Thai voters are going to the polls Sunday for the first time in nearly five years.
Thailand's military junta took power in May 2014, when then-army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha led a coup that toppled the government.
Junta leader Prayuth said Sunday morning after voting, I hope everyone helps each other by going to vote today as it's everyone's right.
Some 51 million Thais are eligible to vote.
Observers see the elections as a struggle between democracy and military rule.
Prayut has said that if he wins, voters would be returning his junta-led country to a democracy.
The coup, Thailand's 13th since 1932, ousted then-Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and caused international outrage.
Observers say the chances of the Thai junta losing power at the ballot box appear remote.
Under a new constitution, the next Thai prime minister will be elected at a joint sitting of parliament. The 250 members of the Senate will all be appointed by the military, with political parties only contesting the 500 seats in the House of Representatives on Sunday.
That heavily favors Prayut, who is hoping to legitimize his leadership by standing for prime minister.
The Southeast Asian Press Alliance has expressed concerns over his leadership, citing a crackdown on press freedoms.
The Asian Network For Free Elections has warned of inconsistencies and irregularities in the lead-up to the poll.
The U.S. government has issued an advisory to its citizens, warning that travelers may encounter a heightened police and military presence throughout the country, particularly near polling stations.
The U.S. is urging its citizens to abide by Thai laws that prohibit criticism of the monarchy, avoid any election-related large gatherings and monitor international and Thai media before, during and after the elections.
Comments Off on Taipei-Taiwan’s Tourism Bureau is promoting mountain tourism at the 4-day Taipei International Travel Fair that began Friday.
The bureau is focusing on five north-south mountain ranges — the Central Mountain, Xueshan, Yushan, Alishan and the Coastal Mountain ranges — in its pavilion at the fair, said bureau Deputy Director-General Chang Shi-chung (???).
Chang said there will be various exhibitions and forums on the mountains of Taiwan, as well as its unique cultural features such as historic trails and aboriginal lifestyles.
Taiwan is preparing to market 2020 as the Year of Mountain Tourism, after its efforts to position the country as an important international mountaineering destination in July, when the government allowed public access to the island’s national parks.
Previously, people who wanted to visit restricted “ecological protected areas” in Taiwan’s national parks had to apply for permits from both the National Police Agency and the Construction and Planning Agency.
Now, however, the Construction and Planning Agency has launched a new mountain permit application portal that requires mountain visitors to apply for only one permit and provides fast-track processing to expedite applications, the bureau said.
Much of Taiwan is covered by mountains, and it has 268 mountains of over 3,000 meters, according to the Tourism Bureau website.
That environment has made hiking and mountain climbing one of the favorite pastimes of Taiwan residents.
The number of permits issued to Taiwanese citizens and foreign nationals for access to trails in Yushan, Taroko and Shei Pa national parks has risen from 153,736 in 2016 to 187,053 in 2017 and 201,526 in 2018, according to Construction and Planning Agency figures.
In 2018, foreign nationals accounted for 7.24 percent of the permits issued.
There will be around 1,700 booths from 60 countries at the fair, to be held Nov. 8-11 at the Taipei Nangang Exhibition Center.
The fair, the largest of its kind in Taiwan, will feature South Korean and Japanese tourism operators amid growing local interest in travel to those countries.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel