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Patong Mayor unmoved by beach vendors’ pleas

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Patong Mayor unmoved by beach vendors’ pleas | The Thaiger

PHUKET: Patong Mayor Chalermluck Kebsup on November 1 dug in her heels against alleged public land encroachment by Patong Beach food vendors.

A three-hour meeting at Phuket Provincial Hall between Patong Municipality officials, Phuket Provincial officers and beach vendors ended without any definite conclusion, which Mayor Chalermluck attributed to the fact that beach vendors ‘never made good on their promises’.

“I am sick of chasing these vendors around. It has been two years since the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) ordered the beach clearance campaign in 2014. We have been very patient and helpful toward the vendors. However, we’ve had it with their disobedience, and must do our job, which is to follow the law. Meanwhile, we will try our best to reach a compromise,” said Mayor Chalermluck after the meeting chaired by Phuket Vice Governor Teera Anantaseriwidhya.

“It is not true that we are picking on the vendors. We are just trying to do our job and strike the best balance between following the law and taking care of people under our jurisdiction. I am sure that all the vendors know what is going on. We have designated a place for them to sell food, but they have been complaining that it is not a prime location, because tourists do not come to that area. Therefore they set up shop on the beach, which is totally against the law and not what we signed a contract for,” she explained.

“How many times have you broken your promises in the past? What’s illegal is illegal, and you must accept our decision,” she said to the vendors during the meeting.

The meeting came about after a group of 30 vendors filed a complaint with the Damrongdhama Center (Ombudsman’s Office) against Patong Municipality on October 27, after being given a cancellation notice of their rental contracts (story here).

The vendors, who currently occupy food stalls at the Loma Building, located at Loma Park on Patong beachfront, asked the governor to intervene in the municipality’s plans to build a conference hall in the area where they operate their business.

Led by Suriya Sinsoke, the group handed a letter of complaint to Phuket Provincial Chief Administrative Officer (Palad) Tamrongwat Kongkaew, who accepted the letter on behalf of Phuket Governor Chokchai Dejamornthan.

She said that in 2013, Patong Municipality informed all business owners that their rental contracts would gradually be cancelled and that the area would be reclaimed by the municipality. The current notice gives them 15 days to clear out.

Mayor Chalermluck said that the vendors had been using the public beachfront area to conduct their businesses and some of them had several months of outstanding rent payments.

“Some of the vendors have been setting up their stalls and furniture on the beach, which is in violation of the beach management rules. In order to keep things orderly, we asked them to move to the space inside the Loma Building that the municipality has provided,” said Mayor Chalermluck.

She added that the municipality also made efforts to clean up the building and provide running water and electricity so they wouldn’t have to set up their stalls outside.

“Although they agreed to stay off the public area, many of them still set up shop there. We even had Navy officials talk to them several times, but they continue to sell items outside the building. So we had no choice but to cancel their contracts and give them notice,” said Mayor Chalermluck.

She added that since a budget had already been approved for renovation of the building and that the vendors do not utilize the building anyway, the municipality has decided to use the money to build a conference hall.

“We were not given any advance notice or the chance to attend a public hearing on the matter. This decision will affect the livelihood of all the vendors and staff, which totals more than a hundred people and their families,” said Ms Suriya.

The vendors are now requesting that the governor make an urgent decision about whether the contract cancellation is fair and also to check if the conference hall construction is following all legal processes.

They also requested that the governor ask the municipality to reconsider the cancellation, or to designate new areas for them in the proposed building-improvement master plan.

Additionally, if the project is to go ahead, they want the municipality to provide a temporary site for them to set up their stalls while construction of the meeting hall is ongoing.

Ms Suriya and a few representatives of the local vendors pleaded with Mayor Chalermluck during the meeting to allow them to sell food in the building and promised they would follow the law.

“We beg you to allow us to earn a living. We are willing to coordinate with the municipality,” said Ms Suriya.

One of the vendors, Wannee Kesakomon, 57, shed tears in the room, asking Mayor Chalermluck to change her mind.

“We have been working there for decades. This is our only means of living and we have mouths to feed. Please have some sympathy,” said Ms Wannee.

Vice Governor Teera tried to convince the mayor to allow the locals to continue to sell food in the building. However, Mayor Chalermluck declined, saying she does not believe the vendors will follow the rules as per her past experience.

“Who will guarantee they will not break the rules again?” she asked. “We are going around in circles. There will be no change or conclusion from this meeting. I will talk to the Patong Municipality council and see what the next step will be.”

She also added that the municipality sometimes turned a blind eye in order to enable vendors to earn a living, but the vendors never seemed to have enough of it. She said that she could not allow this to carry on, as officials are punishable for dereliction of duty under Section 157.

V/Gov Teera said he understood both parties’ concerns, but could not deviate from the law. “The municipality has to do their job based on the law. They can try to help locals, but only if the law allows. It is what it is – if we cannot come to a conclusion at this stage, the issue may go to court for the judges to decide,” he said.

Mayor Chalermluck did not commit to a date when she would update the locals about feedback from the municipality.

“They have all known ahead of time that this would happen. The first group’s contracts ended on March 31, the second group’s on October 31 and only Ms Suriya’s contract ends on December 31. The March 31 group begged us to extend their contract, so we agreed to let them be until October 31, since our new project had yet to be started at the time,” explained Mayor Chalermluck.

“Now they have turned around and filed a complaint against us. It does not make any sense. We have rules, and they must be followed. That is it. This is not a decision I am handing down on my own. The new building has passed all the required processes by law and we have already set aside a budget for it.

“The vendors did not even want to sell food in the building to begin with, so now we will utilize it for the public’s benefit. We expect to turn it into a meeting room, which won’t work if vendors are allowed to sell food there,” said Mayor Chalermluck.

— Chutharat Plerin

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Tourism

The Area Hotel Quarantine – tweaking Thailand’s arrival options

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The Area Hotel Quarantine – tweaking Thailand’s arrival options | The Thaiger

We spoke about the new proposal for an Area Hotel Quarantine last Friday and in Thailand News Today. The mandatory 14 day quarantine (magically extended a couple of days at many facilities at the foreigner’s cost) remains the key sticking point for the return of tourists or travellers, in any significant or useful numbers. A number of visas and quarantine programs has done little to increase the numbers of foreign arrivals to Thailand.

The proposal, leaked out as a ‘discussion’ pending cabinet talks and a final decision, has not received much support from the overseas community that are trying to travel to Thailand, or former expats that are trying to get back. Many of the comments believe the 14 days, even restricted to a larger set of walls, is still too restrictive, costly and inconvenient.

“It would also be nice if the two weeks quarantine was not part of the visa! You get a two month visa minus the two weeks.”

“It’s still a prison if you can’t get out. Voting with my feet”

“There’s just not going to be any tourism until Thailand stops this 14-day quarantine nonsense.”

The proposal allows guests to leave their hotel rooms after the first 3 days of a 14 day stay. The proposal is on the agenda for the next CCSA weekly meeting. The proposal was mooted at a meeting last Thursday and chaired by Thailand’s Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn.

After the first 3 days, guests would have another swab test before being able to spend the remaining 11 days meandering around the rest of the hotel complex (so, suddenly, REALLY large hotels in great locations become much more attractive). But they wouldn’t be able to leave the hotel property.

The Area Hotel Quarantine is being seen as an accommodation for the hardest hit tourist zones in Thailand – Chiang Mai, Phuket, Krabi, Surat Thani (the 3 islands of Koh Samui, Koh Pha Ngan and Koh Tao) and Chon Buri (Pattaya). In all cases the key tourist zones are desperate for the government to ease restrictions or do something… anything… to help boost travel to the battered tourist economies that rely, mostly, on the visits from tourists.

After the 14 day AHQ the visitor will be free to travel anywhere around Thailand.

Last Thursday’s conference call says that Ministers are trying to come up with ways to start re-opening up Thailand to more travellers from next month by expanding the options and slowly easing restriction.. They also want to re-open talks with neighbouring countries and other countries deemed ‘low risk’, or with high vaccination uptake, with travel bubble options, hopefully by May.

About vaccinations, the government is also considering plans to have a no-quarantine option for visitors to come to Thailand as long as they’ve been vaccinated. But the Public Health Ministers says they are looking at the lead from the World Health Organisation about how to administer this sort of ‘vaccine passport’ access as there needs to be a greater body of knowledge about the efficacy of various vaccines. The International Air Transport Association is also in discussion with airlines and governments about restricting access to international travel for people who have been vaccinated.

It was also disclosed this week that some foreigners in the first batch of golf quarantine, where they have to stay in their room for 3 days then can roam around the golf course and play golf, have tested positive for the coronavirus after the test on the third day of their stay. Another batch of Villa Quarantine tourists, visiting Phuket at the end of February, have all returned negative test results.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

(The hotel depicted in the main photo may, or may not, be associated with the Area Hotel Quarantine program)

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Crime

2 Phuket Town nightclubs shut down after allegedly violating multiple laws

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2 Phuket Town nightclubs shut down after allegedly violating multiple laws | The Thaiger

2 Phuket Town nightclubs are shutting down after allegedly violating multiple laws. The Maldives and H20 on Lim Sui Ju Road, on the south end of Phuket Town were ordered by the Phuket Governor to close immediately, with the Maldives being ordered to close for 5 years.

The order comes after the Phuket City Police inspected the Maldives club, arresting the manager for operating an entertainment venue without a permit, allowing people under 20 years old to work or “use services in the venue,” and for selling alcohol without a permit.

Governor Narong cited his authority under Section 4 of NCPO order 22/2558 to order the Maldives nightclub to be closed for 5 years, from March 5, 2021 to March 4, 2026.

The order also prohibits the operators from opening any other entertainment venues during the same period. The H20 nightclub was ordered to close by a provincial order after Phuket City Police say they inspected the venue and charged the operator for selling or providing shisha, or baraku, without permission.

The owner was also accused of operating an entertainment venue without a permit and violating the provincial order for enforcing Covid-19 safety measures. But it is unknown what penalties were handed down to the operator of the H20 nightclub, unlike the Maldives operator, who received a penalty.

Instead, the governor cited the Revolution Council announcement of 1959, to shut down the establishment for 30 days from March 5, 2021 to April 3, 2021. The orders noted that both operators of the clubs have the right to appeal the closures, having 15 days to file an appeal directly with the Phuket Governor.

Meanwhile, Phuket is set to open its doors to vaccinated, international tourists by October, pending the government’s approval. The local government’s initiative, named Phuket First October, proposes vaccinating a majority of its population over 18 years of age in time for the high season.

The move would allow thousands of vaccinated Europeans to enter Thailand, while locals would be protected from the virus symptoms.

SOURCE: The Phuket News

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Drugs

Early morning drug busts in Phuket yield 9 arrests

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Early morning drug busts in Phuket yield 9 arrests | The Thaiger

An early morning drug bust in Rawai, Phuket has yielded 9 arrests. The first raid yesterday consisted of 30 task force members who raided a sea gypsy shack near the beachfront in Rawai.

43 year old Saroch Homhuan, and 34 year old Juree Bangjak, were arrested and charged with posession of a Category I drug with the intent to sell, after police found 9 pills of methamphetamine, or yaba in Thai, over 6 grams of crystal meth, or ya ice in Thai, and 3 other “items of evidence.”

31 year old Suriyan Na Takuathung, and 29 year old Prathip Areerop, were arrested and charged with possession of a Category 1 drug with intent to sell, and possession of a Category 5 drug respectively. Police say they found 20 pills of methamphetamine, 0.92 grams of dried marijuana and 5 items of drug paraphernalia.

Police also raided 2 houses in Moo 2, arresting 5 suspects, named as 21 year old Vikrom Kongwiriyakul, 32 year old Narunat Chanthamuwong, 18 year old Chanchai Damrongkaset, a woman named Chantha Hansaithong, and 21 year old Warut Rodphan.

Warut was allegedly found with a bottle containing 500 millilitres of kratom juice. Police also say they seized 150 grams of kratom leaf dregs which are used to boil leaves in order to make the juice. Police charged him with posession of a Category 5 drug.

Police say they confiscated a total of 13 litres of kratom juice from 4 other suspects, which was contained in 10 bottles along with other ingredients and equipment to produce the drug cocktail called ‘4×100.’

All 9 suspects were taken to the Chalong Police Station in which only 1 agreed to undergo drug rehabilitation.

The raids come after the Phuket Provincial Government ordered officers of the Muang District Office to target villages where drugs are prevalent. A spokesman for the government said police will continue to remove drug traffickers from the community while working to improve the quality of local people’s lives so they don’t have to use drugs anymore.

SOURCE: The Phuket News

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