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Phuket tram project seeks private sector investment

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(The term ‘tram’ and ‘light rail’ are variously used to describe the new public transport project for Phuket.)

The Mass Rapid Transit Authority of Thailand (MRTA) is now inviting the private sector and local administrative bodies to get behind and invest in a mass-transit project in Phuket. The project is valued around 35 billion baht. The next rounds of talks and presentations are being held in Bangkok this Friday.

The main feature is a new 58.5 kilometre long light rail service valued at 34.8 billion baht. The tram route plans to run from Tha Noon in Phang Nga province, across Sarasin Bridge onto Phuket, past the airport, through Phuket Town on the east coast and then finishing at Chalong’s main intersection near the Chalong Circle.

The Phuket tram project has been divided into two phases: a 41.7 kilometre section from Phuket airport to Chalong intersection and a second phase, a 16.8 kilometre stretch from Tha Noon in Phang Nga to Muang Mai at the north end of Phuket, linking to the first phase.

The MRTA will contract the first phase which will have 21 stations. They expect to seek cabinet approval for the project in the middle of this year with construction likely to begin in 2020. They estimate it will be operational by 2023.

At this stage, the MRTA says tram fares will be calculated based on the distance travelled but a maximum fare would not be more than be 100 – 137 baht. This would put the cost of daily use for many local Thais out of reach of their budgets (it costs about 80 baht to fill an average 110cc scooter which would last most of the week).

Phuket tram project seeks private sector investment | News by The Thaiger

An earlier rendering of the proposed route and stops for the Phuket Light Rail/Tram

Critics say the tram stops avoid most of the tourist hot spots along the west coast of the island and features on locals living along the main Thepkasattri truck route from Thalang to Phuket Town and then Chao Fah east to Chalong.

They also don’t believe that Thai users are likely to give up their point-to-point motorcycle transport for a more inconvenient, and expensive, tram that will necessitate them using expensive taxis, buses and motorcycle taxis at either end to get them to their destinations.

Critics also cite the three year construction period, which if following recent major road construction projects, is likely to blow out to four or five years and and the massive disruption of traffic during the construction time. They also believe the loss of road space along the route will restrict local road traffic even more, neutralising the nett gains of the new tram system.

The island’s Governor says Phuket is experiencing rapid growth and that traffic is getting worse, adding that an efficient mass transit system, was urgently needed to accommodate tourists (without explaining how the new light rail/tram would actually assist tourists).

The MRTA is also working on a three-route tram project in Chiang Mai. The red line would be worth 30.4 billion baht and the 11.9 kilometre Green Line would have 10 stations worth 36.2 billion baht. The Blue Line will travel from the Chiang Mai Zoo to Tha Phae-Don Chan.

Phuket tram project seeks private sector investment | News by The Thaiger

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Protests

Human rights lawyer Anon Nampa arrested, flown to Chiang Mai for sedition charges

Caitlin Ashworth

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Human rights lawyer Anon Nampa arrested, flown to Chiang Mai for sedition charges | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Anon Nampa at an event in Chiang Mai - Will Langston

After being arrested in Bangkok early this morning, along with numerous other protesters, human rights lawyer and pro-democracy activist leader Anon Nampa is apparently being flown up to Chiang Mai to face sedition charges for allegedly criticising the Thai Monarchy at a past event in the northern province.

In Bangkok today, at least 20 protesters, who intended to camp out at the Government House for a few days to put pressure on PM Prayut Chan-o-cha to resign, were arrested after the State of Emergency was imposed early this morning.

Following his arrest, Anon wrote on Facebook saying that he had been denied a lawyer, a violation of his human rights. Thisrupt shared the post by Anon saying police had forced him in a helicopter to Chiang Mai and that he fears for his safety.

The activist’s Facebook page was later deactivated. Journalist Andrew MacGregor Marshall posted on Twitter saying the situation is “extremely worrying.”

“The Facebook page of protest leader อานนท์ นำภา aka Anon Nampha has been deactivated. He was arrested earlier today and taken to Chiang Mai. He is denied access to lawyers under the new emergency decree. This is extremely worrying.”

PHOTO ABOVE: With thanks to Will Langston

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai tourism slowdown takes a toll on local businesses

Caitlin Ashworth

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Chiang Mai tourism slowdown takes a toll on local businesses | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Wikimedia Commons

Chiang Mai’s tourism industry has drastically slowed down from the lack of travel due to the affects of the Covid-19 pandemic – the lockdowns and the travel restrictions. Tourists “vanished” during the April lockdown, according to president of the Tourism Association of Chiang Mai, Anantorn Hochindarat. Now, as the chilly, cool season approaches, when the northern province is the most popular for locals, Chiang Mai’s tourism sector is likely to remain “slow”.

The impacts from reaction to the pandemic has effected various people and business groups in Chiang Mai. Only 35% of the hotels have reopened, and those that are open report lower occupancy rates, Anantorn says. Many tourism businesses like spas, souvenir shops and tour agencies remain closed. The drivers of the red trucks, known as songthaews, used to do 3 to 4 round trips per day. Now only 1 trip per day is the average, and that’s with some drivers taking temporary leave.

“Over 1,000 tour guides are unemployed, while dozens of hotels have been put on sale after owners faced a liquidity crisis.”

Last year, Chiang Mai recorded 100 billion baht in revenue from 10.8 million visitors. 70% of the visitors where Thais while the other 30% were foreigners. After domestic travel restrictions were lifted, local travellers were only 20% from the same period last year. There have been travel promotions and events to help boost domestic tourism across Thailand, but some Thai nationals are still hesitant to travel because of health safety concerns.

“As the international market is stalled, if Chiang Mai can simply get the same chunk of the domestic market back within a year, typically 70% of the total, we should be happy enough.”

Apparently the slowdown of international tourists has been happening before the pandemic. After the 2018 Phuket incident where 2 tourists boats capsized in a storm, killing 46 people, tourist confidence was “shattered,” according to the director of Tourism Authority of Thailand’s Chiang Mai office, Pakkanan Winijchai. The Phuket tourist boats were carrying Chinese tourists, and many Chinese lost confidence in Thailand, she says. Chinese visitors make up one-third of overall international arrivals.

For the past 6 months, there has been a ban on international tourists, crippling travel destinations that relied on the foreigners for income. Thailand has been working on a way to get tourists in, but even the new Special Tourist Visa was a bust when authorities said they were preparing for a group of tourists from China to arrive in Phuket, but no one had actually applied for the visa. Even if the scheme does start up soon, Chiang Mai cannot benefit because it does not have any alternative state quarantine facilities to house the tourists for their mandatory 14 day quarantine upon arrival.

SOURCES: Bangkok Post | Wikapedia

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Crime

Chiang Mai woman arrested for allegedly hiring hitman to kill her ex-husband

Caitlin Ashworth

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Chiang Mai woman arrested for allegedly hiring hitman to kill her ex-husband | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Amarin TV

A 63 year old Chiang Mai woman has been arrested for allegedly hiring a hitman to kill her ex-husband because she wanted his life insurance payout. Bualoi Tala is also being investigated for her alleged involvement in other possible murders after a number of people died after being poisoned and Bualoi received payouts from their life insurance policies.

Police say that 58 year old Anan Thongmarn, Bualoi’s ex-husband, was killed last week. His neck and face had been slashed. The alleged hitman, 48 year old Pankaew KhanKaew, has confessed to the murder, according to police. Phone records trace back to Bualoi, and police say they believe the woman hired a hitman to kill her ex-husband so she could claim the death benefit in the insurance policy valued at hundreds of thousands of baht, according to the Nation Thailand.

Bualoi told police she didn’t want her ex-husband to die, she just wanted him to be hurt really bad. She told police she offered PanKaew 40,000 baht to kill her ex-husband was just a “joke,” she just wanted him to maim her husband.

Police are investigating 6 other possible homicide cases where Bualoi was listed as a beneficiary for the deceased mens’ life insurance policies. Police say the victims were all poisoned and Bualoi received life insurance benefits following their deaths.

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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