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Pattaya & Thailand News Update

New Stricter Visa Regulations  -  Latest Updates
Thailand After The Military Coup  -  Latest Updates

30/ Sep/ 2014
Danish Woman Raped by "Motorbike Taxi Driver" Near Pattaya
A 23-year-old Danish woman was reportedly raped on a cassava farm near Pattaya Saturday evening by a Thai man "posing as a taxi driver in Pattaya."
Coconuts Bangkok report that the woman had earlier visited a "plot of land near Jomtien Beach ... as her relatives are doing business in Pattaya. At around 6pm she was looking for a ride back to her room when a man on a motorbike approached, claiming he was a taxi driver and offering her a ride. Instead, he took her an isolated cassava farm and raped her." When investigating the crime scene later, police recovered strands of hair and fibers of clothing. The tourist described the rapist as between 25 and 30 years old.

30/ Sep/ 2014
Thailand Mulls ID Wristbands For Tourists
Thailand’s tourism minister said that identification wristbands could be distributed to tourists following the murder of two British backpackers on Koh Tao that has raised fresh concerns over tourist safety.
The Bangkok Post quotes the minister as saying Tuesday that "she had approached hotels over the idea of handing out wristbands to help identify tourists that get lost or into trouble." She said: "When tourists check-in to a hotel they will be given a wristband with a serial number that matches their I.D. and shows the contact details of the resort they are staying in so that if they’re out partying late and, for example, get drunk or lost, they can be easily assisted ... The next step would be some sort of electronic tracking device but this has not yet been discussed in detail." A so-called "buddy system", pairing tourists with a local minder at tourist destinations, was reportedly also "being discussed", as well as "limiting party hours on some of Thailand’s islands and imposing restrictions over where beach parties can be held".
The minister conceded the wristband idea has already met with some resistance, saying that "some hotels are concerned that tourists may not want to wear the wristbands." Yep, valid point; and how about those who prefer a conventional leash or a straitjacket in their national colours?

29/ Sep/ 2014
Bar Girl Arrested for Stealing Money From British Tourist's Room Safe
A 40-year-old bar "girl" was arrested at a bar in North Pattaya Saturday for stealing money from the room safe of a British tourist at the Dusit Thani Resort. According to Pattaya One News, the 56-year-old man from Surrey, England, had stayed with the woman for three days, allegedly without paying her for her services, when "she suddenly left" and stole £2,900 from his room safe. The woman claimed she had previously watched the tourist enter the security code when opening the room safe.
Police eventually arrested the woman at the "Oh La La" bar near the Dolphin roundabout, only meters away from the hotel where the Englishman was staying, and recovered 100,600 Baht and a small amount of pounds sterling. Interestingly, she told police she had been "angry" that the British tourist "did not provide her with any financial compensation in exchange for her providing companionship, which led her to steal the money from the safe."

29/ Sep/ 2014
Body of Male Foreigner Found off the Coast of Koh Samet Island
The body of an unidentified "foreigner" was reportedly found off the coast of Koh Samet island on Sunday. According to Khaosod English, "police described the deceased as a male 170-cm-tall Caucasian wearing a black T-shirt and short black pants at the time of his death. Police say they found a wound caused by a blunt object on the back of his head and 'numerous' bruises on his body, suggesting that he was murdered before being dumped into the sea. The incident is under investigation."

28/ Sep/ 2014
Drunk Russian Woman Raped Twice by Thai Man on Phuket
A 33-year-old drunk Russian woman on Phuket was raped twice early Saturday after she accepted a lift from a Thai man on his motorbike as she was walking home from a party.
ThePhuketNews.com quote police as saying: "She decided to walk alone back to her hotel ... On the way she encountered a Thai man on a motorbike who stopped to talk with her. The man offered to take her to the hotel. But instead, he took her to his rented room ... There, he tied her hands with and raped her. She was afraid that he might become violent, so she did not resist." The man raped her twice without using a condom before taking her back to her hotel.
After she reported the rape to local police, they checked CCTV footage in the area and were soon able to indentify and arrest the 33-year-old Thai man.

25/ Sep/ 2014
Another Suspect Cleared of Connection To Koh Tao Beach Murders ...
According to media reports, police have now also cleared the Koh Tao village chief's son from connection to the brutal murder of two British tourists on the southern island last week. The 22-year-old man was initially sought by police on the suspicion that he fled Koh Tao shortly after David Miller, 24, and Hannah Witheridge, 23, were murdered, and was "hiding in Bangkok ever since".
Khaosod English report now that police have obviously "questioned" the young man and have "established that he was not on the island when the murder took place ... Therefore, he is no longer being treated as a potential suspect." It remains unclear whether DNA samples were collected from the village chief's son.
Khaosod notes that the village chief also denied allegations that his family was a part of a "mafia network" which used its "underground influence to stall the police investigation into the murder ... he has asked his lawyer to file libel lawsuit against any media agency that tries to implicate his family in the killing of the two British tourists." The village chief also implicated Sean McAnna - a Scottish busker living on the island who claims he was intimidated by the village chief's brother and is now in protective custody - by drawing attention to media reports regarding McAnna's "previous conviction of child porn possession as evidence for his 'untrustworthy' character."

24/ Sep/ 2014
Koh Tao Beach Murders: Suspected Killer "Hiding in Bangkok"
So no, it was obviously not the Koh Tao village chief's younger brother; but the focus has now shifted to the village chief's 22-year-old son who has reportedly fled to Bangkok after the brutal double murder of two British backpackers on the southern island.
The Bangkok Post confirms today that "the brother of the Koh Tao village chief who was questioned by police on Tuesday in connection with the double murder on the island has been cleared ... the DNA sample taken from him on Tuesday did not match samples from the victims." (Instead, he now accuses a Scottish tourist of being involved with the murders and says the Scotsman - who was threatened by the village chief's brother, fled Koh Tao and is now in protective custody - "should be treated as a suspect".)
Meanwhile, Khaosod English identifies the latest "prime suspect" in the murder case as the village chief's son who is "currently hiding" in Bangkok: "Warot, 22, reportedly fled Koh Tao shortly after David Miller, 24, and Hannah Witheridge, 23, were found beaten to death ... Mr. Warot is currently the primary suspect as DNA test results have cleared all others previously detained by police ... Mr. Warot’s father, a village headman (local administrator) on the island ... visited the police station on Koh Tao yesterday to provide testimony and a DNA sample. His brother ... also met with police and was questioned for several hours before being released. Police have provided conflicting reports about whether forensic tests have cleared the two men of a connection to the murder." The Nation: "Police are looking for the son of a former Koh Tao village headman ... after learning that the man left the island the following morning. A police source said the man ... landed on the Surat Thani coast and disappeared." The report also states: " One of the two men released last night, who reporters did not identify [we assume that's the village chief], said he was unable to contact his son and did not know if he had a hand in the killings."

23/ Sep/ 2014
Arrests Expected Soon in Koh Tao Murders: Brother of Village Chief Interrogated
Police expect to arrest at least two suspects in last week’s brutal murder of Britons David Miller, 24, and Hannah Witheridge, 23, on Koh Tao today. Police insisted they had "enough evidence" after a 25-year-old Scottish friend of the male victim - and barman at the AC Bar where the murdered backpackers had been drinking on the night of the grisly killings - posted photos on Facebook of two men who allegedly molested Witheridge before she was raped and killed. They later  reportedly threatened to kill him and make it look like a suicide. He fled the island Monday afternoon, escorted by British media and embassy officials.
One suspect is the 45-year-old manager of AC Bar, who reportedly also happens to be a younger brother of the island's village chief - the owner of AC Bar. He was identified as the "Asian man" seen in CCTV footage before the killings. The suspect reportedly submitted to a DNA test but denies the allegations and was "allowed to leave" following a three-hour interrogation. A second suspect is believed to have fled to Bangkok but would "likely be taken into custody today". The Bangkok Post quotes police as saying "they have identified all the suspects" now, suggesting there might be more than two culprits involved.
The 25-year-old Scottish witness was taken into protective custody today and reportedly told police he "witnessed two Thai men trying to molest Hannah Witheridge, 23, at an entertainment venue. He was also believed to have seen David Miller, 24, rescue Witheridge from the advances of the men before they left the venue together on the night before they were found murdered on the beach ..." Early Monday morning, the Scotsman said he was "chased" by the two men and "ended up hiding behind the counter of a 24/7 convenience store, fearing the pair wanted to kill him." He took photos of the two men and posted them on Facebook, explaining: "Thai mafia are trying to kill me. Please help me." He went on to make a series of desperate phone calls to friends and relatives in Scotland before fleeing from Koh Tao on a ferry Monday afternoon.

22/ Sep/ 2014
Koh Tao Beach Murders: Female Victim Raped, Killed by "Two Asian Men"
After tests have shown that DNA samples collected from dozens of people on Koh Tao did not match any of the previous suspects in last Monday's brutal double murder on the island, DNA samples will now reportedly be collected of "all people on Koh Tao".
Tests on DNA samples collected from semen found inside the body of 23-year-old Hannah Witheridge, the female victim, had reportedly indicated that the suspects were "Mongoloid and not Caucasian". Police now assume that two "Asian men" raped and brutally killed the British woman - and battered her 24-year-old male companion, David Miller, to death - after an autopsy earlier this week found semen from two people in her body but DNA tests found no matches to any of the previous seven people detained.
Independent.ie now also quotes a police spokesman as saying: "We have discovered fresh evidence which could lead to a new suspect who may have had a relationship or one night stand with Hannah or one of her friends or David the night before they were killed ... we believe these crimes could have been motivated by sexual jealousy. Police have been made aware of reports that Hannah and David had a fight in a bar with a Thai man before they were killed, but cannot confirm if they are true." The Bangkok Post adds that "the autopsy on Witheridge found the semen of two Asian men which matched the DNA found on the two cigarette butts near the bodies. Witheridge's DNA was also found on one of the cigarettes, indicating at least one of the two suspects could have been someone she knew because the cigarette was shared."

Thailand After The Coup  -  Latest Updates
In brief (for updates please scroll down) >>>
- It's four months now since army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha, on May 22, seized power from the elected government in the country’s 12th successful coup since 1932. The constitution was suspended and, in late July, replaced with an interim constitution, which grants amnesty to the coup makers and gives the junta, aka the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), sweeping powers. On July 31, Thai king Bhumibol Adulyadej endorsed the National Legislative Assembly (NLA), whose 200 members were all appointed by the junta. A clear majority is dominated by active and retired military officers. On August 21, the NLA unanimously appointed junta/army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha as the new prime minister of Thailand. On August 31, Prayuth received royal endorsement for his 32-member cabinet. More than a third of the members are retired or active military and police officers and members of the NCPO. The coup has drawn widespread yet mostly ignored criticism from the international community, including the United States and the European Union, which has urged a quick return to electoral democracy.
- A nationwide night-time curfew imposed following the military intervention on May 22 was lifted on June 13. Martial law, imposed two days before the coup, however remains in force until further notice. Protests against the coup and political gatherings of five people or more are strictly illegal under martial law. Criticism of the NCPO and the coup are also deemed illegal. Tourists and expats are strongly advised to stay away from anti-coup protests. Foreigners have also been advised against criticizing the junta and the coup, including on social media, and making dissident political statements. Aside from the curfew, the coup has had no relevant impact on tourism. Airports, border checkpoints etc. have continued to operate as usual and the country remains safe for tourists.
- The interim constitution has been heavily criticized for being undemocratic and further strengthening the military's powers. In particular, the interim constitution puts NCPO/army chief Prayuth "in charge of national security, allowing him to suppress any action ... that could be considered a threat to national peace, security, economy or the monarchy ... all orders from the junta chief ... on those matters are final." The constitution further stipulates that all of the National Legislative Assembly (NLA)'s members would be appointed by the junta. While the interim constitution fails to precisely specify a time frame for the country's promised return to democracy following the implementation of vaguely defined political "reforms", a new general election is scheduled to be held not before October 2015; provided the situation is sufficiently "stable" and the junta-appointed government has accomplished its self-proclaimed task of achieving "reconciliation". When a new permanent charter is in place (likely not before summer 2015 and without a referendum) the junta hopes that its attempts at reforming the politically divided nation would ultimately lead to a government "all people can accept".
- On July 31, Thai king Bhumibol Adulyadej officially endorsed the National Legislative Assembly (NLA), whose 200 members were all appointed by the NCPO. A clear majority is dominated by active and retired military officers. The rest mostly consists of businesspeople, academics, technocrats and former appointed senators who opposed the ousted government and are known for their anti-Thaksin stance. Junta chief Prayuth responded to "criticism that the NLA was not democratically set up", by saying that under the new government, there would be "temporary Thai-style democracy".
- On August 21, the junta-appointed NLA unanimously appointed junta/army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha as the new prime minister. No other candidate was nominated for the post, and no lawmaker voted against Prayuth's appointment. On August 31, Prayuth received royal endorsement for his 32-member cabinet. More than a third of the members - 12 - are retired and active military and police officers and members of the NCPO, while the civilian portion includes longstanding allies of the military. Despite the formation of a semi-civilian interim government and Prayuth's appointment as new prime minister, the junta has reaffirmed that it would not revoke martial law any time soon.
- The junta explained the military takeover by telling the foreign media it had to launch the coup because political divisions had put the country at risk of "civil war". The NCPO said it sought to "return happiness" to the people and establish reconciliation and national unity; aims they were determined to achieve by stamping out "colour-coded" (red/yellow) political divisions and the influence of Thaksin Shinawatra, and by depoliticizing Thai society.
- Following the military's power seizure, the media were strictly advised to self-censor themselves and prohibited from disseminating "content prohibited by the junta". All TV stations, including foreign news channels, were banned on the day of the coup (most were allowed to resume operating later). A total of 14 partisan TV channels with links to political parties and groups were only allowed to resume broadcasting weeks after the military takeover and on the condition that they strictly follow the rules set by NCPO, i.e. refrain from disseminating "prohibited content" and criticizing the junta and its operations.
- On June 25, the NCPO announced they had set up five panels to monitor all kinds of media, including radio broadcasts, television, print, online and social media, and foreign media, for content that is considered to be "inciting hatred towards the monarchy" or providing "false information". As the junta seeks to muzzle all kind of dissent, any media found to be spreading "inappropriate content" will face criminal charges. On July 18, the NCPO issued another announcement reiterating its restrictions on freedom of speech, in which it threatened to shut down and take legal actions against any media, including social media, that criticize the NCPO and disseminate "content prohibited by the junta". Social media users, blogs and websites have been explicitly warned not to post any content and comments that could "incite unrest". A temporary Facebook outage on May 28 prompted a swift outcry among Thai Internet users but was officially blamed on a "technical glitch". An "online content monitoring committee" has since reportedly been set up to monitor and block "inappropriate content" on the web. The junta has openly acknowledged they were seeking tighter censorship of the Internet and especially social media.
- Since May 22, the ruling military junta has launched a wide crackdown on dissent aimed principally at elements aligned with controversial ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra. More than 500 former government politicians, protest leaders and dissident voices, mostly with links to the "red shirt" movement, have been summoned to report to the NCPO and detained since May 22. Opponents of the coup are reportedly to undergo an "attitude re-adjustment" process while in detention. Most of the detainees have been released after 3-7 days but have been barred from political activism and expressing dissident political opinions.
- In a wider crackdown on dissidents and political opponents, at least 155 political figures and activists have been banned from leaving the country or face arrests. Dozens of prominent academics and activists have been summoned to report to the junta; those who defy the order also face fines or arrest. As the coup leaders seek to prevent a possible fightback against the coup, an unknown number of regional "red shirt" leaders and activists in Northern and Northeast Thailand have been detained; several "red shirt" militants have also been arrested. On June 1, 38 political figures, many of them left-leaning activists and critics of the lese majeste law, were summoned to report to the junta. Another 21 activists and academics, many of them lese majeste suspects living in exile, were summoned by the junta on June 4. A number of academics and activists have decided to stay in hiding rather than report to the junta. The NCPO has also announced that violators of the controversial lese majeste law and junta orders, as well as violators of internal security laws, will face court-martial proceedings. More than a dozen new lese majeste cases have reportedly been filed since the military takeover. Arrest warrants have also been issued for several lese majeste suspects living in self-imposed exile and their passports have been revoked. The NCPO has also revoked the passport of a noted Japan-based academic who has been highly critical of the coup from abroad and failed to heed a summons issued by the junta. Dozens of state officials, provincial governors etc., aligned with the deposed government have been transferred to inactive posts since the coup.
- Following a week of small anti-coup protests mainly in Bangkok immediately after the coup, no larger coordinated protest activities have been reported since. As criticism of the junta is virtually illegal and the NCPO has explicitly warned people against joining anti-coup protests or face arrest and detention, all dissent has been effectively silenced for now and/or forced to "go underground".
Latest updates >>>
September 29 - According to media reports, the junta's National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) has appointed 28 new members to the National Legislative Assembly (NLA), more than half of whom are military officers. Khaosod notes that the 28 new lawmakers were all handpicked by the NCPO and that "17 are military officers ... More than half of the original 193 members are also active or retired military or police officers." In related news, The Nation reports, 173 names of members of the soon-to-be-established National Reform Council (NRC) were leaked and "clearly signify political bias and social exclusion, which could lead to unfair reform proposals that will make all reconciliation efforts fail ..." Meanwhile, it also seems increasingly likely that deposed prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra may be impeached over the controversial rice-pledging scheme and face a five-year ban from politics. The Bangkok Post adds that MPs and senators who voted to amend the now-repealed 2007 charter to have a fully elected Senate (yes, that was their "crime") "may meet the same fate".
September 14 - While a general election is officially scheduled to be held sometime late 2015, political blogger Bangkok Pundit indicates that there are signs that the Thai military is in for the long haul and that "the next general election would occur in early 2016" only. According to an article by Wassana Nanuam in the Bangkok Post, junta chief/prime minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has indeed hinted that "his tenure will not end in one year as initially announced" but that "it may take two to three years or longer." Wassana's observation is also based on "recent military transfers" which ensure that Prayuth "has nothing to worry about" and a "counter-coup is not possible. If the situation is not good for general elections, Gen Prayuth can prolong his interim government with no challenges from the armed forces."
September 12 -
Khaosod English reports that junta chief/prime minister Prayuth Chan-ocha "said that suppression of a suspected anti-monarchy network will be a top priority of his administration" and that the government would "use all means, including telecommunications and information technology to crack down on lese majeste." According to the transcript of a speech he was to deliver at the newly-appointed National Legislative Assembly (NLA), Prayuth warned: "We will use legal measures, social-psychological measures, and telecommunications and information technology to deal with those who ... harbour ill intentions to undermine the [monarchy]".
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