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SPECIAL REPORT: Saving paradise by setting limits

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By Piyaporn Wongruang

Maya Bay has finally been closed down. On Thursday, park rangers at Had Nopparat Tara-Mu Ko Phi Phi marine national park placed buoys demarcating a no-access zone to prevent tourist boats getting in, as a part of a long-term rehabilitation process for the park’s world-renowned Maya Bay.

The bay was made famous by the 2000 Hollywood film “The Beach” starring Leonardo DiCaprio, but has subsequently been ecologically degraded by the excessive number of tourists – a daily average of about 4,000 people and 200 boats.

Following a recommendation by marine experts, the National Parks Department decided to put the bay off-limits from yesterday until September 30.

The closure is seen as an entry point for a new approach to tourism management at the park, and would also set a new standard for another 26 Thai marine parks that also bear a similar burden, according to the department.

Maya Bay is just another story of a timely rescue of the country’s natural attractions before it is too late.

SPECIAL REPORT: Saving paradise by setting limits | News by The Thaiger

For years, national parks around the country have seen an influx of visitors who wish to enjoy nature, with resulting tourism-based pressures degrading their often sensitive ecosystems.

In a bid to cope with such the building threat posed by these pressures, the department has come up with measures to ensure that national parks nationwide, 131 in total, can respond effectively to tourism impacts.

The concept of “Green National Parks” has been introduced to guide tourism management in the parks, with trophies set to reward good practitioners, and at the same time hopefully to lead ultimately to sustainable tourism that is kept within the ecological carrying capacity of these precious idylls.

“If a number of tourists visit our places, but they are later damaged, we should consider that a failure of our national park mission. We would be successful only when our places are still in a good condition despite their intensive visits. It really much depends on management,” said Songtham Suksawang, a director of the department’s National Parks Office.

SPECIAL REPORT: Saving paradise by setting limits | News by The ThaigerKhao Sok National Park won an award last year along with other 14 parks for being “green national parks”

More park function

Since the first national park, Khao Yai, was declared nearly 60 years ago, national parks have always aimed to help preserve the natural values of the ecosystems of the country’s forests.

As explained by the department’s deputy chief, Jongklai Worapongsathorn, the department’s prime mission when it was first separated from the Royal Forestry Department as an independent department in 2002 was to take care of national parks, seen as the core areas of the country’s ecosystems.

Since then, tourism in national parks has been left largely unattended, with management following the park chief’s capacities and directives. Areas were zoned to aid in better management and boundaries of the heavily used recreational areas determined using better criteria.

The number of tourists visiting the parks were already a concern and some pilot projects to limit tourist access were introduced, along with measures to keep the parks clean and more environmental friendly such as a ban on foam-based food packages and actions to reduce energy use among others.

The department studied the carrying capacity of the parks, and the issue took on more importance over the years, though limits were not initially imposed. Over the past decade, those limits have been phased in for some popular national parks, including Khao Yai.

“I, myself, also did not think that one day we would get serious about this,” said Jongklai to national park chiefs attending a recent workshop to guide green national park practices for 2018. “We have seen more and more of an influx of tourists during a particular period, such as the New Year, but I think in the near future we will have to enforce limits on access to national parks regularly and popularly, as we have seen happen at some popular parks, be they Phi Phi, Similan and others.

“If we don’t adjust ourselves now (to handle tourists), we will never be able to catch up on the trend,” said Jongklai.

Influx of tourists

As recorded by the Tourism Department, tourist visits to national parks have increased over the past five years from around 11 million to 18 million last year – over half of them foreigners.

Tourism is a key driver of the country’s economy, with the income contributing nearly Bt2.9 trillion last year, according to the department.This year, it is expected that around Bt3.3 trillion will be contributed by tourism.

Tourism has also driven the country’s competitiveness to the rank of 34 out of 136 countries, the department has noted. But when environmental aspects are factored in, that ranking falls to 122, with micro dust, intensive environmental damage and threats to plant and wildlife species being the prime problems pulling the country down in rank.

Concerned parties all agree that national parks play a vital role in drawing tourists, and that role has been increasing over the years. The question is how to make it sustainable.

“The role of our national parks in tourism will never decrease, but will instead increase as more and more foreign tourists increasingly appreciate our nature and visit parks to experience it,” said Prommeth Nathomthong, a deputy director of the Tourism Authority of Thailand.

“From a tourism aspect, [the national parks] are vital tools to help drive our economy. … The question is how to make them sustainable, keep them in the good condition they are supposed to be in,” said Prommeth. He suggests that the concept of sustainable tourism should guide the tourism management of the parks.

SPECIAL REPORT: Saving paradise by setting limits | News by The Thaiger

Green National Parks

Sustainable tourism is clearly addressed in the 20-year national strategy, with carrying capacity being part of the strategy to help drive the country’s competitiveness and sustainable growth.

The National Parks department has adopted the concept and improved the guidelines to be followed by national parks in an effort to empower them to respond to tourism pressures.

Six areas of environmental management, and 17 related measures, have been introduced to national parks nationwide as a guideline for managing tourism and its impacts within their boundaries. The six areas are: environmental management of park offices, environmental and landscape management of the parks, saving energy, waste disposal, tourist facilities and safety.

In 2016 the department began giving out a yearly award to those completing the guidelines to it was the first year that the department gave an award to those completing the guideline. Eight national parks won the award first year, with 14 more earning it in 2017.

The department expects that in the next eight years, all the national parks will complete the guidelines and thus adhere to an international standard of practice.

“Our national parks are green by nature, but they will be not if disturbed – and now they are disturbed by tourism activities. That’s the reason why we have to have the green concept to help guide us to sustainable practices. Or our resources, coral reefs for instance, will be irreparably damaged,” said Songtham.

And addressing the problems head-on this way will not add yet another burden to the parks, he concluded.

Original report HERE.

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The BTS Law, South Korean parliament amends conscription law to allow Jin to stay with BTS

Caitlin Ashworth

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The BTS Law, South Korean parliament amends conscription law to allow Jin to stay with BTS | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Kim Seok-jin hits the magic age of 28 today but will be able to serve with BTS for another 2 years, postponing his conscription into the South Korean Army.

Many countries still have compulsory military conscription, where young men, usually, are enlisted to serve under their country’s military services. Thailand has it, so does Singapore, Myanmar and Cambodia in our immediate sphere. So does South Korea. That’s a problem for pop kings BTS.

Of course the 18 – 24 months becomes a disruption to your life and your career, but for men living in the countries with conscription it’s just an expectation. But if you’re part of the biggest and most successful pop band in the world at the moment being conscripted suddenly becomes a big deal.

And so it is for Kim Seok-jin, the oldest member of the South Korean mega pop outfit BTS, or Bangtan Sonyeondan. The oldest BTS member reaches the age of 28 today (by the way happy birthday Jin) and would have been expected to put his day of rehearsals and picking up music awards with the other members of BTS aside and enrol in the South Korean military.

Under the current South Korean laws for military conscription, all males, once they reach the age of 28, have to enlist for 20 – 24 months of service for the South Korean military. Remember, technically, South Korea is still at war with North Korea.

So able-bodied men in South Korea are required to enlist and serve 2 years of compulsory military service from the ages of 18 to 30.

In the past, when asked about the thorny issue of the military service interrupting the rise and rise of the BTS brand, Jin always humbly answered…

“As a Korean, it’s natural. And some day, when duty calls, we’ll be ready to respond and do our best. It’s something all the members often talk about, and all of us plan to accept military service.”

The other members of BTS have always echoed Jin’s comments acknowledging the expectation that they would be, above all, young South Korean men and serve their time with the country’s military.

Read more about BTS HERE.

The BTS Law, South Korean parliament amends conscription law to allow Jin to stay with BTS | News by The Thaiger

PHOTO: Jin with the rest of BTS – from the left: V, Suga, Jin, Jungkook, RM, Jimin and J-Hope.

But there’s been exemptions in place for decades for sportspeople to dodge the military service but it didn’t cover ‘idols’, the K-Pop superstars, no matter how big they were in Korea or, like BTS, around the world.

So the South Korean parliament has just passed an exemption which will allow Jin, and the other 6 members as they also notch up their birthdays, to defer their enlistment for 2 years. In Jin’s case this means he will have another 2 years to work with BTS who, by all accounts, are still peaking in the world of pop music. Fans, universally, have opined that BTS is 7 members and would not be the same without Jin, or any other member for that matter.

The impact of BTS has been extraordinary, and has reached far beyond the shores of South Korea to become the biggest South Korean brand in the world… stand aside Samsung, Hyundai and LG. Just this week BTS has the #1 and #3 spot in the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart AND the #1 spot in the Hot 200 Album chart with their latest release ‘Be’, their second album release for a ‘disrupted’ 2020. Their 35-date, 17-venue stadium tour, set to tour the world from April this year, had to be shelved. It had already been sold out, in some cases, in minutes when tickets became available.

(BTS did mount an elaborate online concert which sold 913,000 tickets for the 2-day event in October, called ‘BTS Map of the Soul ON:E’.)

BTS are the hottest ticket in town right now. So were South Korean politicians be responsible for putting and end to the BTS dream? And then there was the value to the South Korean economy of BTS as an economic engine for the country. The Hyundai Research Institute reported that BTS generates an estimated amount of 4 trillion Korean won (US$3.54 billion) as direct economic value to South Korea per year and 1.42 trillion won (US$1.26 billion) as added value per year.

More recently, the success of their first US Billboard Number 1 ‘Dynamite’ has generated US$1.5 billion for the South Korean economy.

The amendment to the South Korean Military Service Act now states that if an artist has made a positive impact on South Korea’s reputation, then they can defer their enlistment by 2 years. This delay, however, can only come on the recommendation of the cultural minister. This means that Jin can now wait until he is 30 to enrol into military service. Same goes for the other members of BTS, by invitation from the country’s cultural minister.

Back in August, BTS released their first full-length English-language song, ‘Dynamite’ which has become the world’s summer bop at a time we all needed an uplifting song. ‘Dynamite1 debuted at Number on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart, which made BTS the first South Korean act to top the chart. It also became the fastest rising YouTube video clip ever uploaded, 101.1 million clicks in 24 hours.

‘Dynamite’ is also the band’s first number one single in the US, although the group has already scored 4 Number 1 albums on the Billboard Hot 200 Album Chart, singing almost exclusively in Korean! In 2018/2018 they scored 3 consecutive Number 1 albums in the same 1 month period. The only other band to reach that record? The Beatles.

All this started talks in the South Korean parliament about creating a deferral for military service if the contributions to South Korea’s global reputation was great enough. The amendment passed just in time.

In the BTS universe, Jin, aka. ‘Third Guy From The Left’, ‘Car Door Guy’ and ‘World Wide Handsome’, has also been the group’s emotional glue, in-house cook and the oldest ‘Hyung’. The role of the Hyung, the older brother, or elder person, is considered an important role in South Korean culture. And it’s been a responsibility Jin has taken on seriously as part of the group since they started training in 2011 and then since their debut in June 2013.

BTS, and Jin, are likely relieved to have another 2 years to continue their journey into the annals of pop history, not only in South Korea, and Asia, but the rest of the world as well, including the white-washed US pop industry.

“Shining through the city with a little funk and soul, Light it up like dynamite”

BTS, put together a performance for the James Cordon Late Late Show of their latest hit, even recreating his host set for the shoot… and rented a jet!

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Darth Vader actor David Prowse dies – May the force be with him

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Darth Vader actor David Prowse dies – May the force be with him | The Thaiger

“…his swish with the black cape and his screen presence in the foreboding, shiny black high-tech exoskeleton won him a legion of fans.”

Darth Vader has died… May the force be with him. The man who played the bad guy in the first Star Wars trilogy, British actor David Prowse, died at the age of 85 after a short illness.

American actor Mark Hamill, who played Darth Vader’s son, Luke Skywalker, alongside with David and the initial cast of the epic saga, sent his condolences in a tweet.

“So sad to hear David Prowse has passed. He was a kind man & much more than Darth Vader.”

“Actor-Husband-Father-Member of the Order of the British Empire-3 time British Weightlifting Champion & Safety Icon the Green Cross Code Man. He loved his fans as much as they loved him. #RIP”

Star Wars co-star, and fellow Brit, Anthony Daniels, who played the gold-plated and effusive C3PO in all but one of the 12 Star Wars instalments, paid tribute to Prowse’s contribution to the saga.

“Dave’s iconic figure dominated the finished film in ’77 and has done so ever since.”

David wore the ominous black suit and helmet to play the Star Wars villain Darth Vader although it was the American actor James Earl Jones who provided the character’s voice in post-production. George Lucas felt that David’s West Country English accent was “unsuitable for the part”. The decision to replace David’s voice caused a long-term rift between actor and director that eventually saw David cut out of official Star Wars publicity events. But his swish with the black cape and his screen presence in the foreboding shiny black high-tech exoskeleton won him a legion of fans.

Darth Vader actor David Prowse dies - May the force be with him | News by The Thaiger

David’s career as an actor spanned 50 years, but it was his role as the Sith Lord in Star Wars that brought him international fame and attention.

But it was his role as the “Green Cross Code Man” from a British road safety campaign that Prowse said he was most proud of. David was awarded an MBE, Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, in 2000 for that role.

David Prowse was born into a working class family and grew up in a council estate in Southmead, in southwestern England. He gained a scholarship to attend Bristol Grammar School. He had a passion for bodybuilding and was crowned British Weightlifting Champion several times in the 1960s. He became lifelong friends with actors Arnold Schwarzenegger in his weightlifting years.

His towering figure helped land him roles as monsters and villains in TV shows and films. He played the monster in “The Horror of Frankenstein” in 1970 and a bearded torturer in “Carry on Henry” in 1971. That same year he made an appearance as a bodyguard in Stanley Kubrick’s dystopian film “A Clockwork Orange” in 1971. He went on to play Darth Vader in all three of the original “Star Wars” films, in 1977, 1980 and 1983.

With the success of Star Wars, Prowse became a regular on the fan circuit and attended conventions around the world for almost 40 years, but he was rumoured to have later fallen out with director Lucas and was banned from official events in 2010.

He published an autobiography, “Straight from the Force’s Mouth,” in 2011.

SOURCES: Reuters | CNN | BBC

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Chiang Rai

Ron Howard to direct cave rescue feature film ‘Thirteen Lives’ in Australia

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Ron Howard to direct cave rescue feature film ‘Thirteen Lives’ in Australia | The Thaiger
PHOTO: The entrance to the real Tham Luang cave near the Myanmar border in far north Thailand

The Australian Government is putting up A$13 million to Imagine Entertainment and film giant MGM to shoot a live-action feature film called Thirteen Lives, based on the Chiang Rai Tham Luang cave rescue story. The film will be shot in Queensland, Australia in the hinterland areas behind the Gold Coast.

The film will be directed by Ron Howard (A Beautiful Mind, Apollo 13, The Da Vince Code, Cocoon, Solo: A Star Wars Story, Splash, Frost/Nixon), and start filming in March 2021. The state’s Gold Coast hinterland will double for Thailand with a similar hot, humid climate.

The Australian Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, Paul Fletcher MP, says the production should inject more than A$96 million into the Australian economy, “directly creating around 435 jobs for cast and crew”.

Thirteen Lives will tell the remarkable story of the effort by many volunteers, including Australians, to undertake an incredibly complex rescue. And I am proud to say that this story will be told here in Australia.”

“I understand this project will also undertake a significant amount of cutting-edge visual effects work here, a great opportunity for our local post, digital and visual effects companies.”

Thirteen Lives follows the true story of the 2018 Tham Laung cave rescue of the Mu Pa (Wild Boar) football team, trapped in a cave by heavy rain and flooding in Chiang Rai, far north Thailand. After the team was stuck for days with no supplies and falling oxygen levels, a group of diving and rescue experts from all over the world were called up to work together with their Thai counterparts to save the 13 young men. Among those experts were a group of divers from the United Kingdom and Australia.

The first major feature film about the rescue operation was The Cave, released in October 2019. The film was quite critical of the Thai red-tape which hampered much of the early rescue efforts.

Ron Howard has worked with plenty of Australians in the past.

“From Thirteen Lives to the animated projected I am directing with Animal Logic in Australia, I am excited about the opportunity to film and work in Australia and dramatically expand on that list of collaborators whose sensibilities and work ethic I have long admired and respected.”

Imagine Entertainment and MGM’s Thirteen Lives will be distributed by Universal Pictures International.

Watch a message from director Ron Howard HERE.

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