Smoking to be stubbed out on Thai beaches

Cigarette butts fill an ashtray outside a construction site in Central, a business district in Hong Kong on October 18, 2006. (File photo by Reuters)
Updated 17 October 2017
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Smoking to be stubbed out on Thai beaches

BANGKOK: Smokers who flout a smoking ban on 20 of Thailand’s most famous tourist beaches will face a $3,000 fine or up to a year in prison, Thai authorities have said.
The ban, which comes into force in November, follows a clean-up of nearly 140,000 cigarette butts from a 2.5 kilometer (1.5 mile) stretch of the famed Patong beach in Phuket island province.
Its introduction coincides with Thailand’s peak tourist season and will be enforced in visitor hotspots including Krabi, Koh Samui, Pattaya, Phuket and Phang Nga.
“These beaches are among the most beautiful in Southeast Asia, and the aim is to keep them that way,” Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Governor Yuthasak Supasorn said in a statement on Monday.
Smokers will have to use designated areas with proper waste disposal for cigarette butts, he added.
Those caught lighting up on the beach could face jail or a 100,000 baht ($3,000) fine, according to TAT.
The edict is the latest effort to rein in Thailand’s free-wheeling tourism industry.
The sector is a crucial pillar of Thailand’s economy, catering to more than 30 million travelers per year.
But the huge numbers of arrivals have also threatened to spoil some of the kingdom’s idyllic beaches, with litter and unchecked development damaging local ecosystems.
Thailand is also trying to crack down on lax safety standards that riddle the tourism industry, after waves of complaints that visitors are overcharged or not adequately protected on boats and jet-skis.


Own up to mass Muslim detentions, Amnesty tells China

Updated 5 min 48 sec ago
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Own up to mass Muslim detentions, Amnesty tells China

  • Beijing has tightened restrictions on Muslim minorities to combat what it calls Islamic extremism and separatist elements in Xinjiang
  • Critics say the drive risks fueling resentment toward Beijing and further inflaming separatist sentiment

BEIJING: China must come clean about the fate of an estimated one million minority Muslims swept up in a “massive crackdown” in its far western region of Xinjiang, Amnesty International said Monday.
Beijing has tightened restrictions on Muslim minorities to combat what it calls Islamic extremism and separatist elements in Xinjiang.
Critics say the drive risks fueling resentment toward Beijing and further inflaming separatist sentiment.
In a new report, which included testimony from people held in the camps, the international rights group said Beijing had rolled out “an intensifying government campaign of mass internment, intrusive surveillance, political indoctrination and forced cultural assimilation.”
Uighurs and other Muslim minorities are punished for violating regulations banning beards and burqas, and for the possession of unauthorized Qur’ans, it added.
Up to a million people are detained in internment camps, a United Nations panel on racial discrimination reported last month, with many detained for offenses as minor as making contact with family members outside the country or sharing Islamic holiday greetings on social media.
“Hundreds of thousands of families have been torn apart by this massive crackdown,” said Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty International’s East Asia director, in a statement.
“They are desperate to know what has happened to their loved ones and it is time the Chinese authorities give them answers.”
Beijing has denied reports of the camps but evidence is mounting in the form of government documents and escapee testimony.
These suggest that Chinese authorities are detaining large groups of people in a network of extrajudicial camps for political and cultural indoctrination on a scale unseen since the Maoist era.
Amnesty’s report interviewed several former detainees who said they were put in shackles, tortured, and made to sing political songs and learn about the Communist Party.
The testimony tallies with evidence gathered by foreign reporters and rights groups in the past year.
Amnesty also called on governments around the world to hold Beijing to account for “the nightmare” unfolding in Xinjiang.
Last week, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo denounced “awful abuses” of Uighur Muslims detained in re-education camps.
“Hundreds of thousands and possibly millions of Uighurs are held against their will in so-called re-education camps where they’re forced to endure severe political indoctrination and other awful abuses,” Pompeo said in a speech.
However Pakistan, China’s biggest Muslim ally, quickly denied reports last week that it had criticized Beijing — which is pouring billions in infrastructure investment into the country — over the issue.
Religious affairs minister Noorul Haq Qadri told AFP China has agreed to exchange delegations of religious students to help promote “harmony” between Muslims and Chinese authorities.
China’s top leaders recently called for religious practices to be brought in line with “traditional” Chinese values and culture, sparking concern among rights groups.
Earlier this month draft regulations suggested Beijing was considering restrictions on religious content online, such as images of people praying or chanting.
State supervision of religion has increased in a bid to “block extremism,” and authorities have removed Islamic symbols such as crescents from public spaces in areas with significant Muslim populations.
Christians have also been targeted in crackdowns, with a prominent Beijing “underground” church shuttered by authorities earlier this month. Churches in central Henan province have seen their crosses torn down and followers harassed.