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Article 17 enforced: DMCR to arrest tourists, guides for disturbing marine life

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Article 17 enforced: DMCR to arrest tourists, guides for disturbing marine life | The Thaiger
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PHUKET: Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR) officials are adopting tougher rules in an attempt to rescue three islands off Phuket’s coast from man-made environmental damage.

A committee assembled by members of the DMCR’s Region 6 has agreed to expand the powers of DMCR officers and to level harsher punishments for tourists and boat operators who disturb wildlife.

The new punishments, which include up to one year in prison, a 100,000-baht fine, or both, went into effect on Tuesday.

In deploying the new regulations, the committee cited Article 17 of the DMCR regulations, allowing the establishment of any regulations in an area deemed under threat of environmental degradation.

The deteriorating environmental situation of Koh Kai Nok, Kai Nai and Kai Nui, located halfway between Phuket and Koh Yao, came to public attention after pictures posted on social media showing tourists proudly displaying captured fish in plastic bags went viral.

Researchers working with the DMCR said the percentage of living coral surrounding the islands has plummeted, from 80 per cent of the coral recorded as living there in 1991, to less than 10 per cent this year.

DMCR officers were expected to begin patrolling the island with their expanded authority yesterday, May 27. DMCR Region 6 Chief Watcharin Thintalang said the current patrol implementation involves 12 officers on a rotating daily watch.

“With this new law, we will have the right to immediately arrest tourists, tour guides and boat operators for disturbing or damaging marine life, or being complicit in its destruction, said Mr Watcharin.

Mr Watcharin said the special nature of the islands, which are not technically national parks and are therefore not afforded the same level of protection, compelled the committee to expand the DMCR’s protective powers.

Previous legislation allowed DMCR officers to use the Wildlife Preservation and Protection Act BE 2535 (1992), in which coral is considered a protected animal, to catch and turn over to the police anyone suspected of harming marine life.

Under that act, officers could not arrest people for harming any marine life other than coral. The punishment under that law was a fine of up to 40,000 baht, up to four years in prison, or both.

However, under Article 17, Mr Watcharin said DMCR officers may now detain tourists for harming any marine life, not just coral.

Tourists no longer immune

Mr Watcharin said that previously, officers’ willingness to detain and hand suspects over to the police was hampered by a fear of harming tourism. Those fears, he said, have since been addressed by the DMCR committee.

Mr Watcharin said he sees the impunity of boat operators and their tourists changing dramatically with the new law in effect.

“The new law will make them scared,” he said. “It requires us to take them to the police station right away, where they’ll be charged with violating the Wildlife Preservation and Protection Act BE 2535 (1992) and the Marine and Coastal Resources Management Act BE 2558 (2015).

“We have the power now. Let’s see if they do get scared,” Mr Watcharin told the Phuket Gazette. “For example, if a tourist is found torturing fish, he or she will have to face the legal process,” he said.
“They will be taken to a police station and their case will have to go to court,” he said. “That means they’ll not be allowed to leave Thailand until the case is decided.”

Thon Thamrongnawasawat, a member of the National Reform Council (NRC), said that the new regulations will have no effect on the island’s tourism industry.

“Some have asked me, ‘Will we dare to actually arrest tourists, because of the adverse effects it could have on the tourism economy?’. To this I’ve responded, ‘If tourists do something illegal, are we to just ignore it because they are tourists?’,” Mr Thon said.

“I think it only takes a few cases of arresting lawbreakers before others will get scared and never do anything like that. Instead of enjoying their time in Phuket, they’ll spend their holiday in court. No one will choose that.

“We are not closing the islands or limiting the number of tourists that can visit them, like the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Preservation has done with Tai Chai.

“Tourists can enjoy the islands as usual; they just have to obey our laws or face the consequences. Officers from the Tourism Department were involved in the committee and if it really does end up affecting tourism, we’ll address it,” he added.

On May 23, tour operators were called in for a meeting about the new rules with DMCR officials. Boat operators and tour guides said that, for the most part, they were cautiously supportive of the new measures.

“I totally agree with the new regulations, said Gembira Travel & Trading manager Sommit Plookpuet. “Yes, tourism is our livelihood, but if it destroys our marine life, it simply means we’ll have no way of making money. If there’s no more coral and no more fish, they’ll stop coming, so we plan to cooperate completely with the new regulations,” Mr Sommit said.

“While I agree that taking those who disobey the law immediately to the police station is harsh, I do think it will work.

“Honestly, the fines at places like national parks don’t really work,” he added. “No one really cares about a few hundred baht. This new rule will take those who disobey the law to the police station. That wastes their time and it affects their whole day. For sure, folks aren’t going to take those chances.”

Mr Sommit’s comments were echoed by Wichai Ruengjongwattana, a representative of Sunshine Tours Andaman.

“I think the main reason that tourists and operators end up damaging marine life is that there are no clear regulations set up,” Mr Wichai said. “Now, there are. Print the 12 regulations on posters and put them up on the three islands in English, Thai, Chinese and Russian, and let’s see if anyone dares to disobey the law.”

More regulations to come?

Mr Watcharin said the DMCR Region 6 committee sees the implementation of Article 17 as potentially useful to other islands, not just Koh Kai Nok, Kai Nai and Kai Nui.

“Sure, Article 17 could be expanded to include other at-risk islands and increase powers of enforcement for our officers, but enforcing the law is not easy,” he said. “We need officers for that. For example, when we arrest a tourist, we have to take him or her to the police station on the shore by boat. If we use this law for many islands, we will not have enough officers for every possible detention. Right now, we’re just focusing on these islands.”

“The real purpose of this regulation is not to have our officers arresting people across the whole sea, but to protect the natural environment around these islands by discouraging their degradation, Mr Watcharin said. “We never want to arrest people; we only want them to obey the law and appreciate the natural beauty of these islands.”

— Kongleaphy Keam

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Events

Phuket Monopoly game creators need your help with token designs

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Phuket Monopoly game creators need your help with token designs | The Thaiger

Phuket is set to get its own version of the popular game MONOPOLY and its creators want your help with ideas for the specialised tokens. ‘MONOPOLY: Phuket Edition’ was announced last month which will see the street art on the board game replaced with that of famous places around Thailand’s famous tourist destination. Such art will include beaches, hotels, shops, markets and other popular attractions.

Jennifer Lau from Winning Moves UK, is producing the game under official license from Monopoly brand owners, Hasbro. Lau says the tokens will feature a holiday theme. The token’s departure from the original theme of wheelbarrows, boots, iron, and thimbles as well as popular sports cars and hats.

“We have had a wealth of emails and suggestions coming in for Phuket, so thank you for each and every single one of them! We are taking them all into consideration whilst putting together the design of the game.”

“We wanted to change the tokens so that they would be more suitable for an island like Phuket, where so many people like to go on holiday to.”

“There will be six themed tokens that replace the original and we want to hear your suggestions for what these tokens should be!”

Bangkok has already been featured in the Monopoly game as it came out for purchase back in 2018.

SOURCE: The Phuket News

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Phuket holds vaccine administration rehearsal as it waits for green light

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Phuket holds vaccine administration rehearsal as it waits for green light | The Thaiger

Phuket is rehearsing procedures to ready themselves for the Covid‐19 vaccine administration green light. A rehearsal at Vachira Hospital’s Lan Muang Khao open area was held late yesterday to iron out any kinks in the administration process. Phuket Vice Governor Pichet Panapong watched over the procedures along with other health officials.

Pichet says the first vaccine round of 4,000 doses should arrive early in March, with the 2nd and 3rd set of doses, 16,000 and 48,000 respectively, to arrive in April and May.

“The government recognises the importance of the affected areas of the economy where the epidemic situation of COVID-19 must be stopped and has allocated the COVID-19 vaccine to Phuket Province to build herd immunity, restore the economy, return a smile to Thailand.”

“We are preparing to COVID-19 mass vaccination to build confidence among the people that they will receive a quality, safe vaccine and to receive follow-up care after it has been administered.”

Pichet says Phuket’s first target groups to receive the vaccine include medical and public health personnel, with others on the frontlines to come next.

Then, workers aged 18-59 years old, people with underlying diseases including chronic respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease, chronic kidney disease, cerebrovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity will follow.

“People with severe neurological conditions and pregnant women should be wary of taking the vaccine, as well as women who are breastfeeding and people with immunodeficiency.”

The procedure to get vaccinated starts by recipients undergoing screening by having their temperatures taken, and then sanitising their hands before entering the administration area. Then, they will move their way through a series of steps, detailed below:

Step 1: Register

Step 2: Record weight and blood pressure

Step 3: Pass the screening process by have their medical history and risk assessment recorded and then signing a consent to receive the vaccine

Step 4: Wait for vaccination

Step 5: Vaccination

Step 6: Rest for 30 minutes, while being observed for symptoms. Then scan the official Line account “หมอพร้อม” (“Doctor Ready”)

Step 7: Pass a final check before receiving a document confirming vaccination

Pichet says health workers will follow up with vaccine recipients after 1,7, and 30 days from being vaccinated to monitor any adverse reactions.

Those who are set to receive their second jab will have appointments made for them. Those who receive the Sinovac vaccine will be scheduled to have their second doses 2 to 4 weeks after the first. AstraZeneca vaccine receivers will be scheduled for their second doses 10 to 12 weeks after the first.

SOURCE: The Phuket News

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Phuket

Phuket police officer charged with attempted murder for shooting and critically injuring a noodle vendor

Caitlin Ashworth

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Phuket police officer charged with attempted murder for shooting and critically injuring a noodle vendor | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Siamrath

The drunk, off-duty police officer in Phuket who has caught on camera shooting and beating a noodle vendor on Bangla Road is now facing attempted murder charges as well as charges of carrying a firearm in public without a necessary reason and firing a weapon in a public area. The commander of the Phuket police station said he ordered investigators to prosecute the officer Pornthep Channarong with every criminal charge that can be applied.

The officer had gotten into an altercation just before dawn yesterday and shot a young vendor who was walking by. Surveillance camera footage show the 25 year old suddenly falling to the ground after being shot. The officer walks up and shoots the vendor at a close range, but it appears the second shot did not hit the vendor. The officer also slapped the vendor in the face, picked him up and shoved him over, and then kicked him as he lay on the ground.

The vendor has a 4 year old daughter and 3 month old son. His wife says normally he works as a motorbike driver, but he was helping his mother selling noodles. He was shot while he was walking back from collecting a noodle bowl, she says. The vendor is in critical condition and being cared for at Vachira Phuket Hospital’s intensive care unit. He’s in need of Type B blood.

“For his condition, the doctor told me that the bullet went through his lung. He lost a lot of blood. We need a lot of Type B blood for him.”

A disciplinary investigation into the incident was launched by police and Pornthep was officially dismissed from the Royal Thai Police force. Region 8 Police Commander Kitrat Panpetch says the incident does not reflect the police force in Phuket.

“The incident was caused by an officer who did something wrong that our organisation does not want. We are a big organisation with more than 200,000 officers under our control. Our officers are not all bad like this.”

Phuket Provincial Police Commander Pornsak Nuannu says he has reminded the police chiefs across the island to discuss reasons for carrying firearms in public.

“Carrying firearms is to prevent any type of crime that may happen, not to commit a crime by themselves like this incident. If I see any police doing such a thing, I will decisively proceed in terms of both officer discipline and criminal charges.”

SOURCE: Phuket News

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