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Myanmar dissidents seize Thai hospital

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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RATCHABURI (AFP): Heavily armed guerrillas from Myanmar dissident group God’s Army stormed a Thai hospital early this morning and took around 700 patients and staff hostage. Up to 20 fighters from the ethnic-Karen militia, which is led by two twin boys, stormed the hospital in the town of Ratchaburi, 123 kilometres (70 miles) west of Bangkok. Seven hours into the drama, 10 elderly staff were released from the hospital and whisked away in a van. Thai Army commander General Surayudh Chulanont told reporters the gunmen warned Thai forces to keep away from the hospital and to stop firing mortars at their group along the border. “We have agreed to these two conditions,” he said. The guerrillas also called on Thailand to pressure Myanmar to halt an offensive against them and asked for medical treatment for injured comrades, officials said. Paveena Moonbutr, 21, a nurse trapped inside the hospital, told reporters on her mobile phone that the gunmen were armed with M-16 assault rifles and had rigged up remote control bombs around the building. “I saw it with my own eyes. I saw a big blue public bus drive into the front of the hospital, and three to four gunmen in uniform and some others jumped out,” she said. She said around 700 people were being held hostage in the hospital, a figure confirmed by the health ministry. “The deputy permanent secretary of the health ministry said there are around seven hundred people in the hospital,” a health ministry official told AFP. Thai police volunteer Chantas Tilokavichai said the fighters had rigged up a bomb packed with ball bearings at the entrance to the hospital and had threatened to detonate it if Thai forces tried to oust them. Television pictures taken inside the hospital by a Thai cameraman allowed in by the gunmen showed rows of patients sitting forlornly on wooden benches guarded by masked gunmen in green fatigues. God’s Army is a close ally of another group, the Vigorous Burmese Student Warriors (VBSW), which held 38 hostages during a day-long siege at the Myanmar embassy in Bangkok in October. Gunshots rang out as the gunmen took over the hospital but there were no reports of casualties, health ministry spokesman Ampol Jindawattana said. Government spokesman Akapol Sorasuchart condemned the siege as a violation of Thailand’s sovereignty. “It is international terrorism,” he said. “The Army commander is in charge on the scene but final decisions will be taken by the prime minister,” he said, adding the incident was “more perilous” than the embassy siege. Police have had difficulty talking to the hostage-takers since telephone lines in the hospital were cut. The two young leaders of the God’s Army are believed by their followers to possess mystical powers and the group has pledged to fight to the death to install democracy in Myanmar.

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Thailand targeting specific Chinese provinces for “tourism bubble”

Jack Burton

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Thailand targeting specific Chinese provinces for “tourism bubble” | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Travelwire News

Thailand’s minister of tourism and sports says his ministry will target specific provinces in China in a bid to attract tourists back to the resort island of Phuket as travel restrictions are gradually eased. Pipat Ratchakijprakarn says the ministry will not splash out money launching a tourist campaign all across China but rather target some of the many provinces that have brought Covid-19 under control.

He didn’t specify which provinces, but said Phuket is being eyed to lead the planned “tourism bubbles” comprising Thailand and its selected partners. The primary target is selected Chinese cities and provinces.

“China is the first market with potential, because flying time to Thailand is less than six hours.”

Other markets being discussed include South Korea, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and some south east Asian countries.

Before the pandemic, 1 in every 4 foreign visitors to Thailand was Chinese. There were almost 40 million foreign arrivals last year.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Crime

Officials raid 2 Phuket casinos, arresting 87 illegal gamblers

Jack Burton

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Officials raid 2 Phuket casinos, arresting 87 illegal gamblers | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Phuket Andaman News

Officials have raided 2 Phuket casinos resulting in 87 people being arrested for allegedly gambling after the island’s provincial police received complaints of gambling dens operating around the clock – a violation of the current Emergency Decree which bans crowds.

The first raid took place at about 3:30 pm and was at a casino in tambon Talat Nua of Muang district. The premises provided parking spaces for motorcycles and up to 30 cars, and was fenced on all sides with metal sheets. Officials arrested 45 gamblers-30 men and 15 women. They also seized 62,420 baht that was placed as wagers and a gold necklace that was 15 grams in weight.

Around the same time, a second team raided another casino tambon Sisunthon of Thalang district in Phuket’s north. It was also fenced with metal sheets and featured an ample amount of parking space. 42 people- 22 men and 20 women- were rounded up with police seizing 64,260 baht in placed wagers.

All have been charged with illegal betting and violating the Emergency Decree which was recently extended through July.

Officials raid 2 Phuket casinos, arresting 87 illegal gamblers | News by The Thaiger

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Business

Phuket’s (in)famous “Soi Bangla” district reopens today

Jack Burton

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Phuket’s (in)famous “Soi Bangla” district reopens today | The Thaiger

Today is the official reopening of Phuket’s famous (or infamous) “Soi Bangla” nightlife district, but only about 20% of venues say they’re reopening during this early stage. The Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration announced yesterday that all night entertainment venues may reopen but must strictly adhere to health guidelines set out to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Dr Taweesilp Visanuyothin, the spokesman for the CCSA, says night entertainment venues, including pubs, bars, karaoke venues and beer gardens will be allowed to open, but only until midnight. Social distancing measures will be strictly enforced, and customers must use the Thai Chana app to check in and out.

The Patong Entertainment Business Association president says only about 20% of the 324 registered members are expected to reopen initially, but he expects more to reopen soon. Among the 22 rules announced last week- to be presented to the CCSA for approval- were that all staff must wear face masks and face shields, but performers may wear face shields only. No bottles are to be served, and all drinks are to be served in glasses. No pool table games (including snooker and billiards) and no dart games are to be allowed.

The number of guests in each venue is to be restricted to cater for social distancing, with at least 2 metres between tables, or partitions must be installed to ensure patrons are seated at least one metre away from each other.

Undercutting the main reason people visit popular venues, the draft rules also call for groups to be limited to 5 people, and for guests to be prohibited from dancing and singing, gathering, shouting, or “wandering around the premises”.

“I have no idea what the rules will be, but we will open anyway. If the full list of 22 rules for pubs, bars and entertainment venues is to be applied, we won’t be able to enforce all the rules, because enforcing all these rules is impossible. But we can follow some of the rules, such as social distancing, wearing masks and checking temperatures.”

Even Patong’s mayor told The Phuket News that she is yet to receive a copy of all the rules to be enforced.

“The next thing to do is follow up with the CCSA about the rules. This is very important for the entertainment industry in Patong. I will help and consider being flexible with the rules for entertainment businesses in Patong, because the rules announced by CCSA are the general rules for many places. But some of these rules are not appropriate for businesses here. We have to apply the right rules and optimise them for businesses in Patong.”

The PEBA president dismissed a few entertainment zones being singled out in other countries as “hotbeds for starting a second wave” of Covid-19 infections.

“I do not care what some people claim is the risk of being in a bar. If the government is genuinely concerned about the risk of Covid-19 spreading, then it is not just about bars, pubs and entertainment venues. The risk of Covid-19 spreading applies anywhere where people are around, not only at bars and pubs.”

SOURCE: The Phuket News

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