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Damrong to ramp up Phuket national park probe

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Damrong to ramp up Phuket national park probe | The Thaiger

PHUKET: The Director-General of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Conservation, Damrong Phidet, has warned that come September 25 he will order 400 officers to start a full-scale investigation into land encroachment along the boundaries of Phuket’s Sirinath Marine National Park.

In Phuket yesterday, Mr Damrong flamed some officials for their slow progress in the investigation of 12 resorts accused of encroaching on national park land on Phuket’s west coast.

His reprisal came during a meeting at Sirinath Marine National Park headquarters after a review of the investigation being conducted by teams drafted in from Royal Forest Department (RFD) offices nationwide revealed their rate of progress.

At the meeting, some investigation teams reported “great success”, with five landowners having police complaints filed against them for encroaching on national park land.

Other investigation teams, however, reported having encountered difficulties. The main stumbling block was reportedly the interpretation of aerial photographs of the land under investigation in order to determine where the boundaries lie.

Mr Damrong ordered the investigation teams to press on and finish their work as soon as possible, “Some investigation teams are still working very slowly. I have ordered them to complete their tasks before September 25.”

After that date, Mr Damrong said he will deploy 400 inspectors to examine the land ownership documents pertaining to all plots along the national park border.

Sirinath National Park covers a total land area of 13,750 rai, and Mr Damrong said that 3,500 rai of park land is already under investigation.

“The [400] inspectors will have 30 days in which to carefully examine the land documents [for plots along the park boundary] and legal action against the landowners will follow [if they are suspected of encroaching on park land].”

After the meeting, Mr Damrong led his team to inspect the incomplete Phuket Peninsular Spa & Resort, one of the resorts under investigation.

Near the resort, not far from a run-down abandoned luxury hotel building, Mr Damrong showed reporters a pile of unused regulation boundary markers.

Mr Damrong said that his officers had begun a preliminary investigation and now suspect that land officials may have been preparing to issue illegal land ownership documents to three or possibly four investors for the plot.

In addition to the meeting and the site inspection, Mr Damrong personally received a complaint from two residents from Baan Sakoo.

Chaweng Udomluk and Somrudee Sirirat told Mr Damrong that they would like the investigation teams to inspect resorts and bars opposite the now-derelict Crown Nai Yang Suite Hotel.

“Those resorts and bars are under construction. They have closed the area off and prevented us from getting to the beach. It is a problem for us because we used to sell food and things around the area, and now we cannot,” said Ms Somrudee.

“We need help from Mr Damrong and his teams to clarify if the resorts and bars have encroached on Sirinath National Park land,” she said.

After receiving the complaint, Mr Damrong led his teams to inspect the area. He later directed the new chief of Sirinath National Park, Cheewapap Cheewatham, to send an investigation team to examine the land ownership documents of the resort and bar owners.

Should they reveal the documentation be illegal, the owners of the bars and resorts will be prosecuted.

— Kritsada Mueanhawong

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Tourism

The Area Hotel Quarantine – tweaking Thailand’s arrival options

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The Area Hotel Quarantine – tweaking Thailand’s arrival options | The Thaiger

We spoke about the new proposal for an Area Hotel Quarantine last Friday and in Thailand News Today. The mandatory 14 day quarantine (magically extended a couple of days at many facilities at the foreigner’s cost) remains the key sticking point for the return of tourists or travellers, in any significant or useful numbers. A number of visas and quarantine programs has done little to increase the numbers of foreign arrivals to Thailand.

The proposal, leaked out as a ‘discussion’ pending cabinet talks and a final decision, has not received much support from the overseas community that are trying to travel to Thailand, or former expats that are trying to get back. Many of the comments believe the 14 days, even restricted to a larger set of walls, is still too restrictive, costly and inconvenient.

“It would also be nice if the two weeks quarantine was not part of the visa! You get a two month visa minus the two weeks.”

“It’s still a prison if you can’t get out. Voting with my feet”

“There’s just not going to be any tourism until Thailand stops this 14-day quarantine nonsense.”

The proposal allows guests to leave their hotel rooms after the first 3 days of a 14 day stay. The proposal is on the agenda for the next CCSA weekly meeting. The proposal was mooted at a meeting last Thursday and chaired by Thailand’s Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn.

After the first 3 days, guests would have another swab test before being able to spend the remaining 11 days meandering around the rest of the hotel complex (so, suddenly, REALLY large hotels in great locations become much more attractive). But they wouldn’t be able to leave the hotel property.

The Area Hotel Quarantine is being seen as an accommodation for the hardest hit tourist zones in Thailand – Chiang Mai, Phuket, Krabi, Surat Thani (the 3 islands of Koh Samui, Koh Pha Ngan and Koh Tao) and Chon Buri (Pattaya). In all cases the key tourist zones are desperate for the government to ease restrictions or do something… anything… to help boost travel to the battered tourist economies that rely, mostly, on the visits from tourists.

After the 14 day AHQ the visitor will be free to travel anywhere around Thailand.

Last Thursday’s conference call says that Ministers are trying to come up with ways to start re-opening up Thailand to more travellers from next month by expanding the options and slowly easing restriction.. They also want to re-open talks with neighbouring countries and other countries deemed ‘low risk’, or with high vaccination uptake, with travel bubble options, hopefully by May.

About vaccinations, the government is also considering plans to have a no-quarantine option for visitors to come to Thailand as long as they’ve been vaccinated. But the Public Health Ministers says they are looking at the lead from the World Health Organisation about how to administer this sort of ‘vaccine passport’ access as there needs to be a greater body of knowledge about the efficacy of various vaccines. The International Air Transport Association is also in discussion with airlines and governments about restricting access to international travel for people who have been vaccinated.

It was also disclosed this week that some foreigners in the first batch of golf quarantine, where they have to stay in their room for 3 days then can roam around the golf course and play golf, have tested positive for the coronavirus after the test on the third day of their stay. Another batch of Villa Quarantine tourists, visiting Phuket at the end of February, have all returned negative test results.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

(The hotel depicted in the main photo may, or may not, be associated with the Area Hotel Quarantine program)

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Crime

2 Phuket Town nightclubs shut down after allegedly violating multiple laws

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2 Phuket Town nightclubs shut down after allegedly violating multiple laws | The Thaiger

2 Phuket Town nightclubs are shutting down after allegedly violating multiple laws. The Maldives and H20 on Lim Sui Ju Road, on the south end of Phuket Town were ordered by the Phuket Governor to close immediately, with the Maldives being orderd to close for 5 years.

The order comes after the Phuket City Police inspected the Maldives club, arresting the manager for operating an entertainment venue without a permit, allowing people under 20 years old to work or “use services in the venue,” and for selling alcohol without a permit.

Governor Narong cited his authority under Section 4 of NCPO order 22/2558 to order the Maldives nightclub to be closed for 5 years, from March 5, 2021 to March 4, 2026.

The order also prohibits the operators from opening any other entertainment venues during the same period. The H20 nightclub was ordered to close by a provincial order after Phuket City Police say they inspected the venue and charged the operator for selling or providing shisha, or baraku, without permission.

The owner was also accused of operating an entertainment venue without a permit and violating the provincial order for enforcing Covid-19 safety measures. But it is unknown what penalties were handed down to the operator of the H20 nightclub, unlike the Maldives operator, who received a penalty.

Instead, the governor cited the Revolution Council announcement of 1959, to shut down the establishment for 30 days from March 5, 2021 to April 3, 2021. The orders noted that both operators of the clubs have the right to appeal the closures, having 15 days to file an appeal directly with the Phuket Governor.

Meanwhile, Phuket is set to open its doors to vaccinated, international tourists by October, pending the government’s approval. The local government’s initiative, named Phuket First October, proposes vaccinating a majority of its population over 18 years of age in time for the high season.

The move would allow thousands of vaccinated Europeans to enter Thailand, while locals would be protected from the virus symptoms.

SOURCE: The Phuket News

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Drugs

Early morning drug busts in Phuket yield 9 arrests

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Early morning drug busts in Phuket yield 9 arrests | The Thaiger

An early morning drug bust in Rawai, Phuket has yielded 9 arrests. The first raid yesterday consisted of 30 task force members who raided a sea gypsy shack near the beachfront in Rawai.

43 year old Saroch Homhuan, and 34 year old Juree Bangjak, were arrested and charged with posession of a Category I drug with the intent to sell, after police found 9 pills of methamphetamine, or yaba in Thai, over 6 grams of crystal meth, or ya ice in Thai, and 3 other “items of evidence.”

31 year old Suriyan Na Takuathung, and 29 year old Prathip Areerop, were arrested and charged with possession of a Category 1 drug with intent to sell, and possession of a Category 5 drug respectively. Police say they found 20 pills of methamphetamine, 0.92 grams of dried marijuana and 5 items of drug paraphernalia.

Police also raided 2 houses in Moo 2, arresting 5 suspects, named as 21 year old Vikrom Kongwiriyakul, 32 year old Narunat Chanthamuwong, 18 year old Chanchai Damrongkaset, a woman named Chantha Hansaithong, and 21 year old Warut Rodphan.

Warut was allegedly found with a bottle containing 500 millilitres of kratom juice. Police also say they seized 150 grams of kratom leaf dregs which are used to boil leaves in order to make the juice. Police charged him with posession of a Category 5 drug.

Police say they confiscated a total of 13 litres of kratom juice from 4 other suspects, which was contained in 10 bottles along with other ingredients and equipment to produce the drug cocktail called ‘4×100.’

All 9 suspects were taken to the Chalong Police Station in which only 1 agreed to undergo drug rehabilitation.

The raids come after the Phuket Provincial Government ordered officers of the Muang District Office to target villages where drugs are prevalent. A spokesman for the government said police will continue to remove drug traffickers from the community while working to improve the quality of local people’s lives so they don’t have to use drugs anymore.

SOURCE: The Phuket News

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