Thailand military coup: Australians face travel insurance issues

15/08/2019 // by admin

Australians in Thailand have been told to check their travel insurance now that political unrest has turned into an army coup, with at least one leading insurer refusing to cover those planning to visit the country.
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Rob Whelan, chief executive of the Insurance Council of Australia, said policies would not be voided due to the coup but exclusions would apply.

“Though travel insurance will usually not cover you for claims arising from military insurrection, including any restrictions on your activities, travellers remain covered for normal travel-related claims,” he said.

Customers of InsureandGo trying to travel to Thailand are “currently unable to purchase a policy with the company”, according to Julius Paramour, operations manager.

He said that InsureandGo is advising its customers already in Thailand to monitor the advice and warnings of the Federal Government’s SmartTraveller website, “to exercise a high degree of caution and be aware of exclusion zones”.

Thailand is Australia’s fourth most popular overseas holiday destination with well over half-a-million Australians visiting there in 2011-12. But visitor numbers to the once popular but now strife-torn capital, Bangkok, have declined sharply following ongoing violent protests over recent months.

Mr Paramour said that “as per standard practice”, InsureandGo will assess each claim from customers in Thailand on an individual basis. “InsureandGo will take all reasonable measures to assist its customers in Thailand.”

Most, if not all, travel insurance policies exclude claims involving martial law and coups in the fine print of their product disclosure statements.

Earlier this week martial law was unexpectedly declared in Thailand with a war of semantics developing over whether the act constituted an actual coup d’etat.  But that debate has now been settled by the Thai military.

The army has imposed a nationwide curfew from 10pm until 5am, which Australians and other visitors in the country will have to obey.

Leading travel insurers CoverMore and Medibank Private list as exclusions “claims arising as a result of war, invasion, act of foreign enemy, hostilities (whether war be declared or not), civil war, rebellion, revolution, insurrection or military or usurped power”.

However, a spokeswoman for Medibank said that if a policy was purchased prior to the imposition of military or usurped power the customer will still be covered for their trip. She said: “Claims that are not born as a direct consequence of the situation will also still be covered (for example, if an airline loses luggage).”

The spokeswoman said that Medibank’s agents check travel warnings daily and advise customers travelling to affected destinations. They also advise on “associated conditions and exclusions on the travel policy”, as a result of travelling to the affected country.

“There is also information on Medibank’s website regarding travel advice and warnings, and we urge travellers to read this to prior to making travel arrangements, to ensure they are briefed on their intended destination.”

A spokesman for the Insurance Council of Australia said that individual insurers will decide their own “terms and conditions” in regards to travel to Thailand with many having policy exclusions for civil war and civil unrest.

He said that travel insurers may elect to introduce a “new policy embargo”, meaning that they will refuse to “write a policy” covering travel to Thailand.

Earlier this week Singapore Airlines issued a statement alerting passengers to the potential for traffic jams in Bangkok due to road closures as a result of the imposition of martial law and to leave for the airport at four hours prior to departure and where possible to use the airport rail link.

The airline also informed passengers that it will waive administrative fees and penalties for refunds, rebooking or re-routing for customers holding confirmed tickets issue on or before May 19, 2014, for travel to and from Bangkok, on or before May 31, 2014.

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Brisbane West Wellcamp airlines almost lined up: Wagner

15/08/2019 // by admin

The runway starts to take shape at the Wellcamp airport at Toowoomba. Photo: Supplied Bosses of Wellcamp airport at Toowoomba expect to be open for business this year. Photo: Supplied
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The operators of Australia’s first privately-built major public airport say passenger airlines will be flying in and out of Toowoomba as soon as construction is finished in October.

And the Brisbane West Wellcamp Airport, under construction about 17 kilometres west of Toowoomba, could also operate as a landing strip for diverted international flights, according to project chairman John Wagner.

That would potentially see Boeing 747s and Airbus A380s landing at the Darling Downs airport.

“Typically, when Brisbane goes out so does the Sunshine Coast and the Gold Coast – the Gold Coast is very marginal with weather, they’ve got a short runway so they can’t take a jumbo or an A380, but we can,” Mr Wagner told a Rural Press Club lunch in Brisbane on Tuesday.

“… If we’re going to take international flights in, we’re going to need to have people like AQIS, Customs and Immigration ready to move to be able to accommodate that, rather than sending everyone to Sydney and putting those people a good day out of their way.”

Discussions had been held with Toowoomba-based bus company Stonestreets about transporting passengers from Wellcamp to Brisbane.

“If we do take a diversion from Brisbane, we’ll be able to get them off, process them and get them to Brisbane in a reasonable timeframe,” Mr Wagner said.

Mr Wagner said his family was spending “north of $100 million” on the airport, which will be the first privately funded major public airport in Australia.

Mr Wagner told the lunch he expected up to 500,000 passengers to go through the airport in its first year of operation, which could grow to 1½ million passengers within five years.

“We’re in final discussions with two of the major airlines and one of the secondary airlines and I believe we’ll have at least two – maybe three – airlines running out of Wellcamp in October this year,” he said.

An announcement is understood to be imminent.

But Mr Wagner conceded the 2.87-kilometre runway – which would allow it to accommodate the larger passenger jets – was not necessarily required in the region.

“The reason we took on that decision making process and agreed to do it was that we had one opportunity from a town planning perspective, and particularly a federal government perspective, to get this through the system,” he said.

“Our view is that Toowoomba really only needed an 1800-metre- long runway, which is similar to the Sunshine Coast, however what (the longer runway) gave us was a piece of infrastructure that will see my children and my grandchildren out without having to go through any more approval processes.

“At the end of the day, it’s really only more gravel, more concrete and a few more lights and what it allows us to do is take a 747, fully loaded, direct to Asia.”

The Wagners have identified Sydney, Melbourne, Cairns, Canberra, Adelaide, Roma, Mackay and Emerald as potential regular destinations from Brisbane West Wellcamp.

Mr Wagner said the runway was on track to be completed next month, while the passenger terminal was expected to be finished in September.

Work on the airport started in April last year.

The Wagner family, with its background in cement, has owned the airport site since 1994, when it bought it for use as a quarry.

Along with the airport, the company is building a large business park.

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Thailand army chief announces coup

15/08/2019 // by admin

CoupTop Thailand’s military has launched a coup three days after insisting its troops would not stage a full takeover. Photo: Apichart Weerawong
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How the military seized control in ThailandTravel insurance may be declared voidDo you know more? Email us, or message us on Twitter @smh or @theage

The pro-government Red Shirt centre has warned the country to “stand-by for retaliation” after Thailand’s military launched a coup, three days after it initiated martial law.

A nationwide curfew has been imposed from 10pm until 5am, which Australians and other visitors in the country will have to obey.

General Prayuth will head a military council that is now in-charge of the country, an army spokesman said.

In his official announcement that the coup had taken place, army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha said: “In order for the situation to return to normal quickly and for society to love and be at peace again … and to reform the structure of the political, economic and social structure, the military needs to take control of power.”

After this announcement, the army suspended the constitution and banned gatherings of more than five people. Although the 2007 constitution has been suspended, the Senate upper house will continue to function.

The army named 17 people on television who should report to the army. First on the list was deposed Prime Minister Niwattumrong Boonsongpaisan.

An army spokesman said people should remain calm and continue to go about their normal activities.

“We will provide security for foreigners,” he said.

The curfew will affect tens of thousands of tourists in resort areas like Phuket, Chiang Mai and Pattaya. It is also expected to create chaos for travellers arriving into and leaving the country and will affect dozens of flights, because passengers are prohibited from travelling after 10pm.

A spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade urged all Australians travelling to Thailand, or already in Thailand, to continue to exercise a high degree of caution and to pay close attention to their personal security.

“Suvarnabhumi International Airport and Don Mueang Airport in Bangkok are operating normally,” the spokesperson said.

“Authorities have advised that the curfew will not apply if travelling to or from an airport. Travellers should have passports and tickets with them when travelling to and from the airport.

“Australians should follow the instructions of local authorities and avoid all demonstrations, protest sites, political events and large-scale public gatherings. Australians travelling to Thailand should visit www.smartraveller.gov.au, familiarise themselves with the travel advice, subscribe to receive regular updates and register their travel plans.”

Embassies around the world advised their citizens in Thailand to exercise extreme caution.

Many Thais will not know about the curfew because Thai television and radio stations have been taken off the air, although the internet and social media sites like Twitter are still operating.

International television stations like the ABC’s Australia Network, CCN and BBC were taken off at least one cable channel provider. The Cartoon channel was even taken off air.

Troops have been deployed in large numbers across Bangkok, where major shopping centres have closed early and restaurants, bars and other businesses are shuttered.

They entered television stations that were not already closed and the stations that remain open began playing soothing music. Troops were also in newspaper offices.

Workers rushed to public transport to get home before the 10pm curfew. Roads were also choked with people going home. Troops manned dozens of check points at major intersections.

As commanders appeared on television about 5pm Bangkok time (8pm AEST) to declare they had taken over, the leaders of both rival political parties in Thailand were taken away in a vans amid dramatic scenes at the Army Club in central Bangkok, where talks were being held to try to find a resolution to six months of sometimes violent unrest.

A military source said the leaders were told “we will keep you together until you understand and love each other”.

Formally announcing the coup on television, General Prayuth said martial law had moved to a full-blown coup, to quell political violence and “ensure fairness for every side”.

”To restore peace back to the country in a short time and to reform the country’s politics, economy and society, the Thai military, army, navy, air force and police have seized power from May 22 onward,” General Prayuth said.

“I ask the people to remain calm and carry on with their business as usual.”

Not long after the announcement of the coup, a burst of gunfire was heard on Uttayan Road, where the pro-government Red Shirt protesters have been camped.

Earlier, soldiers who arrived in trucks at a Red Shirt campsite on the western outskirts of Bangkok said they would take people home. They arrested key Red Shirt leaders who were on stage at their rally site.

Reports said soldiers had asked Red Shirt protesters to stay put and lie face down on the ground. A photo shared via Twitter showed Red Shirt guards and protesters ducking down as soldiers moved in on the protest.

The Red Shirt group posted on Twitter: “Now it is a coup – stand-by for retaliation.”

At least five top Democrat opposition party officials were in detention, including leader Abhisit Vejjajiva. The Democrat party boycotted elections in February that were later annulled by the Constitution Court.

Soldiers surrounded the house of veteran politician and former Labor minister Chalerm Yumbumrung and detained him and two of his sons.

The Red Shirt centre posted another message on Twitter saying “many of our co-leaders have been detained without whereabouts (known) – they are most likely detained at an army base.”

Interim Prime Minister Niwattumrong Boonsongpaisan learnt of the coup while at the Commerce Ministry. He had stayed away from the Army Club talks.

Mr Niwattumrong said he then went to offices of the former ruling Pheu Thai party and then to an unknown location.

Staff in the prime minister’s office said they did not know where Mr Niwattamrong was, and the US embassy denied he had taken shelter there.

Unconfirmed reports said he had been arrested.

Earlier on Thursday, Mr Niwattumrong insisted he would not resign and said his caretaker cabinet would remain in office until a new elected government was formed.

The army declared that the coup commanders were operating through a body called the National Peacekeeping Committee.

The coup is the 19th staged by the country’s powerful armed forces since 1932.

The takeover will enrage Red Shirt supporters of the caretaker government that wanted to push ahead with fresh elections.

Red Shirt leaders had vowed to rise up if the government that was elected in a landslide victory in 2011 was unconstitutionally deposed.

The military’s move is expected to be condemned by countries around the world, including Australia.

The US will consider imposing sanctions on the military, a close ally.

General Prayuth is expected to move swiftly to appoint a new government.

A front-runner for the prime ministership is Kittipong Kittayarak, a former Permanent Secretary of the Justice Ministry. Dr Kitttipong has been involved in judicial reform in Thailand for more than a decade.

A graduate of Cornell Law School in the United States, he is on the board of Transparency International Thailand and has lectured at major Thai universities.

Political analyst Thittinan Pongsudshirak said it was likely a new military-backed government would be installed within days.

“I am afraid over in the coming days and weeks there will be turmoil,” he said.

“Pro-government Red Shirts are likely to come out in large numbers.”

10:18pm – RT @chrissychrzan: Here’s Khao San Road right now #Bangkok#Thailand#ThaiCouppic.twitter南京夜网/4t3KVADV1H— Richard Barrow (@RichardBarrow) May 22, 2014

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Three-year-old Abbass Farhat fights for life after being hit by car

15/08/2019 // by admin

Abbass Farhat’s neighbour had tears in his eyes as he described the adventurous three-year-old boy who is fighting for his life after being struck by a car in western Sydney.
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Abbass remains in a critical condition after he was hit by a silver car outside of his Blacktown house on Wednesday afternoon.

Several witnesses said the boy darted out onto the road, which has a 60km/h speed limit.

“He is an adventurous, beautiful, little kid,” the neighbour, who did not wish to be named, said.

“It really upset me to see him like that. He would always see me out the front or over the fence and jump up and wave.”

A local shopkeeper said he heard the screams of Abbass’ mother as she tried to cradle her son on busy Reservoir Road.

“She was just totally hysterical, screaming out for everybody.”

She was soon told to leave her son in the hands of an off-duty nurse who witnessed the accident. Within seconds he had ripped off the boy’s shirt and tried to resuscitate him.

“If it wasn’t for the nurse then he certainly would not have made it to hospital,” the shopkeeper said.

He said the family of the little boy mistakenly thought the nurse had been the driver who had run into him.

“They started bashing the nurse’s car,” he said.

One witness said the nurse who tried to save the the boy deserved a medal.

“That guy- what he did – boy, heap praise on him because he deserves it.”

The accident occurred 15 minutes after a two-year-old was hospitalised following a hit and run at Haberfield.

There were four children hit by cars in NSW this week, and the carnage on the road got worse on Thursday.

Jesse Kelly, the man behind a deadly police chase which sparked the Macquarie Fields riots, was involved in a serious crash outside a western Sydney school.

Police say he was one of three men in a Ford Falcon which crashed into two cars outside of Leumeah high school.

Mr Kelly suffered cuts to his legs in the crash and his brother and cousin, who were also in the car, remained in hospital on Thursday night in a stable condition.

Asked as he left hospital what happened, Mr Kelly would only say that  ‘‘there was a car accident ’’ and claimed that his cousin was driving. Police are still investigating who was behind the wheel.

Mr Kelly’s license is suspended.‘‘I’m just a piece of shit,’’ he told waiting media.

The 2005 Macquarie Fields riots were sparked after Mr Kelly crashed a stolen car into a tree and killed two passengers during a  police pursuit.

He served jail time after pleading guilty to dangerous driving  causing the deaths of of 17-year-old Dylan Raywood and 19-year-old Matthew Robertson.

Mr Kelly was released in 2011 but in the three years since his release he has been before the courts again for a series of driving offences.

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Social workers being squeezed out

15/08/2019 // by admin

Blue Gum Community School student welfare officer Ruth Pickard. Photo: Graham Tidy0As a school-based student welfare worker, Ruth Pickard is one of the earliest intervention tools to keep children mentally well and engaged in education, a key part of avoiding future unemployment.
Nanjing Night Net

But at the end of the year, Ms Pickard will be out of a job, as she is a secular worker funded by the School Chaplaincy Program, which the federal government announced last week will return to its religious beginnings.

The change has been labelled “a step backwards” by social workers and schools.

It will leave at least 14 ACT schools without a social welfare officer, and the ACT based Australian Student Welfare Association’s ten employees who service them, unemployed; about half of whom are also under 30 and subject to tougher new dole restrictions.

“The biggest factor from our perspective isn’t so much our staff – obviously we’re disappointed about that – but … that ACT schools that just do not have the community support for chaplaincy now don’t have an option [for welfare support in their school],” the association’s director, Ross Sutherland, said.

Ms Pickard, who supports children with issues ranging from making friends in the playground to major family issues at home, said the loss of support to those students will be seen in the future.

“You don’t notice what we’re doing because the problems are minimised; you don’t really see the results of what we’re doing except in the fact people are happy and coming to school … without it, who knows what’s going to happen.”

The national president of the Australian Association of Social Workers, Karen Healy, said the change, in conjunction with other welfare cuts, had the capacity to escalate youth homelessness to crisis point.

“Many people who are long-term unemployed or who find it hard to stay in employment – their problems start way back in school,” Professor Healy said.

“We’ve now got a situation where young people are back in this highly vulnerable circumstance because they lack access to decent benefits, and if there’s a cut back in support services in school, more young people get disconnected from school [and] that increases their chance of unemployment and other things like homelessness.”

While the chaplaincy program will still offer a religious alternative, many ACT schools are unlikely to apply, with surveys finding 70 per cent of government school communities in favour of a secular worker over a chaplain.

“Many schools are going to lose their staff member and not be able to apply for the chaplaincy program due to lack of community support,” Mr Sutherland said.

Blue Gum Community School, where Ms Pickard works, is one such school.

It has a number of Jewish, Christian and atheist families, and executive director Maureen Hartung said to opt for a chaplain “would send a message that we value one faith over another”.

“We think it’s a form of religious discrimination, fundamentally – we’re being denied it because we’re not prepared to choose one religion over another,” Ms Hartung said.

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