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Second bird flu summit

Posted by hasekamp on 27 February 2004 at 19:50 PM
It seems that slowly Asian nations are starting to realize that the bird flu crisis is nt yet over, even if they wished so, Mr. Thaksin at the front. Anyway, officials from 23 Asia-Pacific countries, international experts, donor and development organizations are now gathering in Bangkok for the second regional emergency meeting on bird flu. They will discuss control strategies and the rehabilitation of the poultry sector. The conference takes place on February 26th to 28th, concerns technical measures to control the avian influenza, as well as approaches to restore the poultry industry, and to enhance regional cooperation to tackle the situation. Economic impacts of the avian flu crisis, and ways to cope with the problems, will also be discussed at the conference.
Among the experts attending the conference are officials from the FAO and the World Organization for Animal Health. (Source: Public Relations Department)


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Klity Creek still not cleaned

Posted by hasekamp on 26 February 2004 at 19:49 PM
For a long time we have been reporting about the sad fate of the people living in the lead poisoned village of Klity Creek in Kanchanaburi province. There still has not been taken adequate action, years after the poisoning was discovered and recognized.
Villagers of the Lower Klity Creek now have asked the Administrative Court to force the Pollution Control Department to speed up the clean-up of the lead-laden creek that has been held up for six years already. A group of 13 villagers, led by village head, filed the petition by registered mail on Monday. It should have reached the court yesterday.
To remind our readers of the situation: A lead-processing plant, located next to the World Natural Heritage site of Thung Yai Naresuan wildlife sanctuary, was accused of discharging wastewater into Klity Creek for more than 25 years. It was ordered to permanently shut down its operations in 1998. However, no environmental officials have since then ordered the removal of the lead-contaminated sediment from the creek.
The Law Society of Thailand, which helped the villagers file yesterday's complaint, last year asked the department to deal with the case, but received no response. So the villagers see the court of law as the one and only way to urge the department to take action. The department had earlier said that digging out sediment from the creek bed would simply cause lead to spread further. Officials also had earlier excavated some sediment and piled it up on the banks of the creek. But no further action was taken. We find it a shame for as civilized country like Thailand to put its citizens into danger of lead poisoning for years and years. We hope the court will agree with us and we hope that it will not let itself go into irrelevant details. The area should be cleaned up fast. Full stop. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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King honored again

Posted by hasekamp on 25 February 2004 at 19:46 PM
Some time ago HM the King was honored because of his efforts to eliminate opium cultivation in Thailand. Now the United Nations has honored HM the King with an award for his outstanding contribution to sustaining habits and improving the quality of life of people in cities and communities, a UN statement said yesterday. The Habitat Scroll of Honor Award - a hand-crafted gold plaque ? will be formally presented to HM today at the Klaikangwon Palace by the UN?s executive director of UN-Habitat, host of the award, and the UN?s under-secretary general. It is the highest award conferred by the United Nations to individuals, projects or institutions in recognition of significant contributions to improving human settlements. It is normally presented every October at a ceremony marking World Habitat Day. The Habitat Scroll of Honour will be accompanied with a special citation recognizing the King?s outstanding contribution to improving water resource management in Thailand. The Pa Sak River Basin Development Project has reduced water pollution in Bangkok and other major cities of central Thailand while other projects have targeted the management of floods and the salinization of water resources in the south of Thailand. His Majesty's concept of a sufficiency economy can also form the basis of value-based water education programs throughout the Asia Pacific region, according to the statement. (Source: The Nation)


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Convention Center on reclaimed land

Posted by hasekamp on 25 February 2004 at 19:45 PM
Phuket Province and the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) have jointly requested 2.5 billion baht in funding from the central government for construction of a International Convention and Exhibition Center (ICEC) at Saphan Hin, near Phuket Town, a site seen by many island residents as inappropriate for such a project. Plans the transformation the city's muddy eastern shoreline into a high-tech shopping paradise, featuring marinas, tourist attractions and even a duty-free zone. A plan to attract foreign investment and Customs incentives is still only in the formative stages, however. In a public referendum, held a year ago, of 250 local government officials, leaders of business organizations and members of the public only 19 people voted for the Saphan Hin site. Reclaiming land from the sea will be immensely expensive. The location will further worsen the traffic situation in Phuket Town and the area is well-known hotbed of teenage gang activity. The decision is seen by many as indicative of the central government's failure to take local opinion into account in planning decisions. We will keep you informed about this controversial plan. (Source: The Phuket Gazette)


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King suggests unity and teamwork for South

Posted by hasekamp on 25 February 2004 at 19:44 PM
His Majesty the King has stressed the need for unity and understanding between agencies and a harmonious approach in dealing with the southern unrest, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said yesterday. There is unrest and violence, organized by local muslim groups, in the deep South of Thailand since a long time. Mr. Thaksin was speaking of the King's concern over escalating violence in the deep South marked by daily terror attacks on officials and civilians. The prime minister was given an audience with the King on Monday to present a report on the southern situation. The King expressed his worries and urged all sides to sit down together and work the problem through. A common understanding of the underlying issues must be communicated to all concerned, who must work to restore peace in the region in a unified fashion, Mr. Thaksin quoted the monarch as saying. The King advised him to adhere to the principle of access, understanding and development in dealing with problems in the South. Mr. Thaksin had to admit that the authorities may be working out of tune. He had ordered the army to take care of combining forces to fight the insurgents.
Mr. Thaksin pledged the population to follow the royal advice on how to forge a bond and understanding with the local people. More than 100 people are believed to be involved in perpetrating the southern violence. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Crime fighting

Posted by hasekamp on 24 February 2004 at 19:36 PM
The Bangkok-based Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) has formed local crime-fighting forces for each police region, police announced on Sunday. From now on the police will be intimately involved with investigations into violent crimes and cases that the local police are too limited to handle. An official said that the new force comprises hundreds of officers from the Tourist Police, Marine Police and Highway Police, as well as CIB officers from Bangkok. In particular they will target the spiraling number of crimes by teenagers, including violent sex crimes, fighting and street racing, as well as cases too complicated for local officers to handle. There are two major problems to handle immediately. One is teenage motorbike gangs. About 100 gang members often gather on the streets at night. Furthermore key crime bosses are also high on the agenda.
As this news is adapted from the Phuket Gazette, the emphasis is on the Phuket area. Phuket is rated as the third-worst province for big crime. The worst is Ranong, he said, while Surat Thani is second. (Source: The Phuket Gazette)


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Thai classical music is popular

Posted by hasekamp on 23 February 2004 at 19:58 PM
Foreign envoys in Thailand have expressed their appreciation to Thai classical music, thanks to a Thai movie produced and directed by Thais who have good intention and strong determination to publicize the dealthless value of the traditional Thai music, according to Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai. Surakiart told reporters that foreign ambassadors and diplomatic staffs in Thailand had become impressed with the Thai classical music after seeing the Thai movie "Hom Rong". The Thai foreign minister invited the group of foreign envoys to see the movie recently, as part of the government's policy on promoting and publicizing the value of the traditional Thai music internationally.
Mr. Itthisunthorn Vilailak, director of the movie, said in an interview that the number of people wanting to see the movie had remarkably increased over the past week. Showtimes were expanded to 10-12 rounds a day, from 3-4 rounds at the beginning. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Obscene websites reduced by 80%

Posted by hasekamp on 23 February 2004 at 19:51 PM
The chairman of Cyber Inspectors said that obscene websites have been reduced by 80 percent, with the cooperation from people informing of these websites. The chairman of Cyber Inspectors of the Information and Communication Ministry said that presently, 80 percent of obscene websites have been eradicated, with the cooperation of the Internet Service Providers. The general public and volunteers have been helping the government, by constantly informing them of improper websites. The cyber inspectors of ICT Ministry therefore, have been able to work more efficiently. However, it is impossible to get rid of all of the obscene websites, because these websites continually change Internet addresses, once they have been closed. The ICT Ministry will hire students during the school recess to be volunteer cyber inspectors, tracing improper websites. (Source: Public Relations Department)


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Thailand will be a health service hub

Posted by hasekamp on 23 February 2004 at 19:51 PM
The Ministry of Commerce wants to turn Thailand into the health service hub of Asia. The Deputy Commerce Minister said that according to the proactive marketing strategies of the public and private sectors, the number of foreigners coming to Thailand for health services has been increasing. The total of foreigners receiving Thai health services in 2003 increased from 2002 by 55 percent. It is expected that this year there will be at least a million foreigners. Most of the foreigners coming for health treatments are Japanese. The Commerce Ministry will continue its support to the health service business, to transform Thailand into the health service hub of Asia. The Ministry will also promote the personnel training of health and beauty businesses for other countries, especially in the Middle East.
Our comment: Health service in Thailand is (very) good. So everybody needing health care can safely receive it in Thailand. The whole news item comes into a bit of a strange daylight, when we realize that one of our contacts in Thailand, working in the medical field, said that the most wanted operation by foreigners in Thailand is a sex change. We do hope that the government is not promoting Thailand as a "health service hub" of this kind. (Source: Public Relations Department)


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Virus infects cats

Posted by hasekamp on 22 February 2004 at 14:21 PM
Thai veterinarians have found that the H5N1 virus strain of bird flu has "crossed the species barrier" from chickens to cats. This was concluded after at least two cats in Nakhon Pathom province were found to have died of the virus. People should therefore avoid contact with cats' droppings, to avoid possible infection by the bird flu virus. Cat owners should also disinfect their pets' dwellings with detergent, and stop the pets from eating birds or chicken carcasses.
The university lab received three cat carcasses from a cat owner, whose 15 cats fell ill with bird flu-like symptoms in the past two weeks. The owner saw one of her cats eat a dead chicken at a bird flu-infected farm across from her house. This particular cat had disappeared. However, her two other cats developed high fever, lost their appetite, and vomited blood-like fluid. Thirteen cats have died so far, the only surviving one is now under veterinary surveillance.
It is still uncertain whether cat-to-cat transmission is possible. The university told the public not to panic, saying that the virus was unlikely to pass from cat to human. We find this a strange advice, since the transfer from chicken to cat also was unlikely, and even called unique! (Source: the Bangkok Post)


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Thailand wants to browse cleanly

Posted by hasekamp on 19 February 2004 at 19:28 PM
The Thai Health Promotion Foundation (THPF) and the ICT Ministry have launched a web browser that is expected to "clean up the Internet". Plawan, the name of the new browser, can supposedly screen out inappropriate web sites and create a web community that is acceptable among parents and children. The browser is now in version 1.0 and runs on the Windows platform only. It is said to be compatible with Internet Explorer. The name "Plawan" means "whale" and was chosen because whales are generally seen as warm and kind in Thailand. Find Plawan at http://www.plawan.com . But of course the pages are only in Thai! (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Dusit Zoo soon to reopen

Posted by hasekamp on 19 February 2004 at 19:26 PM
Dusit Zoo is likely to reopen soon as lab tests of 23 crow samples showed no signs of avian flu infection, the Natural Resources and Environment Minister said yesterday. The city zoo has been closed for nearly three weeks now after two dead crows found in its compound tested positive for the virus. Now it is necessary to reopen the zoo or there would be no revenue to run the place or pay staff salaries. We hope this is a wise decision.
The reopening of Dusit Zoo is good news. However, if the reopening is only based on these financial arguments, we believe that the government should be prepared to spend a bit more money to safeguard Bangkok's major zoo. It would be a shame if avian flu would be found after the reopening, risking the lives of many unique species.
All winged animals at the zoo will be kept under close surveillance after the reopening. Also, all vehicles entering the zoo must be disinfected first. The minister did not say when exactly the zoo would reopen. The ministry also said tests showed 55 pigeon samples collected from six areas in Bangkok, including Sanam Luang, did not have the bird flu virus.
Luckily there are no reports that storks living at Wat Pailom are dying in an unusually large number, the minister said. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Welcome to Phuket City!

Posted by hasekamp on 18 February 2004 at 19:28 PM
On Friday, February 13, the Interior Ministry officially "upgraded" Phuket Town Municipality to Phuket City Municipality. We do not know if we should be happy about this change, but here it is. It will generate some business activities, no doubt. The Chief Administrative Officer of the new Phuket City Municipality said that the structure and responsibilities of Phuket Town Municipality qualified it for an upgrade. There are more than 70,000 people living within the official boundary, according to this official. Changes to signs and municipal paperwork are expected to follow quickly. Following the upgrade, the Phuket Election Commission (PEC) was able to announce April 4 as the date for elections for the City Municipality. As a city, Phuket City will have a mayor and 24 elected representatives from four voting districts, as opposed to the 18 representatives from three districts it had as a town. (Source: The Phuket Gazette)


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Thaksin wants fences along border

Posted by hasekamp on 17 February 2004 at 19:34 PM
The Prime Minister of Thailand, Thaksin Shinawatra, seems eager to copy Israel. The Thai PM has told the army chief to erect fences along the border with Malaysia, to prevent separatists hiding out there crossing back, to cause trouble in the deep South. General Chaisit Shinawatra, the army chief (related indeed), said Mr. Thaksin was unhappy that people on both sides of the frontier could cross back and forth without going through border checkpoints. Last night another civilian was killed in the Deep South of Thailand.
We do not criticize the fact that Mr. Thaksin wants to get better control over the border movements. We do criticize the fact, however, that he tries to do this the Israeli way or, to go back a bit further in history, the Russian way. Nobody anywhere in the world has pleasant memories of the Berlin wall and it looks as if the Israeli wall or fence will neither meet much enthusiasm worldwide.
We wonder if Mr. Thaksin is now preparing a "Thai wall" and wants to reach the world press in that way. If so, we predict that he will not meet much acclaim internationally. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Protest in Phuket

Posted by hasekamp on 17 February 2004 at 19:33 PM
Approximately 1,000 nightspot operators in Phuket town and Patong beach rallied in front of the provincial hall demanding a review of the early closure policy. The angry brothel and bar owners claimed they could lose as much as 100 million baht a night if they were forced to close at midnight instead of 2 am. The Phuket Governor said he would send the group?s petition to the government, as the provincial authorities did not have the power to decide the matter. The chairman of the nightspot operators on Patong beach said the operators would ask the government to grant them privileges to stay open until 3 am. (Sources: The Bangkok Post and The Phuket Gazette)


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Virus is now back in nine provinces

Posted by hasekamp on 17 February 2004 at 19:32 PM
What everybody should have feared, in the first place the Thai government, has happened. The bird flu is re-emerging. Officials blame the inevitable on unregulated movement of fighting roosters for the second wave of the epidemic. If this should be so, these fighting roosters should be destroyed immediately. They are no good for anybody but gamblers and animal torturers anyway. But also in the past weeks the government has shown to be afraid of the owners of fighting roosters. So now the government should show it has a straight back.
The deputy agriculture minister said random checks at 14 spots confirmed the H5N1 strain of the flu had struck again. Eight provinces are experiencing a recurrence of the outbreak: Chaiyaphum, Uthai Thani, Uttaradit, Sukhothai, Kanchanaburi, Nakhon Pathom, Petchaburi, and Phangnga. The areas had previously been downgraded to yellow zones, marked for surveillance. The ninth province, Roi Et, is new to the virus. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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WHO warns Asian countries once more

Posted by hasekamp on 16 February 2004 at 10:43 AM
The WHO said on Saturday Vietnam's bird flu outbreak, which has killed 14 people in the country, could take years to eradicate, as China reported four new confirmed outbreaks of the disease. Thailand, where the virus has reportedly killed five people, meanwhile still says it aims to conquer its bird flu crisis by the end of the month.
Vietnamese officials have also said they aim to declare the country free of the disease by the end of February. The World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), however, both say hopes for a quick recovery of Vietnam's poultry industry were premature. They believe the outbreak won't be eradicated for months, probably years.
The FAO estimates some 80 million chickens and other fowl have now been culled to contain the epidemic, which has struck 10 Asian nations and the United States. Beijing announced four new confirmed bird flu outbreaks. Chinese authorities seem worried that bird flu could spread to Beijing after having hit cities only 100 kilometers away.
Despite the UN agencies' dire pronouncements, Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra refused to be cowed by the disease's continued threat. He persists that by the end of February the bird flu could be eradicated. Bangkok was declared clear of the disease Friday and has been downgraded to a yellow zone, in which strict quarantine restrictions are lifted but poultry can only be transported with a government license. Thailand remains in the spotlight, with the recent new human cases of avian influenza reported. (Source: The Nation)


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Two new cases of bird flu

Posted by hasekamp on 16 February 2004 at 10:42 AM
A one-year-old girl from Kalasin has become the latest case of suspected bird flu, while the number of confirmed victims is eight, five of whom have died, the Public Health Ministry said. The girl is responding well to antiviral treatments, although she remains in intensive care. She fell sick a week after 10 chickens, raised in her home, died mysteriously. She was admitted to the provincial hospital on Wednesday. Preliminary lab checks showed that she was infected with type A of the avian influenza.
Of the three surviving victims of confirmed infections, two have fully recovered and been discharged from hospital. One recent victim, a 13-year-old boy from Chaiyaphum, remains hospitalized in serious condition. The prognosis for him is not good, his doctor said. The boy, diagnosed as the sixth bird-flu case, may have received treatment too late.
With regard to the handling of the epidemic, the government said it was monitoring 158 yellow zones across the country for 21 days before determining whether the outbreaks were under control.
Meanwhile Associated Press reported that Chiang Mai zoo has isolated two healthy giant pandas over fears they may catch the disease. Workers at the zoo were trying to keep wild roosters and hens from coming close to the pandas. (Source: The Nation)


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Cabinet gives 2.9 billion baht compensation

Posted by hasekamp on 13 February 2004 at 19:29 PM
The cabinet has approved a 2.9 billion baht budget to make up for losses of chicken farmers, following the bird flu crisis in many provinces. Once more this looks like an action as if the epidemic is completely over already, which is not yet the case according to the WHO.
The deputy Agriculture & Cooperatives Minister said the 2.9 billion baht fund will be provided as a grant and compensation pay for the chicken farmers, following the deaths of millions of their fowls. The grant in cash will be provided at 40 baht for each of the egg-producing chickens killed by bird flu, or slaughtered at the orders of the authorities to contain the epidemic. 20 baht will be provided for each of the chickens reared for food, which have been killed by H5 N1 virus, or slaughtered by the farmers themselves, according to the deputy minister. (Source: Public Relations Department)


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Sex industry protests against closing hours

Posted by hasekamp on 12 February 2004 at 19:13 PM
Bar owners yesterday predicted doom and gloom for the "night entertainment" industry as a result of the strict new laws that want closing at midnight. So harsh are the new closing times, set to come into effect on March 1, that all expect a crippling drop in revenues, while many said they would have to cut staff. Massage parlor tycoon Chuwit Kamolvisit yesterday called on people affected by the new rule to gather for a demonstration at the Royal Plaza on Saturday evening. He said the operators should have been given at least a year to prepare for the changes, not just a few weeks. In Bangkok, the zones designated for "entertainment" venues cover the Patpong area, and New Phetchaburi and Ratchadaphisek roads. Inside the entertainment zones, nightclubs and bars can stay open until 2 am, while pubs and discotheques must close at 1 am.
We have always been clear about our opnion of the Thai "night life". We are no supporters of the "night entertainment industry", which in Thailand is a different word for organized prostitution. We believe that customers who are looking for a prostitute will find one anyway, so that may be reassuring for the people involved. That tycoons who have made it their business to exploit prostitutes under whatever name (bar, massage parlor, entertainment center etc.) will earn less from 1 March onward is a pity for them, but we do not feel sorry for them. (Source: The Nation)


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Thailand does not listen to WHO

Posted by hasekamp on 11 February 2004 at 12:09 PM
Not just we at Hasekamp Net (see our posting dated yesterday) but also the World Health Organization (WHO) does not agree with the Thai policy to simply state that the bird flu crisis is over, just because for a few days no deadly victims were registered. And, of course, this official statement by the Thai government has only been made because the sacrosanct tourist industry should not be harmed by the bird flue crisis or any other crisis, if it should come to that. If the bird flu has to spread around the world, because of the shortsightedness of the Thai government, so be it, Mr. Thaksin seems to think. His tourism industry is more important than a few million (possible) deaths around the world! We must admit that a transfer from human to human still has not been proven positively, but the possibility, warned for explicitly by the WHO, is serous enough to take into account, we think.
Anyway, this is not the thinking of the Thaksin government: Today Thailand officially rejected criticism by the WHO, that Asian nations are putting economic concerns before public health in dealing with bird flu outbreak. Thailand's Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak, who heads Thailand's bird flu task force, said the WHO's assessment is inappropriate. Thailand is sparing no expense to protect its citizens, five of whom have already died of avian influenza. And what about foreign citizens, by the way, Mr. Somkid? Do we understand things right that they do not have to be protected?
The WHO's representative in Thailand warned that more concern should be given to the human health risk in the 10 Asian nations struggling with the bird flu epidemic. Several countries including Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam, where 14 people have died of bird flu, have been criticized for attempting to cover up outbreaks in a bid to protect agricultural sectors and tourism industries. (Source: The Nation)


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Government sees 8% growth, despite bird flu

Posted by hasekamp on 10 February 2004 at 19:07 PM
Thailand's economy would continue to grow no less than 8% this year, despite the outbreak of avian influenza, according to the Industry Minister. He said that the bird flu outbreak would not adverse affect the economic growth since chicken exports are valued at just around 0.2% of the gross domestic product (GDP). We find this simple point of view astonishing. Does the Minster not realize that the bird flu (that is far from over yet, whatever the government may say) does also affect other sectors of the Thai economy, like the always so divine tourism industry?
No, says the minister! This year, the ministry has set a target to increase the industry value to 2.4 billion baht, or 14.5% of GDP, and it will succeed. He said that exports of electrical appliances and electronics were expected to increase to more than 1.1 billion baht, and those of fashion products to reach 400 billion baht. The ministry would attempt to promote industries like the steel, petrochemical, information technology and microchip industry. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Bird flu is over, Deputy PM says

Posted by hasekamp on 10 February 2004 at 19:06 PM
We have wondered very recently on this page why there is so little news about the bird flu in Thailand. The reason might be that Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak yesterday announced that the outbreak of an avian influenza in the country had eased, as no more patients were reported. If this is the official Thai point of view, we are very skeptical about this! But, the tourism industry can be promoted again, and chicken can be told to be safe again! We wished that life were so easy! Nevertheless: In his capacity as the chairman of a committee supervising the disease outbreak, the Deputy PM said that he had instructed officials concerned to step up efforts to contain the epidemic in the remaining controlled areas as soon as possible. Now (just) measures are worked out to help people affected by the outbreak. A team of senior officials had also been assigned to report the progress in the government's measures to contain the outbreak with Japan and the European Union.
The deputy premier said he had also asked Japan to immediately send a team of its officials to jointly survey the bird flu-affected areas in Thailand, instead of next week as scheduled.
This morning, the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives held a merit making for over 26 million fowls having been culled. Meanwhile, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) announced today that about 70,000 chickens in the remaining five 'red zones' or outbreak control areas in Lad Krabang District had been culled, and that the five districts were likely to be reduced to 'yellow zones' as other 158 areas in 39 provinces nationwide tomorrow. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Thailand will be location for "Alexander The Great"

Posted by hasekamp on 9 February 2004 at 23:06 PM
Another major Hollywood movie is to be filmed in Thailand. The real Alexander the Great has never set foot on Thai soil, but Thailand will nevertheless act as the location for the shooting of a movie about him. The production team for the battle scene has come to Pha Taem National Park in Ubon Ratchathani. During this scene, Alexander the Great makes an unsuccessful bid to invade India, and eventually commits suicide by throwing himself off a cliff into the River Ganges. Colin Farrell is leading the cast, and the movie is directed by Oliver Stone. Thailand was apparently chosen as the location due to its similarities with India, and the possibility of legal problems if shooting had taken place near the Ganges. Although the shooting of Hollywood movies in Thailand in the past has run up against opposition from environmentalists, this film will have no impact on the local environment, according to a national park official. Besides, the film company has donated 60,000 baht to pay for the school meals of local children. Local people are happy with the company, which is employing local residents as guards and porters at 180 baht per day. We would not do this for such a small amount, but in Thailand this is an adequate fee. (Source: Public Relations Department)


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No news about chicken flu

Posted by hasekamp on 9 February 2004 at 23:06 PM
The Thai media do not publish any interesting news about the chicken flu epidemic today. That does not mean there is no news. European media tell us that the number of deaths has risen to a number between 5 and 10 now. Different media publish different data. We wonder why the Thai media now only publish about attempts of the government to make a sort of festival of this serious situation. There are some stories about eating chicken for free (like the one we published from Phuket), but nothing about the victims and the state of affairs in trying to control the disease. Neither do we read anything about the critical `words of the WHO and other international organizations in the Thai media. We will keep you informed nevertheless, as far as necessary, with the help of the European media.


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Eat chicken for free (or better not?)

Posted by hasekamp on 6 February 2004 at 19:17 PM
An estimated seven tons of chicken and 40,000 eggs will be used in a free food festival in Patong on Saturday, February 7, to reassure consumers that chicken remains safe to eat despite the ongoing outbreak of avian flu. This is an initiative by the government (who else!). All provinces have been ordered to hold similar events. Diners in Patong can look forward to a selection of omelets, curries, soups and other chicken dishes on Saturday. The Chief of the Phuket Provincial Livestock Office (PPLO), said that chickens and eggs from Phuket farms have been guaranteed as safe by the PPLO. He explained that 245 chickens and eggs from 107 Phuket chicken farms had been examined and found to be free of avian flu. In addition, chemical sprays are being used on vehicles entering and leaving farms to reduce the risk of cross-infection. So, if that is enough security for you, go and eat chicken free. We won't be there! (Source: The Phuket Gazette)


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Victims to be re-tested

Posted by hasekamp on 6 February 2004 at 19:16 PM
The Public Health Ministry has begun a new round of lab checks on 684 possible cases of bird-flu infection in humans and will begin releasing the results over the coming weeks starting today, a top health official in Thailand said yesterday. The samples to be tested include those on the government's list of suspected cases, plus hundreds of cases of concern that were not deemed serious enough to be included on the suspected list. Results will be fully disclosed as Thailand's credibility is at stake, the Public Health Deputy Permanent Secretary said. The testing includes tissue samples from all of the suspected bird-flu victims who have died.
Since the outbreak of bird flu, five confirmed human infections have died of the disease. The total number of officially suspected cases reached 19 yesterday. Of those cases, five were detected after disease-control measures were implemented on January 27, and two have died. (Source: The Nation)


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Virus still may be a global threat

Posted by hasekamp on 6 February 2004 at 19:15 PM
Bird flu, which has killed 16 people in Asia, is not under control and could spread to other regions without the right preventative measures, experts from three international agencies said yesterday. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) said in a joint statement in a satellite conference that a targeted vaccination of poultry would help halt the spread of the disease. "Without the implementation of appropriate methods of disease control, the risk of epidemic spreading to further countries, including those in distant regions, is likely to remain high," it said. FAO, WHO and OIE experts said, at the end of a two-day meeting in Rome, that bird flu would remain a threat to people as long as Asian poultry remained infected, though they added that they were hopeful the disease could be tamed.
Vaccinating uninfected poultry outside the infected sites could help reduce huge losses caused by mass slaughters of the animal when they become infected. Vaccine manufacturers in China, Indonesia and Pakistan are already producing the vaccine and laboratories elsewhere are ready to begin, an expert said. (Source: The Nation)


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Air Asia arrives safely in Phuket

Posted by hasekamp on 4 February 2004 at 19:14 PM
The first Air Asia flight from Bangkok to Phuket landed safely in Phuket, with all 148 seats filled. Thirty passengers aboard the Boeing 737-300 paid just 99 baht apiece for the one-way flight. The remainder had to pay 1,900 baht each! Air Asia put 20,000 of the 99-baht tickets up for sale in mid-January for routes between Bangkok and Phuket, Chiang Mai, Had Yai and Khon Kaen. All 20,000 tickets were sold within three days.
Another offer, which ends on February 5, sees a further 20,000 tickets on sale at 800 baht each.
The marketing manager said that Phuket was proving to be the most popular of the four domestic routes with both Thais and foreigners, taking advantage of the low prices.
Our advice is to thoroughly ask around for rates before making a reservation with this new airline. (Source: The Phuket Gazette)


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New tourist project

Posted by hasekamp on 4 February 2004 at 19:13 PM
Koh Yao Yai and Koh Yao Noi islands are to be connected by a suspension bridge and a luxury hotel will be developed on one of the islands. An 8-million baht budget has already been issued by the central government to study the bridge project's technical and financial requirements. There is not yet a construction schedule, but it seems 100% certain (according to the Pang Nga provincial authorities) that the bridge will be built. Of course the main aim is to facilitate travel between the two islands and to boost tourism. "Tourism" seems one of the few words in the vocabulary of the Thai government.
Currently, the tow islands are famous for eco-tourism. The predominantly Muslim population has received praise nationally and internationally for sustainable development and for its innovative tourism, whereby tourists can stay in the homes of local residents. Most local people are said to agree with the bridge project, because it will allow them to find work near home. A major hotel group is planning to develop a five-star luxury resort on Koh Yao Noi. He said the owner is a Bangkok businessman, who hopes to spend the rest of his life there. Another project, the 30-room four-star Koh Yao Paradise, is nearing completion, he added. (Source: The Phuket Gazette)


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Air Asia's first flight ends in an emergency!

Posted by hasekamp on 3 February 2004 at 13:53 PM
After weeks of public relations and an advertising blitz, Air Asia's first local flight, carrying VIPs and the press made an undignified emergency landing yesterday after a flap indicator malfunctioned. The Boeing 737-300 aircraft was traveling from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. Passengers included executives of businesses, linked to the Shinawatra family, and reporters. Aboard were the chairman of Thai Air Asia Co and executive chairman of Shin Corp, which holds a 51% stake in the airline among many other dignitaries. The other 49% of the stocks are held by Malaysia's Air Asia.
About 20 minutes after take-off, the captain announced a technical difficulty and said he would turn around and make an emergency landing at Don Muang airport. The aircraft spent an hour getting its parts replaced and the flight was then rescheduled, but nearly half the passengers cancelled the second trial. Air Asia starts its regular service today from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, Phuket and Hat Yai. Everything has its price. You want a cheap fare, "sponsored" by Mr. Thaksin? Then you risk an emergency landing! (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Villagers want PM to eat in their village

Posted by hasekamp on 3 February 2004 at 13:51 PM
Angry relatives of a bird flu victim in Kanchanaburi province yesterday challenged the prime minister and his cabinet to eat chicken in their village, saying they will pay anyone who dies from eating their chicken 10 million baht. As we reported earlier, some cabinet members, including PM Thaksin Shinawatra, ate chicken in front of the press recently. Most members of the public suspect this chicken to have been carefully selected, as being free from avian flu.
Mr. Thaksin made a similar statement as the villagers over the weekend, promising to give three million baht in a bid to restore public confidence.
"Instead of eating the KFC chicken, the prime minister should come to our village. We will cook for him, if he has guts," said Chamnan Boonmanuj, the father of Nong Kong, the first victim of bird flu. Relatives of Nong Kong believe avian flu was the cause of his untimely death even though the Public Health Ministry has declined to confirm this. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Royal project wins prize

Posted by hasekamp on 2 February 2004 at 19:35 PM
A project sponsored by His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej has been recognized above 300 other projects around the world and has won the prestigious Columbo Plan award for solving the problem of opium poppy cultivation. The head of the Royal Project Foundation?s public relations department, said that the project had also received the Drug Advisory Programme award, in Sri Lanka last December and another award in India. The Royal Project Foundation, which works on crop substitution in Northern Thailand, was praised for being the only organization in the world to successfully solve the problem of opium poppy cultivation. The Columbo Plan was established in 1951 to develop the economy and society in the Asia-Pacific region. (Source: Public Relations Department)


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Third avian flu death case

Posted by hasekamp on 2 February 2004 at 19:35 PM
The international media seem to be faster in spreading the news about the bird flue at the moment than the Thai media. We will therefore sometimes publish messages like this one, written after consultation of various media in Europe and the US.
The WHO has officially reported a third death case for Thailand now. This third victim is a 58-year-old man. The first two were young boys, as published before. Furthermore nine recent death cases in Thailand have not yet properly investigated and might also have been caused by avian flu.
The WHO also reports that three recent deaths in Vietnam point into the direction that the avian flu is now also being transmitted from human to human. Two sisters died of avian flu in Vietnam, without having been in contact with infected poultry. Their brother, however, very recently died of avian flu.
All this news puts the words of Thai PM Thaksin Shinawatra, that he has the problem under control and will exterminate it within two months, in a strange light! We hope that he will soon have a more realistic view on this very serious problem and will listen to the WHO officials that warn all the government leaders in South-East Asia now. Eating chicken with some ministers in front of photographers is not the way to prevent a worldwide health crisis!
In all Southeast Asian countries where the bird flu has been determined, it spreads very fast. If indeed the transmission from humans to humans is a fact, we may have to prepare for a worldwide epidemic with millions of deaths. (International radio and TV sources)


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Thaksin eats chicken in public

Posted by hasekamp on 2 February 2004 at 19:34 PM
Thai People seem completely unimpressed by the chicken eating efforts of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his ministers. Results of two opinion polls showed the public is staying shy of chicken. And we agree with them. Mr. Thaksin and his cabinet ministers kicked off the campaign by eating chicken at a KFC outlet before press photographers on Saturday. A percentage of 48% of the respondents still do not dare to follow their PM. Another 40.5% said they were not impressed because they believed the chicken Mr. Thaksin ate was safely selected for him. Just 12% said they would now dare to eat chicken.
The government meanwhile says it is confident of containing the bird flu epidemic within two months, but it still is concerned that the poultry industry could be in ruins by then if people are not drawn back to eating chicken meat and eggs.
Mr. Thaksin has also accused the media of being inflammatory in covering the bird flu epidemic, but 58% of the poll respondents thought the media did a good job. And 89.5% thought they benefited from the media reports. (Source The Bangkok Post)


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Government starts to make mistakes

Posted by hasekamp on 1 February 2004 at 11:46 AM
The Thai government is not handling the avian flu crisis as it should. International news sources tell us that not all the birds, not even all the chickens, are being destroyed in and around the affected areas. On TV it was said that the large (an rich) chicken farmers are "spared". Their livestock is not being destroyed. Also the (apparently powerful) owners of "fighting cocks" appeared on the TV screen, saying that they take very good care of their animals and that they therefore -of course- are not ill and will not become ill. And besides (and that is the whole point, of course) these fighting cocks are very expensive. If they would be lost, the country would have to do without these important animals for years, which of course would be unacceptable! Also ?fro the appearance of their houses- very well-to-do Thai people with tropical birds in their rooms were shown, telling the camera man that these birds of course were very healthy and very expensive.
A spokesman of the WHO (World Health Organization) said in the same TV broadcast that the only way to fight the avian flu is to destroy all chickens, and in fact all birds, in a circle of 3 kilometers around a place where the disease has been found. So the Thai government is making grave mistakes by allowing the exceptions mentioned above.
We wonder when the Thai government will stop making these exceptions for wealthy or powerful people. Has an epidemic to start under the (human) population of Bangkok that cannot be controlled any more before the right measures will be taken towards all people with birds? The Thai government has to realize that the disease is slowly spreading among humans too and without proper measures the consequences cannot be over seen! (International news sources)


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