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Thaksin case still pending

Posted by hasekamp on 31 March 2001 at 14:09 PM
As we have reported extensively, shortly before the general election, (now) PM Thaksin Shinawatra was accused of having made an untrue assets declaration when he left the office of Cabinet Minister in 1997. The National Counter Corruption Commission (NCCC)investigated the case and found Thaksin guilty. He then appealed against the NCCC decision to the Constitutional Court.
The National Counter Corruption Commission now has assigned five "heavy" corruption fighters to defend its finding against the Prime Minister.
The Constitutional Court has set 3 April (next Tuesday) for the first hearing in the case brought against the commission by Mr Thaksin.
We believe that a ruling by the Constitutional Court that finds Thaksin guilty will have heavy consequences for the country, and that the Court will weigh that factor in its decision. Seen into this light it was a clever move of Thaksin to run for PM anyway, despite the pending case, and not to withdraw, as politicians around him have been suggesting.
If you ask our expectation, we believe that the ruling by the Constitutional Court will not have the consequence that Mr Thaksin will have to step down. His "press" in Thailand is very good and the judges would take a great responsibility, also for the country, to force him to resign. (And in our opinion they would have to weigh this factor indeed in their judgement). But, of course, like everywhere else, judges are independent from the administration in Thailand.


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Sex club in Patong closed down

Posted by hasekamp on 30 March 2001 at 15:27 PM
The Governor of Phuket has cancelled the operating license of the Valhalla Entertainment complex on Soi Sunset, Patong, closing it down indefinitely.
For us the closing down of the premises did not come unexpectedly.
About one week ago the Phuket police raided the place and found five underage girls performing "improper acts". The official reason for the closing down is, that the license for the place was definitely not for those "improper acts", but for running a restaurant and a bar.
At the back of the building several rows of rooms were located, which according to the owner were for tourist accommodation.
In the first place the owner had no license to run a hotel and in the second place, as far as these rooms were indeed being used for tourist accommodation, it was for accommodation of a (very) short duration (as was revealed to the police by one of the employees).
On top of the use of the place contrary to the license, the owner is being accused of employing minors for sex purposes. The minor girls that were found at the place, had been there against their will. In this case too, as happens so often, the girls had been told they would serve as waitresses in the restaurant. One of the girls escaped and warned the police. She also revealed the true destination of the rooms at the back.
The owner will have to defend himself in Court.
We report this news here to show that sometimes indeed girls working in the flesh trade are being rescued and helped by the police, and sometimes the owners of brothels indeed have to appear in court for their exploitation of (minor) girls.


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Tambon to go online

Posted by hasekamp on 30 March 2001 at 11:57 AM
We have always found Thailand a country that is first, or early, with new developments. We have seen mobile phones in Thailand long before anybody had even heard of them in Europe.
With the Internet Thailand is not as early as that, but still one finds lots of Thai information on-line. Now there will be a new on-line source:
The Interior Ministry is planning to connect 7,000 tambon and tambon administrative organizations to the internet over the next three years to promote exchange of up-to-date information among local governments and rural people.
One should consider a tambon as a something as large as a village. For example: the province of Phuket consists of three tambon.
By having a website, the tambon administrative organizations and local government agencies throughout the country will be able to exchange information on development works and agricultural data as well as to communicate more effectively among themselves, he said.
Many larger communities (like provinces and Cities) are on-line already, so now small administrative units will be on the web too, which is more than we can say of some European countries!


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Thai Baht at three year low

Posted by hasekamp on 29 March 2001 at 22:06 PM
Sometimes we give a short economic round-up. It is time again for that, but the news is not good today. The Thai Baht is down to a new low of almost 45 Baht for one US$, its lowest level in three years.
Dealers attributed the weakness of the Thai Baht to local corporations which were rushing to buy the US dollar for their debt repayments.
The Permanent Secretary for Finance was quick to say that the Dollar/Baht movement was in line with his expectation. "There is nothing to be worried about as this has long been anticipated. Our region cannot avoid negative impacts from global economic slowdown", he told reporters.
As could be expected, the SET index of the Thai stock market is below 300 again. It went down with the markets around the World. (Main source for this item: The Nation)


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Monks tested on drugs before entering Monkhood

Posted by hasekamp on 29 March 2001 at 21:24 PM
Recently we reported that a considerable percentage (about 10%) of the Thai Monks are on drug. As a measure to stop or at least lower this, new novices will be asked to provide urine samples which will be tested for traces of narcotics before they can enter the Monkhood. The Bangkok monastic chief Phra Ratchamethee said this yesterday.
According to the religious chief the high level of addicted Monks indicates that many of them have been using drugs already before they entered Monkhood.
Sometimes -like today- we are surprised how fast counter-measures against something considered wrong are announced in Thailand! And we believe that this asking for urine samples is the right thing to do (at least as a start) as a serious effort to stop drug addiction among Monks.


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More alternative fuels expected

Posted by hasekamp on 27 March 2001 at 22:45 PM
His Majesty the King suggested in his latest birthday speech that alternative fuels should be exploited in Thailand. He had hardly said this or "gasohol", based on 10% alcohol and the rest gasoline, came on the market. Very recently "diesohol" followed (use "diesel" in our search box to find the message about it).
Now the Petroleum Authority of Thailand, the National Science and Technology Development Agency and Ford Motor Company are starting a joint research project to develop another alternative fuel as a substitute for organic oil.
The three organizations signed a memorandum of understanding on the research and development of bio-ethanol for diesel engines in Thailand.
The idea is to test a new alternative fuel, coming from a blend of 10% ethanol and the rest diesel. The study will take one year. The information from the study will be used to improve the existing ethanol fuel.


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Doctor cuts up his wife in pieces

Posted by hasekamp on 27 March 2001 at 22:07 PM
The Thai newspapers have been reporting about the missing wife of a doctor (Dr Wisuth Boonkasemsanti) from Chulalongkorn University for some time. The doctor -according to his statements- knew nothing about the case, except that his wife had disappeared. We did not report about this so far, because it just seemed one of the many crimes that happen in Thailand, many of which are never solved.
Now, however the story had taken a turn that makes it worse than a horror story and we believe that we should inform our readers now.
Police have become suspicious since the disappearance of the wife (on 20 February) and this week-end they thoroughly searched some places where the doctor had been around the time his wife disappeared. The Police made some stunning discoveries there:
One of the locations where the doctor had been was a room in a building on the grounds of the University. University workers can rent rooms there, and the doctor had done so on the day his wife disappeared. In the room blood stains were found and in the septic tank of the building more than 40 pieces of human flesh were found. DNA tests showed that the blood as well as the flesh had belonged to the doctor’s wife. Apparently the doctor had cut up his wife in small pieces and thrown them into the toilet in this room! But this is not all.
The doctor also had stayed in a room in an expensive hotel and in the septic tank of that hotel also pieces of human flesh were found. Another DNA-test on this human flesh proved that these pieces also had belonged to his wife.
The doctor had been arrested and detained recently on suspicion of unlawful detention already, but now the charge has changed to murder and the proof seems conclusive. Police believe they have enough evidence for the heaviest penalty.
The doctor had to appear in Court yesterday for the prolonging of his detention. He still denied everything and seemed unmoved.
A bizarre detail is that three years ago a similar murder took place in the same University building. Then a student killed his girlfriend and her pieces were found too in the same septic tank...


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Happy with Thaksin

Posted by hasekamp on 27 March 2001 at 13:36 PM
According to a recent poll, the (vast) majority of the Bangkokians and community leaders nationwide, are content with the Thaksin Shinawatra Administration, one month after its Policy Statement.
The efforts to solve the drugs problem satisfy the community leaders most. They are least happy with the slow progress in the Village Fund program.
Bangkokians are most happy with the 30 Baht health program. They are least happy with the slow progress in banning corruption, however.
These results seem promising for the new PM, but –according to this survey- 50% of the Bangkokians and 60% of the community leaders still lack information from and about the Thaksin Shinawatra Administration. Nevertheless we believe that Mr Thaksin has surprisingly good results in this opinion poll, after just one month, if we realize that several problems still are unsolved: In the border conflict with Burma a solution is still very far and most of the major election issues have not yet been implemented.


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Monks on drugs

Posted by hasekamp on 26 March 2001 at 17:40 PM
The Nation reports today that about 10% of the country's 300,000 Buddhist monks are addicted to drugs, an official at the Religious Affairs Department said yesterday.
These stunning figures are based on the number of monks who have received treatment at drug-rehabilitation centers.
Although the drug addiction among monks is considered as a serious problem by the Religious Affairs Department, it seems to have turned a blind eye towards it. Senior Monks and the Department do not wish to acknowledge the problem for fear that it could damage the faith.
We wonder what kind of reasoning can be behind this. Drug addiction tends to spread like an oil-stain and if a blind eye is turned towards it, the percentage may well rise in time to -say- 60 to 90!
The Deputy Education Minister said yesterday the Religious Affairs Department is planning to make Buddhist teaching manuals widely available. He said he had instructed the Department to produce easy-to-read manuals about Buddhism and to distribute them in public places and hotels. We wonder what beneficial effect that might have on Monks, being drug addicts...
The good news is that some Temples have been successful in helping young people with their drug problems. We hope that this work will be extended to the 10% of the Monks who are on drugs too!


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Two minors saved from prostitution

Posted by hasekamp on 26 March 2001 at 17:25 PM
Police and child protection officers have rescued two young girls form being forced into prostitution, by raiding a karaoke bar in Suphan Buri.
The two girls, Joy, just 13, and Kob, just 14, said they had been offered jobs as waitresses and then were forced to provide sexual services at the bar. The two girls were reported missing from their homes in Udon Thani more than a month ago.
The officers of the Foundation for the Protection of Children found them from an address on a money order posted to the parents of one of the girls.
Three people were arrested: Sim Wongpanpee, 55, Suchada Chupathum, 35, and Saman Chupathum, 38.
The two young girls, Joy and Kob told investigators they were befriended by a woman known only as Jai who offered them jobs as waitresses at the bar and wages of 15,000 Baht a month each.
They were forced instead to have sex with customers at 200-500 Baht a time. The girls said they were beaten whenever they tried to refuse.
Why do we publish this piece of news (taken from the Bangkok Post)? Doesn't it happen all the time?
In the first place because we are disgusted (once more) that these practices indeed still take place in Thailand. And it would not surprise us if the customers with whom the girls were forced to have sex were foreigners.
In the second place to let our readers know that this is how these criminals work: They offer girls a job as a waitress, and when the girls arrive at the spot it appears to be a brothel instead of a cafe and the "work" is accordingly.
In the third place to warn those of our readers who intend to make use of the services of these and similar (boys and) girls. They should know that the children in question NEVER do these things voluntarily. They should also know that when customers of these children are being caught they (luckily) face severe punishments. As we have reported, more and more home countries of sex tourists are now also prepared to punish these people in their own country. So we believe that there may be some light at the end of the tunnel.
But to many victims of child prostitution the wrong has already been done and they have been hurt for the rest of their lives.


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Phuket more and more popular with investors

Posted by hasekamp on 25 March 2001 at 13:36 PM
We have reported this before. Phuket appears to be more than popular to foreign investors. More than 100 foreigners recently applied for an investment permission, according to the Phuket Chamber of Commerce.
We are not happy with this development. We fear that in Phuket service for the tourists will slowly creep to the background, at the expense of greed and financial gain. This goes for places like Patong in the first place. We still like Phuket Town.
The Phuket Chamber of Commerce further said that this year alone, 100-200 businessmen (Thai and foreign) apply to do business in Phuket every month, and 70-80 percent of the applications are from foreigners. Intended investments cover all areas, from restaurants and internet caf\E9's to real estate. We bet that most of the real estate applications are form foreigners.
Phuket appears to be a heaven for foreign investors and some foreigners call Phuket the "Hawaii of Asia".


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No bomb after all? Let the US say it...

Posted by hasekamp on 24 March 2001 at 13:51 PM
Although -as we have reported- we are now very pessimistic that the bombing of the THAI plane on 3 March will never be solved, there is some news -or let us call it such- after all:
Thai authorities will go by the findings of the US experts, who have been investigating the March 3 explosion of the Thai Airways International Boeing 737 too, because their equipment is better. This is what PM Thaksin Shinawatra said yesterday.
As we have published, the Thai Police found RDX, a component of C-4 explosive, in the wreckage of the plane and suspect sabotage. US investors, however, found no RDX and suspect an accident caused the blast.
"If the US confirms no traces of RDX, we must believe it because they use better equipment which allows a deeper examination," Mr Thaksin said.
Now three parts of the aircraft have been sent to the US for closer examination. Thai police have examined more than 100 parts. More will be sent to the US for tests, said Mr Thaksin (dependent on the results?), who expected the whole process to take two years.
All these statements remain very conflicting: First the final results of the investigation (and the culprit!) would be made public by 15 March, which clearly was not the case. Contrary: Thai authorities are willing to throw their results in the dustbin in favor of US results. Not to speak of the turning aroud about the (possible) cause of the accident: bomb, no bomb, bomb, no bomb!
What we suspect now is that financially it is much more convenient for the Thai authorities to blame the explosion on an accident, because that will open the way to file a claim against BOEING.
Did the complete board of THAI resign in vain after all then? We are certain that they will find a way in this chaos to re-enter the board!
Anyway, the whole investigation remains a big mess in our eyes!


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Flooding in Patong

Posted by hasekamp on 23 March 2001 at 13:17 PM
The popular resort Patong on Phuket Island has been hit by flooding. About 10 hours of continuous rain overnight left many streets and businesses in Patong flooded.
Although flooding is not unknown to the inhabitants of Patong, this time it was exceptional because the rain lasted so long.
Furthermore on Phuket Island flooding was only reported in Thalang. Some minor flooding on the nearby airport has also been reported, but that did not prevent air traffic and was under control soon.
All of the southwest of Thailand is under very heavy clouds, with widespread showers and thunderstorms, according to the Thai Met Office. Wet weather is expected to last at least until next week.
We use this message to draw the attention of our visitors to a new script, on this server, that gives current weather conditions for many places all over the World (including Phuket). The script can be found on http://www.hasekamp.net/cgi-bin/weather/hamweather.cgi If you want to see Phuket weather, click on International, Current Conditions, choose Thailand, then choose Phuket.


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All .th sites in one overview

Posted by hasekamp on 23 March 2001 at 13:03 PM
There is a website that lists all the regisered domains with ".th" in it, and that enables you to visit them with one mouseclick. The site covers all .th domains, that is co.th (mostly companies), go.th (mostly government), in.th etc.. You can find it on http://all.in.th/ and it might help you to find the Thai site you never could find through search engines!
It also shows that in Thailand, like in many countries, there are people who think they can make easy money by registering domain names that they believe to be attractive to others.
We wonder if similar complete listings exist of other domain names like .com or .net.
Anyway, we find this a useful tool to explore the Thai part of the Internet!


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Sex senator denies all charges

Posted by hasekamp on 22 March 2001 at 12:23 PM
Former senator Chalerm Promlert, who has been accused of having had sex with underage schoolgirls, pleaded "not guilty" at the Thanyaburi provincial court yesterday. Mr Chalerm recently resigned as a senator.
He was charged with taking minors from their parents for sexual molestation and luring the girls into the flesh trade. Twenty-seven charges were filed against him. He denied them all.
The Court set the first day for the hearing for 25 April.
Mrs Pranee, a parent of one of the girls, said she had been approached by a lawyer who had offered to pay her daughter if she agreed to reverse her account of story. This is a clear form of corruption and this lawyer should be removed from his office, we think.
Mr Chalerm has denied approaching girls to get them to reverse or withdraw testimony.
We find that this case starts to stinks tremendously. The dirty man had sex with several schoolgirls, according to their statements, and the girls were "supplied" by a go-between, who also has made a statement. We hope that the Court will stick to these facts and statements and that it will not be sensitive for legal tricks and corruption.


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THAI board resigns. Investigation of explosion on dead trail?

Posted by hasekamp on 22 March 2001 at 11:39 AM
All the members of the Executive Board of Thai Airways International (THAI) have resigned per 1 April 2001. This should clear the way for internal restructuring, a spokesman for the board said.
This decision (probably) has to do with the explosion of a THAI plane early this month, according to Thai news sources.
The Police told reporters that there is "a delay" in seeking evidence that could lead to the person(s) behind the explosion at the moment.
The police team in charge of the investigation is now focusing on three suspected groups, including the steward and cleaning staff on board of the aircraft. Also some passengers from the Phitsanulok Regional Airport are under investigation.
All the -often conflicting- messages concerning the investigation of the plane blast, and the sudden resignation of the complete board of the airliner give us the impression that the case will never be solved.
We remind our readers of the poor result of the murder investigation in the case of British backpacker Kirsty Jones in August last year. She was brutally raped and murdered in a guesthouse in Chiang Mai, as we reported extensively.
First one arrest after the other was made, one suspect after the other was pointed at, but eventually no evidence of any importance could be found, and the killer(s) and raper(s) is (are) still free. In that case it is deadly quiet now and we do not expect any further result of importance any more.
Will the investigation of the explosion of the THAI plane end the same way?
One theory after another has been ventilated by the authorities in charge, but no conclusive result of any importance has been made public yet. Only the fact that the explosion was caused by a bomb seems to be certain.


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Ban on bamboo rafting

Posted by hasekamp on 21 March 2001 at 12:12 PM
Authorities in Northern provinces of Thailand have forbidden rafting on bamboo rafts. The reason is that bamboo is being cut down illegally by tour operators in order to construct their rafts. They refuse to use rubber rafts instead, because they say that would be too expensive.
As a result of this ban Chiang Mai Trekking tour operators are protesting, and rallied at the Tourism Authority of Thailand's (TAT) Chiang Mai office on Monday.
We find this ban -provided it is being controlled adequately- a very good measure. The point that rubber boats are too expensive is a poor one, because tourist are being charged high prices for these rafting excursions on the rivers, and profits can easily be a bit lower for some time, in order to invest in new equipment.
Also in Thailand Nature is becoming a scarce and precious article that deserves (effective) protection. These tour companies should also realize that, if they have it their way, there will be nothing to see during their rafting tours, if they continue to go at the expense of the scarce Nature!


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Bio diesel fuel introduced

Posted by hasekamp on 20 March 2001 at 16:59 PM
In the Province of Prachuab Khiri Khan, in Southern Thailand, a bio-diesel petrol station has been opened. This station is an initiative of local people, who successfully produce coconut-based diesel fuel, to be used in diesel-engine vehicles. It seems to be a World first.
The idea is based on the philosophy of "the simplicity but traditional Thai wisdom", the initiators state.
The vehicles that have been using the new bio-diesel fuel have experienced no engine problems, but -contrary- have experienced a smooth journey for a cheaper cost (10 Baht per liter).
This new product is in line with the Government policy to promote the use of alternative fuel to reduce the reliance on imported oil in Thailand, which is in fact a further development of an initiative by HM the King, who suggested the use of ethanol based car fuel (gasohol) in his latrest birthday speech. This so called "gasohol" has been introduced recently. (Use the word "gasohol" in our search box to find earlier messages on the subject.)


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Instant noodles to go International

Posted by hasekamp on 19 March 2001 at 21:03 PM
According to the Thai Minister for Public Health Thai, instant noodles, especially those with tom yam kung flavor, are becoming more popular worldwide now. Not only the taste is good, but -still according to the Minister- the Thai herbs used as ingredients for the tom yam kung instant noodles are effective to stop cancer. This seems more of an sales trick than a scientific conclusion to us, but here it is!
The Minister said that instant-noodle producers have also been asked to add other nutritious substances such as calcium, iodine and vitamins E and A into their instant noodles, for maximum benefit for consumers.
The Public Health Ministry wants to support efforts of the noodle manufactureres to go International. Who knows how well they will sell, but still we believe that the "miracle stories" of preventing cancer should not be used as a major point in advertising campaigns! The taste and quality should do it instead.
We realize that we published a news item that the herbs, contained in tom yam kung, are possibly able to prevent cancer (in December 2000). Use our search box or our archived pages to find it.
However, even if the contents of that article was based on scientific research, we still have our doubts if the low concentrations, used in tom yam kung-flavored noodles also can have a cancer preventing effect.


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Mastermind difficult to find

Posted by hasekamp on 19 March 2001 at 10:00 AM
Did we report yesterday that the mastermind behind the bombing of a THAI plane early this month was expected to be tracked easily, according to the Thai Police, later Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra made his doubts public on the possibility to bring the mastermind behind the bombing to justice.
The premier said he was confident, however, that the bomber would be finally arrested, but he doubted if there would be sufficient evidence to link him to the mastermind.
We find, reading beack all our postings about the bombing, that the messages, published by the different Thai authorities in this case, follow a kind of zig-zag track and we wait for further news.


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One half of elephant twin sisters dies

Posted by hasekamp on 18 March 2001 at 13:08 PM
One half of a twin pair of elephant sisters has died suddenly in a Thai zoo, leaving her twin sister in deep grief. The elephant fell sick on Friday and died several hours later.
The twins were nine years old and were living in a zoo, East of Bangkok (Chonburi Open Zoo).
This is sad news, not only because news about animals in a Zoo dying suddenly is sad anyway, but also because elephant twins are extremely rare. In this case the health of the twins had never been optimal, but they received special attention always and therefore were raesonably helthy.
The symptoms, shown by the elephant have not been seen before by the assisting vet. Pesticide-contaminated food might be the cause, which would mean that the cause of death might be a human error!
The surviving twin sister is very depressed now and has refused to eat until today. As with humans, elephant twins are very close. Although the surviving sister is now being kept under close watch, we have to fear for her life too.


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Princess wants wiser use of Internet

Posted by hasekamp on 17 March 2001 at 12:50 PM
Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn believes that too many schools (or rather schoolchildren) still are not making the proper use of the Internet. The Princess said that Internet access on schools is meant to be used in the (learning) interest of pupils and it should not be used to waste taxpayer's money.
The Princess spoke on a "School Net Day" about information technology.
She also said that information technology has improved access to information for the underprivileged and that she admired joint efforts by the private and government sectors to promote IT in education.
The criticism of the Princess is based on the fact that information has reached her that on some schools in Thailand the Internet is being accessed for personal pleasure and interpersonal contacts only. Those who want to do so should do this in their own time, the Princess said.


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Police know who placed bomb

Posted by hasekamp on 17 March 2001 at 12:32 PM
The police say they are quite certain about who was behind placing the bomb in the plane, that was about to make flight TG114 from Bangkok to Chiang Mai on 3 March, which would carry PM Thaksin Shinawatra. Nevertheless the Police wants to catch whoever planted the bomb first, before they give more details.
"We know which group did it", Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said yesterday.
Defense Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh has handed over a copy of the preliminary investigation report to the Prime Minister.
"I am satisfied with the investigation work. If the work goes on the right track there is no need for me to set a time frame or rush them", Mr Thaksin said.
Interrogation of the supposed bomber would give more evidence against the mastermind behind the bombing.
The Police did not give more details. We wait for an arrest or further official announcement.


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Senator Chalerm resigns at last

Posted by hasekamp on 15 March 2001 at 17:09 PM
Senator Chalerm Promlert, who has been accused of having had sex with several minors since January, has resigned as a senator at last. We have reported about the allegations against Mr Chalerm extensively.
He made his decision public last night, during a dinner with a group of senators. He said that the stories that had reached the press were "one-sided". He denied nor confirmed the allegations against him. He said, however, that he wanted to spend the rest of his life in peace.
Lately there has been more and more pressure on Mr Chalerm to resign from his Senate seat from within the Senate, as well as from groups within the general public. In particular woman rights groups have been gathering signatures against the (now ex-) senator. So far 50,000 signatures were gathered already.
Several charges have been filed against Mr Chalerm and we wonder where he will spend the rest of his life peacefully, given these charges.
Mr Chalerm plans to fight the charges in Court. We will follow the case when it goes to Court and will report again about it then.


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More flooding reported and expected

Posted by hasekamp on 14 March 2001 at 11:38 AM
Ten villages in Chumphon province and eight in Prachuap Khiri Khan were hit by floods yesterday morning. These reports come after earlier reports (of which we wrote yesterday) of flooding in Central and Southern parts of Thailand, including Bangkok. Eastern areas are not spared either, at the moment.
Strong flooding caused damage to many houses in the hit province. Security forces have started to help to evacuate the flood victims.
So far, the Bangkok Post reports, more than 1,200 houses and shrimp farms covering 200 rai along the canals are inundated.
The areas mentioned yesterday were hit again after more heavy rain had fallen.
Public transport companies, bus companies as well as the State Railway of Thailand, are unable to operate according to schedule in the hit areas.
The director of the Civil Defense Center warned residents of Rayong, Phetchaburi, Prachuap Khiri Khan and Chumphon provinces to reckon with more floods this week.


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Ten senators have to go after poll fraud

Posted by hasekamp on 14 March 2001 at 11:26 AM
Senate Speaker Sanit Worapanya and nine senators lost their parliamentary status yesterday after the Election Commission found they had committed poll fraud. So, even more than two months after the general election some politicians appear not to be seated solidly on their public chair and have to pay for their poll fraud after all, in most cases the fraud consisted of vote buying.
The senators can still challenge the commission's decision and petition the Constitutional Court. Some have announced to do so.
The former speaker (Mr Sanit) felt that he had given the commission a "cast iron defence". "I don't understand what had happened", Mr Sanit said. He wants to stand for new election in his district Lopburi. New polling has been set for April 21 with advance voting on April 14-15. Further rounds, if any, have been scheduled for May 3 and 26.


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Elephants win from mankind!

Posted by hasekamp on 14 March 2001 at 10:59 AM
In some districts in Thailand, mainly Hua Hin and Kui Buri, pineapple farmers have seen their crop eaten time after time by elephants! The problem is not that there is not enough food for the elephants, but the problem is that elephants –like humans- do not want anything else any more, once they have tasted pineapples.
The elephant population in the "hit" areas has risen during the past ten years from six to one hundred (although no connection between eating pineapples and this explosion of the population has been laid so far). The farmers have considered the elephants as a plague, and have tried any available means to combat this plague, but to no avail. Sadly they even have killed elephants, but even after that their colleague-elephants kept coming back for the delicious fruit.
Now, at last, the farmers have given up their fight and want to change their business from pineapple farms to dairy farms, with the financial help of the government. They expect that as dairy farmers they can peacefully coexist next to the elephants.
We are impressed by this decision of the farmers. We hardly know any other example where mankind and animals are "fighting" for territory and the animals win!


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Flood warning

Posted by hasekamp on 13 March 2001 at 16:49 PM
The Thai Meteorological Department predicts two days of heavy rain in the South and in the lower Central Plains, and warned for possible floods in Chumphon, Surat Thani, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Ratchaburi, and Phetchaburi. In the Southern provinces, particularly Chumphon and Prachuap Khiri Khan, there has been severe flooding during the past few days already, as the result of heavy rainfall.
Flooding has been plaguing Thailand since last November.
Bangkok has seen heavy rainfall yesterday morning and flooding caused traffic chaos there during rush hours. The rains resumed in the evening. More heavy rain is expected for Bangkok during the next few days.
It is not very common for Bangkok to see flooding in March. Normally flooding takes place in October (or, to be more precise, from September to November).


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Monument for Siamese twins

Posted by hasekamp on 13 March 2001 at 13:20 PM
The Public Relations Department (PRD) announces that a "monument" (whatever they mean exactly by this) to the famous Siamese twins Chang and Eng has been opened as a tourist attraction in Samut Songkram Province. The monument was opened on 10 March, in the presence of a great granddaughter and a great-great granddaughter of Eng, one half of the twins.
Chang and Eng were the Worlds longest living Siamese twins, who acted as traveling attraction in the US during their lives. They marries to two American women and had 21 children! Don’t mail us to ask how they conceived them, because we do not know the answer!
Recently a novel about their lives has been published, that might give the answer to this burning question. You can order it through our books page, on http://www.hasekamp.net/books.htm .
The publication by the PRD does not tell what exactly can bee b seen at the new tourist attraction! Nevertheless we find this news intriguing enough to pass on to our readers.


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Thaksin is surprised by Burmese drug city

Posted by hasekamp on 12 March 2001 at 21:07 PM
In Chiang Rai a National seminar about drugs has been held this week-end. The seminar was attended by -among others- Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. The results are not very spectacular, in our opinion: More will be done to rehabilitate drug addicts, more will be done to suppress drug trafficking etc, etc. These plans sound quite familiar to us, after having followed the Thai news for several years.
What was interesting and surprising however, was the confrontation of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra with a slide show of the "empire", built by the Wa, around a place called Mong Yawn. This place, once a tiny village is a very prosperous place now as a result of the drug factories (the number is estimated to be 37), set up by the Wa. Mong Yawn now has a population of at least 50,000, most of them working in the drugs trade. The place has five star hotels, a first class hospital, a hydro-powered dam for electricity supply, a casino and more modern and luxurious facilities. The fast growing village (almost a town now) has been photographed by satellites and its growth is stunning when pictures that have been taken some months apart are being compared.
It is estimated that 700 million speed pills are being exported from there to Thailand per year, and only 100 million are intercepted.
Mr Thaksin was more than surprised when he had seen the slide show and thought the Thai public should see it too. He said that many Thais would not realize that the drug trade was so large and prosperous (for the Burmese). Even if relations with "neighboring countries" would turn worse, the Thai public should know about this, the PM found.
A slight political problem is, however, that the Burmese have always officially declared that Mong Yawn is under their control and jurisdiction. So, if the truth about the area would be widely revealed, the temperature of the relations between Thailand and Burma would indeed lower below zero. So, after all Mr Thaksin did not make a final decision on the subject, but he certainly was (unpleasantly) surprised.


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Bomb, no bomb, bomb

Posted by hasekamp on 12 March 2001 at 14:15 PM
There has been some confusion over the week-end if the fire that burned out a THAI plane, in which Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was to travel, completely on 3 March was caused by a bomb or not.
Last week the police made public that the cause of the explosion was definitely a bomb, this week-end it suddenly was said that the cause was (probably) not a bomb and that all conclusions so far had been premature, but today Thai News Agency writes again that the cause was definitely a C-4 bomb.
It is said today that additional evidence for a bomb explosion has been found while removing the remains of the plane wreckage. Chemicals to make C-4 bombs were also found in the clothes of the steward who was killed by the explosion and in the clothes of the seven staff members who were injured.
The Boeing team, that also participates in the investigation, focuses on possible mechanical defects of the plane only. Its task is not to determine if the cause was a bomb or not, but only to determine if Boeing can be held (partly) responsible for the fire..
So, if you have been confused by contradictory news reports over the week-end, today the latest reports definitely speak of a bomb again.


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Illegal prawn farms to be restored as forest

Posted by hasekamp on 11 March 2001 at 19:57 PM
More than 100 rai of illegal prawn farms in Thalang district on Phuket Island will be restored to mangrove forest, the Forestry Department chief has said recently.
He said bulldozers will breach walls to let the sea back in if prawn farm operators resist. And the owners of the illegal prawn farms will also be prosecuted.
This seems to be the positive side of the murder of Mr Jurin Ratchapol, a Phuket environmentalist killed by a gunman (probably belonging to a prawn farm) in January. We have reported extensively about this case.
The Forestry Department chief also said that he would not wait for a court order before starting to restore mangrove forest, but he was simply going to do it! This is muscular language we like! However, those farmers (seem to) have killed already to keep their business, so maybe a firm legal base would not be so bad before starting to destroy farms!
The ultimate concession of the Forestry Department chief is giving some farmers time to sell their prawns, but afterwards they will have to move out of Thalang and pave the way for regeneration of mangrove forest (the last bit of it in Thailand, by the way).
Similar action is planned to be taken countrywide by the Forestry Department.
"Every prawn farm that encroaches upon mangrove forest must be stopped. They have already made a fortune from the public land," the Forestry Department said.
We are waiting with the greatest interest to see all this to come true. We still deeply regret that somebody had to be killed before ideas like these entered the minds of officials of the Forestry Department.


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Crocodile steak

Posted by hasekamp on 11 March 2001 at 19:56 PM
Not so far from Bangkok is the crocodile farm, a very popular place for tourists as well as for Thais. You can see hundreds of crocodiles there in all sizes and there is an attractive show as well.
You may have wondered if the crocodiles are kept for the tourists only, but if you have seen the souvenir shop there, you may have suspected that the skin is not -to say it mildly- thrown away when the crocodiles die.
If you have watched the Dutch TV news late last week, you definitely know better.
With all the cattle diseases in Europe and a restriction on fishing, a shortage of meat is imminent in Europe. And if there will be no shortage after all, there is a problem anyway: European consumers themselves are very suspicious towards meat at the moment and because fish is becoming more expensive by the week, consumers are looking for alternatives.
The owner of the crocodile farm near Bangkok seems willing to help the European consumer out of their trouble: He can supply some countries in Europe with crocodile meat, which -as he stated in an interview on Dutch TV- is delicious. He has started exports to Germany and France already.
He is seeing to it -however- that the animals that are exported for meat to Europe, have been skinned carefully before shipping...
Now, after reading this message, you know that the crocodile farm does not only keep its crocodiles for the pleasure of the tourists and not only for their skins, but also as a source of meat for Europe.
Although the crocodile farm is also advertised as a zoo, we have never heard of any zoo that kills its animals for their meat!


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Illegal Wildlife products

Posted by hasekamp on 8 March 2001 at 16:53 PM
According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Thailand is becoming a center for trade of products, made form endangered animals. WWF officials have found more than 30,000 of these products in Bangkok only, like ivory, products made from crocodile and snake skin and products made from animal parts of bears, tigers, sharks, butterflies and what not.
WWF believes that one of the reasons for this huge illegal trade is, that many tourists do not know that these products are illegal. They are freely for sale after all! All the animals mentioned are protected, however, under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild and Fauna (CITES), under UN supervision, and ratified by Thailand in 1983.
We believe that not only the tourists who buy these products are to blame, but also that the Thai government has failed in not trying to stop this trade. It has this duty after all, after having ratified CITES.
Many of the articles found by WWF officials were being sold in hotels (and confiscated, by the way). Now WWF wants to cooperate with TAT (Tourism Authority of Thailand) and the Thai Hotels Association in order to try to stop this illegal trade in Wildlife products.
Although we too have seen several of these products (mainly ivory and crocodile skin-products) in Thailand, we nevertheless are shocked by the size of this trade: The products confiscated had a total trade value of 160 million Baht! If you can’t calculate this back so quickly, this is around 3.7 million US$.
We hope that tourists will stop to buy these products in Thailand in the future. As soon as the demand stops, the supply is likely to stop. Would it be a good idea for visitors of this site to give the good example?


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Suspect for plane bombing

Posted by hasekamp on 7 March 2001 at 23:18 PM
A suspect has been pointed at for bombing the THAI plane that was to carry PM Thaksin Shinawatra to Chiang Mai. He is a former employee of Thai Airways International, who has been arrested for drug trafficking several years ago. The Nation published this news.
The motive of the man should come from his drug-trafficking activities. Some key drug traffickers, supposedly friends of the man, have been arrested recently. The anti-drugs campaign has considerably been intensified since Mr Thaksin became Prime Minister.
The article in The Nation is quite speculative, but we find it interesting enough to mention it here in short form.
The former THAI employee (and drugs trafficker) somehow has escaped his jail sentence (or worse!) and succeeded in getting some influence at THAI.
The Nation writes that the man had a say in the selection of sub-contractors for cargo and luggage handling for the Thai Airways International. This should explain the man's possibility to have the plane supplied with a bomb.
We leave further speculations for what they are worth and await news form other sources.


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Silver Star for hygienically working hawkers

Posted by hasekamp on 6 March 2001 at 11:21 AM
We all know the problem of buying food in the street in Thailand. It looks good, and the smell is good also, but can the hawker be trusted as far as hygiene is concerned?
Bangkok municipal authorities have a system now to give you more confidence: The best hawkers are given a "Silver Star" certificate, which proves that the hawker meets high requirements. The requirements for such a certificate are higher than those for the "Green Star" certificate that has been distributed in the recent past.
A citywide inspection, involving 16,000 food sellers, will soon start and the "Silver Star" certificate will be given to those hawkers who meet the latest regulations regarding hygiene. Those who still meet the existing requirements can retain their "Green Star" certificate and those who do not meet any serious requirements at all will have their "Green Star" certificate recalled, and will receive a fine as an extra bonus.
We have never seen any certificates so far, but if the hawkers are displaying their (new) certificates visibly, this certainly will be an improvement and customers can be more certain that they will "survive" their snack!


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Police say it definitely was a bomb

Posted by hasekamp on 6 March 2001 at 10:57 AM
The explosion of a Thai Airways International plane on Saturday was definitely caused by a "C-4 bomb", the National Police announced today.
The press was told that the results of the investigation, conducted by a National Police Office team, showed that the explosion was certainly caused by a C-4 bomb, a sophisticated military-grade plastic explosive.
The bomb was planted in a compartment beneath the VIP cabin, which was about five to six rows away from Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s reserved seat. So after all the bomb was not placed between seats, as was thought yesterday.
Police believe that the bomb was meant to discredit THAI, the Airports Authority of Thailand (AAT), or Premier Thaksin Shinawatra.
The police investigation team will continue its investigation in order to try to find out who was/were involved in planting the bomb, who was/were in charge of the area, and how the explosive device was accessed to the area.
Mr Thaksin, in the meantime, is not pleased with the investigation result so far. "I think it is too slow", he told reporters after a Cabinet meeting.
"We only learned that the explosion was caused by a manmade bomb. The investigation should go deeper to find out the motive or target of the bomb. It should be clearer by now", Mr Thaksin also said.


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Plane wreck shows bomb chemicals

Posted by hasekamp on 5 March 2001 at 22:46 PM
In the Thai Airways plane that exploded on Don Muang Airport on Saturday, and that was to carry PM Thaksin Shinawatra to Chiang Mai, traces of Semtex, TNT and white phosphorous were found. This indicates that a bomb had been on board of the plane indeed.
Semtex is a material that does not show in X-ray apparatus and can only be detected by specially trained dogs.
So far it seems very likely that the bomb had been placed in the passenger compartment, and not in the luggage compartment of the plane. Probably it was placed between seats. Thai Airways staff and the staff from the cleaning company that was cleaning the plane are being questioned. A loud explosion was being heard by ground staff before the plane caught fire. The Thai staff member who died as a result form the accident was killed by the explosion, not by the fire.
Investigations, later to be combined, are being carried out by Thai Airways, Don Muang Airport, the Police and the Royal Thai Air Force. Experts from Boeing are expected soon.
If Mr Thaksin indeed was the aim for the bomb, then the person who placed it must have been an "insider" with respect to the movements of Mr Thaksin. His trip was not announced widely.
The Royal Tai Air Force has a Boeing 737 plane standby continuously for Mr Thaksin from now on. Mr Thaksin said he was not tense and would also continue to travel by Thai Airways.
Security on Don Muang airport has been tightened severely. New X-ray apparatus and more staff have been placed on the airport terminals.
Later today Mr Thaksin said that "The investigation into this affair will lead to some changes in the management". Analysts say that this comment may be a hint that Thaksin wants to keep Thai Airways in Thai hands, according to his election policy.
This evening the Police said to have reasons to suspect that the bomb could have been planted in a package of frozen meat which had been loaded on to the aircraft before the explosion. The president of Thai Airways International (THAI), however, yesterday ruled out the possibility that the explosion stemmed from within the airline.
Thai Airways stocks pulled the SET index down today.


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Thaksin to talk with Burma about drugs problem

Posted by hasekamp on 5 March 2001 at 11:27 AM
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra will talk to the Burmese leaders to seek ways to tackle the drugs problem. As known, along the Thai-Burmese border many drugs producing factories exist on Burmese territory, and most of the drugs produces there are being smuggled into Thailand.
Mr Thaksin has called a meeting of anti-drug agencies on 10 March to discuss anti-drug measures in an integrated and systematic manner.
He is prepared to use (joint) military forces against drug dealers and traffickers if necessary.
The new Thai PM is therefore trying to use a formal way to solve the problem, because he also said that laws must be amended to speed up legal procedures on drug cases and provide fairness to all sides.
The Prime Minister has further announced that no politician in his administration has been found to be involved in drug trafficking. As we reported earlier, there were accusation recently -without names being mentioned- about politicians, being involved in the drugs trade.
To be clear: the planned talks we mention here have nothing (or hardly anything) to do with the recent confrontations between Thailand and Burma near the Northern border of Thailand. The Burmese were chasing the SSA (Shan State Army), who are strongly opposed against the drugs-tolerating policy of Rangoon, and trespassed into Thai territory then. Burma regards this as an internal matter.
No serious talks about these border issues have been held so far.
Contrary: Rangoon has mobilized 3,000 troops along the Thai-Burmese border to strike the SSA harder.
A Thai military spokesman said that it would be impossible to work together under these circumstances. (Sources: Public Relations Department, Bangkok Post)


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Sabotage suspected in plane fire yesterday

Posted by hasekamp on 4 March 2001 at 13:22 PM
What we were afraid of but did not want to write down in clear English yesterday seems to be true:
After a thorough inspection of remains of the Thai Airways International (THAI) plane that burned out completely yesterday on Don Muang Airport in Bangkok, it is likely that the plane exploded and that the explosion was caused by a bomb, beneath the "VIP section" of the plane.
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was on the passenger list for the plane, that was due to Chiang Mai.
Has Thailand fallen so low that it houses terrorists who want to murder its Prime Minister? This thought frightens us. We know that Mr Thaksin has (political) enemies, but we can hardly believe that they would be willing to kill him. So, is there some lunatic around then? This would be better than the just mentioned "worst case scenario", but still frightening.
The explosion in the plane took place at the middle of the aircraft, when THAI crew members were loading the luggage beneath the plane's front left wing, THAI officials told the press.
Given this preliminary result, an official investigation team will be set up to investigate the case.
Not only PM Thaksin Shinawatra was on the passenger list, but an 11-member VIP team as well.
The explosion, followed by a fire, took place around 02:30 p.m. yesterday, less than 20 minutes before the passengers were to board. Premier Thaksin with his son and further company was taken to Chiang Mai and returned to Bangkok by a Royal Thai Air Force plane surrounded by tight security measures.
Mr Thaksin earlier told reporters in Chiang Mai that he hoped the incident was just an accident, not a sabotage attempt. We fully agree with him.
The prospect of not being safe any more in Thailand is not a tempting one. And the prospect that terrorists are after the Prime Minister of Thailand either....


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Complete ban on beef and ham (including sandwiches)

Posted by hasekamp on 3 March 2001 at 13:28 PM
Thailand is warning its European visitors not to bring ham or beef sandwiches into the country.
Trespassing this ban on ham and beef will bring tourists into jail. To be completely clear: Penalties range from a fine of $930 up to two years in prison. And -we have said this before- Thai jails are no holiday resorts!
We therefore strongly advise our readers NOT to bring ANY meat products into Thailand.
Mr Prachak Thiratinrat, director of the Thai livestock department's disease control division, said these strict rules have been introduced to prevent the import of meat from any country affected by mad cow, or foot and mouth disease.
The measure covers meat from all 15 member-countries of the European Union, and any other unspecified country whose livestock is being threatened by any of the diseases.
Thailand has known foot and mouth disease before and strains of this disease are regularly found in Thailand.
Especially the threat of "mad cow disease" has scared Thai authorities and consumers, and sales of local beef has fallen by almost 50 percent since the disease was seen spreading over Europe. (Based on a TV report by CNN)


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Concerts in Lumphini Park

Posted by hasekamp on 3 March 2001 at 13:04 PM
A series of "Concerts in the Park" has been announced for Lumphini Park in Bangkok every Sunday starting at 5:30 pm during March and April.
Pongsit Kampri will open the series with a solo concert tomorrow on 4 March.
Pongthep Kradonchamnan will play a concert on 11 March.
The Mahidol Symphonic Band is next on 18 March.
The Symphony from the Public Relations Department will give a concert of ballroom music on 25 March.
Thai jazz multi-musician Tewan Sapsaenyakorn and his "Novel Jazz" band will be playing on 1 April. We would not miss this -as we stated- multi-musician (who plays at least five instruments) if we were in Bangkok!
A Classical Thai music orchestra plays on 8 April.
The Joe Louis Troupe will provide (musical?) puppet theatre on 15 April.
A Classical Thai music concert will be there on 22 April. Finally, the Petch Panomrung Band will play Thai country songs on 29 April. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Thai Airways plane burns out on airport

Posted by hasekamp on 3 March 2001 at 12:31 PM
A Thai Airway International plane caught fire today while waiting for passengers at Don Muang Airport in Bangkok. Although the passengers had not yet boarded, one crew staff was killed and four other crew staff were injured.
The Boeing 737 was destroyed completely. It was due to make flight TG114 to Chiang Mai.
Among the 149 passengers, waiting to get aboard, was Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. And this is the part that really frightens us. We sincerely hope that this is purely coincidental. We leave our comments here for the moment and await the results of the investigation.
The police say the firefighters had the fire under control soon. The cause of the fire has not yet been found or made public.


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Japanese are seriously harming Koh Kla

Posted by hasekamp on 2 March 2001 at 16:26 PM
Once more one of the Thai islands may be damaged permanently in order to give amusement and money to others. Was one of the islands in Phuket province seriously -if not permanently-damaged due to the filming of the Hollywood Picture "The Beach" (with by the way all the revenues going to Hollywood and all the damage to Thailand), now some Japanese TV crew finds it necessary to film one of its "Big Brother"-like survival games, this time with all the revenues going to Japan and again all the damage going to Thailand, on the Thai island Koh Kla.
Local residents have complained about damage and hinder to the provincial authorities, but they reacted far from adequate, by saying that the Japanese had obtained permission from the Royal Thai Navy, who seems to be in charge on the island. If this permission does indeed exist, it has been obtained under misleading circumstances. The Japanese appear to have told that they wanted to shoot a "documentary about how to survive on an island, without modern technology". This is quite something different than a money-making "real-life soap"!
Koh Kla is -or now probably was- known for its unspoiled Nature, with some rare species of fauna only surviving there.
When we were still at school we were informed by our teachers that some Japanese soldiers were hiding on Japanese islands for around forty years, because they did not want to surrender to the Allied Forces.
In our opinion these islands would be perfectly suitable for the purpose of the soap the Japanese are filming on Koh Kla! Japan has enough islands anyway, and we see no reason why a Japanese TV crew they should spoil or destroy Thai nature for its game shows.
On the other hand -as said- we find the reaction of the Thai authorities below zero level. No permission should be given for things like this to be filmed on unspoiled islands in Thailand. Thailand should be more careful with its last unspoiled spots. Have the Thai authorities learned nothing from the environmentalists who protested against filming "The Beach" in Thailand? We become so angry when we read news like this....


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Another death sentence for drug trafficking

Posted by hasekamp on 1 March 2001 at 9:38 AM
We do not report all the sentences by the Criminal Court for drug offences, but now and then we do so, to alert our visitors that drug trafficking and possession is punished severely in Thailand. Today we find it time again for such an alert. And this is probably one of the cases we reported about in October last year, although we did not mention the name of the suspect then, so we are not certain.
The Criminal Court yesterday sentenced a suspected drug trafficker to death and ordered the seizure of speed pills worth about six million Baht. (Mind the word "suspected"!)
Therdpong Phaptawan was arrested at a hotel in Chiang Mai in October last year. He admitted the drug trafficking charges during the interrogation by the police, but reversed his statement in Court.
The Court found the evidence convincing, however. Furthermore Therdpong showed no remorse. If he had done so he might have received "just" life in prison.


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