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High temperatures expected in April

Posted by hasekamp on 31 March 2002 at 14:51 PM
In Thailand now it is summer season, which means that it can be very hot. The Meteorological Department expects that people in all regions of Thailand will have to face high temperatures, with temperatures up to 43 degrees Celsius in some areas. People in the North and Northeast will likely have to face the highest temperatures, while those in the South can face rain, particularly in late April. Temperatures in the eastern and central regions, including Bangkok, are expected to be around 35-39 degrees Celsius.
The Meteorological Department also warned that many areas in the country will have to face drought and shortages of water. Therefore people should be aware of possible forest fires.
Given these predictions, we advise our visitors not to take their holidays in Thailand next month. But after the summer season the rainy season in due, so we advise to go to Thailand between October and February, if possible. (Source for the heat warning: Thai News Agency)


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First aid training for police

Posted by hasekamp on 30 March 2002 at 18:09 PM
Bangkok Hospital, in collaboration with government agencies, is providing training sessions in First Aid and child delivery for 143 traffic police officers. This is as a Royally initiated project. The aim is to enable policemen and –women to perform their duties more effectively.
The deputy director of Bangkok Hospital has said that the training session is being offered to traffic police officers that are veterans and are returning to brush up their skills. Another session will be given to police officers in various municipalities.
The content of the upcoming training session includes First Aid applications, rescue methods, and techniques in delivering and handling newborn babies. Participants will have to undergo a test and evaluated on both written and performance basis. This project –as said- being Royally initiated, we can be assured that it will start in a few weeks, if not in a few day already. (Source: Public Relations Department)


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Bangkok the most livable city in the World?

Posted by hasekamp on 28 March 2002 at 14:19 PM
Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) is launching a project, aimed to develop Bangkok as one of the world’s most livable cities. BMA started launching the "City Order Project" today with the ultimate aim to turn Bangkok to become one of the world’s 15 moost livable cities in the future. The project includes campaigns and measures to keep the city clean, and be in good order from households to footpaths, roads and other public places. Furthermore the good spirit of the Bangkokians and law enforcement are needed to help achieve the goal. With efficient management and concrete cooperation from the public and other parties concerned, Bangkok is believed to be eventually listed as one of the world’s 15 livable cities in the future, said a senior BMA officer. Knowing Bangkok quite well, we believe that it will take some time before the aim is achieved. And we wonder if we would like Bangkok to see without its uneven sidewalks, its stray dogs, its gasoline fume etc. We know that all these things are to be considered as not good, but to us they belong to Bangkok! We believe that Bangkok is very livable already in its own way, despite the things mentioned. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Software and technology park

Posted by hasekamp on 27 March 2002 at 13:55 PM
A Cyber Media Park for e-Gravity (CMPEG) will be built in Chiang Mai Province. It will be located in the middle of a valley in San Sai district. CMPEG has three development phases. The first one will cover a 1,600 square meter office building and apartments. The second phase will add an additional 4,800 square meter office building. The last phase will be finished in July next year and will add a further 4,800 square meters of office space. The project include tennis courts, a swimming pool, accommodation, restaurants, garden, and car parks.
The software park aims to attract more small companies to create a mix of cultures and languages which will benefit software houses that want to expand their market to other countries. Some 14 foreign software companies have so far booked space. This is another step into modern ITC technology of Thailand. Although we find the plan ambitious, we observe that Thailand is always willing to stick its neck out when new technology is involved, and it is also willing to take some risk for it, in order to stay ahead of other countries in the region. (Source: Public Relations Department)


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Attack on Wa imminent

Posted by hasekamp on 27 March 2002 at 13:54 PM
About 1,000 Thai army troops, backed by artillery and two air force light attack planes, have been moved closer to the Burmese border in preparation for assaults on the pro-Rangoon United Wa State Army (UWSA).
This follows a clash on Monday on Thai soil between a Thai army patrol team and UWSA guerrillas, which left one Thai soldier dead. The patrol was part of security arrangements ahead of a planned visit to a border village in Wiang Haeng by Her Majesty the Queen. The royal visit has been cancelled now. There will now be no visit by Her Majesty until next year. Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra flew to Chiang Mai yesterday evening for an audience with Her Majesty the Queen.
Burmese border forces will be informed in advance if an attack is being made, to avoid a direct confrontation with Rangoon. The UWSA being supported by Rangoon, we wonder how effective an attack can be if Rangoon is warned in advance.
The Third Army will also keep a closer watch on border areas where Shan guerrillas were operating. The Shan have been cooperating with the Wa in the past. The Third Army is now looking for evidence that the Shan State Army (SSA) is also involved in the drugs trade. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Beauty queen will advise Thaksin

Posted by hasekamp on 25 March 2002 at 22:34 PM
Thailand has a new beauty queen: Miss Thailand-Universe. She is not only beautiful, but she also is smart, it seems. She made a suggestion to PM Thaksin Shinawatra and Mr. welcomed this (so far unspecified) suggestion, which is about what the government should do to solve the problem of falling prices of farm products. The beauty queen, who was crowned on Saturday and studies at Kasetsart University, gave an interview to the press on Sunday and said that she wanted to meet the PM to question him about the ongoing measures aimed at solving the falling prices. Asked if he thought that the beauty queen was indirectly criticizing the government over the farm measures, Thaksin said he needed to hear what she had to say first. (Source: The Nation)


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Pleasing the Germans

Posted by hasekamp on 25 March 2002 at 22:33 PM
German travelers are looking mostly for natural attractions and a different culture when visiting Thailand, according a survey, conducted by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) in Germany, Thailand's second-largest source of tourists.
The survey covered more than 7,500 Germans with high educational levels and above-average income. When asked why they might consider Thailand for a vacation, about 60 per cent of the respondents said they wanted to get away from their daily routine. A like percentage wanted to enjoy the good weather here. (Respondents were allowed to choose multiple answers).
About 58 per cent of the respondents wanted to relax, 58 per cent wanted to have leisure and free time and 54 per cent wanted to see the outside world.
The survey also showed that 49 per cent of the respondents wanted to recuperate and 47 per cent sought new experiences. (Only) about 18 per cent of the respondents said that they looked forward to flirting with the locals or indulging in sexual escapades in Thailand. We wonder in what way TAT is now planning to please German tourists. (Source: The Nation)


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Opium crop is increasing

Posted by hasekamp on 24 March 2002 at 20:25 PM
More opium is being grown in northern Thailand this year than last year, but the Army is confident that it can destroy the entire crop by the end of this month, the commander of the Third Army said yesterday. Soldiers have already eradicated most of the opium plants and the rest will be destroyed this week, the commander said. Most of the opium is grown in remote, wooded areas. The Army says it knows where.
During a recent Army operation on Friday, 13 suspected drug smugglers were killed by the Army. However, in that case the smugglers were smuggling methamphetamine pills, not opium. (Source: The Nation)


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Lead plant to be sued

Posted by hasekamp on 24 March 2002 at 17:31 PM
The Lead Concentrate Co, owner of the Kliti lead-dressing plant, which is accused of having caused and still causing lead poisoning in Lower Kliti villagers, will face a legal case on Tuesday, a representative of the Law Society of Thailand (LST) said. A lawyer of LST, said that the LST will file a legal suit against the company for violating the 1992 Environmental Protection Act by polluting Kliti Creek, the only natural water source for villagers, with lead over a period of years. He added that the LST was authorized by eight Lower Kliti villagers to ask the Kanchanaburi Provincial Court to order the company to compensate the villagers to the tune of 119 million Baht. The eight plaintiffs include four children, two of whom are two-year-old babies, one is a seven-year-old girl and another is a 10-year-old boy.
All the plaintiffs have high levels of lead in their blood with some having become disabled because of it. Most of the villagers have much higher levels of lead in their blood than is acceptable. The Pollution Control Department (PCD) has found Kliti Creek to be contaminated with thousands of tonnes of lead, and although the PCD has a plan to clean up the creek, it has yet to be implemented. Four ministries concerned with the issue - the Public Health, Agriculture, Science and Industry ministries, reached a consensus that the Kliti lead-dressing plant should be demolished since the concession license had expired. However, the plant is still there. Now the action that has not been taken properly by the government is taken –within its possibilities- by the LST. We have been following this case extensively. To find former articles, use the word "Klity" in our search box. (Source: The Nation)


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Corruption in drugs suppression

Posted by hasekamp on 24 March 2002 at 17:29 PM
Police have charged 57 out of 621 government officials that are included in a blacklist of suspected drug dealers in the South of Thailand. In total 188 officials were investigated. Now 57 of them have been charged.
The list of 621 initially blacklisted includes 389 police officers, 133 local administration officials and 24 soldiers. The rest are state enterprise employees and teachers.
The US Drug Enforcement Agency had requested information about suspected drug traffickers in the South, amid concerns about the spread of Swedish-made "Butterfly" ecstasy tablets from Malaysia. It is believed that the network of drug warlord Wei Hseuh-kang has extended to the South, because speed pills seized in the South could be traced to have been produced by the Wa in the North.
There are 578,000 registered drug addicts in Thailand in the southern provinces, with a total population of only 4.4 million people. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Logging to be intensified?

Posted by hasekamp on 24 March 2002 at 17:29 PM
Two timber companies to renew logging concessions for Burma, after the new forestry chief said that he might ease the existing restrictions on log imports. A source from the logging industry lobby said that at least two loggers out of four are preparing for talks with the Myanmar Timber Enterprise, which oversees logging concessions in Burma.
The newly appointed Forestry Department chief has said that he might ease the log imports restrictions. The new chief will take office on 1 April. His has set many conditions on log imports. Restrictions were introduced after a logging scandal following the discovery that trees were felled in Thailand, smuggled into Burma and imported back into Thailand.
We -being environmentalists- are not happy with this news. We all know that in Burma other ideas about environment and about honest trade exist than in Thailand. We just have to mention the numerous drugs factories in Burma, near the Thai border. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Thailand will set up a solar power plant

Posted by hasekamp on 23 March 2002 at 11:23 AM
Thailand will set up its first 500-kilowatt solar power plant. It will be located in the northern province of Mae Hong Son. The plant will cost 195 million Baht to start up. A government spokesperson said that the project will complement the energy conservation and environmental protection policy of the government, while promoting energy security in the North.
Construction of the plant will take two years and will start in 2002. Most of the money will come from the Energy Conservation Fund. To us one thing is certain: Thailand has enough sun for such a project! (Source: Public Relations Department)


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Cocktail against HIV for 20 Baht per pill

Posted by hasekamp on 21 March 2002 at 16:34 PM
The Thai authorities said today that Thailand has started to produce a single-pill anti-HIV cocktail drug, to be sold in government hospitals beginning next month. Thailand is the second country (after India) to make such a cocktail, a combination of three generic drugs produced by three Western pharmaceutical companies. The three companies do not hold any patents on the drugs in Thailand, which means they can be produced there without legal problems.
According to official estimates, there are nearly 700,000 HIV-infected people in Thailand. The cocktail will be sold for 20 Baht per pill. The cost of a month's supply of the drug would be 1,200 Baht per person. Now the price for anti-HIV drugs is 5,000 Baht per person, if the three drugs are taken separately. The Government Pharmaceutical Organization, which is making the cocktail, will hold a 10-year patent on the drug, a combination of Nevirapine, Stavudine and Lamivudine.
The drugs don't cure AIDS but control the disease. If taken regularly, they reduce the damage the virus can do to the body and improve a patient's health and quality of life. (Source: Associated Press)


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Two Chinese pandas in Chiang Mai Zoo

Posted by hasekamp on 21 March 2002 at 13:14 PM
The Chinese government will send a pair of pandas to Chiang Mai Zoo this year, after the Thai government agreed to sign a 10-year contract under which it will pay 129 million Baht a year to Beijing. The deputy chairman and secretary of the Zoological Parks Organization (ZPO) Board, said that Thailand had agreed to pay the Chinese government, for the honor of providing a home for the rare animals. The 129-million Baht annual fee will be used to fund research on pandas in China. An additional 59 million Baht will be needed to transport the pandas and to prepare an enclosure for them at the Chiang Mai Zoo. The government has said that it would set aside the mount required aside for the ZPO. The ZPO plans to raise funds to feed and maintain the pandas by selling "panda-watch" tickets to adult zoo-goers. Construction of the enclosure for the pandas is expected to be complete by the end of the year. Thailand is proud to host the pandas, because there are only 17 pandas living in captivity outside China. The presence of the two pandas will be a good opportunity to visit Chiang Mai Zoo, which is a nicely located and attractive zoo. (Source: The Nation)


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Klitty Creek has 100 times as much lead as allowed

Posted by hasekamp on 20 March 2002 at 18:27 PM
We have written last year several times about the lead poisoning in a small village called Klitty (or Klity) Creek. A badly operated lead mine was the cause of the serious poisonings. Now there is more news, be it not any good news.
A government survey of the lead levels in the blood of residents of six Kanchanaburi villages has revealed unacceptably high amounts, with lead levels in the soil over 100 times higher than allowed limits. Surveys have been conducted in six villages around Lower Klitty Village, where since 1998 it had been apparent that lead was released into local water sources by industrial plants. There were serious health complaints with the local residents.
We thought that the government had already promised to take control over the situation. Now it appears that only scientific experiments were carried out. Although they might be useful, they do not solve anything. Now we find it high time for the government to act! (Source: Thai News Agency)


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New durian export rules

Posted by hasekamp on 19 March 2002 at 9:32 AM
The Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives will tighten its quality regulations to ensure that no unripe durians are exported. Unripe durians will give the product a negative image, which should be avoided at all price. The liking or not of durians is a very personal and delicate matter already, and so the first acqaintance with this delicious fruit should take place under the best possible circunstances.
The stricter regulations will be introduced next month. They require exporters to have their durians examined by officials from the Agriculture Department before packaging the fruit for shipment. Approved lots will carry certificates confirming to Customs Department officials that they contain no unripe durians. (Source: Public Relations Department)


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US: Wa are terrorists

Posted by hasekamp on 18 March 2002 at 16:18 PM
The United States have declared that the Wa drug dealers are important targets in the war on terrorism. This is a significant policy change that could put the Wa in trouble (at last!).
Diplomatic sources in Bangkok said that it was clear that the US policy in the region is quickly changing. This will put pressure on Burma to strike fast and hard against drug kingpin Wei Hsueh-kang (something Rangoon has promised time after time, but never done) or risk intervention from outside by the powerful US army. The testimony was not the first time US officials have linked the war on terrorism to drugs, as well as weapons proliferation. But it marks the first time that a drug-trafficking cartel (the Wa) has been called as a terrorist organization. So far, the US had not officially put the Wa on its list of known terrorist groups. Diplomatic sources in Bangkok said they were not surprised. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Singing convicts

Posted by hasekamp on 17 March 2002 at 13:12 PM
A chorus, consisting of about fifty convicted criminals (mainly convicted for drug crimes), will give a series of concerts throughout Thailand in the coming period.
In Thailand there are several ways to try to give convicts a useful activity. One is to learn them to make furniture. The pieces of furniture made by convicts are then sold in special exhibitions that are quite popular in Thailand, because of the low prices and high quality of the products.
The latest way to have convicts pass their time in a useful way is, as said, allowing them to sing in a chorus. The convicts that are part of the chorus will give concerts in the context of an anti drugs campaign of the government. Performances will be held in other prisons, but also for the general public, for instance in parks and in schools. The chorus members have been training for half a year on their repertoire, which was partly composed by themselves.
On stage they will be allowed to put their balls and chains off, and they will be allowed to wear evening dress. (Source: Associated Press)


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Protesters against "The Beach" may get their right

Posted by hasekamp on 16 March 2002 at 10:55 AM
The Appeals Court yesterday suspended the civil court rulings acquitting the Agriculture Ministry and other parties involved in the filming of The Beach, saying the affected bay area has been damaged and is in need of restoration. In plain English this means that the protesters against the movie with Leonardo di Capri may get their right after all in their accusations concerning the environment.
The court decision came two years after the release of the film, which was not really successful, and which was not really good. It may have been nice to be able to see some scenes in Bangkok and some of Phuket provinces nature, but that would have been possible too without violating nature. The new ruling reverses the original rulings that did not recognize environmental damage resulting from the filming.
The Appeals Court yesterday resumed proceedings in the "The Beach" trial in which the Krabi Provincial Administration Organisation (PAO) and associates filed a suit against the previous government and 20th Century Fox for damaging the ecosystem of Maya Beach on Phi Phi Island.
The Appeals Court believed that the filming of "The Beach" had a negative impact on the ecosystem of the Phi Phi Islands. The Royal Forestry Department (RFD) allowed 20th Century Fox to create an idyllic tropical setting by altering the beach's landscape by planting dozens of coconut trees in violation of the 1961 National Park Act.
A suit was filed in 1999 with the Civil Court against five defendants who were involved in the filming and decision-making process, which allowed the studio to shoot the film there.
The Civil Court decided that, as the filming was already over, it could not follow the plaintiffs' demands. The plaintiffs then took their case to the Appeals Court. A Civil Court hearing is set for May 10. (Source: The Nation)


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Academics join freedom of press protest

Posted by hasekamp on 16 March 2002 at 10:54 AM
Three hundred and eighty-four academics opened a new battlefront against Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra yesterday to win back the freedom of speech. The academics, from many universities, signed an open letter demanding the prime minister's explanation for alleged intimidation of the press and infringement of civil liberties. They also demanded Mr. Thaksin to promise publicly that he would protect and promote the freedom of speech and freedom of expression, which are guaranteed under articles 39-42 of the Thai constitution.
Meanwhile a government-appointed committee came to the conclusion that the Anti-Money Laundering Office (Amlo) was at fault for having been conducting investigations into the assets of senior media figures, politicians and social activists. The identities of those who ordered the probes are said to be revealed in a report to be presented later to Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, deputy prime minister. The committee (mentioned above) recommended in its report that Amlo should adjust its working practices.
Part of the order to make the disputed investigation into the bank accounts of journalists and politicians read: "Please investigate confidentially, avoiding contact with bank branches, the bank accounts, financial transactions and safe-custody items of the following people.". The document is likely to increase the pressure on Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who has been dogged by recent allegations of violations of press freedom and civil liberties. Mr. Thaksin is the chairman of Amlo. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Thai Elephant Day

Posted by hasekamp on 13 March 2002 at 15:44 PM
Today is Thai elephant day. Everybody involved with domesticated Thai elephants join forces to hold a traditional blessing ceremony for elephants at Mae Sa Elephant Centre in Chiang Mai province. The President of the Elephant Centre Club of Chiang Maio said that there are at least 500 domesticated elephants working in the tourism industry in Chiang Mai. They are employed in trekking and also in the shows designed for visitors at various elephant centers.
To mark the Thai Elephant Day, all humans involved in the tourism industry will express their gratitude to the elephants with a traditional BAI SI blessing ceremony and a KHAN TOK feast for domesticated elephants from all centers. The aim of this ceremony is to raise more public awareness on the significance of elephants and the need to conserve the environment as their habitat. Hopefully the result will be that elephants will be more respected in Thailand. (Source: Public Relations Department)


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Elephant sperm bank

Posted by hasekamp on 12 March 2002 at 16:21 PM
The Thai elephant is endangered, as we reported repeatedly. And the few elephants left are not safe from humans any more. Angry farmers sometimes shoot the historic Thai animals, because they try to find food on or near the farms. Conservationists now intent to save the Thai endangered wild elephants by setting up an elephant sperm bank. Experts are currently conducting artificial insemination and other experiments that include the collection, examination and freezing of elephant semen.
The dean of veterinary medicine at Mahidol University, which is coordinating the project, said of the sperm bank that it is only a start.
Thai experts, along with specialists from the Smithsonian Institution in Washington and Germany's Zoo Biology and Wild Life Research, are working to artificially inseminate elephants in northern Chiang Mai province. Besides the collection of the sperm itself, the process involves screening semen for disease and the checking the sperm quality otherwise.
So far nobody has much experience with frozen semen of elephants.
Thailand's elephant herd now exists of nearly 5,000 animals, including 2,200 in the wild. Experts recently warned (see our former report) that the wild population could be wiped out within 15 years if no action was taken. (Source: AFP)


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Kite Festival is nearing

Posted by hasekamp on 12 March 2002 at 16:21 PM
Kite flying enthusiasts can join a spectacular, traditional, kite festival in Hua Hin District in Prachuap Khiri Khan Province later this month. The Seventh Kite Festival will be held from 23 to 24 March. The two-day event is part of tourism activities. The festival aims to conserve and revive the popularity of Thai kite flying. It is also designed to encourage participants from the public and private sectors to promote tourism activities. The festival will feature demonstrations of Thai and foreign kites as well as exhibition about their history. Interesting activities include stunt kite contests. About 100 kite players from 12 countries are expected to participate in the event, which is expected to attract more than 5,000 local and foreign tourists. (Source: Public Relations Department)


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Bangkok works on stray dogs

Posted by hasekamp on 12 March 2002 at 15:11 PM
The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) has resolved to implant microchips in stray dogs, in order to record their history of immunization against rabies and sterilization.
This is the latest solution to the growing problems of stray dogs. The project will cost 60 million Baht. BMA considers the budget to be worthwhile, because Thailand loses about 75 million Baht annually on rabies vaccines. The project will be launched in cooperation with educational institutions and the private sector. The project will begin with the sterilization of 120,000 stray dogs in June this year. After the operation, including the microchip implants, the dogs will get collars, which will be checked in a year. The campaign will take one year to complete, meaning that BMA will have to treat 350 dogs a day. (Source: Public Relations Department)


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US will not patent jasmine rice

Posted by hasekamp on 11 March 2002 at 19:00 PM
Rice farmers in Thailand can sleep well again: Yesterday the news came that the United States has said in writing that it will not patent Thailand’s famous hom mali rice. In a letter sent to the Thai government the US Ministry of Agriculture said that the Thai people could rest assured that it would see that US scientists stuck strictly to the letter of patent laws.
As all the Thai media, including this site, reported last year, a US scientist was developing a strain of jasmine rice suitable for growing in US climates and was planning to patent it. This gave rise to a storm of protest from Thai farmers, who feared that their business could be destroyed.
The Deputy Commerce Minister said that the letter from the US government pointed out that the scientist in question had obtained the rice strain from the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), which stipulated clearly in its regulations that anyone obtaining strains form the institute would not be able to patent them. The US government said that it attached great importance to following these rules, and that no US scientist would be able to patent the hom mali strain of rice for which Thailand is known throughout the world. Although we still find that Thailand is having very double-hearted ideas about protecting Industrial Property (IP) rights, we are nevertheless happy that the Thai farmers will not be harmed in their income by US scientists. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Where are the Constitutional rights?

Posted by hasekamp on 11 March 2002 at 17:59 PM
As we have reported, many in Thailand (and abroad) are worried about the actions against the free press in Thailand by the Thaksin administration. Today we refer to The Nation, the newspaper that has been hit most by having to shut down its radio station. However, the complete Thai press is now falling over Thaksin and his government. The latest step, having bank accounts checked by the AMLO, is bringing Thailand to rage. The Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO) may have violated the law in ordering commercial banks to release information regarding the assets and transactions of journalists who have been critical of the government, legal experts say. A close look at the AMLO law and the explosive political situation has strongly suggested that the AMLO information-division chief who signed the order will probably not survive the incident politically.
The notion that those in power could abuse the Money Laundering Prevention and Suppression Act was one of the main concerns of legal experts who drew it up. Now, with the blatant media repression by the Thaksin Administration, their worst fears have been realized.
The use of this law as a tool to intimidate political opponents and blackmail operators of legitimate businesses were among the main issues between the time the first draft bill was launched over a decade ago and 1999 when it was finally passed into law.
The law covers the transfer or conversion of funds or property from specified crimes: narcotics trafficking, prostitution, fraud against the public, fraud involving financial institutions, abuse of position by government officials, extortion, trade in contraband and enforcement of the law.
Contrary to the general principle of the criminal justice system, the anti-money laundering law stipulates that the burden is on the suspects to prove their innocence.
T he law specifically targets criminal types, not the majority of law-abiding citizens, experts say.
This means that any AMLO (Anti-Money Laundering Office) investigation that is initiated without sufficient ground for suspicion is nothing but abuse of authority and an act of harassment. (Source: The Nation)


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Thaksin gets heavy criticism over press suppression

Posted by hasekamp on 10 March 2002 at 15:21 PM
The criticism over Mr. Thaksin Shinawatra, because of his attempts to silence the national and even the international press FEER, the Economist; see our previous postings), is fierce in Thailand. However, this latest hobby of the Thai PM also reached the Dutch press, and so doubtless also other international media.
Another (related) scandal initialized by Thaksin is that the Anti Money Laundering Office (AMLO) has checked bank accounts of numerous journalists.
Chaiyapan Prapasawat is one of 64 people, most of them media professionals, whose bank accounts were checked at the order of AMLO. Mr. Chaiyapan said he was disappointed with the government, given that he had always considered himself its supporter. He was speaking at a Thammasat University forum on press freedom held yesterday in Bnagkok. The signatures of more than 1,000 journalists, politicians and others have already been gathered to back a petition that urges an end to the intimidation of the press. The Parliament President and the Senate Speaker gathered these signatures. AMLO's intrusion of the people's privacy is put completely on the account of the prime minister, who is considered to be insincere towards democratic development. Mr. Thaksin denies involvement.
Elder statesman Prawet Wasi said in an open letter yesterday that the government's anger towards criticism would only lead to the further disintegration of national unity.
In his live weekly radio program the Thai leader said that he wanted all Thais to be in harmony and determined to solve their own problems and to jointly solve national problems.
The Thai Premier noted that the Thai economy was showing signs of recovery in many areas now and that this should inspire the people. Thaksin furthermore said that he would never do anything bad or betray the nation, but that he would adhere to the constitution, perform his best for national benefits, and be loyal to the monarch. (Sources: The Nation and Thai News Agency)


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Suriyothai chopped from 185 to 150 minutes

Posted by hasekamp on 10 March 2002 at 15:20 PM
Francis Ford Coppola has been in Thailand for the past ten days to help his friend, Thai director Chatrichalerm Yukol, to chop 35 minutes out of Suriyothai. In Thailand the film earned 600 million Baht (US$ 13.6 million). Now it will go International within the next two months by Coppola's distribution company. The master from Hollywood will receive an executive producer credit for his chopping. Coppola told a press conference yesterday that he saw the movie in December last year and agreed to take part in the re-editing because it is an epic of great proportions, that audiences the world over will enjoy. The film will be shown internationally in the Thai language with English subtitles, which he helped to rewrite. Coppola says he hopes it will prove a blockbuster like "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon'' from the Far East also was.
The master is very enthusiastic about the movie. When asked to summarize the themes of the film, Coppola replied: "Sex, intrigue, battles, sex, heartbreaking characters, sex". (Source: The Nation)


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Get a Chula degree on-line

Posted by hasekamp on 9 March 2002 at 12:14 PM
Thailand's oldest university (Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok) announced yesterday that it would offer a bachelor's degree course, with teaching entirely via the Internet.
The dean of Chulalongkorn University said that the course in question, a course in software development, will give students flexible study options, allowing them to access information at any time they chose. Lecturers and students would also get a chance to meet each other at a number of centers across the country, but these meetings will not be compulsory. Centers will be opened in Trang, Nan and Sru Saket provinces.
Chula insists that the quality of the new on-line program will be equal to conventional courses offered by the university. The new program is aimed at allowing more people living in the provinces to gain a university education. As is so many other things, Thailand seems to be the first country to offer a university degree through the Internet. We hope that the inherent problems (for instance how to control that test are being made by the students themselves, without consulting others) have been though over carefully and that this new opportunity will not end up in a buying of degrees. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Phuket to become arms-free

Posted by hasekamp on 9 March 2002 at 12:13 PM
Phuket province will be turned into a gun-free zone, to assure both foreign and local tourists of security and orderliness, the national police chief (General Sant Sarutanond) said yesterday. Phuket will be the first province to become gun-free in Thailand. The planning is to do the same to other provinces.
"After the restriction takes effect, police will stop issuing licenses to bear arms to all local civilians on Phuket," Sant said. Only uniformed police will be permitted to carry firearms.
The plan has been made in close cooperation with the government.
There will be a time frame for an amnesty program, allowing holders of illegal firearms to turn them in to authorities without punishment, before the ban takes effect, Sant said. (Source: The Phuket Gazette)


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Nation silences radio station voluntarily

Posted by hasekamp on 6 March 2002 at 11:10 AM
As we mentioned late last night, the radio station of the Nation Multimedia Group has been threatened by the government to stop its political criticism. In reaction to that, the Nation Group has suspended political coverage and commentary programs on its 24-hour cable news channel.
Th group issued the following statement: "Nation Channel UBC 8 views the current political atmosphere in Thailand with great concern. It appears that there are uncertainties suggesting that the government has neither the will nor the inclination to guarantee freedom of expression as guaranteed by the Constitution". The complete statement can be found on this page of the Nation website. (The page may not be reachable at the same URL after 6 March).
Nation Channel UBC8 is produced by the Nation Multimedia Group, which also publishes the Nation newspaper and the business daily Krungthep Turakij. The company also supplies news items for a radio station on 90.5 MHz FM.
What happened before the channel silenced itself? On Monday the Nation Group was informed by a senior officer of the Defense Energy Department that it had to discontinue the news programs produced by the company immediately. The Nation Group said it believed the order was related to a "technical problem" experienced by UBC 8 during an interview with Prasong Soonsiri, a critic of the Thaksin administration. A section of the interview was blacked out, although it proceeded uninterrupted on FM 90.5MHz under a simultaneous broadcasting arrangement between the cable and ratio stations. After all this "technical problem" was a political problem. Nation Group later said said that without a guarantee of freedom of expression to report and comment on political news, Nation Channel UBC 8 would no longer cover political news.
The Thaksin government defended this salvo against the media by saying that the action had been taken on contractual grounds. Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra denied that the action had been taken for political reasons. At the same time he warned the media to be "constructive" in their reports and not to be biased against the government.
We deeply regret that the Thai government apparently does not want to see that this action aganst the Nation and the recent actions against two foreign magazines bring the country very close to a situation where the government wants to control the voice of the press. We hope that this government can be brought to reason and will not slide down further.
The opinion of the US State Department about the freedom of press and other human rights in Thailand (in 2001) can be read on the site of the US State Department. We wonder if the Thai authorities will ask the US government to remove this page from the Internet, as they are trying to do with a page from the website of the economic magazie The Economist, as reported recently. (Source: The Nation)


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Mr. Thaksin, quo vadis?

Posted by hasekamp on 5 March 2002 at 22:32 PM
Far Eastern Economic Review has just apologized for a publication in their magazine, or –as we reported already- Mr. Thaksin Shinawatra now sends his attention to The Economist. This magazine chose to leave thousands of copies of its March 2 edition in a Bangkok warehouse rather than face a certain ban over its special report on Thailand, which –among several other things- dealt with the monarchy and was deemed inappropriate. The special report, however, remained on The Economist’s website, resulting in a police order yesterday that it be removed.
And here Mr. Thaksin really goes much too far. He wants to have material removed from an American website, of an American magazine, because in his opinion there are some bad things about Thailand on it. With what right or authority? Read the article on The Economist website and judge for yourself.
And today the Nation Group also faced the government’s wrath, with a ban on its radio station because of some sharp criticisms of Thaksin. The editor of The Nation said that the Thai media would be on its guard as the government sought to establish new limits and boundaries on press freedom. We do not quite understand what the problem of Mr. Thaksin with the (world!) media is. He now seems to be threatening top expel an American and a British journalist. Maybe in this hot summer season in Thailand Mr. Thaksin should take a holiday? (Sources: several Thai media)


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FEER soap ends

Posted by hasekamp on 4 March 2002 at 21:45 PM
The Far Eastern Economic Review (FEER), owned by U.S. publisher Dow Jones & Co, has apologized today to the Thai Parliament for the story that allegedly was offensive to the Thai monarchy and caused Mr. Thaksin Shinawatra to threaten to expel two journalists.
The Hong Kong-based weekly said in a letter, handed over by a lawyer to the President of Parliament, that it most sincerely apologized for any offence caused by the article in its January 10 edition. This edition was banned in Thailand. FEER's sister publication, the Asian Wall Street Journal (AWSJ), carried an excerpt from the letter.
"The King commands our admiration as a symbol of Thai sovereignty and for his many good works and exemplary leadership of the Thai people," the AWSJ wrote. In a strongly worded editorial, the AWSJ also criticized the Thai government for its action against the magazine. AWSJ wrote that Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra had a thin skin and is quick to blame others, especially foreigners, for his own mistakes.
FEER's letter to the Thai parliament was the result of negotiations between lawyers for the magazine's reporters, whose visas were revoked last month, and senior local police officers over how the Review could mitigate damage caused by the article. And so the soap around an allegedly offending publication ended without any real winner. (Source: Reuters)


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International Women's Day

Posted by hasekamp on 4 March 2002 at 21:41 PM
Eleven Thai women have been awarded on the occasion of International Women's Day. The Gender Development Research Institute and several women's groups presented the awards.
The recipients received the awards for their work to achieve healthy workplace environment, journalism, union work, social science and more. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Taking care of elephants

Posted by hasekamp on 4 March 2002 at 21:40 PM
Measures will be taken to help at least 40 wild elephants in Dong Yai Forest. These elephants are in danger of starving during the dry season, that is going on now in Thailand.
Apart from the recently established Dong Yai Wild Elephant Conservation Fund, a project will be launched to grow plants for elephant feed so that the animals do not have to encroach on farmland. Local farmers have been told that they face legal action if they hurt or shoot the hungry elephants, as they have done in recent years in this season. It is difficult for wild elephants to find food and water in the dry season. Therefore they sometimes looked for it near farms.
But this is also a hard season for humans. The provincial primary education office has been instructed to make sure there also are enough water containers for all schools, especially those in remote areas. More than seven million liters of water have already been distributed to troubled areas in Buri Ram. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Officials try to do something about copyrights

Posted by hasekamp on 3 March 2002 at 23:42 PM
Despite the alleged corruption in the business (see the former message), the Commerce Ministry has started a high-profile campaign to protect copyrighted products, tyat kicked off yesterday with a ceremony at Pantip Plaza and was followed by a raid on a warehouse that netted counterfeiting machinery which had previously been impounded by police.
The ministry's campaign is aimed at promoting copyrighted items to protect software-developers and encourage the development of new, innovative intellectual property, the ministry said.
Shops at Pantip Plaza had asked the officials for another month to clear all pirated items, after a former raid there.
Police say that thirty-eight sellers have agreed to stop selling pirated items. It is becoming time fore Thailand to show that it wants to fight piracy, because the United States, Japan and Europe are beginning become impatient. At the same time police said that it would be difficult to completely get rid of the market in pirated goods. They believe that 80 to 90 per cent of the pirated items could disappear and that clearer results should be known within six months. We find this much better news that the alarming former item. Some of our readers may pity it that they will no longer be able to buy Office suites or computer operating systems for 100-300 Baht, but they should realize that software development is only possible when people are willing to buy the products! (Source: The Nation)


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Are politicians behind copyright violators?

Posted by hasekamp on 3 March 2002 at 23:41 PM
The House subcommittee on countering intellectual property violations said yesterday that efforts from the side of the Thai government to counter intellectual-property crime are ineffectual because the piracy business involves former Cabinet members and generals.
If this appears to be true, it can explain (partly) why copyright violations are so numerous and openly in Thailand. It would also show another form of corruption that has to be handled with as soon as possible.
Thai sound-recording industry figures showed their moral support for authorities who said they were determined to bring violators of intellectual-property law (whoever they might be) to justice despite receiving threats. Recording-industry giant RS Artists has urged consumers to buy genuine recorded tapes and cassettes rather than pirated copies. He said buying pirated copies deprived the state of revenue it needed to develop the country. He said he was saddened the government had not been able to effectively crack down on the piracy of sound recordings.
The above allegations against politicians have not (yet) been illustrated with names and other examples. (Source: The Nation)


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Will FEER magazine apologize?

Posted by hasekamp on 2 March 2002 at 15:14 PM
The Far Eastern Economic Review (FEER) yesterday agreed to issue a written apology after admitting it made mistakes in an article in its January 10 issue, Thai Police Commissioner General Sant Sarutanond said. This would mean that two journalists of this magazine would not be expelled after all, as we wrote in our former posting on this subject.
The words "an apology" must appear in the letter, and it should be published in the FEER, Mr. Sant said. That is one side of the story.
The other side is, that FEER's told French Press Agency Agence France Press that Sant's statement is only partially correct. He rejected the claim that FEER had admitted to errors in the January 10 article. FEER's attorney yesterday met Sant in an attempt to solve the problems, which referred to tension between Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and the Royal Palace. The two journalists involved have appealed the police order, as we reported.
We hope that this power struggle between Mr. Thaksin and FEER will be over soon and that Mr. Thaksin will realize that he is helping nobody, even not his own government, and certainly not His majesty the King and the Royal family, by expelling foreign journalists, that wrote the truth or perhaps most of the truth. (Source: the Nation)
Later, the Phuket Gazette reported that the next issue of The Economist magazine (not to be confused with FEER) will be banned in Thailand, because of an allegedly offending article about Thailand. We wonder what Mr. Thaksin is after!


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