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Kra Canal – the 28 Billion Baht shortcut

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By Jintana Panyaarvudh

Despite a history going back three centuries, the highly controversial and politically sensitive proposed Kra Canal mega-project in southern Thailand is once again up for debate. At a forum held yesterday by Rangsit University entitled the “Stakeholders in Kra Canal@Klong Thai”, national security and the canal’s impact on tourism were among the main issues of concern as experts made their cases for and against the project.

The Kra Canal project would cut a canal through the Malay Peninsula to allow east-west passage of ships from the South China Sea to the Indian Ocean without having to detour all the way south around Singapore island at the bottom of the Peninsula.

The forum urged the government to set up a national committee to conduct a feasibility study on all concerned aspects of the “New Gateway to Maritime Silk Road” project.

General Pongthep Thesprateep, chairman of Thai Canal Association (TCA) – a group of influential former top brass soldiers advocating the project – called on the government to set up a national committee that can help reach a decisive conclusion on the long-envisioned channel that would run through the country’s southern isthmus.

Kra Canal - the 28 Billion Baht shortcut | News by The Thaiger

“The project has both pros and cons, so if the committee concludes that the canal would benefit the country it should be pursued, otherwise the proposed project can be scrapped,” Pongthep said, referring to many discussions about the project in Thai society for more than a century that had led to no clear decision.

According to a study by TCA, he said the canal would benefit the country as it would connect the Indian and Pacific oceans and dramatically shorten East-West shipping routes. The TCA study claims that 65 per cent of people in the South, which will be affected by the project, were agreeable to it.

Anek Laothamatas, the Political Reform Committee chairman who was introduced at the forum as an expert on the route proposal for the canal, said that in ancient times people travelled by sea hence he thought Thailand needed to exercise its “sea power”, as the Kingdom has an advantage in geo-politics. Thailand is among a few countries that benefits from its location between two oceans – Pacific and Indian – while China, a country 20 times bigger than Thailand, has access to only one ocean, Anek said.

“It’s not a big deal or a new matter. We should not be afraid. We should be brave [to make a decision]. Our country has developed to this stage because we are linked to the sea. We should not see it as an obstruction but a linkage with others,” he said.

Samart Ratchapolsitte, former Bangkok deputy governor and ex-Democrat MP, suggested that the government treat the project as state policy and initiate a Southern Economic Corridor similar to its Eastern Economic Corridor initiative. Samart supported the setting up of a national committee to study the project as he was concerned about the worthiness of the project or how many cargo ships would use the new route, as compared to the existing routes.

An opponent of the canal project, Admiral Jumpol Loompikanon, a deputy permanent secretary at the Defence Ministry, said the country needed to balance geo-politics and geo-economics. Jumpol, a Royal Thai Navy spokesman and a member of the marine and coastal resources strategy panel, added that judging from the past he was worried about disputes arising between super powers and neighbouring countries. He cited the conflict over the Spratly Islands between China and the Philippines. He said it was difficult for security agencies to decide whether to pursue the project because more comprehensive information was still needed.

Thon Thamrongnawasawat, the deputy dean of the fisheries faculty at Kasetsart University, raised concerns over the impact on tourism and environment if a canal was dug as proposed. The proposed route will pass some tourist attractions in the South, including Phuket and Krabi. The tourism industry generates around 3 trillion baht for the country annually and is ranked number three in the world, according to a report of the World Tourism Organisation, he said. Torn did not express an opinion on the project but cautioned about the dangers to tourism and the environment, citing the oil spill in the Gulf of Thailand, off the coast of Koh Samet and Map Ta Phut in Rayong Province in 2013.

“What is the risk management going to be like? The proposed canal route would run past tourist areas in the Andaman Sea that generate about 40 per cent or almost 2 trillion baht of the total revenue from the tourism industry,” he added.

Former Second Army commander Lt-General Tawatchai Samutsakorn, who supported the idea of setting up a committee to study the project, said PM General Prayut Chan-o-cha had told him that the premier would not be in power long enough to pursue the project.

“Prayut told me that the right time [for the project] has yet to come,” Tawatchai, a former classmate of Prayut, told the forum. However, Tawatchai believes any political party campaigning for the proposed man-made waterway, which will link the Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean, could win at least 10,000 votes from voters in each of the southern provinces in the next election.

Tawatchai claimed that former prime minister and chief adviser of the Democrat Party, Chuan Leekpai, whose political stronghold lies in the South, supported the project and said if the country delays making progress, it would lag behind other countries.

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Protests

More protest rallies today and tomorrow around Bangkok

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More protest rallies today and tomorrow around Bangkok | The Thaiger

If you think the current spate of rallies are ruling out of steam, think again. Yesterday’s large protest around the Lat Phrao intersection on Phahon Yothin Road was just the first of 3 days of planned protests around Bangkok and Samut Prakan. Protesters yesterday described their action as an “anti-coup drill”, claiming that the coup “chatter” continued and that they would strenuously protest against another Army-led action against Thai citizens.

The yellow ducks and a few other inflatable animals were again taking front stage in a rally that was described more like a picnic than a political demonstration.

Today’s rally will start at the Imperial World Samrong shopping centre, south of central Bangkok, and march to Bang Na intersection.

Then tomorrow protesters plan to hold another rally in front of the . Imperial World Samrong shopping centre.

A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police says there will be up to 500 crowd control police attending to each of the protests, adding that the rallies had been given formal permission to go ahead and police will be ensuring that no laws are broken.

The government has come under a barrage of criticism from NGOs and rights groups about some of the heavy-handed responses and baiting at rallies to “create” the appearance of conflict. Yesterday the Foreign Ministry issued a statement via their spokesperson, Tanee Sangrat in response to the criticism.

13 international organisations – including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Asia Democracy Network, and the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development – have made official submissions about the response from police and handling of the rival protest groups, which resulted in the shooting of 6 people and other protesters injured by the high power water cannons and tear gas deployed by riot police..

The Ministry spokesman maintained that Thailand had “upheld the rule of law and respected the judicial process with transparency. In handling recent protests, the authorities have enforced the law in line with international standards, with the appropriate response to the situation.”

The spokesperson said that participants in the November 17 outside the Thai Parliament broke through concrete barricades and tried to reach an “off-limits area”, forcing police to take action to bring the situation under control. Protesters told police that they wanted to get to the front of the parliament buildings to protest the debates that were being conducted inside.

“The operation was proportional to the situation and was not excessive. Those who want to exercise their right to assemble must follow the law and consider the safety of others.”

Organisers of yesterday afternoon’s rally, the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration, called the rally “an anti-coup drill”.

“Undeniably, speculation about a coup has been rife. It should not happen. But history teaches us that we cannot trust. Therefore, all are welcome for a drill to cope with another possible coup”.

Current Thai PM Prayut Chan-o-cha, as head of the Thai Army before the May 2014 coup, maintained that the army would not intervene and oust the Yingluck Shinawatra government.

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Chon Buri

Monk found hanged at Chon Buri temple in apparent suicide

Maya Taylor

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Monk found hanged at Chon Buri temple in apparent suicide | The Thaiger
PHOTO: MGR Online

A 68 year old monk has been found hanged at a temple in the eastern province of Chon Buri, in an apparent suicide. The Pattaya News reports that police and rescue workers were called to a temple in the sub-district of Baan Suan at around 7.30am yesterday. The body of the dead man was found hanging near the monk’s housing quarters.

It’s understood there were no signs of a struggle and, in a letter allegedly written by the monk, he said he wanted to die. Other monks and nuns at the temple say they don’t know why he might have killed himself, adding that he had no problems or health concerns that they were aware of.

His death comes just days after a monk in the north-east of the country died after jumping in front of a speeding train.

If you or anyone you know is in emotional distress, please contact the Samaritans of Thailand 24-hour hotline: 02 713 6791 (English), 02 713 6793 (Thai) or the Thai Mental Health Hotline at 1323 (Thai).

SOURCE: The Pattaya News

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Protests

Shooter from Bangkok SCB protest surrenders to police

Maya Taylor

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Shooter from Bangkok SCB protest surrenders to police | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Facebook / Free Youth Movement

A man accused of shooting at anti-government protesters at a rally in Bangkok on Wednesday has admitted the charge and surrendered to police. Peerawut Kunamonkan delivered his 25 year old son, Passapong, to police at Phaholyothin station in the capital yesterday. He faces charges of attempted murder, shooting in public, and illegally carrying a gun and ammunition.

According to a Nation Thailand report, Passapong is accused of shooting 20 year old Prachakorn Saksritao, a former student of Pathumthani Technical College, but claims he did it for personal, not political, reasons. It’s understood Prachakorn was at the rally as a member of the protesters’ security team. The shooting took place as activists were dispersing at the end of a rally at the headquarters of the Siam Commercial Bank.

The accused, a former student at Min Buri Polytechnic Technology College in Bangkok, says he was reacting to sarcastic social media posts from Prachakorn. The posts were made after Passapong and the group he was with voiced their disapproval of activists insulting the Monarchy. Passapong is taking full responsibility for the shooting, saying nobody paid him to do it and that he will pay for the victim’s medical treatment.

Following speculation on social media that the shooting was carried out by a yellow-shirt royalist, Thanadech Srisongkram, from the Minburi vocational student guards, has denied the claims. He says the shooting had nothing to do with the protests or the Monarchy, adding that his group is not affiliated with any particular political group. He says he has apologised to the security detail from Pathumthani Technical College, promising that such an incident will not happen again.

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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