Where’s Juthamas?; Cambodia’s complaint; floods; hot info

Phuket NEWS Hound

– A daily digest of news about Thailand from around the world, compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community.

Juthamas back in lions’ den

PHUKET: The Nation reports this morning that the national anti-graft agency is likely to seek legal indictment of former Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) governor Juthamas Siriwan in connection with a bribery scandal involving Hollywood filmmakers, its spokesman said yesterday.

It’s not the first time the former TAT head has been in a lions’ den.

In 2006 she faced an angry group of hospitality and property industry leaders in Phuket over lack of TAT support. See Phuket Gazette report here.

Now, the controversial Juthamas faces a roar from the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NAAC), whose spokesman Klanarong Chantik says that if his agency finds her guilty of accepting bribes, it will forward her case to the Office of the Attorney-General so public prosecutors can indict her and take her to court.

The NAAC has no authority to bring her in for investigation, but if she does not show up it would mean she had opted not to defend herself.

The NACC had asked the former TAT governor to give information in May but she has yet to turn up.

Thai authorities say her whereabouts are unknown.

On Thursday, a Los Angeles court sentenced film producers Gerald Green and his wife Patricia to six months in jail for paying US$1.8 million (57.4 million baht) in bribes to Thai officials, including Juthamas, in exchange for a deal to manage the Bangkok International Film Festival between 2002 and 2007.

The couple was found guilty of paying bribes to Juthamas via overseas bank accounts set up in the names of her daughter and a friend.

Cambodia asks ASEAN to mediate dispute

The Cambodian government on Saturday asked the chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to mediate Cambodia’s border dispute with Thailand.

Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Hor Namhong yesterday sent a letter to Pham Gia Khiem, deputy prime minister of Vietnam, who is the current chair of ASEAN.

In his letter, Hor said, “Until now, Cambodia has exercised utmost restraint and attempted to find a peaceful solution to the problem bilaterally, but to no avail.”

Cambodia and Thailand got into border conflict just one week after Cambodia achieved registration of the Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage Site, in July 2008.

The Cambodia-Thai border has never been fully demarcated, and Thailand continues to stake territorial claims to the 4.6 square kilometer area in the vicinity of the temple.

Severe floods hit wide areas of Thailand

Nation / Bangkok Post
The Office of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation tried to release water in communities in Chiangmai on Friday following heavy rain.

Vehicles were not allowed to pass the Chiangmaii-Hang Dong, Suthep and Kuangsingh roads in the morning because of severe flooding.

The Meteorological Department forecast that there would be widespread thundershowers and isolated heavy rains in the northern provinces until at least August 18.

Meanwhile, about 300 residents in Lampang’s Chae Hom district were hit by flash floods and river runoff yesterday. They were under 50-150 centimetres of water after heavy downpours in the morning.

Elsewhere in Lampang, assistant village head Butr Thepwong, 50, was electrocuted and died while trying to help village residents affected by flash floods.

The Hydrology and Water Management Centre for the Upper Northern Region is monitoring water in Lamphun’s Kuang and Tha rivers after water levels were only one metre lower than crisis levels that could cause floods.

In the Northeast, Kalasin’s meteorological station warned residents, especially those located near the Phuphan mountain range, of possible mudslides.

Those living along the Pao and Chi rivers in Kamalasai and Khongchai districts should also brace for flash floods, authorities said.

In the South, Ranong’s seven waterfalls – Ngao, Punyabarn, Tonphet, Bokkrai, Choomsaeng, Suwansiri and Rakloi – were put on alert for possible flash floods.

International hotlines for tourists

Travel Daily News
The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has set up a number of international telephone “hotlines” to help foreign visitors get updated, 24-hour tourism information and have their queries answered about any aspect of travel and tourism to and within Thailand.

This Global Number Services project is an extension of the TAT Call Centre, which is based in Bangkok and which, according to monitoring statistics, was receiving 80 per cent of its calls from Thais or foreigners inside Thailand.

Foreigners abroad were not using the service because of the significant (telephone) costs of doing so.

TAT Governor Suraphon Svetsreni said: “As part of the lessons we have learned from the recent political unrest, we decided it was important to set up a number of international call centres abroad as well. This will not only help during emergency situations, but also in answering the hundreds of very routine enquiries that we get.”

The Governor says the international call centres will help foreign tourists access Thai tourism information more conveniently, quickly, and at less cost.

The numbers of the new foreign based centres are as follows:

United Kingdom
Tel: +44-20-3355 0430

Tel: +46-8-4083 8833

Tel: +1-516-619 6810

Tel: +81-3-4520 9521

Tel: +61-2-8014 7129

In addition, the information available at these centres can also be provided via Internet enquiry or video live chat.

Tourists can log on to tourismthailand.org and click on the “1672 tourist hotline” icon at the lower right-hand side of the web page.

— Gazette Editors

Phuket News

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