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Parliament to be opened on Sunday

Posted by hasekamp on 31 January 2001 at 13:50 PM
The new Thai Parliament will probably be opened on Sunday, the Election Commission reports. A full list of the new MP’s is expected to be announced on Friday, after the votes in the second round of re-elections have been counted.
If all the 500 MP’s report before 4 February, HM the King or HRH the Crown Prince will preside the opening session of the new Parliament on Sunday.
The Cabinet yesterday approved a draft decree to open the Parliament.
The latest (unofficial) results after the second round of the election show a number of 247 seats for the Thai Rak Thai Party.
In the meantime Mr Thaksin Shinawatra has negotiated with the Cart Thai Party to join the new Government as the third partner. According to the first publications these negotiations were successful. As reported earlier the New Aspiration Party will be the second partner of the new three-party coalition, led by the Thai Rak Thai Party.
However, until the new Cabinet has been formed and sworn in, the present Cabinet will remain in charge.
We can further report that the Constitutional Court has given Mr Thaksin until 5 March to submit documents in his defense in the case against him about allegedly covering up his wealth. It remains uncertain if Mr Thaksin van be Prime Minister for a long time. Nobody has ventures a prediction yet how the Constitutional Court will judge over Mr Thaksin’s case.


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Elephants at risk again

Posted by hasekamp on 30 January 2001 at 16:29 PM
We had to report here several times already about elephants, being at risk of their lives, due to humans. We are sorry that we have to make a similar report today.
When mahouts do not find work with the elephants under their care (in the logging trade or in the tourist industry) they stop caring for the beasts. As can be expected for any animals, this often is fatal fore them.
Every month elephants are reported to have died of "unknown causes". Last month this happened four times in Phrae, to give just one example. The dead elephants are then cut up and their meat is being sold. Consumption of elephant meat is "a tradition" in Northern villages. One can call anything a tradition after all, and in that way one can try to justify it. Elephant meat costs 60-80 Baht per kilo in the North of Thailand. There even are butchers, specialized in elephant meat in the North!
Once more we advise our readers to have a good time in Thailand, but to realize that eating things like elephant meat is -in our opinion- "not done" for anybody with some heart for nature and wildlife.
The elephant always has been the pride of Thailand. In the past the best elephants were given to the King. Now they end up with the butcher.
Maybe it is better after all to attend an elephant show, against which we also have our objections, as we wrote earlier (use our search box).


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Third election round on 1 February

Posted by hasekamp on 30 January 2001 at 13:24 PM
A third round of voting is expected to be held on February 1, after numerous election frauds were reportedly yesterday. See our former message. A spokesman of the Election Commission (EC) said today that the count has been completed at only one constituency so far and is still unfinished in 58 constituencies.
There were -according to the EC- some irregularities in Chiang Mai, Nakhon Nayok and Nakhon Phanom. This is quite different from what was reported form non-EC and independent sources yesterday, but the EC has the last word about re-voting, we suppose. We mention the source of the two reports at the bottom, as a reference to our readers.
Most fraud, as reported by the EC, involves a failure of polling station officials to register names of eligible voters and a mismatch between the number of ballots cast and that of the voters. An investigation is being made whether the errors were made intentionally or not. If election frauds are being found, the case will be brought before the Central Election Commission for consideration whether a new round of voting should be held or not.
It was said, however, that it is very likely that a third round of election will take place on 1 (or 3) February. In that case the vote counting could be finished by 3 (or 5) February.
May we really hope to see a final at last, just within the 30 days limit the law prescribes?
Source for this information is the Thai News Agency TNA. Yesterday's report was based on articles in the Nation and the Bangkok Post.


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Widespread cheating reported on re-elections

Posted by hasekamp on 29 January 2001 at 22:23 PM
All over the country violations of the election laws have been reported today.
A member of the Election Commission (EC) warned that anyone found to have been involved in election fraud, intentionally or not, could face imprisonment for up to 15 years. This seemed not to help in preventing fraud, even though he said the EC would do its best to prevent cheating with particular focus on falsified ballots. As we reported earlier today, the ballots were specially re-printed to make fraud "virtually impossible".
In Ubon Ratchathani false flyers were distributed, claiming that a candidate had been disqualified. An investigation is being made to establish who was behind these flyers, which contained the forged signature of the provincial EC chief.
In Buri Ram vote-buying was reported in many villages where new elections were to be held. Voters were paid between 100 and 200 Baht each and canvassers between 5,000 and 10,000 Baht each.
In Kanchanaburi fraud was reported in all four constituencies where re-voting was to be held.
In Nakhon Ratchasima 62 local administrators and government officials were ordered to leave the province temporarily because they were thought to be biased and not able to organize fair elections.
And so on, and so on. We are deeply disappointed once more in the fact that the Thais, especially those who want to represent their fellow-citizens in Parliament, find it necessary or even normal to break the law in their attempt to obtain a House seat.
Will the Thai Rak Thai Party really be able to (and want to) extinct corruption in Thailand, including election fraud? We do hope so!


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Buffaloes to be helped?

Posted by hasekamp on 29 January 2001 at 22:23 PM
In November 2000 we posted a message here, that stated that the water buffalo (the "kwai") may become extinct in Thailand within the next 10 years. We want to come back to this issue, because now a farmer in the North wants to help the buffalo.
First some figures: Six years ago there were four million buffaloes in Thailand. Now just one million! More than 300,000 buffaloes are killed fore their meat every year. And out of their milled bones all kinds of souvenirs are being pressed, for instance Buddha images (for tourists, not the real ones). You must have seen those mostly brown colored images that can be found anywhere on the markets. So, please do not buy them, for the sake of the buffalo.
Now the better news about the buffalo: As we wrote, a farmer named Boontha Chailert feels sorry for all those killed animals too. In the past they were the farmers’ best friend. Now many farmers have bought a tractor, unaware of the fact that every tractor has to be replaced sooner or later. A buffalo looks after its own offspring.
Mr Boontha has come up with an initiative. He has opened a "buffalo hospice" where he keeps buffaloes and where they can demonstrate to the public and to school children how they can work on a (demonstration) rice field. Mr Boontha has bought 31 buffaloes so far and three new ones were born on his place.
What appeals to us, is that the buffaloes in Mr Boontha’s place are kept within their dignity, and give demonstrations of plowing rice fields, not some racing show.
That certainly is not enough to save the buffalo from extinction, but it is a start, and maybe the people who visit this place (called Baan Kwai, located near Chiang Mai) are reminded of the valuable contribution of the buffalo to Thai farming. And maybe, just maybe, some farmers will re-consider to exchange their tractor for a buffalo again.
The buffaloes on Baan Kwai all are allowed to die of old age. Mr Boontha bought his buffaloes from slaughterhouses. He goes on buying them, giving precedence to pregnant females.
As we wrote, this does not save the one million buffaloes that would end up in the slaughterhouses in the next few years, but now also the Government is worried about the continued replacement of buffaloes by tractors, and the Livestock Department has started a program to promote the raising of water buffaloes.
There also is a Royal Project, called the "buffalo bank" that offers buffaloes for rent or for sale for a very low price to the farmers in the North. People can contribute to that project by donating money for buying buffaloes free from slaughterhouses. We, together with our family-in-law bought one free last year. We are really very concerned about nature and wildlife in Thailand. We hope to draw the attention of our readers to these subjects by posting about them. Hence this long posting today.
Please think of the friend of the Thai farmer and if you get a chance, contribute to his freedom. We do not eat any beef in Thailand. Might this be a suggestion for our readers too?


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UN praises Thailand for its drugs policy

Posted by hasekamp on 29 January 2001 at 13:20 PM
The United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention has praised Thailand in its 2000 report for its success in crop substitution. As will be known to our readers the crop substitutions was initiated by HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej as a highly successful Royal Project. The report states that Thailand has been successful in reducing the cultivation of opium poppy. Cultivation of opium poppy is almost extinct in Thailand now.
The report also praises the cooperation of Thailand with other countries in its anti-drug operations.
The report also states that the largest sources for heroin and ecstasy production now lie in Burma (Myanmar) and Afghanistan.


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New elections today

Posted by hasekamp on 29 January 2001 at 13:11 PM
In 62 constituencies in 29 provinces new elections will be held today. Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai has ordered police to be present at all polling offices in order to prevent possible violence.
The Election Commission has designed new ballots, as a preventive measure against fake ballots. The new ballots have been printed on special paper and contain watermarks. It should be virtually impossible to falsify them. The ballots have been transported to the polling stations under the highest possible security measures.
Thai Rak Thai leader Thaksin Shinawatra has announced that he believes his party to win even more seats than in the first round on 6 January. He expects to obtain a simple majority at least.
We have no further comments to these facts. We now hope that we will see the final, approved, result of the general election soon.


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Elephant orchestra on the Web

Posted by hasekamp on 29 January 2001 at 13:11 PM
Some time ago we reported about an elephant orchestra in Lampang. We can now add to this report that it can be heard and seen on the BBC News Website.
Go to http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/world/asia-pacific/default.stm and if you have Real Player, you can see and hear it.
We still are in doubt if we should support this initiative or not, but given the fact that the revenues go to elephant preservation projects, we are restrictively positive about it.


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Wildlife trader caught in Nonthaburi

Posted by hasekamp on 28 January 2001 at 13:58 PM
Sometimes there is a piece of good news regarding wildlife and the environment. This also was the case late this week.
Rangers from the Forest Protection Division found in Wat Kluay community in Bang Kruai district (the district in Nonthaburi Province with the Temple in the shape of a Royal Barge, that never seems to be finished) a banana farmer, who traded in wildlife. Sadly he was not the big fish of this line, but still he has been caught. Small vendors from Suphanburi, Sing Buri and Ang Thong supplied him with wild animals, mostly cobras, pythons and soft-shelled turtles.
He skinned the animals for clients in Bangkok, whose names he -sadly- could not remember. We hope that the Thai police will find ways to fresh up his memory!
Eleven python skins were found. The man has been charged with illegal possession of wild animals.
Police said that information from the local community would be necessary to find the bigger players. Nonthaburi province seems to be the home illegal wildlife retailers, because it is near suppliers in Suphanburi and Ang Thong. Many restaurants in Nonthaburi have wildlife on the menu there! (We wonder why these restaurants are still open!!)
The penalty for illegal possession of wildlife is up to four years in prison and/or a 40,000 Baht fine. We regret that it is not more. It was also said that small traders usually get off with a fine of only 4,000-5,000 Baht. So, although still unsatisfied because the big players are free, we hope that this catch will lead to the rest of the chain.


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New law in preparation against soil pollution

Posted by hasekamp on 28 January 2001 at 13:58 PM
A new law will be introduced to control soil pollution better. A study has revealed that there is a serious potential risk of soil and ground water being polluted with hazardous substances from industrial plants.
The Deputy Director-General of the Department of Industrial Works said the new law is needed, as a standard for the pollution control in the soil has not yet been set.
We think a study would not really have been necessary to reveal this fact. Everybody who has visited Thailand regularly will have seen that industrial pollution there is much larger than in Western countries.
Nevertheless we are glad that the Thai Government takes its responsibility and tackles the problem now. A complication may be that foreign industries may protest against more strict regulations, relating to the environment. But of course the future of the country is more important than criticism by foreigners, even if they are investors.


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Thaksin chooses Chavalit

Posted by hasekamp on 26 January 2001 at 14:37 PM
Mr Thaksin Shinawatra of the Thai Rak Thai Party has presented Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh of the New Aspiration Party as his coalition partner for the new Government. Mr Chavalit said he was proud to have been chosen.
The coalition will have at least 251 seats. The two parties do not exclude cooperation with a third partner. Probably it would be wise to find one, if the total number of seats is close to 250.
Gen Chavalit was Prime Minister in the Cabinet before the current Chuan Leekpai Cabinet. Mr Chavalit was criticized heavily in those days for not being able to solve the economic crisis. So the choice to have his party in the new Government seems not obvious to us, at first sight. However, Mr Thaksin has a comfortable majority, and Mr Chavalit's Party will not have too much to tell, so there will be plenty of opportunity for Mr Thaksin to show us how to solve the crisis after all. We have to wait and see how the new Cabinet looks before we can give any detailed opinion of course. Nevertheless we feel that we should pass this preliminary information through to our readers.


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Mad cow disease or not?

Posted by hasekamp on 26 January 2001 at 13:57 PM
British scientists predict that mad cow disease can be expected to hit Asia, including Thailand, within four years.
Officials in Bangkok, however, said this is unlikely, because imports of animal feed from countries hit by the disease has been banned already since 1996.
So far no mad cow disease has been seen in Thailand.
Of course we hope that the officials in Thailand are right, and that the disease will never hit the country. But we fear that the British have information about the export of animal feed, that the Thai authorities might not be aware of. Most European countries said that the disease would not hit them, but now, after animal-to-animal tests, it appears to be present all over Europe.
So we would like to advise that Thai authorities to have cows tested anyway. If tests appear to be negative, all for the better. But it seems too easy to us to say -like most European countries did until very recently- that the disease will not hit Thailand! After all it has hit all the European countries that also said they did not import contaminated food!
A Thai veterinary scientist later also emphasized that the ban on animal feed in 1996 was at the height of the mad cow disease crisis in Europe. So Thailand can not be certain to be free from it.


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Subway should be cheap

Posted by hasekamp on 26 January 2001 at 13:57 PM
We have pleaded more than once here for low fares for new forms of public transport in Bangkok, in order to make these new forms of transport available for the common Bangkokian. The skytrain, for example, is far too expensive for normal commuters and therefore is plagued with heavy losses.
We think that this page is also being read by the Thai Government, because a spokesman for the Prime Minister yesterday said the same thing!
He said that the new subway should go up into the suburbs and should be cheap, in order to make it available for the common Bangkokian. He also said that abroad subway rates are mostly lower than bus rates (which is true) and that Bangkok should have the same situation.
Sadly this plea seems not to be heard by many others, because these ideas hardly find any support with the coalition partners for the subway project.
If the partners in the subway project persist in their stubborn ideas, we can predict that the subway will generate (at least) as great losses as the skytrain project, from the first day of operation on.
The skytrain charges 10-40 Baht and suffers from heavy losses. Bangkok buses charge (around) 5 Baht and have a positive company result.


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Gasohol 1 Baht cheaper than normal gasoline

Posted by hasekamp on 25 January 2001 at 13:05 PM
The National Ethanol Committee on Wednesday resolved to lower taxes for ethanol, which in effect would make gasohol cheaper than premium petrol by one Baht a liter, the Permanent Secretary for the Industry said. As we published, 10% of ethanol, is mixed with 90 per cent of octane-91 gasoline to make gasohol.
We are a bit disappointed by the small price difference between gasohol and normal gasoline. We hope that, as soon as higher percentages of alcohol can be added to gasoline, the price of gasohol will drop further, to make it more attractive for consumers.
As known, the introduction of gasohol was an initiative of HM the King. He suggested it in the speech on the eve of his birthday, December last year.


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HM the King receives honorary doctorate

Posted by hasekamp on 25 January 2001 at 9:53 AM
His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej was awarded a honorary doctorate in science by the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT) yesterday.
The degree was conferred on the King at Klaikangwon Palace in Hua Hin.
Leading the AIT delegation at the ceremony was Thanat Khoman, chairman emeritus of the AIT board of trustees.
His Majesty received the honory doctorate for his intellectual curiosity, coupled with a determination to seek out scientific and practical solutions to problems. Examples of His Majesty's wide-ranging concerns are in the fields of agriculture, education and health.
As we have reported repeatedly here and on the page of our site about HM the King, His Majesty has devoted large parts of his working life in seeking practical solutions to make life better for his subjects. He succeeded surprisingly well in this -mainly because of his wisdom and technical curiosity- and many of the Royal Projects, based on the initiatives om His Majesty the King, are highly successful. Many of these project were tested in the Palace gardens. Lately he has suggested how the flooding, that threatens Thailand almost every year in one form or another, might be prevented in the future. Other successful Royal Projects were replacing the opium culture by, for example, coffee and tea. The problem of lack of rain in farming areas has ben solved by the so called Royal Rain, initiated by throwing crystals over rainclouds. HM also has invented the so called Chai Pattana water aerator, that gives farmers a simple but effective tool to purify water. HM also has advised the Government about traffic probelms in and around Bangkok.
Sometimes the wisdom and inventiveness of HM the King was highly necessary, when the Government failed to solve technical problems. His Majesty the King has a technical degree, which he earned in the US. Long live His Majesty the King!


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Election round-up

Posted by hasekamp on 25 January 2001 at 9:53 AM
The Bangkok Post reports today that the Election Commission (EC) has approved results in 338 constituencies but has ordered new elections in 62 constituencies for Monday.
This comes after 8 red cards and 54 yellow cards have been handed over to candidates who were elected. Simple arithmetic shows that 8+54=62.
Those given red cards will be barred from elections for a year, while candidates given yellow cards can still run in future elections.
Elected House members whose victory was endorsed by the EC already may still face a red card if evidence of poll fraud emerges later, the chairman of the EC said.


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Elephants killed to capture their babies

Posted by hasekamp on 25 January 2001 at 9:53 AM
As a result of demand from tourists, around 60 female elephants have been killed last year by poachers who wanted to catch their babies for entertainment of tourists. Baby elephants are popular with tourists. An expert said that baby elephants below the age of three years are worth 85,000 to 200,000 Baht, depending on their health and looks.
The killings of the female elephants took place in the forests in Mae Hong Son, Chiang Rai, Tak, Kanchanaburi, Prachuap Khiri Khan and Ranong provinces.
Baby elephants are particularly wanted in Phuket, Phang-nga, and Krabi. Training of the baby elephants was done by mahouts from Surin.
Under the Wildlife Conservation Act, poachers face four years in prison and/or a fine of 40,000 Baht, but apparently many are willing to take that risk.
And above that, officials are not able to enforce the law properly because owners of the elephants often claim that they bought their elephants as beasts of burden, which is allowed according to another law.
As with most wild animals (and humans too, by the way), mothers do not give off their babies voluntarily, so the mothers "have to be killed" for the good purpose of some tourist show. "The show must go on", after all!
After the mother has been killed, the other elephants in the group run away, and the baby is left helpless and can easily be captured.
Now the new Government can show that it cares for the elephant, once the pride of Thailand, and should try to give it a better future than as a tourist attraction.
Once more we urge our visitors not to attend tourist attractions where baby elephants are being used. If the demand stops, the killings will stop too.


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Man faces death penalty after offending HM the King

Posted by hasekamp on 23 January 2001 at 14:33 PM
In a British newspaper we read that a man from Scotland (32) has been arrested for allegedly urinating on or near a picture of HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej. We have not seen this in the Thai media so far. The arrest took place about three weeks ago, so this report is a bit late. The information originates from the British Embassy. The man is being kept in Phuket prison, awaiting trial.
What this man did is indeed probably the worst one can do in Thailand. Offending HM the King in any way is a bad offence already, but this is beyond description.
The man may face the death penalty for it. Let this be a warning for those of our visitors who do not take our remarks seriously that one should not offend HM the King in Thailand in any way. In the worst thinkable case -like this one- one faces the death penalty for it. We do not expect that any diplomatic move from London could alter the sentence or the execution of it. The worst has been done to HM the King, and -also according to the law- in Thailand a person who does this should not live.


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Dirty senator resigns after being charged

Posted by hasekamp on 23 January 2001 at 13:43 PM
The senator who has had paid sex with four minor girls has been identified as the senate deputy speaker Chalerm Promlet, aged 65. We reported about this recently.
Police have questioned eleven witnesses and they say the testimonies match with the other evidence available. If the accusations can be proven in Court, the senator may face a jail sentence of 20 years.
Mr Chalerm has denied the allegations so far and said he would reveal his side of the story.
A vast majority of the senate wanted Mr Chalerm to quit. One of his few sympathizers said that Mr Chalerm was a devoted man and that he prayed often. This, in our opinion, does not prove anything!
Furthermore it was brought forward that it would be abnormal for a 65-year old man to have sex with four young girls. Well, this too is not very convincing to us. Who knows what medicines, just to mention one thing, Mr Chalerm uses.
The four girls involved are under police protection now, pending the investigation, and professional counseling is being arranged for them.
Later today Mr Chalerm has been formally charged by the Police, after the girls in question positively identified him from a line-up.
Chalerm Promlert resigned as deputy senate speaker after being thus charged with statutory rape.
We remain very shocked about this matter and we hope that justice will be done to the man who is guilty, even if he was the deputy speaker of the senate!


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Flooding worsens in Southern Thailand

Posted by hasekamp on 23 January 2001 at 11:22 AM
The new flooding in Southern Thailand, of which we reported yesterday, has worsened. At least fifteen schools in seven districts were closed until further notice, because of the flooding.
In several districts water levels as high as 1.5 meter have been reported in the villages that were hit hardest. Some roads have been reported to be 2.5 meter under water level. Other roads are impassable too.
In the mountains, where many people move to, a shortage of food has been reported already.
At least 21 villages and more "tambons" are reported to have been hit. The number of victims (that is people whose houses are flooded) is over 7,000 now. The Navy is searching for two people, reported missing.
In Trang 1270 people (254) families are affected. In Trang also schools and Government offices had to be closed. Even hospitals are in trouble there.
How this will develop depends on the weather. If the rains stop, all can be over soon. If the rains continue, however, a disaster as happened last November may be the result. The Government is alert in
distributing food where necessary. We hope for the best, but we are not optimistic right now.


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New flooding in the South

Posted by hasekamp on 22 January 2001 at 13:44 PM
Warnings for new flooding in Southern provinces of Thailand have been issued. In Nakhon Si Thammarat, Phattalung, Songkla, Narathiwat and Yala provinces there has been heavy rain for four successive days and more rain is expected.
In Nakhon Si Thammarat province villages have already been submerged under 50-150 centimeters of water. Shop owners in Southern provinces have begun moving their belongings to higher areas.
About 300 families have already been cut off by flooding and relief supplies should now be on their way. Several rubber plantations and orchards were inundated.
More than 1,000 passengers on southbound trains have stranded in Hat Yai and could not continue their journey.
So, even if the flooding does not worsen, the situation is very bad already in the provinces mentioned.
As reported, there was heavy flooding in the South, also with fatal consequences, in November 2000. If there will be a second wave of flooding, the Southern population will be hit very, very hard. In some areas the damages of the former flooding have not even yet been repaired. Economic damage for the area is very large already, because the tourist industry stagnated badly after the heavy flooding in November. Hopefully the weather will change, but it does look bad for the South again.


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Chinese New Year on 24 and 25 January

Posted by hasekamp on 22 January 2001 at 12:08 PM
On 24 and 25 January Chinese New Year will be celebrated. In Thailand especially Bangkok's Chinatown and Phuket will see much of these celebrations. Bangkok's Chinatown is one of the largest Chinese communities in Thailand, while Phuket probably comes in the second place. Chinese have settled in Phuket traditionally for a long time and several typically Chinese Festivals, like the Vegetarian Festival, are being celebrated there on an annual basis.
In Bangkok Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn will join the celebrations. This year marks the first anniversary of a Chinese gate, constructed in Bangkok's Chinatown, as a sign of loyalty of ethnic Chinese in Thailand for His Majesty the King, on the occasion of his 72nd birthday anniversary.
The Chinese New Year celebrations in Bangkok will feature a food fair, cultural shows, a bazaar and a world boxing championship contest.
Police have warned that extra care should be taken to prevent fire and explosions, like the explosion last week in the Pratunam area, close to Bangkok's Chinatown. Many citizens in Thailand with a Chinese background will traditionally light fireworks on the occasion of Chinese New Year. A leaflet with fire precautions has been distributes in Chinatown yesterday.
Phuket festivities for the occasion of Chinese New Year have not (yet) been published in the press.


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Unofficial election results

Posted by hasekamp on 22 January 2001 at 12:08 PM
The Interior Ministry made the following unofficial results for the general election on 6 January public:
Thai Rak Thai won a clear majority of 258 seats, the Democrats secured 126 seats, Chart Thai won 38 seats, New Aspiration party won 35 seats, Chart Pattana won 28 seats.
Further parties won much smaller numbers of seats and we believe that our readers are not interested in those.
The Interior Ministry said that these results are not final, since the Election Commission is considering fraud complaints against a number of winners.
It was said that five Thai Rak Thai candidates are likely to be red-carded for fraud. Re-elections will be held in the constituencies where fraud has been proved, probably on 29 January.


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Stray dogs to be sterilized and vaccinated

Posted by hasekamp on 22 January 2001 at 12:08 PM
Earlier this week we have reported about the poor condition of stray dogs in Bangkok in the centers where they normally are brought to. Now we can add to this report that mobile units are being set up to control the situation of the dogs better, by sterilizing stray dogs and vaccinating them against rabies, and leaving them free afterwards, instead of bringing them to the centers in Din Daeng and Prawet.
Recuperation areas are going to be built to let the dogs recover from the treatment. Governor Samak Sundaravej of Bangkok said that the staff of the new centers will be instructed to prevent overcrowding. (We believe that we have read this also about the centers we reported about earlier this week, so let us hope that the instructions will be understood properly by the staff this time!)
Six million Baht is available for the project, which sounds as a serious amount of money to us. The mobile units will start their works at wats (Temples), where many stray dogs normally can be found. There are around 340 wats in Bangkok.
Apart from dogs, born as stray dogs, every year 30,000 dogs are being abandoned by their masters, which we find a shame.


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Serious explosion in Pratunam

Posted by hasekamp on 20 January 2001 at 17:23 PM
There has been a serious explosion in Pratunam district, one of the very crowded market districts in Bangkok. The explosion took place in an optical shop, probably caused by an exploding gas container. Not only the optical shop itself, but also a neighboring noodle shop and jewelry stores were seriously damaged.
Five people were killed and at least 13 were injured. Some of the victims who were killed, were thrown several meters over the street and even people within a passing airconditioned bus were hurt by glass pieces flying around.
It took two hours before the situation was under control.
Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai and Interior Minister Banyat Bantadtan have visited the site.


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Dirty Senator

Posted by hasekamp on 20 January 2001 at 17:13 PM
One of the Thai senators (a man in his sixties) came in the news yesterday because he was accused of having had paid sex with four girls, aged 14 and 15 years. A fifth girl, aged 17, arranged things for the dirty old man. The senator has paid her 4000 Baht for her services. She is likely to be accused of obtaining sexual services from minors, which -luckily- is a serious offence.
The name of the senator has not yet been published. The case came into daylight after the parents of one of the girls had filed a complaint against the man with the police.
A children rights activist is afraid that the matter will be swept under the carpet, because the identity of the senator has not been revealed. His organization will follow the case closely.
Even if the girls agreed to have sex with the man, he will be guilty of having sex with a minor, if the allegations are being proven in Court. So it is very unlikely that he will return in the Senate.
Several senators told to be shocked by the news.


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Thaksin case before Constitutional Court

Posted by hasekamp on 20 January 2001 at 17:13 PM
We have reported not so long ago, that the Thaksin case before the Constitutional Court (his appeal against the NCCC decision; use our search box) could last for one year. This was based on a declaration of two of the judges of that Court.
Yesterday the Constitutional Court has officially agreed to hear the false assets-declaration case against Thai Rak Thai leader and P.M. in-waiting Mr Thaksin Shinawatra. The case will certainly not last for up to a year -despite speculation to the contrary- Court president Prasert Nasakul said yesterday.
The 14 judges voted unanimously to accept the case from the National Counter Corruption Commission (NCCC), which found that Mr Thaksin deliberately hid his wealth while serving office in a previous Government. The Court president said that he had instructed all Court members not to give any interview or comment on the case (any more)until the end of the trial.
Mr Prasert further said that Mr Thaksin would have 15 days to submit evidence after being contacted by the Court. Mr Prasert could not give an accurate date for the Court decision, but he said that the Court would handle the case without delay.
Mr Thaksin still says he is innocent. He also believes in the Court's impartiality and he will defend himself, if the Court allows him to do so.


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Man without working permit in prison

Posted by hasekamp on 19 January 2001 at 12:47 PM
A Dutchman has been arrested in Phuket for working without having a working permit. The man was arrested while helping his Thai wife selling fruit on a Phuket market. He had worked in a hotel before, but his permit was expired. He tried to say in his defense that he was only helping his wife and was not actually working himself. The police was not impressed by this defense and put him in prison, awaiting trial.
This is not exactly what we would call World shocking news. We report it here, however, to warm our visitors that in Thailand you need a working permit if you want to do work there. Helping you wife on the market is work. And -as we see from this example- if you do not have such a permit, you risk a holiday in prison. And Thai prisons are not exactly comfortable places. So, dear reader, be warned!


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Htoo twins back to school?

Posted by hasekamp on 19 January 2001 at 12:47 PM
Two days ago we reported about the capture of fourteen members of the "God's Army" terrorist group, among whom the Htoo twins, aged 12 according to some sources, 13 according to other sources and 14 or 15 according to yet other sources.
Anyway, as we reported, these (Burmese) twins were led before Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai, who was shocked -like we were- by their youthful appearance. The two were apparently afraid of Mr Chuan, who does not look frightening to us!
Mr Chuan suggested them to go back to school and said he would be willing them to help them. They (and their parents) could get a refugee status in Thailand. In the meantime the parents of the boys have been located.
If this initiative of Mr Chuan is effective, it looks as if "God's Army" will not march out again.
Some hilltribe people thought that the two have some supernatural power, but a fact is that the whole of Thailand has seen them clearly now, because after they met Mr Chuan, they were presented to the united press, obviously afraid again. This meeting led to the picture we saw in a Dutch newspaper. Similar pictures have appeared in the Thai newspapers and probably in newspapers in other parts of the World.
It is hardly thinkable that people who see these pictures can believe them to have supernatural powers. So we have hope indeed that this will be the end of "God's Army".
As reported, two of their companions will have to stand trial for their alleged involvement in the killing on 30 December 2000 of six villagers in a Thai border village.


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Two senior judges suspended

Posted by hasekamp on 18 January 2001 at 14:35 PM
Two senior judges have been suspended, pending a corruption investigation against them. The judges are being accused of having taken two million Baht from a police officer, who was on trial for abduction and murder, in order to release him on bail. The judges allegedly took the money, but failed to grant the bail. Instead they pointed at the possibility to send a petition to HM the King.
The police officer in question filed a complaint against the two judges, and a preliminary investigation was set up by a committee, chaired by a Supreme Court Senior judge. This committee found that the accusation was not without grounds and recommended the suspension of the judges, pending a complete investigation. Thus has been done.
This news item can be found in the Thai newspapers under "news in short". It shows once more that corruption has entered all layers and professions of Thai society.
In my country this news would reach the front pages of the newspapers. The fact that this is apparently not the case in Thailand (any more) seems to suggest that corruption is being accepted as "normal" in Thai society.
We hope that Mr Thaksin will keep his promise, made during his election campaign, to end corruption in Thailand. If he can do so, we will become his warm supporters.


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French to help Bangkok with waste problem

Posted by hasekamp on 17 January 2001 at 23:10 PM
France will give the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) 19 million Baht to make a study about the waste management of the city. Every day 9,000 tons of waste are being "produced" by the Bangkokians.
The research study about garbage management will include four main subjects: -flood prevention in Thonburi, -garbage disposal, -safety measures to maintain buildings and -solving the problem of air pollution.
We welcome this initiative by the French Government. The city of Bangkok has a large garbage problem indeed. We especially welcome the fact that a study about air pollution is included, although the cause of the air pollution in Bangkok should be clear to everybody who has ever visited Bangkok. Finding a solution could be easy if the Bangkokians would be willing to use public transport a bit more, but time after time it has appeared that they are not willing to do so. That being a fact, solving the problem of air pollution in Bangkok will be very difficult...


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Children terrorists captured

Posted by hasekamp on 17 January 2001 at 23:08 PM
On 30 December 2000 in a village in Ratchaburi six villagers were killed by gunfire, without a clear reason. We did not report about this shocking event, because reports were very confusing then and sources were contradictory each other about the facts.
Since then more and more fingers were pointed at "God’s Army, a group of children terrorists, as the (possible) killers. Yesterday the Thai army surrounded a group of fourteen of these young terrorists and captured them. In the short negotiations that preceded the arrest, the army had said that only those found guilty of the December killings would be prosecuted. The Thai army did not want to kill these children if they were willing to surrender, and they were.
Among the arrested were the 12 year old Karen twins Luther and Johnny Htoo, who have reached the International press several times already for their terrorist deeds.
The group was sent to a refugee camp and two out of the group were identified as possibly guilty of the December slaughter. They were arrested and taken away to be brought to justice.
The Htoo twins were taken to Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai, who wanted to be informed about -and by- them, and afterwards were sent to their parents. We wonder what has to become of these children who, on a picture published by Associated Press, indeed look like (rather small) school children. When you consider killing "necessary" under circumstances when you are twelve years old, what will be your moral perception when you are an adult?
The rest of the group was sent away after iterrogation.
Hopefully the two arrested were indeed (all of) the killers looked for and if not, the rest can hopefully be found through them. Useless killings of innocent villagers (if killings can be useful at all) should be punished hard. We can be confident that they will, if found guilty.
"God’s Army" also came in the news about a year ago, when a group of them seized a hospital in Ratchaburi, and held 800 patients, doctors and nurses hostage for 22 hours. The Thai army freed the hospital then and killed ten terrorists in that action.
It is not impossible that some others wanted to take "revenge" for that event in December last year.


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First sales of gasohol

Posted by hasekamp on 16 January 2001 at 13:08 PM
Yesterday Bangchak Petroleum started to sell a type of "gasohol", an ethanol containing fuel, as fuel for cars. The Petroleum Authority of Thailand (PTT) has started marketing gasohol already on 7 January.
We have reported some time ago that the Government wants to promotr the use of ethanol base fuel ("gasohol"), after HM the King suggested so in his bithday speech. We are surprised that realization of these plans starts so soon already, be it that the percentage of ethanol in the fuel to be sold now is (still) low.
At the moment the new fuel just contains 10% ethanol and consits for the rest of normal gasoline. And in the beginning the new fuel is being sold only to operators of vehicles used by Bangchak staff, the Commercial Registration Department, and the engineering faculty of Kasetsart University. Nevertheless, there is a serious beginning! The Commercial Registration Department has yet to release specifications for ethanol-blended fuel.
Commercial sales of tye new fuel are to begin on 1 February at eight Bangchak stations in Greater Bangkok after formal approval of the blend.
Bangchak will purchase ethanol from the Thailand Institute of Scientific and Technological Research. The institute's pilot plant will supply 300,000 liters per month of ethanol to Bangchak for blending.
We expect that in the future blends a larger percentage of ethanol will be presented. But testing of these blends has still to be done.


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Stray dogs in Bangkok

Posted by hasekamp on 16 January 2001 at 12:28 PM
In Thailand there are many stray dogs. Sadly they have a bad life, generally speaking. Many stray dogs are born form stray dog parents, but dog owners also often release their dogs to become stray dogs, because they do not want them any more for whatever reason. We want to qualify this behavior –that is also common in Western countries- as very irresponsible and highly objectionable. Back now to Bangkok’s stray dogs.
Sometimes one sees people feeding them, but more often one sees dogs in terrible condition.
Bangkok stray dogs are often brought to place in Prawet, set up by the authorities, to take care of them.
But environmentalists and dog lovers have recently been protesting against City officials about the way dogs are being treated there. The dogs are put in overcrowded cages and they are not properly fed, is the general opinion of the animal lovers.
An animal lover who has sent five dogs to Prawet, reported that four of them have died there soon, as a result of ill-treatment. Some of the complaints, given by the protesters are given in more detail below:
In the first place dogs are randomly put together in cages, without selecting them in size and race. One problem then is that the weak ones are not able to get their share of food. In the second place puppies are not being fed with milk (as they should) but with solid food. This is fatal for many of them. In the third place the cages are not properly ventilated and (much) too small. In the fourth place the dogs are being treated much too roughly.
The director of the Veterinary Health division says the complaints are not new and are known to the officials. He has been given orders several times to give the dogs a better treatment, he said, but it is very difficult to keep everything under control.
We find this a shameful bit of news. We realize that stray dogs can cause problems in centers where they are brought to, but if the officials decide to keep and treat them, they should do so under acceptable circumstances.
We hope that our readers, when they visit Bangkok, remember the stray dogs in occasionally the streets by feeding them. It is a small service to these dogs without a master.
Some may find this bit of news unimportant an wil not understand why we publish it here. Our reaction is that we find that animals have the same rights to live a respectful life as humans.


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More Thaksin plans, but still very vague

Posted by hasekamp on 16 January 2001 at 12:28 PM
Mr Thaksin Shinawatra, the new Prime Minister-in-waiting, has revealed just a bit more of his plans.
One thing is that he wants to stop "wasteful projects", started by the present Government. He finds those projects wateful, that offer no returns. He also wants to stop plans that have a low priority (in his opinion). No specific projects were mentioned, but it is thought that Mr Thaksin wants to stop the building of a new 1900 MHz mobile phone network to start with.
In the opinion of Mr Thaksin the present Government has been spending money to stimulate the economy, but as a result of their policy has only created more burdens in the form of imports and debts.
We have to wait and see if Mr Thaksin can do this better. Indeed there still is an aftermath of the economic crisis, but we have written several times that we believe that the high US$ is at least partly to blame for that. So far Mr Thaksin has not yet announced any specific plans for solving this problem. It is easy to say what others have done wrong, but it is more difficult to show how to do it better!
Another point, that has given us quite some enthusiasm, is that Mr Thaksin wants to fight the drug factories in Burma, near the Thai border.
Out of "good neighborhoodness" he first wants to seek the cooperation of the Burmese Government for this, but otherwise he will use "decisive means" of his own. He talked about the drug problem while visiting Chiang Mai.
Mr Thaksin hopes that Thai-Burmese relations will improve. The Burmese military Government has congratulated him already with his success in the general election.
Furthermore Mr Thaksin said, while visiting the North, that the upper North will be developed further in order to attract more tourists and investors. Mr Thaksin also thanked Northern residents for their overwhelming support for him in the general election. This showed that they wanted him, a son of the North, to become Prime Minister. In developing the North Mr Thaksin will try to create an equilibrium between economic development and environmental and cultural conservation.
We wait and see with what specific plans Mr Thaksin will come up as soon as he has been installed as Prime Minister. It is expected now that this will be around March.


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Today is for the children

Posted by hasekamp on 13 January 2001 at 19:35 PM
On the second Saturday in January (today this year) it is Children’s Day in Thailand. On that day it is a paradise for children. Everywhere things are being organized for them and they are allowed in many places where you and I are never allowed (unless you, reader, are a Thai child). Especially Agencies and public Organizations are active to organize something for the children.
To give an example: Children (this time with their parents) were allowed to visit Government House today, where they could see Mr Chuan Leekpai, his office and other things in the building. Wow, this must have been interesting, because a recent poll (on the occasion of Children’s Day also) showed that Mr Chuan Leekpai is (still) the most popular politician with children, even though their parents have turned to Mr Thaksin Shinawatra.
In Phuket (as we reported some time ago) children can queue up at the post office to have a digital picture shot, which then is added to a stamp sheet. So there the children can send mail with their own stamp on it! (See an example in our archives). And every year special stamps are issued for the occasion of Children’s Day, with pictures that have something to do with children.
The serious side of Children’s Day is taken care of by IAO (International Amnesty Organization) Thailand. This organization focuses on the promotion of children’s rights this year. With child prostitution around this is a bitter necessity.
Further examples of interesting places, open to children today, are Ramkamhaeng University and a satellite TV station.
The day was opened officially by the favorite politician of the children, Mr Chuan Leekpai, at the National Stadium. We advise our non-Thai readers to give their children an extra treat today. We find the idea of Children’s Day a highly sympathetic one. Every day children have to do what their parents want, and today the parents have to do what their children want!


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Thaksin case can last for a year or longer

Posted by hasekamp on 13 January 2001 at 13:38 PM
Two judges from the Constitution Court said yesterday that the case against Thai Rak Thai leader (and PM-to-be) Thaksin Shinawatra could last more than a year. The two judges said the case could take so much time because it is complicated and many documents have to be studied as well as several witnesses have to be heard.
So far it was supposed that the case could be decided within three months.
One of the judges added that the court will only consider whether or not Thaksin had intended to conceal his assets.
"The court will not consider when the five-year political ban should start (if Mr Thaksin is found guilty). That will be the responsibility of the Government agencies concerned," one of the judges said.


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New election in two provinces tomorrow

Posted by hasekamp on 12 January 2001 at 18:30 PM
The Thai New Agency reports that Maha Sarakham and Kanchanaburi provinces are now ready for re-election tomorrow. Security officers are ready to prevent and deal with possible turbulence or unrest.
The re-election would be organized at two polling units of the fourth and fifth constituencies of Maha Sarakham province, as well as at polling units of the first and fourth constituencies of Kanchanaburi province.
It is also reported that official vote counts of the January 6 general election are now completed in 386 constituencies out of the total 400 constituencies nationwide. It is therefore highly likely that we will see the official result of the general election within the 30-days limit, prescribed by law.
Mr Thaksin Shinaweatra said, in the meantime: "As long as the results are not officially finalised, it is inappropriate for me to talk about members of the coalition".
We find this a much wiser cimment than his comment one day after election day, that he would have his Government ready by the end of the day. So it looks that Mr Thaksin is beginning to become a politician already...


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What did Thaksin promise his voters?

Posted by hasekamp on 12 January 2001 at 18:11 PM
Now that it is very likely that Mr Thaksin Shinawatra will become Thailand’s next Prime Minister, it is worth the while to summarize his promises to the voters.
As for the farmers, he promised two main things: In the first place he promised a three-year debt suspension period, to the Bank for Agriculture and the Agricultural Cooperatives, for small farmers. And in the second place he promised the setting-up of a one-million-Baht fund for each village, for community development. These measures -if taken by the new Government- would give the small farmers a "breathing pause" for their debts. The economic crisis has hit the farmers most of all and they had to borrow money for high interest rates from "unconventional" financial institutions. As prices of agricultural products have not gone up, many farmers have a very high burden of debts and get poorer every year.
The debt-suspension program will give the farmers a possibility to rise their income for some time, whereas the village fund will help them with their necessary investments.
One should not underestimate the cost of these programs, as the Bank for Agriculture and the Agricultural Cooperatives have given out loans for a total of 200 billion Baht! It would therefore not surprise us if the programs would only be carried out in favor of small farmers, who need it most.
But even then it would be costly on one hand, and very helpful on the other hand. So, let us hope that Mr Thaksin will, keep his promises for the small farmers!
Another point is the 30-Baht health care plan, where villagers in the North and in the Northeast are -literally- lining up for already! This plan would make a complete reshuffle of the health care in Thailand necessary, and sources are divided about the period of time needed for this, and wonder if the current budget would be sufficient for it.
We hope that this posting gives our readers some idea what the Thai Rak Thai candidates have promised their voters, and what these voters therefore expect from them. It remains questionable if it can all come true, but we truly hope so for the poor farmers, who are in fact the backbone of the Thai economy.


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Election aftermath continues

Posted by hasekamp on 11 January 2001 at 12:34 PM
Issues around the general election on 6 January in Thailand are continuing. We intend, however, not to pay much attention to them from now on, but we want to concentrate on the final results and upon the forming of a new Government instead.
This is because we think that not many of the protests against the results will be honored. We believe that many of them are ill-founded and cannot be legally proved. We see these protest as part of a process in which the Thai population has to get accustomed to fair elections. This does not mean that we think that Saturday’s general election was as fair as it should have been, but one election is not enough to change from a far from "clean" system to a completely "clean" system.
The issues still pending are all about alleged irregularities during the election (like vote buying) and during the counting of the ballots (like the allegation that too many votes were declared invalid). We await the official decisions on these issues.
Protesters –of whom we wrote yesterday- now seem to be heading towards Bangkok, to protest for or against candidates who face a "red card". We also wait for the official decisions here.
Some new facts are, that in 391 out of 400 constituencies counting of the ballots has now been completed.
In 22 Provinces recounts have been demanded, while in 12 provinces new elections have been demanded. Counting has been completed without protests in 35 provinces.
Thai Rak Thai leader Thaksin Shinawatra now hopes for 260 seats in the House, on the basis of the results made public so far. He believes that a stable Government has to be based on a coalition of 300 House seats at least, so he does not intend to form a Government, only with Thai Rak Thai ministers.


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Still election issues. Final result expected in time

Posted by hasekamp on 10 January 2001 at 14:22 PM
In several places in Thailand more or less serious protests have broken out after election day. In some places this has led to a delay in the counting of the ballots. Most protesters belong to losing parties. Most protesters ask new elections because of alleged irregularities. Protesters operate in groups of 200-1000 people.
Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai has announced that legal action will be taken against protesters. Protesting against vote counting can cost a year in jail in Thailand.
The Election Commission is hearing the cases against 14 candidates, who may receive a "red card" and therefore loose their House seat, because of fraud, for instance because of proven vote buying. Some of them belong to the winning Thai Rak Thai Party!
All the issues before and after the election have a positive side too. They prove that large parts of the Thai community are alert on election fraud now and they prove that vote buying is less accepted in Thailand than before, when it simply belonged to any election.
We are confident that this awareness by the Thai people of election issues can lead to more honest elections in the future. More candidates, operating illegally, have been caught this time than before and the risk of losing your seat will a bitter experience to those whom it concerns.
The counting of ballots has now been completed in 249 of the 400 constituencies. This makes it likely that the final result can be published within the legal term of 30 days. As we reported, in several constituencies new elections will be held later this month. The exact number is not yet known, but is estimated to be below 20.
Foreign leaders from Cambodia, Indonesia, the US and China have already congratulated Thai Rak Thai leader Thaksin Shinawatra.


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Greatest drug haul in years, on Andaman sea

Posted by hasekamp on 9 January 2001 at 20:22 PM
Thai police have seized 114 kilograms of heroin and 7.5 million speed pills from two fishing boats in the Andaman Sea. The total worth of this catch is more than one billion baht. The numerous packages were proudly shown by the authorities on a press conference today.
This is the largest catch in years. The ship with heroin was heading towards Singapore and the one with the speed pills was heading for Thailand. The boats came from, or had been loaded in, a "neighboring country". Bet that it is Burma (Myanmar)? It even may be possible that they were loaded in full sea. The crews, consisting of 4 Thai and 22 Burmese man, was taken to Bangkok for interrogation. Only the two captains are -so far- believed to be innocent.
The Thai authorities were suspecting already that the drug smugglers were taking sea routes instead of land routes since some time. This huge haul seems to prove this theory.
In the meantime the Thai army will tackle drug smuggling along the border with Burma more aggressively from now on (assisted by US officials).
Last year 600,000,000 speed pills were produced in Burma, with the help, or at least without problems, from the Burmese Government. And 80% of these pills were smuggled into Thailand! Thai authorities fear that the production will be increased up to 700,000,000 this year. This means that the drug problems in Thailand are far from over, although this catch is promising for the Thai authorities.


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SET rallies after election. Economic boost?

Posted by hasekamp on 9 January 2001 at 20:22 PM
The SET (Stock Exchange of Thailand) index rallied 3.2% yesterday, after the landslide victory of Mr Thaksin Shinawatra's Thai Rak Thai Party became apparent. Obviously not only the voters, but also (Thai) investors have high confidence in Mr Thaksin! Turnover on the Thai stockmarket was record-high and with a value of 295, the SET reached a twelve-months high. The US$ traded for 43.45 Baht.
We wonder if this hype will be a new trend and remain permanent, so that the SET can finally try to reach the 400-level again (in due time!), or if the SET will sink back to "well-known territory" soon.
We would not advise our readers to invest heavily in Thai stocks before the Constitutional Court has given its verdict about Mr Thaksin's assets decalration (to be expected around March). As known to our readers, the NCCC (National Counter Corruption Commission) found Mr Thaksin guilty of a false assets declaration when he left the office of cabinet minister in 1997, and Mr Thaksin has appealed to the Constitutional Court.
If the Constitutional Court follows the NCCC, Mr Thaksin will be banned for five years from any public office, according to the Constitution of 1997.
Nevertheless we see some light at the end of the economic tunnel for Thailand, as rice and other exports have been reported to have increased in 2000. As we reported earlier, the Thai Government has made several plans to promote Thai products and services abroad in the next few years.
If these plans are effective, and if foreign investors also appear to have confidence in Mr Thaksin, then prospects for the Thai economy seem good.
Recently the World Bank also has given a favorable report about the Thai economy and its prospects.
We remain a bit sceptical and we would like to see some positive economic results from the new Government-to-be first, before we would join the economic cheering in Thailand!


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Nantida not elected

Posted by hasekamp on 9 January 2001 at 9:48 AM
Shortly after election day we reported on the basis of unofficial results, that popular singer Nantida was elected for her party, the Rassadorn Party in Samut Prakan District. This appears to be incorrect and we have removed the former message in which this was stated.
The fact is -according to the Bangkok Post- that the Rassadorn party has, surprisingly, lost heavily in Samut Prakan district.
Bookmakers lost 20 million Baht on this, because the Rassadorn party was highly favorite in the district, and therefore many bets in favor of the Rassadorn Party had been made.
Especially the father-in-law of Nantida, often called the "Godfather of Samut Prakan" is very popular there. The Thai Rak Thai Party, however, also won here, in spite of the (former?) popularity of the Rassadorn party. The Thai Rak Thai won five of the province's six constituencies.
The only successful Rassadorn candidate was Rewadee Rassame, and surprise losers were Nantida Asavahame (the singer, and the wife of Chonsawat Asavahame), Pradit Yangyuen, Somchai Sadit, Poolpol Asavahame and Vorapol Asavahame. As you can see the family-in-law of Nantida was vastly represented under the candidates. The father-in-law of Nantida, Vatana Asavahame (who seemed not too surprised that he had not won), said yesterday that he realized that the time of his family (and party) in politics was over. People from the district said that they had sent the "dinosaurs" home.
This unexpected result (which is of course a disappointing result for Nantida) gives us hope again that we will be able to buy new CD's of Nantida in the future, after she has shed her tears. And we may even be able to see her perform in Bangkok in the future. Not in the House of Representatives, but in some restaurant or theatre.


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Cloning to be promoted in Thailand

Posted by hasekamp on 8 January 2001 at 13:50 PM
The National Science and Technology Development Administration of Thailand (NSTDA) wants to publish a study on cloning tecnology, in order to give the Thai people a "better understanding" of the technique. NSTDA wants to open a cloned-organ bank, but cloning being quite controversial, not much can be expected of such a bank at present. Therefore the study should be made.
We sharply disapprove of this idea. An unbiased study to give the general public a better understanding could be acceptable, but a study to popularize a cloned-organ bank can never be unbiased! The "better understanding" aimed at by the NSTDA is apparently nothing more or less than a promotion campaign. This has nothing to do with science, so the NSTDA can skip the "S" out of its name if it carries out this plan!
Cloning is highly controversial Woldwide and to promote it under the cover of a scientific study is the last thing a Governmental organization should do. Luckily the Thai public is critical and we are confident that Thai students will be able to analize the "study" upon its merits and give the public the information then it is entitled to!


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Two days after election day

Posted by hasekamp on 8 January 2001 at 13:15 PM
All the Thai newsmedia are still dominated with reports and commentaries about last Saturday's general election in Thailand.
It will probably take quite some time before an official result can be published. Many candidates who were not (re-)elected on Saturday, probably hundreds, entered complaints yesterday with the Election Commission (EC) and requested for either vote recounts or a re-election. Because of these many protests the counting process in some constituencies had to be interrupted. Some complainers handed over video tapes, that were said to contain evidence of election fraud.
Some candidates protested alone, while others brought supporters with them. In most cases protesters claimed that their rivals had engaged in unfair practices. We find this a bit strange because -as we reported shortly before election day- all parties have been involved in vote buying! So, now som of the vote buyers who were not very successful are complaining about others, who did the same thing! Fewer cases involved complaints against allegedly corrupt EC officials. Some EC officials were accused of having received a 10-million Baht bribe from a candidate. Other complaints included an unusual number of invalid ballots, a lack of formalities (like missing stickers) etc. The EC has decided already that a re-election is to be held at seven polling stations on 13 or 20 January.
Farmers in the Northeast, who massively voted for the Thai Rak Thai Party, are now hoping that Mr Thaksin will keep his promises and that he will give them indeed a suspension from interest payments, a 30 Baht medical service and more of the beautiful things, promised in the campaign. The farmers say that the former Government of Mr Chuan Leekpai, never really heard their complaits about poverty and they fear that it might be the same with the new Government, despite all the promises.
And how about the big winner today? Did Mr Thaksin say yesterday that he would have his cabinet ready at the end of the day, today he found out that that was not realistic. Now he says that it may take "some time" before his ccabinet gets shape! Aanlists say that for a stable coalition he will at laest need 340 seats in the House of Representatives. So it seems unwise for him to try to rule the Country with his party alone, even if he would appaer to have an absolute majority of 250 or more seats.
In the regional Press the instability of a Thaksin Government, as a result of the ruling-to-be of the Constitutional Court about his assets, is widely exposed. Also the International News Media pay much attention to the sword of Damocles above the political haed of Mr Thaksin. It is to be hoped that he sectretly looks already for a good "second man".


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General Election (issues)

Posted by hasekamp on 7 January 2001 at 14:27 PM
AFP (Agence France-Presse) has called yesterday's Thai general election the "dirtiest Thai election ever", despite the reforms of the new 1997 Constitution, that was meant to suppress corruption.
Vote buying has been worse than ever (also see the news posting we wrote yesterday) and sources say that the "price of a last minute vote" was up to 1,000 Baht. The Election Commission (EC) has already received over 800 complaints, especially about vote buying practices in the rural provinces, as could be expected. All these cases have to be heard and a EC spokesman has already said that it would be impossible to release the final result within the legal limit, which means that a new election in several districts would be necessary. Estimations for the number of districts where new a election would be necessary go up to 50.
We are deeply disappointed that the new Constitution appears to have failed in one of its main aims. We hope that the new Government, and especially Mr Thaksin, who said he would end corruption as one of his first aims, will be able to terminate corruption indeed.
It remains a bitter pill however that the man who is promising this and has been promising this all over the election campaign, has been found guilty of corruption himself by the NCCC, and has to wait and see if he can stay in office at all after the ruling by the Constitutional Court. Thailand, quo vadis?


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General Election (results so far)

Posted by hasekamp on 7 January 2001 at 14:24 PM
The latest results of the Thai general election confirm the huge advance of Thaksin Shinawatra’s Thai Rak Thai Party, predicted yesterday on the basis of preliminary results. Available results at the moment predict 246 seats for Thai Rak Thai (which would be just under an absolute majority, as was predicted yesterday), 124 seats for Chuan Leekpai’s Democratic Party, 44 seats for the Chart Pattana Party of Korn Dabbaransi, 36 seats for the Chart Thai Party and 29 sets for the New Aspiration Party of Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, who was Prime Minister before Chuan Leekpai. Other parties will play no role oof importance in a possible coalition.
The most likely coalition-partners for the Thai Rak Thai Party at the moment -although if Thaksin appears to have an absolute majority he does not need any partners at all- are the New Aspiration Party and the Chart Thai Party.
Chart Pattana leader Korn Dabbaransi has declared that he believes that if Mr Thaksin will have to resign as PM, as a result of his assets declaration, which the NCCC has already found to be false, the whole new Government will have to go, because the Cabinet members will have to resign from the House when they enter office. So they cannot return to the House then.
Mr Thaksin has already said that possible coalition partners have to comply with the wishes of his party. A not very interesting prospect! He has started coalition talks already and hopes to have a loose draft of his Government by the end of the day! That does indeed not leave much room for negotiations!
Army chief Gen. Surayud Chulanont, who mentioned the possibility of a military coup recently, as we have reported here, has declared now that there will be no coup, however uncertain the situation becomes. The military want to keep clear from politics.
Given the clear majority of Mr Thaksin, we believe -as we said on the eve of the election- that Mr Thaksin should have a chance to show if he can solve Thailand’s problems, as he promised. We are not very confident in the influence he will give to his coalition partner(s), but that is their problem. Our main concern remains if Mr Thaksin will be able to stay in office after the Constitutional Court has spoken, expectedly in March. Or can the votes of these independent judges also be bought?


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Woman found chained for porn pictures

Posted by hasekamp on 6 January 2001 at 14:36 PM
Next to the news about the election, that covers 99% of the news in the Thai media today, we have picked out one other (extremely sad) story.
A man was arrested yesterday, after a woman was found chained (naked) in his house. The woman (aged 46 years) told the police that she had been forced to pose for pornographic pictures by the man.
The also 46 year old man has been charged with illegal detention and the woman, who was chained by the arms and legs to a ladder, was rescued by the police.
The woman claimed that the house was being used as a loan office and that she had collected loan payments and interest for the man for about a year. Apparently, he had come to the house with some accomplices yesterday and accused her of keeping 5,000 Baht from payments for herself.
The man is a professional money lender.
In the man's house police also found ammunition and negatives of the woman and another man, thought also to be an employee of the money lender, who also was in chains.
The money lender has also been charged with possessing ammunition. He is in custody but has asked for release on 100,000 Baht bail.
The police is still looking for the second man, shown on the pictures.


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Election Day! (First results)

Posted by hasekamp on 6 January 2001 at 14:22 PM
Today is election day in Thailand. Polling stations closed at 3 p.m. Thai time. Although accurate results therefore cannot yet be published, initial results show a clear lead of the Mr Thaksin Shinawatra's Thai Rak Thai Party in all areas nationwide. According to these first unofficial results the Thai Rak Thai Party won 230 seats nationwide, followed by 107 seats of the Democrat Party of Acting Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai, 46 seats each of the Chat Pattana and New Aspiration Parties of Acting Deputy Prime Minister Korn Dabbarangsi and former Prime Minister Gen. Chaovalit Yongchaiyudh, and 44 seats of the Chat Thai Party of former Prime Based on these first results, Mr Thaksin told reporters that he was willing to join with any other parties in forming a Government for the sake of the national benefit. He thanked the people for every vote cast for his party.
As we have reported several times, it will depend on the Constitutional Court if Mr Thaksin can become (or remain) the 23rd prime minister of Thailand. (Use the keyword "thaksin" in our search box to find previous reports).
The first preliminary official results results of the general election are expected to be known tomorrow. So keep your browser pointed at this site for more election news.
In the meantime during the night before the election unscrupulous candidates and their helpers went from house to house in order to hand out cash for votes. An official of one of the parties said that even some pollwatchers and police were paid to turn a blind eye to the last round of vote buying. These reports do not state if this buying of officials was successful...
Vote buying was worst in the Northeast, as we expected. A candidate there was handing out at least 4 million Baht in cash to voters in Udon Thani. His party had spent close to 10 million Baht for the purpose of vote buying.
Other candidates accused rivals of paying 200 baht a vote.
A simple calculation shows us that if 200 Baht is the "normal" price for a vote, then the party that spent 10 million Baht, could buy 50,000 votes fore that amount oif money!
We have reported on this phenomenon a few days ago and we feel ashamed for Thailand that it appears to have taken this huge size.


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Where do we stand for the elections?

Posted by hasekamp on 5 January 2001 at 15:30 PM
We feel that we -being a serious news site about Thailand- should make clear to our readers where we stand as far as the elections are concerned. So, who would we like to be the next Thai Prime Minster? We do not have the right to vote and -living most of the time outside Thailand- we can look at Thai politics in broad lines only. But therefore we are not blinded by details. Therefore we find that we can -and should- give an opinion to our readers. Comments are welcome on our Message Board.
In fact the best person for the job is not a candidate. We mean HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej. He has made many valuable suggestions during his long reign, that always have been followed by the diverse Governments, and that have helped Thailand, when the Government did not take adequate action. The most prominent action of HM the King in the last decade was preventing a complete civil war, when the Government failed terribly in reacting adequately against protestors.
Apart from HM’s age and position, this suggestion is not as strange as it looks at first sight. Rumors want it that HM wanted to become PM indeed when he was called to the throne in 1946, and he wanted his brother to be King.
But if we had to choose between the main competitors (Thaksin Shinawatra and Chuan Leekpai) who would we choose?
We have made quite some critical remarks about Thaksin Shinawatra, the silk and telecom tycoon, and a successful businessman. What is pleading for him, is that he has shown to know how to run a big company. But a government is no big company and requires often a different approach. Mr Thaksin seems to be a man of principles, and he has sworn to kill corruption and poverty, two of the largest problems in Thailand nowadays. But can he do this? We are not certain. If he would start as the new PM, he would have the sword of Damocles hanging above him, until the Constitutional Court would plead him free from the corruption of which the NCCC (National Counter Corruption Commission) has accused him. We still find it unlikely that this will happen, so after a few months he probably would have to be replaced. And would his -unknown(!)- successor have the same principles? His party could become the largest party and it would be fair to give him and his party a chance to prove that they can do what former Governments could not do.
Present PM Chuan Leekpai of the Democratic Party is certainly "clean". He also was under investigation of the NCCC and nothing incorrect was found. But Mr Chuan has been PM and he was not able to solve the economic crisis. And during his PM-ship corruption appeared to be there, even within the cabinet. So what good can he bring then? We believe that he should choose his fellow ministers more carefully than he did so far, if he will become the next PM. And as far as the economic crisis is concerned, we believe that the high value of the US$ certainly is also to blame partly for the present economic crisis. It is too easy to blame Mr Chuan for everything.
So this makes the choice very difficult. Common sense tells us that Mr Thaksin should get a chance, with his broad experience outside the Government. The sword of Damocles above him makes us hesitate, however.
Mr Chuan has shown that dramatic changes under his continued rule are unlikely.
So, if we have to choose, we believe that Mr Thaksin should get his chance. If he has to resign in a few months time, we gamble then that his party will have a successor. He never wanted to mention one, to save his case before the Constitutional Court. But his party seems by far the most popular political party at this moment. That too, we believe, is an important point. If indeed his Thai Rak Thai Party will appear to be the largest party, it would be unrealistic not to give Thailand the Government it wants! This is, therefore, where we stand.


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Two days before election day

Posted by hasekamp on 4 January 2001 at 14:06 PM
Today there is hardly any other news in the Thai media than election news. So here we go too:
Today most of the Thai political parties will hold their final rallies before the general elections on Saturday.
Thai Rak Thai leader Thaksin Shinawatra will deliver a speech on Sanam Luang in Bangkok. He is expected to have a large audience.
The Democrat Party of Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai will have two rallies, one at Surat Thani and one at Nakorn Si Thammarat.
The Chart Pattana Party will try to promote its leader Korn Dabaransi in Nakorn Patchasima.
The New Aspiration Party of former Prime Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh goes to Nakorn Pathom, with also a smaller meeting in Naraiwat.
Bangkok Governor Samak Sundaravej, who is not a candidate for Parliament, will campaign for the Prachakorn Thai Party, and so on, and so on. All parties will try a last effort to convince people that they are the best.
Mr Thaksin Shinawatra has declared to whoever wanted to listen, that he wants to become PM, if only for a short period. "Before I die, I want to kill my enemies first, which are poverty, drugs and corruption", he said. If he really can do this, we are willing to support him! But if he has only a short period, we believe that he cannot accomplish anything at all. He also said that other parties could join him, if they could accept his policies(!). The Thai Rak Thai Party, however, would not "give away" any key ministries.
In the meantime polls suggest that the Thai Rak Thai Party will have a big lead in the Northeast. As we reported earlier, this does not surprise us, because Mr Thaksin originates from there and (more important) he made far-going promises to the farmers there.
And the final election news: More than 140,000 policemen have been put on the alert in constituencies nationwide to tackle possible incidents in the general elections! In two days we will know more.


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Three days before election day

Posted by hasekamp on 3 January 2001 at 12:23 PM
Although illegal, the large traditional "handouts" of money to buy votes is now at its peak level in Thailand, with the elections coming up in three days. All parties are involved, it seems. "Vote buying" can be punished by disqualification, if discovered by the Election Commission, so it has to be done carefully. If we have followed the press correctly, so far (just) six candidates have received a "red card" for vote buying (which disqualifies them permanently for these elections). Border policemen, who do what they can to catch cheaters, cannot to be bribed (!), so these last few days are dangerous for the candidates.
Also of importance is the moment on which to buy the votes: If you do it too early, your competitors may overbid you. If you come too late, another may have been before you, who cannot be bettered with your budget.
As will be clear, this buying of votes is worst in rural areas, especially inn the Northeast. According to one candidate, Northeasterners rarely break their "deal", if made in time and properly. However, sometimes more money has to be spent after all when another party has made a better deal. So, unofficial "opinion polls" are being carried out daily in the areas where vote buying is considered necessary. And it also is wise to stay near your voters when the polling station opens. You never know…
Some candidates try to play fair, but they are not taken seriously by their competitors.
In the meantime the Election Commission expects lots of complaints about illegal practices, which have to be reviewed all, and it expects that even two extra rounds may be necessary, before being able to give the final result within the 30 days, required by law.
We find it astounding that this large scale vote buying cannot be discovered and punished before the elections. Maybe it happens at too much places at the same time, but even then…
We are far from happy with this "traditional" ritual around the elections, that makes the outcome doubtful, to state it modestly. We would have hoped that politicians would state an example in these corrupt practices. How can the corruption ever become extinct in Thailand if the politicians introduce it themselves?


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More than 30,000 New Year accidents

Posted by hasekamp on 3 January 2001 at 11:28 AM
Over 30,000 accidents have been reported to the the Ministry of Public Health during the New Year celebrations in Thailand.
There were 32,390 people injured between 28 December 2000, and 2 January 2001, with 23,486 reportedly male. For the mathematicians among us: this means a number of 115 accidents per hour throughout Thailand!
Most accidents were road accidents (18,143). No causes of the other accidents were given, but doubtless fireworks will be one of the other causes. All festivities in Thailand are accompanied by lots of fireworks.
The Thais being severe drinkers (especially when there is something to celebrate), we supect that alcohol also played a major role in many of the accidents, including the road accidents.
The majority of the accidents was not fatal: A number of 486 dead were reported, of which 388 were male.
Most accidents happened in the North and the East, although the South and Central areas follow closely. Mae Hong Son has the doubtful honor to have had the least number of registered accidents during the period mentioned.
We make use of this occasion to warn our readers not to venture themselves into Thai traffic during any celebrations in Thailand!


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Thai women used as sex slaves in the US

Posted by hasekamp on 2 January 2001 at 11:51 AM
A court in Houston (Texas, US) has heard a case against two men, who have used Chinese and Thai women, who were illegally brought into the US, as sex slaves. The women were found handcuffed and chained in brothels in Houston. They had been forced to have sex with about 15 men daily, until they raised the 40,000 US$, that were asked for their illegal entry into the United States. The two men arrested will be sentenced before a federal judge in the US.
The men belong to an organization, that was discoverd by US undercover agents, in cooperation with other US, Chinese and Thai authorities.
It is suspected that the illegal organization is headed by a Bangkok woman. About 30 women a month over at least two years were smuggled into the US by this organization.
We hope that the two men will be sentenced severely and we also hope that some of the men who made uase of the "services" of the women will be found and sentenced.
As for the Bangkok woman who headed all this, we can hardly think of an adequate punishment for her. We hope that she will be punished under Thai law, under which these crimes are normally punished severely.
But thinking what she did: selling her own countrypeople as slaves, and this 30 times a month during two years at least, she really deserves the most severe punishment. One should realize -although no ages were given- that oriental sex slaves often still are minors, who have been promised decent jobs in restaurants or offices. The young lives of the women in question are probably destroyed completely now.


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HM the King asks the Thai people to be united

Posted by hasekamp on 1 January 2001 at 16:19 PM
His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej yesterday made his New Year's Eve speech. He called all Thais to be united and work for the benefit of the country.
HM reminded his people that the past year had known good and bad things for Thailand. He thanked the Thai people for always supporting him and he extended his best wishes to all of his subjects.
One of the good things he mentioned was the winning of several medals at the Sydney Olympic Games by Thai athletes.
The flooding in the South was one of the bad things HM mentioned, together with a call for the Thai people to be united and to help each other.
"This should be proof that Thai people are united and have mercy towards one another. No matter what problems the country is facing, Thai people will turn to help one another and be united until the country comes out of the problems," His Majesty said.
"On the occasion of New Year, I would like to ask you all to be united and keep this good spirit and try to speed up your works and responsibilities, coordinate and help each other with honesty, without carelessness and by taking the benefit of the country as the highest goal,", were some more words of HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Long live His Majesty the King!
See the official New Year card 2001 from HM the King
For those of our readers who are not quite so good in Thai: In his New Year card, His Majesty the King wishes all Thai people a Happy and Prosperous New Year 2001, saying that the new decade, the new century, the new millennium, all begin on January 1, 2001.
"The New Year is an occasion when we review the past as lessons and prepare ourselves for coming challenges", His Majesty further said in the New Year card.


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