After days of using teargas and rubber bullets to limit protests in Thailand, the police handed out roses to protesters and barricades were removed, bringing an end to days of violence in which five people died.
"The current political situation of our country has yet to return to normal, although it has begun to ease up," Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said. Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban said the campaign against the “Thaksin regime” would continue: Thaksin’s opponents include wealthy conservatives, top military generals, and bureaucrats. Yingluck said she is willing to explore every possibility for a peaceful solution. According to analysis of the general public opinion, her party would probably win any new election.
Thursday is the birthday of much-revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej and the protests are unlikely to continue on what is traditionally a day of prayer and celebration.
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Photos: Anti-government protesters and riot police are seen in various locations in Bangkok on December 3, 2013; additional photo of Thailand’s Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. Photos by REUTERS/Damir Sagolj/Dylan Martinez/Kerek Wongsa.
Thailand is the world’s biggest rubber producer and exporter. Thousands of rubber farmers held protests and blocked roads in several of Thailand’s southern provinces demanding that the government support prices of the commodity.
The protest has disrupted distribution systems and delayed thousands of tons of rubber shipments for up to two weeks, exporters said on Monday.
Photo: rubber farmers protest in Surat Thani, Thailand, September 4, 2013. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha
An oil spill blackened beaches at a Thai holiday island, which is likely to have an extreme impact on the local tourism industry. It could spread to the coast of the mainland and affect the fishing industry, officials and an environmental group said on Tuesday.
Tourists were pouring off the island of Koh Samet, 142 miles southeast of Bangkok, while soldiers and volunteers in white bio-hazard suits struggled to clear black oily sludge off the white sand.
"We’re working to move visitors to other locations if they want to move," Tourism Minister Somsak Phurisisak told reporters. "I’m very concerned, I didn’t think this spill would impact tourism in such an extreme way."
About 50,000 liters of crude oil poured into the Gulf of Thailand from a pipeline on Saturday, about 20 km (12 miles) off the coast, the fourth major oil spill in Thai history. The pipeline operator, PTT Global Chemical, apologized and said the leak had been plugged. The clean-up operation would take another two to three days, it said. Worst hit was the beach at Ao Prao, or Coconut Bay, but tourists elsewhere on the island were getting out.
"We’re staying on another beach but we’re not taking any chances. We are checking out," Daria Volkov, a tourist from Moscow, told Reuters. Koh Samet, known for its beaches and clear, warm sea, is thronged by domestic and foreign tourists, thanks to its proximity to Bangkok. "Tourists are leaving, some have cancelled their bookings," said Chairat Trirattanajarasporn, chairman of the provincial tourist association.
"Samet is popular with Russian and Chinese tourists but they won’t stay long if this mess isn’t cleaned up." Pakdihan Himathongkam, a government spokesman, said aircraft were releasing chemical dispersants over the 1 km (half a mile) long oil slick, while Ao Prao beach was closed to the public."Our worry is that it could reach the mainland," Pakdihan said. Environmental groups raised questions about the true extent of the disaster.
"What has happened is far more serious than what PTT said on the first day. We can expect an impact on fisheries and from chemical contamination in the food chain," Ply Pirom, program manager at Greenpeace Southeast Asia, told Reuters.
PTT Global Chemical Pcl is part of state-controlled PTT Pcl, Thailand’s biggest energy firm. Another subsidiary, PTT Exploration and Production Pcl, was involved in Australia’s worst offshore drilling accident in 2009, when thousands of gallons of crude oil spewed into the sea after a damaged oil well blew up. The slick from the Montara oil field off Australia’s northwest coast spread as far as Indonesian waters. An Australian government inquiry blamed the spill on systemic shortcomings at the Thai oil giant.
Additional reporting by Pracha Hariraksapitak and Athit Perawongmetha; Editing by Robert Birsel
A U.S. marine drinks the blood of a cobra during a jungle survival exercise with the Thai Navy as part of the “Cobra Gold 2013” joint military exercise, at a military base in Chon Buri province February 20, 2013.
About 13,000 soldiers from seven countries, Thailand, U.S., Singapore, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea and Malaysia are participating in the 11-day military exercise. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
Tigers play at the Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi province, west of Bangkok April 24, 2012. [REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom]
A fire engulfs huts in the Um-Piam refugee camp for refugees from Myanmar in Thailand’s Tak Province, 426 kilometers (265 miles) west of Bangkok February 23, 2012.
Um-Piam is the second largest refugee camp along the Thai-Myanmar border, which houses more than 15,000 Burmese refugees who fled the fighting between ethnic minority groups and the Myanmar government. More than 200 homes have been destroyed. [REUTERS/Stringer]
A U.S. Marine drinks the blood of a cobra during a jungle survival exercise with the Thai Navy as part of the “Cobra Gold 2012” (CG12) joint military exercise, at a military base in Chon Buri Province February 13, 2012.
About 14,000 armed forces personnel representing Thailand, U.S., Singapore, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia and South Korea are participating in the three-week military exercise, which takes place every year in Thailand. [REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom]