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A Decade Ago: Renewed spark of hope

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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A Decade Ago: Renewed spark of hope | The Thaiger

PHUKET: A decade ago on page one, the Phuket Gazette told the story of a renewed spark of hope that filled the souls of Sascha and Patchara Meissmer, as they re-launched the search for their young daughter, Solitaire, who went missing in the 2004 tsunami.

“On December 26, I held onto Solitaire as tightly as I could, but the second wave ripped her out of my arms. A friend later told me he saw my daughter being rescued. I have long sensed that my daughter is still alive somewhere, and when I saw the picture, I felt more sure. We may find her yet,” Mr Meissmer said.

A body with a 99.99% DNA match for Solitaire’s was recovered and identified by the Thai Tsunami Victim Identification (TTVI) unit… evidence that would seem conclusive. However, as 2005 was coming to a close and the anniversary of the great wave quickly approached, a photograph of a Eurasian-looking girl, who appeared strictly similar to Solitaire, was posted online – that was all it took to rekindle hope for the Meissmers.

Countless miracles rose from the rubble and devastation left by the tsunami. For every survivor’s story of great loss, there seemed to be an equally compelling story of extraordinary human kindness, compassion and hope. Was the story of Solitaire yet another?

The TTVI unit and the Phuket governor at the time, both did their best to review the evidence, as well as search the Phuket flight records for any trace of the little girl in the photograph.

Then, in the late spring of 2006, a new and independent DNA analysis was conducted. It confirmed that Solitaire was one of countless children that did not survive the waves – but ten years ago, we didn’t know that, and neither did the Meissmers.

As the Meissmers and government officials searched for Solitaire at the end of 2005, a disconcerting silence had fallen over the island.

Maj Gen Decha Budnampeth, the Phuket provincial commander at the time, had put a gag order in place: officers at all levels, including station superintendents, were to stop releasing case-specific information to the media. The order was a trickle down from the national level.

“The media blackout has been lauded by activists as a long-overdue step to protect the rights of victims and suspects who have yet to be found guilty by the courts, but the press and television are finding it more difficult than ever to do their jobs,” the Gazette reported in the December 17-23, 2005 issue.

Gen Decha blamed inaccurate and unethical reporting by both the media and the police. Like police officers, some members of the press lacked the education or experience to report accurately and without bias, he said.

Reenacting crimes remains a standard carnival-like practice by police looking to parade unconvicted criminals in front of the media. (Who remembers the man who reenacted the sexual assault of a minor, using a teddy bear as he smiled for the cameras?) Despite the government’s stance on unethical reporting, the practice of reenactment was to be considered on a case-by-case basis, only with the permission of the suspect. A similar stance on reenactments was reinstated on Phuket several years ago, but didn’t seem to stick.

Without a doubt, the information leaked to the media, along with unfounded assumptions made by police – the questionable circumstances surrounding a number of deaths ruled as suicides by police should serve as apt examples – would not be permitted in many western countries. The best solution is a police spokesperson, who is briefed on cases that are of public interest and capable of walking the fine line between providing important information to the public, and those appealing to the voyeuristic tendencies that draw so many to the news pages.

Nonetheless, a media blackout, such as was seen ten years ago, raises the hackles on the back of a person’s neck and conjures up the inevitable question: what are they hiding? In all countries though, especially those where distrust of the police runs as high as a person’s temperature when down with dengue, nothing holds more true than the oft-quoted aphorism: “Not only must Justice be done; it must also be seen to be done.”

— 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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People

‘Always Smile Journey’ raises fund to provide free English classes for underprivileged people

Nattha Thepbamrung

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‘Always Smile Journey’ raises fund to provide free English classes for underprivileged people | The Thaiger

On October 18, the ‘Always Smile Journey’ group and its partners will host an exhibition with plenty of fun activities at the Yak Yai Market, near Chalong Circle, in Phuket. This event was designed to raise funds to provide free English classes for underprivileged people on the island of Phuket on Saturdays and Sundays. The group does not accept donations but aims to raise money through the sales of the products available at the event.

‘Always Smile Journey’ raises fund to provide free English classes for underprivileged people | News by The Thaiger

From 2 pm to 8 pm, there will be a number of artists, musicians and performers who will keep the attendees entertained along the way. There will be a short film about His Majesty King Rama 9 as well as fun activities and games for kids and families, which are all free of charge.

The big bike crew is also a part of this event. They will ride a parade from Rawai Beach heading to the market and showcase their gorgeous two-wheel buddies.

One of the highlights of the Always Smile Journey exhibition is the ‘Happening’ artists group, who will draw and paint a picture of the His Majesty King Rama 9 under the name ‘Street Art King Bhumibol’ on a 4×10 meter sign live at the event so the guests will experience this large-scale art in action. The Happening will also offer portrait sketching for the participants.

‘Always Smile Journey’ raises fund to provide free English classes for underprivileged people | News by The Thaiger

One of the works created by the Happening team; a painting of HM the King Rama 9 on a huge wall (Photo credit: Chawat Chumpasan)

There will also be some western menus available at the event which will be donated to underprivileged children.

This free English class project has over seven years of experience through its cooperation working with individuals and other charity organizations. Throughout the years, the group visited several areas such as Ban Laem Hoy School, Ban Bopud School and Ban Angthong School in Samui, Surat Thani province, Ban Bueng Ao Oun School and Ban Kakoh Rayong, in Surin province, Jalae Village of Lahu (Muser) in Chiang Rai province, as well as community education centers in Siem Reap, Cambodia and in Luang Prabang, in Laos.

This event is a cooperation between several groups, including Happening, Yak Yai Market and Arrow Media, Tattoo artist group, Thonburi Art School Alumni, International School of Tourism, Suratthani Rajabhat University, big bike group from Phuket, artists/performers/musicians from many provinces as well as several businesses across Phuket.

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Bangkok

The world’s fastest growing tourist destinations

The Thaiger

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The world’s fastest growing tourist destinations | The Thaiger

PHOTO: Hello Phuket – destined for huge tourist growth in the next six years – fodors.com

In 2018, international tourist arrival traffic grew by 6% to reach a total of 1.4 billion world tourists, according to research by UNWTO World Tourism Barometer. And there’s a lot more to come with international travel predicted to increase by a massive 35% over the next six years to 2025.

But where is all that extra traffic going to go? Which destinations are quiet now that might be swarming with tourists in the years to come? Two destinations in Thailand are set for a prosperous future, according to the data. Whilst almost all the growth is excepted to be to Asian destinations, an under-visited resource for world tourism so far.

Euromonitor data has been used to simulate tourist growth models and reveal the fastest growing projected visitor arrivals in major cities and destinations around the world for 2025, compared to arrival figures in 2018.

In Thailand, Phuket’s tourist traffic is poised to increase up to 85% in the next six years, from nearly 12 million arrivals in 2018 to over 22 million in 2025. Bangkok is predicted to see the 8th most prolific rise in tourist traffic, with arrivals in Bangkok set to swell an additional 68% during the same period. Doha, the capital of Qatar, is set to explode with 104% increase in traffic over the next six years.

The data also predicts that both Bangkok and Phuket will rebound big time in 2020, Phuket in particular with a growth of around 20% for the next year, accord to the data from TravelSupermarket.com.

By 2025 the data predicts that Bangkok will be the world’s #1 tourist destination, a position it’s held before in recent years. The Thai capital will be followed by Singapore, Dubai, Phuket and Kuala Lumpur, making South East Asia the world’s emerging tourism hotspot.

Some of the world’s favourites – New York, Paris, London – will continue to grow their tourist numbers but not at the rate of most Asian destinations.

You can read the full list HERE.

The world's fastest growing tourist destinations | News by The Thaiger

Stats compiled by travelsupermarket.com

The world's fastest growing tourist destinations | News by The Thaiger

Stats compiled by travelsupermarket.com

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Phuket

Rawai beachfront water shut-off tomorrow for mains works

The Thaiger

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Rawai beachfront water shut-off tomorrow for mains works | The Thaiger

The Phuket Provincial Waterworks Authority says Rawai’s mains water supply will be shut off tomorrow (Tuesday, October 15) as new water pipes are fitted in front of The Title Beach Front condo resort complex on the town’s beachfront.

The mains water supply will be shut off from 9am until 4:30pm along the beachfront strip.

The PWA says the areas affected will be along Wiset Road along the Rawai beachfront road, as well as Soi Yanui and Soi Ruafaed.

Residents and businesses are being urged to collect water for use during the day today, before tomorrow morning’s shut-off.

As usual, the PWA say…“We apologise for any inconvenience caused.”

Contact the Phuket Provincial Waterworks Authority on 076 319173 or 082 7901634 for more details.

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