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Phuket Opinion: Tsunami evacuation shortfalls resurface

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Phuket Opinion: Tsunami evacuation shortfalls resurface | The Thaiger

PHUKET: THE pair of powerful earthquakes that struck off the coast of Sumatra on April 11 served as the perfect ‘live test’ of Thailand’s preparedness to conduct emergency evacuation of tsunami risk areas, exposing, once again, serious shortcomings in the government’s ability to relay important information to the public in a timely fashion.

The 8.6-magnitude quake that hit at 3:38pm was felt across the region, causing many people to panic, evacuate buildings and get on the telephone to warn loved ones in risk areas to get to the safety of higher ground because a tsunami might be on its way.

Unfortunately, the huge increase in telephone traffic quickly resulted in almost immediate regional collapse of service by all mobile phone providers, leaving users with an eerie sense of déjà vu. The last time such an across-the-board loss of service struck was in the aftermath of the 2004 disaster.

Meanwhile, efforts by the National Disaster Warning Center (NDWC) to get out real time information and keep the public updated as events unfolded were compromised on many fronts.

After initial reports about the earthquake were aired through terrestrial television, broadcasting across all of these channels was then automatically switched over to “TV Pool” coverage of a state event that continued until 7pm, immediately after which it declared the situation in Thailand as “back to normal”.

This was not the first time the rigid workings of the “TV Pool” have been exposed, in some cases comically. Back in 1991, in the hours following the ouster by coup d’état of democratically-elected Thai premier Chatichai Choonhaven, all five state TV channels at the time displayed an image of the Thai flag as military music played in the background.

From time to time, the music would stop and one of the coup makers would appear to read aloud from a developing list of reasons explaining why the coup had to take place. However, one of these episodes happened to come at precisely 6pm, at which time the announcer was cut off in mid-syllable by the Thai National Anthem played nightly as part of Thailand’s evening “time check”.

Apparently not much has changed since then. As pointed out by former premier Abhisit Vejjajiva, the events of April 11 revealed the need to review the way the “TV Pool” system operates, especially in times when public safety is at risk.

Soon after the first quake, the NDWC website also failed, though the agency did provide some information through its Facebook page. Its “SMS Alert” system failed as well, due to the lack of mobile phone services, the Gazette receiving its warning at 6:35pm, almost two full hours after the first quake.

Fortunately, the NDWC’s network of 69 warning towers got a passing grade, even though it covers only a small part of Thailand’s Andaman coastline that is at risk of tsunami inundation.

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Opinion

“Racial profiling and xenophobic” – a rant against Dual Pricing

The Thaiger

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“Racial profiling and xenophobic” – a rant against Dual Pricing | The Thaiger

The rules are applied in a lumpy fashion at various tourist hot spots around the country as well as some national parks. Sometimes it’s applied, sometimes, not, sometimes there are signs, sometime they make it up as they go, sometimes they will allow local expats in for the Thai price.

There are dual-pricing apologists who say ‘Hey, it’s cheap anyway, so pay up and shut up’. Whilst dual-pricing whiners say it’s unfair, racist and shows a lack of grace towards tourists and foreigners.

Here’s the story from ‘Despondant Foreigner’. You can have your say on the post at our Facebook page

“I would like to share my story with you that happened to me this morning. I visited Promlok waterfall in Nakhon Si Thammaratt with my Thai wife, child and wife’s family. Upon arrival two soldiers approached our car and my wife began talking to them. They explained to her that as today is Songkran all Thai’s get to go to the waterfalls free of charge but I had to pay. Then a woman dressed in yellow approached the car who confirmed what the soldiers said and told my wife that this is a new law. Well we were all disgusted and proceeded to drive back down to the bottom of the waterfall where we could all swim for free.

I am absolutely disgusted by this. Yet another example of Thailand’s racial profiling and xenophobia towards foreigners. The fact that I am married and have children here doesn’t make a difference. Because I have white skin I must pay the fee whilst all Thais go in free.”

SOURCE: ThaiVisa

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Opinion

Fox News fake news, Phuket gets a bullet

Bill Barnett

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Fox News fake news, Phuket gets a bullet | The Thaiger

by Bill Barnett, C9Hotelworks.com

As Phuket moves slowly into low season, a story published in the international media by the US-based Fox News about how tourists could face the death penalty over taking photos at the island’s airport is a highly flaw piece of sensationalist fake news.

Clearly there is no likelihood that the Thai authorities will apply a legal maximum penalty under the Air Navigation Act for tourists posing for selfies as airplanes land. More likely would be a  charge of trespassing and a fine.

Clicking into Google this morning the story is now running with the New York Post, MSN and other news outlets abroad.

What is distressing is to see how news providers sensationalize Thailand and Phuket with little regard as to the consequences of the economic impact of such a story.

For most readers, what they will remember when reading such a piece is only the headline about Phuket, Mai Khao Beach and the death penalty.

What a sorry state of affairs mainstream news has become.

To read the Fox News article clock HERE.

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Election

Is Thanathorn the new Thaksin? Will the ‘establishment’ tolerate his new political vision?

The Thaiger

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Is Thanathorn the new Thaksin? Will the ‘establishment’ tolerate his new political vision? | The Thaiger

Is Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit a popular fad or does he, and his party, have the staying power to make him a sustainable threat to the entrenched Thai political elite?

Many analysts are comparing Thanathorn to Thaksin in his early days. They say there are clear similarities. First off, Thanathorn is facing the kind of legal trouble that Thaksin faced when Thailand’s political crisis started to brew.

After becoming Thailand’s PM, Thaksin faced a share transfer scandal in which he moved his company shares to poor servants, allegedly to avoid stock market restrictions imposed on people owning big lots of stocks. Now, 40 year old Thanathorn is facing a legal controversy over his previous ownership of media shares, which could still doom his election candidacy.

The allegations are yet to be considered by the Election Commission.

Thaksin, in spite of repeated denials, was always alleged to have controversial political ambitions. Thanathorn, meanwhile, is seen in an increasingly similar situation. The list of complaints is growing, many to do with his perceived unorthodox ideology that contrasts with the conservative political ‘Thainess’ that includes non-negotiable support for the Army and Monarchy.

Thanathorn has been criticised for something he said about the Khana Ratsadon Party, which played an instrumental role in changing Thailand’s system from absolute monarchy to constitutional monarchy in 1932. The secretary-general of Thanathorn’s party has also been forced to deny making highly-controversial comments about Thailand’s political culture.

Future Forward did very well on March 24, surpassing pundits’ predictions for the new party. Analysts say the success is due to three main factors — Thanathorn’s youthful image that attracted the majority of first-time voters, the dissolution of the Thai Raksa Chart Party that shifted a lot of votes to Future Forward, and the new party’s fresh ideology and perspectives.

He, and the party, attracted a lot of newer voters along with a core of disaffected voters who are looking for change.

But Thanathorn’s looming legal trouble is described as a potential banana skin. It concerns a large number of shares he had in a media company, which were transferred to his mother so that he could qualify as an election candidate.

One apparently-private document, which he is relying on, showed he transferred the V-Luck Media Company shares on January 8, before he applied for election candidacy. Another document, which his accusers are relying on, apparently showed the transfer was brought to the authorities’ attention after he became an election candidate.

Controversy continues to build around the young billionaire and chances are it will grow.

SOURCES: Thai PBS | The Thaiger

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