Red shirt leaders whereabouts still unknown
Khmer Defense Minister Gen. Tea Banh (left) and Thai Defense Minister Gen. Prawit Wongsuwan (right) sign cooperative agreements on border-crossing regulations, labor cooperation, joint border patrols, landmine eradication, maritime safety enhancements and trade cooperation.
While Thai and Cambodian military officials pledged at last month’s General Border Committee meeting in Pattaya to work more closely on counter-terrorism, Khmer Defense Minister Gen. Tea Banh had few answers regarding the location of one of Thailand’s most-wanted fugitives.
At a post-meeting press conference Oct. 30 at the Dusit Thani Hotel, Tea said that while many assume Arisman Pongruangrong, a leader of the red-shirt antigovernment movement, is hiding in Cambodia, he doesn’t know for certain. The defense minister also sidestepped touchy questions over whether red shirt rebels are undertaking weapons training in the Cambodian kingdom. Tea said only that it was a “delicate matter” and that he could not disclose any other information.
The quarterly border meeting otherwise covered routine matters, with Tea and Thai Defense Minister Gen. Prawit Wongsuwan signing cooperative agreements on six other topics, including border-crossing regulations, labor cooperation, joint border patrols, landmine eradication, maritime safety enhancements and trade cooperation.
Tea also used the occasion to seek medical treatment at Bangkok Hospital Pattaya, which picked him up after his hurried appearance at the press conference.
Crime victims will soon have another reason to say “oh thank Heaven for 7-Eleven.”
Starting Nov. 1, 150 of the ubiquitous convenience store outlets will begin doing double duty as police boxes, allowing those needing police assistance to call for an officer to respond within five minutes.
Tourist Police Maj. Arun Promphan said 7-Elevens are an obvious choice as they are located on virtually every street and are open around the clock. Adding so many crime reporting stations will boost Pattaya’s safety image and trust of the public, he said.
The new stations are necessary, he added, because many times crime victims don’t have a mobile phone or change to use a pay telephone. Also, some were unsure where to go at all for help.
The program will begin with a limited number of outlets in Pattaya and Banglamung and will expand to 150 stores after the Royal Thai Police signs a contract with C.P. 7-Eleven (Public) Ltd. Crime report forms will be available in four languages and the Tourist Police will train 7-Eleven employees on how to handle victims and call for police help quickly.
Similar efforts are also being planned for tourist areas of Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Koh Samui and Phuket.
Halfway through his first term, Pattaya Mayor Itthiphol Kunplome touted fourteen achievements that, he says, have made Pattaya a more-livable city.
About 500 bureaucrats and community leaders gathered Oct. 21 for the mayor’s “state of Pattaya” address. He said in the past two years he has undertaken “five plans, seven creative initiatives, 13 strategies and 14 priority projects.” Many of those are complete, some underway and some still in the planning stage.
Topping that list of priorities was infrastructure, which the mayor claims has seen improvements thanks to the city’s efforts to involve the public. Specific infrastructure projects, such as improving the water supply to Koh Larn (No. 3) and improvements to Sukhumvit Road and connecting sois (No. 5) and paving of dirt roads (No. 10), also made the list.
Two other infrastructure items the mayor claimed as achievements are more debatable and controversial. Fourth on his list was his pet project to build a downtown monorail, which has drawn considerable condemnation. His claim about better flood prevention and proper water-drainage systems being built would also be roundly disputed by those affected by this month’s heavy rains and flooding.
Itthiphol said other priorities that have made Pattaya a better place are an increase in safety and security (No. 2 on his list) and extension of the 15 years of free education and lunch programs for school kids.
The mayor also celebrated that the city has been spared mass unemployment despite this year’s record slump in tourism.
Other projects put in place during his tenure addressed the needs of the city’s elderly and poor, he said. The ninth achievement on his list was a city program to provide home visits by doctors, adding a virtual 20,000 beds to the city’s health-care system. And the Security Policy Project finally gives poor people a chance to own their own, clean home, he said.
Other projects completed or underway include a new sports facility for the city and continual fairs and markets along the beachfront to provide tourist-revenue and entertainment to Pattaya’s residents, he said.
Finally, he boasted about his administration’s record of keeping the beaches clean and making the oceans cleaner, despite the woeful look of Pattaya’s beaches over the past month.
The night of the living dead? Oooo, scary, scary. Ghosts, zombies, goblins and the walking dead took over Walking Street on Saturday, Oct. 30 in preparation for Halloween the following night. This year’s celebration was the biggest yet, with a city sponsored parade and costume contest.
Nearly the entire beach resort turned into a monster’s bash last weekend when the city sponsored Halloween party kicked off Saturday, Oct. 30.
Deputy Mayor Ronakit Ekasingh (2nd left) and city officials inspect Wong Amat Beach after receiving complaints about the beach bed and umbrella entrepreneurs.
Pattaya continued its battle with beach vendors near The Cove condominium project, cracking down on beach chair vendors who were taking up more than the allowed 60 percent of Wong Amat Beach.
Deputy Mayor Ronakit Ekasingh and municipal enforcement officers swept onto the beachfront behind The Cove construction site at Soi 18/2 and Naklua Road Oct. 14. There they reapportioned lots for seven beach chair vendors and laid out rules to ensure they leave 40 percent of the sand for public use, as is required throughout Chonburi.
The area has been an ongoing battleground between the city and vendors of all types. Many have earned a living on Wong Amat Beach for 20 years or more and are outraged with attempts by condominium owners to close off portions of the public as “private beaches” for their residents.
In January, Ronakit and city enforcers cleared out 50 food and other vendors from the same area, leading to complaints the city was protecting the interests of commercial investors over long-time family entrepreneurs.
And they’re off! Jockeys compete in the 139th running of the Chonburi Water Buffalo Races. The event, which started as an end of Buddhist Lent respite from hard work in the fields, has grown to become internationally famous.
More than 1,000 buffalos preened for the camera and raced for glory as Chonburi again marked the end of rainy season with a week of fun, food and racing.
Deputy Mayor Ronakit Ekasingh (center) along with Niti Kongkrut (2nd right), director of the TAT Pattaya Office, and members of the Bangkok Dive Alliance gather at the dusit d2 baraquda Pattaya to jointly announce the upcoming Pattaya Dive Festival.
Pattaya’s two leading scuba diving centers are teaming up with four Bangkok shops to introduce more than 500 new divers to Thailand’s “wreck diving capital” in the city’s first-ever “Pattaya Dive Festival” Nov. 13-14.
Organized locally by Mermaids Dive Center and Aquanauts Dive Centre, the non-profit event will see divers clean up and plant coral at Pattaya’s local islands and dive for prizes in an underwater treasure hunt. It’s an effort both to boost Pattaya’s reputation as a dive destination and get Bangkok residents more involved in marine preservation.
“The event was created as a response to recent political and financial turmoil that has affected Bangkok and the dive industry as a whole,” Mermaids Managing Director Peter Waagensen said following an Oct. 12 press conference. “At the same time, Bangkok scuba operators want to make diving Bangkokians more aware of their local dive area, Pattaya, which has become known as the ‘wreck diving capital’ of Thailand.”
Sanya Lohitnavy of the Bangkok Dive Alliance, comprised of Dive Indeed, Dive Innovation, Dive Now and Wahoo Dive Center, said at the press conference that organizers hope 500-600 divers on 16 boats will take the plunge.
Activities start early with divers assembling at Bali Hai Pier for safety and marine life briefings at 8 a.m. From there, the armada will head to Koh Krok for an underwater photography contest and treasure hunt, with prizes donated by the city, Tourism Authority of Thailand, PADI, Divers Alert Network, Major Development Co., and other sponsors.
After lunch, the group will converge on Koh Sak for an underwater reef cleanup, then return to port and prepare for a party at Reflection Condominium in Jomtien Beach.
The following day will be an invitation-only day for a cast of Thai celebrities and political leaders who will plant coral at Koh Larn.
“Pattaya’s marine ecosystem has steadily recovered over the past few years, but there is still more work to do,” said Aquanauts Managing Director Roger M. Smith. “Events like these show divers who usually go to Southern Thailand that there is great diving right in their backyard and help raise awareness about the importance of preserving the underwater environment.”
“It will be an event full of fun,” Sanya said, noting the festival will see dancing, music, magic and other entertainment spread across five stages. “There will be prizes to be won and a great party in the evening with food, drinks, activities and entertainment to thank all the participants.”
The Dive Festival is the latest effort by the five PADI dive centers united under the Pattaya Dive Club banner to raise the profile of Pattaya - the home of three undersea shipwrecks - as a premier diving destination. The group, supported by the city, PADI and the Royal Thai Navy, aims to sink as many as five more wrecks over the next 10 years.
Divers and snorkelers interested in joining the Pattaya Dive Festival can register with Mermaids Dive Center in Jomtien Beach, Aquanauts Dive Centre on Soi 6 in Pattaya, with any of the Bangkok centers or online at PattayaDiveFest.com.
With thousands of U.S. Navy personnel still in town and high season about to start, city road contractors decided it was a good time to rip up one of city’s busiest streets.
City officials scrambled last week to ally the concerns of angry business owners who flooded city hall with complaints after crews began ripping up South Pattaya Road between Walking Street and Second Road Oct. 6, the last day that about 7,000 American sailors were in town and only a week before the official start of high season.
Workers tear up South Pattaya Road between Walking Street and Second Road.
Deputy Mayor Ronakit Ekasingh and Pattaya City Council members marched down to the construction site Oct. 8 to find out why the project was started now and to push workers to clean up the traffic-snarling mess as quickly as possible.
A foreman for the contractor hired to do the work - originally slated to take four months - said the project began when it did because the city had delayed allocating the money until now.
The 9 million baht project calls for the replacement of the South Pattaya Road pavement, as much as 30 years old in some places, and add new drainage pipes. The construction foreman said crews are using fast-drying concrete that should make sections available for use again shortly after crews pick up their tools.
In the meantime, towards the Walking Street end of Beach Road, traffic is being diverted up side sois and onto 2nd Road, which is now two way near South Pattaya Road.