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Skeleton still not found

Posted by hasekamp on 31 May 2001 at 11:29 AM
The skeleton of Ms Phassaporn Boonkasemsanti, the late –estranged- wife of Dr Wisuth Boonkasemsanti, who was arrested for her murder, but who will not be brought to court by the Public Prosecutor, and therefore has been set free again, has still not been found. (Use our search box to find earlier articles about the case). The police, still traumatic about the decision of the Prosecutor not to bring Wisuth to court, will now search a septic tank near her official residence at Burachat Chaiyakorn hospital.
A bit late, we think, but who knows if new evidence will come forward. Relatives of Ms Phassaporn told police that they believe her bones were dumped in the septic tank of that hospital.
Police believe that Dr Wisuth cut the body of his wife into little pieces and dumped them in septic tanks. Her skeleton was never found, so far. That Ms Phassaporn is dead seems certain. In two septic tanks human flesh was found, of which DNA pattern matched the DNA of Ms Phassaporn.
Yesterday it was exactly 100 days ago that Ms Phassaporn disappeared.
We do not have much hope that the police will be able to make the case more convincing than it is already, but anything that will bring Dr Wisuth to court, to get the opinion of a judge about the case would be welcome to us.


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Ban Kruay Community wins at last

Posted by hasekamp on 31 May 2001 at 11:27 AM
We have reported several times about an expressway ramp, that was to be built at the expense of Ban Kruay, near Nonthaburi (just North of Bangkok). The expressway authority was very stubborn, while we have warned against permanent destruction of a nice rural piece of land. Now the expressway authority has finally given up its plans "in order to avoid financial and legal problem". End of exercise, victory for rural surroundings! The Ban Kruay Community has –of course- welcomed the decision of the stubborn road builders, that only think in asphalt. Several smaller and larger legal actions from the side of the community were necessary to achieve this result. At first only a delay of the construction was achieved.
We hope that thios destruction of Nature has been scrapped for good and that the inhabitants of the area, humans, flora and fauna, can live on now in peace.


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Thaksin is not happy with THAI

Posted by hasekamp on 30 May 2001 at 13:35 PM
Although this item is a few days old, we still feel that we should publish it. It appears that Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra is far from happy with Thai Airways International. He told the Bangkok Post that he was very happy, every time when he was not able to get a seat on the carrier, so he could fly with another company!
One of the reasons of Mr Thaksin low opinion of the National carrier is the –still not forgotten- burning out of an airplane on Bangkok airport in March. Mr Thaksin would have boarded that plane. Sabotage as the cause of that incident is now ruled out.
According to Mr Thaksin THAI should become more competitive and does not have a decent business plan or any worthwhile long-term planning. Furthermore he thinks that Business Class in other airlines is better than THAI’s Royal First Class.
Whatever may be wrong with the management of THAI (that has been under fire recently), we always fly THAI and we have always been very satisfied with its service. We have flown other airlines, but we have never met a service that can be compered to that of THAI, in any other airline!
We therefore wonder what other airlines Mr Thaksin prefers and what he thinks that his remarks will result in.
But apart from that, we do think that it is highly inappropriate for the Prime Minister of a country to speak so low of its own airline, which is –mind you- owned for 93% by the Thai government! Is Mr Thaksin therefore (also) criticizing his own government and –therewith- himself?
And, finally, how should we see these remarks in connection with the policy of Mr Thaksin's Thai Rak Thai Party "Thais buy Thai"?


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Government will look into three murders

Posted by hasekamp on 30 May 2001 at 12:04 PM
The government will look into the murders of three environmentalists, who were brutally killed while campaigning for their cause..
The assistant secretary to the Prime Minister said he will visit Huay Tab Mon village, in Rayong province next week to gather facts about the death of Narin Phodang, who was shot dead on 1 May for leading a protest against a rock quarry in the province. The proposed quarry is to be located in a reserve forest adjoining Kao Chamao National Park. Environmentalists point at one of the shareholders of the quarry company as responsible for the murder.
Then there still is the murder of Jurin Rachapol, a local activist of Thalang, in Phuket province, who campaigned to save mangrove forests in Phuket. Shrimp farmers are (illegally) cutting down these forest, for their businesses. We have reported extensively about that case. Recently the owner of the Wachara shrimp farm was arrested taken to Bangkok for questioning. The case (apparently) still has not been solved.
And then there is the murder of Pitak Tonwisuth, a student activist, was shot and killed on 17 May in Phitsanuloke during a protest against another rock quarry.
Environmentalists see a link between the three murders. They believe that the local "Mafia" is behind these murders. The government has promised quick action.


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Bank of Thailand Governor out, Baht up

Posted by hasekamp on 30 May 2001 at 12:03 PM
The Thai Baht has risen, following yesterday’s sacking of the Governor of the Bank of Thailand (BOT), Mr Chatumongol Sonakul. The Governor was sacked, because of differences between him and the government about interest issues. There had been a week-long dispute between the BOT Governor and Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra over interest rate policies. The government had argued a review was needed, while the BOT remained steadfast that low rates were the best policy at present.
The cabinet therefore unanimously approved the dismissal of Chatumongol Sonakul, as the central bank governor. Mr Pridiyathorn Devakula, will replace him.
A spokesman for the Thai Military Bank said that the Thai Baht strengthened to 45.37-45.40 Baht against the U.S. dollar this morning, as a result of the reshuffle.
Economists expect a more relaxing interest policy under the new BOT Governor. Deposit rates are expected to be raised soon. Furthermore administrative policies of the BOT under the new Governor and the Ministry of Finance are expected to go along better with the government financial policy. This has most likely led to the upward movement of the Baht.
And to make this economic picture a bit more complete: The Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET) index opened today at 311, which is slightly higher than yesterday.


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No meeting with Burma about border dispute

Posted by hasekamp on 29 May 2001 at 11:05 AM
It is not as easy as Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra thought (see our report from this week-end): A meeting about the border dispute between Thailand and Burma was arranged, but Burma cancelled it at the last minute without giving a reason. The Burmese representatives simply did not turn up. The orders not to attend the meeting came straight from Rangoon, Thai governmental sources say. The Thai third Army did not receive any message from the Burmese.
Defense Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh said that he had direct contact with Rangoon and that from that contact he learned that the Burmese wanted a meeting either today or tomorrow.
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said he still intends to go to Burma. He is planning this trip almost from the first day he took Office. The visit will be scheduled when appropriate, and Mr Thaksin expects it to end all the problems and misunderstandings.
And so –now it seems- nobody in the Thai army and government can think of a good reason for the no-show of the Burmese.
We think that we can think of at least one reason, however.
As we reported last week, a Royal Project site within Thailand was shelled by the Burmese, therewith offending the Thai Royalty directly.
Thailand yesterday lodged a protest with the Burmese government over the shelling of the Royal Project.
The Burmese ambassador was summoned to receive a letter of protest. He was told that the shelling of the Royal Project site Doi Ang Khang last Tuesday "violated Thai sovereignty and territorial integrity, and provoked outrage among the Thai public, which holds such royal premises in supreme reverence".
The letter further stated: "The Royal Thai Government protests against the Government of the Union of Myanmar in the strongest terms for the above-mentioned violation, and strongly urges to take speedy action to remedy the situation, which is having a serious bearing on Thai-Myanmar relations". The fact that the protest came quite late was anticipated by a Ministry spokesman, by saying that the Ministry had to verify the facts first. The Burmese ambassador said he had made inquiries with authorities in Rangoon and in the field, who insisted that Burmese soldiers did not fire at Doi Ang Khang. A certain ethnic group might have been responsible, he said.
We do believe that this official protest by the Thais might be the reason why he Burmese did not turn up on the scheduled meeting to talk about the continuing border dispute. In our opinion it is not wise to make such a protest on the eve of scheduled "peace talks" and, however grave Thailand –and we- may find this shelling of a Royal Project site, it would have made more sense to protest right after the deed and not half a week later, as we said, on the eve of talks. The fact that the shelling had to be verified by the Thais could be a reason to wait with the protest for one or two days, but is no reason to wait for almost a week!


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Chavalit wants cheaper border actions

Posted by hasekamp on 28 May 2001 at 12:58 PM
Defense Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh thinks the Third Army is spending too much money to defend the Burmese border. The regular firings of artillery shells at foreign intruders is an expensive matter, he said. His solution would be to use snipers. They cost only a few bullets a head, and they should be able to stop the spilling of ammunition. We find this a strange proposition for a General, who is Defense Minister. Does he not want the country to protect its borders in the best possible way? And this becomes even stranger when one reads (as we published during he week-end) that the Prime Minister thinks that there will be a peaceful settlemet soon anyway!
Back to Gen Chavalit: According to the Ministry of Defense the Army spent several hundred millions of Bahts since February on ammunition plus allowances for Third Army personnel. And then there also is the fuel that is being used by Army vehicles...
The commander of the Third Army commander replied tro the Minister by saying that he and his men aimed at protecting national sovereignty. And –obviously- there is a price tag attached to this. He is not willing to stop his military duties (unless of course his military superiors should order him to do so).
The border situation in Chiang Rai's Mae Sai district and Chiang Mai remains tense, by the way. Burma has reinforced its troops at its side of the border again.


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Palm oil refiners are upset

Posted by hasekamp on 28 May 2001 at 12:51 PM
Palm oil manufacturers and refiners in Thailand are upset about the recent ban on the export of their product, that should be able to replace diesel fuel (partially).
They say that after years of working with the ministries of Commerce, Agriculture, Industry and Finance the bio-diesel project appears to be ending instead of beginning!
According to the palm oil refiners the Ministry of Commerce has recently even said that the cost of refining palm oil into bio-diesel is not commercially competitive. The ministry therefore terminated its budget for the project. The Ministry had no comment to Thai reporters on this issue.
The refiners say that bio-diesel would have prospects, if the price can be kept 1.5 Baht lower than regular diesel. In our opinion this is simply a matter of tax policy.
"Palm bio-diesel was never mentioned to be used in all diesel engines. It was created for a specific group such as farmers, planters and transporters", a spokesman from the palm oil refiners said. And there simply will never be enough palm oil in Thailand to replace diesel for all engines, according to the same spokesman.


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Two tons of caffeine seized

Posted by hasekamp on 27 May 2001 at 17:33 PM
Three people were arrested yesterday in Mae Sot district for possessing more than two tons of caffeine, police said. So, after the trafficking of speed pills and heroin, caffeine seems to be next. Although we should add immediately that caffeine is used in the speed pills production. The product was seized at a checkpoint in Mae Sot district. Police said the caffeine was to be smuggled out of Thailand, into Burma, for drug production there. This is a new direction for trafficking, it seems.
The traffickers were stopped at the checkpoint and the authorities found the caffeine powder in rice sacks and paper boxes.
The caffeine confiscated could have been used to manufacture up to 40 million speed pills.


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Solving the conflict with Burma?

Posted by hasekamp on 27 May 2001 at 17:29 PM
The Thai government, in particular the Foreign and Defense Ministries, is working hard to try to end border conflicts between Thailand and Burma (Myanmar) peacefully, but the problems need cautious solutions, according to Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
Mr Thaksin has visited the province of Udon Thani in the North-East. He said there that "the current border problems need cautious solutions, given their sensitive natures". We agree that the problems are sensitive and we think Mr Thaksin is too optimistic, but of course we cannot look behind the closed curtains of diplomacy.
Mr Thaksin thinks that a meeting of all parties concerned can be called for this week to settle things peacefully. He does not want to destroy the long-time bilateral relations between the two neighboring countries.
We wonder if things are so easy, given the fierceness of the recent problems, culminating in several military clashes and in occupying Thai territory by the Burmese. And even including the shelling of a Royal Project site.
Nevertheless Mr Thaksin believes that Rangoon also wants to end the conflict peacefully.
We will keep following this -as it seems- never-ending-story. It will be clear that we do not believe (at all) that the conflict can be settled on such a short term as Mr Thaksin believes.


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Phuket prawn farmer arrested again

Posted by hasekamp on 26 May 2001 at 12:31 PM
At last a new arrest has been made in the case of the murder of Phuket environmentalist Jurin Rachapol at the end of January. We have reported extensively about this case. Use our search box to find former news items.
Somsak Wongsawanond, the owner of the Wachara Prawn Farm near Thalang, has now been arrested on the charge of conspiracy to murder the environmental activist .
Although an employee of the Wachara Farm has been arrested in connection with the case at the farm on February 7 and was taken to Bangkok for further investigation, there apparently is no case against him. He was released on bail in November
Somsak, who had already been arrested foe the charges of illegally possession of a weapon and discharging a weapon in a public place, had been freed on bail, but was now arrested on the charge mentioned.
He earlier denied any involvement in the murder of Mr Jurin, but now he has been taken to Bangkok for further questioning.


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Gold shops to be checked

Posted by hasekamp on 26 May 2001 at 12:30 PM
We have always had confidence in the Thai gold shops, or at least in the vast majority of them, contrary to the jewelry shops. Are we wrong? The Consumer Protection Board will begin an inspection of gold and jewellery shops in the Yaowarat area on June 1 to check if quality is up to standard.
There have been complaints from tourists, particularly Chinese visitors, that several gold shops in Bangkok's Chinatown have sold substandard gold. We have always though this unlikely, because the gold shops buy back everything they have sold. Against day value, with work for making the articles (like chains) subtracted.
From 1 July on, all gold shops will be asked to place labels on each piece of jewelry that identifies the weight of gold and the components of each gold necklace or jewelry item.
Gold shop owners who fail to put labels on their products face a jail term of up to six months and/or a fine of up to 50,000 Baht. Manufacturers of substandard gold face a jail term of one year and/or a fine of up to 100,000 Baht. As usual we find these fines much too low!
Complaints can be made through 7-Eleven stores, which we find a non-obvious choice. "Go to the food store to complain about the gold shop!". Nevertheless we are very curious what will be the result of the inspection and/or of the complaints!


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Skytrain not to be expanded after all

Posted by hasekamp on 26 May 2001 at 12:29 PM
A few days ago we wrote that the Bangkok skytrain would be expanded (by the Chinese), and that the financial arrangements had been made. Now the Thai media publish that the expansion of the skytrain is very unlikely. No investor(s) have shown up. The plans were sent to 11 groups of contractors, that were involved in earlier electric train projects. Nobody showed interst, however.
It will be impossible to solve the problems: The cost is high, but the fares have to be low in order to attract more commuters, but low fares will never bring back the investment. And this situation is unattractive to both commuters and investors. As we reported, only 200,000 passengers a day use the skytrain, while 600,000 would be needed for a good exploitation. Bangkok governor Samak Sundaravej has suggested the state to issue bonds to raise money for the construction work but who would ever buy these bonds? We not, for certain and every Thai with common sense neither. So Mr Samak’s plan is just a castle in the air. We could as well suggest that Bangkok should finance its own skytrain expansion, but of course Mr Samak would answer that he would not like to make this investment. So why ask it from the population?


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Alien biological species give problems

Posted by hasekamp on 24 May 2001 at 16:17 PM
Thai experts have warned for an ecological disaster in Thailand if no action is taken to stop the "invasion" of alien species. Here no extra-terrestrial species are meant, but plants, animals or micro-organisms, that are not native in Thailand and that are brought into the country by accident or unintentionally.
A classic example of problems caused by alien species is the rabbit plague that once terrorized Australia, although we are not certain if those rabbits were imported "unintentionally" then.
On a seminar on World Biodiversity, held in Bangkok this week, a Thai expert said that the problem of invasive alien species has become a global concern.
In Thailand invasive alien plant and animal species are for instance the water hyacinth, BT cotton and Golden Apple snails. They all have caused serious environmental problems already.
Invasive alien species have a negative impact on the environment and even the economy, because they can emulate local species and damage crops. (Source: Public Relations Department of Thailand)


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Royal project site shelled by Burma

Posted by hasekamp on 24 May 2001 at 16:16 PM
We all know by now that there are problems at the borders between Thailand and Burma. But now the anger of the Thais is worse that ever: The -Rangoon supported- Red Wa have shelled a Royal Project site on Doi Angkhang in Chiang Mai's Fang district.
A protest letter from the local population is expected to be sent to the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs to be officially delivered to the Rangoon government.
Thousands of villagers from all sub-districts in Fang district have been rallying in front of the district office, in order to protest against Rangoon’s vile act.
The armed Red Wa group shelled the Doi Angkhang Royal Project from a Myanmar military base, with five mortar shells falling on plum plantations, located just about two kilometers from the Thai-Myanmar border. There were no casualties, but shelling a Royal Project is of course the worst anybody can do in this continuing border clashes.
Defense Minister Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh said Thailand and Burma should act urgently to clear up their border disputes.
He has said this before. The defense Minister is believed to be prepared to stop the active defense of the Thai border, and to start talks instead. He believes -it seems- that this could solve the problems. He has had a collision about this with the Army Chief already recently about this. We do not agree with Mr Chavalit here. We believe that Burma would occupy all strategic places within Thailand if Thailand should no longer strike back after every violation of Thai territory.
A team of Her Majesty the Queen's secretaries yesterday inspected the site.


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Going for the dogs

Posted by hasekamp on 23 May 2001 at 13:41 PM
Thai architects are still suffering under the economic crisis. Many people still can’t afford a new house. So what should architects do about this? As most of you probably know, Thais are very inventive where making money is concerned. Not for nothing it is often said that "Thai means business"!
A clever Thai architect, Ms Preechaya Suriyamat, has started to build dog houses now, for the well-to-do Thais, who want to have something special for their best friend.
She is designing and building dog kennels, with dormer windows, mosquito nets and tiled floors and (who knows) maybe even air-conditioning. Apparently the houses are meant for the dogs that have everything already...
"We thought about alternatives during the economic crisis and dog houses looked quite promising", the clever businesswoman said. And indeed she is making good money with her new business.
The cedar wooden doghouses, built by Ms Preechaya, cost between 9,000 and 18,000 Baht. Ms Preechaya now considers to start designing also for cats.


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Former Dutch ambassador fired

Posted by hasekamp on 22 May 2001 at 13:25 PM
The Foreign Ministry yesterday fired Mr Suseree Tavedikul, the former ambassador to the Netherlands, for the unauthorized signing of a document to sell Thai embassy property in The Hague. We have reported last year about this case. The legal proceedings before the Court in The Hague –in which the Thai government tries to prevent the transfer of property- are still pending. Use our search box to find more details about the case.
Mr Suseree has not only be fired, but he also loses his state pension. Mr Suseree was fired for serious breach of discipline deemed disgraceful and damaging to the Civil Service as a
whole. He can appeal within 30 to the Civil Service Commission. You can bet he will do so.
If the government loses the case now pending in The Hague, it may have to pay damages, and may also lose other property in the Netherlands that is not covered by diplomatic inviolability. In the pending Court case in The Hague, the government is calling on diplomatic immunity to prevent the sale of the properties. No date for the decision has been set yet.


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Herb that can cure cancer?

Posted by hasekamp on 22 May 2001 at 12:57 PM
In Thailand traditional herbal medicine is being promoted for a long time already. Now it is claimed that a locally grown herb is capable of inhibiting the growth of cancer cells in humans. This herb is known in Thailand as ya thewada or ya pakking, and in the Chinese Chao Zhou dialect as leng jue chao.
It is making big money for the farmers who grow it. They make 200,000 Baht a month with it! One farmer now has a (financially interesting) contract to supply Prachin Buri's Chao Phraya Aphai Phubet Hospital with the herb.
The herb takes three months to mature before it can be harvested.
Sadly no sources or other evidence for its claimed magical healing power are being given in the article, published by The Nation today!
Until we see some scientific evidence for its possibilities we will remain very skeptical. As can been seen from the above, the herb is only praised in the article because of the good financial prospects for the farmers who grow it!


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Skytrain to be extended by the Chinese

Posted by hasekamp on 21 May 2001 at 13:29 PM
The Skytrain operator, Bangkok Transit System Co (BTSC), is in financial problems. That is no news. However, rescue seems nearer now. Thanks to the visit of the Chinese PM, Shanghai Metro Construction Corp (SMCC), will now complete the planned new work on the system, adding 6 stations and 10 km of track to the skytrain. The extension will add eight kilometers and five stations to the Sukhumvit route, and the Silom line will be extended by two kilometers and one station.
BTSC will not be investing in the project itself, because it is practically broke. However, a bank-syndicate has agreed to finance the plan. BTSC will benefit directly from the extensions (it hopes). The current system does not reach enough of the city's residents, BTSC believes.
If the extended system will bring more (Thai) commuters in, remains to be seen, however, given the high price for a drive.
Now 240,000 commuters per day use the skytrain in Bangkok. Originally it was thought that 600,000 commuters would take it!
A different kind of train will also be built and supported by China: A high-speed train railway linking China and Thailand will be builyt. This was another success of the visit of the Chinese PM to Thailand.


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Studying through the Internet

Posted by hasekamp on 21 May 2001 at 11:28 AM
We have more than once concluded that Thailand is quite far ahead in making use of the Internet. What to think of the government’s plan to give every Thai (60,000,000 people!) an email address, coupled to his/her identity card?
Another example of using the Internet is following on-line courses. They are becoming increasingly popular in Thailand. Local celebrities like singer Tata Young and many government workers try to make promotion by following cyber-courses.
But now officials of the Ministry of University Affairs are concerned about the quality and education standards of these courses.
Ministry staff has monitored on-line courses, that offer qualifications ranging from simple course diplomas up to University doctorates. And they have found that many course providers were unable to prove the quality of their products.
"They just set up things to make customers feel they are getting something for their money", a Ministry spokesman said. For instance: It is hardly ever checked if the answers really come from the student who registered. Anyone can send in answers, with the approval of the student, after all!
And if he educational institute is foreign, there is no guarantee that the diploma will be recognized in Thailand.
Most on-line students are government officials who need degrees to get promotion and people who are too busy to attend ordinary classes at universities, like celebrity Tata Young.
Tata paid over a million Baht to study through the Internet for a diploma from a well-known university in the United States. Will this diploma be recognized in Thailand? We are not certain. After all we –like all of you- receive numerous emails with offers to buy a diploma without any examination! So, how to separate the bad from the good?
We hope that the Thai government will be able to find a way to do this. People who seriously study through the Internet should be stimulated. But indeed the ways to cheat (for students as well as learning institutions) are numerous!


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Illegal logging in Khao Yai National Park

Posted by hasekamp on 21 May 2001 at 10:57 AM
Sometimes one can get desperate by having to publish the same things again and again. Here is such an item.
Khao Yai National Park is under constant threat from greedy local factories for illegal logging. They hire illegal Cambodian laborers to cut sandalwood. Greed seems to be the only passion these factories know. Sandalwood is mainly won for its oil.
Eight Cambodians were arrested by forestry staff on Thursday for illegally logging of sandalwood. But these few arrests, of course, do not solve the problem. Tomorrow there will be new illegal Cambodians who take over the jobs. And if they get arrested too, there is a new replacement for them, and so on, and so on.
In the past forestry officials caught both local villagers and Cambodians for illegally felling sandalwood trees in the park. Now illegal Cambodians form the majority. For their employers the advantage of using these illegal Cambodians is that the employers do not have to take legal responsibility for them if they are being arrested.
Since February last year park officials arrested 208 illegal wood cutters. A total of nearly 2,000 kg of sandalwood was confiscated.
Sandalwood oil extract is big business. Each kilogram of aromatic sandalwood can be sold for 30,000-40,000 Baht at factories. And in the Middle East it even is worth more, because the extract is used for religious ceremonies.


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Chinese PM visits Thai Parliamentary leaders

Posted by hasekamp on 20 May 2001 at 15:59 PM
We reported a few days ago that the Chinese Prime Minster would visit Thailand. The Chinese PM is in Thailand at this moment. Mr Zhu Rongji is in the country in order to firm the traditionally good relations between China and Thailand. Today he will meet Thai Parliament leaders. Mr Zhu paid a visit to the House Speaker, Uthai Pimchaichon, and to the President of the Senate, Manoonkrit Roopkhachorn.
Mr Uthai told reporters that he and Zhu had discussed the drugs problems in the region. The Chinese Premier told him that China wants to give priority to the fight against drugs.
Zhu would like to see more cooperation among Asian countries to suppress drug trafficking.
Mr Manoonkrit said that Mr Zhu invited all member of the Thai parliament to visit China. The Chinese leader even offered to sponsor the trip.
As reported earlier, Mr Zhu will be granted a Royal audience with His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej. T%he audience will take place on Monday evening at the Palace in Hua Hin.
Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra plans to host a private dinner for Zhu at his mansion afterwards. Thailand also expects to intensify the trade ties with China as a result of the visit. Furthgermore a Chinese private firm has expressed its interest to invest in Thai railroad projects.


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Giant catfish saved from extinction

Posted by hasekamp on 20 May 2001 at 15:58 PM
Catfish is a popular dish on Thai dinner tables. It seems so popular, that extinction has to be feared. Therefore the Thai Department of Fisheries has started a project to save the giant catfish by trying to raise it in dug wells. This project has been successful. Third-generation fish has now been produced in a considerable amount.
The conservation project carried out for the giant catfish conservation involves the release of young fish into natural water sources, conducted every year. This year 5,000 fish were released onto the Mekong River in April. They have been bred through artificial insemination two years ago. Every fish that is being released has been marked, so that its whereabouts can be traced. Fish fry is also being sold to farmers.
According to the Department of Fisheries the project guarantees the survival of giant catfish now.
The giant catfish has been close to extinction in Thailand.


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Ban on palm oil export

Posted by hasekamp on 19 May 2001 at 13:22 PM
We have written repeatedly about fuels that consist (partly) of vegetable oils, that could replace gasoline or diesel.
Especially a fuel, containing palm oil, to replace diesel fuel ("bio-diesel") looks successful. So successful, that the Thai government will ban all export of palm oil, in order to keep it available for fuel within Thailand.
"This will not only help to boost palm prices in the country, which will benefit local farmers, but also promote and support the production of bio-diesel locally", a government spokesman said.
Final approval by the cabinet is expected very soon.
All parties concerned, the government, representatives of farmers and officials of the Petroleum Authority of Thailand (PTT), agree with the ban on export of palm oil. Palm oil have been proven to be good raw materials used to produce bio-diesel.
HM the King has entered a patent application on the subject, as we reported. We now believe -by the way- that there will be problems with the granting of that patent, because the product -as far as it does not consist for 100% of palm oil- seems not to be novel at the date of the application. The reports about mixtures of palm oil and diesel, to be used as "bio-diesel", were prior to the patent application by HM the King.
Other crops, like sugar cane, maize, and cassava have been found to be good for the production of "gasohol", an oil substitute which is the combination of gasoline and alcohol.
All these products are under intensive research in Thailand now, after a suggestion in that direction by HM the King, late last year.
Locally produced bio-diesel will initially be sold to state enterprises, with PTT to be authorized to be a key producer and distributor.


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Chained women found in Bangkok

Posted by hasekamp on 18 May 2001 at 15:05 PM
We are shocked again by reading that thirty women, who were forced into prostitution, were found in iron shackles yesterday by the police. The women were freed when police raided two houses in Lat Phrao district in Bangkok. Most of the women were hilltribe women from Northern Thailand, and some were from Burma.
Police found eighteen chained women in one house, "guarded" by four men. Twelve other women were found in a second house, "guarded" by two men.
Th man who forced the women into prostitution is called Kitti Torchaicharoenporn. This vile criminal paid 20,000 to 30,000 Baht per woman to her parents.
The women were accompanied by Kitti's "guards" when customers asked to have sex with the women at motels. The leader of the gang and his helpers were arrested.
We are convinced that the men who made use of the "services" of the women knew that these women did not serve them voluntarily. The women were under continuous surveillance, except -probably- during the act.
Can anybody be so ignorant to suppose that women under these circumstances are having sex with them voluntarily?
We therefore find the customers who abused these women equally criminal as the man who organized everything.
Luckily punishment is severe nowadays in Thailand for these crimes and we can be assured that Kitty and his helpers will have lots of time to think their behavior over, in an uncomfortable cell! Sadly it will be impossible to trace the clients.


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Thaksin to respect ruling

Posted by hasekamp on 18 May 2001 at 15:04 PM
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has said that he will respect whatever be the final verdict of the Constitutional Court, on his alleged giving an incorrect statement of his assets when he left the office of Cabinet Minister in 1997. The NCCC (National Counter Corruption Commission) found him guilty of giving an incorrect statement and Mr Thaksin appealed to the Constitutional Court. The Constitutional Court has the final word in the case.
(It would be strange, by the way, if a Prime Minister would not respect a ruling of the Constitutional Court in his country!)
Mr Thaksin told reporters that he would personally appear before the hearing of the Constitutional Court. He did not say when the hearing will take place. It can be expected soon, however, because the representatives of the NCCC have been heard already.
An NCCC spokesman told the Constitutional Court that Thaksin has submitted three reports of his assets and liabilities to the NCCC, one after he was appointed as deputy Prime Minister in the Chavalit Cabinet, the second when he left that office (in 1997), and the third one year after he left that office.
Mr Thaksin has transferred large amount of shares to members of his household staff and relatives, shortly before he submitted one or more of the three reports. The NCCC believes that he did so in order to conceal his wealth and therefore made false assets declarations.
If the Constitutional Court follows the NCCC ruling, the Thai leader will have to step down as Prime Minister and will be banned from any public office for five consecutive years.


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Economic newsflash

Posted by hasekamp on 17 May 2001 at 11:32 AM
Now and then we publish some key figures that give an indication of the economic situation in Thailand.
The exchange rate for the Baht is still low. One US$ will cost you 45.3 Baht or thereabouts today. Although the Baht has risen somewhat recently as a result of the Bank of Thailand's order to control non-resident accounts better, we will not become more optimistic before the US&$ will cost no more that 40-42 Baht. A rate of more than 45 gives us concerns about the economic situation.
The Bank of Thailand (BOT) yesterday asked banks to report every foreign-exchange transaction through non-resident accounts on a daily basis, to increase controls on currency speculation. As said, this has had a slight positive effect on the rate of the Baht.
The SET (Stock exchange of Thailand) index is at the moment almost exactly 300. It has been slightly higher in recent weeks, but it looks as if it is moving upward slowly again.


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New flooding in Phrae province

Posted by hasekamp on 17 May 2001 at 11:09 AM
New flash floods raged through Wang Chin district in Phrae province yesterday. In the beginning of May there also was serious flooding there. Heavy rains in the morning caused flooding in several villages.
This time no dead or wounded were reported. In the previous flooding 33 people were killed.
As we reported extensively in the beginning of May, the former flooding (and consequently also this flooding!) was caused by deforestation. We hope that the eyes of the authorities will be opened now that re-forestation is an urgent necessity and the only permanent solution. The local population also has voted to solve the problem by reforestation. Officials, however, are planning a dam and a draining system, that will cost hundreds of millions of Bahts, and that probably will not solve the problem permanently. We hope that this second "attack" will waken up the authorities to start reforestation immediately and stop planning costly and probably useless solutions!


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Alternative fuels to be certified

Posted by hasekamp on 17 May 2001 at 10:03 AM
We have reported several times about new car fuels, that have been tried out in Thailand during the past months, since HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej suggested that there should be a study about the use of these alternative fuels. HM also applied for a patent for the so called "bio-diesel", in which diesel fuiel is up to 100% replaced by a palm oil based product.
Now a systematic inspection of these new "bio-diesel" and "gasohol" formulas - where petroleum-based petrol is mixed with alternative fuels for at least 10% - will begin next week. The Department of Commercial Registration is in charge for this inspection.
Both types of new fuels have been used relatively much despite the lack of an official standard and certification. This should be amended now. Also service stations where bio-diesel or gasohol fuels are being sold will have to be registered.


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Thailand to go completely digital

Posted by hasekamp on 16 May 2001 at 13:05 PM
Thai News Agency reports that all 4,000 "tambons" (compare them to villages) in Thailland will be connected by the year 2003, when Internet connections will be available throughout the whole of Thailand. The Department of Local Administration said this yesterday.
The connection will be ready for the first 1,000 tambons this year, with the help of the Telephone Organization of Thailand. There a budget of 68 million Baht for that. The remaining 3,000 tambons will be linked through the Internet in the following year.
Another new development is, that all Thais will have an email address soon. Free email addresses will be provided to those who apply for or renew their (compulsory) ID cards in the near future, and this means that within five years (the term of validity of these cards) all Thai people will have email accounts. Mind you, this means that servers are planned to hold sixty million new emeil accounts!
We believe that -provided this ambitious plan succeeds- Thailand will then be the first country in the World, with an email address for every citizen!
Those granted an account could check it online, through the website http://www.dola.go.th and they could make certain changes there.
The new email accounts will start with a letter P and be followed by a 13-digit number. Six millions accounts will be delivered each year. The distribution of the first lot is scheduled for next year.


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Border situation more tense again

Posted by hasekamp on 15 May 2001 at 11:01 AM
The border dispute between Thailand and Burma has worsened again. Now the authorities in Rangoon want the withdrawal of Thai troops from thirty-five outposts within Thai territory! If the border posts -that hinder the Burmese drugs production and trafficking activities- are not moved, the Burmese have threatened with new military actions.
The Thai Foreign Minister has summoned the Burmese ambassador in Bangkok, in order to have him receive a letter of protest.
After all Burmese troops and Rangoon supported groups have intruded into Thai territory once too often during recent months.
The Foreign Minister said that the Thai army was certain that all thirty-five of its outposts were on Thai soil.
He said any disputes should be resolved by a joint border committee rather than the threat of force.
Both parties have proven not to be willing to resolve the differences with talks, so what is next?


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Audience for Chinese Prime Minister

Posted by hasekamp on 14 May 2001 at 15:47 PM
Their Majesties King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit of Thailand will grant an audience to Chinese Prime Minister Zhu Rong Ji, who will pay an official visit to Thailand later this week between 19 and 22 May, according to an official report from the Palace.
HM Queen Siritkit has officially visited China last year, as we reported than. Relations between Thailand and China have traditionally been good.
It will be the Chinese Premier’s first official visit to Thailand since he took office.
The Chinese Premier’s trip to Thailand is aimed at enhancing ties and cooperation in all areas between the two Asian countries, the official statement says .
Zhu is scheduled to hold talks with his Thai "colleague" Thaksin Shinawatra, and he will visit the President and Vice President of the Thai parliament.
He will also meet Chinese business persons and visit Chinese communities in the kingdom, according to the official report.


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Wisuth not ready for an interview

Posted by hasekamp on 13 May 2001 at 14:42 PM
The Bangkok press yesterday asked murder suspect Dr Wisuth Boonkasemsanti to make a statement, following his release after prosecutors had decided to dismiss the case against him regarding the death of his wife, Dr Passaporn Boonkasemsanti.
Reporters gathered around Wisuth’s house and were waiting to hear his side of the story. So far he has denied all the charges. Reporters said they have a duty to report the news and to keep society informed.
Wisuth replied with a brief note, saying that he was not ready to give an interview and did not plan to do so in the immediate future.
In the meantime the Prosecutor’s Office persist in not bringing Wisuth to court. A spokesman said: "Police have 20 years to collect evidence sufficient for Wisuth's prosecution before the statute of limitations expires". The spokesman further said that
the police had failed to determine how the murder was committed and what linked Wisuth to the crime. The evidence only dealt with the carving up of the body - not with the killing itself.
Even if this should be the case, we wonder if cutting up one’s wife and draining her through the toilet -apart from the actual killing- is not enough to bring a person to court in Thailand. Although the police are trying to gather more evidence, we believe that the prosecutor will not be satisfied before he sees a witness of the murder.
Our more extensive opinion about the case has been given in an extensive editorial, published yesterday.


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How to continue in Phrae?

Posted by hasekamp on 13 May 2001 at 14:39 PM
In our latest report on the flooding in Phrae province, in Northern Thailand, we emphasized, the flooding being caused by deforestation, that re-forestation would be the only serious alternative to rehabilitate the area. We now find the Forestry Department at our side.
Authorities, however, plan to rehabilitate flood-hit areas in with a dam and a large-scale drainage system.
The proposed drainage project would comprise river excavation and construction of check dams and 10 small reservoirs. This plan would cost 1,500 million Baht. In our opinion that money would be thrown away completely if it had to replace re-forestation. As said, this also is the opinion of the Forestry Department. And local villagers are also opposed against the drainage plan.
"The drainage scheme is contrary to the Forestry Department's strategy. We are trying to keep water in the watershed area by recovering the forests, but Phrae officials and the Irrigation Department want to drain it away", an official of the Forestry Department said yesterday. He emphasized that the rehabilitation and future flood prevention plan should focus on forest recovery.
A community leader from a village that was hit by flash floods 12 years ago, suggested that the people of the area hit in Phrae province now should choose a group of representatives to deal with the officials. It seems to be difficult to convince officials that their plans are not the best solution, when they already have made them!
We believe that reforestation, that would only cost a fraction of what the ambitious drainage plans would cost, are the only permanent solution for the problems. We are vary happy not only to find the Forestry Department at our side, but also the local population. We hope that they will -together- be strong enough to convince officials that their plans, though they may help the building-lobby, are no good for the area!


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The Wisuth case. (Editorial)

Posted by hasekamp on 12 May 2001 at 12:41 PM
Now that the police has asked the prosecutors to reconsider their decision not to bring Dr Wisuth to court, and now that the relatives of his murdered wife (Dr Phassaporn Boonkasemsant) also will go to the prosecutors to ask them to bring Wisuth to court after all, what can we expect next?
We are not familiar enough with Thai penal law to know if an appeal against the prosecutor’s decision is possible, but supposing that the prosecutors have the last word in bringing somebody to court, we will analyze the situation.
We will give a short summary of the facts first (for all the information enter "wisuth" in our search box): The (estranged) wife of Dr Wisuth disappeared some time ago. Pieces of human flesh were found in the septic tanks of two hotels where Dr Wisuth has stayed shortly after his wife disappeared. Those pieces of human flesh were identified with DNA tests to have belonged to the body of Dr Phassaporn. In total 3.3 kg of human flesh was recovered. No skeleton has been found so far, however.
All police trails led to Dr Wisuth and he was arrested for having murdered his wife. In the meantime a supporting group of patients and colleagues of Dr Wisuth appeared to exist and they pleaded his innocence in the Thai media. This put some extra pressure on the police.
The police questioned Dr Wisuth and he denied having to do anything with the "disappearance" of his wife. Nevertheless the police thought they had a solid case and sent it to the prosecutors. They, however, thought the proof too meager, because there were no witnesses. Now Wisuth is a free man again and a bouquet of flowers from Chulalongkorn hospital colleagues was delivered at his home yesterday.
What is our opinion so far? In the first place we think -as we have written twice- that the prosecutors should bring any serious case like this one to court anyway, even if the proof does not look 100% solid. In case of doubt these serious cases should be brought to court. A case like this one should not end here and go into history as one of (many) unsolved crimes.
We remind our readers of the fact that a similar murder took place a few years ago, when a student murdered his girlfriend, cut her up in pieces and threw her pieces into the toilet, where they ended up in exactly the same septic tank as the remains of Dr Phassaporn! This student was convicted for murder. Were there witnesses then? Definitely not! There was a confession then -as far as we remember- but the sole difference of a confession, with for the rest similar evidence, can never be decisive for not bringing somebody to court. No legal system will convict somebody solely on his confession.
So what next? Now we see just a few possibilities here: It may be that Dr Wisuth has influential friends and has handed them over some money. There is no evidence whatsoever that this was the case here, but these things happen. The poor student of a few years ago definitely did not have this possibility.
Then there is of course the possibility that Dr Wisuth is not guilty, despite the evidence against him, as gathered by the police. We see no reason -for the sake of Justice- not to bring him to court in that case. He could clear his record in court. Now his legal guilt can never be tried by the only authority to do so: the Judge. The relatives of his late wife would get some satisfaction from the trial then, even if he would not be convicted.
Now the relatives of Ms Phassaporn do not have any legal action left (if the prosecutor does not reconsider his decision). They could only use illegal means to get their satisfaction. And Dr Phassaporn being a specialized doctor too, it is doubtful if they would choose that way. For the sake of completeness we will nevertheless point at this way.
In Thailand one can hire somebody to remove somebody from the soil of the earth for good, in exchange for a fee of -say- 100,000 Baht. The relatives of Dr Phassaporn could still consider to use this way.
It is possible that in their last desperate effort they will choose it. Should therefore the body of Dr Wisuth be found during the next few weeks, we would not believe in an accident. We would, however, remind our readers to this editorial!


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Now Burma accuses Thailand of intrusion

Posted by hasekamp on 11 May 2001 at 17:57 PM
After the Thai Third Army had driven away on Thursday Burmese intruders who had settled on Thai territory a few days before (as we reported), Burma accused Thailand of having launched air strikes on Burmese territory. This seems to be the way the Thai and Burmese neighbors talk to each other. Accusing and re-accusing.
"Thailand was unnecessarily escalating and aggravating the prevailing unhappy situation on certain areas of the common border", a senior spokesman for the Rangoon junta said in a statement.
A spokesman from the Thai Third Army denied that it had used air strikes to dislodge the United Wa State Army (UWSA).
Relations between Burma and Thailand have been tense since February. Several clashed took place since, and the Burmese intruded into Thailand several times.
If a diplomatic solution is not being found soon, these border clashes and mutual accusation might go on for years.


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WWF: Ivory trade puts elephants at risk

Posted by hasekamp on 11 May 2001 at 17:38 PM
As our regular readers will know, we always give some extra emphasis on news items related to environmental issues, in particular wildlife issues. This is such an issue.
The ivory trade continues to put the Asian elephant in danger, says the World Wildlife Fund, Thailand department. Ivory still is the most sought-after illicit wildlife good, a WWF spokesman said.
The WWF checked -among others- 18 border trading points (Laos, Burma and Cambodia), 189 hotels in Bangkok, souvenir shops and tourist spots. It appeared that ivory products were sold in 80% of the surveyed sites.
The Asian elephant is listed on Appendix I of the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites), which prohibits all trade in the species, dead or alive, including souvenir products.
The maximum penalty for traders of illegal ivory is (just) four years in prison or a fine of 40,000 Baht, or both. We believe that these penalties are far too low, considering how much money can be made (and is being made) in the ivory trade.
Furthermore officials cannot arrest ivory traders or owners if they claim the ivory was taken from domestic elephants, not wild elephants. And of course it is impossible to distinguish between wild and captive elephant ivory. In Thailand there are some 2,000 wild elephants and 3,000 domesticated elephants.
Thai Cabinet, this is what Hasekamp Net asks you: See that the penalties for violating the Cites are adapted in such a way, that ivory traders become afraid of them! We have had to report so many times already about the Asian elephant in Thailand being in danger, that it is becoming high time that somebody hears our plea fore this great animal!


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Police outraged about doctor being set free

Posted by hasekamp on 11 May 2001 at 17:38 PM
According to The Nation the Thai police was "fuming" after prosecutors said there was insufficient evidence to prove Dr Wisuth had killed and cut up his estranged wife Phassaporn. Dr Wisuth therefore walked free out of his cell on Wednesday night. The prosecutors missed a witness, they said.
The decision not only left the police fuming, it also upset the relatives of Dr Wisuthh’s wife.
Although Phassaporn’s body has not been found completely (most of the flesh and the skeleton are still missing) police made DNA tests that proved that more than three kilograms of found human flesh where pieces that had belonged to Phassaporn’s body.
The police case was also built on other evidence. There was a closed circuit TV recording, showing Wisuth assisting Phassaporn, who appeared to be very unsteady on her feet, out of a Japanese restaurant on the day she disappeared.
On that same day Wisuth bought big black garbage bags and deodorants. And just before his wife’s disappearance, he signed off for 50 tablets of the powerful sedative Domicum from the Chulalongkorn Hospital drug room.
A police spokesman said: "We gave them everything except a front row witness to the murder". The police will ask the prosecutors to reconsider the case.
Prosecutors said they believed Phassaporn was now dead, but described evidence against Wisuth as circumstantial. The 500 pages police report nevertheless cites testimonies by 55 witnesses, though -indeed- no "front row" witnesses to the murder. We have reported several times before about the case. We wonder what murder case ever produces direct witnesses to the act. We therefore hope too (as we reported recently already) that the prosecutors will give the judges a chance to study the case, by bringing it to court.


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Doctor will not go to court

Posted by hasekamp on 10 May 2001 at 13:53 PM
Dr Wisuth Boonkasemsanti, who allegedly killed his wife and cut her up into pieces, of which more than 3 kilograms of human flesh was found back in septic tanks, will not stand trial, because of lack of witnesses. This is what the public prosecutor’s office made public yesterday.
Prosecutors say the lack of witnesses made the police case (mainly based on DNA tests) unconvincing.
Police are very disappointed that their work for months is being thrown through the drain now.
We wonder what kind of witnesses tea prosecutors office wants. Witnesses of the killing, of the cutting up, or what? It will be very hard, if not impossible to find these witnesses, so why not give the judges a chance to give their opinion? The woman has been killed, that is certain. The husband was at the places where the pieces of flesh were found, that is certain too (confirmed by witnesses, by the way) and there are no likely suspects, except Dr Wisuth, who lived estranged from his (now dead) wife.


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More eco-tourism for Mae Hong Son

Posted by hasekamp on 10 May 2001 at 13:48 PM
There are two main reasons for tourists to visit Mae Hong Son Province in (far) Northern Thailand: the Karen "longnecks&quiot; and eco-tourism trips. The Research Promotion Fund (RPF) –whatever that may be precisely- have recommended that Mae Hong Son should concentrate more on eco-tourism. The longnecks are loosing in popularity. It would not surprise us if one of the of the reasons for this decreasing popularity is the fact that on entering the longneck village tourists have to buy a "visa" for several hundreds of Bahts, before they are allowed to enter. This form of legal theft is not very popular with tourists, at least not with us and our visitors!
Local authorities have noticed that the natural sites, such as Tung Bua Tong hill, covered with wild sunflowers in the right season, are becoming favorite sites for travelers. Sadly these natural attractions are now suffering from pollution.
Therefore local officials also suggested that the province’s tourism strategy should be revised in order to save the natural sites in the province.
As long as these new schemes also aim at reducing pollution, we agree with them. If it is just a seeking for alternatives because of the lacking interest in the money-eager longnecks, we do not think that any positive effect will be achieved.


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Phrae flooding: now 29 dead

Posted by hasekamp on 9 May 2001 at 11:34 AM
Twenty-nine people have been confirmed dead the after flash flood of last week. Interior Minister Purachai Piemsomboon visited the area yesterday and promised government help. He said 11 people were still missing and 193 houses destroyed.
The Local Administration Department will supply house plans for the construction of new homes for flood victims. They would cost no more than 60,000 Baht each.
Mr Purachai also said that discussions will be held on the planned construction of the controversial Kaeng Sua Ten dam, which might help prevent floods in the province.
Of course the victims of the flooding need support and we are glad that they get it. But what we are missing in the measures published is a plan to re-forest the area to prevent future flooding.
Contrary: as we wrote above, there is a plan to build a dam instead. We strongly oppose against this plan. As we were able to publish earlier, the cause of the flooding was deforestation and nothing else. So, measures to prevent future flooding should use this knowledge as a starting point.


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Drug talks in Rangoon

Posted by hasekamp on 8 May 2001 at 12:15 PM
Ministers and senior officials from six countries (Burma, Thailand, China, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam) will begin a four-day meeting on fighting the drug trade in Rangoon today. As should be known to our readers by now, the drugs trafficking from Burma into Thailand is a major concern for the country.
The meeting is being sponsored by the UN International Drug Control Program. The chief Thai delegate will be Thammarak Issarangkura na Ayutthaya, the PM's Office minister in charge of drug suppression.
The UNDCP hopes for concrete agreements, to help Thailand and its five neighbors to fight the ever increasing trafficking and production of speed pills and heroin within Burma.
Since a few weeks not only speed pills, but more and more heroin is seized by Thai border forces. It is therefore feared that the heroin trade will take larger proportions in Thailand. This Sunday –to give an example- 24.5 kg heroin was seized.
With (mostly minor) border incidents, the situation is becoming more and more tense along the borders of Thailand.
As will be revealed during the talks, Burma is now the world's leading producer of opium and heroin.
Rangoon remains pro-United Wa State Army (the main producers of drugs in Burma) and Rangoon recently defended these drugs producers against evidence that they are the world's largest producer of speed pills.
This being a fact, not much can be expected from these talks. However, the fact that Thailand and its neighbors are talking to Rangoon about this delicate matter is considered by us as a positive development.


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Red Wa settle on Thai territory (updated)

Posted by hasekamp on 8 May 2001 at 12:14 PM
Army chief Surayud Chulanont has ordered "drastic measures" against pro-Rangoon United Wa State Army (USWA) troops. The Wa State Army has set up an outpost on Thai territory. The Third Army is preparing an offensive now.
At least 30 armed UWSA soldiers, or Red Wa, crossed the border with Thailand yesterday and set up a position 400m inside Thailand.
Last Friday Red Wa soldiers also moved into the area and refused to retreat when ordered to leave Thailand. They retreated only after the Thai military fired eight smoke, followed by 10 high explosive rounds. They returned yesterday, as stated, and this time warning had no effect. So it looks like there is going to be a "mini war" between Thailand and itsd neighbor Burma one of these days.
Army chief Gen Surayud had instructed the Third Army to drive the intruders out, a spokesman said.
Gen Chavalit, the Defense Minister, is said to favor a softer approach. Experience learns, however, that in situations like this, the Army can mostly comvince the Minister that intervention is "necessary".
According to the latest reports the Third Army will mount a full military strike on Tuesday, after a heavy artillery bombardment failed to remove Burmese troops and United Wa State Army allies from Thai territory.


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Thai films increasingly popular (in Thailand)

Posted by hasekamp on 7 May 2001 at 18:51 PM
Thai films are becoming more popular with the Thai by movie-goers. This has led for the local film industry to raise their expected box office sales this year to one billion Baht.
This is five times the box office assets last year. Now Thai films are more popular than their Hollywood counterparts in local earnings!
A total of 12 Thai films are expected to be released this year. The historical epic Bang Rajan, the drama comedy Killer Tattoo and the erotic Mae Bia are expected to top the bills.
Later this year another film, historical epic Suriyothai, also has high expectations. Suriyothai may even break the box office record of Titanic in 1997. Titanic was a such a big hit in Thailand, that some called it "Thaitanic"!


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Elephants a problem in Phuket

Posted by hasekamp on 7 May 2001 at 18:50 PM
The uncontrolled use of elephants for trekking tours is affecting the lives of local people and damaging the environment on Phuket Island.
About 30 tour operators currently use about 200 elephants to provide rides for tourists in Phuket. Local residents have complained about elephants littering the streets and about accidents, caused by elephants as they walk along the roads at night.
Teachers from a school in Rawai (near the South Phuket Island) have filed a complaint with the local administration after students were frightened by elephants roaming around their school.
The owner of the elephants was ordered to move them before 1 May, but the order was ignored by the elephant owner.
Residents are also concerned that a nearby canal will become polluted by elephant dung.
Owners who work with their elephants to give tourists rides along beaches are now being asked to stop the service, because the beasts damage coral reefs and polluted the sea. (We wonder how!)
Many officials are bothering themselves now with the problem, and we fear that there will be just one looser: The elephant, once the pride of Siam, now a tourist attraction and if it causes too much problem, nobody’s friend! We hope that some elephant protection organization will help to find a solution that also is acceptable for the elephants!


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Polluted ground to go where?

Posted by hasekamp on 6 May 2001 at 14:13 PM
We have reported several times about the small Karen village of Klity Kreek, where villagers have been lead-poisoned because of a badly rum lead producing factory.
It has been decided since that the poisoned ground will be removed, of -if that appears to be impossible- the people have ton be moved instead.
The Pollution Control Department has now decided that it will not allow then Forestry Department to use forest reserve land to bury the lead-contaminated sediment from Klity Creek in Thung Yai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary.
"The department should not waste time requesting the use of land. I would never let such a dangerous activity take place in a forest reserve", a spokesman said.
"There is nothing that the Forestry Department needs to be afraid of. The sediment was just contaminated with lead. It is not hazardous waste.", an official of the Pollution Control Department said.
We believe that the factory that cause the pollution has to remove it at its own expenses, under the control of the Forestry Department.


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Government follows King in palm oil plan

Posted by hasekamp on 6 May 2001 at 14:12 PM
Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra will follow King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s initiative to use palm oil mix with diesel as an alternative and cheaper fuel for diesel engines. Well let us be honest: Who had expected anything else? Hi Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej last week has applied for a patent with the Intellectual Property Department, to use palm oil as an alternative fuel, as we reported.
The patent application states that palm oil can be used as a substitute for regular diesel fuel without modifying the engines, possibly up to 100%.
Mr Thaksin said the government will encourage the growing of palm trees and the production of palm oil to use under the King’s idea. It remains to be seen how much palm oil for this purpose can be produced by Thailand!
Palm oil is also part of a formula of the so-called "bio-diesel" which is another alternative fuel initiative, that has been reported on this page.


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Flooding was caused by deforestation

Posted by hasekamp on 6 May 2001 at 14:11 PM
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said that the destruction of forests on nearby mountains had contributed to -if not caused completely- the fatal flooding in Phrae province a few days ago (see our earlier report). This also is the official point of view of the government.
Mr Thaksin has told the Forestry Department to devise a plan to end illegal logging there. This is easier said than done, of course.
We are happy that the real cause of the flooding has been published by all the major Thai news media today. Flooding is often caused by deforestation, but local residents often do not want to believe this. They think that their habitat can be stolen from Nature, which of course is not the case. We hope that Thailand will not share itself from now on in the row of countries that have deforested their land so far, that annual flooding with hundreds of dead will become the rule.
As far as the flooding in Phrae province is concerned, one should realize that the people there are to blame solely!
There have been attempts in the (recent) past to stop the illegal logging, but villagers saw it as a way of making good income and only saw the money, not the risks. Even politicians at various levels can be held responsible for the irresponsible logging. So, if the villagers do not stop cutting trees, they can expect annual flooding from now on and we will not feel sorry for them any more.


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Serious flooding in the North

Posted by hasekamp on 4 May 2001 at 18:27 PM
Did Thailand see several floodings in the South in recent months, now the North gets its share.
According to the latest reports 22 people died and 30 are missing after a flash flood, caused by heavy rainfall, in villages in Wang Chin district in Phrae province.
People from the villages that were hit have to be evacuated, because in some of them the water has risen as high as two meters.
More rain is expected by the MET office. The rains started on Tuesday already, but most people either did not pay attention to the warnings. This enormous rainfall is unprecedented in Phrae province. The Interior Ministry has said that about 120 houses were swept away.


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Herbal medicine to be further promoted

Posted by hasekamp on 4 May 2001 at 18:27 PM
All the about 800 hospitals that are under the supervision of the Public Health Ministry have been instructed to promote the use of traditional medicine and herbs in health care.
The Public Health Minister wants to cut medicine imports in that way. Thailand imports yearly medicines from abroad for around 10 billion Baht. The Minister wants to support the use of traditional Thai medicine and herbs not only for health benefit, but also to solve economic problem. With the 30 Baht health-scheme coming up (and started already in several provinces) the cost of medical care will play an important role in government spending.
Provincial public health offices will supervise and control the quality of the products to be used in the 30 Baht program, in order to ensure safety of the patients.


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New patent application by HM the King

Posted by hasekamp on 4 May 2001 at 18:26 PM
His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej has applied for a patent on his new initiative to use pure palm oil, which is a locally found natural resource, as an alternative fuel for diesel engines, according to a senior official at the Intellectual Property Department. As car as we know this is the second time HM applies for a patent. The first application was for the Chai Pattana Wqater Aerator, that can be seen on our page about HM the King.
Deputy Director-General Santi Rattanasuwan, in his capacity as the department’s spokesman, said diesel oil is not only imported at high prices, but it also causes pollution. The patent application By HM would solve both problems. This is being done by using pure palm oil as an alternative fuel for diesel engines. The first experiments proved successful as it found that the palm oil has enough quality to substitute for diesel oil completely.
The King’s application for the patent states pure palm oil could either completely substitute or could be mixed with diesel oil in any proportion as an alternative fuel for diesel engines. No modification of engines is needed before the fuel is used.
Mr Santi said the department officially advertised the King’s application on April 18 in order to keep the public informed of his useful initiative on the matter.
We do not want to comment on the possible legal problems on patenting this idea before the Thai Department of Intellectual Property has given its decision. And doubtless the decision will be positive! Would Mr Santi or his staff dare to refuse a patent to HM the King? Of course not!
Whenever the patent, or more details about it, has been published, we hope to come back to it.


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More ethanol based car fuels wanted

Posted by hasekamp on 3 May 2001 at 11:42 AM
Since HM the King said in his latest birthday speech that more ethanol-based fuels should be used in Thailand, several initiatives in this direction have been developed. We believe that we have reported about all of them. Now the government wants to go further:
Private companies that are interested in producing crop-based ethanol as an alternative fuel for motor vehicles are being invited to submit their investment proposals. The National Ethanol Development Committee is organizing this.
The project should help to fight rising oil prices, reduce air pollution and give farm products a better access to the market.
No deadline had been set for submissions, so the project will last as long as it gives useful results. However, once the combined daily ethanol production capacity, based on accepted new proposals, has reached two million liters, the project is planned to be terminated. This is estimated to be the case in about three years.
As soon as the mentioned capacity has been reached, the committee will ask the government to stop importing methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE), an octane-boosting additive in car fuel, because ethanol itself is also an octane booster.
The committee wants to be the "gasohol" price one Baht per liter cheaper than the normal gasoline price.
The Agriculture Ministry is involved in the project, because it will plan the production of crops that are suitable for ethanol production.
The Finance Ministry is also involved, because it will see that excise tax on ethanol to be used for gasoline will be reduced and the excise tax on gasohol should be reduced too.


Category: Default

Greenpeace wants more than food labels

Posted by hasekamp on 3 May 2001 at 11:24 AM
Lately the Thai public was notified by Greenpeace that unlabeled genetically modified food is being sold in Thailand. We have reported this. This was followed by a discussion if genetically modified products should be labeled clearly.
Now Greenpeace finds labeling not a strong enough measure to protect consumers from genetically modified food. The organization finds that consumers should know first how to avoid buying and eating genetically modified food. Therefore Greenpeace yesterday started to distribute a consumer guide called "Seven Steps to Avoid GM Food" in the Silom area in Bangkok.
The seven steps are: 1- buy fresh products; 2- avoid food products made from soy beans, corn or canola; 3- beware of processed food imports from the US and Canada; 4- check with manufacturers if their products contain GMO's; 5- push for GM food labeling; 6- support supermarkets that oppose GMO’s; and 7- support Thai and organic food products.
One might say, reading these "instructions" to consumers, that Greenpeace is starting a war against genetically modified food. We support this war, as far as it is aimed to let consumers know what they eat, and as far as it leads to giving the Thai consumers a free choice if they want to eat genetically modified products or not. Tolerating genetically modified products on the market, without consumers letting to know this, is unacceptable, anywhere in the World.


Category: Default

Twelve more executions. This time not on TV

Posted by hasekamp on 2 May 2001 at 11:24 AM
The Corrections Department plans to execute another 12 drug and murder convicts on death row as soon as their petitions seeking a Royal pardon are rejected by the Royal Household Bureau.
A spokesman for the Corrections Department said today that five of the inmates were found guilty of drug trafficking while the others were convicted of murders.
This time journalists will not be allowed to take pictures or video images of the executions, like a few weeks ago when five men were executed. No reason for this sudden change in publicity was given. Maybe the Thai government has learned (from other countries) that this way to draw attention to executions is not the best way to promote Thailand as a civilized country.


Category: Default

Workshop about the future of Phuket

Posted by hasekamp on 2 May 2001 at 11:23 AM
The Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment will host a workshop on environmental problems which is the result of the tourism industry in the famous island resort of Phuket in the southern part of Thailand.
Although this news message (published by Thai News Agency) is very short, we are convinced that this workshop is urgent. In Phuket more and more hotels, resorts, tourist attractions and the like are rising out of the soil like mushrooms and if nothing will be done soon, the island will become very unattractive, if not inhabitable.
The environment is highly neglected, the police is partly corrupt (as the Phuket Gazette recently reported) and the island is dominated by a small group of extremely rich people.
We have written an editorial some time ago about Phuket. We are very concerned about the future of the island. Only money seems to count there at the moment. On the short term this may work, but on the longer term tourists will seek other destinations and all those hotels, towering above the island, will remain empty.
We hope that this workshop will be able to regulate the tourist industry, and have a good eye for the environment. We also hope that this workshop will lead to visible results.


Category: Default

Brain surgery on conscious patients

Posted by hasekamp on 1 May 2001 at 15:21 PM
Thai surgeons of Siriraj Hospital have succeeded in open brain surgery on conscious patients ("brain mapping surgery"), a spokesman of the hospital said. The hospital initiated the technique September last year and has successfully conducted it in six patients since then.
Doctor Sarun Nunta-aree, who initiated the new method, told reporters that the brain mapping surgery has enabled doctors to clearly locate the area of a brain tumor, and to completely remove it through surgery when it has been located precisely with the help of the conscious patient.
Under this newly-developed method patients do only have to be temporarily made unconscious. The patients will then be awakened, and the doctors will continue the operation by using a micro-electrode to map the patient's brain. The micro-electrode will stimulate various parts of the brain to ensure that the patient's movement, speech, and movement of hands and legs are not affected negatively by the surgery.
This news was reported by Thai News Agency. The report does not state if this technique has ever been used in other countries. In Thailand the technique is only being used in Siriraj Hospital in Bangkok. Patients that have been operated through this new tecnique are very positive about the way they felt during the operation and about the results, as they perceive them.


Category: Default

Thailand wants to become top gems exporter

Posted by hasekamp on 1 May 2001 at 14:04 PM
Again the government publishes that Thailand wants to be within the top 5 of the World in gems exporting. Both the public and private sectors want to cooperate in achieving this aim, to be reached within ten years.
The Permanent Secretary for Commerce now said that, to achieve this goal, a clear vision and development strategy for the industry are needed.
Also the National Institute for Research and Development of Gems and Ornaments will have to make constant analysis and inspections of gems to be exported, to uphold the quality. And furthermore constant research and development of product designs will be needed.
Thailand is currently the seventh largest supplier of gems in the world, and the fourth in Asia.
What we miss (again) in this news item, based on a publication by the Public Relations Department, is the need to eliminate scams from the gems trade first. We could report not so long ago that the government had plans to do so, but we have not read about any concrete action since, and now too we miss this aspect too.
Tourists are overcharged by almost 100% in comparison to Thais in large jewelry shops. This leads to many complaints with the tourist police and to a bad name of the gems trade in Thailand. As long as this issue has not been solved for good, Thailand will keep that bad name. And with that name a place on the World top five would not be justified!


Category: Default

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