Thailand welcomes tourists clad in rubber gloves and face shields

Thailand welcomes tourists clad in rubber gloves and face shields
Chinese tourists arrive in Bangkok on special tourist visas, the first arrival since Thailand banned commercial flights almost seven months ago. (AP)
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Updated 22 October 2020

Thailand welcomes tourists clad in rubber gloves and face shields

Thailand welcomes tourists clad in rubber gloves and face shields
  • The tourism-reliant country could see just 6.7 million foreign visitors this year

BANGKOK: Thailand received a group of tourists from China on Tuesday, its first such arrivals since commercial flights were banned in April to combat the coronavirus pandemic, the visitors seemingly undeterred by escalating street demonstrations in Bangkok.

Thirty-nine tourists from Shanghai arrived on Tuesday night, the deputy director of the country’s main Suvarnabhumi Airport, Kittipong Kittikachorn, said in a statement.

Thai public television showed masked tourists exiting the airport, with officials in full protective equipment spraying their luggage with disinfectant. Outside, some of the tourists donned face shields and put on rubber gloves as they prepared to board buses to their hotels. 

The arrivals come as anti-government protesters continue to defy a ban on gatherings after authorities declared a severe emergency situation in Bangkok.

The unrest has not affected interest in the country, Tourism Authority of Thailand chief Yuthasak Supasorn said. “There have been no cancelations or any inquiries about it so far and people are following the news,” he added.

Student-led rallies, sometimes drawing 10,000 people, have occupied busy intersections for hours before peacefully dispersing. In one incident last week, water cannon was used on demonstrators.

The tourism-reliant country could see just 6.7 million foreign visitors this year, the government says, less than a fifth of a record 39.8 million in 2019.

The government banned commercial flights in April to keep COVID-19 at bay, and new cases have mostly been Thais returning home. The country has reported a total of 3,700 infections.

New tourist arrivals are on special 90-day visas and must quarantine for two weeks — seven days in their hotel rooms and seven days on their hotel grounds — and test negative three times before they can move around freely.

“Once they pass that they will be able to move to other destinations (within Thailand),” Tourism Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn said on Thai PBS television.

A second batch of 147 tourists from Guangzhou, China, are due to arrive on Oct. 26, with more due next month.

“Winter is coming so more tourists from European countries, the US, Korea and Japan would also like to come visit us around this time,” said Phiphat.


Malaysia takes legal action against EU over palm biofuel curbs

Malaysia takes legal action against EU over palm biofuel curbs
Updated 17 January 2021

Malaysia takes legal action against EU over palm biofuel curbs

Malaysia takes legal action against EU over palm biofuel curbs
  • Palm oil constitutes 30 percent of the global oils and fats production

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia is taking legal action at the global trade watchdog against the EU and member states France and Lithuania for restricting palm oil-based biofuels, the government said.

The world’s second largest palm oil producer, which has called a EU renewable-energy directive “discriminatory action,” is seeking consultations under the WTO’s Dispute Settlement Mechanism, the Plantation Industries and Commodities Ministry said in a statement.

Minister Mohd Khairuddin Aman Razali said the EU proceeded with implementing the directive without considering Malaysia’s commitment and views, even after Malaysia gave feedback and sent economic and technical missions to Europe.

The EU directive “will mean the use of palm oil as biofuel in the EU cannot be taken into account in the calculation of renewable energy targets and in turn create undue trade restrictions to the country’s palm oil industry,” he said in the statement.

The ministry filed the WTO request with cooperation from the Attorney General’s Chambers and the International Trade and Industry Ministry, taking action it had warned of in July against EU Renewable Energy Directive II.

Malaysia will act as a third party in a separate WTO case lodged by neighboring Indonesia, the world’s biggest palm oil producer, as a sign of solidarity and support, the ministry statement said.

Indonesia and Malaysia, together account for 85 percent of the global output of palm oil. Palm oil constitutes 30 percent of the global oils and fats production, and plays a significant role in fulfilling the demand in the global oils and fats market.

It is the world’s most produced and traded edible oil, and its versatility can be seen through its use in a wide range of food and nonfood products, which led to the remarkable palm oil consumption growth.

The US imported approximately $410 million of crude palm oil from Malaysia in 2020, CNN reported.