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HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:
Seven perish in massive Thaioil blaze

Swiss pedophile arrested

Tortured boy released from captors

Police crack down on illegal foreigners

Kuwaiti arrested for stamping passports

His Holiness the Supreme Patriarch presides over religious week at Wat Yan Sangwararam

Local hospitals Y2K ready

Banglamung fishermen “muscled” out of area

Australian Children ‘Sell Their Bodies To Survive’

Seven perish in massive Thaioil blaze

Investigators yet to determine cause

Employees reported a strong smell of fuel, followed by reports from security guards that fuel was leaking from one of the tanks. Within moments, the fuel ignited, causing a huge explosion that could be heard 30 kilometers away. The impact of the explosion shook structures like an earthquake and shattered windows in houses and automobiles within a one kilometer radius.

At daybreak Friday morning, Decenber 3rd, the fire was still a long way from being under control.

4,000 people living in 10 small villages in the vicinity had to be evacuated from their homes. Some were less than one kilometer away from the accident scene. Many packed their belongings and left their homes in the middle of the night while others without transportation walked away from the blazing scene. They slept at temples and schools nearby, and even under the flyover across the highway.

Firemen, police, army, navy and air force personnel were called out to try to stop the inferno, but all that could be done was to try to prevent the blaze from spreading to the nearby tanks.

The Royal Thai Army sent 15,000 tons of reserve stocks of the foam to contain the fire, and altogether about 65,000 liters of chemical foam were used, of which about 50,000 liters were brought in from Singapore in the middle of the night on Friday. Yet it was not possible to put enough chemical foam onto the blaze to put out the fire, as flames reached 50 meters into the air. The only solution was to leave it to eventually burn itself out when it ran out of fuel.

The fire finally subsided on Sunday morning, December 5th, after engulfing approximately 10 rai of land.

The following day after the fire was contained more flames erupted again at 11:00 p.m. but the fire was extinguished within 20 minutes. Officials reported the re-erupting flames were not unusual and were prepared for, as four fire trucks were standing by for such an occurrence.

The damage is estimated to be at least 500 million baht and the repair to the refinery will take 7 to 8 months. Thai Oil has ceased all operations at the refinery for the time being and anticipates at least another week before operations will continue. The shut down will cause an additional loss of US$2.5 million.

The fire cast an eerie glow over the debris from the explosion.

Thaioil is insured for up to US$2.2 billion through Dhippaya Insurance Company. Officials from Dhippaya say they have enough reserves to cover damages from the Thaioil fire.

Authorities state that there will not be any environmental impact from the smoke, as it did not contain sulfur substances. But health officials do warn people that the smoke pollution could cause respiratory problems.

The villagers living around the refinery were shocked by the incident because they had full confidence in the company’s safety.

Safety standards at the Thai Oil refinery are world class and there had never been a single major incident at the plant before. PTT governor Viset Choopiban said the refinery had operated for 30 million hours since it was opened 30 years ago, with a clean safety record.

Officials from the Thai Oil Refinery announced that they will take full responsibilities in this matter and will compensate the victims. The Welfare and Labor Department of Chonburi and the Social Security Department of Chonburi under the Ministry of Labor are also on hand to assist in providing compensation.

The deceased were identified as: Somchai Rodphan, Wichan Panchiangrak, Anusorn Tantivisutsri, Morakit Kosumwatcharaporn, Uthai Saenboonruang, and Somporn Promchorn. A further victim has yet to be identified.

Investigators later discovered a number of Buddha images miraculously undamaged in the buildings destroyed in the fire.

Over 250 people have already filed claims for damages. There have also been reports of looting.

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Swiss pedophile arrested

Caught with 10 year old boy in his bed

Egli Thomas Johann, 48, from Switzerland, was arrested last week for molesting a 10-year-old boy. Johann denies the charges, but police believe evidence suggests otherwise.

Pattaya police were called at 2:30 a.m. on 30 November to investigate what the caller described as “a foreigner taking a boy no older than 12 years up to his hotel room”. The incident was taking place at a hotel on Soi 10 off of Pattaya 2 Road.

Police had hotel staff accompany a group of officers to the room and opened the door with spare keys, but entry was prohibited as the door was chain fastened. Police knocked and the occupant opened the door and turned the lights on. Police saw that a 10-year-old boy was sleeping on the bed.

Egli Thomas Johann, 48, from Switzerland, was arrested last week for molesting a this 10-year-old boy.

The man was identified from his Swiss passport as Mr. Egli Thomas Johann, age 48.

Police searched the room and found a package containing four condoms, one dildo, one picture of a naked Thai girl and four pictures of Johann with young Thai boys. All items were confiscated and Johann was taken to the station for further questioning.

Johann told police he was employed as an artist in Switzerland. He assured police he had no ill intentions by bringing the young boy to his room, claiming he loved children. He said he was walking along the beach when he met the cute boy and brought him to his room after taking him out to eat and buying him a shirt. He said he brought the boy back to his room and allowed him to go to sleep. He said that was when police entered his room.

The boy told police officers he was from Chiang Rai Province. He currently lives with his sister, who works at a beer bar in South Pattaya. The boy similarly described to police that he met Johann as he was walking along the beach area. He said Johann persuaded him to come to his room after buying him the shirt and offering him money. Once in the room, the boy told police, Johann took him into the bathroom and gave him a bath, touching his private parts. He said that after the bath, the two got into bed. He said Johann turned off the lights and took off his clothes. He said that was when police came to the door. The boy said that when Johann heard police knocking, he put his shorts back on and went to the door.

Police recorded the information and charged Johann with luring a minor under the age of 14 years to his room for the purpose of engaging in sexual acts.

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Tortured boy released fro captors

“Parents” arrested, battered boy turned over to welfare department

Concerned residents notified Pattaya Immigration police on 1 December that two foreigners, a man and a woman, were physically abusing a young boy no older than 10 years of age. The immigration authorities investigated the report at the Soi A.R., Moo 9 address in Central Pattaya, where a group of residents were waiting and promptly directed the immigration police to the location.

Investigators were stunned when they entered the rented home and discovered the young boy, who was sleeping on the floor, had multiple scars, recent injuries and burns all over his body, including bruises and wounds with dried blood.

The two people renting the house were identified as Mr. Go Shimizu, age 30, carrying a Japanese passport and Miss Myyseu Saemyy, age 18, from Myanmar. The boy was only identified as “La”, age 9. All three were escorted to the Pattaya Immigration police office for further investigation.

Both Shimizu and Miss Myyseu denied physically abusing the boy, claiming instead that the boy had bit Miss Myyseu and he was spanked by both of them to correct his behavior.

However, the young boy asserted that the two were forcing him to sell flowers in the entertainment areas of Pattaya from 6:00 p.m. until 4:00 a.m. each night. If he didn’t sell enough the two, he said pointing to Shimizu and Myyseu, would beat him repeatedly, burn him with cigarettes or take their dissatisfaction out on him in other ways.

He told authorities he was from Chiang Mai Province and lost his parents when he was about three years old. He said he did not even know his last name.

The immigration police charged the two with abducting and physically abusing a child age 9, inflicting injuries both physically and mentally and forcing the minor to perform work for their profit. Miss Myyseu was also charged with illegally entering the Kingdom.

The young boy was transferred to the Chonburi Children’s Welfare Center for further care and treatment.

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Police crack down on illegal foreigners

Step up efforts after Orchid Inn murder

Police agencies in Pattaya have stepped up efforts to eradicate foreigners residing illegally in Pattaya. The move comes as a response to the murder and robbery at the Orchid Inn Hotel in South Pattaya.

Police have already arrested one man in their crackdown, Iranian Hassan Aghalarkhani Hamadan. Hassan was observed acting suspiciously in the parking lot in front of the Dee Den Apartments in Nong Prue.

Hassan Aghalarkhani Hamadan was arrested for passport fraud.

When officers approached him to check his identification, he produced a passport identifying him as Hassan Aghalarkhani Hamadan, age 27, from Iran. Police searched him and found another passport in his possession identifying him as Irishman Eyberg Porgeir Kristan. The search also produced a daily police report dated 30 October 1999, from the Pattaya Police Department indicating a Hassan’s passport was lost.

Hassan confessed that the visa in his passport had reached its expiration date and he reported that his passport was lost. He later acquired the Irish passport and assumed the identity of Eyberg Porgeir Kristan. Hassan told police he paid $25,000 (USD) to a man named Mr. Said from Pakistan on 17 November 1999. The purchase was made at the Grace Hotel in Soi 3 off of Sukhumvit Road in Bangkok. Hassan then took a picture of himself and replaced the one in the Irish passport.

Police have charged Hassan for illegally residing in the Kingdom, making a false report with police officials and falsifying the identity in a passport belonging to another person.

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Kuwaiti arrested for stamping passports

Using forged immigration stamp

Sau A J Alakamees, age 33, from Kuwait was arrested late last month for possessing a Pattaya Immigration Police stamp used to extend visas.

Alakamees was picked up in the area of Ban Jareun Suk, Moo 5, when police spotted him acting suspiciously.

Police were acting according to recent instructions to step up activities against foreigners engaged in crime and residing illegally in the country. Tourist police officers were on a routine patrol in Soi Nern Phap Wan at 2:30 a.m. on 23 November when, nearing the corner of Ban Jareun Suk, Moo 5, they spotted Alakamees carrying a bag in a peculiar manner.

Police searched the bag and found a number of documents and a rubber stamp belonging to the Pattaya Immigration Police for authorizing extended stays in the Kingdom.

Alakamees confessed to residing in Pattaya for some time now without a passport. He claimed he had the rubber stamp made and was making money by stamping passports for people he knew in the area.

Police charged Alakamees for illegally residing in the Kingdom and for counterfeiting government documents.

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His Holiness the Supreme Patriarch presides over religious week at Wat Yan Sangwararam

A religious week of prayers and offerings was organized at Wat Yan Sangwararam to celebrate the auspicious occasion of His Majesty the King’s 72nd birthday.

The religious week was presided over by His Holiness the Supreme Patriarch. Prayers were chanted continuously from dusk till dawn. 900 monks from temples all over Chonburi joined in the holy proceedings.

900 monks from temples all over Chonburi joined in the holy proceedings during a religious week of prayers and offerings at Wat Yan Sangwararam to celebrate the auspicious occasion of His Majesty the King’s 72nd birthday.

A ceremony was held to offer new robes for the Maha Chakri Pipat Chedi (pagoda). This was to replace the previous cloth that was offered by His Majesty the King and His Royal Highness Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn on the occasion of the Golden Jubilee celebrations to mark His Majesty’s 50 years on the throne in 1996.

Exhibitions were held around the temple complex and alms ere offered to the monks every morning.

Thousands of loyal subjects made a pilgrimage to Wat Yan Sangwararam, which is under the patronage of His Majesty the King.

At night the whole temple complex was lit up by hundreds of thousands of lights. This is according to the belief that the magical powers of Somdej Phra Puthayan Naresuan will rapidly bring light into the darkened hearts of some people in our country so that his Majesty will be happy and bright like the millions of lights of celebration, and that he may continue to protect the whole Thai nation from the darkness and keep us enlightened until eternity.

The festivities came to an end with a beautiful fireworks display lighting up the night sky paying tribute to the HM the King whom we love dearly.

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Local hospitals Y2K ready

Preparations in place

The Association of Private Hospitals in Pattaya announced they feel local hospitals are Y2K ready. Corrective actions are in place for any possible Y2K computer problems.

Hospital Administrative Supervisor Sarit Witayakorn made the Y2K preparedness announcement at a special lecture at the Pattaya Grand Sole Hotel covering Y2K preparations given to an audience of medical personnel. The Director of Bangkok-Pattaya Hospital, Doctor Phichit Kangwonkij chaired the conference.

Sarit Witayakorn announced local hospitals are Y2K ready.

The Bangkok-Pattaya Accident Center is very much aware of the possible dangers that could result from computer failure. The possible catastrophes they are prepared for include large scale accidents on the roadways from inoperative traffic signals and mishaps in the airways.

Officials from private hospitals and government run hospitals in Chonburi have also met to discuss the preparations for possible mishaps, and the private hospitals are considered to be more prepared. There still remains a problem with computerized x-ray equipment and experts from Hong Kong are now working on the corrections required.

Other areas such as blood bank refrigeration, radio communication, hospital instruments and emergency room equipment have already been tested and preparations are in place.

The Bangkok-Pattaya Hospital is preparing for the New Year celebration. The following day will be the final test.

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Banglamung fishermen “muscled” out of area

Mollusk structures keeping fish at boy

About two years ago, researchers were brought in to study the water in the area of Ban Rong Po to determine its feasibility for fish farming. Their initial conclusions showed that the area was indeed suitable for fishing. The researchers even went so far as to invest funds in the fishing business and erect fences to cordon off areas to trap fish. This made the local fishermen very happy.

Then, about a year ago, large numbers of muscles began to appear in the area. Many of the investors turned to raising and harvesting muscles instead of fish. This made the local fishermen very unhappy.

The fishermen were concerned with the many structures built to raise mussels, which prevented fish from entering the area. The fishermen were unable to get a suitable response on the matter locally, so they voiced their concerns with appropriate authorities.

Fishermen from Ban Rong Po and Naklua met with Chonburi and Banglamung Fishing Departments met with the leaders from the Chonburi Department of Natural Resources to iron out fishing vs. muscle harvesting concerns.

Representatives from the Chonburi and Banglamung Fishing Departments met with the leaders from the Chonburi Department of Natural Resources, community leaders and fishermen from Rong Po sub-district at a conference at the Rong Po elementary school on 22 November. The conference meeting centered around area fishing allocations in the bay off Banglamung.

The representative from the Chonburi Fishery Department, Uthai Khrujareun said the identified area has not yet been approved for raising fish. But, he said, he understands the residents’ concern. He added that the department is staffed with people familiar with the fishing industry, and they plan to work with the residents to allocate areas approved for raising fish. He said surveys of the area waters must be completed first and the number of fishermen in the area must be identified before the new allocations can be made.

The local fishermen are still waiting for a final response.

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Australian Children ‘Sell Their Bodies To Survive’

Almost 4,000 young Australians, some under the age of 10, are reportedly selling their bodies to survive. The report by Save The Children blasted the Government for failing to appoint a children’s commissioner or enacting legislation to implement the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

“In Australia today, children are also being sent into detention for the smallest of offences, refugee children are being deprived of their liberty and Aboriginal and rural children are missing out on educational opportunities,” the report said.

Published 10 years after the United Nations Convention on Child Rights was ratified, the report found 3,733 children under the age of 18 engaged in commercial sexual activities. Most were from the state of Victoria, followed by New South Wales and South Australia.

“The majority of cases involved young persons aged 16 to 17 years, but a disturbing finding was a number of 10- to 12-year-olds and some under the age of 10 were reported as participants in commercial sex work,” it said.

“Children engage in commercial sex activities to meet their basic life needs which may include accommodation, food, drugs, cigarettes, alcohol, clothing and money to buy goods and services.” The report’s author, Andrew Johnson, said one of the fundamental problems was that Australia’s political system failed to provide a mechanism to represent children.

“These children are not prostitutes, they’re simply selling their bodies to survive, to eat and stay alive,” he said.

Reports from sex worker organisations indicated the problem was getting worse. Child pornography was widespread and there was growing evidence of child sex tourism. The report recommended decriminalising prostitution and establishing a uniform age of consent for males and females across Australia.

The Government came under fire for its failure to promote the rights of children. The report charges that, “No agencies in Australia have been given the authority or explicit role or resources to monitor Australia’s compliance with the Convention in any effective way.”

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Updated by Boonsiri Suansuk