– A daily, pocket-sized packet of news from around the world, compiled by Phuket Gazette reporters for foreigners who want it short, sharp and straight to the point.
PHUKET: Thai and U.S. officials are preparing for another year of unrest due to the continuing insurgency in the Muslim Malay-dominated provinces in Thailand’s ‘deep south’. Officials are bracing themselves for the negative effect it might have on the Thai tourist economy if the insurgency spreads.
According to the Jamestown Foundation’s website at jamestown.org, Phuket has been receiving U.S. anti-terrorism support since 2004, when bomb blast suppression blankets were given to provincial leaders by the U.S. embassy.
“The recent ranking of Thailand in the ‘extreme’ category of the Terrorism Risk Index developed by Maplecroft, a private U.S. risk analysis firm, will undoubtedly add to the decline in Thai tourism,” the Foundation says. In 2009, the death toll in the “Deep South” was well over 1,000, while tourism nationally dropped 7%, fueled primarily by the global economic slump.
It is to be noted, however, that Phuket province itself, though located only about 200km from the ‘deep south’, has never been drawn into the civil strife afflicting that region.
Foreign investors and managers in Phuket and elsewhere in Thailand frequently complain about lack of clarity in Thai laws and regulations, and in the uniformity of enforcement of these rules.
It comes as no surprise, then, that Thailand’s economic prospects face continuing uncertainties due to a the current disputes at the Map Ta Phut industrial estate in Ranong province. Economists and investors are warning that political instability, and the legal morass at the industrial site have the potential to derail Thailand’s ascent to recovery.
Map Ta Phut has been driving Thailand’s industrial growth for decades as one of the nation’s biggest petro-chemical hubs. Local environmentalists successfully argued that several projects were in breach of the 2007 pollution laws, and the court ruled that more than 70 projects should be suspended. However, due to the frequent changes of government in Thailand, regulations were never properly established, so companies maintain that they could not possibly comply.
The legal limbo has made investors, domestic and foreign, increasingly nervous. A special committee has been set up to resolve outstanding differences.
Thailand’s Security Situation Monitoring Committee has declared that March 12, when the red shirts plan to gather at six locations around Bangkok, will be the “most worrying” day on the protest group’s agenda over the next few months. The day may be declared an extra public holiday.
Deputy PM Suthep Thaugsuban instructed the Royal Thai Police to minimize the impact of expected traffic congestion during the street protests to help Bangkok residents, who already suffer heavily from the problem. The army commander-in-chief rejected reports that soldiers were blocking protesters from joining the red shirts’ rallies, insisting that, “The Army is for the benefit of the country. We take no [political] colours or sides.”
Singapore expects strong growth for its tourism in 2010, with visitor arrivals forecast to increase by 19 to 29 per cent from 2009, and revenues are expected to jump between 41 and 49 per cent as well. Hopes for Singapore’s tourism sector are riding on two new multi-billion-dollar casino resorts, designed to attract visitors from across the Asia-Pacific region, who account for seven of the top ten nationalities visiting Singapore.
Resorts World Sentosa has already opened its casino, and Marina Bay Sands will open in April. South-East Asia’s first Universal Studios theme park is also set to open in Singapore this month.
Artist Nguyen Tan Cuong will be displaying his work at a new exhibition in Phuket, opening Friday, April 2, at the Royal Phuket Marina’s D Gallery. The exhibition, titled ‘Day-Night and Day’, is due to run until May 31, and includes 15 new paintings.
Born in Hanoi in 1953, Cuong is currently based in Ho Chi Minh City and has shown his work at galleries around the world, including venues in Japan, Singapore, Belgium, Italy, England and the US. According to the show’s organisers, the painter is “a master at manipulating light”.
Further details of this event and a sample of the artist’s work are available here.
— Gazette Editors
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