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Pattaya & Thailand News Update
18/ Apr/ 2014 Songkran Road Death Toll: 322 Killed, 3,225 Injured in 2,992 Accidents 322 people were killed in 2,992 road accidents across Thailand during this year's "seven dangerous days" (April 11-17) of the Songkran festival.
According to figures given by the Bangkok Post and The Nation, a total of 3,225 people were injured during the traditional Thai New Year period, which sees many Thai people visit their families in the provinces every year, causing major traffic jams nationwide.
While the number of deaths was slightly down from last year, the total number of accidents and injured people were both up by about 6%. As usual, most accidents were caused by drunk driving (36.76%), followed by speeding (24.47%). About 80% of all road accidents involved motorcycles.
17/ Apr/ 2014 "Pattaya Clamps Down on Greedy Beach Operators" Interesting piece by Pattaya Daily News today. According to PDN, Pattaya city officials now obviously "clamp down on greedy beach operators" and on Thursday made their way to Jomtien beach "after they had received complaints that the beach operators [there] were being greedy and charging too much for their services. They found that [one particular] beach operator [at an unspecified location on Jomtien beach] had charged eight tourists 700 Baht for their beach beds."
We must say this is the first time we hear of such practices and they're clearly non-standard. The normal rate for a deckchair at Jomtien beach is roughly 30-40 Baht per day and most deckchair operators seem to adhere to these rates. 700 Baht for eight (?) deckchairs is clearly a rip-off. PDN continues: The female manager of the beach plot in question initially "denied the offence" and only admitted to it after locals officials "showed her the evidence of the payment bill and [a] picture that [the] tourists [had taken] ..." The report gives no further details about the "eight tourists" and their nationality, but they obviously took a picture of the greedy lady and the bill they were given (PDN has a photo of the bill) to some agency (which one?) and filed a complaint regarding their case.
According to PDN, the deckchair operator will now be "prosecuted according to Thai law" (law?) as her behaviour had "undermined the image of Pattaya". It is most likely though that she will be only ordered to close her business for seven days "if found guilty of ripping people off." Newsworthy we think.
16/ Apr/ 2014 "Alcohol Ban" on Pattaya Beach Road Announced for Songkran Finale, April 19 As the Songkran festival has ended in most parts of Thailand, Pattaya (more or less) only takes a two-day break from this annual mayhem and is already gearing up for the big finale this weekend. Pattaya's own Songkran festival officially begins on Friday, April 18, in Naklua, and finishes late on Saturday night, April 19, when the rest of Pattaya and Jomtien celebrate the big Songkran finale ("wan lai" in Thai) with water battles probably wetter and wilder than what you may have witnessed in the last couple of days.
Most of the water-throwing action on April 19 will presumably take place on and around Pattaya Beach Road which will be closed for traffic from 8am to 8pm from the Dolphin Roundabout all the way down to Walking Street. About 1,000 police officers and volunteers will be deployed around Pattaya to provide security, with five security checkpoints only in the Pattaya Beach Road area.
Pattaya's deputy police chief has reportedly also announced that police were "imposing a ban on the sale and consumption of alcohol along Pattaya Beach Road" on Saturday. Of course, it remains to be seen how strictly officers will enforce this ban; but unless some shitfaced hooligans become a public nuisance or get aggressive etc. we'd expect police to have better things to do than spoil the fun of thousands of tourists. According to Pattaya One, "arrests [would also] be made if any reveler is found to be acting in an indecent manner, which includes anyone who indecently exposes themselves", while the sale and use of PVC water pipes shall also be banned (again).
15/ Apr/ 2014 Thailand's Divorce Rate Up 27% Over Past Decade According to the Public Health Ministry, Thailand's divorce rate has risen 27% over the past nine years, highlighting the "fragile state of some families" in the kingdom. The Nation reports that in 2003, 328,356 couples married and 80,836 divorced. Less than a decade later, in 2012, only 314,338 couples married but 111,377 divorced (more than a third). Note that these figures only include officially registered marriages, not informal Buddhist marriages as are usual in Thailand.
A ministry spokeswoman pointed out that the "increased divorce rate led to more single-parent families". She recommended that "divorced couples ... maintain a parental role to create stability for their kids."
13/ Apr/ 2014 Samui-Bound THAI Flight Makes Emergency Landing at Suvarnabhumi A Thai Airways International (THAI) flight from Bangkok to Koh Samui faced "problems with the landing gear" Sunday morning and made an emergency return and landing at Suvarnabhumi Airport.
The Bangkok Post reports that flight TG 281 left Bangkok's main international airport at 7.45am but had to "turn back after the captain discovered [unspecified] problems with the landing gear". An hour after take-off, the plane "landed safely" at Suvarnabhumi, where passengers were transferred to a new plane.
12/ Apr/ 2014 Ladyboy Snatches IPhone from Dutch Couple on Walking Street A Dutch couple on their way back to their hotel had an IPhone snatched by a ladyboy on Walking Street early Friday. Luckily for the tourists, an "eagle-eyed security guard" had watched the crime, detained the thief and recovered the stolen phone. Pattaya One News report that "just before 3am", a 58-year-old Dutch tourist and his wife, who stayed at the Windy Inn Hotel on Walking Street, arrived outside the hotel "where a group of ladyboys would be situated on a nightly basis."
The couple told police that they had previously "not been bothered by the ladyboys"; on this occasion, however, a 26-year-old ladyboy, reportedly with an "extensive criminal history", approached the Dutch tourist and "hugged him while at the same time removing [his] IPhone from a pocket in his short trousers. The suspect was then seen to discard the phone in a bush nearby for the purpose of recovering the stolen item at a later time, should he be caught as the robbery took place." (By the way, this appears to be a "strategy" often implied by ladyboy thieves.)
Fortunately, a 25-year-old security guard at the hotel, who had witnessed the theft, detained the ladyboy and helped the Dutch couple recover the phone. And the good news: The tourists insisted "this incident would not put them off from coming to Pattaya again as they believe the city is generally a safe place for tourists." Yes, we'd like to add, it generally is; yet it would be even safer without all these petty ladyboy crooks roaming the streets and beaches at night ...
11/ Apr/ 2014 Songkran Water Festival in Pattaya, April 13 - 19 Yep, it's that wet & wild time of the year again! Thailand's notorious Songkran festival, the traditional Thai New Year and often dubbed the "world's biggest water fight", kicks off again this weekend. Traditionally, Songkran is celebrated for three days only (April 13-15) and the throwing of water was introduced as a symbolic method to wash off the sins of the year gone-by and to pay respect to the elderly. In some parts of the country, however, including here in Pattaya, Songkran has pretty much degenerated to the "world's largest water battle" and has been extended to as long as a full week. (As you can see in the video clip embedded above - top right - even the US embassy in Bangkok enjoys celebrating the Thai New Year!)
Here in Pattaya, Songkran is celebrated from Sunday, April 13 to Saturday, April 19. While the main days are April 13-15 and April 19, be prepared to get wet anytime you leave your hotel, condo or house between this weekend and next Saturday. Love it or hate it: As you can't avoid getting soaked anyway, your best option is to simply participate in the wet and crazy fun, grin and bear it. For safety reasons, just be extra careful when riding a motorcycle and keep your wallet, cell phone, camera etc. in a plastic bag! Alternatively, you're advised to either skip Pattaya completely until next Sunday, or to stay indoors especially during the day and stock up for about a week ...
Richard Barrow has listed a few "Doís and Doníts for Celebrating Songkran 2014" on his Thai Travel News blog. The following two are the most obvious and important ones:
- "If you go out during Songkran, then you are fair game. Donít complain if you are squirted in the face with a water pistol or someone rubs white powder on your face. Although it might not seem like it, they are actually taking part in a centuries old tradition of paying respect to their elders. Let them do it and smile. Resistance is useless."
- "Keep your cool at all times. Everyone is just having fun. Be prepared for the buckets of water which have been pre-chilled with ice. Also beware that people might come up to you from behind to smear white powder on your face. If they are polite they will ask first. But, you wonít see that happen often. Try not to move too much when they are doing it as you might end up with the paste in your eyes ..."
Please also note that Songkran is a public holiday period and Wednesday, April 16, has been declared an extra holiday this year. Banks, government offices, immigration etc. will be closed until then and not open again before Thursday! In order to celebrate the big finale in style, Pattaya Beach Road will also be closed to traffic from 8am to 8pm on April 19.
11/ Apr/ 2014 Oil Washed Ashore on Jomtien Beach A two-kilometre-long stretch of Jomtien Beach was found to be covered in small lumps of oil on Thursday, which officials claimed "posed no risk to beachgoers" and tourists swimming in the sea. They suggested that the oil washed ashore at the southern end of Jomtien beach originated from a tanker carrying about 50,000 litres of used oil that had capsized just off the coast near Bangkok on April 8. The Bangkok Post reported two days ago that the "oil spilling from the tanker has already affected coastal fishermen in the area [of Samut Sakhon province]." Pattaya One News report that on Thursday, "environment agency officials and a clean-up team of 10 people were sent to Jomtien Beach, in front of Soi 15, where the oil was first seen. The black lumps of oil were clearly visible along a stretch of beach measuring approximately 2kms and had been spotted by tourists on the beach, some of them showed us oil stains on their swimming costumes and skin."
An environment agency official "promised the oil would be removed from the beach as quickly as possible and [that] the presence of the oil posed no risk to beachgoers, a claim which was contested by on-lookers at the scene."
09/ Apr/ 2014 No New General Election Within 60 Days ... Thailand's Election Commisission (EC) decided in a meeting on Tuesday that a new general election to replace the nullified February 2 polls cannot not be called within 45-60 days as requested by 53 political parties. The decision was based on "security" concerns and implies many months more under a caretaker government with only limited powers.
According to the Bangkok Post, the EC "agreed that an election is a way out of the current political chaos and it should be called as soon as possible, but security and peace must be assigned high priorities ... the current situation could still hinder the election and calling a new one would not be fruitful."
While a new election date could not be set yet, there was reportedly a "tentative proposal" that fresh polls could be called "within the next 60 to 90 days".
The political parties calling for snap elections asap included the ruling Puea Thai Party of caretaker prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra but notably excluded the main opposition Democrat Party, which is seen as supporting the anti-government protest movement and would likely get defeated at the ballot box. The so-called "Democrats", who are calling for vague political "reforms" before a new poll, already boycotted the February 2 election and have threatened to boycott fresh polls again.
The February 2 election was nullified three weeks ago by the Constitution Court due to disruptions by the anti-government protest movement. Government supporters and democracy activists allege that not only the Democrat Party but also the courts and "independent" agencies like the Election Commission have aligned themselves with the anti-government/anti-election/anti-democracy protest group.
06/ Apr/ 2014 "Red Shirts" Rally in Support of Government, Warn of Civil War Threat After months of anti-government mass protests have failed to unseat caretaker prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, pro-democracy "red shirts" on Saturday staged their first major rally since violent clashes broke out between supporters and opponents of the embattled government last November. The mass rally on the western outskirts of Bangkok, described by leaders as a "rehearsal" for another big rally in the coming weeks, was attended by tens of thousands of pro-government "red shirt" activists.
The BBC: < Leaders of Thailand's pro-government movement have warned that any attempt to oust [the government through a "judicial coup"] could trigger a civil war ... Speaking to a crowd of tens of thousands, Jatuporn Promphan, the chairman of the pro-government [group], said judicial institutions were trying "to take over power without elections". "What we are most concerned about - that we want to warn all sides against - is a civil war, which we do not want to happen ... It will happen if there is a coup [i.e. either a military or "judicial" coup] and democracy is stolen." >
Remarkably, the BBC's correspondent in Bangkok adds: "The red shirts at Saturday's rally openly showed support for ... Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn. He is the designated heir but some among the traditional elite are believed to oppose him. "
Caretaker prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra faces two legal challenges; a "corruption" case related to the government's controversial rice-pledging scheme conducted by the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), and a verdict by the Constitutional Court which could immediately see her removed from office for transferring a hostile official from the post of National Security Council director. Leaders of the pro-government "red shirt" movement, meanwhile, remain adamant that they will oppose and fight any "undemocratic" moves against the government, and promised on Sunday that the "red shirts" would return for another big rally when the charter court rules on the case involving the transfer order.
On the other side of the political spectrum, at a rally at Bangkok's Lumpini Park, anti-government protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban has threatened that a guilty verdict by the Constitutional Court would be met by an instant mobilisation of anti-government protesters nationwide. Khao Sod quotes Suthep as saying: "We will immediately march on that day! ... When I blow the whistle ... bring out all the healthy persons, so we can embark on a prolonged fight, for at least 15 days".
It would obviously be at this stage of the current political crisis, i.e. when both pro-government "red shirts" and anti-government mobs take to the streets, that the risk of violent clashes between the two camps, possibly triggering a general deterioration of the security situation mainly in Bangkok and, in a worst-case scenario, military intervention, would be the biggest. Khao Sod: < Suthep elaborated further that he would then install himself as the "sovereign body" who will wield absolute power via numerous "revolutionary decrees" and adoption of a single charter provision as a legislative blank cheque ... "[I] will be able to order anyone to be executed by firing squad, but I will only freeze assets ... As a Sovereign Body who has seized power, I will have the power to appoint [the] Prime Minister and Cabinet members at my own discretion. Then I will present this list to His Majesty the King, so that he can approve them as the People's Government". Once His Majesty the King signed his approval for the "people's coup" ... he will proceed to appoint [a] National Legislative Assembly and [a] "People's Council" as two unelected legislative bodies to engage in "reforms" for Thailand. >
Suthep's first precise layout of the apparent dictatorship he and his supporters obviously yearn for, gives you an idea of the warped understanding of democracy Thailand's anti-government protesters have ...
03/ Apr/ 2014 Body of Naked Farang Vagrant Found at Abandoned Construction Site in Jomtien The naked body of an unidentified foreign man, described by police as a "European vagrant", was found at an abandoned construction site near the Jomtien Beach Condominium on Jomtien Beach Road Wednesday afternoon. The cause of death of the unidentified Farang has not been determined yet. Pattaya One reports that the body was "discovered by a foreign resident who was walking his dog. The deceased man was thought to have been dead for between three to four hours prior to his discovery. No obvious signs of a struggle were seen but it appeared he was using the area as a temporary home."
28/ Mar/ 2014 Ladyboys Arrested for Snatching Iphone from Russian Tourist on Pattaya Beach Three ladyboys, aged 16 to 30, were arrested early Friday morning on Pattaya beach after snatching an IPhone from a Russian tourist in front of Soi 13/2. Pattaya One reports that the 26-year-old Russian was on his way back to his hotel room when the gang of three ladyboys "surrounded" him on Beach Road and suggested to join him for "some late-night group activities" in his room. The young Russian rejected but was reportedly "distracted for long enough to allow one of the suspects to snatch [his] Iphone ... [which] was handed to the 16-year-old ladyboy."
Luckily for the victim, passers-by who had witnessed the incident manage to detain the suspects quickly and subsequently hand them over to police. Pattaya One adds that the young Russian was also able to retrieve his IPhone and the ladyboys were "charged with theft".
27/ Mar/ 2014 Election Alcohol Ban, March 29-30 Due to the upcoming Senate Elections in Thailand - not to be confused with February's general election which has been nullified by the Constitutional Court last Friday - alcohol sales will officially be prohibited nationwide next weekend. At least on paper (!) an alcohol ban will be enforced from 6 p.m. on Saturday, March 29, until midnight on Sunday, March 30. This means - at least that's the theory - that not only supermarkets and restaurants won't be allowed to sell alcoholic beverages, but that bars, nightclubs etc. around Thailand shouldn't even be open ...
Then again, last weekend was advance voting for the Senate elections and most bars around Pattaya were open as usual, perhaps only with less lights on and alcoholic drinks served in coffee mugs. In most areas, police didn't even bother handing out leaflets to bar owners announcing an alcohol ban. So it still remains to be seen how strictly next weekend's booze ban will be enforced by the "boys in brown"??
25/ Mar/ 2014 30 People Killed As Tour Bus Plunges Into Ravine A double-decker bus carrying local government workers on a field trip plunged off a steep mountain road and into a ravine in Thailand's northwestern Tak province, killing at least 30 passengers and injuring 22 others on Monday night.
The bus driver, who survived the accident with a broken rib, was reportedly trying to overtake cars on a winding downhill road when it skidded off the edge and flipped several times as it tumbled about 30 metres before crashing into a tree. The driver told police he tried to slow down but claimed the "brakes stopped working".
Monday's accident was the latest fatal crash on the notorious mountain road in Tak province known for its treacherous dips and turns where "300 accidents occurred last year", said the provincial governor.
"Accidents happen on this road very often," he is quoted as saying by the Bangkok Post. "We've put warning signs up to caution road users but the accidents keep happening." Thailand's caretaker transport minister noted that the fatal crash was the "result of careless driving, the condition of the bus, and the winding road."
24/ Mar/ 2014 Danish Expat Killed in Road Crash on Sukhumvit Road A 67-year-old Danish expat riding a motorcycle with a sidecar was killed on Sunday when his vehicle was hit by a minivan on Sukhumvit Road in Jomtien, just outside the Pattaya Post Office. Pattaya One News report that Mr. Ole Laursen was found lying in the right-hand lane of the carriageway and was declared dead at the scene. The passengers and the driver of the minivan were uninjured in the crash.
The 58-year-old minivan driver, who was taking five passengers from Rayong to Bangkok, claimed he had been "travelling in the right-hand lane when the slow-moving motorbike came across from the left lane into the right lane." He alleged he had been "unable to stop in time to avoid a collision ..."