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Opinion: Tides turn against IUU vessels in Southeast Asia

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Opinion: Tides turn against IUU vessels in Southeast Asia | The Thaiger

Siddharth Chakravarty, captain of The Steve Irwin, has been working for the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and battling on the frontlines of marine conservation since 2011. Since then, he and his crew have managed to combat Japanese whalers, patrol the Bluefin Tuna fishing season, protect the Whale Sanctuary in the Southern Ocean, save sharks in the South Pacific and more.

Here, he talks about the turning of tides against Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing trades and their traditional Southeast Asian safe havens.

PHUKET: The Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) trade of toothfish has invariably become linked to Southeast Asia, the gateway for the fish – a point where the poaching vessels offload their catch and channel them through for processing and distribution.

The repeated annual visits to the countries of Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia at the end of the austral summer by toothfish poachers have now come to be expected. There’s a reason why these poachers call upon Southeast Asian countries, and that is the limitations in these countries’ national laws that allow the vessels to have a jurisdictional invisibility which facilitates their operations.

Most Southeast Asian countries have enacted laws to govern their Exclusive Economic Zones and act on crimes committed in these waters and by their nationals. However, in this maze, a number of international laws are required to come together to prosecute toothfish poaching crimes. The countries often find their efforts not hindered by intention, but by national legislation.

The example of the Kunlun, a toothfish poacher detained in Phuket’s Deep Sea Port (stories here and here), explains this conundrum. The vessel was flagged in Equatorial Guinea at the time of being sighted two months ago in the Southern Ocean, but came into port as the Taishan, flagged in Indonesia. Reports of a third nationality and name of the ship are now surfacing.

The captain of the vessel was Peruvian, fishing in waters in the Southern Ocean governed by Australia under its obligations as a member of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR). The vessel was sighted by the New Zealand navy and a Dutch conservation vessel, and boarded by an Australian customs vessel.

To apply Thailand’s laws in this puzzle, in which multiple countries and their nationals are involved, makes investigation, detention and prosecution a complicated affair.

The toothfish poachers are aware of the lapses in national and international law and use this knowledge to stay one step ahead of the traditional law-enforcement measures. Flying multiple flags at the same time to mask their identity, mislabelling their catch to channel it through the customs channels and forging their movements keeps them off the radar and in business.

However, this year, these poaching vessels have been given very different reception in Southeast Asia.

They have been tackled from two fronts during the 2014-15 fishing season: patrols in Antarctica and detentions in port. The patrols at sea put an end to the poaching immediately by clearing the fishing grounds of poachers and restoring protection to marine life and the fish stocks, while at the same time collecting evidence against the poaching vessels. The measures in port ultimately lead to detentions, investigations and prosecutions of the vessels, their owners and operators.

After a decade-long hiatus of inaction, this year has seen a coordinated and channelled effort to shut the poachers down. With the Environmental Crimes Sub-Directorate of Interpol issuing Purple notices against five of six vessels suspected of IUU operations in the Southern Ocean, the 190 member countries now have enough information to detain these vessels.

As opposed to in the past, when each Regional Fisheries Management Organisation (RFMO) issued its own lookout, the centralized Interpol notices turn the poachers into “wanted” vessels and local authorities are empowered to look for and report them.

The detention of the Kunlun took place under local laws such as misreporting her catch of toothfish as grouper and the incorrect manning of the vessel. This allowed the Thai Port State Control to detain the vessel using its national laws.

Having established an initial violation of local laws, Interpol was summoned to assist with checking on the violations in regards to the purple-notice alert. Interpol can now determine the extent of the crimes of the Kunlun and tie her down to the breaking of rules in the Southern Ocean, connect the dots back to her ownership and also determine the channels used to transport the fish out of Southeast Asia and into the international market.

Interpol will be looking at all the crimes on board; not just restricting the investigations to the fishing crimes, but also the infamous crimes of human trafficking and forced labor.

The bigger advantage of working with the assistance of Interpol is that at no expense to the countries themselves, Interpol’s teams are permanently available to support the countries. With a very quick reaction time, Interpol can greatly enhance the technical capacity of these countries to fight against IUU fishing and related crimes.

This year’s actions reiterate three main things needed to curb IUU activity: first, the need for high seas patrols; second, the need for enhanced international cooperation; and third, the inter-agencies cross cooperation as evidenced by the results achieved with the Kunlun.

This will help countries like Thailand to look beyond their national laws and investigate all vessels that call their ports, regardless of the location of their fishing grounds and/or their nationalities.

In addition to the above, internationally, the provisions of the Food and Agricultural Organisation’s Port State Measures Agreement (FAO-PSMA) should be re-examined from the point of view of controlling and gathering intelligence with regards to these IUU operations.

Allowing vessels to access ports in Southeast Asia but, beyond force majeure situations, denying them port services would give access to the international community and the port-states to learn more about the operations of these vessels. By not supporting the vessels’ activities, these countries will disable them from offloading their catch, getting re-fueled or re-provisioned, or carrying out crew changes.

With the Kunlun and the Viking both detained in ports in Southeast Asia, we can expect the same actions to be initiated against other IUU vessels. The tide is turning against the poachers with the traditional safe havens for them in Southeast Asia ceasing to exist.

— Siddharth Chakravarty

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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Environment

Thailand’s swift response to the ‘fall armyworm’ pest

The Thaiger

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Thailand’s swift response to the ‘fall armyworm’ pest | The Thaiger

OPINION: Somsak Samanwong – Regional Technical Educator for APAC, Corteva Agriscience. PHOTO: East-East Seed

In Thailand, corn is an indispensable staple crop, used as an important source of feed for a thriving poultry and livestock industry. About 1.04 million hectares of our land is used to produce corn, with this year’s yields estimated at a record high of 5.3 million tonnes.

As Thailand becomes increasingly recognised as a major world food exporter, our reliance on corn is growing to meet consumer demand for meat, both locally and globally – we are currently the third largest chicken exporter in the world. For many of us, it comes as a surprise that this ordinary but versatile crop is intrinsic in fuelling our status as the “kitchen of the world”.

A small but powerful threat

However, this established position and the very growth of our food economy is currently under siege from the rise of fall armyworm, a pest so damaging that it can destroy corn crops overnight. The fall armyworm is an insect native to the Americas, where it has caused significant damage for decades. With a zealous appetite for corn, the pest quickly began to ravage crops in the Africa region following its arrival in 2016, causing losses of $13.3 billion.

Fall armyworm started moving closer to home, spreading across Yemen, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Myanmar, before reaching Thailand in December 2018. Since then, around 50 corn-growing provinces have been infested, particularly in the west of Thailand.

Fall armyworm infestations can result in yield losses for corn of up to 50%, which can have devastating implications – for those whose livelihoods rely on their crops, but also for the poultry and other meat production industries whose success and expansion heavily depend on their produce.

What makes fall armyworm so challenging to control is its high reproductive capacity and long migration distances. The pest has been known to migrate up to 1500 km3, slightly more than the distance from Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok, covering up to 100 km per night. Couple this ability to travel with rapid reproduction – four generations of fall armyworm can be observed in a single corn crop – and you have a devastating mix.

Recognising the tremendous impact of fall armyworm on the nation’s farmers and our food security, the Thai authorities and key stakeholders across the agriculture industry have come together, uniting efforts to equip our farmers with the tools they need to help manage the spread of fall armyworm. By applying our learnings with fall armyworm in response to future threats, we can help to ensure our farmers are empowered and our nation’s food supplies – for Thailand and for the rest of the world – are protected.

Taking swift and decisive action

Thailand’s Department of Agriculture responded to the first FAO warning of fall armyworm in India by setting up a surveillance program to monitor corn growing states along the shared border with Myanmar. During this time, informative materials about fall armyworm and the ongoing surveillance program were shared with relevant agencies, universities, and most importantly, corn farmers.

Establishing communication between the authorities and those on the ground was and remains an important focus, and a telephone hotline and Line account were set up so that farmers are able to report potential infestations. As a previously unseen pest in Thailand, setting up infrastructure to monitor crops in the recognition of fall armyworm was pivotal to aiding a quick response.

Thailand’s swift response to the 'fall armyworm' pest | News by The Thaiger

Imparting knowledge through educational efforts

Knowledge-sharing between the authorities, academic experts, farmers and industry is crucial in the fight against threats like fall armyworm. In November 2018, an educational programme for Thailand’s authorities developed with the Insecticide Resistance Action Committee (IRAC) by CropLife Asia helped to provide senior agricultural and food industry leaders with in-depth information about fall armyworm and its habits.

By sharing knowledge of the pest between the government and affected industries, accurate and up-to-date information could spread across the country almost as quickly as fall armyworm itself.

Farmers remain at the heart of agriculture, and thus, in-field education is of paramount importance to safeguard crops.

Through a series of training programmes and the provision of educational materials, farmers were educated on and empowered to adopt an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach, as recommended by the World Trade Organisation on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures, to control and prevent the spread of fall armyworm. IPM combines pre-emptive treatments, scouting, monitoring and targeted treatments to protect the health of corn crops from seed to plant, and, in turn, to protect Thailand’s food security.

Equipping farmers with the necessary tools

In adopting an IPM approach against fall armyworm, it is our role as agriscience experts to ensure farmers have access to safe, effective and greener solutions to control its physical spread. And, through the development of innovative technologies, solutions are available to provide farmers with long-lasting control of fall armyworm, whilst being environmentally safe to use.

Amparar®, Corteva Agriscience’s foliar spray, contains the active ingredient Spinetoram and has been recommended for use in corn in Thailand to help protect corn crops against fall armyworm. It controls the insects in two ways – through ingestion and contact by the pest, providing a quick knock-down for lasting control. Amparar® has been awarded the prestigious Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award for its positive environmental profile and margin of safety towards beneficial insects. It is recommended by the Thai authorities as the top crop protection product for managing fall armyworm.

Our fight against fall armyworm has brought to light the invaluable role of corn in the development of Thailand as global provider of food. Perhaps even more importantly, it has helped to demonstrate how much can be achieved when public and private sectors work together in response to those that threaten our food security. We must continue to activate and engage all stakeholders – from farmers, governments, industry and academia – to ensure that, whatever the next threat to our “kitchen of the world”, we remain poised for action to protect it.

Thailand’s swift response to the 'fall armyworm' pest | News by The Thaiger

PHOTO: Waldo Swiegers / Bloomberg

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Expats

Opinion: Retirees and medical insurance in Thailand

The Thaiger

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Opinion: Retirees and medical insurance in Thailand | The Thaiger

By Barry Kenyon of The Pattaya Mail

Thai government spokespeople, in recent years, have emphasised that that Thai hospitals are not free for foreigners. They have cited examples of sick and crowd-funded aliens desperate to get back to their home countries, or annual reports from public hospitals bemoaning the unpaid bills of foreign nationals.

So far not a lot has happened. Holders of one year 0/A visas or ten year 0/X, issued by Thai consulates and embassies abroad, do now require medical insurance worth at least 400,000 baht for in-patient treatment and 40,000 baht for out-patient care. But the vast majority of expat retirees in Thailand receive their annual extensions of stay at a Thai immigration office. They do not currently require insurance.

Will that change? It’s not clear. The government has already stated that long-stay aliens with a history of physical illness may be checked out before an extension of stay is granted. What this means, if anything, is unclear but it could signify the immigration bureau’s refusal if an applicant is discovered to have unpaid hospital bills.

One substantial reason for leaving well alone is that many expat retirees self-insure because they are too old or infirm to obtain medical insurance. But these wealthier retirees contribute billions of baht annually to (mostly) private hospital coffers when significant surgery is required. They would be forced out of the country if unobtainable medical cover was made compulsory, thus leading to a gigantic loss of income.

It’s also true that the mandatory insurance requirement for 0/A visa holders is modest. A sum of 400,000 baht may seem a lot but is unlikely to cover the total bill for heart surgery, most cancer operations and stays in an intensive care unit, at any rate in the private sector.

Read the rest of the editorial HERE.

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Opinion

Buddhists call for boycott of Hilton & Waldorf Astoria Hotels with the opening of Siddhartha Lounge

The Thaiger

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Buddhists call for boycott of Hilton & Waldorf Astoria Hotels with the opening of Siddhartha Lounge | The Thaiger

OPINION: The Buddhist Times

Since its creation in 1996, Buddha-Bar Paris has been using the name and image of Buddha in it’s Bars and Hotels throughout the world. Typically the franchises use large statues of Buddha in their Bars and around dance floors and in restaurants similar to a Buddhist temple.

What makes the use of Buddha’s image in these bars most insulting to Buddhists around the world is that Buddhism does not support the consumption of alcohol. So to use the Buddha’s image as decoration to promote the consumption and sale of alcohol and as a prop on dance floors and in restaurants is especially disrespectful and hurtful to Buddhists.

Now comes a further insult with the Buddha-Bar franchise opening the Siddhartha Lounge at Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah. (Siddhartha Gautama being the full name of Buddha).

According to the Knowing Buddha Organisation in Thailand what the Buddha-Bar franchise is doing is not only disrespectful but it is immoral. The foundation points out that “Respect is Common Sense”.

Buddhists feel hurt by the misuse of the name and image of their father, as people of other faiths would be if the image of Christ or Mohammad were used to promote bars and nightclubs.

The Buddha–Bar, restaurant, and hotel franchise created by French-Romanian restaurateur Raymond Vișan and DJ and interior designer Claude Challe, with its original location having opened in Paris, France in 1996.

Raymond Vișan, according to Wikipedia, had the idea of establishing the chain of restaurants and bars which came from his fascination with the Orient. However at the age of 60 Visan suddenly died of terminal cancer. The franchise was continued by co-founder Claude Challe and Vișan’s wife Tarja, who took over the reins of the Buddha Bar franchise upon Vișan death.

Critics of the Vișan’s and Claude Challe say that these self described artists and creators have created nothing but bad Karma and Sin for themselves. They suggest that Buddha-Bar franchise is a form of “grotesque Plagiarism ” which has merely hi-jacked a 2500 year old religion, using the name and image of Buddha, who imparts peace, compassion and loving kindness, for the purpose of selling alcohol and making money. As any case of plagiarism it is expected that Buddha-Bar and Waldorf Astoria will soon find them selves in the courts say Buddhims advocats.

Buddhist around the world are calling the Boycotting of Waldorf Astoria Hotels Hilton Hotels, Buddha-Bars and the music of Claude Challe, demanding that they stop using the image of Buddha and instead creat their own brand.

The views expressed in this editorial do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of The Thaiger or its staff

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