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Update June, 2019

Thailand News
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Update by Natrakorn Paewsoongnern
Thailand News

Some 200 dugongs spotted in Andaman Sea


Bangkok - Ko Libong Animal Sanctuary Chief, Chaiyapruek Weerawong, says the population of dugongs offshore in Trang province can mostly be found at Ko Libong Animal Sanctuary, specifically at Laem Ju Hoei and Ao Thung Chin, with about 180 dugongs taking to living around the sanctuary. Dugong communities are also found at seagrass sources in Hat Chao Mai National Park.

The latest marine observation by air this year confirmed there are no fewer than 200 dugongs living in the Andaman Sea from Satun up to Krabi. Many mother and baby dugongs have been spotted, and the birth rate of the dugongs has increased every year. Dugongs are still in need of protection and conservation to raise their population, and spare them being faced with extinction.

The dugong is a protected species according to the Wild Animal Reservation and Protection Act BE 2562. They are also protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) prohibiting all kinds of trade except for research and reproduction.

DMS dismisses claim that microwaves more dangerous than atomic bombs


Bangkok - The Department of Medical Sciences (DMS) says information indicating that microwave ovens are more dangerous than atomic bombs is not true as the mechanism of operation to channel heat energy directly to molecules inside food does not cause harmful radiation.

A rumor spread online suggested that the Japanese government had decided to dispose of all microwave ovens in the country before the end of this year because a research finding suggested they are more dangerous than the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It further went on to allege that all Japanese citizens not fulfilling the requirement to dispose of their ovens would face a fine or imprisonment.

DMS Director General Ophas Karnkawinphong said the Bureau of Radiation and Medical Devices has confirmed that microwave ovens do not release any residual radiation and the rumor online is not true.

Those still interested in checking their microwave ovens for safety can have them examined at the Bureau of Radiation and Medical Devices at the Medical Science Centers throughout the country during office hours.

Public health official in Nan inspects cannabis oil’s side effects


Bangkok - A public health official in Nan province yesterday inspected cannabis oil, which reportedly caused muscular spasms and numbing in a user. Authorities have warned villagers about the oil which might cause such side effects.

Thawat Sitthiyot, Phuphiang district’s public health official, visited Baan Nong Rang village in Phuphiang district of Nan province where a villager had used cannabis oil only to be sent to hospital. He called on the village headman and villagers to beware of peddlers who might offer illegal cannabis oil for sale. The oil is reported to sell for as much as 2,500 baht a bottle.

The public health official said marijuana or cannabis is currently considered an illegal drug which should not be used to cure diseases. Villagers might be lured into buying cannabis oil only to lose money and fall ill due to dangerous side effects.

According to the villagers, the illegal cannabis oil had been offered by roving vendors on regular basis.

King Power wins Duty Free auction for three regional airports


Bangkok - King Power has won the bidding to run duty-free shops in three regional airports, marking another victory for the firm which previously won two licenses to operate duty-free shops and the commercial zone at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport.

Airports of Thailand Plc (AoT) unsealed bid envelopes this week for the duty-free operation at airports in Phuket, Chiang Mai and Hat Yai. The three bidders were King Power Duty Free Co that won the auction, followed by a Royal Orchid Hotel (Thailand) Plc joint venture, and a consortium led by Bangkok Airways Plc.

The results of the three bids to run the duty-free concessions will be submitted to the committee in charge of revenue assessment on June 12 before being forwarded to the AoT board for consideration on June 19.

Court sentences ex-PM Thaksin to prison over lottery program

Former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra is shown in this Friday, March 22, 2019 file photo. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

Kaweewit Kaewjinda and Pitcha Dangprasith

Bangkok (AP) — A court on Thursday sentenced former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in absentia to two years in prison over his handling of the state lottery program he initiated while in office more than a decade ago.

His conviction by the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions was for malfeasance, for carrying out a policy judged to be in violation of the law or official regulations.

He was earlier sentenced in April to three years' imprisonment for ordering Thailand's Export-Import Bank to make a loan to Myanmar which was used to pay a satellite communications company then controlled by him and his family.

It is not clear why this year's cases were completed such a long time after the alleged offenses dating back over 10 years.

The lottery case involved the establishment in 2003 of an effort to mimic the illegal underground lottery, a flexible game in which people could pick two- and three-digit numbers and bet small amounts, compared with the official system of lottery tickets with fixed numbers and fewer potential winning opportunities.

The illegal lottery is hugely popular, and Thaksin's scheme was an attempt to steer some of the money that went to it to government coffers instead.

The court found that Thaksin ignored standard administrative practice in starting the new lottery, which was discontinued when he was forced from office.

Thaksin, who maintains a home in Dubai and travels frequently, could not be reached for comment but has consistently denied any wrongdoing while in office and described the cases against him as politically motivated.

Thailand's decades-old official lottery has been dogged time and again by rigging and corruption scandals.

The court's ruling Thursday appeared to claim that the lottery scheme initiated under Thaksin involved unacceptable financial risk to the government.

Thai news reports said dozens of other officials were previously tried and convicted for involvement, with some senior figures given suspended prison terms.

Prime Minister has little to say about staying in power

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha smiles before a meeting at government house in Bangkok, Thursday, June 6, 2019. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

Kaweewit Kaewjinda

Bangkok (AP) —Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha stayed out of the spotlight Thursday, a day after he skipped a Parliament session in which lawmakers voted to keep him in the job he has held since the military coup in 2014.

He delivered little more than a brief thank you through a spokesman and on his Facebook page, also promising to carry out his duties to the best of his ability.

"He is in a kind of a strongman mold, but now he has to be accountable, more scrutinized, so we can expect him to lose some temper. We can expect him to be flustered, frustrated. But the big question is whether the coalition government will hold," said Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a professor of political science at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University.

The junta will be dissolved when Prayuth appoints his new Cabinet, and Article 44, which handed him lawmaking powers without the need for approval from anyone, will expire with it, even though the orders enacted under Article 44 will remain in force.

Thitinan expects Prayuth's will try to stay above the fray and allow military-allied lawmakers to protect him, a strategy other previous unelected military prime ministers employed. He said that may prove a difficult task, given the size and determination of the opposition bloc and the unwieldy nature of his own coalition.

"General Prayuth as head of it all will have a big headache at a minimum, but beyond that, he also will face a kind of scrutiny he hasn't seen in the last five years that may involve some very sensitive issues," such as his personal assets, his relatives and associates, Thitinan said.

Government returns over 300 million baht to fraud victims in China


Bangkok - Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam and AMLC Chairman Chaiya Siri-ampholkul have left for China to return money illegally collected from Chinese fraud victims.

A high-level Chinese security official confirmed receipt of a sum of 356 million baht in a bank savings account, which is to be returned to a total of 33,928 victims in China. The Chinese authorities thanked their Thai counterparts for having returned the money to foreign fraud victims.

Thai and Chinese authorities have discussed close cooperation in efforts to crack down on transnational crimes, prevent and suppress terrorism and raise the confidence in international judicial systems.

Abhisit resigns as MP

Former Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva.


Bangkok - Former Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva has resigned as an MP because he said he could not condone his party’s resolution to support Prayut Chan-o-cha as prime minister.

Abhisit said his resignation as an MP was necessary to maintain his stand against efforts to help the current premier keep the top office of government. However, he said he respected the party’s resolution adopted at Tuesday’s party meeting in support of Prayut.

Abhisit apologized to all supporters who had voted for his party and for his decision to resign as an MP to keep his word and personal honor. He said he has never compromised his ideologies and principles. He declined to say whether he might also resign as a member of the Democrat Party which he used to lead.

Parliament votes for Prayuth to stay on as PM


Members of the parliament raise their hands approving the nomination of Prayuth Chan-ocha as Thailand's Prime Minister during a session to vote for a new of Prime Minister in Bangkok, Wednesday, June 5, 2019.(AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

Kaweewit Kaewjinda and Pitcha Dangprasith

Bangkok (AP) — Thailand's Parliament elected 2014 coup leader Prayuth Chan-ocha as prime minister in a vote Wednesday that helps ensure the military's sustained dominance of politics.

The Palang Pracharath party that nominated Prayuth won the second-highest number of seats in the House of Representatives in a general election in March. But his selection was virtually assured because the prime minister is chosen in a joint vote of the 500-seat House and the 250-seat Senate, whose members were appointed by the government. Two House seats were vacant due to a suspension and resignation.

Prayuth was elected to serve a second term by a vote of 500 to 244 over his opponent, Future Forward party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit. Prayuth's appointment becomes official when it is endorsed by HM King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

"The people are still calling for liberties. The people are still calling for justice," Thanathorn said after the vote. "This is not the time to lose hope. Hope is still on our side. Time is still on our side. I want to thank all 244 people who love democracy for voting for me."

Prayuth made no immediate public comment on the vote.

Wednesday's vote indicates that Prayuth's coalition also has control — by a small margin — of the House, necessary to pass laws and approve budgets.

But there are doubts that a government led by Prayuth, used to governing by fiat, can fare well in a parliamentary framework.

"General Prayuth's return to the premiership has gone according to the ... junta's design. But managing a coalition government and a Parliament with a sizable opposition is very different from overseeing a military dictatorship," said Michael Montesano, coordinator of the Thailand Studies Program at Singapore's ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute.

An open-ended parliamentary debate, with the two sides touting the merits of their candidate and the weaknesses of their opponent, pushed Wednesday's vote late into the night. The official result was announced just before midnight.

During the debate, Palang Pracharath lawmaker Koranis Ngamsukonrattana praised Prayuth for his character and his vision.

"He's patient and sacrificed himself so much for the country," he said. "He's the savior who came in and saved the country when all hope was lost."

Thanathorn's supporters attacked Prayuth as a destroyer of democracy.

"Coups are the ultimate crime against the rule of democracy with the monarch as head of state," said Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, secretary general of Thanathorn's Future Forward party. "It rips apart the entire constitution and takes power to rule over the country by establishing yourself as a 'sovereign' with the highest power."

UN agencies urge stronger efforts to stop illegal fishing

In this May 21, 2019, photo, staff monitor fishing vessels in real time at a state-of-the-art surveillance center in Bangkok. (AP Photo/Elaine Kurtenbach)

Elaine Kurtenbach

Bangkok (AP) — Major United Nations agencies are urging key fishing nations to join efforts to fight illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.

The U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization and other groups made the call at a conference in Bangkok on Wednesday focused on helping protect fisheries and those working in the industry.

Thailand is the world's biggest importer of tuna. It has one of the seven state-of-the-art centers in the region monitoring fishing vessels in real time to help control access to regional ports and curb illegal fishing.

The centers are helping enforce the Port State Measures Agreement, which aims to help curb illegal, unreported and unregulated — or IUU — fishing. Dozens of governments have joined but U.N. officials are urging more to support the effort.

Illegal fishing costs countries in the Asia-Pacific region some $5 billion a year; globally more than $20 billion. And rogue fishing vessels often engage in other crimes such as piracy and human and drug trafficking, abuses being fought along with the International Labor Organization and International Organization for Migration.

Preventing such vessels from selling illegal catches is the most vital element for stopping illegal fishing, Adisorn Promthep, director-general of Thailand's Department of Fisheries, said during a visit to the center in Bangkok.

"We also make certain that no IUU fish or products come to Thailand and this is going to be a big help to work against IUU," Adisorn said in an interview.

A Pulitzer Prize-winning Associated Press investigation in 2015-16 that uncovered severe rights abuses affecting migrant workers in Thailand's fishing and seafood industries helped focus attention on the problem. The stories helped free more than 2,000 enslaved men from Myanmar, Cambodia, Thailand and Laos, and led to more than a dozen arrests, amended U.S. laws and lawsuits seeking redress.

The European Union in 2015 gave Thailand a "yellow card" on its fishing exports, warning that it could face a ban on EU sales if it didn't reform the industry. Thailand responded by introducing new regulations and setting up the command center to fight illegal fishing.

During a recent visit, about a dozen staff in the surveillance center were keeping a round-the-clock watch on the positions of fishing and other vessels to see if they were operating in areas they were not authorized to fish in.

The system includes detailed online records and photographs of each vessel, their crews, logs and other information that is verified by officials at ports before the ships are allowed to unload catches, refuel or restock.

The FAO estimates that almost a third of global fish stocks are degraded from overfishing, and a further 60% are "fully exploited." Illegal catches account for much of the overfishing, or up to 26 million tons a year, at times nearly one-fifth of the total harvest from the sea.

And while the systems are improving and expanding, they are not failsafe. In some cases, small-scale fishers are unfamiliar with territorial limits in traditional fishing areas, said Simon J. Nicol, a senior fishery official at the FAO's Bangkok office.

Adisorn agreed that relatively recently established boundaries and controls can be a problem for some fishermen, especially artisanal, small boats. But having fishing vessels comply means a "level playing field," he said.

Ultimately, Nicol said, the aim is not just to combat illegal fishing, but to try to ensure sustainable use of fisheries at a time of declining stocks of some species, such as the bluefin tuna favored by sushi bars.

"We are on the right track," Nichol said.

Oil prices going down 0.3-0.6 baht


Bangkok - PTT Oil and Retail (PTTOR) Company Limited and Bangchak Corporation Public Company Limited have announced their latest oil price adjustment by decreasing sale pricing of all products at 0.6 baht per liter, except for E85 product which will be cheaper by 0.3 baht per liter, effective from June 5.

The new adjustment will result in the lower fuel pricing at petrol stations, with the adjusted pricing at stations in Bangkok and neighboring provinces being at 35.16 baht per liter for Benzin 95, 27.75 baht/liter for Gasohol 95, 27.48 baht/liter for Gasohol 91, 24.74 baht/liter for E20, 20.04 baht/liter for E85, 26.49 baht/liter for Diesel, 30.09 baht/liter for Diesel Premium, 25.49 baht/liter for Diesel B10, and 21.49 baht/liter for Diesel B20. These prices are exclusive of local taxes.

No rent for 1 year for fire-affected vendors at Chatuchak market


Bangkok - Police have continued to investigate Sunday’s fire at Chatuchak market which may have been caused by an electrical short circuit. A sum of 10,000 baht in compensation payments will be provided to each of the affected vendors by Friday and no rent will be collected from them for a year.

Bangkok Governor Asawin Khwanmuang inspected the fire scene this week where tents are being set up for temporary use by the 110 affected vendors. New stalls will be built in four phases and construction won’t take longer than two-months.

Sunday’s fire was the most severe in Chatuchak market in 30 years.



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HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

Some 200 dugongs spotted in Andaman Sea

DMS dismisses claim that microwaves more dangerous than atomic bombs

Public health official in Nan inspects cannabis oil’s side effects

King Power wins Duty Free auction for three regional airports

Court sentences ex-PM Thaksin to prison over lottery program

Prime Minister has little to say about staying in power

Government returns over 300 million baht to fraud victims in China

Abhisit resigns as MP

Parliament votes for Prayuth to stay on as PM

UN agencies urge stronger efforts to stop illegal fishing

Oil prices going down 0.3-0.6 baht

No rent for 1 year for fire-affected vendors at Chatuchak market