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Indonesian rescue teams call off search for passengers of Lion Air flight

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Indonesian authorities say they’re calling off the search for passengers of the Lion Air flight JT610, almost two weeks after the jetliner plunged into the Java Sea killing the 189 passengers and crew on board.

Read The Thaiger editorial about the investigation HERE.

Some 196 bags containing body parts have been recovered from under the water with 79 victims identified and handed over to their families for burial.

“Since yesterday afternoon until today we have not found any more victims and therefore I declare the search and rescue operation is over,” Muhammad Syaugi, head of the search and rescue agency, told reporters Saturday.

Read the rest of the AFP story HERE.

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Southeast Asia

AirAsia’s wings may be clipped permanently

Jack Burton

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AirAsia’s wings may be clipped permanently | The Thaiger
PHOTO: The Jakarta Post

Malaysia’s budget airline AirAsia could become the next casualty of the Covid19 pandemic, which has grounded fleets around the world and already forced the demise of NokScoot, another regional budget carrier. AirAsia’s auditor is warning that the airline’s future is in “significant doubt” due to the collapse in demand for air travel caused by the coronavirus and regional governments closing borders.

The aviation industry is facing its biggest-ever crisis worldwide due to the outbreak, with many airlines laying off vast swathes of staff and some already out of business.

Not so long ago AirAsia shook up south east Asian budget air travel with its slogan “Now everyone can fly.” On Monday the company reported a record quarterly loss of 803 million ringgit (5.9 billion baht). Auditor Ernst & Young said Tuesday that “travel and border restrictions implemented by countries around the world have led to a significant fall in demand for air travel, which impacted the group’s financial performance and cash flows.”

In an unqualified audit opinion statement to the Kuala Lumpur stock exchange, the accountancy firm noted the “existence of material uncertainties that may cast significant doubt on the group’s and the company’s ability to continue as a going concern.”

Trading in AirAsia’s shares was halted this morning but resumed in the afternoon. AirAsia Group shares slumped nearly 18% when trading resumed following the suspension. The budget airline pared its loss down to 12% as of 3:40pm local time. Trading was halted Wednesday until 2:30pm local time.

AirAsia’s CEO Tony Fernandes said on Monday…. “This is by far the biggest challenge we have faced since we began in 2001.” He says the carrier is in talks for joint ventures and collaborations that could result in additional investment, and it has applied for bank loans and is weighing other proposals to raise capital.

Last month, South Korean conglomerate SK Group announced it was reviewing a proposal to buy a small stake in the airline. In May, AirAsia sent a memo to Malaysian banks seeking to borrow 1 billion ringgit, (7.3 billion baht) according to people familiar with the matter.

AirAsia said in an exchange filing Wednesday that Ernst & Young’s statement and a decline in shareholder equity triggered the criteria for a so-called Practice Note 17, which applies to financially distressed companies. But the airline won’t be classified as PN17, as the Malaysian exchange suspended application of the status from April through June next year as part of relief measures in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

AirAsia needs at least 2 billion ringgit this year to stay afloat, according to an aviation analyst at UOB Kay Hianin Singapore.

“There’s not a lot of options, and the best one could be the government stepping in but seeking a rights offering by the company in exchange.”

Despite the warnings, there are signs of improvement with the gradual lifting of restrictions on interstate travel and domestic tourism activities in the countries where AirAsia and its units operate.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Locals not rushing to book Singapore ‘staycations’

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Locals not rushing to book Singapore ‘staycations’ | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Todayonline

Tokyo residents can escape the city with a hike up Mount Fuji. New Yorkers can head to Long Island for a weekend. In Indonesia locals will be able to fly to the beaches of Bali. And in Thailand anyone living here now can visit the island of Phuket for a beach retreat.

Such is the Covid era ‘staycation’, the solution for domestic tourist economies around the world. Or is it?

Residents of Singapore have less of an option as, well, Singapore is tiny so any staycation won’t take you far away from home. With the island’s borders closed to foreigners, hotels and tourist attractions are hoping ‘staycationers’ will plug the gap in the battered $20 billion-a-year tourist industry. But despite industry enthusiasm, the Singapore locals haven’t been rushing to book staycations just yet.

Michael Issenberg, CEO Accor South East Asia, the largest hotel operator in Singapore says that unless there is a return to international business, the hotel industry is going to be decimated.

“Up to 90% of our bookings come from international travellers.”

While tourism internationally has been profoundly hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, a gradual re-opening of some domestic travel is giving a shot in the arm to airlines and hotels. Both industries, and the downstream travel agents, tour companies, taxi and passenger bus drivers, and cleaners, etc, have been particularly hard hit as border closures and lockdowns have shuttered hotels and ground entire fleets of planes.

Locals not rushing to book Singapore 'staycations' | News by The Thaiger

Singapore’s tourism sector faces an even tougher challenge with hotels given a green light just last week to request approval to welcome domestic tourists. But locals have been saying they’d prefer to save their money and wait for travel to resume in nearby holiday spots in Thailand and Malaysia rather than spend it on a hotel just around the corner in Singapore.

Thailand and Malaysia are also promoting local versions of ‘staycations’. In Thailand the government is rolling out a three month stimulus package which gives users a 3,000 baht digital ‘wallet’ to use for expenses on rooms, flights and food.

Back in Singapore, the 5.7 million Singaporeans are now rebooting their economy after two months of lockdown, including a huge spike of new cases in April, the borders are still mostly closed. The city-state registered a historic low of just 750 foreign visitors in April, down from 1.6 million in the same month last year. May wasn’t much better – 880 visitors.

Selena Ling, head of treasury research and strategy at Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp says that in the short term, hotels, restaurants and attractions can shuffle their businesses to draw interest to staycationers by adding attractions and food discounts,.

“However, our inherent small domestic market size implies it may not be a longer-term sustainable solution.”

Tourism has been an increasingly vital industry for Singapore, helping to re-invent the economy from its traditional finance and shipping hub strengths. World class attractions including – Marina Bay Sands hotel, casino, Universal Studios and the Singapore Zoo have drawn tourists from around the world. The island has found its advantages as a cheap shopping stop-over and financial hub have been taken over by other south east Asian mega cities.

Last year, Singapore hosted a record 19.1 million visitors, while tourism receipts rose to S$27.7 billion (US$19.8 billion), fun 3% from the year before. Singapore’s tourism industry, employing about 65,000 people, contributes about 4% to the island’s GDP.

The border closure means Singapore needs to persuade locals to spend more money at home. Tourism Board CEO Keith Tan is confident the locals will be keen to travel locally and support the Singaporean economy.

“They may therefore be open to take time off in their own city and rediscover all that Singapore has to offer.”

“Singapore has set aside S$90 million for the tourism sector and a task force is developing domestic and international recovery plans to be shared soon. The board also aims to strengthen Singapore’s brand abroad by spending S$2 million to encourage content creators to produce compelling stories about the city-state.”

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Crime

Thailand teams with Laos to stop drug trafficking

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Thailand teams with Laos to stop drug trafficking | The Thaiger

Thailand is reportedly teaming up with Laos to stop drug trafficking after drug syndicates have changed their routes from Myanmar to Laos.

Thailand Narcotics Control Board secretary-general Niyom Termsrisuk, says the direction change was due to heavy policing at the Myanmar-Thai border; causing traffickers to switch routes. The Royal Thai Armed Forces have formed a division to combat drug trafficking in the Thai provinces that border Laos, with 12 teams of officers being deployed.

The ONCB chief says a spike in smuggling was detected in the northeastern borders from Loei to Ubon Ratchathani provinces with Nong Khai, Mukdahan, Bung Kan and Nakhon Phanom provinces seeing the most trafficking.

Methamphetamine, crystal meth, or “ice,” and marijuana were the main drugs being smuggled with 22 million meth pills, 638 kilograms of ice, and 6,240 kilograms of marijuana being seized by Thai authorities over the past year.

Despite the Thai government’s efforts to try and stem smuggled drugs into the country, plenty of them find their way into the inner parts of the country. At the end of May this year, 1 million methamphetamine pills were confiscated in the capital, just one of many drug busts of multiple millions of pills and other illicit drugs.

According to the UNODC Representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific…

“It is hard to imagine that organised crime have again managed to expand the drug market, but they have. While the world has shifted its attention to the Covid-19 pandemic, all indications are that production and trafficking of synthetic drugs and chemicals continue at record levels in the region.”

Read more about that report HERE.

SOURCE: Chiang Rai Times

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