15/ Sep/ 2014 Two British Tourists Brutally Murdered on Koh Tao Island The naked bodies of two British tourists were found beaten to death on the popular island of Koh Tao in Surat Thani province Monday morning. Police are now checking ferry passengers trying to leave the island.
The man, aged 24, from Jersey, Channel Islands, and the woman, aged 23, from from Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, were found with several wounds near a budget bungalow on Hat Sai Ree Beach. The bodies were found stripped naked and behind large rocks on the beach approx. 20 metres apart from each other. A blood-covered hoe, suspected to be the murder weapon, was found 35 metres from the murder scene.
Police sources said the young woman, whose skirt was hiked up to her waist and T-shirt pulled up, had been "slashed" to death and may also have been raped. The male victim was found naked on his back with a wound caused by a blunt blow to the back of his head. A pair of shorts, a T-shirt and a denim skirt were found nearby. The identities of the victims are currently still being withheld.
According to police sources, the man arrived in Thailand with "2-3" male friends while the woman came with four female friends. They reportedly met at Ocean View Bungalow, where they were both staying.
Police said they had no immediate suspects and were checking CCTV cameras in search of the attackers. Witnesses reportedly said they had seen the pair drinking and dancing with other party-goers on the beach near their resort on the previous night. The pair then left the party, presumably to take a stroll. The bodies/ presumed to have been killed sometime between 4am and 5am, were found at 6.30am by a group of Burmese workers who were cleaning the beach. Sources: AFP, Bangkok Post, Khaosod English
13/ Sep/ 2014 Scottish Tourist Brutally Assaulted By Thai Men In Pattaya Two unidentified Thai men have brutally assaulted a 40-year-old Scottish tourist on Soi Buakhao early Saturday morning. The attack reportedly took place at around 1am and left the tourist with "severe injuries on his head and bruises all over his body".
According to Khaosod English, CCTV footage showed the Scottish man and a foreign friend "arguing with a Thai woman in front of a bar on Soi Buakhao. Two Thai men later arrived on a motorcycle and one of them drew out a knife and started attacking the tourist. A brawl soon ensued." PDN names the bar as "Mari Blue" bar (?) and identifies the 23-year-old woman as the Scottish tourist's "girlfriend".
Police said "much of the fight was obscured on the CCTV footage by an umbrella, though the tourist could clearly be seen attempting to walk away, only to be further assaulted. The two Thai men reportedly left the Scotsman bleeding on the street and sped away on their motorcycle." Police are now trying to identify and arrest the two men seen on CCTV.
13/ Sep/ 2014 Too Little Rainfall: Pattaya to Suffer Drought? PDN reports that "Pattaya might encounter a severe drought" this year "because of the lack of rain. Plus the water which is in the reservoirs now might not be insufficient."
According to the Royal Irrigation Department, the amount of water in the local reservoirs was "30% less than expected" (or just "29 million cubic meters compared with 43 million cubic meters") due to unusually little rainfall in the area during the rainy season. For example, Pattaya's main reservoir, the Mabprachan reservoir east of Pattaya, has "just 5 million cubic meters of water compared with 8.8 million cubic meters of water this time last year", barely enough to supply Pattaya with the "180,000 cubic meters of water" the city apparently needs per day for a month.
In order to cope with the expected drought and supply the citizens of Pattaya with a sufficient amount of water in the coming months, the Royal Irrigation Department said that a number of pipelines would be constructed to drain water from the Bang Pakong river and other reservoirs and dams in the region. Nonetheless, "officials appealed [to] the people to use water sparingly" in the next months.
13/ Sep/ 2014 Land/Property, Inheritance Taxes Coming This Year According to The Nation, the new government "plans to introduce inheritance and land/property taxes before the end of the year as part of its goal to broaden the tax base in the new fiscal year ..."
During his policy statement before the National Legislative Assembly (NLA), junta chief/prime minister Prayuth Chan-ocha is quoted as saying that, aside from the new inheritance and land/property taxes, the "tax collection system would [also] be restructured to ensure personal and corporate income tax is collected efficiently." For stats freaks (as we are), he also noted that only some 20 million of Thailand's 68 million people paid taxes."
The Bangkok Post reports in more detail that the "annual property tax rates will likely be based on each 1 million baht of appraised prices: 500 baht for farm land; 1,000 baht for residential use; 5,000 baht for commercial use and 20,000 baht for vacant plots. As for the inheritance and gift tax bill, the focus will likely be on the receiver, who will be taxed when inheriting an estate and when he has been transferred assets two years before the giver dies ... The rates will likely be progressive. For inheritance, the rate is 0% for assets worth not more than 50 million baht or the first 50 million baht of the estate; 10% for the portion between 50-200 million baht and 20% for the portion that exceeds 200 million baht. For gifts, the rate is 0% for assets worth not more than 10 million baht or the first 10 million baht of the assets, 10% for the portion between 10-40 million baht and 20% for the portion exceeding 40 million baht." These figures are based on Thai-language reports at Thai Rath and Prachachart Turakit.
08/ Sep/ 2014 Thailand to Take Serious Action Against Teen Pregnancy According to an article by NNT, Thailand will "take serious action" against the ever-growing problem of teen pregnancy in the country. While it remains unclear whether such actions will include improved sex education in schools and promoting birth control methods among Thai teenagers, or simply mean more bans and restrictions, the article has some alarming figures, e.g., in 2012, teenage mothers aged 15-19 have, "on average, delivered one baby every four minutes and when tracing back by a decade the number of girls of younger than 15 years old who have become mother has risen by almost three times. Out of an annual 800,000 live births, teenager mothers accounted for 120,000."
07/ Sep/ 2014 Belgian Expat Arrested for Blackmailing Thai Girl With Nude Pics A 50-year-old Belgian who apparently regularly took nude pictures of Thai girls was arrested in Pattaya on Saturday for allegedly blackmailing an ex-girlfriend by "asking her for money or he would put her pictures on the internet." PDN reports that "the Thai girl who was his girlfriend notified Khon Kaen police that [the Belgian expat] blackmailed her by asking her for money or he will put her photos on the internet." Pattaya One reports that the Belgian, named as Raymond Humblet, was "seeing a woman from Khon Kaen and took sexually explicit photos of her which he then threatened to put on the internet unless she paid him money."
When police inspected his room at the J.V. Mansion in South Pattaya, they found an unspecified number of photos of naked Thai girls on his computer and hard drives, as well as a "pack of cannabis in the safe". The Belgian man was arrested and charged with blackmailing and holding drugs.
07/ Sep/ 2014 Foreign Business Act (FBA) Amendments In The Pipeline ... The Thai commerce ministry will reportedly propose to the cabinet little specified amendments to the Foreign Business Act (FBA) in order to make it "more flexible but also more effective".
According to The Nation, one of the amendments will focus on "[preventing] nominees getting around the restrictions on foreign ownership of Thai businesses while also facilitating more investment in Thailand" and making the environment "friendlier for foreign investors". Eh, you say?! Sounds a bit like the carrot and the stick? Well, to judge from what The Nation reveals of the proposed changes to the law regulating foreign business in Thailand, it certainly all sounds a little double-faced.
Of the proposals to make the country more foreign investor-friendly, The Nation only mentions a vague "proposal ... to remove some industries from the FBA's Annex III, which lists industries that are off-limits to non-Thais ... businesses that might be opened up include those involved in banking and insurance, as they have already have their own specific laws." Wow.
But then, in the next paragraph: "[Seven] firms involved in tourism and hospitality businesses ... have likely breached the law by having a nominee, through which foreign owners employ a Thai to hold a majority share in the firm." The commerce ministry is now reportedly "preparing to file the case with the Department of Special Investigation. The seven firms suspected of breaching the FBA are in tourism, restaurants, tour agencies, and property management ... in tourist-destination provinces, including Chon Buri, Chiang Mai, Trat and Phuket."
What can one say? While this whole FBA amendment plan remains extremely vague for now, it seems obvious that at least the tourism-related and real estate sectors will not be opened up to foreign investors. And a plan to involve the DSI to crack down on nominee Thai shareholders in "foreign-owned" companies (must have a minimum of 51% of Thai shareholders) doesn't sound very promising either ...
06/ Sep/ 2014 Beach Chair Operator Bullies Foreign Tourist on Koh Larn Land of Smiles? A YouTube clip showing an argument between a pushy beach chair operator and a female foreign tourist on Koh Larn has drawn increased calls for a cleanup of Thailand's beaches.
The clip was uploaded to YouTube on Friday only and has already been viewed more than 100,000 times. The clip shows a foreign woman of unknown nationality (likely Russian) being approached by a deckchair operator at Koh Larn's Nang Nual beach as she sits on her own towel in the sand. The Bangkok Post reports: "The man tells the woman she has to leave the spot and rent a chair and umbrella from him instead. The tourist initially refuses but later starts to pack up her things. The man walks around her, kicking sand into her beach towel. The angry tourist gets up and flings her sand-filled towel at the man, who responds by pushing her away. The pair argue briefly and the woman walks away."
Many people who commented on the clip pointed out that the vendor did "not own the beach". Correct, the beach is public land. And he obviously behaves like a twat and damages the country's tourist-friendly image. Then again, he obviously rents that particular beach plot, directly or through middlemen, from some administrative entity at a considerable fee; so what entity (city hall?) lets beach plots to deckchair operators, what's the precise legal framework and what rights do beach chair vendors get? The Bangkok Post comments that "businesses that encroach on beaches" have been linked to "influential figures". Most likely also correct. But who are these "influential figures", what is their precise role and connection to the administration of Pattaya city?
The junta has recently staged campaigns to clean up the beaches in Phuket and Hua Hin. Deckchairs and umbrellas have been banned from entire bays, encroaching businesses were demolished and vending was limited to regulated zones. The campaign has not yet reached Pattaya, however. UPDATE - It has now been revealed that the villain in the clip was a 25-year-old Cambodian employee of a beach chair operator on Koh Larn. He was promptly arrested and it was found he "had no work permit and he will be jailed for 5 years." How handy. No word about his boss (presumably a Thai national) who urged him to drive the Russian woman away in the first place, and whether any kind of action will also be taken against him/her (likely not). As usual, the response by authorities re: the widely shared clip is world class: " ... officers will investigate who spreads the clip video on social network and they will prosecute ones in act of destroying good image of country" (sic). What can one say? T.I.T. Thailand After The Coup - Latest Updates In brief (for updates please scroll down) >>> - It's over three months 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 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 are not mindful of their words ... or harbour ill intentions to undermine the [monarchy]". While the transcript of Prayuth's speech does "not elaborate how the telecommunications and information technology will be used", it was reported earlier by Prachatai that "Thai authorities ... planned to implement a surveillance device starting from 15 September to sniff out Thai Internet users, specifically targeting those producing and reading lese majeste content". Note: This latest threat to freedom of expression includes criminalizing even reading stuff that might be perceived as offending/criticizing the monarchy. Prachatai based its chilling report on "two different sources." One reportedly "said the device targets keywords related to lese majeste and that it is relatively powerful and could access all kinds of communication traffic on the internet. Another source said it could even monitor communications using secured protocols." Prachatai also pointed out that "intercepting online communications is illegal under the 2007 Computer Crime Act" and that prior to the coup, "the only state agency [which] was lawfully allowed to do so", and so only with court approval, was the Department of Special Investigation (DSI).
September 12 - As was widely expected, junta chief/prime minister Prayuth Chan-ocha stressed in his weekly television address Friday night that there would be "no quick end to martial law ... until security threats end." Prayuth, however, hinted that the government might soon "take steps to help provinces hit by declining tourist numbers ..."; which might include the country's most popular tourist destinations such as Pattaya, Phuket, Chiang Mai etc.