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Pattaya & Thailand News Update
February/ 2014 Pattaya-Funtown Undergoing Facelift ... Dear friends and visitors, in accordance with the 6th anniversary of Pattaya-Funtown in February 2014, our website is currently undergoing a major "facelift" and getting thoroughly redesigned. Until this process has been completed (hopefully within the next month) the page appearance, width etc. may vary from page to page. We hope you will like the result of our current "work in progress" and are sorry for any inconvenience. As usual, your feedback and constructive criticism are highly appreciated!
03/ Mar/ 2014 Finnish Man "Throws Himself" Under Tour Bus on Jomtien 2nd Road A 59-year-old Finnish man allegedly "threw himself" under a tour bus carrying Russian tourists late Saturday night.
The incident occurred on Jomtien Second Road, in front of the View Talay Residence, as the bus driver took a group of Russian tourists back to the Pattaya Park Hotel following a trip to Koh Chang. The Finnish national "suffered catastrophic life-ending injuries after he was run over by the coach which was unable to stop in time." Pattaya Daily News report that his head was "crushed" by a rear wheel. Pattaya One News quotes the 42-year-old Thai bus driver as claiming he was "driving normally" when he spotted the foreigner "standing on the central reservation. When the coach approached him he allegedly threw himself in the path of the coach." The driver claimed "it was impossible to predict what the victim was going to do or to prevent hitting him."
The coach, operated by the Anex Tour Company, was reportedly full of Russian tourists at the time who were transferred to a replacement coach and taken back to their hotel. Despite his claims the foreigner's death was a suicide, police initially arrested him and charged him with reckless driving causing death.
According to PDN, police initially suspected that the victim might have been "stressed about a congenital disease or he might have been cheated by a beer bar woman and lost all his money," prompting him to commit suicide in a rather bizarre way, even for Pattaya standards.. Another possibility, of course, is that the elderly Finnish man was drunk, slipped and fell over onto the road. Or, third option, the bus driver is simply lying ...
01/ Mar/ 2014 'Bangkok Shutdown' Over, Roads to be Unblocked for Traffic Anti-government protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban Friday surprisingly declared an end of the so-called "Bangkok Shutdown" from Monday and promised to return traffic space to the people of Bangkok.
Obviously in the face of dwindling numbers of protesters, and possibly in response to some kind of rumoured "backroom deal" between the government, protesters and their elite backers, Suthep told supporters at the Pathumwan rally stage that all remaining five stages would be dismantled and blocked roads cleared on Monday. All protest activities would then be moved to Lumpini Park.
The Bangkok Post comments that when the so-called "shutdown" started on January 13, "speeches and other activities on each of the [rally] stages attracted thousands of people every evening. But attendance has fallen markedly in the last two weeks or so."
While it remains unclear whether the Chaeng Watthana rally site, led by senior Buddhist monk Luang Pu Buddha Issara, would also be dismantled and moved or not, Suthep also reiterated that the protest group would "raise the level of our rallies" after Monday. Instead of completely backing down, Suthep said: "We will escalate our shutdown of government ministries and ... businesses [operated by the family of Thaksin Shinawatra and his sister, caretaker prime minister Yingluck]. I do personally hope the game will be over by March."
The surprising decision by the former Democrat Party powerbroker brings an end to six weeks of major disruptions at strategic locations across Bangkok and comes after a series of attacks near the rally sites. At least 20 people have been killed and around 700 injured since the increasingly violent protests started at the end of October, mostly in grenade attacks and violent clashes between armed groups mingling with the protesters and the police.
In the Thai context, two other reports are noteworthy:
1) According to the Bangkok Post, the caretaker government of Yingluck Shinawatra has invited United Nations Secretary-general Ban Ki-moon to visit Thailand "soon" to discuss ways to help the country deal with its ongoing political crisis in a peaceful way.
The director-general of the foreign ministry's Department of Information has been quoted as saying on Friday: "Thailand would like to thank the UN secretary-general for closely following in the ongoing political conflict ... Thailand, as a member of the UN, has to respond to the UN's proposal and listen to its advice." Unsurprisingly, protest leader Suthep commented that "he believed the UN did not understand Thailand's situation the way Thai people do." Eh ...
Interestingly, a UN spokesman confirmed at a daily media briefing that Ban Ki-Moon had indeed had a telephone conversation with the caretaker foreign minister "to discuss Thailand's political situation." The Thai foreign minister suggested: ""If we could bring the UN in to initiate talks, a solution to the conflict might be reached."
2) The Nation reports that a "famous" and obviously well-respected Burmese fortune-teller predicted a relatively quick end to Thailand's political crisis and that the government/Thaksin faction and protesters were "tipped to do a deal later this month". Fortune-teller, you say? Please bear in mind that in the Thai and Asian context, fortune-tellers, astrology, black magic etc. play a significant role not only in people's private lives or business decisions, but also in politics.
The Nation quotes the Burmese fortune-teller and astrologer, who was allegedly consulted by Thaksin's ex-wife (!) in Myanmar recently, as predicting that "leaders of the protesters or government officials will make a speech. They will make some kind of agreements [described as a ceasefire] between February 27 and March 3."
The astrologer reportedly suggested that the crisis would likely "end through negotiations that will start from March 3. Then on March 27, everything will be in good order again." Interestingly, he also hinted at "some form of accommodation among key players". And in the Thai context, to be clear on this, whatever "form of accommodation" between the various powers-that-be, as hostile to each other they may be on paper, and as little satisfactory this may be for the supporters of either side, is never to be ruled out.
28/ Feb/ 2014 15 Schoolgirls, Teachers Killed in Tour Bus Crash, More Than 40 Injured 15 schoolgirls and their teachers were killed and about 40 others injured when their tour bus rammed into the back of loaded 18-wheel truck and veered off the road on a hillside highway in Prachinburi province early Friday morning.
The double-decker bus was carrying young schoolgirls, all under the age of 10, and teachers from Nakhon Ratchasima on a field trip to Jomtien Beach, near Pattaya. At about 4.30am, the tour bus crashed into the back of an 18-wheel trailer truck when both vehicles were going downhill. After hitting the truck the bus veered off the road and smashed into a tree.
The Bangkok Post reports that 11 of the young passengers died at the scene after being tossed from the bus; four others died later in hospital. More than 40 others were injured.
Initial inspections suggested the crash was "likely caused by faulty brakes". The 30-year-old bus driver, who survived the horror crash, reportedly only held an ordinary driving licence, not a public vehicle driving licence.
25/ Feb/ 2014 Thailandís Roads "Second Most Dangerous in the World" According to a study by the University of Michiganís Transportation Research Institute, Thailand records the second most road fatalities in the world, with allegedly 44 road deaths per 100,000 people. Thailand, with a road fatality rate more than double the global average of 18, was second only to Namibia, which had 45 road deaths per 100,000 people. Based on data compiled by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2008, fatalities from road accidents reportedly made up 5.1% of overall deaths in Thailand.
One may argue that the data used for the study is a little dated, and that the number of road deaths in Thailand has reportedly slightly decreased in recent years. Nonetheless, the study still highlights a serious problem that authorities have so far failed to tackle efficiently. Asian Correspondent: "Thailand has made headlines on several occasions in recent years due to its appalling road safety record ...
In 2012, The Guardian reported that motorbike accidents were a top cause of death, with 11,000 drivers or passengers dying each year. The World Health Organization reported that 74% on road deaths in Thailand involved motorbikes ... The high accident rate is often attributed to reckless driving, including driving while intoxicated, and lack of safety precautions such as wearing a helmet. The WHO report indicated that 26% of road deaths in Thailand involve alcohol ...
Expats and tourists often complain about the fast and frenetic driving experienced on bus rides and minivan trips. Itís not uncommon for drivers to take mountain bends at high speeds or to ride the middle line for an extremely uncomfortable distance in order to overtake other drivers. Some speculate that many drivers are overworked and not given enough breaks between runs. Others say they are on amphetamines, which explains the fast and reckless driving."
23/ Feb/ 2014 Three Killed, 21 Injured in Bomb Blast Near Anti-Government Rally Site in Bangkok Update - A third victim, also a child, has reportedly also passed away. The Bangkok Post: "Three people were killed and 21 others injured in the bomb attack ..." In another article: "Two children were killed ... a six year-old girl, and her four-year old brother."
Earlier report - A young boy and a 40-year-old woman were killed in another apparent grenade attack on an anti-government protest site in a busy shopping district of Bangkok Sunday afternoon. 22 others, including two children, were reportedly injured in the blast which went off at about 5pm near the Big C Supercenter on Ratchaprasong Road.
It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the attack. As Reuters put it: "Both sides have blamed the other for instigating [the most recent political] violence. Armed provocateurs have a history of trying to stir tension in politically polarized Thailand and both protesters and the police have also blamed violence on shadowy third parties."
22/ Feb/ 2014 Two Children Killed, 33 Injured in Grenade Attack on Anti-Government Protest Site Update 3 - The Nation reports that a second "five-year-old girl Tuesday succumbed to serious injuries inflicted when unknown attackers hurled grenades and fired at [the] rally site ... in Trat."
Update 2 - The Nation reports now the attack injured a total of 35 people; "one of them, a five-year-old girl, later died at a hospital."
Update 1 - The Bangkok Post quotes "latest reports" as saying that two people were killed in the attack and "41 wounded, four critically. Among the gravely injured was an eight-year-old girl, who took a shot in the head." Three grenades were reportedly thrown into the crowd of protesters.
Earlier report - At least 19 people were injured in a shooting and grenade attack on an anti-government rally at a market in Trat province at 9.30pm Saturday. According to The Nation, an unknown number of "men riding [a pick-up truck] opened fire on people and grenades were ... thrown into the crowds."
On Friday night, a grenade had exploded near the anti-government rally site at Bangkok's Ratchaprasong intersection, injuring six people. Police suspected the grenade was thrown from a nearby flyover.
As there appears to be no political solution to the ongoing crisis, violence surrounding the protests has increased in recent weeks. A total of 15 people have been killed and hundreds injured since the protests started in November, most recently last Tuesday when six people, including two policemen, died as police clashed with anti-government protesters in Bangkok.
21/ Feb/ 2014 Fugitive Russian Property Developer Arrested in Pattaya A 41-year-old Russian property developer wanted on extortion charges in Russia was arrested by immigration police in Pattaya on Thursday. Pattaya One News report that Mr. Dmitry Ishmukhametov is "reported to be the owner of the Anastasia International Company which is currently selling a condominium project in Soi 5 off Thepprasit Road in Jomtien. He was arrested at the offices of the company on the strength of an international arrest warrant issued in Russia claiming [he] is wanted in connection with an extortion case amounting to one million Rubles ..."
Mr. Ishmukhametov is reported to have "fled Russia ... to the Czech Republic where he obtained a fake passport with a new name and nationality. He is thought to have entered Thailand using the fake passport on 5th October 2013 over the Malaysian Border."
19/ Feb/ 2014 Civil Court Limits Crackdown, Protects Anti-Government Protesters In what many observers interpret as a "judicial coup" in the making, the Civil Court ruled on Wednesday that the government had the authority to impose the emergency decree in Bangkok, but prohibited the "use of force" to disperse anti-government demonstrators which the judges described as "peaceful and unarmed" (sic). The court barred authorities from searching protesters or dismantling the rally sites in central Bangkok and also said the demonstrators had the right to block roads. The ruling came on the same day as Human Rights Watch observed: "Claims by anti-government groups that they are peaceful and unarmed were dispelled by their use of firearms during the February 18 violence." In a nutshell, with the authorities barred from dispersing the increasingly violent protests, emergency rule has been rendered relatively meaningless; the "Bangkok shutdown" will continue while the government has been further paralyzed; the positions have been hardened to such an extent that not only there is no end in sight to Thailand's prolonged political crisis but it's also increasingly unlikely that such an end will be peaceful and acceptable to all sides. Thomas Fuller at the New York Times: < Describing the movement to overthrow the Thai government as peaceful, a Bangkok civil court on Wednesday sharply curtailed the powers of the authorities and barred them from dispersing protesters, a decision that a prominent legal analyst described as "one step closer to a full-scale judicial coup."
The decision came one day after violent clashes between the police and protesters that left five people dead, including a police officer. After a series of confrontations in recent weeks and the wide circulation of photographs of heavily armed men among the protesters, the protest movement increasingly resembles an armed insurrection against the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra ... The court, however, found that the protests were being carried out "peacefully without weapons" ...
The protesters, who blocked elections in Bangkok and southern Thailand earlier this month, are seeking a suspension of democratic procedures and the creation of an unelected "peopleís council" that would replace Parliament ...
There is a long tradition in Thailand of overthrowing governments, often through bloodless coups or what are termed "judicial coups," in which a leader is removed by the courts ... But the current political crisis is far more intractable than those of previous years ... The leader of the protests, Suthep Thaugsuban, who has been charged with murder for ordering the use of live ammunition against demonstrations when he was deputy prime minister in 2010, describes an all-or-nothing battle against the Shinawatra family ...
[A lawyer representing the protesters] described the ruling as a victory for the protest movement and said the government was "unable to do anything about the protesters." [A prominent commentator] said Wednesdayís decision allowed protesters to claim "pseudo-legitimacy to overthrow the government" ...
The larger picture for [the] government appears to be a slow strangulation of her power ... >
18/ Feb/ 2014 Six People Killed As Thai Police Clash With Anti-Govt Protesters in Bangkok Update 2 - A second, 28-year-old police officer who was "shot in the head during the operation to reclaim the Phan Fa Bridge rally site ... succumbed to his injuries on Monday." Source: Bangkok Post
Update 1 - A 5th civilian was confirmed dead on Wednesday. 71 people were injured in the clash, including 19 policemen. The weapons used in the clash, allegedly by "unidentified armed elements" mingling with the protesters, were identified as high-explosive hand grenades, M79 grenades, high-velocity sniper rifles and handguns. The military denied speculation that troops shot at police. Source: Bangkok Post
Earlier report - Bangkok has seen another day of escalating political violence on Tuesday. Four people, among them one policeman, were killed and more than 60 people injured as police attempted to reclaim rally sites around government offices in Bangkok and clashed with armed groups of demonstrators. In the most violent confrontation at Phan Fah Bridge on Ratchadamnoen Klang Avenue, 14 policemen were injured, one was shot dead, and three civilians killed as police tried to reclaim the protest site. One police officer kicked a grenade away from his colleagues and was severely injured when the grenade - obviously thrown at police lines by protesters - exploded just when he kicked it. CNN: "Thailand's bitter political crisis intensified Tuesday as four people were killed in clashes between anti-government protesters and police ...
A police officer died after he was shot in the head, and three male protesters were also killed, officials said.
Sixty-four people, both police officers and protesters, were wounded in the clashes Tuesday ...
Police were trying to clear demonstrators ... After police fired tear gas in an attempt to disperse crowds of demonstrators in the streets, people among the protesters began firing guns at police. With the two sides about 200 meters apart, police responded by firing rubber bullets and live ammunition.
During the firefight, which lasted about 20 minutes, a grenade exploded near a group of police officers, knocking them to the ground. At least four of them were wounded ...
About 6,000 demonstrators were estimated to be on the streets of the city Tuesday ... and thousands of security personnel have been mobilized." BBC: "Early on Tuesday, police started negotiations with the protesters, who over the past few days have come in large numbers to defend protest areas. Violence then erupted near Democracy Monument in central Bangkok. One police officer and two protesters were shot dead ...
There are also reports of police being injured by grenade attacks and shrapnel from bomb blasts, while police also opened fire on demonstrators. The Erawan centre said that around 60 people were injured, although it did not report the breakdown between police and protesters." The Guardian: "One police officer and three demonstrators were killed amid claims by police that they had come under fire from a rooftop sniper and M-79 grenades ...
Television pictures showed clouds of teargas and police crouching behind riot shields as officers clashed with protesters near Government House. It was not clear who had fired the teargas and the authorities blamed protesters.
'I can guarantee that teargas was not used by security forces. The forces did not take teargas with them,' the National Security Council chief [was quoted as saying]. 'Protesters are the ones who threw teargas at the security forces.'
Live television pictures showed police with shields and batons pushing and jostling with protesters near Government House. One man could be seen bleeding from a head wound. Security officials said four police officers had been wounded by bomb shrapnel."
By Tuesday afternoon, riot police had managed to retake rally sites at the Energy Ministry and part of the rally venue near the government complex on Chaeng Watthana road, where demonstrators reached an agreement with police to unblock more lanes in exchange for a promise not to disperse them. A total of 145 people, including two protest co-leaders, guard and supporters were arrested.
14/ Feb/ 2014 New Police Chief, New Crackdown on Pattaya Bars ... Pattaya One News report that there's a new police chief "firmly installed at Pattaya Police Station". And as usual when they are new to this job and position, "the job of maintaining law & order has begun with a check of late night entertainment venues around Pattaya."
To start with, 20 police and police volunteers, along with Banglamung District Licensing Officials, raided a number of discotheques on Walking Street and karaoke bars and pubs in the South Pattaya area. Little surprisingly, they were "not happy with what they found" as many venues were found to still be operating after the official closing hour: "The main offence committed by many of the venues ... related to them opening well beyond the time they are permitted to do so in accordance with their licenses." Four foreigners were reportedly also arrested and fined for not carrying a passport ...