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Go Eco Phuket gets going

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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PHUKET: After hosting the world’s largest underwater cleanup last year, local marine conservation group Go Eco Phuket and the Thai Government are joining forces again this year to break last year’s record by garnering support from over 1,000 participants for the reef and beach cleanup in honor of HM Queen Sirikit’s 81st birthday on August 12.

The day after Her Majesty’s birthday on August 13, Phuket’s dive community, supported by the Royal Thai Navy, Marine Police, Marine and Coastal Resources Conservation Department and local government bodies are joining together in a mass effort to raise the world’s awareness of the importance of marine and coastal eco-systems.

“Positive activities like this should be conducted every year. It is not only important as a way to preserve beaches in Phuket and marine systems around the island, but it also improves Phuket’s economy and generates more income for the province,” Capt Kritsada Rattanasupa of the Royal Thai Navy’s Phuket-based Third Area Internal Security Operations Command said last week.

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Put your money where your mouth is!
Last year’s event saw PADI dive centers across the island and over 500 participants at the event. This year, not only PADI but also SSI and CMAS dive certifying agencies will be participating, as all three prominent dive groups join together to put the marine environment ahead of business.

“The main difference this year is that it is much more all-encompassing, you now see SSI’s side of the table, and we are looking at contacting CMAS about sponsorship,” said one of the event organizers, Kerry Leach. “It’s completely open this year. And the thing is, the PADI dive centers have welcomed this because they know we need maximum support. The whole idea is that we are working together on Go Eco Phuket, and now we are, finally.”

The Royal Thai Navy again will be providing protection to the dive boats by posting at least one ship at each island being cleaned up.

Last year, the Royal Thai Navy vessel off of Koh Racha Noi was able to commandeer the assistance of a fishing vessel in order to hoist a discarded fishing net weighing 4.5 tons from the bottom of the sea floor after divers spent nearly two days disentangling it from the reef system.

To ensure that diving vessels are protected during the cleanup, the Marine Police have requested that all diving boats leaving the popular diving departure point of Chalong Pier partake in the event or stay in the bay for the day.

Go Eco Phuket, which is still a loosely knit group of dedicated individuals and dive centers, has been jumping through the bureaucratic hoops necessary to become a non-government organization recognized by the Thai government.

“It’s going to be a legal foundation where we have some authority in advising the government. We can’t change laws until we are legal,” Ms Leach said.

“We know it’s difficult to police [the sea], said Ms Leach, referring to the prevention of illegal fishing in national parks.

“Every year we are told that ‘yeah, you pour money into the Similan National Park, but it goes into the wider national parks budget. So this is where we are trying to make a difference, Ms Leach said. “We can police it a little from our side, and take some of the pressure off the government. The long-term goal of the foundation will be to mobilize divers from across Thailand to return the surrounding reefs to a clean, healthy state.”

“We have a strong dream of making the reefs of Phuket and the surrounding islands clean, pristine and sustainable, and making sure they belong in the top diving destinations in Thailand and the world,” Tony Andrews, Thailand’s West coast PADI Regional Manager and Project AWARE Ambassador, said at the inaugural event last year.

This event will again be the biggest reef cleanup in terms of number of participants, Ms Leach said. However, the record is an unofficial one.

Go Eco Phuket has a bid placed with Guinness World Records to set an official record.

Unfortunately a previous bid to have the record based on the number of participants has been turned down. Now Go Eco Phuket is shooting to secure the record based on the largest number of PADI Project Aware certifications issued at a single event.

The local government is sponsoring a cycling event ahead of the cleanup, which will have participants riding from Sarasin Bridge to Surakul Stadium in Phuket Town (map here) on August 4.

The government is also taking charge of the after party on August 14. The location of the party has yet to be confirmed. However, there will be a Recycling Costume Contest with winning participants taking home between 10,000 and 30,000 baht said Royal Thai Navy’s Phuket-based Third Area Command public relations staffer Jirayu Naragoonphithak.

All are welcome to join the free events, though space is limited, Ms Leach said. To join the cleanup event email goecophuket@gmail.com.

Divers who need to rent equipment will be asked to make a donation of 200 baht to Go Eco Phuket. The funds will go toward future projects, which may include a shark release project, installation of more moorings at popular dive sites and the sinking of several decommissioned Royal Thai Navy vessels to promote wreck diving in the area and relieve pressure on current dive sites.

Additional reporting by Orawin Narabal.

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Thailand

Thai Airways to resume flights from Bangkok to Chiang Mai and Phuket

Caitlin Ashworth

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Thai Airways to resume flights from Bangkok to Chiang Mai and Phuket | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Thai Airways

After nearly 9 months on the ground due to the coronavirus pandemic, along with problems balancing their accounts, Thai Airways will resume flights between Bangkok and Chiang Mai as well as Bangkok and Phuket later this month. The flights will start back up on Christmas day.

Flights from Bangkok to the 2 key tourist provinces have been grounded since April 1. Starting December 25, the airline will run 3 flights a week on both routes. A source told the Bangkok Post that the new schedules will run until at least February 28.

Thai Lion Air, Thai Air Asia, Nok Air, Thai Smile, VietJet Air and Bangkok Airways have returned to the domestic skies since July and slowly adding frequency to their routes.

In addition to resuming the domestic flights, the Thai Airways is relaunching some international flights from January 1 to March 27 including weekly flights to Frankfurt, London, Copenhagen, Sydney, Seoul, Manila, Taipei and Osaka. Flights from Bangkok to Tokyo will be available 3 times a week and flights from Bangkok to Hong Kong will be available every day.

Thai Airways has been tackling bankruptcy throughout the lockdown and trying to make up for more than 300 billion baht in losses. Since many flights were suspended due to travel restrictions, Thai Airways has tried to make money by business ventures on the ground, like a pop-up restaurant serving in-flight meals and selling off unwanted equipment from their warehouse. There also disposing of much of their older fleet, including all of their Boring 747-400s.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

97 police officers investigated for fiddling Covid-19 payments

Maya Taylor

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97 police officers investigated for fiddling Covid-19 payments | The Thaiger
PHOTO: www.newsbeezer.com

97 police officers, from 41 police stations, are currently being investigated for an alleged scam involving Covid-19 payments meant for officers who worked extra shifts during the crisis. The case was assigned by national police chief Suwat Jangyodsuk in November, when it came to light that some officers may have fraudulently claimed allowances meant for others.

In one incident, an officer responsible for transferring extra payments to police on the southern island of Phuket transferred the money to his own accountant instead. At the time, the transfer was dismissed as a mistake (in his favour), with the officer in question receiving a warning, and payments then made to the qualifying officers.

Wissanu Prasatthong-Osot from the National Internal Affairs Police says the investigation should reach a conclusion within the next 10 days.

“The result of the investigation should be ready in 10 days. Currently, 97 officers in 41 police stations ranging from non-commissioned to generals are under investigation for being involved in the swindle. The bureau aims to provide justice to all policemen involved. After the investigation concludes, the victims will receive their full allowance, while the offending officers will be punished under the law and disciplinary standards.”

Nation Thailand reports that a full list of alleged offenders has been sent to Suwat, with Wissanu promising that none will escape prosecution.

“The National Police chief had also ordered the transfer of offending officers at the commander and sub-commander levels out of their areas as per the investigation procedures.”

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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Tourism

Thai-Chinese Chamber of Commerce to propose Guangzhou-Phuket tourism route

Caitlin Ashworth

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Thai-Chinese Chamber of Commerce to propose Guangzhou-Phuket tourism route | The Thaiger
PHOTO: 77 kaoded

A tourism route from Guangzhou, China to Phuket could help the island province recover from the recession brought on by the pandemic and lack of foreign travel, according to the Thai-Chinese Chamber of Commerce. The president of the organisation, Narongsak Puttapornmongkol, says they plan to submit a letter proposing the route under a travel bubble scheme to the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration.

The Thai-Chinese Chamber of Commerce is proposing a travel bubble with around 20 cities in China with no recent coronavirus infections and considered to be at a low risk of spreading the virus. Travellers from Guangzhou recently entered Thailand on the new Special Tourist Visa. It was the second flight of international tourists since travel restrictions were imposed in late-March.

“We believe that the Travel Bubble and the quarantine reduction will resolve the tourism business, which is a huge economic opportunity to recover.”

Once a vaccine is widely available, Narongsak suggests that those who wish to Thailand could also present their vaccination certificate or examination reports from the place of origin. He adds that the mandatory state quarantine period is likely to be reduced.

SOURCE: Pattaya News

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