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New Dulwich franchise on the table

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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CHERNG TALAY: Frustrated parents of students at Dulwich International College (DIC) last night gave a bumpy ride to the negotiator from Dulwich College in London (DCL) in the ongoing crisis talks.

Parents at the meeting, held at the Sheraton Grande Laguna Phuket, were particularly irked by consistently polite refusals by DCL Deputy Master Ralph Mainard to reveal precisely what the two sides disagree on.

Mr Mainard did, however, tell them that the talks had moved away from the “four options” laid out by DIC’s CEO, Dr Arthit Ourairat (see earlier story here) and had zeroed in on rewriting the franchise agreement between DIC and DCL.

“No final resolution has been reached,” Mr Mainard said, as a partial explanation for the coyness of his presentation, “but I think all parties are now very aware of the big issues. I hope decisions will be made in the next few days.”

Pressed as to what the “big issues” are, he said, “I am constrained in what I can and cannot say.”

Asked what he thought were the chances of an agreement being reached that will allow DIC to keep “Dulwich” in its name, he said, “I’m optimistic – 80%”. When this was greeted with collective horror, he swiftly revised the number up to 90%.

“We are much, much closer than we were when I arrived 10 days ago. I hope by next week we will all know,” he stressed.

Pressure is on to close the gap. Both sides, Mr Mainard revealed, agreed a week ago that if no deal can be struck, the Dulwich franchise will end on June 24.

In the course of the two-hour meeting, some of the sticking points broke surface. The row initially erupted after Mr Mainard visited the school in March to make an annual inspection. His report, though it expressed satisfaction with the academic and “ethos” aspects of the school, was critical of its management.

Criticisms included the state of the school’s refectory (canteen) and the fact that teachers’ morale was low, partly because some did not have contracts and therefore felt insecure, and partly because teachers on expatriate packages face having to pay more tax.

The temperature was raised to white heat by the peremptory sacking of headmaster David Cook by DIC, without reference to DCL.

Mr Cook’ reinstatement, Mr Mainard acknowledged, is “an issue in the talks”. From London’s point of view, he added, a headmaster cannot simply be sacked.

Central to the talks, however, is how much control each side has in the school. “It became clear,” Mr Mainard said, “that certain activities might take place that would impact on the academic side and the ethos of the school.”

DCL clearly believes that all aspects of the running of the school have an effect on its academic abilities, and would like to see the headmaster having “more overall control”.

Dr Arthit’s thinking appears to run in the opposite direction. Following the sacking of Mr Cook he appointed four directors, one of them being the Academic Director, or headmaster.

Also under discussion is the make-up of the school’s board, which currently consists of people appointed by Dr Arthit. DCL would like to see a wider representation. Talks have also centered, Mr Mainard said, on “how far a board of governors is able to govern the management of the school”.

Central to this is the wording of the franchise agreement. The current agreement, Mr Mainard said, by way of example, mentions that DCL should have a say in the appointment of a headmaster, but does not address the topic of dismissing the head. “If we secure a new agreement there will be a lot more detail,” he said.

Despite Mr Mainard’s professed optimism, it was clear that the two sides are still some way from being bosom pals. The school has nearly 800 pupils, yet only 150 parents and teachers attended last night’s meeting. Many said they only knew about it when friends sent them SMSs.

Mr Mainard confessed that DCL had not been allowed access to DIC’s database of parents’ contact details, and had to rely on the Parent-Teacher Association’s far-from-complete list to spread the word.

And, in what seemed to many to be a slap in DCL’s face, Debbie Cook, wife of the fired headmaster, was herself sacked yesterday morning by DIC.

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Economy

70% of Phuket’s tourism businesses are closed, many for good

Caitlin Ashworth

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70% of Phuket’s tourism businesses are closed, many for good | The Thaiger
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Most tourism businesses in Phuket have closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and they probably won’t be up and running again until foreign tourists are let back in Thailand. Phuket Governor Narong Woonciew says around 70% of tourism businesses have closed, most of them just temporarily, but some have shut down permanently. But the statistics are not quite that simple, with the east side of the island, largely inhabited by locals with the central business district of Phuket Town and some of the more popular expat towns, doing far better than the tourist magnets of the west coast. The Thaiger estimates that on the west coast the number would exceed 90%.

Before the pandemic, tourism to Phuket brought in 450 billion baht a year with 400 billion baht from foreign visitors while the other 50 billion baht was from domestic tourists. Thailand has been trying to increase domestic tourism to help revive the industry after the pandemic. Phuket’s governor says it helps, but not enough.

“Their visits can help solve some of our economic problems, but they cannot replace the need of foreign tourists.”

66.8% of tourism businesses in Phuket have closed temporarily while 2.8% have closed permanently, according to data by the Digital Economy Promotion Agency. (Again the percentage along the west coast is MUCH higher – just take a drive through Paton, Kat, Karon). Phuket’s governor is trying figure out how to recover the economy. And fast.

“By the end of September, the number of businesses to be closed will increase up to 70% for sure.”

While many businesses are closed, the governor says Phuket is “almost 100% ready to welcome foreign tourists.” The governor says he can’t give an answer to when foreign tourists will arrive in Phuket, but he claims they’ve “prepared every step,” from checking in at the airport to hotel quarantine. They’re just going to install some new temperature check machines at the Phuket International Airport and review the procedures for welcoming the tourists.

“We have to work and prepare carefully to welcome foreign tourists… We have to gradually open our door to welcome small groups of people first, in order to test our system, and then open for bigger groups.”

At the moment, only 3 venues in Phuket have been approved to operate as alternative state quarantine facilities. Anantara Phuket Suites & Villas has 100 rooms available, Anantara Mai Khao Phuket has 36 villas and Trisara resort has 15 villas. All are 5 star venues with a commensurate 5 star cost.

SOURCE: Phuket News

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Phuket

Thailand’s Social Security Office forced to explain investment in Sri Panwa Phuket Resort trust fund

Maya Taylor

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Thailand’s Social Security Office forced to explain investment in Sri Panwa Phuket Resort trust fund | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Sri Panwa Phuket Resort - Sri Panwa Phuket

The Social Security Office, a department under the direction of Thailand’s Ministry of Labour, is being asked to explain its investment in the trust fund of Phuket’s Sri Panwa Phuket Resort. The demand comes as members of the opposition and political activists call for an investigation into the property’s land rights. The owner of Sri Panwa Phuket, Vorasit Issara, has been condemned online recently, with his property attracting multiple negative reviews, after he criticised anti-government protest leader, Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul.

Thai PBS World reports that the Civil Society for State Welfare is calling on the SSO to clarify its investment in the Sri Panwa Hospitality Real Estate Investment Trust, thought to be worth around 500 million baht. Nimit Thian-udom says that, while the SSO’s investment does not break any laws, the board must explain the reasons behind the investment decision and clarify the return on that investment. In addition, he says the SSO should attach more importance to good governance when choosing where to invest.

The call for clarity is echoed by opposition MP Chirayu Huangsap, from the Pheu Thai Party, who calls on the Labour Minister to explain the investment. He adds that any discrepancies will be reported to both the National Anti-Corruption Commission and the Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission.

The land rights of the luxury Sri Panwa Phuket resort, which sits on prime land atop Phuket’s Cape Panwa, overlooking the south-eastern tip of the island, are also being called into question. Veera Somkwamkid, from the People’s Network Against Corruption, says he is looking into the property’s land rights and will pass his findings to the Department of Special Investigations.

For his part, the Labour Minister, Somsak Thepsuthin, says he doesn’t know if the property has been legally built, saying it’s up to the DSI to investigate and that a complaint does not need to be filed in order for them to do so.

Meanwhile, review site Tripadvisor has had to suspend reviews for the Sri Panwa resort, as anti-government netizens exact their revenge on the proprietor by posting negative feedback on the property.

“Due to a recent event that has attracted media attention and has caused an influx of review submissions that do not describe a first-hand experience, we have temporarily suspended publishing new reviews for this listing.”

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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Thailand

Phuket, Chiang Mai, Chachoengsao join UNESCO’s learning cities

Caitlin Ashworth

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Phuket, Chiang Mai, Chachoengsao join UNESCO’s learning cities | The Thaiger
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3 cities in Thailand recently joined UNESCO’s membership of so called “learning cities” which are said to promote “lifelong learning” and sustainable development. Chachoengsao, Chiang Mai and Phuket joined the UNESCO’s Global Network of Learning Cities. Altogether, 55 cities from 27 countries, adding up to 230 cities in 64 countries around the world, according to UNESCO.

“These cities are outstanding examples of how lifelong learning can become a reality at local level. They have proven that effective lifelong learning policies and practices can support the development of inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities and contribute to the 2030 Agenda.”

The UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning David Atchoarena says the recent new members have shown that they can make “lifelong learning a reality,” even after enduring the pandemic.

“With unprecedented urgency, the Covid-19-19 pandemic has underlined the necessity to build more resilient education systems for the future. With more than half of humanity living in urban areas, cities must be at the centre of this undertaking.”

David says he hopes it will inspire other cities in Thailand to follow.

“I very much hope that we will see many other cities from Thailand joining the network and working on providing lifelong learning opportunities for all to ensure a sustainable and peaceful future.”

The mayor of Chachoengsao, Kolayuth Chaisang, says his goal is to provide “effective education, thoroughly and equally to all citizens.” According to the Bangkok Post, the city is a key urban centre both economically and culturally.

The mayor of Chiang Mai, Tussanai Buranupakorn, says he wants to revitalise the city, while also maintaining the cultural significance. The city has a number of educational institutes, which goes along with UNESCO’s learning city principles.

Phuket is a hub of sustainable creativity, according to the Bangkok Post. The mayor of Phuket, Somjai Suwansupana, says he wants to preserve the city’s “identity, local wisdom assets and the charm of our multiculturalism.”

SOURCES: UNESCO |Bangkok Post

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