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Thaksin wins on points

Posted by hasekamp on 28 February 2001 at 23:03 PM
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has ended the three day debate after the Policy Statement of his Cabinet with a firm and persuasive reply to Parliament. On the last day of the debate he has even been attacked on his integrity, in connection with the assets case, pending with the Constitutional Court. (Type "NCCC" in our search box to find all the details about this case.)
Mr Thaksin took an important card out of the hands of the Democrats-led opposition by thanking them for helping to revive the Thai economy, to their own surprise.
Mr Thaksin furthermore appealed on the 700 MP's and Senators to support him in the necessary legislative work necessary to achieve economic and social reform. He literally said: "We will have to make and change a lot of laws. Let this be this Parliament's mission, not just the government's."
About the past three days of debate Mr Thaksin said that it was "the best and most productive parliamentary forum I have ever seen" and he thanked the opposition and senators for their advice.
He further insisted that his much-criticized policies on farm debts, healthcare and one-million-Baht-per-village had not simply been dreamt up to please the voters, but were conceived in a process of systematic and thorough research.
During the final day of the debate tension in Parliament rose close to the boiling point at times. At one moment Democrat MP Nipit Intarasombat called Mr Thaksin "a digital magician". He was forced to take his words back by the Senate Speaker, Mr Sanit Worapanya, who chaired the meeting.
If we have to summarize the debate, we believe that Mr Thaksin had a hard time sometimes, but that in the end "he won on points".
It is true that he still has to explain how he can realize his ambitious plans, but in our opinion he should be given the chance to show this. From the English writing Thai press we find the Bangkok Post quite anti-Thaksin and the Nation more or less pro-Thaksin.
Thai News Agency (TNA) has a neutrally worded and -as far as we can judge- a correct account of the debate.
We are now waiting for the deeds of the new Thai government!


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Thaksin accused of using marketing tactics

Posted by hasekamp on 28 February 2001 at 14:11 PM
Deputy Democrat leader Abhasit Vejjajiva has attacked the new government hard on the second day of the debate after the Policy Statement.
The essence of his speech was that Mr Thaksin and his government were using "marketing strategies". Mr Abhasit meant by this, that the policy was written in beautiful and impressive words, but by people who did not really understand what it was all about. The plans also were unclear and too brief.
Mr Abhasit went through the most important plans in the Policy Statement and called them unrealistic.
The government was visibly uncomfortable during this speech, that is considered by political analysts the highlight of he second day of the debate.
Mr Abhasit further said that Mr Thaksin was keeping all the power to himself (his administration), instead of giving it to the authorities in charge of financial, economic and social affairs.
The microphone had to be turned off at the end of the speech, because Mr Abhasit far exceeded his speaking time. The message came trough, however.
Mr Thaksin told the press later, that all the allegations were untrue and the plans were not written by a marketing person, but were the result of serious ideas and initiatives.
Mr Thaksin will answer Parliament this evening, which is the last day of the Parliamental debate about the Policy Statement.


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New tourist attractions

Posted by hasekamp on 27 February 2001 at 13:34 PM
The Tourist Authority of Thailand (TAT) is going devote more of its energy in promoting not so well-known tourist attractions and areas. They want to address foreign as well as local tourists by this new activity. It appears that all popular tourist attractions and destinations are (over)crowded in the holiday season and on public holidays. Other –also beautiful- spots are hardly ever visited.
Therefore TAT wants to offer alternatives to the well-known spots for foreign as well as local tourists. Among other things a journal will be published to this purpose.
At the moment TAT is already giving extra promoting power to Phuket province and its neighboring provinces.


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Ideological line through Parliament

Posted by hasekamp on 27 February 2001 at 13:21 PM
The debate in Parliament after the Policy Statement of the new government yesterday, showed a clear ideological division. The opposition, led by Mr Chuan Leekpai, who spoke for more than two hours, found the plans of the government far too expensive and even ridiculed them.
According to the opposition the plans are simply too expensive and too ambitious. Mr Chuan said –among many other things- that the country was not as rich as Mr Thaksin himself, and it simply was not possible to spend money on the complete Thai population. Choices would have to be made.
An interesting detail here is, that Mr Thaksin has always criticized Mr Chuan, when Mr Chuan was PM, that he only helped the rich and ignored the poor. Now Mr Chuan –belonging to de Democrats- criticizes Mr Thaksin –it seems- that he wants to help the poor (in the first place).
Plans that met the fiercest resistance from the opposition were the 30 Baht healthcare scheme and the one-million-Baht-per-village scheme. Discussions here were sometimes beyond the level of a Parliamental debate.
Nevertheless PM Thaksin Shinawatra thanked Parliament for the "constructive" debate at the end of yesterday.
The debate is not yet finished, as it will continue today and tomorrow. A total of 51 House members and 50 Senators have placed themselves on the list of speakers.
Mr Thaksin further said that the government planned to implement the main issues of his policy (see our former posting) as soon as possible, by which he meant within three months.


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Chuan answers Thaksin in Parliament

Posted by hasekamp on 26 February 2001 at 17:12 PM
The now opposition leader and former Prime Minister, Mr Chuan Leekpai, was the first to speak in the debate that followed the Policy Statement by new PM Thaksin Shinawatra in the combined Parliamentary meeting of the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Mr Chuan stated that many points in the government’s policy need clarification and that the plans given were very vague.
He mentioned almost all the points we gave in our former news item as examples of this statement.
Mr Chuan explicitly warned the government that its plan for debt suspension for the small farmers could lead to damage to the lending system of the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC), that took years to build up, and that the 30 Baht healthcare system could lead to a lower standard of the -now highly valued- Thai healthcare.
Mr Chuan further said that some government’s plans reflected inadequate understanding of the country’s real economic conditions and problems. Especially the fact that the Thai economy is shrinking now, and not growing, is "undervalued" by the government, according to Mr Chuan.
Nevertheless Mr Chuan expressed his support for the government’s policy against corruption in all levels.
He further suggested that the new administration should continue the ethanol project as a means for oil substitution (as suggested by HM the King) and that the government should see that the development of the Thai telecommunication and information technology (IT) networks, as planned, will lead to "fair prices" for consumers.
(We emphasize that this news item has been published "hot from the press" and that it therefore still may contain some inaccuracies.)


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Thaksin administration presents its Policy Statement

Posted by hasekamp on 26 February 2001 at 11:52 AM
Today PM Thaksin Shinawatra has read the Policy Statement of his government in a joint meeting of the House of Representatives and the Senate. The most urgent policy points, as outlined in the statement, are:
- three year debt suspension for small farmers;
- a one million Baht fund for each village for community development;
- setting up a people's bank and a small and medium enterprises (SME) bank;
- establishment of a national asset management corporation (AMC);
- development of state enterprises;
- introduction of a universal health insurance;
- 30 Baht fee for hospital visits;
- setting up drug rehabilitation centers;
- promotion of public participation in preventing and suppressing corruption.
Furthermore the government wants to reduce poverty, generate more employment and bring down people's spending. The statement says that the economic crisis, that started in 1997, is not over yet and Thailand therefore needs changes in all dimensions
We find this a (very) ambitious program, but it is according to the Thai Rak Thai promises during the election campaign, so Mr Thaksin hardly could come with something less. Nevertheless we doubt if this ambitious program can be realized within 3 years, as it should, being the Policy Statement of the government.
A debate about the statement will take place immediately, and is expected to last at least for the rest of today and tomorrow.


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The truth about the economy

Posted by hasekamp on 25 February 2001 at 15:49 PM
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has promised the Thai people that he will tell them the truth about the economic difficulties the country is still experiencing. He also promised that he will make public what measures his government will take to fight the economic difficulties.
He said this in response to a question by the former finance Minister about the country’s economy. The former Minister said that Thailand's economy is still in trouble and that it will be hard to fully recover it within 3-5 years.
This question sounds a bit strange to us by a former finance Minister. Did he not tell the whole truth to the Thai people?
Mr Thaksin said that he would seek an opportunity to meet the people on television after having delivered the government's policy statement to Parliament next week.
According to Mr Thaksin (with whom we fully agree in this respect) the people need to be truly informed about the economic situation. His government has never been afraid of telling the people the truth, Mr Thaksin said.
The new PM further said that he would try his best to solve the economic problems within the next 3 to 5 years.


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Taxi passengers trail lead to pills

Posted by hasekamp on 24 February 2001 at 15:24 PM
Following the arrest of four (hilltribe) people, who were transporting more than four million Baht in cash in a taxi yesterday, the trail of the persons arrested led the police to more than 100,000 speed pills in Chiang Rai. Six more arrests were made. One of the persons arrested in the taxi escaped however, according to the police.
Another interesting detail is, that the persons in the taxi first have tried to bribe the police with the money found in the car, in which they -luckily- did not succeed. So not everybody in Thailand is corrupt yet!
A related news item is, that Interior Minister Purachai Piemsomboon says that information has reached him that some politicians are involved in the drugs trade. The matter is under investigation now. No names were published yet.


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Valuable taxi freight

Posted by hasekamp on 23 February 2001 at 14:18 PM
The Expressway police in Bangkok stopped to help a taxi driver with changing his flat tyre on Wednesday night, and -surprise, surprise- found 4.35 million Baht in the taxi during this human support operation! The money is believed to be drug money, as police dogs traced a smell of drugs on the money.
The bags belonged to four passengers sitting in the taxi. They attracted the attention of the helpful police, probably by acting a bit nervous.
The taxi driver denied any knowledge of what he was transporting.
The passengers with the money appeared to come from Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son and appeared to speak little Thai during questioning. They, of course, knew very little too of where the money came from. According to their statements they were not aware of doing anything wrong. The passengers have been charged with money laundering.


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Burma strikes back towards SSA

Posted by hasekamp on 23 February 2001 at 14:07 PM
The Burmese, together with the -"drug lords" operated- United Wa State Army (UWSA), have taken back their camp, that had been captured by the anti-Rangoon Shan State Army (SSA).
The commander of the about 2,000 SSA soldiers protecting the camp said that nine Burmese and three UWSA battalions had surrounded them and had also tried to advance to the SSA headquarters, but they had run into tough resistance then.
In the meantime in Thailand the government has been warned by academics, that the continuing fortifying actions of Burmese border troops is not only also meant to fight the SSA, but also to have a better outgoing position in the -so far not scheduled- talks between Thailand and Burma, to settle their problems peacefully.


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Latest border reports

Posted by hasekamp on 22 February 2001 at 16:18 PM
The Third Thai Army has issued a warning to the "drug lords" in Burma, that the present fortified Thai military force in the border areas with Burma is not only meant to act against possible further intrusions by the Burmese, but also to act against drug traffickers, including the United Wa State Army (UWSA). Any drug trafficking activities, by whoever makes them, will be attacked severely. The UWSA is a Rangoon-supported group that is behind many of the drugs factories near the Thai border.
The Burmese have in the meantime said that they will win back the military camp that was taken yesterday by the Shan State Army (SSA), another group in Burma. But the SSA is fighting against the drugs factories in Burma and is sought by Rangoon as well as the UWSA.
Rangoon is bringing heavy military equipment to the border, in order to recapture the base that is occupied by the SSA at the moment.
How the dispute between Thailand and Burma will be settled is still unclear. No new appointment for talks has yet been made, although Burma has said once more that it wants to solve the problems peacefully.


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More dinosaur fossils found

Posted by hasekamp on 22 February 2001 at 15:38 PM
On 28 October 2000 we reported that dinosaur fossils, about 130 million years old, had been found in Thailand (in Sahatsakhan District).
Systematic search in the same area now has revealed 25 more dinosaur fossils, believed to be equally old. The fossils are believed to have belonged to herbivore dinosaurs.
The latest discovery was made by a joint team of Thai and French geologists. This rather larger amount of fossils could be an indication that there is more to be found in the area and that many more dinosaurs have lived there. So we will probably soon read about new discoveries in the area.
The latest fossils were found only five kilometers from the place where the former fossils were found.


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Border tension not over yet

Posted by hasekamp on 21 February 2001 at 11:20 AM
The tension along the Thai-Burmese border in Mae Sai District is not over yet. Shan State Army (SSA) troops clashed with Burmese soldiers again and seized one of the Burmese posts opposite Mae Sai early this morning. There was gunfire for around one hour before the SSA troops successfully seized the Burmese military camp.
The Thai Third army remains alert, and a spokesman has said that new trespassing of Burma into Thai territory will not be tolerated.
As reported earlier, there have been talks between the Thai and the Burmese, but without any result. Both parties have asked compensation from the other party for loss of lives and damage, but no agreement at all has been reached.
At first the new Prime Minister, Mr Thaksin Shinawatra, had announced that he would go to Rangoon as soon as possible to settle the dispute, but he was advised against this by senior Senators.


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Farmers debt suspension to start soon

Posted by hasekamp on 21 February 2001 at 10:58 AM
Mr Thaksin Shinawatra's Thai Rak Thai party has promised the farmers during the election campaign that their debt payments would be suspended for three years. This has given him massive support from the farmers.
The deputy Finance Minister now has announced that this program will start on 1 April already, which, we must admit, is much sooner that we expected. The cost of the program is estimated to be 11.6 billion Baht for this year.
Debt payments to be suspended are the payments to the -government owned- Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Co-operatives (BAAC). The deputy Finance Minister said that the program will be open to borrowers with a debt up to 100,000 Baht, which includes some 2.1 million farmers nationwide. He said the government would need to inject another 3.9 billion Baht in capital into the BAAC to compensate the state bank for the loss in revenues under the programme.
We wonder if the new government will be able to keep all its electioh campaign promises so swiftly!


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PM Thaksin wants to work differently

Posted by hasekamp on 20 February 2001 at 16:29 PM
Yesterday, on the first working day of Thailand’s new administration, PM Thaksin announced some changes in the way of working of the Cabinet.
The Cabinet will use advisors, and if necessary lots of them, to assist them and new technology will be used where possible. And quicker and more efficient working methods should be adapted, with -as said- maximum use of new technology.
The Prime Minister emphasized that every minister, no matter what party he or she comes from, should work in unity, and old, experienced, ministers should lend a helping hand to newcomers. All ministers were also asked to see that their work will focus on quality rather than quantity.
Things like these are not surprising, of course. Every new administration starts enthusiastic and thinks it can do everything better than its predecessors.
Mr Thaksin will further assign deputy prime ministers to oversee certain issues.
The new working style of the Cabinet, especially the use of computers, should also be able to cut the work-hours of copiers and monitoring officials from twenty to six, Mr Thaksin believes. Cabinet meetings will start at 8.30 a.m. in the future, instead of 9.30 a.m. and the length of the meetings will be cut by half.
Mr Thaksin also asked his ministers to observe Buddhist principles, especially those as preached by the widely respected Buddhathat Bhikkhu.
Mr Thaksin also said that he wants his Cabinet to observe His Majesty's four working principles issued during the swearing-in ceremony, by working quickly, discreetly, prudently, and in the public interest.
Hundreds of Government House officials were present at the first Cabinet meeting, in order to greet the new Cabinet. About 200 local and foreign reporters were also present.
An official of the Mental Health Department has suggested that Mr Thaksin should employ a psychologist, in order to assist his administration to understand social issues.
The fresh Ministers were in high spirits on their first working day, but after several hours they complained becoming too fresh, because of the over-enthusiastic air-conditioning.
Prime Minister Thaksin said his Government’s policy statement would be presented to Parliament on February 26, 2001. Then we will see which of the plans of Mr Thaksin still stand and will be realized. We do not have any comments at this time. Plans are good, but the first results should show what the new Cabinet can really do. So far the Thai press has not reacted very enthusiastically to the new Cabinet. Several newspapers have expressed their doubts if the members of the new Cabinet are qualified enough to reach the high aims
Set during the election campaign. It seems as if everybody is waiting for the results.


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Better protection for the mangrove forests?

Posted by hasekamp on 19 February 2001 at 17:46 PM
Three senate committees, including the chairman of the Senate environmental panel, will ask the government to address the problem of encroachment of mangrove forests (especially in Phuket) better and to ensure the safety of environmentalists.
The direct reason for this action by the Senate is the recent killing of Mr Jurin Ratchapol. Mr Jurin played a leading role in protesting against the encroachment in mangrove forests by shrimp farmers, and was killed for his actions to retain these forests, as we reported. Large areas of the last bits of mangrove forests on Phuket have been turned into shrimp farms already.
We do hope that the new government will be able to honor the request of the Senate and, therewith, honor indirectly the rememberance of the late Mr Jurin. Ther new government hopefully will dare to take appropriate action.
The Senators also want to ask the Phuket police to arrest the mastermind behind Mr Jurin's murder. It will be no secret to our readers that we also support this request!


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Thai Airways to improve service

Posted by hasekamp on 19 February 2001 at 17:32 PM
Thai Airways International is in the red figures and wants to do something about it. A spokesman of the airline said that a working group will be set up to study the airlines' marketing strategy.
Before new schedules will become effective -in October- the number of aircraft will be raised, the number of flights and destinations will be increased the capacity to serve first- and business class passengers will also be increased. The market of first- and business class passengers is becoming more important and Thai has not yet anticipated enough to that.
At the moment the loss of the company is around 80 million Baht a month or one billion Baht per year. One reason for this large loss is that the ticket prices have to be kept (too) low as a response to the heavy competition.
In particular the markets in the Middle East, Europe and Australia are planned to be penetrated more than now.
We are strong supporters of Thai Airways International and whenever we can, we use this air carrier. The quality of the service is excellent and by flying Thai we support the Thai economy. We hope that our readers have the same idea about Thai Airways International!


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King wants new Government to work for the country

Posted by hasekamp on 18 February 2001 at 22:16 PM
As we expected, HM the King has given the new Cabinet something to think about, on the occasion of taking their oaths as new ministers in his palace in Hua Hin. As we have written several times on this page already, His Majesty is known for his not to be misunderstood hints on occasions like this.
The new Prime Minister, Mr Thaksin Shinawatra, said after the ceremony, that His Majesty the King wants the new government to devote itself entirely to working for the sake of the country and for a better life for the Thai people.
HM the King further suggested the members of the new Cabinet to perform their duties with all of their energy, attention and intellect, in order to make the people happy and to ensure that they can live a normal life under the current circumstances.
This Government is the first Thai Government under the new Constitution of 1997.
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said that His Majesty the King further pledged the Government to make all efforts possible to give all Thai people the same opportunities to live a life with dignity and prestige. His Majesty the King said to be worried about the poverty within the Thai people and the difficulties they are experiencing now.
Mr Thaksin said to be confident that the new Cabinet will be able to fully comply with the Royal suggestions.


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New cabinet has Royal ensdorsement

Posted by hasekamp on 18 February 2001 at 13:18 PM
The new Cabinet led by Thai Rak Thai leader Thaksin Shinawatra has been given royal endorsement by HM the King yesterday, comprising 37 positions taken by 35 persons.
For our our readers, interested in details, some of the main members of the cabinet are given below, as published by Thai News Agency:
- Thaksin Shinawatra as Prime Minister
- Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh as Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister;
- Suvich Khunkitti as Deputy Prime Minister
- Dej Boonlong as Deputy Prime Minister and Labor and Social Welfare Minister;
- Pongpol Adireksarn as Deputy Prime Minister;
- Pitak Intarawitthayanand as Deputy Prime Minister;
- Somkid Jatusripitak as Finance Minister;
- Surakiat Sathirathai as Foreign Minister;
- Chucheep Hansawat as Agriculture Minister;
- Wan Muhamad Nor Matha as Communications Minister;
- Adisai Photharamik as Commerce Minister;
- Purachai Piemsomboon as Interior Minister;
- Pongthep Thepkanchana as Justice Minister:
- Sonthaya Khunpuem as Science, Technology and Environment Minister;
- Kasem Wattanachai as Education Minister;
- Sudarat Kaeruyaphan as Public Health Minister;
- Suriya Juengrungruengkit as Industry Minister; and
- Sutham Saengpathum as University Affairs Minister.
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said that he was confident that the new Cabinet would be able to work for the sake of the country.
There has been some criticism on some members in the list, to which Mr Thaksin replied to the press with a "nobody is perfect", reminding the press that most of the ministers are in their fifties and sixties, and everybody has made some mistakes by then.
Mr Arch Taolanonda, vice chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, said the face of the new Cabinet is considered good looking. What he wants the new government to do is to accelerate increasing consumers’ purchasing power. The new government should also enhance investment in productive projects.
Today the new cabinet will be sworn in by HM the King in his palace in Hua Hin. We expect HM the King to make some remarks to be remembered then. We will report on this event as soon as details have been made public.


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The HealthCare plans of the new government

Posted by hasekamp on 18 February 2001 at 13:04 PM
Now that the new cabinet will be installed today, we want to outline on of its plans.
The idea is to provide (eventually) all Thais with a right for medical care for 30 Baht per visit.
The new government wants the people to pay less than now and at the same time it wants to give more attention to prevention of diseases. Furthermore, for financing the new system three existing health funds will be combined into one fund and the current system for and health insurance will be revised. The new service being cheaper, insurance premiums should become lower.
At the moment much money is being spent on high-cost apparatus, regardless how many people make use of it. In the new system the emphasis should lie on a certain subsidy for every hospital, based on the number of patients in the territory of the hospital (health care center).
This is of course a very simple way of stating the basics of the system the new government wants, and it remains to be seen if it can be realized at all. But some of the basics should -hopefully- be clear. Mr Thaksin Shinawatra, the new PM, strongly believes in it.
He has visited Ban Paew Hospital on Friday. This hospital is the one hospital in Thailand that works in a way that comes closest to the new system.
Patients are being treated there for 40 Baht per visit or 100 Baht if they are staying in the hospital. The Ban Paew hospital left the public health system a few years ago, and now receives a (higher) subsidy, but the new amount is only based on the number of patients in the area. And -contrary to the former situation- it makes profit since then, also contrary to the expectations of many health care experts.
After his visit Mr Thaksin was more confident than ever that his plans will, work. Setting up the new system will cost 30 billion Baht in the first year, to ascertain that hospitals can provide quality of service. Some remote hospitals will; need an "upgrade".
In the meantime many private hospitals have announced that they also want to participate in the new health care system.
(Main sources: Public Relations Department and Bangkok Post.)


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Tintin has a doubtful adventure in Thailand

Posted by hasekamp on 17 February 2001 at 13:24 PM
A delegation form Belgium, led by Prince Philippe, discovered that in the streets of Bangkok a doubtful adventure of Belgian hero Tintin is being sold under the title "Tintin in Thailand". HRH was "not amused" by this.
In the fake book Tintin and his dog Snowy are on a sex spree in Bangkok. The Belgian state secretary of foreign affairs said "We find it absolutely deplorable".
The Belgian prosecutor's office said 650 of the books in question had been seized in Bangkok over the weekend, coinciding with Prince Philippe's visit.
A Secretary of Foreign Affairs spokesman said that the fake book was very disgusting to the Belgians. "This pirated comic strip is particularly insulting to our culture", he added.
The Belgian government now plans to raise the issue of intellectual property violations with global economic organizations in order to seek better ways of protecting copyrights.
Luckily Prince Philippe, accompanied by wife Princess Mathide, also said that relations between Thailand and Belgium were excellent.
We, at Hasekamp Net, are sometimes irritated by copyright infringements in Thailand too. We hope that that new Thai government will take this issue serious. We are more experienced with software piracy than book piracy.
When we are in Pantip Plaza, just to give an example, we hardly can find any legal software. And the fake software is very easy to recognize: The CD covers have been printed with an average quality computer printer. And, by the way, the illegal software appears to be of a poor quality too.
How to solve this issue? A raid on Pantip Plaza and some other computer plaza's once a week would probably solve the problem quite effectively in a few months. Pity for the low prices? We prefer good quality for a normal price above no quality for a low price!


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More export for Thai furniture expected

Posted by hasekamp on 16 February 2001 at 18:16 PM
The Department of Export Promotion (DEP) wants to go to the European markets (especially Great Britain) with Thai furniture. The target is to sell furniture there for 40 billion Baht this year. This seems quite a high target for a relatively new market. Thai furniture is being exported on a modest scale to Europe already at the moment, and Thai furniture makers believe that the market could expand. Thai furniture is of a high quality (see for instance our Thai handicraft page on http://www.hasekamp.net/handicraft.htm). We have no knowledge, however, if there is room on the European market for Thai furniture.
A fact is that solid wooden furniture is hardly made at all in Europe, so this could be a hole in the European market. Thai furniture normally is being made out of solid wood.


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Shan State Army talks to the press

Posted by hasekamp on 16 February 2001 at 18:15 PM
The Shan State Army is in a way the cause of the recent border clashes between Thailand and Burma. That is to say, they were being chased by the Burmese and followed into Thai territory.
Who are they and what do they want? They have given a press conference yesterday that should give some idea about their aims. They told that they are fighting the drugs factories in Burma. They also want to become independent from the military government in Rangoon. They see drugs as a serious threat for their existence. Thailand is not involved in the drugs trade, they say, so they have nothing against Thailand. They operate in the border areas between Burma and Thailand, and Thailand does not hinder them either .
Due to their actions, drug trafficking by the Burmese has become increasingly difficult, and that is the reason why Rangoon wants to get rid of them, apparently at almost any price.
They would like other countries to join forces with them, but politically that seems out of the question. Their aims may be secretly shared by some governments, but an open war with Rangoon would result form openly supporting to the Shan.
In recent days, during the clashes of which they were in fact the cause, they seized some weapons from the Burmese, that they displayed proudly on the press conference.
Rangoon has declared in the talks between Thailand and Burma (that are still without any result) that they have no intention to make problems with Thailand, but that they just want to hit the Shan.


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Latest border reports

Posted by hasekamp on 15 February 2001 at 14:01 PM
According to the latest reports about the situation at the Thai-Myanmar (Burma) border, Rangoon has asked for compensation from Thailand for the damages cause by the incidents last week-end. This happened during the meeting of the joint Thai-Myanmar Border Committee. The Burmese had already admitted that they had trespassed into Thai territory, but still they thought they should get compensation. The Thais, as we have reported, have also asked for compensation from Rangoon.
The meeting ended with no conclusion this afternoon. Thai army units were told to be prepared for new incidents.
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has been warned by a senator (member of the Senate committee for foreign affairs) to be prudent with foreign affairs, especially with the Burmese. The senator was worried by the statement of the new PM that he would go to Burma as soon as he has been sworn in. Mr Thaksin has said that he would have to meet other ASEAN governments anyway as soon as possible anyway. The new Thai government would seek cordial cooperation with Rangoon to cope with the drugs problem, Mr Thaksin said.
We think indeed it could be wise to wait with visiting Rangoon until some agreement at the border would have been reached. The Committee mentioned has the task to do so.
Meanwhile the Thai army has also be told to be alert for Wa State Army infiltrators. The Wa are also expected to assault the Shan State (rebel) Army again.
On both sides of the border the building up of troops in continuing. We are still quite worried about the situation along the borders.


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Troops gather near the Burmese border

Posted by hasekamp on 14 February 2001 at 12:38 PM
Although fighting near the Thai-Burmese border has stopped since Sunday, both sides are fortifying their positions there now. It is said that 2,000 fresh Burmese soldiers have joined their 500 colleagues already there.
It is also said that another assault by Burma on Shan State Army (SSA) troops could be expected.
A Thai commander has said that Thailand had tried in vain –so far- to start talks with Burma about the minority rebels (among whom the SSA), but that the efforts ton start talks have been in vain.
We hope that both parties will use their common sense and that the conflict will not escalate into a more or less permanent armed conflict.


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Prisoner handicraft goes abroad

Posted by hasekamp on 14 February 2001 at 11:55 AM
Every year the Correction Department organizes handicraft sales-exhibitions of products, made by prisoners. These exhibitions are very popular by the Thai public and the products sold there are, generally speaking, considered to be of high quality.
The aim of letting prisoners make handicraft articles is to teach them things that can give them a useful future after their stay in prison. Half of the revenues of the sales of the products goes to the prisoner who made them, as savings to be used after he leaves prison.
This year, for the first time, a similar sales-exhibition will be held in Dubai, at the Dubai Shopping Festival. The Correction Department thinks the products, made by inmates, have now reached international quality.
If this experiment is successful, similar sales-exhibitions will be held in other countries in the future.


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Political evaluation of the recent border clashes

Posted by hasekamp on 13 February 2001 at 20:08 PM
The first day we reported about the recent border clashes between Thailand and Burma (on Sunday), there only were unconfirmed or hardly confirmed reports by journalists to rely upon. The second day we reported (yesterday), we had reports of journalists who had been in the area to cite.
Now, on the third day, the politicians and army officials have spoken or, better said, evaluated the situation.
The commander of the Third Army (on duty near the Burmese borders) said that all the Burmese soldiers in the area had interests in the drugs trade. They receive money, directly from the drug lords, according to the commander. He even stated that the small Thai army base, that has been occupied by the Burmese for some time, was "in the way" of the drug traders and traffickers and should be moved as far as they are concerned. Well, that proves that it is in the right place, but the events also have proved that it is understaffed!
The commander concluded that the fact that all the Burmese soldiers in the area are involved, explains why the drugs trade is so flourishing.
Government speakers (from the old government, because the new government has not yet ben sworn in) said that the Burmese had to pay heavily, as there were 50-80 of them killed during the operations. It was also said that the government had tried to settle things peacefully, but without result. Now, the government also officially declared that the situation is back to normal.
In the meantime the Burmese ambassador was summoned and compensation was demanded for the Thai wounded and dead.
The Thai deputy foreign minister also said that, because the clashes coincided with a state visit of the Danish Queen to HM the King, and the program for that visit had to be amended, he considered the actions as an offence to HM the King personally! And any offence against HM the King is the worst one can do in Thailand, as we repeatedly have stated here. The Burmese ambassador had not much to answer, except that he regretted the events and that his government would, try to settle the problem.
The Thai army chief (Gen Surayud Chulanont) simply confirmed that there had been cross-border artillery exchanges and that talks with the Burmese had begun on Sunday.
Until further notice, the Mae Sai border crossings have been closed, to the regret of the citizens of Mae Sai, because there always is a very lively trade in the area. The borders are now officially declared unsafe by the Thai authorities.
It seems, however, that the hostilities have ended for now.


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Two fatal motorbike accidents on Phuket

Posted by hasekamp on 13 February 2001 at 12:50 PM
We have warned on our FAQ page already against renting motorbikes on Phuket Island, even if they are very popular there. And not without reason. Many accidents happen, where motorbikes are involved.
In the past two days two such fatal accidents happened, in both of which foreigners were involved and died.
On Sunday a motorcyclist on Phuket hit an opposing car. The motorcyclist died on the spot. He was French and lived on Phuket. The owner of the car, he collided with, found his driving strange and had diminished speed already, but to no avail. A collision could not be prevented any more.
On the body of the Frenchman a restaurant bill was found, on which whiskey was listed. The body smelled of alcohol too. The police therefore believe that alcohol was the cause of the accident.
The second fatal accident happened yesterday and here an American resident of Phuket was involved, who drove on a motorbike with his wife on the back and a child in front of him. In this accident another motorbike approached, driven by a 14 year old Phuketian. The young driver lost control over his bike, hit the other motorbike and the child (on the front) died on the spot. The other two passengers of the motorbike were hurt, but not fatally, and were taken to hospital.
The young driver who caused the accident died two hours later in hospital.
These two accidents show once more how dangerous riding a motorbike can be on Phuket Island, where the roads are winding and too much alcohol is often consumed.
We once more advise our readers not to rent motorbikes on Phuket. These two accidents are just a tip of the iceberg. We report them here because in these two cases foreigners were involved.


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Samak wants to ban small motorcycles

Posted by hasekamp on 13 February 2001 at 9:54 AM
This is what we call short-sightedness! The Bangkok Governor, Mr Samak Sundaravej, wants to ban two-stroke motorcycles from the Bangkok streets, because they should pose "an unacceptable heath hazard".
Has Mr Samak ever looked into the streets of Bangkok? We suppose not. When we are in Bangkok we see cars, cars and cars and if we look very well we see a few motorcycles too. And yes, indeed some of them really are two-stoke! Mr Samak is right! They are there.
We do not want to use many words on this issue. Everybody in Bangkok, including Mr Samak, knows that air pollution is a big problem there.
But the real problem are not the two-stroke motorcycles, of course. The true cause of the huge pollution are the cars and nothing else.
But Mr Samak knows as well as we that cars are very popular with the Bangkokians who are well-to-do, so he should find another, less powerful, group to blame for the pollution.
He must have been staring for weeks at the streets if he could see anything else. First he saw the buses, we suppose. But banning the buses is out of the question. Then he musty have seen the tuk-tuks, who are a bad factor in the air pollution. But banning the tuk-tuks? Come on! What would the tourists say?
Then, after looking for days and days he must have seen a few motorcycles too. And then he knew it: They tare to blame of course, not the cars not the buses, not the tuk-tuks, but the motorcycles! They do not have a strong lobby, they are not well-organized, so he can easily "get" them!
We have never been fans of Mr Samak with the wild ideas, he regularly feels he should utter.
Here he does it again. Shame ion you, Mr Samak! How long did it take you to see the first motorcycle in Bangkok traffic? Our advice: Let us ignore Mr Samak for some time!


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HM the King send his sympathy to India

Posted by hasekamp on 12 February 2001 at 21:09 PM
We report all the important news about His Majesty the King we can find. We cannot emphasize enough how important His Majesty is for Thailand.
It was made public today that His Majesty the King has sent a telegram to the President of the Republic of India, expressing his sorrow on the occasion of the worst earthquake in the recent history of India.
The telegram says Their Majesties the King and Queen of Thailand are deeply grieved and anxious to learn more details of the tragic events around the earthquake, that has caused so much human loss and damage in India.
We want to inform our readers further that Thai-Indian relations have been very cordial for a long time already. There is much trade between the two countries and trade is increasing. In 2000, trade between the copuntries was 47 billion Baht, about 50% more than in the year before.
This year of course Indian investments in Thailand will slow down due to the earthquake. Indian investors have been very active in Thailand in recent years.


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More about the Thai-Burmese border clashes

Posted by hasekamp on 12 February 2001 at 20:53 PM
Yesterday we reported about border clashes between Thai and Burmese (Myanmar) troops. We want to give more details now, as the situation is becoming clearer.
According to the Thai News Agency (TNA) the situation came back to normal today.
So, what happened yesterday and what is the background?
Burmese troops chased Shan State Army (SSA) troops. The SSA is fighting the United Wa State Army (UWSA). But the UWSA are responsible for the speed pills production near the Thai borders in Burma. And the UWSA is ("secretly") supported by the Burmese government in Rangoon.
What happened late last week (until yesterday) is that the Burmese wanted the SSA to leave Burma, because they disturb the drugs production, that makes Rangoon rich. So Burmese troops chased the SSA into Thailand, but even followed them on Thai territory.
As we reported yesterday, they took a small Thai army base, which they failed to abandon.
Furthermore the Burmese wanted to occupy a hill (on Thai territory!), in order to better be able to fight the SSA.
Of course this was unacceptable to Thailand and the Thai army went to the spot. Several clashes took place. This was near Mae Sai, the Northernmost village in Thailand, and a place, popular with tourists. Some shells exploded in Mae Sai and several people, civilians as well as military were killed and wounded. The whole village of Mae Sai was evacuated and people there were frightened to death. All checkpoints between Burma and Thailand were closed.
This morning everything slowly went back to normal and we hope it remains so. Nobody is waiting for serious military confrontations between Burma and Thailand.
The differences between the two countries have to be solved peacefully. It will be one of Mr Thaksin’s first tasks to do so. (Sources: The Bangkpok Post, The Nation, TNA).


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Thai-Burmese border clashes

Posted by hasekamp on 11 February 2001 at 19:15 PM
Everything started last Thursday already. The Burmese chased Shan State Army rebels, the rebels crossed the Thai border and the Burmese army followed them into Thailand.
There have been several small clashes between Thai and Burmese troops since then.
And during these clashes Burmese soldiers captured a Thai base, inside Thailand. After some negotiations the Burmese promised to withdraw by noon yesterday. This would solve the problem to a large extent, if not completely.
The Burmese did not keep their promise, however, and both sides increased their forces in the area during this week-end. It came to several clashes today.
It is not clear if the Burmese have withdrawn in the meantime. It also is not clear what the situation is exactly now.
According to some (unconfirmed) messages the Burmese have now also stormed a Thai village in the border area, killing several (unarmed) Thai villagers.
It is certain, however that Thai and Burmese troops have faced each other in several direct confrontations.
Serious direct confrontations between Thailand and Burma are the last thing we are waiting for. There are drug problems in the area, giving rise to continuous tension. Everybody knows that by now.
The new Thai PM, Mr Thaksin Shinawatra, has already announced that he wants direct talks with Burma. It is to be hoped that the border clashes will not escalate and the situation between the two neighbors will not worsen because of what happened the last few days. The situation is bad enough already, especially because of the drug factories in the border areas, tolerated by Rangoon.


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Cleaner cremations in Bangkok

Posted by hasekamp on 11 February 2001 at 11:40 AM
If you have ever been in Thailand, you must have noticed the large chimneys on the grounds of a Temple ("wat"). The are the outlets of the cremation furnaces below. If you have ever seen smoke coming out of them, you will have got the impression that the cremation smoke is led right into the chimney, without any purification. This, however is only partly true. In Bangkok roughly 300 Temples have cremation facilities, and 190 of them do what we just described: simply lead the smoke in the air. The others do have some system that does not pollute the environment.
Now the City administration wants the remaining cremation furnaces to become environment friendly too. Local companies can build the required furnaces for around 1.5 million Baht, which is considerably less than foreign companies would charge.
At first the City administration had appealed on the private sector to realize the aim of clean cremations. This plan -that should see that 10 new crematoriums could be paid a year- has not brought in enough money. Now the local government has supplied money to build 20 clean crematoriums in Temples, where the poorest people use the cremation services.
Next year new standards will come into force and then all Temples have to see that they have a clean furnace, threatening those who are not compliant with the new standards with closure.
We find this a good idea. Bangkok has enough pollution already. But we would like to see how realistic the implementation of the new standards by next year is. The figures above do not give us the impression that the new standards can be reached next year.


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New PM makes promises to the Thai people

Posted by hasekamp on 10 February 2001 at 12:28 PM
Mr Thaksin Shinawatra made some promises to the Thai people yesterday. As we reported, he was appointed PM by HM the King yesterday, after having been elected by the House. He will present his cabinet before 12 February, he has said.
"My government will dedicate itself to solving the country's problems with honesty," Mr Thaksin said.
He added however that he and his Government would be unable to address the country's problems unless all Thai people joined forces. "It is fortunate that the people regard our much-revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej as the center of their hearts", Mr Thaksin added.
It is a good thing -in our opinion- that Mr Thaksin shows his unconditional loyalty to HM the King very clearly from the start. Nobody will ever have doubted about it, but it should be spoken clearly too.
Mr Thaksin furthermore promised that he, as a head of the government under His Majesty the King, would dedicate himself to working for the well-being of Thai people and try in every way to maintain the national integrity of the country for good.
"The four years ahead will witness a comprehensive reform and change for the country's survival. A strong foundation will be laid for the next generation. I will not only become a legitimate head of the government, but also act a leader who brings a better change to the country", were some further statements by Mr Thaksin.
We have written before on this page that we think Mr Thaksin should have a fair chance to show he can be a better leader for the country than his predecessors were, now that he has been chosen with such an overwhelming majority. In this vision it is to be hoped that, if he has to resign as a result of a ruling by the Constitutional Court, he will have a second man to take his place. A new election is the last thing Thailand needs, in our opinion. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Mad cow disease or not?

Posted by hasekamp on 9 February 2001 at 16:24 PM
This morning the alarming news that two Thais had been diagnosed with mad cow disease (or shortly CJD) by doctors from Mahidol University, was made public. The proud doctors who made the diagnosis announced that they would hold a press conference on Monday "to alert the public of the danger of the deadly disease".
Just a few hours later the same team, this time not so proud, retracted the announcement. So the press conference will be cancelled too, we expect. The doctors had to admit that they had confused CJD with another brain disease!
This is a human error, which we could forgive the doctors, if they had made their alarming announcement after being as certain as reasonably possible. But no, they immediately announced their suspicion, in order to become famous, it seems. They should have realized what panic they probably caused in the country by their premature announcement!


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Thaksin Shinawatra chosen as PM

Posted by hasekamp on 9 February 2001 at 16:22 PM
In Thailand the Prime Minster is chosen by the House of Representatives, under the (new) Constitution. Voting took place today by the new House. As expected, the leader of the Thai Rak Thai Party Thaksin Shinawatra was voted as the new prime minister of Thailand.
Mr Thaksin was elected as the country’s 23rd Prime Minister by 340 to 127 votes, with 30 abstentions. This is substantially more than the 251 votes minimally needed, as also could be expected. The three partners for the new Cabinet (Thai Rak Thai, New Aspiration and Chart Thai) voted for Mr Thaksin, Mr Chuan Leekpai’s Democrats voted against him, some small parties also voted for Thaksin and the Chart Pattana Party (that also has talked about a possible coalition with Mr Thaksin) abstained.
The voting for the country’s new leader was made openly, after the majority of the MP’s voted to stop debates on qualifications of would-be nominees of the new prime minister.
His Majesty the King has to give a royal approval for Thaksin’s nomination as the 23rd Prime Minister, before he can enter office. (This has happened later today; see below).
Mr Thaksin has said the forming of the new cabinet is believed to be completed by February 12. The new premier will then take office. It is to be seen if he can stay in office, after the Constitutional Court has given its ruling over his corruption case. Mr Thaksin appealed to the Constitutional Court against the ruling of the National Counter Corruption Commission (NCCC).
As we have reported, the NCCC ruled in December that Mr Thaksin has given a false report of his assets, when he left the office of Cabinet Minister in 1997, by covering part of the assets through transferring his shares in his business conglomerate to his relatives and servants. Find former reports about this matter by entering "NCCC" in our search box.
At around 7 p.m. Thai time today, a royal command of His Majesty the King, officially appointing Thaksin as Thailand's 23rd Prime Minister, was delivered at the new premier’s mansion on Charan Sanitwong Road. (Main source: Thai News Agency)


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More opium crop expected in Thailand

Posted by hasekamp on 8 February 2001 at 14:16 PM
The Narcotics Control Board warns officials that farmers in the North of Thailand, where opium still is being grown on a modest scale, can increase the yield of their opium considerably now through "multiple cropping" and other techniques.
If farmers put down a seeding every 2-3 months, instead of every 4 months for instance, there will be a considerable increase in yield. Also the use of fertilizers and insecticides helps to get a higher yield.
And when farmers have multiple crops, the time during which opium plants can be spotted by the Army from helicopters or by satellite pictures is shorter, so they can also avoid eradication by officials to a certain extent.
Furthermore farmers can get more than one poppy flower from each main stem nowadays, with 7-9 flowers from one stem having been observed in some fields. This also increases the yield considerably of course.
Satellite pictures will now be used more intensively to identify opium fields for eradication by the Narcotics Control Board and the Army. Four "high density" cultivation areas have been identified. They are Chiang Mai's Prao district, Chiang Rai's Mae Saruay and Muang districts and Mae Hong Son's Pai district.
Yields can be increased from 2 kilo per rai up to 5 kilo per rai by multiple cropping. One kilo of opium brings the farmer between 2,000 and 30,000 Baht.
This news learns us that the fighting of drugs in Thailand itself is still necessary and officials cannot restrict themselves to fight trafficking from Burma.


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Malaria at 50 years low

Posted by hasekamp on 7 February 2001 at 16:48 PM
The lowest number of malaria patients in 50 years was recorded in 59 provinces of Thailand during a three-month period last year.
The Public Health Department made public that malaria may still be a health problem in some highland and border provinces, but no longer for Thailand as a whole.
From October to December last year, malaria cases sharply dropped by 10,000 in 59 provinces when compared with the figure in the same period of 1999. In five provinces the number of malaria patients remained unchanged, while malaria cases in 11 provinces were higher than the year before.
Health officials still find it difficult to bring down malaria cases in mountain and jungle areas. But they are confident that the malaria situation will improve in the future.
This means that we confidently can repeat our advice, that we also give on our FAQ pages, that malaria prophylaxis is only useful or necessary in the forested areas near the borders with Cambodia and Burma, and even there only if one stays there overnight.
Always consult the CDC site or the WHO (see our Internet Portal) for the latest advice. (Source: Public Relations Department and own experiences).


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Drugs suppression seems effective

Posted by hasekamp on 7 February 2001 at 14:23 PM
The Bangkok Metropolitan Police has made public that its anti-drugs campaign had yielded 4,457,250 speed pills, 95 kilograms of marijuana and the arrest of 59 people since last October.
This indeed is a substantial catch for a four months period. One should realize that most of the 59 people arrested will face the death penalty or life in prison. Regularly executions and death sentences for drugs offenders are being reported by the media in Thailand.
The Police said that most of the alleged offenders are from Burma and belong to organized drug rings. They mostly use fake Thai ID cards to live in Bangkok, it was added.
Not much is being published at the moment about the Thai-US cooperation to fight drugs trafficking near the Burmese borders. But we are confident that this cooperation will be successful too. Can we hope that the number of drugs offences will be lower in 2001 than it was in 2000? We will keep our readers up to date occasionally.


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New arrest in Phuket murder case (updated)

Posted by hasekamp on 7 February 2001 at 14:10 PM
The Phuket Police reports that an arrest warrant has been issued against Bancha Noppawong, 34, an employee of the Wachara Prawn Farm in Thalang on Phuket Island, for the murder of environmental activist Jurin Rachapol on January 30. See our former reports about this case for more details.
Another employee of the Wachara farm has seen Bancha running away from the scene of the murder. Bancha is said to have fled to Bangkok, but his whereabouts there are known, the police say.
This running away to Bangkok is indeed a very strong piece of evidence against Bancha. Everybody who is a bit familiar with Thai culture knows that normally criminals or -more generally speaking- people who fear to be wanted by the police, fly. This is a typical Thai reaction. If there is a bus accident, the driver will normally run away in the woods, a murderer will normally run away from the scene of the crime etc. So we believe that at least the slate of Mr Bancha is not clean.
In the meantime a team of special investigators from Bangkok will arrive in Phuket soon to take over the investigation of the murder from the Thalang Police.
Bancha was arrested earlier (in November 2000) on charges of attempted murder and reckless driving.

Later today the Phuket Police made public that Bancha Noppawong was
arrested on a charge of murdering environmental activist Jurin Rachapol on January 30.
The Phuket Gazette reports that, contrary to earlier publications by an official that Bancha had fled to Bangkok, he was arrested during a raid by 10 police officers on the Wachara Farm, where he was employed.
He is now in custody at the Thalang Police Station.


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New cabinet soon to be formed

Posted by hasekamp on 6 February 2001 at 13:00 PM
Thai Rak Thai leader Thaksin Shinawatra disclosed yesterday the allocation of ministries for the new cabinet as follows:
The New Aspiration Party will be responsible for Defense and Communications and the Chart Thai Party for Science, Technology and Environment, and Labor and Social Welfare. This means there will be two ministries for both coalition partners, and the rest will be for Thai Rak Thai.
New Aspiration leader Gen. Chavalit Yongchaiyudh and Chart Thai leader Banharn Silapa-archa discussed the matter, with some other party officilas, after the first House meeting yesterday.
Mr Thaksin said Chart Thai would be given, apart from the two ministerial posts mentioned, a deputy premier and two deputy ministers.
New Aspiration would also be given two ministerial posts, a deputy premier and two deputy ministers, Mr Thaksin said.
In other words: Both coalition partners will get five posts in the new cabinet (two cabinet ministers, a deputy premier and two deputy ministers).
The parties will look for candidates for the posts themselves and send their lists to Mr Thaksin before 12 February. The complete list for the new cabinet will then be submitted to the Cabinet secretary-general for qualification screening. Finally the list will then be forwarded to HM the King for Royal approval.
We normally do not publish detailed political news like this, but those of our readers who are interested in political news will just have enough to get an impression of the political relationships within the cabinet-to-be-formed and the others can simply skip this news item.


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Phuket murder not yet solved

Posted by hasekamp on 6 February 2001 at 11:30 AM
The owner of the Wachara Prawn Farm on Phuket Island near Thalang, who was arrested yesterday, was today released on bail of 500,000 Baht. He keeps denying having anything to do with the murder of Mr Jurin Rachapol.
In the meantime the Thalang Police continue to gather evidence for the investigation into the killing of environmentalist Jurin Rachapol, who was shot dead with three bullets late last week in a forest near the Wachara Farm.
Police said that they know the whereabouts of the two main suspects in the case, and that they are being watched closely. The names of these two main suspects have not been released.
Not only environmentalists, as we reported last weekend, but now also fishermen have threatened to protest if the murder of Mr Jurin is not being solved quickly.
A spokesman for the Phuket fishermen said the murder of Mr Jurin was an action by shrimp groups (shall we call it the "shrimp mafia" of Phuket?), who are affected in a negative way by the late Mr Jurin's campaign against the claiming of forest territory in favor of shrimp farms. At least 30 fishermen submitted a petition to the provincial governor, that the case should be solved quickly or else...


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Owner of Phuket prawn farm arrested

Posted by hasekamp on 5 February 2001 at 13:40 PM
The owner of the Wachara Prawn Farm, near Thalang on Phuket Island, has been arrested today on a charge of illegal possession of a
weapon and also on a charge of discharging a weapon in a public area.
As we reported late last week, an environmentalist, Mr Jurin Rachapol was shot dead near the farm, while walking in the forest. Mr Jurin was an activist, and a known opponent against the farm. The farm owner had fired a pistol in the air six times, one week ago, in the same forest where the murder of Mr Jurin took place late last week. The farm owner denies all charges.
He is being held in a cell at the Provincial Court while investigations continue. An application for bail to be granted was refused.
We find this good news. Of course the farm owner should have a fair trial, but the good part of the news is that at first the police had said that the investigation could last more than one month. After protests of villagers, it appears to be possible to make an arrest in a few days now!
You might also want to read our editorial about Phuket, published yesterday.


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S and P to go abroad

Posted by hasekamp on 5 February 2001 at 13:20 PM
The Thai bakery and restaurant chain S&P is going abroad with restaurants, aiming at middle class customers. The new restaurants will (probably) be called "Pat Thai". The first branches are planned in England and/or Switzerland. The cuisine should be Thai.
S&P already has restaurants in the countries mentioned, but these are aiming at higher class customers. They are called "Patra" and are in England and Switzerland, but also in Singapore and Taiwan.
We find the opening of S&P restaurants abroad an interesting idea. The S&P restaurants in Thailand present a good taste of simple Thai cuisine and are also famous for their "moon cake". We do not know what the assortment will be in Europe, but you can take a look at the menu in Thailand on http://www.sandprestaurant.com/.


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Parliament opened by HM the King

Posted by hasekamp on 5 February 2001 at 10:56 AM
Yesterday HM the King opened the new Parliamentary session. All 500 new and old MP's turned up. Many familiar faces were missing, as a result of the political earthshift. The ceremony took place at 5 pm at the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall, adjoining the parliament building.
His Majesty called on the MP's to perform their duties with responsibility, justice and honesty. He literally said:
"Everyone should be aware that people chose you as their representatives, which means you must speak for them. Therefore, any agreement or debate to take place in this parliament should be done with careful reason and good co-operation for the sake of the people and our country".
His Majesty is known for his clear statements at occasions like this. We expect an even clearer statement when the new Government will be sworn in.
Today will be the first normal parliamentary meeting. Then the House speaker and his (her) deputies will be appointed and other household business will be dealt with.
The Bangkok Post reports that some of the new members looked a bit nervous, being unfamiliar with the place and their formal dress. Some new MP's turned up as early as 2 pm, to prepare their outfits and be certain to wear their decorations at the right place and to prepare other formal matters.
All fractions were photographed officially. The Thai Rak Thai fraction took the longest time for their photo. It appears to be difficult to get 248 MP's on one picture!
Many new MP's, particularly those from the provinces, were accompanied by their families and other relatives.
After this festive gathering the real work for the new Parliament begins. In the new House the coalition-to-be of Thai Rak Thai, New Aspiration and Chart Thai parties will have 325 out of 500 seats.
We cannot say it better than HM the King did, so we too hope that the new MP's will be honest and that corruption will be exterminated. But, as we wrote in our election reports, this seems not guaranteed -to say it mildly- if one looks at the way the elections took place with vote buying and other irregularities.


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There is something rotten on the Isle of Phuket (editorial)

Posted by hasekamp on 4 February 2001 at 12:55 PM
We have reported late last week about the shooting of an environmentalist on Phuket Island, who wants to save the last piece of mangrove forest there. A local tycoon prefers to make it into a shrimp farm. A month earlier another activist was attacked, who survived.
The local population claims that they know who the killer of the environmentalist who was shot is, and have threatened to lynch him if no suspect is being produces soon. The police, however say that the investigation will take at least a month. Apparently it is too much trouble or not appropriate to hear the locals and investigate if their suspicion has any ground for an arrest.
This incident does not stand on its own, We therefore are worried about the future of Phuket Island. There are more indications every year that the island is governed by a small group, that we will call "the happy few" here, that only knows one word (in several languages): "Money". This money should come from the tourists, visiting this popular holiday destination, and it should come at any cost. And it should go into the pockets of this small group.
We do not have hard proof of this, but the number of indications is frightening. We give some recent examples.
A few years ago the Hollywood picture "The Beach" was to be filmed in Phuket Province. Environmentalists all over the country (but mainly on Phuket Island) protested heavily, but after a few worthless concessions of the film crew the money appeared to prevail above the environment, and part of the Province was definitely destroyed, for the amusement industry, some money for the "happy few" and lots of money for the film producers. Was it worth it? Of course not! The big money went to the producers abroad, as stated.
- Resorts and golf courses are growing out of the soil of Phuket Island like mushrooms, most of them at the cost of formerly protected, or at least natural, areas. We come on Phuket Island every year, and the number of these places increases every year. By paying enough money to the right people, these things apparently can be arranged, and money is no problem for the "happy few" on Phuket.
Phuket Town in the meantime is almost deserted and is becoming a perfect holiday resort for those who seek a normal Thai environment. That is the positive side of it.
- A Disneyland-like attraction "Phuket Fantasea" has been built on Phuket Island, that is far to expensive for the local population to visit and is very un-Thai as far as the atmosphere is concerned. There is a truly great show to be seen, but baby elephants are in it, and using our search box you can find out why this also is at the cost of nature and environment. These baby elephants are being captured by first shooting their mothers. This too seems no problem for the "happy few". The show is a success and money comes in. So, who should care about a few elephants then?
We have written last November about the Gibbon Rehabilitation Center on this page. This is located near Thalang (where the environmentalist was shot last week). The gibbons there are being released (when they are ready for it), not in the piece of rainforest close to it, but somewhere (on a not specified location) in Pang Nga Province. Why? Because the local police is "a bit corrupt" and the gibbons would not be safe for re-capture if freed there, where visitors could enjoy their singing.
There are more examples, but the ones given should be enough to show our readers that "there is something rotten on the province of Phuket" (free after William Shakespeare).
Luckily there still are people who literally venture their lives to protect the rest of the natural environment of Phuket. We remind our readers that the environmentalist who was shot last week, was walking in the forest, looking for natural food and was not at all protesting or trespassing.
This (walking peacefully), already is too much for the "happy few" on Phuket Island.
We have the greatest admiration for those who feel that the "development" of Phuket should be stopped, like the environmentalists who try to keep the last piece of mangrove forest on Phuket and the volunteers who try to save the last gibbons there. These people really do a great job and this should be said. We do so at this place in this long editorial.
Enough is enough. We hope that the local authorities and -may we hope so?- the new Government will recognize the problem. We have always been optimists and as long as environmentalists can speak freely there is hope.


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Paradise lost already?

Posted by hasekamp on 4 February 2001 at 12:54 PM
Thai newspaper "The Nation" published a rather panicking article yesterday, about the US State Department, warning Americans not to visit Thailand, as it is not safe for them any more.
We checked out the site of the US State Department (http://travel.state.gov/thailand.html) and noticed in the first place that this warning is six months old already.
Nevertheless the things stated there are all true: In the North, near the Burmese border, it is not safe for tourists, pick-pocketing is becoming a popular skill in tourist areas, some tourists have been killed (and most of these murders have not been resolved), many tourists are cheated with prices in the gem trade, and so on.
The advice given is also true, and can be summarized by saying "do not go off the beaten track and read your guidebook before you go to Thailand".
In every guidebook you are being warned for the things the US State Department says: Do not offend the Royal Family, because it can cost you up to 15 years in a Thai prison (and in extreme cases it can cost you your life), look out for pickpockets, do not buy gems, do not use or transport drugs or any packages that do not belong to you, because it can cost you your life etc.
We agree with the advice, but is that a reason not to visit Thailand? We believe not. We do believe that visitors should use their common sense, but that is that.
In Miami tourists are being killed every year (many more than in Thailand by the way) and in the US pickpockets are active too. We still feel safer in Bangkok than in Amsterdam, Paris, New York or Miami.
Still there is some interesting point is all this, and therefore we pay attention to it: The situation might get out of hand. If more tourists are being cheated in any way (including charging them much higher prices than locals) and if only their money, not their presence is appreciated, there could come an end to the boost in the tourist industry. If indeed money is the only thing that counts, tourists will notice this and stay away. So we want to give a warning to all the Thai authorities who have any influence on this. As long as tourists are treated like (welcome) guests, they will keep coming.
But if it will end up in a situation in which tourists only seen as gigantic purses, the tourists industry will dry up and tourists will find other destinations. This day has not yet come, in our opinion, but it is good to see that it will never come!


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Stockmarket update

Posted by hasekamp on 2 February 2001 at 13:26 PM
It is our custom to give some information about the Thai stockmarket now and then. Since shortly after the general election we did not do so. Did the SET-index jump to 305 after the election, the Stock Exchange of Thailand index closed at 330.46 points yesterday. Although there are some fluctuations recently, one can say that -contrary to the US markets- the Thai SET-index is still raising since the election (January 6).
Analysts said investors mostly ignored the recent US interest rate cut, as it had been already discounted by the market. The Bank of Thailand said that higher capital flows to Asian markets could nevertheless result form the interest rate cut.
A Thai analyst said that while on the local market sentiment remained positive, investors are waiting for new political developments in Thailand, particularly for the new cabinet line-up and details of the new government's key economic programmes.
Those who do expect much from the new Government might consider to invest in Thailand now. For foreigners this still is a difficult process. Details can be found on the site of the Stock Exchange of Thailand (https://www.set.or.th/set/mainpage.do?language=en&country=US).


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Environmentalist killed in Phuket

Posted by hasekamp on 2 February 2001 at 12:39 PM
Environmental activist Jurin Rachapol, 50, was shot dead in Thalang on Phuket Island this week while walking in the forest. He was shot three times, so the intentions of the killer are beyond doubt.
Mr Jurin was an activist, opposed to mangrove forest incursion by a big investor in favor of a prawn farm. Last week Mr Jurin was threatened by staff of the farm, who fired six shots into the air when he also went into the forest. He then stopped going there for a week. His last walk was the first time since the threatening he went into the forest again.
For the information of our readers we can also add that another activist opposed to the prawn farm, Mr Siripoj Cheechang, was run over by a pick-up truck in October last year. He survived his attack. The man accused of that attack was released on bail recently, awaiting trial.
The Governor of Phuket Provincial has visited the site where Mr Jurin was shot. He ordered a quick and thorough investigation.
Villagers, who are very angry, give the police seven days to find the gunman. If he is not presented by then "proper action" will be taken by them, they say. Villagers believe they know who the gunman is.
Mr Jurin was one of a group of about 100 activists in the village that opposes against the establishment of a prawn farm in a protected mangrove forest.
In the meantime the family of Mr Jurin Rachapol has announced that they will continue his work, even if they have to pay this with their lives too.


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No more birds because of skytrain

Posted by hasekamp on 2 February 2001 at 12:38 PM
In Silom Road in Bangkok swallows lived as long as people can remember in the winter months. They migrated from countries like Russia and China, to spend the winter in Thailand. They housed themselves on the electricity wires along Silom road. In 1992 130,000 of them could be seen. Then the work for the skytrain started, and in 1993 only 71,000 found a place there. Among other things, the electricity wires along Silom Road were replaced by underground cables. In 2000, with the skytrain completed, just 38,000 swallows came for their winter holiday to Silom.
How do we know this? Every year a group from the Bird Conservation Society catches as many birds as they can, tags them and sets them free again. The tags give information about their whereabouts. Other countries participate in this tagging program.
The Society now considers to stop the tagging and counting, because the number of birds has decreased so sharply.
We at Hasekamp Net are fierce environmentalists, as our readers know. We are not against progress, so the replacement by cables of the electricity wires is not disapproved by us, and probably neither by other environmentalists. The lacking of wires is not the only reason why birds leave Silom, we believe. Birds find other places to sit if this is the only change. With the arrival of the skytrain, however, most of the fresh air and almost all the daylight left Silom, as can clearly seen from the picture below.
We avoid Silom as much as we can for that reason since the skytrain arrived. We believe the birds also leave Silom for that reason. There is no solution for this problem.
Because of the skytrain and the Express ways Bangkok is becoming a two-layered city, in which living in the lower layer is becoming increasingly unpleasant.
Here we gave Silom as an example, but the same can be said of Siam Square, where the Central Station of the skytrain is. Once this was a pleasant shopping area, now it is almost a cave. Is this the price Bangkok has to pay for "progress"?




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Government to sell drugs?

Posted by hasekamp on 1 February 2001 at 16:18 PM
A Bangkok police chief wants the Government to go into the drugs trade, in order to make the selling of speed pills no longer financially interesting for criminals.
He wants the Government to make the pills themselves, and selling them for 2-3 Baht a piece, instead of the current street price of 50-100 Baht a piece.
The police chief in question thinks that the plan would be the most effective way to combat the drugs problem.
On the other hand the police should continue -in his opinion- to catch dealers and continue to give them heavy sentences, like the death penalty.
We believe that this is a very bad plan. In the first place it is not a good plan -gently stated- to go into criminal activities as a Government, we think. Soon the lawyers of the dealers still caught will say that their clients do nothing else that he Government itself does too.
In the second place the Government will be guilty -if it should adopt this plan- of creating new addicts, which is a highly doubtful activity for a Government.
It always is nice to reach the headlines of the press, but we believe this police chief should continue with his normal duties and not try to let the Government go into criminal activities, punished with death sentences in Thailand.


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Web around senator narrows

Posted by hasekamp on 1 February 2001 at 15:33 PM
Two more girls have identified senator Chalerm Promlert from a line-up as the man whom they had paid sex with. Also the 17-year old girl who acted as go-between identified Mr Chalerm positively.
We have reported about Mr Chalerm having had paid sex with minors (aged 13 to 16 years) before.
All sex nights of the dirty senator took place in a motel in Lam Luk Ka district. Mr Chalerm’s car was also recognized having been standing outside the motel at the nights the senator had his adventures.
In the meantime Mr Chalerm has been questioned by the Police on second appointment, after he failed to turn up the first time, claiming he was ill. He has indeed reported himself at a hospital on the first day scheduled, and appeared to suffer from stress(!)
A report by the police will be sent to the State Prosecutor in the next two weeks. Sources around the prosecutor say that the prosecutor thinks that the case has merits and should be brought to court.
In the meantime the senate wants Mr Chalerm to resign from his senate seat. He resigned earlier as deputy speaker of the senate, but not yet as a senator. A list of signatures to accomplish this is being made up.


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