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Ranong 12 finally set free

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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RANONG: “The Ranong 12”, a group of 12 foreign tourists arrested on the morning of February 8 for overstaying their visas, were freed on Sunday.

The most that any of the 12 had overstayed was six days. Others were just 24 hours over the limit.

During their five-day ordeal they spent the first two nights on dirty police cell floors in Kapoe District and the next two locked up in minibuses on overnight journeys to and from Bangkok, where they were sent to be processed for deportation.

The detainees were eventually spared deportation from Bangkok following successful negotiations between their embassies and top Immigration officials in the capital.

They were then returned, still under detention, to Ranong, from where they finally left the country under expulsion orders. They then re-entered the country as free men and women on new tourist visas.

The arrests have caused confusion and fear among foreign tourists and resident expats, who for years have been able to depart the country after overstaying – within reason – their permit-to-stay by simply paying a 200-baht-a-day fine.

One of the 12 arrested, Australian Chris Taylor, 31, told the Gazette today,“We were under arrest the whole time … when we weren’t locked in a cage we were being escorted by Immigration or other police officials … many people did not sleep at all for the whole time … They weren’t giving us information, and when they did give us information they lied to us,” he said.

He said that when he finally got back to Phuket, nobody could believe he had been locked up for five days because of a one-day overstay.

“The way we were treated was shocking … Some of the food I couldn’t eat; it was just bloody dog food. The Kapoe Police did their best to accommodate us; they tried to make us comfortable. They did their best with the sleeping arrangements, but I don’t think they really knew what was going on.

“But the Tourist Police, Immigration Police in Bangkok and especially the Immigration Police in Ranong, none could speak English at all – and they were very rude, treating us like crap,” he said.

He said that the day before his tourist visa was set to expire he went to Phuket Immigration, where he was told that a one-day overstay would not cause a problem.

“‘Just do a visa run tomorrow and pay a 200-baht fine,’ they told me,” he said, adding that they should have advised him to extend his visa by 10 days then and there as he faced possible arrest as an overstay.

Despite all the discomfort, he said he would continue his vacation in Thailand by making new reservations for a flight to Chiang Mai, as his original tickets had expired and were non-refundable.

“I am just tired and need to rest for a few days first,” he said.

Australian Embassy officials in Bangkok had done an extraordinary job in negotiating with Thai Immigration officials in Bangkok, he added.

Another member of the group, Swede Olaf Fredling, also said he would not let the experience put him off vacationing in Thailand. Like his Australian co-detainee, he said the actions of a few didn’t reflect badly on all of Thailand.

“But my feet are really bad right now from all the standing around. We never got a chance to lay down … but sure, I am going to stay in Thailand,” he said.

Janpen Munsa, owner of the Penphet Visa Run Company, said the arrests were unprecedented in the company’s six-year history and had hurt her business because former customers now feared arrest if they use it.

“The company is registered as a visa run business, but they arrested [our customers] – using rude words and bad behavior,” she said, adding that hers is just one of three companies providing the service.

“Why was our vehicle pulled over and our overstayed customers singled out?” she wanted to know.

Anchalee Praphut, owner of Angelina Travel and Tour Agency, which arranged the visa tour for one of the overstays, said the whole episode had sullied the reputation of the Tourist Police.

She had to plead with the police to allow two of the group who were diabetic to have insulin shots, which they had to pay for themselves.

She called on the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) to look into the matter, saying that TAT efforts to promote tourism abroad would be all for nothing if the Tourist Police treated foreign tourists so badly after they arrived.

Ranong Governor Mekin Methawikul, who was informed of the issue by K. Anchalee, told the Gazette that he had sent a formal request to the head of the Ranong Tourist Police for a report about the incident.

He said that the Tourist Police Chief told him that there had been cases of foreigners using the visa runs to smuggle ya bah (methamphetamine) into the country from Burma, so his staff needed to check foreigners on visa runs carefully.

As the Tourist Police do not have the authority to stop moving vehicles, they had called on the Highway Police for assistance. Another bus on a visa run that followed shortly thereafter was allowed to pass by because the police did not want to create traffic congestion, the Governor said.

Gov Mekin added that, as the arresting officers were low-level police, it was unrealistic to expect them

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Politics

Phuket’s Sri Panwa Resort’s land title deed to be investigated for legality by DSI

The Thaiger & The Nation

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Phuket’s Sri Panwa Resort’s land title deed to be investigated for legality by DSI | The Thaiger

Back in the news again. Phuket’s Sri Panwa Resort’s land title deed is now to be investigated by the Department of Special Investigation after a petition was filed to determine whether the deed was procured legally. Veera Somkwamkid, the secretary-general of the People’s Network Against Corruption, filed the petition along with 167 pages of documents pertaining to his accusations that Thawatchai Anukun, a land fraud suspect, had unlawfully issued land title deeds to plots of land in Phuket before he mysteriously died in a detention room while in DSI custody in 2016.

He was allegedly being investigated for falsifying land deeds between the years of 1998 and 2001. Veera claims before the title deed was issued on the plot, the land was part of a forest known by locals as Pa Kae.

“Back then, 10 families that had occupied the plots for about 40 years had title deed requests rejected. The reason given was the land was part of a forest reserve used by the navy.”

However, Watchara Buathong, Phuket’s current land official, says the Sri Panwa resort had legally acquired its 56-rai, none of which was ever state land. Local resident Khwanjai Khumban, backed this claim, saying her father and cousins had sold most of the land to the resort, and she could produce documents to account for at least 12 rai of the disputed area.

Phuket's Sri Panwa Resort's land title deed to be investigated for legality by DSI | News by The Thaiger

Meanwhile, the Social Security Office, is also under fireas it is being asked to explain why it invested in the hotel’s trust fund. The department, which is under Thailand’s Ministry of Labour, in which its minister says he doesn’t know if the property has been legally built and points to the responsibility to the DSI to investigate. This was echoed by at least one opposition MP and anti-corruption activists.

The hotel, situated on Cape Panwa, in Phuket’s Muang district, has been under recent scrutiny due to its owner, Vorasit Issara, accusing Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul, a co-leader of the anti-government United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration group, of offending the monarchy at last weekend’s protest at Sanam Luang.

Vorasit posted on Instagram that Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul should be jailed, further falsely claiming that she is not Thai when, in fact, Panusaya was found to have been born in Nonthaburi and is a Thai citizen.

“This bullshit has got to stop. She is not Thai. Who is she working for? This one needs to be in prison”.

Such a statement has received wide backlash from netizens with some taking to Trip Advisor and other websites to post bad reviews of the resort, prompting it to suspend advertising on such sites.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post
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Phuket

Female prisoner on the run after escaping from Phuket Hospital

The Thaiger

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Female prisoner on the run after escaping from Phuket Hospital | The Thaiger

A female prisoner is on the run after escaping from Vachira Hospital in Phuket during a doctor’s appointment. 58 year old Siri Phodam allegedly escaped after asking her prison escort officer to use the toilet. But she took a long time to come back, and was found to have escaped. CCTV cameras caught her dressed in a blue hospital patient shirt and a sarong leaving the hospital quickly. A Phuket prison officer says the woman is 158 centimetres tall and has dark skin.

“Some of our own officers are searching for her, and we have also sent the prisoner’s description to all Phuket police stations. However, at this stage we have not found any clues.

Female prisoner on the run after escaping from Phuket Hospital | News by The Thaiger

“If anyone finds a person matching the prisoner’s appearance, please inform us by calling 076 212 104.”

Siri was imprisoned after being charged with posessing illegal drugs and lived in Moo 2, Rawai.

SOURCE: The Phuket News

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Phuket

Phuket’s annual vegetarian festival gets the green light – VIDEO

Caitlin Ashworth

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Phuket’s annual vegetarian festival gets the green light – VIDEO | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Caitlin Ashworth

WARNING: The content below contains photos and videos of self-mutilation that some may find disturbing.

Somehow Phuket’s annual vegetarian festival is to go ahead next month, but officials say they will ask participants to strictly observe social distancing. Good luck with that! For those who don’t know, the festival isn’t exactly known for the food. It’s known for blood, body mutilation and more blood.

During street processions for the weeklong event, also known as the Nine Gods Festival, so called “mah songs” are known to practice self-mutilation and are said to enter a trance-like state, channeling spirits through their body. “Mah” means horse in Thai, and many suggest the mah song acts like a horse for the spirit to ride.

Many mah songs pierce their checks, ears and lips, some with large swords and thick needles. Some slice their tongues continuously for hours, blood dripping down on the street. Others appear to be in a trace walk barefoot as firecrackers explode on the ground.

Mah songs march down Phuket’s streets for hours with a team of devotees to help tend to their wounds, adjust the piercings, wipe away drool and blood, and keep them hydrated. It’s understood that devotees wear white as a symbol of purity. It’s also reported that they abstain from eating meat, drinking alcohol and having sex during the weeklong festival.

It seems gruesome, but it’s actually very spiritual. Business owners and locals line the street, some setting up altars. Mah songs stop at each one and do a quick ritual. Some mah songs carry a black flag, waving it over onlookers who bow their heads and place their hands in the “wai” position. Some spend time blessing the elderly and handing out bracelets to children. During a procession last year, a woman held up a bracelet as said “the ‘Spirit’ gave this to my mother.”

This year, the festival will have to be a little different to abide by coronavirus prevention measures. The Bangkok Post says it’s the first festival since the outbreak. The head festival organiser Prasert Fukthongphol says “we will seriously enforce social distancing measures and require all participants to wear face masks.”

The grotesque piercings, noisy parades and visits to the shrine, are good news for Phuket’s tourism and bad news if you’re a vegetable. Many adherents to the Chinese-heritage local festival will go without sex, alcohol and meat for the week of so of the festival. The week of events and ceremonies hopes to scare away the bad gods again but, especially this year, attract some extra visitors to the festival.

Another Vegetarian Festival in Chon Buri has also been given the green light. The event is planned for October 16 to the 26. This year’s main event for the festival will be in Naklua at Sawangboriboon Thammasathan Foundation at the Sein Sua Chinese Temple, but many other events will be around the city throughout the week.

Phuket's annual vegetarian festival gets the green light - VIDEO | News by The Thaiger

Phuket's annual vegetarian festival gets the green light - VIDEO | News by The Thaiger

Phuket's annual vegetarian festival gets the green light - VIDEO | News by The Thaiger

Phuket's annual vegetarian festival gets the green light - VIDEO | News by The Thaiger

Phuket's annual vegetarian festival gets the green light - VIDEO | News by The Thaiger

SOURCES: Bangkok Post | Pattaya News

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