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A Decade Ago: Parliamentary elections and cable thieves

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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A Decade Ago: Parliamentary elections and cable thieves | The Thaiger

PHUKET: In A rare move, the Phuket Gazette dove into politics in the April 8-14, 2006 edition as the Democrat Party announced a boycott of the parliamentary election polls, despite Thaksin Shinawatra announcing that he would step down from the Premiership.

“What the PM did last night was for his own benefit; ordinary people who do not understand politics in depth will have seen his announcement and will admire him. But last night, as I was listening to him, many people called me to ask, ‘What does it mean?'” said former Democrat MP and current mayor of Patong Chalermlak Kebsap. “He said he would continue to push Thai Rak Thai policies [after stepping down], so that means nothing has changed.”

Mr Thaksin was eventually slapped with a number of charges including abuse of power and tax evasion – I wonder if his name is buried somewhere in the Panama Papers, which are the recent unprecedented leak of 11.5m files from the database of the world’s fourth biggest offshore law firm. These documents show the multitude of ways in which the rich can exploit offshore tax regimes, though do not directly connect them to criminal activity. Already, 12 national leaders are among 143 politicians, their families and close associates implicated in the documents.

Despite vowing to step down, it wasn’t until later that year that Mr Thaksin and his party were removed from power via a military coup. His younger sister, Yingluck, was elected Prime Minister in 2011, but also removed from power by the military after a political deadlock – see National Council for Peace and Order. But we are getting ahead of ourselves.

As this issue of the Gazette goes to press, Thailand’s democratic process continues to flounder. Eclipsed by the political drama playing out in recent months, however, has been the upcoming Senate election, reported Janyaporn Morel ten years ago. Little did the Gazette editors and reporters know at the time that not one, but three coups would be in store for the Kingdom over the next 10 years.

The phrase ‘uncharted waters’ is being used a great deal by the press worldwide in reporting the April 2 general elections in Thailand, the Gazette warned in its editorial.

At the time of going to press, not all the votes had been counted, but most pundits were predicting that the election could result in a parliament that would not meet constitutional requirements, leading to a second election, possibly a third, until something radical happened to break the deadlock.

This is all very worrying. Indeed, in Bangkok, a recent opinion survey found that many people were worried that the country would descend into chaos and violence.

People’s worries were warranted.

However, the April 8 issue wasn’t all politics. The silence of the tsunami warning towers along Phuket’s west coast last week eerily echoed a similar silence that fell over the island in April 2006. As this week’s Gazette goes to print, the reason behind the malfunctioning of five warning towers last week remains unknown. However, ten years ago the silence of the Ao Yon tower was very clear, with the headline reading: ‘Power cable stolen from tsunami tower’.

Government officials rightfully railed against the unknown thieves who had stolen the cable, rending the tower inoperative.

“The thieves may make just 500 baht [from selling the copper cable as scrap metal], but they didn’t think that it might save more than 100 lives if a tsunami happened,” said an officer at the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Phuket Office. “If the power is cut from one tower, then all the other towers further down that line will be put out of action as well.

Though only follow-up stories will reveal the truth behind the towers’ failure to sound last week, we can only hope it wasn’t a repeat of such a senseless petty crime.

— Isaac Stone Simonelli

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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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Crime

Phuket police arrest meth dealer, discover drugs valued at 15 million baht

The Thaiger & The Nation

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Phuket police arrest meth dealer, discover drugs valued at 15 million baht | The Thaiger

PHOTO: Newshawk Phuket

Drugs valued at 15 million baht have been seized in a drug crackdown in Phuket. On October 22, Phuket police, along with Phuket Governor Pakkapong Tawipat, reported to the media about a drug crackdown that ended up with a total seizure valued around 15 million baht.

Earlier, the police received a report from an undercover agent that a woman named ‘Ying’ or ‘Suthicha Thirawut’ was a local drug dealer trading drugs in Phuket area, so police planned to purchase drugs from the woman. They contacted Ying through another woman named ‘Noina’, Ying’s close friend. Around 10pm on October 20, police bought 1 gram of crystal methamphetamine from Noina before arresting Ying and another man, Thanet Thongtan, at the Naka Condominium.

The two confessed that they receive the drug from a man who they weren’t able to name, in order to sell in Phuket. They were paid 40,000 – 50,000 baht per time and admitted to police that they have done this for the man three times already. This time, the drugs hadn’t been sold to customers as they were arrested before being able to make a sale.

Apart from 2.4 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine, valued around 4.8 million baht, the police also discovered 76,800 methamphetamine pills, worth around 11 million baht.

The three are now assisting Phuket police with their enquires related to the case.

SOURCE: Newshawk Phuket

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News

30 dolphins greet visitors to Similan Islands

Greeley Pulitzer

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30 dolphins greet visitors to Similan Islands | The Thaiger

Tourists were treated to the sight of a school of dolphins in the Similan Islands off the Phang Nga coast on Sunday.

Tour organisers said that around 30 dolphins swam close to the boat six or seven miles offshore, creating excitement for passengers. It was the first time dolphins had been seen in the vicinity since October 15.

The Similan Islands National Park director said they were bottlenose dolphins and were among several species now returning to the area following a five-year closure of the park for environmental rehabilitation. Food is again plentiful there for them, he said.

Tourists are forbidden to feed wildlife lest the free handouts alter the animals’ natural behaviour, and the park’s waters are also very sensitive to contamination from human disease and marine debris, according to the director.

SOURCE: nationthailand.com

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Patong

Phuket hotels slashing the price of rooms

The Thaiger

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Phuket hotels slashing the price of rooms | The Thaiger

by Sophie Deviller

Hotels on Thailand’s most popular holiday island are being forced to slash prices, with rooms left vacant and beaches sparse as Thailand’s tourism chiefs struggle with a plunge in Chinese visitors caused by the US trade war and a stronger baht. Phuket was the most visited destination in the country last year, after Bangkok, and a good gauge of the state of its crucial travel industry.

Tourism accounts for 18% of Thailand’s gross domestic product and Chinese holidaymakers make up more than a quarter of total arrivals. But while 2.2 million people from the country visited in 2018, according to official figures, the numbers for January-September were down almost 20% year on year.

Claude de Crissey, the French Honorary Consul in Phuket and owner of about 40 rooms in the Patong Beach area, says Chinese tourists are usually present even during the current low season.

“That was not the case this year,” he said, adding he had to lower his prices by as much as 50%.

The problem is not only in Phuket, with hotels also struggling to fill rooms in the seaside resort of Pattaya on the mainland and on Koh Samui.

Trade tensions with the US have already made some Chinese reluctant to take holidays owing to uncertainty back home, while the Thai baht has risen about 10% against the yuan this year.

A boating disaster off Phuket’s coast that killed 47 Chinese holidaymakers in July 2018 also scared some off.

“We are worried,” said an industry insider, declining to be named due to the sensitivity of the topic in a country where tourism provides tens of thousands of jobs. Adding to the headache is the fact that more than 3,000 new hotel rooms are being constructed on the island, raising the question of who will fill them.

Phuket hotels slashing the price of rooms | News by The Thaiger

“In terms of business, it’s not good,” said Kongsak Khoopongsakorn, vice-president of the association of hotels in Thailand and director of Vijitt Resort.

“Because … we have more hotels, more rooms to sell, we have more restaurants, more coffee shops.”

Still, tourism authority chairman Yuthasak Supasorn said he remained “optimistic.”

“We should reach our goal of 39.8 million foreign visitors.”

However, that is only up from 38.2 million in 2018, much less than the jump seen from the previous year’s total of 35.6 million.

Counting on India

Now hoteliers and tour package operators are targeting visitors from elsewhere, particularly India, which experts see as a huge untapped market.

A rapid expansion of the middle class in India, increased direct flights and visa-free travel have prompted Thailand to revise forecasts upwards.

It now expects two million Indian tourists this year, after an increase of nearly 25% on-year in the first seven months. But for now, the lower arrivals is evident on the streets of Phuket.

“I’ve never seen anything as bad as what it is at the moment,” said Paul Scott from Australia, who said he has been coming to Thailand for 15 years.

He mainly blamed the stronger baht for the drop-off but also the fact that Thailand wasn’t the untouched vacation paradise it once was. “Now it’s not so new … and it’s not cheap,” he said.

SOURCE: AFP

Phuket hotels slashing the price of rooms | News by The Thaiger

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