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Gang of fake gold peddlers arrested in Phuket, Samui

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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PHUKET: Four men and three women were arrested this weekend for allegedly selling 4 million baht worth of fake gold in several Phuket gold shops over the period of a month. Two suspects are still on the run.

Five of the suspects were nabbed at Tah Chat Chai checkpoint, one in Patong, and one in Koh Samui. The suspects are believed to have conducted more than 50 transactions in Patong, Phuket Town, Kamala and Chalong during this period.

Phuket Provincial Police Deputy Commander Peerayuth Karajedee held a press conference this morning to provide details of the arrests.

One of the victims, Buathip Thanetnathasombat, 35, filed a complaint at Phuket City Police Station. She owns ‘Thongthip’ gold shop, which has three branches in Phuket Town and Patong.

“Ms Buathip said that until recently she hadn’t suspected that the gold was fake. She only became suspicious during the last interaction when she asked the suspect to provide identification and he refused. He then quickly left the shop,” said Col Peerayuth.

She looked back and checked all the gold that she had bought so far, only to discover that it was coated with gold on the outside but made of silver inside.

Ms Buathip said that between May 31 and June 3 alone, she had bought 170,000 baht worth of gold from various members of the gang.

Officers checked CCTV footage from the shop and the road to identify the suspect and learn his vehicle licence plate number.

“We tracked his movements and were able to capture him and four others at Tat Chat Chai checkpoint while they were trying to leave Phuket on Saturday at about 5:30pm,” said Col Peerayuth.

The suspects were driving a black Ford pick-up and named by police as Prakong Rattanapratum, 36; Boontian Konsongkroh, 43; Suphab Damdin, 40; Kanuangrat Hankamphaeng, 25; and Athit Kongjorn, 28.

Another suspect, Pisit Sermthong, 42, was yesterday apprehended in Patong and a woman named Uraiwan Sa-Eibkong was arrested in Koh Samui.

“Mr Pisit actually walked into Phuket City Police Station himself to ask for a mobile phone charger. Coincidentally, one of the staff members from the gold shop was there at the time. He pointed him out to the police, who immediately arrested him,” said Col Peerayuth.

Police seized the pick-up truck along with 115,000 baht in cash, two gold necklaces, two gold rings and other items.

“They were taken in for questioning and soon confessed to charges of forgery. We have asked the court to issue arrest warrants for all of them, as well as the two others who are still on the run,” said Col Peerayuth.

Mr Suphab said he bought fake gold from Bangkok from a man he only knows as ‘Jo’ for 12,000 baht for a baht of gold (approx 15.16g). The others would then take the gold and sell it to shops in Phuket.

The men said they divided the money equally and received about 1,000 baht each per baht of gold.

“We will do our best to broaden the investigation and capture the rest of the suspects as soon as possible,” said Col Peerayuth.

— Kritsada Mueanhawong

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Weather

Heavy rain across the country this weekend – local forecasts

The Thaiger

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Heavy rain across the country this weekend – local forecasts | The Thaiger

Heavy rain is expected across much of Thailand over the next few days, mostly as a result of the intensity of a tropical storm crossing into Vietnam today, ‘Noul’, from the South China Sea. The low pressure cell will help intensify the effects of the south west monsoon too. But the remnants of the storm won’t “slam” into Northern Thailand as one news site claimed – rather it will be a lot of rain and increased winds. The storm is expected to cross into Thailand around the Mukdahan province some time early tomorrow,

Around the country, Saturday will be the worst with rains easing during Sunday. Thailand north east ‘Isaan’ provinces will be the worst affected as they are in the direct track of the storm as it crosses Vietnam, into Laos, and then crossing Thailand’s borders in the upper north east in the early hours of tomorrow morning.

Whilst tropical storm ‘Noul’ has been packing winds from 80 – 120 kilometres per hour as it reaches the central Vietnam coast areas, including popular tourist locations like Da Nang and Hoi An, the storm will continue to dissipate as it moves inland. The storm has been tracking across the South China Sea this week, gathering strength, in a west northwesterly direction.

Residents in the coastal town of Hoi An report that it rained continuously last night, with strong winds, and that they expect widespread flooding to be reported during the day.

The forecast for heavy rain in Bangkok will probably dampen some of the enthusiasm for tomorrow’s anti-government rally to be held in and around the Thammasat University Tha Prachan campus.

Here are the forecasts for Saturday and Sunday around the country…

Bangkok

Heavy rain across the country this weekend - local forecasts | News by The Thaiger

Phuket

Heavy rain across the country this weekend - local forecasts | News by The Thaiger

Chiang Mai

Heavy rain across the country this weekend - local forecasts | News by The Thaiger

Pattaya

Heavy rain across the country this weekend - local forecasts | News by The Thaiger

Khon Kaen

Heavy rain across the country this weekend - local forecasts | News by The Thaiger

Koh Samui

Heavy rain across the country this weekend - local forecasts | News by The Thaiger

Read more about Thailand’s annual monsoons HERE.

SOURCE: weather.com

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Expats

Samui charity battles to feed island’s remaining residents

The Thaiger

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Samui charity battles to feed island’s remaining residents | The Thaiger
PHOTOS: Sisters on Samui

by Ann Carter

As around 2,000 Thai workers have reportedly left the island of Koh Samui due to the Covid-19 economic fallout, ‘Sisters on Samui’, the island’s largest charity is changing up the way in which to help feed those remaining residents. Keyt Topcu, co-president of SOS, says the effort involves cutting out bags as the organisation realised that they could save over 500 USD by having those receiving aid bring their own bags.

“We hand out rice and other goods two times per week, but the bags alone cost 4,000 baht per week. If we cut out bags, we can put that money towards more food for the island’s residents in need.”

The first three months of feeding islanders since Covid hit included many Burmese people that were out of work. Now, those receiving handouts is mostly comprised of Thais as a lot of Burmese left the island after being put out of work.

“Those that are left are the ones that maybe had savings and could survive without work, and they are now our main clients that we serve.”

Wai, a Thai mother of 4 on Samui, says she has been unemployed for 5 months and struggles to feed her children on a daily basis. Recently, she started working again but says the money isn’t enough.

“I only get 300 baht per day and my mother is 65 years old. It is not easy now.”

As Covid hit, many people on Samui have lost their jobs and have resorted to finding new ways to make ends meet. Mr. O, a taxi driver, now sells oysters and seaweed in a roadside stall after receiving only a few clients per day in his taxi.

“Now, many people have left the island after living here for 15 to 20 years. It is hard for me now to make a living only selling street food.”

“Sometimes, I get money and other times I get nothing.”

Sisters on Samui is continuing their fight to help those on the island who are still here but struggling. This Thursday, they will start the bag-free handouts in order to save plastic and money with the hopes of putting the money saved back into the community’s mouths.

“We have a handout at Chaweng Lake this Thursday, September 17, in which we ask everyone to bring their own plastic bags. Also, if you want to help the cause, we are accepting monetary and food donations. A 1,000 baht donation will get us a 40 kilogram bag of rice to give out.”

Apart from rice, the organisation says they need other items like eggs, noodles, milk, formula, vegetables, and tin fish to help stock their emergency stash. Yvonne Roberts, co-president of the charity says the effort to reduce plastic waste and spend the money elsewhere came about after receiving more and more volunteers to help the cause.

“As the operation slowed down a bit, we were able to logistically cut down on handing out bags as we had more volunteers to help distribute the food. In the beginning, we were trying to just get the food out as quickly as possible as it was a dire need.”

As tourists make up over 90 percent of Samui’s economy, the situation is grave. Sisters On Samui remains the largest charity on the island and has largely helped keep the residents afloat. To donate to SOS, you can visit their GoGetFunding page or visit the SOS website.

Links to GoGetFunding

Links to Sisters On Samui

Samui charity battles to feed island’s remaining residents | News by The Thaiger

Samui charity battles to feed island’s remaining residents | News by The Thaiger

Special guest writer, Ann Carter

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Lights are out on Ibiza – the world’s party islands go dark

The Thaiger

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Lights are out on Ibiza – the world’s party islands go dark | The Thaiger

“The party scene, by its nature, is all about getting together, dancing, celebrating ‘closeness’ and being social – the antithesis of social distancing and staying away from other people in the Covid-era.”

Some of the world’s tourist islands are suffering badly from the lack of travel, it’s not just Bali and Phuket. The Spanish party island of Ibiza is also described as a “ghost town” at the moment without the tourists and the thump thump of the all night parties. It’s still summer season on Spain’s Balearic Islands, just off the coast of Valencia in the Mediterranean. If it wasn’t for a world pandemic, the party music would still be breaking the silence, with young Europeans stomping on the sandy beaches, bars and mega clubs of Ibiza. Instead, the islands remain quiet and devoid of tourists.

“There’s no tourism at all, now. Just a few people coming just for a few days. We had a very bad summer.Now we will have a very, very bad winter.” – Ibiza’s tourism director, Juan Miguel Costa.

But thanks to a summer of Covid quarantines, muted nightclubs and cancelled flights, the Balearic Islands are suffering from the worst hangover they’ve ever experienced. Now, the situation is prompting locals and businesses, who rely on income generated by the nightlife, to reconsider a future without it.

Ibiza has attracted celebrities arriving on superyachts, and planeloads of young British and German tourists looking for a good time. An underground dance party scene that started in the 1980s had matured into an internationally renowned tourism powerhouse. But, after re-opening in July with dancing banned, and no venues allowed to stay open past 2am, the world’s capital of clubbing took a huge hit.

The pandemic forced Ibiza’s larger venues to stay closed and it is feared that some may never reopen. The party is over for now as tourism officials try to reinvent the industry and focus on the island’s bohemian heritage, rather than its hedonistic party scene.

Even though some moderation of the excesses of the islands’ party scene were already on the cards, Covid-era restrictions put everything on hold. A series of laws designed to curb alcohol excess in the tourist hubs of San Antonio, Ibiza, Magaluf and Playa de Palma on Mallorca, including banning happy hours, party boats promoting drunken cruises and pub crawls, were introduced by the regional government at the start of the year. But the Balearic Islands never got to test drive the new party restrictions when the tourism was almost completely stopped.

Rosana Morillo, general director of tourism for the Balearic Islands, says that the current situation is being used to “reset” the island’s tourist industry and change the destination’s reputation. But others hope that the thumping, bumping nightclubs will return, but balanced along with other cultural highlights.

Like the world’s other party island destinations, the future of Ibiza lies in the balance. From Magaluf, Mallorca, just next door, to Ios and Santorini in Greece, Patong in Phuket, Hvar in Croatia and Kuta in Bali, the situation is similarly bleak. The world’s mood has moved from luxury and hedonistic travel breaks to focus on home, family, financial survival and work. And even when the travel bans lift, will the party islands be a priority in people’s Covid-era travel plans?

But the summer of 2020 wasn’t a total write off for the Spanish islands, even though northern Europe lockdowns and travel bans, particularly in Germany and the UK, kept most of their regular tourist traffic away. But by July, the introduction of travel corridors made weeks away in Spain, Greece and other European countries a possibility for UK travellers ready to run the gauntlet of a Covid-era flight. The Balaeric Islands managed to rack up 1 million visitors during July, still a long way from their usual tourist traffic but at least a promising start.

But, as has happened in numerous spots eager to re-open their doors, the situation changed quickly in the face of rising figures in some Spanish regions. The British government re-imposed a 14 day quarantine on all travellers returning from some countries, including Spain. Without much notice, travellers scrambled to get back home, and scheduled trips had to be cancelled. The German Foreign Office then advised against travel to Spain, etc, etc. Since the end of July the flow of travellers to the islands has been back to almost zero.

Now the lights are out in Ibiza’s mega clubs.

Around the world the plight of the most popular tropical island destinations is the same. In Thailand, both Koh Samui and Phuket face another challenge. Whilst the south East Asian country has been able to successfully suppress the ravages of Covid-19, the ongoing border ban means that its most popular island destinations, whilst absolutely safe and ready to accept tourists, are stuck in a Twilight Zone – no flights and no international tourist dollars.

But even if they opened, the ability for the world’s travellers to get to Thailand’s tropical destinations is hampered by a lack of flights. Even a pilot program to re-open Phuket to tourists from the start of October, has now been shelved. In both cases, the Thai islands are around 90% dependent of the tourist dollar.

Indonesia’s Bali started loosening restrictions in July, starting with a restart of on-island tourism then followed up with a reopening to domestic travellers. Before this Bali had had relatively few cases. At the start of August, Bali’s total Covid-19 cases stood at 3,448. That number has since nearly doubled as of yesterday, with 6,834 cases. The island’s chief of police said that the reopening of tourism across Bali “has resulted in a considerable number of young people going on excursions after months of being under quarantine”.

Costa Rica, not an island, but relying on tropical and party tourism, is taking a different approach. Despite a growing number of cases, (as of September 12, Costa Rica has 53,969 confirmed Covid-19 cases and 583 deaths) the government has decided to start gradually reopening for tourism, as Costa Rica’s economy is also very dependent on tourism. The island’s government has taken a very different approach to that of the Thai islands by opening up, despite the growing numbers of cases.

The party scene, by its nature, is all about getting together, dancing, celebrating ‘closeness’ and being social – the antithesis of social distancing and staying away from other people in the Covid-era. How the world’s party destinations pry open their doors and start the discs spinning again is a major challenge as health authorities and business owners struggle to strike a balance.

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