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  • ‘We’ve exhausted all our options,’ founder of alt-cinema Bangkok Screening Room says

    Bangkok film buffs were caught off-guard recently by news that another of the city’s few remaining standalone cinemas would shut forever.  The Bangkok Screening Room, an independent cinema in Silom’s Woof Pack building, followed Scala, the Art Deco standalone that served the Siam area for decades, in closing down for good, while the owners of ...

    This article, ‘We’ve exhausted all our options,’ founder of alt-cinema Bangkok Screening Room says, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company.

    Bangkok film buffs were caught off-guard recently by news that another of the city’s few remaining standalone cinemas would shut forever

    The Bangkok Screening Room, an independent cinema in Silom’s Woof Pack building, followed Scala, the Art Deco standalone that served the Siam area for decades, in closing down for good, while the owners of Cinema Oasis in Phrom Phong have announced their theater will stay shut indefinitely during the pandemic.

    For many film buffs, as well as Silom and Sathorn residents, the Bangkok Screening Room shutting its doors was an unsettling sign – as much for the loss of an alternative community space as it was for the future of Bangkok’s shrinking indie film scene.

    “I’m so sad to hear this! I have supported them since the beginning and paid my membership even when I wasn’t in the country,” Camilla Davidsson commented on a post about the news. “I really hope [they] will come back, perhaps somewhere else in Bangkok.”

    Curtains to fall on alt cinema ‘Bangkok Screening Room’

    The membership Davidsson referred to was one of the cinema’s unique perks. The annual deal gave customers discounts on tickets, food and drinks, as well as early booking access and free passes. The biggest draw, however, was its program of art house, foreign, and independent films that the city’s blockbuster-obsessed megaplexes don’t screen.

    Bangkok Screening Room. Photo: Dhipkawee Sriyananda Selley
    Bangkok Screening Room. Photo: Dhipkawee Sriyananda Selley

    Since opening in 2016, the theater has shown everything from classics like Peter Brook’s Lord of the Flies and Hollywood cult favorites like David Fincher’s Fight Club to modern Thai classics like The Story of Nampu and documentaries on Vivienne Westwood and internet meme Pepe the Frog.

    Sarinya “Mew” Manamuti, one of the three founders, said the most popular film over the past four-plus years was, oddly enough, Ants on the Shrimp, a documentary about chef Rene Redzepi of Noma.

    “When we first opened, we screened everything from fashion documentaries to classic films, [but] we didn’t know this one was going to be such a hit,” she said. “The tickets were sold out for almost every showing. Food is clearly something that a lot of people are interested in.”

    Yet the appeal of the cinema went beyond its entertainment. There was the space itself, an intimate 50-seat room on the second floor of Silom’s art-focused Woof Pack Building, and then there were the specially curated food and drinks — from craft beer and wine to truffle-dusted popcorn.

    These special selling points were off the table for much of 2020, however, as COVID-19 upended the Bangkok Screening Room’s otherwise steady business. As cinemas across Thailand were forced to close in March and April last year, the Bangkok Screening Room began offering voucher packs to drive sales. But the losses mounted as social distancing restrictions and two separate bans on the sale of alcohol took their toll on sales.

    Thailand’s cinemas are reopening. But are audiences ready?

    “We’re also a bar, so it’s tough,” she says. “There was no sign as to when the alcohol restrictions were going to be lifted, or whether there was going to be any assistance [from the government] for small businesses like ours.”

    Mew explains the team wasn’t prepared for such a long period of inactivity. 

    “We’ve exhausted all our options and resources. The lack of government funding and support programs has slowly killed us, and there’s no guarantee when it comes to vaccines or the return of tourism,” she said. “It’s best to call it a day now rather than go into bankruptcy later on.”

    Bangkok Screening Room. Photo: Dhipkawee Sriyananda Selley
    Bangkok Screening Room. Photo: Dhipkawee Sriyananda Selley

    Despite it all, Mew still believes cinemas like hers can make it in Bangkok. “First of all, it takes funding,” she says. “For example, The Projector in Singapore got support right away, as soon as the city announced the lockdown. In Australia, you can just go to the local council and apply for grants. The support is always there. But here, we got zero support from government programs. I feel that the system needs to change, like having a new government that supports the arts.”

    That means financial support that isn’t just earmarked for times of crisis.

    “It comes full circle. Film students need support after they graduate. We need to have more independent cinemas as platforms for young filmmakers to have careers, too. It’s pretty daunting to think that the film industry in Thailand is not appreciated and there’s no support,” she says. “Funding would definitely change everything.”

    While the future of independent cinemas in Thailand might look bleak from the outside, Mew still feels hopeful. “Going to the cinema is an experience, and people are still interested in [indie] films. Netflix, for example, is offering more than just blockbuster movies now, which has significantly opened doors to the indie movie business,” she says.

    “Although the physicality of the space depends on the economy, as long as there is still interest among people to keep indie films going, [standalone cinemas] will never die. I’m optimistic.”

    Bangkok Screening Room. Photo: Dhipkawee Sriyananda Selley
    Bangkok Screening Room. Photo: Dhipkawee Sriyananda Selley

    Out of a nearly five-year run, Mew can clearly remember her favorite moments with the Bangkok Screening Room. “We were proud to be able to bring the LGBT community together and to celebrate International Women’s Day through our annual LGBT Film Festivals and Fem Film Festivals. A lot of LGBT films and female directors have been looked over in Thailand. At least we were creating conversations about important issues.”

    While the future might remain uncertain for the industry, fans still have one more month to visit before the curtain falls for the final time. 

    The Bangkok Screening Room will stay open through March 31, when Mew hopes they can have a last farewell for their fans.

    “If not events, then we might have little souvenirs or tokens,” she said.


    Related

    Curtains to fall on alt cinema ‘Bangkok Screening Room’
    Thailand’s cinemas are reopening. But are audiences ready?
    Alternative cinemas: Hidden theaters, movie bars, and multiplex spaces in Bangkok
    Interview with founders of Bangkok Screening Room

    This story originally appeared in BK.

    This article, ‘We’ve exhausted all our options,’ founder of alt-cinema Bangkok Screening Room says, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company.

    1 March 2021
    Dhipkawee Sriyananda Selley
    Interviews, Features, Bangkok
    https://coconuts.co/?p=1028966
  • Fury after Bangkok cops fire rubber rounds at marchers, injuring 16

    Top officials this morning were defending the chaos that unfolded in Bangkok yesterday after metro police fired rubber bullets and used other aggressive tactics to suppress a peaceful march. Sixteen protesters were injured, and one officer died from a sudden heart attack.  Metro police chief Pakkapong Pongpetra shrugged off criticism of the use of force, ...

    This article, Fury after Bangkok cops fire rubber rounds at marchers, injuring 16, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company.

    Top officials this morning were defending the chaos that unfolded in Bangkok yesterday after metro police fired rubber bullets and used other aggressive tactics to suppress a peaceful march. Sixteen protesters were injured, and one officer died from a sudden heart attack. 

    Metro police chief Pakkapong Pongpetra shrugged off criticism of the use of force, condemned by rights advocates and the twittersphere, against pro-democracy protesters marching Sunday from the Victory Monument to Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha’s residence inside the 1st Infantry Regiment base on Vibhavadi Rangsit Road.

    “I insist that police officers are using permitted gear for necessary reasons. As you can see, there was violence and people not obeying police orders,” Lt. Ge. Pakkapong said.

    Asked by another reporter about a rubber bullet round found on the ground, Pakkapong replied, “I’m not sure who that belonged to. We need to investigate first.”

    Deputy PM Prawit Wongsuwan this morning joined in defending the use of rubber bullets, succinctly telling a reporter that their use “depends on the situation. Plus, police already said that they only followed procedures.”

    The rally’s goal was to call for the retired general-turned-PM to resign and to “send a message” to King Vajiralongkorn to return the expansive military base housing Prayuth to the people. 

    But protesters were intercepted in the late afternoon by riot police at barbed-wire barriers put in place near the Veterans General Hospital on Vibhavadi Rangsit Road.

    A tense standoff ensued until police attempted to disperse the crowd at about 6pm with water cannons, tear gas and rubber bullets. Twenty-two civilians were arrested.

    At least one protester was shot in the head by a rubber bullet, requiring medical attention. According to the Erawan Medical Center, at least 16 people were admitted to hospitals. Some reporters at the scene said some spent bullets recovered from the scene were rubber-coated metal rounds.

    Growing anger in the protest movement was evident in scenes of angry young men wielding bats and batons and menacing the officers. Television coverage showed protesters throw bottles at riot police, and a mob later gathered outside the Din Daeng Police Station and threw things into the compound while a police vehicle was set on fire.

    Some reporters said that despite wearing identifying armbands, they had to duck the rubber bullets being fired. 

    After a number of protesters were injured by rubber bullets, there was palpable anger at the line of cops arrayed across the Vibhavadi Rangsit Road. 

    At one point, a protester ascended shipping containers behind the police and urinated on them from on high. In another widely shared clip, the police kept a high-pressure water cannon trained on a protester even after they were knocked to the ground.

    Sunai Pasuk of Human Rights Watch cited U.N. guidelines specifying that less-lethal weapons such as rubber bullets should not be used to target the head, face or neck, and rubber-coated metal bullets are particularly dangerous and should not be used.

    At 11:30pm, Capt. Wiwat Sinsert of Thammasala Police was reported dead at Ratchawithi Hospital, where he had been taken after sudden cardiac arrest. His death was mourned by both police and also one of the protest’s organizers, the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration. 

    “We’d like to express our condolences to the dead police’s family,” the group said in a Monday morning statement that went on to attack the highest authorities, including laying blame on the palace for the harsh police tactics. “This tragedy wouldn’t have happened without the order of ‘the boss’ who happily lives off our taxes. ‘The boss’ who invested in repressing the people until one of his officers had to make the ultimate sacrifice. Since your boss sees you, low-ranking police, as disposable, now is the time for you to stand up to serve the people. The police’s boss is actually the people, not the feudalists, as they say.

    Read more Coconuts Bangkok stories here.

     

     

    This article, Fury after Bangkok cops fire rubber rounds at marchers, injuring 16, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company.

    1 March 2021
    Coconuts Bangkok
    Politics, News, Bangkok
    https://coconuts.co/?p=1028951
  • Thailand rejects speculation coronavirus emerged at Bangkok’s Chatuchak Market

    A public health official this afternoon refuted a report suggesting Bangkok’s sprawling Chatuchak Market was the origin of the global pandemic that has ravaged the world for over a year now. Chawetsan Namwat of the Disease Control Department said Thailand has already looked into and dismissed the possibility in response to a Danish news report ...

    This article, Thailand rejects speculation coronavirus emerged at Bangkok’s Chatuchak Market, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company.

    A public health official this afternoon refuted a report suggesting Bangkok’s sprawling Chatuchak Market was the origin of the global pandemic that has ravaged the world for over a year now.

    Chawetsan Namwat of the Disease Control Department said Thailand has already looked into and dismissed the possibility in response to a Danish news report that the massive open market could have spawned Sars-Cov-2 amid a WHO inquiry looking at whether it originated in Southeast Asia rather than China.

    “The Department of Disease Control has looked into the issue, and we can say that it’s not true,” said Chawetsan, head of the department’s Disease Control and Emergency Health Risks Division. “There is no academic proof that it came from any animal [at the market].”

    Chawetsan Namwat
    Chawetsan Namwat

    Denmark’s Politiken published a Danish-language article Monday questioning whether Chatuchak was indeed “the place that brought the coronavirus to Wuhan.” It cited Danish epidemiologist Thea Kolsen Fischer, who was on a recent WHO fact-finding mission to China that said Southeast Asia could be a source of the virus. 

    The WHO team this month complained that its investigation was hampered by China’s refusal to hand over critical data. While its probe did not rule out that the virus could have emerged as believed in Wuhan, Beijing immediately spun its findings as evidence that it didn’t.

    When the WHO results were announced earlier this month, Chinese state media began promoting the idea the virus emerged in Southeast Asia. A story in The Global Times quoted another member of the WHO team first suggesting a Thai link.

    Before it spawns the next pandemic, should Thailand stamp out the wildlife trade?

    “There was a virus from Thailand close to the SARS-CoV-2, and also Japan and Cambodia. Ecohealth Alliance is already starting our work in tracing their origins,” the paper quoted Peter Daszak.

    The first known cases of what would later be named COVID-19 were found in the Wuhan Huanan seafood market, with theories that it came from a bat or pangolin.

    At Chatuchak, rows of live animals including illicit wildlife are sold in dank quarters mostly out of sight of the thousands of tourists who pack it on weekends for T-shirts, souvenirs and tchotchkes. 

    Chawetsan this afternoon said health officials and wildlife officials have been putting preventive measures in place at several animal markets, including Chatuchak.

    Politiken reported Fisher’s belief that those exotic animals sold at Chatuchak, including snakes, meerkats, spiders and bats, – the latter of which in China’s Wuhan was initially blamed to be the cause of coronavirus – and was visited by thousands of people from the globe.

    Politiken is a daily Copenhagen broadsheet founded in 1884.

    Correction: An earlier version of this story cited a tweet by WHO scientist Thea Fischer correcting the Politiken story. She was in fact referring to another publication.

    This article, Thailand rejects speculation coronavirus emerged at Bangkok’s Chatuchak Market, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company.

    24 February 2021
    Coconuts Bangkok
    News, Health, Bangkok
    https://coconuts.co/?p=1028787
  • Here’s every joint cooking with CBD across Thailand (that we know of)

    Restaurants and cafes nationwide have been quick to capitalize on relaxed drug laws enabling them to serve recipes infused with CBD hype. While you’d have to really chow down to get a buzz – the law caps allowed THC content at 0.3% – there is something for anxiety, pain, appetites, sleep and even cancer if ...

    This article, Here’s every joint cooking with CBD across Thailand (that we know of), originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company.

    Restaurants and cafes nationwide have been quick to capitalize on relaxed drug laws enabling them to serve recipes infused with CBD hype.

    While you’d have to really chow down to get a buzz – the law caps allowed THC content at 0.3% – there is something for anxiety, pain, appetites, sleep and even cancer if all the boosters are to be believed. 

    From Bangkok proper and Chiang Mai city to Korat and places in between, here are the places where weed is now on the menu.

    420 Cannabis Bar (Bangkok)

    Photo: 420 Cannabis Bar Bangkok
    Photo: 420 Cannabis Bar Bangkok

    Opened just earlier this month, 420 Cannabis Bar Bangkok offers a neon-lit vibe and some stools for customers to sip cannabis teas and bubble teas that contain cannabidiol, or CBD. The place also serves “Fly High Cookie” CBD chocolate chip cookies, CBD Brownies and baked pot leaf and spinach with cheese.

    The cafe is located on Soi Premier 1 Yark 8 in Bangkok’s Prawet district near Paradise Park. It’s open 10:30 to 8pm, Sunday through Thursday, and 10:30pm through 10pm on  Friday and Saturday. A delivery service is also available.

    Read more: New joint: Bangkok’s 1st cannabis cafe opens with CBD teas, snacks

    Kanom Siam (Bangkok)

    Photo: Kanom Siam / Facebook
    Photo: Kanom Siam / Facebook

    A Bangkok dessert shop best known for its traditional pandan coconut-rice pancakes earlier this month teased that it will offer the Thai dessert infused with cannabis leaves “very soon.” 

    “This dessert has fragrance from pandan and is mixed with cannabis species carefully selected by us – from the strains, controlled cultivation, harvest and logistics – ready to be cooked fresh for our fans to try,” the dessert shop teased with images of a cannabis leaf draped over equally green baked goodies.

    Read more: Bangkok dessert shop to sell cannabis-infused goodies

    Kanom Siam currently has three branches: Siam Paragon, EmQuartier and inside the Suan Plern Market on Rama V Road.

    Kiew Kai Ka (Bangkok, Chiang Mai)

    Photo: Kiew Kai Ka
    Photo: Kiew Kai Ka

    The rustic Thai restaurant since earlier this month has launched a wide range of Thai crowd-pleasing dishes from green curry, stir-fried malindjo leaves with egg and chicken soup with tamarind leaves – all infused with cannabis. A “Happy Omelette” is also included on the menu.

    Kiew Kai Ka has two branches – one in Bangkok’s Lat Phrao area and another located on Nimman Road in Chiang Mai province. It opens from 11am through 10pm every day.

    Goodsouls Kitchen (Bangkok, Chiang Mai)

    Images: Goodsouls Kitchen
    Images: Goodsouls Kitchen

    File this one under “coming soon.” With branches in Bangkok and Chiang Mai, plant-based restaurant Goodsouls Kitchen recently teased six new food and drinks on the menu including a smoothie bowl, pesto pasta, vegetarian burger, vegan steak and Burmese tea leaf salad – all infused with marijuana leaves. 

    No date was given for when Goodsouls’s new dishes would go on sale, though, as it is awaiting official approval from the Food and Drug Administration. As soon as it gets it, it will be among 40 restaurants working with Maejo University to serve cannabis-infused food for customers. 

    Read more: CBD menu coming to veggie resto ‘Goodsouls’ in Bangkok & Chiang Mai

    The Bangkok branch is located on Soi Thanpuying Puangrat-prapai off Soi Sukhumvit 26. It’s open 9am to 9pm every day. Its other two branches are in Chiang Mai city – one on Chang Moi Road and another on Singharat Road.

    Hop Beer House Korat (Nakhon Ratchasima)

    Photo: Hop Beer House Korat
    Photo: Hop Beer House Korat

    Claiming itself to be the first place that serves cannabis menus in its province and Isan region, the craft beer bar and restaurant in Korat city now serves a selection of recipes such as sour and spicy chicken soup, minced pork omelette, pizza sprinkled with hemp leaves and green hemp puddings. The bar in the future will serve craft beer and wine infused with cannabis as well.

    Hop Beer House Korat has three branches in Nakhon Ratchasima province. It opens 4pm through midnight every day.

    Class Cafe (Nakhon Ratchasima)

    Photo: Class Cafe
    Photo: Class Cafe

    With its four branches spanning throughout the Korat city, Class Cafe serves cannabis caffeinated drinks under the brand “Khao Yai Calm” to go with its burger stuffed and sprinkled with cannabis leaf powder. In the future, the venue will offer delivery service via LINE Man.

    The cafe currently has four branches in Nakhon Ratchasima province. 

    Ban Lao Ruang (Prachinburi)

    Deep-fried weed leaves served with spicy mango salad, at left, and sparkling passion fruit mixed with weed juice. Images: Coconuts
    Deep-fried weed leaves served with spicy mango salad, at left, and sparkling passion fruit mixed with weed juice. Images: Coconuts

    Sitting inside a house that once housed a dental practice which was donated to the  Chaophraya Abhaibhubejhr Hospital’s  foundation for public benefit, Ban Lao Ruang is billed as the very first venue that serve cannabis-infused menus – some with wink-wink names – such as “Smiley Tempura” deep-fried weed leaves with spicy mango salad, “Good Mood Soda” cannabis juice-infused passionfruit soda and pot pizza.

    Read more: Weed is on the menu at Thailand’s first cannabis-cookin’ cafe

    Ban Lao Rueng is located on Namuang Road in Prachinburi city. It’s open 10am to 7:30pm every day. 

    Abhaibhubejhr Day Spa (Prachinburi)

    Located only 5-minute drive from Ban Lao Ruang is the spa house recently overwhelmingly visited by locals and tourists who want to savor its kitchen’s cannabis menus from pad kaprao to spicy pork soup with weed leaves

    Abhaibhubejhr Day Spa opens from 8:30am through 4:30pm daily. It’s located inside the Chaophraya Abhaibhubejhr Hospital in Prachinburi city.


    Baan Tool (Rayong)

    Photo: Baan Tool
    Photo: Baan Tool

    The restaurant-slash-cafe is the only place in Rayong province that’s allowed to serve food and drinks infused with cannabis. Some of the good-selling dishes include laab, tom yum goong, seafood spaghetti and fish cakes. The venue is owned by 33-year-old Nopporn Choosirak who is permitted to serve the dishes after he bought a franchise from government-approved Siamkanya Cafe.

    Baan Tool is located on Srimuangnua Road in Rayong city. It opens from 8am until 7pm daily, except Thursday.

    Related

    CBD menu coming to veggie resto ‘Goodsouls’ in Bangkok & Chiang Mai

    Thai firm grows weed bursting with CBD to win the ‘green rush’

    New joint: Bangkok’s 1st cannabis cafe opens with CBD teas, snacks

    Bangkok dessert shop to sell cannabis-infused goodies

    Weed is on the menu at Thailand’s first cannabis-cookin’ cafe

    Patients follow pain, hope to Thailand’s – and Asia’s – 1st marijuana clinic

    This article, Here’s every joint cooking with CBD across Thailand (that we know of), originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company.

    25 February 2021
    Chayanit Itthipongmaetee
    Hot Spots, Food Guides, Food & Drink, F&B News, Bangkok
    https://coconuts.co/?p=1028865
  • At breaking point, Thailand’s poor are killing themselves

    An Isaan mother unable to buy milk for her children. A Bangkok taxi driver upset over government mishandling of aid relief. An English teacher despairing from financial calamity. A father followed by his daughter. Those are just a few of the dozens of people who have taken their lives in a surge of suicides related ...

    This article, At breaking point, Thailand’s poor are killing themselves, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company.

    An Isaan mother unable to buy milk for her children. A Bangkok taxi driver upset over government mishandling of aid relief. An English teacher despairing from financial calamity. A father followed by his daughter.

    Those are just a few of the dozens of people who have taken their lives in a surge of suicides related to the COVID-19 crisis throughout the kingdom, with health officials saying Wednesday their mental health hotline has been overwhelmed by calls.

    Satit Pitudecha of Public Health Department said more than 600 calls were made in March to its crisis hotline, compared to only 20 to 40 in each of the previous two months. So far this month, Satit estimates the calls will exceed 600.

    On Tuesday, Irada, a mother of two in Maha Sarakham province hanged herself after she could no longer afford to buy milk for her children – a six-month-old and a six-year-old. Irada usually made out a living by riding a cart and selling drinking yoghurt to houses, something that no longer earned enough money for her to feed her family. 

    One independent effort counted reports of at least 22 outbreak-related suicides since March 20. 

    Thailand has the world’s worst wealth inequality, and the ranks of the poor have been hardest hit.

    Four days after he joined dozens of people to protest at the Ministry of Finance for its inefficient THB5,000 aid screening, 58-year-old taxi driver Nam Jiamsupa committed suicide in his home in Bangkok. Nam’s son told police that his father didn’t have enough money to pay his THB18,000 taxi lease for three month – and he couldn’t get the THB5,000 aid promised by the government. 

    A portrait of taxi driver Nam Jiamsupa at his funeral.
    A portrait of taxi driver Nam Jiamsupa at his funeral.

    On Monday, the bodies of a 41-year-old man and his 5-year-old daughter were found floating north of Bangkok in Ayutthaya’s Pa Sak River. Residents told police that the father had been unemployed and couldn’t find a job to earn income. A witness said they heard the father jumped into the water first, followed by his crying daughter.  

    Mental health crises haven’t been limited to indigent Thais. In late March, a 26-year-old Briton working in Bangkok as an English tutor jumped from a 13th-floor balcony. A friend told the police he had been depressed after his income dried up due to the crisis. Two weeks after, a 74-year-old British businessman jumped off an overpass and onto Ramkhamhaeng Road. He was said to have been despairing over heavy business losses.

    Mental Health Department director Kiattiphum Wongworajit compared the crisis to that of 1997, when the Tom Yum Goong financial crisis saw per capita suicide rates rise to 8.59 per 100,000 people. Kittiphum said people should take good care of each other during hard times to prevent those numbers from returning.

    But the situation was already much worse than that even before the pandemic, according to the WHO. Thailand had the highest suicide rate in ASEAN with 14.4 suicides per 100,000 people as of 2016, the last year data is available.

    Health officials today reported another 13 infections and one death, bringing confirmed totals to 2,839 infections and 50 deaths since the outbreak began.

    Anyone suffering mental health issues, Kittiphum said, can start with a self-assessment via an application Mental Health Check Up (Thai only, iOS/Android). The hotline for mental health issues is 1323. All lines were busy at noon today. 

    Samaritans Thailand said it discontinued its well-known suicide prevention hotline last month because its counselers could no longer come to work. It’s now offering a callback service via its hotline at 02-713-6791.

    Kiattiphum added that mental health volunteers would do direct outreach in areas deemed highly affected by the crisis, but did not provide specifics.

    The government’s failure to provide promised aid hasn’t helped.

    Criticism has been leveled at the authorities for being unable to pay THB5,000 stipends they promised would “leave no one behind.” Many “informal workers” who applied were rejected by the Finance Ministry, which said it relied on automated applicant screening.

    Wiroj Lakkana-adisorn, an MP for the disbanded Future Forward Party, demanded the government improve its measures to help struggling people. 

    “How many more people having to kill themselves so Gen. Prayuth Chan-o-cha finds his conscience? The 5,000 baht aid should be paid quickly and equally. Food donation spots should be provided. Let’s think about relaxing measures so the economy can move again,” Wiroj tweeted this week.

    If you are considering harming yourself, please reach out for help. Assistance is available around the clock from the Mental Health Department’s 1323 hotline (for Thai speakers) or the Samaritans of Thailand at 02-713-6793 (for Thai speakers), and 02-713-6791 (for English speakers).

    This article, At breaking point, Thailand’s poor are killing themselves, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company.

    23 April 2020
    Coconuts Bangkok
    News, Bangkok
    https://coconuts.co/?p=1012014
  • Coronavirus at Bangkok’s Chatuchak Market? It’s already happened.

    In fetid rows of stalls at Bangkok’s Chatuchak Market, mongooses, polecats, meerkats, ferrets and cougars are packed in. Civet cats – which likely bridged SARS to humans – are bred and sold. These scenes not only make people like Steve Galster anxious, they belie any claim the sprawling market isn’t an outbreak waiting to happen ...

    This article, Coronavirus at Bangkok’s Chatuchak Market? It’s already happened., originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company.

    In fetid rows of stalls at Bangkok’s Chatuchak Market, mongooses, polecats, meerkats, ferrets and cougars are packed in. Civet cats – which likely bridged SARS to humans – are bred and sold.

    These scenes not only make people like Steve Galster anxious, they belie any claim the sprawling market isn’t an outbreak waiting to happen and already a breeding ground for viruses, as acknowledged by health officials for the first time yesterday.

    “Why are they being allowed to be sold, given what we know?” Galster said today of how viruses can leap from animals to humans under such conditions. “And these dealers are taking us into the back and showing us everything else they can sell – from zebras to hippos.”

    Still, the founder of anti-trafficking group Freeland, which last year seized on the pandemic to campaign against the wildlife trade’s threat to human health, was thrilled to hear an actual health official discussing the risk it poses for the first time in memory.

    “I was encouraged by the fact a Ministry of Public Health official was talking about the wildlife trade and COVID-19,” he said of a disease control officer’s assurances yesterday that it was on their radar. “It was the first time we’ve ever heard the [health ministry] talk about the wildlife trade at all.”

    Vector in the making? Photo: Freeland
    Vector in the making? Photo: Freeland

    That official was Chawetsan Namwat of the Disease Control Department, who yesterday swatted down such concerns after Chatuchak was called out in a European newspaper for being the very kind of place to spawn a viral outbreak. As Coconuts noted yesterday, that story only raised the question of whether the virus could have climbed out of Chatuchak’s squalid animal pens and into Patient Zero.

    Chawetsan said there was no evidence supporting that, noting that bats found earlier this month to have a very similar coronavirus are not sold at the market.

    But with those comments came the first known confirmation that coronaviruses are, or have been, in circulation at Chatuchak. In a written version of his comments, Chawetsan disclosed that animals were found with coronavirus in a March 2020 inspection, but it was different from SARS-CoV-2, the virus that a month earlier had been designated COVID-19.

    What Galster is most concerned about is the emergence of a bird flu, the kind of which swept Asia to devastating effect 17 years ago.

    “That is to me the craziest risk from that market. You see pigeons, urban pigeons, having close contact with vultures, wild turkeys and domesticated ducks on top of pigs next to dogs,” he said. “It’s all there, stuffed together.”

    The very politically sensitive question of where the outbreak truly began spilled into Thailand on Wednesday  in response to Copenhagen daily Politiken’s story – a story the WHO took pains to distance itself from yesterday, even though its facts were solid.

    We're all counting on her immunuresponse. Photo: Freeland
    We’re all counting on her immunuresponse. Photo: Freeland

    Thailand rejects speculation coronavirus emerged at Bangkok’s Chatuchak Market

    “One expert member of this group was recently misquoted as suggesting that the origin of the virus was Thailand,” WHO Thailand said in a statement. “There is no current evidence to suggest this. The article with the misquote has since been corrected.”

    It said that its final report would not offer a conclusion on where the virus began, but would identify areas of further study in China “and elsewhere.”

    But eyes have been on Thailand since a WHO mission to China’s initial findings earlier this month raised Southeast Asia as a possible point of origin rather than China – a theory enthusiastically amplified in Chinese state media reports.

    And anyone pondering just where in Southeast Asia that could be would quickly land on Chatuchak as a leading suspect, given its grotesque, unregulated trade in wildlife.

    Before it spawns the next pandemic, should Thailand stamp out the wildlife trade?

    For now, Galster said he’s happy to know Chatuchak is on Thailand’s public health radar. In the past, it has been the domain of wildlife officials who are unlikely to bring an epidemiological perspective.

    But he said Thailand will need to do more than put on another photo-op of spraying cleaning fluids as they did last year after Freeland called attention to the issue.

    “For anyone to say that this market is regulated is lying,” he said. “For anyone to say markets like this … can be regulated is like saying we can safely regulate nuclear bombs after Nagasaki.”

    The best course he sees? “Shut it down today,” Galster offered in reply.

    Photo: Freeland
    Photo: Freeland
    Photo: Freeland
    Photo: Freeland

    Additional reporting Chayanit Itthipongmaetee

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    This article, Coronavirus at Bangkok’s Chatuchak Market? It’s already happened., originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company.

    25 February 2021
    Todd Ruiz
    News, Environment, Bangkok
    https://coconuts.co/?p=1028842
  • Shorter quarantines on table again as vaccine arrival gives Thai tourism hope

    Another look is being given to making quarantine less of a hassle to lure foreign travelers back to the kingdom now that vaccines have finally landed in the kingdom. Fewer days of mandatory isolation and access to facilities outside of one’s room are among options under consideration to lower the barrier to travel, Gen. Nattapon ...

    This article, Shorter quarantines on table again as vaccine arrival gives Thai tourism hope, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company.

    Another look is being given to making quarantine less of a hassle to lure foreign travelers back to the kingdom now that vaccines have finally landed in the kingdom.

    Fewer days of mandatory isolation and access to facilities outside of one’s room are among options under consideration to lower the barrier to travel, Gen. Nattapon Nakpanich of the National Security Council said Wednesday, the day the first two batches of COVID-19 vaccines arrived from abroad.

    Relaxing the stringent requirements that turn off tourists and attracting vaccinated visitors and investors to Thailand, he said, is a priority for Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha, as the nation also wants to host more international sporting events after it won deals for world-class badminton and jet ski tournaments.

    Prayuth on Tuesday said that tourists with COVID-19 passports, a theoretical certificate  of vaccination, would not need to isolate themselves at all but would still have their whereabouts monitored.

    Nattapon said that health officials may not be ready to go that far just yet, as visitors can still be carrying the virus. 

    But the tourism industry is eager for any relief after seeing receipts fall from THB1.9 trillion from about 40 million tourists two years ago to only THB332 billion spent by 6.7 million visitors last year. The risk factor will change in the coming months as more vaccine reaches Thailand. The first 317,600 doses arrived Wednesday, a mix of Chinese-made CoronaVac from Beijing and AstraZeneca from Italy.

    Nattapon said travel options are likely to look like the “villa quarantine” now being piloted in Phuket. After five days confined to their rooms, guests are allowed out to enjoy hotel facilities. They also aim to reduce the total duration from 14 days by an unspecified number of days.

    Earlier this week, the cabinet approved transit flights to be allowed at Suvarnabhumi airport, but passengers will be confined to a specific area at the airport terminal and allowed to stay up to 12 hours. They won’t have to go through the virus screening but have to show fit-to-fly and health certificates, as well as health insurance.

    The rate of new COVID-19 cases has been declining since early February with fewer than 100 local transmissions logged since Valentine’s Day. Today, health officials announced 72 new cases, seven of which were found in Bangkok. The official death toll stands at 83.

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    This article, Shorter quarantines on table again as vaccine arrival gives Thai tourism hope, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company.

    25 February 2021
    Coconuts Bangkok
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    https://coconuts.co/?p=1028830
  • 3 Prayuth cabinet members convicted of sedition

    Three members of the military-backed cabinet of Prayuth Chan-o-cha were removed from office today after a court found them guilty of sedition, according to a pool reporter in the court. Puttipong Punnakanta, Nataphol Teepsuwan and Thaworn Senniam are no longer eligible to serve as ministers of the Digital Economy and Society, Education and Transportation ministries, ...

    This article, 3 Prayuth cabinet members convicted of sedition, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company.

    Three members of the military-backed cabinet of Prayuth Chan-o-cha were removed from office today after a court found them guilty of sedition, according to a pool reporter in the court.

    Puttipong Punnakanta, Nataphol Teepsuwan and Thaworn Senniam are no longer eligible to serve as ministers of the Digital Economy and Society, Education and Transportation ministries, respectively, after the Criminal Court late afternoon Wednesday convicted them of inciting rebellion for their roles in street protests that precipitated the 2014 coup d’etat – which led to them becoming ministers in the post-junta government.

    All men were tried for a raft of charges including sedition. They received sentences ranging from 5 years to 7 years.

    Also convicted of sedition was Suthep Thaugsuban, who left the Democrat Party to orchestrate the street rallies aimed at undermining and overthrowing the elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra. 

    Suthep was sentenced to five years in prison.

    Ed. note: While the original media pool report used the word “treason,” the charge for which they were convicted is more accurately translated as “sedition.”

    This article, 3 Prayuth cabinet members convicted of sedition, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company.

    24 February 2021
    Coconuts Bangkok
    Politics, News, Crime, Bangkok
    https://coconuts.co/?p=1028806
  • Trip out in Central Chidlom’s 10,000-title ‘Book Cave’ (Photos)

    In Plato’s allegory, people were trapped by ignorance inside a cave. In a Bangkok mall, the cave is where knowledge is found. Thailand’s top stationery and lifestyle chain B2S has unveiled a visually arresting attraction for avid readers with curvy wooden shelves, a mirrored ceiling, and photogenic “book cave” with a vast selection of over ...

    This article, Trip out in Central Chidlom’s 10,000-title ‘Book Cave’ (Photos), originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company.

    In Plato’s allegory, people were trapped by ignorance inside a cave. In a Bangkok mall, the cave is where knowledge is found.

    Thailand’s top stationery and lifestyle chain B2S has unveiled a visually arresting attraction for avid readers with curvy wooden shelves, a mirrored ceiling, and photogenic “book cave” with a vast selection of over 10,000 stationery and book titles in Thai and English at its new Think Space in Central Chidlom shopping mall.

    The 1,000sqm space opened just last week and also provides art and craft supplies, IT gadgets and the child-oriented Play & Learn Space. The space in the future will host workshops and panel discussions.

    With the evolution of digital media, people’s behavior and attitudes have changed, forcing bookstores and retailers to adapt or die. Many bookstores have closed or scaled down or reoriented their businesses to not rely solely on physical book sales.

    B2S recently opened an even more massive 3,000sqm store at Central Eastville, making it one of the largest bookstores in Southeast Asia.

    B2S Think Space is located on the sixth floor of Central Chidlom shopping mall, connected to BTS Chit Lom. It opens from 10am through 9pm every day. 

    B2S Think Space inside Central Chidlom. Photo: Coconuts Bangkok
    B2S Think Space inside Central Chidlom. Photo: Coconuts Bangkok
    B2S Think Space inside Central Chidlom. Photo: Coconuts Bangkok
    B2S Think Space inside Central Chidlom. Photo: Coconuts Bangkok
    B2S Think Space inside Central Chidlom. Photo: Coconuts Bangkok
    B2S Think Space inside Central Chidlom. Photo: Coconuts Bangkok
    B2S Think Space inside Central Chidlom. Photo: Coconuts Bangkok
    B2S Think Space inside Central Chidlom. Photo: Coconuts Bangkok
    B2S Think Space inside Central Chidlom. Photo: Coconuts Bangkok
    B2S Think Space inside Central Chidlom. Photo: Coconuts Bangkok
    B2S Think Space inside Central Chidlom. Photo: Coconuts Bangkok
    B2S Think Space inside Central Chidlom. Photo: Coconuts Bangkok

    Read more Coconuts Bangkok stories here.

    This article, Trip out in Central Chidlom’s 10,000-title ‘Book Cave’ (Photos), originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company.

    24 February 2021
    Chayanit Itthipongmaetee
    Retail Therapy, Lifestyle News, Lifestyle, City guides, Bangkok
    https://coconuts.co/?p=1028766
  • Pandemic propels Thai mom with ‘nothing to lose’ into internet pornstar

    Fernie Warisa used to squeeze into a Hooters tank top and orange hotpants to serve buffalo wings and beer on Silom Road. For years, she took side jobs as an erotic model, posing nude for men mags. But that was it. No sex. After the modeling money began to dwarf her Hooters salary, she dropped ...

    This article, Pandemic propels Thai mom with ‘nothing to lose’ into internet pornstar, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company.

    Fernie Warisa used to squeeze into a Hooters tank top and orange hotpants to serve buffalo wings and beer on Silom Road. For years, she took side jobs as an erotic model, posing nude for men mags. But that was it. No sex.

    After the modeling money began to dwarf her Hooters salary, she dropped the job late last year to freelance full time. She became a familiar face in Kinaree Magazine and on erotic photo sites. 

    She was earning about THB60,000 (US$2,000) a month when COVID-19 wiped out all her jobs in nearly the blink of an eye, leaving her with nothing to fall back on. She gave up her rented condo in the city and moved back into her family home in the northwestern outskirts. It was there that she made a decision.

    “When the outbreak got serious I had to go back to my hometown in Nonthaburi because I had no income,” Fernie, 32, said. “Then, since I had nothing to lose, I thought, ‘Fuck it, I have a child to look after.’”

    Though she was stuck at home, she knew well her body’s earning power. She remembered an off-hand comment from a photographer about a site where other models were supplementing their incomes.

    Unlike other models-for-hire who have seen their livelihoods collapse during the pandemic, Fernie is among a few who’ve seized opportunity from crisis at the cost of going further than she’d ever intended. Today, she is earning more than ever before – without leaving home – as a thriving online porn star.

    Paving the way

    Like many young women working in Bangkok’s nightlife scene, Fernie grew up poor. She started working at 15 as a waitress at a hotel and restaurant to help pay for her own education. Life in the service world wasn’t bad, so she aspired to become a Hooters girl after graduating from a food and beverage program. In 2018, she applied. 

    Auditioning for one of the coveted positions was “fierce” and “intense,” as girls looking to play the part – and earn the hefty tips – must have good faces and killer bodies to qualify as customer eye candy. From there, it’s not uncommon for Hooters girls like Ferinie to get side jobs as models to make more money.

    It was in March, as those jobs evaporated and she sat in her mother’s home considering her options that Fernie remembered her long abandoned account on an adult content subscription site called Onlyfans.com. She went online and reactivated her account.

    There, creators maintain a “timeline” much like Facebook or other social media, except every post is reliably NSFW. Nothing can be seen without a paid subscription – therefore creators like Fernie use other platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and even TikTok to market themselves and draw subscribers in.

    It became clear that if she really wanted to make it and do more than just survive, she’d have to go further. She thought of the young daughter and parents she provides for.

    “Many models choose to draw people in by posting sexy pics, but if I wanted to get it going, I had to go bigger than that,” she said, confident people weren’t going to pay only for sexy pics on the internet. “I wanted to become famous quickly, that’s why I went all the way to nudity.”

    Thus began her journey from doing cheesecake photos as a pin-up girl to full-fledged adult performer.

    Her initial plan was to only sell erotic and nude photos, but as often happens, one thing led to another. 

    And when the internet sees a woman posting sexy nudes, it usually assumes she does porn.

    At first Fernie hated those insinuations. She felt insulted and would block anyone called her a “porn star.” But it eventually wore her down and, in the way of internet grooming, became a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy as the messages kept pouring in.

    “When I got them that frequently, I started to think of them as compliments,” she said with a giggle. “Then the thought of, ‘If I sell nude pics, I might as well sell porn,’ came to my mind, because they’re similar anyway.”

    She started recording sex tapes as a treat for her subscribers and saw her income surge in response to nearly THB100,000 a month from OnlyFans alone.

    Photo: modernvintagemodels / Courtesy of Fernie Warisa
    Photo: modernvintagemodels / Courtesy of Fernie Warisa

    Social stigma

    Prostitution and pornography are both illegal and seen as taboo to many in the kingdom. This has led various officials over the years to make puzzling declarations that people don’t come to Thailand for sex and that places such as Pattaya, a global sex destination, is prostitution-free.

    All that may seem ironic as Thailand’s sex industry accounts for 4% to 10% of its economy, according to the Empower Foundation, an NGO advocating for Thai sex workers. 

    But those social stigmas are strong. Without the English to gain access to the larger world of global internet sex exhibitionism, Fernie may not have had the nerve to do it. Going international took her into a world uninhibited by social restraints.

    Although there are Thai platforms such as Mlive or secret Line chat groups she could have turned to, Fernie said that she knew Thailand wasn’t her targeted audience. In fact it was her fear of Thais that led her to choose OnlyFans. She recalled hurtful experiences of Thai photographers insulting her model friends.

    “The insults, even though they weren’t shot at me, they hurt,” she said. “The photographers talked about my friends’ boobs and pussies behind their backs. It shows Thai society still cannot accept nudity and pornography much.”

    When it comes to sex, she’s found much less toxicity online.

    “But as I’m here [at OnlyFans] where most of my followers are farangs, there have been only compliments, saying they like what I do,” she said.

    On the platform, she posts explicit nude photos of her in lewd poses and clips of her having sex, sometimes in steamy leather outfits and handcuffs. She also engages with her followers with dirty-talk chat and offers special services such as phone sex. 

    Being on an overseas platform makes it less likely her personal friends become aware of how she’s making her living – though she stresses that she doesn’t mean to conceal it. She just thinks they don’t need to know.

    Photo: modernvintagemodels / Courtesy of Fernie Warisa
    Photo: modernvintagemodels / Courtesy of Fernie Warisa

    That fear of recognition is the main barrier stopping many of her friends, other models who found themselves in the same predicament, from cashing in on the online gold rush, despite bad economic times.

    Some of Fernie’s friends working at bars and restaurants also do a side-trade in sex, but never tell acquaintances about that part. That desire to keep it secret – or at least plausibly deniable behind a normal job – means selling themselves on social media risks too much exposure.

    Some of those friends have fallen back on the traditional route: going out and having sex with guys for money. 

    She could have done the same, but thought the threat of the deadly communicable disease gripping the world made it unwise. With curfews and other social controls in place, it just wasn’t worth it.

    “Now that money from performing physical sex is harder to earn than ever, online is the easier way to go,” she said, noting that now she doesn’t have to pay rent, as she no longer needs to be downtown to earn. “Since I turned to doing this gig, I feel so safe. And now I have more time to look after my kid than ever before.”

    Still, it’s a leap she thinks most sex workers aren’t ready to make.

    Two Patpong go-go bar girls who spoke on condition of anonymity said their employers gave them survival kits of food, medicine and some money before their bar closed. Since then, they’ve come in to clean the bar to earn some wages. But both women said they are scraping by on their dwindling savings because they have children to look after, and their boyfriends are the only real breadwinners now.

    They, like many other sex workers, are awaiting the day entertainment venues and bars are able to reopen, so that they can get back to business, too. 

    Today, as businesses are reopening and society steps back to life, Fernie’s prospects look only set to grow. New modeling offers have started pouring in, even more than before because her risque content has caught the attention of several magazines.

    Though she is doing more than she originally bargained for, she does have a new limit: She hasn’t taken money for actual sex. At least not yet.

    But along with the money it does bring, fame inevitably invites recognition. Fernie says she has prepared herself for that the day her personal friends find out what she’s been up to. She’s prepared for them to disown her.

    “I’m proud of what I’m doing,” she said. “They don’t give me money or provide for my family, so I won’t be ashamed.”

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    This article, Pandemic propels Thai mom with ‘nothing to lose’ into internet pornstar, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company.

    19 June 2020
    Thitima Sukontaros
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    https://coconuts.co/?p=1015739