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Tsunami orphanage under investigation

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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PHUKET: A special committee set up by the province is investigating allegations of fraud against the former director of a foundation set up in March last year to care for children left orphaned by the tsunami.

The panel was formed about six weeks ago following complaints to Governor Udomsak Uswarangkura. The provincial Ombudsman’s office was ordered to investigate the activities of Narin Dangtakote and his Swedish wife Maria Floren. Their Thai-Sweden Children’s Foundation has actively solicited millions of baht in donations from Swedes, then allegedly used the funds for other purposes.

The orphanage, which received foundation status on March 18, 2005 with initial funding of about 550,000 baht, is located on land donated by Wat Muang Mai in Tambon Mai Khao, Thalang.

News of the alleged fraud has been front-page news in Swedish newspapers including Expressen, which has been actively following the case. Earlier this month, Bangkok-based Expressen reporter Michael Topffer interviewed Phuket Deputy Governor (Palad) Nivit Aroonrat, who chairs the investigation panel.

Mr Topffer told the Gazette that Palad Nivit had confirmed that the foundation was under investigation and that, because of the controversy, Palad Nivit had advised against a visit to the orphanage by Swedish royals HM King Carl XVI Gustaf and HM Queen Silvia during their recent visit to Phuket.

K. Narin and his wife moved to Phuket several years ago and began building a property development aimed at Swedish buyers. When the tsunami struck, work on the development was almost complete. The couple offered temporary housing to Swedish victims of the disaster and were portrayed as heroes by the Swedish press, Expressen reported.

In January 2005, the couple declared their intention to open an orphanage, asking the Swedish public for donations. According to the foundation’s financial report, more than 20 million baht was collected.

Some Swedes who made donations to the orphanage and then visited the home asked Expressen to investigate rumors of financial impropriety and claims that the children at the orphanage were not, in fact, tsunami victims.

However, Yalinee Saisikosol, who has been working as an administrator with the foundation for two months, said that initially the orphanage had many tsunami-affected children, but that the number had dwindled as the economy began to improve and relatives came to claim them.

“We spend about 20,000 baht a week providing three meals a day for students, paying for their school fees, transport and covering expenses of our employees and volunteers. Sometimes there are additional costs, such as when we take the children out for a day at the beach,” she said.

The provincial investigation is focusing on the foundation’s finances. Last week, the committee sent one of its members, the head of the Provincial Public Works Office, to inspect buildings at the site to see if construction costs had been inflated.

Nikorn Torhirunyapreuk, Chief of the Phuket Provincial Defense Office and also a member of the investigation committee, told the Gazette that although the panel is still in the process of gathering information, it intends to try and have the orphanage’s foundation status revoked.

If sufficient evidence can be gathered, any wrongdoer will be prosecuted, he said.

“We know the foundation has only two children there who were affected by the tsunami. Another 10 children were brought in from Isarn, which is different from the stated objectives for setting up the foundation.

“As they have only two children there [full-time], why did they need to buy so many pickup trucks? We are checking on this now,” he said.

“From our initial investigations and two rounds of questioning with K. Narin, we believe there has been some dishonesty. We asked him for information regarding the construction of a sala which should have cost 500,000 baht to build, not two million baht.

“K. Narin told me that it is still unfinished. But if that is the case, why did he pay the contractor in full six months ago? According to government regulations, payment for construction should not have been made until the work was completed.

“We have to investigate this further, however, including questioning the contractor and looking into tax records,” he said.

Central to the investigation are allegations that donations were transferred to six different bank accounts, but the foundation listed only two.

The committee is also inspecting the foundation’s other expenses, including its 1,500-baht-a-day expenditure to provide meals to children.

K. Nikorn said that while the two foundation accounts show about 20 million baht in donations, the actual amount might be much higher.

“It would be good if we could gather together all the receipts issued to donors, so that we can learn how many bank accounts K. Narin used and how much was collected,” he said.

The Swedish media had played a key role in publicizing the story and helping his agency collect evidence, he added.

When the Gazette tried to call K. Narin on June 26, a man identifying himself as K. Narin’s cousin answered the phone, saying that K. Narin had gone abroad “to relax”. The Gazette tried contacting K. Narin by email but, at the time of going to press, had received no reply.

During a visit to the orphanage on June 26 by a Gazette reporter, staff said that K. Narin had resigned as director last April, but had continued to direct the foundation in a caretaker capacity.

Staff said the orphanage currently has 21 children, four or five of whom were affected by the tsunam

 

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

For travellers to Phuket, testing is out, quarantine is in

Neill Fronde

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PHOTO: Phuket Vice Governor Piyapong Choowong (via Facebook)

The on-again-off-again plans for testing people for Covid-19 as they arrive in Phuket will be replaced by quarantine after May 15, according to Vice Governor Piyapong Choowong’s latest announcement. In an online video broadcast last night, the vice governor confirmed the new scheme after Phuket Governor Narong Woonciew first mentioned it in an executive meeting at Phuket Provincial Hall yesterday.

There are now 25 provinces on the Phuket red zone list that they instated on April 22, with anyone arriving from those places required to have proof that they are either fully vaccinated or tested negative for Covid-19 within the last 72 hours. Without proof, people have to take a rapid antigen test to confirm they did not have Covid-19 before they would be allowed on the island. The test was first set to be 300 baht for everyone, and later controversially made free for Thai people and 500 baht for foreigners.

There had been some back and forth with budget concerns of being able to provide the mass testing and who would pay how much for continued testing. Perhaps requiring people to quarantine in Phuket is cheaper than testing them when they arrive (cheaper for Phuket officials anyway).

The original scheme was set to expire May 15, and announcements were made about extending the plan and stopping testing right away. For now, this debate seems to have settled on replacing the testing with a mandatory quarantine upon entering Phuket.

The vice-governor explained that the rapid antigen test will continue through May 14, and then starting May 15, anyone who arrives without a vaccine or a negative Covid-19 test within 72 hours of arriving in Phuket will be required to quarantine for 14 days. They set a goal of zero new infections by the end of the next two weeks. And he stated they are committed to doing whatever it takes as “Phuket cannot continue with this risk”.

Speaking to The Phuket News… “We want to send a sign to the country that we are cleaning up our province. The 3 vice governors [in Phuket] have been ordered to take care of each district by cooperating with local administration officers as well as community leaders to do proactive screening,”

After announcing the quarantine plan for Phuket, the vice governor spoke confidently that in the near future the island will have enough jabs to vaccinate every person on the island. Religious leaders from any faith are currently being vaccinated because of their general proximity to people during religious ceremonies and practices.

Vice Governor Piyapong pled with people with the people of Phuket who were on the fence about Covid-19 vaccinations, anti-vaxxers, or those otherwise resisting getting the jabs needed to reach herd immunity.

“If you are still deciding whether or not to get vaccinated, please come to get vaccinated”

SOURCE: The Phuket News

 

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Phuket

Thailand News Today | Pfizer vaccines on the way, Phuket’s July re-opening | May 7

Thaiger

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Disease Control Department back-peddled saying that that foreigners living in Thailand WILL also be vaccinated, governor of Chiang Mai is calling for the ban on dining in at restaurants in the northern city to be lifted and for eateries to be allowed to serve food on-site until 9pm, Tourism and Sports Minister insists the southern island of Phuket must record zero Covid-19 cases if a planned July re-opening is to go ahead, and 150 million baht worth of methamphetamine pills were impounded in Nakhon Phanom yesterday

 

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Phuket

We’re looking for a Video Editor/Production Assistant in Phuket

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The Thaiger is seeking a full time video editor and production assistant for a new project based in Phuket. The role is open to a Thai national but with great English skills as well. You will need to be able to work to deadlines with a crazy bunch of stressed out news hosts, guests and the rest of The Thaiger team.

You’ll also need a general knowledge of the Thai news cycle as the content will be largely centred around daily news and current affairs. Knowledge of social media, and especially YouTube, will be an advantage.

Prior work in the TV or video production industry would be a requirement; we couldn’t care less about your educational qualifications. The role would be Monday to Friday.

The work hours would be earlier in the day, probably starting around 7am. There may be some occasional travel to Bangkok involved as well. Salary would be between 30-40,000 baht per month, depending on experience with opportunities for bonuses. The initial contract would be for 3 months, renewable.

If you are interested, or know someone who could fit the job, send an email to THAIGER EDITOR at info@thethaiger.com

 

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