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Update June 2018


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Update by Natrakorn Paewsoongnern
 
 
 
Thailand News
 

Update June 29, 2018

Rescuers search for other entrances to flooded cave

 

U.S. Special Operations Command Pacific Search and Rescue team personnel walk out of the cave where a young soccer team and their coach are believed to be missing, Thursday, June 28. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

Tassanee Vejpongsa

Mae Sai (AP) — Rescuers punched a hole into the side of a mountain on Thursday in a desperate attempt to drain rising water from the flooded cave in northern Thailand where 12 boys and their soccer coach have been missing for five days.

But the effort appeared unsuccessful and the situation remained dire, with no guarantee that the water will soon recede from the cave with months left in Thailand's rainy season.

Divers have been unable to navigate passages filled with muddy water, and rescuers are seeking alternative ways of entering the sprawling cave, hoping to find hidden shafts in the mountain that might offer a back door into the caverns.

Deputy national police chief Wirachai Songmetta said he will join more than 600 people combing the mountain for possible cracks. A few shafts that were found were ruled out, but Interior Minister Anupong Paojinda said rescuers are still looking at three locations. They will explore further with the geological department using equipment such as small cameras, he said.

The missing boys and coach entered the Tham Luang Nang Non cave in Chiang Rai province after a soccer game on Saturday afternoon. The cave complex extends several kilometers with narrow passageways and uneven ground and is known to flood severely in the rainy season.

Still, authorities have expressed hope there are dry places on higher ground within the cave where the group may be able to wait.

Thai searchers have been joined by a U.S. military team and British cave experts, along with several other private teams of foreign "cavers." At a morning briefing, Thai SEAL divers explained to the U.S. team that water levels had been rising overnight at a rate of about 15 centimeters per hour, complicating efforts to squeeze through tight passages, some of which require divers to contort their bodies around L-shaped bends.

Near-constant rains have stalled search efforts inside the cave by raising water levels. A key chamber deep inside the cave has filled with water, blocking searchers from proceeding further into the cave complex.

Giant pumps attached to long hoses were deployed to drain that chamber, but could not keep up with flooding caused by the heavy rains. Water backed up into areas leading from the cave entrance to the filled chamber, causing a further disruption to the rescue effort.

Authorities also had to switch off the power to the pumps for safety as teams worked to raise the power cables above the floodwaters.

"There's not much we can do right now," Interior Minister Anupong said. "We have to wait for the water level to decline. (Divers) can't do anything right now."

Thursday's drilling from outside the cave was aimed at removing water from where it was accessible — near the cave's entrance, where equipment can be easily deployed — in hopes of draining it away from areas further inside the cave, said Suratin Chaichompoo, president of the Thai Well Water Association. But water levels continued to rise.

The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command in Hawaii confirmed that a U.S. team of about 30 people was sent to assist the search. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Nicole Schwegman said Wednesday that the team had been sent at the request of Thailand's government.

Some parents of the missing children have been spending the nights in tents outside the cave entrance as rain pours. On Thursday morning, a Buddhist monk led a prayer for relatives, many of them red-eyed and crying.

Anmar Mirza, national coordinator of the National Cave Rescue Commission in the U.S. and editor of the Manual of U.S. Cave Rescue Techniques, said that in a situation like this there are likely to be only two things that can be done: attempt to pump the water down and search for alternative entrances.

Drilling would be extremely difficult for a number of reasons and could also take days to weeks, he said, adding that it was important not to take needless risks.

Mirza said the boys' youth and health are to their advantage and if the cave is not too cold, they should be able to survive four to five days with no water and a month or more with water but no food.


Police to take action over hazardous garbage pit in Rayong

NNT

Rayong - Police are to take legal action after inspecting a garbage pit in Rayong province following public complaints and finding industrial waste and contaminants in the pit.

The open pit is located in Map Yang Porn sub-district of Pluak Daeng district in Rayong province and is 40 meters wide, 100 meters long and 15 meters deep, allowing it to hold up to 60,000 tons of waste. Drainage from the pit leads to Nam Dok Reservoir directly and its waste water has already tainted the local water supply.

Deputy Commander of the Royal Thai Police Pol Gen Weerachai Songmetta says dangerous chemicals and contaminants from industrial waste have been found in the pit. Water and soil samples have been collected for further testing and charges of illegal industrial waste transportation, possession of hazardous waste and illegal reception of hazardous waste are to be filed.

Pol Gen Weerachai also led an inspection of Fuji Xerox Eco Manufacturing Co Ltd in Sriracha district in Chonburi province, one of seven companies legally permitted to handle electronic waste. The check found the company’s facility in order and safely handling copy machine scraps from Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand as reported. The deputy commander urged the company to ensure other businesses taking on its waste be legally authorized.


SRT speeds construction of Bang Sue Grand Station

NNT

Bangkok - The State Railway of Thailand (SRT) has reported on the construction of Bang Sue Grand Station, due to finish by 2020.

Deputy Manager of Construction Supervision Consulting (CSC), Choosak Losagulpong, gave an overview of the megaproject in an interview with NBT World and China Radio International. He indicated that the SRT is currently working on the structure of the station, which covers an area of 240,000 square meters. The terminal consists of an underground car park, a concourse for ticket sales and a boarding platform. Construction has been expedited to pave the way for railway installation.

Choosak explained that three types of railways will go through the complex. Long-distance trains will accommodate passengers from other provinces travelling into Bangkok. Commuter trains will be used for public transport within the metropolitan area: the North-South line will run from Bang Sue to Rangsit, whereas the Southern line will run from Bang Sue to Bangbumru and Taling Chan. Lastly, Thai-Chinese high-speed trains are under consideration.

The CSC Deputy Manager stated that, when completed, Bang Sue Grand Station will add more routes to the existing BTS skytrain network. It will also serve as a transit point for the MRT subway system and the Airport Rail Link, providing connections to Don Mueang, Suvarnabhumi and U-Tapao airports.

Meanwhile, Project Management and Administration Manager Santi Chatnarongchai discussed the challenges of the megaproject. The Bang Sue development is the first railway hub of its scale ever built in Thailand, which is further complicated by its location in the heart of the capital. Other problems include delays on materials, such as pipelines and railway systems.


Striped dolphin found beached in Phang Nga still in critical condition

 

NNT

Phangnga - The condition of a striped dolphin found beached on Koh Yao Yai of Phang Nga has yet to improve and it is being provided with further care while tests are done to uncover the cause of its illness.

The Phuket Marine Biological Center has continued to care for the 2.14 meter long, 70 kilogram female dolphin and floats have had to be attached to the sea mammal to keep it from sinking as it is unable to stabilize itself. Its bacterial infection is also yet to improve and veterinarians believe it will require 5-6 more days of close care. A blood sample from a wound found on its tail fin has been sent for analysis to understand the cause of its symptoms.

A young dolphin that was discovered alongside the female has been returned to the ocean after it was found to be in good condition. Center authorities explained that keeping it in a tank would only cause undue stress and present the possibility of the younger one contracting an infection from its mother. They assured the public that the young dolphin was already weaned and was mature enough to survive on its own.


Update June 28, 2018

Rain, high water complicate cave search for Thai soccer team

Relatives of 12 young soccer team members and their coach pray for their rescue, Wednesday, June 27, in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

Tassanee Vejpongsa

Mae Sai — Heavy rainfall stymied efforts to rescue members of a youth soccer team trapped in a cave in northern Thailand by flooding underground passages faster than water can be pumped out, a senior official said Wednesday.

Muddy water rising to the ceiling of one of the chambers has prevented Thai navy SEAL divers from progressing farther into the cave to where they think the 12 schoolboys and their coach, who went missing Saturday, may be sheltering. There has been no contact with the group since they entered the Tham Luang Nang Non cave in Chiang Rai province.

At the entrance to the cave, officials were bringing in large water hoses and more water pumps. Navy divers who have been working their way through the complex said that water levels were rising in some places at a rate of 15 centimeters per hour early Wednesday.

"We tried to pump the water (out of the chamber) but the water keeps rising. That means the water that comes in with the rain is still much more than what we can pump out," said Chiang Rai Gov.  Narongsak Osatanakorn. "So we need to pump the water faster."

He said the navy SEAL teams leading the search have been bolstered.

Narongsak also said teams continued to look for another way in to the blocked portions of the cave by searching for any shafts that might be accessible on the surface of the mountain, under which the cave sits. Two fissures were found Tuesday but proved to be dead ends. The rescuers were exploring another one found Wednesday morning.

Despite setbacks, officials remained publicly optimistic about the prospects for a successful rescue.

"We still have hope. All agencies are trying their best. We have a challenge from the water level that keep rising," Thai army chief Gen. Chalermchai Sittisart told reporters at the site. "We are adding more pumps to lower the level down so that the SEAL team could operate better."

He added that all agencies were working hard, "rotating 24 hours so that we can have a success in this operation."

The U.S. military was preparing to assist. The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, which is based in Hawaii, is sending a special operations team to Thailand in response to a request for help with the rescue effort, according to a U.S. official who was not authorized to speak publicly and requested anonymity. It wasn't immediately clear when the team would arrive.

Interior Minister Anupong Paojinda told reporters earlier that the divers could proceed only when enough water is pumped out so there is space between the water and the ceiling to make it safer to work. The divers will also soon start using special oxygen tanks that provide longer diving times, he said.

A SEAL diver said the water is so murky that even with lights they cannot see where they are going underwater, so they need to be able to lift their heads above the water.

The boys aged 11-16 have been missing since their 25-year-old coach took them to the cave complex on Saturday after a practice match.

Somkuan Saokeaw, a volunteer rescue worker who had just left the cave area where a SEAL team was operating, said Wednesday morning that they had worked through the night in the farthest chamber they could access.

Parents waited overnight in tents outside the cave entrance as rain poured. Medics sat in a tent nearby, and bicycles, backpacks and soccer cleats the boys left behind remained at the entrance.


Thai rights lawyer get 16 months prison for Facebook post

Human rights lawyer Prawet Prapanukul arrives for his appearance in a criminal court in Bangkok, Wednesday, June 27. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

Bangkok (AP) — A court sentenced a human rights lawyer to 16 months in prison on Wednesday, finding him guilty of sedition for material he posted online but dropping charges of royal defamation.

Prawet Prapanukul had been indicted on 10 royal defamation charges and three sedition charges. He has said he would not appoint a lawyer to defend himself in the case he called "a political issue, not a legal one."

The Ratchada Criminal Court in Bangkok sentenced him to five months for each sedition count and an additional month for refusing to let officials take his fingerprint identification, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights said.

Prawet had been a lawyer for supporters of the former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in 2006. He was arrested last year in connection with material he had posted on Facebook about Thailand's 1932 revolution, which turned the country from an absolute monarchy into a constitutional one.


PM pleased with visits to UK and France

 

Thai Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha.

NNT

Bangkok – The Prime Minister says his visits to the United Kingdom and France this month have strengthened bonds between Thailand and the two European nations.

PM General Prayut Chan-o-cha said that, during the visits, he and his entourage persuaded British and French business leaders to invest in Thailand’s Eastern Economic Corridor.

Regarding the purchase of the Theos 2 satellite, General Prayut underlined that the process is transparent and traceable and pointed out that the current satellite will soon be decommissioned and need to be replaced.

The Prime Minister further stressed that Thailand needs assistance from powerful economies in bringing in technologies to the kingdom. General Prayut has also invited both British Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron to attend the next ASEAN summit in 2019. President Macron has already accepted the invitation.

Next year, Thailand will assume the ASEAN chairmanship from Singapore.


Narcotics incinerated to mark International Day Against Drug Abuse

Ayuthaya - Thailand's Ministry of Public Health has incinerated 6,322 kilograms of seized narcotics, worth over 13.697 billion baht, to mark International Day Against Drug Abuse, which falls on June 26 of each year.

The narcotics were seized in 7,245 cases and consisted of methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine, opium, marijuana and other addictive substances.

Between 1977 and 2018, a total 48 incinerations have taken place with over 128,776 kilograms of narcotics destroyed, all together valued at more than 197.343 billion baht. Methamphetamine made up most of the total at 74,708 kilograms followed by opium and its derivatives at 28,760 kilograms, heroin at 25,127 kilograms and Ecstasy at over 179 kilograms.

Permanent Vice-Minister of Public Health, Dr. Tawach Sunthrajarn, chaired the 48th incineration at the Utility and Environment Management Center of Bang Pa-In Industrial Estate in Ayuthaya province. Pyrolytic Incineration was used to destroy the narcotics. With temperatures at over 850 degrees Celsius, the process ensures no air pollution or toxins enter the surrounding environment.


Update June 27, 2018

Flooding complicates cave search for Thai soccer team

Soldiers guide auxiliary power lines into a cave where the main staging area is to continue the search for a group of missing boys and their coach, Tuesday, June 26, in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province. (AP Photo/Tassanee Vejpongsa)

Tassanee Vejpongsa

Mae Sai (AP) — Efforts to rescue 12 boys and their soccer coach who have been missing inside a flooded cave in northern Thailand for three days hinge on pumping out water so that navy divers have room to operate, the first high-level Thai official to visit the site said Tuesday.

Interior Minister Anupong Paojinda told reporters that navy SEAL divers leading the search are seriously handicapped by muddy water that has filled some chambers of the large cave to the ceilings. He said the divers can proceed only when enough water is pumped out so there is space between the water and the ceiling to make it safer to work. The divers will also soon start using special oxygen tanks that provide longer diving times, he said.

A SEAL diver said the water is so murky that even with lights they cannot see where they are going underwater, so they need to be able to lift their heads above the water.

Anupong said rescuers would be working night and day in the dark cave.

"The SEAL team will be working nonstop because it's already dark here too," he said. "So night and day doesn't make a big difference. They'll just need to rotate."

About a dozen navy divers and other rescuers re-entered the cave on Tuesday morning to search for the boys, aged 11-16, who have been missing since their coach took them to the Tham Luang Nang Non cave complex on Saturday after a practice match. But the search had to be suspended again because of high water.

Divers have been seeking a way forward through the chambers of the cave complex, but have been forced to suspend their search several times. The authorities are also seeking alternative ways in, using helicopters and search parties on foot to find possible holes in the ceilings of other parts of the cave.

A small glimmer of hope was dashed Tuesday afternoon after explorers found two fissures in the rock on the mountain in which the cave is located. After evaluation, experts found neither could be used as a "chimney" to gain access to the cave.

Rain that fell overnight increased the difficulty of exploring inside the cave. However, the initial chambers near the cave's entrance are dry, and a power line was extended inside to provide light and ventilation and help the divers communicate with those outside.

The boys and their 25-year-old coach entered the cave in Chiang Rai province late Saturday afternoon. A mother reported that her son did not return from soccer practice that day, setting off the search.

Relatives of the missing boys and others performed a ritual Tuesday morning calling for those who are missing. They played drums and gongs and two relatives held fishing nets as symbols to fish out lost spirits from the cave. Organizer Jiratat Kodyee said the ritual was a traditional way of showing support for the boys' families.

The cave complex extends several kilometers and has wide chambers and narrow passageways with rocky outcrops and changes in elevation. Still, officials have said they are hopeful the boys found a safe space away from the floods.

Rising waters Monday evening frustrated efforts to search farther in the cave, and efforts were halted temporarily. During the night, rescue teams and electricians extended a power line 1 kilometer and communication lines into the cave.

"We hope this will provide lights for work and fans for ventilation for the SEAL team," Chiang Rai Gov. Narongsak Osottanakorn said. "Also, it means we can use electric engines to pump water out of the cave as well."

Parents waited overnight in tents outside the cave entrance as rain poured. Medics sat in a tent nearby, and bicycles, backpacks and soccer cleats the boys left behind remained at the entrance.

At a prayer session Monday evening, some of the boys' relatives walked inside the cave entrance, where their cries echoed off the walls. "My son, come on out! I am waiting for you here!" one woman cried. Another kneeled down near the bicycles and prayed, asking "Where is my child?"

Authorities have said footprints and handprints were found inside the cave complex, and that tourists trapped there by past floods have been rescued after the waters receded.

Getting farther into the cave has required lots of oxygen and special diving skills, which would also complicate rescue efforts once the boys are found, officials said.

The cave, cut into a mountainside near the border with Myanmar, can flood severely during the rainy season, which runs from June to October, and there are warnings against exploring then.


Police inspect industrial waste disposal pit in Rayong

NNT

Rayong - Police have inspected a waste disposal pit in Rayong province where they also discovered that the water in a nearby waterway had been contaminated.

Local residents in Pluak Daeng district told the police about the industrial waste disposal pit and how the unpleasant odor affected their lives. The pit, which is 40 meters wide, 100 meters long and 15 meters deep, has reportedly been used as a dump site. It is big enough that it can contain up to 60 tons of discarded waste.

The disposal site has contaminated the adjacent waterway which flows directly into Dok Krai Reservoir. Surrounding communities rely on the water in the reservoir for household consumption.

Deputy National Police Chief, Pol Gen Wirachai Songmetta led a group of police and other officials from related agencies to inspect the pit this week. They found toxic waste buried in the ground.

Samples of soil and water taken at the site will be sent to the Department of Medical Sciences to be examined for dangerous chemicals. Once identified, those involved in the illegal disposal of toxic waste will be prosecuted according to the law.


SkyTrain system to be fully functional by Friday

NNT

Bangkok – BTS Skytrains have been suffering delays of at least 10 minutes since the beginning of this month following multiple system failures. Upset Bangkokians have taken to Twitter saying they want the concession contract of the company that runs the Skytrain system terminated.

Bangkok Mass Transit System Co Ltd's (BTSC) CEO Surapong Laoha-Unya has conveyed his apologies to passengers, saying the system will be restored by Friday, but despite his positive outlook CEO Surapong said he was not 100% certain the problem would not occur again, although he believed the ride would now be smoother.

According to Surapong, passengers can request a full refund on tickets they have purchased if they no longer wish to use Skytrain services. The CEO later said no other forms of compensation would be offered to passengers for the time being.

Meanwhile, Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith has instructed Bangkok Mass Transit Authority (BMTA) to provide more public buses for people on Sukhumvit Road during peak hours while the Skytrain system is being fixed. The BTSC CEO has also met with the Transport Minister to discuss the matter.


World Cup gambling results in over 6,500 arrests so far

NNT

Bangkok - Police have reported making over 6,500 arrests in connection with betting on the World Cup since the start of the tournament on June 14.

Deputy Commander of the Royal Thai Police, Pol Gen Chalermkiat Sriworakarn reported that police efforts to suppress betting on the outcome of World Cup 2018 have resulted in multiple arrests. Of the detainments, more than 250 were bookies and over 28 million baht was seized. The Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO) has been called on to follow money trails for further arrests. Both betting venues and online websites were found over the course of the sweep with some operating from abroad.

The Ministry of a Digital Economy and Society, National Broadcast and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) and Technology Crime Division have been tasked with dealing with betting websites and have been able to secure court orders for several site closures. No civil servants, influential individuals or youths were found during the sweep but police report discovering minors entering game stores in the northeast and have called for stricter control by store operators. Children under the age of 18 are allowed no more than three hours in game stores, and are not allowed to enter between the hours of 10pm and 4am.


Update June 26, 2018

Divers re-enter cave to search for 13 cut off by floods

Rescue workers continue to search for a group of missing boys and their coach in a flooded cave, Tuesday, June 26, in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province, northern Thailand. (AP Photo/Tassanee Vejpongsa)

Tassanee Vejpongsa

Mae Sai (AP) — About a dozen navy SEAL divers and other rescuers re-entered a partly flooded cave in northern Thailand on Tuesday morning to search for 12 boys and their soccer coach who've been stranded three nights in the sprawling caverns cut off by rising water.

Even though more rain fell overnight, the initial chambers inside the cave were dry. A power line was extended into the cave to provide light and ventilation and help divers communicate with those outside.

Navy Lt. Naponwath Homsai said the divers will enter the water after they reach a chamber farther inside that was flooded almost to its ceiling on Monday. "We hope that the water level has gone down but we will have to see. Today we will try to find passages which are under the water that hopefully will lead to other chambers."

The sprawling cave complex extends several kilometers and has wide chambers and narrow passageways with rocky outcrops and changes in elevation. Still, officials have said they are hopeful the boys found a safe space away from the floods.

The boys, aged 11-16, and their 25-year-old coach were believed to have entered the Tham Luang Nang Non cave in Chiang Rai province late Saturday afternoon. A mother reported that her son did not return from soccer practice that day, setting off the search.

Rising waters Monday evening frustrated efforts to search farther in the cave, and the efforts were halted temporarily. During the night, rescue teams and electricians extended a power line 1 kilometer into the cave.

"We hope this would provide lights for work and fans for ventilation for the SEAL team," Chiang Rai Gov. Narongsak Osottanakorn said. "Also, it means we can use electric engines to pump water out from the cave as well."

Parents waited overnight in tents outside the cave entrance as rain poured. Medics sat in a tent nearby, and the bicycles, backpacks and soccer cleats the boys left behind remained at the entrance.

Naponwath said late Monday that other shoes and bags belonging to the group had been left in a cave chamber, and "We believe the students have gone further in."

Tuesday morning, relatives and others performed a ritual calling for those who are missing. They played drums and gongs and two relatives held fishing nets as symbols to fish out lost spirits from the cave. Organizer Jiratat Kodyee aid the ritual was a traditional way of showing support for the boys' families.

At a prayer session the previous evening, some relatives walked inside the cave entrance, where their cries echoed off the walls. "My son, come on out! I am waiting for you here!" one woman cried. Another kneeled down near the bicycles and prayed, asking "Where is my child?"

Namhom Boonpiam, whose 13-year-old son Mongkol is among the missing, said she had been waiting at the entrance since Saturday night.

"I haven't slept and I hope that all of them can come out, all safe and sound," she said. "My son is a strong boy. I still have hope."

Authorities have said footprints and handprints were found inside the cave complex, and that tourists trapped there by past floods have been rescued after the waters receded.

Officials are hopeful there are still safe spaces in the cave complex despite the flooding, Chiang Rai Deputy Governor Passakorn Bunyalak told a news conference.

"We're confident that the kids should still be in good condition," he said, noting that rescuers had seen nothing inside the cave to indicate otherwise.

Getting farther into the cave has required lots of oxygen and special diving skills, which would also complicate rescue efforts once the boys are found, Passakorn said. He said divers might have to first bring in food and the boys might need to wait out the flood or learn the basics of scuba to get out.

The cave, cut into a mountainside near the border with Myanmar, can flood severely during the rainy season, which runs from June to October.

In "The Caves of Northern Thailand," an online guidebook updated this year, the cave is described as explorable only from November to June due to flooding. It says the cave is an easy walk at first, but farther inside, finding a route through the rock formations and narrow passages can be difficult.


AoT approves Suvarnabhumi Airport expansion plan

NNT

Bangkok - Airports of Thailand (AoT) has approved an investment budget of 4.2 billion baht for Suvarnabhumi's expansion designed to increase the airport’s capacity. Construction is expected to start in 2019.

Dr. Nitinai Sirismatthakarn, the President of AoT said Monday that the board had approved the construction of a second terminal at the airport which will raise passenger handling capacity by 30 million passengers a year.

The project consists of seven major developments:

1. The construction of the second terminal located by the north of Concourse A with an area of approximately 348,000 square meters.

2. Construction work to improve airport concourses A, B and C.

3. The construction of an Airport and Multiplex Building (AMB) situated south of the new terminal with a building area of around 84,000 square meters.

4. Installation of an automatic transit system between the main terminal (MTB) along concourse A to the second terminal and the Airport Rail Link. The total distance of the system is about 2.5 kilometers.

5. Improvement of the passenger baggage handling system to support the increased number of passengers.

6. The construction of a road system within the airport to create an entrance and exit for the second terminal.

7. The construction of a public utility system suited to the new project.

Currently, AoT is in the process of developing the second phase of Suvarnabhumi Airport which is designed to raise annual passenger handling capacity to 60 million passengers in 2019 from 45 million now. AoT however, predicts that there will be approx 65 million and 68 million passengers in 2018 and 2019 respectively, which will exceed the capacity of phase 2. Therefore, the new second terminal is intended to solve the capacity shortfall.

Dr. Nitinai also added that the next step is to present the project and the investment budget to the Ministry of Transport and the Office of the National Economic and Social Development Board for their consideration before proposing it to the Cabinet. If Cabinet approves, construction is expected to being in 2019 and be finished in 2021.


Thailand halts imports of electronic, plastic waste

NNT

Bangkok - The Department of Industrial Works (DIW) has issued an order banning imports of electronic and plastic waste.

The DIW Director-General, Mongkol Pruekwatana, said his department has issued a prohibition on further imports of electronic and plastic waste effective immediately, and will be proposing to the Ministry of Industry to issue an indefinite ban on these imports in the near future.

All seven companies authorised for e-waste imports and 26 companies allowed to import plastic waste are now prohibited from making further imports, while all imported items currently stored at ports will have to go through further inspections.

To date, 37,000 tons of e-waste has already been imported into Thailand this year, in addition to 120,000 tons of plastic waste. Most of the imported e-waste comprises parts of electronic components and circuit boards, with Singapore, and Hong Kong being the main exporters.

The DIW is also working with the Customs Department to block any further imports of these items into the country, and will be working with local administrations to inspect all 2,240 recycling factories in the country.


NLA subcommittee discusses welfare for informal workers

NNT

Bangkok - Thailand's national Legislative Assembly (NLA) subcommittee on society, children, women, the elderly, people with disabilities and the underprivileged has organized a seminar on retirement plans for informal workers, as a way to supplement welfare coverage.

Subcommittee chairman, Adm Ponlawat Sirodom, reported on the country’s labor statistics for 2017, which includes 16.9 million documented workers and 20.4 million informal workers. He said a large demographic of informal workers requires additional mechanisms from the government to ensure financial security into retirement. The government has therefore established the National Savings Fund to guarantee stable living for retirees.

The seminar concluded that legislation pertaining to labor protection and social security should be amended to cover informal workers, especially in terms of various compensations. Discussions included the possibility of a savings mechanism for informal workers beginning at the age of 30, which would yield them 1,000 baht per month after retirement to encourage saving habits and reduce the burden on the state.


Update June 25, 2018

12 missing youth soccer players feared trapped in Thai cave

Bangkok (AP) — Search and rescue teams were looking Sunday for a dozen members of a youth soccer team who were missing and believed to be trapped in a cave in northern Thailand.

Police said that local authorities, police and rescue workers were working with divers to find the 12 boys, aged 11-15, and their coach, who are believed to have entered the Tham Luang Nang Non cave in Chiang Rai province late Saturday afternoon.

The group were apparently trapped when a heavy rainstorm flooded a stream at the cave's entrance. Police Col. Komsan Saardluan said parts of the cave, which is an estimated 6-8 kilometers long, get flooded to a height of as much as 5 meters during the rainy season, which runs from June through October.

Footage on Thai television showed bikes and backpacks left at the cave entrance. ThaiPBS television reported that the team members came from various schools in the province and are thought to have been practicing before going to the park where the cave is located.

The search began around midnight Saturday after police received a report of a missing child from a mother who said her son had not returned from the soccer practice that evening, ThaiPBS reported.

It said that the mother last spoke to son when he told her in the afternoon that he was with the group visiting a cave inside the Tham Luang-Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in Chiang Rai's Mae Sai district.


Hand, foot and mouth disease breaks out in the South

NNT

Songkhla - The Office of Disease Prevention and Control in Songkhla province is warning people in southern Thailand to be aware of hand, foot and mouth disease that usually spreads in the rainy season.

According to the report from the ODPC, from 1st January to 18th June 2018, 691 hand, foot and mouth disease patients were identified in the seven provinces of southern Thailand with Songkhla having the highest number of 194 patients.

Dr. Suwich Thammapalo, M.D., the director of ODPC12 said hand, foot, and mouth disease is common in infants and children younger than five years old. The rainy season is the period when the disease often spreads.

Hand, foot and mouth disease is caused by viruses belonging to Enteroviruses group in which the coxsackievirus A16 is the common cause. The disease usually transmits through the air when the infected person coughs or sneezes, in close personal contact with an infected person, and through contact with contaminated objects or surfaces.

A person infected with hand, foot and mouth disease is most contagious during the first week of illness. A fever is often the first sign of the disease, followed by a sore throat and small red spots, often in the back of the mouth, which can become painful and reduce appetite. A rash on the hands and feet may also develop within one or two days. It may also appear on the knees, elbows, buttocks or in the genital area. Adults may become infected and show no symptoms, but they can still pass the virus on to others.

There is no specific treatment for hand, foot and mouth disease. The infected person should be isolated from others and take over-the-counter medications to relieve pain and fever. Frequent hand-washing and avoiding close contact with infected people may help reduce the risk of infection.

People can contact the Department of Disease Control (DDC) via hotline 1422 for further information.


Thailand produces more than 190,000 vehicles in May

NNT

Bangkok - Thailand last month produced more than 193,000 vehicles, an increase of 13.94% compared to the same month of 2017, according to the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI).

Surapong Paisitpatnapong, acting vice chairman of the FTI’s Automotive Industry Club, revealed that a total of 193,130 vehicles were produced in May, of which 98,875 units were shipped overseas, accounting for a rise of 9.75% year-on-year. May was the seventh consecutive month Thailand saw an increase in auto exports.

In May, 90,320 vehicles were produced for the domestic market while the actual number of units sold was 84,965 vehicles, a surge of 27.9% year-on-year. Surapong attributed the domestic sales increase to higher consumer confidence and attractive auto campaigns.

Should the country be able to maintain the monthly increase in vehicle production at the rate of 3-4%, Surapong believes Thailand will meet this year’s target of 2 million vehicles, of which 1.1 million units will be sold to overseas buyers and 900,000 to domestic consumers.


Huge crowds line up for spider cards

NNT

Bangkok - Crowds of people continue to flock to MRT Purple Line stations in the capital to line up for Mamgmoom or spider transport cards.

Passengers started forming long queues early Sunday morning to obtain the long-awaited Mangmoom cards. The Mass Rapid Transit Authority of Thailand (MRTA) is now distributing the first lot of 200,000 cards to the public.

Sixteen MRT Purple Line (Bangsue - Taopoon) stations are handing out 16,000 Mangmoom cards to members of the general public per day. To obtain a card you are required to show your ID card to MRT officials and then fill out the registration form. A quota of 1,000 Mangmoom cards is allotted to each MRT station per day until 29th June. The distribution process will resume between 2nd and 5th July. MRTA will begin to give Mamgmoom cards to students and the elderly on 30th June and 1st July.

To be able to use the card, each holder must put a minimum amount of 150 baht on it first, 100 baht of which is used for fares and the remaining amount is reserved as the card deposit. A minimum amount of 100 baht is required for each cash refill.

In the initial stage, the cards are usable on the Purple Line (Bang Yai-Tao Poon) and the Blue Line (Hua Lampong-Bang Sue) but they will later be usable on public buses run by the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority and on the Airport Rail Link.


Update June 23-24, 2018

Thailand preparing total ban on import of electronic waste

Law-enforcement officers unload boxes full of mobile batteries during a raid at a factory accused of importing and processing electronic waste in the suburbs of Bangkok, Thursday, June 21. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

Tasssanee Vejpongsa and Kaweewit Kaewjinda

Bangkok (AP) — Authorities, who began a series of raids last month on factories accused of illegally importing and processing electronic waste, say they may use special powers given to the government to impose a total ban on the import of such potentially toxic materials.

Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Gen. Surasak Karnjanarat said Thursday that he will lead an effort to amend the law to include such a prohibition. He said if that proves impossible, the prime minister could invoke special powers he was given after the army seized power in 2014 to institute a ban.

Electronic waste creates huge health hazards. Many components are laden with lead and mercury, cadmium and other toxins. Lax controls mean that facilities often burn plastics to release encased copper and use unsafe methods to extract precious metals.

The raids have produced public awareness of the hazards. The environmental group Ecological Alert and Recovery Thailand led local activists from across the country in submitting a letter to the government on Thursday demanding that it revoke an order allowing the factories to operate in agricultural areas, and demanding that the government urgently ban imports of toxic waste.

On Wednesday, Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, who is also defense minister, told reporters the government intends to work toward a total ban.

Defense Ministry spokesman Kongcheep Tantravanich said a committee had decided to introduce measures to immediately suspend licenses to import electronic waste for companies that do not comply with international standards on handling hazardous waste or otherwise flout Thai law and regulations. The standards are specified by the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal, an international treaty that was designed to reduce the movements of hazardous waste between nations.

A U.S.-based group, Basel Action Network, suggested last month that the problem for Thailand and perhaps other Southeast and South Asian countries was growing "as China has closed down its polluting and dangerous 'backyard' recycling facilities and cracked down on waste imports of all kinds," noting that China had been the world's main dumping ground for e-waste for the past two decades.

Police on Thursday raided two factories on the outskirts of Bangkok accused of illegally processing electronic waste, and said they would be closed. In the past month, police have raided over 30 factories illegally processing hazardous waste.

The first target was a factory that processed discarded computer hardware into plastic pellets. The raid was conducted after local residents filed complaints of a foul smell radiating from the processing plant. Residents who accompanied police on the raid erupted into cheers when authorities announced that they were shutting down the factory.

One resident, Sureeporn Janseera, said more than 500 homes in the neighborhood had become virtually uninhabitable in the past year due to the strong odor.

"No one can sit outside," Sureeporn said. "We could constantly smell plastic burning which gave us headaches. It was miserable for us."

In Thursday's second raid, police shut down a factory that was processing mountains of electronic waste. National Deputy Police Chief Wirachai Songmetta said the factory, operated by O.G.I Co. Ltd., had falsified documents to obtain a license to process 45,000 tons of waste — which was considerably above its actual capacity — and that it was acting as a supplier to other illegal plants that had earlier been raided by police.

Wirachai said the illegal practice was a profitable business for the factory operators, who would receive around $25,000 per ton of electronic waste they dealt with.


Thaksin faces arrest over TPI Polene rehabilitation

Thaksin Shinawatra. (AP Photo)

NNT

Bangkok - The Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions has approved a third arrest warrant for former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra for his alleged involvement in the rehabilitation of TPI Polene.

The arrest warrant was issued as Thaksin had failed to appear at the court for the first round of hearings. The National Anti-Corruption Commission acts as the complainant. Thaksin allegedly allowed the then Minister of Finance to head the revival scheme for TPI Polene, which is a private firm.

The former Minister of Finance's role in the revival of TPI Polene was considered to have violated the Organization of Ministry, Bureau and Department Act and marred the bureaucratic system since the intervention was outside the Ministry of Finance's scope of responsibility.

The examination of evidence and witnesses is scheduled for 7th August and enquires are due on 10th and 21st August. The court on 20th June issued a warrant for the fugitive Prime Minister for his alleged role in the Krungthai Bank loan scandal.


Elephant 'electrocuted' in Chachoengsao

NNT

Chachoengsao - A wild elephant was found dead beside a road in Chachoengsao's Sanam Chaikhet district. Electrocution was suspected to be the cause of its death.

The male elephant, believed to be about 15 years old, was found lying dead on the road at the entrance to a villager's house that was cordoned off with barbed wire connected to a car battery.

A group of local administration officials, forest rangers, and police were dispatched to investigate the scene.

Villagers claimed that they protected their tapioca plantations by barricading them with barbed wires and connected them with car batteries to prevent wild animals from getting into their farms.

They claimed that the electrical power from the car batteries did not kill elephants, but merely scared them off.


PM discusses EEC investment potentials with UK companies

NNT

London - The Prime Minister held talks with executives from leading companies in the United Kingdom this week, presenting investment potentials in Thailand, especially in the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC).

A group of executives from ARUP, HSBC, and Prudential met with Gen. Prayut on Thursday at Royal Lancaster Hotel in London to discuss investment plans and potentials in Thailand.

During this meeting, the Prime Minister elaborated on the government's investment supporting measures for foreign companies with equality, transparency, and good governance, to ensure fair competition and concrete outcome from investments yielding mutual benefits to both sides.

The Prime Minister reassured the foreign executives that all investment plans will be supported by the national strategy, highlighting the EEC project, which will become a key economic driver of the country in the near future, with infrastructure plans in place to favour technological and innovative industries, as well as other environment-friendly projects.

ARUP has been investing in Thailand for some 20 years as an infrastructure construction giant. The company has expressed an interest to invest in the EEC.

HSBC, which is the world's biggest financial company, has expressed interest in PPP cooperation in the EEC for financial aspects.

Prudential is also interested in the development of insurance business and digital technology development which will help aid digital reformation of Thailand. The company has been working with the Ministry of Finance, and is looking to make more commitment in the education sector.


Update June 22, 2018

PM receives strong support during UK visit

NNT

London - During his first trip to the United Kingdom in four years, Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-ocha met British Prime Minister Theresa May, invited leading British entrepreneurs to invest in the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) and received strong support from Thais residing in London, who delivered flowers to his hotel.

Thais residing in the UK gathered at the Royal Lancaster Hotel in London on Wednesday to welcome Gen Prayut, voicing their support for his work. The PM thanked the gathering for their warm welcome and urged them to stay aware of happenings in Thailand and to protect it from ill-wishers.

In his meeting with UK PM Theresa May, Gen Prayut emphasized Thailand’s readiness to trade with the European nation and received news that the UK government intends to increase credit lines for British SMEs interested in investing in the EEC. The Thai leader ended the meeting by assuring his counterpart that Thailand will hold a general election early next year.

Deputy Spokesperson for the Thai Prime Minister’s Office, Lt Gen Weerachon Sukontapatipak, explained that Gen Prayut’s visits to the United Kingdom and France are crucial as Thailand is undergoing many changes, both in terms of reform and economic development, and must ensure international confidence. He indicated roadshows for the EEC are to be organized to promote Thailand’s development as an investment destination.

On Thursday the Thai PM was joined by Thai private businesses taking part in the Transforming Thailand event, showcasing the Kingdom’s business vision to the UK's private sector and later he engaged in signing ceremonies between Thai and British energy businesses.


10-year irrigation plan set in support of EEC

NNT

Rayong – The Rayong Irrigation Project has come up with a 10-year plan to ensure water availability for the Eastern Economic Corridor project.

Project Director Prasan Prueksachart said the irrigation plan to support the EEC, which will be piloted in Rayong, calls for the province to allocate more water availability over the next 10 years without affecting the current water supply.

He said Rayong Irrigation Project calls for the plan to be implemented later this year to enhance the water availability, beginning with the expansion of Khlong Yai water reservoir, and the increase in height of dam walls at other reservoirs to increase capacity.

The eastern province is expected to see no shortages of water if the volume of rainfall remains normal. More water pumping systems are also being installed this year to ensure good delivery of water to all areas, especially at industrial estates which will receive better water supply from Khlong Yai canal after the renovation project has been completed.


Online football gambling ring busted by police

NNT

Bangkok - Police have raided two apartments in Pathum Thani and Bangkok and apprehended seven people who were members of an online football gambling network. Five people were arrested, including Denchai Parn-amphan, a gambling website administrator, while a number of computers, mobile phones and bank passbooks were confiscated.

Based on interrogations, the suspects claimed they used to be football gamblers themselves before teaming up to accept bets from others for such gambling websites as Sbobet, Supergoal 88 and Vip 88, of which servers are located in foreign countries. The bookmaking network has about 600 customers and receives a 10-15 percent share of the total value of bets each day, which can be as high as 500,000-600,000 baht per day.

A connected raid was carried out on another apartment room in Soi Charan Sanitwong 40 in Bangkok. The police arrested two women and seized several computers, credit cards, bank passbooks and mobile phones. The suspects said they were hired by another woman as bookmakers to accept bets and forward them to Denchai’s network.

The police are working to expand investigations to identify all other culprits both in and outside the country. At the same time, cooperation will be sought from the Anti-Money Laundering Office to freeze all suspects’ bank accounts.


AOT approves 42 billion baht Suvarnabhumi expansion

NNT

Bangkok - The board of Airports of Thailand (AOT) has approved an investment budget of 42.1 billion baht for the redevelopment of Suvarnabhumi Airport.

The sum, which is still subject to the cabinet's approval, will be used for a long-delayed expansion of the airport which is suffering congestion due to a rapid increase in passenger numbers.

The AOT expects the airport to welcome 65 million passengers this year and 68 million in 2019.

The construction is scheduled to begin next year and should be completed in 2021.


Update June 21, 2018

Former foreign minister sentenced to two years behind bars

 

NNT

Bangkok - A former foreign minister has been sentenced to serve two years in prison for aiding a fugitive to legally stay abroad.

The Criminal Division for Political Office Holders of the Supreme Court, on Tuesday delivered a guilty verdict in a malfeasance case against former foreign minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul for reissuing two passports for former premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

The court found Surapong’s offense, which occurred during his tenure of office in the government of then-Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, was against a Foreign Ministry regulation as his action assisted Thaksin to travel to foreign countries legally after being sentenced to a jail term in Thailand and also facing charges in other cases.

The court temporarily released Surapong on five-million-baht bail Tuesday and imposed a travel ban on him after his lawyer appealed the conviction.


Police take action against KonthaiUK Facebook page

NNT

Bangkok - Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD) Police are seeking a second warrant against the administrator of the “KonthaiUK” Facebook page after an initial warrant failed to deter the site from posting messages attacking the government and the Prime Minister.

Deputy Commander of the Tourist Police, Pol Maj Gen Surachet Hakpal has announced the arrest of five individuals wanted for violations of the Computer Crimes Act after posting to the KonthaiUK Facebook Page images and messages attacking Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-ocha and his deputy Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, and considered likely to incite confusion and panic among the public. Six others are still at large for disseminating false information via computers.

Investigations have found that the administrator of KonthaiUK is likely to be 56-year old Watana Ebbage, who resides in London in the United Kingdom. A warrant for her arrest has been issued for entering data that could impact national security or cause public disquiet.


Several southern provinces warned of forest runoff, mudslides

NNT

Bangkok - As the southwest monsoon prevailing over the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand is picking up strength, most regions of the country, especially the East and the South, are expected to continue to experience heavy rain and scattered thundershowers in coming days. Such weather conditions will raise the risk of flashfloods and forest runoff, and residents in vulnerable areas are urged to take precautions against such disasters.

At sea, waves are predicted to reach a height of 2-4 meters in the Andaman Sea and 2-3 meters in the upper part of the Gulf of Thailand, from Surat Thani north. Fishermen in the eastern region and on the west coast of the southern region are being told to exercise caution at sea while keeping small boats in port.

In the meantime, the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation has issued an alert to some districts of Ranong, Phang Nga, Surat Thani, Krabi and Chumphon provinces in the South, due to the high risk of forest runoff and mudslides during these few days.


BTS to replace single-trip magnetic cards with Thin Cards

NNT

Bangkok - BTS Group Holdings Public Company Limited will replace the single-trip magnetic cards with smart cards, also known as Thin Cards to accommodate skytrain expansion.

The CEO of the BTS, Surapong Laoha-Unya, said on Tuesday that the company would like to apologize to skytrain commuters, as the use of single-trip or one-day magnetic cards may encounter inconveniences at the entry and exit points, but the BTS staff will do their best to serve them.

Surapong said the company will also introduce 200 touch-screen ticket machines and add another 50 ticket vending machines at all BTS stations.

This process will begin this month starting at Siam, Chong Nonsi, Krung Thonburi, Wongwian Yai, Talat Phlu, Bang Wa, Udomsuk, and Bearing. The process should cover all BTS stations within six months.

Meanwhile, the Green Line connecting Samrong and Samut Prakan is scheduled to open by the end of this year, followed by the Dark Green Line connecting Mo Chit and Khu Khot, the Pink Line connecting Kae Rai and Min Buri, and the Yellow Line connecting Lat Phrao and Samrong.
 


DAILY UPDATE

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Back to Main Page

HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

Rescuers search for other entrances to flooded cave

Police to take action over hazardous garbage pit in Rayong

SRT speeds construction of Bang Sue Grand Station

Striped dolphin found beached in Phang Nga still in critical condition


Rain, high water complicate cave search for Thai soccer team

Thai rights lawyer get 16 months prison for Facebook post

PM pleased with visits to UK and France

Narcotics incinerated to mark International Day Against Drug Abuse


Flooding complicates cave search for Thai soccer team

Police inspect industrial waste disposal pit in Rayong

SkyTrain system to be fully functional by Friday

World Cup gambling results in over 6,500 arrests so far


Divers re-enter cave to search for 13 cut off by floods

AoT approves Suvarnabhumi Airport expansion plan

Thailand halts imports of electronic, plastic waste

NLA subcommittee discusses welfare for informal workers


12 missing youth soccer players feared trapped in Thai cave

Hand, foot and mouth disease breaks out in the South

Thailand produces more than 190,000 vehicles in May

Huge crowds line up for spider cards


Thailand preparing total ban on import of electronic waste

Thaksin faces arrest over TPI Polene rehabilitation

Elephant 'electrocuted' in Chachoengsao

PM discusses EEC investment potentials with UK companies


PM receives strong support during UK visit

10-year irrigation plan set in support of EEC

Online football gambling ring busted by police

AOT approves 42 billion baht Suvarnabhumi expansion


Former foreign minister sentenced to two years behind bars

Police take action against KonthaiUK Facebook page

Several southern provinces warned of forest runoff, mudslides

BTS to replace single-trip magnetic cards with Thin Cards

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