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Canadians held in China caught in political battle, son says

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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

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

Canadians held in China caught in political battle, son says
Reuters / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: The son of a Canadian couple detained in China over spying allegations said on Tuesday his parents did not attempt to obtain military secrets and have been caught instead by the increasingly tense relations between Ottawa and Beijing.

Simeon Garratt also said his parents, who have lived in China for 30 years, did not try to convert local Chinese to Christianity or send missionaries or converts into North Korea.

Garratt said the arrest of his parents, Kevin Garratt, 54, and Julia Dawn Garratt, 53, is “pretty absurd,” because they have lived as open Christians in China for years without any trouble. The parents have run a coffee shop in Dandong, near the North Korea border, since 2008.

“I think there is some sort of political play going on here and my parents happen to be caught in the middle of it,” said Garratt, 27, looking tired and red-eyed outside his apartment in Vancouver. “They just happen to be Christian people who have an affinity for China and North Korea.”

The official Xinhua news agency said the State Security Bureau of Dandong city in northeast Liaoning province was investigating the Garratts, adding that the case involves the stealing of state secrets.

The investigation into the Garratts comes a week after Canada took the unusual step of singling out Chinese hackers for attacking a key computer network and lodged a protest with Beijing.

Simeon Garratt said his parents and brother, Peter Garratt, who also lives in Dandong, have had no past problems with authorities in China and regularly deal with the government to renew their visas and file official paperwork.

“My mom does some teaching at the university there, and through that they do what are called ‘English corners’ every Friday at the coffee shop where hundreds of Chinese locals come out and learn about North America,” he said.

The Garratts have four children, including Simeon, who grew up in China but returned to live in Canada in 2010. He said his brother, Peter, has met with authorities in Dandong.

“I think (Peter) is fine, I’ve talked to him quite a bit,” Simeon Garratt said. “He went in and talked to the Chinese authorities, who are letting him know that my parents are being detained, held in an undisclosed location, and he should make sure he gets rest and sleep and try not to worry too much.”

TRAVEL TO NORTH KOREA

His father, Kevin, started a human rights nongovernmental organization to do aid work inside North Korea, and travels there regularly, Simeon Garratt said.

In an audio file posted on the website of the Canada-based Terra Nova Church, Kevin Garratt said he ran a prayer and training facility outside Dandong that was frequented by North Koreans, many of whom converted to Christianity before re-entering their isolated country.

Those claims, which could not be independently verified by Reuters, were likely to cause consternation in North Korea, a secretive country where religion is banned and proselytising is severely punished.

Simeon Garratt said he knew nothing about the audio file, dated Nov. 3, 2013, and which has since been removed from the Terra Nova website, along with all sermons. He said his father had been in Vancouver last November.

“The human aid work – obviously, Christian nature may play into that a bit. But it is not directly a Christian thing that they are doing,” he said. “They are just sending in 100 or 200 tons of oil, or grain and rice, small ovens, things that people can use.

“There are hundreds and thousands of people that are starving, dying, in North Korea and that is just one thing where they are trying to do their part.”

Simeon Garratt said Canadian officials in Ottawa and Beijing are trying to make contact with the couple but have warned that a resolution may take weeks or months.

China’s state secrets law is notoriously broad, covering everything from industry data to the exact birth dates of state leaders. Information can also be labelled a state secret retroactively. In severe cases, the theft of state secrets is punishable with life in prison or the death penalty.

“I’m definitely worried – more about the time frame of how long these kind of things can get dragged out, and the situation that may parents are in, than (about) the actual allegations,” Simeon Garratt said.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Drugs

Burmese man busted with 20 kilograms of kratom

The Thaiger

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Burmese man busted with 20 kilograms of kratom | The Thaiger

A Myanmar man has been busted with 20 kilograms of kratom after he illegally crossed a natural border into Thailand in the southern Muang district in Prachuap Khiri Khan. Border patrol police and administrative officials were patrolling Ban Hup Phueng, a village near the natural pass on the Myanmar border, when they noticed a man walking with a shoulder bag.

45 year old San Nyunt was then arrested after police found his shoulder bag containing the kratom leaves. Kratom, is a mild narcotic, which has been categorised as an illegal drug in Thailand. San was then charged with illegal entry and possession of illicit drugs.

Such arrests of illegal border crossing have been more prevalent in recent months as the province has stepped up surveillance of the border due to the Covid-10 pandemic.

Source: Bangkok Post

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Thailand

The Pattaya to Hua Hin bridge. Government discusses 900 billion baht investment.

Caitlin Ashworth

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The Pattaya to Hua Hin bridge. Government discusses 900 billion baht investment. | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Thai Post

The government is looking into a so-called “Thai Bridge” that would connect Pattaya to Hua Hin, an estimated 900 billion baht investment. The project would be part of the Eastern Economic Corridor development plan aimed at improving the transportation and infrastructure in Thailand.

The 900 billion baht investment is expected to take 10 years to financially implement, according to chairperson of the government’s committee for the Mobilisation of Economic Management Measures, Pailin Chuchottaworn. The Centre for Economic Situation Administration has approved the investment project to move forward with a pre-feasibility study by the EEC’s policy committee.

“We have to admit that 900 billion baht is a huge amount of money, but it is reasonable when considering its final results. It is also cheaper than some other mega projects that are currently being accelerated. We also planned to hire local Thai people and buy local materials for the construction to reduce the cost as well.”

The bridge would join other mega-projects by the EEC like a high speed rail that will link the major airports in Bangkok… Don Mueang Airport, Suvarnabhumi Airport and U-Tapao Airport (south of Pattaya). The train is expected to travel at 250 kilometres per hour. Another project is the renovation and extension of the U-Tapao International Airport. The EEC says the project will bring in 60 million passengers a year and is expected to be in operation by 2024.

The Pattaya to Hua Hin bridge. Government discusses 900 billion baht investment. | News by The Thaiger

The 80 to 100 kilometre bridge will most likely connect Pattaya to Hua Hin (likely to be just south of Pattaya in Sattahip), but also connect many provinces in the South. The bridge would likely increase tourism in Hua Hin. Pattaya draws in a larger crowd than Hua Hin with 10 times more tourists than the southern district, Pailin says.

The bridge will also need to allow shipping to traverse the Gulf of Thailand to Laem Chabang in Chon Buri.

“In truth, the tourists want to travel to both cities but they choose Pattaya first partly because Chon Buri has more attractions and more convenient transportation options. Many projects are also being built in Chonburi and the EEC in the coming future, such as a three-airport monorail and a city monorail which will potentially attract more travelers to the area, while none of the projects in the other tourist cities in the Gulf of Thailand were discussed.”

SOURCES: Pattaya News | EEC

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Weather

8,000 homes inundated in Nakhon Ratchasima after 2 days of torrential rain

The Thaiger

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8,000 homes inundated in Nakhon Ratchasima after 2 days of torrential rain | The Thaiger

The Thai PM Prayut Chan-o-cha is urging emergency services and the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation in the Pak Chong district of Nakhon Ratchasima, in Thailand’s north east, to urgently attend to the suffering of the region’s flood victims. Flooding has cut electricity and water supplies to several areas around the district.

8,000+ houses have been flooded after the overflowing Lam Takong River inundated nearby farming and residential communities. The flooding follows days of heavy rain, especially in the Khao Yai mountainous area, in the province’s south west.

Nakhon Ratchasima Governor Vichien Chanthanothai has attended the region’s worst hit areas today to distribute relief supplies, lunch boxes and survival kits to flood victims. Most have stayed in their flooded homes with family and to protect their property.

“It will take another day for flood waters to recede and the situation will gradually return to normal.”

But Thailand’s Royal Irrigation Department reports that the recent rains in Pak Chong have been an enormous help to the Lam Phra Ploeng and Khun Dan Prakanchon dams, which were almost empty earlier this year.

• Lam Phra Ploeng reservoir is now 93% full, with 145 million cubic metres of water

• Khun Dan Prakanchon reservoir is 96% full, with 216 million cubic metres of water

In Phetchaburi, south of Bangkok, more than 400 homes in the Nong Ya Plong district, north of the province, along with the Petkasem highway near the main Cha-am intersection, were flooded earlier today after 2 days of heavy rain in the province. Flood waters, in areas north west of Hua Hin, have now receded after train tracks through parts of Phetchaburi were inundated under 10 cm of floodwater earlier today.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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