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Scarce hauls concern local fishermen, conservation officials

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Scarce hauls concern local fishermen, conservation officials | The Thaiger

PHUKET: As fishermen across Phuket and Krabi returned to shore after the July 1 reopening of the season, their meager catches furrowed foreheads and drew exasperated sighs.

Fish stocks are dwindling, and many of western Thailand’s captains and deck hands are worried as a fog of uncertainty obscures the future of their industry – and livelihoods.

“Every year it keeps getting worse and worse,” said Maren Boonroat, captain of the Krabi trawler Nam Thawee. “Usually, we catch a lot of fish on opening day. It’s very strange we couldn’t find as many fish as we have in previous years.”

Large fishing vessels were allowed to return to fish in the Andaman Sea after 4,696 square kilometers between Phuket and Trang were closed off so as not to deplete fish stocks during the spawning season from April 1 to June 30.

Conservation officials believe the scarcity of fish is due to a combination of pollution, overfishing and natural weather phenomena.

The paltry hauls seen across western Thailand are problematic for the country’s fishing industry, which employs an estimated 300,000 and contributes over US$3 billion in exports to the GDP, according to the Thai Frozen Foods Association.

Fishermen in Phuket and Krabi are concerned that the diminishing catches seen at the beginning of July may continue throughout the rest of the season, as they struggle to get back in the black after the three-month moratorium.

Many fishing companies are still moribund from the industry’s collapse after the 2004 tsunami devastated the Andaman coastline.

“We’re seeing that this year the numbers have decreased quite a lot,” said Somyos Wongbunyakul, president of the Phuket Fishing Association. “Most of the fish being caught are too small to make the hauls commercially viable, and that’s not something that’s unique to this year. We’ve seen the fishing getting worse for the past several years. More than 20 to 30 percent of local fishermen have gone bankrupt so far,” Mr Somyos said.

Fishery officials in Krabi and Phuket told the Phuket Gazette they are aware of the declining yields across the region, but need more time to gather statistical data before they would be able to implement a plan of action. As for now, they are simply advising fishermen to ‘be patient’.

For his part, Mr Somyos remains skeptical of governmental involvement.

“I don’t think the situation will get better; I think it will only get worse and worse. We always have to help ourselves, nobody out there is going to help us,” he said.

Rewat Boonsop, who owns the Krabi fishing port, said lower than expected yields were also reported by fishermen across that province.

“The fishermen had been out at sea since before midnight on June 30, but returned home with very small catches the following morning,” Mr Rewat said. “Most of the fish that they managed to bring in were also very small.”

Mr Somyos blames three factors for the scant harvest and Thai fishermen’s woes: man-made activities, the law, and the weather.

“The natural factor is the one I consider the most important, and it’s the only one completely out of our control,” he said. “For example, last year, the fishing was better because of El Nino. Actually, before that year, the situation was the same as this, not many fish.”

Mr Somyos was afraid that this year fishermen in Phuket and around the Andaman Sea will suffer a La Nina event.

“A La Nina event will make the fish even more scarce,” he said.

The weather patterns referred to as La Nina generally result in higher-than-normal rainfall conditions in Southeast Asia from June to October.

During El Nino events drier-than-normal conditions occur, according to the ASEAN Specialized Meteorological Center.

“Conditions were harsh this year. Normally, strong storms and rain stir up the ocean floor around Phang Nga Bay. The rain also washes leaves and other debris out to sea, which becomes fish food, helping to grow fish populations,” Mr Somyos said. “But this year, we’ve seen a lot of wind and not much rain.”

The changing coastlines and economies in Phuket, Krabi and Phang Nga may also have negatively impacted fish stocks in the Andaman, Mr Somyos said.

“There are now many hotels and tourism businesses along our shorelines, both on Phuket island and the surrounding region. Over my 30 years in this industry, I’ve seen these businesses increase by 10 fold,” he said. “The Andaman is an open area. Some fish are born here, and some move into and through this sea from other areas,” he said. “If the sea becomes polluted from waste and human activity by those hotel businesses, the fish will disappear.”

“Before, the sea was full of plankton and naturally-occurring food for fish. Now, there is only farang feces and trash,” he added.

Mr Somyos complained that law enforcement and government officials should spend their time limiting the pollution and waste coming from hotel businesses in the Andaman, rather than limiting fishing seasons or restricting fishermen.

“Because of the Tier 3 human trafficking and illegal, unreported, unlicensed fishing vessels, our fishermen have been under a lot of government scrutiny. They keep blaming the human trafficking situation on fishermen and force Bangkok to impose a great number of strict laws regulating our industry,” Mr Somyos said.

On June 29, the United States issued its Trafficking In Persons report (TIP), which saw Thailand upgraded from Tier 3 status – the countries with the worst human trafficking records – to Tier 2.

The upgrade in status was controversial among human rights groups, including the Environmental Justice Foundation which published a 44-page exposé on the state of human trafficking in Thailand’s fishing industry last year.

Mr Somyos said the over-regulation of the industry has forced a majority of small fishing boat owners and operators to sell out, as fishing bans push them further out to sea, where bigger boats are needed for safety.

“Officials are not helping us. They’re actually putting more pressure on us,” he said. “Please, they need to understand that we’re losing our livelihoods and they need to help us,” Mr Somyos said.

Krabi’s Fishery office echoed Mr Somyos’ statements.

— Kongleaphy Keam

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Phuket

Phuket Governor and Vice Governor deny million baht bribe accusation

The Thaiger

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Phuket Governor and Vice Governor deny million baht bribe accusation | The Thaiger

Recently, an audio clip went viral, claiming to have recorded a conversation between an anonymous man and an employee from a project accused of having encroached on Sirinat National Park (in Phuket’s north west).

Phuket Governor, Pakkapong Tawipat, says that he had nothing to do with the voice recording, which detailed a 7 digit negotiation deal to end an encroachment case over the encroachment case.

Phuket Hotnews reports that, in the recording, the voice of an anonymous man can be heard calling the employee of a project owner, who had been charged over land encroachment.

The man on the phone asked for a 7 digit amount in order to drop the case, mentioning that the person who would sign on the case would be the Vice Governor Supot Rodruang Na Nongkhai, and that the Governor was aware of the matter as well.

The voice clip reveals the conversation between the anonymous man and the female employee of the illegal project, “Have you reached a conclusion? Everyone is waiting for the answer”, while the employee replied that she already informed her boss that the money they wanted is in the millions, but her boss questioned why do they have to pay and where the money is going to go.

“Is it for the Governor? And who sign the papers?”

The man replied that Vice Governor Supot is the one who signs and that he knew about the negotiation and that there were 2 documents drafted in different ways.

The man also mentioned the name of a Phuket provincial Prosecutor and claimed that the prosecutor is very powerful as he had extended powers from the new laws enacted by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO).

The man also said that if they face any issues, the owner of the project would be blacklisted and it would be difficult for him to travel to and out of Thailand.

The woman on the line proceeded to make an appointment for her boss to meet with the ‘prosecutor’.

After the voice clip went viral, Governor Pakkapong said that he was made aware of the recording of the conversation earlier this month and that he had asked Vice Governor Supot, who was accused of bribery in the clip as well, to make a report to the police on August 6, in order to prove their transparency. He also reported the matter to his commander.

“I insist that the Vice Governor and I have nothing to do with the voice recording and we were falsely accused as being involved. This could have come from an individual from a “certain organisation” (un-named) that has called for bribes and used Governor’s and Vice Governor’s names for their benefits.

“After reporting the matter to the police we are waiting for an investigation and to see whether I have to take part as an informer,” said the Governor.

He said that the encroachment case is an old case from 2013. The Thalang District Chief has an agreement to prosecute the encroacher but when the case went to the provincial prosecutor, the prosecutor declined to prosecute the case and sent it back to Police Region 8.

The Police Region 8 sent the case back to Phuket provincial attorney office who would have to file the case to the Phuket Governor, but he insists that the case has not been filed yet.

The Phuket Governor said that he also informed the company that owns the project that he has never learned about the bribe and in any case, if anyone uses his name to ask for bribe, please contact him immediately because he has never asked for bribes and is ready to work on every case openly.

Meanwhile, Phuket Vice Governor Supot said that he has already reported to the police about the accusations in the voice recording and insists that he has nothing to do with it either.

SOURCE: Phuket Hotnews

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Patong

Daytime closure looms for Patong beach road

May Taylor

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Daytime closure looms for Patong beach road | The Thaiger

The mayor of Patong, Chalermluck Kebsup, has announced that from August 25, Thaweewong Road, better known as the Patong beach road, will be closed during the day while power and communication cables are installed.

Apologising for the inconvenience, Mayor Chalermluck explains that the closures will be between 6.00am and 4.00pm and expected to last until September 30. She says the work will take place during low season and will be paused for the busy high season.

A 400 metre section of road will be affected, from Bangla Road to Sawatdirak Road, with vehicles prohibited from accessing the area until 4.00pm. However, the restriction does not apply to pedestrians, with footpaths remaining open.

The Thaiger understands that certain vehicles will still be granted access, including those of business owners who need to reach their premises. Such vehicles will need to have permission granted by Patong Municipality. Taxis and tuk-tuks dropping off or picking up customers at these businesses will also be given access.

In total, the 228 million baht joint venture project will see the installation of communications cables, power lines and fibre-optic mains, along a 3 kilometre stretch of the beach road.

It has a completion date of March 5, 2020.

SOURCE: Provincial Electricity Authority

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Phuket

Palang Pracharath MP chastises Karon Police for not offering protection during condo visit

The Thaiger

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Palang Pracharath MP chastises Karon Police for not offering protection during condo visit | The Thaiger

VIDEO & SCREENGRAB: M Today

The Palang Pracharath member of parliament from Bangkok, Sira Jenjaka, had an argument with Lt Col Pratuang Polmana, Deputy Superintendent of Karon Police during his inspection to the controversial Peak Condominium in the Karon area of Phuket.

MP Sira was surveying the construction site of the project and the sales office, which also serves as a coffee shop, where he saw Lt Col Pratuang inside.

He stopped there and asked why the Deputy Superintendent didn’t send any officer from Karon Police Station to provide security for him, a standard protocol when parliament members visit a specific area.

The MP had publicly stated he had received death threats for revealing ‘problems’ with the ‘paperwork’ for the Phuket condo project that he claims has been built on land without the proper documentation.

Lt Col Pratuang said that he already prepared a team of officers to provide security for the MP but they were waiting for a confirmation. Then the MP asked his team to record a video of the conversation and said that, while he was not threatening anyone, he believed the police must respect and offer protection for a government MP who comes to work in the area, which was then followed by an argument.

There was a “middleman” who eventually separated the Deputy Superintendent and pulled him aside to calm him down. The ‘police whisperer’ then came back to apologise to the MP before they went inside the coffee shop for further private talks.

Read the original article about the allegations against Peak Condominiums in Karon HERE.

Palang Pracharath MP chastises Karon Police for not offering protection during condo visit | News by The Thaiger

The Peak Condominiums in Karon, currently under investigation after allegations made by Government MP Sira Jenjaka, who claims death threats have been made against him over the matter.

 

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