Showing posts with label Military. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Military. Show all posts

Sunday, 15 July 2018

An onslaught of tourists is stressing out Thailand

Back in early June, a small pilot whale gained global attention after it ingested plastic bags and packaging, and then died in southern Thailand. It wasn’t a good look for the nation’s tourism industry.

A month later, Thailand’s Tourism Minister Weerasak Kowsurat holds up a picture frame containing pieces of an instant-noodle packet recovered from the stomach of the whale. For him, it’s emblematic of the environmental and other stresses of a record tourism boom that could see 40 million foreign arrivals -- equivalent to over half the nation’s population -- in 2019.

"Tourism can create, and at the same time, tourism can disrupt," said Weerasak, 52, in an interview in his office in the Thai capital. "Congestion is no good for anyone, including the hosts and the guests."

A surge in Chinese holidaymakers has stoked the growth in the tourism sector, which now accounts for roughly 20 percent of Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy.

Managing the inflow is proving challenging, underlined by a tragedy last week that put the spotlight on safety standards after more than 40 Chinese tourists died when a boat sank off the coast of Phuket.
 The disaster hasn’t had a significant impact on Chinese enthusiasm for holidays in Thailand but the government has to be proactive to prevent a wider fallout, said Thongyoo Suphavittayakorn, a spokesperson for the Association of Thai Travel Agents.

Many of the overseas travelers head to Bangkok, beach hot-spots like Phuket or the popular northern city of Chiang Mai, straining local resources.
Asked if Thailand is now coming close to its tourism capacity, Weerasak said: "Oh yeah."

The minister is looking to promote visits to less-traveled spots inside the country to tackle congestion in popular destinations as well as addressing national income disparities. Yet that throws up a new challenge: How to preserve the character of local communities and heritage sites such as the ancient ruins of Ayutthaya that might have to absorb a wave of foreign visitors.

Weerasak said he’s seeking to "encourage domestic and international travelers to be very responsible, not only to the culture but also to the environment."

Consider the case of Maya Bay on Phi Phi Island, which was made famous by the year 2000 movie The Beach starring Leonardo DiCaprio. The bay has been closed down by authorities for four months to give the island time to recover from environmental degradation, such as coral damage from boat anchors and trash on beaches, caused by constant tourist traffic.

"The increased influx of tourism is already having very visible impacts on the Thai seas and coasts," Eike Schoenig, director and chief resident scientist at marine environmentalist group COREsea, said in an email. "Few countries have good track records managing mass tourism."

The Thai tourism minister is planning to install a reservation-only system to control the number of visitors to the bay. Boats will be forced to dock at the back of the bay, so that there will only be a single entry point for tourists.
 Thailand’s military government is also considering imposing a travel insurance system to prevent tourists arriving without any protection and ending up as a burden on the state if they get into trouble, he said.

Despite the difficulties, tourism is going to remain a critical engine for Thailand, where economic growth is accelerating but lags behind some neighboring countries. Government data shows revenue from foreign tourists is projected at well over $60 billion next year, and that spending remains focused mainly on major cities.

The country is pushing ahead with investment to expand airports as passenger traffic climbs. State-run Airports of Thailand plans to pour billions of dollars into boosting capacity in Bangkok as well as the tourist-heavy spots of Phuket and Chiang Mai.

Countries such as France and Italy that get heavy tourist traffic manage to disperse visitors, said Weerasak.

"That is the pattern we want to see," he said. "The numbers keep increasing. It all depends on how you manage them."

Source - TheJakataPost

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Thai junta pressures Google, Facebook, Line to censor content

Thailand's junta is ramping up pressure on internet giants Google and Facebook — and the popular messaging app Line — to scrub the country's web of any content it dislikes, officials confirmed yesterday.

The military seized power in a 2014 coup and has launched the harshest rights crackdowns in decades, arresting critics, muzzling the media and banning political gatherings or protests.

The web, in particular social media, has remained one of the few avenues open to Thais to speak out — though not without risks. Prosecutions have soared with many arrested for online posts.

Junta officials are now seeking face-to-face meetings with major web companies to try and speed up how quickly they take down objectionable content.
Police Major-General Pisit Paoin, from the junta's committee on mass media reform, said officials would meet with Google, Facebook and Line over the next three months "to ask for their co-operation in dealing with illegal images or clips that affect security and the nation's core institution."

"There have been tens of thousand of the illegal posts over the past five years," he said.
Officials held the first of their meetings with Google recently. Minutes of that meeting were leaked last week by hackers and later published widely by local media showing Thai officials are pushing for big web companies to agree to takedowns without a court order.

Maj-Gen Pisit said large web companies have reacted with reluctance over the past five years to previous requests to censor content.

"We have received better response from Google in the US (since the meeting)," he said. "Now we plan on talking with Line and Facebook."

Globally, web firms must comply with local laws and routinely block content within that country if presented with a court order.

But the leaked minutes suggest the Thai junta want a far more lenient standard adopted.
In a statement Line said it "has yet to be contacted by an official entity requesting such censorship" but added that "the privacy of Line users is our top priority."

"Once we have been officially contacted, we will perform our due diligence towards the related parties and consider an appropriate solution that does not conflict with our company's global standards, nor the laws of Thailand," the statement added.

The Japanese company is by far the most popular social messaging app in Thailand and is even used by many government ministries and police stations to officially brief media.

Last week, a man was arrested for sharing a video allegedly mocking junta leader Prayuth Chan-o-cha with his friends on Line, suggesting the Thai authorities are already monitoring the messenger for content it disapproves of.

Facebook and Google have yet to respond to AFP's requests for comment.