The final installment of our 10-part series describing major news stories in Thailand in the last half century begins in 2012. The October issue covered 2007-2011.
2012 is the year Asia Atlantic Airlines, R Airlines, New Gen Airway and U Airlines were founded. CentralPlaza opened its first shopping mall in the southern province of Surat Thani. Avani Hotels & Resorts was founded. Bangkokthonburi University inaugurated the Chanchai Acadium indoor sporting arena, which can seat 5,000 spectators, and Singha Stadium opened in Chiang Rai province, with capacity for 11,354 fans.
• The Royal Thai Air Force formed its Blue Phoenix aerial aerobics team to mark the 100th anniversary of Thai aviation and gave their first public display on Children’s Day at Don Muang Air Force Base. The team is based at Nakhon Pathom’s Kamphaeng Saen Air Force Base. They fly blue, white and red Pilatus PC-9 aircraft.
• Director-General of the Department of Special Investigations (DSI) Tarit Pengdith unveiled plans for his department after the cabinet gave DSI authority to investigate nine more categories of crime, including human trafficking, computer crimes and crimes relating to foreign businesses in Thailand. Tarit said the DSI would target foreigners who were exploiting loopholes in the legal system to use Thai nominees to run businesses not open to foreigners under the 1999 Foreign Business Act.
• Education Minister Worawat Auapinyakul said Muslim students were not violating the Education Ministry dress code by wearing headscarves or hijabs. His remarks were in response to a recent rally by a Muslim group to protest the suspension of two students at Wat Nong Chok School in Bangkok for wearing headscarves in class.
• Rubber growers in the southern province of Songkhla set out to travel to the capital to join forces with other rubber growers from across the nation. The demonstrators called on the government to shore up rubber prices at 120 baht per kilogram.
• Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra urged the United States to revoke a terrorism warning immediately after the arrest of a suspected Hezbollah member linked to sabotage attempts in Bangkok. Defence Minister Yutthasak Sasiprapa quoted Ms Yingluck as saying the warning, if prolonged, could damage the country. However, US Embassy spokesman Walter Braunohler said the terrorist warning for American citizens remained valid despite the arrest and the discovery of an apparent bomb factory in Bangkok.
• On January 19 Thailand joined other UN member states in voicing official recognition of a Palestinian state. Foreign Ministry spokesman Thani Thongphakdi said Thailand’s recognition of Palestine had been ‘under consideration for some time’. The move was enthusiastically hailed by Palestinian leaders. In November 2013 the UN General Assembly voted overwhelmingly in support of recognition.
• The Department of Corrections announced it would seek about 3.5 billion baht from the 2013 budget to build a “super max” prison with hi-tech security systems for detaining major drug convicts, Justice Ministry spokesman Thirachai Wuthitham announced the plan at a press conference and said a meeting of prison chiefs and directors of narcotics suppression offices from throughout the country was scheduled to discuss measures to prevent inmates from dealing drugs in prisons.
• Thammasat University’s Chulabhorn International College of Medicine became the twenty-first medical school in Thailand. Located in Khlong Luang district of Pathum Thani province, it is the first institution in Thailand to provide an international, English-language course in medicine. Bumrungrad International Hospital cooperated with Thammasat University in setting up the medical school.
• Vorayuth “Boss” Yoovidhya, third son of Red Bull tycoon Chalerm
Yoovidhya, was arrested on September 3 on a hit-and-run charge. Police said Vorayuth admitted to investigators that he was driving the black Ferrari that collided with the motorcycle of 47-year-old Police Senior Sergeant-Major Klanprasert Wichian Klanprasert at about 5.30am on Sukhumvit Soi 47.
The policeman was dragged about 200 metres along the road, but the driver never stopped. Witnesses described the Ferrari and police found it parked at a mansion belonging to the Red Bull family on Sukhumvit 53. Vorayuth at first claimed his chauffeur was driving when the accident occurred, but later admitted he was at the wheel.
• As the yellow-shirt People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) weakened, General Boonlert Kaewprasit emerged as leader of a new anti-government movement called Pitak Siam (Protect Siam). The group managed to attract 20,000 people to its inaugural gathering at the Royal Turf Club on October 28.
• The Department of Special Investigation (DSI) charged former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and
his former deputy Suthep Thangsuban with murder over the death of a taxi
driver allegedly shot dead by soldiers during the political violence in Bangkok
in May 2010. The DSI’s decision to press charges was influenced by a court ruling on September 17 the troops who killed Phan were acting on orders from state officials. If found guilty the two politicians could face the death penalty or life in prison.