Pol. Lt. Col. Jirat Phichitpai, the Deputy Superintendent of Narcotics Suppression Bureau, is the founder and administrator of Ban Phoonsri Uppathum Drug Treatment Center in Soi Phothisan off the Pattaya-Naklua Road. The drug treatment center has provided treatment, at no cost, to more than 26,000 people since 1991.
Pol. Col. Jirat, 57, continues to fight the drug epidemic taking over the nation’s youth, and uses the motto “doing good reciprocates good”. His tireless efforts and concern for the welfare of the nation’s youth have continued over the years with no desire for personal recognition but only a deep concern for the future of the nation and society as a whole.
After years of experience working with young people caught up in the quagmire of drug addiction, Pol. Col. Jirat believes the causes are related to young people’s thirst for the unknown, induced by peer pressure and the excitement associated with the taboo. The factors involved are further compounded by environmental conditions in early life, including lack love and understanding in the home.
Pol. Col. Jirat’s policy is to rehabilitate rather than arrest. The center receives its funding from private donations.
30% decline resulting in B12 billion losses anticipated
In the wake of terrorist attacks in America and the resulting war on terrorism, the Tourist Authority of Thailand anticipates a huge loss in tourism totaling more than B12 billion, affecting 3,000 locations in 52 provinces nationwide. Four and five star hotels are expected to take the biggest losses.
Members of the Pattaya Business and Tourism Association (PBTA) met last week to discuss plans in preparation of the tourism drop-off. A large number of foreign tourists traveling to Thailand come from Europe and North America, and cancellations have already begun.
Additionally, the number of Thais traveling abroad is also expected decrease sharply. The TAT is changing marketing strategies to make up for the losses, targeting those groups normally attracted to North America, the Middle East and Central Asia by promoting family packages, sports, and health.
Manit Boonchim, director of the TAT central region 3 office in Pattaya, said that the number of tourists arriving in Thailand had already significantly dropped in the first nine months (Jan - Sep). The targeted number of 10.3 million tourists only reached 7.5 million during that time span.
However, statistics taken from local travel databases indicate reservations are nearly booked for the coming high season. A travel agent at the meeting said that cancellations from some areas are understandable, but business from other areas, such as Russia, continues unabated.
It is still too early to determine the full affects on tourism from current events, but the PBTA decided to review their promotional plans. The length of the campaign against terrorism and whether it is contained in Afghanistan or spreads to other areas will determine more.
The PBTA also announced at the meeting that all police agencies in Pattaya have received orders from the National Police Bureau to increase their diligence and coordinate their actions with the immigration police and the foreign crime suppression center in Pattaya. The increased alertness is to prepare for any unexpected fallout from the current situation and to insure tourist safety is well cared for under any circumstance. The agencies include the tourist police, district and city police, as well as regional police and highway police.
Thailand is still regarded as a safe destination with no local unrest similar to what is going on in other countries.
Members at the meeting agreed to a suggestion from Surat Mekhawarakul, PBTA president, to appoint a committee of experts to closely monitor the situation and identify all possible scenarios that could have a negative affect on local tourism and related business.
Other ideas surfacing during the meeting included organizing monthly activities to stimulate tourism locally, and visiting nearby provinces to consult area businesses on how to mutually promote more business.
US millitary use coming under scrutiny
After the initial idea of turning U-Tapao into an international airport was seemingly deserted, the most recent project of turning the naval airbase into a global transpark - a regional hub of aviation and manufacturing bases - has been overshadowed by U-Tapao’s controversial utilisation by the United States.
The United States has for some time been using U-Tapao naval airbase for military missions. According to a Thai-US logistics agreement, Washington is allowed to land its aircraft at U-Tapao, or at any other Thai military airbase, without having to tell Thai authorities what the planes were carrying, where they were heading or the nature of their missions.
What to do with U-tapao Airbase?
The armed forces will ask the government to review the controversial Thai-US logistics agreement, which expires in two years.
The Petroleum Authority of Thailand has also been making money by supplying fuel to the US aircraft at U-Tapao. Several KC-135 tanker aircraft and C-130 transport planes have been at U-Tapao. Each KC-135 can fill up the tanks of 12 fighter jets, each consuming 1,000 pounds of fuel an hour. A C-130 uses about 5,000 pounds an hour.
The planes came from Okinawa after the Sept 11 attacks. A VIP aircraft was also reported at U-Tapao, but it was not known who owned it.
As well as the US, Singapore and Japan also last month asked for landing rights at U-Tapao, Supreme Commander Narong Yuthawong was recently quoted as saying.
U-Tapao, located in sub district Sattahip, Chonburi, was used by US forces in the Vietnam War in the 70s. During the Gulf War in 1991 Thailand allowed US planes to use facilities at U-Tapao to launch attacks on Iraq.
U-Tapao’s runways are long enough for B-52 bombers to take off. So far, no combat aircraft have been landing at the naval airbase. US bombers, such as the B-52 Strato-fortress, can be refuelled in the air without landing in Thailand.
The U-Tapao transpark plan was revived earlier this year after it was temporarily put on hold due to financial problems. Under the plan, the airbase would be transformed into a commercial airport with adjoining factories supplying the “just-in-time” demands of industries abroad. The 1.2 billion baht project was planned to be finished by next year.
Protest city’s failure to honor agreement
A group of more than 50 residents from Moo 4 and Moo 8 in Huay Yai sub-district on October 9 blocked off the road entering into Pattaya’s soon to be discontinued trash disposal site adjacent to their homes. The group was protesting the city’s continuing to use the site after agreeing to close it last April and restore the area to its natural state.
Wutisak Rermkichakarn (center), deputy city mayor in charge of sanitation, looks over the situation and discusses alternatives with a representative of the protesters at the Huay Yai trash disposal site.
The Huay Yai site has been operating for nearly 15 years and has exceeded maximum capacity, creating an unpleasant situation that has long been a concern among local residents.
Representatives from area communities have made their complaints known many times in the past, and last July they presented a petition to the mayor of Pattaya calling for the city to do something to correct the unsanitary conditions caused from the overflowing trash.
Residents declared they could no longer put up with the stench and disease from the overflowing mountain-sized heap of trash that they say has contaminated the area’s underground water source, causing sickness throughout local communities.
The agreement with the city included a plan to purchase land adjacent to the site to accommodate the proper burial of collected trash, and later turn the area into useful recreational sites for the community.
Wutisak Rermkichakarn, deputy mayor in charge of sanitation who was dispatched to the site to subdue the situation, admitted the city’s responsible officials might have been negligent in attending the problem.
The deputy mayor went on to say that the opening of the new trash disposal site in Khao Mai Kaew is experiencing some delays. He cited contract changes as being the problem, as the Chatrakaew Trash Service Company is asking for compensation for the extra 10 kilometers they will need to travel to get to the new site. Pattaya officials and Chatrakaew representatives are currently in negotiations.
The protestors eventually realized they had little alternative and finally dispersed after the deputy mayor bartered for more time. They were given assurances that by mid-November the land deal for 26 rai next to the overflowing site would be finalized. Within a few weeks the work closing out the trash disposal site would be underway, Wutisak said, and all trash would be redirected to the new site in Khao Mai Kaew.
Burapha University polls opinions on first 6 months
63.6% of the people interviewed in a recent Burapha University poll covering the Eastern Seaboard were “fully satisfied” with the Thaksin government’s overall conduct during the first six-months in office. 8.6% were unsatisfied and 27.8% were without opinion.
Burapha University polled 2,553 people from eight provinces in the Eastern Region. The survey was conducted September 8-11 and included Chonburi, Trat, Chachoengsao, Nakhon Nayok, Rayong, Chanthaburi, Prachin Buri, and Sa Kaeo.
Similar approval percentages were received in response to the question of whether Thaksin Shinawatra should continue as the country’s prime minister.
Of those surveyed, 49.7% doubted the statement made by Prime Minister Thaksin claiming, “Poverty would be eradicated within 10 years.” 28.6% said it was impossible, whilst 21.7% said it was possible.
69.8% said their lives were unchanged since the Thaksin government took over six-months ago; 24.2% responded favorably saying their situations have improved while 6.0% said life was worse.
When asked what government policies were considered to be most beneficial to correcting the nation’s problems, the chief responses were the drug suppression policy and the 30 baht medical coverage policy. Other policies considered as having significant value were the one million baht village fund scheme, organizing social order, the one tambon-one product scheme, eliminating corruption, farmers’ debt relief, reforming the ministries and changing provincial governors to chief executive officers.
Opinions on which ministers and their ministries were most productive, the Ministry of Public Health received the most favorable response, followed by the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Interior.
The 10 most pressing problems requiring correction by the government, in order, started with the high cost of living (and low salaries), drug addiction and trafficking, unemployment, corruption, crime, educational reform, low cost of agricultural produce, health care and sanitation, farmer’s debts and the lack of investment funds.
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Chinnaporn Sungwanlek, assisted by Boonsiri Suansuk.