Members of the Labour Network for People’s Rights rallied outside Government House on Tuesday demanding that the government pay Bt5,000 to each member of the country’s workforce for three months.
On January 19, the Cabinet approved the “RaoChana” (WeWin) cash-handout campaign, in which Bt3,500 will be handed for two months to the self-employed, farmers and welfare-card holders. Those eligible can register from Thursday onwards and the cash can be withdrawn via a smartphone application.
The protesters said the money was too little and giving access to the assistance via a smartphone app would leave many out of the loop. They also rejected the plan of transferring Bt1,000 per week, saying some people needed more cash to survive.
Bangkok’s elevated MRT Yellow Line monorail extension has passed its environmental impact assessment (EIA), paving the way for negotiations to resolve a problem in the joint venture project.
Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob said the environment board on Monday passed the EIA for the two-station extension, linking Lat Phrao with Ratchayothin Skytrain station on the Sukhumvit (Green) Line.
The project is owned by the Mass Rapid Transit Authority of Thailand (MRTA), which is currently negotiating to amend its joint venture agreement with concessionaire Eastern Bangkok Monorail (EBM).
However, MRTA is still negotiating with EBM over compensation for Bangkok Expressway and Metro Plc (BEM), which says the extension will impact revenue from its MRT Blue Line.
Meanwhile BTS has confirmed it will fully invest in the Yellow Line extension, with construction and expropriation costs estimated at Bt3 billion-Bt4 billion. But BTS has rejected calls that it should compensate BEM, insisting the MRTA must first negotiate an agreement.
Due to open in October, the 30.4-kilometre Yellow Line will run north-south from Lat Phrao to Samrong and link with four other routes – MRT’s Blue and Orange lines, the Airport Rail Link, and the BTS Green Line – improving connections across the network.
The Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) is planning to remove four eastern provinces, namely Chonburi, Rayong, Chanthaburi and Trat, from the “red zone” list, the Public Health Ministry said.
Deputy Public Health Minister Satit Pitutacha said CCSA will look into this option on Thursday, and if it removes the red flag on these provinces, then Samut Sakhon will be the only red zone in the country.
Once the four provinces are given the orange flag, restaurants there will be allowed to serve until 10pm, he added.
Satit said CCSA will also study the option of allowing public consumption of alcohol and holding concerts and other gatherings.
In response to doubts raised about the government’s Covid-19 vaccination plan, Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said in a Facebook post that the government has carefully considered every decision and was not careless as claimed by Progressive Movement leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit.
In a Facebook Live session on January 18, Thanathorn accused the government of being careless over negotiations for the vaccine, pointing out that discussions with AstraZeneca were only completed in October last year.
He also pointed out that the 26 million doses purchased from AstraZeneca and the 2 million from China’s Sinovac would only immunise 21.5 per cent of the population.
Thanathorn also raised concerns over transparency in the government’s decision to hand the job of local production of the vaccine to Siam Bioscience, which is owned by the King.
In response to the accusation of procuring an insufficient number of doses, Anutin said the law prohibits the government to purchase a product that has not been produced. Besides, he said, if the government paid for the vaccine in advance, it would not have been refunded in case the vaccine failed.
He added that the AstraZeneca vaccine was chosen not only because it is cheap, but also because it is more suitable for use in Thailand compared to vaccines produced by other companies.
Moreover, he said, it was AstraZeneca that chose Siam Bioscience to manufacture its products, adding that the government had no intention to only focus on a few vaccine producers.
He also said in the first phase, the government purchased 26 million doses from AstraZeneca and another 2 million from Sinovac under the advice of the national vaccine committee.
He said the committee believed the situation in Thailand was not as severe as in other countries, so the government need not purchase a huge number of doses. Besides, he said, the National Vaccine Institute has booked another 35 million doses from AstraZeneca.
“The 63 million doses should cover some 31.5 million people, or 63 per cent of the country’s population, not including pregnant women and those under 18, which will be enough to immunise the entire country,” he said.
The minister also pointed out that the inoculations will not bring life back to normal right away, adding that it was just a tool to control the virus and prevent severe cases.
The minister concluded his post by thanking Thanathorn for paying attention to the government’s work.
In response to calls from Phuket’s tourism sector, governor Narong Woonciew agreed recently to relax quarantine measures for visitors from Bangkok and 20 other provinces.
The 14-day quarantine measure will be lifted for people from Tak, Saraburi, Pathum Thani, Ayutthaya, Suphanburi, Lopburi, Singburi, Kanchanaburi, Nakhon Nayok, Ranong, Chumphon, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Sa Kaew, Ratchaburi, Phetchaburi, Samut Songkhram, Ang Thong, Chachoengsao, Prachinburi and Samut Prakan, as well as Bangkok.
He said visitors from these provinces are required to strictly follow strict measures under the new normal, including wearing masks, avoiding crowds and observing their health.
However, travellers from the seven maximum-control provinces, namely Samut Sakhon, Nakhon Pathom, Nonthaburi, Chanthaburi, Chonburi, Rayong and Trat, will still have to undergo a 14-day quarantine.
A record number of leatherback turtles have hatched in Phang Nga province as the endangered species makes a dramatic comeback on southern beaches.
Marine biologist Dr Thon Thamrongnawasawat said 78 leatherback hatchlings had emerged from their nest on Bang Kwan Beach in Phang Nga province on Monday night.
“With the 305 baby turtles born earlier, we have now seen 383 leatherback hatchlings walk into the sea this season – higher than last season’s tally of 351,” he said. “This is also the highest number in the past 10 years, and it will keep growing until the season ends, as we have eggs in nine more nests waiting to hatch.”
The turtles’ egg-laying season lasts from October until March. Thon said pregnant turtles will lay eggs in a few more nests on the beach before this season ends.
Leatherbacks are protected under the Wild Animal Reservation and Protection Act, but egg-laying turtles had disappeared from Phang Nga’s beaches until six years ago.
The Department of Marine and Coastal Resources has taken measures to protect the turtles on the beach, erecting fences, monitoring nests with CCTV, and deploying patrols to ensure turtles are not disturbed.
“I want to thank everyone involved in this achievement, including the Natural Resources minister, the department chief, Phang Nga’s governor, department officials and volunteers, as well as everybody who kept the beach clean of plastic waste, which has helped bring the turtles back,” said Thon.
“This is undoubtedly the greatest marine achievement in Thailand that I have seen in my 30 years of working in the field.”
A 40-year-old was found dead in his car parked under the Talat Phlu BTS station on Tuesday morning, and police suspect he may have died from smoke inhalation.
Police found a charcoal stove inside the car and the owner, Kritikorn Meemungkra, lying down with a framed photo of his family on his lap.
The first person to spot him was 54-year-old street sweeper Sitthisa Matmongkol. She said she had noticed the car a lot earlier, but did not think it unusual, until she spotted the burning stove inside. She said she tried to wake the person in the car, and after failing to do so she called the police.
The dead man’s wife, Tharida Wattanamongkol, 27, said her husband had tried to kill himself twice before, adding that he had self-abusive tendencies. He worked in a nightclub. Police are investigating his death.
In a Facebook post at the start of this year, BioThai Foundation listed statistics showing 5,086 people had killed themselves between October 2019 to September 2020. This means 7.75 out of every 100,000 people.
BioThai said the number of suicides over the past year was the highest in 18 years, and that the number rose during Thailand’s first lockdown.
Data shows that up to 54,000 people try to kill themselves in Thailand each year, and some 4,000 are successful in the attempt on their lives.
Data for 2020 demonstrates that the economic crisis triggered by Covid-19 was a key factor in suicides.
Suicides have been on the rise since 2017, with men accounting for the highest number of deaths.
The use of medical cannabis is a key government policy and the Drug and Narcotics Bureau under the Department of Medical Sciences is testing and developing health products from cannabis and hemp, said Supakit Sirilak, the department’s director.
In August last year, a local laboratory testing active substances in cannabis plants, extracts and oil became the first lab in Thailand to be granted international standards certification.
The laboratory tests samples for strength and residues such as heavy metals, pesticides, mycotoxins, fungicides and contaminated microorganisms etc.
“Now the testing technique has been passed on to medical science centres nationwide for the analysis of vital substances and residues, and now they can develop laboratories outside the department’s jurisdiction. This will assure the quality and safety of cannabis products,” Supakit said.