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Fireworks row ignites corruption scandal

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Fireworks row ignites corruption scandal | The Thaiger
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PHUKET: Winai Chidchiew, the chief of Karon Subdistrict (Kamnan), has found himself amid another corruption scandal, this time over allegedly threatening municipal officers into allowing firework displays to be held late at night, while facing allegations of paying bribes to the Chalong Police.

Kamnan Winai found himself in the center of corruption allegations involving the Chalong Police last year, when he defended illegal immigrants working illegally in Kata and Karon as staff selling counterfeit goods.

In that incident, the migrant workers accused the Chalong Police of extorting “too much” money from them, leaving them with no choice but to cease their line of trade.

This week, however, Karon Deputy Mayor Itthiporn Sangkaew accused Kamnan Winai of threatening his officers, and accused Chalong Police of accepting bribes in order to ignore complaints about the late-night displays.

“About five months ago, Club Med sent their guests to join an activity at Kata Beach Resort & Spa. Other Karon Municipality officers and myself went to the hotel to observe.

“We tried to stop guests from lighting the fireworks on the beach, but Kamnan Winai confronted us. With his team surrounding us, he told me, ‘Don’t mess with this matter’,” Deputy Mayor Itthiporn told the Phuket Gazette.

Mr Itthiphorn said that he had tried to invoke the Municipality Act , which confers the power for municipalities to act on public order issues.

However, Kamnan Winai insisted that the Muang District Office, which covers Phuket City and the southern part of the island, granted the hotel permission to stage the fireworks show.

“Although the hotels are granted permission by Muang District Office, they still have to ask for permission from Karon Municipality to use the area to set off fireworks,” retorted Mr Itthiporn.

“I tried to explain this to Kamnan Winai, but he kept saying that if the District Chief had allowed them to set off fireworks, then it was legal to do so and told us to stay out of it.

“The late-night fireworks in the Kata area were almost stamped out, but now they’re back again because some government officers have misused their authority. They’ve allowed the hotels, entertainment venues, restaurants and tour companies to start again,” he added.

Deputy Mayor Itthiporn blamed Kamnan Winai directly.

“Kamnan Winai is directly involved in this issue. I heard that he has bribed Chalong Police so the police will allow him to abuse his power,” he alleged.

“We’ve tried to get rid of the problem, but our work has ground to a halt because of illegal powers at work. Now I have no idea where to start. What if we get into trouble? Who is going to help us deal with this? No one. That is why we cannot take risks and that is why we cannot move on,” explained Mr Itthiporn.

“Fireworks are set off in Kata every night from about 9pm to 2am, and it is several times almost every night. I want to make Kata a peaceful place for locals and tourists. That is what I’m aiming for,” he said.

Kamnan Winai, however, countered the accusations with allegations of his own. “Some municipality officers wanted to charge a ‘commission’ from the operator who was providing firework displays for hotels and restaurants in the Kata and Karon area for the pleasure of their guests and tourists.

“The operator did not want to give money to the officers, so he told me about the problem. I suggested he contact the Muang District Office to obtain permission to hold firework displays. He did so, and he now operates legally,” Kamnan Winai continued.

However, the Karon Municipality officers were still not satisfied, he alleged.

“Speaking frankly, they still wanted the fireworks operator to pay them,” said Kamnan Winai, adding that the officers tried to use the Municipality Act to intimidate the operator into paying them.

“How can municipal officers still try to prevent him [from staging fireworks] when he had already received permission from the District Chief. He did everything according to the law, so how can they arrest him?” asked Mr Winai.

“The municipality should respect the [District Chief’s] decision and not interfere in his business. Further, Karon Municipality officers claimed that I gave the operator a ‘special right’ or that he had offered me a bribe, which is not true,” he said.

Kamnan Winai also denied the allegation that he and his team threatened municipality officers. “I have never done anything like that. Those municipality officers have to be more careful with their words as I could sue them for defamation.

“I am the Kamnan of Karon, so whoever is going to light fireworks in my area is my responsibility. I have to check that they have authority from the District Office. If I see anything being conducted in accordance with the law, and that does not cause any trouble to people in my area, then I will allow it. I will advise them to be careful and check the area to make sure it is safe before setting off any fireworks. This is my job,” said Kamnan Winai.

Challenging Deputy Mayor Ittiporn’s accusation of paying bribes, Kamnan Winai responded, “I have never paid a bribe to Chalong Police officers. It is the municipality officers who demanded the money from the firework operator. The firework managing operator is my friend and he told me he had been asked by municipality officers to pay a bribe,” Mr Winai alleged.

In a statement apparently aimed at Deputy Mayor Itthiporn, Kamnan Winai said, “You are a municipality officer and a representative of the government. You should have clean hands. Advise the firework operator to be careful when lighting fireworks and make sure the beach is clean afterward, but stop trying to find an excuse to arrest them.”

“It is impossible that big firework displays are happening every night as they cost between 50,000 and 70,000 baht to stage. Who can afford that every night? Usually firework displays are timed to coincide with tourists finishing their dinner, which generally is not later than 10pm.

“If you hear fireworks after that, it’s more likely coming from the smaller bars, clubs or restaurants along the beach, or some tourists just having fun,” Kamnan Winai said.

Dragged into the affray, Chalong Police Deputy Superintendent Narong Laksanawimon told the Gazette that he knows of a conflict between Karon Municipality officers and Kamnan Winai about firework displays in Kata, but does not know the full details.

He did, however, unreservedly deny all allegations of Chalong Police officers receiving any money from Kamnan Winai.

“We have tried to control the problem and I can say that it has decreased. Previously, it was happening almost every night,” said Lt Col Narong.

“Even though it’s hard to control fireworks being set off we do not ignore it. I order police to patrol the area every night. If a person lighting the fireworks has authority from Muang District office, we cannot charge them,” he said.

— Orawin Narabal

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Tourism

Phuket prepares to welcome first Chinese tourists in over 6 months

Maya Taylor

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Phuket prepares to welcome first Chinese tourists in over 6 months | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Jing Daily

The first group of tourists to arrive under Thailand’s new Special Tourist Visa scheme are expected to land in Phuket on October 8. The Bangkok Post reports that a flight from Guangzhou in southern China will carry 120 tourists, who will spend their first 14 days in alternative state quarantine. They are reported to be travelling under the government’s new STV.

Arrivals who do not pass the initial health screening will be transferred to specially chosen hospitals, as “Patients under Investigation”. Those who do pass the screening will be transported to alternative state quarantine once they’ve gone through immigration processing.

A Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration spokesperson says the resort islands of Phuket and Koh Samui will be the first to welcome travellers under the Special Tourist Via scheme. He pointed out that Guangzhou has not recorded any new cases of the Covid-19 virus for a prolonged period, meaning next week’s tourist arrivals are deemed “low risk”. His assertion is confirmed from the official figures at worldometer.info website recording world Covid-19 cases.

The CCSA reports that there will be a limit of 300 foreign tourists admitted each week, but this will be reviewed after the first phase of the re-opening. All arrivals will be subject to 14 day quarantine, although the Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn has suggested reducing this to 7 days eventually. The CCSA says they are not considering reducing the quarantine time at this stage.

Thiravat Hemachudha from the Thai Red Cross Emerging Infectious Disease Health Science Centre is not opposed to the idea.

“We can study this with foreign visitors who will arrive next month. During the 14 day quarantine they will be tested on the first, the seventh and the fourteenth day. If they are free of infections, we can shorten the quarantine to 7 days.”

However, not all are in agreement, with a doctor from Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University cautioning against any shortening of the quarantine period.

Meanwhile, Phuket governor, Narong Woonsiew, says the province is ready to welcome the new arrivals, with Covid-19 labs in place at Phuket airport, and officials due to carry out a full dress rehearsal today.

Thanit Sermkaew, chief of the Phuket Public Health Office, says over 1,200 rooms at 9 hotels have been chosen as alternative state quarantine properties, with a total of 73 hotels, providing over 5,800 rooms, applying for consideration.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Phuket

Woman arrested for abandoning newborn baby on a bench in Phuket

Caitlin Ashworth

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Woman arrested for abandoning newborn baby on a bench in Phuket | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Siangtai/Newshawk Phuket

Police tracked down and arrested a Burmese woman who allegedly left her newborn baby on a bench in Phuket’s Patong area last week. The mother faces charges of abandoning a baby.

The newborn was left in a reusable shopping bag on a bench behind a Krungthai Bank branch. A woman in the area heard the baby crying and found the newborn in the bag along with a bottle of milk, diapers and clothing. Police reviewed surveillance camera footage shows a woman, police later identified as Ei Ei Phyu, leaving the bag on the bench.

Police say the woman gave birth on September 9 at a local hospital in Surat Thani’s Phun Phin district. Ei Ei allegedly took a van from Surat Thani to Phuket on September 22 and stayed with a friend in Patong. The early the next morning, she allegedly left her baby on the bench before boarding a bus back to Surat Thani.

Burmese workers in the Patong area told police Ei Ei used to work at a local Indian food restaurant before she moved to Surat Thani to work as a rubber tapper. Ei Ei allegedly told police she is not in the position to raise a child.

In earlier reports, police said the baby is healthy and does not appear to have any injuries.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Thailand

Phuket police arrest 6 after finding large amounts of methamphetamine in raid

The Thaiger & The Nation

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Phuket police arrest 6 after finding large amounts of methamphetamine in raid | The Thaiger

Phuket Provincial Police have arrested 6 people after finding large amounts of methamphetamine and other drugs during a raid. One suspect alone allegedly had 7.6 kilograms of crystal meth (ya ice) and over 12,500 methamphetamine pills (ya bah). 29 year old Surasak ‘Bank’ Wijit and 27 year old Panida ‘Mei’ Saeyang were arrested at an apartment car park in Soi Lookkaew, Moo 6, Rassada, in eastern Phuket, after they were found in possession of the drugs.

Police also found 2 mobile phones and a red Honda PCX, registered in Phuket, as evidence. Both suspects have been charged with posessing a Category 1 drug with the intent to sell.

Other suspects arrested at the same time include 36 year old from Chiang Rai, 42 year old Sarawut ‘An’ Srichanon, from Ranong and 31 year old Pornthep ‘Iew’ Thepchampa, who were charged with the same crimes in Chalong after police found more drugs in their possession. 33 year old Kamon ‘Kung’ Sae-ngow, was arrested as well after police found kratom juice and leaves at a house in Rassada. He was taken to Phuket City Police station and was charged with a Category 5 drug possession.

SOURCE:The Phuket News

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