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Death Row prison celebrates its birthday

Posted by hasekamp on 30 June 2002 at 12:50 PM
Bang Kwang Central Prison is celebrating its 72nd anniversary on Wednesday and the public is invited to taste a sample of prison meals while learning about the history of this (in)famous prison.
Devices once used to torture prisoners will be on display in the exhibition hall, the prison's director said. Wow, what an attraction!
The prison welcomed its first long-stay inmate on 5 July 5, 1931. Although the maximum-security facility was built to hold just 3,000 inmates it is now contains about 6,500 prisoners.
Visitors will also get the chance to enjoy numerous exhibitions and stage performances as well as a beauty procession during the three days of festivities. Inmates will be allowed to watch the party on closed-circuit television.
The prison meals will cost 10 Baht to the public. The five most popular dishes will be available as a package set. The five dishes in the set are sweet and sour pork soup, sour pork curry with coconut milk, chicken and mixed vegetable soup, pork and pumpkin red curry, and catfish and bitter cucumber curry.
The prison's history in fact can be traced back to 1902, when King Rama V bought a large plot of land in Nonthaburi to construct a detention center for long-term inmates. Construction started during the reign of King Rama VI in 1927 and was completed in 1931.
If you are in Bangkok next week, take this chance to se the real thing and have a real prison meal. (Source: The Nation)


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"Enemy of all Thais"

Posted by hasekamp on 30 June 2002 at 12:49 PM
The author of articles critical of the monarchy published in the Burmese government newspaper New Light of Myanmar should be considered the enemy of all Thais, Defense Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh said. And in this way another chapter starts in the worsening relations between Thailand and Burma, whatever Mr. Thaksin Shinawatra may say about the good relations on government level.
The writer of articles that are offensive against the Thai monarchy, Ma Tin Win, has been blacklisted as a persona non grata and cannot enter Thailand any more. That, of course, does not solve the problem of the worsening relations between the neighbors.
Rangoon has not yet responded to three official protest letters concerning the articles, and in our opinion will not do so at all. There also have been several skirmishes last month on the northern border that have not yet commented by Rangoon. So, how good are the relations then?
Defense Minister Gen Chavalit said affronts against the monarchy are not tolerated, adding that the conflict would be settled if Rangoon agreed not to publish such articles in the future. (If these are his words, he has forgotten the apologies Thailand also wants for the articles already published!)
Instead, the writer yesterday defended the accuracy of her articles and vowed to continue writing along the same lines. During an interview on BBC radio, she admitted having written the articles voluntarily, based on information gleaned from her studies and research into Burmese history.
Ma Tin Win (the writer) holds a doctorate degree in historical pedagogy from a Russian university, whatever that may be worth. She began writing articles on European and Asian history for several Burmese magazines in 1984, and recently published a book about Burma's Konbaung dynasty.
Her numerous articles included one that strongly criticized King Mongkut, or King Rama IV, for his handling of colonial powers in the mid 1800s. So, what will be the next step in the increasing tense relations between Thailand and Burma? (Main source: The Bangkok Post)


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Tamarine trhough to the fourth round

Posted by hasekamp on 29 June 2002 at 18:12 PM
Thai female tennis player Tamarine Tanasugarn is through to the fourth round on Wimbledon. She beat Meilen Tu from the US in three sets: 6-2, 3-6, 6-0. This brings 25 years old Tamarine to the fourth round, where she will have to play Monica Seles, not the least of opponents!
Tamarine always came to at laest the third round in all het six visits to Wimbledon. (Source: Wimbledon website)


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Two years young

Posted by hasekamp on 28 June 2002 at 18:09 PM
Today this Thailand news service is exactly two years old, or -as we prefer to say- two years young.
When we started this project we planned to publish two to three items per week, but soon we were publishing two to three articles a day!
We hope that our work on this page is still being appreciated by our visitors. We have noticed that several other newspages on the Internet include our XML file into their site, which is allowed, if the source is mentioned.
We also have a growing number of email subscribers to the weekly updates of the page and we get some appreciative emails now and then. We will continue the servive with great enthusiasm, be it that everybody should keep bearing in mind that we do this as a hobby and a service, and that we are no professionals in the news business!
Some words of appreciation are always welcome. (Editor)


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Reuters or Thaksin?

Posted by hasekamp on 28 June 2002 at 18:00 PM
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has critisized Internationally recognized press agency Reuters. Reuters has said that Thailand had a weak foreign policy particularly on its stance towards Myanmar (Burma). We have shared Reuters point of view several times on this page.
Prime Minister Thaksin, however, said that Thailand still upholds its principle of non-interference in other countries’ internal affairs. It will not allow violation of its sovereignty and will not ask for foreign assistance.
Mr. Thaksin said that the Thai-Myanmar relations were currently good at the government-to-government level although problems exist at a local level due to misunderstanding. He believed, however, the conflict would be resolved through the maintenance of those policy guidelines.
So, who is right in his appreciation of the Thai-Burmese relations, Reuters or Thaksin? (Source: Public Relations Department)


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Paradorn out in the third round

Posted by hasekamp on 28 June 2002 at 17:51 PM
The dream of Paradorn Srichiphan is over. He lost in the third round of the Wimbledon Championships 2002.
Dutch tennis player Richard Krajicek, the 1996 Wimbledon Champion who has been out of the game for 20 months, reached the fourth round instead.
He defeated Paradorn Srichaphan, the conqueror of Andre Agassi, 7-6 (7-5), 6-4, 6-2 in one hour and 43 minutes.
The cannonball-like serving of the Dutchman caused the exit of a Thai plyer, who nevertheless goes into this year's tennis history because he outruled Andre Agassi. (Source: Wimbledon website)


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Paradorn beats Agassi

Posted by hasekamp on 27 June 2002 at 9:36 AM
The Thais do not only have a female tennis star, of whom we reported at her first round at Wimbledon already, but also a male star: Paradorn Srichapan (unseeded for the 2002 Wimbledon championships).
This Thai tennis miracle beat Andre Agassi (seeded 3) in three sets yesterday, without too much trouble. He scored 6-4, 7-6, 6-2. So it appears we also have to follow him in his further result on Wimbledon. We congratulate him now for his achievement to rule out the former champion. (Source: Wimbledon website)


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Tons of drugs destroyed

Posted by hasekamp on 26 June 2002 at 13:48 PM
The government on destroyed over 10,000 kilograms of seized narcotics today, worth over 5.3 billion Baht, at Bangpa-in Industrial Estate in the central province of Ayudhaya. The place is well known to most tourists as the place where the summer palace of King Rama V still is. Bangpa-in is a major tourist attraction.
Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya, the eldest daughter of Their Majesties the King and Queen, presided over a ceremony to burn the 10,008.56 kilograms of seized narcotics, from 18,612 cases, the largest-ever drugs to be destroyed in Thai history.
The destruction of the seized narcotics started at around 10:30 a.m. and is expected not to finish before 03:00 p.m. It marks the World's Anti-Narcotic Day, which is today, on June 26. The Thai government destroys drugs on this day every year.
The burnt narcotics include 3,800 kilograms of methamphetamines, and furthermore opium, cocaine, marijuana, and various ecstasy pills.
An environmentally-friendly method, called the pyrolytic incineration, , was used to burn the narcotics. This method generates heat of over 850 degrees Celsius. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Tamarine to the second round

Posted by hasekamp on 25 June 2002 at 22:49 PM
The Wimbledon tennis championships 2002 have started yesterday and Tamarine Tanasugarn from Thailand, seeded 20, has reached the second round today.
She played and beat Maria Sanches Lorenzo from Spain in three sets: 5-7, 6-4, 6-4.
Tamarine reached the fourth round last year. We hope she will do the same, or even better, this year! (Source: Wimbledon website)


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Submarine excursions

Posted by hasekamp on 25 June 2002 at 14:18 PM
Thailand is expected to offer its first submarine excursion as a new tourist attraction on Phuket island at the end of this year.
The manager of Phuket Submarine Company stated that the company has received permission from the Harbor Department and relevant agencies to run this new business. Phuket was chosen for this new tourist attraction, mainly because of its location.
However, environmentalists have expressed concerns already over the possible damage that may occur on the underwater environment from the submarine journeys. The Submarine Company said, however, that all involved agencies have inspected and monitored the process of the operation, reaffirming that it will strictly follow set measures and implement frequent dive testing.
The submarines to be used will possess the latest technology. Furthermore a senior environmental expert from the Environment Policy and Planning Office said that the operations will run according to the standards and the submarine sites will be monitored and evaluated every three to six months. He added that if adverse effects on the environment were found, the company’s license would be revoked.
We wonder if this new attraction on Phuket island is something tourists have been waiting for. Especially the risks involved are not clear to us, even if state-of-the-art equipment will be used and strict rules will be followed.
We will report on the issue again as soon as the first reactions form the public are available. (Source: Public Relations Department)


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Youngest webmaster in the world

Posted by hasekamp on 25 June 2002 at 12:11 PM
Five year old Ajay Puri is probably the youngest webmaster in the world. He lives in Thailand continues to capture attention with his amazing computer skills. Last month Ajay was awarded official certification by Microsoft in the US for passing the Microsoft Office User Specialist (MOUS) exam in Microsoft PowerPoint 2000. He scored 984 out of 1000.
The boy is of Indian origin, but -as stated- lives in Thailand. His "resume" can be found on his website http://www.microsoftkid.com/
On the site he explains why he called the site after Microsoft: The company has supported him, for instance by supplying him with the latest software. For designing his site he used Microsoft FrontPage.
We are not the first news page that reports about him. A collection of media that found the site before we did can be found on the site.
According to press clippings he started to use the computer when just nine months old and he was able to make sense with it when 18 months old. Place a computer in front of this whiz-kid now and he will take you on a journey into the complex world of information technology.
He has been on TV shows, has met several Indian and Thai politicians and other VIP’s. His greatest wish now is to meet Mr. Bill Gates. We expect that this wish to come true. He even might expect a job offer from Mr. Gates later in his life. Anyway, he is just five years old at the moment. At that age most children can not even read. If he continues to be a whiz kid, he can expect a great future in the ICT branch, but who knows, maybe his interest will shift in a few years and he may choose a completely different career after all. (Several sources on the Internet)


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Risen from death?

Posted by hasekamp on 24 June 2002 at 18:33 PM
A 17-year-old man who was believed to have died at Khon Kaen Central Hospital early Saturday morning was discovered to be still living when he was put in a coffin at a temple later that day. Relatives of the man said they took his body to the temple after a doctor at the hospital told them he was dead.
A doctor disconnected the life support system and pulled the sheet over the man's head, and that was it for the relatives. The man had been brought to the hospital after a motorcycle accident.
When relatives were preparing to cremate him, someone at the temple cried out: "Why are you trying to cremate a living person!". After seeing tears run from his eyes, relatives discovered that he was still breathing and alive.
The treating doctor had said that the patient remained in coma with inflammation of the brain and was clinically dead. The deputy director of Khon Kaen Central Hospital blamed the boy's relatives for the incident.
We seriously wonder why! Because there is a difference between dead and clinically dead and the relatives –being poor farmers from the country- did not understand this highbrow talk?
No death certificate had been issued yet. So there will be no legal problems.
In case you misunderstand the seriousness of the situation: The whole incident does not mean that the young man is now well and riding his motorcycle again. He still is in coma, from which he may never awaken. (Source: The Nation)


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Mobile cabinet meeting results

Posted by hasekamp on 24 June 2002 at 18:32 PM
As we have reported before, the Thai cabinet holds mobile meetings now and then. The idea is to take a look into a certain region and emphasize this region.
The fourth mobile cabinet meeting was held in the East during the weekend. It came out with three development strategies for the region. Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra told a press conference in the eastern province of Chantaburi that the strategies include a development strategy for industry, a development strategy for agriculture, and a development strategy for tourism.
For the development strategy for industry, the government will improve and develop transport and communication systems in the region to enhance the region's competitiveness with other industrial areas in the world.
For the development strategy for agriculture, the Thai leader said that a team of personnel from three ministries, Agriculture and Cooperatives, Commerce, and Industry Ministries, would be set up to take care of fruit problems, ranging from those involving in the production, distribution, processing, and subsidizing of fruits facing specific problems.
For the development strategy for fishery, which is part of the development strategy for agriculture, the Premier said that the cabinet assigned the Department of Fisheries to find provinces to launch a pilot project of shrimp farms which have no adverse effects on the environment, based on the study of a royal fishery project.
For the development strategy for tourism, an independent public body will be set up to develop tourist destinations nationwide, beginning from Koh Chang in Trat, according to the Thai leader. This seems no strategy for the east to us, but probably Mr. Thaksin wants to wait for the results from Koh Chang first. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Foreigners, not Thais, forge passports!

Posted by hasekamp on 23 June 2002 at 12:45 PM
A few days ago we reported that the EU minitersds of internal affairs (what do they know about it anyway?) say that passports and other documents are being forged in Thailand and sold to terrorists. This was based on a report of the Bangkok Post.
Today the Thai police say that foreigners, not by Thais, have forged false passports that have been seized in Thailand.
A high police official said that the report had yet to be verified but admitted the police had seized a number of fake passports. He pointed out those false documents were manufactured by foreigners living in Thailand. Thai people had nothing to do with their production.
False passports were usually made from genuine ones with changed photos of holders because it was very difficult to forge a whole passport, he said.
Chinese forgers usually produced fake passports for compatriots wishing to travel to a third country such as the United States or Canada, he said. They used (stolen) Thai and other Asian passports because all Asians looked alike in the eye of people in the West. They obtained real passports from thieves and sometimes from their clients.
Meanwhile, the Foreign Ministry also denied any links between the reported fake passport industry in Thailand and international terrorist groups. A Ministry spokesman admitted that the kingdom was a production base of counterfeit passports but said the problem should not be linked to international terrorism. Now we are interested in the proof, still to be produced, by the EU ministers. And, contrary to what we published earlier, you should not go to Thailand, at least not to Thai citizens there, if you want forged papers! (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Family gibbon may be too old for a new life

Posted by hasekamp on 23 June 2002 at 12:41 PM
Mrs. Charoen Prompim, who suffers from a heart problem, is worried that she will not be able to look after Samlee, her white-handed gibbon much longer, and that the gibbon would escape and trouble her neighbors. Therefore she has decided to hand him over to the Wild Animal Rescue Foundation Thailand (http://www.war-thai.org).
Samlee is a classic case of how wild animals kept in captivity end up, said Pornpen Payakkaporn, the foundation's chief. Many owners abandon their pets when they mature and became hard to handle. To neighbors, Samlee is aggressive. Samlee has been kept in a cage for the last six years. The sad thing about a case like this is that like many of the 200 gibbons under the foundation's care, Samlee would never make it to the forest. He has lived with humans for too long and stands no chance of surviving in the forest.
We believe that it is high time to forbid the keeping of gibbons by law and to punish offenders very hard. Even though Samlee may have had a reasonable time (provided that his cage has been large, which often is not the case), he will never have been able to swing from tree to three. And that is what gibbons should do.
White-handed and crowned gibbons are protected species, while the black-handed gibbons are already extinct in Thailand. Gibbons are –sadly- popular as pets because they are easy to rise. The current protection of gibbons is apparently not enough to consider the keeping of a gibbon by private persons as a crime.
A wildlife expert at the Forestry Department said people take baby monkeys and gibbons because they look cute. But many people do not realize that in order to catch a baby gibbon, both his parents, and any other adult gibbons present, will have to be killed. A gibbon will (like a human) not give up its baby. Read more about the Gibbon Rehabilitation Project on Phuket (owned by WAR) on http://www.hasekamp.net/gibbon.htm. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Siam Inter to close

Posted by hasekamp on 23 June 2002 at 12:40 PM
Hotel Siam Intercontinental (often called Siam Inter), a hotel famous for its exquisite architecture and well-designed garden, is doomed to close down after 36 years of service.
For the last night (June 30) the hotel id fully booked. The hotel could book every room twice or triple, if that were possible. The Public interest is unheard of.
The hotel's architecture and garden were charming and world famous. The garden is home to a flock of peacocks. Te only information missing in this press release on which we base this item is why Siam Inter is going to close. The hotel website (http://bangkok.thailand.intercontinental.com/) does not give any relevant information. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Europe: Thailand makes fake passports

Posted by hasekamp on 21 June 2002 at 16:05 PM
Thailand is a key production point for the fake documents used by -among others- worldwide Islamic terrorist networks, European Union interior ministers say. The ministers said the fake passports from Thailand are of a very good quality (like all Thai products, by the way).
Some very convincing indications identified Thailand as the place of manufacture of these false documents, where technically very efficient agencies print the blanks and resell them in large quantities. It appears that especially Muslim terrorists are interested in these documents.
The Thai authorities did not seem to be aware of the dimension of this traffic, according to the EU ministers. The Thai authorities will be asked to shut down the passport factories and punish the manufacturers. We wonder how the EU interior ministers know about all this. But anyway, if you need fake documents, Bangkok seems to be the place to go, at least according to the EU interior ministers. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Coconut shell handicraft

Posted by hasekamp on 19 June 2002 at 14:22 PM
Coconut shell products generate more than 1.5 million Baht of income each year to a local community in the southern province of Songkhla, resulting from the high quality craftsmanship, a community leader said. The coconut shell handicraft group at Ban Na Tham village has caught wide attention from customers, national as well as international, because of the high quality of their products.
The coconut shell handcraft group can create wide employment and can generate monthly incomes to all the villagers. Nevertheless the goods can still use some extra promotion in order to stimulate and expand the market further.
You must have seen these coconut shell products if you have ever been in Thailand. They vary from kitchenware to furniture and they appear to be appealing to foreign tourists, judging from the interest they get in souvenir and handicraft shops. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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King will undergo operation (updated)

Posted by hasekamp on 19 June 2002 at 12:48 PM
His Majesty the King was admitted to Siriraj hospital yesterday during the afternoon and will undergo surgery for a small hernia, the Royal Household Bureau said.
His Majesty has been treated for a range of ailments in recent years but a statement from the Bureau said recent medical checks have shown that he is in good health.
The hernia was discovered by doctors during a check-up following an earlier operation.
Doctors have advised an operation now, to prevent any complications, the Bureau said. His Majesty's heart is now in perfect condition, as further checks proved. This is another reason to perform the small hernia operation now. The Bureau did not say when the King will undergo the operation.
Long live His Majesty the King. May he recover soon!
On Thursday the Royal Household Bureau said that His Majesty underwent the surgery and that he is recovering well. Visitors streamed into Siriraj hospital yesterday to sign books wishing His Majesty a quick recovery. The well-wishers included cabinet members, military leaders and politicians, but also many, many members of the general public. (Sources: The Bangkok Post, The Nation)


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Intellectual Property Department suspects foreigners behind CDs

Posted by hasekamp on 18 June 2002 at 16:52 PM
Foreigners may be behind the illegal production of entertainment compact discs. The Intellectual Property Department ,IPD, in conjunction with the police, have found evidence that linked some foreigners to the illegal CD trade. The IPD Director-General said that the trace of a group was found after the police has recently raided a CD production factory. We have reported about that raid. At that time we could already mention the possibility that foreigners are involved.
The Director-General of IPD said that officials concerned know the whereabouts of the foreigners and an arrest warrant is expected to be issued soon. So, if they do not manage to leave the country, their arrest is imminent. (Source: Public Relations Department)


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Prisoners ordered drugs on-line

Posted by hasekamp on 18 June 2002 at 16:51 PM
Some time ago we reported about alleged ordering of drug over the Internet by prisoners in Thai prisons. Meanwhile an investigation has confirmed that this has indeed happened.
Inmates of Klong Prem and Bang Khwang prisons used computers and mobile phones to order drugs over the Internet. The tip to investigate this had come from US authorities. The ordering of drugs seems to have started back in 1999.
The panel found evidence that prisoners used some of the 11 computers donated to Klong Prem prison in 1999 by Australian drug king Michael Black, for communicating with dealers via Internet. Black was sentenced to life in prison, following conviction in a drug trafficking case and was jailed at Bang Khwang prison. He was transferred to Klong Prem Central Prison after receiving royal parole to serve a term of less than 30 years. Black was later sent back to Bang Khwang after authorities were tipped off by US officials about the drugs last month.
About 5-7 department officials are also suspected of collusion.
There are at present 3,793 foreign prisoners with drug convictions at Bang Khwang and Klong Prem prisons, of whom 300 are from America, Australia and Europe. (Source: the Bangkok Post)


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"Bangkok Extravaganza"

Posted by hasekamp on 17 June 2002 at 14:11 PM
The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) will arrange many activities during the last six months of this year. Among other things 200 international couples will be invited to attend the country’s biggest fashion show in December to celebrate His Majesty the King’s 75th birthday and Bangkok’s 220th anniversary.
The event, called "Bangkok Extravaganza", will likely be held in front of the Grand Palace and will feature jewelry brands and Thai silk mainly from Thailand.
A TAT spokesman said that also (international) celebrities from various fields will be invited to join the event. But no names were given yet. Well, who wouldn’t come to Thailand for this, if asked?
Further events for the second half of this year include: Timeless Thai Elegance in July, Family Festival in August, Boat Races in September, including the magnificent procession of the Royal Barges, Magnificient Mekhong River in October, the well-known Loy Krathong Festival in November, and in December an Electric Float Parade to celebrate the King’s birthday and Bangkok’s 220th anniversary.
Four major activities will be held in "Amazing" December: "The Great Father of Thailand", a musical play, Bangkok Fashion Extravaganza, International Grand Sale 2002, and the Bangkok countdown for 2003.
So, whatever your plans are this year, there will be something special in Thailand every month to come! (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Big funeral for Mike

Posted by hasekamp on 16 June 2002 at 22:17 PM
Hundreds of mourners yesterday attended the Buddhist funeral rites for Mike, the orangutan, at Sa Kaew Zoo in Lopburi province, who died a few days ago. Officials of the zoo wore black in honor of the late ape.
Mike was to be buried today under a statue in his likeness to be erected in front of the zoo.
Officials have decorated the zoo compound in black and white. Hundreds of zoo-goers yesterday observed the funeral and visited Mike's enclosure.
The zoo director said his staff had prepared black outfits for Mike's two mates and offspring. They would wear the black outfits for seven days, he said.
Mike had two mates: Zuzu and Mali. His offspring appeared depressed. The zoo is planning to find new male mates for Zuzu and Mali, as adult orangutans usually live as couples. Zuzu and one of Mike's offspring, Lamyai, will make an appearance at the funeral. (Source: The Nation)


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Mural repairs in Wat Pho

Posted by hasekamp on 16 June 2002 at 22:16 PM
A project is about to start, or has just started, with the purpose to renovate the 150-year-old murals at Wat Pho, or Temple of the Reclining Buddha in Bangkok. The project is under criticism, however.
The Department of Fine Arts (DFA) disapproves of the temple's plan to touch up the murals. The temple is going ahead regardless. Thai whiskey tycoon Charoen Siriwatanapakdi, who seems willing to pay the cost of 15-million Baht, is sponsoring the project. According to the project the murals that have been damaged by the weather and tourists through the ages, will be restored, the assistant to Wat Pho's abbot said.
Earlier Mr Charoen donated 13 million Baht to restore Wat Pho's main chapel murals. The monk said Wat Pho made 50,000 Baht a day from tourist fees and donations, which seems a lot, but is not enough to cover the expenses of the huge restorations. He said the temple's executives wanted the contractor to touch up ancient paintings in the bays, which have started to fade. In some places where the originals have all but disappeared new murals will be painted.
And this is where the DFA disapproves, saying that the work will destroy the authenticity of the originals.
Temple officials say, however, "With well-rounded research, we believe that Thai contemporary artists could make them look as good as our ancestors did."
The temple has hired 50 art specialists for the project. Minor repairs to the murals will be done over the next four months.
We believe that it would be wiser to restore then original paintings and leave some empty places where nobody knows what was there. Now, several years from now, nobody might remember which paintings were original and which ones are new. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Two suspected gunmen identified

Posted by hasekamp on 16 June 2002 at 22:14 PM
Police have identified two of three gunmen who opened fire at a school bus and thereby killed three students in Ban Kha sub-district on Jun 4. One of the suspects had been identified as "Toly," a Karen villager, about 35 years old. He lived at Huay Nam Nak village in Ratchaburi's Suan Phueng district, and was on police records as having taken part in a burglary several years ago.
The second suspect was identified as "Jorabaeb", also a Karen, who was at the scene of the shooting, but did not open fire on the bus, according to the police.
Police have issued warrants for the arrests of the suspects, sketches of whom have been posted in villages along the Burmese border.
Furthermore a reward of 500,000 Baht is being offered to anyone providing information leading to their arrests. Police believe the bus shooting was connected to the illegal log trade, and the bus driver, Thongmon Kemthong, was not the target as initially suspected.
All this has been published in the Bangkok Post.
Other Thai news sources so far did not publish these data. Therefore we have to wait and see if all this is based on facts or (partly) on speculation. Nevertheless, if these are the facts, they arte so important that we feel we should publish them now, even if they have not yet been confirmed elsewhere. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Sunthon Phu Day

Posted by hasekamp on 14 June 2002 at 19:10 PM
Rayong province plans to create "Sunthon Phu day", an annual event marking this great Thai poet’s birthday. The famous poet was born is Rayong province. He lived in the 19th Century or, if that is more clear to you, during the reign of King Rama II.
The Rayong governor said that 26 June was the birthday of the poet, whose classical literary works are well known by all Thai people old and young.
On June 26 there will first be religious rituals to make merit for the late poet. After that a procession of puppets depicting the characters of his works will be held.
In the afternoon many activities will be organized, including performances, poetry recital and a poem writing competition. The most famous work by Snthorn Phu probably was Phra Apai Manee. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Mike has died

Posted by hasekamp on 14 June 2002 at 19:09 PM
Mike, the famous orangutan from Lopburi Zoo, died yesterday after vets had been fighting for his life at Chulalongkorn University's Veterinary Hospital.
The orangutan was 20 years old, 17 according to other sources. He was very well known and loved by the Thai public and one of the country's best-known zoo stars. When it became clear that he could not be revived after he stopped breathing for the third time yesterday evening, he was pronounced dead at 6.45 p.m.
Mike was the star of Sa Kaew Zoo in Lopburi. Many years ago, his supposed loneliness triggered a nationwide search for a bride and their marriage made the front pages. He married a second mate later.
Funeral rites will be held today at the zoo and a statute will be erected in his honor.
Mike was hospitalized earlier this week after he got weaker and pneumonia was diagnosed. A team of 11 vets took care of him.
Mike was resuscitated early in the afternoon after he had stopped breathing for about 30 minutes. His heart stopped functioning again at about 5 p.m., and again he was resuscitated. At 6.45 p.m. Mike lost his fight for life when his respiratory system again failed and vets were unable to bring him back.
The Royal Household veterinarian said he suspected that Mike has been infected by a virus, passed on from a human. (Source: The Nation)


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Buddha image thieves caught

Posted by hasekamp on 13 June 2002 at 12:07 PM
Police have arrested four members of an organized criminal gang, that has stolen Buddha images and other valuable items from temples in central and north eastern Thailand.
One of the suspects, as it seems the leader of the criminals, Seri Ket-amporn, 36, was picked up on Tuesday after Crime Suppression Division police raided his house in Samut Prakan. A warrant has been issued for his arrest in 1998 already.
Seri said that monks had conspired with his gang. This serious accusation has not yet been verified. The stolen Buddha images were sold to antique shops for up to 40,000 Baht a piece. We expect that the majority of them has been shipped abroad in the meantime, which means that they are lost for Thailand forever.
After questioning Seri, police searched eight locations in Saraburi and Lop Buri provinces and (luckily) could seize several Buddha images, believed to have been stolen, that have not yet been sold.
Seri has confessed to be an associate of Sawat Pattanachan, a former police officer and the leader of an organized crime gang, who was killed during a clash with law officials.
The other three suspects were arrested in separate raids. They were identified as Wiroj Waenokyung, 26, Pimporn Srinoi, 35, and Siriwat Ket-amphorn, 27.
Yesterday abbots of temples located in Lop Buri, Sing Buri, Ang Thong, Saraburi, Chai Nat and Ayutthaya provinces visited the Crime Suppression Division to identify and recover stolen items.
The members of this gang deserve very severe sentences, because they not only are guilty of theft, but also of robbing Thailand of part of its cultural heritage, of which Thailand has always been very proud, and not without a good reason. We hope that justice will be done. (Source: the Bangkok Post)


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Tour company: Stop child prostitution!

Posted by hasekamp on 12 June 2002 at 16:47 PM
A major Scandinavian tour operator has said that it will stop sending tourists to Phuket if the authorities cannot stop child prostitution on the island. In a meeting the director of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) in Phuket, announced that Star Tour Co. had sent him an official letter, complaining about child prostitutes, homeless children and child beggars in Phuket. Star Tour said that its customers had complained about having seen children working as prostitutes or beggars. The local representatives of Star Tours have checked and confirmed all the complaints.
Star Tour is a Swedish operator that sends about 100,000 Scandinavian tourists a year to Phuket, which is half of all the Scandinavian visitors.
Of course everybody at the meeting knew somebody else who was to blame for child prostitution.
But that is no longer relevant. Phuket now has a simple choice: Stop child prostitution or receive 100,000 visitors less per year.
Let us hope that the Phuket authorities will make the right decision and that they will not start trying to attract tourists that see child prostitution as the prime attraction of their holidays instead! (Source: The Phuket Gazette)


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Thailand will be Amazing again

Posted by hasekamp on 10 June 2002 at 21:40 PM
The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) will maintain the theme "Amazing Thailand" to promote tourism in 2003. It seems amazing, but all the new slogans, about some of which we reported, are not as appealing as the years old, almost antique in the meantime, slogan that has been successful from the start.
The TAT Director revealed to journalists that TAT and tourism related agencies from the government as well as from the private sector would stick to the amazement of Thailand.
But next year (they now say) the tourism campaign will also highlight the unique aspects of Thai culture, the Thai way of life, delicate living, good service and more.
We do not believe that anybody will find a better name for that campaign, because all those aspects of Thai society are and will remain truly amazing to us.
Furthermore TAT thinks that it could define Thailand as the country of safety and serenity, derived from Buddhist philosophy, contrasting to terrorist fears elsewhere in the World. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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World Cup fever

Posted by hasekamp on 10 June 2002 at 21:39 PM
The Thais are in the grip of the World Football Cup. And it suits the local salesmen, because the current World Cup 2002 fever has helped to boost the sale of T.V. sets. Sale of T.V. sets has increased since a few weeks ago, before the Cup started.
The World Cup 2002 is also expected to cause a huge underground circulation of money, as the Thais are very fond of gambling too. This huge circulation of money, however, is not useful for the economy, because it does not lead to production.
Meanwhile Monks are also glued to their televisions for the World Cup, but their enthusiasm for football has given them a caution from the president of the National Association of Education.
This wise man said yesterday that, although watching football is not against the monastic disciplinary code, the sound of cheering Monks could make the general public to lose their respect for the clergy. Monks are therefore asked to keep their enthusiasm restrained. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Souvenirs to be made out of elephant dung

Posted by hasekamp on 9 June 2002 at 10:40 AM
We have published more than once about the possibility to turn elephant dung into paper. Phuket now will make souvenirs of that type of paper for the thousands of tourists who visit the island each year, as part of an island-wide "elephant order" campaign.
The Deputy Phuket governor said yesterday that although Phuket was famous as an eco-tourism destination, the elephant population on the island has exploded, as a result of thee large number of tour firms bringing elephants into the province.
Tourists and local residents have complained already that tour operators are the cause of the smelly waters.
A recent survey found that 176 elephants are living on the island, a population that the deputy governor said the province could cope with. But some people are constantly trying to smuggle in more elephants, and a recent incident in which someone caught smuggling three elephants in the province and they are fined only with 500 Baht. This does not really help the threatening of an overpopulation of elephants.
In order to solve this problem, he province had set up a team to research how to make paper from elephant dung, which could then be made into tourist souvenirs. He said that the resulting paper was similar to the type of paper ("sai paper") that is popular in northern Thailand. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Search for attackers failed so far

Posted by hasekamp on 9 June 2002 at 10:38 AM
Even if the incident with the school bus should have to do with the business of the driver (see our former article) the killers should be found and brought to justice, and the Ratchaburi governor now admits the failure in the search for school bus attackers on Monday. The governor yesterday ordered the heads of villages in the border region to keep their eyes and ears open for clues to the whereabouts of the killers of children in a school bus. So far police has no clue about the killers’ movements. The governor urged the village heads to call up local hunters to help in the manhunt, which yesterday entered its fifth day, while asking them to help also to discover whether the shooting had been the result of a personal conflict concerning the bus driver, or whether it had involved groups trying to increase the already tense situation between Thailand and Myanmar.
Interior Minister Purachai Piemsomboon said that the authorities were doing their best to find the killers, but admitted that no timeframe for their capture could be set.
Villagers from Baan Kha, where the school bus came from, said that they were beginning to come to terms with the tragedy, while doctors at Ratchaburi Central Hospital said that four of the injured pupils still remained in intensive care. However, they said that it was likely that some of them would be able to return home next week. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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School bus shooting update

Posted by hasekamp on 9 June 2002 at 10:35 AM
Here are the latest facts as published about the shootings on a school bus last week.
At the moment the driver of the bus is believed to be the possible cause of the low terrorist action. Thongmon Khemthong, the driver of the pickup truck, was praised at first that there would have been more casualties had he not sped away from the ambush.
Now investigators say that Thongmon's business and personal conflicts might have driven the unknown men to their action. Although police have not yet ruled out the possibility that the shooting was linked to the recent border incidents with Burma, this new suggestion is taken seriously in the investigation. The police yesterday have questioned Thongmon and he was told to stop giving any more interviews to the press.
Conflicts arising from the driver's business, which many believe were a front for illegal drug trafficking, are now a major suspected motive behind the shooting on Monday.
Thongmon's school-bus business, which had been in service for only 21 days, also may have upset other bus operators who might have resented the new competition.
We are not here top publish rumors, but on the other hand we believe that this is an important news issue, so we publish it, even if it is far from certain at the moment.
The Office of the Prime Minister said that if police could find any evidence of Thongkon's involvement in the shooting, they would start a much wider investigating any in the area. (Source: The Nation)


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New war against pirated products

Posted by hasekamp on 9 June 2002 at 10:34 AM
The Thai government will wage a war (once more) against pirated entertainment products. Targets are all major department stores in and around Bangkok, and the war will be fought next week.
The plans are to bring a blow against the widespread but illegal business of pirated software, movies, computer games and what else do you have. The plan will be jointly implemented with officials from the Intellectual Property Department (they never were very successful in our opinion), border patrol police, and all music and (legal) video business owners in Bangkok.
A team of around 10 to 15 officers will be stationed at each major department store for one week, before being replaced by another team in the following week. A rotation of concerned officers will be able to monitor and prevent the piracy. And, who knows, these changes may also be useful in connection to any possible corruption. We had to report last week that corruption in Thailand is worst with the (underpaid) police officials.
The department stores in the target include Mah Boonkrong Center, Future Park Rangsit, Future Park Bangkhae, Panthip Plaza, Tawanna, Zeer Rangsit and Fortune Tower, an official said. So one of the places forgotten is the fifth floor of Pata Department Store.
Knowing Thailand a bit, we expect a "Grand Sale" this weekend, in order to get rid of as many illegal items as possible before the big blow. So, if you are in Bangkok right now, there doubtless will be many bargains in illegal software in the places mentioned. How a about an illegal; version of Windows® XP® down from 100 Baht to 50 Baht, only this weekends? We can't guarantee this, but you can expect it. Later the year it will be the turn of provincial department stores to be hunted for pirated products. (Source: Public Relations Department)


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Short analysis of the recent border issues

Posted by hasekamp on 6 June 2002 at 15:42 PM
There are several groups fighting each other in Burma for a long time already, and sometimes these skirmishes enter Thailand, because they always take place near the Thai border. The Burmese army and its allies, the United Wa State Army, have been attacking the Shan State Army (SSA) opposite Thailand's Chiang Mai province, in a battle for control of the drugs trade this week.
Thai officials say that more than a dozen shells fired by one or both sides have landed inside Thai territory since Tuesday and many Shan army troops have come across the border for medical treatment in Thailand.
Dozens of Burmese and Wa fighters died in the assaults on Shan positions. Burma had sought, without success, Thai permission to cross the border to hit the Shan from behind. Burmese officials were unavailable for comment. Burma has sealed major border crossings and this week warned Thailand not to get involved in its assault on the Shan. Buirma has always accused Thailand that it supports the SSA (like Rangoon supports the Wa, by the way!) Thailand, however, has ways denied this officially.
As we reported earlier, Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has said he did not think the situation on the border was a serious problem for Thailand, saying Burma’s action against the Shan army was an internal (Burmese) affair. He also said that he will do his best to restore the good relationship with Burma, as we also reported before.
The serious incident with the Thai school bus, in which three students were killed, however, may be related to the Burmese war with the SSA, but Mr. Thaksin said he did not think Burmese soldiers or Karen rebels were to blame for that. We hope to read soon who can be held responsible for this low deed, if not pro-Rangoon groups. The intensive search for the gunmen continues today. (Main source: Reuters)


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School bus killings are considered a terrorist act

Posted by hasekamp on 5 June 2002 at 15:29 PM
Thai Police, soldiers and Rangers launched a massive manhunt yesterday for the three unidentified gunmen who opened fire on a school bus, killing two primary school children and wounding 14 others. One of the wounded children has died in the meantime, bringing the number of dead to three. The Thai authorities say that this one of the most horrific terrorist acts to have ever occurred on Thai soil.
The hunt for the gunmen is still going on. An Army helicopter was dispatched to help in the hunt. An emergency meeting of government agencies was called. Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was informed afterwards that the attack was not a normal crime but a deliberate, organized terrorist act, carried out by professionals. However, nobody was able to name suspects (yet).
Mr. Thaksin expressed sorrow over the killing of the children and vowed to bring the culprits to justice. Thaksin said he did not think the attack was the work of the Burmese military. There are some theories about who might be behind the shooting, but we believe these theories are far too speculative to publish now.
Local villagers believe that the fugitives could possibly still be in Rachaburi district. According to the villagers, there is an evidence that the suspects made a stop at a nearby river. (Source: the Nation)


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Video pirates caught

Posted by hasekamp on 5 June 2002 at 15:29 PM
Thai authorities carried out a raid on a major producing factory of pirated video compact discs and DVDs early yesterday morning. The raid was led by the deputy commerce minister, overseeing the Intellectual Property Department, along with the police.
About 16,000 copies of pirate VCDs and DVDs and four high-tech machines imported from Germany were confiscated. The evidence confiscated was worth 100 million Baht.
The factory was quite advanced, with high technology because the machines can produce DVDs too. So far most pirated video material in Thailand consisted of VDCs only. The production capacity was quite big, because the electricity bill of the factory was nearly 300,000 Baht a month. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Walking street in Phuket Town

Posted by hasekamp on 4 June 2002 at 16:37 PM
Thalang Road in Phuket Town has been a "walking street" on Sundays as a test. During the closing ceremony of the recently held Seven Wonders of Phuket festival, Deputy Prime Minister Pitak Intrawitayanun announced that Thalang Rd will continue to be a walking street every Sunday from now on, until further notice.
Phuket Town Municipality will also continue to organize events there for the next 17 weeks, under the (very original) slogan Amazing Phuket. Everything will be sponsored by the local office of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT).
The events will be held on Sundays from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. and will include beauty pageants, eating competitions (whatever that may be!), parades, cheerleaders’ contests, and a "fittest senior citizen of Phuket" contest.
There also will be an attempt to get into the Guinness Book of Records with the worlds longest lesson. Assistant Professor Pranee Sakulpipatana, Director of the Arts and Culture Department at Rajabhat Institute, will lead a lesson on the history of Phuket, lasting 26 hours, which should be one hour longer than the current record, set in the Netherlands. (Source: The Phuket Gazette)


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Gunmen fire at school van

Posted by hasekamp on 4 June 2002 at 13:56 PM
Three unidentified gunmen, believed by the Thai authorities to be of an alien force (read: from Burma!), have stormed a school pick-up bus at 07:10 a.m. this morning. Two students were killed and 15 others were injured. The students in the bus were aged 14 to 17 years old.
The grave incident happened close to the Myanmar border. Military officers of the Thai Third Army with a squadron of helicopters are now hunting for the three men, who escaped through a mountain adjacent to the Thai-Myanmar border. It is not unlikely hat the serious incident is related to the recent border issues between Thailand and Burma.
The gunmen were disguised in green uniforms with black clothes covering their faces. They stormed the school pick-up in Ratchaburi, a central province along the Thai-Myanmar border, with M16 firearms. The men emerged along the two sides of the road and opened fire at the school vehicle without any warning.
One of the injured pupils is in critical condition, so the number of dead might even rise to three students, in fact still children. (Source: Thai News Agency, Reuters)


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The recent border issues with Burma

Posted by hasekamp on 4 June 2002 at 13:55 PM
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has said that the current conflict along the Thai-Burmese border was not triggered by territorial encroachment by either sides, so they are not to blame on his government, but rather by are triggered by internal conflicts within Myanmar territory.
The Prime Minister said that the Myanmar Government should be given time to solve its own mess and he believed the Burmese junta would be able to eventually solve it. He strongly denied a media report saying both Thai and Myanmar officials along the border have escalated tension.
Meanwhile the recent border issues have a positive side too: Narcotic smuggling into Thailand has reduced remarkably since Myanmar closed its major border crossings last week. Strict military inspection (on both sides of the border) has also scared away traffickers from unusual routes. A Thai government spokesman said that the border tension is likely to force traffickers to resort to smuggling in smaller lots to make possible escapes easier. Traffickers are also expected to use routes via Laos or marine routes.
Meanwhile His Majesty the King also has advised about the current border issues. He calls for peaceful negotiations to resolve the (in fact two decades old) conflict.
His Majesty had advised the government to resolve the conflict over Hill 491 in Chumphon province through negotiations, and in that process Thailand should show sincerity and help to develop Burma. Mr. Thaksin is expected to visit Rangoon and raise the matter with Burmese military leaders. (Source: Public Relations Department)


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Corruption in Thailand

Posted by hasekamp on 3 June 2002 at 13:44 PM
Hong Kong-based Political and Economic Risk Consultancy (PERC) holds surveys on corruption in Asia regularly and in the latest survey Indonesia is (still) at the bottom of the list (most corrupt), but now, following Indonesia immediately, is Thailand. The survey is based on the views of expatriate business people in each of the 12 Asian countries under review.
PERC noted that corruption in Thailand is worst with the police. Police officers in Thailand have fleets of expensive European cars. "The (Thai) police are under-educated and underpaid. They are still a major engine of corruption", the magazine says.
The countries that failed to pass the mark of non-corrupt, the lists is as follows: Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam, India, China and (as said) Thailand and Indonesia. (Source: The Phuket Gazette)


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Police arrests 21 people on drugs parties

Posted by hasekamp on 3 June 2002 at 13:43 PM
Police arresrted 21 people in two raids on suspected drug parties in the Bangkok area early yesterday.
At a house in tye Sukhumvit district police arrested 13 men and six women, aged 20-25. Police also seized four ecstasy pills and one bottle of ketamine.
Kendo Sano, a Japanese freelance photographer (35) who is the owner of the house, said that he had invited the young people to his place. Police said that the Japanese man had held similar parties five or six times before.
The Japanese videotaped his guests on these parties while they were having sex after using drugs. The tapes were sold as video compact discs in Japan.
Police also raided a room in an apartment in Huay Khwang district, where another drugs party was being held. There police found one ecstasy pill, six bottles of ketamine and two methamphetamine pills. Nithiwadee Jirakasemsawat, 31, said she bought the drugs from a nightspot on Ratchadapisek road and hosted the party for friends.
Police said that drug users are more and more turning to private parties in apartments, because of the greater alertness of the Thai police. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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The army to fight the flooding

Posted by hasekamp on 2 June 2002 at 12:36 PM
Soldiers from the Thai Army Command are being enlisted to help to dredge Bangkok’s canals in the hope that flooding can be minimized during the upcoming rainy season.
Bangkok governor Samak Sundaravej, Army Chief of Staff Admiral Narong Yuthawong and Prime Minister's Secretary Phrommin Lertsuridej, launched this dredging project yesterday. Soldiers will dredge 44 of the capital’s canals, on both sides of the river.
This is a royally initiated project, so the initiative ultimately came from HM the King. The Bangkok governor yesterday expressed confidence that the dredging would solve some of the capital’s notorious flooding problems during the upcoming rainy season. Could he have said anything else? (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Thaksin too soft in border troubles?

Posted by hasekamp on 2 June 2002 at 12:35 PM
The border troubles with Burma are back, if they ever have been away. Although Mr. Thaksin did his best to become best friends with Rangoon as long as he is in power, there still are incidents, like Rangoon closing the border, skirmishes and more.
The Thai opposition has now said that the Thaksin government will fail to settle the Thai-Burmese border conflicts, because Burma does not respect weakness, and Thaksin is too weak.
A Democrat MP and former deputy foreign minister said the opposition had now warned the Thaksin administration several times that it was too soft on Burma.
Rather than keeping troops at the border to protect Thailand's sovereignty, the government suddenly ended a military exercise there. Mr. Thaksin even ordered the military not to over-react despite the fact that intrusions onto Thai soil were threats against lives and property, the Democrat opposition said. Although the Democrats understand that the government wants a good relationship with Burma, this should not be sought at any price. Burma only respects strength is what the opposition believes. Therefore Mr. Thaksin should talk less about the border and let his (military) subordinates do their jobs.
We have heard sounds like this all over the world, as long as we live. The military want to make war, to solve problems, because that is why they are there, they think. Now the Thai opposition seems to share this opinion. Hardly ever has a military escalation solved a political conflict. Look at India and Pakistan these days to see what military threatening might lead to.
Although we also think that Mr. Thaksin is far too eager to be friends with Burma, and he even lets the Burmese leader visit HM the King without any good reason, we find that military action is the other extreme option. We believe that the best attitude towards Burma is to be less friendly towards Rangoon, until the Burmese have show some real respect for Thailand, for instance by dismantling the drug factories all along the border (Main source: The Bangkok Post)


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