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Fireworks row ignites corruption scandal

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Fireworks row ignites corruption scandal | Thaiger

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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Chiang Mai

Tourism officials slash Songkran travel expectations by half

Tim Newton

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Tourism officials slash Songkran travel expectations by half | Thaiger

The TAT, ever the optimists regarding anything tourism related, even domestic tourism, predict that the Bangkok clusters that have emerged in the week before the Songkran break could reduce traffic and spending by up to half.

Today the CCSA is reporting 789 new infections and one additional death. 522 were local infections, mostly walk-ins to Bangkok hospitals, 259 were discovered through track and tracing. The remaining 8 were found in quarantine from overseas arrivals. In Phuket, another 17 cases have been reported today, taking the island’s week total to 43.

Tourism officials slash Songkran travel expectations by half | News by ThaigerGRAPH: Worldometer figures for Thailand, up to April 9

A 68 year old man from Nakhon Pathom province died on April 4 but wasn’t reported until today. The CCSA report that he died from Covid and “complications”. 33 other former patients have recovered and been discharged.

Last week the TAT estimated 3.2 million domestic trips would circulate 12 billion baht for the Thai economy. But the Tourism Authority has now slashed their estimates by half after hotels, airlines and bus companies reported mass cancellations in the last few days. Other provinces are reporting less than 20% cancellations. Although this weekend will see a lot of travel, Songkran doesn’t formally start until next Tuesday and the TAT expect there could be additional fallout as travellers decide to have a staycation for Songkran instead heading home.

Bangkok Post reports that 70% of travellers to Prachuap Khiri Khan and Hua Hin have already cancelled hotel bookings. Similar cancellations have been reported in Pattaya, Phuket and Chiang Mai. Many other provinces, particularly in the north east and north, are also enforcing quarantine on arrivals or additional paperwork to try and protect their provinces from any of the Bangkok clusters.

8 north eastern provinces rare now requiring 10 or 14 day quarantine periods for anyone arriving from areas where new clusters have been reported. Chiang Mai provincial officials say that tourists from Samut Prakan, Nakhon Pathom, Bangkok, Pathum Thani and Nonthaburi – basically Bangkok and surrounding provinces – must complete a 14 day mandatory quarantine or conduct a test for Covid when they arrive.

The reality is that the travel and quarantine changes are outstripping the ability to communicate them all. Anyone crossing into other provinces in the next few day, especially if you’re travelling from Bangkok and surrounding provincial ‘red zones’ can expect some additional paperwork or a Covid test. Or even quarantine.

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Education

Phuket student protests and is flunked as “not loyal to the nation”

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Phuket student protests and is flunked as “not loyal to the nation” | Thaiger
FILE PHOTO: Student protests led to one student not graduating due to being “not loyal to the nation, institution of the monarchy”

After participating in protests for student’s rights, a Phuket student was barred from graduating 9th grade, moving from middle school to high school, charged with being “not loyal to the nation, institution of the monarchy”. The student had advocated against mandatory uniforms and for student’s liberties. He told reporters that the school started paying attention to his actions last year when he participated in rallies in solidarity with students across Thailand. The school’s student affairs office received a copy of posts he made on social media encouraging others to join the cause. The school ordered a stop to his political actions, but he and his friends disregarded warnings and violated school rules when they handed out white ribbons to classmates. They received a warning from the student affairs office.

Student protests have increased after pro-democracy demonstrations surged in July last year, empowering many Thai people to speak out against injustices, including students’ rights and liberties. People from schools across the nation have been banding together in solidarity to bring their issues to public light.

On graduation day, all the students were promoted into high school, except for the one student protestor, says the Bad Student protest group. The theme of the day focused on dedication to the monarchy, country and religion, and specifically how students should be obedient. The student said he has received support from friends, but his parents remain neutral and his teachers have been completely silent on the matter. He is frustrated that he was punished for his right to express himself. He plans on testing with incoming students to re-enrol in the same school, and if he is not accepted because of the disloyalty charge, he will pursue legal ramifications, suing the school for blocking his right to an education over the student’s protests.

The student believes he needs to speak out to prevent school administrators from imposing on more students’ rights. He advocates for diversity in schools and ending prejudices, with increased liberties and freedoms for students.

“Schools must teach children to be able to think by themselves, not force children to think like them. Schools should create opportunities for students to express their ideas more freely.”

SOURCE: Prachatai

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

16 more Covid infections reported today in Phuket

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16 more Covid infections reported today in Phuket | Thaiger
iTrip.com

Phuket is reporting 16 more infections today. It follows visits from Bangkok and last weekend’s Kolour Beachside parties that have resulted in a number of new Covid infections. The number of new infections has reached 26. But deputy governor Vikrom Jakthee says the province has been successful in containing the new outbreak “due to its quick response measures which now include shuttering bars and nightlife venues.

One of the confirmed cases is a male teacher from Headstart International School in Kathu who, after attending the parties on the weekend, was back teaching students on Monday and Tuesday. The school has sent a letter to all parents advising them of the situation and organising testing for anyone who may have come in contact with the teacher.

The closure order in Phuket comes just as the island province was expecting to get an influx of visitors for Songkran, the Thai New Year. Many bar and club owners were expecting some increased traffic during the holiday week. Phuket officials say they will explain to bar and club owners why they decided to close the venues during the critical week for business.

Vikrom previously cited the start of the island’s Covid vaccine roll-out of Covid starting to head towards a herd immunity in time for the province’s proposed July reopening to international tourists. But he admitted that the sudden appearance of the coronavirus on the island again will force officials to reevaluate the schedule for reopening. He also said that almost all cases were in younger age groups of people in their 20s and 30s.

“Today, the number of infected people reported in Phuket has reached 26, many are from entertainment venues. This figure is relatively high. It jumped from 10 to 26 cases. We will invite operators of entertainment places in for discussions.”

Partygoers who went to any of the Kolour Beachside parties in Phuket last weekend are being asked to visit a local hospital for a Covid test. The parties hosted more than 3,000 people, drawing concern after a musician tested positive for Covid-19, having attended all 3 parties. The Phuket Provincial Government and Phuket Provincial Public Health Office released a statement yesterday advising all partygoers to get tested.

“Those who attended the Kolour parties from April 2 to 3 at Shelter Phuket Dance & Night Club in Patong, Cafe Del Mar Phuket in Kamala and Illuzion nightclub on Bangla Road in Patong are asked to get tested.”

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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