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Go Eco Phuket aims to maintain momentum

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Go Eco Phuket aims to maintain momentum | Thaiger

PHUKET: Go Eco Phuket, the local marine conservation group launched last weekend with the world’s biggest reef cleanup, is looking to maintain its momentum by joining the Royal Thai Navy in scuttling a ship to use as an artificial reef.

Group members have already held discussions with local Naval officers about the project, which is expected to ease the pressure on several dive sites in the proposed area.

Go Eco Phuket’s inaugural event last weekend surpassed the group’s expectations, as 502 participants stepped onto Chalong Pier and registered to get on a boat to help project “Dive Against Debris”.

Of those participants, 370 were divers; the rest helped as snorkelers or debris sorters, or took part in beach cleanups.

Not included in the group’s total number of participants were the more than 100 government volunteers, ranging from Royal Thai Navy personnel who provided assistance to divers, to the local administration organization workers who helped unload the debris at Chalong Pier to ensure that it was transferred to a landfill and did not find its way back into the sea.

The group, heavily sponsored by PADI, Project AWARE and the Phuket Gazette, lifted 15 tons of debris off the reefs surrounding Koh Racha Noi, Koh Racha Yai, Phi Phi Island, Koh Khao Nok and Koh Hei (“Coral Island”).

“This is amazing. It’s kind of unprecedented. Not only the number of divers you have taking part, but you have the Thai government, you have the TAT [Tourism Authority of Thailand], the Royal Thai Navy… you have everybody rallying behind it, which is outstanding,” said Henrik Nimb, the Vice President of PADI Asia Pacific and Director of the Project AWARE Foundation.

“One thing we can all agree on is that we have to save the reefs. We don’t want to see this as one event, but [would like to see] the dive centers continue with it and keep the momentum,” he said.

Though grateful for the “PADI power” that helped unite the island’s competing PADI dive centers to achieve the record-breaking cleanup, many members of the Go Eco Phuket group hope to include all dive centers on the island, regardless of affiliation, in future events to ensure the reefs of Phuket and surrounding islands remain pristine, world-class diving attractions.

“Go Eco Phuket isn’t all about PADI… I am working very hard for Go Eco Phuket… I would like to have all the dive centers be part of Go Eco Phuket; it doesn’t matter what organization they are from; I need every dive center to unite and work with the local government,” said Narong Chaimo, who acted as liaison between Thai officials and the Go Eco Phuket group for the event.

Kerry Leach, one of the event organizers, echoed Mr Narong’s desire to incorporate all dive companies on the island in the Go Eco Phuket group.

The cooperation and coordination of the day’s event was highlighted by the lifting of a 4.5 ton fishing net from Banana Bay on Koh Racha Noi.

Divers spent three dives carefully removing the netting from the coral reef and attaching lift bags before the Royal Thai Navy and a local fishing vessel were able to get the net out of the water.

The crane attached to the fishing boat was bent in the five-hour attempt to lift the net, explained Ms Leach. Unwilling to dump the huge net back into the ocean, the Royal Thai Navy directed the fishing vessel toward the RTN’s Wang Nai 774, which lowered its beach landing ramp into the water.

“One of the head Royal Navy officers on the boat with us wai’d the fishermen who had helped,” said Ms Leach, when asked about some of the most memorable moments of the event.

“We really need to thank the Royal Thai Navy; without them we would have never lifted the 4.5 ton net out of the water,” said Mr Narong.

— Isaac Stone Simonelli

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

UPDATE: Field hospitals being established in Covid hot zones around Thailand

Tim Newton

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UPDATE: The field hospital in Bangkok’s Bang Bon district, west of the Chao Phraya river, had its first 10 Covid patients today. The director of the medical services office of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration says that the 10 patients into the makeshift hospital, located at the Chalerm Phra Kiat Stadium, will enable assessment of the performance by the medical team, before more patients arrive – Thai PBS World

ORIGINAL STORY: Despite the confident posture and Songkran going ahead, amid restrictions, there is a lot of background activity which suggest the authorities are getting ready for a surge of new infections at the end of the Songkran break, officially this Thursday (but in reality, next Sunday at the end of the weekend when most people who travelled home will return for a resumption of work).

The Thai lunar new year celebrations – Songkran – are the largest mass movement of Thais each year, a source for a huge leap in road deaths and accidents. And, this year, a potential super-spreader event.

Quietly, at least 3,000 extra beds have been prepared in 10 field hospitals around Bangkok. The government has also confirmed that additional field hospitals are being set up in other potential ‘hot zones’, including Phuket, Chiang Mai, Chonburi and Hua Hin. Some of them were set up last year, and since closed, and now being prepared for new positive infections.

One Thai person who had been in one of the field hospitals put together a check-list of things to take IF you end up as an invited ‘guest’ HERE.

The CCSA say they are looking for additional beds in hotels and previous state quarantine facilities (where repatriating Thais were housed for their free quarantine) to be used if needed.

This year’s Songkran had bad timing, coming just a week after a number of major clusters were identified around some of Bangkok’s popular nightlife areas in 3 key inner city districts. Even before Songkran these isolated clusters had already spread into the provinces. In the weekend before Songkran the government had already listed 37 provinces which had instigated some form of paperwork or restrictions for people who had been in any of the 3 Bangkok districts.

The government also leapt on the source of the new outbreaks – bars, clubs and entertainment venues – and promptly shut them down for at least 2 weeks. At this stage it looks likely that that ban will be extended beyond the 2 weeks and, depending on the extent of new infections following the Songkran holiday, additional restrictions will also be added.

Even today the Civil Aviation Authority published a number of new in-flight restrictions for passengers – another blow to the hard-hit domestic aviation sector.

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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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