Vol. XII No. 19
Friday May 7 - May 13 , 2004

Business News
Community Happenings
Dining Out & Entertainment
Kids Corner
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by Saichon paewsoongnern



HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Tourists flock to Pattaya for Labor Day weekend

Numerous claims of irregularity cited for delay in formal announcement of election results

Service with a smile - even police learn how to do it

Tourism & Sports minister confident in continuing tourist arrivals in Thailand

Chickenpox epidemic hits 20,000

Opposition gears up for censure motion before May 10

Pattaya hotels made aware of need for high standard of service

City officials continue mobile community service campaign

Russian and Lao entrepreneurs taken to the cleaners for illegal distribution

Construction worker commits grisly suicide

Policeman loses two fingers in gang brawl

Police briefs

Police search for killer who cut up man and stuffed body parts into plastic bags

Ride-by thieves arrested

Pattaya travel and tourism stakeholders bubbling with enthusiasm and excitement to host worldwide colleagues

Royal Ploughing Day scheduled for May 7

EU denies travel ban to Thailand

Unrest in Thailand’s south affecting the tourism trade

Tourists flock to Pattaya for Labor Day weekend

Traffic police labor all weekend

Suchada Tupchai

Many tourists from all parts of the country flocked into Pattaya last weekend for the Labor Day long weekend.

Because May 1 fell on a Saturday this year, Monday was designated a public holiday.

Last Saturday morning, many visitors and locals headed for the tourist sites in Pattaya that provided special activities to mark May Day. This resulted in serious traffic jams on every main street in Pattaya and Jomtien.

One traffic policeman on duty said, “These traffic jams are nothing out of the ordinary, as a lot of tourists come to Pattaya over any long weekend. So we, the police, need to increase the number of officers to take care of the many tourist spots and traffic in Pattaya.

“The traffic build-up started at 9 a.m. Most of the cars on the road are from outside Chonburi bringing visitors to Pattaya.

“Anyway, we haven’t forgotten to enforce the campaign against drinking and driving, in order to reduce the number of accidents.”

The Thai government declared May 1 as National Labor Day in 1935. Employees are given a public holiday to celebrate the significance of labor.

Numerous claims of irregularity cited for delay in formal announcement of election results

Election commission bogged down in petitions

Veerachai Somchart

The official results of the Pattaya council elections have still not been released, more than a month after voters cast their ballots.

Pattaya residents are becoming increasingly uneasy and concerned about the unhealthy effects delay is having on the running of the city.

Niran Wattanasartsathorn and his team under the Thai Rak Thai party have been informally named as the winners, but as yet have not been able to begin the new administration.

Vijit Thananchayakul, director of the Chonburi Election Committee said, “After the election, residents began handing in petitions about alleged corruption. We are still in the process of checking these claims. As a result, I cannot indicate the exact date when the formal announcement of the election results will be made.

“We have to be sure, and fair, to those who appealed for an investigation as well as to those who stand accused. If any candidates really committed any crime, they will be legally prosecuted. On the other hand, if the accusations are wrong, the petitioners will be punished if it is found that their accusations were meant either to disrupt the process or to damage candidates’ reputations.

“As regards the claim that children under the age of 18 were allowed to vote in 4th election zone in Kao Tong Thong Temple, we cannot say anything at the moment because it is still under investigation.

“We will make a public announcement on the outcome of all these investigations once they are completed.”

Niran Wattanasartsathorn, unofficially the city mayor said, “These petitions are so numerous that the election committee cannot formally announce the election results yet. As for me, people have a right to draw up a petition if they feel or see something is wrong or illegal about the election ... I want every process to be completed properly.”

Service with a smile - even police learn how to do it

Improving tourist safety and security

Suchada Tupchai

Two hundred tourist police officers have taken part in training to serve and protect with the world-renowned Thai smile.

The two-day seminar, held at the Town in Town Hotel, is part of the central government’s policy to improve tourists’ safety and security, with a smile. The officers participating were from Chonburi and surrounding provinces frequented by an increasing number of tourists.

Pol Maj Gen Anand Jareoncharsri, Chonburi police chief, presided over the opening session of the seminar and spoke on police procedures.

Niti Kongrut of the Tourism Authority of Thailand and senior police officials presented lectures on how to provide better service to tourists, as well as on preventative measures aimed at reducing crime against visitors, Thai and foreign. Participants were given booklets offering basic language tools in English, Japanese and Chinese to enhance communication with non-Thai-speaking visitors.

The seminar comes in the wake of PM Thaksin Shinawatra’s policy of supporting the increase in tourism, which brings in billions of baht annually to the country from international travelers, and boosts provincial economies.

The tourist police fall under both the minister of tourism and sport, Sontaya Khunpluem, and acting national police bureau chief, Pol Gen Suntorn Saikwan.

Tourism & Sports minister confident in continuing tourist arrivals in Thailand

Pattaya is fast becoming destination of choice

Tourism & Sports Minister Sontaya Kunplome dismissed suggestions that tourism numbers could slump this year as a result of the latest round of violence in the southern border region, pointing to newly released figures showing an increase in visitor arrivals at Bangkok’s Don Muang Airport throughout April.

“In the last three days of April, when violence occurred in the south, we still had an average of 24,400 visitor arrivals, up from 10,800 during the same period last year, and 19,200 in 2002,” Sontaya said on May 3.

Sontaya Kunplome

He said that the latest figures from the Immigration Police Bureau show that last month 625,998 tourists arrived at Don Muang Airport, up an impressive 62 percent from the same period in 2003, when tourism numbers had been slashed by fears over Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, and up 8.3 percent from the same period in 2002.

Nonetheless, while predicting steady growth for Thailand’s tourism industry, Sontaya called on the public and private sectors to avoid complacency, warning that both the southern situation and fears over global terrorism could serve to pull down tourist numbers.

On May 5 the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) met with a number of private sector tourism associations to assess the latest tourism situation and draw up approaches to stimulate the tourism market for the remainder of the year.

The tourism & Sports minister also said that during a recent visit to Singapore, he had spoken with members of Singapore’s business community, who had not displayed any particular fears over travel to Thailand. Similar reports were pouring in from across Asia, whether Japan, Korea or Hong Kong, he said, adding that TAT officials were working to ensure that trading partners understood the situation.

Meanwhile, the Kasikorn Research Center said in recent report that the tourism business in Pattaya would have much more room to grow, with tourists expected to spend over 40 billion baht annually here.

The leading think tank noted that the tourism industry in Pattaya has been expanding over the last few years, boosted by such positive factors as convenient transportation, low cost of living, and variety in tourism attractions, which has attracted local and foreign tourists to the well-known resort city.

Following last week’s violence in Thailand’s southern border region, Pattaya now becomes another promising choice of travelers wanting to visit the country’s coastal tourist sites. An estimated two million visitors are expected to visit Pattaya each year, with cash circulation in Pattaya’s local tourism business reaching over 40 billion baht annually. (TNA)

Chickenpox epidemic hits 20,000

The Ministry of Health today warned of a chickenpox epidemic sweeping across Thailand, with over 20,000 people now infected. Figures collected from public health offices across the country, disclosed by Permanent Secretary for Public Health Dr. Vallop Thainuea; show that 22,833 people have been infected with the virus since the beginning of the year, with the highest risk group being children aged 5-9 years.

The highest rate of infection is in the northern region, with an infection rate of 63 per 100,000, while in the southern region the infection rate is only 19 per 100,000. Dr. Vallop urged anyone infected with the virus to take around five days leave from work or school in order to help reduce the chances of contagion. (TNA)

Opposition gears up for censure motion before May 10

The government is left with a matter of weeks to cobble together a defense after the Opposition announced that it would table a censure motion by May 10, while hinting that it could request the impeachment of several government ministers.

Revealing for the first time the possible date of the long-awaited censure motion, Democrat leader Banyat Banthathan said that the Opposition was now preparing information on which to grill the government. If the motion is tabled by May 10, the debate is likely to take place around May24-25, although the exact date and the length of the debate depends on the government and the Speaker. Although Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has mocked the Opposition by calling for a 10-day debate, the Democrat Party has said that around five days should suffice.

Banyat also hinted that the Opposition could try to impeach a number of other ministers in addition to Education Minister Adisai Bodharamik, accused of violating the Constitution, against whom an impeachment motion has already been lodged.

But he allayed fears that the Opposition could drag the prime minister’s daughter into the debate on the alleged leaking of university entrance examination papers, saying, “I can’t yet confirm whether or not we will speak about the leaked questions and the entrance examination, but we will not talk about children’s issues.”

Even before the censure debate, Banyat began laying into the government, questioning the fact it had not made any declaration of its performance over the past year, as stipulated by the Constitution. He also accused Thaksin of failing to keep his pledge to engage in public issues rather than enter politics simply for the purpose of political victory. (TNA)

Pattaya hotels made aware of need for high standard of service

Hotels need to be ready for influx of tourists

Ariyawat Nuamsawat

Pattaya City last week arranged a training program for hotel operators to set benchmarks in the standard of service they provide.

The April 27 event was supported by the Chonburi Medical Science Centre, Banglamung Public Health Office, Banglamung Hospital, and Tourism Authority of Thailand.

Chanutpong Juabmee presided over the opening ceremony for the recent training program to set benchmarks in the standard of service provided by local hotels.

Chanutpong Juabmee, deputy city clerk of Pattaya, presided over the opening ceremony.

As this is an important tourist city, hotels here need to be ready for Thai and foreign guests who are arriving throughout the year. Acceptable standards - including the quality of food, cleanliness, and security - are necessary for every hotel.

This was why the training program took place. Staff from many hotels in Pattaya attended.

City officials continue mobile community service campaign

Maintaining community welfare

Ariyawat Nuamsawat

Pattaya City Health Department officials and volunteers are continuing their monthly community services to outlying areas, to maintain the welfare of the community.

Volunteer nurses provided health consultations and minor check-ups for residents.

Their latest visit, on April 27, was to the Nongpankhae community, located behind Wat Boonkanjanarama, south of Pattaya.

Free dental and health check-ups performed by volunteer physicians and free haircuts and pet vaccinations were carried out as part of the activities.

Free haircuts for children and adults - courtesy of vocational students studying their chosen profession.

Rice and dried foodstuffs and recyclable garbage in exchange for eggs were also part of the beneficial services the city provided to residents.

Pattaya police officers took time off from their busy schedules to give advice to residents and entertain them with a song and dance act.

Dental health is a major factor in the regular community services.

As Pattaya expands, there are many groups of residents facing problems due to location and/or low income. Pattaya administrators have seen the need and committed themselves to helping these communities as well as listening to their problems.

Russian and Lao entrepreneurs taken to the cleaners for illegal distribution

... of genital cleaning liquid

Foreign crime suppression officers have arrested a Russian and a Lao national in South Pattaya after undercover officers bought a bottle of genital-cleaning solution from them.

The sting operation was part of a regional police investigation into their activities.

Vladimir Maltsev and Piramith Inthasine were arrested in front of the Susan Bar for illegally selling “Piramistine”.

Vladimir Maltsev, 49, and Piramith Inthasine were arrested in front of the Susan Bar on April 25 with three bottles of the sanitary cleaner and marked bank notes in their possession. The pair were taken into custody.

The two allegedly admitted to selling the cleaner to foreign tourists for between 500 and 1,000 baht per bottle. They stored the products at their rented Huay Yai house.

Vladimir said he had brought the bottles of “Piramistine”, used as a sanitary cleaner prior to sexual activity, in from Russia and had sold most of the stock before returning to Russia to purchase more.

Police charged the pair with illegally importing items for sale without paying excise duties, distributing products without Thai FDA approval and working in the kingdom without relevant permits.

Construction worker commits grisly suicide

Jumps in front of moving freight train

Boonlua Chatree

A 57-year-old construction worker, identified only as Mr Nar, committed suicide by jumping in front of a cargo train on its way to Khon Kaen from Rayong at around 1 a.m. on April 25.

Police and Sawang Boriboon personnel arrived on the scene, located in the Wat Thamasamakee community, where almost 100 people had gathered. Police ordered Sawang Boriboon personnel to collect what was left of Nar.

Residents told police that they last saw the man purchasing a meal and drinking a bottle of lao khao (rice whisky) and heard him shout, “I want to die,” before he jumped into the path of the oncoming train.

Nar, a local construction worker, had apparently been depressed about his life, being poor and uneducated, and decided to end it all.

The 19-carriage freight train stopped about 100 meters from the point of impact.

The remains of the deceased were taken to Banglamung Hospital, while officers try to piece together the chain of events leading up to the suicide and locate his relatives.

Police questioned the train driver.

Policeman loses two fingers in gang brawl

Thumbs down to unwelcome pugilists - literally

Pattaya police officers moved in to break up a brawl between rival youth gangs in front of an unnamed karaoke bar in south Pattaya. One of them left minus his right thumb and left little finger, severed by a sword-wielding thug.

The crime took place in Rungland Village at 3 a.m. on April 28. The unfortunate officer was Pol Cpl Wisut Musik.

Other officers subsequently arriving at the fight scene inspected the bar and found a lot of blood and broken bottles, taking what they could as evidence.

They then went to Queen Sirikit Hospital in Sattahip to meet with Pol Cpl Wisut who told his colleagues that between five and six young men had been engaged in fisticuffs. When he got between the youths and ordered them to stop, one of them pulled out a 60-centimeter sword and hacked off his finger and thumb.

Doctors sent the injured officer to hospital to have his digits reattached. Police are searching for the violent thugs.

Police briefs

Boonlua Chatree

Local dealer
arrested after
receiving 2200 ya
ba pills from Aranyaprathet

Police officers randomly stopping traffic found 2,200 ya ba pills on a motorcyclist driving past a school in Banglamung on April 24.

Pol Col Wattanachai Srirattanawut, Pol Lt Wisut Chanthong, Pol Maj Khomsorn Mabamrung and other officers were on duty in front of Pattaya 7 School, Moo 11 Tambon Nongprue in Banglamung just after midnight when 26-year-old Boonsong Rakarcha rode past.

They stopped him and discovered 11 plastic bags in his trousers, each consisting of 200 methamphetamine pills. They arrested the alleged drug dealer, who said he had received the pills from a Mr Nuring in Amphur Aranyaprathet in Sakaeo province to sell to customers.

Alleged drug users arrested in raid on South Pattaya

Pattaya police have had a field day at the Rainbow Apartments in South Pattaya, raiding room numbers 302, 304, 305, 322, and 507.

Led by Pol Lt Col Maetee Preecha of the Pattaya police station, the officers moved in on Soi 17, Moo 10, Nongprue, Banglamung.

They found six alleged drug users who were charged with possession of and using a class 1 illegal substance.

The suspects were identified as Pirote Tiemthong, 29; Samanta Goodwill, 39; Kranokwan Shoorat, 25; Saiphon Malee, 24; Kongkiet Keyen, 22; and Tosapol Boontam, 25. All allegedly admitted to taking methamphetamines.

After that, the officers arrested Miss Wiengping Somsoam, 34, at 235/33 in Soi Nakornchai Air, where undercover police had set up a sting operation.

They confiscated four bags of the drug “ice”, a bag of marijuana and 60,000 baht in cash as evidence. Wiengping was charged with possessing illegal drugs with intent to sell.

Drunk falls down from 4th-floor

A Pattaya man is in a coma in hospital with multiple bone fractures after falling from the balcony railing of his fourth-floor room, allegedly after drinking too much.

Police were informed late on Sunday night that 36-year-old Chat Chamrusprasert had accidentally fallen from the fourth floor in Soi 2 on Second Road. Officers found him unconscious and bloodied in front of the building.

An eyewitness said, “Chat is a furniture maker. He had drunk a lot and was trying to sit on the balcony railing. Unfortunately, he lost his balance and fell down to the ground.”

He is reported to have sustained serious injuries, breaking many bones.

Gamblers arrested with princely sum of 220 baht

Two dozen people have been caught red-handed in a Naklua gambling den following an anonymous tip-off.

Criminal investigation officers, led by Pol Col Wattanachai Srirattanawutti of the Banglamung police station, raided the New Market location in the early morning hours on April 28. They found people gambling for cash in the game Hi-Lo.

Pranom Pattanasagoon, the house owner and 23 others were charged with taking part in an illegal activity. A deck of cards, a set of dice and other gambling equipment, as well as 220 baht in cash were confiscated.

Police search for killer who cut up man and stuffed body parts into plastic bags

Body parts found in two separate locations

Boonlua Chatree

Forensic experts are searching for clues into the killing of a man whose body was cut up into several pieces and placed in garbage bags.

On April 25, a resident made the initial grisly find 100 meters from the local office of the Ministry of Social Development and Human Services on Sukhumvit Road.

Banglamung police were called out, to discover the severed legs of a person in a plastic bag.

A doctor from the Banglamung Hospital inspected the limbs and told police that the instruments used to cut off the legs were sharp, as there were signs of “a very clean” cut in the flesh and bones.

Police ordered the remains to be taken to the forensic institute for further examination.

Five days later, on the evening of April 30, police received a second call. Laem Sakulchuea reported he found human remains under a bridge 50 meters from his house in Banglamung. Officers and Sawang Boriboon units arrived find more missing body parts of the man whose legs were discovered on April 25. This time, two arms and the torso were discovered in plastic bags inside a water tank.

Officials found the victim’s identification card, tax documents and a bankbook which identified the dead man as 53-year-old Sittiporn Taliengthong from Samut Prakarn. Tax documents showed that he had been the owner of a contracting company in the construction industry.

The items were taken in as evidence in the case.

Later that evening a woman claiming to be the man’s sister turned up at the Banglamung police station.

Pimpar Wongwisetkul, 32, told police that her brother had been missing from home for a number of days and she had just learnt about his gruesome death.

She said she could not understand why her brother was killed in such an inhumane fashion as he did not have conflicts with anyone.

Police took the woman’s statement and questioned her in great detail.

Police are attempting to piece together the evidence and said they expect to make an arrest soon.

Ride-by thieves arrested

Final ride-by attempt goes wrong

Boonlua Chatree

Two men alleged to have carried out a series of ride-by snatches on a motorcycle have been arrested after they tried to steal a gold chain from a foreigner.

Pattaya police arrested Pathatee Sarrarut and Somchart Aiyala, both 25 years old, on April 22.

Pathatee Sarrarut and Somchart Aiyala won’t be stealing any more gold necklaces for a while, unless they try to accomplish the feat from inside a jail cell.

Their final attempt, for now, at stealing a gold necklace went bad, as not only did they not manage to snatch the gold, but they were also arrested in the process.

At about 1 a.m., police went to Soi Bua Khao after a 71-year-old foreigner reported an attempt to steal his gold necklace. He said he had just arrived in front of Mike Shopping Mall on Pattaya Second Road on a taxi motorcycle when a dark blue Honda Wave ridden by two Thai men stopped close to him.

One of them tried to snatch his gold necklace. Fortunately, he could not get it and they fled the scene.

The foreigner then alerted the police who shortly after arrested the two men in front of Toyota Karaoke Restaurant in Soi Buakao.

The investigation revealed that Pathatee and Somchart had allegedly committed the same crime many times in Pattaya and sold the stolen belongings for money to buy amphetamines and to visit venues looking for women to satisfy their lust.

Further investigations into the pair’s activities are underway.

Pattaya travel and tourism stakeholders bubbling with enthusiasm and excitement to host worldwide colleagues

Pattaya is to host the 67th Skal World Congress, a prestigious six-day gathering of over 1,500 international travel professionals and their families that will definitely add to the fame and prestige of this city as a top-class tourist destination.

The big event takes places in 2006, but planning has already begun and local Skal members are bubbling with new ideas to keep their focus on the gathering.

Ingo Rauber, Pinnacle Resort general manager and club secretary, welcomed Skๅlleagues and proposed the Skal toast.

Pattaya and East Thailand members have come up with the idea of International Tourism Awards to whet the interest of all stakeholders and the city.

On April 22, local Skalleagues gathered at the Pinnacle Resort, Na Jomtien. Host Ingo Rauber, general manager and his team laid out a beachside buffet under the stars for Skalleagues and guests. As president Bob Lee is away in Bahrain attending a regional conference, so Rauber announced the idea of the awards for excellence for the tourism and hospitality industry, which got everybody’s attention.

David Smith read through the preliminary outlines and the 15 categories under which awards will be given.

“The details have yet to be approved by Skal International but the event aims to the first in Thailand to honor outstanding service and product as well as contributions to the travel industry. It will be our version of the Academy awards,” Smith enthused.

National board members, Horst Horning & Vitiya Whangpatanathon (Skal Samui), Bessie Samargachan, treasurer (Skal Bangkok); Malai Sakolviphak, president (Skal Bangkok); board member Andrew Khoo (Skal Pattaya), Bob Lee as 2nd vice president (Skal Pattaya) - board member David (Chiang Mai), Brian Sinclair Thompson as 1st vice president (Skal Bangkok); Somsak Kiratipanich, secretary (Skal Bangkok); and Alsatair Carthew, board member (Skal Bangkok) during the national committee meeting in March this year in Pattaya.

“We will be calling for entries from this month, with the awards made to local players in the travel industry in December. In this way, we want to maintain the interest with members and potential members in the Skal movement,” he added.

The national committee met at the Hard Rock Hotel Pattaya in March to begin preparations for the world congress. Skal members from around Thailand were elected to the national committee and organizing sub-committee.

Pattaya Skalleagues elected to the organizing sub-committee were Andrew Khoo, Bob Lee and Peter Malhotra.

Following the national meeting in March, Malai Sakolvipak, Skal Thailand president said, “We have discussed the preparations of the 67th Skal World Congress from October15-20, 2006,which will take place in Pattaya for the first time. This occasion also will mark the 50th anniversary of Skal International Thailand and we are proud to host this congress.”

With the follow-up meeting last month, local Skal members and Pattaya stride towards a bright future and benefits that are associated with hosting this major congress. They will continue to drum up support for the event and prepare for the more than 1,500 international travel and tourism professionals and their families meeting here in Pattaya.

For more information on Skal visit http://www. Skalpattaya.org

Royal Ploughing Day scheduled for May 7

Suchada Tupchai

Farming has been a major career in human history. Food and many essential goods come from agricultural production - including clothes, medicine and other natural everyday needs.

In Thailand, this job is considered to be very significant and beneficial as it brings abundant profit to Thai people and the country. Hence, in May every year we celebrate the benevolence of agriculturists in a day called Royal Ploughing Day (Peuch Mongkol Day in Thai).

On Royal Ploughing Day, a rite is performed in which seeds are the main objects. Apart from the fertility of land and sufficient water, it is believed that special seeds are an essential part in bringing plentiful produce.

It combines two rituals: “Peuch Mongkol” and “Rak Nakwan” (the first field ploughing). In the former, seeds like rice grain, corn, bean, sesame, etc., are blessed to remove all signs of bad luck from them and make them provide abundant produce. The latter is the ploughing ritual, starting to sow the seeds in the ground to signal the beginning of the cultivation season.

The royal ploughing rites originally took place in the Sukhothai period over 700 years ago and continued into the Ayutthaya period.

However, during the reigns of Rama I to III, Buddhist rituals were removed and only Brahman rituals were performed. Later in Rama IV’s time, the Buddhist ritual was rearranged and called “Peuch Mongkol”. So the two rituals combined are known as “Royal Peuch Mongkol Charod Pranangkan Rak Nakwan”, where Peuch Mongkol is the Buddhist component and Rak Nakwan the Brahman.

Today, the rituals are performed in the royal traditional form except for some parts that have been adapted to the modern era. The King and Queen usually preside over the ceremony every year. At the close of the rite, people who come to observe the rituals always hurriedly pick up the seeds sown in the ground. They believe that the seeds will bring them and their families good luck and prosperity.

Royal Ploughing Day is held every year at the Royal Park or Sanam Luang in Bangkok. It is also scheduled as national agriculture day.

EU denies travel ban to Thailand

On April 29 the European Union (EU) dismissed fears that it had issued a warning against EU citizens traveling to Thailand, but admitted that a number of individual EU member states had advised their nationals to avoid traveling to the country’s southern border region unless it is strictly necessary.

In a meeting that was supposed to be focused on the expansion of the EU on May 1, EU representative Klauspeter Schmallenbach found himself hounded by journalists wishing to know whether or not rumors of an EU-wide travel ban were true. Denying the reports, however, Klauspeter said that travel warnings were at the discretion of individual member states.

However, Dutch Ambassador, Gerard JHC Kramer, conceded that a number of EU member states, including the Netherlands, had warned their nationals against traveling to the southern region unless it is strictly necessary. Nonetheless, he stressed that the Dutch ban applied only to the three southern border provinces of Yala, Narathiwat, and Pattani, and not to Thailand as a whole.

Meanwhile, Australia has also warned their nationals to avoid traveling to Thailand’s southern border region and Malaysia’s coastal areas. The warning was seen in the Australian Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministries’ websites, saying that Australian people should avoid traveling to Thailand’s four southern border provinces of Yala, Narathiwat, Pattani, and Songkhla, which are the focus of this year’s spate of violence and unrest.

The on-line warning also said that Australian nationals should also exercise caution when traveling to Thailand’s southern Satun Province and areas along the Thai-Malaysian border. A number of Australian tourists visit Thailand’s southern resort islands of Phuket and Samui in Surat Thani Province every year.

The warning said that Australian people should also be more careful when visiting Malaysia’s coastal areas and the Sabah State, where they are at risk of being targets of kidnapping and criminal gangs, as well as separatists from the Philippines’ southern region. (TNA)

Unrest in Thailand’s south affecting the tourism trade

A statement issued on April 29 by the Pattani United Liberation Organization (PULO) warning foreigners to stay away from Thailand’s southern provinces, has thrown the country’s tourism industry into disarray.

A Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) spokesman told TTG Daily News on April 30 its overseas offices had been flooded with enquiries from anxious travelers wanting to know whether it was safe to visit Thailand.

“We are trying to work out a response. All we can do is to try to make it clear the threat is in the far south of the country, more than a thousand kilometers from Bangkok,” said the spokesman.

Thai Hotels Association (THA) vice president, Prakit Chinamourphong, said violence in the south had devastated holiday bookings even before the tragic events when 107 people, mostly Muslims, were killed.

“But this PULO threat has considerably worsened the outlook because it is not confined to Yala, Pathani, Narathiwat and Songkla; it is also threatening neighboring provinces. We have to take the threat seriously. These people are angry,” he said.

Meanwhile, the US, the UK, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, France, Australia, Canada and numerous other countries have posted advisories warning their nationals against non-essential travel to Thailand’s south.

The US advisory said, “We recommend against all non-essential travel to these four provinces - Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and Songkla.” Further updates to include Phuket and other southern were expected.

The managing director of one of Thailand’s leading inbound tour firms, requesting anonymity said, “Thailand is the cornerstone of tourism to Asia. If the security situation deteriorates here the ramifications will be serious for the whole region.” (TTG Asia)

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