Resources and Environment Minister, says the department’s proposal, approved by Cabinet in April this year, to phase out the four types of plastic products by the year 2022, was too slow and should be brought forward.

Mr. Parkpoom Witharntirawat, a leader of an environment network, says that plastic waste is now having a widespread and profound impact on the environment and the situation will get worse if Thailand waits until 2022 to introduce the ban.

“We should move faster toward a plastic free society in Thailand. Every modern shop, shopping mall or other activity must stop using and distributing so much plastic.”

Minister Varawut says that the government is cooperating with the private sector to try to reduce the amount of trash, including plastic waste, being washed into seas around Thailand by installing netting in the estuaries of several rivers to trap the trash.

“This does nothing to address the root of the problem, but it’s a short-term measure which can help mitigate the problem of plastic waste getting into the oceans.”

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Thailand

Arrival projections for Thai tourism downgraded for 2019

The Thaiger

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Arrival projections for Thai tourism downgraded for 2019 | The Thaiger

Thailand’s Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn has downgraded the forecast for foreign arrivals this year to a range of 39-39.8 million. This is down from the upbeat projections at the start of the year that 40.2 million tourists would arrive in the Land of Smiles.

Thai tourism for the first half of 2019 grew only 1.4%, less than expected, prompting the new Minister to admit that the target of over 40 million would not be met.

Although some netizens have characterised the slight reduction in tourist arrivals, especially in some of the traditional ‘hot spots’, and specifically in the months of April and May, to a ‘collapse’ or major reversal of fortune for Thai tourism, the numbers still show an upward trajectory for the year.

The Thailand Tourism Intelligence Centre says 23.1 million foreign tourists visited the Kingdom between January and the end of August this year, up nearly 2% compared to the same period last year. The big mover is Indian tourists, up 24% year on year.

The minister, whose proposal to provide incentive to Chinese and Indian tourists with visa-free entry, says he will continue to chat about about the “security issues” raised with related state agencies.

His proposal, rebuffed last week by foreign minister Don Pramudwinai and deputy PM Prawit Wongsuwan, was rejected at last Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting. But the Cabinet did extend the current 2,000 baht visa-on-arrival fee waiver to the end of April next year.

Apart from India and China, the following countries are also on the list of visa-on-arrival fee waivers – Bulgaria, Bhutan, Cyprus, Ethiopia, Fiji, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Malta, Mexico, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, Uzbekistan and Vanuatu.

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Thailand

Bars and clubs in Thailand open until 4.00am? Not everyone is in favour

May Taylor

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Bars and clubs in Thailand open until 4.00am? Not everyone is in favour | The Thaiger

PHOTO: Hotels.com

Some academics oppose the Tourism and Sports Minister’s idea to allow entertainment venues to remain open until 4.00am.

Udomsak Saengow of the Centre for Alcohol Studies is one of those suggesting that more research is needed before such a move.

“Civic groups have worked hard to limit access to alcohol and they succeeded in lobbying for shortening the closing times from 4am to 2am. When opening times are extended, drinking hours are also extended. The more people drink, the less they can control themselves.”

But Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn argues that extended opening hours would boost the economy and the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) agrees.

TAT governor Yuthasak Supasorn says extending opening times would increase spending, particularly when some foreign visitors find that a closing time of 2.00am is too early. He also stresses that the new opening hours would not apply everywhere.

“The 4am closing time would be restricted to destinations which mainly cater to foreign visitors.”

But coordinator of Alcohol Watch Network, Chuwit Chantaros, disagrees that the move would help the economy, arguing that it may lead to an increase in injuries or deaths among drunk tourists. Such an increase would only end up costing businesses.

“We have research findings showing that we lose 2 baht for every one baht we gain because of property losses as well as deaths and injuries which cause further material losses. If the operating hours are extended, more losses are anticipated.”

But Weerawich Kruasombat, head of the Patong entertainment business operators’ union, is in favour of the move.

“For years, we have been pushing for extended closing times in the Patong and Bang La areas. These districts currently generate 20-30 million baht in income per night and the extra two hours will boost income by 30%-40%.”

The debate rages on, with interested parties in the relevant tourist areas planning to meet with the TAT to discuss the matter further.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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