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Thai politics not ‘all in the family’

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PHUKET: In stark contrast with the family of deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who speak with one voice on seemingly all matters, the Vejjajivas appear rather more free to speak for themselves.

Thus it was refreshing and encouraging yesterday to note the freedom with which Bangkok Post columnist Suranand Vejjajiva, cousin of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, was able to air some views.

As reported in The Nation this morning, Suranand was speaking at a symposium on media freedom organised by Chulalongkorn University’s Institute of Security and International Studies.

He said Thailand is currently facing many censorship problems, a state of affairs brought on by the Emergency Decree put in place by the government of his cousin Abhisit during the protests.

Whoever is in power must recognise that there must be room for differences of opinion, Suranand opined – freely.

“Who’s going to define national security? What constitutes lese majeste? Who is going to define that? … We’re living in special circumstances because the emergency decree is out there…. Right now you can close down community radio without having to go through the judicial process,” said Suranand.

The emergency decree, he added, enabled the government of his cousin to detain ‘Voice of Thaksin’ editor and red-shirt key member Somyos Phruksakemsuk for three weeks, although no coherent charge was ever made against him.

“There are no clear rules of engagement on what you can do and what you can’t,” said Suranand, who admitted that when he was in charge of the government-controlled media under the Thaksin administration, some Thai Rak Thai MPs wanted to shut down the anti-Thaksin ASTV television.

The government at that time sought the court’s opinion and was told it would be unconstitutional.

Suranand said a lot of mainstream media are too accommodating of the current government and have overblown the fear of Thaksin as a threat to the “superstructure” of the Kingdom, while in fact, in his (Suranand’s) opinion, Thaksin is merely a threat to the present government.

Very few newspapers continue to ask what happened with the 90 deaths, he said.

“[As for] The Nation and the Bangkok Post, I don’t see them asking anymore,” he said, adding that people were being forced by the media and the government into believing in “one-sided propaganda”, which dictates that “You have to be united in only one direction.”

Presenting a different view, Thepchai Yong, director of TPBS television and former group editor of The Nation, said that according to a recent poll, a majority of Thais could accept the extension of the state of emergency.

Thepchai said the mainstream media today is not controlled by any generals, although some self-censorship is practised because the media themselves are “mindful of the public” which is politically divided.

“The Thai media are Thai. They have been like that for decades,” he said, adding that the mainstream media should themselves look back and reflect on their role in order to regain the lost trust.

“How can they win back the trust that they have lost? This is a big question.
“It has less to do with the issue of media freedom. The Thai media have all the freedom in the world to report on what they want to report,” he said.

Thailand resists Mekong dams

Bangkok Post
Thailand’s representatives at a regional riverine forum in Vietnam have opposed the Chinese government’s plan to build 12 hydropower dams on the lower Mekong River.

They argued that the dams would destroy the river’s ecosystem.

Prasarn Maruekpithak, chairman of the sub-committee for studying value, development and its impact on the Mekong River basin, was invited by the Mekong River Commission to attend a workshop in Ho Chi Minh City.

The meeting, held on Thursday, discussed four options – to scrap all the dam projects; to delay the projects for study of the possible impacts; to build a dam as a pilot project; and to move ahead with plans to build 12 dams, Mr Prasarn said.

Mr Prasarn said he told the meeting that the only advantage of the dams was electricity production, and that there were several other alternative energy sources that could be utilised.

Swedish scammer nabbed in Pattaya

Earth Times
Thai immigration police say that a man holding dual Swedish and Finnish nationalities was nabbed yesterday in Pattaya on charges of embezzling 10.27 million krone (approx 40 million baht) from a Swedish company.

Sven Tommy Lindfors, 50, was arrested at the request of Interpol to face charges of embezzlement in January 2008 from the firm Nyfors Teknologi AB, a high-end supplier of optical fibre-handling equipment based in Stockholm, the police said.

Athiwas said Lindfors entered Thailand at the end of last year on a Finnish passport.

Thailand thanks friends

Today
A few hours of pampering at a spa, dinner with the Prime Minister, speedy exits at the airport…. These are just some of the ways that Thailand is saying thank you to a group of overseas customers it calls “Thailand’s Best Friends”.

The campaign is part of the government’s efforts to convince the international community that Thailand remains a friendly place to do business, despite concerns about political instability after 10 weeks of anti-government protests.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva invited 150 of the top importers of Thai goods for a four-day expenses-paid trip this week. The invitees come from 43 countries.

The ministry started the campaign a year ago with 50 companies, but organisers decided this year to triple the number and throw in new gifts.

Cambodia bent on boosting tourism

People’s Daily [China]
Thailand’s neighbor Cambodia is eyeing temples and cultural sites in its Preah Vihear Province in an attempt to increase tourism levels and compete with Thailand and Viet Nam as tourist magnets.

Delivering a speech at the launch of student contests in Phnom Penh on Thursday, Sok An, deputy prime minister, said that Preah Vihear, located about 500 kilometers north of Phnom Penh, is rich with potential for tourism.

He said that in addition to Preah Vihear Temple, a World Heritage Site that is currently a source of major Thai/Cambodian friction over border delineation issues, there are about 200 more temples in the province, plus many other natural sites and rare birds.

He noted that with 200 giant Ibis, out of a current world population of only 500, Preah Vihear could be turned into a major attraction for eco-tourists.

Sok An claimed that the Cambodian government had spent nearly USD 100 million to improve the infrastructure in and around Preah Vihear, building and repairing roads and bridges to improve access to the province for tourists.

He said that Cambodia

— Gazette Editors

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Phuket

4 billion baht medical hub planned for Phuket

Maya Taylor

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4 billion baht medical hub planned for Phuket | The Thaiger
Mai Khao beach in north Phuket. PHOTO: Booking.com

Phuket officials are setting aside around 4 billion baht to transform medical tourism in the southern province of Phuket, by developing a state-of-the-art treatment hub in the north of the island. The Bangkok Post reports that the Treasury department is planning to give the Public Health Ministry permission to use 141 rai of government land in the sub-district of Mai Khao, close to Phuket International Airport. It’s not the first time the proposal has come to light.

The concept is gathering support as Phuket battles to diversify its attraction beyond a tropical holiday island.

The aim is to develop Phuket as a world-class health and wellness destination, with facilities that will attract medical tourists from all over the world, as well as providing a high standard of treatment to the local population. It’s understood the facility will provide a full range of health services, including long-term care, and hospice and rehabilitation services.

The island already has a well-developed medical tourism market, but has been based around local hospitals and clinics linking up with foreign marketing companies in the past. “The International Medical and Public Health Service” has been conceived to create more long term financial security and diversification, and value-added tourism in Phuket, as the island has taken a heavy financial hit over the past 7 months.

4 billion baht medical hub planned for Phuket | News by The Thaiger

PHOTO: Phuket Andaman News

The plan was first suggested in 2017, by then governor, Noraphat Plodthong and confirmed by the director of Phuket’s Vachira Hospital, Dr. Chalermpong Sukontapol, in July. At that stage, the estimated budget was 3-4 billion baht. The director-general of the Treasury department, Yuthana Yimkarun, says the plot is being offered to the Health Ministry for free. The land is thought be worth around 1 billion baht.

Yuthana says the ministry will manage investment, with approximately 2 billion baht required for the first stage of the project. Construction of the facility is expected to be completed over 2 years.

Meanwhile, it’s understood that unused government land that is currently managed by various government agencies may be moved under the remit of central government, with a view to increasing its worth. According to the Bangkok Post report, just 4% of government land is directly managed by the Treasury. The other 96% is controlled by various government agencies. Yuthana says the plan is to increase the percentage of state-owned land under the Treasury’s management to 10% within 2 years.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

“Open the borders, safely”, Bill Heinecke, Minor International interview – VIDEO

The Thaiger

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“Open the borders, safely”, Bill Heinecke, Minor International interview – VIDEO | The Thaiger

Bill Heinecke speaks to Bill Barnett. The two heavy-hitters of Thailand’s hotel and hospitality sector, mull over the current Covid situation and the reopening of Thailand’s borders to some form of tourism. Bill Heinecke is the Chairman and Founder of Minor International.

Bill Barnett is the Managing Director of c9hotelworks.com

Now the Thai government has approved the special long-term tourist visa scheme (STV), hoteliers are remaining skeptical about reopening due to the lack of clarity in the recent announcement, which will reportedly take effect next month. The president of the Thai Hotels Association’s southern chapter says more hoteliers will consider reopening if the government gives further information about the plan in terms of prospective markets, arrival dates, origin countries, and flights.

Such details would allow hotels to prepare themselves ahead of time to offer services as alternative state quarantine premises as at least 60 hotels in Phuket are awaiting approval to operate such facilities.

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Bangkok

Now they’re coming… Special Tourist Visa flight set for Tuesday – Tourism and Sports Minister

Caitlin Ashworth

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Now they’re coming… Special Tourist Visa flight set for Tuesday – Tourism and Sports Minister | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Unsplash: Suhyeon Choi

After much confusion and a few apparent ‘misunderstandings’, Chinese tourists on the Special Tourist Visa will actually arrive on October 20 and 26. At least that’s what Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn says, according to the Bangkok Post. The first group is said to arrive 4 days from now in Bangkok (if they actually applied for the visa this time).

Reports circulated for weeks about a flight of 120 to 150 tourists set to arrive in Phuket on October 8 from Guangzhou, China. An announcement was made shortly after the flight was due to arrive with Tourism Authority Governor Yuthasak Supasorn saying “administrative issues” had caused the delay.

It was later reported that no one from Guangzhou had actually applied for the visa and it was all just a misunderstanding after the Tourism Authority of Thailand reportedly passed off a list of those “interested” in the visa as actual applications.

This time, the Post is reporting the first group of 120 tourists from Guangzhou will arrive at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport on Tuesday. Another group of 120 tourists, also from Guangzhou, will arrive on October 26, but the Post didn’t say where that flight will land.

It’s apparently the same group that was planned to arrive in Phuket on October 8, but the minister claims the trip was postponed due to the Vegetarian Festival which is planned to run until October 25. Both the Phuket governor and National Security Council secretary general had claimed the festival was the reason for the delayed flight and was intended to ease fears of Covid-19 for the festival-goers coming in from the rest of Thailand.

Even though the new long stay tourist visa is good for 90 days, and can be renewed twice, the tourists will only stay in the country for 30 days, with 14 of those days in quarantine. Phiphat says the Tourism Authority of Thailand will find activities to keep the tourists occupied while in quarantine.

The visitors will be the first international tourists after a 6 month ban to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Thai officials have been discussing plans for months about how to safely reopen borders to revive the country’s economy which is heavily driven by the tourism industry. Officals are now talking about cutting down the mandatory time for quarantine from 14 days to 7 days to help entice people to visit.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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