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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

– World news selected by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Singapore police arrest teen for online comments
Reuters / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: A Singapore teenager, who criticized Lee Kuan Yew on social media soon after the former leader’s death, has been arrested and will be charged with making “insensitive and disparaging” comments about Christians, police said on Tuesday.

Police did not give the teenager’s name, saying only that he was 16, but Singapore’s Straits Times newspaper and other media identified him as Amos Yee. The case has reignited concerns about censorship in the Asian financial hub.

In a widely viewed YouTube video, Yee celebrated the death of Singapore’s founding father Lee, who died last week aged 91 and was cremated after a state funeral on Sunday. Yee also made insensitive remarks about Christianity in the video, which was seen by hundreds of thousands before it was taken down.

He will be charged on Tuesday with offences that include intentionally wounding the religious or racial feelings of another person or group, and could face up to three years in jail, police said in a statement.

More than 20 reports about the video had been received, it said.

“Police take a stern view of acts that could threaten religious harmony in Singapore,” Deputy Commissioner of Police Investigations & Intelligence Tan Chye said in the statement.

“Any person who uploads offensive content online with (the) deliberate intention of wounding the religious or racial feelings of any person will be firmly dealt with in accordance with the law,” Tan said.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said in a statement it was concerned about Yee’s arrest on Sunday and called on authorities to release him immediately.

“The arrest of a young blogger for comments made in a video highlights the restrictive environment in which Singaporean journalists are forced to work,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator.

Singapore has tight rules on censorship, blocking dozens of websites and publications ranging from Playboy magazine to some children’s books and comics.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

US Covid-19 cases surge past 3 million

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US Covid-19 cases surge past 3 million | The Thaiger
PHOTO: US Vice-President Mike Pence speaking yesterday - USA Today

Over 3 million people in the US have now tested positive for Covid-19 since the start of the outbreak (3,158,932 as of midday Thai time).

Nearly 135,000 deaths have been recorded and the country is now facing an acceleration of new cases in a number of key states, notably Florida, Texas, California, Arizona, Georgia and Tennessee. On a positive note, the country’s death rate from Covid-19 has flattened out as treatments improve and many of the new cases are being seen in younger patients.

US Covid-19 cases surge past 3 million | News by The Thaiger

SOURCE: worldometers.com

Despite the rising number of cases and hospital admissions, the White House has been pushing forward on the re-opening of businesses, including schools, around the country. The US Vice-President Mike Pence, heading up the White House Coronavirus Taskforce, argued rules should not be “too tough”.

He stated, against the evidence, that “cases were flattening out”, while the US President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that America was “in a good place” regarding the pandemic.

In the past 24 hours the US has recorded 61,848 new confirmed Covid-19 cases, a new daily record for the US. Texas and Florida have recorded the highest numbers of new cases with 10,199 and 9,989 respectively.

Dr Anthony Fauci, an infectious disease expert and adviser to the President and the White House Coronavirus Taskforce, says the US was still “knee-deep” in only its first coronavirus wave.

Meanwhile, Mr Pence defended the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic at the US Department of Education yesterday, whilst wearing a mask for most of his speech.

“While we mourn with those who mourn, because of what the American people have done, because of the extraordinary work of our healthcare workers around the country, we are encouraged that the average fatality rate continues to be low and steady.”

He pushed forward on the country’s re-opening of schools saying that the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention is issuing new guidelines after the US President criticised a plan put forward by the CDC was “very tough and expensive” and threatened to cut off funding to schools that weren’t prepared to re-open in late August, early September.

Referring to the CDC guidelines in a Tweet, the US President said… “They are asking schools to do very impractical things. I will be meeting with them!!!”

In Oklahoma, health officials in the city of Tulsa say the President’s campaign rally held on June 20 in a large sports stadium, and the protests that were taking place outside the venue “likely contributed” to a new spike in local cases , according to Associated Press.

Tulsa City-County Health Department Director Dr Bruce Dart says that there has been almost 500 new cases… “and we had several large events just over two weeks ago, so I guess we just connect the dots.”

On the business front, United Airlines is warning that unless flights dramatically increase, the company would have to lay off nearly half of its workforce, some 36,000 employees.

And more than 5,600 companies in the US fossil fuel industry have taken a minimum of US$3 billion in coronavirus aid from the federal government. The businesses include oil and gas drillers, and coal mine operators, as well as refiners, pipeline companies and companies providing services for the industry.

SOURCES: BBC | USA Today | Bloomberg | Worldometers

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Expats

UK’s Kew Green Hotels launches 7 properties in Bangkok

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UK’s Kew Green Hotels launches 7 properties in Bangkok | The Thaiger

Despite a quickly changing business environment for the world hospitality industry, some companies are accelerating expansion plans in anticipation of the eventual recovery.

Kew Green Hotels, one of the UK’s leading hotel management companies with over 55 hotels in its portfolio, has now announced plans to expand into the south east Asian market through a joint venture with Siamese Asset. The new entity, Siamese and Kew Green Management Company Thailand, are launching 7 properties in Bangkok, 4 under the Wyndham Hotels & Resorts brand. Alongside the launch of these 7 properties, Kew Green Hotels will also be launching a Commercial Hub for south east Asia to support the region, based in Bangkok.

Siamese and Kew Green Management Company Thailand will launch 4 hotel and branded residences in the heart of Bangkok next year…

The Wyndham Queen Convention Centre, Wyndham Garden Sukhumvit 42, Ramada Plaza by Wyndham Sukhumvit 48 and Ramada by Wyndham Sukhumvit 87, with an additional three properties in the pipeline. Guests staying at each of the Wyndham Hotels & Resorts will have access to Wyndham Rewards, the global hotel loyalty rewards program.

Kew Green Hotels set themselves apart by “combining years of experience with innovative ideas to deliver outstanding hotel services and by delivering exceptional returns for hotel owners. Combining market-leading technology with expert talent, the Commercial Hub will integrate proactive and reactive sales, marketing, analytics and revenue management, to support their increasing hotel portfolio in the region, providing a consolidated approach to deliver growth”.

Chris Dexter, CEO of Kew Green Hotels, says they look forward to delivering “world-renowned Thai hospitality in these seven properties, supported by our state-of-the-art commercial hub”.

“As a growing company, this milestone reflects Kew Green Hotels’ broadening expertise in the international hotel market and reputation for operational excellence, strong commercial awareness and industry leading profit delivery.”

The Wyndham Queen Convention Centre Hotel & Residences, with 120 rooms and suites, is conveniently located just 50m from Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre MRT station, yet close to the greenery of Benjakitti and Lumpini parks. The hotel and residences offer panoramic views of the city, the bustling Port of Bangkok and outstanding surroundings. Amenities include rooftop gardens, a sky lounge, infinity pool, restaurant, executive lounge and an expansive fitness room, all with spectacular panoramic cityscape views. The hotel is just five minutes from contemporary shopping centres within the vibrant Central Business District of Bangkok.

Wyndham Garden Sukhumvit 42 sits in the heart of Ekkamai, known for its lively collection of popular cafés, bars and restaurants and just 300m from Ekkamai BTS station and five minutes from the Ramindra-Art-Narong Expressway. The hotel offers 120 rooms with city views, a roof-top garden, a restaurant, a Kafeology coffee bar on the terrace, swimming pool, spa and gym.

Ramada Plaza by Wyndham Sukhumvit 48 offers 100 rooms together with a sky bar, restaurant, bar lounge and spa with far reaching views across the city plus a swimming pool and gardens. The hotel is less than 10 minutes’ walk from Phra Khanong BTS station with easy connectivity to world-class shopping, dining and nightlife.

Ramada by Wyndham Sukhumvit 87 is located between BTS Bang Chak and BTS Onnut at 430m and 550m respectively, with convenient access to shopping malls and entertainment in the Ekkamai area. With 85 rooms, the hotel offers a dedicated yoga room and roof-top gardens, a swimming pool, garden and Kafeology coffee bar.

UK’s Kew Green Hotels launches 7 properties in Bangkok | News by The Thaiger

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Trump announces withdrawal from WHO over China claims

Jack Burton

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Trump announces withdrawal from WHO over China claims | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Al Jazeera

The UN has announced that the US is leaving the World Health Organisation effective July 6, 2021, after official notice from US President Donald Trump, who has been sharply critical of the agency’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. He had accused the WHO of being “a puppet of China”. The WHO has denied assertions by President Trump that it promoted Chinese “disinformation” about the virus.

Trump announced the decision over a month ago, and by law, must give a year’s notice of withdrawal from the Geneva-based body as well as pay all Washington’s dues under a 1948 joint resolution of the US Congress. The US currently owes more than US$200 million in assessed contributions, according to the WHO website. After more than 70 years of membership, and as the organisation’s main sponsor, the US is quitting the WHO amid rising tensions with China over the coronavirus pandemic. The virus first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.

US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi called Trump’s official withdrawal “an act of true senselessness as WHO coordinates the global fight against Covid-19.”

“With millions of lives at risk, the President is crippling the international effort to defeat the virus.”

The number of cases worldwide is rapidly approaching 12 million, with more than 546,000 known deaths worldwide, with about 25% of both cases and deaths in the US. Trump’s decision could be overturned if he is defeated by his Democratic rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, in the November general election.

Trump stopped funding for the 194-member organisation in April, then in a May letter gave the WHO 30 days to commit to reforms. Less than 2 weeks later he announced the United States would leave the organization.

Vice President Mike Pence, was asked in a Fox News Channel interview, whether it was the right time to break with the WHO.

“It’s absolutely the right time.”

“The World Health Organisation let the world down… There have to be consequences to this.”

The WHO is an independent international body that works with the United Nations. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said that the WHO is “absolutely critical to the world’s efforts to win the war against Covid-19.”

Since taking office in January 2017, President Trump has quit the UN Human Rights Council, the UN cultural agency, a global accord to tackle climate change and the Iran nuclear deal. He has also cut funding for the UN population fund and the UN agency that provides aid for Palestinian refugees.

SOURCE: Reuters

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