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Graft-busters probe plunder of Phuket forests

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PHUKET: A team of National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) officers stopped in Phuket this week as part of a nationwide inspection tour aimed at putting an end to widespread encroachment on state forest reserves.

Kajadpai Burutpat, president of an NACC subcommittee investigating forest encroachment nationwide, said after a meeting at Provincial Hall with Phuket Land Office and Forest Department officers that official corruption leading to encroachment on state forest preserves was a nationwide problem.

“We are studying forest encroachment issues in our travels around many different provinces. Different areas have different problems, so we have to take a wide view before setting up measures to solve the problem,” he said.

Part of the tour involves meeting local officials to hear about the problems they face and encouraging them to live up to their responsibilities, he said.

“We study the specific problems faced by local officers in each area and make suggestions on how to deal with them. As government officers, we should work with honesty and integrity, having the courage to ensure justice for the benefit of the country and its people,” he said.

“We’ve [already] been to Chiang Mai, Tak, Nakhon Ratchasima and Prachinburi, all of which have major problems of encroachment on state forest land,” said Mr Kajadpai, a former deputy chief of the National Security Council.

The people who encroach on state forest reserves include a wide spectrum of the population, from hilltribe people clearing land for subsistence farming to wealthy investors using the land to build resorts.

The collective result has been the ongoing destruction of “hundreds of thousands” of rai of Thailand’s protected forest land, which is also the main cause of flooding in the country, he said.

What the subcommittee’s initial review of cases in Phuket revealed will come as little surprise to those who have followed the encroachment issue on the island over the past decade: that land grabs are typically committed on tracts for which land-use documents, typically SorPorKor or SorKor 1 papers, have been issued by the government – legally or otherwise.

“From our meeting today, we found that most problems result when boundaries between state land and private landholdings are poorly delineated, but the process of issuing land title deeds continues nonetheless,” said Mr Kajadpai.

As a result, the Royal Forest Department often discovers that SorKor 1 papers have been issued and, in some cases, resorts already built on land under its protection, he said.

SorKor 1 documents, which are government-issued papers recognizing historical land use by a private party, can in most circumstances be upgraded to full Chanote title deeds.

“People claim they have held these documents for a long time and have used the land for agricultural purposes. Now the Department of National Parks Wildlife and Plant Conservation wants proof in the form of aerial photographs to ensure the land was actually used for private benefit prior to 1954 [when modern Thai land law was established],” explained Mr Kajadpai.

Only in such cases do SorKor 1 holders have legitimate claims to land administered by the Royal Forest Department, he said.

One way to end the abuse would be to establish a special committee to guarantee beyond any doubt that plots for which SorKor 1 papers are held do not encroach upon protected forest before they are upgraded to full Chanote status, he said.

“If possible, local officers should not just sit in the office and examine documents, but go out and inspect the site in question to ensure there are no discrepancies,” he said.

Panumet Dam-on, chief of the Royal Forest Department’s conservation unit, told the meeting that whenever he tried to use the rule of law to protect forest reserves, he was hit with complaints and lawsuits filed by investors.

Maj Gen Kittisak Marom, another one of the NACC subcommittee members in attendance, said that all government officers are duty-bound to abide by the law. He also warned that officers who fail to take action to stop illegal activity face prosecution for dereliction of duty and possible dismissal from the civil service.

Skyrocketing land prices, with the prime plots now selling for as much as 200 million baht per rai, had fueled the encroachment problem in Phuket and led to the destruction of forest reserves. Most of the encroachment was the result of investors who are not from Phuket, he said.

The subcommittee is meeting with local officers nationwide in June and July, after which it will report its findings to the NACC board for preparation of a report to be submitted to Cabinet, Mr Kajadpai said.

Believing that existing laws provide a fertile channel for corruption, the NACC might recommend new regulations to stem the abuse, or even a complete overhaul of existing forest protection laws, the panelists said.

— Atchaa Khamlo

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Phuket Monopoly game creators need your help with token designs

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Phuket Monopoly game creators need your help with token designs | The Thaiger

Phuket is set to get its own version of the popular game MONOPOLY and its creators want your help with ideas for the specialised tokens. ‘MONOPOLY: Phuket Edition’ was announced last month which will see the street art on the board game replaced with that of famous places around Thailand’s famous tourist destination. Such art will include beaches, hotels, shops, markets and other popular attractions.

Jennifer Lau from Winning Moves UK, is producing the game under official license from Monopoly brand owners, Hasbro. Lau says the tokens will feature a holiday theme. The token’s departure from the original theme of wheelbarrows, boots, iron, and thimbles as well as popular sports cars and hats.

“We have had a wealth of emails and suggestions coming in for Phuket, so thank you for each and every single one of them! We are taking them all into consideration whilst putting together the design of the game.”

“We wanted to change the tokens so that they would be more suitable for an island like Phuket, where so many people like to go on holiday to.”

“There will be six themed tokens that replace the original and we want to hear your suggestions for what these tokens should be!”

Bangkok has already been featured in the Monopoly game as it came out for purchase back in 2018.

SOURCE: The Phuket News

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Phuket holds vaccine administration rehearsal as it waits for green light

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Phuket holds vaccine administration rehearsal as it waits for green light | The Thaiger

Phuket is rehearsing procedures to ready themselves for the Covid‐19 vaccine administration green light. A rehearsal at Vachira Hospital’s Lan Muang Khao open area was held late yesterday to iron out any kinks in the administration process. Phuket Vice Governor Pichet Panapong watched over the procedures along with other health officials.

Pichet says the first vaccine round of 4,000 doses should arrive early in March, with the 2nd and 3rd set of doses, 16,000 and 48,000 respectively, to arrive in April and May.

“The government recognises the importance of the affected areas of the economy where the epidemic situation of COVID-19 must be stopped and has allocated the COVID-19 vaccine to Phuket Province to build herd immunity, restore the economy, return a smile to Thailand.”

“We are preparing to COVID-19 mass vaccination to build confidence among the people that they will receive a quality, safe vaccine and to receive follow-up care after it has been administered.”

Pichet says Phuket’s first target groups to receive the vaccine include medical and public health personnel, with others on the frontlines to come next.

Then, workers aged 18-59 years old, people with underlying diseases including chronic respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease, chronic kidney disease, cerebrovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity will follow.

“People with severe neurological conditions and pregnant women should be wary of taking the vaccine, as well as women who are breastfeeding and people with immunodeficiency.”

The procedure to get vaccinated starts by recipients undergoing screening by having their temperatures taken, and then sanitising their hands before entering the administration area. Then, they will move their way through a series of steps, detailed below:

Step 1: Register

Step 2: Record weight and blood pressure

Step 3: Pass the screening process by have their medical history and risk assessment recorded and then signing a consent to receive the vaccine

Step 4: Wait for vaccination

Step 5: Vaccination

Step 6: Rest for 30 minutes, while being observed for symptoms. Then scan the official Line account “หมอพร้อม” (“Doctor Ready”)

Step 7: Pass a final check before receiving a document confirming vaccination

Pichet says health workers will follow up with vaccine recipients after 1,7, and 30 days from being vaccinated to monitor any adverse reactions.

Those who are set to receive their second jab will have appointments made for them. Those who receive the Sinovac vaccine will be scheduled to have their second doses 2 to 4 weeks after the first. AstraZeneca vaccine receivers will be scheduled for their second doses 10 to 12 weeks after the first.

SOURCE: The Phuket News

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Phuket

Phuket police officer charged with attempted murder for shooting and critically injuring a noodle vendor

Caitlin Ashworth

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Phuket police officer charged with attempted murder for shooting and critically injuring a noodle vendor | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Siamrath

The drunk, off-duty police officer in Phuket who has caught on camera shooting and beating a noodle vendor on Bangla Road is now facing attempted murder charges as well as charges of carrying a firearm in public without a necessary reason and firing a weapon in a public area. The commander of the Phuket police station said he ordered investigators to prosecute the officer Pornthep Channarong with every criminal charge that can be applied.

The officer had gotten into an altercation just before dawn yesterday and shot a young vendor who was walking by. Surveillance camera footage show the 25 year old suddenly falling to the ground after being shot. The officer walks up and shoots the vendor at a close range, but it appears the second shot did not hit the vendor. The officer also slapped the vendor in the face, picked him up and shoved him over, and then kicked him as he lay on the ground.

The vendor has a 4 year old daughter and 3 month old son. His wife says normally he works as a motorbike driver, but he was helping his mother selling noodles. He was shot while he was walking back from collecting a noodle bowl, she says. The vendor is in critical condition and being cared for at Vachira Phuket Hospital’s intensive care unit. He’s in need of Type B blood.

“For his condition, the doctor told me that the bullet went through his lung. He lost a lot of blood. We need a lot of Type B blood for him.”

A disciplinary investigation into the incident was launched by police and Pornthep was officially dismissed from the Royal Thai Police force. Region 8 Police Commander Kitrat Panpetch says the incident does not reflect the police force in Phuket.

“The incident was caused by an officer who did something wrong that our organisation does not want. We are a big organisation with more than 200,000 officers under our control. Our officers are not all bad like this.”

Phuket Provincial Police Commander Pornsak Nuannu says he has reminded the police chiefs across the island to discuss reasons for carrying firearms in public.

“Carrying firearms is to prevent any type of crime that may happen, not to commit a crime by themselves like this incident. If I see any police doing such a thing, I will decisively proceed in terms of both officer discipline and criminal charges.”

SOURCE: Phuket News

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