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Giant Buddha gets go-ahead

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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KARON: Construction of the controversial Mingmongkol Buddha image atop Nakkerd Hill will resume next month, now that the Royal Forest Department (RFD) has issued a paper authorizing work on the project to continue.

The authorization stipulates that the project remain in compliance with the original plan and that steps be taken to minimize further erosion at the project site.

Work on the project was halted nine months ago after it was deemed to have exceeded its original scope and for violating the ban on the construction of permanent structures above 80 meters. The ban went into effect in 1994 in an effort to halt just the kind of erosion that the project has caused.

Originally authorized to consist of no more than a single brass Buddha and some bathrooms, the project quickly mushroomed to include a large sala and several other structures designed to accommodate the needs of “pilgrims” and those making donations to fund construction.

Under a new design the image will be 45 meters high, and 25 meters across at its base. It will be made of reinforced concrete and covered with gold leaf.

The image is expected to be particularly spectacular around dusk, when it will reflect the dying rays of the sun. Promoted as the world’s largest gold-leaf-covered Buddha image, it is expected to become a major religious icon and tourist attraction for Phuket.

At a ceremony at the project site on Saturday, Phuket Prison Chief Panya Panatnachee presented the RFD permission paper to Suporn Wanichkul, head of the Mingmongkol Buddha project committee.

The RFD permission paper stipulates that construction now be limited to the Buddha image itself. Additional structures, including a large temporary sala and numerous places for devotees and tourists to make merit and give donations, must be removed from the site once the Buddha image is completed. The RFD paper also stipulates that trees be planted in the area to prevent further soil erosion.

K. Suporn said his committee was satisfied with the state’s decision and said that full-time work will resume in August. He said that herbs and native trees would be planted in the area.

It was not reported if these will be of the same species as the stands of virgin forest that were felled to make way for the project and the access road leading to it.

However, K. Suporn said his committee intends to continue lobbying the government for the right to build more permanent structures at the site, “should they be required to meet the needs of tourists who visit the site”. These would included accommodation for monks and a permanent sala, he said.

In fact, a brochure soliciting donations for the project, which is still being widely distributed in Phuket, reads, “There will be a meditation center when the development is completed.”

K. Suporn added that the project will be completed within two years.

“Money collected [from donations by “pilgrims” and tourists] will pay for the upkeep of the image,” he said.

 

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Thailand

Americans in Thailand urge US to provide Covid-19 vaccines to citizens overseas

Tanutam Thawan

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Stock photo by Mufid Majnun for Unsplash

Thai officials say expats living in Thailand will be included in the government’s mass Covid-19 vaccination plan, but exactly when that will be is still up in the air. With foreign embassies in Thailand clearly stating that they will not assist with providing citizens living overseas with vaccines, expats are relying on the Thai government.

A number of Americans are now urging the US government to provide Covid-19 vaccines to citizens living in Thailand. And with the recent outbreak linked to the more contagious variant of the virus, getting a vaccine in Thailand has become more pressing.

A “Covid-19 Vaccine Task Force” of Democrats Abroad Thailand members, as well as those from American organisations based in Thailand, is calling on the US government to deliver vaccines to citizens living in Thailand, chairperson of Democrats Abroad Thailand and a United Nations consultant, Paul Risley, told VOA.

“Americans who live abroad need to be vaccinated for the same reasons that Americans who live in the United States need to be vaccinated… Because it’s the only way to stop Covid-19.”

If an American were to travel back to the US for a vaccine, they would still need to stay in a hotel or certified facility for a 14-day quarantine at their own expense when re-entering Thailand. Along with getting together the required paperwork, they would need to go through numerous Covid-19 tests including before the flight, upon arrival and before being released from quarantine. The flights to and from the US can end up being more than 20 hours per trip and add up to thousands of dollars in travel costs.

For the vast majority of Americans in Thailand, flying back to the US is the only way to get vaccinated at the moment. The US Embassy in Bangkok says vaccines will not be provided for US citizens living overseas.

The Department of State does not provide direct medical care, including vaccinations, to private U.S. citizens abroad. We are committed to providing all possible consular assistance to U.S. citizens in need overseas, including by providing information on local medical resources when appropriate. Please follow host country developments and guidelines for COVID-19 vaccination.

At a recent Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration meeting, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said “all people who reside in Thailand, regardless of their nationality, are eligible to receive the vaccine under the government’s plan.”

Mass vaccination campaigns are being rolled out in high-risk areas, such as Bangkok’s Khlong Toey slum where a cluster of infections was reported, as well as Phuket and Koh Samui, tourist islands that are said to be of “economic significance.” Health officials are trying to hit herd immunity on the 2 islands to reopen to foreign tourists.

Expats in Phuket who have a valid work permit can now register for a state Covid-19 vaccine. The registration must be under the company name and expats are told to have the company’s human resources staff assist with the registration process.

While no official announcement has been made regarding expats in Koh Samui, some foreigners who work as English teachers on the island say they have received both doses of the Chinese-made Sinovac vaccine. Schools apparently helped with the registration process, but some teachers say they told to keep quiet about getting the vaccine. Some did not receive a vaccine certificate or any other documentation confirming that they are vaccinated against the coronavirus.

SOURCE: VOA

 

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Phuket

ICU beds for Covid-19 patients in Phuket are close to a “critical” low

Tanutam Thawan

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FILE PHOTO

Covid-19 patients in severe condition may have to been transferred from a government hospital in Phuket to a private hospital as the number of available hospital beds at public intensive care units in Phuket is close to a “critical” low, according to Vachira Phuket Hospital Director Chalermpong Sukontapol.

There are 9 ICU rooms at the Vachira Phuket Hospital. 5 are being used for Covid-19 patients with severe symptoms while the other 4 rooms are for those with mild symptoms and are under observation before being moved to another bed.

“If the 9 rooms are full of severe symptom cases, that will be a big critical stage. We may need to transfer our patients to other provinces or private hospitals, which may involve additional costs.”

He says 50% of the Covid-19 patients in Phuket are asymptomatic while 30% have mild symptoms and 10% have severe symptoms. For most of those with severe symptoms, the virus has moved to their lungs and they are in need of special equipment, like ventilators, to help them breathe and Charlempong says those patients need to be under close observation.

SOURCE: Phuket News

 

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

For travellers to Phuket, testing is out, quarantine is in

Neill Fronde

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PHOTO: Phuket Vice Governor Piyapong Choowong (via Facebook)

The on-again-off-again plans for testing people for Covid-19 as they arrive in Phuket will be replaced by quarantine after May 15, according to Vice Governor Piyapong Choowong’s latest announcement. In an online video broadcast last night, the vice governor confirmed the new scheme after Phuket Governor Narong Woonciew first mentioned it in an executive meeting at Phuket Provincial Hall yesterday.

There are now 25 provinces on the Phuket red zone list that they instated on April 22, with anyone arriving from those places required to have proof that they are either fully vaccinated or tested negative for Covid-19 within the last 72 hours. Without proof, people have to take a rapid antigen test to confirm they did not have Covid-19 before they would be allowed on the island. The test was first set to be 300 baht for everyone, and later controversially made free for Thai people and 500 baht for foreigners.

There had been some back and forth with budget concerns of being able to provide the mass testing and who would pay how much for continued testing. Perhaps requiring people to quarantine in Phuket is cheaper than testing them when they arrive (cheaper for Phuket officials anyway).

The original scheme was set to expire May 15, and announcements were made about extending the plan and stopping testing right away. For now, this debate seems to have settled on replacing the testing with a mandatory quarantine upon entering Phuket.

The vice-governor explained that the rapid antigen test will continue through May 14, and then starting May 15, anyone who arrives without a vaccine or a negative Covid-19 test within 72 hours of arriving in Phuket will be required to quarantine for 14 days. They set a goal of zero new infections by the end of the next two weeks. And he stated they are committed to doing whatever it takes as “Phuket cannot continue with this risk”.

Speaking to The Phuket News… “We want to send a sign to the country that we are cleaning up our province. The 3 vice governors [in Phuket] have been ordered to take care of each district by cooperating with local administration officers as well as community leaders to do proactive screening,”

After announcing the quarantine plan for Phuket, the vice governor spoke confidently that in the near future the island will have enough jabs to vaccinate every person on the island. Religious leaders from any faith are currently being vaccinated because of their general proximity to people during religious ceremonies and practices.

Vice Governor Piyapong pled with people with the people of Phuket who were on the fence about Covid-19 vaccinations, anti-vaxxers, or those otherwise resisting getting the jabs needed to reach herd immunity.

“If you are still deciding whether or not to get vaccinated, please come to get vaccinated”

SOURCE: The Phuket News

 

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