Archive for the ‘Thailand’ Category

Back in early June, a small pilot whale gained global attention after it ingested plastic bags and packaging, and then died in southern Thailand. It wasn’t a good look for the nation’s tourism industry.

A month later, Thailand’s Tourism Minister Weerasak Kowsurat holds up a picture frame containing pieces of an instant-noodle packet recovered from the stomach of the whale. For him, it’s emblematic of the environmental and other stresses of a record tourism boom that could see 40 million foreign arrivals — equivalent to over half the nation’s population — in 2019.

“Tourism can create, and at the same time, tourism can disrupt,” said Weerasak, 52, in an interview in his office in the Thai capital. “Congestion is no good for anyone, including the hosts and the guests.”

A surge in Chinese holidaymakers has stoked the growth in the tourism sector, which now accounts for roughly 20 percent of Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy.

Managing the inflow is proving challenging, underlined by a tragedy last week that put the spotlight on safety standards after more than 40 Chinese tourists died when a boat sank off the coast of Phuket.

The disaster hasn’t had a significant impact on Chinese enthusiasm for holidays in Thailand but the government has to be proactive to prevent a wider fallout, said Thongyoo Suphavittayakorn, a spokesperson for the Association of Thai Travel Agents.

Many of the overseas travelers head to Bangkok, beach hot-spots like Phuket or the popular northern city of Chiang Mai, straining local resources.

Asked if Thailand is now coming close to its tourism capacity, Weerasak said: “Oh yeah.”

Continue reading: Bloomberg

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A worker tends to chickens at a farm in Thailand. © 2007 Sukree Sukplang / Reuters

In an important verdict for the protection of labor rights and freedom of expression in Thailand, a magistrates court in Bangkok on Wednesday acquitted 14 Burmese migrant workers of criminal defamation charges for filing a complaint against their employer with the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand (NHRCT).
The court found the workers had filed their complaint in good faith in order to protect their rights, as guaranteed by the Thai constitution and international conventions.

In their complaint to the NHRCT in July 2016, the workers alleged that the Thammakaset chicken farm in Lopburi province had subjected them to grueling work conditions, including forced labor. Three months later Thammakaset responded with a criminal defamation complaint against the workers as well as a labor rights activist from the Migrant Worker Rights Network, contending that the complaints had damaged the company’s reputation.

Disappointingly, the NHRCT took no action to support the right of the workers to bring grievances against the company.

Human Rights Watch, along with a growing number of states and international bodies, seeks the abolition of criminal defamation laws because individuals should not face imprisonment for the purpose of protecting reputations.

In May, six United Nations human rights experts called on Thailand – where defamation laws have frequently been used to retaliate against whistleblowers who report labor abuses – to revise its laws and prosecution processes to prevent the “misuse of defamation legislation by companies.” But the Thai government has yet to do so.

This verdict should serve as a wake-up call for the Thai government to take concrete measures to ensure fair treatment of workers in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. It should also serve notice to the NHRCT to end their weak performance and step up to protect the integrity of its complaint process by speaking out against abusive criminal defamation cases.

Thailand should be investigating and ending labor rights abuses, instead of ignoring retaliation against victims, whistleblowers, and human rights defenders.

Source: Human Rights Watch

The National Legislative Assembly (NLA) on Thursday selected five new members to sit on the Election Commission (EC) and they will take up their duties after royal endorsement.

Legislators voted to approve Santhat Siriananpaiboon, Ittiporn Boonprakong, Thawatchai Pakorn, Chatchai Chanpraisri and Pakorn Mahannop from the seven-candidate list. The five each received between 178 and 186 vote, far more than enough as they needed only 123, or half of the assembly.

Somchai Charnnarongkul and Pirasak Hinmuangkao were dropped as they obtained only three and 28 votes respectively. Mr Phirasak is a former provincial governor, Mr Somchai the head of the Agricultural Extension Department.

Whip spokesman Jate Siratharanon said the 17-member committee will begin a new process to find two more candidates for the NLA. Mr Somchai and Mr Pirasak do not qualify for another run, he added.

The EC could get back to work with only the five commissioners, after they received royal endorsement.

NLA president Pornpetch Witchitcholchai will forward the approved candidates to His Majesty for approval. They will replace the present members and select a new chairman from among themselves.

Mr Santhat is a lecturer of environmental technology at King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi.

Mr Itthiphon is the former director-general of the Treaties and Legal Affairs Department.

Mr Thawatchai is a former member of the defunct National Reform Steering Assembly.

Mr Chatchai and Mr Pakorn are both Supreme Court judges.

Their main task is to organise a new general election, likely by February at the earliest.

Source: Bangkok Post

While the world celebrated the rescue of 12 boys and their soccer coach from a flooded cave in northern Thailand, in China frustration and anger have grown over Thai authorities’ handling of the sinking of two tourist boats which left more than 40 people dead.

The two boats carrying more than 120 Chinese tourists capsized and sank in a huge storm last Thursday off the resort island of Phuket. Several passengers were still missing almost a week later.

A huge backlash against Thailand ensued after the country’s deputy prime minister, Gen. Prawit Wongsuwan, blamed Chinese tour operators in Phuket for the deadly accident.

“This accident was entirely Chinese harming Chinese,” Prawit was seen telling local reporters Monday in a widely circulated video. “The boats were theirs, and they ignored warnings and insisted on sailing out to sea. We weren’t responsible for that — they were. They have to resolve this themselves.”

Chinese social media and official newspapers responded harshly to Prawit’s comments, forcing a hasty apology.

The state-run China Daily called his comments “provocative and irresponsible.”

“Even if what he said is true, the Thai government cannot shirk its responsibility for guaranteeing the safety and security of tourists,” it said.

Users on the Twitter-like service Weibo, citing witnesses who were at the scene, said there was no official warning in Phuket against sailing when the ship left port, before it encountered inclement weather at sea.

They also questioned the actions of the boats’ Thai crews, who reportedly abandoned passengers when water rushed in.

Continue reading: CNN

The National Legislative Assembly has voted unanimously to approve the National Strategy, with binding effect over the next 20 years and penalties for non-compliance.

After the 179-0 vote in favour on Friday, the strategy will be submitted for royal endorsement by the prime minister within 20 days.

Once royally approved, a drafting panel will be appointed in 60 days to prepare a master plan for each of the six strategic areas to achieve the goals set in the law within 120 days. The master plans will then be approved by the National Strategy Committee and then the cabinet.

The six strategic areas are security, competitiveness enhancement, human resource development, social equality, green growth and rebalancing and public sector development.

On security, the key focuses are national security, keeping people happy, managing situations to ensure security, safety and order at all levels, as well as preventing and solving existing and future security challenges.

On competitiveness enhancement, the focus is on upgrading national potential on multiple dimensions based on three concepts.

“Building on the past” goes back to the roots and apply them to new economic and social environments. “Adjusting the present” paves the way to the future through infrastructure development in several dimensions. “Creating new values for the future” enhances the potential of operators to meet market demands.

On human resource development, improvements will be made at all levels and in all age groups so Thais will be good, competent and high-quality citizens for their country.

On social equality, the focus is on pulling resources from all sectors to steer changes and supporting people’s assemblies to mobilise ideas for public interests.

Steering environmentally friendly growth aims to build sustainable development in all dimensions.

Rebalancing and public-sector development aim to reinvent the public sector so it has the size that matches its missions and can adapt itself to the changing world. They will also instil a conscience which rejects all forms of corruption in all officials.

All government agencies and public organisations must comply with the master plans and budget allocations must be in line with them.

Any policy proposed by a political party must be within the national strategic framework. A government’s policy statement or budget allocations must also be in compliance with it.

Compliance with the strategy will be monitored by the National Strategy Committee, which will inform the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) if it sees a non-compliance. The NACC will then consider the case and if any agency is found guilty of malfeasance, its chief may face suspension from public offices or from position, expulsion or a jail term.

Senators, who will be appointed by the junta shortly before the general election, are also tasked with monitoring compliance with the strategy. Since they serve a five-year term, a year longer than a government’s, they will continue this duty under at least two governments.

The national strategy will be reviewed every five years and may be changed when the situations at the global or national levels warrant it but a parliamentary review must be sought first.

The National Strategy Committee comprises the prime minister; speakers of the Houses and the Senate; a deputy prime minister or minister; Defence permanent secretary; chiefs of the armed forces, army, navy, air force and police; secretary general of the National Security Council; chairman of the National Economic and Social Development Board; heads of the Board of Trade, Federation of Thai Industries, Tourism Council of Thailand and Thai Bankers Association.

Source: Bangkok Post

Separatist insurgents have used landmines to maim rubber plantation workers and seriously disrupt the daily life of people in Thailand’s southern border provinces, Human Rights Watch said today. Ethnic Malay Muslim insurgents affiliated with the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) separatist movement should immediately cease using antipersonnel landmines and end attacks on civilians.

On July 2, 2018, Suthin Haewkhuntod, an ethnic Thai Buddhist latex tapper in Yala province’s Krong Penang district, lost his foot after he stepped on a landmine reportedly laid by insurgents on the rubber plantation where he worked. Two other ethnic Thai Buddhist latex tappers, Wipawan Plodkaenthong and Chutipon Namwong, were seriously wounded by landmines, in Yala’s Yaha district on June 28 and in Muang district on July 2.

“Laying landmines on rubber plantations and in paths used by villagers is cruel beyond words,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “Insurgent groups should stop using these unlawful weapons and clear the landmines they have already laid.”

The separatist groups should observe the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, which Thailand ratified in 1998. Antipersonnel mines are prohibited because they cannot discriminate between civilians and combatants, and because they kill and maim people long after they are laid.

Continue reading: HRW

The last time most Thais saw politician Suthep Thaugsuban was in 2015 when he entered the Buddhist monkhood and announced his retirement after spearheading protests that culminated in a military coup against a government he detested.

The military, after taking power, clamped a tight lid on politics, and the rivalry between the military-royalist establishment and new upstart political forces that had roiled the country for a decade was stifled.

But now a long-promised general election is on the horizon – due sometime between February and May – and old animosities are stirring and veteran political brawler Suthep, 68, is back.

Suthep, a one-time deputy prime minister in a pro-establishment government, has said he will contest the election under the banner of a new party he set up to sustain the work of the military government and to campaign for its leader, Prayuth Chan-ocha, to be prime minister of a civilian administration.

The return of Suthep, who has a record of mobilizing crowds on the streets in support of the establishment, could be a big asset for the military which has made no secret of its aim to retain a grip over politics after the election.

The military and Suthep have common cause in their burning desire to rid the country of the influence of former premier Thaksin Shinawatra and his family, whose supporters have been biding their time and pinning their hopes on the election.

Continue reading: Reuters