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Service-minded sailors to shore up

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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PHUKET: As the end of May draws near, the crews of the USS Nimitz, a prominent American Navy supercarrier, along with the USS Princeton, a Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser, are set to moor off Phuket for three days of shore leave – but it’s not just leisurely R&R that the crews have their sights on.

Faithful crew, male and female, will once again be making a positive impact on Phuket and the surrounding region through a handful of community service projects (COMSERV) organized by the Navy League of Phuket (NLP).

To ensure that such projects break ground smoothly, the NLP – officially known as the Thailand Southern Seaboard Council, and a division of the Navy League of the United States – has joined forces with the Rotary Club of Patong Beach, the Lions Club of Patong Beach and the Glenn Defense Marine Group, the husbanding contractor for the US Navy in Thailand.

Adding to the 109 COMSERVE projects that have previously been completed on, off, and around the island, the upcoming supercarrier visit will see 13 more projects carried out at various locations.

Highlighting the nature of the COMSERVE efforts, the following are details about two ongoing model projects.

River erosion control and land recovery @ orphanage

Just across the Sarasin bridge, north of Phuket island in Phang Nga province’s Tai Muang district, is the Home & Life Orphanage, the humble abode of a wonderful family unit comprising 26 children, orphaned as a result of the devastating 2004 tsunami, and four gracious caretakers.

On the premises of the orphanage are several buildings, including dorms, an office, bakery, and coffee shop. The property is beside a river that had eroded the land, making it unfit for use, while the integrity of the bakery and several other buildings has also been threatened.

Over the past year, the river bank has been shored-up a bit thanks to generous donations from the Rotary Club of Patong Beach, in addition to the dedicated service of US Navy and Marine volunteers partaking in a series of COMSERV initiatives. This ongoing effort has been fueled by the hard work of members of the USS Comstock (LSD-45), USS Green Bay (LPD-20), USS Kidd (DDG 100), and the USS Ford (FFG 54), as well as volunteers from the Royal Thai Navy from the nearby Thai Navy Region 3’s Phang Nga Naval Base.

The next and current phase is to recover and backfill some of the degraded land so that a playground can be built in the near future. This job will utilize about 40 volunteers, 15 to 25 of whom will be dispatched from the US Navy, along with another 15-20 volunteers from the Royal Thai Navy.

In preparation, top soil has been delivered to the site using a small tractor. The first day will commence with hard labor to backfill the area behind the latest row of gabion cages already in place. On the second day, the volunteers will install another row of gabion cages, which will be filled with heavy rocks. Then, on the final day, the area behind the new row of gabion cages will be backfilled with soil to recover the land, which will be the site of a playground to be built at a future date.

Maintence jobs @ migrant workers’ children’s school

The Bang Jo Learning Center is a school for migrant workers’ children in Cherng Talay, Phuket, that was set up in 2010 by the Rghmonya Labour Union’s
Operation Learning Projects Center, which is based in nearby Ranong province.

Legal Burmese migrant worker families living in construction worker camps in Bang Jo and other Thalang areas requested that a Burmese Learning Center be built so their children could receive education equivalent to what they would receive in their home country, Myanmar.

The children are taught Math, Social Studies, Dance, History, Science, English, Burmese and Thai – reading and writing. The school began with thirty students and two teachers, but is now growing to accommodate sixty children and three teachers.

The school is currently run and supported by the Good Shepard Phuket, which is part of the Good Shepard Sisters Thailand. A major part of this foundation’s objective is to empower the students to be productive members of society when they return to their home country.

There are many small projects at the Bang Jo Learning Center which will be accomplished over three days. These include:

• Repairs to the school’s basic electrical system. Thai electricians will do some wiring for safety, while volunteers will install four wall fans.

• Installation of new playground equipment. This needs to be assembled and installed after the playground is cleaned of rubble. The equipment includes a small trampoline.

• Fitting of locks and latches to classroom doors for better security.

• Tiling of two playrooms, which will be completed in collaboration with local Thai masons.

• Painting of the outside of the building’s walls with another coat of paint.

• Playing and interfacing with the 60 children, possibly teaching them some basic English.

• Numerous other clean-up and small painting jobs if time permits.

For more information and inquires on how to contribute, volunteer or become a sponsor of COMSERVE initiatives, contact Brad Kenny, Charter Member and COMSERV Coordinator, US Navy League, Thailand Southern Seaboard Council, on 081-633 4279 in Thailand, or, from outside of Thailand, on +|66 81-633 4279; email: esppkt@ksc.th.com.

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Thailand

Covid tourism standstill gives Thailand’s southern sea gypsies a break

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Covid tourism standstill gives Thailand’s southern sea gypsies a break | The Thaiger

Phuket’s sea gypsy communities are getting a much needed break after the Covid tourism standstill have their traditions a break from the tourism onslaught. 42 year old Sanan Changham says now there is an abundance of fish and shellfish to eat. Tourist boats have been docked at the quay, making fishing easier for the Chao Lay, or “people of the sea.“

“We don’t dive as deep as before, so it’s less dangerous.“

More than 9 million visitors came to Phuket in 2019, impacting the sea gypsies and their way of life, mostly located at the southern end of the island. The booming tourism brought a decline in fish stocks, decreasing fishing grounds and loud construction of hotels. And the traffic. Such hotels signal an even bigger threat to the 1,200 Chao Lay in Rawai, as property developers have tried to evict them from their ancestral strip of land that faces the sea.

Ngim Damrongkaset, a Rawai community representative, says he hopes the area where developers have taken a stake is abandoned.

“They want to drive us out of our homes, but also to deny us access to the sea.”

For the Chao Lay people, the fight to keep their land has been unequal as most are illiterate and were unaware of the fact that they could register their land, but the government is trying to help them. One way for authorities to buy the land and entrust it to them.

Narumon Arunotai, an anthropologist at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University, says the government must seize the opportunity provided by the pandemic to rethink their vision on Chao Lay.

“Covid is an opportunity to change mentalities. Mass tourism in Phuket has been a catastrophe for the sea gypsies.“

The land in Rawai was originally claimed by Indonesian ancestors of Sanan, before the island became flooded with international travellers. But since tourism has become more profitable, authorities have cracked down on the sea gypsies unless they are sailing in protected marine reserves.

“Before, we risked being arrested by a patrol or having our boats confiscated.“

For the animist Chao Lay the beach is a vital space where they keep their colourful wooden boats and where they pray and give thanks to their ancestors. But not only their unique cultural heritage has helped them navigate the waters.

The Chao Lay people are experts at detecting any abnormalities in the water, as such they were able to escape before the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami hit, while saving loads of tourists. Furthermore, Children of the Moken have 50% better visual acuity in the water than their European counterparts, according to a 2003 study.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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Top 10

Top 10 English-language movies made in Thailand

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Top 10 English-language movies made in Thailand | The Thaiger
PHOTO: tntdrama - Hangover 11 (2011)

Thailand is active in attracting foreign movie makers to the Land of Smiles, and has been for decades. Many well known movies have been either partially or totally filmed in Thailand. From ‘The Killing Fields’ to ‘Around the World in 80 Days’. Here is our list of the Top 10 English-language movies that were at least partly made in Thailand. There’s also some excellent Thai-language films made in Thailand in one of the most prolific film industries in the world. But that’s a list for another day. Lights, camera, ACTION… Su su!

The Railway Man (2013)

A Colin Firth movie made partly in Thailand (also ‘Bridget Jones – The Edge of Reason’, 2004), ‘The Railway Man’ is a 2013 British–Australian war film directed by Jonathan Teplitzky. The movie also starred Nicole Kidman, Jeremy Irvine, and Stellan Skarsgård. The movie follows a tortured soul and his traumas as an ex-POW who was interred and tortured by Japanese troops in camps around the Thai Burmese border. He returns later in life to Thailand confront his demons.

From ‘The Telegraph’… “One of the most striking things about the terrain through which the “Death Railway” linking Thailand to Burma passed, is its extraordinary beauty. Much of the scenery is classically south-east Asian: lush and tropical, fringed with rugged, mountainous mystery. It is the stuff of travellers’ dreams. But as ‘The Railway Man’, the latest film to throw light on one of history’s darker chapters reveals, it is also the stuff of nightmares”.

The Hangover II (2011)

Hardly high art but a successful sequel to the original ‘Hangover’ starring Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Ken Jeong. The film was filmed almost entirely in Bangkok and around Phang Nga Bay including Phulay Bay, A Ritz-Carlton in Krabi. The film gives you the impression that you turn left in Bangkok, travel an hour or so, and arrive in Phang Nga Bay. Also the unlikely situation where you jump on a speedboat in Bangkok and arrive in Krabi on one tank of fuel! The reality is you would have to travel all the way south, around Singapore and then north through the Malaca Straits, a journey of three or four days.

The plot… well, anything and everything goes wrong! Tattoos, ladyboys, drugs, kidnapping, car chases, fingers chopped off. That’s about it.

In 2011 an Australian stuntman who was injured whilst filming in Bangkok sued Warner Bros. The case was settled out of court for an undisclosed sum. The film had a budget of US$80 million but returned nearly $600 million.

Good Morning Vietnam (1987)

‘Good Morning, Vietnam’ is a 1987 American military comedy-drama film written by Mitch Markowitz and directed by Barry Levinson. The movie is set in Saigon in 1965, during the Vietnam War. The movie was a major star-vehicle for Robin Williams as radio DJ Adrian Cronauer on Armed Forces Radio Service.

Plot, briefly… man becomes DJ on official military radio station in Saigon. DJ is widely popular with the US troops but very unpopular with some of the military bosses. Man meets woman, man falls for woman, woman’s brother is a Viet Cong pimp.

The film is famous for Williams’ radio broadcast scenes which were largely improvised. It was a critical and commercial success; for his work in the film, Williams won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor. ‘Good Morning, Vietnam’ was one of the most successful films of the year, becoming the fourth highest-grossing film of 1987.

The film was shot almost entirely in Bangkok.

Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) and Man with the Golden Gun (1974)

We throw these two Bond films into the same posting but extensive sequences in both were filmed in and around Phang Nga Bay in Southern Thailand. Ko Tapu, a limestone monolith standing all by itself, has become a major tourist attraction in the Bay and has even been renamed James Bond Island in honour of it’s backdrop performance in the Roger Moore ‘Man with the Golden Gun’. Probably one of the most boring of the Bond franchises but, hey, it spawned a whole new tourism attraction for the region!

‘Tomorrow Never Dies’ was the 18th James Bond film, this time with Pierce Brosnan with a license to kill. The Ho Chi Minh City scenes were shot in Bangkok and Phang Nga Bay, pretending it was some other asian location.

Heaven and Earth (1993)

Heaven & Earth is a 1993 American biographical war drama film written and directed by Oliver Stone and featuring a stellar cast including cranky Tommy Lee Jones, Haing S. Ngor, Joan Chen and Hiep Thi Le.

It is the third and final film in Stone’s Vietnam War trilogy, which also includes ‘Platoon’ and ‘Born on the Fourth of July’. The film was shot in Thailand as the Vietnamese government had decided Oliver Stone liked to depict their country in a negative light (it took them Stone’s two other films to figure that out). Town shots are filmed around Old Phuket Town and many of the wider shots of open paddocks and fields were filmed around Krabi.

The film was based on the books ‘When Heaven and Earth Changed Places’ and ‘Child of War’, ‘Woman of Peace’, which Le Ly Hayslip wrote about her experiences during and after the Vietnam War.

It was a box office flop earning only $5.9 million on a budget of $33 million.

Air America (1990)

‘Air America’ was a 1990 American action comedy directed by Roger Spottiswoode with Mel Gibson and Robert Downey Jr. as Air America pilots flying missions in Laos during the Vietnam War. All the ‘Laos’ shots were shot in Thailand.

Plot: When the protagonists discover their aircraft is being used by government agents to smuggle heroin, they must avoid being framed as the drug-smugglers.

Budgeted at $35 million, the production involved 500 crew shooting in 49 different locations in Thailand, London, and Los Angeles. Principal photography began on October 3, 1989 and ran for five months but the crew were called back six months later to film a new ending.

The producers rented 26 aircraft from the Thai military, although some of the stunt flyers refused to perform some of the stunts, with 60-year-old veterans being drafted for some of the more nuanced aerial shots. Sidenote: PepsiCo wanted the filmmakers to use a fictional soda rather than show opium being refined at their abandoned factory.

The Killing Fields (1984)

Not only a film made mostly in Thailand but also an Academy Award winner and a fitting story of the so-called Asian holocaust – the reign of terror by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia between 1975 and 1979 where up to 2.5 million citizens were systematically starved, over-worked or killed.

The film focusses on two journalists, Cambodian Dith Pran and American Sydney Schanberg. It was directed by Roland Joffé and produced by David Puttnam. Sam Waterston played Schanberg, Haing S. Ngor as Pran, Julian Sands as Jon Swain, and John Malkovich as Al Rockoff.

At the 57th Academy Awards it received eight Oscar nominations; including Best Picture. It won three, most notably Best Supporting Actor for Haing S. Ngor, who had had no previous acting experience. Directer Roland Joffé said, of Haing S. Ngor’s performance… “Haing had been acting his whole life – you had to be a pretty good actor to survive the Khmer Rouge”.

From Roland Joffé… “We shot those scenes in the countryside outside Bangkok. Lots of very realistic looking corpses had been laid out. It was all very disturbing: you’d get a crawling feeling up your back during shooting. And there was a real panic when a farmer’s wife went out early in the morning and got a total shock when she saw them, poor woman”.

The Beach (2000)

The Beach is a 2000 British-American adventure drama film directed by Danny Boyle and based on the 1996 novel of the same name by Alex Garland. The film stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Tilda Swinton, Virginie Ledoyen, Guillaume Canet and, Robert Carlyle. It was partly filmed around Phuket Town and Koh Phi Phi Leh.

Producers got a lot of heat for bulldozing and landscaping sections of Ko Phi Phi Leh beach to make it more “paradise-like” including clearing some of the coconut trees and grass. Local environmentalists weren’t going to put up with that!

The lawsuits dragged on for years. In 2006, Thailand’s Supreme Court upheld an appellate court ruling that the filming had harmed the environment and ordered that damage assessments be made. Producers had made an allowance for repairing any damage but the 2004 Asian tsunami did its own ‘alteration’ of the beach.

The crappy old On On Hotel in Phuket Town, depicted in the movie, has had a major make-over since and now a very swish boutique hotel worth visiting anytime.

Did You Know? Ewan McGregor was cast as the main character before leaving due to disputes with the director. It was speculated that Director Danny Boyle was offered additional funding under the condition that DiCaprio be cast and his British character turned into an American (would have been more fun to hear Leonardo doing a British accent).

Around the World in 80 Days (1956 and 2004)

A grand Hollywood epic and a personal passion project for the, then, Mr Elizabeth Taylor, Michael Todd. The epic picture was directed by Michael Anderson and produced by Mike Todd’s company who financed the film by selling his Todd-AO 70mm film format. Admittedly, if you blinked, you’d miss the portions of the movie filmed in Thailand. A 2004 version, starring Steve Coogan and Jackie Chan, had segments also filmed in Thailand, posing as a Chinese village. It was a flop. Here’s an excerpt from Wikipedia about the original 1956 production…

Filming took place in late 1955, from August 9 to December 20. The crew worked fast (75 actual days of filming). The picture cost just under $6 million to make, employing 112 locations in 13 countries and 140 sets. Todd said he and the crew visited every country portrayed in the picture, including England, France, India, Spain, Thailand and Japan. According to the Time magazine review of the film, the cast including extras totalled 68,894 people; it also featured 7,959 animals, “including four ostriches, six skunks, 15 elephants, 17 fighting bulls, 512 rhesus monkeys, 800 horses, 950 burros, 2,448 American buffalo, 3,800 Rocky Mountain sheep and a sacred cow that eats flowers on cue.” There is also a cat, at the Reform Club. The wardrobe department spent $410,000 to provide 74,685 costumes and 36,092 trinkets.

The Impossible (2012)

Shot in 2012 and directed by Juan Antonio Bayona. Hard to leave out this one out as the story was about Phuket, Khao Lak and the Andaman Sea’s largest natural disaster – the Asian tsunami of 2004. The story revolves around a British family staying in Khao Lak for their Christmas holidays. The movie starred Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts. Many Phuket extras were enlisted as extras for the movie. If we had one criticism about this film it would be the focus on the single family whilst the disaster killed up to 250,000 who were never referred to in the film.

Honourable mentions

The ‘Special Thanksgiving’ Award

‘Mechanic: Resurrection’ (2016). One big turkey. Probably better off un-resurrected.

The ‘Blink and you’ll miss it’ Award

‘Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith’ (2005)

Shot in 2005, directed by George Lucas, the finale of the original six Star Wars episodes. There were a few scenes filmed around Krabi Province to represent the Wookie home planet ‘Kaashyyk’. By the time the CGI crew got their hands on the original footage you’d be hard pressed to recognise the scenery.

‘Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason’ (2004)

A 2004 sequel of ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’ and directed by Beeban Kidron that reunites the same cast members: Renée Zellweger as Bridget Jones, Colin Firth as Mark Darcy, and Hugh Grant as Daniel Cleaver. This time, the movie’s plot takes them to Bangkok (some scenes were shot along the infamous Soi Cowboy), to Phuket International Airport, Nai Yang Beach, and Panyee Island in Phang Nga Bay.

An exhaustive list of big movies made mostly or partly in Thailand, HERE.

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Drugs

Two die from heroin overdose in Samut Prakan

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Two die from heroin overdose in Samut Prakan | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Thai Rath

Two men have been found dead from a heroin overdose. They were found in a toilet in Samut Prakan Province, south of Bangkok, last night. Police reported that there were no signs of violence on either of the men.

Thai Rath reports that the men were aged 46 and 48. Police reported that they were found in the Samrong Nua Sub-district, and one of the dead men was still holding a syringe in his hand when the police discovered the bodies.

Their families were notified and came to collect the bodies for funeral ceremonies and religious rites.

Earlier this year the Office of the Narcotics Control Board reported that heroin has made a comeback on the Thai drug scene with more young people, mostly unaware of hidden dangers and problems with addiction, were using the narcotic.

A report noted the rising number of young people aged between 15-18 admitted to rehabilitation programs for heroin addiction.

In 2017, 3,744 youths attended rehab for heroin addiction. But that number had increased to 3,980 by 2019. In the 8 months since October last year, the number of young heroin addicts already surpassed 2,900, mostly of new addicts. The report by the ONCB noted that 1 in 3 heroin addicts across Thailand were young users.

Many of the young addicts reported that they were under the impression the substance was not harmful to their health and thought it was some kind of powder that caused a euphoric trance and wasn’t dangerous.

SOURCE: Thai Residents | Thai Rath

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