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Closing of Sanam Luang called successful

Posted by hasekamp on 31 August 2001 at 14:10 PM
The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) said that its closing of Sanam Luang between 11 pm and 5 am, which has been effective since 1 August, is a success.
The chief of Phra Nakhon district, which has jurisdiction over Sanam Luang, said the ban has brought order and tidiness to the area. Vagabonds, the homeless and prostitutes stay away now, he said.
There have been a few violations of the ban only. The homeless are given shelter in centers run by the Department of Public Welfare. If necessary tents are also available to give shelter to people without a place to go. (Source: The Nation)


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AIDS now supposed to be death cause number one

Posted by hasekamp on 31 August 2001 at 14:09 PM
A senior health official said yesterday that AIDS has become the first cause of death in Thailand now. It has overtaken cancer, accidents and heart diseases, he said.
However, the Public Health Ministry did not give exact figures. Therefore it might be just a publicity campaign to warn people to be careful or even a way to get more money from the UN AIDS fund. The goverment did indeed claim more money from the UN fund.
Although we do not doubt that AIDS is a big threat for Thailand, the Ministry can be expected to produce exact figures, before seeking publicity with vague statements. We find this issue too serious to be handled like this.
One reason the Ministry gives for not publishing exact figures is, that kamnans (village heads) often report "the heart stopped beating" as the death cause, which can be understood such, that a heart disease was the cause of death. However, if the Ministry is aware of this, why does it not make an investigation instead of supposing that other diseases (in the first place AIDS) were the cause of death? (Source: The Nation)


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Shark fins go to court (updated)

Posted by hasekamp on 31 August 2001 at 14:07 PM
All Thai media, and most international news sites report that the owners of Chinese restaurants in Bangkok's Chinatown are considering a court action. We have reported about alleged poisonous substances in shark fin soup before, after an American environmentalist group Wild Aid had published that the soup contained mercury. A group of 15 restaurants said they had lost over 100 million Baht in sales after the report. Now they want to go to court.
For what, we wonder. They would have to prove, to the satisfaction of the court, that the soup they serve does contain virtually no mercury, which seems impossible, or –in legal terms– a "probatio diabolico" (a devilish proof).
Wild Aid has said that shark fins, that are exported mainly from Hong Kong and sold in restaurants throughout Asia, contained dangerously high levels of mercury. Levels of mercury found in shark fins for sale in Thailand were as much as 42 times more than safe limits for humans, Wild Aid said. A Thai government health agency later said that up to 100 bowls of soup a day could be consumed without risking mercury poisoning.
Steve Galster, director of Wild Aid Thailand, said he was ready to fight a lawsuit if it came to that. (Main source: Reuters)
Later it was made public that the Southern Bangkok Civil Court has accepted a 103 million Baht lawsuit from Chinese restaurants against WildAid. The first hearing will be on 7 December.


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Doi Suthep will charge foreigners

Posted by hasekamp on 30 August 2001 at 17:22 PM
Wat Prathat Doi Suthep, near Chiang Mai, plans to charge admission fees from non-Buddhist foreigners. This plan has received criticism by tour operators, but so far the criticism has not changed the plan. The Temple plans to charge an admission fee of $ 3 (yes, charged in US $$!) from foreigners starting this December.
Tour operators say that an entrance fee, even in the name of Buddhism, is not right. All the money the Temple receives should come from donations, is their opinion.
Tour operators also fear that (200) Temples that also are tourist attractions around Chiang Mai will follow the bad example.
The secretary of the Doi Suthep foundation said the temple has expenses to cover and donations are not enough for that. The temple has to pay back a debt of 25 million Baht. The money was borrowed to construct the cable car that can be used by visitors. And there are more expenses, the foundation says.
Up to now the Temple charges 20 Baht for a cable-car ride and also charges people for the use of toilets and to hire clothes, if they are not properly dressed. But admission to the grounds has always been free.
We have always been opposed against entrance fees for Temples. We find that the suggestion to make a donation should do the job. And although the Temple says that it will only charge non-Buddhist tourists, in practice everybody with a non-Thai color of his skin will doubtless be charged. Or is there anybody who believes that a foreigner will get in for free if he tells he is a Buddhist? No, we do not believe so if the color of the foreigner's skin is white. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Thai boxing at school

Posted by hasekamp on 30 August 2001 at 17:20 PM
The Thai government will include the art of Thai boxing in the compulsory school curriculum, starting from this year. The Thai school season starts in October/November.
This is an idea of the Deputy Education Minister The aim is to promote and to conserve this old Thai tradition, and as a means to teach school children self-defense.
According to the Deputy Minister even foreigners come to Thailand in order to learn Thai boxing, so certainly Thai children should master the ancient traditional Thai art. The eputy Minister does not have any illusions that all school children will now become professional boxers. But the art of self-defense can later also be applied to exercise and dancing activities. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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BMTA wants TV in all Bangkok buses

Posted by hasekamp on 29 August 2001 at 13:28 PM
All Bangkok buses will get TVs, if the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority (BMTA) gets things its way. The organization plans to show a mix of entertainment and government public relations news in the bus. The programs will come on VCD disks. This should help passengers to pass the time while stuck in traffic jams. A similar service exists in Bangkok Microbuses, but there one pays 25 Baht (price level 2000), which is much more than the few Baht one pays in normal Bangkok buses.
Plans are to install TV on air-conditioned buses first.
BMTA has seen the service in Hong Kong. For less money they could have stepped into a Bangkok Microbus and see it there! BMTA is in a hurry, because they want the plan to be approved in principle next Wednesday already.
Apart from the fact that we find this plan waste of money, we do not understand that BMTA has money for TV's in all buses, whereas it has no money to put English language signs on all the buses. We reported about this issue earlier this week. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Thai herbs and Thai cuisine

Posted by hasekamp on 28 August 2001 at 20:49 PM
Thai herbal medicine has always been and will always be popular in Thailand. We have reported about various aspects of Thai traditional medicine during the pasty year. And now there is news again: Another use for Thai herbs, or just for Thai food?
Medical experts at the Department of Health, a division of the Ministry of Public Health, have suggested that HIV/AIDS-infected persons should take "khao klong", which is unpolished rice, together with soy milk. These products are available abundantly in Thailand and are high in nutritional value. They should be able –according to the experts- to reduce the severity of the virus resulting from possible complications, and this can prolong the lives of AIDS victims.
Certain herbs that are being used for ages as ingredients in the popular "tom yam", spicy sour soup, are thought to be effective to stop cancer. We have reported about this too. Use our search box if necessary.
Other herbs in Thai cuisine also have a beneficial effect on common sicknesses like stomachache, headache, nausea and diarrhea.
The rest of the world will get to know Thai herbs better anyway, the Thais believe. There are now around 5,000 Thai restaurants overseas. The number of Thai restaurants overseas will soon increase to 8,000.
And together with Thai food, the herbs will go around the World. The Government has a policy to promote Thai restaurants overseas. This policy will enable local farmers to sell more food, spices and herbs.
The promotion of Thai restaurants abroad is also a way to promote Thai culture. And then the circle will become round: Thai food will promote Thai food, herbs and culture, and these will promote tourism to Thailand. (Source: Public Relations Department)


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New health scheme starts October in Bangkok

Posted by hasekamp on 28 August 2001 at 13:55 PM
Hospitals in three areas of Bangkok will begin providing medical services for 30 Baht on 1 October, according to the 30-Baht plan of the Thaksin government, that is to be implemented nationwide. This was made public by the Deputy Health Minister yesterday.
The first zone will have Nopparat Ratchathani hospital as the main service provider, the second zone will have Bhumibol hospital, run by the air force, as the main service provider and the third zone will have Somdej Phra Pinklao, run by the navy, as the main service provider.
As far as we are aware of, the new health scheme is only for Thai residents, so you and I will (probably) still have to pay the old fares, which are –by the way- also far cheaper than at home. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Junta leader will have audience with HM the King

Posted by hasekamp on 28 August 2001 at 13:54 PM
A member of the Burmese junta, Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt, will be granted an audience with His Majesty the King in Hua Hin, during his visit to Thailand from 3-5 September.
The Burmese junta member will also meet Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Defense Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh and some top Thai military leaders for talks on illicit drugs, fishing problems, minority groups and border demarcation.
The junta member will spend one night in Hua Hin as a guest of the Third Army Corps commander. No address has been given for security reasons.
Although we believe, now that the Thaksin government has sought contact with the junta, that mutual visits are logical and necessary. However, we are surprised that His Majesty receives a Burmese junta member in audience. After all, the Burmese junta is holding government illegally, since the Burmese opposition won the latest elections and the junta ignored the outcome of these elections.
We wonder if under these circumstances it is appropriate to give junta members the honor of an audience with HM the King. Unless, of course, His Majesty has some special purpose with the audience, that we do not know about. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Bangkok buses to carry English signs

Posted by hasekamp on 27 August 2001 at 12:47 PM
Bangkok buses will carry English-language signs from next month on, the director of the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority (BMTA) said.
It is a well-known fact that tourists are –in most cases- unable to read the destinations on the buses in Bangkok, because they only are written in the Thai alphabet.
For the convenience of tourists, BMTA now has decided to have the buses also carry signs in English. BMTA herewith breaks with a very old tradition. They traditionally found that Bangkok buses should carry their signs (only) in Thai.
BMTA will now ask the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration and/or the Tourism Authority of Thailand to provide funds for the new signs, because its budget is limited and not sufficient for new signs on all buses.
And so we see that one of the last long-kept traditions in Thailand disappears for the sake of tourism. We have mixed feelings about this step of BMTA. Of course, we too are not able to read (most of) the signs on Bangkok buses, but information about their destinations is very easy to get everywhere in Bangkok. Therefore we regret the disappearance of this small piece of Thai culture. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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More new tourist destinations

Posted by hasekamp on 27 August 2001 at 12:42 PM
Recently we reported about new tourist destinations, to be promoted by the government and TAT (Tourism Authority of Thailand). Now a new destination has been added to the list: The government plans to develop Koh Chang, in the eastern province of Trat, as a new tourist attraction.
Koh Chang, with its long and good beach with a length of 90 kilometers, is thought to have high potential as a successful tourist destination.
Although we do see the need for Thailand to acquire foreign currencies, to get oput of the long-lasting economic depression, we also hope that the government also has realized that the skyline of the island will now be spoiled by skyscrapers. May we hope that the building of resorts will get priority over high hotel buildings? (Source: Thai News Agency)


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More than a 1.6 million speed pills seized

Posted by hasekamp on 27 August 2001 at 12:40 PM
The Drug Suppression Division Police announced Sunday that they have arrested two groups of drug traffickers, with more than 1,600,000 amphetamine pills in their possession.
The first group was arrested in the Bangkok suburb area of Nimitmai, with more than 1,360,000 pills. The second group could be arrested in the Northern province of Lampun, in Pasak district. There a number of 330,000 amphetamine pills was seized.
The future does not look good (and long) for these drug traffickers, as the government concluded only last week that the death penalty still shows promising results if applied to drug traffickers. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Phuket not happy with sex-operation tourism

Posted by hasekamp on 26 August 2001 at 17:04 PM
Residents of Phuket have objected against the plans –about which we published- to promote bargain-priced sex-change surgery as a means of attracting more tourists to Phuket.
Phuketians believe that the campaign will harm the reputation of the island. "Thailand is a Buddhist country, and thinking only of money without regard for morals or Thai culture is unacceptable," a spokesman for the residents said.
A teacher from Phuket said that he disagrees with this promotion, as it may distort the ideas of children.
So, it seems that the medical man, Boonrueng Chutaisaengrat, is standing alone at this moment in wanting to promote his island for the operation. He finds it unacceptable that some of his patients have wait for two years, before he can "help" them. We believe that he is in the first place thinking of his wallet, not of his patients, as he suggests! (Source: The Phuket Gazette)


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No more than three "entertainment" zones

Posted by hasekamp on 25 August 2001 at 15:47 PM
City Hall had chosen six zones for the famous Thai nightlife in Bangkok, but the Interior Ministry thinks three is enough. After all, the Minister says, New York, a much larger city, had only one such zone.
The zones proposed by City Hall are: Zone 1: Patpong from Rama IV road to Surasak road; Zone 2: Ratchadaphisek road at the intersection of Lat Phrao and the Mass Communications Organisation of Thailand; Zone 3: Royal City Avenue at Rama IX road and Khlong Thom; Zone 4: from Tha Phra intersection to Mahai Sawan intersection; Zone 5: from Nang Linchi road to Rama III road; and Zone 6: an area near Suan Siam where Ram Inthra road intersects with the outer ring road.
Criteria used in selecting the zones include a requirement that entertainment places are located not closer than 200 meters away from temples and not in densely populated areas. Those in Zone 2 must be also situated no farther than 300 meters from the main road to protect nearby residents against nuisance. We wonder if the 200-meter boundary also goes for Chinese and Hindu Shrines, because some of these places are quite close to Patpong. We are unable, however, to check this from where we live!
The Interior Ministry will probably tolerate eventually only zones 1, 2 and 3. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Japanese tourists want better protection

Posted by hasekamp on 25 August 2001 at 15:46 PM
Japanese diplomats have asked the police to give Japanese tourists better protection from criminals. The embassy's statistics showed there were 1,646 criminal cases with Japanese tourists as victims last year, and another 1,271 cases in the first six months of this year.
The Japanese believe that they are more often victims of crimes in Thailand than other tourists.
Police said that specialized gangs of foreigners are committing most of the crimes against Japanese tourists. To given an example: Every stolen passport can be sold for about 15,000- 20,000 Baht. The gangs usually operate on tourists in Bangkok's Khao Sarn road area, Chiang Mai, Pattaya and on Koh Samui, police said. We are not aware that Japanese tourists forma majority among foreigners there.
Police promised, however, to take action against criminal gangs targeting Japanese tourists in particular. Don’t ask us how. It seems a promise that is difficult to keep! (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Government to promote sex change operation

Posted by hasekamp on 24 August 2001 at 13:38 PM
We have written on this page in the past that sex change is the most popular medical operation in Thailand. The government has seen this too and a doctor in Phuket thinks that the government should initiate a campaign to attract tourists by promoting Thailand as a safe and affordable place for sex change operations. He said the government should make this more widely known so as to benefit from money the patients spend during their treatment.
The same doctor also said the government should promote "dental and tour" holidays in which foreigners would go sightseeing in the morning and receive dental treatment in the afternoon. In the meantime TAT and the Health Ministry have agreed with the plan of this doctor.
The Nation publishes this news today. We placed the following comment on the Nation site, below this article:
"I had heard already from one of my wife's relatives, who works in the medical field, that sex change is the most popular operation in some parts of Thailand (including Phuket). But I wonder if the Thai government should be so proud of this, that it should promote this -highly controversial- medical treatment!
Dentists in Thailand are excellent. So I would support promotion of the dental treatment with sightseeing." This reflects our own opinion best. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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New plans to promote tourism

Posted by hasekamp on 24 August 2001 at 13:36 PM
The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) will join forces with the private sector in organizing a grand event early next month to promote tourism in the Northeast. This will be in line with the government’s policy resulting from a recent workshop in the northern province of Chiang Mai.
Furthermore three major tourist destinations, Phuket, Chiang Mai and Ko Samui, will be promoted as part of a health tour program organized jointly by the tourist authority and the Health Ministry. Sources said sex change services would be part of the program. See another news item, posted today, for more detail about this aspect.
Details of this program were announced at a two-day seminar on health and tourism opened in Phuket yesterday. The Health Minister said that the health tour program would encourage tourists to spend more time and more money in the country.
About 450 people attended the seminar, from the government and private sectors. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Pedophile prosecuted in Thailand (updated)

Posted by hasekamp on 23 August 2001 at 12:12 PM
Recently we reported about the arrest of a much wanted pedophile, Eric Rosser from the US. Thailand now said, by means of the Foreign Ministry, that the country reserves the right to prosecute him first, before allowing his extradition to the United States.
The man was not only wanted in the US, but also in Thailand, because he had several offences according to Thai law on his name too. Thailand has not yet received a formal request from the US Justice Ministry for extradition.
The man faces charges in Thailand of indecent behavior with minors and possession of pornographic videotapes, but could also be charged with jumping bail after his initial arrest in February last year. He is being guarded with extra care, because he is thought to be suicidal.
In his apartment police found pornographic material, which he said he had downloaded from the Internet and bought in Pantip Plaza. We think it will do the serious computer enthusiast no harm anyway if Pantip Plaza is searched once more, not only for illegal stuff, but also for pornography.
Rosser was in the possession of three fake passports. They were shown to reporters yesterday. He refused to answer police questions about where he got the passports, but police believe that he bought them for 150,000 Baht each from a Pakistani gang.
Those who are interested in a picture of the man can visit the home page of The Nation (http://www.nationmultimedia.com) today. It is quite normal in Thailand to publish pictures of suspects of (serious) offenses in the media, including the prime time TV news.
The man has been in contact with the US Embassy after his arrest. (Sources: The Bangkok Post and The Nation)
In the meantime Eric Rosser has been jailed for four months on document forgery charges in the first case against him in Thailand.
He was sentenced testerday by the Northern Bangkok District Court for falsifying and using three passports and an international driving licence. After the hearing, he was taken to Bangkok remand prison iimediately. We can assure him that he will not have a pleasant time there! (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Man with longest hair dead

Posted by hasekamp on 23 August 2001 at 12:11 PM
A Thai man, one of the (Hmong) hilltribes, who held the record for having the world’s longest hair has died. His elder brother can now claim the title. The man, Hoo Sateow, 77, was in the Guinness Book of Records since 1997. The length of his hair was 5.15 meters. We wonder how he wore his hair. He died in his village outside Chiang Mai on Monday after suffering a stroke.
His elder brother, Yi Seng-la, 88, whose hair has been measured at 5 meters is next in line for the title, it seems, but we expect that an official hair measuring ceremony by Guinness has to be held first.
Hoo refused to cut his hair because he believed it would cause him to fall ill, and washed it only once a year. It will never be known if this was true, because he died after all, without having cut his hair. (Source: The Phuket Gazette, who based it on an article in the Thai Rath newspaper)


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Illegal CDs seized

Posted by hasekamp on 22 August 2001 at 10:02 AM
Police at Noppawong railway-police station have seized 20,200 pirated CDs from a Chiang Mai-Bangkok train yesterday. They said the CDs had been made in Burma and smuggled onto the train to sell in Bangkok and other provinces. No arrest has been made.
So it seems that we sometimes are too negative about the Thai street vendors. We mostly suppose that they or their friends make the CDs. This is based on our own experiences, when street vendors offer us to make CDs, VCD and even DVD "to order", with an official catalogue as reference source.
After al not only in Thailand, but also in Burma illegal CDs are being produced for the Thai market. And, to be more complete, illegal CDs also come from China and Taiwan. (Source: The Nation)


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Wanted pedophile arrested

Posted by hasekamp on 21 August 2001 at 12:20 PM
A much wanted American pedophile was arrested today in Bangkok. He is not only wanted by the Thai police, but he also is in of the top 10 of most wanted fugitives by the FBI. The arrest was a combined action of Thai police and the FBI. The pedophile, 48-year-old musician Eric Franklin Rosser, has been charged with producing, possessing and distributing child pornography.
He was arrested in February last year already, but he disappeared after being released on a bail of one million Baht. We believe that the bail should have been set (much) higher. What is one million Baht anyway to the owner of a well-running porn network?
The American is believed to the leader of a child pornography ring based in Bangkok. As a hobby the man also operated a piano school in Bangkok for well-to-do children.
Thai police say that the pedophile found hiding places in several European countries, including the Netherlands, Britain and France, before he traveled back to Bangkok on a fake passport.
He faces deportation to the United States. (Source: The Phuket Gazette)


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Suriyothai is a gold mine

Posted by hasekamp on 21 August 2001 at 11:51 AM
Ticket sales for the new Thai epic movie Suriyothai have reached 110 million Baht in less than a week, which is a local record. Suriyothai earned 70 million Baht in Bangkok alone.
Given these results from the first few days, executives believe that the most expensive film in Thai history will bring in 200 million Baht, or half its total production cost(!), by next week.
This could break the record, set by Titanic in 1997.
Over the past weekend 17,400 seats at 50 Major's cinemas were devoted to Suriyothai. Tickets for all these seats were sold out.
Hollywood wants to avoid a popularity test with Suriyothai, and therefore the scheduled release of Jurassic Park III has been set back to the end of the month. The release for this movie was originally planned for 24 August. Jurassic Park III is considered to be the onlyy serious competition for Suriyothai for the rest of this year. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Now tetanus puts 100 people in hospital

Posted by hasekamp on 21 August 2001 at 11:50 AM
After the recent flooding, 100 people have been hospitalized in Phetchaboon with tetanus infection, the Public Health Ministry said yesterday.
The number of tetanus patients rose to around 200 during the first few days of the flood, because most victims saw their infections worsen due to exposure to contaminated water.
The patients will have to stay at the hospital until they are completely cured, the Ministry said, adding that some 30 patients are in critical condition. The tetanus infection has so far killed four people and has cost one person man his legs. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Thai economy should be motre self-reliant

Posted by hasekamp on 21 August 2001 at 11:31 AM
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra yesterday said that the current Thai economy can no longer rely (almost) only on exports, due to the global economic slowdown. The Thai economy should count more on itself. Export, especially to the United States and Japan is moving back fast.
The country can therefore not count on export, as much as it still does. To strengthen the Thai economy, local entrepreneurs need to be encouraged to upgrade the production quality.
Well-educated people must be encouraged to start their own business rather than becoming employees at private companies, so they could play an active role in strengthening the local business sector. This will contribute to the country’s economic recovery, the Prime Minister said.
The government further wants to encourage people (once more) to use Thai products and to seek advice services from Thai companies, instead of using foreign companies. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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No information, but games!

Posted by hasekamp on 20 August 2001 at 15:28 PM
Internet cafes were originally set up as centers where people could receive and send email and search for information on the web, but in Bangkok now youngsters see them differently. They use them for playing games (on the Internet), often against friends in the same Internet cafe.
Internet cafes have risen out of the Thai ground like mushrooms, especially in Bangkok, and they offer computer access at hourly rates between 15 and 25 Baht per hour. The (main) aim of the Internet cafe owners is no longer to give you and me the opportunity to read our email, but to draw money from youngsters' pockets. And, as one could expect, parents are worried about the amount of time their children spend in these cyber games rooms.
Complaints of parents could be heard a seminar, organized by the Families Network Foundation. The two most popular games at the moment "Counter Strike" and "Red Alert".
In the past University students were the main users of Internet cafes, but now this is shifting towards school pupils. Some of these young customers (thinks about an age range of around 14 years) come to the cafes 3-4 times a week, for 2-3 hours a day. Real addicts play non-stop for 10 hours. Many Internet cafes now are open every day from 9 am until late at night, in some cases until 4 am the next day.
Needless to say that this business is becoming more and more interesting to earn a good income! Nevertheless competition grows, and promotion offers, in the shape of free mobile phones for instance, are becoming popular. So, when in Bangkok next time, be prepared to have to book your Internet cafe in advance, if you want to do such old-fashioned things like reading and writing email! (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Gold mine in Petchaboon

Posted by hasekamp on 20 August 2001 at 15:27 PM
Petchaboon province, that was hit so hard by the recent flooding, now has Thailand’s first gold mine, with the production to begin in November, according to the Deputy Industry Minister.
The mine is located in Khao Jed Luk (seven mountains) and Hua Dong sub-district of Phetchaboon province, and some areas in Phichit and Pitsanulok provinces.
The exploitation of the mine will create a number of jobs for local people, and promote the mining industry. Concessionaire of the first gold mine, Akra Mining (who also own a silver mine in the area) is expected to produce 32 tons of gold totally. The Deputy President of Akra Mining said that the gold and silver will be produced up to be 99.99% pure in Australia. This seems to be some good news for the hard hit province. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Thaksin to give THAI a lesson?

Posted by hasekamp on 19 August 2001 at 17:22 PM
Thai Airways International (THAI) is to reschedule its international flights, serving the world's major cities to allow passengers to make more convenient connections.
Today, a conference will be held on THAI's strategic direction. Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra will attend the conference. The airline had recently installed a new management system for high-traffic routes, which allows it to allocate seats to passengers that provided the highest yields in a bid to boost profitability. This is part of a program to upgrade THAI's performance, so that it returns to the region's top-five carriers.
Mr Thaksin said yesterday that his agenda for today's THAI workshop is to see that THAI will strengthen its marketing strategy, routing, engineering and financial management.
THAI is preparing to sell more shares to private investors in order to reduce the government's shareholding as part of the ongoing privatization program.
We wonder if this is the right moment to speak about further privatization. It would be better to wait until the airline has finished its homework.
Shortly after the conference the Public Relations Department made public that the Government has plans to make Thai Airways International an airline par excellence run by an elite corps of professionals within three years from now.


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More bad weather expected

Posted by hasekamp on 19 August 2001 at 17:20 PM
The Meteorology Department has warned inhabitants of Trat and Chanthaburi to be prepared for flash floods this weekend, because of the heavy downpours of the past week.
Fishermen in the Gulf of Thailand have been told to stay close to shore.
Flooding is further expected to continue in provinces close to rivers, such as Sukhothai, Phichit, Kamphaeng Phet, Nakhon Sawan, Mukdahan, Maha Sarakham, Kalasin, Si Sa Ket and Ubon Ratchathani.
In the Northern province of Lamphun, municipal areas remained inundated.
In Chiang Rai province, Mae Chan district, the flood water is still up to two meters high.
However, in Sukhothai's Sawankhalok district, water has begun to recede and the situation is expected to return to normal soon.
Most parts of the northeastern region remained flooded yesterday.
This news, based on an article in the Bangkok Post, shows that the problems are far from over. As we have reported when the first news of the flooding came in, deforestation has to be considered as the main cause of the flooding. So, we hope that attention will be paid to that issue in the first place!
The Public Relations Department in the meantime reports that Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has said that the floods and mudslide in Northern and Northeastern provinces have brought tremendous sufferings to residents, who deserve all the assistance and encouragement from their fellow compatriots.
The Prime Minister spoke about the issue in his weekly radio program, relating his experiences with the hit areas, and citing his fervent wish to visit all those affected by the disaster.
The Prime Minister has urged all Thais to unite and lend their helping hands or give moral support to the victims. He remarked that help was already pouring into the hit areas from all directions. He expressed his gratification over that fact, saying that only in Thailand such voluntary acts of mercy come spontaneously and naturally, no matter where and when a disaster strikes in the country.


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Suriyothai to be distributed Worldwide?

Posted by hasekamp on 17 August 2001 at 19:17 PM
Chatrichalerm Yukol, the director of the new Thai movie epic "Suriyothai", that is open for viewing to the general public form today on, will fly to New York next week in order to negotiate with film distributors there to see if the movie can be distributed Worldwide.
The makers expect to get $20 million for royalties.
The film is expected to generate about $100 million in ticket sales in more than 100 countries, if distributed Worldwide.
Options are to distribute the original version, as showing in Thailand now, or a version, dubbed in English (still to be prepared!), and subtitles added in other languages, where needed.
Although we wish the makers of "Suriyothai" all the luck in the World, we also hope they do realize that American film distributors do not want to take much risk with films from relatively unknown countries like Thailand. Therefore the makers of "Suriyothai" should be prepared for a disappointing outcome. Maybe it would have been wiser if they would wait for some ticket office results in Thailand, before flying to America one week after the Thai public premiere! (Source: The Nation)


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Now 147 dead in floods

Posted by hasekamp on 17 August 2001 at 19:16 PM
The death toll from flooding nationwide has reached 147, with 113 confirmed in Petchabun, while the damage is 580 million Baht, the Local Administration Department said yesterday. Nationwide 10 people are still missing.
The flooding has affected 531,614 people, more than 3,000 houses were damaged (600 were completely destroyed), 457,485 rai of farmland and many schools, temples, bridges and other facilities. All these figures come from the Local Administration Department, mentioned above.
Families will get a compensation of 15,000 Baht for the death of each family leader and 12,000 Baht for other dead family members.
Donations in the form of rice and food have poured in for flood victims. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Grammy halves prices for CDs

Posted by hasekamp on 16 August 2001 at 10:45 AM
Grammy Entertainment, Thailand's leading music and television production company, has halved the price of its music CDs to combat pirated products.
We find this a very good move to fight piracy. Pirated CDs are always of a lower quality than the original ones. That is beyond doubt. So, if Grammy can tempt buyers to buy legal (higher quality) CDs for a (more than) reasonable price, then the battle against piracy could get a new impulse.
The new price for Grammy CDs is 155 Baht, and was introduced on 1 August. This is a saving of 135 Baht per disc, compared to the old price. We find the new price a bargain for 100% legal, top quality disks!
Illegal CDs on the streets go for 60-120 Baht a piece, so for just a few Baht more you have a legal copy.
In addition, music VCD (Video CD) prices will also be cut to 155 Baht by the end of this year. The new price structure, coupled with a new policy allowing vendors to return unsold CDs to Grammy, the company hopes to give a hard blow to the illegal market. (Source: The Nation)


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Silom to be closed for traffic on Sundays

Posted by hasekamp on 16 August 2001 at 9:39 AM
Silom road will be closed for traffic on Sundays, starting from October this year, to promote tourism, energy conservation and reduce air pollution, the government made public. Silom is at the top of the list of streets people want to see closed on Sundays.
There has been a public poll in several areas of Bangkok, in Silom, Lat Ya, Khao San, Yaowarat and Rattanakosin Island, to be precise. Around 70% of all people questioned would like to see Silom closed on Sunday’s first. The government will consider to close down more city streets if the Silom project proves to be successful.
Although we support this idea strongly, daylight will never return to Silom, since the skytrain was opened and its track takes away almost all the daylight from this busy street. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Flooding expands, Bangkok prepares itself

Posted by hasekamp on 15 August 2001 at 12:13 PM
The death toll of the flooding in Northern Thailand now has risen to 143, according to Associated Press.
The floods now also have definitely reached other provinces in northern and central parts of Thailand.
Six people have died as a cause of the floods in the 14 districts of Chiang Mai province and two sub-districts. Around 250 villages have been inundated in this province, affecting almost 5,000 families or 16,000 villagers. The floods in Chiang Mai province have damaged 1,767 houses.
Yesterday morning, the water level in the Ping river was 4.04 meter, compared with the highest-ever level of 4.28 meter on Monday night.
In Mae Hong Son province many houses (no exact number has been given) in 18 tambons have been affected.
In Phrae province the Yom river continued to overflow its banks in many areas of the province.
Thai News Agency reports that in Sukhothai province relief workers used nine elephants to distribute food, water and clothes to villagers in flooded areas. Elephants have been used elsewhere in Thailand too in rescuing and distribution activities after the flooding.
In the meantime Bangkok is preparing itself to face the flood. City Hall is on the subject. Officials say that they are confident that the city will be able to cope with the flood.
According to the authorities, Bangkok will not be affected much by water runoff from the North, because the water will be blocked by the Bhumibol dam in Tak and the Sirikit dam in Uttaradit.
The reservoirs behind these dams have enough room to store the water, according to the authorities. Normally one can expect the water from the North to reach Bangkok 30 days after being released there. (Source: The Bangkok Post, Thai News Agency, Associated Press)


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Only copyright for Suriyothai?

Posted by hasekamp on 15 August 2001 at 11:52 AM
The Bangkok Post reports that police have warned makers of pirated movie products not to produce fake versions of the expensive Thai epic Suriyothai. Police in all regions have been instructed to keep a close watch on the situation. Police have also been instructed to keep an eye on operators and sellers at various shopping centers in Bangkok (like Pantip Plaza) and other big cities.
Police even seem to be prepared to launch a nationwide crackdown on violators when the film is released this Friday.
We find this a hypocrite attitude of the Thai police. Not that we support makers of illegal copies of this Thai film. Far from that. But –as we have written here several times- the Thai authorities once again show that they only seem interested in violations of the rights of Thai copyright owners and are not really prepared to give foreign copyright owners the same protection.
All over Thailand illegal copies of any movie are available on every corner of every street.
Why this sudden concern about copyright now that an expensive Thai movie is to be released? Only because the product concerned is Thai! If razzias will be held (and we think they will be held) then police will only look for illegal copies of the expensive Thai epic, and leave all the illegal copies of foreign movies in peace. This is what is called "discrimination" in International law.
Thai authorities, we support your concern about copyright protection, but we do not see why Thai copyright owners should get a better protection than foreign copyright owners!


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Senate wants environmentalists murders solved

Posted by hasekamp on 14 August 2001 at 12:28 PM
Six environmentalists were murdered already during this year since January. These murders have not been solved so far.
A group of 56 Senators will now appeal to Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to speed up inquiries into these murders of six environmentalists.
The Senators are worried about the fact that honest attempts by common people to protect the environment and to ensure social justice have led to the assassinations of six of these people, all over Thailand, in six different provinces.
It appears that many people have complained to the House of Representatives’ environmental panel about a lack of progress in the investigations into these murders.
Furthermore it appears that there are fresh outbreaks of violence in environment-related conflicts between local people and influential figures at the moment.
As we have reported several times on this page, we too are worried about the brutal murders of people who try to protect the environment. Accusing fingers are always pointed at (influential) public figures like industrials, sometimes called the "local maffia".
However, these possible suspects are hardly ever arrested or even questioned. We fear that corruption has to do with the slow progress of solving these murders. Therefore we are happy with this action of the Senators, because the Thaksin Government has always promised to fight corruption on all levels of Thai society.
We believe that the Thaksin government has a good opportunity here to make this promise come true. (Source: Bangkok Post)


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Flooding update: Now 122 presumed dead

Posted by hasekamp on 14 August 2001 at 12:08 PM
The confirmed death toll in the Phetchaboon flood disaster rose to 87 yesterday, but 35 people that are reported as missing are now presumed to be dead, bringing the total death toll from Saturday's flash flood to 122. Heavy rain continued around the clock in Phetchaboon, Chiang Mai and Phrae in the North, and in Udon Thani in the Northeast.
A state of emergency was declared yesterday in Phrae, where a city-wide power blackout occurred.
Sukhothai and provinces down the Yom river were advised to be prepared for flooding water, coming from Phrae.
In Chiang Mai the flooding killed one person. Heavy damage was reported in places around Chiang Mai, producing handicrafts for export, such as silk, wood carvings, silverware and paper umbrellas.
Udon Thani township is almost completely under water. Officials said it was the worst flood in 70 years there.
Heavy rains are expected to continue in Western and Eastern regions of the country, particularly in Mae Hong Son, Tak, Kamphaeng Phet, Kanchanaburi, Trat, Chanthaburi and Ranong.
It has now also been confirmed that 21 pupils at a local school have been killed in the flash floods that hit Lom Sak district, whereas more pupils are still missing.
His Majesty the King has expressed his great concerns over the flooding in the North and the North-East. He has asked to be informed personally about news from the area continuously, with reports, photographs and maps. His Majesty does not travel much any more these days.
He has advised that one of the long term solutions should be that residents in the flooded areas should rebuild their houses about 50-100 centimeters above the current flood level. (Sources: Bangkok Post and Thai News Agency)


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Epic premiered

Posted by hasekamp on 13 August 2001 at 13:44 PM
The movie that is the most expensive, the longest, the most technically advanced (because of the use of advanced computer graphics techniques) that has ever been made in Thailand, is called "Suriyothai". It had its Royal premiere yesterday, in the presence of Their Majesties the King and Queen, cabinet members, diplomats and other invited guests.
The movie lasts for three hours, took five years to research and two years to shoot. Production costs were 400 million Baht. All the major Thai actors star in the movie, alongside 80 elephants, 2,000 nameless actors and 70 horses. A real elephant battle is one of the highlights.
The epic tells the story of Queen Suriyothai, the wife of a 16th century monarch of the Kingdom of Ayutthaya, who sacrificed herself in battle to save her husband during a Burmese attack on the ancient capital.
The movie was directed by Prince Chatrichalerm Yugala. The nationwide premiere for the general public will be on 17 August.
We expect the movie to become a hype in Thailand. Plans with the movie are great. Some sources say it will run for an Oscar and it seems that an International release is being planned. In the meantime you can visit the movie’s website at http://www.suriyothai.mweb.co.th/ . The trailer looks promising. We also expect the movie to give a boost to the number of visitors to Ayutthaya. (Source: Bangkok POst)


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Death toll in the North rises further

Posted by hasekamp on 13 August 2001 at 13:42 PM
According to the Bangkok Post the death toll of the flooding in the North has risen to 71, and according to the Nation to 78. According to BBC News, however the reported number of dead is 74 now. Whatever is correct, it is clear that the number of dead will rise close to 80 at least. The number of missing people also is unclear, but it seems to be around 75.
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said a survey should reveal high-risk areas and villagers in risk areas would be relocated to safer locations. Villagers should also practice evacuation, for possible future forces of nature.
The tragedy inj the North is thought to be caused by deforestation, which led to floods and mudslides.
The government therefore will be more active against illegal loggers, violators of the forest laws and corrupt state officials, Mr Thaksin said.
The Prime Minister, who visited the area yeaterday, gave 10,000 Baht from his own pocket to every family that had lost a member.
The government will fully compensate all villagers. The head of each family will receive 25,000 Baht, and other villagers will get 12,000 Baht, Mr Thaksin further promised.
Villagers will also be given work under a job promotion scheme over the next 60 days, to prevent them from having no income.
According to the Bangkok Post and the Nation 70 houses were completely destroyed and 200 others were damaged. Compensation of 50,000 Baht is to be given to every family whose house was destroyed.
A total of nearly 7,000 people in three tambons of Phetchaboon were hit by the flash-floods. Residents of the provinces Sukhothai, Nan, Phrae, Uttaradit, Phitsanulok, Phichit, Phetchabun, Nong Khai, Nakhon Phanom and Mukdahan have been warned for heavy weather and possible flooding. Problems have started already in these provinces:
In Chiang Mai, the Ping River caused some flooding in downtown areas already. In Mae Hong Son the district road link with Chiang Mai was cut off, after a bridge was destroyed by the water.
In Sukhothai the situation was worrying yesterday. Sandbags were used to build embankments along the rising river. Nevertheless some downtown areas of Sukhothai were under water already. (Several sources were used fior this item)


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HM the Queen worries about environment

Posted by hasekamp on 12 August 2001 at 13:25 PM
On the eve of the birthday (12 August) Her Majesty the Queen expressed concern about environmental degradation and emphasized that all Thais are under obligation to protect their motherland. Her Majesty urged all Thais to feel more grateful for their blessed country, "the golden lands that have provided them with shelter and the abundant resources that have sustained their lives", as she called it. The birthday of Her Majesty the Queen is also mother's day in Thailand.
In her traditional speech, given to around 16,000 well-wishers, to mark the eve of her 69th birthday, the Queen said her three "little houses in the wood" projects were good proof that a depleted environment could be restored and that man and nature could co-exist. The Queen said she had always dreamt of making the forest also a place for living.
Her Majesty said that the Forestry Department chief and his agency had helped make her dream come true.
The department provided her with degraded forestry areas in the North and the South, where she arranged for landless people to build settlements, on the basis that the slash-and-burn practice must be stopped and forests must not be further encroached upon.
The settlers were taught different farming techniques. They also underwent occupational training from which they could make extra income.
Her Majesty was also worried about growing ignorance of the value of Thai traditions. She said that people focus just on their own interests and take advantage of others. "This must be stopped or we will suffer", Her Majesty said.
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra praised Her Majesty the Queen’s Devotions to the Nation on the occasion of National Mother’s Day. He has called on all Thais to recognize the significance of their mothers’ presence by giving them more time, particularly on the National Mother’s Day, 12 August.


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At least 66 flood victims now

Posted by hasekamp on 12 August 2001 at 13:22 PM
Today Thai News Agency reports that there are at least 66 victims of the floods that hit Petchaboon yesterday. The latest figure of people missing is around 70 now. Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra today visited the hit area and indicated that long term measures should be laid down to prevent the repeated disaster in the future. Thaksin said he has ordered the ministries concerned to give their full support to help the floods victims.
The short and long term measures, he said, would be drafted to prevent any disaster that may happen in the future. He also said that sometimes one can do nothing to prevent the natural disaster but what can be done is to protect the forest, and avoid the deforestation.
In our opinion this is the heart of the matter. Flooding and landslides are caused by deforestation. The Prime Minister said that destroying the forest was one of the factors causing the floods so the government would try to resolve this point.
We hope that the measures. Promised by the Premier, are in the first place aimed at preserving the forests.
In the meantime the damage is becoming clearer. In tambon Nam Kor alone, as many as 100 houses in three villages were swept away.
Military trucks were used to take villagers out of the flood-hit areas. The Phetchaboon governor said that relief and rescue operations were in full swing and the search for missing villagers would continue around the clock.
Over 700 villagers spent the night in nearby schools as their homes were destroyed in the floods.


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Heavy thypoon in Petchaboon

Posted by hasekamp on 11 August 2001 at 22:31 PM
There has been heavy flooding, caused by a typhoon, this morning in the North of Thailand, around Petchaboon. The media do not give many details yet, but at the moment the number reported dead is 46, whereas between 35 and 100 persons are reported to be missing. The typhoon struck around 4 a.m. local time, when people were asleep, so they were not prepared to run for their lives, as appeared to be necessary.
Many bodies of those reported dead were recovered from the river.
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra is said to go there later today (and probably has been there by now).
More bad weather is predicted by the Weather Bureau for the next few days in the North and North-East.
As hardly any news is available form Thai sources yet, we used several foreign sources, including Dutch and German Teletext for this message. Some details may still be incorrect.


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Wisuth case goes on and on

Posted by hasekamp on 11 August 2001 at 22:18 PM
Now that Dr Wisuth Boonkasemsanti will not be prosecuted for murdering his wife, although police and many others think he did (see former messages on this page), police are trying to get him convicted for anything they can. In the first place for forgery, but that case also is not very successful so far.
Chief Prosecutor Rewat Chanprasert yesterday ordered police to collect additional evidence in support of their forgery charges against Dr Wisuth. Apparently the evidence so far is not convincing.
Wisuth is at the moment fighting criminal charges, filed by relatives of his missing wife, Dr Phassaporn Boonkasemsanti.
After prosecutors decided not to try Wisuth on murder charges, police named him as a suspect in the alleged forgery of letters, that were supposed to come from his wife and were addressed to her children. Wisuth is believed to try to create an alibi for himself by forging the letters. This case is another bad example of how Thai police can work. Yesterday we reminded our readers of another example: the Kirsty Jones case. (Source: The Nation)


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Get the customers, not the girls!

Posted by hasekamp on 11 August 2001 at 22:17 PM
Women and children's rights advocates yesterday criticized the Bangkok police for their undercover operation to catch student prostitutes. The criticism is based upon the fact that in this way students are being marked, maybe for many years, but the causes of commercial sex are left untouched.
On Thursday crime-suppression police arrested 18 suspected student prostitutes who had advertised on the Internet and in magazines.
The activists said police were taking the wrong people and should concentrate on arresting the "patrons" of sex services. It was also said that police should concentrate more on the customers of student sex services.
We strongly agree with the last mentioned view. Prostitution will probably always be there, but in developing countries like Thailand, we believe, the customers are much more to blame then the girls. The customers are abusing the girls by having "budget" sex, compared to the prices for similar services in their own countries. The girls often use the money to support their parents.
We do not say that this is the case with all prostitutes in Thailand. We have published before about interviews with student prostitutes, that gave a different view about how they spend their money, but we do believe the Thai society would be helped quite a lot when the (foreign) customers of (student) prostitutes would know that they risk severe punishments by using the services of prostitutes abroad. So, Thai police: Get the customers, not the girls! (Source: The Nation)


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Kirsty Jones murdered one year ago

Posted by hasekamp on 10 August 2001 at 17:53 PM
Today exactly one year ago British backpacker Kirsty Jones was found raped and murdered in Aree Guesthouse in Chiang Mai. Several arrests have been made afterwards, but all suspects have been released since, for lack of proof.
We have reported extensively about the case. Use our search box to find all our news items and opinions.
The murder still has not been solved and it seems highly unlikely that it will ever be solved.
But there is more bad news: The British Embassy in Thailand says, there have been rape attacks on eight other British tourists since the beginning of last year.
The Embassy has also said that although the country is safe to visit, women should be aware of the dangers. "Women travelers should be aware that there have been a number of reported incidents over the past year and a half", an official said.
Of course these incidents are unfortunate but, still according to the UK Embassy, the numbers are still low compared to the rest of the world.
Statistics show that three British women were raped in Bangkok, while four were attacked on remote islands - two were assaulted on Koh Phi Phi, one on Koh Samui and one on Koh Lanpa.
Earlier this week the family of Kirsty Jones issued a statement insisting that her killer must be caught. "One day we hope to see justice done, for the safety of other backpackers, but most importantly for Kirsty," it read, continuing: "Someone somewhere should pay the price for robbing us and Kirsty of what should have been a wonderful, happy life.".
As our readers know, we also have been impressed very much (negatively) by the way the Jones case as been investigated and, although we have little hope that the killer and rapist will be found, we want to remember Ms Jones' death here, one year after the event. (Source for the statements and statistics: BBC News)


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International phone calls cheaper

Posted by hasekamp on 9 August 2001 at 13:32 PM
The Communications Authority of Thailand (CAT) has announced that it has cut its overseas call rates between 7% and 40%. In addition, those making international calls between 7 am and 9 pm on Sundays receive a further 20% discount.
What does this mean to you, when visiting Thailand? We will mention rates to the most popular calling destinations:
Phone calls to Australia and North America now cost 22 Baht per minute at peak rate (between 7 am and 9 pm), and 18 Baht off-peak.
Calls to countries West of Thailand (in the broadest sense of the word) fall into two categories. The 37 countries in Group 1 include Germany and all the countries to the north and the west of it, as well as Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece, Russia, Poland, Turkey and the Ukraine.
Group 2 includes other Central European and Central Asian countries, and Pakistan.
Here we will only mention the rates to the Group 1 countries:
In Group 1 calls are 36 Baht per minute at peak rate, 29 Baht per minute from 5 am to 7 am and from 9 pm to midnight, and 25 Baht per minute from midnight to 5 am.
It looks quite complicated, but take your advantage from it! (Source: The Phuket Gazette)


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Economic update

Posted by hasekamp on 9 August 2001 at 13:17 PM
Contrary to World markets, the Thai stock market has gone up during the past week or so.
Did we have to report that the SET index had fallen below the 300 level on 31 July, yesterday it was 323 again (although today if fell back to 316).
The main reason given by experts for the recent rise of the SET index is the Thaksin verdict, in favor of the Prime Minster, which is in fact the same reason that was given a week ago for the dip bellow 300, but then experts expected a negative verdict for the PM.
So, those of us who used the low SET index to jump into the market and invested in Thai stocks, because they expected –contrary to the majority of financial experts- the Constitutional Court to rule in favor of Mr Thaksin, would have made an interesting gain on their investment in hardly more than one week.
Sadly we did not have this proscopic view, and apart from that investing in Thailand still is difficult for foreigners.
The Thai Baht is now around 45.45 against the US$. This still is not exactly what the Thai government would like to see.


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Golden Wijan stops boxing

Posted by hasekamp on 8 August 2001 at 14:07 PM
Wijan Ponlid, who won a gold medal for Thailand during he 2000 Olympics in Sydney, has announced that he will stop boxing.
He said he had achieved his ultimate goal and wanted to quit while he is still at the top.
This means that he will not represent Thailand in next year's Asian Games in South Korea.
As for the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, he said: "It's a long time from now". It is not clear to us if he will reconsider his decision then, but even if he does, his chances will be minimal if he stops training professionally now. He also said that another reason for his surprise decision to retire was that he did not want to stand in the way of younger fighters.
We do not believe that the last mentioned reason can be taken serious. To us it seems most likely that he has found another occupation that brings in more money.
Another winner of an Olympic gold medal for Thailand in boxing, Somluck Kamsing (he won his medal in 1996 in Atlanta), went into the soap opera business, and when he started to train again for the 2000 Olympics, he was not able to reach the top levels any more. So, in Athens Thailand has to hope for a new golden boy.


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Heavy flooding in the North (news flash)

Posted by hasekamp on 8 August 2001 at 14:06 PM
Floods in four northern provinces (Phayao, Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai and Lampang) have affected tens of thousands of people and caused damages of more than 20 million Baht.
One person died and large quantities of farmland we inundated. Many houses, roads and were damaged. The local authorities have sent a report about the flooding has been sent to the cabinet.
Heavy flooding seems to become an annual force of Nature in Thailand. Within the last year the North, the North-East and the South have been heavily hit. (Source: Bangkok Post)


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Thai epic to be premiered

Posted by hasekamp on 7 August 2001 at 13:37 PM
Senior military officers will participate in a reception ceremony on Sunday when Her Majesty the Queen will preside over the premiere of the new Thai film epic "Suriyothai".
The premiere on Sunday will coincide with Her Majesty’s birthday.
Suriyothai was directed by veteran film-maker Chatri Chalerm Yugala and will be released nationwide on 17 August 17. Expectations are that the movie will earn 300 million Baht in box office sales in Bangkok alone.
The much-awaited film required five years of research and two-and-a-half years of shooting.
The message in the Bangkok Post does not mention if international distribution is considered. If so, this would be one of the very seldom cases in which a Thai movie is being distributed internationally. The only case we know of is at least 50 years ago, when "A Child from the North East" could be seen in movie theaters around the world.


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Boat accident in Southern Province

Posted by hasekamp on 6 August 2001 at 12:55 PM
During the weekend a boat accident happened, when a boat carrying nearly 20 passengers, most of them officials of the Irrigation Department and members of their families, capsized in a dam in Pranburi district of the Southern province of Prachuab Khiri Khan. Only four of them have survived the trip. Fourteen, some of them children, drowned.
The boat was reported to be over-weighted and facing strong wind and waves and there were no or insufficient float vests on the boat.
After this accident the Public Health Ministry issued a warning that local and foreign tourists should always wear a float vest prior on a cruise trip.
We find this is a strange advice, because, as reported, on the boat that capsized no, or insufficient, float vests were present. Should tourists buy their own float vest then? This seems too simple a solution. Although we have little doubt that the famous Thai business instinct will lead to the selling of float vests at embarkation points of boat trips, we believe that the Ministry should have given a more adequate reaction.
One better reaction could have been making the supply of float vets for boat trips.
The Ministry also said that tourists should prior to their cruises check whether there are enough float vests, always wear float vests, avoid over-weight boats and check weather conditions, but, as said, this good advice is not very effective and far from adequate for a governmental institution. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Hope for copyright owners?

Posted by hasekamp on 6 August 2001 at 12:32 PM
The Department of Intellectual Property says that the owners of copyrighted products, particularly compact discs, have reported a 10-percent increase in sales during the first six months of this year. The Department thinks that this is because of the drastic measures against pirated items. We have always doubted that the measures being taken against pirated products were or are adequate, but here is an alternate opinion by a governmental institution.
The Department said the offensive move against pirated products will be intensified in the remaining months of the year, following instructions from the Prime Minister.
During the first six months of 2001, violations of the Copyright Act totaled 1,126 cases, with 599,000 pirated items confiscated. We will be following this item with interest! (Source: Public Relations Department)


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Male organs in refuse bin

Posted by hasekamp on 5 August 2001 at 20:04 PM
Normally we would not report about this, but this news, brought by the Bangkok Post today, seems so typical for Thailand, that we will not neglect it:
Severed male genitals were found yesterday in a garbage bin at the busy Siam Square skytrain station, police said. They were found by cleaning staff of Bangkok Transit System.
Police will ask hospitals and police stations if anyone had shown up with missing genitals. The organs were sent to the Institute of Forensic Medicine, Police said. So far for the facts.
Why do we report this news then? Because every now and then stories come up in the Thai newspapers about cut off male organs. This is an old, continuously repeating fact. The cause seems to be that Thai women are not very tolerant as far as extra-marital contacts of their husbands are concerned. And we estimate that one finds at least once a year a story like this in the Thai newspapers. Mostly the story tells that a Thai woman has revenged herself on her husband, because he shared someone else's bed. We have not heard of this harsh punishment elsewhere in the World. It seems typical for Thailand.
One of the oldest stories of this kind –any Thai can tell it to you- is about a Thai woman who was feeding the ducks with the organ of her husband.
Today's story is the latest proof that this custom still exists.


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Lead poisoning not the cause of Klity deaths?

Posted by hasekamp on 5 August 2001 at 20:03 PM
We have flowed the issue about possible lead poisoning of the villagers of Klity Kreek, where a nearby lead plant has so far was considered to be the cause of the deaths. Today the Bangkok Post publishes an article that states that after all lead may not be the cause of the deaths in the village. (Find our former publications by using our search box).
The Public Health Ministry even has ruled out lead poisoning as the cause of death of Klity villagers. A spokesman of the Ministry said that this conclusion was drawn after various lead experts and neurologists had been heard.
This news was released at a seminar at the provincial health office in Kanchanaburi.
"There is no hard evidence that lead poisoning was the cause, even though all the victims had suffered from chronic lead exposure. It is true that they had high levels of lead in their blood," the Ministry spokesman said.
The seminar agreed that drinking water with a lead content of 0.03 milligrams per liter was relatively safe, even though it exceeded the World Health Organization's (WHO) safety standards.
Four deaths have been reported in the village over a six-month period. Three men died from unknown illnesses and one woman, who had been depressed, committed suicide.
The director of Karen Studies and Development Center challenged the conclusion, however. He said that doctors made the decision without sufficient data, now that all the victims were dead.
Environmentalists do not support these latest conclusions by the Health Department. They will continue to prepare legal charges against the Health Ministry with the Administrative Court.


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Shell to invest more in Thailand

Posted by hasekamp on 5 August 2001 at 20:01 PM
Today it was announced that Thai Shell Exploration and Production Company is to invest 3,000 million Baht into its works in Thailand.
Thai Shell’s parent company, Shell Exploration, has approved the budget for the year 2001, to be used to explore and develop 30 new crude oil pits in Thailand.
The 30 new pits are in the company’s given concession in the Northern provinces of Kampaeng Phet, Pitsanuloke and Sukhothai, covering the area of 1,227 square kilometers.
Thai Shell also wants to increase its production capacity by using a new "water flood" strategy, a spokesman said.
This new strategy is expected to help Shell to increase its production in Thailand from 23,000 to 25,000 barrels per day.
Economically this is good news for Thailand. If it is also good, or at least not bad, for the environment can only be hoped. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Brain bank works nationwide now

Posted by hasekamp on 4 August 2001 at 20:40 PM
On her birthday, almost a year ago now, HM the Queen initialized a "brain bank" of retired people, who still want to contribute to Thai society.
Over 1,300 volunteers of Thailand’s brain bank have started their missions by accessing to agencies and organizations countrywide that have asked for their assistance, according to the Office of National Economic and Social Development Board (ONESDB).
These volunteers are experts in 16 fields, namely education, public health, agriculture, technology, engineering, taxes and finance, community development, planning, business management, public relations, and arts and cultures. Most of the volunteers are retired personnel of government agencies or state enterprises, as was Her Majesty's intention.
The brain bank can be contacted through its website at http://www.nescb.go.th (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Thaksin is happy

Posted by hasekamp on 4 August 2001 at 20:39 PM
Today there hardly is any other news in the Thai media than (comments on) the verdict by the Constitutional Court. Mr Thaksin now sits strongly on his seat as Prime Minister.
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra himself has vowed to overhaul the Thai society for the happiness of the people and the prosperity of the nation. He said that Thailand could now firmly move toward a clearer direction after it had been distracted with some time wasted during the past months when he was struck by the alleged asset concealment case.
The Premier thanked the public for their continued support and encouragement to him, even during the dull period of his life.
"I am glad that justice is still maintained in the Thai society. If there were no justice even for the country’s Prime Minister, it would be a matter of great concern. Now what happened to me has been cleared. I was declared for not involving in corruption-related acts and behaviors", he said.
The Premier stressed that he had worked hard to push for better changes in the society and in the country, but his attempts had been delayed due to obstacles in the bureaucratic system and also due to his alleged hidden wealth case.
"From now on everything will be clearer and steadily improved, as my administration will overhaul the society, including the bureaucratic reform and upgrading people’s living conditions, to bring in happiness to the people and prosperity to the nation, which is the ultimate goal of the government", Premier Thaksin said..
Nevertheless not everything looks rosy, the Thai society and economy have to become stronger and more stable, but it will, according to Thaksin, in the long run. He called for all parties to unite and to join forces in pushing for national development and prosperity. (Main source: Thai News Agency)


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Court: Thaksin NOT guilty!

Posted by hasekamp on 3 August 2001 at 18:22 PM
While the Thai newspapers (printed last night) are still discussing how the Constitutional Court would rule in the Thaksin
assets case, the Constitutional Court ruled today around 4:30 p.m. ruled that Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra did not intend to conceal his wealth, which is against the earlier ruling of the National Counter Corruption Commission (NCCC).
Since the ruling of the Constitutional Court, the news can be found all over the Web. Not only on Thai sites that frequently update their news, but also on International sites like those of Reuters, Associated Press and just name them. They all publish the news and seem content about it.
We give a compilation of the facts here, as found on the Web.
The Court (containing 15 judges) voted 8:7 for the Thai leader, so it was a close case.
Supporters of the Thai Premier, waiting for the final verdict in front of the Court’s headquarters, cheered when it became official that the ruling was in favor of Mr Thaksin.
Judge Prasert Nasakul, President of the Constitutional Court, held a brief press conference at 4:30 p.m. (local time) and officially delivered the Court’s final verdict.
He said that the Court’s performance and decision was base on the present constitution, which may satisfy some people, but may not satisfy others. He called for understanding from the public. Accordion to some sources the Court found the mistake of Mr Thaksin an "honest mistake". We do not have strong confirmation for that however, at this moment.
The Constitutional Court President said that the written statement of the court had yet to be completed, and that the court would accelerate its write-up of the case in detail.
The NCCC ruled late last year that Thaksin intended to conceal his wealth and to submit false reports of his assets by transferring his shares in his business conglomerate to his son and close aides, who are mostly his household staff.
After knowing the Constitutional Court’s final verdict, the NCCC chief refused to give any comment, saying he had not yet seen the court’s written statement.
Although it is still too early to comment on the verdict, we think that the Court did the right thing. Some time ago we wrote on this page that we believe that the Court also should weigh the interest of the Country in its ruling, and we believe it did so. In other words: The ruling could have been different if Mr Thaksin had not been the Prime Minster in the meantime. Whatever one can think of Mr Thaksin, we do believe that it would have been harmful for Thailand's economical and political stability if the Court had ruled differently. As we published a few days ago, the Thai stock market was going down already on expected bad prospects regarding this Court ruling. Nobody in Thailand is waiting for a deeper falling market and a deeper falling Baht. We therefore are happy with the ruling and we believe that the Court has also taken the country's economical and political situation into consideration.


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Paper from elephant dung

Posted by hasekamp on 3 August 2001 at 18:21 PM
Some time ago we published about plans to make paper out of elephant dung. Today Reuters has a short video on the web (to be found on Yahoo News, with the search term "Thai", that shows that this process is now being used commercially. All kinds of paper qualities can be obtained using elephant dung and the process looks promising. Needless to say that there is no smell whatsoever coming with the paper, that shows it whereabouts! Our source does not mention this, but we wonder if the manufacturers have thought of applying for a patent for the process.


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Underground should make Bangkok livable

Posted by hasekamp on 3 August 2001 at 18:20 PM
The new subway train stations, under construction, in Bangkok should be "greened" and the immediate surroundings should be developed in the right way in order to make Bangkok a more "liveable city", a British consultant firm has proposed. Development will initially recommended within a 500-meter radius of each underground station.
Parking lots, green areas, residential units, offices and shops near stations would make travel more convenient for locals, it is being said.
Hua Lamphong (railway) station should be left untouched until 2011, however, apart from a parking lot, to be constructed.
All the underground stations should get facilities, dependent on their location.
The consultants have also suggested fare discounts of 5-10 Baht for commuters catching both the subway and buses under a park-and-ride scheme. A sum of 72.8 million Baht has been available to get this advise on the building of subway-related facilities.


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New website for Prime Minister

Posted by hasekamp on 2 August 2001 at 11:23 AM
The Government has opened a new website as an additional channel for the general public to directly communicate with the Prime Minister. A spokesperson said that it is the idea of Prime Minister to accept complaints via the Internet for easy and rapid communication between the general public and the Prime Minister.
Under a program called "Bell of Concern from the Prime Minister’s Heart", members of the public can voice their grievances through the new website at http://www.rakang.thaigov.go.th. The website will ask them to fill in some basic information about themselves and a brief description of their problems.
The new website is offered for direct access to the Prime Minister in addition to post, telephone, and fax. All complaints will be considered by the Prime Minister’s advisors and the Secretariat of the Prime Minister’s Public Service Center. The outcome will be informed through email or postal addresses.
As one should expect, the site is completely in the Thai language and therefore hardly or not at all accessible for foreigners, but the idea appeals to us. We have seen time after time that Thailand is ahead of many other countries (for instance when one looks at European Countries) in using the Internet. To give some examples: Every Thai citizen will get an email address, based on his/her citizen number, every tambon will get a website, the Thai government widely uses the Internet and in fact every governmental or government-related organization has an extensive website. Find an overview at http://www.nepo.go.th/index_thaigov.html Take a cup of coffee while the page loads, because it really is very extensive and therefore loads slowly. (Source: Public Relations Department)


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All former Prime Ministers to get together

Posted by hasekamp on 2 August 2001 at 11:17 AM
All former (living) prime ministers have been invited to join a government workshop on bureaucratic reform this weekend. All living former PM’s have been invited. The workshop will be held in Pattaya on 4 and 5 August.
To refresh the memory of our readers: the list of guests includes General Prem Tinsulanonda, Mr.Chuan Leekpai, Mr.Banharn Silpaarcha, Mr.Tanin Kraivichien, Mr.Anand Panyarachun, General Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, General Suchinda Kraprayoon and Field Marshal Thanom Kittykachorn. Of course the workshop will be presided by Mr Thaksin Shinawatra.
As those of our readers who do not remember this very clearly can see from the above list, in the not to far past Thailand has been governed by several military governments.
The Thaksin government believes that the skill and experience of the former PM’s will benefit bureaucratic reform. We believe that during the coffee and tea breaks there will be enough time for informal chats to recall personal and common experiences! (Source: Public Relations Department)


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THAI not allowed to stop Mae Hong Son route

Posted by hasekamp on 2 August 2001 at 11:14 AM
Thai Airways has been ordered by the Transport Ministry to drop its plan to hand over the Chiang Mai-Mae Hong Son route to Air Andaman, a private airline. We reported about this plan earlier this week.
Many Mae Hong Son residents and businessmen were strongly opposed to the plan, as we also reported..
Private carriers will however be allowed to fly alongside Thai Airways on this (and other) routes, but Thai should continue its service.
Air Andaman said that this airline has signed a partnership agreement with Thai Airways to operate two routes, including Chiang Mai-Mae Hong Son. Under the agreement, Thai Airways would assist Air Andaman's marketing efforts. In return, Air Andaman would rely on ground services at Mae Hong Son airport provided by Thai Airways staff. (Source: Bangkok Post)


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Fate of seven Thai officials not clear (updated)

Posted by hasekamp on 2 August 2001 at 11:14 AM
Did the Bangkok Post report yesterday that the seven drug officials who disappeared on 27 July are safe, today the same newspaper reports that the fate of the seven is still very uncertain. Therefore it seems more appropriate to consult government sources.
The Thai Public Relations Department reports today that the seven are under detention of a minority group in Myanmar (Burma). Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said that despite this detention Thai-Myanmar relations are still good.
The Prime Minister believes that the officials are detained only for interrogations for a short while, after which he expects them to be freed.
The Premier said the reason for the loss of contacts with the group is still unclear and should be known after their return (yes, we believe so too!). The government has been in close contact with Myanmar to ensure a speedy and safe release of the seven Thai officials.
Mr Thaksin has confidence that the Burmese government will handle the contacts with the minority group satisfactorily.
Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, meanwhile, told the House of Representative that the incident would not affect the Thai – Myanmar relations. He said the seven Thais were in Myanmar on personal visit. However, the vehicle they were using might look unfamiliar to local authorities who could have detained them for interrogations. General Chavalit said the seven officials were supposed to be freed today (August 2) the latest.
Later today it was made public that the seven have been set free, after they had been detained by the Wa State Army.


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Fourteen more death sentences

Posted by hasekamp on 1 August 2001 at 12:45 PM
The Criminal Court sentenced 14 convicted drug traffickers to death yesterday and refused to commute the death penalty despite their confessions. Most convicts had been arrested in connection with trafficking speed pills, but some were (also) found guilty of trafficking heroin.
Last Wednesday another 19 death sentences were passed for drug offenders. So it appears that the government takes its policy serious to treat drug offenders harsh and quick, and the judges are prepared to follow this policy.
Human rights organizations like Amnesty International are protesting against the continuous line of death sentences and call them "line executions".
Also Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (Forum-Asia) released a statement last week calling on the government to review its policy after sentencing 19 drug traffickers to death. It looks as if they can release another statement today, but that it will not help anyway.
Drug traffickers, Thai and foreign, cuaght in Thailand have to reckon with harsh sentences, no Royal Pardon (see a former posting on this page) and quick executions. (Source for the facts: Bangkok Post)


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