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Boat tragedy suspected to be involved with zero-dollar tour company

Kritsada Mueanhawong

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Boat tragedy suspected to be involved with zero-dollar tour company | The Thaiger

An initial Tourist Police Bureau investigation is pointing to incriminating evidence that suggests that the ‘Phoenix’ and ‘Serenata’ were involved with the zero-dollar tour ‘Tranlee’ network.

Tourist Police Deputy Commander Maj Gen Surachate Hakparn told a Phuket media briefing yesterday that the crackdown on 11 suspected zero-dollar tour companies in Phuket last year, is believed to have links to the two boats.

Maj Gen Surachate says, “we have seized 33 sets of company documents, nine computers, three laptops, more than 1,000 pieces of alleged tax evasion evidence and boat radio communication devices.”

“We have also arrested two suspects who were found allegedly encroaching on forest reserve and mangrove areas, and possession of items to evade income and liquor taxes.”

“For ‘Phoenix’ we have found that Woraluck ‘Yui’ Rueakchaiyakarn is the managing director in the T.C.Blue Co.,Ltd. We haven’t found the exact location of the company that is stated in the document as yet.  But it clearly indicates that the business is suspected to be involved in zero-dollar tour operations.”

“For ‘Serenata’ the boat is owned by the Lazy Cat Travel Co.,Ltd. The boat is being rented from TCG Yacht Similan Co.Ltd. A Thai female, Anchalee Wittayanantapohnkun, from Chiang Mai is MD of the boat company. A Chinese man, Peng Ta Ping, is taking care of the business. ”

“TCG Yacht Similan Co.,Ltd is managed by a Thai man Ittirot ‘Chang’ Chawanpipatpong, who was a Manager of ‘Tranlee’ company in the past.”

“These two boats have been operated purely for Chinese tourists as one-day-trip operations. We strongly believe that these two boats have been involved with zero-dollar tour operations.”

Peerapat Engpongpan, director of the division 1 of the Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO), says, “One boat was found involved with money laundering. The court has already issued a judgement in this case. More than a billion baht has been circulated by this company in efforts to evade taxes and cover up its money-trail.”

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Phuket

Phoenix returns to Phuket. But will the Chinese travellers return?

Tim Newton

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Phoenix returns to Phuket. But will the Chinese travellers return? | The Thaiger

SCREENCAPTURES: Kritsada Mueanawong

The vessel, that is at the centre of Thailand’s dramatic drop in Chinese tourists, will arrive back at a boatyard in Rassada today.

Back on July 5 it headed out for a day of diving near Koh Hei, south west of Phuket. The day was mostly fine although there had been warnings from early in the morning about potentially bad weather developing later. Smaller boats had been warned to stay ashore.

The boat never made it back to Phuket, and out of the nearly 100 passengers, 47, including many children, never made it back either.

The impact of the tragedy was partly softened by the international fascination in the Mu Pa football team who were being rescued from the Chiang Rai cave at the same time. The interest in that story surely softened the potential full media impact of the story. News editors around the world would have thought ‘one story from Thailand is enough’ for the nightly news.

But the story still played out, badly, especially in Chinese social media. In the hours after the full extent of the tragedy emerged, and as the search was still continuing for survivors, the Thai PM Prawit Wongsuwan said the event was ‘Chinese killing Chinese’, (referring to the revelation that the owner of the boat was a Thai nominee company acting on behalf of a real Chinese ‘owner’).

The first attempts at salvage were a sham. Photos send from participating divers showed water tanks and cables in a make-shift effort to refloat the sunken vessel. The attempt was doomed before it even started; the true tragedy being the loss of one diver’s life during the operation which was never going to work.

But after a week of preparations from a Singapore firm, the Phoenix, four and a half months later, returned to the surface with signs that the seabed was already reclaiming the wreckage. It emerged in a well-orchestrated media show, on cue, around 3.30pm yesterday.

Phoenix returns to Phuket. But will the Chinese travellers return? | News by The Thaiger

When it finally reaches the Rassada boatyard there are some key elements police want to check that will finalise their report and become part of the prosecution evidence in the court cases.

Who was responsible for the boat’s sinking? Could it have been avoided? Who set up the company with the local nominee? Was the Captain or crew liable in their duty of care for the passengers on the day? Was the original design of Phoenix ‘fit for purpose’? Who were the officials that signed off on the design and building specifications for Phoenix? Indeed, was the naval architect of the vessel qualified to design such a boat? What was the limit of passengers for the boat? Should Phoenix been out in the open seas that day? Did the company know of the day’s weather forecast? (Even The Thaiger posted a screen-saver of the approaching storm during the afternoon). Was Phoenix carrying the required safety gear and was the safety gear ‘fit for purpose’?

The answers to these and many other question will now be meticulously sought by experts, lawyers and officials. No dates have been set for the court cases at this stage. But it has already been reported that the Captain of Phoenix, the Thai owner of the nominee company, the Phuket Marine Chief and several companies have already had charges brought against them.

At the time it was thought that the Chinese response to the Phoenix boat disaster would be quite swift but things would probably return to normal by the end of the year. In fact the immediate response was not a sudden drop in tourists. The Chinese who had already booked and paid for their holidays at the time, mostly came. But it was the ones who would have been considering a holiday to Phuket in the months after who have had the most effect. And the effect of their decisions to travel elsewhere is what’s being felt now.

The TAT, forever talking up the numbers of Thai tourism, say they expect the Chinese travellers to return ‘by the end of the year’. We will see.

Marine officials and tourist police have established a number of important new measures to improve marine safety around Phuket, including checks of all 24 ports on a daily basis, spot safety inspections, rigorous weather reporting and minimum specifications for all safety gear carried on tour boats.

Supervising the successful salvage, Maj Gen Surachete Hakparn made it clear that the “government is determined to get to the root cause of the incident so that it can remedy and show sincerity to them,” referring to the families of the Chinese victims.

He predicted that once the court cases have been run, convictions made and people have gone to jail, only then will any semblance of confidence might be restored with the Chinese tourists.

In the months since the sinking Chinese travel companies have been sending their customers elsewhere for their holidays. Whether Phuket’s heyday as a Chinese tourism favourite is over is yet to be seen.

Phoenix returns to Phuket. But will the Chinese travellers return? | News by The Thaiger

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Phuket

Return to Elephant Jungle Sanctuary

Kritsada Mueanhawong

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Return to Elephant Jungle Sanctuary | The Thaiger

By Mark Louie Maycong

Phuket is one of the Thailand’s most popular tourist destinations and continuously booming. There are so many attractions and activities that you can enjoy. One of them is visiting the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary.

Visiting this place is heaven on earth specially for animal lovers. You get to know the elephants and their back stories and learn the different ways to help them, individually and as a species.

December last year (2017) was indeed a memorable experience for me. I visited the camp for half a day and it was not enough. Knowing the elephants’ experiences, being educated on how they survive, preparing their food, feeding, bathing and cleaning them was a once in a lifetime experience that I thought will never happen again.

This time I was lucky to be invited to visit all the sanctuaries! Monday morning I visited the same camp as last year – Camp 1 at Tambon Sa Khu; in the afternoon I went to Camp 2 at Phang Muang Sai Kor. I had barely recovered from the amazing whole day experiences at Camps 1 and 2. But right away, the next day,t exactly 6:45am Tuesday morning, I was picked up by the camp driver to visit the newest Camp 3 in Tambon Kathu near the Kathu Waterwalls. Indeed the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary is getting bigger. It means they are saving more and more elephants from working as loggers, performers and riders.

Here is what to expect in Half Day and Full Day Trip at the Sanctuary.

Camp Ride Service

The sanctuary will pick you up and take you back to your accommodation. This is included in your fee for both half and full day visitors. This awesome Sanctuary have the best staff that will help, guide and educate you about the amazing elephants.

Return to Elephant Jungle Sanctuary | News by The Thaiger

Briefing

Once you arrived at the camp, you will be informed about the things that you are going to do and what not to do whilst with the elephants. At the same time you will learn about the Elephants’ lives and experiences, particularly the individuals living in the camp.

Return to Elephant Jungle Sanctuary | News by The Thaiger

Food Preparation

The fun begins! You will be given a quick lesson on what food you will arrange. Most of the time the elephants at the camp eat bananas, watermelons, corn and sugar cane. After preparing the food you will then carry the baskets to the feeding area.

Return to Elephant Jungle Sanctuary | News by The Thaiger

Feeding Time

The goosebumps moment! Once all the food is well arranged at the feeding area, the elephants then arrive. If it is your first time, don’t panic! I know what you feel, emotions that can’t be explained in a single adjective – happiness, amusement, nervousness, excitement – all in one! This will be the time you will see some elephants excited for their food and people’s affection. Everyone is encouraged to give lots of love to all of the herd, specially to adult giants who suffered a lot most of their lives living as an exploited animal outside the camp.

Return to Elephant Jungle Sanctuary | News by The Thaiger

Lunch

Like the ride service, food is included in your fee. The camp prepares food for everyone whether you are a meat eater or a vegetarian like me!

Return to Elephant Jungle Sanctuary | News by The Thaiger

Mud Bath

Play Time! This is one of the most exciting moments that I regret that I did not try last time. And I did it now, finally. I bet ‘mud bath’ is the best time for the giants since this is their ultimate play ground.

Note: Remember to always stay in front or by their side and never behind them, especially when they are lying down.

Return to Elephant Jungle Sanctuary | News by The Thaiger

Swimming Time

My favourite! Swimming time is where you will scrape all the remaining mud off their bodies and because they are well taken care of most probably there will be a little feeding time again.

Return to Elephant Jungle Sanctuary | News by The Thaiger

Souvenir

These are ‘poncho’ souvenirs for everyone! You can buy extra for 400 baht as a donation for the new building project – Elephant Clinic. They also sell Black Shirts with the logo of the Sanctuary as a design.

Return to Elephant Jungle Sanctuary | News by The Thaiger

What is special if you are a Full Day Visitor?

All of these activities are part of the half and whole day visits. Here are the additional activities for the whole day visitor…

Return to Elephant Jungle Sanctuary | News by The Thaiger

Mother and Daughter bonding

Walking Time

Heart to heart moment. Not everyone gets to experience quality moments with the elephants. I am so happy to be given an opportunity to have bonding time with Natalie and her son, Choke.

Beach Time

Since the elephants have a ‘siesta’, it’s also break time for the staff. The whole day visitors will be sent to the beach for an hour of sun bathing and swimming. Did you see that? You get lots of amazing fun activities in one your. After beach time you will be taken to Camp 2 to join the afternoon session.

What to expect at Camp 3?

Since I was given a chance to visit the newest camp at Tambon Kathu, this is the best platform to share with all of you what to expect in the newest sanctuary. All pictures that are posted here were taken at Camp 3 (except for Natalie and Choke’s picture at Camp 1)

This sanctuary is my sentimental favourite. It’s super huge and it does look like a resort for the elephants. All camps have mud pools, swimming pool, a dining area, briefing area and shower rooms but camp 3 is pure beauty!

Return to Elephant Jungle Sanctuary | News by The Thaiger

with Ebony and Erica (USA) and Ale (Spain)

Seize every moment!

The most important thing to do at the camp is to have fun, be safe and make friends! Please enjoy my short video here and I hope you take the opportunity to visit the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary when you’re next in lovely Phuket.

Let’s keep on supporting this amazing mission to save the elephants forever! Remember “Only humans can ensure the elephant’s future.”

You can follow Mark’s yoga blog HERE.

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Phuket

Laguna Phuket Triathlon road closures

Kritsada Mueanhawong

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Laguna Phuket Triathlon road closures | The Thaiger

PHOTO: TAT

The Laguna Phuket Triathlon is on today and roads around Laguna, and surrounding areas, are going to be blocked off at times as the runners and riders make their way around local public roads.

The race organisers have sent riders and runners out onto the island’s main artery. Thepkasattri road is by far the busiest road that suffers the most traffic mayhem. It’s neither an interesting road to run or ride on, nor is it particularly enjoyable for the competitors.

But we wish all competitors a safe, swift and enjoyable trip around the course.

Here’s the published schedule from the organisers of the Laguna Phuket Triathlon which is in force until midday today.

Laguna Phuket Triathlon road closures | News by The Thaiger Laguna Phuket Triathlon road closures | News by The Thaiger

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Phuket Weather
November 19, 2018, 6:20 am
27.0
°C
Temperature
100
%
Humidity
9
km/h
Wind from Northeast
0.0
mm
Rainfall
12
%
Cloud Cover
32
Heat Index

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