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More rubber plantations
Posted by hasekamp on 30 April 2003
at 13:15 PM
In provinces like Phuket you can see them all around: The rubber plantations, and they are doing good business. More rubber plantations in the Southern and Eastern region and elsewhere in the country are expected in the light of growing demands and gradual price increases.
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has said during the Monday Cabinet meeting that rubber plantations may be expanded, so that sales of rubber could rise up to one trillion Baht in a year, compared to the current annual income of about 60,000 to 70,000 million Baht.
The Commerce Minister revealed that rubber growing has become more lucrative to the planters as rubber prices have gone up to 42 or 43 Baht a kilogram. (Source: Public Relations Department)
New Tongdaeng T-shirts
Posted by hasekamp on 30 April 2003
at 13:15 PM
As we reported some time ago, the T-shirts with a picture of His Majesty's favorite (stray) dog Tongdaeng on it were sold out the first day. Now a new offering of the enormously popular shirts, in three new colors, will go on sale from tomorrow. So, if you want one, buy it tomorrow morning, or else it will not be available again for some time. The company that makes the shirts said that 150,000 shirts in dark blue, green and orange will be available for 250 Baht each at four Golden Place shops in Bangkok and Hua Hin. Orders can also be placed by mail until May 16 for 270 Baht each, including postage (in Thailand).
His Majesty donated the proceeds from the previous sale of Tongdaeng T-shirts to a fund for stray cats and dogs in Bangkok, which has obtained royal permission to produce and sell Tongdaeng T-shirts and other items. Part of the proceeds also went to the Animal Hospital of Kasetsart University and a shelter for stray dogs in Prachuap Khiri Khan. Source: The Nation)
Thaksin to declare Thailand Sars-free
Posted by hasekamp on 29 April 2003
at 14:04 PM
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra will announce Thailand as a "Sars zero-transmission country" at the Asean Sars summit today. The meeting is meant to work out standard anti-Sars measures for the region. As we have reported more than once, for premier Thaksin tourism goes above everything else, so Mr. Thaksin himself will make this declaration, instead of waiting for a declaration by the WHO. A WHO spokesman, in Bangkok to attend the conference, said about Sars in Thailand: "Your Prime Minister is quite right, there's no local transmission in Thailand. But the risks are still there.
All participants from Singapore, Hong Kong and China to the meeting will be screened for Sars.
The prime ministers and ministers from these countries will be examined in advance and will not have to face virus checks again at Don Muang airport. Others will not be spared. But no one will be required to wear protective masks at the airport or at today's meeting.
The Public Heath Minister has asked the World Health Organization to guarantee through certification that fresh food exports from Thailand are Sars-free. A wrong impression was created in Singapore after this country closed its wholesale and retail food markets for sterilization. Some importing countries have panicked and have started demanding Sars-free certificates for Thai fresh food imports from the Public Health Ministry. (Sources: The Bangkok Post, The Nation)
Special Friend of Thailand
Posted by hasekamp on 27 April 2003
at 13:52 PM
Foreign tourists who will hold special membership cards for tour packages in Thailand may be named a "special friend of Thailand", Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra suggested this on Saturday during his weekly radio address. The (still in the planning stadium) tourist membership cards will provide hotel accommodations, golf courses, spa services, health and fitness centers and medical care at special prices. They are expected to raise one trillion Baht in tourist-related earnings to the country, according to the Prime Minister. And that seems almost the only thing Mr. Thaksin is thinking of. He forecasts about one million foreigners worldwide to apply for the new tourist cards to Thailand. But, as said, you still have to wait a bit before you can become a special friend of Thailand.
Meanwhile, the Government Public Relations Department is compiling speeches delivered by the Prime Minister in his weekly radio program to be made available on CDs.
On a weekly basis, Prime Minister Thaksin has informally unveiled what his government has done in the interests of the people and country. His first broadcast was made on April 28, 2001. (Source: Public Relations Department)
Gem trade to be controlled better
Posted by hasekamp on 26 April 2003
at 12:03 PM
The Commerce Ministry plans to put precious stones and ornaments in the list of products under the price control law.
The Deputy Commerce Minister said the plan was initiated in response to Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s move to supervise the business after many complains that the products are being sold to foreign tourists at inflated prices.
The premier expressed concern that this malpractice could have a negative effect on the country’s tourism, which always is the top concern of Mr. Thaksin, it seems.
Under the proposal, precious stones and ornaments will be categorized as a products under the price control act on goods and services. It will enable authorities to monitor the business more closely. Should the premier agree, the Commerce Ministry will propose the matter to the Central Committee on Product Prices and Services for consideration and approval. We believe that it is high time to do something about the cheating of tourists when buying gems. If this is the best solution at the moment, we strongly support it. (Source: Thai News Agency)
Discounted air tickets due to SARS
Posted by hasekamp on 24 April 2003
at 13:48 PM
Thai Airways International is planning to offer complimentary tickets and heavily discounted tour packages to 20,000 travel agents worldwide in a bid to woo back passengers. This because the number of passengers has dramatically dropped due to fears over the Sars virus.
The Deputy Transport Minister said yesterday he had ordered the national carrier to introduce generous promotions to ensure the airline stayed afloat. Sars has reduced the number of passengers on THAI's international flights by more than half.
Complimentary tickets and discounts of up to 90% are to be launched in June or July. They should help to reduce the number of vacant seats.
Tour operators have estimated that the country could lose 550 million Baht per month solely due to the absence of arrivals from China.
The Public Health Ministry, meanwhile, said it was considering the installing thermal-sensor equipment at airports to help pinpoint air travellers suffering from fever, one of the first symptoms of Sars. (Source: The Bangkok Post)
Taxi price goes up
Posted by hasekamp on 23 April 2003
at 17:37 PM
The Thai Cabinet has approved a draft ministerial regulation that will allow a taxi fare increase and lengthen the working life span of taxicabs. For us, consumers, this means that the fare rate could rise to as high as 50 Baht for the first two kilometers against the current rate of 35 Baht.
The fare for every kilometer thereafter could increase to as much as 12 Baht against the current progressive rate. Passengers are now charged 4.5 Baht/km to 5.5 Baht/km for this part of their journey.
The rate within a traffic jam will more than double to 3 Baht per minute against the current rate of 1.25 Baht per minute.
The new regulation has been sent to the Council of State for a final touch. (Source: The Bangkok Post)
Illegally felled teak not for sale
Posted by hasekamp on 23 April 2003
at 17:37 PM
Impounded, illegally felled logs from the Salween forest will all be stored in one place and will not be sold, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said yesterday. He said that he wants them to be kept in one place so that the people can see the result of forest destruction. The logs in question are the last lot of perfect logs in Thailand. From now on measures will be taken to effectively prevent poaching in the Salween forest, Mr. Thaksin said.
The Cabinet yesterday agreed to an investigation the fate of about 5,000 high-grade teak logs confiscated after a 1997 Salween logging scandal. A total of 33,884 logs were seized in the Salween national park and wildlife sanctuary from 1997 to 2002.
Initially the Forestry Department sold 15,485 logs to the Forestry Industry Organization in 1997. This will not be repeated. (Source: the Bangkok Post)
Phuket happy with the war on drugs
Posted by hasekamp on 22 April 2003
at 15:21 PM
The Phuket Governor has announced that more than three quarters of the drug dealers on Phuket’s black list of drug dealers are now under arrest or dead. The Governor said that during the national War On Drugs 181 of Phuket’s blacklisted drug dealers were arrested and five others had died, bringing the total of those no longer dealing drugs in the province to 186 people. This is 77.5% of the 240 names included on the blacklist of drug-dealers.
In addition, 84 unlisted drug dealers and 244 unlisted drug users turned themselves in. A total of 734 drug users surrendered to the government and 528 of these received treatment. The provincial blacklist of drug users initially contained 704 names. These figures are indeed impressive for such a relatively small community. The Governor emphasized that big dealers will still be targeted. "We won’t stop until Phuket is free of drug dealers," the Governor said. (Source: The Phuket Gazette)
SARS hits Thai economy
Posted by hasekamp on 21 April 2003
at 10:25 AM
Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak is set today to meet with senior officials of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) and other agencies concerned to assess the impact of SARS on the Thai economy.
He said the outbreak of the new deadly flu SARS has affected the country’s tourism business now. Latest figures show that revenues earned from tourism reduced by 30 billion Baht due to the SARS outbreak in neighboring countries. However, Songkran has eased the crisis a bit. The number of local and foreign tourists traveling into provincial areas during the Songkran Festival gave the tourism industry a boost of 10 billion Baht.
Plans are to encourage Thai people to travel locally, despite the (in Thailand relatively small) SARS risk. Therefore Thai people are encouraged to "Discover the Unseen in Thailand". There are more than 50 breathtaking tourist sites in Thailand that most local tourists have never seen. Under the campaign, the tourists will be encouraged to travel to the amazing sites and take photos so they can send them to compete for rewards. (Source: Thai News Agency)
Two Dutch nationals sentenced to death (editorial)
Posted by hasekamp on 19 April 2003
at 11:33 AM
In the campaign against drugs that is now officially closed, but will never really end, two Dutch nationals (of Chinese origin) have been sentenced to death. The Dutch media write in large protesting headlines about this incident and the Dutch foreign minister has ordered the Thai Ambassador to his office to give the opinion of the Dutch government.
We fear that the Thai authorities will have little understanding for the Dutch point of view. In the Netherlands, with just a little effort, any drug is available in the streets, even literally under the eyes of the police. They are prepared to look at the other side, even without any financial compensation. This behavior is called tolerance in the Netherlands. Soft drugs are available on a completely legal basis in so-called coffee shops. Only the large fish are being hunted.
How do you explain this to the Thai government that –at the moment of the arrest- was in the middle of an intense war on drugs?
The war on drugs in Thailand has been announces intensively everywhere in Thailand and in the International press. At the luggage reclaim on Don Muang Airport, immediately after arrival you see the first warnings that drug offenses are punished severely in Thailand. Similar warnings are placed at many public places and can be found in any travel guide to Thailand.
Therefore we find that people who nevertheless think that they are free to possess or deal drugs in Thailand and go free are of a tremendous stupidity. These people should be punished, and they should be punished adequately.
Should they receive the death penalty? Most countries –including the Netherlands- do no longer know the death penalty and we believe that the Thai judicial officials could take this into account. What punishment should be proper nevertheless would depend of course on the gravity of the crime in question and the age of the criminals. So if the Dutch foreign minister will plea for a jail sentence instead of the bullet, we can agree with his action. If he wants these criminals to be sent home without punishment, we do not agree.
War against piracy to start
Posted by hasekamp on 19 April 2003
at 11:31 AM
The Thaksin government has announced loud and clear that it would start a war on piracy from 1 April on, after the mail wave of the war on drugs. It has been postponed until 1 May, as now has been made public, but it will start. The main targets are pirated software and movies.
Many shop owners in Mahboonkrong (MBK) and Fortune Plaza on Ratchadaphisek Road and Pantip Plaza were arrested already shortly after the government announced an anti-piracy campaign two years ago.
But according to a random survey by Bangkok Post reporters, there are still a number of shops selling pirated software and entertainment goods. Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra recently warned that 13 state agencies would be involved in the suppression of copyright violations.
Vendors found in violation of copyright laws will face penalties of up to five years in jail, with fines of up to 100,000 Baht. Building owners where the vendors sell their pirated goods will also face penalties equal to two-thirds of the vendor's fine.
Police officers and informants will be awarded one million Baht per compact-disc copying machine and two million Baht for two machines. Rewards will not exceed two million Baht. Also, officers will receive three Baht for every pirated CD seized.
Commercial and shopping centers in Chiang Mai, Mae Sai in Chiang Rai, Mae Sot in Tak, Pattaya, Hua Hin, Hat Yai and Phuket will also be targeted, apart form the well known addresses in Bangkok. More frequent checks will also be organized from the monthly inspections at present.
The government says that three months from 1 May should be adequate to significantly reduce piracy rates.
According to a survey, a majority of shop-owners in MBK and Pantip Plaza, the country's notorious venues for pirated products, said they planned to open their outlets not before the afternoons as authorities usually conducted their checks in the morning. So, government officials, you know when to go there!
Fake CDs, VCDs, DVDs and computer games cost 100-200 Baht each depending on quality and quantity of purchases. If you buy five copies, you can get one for free, for instance. Sales of fake CDs, VCDs, and DVDs has dropped due to fears of contracting the Sars virus a CD shop employee told the Bangkok Post. (Source: the Bangkok Post)
Songkran. The statistics
Posted by hasekamp on 16 April 2003
at 11:35 AM
From April 11-14 there were 473 road deaths nationwide, with 30,769 injuries, according to the Public Health Ministry. This included 107 deaths and 7,473 injuries on Monday.
Bangkok had the most casualties at 391, fatal and non-fatal, followed by Chiang Mai (281), Chiang Rai (252), Khon Kaen (250) and Ubon Ratchathani (213).
Chiang Rai has the most traffic deaths with seven, followed by Khon Kaen, Nakhon Ratchasima and Buri Ram with six each, and Nakhon Sawan, Kamphaeng Phet, Ratchaburi, Sing Buri, Sukhothai and Udon Thani with four each.
The holiday resort of Phuket reports no dead during the Songkran holiday, to our surprise. While final figures for Phuket are still being compiled – and some of the injured remain seriously ill – no one died in road accidents on the island from April 11-15, according to the Phuket Provincial Health Office.
Children under 15 make up a quarter of fatalities and injuries from road accidents during the first four days of the Songkran holiday.
The government had hoped its road safety program would cut the road toll this Songkran by 20% from last year's 567 deaths, but it seems certain the ceiling of 480 deaths will be exceeded.
Once more it has been confirmed that drunk driving is the primary cause of the road accidents.
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has ordered an immediate adjustment to the accident prevention plan. The Prime Minister said the national police office had been requested to show up more forces in rural communities and municipalities, instead of the previous practice to show more police on major highways. We doubt if this is the solution to the problems. Not only drunk driving, but also neglecting of traffic rules appeared to be a major cause of the Songkran road slaughter this year. It might help nevertheless. (Sources: The Bangkok Post, Public Relations Department, The Phuket Gazette)
Ministry thinks Thailand is safe
Posted by hasekamp on 15 April 2003
at 12:29 PM
The spread of the lung disease without a cure, Sars, is well under control in Thailand and people can go about without face masks, the Public Health Ministry said yesterday. A spokesman said yesterday that people no longer needed to wear masks while using public transport or visiting department stores as they are no longer at risk of contracting the pneumonia-like disease.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has also certified that Thailand is not a Sars-hit area.
So far eight people with Sars-like symptoms have been detected in the Kingdom. Two of them have died (of Sars indeed), while five others have recovered and been released from hospital.
Furthermore 87 people who were reported with Sars-like symptoms have been examined, but all of them were found only to have a common cold, he said.
The Public Health Ministry is continuing its physical examination of people arriving from Sars-hit countries on the WHO list. Twenty doctors and 50 nurses have been assigned to check passengers arriving at two medical posts at Don Muang international airport. No Sars infected persons have been found at Don Muang so far. (Source: The Nation)
Six Taiwanese try to smuggle heroin
Posted by hasekamp on 15 April 2003
at 12:22 PM
Six Taiwanese men were arrested yesterday with 12 kilograms of heroin, national police chief General Sant Sarutanond said. The arrest could be made after a tip. Anti-narcotics police stopped four Taiwanese men at a tollbooth on the Chon Buri motorway and found 11.2 kg of the drug in their car. The arrest led to two other gang members and the remaining heroin in Bangkok. The heroin, hidden in boxes of cosmetics, was in transit to foreign markets where it could fetch up to a one million Baht per kilo. The six suspects were identified as Wang Shinyi, Yang Tsuchen, Jiang Yichen, Feng Weiyung, Chen Xianmin and Ping Mingchen.
Normally drug traffickers get the death penalty in Thailand. If they are lucky they will "just" get life in prison. We always wonder why people take this risk. Thai police is very keen on these people, especially after the recent war on drugs. Anyway, these six will not escape their fate. (Source: The Nation)
Yesterday was Songkran Day
Posted by hasekamp on 14 April 2003
at 10:36 AM
First the bad news: The Songkran holiday weekend began on Friday. The usual high number of road accidents happened, as usual most of them caused by drunk riving. The death toll from Songkran road accidents rose to 192 already yesterday after the first two days of the five-day holiday, with more than 10,000 people injured. Of the road accidents 89.49% involved motorcycles, 8.22% pick-up trucks, and 2.25% cars.
Meanwhile, some 1,500 highway police will be present at inbound roads to Bangkok during April 15-16, as holiday makers are expected to return to the capital after the long weekend.
Songkran is the holiday when all Thai families get together, mostly at the house of the oldest family member. Therefore many people leave their houses temporarily. Many vacationers have registered their homes under the surveillance scheme during the long holiday. Bangkok had the highest number of registered houses with 4,850 out of a total 5,569 registered houses nationwide.
Now the latest: The Festival seems to be changing a bit. The water throwing will always be a part of it, of course. But many people are worried by the changes, especially those that might have sexual connotations.
The original tradition of making merit and pouring water on elderly people in exchange for blessings has given way to different forms of celebration, including throwing ice and water on one another using devices such as bowls, toy guns and plastic tubes. However, the latest novelty seems to be women wearing revealing outfits. Officials do not yet know what to do about this new tradition. For the moment the approach seems to be that the new traditions should not cross the bounds of decency and do no harm Thai culture.
Back to older tradition now: Deputy Prime Minister Purachai Piumsomboon led a morning religious activity in Bangkok where 221 monks were present at Sanam Luang to receive offerings. The number of monks marked the number of years that the city has been Thailand's capital. At Phuttha Monthon in Nakhon Pathom province, many people lined up to make offerings to 93 monks.
From Pattani in the deep South, to Nong Khai in the Northeast, to Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai in the North, people poured water over revered Buddha statues at the center of processions to show respect. Traditionally the festivities are most extensive in Chiang Mai, where you will get a wet suit during at least three days. In most places water throwing is limited to one day only: 13 April.
Traditionally the best pictures of the Songkran Festival can be found in the Bangkok Post. So consult the issue of 14 April to see them. (Source: The Bangkok Post)
Iraqi diplomats exit
Posted by hasekamp on 12 April 2003
at 12:16 PM
Two Bangkok-based Iraqi diplomats and their families have been told to leave their embassy now that the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime ia a fact. The Foreign Ministry said the current staff of the Iraqi embassy have lost their diplomatic status because the government in Baghdad no longer exists. Iraq has not sent an ambassador to its Bangkok mission since after the Gulf War. Its present charge d'affaires has been on home leave since the US-led war on Iraq began three weeks ago. The two remaining Iraqi diplomats are expected to take their families back to Iraq on April 19. (Source: The Bangkok Post)
Rice farmers becoming extinct
Posted by hasekamp on 10 April 2003
at 13:36 PM
Rice industry experts warned yesterday that within 10 years Thailand would be facing a shortage of skilled rice farmers. So after the gibbon and buffalo the rice farmer is an endangered species now.
Thailand needs a new breed of farmers that are better educated and use higher technology. Most sons and daughters of rice farmers today prefer to work in the industrial sector, according to the president of the Rice Mill Factories Association. Until now the rice provides the country's top export product and if we are not mistaken, Thailand still is rice exporter number one in the world. A well-known rice grower suggested that the next generation of farmers would not be the same as the current generation. They need to be well educated in farming technology, seed selection, how to decrease the moisture content in the harvested rice and value-added manufacturing. And furthermore they need to be good in English, as well as knowing about macro-economic and other necessary fields. It looks as if rice farming is rising to an academic level. (Source: The Nation)
SARS and the tourism industry
Posted by hasekamp on 9 April 2003
at 12:06 PM
These days it is either Iraq or SARS that dominates the Thai news. Income from tourism in Thailand now has reduced to half with visitors from Sars-affected countries. Tour agencies have reported a 50% drop in the number of tourists from China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan (three of the five countries listed by the World Health Organisation). Tourists also have stayed away because of the war in Iraq.
A tour operator also said that tourists from South Korea saty away, although that country had not been hit (yet) by SARS. Also in Aranyaprathet, only a small number of Cambodians crossed the border to join in the annual cantaloup festival, because of the SARS scare, officials said.
Thai authorities turned away 11 Vietnamese women at a checkpoint along the northeastern border with Laos, saying two of them had symptoms of the virus. The checkpoint in Nakhon Phanom province is one of 30 checkpoints where officials last week began health checks for SARS.
So it seems that SARS is starting to take its economical toll in Thailand now. As we reported earlier, the toll in human lives by SARS in Thailand is -as far as it has been made public- so far limited to two cases.
There are other effects too, however: The cremation of a Hong Kong man who recently died of SARS, originally planned for yesterday, was indefinitely postponed. Local residents fear the spread of the virus due to the cremation. We wonder if leaving the body uncremated will not pose a greater danger for the spreading of the virus. (Source: The Bangkok Post)
Taiwan angry about SARS-infected status
Posted by hasekamp on 8 April 2003
at 13:49 PM
Taiwan has threatened to stop hiring workers from Thailand in retaliation for being listed as a SARS-infected area by Bangkok.
Taiwan thinks it is unfair that Thailand lists it as a SARS-infected area while Taiwan provides job opportunities for Thailand. There are about 110,000 Thai workers in Taiwan, the country's largest group of foreign workers.
This, of course, is a very strange argument A country is SARS-infected or not. The fact that it provides jobs for Thais has nothing to do with that!
Last Wednesday, Thailand announced conditions on the entry of travelers from five areas infected with SARS: China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and Vietnam were SARS-infected regions, according to Bangkok. Visitors from these areas are given health checks on arrival, with the possibility of quarantine, and are required to wear face masks while in Thailand.
On Thursday, Premier Yu Shyi-kun said Taiwan would discontinue tours to Thailand unless Bangkok dropped Taiwan from the SARS- infected list.
The World Health Organization, however, has declared Beijing, Guangdong, Shanxi, Hong Kong and Taiwan, as well as Toronto in Canada, Singapore, and Hanoi in Vietnam as SARS-infected regions.
The Thai Public Health Minister said yesterday that Thailand will continue to follow the list specified by the WHO. (Source: The Bangkok Post)
SARS in Thailand
Posted by hasekamp on 7 April 2003
at 12:27 PM
Thailand's strong measures to counter the spread of the new disease SARS, as known a deadly form of pneumonia, in the country have had negative side effects.
Relatives of SARS victims and Thais returning from SARS affected regions have become victims of social discrimination. Grandchildren of a recent SARS victim (Iam Ying Chgung in Ratchaburi) have been shunned by their community, according to the province's public health inspector. They cannot earn a living now, as people dare not buy the food they sell for fear of contracting the disease.
The death of Chgung (last week) was the second SARS fatality in Thailand. The first victim in Thailand was Dr Carlo Urbani, the World Health Organisation doctor who first identified the virus.
Every hour and in every place, rumors about SARS infection are spreading wider and faster than the virus itself. Thailand has detected seven suspected cases of SARS, besides the two deaths so far. So visitors to Thailand should now realize that the risk is higher than zero, as was pronounced by the WHO not so long ago. (Source: The Nation)
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