Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Severe flooding and mudslides in southern Thailand have killed 21 people, stranded thousands of tourists

Severe flooding and mudslides in southern Thailand have killed 21 people, stranded thousands of tourists and threatened to delay shipments of rubber in the world's largest rubber-producing country, authorities said today.  

Trains to the region have been cancelled and three airports have been shut, including one on the popular island of Koh Samui. As well as Koh Samui, foreign tourists - including Britons - have also been stuck at resorts in Krabi and Koh Phangan.

The Thai navy evacuated about 1,200 people from Koh Samui and Koh Tao, a remote island popular with backpackers. 

Stranded tourists sit on the floor of Samui airport in the flooded resort island of Koh Samui, Thailand, waiting to escape the island. Three airports in the south of the country have been closed so far

Thailand's navy sent four vessels including an amphibious landing craft with on-board helicopters to deliver supplies and rescue tourists and villagers in areas severely hit.          

'More rain is expected in the next few days,' said Satit Wongnongtoey, a minister in the prime minister's office.

British ambassador Asif Ahmad said Britain was in close contact with the Thai navy on the evacuation of tourists from the region.           

Tourists wade through flood water outside a hotel in Koh Samui earlier this week

The flooding could delay shipments of between 1,000 and 1,500 tonnes of smoked rubber sheet, industry officials said. The region supplies 90 percent of the 3.2 million tonnes produced annually in Thailand, the world's biggest producer and exporter.           

'Small producers along the upper south, who need to carry rubber by road to be shipped from Bangkok's port are facing disruption as roads are cut off,' Prapas Uernontat, secretary general of the Thai Rubber Association said.         

Nearly a million people have been affected by unseasonably heavy downpours across the region.        

Fed up holidaymakers lay across the floor of Samui airport

Mudslides were reported in three areas in Krabi province. At least 10 people were killed in one village, with at least 10 others missing.           

Wiboon Sangruanpong, director-general of the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation, said it was too soon to assess full damage and said more mudslides were possible.   

Along with the airport on Koh Samui, the Nakhon Si Thammarat and Surat Thani airports have also been shut.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Private paid-for sex in your hotel room is not a crime in Thailand

Private paid-for sex in your hotel room is not a crime in Thailand, as long as the prostitute is neither underage nor there as a result of kidnapping, deception, force or misuse of authority.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Police Captain Suprapan Phothiphirom from the Tourist Police station in Pattaya said the FTPA's job is to ensure the safety and security of foreign tourists and give them information and assistance.

''We have always faced a shortage of Tourist Police personnel, especially ones who can speak different languages,'' he said.

On a recent Friday night, Spectrum went on patrol with the tourist police and their foreign assistants along Walking Street, which stretches 750 metres and is closed to traffic from 7pm to 3am.

At about 8:30pm the foreign assistants and Thai volunteers began to set up, as they do every night, their mobile unit. Desks and chairs were placed in the middle of the street with bottles of drinking water and a box for donations.

Shortly after, a white Tourist Police van arrived and was parked across the street. A large TV monitor to show public relations videos was then placed on the vehicle.

By 9pm, about 30 people which included assistants, local volunteers and two policemen were in place, sitting or standing around and waiting for something to happen.

The scene drew a lot of attention from the many foreigners and Thais alike who were streaming past. They were surprised to see such a large group of people in full ''battle-dress'' in the middle of a tourist resort. Many stared, especially at the assistants, wondering who they were and what they are up to.

A group of Russian women with their families appeared confused and even frightened, asking their male companions: ''Look at this. What is going on here. Is there a problem? Let's get out of here.''

Tourists from other countries questioned the purpose of the mobile unit, whether it was really necessary, and whether it could be done with less visibility.

The presence of the foreign assistants sporting handcuffs, batons, radios and other gadgets on their belts made some people feel uneasy.

Some local volunteers wearing army boots and berets appeared totally out of place in the middle of an entertainment area crammed with bar girls offering their services.

Paradoxically, two Thai policemen who have the authority to arrest and to carry weapons were wearing jackets to cover their uniforms and were walking around unobtrusively.

ON THE BEAT: The entrance to the infamous Walking Street in Pattaya, where a group of the men in black patrol to help maintain security.

The only incident occured at about 10:30pm, when a woman was found lying intoxicated on Walking Street. She was brought to the mobile unit on a tourist police golf car equipped with police lights and received first-aid from the volunteers and a tattooed foreign assistant who poured water on her head.


With thousands of foreign tourists flocking to Pattaya every year, the Thai Tourist Police _ which has about 40 officers _ relies a great deal on the foreign assistants.

''We started the project in 1994, first with the Thai Tourist Police Volunteers, which now numbers 369, and later we added the FTPA component to it,'' said Capt Suprapan. ''Now we have about 30 assistants, which is not enough. We would like to recruit more people, particularly the ones who can speak Italian, Korean and Russian. We need also women, something very hard to find.''

But the ''farang police'', despite their good intentions, have been subject to criticism, particularly over what people see as their intimidating black uniforms, their imposing appearance and the carrying of handcuffs and batons. Questions have also been raised about whether proper background checks are conducted on applicants.

FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: Freddy Meekers, Howard Miller, Paul Harrison, Pierre Sanzotta and Lewis Hurst.

Capt Suprapan said that foreigners who want to join the FTPA must come to his office with a passport and fill out an application form. Applicants with a non-immigrant visa are preferred because they can be granted a one-year extension. A tourist visa is not acceptable.

''We will send the information to immigration to conduct a background check. After that, we will investigate what the person has been doing in Pattaya and in Thailand. We don't check the person's history from his native country, but in some cases, we will do so with the embassy,'' the captain explained.

''As for qualifications, the most important thing is that the person really wants to help the Tourist Police and has enough time to work. If accepted, we will send the new recruit to our Tourist Police mobile unit on Walking Street positioned there every night for training with our assistants. This will last about three months, which is also the probation period. If the trainee performs well then he will become an assistant and receive an identification card.''

Capt Suprapan said qualified assistants carry a baton, gloves, handcuffs, a torch and a radio. He stressed that they can only assist Thai police to help subdue suspects when an arrest is made.

Mr Miller, who has lived in Thailand for seven years and joined the FTPA six years ago, says they are very careful about who they will accept and said everyone has a long-stay or retirement visa. The youngest foreign assistant is Anthony, 32, from Ireland, and the oldest, Ciro, 72, from Italy.

''I'm actually a journalist who did an interview for a local TV station with a police officer on Walking Street and I joined afterwards because I thought it would be a good idea,'' said Mr Miller, who has extensive media interests in Pattaya, including a radio station and an online news service.

British retiree Paul Harrison, 49, has been with the FTPA for about three years and is one of the group's two team leaders. ''I joined the FTPA because I want to help people,'' he said. ''We're not spies. We follow very strict rules to select who will be admitted into the FTPA.''

Mr Miller says new recruits undergo three days of training before the three-month pro bation period and are from countries as diverse as China, India, Norway and Pakistan. Some undergo further training to qualify as parachutists and undergo a practical pistol shooting course, said Mr Miller, although these skills are not necessary for the job. A few of them even sported badges showing they had qualified in these areas on their uniforms.

''We are foreigners in a foreign land and that's why we have to be very careful of who we let in our group,'' Mr Miller said. ''We don't want to cause any problems for the Thai police because they are ultimately responsible for our unit. We have very strict admission procedures.''

Capt Suprapan said the working relationship between the Tourist Police, the volunteers and the assistants was excellent. ''We're like a family.

''The assistants and the volunteers receive no salary and have to buy uniforms and equipment with their own money,'' he added.
The nightly patrols usually comprise 10 foreign assistants, 14 Thai volunteers and four policemen who cover Walking Street from 9pm until 3am.

Mr Miller concedes that sometimes they had to deal with uncooperative foreigners. ''This is mainly because they don't really understand what we do. They might look at foreigners in uniform in a foreign country and say: 'Look at that ...'''

Mr Miller said they were not authorised to conduct investigations. ''If we receive information about some serious cases, we will forward the matter to the police,'' he said.

''As for arrests, which actually happen very rarely, we have a strict rule of engagement. The Tourist Police officers must know what we are doing. We are foreigners here so we have to be very careful.''
The assistants are trained to deal with different situations, such as a drunk causing a disturbance, and also have to learn first aid and basic fire-fighting skills.

''We have dealt with thousands of cases over the years,'' Mr Miller said. ''The one I will never forget was when we were called to a hotel in central Pattaya after an Englishman who stabbed his wife to death in a bar barricaded himself in a corridor of the hotel and was trying to slash his arm. We managed to overpower him before he could harm himself,'' he said.

Mr Miller said the foreign assistants had been involved in only one undercover operation which involved prostitutes from Uzbekistan. But he said it was difficult for them to go undercover as their faces were well-known on Walking Street.

Mr Harrison said his most unforgettable experience was a fire at the Marine Plaza Hotel in 2006.

''We got there before the fire brigade did. A few of us went inside and found a Thai girl stuck in the smoke on the stairway. I dragged her out, otherwise she would most probably have died from smoke inhalation. We rescued several more people as well,'' he said.

But the day-to-day work can be a bit more routine. ''On January 15, a bar called us because two foreign customers refused to pay 3,065 baht for 21 lady drinks and three of their own,'' he said. ''We were able to reduce the amount considerably. As for the two foreigners, it was their first day in Pattaya, so they didn't understand what was going on here.''
Capt Suprapan said the volunteers had been useful during last year's closure of Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports, helping a lot of tourists diverted to nearby U-Tapao airport. ''Many wondered who they were as they wore uniforms with logos, but were grateful for their assistance anyhow.''
While some might see the black uniform worn by the foreign assistants and the military boots and berets of their Thai counterparts as intimidating, Mr Miller argues they are practical. ''Because the climate in Pattaya is very hot, it is not practical for us to wear a white or light-coloured shirt as they will show sweat and stains,'' he said. ''Black shirts look smart and they do show a little bit of authority.''

Mr Harrison said they were selected after careful consideration. ''We did some trials with different colours considering the heat, the dirt, etc.'' he said. ''We found that the black shirt is more durable, lightweight and it lets the body breath. It is easy to wash and iron. We wanted a shirt that will give us some respect as well.'' Mr Miller said he had only drawn his baton two or three times in self defence.

650 Taiwanese nationals have been arrested in South Korea and Thailand for alleged involvement in telecommunication fraud cases

650 Taiwanese nationals have been arrested in South Korea and Thailand for alleged involvement in telecommunication fraud cases since September 2006, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Thursday.

The suspects, 439 in South Korea and 235 in Thailand, were mostly recruited by fraud rings with bases there to open bank accounts or collect money from the victims, the ministry said.

The telecommunications fraud rings, once very active in Taiwan and China, have recently relocated to South Korea and countries in Southeast Asia after Taiwan and China forged an agreement in 2009 to jointly crack down on cross-Taiwan Strait crime, according to police sources.

One of the fraud cases involving Taiwanese nationals even trigged a diplomatic row between Taiwan and the Philippines after Manila deported 14 Taiwanese suspects to China Feb. 2.

Two impetuous strangers shot five teenagers - four boys and one girl, whose injuries were fortunately minor, after attending Pattaya Music Festival.

Pattaya, 21st March 2011 [PDN]: At 2 a.m., while Police Lietenant General, Krissakorn Tong-in of Pattaya Department was patrolling the Pattaya Music Festival area, some teenagers approached him to tell him that their friends had been shot at the area of 7-11 at Boonkanjanaram Temple Soi ( moo.12, Nongprue, Banglamung, Chonburi). The police hurried to the crime scene along with Sawang Somboon paramedic

The undersea cable laid from the mainland to Lan Island for all utilities to the Island which is 7.5 kilometers long was damaged costing millions of Baht earlier this month.

The undersea cable laid from the mainland to Lan Island for all utilities to the Island which is 7.5 kilometers long was damaged costing millions of Baht earlier this month. Pattaya City Mayor sent an urgent letter dated March 15, 2011 to the Chief of Department of Special Investigation or DSI to come to investigate and the Chief of Eastern Special Centre  Mr. Prawit Chaibuadaeng was assigned to visit the scene for inspection. The officials visited Lan Island and the local residents took them to Tarai Village on the island and took a boat out to the location of undersea electric transmission board and cables, that had been destroyed.
From investigation, the main generator system had been found burnt and destroyed like it had been set on fire by petrol soaked materials, the traces of which were still visible. The cables were laid 4 meters deep down under the sand and security guards were sent to secure the system and cables, 24 hours a day. The burning of generator system were certainly not locals because they would not have the expertise to implement the damage or any motive.
Millions of baht loss incurred by this crime and the purpose of destroying the system is thought to have involved with a conflict of interest of business operators and it is thought that some local Lan Island people knew about this crime but have been silenced. The Engineer Mr. Teerasak Fueang-sai will work with the investigation of DSI and all information is still being restricted.
Every time, when the electric is out, the Electric Station had to generate electricity to Lan Island by using the four generators each time. When the undersea cable system is completed, government will be able to save at least half of this cost to the city.

On Tuesday night, Pattaya Police were called to investigate a tragic accident that happened front of Ban Suan Suwattana in Soi Nern Plab Wan causing one fatality.

On Tuesday night, Pattaya Police were called to investigate a tragic accident that  happened front of Ban Suan Suwattana in Soi Nern Plab Wan causing one fatality.
At the accident police  found  Miss Ampai Seemard, aged 21 from Srisakaid Province who was sitting on the road, crying while holding the body of her younger sister Miss Nisai Seemard, aged 20,diceased.

 Nearby a white Mazda was parked and its owner, a local man Mr. Suwapit Rueang-pi-tak-goon, was waiting to make a statement. He told police that he was driving home and he witnessed the accident that happened between the motorcycle of these 2 ladies, who were coming on the opposite direction, when a motorcycle and side-car forced them on to his lane and the girl fell under his car before he could take any evasive action.
The big sister stated that they were on their way to work at a 7-Eleven at Bangkok Pattaya Hospital,  when a motorcycle and side-car, came shooting out of the side road and hit them. The car was coming from the opposite lane as stated by the car owner. Needless to say, the driver of motorcycle and side-car did not stop.
The police took both Miss Ampai and Mr. Suwapit to the police station to make full statements. Perhaps this tragic accident will encourage the authorities to examine how many of these pitiable combination vehicles that are on the roads are legal or roadworthy, as most have no lights or adequate fixings and no brakes on the sidecar.

Two deaf-mute teenage boys were assaulted by two foreigners, but the boys could not identify the suspects when the police presented the suspects in front of them.

Two deaf-mute teenage boys were assaulted by two foreigners, but the boys could not identify the suspects when the police presented the suspects in front of them.

Pattaya, 23rd March 2011 [PDN]: At 11.30 p.m., Police Lieutenant, Chuangchote Kwansirimongkol, Inspecting Officer of Pattaya Police Department, Chonburi was informed that a foreigner assaulted and stole from a handicap. It took place at an area near the Walking Street entrance (Moo.9, South Pattaya, Nongprue, Banglamung, Chonburi). The police hurried to investigate immediately.


The victims were two teenage deaf-mute boys. They wrote their names down on papers for police to identify them as Mr. Sirichai Kwansirimongkol, aged 17 and Mr. Ball (unknown real name), aged 14.
The victims reported that while they were walking on the beach, they saw two foreigners who might have been from the Middle East. The foreigners approached them and talked to them but the conversation did not go well due to difficult communications. The foreigners became upset and pushed the handicaps as well as trying to punch them in their faces. Before the situation got out of control, someone in the nearby area had stopped it. The foreigners left and nobody was injured.

Afterwards, the disabled boys checked their belongings and found that their cash (7,500 Baht) was missing. They suspected that the two foreigners might have taken it. The disabled boys tried to find the foreigners but were unsuccessful. Instead they contacted the police.


The police patrolled the area looking for two suspicious foreigners. They found two suspects, who were Turkish, at Mike Shopping Mall. When the handicapped victims had to identify the suspects, they could not recognize whether the suspects were the same ones that had assaulted them earlier. The two suspects were insulted and upset. They said that they had never met the handicapped boys before. The suspects said that they were about to go home after shopping. Eventually the police decided to take both suspects and victims to the police station.

After questioning, the two handicapped boys told the police that the foreigners might not be the suspects. The police released the Turkish foreigners and apologised to them for the misunderstanding.
The police did not believe that the incident was true. However, they recorded it as a crime report and will investigate it further.

Irish missionary priest Fr Shay Cullen has threatened to ‘‘name and shame’’ well-known hotel chains whose premises are allegedly involved in underage sex tourism across Asia,

Irish missionary priest Fr Shay Cullen has threatened to ‘‘name and shame’’ well-known hotel chains whose premises are allegedly involved in underage sex tourism across Asia, writes John Burke.
The Nobel Prize nominee runs Preda, the Philippines-based child protection agency.
He said that Preda would publish the names of prominent hotels and tourist businesses on internet website YouTube to highlight the practice of top hotels in Asia offering ‘‘young girls’’ to foreign businessmen and tourists.

María Nieves García Alcaraz sentenced to life imprisonment

María Nieves García Alcaraz, originally from Torraba in Albacete, was today sentenced to life imprisonment by a court in Thailand after pleading guilty to drug trafficking, a crime that is usually punishable by death under Thai law.

In pronouncing condemn, the judge said the crime dedicated by García Alcaraz would normally carry the death penalty, but this was reduced after taking into account the fact that the defendant had pleaded guilty.

Thai prosecutors accused the 52-year-old Spaniard of "drug possession and importation for distribution", after  3.1 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine were found in her luggage as she passed through Bangkok airport on August 9th last year, after arriving on a flight from the Ethiopian capital Addis Adaba.

The defendant, who appeared in court dressed in the beige blouse and long skirt brown that constitute Thai prison uniform, and wearing a surgical mask in order to hide part of her face asked the judge to exclude the Efe journalist, the only accredited foreign journalist, from court, which he did.

García Alcaraz initially denied all knowledge of the drugs in her hand luggage, saying that a Ghanaian man had asked her to take the package to the Indonesian resort of Bali.  She later pleaded guilty to the offence.
García Alcaraz is the first Spanish woman to be arrested in Thailand for drug trafficking in the past 13 years. In 1991 in the city were 33 Spaniards in prison in Thailand for drug trafficking.  In 1987 a bilateral agreement came into force, allowing Spanish citizens to complete their life sentences in Spain after serving a minimum of eight years in a Thai prison.

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