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Update September 17, 2018

Thai government disputes U.N. claims of threats against human rights activists

Lt. Gen. Sansern Kaewkamnerd

Thai government disputes U.N. claims of threats against human rights activists

Bangkok - The government has disputed a claim by the United Nations that Thailand has implemented a policy to threaten human rights activists.

Spokesman of the Prime Minister’s Office, Lt. Gen. Sansern Kaewkamnerd said that Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-o-cha has already received a report from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs regarding the U.N.’s latest listing of 38 “shameful” countries, which included Thailand.

The annual report from the U.N., which also included allegations of ill treatment, surveillance, criminalization and public stigmatization campaigns targeting victims and human rights defenders, will be presented to the U.N. Human Rights Council in a meeting this week.

Lt. Gen. Sansern said that Gen. Prayut has confirmed that Thailand has no policy or intention to threaten human rights activists but has recognized the importance of their protection in order to make them safe and able to do their job.

He added that the PM mentioned some progress in promoting the work of human rights activists, including the appointment of a committee tasked to protect activists, a workshop to discuss the protection of human rights activists and the preparation of a weekly report on the violation of rights, freedom and human rights.

Lt. Gen. Sansern went on to say that the Thai Ambassador to the U.N. will attend the upcoming meeting and present Thailand’s information on the matter. 


Suvarnabhumi Airport introduces self-service immigration kiosks

 

NNT

Samut Prakarn - Hong Kong travelers can now pass through customs faster at Suvarnabhumi International Airport, using newly-introduced self-service immigration kiosks.

Two automated passport control kiosks made their debut at Suvarnabhumi Airport on Saturday, welcoming travelers from Hong Kong.

Getting through airport customs used to take 30-45 minutes. But with the latest self-service machines, it takes less than 20 seconds.

The kiosks use biometric authentication to verify passport holders including facial recognition and fingerprints.

Royal Thai Police Immigration Bureau Commissioner Pol Lieu Gen Suttipong Vongpint, says the new system helps improve national security and will boost tourism, in line with the government’s Thailand 4.0 policy, adding that the kiosks will be able to accommodate holders of Australian, Japanese, and New Zealand passports in the near future.

At least 800,000 travelers from Hong Kong visit Thailand every year. In the first half of 2018 alone, Thailand welcomed 600,000 Hong Kong passport holders.


Pornpetch suggests Govt maintain order in online election campaigns

NLA President Pornpetch Wichitcholchai.

NNT

Bangkok - National Legislative Assembly (NLA) President Pornpetch Wichitcholchai, has suggested the government devise measures to regulate online election campaigns ahead of the general polls.

The assembly speaker has urged the administration to add a section to the Cyber Security Bill in order to make sure online election campaigns are carried out within the confines of the law. The bill is currently being vetted by the Council of State.

Cybercrime is getting easier to commit, according to Pornpetch, noting that the ease of committing crime online demonstrates the need for policing to tackle cyber challenges.

Pornpetch also suggested the government be specific when it comes to drafting cybercrime related regulations, making sure there are no legal loopholes that could be exploited.

In doing so, he said the administration must be careful not to violate the rights of law-abiding citizens and members of the news media.


Buri Ram residents ask for help on land ownership

NNT

Buri Ram - A group of residents in northeastern Buri Ram Province have asked for help from the authorities to address their problems regarding the ownership of land.

The Deputy Director of the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) - Second Army Area Command, Lt. Gen. Dej-udom Nichrat, chaired a meeting with representatives of ISOC, Buri Ram Land Office, the Office of Treasury Department - Buri Ram, the Agricultural Land Reform Office in Buri Ram, the Mayor of Tambon Baan Bua and residents of Baan Bua to discuss the progress of possible solutions to their land ownership problems.

Local residents have asked for help from the authorities to address the issue of not having land titles despite the fact that they have lived on their land for over 100 years.

The reason for this problem is the legal designation of the use of the land since 1931, which was then intended for the raising of cattle while subsequent efforts to issue proper titles appeared unsuccessful over parts of the land in question.

Accordingly, affected residents cannot use their land to acquire funding or pass the ownership on to the younger generation.

Lt. Gen. Dej-udom said that there has been more progress in addressing their issues and a solution will soon be arrived at, while asking all involved to try to obtain any proof of their ownership within the next three months to help back up the issuance of land title deeds.


Update September 15-16, 2018

Thailand's junta eases politics ban in step toward polls

In this Feb. 2, 2014, file photo, a Thai soldier casts his vote during the general election at a polling station in Bangkok, Thailand. Thailand has taken another step toward holding elections next year in 2019 by easing some restrictions on political activities to allow parties to conduct basic functions, but they are still barred from campaigning. (AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong, File)

By Kaweewit Kaewjinda, Associated Press

Bangkok (AP) — Thailand has taken another step toward holding elections next year by easing some restrictions on political activities to allow parties to conduct basic functions, but they are still barred from campaigning.

A special order issued by the prime minister, which became law Friday following its publication in the Royal Gazette, allows political parties to gather funds to operate and, with the ruling junta's permission, recruit party members and choose new leaders.

The order comes two days after enactment of laws covering the selection of members of Parliament and senators that mandate that a general election be held between February and May next year. The ruling junta has previously postponed several promised election deadlines.

Deputy Prime Prawit Wongsuwan said Thursday that elections are tentatively scheduled for Feb. 24, repeating previous assertions by other senior officials.

The military banned virtually all formal political party activities after it took over from an elected government in a May 2014 coup.

Friday's order, issued under an emergency law the military enacted after seizing power, said restrictions are still necessary to make sure the country, which it says is now "relatively stable," is on track to achieve the government's reform goals.

Critics have said that a new constitution and other laws enacted under military rule weaken democratic structures with the intention of limiting the power of elected politicians and keeping it in the hands of traditional Thai powerholders, including the judiciary and the military. For example, all senators in the next government will be appointed by the ruling junta, apart from six senatorial positions which automatically go to army and police chiefs.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha is expected to run in the polls, or at least make himself available for the next parliament to reappoint him prime minister.

Friday's six-page order allows parties to establish budgets and gather funds from their members. It also allows parties to make rule changes, recruit new members, and choose leaders on the condition that the junta is informed at least five days in advance.

Thawatchai Terdpaothai, a member of the Election Commission, said Friday that it will hold a meeting with all political parties on Sept. 28 to explain the regulations and to hear any concerns the parties may have.

Abhisit Vejjajiva, the leader of the Democrat Party, the country's oldest, announced Friday on the online messaging platform LINE that his party will hold a meeting of senior members on Monday to plan for a broader Sept. 24 meeting at which it will adjust its rules to meet the new election regulations and organize the registration of new members.


BOI approves 160 billion baht in investment

Bangkok, 14th September 2018 (NNT) – The Thailand Board of Investment (BOI) has approved 160 billion baht's worth of investment with 150 billion baht going to Thai Oil Plc in support of its aspirations to create a transport hub and aviation city.

The latest meeting of the BOI board was chaired by Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-ocha and discussed four investment projects worth a combined 160 billion baht. The board approved investment in Thai Oil Plc, which plans to create a complete fuel production facility in Chonburi province and improve its raw fuel processing operation to produce the jet fuel and diesel it needs to establish a transport hub and aviation city in the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC).

Investment was also approved for Nava Nakorn Electricity Generating Company Limited, which is to set up a 60 Megawatt and 10 tons of steam per hour natural gas electricity production plant, to improve the nation’s energy capability. Global Power Synergy Co Ltd similarly received support to establish a 57 Megawatt and 70 tons of steam per hour plant.

The last tranche of funding was devoted to investment in diesel engine efficiency improvement efforts, with the intention of elevating the Thai automotive industry.


Chiang Mai park to be proposed for world heritage status

 

Bangkok, 14th September 2018 (NNT) – The World Heritage Committee has given its approval to proposals to acknowledge cultural heritage sites throughout Chiang Mai, which is to submit a request for UNESCO World Heritage status this September 30.

Khun Sirikitiya Jensen led the drafting of an action plan for the development and preservation of historic and cultural sites in Chiang Mai, once the capital of the Lanna Kingdom. Feedback on the plan is being collected so that Si Thep Historical Park can be proposed for World Heritage status.

Opinions on the plan are being collected from across the globe to ensure it meets UNESCO's requirements.

The park was placed on a tentative list of world heritage sites in 2015 but will be inspected once again before it is the subject of further consideration. Documentation for the proposal is to be submitted to the UNESCO World Heritage body on September 30.


British embassy approves Thai police’s request to question alleged Koh Tao rape victim in UK

Bangkok, 14 September 2018 (NNT) - The British Embassy in Bangkok has approved a request by Thai police to visit the United Kingdom to question a young woman who claimed to have been drugged, robbed and raped on Koh Tao island in Surat Thani in June.

Deputy tourist police chief Pol. Maj. Gen. Surachate Hakphan said the police team investigating the alleged rape will soon leave for the United Kingdom.

He said the police will verify the claim and conduct further investigation as clearly as possible and if the rape claim was eventually proved to be groundless, legal action would definitely be taken against the alleged rape victim.

The Thai police have yet to receive a report on the questioning of the British woman, which the British police had promised to send, he said.

The Thai police have been investigating the rape allegations claimed by the 19-year-old British tourist who said it occurred on Koh Tao island on June 25.

The British tourist woman reported to the Thai police in June that she was robbed on the island. But upon her return to the U.K., she told police there that she was also raped.

British media reported that she was drugged, robbed and raped on Koh Tao on June 25, and that the local police would not record her complaint of sexual assault.

The Thai police said she never filed such complaint about being raped and only complained that her belongings went missing. Investigators questioned her claim that she was drugged at a bar and then carried along the beach, where she was allegedly raped. They said evidence suggested it was unlikely because the tide was high along that stretch of beach at the time.


Holidaymakers invited to see blooming lotuses in Ubon Ratchathani

Ubon Ratchathani, 14th September 2018 (NNT) - Holidaymakers have been invited to visit a lotus lake in Ubon Ratchathani province to enjoy the beautiful sight of blooming white and pink lotuses.

Situated in Tha Lad sub-district, the 15-rai lake is a popular weekend tourist destination in Ubon Ratchathnai province. Visitors hear about the lake either on the grapevine or through social media.

Known locally as Bueng Bua Ban Tha Lad, the lake attracts visitors from all areas. It is also known to be a perfect place for people wanting to spend some relaxing time with their loved ones. Sweet and crunchy lotus seeds are also available for purchase at the lake. Those looking for a natural getaway or planning to visit the lake should come no later than October or before the lotuses begin to wither.


Update September 14, 2018

NLA to speed up enactment of provincial election laws

 

Bangkok, 13th September 2018 (NNT) – The National Legislative Assembly is speeding up the deliberation of all six provincial and local election laws.

Mr. Surachai Liengboonlertchai, the First Vice President of the NLA, said on Wednesday that he has already consulted with the NLA President about a plan to call on the Cabinet to ask for the submission of all major draft laws.

Mr. Surachai said that among some 30 draft laws, which are waiting to be deliberated, the NLA is looking forward to first receiving those related to the advancement of the national reform process and the National Strategy.

He pledged that all outstanding drafts will be enacted before the NLA’s term in office comes into an end.

Meanwhile, NLA President Pornpetch Wichitcholchai chaired an award ceremony for the 2018 Phan Waen Fah Awards, which was initiated to recognize all literary works that play an important part in the development of Thai politics under the rule of democracy.

The winner of this year’s short-story category is “Sue Klume Khong Phu Phan” or “the Colonel’s Trench Coat” by Siripong Nukeaw, while the winner of the poem category is “Tong Chart Puen Kao” or ‘The Old National Flag’ by Chan Duenram.


Laws on election of MPs and Senate officially in force

Bangkok, 13th September 2018 (NNT) – Draft laws on the election of Members of Parliament and the Senate have officially been put into force.

The Royal Gazette website on Wednesday published both laws, which have received the royal approval of His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

According to details released on the website, the MPs election bill, which comprises 178 articles, forbids voters, who failed to cast their vote in previous elections to contest any elections or hold any positions at any government office.

The newly-enacted law also states that electronic voting will be allowed until 6 p.m. on the day before the polling date.

Under the Senate election bill’s 99 articles, 250 members of the Upper House will be elected, with 50 final candidates coming from the election process at both provincial and national levels, and 194 candidates to be chosen by the selection committee — all of whom will need to receive final endorsement from the National Council for Peace and Order to take office. The remaining six senators will automatically be the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Defense, the Supreme Commander, the chiefs of the Royal Thai Army, the Royal Thai Navy, and the Royal Thai Air Force, and the Commissioner-General of the Royal Thai Police.

The Senate election bill comes into effect a day after it was published in the Royal Gazette while the MP election bill will come into force 90 days after it was published.

Based on this, the general election, which must take place within 150 days of the end of the 90-day waiting period, will most likely be held between April and May of 2019.


NLA: All draft laws to be enacted by end of 2018

Bangkok, 13th September 2018 (NNT) – The National Legislative Assembly has confirmed that all draft laws currently in hand will be brought into force before the end of the year.

First Vice President of the NLA, Surachai Liengboonlertchai said today that the legislature has been speeding up its work to deliberate and pass all pending draft laws.

Mr. Surachai said that there are currently around 30 draft laws in the hands of NLA.

For the six draft laws related to provincial and local elections, he said that one or more committees will be set up to review all of them before submitting all drafts to the main NLA assembly, tentatively around the first week of October.

In addition, he commented that the power to lift the ban on political activities to allow all parties to start their election campaigns rests with the National Council for Peace and Order, while the NLA keeps communicating with the Election Commission of Thailand to plan details in preparing for the resumption of all activities.


Laws on MP and Senator selection promulgated in Royal Gazette

 

Bangkok, 13th September 2018 (NNT) – Two more election laws have been promulgated in the Royal Gazette and during the 90 day waiting period for a law on Members of Parliament to take effect, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) is to lift limitations on the Election Commission (EC) so it may begin defining polling zones.

The Royal Gazette has promulgated the 2018 Members of Parliament Organic Law, which consists of 178 articles and is to take effect 90 days after September 12, 2018. The law mandates that 350 Members of Parliament (MP) are to be selected through a polling zone system while another 125 are to be appointed through a party list system.

The 2018 Senator Organic Law was also published in the Royal Gazette. The legislation contains 99 articles and has already taken effect. It mandates that 250 Senators are to be chosen by His Majesty the King based on recommendations offered by the NCPO. Initially, 194 senators will be chosen to work alongside the Permanent Secretary of Defense, Chief of the Defense Forces, Royal Thai Army Commander, Royal Thai Navy Commander, Royal Thai Air Force Commander and the Royal Thai Police Commander, which will bring the number to 200. Another 50 will be chosen from a secondary list. All Senators are to be appointed before the first MP election.

Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Kreau-ngam has explained that during the 90 day waiting period for the MP's Organic Law to take effect, the NCPO will allow the EC to spend the first 60 days defining polling zones, and political parties the final 30 days to select candidates.

With elections required to take place within 150 days from the MP organic law coming into effect, polling should take place by May 2019. Wissanu said February 2019 may be too early for the vote to be organized.

Vice President of the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) Surachai Liangboonlertchai said today that the Assembly is to step up deliberations on another 30 laws, now that the MP and Senator organic laws have been promulgated. The NLA is to urge the Cabinet to submit all laws that need to be debated so that it may do so before its term ends.

Six more draft laws on local elections are expected from the Cabinet this month and will likely be put to the floor in October. Committees have already been assembled to begin considering the laws.


PM Prayut confirms no lifting of ban on political activities

Bangkok, 12 September 2018 (NNT) – The Prime Minister has confirmed that the ban on political activities won't be lifted just yet, in order to prevent probable disorder in the country.

Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-o-cha said on Tuesday that the government is planning a special training program for provincial government officials and members of the public 90 days prior to the general election, in order to boost public awareness and clarify the government’s emphasis on the principle of good governance as well as other related policies.

Gen. Prayut insisted that the planned training is not intended to help the government enjoy any political gain but to help ensure only quality politicians are elected to serve the people.

Concerning the lifting of the political activity ban, the PM said that he remains concerned about possible turmoil if all activities are allowed to resume while asking all parties concerned to help prevent further conflict in order for the general poll to take place as planned.

Meanwhile, the Secretary-General of the Council of State, Mr. Dissathat Hotarakit, said that measures to control the use of social media in election campaigns, which have been adapted from those enforced in other countries, are being reviewed.

However, Mr. Meechai Ruchuphan, Chair of the Constitution Drafting Commission, said today that he disagreed with the drafting of a provision to control the use of social media in election campaigning in the draft national cybersecurity law because such a plan is only intended for enforcement during the election.


PPP panel approves fast-track motorway project

Bangkok, 11th September 2018 (NNT) - The Public-Private Partnership (PPP) Committee has given a green light to the Nakhon Pathom - Cha-am motorway project worth 79.01 billion baht to facilitate travel in southern Thailand.

The PPP Committee held a meeting on Tuesday (Sept 11) to agree in principle with the Department of Highways' proposal to build the Nakhon Pathom - Cha-am motorway under the fast-track PPP scheme. The meeting was chaired by the Deputy Prime Minister, Dr. Somkid Jatusripitak, and attended by the Director-General of the State Enterprise Policy Office, Prapas Kong-Ied.

The PPP investment will be based on net cost basis. Under this model, the state would pay for land rights and invest 55.8 billion baht for civil works, while a private enterprise will spend on construction expenses, consultancy services, operation and maintenance, and rest area management for 30 years from commencement of service.

The Nakhon Pathom - Cha-am motorway will help alleviate traffic congestion on Highway No. 4 (Phetkasem Road), and also serve as a high-quality motorway to the South.


Update September 12, 2018

New Thai laws mandate election by May next year

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, arrives at the government house for a cabinet meeting in Bangkok, Thailand, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018. Thailand's military junta announced it will ease some restrictions on political parties to let them conduct basic functions and prepare for elections set for early next year, but campaigning will still be forbidden. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

Bangkok (AP) — After a series of long delays and broken promises, Thailand's military government has enacted laws that set in motion a countdown leading to new elections by next May.

The measures, which became law Wednesday with their publication in the Royal Gazette, cover selection of members of Parliament and senators.

The act covering lower house lawmakers becomes effective in 90 days and mandates that elections be held within 150 days after that, effectively setting a legal deadline in May.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who heads the regime that seized power in a 2014 coup, said last month that a general election was likely to be held on Feb. 24, but left open the possibility of a later date.

The ruling junta has previously set dates for elections but then postponed them.

There are to be 500 lawmakers in the lower house, while the 250 senators will all be appointed.

Thailand's latest constitution, pushed through by the military government, is designed to limit the power of political parties, with election rules designed to keep any single party from winning a clear majority, and gives the Senate more powers than in previous charters.

The rules are mostly meant to curb the political machine of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, whose populist policies won him enormous support and threatened the influence of traditional power holders, including the military. He was deposed by a 2006 military coup, but his following remained strong. His sister Yingluck Shinawatra became prime minister in 2011, only to have her government in 2014 also toppled by the army.

Prayuth, who led the 2014 military takeover, has been coy about whether he wants to serve as prime minister again after the election, but has been making campaign-like appearances around the country while his backers have lined up support from influential politicians.

Political gatherings of five or more people were banned by the junta after it seized power, effectively forcing all political parties into dormancy while the junta quashed dissent and consolidated its rule.

Late last month, the junta announced it would ease some restrictions on political parties to let them conduct basic functions and prepare for elections set for early next year, but campaigning would remain forbidden for the time being.

Prayuth said the new rules would allow political parties to hold meetings, make adjustments to regulations, appoint managers and accept new members ahead of the polls.


CDC chairman voices final concerns after last meeting of the commission

Bangkok, 12 September 2018 (NNT) – The chairman of the Constitution Drafting Commission (CDC) has expressed concern over election campaigning via social media, saying some citizens may miss out on crucial information or be misled.

At the CDC’s final official meeting, members received a book titled “In the Hearts of CDC 2017” as a souvenir of their service. After the discussion however, Chairman Meechai Ruchuphan remarked that the Election Commission (EC) has been empowered by law to regulate the use of social media in election campaigning and implored it to control use of the tool as it can be used to misinform the public or even inflict legal harm. He urged citizens themselves to be wary of sharing online information during the campaign period.

On the scope of authority wielded by the administration, Meechai said the government will have full authority during the election period as it will not be considered an interim administration.

In the souvenir book, Meechai details the inner workings of the CDC from the start of the Gen Prayut Chan-ocha government, acknowledging that he suggested Bowornsak Uwanno for the CDC due to his experience in constitution drafting and lamenting that Bowornsak’s drafts were shot down by the National Reform Council, leading to Meechai himself taking on a CDC position. He admitted that while he felt the task was a burden he saw it as his duty to the nation.


Cabinet endorses tramway projects for Chiang Mai, Phuket, Phang-nga

Bangkok, 11th September 2018 (NNT) - The cabinet has given a green light to the Mass Rapid Transit Authority's (MRTA) two light rail transit or tramway routes, one in the northern province of Chiang Mai and the other in the southern provinces of Phang Nga and Phuket.

The Office of Transport and Traffic Policy and Planning had commissioned a consultancy firm to conduct a feasibility study and the design of the two tramway projects.

The study and designs of the two projects have been completed and their findings have been delivered to relevant agencies for finalization.

The two projects are to be implemented under the PPP (Public-Private-Partnership) fast track format.

The light rail transit projects have received the consent of all stakeholders during public hearings held to gauge public opinion about them.


Meteorological Dept warns of effects from tropical storm Barijat, typhoon Mangkhut

Bangkok, 12 September 2018 (NNT) – The Meteorological Department has warned tropical storm Barijat is moving west across the South China Sea and is expected to pass through Hong Kong and Hainan this September 13-14, intensifying monsoon rains across Thailand.

The tropical storm is to feed a monsoon system already covering the Andaman Sea and Gulf of Thailand, kicking up winds and waves as well as rain across the Kingdom.

At the same time, typhoon Mangkhut has begun to move through the Pacific Ocean pass Luzon Island of the Philippines and will make landfall in Taiwan between September 14 and 15 before continuing onto the South China Sea to reach the mainland between September 16 and 18. The system will also add to stormy conditions in Thailand.


PM voices encouragement of BNK48 performer

Bangkok, 12th September 2018 (NNT) – The Prime Minister has spoken in support of pop group BNK48 member Cherprang Areekul, after she received criticism for appearing on a government TV program, saying Thai society is in need of an active new generation.

Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-ocha has responded to anti-government groups attacking BNK48 captain Cherprang Areekul online, calling her a mouthpiece of the state after her appearance on “Thailand Moves Forward”. The PM issued a reminder that computer offense laws still exist in Thailand and remarking that online aggressors often flee the country.

On Cherprang herself, the PM said he was disturbed by the situation as he saw her actions as beneficial to the nation and undeserving of ridicule. He stated that his government and pop acts such as BNK48 don't mutually benefit one another and therefore the situation is not a threat to the country.

Gen Prayut said the country is in need of an active new generation, saying young people can play a variety of roles whether political or not, noting that those who choose not to be political can still be supportive of the government.

The PM voiced encouragement of Cherprang and asked her to continue to do good and serve her nation.


Update September 12, 2018

Thai authorities see T-shirts as proof of sedition

Thailand's Bangkok Post newspaper depicting a cover story on detention of a vender who sold black t-shirts, bearing a symbol allegedly linked to a movement promoting a federal republic, is displayed in a newspaper stall in Bangkok, Thailand, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

Bangkok (AP) — Thailand's military government has arrested alleged sympathizers of a tiny political movement advocating the abolishment of the constitutional monarchy, seizing as evidence T-shirts bearing the group's logo of a red and white flag.

The legal aid group Thai Lawyers for Human Rights said Tuesday that at least five people were detained by the military in the past week, and three charged with sedition.

The group they allegedly belong to, the Organization for Thai Federation, is active mostly online with supporters abroad, and has no public presence in Thailand. It advocates a federal system of administration along with abolishing the monarchy.

Republicanism is a taboo subject in Thailand, where citizens are inculcated with love of the monarchy.

However, the palace has been dragged into partisan political battles over the past decade, jeopardizing its past status as an untouchable subject for criticism or debate. The death in 2016 of HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who reigned for 70 years, has also affected its standing.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha told reporters Tuesday that the detained people are part of an anti-establishment group that has been vocal on social media despite the government's efforts to shut them down. He said their arrests were necessary.

"Thailand is not a federation. We are a democratic constitutional monarchy and it is stipulated in the constitution that we are one indivisible kingdom," Prayuth said. "But a federation divides into many states, which Thailand does not. And the Thai flag is the tricolor flag. So can their actions be considered treacherous?" he asked reporters.

The dissidents' flag logo appears to be inspired by the Thai national flag, which has horizontal bars of red, white and blue. The group's logo, with vertical stripes, does not include blue, the color understood to represent the monarchy.

At least some of the members of the Organization for Thai Federation appear to have belonged to an extreme faction of the Red Shirt movement, supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was accused of disrespect for the monarchy and ousted by an army coup in 2006. In the aftermath of that takeover, the Red Shirts fought sometimes violent street battles against Thaksin's opponents, who were backed by the military.

Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan also commented Tuesday on the T-shirt arrests, saying that those detained were part of a network of outlaws that had fled to Laos to evade charges of sedition and lese majeste, insulting the monarchy.

"They come from one source, which is from the Laos side, and they also have a network in Thailand," Prawit said.

"They sell shirts and flags. We've arrested three or four of them now. Whoever we can get to, we will arrest them all," he said, adding "They are traitors."

Thaksin's sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, became prime minister in 2011, but the army staged a coup against her government in 2014, and has since kept a tight lid on dissent against its rule, including peaceful demonstrations for democracy.


Agency responsible for Victory Monument being decided

Bangkok, 11th September 2018 (NNT) – The director of the Department of City Planning (DCP) has advised that if the government agency responsible for renovations to Victory Monument can't be identified, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) will have to take on the work itself. The Deputy Prime Minister is to hold a meeting on the matter.

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, has announced that all relevant agencies are to engage in a meeting to settle which of them is responsible for the maintenance of Victory Monument, noting that the roundabout is not under the auspices of the War Veterans Organization of Thailand.

The BMA has already discussed the matter with a number of agencies and has handed the matter to the Department of City Planning. DCP Director Sakchai Boonma said today his office is waiting for the Fine Arts Department, Treasury Department and Department of Highways to conclude which department is responsible for the monument as that agency will then be responsible for providing funding for any renovation work. He explained that if none of the departments accepts responsibility, it will fall to the BMA to take on the work. Clarity is expected wihin a month and the outcome will be reported to the capital’s permanent secretary.

Historically, the BMA has only provided cleaning services to Victory Monument and maintained its surrounding area. It recently began a process to identify the monument's legally reponsible agency as part of a plan to construct a tunnel under it.

Victory monument was built to memorialize soldiers, police and civilians who lost their lives in a conflict between Thailand and France over border demarcations in French-Indochina. A total of 59 Thai lives were lost during the battle. Gen Phraya Phahonphonphayuhasena laid the foundation stone for the monument on June 24, 1941 and it was officially inaugurated by Prime Minister Field Marshal Plaek Phibunsongkhram on June 24, 1942. It was designed by M.L. Pum Malakul and its surrounding statues were created under the supervision of Arts Professor Peerasi.


PM Prayut stresses commitment to solve labour shortage in fishery sector

Bangkok, 9th September 2018 (NNT) - The Prime Minister, Gen. Prayut Chan-o-cha, has stressed the government's commitment to address labor shortage in the fishery industry, advising employers to register their migrant workers at one-stop service (OSS) centers in time.

According to the Government Spokesman, Lt .Gen. Sansern Kaewkamnerd, Prime Minister Prayut said the government is giving high priority on this issue, as Thailand is one of the world's biggest seafood manufacturers.

The fishery sector is currently in shortage of 53,000 workers. The government is seeking to employ immigrant workers to help fill this vacancy by extending the work permit for existing workers, importing more workers from neighboring countries, and allowing other workers to transfer to fisheries.

Some 11,000 workers who are authorized to work in fisheries and whose work permit will expire on September 30th, 2018 will be allowed to have their permit extended for two more years, until September 30th, 2020. These workers will have to report themselves at OSS centers in 22 seaside provinces by September 30th, 2018.

On the import of workers from neighboring countries, the Myanmar authorities have agreed to send 40,000 workers to Thailand in November 2018. The Thai authorities will be performing health check-up, visa issuance, and registration services at Ranong OSS center. Other workers holding a valid passport, temporary passport, identification document, will be allowed to stay in Thailand for one year to work in fisheries.

The Prime Minister has instructed the ministry of labour to encourage employers and fishery business owners to take their migrant workers to contact OSS centers in timely manner, and to process these tasks in keeping with international standards.


Royal Thai Fleet 1 and Excise Department nab ship carrying diesel

Chonburi, 11th September 2018 (NNT) – Royal Thai Fleet 1 and the Excise Department Office in Chonburi have apprehended a ship attempting to smuggle 240,000 liters of diesel fuel through the Gulf of Thailand, sparing the nation a loss of over 10 million baht.

The arrest followed a tip off that a ship carrying untaxed fuel had departed from the Baan Laem district of Petchaburi province. Royal Thai Fleet 1 coordinated with the Excise Department to apprehend the vessel using a naval patrol boat, which tracked down the Chor Tarasamut 2 and confirmed it was carrying illegal cargo. The ship had no documentation for the operation or the diesel and all six of its Thai crew have been detained for the time being. The vessel has now docked at Laem Thien Pier in Chonburi for further investigation.

The ship with its cargo of fuel was apparently headed for Mahachai Pier in Samut Sakhon before it was stopped.

Commander of Royal Thai Fleet 1, Vice Adm Banjob Pohdaeng, who also serves as director of the Region 1 Maritime National Interests Protection Coordination Center, explained that the shipment would have cost the state over 10 million baht in lost tax revenue had it been successful in its alleged smuggling operation.


Bangkok holds "Rak Chao Phraya" activity as part of efforts against flooding

Bangkok, 11th September 2018 (NNT) – Bangkok has introduced the “Rak Chao Phraya” activity to encourage the removal of water hyacinth from the country's most important river as part of preparations to avoid flooding.

Bangkok Governor Pol Gen Assawin Kwanmuang has expressed the city's readiness to handle a large volume of water headed towards the capital from the north, saying he has coordinated with the Royal Irrigation Department and the governors of nearby provinces in a combined effort at flood control. Relevant agencies have been put on full alert and are closely monitoring the situation.

The governor admitted to some concerns over heavy rainfall below dams in Nonthaburi, especially as they are mostly in lowlands but said authorities and equipment have been readied to handle any development.

The city has also held an event called “Rak Chao Phraya” marking National River and Canal Preservation Day. The activity saw city officials and citizens coming together to use fiber glass boats and machinery to rid the Chao Phraya River of water weeds and clean its concrete dykes from Rama 8 Bridge to the area of Siriraj Hospital, covering a total 4.3 kilometers. People living along the river have been encouraged to keep it clean and avoid polluting it with waste or toxins.


OSMEP unveils ‘SME CONNEXT’ mobile application

Bangkok, 11th September 2018 (NNT) - The Office of SMEs Promotion (OSMEP) has unveiled a mobile application “SME CONNEXT” to provide useful information that will boost SME businesses.

The application is the latest bid to offer assistance to more than three million SMEs in Thailand to operate more conveniently through the use of mobile phones.

According to OSMEP Director-General Suwannachai Lohawattanakul, users of SME CONNEXT can access the latest information from OSMEP about other SME operators. They can browse through lists of products with detailed information. The application also offers business guidelines and tips, as well as information about upcoming activities and events that SME operators might be interested in. Director-General Suwannachai also said entrepreneurs can submit an application form for events directly, via SME CONNEXT.

He urged operators to register as users of the application, citing benefits such as admission fee waivers for various activities and other offers from related agencies.

The OSMEP is hoping the mobile application, which will be available soon in both Android and iOS devices, will draw at least 50,000 users within three months and 200,000 users in the next couple of years. Director-General Suwannachai also reassured the public that his agency will keep the application updated with more offers in the foreseeable future.


Update September 11, 2018

Bangkok meet fails to finalize draft on climate change rules

Delegates meet for a United Nations climate change conference in Bangkok, Thailand, Sunday, Sept 9, 2018. The six-day Bangkok meeting has failed in its aim of completing fruitful preparations so an agreement can be reached in December on guidelines to implement the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement. (AP Photo/Kaweewit Kaewjinda)

By Kaweewit Kaewjinda, Associated Press

Bangkok (AP) — An international meeting in Bangkok fell short of its aim of completing fruitful preparations to help an agreement be reached in December on guidelines for implementing the 2015 Paris climate change agreement.

The six-day meeting, which ended on Sunday, was scheduled to step up progress in the battle against rising global carbon emissions by adopting a completed text that could be presented at the COP24 conference in Katowice, Poland, three months from now.

A primary objective of the 2015 Paris agreement, to which 190 nations subscribe, is to limit the global temperature increase by 2100 to less than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) and as close as possible to 1.5 degrees, which is vital to the survival of island nations threatened by rising seas. But the absence of guidelines for meeting that goal has led to fears that not enough action is being taken.

There have been notable disagreements over fair financing for implementation of the rules by developing countries, and the technical details of their reporting on progress.

Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, said Sunday at the closing press briefing for the Bangkok meeting that progress was made on most issues but nothing was finalized.

The meeting was attended by representatives of most of the countries party to the Paris agreement, as well as the United States, which has announced that it is pulling out of the pact.

Espinosa said there was "limited progress" on the issue of contributions from developed nations to developing countries, adding that she is "hopeful" that future discussions will be productive because of the importance of the issue.

"On the core issues of forward-looking climate finance and the degree of flexibility developing countries should be given on the information and reporting requirements for national commitments under the Paris Agreement, negotiators were stalemated in Bangkok," said a statement from Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy for the Union of Concerned Scientists, a U.S.-based activist group.

"It's now up to the incoming Polish presidency and officials leading negotiations to find ways to bridge the deep differences on these issues and to secure agreement in Katowice on a robust, comprehensive package of rules to implement the Paris Agreement," he said.

Harjeet Singh, climate policy manager for ActionAid International, said Sunday that a vital component of the Paris agreement is for wealthy nations to provide financial assistance to developing countries as they fight natural disasters brought by climate change.

But he said wealthy and developed countries "led by the United States and including countries such as Australia, Japan and even the European Union" refused to clearly show "how much money they are going to provide and how that is going to be counted."

Advocacy for the developing countries was led at the meeting by China, said Meyer, but was also supported by others, including India, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Malaysia.

Activists were critical of Washington's lobbying at the meeting, especially because President Donald Trump has announced plans to have the U.S. withdraw from the Paris pact, which had been heavily promoted by his predecessor, Barack Obama.

"The U.S. has announced its withdrawal from the Paris Agreement but still negotiates as if it is a Party, weakening international cooperation by not contributing to finance and technology transfer to developing countries," Meena Raman, legal adviser at Third World Network, said in an emailed statement.

Climate change is a polarizing issue in the United States, and some states and local communities have announced policies supporting the Paris agreement.

Thousands of governors, mayors, company CEOs and civil society leaders are expected to gather this week in San Francisco for the Global Climate Action Summit.


Thai Governmentt continues promoting tourism as Thailand voted best country for people

Bangkok, 9th September 2018 (NNT) – The Thai government is making changes to ministerial rules and regulations to streamline tourism after Thailand was voted the world’s best country for people.

In his national televised this weekend, Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha announced that Thailand was voted the ‘best country for people’ by readers of the well-respected US-based travel magazine, Conde Nast Traveler.

In the category of best countries in the world for tourism, Thailand came in at number 3, behind Italy and Greece.

In addition, the famous Samui Island of Surat Thani Province came in at number 9 among the “best islands in the world.”

Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Bangkok and Six Senses Yao Noi Resort in Phang Nga Province achieved 4th and 5th places for “best hotels in Asia and the Indian Subcontinent.”

Gen Prayut added that ministerial rules and regulations will be adjusted to focus on community tourism, wealth distribution, and the enhancement of the grassroots economy, as the government targets 3.4 trillion baht in tourism revenue in 2019.


Koh Si Chang residents want greater protection of marine resources

Chonburi, 10th September 2018 (NNT) – Citizens and business operators on Koh Si Chang have voiced their support for the use of Article 17 of the Marine and Coastal Resources Management Act after finding the island’s maritime resources in deterioration.

Over 300 residents of Chonburi’s Koh Si Chang involved in maritime transport gathered at the island’s municipal office for a discussion on the use of Article 17 of the Marine and Coastal Resources Management Act, which requires a referendum to apply.

Mayor of Koh Si Chang, Damrong Petra acknowledged that most residents of the island agree with implementation of the article to better care for its environment and to empower authorities against those damaging its natural resources. They wish to see serious action taken to reduce deterioration of the island's maritime resources.

Director-General of the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources, Jatuporn Buruspat explained that Koh Si Chang and its neighbors have long suffered from environmental deterioration caused by the more than 1,000 transport boats that use the area. A committee to address issues of illegal waste dumping and environmental enhancement has now been established by the Governor of Chonburi.


Seminar held as part of Sueb Nakasathien anniversary event

Bangkok, 10th September 2018 (NNT) – A recent seminar marking the 28th anniversary since the passing of environmental activist Sueb Nakasathien, discussed technology and innovations that can help preserve the environment.

At the seminar titled “Drone Innovations for Conservation”, Director of Burapha University’s Eastern Region Center for Space Technology and Geo-Informatics, Krisanai Charoenjitara described a manatee survey using small adapted robots and how they solved issues to do with using human piloted aircraft to carry out the study. The aircraft were disruptive to the animals while also coming at a high cost. Robots meanwhile have proved fast and efficient in collecting data and have contributed greatly to manatee conservation planning. They are soon to be used to study other such animals.

The drones however, helped discover that manatees are endangered off the coast of Trang province with only 210 accounted for in 2017. The sea creatures are still hunted by poachers who believe they can be used to create medicinal remedies and who wish to create amulets from their organs.

The Sueb Nakaksathien anniversary event also featured the sale of community-made products, with proceeds to go to the Sueb Nakasathien Foundation and its conservation efforts.


Agriculture Min urges farmers to replace off season rice with other crops

Bangkok, 10th September 2018, (NNT) - The Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry is encouraging rice farmers to turn away from off-season rice farming and plant alternative crops.

Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives Grissada Boonrach has reiterated that the agriculturalists would make more income from farming alternative crops that are in line with market demand than persisting with off-season rice farming.

He said the government is providing assistance to farmers who wish to participate in the campaign by offering low-interest loans and helping the producers sow alternative crops at reasonable prices.

According to the minister, the government is educating the farmers about gauging market demand to guide agricultural production as well as enabling local cooperatives to manage upstream, midstream, and downstream activities.

Since September 3, 415 farmers in Uttaradit and Phitsanulok have joined the campaign, planting maize in 5,800 rai of rice fields.

The minister also touched on the low-interest loan scheme, explaining that agricultural cooperatives are offering loans of 3,000 baht per rai with 1% interest. He hopes the campaign will draw farmers’ attention away from off-season rice farming.


Mekong flood waters receding gradually

Nong Khai, 10th September 2018 (NNT) - Officials have reported that several areas in close proximity to the Mekong River are still coping with inundations, despite the fact that the excess water is slowly receding.

Responsible units indicated that tributaries without sluice gates, such as the Lam Huay Suay creek, are overflowing their banks, triggering floods in nearby agricultural zones. Authorities at Phon Phisai District’s Wat Luang Sub-district reported that the area has been submerged by a 20-40 centimeter deep flood for over a week, adding that the inundation has damaged several stores leaving vendors no choice but to set up stalls along the road. The local administration expects that it will take at least a week for the flood to subside.

According to the Water Resources Office in Nong Khai, the water level in the Mekong River was measured at 12.17 meters on September 9th, 17 centimeters lower than the day before. The office expects that the water level will continue to recede, if there is no rain in coming days. Similarly, the water level in the Mekong River has dropped by 64 centimeters.

Meanwhile, several provinces are reportedly still recovering from the effects of Tropical Storm Bebinca and the southwesterly monsoon, which wreaked havoc in the North and the Northeast of the Kingdom last month. According to the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation, affected provinces were Nong Khai, Bueng Kan, Sakon Nakhon, Kalasin, Ubon Ratchathani, Nakhon Nayok, Prachinburi, Phetchaburi and Saraburi.

The department is working around the clock with the military and other concerned agencies to drain flood waters out of the affected areas and deliver survival kits to affected residents.


Update September 10, 2018

Kaeng Krachan National Park to enhance tourism safety measures

Prachuap Khiri Khan, 9th September 2018 (NNT) - Officials at Kaeng Krachan National Park are instructed to take close care of visitors, following an accident that a tourist slipped and fell down at Pa La-U waterfall.

Kaeng Krachan National Park Chief, Mana Permpoon, admitted that a European visitor had accidentally fallen down on a slippery rock, causing the sprain at right ankle. The affected visitor has been taken to the hospital for treatment.

To prevent any accident from occurring in the future, the national park office has instructed officials to take closer care of visitors, as some trails in the national park may be slippery. More ropes have been placed at walkways to allow visitors to hold while hiking around the waterfall.

Pa La-U waterfall is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the area due to its picturesque natural scenery.


Ambassadors visit Nakhon Si Thammarat

Nakhon Si Thammarat, 9th September 2018 (NNT) - Ambassadors from 10 countries have visited the southern province of Nakhon Si Thammarat along with their spouses at the invitation of the Tourism Authroity of Thailand (TAT).

Greeted by high-ranking members of the TAT and Nakhon Si Thammarat Provincial Culture Council, the ambassadors and their partners have toured Wat Phra Mahathat Woramahawihan temple, the Nang Talung shadow Puppet Museum of Suchart Subsin, and the royally-initiated Pak Phanang River Basin development project before being treated to a mud spa at Baan Laem Homestay in Tha Sala district.

The trip was part of the TAT’s promotional campaign for sustainable tourism. Nakhon Si Thammarat is one of the five provinces selected as must-visit destinations where the late King Rama IX’s royal development projects have become viable tourist attractions. The four other provinces are Chiang Mai, Ratchaburi, Rayong and Buriram. The ambassadors and their spouses are scheduled to return to the capital city today.


RID asks farmers in 22 provinces to hold off on planting new crops

Bangkok, 10th September 2018 (NNT) – The Royal Irrigation Department (RID) has told 22 provinces along the Chao Phraya River to hold off on planting any more rice crops in 2018 as the land may be needed for water retention from this month onward.

RID Director-General Thongplew Kongchan has circulated a memo to the governors of 22 provinces along the Chao Phraya River, calling on them to urge their constituents to hold off on planting another rice crop this year. The provinces since May 1 of this year have planted a total 7.06 million rai of rice crops and harvested 2.92 million Rai.

Rice farms are at-risk of damage from flooding between now and October and the RID has identified much of the land in the 22 provinces as required for the retention of water to be saved for the period of drought, expected to follow soon after. Harvesting of existing crops is expected to be completed by mid-September.

The RID has announced its plans to retain water in 13 fields and has asked the Ministry of Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives to ensure an understanding of the situation among farmers.


Public Health Ministry warns cat owners against getting infected with ringworm

Bangkok, 9th September 2018 (NNT) - The Ministry of Public Health has warned cat owners against getting infected with ringworm from close contact with infected cats or cats' bedding.

Public Health Ministry Spokesperson, Ophas Karnkawinwong, said it is possible to get infected with ringworm from close contact with infected cats or cats' bedding as the spore of this fungus can live for months.

The infection initially presents with red patches on affected areas of the skin and later spreads to other parts of the body, he said.

He urged cat owners to bring their cats to undergo a health checkup and receive an injection according to the program and clean their cats’ bedding.


Roads in BKK flooded after heavy rain

Bangkok, 9th September 2018 (NNT) - The Meteorological Department has warned of the effects of heavy rain in many parts of Thailand. Six large dams and reservoirs still contain more than 80% of their capacity.

Heavy rain on Sunday in Bangkok caused inundation of some roads. The water subsided after the rain stopped.

The Meteorological Department has forecast heavy rains in Thailand until 10th September 2018 in the lower North, lower Northeast, Central Plains, East and upper South, and Bangkok and its vicinity. Heavy rain may cause flash floods and landslides.

The water level of the Mekong River in Nong Khai and Nakhon Phanom province is still being monitored.

The six large dams and reservoirs with water levels more than 80% of capacity include Nam Oon Dam, Kaeng Krachan Dam, Vajiralongkorn Dam, Srinakharin Dam, Khun Dan Prakan Chon Dam and Naruebodinchinda Reservoir.


Phuket organizes local education fair

Phuket, 10th September 2018, (NNT) - The Phuket Local Administrative Organization recently organized an education fair to set a direction for local schools.

Deputy Director-General of the Department of Local Administration Kajohn Srichavanotai presided over the opening ceremony of the fair, running from September 9th - 11th at the Phuket Rajabhat University and the Gynesium Hall of the Saphan Hin Sports Center in the capital district of Phuket.

Objectives of the event, being held on the theme “Smart Learning,” are promoting and supporting children and youths in developing skills and gaining knowledge, and allowing them to demonstrate their talents and academic prowess.

The fair, the 10th of its kind, offers various academic seminars to discuss the direction of local education and approaches to improving the quality of local education.

The "Smart Learning" theme underlines human resource enhancement, which the organizers hope will lead to community empowerment and eventually, national development. The organizers have myriad activities arranged, such as academic quizzes, learning workshops, a ceremony to hand out awards to outstanding teachers and kindergarten supervisors.

Deputy Director-General Kajohn highlighted the role of the Local Administrative Organization in developing local education in accordance with the national education standard. He said an important duty of the organization is fostering children to be capable adults.
 


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HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

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Pornpetch suggests Govt maintain order in online election campaigns

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BOI approves 160 billion baht in investment

Chiang Mai park to be proposed for world heritage status

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Holidaymakers invited to see blooming lotuses in Ubon Ratchathani


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Laws on election of MPs and Senate officially in force

NLA: All draft laws to be enacted by end of 2018

Laws on MP and Senator selection promulgated in Royal Gazette

PM Prayut confirms no lifting of ban on political activities

PPP panel approves fast-track motorway project


New Thai laws mandate election by May next year

CDC chairman voices final concerns after last meeting of the commission

Cabinet endorses tramway projects for Chiang Mai, Phuket, Phang-nga

Meteorological Dept warns of effects from tropical storm Barijat, typhoon Mangkhut

PM voices encouragement of BNK48 performer


Thai authorities see T-shirts as proof of sedition

Agency responsible for Victory Monument being decided

PM Prayut stresses commitment to solve labour shortage in fishery sector

Royal Thai Fleet 1 and Excise Department nab ship carrying diesel

Bangkok holds "Rak Chao Phraya" activity as part of efforts against flooding

OSMEP unveils ‘SME CONNEXT’ mobile application


Bangkok meet fails to finalize draft on climate change rules

Thai Governmentt continues promoting tourism as Thailand voted best country for people

Koh Si Chang residents want greater protection of marine resources

Seminar held as part of Sueb Nakasathien anniversary event

Agriculture Min urges farmers to replace off season rice with other crops

Mekong flood waters receding gradually


Kaeng Krachan National Park to enhance tourism safety measures

Ambassadors visit Nakhon Si Thammarat

RID asks farmers in 22 provinces to hold off on planting new crops

Public Health Ministry warns cat owners against getting infected with ringworm

Roads in BKK flooded after heavy rain

Phuket organizes local education fair