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Phuket disgrace: plastic pollution in the Andaman

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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PHUKET: My concerns over plastic pollution were stimulated anew by an excellent analysis in the China Daily called ‘Drowning in Plastic’, and also by the cover story in a recent edition of the Phuket Gazette in which a seasoned local fisherman expressed surprise at the decline in fish catches in our seas.

The main contributor to that story – the president of the Phuket Fishing Association – believed the weather to be the principal factor in fish depopulation, as well as “restrictions on fishermen”. Both analyses are very questionable. The source also blamed “pollution and waste… from hotels” that was more to the point. But the ‘P-word’ was never mentioned in his analysis.

Anyone interested in ecological issues knows that the principal culprits for the catastrophic decline in marine life in Thailand are the triple evils of over-fishing, including poaching; inadequate regulation of the industry at all levels, including human rights issues and abuses; and pollution.

For decades, weighted trawl nets have scoured the shallow bottom of the Andaman Sea, removing not only entire colonies of fish, but all its benthic life, including deep-water coral, sea grass and bottom feeding molluscs and crustaceans. There has been no effective control over net mesh sizes, hence the sad mountains of tiny fish in markets – evidence that the next piscine generation has already gone the way of all flesh.

As for marine pollution, it is daily becoming an issue in Phuket, with inadequate waste disposal systems chucking thousands of tons of raw sewage into the sea.

On neighboring Phi Phi Island, there is no sewage plant at all. Apparently one would cost 300 million baht, and the island, despite its huge revenue from tourism, cannot stump up the money.

A shocking 83 per cent of liquid waste is discharged straight into the sea. “Our only hope is that hotels, restaurants and other businesses act responsibly,” declared Punkum Kittithonkun, president of the Ao Nang OrBorTor on April 10.

Most of the coral in the Andaman Sea has already gone. Add land run-off, where 95 per cent of Phuket’s agricultural pesticides and herbicides end up, and it’s easy to be frightened about what we’re doing to that vast sink we call the ocean.

Mangrove swamps, which used to fringe most of Phuket and its surrounding islands, act not only as nurseries for most species of marine fish, but as giant filters for effluence. They are literally losing ground to developers.

Among many others, current cases concern several marinas here in Phuket and in Krabi, where one of them is alleged to have widened a klong (canal) through the mangroves from three to 50 meters. Imagine how many trees have perished.

Effluents themselves have a profound effect on oxygen levels, and all aspects of ocean life. Increasingly in Phuket, we are getting jellyfish warnings – Surin Beach just last week was warned of several sightings of Portuguese Man O’War. Apart from delivering nasty stings, jellyfish are potent enemies of our environment, devouring plankton, fish eggs and small fish. The blow to plankton alone should be alarming, as the tiny collective organisms do more than anything else to sequester carbon and produce oxygen – a life-support system for everyone on the planet.

This brings us to the ‘P-word’. Plastic pollutants are one of the biggest problems, not just in Thailand, but worldwide.

By 2050, says a reputable UK organization, the oceans will be “expected to contain more plastics than fish (by weight).”

A report by the American environmental group ‘Stemming the Tide’ identified five countries – all Asian and including Thailand – that contribute between “55 and 60 per cent” of all plastic found in our oceans. Ninety per cent of all plastic that is produced annually is thrown away.

Ironically, the fishing industry in Phuket is one of the worst local offenders. All the garbage from these boats is simply jettisoned overboard.

On ‘International Coastal Cleanup Day’, the most frequent beach litter and sea pollutants – all plastic – were reported as follows: over 1,000,000 food containers, 1,000,000 drink bottles, and 1,000,000 bags. Caps and lids came in at 690,000, straws and stirrers at over 600,000 items.

A recent study concluded that 8 million tons of plastic waste flow into our oceans every year, enough to cover one foot of every coastline in the world.

A University of California study recently showed that fish in the North Pacific ingest plastic at a rate of 12,000 to 24,000 tons per year. Oceanographer Erik Van Sebille, from London’s Imperial College, concurs: “There is so much plastic in marine animals at the moment. In almost every fish and bird that is cut open for science, we find plastic.”

So what, as concerned individuals, can we do to ameliorate this global problem?

The first and most important statement we can make is to reduce our dependence on the stuff. Plastic is one of the main by-products of an affluent society, and developing Thailand is particularly culpable.

Take your own re-usable bag when you shop, avoid plastic cling-film and polystyrene containers for your fried rice and coffee. Use your own mug at Starbucks. And support any initiatives to reduce plastic packaging. Tesco Lotus in Thailand tried and failed, largely for want of public support.

Stop buying water in plastic bottles. Every year, 20 billion are tossed in the trash. If you are worried about the quality of tap water – as you may be in Thailand – consider buying a filtration unit. It will quickly pay for itself.

It is a point almost too obvious to make, but we need to remind ourselves to recycle where and when we can. And it can be done. True, different kinds of plastic complicate matters.

Nonetheless, most kinds are recyclable. And if you don’t trust the refuse truck, then save your cast-offs for the local trash collectors, who will gladly take them on their bulging samlors to a proper disposal facility.

At sea level, there are promising initiatives to skim the plastic from the ocean’s gyres where so much of it ends up. At the end of the day however, prevention is better than cure. We must produce less plastic.

And if we must have plastic, then, for the planet’s sake, don’t manufacture so much of the single-use, disposable stuff. This material is the single largest contributor to marine plastic pollution.

The irony is that such a practical and ubiquitous material invariably outlives its usefulness; in the blink of an eye, plastic has become a massive scourge rather than a benefit.

— Patrick Campbell

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Phuket Monopoly game creators need your help with token designs

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Phuket Monopoly game creators need your help with token designs | The Thaiger

Phuket is set to get its own version of the popular game MONOPOLY and its creators want your help with ideas for the specialised tokens. ‘MONOPOLY: Phuket Edition’ was announced last month which will see the street art on the board game replaced with that of famous places around Thailand’s famous tourist destination. Such art will include beaches, hotels, shops, markets and other popular attractions.

Jennifer Lau from Winning Moves UK, is producing the game under official license from Monopoly brand owners, Hasbro. Lau says the tokens will feature a holiday theme. The token’s departure from the original theme of wheelbarrows, boots, iron, and thimbles as well as popular sports cars and hats.

“We have had a wealth of emails and suggestions coming in for Phuket, so thank you for each and every single one of them! We are taking them all into consideration whilst putting together the design of the game.”

“We wanted to change the tokens so that they would be more suitable for an island like Phuket, where so many people like to go on holiday to.”

“There will be six themed tokens that replace the original and we want to hear your suggestions for what these tokens should be!”

Bangkok has already been featured in the Monopoly game as it came out for purchase back in 2018.

SOURCE: The Phuket News

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Phuket holds vaccine administration rehearsal as it waits for green light

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Phuket holds vaccine administration rehearsal as it waits for green light | The Thaiger

Phuket is rehearsing procedures to ready themselves for the Covid‐19 vaccine administration green light. A rehearsal at Vachira Hospital’s Lan Muang Khao open area was held late yesterday to iron out any kinks in the administration process. Phuket Vice Governor Pichet Panapong watched over the procedures along with other health officials.

Pichet says the first vaccine round of 4,000 doses should arrive early in March, with the 2nd and 3rd set of doses, 16,000 and 48,000 respectively, to arrive in April and May.

“The government recognises the importance of the affected areas of the economy where the epidemic situation of COVID-19 must be stopped and has allocated the COVID-19 vaccine to Phuket Province to build herd immunity, restore the economy, return a smile to Thailand.”

“We are preparing to COVID-19 mass vaccination to build confidence among the people that they will receive a quality, safe vaccine and to receive follow-up care after it has been administered.”

Pichet says Phuket’s first target groups to receive the vaccine include medical and public health personnel, with others on the frontlines to come next.

Then, workers aged 18-59 years old, people with underlying diseases including chronic respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease, chronic kidney disease, cerebrovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity will follow.

“People with severe neurological conditions and pregnant women should be wary of taking the vaccine, as well as women who are breastfeeding and people with immunodeficiency.”

The procedure to get vaccinated starts by recipients undergoing screening by having their temperatures taken, and then sanitising their hands before entering the administration area. Then, they will move their way through a series of steps, detailed below:

Step 1: Register

Step 2: Record weight and blood pressure

Step 3: Pass the screening process by have their medical history and risk assessment recorded and then signing a consent to receive the vaccine

Step 4: Wait for vaccination

Step 5: Vaccination

Step 6: Rest for 30 minutes, while being observed for symptoms. Then scan the official Line account “หมอพร้อม” (“Doctor Ready”)

Step 7: Pass a final check before receiving a document confirming vaccination

Pichet says health workers will follow up with vaccine recipients after 1,7, and 30 days from being vaccinated to monitor any adverse reactions.

Those who are set to receive their second jab will have appointments made for them. Those who receive the Sinovac vaccine will be scheduled to have their second doses 2 to 4 weeks after the first. AstraZeneca vaccine receivers will be scheduled for their second doses 10 to 12 weeks after the first.

SOURCE: The Phuket News

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Phuket

Phuket police officer charged with attempted murder for shooting and critically injuring a noodle vendor

Caitlin Ashworth

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Phuket police officer charged with attempted murder for shooting and critically injuring a noodle vendor | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Siamrath

The drunk, off-duty police officer in Phuket who has caught on camera shooting and beating a noodle vendor on Bangla Road is now facing attempted murder charges as well as charges of carrying a firearm in public without a necessary reason and firing a weapon in a public area. The commander of the Phuket police station said he ordered investigators to prosecute the officer Pornthep Channarong with every criminal charge that can be applied.

The officer had gotten into an altercation just before dawn yesterday and shot a young vendor who was walking by. Surveillance camera footage show the 25 year old suddenly falling to the ground after being shot. The officer walks up and shoots the vendor at a close range, but it appears the second shot did not hit the vendor. The officer also slapped the vendor in the face, picked him up and shoved him over, and then kicked him as he lay on the ground.

The vendor has a 4 year old daughter and 3 month old son. His wife says normally he works as a motorbike driver, but he was helping his mother selling noodles. He was shot while he was walking back from collecting a noodle bowl, she says. The vendor is in critical condition and being cared for at Vachira Phuket Hospital’s intensive care unit. He’s in need of Type B blood.

“For his condition, the doctor told me that the bullet went through his lung. He lost a lot of blood. We need a lot of Type B blood for him.”

A disciplinary investigation into the incident was launched by police and Pornthep was officially dismissed from the Royal Thai Police force. Region 8 Police Commander Kitrat Panpetch says the incident does not reflect the police force in Phuket.

“The incident was caused by an officer who did something wrong that our organisation does not want. We are a big organisation with more than 200,000 officers under our control. Our officers are not all bad like this.”

Phuket Provincial Police Commander Pornsak Nuannu says he has reminded the police chiefs across the island to discuss reasons for carrying firearms in public.

“Carrying firearms is to prevent any type of crime that may happen, not to commit a crime by themselves like this incident. If I see any police doing such a thing, I will decisively proceed in terms of both officer discipline and criminal charges.”

SOURCE: Phuket News

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