Phuket PAD protest; oil drills defended; Bangkok bombs; economy booms

Phuket NEWS Hound

– A daily digest of news about Thailand from around the world, compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community.

Phuket PAD adding fuel to temple fire

Phuket members of the Peoples Alliance for Democracy are on their way to Bangkok this morning to join a rally at Government House.

The Phuket contingent wants to help the ‘yellow shirts’ put pressure on the government to resolve the ongoing dispute over the Preah Vihear temple.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva thinks it’s a bad idea.

“Frankly speaking, the rally could make the situation more complicated, but if they really want to hold the demonstration, it should be done in accordance with the law,” he said yesterday.

PAD leader Chamlong Srimuang has called for a demonstration in front of the prime minister’s office on Saturday to demand the government revoke the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on boundary demarcation signed with Cambodia in 2000.

The MOU, which recognizes the Siam-French demarcation map, would allow Cambodia to claim Thai territory, Chamlong said.

“As Thai citizens, we have the duty to protect our sovereignty,” he said.

With Bangkok still under a state of emergency, any public gathering of more than five people is prohibited. However, Abhisit declined to say if the emergency law would be enforced to block the PAD protest.

PAD Phuket coordinator Aparat Chartchutikumjorn is low key about her group’s participation in the controversial rally.

“We just want to present a letter that asks for clear information about the agreement that Natural Resource and Environment Minister Suwit Khunkitti signed with UNESCO, as we are afraid that he might have signed an agreement with Cambodia [that infringes on Thai sovereignty],” she said.

For further background on the escalating temple dispute and the PAD-Phuket participation in it, click here.

Offshore drilling: Phuket spared for now

The Jarkata Post
Though silent on future oil exploration off Phuket, the prospect of drilling in the Andaman moved a step closer on Wednesday when Energy Minister Wannarat Channukul announced that Thailand plans to move ahead with drilling off the coast of Koh Samui, despite feverish protests from environmentalists and the tourism industry.

The Jakarta Post yesterday reported that the Thai energy minister rejected calls to scrap plans to operate four offshore drilling rigs, and quoted him as saying: “I believe that energy and tourism can move forward together.”

The minister claims the objections on Samui were [somehow] based on a “misunderstanding”.

But there appeared to be no misunderstandings among the protesters on Samui and in Bangkok on Monday. (See Phuket News Hound report here.)

The energy minister contends that the government would risk legal problems if it were to “annul” exploration contracts apparently already granted for the Samui area.

The drilling is scheduled to take place in exploration blocks belonging to Chevron and three smaller oil companies: NuCoastal, a wholly owned subsidiary of the London-headquartered Coastal Energy Company; Salamander Energy of the UK; and Pearl Oil Thailand, part of Singapore-based Pearl Energy.

Although there have for at least 15 years been concession blocks for drilling off Phuket, none of the oil companies has yet to commence operations there.

Increased bomb checks in Bangkok

Today Online
Thai police increased checkpoints in Bangkok’s business areas on Wednesday after receiving a tip-off that bombs could be placed in cars and motorcycles, as well as in trash cans and bags.

“We have to take every tip we receive seriously,” said a police spokesman.
Last week, Bangkok was hit with two grenade attacks that killed one person and wounded about a dozen.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva asked the public to alert authorities to any acts of sabotage after intelligence reports indicated that opponents may target cars as bomb sites.

“If we get public cooperation, sabotage won’t happen easily,” the prime minister said.

Surge in Thai economic growth

Bloomsburg Business Week
Thailands economy may expand as much as 8 percent this year, the fastest pace since 1995, as surging overseas shipments help spur a recovery from the nation’s worst political violence in almost two decades.

We are surprised by the rebound in exports and also the level in private investment and consumption, Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij said late yesterday.

Even with the political crisis, we can expect 7 percent. If things hum along the way they are, perhaps 8 percent will be achievable, he said.

The central bank increased its benchmark interest rate last month for the first time in almost two years as the export-led rebound helped blunt the effect of clashes between troops and anti-government protesters that caused 89 deaths in April and May.

— Gazette Editors

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