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Rangoon promises to stop Wa

Posted by hasekamp on 30 April 2002 at 12:49 PM
The Burmese leader has visited Bangkok, as we reported. During this visit Burma has promised drastic action against drug trafficking gangs under the control of the United Wa State Army (UWSA), while Thailand has agreed that Shan rebels will not be allowed to launch raids on Burmese troops from this side of the border. The deal was made during talks between Burmese army chief Gen Maung Aye, Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and Defence Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh. Drug trafficking topped the agenda of the Burmese visit. A high Thai official from the Third Army said that 'he believes that the UWSA is unlikely to comply with the agreement. There are reports that the UWSA is preparing to move its drug production base to Ban Hong and Pang Sang towns, about 30 km from Mong Yawn and deeper inside Burma.
So, whether Rangoon would take serious steps to suppress drugs is still uncertain. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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News on the Kirsty Jones murder

Posted by hasekamp on 30 April 2002 at 12:48 PM
Suddenly there appears to be a new trail in the Kirsty Jones rape and murder case. We have reported extensively about this case, since Ms Jones was found raped and murdered in her guesthouse room (Aree Guesthouse) in Chiang Mai in August 2000.
Thai police now say they have identified a prime suspect and the case will be solved very soon. This has been said before, so we still are not optimistic. Here is what has been made public recently:
Police say their search is nearing an end, but they did not say what new evidence had led them to their prime suspect. "Currently, we have a prime suspect and soon the case will be completely solved, very soon," Colonel Dinai Boonruang said. He added that police gave two Thai men DNA tests on Thursday so that they could be witnesses in the trial.
As we reported, police reopened their investigation in January on the basis of new evidence, including DNA samples from the crime scene provided by British police.
A different source reports that two transvestites (who may be the new witnesses) have admitted to Thai police that they planted false DNA at the murder scene. The transvestites are said to have acted at the instigation of the guesthouse owner, Andrew Gill, who fled to Britain after the Thai police failed to solve the murder in 2000.
Another different Thai source today reports that police officers have been sent to Pattaya to find a tribesman who allegedly sold his semen to Mr. Gill or the manager of the guesthouse, Mr. Surin. The semen is supposed to have been planted in the guesthouse by the transvestites, mentioned above. A sum of just 200 Baht is reported to have been paid to buy the semen. Police now believe that Mr. Surin may have applied the semen on the body of Miss Jones to mislead police investigators. Mr. Gill seems to have left Britain in the meantime. (Sources: Ananova and the Bangkok Post; partly based on third party sources)


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Visitors pay too much at Erawan shrine

Posted by hasekamp on 29 April 2002 at 21:49 PM
Street vendors are giving Thailand a bad name by overcharging domestic as well as foreign tourists for offerings at the Erawan shrine, next to the Erawan Hotel in Bangkok. Some foreign tourists have been charged 10,000 Baht for simple standard set of offerings (candles, joss sticks, a garland of flowers and a small wooden elephant). This is a way to make Thailand unpopular with tourists and we wonder why these simpletons, as we consider these overcharging vendors, do this. They may "earn" some extra money for a few days, but soon the business will be over for them. The offering attributes can be bought anywhere in town and can be taken to the Erawan shrine, if this overcharging goes on.
Two women from Singapore filed a complaint against a street vendor with the police, but, sadly, they withdrew it when the overcharging street vendor lowered the price to 8,000 Baht!
The vendor, 50-year-old Sriwan Imsap, believes she was within her rights to charge the sum of 11,000 Baht. Her simple thoughts were expressed by her by saying: "I did not force them to take out their money and pay me".
Another vendor at the shrine, who sold the attributes for 30 Baht a few days ago, is now selling them for 300 Baht. This seems more reasonable, but it will destroy the business at the shrine and the name of Thailand too.
Well, if these vendors want to end their business in a few more days or weeks, this is the way to do it. And if the police are not going to act, by stimulating tourists to file complaints, this is the way to keep the tourists away form Thailand. Everybody can have it its own way. We will take our offerings with us from elsewhere next time we visit the Erawan Shrine. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Drugs-free provinces maintained by killing?

Posted by hasekamp on 28 April 2002 at 19:08 PM
The government has declared Kalasin the first drug-free province, but critics ask whether police have been murdering dealers to keep the streets clean.
Sources say that at least two suspected drug dealers in each village have been killed in the past year, but no estimates of the number of those killed are available. The rumor goes that "death squads" are used to make probvinces drugs free. The provincial authorities are denying this. Whatever might be true of these rumors, drugs are probabaly Thailand's number one plague.
Since the anti-drugs scheme started in 1999, more than 200,000 people have become members. The goal is to attract 500,000 villagers aged 13 and over. The members are said to give tips to the authorities, leading to executions.
Prime Minister's Office Minister Thammarak Issarangkura na Ayuthaya yesterday presided over the ceremony to declare Kalasin drugs-free. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Anti-malaria and tuberculosis agent found

Posted by hasekamp on 28 April 2002 at 19:06 PM
A Thai researcher has discovered an agent that is effective against malaria and tuberculosis in fungus that causes disease in insects. The head of the Tropical Disease Research Project, said that Namphueng Wongwanit, a researcher in the Royal Golden Jubilee PhD program, had discovered a biological agent that was effective in stopping the growth of malarial protozoa and tuberculosis bacteria.
The agent was derived from a fungus called Hirsutella kobayasii, which causes disease in insects.
Namphueng made the discovery while working with the National Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology. The discovery could lead to development of a new drug that could combat the two diseases. Malaria and tuberculosis remain serious health problems in many countries, including Thailand. The Tropical Disease Research Project is a partnership between the National Science and Technology Development Agency and the Thailand Research Fund. (Source: The Nation)


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Married 52 years

Posted by hasekamp on 28 April 2002 at 19:06 PM
Today their Majesties the King and Queen celebrate their 52nd wedding anniversary. Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has called for all Thai people to extend their best wishes to Their Majesties King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit.
Mr. Thaksin said in his live weekly radio program that Their Majesties the King and Queen had tirelessly devoted themselves to work for the better living of all Thais through a number of Royal Projects and initiatives.
Their Majesties the King and Queen have also gone to all parts of the kingdom to visit their subjects, particularly those who were in difficulties, or who lived in remote areas, Mr. Thaksin said.
We humbly wish their Majesties a long life in each other's company. May the Thai people get the privilege to have their Majesties as their King and Queen for still a long time! (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Five executions on one day

Posted by hasekamp on 25 April 2002 at 12:39 PM
Five prisoners from death row were executed yesterday at Bang Kwang Maxium Security Prison. Two of the five shot dead were murderers (Thawin Munsarn, 36, and Surakij Limcharoenwongse, 47) and the other three were drug traffickers (Jai Sangoh, 38, Kulchanok Intesaraj, 24, and Netnoi Sangkad, 36).
Thawin was convicted for the premeditated murder of his in-laws on February 15, 1999. Surakij was found guilty of shooting to death Charnarong Pitayakul and his wife, Yadroong.
The three drug traffickers, all hilltribe members, were arrested in possession of a total of 560,000 amphetamine pills on December 8, 1997.
This shows once more that Thailand takes the war against drugs seriously and that anybody who is charged with drugs trafficking can expect a death sentence by a fire squad. And amphetamine pills are considered to be drugs, as much as heroin. (Source: the Bangkok Post)


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AIDS medicine to be exported

Posted by hasekamp on 24 April 2002 at 16:48 PM
One month ago we reported about a Thai "home made" driug (cocktail) to treat HIV patients. Thailand is now on the verge of exporting this home-produced "GPO-VIR" medication. The new cocktail has already saved the country over 3 billion Baht in revenue, the Minister for Public Health said yesterday. The drug is now being produced on an industrial scale and 14,000 Aids sufferers can be taken care for by the Ministry of Public Health, which is up nearly 4,000 from the previous year.
The GPO-VIR cocktail combines stavadine, lamivudine and nevirapine in a single dosage, facilitating consumption of anti-Aids drugs by sufferers on a long-term basis.
The public health minister said that other countries are now looking eagerly at Thailand’s success in producing the drug cocktail, with Singapore, Sweden, Taiwan, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Laos, Cambodia and China all expressing an interest in importing the Thai-produced GPO-VIR.
Exports are likely to begin within the next six months. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Burmese army chief arrives today

Posted by hasekamp on 22 April 2002 at 22:58 PM
Burmese army chief Maung Aye is due to arrive with a 37-strong delegation today for a four-day visit that will include a trip to Phuket to study tourism development. The Burmese delegation will also discuss drug suppression co-operation and sign a memorandum of understanding on labor issues. Thailand will ask Burma to issue permits for joint venture fisheries and livestock exports. Maung Aye will pay a courtesy call on Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra at the Government House and he will later have an audience with Their Majesties the King and Queen at Chitrlada Palace. There will be a reception party for the delegation at the Government House after that.
We have always been skeptical \96and will remain so- about the sudden close friendship between the two former enemies. We have our strong doubt that any results will be booked in the drugs case and we believe that a visit like this should have been postponed until Rangoon should have shown its good will at least by some deed. The delegation will return to Burma on Friday. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Sex tour organizer identified

Posted by hasekamp on 22 April 2002 at 22:57 PM
A few days ago we reported about sex cruises, offered through the Internet. Today the Phuket Gazette reports that the tourist police in Phuket have uncovered evidence against "Lifestyle in Asia Co" and its managing director, William Anthony Ranauro. He appears to be behind the sex cruise operation website, http://www.loveboatcruises.net.
Investigators of the Phuket police conducted a (second) search in the company's premises at Boat Lagoon marina on Saturday.
Videotapes (19 at least) of people having sex on a boat, six artificial penises, four bottles of lubricants, two bottles of lotion, 19 packs of condoms and one vibrator were found during that search! The company's secretary, Pusanit Suntoratad, was arrested for participating in publishing obscene material. She was later released on bail of 30,000 Baht.
The director of the TAT Phuket office said the site could be connected to Ranauro, after searching the website registration service whois.net.
The luxury boat of the company has been seized by Marine Police, after they found evidence of falsification of the registration documents. The boat will be put up for auction.
The police have now issued an arrest warrant for Mr Ranauro and a warrant to search his home at Boat Lagoon. Ranauro has not been found yet, but he is still believed to be with his wife in Phuket.
In our former message we were skeptical about the possibility to find the organizers of the sex cruises. Now the Thai police have proven to be able to do a good job (Source: The Phuket Gazette)


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Jewelry smugglers arrested

Posted by hasekamp on 21 April 2002 at 20:01 PM
Two Indian nationals were yesterday arrested for smuggling unlicensed diamond-studded 1200-karat jewelry items worth around 50 million Baht into the country.
Acting on a tip-off, economic crime and crime suppression police jointly raided their apartment in Bang Rak district where they seized the jewelry after the suspects were unable to come up with tax clearance papers. Police say that the suspects had either brought the jewelry from Pakistan, India or some Middle Eastern country.
The suspects denied the charges and told police that the jewelry was acquired from Thai gem traders in Thailand.
Smuggled jewelry is a hot item and is often sold to local shops in Bangkok. Each smuggled karat can fetch around 40,000 Baht, said the police. The two were believed to be involved in the smuggling trade for quite some time and were probably well connected with influential figures and state officials to have eluded arrest until today, he said. They face a fine of four times the price of the jewelry if they are found guilty in court.
This item is related to the one about gem scams we published yesterday, but should not be confused with it. Although these smugglers may also be in the gem scam business, smuggling gems is a different matter and is more related to tax offences than to the penal code. (Source: The Bangkok (Post)


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When will the gem scams be stopped?

Posted by hasekamp on 19 April 2002 at 18:07 PM
We have warned time after time on this site, by email and on message boards all over the Internet for the gem scams in Thailand. The same goes for the Thai tourist police (who place warnings on many places visited by tourists) and TAT (Tourism Authority of Thailand). We \96by the way- do not only mean by "gem scams" those people who sell things that do not meet at all the specifications they should meet, but also those people who sell gems (even prime quality gems) to tourists for far higher prices than to locals. Sometimes, however, the term is used only for imposters that sell things that are not what they seem to be.
Now a pressure group of victims of gem scams has been formed in Bangkok. The pressure group is led by Paul Gillis, 28, and Sandeep Mukerji, 26, who met this month while filing a complaint about gem stores with the tourist police.
Since then they have formed a loose network of other tourists who fell into the same trap. In eight days they said they were able to find 55 people who had been ripped off.
The stories they tell are very familiar to us (see our FAQ section at http://www.hasekamp.net/faq.htm and our section with Thailand experiences at http://www.hasekamp.net/experiences.htm) and they must be very familiar to the tourist police as well. Most victims are lured to jewelry stores in a well-organized operation. Generally, they will be told that the places they want to visit are closed and the only place available is the jewelry shop. At the shop, they will be told that the gems on offer can raise triple the price in their home country.
The new pressure group wants law changes, tougher action against offenders, and better warnings for tourists.
About one year ago a similar movement was started by British tourists (we reported about that case as well on this page). They opened an email address to report gem scams. Sadly they disappeared from the news soon and probably did not achieve any result.
And so, although we wish them all the success in the World, it is to be feared that this new action will also not lead to the end of the gem scams. Our only hope lies with the Thai legislator and the Thai (tourist) police. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Sex tours on cruise ships

Posted by hasekamp on 19 April 2002 at 18:05 PM
What you and I knew already for years seems to become clear in Thailand too (at last). The Bangkok Post publishes that some foreign firms are offering sex-tour programs on board of pleasure ships visiting Phuket and Pang Nga. Phuket police have learned that some foreign tour agents were offering sex-tour packages on the Internet. It is interesting to know that the organizers of these tours do not do this for free: Prices ranged between US$ 1,900-12,000 a package, which included one Thai woman escort per tourist, they said.
Customers of such tours in the past included tourists from the Middle East, the United States, Canada and Brunei, one source said. Phuket governor Pongpayome Wasaphuti said it was an uphill struggle to tackle the prostitution problem in his province. Our opinion of sex tourism can be found throughout this site. We wonder, however, if the organizers of these tours trespass Thai law in any way and if they can be prosecuted. If so, Thai police show your capabilities! (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Factories preferred to rare monkeys

Posted by hasekamp on 18 April 2002 at 12:22 PM
A Bangkok district chief has decided to go ahead and relocate 70 macaques (monkeys) despite opposition from conservationists, like we are. The district involved is Bang Khunthien district and it contains the macaques' natural habitat, a mangrove area. This small and special piece of city land should make way for a factory.
Bang Khunthien district plans to move the macaques five kilometers to Lamladnokkrathung, which also has a small mangrove area, that is thought to be suitable for the macaques to live in.
The mangrove could later be developed as a tourist attraction for people who want to catch a glimpse of the rare monkeys, the district said.
The district also wants to relocate two more groups of macaques, totaling 200, one group living at Thiantala district and another between Klong Sanamchai and Lamladnokkrathung. However, the district does not have the expertise to handle the animals. Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) and the Royal Forestry Department have been asked for support in resolving the problem. Environmental organizations seem not to be interested in giving this assistance, to make place for factories, where monkeys now live peacefully.
A veterinarian attached to the Royal Household Bureau, Dr Alongkorn Mahanop, along with some animal activists opposed against the relocation of the macaques, saying that the destination they were being moved to was too close to their present habitat, and that it was highly likely they would simply move back to their old home. Alongkorn thinks that BMA should consider to make it possible that the rare wildlife species do not have to be moved. The area should be made off-limits to human encroachment, he said, to protect their mangrove environment and to protect the monkeys themselves from the threat of hunters. (Source: The Nation)


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Bangkok 220 years old

Posted by hasekamp on 18 April 2002 at 12:21 PM
Celebrations marking the 220th anniversary of the historical Rattanakosin district (the oldest part of Bangkok) will start on Saturday with a spectacular countdown at Sanam Luang, a city clerk said yesterday. Rattanakosin district (or Rattanakosin island as it is also called) is the part of Bangkok that roughly lies between Pak Klong Talad (the flower and vegetable market) on one side, and Rajdamnoen Avenue on the other side. It includes the Grand Palace, Sanam Luang, Wat Pho and other major attractions.
Various religious and cultural activities will be held during the six-day event, which will be officially opened on Sunday by Her Royal Highness Princess Ubolratana.
The embassies of a number of countries are preparing floral floats to accompany a marching band in a procession along Rajdamnoen Avenue, which will start at 4 p.m. on Sunday. The procession will be followed by concerts, open-air movies and a light-and-sound show.
The religious highlight of the event will be the chanting of a rediscovered ancient text at the city pillar shrine on Sunday morning. During the prayer, a holy thread will be tied around the City Pillar and connected to a sacred bowl, so that holy water may be created. Bangkok Governor Samak will distribute the holy water in small tubes to the general public. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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The dark side of Songkran (conclusion; updated)

Posted by hasekamp on 17 April 2002 at 15:01 PM
The final Songkran holiday death toll this year is 564 (an avarage of more than 4 people per hour) and the number of people injured was 37,473, according top tne Public Heath Ministry. The numbers for this (long) weekend are higer than last year. Last year the number of dead was 530 and the number of injuries was 32,014. Songkran Day (13 April) saw the highest death toll with 137 dead.
This year, Ubon Ratchathani reported the highest number of deaths with 29, followed by Nakhon Rathasima, 26, Nakhon Sawan, 21, and Buri Ram and Chaiyaphum with 16 each. There were seven train related deaths.
Most injuries were reported in Chiang Mai with 3,059 cases, followed by Nakhon Ratchasima, 2,451, Ubon Ratchathani, 2,232, Khon Kaen, 2,075, Surin, 2,000, Chon Buri, 1,960, Nakhon Si Thammarat, 1,771, Udon Thani, 1,695, Chiang Rai, 1,670, and Buri Ram 1,636.
During the long weekend the National Police Commission said that 2,000 highway police and 550 patrol cars were assigned to make checks for drug trafficking, labour smuggling and other crimes. Checkpoints were set up on highways to check for drunk driving, and police were also helping motorists having problems on the roads.
The major causes of road accidents were speeding, reckless overtaking, jumping red lights and drunk driving. Most accidents involved private cars.
We present these figures without further comments. We, sadly, can be certain that the Songkran massacre will be around the same size, or higher again, next year.
If one also includes other reported accidents than road accidents, then the number of dead during the Songkran holiday is (around) 600, while the number of injured is (around) 70,000. (Sources: The Bangkok Post, The Nation)


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The dark side of Songkran (4)

Posted by hasekamp on 16 April 2002 at 17:03 PM
The death toll from Songkran road accidents has risen to 367 yesterday, with 26,863 people injured. As usual, the main cause for the accidents is alcohol. It seems that we have to wait until tomorrow for the final numbers. Yesterday most people return to their homes, and today work starts again for most of the Thais, with the usual number of road accidents, that normally is not considered worth mentioning so carefully in the newspapers.
Up until yesterday an average of three people had died per hour since the early hours of last Thursday. On Sunday alone, 110 people were killed and 7,320 injured. No deaths caused by road accidents were reported in Nonthaburi, Samut Songkhram, Yasothon, Krabi, Yala and Narathiwat.
Meanwhile heavy traffic congestion was reported on all inbound roads late yesterday as thousands of Songkran celebrators returned from the provinces. Trains and passenger buses were fully booked. Bus and train stations were crowded and extra buses had to be put on. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Executions by injection

Posted by hasekamp on 16 April 2002 at 17:03 PM
We have written about the plans some time ago, but now it seems to come nearer. The execution of death row convicts will be done by a lethal injection from the beginning of next year, instead of the now common firing squad, the Corrections Department chief said. A team of experts will leave for the United States in June on a study tour. Why this tour is necessary is a complete mystery to us, but here are the facts as published.
The Corrections Department will also have discussions with the Public Health Ministry after the mission to the US returns. Then the procedures will be settled for Thailand. The necessary legislation is being considered by the Senate now. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Songkran Festivities on 14 April

Posted by hasekamp on 15 April 2002 at 16:46 PM
Songkran festivities were everywhere yesterday, with Bangkok's Rattanakosin area emerging as a new hotspot. Now that 13 April was on a Saturday, the water throwing went on yesterday, on Sunday.
In Bangkok, Sanam Luang drew huge crowds, even more than in Chiang Mai, which has long been famous for its water fights. Many people came just to enjoy the fountain shows on Sanam Luang, though some were disappointed that talcum powder and high-pressure water guns were present, despite the fact that they had been banned.
Silom Road had many visitors too yesterday, with performances of traditional music and other cultural activities.
In Chiang Mai, local residents and people from nearby provinces thronged the old part of the city, splashing lots of water. Bangkokians stayed in Bangkok this year, however, contrary to the trend in the past years. Furthermore the festivities went on all over Thailand. (Source: The Nation)


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The dark side of Songkran (3)

Posted by hasekamp on 15 April 2002 at 16:37 PM
The death toll keeps rising. Until yesterday the Songkran Festival road toll had climbed to 279, with almost 20,000 people injured. An average four people had died on the roads and 276 others injured, every hour since midnight of April 11. The Health Minister said that altogether 19,897 people had been injured: 14,584 men and 5,313 women. The majority of victims were motorcycle pillion riders who were not wearing crash helmets. The final figures can not be expected before tomorrow, but it would not surprise us if this would turn out to be a record year.
On 12 and 13 April Nakhon Ratchasima province reported the highest number of casualties with 964 injured people. Chiang Mai reported 811, Khon Kaen 616, Buri Ram 579, Ubon Ratchathani 556, Surat Thani 534 and Nakhon Si Thammarat 296 over the same period.
Nakhon Ratchasima also had the highest number of people killed in road accidents with 16, Ubon Ratchathani 11, Buri Ram 10, Nakhon Si Thammarat 9, Khon Kaen 7, Chiang Mai 6 and Surat Thani 5. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Number of divorces increases

Posted by hasekamp on 14 April 2002 at 20:07 PM
Songkran already is the day that all Thai families get together. But the number of divorces recorded over the past year is alarming. For these people and their families the Songkran period is less pleasant. Domestic violence, husbands' affairs and a lack of social responsibility among men are the major causes of divorce, according to data collected by the Friends of Women Foundation.
Most of the women divorced are aged between 31 and 40 and many of them are university graduates. The length of the relationship was five to 10 years for couples with marriage registrations and only one or two years among those who had not registered.
Women groups believe that women's rights are not protected enough. Judge Watcharin Pajakwinyusa-kul of the Court of Appeals Region 1 said appeals for a living allowance currently fall under commercial law. This asset-oriented legal approach needed to be made more people-oriented.
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, in this Songkran period, has appealed to the Thai people to keep families together. (Source: The Nation)


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The dark side of Songkran (2)

Posted by hasekamp on 14 April 2002 at 20:06 PM
With two more days to go the death toll on the roads during the Songkran period now has risen to 140 people, and 10,000 injured, says the Public Health Ministry. This means that so far 3.4 people died and 256 people were injured every hour, compared to 4.6 deaths and 222 injuries an hour last year during the whole Songkran period.
Another dark side of this holiday period is that the army expects 200 million methamphetamine pills to be smuggled across the northern border from Burma into Thailand during the Songkran holiday period. Manufacturers are quitting stock ahead of a crackdown by Rangoon, and police are less alert these days. The northern narcotics suppression bureau believes some speed pills have already entered the country but the bulk of them are still at the Thai-Burmese border. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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The dark side of Songkran

Posted by hasekamp on 14 April 2002 at 14:49 PM
Normally every Thai celebrates Songkran, mostly with his/her family. This gives lots of extra traffic and –sadly- also lots of drunk drivers. The Songkran period has the largest death toll on the roads in Thailand.
Until Saturday morning (so still before the real celebrations) fifty-nine people lost their lives already and nearly 4,000 others were injured in road accidents that occurred on the eve of the start of the Songkran festival. The Public Health Minister reported the figures.
Chiang Mai topped the list with 233 injuries from road accidents, followed by Nakhon Ratchasima at 153, Chon Buri at 150, Khon Kaen at 138 and Surin at 119. Emergency staff are stand-by at 811 hospitals of the Public Health Ministry during the long holiday.
As we reported then, last year road accidents killed 554 people and injured 34,000 others during the Songkran period. The total toll will not e known until Monday, as the celebrations (and the traveling home) will go on until deep into Sunday night. (Source: The Bangkok Post).


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Songkran in Bangkok

Posted by hasekamp on 14 April 2002 at 14:48 PM
Songkran festivities kicked have been in full swing since 12 April on Khaosan Road, with the area blocked off to traffic for water-splashers and a stage set up for the first ever Miss Songkran International Contest. It is not uncommon, by the way, to have Miss-elections on occasions like Songkran in Thailand. This Miss Songkran competition was open only for foreigners; otherwise it would not have been fair against all those Thai beauties!
As usual Khaosan was flooded with tourists and Thais alike, all waiting to start on the New Year's celebrations with throwing water at everybody. Buckets, water pistols, and even elephants are usual aids for throwing water.
With a total of 10 contestants from countries like Japan, Canada and the United States, the grand prize for the Miss Songkran competition was 30,000 Baht, and second prize consisted of two return air tickets to Hua Hin and Koh Samui. The Miss Songkran International crown went to Marie Wolberg from Sweden. She also was the tallest among all the contestants. The foreign contestants took to the stage in traditional Thai costumes, which most were wearing for the very first time.
There were some problems too. Police had their hands full, with people using the now forbidden high-pressure PVC-tube water pistol and talcum. Talcum was being used in many parts of the road, particularly in areas without police supervision. There was a ban on talcum too, however, because it is very difficult to remove and can damage your clothes. Apart from that it can give problems with your eyes. And, last but not least, it is difficult to remove from the streets. We are not talking about a few grams here, but many kilos.
Others used ice, to make the water feel cold, which is OK, but using ice cubes to throw with is banned too.
In Chiang Mai Songkran celebrations started on Friday and Saturday too. Chiang Mai is maybe most famous for its Songkran celebrations. Not much talcum was used there.
Although our source for this item was The Nation, the Bangkok Post traditionally has the best Songkran pictures. So take a look at the pages of http://www.bangkokpost.com to see them. Look into yesterdays and today's paper for good Songkran pictures! (Source: The Nation)


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Rules for Songkran

Posted by hasekamp on 13 April 2002 at 12:23 PM
Today is Songkran Day (Thai New Year). The main rule for Songkran is that there are no rules. Everybody who comes on the streets on 13 April has a chance (or almost the certainty) to get a wet suit, and that is how it should be. Songkran is Songkran, and Songkran means water. Every Thai and every visitor to Thailand knows this and dresses accordingly. But we also must say that the rules (if any) should be applied fairly, and people should expect water, but no harming liquids or substances.
For that reason the Phuket police have issued a list of instructions to prevent Songkran from getting out of hand on the island. In past years people found their clothes discolored by dyes in water thrown at them, women have been harassed and motorcyclists have been seriously hurt in accidents.
Therefore Phuket police advise:
- Merchants should not sell flour, white clay or dyes during the festival.
- People should not throw water mixed with flour, clay or dye, or other objects that may be harmful.
- Adults should supervise the water play of children.
- People should not drink alcohol while playing with water.
And of course: Police may conduct random alcohol checks during the festival. A fine of 500 Baht for disturbing the peace up to a 20,000 Baht fine and a long jail term for molesting females will be applicable to those, who do not understand the rules for a Happy Songkran! (Source: The Phuket Gazette)


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New hope for stray dogs

Posted by hasekamp on 11 April 2002 at 16:55 PM
We recently wrote about the planned murder on stray dogs, living at the Crime Suppression Division. In the meantime donations have come in from a kindergarten school and animal lovers.
They have offered to pay vaccination expenses and to find the dogs a new home. This can possibly prevent the killing of the dogs on Songkran Day, this Saturday, as originally planned by the police officers from the CSD. About 20 stray dogs have made the CSD headquarters on Phahol Yothin road their home for years. As we reported, n female officer who works there, Pattaraporn Srithong, has started a campaign for the dogs, after she heard that her colleagues had planned the massacre. Mrs Pitchayapa, has said that she will hire a truck to take the dogs to a new shelter. She already has 19 stray dogs in her care. The BMA (Bangkok Metropolitan Administration) runs dog shelters already, but these shelters are full and cannot take any more dogs. The Thai animals protection association, however, has offered to find a new shelter for the dogs. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Thaksin visits China

Posted by hasekamp on 11 April 2002 at 16:46 PM
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra will depart for China tomorrow, for a two-day official visit. The principal aim of the visit is to address a business forum on Hianan island. Mr. Thaksin will be joined by China's Prime Minister Zhu Rongji who will give the opening speech at the forum.
The Thai PM will highlight in his speech the Thai-initiated Asian Cooperation Dialogue, which calls for more cooperation between Asian countries on all levels. After the forum Mr. Thaksin will hold bilateral meetings with the Japanese PM, Junichiro Koizumi, and Mr. Zhu. (Source: The Nation)


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Kirsty Jones case to be opened again

Posted by hasekamp on 11 April 2002 at 16:42 PM
We have extensively reported about the Kirtsy Jones rape and murder case. Ms. Jones was raped and murdered in Chiang Mai in August 2000. There have been some arrests, and even more speculations, but the murderer was never caught. We also have reported about an investigation by British detectives, but any result has never been published. Now a new investigation will start, in order to try to collect fresh evidence and to build a fresh case.
Pol Maj-General Bamrung Kerddee of Chiang Mai Provincial Police Region 5 suspects that the former investigation was side-tracked by a smoke screen put up by the killer or killers. (This seems not unusual, in a murder case, in our opinion). Bamrung took over the investigation this February. He will be assisted by officers from the Crime Suppression Division and Central Investigation Bureau. The new investigation would focus on determining what evidence may have been planted, by the murderer(s) at the crime scene. We do not have much confidence in this new investigation, but we encourage every attempt to solve this low crime. (Source: The Nation)


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Hot weather means stress

Posted by hasekamp on 9 April 2002 at 13:10 PM
The Mental Health Department (MHD) warned yesterday that the hot season, which is on its top right now in Thailand, can lead to stress and disturbed family relationships. People are more likely to become quick tempered in the heat, leading to an increase in family quarrels. Many people are developing stress and in some cases even mental illness. In fact this is something that happens every year, so the warning should not come unexpectedly to our Thai friends.
How to avoid these problems? The MHD advises to go sightseeing or take up a hobby or two. Also the splashing water during the Songkran festivities are a good opportunity to relax both physically and mentally. The Public Health Minister furthermore warned people about losing their physical and mental coolness due to the hot weather.
To keep cooler, the Deputy Public Health Minister suggested that people take more showers or wash their faces more often.
On the other hand there is some hope for people in the Northeast: The Northeastern Weather Bureau expects thunderstorms, violent winds and hailstorms for the coming days.
We remind our readers that in Thailand during this hot season temperatures can easily rise above 40 degrees Centigrade, which is far above one hundred degrees Fahrenheit. (Source: The Nation)


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Songkran celebrations have started

Posted by hasekamp on 8 April 2002 at 22:45 PM
This year's Songkran celebrations in Bangkok have started with a large procession on Rajdamnoen Avenue. Hundreds of thousands of people gathered there. There were lots of water in the burning Summer heat. Normally Songkran is being from April 13 to 15, but this year's Songkran festival started yesterday already and will continue until Bangkok's 220th anniversary celebrations on April 21. These will be the largest Songkran celebrations ever!
The world's longest water fountain and other aquatic structures, including water curtains, waves and tunnels, were part of the festivities at 40 degrees Celsius.
Furthermore there were of vintage cars, bands playing Thai orchestral music and more. The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) and the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration organized the festival. The procession included a naga (a mythical rain-making serpent), a "Parade of the Stars", and characters from the Ramakien epic. Other highlights included a parade of tuk tuks, filled with water-splashing foreign passengers, and more.
On April 15 there will be large celebrations on Sanam Luang. (Source: The Nation)


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Subway train will be delayed again

Posted by hasekamp on 7 April 2002 at 17:09 PM
We have written before about the Bangkok subway. Mostly the news was that the opening of the subway train was to be delayed. And today the news is not different: The opening of Bangkok's subway transport system will be delayed for more than a year, from July 2003 to August 2004.
Bangkok Metro Co Ltd, the subway operator, said the delay was unavoidable. Now the reason given is that it is difficult to get loans and suppliers. Next time it will be something else. We hardly believe in a Bangkok subway system any more.
On top of the delay, the operator could contractually be fined seven million Baht a day, or 200 million Baht a month for the delay. That would make the cost of the subway train 2.4 billion Baht higher than planned and we –again- wonder if the system will be completed at all with this extra financial burden threatening. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Stray dogs massacre planned

Posted by hasekamp on 7 April 2002 at 17:08 PM
The days when stray dogs can still make the Crime Suppression Division (CSD) their home look to be numbered. Officers there say the dogs give problems by urinating and scratching, especially against the cars of the policemen.
One of the police sergeants, Ms Pattaraporn Srithong, 49, feeds the dogs near the office and is very much upset by a (secret) plan to kill them, about which she heard from her colleagues. The massacre is planned to take place in the Songkran holidays, Pattaraporn says. She loves the dogs and plays with them. The dogs love her back. The thought of not seeing them again breaks her heart. It looks as if the evil has already begun. An unknown killer shot a dog dead near the canteen last week.
However much problem stray dogs may sometimes cause, we support Pattaraporn's plan to find a safe shelter for the dogs, if they have to go. Shooting the stray dogs "in secret" is a deed to be ashamed of. We do ho
pe that the police in the CSD office will give their colleague a chance to bring the dogs, to another, safe place. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Wa promise drugs-free area

Posted by hasekamp on 6 April 2002 at 14:36 PM
The Burmese Wa, always supported by Rangoon, are deeply involved in the drugs business. That should be clear of our many former messages abouit the Wa. This Burmese ethnic minority militia group is blamed for producing much of the heroin sent to Thailand. But now it has pledged to end drug production by 2005.
Pauk Yu Yi, a leader of the United Wa State Army (UWSA), said that the group wants to turn territory under its control into an opium-free zone and that it has done so already for 60%.
Pauk Yu Yi did not say who was producing the drugs in Wa territories, but he said that the allegations that the Wa are responsible are false. "Regrettably, some nations are making false allegations about the Wa people," Pauk Yu Yi said. Thailand is doubtless one of these nations. Officials in the Wa group, which operates out of territory on Burma's borders with China and Thailand, have made similar vows in the past, but with no visible result whatsoever. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Thaksin feels victimized

Posted by hasekamp on 6 April 2002 at 14:34 PM
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra believes that he is a victim of a conspiracy against the public through the Royal Palace. This is what Mr. Thaksin told the Far Eastern Economic Review.
He believes that his opponents are unable to remove him through the parliamentary system because he is a strong leader.
"Someone is trying to make me clash ideologically with the people through the monarchy.
That is very bad. I am wholeheartedly for the King and Thailand," Mr. Thaksin said in an interview to be published in the magazine's April 11 issue.
The prime minister's comments were made to (among others) Bangkok-based reporter Rodney Tasker. Mr. Tasker was one of the journalists whose visa was revoked in February by the Thaksin administration for reporting in the January 10 edition on the poor relationship between the prime minister and the monarchy. As we reported, the visa revocation order was reversed after the journalists in question apologized.
The prime minister accused the local media of being against him because of his past business interests. "Sometimes the press may have some hidden agenda. They have not been happy from the time I was in business because they asked me for sponsorship that I did not give them. They attack unfairly. I'm trying to forget. But they never forget," are Mr. Thaksin's words.
After the visa affair Mr. Thaksin felt it necessary to come in conflict with the pres again, by silencing the radio station of The Nation newspaper. Some observers believe that his next move will be to dilute the powers of independent bodies, such as the Constitutional Court and the National Counter Corruption Commission, by amending the constitution later this year. Whatever of these speculations, Mr. Thaksin will not have increased his popularity by indirectly accusing the Royal Palace of plotting against him. If a controversy between the Royal Palace and whoever is going on, the people of Thailand (and we) will choose the side of the Palace. So, what is Thaksin exactly planning? Maybe he wants to leave politics? (Source: the Bangkok Post)


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No alcohol on the roads for Songkran

Posted by hasekamp on 6 April 2002 at 14:33 PM
To reduce the carnage on the highways that is usually for Songkran (13 April and some days around the big date), police have been told to pick up all drivers who drive like drunk. If a driver drives on the road and police believe he is drunk, they do not have to test his or her blood-alcohol level before bringing him or her in. The measure is aimed at bringing down the number of dead in the Songkran holidays. The general public can also use the hotline numbers 1197 and 1193 to report drunk-like drivers.
Meanwhile, Chiang Mai's public health authority is collecting blood supplies ahead of the Songkran festival to prepare the expected increased demand due to road accidents. In one week from now it is Songkran day... (Source: The Nation)


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More police corruption allegations

Posted by hasekamp on 3 April 2002 at 17:11 PM
A few days ago we wrote about possible police corruption in the south. Now Bangkok gets a check-up. The Office of the Inspector-General will probe at least 54 of the 88 police stations in Bangkok for possible corruption. The direct reason is, that police there have received many complaints and anonymous letters in the past few months. The probes have started already early last week and will last three months. Reports would be sent to national police chief Sant Sarutanont. Gen Sant is taking the complaints seriously. Most complaints are linking the police to drugs, bribery and corruption. Officers are being accused of acceptiing money from nightspot owners who are caught breaching the social order campaign of the Interior Minister. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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New Thai movie

Posted by hasekamp on 3 April 2002 at 17:10 PM
The successful Thai epic "Suriyothai" has inspired others to make Thai epic movies. The Title of this nes movie is "Khun Pan". It is a story, based on Thai classical literature by King Rama II. Khun Pan is a tragic love story based on the life of a warrior.
When the northern part of the Kingdom rebelled, Khun Chang, Pan's rival for his lover, persuaded the king to send Khun Pan into battle. See the rest in the movie!
This new movie was made by Thanit Jitnukul, Bang Rajan, Nicky Tamrong and Teerawat Rujinthum. They all have earned fame in Thailand with movie-making. The website of the new movie looks promising. Go to http://www.kunpan.fivestarent.com/ to see it. Don't skip the intro. It is very good. Of course nothing can be said yet about the fact if this new epic will be shown outside Thailand.


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Sex and drugs in Pattaya

Posted by hasekamp on 3 April 2002 at 17:08 PM
Ten foreign men and twelve Thai women were arrested in Pattaya, in what police described as a sex and drug party on Sunday. The police raided a house in View Talay Villas housing estate in Jomtien, where all the suspects were holding their "party".. The owner of the house had just moved in there a few months ago. Lion Property Holding Co, a Thai firm based in Pattaya, recently built all the houses in the estate. The charges being drugs related, the suspects can face heavy sentences. Today the owner of the house that was raided, an Australian man, was freed again. He is no longer (main) suspect. (Source: The Nation)


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Handy cams

Posted by hasekamp on 1 April 2002 at 19:54 PM
Digital enthusiasts seem to have found a way to use their digital camera in a "handy" way. Video cameras equipped with an infrared function and a special filter are said to be able to film through (some?) clothes. This has caused a scandal and some problems at the Bangkok Motor Show. There are lots of attractive models helping to promote the cars or motorcycles, and they seem to be the targets of the peeping toms. Presenters at the 23rd Bangkok International Motor Show are taking precautions against it. Some presenters wear black underwear, which is said to be peeping tom proof, which we doubt. Another precaution that is being taking is declining a request to pose. But posing, of course, is the main reason why these attractive ladies are being hired!
Rumor wants it that at the Tokyo Motor Show the peeping tom technology was tried out first. Stills from digital videotapes taken there have been e-mailed all over the Web, which caused the alarm in Bangkok: These pictures also reached some models working at the Bangkok Motor Show. As far as we are aware, April Fools Day is not celebrated in Thailand and so we have to believe that this strange story is true, or at laest has some truth in it. (Source: The Nation)


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Health care scheme under fire

Posted by hasekamp on 1 April 2002 at 19:53 PM
Today exactly one year ago, the 30 Baht health cars scheme of the Thaksin government was launched. Now it is under criticism and is plagued with problems. Critics ask if the program is a serious effort to promote good health for all or was merely an item to win votes.
The Public Health Ministry has received more than 30,000 complaints about the scheme. Most relate to the distribution and use of the "gold membership cards", but people also complain of substandard services or unethical treatment. Hospitals are worried the scheme will send them bankrupt.
Other common complaints include:
- Doctors refused to refer seriously ill patients to another hospital for fear of losing money.
- Patients are refused at other hospitals than the one they are registered at.
- Certain kinds of treatment incur additional costs or are sometimes denied.
And in rural areas people find it too expensive (!): "I don't like it. Paying 30 Baht for 10 tablets of paracetamol is no good. It's really too much for the poor to pay 30 Baht for every hospital visit", a villager said. We must say that we find this complaint a bit beyond reason!
The state pays hospitals a subsidy of 1,202 Baht per registered patient a year. While this is enough in many cases, other hospitals are experiencing financial difficulties. Administrators say they have to manage their budgets carefully if they are to cover medical and operating costs, including staff salaries, medical supplies and hospital maintenance, as well as water and electricity charges. There are also complaints about delays in the transfer of funds from the provincial health office to hospitals.
Meanwhile the Public Health Ministry says that the critics have been too quick to judge the scheme, and given the sort of complaints we think we can agree with the government here. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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