Thursday, 18 June 2015 09:39

National Police chief backs legal casinos

BANGKOK, 17 June 2015 - The National Police chief has voiced his personal support for legalizing casinos, as suggested by a group of National Reform Council (NRC) members.

Shrugging off a possible outcry from activists, National Police Chief Pol Gen Somyot Pumpanmuang said that gambling is a favorite pastime for many people, including Thais. He revealed that he would hold a press conference to make his position official one month before his retirement.

According to Pol Gen Somyot, the launch of legal casinos will enable other industries such as hotels and restaurants, tourism and service to enjoy higher revenue, thanks to the country’s geographical advantage compared to other destinations with legalized gambling. The National Police chief affirmed he would make his own website to seek the public’s opinions and suggestions on this issue.

As for the crime-prevention measures, Pol Gen Somyot suggested that all visitors be photographed and recorded in a database prior to entering a gambling establishment. To enhance income distribution, all casinos will be off limits to nearby residents. The National Police chief said part of income from legal casinos would be spent on development projects in various areas, such as education reform and social restructuring.

BANGKOK, 17 June 2015 - A citizen’s network for Thai energy reform has expressed opposition to both the Petroleum Act and the Income Tax Act approved by the Prime Minister.

The group submitted their objection in writing to the Prime Minister's Office, arguing that both pieces of legislation were approved by the Cabinet without first publicizing their details to the public or seeking the public’s input.

The group therefore asked the Prime Minister to withdraw the two acts from the Council of State’s consideration in order to restart the deliberation process with public participation.

BANGKOK, 17 June 2015 - The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation is expected to slash entrance fees to national parks in half from July 1- December 31.

The department it was part of government policy to promote domestic tourism. The entrance fee to national parks across the country will be halved, except for on weekends and national holidays, until the end of this year.

The department said the goal is to encourage local tourists to visit destinations in the Kingdom, particularly business owners, pensioners and students who can travel during weekdays.

The department added that 147 national parks in Thailand are ecosystems with unique wildlife and are considered national treasures. Local and international visitors need to abide by park rules for their own safety and to protect their natural surroundings. For more information, those interested can visit www.dnp.go.th.

BANGKOK, 17 June 2015 - According to the Department of Mental Health’s latest survey, the number of alcohol-related mental disorders is on the rise in Thailand.

The department conducted the national mental health survey every five years to study the link between psychiatric disorders and substance abuse. This year’s survey was conducted on nearly 5,000 subjects aged over 18 across Thailand during July and September of 2013.

The survey found that the prevalence of Thais with mental problems is at 1.9 percent or 1 million people. In this group, 1.8 percent or 900,000 people suffer from depression while 1.6 million people suffer from anxiety. Around 500,000 adults have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

The alarming discovery in the survey is the fact that the prevalence of alcohol drinkers with mental issues is 19.6 percent or 10.1 million people. Compared to other countries around the world, Thailand tops the list, followed by Ukraine, the US, South Africa and Japan.

Alcohol can contribute to the development of mental health problems, as well as exacerbating pre-existing mental health difficulties. It can also reduce inhibitions for an individual to act on suicidal thoughts, which they may not have done if not under the influence of alcohol.

BANGKOK, 17 June 2015 - An advocate group for the interests of the disabled has petitioned the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) to push for the new constitution’s guarantee of universal design.

CDC Chairman Prof Borwonsak Uwanna yesterday received the petition from the network of volunteers for the disabled and the elderly as well as university design ambassadors. The group called for the inclusion of the word “universal design” in section 295 of the new constitution in order to ensure the rights of the disabled, arguing that the inclusion would coincide with the new constitution’s agenda of reducing social inequality by providing physically-challenged persons with equal access to facilities and resources.

Prof Borwonsak welcomed the petition, saying that words such as “universal design” and “citizen empowerment” serve as a paradigm shift towards a humanist constitution that emphasizes the importance of individual rights and equality.

Universal design refers to the international standards of designing information, products, facilities and services in a way that is accessible for all participants, including the elderly and the disabled.

BANGKOK, 17 June 2015 - Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-ocha has instructed all agencies in charge agriculture and natural resources to develop measures to help farmers during the drought crisis. 

BANGKOK, 17 June 2015 - The Prime Minister has instructed disaster mitigation agencies to be on high alert in preparation for the southwestern monsoon expected to make landfall between June 17-21.

BANGKOK, 17 June 2015 - The Fiscal Policy Office (FPO) has reported that the government missed its revenue target for the first eight months of the fiscal year due to disappointing tax collection.

According to FPO Director Kritsada Jinavijarana, the amount of state revenue collected between October 2014 and May 2015 was recorded at 1.37 trillion baht, lower than the target by 56.5 billion baht or 4 percent. The figure, however, represented an increase from the same period of last year by 1.1 percent.

The Director attributed the missed revenue target to several tax-related factors, elaborating that the amount of corporate income tax collected was affected by the economic slowdown while value-added tax and income tax on petroleum were unsatisfactory due to the downtrend of crude oil prices. Moreover, car excise tax collection remained sluggish as the demand for vehicles had not recovered. Import tariff was also down as a result of the tariff reduction measure aimed at boosting the manufacturing sector.

During the eight-month period, the Revenue Department could collect 1.02 trillion baht and the Customs Department 76.9 billion baht, missing their targets by 10.1 percent and 5.9 percent respectively. The Excise Department, on the other hand, managed to bring in 295 billion baht, 4 percent higher than targeted.

Mr Kritsada affirmed that the total revenue, though disappointing, was still within the Finance Ministry’s expectation. He said the ministry is now striving to find measures to manage state revenue collection more effectively in a bid to meet the annual target while ensuring that no extra burden is put on the general public and the business sector at the same time.

BANGKOK, 17 June 2015 - Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Pitipong Puengboon Na Ayutthaya has insisted that the government continues to back agricultural cooperatives.

The Cooperative Promotion Department has launched a new program that is aimed at strengthening the cooperative system in the country.

A new learning center has also been established to educate and inform cooperative members about how to successfully manage the 210 cooperatives in the country.

Mr. Pitipong added that under the policy, the government will focus on promoting fair treatment among members, solving agricultural debt, enhancing their competitiveness and establishing a farmer’s market in every province that is connected to a cooperative market.

The minister stated that agricultural cooperatives have remained stable, citing non-performing loans at present are holding below 4 percent.

BANGKOK, 17 June 2015 - Private companies in the fishing industry have expressed their support for government efforts to eradicate illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing and human trafficking.

Deputy Chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce Poj Aramwattananont as well as six representatives from fishing associations and Charoen Pokphand Foods have announced their determination to support government policy to tackle IUU fishing and human trafficking under law.

Under the agreement, they will not purchase seafood and will terminate buying contracts with suppliers found to have violated human rights or the Fisheries Act 2015.

Dr. Poj assured that the issues surrounding IUU fishing and human trafficking have not affected the export of seafood from Thailand. However, these issues have shed a negative light on the nation.

However, he added that there remained some private companies that did not support the government’s efforts. The Deputy Chairman said that he believed the European Union and the United States will develop a more positive outlook towards Thailand and its ranking on the Human Trafficking Watch List will improve.