Rihanna was visiting Phuket for a few days. She shared many of her experiences on Twitter and Instagram, including a photo of her holding a loris, an endangered primate native to Southeast Asia.
The Instagram picture, believed to have been taken
at Phuket nightlife hotspot Bangla Road, was captioned Look who was talkin dirty to me! and liked by more than 230,000 viewers.
The problem is, it's illegal for anyone to charge tourists money to take photos with the endangered
primates, an issue wildlife groups have long been trying to stamp out on the island.
Officials in Thailand quickly went on the defensive when outrage over Rihanna's loris image spread. The government ordered the Ministry of Natural Resources and
local Phuket officials to urgently investigate the matter, reported local website Phuketnews.com. Sunday night, a raid on suspected touts led to the arrest of two men, aged 16 and 20, who were taken to a local police station and presented to the media.
It wasn't just the loris issue that stirred up controversy. Rihanna's tweets about her X-rated experiences relating to some of the country's more infamous tourist attractions also led to red-faced explanations by embarrassed officials.
According to the Bangkok Post, Rihanna's tweets led to one official saying,
Sex shows were completely against the law. The authorities and law officials have surveyed the area to arrest and fine those involved [in staging sex shows] . But the shows still happen.
About 40 passengers injured in Sunday night's Thai Airways crash have complained of poor treatment by ground staff.
THAI flight TG679 from Guangzhou, China veered off the runway on landing at Suvarnabhumi after an apparent landing gear malfunction.
Fourteen injured passengers were sent to hospital and of them 12 have now been discharged. There were complaints by some 40 injured passengers and others that Thai Airways International responded slowly and poorly to the Sunday night incident.
The passengers gathered at Suvarnabhumi airport Monday evening to submit their complaints to THAI president Sorajak Kasemsuvan. They said no one from the airline had informed them of how the company would reimburse their medical fees. They also
claimed a lack of communication immediately after the accident, saying they were left abandoned.
Buses ferrying the passengers from the stricken plane remained stationary with passengers locked inside unattended for 20 minutes. Passengers were
then taken to immigration counters, but some of the passengers had fled the aircraft without their passports, causing confusion.
Passenger Panuwat Phanvichartkul said after leaving the plane, travellers were marshalled to shuttle buses.
The buses were packed with passengers, including those who were injured and in a state of extreme shock. They needed officials to take care of them and provide them with first aid, but there was no one.
At the terminal, no staff members were there to receive passengers. There was not even a glass of water to drink.
Perhaps the ground staff were otherwise engaged with more important tasks. Thai Airways workers
erected a crane and blacked out the crashed plane's logo.
ITV quoted Thai Airways official Smud Poom-On as ludicrously claiming that the blurring was a recommendation from the Star Alliance, under which the airline operates, to protect its
image. However Star Alliance soon denied such nonsense.
Thai groups iLaw and Movie Audience Network have organized a film competition to defy local film censorship.
Unlike other film contests, where prizes may be awarded for aesthetics, technical directing or acting, the film competition organized by three
local organizations, Internet Dialogue on Law Reform (iLaw), Bioscope Magazine and the Movie Audience Network, will present awards to the director of the film most likely to be banned by the Thai authorities.
According to the organizers, the Film
Likely to be Banned project aims to challenge the 2007 Film and Video Act, which grants to the Film and Video Board under the Ministry of Culture the authority to ban films which might undermine public order and morality , or affect national
security and the honour of Thailand .
Last year, Shakespeare Must Die was banned under the Film and Video Act on the grounds that it would cause rifts among the people in the nation. The film is about a dictator who killed the king to
become ruler, and was an adaptation of Shakespeare's Macbeth. In late 2010, the film Insects in the Backyard was barred because a scene featured students in school uniforms having sexual relationships.
The short film contest, under the
slogan closer to the edge with artfulness, opened for entries in April, and will present the awards this Saturday.
The contest received 40 films submitted by amateur directors from all over the country. 15 have been shortlisted for the
award. The films will be screened before the awards ceremony at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre this Saturday, September 7th.
The event will not however screen three films that were considered by the organizers as having legal implications that
were too risky.
Alcohol taxes have been hiked in Thailand to boost state revenues. This was confirmed by Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong who said:
I want to assure you the tax restructuring for alcoholic
beverages is not aimed at boosting state revenue, but is aimed at reducing the number of alcohol drinkers.
More importantly, we hope alcohol consumption will reduce during this Buddhist Lent period.
increase has already taken effect. Also the way the tax is calculated has also been changed. The alcohol tax is now broken into two parts - a tax on product value and a tax on alcohol content.
The maximum tax for beer will be maintained at 60% of
the product's value, but the effective tax rate per litre of 100% alcohol content rose from 100 baht to 300 baht. The tax hike will drive up beer prices by about 3-7 baht per bottle.
For wine, products worth less than 600 baht per bottle will be
be exempt from the product value-based tax, while those priced above 600 baht will be taxed at 36% of the product's retail value. In terms of alcohol content, all wine will now be taxed at 1,000 baht per litre of pure alcohol, up from 100 baht.
A TV station in Thailand has agreed to allow government-approved 'Islamic experts' to censor the script for a TV serial after a small but vocal Muslim group whinged that the show 'misrepresents' their religion.
The soap opera Fah Jarod Sai
(Desert Horizon) stars Thai actors in a romantic melodrama portraying an imaginary Arab-style royal officer who falls in love with a girl who is half-Thai, half-French, in a fantasy kingdom named Hinfara.
On August 22, a small, outspoken
Bangkok-based group, Muslims for 'Peace', demanded Channel 7 cancel the series.
On August 24, in response, Channel 7's executives met Thailand's Muslim leader Aziz Phitakkumpon, who is the Chularatchamontri or State Counselor for Islamic
Affairs, which is an advisory position approved by the prime minister and appointed by the king.
The Muslims for 'Peace' presented their complaint to Channel 7, the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Ministry, and the National
Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC). The Muslims for Peace's petition claimed:
We are afraid that the lakhorn [soap opera] could eventually have large-scale and unpredictable effects on Muslims
if the ICT Ministry and the NBTC do not cancel Fah Jarod Sai.
Apparently the complainants felt that it was misleading to show the Muslim religion allowing its believers to be cruel to women and children.
The station had already
broadcast four episodes and had eight remaining episodes. These last episodes will now be censored prior to broadcast.
Human Rights Watch has criticized a Dunkin' Donuts advertising campaign running in Thailand that features a model whose face is painted black to sell a chocolate doughnut.
Dunkin' Donuts Thailand recently started running ads for its Charcoal Donut,
which features a model wearing blackface makeup and bright pink lipstick and holding up a bitten doughnut. The translated Thai slogan reads: Break every rule of deliciousness.
Phil Robertson, deputy director of the Asia division of
Human Rights Watch, spouted:
It's rather incredible that an international company like Dunkin' Donuts would run such an ad. He claimed the ad fits into a long history of racist advertisements in Southeast Asia.
The chief executive of Dunkin' Donuts in Thailand told the AP that the criticism is just paranoid American thinking. CEO Nadim Salhani said:
It's absolutely ridiculous. We're not allowed to use
black to promote our doughnuts? I don't get it. What's the big fuss? What if the product was white and I painted someone white, would that be racist?
Thai people have never treated black African people badly, they have never mocked
them via minstrel shows or whatever, and simply do not have the background to understand why the West finds it so politically incorrect to have blacked up media people. Thais do call black Africans, 'chocolate men' though.
Similarly Thais have
little knowledge or background about Hitler and Nazis and so frequently get caught out being politically incorrect with Nazi imagery.
Perhaps Thais need a few history lessons about when westerners have been real shits, and how they now use
over-exaggerated politeness to try and plaster over historic wrongs.
Four Bangkok policemen have been suspended for allegedly extorting Bt2 million from two Italian tourists after making a false allegation against the victims and holding them captive.
Arrest warrants have been issued for two of the officers, who were
on the run at the time of going to press. An Uzbek national, who allegedly assisted in the crimes, was arrested late evening.
The five suspects have been charged with armed robbery, armed kidnapping and armed extortion.
While it may sound
like another instance of police misconduct well familiar to Thais and foreigners alike, this case has resulted in immediate action by their superiors and abrupt suspension of the four police suspects, thanks to an Interpol inquiry conducted after the
victims' families lodged a complaint.
The case therefore potentially brings shame upon the entire police force, due to its global exposure.
The two tourists - architect Danillo de Vito and engineer Antonio de Muro - were not harmed during
their one-day captivity, which began on Monday night after the four officers approached them while they were withdrawing money from an ATM machine near the Racha Nana hotel, where they were staying.
A police source said there was also a police
major present at Lumpini police station, who assisted in negotiations that the two tourists would be released if they gave Bt2 million to him and the five suspects, in return for them not being further charged with using a false ATM card. In their
statement to Interpol, the two victims said the ATM card they were using was authentic, but the suspects had threatened them using the false allegation that it was a fake.
A university in Bangkok forced students to wear paper blinkers during exams to stop them cheating, but has said it did not intend to humiliate them.
The picture of Kasetsart University was posted on the institution's Facebook page, but has since
been removed following numerous complaints, the Bangkok post reported.
The Facebook posting was picked up by the world press and surely has amused many.
Tanaboon demonstrates the hat when facing the world's press
Asst Prof Tanaboon Sajjaanantakul, the faculty's dean, said the paper blinker hats were used for a mid-term examination for a Textile Testing course. Wide-spread comments on the use of the hats on social media had drawn a mixed reaction from the
public and caused a lot of stress to lecturers in the faculty, he said.
Natdanai Rungruangkitkrai, the Textile Test course lecturer, said he regretted that the issue had received such a strong negative response from the public, adding that he had
tried to encourage creativity during his eight years in the job.
In this particular case, he wanted to teach students about ethics, so asked them how to prevent cheating in relation to an issue close to them. Students proposed that they discuss
preventing cheating in examinations. Some of them proposed different sets of exam papers, and some suggested the use of exam booths, but it was finally agreed to use A-4 paper to make blinkers, as they had copied the idea from other countries.
Ludicrous TV censorship in Thailand has again come under fire after a blogger posted blurred out content in scenes from Japanese cartoons, or animes, broadcast by MCOT Channel 9.
The blogger wrote his posting in a Japanese news website on Aug 9,
including in it a video clip and two images. The posting went viral and has been attracting attention from many online communities.
In the video clip, female characters from the Sailor Moon animation series have their swimsuits blurred out.
The girl Shisuka in the popular Doraemon cartoon also has her swimwear edited in the same way, while another picture portrays a young Son Goku from the classic Dragon Ball Z anime with his chest censored as his clothes are ripped apart
during a transformation.
The blogger pointed out that many viewers do not think about anything inappropriate when they watch cartoons. However, when censorship is applied it makes audiences assume that there is something unsuitable on screen and
brings the content to their attention.
From jet ski scams to robbery, assault and even police extortion, for the millions of tourists who flock to Thailand each year the kingdom does not always live up to its reputation as the Land of Smiles .
Now following a flurry of
complaints, governments are urging the country to do more to protect the safety of the record numbers of foreigners visiting Thailand.
Drink spiking in bars can be a problem and sometimes people wake up to find they have been robbed. There are
a lot of people who get drugged here, said Wal Brown, an Australia volunteer with the Thai police who patrols the thronging streets of Patong on the island of Phuket.
Visitors are warned to beware of strip clubs offering ping-pong shows
where two beers can sometimes cost $100. Brown said :
Last year we had one guy hit with a hammer. He wouldn't pay. The tout got very aggressive and attacked him.
Bag snatching and robberies
are also a regular occurrence on Phuket with tourists on motorbikes sometimes targeted on dimly-lit roads. One French girl hid in the bushes for three hours. Another Swedish girl stayed there until daybreak. They were on motorbikes and stopped by
people with hatchets and screwdrivers and makeshift weapons, said Brown, who recommends people read their government's travel advice before visiting.
Millions visited Thailand last year and although most did not encounter any serious problems,
diplomats say tougher action is needed to ensure their protection. David Lipman, head of the EU delegation to Thailand and one of more than a dozen European ambassadors who recently visited the island to air their concerns, told AFP:
There have been quite a lot of problems in Phuket. I don't think that the situation is getting better at all and that's why we really wanted to pursue this matter
One common scam on Thai beaches is to charge large
sums of money (typically $1000) for pre-existing damage to jet skis, using threats of violence against people reluctant to pay. Lipman said:
It's a racket. The same with motorbikes as well. People rent out motorbikes.
In the middle of the night they're stolen by the people who rented them out in the first place and the next day they say 'let's have our motorbike'.
Fines handed out by the local police for parking in the wrong place are another
issue. We expect proper standards of behaviour from public officials. Let's face it, there is a bit of corruption going on and we hope that will be avoided.
Meanwhile Pattaya's mayor, who has seen the jet ski scam thrive under his
Ministry of Tourism and Sports is closely monitoring the issues...to increase safety the city will launch its own Pattaya Public Safety Centre next month where tourists can register complaints and get
Pattaya will also be one of the first destinations to have tourism court that will deal quickly with non-violent crimes against tourists.
Official figures released as part of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office's annual British Behavior Abroad Report 2013 showed that consular staff gave assistance to more than 19,000 Brits in need in 2012/13.
Overall total assistance figures
showed a slight drop of 3pc but some countries saw big increases in more serious types of case.
Foreign & Commonwealth Office Minister Mark Simmonds, said:
I am proud that our staff continue to offer vital
support to thousands of British travellers and residents around the world.
This support includes explaining local procedures, accompanying people to the police station, helping them deal with local authorities and medical staff
and contacting friends and family at home if that is wanted.
A number of other key findings are highlighted in the report, including: Some countries including Thailand, the United Arab Emirates, Portugal, Australia and India have
seen an increase in hospitalisations.
Posts have reported a mix of cases but many have involved older expats or tourists with pre-existing medical conditions getting into difficulty and requiring treatment after arriving in the
Thailand has seen a significant increase in hospitalisations (31pc) and deaths (31pc), despite fewer cases worldwide.
Road traffic accidents, many involving young people on mopeds, and an ageing
expat population are both factors attributed to the increase in cases.
Convenience stores 7 Eleven and Family Mart have changed their policy towards licensing hours and now ban drinks sales from 11am - 2pm and gain from Midnight to 11am.
The stores claim that staff have been prosecuted at one branch for selling
outside of hours and that the policy has been changed for the protection of staff from prosecution.
Licensing hours have been enforced for some time at supermarkets but generally ignored by local shops. Alcohol is still for sale at independent
'mom & pop' stores, but they are less likely to be open for late night drinks.
The above prohibition hours only apply to retail stores. Bars and GoGos have their own locally negotiated, (and unpublished), restrictions.