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DAILY UPDATE - January - February, 2020

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Update by Natrakorn Paewsoongnern
Thailand News

Constitutional court rules to dissolve Future Forward Party

BANGKOK (TNA) - Thailand’s Constitutional Court has ruled to dissolve Future Forward Party (FFP) over the illegal 191-million-baht loan by its leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit.

Constitutional Court judges on Friday delivered the ruling that also bans FFP executives from politics for 10 years for accepting the loan from Thanathorn.

The controversial loan first came to light by Thanathorn himself when he told a session at the Foreign Correspondent’s Club of Thailand.

In December, the Election Commission (EC) submitted a request to the court to disband the FFP for accepting Thanathorn’s money to finance its election campaign, thus, allowing him to dominate the party.

The court on Friday said it found that the FFP violated Section 72 of the organic law on political parties that prohibits parties and its executives from accepting cash donations, assets or other benefits from an illegitimate source.

By taking loan, the FFP also breached Section 62 which lists sources of income of political parties; allowing fundraising, donations and others but not loans.

The court also elaborated on Section 66 of the law that prohibits any individual from donating money or assets to parties in excess of 10 million baht within a period of one year.

None of the FFP members were present at the courtroom.  A large crowd of supporters and party executives followed the televised verdict reading at the party’s headquarters in the Thai Summit Building, which belongs to Thanathorn’s family.

The FFP executives’ MP status are also stripped while non-executive MPs must now join new parties within 30 days.

Legal experts say the loan was a hidden transaction in violation of the law on political parties intended to prevent domination by any individual.   Political parties must not seek donations of more than 10 million baht by signing a loan contract to avoid the rule, they said.

Last month, the FFP was acquitted in another case seeking to disband the party. The Constitutional Court rejected an allegation that the party’s senior figures undermined the monarchy.(TNA)



Number of COVID-19 cases in Thailand unchanged

NONTHABURI (TNA) The number of novel coronavirus patients in Thailand remained unchanged at 35 and two more of them fully recovered.

Dr Tanarak Plipat, deputy director-general of the Disease Control Department, said that of the 35 people, 19 fully recovered including two whose recovery was confirmed yesterday. The number of hospitalized patients dropped from 18 yesterday to 16 today. The two critically ill patients were in a stable condition.

The number of patients under investigation was at 1,151, up by 99 because the number of countries under a close watch increased. Of them 941 people fully recovered.

Dr Tanarak said the government had not issued any travel ban but advised people to avoid some countries and to use face masks and hand wash gel in crowded places if they had to be there.

He insisted that the new coronavirus was transmitted with droplets and was not airborne.

He also said that the declaration of the novel coronavirus as a new dangerous communicable disease would not affect people’s life. The declaration would only facilitate the work of medical personnel in order to delay the third stage of the coronavirus outbreak which happened fast in other countries, Dr Tanarak said.


Thai citizens in South Korea warned to avoid virus-hit areas

SEOUL (TNA) The Thai embassy in Seoul issued a warning for Thai citizens to avoid risk areas, where a large number of Covid-19 patients were reported.

South Korea has 156 cases of the virus, out of which 111 patients are from or nearby Daegu in North Gyeongsang Province.

The Thai embassy advised Thai citizens, who live in affected areas to avoid visiting crowded places and public gatherings.

They are encouraged to practice good hygiene by frequently washing hands and using serving spoon.

Anyone, who has a fever and a cough or other respiratory symptoms should seek medical attention promptly, the embassy said in its announcement on Friday.

Patients should wear masks when visiting hospitals.


Unhealthy Fine Dust in Most Part of Bangkok

BANGKOK (TNA) The levels of particulate matter 2.5 micrometer and less in diameter (PM2.5) breached the safe level in 29 areas of the capital and people were advised to wear masks and suspend outdoors activities.

The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration reported that PM2.5 levels ranged from 47 to 70 micrograms per cubic meter of air in the past 24 hours as of 7am. The safe threshold is at 50mcg. The worst level was in front Lat Krabang Hospital in Lat Krabang district.

The 29 areas with unsafe PM2.5 levels also included Samphanthawong, Phaya Thai, Wang Thonglang, Pathumwan, Bang Rak, Bang Kholaem, Yannawa, Chatuchak, Bang Kapi, Thon Buri, Klong San, Bangkok Noi, Phasicharoen, Bang Khen, Bang Khunthian, Phra Nakhon, Sathon, KlongToey, Bang Sue, Laksi, Bung Kum, Saphan Sung, Bang Kae, Chom Thong, PhraKhanong, Klong Sam Wa, Rat Burana and Don Muang districts.

Meanwhile, thick smog has covered the northern province of Chiang Mai for nearly a week. Serious air pollution was reported in Om Koi, San Sai, Chai Prakan and San Kamphaeng districts. Local officials said there were 74 hot spots caused by field burning in 14 districts. (TNA)


Police warn party followers to obey law

BANGKOK (NNT) - On 21st February, the Constitutional Court will read its verdict on whether to dissolve the Future Forward Party, after which some people expect violence may occur should the party be dissolved. A police spokesman says however, that there is no indication of any concerning movements, and has asked party followers to obey the law.

The Royal Thai Police Deputy Spokesman Pol Col Kritsana Pattanacharoen said that the police have not intercepted any intel which might indicate looming violence by a third party or party followers.

He said the police chief has ordered his deputy Pol Gen Suwat Chaengyotsuk to handle the situation, while asking party followers who will be coming to show support, to stay within the limits of law.

The police have prepared two groups of personnel, the first facilitating the general public and commuters in the area, and the second unit undertaking regular operations. The police will be on site to maintain peace should the area become crowded with people coming to wait for the verdict.

On online movements related to this case and comments about it, the police deputy spokesman said police officers are monitoring the situation, with general posts and comments so far showing diverse opinions, with no messages inciting violence being found.


Three Thais on Board Diamond Princess Infected by Covid-19


BANGKOK (TNA) Three of 25 Thai nationals on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship have been infected with the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) and have been treated in hospital, said Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Cherdkiat Atthakor.

The three Thai Covid-19 patients are one passenger and two crew members. They are in stable conditions, according the Thai embassy in Tokyo.

Among all 25 Thai nationals on board are two passengers and 23 crew members.

The other passenger, testing negative to the virus has disembarked after the quarantine ended on Feb 19 and is now staying at the hotel, preparing to return home, the spokesman said.

The rest of 21 Thai crew members remain on board to help disinfect the ship after all passengers disembark.


PM Prayut hands financial assistance to Korat shooting victims

NAKHON RATCHASIMA (NNT) - The Prime Minister and Defense Minister, Gen. Prayut Chan-o-cha, and a group of officials have arrived in Nakhon Ratchasima to present remedial payments to the injured and the families of those killed in a mass shooting in the northeastern province on February 8 and 9, 2020.

The Prime Minister and the officials today paid homage to the Thao Suranaree Monument, a memorial to a popular heroine of Nakhon Ratchasima, on Ratchadamnoen Road in Muang Nakhon Ratchasima district. The Prime Minister then proceeded to the Prem Tinsulanonda Auditorium at the Nakhon Ratchasima City Hall to distribute the financial aid, from the Prime Minister’s Office Disaster Relief Fund, to 27 family members of those killed in the attack and 57 of those injured. The families of the 27 people killed received 1 million baht each. The government presented 200,000 baht to each of the seriously injured and 100,000 baht to the slightly injured.

The Prime Minister met with the victims and offered them moral support. He also offered his condolences to the families and thanked all Thai people for their assistance and contributions. Gen. Prayut said he would like the bereaved families and the injured to use the remedial payments to help them overcome the recent tragedy.

The Prime Minister and the officials also visited Terminal 21 in Nakhon Ratchasima to offer moral support to the people working at the shopping mall. Shops on all floors of Terminal 21 are now open to the public again.


PM orders plans for outbreak alert level 3

BANGKOK (TNA) Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-ocha takes precaution against Covid-19, ordering response plans to be mapped out in case the situation on the virus alert in the country is raised to Level 3.

During a meeting on preparation and prevention of emerging diseases at Government House on Thursday, Gen. Prayut said that Thailand’s preventive measures against the deadly virus are effective enough to maintain the epidemic alert at Level2.

However, the country will prepare response plans for the risk alert Level 3, so it can be implemented immediately if the situation gets worse.

Treatments of Covid-19 patients by Thai doctors are widely accepted internationally and preventive measures are in line with the international standard, said Sukhum Kanchanapimai, the Ministry of Public Health's permanent secretary.

Regarding the shortage of face masks, Boonyarit Kalayanamit, the commerce permanent secretary said the ministry is tackling the problem, urging companies to produce face masks at full capacity around the clock to meet surging demand. It talked to retailers to distribute face masks to convenience stores and department stores across the country for selling at 2.50 apiece. Sales are limited to four pieces per person, he added.


Two more COVID-19 patients discharged

BANGKOK (NNT) - The Ministry of Public Health has announced the latest cumulative number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Thailand is 35, with two more patients having recovered and been discharged from hospital. There are now 17 patients who have recovered from the virus, while two patients are still in a critical condition.

The Ministry of Public Health has stressed that it is providing the best medical care to patients, and screening passengers at airports and seaports. Only cruise ships that haven’t called at any countries at risk, are being granted permission to dock in Thailand.

The ministry has announced that passengers from the ship Westerdam, will not be allowed to enter Thailand, while Thai evacuees who have returned from Wuhan are due for discharge after completing their 14-day quarantine.

According to Deputy Director General of Department of Disease Control (DDC), Tanarak Plipat, Thai authorities have decided to bar any more Westerdam cruise passengers from entering the country. Some have already entered and exited the country, and about four remain in Thailand, two Thais and two foreigners. They are receiving care and are being monitored closely. He believes that the two foreigners are preparing to leave the country.

Deputy Director General of the DDC further explained the final preparations for the release of Thai evacuees from Wuhan after completing their 14-day quarantine. Once they are cleared to go home, the Ministry of Public Health confirms that they are healthy and unlikely to spread the disease. He wishes to see Thai people welcome back fellow Thais who returned home.


Tour Operators Hard Hit by Covid-19

BANGKOK, Feb 19 (TNA) – Almost 100 per cent of Chinese tour groups per cent have disappeared from Thailand due to the Covid-19 outbreak, said tour operators, hoping it will be short-lived.

President of the Thai Chinese Tourism Alliance Association, Ronnarong Cheewinsiri-amnuay said as the death toll from the deadly virus reached over 2,000 in China and several tens of thousands Covid-19 cases were reported globally, more than 98 per cent of Chinese tour groups cancelled their trips to Thailand.

The rest were Free Independent Travelers (FIT), he said adding that now, tour operators and tourism associations adjusted themselves by adding more domestic tour programs.

Some tour companies have temporarily closed and pay half of monthly salary to their employees, he noted.

He said Covid-19 impacts are worse than severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003 and projected that it would last for 3-4 months. 

The overall situation seems to improve but he was unsure the situation would normalize by mid-year.

He personally believed the impacts will last to the end of this year or to the next Chinese New Year and could cause a loss of at least 10 billion baht.

Although the government and tourism agencies are trying to find measures to alleviate the impacts, there should be talks to find the right direction and to create confidence for tour operators, he said. (TNA)


PM Gives Assistance Money to Victims of Korat Shooting


NAKHON RATCHASIMA (TNA) - Prime Minister Gen Prayut  Chan-o-cha gave moral support and remedial payment to the victims of the Korat’s shooting rampage during his visit to Nakhon Ratchasima on Wednesday.

The money, 34.5 million baht in total came from the disaster relief fund and was handed over to families of 27 people, killed in the incident. Each family received one million baht and those who were injured got 100,000 baht each.  People who were severely wounded received 200,000 baht each.  

After the handing-over ceremony, the prime minister expressed his sorrow over the tragic loss and gave moral support to the injured and families of the dead victims.

He then travelled to Terminal 21 mall, where the gunman carried out the shooting spree on Feb 8 and was holed up for 17 hours. Thirty persons were killed and 58 others were injured in the mass shooting.

Gen. Prayut met shop operators at the mall and assured them the government had assistance measures put in place for affected people, so they can be soon back to normal life.


Thirty-five confirmed COVID-19 cases in Thailand

BANGKOK (NNT) - Thailand has reported one new case of coronavirus (COVID-2019) infection, as the authorities extend health screening to passengers coming from Japan and Singapore.

The Permanent Secretary for Public Health, Dr. Sukhum Kanchanapimai, said the latest case of the COVID-19 infection is a 60-year-old Chinese woman. She contracted the virus from a family member, who was the 27th confirmed case in Thailand. As a result, the number of confirmed cases in the country rose to 35, with 15 patients having recovered and been discharged. There have been no COVID-19 related fatalities in Thailand so far. The condition of two critically ill patients has also improved.

Meanwhile, Malaysian authorities have confirmed that a passenger from the MS Westerdam cruise ship has tested positive for the COVID-19. Two Thai nationals, who were among the passengers on the cruise ship, have returned to Thailand. They have been screened and showed no sign of COVID-19 infection. They are now in a mandatory 14-day quarantine. If one of them develops a fever, that person will be taken to an isolation room for treatment.

The Royal Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh has coordinated with the Cambodian authorities to beef up the screening process.

With the number of confirmed cases in Singapore and Japan rising, the Thai government has extended surveillance of passengers coming from those two countries. Similar to China, passengers with symptoms entering Thailand will have to undergo 14 days of quarantine. Thai people have been advised to avoid traveling to these two countries for the time being.

Meanwhile, the Royal Thai Navy has released images of its quarantine facility in Sattahip district, Chon Buri province, on Facebook. The images show medical teams and a group of Thai returnees from Wuhan exercising together. The returnees, together with public health, medical and navy officers, play badminton and engage in aerobic exercise. The atmosphere appears fun and relaxing. Other returnees go for a stroll and socialize with each other in the facility.

The returnees were brought back from Wuhan on February 4, 2020. They will complete their 14-day quarantine on February 19.


Loei governor requests army support for Phu Kradueng National Park wildfire

LOEI (TNA) Loei governor has asked the Army to send tractors for creating firebreaks at the Phu Kradueng national park after the blaze damaged about 3,400 rai of forest.

Chaiwat Chuenkosum, the provincial governor convened a meeting with the head of Phu Kradueng national park, Sombat Pimprasit on Tuesday morning about forest fire prevention and rehabilitation of the Phu Kradueng’s pine forest.

After the meeting, they made a request to the army to send two tractors by the army aircraft to create firebreaks on Phu Kradueang.

Officials managed to contain the blaze but keep vigilant to prevent the fire from reigniting.

The head of the park said that tourist service area remains open. However, water supply for consumption is running low on the top of the mountain, where about 80 tourists are staying at the moment, he added.


Airports expand strict screening for passengers from Japan, Singapore

BANGKOK (TNA) Bangkok’s two main airports have stepped up screening for passengers from Japan and Singapore, the similar measures, imposed for passengers from China.

Wing Commander, Sutheerawat Suwanwa, Suvarnabhumi Airport's managing director said the stricter screening came after the increase in number of Covid-19 patients in those countries. 

Passengers will use a separate concourse and will undergo thermal screening twice at the gate and the immigration checkpoint, he said. 

Don Mueang Airport also arranges a separate concourse No.6 for passengers from China and Cambodia to facilitate health screening, said Don Mueang airport director Flying Officer Sumpun Khutranon.

The airport has expanded the same measures to cover passengers from Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan, he added.

The no.6 concourse can serve about 50 flights a day. If the number of inbound flights from those countries exceeds its capacity, the plan will be adjusted to increase health personnel and thermal scanning at other concourses, he noted.


Thais advised to suspend trips to Israel after Covid-19 restriction

BANGKOK (TNA) – The Thai embassy in Tel Aviv has suggested Thai people to suspend travelling to Israel after Israeli health ministry imposed 14-day self-quarantine for travelers from Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong and Macao to prevent the spread of Covid-19. 

Israel’s health ministry expanded the restrictions for travelers from those countries to remain quarantine at home for 14 days even without any symptoms. The announcement said they must not go out to public places such as workplaces, department stores, educational institutions and hospitals.

In this regard, the Thai embassy advised Thai people to suspend their trips to Israel until the situation changes. The embassy has informed the Israeli authorities about the Covid-19 situation in Thailand and will follow up more announcements from the Israeli government. 

On Feb 2, Israel’s health ministry issued an announcement to authorize immigration officials to bar entry to foreign nationals recently in China. (TNA)


Govt ensures sufficient water as drought continues

LOPBURI (NNT) - The Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives has assured the public of sufficient water throughout the remaining dry season, while relevant agencies work to refill dams along the Chao Phraya River.

Deputy Agriculture Minister Thammanat Prompow, together with executives and officers from relevant agencies today gathered at PasakJolasid Dam in Lopburi province to assess the effects of the present drought.

Following a helicopter flight over the area, Thammanat stressed that the drought this year might be considered the worst in many years, however, the Royal Irrigation Department has assured farmers and members of the public, that the remaining water will be sufficient for normal daily activities, except for out-of-season rice farming.

Statistics compiled at the four major dams namely Bhumibol, Sirikit, KwaeNoi Bam Rung Dan and PasakJolasid, today show roughly 3.477 billion cubic meters or 19% of the total capacity is in storage, after a continuous reduction from November’s measurement of 5.377 billion cubic meter.

The water level at that time was already considered the second-lowest in 20 years, just behind 2015 that stands at just 4.247 billion cubic square meters.

The lower than usual water levels in the dams is due to unusual weather patterns, resulting in less-than-usual precipitation. The public is urged to use water sparingly while agriculturalists must refrain from conducting out-of-season rice farming.

A full rainmaking operation is slated to be carried out starting tomorrow, to enable the dams to increase water storage.

Drought in the kingdom usual runs from November to May.


Bangkok’s air quality improves; North still on forest fire alert


THAILAND (NNT) - The air quality in Bangkok and its vicinity has continued to improve. The levels of PM 2.5 meets the standard criteria in all areas. The level of PM 2.5 in the North however, has reached the red level in Mae Hong Son and Chiang Rai provinces.

Mr. Pralong Dumrongthai, Director-General of the Pollution Control Department (PCD), announced today that the levels of particulate matter of 2.5 microns or less (PM2.5) in Bangkok and its vicinity were measured between 13 and 32 micrograms per cubic meter on February 16, 2020. The overall volume of dust has increased slightly in some areas from the previous day, but still meets the standard criteria. He called on people to travel by public transport instead of personal cars during the air pollution crisis.

As for the haze situation in nine Northern provinces, the levels of PM 2.5 were measured between 34 and 128 micrograms per cubic meter on February 16, 2020. The levels of particulate matter 10 micrometers or less in diameter (PM 10) were between 49 - 144 micrograms per cubic meter. The overall volume of dust has increased slightly in some areas from the previous day.

The levels of PM 2.5 and PM 10 have reached the red level in Chong Kham sub district of Muang Mae Hong Son, and in Wiang Phang Kham sub district of Mae Sai Chiang Rai, due to outdoor burning. The dust levels in another six areas were found to be at orange level. The problem of forest fires and smog caused by outdoor burning still persists.

People have been asked to refrain from burning, in both open and forest areas. Those who spot forest fires caused by outdoor burning can help report the situation via the hotline 1362.


BANGKOK (TNA) The Transport Ministry is seriously screening visitors from Cambodia at three airports after passengers from Westerdam cruise ship who disembarked in Cambodia were found with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob said the measure was implemented at Suvarnabhumi, Don Mueang and Phuket airports that served 19, 7 and 1 flights a day respectively from Cambodia. The measure responded to the report that 21 Westerdam passengers were infected with COVID-19.

Westerdam ship docked in the Cambodian coastal province of Sihanoukville on Feb 13.

Under the measure, planes from Cambodia would be parked at specific parking bays and their passengers would undergo body temperature checks. The measure has been implemented on air passengers from China.

Mr Saksayam said that 27 Westerdam passengers arrived on the TG585 flight from Phnom Penh and they were allowed to travel on to their destinations because they did not show any symptom of respiratory infection or fever. (TNA)


Intensified drug suppression with ASEAN members

BANGKOK (TNA) The Office of the Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) is intensifying joint efforts to suppress drug smugglers on planes with officials of other Southeast Asian nations in response to ongoing smuggling attempts from Africa.

ONCB Secretary-General Niyom Termsrisuk said the movement was necessary because the West African Drug Syndicate still played important roles in sending cocaine to Thailand and other Southeast Asian nations.

In the past two months, officials seized 7.6 kilograms of cocaine from four smugglers at Suvarnabhumi airport including 2.8kg with an Argentine man and 1.8kg with a South African woman. Last year officials seized 30.6kg of cocaine from nine smuggling attempts and all smugglers were hired by West Africans, Mr Niyom said.

“Smugglers stopped over in ASEAN member countries before arriving in Thailand,” he said..

ONCB would increase its information exchange and expand its investigation and intelligence on narcotic cases with its counterparts in Southeast Asia, Mr Niyom said.

The increasing efforts complied with the government’s policy to enhance international cooperation to stop drug smuggling into Thailand, he said. (TNA)



KMITL Smart Bus Stop helps detect dust

BANGKOK (NNT) - King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology Ladkrabang (KMITL) has unveiled the KMITL Smart Bus Stop, equipped with a real-time dust measuring device. The institute is urging relevant agencies to use the city development model to improve bus stops throughout Bangkok.

The KMITL Smart Bus Stop project is an innovation that can measure levels of particulate matter of 2.5 micrometers or less (PM2.5) and warn people when dust levels are high. It is now being used at a bus stop in front of the Faculty of Engineering of KMITL. It has a dust sensor, a built-in fan that turns on automatically when levels of PM2.5 are above the safety threshold and a monitor to display the concentration of dust in five levels. Its functions are in accordance with international standards. When PM2.5 levels at the bus stop exceed the safety threshold, its built-in fan comes on automatically. Commuters in the area become aware of the situation and put on a protective mask.

Many people gather at bus stops, particularly in the morning and evening, when the concentration of dust is high. The KMITL Smart Bus Stop has a monitor that displays dust levels. When the indicator turns red, people start to protect themselves. When they have to wait for a bus for some time, the fan will help blow the dust in the area away.

Bangkok has more than 5,000 bus stops. The bus stops located near Skytrain stations and other congested areas mostly have high PM2.5 levels. With a budget of 20,000 to 25,000 baht, the KMITL Smart Bus Stop can be installed at about 1,000 bus stops in these areas immediately to help commuters protect themselves from air pollution and make them feel at ease.

Members of the public are advised to check the air quality in their areas through various channels regularly and carry a face mask with them to protect themselves against the toxic air when necessary.


Nakhon Ratchasima people conduct major merit-making activity after shooting rampage

NAKHON RATCHASIMA (NNT) - Thousands of Nakhon Ratchasima people attended a major merit-making activity on the occasion of the city’s 364th anniversary at Thao Suranaree Monument, to honor those who were killed in last weekend’s shooting rampage.

The alms-giving activity was conducted with 10,000 monks and was chaired by Prime Minister’s Office Minister Tewan Liptapallop. The provincial governor and Nakhon Ratchasima people stood in silence to mourn the deaths in the shooting rampage on February 8. MrTewan said the government will provide compensation to the relatives of the deceased and for the injured by Tuesday.

A funding committee attached to the Office of the Permanent Secretary of the Prime Minister’s Office yesterday agreed to provide one million baht in compensation to each of the 27 people killed in the shooting rampage by February 17, by transferring the money via Nakhon Ratchasima province to their relatives.

Each of the 29 seriously injured people will be given 200,000 baht, and each of the 29 less seriously injured people will be given 100,000 baht in compensation by February 18.

MrTewan said Nakhon Ratchasima people and businesspersons at Terminal 21 shopping mall in Khorat have been encouraged to step beyond the tragic incident, while the local economy is yet to pick up as the situation returns to normal.


Japan praises Thailand as being investment friendly

BANGKOK (NNT) - According to the Special Advisor to the Prime Minister of Japan, the land of the rising Sun continues to view Thailand as an investment-friendly economy.

Special Advisor to the Prime Minister of Japan, Hiroto Izumi made the comment during his meeting with the Thai Deputy Prime Minister for economic affairs Dr. Somkid Jatusripitak, discussing bilateral cooperation between the two great nations.

Izumi further stated that the collaboration between Thailand and Japan related to the ASEAN Economic Community is proceeding well, with plans for the future being aligned such as the Southern and Northeastern Economic Corridor projects, as well as cooperation on organic agriculture.

Dr. Somkid welcomed Japanese investment in the ASEAN bloc, and asked Japan to provide assistance in Thailand’s bid to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

The CPTPP is a trade agreement between Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. It evolved from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which never came into force due to the withdrawal of the United States.


Terminal 21 Mall Koratholdsmerit-making ceremony before reopening

NAKHON RATCHASIMA (TNA) – Terminal 21 mall held a merit-making ceremony on Thursday morning before its reopening to give moral support to shop operators, customers and local residents after the shooting rampage on the Makha Bucha day.

Buddhist monks chanted prayers to bring good luck in the blessing ceremony for the city and the shopping mall..

Over 200 monks received alms on G Floor, Eiffel Square, attended by government officials and a large number of locals.

Free food and drinks were offered outside the mall for participants by the royally-sponsored makeshift kitchen and food shop operators.

As the mall is ready to reopen this afternoon, many shops offer 50 per cent discount to attract shoppers to return to the mall today.  

Meanwhile, Nakhon Ratchasima governor Wichian Chantharanothai led officials and people to worship the Thao Suranaree monument to ward off bad things from the province.

He disclosed that the donations for the victims of the massacre rose to 53 million baht..

The money will be given to relatives of the dead victims at the city hall tomorrow. Each family will receive one million baht.




BANGKOK (TNA) – Police rounded up many women for allegedly acting as surrogate mothers giving birth to children for Chinese people.

Raids happened at 10 locations this morning to stop the illegal service. Pol Maj Gen Torsak Sukwimol, deputy commissioner of the Central Investigation Bureau, led a team to a house on Nak Niwat 37 Road. There they apprehended a Chinese man who was wanted under an arrest warrant for transnational crime and commercial surrogacy.

At a nearby house in the same housing estate police found eight young women and a 10-day-old baby. Seven women are surrogate mothers. One of them is eight-month pregnant. The other woman was there to prepare for surrogacy. Police also found an incubator there.

Pol Maj Gen Torsak said an illegal Chinese operator hired women to be surrogate mothers and arranged for their accommodations, checkups and birth deliveries.

“Police had investigated the case several months before the raids. It is a transnational criminal network,” he said.

Pol Maj Gen Worawat Watnakhonbancha, commander of the Anti-Human Trafficking Division, said the raided surrogate organization had operated since 2012. Women were hired 400,000-600,000 baht each for the service and would receive more if they gave birth to twins, he said.

The suppressed organization hired about 30 women in about five provinces, Pol Maj Gen Worawat said. (TNA)

Cruiser carrying quality touristsdocks in Phuket, no onefound with fever: health officials

PHUKET (TNA) Cruiser Seabourn Ovation docked in the resort island as its passengers did not have a fever.

The cruise ship came from Hong Kong and Malaysia. It left Malaysia yesterday and docked at the Phuket deep-sea port at 7am. Upon its arrival, health officials checked the body temperatures of its passengers and found no one with a fever.

The cruise ship carried 495 passengers. Most of them are Europeans. One of them is Asian, an Indian. Crew members numbered 433. The ship totally had 928 people on board.

Phuket governor Pakapong Tawipat said local authorities seriously checked visitors on cruise ships in line with the standard procedures of the World Health Organization to help contain the novel coronavirus (Covid-19).

“European visitors are quality tourists. They spend at least 6,000 baht a day. More than 3 million baht will be circulated. I guarantee that tourists from cruise ships undergo standard screenings to cope with Covid-19. Their temperatures are checked daily before their disembarkation. Doctors aboard their ship certified their health status. The ship will return to Singapore on February 15,” Mr Pakapong said.

According to him, 17 cruise ships will visit Phuket this month. Sixteen cruisers docked in Phuket last month. All the ships passed strict screenings of international standard..

Deputy government spokesperson Traisulee Traisoranakul said Seabourn Ovation would dock for about 10 hours and was set to depart at 5pm today. The ship had received permission to visit Hong Kong, Vietnam, Chon Buri province, Koh Kut, Kuala Lumpur and Langkawi.

“Thailand does not ban travel or bar citizens of any particular country from paying a visit… The Seabourn Ovation ship’s visit is different from the docking request of Westerdam ship because Westerdam sought emergency docking away from its route. It was rejected by Taiwan, Japan and the Philippines. It planned to send its passengers to other transport modes including air transport to return to their home countries,” Ms Traisulee said.

Flower market livens up on eve of Valentine’s day, 3 million baht circulated daily

BANGKOK (TNA) Business boomed at the Pak Klong Talad flower market as visitors overwhelmingly bought roses before the Valentine’s Day tomorrow.

The well-known fresh flower market was lively as crowds of local people and tourists were buying flowers in its Flower Street 2020 festival set for Feb 11-14.

There were more than 200 booths in the event organized by the government, the private sector, the Miracle of Life Foundation, educational institutions and communities from three main markets in the area. The organizers expected 3 million baht to be circulated there on a daily basis.

Treedapan Boonsong of Maleen shop said flower sales doubled because the festival considerably attracted local and foreign visitors. Her shop normally sold garlands but for the Saint Valentine’s Day, she sold only red roses, priced at 150 baht and over per bouquet.

Popular roses came from Chiang Mai and Tak provinces. They were priced at 50 baht per flower. Imported roses were also available. They came from China and Holland and were sold at 150-300 baht per flower.

Before the festival, sales at Pak Klong Talat had been very poor, MsTreedapan said. (TNA)

Thailand plans to step up Covid-19 screening

BANGKOK (TNA) – Thai Public Health Ministry plans to step up screening measures against novel coronavirus or Covid-19 at airports for passengers from Hong Kong and Singapore.

Thanarak Plipat, deputy director-general of the Disease Control Department said the global outbreak situation showed increasing numbers of coronavirus cases in China, Hong Kong and Singapore and the outbreak situations in many countries entered Phase 2.

Thailand has planned to raise the screening level for air passengers from these countries as well as for outbound passengers from Thailand, he said.

Director-General of the Disease Control Department, Dr. Suwannachai Wattanayingcharoenchai said the number of coronavirus patients in Thailand remains at 33. Out of this number, 21 patients remain in hospital and the remaining 12 people were fully recovered and returned home.   

Regarding the Westerdam cruise ship, allowed to dock at Sihanoukville in Cambodia, he said Thailand is working with Cambodia to share information on virus screening as the passengers will travel home via Thai airport.

Four governments including Thailand earlier denied entry to the luxury liner amid coronavirus fears.

In the meantime, an online self-screening test for novel coronavirus is available in Thai, Chinese and English on under cooperation of the public health ministry, Chiang Mai University and the National Research Council of Thailand. (TNA) 

Quick Covid-19 education for health volunteers

NONTHABURI (TNA) The Department of Health Service Support and Advanced Wireless Network Co signed a memorandum of understanding to use application software to educate health volunteers on the novel coronavirus as they will soon play important roles in disease control.

Deputy Public Health Minister Sathit Pitutecha said that both organizations would disseminate information about Covid-19 and protection via mobile phone application to local health volunteers because health authorities expected that the new coronavirus might spread in communities in the future.

Health volunteers would share the knowledge with local people so that they could protect themselves from the virus and thus help contain it, Mr Sathit said. The shared knowledge will include the homemade production of face masks and hand wash gel and hygienic habits.

“Health volunteers in villages will play important roles in detecting patients including those who return from other countries and they will also take care of young children and elderly people who are risk groups,” the deputy public health minister said.

Dr.Tharet Kratnaiyarawiwong, director-general of the Department of Health Service Support, said the application made information dissemination faster than conventional communication channels.

About 200,000 out of 1.04 million village-based health volunteers used the application and they could help relieve the shortages of face masks and hand wash gel when the coronavirus spread in communities, he said. (TNA)

Explosive found at basement of Terminal 21 Mall, Korat

NAKHON RATCHASIMA (TNA) Security officers found explosive on the LG basement of the Terminal 21 shopping center in Nakhon Ratchasima's provincial seat and had to evacuate vendors who were surveying damage in the premise.

Tenants of commercial areas at the mall were allowed to enter all floors except LG in the building to survey their damage late this morning. Shortly afterwards they were evacuated because police found explosive in a cold storage room of Foodland supermarket on the LG floor.

A bomb squad was deployed to defuse it. Pending that, vendors were kept outside the building.
In front of the mall, people were laying bouquets in remembrance of victims killed in the shooting rampage. Doctors, nurses and other staff of nearby Saint Mary’s Hospital also arrived with their bouquets.

At the Nakhon Ratchasima provincial hall, officials and people wore black clothes to mourn the deaths. They followed an instruction from the Interior Ministry to wear black to extend condolences to the families of victims.

Provincial authorities planned a clean-up from the Thao Suranaree monument to the Terminal 21 mall tomorrow to restore the morale of local people. At least 10,000 volunteers and officials were expected to show up for the activity. (TNA)


Army Chief apologizes for the Korat shooting

BANGKOK (TNA) – Army Chief, Gen. Apirat Kongsompong apologized for the mass shooting in Nakhon Ratchasima, carried out by a junior army officer and said he took all the blame for that.

In a press briefing on Tuesday, Gen. Apirat extended profound sorrow to the families of the victims of the Korat massacre. The army will unconditionally offer to recruit children of the dead victims to work for the army if they want.

The gunman worked in the army unit, so he knew well about the armory. Stricter security measures will be adopted at the military’s armories, he said.

The non-commissioned army officer, Jakrapanth Thomma on Saturday shot dead his supervisor and the mother-in-law of his supervisor before stealing guns and ammunition from the Surathampithak army camp and going on a rampage to open fire at innocent people indiscriminately, including shoppers at the Terminal 21 mall.

The motive behind the mass shooting is related to unfairness to the gunman from his commanding officer and a relative over the property deal, said the army chief.

He is working on a direct channel to accept complains from junior officers if they are taken advantage of by their superiors. The complaints will be kept confidential, Gen. Apirat added.

“No one wants this to happen. Don’t blame the army. Don’t blame soldiers. They could be discouraged. Blame me. I take all the blame for that,” says the army chief with tears in his eyes. The 17- hour shooting spree claimed 30 lives and left 58 injured.  (TNA)

Westerdam Cruiser barred from docking at Laem Chabang port, Chon Buri

BANGKOK (TNA) – The Transport Ministry rejected a requested docking to Thailand by Westerdam cruise ship that had been turned down by many countries due to the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Deputy Transport Minister Atirat Ratanasate said concerned authorities discussed the report that the operator of the cruiser received approval for its planned visit to the Laem Chabang port in Chon Buri province so that its passengers could then travel to Bangkok for flights to their homeland. The plan followed rejection to its visit by Japan, the Philippines and Taiwan that were the previous destinations of the cruiser after it left Hong Kong on Feb 1.

Deputy Prime Minister/Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, Marine Department Director-General Withaya Yamuang and the management of the Laem Chabang port discussed the matter and agreed to reject the visit, Mr Atirat said.

Thai authorities received the request from the cruiser operator but had not given an answer. The company claimed the approval in social media and that led to criticisms, he said.

The Transport Ministry and the Public Health Ministry agreed with the rejection for public safety and confidence amid the coronavirus outbreak, Mr Atirat said.

“It was difficult to make the decision regarding humanitarianism… Finally the decision must be made for national security,” the deputy transport minister said. (TNA)

Concern about Nakhon Ratchasima economy after shooting rampage

BANGKOK (TNA) – Deputy Commerce Minister Weerasak Wangsuphakijkosol urged relevant parties to stimulate the economy of Nakhon Ratchasima province that was affected by the shooting rampage last weekend.

He said he ordered the Business Development Department to work out measures to help affected operators regarding the shooting spree at the Terminal 21 mall.

In response, the department planned to extend its financial report deadline for affected businesses. Officials would also discuss measures to boost the morale of workers and tenants at the shopping mall, he said.

Mr Weerasak did not know when the shopping mall would reopen. He said forensic police and other officials were gathering evidence there.

The Commerce Ministry would come up with the best measures to help affected operators because if the impacts were prolonged, they would affect the economy of Nakhon Ratchasima, the deputy commerce minister said. (TNA)


One more Novel Coronavirus case in Thailand

BANGKOK (TNA) – Thailand has reported one more confirmed novel coronavirus case, a Chinese tourist, raising the total number of the coronavirus case in the country to 33.

The director-general of the Disease Control Department, Suwanchai Wattanayingcharoenchai said the new case was the 54-year-old Chinese woman from Wuhan.

She has been placed under monitoring since she had close contact with the patient, earlier diagnosed with the virus.

The lab tests confirmed she was infected with the virus on Feb 8 and she is now recovering well.

Among total coronavirus cases in Thailand, 23 patients remain in hospital and the rest 10 persons were fully recovered and released from hospitals. (TNA)


PM expresses worry about violent copycats

BANGKOK (TNA) Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha formed a committee to rehabilitate victims of the shooting spree in Nakhon Ratchasima province and ordered decisive action against those posting violent messages on social media platforms to prevent copycats.

Gen Prayut said that the special committee would work out legally acceptable assistance for victims in addition to donations and existing welfare.

He also said that the government was taking serious action against anyone who posted threatening messages to create fear in order to prevent copycats of the shooting rampage. He said he was concerned about the abuse of social media.

Gen Prayut asked people to help watch out for copycats which he said continued to exist. The shooting rampage should not be used as a tool to create social division while the nation was mourning losses from the incident, he said.

“Everyone must help reduce violence. Do not use the incident to cause rifts. I would like parents to closely monitor the behaviors of their children while they are playing games,” the prime minister said.

He also said that he ordered investigation into vested interests involved in welfare projects for government officials as conflicts in such a project were claimed to motivate the shooting spree in Nakhon Ratchasima province.

Concerned authorities would find ways to prevent the vested interests, Gen Prayut said.

Motorists encouraged to change engine oil, carry out vehicle checks

BANGKOK (NNT) - The Department of Pollution Control is encouraging motorists, particularly those owning cars that are over 10 years old, to change their engine oil and carry out vehicle checks to reduce pollution across the country.

The Director-General of the Department of Pollution Control, Pralong Dumrongthai, inspected the Fit Auto service center, one of the many auto service centers taking part in a PM2.5 reduction project. The centers provide vehicle checks and changes engine oil for free, as 72.5% of air pollution is from car exhaust. Members of the public are invited to take their cars for servicing at more than 450 Pracharat auto service centers nationwide. The centers can serve some 150,000 vehicles, and they will provide free service until the end of this month. The department will analyse the project’s success before considering its extension.

The Department of Pollution Control is coordinating with the Royal Thai Police to limit the routes large trucks can use in an effort to ease the PM2.5 dust situation. One of the routes will run from a section of Ratchadapisek Road to Kanchanaphisek Road. The agencies will take measures to control open burning in Bangkok and other provinces. Anyone found burning in open areas will be arrested and fined.

The Department of Industrial Works will step up its efforts to inspect factories and reduce industrial emissions to help reduce levels of the ultra-fine dust particles.

PM hails well-coordinated response to Korat shooting rampage

NAKHON RATCHASIMA (TNA) - Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has praised security forces for their well-coordinated response to the Korat mass shooting, saying it was not an easy operation.

The prime minister gave his comments while visiting hospitals in the northeastern province of Nakhon Ratchasima or Korat on Sunday morning. 

“I have followed the developments and received reports since yesterday (February 8).  I instructed local officers to take care of the situation and the safety of the people.  At first, we were not able to launch the operation immediately until dispatches of security forces were completed.  Then, I ordered police force, the army, provincial governor and my deputy, stressing on the need to step up the operation’s intensity gradually with timely measures.  The main difficulty was a large number of people were inside; the use of weapons must be very careful.” Prayut said.

 “The operation (to rescue the victims and hunt down the gunman) was not easy because it is a six-story building.  The most important thing was how to rescue people.  Finally, it ended on the LG floor (the basement). There are many small corners and blind spots inside.  While the officers moved in, the gunman shot at will but officers did not know where people were hiding.  I kept communicating with ministers, army chief and police chief all through the night.  We are all working together in unity,” he added.

The prime minister said he would like to thank medical personnel and public health officials.  He had been reported about blood supplies that had been prepared up to 1,700 units, exceeding the need for about 70-80 units.

“Thanks to those who donated blood,” he noted and added, “This is a lesson for everyone; for soldiers, police and myself.  Everyone (in the security forces) has experienced intense situations but not at this scale.  Therefore, there must be appropriated measure to ease the situation.

According to the prime minister, the government will take care of the costs of treatments for everyone.  Compensations (for the victims) will be expedited by the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security who has sent officials to assess. 

“For funerals, they can be done after forensic examinations; the government will also take care of them,” Prayut continued.

The prime minister also called on the media to be more careful about their reporting.   

“To members of the press, please report facts; (be careful of) any sensitive issues that could lead to conflicts or social discords.  I beg you.  We are already facing many problems; economic woes, security issues and many others.  If we are so divisive, there will be no solutions to these problems,” he said. (TNA)

Thailand confirms 7 more Novel Coronavirus cases

BANGKOK (TNA) - Thailand reports seven more novel coronavirus patients, raising the total cases in the country to 32.

Dr. Suwannachai Wattanayingcharoenchai, Director-General of Disease Control Department said the new patients include four Chinese nationals and three Thais.

Out of all cases, 22 persons remain hospitalized while ten others were fully recovered and discharged from hospital.

Among the three new cases, who are Thais is a returnee from Wuhan while another two cases had contact with tourists.

Out of the four new Chinese patients, three are from the same family while the other one is a tourist, who came to see doctors, as advised by the Public Health Ministry upon the arrival in the kingdom. (TNA)

Traders fined for hiking face mask prices

BANGKOK (TNA) - Ten face mask retailers have been penalized after they hiked the prices of the protective masks in the wake of the new coronavirus. 

Complaints have been filed by consumers that it is difficult to find both face masks and alcohol-based hand sanitizer. 

Several traders have increased prices for both products following high demand in the country. 

Police and officials of Department of Internal Trade surveyed shops and pharmaceutical stores in Bangkok and outlying areas and arrested 10 traders on Wednesday and Thursday after receiving the complaints.

Violators face a maximum of seven-year imprisonment and a fine of upto 140,000 baht. (TNA)

Gov’t to initiate tourism promotion measures to counter coronavirus impact

BANGKOK (NNT) - Concerns regarding novel coronavirus and the delay in the fiscal year 2020 budget bill have had a negative impact on the economy. In response, Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak has ordered the Ministry of Finance to introduce domestic tourism promotion measures and ensure funding for infrastructure investment projects.

Speaking at the Posttoday Economic Forum 2020, Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak admitted the spread of novel coronavirus has affected the tourism sector, requiring the Cabinet to take measures to help affected businesses.

He said the Ministry of Finance is now instructed to take additional economic measures through phase four of the Chim Shop Chai campaign promoting domestic tourism. The campaign is intended to distribute money to local communities and help the affected tourism sector.

The DPM said today the government is now on track with several economic reform projects, however cooperation from all sides is required to maintain the strength of the economy, especially financial institutions which should lower their interest rates, as a means of encouraging greater cash flow in the economy.

The private sector is being asked to make more investment in the country to compensate for the expected shortcomings, while the government will be supporting investment projects through the Thailand Future Fund, which allows the general public to purchase shares, serving as their savings and investment at the same time.

On the fiscal year 2020 budget, the DPM said today the government is prepared to disburse the budget with care.

The government has only four months to use the budget. Government agencies have been instructed to ensure their plans are in place, to allow disbursement to be processed immediately after the bill goes into effect.

The Minister of Finance Uttama Savanayana noted today that the Ministry of Finance is able to handle short-term economic effects, while more concrete details of new measures will be announced this month.


Prime minister cheers up victims of shooting rampage at Maharaj Hospital

NAKHON RATCHASIMA (NNT) - Prime minister cheers up victims of shooting rampage at Maharaj Hospital, assuring the authorities have taken action by law and maintained the people’s safety

Prime Minister and Defense Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwon, Deputy Prime Minister/Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul and Interior Minister Gen Anupong Paojinda visited the injured victims of the shooting rampage at Maharaj Nakhon Ratchasima Hospital.

The prime minister said a total of 27 fatalities were reported including the lone gunman who was extra-judicially killed and 57 others were reportedly injured, 25 of whom have been allowed to return home. The government is taking responsibility for all medical expenses for those injured while medical teams form the Ministry of Public Health’s Department of Mental Health are looking after mental health of the injured and relatives of the slain victims. The Ministry of Social Development and Human Security is also providing assistance for the victims.

The prime minister said he has followed the situation in which the gunman was heavily armed and held people hostage and instructed the authorities to maintain the people’s safety.

He thanked medical staff and nurses for fully handling the injured victims.

Coronavirus infections continue to increase overseas

BANGKOK (NNT) - The number of those killed by coronavirus has reached 724, 722 of whom were reported in China while one reportedly died in Hong Kong and one other in the Philippines.

Those killed by the virus in China include one American and one Japanese, both being in their 60s.

The number of people confirmed to be infected with coronavirus worldwide is now 34,967. Of those, 89 have been reported in Japan, the highest number outside China. A total of 28 countries have people reportedly infected with coronavirus.

2,411 people worldwide have been treated and have fully recovered.

The director of the World Health Organization (WHO) raised concerns over a lack of medical equipment for use to prevent coronavirus outbreaks, such as rubber gloves, respiratory equipment, protective suits, infection test equipment and face masks. The WHO held a meeting on the issue in Geneva, Switzerland, and called on purveyors of such medical supplies to address the short supply situation immediately.

In Singapore, medical supplies for use in dealing with coronavirus infections have run short and department stores and supermarkets have sold out amidst public fears of a human-to-human pandemic, while authorities have raised the alert situation to almost the maximum level.

DRRAA aims to alleviate drought, smog problems in all areas

BANGKOK (NNT) - Department of Royal Rainmaking and Agricultural Aviation’s (DRRAA) Director General Surasee Kittimonthon said that due to the drought situation and the severe problems of dust and haze, the government has ordered the DRRAA to review the annual royal rainmaking action plan to alleviate problems for people in all regions.

The DRRAA will commence its annual rainmaking operations earlier this year from February 17, 2020, to help mitigate the drought disaster. The department has been reviewing its operational plans prior to the actual mission to ensure maximum effectiveness.

The DRRAA has also cooperated with the Royal Irrigation Department to carry out royal rainmaking operations to fill reservoirs in the eastern region due to favorable weather conditions. They include Dok Krai Reservoir and Nong Pla Lai Reservoir in Rayong and Bang Phra Reservoir in Chonburi..

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HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

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Army Chief apologizes for the Korat shooting

Westerdam Cruiser barred from docking at Laem Chabang port, Chon Buri

Concern about Nakhon Ratchasima economy after shooting rampage

One more Novel Coronavirus case in Thailand

PM expresses worry about violent copycats

Motorists encouraged to change engine oil, carry out vehicle checks

PM hails well-coordinated response to Korat shooting rampage

Thailand confirms 7 more Novel Coronavirus cases

Traders fined for hiking face mask prices

Gov’t to initiate tourism promotion measures to counter coronavirus impact

Prime minister cheers up victims of shooting rampage at Maharaj Hospital

Coronavirus infections continue to increase overseas

DRRAA aims to alleviate drought, smog problems in all areas