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Phuket News: Inaction over Tiger inferno sparks fire-safety blitz

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Phuket News: Inaction over Tiger inferno sparks fire-safety blitz | The Thaiger
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PHUKET: The lack of follow-up on fire safety standards more than a month after the deadly Tiger Discotheque inferno on August 17 that killed four people, has prompted Phuket Governor Tri Augkaradacha to launch a campaign to improve fire safety at large public venues across the island.

Governor Tri told the Phuket Gazette that he had already called on the heads of Phuket’s three District Offices to boost their fire-prevention measures. “I have also asked the District Office chiefs to step up building fire safety inspections in their respective areas,” he added.

However, top of the governor’s list are entertainment venues where large crowds gather.

“I am calling all business operators of large venues in Phuket to come to meetings where we can explain to them what the law requires in terms of fire safety and building regulations. We have started with night entertainment venues first, because the operators of those kinds of businesses seem to not fully understand building safety standards,” Gov Tri said.

“They should be aware that there will be regular inspections. If they fail to meet any of the criteria, we will have no choice but to order them to close until the problem is fixed,” he warned.

Among the “criteria” is a regulation introduced in March this year limiting the amount of light or flammable materials used in building or decorating large venues, such as the foam used in making the original iconic Tiger Disco decor.

Initial reports by fire investigators identified the foam as one of the main contributors to the spread of the deadly fire last month.

Although the operators of Tiger Disco admitted that much of the original decor at the ill-fated nightclub was made from highly flammable foam when the venue was built 10 years ago, they later claimed that much of it was replaced by concrete features in order to comply with the new regulation.

To this, Governor Tri is granting large venue operators 180 days to make all necessary modifications to their buildings in order to meet all building safety requirements.

“We have spoken to some of the entertainment venue business owners in Phuket Town and in Patong, including Tiger Group. Those we have already spoken with have been given 180 days to change or modify their structures.

“We will go back and check every three months after the [180-day] deadline to ensure that they are still complying with the required laws,” he said.

After the key entertainment venues on the island are brought under closer scrutiny, next on the list are shopping malls and convenience stores.

“I am not too worried about them since the safety measures they already have in place are much better than the entertainment venues. They even have their buildings inspected once a year. They seem to follow the law quite well and have good safety precautions, but still, they have to be inspected once a year,” Gov Tri said.

However, he added that government officers who approve building permits for structures that breach fire regulations will also be in the firing line.

“If we find out that the building permit is not right, not only will the building owner be held responsible, but also the person who signed off as approving it,” he told the Gazette.

Governor Tri cited Patong Municipality as an example for being responsible for approving the building permit for the Tiger Discotheque.

“They [Patong Municipality officers] publicly announced that they lost all documents for building permission during a big flood [in 2003]. That still doesn’t answer the question whether or not the building was legally approved to build.

“I will not accept any accusation [that an illegal extension was added to the original Tiger Discotheque structure] unless I can see the paper to prove it. I have appointed one committee from the Provincial Office to investigate Patong Municipality regarding the issue,” he said.

— Chaiyot Yongcharoenchai

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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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Phuket

Newborn baby found on bench in Phuket

Caitlin Ashworth

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Newborn baby found on bench in Phuket | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Siangtai/Newshawk Phuket

A newborn baby was found on a bench at a neighborhood by Phuket’s Patong Road. The baby boy was wrapped in cloth and left inside a reusable shopping bag. The bag also had a bottle of milk, diapers and clothing.

A woman walking by early in the morning heard the baby crying. She followed the cries and found the baby on the bench. She called police and calmed the baby, feeding him milk that was left in the bag.

Police took the baby to the Patong Hospital. The baby, about a week old, is in good health, police say.

“Police and rescue workers together rushed to the scene and called Patong Hospital to have a medical team meet us there … This baby is healthy and does not appear to have suffered any injuries. He is now safe and being cared for at Patong Hospital.”

Police are reviewing surveillance camera footage to see if they can track down the mother, or whoever left the baby behind.

Newborn baby found on bench in Phuket | News by The Thaiger

SOURCE: Phuket News

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Visa

Phuket Immigration handing out ‘conditional’ 14 day visas, pending investigations

The Thaiger

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Phuket Immigration handing out ‘conditional’ 14 day visas, pending investigations | The Thaiger

Confusion reigns. It was predictable and many people, despite months of warnings, have left their visa extensions to the last minute. Meanwhile Thai immigration don’t appear to be making the process easy as The Thaiger has received multiple comments from foreigners visiting the various immigration offices around the country and encountering ‘local’ applications of the published guidelines and, in some cases, demands for additional paperwork.

A note to The Thaiger, we won’t publish the person’s name, from Phuket where a person applying for an extension to their visa has been given something less than the 30 days promised by the government.

“On Monday Phuket Immigration was only giving 14 day ‘conditional’ VISA extensions from the date of application, not from September 26. They announced this was to allow time to “investigate and verify” the need for the extension.

So basically we paid 1900 baht for a 14 day extension. After announcing this many people left as many que numbers were called and nobody came up. They said if that were the case they would come back later in the week.

So we have to go back on October 5 (or a few days later is ok they announced) to see if we’re approved for the 30 day extension from September 26. If not we would be immediately “overstaying” at 500 baht/day.

Thank you
C

Another writer, speaking about the same matter, said that they were still being charged the non-refundable 1900 baht fee for the 2 week extension….

“They still collected the non refundable 1900 baht fee.”

Yesterday a person, who had been living in Bangkok under the auspices of the visa amnesty on a lapsed Non Immigrant B (Business) visa, ended up visiting three different offices to get his paperwork sorted out. This is after first contacting immigration by phone to confirm the particular office to attend. He had a letter from the US Embassy explaining that he would be unable to return to the US at this stage due to lack of flights and the current Covid-19 situation in the US. He made an appointment online, as instructed, and it still didn’t go very smoothly.

The instructions he received….

If your Visa was cancelled during the Covid-19 crisis, and you are currently under the amnesty grace period set to expire September 26, you will need to schedule an appointment online to queue in with the Immigration Division 1 at Muang Thong Thani (near Don Mueang Airport). You will need…
  • Online appointment with Immigration Division 1
  • Passport
  • TM 6 Departure Card
  • 1,900 Baht fee for short term extension
  • Letter from embassy specifically stating inability to leave Thailand due to lack of repatriation flights and or a high risk of contracting Covid-19 in one’s home nation.
  • US Embassy letter request can be made online here
  • Portrait photo to affix to short term extension application 3.5 cm x 4.5 cm in dimension

After going to Counter K and Counter J (2 separate buildings), he ended up being asked to go to the Chaeng Wattana office instead, and then was shuffled off to yet another office. Additional paperwork was also requested, beyond what had been asked for. After nearly a full day he ended up with a visa stamp for a 30 day extension in his visa.

He also noted that there is NO ATM around the Mueang Thong Thani immigration offices and our reader had to take a 60 baht motorcycle taxi ride to get cash.

Probably worse, he said that the Immigration officials (clearly overworked at this time), were “extremely rude” and that the facilities (apparently temporary) are “less-than-adequate”, especially the Counter K, which was basically a parking garage with seats… no fans.

Additionally, contrary to the clear advice on the Thai Immigration website, most people getting their extensions were from the date of their visit and NOT the end of the September 26 amnesty.

Phuket Immigration handing out 'conditional' 14 day visas, pending investigations | News by The Thaiger

The moral of this tiny microcosm of stories is that it’s probably the busiest week for Thai immigration in history. The officials will be stressed and stretched, there will be long queues and there will be confusion. We should also mention that we’ve had a few foreigners contact us saying that things went very smoothly for their extensions, so well done to all concerned in those examples!

Be prepared, take ALL your paperwork, expect to asked to produce more evidence, make sure you have all your photos and copies of your passport, TM 6 departure card, plus filled-in applications before you head to the Immigration offices.

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