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Phuket Update; foreigner nabbed; Phuket airline happy; Wiki wasted

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Phuket Update; foreigner nabbed; Phuket airline happy; Wiki wasted | The Thaiger
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Phuket NEWS Hound

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

Phuket airport arrivals soar

Passenger traffic through Phuket International Airport during the first half of this year surged 28 per cent compared to a year earlier – marking a dramatic recovery for Phuket as the island resort province leads Thailand’stourism revival and a return toward the boom statistics of 2007.

According to the mid-year edition of the Phuket HotelMarket Update, a research publication released today by leading hospitality consulting firm C9 Hotelworks, the road to recovery has firmly begun with higher hotel occupancies and a “game changing” shift in tourist profile that is driving growth.

C9’s Managing Director Bill Barnett says that one clear indication of the bounce back are the hotel-wide performance statistics, with occupancies rising from 61% per cent in 2009 to 70 per cent in the same period this year, although this did come at a cost to average room rates – down 9 per cent.

But the longer term implications of the shift away from European visitors looks likely to have a more telling impact on Phuket as it begins to deliver the metrics prevailing prior to the dawn of the global economic crisis in 2008.

Rich in statistics, a free copy of the eight-page Phuket HotelMarket Update will be available in all copies of the Phuket Gazette newspaper due out tomorrow afternoon.

Taiwanese nabbed in Phuket

Bangkok Post
A Taiwanese man wanted in Taiwan on drug charges has been arrested in Phuket, provincial immigration police chief Panuwat Ruamrak said at a press conference yesterday.

Pol Col Panuwat said Wu Jung-Mu, 50, was arrested by immigration police at the request of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in Thailand.

A local court in Taiwan issued a warrant for his arrest on Nov 28, 2003 and the TECO in Thailand asked the Immigration Police Bureau to find out if he had fled to Thailand.

Police learned that Wu Jung-Mu last entered Thailand via Suvarnabhumi airport on Oct 27, 2009, with a visa was valid until Jan 24, 2010. The man sought an extension of his visa at the Phuket immigration office on Jan 11 this year and was given an extension until Jan 24 next year.

Pol Col Panuwat said the immigration office revoked his visa on Aug 4 and arrested him at an apartment in Phuket’s Muang District on Aug 10.

The TECO in Thailand had been contacted to make arrangements for his deportation to Taiwan after completing all legal proceedings in Thailand, he said.

Phuket’s Happy Air expanding

TTR Weekly
Phuket’s Happy Air has established a new base in Nakhon Ratchasima, a.k.a. Korat, in order to operate more flights to towns in the North and Northeast of Thailand.

The airline will base two aircraft in the northeastern city and one in Phuket.

Happy Air sales and marketing manager Phatcharapon Sontipun says the airline is confident its Nakhon Ratchasima hub can be developed into its main operational base.

The airport comes under the Civil Aviation Department, with lower parking and landing fees than at Phuket International Airport which is managed by Airports of Thaland.

“We will keep one aircraft in Phuketand have two operating out of Korat by October 1,” Phatcharapon says.

Wikileaks blocked

The Telegraph
Thai authorities have used emergency powers to block the Wikileaks whistleblower website on security grounds, claiming it could lead to further unrest.

“Access to this website has been temporarily suspended under the 2005 emergency decree,” a spokesman from the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology said.

Thailand has removed tens of thousands of web pages from the Internet in recent years and critics have complained that the authorities have responded to the recent anti-government demonstrations by widening the net.

Some pages of social networking site Facebook are thought to have been blocked in the recent clampdown.

WikiLeaks has been the focus of international attention in recent weeks after it released thousands of military documents on the conflict in Afghanistan.

Budget bill will pass

The Nation
The Budget Bill will be passed on schedule tomorrow, House Speaker Chai Chidchob affirmed yesterday, despite the opposition’s extreme criticism of the concentration of budget allocations to certain government agencies and a special allotment by House Budget Committee members.

Chai said today’s debate could if necessary continue till dawn, ahead of the vote.

Yesterday, the first day of the debate, Pheu Thai Party MPs criticised the lack of data on the budget, particularly details of late decreases and increases totaling 33.4 billion baht.

Maha Sarakham MP Prayuth Siripanich charged that some committee members had managed to win 10-20 per cent of the budgets they helped allocate to the constituencies of certain coalition parties’ MPs.

Chavalit Vichaisut also criticised the fact that that the budget was particularly concentrated in some provinces.

The opposition’s points of concern extended to agricultural price guarantees, which despite the huge sum involved were said to benefit landowners and not farmers, as well as the government’s policies to address corruption and public debt.

Criticism was also leveled at the allocation of 170 billion baht, or 8 per cent of the overall budget, to the Interior Ministry – an agency heavily criticised over many past equipment purchases – against just 70 million baht for the Agriculture Ministry.

It took over 10 hours to finish just the first of the 35 clauses in the bill.

Copter crash kills five

Earth Times
Five people, including three senior bureaucrats, died in a helicopter crash in northern Thailand, officials said yesterday.

The crash site of the Eurocopter AS 350, which went missing on Tuesday, was located early yesterday in a forest in the Na Muen district of Nan province, 420 kilometres north of Bangkok, said Army Major General Cheewan Horabuth, head of the search and rescue operation.

Three bodies were found near the wreck and another two beneath it. Authorities have launched an investigation into the cause of the crash, which was initially blamed on bad weather.

Among those killed were Saksit Tridech, permanent secretary of the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry; Kowit Punyatrong, Inspector General of the National Parks Department; and Sahat Boonyawiwat, an advisor to the Royal Household Bureau.

The Mineral Resources Department helicopter went missing shortly after it took off in a heavy rainstorm from Phitsanulok Tuesday morning to take the officials to the inauguration of a river basin development project.

— Gazette Editors

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Phuket

Phuket’s annual Vegetarian Festival lowers flags, spirits return to the heavens

Caitlin Ashworth

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Phuket’s annual Vegetarian Festival lowers flags, spirits return to the heavens | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Marina Krasnopolska

WARNING! Content below contains photos of self-mutilation that some may find disturbing.

The flags on Go Teng poles were lowered on Monday, ending Phuket’s annual Vegetarian Festival and symbolising that the spirits have returned the heavens. The flags are raised at the start of the festivities each year at participating shrines, calling on the spirits to descend from the heavens.

This year, 2 men were electrocuted while taking down the festival flags. A steel pole with the flag touched a power pole, electrocuting and burning the workers as they were trying to lower the flags. They were taken to the hospital.

During the festival’s street processions and ceremonies so-called “mah songs” channel the descended spirits. They enter a trance-like state and many practice self-mutilation to channel the spirits. “Mah” means horse in Thai, and some say the mah song acts as a horse for the spirit to ride.

Some mah song pierce their cheeks and other parts of their body with steel spikes and sometimes swords or other bizarre choices (we’ve seen petrol pumps, javelins, samurai swords and kitchen utensils). During the street procession, they walk for hours with the self-inflicted piercings, seemingly posessed by ‘spirits’ and muttering all sort of strange chants, verging on mild cases of Tourette syndrome. A team of devotees for each mah song wipe away blood and keep the wounds clean. Some mah songs even slice their tongue for the street procession. Blood drips on their chest and the ground. Waiting bystanders line the streets hoping for the blessing of a passing mah song. Some mah songs carry a black flag.

The event is an annual spiritual ‘cleansing’ for those in watching the processions. Onlookers lining the street bow their heads and place their hands in the “wai” position as the mah song waves flags and banners over their heads. Businesses along the procession route often set up an altar outside their shop and mah songs stop at each one to do a short ritual.

The Phuket government gave the festival organisers the “okay” to hold this years event with hopes that it would increase domestic tourism and generate much-needed revenue after the Thai government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic crippled Phuket’s tourist economy. Before this year’s festival, Phuket City Mayor Somjai Suwansupana asked that the mah songs “limit the level of torturing.” He also called for a limit on the number of people at ceremonies to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

His calls were largely ignored.

The spirits will again return in 2021 to Phuket again cleanse the island’s large Thai-Chinese community.

Photos of the 2020 Vegetarian Festival by Marina Krasnopolska.

Phuket's annual Vegetarian Festival lowers flags, spirits return to the heavens | News by The ThaigerPhuket's annual Vegetarian Festival lowers flags, spirits return to the heavens | News by The ThaigerPhuket's annual Vegetarian Festival lowers flags, spirits return to the heavens | News by The ThaigerPhuket's annual Vegetarian Festival lowers flags, spirits return to the heavens | News by The ThaigerPhuket's annual Vegetarian Festival lowers flags, spirits return to the heavens | News by The ThaigerPhuket's annual Vegetarian Festival lowers flags, spirits return to the heavens | News by The Thaiger

SOURCE: Phuket News

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Phuket

Phuket told to prepare “response plan” in case of second Covid-19 outbreak

Caitlin Ashworth

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Phuket told to prepare “response plan” in case of second Covid-19 outbreak | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Daily News

As Phuket awaits foreign tourists, city officials are told to prepare a “response plan” in case of a second wave of Covid-19. An official from the Ministry of Tourism and Sports held a workshop in Phuket today to discuss the risk of another outbreak as the country opens up to those on the Special Tourist Visa.

The ministry’s permanent secretary Chote Trachu says now that the country is allowing tourists (who are required to quarantine upon arrival) an infection “may somehow slip through.” He says a response plan needs to be in place in case this happens, adding that there should be corporation from the Ministry of Public Health and Ministry of Defense.

“If any tourists are found to be infected, the disease must not be allowed to spread among the people. There should be no panic, and public health officers will investigate the case. Tourist Police will track down the suspected person in an investigation with the Ministry of Public Health.”

Chote says all provinces – not just Phuket – should have a response plan. Although tourists must go through a mandatory 14 day quarantine upon arrival, Chote says there are some cases where the incubation period for Covid-19 is longer than 14 days.

“There are a variety of cases. Sometimes, the infection does not show after 14 days, or even 15 or 16 days. Each situation is different.”

Recently, a woman in Koh Samui tested positive for the coronavirus 5 days after she was released from a Samut Prakan quarantine facility. Traces of the virus were found on gym equipment the woman used at the quarantine, leading health officials to suspect she was infected before arriving to the island.

“We urge Thai people to not let their guard down. Everyone must wear masks, wash their hands and take care of personal hygiene. This will help prevent them from contracting the disease.”

SOURCE: Phuket News

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Business

Approval sought for multi-billion-baht Phuket medical hub

Maya Taylor

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Approval sought for multi-billion-baht Phuket medical hub | The Thaiger
Mai Khao beach in north Phuket - PHOTO: www.makemytrip.com

Industry officials are seeking the go-ahead for a project to transform over 140 rai of government land in Phuket into a world-leading medical hub. The project is budgeted at 3 – 4 billion baht, depending on which report you read. Kitkong Tantijaraswarodom, from the Federation of Thai Industries, believes the development of a medical and wellness hub in the sub-district of Mai Khao, north Phuket, will help revive the southern island’s battered economy. Phuket has become increasingly reliant on a steady flow of tourists over the past 2 decades.

The southern division of the FTI covers Phuket, Krabi, Phang Nga, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Trang, Patthalung, Surat Thani, Ranong, Satun, Chumphon, and Songkhla.

“The FTI will ask the government to green-light the project during the scheduled mobile cabinet meeting on the island on November 3.”

Kitkong says businesspeople in the south are anxious for the government to approve the project, which will provide both locals and foreign medical tourists with state-of-the-art medical care. The facility is expected to include long-term care, hospice and rehabilitation services, in addition to a dental hospital, sports therapy centre, and a medical training school for doctors, nurses, pharmacists and medical laboratory scientists.

The chair of the FTI’s southern chapter is also calling on officials to provide small and medium-sized businesses with additional support, in the form of access to loans, in order to deal with cash shortages.

“In the short term, the FTI wants the government to help SMEs, especially those in the tourism sector.”

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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