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Human Rights Watch urges Thailand: “Don’t deport Rohingya boat people’

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Human Rights Watch urges Thailand: “Don’t deport Rohingya boat people’ | Thaiger

PHUKET: International human rights agency Human Rights Watch today called for the Thai government to immediately halt its plan to deport ethnic Rohingya back to Burma.

Thai authorities should allow the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN refugee agency, unhindered access to these and other boat migrants from Burma’s Arakan State to determine whether they are seeking asylum and whether or not they are qualified for refugee status, the New York-based rights group said.

The call follows the move to repatriate the ethnic Rohingya who were found adrift in an open boat off Phuket on January 1.

In its report, Human Rights Watch noted: “Thai authorities intercepted a boatload of 73 Rohingya migrants – including as many as 20 children, some as young as 3 – that contained likely asylum seekers. After providing food, water, and other supplies to the passengers and refueling the boat, Thai authorities initially planned to push the boat back to sea towards Malaysia’s Langkawi Island.

“When they found that the rickety, overcrowded boat had cracks and that many passengers were too weak to endure a stormy sea voyage, the authorities brought the group ashore to the Phuket Immigration Office.

“By 4pm on January 2, two trucks with all 73 Rohingya were heading to Ranong province for deportation to Burma,” the report said.

Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said “The Thai government should scrap its inhumane policy of summarily deporting Rohingya, who have been brutally persecuted in Burma, and honor their right to seek asylum.

“The UNHCR [United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] should be permitted to screen all Rohingya arriving in Thailand to identify and assist those seeking refugee status.”

The rights group also called on Thailand to cease its so-called “help on” policy, under which the Royal Thai Navy is under orders to intercept Rohingya boats that come too close to the Thai coast. Upon intercepting a boat, officials provide the boat with fuel, food, water and other supplies on condition that the boats sail onward to Malaysia or Indonesia. All passengers must remain on the boats during the re-supply.

The policy fails to provide Rohingya asylum seekers with the protection required under international law, and in some cases increases their risk, said the report.

“Should a boat land on Thai soil or be found to be unsafe, Thai immigration officials will step in to enforce deportation by land. This ‘soft deportation’ process has resulted in Rohingya being sent across the Thai-Burma border at Ranong province, where people smugglers await deported Rohingya to exact exorbitant fees to transport them to Malaysia.

“Those unable to pay the smuggling fees are forced into labor to pay off the fees, condemning them to situations amounting to human trafficking,” said the release.

“Thailand has repeatedly stated its commitment to combat human trafficking, yet by deporting Rohingya into the hands of people smugglers, they are making them vulnerable to trafficking,” Mr Adams said.

Each year hundreds of thousands of Rohingya in Burma’s Arakan State flee sectarian violence and dire poverty. The situation significantly worsened in late 2012 following communal violence in June and October targeting Rohingya and other Muslim groups.

The arrival of the Rohingya in Phuket on January 1 was the first acknowledged interception that included women and children on board.

Many more boats are expected to set sail from Burma in the coming months, Human Rights Watch cautioned.

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Hotel blog suggests Phuket should push ahead with July reopening despite Covid surge

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Hotel blog suggests Phuket should push ahead with July reopening despite Covid surge | Thaiger
PHOTO: Hotels and other tourism business are hoping the July 1st reopening goal can still be achieved.

A hotel information blog is claiming that, despite growing Covid-19 numbers, Phuket should stick to its schedule in reopening to travellers without quarantine in July. That’s only 2 and a half months away.

In an interview with the Director of Travel and Tourism Consulting at GlobalData, they stressed that while it is crucial to rein in the spread of Covid-19 and the B117 strain now menacing Thailand, the risk must not overshadow the need to push forward with vaccinations and the march towards eliminating the quarantine by July in order to save the tourism industry and all those dependent on it.

“The Phuket pilot program is essential in creating a path towards economic recovery for Thailand, a country heavily dependent on tourism. More than 17% of Thailand’s gross domestic product is attributed to tourism and the Covid-19 pandemic has lead to the worst economic free-fall in over 20 years”

The blog acknowledges the inherent risk and possible appearance of foolishness to prioritise the plans to reopen and carry on with the same rollout schedule. But they urge Thai authorities to consider that July 1 is still 2 and a half months away, leaving ample time to recover and make progress towards the approaching Phuket reopening. A vital aspect of the reopening plan lies in vaccinating over 70% of Phuket’s provincial residents, a sizable task, but one that brings great benefit with or without the scheduled reopening.

“Pushing ahead to achieve this goal puts Phuket on track to welcome back tourists, perhaps in a “bio-bubble”, and restart the economy. The economy is desperate with household debt growing, pushing the government to enact emergency decrees to provide relief. These households need the return of tourism and the influx of cash international tourists will bring.”

The blog hopes that Thai authorities can balance the necessary Covid-19 safety measures in Phuket to protect the Thai population with the economic need to bring back tourism. They believe that with sufficient measures in place, vaccinated locals could welcome vaccinated international tourists back to Phuket reopening safely in July.

SOURCE: Hotel News Resource

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

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

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

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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