Bangkok schools closed over air pollution concerns
A young boy wears a protective mask for the high
levels of air pollution as he's picked up from school in Bangkok, Wednesday,
Jan. 30. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
Bangkok (AP) — More than 400
schools in Thailand's capital, Bangkok, were shut for the rest of the week
Wednesday due to increasing concern over dangerously unhealthy air
Faced with public discontent as well
as a possible health crisis, Police Gen. Asawin Kwanmuang, the city's
governor, also declared the city a "pollution control zone," allowing
authorities to take legal measures to combat the threat, including road
closings and diversions. Violators of orders to curb pollution, which could
include limits on diesel exhaust, outdoor burning and construction
activities, could face up to three months in prison.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha
directed Asawin to order the closure of 437 schools after officials said the
pollution would continue until next Monday. They said still air and heavy
traffic are causing a buildup of particles in the air.
The Pollution Control Department
said the amount of especially dangerous tiny "PM 2.5" particles has risen in
all areas in and around Bangkok since Monday.
"We decided to eliminate the problem
by closing down the schools," Asawin said. "We're afraid that it can be
dangerous for the children." Technical colleges are included among the
closed institutions but universities are still considering what to do.
Mongkolsak Lajina, the father of a
5-year-old student, suggested that closing schools was a token gesture.
"I don't think it will help much. It
helps that students do not have to commute to schools," he said. "But we
need better measures to effectively deal with this problem."
The Public Health Ministry said
people should refrain from outdoor activities and exercise, and look instead
for indoor venues. Many commuters and pedestrians have begun wearing face
"These measures will help only
temporarily," said Aek Pongpairoj, a doctor living in Bangkok. "If we want a
long-lasting solution, all sectors must be involved, not just government
agencies; for example, the private sector involving construction. There are
so many construction sites and I can see that preventive measures aren't
Pollution levels also rose elsewhere
in Thailand, bringing a heavy haze to Chiang Mai and other northern areas
well ahead of the annual "smoky season" that normally begins in late
February, when farmers burn agricultural waste and dry weather allows
airborne particles to accumulate.
Efforts to reduce the pollution
level in Bangkok by hosing down roads and spraying water in the air have
been criticized as ineffective. People were asked to limit open-air burning
of materials, and have even been advised to use shorter incense sticks in
upcoming Lunar New Year celebrations.
Prayuth gets party nod as possible PM candidate
Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)
Bangkok (AP) —The Palang
Pracharat party said Wednesday its executive board will designate Prime
Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, along with party leader Uttama Savanayana and
Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak, as its three candidates, as
required under rules for the March 24 general election.
Prayuth has not clarified if he
intends to run. He could still become an "outsider prime minister" under the
country's latest constitution, which doesn't require that the prime minister
be a member of Parliament.
When Palang Pracharat was
established last year, it was seen as a proxy for the military government.
It adopted the old style of politics that reforms were supposed to remove,
with big-money backers and alliances with political party bosses around the
country who could deliver votes directly or when the time comes to form a
new government coalition.
With advantages similar to those
held by an incumbent political party, Palang Pracharat is widely tipped to
finish first or second in the election.
An elaborate electoral system that
includes disproportionate power for an unelected Senate in naming a new
prime minister heavily favors the Palang Pracharat, even as the Pheu Thai
party affiliated with former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra is expected
to retain much of its old popularity.
Suvarnabhumi Airport unveils ‘Thailand E-Visa On Arrival’
Samut Prakan - Suvarnabhumi
International Airport launched a “Thailand E-Visa On Arrival” campaign on
Tuesday, to boost tourism during the Spring Festival.
Suvarnabhumi Airport, in cooperation
with Airports of Thailand (AOT) and the Immigration Bureau, held a ceremony
to introduce its latest online service to streamline immigration procedures.
The opening ceremony was chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit
Under the campaign, citizens of 20
countries are entitled to a visa-on-arrival fee waiver, which can be applied
for online. The Thai government’s latest move is intended to stimulate and
promote tourism, as well as enhance Thailand’s attractiveness among foreign
visitors during the high travel season, as Chinese New Year approaches.
The 20 countries eligible for the
waiver include Andora, Bulgaria, Bhutan, China including Taiwan, Cyprus,
Ethiopia, Fiji, India, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Maldives, Malta,
Mauritius, Papua New Guinea, Romania, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Ukraine and
Uzbekistan. Citizens of these countries will be exempted from the 2,000-baht
Tourists from any of the 20
countries flying Thai Airways can apply for an e-visa on arrival 24 hours a
Australian PM asks Thailand to free detained soccer player
Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018, file photo, prison guards escort Bahraini football
player Hakeem al-Araibi from a court in Bangkok. (AP Photo/Gemunu
Kaweewit Kaewjinda and Tassanee
Bangkok (AP) — Australian
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has urged Thailand to stop the extradition to
Bahrain of a detained soccer player who has refugee status in Australia, his
office said Tuesday.
In a letter to Thai Prime Minister
Prayuth Chan-ocha, Morrison emphasized that Hakeem al-Araibi's case was an
important matter to him personally, as well as to the Australian government
and Australian people, his office said. The letter was reported earlier by
The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper.
Al-Araibi, 25, a former Bahraini
national team player, says he fled his home country due to political
repression. Bahrain wants him returned to serve a 10-year prison sentence he
received in absentia in 2014 for vandalizing a police station, which he
Human rights groups, soccer
governing bodies and activists have pushed for Thailand to release al-Araibi,
who plays for the semi-professional soccer club Pascoe Vale FC in Melbourne.
They believe he risks being tortured if he is sent back to Bahrain.
Morrison noted that al-Araibi has a
permanent protection visa issued by Australia, that the government only
issues such visas after a careful process, and that Australia considers him
Thai foreign ministry spokeswoman
Busadee Santipitaks said Tuesday that the official extradition request was
received from Bahrain and forwarded to Thai prosecutors.
Thailand's attorney general's office
received the extradition request Monday and is expected to decide within a
week whether to proceed with the extradition case, said Chatchom Akapin,
director general of the international affairs department.
Chatchom said Thailand would not
extradite al-Araibi "if the sought after extradition is political."
"If it is, then the request must be
denied," he said.
Prime Minister Prayuth said the
situation was complicated.
"Thai officials have to follow the
law in every aspect. However, Thailand has good relations with Bahrain and
FIFA," he said, referring to soccer's world governing body. "How can we find
a solution? I understand everyone's concerns."
Human Rights Watch's Asia director,
Brad Adams, said Thailand would make a "huge mistake" if it extradites al-Araibi
because "global opinion and international law are clearly opposed to this
The Asian Football Confederation on
Tuesday followed FIFA and the International Olympic Committee in asking for
The AFC, led by Sheikh Salman Bin
Ibrahim Al-Khalifa, a member of Bahrain's royal family, had faced criticism
for not calling for al-Araibi's freedom.
Thai girl group in hot water over singer's swastika shirt
In this June 2, 2017, file photo, Thai pop band
BNK 48 performs for the first time in Bangkok. (The Yomiuri Shimbun via AP
Bangkok (AP) — A popular Thai music act has
apologized amid a scandal set off when one of its members wore a shirt
showing the swastika flag of Nazi Germany during a performance.
The incident involving the girl group BNK48 occurred
just two days ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, marked
Sunday with somber ceremonies in other parts of the world to remember the 6
million Jews and others killed in Adolf Hitler's notorious death camps.
Israel's embassy in Thailand posted a statement on
Twitter expressing "shock and dismay over the Nazi outfit worn by the
"Presenting Nazi symbols by the band's singer, hurt the
feelings of millions around the world, whose relatives were murdered by the
Nazis," it said.
The performer, 19-year-old Pichayapa 'Namsai' Natha,
blamed her own ignorance for her actions as she delivered a tearful apology
and asked for forgiveness. In the video apology made on the stage where the
group usually performs, she dropped to her knees as she finished her brief
statement and was comforted by fellow band members. Her apology was also
posted on her Instagram account.
Management of the group, noted more for its marketing
prowess than its musical abilities, also apologized that they had
"inadvertently caused dismay and distress to people affected" by the
historical crime against humanity.
Incidents involving insensitive use of Nazi symbols
occur from time to time in Thailand, where there is little awareness of the
Holocaust and an inclination to use them as design elements or comic props.
Past scandals have involved bars, restaurants, motels
and clothing using swastikas and images of Hitler for decorative purposes.
But on several occasions students at schools and colleges have mimicked Nazi
regalia and rituals, including the infamous 'Heil, Hitler' salute, in skits,
artworks and ceremonies.
Thais are not alone among the peoples of Asia with
little knowledge or sensitivity about the Holocaust. In what may be a mark
of disinterest in history among the younger generation, several other
youth-oriented music groups have been involved in similar scandals.
Late last year, management for the South Korean hit
K-pop boy band BTS had to apologize for one of its members wearing a T-shirt
depicting the explosion of an atomic bomb and another a hat with a Nazi
emblem in a magazine photo book, Band members previously flew flags with
what appeared to be the Nazi swastika during a concert.
In 2016, the producer for a Japanese all-girl "idol"
group like BNK48 joined Sony Music in apologizing after the popular act
performed in outfits resembling Nazi-era German military uniforms.
Keyakizaka46, a group of about 20 mostly teenage girls
who sing and dance in synch, appeared at a concert in black knee-length
dresses that look like military overcoats, and black capes and officer caps
with a Nazi-like eagle emblem.
DPM Prawit orders traffic police to solve jams in central Bangkok
Bangkok - Deputy Prime Minister
Gen Prawit Wongsuwan asked the Royal Thai Police to mitigate traffic
congestions during rush hours across Bangkok in a bid to reduce air
pollution caused by the burning of fuel.
Pol Lt Gen Kongcheep Tantravanich,
spokesperson of the Defense Ministry, said the Thai Armed Forces would
continue supporting the air pollution control effort to bring down the
amount of hazardous dust particles lurking in the greater Bangkok area and
surrounding provinces. Since mid-January, the military has been working with
the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration and the Ministry of Natural
Resources and Environment to clean streets, spray water in affected areas,
and carry out cloudseeding operations.
Deputy Prime Minister and Defense
Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan has asked the Royal Thai Police to find ways
to ease traffic jams on Bangkok streets during rush hours in order to reduce
carbon emissions while instructing the military to study dust solutions of
The military is in the process of
developing mist spraying machines to be installed on high-rise buildings and
testing unmanned aircrafts that can support the pollution control operation.
IOC backs FIFA's calls for Bahraini player to be released
Former Australian soccer national team member
Craig Foster talks to journalists at The Foreign Correspondents' Club of
Thailand after meeting detained refugee Hakeem al-Araibi in Bangkok,
Thailand, Friday, Jan. 25. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
Bangkok (AP) - The International Olympic Committee has backed FIFA's
calls for a Bahraini soccer player to be allowed to return to Australia from
Thailand where he is detention while being pursued for extradition by
But Asian soccer's leadership is declining to publicly
back the campaign to secure the release of Hakeem al-Araibi, who has refugee
status in Australia.
The IOC said its president, Thomas Bach, "has
personally discussed this worrying situation with the United Nations High
Commissioner for Refugees."
FIFA asked the Thai government earlier last week to
ensure al-Araibi was released at the "earliest possible moment."
The IOC said its "full support for the FIFA actions in
order to find a solution based on 'basic human and humanitarian values'" has
been conveyed to the Thai government by IOC member Khunying Patama
By contrast, the Asian Football Confederation only says
it "continues to work with FIFA ... to find a solution." In emails, AFC
spokesman Colin Gibson would not say what the governing body believes the
solution should be, specifically declining to back calls for al-Araibi's
return to Australia.
An AFC statement said Senior Vice President Praful
Patel is handling the matter and not President Sheikh Salman Bin Ibrahim
Al-Khalifa, a member of Bahrain's royal family, to prevent any "conflict of
Al-Araibi has said he was tortured in Bahrain after his
2012 arrest and fled in 2014 to Australia, which granted him political
asylum in 2017 and where he now plays for Melbourne's Pascoe Vale Football
Bahrain wants its former national team player returned
to serve a 10-year prison sentence that was handed down in absentia after he
was accused of vandalizing a police station — a charge he denies.
Crude palm oil sent to Bangpakong Power Plant
Bangkok - The first batch of 2,000 tons of palm oil has been
delivered to Bangpakong Power Plant in Chachoengsao province.
Following the Cabinet’s resolution to have the
Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) absorb the oversupply of
oil palm in the domestic market, two thousand tons of crude palm oil were
transported to Bangpakong Power Station for electricity generation on
EGAT aims to buy 160,000 tons of palm oil from four
southern provinces namely Surat Thani, Chumphon, Krabi, and Nakhon Si
Thammarat to help raise the crop’s domestic price.
Energy Minister Siri Jirapongphan said under the palm
oil support program, farmers will be able to sell their crop at a price of
no less than 3 baht per kilogram.
EGAT has modified Bangpakong Thermal Power Plant Unit 3
to support the use of crude palm oil as fuel for power generation with
natural gas. The electricity regulator expects the plant to use up to 30,000
tons of palm oil per month.
Thailand sets date of first general election since coup
Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019, file photo, demonstrators hold a rally demanding the
general election not be postponed in Bangkok. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
Bangkok (AP) — Thailand's
Election Commission on Wednesday announced that the nation's first general
election since the military seized power in 2014 will be held on March 24.
The decree published in the Royal Gazette put into effect election laws that
were drafted by the government.
The most recent promised election date
of Feb. 24 had to be abandoned because the decree giving the go-ahead was
not issued as expected earlier this month, leaving not enough time to
prepare for the polls.
Anti- government protesters have staged
sporadic demonstrations on Bangkok's streets in recent months, demanding
there be no further delays.
The government had announced earlier
this month that coronation ceremonies for HM King Maha Vajiralongkorn would
take place in early May, which had also fueled speculation that the poll
date could be delayed.
Police says bodies from river were missing activists
photo dated Thursday, Dec, 27, 2018, rescuers cover a body on the shore of
the Mekong River in Nakhon Phanom province. (AP Photo)
Bangkok (AP) — DNA tests show
that two bodies found washed up on the shore of the Mekong River in
Thailand's northeast are the corpses of political activists, police said
The two, known by the pseudonyms
Puchana and Kasalong, were among three exiled activists who disappeared in
December from homes in Laos, where they took shelter after fleeing Thailand.
There is a group of Thai exiles in Laos associated with the Red Shirt
movement that staged aggressive street protests in Bangkok in 2010.
Several members of a hard-core faction
advocating that Thailand becomes a republic are wanted on charges of lese
majeste, a serious crime punishable by up to 15 years in prison per offense.
Nakhon Phanom provincial police chief,
Pol. Maj. Gen. Thanachart Rodklongton, said forensics lab results matched
the bodies' DNA to samples from family members.
The bodies were found on Dec. 27 and
Dec. 28 wrapped in brown sacks along with blocks of cement, presumably to
weigh them down.
The real names of the two have not been
made public, but the third person with whom they worked who also went
missing is a well-known Red Shirt leader and long-time dissident, Surachai
Danwattananusorn, better known as Surachai sae Dan. His fate is unknown. Now
in his seventies, he has spent many years in prison on lese majeste and
other charges since the 1970s, when he was a communist guerrilla in southern
The three had not been seen by friends
in Laos since the middle of December.
Since 2016, at least two other Thai
dissidents in Laos have disappeared under suspicious circumstances.
Olympic champ among 4 Thai weightlifters to test positive
Sopita Tanasan, of Thailand, competes in the
women’s 48kg weightlifting competition at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de
Janeiro. (AP Photo)
Budapest, Hungary (AP) — Two
world champion weightlifters and an Olympic gold medalist are among four
Thai weightlifters to test positive for banned steroids, the International
Weightlifting Federation announced on Tuesday.
Thunya Sukcharoen and Sukanya Srisurat
risk being stripped of the world titles they won in November after each
testing positive for at least one anabolic steroid and artificial
testosterone. If found guilty, Srisurat faces a potential eight-year ban for
a second offense.
The 2016 Olympic champion at 48
kilograms, Sopita Tanasan, also tested positive after finishing fourth at
the world championships. Sixth-place finisher Chitchanok Pulsabsakul also
failed a drug test.
The failed tests are another
embarrassment for weightlifting, which is under pressure from the
International Olympic Committee to crack down on doping. Weightlifting is on
the Olympic program for next year's games in Tokyo, but only provisionally
Burapha University to become lead provider of personnel to the EEC
Chonburi - Burapha University
has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Eastern Economic
Corridor (EEC) Human Resource Development Committee to produce needed
personnel for the special zone.
Representing Burapha University, Dr.
Sanoh Unakul, chaired the signing of the MOU between acting Burapha
University Director Dr. Somnuek Theerakulpisut and EEC Secretary-General Dr.
Kanit Saengsuphan. The university has now committed to adapting its courses
to produce personnel for the EEC, which is being developed by the government
to energize the Thai economy.
The institute was chosen as it is
located within the EEC in Chonburi province and already provides courses
relevant to the corridor’s ten targeted industries. The university features
programs spanning automotive engineering, electronics and food processing.
Burapha University is to become the lead provider of
human resources for the EEC and will hold training sessions alongside full
courses. It will receive support from the committee.
Fisheries Dept: bright future in local fisheries
Bangkok - Thailand’s
Fisheries Department expects a bright future in the local fisheries industry
after the European Commission took Thailand off its group of "warned
countries" in recognition of its “progress” in tackling illegal, unreported
and unregulated (IUU) fishing.
According to Director-General of
Fisheries Department Dr. Adisorn Promthep, the EU’s move will significantly
improve the confidence of importers. He said the recognition also reflects
the Thai government’s determination to stamp out problems and create
stability in the fishing sector through various means, including amending
related laws and adjusting the management system of the fisheries industry.
He clarified that the latter also
replenishes maritime resources and provides opportunities to local
fishermen. The director-general indicated that his department and the
concerned agencies will continue to impose strict regulations to maintain
the quality of the sector.
Dr. Adisorn is confident the
increased maritime resources available since the enforcement of strict
regulations will improve the productivity of each fishing vessel. He added
that the streamlined processes of related agencies will accelerate
The Fisheries Department
Director-General also mentioned the establishment of the Thai Fisheries
Development Fund to oversee fishing related legal cases. The fund will also
provide compensation to those affected by such legal cases. The matter will
soon be proposed to the Cabinet.
Krungthai Bank forecasts 4.1% economic growth this year
Bangkok - Krungthai Bank has projected the
Thai economy will grow at a rate of 4.1% this year, expressing confidence
that the kingdom will see an influx of foreign capital once there is more
clarification on the election date.
Phatcharapoj Nantramas, a senior economist at
Krungthai Bank, said the bank has revised its 2019 economic growth
projection down from 4.3% to 4.1%. However, he expects that government and
private spending will be bustling in the second half of 2019 and the country
will be able to regain investor confidence once the electoral authority
announces the election date.
The economist added that if the next government
chooses to continue the existing economic policies, the Thai economy will be
less vulnerable to global economic fluctuations and uncertainties.
He also warned of the impact of the prolonged trade
war between the United States and China, but was sanguine about China’s
production slump in the first quarter of 2019, a situation Phatcharapoj
thinks could benefit the kingdom in the short run. Thai products and
services sold to China account for 12% of the country’s exports.
With that said, Phatcharapoj noted that 2019 will be
a year full of challenges for Thai entrepreneurs who will encounter
liquidity risks and emerging technologies that could potentially transform
the business sector for good.
EC to endorse election results within 150-day timeframe
Bangkok - The Election Commission of Thailand
(EC) has promised to endorse election results within the 150-day timeframe
as stipulated in the 2017 Constitution.
EC Secretary-General Pol Col Jarungwit Phumma has
reiterated that the electoral organ will conclude the general election and
endorse poll results by May 9th, 2019, which is within 50 days of the
organic act governing the election of members of parliament coming into
force on December 11th last year.
According to Pol Col Jarungwit, even though the
election date is still unclear, Election Commissioners earlier this week
agreed that the conclusion of the election stipulated in the permanent
charter must include the endorsement of poll results.
There is current speculation that Thai voters will
cast ballots on Sunday, March 10th based on the EC’s announcement and
interpretation of the 150-day timeframe.
He added that although the EC is responsible for
determining the poll’s date, the official announcement will have to made by
Cabinet extends welfare card measures, approves projects in upper north
Punnakanta - acting spokesperson for the Prime Minister’s Office.
Chiang Mai – The Cabinet has
extended the second phase of its welfare measures by another six months
along with eight urgent programs in the upper northern region.
Acting Spokesperson for the Prime
Minister’s Office Puttipong Punnakanta reports that the Cabinet meeting on
economic and social development of Upper Northern Region 1 reviewed eight
urgent projects, including maintenance work for Highway No. 11, expansion of
the northern intersection bridge and the construction of a Truck Terminal in
The meeting also agreed to extend
the second phase of measures designed to improve the lives of welfare card
holders by another six months until June of this year. Card holders earning
less than 30,000 baht per month will receive 200 baht per person per month
while those earning more but under 100,000 baht will receive 100 baht per
month. The extension will require 4.37 billion baht from the Grassroots
Economy Pracharat Fund.
Monthly transfers to the welfare
cards will also be changed with those entitled to 200 baht per month to
receive 300 month placed in their cards each month, while those entitled to
100 baht to see 200 baht. The funds are for use in Blue Flag stores.
Military chief urges loyalty ahead of expected election
chief Gen. Apirat Kongsompong delivers a speech during the Royal Thai Armed
Forces Day ceremony at a military base in Bangkok, Friday, Jan. 18. (AP
Bangkok (AP) — Thailand's
military held its annual Armed Forces Day parade on Friday as the country
prepares for upcoming elections.
Army Commander in Chief Gen. Apirat
Kongsompong, who presided over the ceremony, declined last October to rule
out future army interventions in Thai political life, raising a storm of
But his speech to soldiers on Friday
steered clear of politics, making instead routine exhortations of loyalty to
the king and the country.
"We will sacrifice our physical and
mental strength to protect the country and revere the king, and look after
the people," he said.
With elections expected shortly,
political temperatures are rising, and pro-democracy activists have been
demonstrating to pressure the government not to backslide on its promise to
hold polls. Several times it has set dates for elections but then found
excuses for pushing them back. It recently announced that a Feb. 24 election
date it set months ago will not be possible.
Apirat earlier this week warned
protesters not to step over the line of acceptable dissent. There have been
small but spirited protests lately in Bangkok and several other cities over
the failure to keep the election schedule.
Friday's march by soldiers on a
parade ground on the outskirts of Bangkok was a reminder that the army is a
major force in political life here. Since the end of the absolute monarchy
in 1932, it has conducted 12 successful coups.
Armed Forces Day marks the
anniversary of a battle 500 years ago in which King Naresuan is said to have
slain a Burmese prince in a duel on elephant back.
ASEAN ministers rock no boats in Myanmar, South China Sea
Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai addresses journalists during a press
conference following the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)
Foreign Ministers' retreat in Chiang Mai, Thailand, Friday, Jan. 18. (AP
Chiang Mai (AP) — Foreign
ministers of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations on Friday
hewed to the group's practice of reaching the least provocative consensus
possible in discussions of such divisive issues as Myanmar's Rohingya crisis
and China's territorial claims in the South China Sea.
A two-day Foreign Ministers' Retreat
was the regional group's first meeting since Thailand took over its annual
The host's summary of the meeting
emphasized the humanitarian role ASEAN members could play in Myanmar's
Rakhine State, where more than 700,000 members of the Muslim Rohingya
minority fled from a brutal government counterinsurgency campaign.
Standard ASEAN practice is to avoid
criticizing what are considered each country's domestic affairs. But
Myanmar's Rohingya crisis is also a regional problem, because of the
hundreds of thousands of refugees it has generated, justifying discussion by
ASEAN has plans to send a team to
Rakhine, but Thai Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai at a closing news
conference said its mission had been delayed because of a stalemate on the
"Once things are cleared, then you
will be seeing more visibly the presence of the collective ASEAN efforts in
Myanmar and Rakhine State," he said.
Don said the group suggested that
Myanmar should "address the root causes of the conflict" and create "a
conducive environment" so that affected communities can rebuild their lives.
Myanmar has previously acknowledged
similar suggestions but done little to act on them.
ASEAN offered to act as a
coordinator with U.N. agencies on the planned future repatriation of the
Rohingya currently sheltering at camps in Bangladesh, Don said.
Many Rohingya are reluctant to
return without more guarantees of safety and the prospect of obtaining
citizenship, which is generally denied to them.
Myanmar was represented at the
meeting by Minister for International Cooperation Kyaw Tin. Its foreign
minister is Aung San Suu Kyi, but she is also the country's executive leader
and often delegates foreign minister duties to others.
The ministers also claimed progress
on concluding a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea, long touted as a way
of avoiding volatile confrontations in the disputed waters.
Several ASEAN countries, especially
Vietnam and the Philippines, have the territorial interests directly
threatened by Chinese claims in the sea, while others, either nervous about
offending their giant neighbor to the north or maintaining vital economic
ties with Beijing, are less concerned.
The meeting statement gave a nod to
China's critics by saying the ministers "took note of some concerns on the
land reclamations and activities in the area." By extending the size of
reefs and islands and establishing military and civilian facilities on them,
Beijing strengthens its claims to the adjacent waters.
Authorities enter Tham Luang Cave for first time since rescue of 13 footballers
Chiang Rai – Authorities inspected Tham Luang
Cave in Mae Sai district of Chiang Rai on Friday, the first time since the
Moo Pa Academy 13 were rescued on July 11, 2018, and indicated it will be
another month until a second survey can be carried out.
A team of thirty-five entered chambers one through
three of the cave complex, traveling about three kilometers. Their
inspection was the first since Moo Pa Academy Football Team was rescued from
the cave after being trapped due to flooding. They found that much of the
cave is still covered in sediment and mud with stretches of water that would
require diving to traverse. The team took about five hours to carry out the
The inspection revealed hundreds of oxygen tanks,
field stretchers and rope are still strewn throughout the cave, especially
in Chamber Two. Other remnants of the rescue and past visitors include foil,
power gel and radios from World War II. All of the items have been cataloged
with another survey to take place in a month’s time when conditions improve.
Commander of the Royal Thai Navy’s Special Combat
Unit, Rear Adm Apakorn Yukongkaeo , remarked that the large amount of left
over rescue equipment is an indication of the determination put into
rescuing the Tham Luang 13.
NLA approves new Land Traffic Act
Bangkok – Thailand’s National
Legislative Assembly (NLA) has passed a draft Land Traffic Act that would
revamp ticket issuing, fine payment and license confiscation.
The latest NLA meeting reviewed a
Land Traffic Act submitted by the Cabinet with Minister of Transport Arkom
Termpittayapaisit stating that, due to an increasing number of road
accidents mostly linked to poor driving discipline, the Land Traffic Act of
1979 should be considered obsolete. Areas of improvement outlined by the
minister included the issuing of tickets to driving violators.
On fine payments, the new act would
allow for cashier’s checks and electronic transfers to be used alongside
physical appearance by the violator at a police station. Police are to be
empowered to confiscate a driver’s license if they appear unable to operate
their vehicle or if they pose a danger to others or themselves as well as
the authority to return licenses when it is deemed the driver is fit.
The act was approved with a vote of
157 in favor and two abstentions.
Heavy smog, worsened by weather, raises alarm across Asia
crews spray water in the hope of controlling some of the smog in Bangkok,
Monday, Jan. 14. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
Tassanee Vejpongsa and
Bangkok (AP) — Unusually high
levels of smog worsened by weather patterns are raising alarm across Asia,
with authorities in Bangkok handing out face masks and preparing to seed
clouds for rain to clear the air.
A combination of construction dust,
auto exhaust and other pollutants, lingering over Bangkok due to prevailing
weather patterns, has taken air quality to unhealthy levels in recent days.
"I admit these are temporary
solutions but we have to do it. Other long term measures will also be
implemented, Police Gen. Aswin Kwanmuang told a meeting of army, police,
pollution control and other officials on Monday.
The city was handing out some 10,000
face masks, spraying water to help settle dust and tightening controls on
when big trucks can use city streets — the Thai Pollution Control Department
said that about half of the high levels of PM 2.5, tiny particulate matter
that can dangerously clog lungs, was due to diesel engine emissions.
The Department of Royal Rainmaking
and Agricultural Aviation said it was preparing to deploy two planes for
cloud seeding between Tuesday and Friday, if conditions are suitable.
In South Korea, unusually high PM
2.5 levels prompted emergency measures to reduce the health hazard. The
country's National Institute of Environmental Research said the daily
average of 120 micrograms per cubic meter in Seoul as of late Monday
afternoon was the worst since it began monitoring for PM 2.5 in 2015.
Over the years, South Korea has
suffered repeated spells when silt and pollution-laden winds have swept over
from northern China. But vehicle emissions are also a problem.
Thailand's air pollution problem
tends to wax and wane partly depending on the season. As in much of the rest
of Asia, burning of fields after harvests can cause severe smog at certain
times of the year. The spring smog has come early to Bangkok.
"There are a lot of factories and
now that the pollution score is higher we have to be more careful," said
Oranart Phongpreecha, 55, a housewife who lives just outside of the Thai
"It's not that I get sick more
often. But when I go outside, I have a sore throat and I can't see clearly.
... I'm afraid that polluted air is going into my lungs so I have to protect
Pralong Dumrongthai, head of the
Thai Pollution Control Department, said long term solutions would include
switching to use of electric vehicles and better quality gasoline.
He said the weather patterns suggest
Bangkok might be stuck with bad air for up to three months.
"I ask for public understanding when
your vehicles are being checked, especially those that emit black smoke or
big trucks," he said. "We need your cooperation."
Pollution generally is out of
control by the time countries take action. India's cities are among the
world's smoggiest and it is just starting to tackle the problem.
The Indian government has announced
a five-year program to cut air pollution by up to 30 percent from 2017
levels in the country's 102 worst-affected cities.
Key targets include reducing burning
of field waste, firewood and charcoal, cleaning up thermal power and auto
emissions and heavily polluting brick production and controlling dust from
Critics say the plan lacks details
on enforcement and funding.
Political poll gauges reactions to possible change of election date
demonstrator holds a poster demanding the general election not be postponed
in Bangkok Tuesday, Jan. 8. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
Bangkok – A survey by Suan
Dusit Poll of 1,029 eligible voters on reactions to the possibility of the
general election being moved from February 24 found 31.5 percent of
respondents urging all political parties to not cause unrest if such a
change occurs. Up to 48.4 percent said the move would allow candidates more
time to campaign and the Election Commission (EC) more time to prepare while
49.17 percent said it would impact political stability and affect the
economy and social cohesion.
If the election were to change date,
63.75 percent of respondents said they would be disappointed and fearful of
economic and political instability.
Thailand’s political parties
meanwhile have continued their campaigns to attract votes, showing no signs
of concern that the general election date may change.
The Democrat party has unveiled 30
candidates to run in Bangkok and kicked off a campaign to encourage voting.
Its members have brushed off concerns that the general election date may be
moved, noting that the law compels the vote to take place within 150 days.
Chat Pattana Party has opened its
first coordination center in Bangkok and announced its overarching policy of
“No Problem”, which is to focus on security, attracting tourism and
investment and dealing with air pollution.
Members of Phuea Thai Party have met
with citizens in Chiang Kwan district of Roi Et province, introducing
themselves and policies to do with propping up rubber prices and public
The Future Forward Party was
similarly active in the northeast with candidates announcing policies to do
with justice and progressive farming in Maha Sarakham and Kalasin.
Seri Ruam Thai Party opened a
coordination center in Phang Nga province and announced a platform to end
poverty, corruption, illegal drugs, southern violence and political
conflicts as well as management of palm and rubber prices and support for
Royally bestowed items delivered to Pabuk victims
Nakhon Si Thammarat – The
volunteer center, under the patronage of His Majesty the King of Thailand,
has delivered royally-bestowed packages to the victims of Tropical Storm
Pabuk in Nakhon Si Thammarat province.
On Sunday, Admiral Pawit Rujitet,
chief of the volunteer center, handed relief bags and necessities to Nakhon
Si Thammarat governor Chamroen Tipayapongtada. All items will be distributed
to families affected by the recent storm.
Admiral Pawit also relayed His
Majesty’s concerns, saying His Majesty had asked volunteers to assist in the
recovery and rehabilitation of affected communities.
In addition, Admiral Pawit presented
educational equipment and supplies to local schools and students.
In Nakhon Si Thammarat, more than
364,000 families or nearly 680,000 people were battered by Pabuk earlier
this month. The storm claimed three lives and destroyed 46,000 houses,
electricity poles and trees.
Social Development Min oversees projects in Mae Hong Son
Mae Hong Son – Thailand’s
Ministry of Social Development and Human Security has followed up on the
implementation of development policies in the northern province of Mae Hong
The inspection team was led by the
minister himself, Gen Anantaporn Kanjanatat. He was accompanied by ministry
officials and members of the One Home campaign.
During Sunday’s visit, Gen
Anantaporn listened to people’s complaints and needs and asked his
subordinates to provide solutions accordingly, in the hope of eradicating
the existing social gap as well as increase public access to state-run
Affirming the government’s
commitment to raising living standards, Gen Anantaporn said his ministry
would continue assisting children, the elderly, women, persons with
disabilities, the underprivileged and those in need, making sure they have
equal access to welfare and public services.
Mae Hong Son is a remote,
mountainous province in northern Thailand, bordering Myanmar. It is
approximately 924 kilometers north of Bangkok. It has about 274,000
residents, many of whom are members of hill tribes and ethic minorities.
PM visits Bangkok communities
Bangkok - Prime Minister Gen
Prayut Chan-o-cha visited various communities in Bangkok on Wednesday, to
oversee the implementation of government policies.
Gen Prayut made his first stop at
Lam Or Tan Canal in Lat Krabang district to follow up on the area’s aquatic
plant management project, which has adopted biological methods to make use
of water hyacinth as well as prevent it from expanding in waterways.
The prime minister then traveled to
Kriang Krai Market to meet local people whom he asked to be patient, saying
his administration’s development policies will eventually come to fruition
as stability and prosperity take time to attain while assuring all sides
that his visit this week was not to garner support from Thai voters ahead of
His next stop was Nong Chok Market.
There, he explained to social welfare cardholders that although the 300-baht
cash handout doesn’t cover all monthly expenses, the government is
determined to help ease the adversities of the poor and low-income earners.
Gen Prayut then traveled to Wat Mai
Charoen Rat School in Nong Chok district to take part in traditional Thai
games and watch traditional dances performed by Wat Mai Charoen Rat School
The prime minister made his last
stop at a new agricultural theory learning center where he joined 25 farmers
in a traditional rice harvest practice. He asked the producers to follow
safe and organic methods in their farming.
Australia praises Thai move on Saudi, concerned about player
image made from video, woman protesters march with a sign outside the
building housing the Saudi consulate in Sydney, Thursday, Jan. 10.
(Australia Broadcast Corporation via AP)
Kaweewit Kaewjinda and Trevor Marshallsea
Bangkok (AP) — Australia's
foreign minister praised Thailand for its handling of a young Saudi woman
who fled her family to seek asylum in Australia, but also reminded it of
continuing concern about a Bahraini soccer player granted asylum in
Australia who remains in Thai detention.
Marise Payne met with senior Thai
officials in Bangkok on Thursday after Australia announced it would assess
the request for asylum by 18-year-old Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun, who was
stopped Saturday at a Bangkok airport on her way to Australia and her
passport seized. She said she was fleeing abuse by her family.
Payne told reporters that
Australia's review of Alqunun's case is already underway.
She quashed speculation that Alqunun
might accompany her back to Australia "because there are steps which are
required in the process which Australia, and any other country considering
such a matter, would have to go through."
Confined to an airport transit
hotel, Alqunun conducted an online appeal for help, garnering tens of
thousands of followers on Twitter and enough public and diplomatic support
to convince Thai officials to admit her temporarily under the protection of
U.N. officials. The office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees
quickly deemed her a legitimate refugee.
Alqunun's case has highlighted the
cause of women's rights in Saudi Arabia. Several female Saudis fleeing abuse
by their families have been caught trying to seek asylum abroad in recent
years and returned home. Human rights activists say many similar cases have
She has attracted interest
worldwide, particularly in Australia. In downtown Sydney on Thursday, four
women dressed in jeans and calling themselves the Secret Sisterhood held a
topless protest outside the building housing the Saudi Consulate, calling on
Australia to grant Alqunun residency.
Alqunun's father arrived in Bangkok
on Tuesday, but his daughter refused to meet with him. Thailand Immigration
Police chief Lt. Gen. Surachate Hakparn said the father denied physically
abusing Alqunun or trying to force her into an arranged marriage, which were
among the reasons she gave for her flight.
Surachate said the father wanted his
daughter back but respected her decision. Surachate described him as a
governor in Saudi Arabia.
"He has 10 children. He said the
daughter might feel neglected sometimes," Surachate said.
Payne was also asked by reporters
about the case of Hakeem al-Araibi, a 25-year-old former member of Bahrain's
national soccer team, who was granted refugee status in Australia in 2017
after fleeing his homeland, where he said he was persecuted and tortured. He
was arrested while on holiday in Thailand last November due to an Interpol
notice in which Bahrain sought his custody after he was sentenced in
absentia in 2014 to 10 years in prison for allegedly vandalizing a police
station — a charge he denies. Bahrain is seeking his extradition.
She said she raised Australia's
concerns about the case with Thailand's deputy prime minister and foreign
"The Thai government is most
certainly aware of the importance of this matter to Australia," she said. "I
do note that there are legal proceedings underway in relation to Mr.
al-Araibi, and Australia will continue to be in very close contact with Thai
authorities in relation to this."
Al-Araibi, who now plays for
Melbourne's Pascoe Vale Football Club, has been publicly critical of the
Bahrain royal family's alleged involvement in sports scandals, which puts
him at risk of punishment by the Bahraini government.
Al-Araibi has said he was
blindfolded and had his legs beaten while he was held in Bahrain in 2012. He
said he believed he was targeted for arrest because of his Shiite faith and
because his brother was politically active. Bahrain has a Shiite majority
but is ruled by a Sunni monarchy, and has a reputation for harsh repression
since its failed "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011.
Craig Foster, a former Australian
soccer player, held a news conference Thursday in Sydney to issue a joint
call for al-Araibi's release with Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch
and the Sydney-based Gulf Institute for Democracy and Human Rights.
After commending FIFA, soccer's
world governing body, and Australia's Football Federation for supporting
al-Araibi's release, Foster criticized the Asian Football Confederation and
its head, Salman al-Khalifa.
"Sheikh Salman is obligated to
support Hakeem. He is obligated to do everything in his power to advocate,
both privately and publicly, and to use the immense leverage that football
has, with the Bahrain government, his own government, he's a Bahrainian
national, and also with the Thai government to release Hakeem. The silence
of the Asian Football Confederation is not just confounding, it's absolutely
disgraceful," he said.
Gunmen kill 4 volunteers guarding southern Thailand school
Hat Yai, Thailand (AP) — Gunmen disguised as
state security personnel fatally shot four paramilitary volunteers guarding
a school in insurgency-wracked southern Thailand, police said.
The attackers approached the armed territorial
defense volunteers at the school in Pattani province and shot them dead
shortly before noon Thursday, police Lt. Col. Wicha Nupannoi said. They
seized four HK33 assault rifles from their victims before fleeing,
scattering nails and other material on the road to delay pursuers, he said.
On Tuesday, a bomb outside a school and a car bomb
elsewhere exploded in nearby Songkhla province, wounding a 12-year-old
student, a security guard for teachers and a police medic. A flurry of
similar attacks took place in the last week of December. Several targeted
Songkhla, which previously had been largely spared the violence.
"The insurgents consider school officials to be
symbolic of the Thai Buddhist state's occupation of Malay Muslim territory,"
Human Rights Watch said in a statement. "They have frequently targeted
security personnel assigned to provide students and teachers safe passage to
and from school, or protecting the school grounds."
The attacks have occurred during an effort to
revitalize peace talks between the Thai government and some insurgent
groups. Analysts say the most militant group, the Barisan Revolusi Nasional,
is not taking part.
Thai Defense Minister Prawit Wongsuwan blamed the
BRN for Tuesday's bombings. He said the authorities would have to step up
efforts to prevent the attacks.
Human Rights Watch also pinned the blame for the
region's ongoing violence on the BRN.
The insurgents "attack schools and medical clinics
to maim and terrify Buddhist civilians, control the Muslim population, and
discredit Thai authorities," Brad Adams, the group's Asia director, said in
the statement. "Whatever the rationale, targeting civilians is morally
indefensible and a war crime."
Natural Resources Min improving watermanagement
Resources and the Environment Minister Surasak Karnjanarat.
Bangkok - The Ministry of Natural
Resources and the Environment is amending laws and regulations to enhance
the country’s water management system.
Natural Resources and the
Environment Minister Surasak Karnjanarat says his ministry is reviewing five
acts - the Agricultural Land Reform Act, the National Park Act, the Wild
Animal Reservation and Protection Act, the Forest Act, and the draft
Community Forest Act which is currently being deliberated by the National
The minister expects these
amendments to improve the country’s water management system and benefit the
wildlife conservation effort.
In its bid to encourage
reforestation, the ministry is giving out seedlings of economic crops to
farmers and members of the public to grow in their premises.
Surasak said his ministry will hold
talks with the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives and the Ministry of
Commerce to discuss the promotion of wood products in Thailand and the
promotion of Thai teak on the global market, adding that private
organizations will be invited to join the effort.
Saudi woman seeking asylum can stay temporarily in Thailand
Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun, foreground walks by Chief of Immigration Police Maj.
Gen. Surachate Hakparn, right, before leaving the Suvarnabhumi Airport in
Bangkok Monday, Jan. 7. (Immigration police via AP)
Kaweewit Kaewjinda and Aya Batrawy
Bangkok (AP) — An 18-year-old
Saudi woman who fled her family over alleged abuse and barricaded herself in
a Bangkok airport hotel room in a desperate bid for asylum will be allowed
to stay in Thailand while her case is evaluated by the U.N. refugee agency,
immigration authorities said Monday.
Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun grabbed
global attention when she sent out pleas for help via social media, saying
she feared for her life if she were put on a plane back to Kuwait, where she
had slipped away from her family, or her homeland.
Instead, she has been allowed to
enter Thailand temporarily under the protection of the U.N. refugee agency,
which was expected to take about five to seven days to study her case and
her claim for asylum. She said she wants to go to Australia to seek refuge
"We will not send anyone to die. We
will not do that. We will adhere to human rights under the rule of law,"
said Thai Immigration Police chief Maj. Gen. Surachate Hakparn.
Alqunun's plight mirrors that of
other Saudi women who in recent years have turned to social media to amplify
their calls for help while trying to flee abusive families and other
obstacles they face in the conservative kingdom.
Photos released Monday night by
immigration police showed Alqunun with Thai and U.N. officials after she
left the airport transit hotel room where she had been holed up over the
weekend, sending her pleas for help on her Twitter account. She later
tweeted that she feels safe under U.N. protection and has got back her
passport, which had been taken from her earlier.
Alqunun's ordeal began when she fled
from her family while in Kuwait and boarded a flight to Thailand, apparently
taking advantage of being away from Saudi Arabia's restrictions on women who
cannot travel abroad without a man's consent.
Upon arriving at Bangkok's
Suvarnabhumi Airport on Saturday night, she said she was met by a man whom
she identified at various times as either a Kuwait Airways employee or a
Saudi diplomat, who took her passport and said he would help her gain entry
to Thailand. Saudi Arabia denies its officials were involved in any way.
When the man returned about an hour
later with four or five other people, they said they knew she had run away,
that her family wanted her back, and she should go home to Saudi Arabia. She
was sent to a hotel room, and told she would be put on a Monday morning
flight to Kuwait.
She then went online, sending out
pleas for assistance over Twitter, and also barricaded her hotel room door.
Global attention was sparked by social media and she did not get on the
scheduled morning flight to Kuwait.
Alqunun wrote of being in "real
danger" if forced to return to her family in Saudi Arabia, and said in media
interviews that she might be killed. She told the BBC that she had renounced
Islam and was fearful of her father's retaliation.
Her Twitter account attracted more
than 66,000 followers in less than 48 hours and her story grabbed the
attention of foreign governments and the U.N. refugee agency. As the
pressure grew, with concern expressed by Australian lawmakers, Germany's
ambassador to Thailand and human rights agencies, Thai officials agreed to
allow U.N refugee officials to meet with her.
The office of the U.N. High
Commissioner for Refugees said it expected to take at least 5-7 days to
evaluate her case and claims, according to Surachate, the Thai immigration
Giuseppe De Vincentiis, the UNHCR
representative in Thailand, told journalists he did not know where Alqunun
would be staying but that she would be safe because she was under his
agency's protection. UNHCR declined to release any details of its meeting
with her, but De Vincentiis noted "a good spirit of collaboration so far"
with Thai officials.
Surachate said Alqunun's father was
due to arrive Monday night, and officials would see if she was willing to
meet with him.
"As of now, she does not wish to go
back and we will not force her. She won't be sent anywhere tonight,"
Surachate said at a news conference.
"She fled hardship. Thailand is a
land of smiles," he said.
He noted her tweets mentioned "she
does not want Islam," adding that "this type of thing, in her country, is a
Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director
for Human Rights Watch, told The Associated Press that Thailand should let
Alqunun continue her journey to Australia.
"She has a valid Australian visa,"
he said. "The key thing is she should not be sent back to Saudi Arabia, she
should not be sent back into harm's way."
Surachate challenged parts of
Alqunun's story, including that she had an Australian visa.
"The fact is she didn't have any
money. She intended to come here and didn't have any visa to go to
Australia. So we have to state the facts here. But we will provide
assistance nonetheless," he said.
He later said Kuwait Airways had
been at fault for allowing her to board her flight to Thailand without
having proper travel documents. The airline did not immediately comment.
Earlier, Surachate had said that the
Saudi Embassy had said she had run away from her parents and said she could
be in danger. The embassy did not mention that she had rejected Islam.
Her case highlighted Saudi Arabia's
male guardianship laws, which require women who want to travel, obtain a
passport or marry to have the consent of a male relative — usually a father
or husband — no matter what their age.
It also underscored the limits of
the reforms being pushed by Saudi Arabia's powerful Crown Prince Mohamed bin
Salman as he struggles to repair damage to his reputation after the grisly
killing three months ago of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents in
For runaway Saudi women, fleeing can
be a matter of life and death, and they are almost always trying to escape
In 2017, Dina Ali Lasloom triggered
a firestorm online when she was stopped en route to Australia, where she
planned to seek asylum. She was forced to return to Saudi Arabia and was not
publicly heard from again, according to activists tracking her whereabouts.
Despite efforts by the Saudi
government to curtail the scope of male guardianship laws, women who try to
flee their families in Saudi Arabia have few good options inside the
kingdom. They often are pressured to reconcile with their families, sent to
shelters where their movement is restricted or face arrest for disobeying
their legal guardian.
While the Saudi Embassy in Thailand
denies Saudi authorities were involved in trying to stop Alqunun from going
to Australia, the kingdom has in the past forced its citizens to return
Saudi Arabia's charge d'affaires in
Bangkok, Abdullah al-Shuaibi, was quoted in Saudi media as saying that
Alqunun was stopped by Thai authorities because she did not appear to have a
return ticket, a hotel reservation or itinerary to show she was a tourist.
He said the Saudi Embassy has no authority to stop anyone at the airport and
that such a decision would rest with Thai officials.
"She was stopped by airport
authorities because she violated Thai laws," he was quoted as saying in
Sabq, a state-aligned Saudi news website. "The embassy is only monitoring
Tourism restarting in south after passing of Pabuk
Phuket - The Deputy Governor of Phuket has
inspected piers in the province, to build confidence among travelers that
they are safe now that tropical storm Pabuk has passed.
Deputy Governor of Phuket Supoj Rodruang Na Nong
Khai undertook an inspection of Rassada Pier and tourism facilities after
the province’s docks were reopened for operations with the passing of the
tropical storm. The pier has already seen a rush of tourists and the
province is keen to show that the situation is safe.
Most tourists arriving at the pier say they are
confident in the safety being provided by authorities. The pier offers boats
to islands such Koh Lanta in Krabi, where the weather has also improved
significantly and boating is once again allowed.
Villagers of Baan Chong Mai Dam in Krabi’s Ao Luek
who previously evacuated to a temporary shelter have begun to return home.
Air pollution again a cause for concern in Bangkok
Bangkok - The Pollution Control Department
(PCD) has found that Particulate Matter under 2.5 microns or PM 2.5 is once
again above the health limit in Bangkok.
The PCD has reported that atmospheric conditions in
the Thai capital have again become unsafe with 50-85 micrograms of PM 2.5
being found per cubic meter in several areas including Kanchanaphisek road,
Bang Na, Bangkapi, Din Daeng, Lad Prao, Thonburi and Phayathai.
Similar readings were also found in the vicinity of
Bangkok in parts of Nakhon Pathom, Nonthaburi, Pathumthani, Samut Sakhon and
Particulates under 10 microns, or PM10, were also
found at a rate of 66-132 micrograms per cubic meter in Din Daeng.
SME D Bank offering low-interest loans to storm-hit businesses
Bangkok - The Small and
Medium Enterprise Development Bank of Thailand (SME D Bank) is introducing a
loan scheme to rehabilitate businesses battered by Tropical Storm Pabuk.
According to SME D Bank, businesses
affected by the storm will be granted a 6-month non-loan repayment period as
well as an additional loan of up to two million baht depending on their
credit. The additional loan scheme comes with a repayment period of five
years and 0.415% interest per month.
The bank is also rolling out other
loan schemes in the storm-hit south such as a community loan program, an
agricultural support program, a tourism loan program, an innovative business
loan scheme, and a loan program for family-run stores. Personal loans will
come with a 0.42% interest rate and business loans with a 0.25% interest.
Loan applications can be submitted
via the “SME D Bank” application.
In addition, the bank is sending out
teams to inspect damage in southern provinces and has opened the Hotline
1357 for financial assistance.
Saudi woman runaway held in Thailand while fleeing family
Grant Peck and Aya Batrawy
Bangkok (AP) — A Saudi woman
used social media to draw attention to her plight trying to flee her family,
claiming that authorities in Thailand confiscated her passport and were
holding her Sunday at an airport hotel room in Bangkok.
Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun, 18, began
posting on Twitter late Saturday after Thai authorities stopped her in
transit from Kuwait. She claims to have a visa for Australia, where she
appears to have been planning to seek asylum.
On Twitter, she wrote of being in
"real danger" if forced to return to her family under pressure from Saudi
authorities. She also posted a copy of her passport to provide evidence of
For runaway Saudi women, fleeing can
be a matter of life and death, and they are almost always doing so to escape
Alqunun told Human Rights Watch she
was fleeing abuse from her family, including beatings and death threats from
her male relatives who forced her to remain in her room for six months for
cutting her hair.
"I am giving my family 48 hours (to)
either stop or I will publish everything that will incriminate them," she
wrote on Twitter.
The Associated Press reached Alqunun
by telephone in her hotel room where she spoke briefly, saying that someone
took her passport after telling her she could get a visa for Thailand. She
said an hour later, several people came and told her they knew she had run
away, that her family wants her and she should return to Saudi Arabia. She
did not elaborate.
Alqunun told Human Rights Watch that
she arrived at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok Saturday evening from Kuwait,
but that a diplomat from the Saudi Embassy in Bangkok seized her passport to
prevent her traveling to Australia. Saudi and Thai officials then told her
she would be returned to Kuwait on Monday, where her father and brother are
Saudi Arabia's charge d'affaires in
Bangkok Abdullah al-Shuaibi denied Saudi authorities were involved in any
He was quoted in Saudi press saying
that Alqunun was stopped by Thai authorities because she did not appear to
have a return ticket, a hotel reservation or itinerary to show she was a
tourist. He said the Saudi Embassy has no authority to stop anyone at the
airport and that this decision rests with Thai officials.
"She was stopped by airport
authorities because she violated Thai laws," he was quoted as saying in
Sabq, a state-aligned Saudi news website.
"The embassy is only monitoring the
situation," al-Shuaibi said.
Alqunun's plight mirrors that of
other Saudi women who have tried to flee abusive or restrictive family
A Saudi activist familiar with other
cases of females who've runaway said often the women are young,
inexperienced and unprepared for the obstacles and risks involved in seeking
asylum when they attempt to flee.
Speaking on condition of anonymity
for fear of repercussion, the activist said there have been instances where
Saudi women runaways were stopped by authorities in Hong Kong or the
Philippines en route to Australia or New Zealand. In some cases, Saudi
authorities have been involved in forcing women to return to their families
and in other cases local authorities suspect the women of seeking asylum and
Alqunun appears to have attempted to
flee while on a family visit to Kuwait.
Saudi Arabia requires that a woman
have the consent of a male relative — usually a father or husband — to
obtain a passport, travel abroad or marry.
Saudi women runaways, however, have
increasingly turned to social media to amplify their calls for help.
In 2017, Dina Lasloom triggered a
firestorm online when she was stopped en-route to Australia where she
planned to seek asylum. She was forced to return to Saudi Arabia and was not
publicly heard from again, according to activists tracking her whereabouts.
PM calls on southern villagers to remain in shelters for another day
Bangkok - Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha
called on southern villagers affected by Pabuk to remain in shelters for
another day on Sunday until the authorities declared it safe for them to
Although the tropical storm has already moved to the
Andaman sea, heavy downpours and strong winds lashed many areas over the
weekend, raising the possibility of flash floods.
Government Spokesman Puttipong Punnakanta said the
Prime Minister reiterated that the public should not be reckless and
suggested that they wait for another day until there is an announcement of
safety and they should remain in the shelters until the situation returns to
Provincial authorities have been told to ensure the
public’s safety, the spokesman said.
Thailand visa online to be launched in Beijing next month
Chinese tourists in Beijing may
apply for Thailand visas online starting February 15, 2019.
The e-visa system which is jointly
launched by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in cooperation with Kasikorn
Bank will facilitate visa application for Chinese tourists, and will ease
the crowdedness at Thai consular offices where Chinese tourists normally
visit to apply for visas.
The system will link up with the
database of security agencies, which is in line with the security standards
set by the ICAO.
After Beijing, the online visa
service will be extended to other cities in China which was chosen as the
first country for the launch of the e-visa system because Chinese tourists
represent 85 percent of all visa applicants at Thai consular offices
Culture Min holding 4th Bangkok Art Festival
Bangkok - The Ministry of Culture is
hosting the 4th Bangkok Art Festival featuring contemporary art pieces
from all over the kingdom.
Culture Minister Vira Rojpojchanarat chaired the
inauguration of the event on Saturday, the fourth of its kind. Co-hosted
by the Ministry of Culture and Chulalongkorn University, the festival is
being held at Siam Square in central Bangkok, with the aim of
cultivating a love of the arts among Thai citizens especially children
and youth, in line with the government’s Thailand 4.0 policy to build a
creative society, giving young artists a platform to showcase their art
Culture Minister Vira said the third Bangkok Art
Festival was a great success and that his ministry is keen to give
children opportunities to present their artistic abilities and
creativity in contemporary arts, hoping that the festival will be a
start for the young generation to pursue a career in the arts.
Outstanding and award-winning pieces will be displayed at international
events, added the minister.