Hard corals, like this one off Koh Lanta, are at greatest risk. Photo: Quinet
PHUKET: — With coral reef systems in Thai coastal waters at a “crisis” level, the director of the Phuket Marine Biological Center (PMBC) has vowed to step up his department’s efforts to mitigate the damage caused by the fishing industry and other human factors.
“Currently, our natural coral reefs are not half of what they used to be – we are in a crisis,” said PMBC director Pinsak Suraswadi on Tuesday.
“The areas that have been most seriously affected are those that are regularly exposed to human activity, such as off tourist destinations along the coast,” he added.
Though the entire region is in trouble, the Gulf of Thailand is at greater risk than the Andaman coast, he said.
“Abundant and beautiful coral reefs are now only found in national parks, such as the Surin Island and Similan Island reserves. In these places the coral is still world class.”
“Closing National Parks has definitely been helpful in giving the corals time to recover from the pressure humans exert on the ecosystem,” he said, in reference to the annual closure from May through November.
The PMBC is attempting to prevent damage to coral reefs caused by the fishing industry through a variety of programs. One such program, established in Songkhla, involves the purchase of used fishing equipment in order to discourage fisherman from throwing rubbish, such as old netting, into the sea, he explained.
“Everyone can get involved in preserving our marine environment; it’s not just the responsibility of the government. Changes made in our daily lives, such as using less soap and fewer plastic bags, can really make a difference,” he said.
Mr Pinsak also made a push for the establishment of more artificial reefs in order to reduce the pressure on natural reef systems.
“It will reduce the effect the diving tourism industry has on the natural reefs. Artificial reefs, such as scuttled ships, will provide new diving destinations,” he said.
Mr Pinsak pointed out that the PMBC had recently become involved with the “Green Fins Project”, which encourages tourists to wear life jackets and keep their feet away from corals when snorkeling.
“Also, we ask tourists not to chase turtles in order to photograph them or feed marine animals,” he added.
Mr Pinsak made it clear that coordination and cooperation between all those concerned was necessary to prevent further degradation.
Very sad to hear this report.
The owners of a fish processing factory in Samut Sakhon are in deep water after inspections turned up traces of poisonous pufferfish in their fishballs.
Flesh from the toxic puffers – which live in the tropical waters around Thailand – was also found in the plant’s “Smiling Fish” brand fish strings.
We guess the owners of the plant – in Tha Cheen Subdistrict of the coastal province – aren’t smiling anymore.
Phiphat Yingseree, secretary-general of Thailand’s Food and Drug Administration, said inspectors’ suspicions were aroused when they noticed some of the factory’s products hadn’t been labelled properly.
Products including “Smiling Fish” fish strings, “Hong Thong” fish balls and fish strings and “Strong Boy” fishballs had no date of manufacture or use-by dates.
When inspectors tested their composition, they found traces of L.spadiceus and L.lunaris pufferfish in them – as well as tetrotodoxin, a potent neurotoxin with no known antidote.
Fortunately, the amount of poison was nowhere near fatal levels.
The plant owners will be charged with manufacturing food for distribution with incorrect labeling, punishable by a maximum fine of THB30,000, and manufacturing food for distribution containing pufferfish, which carries a sentence of six months to two years and a fine of THB5,000 – THB20,000.
Thai immigrantion police arrested about 40 Uzbek women in a raid on Bangkok’s Grace Hotel in 2005. And the trafflicking of women is continuing. Nation Photo: Nuttapone Tipvateeamorn
A TV documentary on trafficking in Thailand delves into the Bangkok underworld
BANGKOK: –A National Geographic Channel documentary tonight sheds light on the trafficking of Central Asian women to Thailand for sex work. The programme, “Inside: 21st Century Sex Slaves”, looks at the case of Uzbek women caught in a web of deceit in Bangkok and Pattaya.
It focuses on the efforts by Freeland – a non-governmental organisation that fights trafficking of people and wildlife – and Thai law-enforcement officers to extricate two young women and take action against the criminal network that brought them to Thailand.
The spotlight is on individuals caught in the Bangkok and Pattaya underworld. The size of the network involved is hard to gauge from this report, but the “Uzbek connection” is a slice of the local sex industry that has grown over the years, allegedly because rogue Army and police officers protect it.
The operation includes criminals from the Middle East faking passports and peddling drugs. Further arrests were made after the documentary was completed.
Part of the footage was shot with cameras concealed on Freeland agents as they searched bars in downtown Bangkok for a mamasan responsible for encouraging Uzbek women to come and work here, as well as the higher-level traffickers.
The mamasan was also accused of forcing the Uzbek ladies to undertake sex work on a casual basis by approaching men – generally Middle Eastern men – in notorious pick-up joints along lower Sukhumvit Road.
There are many twists and turns in the story, and the film does a good job of showing why human trafficking is difficult to combat and prosecutions hard to achieve.
Thousands of people come to Thailand in search of work every year, mostly from adjacent countries. Their situations vary greatly, but women and young men commonly lose control of their circumstances when the broker or a go-between seizes their passport, effectively trapping them here. Often there are threats of violence and sometimes they are simply locked up.
Individuals like the Uzbek women at the centre of this report say they suddenly found themselves in a web of extortion and threats were made to harm them or their family back home.
The film is at times overly dramatic, but at one point the prospect of violence is clear and police must enlist support for a rendezvous arranged to try and arrest key figures in the network in which the Uzbeks are caught.
This report is timely. There has been serious criticism recently of Thailand’s efforts to counter human trafficking, characterised as lethargic and half-hearted. Freeland seem to have done a remarkable job just getting the Thai police to participate and be filmed during an undercover operation that had the potential to turn nasty.
The Uzbeks might only be “slaves” to a certain degree and lower on the scale in terms of their personal trauma, compared to the many horror cases found in Thailand, but the fact remains that this is organised crime in downtown Bangkok – with tentacles that spread across the continent.
Rights activists and people working in the anti-trafficking sector say Burmese and Cambodian men forced to work on Thai fishing boats probably face the worst instances of modern-day slavery.
There have been many credible reports in the past couple of years about young migrants killed at sea or forced to work for months on Thai trawlers for no wages, yet the government follow-up on this has been scandalously deficient.
Only now, with the US reportedly on the verge of downgrading Thailand to Tier-3 status, warranting economic sanctions, because of the lack of concerted action against trafficking, does it appear that the government might do something.
The Labour Ministry conceded on Tuesday that cases of trafficking are poorly handled because its five departments are not integrated. Officials are due to meet next week to discuss a master plan to combat trafficking in key sectors such as crews on fishing trawlers and migrant workers in Thailand in general.
Sadly, however, there is considerable scepticism about the approach, given the widespread corruption in the government hierarchy. Trafficking is deeply entrenched because it pays its sponsors and enablers high dividends.
The TV documentary shows some of the complexity and the sleazy side of the Thai sex industry. It also shows how people caught in difficult circumstances can get drawn in – and that it can be tough for them to escape.
“Inside: 21st Century Sex Slaves” airs at 9 tonight National Geographic Channel with rebroadcasts at midnight and 11pm tomorrow.
Watch the trailer at http://tinyurl.com/cl2a965
BANGKOK, July 17 – Some Bruda whales have been sighted in the Gulf of Thailand, a rare occurrence that indicates an abundance of food sources attracting the creature to this part of the sea.
Boonchob Suthamanuswong, director-general of the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources, said officials were informed about the sighting of the Bruda whales in the inner area of the Gulf of Thailand.
Officials went to observe and found about five of them near the Chao Phraya estuary. It is quite rare to see them move so far into the gulf, he said.
Department experts were sent to conduct a survey on the whale and monitor the area to prevent any possible danger from local residents or tourists coming to view the mammals.
It is believed that the abundance of marine life in the Gulf of Thailand becomes an attractive source of food for them. On the other hand, it showed change in feeding pattern of sea animals and their original food source, so experts must survey their behaviour to collect information for the improved management of environment systematically.
He asked for cooperation from the public not to disturb the whales as arrivals of tourists in the area may scare them away or cause harm to them.
A nice story for a change.