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Vol. XIV No. 38
Friday September 22 - September 28, 2006

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by Saichon Paewsoongnern

 

NEWS
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Thaksin overthrown in bloodless coup

Pattaya to invest 350 million baht to end flooding

PBTA urges action on crime before high season begins

City Scope: High-speed internet service will link all official units

Australian who splashed vendors is beaten with iron bar

British man arrested for statutory rape of 12-year-old girl

Reporter who had gold necklace snatched says this type of crime happens daily


Thaksin overthrown in bloodless coup

Thai coup leader pledges elections in one year; hints Thaksin could face prosecution

Denis D. Gray
Bangkok, Thailand (AP) - The army commander who seized Thailand’s government Wednesday in a quick, bloodless coup pledged to hold elections by October 2007, and hinted that ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra may face prosecution.
Gen. Sondhi Boonyaratkalin led a precision takeover overnight without firing a shot, sending soldiers and tanks to guard major intersections and surround government buildings while the popularly elected Thaksin, accused of corruption and undermining democratic institutions, was abroad.

Thailand’s Army Commander-in-Chief Gen. Sondhi Boonyaratkalin speaks during a press conference in Bangkok Wednesday, Sept. 20 (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

Asked if there would be moves to confiscate Thaksin’s vast assets, Sondhi said at a news conference that “those who have committed wrongdoings have to be prosecuted according to the law.” He did not elaborate.
A British government spokesman said Thaksin was en route to Britain, but had no meetings scheduled with Prime Minister Tony Blair or other officials.
“Any citizen of the world is free to visit the United Kingdom providing their paperwork is in order,” he said on condition of anonymity, in line with government policy.
“He can come spend his money at Harrods if he wants to,” the spokesman said, referring to the famous up-market London department store.
A reporter for state-owned Thai radio station MCOT who was traveling with Thaksin said he boarded a flight from New York - where he’d canceled a scheduled address to the U.N. General Assembly - to London, where the tycoon-turned-politician has a residence.

People in Bangkok presented roses to soldiers as a sign of moral support. (AP photo/Sakchai Lalit)
Sondhi said he would act as prime minister for two weeks until a new leader is found, that an interim constitution would be drafted within that time, and that Thailand’s foreign policy and international agreements will not change.
Thailand will hold a general election in October 2007, he said.
Sondhi said the coup, Thailand’s first in 15 years, was necessary to heal mounting rifts in Thai society, and to end government corruption, insults to the revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej, and what the general called Thaksin’s attempts to destroy democratic institutions.
Most residents and tourists in Bangkok, a city of more than 10 million, were calm and unfazed Wednesday.
About 500 people gathered outside army headquarters Wednesday afternoon lending moral support to the military and chanting “Thaksin Get Out!”
The newly created Council for Democratic Reform under Constitutional Monarchy put Thailand under martial law and declared a provisional authority loyal to the king, seizing television and radio stations and ordering government offices, banks, schools and the stock market to close for the day.
Nearly 20 tanks - their gun barrels festooned with ribbons in the monarch’s color, yellow - had blocked off the Royal Palace, Royal Plaza, army headquarters and Thaksin’s office at Government House.
Tanks began shifting from their downtown Bangkok positions Wednesday evening, but it was unclear if they were withdrawing. Military public relations officials said they could not immediately comment.
The overthrow was needed “to resolve the conflict and bring back normalcy and harmony among people,” Sondhi said on nationwide TV.
“We would like to reaffirm that we don’t have any intention to rule the country and will return power to the Thai people as soon as possible,” he said, flanked by the three armed forces chiefs and the national police chief.
A statement from coup leaders urged workers and farmers - Thaksin’s key constituents - to remain calm, and said unauthorized gatherings of more than five people were punishable by six months in prison under martial law.
The Nation newspaper in Bangkok said several senior government officials and others close to Thaksin had been arrested, their fates unknown.
It said they included Deputy Prime Minister Chitchai Wannasathit and Supreme Military Commander Gen. Ruengroj Maharsaranond.
Agriculture Minister Sudarat Keyuraphan, one of Thaksin’s closest political associates, fled to Paris with her family, it said.
Reacting to rumors that he would be appointed interim prime minister, central bank head Pridiyathorn Devakula said, “I haven’t been approached and I don’t know whether I am a candidate.”
He said that the public has accepted the coup, so it was unlikely to have much impact on foreign confidence in the country, and that the Thai baht currency had recovered from its overnight low with no intervention.
In New York, a Thai business executive who said he was speaking on behalf of Thaksin said the toppled leader was not resigned to his fate.
“The prime minister has not given up his power. He is not seeking asylum,” said Tom Kruesopon, chief executive officer of Boon Rawd Trading International Co., who said he was traveling with Thaksin.
But Thaksin’s official government spokesman, Surapong Suebwonglee, also traveling with him, was gloomier. “We have to accept what happened,” he said. “We are not coming back soon.”

Visibly moved by the turn of events a man brings his young daughter to hand out roses to soldiers involved in the military coup (AP Photo/Ed Wray)
Some Thais welcomed the coup as a necessary climax to months of demands for Thaksin’s resignation amid allegations of corruption and electoral skullduggery, and a worsening insurgency in south Thailand.
A few dozen people raced over to the prime minister’s office overnight to photograph the tanks.
“This is exciting. Someone had to do this. It’s the right thing,” said Somboon Sukheviriya, 45, a software developer snapping pictures with his mobile phone.
The U.S. State Department said it was uneasy about the takeover and hopes “the Thai people will resolve their political differences in accord with democratic principles and the rule of law.”
Australia said it was concerned to see democracy “destroyed,” and New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark said her country “condemns” the coup.
Japan called for efforts to quickly restore democracy in Thailand, where many leading Japanese businesses have factories and affiliates.
Sondhi, 59, known to be close to Thailand’s constitutional monarch, is a Muslim in a Buddhist-dominated nation.
He was selected last year to head the army, partly because it was felt he could better deal with the insurgency in the south, where 1,700 people have been killed since 2004. He has urged negotiations with the separatists, in contrast to Thaksin’s hard-line approach.
Thaksin, a telecommunications tycoon before entering politics, handily won three general elections after coming to power in 2001 and garnered great support among the rural poor for his populist policies.
But he alienated the urban middle class, intellectuals and pro-democracy activists. They began mass street demonstrations late last year, charging him with abuse of power, corruption and emasculation of the country’s democratic institutions, including media that were once among Asia’s freest.

Associated Press reporters Jocelyn Gecker, Sutin Wannabovorn, Rungrawee C. Pinyorat and Alisa Tang contributed to this story.


Pattaya to invest 350 million baht to end flooding

Flooding was especially deep on Pattaya’s main roads.

Vimolrat Singnikorn and Noppadon Chaichana
Just as Pattaya’s citizens were beginning to get a handle on the clean up from the September 12 floods, worse flooding hit the area in the early morning hours of September 14.
Heavy rains, beginning around 3 a.m. Sept 14 and continuing non-stop for hours, caused heavy flooding of streets, houses and shops. The rains were brought in by a depression in the North China Sea, and proved to be too much for Pattaya’s drainage system.
The flooding was especially heavy along Pattaya’s main roads. There was severe traffic congestion along First, Second and Third roads, and vehicles came to a standstill in many areas. Police and volunteers eventually closed the roads to traffic.
In other areas including Soi Buakhao, Soi Taeng Mo, Naklua Market and Soi Pacific, floodwaters were 60-80 centimeters deep. Sand along many stretches of the beaches was washed away and trees in beach areas were felled.
Pattaya was not the only area to suffer, as many other areas of Thailand were affected. In the lower central region, Bangkok and Greater Bangkok experienced heavy rain, as did provinces including Ratchaburi, Rayong, Kanchanaburi, Prachinburi, Sra Kaew, Phetchaburi, Chumphorn, Surat Thani, Ranong, Phang Nga and areas of Chonburi.
Mayor Niran Wattanasartsathorn said the floods in Pattaya City were caused by high seas and drainage systems that were unable to cope with the heavy rains. He said that Pattaya isn’t ignoring the problem and city officials are urgently assisting those affected.
Relief services were mobilized to provide over 350 packs of dry rice and other supplies to flood victims in the Soi Post Office Community in Naklua. Deputy Mayor Wattana Chantanawaranon led these relief efforts to householders whose homes had been damaged by the floodwaters.
Wattana said that he and Mayor Niran Wattanasartsathorn had gone out to inspect all of the stricken areas during the day, and administrators and councilors had been directed to supply support to the victims.
However, handing out bags of rice, although welcome by some, was a rather weak response and does nothing to address the loss of business suffered by merchants in the flooded areas, or the major damage inflicted upon automobiles, household appliances and structural damage to houses, nor does it address individual clean up of the mud and smell left after the floods receded. What people needed more was to know what happened and whether or not it will happen the next time it rains.
Naklua resident Nanthawat Shuaymee summed it up: “I would like to see the city implement long-term measures to put an end to the flooding, as the floods damaged my property and furniture.”
Virat Jirasripaithoon, director of Pattaya’s sanitary department, said that heavy rains were not the only cause of the floods, as rain water flowing in from Nongprue and Nong Plalai congregates in Pattaya, as the two districts are located higher than Pattaya.
“The water that flowed in amassed in Central Pattaya, Soi Lengki and Soi Buakhao. Drainage pipes in these sois have a diameter of 4 meters and could only drain off about 10% of the 10,000 cubic meters of accumulated water … the city currently only has two drainage points to drain water into the sea, at Sapan Yao (Long Bridge) Naklua and the South Pattaya Canal near the Siam Bayshore Hotel. This is the reason that water was drained off slower than it fell,” said Virat.
Virat also said that the Water Treatment Plant treats water and then releases it into the sea. He said during heavy flooding, the city turns on two drainage pumps located at Walking Street and Bali Hai Pier. The drainage pipes at these two locations are 12 inches in diameter and are assisted by six pumps. During high seas, the pumps cannot be switched on because the water just flows back on itself and damages the pumps.
Virat went on to say that the city does have long-term plans to prevent flooding, and is in the process of requesting a 350 million baht budget for the 2007 fiscal year to implement a “flood prevention” project. This will involve constructing barriers to block water flowing into Pattaya at five points, namely: Soi Wat Thamsamakki, Soi Nernplabwan, Soi Khaonoi, Soi Haa Thanwa, and Siam Country Club Road, all located outside Pattaya’s city boundaries. A lake will be dug on 21 rai of land at Huay Yai and the water flowing into Pattaya blocked off at the above five points will be directed there, then fed into reservoirs for further use.
Arunrasamee Boonkerd, chief of Pattaya’s social services, said she and city officials are worried as much as anybody about these flooding problems. She said city hall deployed workers from the public health department, social welfare department, and life guard unit to go out help flood victims. She said the city has distributed hundreds of sand bags to house and shop owners situated in flood prone areas, as well as daily necessities and first aids kits.
Arunrasamee also said that city officials have contacted the Redemptorist Vocational Training School for the Disabled to help fix, for free, flood victims’ electrical devices, such as television sets, refrigerators, computers and stereos that were ruined by the water.
Meanwhile, the rainy season doesn’t officially end until mid-October.

Pattaya has a new waterfall! But thank goodness it was only temporary.

Traffic was at a standstill on 2nd Road behind Royal Garden Plaza. (Photo courtesy of Ron Gingerich)

Businesses within city limits suffered heavy losses.


PBTA urges action on crime before high season begins

Vimolrat Singnikorn
The Pattaya Business and Tourism Association is worried about the effect that crime might have on tourism during the coming high season.
Mayor Niran Wattanasartsathorn held a meeting at city hall on September 6 to try and find ways of combating the growing crime menace. Niran said that this is top of the agenda for this year, and cutting the crime rate is essential for the protection of tourists and their property.

PBTA President Thanet Supornsahasrungsri says that the city and police need to do more to reduce the crime rate in Pattaya.

The meeting was attended by Pol Col Noppadon Sornsumrarn, superintendent of Banglamung police station, Pol Col Ittipol Ittisarnronnachai, superintendent of Pattaya Immigration, Pol Lt Col Nattasit Boonnuam, deputy superintendent of crime suppression at Pattaya police station, Pol Lt Col Wutthichat Luaensucant, inspector of Tourist Police 4, and PBTA president Thanet Supornsahasrungsri.
Thanet said that at the PBTA’s monthly meeting in August, members had raised the problem of crimes such as snatch-and-run thieving and mugging, and the nuisance caused by prostitutes and transvestites on the beach at night.
All of these problems affect tourism, he said, and business people in Pattaya are very concerned. The high season will begin shortly, and the PBTA is requesting city hall to make a formal request to all its relevant departments and offices to lay out a plan that would in a realistic fashion tackle the crime rate.
Mayor Niran said that Pattaya City has never ignored these problems. If the tourists were unsafe during their stay in Pattaya, then that would have a negative effect on the city’s world tourism image. Tourists would regard Pattaya as an insecure tourism area, and not suitable for their vacation.
The way to combat the problem is to set up a committee to lay out a methodical plan, and this will be done by inviting the police and all associated officers to a discussion together. This would then go forward to project status where it would be submitted to the Pattaya City Council for budget approval.
The meeting appointed Deputy Mayor Ronakit Ekasingh to head the committee, as he is responsible for peacekeeping activities in Pattaya City.
In the interim, police patrols have been stepped up along Beach Road during the evenings, starting from 6 p.m.


City Scope: High-speed internet service will link all official units

Noppadon Chaichana
City hall is working on a project that will speed electronic communications between all official departments and offices.

The city is in the process of setting up the high speed Pattaya City Electronic Level 2 Project to better serve citizens.

On September 6, Deputy Mayor Verawat Khakhay chaired a meeting at Pattaya City Hall for the Pattaya City Electronic Level 2 project, attended by members of the committee for information and electronic development.
Verawat said that the Pattaya City Electronic Level 1 project had set out a plan to install and link all equipment in all official units. The meeting today was a preparation for Level 2. Chokchai Ubonmuang, software manager of the ITSP joint venture, described the technical aspects of the project.
Internet access is currently slow in all official units, which is inconvenient for the public, so the intention is to install a high-speed system. The plan is also to link to a server at Pattaya City Hall along with the Public Health Disaster Center and the 10 schools in Pattaya City.


Australian who splashed vendors is beaten with iron bar

Boonlua Chatree
An Australian visitor who became involved in a dispute with four vendors was attacked by them and beaten with an iron bar, suffering injuries that included a broken left leg.
Police went to the scene at the entrance to Soi Post Office on Beach Road after receiving a report that four men had surrounded Michael Bernard Moane and assaulted him. Moane, age 38, was hit with a one-foot long iron bar. He was transferred to Pattaya Memorial Hospital for treatment.
Ms Sawiwan Nonpanya, Moane’s 32-year-old girlfriend, said that he regularly came to Pattaya for business and that on this latest visit he had been here for more than a month. They were staying at the Nova Park Hotel. Moane went out at 7 p.m. to buy something at Royal Garden Plaza. It started raining, so he sought shelter and had a drink at a bar on Soi Post Office.
After the rain stopped he continued on his way, and Sawiwan said that when he tried to avoid a muddy puddle he accidentally splashed a group of men, who became angry. They took an iron umbrella handle and a wooden stick and hit out at him, breaking his left leg and injuring his right leg. Then they fled. People from nearby baht buses helped Moane before he was rushed to hospital.

The three thugs wai their victim, who lies in hospital with a broken leg.

The assault happened on September 12. On September 15, Pol Col Somnuk Changate, superintendent at Pattaya police station received an order from Pol Lt Gen Jongrak Juthanon, commander of Region 2 that he must bring in the attackers. To this end, Pol Maj Gen Rapeepat Panlawong, deputy commander of Region 2, and Pol Maj Gen A-Nan Charoenchasri, commander of the Chonburi Provincial Constabulary, joined the investigating team and tracked down the attackers.
Police officers were able to arrest three of them: Tawatchai Siwaprapa, 34, of Paholyothin Road, Ladyao, Jatuchak, Bangkok; A-morn Saelim, 27, of Nongprue; and a man identified only as Supakorn, 29, of Nongprue. The fourth gang member, identified as Sit (unknown surname), is still at large.
All three accused men stated that they were CD and watch vendors at the scene. Michael Moane had attempted to avoid a muddy puddle at the beginning of the soi by jumping on the tricycle they used for transporting goods, and he accidentally broke the wooden board on it. The group told Moane he had to pay for the damage, and they demanded 1,000 baht. There was, however, a communications problem, and Moane walked away from the group. They became angry and surrounded him, beating him with an iron bar. They then disappeared before the police could arrest them.
Police charged the three men with assault and injury. The three asked police officers to take them to Pattaya Memorial Hospital to ask Moane to drop the charges against them, and when they met the injured man they saluted him with a wai.
Moane said that he was a property developer in Australia, building and selling houses. He came to Thailand and lent his hand to cooperatively construct homes for disaster victims in Phuket. He had also made donations to the Pattaya Orphanage.
Mayor Niran visited Moane and presented him with a basket of flowers. The mayor said that he regretted the incident and apologized to Michael on behalf of the Thai people in Pattaya. He condemned the perpetrators for having committed such a violent act against our visitors and ordered the police to arrest the remaining accomplice and charge them to the full extent of the law. The mayor said that such acts were detrimental to the image of Pattaya especially in matters of tourism.


British man arrested for statutory rape of 12-year-old girl

Boonlua Chatree
A British national was arrested by the tourist police on September 14 on charges of the statutory rape of a 12-year-old girl, following the issue of an arrest warrant by Pattaya Provincial Court.

Suspect Martin Garry Ward is remanded to custody for the alleged statutory rape of a 12-year-old girl.

Pol Lt Gen Panya Mamen, commander-in-chief of the tourist police, together with superintendent of the tourist police headquarters Pol Col Supapol Arunsit and tourist police inspector Pol Lt Col Wuttichart Luaensucant, led a team of officers into the Condo Housing Authority Building on Thepprasit Road at 1 a.m. to seize Martin Garry Ward, aged 40.
Ward was charged with having sex with a girl under the age of 15, whether or not she consented, in connection with the alleged statutory rape of a 12-year-old girl given the alias of Miss Or, it being alleged he paid 2,000 baht to the girl for her services. Taken to Pattaya Tourist Police Station for questioning, Ward denied the charges.
Ward had previously been arrested on September 20 last year for possession of 10kg of dry hashish stick, a Class 5 narcotic, when he was also found to be in possession of 160 packs of Viagra.


Reporter who had gold necklace snatched says this type of crime happens daily

Boonlua Chatree
A reporter who had his gold necklace snatched by motorcycle thieves has complained to Pattaya police station that this type of robbery happens on a daily basis and that the police are not managing to suppress it.
Somboon Panit, 42, a resident of Suk-Em Village in Soi Kaonoi, reported on September 14 that a thief had snatched his 3-baht gold chain, valued at 40,000 baht. Somboon filed a report with the tourist police station. He stated that he was a local reporter and that after finishing work he went back home with his friend by motorcycle. He was the passenger. They rode to the front of Mike Shopping Mall in South Pattaya, and two men came up beside them on a blue-gray Honda Wave and snatched his gold necklace.
He chased the thieves in the direction of Central Pattaya, and then towards Sukhumvit Road but lost them when they turned into Soi Kaonoi. Somboon said he could remember part of the motorbike number plate, and that he remembered the faces of the thieves.
He further said that in Pattaya police station’s jurisdiction, chain snatching occurred every day and that there were over 100 cases a month. Yet the police cannot suppress this type of robbery. He suggested that the police chiefs concentrate on preventing snatch-and-run theft for the peace of mind of locals and tourists alike.



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