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Kra Canal – the 28 Billion Baht shortcut

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Kra Canal – the 28 Billion Baht shortcut | The Thaiger
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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.

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

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Not recommended: Smoking marijuana at a police checkpoint

Sean Kelly



Not recommended: Smoking marijuana at a police checkpoint | The Thaiger
PHOTO: The Nation
Most of us approach a police checkpoint with a bit of anxiety and apprehension but sometimes the “sabai sabai” approach makes for a more interesting interaction when you roll down your window.
Last night in Chaiyaphum province, central Thailand, a tattoo-adorned man was stopped at a checkpoint in Kaeng Khro district around 9pm. His behaviour led police to believe he may be under the influence of drugs and the officers decided to question him and submit a field sobriety test – usually described in the police report as ‘acting suspiciously’.
After the interrogation, the police discovered he is 33 year old Mr Montri Thepmongkolkul. The officers checked his temperature to comply with Covid-19 safety protocol when suddenly Montri returned to his vehicle, pulled out a homemade bong and with reckless abandon started smoking marijuana.

Montri demanded that the officers take him to prison while he prepared all the stuff he would need while imprisoned which including a cutting board he uses to separate the seeds and stems from his marijuana (aka. ‘essential items’).

After he was all packed, he sat down in his pick up truck to enjoy some well deserved munchies. Baffled by the boldness, officers complied with his request but it was when officers took him to the police station that reality set in for Montri and he went berserk and had to be contained.

Afterwards, the police found that the alcohol level in his blood exceeded the legal limit and he was formally arrested and his wish was granted.

SOURCE: The Nation 

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Thailand News Today – Tuesday, April 7

The Thaiger



Thailand News Today – Tuesday, April 7 | The Thaiger

New coronavirus cases in Thailand fall to 38, 1 more death

In another dramatic drop in new case numbers, Thailand’s Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration reported only 38 new Covid-19 coronavirus cases in the previous 24 hours, and one additional death.

The cumulative death toll for Thailand now stands at 27.

The 38 new infections appears to show a declining trend from the 51 cases reported yesterday and and the 102 logged on Sunday, but officials warn there is no way to know the actual number of cases and how quickly the virus is spreading because, as is the case worldwide, very few people in Thailand have been tested.

Of the new 38 cases, 17 people were in close contact with previous patients. 11 of them were in Bangkok and contracted the disease from family members, colleagues and friends. 7 new patients worked in crowded areas or closely with foreigners: 

Other new cases included 3 health workers, 3 visitors to crowded places and 3 Thais who returned from overseas. 5 cases are still under investigation.

Surat Thani village headman kills monk and his assistant

Avillage headman in Surat Thani has been arrested after allegedly killing a monk and his assistant near the entrance to Khao Phela monastery. 

Police arrived at the scene at 2am where they found a pickup loaded with torches, fuel and coconut husks. A 48 year old man was lying dead on the back of the vehicle with a gunshot wound to his neck.

10 metres away was the dead body of a 49 year old monk lying on the ground. He had two gunshot wounds, one in the back of his head and the other in his chest.

A .32 handgun was found near his body.

55 year old Manop Kopin, the headman of a village in tambon Samor Thong, was waiting for authorities and surrendered himself. Police are continuing the investigation.

Indonesian cases spike, 24 doctors have now died

The Indonesian archipelago has announced its highest daily increase in Covid-19 coronavirus cases. There has also been a concerning rise in the deaths of doctors and health workers at the frontline of the national fight against the disease. Statistics have doubled in the last week.

The 209 confirmed deaths is the highest death rate and number of fatalities in Asia, outside of China. 

A spokesman for the Indonesian Doctors Association, also confirmed that 24 Indonesian doctors have now died from Covid-19 causing regional medical authorities to fear that the real rate of Covid-19 infections in Indonesia is much higher than reported.

CAUTION: Sterilising machines unsafe for humans

Thailand’s Food and Drug Administration deputy secretary-general says that The World Health Oraganisation is encouraging people not to use any Covid-19 “sterilising machine services”, including UV and spray tunnels.

He says they are harmful to the skin and exposure to the radiation or chemicals may even cause cancer.

“Most of the antiseptic used in the spray tunnels are those allowed for sterilising surfaces of various materials, but not for human skin. 

Don Mueang Airport uses hiatus to upgrade

Bangkok’s Don Mueang international airport is turning the Covid-19 crisis into an opportunity to do a make-over whilst there is virtually no one in the terminal.

The coronavirus outbreak has forced the suspension of domestic and international flights, grinding air traffic into and out of Don Mueang airport to a complete halt.

So the airport is pushing ahead with a refurb costing 126 million baht.

There are three projects – a 99 million baht improvement of the air-conditioning system, a re-carpeting of most of the terminal priced at 18 million baht, and a nine million baht switch to LED lights to save energy.

Don Mueang is the country’s second busiest airport, after Suvarnabhumi. A plan is also afoot to expand Don Mueang largely served by budget carriers.

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Police hunt Burmese man accused of killing Chon Buri boy

Greeley Pulitzer



Police hunt Burmese man accused of killing Chon Buri boy | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Chiang Rai Times

Police in Chon Buri have launched a manhunt for a Burmese worker who is a suspect in the murder of an 11 year old boy. The boy’s body was found in a cassava farm in the province’s Sri Racha district on Sunday.

Police believe the 49 year old Burmese national known only as “Wan,” may still be hiding in Chon Buri.

The search was launched after the boy’s mother, known as “Malika,” told police that Wan had recently threatened to harm her and her son.

She told police that Wan had been dating her 62 year old mother for more than 10 years, but their relationship turned sour 2 months ago. After seeing Wan beat up her mother, she told her to leave him. When Wan found out, he threatened to hurt her and her son.

Police raided the suspect’s home but found only his ID documents. So police believe that he may still be hiding somewhere in the province. Nevertheless, police have alerted immigration authorities that the suspect may try to cross the border to Myanmar.

SOURCES: Bangkok Post | 77kaoded

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