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BREAKING NEWS: 33 Rohingya remain detained in Phuket, tell of hardships at home

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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BREAKING NEWS: 33 Rohingya remain detained in Phuket, tell of hardships at home | The Thaiger
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PHUKET: The whereabouts of the 68 Rohingya refugees who were arrested on January 31 when their boat drifted to Phuket’s shores has been confirmed by the Phuket Gazette.

Phuket Immigration late yesterday gave the Gazette access to 33 Rohingya men in custody at the Immigration Detention Center (IDC). The youngest in the cell was only nine years old and the oldest was 45, the detainees said.

Phuket Immigration officials originally saidthat the 68 men had been transferred to Phang Nga IDC. (See current issue of the Phuket Gazette, ‘Where have the Rohingya gone?’, on shelves this morning. Digital subscribers click here to download the full newspaper).

Officials now say that only 35 have been transferred to Phang Nga.

An employee at Phang Nga Immigration, who declined to give her name, yesterday again said that there were no Rohingya in detention at their facilities.

However, an independent source yesterday confirmed that the 35 were detained there.

Following appeals from the international community and local organizations, Senior Regional Public Information Officer Kitty McKinsey of the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) told the Gazette that the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs has agreed to give that organization access to 226 Rohingya currently detained in Thailand.

Mrs McKinsey said the UNHCR was able to speak with nine teenagers on Thursday in Songkhla who were part of a group of 67 who were detained in that province on January 23.

Regarding the 68 who landed in Phuket, she said, “We expect to be able to talk to those men next week. They are apparently in Phuket, but I agree that there is confusion about exactly where they are because we’re not certain whether they are in two places or one place.

“We’ve been told that all 68 are on Phuket and that we’ll have access to them. We’re going to be accompanied by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and I hope we’re going to be taken to see 68 people,” she said.

The UNHCR hopes to determine where the men come from, what their protection needs may be and whether or not they are seeking refugee status.

She said the UNHCR is also exploring whether 91 Rohingya who were intercepted and detained by Thai authorities on January 22 this year are the same group that arrived “starving” in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands on February 3.

Members of that group said that they were detained in Thailand then towed out to sea by Thai authorities, human rights groups said.

The 32 men, and at least one child, being held in one of Phuket IDC’s two cells which are designed to hold 30 people, told the Gazette that they are happier, healthier and better looked after in those cramped conditions than they are in Burma.

On our arrival, the men crowded near the front of their cell and gave an enthusiastic greeting, all seemingly eager to share their story – and many smiling.

One man, 27-year-old Muhammad Amin, seemed to be the informal “spokesman” for the group.

Mr Amin explained that they had all, 70 originally (two remain unaccounted for after landing in Phuket), had set out from Maungdaw in Arakan State, Burma, on January 20.

He said their reason for leaving was that as Muslim Rohingya they face constant persecution and abuses at the hand of the Burmese government.

When asked for examples of their hardships at home, many of the men had something to say:

“We have no work – no jobs,” one said.

“We’re rice farmers and need rice to survive,” another said. “Then the government started taking from us 25 kilograms of every 100kg of rice we had.”

“Then they took away our land,” another added.

“We don’t have anything to eat if we stay in Burma. It’s a very difficult life,” Mr Amin said.

One of the men produced an identification card he said was issued by the Burmese government. The card, a flimsy piece of white paper in a plastic sleeve, identified him as a Muslim and his home “district”. Muslims in Arakan State issued such cards are not allowed to travel outside their home districts.

All of the men in the cell said that they have similar documents and that actual Burmese citizens have a “red ID” which permits them more freedoms.

Desperate for prospects of a better life, the 70 men pooled their money together and bought the wooden boat that was their home for 11 days as they headed for Malaysia.

“We wanted to go to Malaysia because it’s a Muslim country,” Mr Amin said.

However, their boat engine gave out on them and at the mercy of the winds they were blown to Phuket.

“We had no food on our journey, and it’s quite dangerous – especially when we leave from Burma,” he said.

The men said that no women joined them on their journey because of the dangers.

“We had to hide in fishing nets to avoid detection by the Burmese military,” one man said.

When asked what would happen if they were caught trying to leave the country, many of the men responded in unison, “We would be shot dead by the military”.

The men all said they were scared of being sent back to Burma and that if that were to happen, they would face 15 years imprisonment or a very heavy fine.

“We don’t care where we stay, as long as it’s not Burma,” Mr Amin said.

Phuket Immigration officers said that halal food and clothing is being provided to the 33 detainees by a local Muslim foundation.

— Nicholas Altstadt

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Thailand News Today | Protesters face arrest | Phuket “in a coma”| September 22

The Thaiger

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Thailand News Today | Protesters face arrest | Phuket “in a coma”| September 22 | The Thaiger

Thailand News Today with Tim Newton. Daily news from around Thailand.

Struggling airlines to get reprieve through small loans, extension to fuel tax cut

Airlines in Thailand are being offered a financial lifeline, as the Government Savings Bank announces soft loans for carriers left struggling as a result of the current Covid-19 ‘disruption’.

The GSB is offering the loans over a 60 month period, with an annual interest rate of 2%. The bank’s chairman says the proposal will be put to Cabinet for approval.

Airlines have been left financially devastated by the fallout from the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, with countries closing their borders, passenger numbers plummeting, and carriers forced to slash the number of flights on offer. The services available, including the food services, were also curtailed early on as a preventative measure but that restriction has since been lifted.

In a further effort to ease the financial crisis faced by Thai airlines, the Excise Department says it will extend the fuel tax cut for low-cost carriers by another 6 months from the end of this month.

Protest leaders face charges for violating Thailand’s lèse majesté law and for installing the plaque

Leaders of the weekend’s pro-democracy protest in Bangkok are facing charges for violating Thailand’s lèse majesté laws and for installing a symbolic plaque at a “registered historical site”. Police filed complaints to between 10 to 16 protesters.

It’s unclear how many protesters will be charged, but a Royal Thai Police spokesperson says charges will be pressed against those who “pulled the strings.” Under Thailand’s lèse majesté law, it is illegal to insult or defame the Thai Monarch or royal family. Police say they will take the strongest legal actions possible against those who undermined the Monarchy, although earlier this year the Thai PM said that His Majesty had requested that such charges not be brought against Thai citizens.

Charges are also being brought against the protesters who installed a commemorative plaque in the forecourt of Sanam Luang, next to the Grand Palace. The Fine Arts Department and the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration have filed complaints with police over the installation of the plaque, saying the protesters broke the law by causing damage to an archaeological site.

Phuket’s governor calls for help in restoring island’s economy

The governor of Phuket has likened the southern province to a “patient in a coma”, as he pleads for help to restore its devastated economy. The governor highlighted the economic crisis caused by the ongoing ban on international tourists. The island’s international airport closed in April, cutting off the supply of international tourists, and cutting off the flow of international money coming into the island’s tourist economy.

The latest figures show that Phuket has lost over 400 billion baht since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. The island’s economy is, either directly or indirectly, 90% reliant on a steady flow of international tourists, and has seen a massive tourist infrastructure boom over the past 20 years.

Governor Narong predicts the province will face similar hardship next year, and is calling on the government to organise conferences and other events that could attract more visitors to the province.

Sri Panwa Phuket getting social media flak after owner criticises pro-democracy protest leader

Meanwhile, the owner of the Sri Panwa Phuket resort is facing a social media storm after condemning the current pro-democracy movement and one of its main organisers. Taking to Instagram, Vorasit Issara, owner of the five-star Sri Panwa Phuket Resort, singles out the female protest leader saying “she should be in prison”.

“This bullshit has got to stop. She is not Thai. Who is she working for?

Sharing a photo of Panusaya, he adds, “arrest this child.” Vorasit incorrectly asserted that Panusaya wasn’t Thai. In fact she was born in 1998 in Nonthaburi and IS a Thai citizen.

His post has since gone viral, prompting outrage from those who support the anti-government movement. A hashtag calling for a boycott of his Sri Panwa Phuket resort has taken off on Twitter, at a time when almost all hotels are battling for survival, especially on Phuket.

Myanmar’s Covid-19 spike causes mass lockdowns as Thai authorities scramble to seal the border

Myanmar is currently suffering a wave of Covid-19, causing concern in Thailand as its western border authorities bump up security measures and patrols.

Burmese authorities have been introducing increasingly draconian restrictions to control the sudden spread of the virus over the past 4 weeks. Whilst the case load is still relatively small, the concerns are focussing on the porous western borders of Myanmar onto adjacent Bangladesh and India, as well as the spike in cases in the largest city Yangon.

Yangon is now under a very tight lockdown as the city is quickly turning into the country’s hotspot of Covid-19.

There were 610 and 6 new deaths in the past 24 hours. Yesterday 671 new cases of Covid-10 were reported

Indonesia’s economy shrinks for the first time in 22 years

Indonesia’s economy will contract for the first time since the Asian financial crisis in 1997/1998.

Gross domestic product is forecast to decline over 1% this year according to the country’s Finance Minister. He said…

Southeast Asia’s largest economy is struggling to contain the coronavirus pandemic as the number of new cases each day continues to set records. The worsening outbreak prompted the renewal of social-distancing curbs in Jakarta, measures that had battered growth in the second quarter this year.

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Tourism

Phuket’s governor calls for help in restoring island’s economy

Maya Taylor

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Phuket’s governor calls for help in restoring island’s economy | The Thaiger
Shuttered businesses along Bangla Road in Patong yesterday

The governor of Phuket has likened the southern province to a “patient in a coma”, as he pleads for help to restore its devastated economy. According to a report in the Bangkok Post, Phuket Governor Narong Woonciew was addressing a Public Health Association forum, where he highlighted the economic crisis caused by the ongoing ban on international tourists. The island’s international airport closed in April, shutting off the supply of international tourists, and cutting off the flow of international money flowing into the island’s tourist economy.

The latest figures show that Phuket has lost over 400 billion baht since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. The island’s economy is, either directly or indirectly, 90% reliant on a steady flow of international tourists, and has seen a massive tourist infrastructure boom over the past 20 years, including accommodation, tours, tour boats, tours buses and passenger vans, international shows, new roads, restaurants and rentals – all aimed at the many levels of traveller budgets.

Governor Narong predicts the province will face similar hardship next year, and is calling on the government to organise conferences and other events that will attract more visitors to the province.

“So far, the province has invited 15,000 village health volunteers in the south to travel and spend time in the province while today’s seminar is bringing in 10,000 attendees and followers and will relieve some of the hardship.”

Meanwhile, PHA president Prapat Thamwongsa, says the forum gives those attending the opportunity to share knowledge and advice on tackling the spread of disease, with presentations and competitions addressing all public health activities.

Phuket usually receives around 14 million visitors every year, with around 10-11 million arriving from outside Thailand. The airport usually welcomes up to 300 international flights a day but is now only receiving around 80 flights a day, since the ban on foreign flights started in April. Narong says an estimated 40,000 of the island’s workers are now unemployed, while those still employed have taken hefty pay cuts of anything from 20% to a hefty 90%. Less than 30% of the province’s hotels are currently open.

“Phuket is like a patient in a coma in ICU. So, it is necessary for all stakeholders to help restore Phuket as quickly as possible.”

The Cabinet recently approved a long-stay visa (the Special Tourist Visa) for tourists who wish to visit the Kingdom, although critics say the strict requirements, coupled with the extortionate cost of the mandatory 14 day quarantine, make it unworkable. The new visa is also insisting that travellers will have to arrive on restricted charter or private jet flights, adding further cost and restrictions.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Protests

Sri Panwa Phuket getting social media flak after owner criticises pro-democracy protest leader

Maya Taylor

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Sri Panwa Phuket getting social media flak after owner criticises pro-democracy protest leader | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Sri Panwa Phuket Resort - Sri Panwa Phuket

The owner of a luxury resort on the Thai island of Phuket is facing a social media storm after condemning the current pro-democracy movement and one of its main organisers. Taking to Instagram, Vorasit Issara, owner of the five-star Sri Panwa Phuket Resort, singles out protest leader, Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul for his disapproval, saying “she should be in prison”.

“This bullshit has got to stop. She is not Thai. Who is she working for? This one needs to be in prison”.

Sri Panwa Phuket getting social media flak after owner criticises pro-democracy protest leader | News by The Thaiger

Sharing a photo of Panusaya, he adds, “arrest this child.” Vorasit incorrectly asserted that Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul isn’t Thai. In fact she was born in 1998 in Nonthaburi and IS a Thai citizen.

His post has since gone viral, prompting outrage from those who support the anti-government movement. A hashtag calling for a boycott of his Sri Panwa Phuket resort has taken off on Twitter, at a time when almost all hotels are battling for survival, especially on Phuket. The hashtag #แบนศรีพันวา (Ban Sri Panwa) is trending on top on Twitter.

Digging up the 38 year old’s past indicates hissupport of Thai PM Prayut Chan-o-cha and the coup that brought him to power in 2014. Speaking to Coconuts Bangkok, Vorasit denied being “out-of-touch” and “elite” and said he’s unconcerned about the boycott call.

“If you don’t love (the political) establishment, you better not come to my resort. Don’t be my guest,” he said in the Coconuts story.

Others are now using Google reviews to attack the property, accusing Vorasit of supporting a dictatorship.

The anti-government rally held in Bangkok, at Thammasat University’s Tha Prachan campus and the Sanam Luang royal parade grounds over the weekend, drew up to 30,000 people in Bangkok’s drizzly wet-season weather. Panusaya was one of the protesters who organised the event and was the first, in July, to read out a 10 point manifesto that, for the first time, openly mentioned the reform of the Thai monarchy.

Sri Panwa Phuket getting social media flak after owner criticises pro-democracy protest leader | News by The Thaiger

Sri Panwa Phuket getting social media flak after owner criticises pro-democracy protest leader | News by The Thaiger

Vorasit’s comments come as the newly-crowned Miss Grand Thailand also faces a backlash, after speaking up in support of anti-government protesters. Pacharaporn Chantarapadit has been hit with racist insults on social media after condemning the current administration and saying she stands with the protesters.

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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