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WEDNESDAY MORNING BRIEFING – All your local news in 3 minutes

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PHOTO: That’s a LOT of cash to take over the border. Mum & Dad have a currency exchange business. Really?!

Welcome to Wednesday. Here’s our daily 3 minute news read to bring you up to date with some of the major local news stories….

Taking a bit of cash over the border. 89 million baht!

Customs officials have discovered more than 98 million baht in Thai banknotes in a car that was trying to cross the border into Laos.

Two Lao nationals in the car were arrested at the Nong Khai Customs checkpoint. The 24 and 30 year olds in the car claim that their family have a currency exchange business.

Thai law prohibits the transportation of amounts exceeding 450,000 baht across borders without notifying relevant officials. The pair hid the cash in milk boxes inside the engine compartment in their Toyota Land Cruiser…. just the way we all carry cash.

WEDNESDAY MORNING BRIEFING - All your local news in 3 minutes | News by The Thaiger

Schools remain closed in Songkhla

A total of 21 schools near Songkhla Lake in four districts of Songkhla province remained indefinitely closed on Tuesday as floodwaters around the lake were still high.

Officials from the Songkhla Primary School Zone 1 said that, out of 141 schools in the southern province, eight schools in Ranot district, four in Krasae Sin district, eight in Sathing Phra district and one in Singha Nakhon district remained closed.

WEDNESDAY MORNING BRIEFING - All your local news in 3 minutes | News by The Thaiger

A can of worms

Phuketian, Sarantip Chaeton, who earlier found worms in a tin of canned fish, has visited the Damrongtham Centre at Provincial Hall demanding answers from the manufacturer.

She’s told staff at the Damrongtham Centre that the Office of Consumer Protection Board in Phuket informed her that there would be a staff from the manufacturing company visiting her at her house to gather more information on how this could have happened. Staff from the manufacturers went to her house but were apparently only interested in taking the worm-infested can, with no apology or taking any responsibility. So she’s refused to hand it over and intends to keep it as evidence. A can of worms indeed.

WEDNESDAY MORNING BRIEFING - All your local news in 3 minutes | News by The Thaiger

Miss Universe Thailand meets PM

Miss Universe Thailand Maria Poonlertparp has dropped into Government House to meet PM General Prayut Chan-o-cha after finishing in the final five in the Miss Universe 2017 contest late last month.

As a gift for the Thai beauty pageant winner, Prayut offered her a job with the government to promote tourism. Maria immediately accepted the offer.

WEDNESDAY MORNING BRIEFING - All your local news in 3 minutes | News by The Thaiger

Pattaya Hells Angel member, and wife, in custody over alleged drug smuggling

Police have arrested an Australian Hells Angels member and bar owner over an attempt to smuggle millions of dollars worth of crystal methamphetamines into Thailand.

24 year old Luke Cook was arrested at BKK airport with his Thai wife only days after a crackdown on other members of the outlawed motor cycle gang in Pattaya.

Police allege that Cook and his wife, 40 year old Kanyarat Wechapitak, bought 500 kilograms of the drug from a Chinese supplier in international waters on June 22.

They allege the couple dropped the drugs into the sea and escaped as their boat was about to be intercepted by a Thai patrol ship off the Thai coast.

WEDNESDAY MORNING BRIEFING - All your local news in 3 minutes | News by The Thaiger

Thailand and EU starting work on FTA

Thailand has already started work to resume negotiations with the European Union on a Thai-EU Free Trade Agreement after talks were suspended more than three years ago following the 2014 coup. Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai says the relaxation will have a good psychological affect on investors adding that talks between the EU and Thailand on business cooperation, including a free trade agreement, will proceed soon.

WEDNESDAY MORNING BRIEFING - All your local news in 3 minutes | News by The Thaiger

Missing Ukranian found, safe and well

On Sunday we reported a missing Ukranian swimmer who friends said went missing whilst swimming off Ptong Beach.

Good news, 27 year old Mykhailo turned up safe and well yesterday. He went to rent a motorbike and the receptionist recognised his name in his passport and the two went to tell the Lifeguards who had been searching for him.

Mykhailo had been swimming and simply came out of the water and returned to his accommodation without informing his friends. Happy ending for everyone.

WEDNESDAY MORNING BRIEFING - All your local news in 3 minutes | News by The ThaigerWEDNESDAY MORNING BRIEFING - All your local news in 3 minutes | News by The Thaiger

Daily briefings sourced from The Nation, Phuket Gazette and VOA. Brought to you by Phuket’s The Thaiger 102.75 FM with news, traffic & weather every 30 minutes.

WEDNESDAY MORNING BRIEFING - All your local news in 3 minutes | News by The Thaiger

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North East

Go looking for mushrooms, find 10 grenades – NE Thailand

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Go looking for mushrooms, find 10 grenades – NE Thailand | The Thaiger
PHOTO: The Nation

You’re just walking along, casually foraging for mushrooms when, behold, you come across 10 grenades! 10 LIVE grenades. That was the surprise awaiting a local mushroom picker in Si Sa Ket, North East Thailand, at the Huai Sala Wildlife Sanctuary.

58 year old Supin Thammaporn, was gathering mushrooms around the park when he found the unlikely cache of grenades. Military officials later confirmed all 10 were live. Supin immediately called local Army officials who sent out bomb disposal experts to the sanctuary to check the grenades.

It was not immediately obvious to Army officials on how the grenades had come to be left in the remote part of the sanctuary or who they had belonged to. Officials from the Phu Sing district have already started an investigation to determine if they were being stored in the sanctuary or left from some prior conflict or training exercise.

Supin, the mushroom collector, said he was happy nobody got injured from the grenades. Army officials commended the man for reporting the grenades. The 10 live weapons were removed and disposed of by the bomb disposal team.

SOURCE: The Nation

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

“Vaccines are no magic bullet” – World Health Organisation

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“Vaccines are no magic bullet” – World Health Organisation | The Thaiger

“Vaccines will be no magic bullet for the coronavirus crisis as nations gear up for a massive rollout to tackle surging infections.”

The warning of caution comes from the World Health Organisation on the day the US United States recorded a record number of Covid-19 cases for a second day in a row. President-elect Joe Biden is already describing the time ahead as a “dark winter”. The US recorded 235,272 new infections on Friday, the second daily record in a row for the world’s worst-hit nation.

Large-scale public vaccinations are expected to roll out within weeks. But the WHO is warning against ‘vaccine complacency’ saying that exists an erroneous belief that the Covid-19 crisis will be over after people are vaccinated.

WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan, says that not everyone will be able to receive the medicine early next year.

“Vaccination will add a major, powerful tool to the tool kit that we have. But by themselves, they will not do the job. Vaccines do not equal zero Covid.”

The WHO also announced yesterday that 51 candidate vaccines are currently being tested on humans… 13 have reached Phase 3 mass testing and headed towards approval.

Meanwhile in the US, the Centres for Disease Control is now recommending “universal face mask use” indoors for the first time and President-elect says he will “ask all Americans to wear a mask for 100 days”.

Britain became the first Western country to approve a vaccine from the Pfizer/BioNTech candidate, for general use, adding additional pressure for other countries and pharmaceutical giants to swiftly follow suit. Businesses and logistics companies specialising in cold storage and insulating containers are preparing for the Pfizer and BioNTech injection as their vaccine needs to be stored and transported at -70 degrees Celsius.

In the US, Belgium, France and Spain inoculations will begin later this month and January for the most vulnerable, then broader community groups.

In south east Asia, Singapore Airlines will prioritise freight capacity to ship the new vaccines and will conduct test flights soon to trial the transport into south east Asian hubs. The airline says that Boeing 747-400 freighters, and some specially-purposed passenger aircraft, will be ready to boost capacity where needed.

The logistics of a successful vaccine rollout are challenging enough, but the vocal rump of vaccine sceptics, aka. anti-vaxxers, peddling misinformation and mistrust, continue to colour public discourse on the topic. Social media platforms have recently been active in removing much of this misinformation but admit that they will never be able to intervene with all comments.

To counter this President-elect Joe Biden, WHO director-general Tedros and former US presidents Barack Obama, George W Bush and Bill Clinton, have all said they will be inoculated publicly to help build confidence. Other world leaders are throwing their support behind positive promotions of the new vaccines offering their arms for the first jabs in their countries.

SOURCES: AP | Reuters | WHO

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Tourism

Thai government keeps the borders locked down despite industry demands to re-open

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Thai government keeps the borders locked down despite industry demands to re-open | The Thaiger

Despite progress in vaccines and the hard lobbying from Thailand’s tourism and hospitality industries, the Kingdom is destined to miss out on the 2010/2021 high season. The Thai Minster for Sports and Tourism, Pipat Ratchakitprakan, says that the government is looking to March/April in 2021 as the earliest date for any return to general tourism.

For now travellers still have to go through a long list of Thai red tape, certificates and trying to find flights into Thailand. And when they arrive, all travellers will face 14 days in quarantine, at their own expense. Even the new Special Tourist Visa hasn’t been very special at all with only a handful of takers for the long-stay visa.

Thailand’s hotel operators and tourism industry players were hoping for a broader re-opening plan so they could make the best of the traditional high season, usually late November to the end of February each year. That isn’t going to happen now.

With many of the country’s traditional feeder markets having to weather a current surge in cases, except China, there wouldn’t be many takers anyway. Even the Chinese are mostly prohibited from travelling for now.

A drag in the plans to re-open the borders is likely to push more Thai and foreign-owned tourism and hospitality businesses to the wall, unable to ‘hang on’ for another 4 months, or longer.

The Thai Hotel Association and The Thailand Travel Agents Association have been lobbying, even demanding, the Thai government to drop its mandatory quarantine provisions and urgently negotiate travel bubble with provinces in China and other nations that are currently “low risk” for Covid-19, including Singapore, Vietnam, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and Taiwan.

Andrew J Wood, the President of Skål International Bangkok, says that it’s becoming increasingly evident that the damage being inflicted to Thailand’s massive travel and tourism industry is proving to be critical with “deep long lasting structural economic damage that is set to worsen rather than improve”.

“With the current official mindset of allowing the industry, that employs millions in Thailand, to be sacrificed; thrown to the covid wolf with no meaningful financial lifelines, left to fend for itself and potentially fail. With no hope of borders being opened by mid 2021, even with the introduction of vaccines in key feeder markets, there is confusion and a leadership vacuum in our industry.”

But Minister Pipat says everything is on hold at this stage and that the Thai PM Prayut Chan-o-cha is urging caution in regards to any wholesale easing of restrictions.

“The country will continue with opening to businessmen, technical experts, high level workers and those in the medical field for now. 14 day quarantine will continue for now with many countries still in the grip of the pandemic.”

He also noted that even Chinese officials are advising caution and suggest waiting until the hot season next year (mid year). There were small outbreaks in 3 cities in China in the middle of November, less than 10 cases in each city, where Chinese health officials rolled out quick-response lockdown teams for the affected communities.

But Andrew Wood makes it clear that any entry to Thailand by tourists involves 14 day quarantine is destined to fail.

“I am sure I am not the only person to say this, but let me say loudly and clearly that tourism promotions with 2 weeks quarantine WILL FAIL. Now vaccines are starting to be introduce lets look at other low risk options for borders to be gradually opened. I plead to the government to allow this. Otherwise the structural damage to our tourism economy will take us until 2025 to repair.”

“A recent survey suggested that 57% of global tourism will have been wiped out by the pandemic by the end of 2020. In Thailand this figure will be nearer to 80% and highlighted Bangkok as the destination which will see the sharpest drop in the world. Thailand will lose 2.1 trillion baht (US$69.7billion) in income before the end of the year in lost tourism revenue.”

The Minister, indeed the Thai government and the CCSA, appear to be bowing to survey after survey which shows Thai people, around the country, are in favour of keeping the borders closed for now, despite the country’s tourism and hospitality industry being decimated by the government’s policies.

The recent spate of cases in northern Thailand, currently an evolving story, will give the risk-averse Thai government increased impetus to keep a tight control on its borders in the short to medium term.

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