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New tsunami buoys off Phuket by new year: NDWC

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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New tsunami buoys off Phuket by new year: NDWC | The Thaiger
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PHUKET: Two new Italian-built tsunami direct detection units will be installed off Phuket by the end of the year, the National Disaster Warning Center (NDWC) has revealed.

NDWC Director Somsak Khaosuwan said the two units, known as “tsunameters”, will be located about 400 to 500 kilometers offshore.

Although the exact locations have yet to be determined, one of the units will likely be deployed west of Phuket while the other will be further north near the Surin Islands, he said.

“We will deploy them as soon as possible to ensure the safety of residents and tourists along Thailand’s Andaman coastline,” said Dr Somsak, who has been promoted to director of the NDWC after serving as its director of operations for more than a year.

The launch mission is scheduled to depart from the Phuket Marine Biological Center pier on December 11.

The two new “Poseidon Class” tsunameters, built by the Italian firm Envirtech, will be deployed under a total budget of about 135 million baht, he said.

Envirtech in June 2006 installed two tsunameters in the Bay of Bengal under a contract with the Indian Government.

Like the Indian tsunameters, real-time data from the units will not be available to the public through the US Government’s National Data Buoy Center website, however.

“The public will be able to monitor data in real time, but through a different website. We will announce the website URL to the public after the unit is in place and operational,” Dr Khaosuwan said.

Thailand is currently without tsunami direct detection capability.

Its first tsunameter, supplied by the US government through its National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), was deployed about 1,100 kilometers northwest of Phuket in December 2006.

It was the only operational unit in the Indian Ocean linked to the US Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC) network.

After its deployment in 2006, maintenance of the Deep-ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunamis unit, or “DART-II”, fell to the Thai Meteorological Department (TMD). The buoy was designed to have maintenance and a change of battery every year, but political and bureaucratic issues in Thailand prevented this from ever happening.

The battery finally ran out in June 2009.

The entire unit was replaced six months later by a new tsunameter supplied under an NDWC contract with Bangkok-based firm Raydant International, which also built and operates the network of over 100 tsunami warning towers in the Andaman Coast region.

But the Raydant DART-II unit went adrift in June this year and has yet to be replaced. Vandalism from a fishing vessel was given as the most likely cause, according to Raydant management.

Raydant General Manager Aurasa Paenghom said the NOAA DART-II buoy is currently undergoing maintenance in the USA, while the Raydant unit is in storage at the naval base in Phang Nga.

The Raydant unit will be redeployed in its former location as soon as possible after a new mooring line on order from abroad is delivered, she said.

“The first buoy was sent to the US four months ago and should have been returned by now. As for the second unit that was damaged, we expect the replacement mooring line to arrive in December ahead of redeployment in January,” she said.

Raydant plans to swap out the two units year after year so that maintenance can be done on shore.

NDWC Director Dr Somsak said the public should not be unduly worried about the current lack of tsunami direct detection capability.

The NDWC still has access to water level data from the Royal Thai Navy’s water level monitor at its station on Koh Miang in the Similan Island chain, the PTWC network and other sources, he said.

“People should not worry about not having enough time to evacuate,” he said.

Dr Somsak sees eventually having three tsunameters operating under two different monitoring networks as an operational advantage.

“In case one system goes down, we will still have another to go through,” he said.

In a related development, Dr Somsak reiterated that NDWC never triggered a “false alarm” tsunami alert on the November 6, as has been reported in areas including Mai Khao and Kamala in Phuket and other sites in the Andaman coast region.

“I checked the situation as soon as I heard these reports. At first some said the sirens sounded at Ao Nang [in Krabi], some said in Nai Yang and Kamala, or even in Thai Muang [Phang Nga], but we couldn’t confirm soundings in any of these areas,” he said.

However, Phuket Governor Tri Augkaradacha, the president of Mai Khao Tambon Administration Organization (TAO) and the vice-president of Kamala TAO all confirmed to the Gazette that tsunami warning towers sounded on the date in question.

Tampering by local people might have been responsible if noises were heard from the speakers, Dr Somsak said.

Such tampering is known to have occurred in Phang Nga, where villagers hacked into the system to use the speakers for other purposes, he said.

Strong winds can also produce sounds that could be mistaken for a tsunami warning tower alarm, he said.

— P. Choksakulpan & S. Fein

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Phuket

Phuket’s annual vegetarian festival gets the green light – VIDEO

Caitlin Ashworth

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Phuket’s annual vegetarian festival gets the green light – VIDEO | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Caitlin Ashworth

WARNING: The content below contains photos and videos of self-mutilation that some may find disturbing.

Somehow Phuket’s annual vegetarian festival is to go ahead next month, but officials say they will ask participants to strictly observe social distancing. Good luck with that! For those who don’t know, the festival isn’t exactly known for the food. It’s known for blood, body mutilation and more blood.

During street processions for the weeklong event, also known as the Nine Gods Festival, so called “mah songs” are known to practice self-mutilation and are said to enter a trance-like state, channeling spirits through their body. “Mah” means horse in Thai, and many suggest the mah song acts like a horse for the spirit to ride.

Many mah songs pierce their checks, ears and lips, some with large swords and thick needles. Some slice their tongues continuously for hours, blood dripping down on the street. Others appear to be in a trace walk barefoot as firecrackers explode on the ground.

Mah songs march down Phuket’s streets for hours with a team of devotees to help tend to their wounds, adjust the piercings, wipe away drool and blood, and keep them hydrated. It’s understood that devotees wear white as a symbol of purity. It’s also reported that they abstain from eating meat, drinking alcohol and having sex during the weeklong festival.

It seems gruesome, but it’s actually very spiritual. Business owners and locals line the street, some setting up altars. Mah songs stop at each one and do a quick ritual. Some mah songs carry a black flag, waving it over onlookers who bow their heads and place their hands in the “wai” position. Some spend time blessing the elderly and handing out bracelets to children. During a procession last year, a woman held up a bracelet as said “the ‘Spirit’ gave this to my mother.”

This year, the festival will have to be a little different to abide by coronavirus prevention measures. The Bangkok Post says it’s the first festival since the outbreak. The head festival organiser Prasert Fukthongphol says “we will seriously enforce social distancing measures and require all participants to wear face masks.”

The grotesque piercings, noisy parades and visits to the shrine, are good news for Phuket’s tourism and bad news if you’re a vegetable. Many adherents to the Chinese-heritage local festival will go without sex, alcohol and meat for the week of so of the festival. The week of events and ceremonies hopes to scare away the bad gods again but, especially this year, attract some extra visitors to the festival.

Another Vegetarian Festival in Chon Buri has also been given the green light. The event is planned for October 16 to the 26. This year’s main event for the festival will be in Naklua at Sawangboriboon Thammasathan Foundation at the Sein Sua Chinese Temple, but many other events will be around the city throughout the week.

Phuket's annual vegetarian festival gets the green light - VIDEO | News by The Thaiger

Phuket's annual vegetarian festival gets the green light - VIDEO | News by The Thaiger

Phuket's annual vegetarian festival gets the green light - VIDEO | News by The Thaiger

Phuket's annual vegetarian festival gets the green light - VIDEO | News by The Thaiger

Phuket's annual vegetarian festival gets the green light - VIDEO | News by The Thaiger

SOURCES: Bangkok Post | Pattaya News

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Phuket

Officials says no illegal land encroachment at Phuket’s Sri Panwa resort

Maya Taylor

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Officials says no illegal land encroachment at Phuket’s Sri Panwa resort | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Sri Panwa Phuket Resort - Sri Panwa Phuket

After coming in for some negative online attention recently, the land title deeds of the Sri Panwa Phuket resort have been investigated and found “to be in order”. The 5-star hotel first attracted the attention of netizens when its owner, Vorasit Issara, publicly criticised anti-government activist Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, calling for her arrest. He also claimed she wasn’t Thai, a factually wrong and inflammatory statement.

His Instagram tirade prompted outrage from those who support the current protest movement, with netizens calling for a boycott of his property and leaving several negative comments on various review sites. Trip Advisor suspended the hotel’s account due to the online attack.

Shortly after, the Civil Society for State Welfare called on the Social Security Office to clarify its investment in the resort’s trust fund. This was echoed by at least one opposition MP and anti-corruption activists.

Responding to the land rights issue, the Phuket Land Office has issued a statement to say the hotel does not occupy state land. The resort stands on 56 rai of prime real estate, overlooking Phuket’s south-eastern coast. The land office has confirmed its paperwork is all in order.

Meanwhile, it’s understood Charn Issara Development, owners of the property, have threatened to sue the resort’s critics for defamation.

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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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
FILE PHOTO

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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