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Video Report: Phuket researchers internationally recognized for breakthrough explosive-testing kit

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Video Report: Phuket researchers internationally recognized for breakthrough explosive-testing kit | The Thaiger

PHUKET: A six member research team from Phuket and Hat Yai was awarded silver medals for creating low-cost explosive testing kits at the 44th International Exhibition of Inventions Geneva 2016.

The invention comes in the wake of several recent bombings in Thailand. The competition included more than 800 inventions submitted by participants from more than 40 countries around the world.

The invention also won a special prize from the Association of Polish Inventors and Rationalizers.

Four of the research team members are professors from the Prince of Songkla University (PSU) Phuket Campus, namely Assistant Prof Dr Aree Choodum, Dr Wadcharawadee Limsakul, Asst Prof Dr Worawit Wongniramaikul and Jutaporn Keson. The other two are from the PSU Hat Yai campus, namely Associate Prof Dr Proespichaya Kanatharana, as well as Prof Dr Niamh Nic Daeid, who is originally from the University of Dundee, Scotland, but currently a member of the research team.

“Last week, we gave a presentation to the Ministry of Defence and received a very good response. They are very interested in our research and are planning to bring the prime minister up to speed on its usage,” said Dr Aree. “In addition to local interest, our team has also been contacted by companies in Poland for commercial use of our testing kit in their country.”

The team also had a chance to conduct a test at the remains of the Bangkok blast site. Even though the tests were performed a week after the bombings, they still found evidence of Trinitrotoluene (TNT) usage and submitted it to the police, Dr Aree told the Phuket Gazette.

Overall, Thailand won seven honor gold medals, eight gold medals, 17 silver medals, 18 bronze medals and 28 special prizes at the exhibition.

“Our main objective is to solve the recent problems faced by our society, such as bombings, terrorist attacks and other unstable situations that have been taking place not only in Thailand and Phuket, but all over the world. We felt there was a need to equip ourselves with simplified gear to deal with these new problems,” said Dr Aree.

“The unique and extraordinary quality of this new invention is that it is cheap, portable, easy to use and quick to provide results; it can be used both before and after a bombing,” she added.

“The test kits comprise a polymer in a small tube. We can take it to the scene, conduct the test, and know the results immediately,” Dr Aree said.

“The testing kit only costs about 30 to 80 satang per tube, as opposed to other tests which cost up to 78 baht per test. It can also be reused up to nine times, which effectively brings the cost down to 10 satang per test,” said Dr Aree.

Additionally, the results can be obtained immediately, whereas previously, officers had to collect evidence from the scene of the incident and then wait for lab technicians to perform tests and deliver their findings.

“Everyone can do it. However, the tests are more suitable for professionals, such as Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) personnel, police, military and others in the field of national security,” she added.

“The kit also allows the user to determine the type of the explosive and its origin right away. The procedure itself is deceptively simple. Acetone cotton buds are used to collect samples and water is then added to it. The change in color of the kits helps to identify what kind of explosives have been used,” Dr Aree explained.

The sample can be obtained from virtually any surface in the vicinity of the blast – dirt, grass, clothes, body parts and so on.

“This means that the test can be performed before an explosion even occurs; we can use it to test suspects, suspicious items, or areas at risk, so that officers can take immediate action,” explained Dr Aree.

The test kits can identify up to six types of explosive substances, namely, TNT, Nitrate, Nitrate esters, Nitrite, Nitramines, and Nitroaromatic.

There are eight types of kits available to test these explosive substances:

1. Thin film test kits to test Trinitrotoluene (TNT)
2. Nitrate Explosives test kits to test Nitrate
3. Test kits for Nitrate ester explosives
4. Nitrite test kits for Nitrite explosives
5. Test kits for Nitramines Explosives
6. Hydrogel test kits for Nitroaromatic explosives
7. Biodegradable film for Nitroaromatic explosives
8. Cryogel test kits for Nitroaromatic explosives

“There are currently eight types of chemical substances that people use to make bombs. At the moment, we have created kits for six of the most popular ones. We are researching the other two, which are now gaining popularity – Peroxide and Acid,” said Dr Aree.

“TNT is the most widely used explosive material in the world, while in the deep south of Thailand, Nitrate is the most popular one,” she added.

“This breakthrough is beneficial in many different sectors – economics, science, and security, to name a few. Even though these kits can be used both before and after explosions, we prefer to use them before. It is our hope that our work can help Thailand, as well as other countries across the globe,” Dr Aree said.

“We are conducting research to help people in light of recent occurrences, and plan to do our best to find feasible solutions.

“We are glad to share our knowledge with everyone who wishes to use it,” Dr Aree said.

— Kongleaphy Keam

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News

30 dolphins greet visitors to Similan Islands

Greeley Pulitzer

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30 dolphins greet visitors to Similan Islands | The Thaiger

Tourists were treated to the sight of a school of dolphins in the Similan Islands off the Phang Nga coast on Sunday.

Tour organisers said that around 30 dolphins swam close to the boat six or seven miles offshore, creating excitement for passengers. It was the first time dolphins had been seen in the vicinity since October 15.

The Similan Islands National Park director said they were bottlenose dolphins and were among several species now returning to the area following a five-year closure of the park for environmental rehabilitation. Food is again plentiful there for them, he said.

Tourists are forbidden to feed wildlife lest the free handouts alter the animals’ natural behaviour, and the park’s waters are also very sensitive to contamination from human disease and marine debris, according to the director.

SOURCE: nationthailand.com

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Patong

Phuket hotels slashing the price of rooms

The Thaiger

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Phuket hotels slashing the price of rooms | The Thaiger

by Sophie Deviller

Hotels on Thailand’s most popular holiday island are being forced to slash prices, with rooms left vacant and beaches sparse as Thailand’s tourism chiefs struggle with a plunge in Chinese visitors caused by the US trade war and a stronger baht. Phuket was the most visited destination in the country last year, after Bangkok, and a good gauge of the state of its crucial travel industry.

Tourism accounts for 18% of Thailand’s gross domestic product and Chinese holidaymakers make up more than a quarter of total arrivals. But while 2.2 million people from the country visited in 2018, according to official figures, the numbers for January-September were down almost 20% year on year.

Claude de Crissey, the French Honorary Consul in Phuket and owner of about 40 rooms in the Patong Beach area, says Chinese tourists are usually present even during the current low season.

“That was not the case this year,” he said, adding he had to lower his prices by as much as 50%.

The problem is not only in Phuket, with hotels also struggling to fill rooms in the seaside resort of Pattaya on the mainland and on Koh Samui.

Trade tensions with the US have already made some Chinese reluctant to take holidays owing to uncertainty back home, while the Thai baht has risen about 10% against the yuan this year.

A boating disaster off Phuket’s coast that killed 47 Chinese holidaymakers in July 2018 also scared some off.

“We are worried,” said an industry insider, declining to be named due to the sensitivity of the topic in a country where tourism provides tens of thousands of jobs. Adding to the headache is the fact that more than 3,000 new hotel rooms are being constructed on the island, raising the question of who will fill them.

Phuket hotels slashing the price of rooms | News by The Thaiger

“In terms of business, it’s not good,” said Kongsak Khoopongsakorn, vice-president of the association of hotels in Thailand and director of Vijitt Resort.

“Because … we have more hotels, more rooms to sell, we have more restaurants, more coffee shops.”

Still, tourism authority chairman Yuthasak Supasorn said he remained “optimistic.”

“We should reach our goal of 39.8 million foreign visitors.”

However, that is only up from 38.2 million in 2018, much less than the jump seen from the previous year’s total of 35.6 million.

Counting on India

Now hoteliers and tour package operators are targeting visitors from elsewhere, particularly India, which experts see as a huge untapped market.

A rapid expansion of the middle class in India, increased direct flights and visa-free travel have prompted Thailand to revise forecasts upwards.

It now expects two million Indian tourists this year, after an increase of nearly 25% on-year in the first seven months. But for now, the lower arrivals is evident on the streets of Phuket.

“I’ve never seen anything as bad as what it is at the moment,” said Paul Scott from Australia, who said he has been coming to Thailand for 15 years.

He mainly blamed the stronger baht for the drop-off but also the fact that Thailand wasn’t the untouched vacation paradise it once was. “Now it’s not so new … and it’s not cheap,” he said.

SOURCE: AFP

Phuket hotels slashing the price of rooms | News by The Thaiger

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Events

The 15th Mai Khao Marine Turtle fun run attracts more than 4,000 runners

The Thaiger

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The 15th Mai Khao Marine Turtle fun run attracts more than 4,000 runners | The Thaiger

4,000 runners from Thailand and overseas took part in the 15th Mai Khao Marine Turtle Fun Run and Half Marathon 2019 yesterday, starting from the Phuket Gateway.

The event is expected to raise 700,000 baht for the charity, now in its 15th year. The money raised goes towards to The Mai Khao Marine Turtle Foundation, which is committed to protecting the marine and coastal environment, and ecosystems, for the wellbeing of sea turtles that nest in the Mai Khao beach and the surrounding areas.

The annual race also provides funds for thePhuket Marine Biological Centre’s Injured Turtle Rehabilitation Program and The Third NavalArea Command’s Turtle Hatchery Program.

The race was in its 15th year and runners of all ages and abilities took part in the race. The morning’s racing was divided into five categories – the 21.1km half marathon, 10.5km mini- marathon, 5km fun run and 3k family run and VIP participants for all the races. The route of 21.1 kilometre race took runners northwest along the Haad Sai Kaew beach towards Thao Thepkasattri bridge, past the rural road No. 3006, run along the road – Pi Lai viewpoint area returned back along the T. Baan Tha Nun to the iconic Sarasin bridge before finished the half marathon in the Phuket Gateway.

For Mini Marathon 10.5 km – Over all category, Mr. Chinnawat Changlek clocked 39 minutes and 40 seconds to clinch victory in the male half marathon, winning prize money and a trophy with the signature of Phuket’s Governor. The winner in the female mini marathon was Surakarn Wanna with a time of 47 minutes and 47 seconds.

Winners also received a prize gift voucher as well as a medal. Congratulations to all participants.

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