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Brit biker sets record for Thai King

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Brit biker sets record for Thai King | The Thaiger
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– A daily digest of news about Thailand from around the world, compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community.

PHUKET: Away from his home in Chiangrai for more than three months, British expat Alan Bate completed his trip around the world in honour of His Majesty the King of Thailand yesterday and set a new record in the process.

A report in The Nation today says the 45-year-old Bate biked more than 20,000 kilometres through 18 countries before bringing his journey to an end after 113 days and 15:17:04 hours.

The end came in front of a large cheering crowd at the gates of the Grand Palace, whence he had started the trip on March 31.

With sweat pouring down his face, the former British cycling champion eclipsed the previous record of 194 days. He draped himself in a Thai flag and proudly declared himself a Thai.

“It doesn’t matter whether I have a Thai passport. I love this country and the King. I think I’m Thai now,” said a delighted Bate.

Bate said the record, which is not officially registered yet, had little relevance to what he intended to do for His Majesty.

“I felt great about setting a new record, of course. But most importantly, I was looking for a chance to go around the world for Thailand and particularly for Phor Luang [the King]. That’s more important for me than any record,” he said.

When asked if he had a personal message for His Majesty, Bate bowed his head in humility.

“I think the King is far too important for an ordinary person like myself to have a message for him. I just love the King, and thank him for being the King of Thailand,” he said.

Bate said he had been through lots of experiences, some frightening, during his trip.

“I have lived in Asia for six years, and found travelling in some Western countries quite dangerous, which made me very nervous and afraid. Riding in the US was a huge concern.

“I was hit with a stick in Los Angeles and our lives were threatened in Australia while I was sleeping with my wife in a tent,” he said.

On Sunday, Bate will lead some cyclists from Benjamabopit temple to Siriraj hospital where they will all sign good wishes for His Majesty.

Media critical of Thai military shuffle

Asia One News
After forwarding a key military reshuffle list to His Majesty The King for approval, the Thai government has had to defend itself over the past two days, denying criticism from some media that the government is attempting to reward generals for their role in crushing opposition protests.

As expected, the army’s number two, General Prayut Chan-O-Cha, is set to replace retiring Commander-in-Chief General Anupong Paojinda.

Gen Prayut, 56, is seen as having played an active role in quelling the two-month-long anti-government protests in Bangkok that ended in May this year.

Although he has long been seen as the top contender to replace Anupong, some local media portray his promotion as a reward for his tough stance during the mass rally by the “red shirt” movement.

Defence Minister General Prawit Wongsuwon, however, said Prayut’s promotion was unrelated to the army’s handling of the demonstrations.

“We have to consider what he has done in the past, and not only what happened in April-May,” Prawit told AFP.

“We have to choose a person who can oversee the army, sovereignty and security, and move Thailand forward,” he said.

Solar sets new launch date

TTR Weekly
Solar Air, a new airline, will begin services August 15, starting with a flight from Bangkok to Roi Et in Northeast Thailand.

The airline plans to operate out of Bangkok’s Don Mueang Airport four times a week, on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.

During the introductory period, the fare is 2,390 baht per sector, compared with a standard fare 2,600 baht.

Roi Et was previously served by PB Air, but that link ended last November when the airline went out of business.

Solar’s second destination will be Mae Sot, scheduled for an August 20 launch. It will also operate four times a week, on the same days as Roi Et. The fare will be 2,590 baht, compared with a standard 2,800 baht.

Solar Air’s managing director Jiratid Ong-Aree said that the airline would open another two routes, Nan (three times weekly) and Lampang (four weekly), later this month.

Solar Air has targeted the north and northeast of Thailand as its primary market and does not currently have plans to provide service to Phuket.

New flood of drugs into Thailand

The Nation
Drug dealers from at least six parts of the world are targeting Thai customers, aiming at revelers in Bangkok’s night entertainment venues, Deputy Customs Department Director-General Narin Kalayamitr said on Tuesday.

He said Iranian pushers usually smuggle in “ice flakes”, while Pakistanis are frequently associated with heroin; Filipinos and Africans with cocaine; Indians with ketamines; and Nepalese with marijuana.

Narin said more drugs from Iran were expected to be smuggled into Thailand soon, and that police and customs agents were monitoring future drug trafficking by foreign narcotics rackets.

Narin was speaking after customs agents had arrested four Iranian men for allegedly smuggling into Thailand ice flakes with a street value of 6 million baht, by swallowing and concealing the drug in their stomachs.

— Gazette Editors

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Phuket

Phuket’s annual vegetarian festival gets the green light – VIDEO

Caitlin Ashworth

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Phuket’s annual vegetarian festival gets the green light – VIDEO | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Caitlin Ashworth

WARNING: The content below contains photos and videos of self-mutilation that some may find disturbing.

Somehow Phuket’s annual vegetarian festival is to go ahead next month, but officials say they will ask participants to strictly observe social distancing. Good luck with that! For those who don’t know, the festival isn’t exactly known for the food. It’s known for blood, body mutilation and more blood.

During street processions for the weeklong event, also known as the Nine Gods Festival, so called “mah songs” are known to practice self-mutilation and are said to enter a trance-like state, channeling spirits through their body. “Mah” means horse in Thai, and many suggest the mah song acts like a horse for the spirit to ride.

Many mah songs pierce their checks, ears and lips, some with large swords and thick needles. Some slice their tongues continuously for hours, blood dripping down on the street. Others appear to be in a trace walk barefoot as firecrackers explode on the ground.

Mah songs march down Phuket’s streets for hours with a team of devotees to help tend to their wounds, adjust the piercings, wipe away drool and blood, and keep them hydrated. It’s understood that devotees wear white as a symbol of purity. It’s also reported that they abstain from eating meat, drinking alcohol and having sex during the weeklong festival.

It seems gruesome, but it’s actually very spiritual. Business owners and locals line the street, some setting up altars. Mah songs stop at each one and do a quick ritual. Some mah songs carry a black flag, waving it over onlookers who bow their heads and place their hands in the “wai” position. Some spend time blessing the elderly and handing out bracelets to children. During a procession last year, a woman held up a bracelet as said “the ‘Spirit’ gave this to my mother.”

This year, the festival will have to be a little different to abide by coronavirus prevention measures. The Bangkok Post says it’s the first festival since the outbreak. The head festival organiser Prasert Fukthongphol says “we will seriously enforce social distancing measures and require all participants to wear face masks.”

The grotesque piercings, noisy parades and visits to the shrine, are good news for Phuket’s tourism and bad news if you’re a vegetable. Many adherents to the Chinese-heritage local festival will go without sex, alcohol and meat for the week of so of the festival. The week of events and ceremonies hopes to scare away the bad gods again but, especially this year, attract some extra visitors to the festival.

Another Vegetarian Festival in Chon Buri has also been given the green light. The event is planned for October 16 to the 26. This year’s main event for the festival will be in Naklua at Sawangboriboon Thammasathan Foundation at the Sein Sua Chinese Temple, but many other events will be around the city throughout the week.

Phuket's annual vegetarian festival gets the green light - VIDEO | News by The Thaiger

Phuket's annual vegetarian festival gets the green light - VIDEO | News by The Thaiger

Phuket's annual vegetarian festival gets the green light - VIDEO | News by The Thaiger

Phuket's annual vegetarian festival gets the green light - VIDEO | News by The Thaiger

Phuket's annual vegetarian festival gets the green light - VIDEO | News by The Thaiger

SOURCES: Bangkok Post | Pattaya News

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Phuket

Officials says no illegal land encroachment at Phuket’s Sri Panwa resort

Maya Taylor

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Officials says no illegal land encroachment at Phuket’s Sri Panwa resort | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Sri Panwa Phuket Resort - Sri Panwa Phuket

After coming in for some negative online attention recently, the land title deeds of the Sri Panwa Phuket resort have been investigated and found “to be in order”. The 5-star hotel first attracted the attention of netizens when its owner, Vorasit Issara, publicly criticised anti-government activist Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, calling for her arrest. He also claimed she wasn’t Thai, a factually wrong and inflammatory statement.

His Instagram tirade prompted outrage from those who support the current protest movement, with netizens calling for a boycott of his property and leaving several negative comments on various review sites. Trip Advisor suspended the hotel’s account due to the online attack.

Shortly after, the Civil Society for State Welfare called on the Social Security Office to clarify its investment in the resort’s trust fund. This was echoed by at least one opposition MP and anti-corruption activists.

Responding to the land rights issue, the Phuket Land Office has issued a statement to say the hotel does not occupy state land. The resort stands on 56 rai of prime real estate, overlooking Phuket’s south-eastern coast. The land office has confirmed its paperwork is all in order.

Meanwhile, it’s understood Charn Issara Development, owners of the property, have threatened to sue the resort’s critics for defamation.

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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Economy

70% of Phuket’s tourism businesses are closed, many for good

Caitlin Ashworth

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70% of Phuket’s tourism businesses are closed, many for good | The Thaiger
FILE PHOTO

Most tourism businesses in Phuket have closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and they probably won’t be up and running again until foreign tourists are let back in Thailand. Phuket Governor Narong Woonciew says around 70% of tourism businesses have closed, most of them just temporarily, but some have shut down permanently. But the statistics are not quite that simple, with the east side of the island, largely inhabited by locals with the central business district of Phuket Town and some of the more popular expat towns, doing far better than the tourist magnets of the west coast. The Thaiger estimates that on the west coast the number would exceed 90%.

Before the pandemic, tourism to Phuket brought in 450 billion baht a year with 400 billion baht from foreign visitors while the other 50 billion baht was from domestic tourists. Thailand has been trying to increase domestic tourism to help revive the industry after the pandemic. Phuket’s governor says it helps, but not enough.

“Their visits can help solve some of our economic problems, but they cannot replace the need of foreign tourists.”

66.8% of tourism businesses in Phuket have closed temporarily while 2.8% have closed permanently, according to data by the Digital Economy Promotion Agency. (Again the percentage along the west coast is MUCH higher – just take a drive through Paton, Kat, Karon). Phuket’s governor is trying figure out how to recover the economy. And fast.

“By the end of September, the number of businesses to be closed will increase up to 70% for sure.”

While many businesses are closed, the governor says Phuket is “almost 100% ready to welcome foreign tourists.” The governor says he can’t give an answer to when foreign tourists will arrive in Phuket, but he claims they’ve “prepared every step,” from checking in at the airport to hotel quarantine. They’re just going to install some new temperature check machines at the Phuket International Airport and review the procedures for welcoming the tourists.

“We have to work and prepare carefully to welcome foreign tourists… We have to gradually open our door to welcome small groups of people first, in order to test our system, and then open for bigger groups.”

At the moment, only 3 venues in Phuket have been approved to operate as alternative state quarantine facilities. Anantara Phuket Suites & Villas has 100 rooms available, Anantara Mai Khao Phuket has 36 villas and Trisara resort has 15 villas. All are 5 star venues with a commensurate 5 star cost.

SOURCE: Phuket News

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