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Islamic leaders: Victims were "jihad warriors"

Posted by hasekamp on 30 April 2004 at 17:55 PM
The militants shot dead inside the historic Krue Se Mosque during Wednesday's clash with police and soldiers were jihad warriors, Islamic religious leaders in Thailand say. The Pattani Islamic Committee said the militants sacrificed their lives for Allah as they declared a jihad or holy war before being killed. Relatives of the 106 militants killed yesterday (earlier reports said 107) visited the scene and claimed 100 bodies. They came from several southern provinces, but mostly from Pattani and Yala. No one claimed six of the bodies at Krue Se Mosque. The Pattani Islamic Committee yesterday sought permission to bury the unclaimed bodies at a cemetery in Pattani province, but objected when the army tried to wash the bodies first. A spokesman for the Pattani Islamic Committee said the warriors sacrificed their lives for God, so their bodies must not be cleaned. The Thai military eventually agreed to allow the bodies to be buried without being washed. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Thai intelligence: Islamic leaders did it

Posted by hasekamp on 30 April 2004 at 17:53 PM
A number of religious leaders, including Islamic provincial committee members with links to local politicians, played a key role in Wednesday's uprising in the southern provinces of Pattani, Songkhla and Yala. This is what Thai intelligence sources said yesterday, after police interrogation of 17 suspects arrested during the street battles. These intelligence sources said that religious leaders from Pattani and Yala had indoctrinated local youths with separatist ideology calling for the establishment of an independent Islamic state.
In other words: Thai intelligence sources back up PM Thaksin Shinawatra's statement after the bloodbath. The suspects also said that they had not been paid by anyone to participate in the uprising, as suggested by Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Meanwhile the Defense Minster said that the forces "did no overreact", therewith also backing up his PM.
In an Internet posting, the Pattani United Liberation Organisation (Pulo) praised the dead for their bravery and warned foreign tourists not to travel to the southern provinces of Pattani, Narathiwat, Satun, Songkhla, Yala, Phuket, Phangnga, Krabi and Phattalung.
Police yesterday accompanied one of the arrested suspects, 43-year-old Mama Matiyoh, to re-enact a shooting at a Yala military camp early on Wednesday morning. A soldier at the camp was among five security officials killed in the uprising. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Relatives: Thailand can expect more attacks

Posted by hasekamp on 29 April 2004 at 15:06 PM
Just a few hours ago Associated Press reported that criticism of the government's response to the attacks yesterday emerged, with some families and human rights groups saying that troops and police were too brutal. District officials where the violence took place said Thursday that 18 unarmed soccer players were among the dead. Others were outraged that security forces stormed the Kreu-Sae mosque in Pattani during the clashes, killing 32 people inside. The government described the victims as militants, but prominent Islamic preacher Vithaya Visetrat said many were residents who had gone in to pray and were trapped when a small group of militants sought refuge there. "Killing people in a holy place, in a mosque, in a monastery or in a church is unacceptable. And I do believe that several innocent worshippers were among the dead," Vithaya said. He did not get into detail and the claim could not be verified independently.
The Thai government dismissed the officer who was in charge of the mosque assault. Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra keeps saying that the rebellion is fueled by money from local drug traffickers, corrupt politicians and separatist ideology. He insists they have no foreign links.
Thailand has not witnessed such violence in years. The death toll rivals that of pro-democracy uprisings crushed by the military in 1973, 1976 and 1992, respectively leaving 71, 41 and 40 dead, according to official counts that many believe are understated. (Source: Associated Press)


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Thaksin will make a second trip to the South

Posted by hasekamp on 29 April 2004 at 15:04 PM
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said yesterday that he would go ahead with his planned second trip to Thailand's southern border areas, despite the latest violence in the areas with highest-recorded casualties. "I still decide to make my second working trip to the South despite the latest violence. I was, actually, about to leave for the region this morning", he told reporters.
The Thai leader has planned to make his second trip to the South next week following his successful first-visit to the region in mid April. He said that he had had his own guardians' team, and urged that security preparations for him by local authorities be at the normal level. Although he expressed his regret for the undesirable fighting between the local officers and insurgents, who are all Thais, the Thai leader praised the decisive action of the local military and police officers in settling yesterday's violence in Yala, Songkhla, and Pattani, and pledged to honorably reward those who died and were injured in the incidents, saying the officers had to retain the state authority. The latest violence has ended, with Premier Thaksin pledging that the government will eliminate root-causes of the southern woes through development strategies to bring sustainable peace and prosperity to the region.
Premier Thaksin said that security agencies found that the violence involved drugs rings in the North of the country who hired young drugs addicts in the southern border region to trigger the violence in exchange for money and narcotics. Stressing that the government had been on the right direction in solving the southern woes, the Thai leader vowed that his administration would continue to track down masterminds of the current spate of violence and unrest in the South, having begun since early this year, and would eliminate root-causes of the problems. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Prepare for new terror attacks?

Posted by hasekamp on 29 April 2004 at 15:03 PM
The violent crackdown on southern militants could trigger terror attacks elsewhere in the country, observers say. A cabinet source who asked not to be named said yesterday's crackdown in which more than 100 people were killed was not an achievement but would probably compound the violence. The Muslim community and international human rights organizations would put pressure on the government, whose image in the world community would suffer. It would be grilled on its decision to kill 32 people in the Krue Se Mosque in Pattani. It would be asked why it did not surround the place and negotiate to solve the problem peacefully, and whether all the people killed were indeed terrorists as claimed. As we reported from the International press, these questions have not yet been asked.
It would be too late to implement the proposal by Deputy Prime Minister Chaturon Chaisaeng to solve southern violence peacefully. The incident showed that more than 100 teenagers were ready to die in clashes with the state, the minister said. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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The Nation: Kingdom is shaken

Posted by hasekamp on 29 April 2004 at 15:02 PM
The Nation reports as follows: Bodies of more than 100 Muslim militants, most of them teenagers, littered the roads and a revered mosque yesterday, following clashes across the deep South between insurgents and security forces. The violence shattered Thailand's reputation as a land of peace and tolerance. The militants, mostly armed with machetes and only a few carrying assault rifles, battled policemen and soldiers in Pattani, Yala and Songkhla in one of the bloodiest days in modern Thai history. Authorities said 107 rebels were killed and 17 were arrested. Five security officials were killed. The insurgents, many of them apparently suicidal, launched simultaneous pre-dawn raids on 10 police outposts and a police station in a military-style operation. "It was like a death wish. This is scary," said one intelligence officer, adding that there is real concern that further attacks could be suicide missions. Eyewitnesses said some attackers were screaming religious slogans, proclaiming, "We are ready to die for God!" as they stormed outposts. Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was quick to declare victory yesterday, using the death count as a benchmark for success and praised the security forces for prompt and deadly response. But the situation in the South remains tense and fragile and fears grew of far-reaching repercussions. The National Intelligence Agency warned young Muslims might regroup and launch new attacks. Yet Thaksin played down the political aspect, saying many of the dead were drug-addict teenagers. "There is nothing to be afraid of. These are drug addicts," he said.
But Defense Minister Chettha Thanajaro said Muslim separatists carried out the attacks, and they may have received assistance from abroad. He described the attackers as "well trained" and added that worse is yet to come. Witnesses said more than 30 insurgents took up positions at the break of dawn in the historic Krue Se Mosque on the outskirts of Pattani where they used the mosque's loud speaker to urge all Muslims in the area to take up arms against security forces and "fight to the death". The group was decimated by midday when Thai commandos fired several rounds of a vehicle-mounted recoilless gun before storming the place, killing all the insurgents. According to a local official 32 insurgents attacked a nearby police outpost at dawn before running to the mosque to position themselves for a showdown with a back-up unit. "It seemed that they were prepared to die, and they were going to fight to the death with weapons they had," he said.
PM Thaksin and Army chief Chaisit were granted an audience with HM the King late last night to update His Majesty about the situation in the South. Meanwhile, shots were fired at one police outpost late last night, while a public rest stop was torched in what appeared to be acts of revenge after the killings. We cited the Nation almost literally. (Source: the Nation)


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Bangkok Post: Rebels die in bloodbath

Posted by hasekamp on 29 April 2004 at 15:01 PM
The main English language newspapers publish very prominently about the killing of 107 people by the Thai army. We believe that we can get the best picture of what happened from these sources. First we cite the Bangkok Post:
One hundred and seven southern militants, most of them teenagers, died yesterday in a series of battles with troops and police in Yala, Pattani and Songkhla provinces. It was the bloodiest day in the history of Thailand's restive South. There were five deaths on the government side. Gen Panlop Pinmanee, deputy director of the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc), was ordered to leave the South immediately after troops stormed Krue Se Mosque, killing 32 young militants who had taken refuge there. He was accused of disobeying orders not to attack the mosque, a holy symbol of Pattani state.
The clashes in the three provinces started around 4 am, when hundreds of militants in small groups, armed with guns, knives and machetes, attacked government forces at seven points. They targeted police and military bases. Combat-ready government forces fought back and within hours more than 70 insurgents were gunned down, most of them in the Yala battles. In Yala, witnesses said the militants, most aged 15-20 and wearing black long-sleeve shirts and camouflage pants, arrived at the police and army bases by cars, pick-up trucks and motorcycles. Guns and knives in their hands, looking fearless, they shouted in Malay: "The time to liberate has come" and "There are no other gods. We will die for our God" before charging.
The bloodshed did not end before 2 pm when security forces fired teargas and rocket-propelled grenades and stormed into Krue Se Mosque, in Pattani's Muang district. Army chief Gen Chaisit Shinawatra than said the situation was under control.
Weapons seized from the clashes included four M-16 rifles, two carbines, an M-79 grenade launcher, four pistols, four hand grenades and a large number of machetes and knives. Gen Chaisit said the youngsters went on blood-crazed suicide operations because they were addicts high on drugs. "We are sorry this happened. We plead for reconciliation and that people work together to solve problems," he said. Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said he understood the militants had links with the group involved in the January 4 raid on an army unit in Narathiwat, when more than 400 guns were stolen, because they dressed the same way and used the same tactics. The prime minister did not believe religious conflict was the root cause of the southern problem. He based this on the fact 10 youths arrested last week following arson attacks on 70 targets in Narathiwat were Buddhists and Muslims were among the victims of the daily violence. Nor was the violence the work of any international terrorist group, according to Mr. Thaksin. "When local people saw the faces of those who were killed, they recognised them. They know who those people and their parents are. This shows those rebels were native people living around there," he said. The prime minister said several motorcycles and pick-ups used by the rebels were brand new, showing there was a lot of money supporting the operation.
Mr. Thaksin said he was now in charge of ending the violence in the South. "We will root out the cause of the violence, which is not at all related to separatism or religious conflict," he said.
Defense Minister Chettha Thanajaro said he regretted the use of force against fellow Thais, but insisted the authorities acted in self-defense. We have cited the Bangkok Post almost literally. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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The bloodbath in the International press

Posted by hasekamp on 29 April 2004 at 15:01 PM
Yesterday we were able to publish about the bloodbath in the deep South of Thailand before the main newspapers could. Our report yesterday was very incomplete, of course. Now we want to report more extensively, and we start the reports on the events by looking at what some International press media have to say.
The International press reports prominently about the killing of 107 people in southern Thailand by the Thai police and the Thai army, but we hardly find any critical comments. An overview:
CNN reports that a split has emerged between Thailand's prime minister and his security forces over who was primarily responsible for Wednesday's deadly attacks in the south. Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra is placing the blame (CNN reports) for the violence on criminal gangs trying to protect their illegal activities. But the Thai defense minister and military top appear to contradict him, linking the attacks to Islamic separatists angry over their treatment in the predominantly Buddhist nation. Thaksin said: "We will uproot them, depriving them of a chance to allude to issues of separatism and religion. In the end, they were all bandits". But Thai Defense Minister Chettha Thanajaro said Muslim separatists carried out the attacks, maybe with assistance from abroad. He described the attackers as "well trained" and said that worse was yet to come. CNN goes into detail, but does not take a side.
The BBC gives a historic overview, saying that the Krue Se mosque in Pattani, scene of the final bloody shoot-out after Wednesday's attacks, is meant to be a sign of religious harmony in Thailand's southern Muslim provinces. Although construction began in 1578, the mosque was never completed. The BBC further states that the Thai provinces of Songkhla, Pattani and Yala sit directly on the border with Malaysia, and as well as marking a national boundary, this is the point at which the religious division of South-East Asia moves from being predominantly Buddhist to predominantly Muslim. Over 100 years ago the kings of Siam absorbed the Islamic kingdom of Pattani into their territory. Many people see this as the start of the region's Muslim insurgency. Others point to much more modern reasons for the problems in the south, the BCC says. The three provinces have certainly failed to capitalize on the economic boom that has swept through the rest of Thailand in recent years. Thailand's government seems ?according to the BBC- uncertain who to blame. So far the government has failed to find any solution for the troubles in the south and the scars left by Wednesday's attacks will take a very long time to heal. Here too, no critical comments, so far.
Reuters writes that Thai troops fanned out across southern Thailand on Thursday to restore order after a day of carnage in which security forces shot dead 107 Muslim militants and the army said it faced thousands more insurgents. Army chiefs ordered two extra battalions of soldiers into the three southernmost provinces as the predominantly Buddhist "Land of Smiles" digested what newspapers described as one of the bloodiest days in Thailand's modern history.
Reuters also states that Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said 107 "bandits" and five soldiers and police died in the fighting, which started when gangs of black-robed young men, some wearing Islamic slogans, launched dawn attacks on around 15 army and police posts. The reports of suicidal attackers and pictures of the bloody corpses of lightly armed men that splashed across front pages have sparked concerns a Muslim separatist rebellion that rocked the region in the 1970s and 1980s has returned with a vengeance. Reuters also writes that opposed ideas exist about the cause of the uprising and bloodbath.
European newspapers have similar reports as the ones cited extensively above. So the world is not pointing at, or criticizing Thailand, at this moment. (Sourcs mentioned in the text)


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More than 100 killed in the South

Posted by hasekamp on 28 April 2004 at 13:07 PM
Thai security forces have killed at least 100 suspected Islamic militants in several gun battles in southern Thailand today. At least 30 died in a raid on a mosque where they were taking refuge from clashes with the army, Thai officials said. Others died during scuffles near police bases, which the attackers stormed in a series of coordinated attacks. Thailand's prime minister has blamed local gangs, but many officials fear international militant groups may be behind the attacks.
Police in Yala said the attackers were mainly young men, armed with guns and machetes. They carried out a series of coordinated attacks on police bases and village defense posts in the region. Although officials were tipped off to expect the attacks, few would have envisaged their scale, our correspondent says. (Source: BBC News)


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Herbal medicine for animals

Posted by hasekamp on 28 April 2004 at 12:54 PM
The Office of Research Fund, in collaboration with a pharmaceutical company, will use herbs to produce supplementary food and medicine for animals. The Office of Research Fund and the Better Pharma Company Limited have signed a cooperation deal for conducting a research on producing supplementary foods and medicines for animals, using Thai herbs such as garlic, and chilies. The research will be very useful for the national livestock industry and fisheries. Supplementary foods and medicines for animals made from herbs are booming in the European Union, an official said.
The General Manager of Better Pharma said that the company has spent 3 million baht on research. Presently, the company is constructing a new factory in Lopburi for both research and production. It is expected that within 2 years, Thailand will be able to produce herb medicines and supplementary foods for animals for the markets. We hope that this scheme will also benefit the animals! (Source: Public Relations Department)


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Naraiphand selected for OTOP distribution

Posted by hasekamp on 28 April 2004 at 12:52 PM
Naraiphand (formerly Narayana Phand), the prominent handicraft center was selected as a distribution outlet for local goods under One Tambon One Product (OTOP) scheme. The Industry and Commerce Ministries mutually agreed to use the whole area of Naraiphand as a distribution center for OTOP products.
The areas inside Wat Phra Kaew (the Temple of the Emerald Buddha) in Bangkok and in front of the Export Promotion Office in the northern province of Chiang Mai were also selected to be OTOP distribution centers, so that it would be convenient for tourists to buy the products.
OTOP is a government project to generate income to local communities nationwide by developing and marketing products made in each community from local materials, such as handicrafts, textiles, clothes, jewelry, furniture, decorative items, food and beverages. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Fears for SARS in Thailand

Posted by hasekamp on 28 April 2004 at 12:51 PM
The Public Health Ministry has alerted hospitals and medical offices nationwide to take steps to prevent a possible spread of SARS in Thailand, following news of a fresh Sars outbreak in China. The Public Health Ministry ?as we reported- has already installed body-temperature detection equipment at Don Muang airport to scan travelers arriving from Beijing. Tomorrow the ministry will hold talks with representatives from the International Air Transport Association and tour agencies on how to deal with tourists showing signs of the deadly virus. A WHO official reportedly said: "The Thai government has already learned from experience through last year's outbreak of the respiratory virus. This will help the authorities to promptly and correctly deal with the spread of Sars now.
In China, the government has isolated more than 600 people in Beijing as a chain of infection that leaked from a laboratory could spread, just now that as tens of millions travel through China for the annual May Day holidays. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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New bird flu outbreak

Posted by hasekamp on 26 April 2004 at 22:55 PM
Thai authorities announced a new outbreak of bird flu, forcing them to delay for the fourth time an announcement that the kingdom is free of the deadly virus. Thailand was expected to declare the "all clear" on Tuesday but the discovery last week of bird flu in northern Uttaradit province meant it had to be postponed until next month, the Deputy Agriculture Minister said today. The minister said outbreaks in two other provinces reported earlier this month were either cleaned up or in the process of being eradicated. Therefore Uttaradit is the only province, which currently still has a problem and must be under surveillance, according to the minister.
Thailand slaughtered at least 36 million chickens and other poultry. It has reported 12 bird flu infections in humans, including eight deaths. (Source: AFP)


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Laser equipment to check tourists for SARS

Posted by hasekamp on 26 April 2004 at 22:47 PM
Thailand today installed laser thermometers to test incoming airline passengers for SARS. According to the Director-General of the Department of Disease Control, Thailand has never been home to an epidemic of the virus. By installing the new equipment the country want to prevent accusations that is, or ever was, the source of the disease. Although last year's SARS outbreak saw a number of cases in Thailand, the country was only briefly on the World Health Organization's list of countries at risk, and the government was widely praised by the international community for the speed at which it brought the situation under control. The expert quoted said that the dry, hot weather currently being experienced in Thailand was not conducive to the emergence of the virus. However, he stressed that the Ministry of Public Health was closely inspecting all passengers arriving from Beijing. In addition, the ministry was installing laser thermometers to check temperatures of passengers from Beijing. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Thai massage at Don Muang airport

Posted by hasekamp on 25 April 2004 at 13:07 PM
In order to promote good health and a good impression of the unique Thai touch, the Ministry of Public Health, together with Thai Airways International will offer massage services for top-class fliers at Don Muang airport. The Public Health Minister said on Friday that shoulder massage and foot massage services would be provided to passengers flying in business class and first class at VIP lounge prior to their departure. The three-month pilot project will start tomorrow.
The masseurs will be well trained and certified by the public health ministry. The ministry also plans to produce massage professionals to work overseas, as Thai massage is popular among foreign tourists. We are not 100% certain if it is the "classical" form of massage that is most popular with tourists.
For those flying economy class, we can mention that paid (classical) Thai massage is available for years already in the departure hall of Don Muang airport. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Songkran death toll lower but still too high

Posted by hasekamp on 25 April 2004 at 13:06 PM
The Thai government seems finally to become aware of the traffic accident problem that took hundreds of lives over the long Songkran holiday. During the holiday 645 people died on the roads, and more than 36,600 were injured. Although the number was lower than the 931 anticipated, 25% lower than last year's toll of 840, it was still disappointingly high. Most accidents took place in the first days of the holiday of about one week.
Thousands of checkpoints had been set up across the country to crack down on misbehaving motorists. Therefore fatalities have fallen, but they are still too high, according to a government spokesman. A committee will carry on the safety campaign until the end of the year. Provincial governors, police and the Land Transport Department will help enforce the law on driving licenses, speed limits, crash helmets and drunk driving.
The media will also be asked to promote road safety awareness. Students and workers will be taught about traffic laws. The Public Health Ministry would improve training for health workers in how in to handle victims of road accidents. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Farmers free from tax

Posted by hasekamp on 25 April 2004 at 13:05 PM
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra announced on Friday that Thai farmers, who have been long praised and recognized as the backbone of the nation, do not have to pay tax to the government. Mr. Thaksin sad in his weekly radio speech that he had instructed the Ministry of Finance not to collect any tax from local farmers. "The government now has no policy to collect any tax from farmers. The Ministry of Finance will collect taxes from traders, or firms selling agricultural products, or running businesses using agricultural products as raw materials, but will not collect any tax from the farmers themselves", Mr. Thaksin stated. The reason is that the incomes of local farmers is still low, lower that the minimum level of people's revenues which are required for tax payments.
The Thai PM further said that Thailand's financial status has returned to a strong and stable position, faster than the five-year period of recovery the government has targeted after the country was worst hit by its economic crisis in mid 1997. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Low cost homes for fire victims

Posted by hasekamp on 25 April 2004 at 13:04 PM
Low-cost flats will be built on the plot of land of the Suan Phlu Pattana community, for the 5,500 poor people that were left homeless by the large fire on Friday, the Deputy Interior Minister has said. He promised to the families whose homes were razed that the Treasury Department, owner of the land on which the community stood, was happy to comply. A center will be opened to provide immediate assistance to victims before their new permanent homes can be built.
The Deputy Minister said he would ask cabinet to give each family 18,000 baht for a temporary home for a year, since they were now camping in nearby schools. Victims of the blaze yesterday began signing up for help with the city administration while struggling to cope with their loss.
Police were scouring the scene of the fire to investigate the cause of the blaze, which left 5,500 people homeless. There were no injuries or deaths reported. An estimate of the monetary damage caused by the fire has yet to be made. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Fire in Bangkok: 6,000 homeless

Posted by hasekamp on 24 April 2004 at 11:59 AM
A huge fire in the Suan Phlu area in Bangkok yesterday afternoon made 700 slum houses disappear, and badly damaged a block of flats inhabited by police officers and their families, leaving more than 6,000 people homeless. Witnesses said the blaze started at an empty two-store wooden building. All 700 houses on the surrounding plot, belonging to the Treasury Department, burned to the ground. The fire also engulfed a block of flats located behind Wat Phraya Krai police station, housing the families of around 50 officers. There were no reports of injuries. Police were also unable to confirm the cost of damage, or the cause of the fire. The Thai Red Cross and several charities were providing assistance to those affected by the blaze. Temporary shelters will be erected for the people who became homeless. (Source: The Bangkok Post) UPDATE: The Nation reports that the number of homeless is 3000, and AFP reports that police have started an investigation.


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National park encroached upon

Posted by hasekamp on 23 April 2004 at 15:06 PM
Up to 500 rai of land earmarked for a night safari at Doi Suthep-Doi Pui national park has been encroached upon. An official for the National Park said several concrete houses had been built close to a local reservoir that would supply water for the night safari project. He said villagers had no water supply because the encroachers had also drawn on the local stream.
Several big trees were felled in the park. Local officials say they would petition Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to take action against the trespassers, several of whom were married to senior government officials. There will be an investigation to clarify why park officials had allowed the encroachers to bring in rocks, sand and cement for building holiday homes. Construction materials could not be brought into the park without permission from village officials. The park chief said two officials had been transferred and faced a disciplinary investigation for allegedly turning a blind eye to the trespassers. The park has taken legal action against seven encroachers. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Thai movie to Cannes

Posted by hasekamp on 22 April 2004 at 20:09 PM
A movie by a Thai filmmaker will compete for the prestigious Palme d'Or at the Cannes International Film Festival for the first time next month. "Tropical Malady", written and directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul, will compete for the award with 19 other movies at the 57th annual film festival in Cannes, which starts on May 12. Its rivals include new movies by Joel and Ethan Coen, Michael Moore and Emir Kusturica. American director Quentin Tarantino will chair the judging panel. Apichatpong, 33, initially made a splash at Cannes in 2002, when his "Blissfully Yours" won an award in the "Un Certain Regard" section. "Tropical Malady" tells the story of a gay man's search for his lover, who is transformed into a tiger while walking in a forest. Our opinion about Thai movies is mixed, but we do not know this one. We wish Apichatpong the best of luck! (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Have fun on an Army base!

Posted by hasekamp on 21 April 2004 at 15:28 PM
As we report regularly, the Thai government does what it can to attract tourists. The latest move to achieve this is rather unusual: The royal Thai army, in affiliation with the Tourism Authority of Thailand, or TAT, will turn several army areas into standard tourist attractions. The Army Commander-in-Chief and the Permanent Secretary of the Finance Ministry (as the president of the Thailand Privilege Card Co. Ltd.) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), to develop several army areas into world-class tourist destinations. According to the project, the army areas will be developed into attractive destinations emphasizing on world standard tourism services such as golf courses, clubhouses, spas, and other facilities. The project aims to attract the Thailand Elite Card members (whoever they may be; we are not included anyway!) The development period will take about 18 months, with a budget of a billion baht. The two army areas to be developed first are in the Mae Rim district of Chiang Mai province, and in the Hua Hin district of Prachuab Kirikhan. The TAT has also signed a MOU with the Royal Navy and the Royal Thai Air Force for cooperation on a similar project. Our source should e reliable. (Source: Public Relations Department)


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Thaksin will create jobs in the South

Posted by hasekamp on 21 April 2004 at 15:27 PM
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra wants to create 100,000 jobs for people in the three southernmost provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat in a bid to solve the region's violence problems. Mr. Thaksin said that the biggest problems faced by residents of the deep South were joblessness and the lack of land of their own. A large number of local men had to leave their families to work in Malaysia because they could not find jobs in their hometowns. Many teenagers had studied only in religious schools and therefore did not have enough qualifications to find decent jobs, he said. The deep South is like a human body that is weakened by a bacteria called job scarcity, the Thai PM said. "We need to cure the disease right away with job creation to prevent opportunistic diseases such as the wrong religious beliefs used by people with ill intentions as a tool to recruit local people particularly young people". The premier ordered his cabinet to come up with new projects to create 100,000 new jobs for people in the three border provinces. Mr. Thaksin also ordered all ministries to finish their lists of officials to be removed from the deep South before Oct 1 and replace them with good and honest officials.
We recently reported that Mr. Thaksin had received Royal advice for the South from His Majesty the King. The content of this advice was not made public, however. We are certain that we find (part of) the advice in this news item! (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Bus shooting case may be re-opened

Posted by hasekamp on 21 April 2004 at 10:41 AM
As we reported then, a brutal shooting took place in June 2002 towards a school bus in Ratchaburi. The parents of victims now want a new probe into the attack following last month's acquittal of a Karen suspect. The parents are seeking help from the Law Society of Thailand to press for a reopening of the case. The shooting left three school children dead and several injured. The case was never clearly solved. Some say that the bus driver was the target of that attack. This driver had earlier quarreled with a group believed to include an assistant village head and police officers. The Law Society chairman said he would act on the behalf of the parents if police refused to cooperate. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Troops guarding trains now

Posted by hasekamp on 21 April 2004 at 10:40 AM
Trains are driving again in southern Thailand, but well-armed guards are protecting them. Railway staff called off their strike late on Sunday night after the State Railway of Thailand bowed to their union's demand for better protection on the route between Hat Yai and Sungai Kolok on the Thai-Malaysian border.
As we reported, railway employees in the restive provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat, all on the Hat Yai-Sungai Kolok route, walked off the job on Sunday after a third railway employee was shot since the beginning of this year.
It was decided that at least four policemen should keep watch on each train, both freight and passenger services, passing through hot spots in the three provinces. Troops or rangers will guard the 27 railway stations along the route. Soldiers will also guard railway crossings and patrol vulnerable stretches of the tracks. (Source: the Bangkok Post)


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Illegal gibbon "owners" arrested

Posted by hasekamp on 19 April 2004 at 19:21 PM
Four photo-taking persons have been arrested by police in Patong (Phuket Island) and charged with having young gibbons in their possession without the required wildlife licenses. One has already been fined 20,000 baht. Please realize that every young gibbon that is out of the hands of its mother has the ghost of its mother behind it. In other word: You can't catch a young gibbon without killing its mother. People with young gibbons in their possession therefore are certain killers of other gibbons.
The four men arrested were taken into custody over Songkran in Patong after a steady stream of complaints from tourists. Further charges will be laid against the four. The animals are now in the care of the Gibbon Rehabilitation Project (GRP). One of the men has already been fined 20,000 baht by the court. The other three, arrested on subsequent nights, were released on bail to appear in court later. The maximum penalty for illegal possession of wildlife is four years in jail or a fine of 40,000 baht.
With effect from last November, the law has required people to declare wildlife in their possession, to register their ownership, and to treat the animals with proper care. Before the new law came into force, police and wildlife officials were powerless to act, even though many people complained about the treatment of gibbons and other animals in Patong, where touts paraded the creatures, urging tourists to hold the animals while having their photographs taken for a fee.
Catching the men required undercover work. The men tried to hide the baby gibbons under big jackets and show them as tourists walked past. Please, if you ever see people who mistreat wildlife, call Tel: 06-6897040, 01-8943120 or 07-2684148 around the clock. Having gibbons in one's possession already is "mistreating" them! (Source: The Phuket Gazette)


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Rail strike after killing of railway man

Posted by hasekamp on 19 April 2004 at 19:21 PM
The violence in the South of Thailand is culminating again. Train services between Hat Yai and Sungai Kolok were suspended indefinitely after a railway employee was shot dead yesterday. The state railway labor union called an immediate work stoppage, halting all trains on the route, which runs to the Malaysian border through the three troubled provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat. A track controller at Sungai Padi railway station in Narathiwat (50), was shot by two men on a motorcycle while going to close a crossing for a train. He was hit by three bullets and died at the hospital. This was the third attack on a railway employee this year. The State Railway of Thailand's labor union issued a statement earlier after an attack, saying it would halt services on the Hat Yai-Sungai Kolok route if the government could not protect staff and passengers. Now it has done so.
There are more problems with the railways in the south. Last week, rail workers in Pattani discovered that bolts had been removed from a section of track, preventing a possible derailment.
The governor of the State Railway of Thailand (SRT) said he would ask for more military and police guards on trains and at vulnerable locations. Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra asked railway workers not to be too afraid and make the situation look worse than it was, and to return to work. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Thaksin feels grateful for King's advice

Posted by hasekamp on 18 April 2004 at 16:43 PM
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has expressed his gratitude for His Majesty the King?s Royal advice for solving the problems of violence in the three southernmost provinces. As we reported, a Royal audience was granted to Mr. Thaksin on April 17 after his visit to the south on April 16, to report the situation, and discuss the remedies for the violence problems. Mr. Thaksin disclosed that His Majesty the King has expressed his concern over the situation. His Majesty the King?s Royal advice has helped him to understand the problems more, and he will use it as a guide to solve the problems. Details of the Royal advice have not (yet) been published, so we have to wait and see what action Mr. Thaksin is going to take. (Source: Public Relations Department)


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Scientists should come up with innovations

Posted by hasekamp on 18 April 2004 at 16:42 PM
University scientists nationwide have been challenged to come off with innovations, which could be applicable to the public. Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said he is challenging university physicians and scientists to introduce new innovations. Mr. Thaksin pledged to provide support for those who may be able to produce innovations useful to the public. The prime minister recently visited Chiang Mai University, where he was presented to a high-energy neutron sensor, invented by the university?s physicians. The machine is able to search materials for both explosives and drugs. Mr. Thaksin pointed out that an electron beam had been invented in the U.S. to terminate germs in fruit and vegetables. It could also be useful for Thailand. (Source: Public Relations Department)


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Death toll soars to 426

Posted by hasekamp on 16 April 2004 at 19:36 PM
The number of deaths from road accidents during the Songkran holidays so far rose to at least 426 people, with more than 25,000 injured. The Road Safety Center said in a statement that a total of 325 men and 101 women have died nationwide since officials began recording road fatalities Friday night. The number of those injured rose to 25,251, including 18,366 men. Most of the victims were between 15 and 29 years of age, the statement said. And ?needless to say- alcohol was the main case. The number of casualties this year is still lower in the same period last year. The Thai Deputy Prime Minister who is heading the Road Safety Center said the intensive safety-awareness campaign has resulted in the reduction of road fatalities.
Last year more than 800 people were killed in traffic accidents during the holiday. The government has estimated that this year's death toll will reach about 930 (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Thaksin reports to King and Queen

Posted by hasekamp on 16 April 2004 at 19:36 PM
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra will report about his trip to the deep south of Thailand to Their Majesties the King and Queen today. He would be granted an audience with Their Majesties the King and Queen today to report first-hand information he has gathered on the southern situations to the beloved King and Queen.
As we reported yesterday, the Thai leader made a 24-hour visit to three southern border provinces of Pattani, Narathiwat and Yala, in order to meet and talk with local people, aimed at gathering the first-hand information on situations and development in the provinces.
"Their Majesties the King and Queen are concerned over the situations, and people's conditions in the South. They have expressed concerned over the coexistence between Buddhist and Muslim Thais, job creations for local people, and relations between local authorities and people. So, I'll brief Their Majesties the King and Queen on the updated information I've got", Mr. Thaksin said.
Premier Thaksin noted that he had found no problem of coexistence between Buddhist and Muslim Thais in the southern region, and local people in the three southern border provinces had cooperated more with local authorities.
His Majesty the King has suggested that in solving the southern problems, three factors are needed: accessibility, understanding, and development. Her Majesty the Queen has suggested that understanding, integration, and fairness can improve the situation. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Thailand has biotech ambition

Posted by hasekamp on 15 April 2004 at 19:54 PM
The government plans to turn Thailand into a hub for preclinical drug tests and stemcell research and development, senior government officials said yesterday. The plan will be implemented by the Thailand Centre of Excellency in Life Science (TCels), the Natural Resources and Environment Minister said. He said TCels would spearhead biotechnology development in the country. TCels would develop new drugs on a molecular level by studying protein structures and designing new drugs accordingly. The second master plan calls for TCels to lead the country in stemcell research in the hope of developing new medicines. Currently five groups of Thai researchers are culturing stem cells with the aim of creating a secondary cell, which would be able to grow in patients' livers and help them produce insulin. TCels says cells from adults ? not embryos ? would be used in research. TCels will seek investment funds to develop laboratories for preclinical drug testing.
Mahidol University has joined the program by buying a plot of land in Kanchanaburi and had started breeding primates to test the drugs on.
We are strongly opposed to testing drugs on animals, and certainly on primates. In this case, on top of our general objections, we emphasize that Thailand has little experience in the biotechnological field. Therefore we should not estimate the chances that this project will be successful very high. Consequently we see the animal test, foreseen here, as the useless torture and killing of animals. (Source: The Nation)


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Songkran road safety campaign (2)

Posted by hasekamp on 15 April 2004 at 19:53 PM
Contrary to The Bangkok Post, The Nation reports that the road safety campaign was successful. The paper writes that an increase in the number of police checkpoints during the Songkran festival has led to a sharp decrease in road deaths during the holiday period. The Nation thinks that the death toll from road accidents, that dropped by 110 from the same period last year, and the number of injuries that dipped by 9,200, show that the campaign was successful.
373 People died in road accidents and 23,696 were injured from April 11 to 13 last year, compared with 263 deaths and 14,496 injuries during the same period this year. As we know, road accidents are traditionally high during the Songkran period, when hundreds of thousands of people return to their home provinces to celebrate the Thai New Year.
From Friday to Tuesday, the death toll from 76 road accidents was 34 and the number of injuries was 122. The Highway Police Division Commander said drunk driving and speeding were behind most accidents. This is no news; it is the case every year. Authorities fail to do something serious about it for decades now.
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra welcomed the reduced road toll, but said the ongoing campaign against drunk driving must be continued to improve driving behavior. (Source: The Nation)


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Songkran road safety campaign (1)

Posted by hasekamp on 15 April 2004 at 19:53 PM
The Bangkok post reports that the road safety campaign for Songkran has failed. They write that authorities responsible for road safety have accused provincial governors and police of failing to effectively reduce the number of drunk motorists and motorcyclists over the Songkran holiday.
The Deputy Transport Minister, who is also deputy director of the road safety panel, said yesterday provincial officials had been negligent in their duties. Provincial checkpoints had failed to keep drunk motorists and motorcyclists without helmets off the streets, he said.
On Tuesday, the highest tolls during this year's holiday were reported, with most fatalities in Nakhon Ratchasima (20), Khon Kaen (16), Chiang Rai and Kamphaeng Phet (eight each). The road safety panel said although the number of deaths and injuries were lower than last year, provincial governors and police had failed to follow strict instructions to crack down on speeding and drunk drivers, as well as violators of other traffic laws. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Fear for evil spirit

Posted by hasekamp on 15 April 2004 at 19:52 PM
No Songkran celebrations for the women of Ban Nong Sim Yai village. The village is in fear of a spirit that is believed to have already taken the lives of two men. Fear descended on the village recently when two men who appeared strong and healthy died suddenly in their sleep. A nearby exorcist was consulted. The exorcist advised to stretch a white thread soaked in blood from a black dog around the houses. This would keep the spirit out. The villagers then rushed to the district town to buy cotton thread. Black dogs in the village were slaughtered and their blood carefully collected. Many people went out on motorcycles to look for black dogs elsewhere. The governor of Si Sa Ket governor then told the villagers not to believe in superstition and said they should go to see the abbot of a Wat in a nearby district for advice. The governor's visit appears to have been in vain. This shows one of the most primitive sides of Thailand: The belief in spirits, leading to killing harmless animals. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Thaksin goes south

Posted by hasekamp on 14 April 2004 at 19:36 PM
Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra will go to the tense Deep South of Thailand today to mingle with the people amid heightened secrecy and security. "I will visit several places at random and will stay overnight with local people. I?m not afraid of anything because I believe that if the premier isn?t safe, no one will be," Thaksin said. However, his schedule has not been announced.
Tight security has been seen in many southern provinces since the beginning of the long Songkran holiday, when police reports said separatists were planning attacks on crowded areas using stolen motorcycles armed with explosives. Many motorbikes have gone missing in the South in recent months. Violence continued in Yala late on Monday when a group of armed assailants threw a hand grenade into the rice barn. The attackers opened fire on the owner of the barn while he was having a meal with some police officials. Gunfire was exchanged for about 10 minutes before the assailants managed to escape. The owner was killed at the scene, while others were wounded.
At least 60 people, mostly police, have been killed this year and dozens of public schools and other government buildings have been torched. (Source: The Nation)


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Enough water, despite drought

Posted by hasekamp on 14 April 2004 at 19:36 PM
The water scarcity up-country in past weeks had been (almost) forgotten yesterday, as millions of revelers nationwide marked Songkran, a hot day of splashing water on each other. The mood got lively in the late morning in Bangkok, with officials saying there were no problems about water for the three-day festival. Water agencies admitted an unusually high volume of water, mainly tap water, would be used in big cities during Songkran, but they said the entire amount would be little when compared with the amount used in farms. The Royal Irrigation Department and Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand, which oversees hydropower dams, could supply additional amounts of water over one-two days for people in big cities like Chiang Mai and Bangkok.
Last year, Chiang Mai and neighboring provinces in the North used 15-25% more tap water in April, but that was not a problem as there was sufficient supply. "There will be no problems during Songkran even though a great number of tourists have flocked to Chiang Mai," an official said. The agency has installed automatic vending machines to sell tap water for revelers in the old town of Chiang Mai municipality, the most popular venue for water festivities. Temporary showers were also placed on a street to refresh tourists in the hot weather.
Bangkok also has enough supply of water during the holidays and the Metropolitan Waterworks Authority, which runs the tap water system in the capital, even planned to reduce the water supply in this period. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Free ride in the new subway

Posted by hasekamp on 13 April 2004 at 19:26 PM
About 10,000 people yesterday were among the first to take a ride on Bangkok?s new subway system. The trial rides on the subway, which connects the northern and central parts of the city, from Bang Sue to Hua Lamphong, took place between 10 am and 2 pm. And the rides were free of charge. The 12 trains carrying out the test runs stopped at only nine of the 18 stations on the 20 km-long system, arriving every six minutes. Bangkok Metro Company Limited, (BMCL), the subway?s co-operator, distributed 84,000 passes to those who mailed in requests for the first phase of the public trial as well as 60,000 more tickets to invited corporate guests. The BMCL allotted tickets for 24,000 people a day to try out the system, from yesterday to Sunday.
Accompanied by ambassadors and subway-system executives, the Transport Minister took his family for a trip around the system.
The subway will enhance the city?s mass transit capacity, which is now carried by the 24 km-long BTS skytrain system. The minister said he expected the combined capacity of the skytrain and subway systems to be about 700,000 commuters a day. We wonder, however, if the rates for the new subway are affordable for the average Bangkok commuter. A subway ride from Bang Sue to Hua Lamphong station will cost 31 Baht during the first year of the project?s operations.
Next month, BMCL will hand out 60,000 free passes for more trial rides, the company said. (Source: The Nation)


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Songkran road toll rises

Posted by hasekamp on 13 April 2004 at 19:26 PM
The Songkran road death toll rose to 139 yesterday, with more than 9,600 people injured. Deputy Prime Minister Chaturon Chaisaeng, head of a road safety panel monitoring road accidents, said the figures were from the first three days of this year's Songkran festival. The number of injured was 9,628, of whom 6,938 were male and 2,690 female. Bangkok ranked first on the casualty list with five deaths and 215 injuries, followed by Nakhon Pathom with 7 deaths. Petchaburi, Khon Kaen, Nakhon Ratchasima and Surin reported five deaths each. About 400 people died and more than 10,000 were hurt in the same period last year (take care: thus is not about the complete Songkran holidays last year!) The center has estimated this year's total road death toll during Songkran would not exceed 931. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Songkran odds and ends

Posted by hasekamp on 12 April 2004 at 19:04 PM
- This year Songkran holidaymakers in Chiang Mai found a clever way to protect their mobile phones from even the most energetic water splashers: They put it in a condom. The Thais have always been very reluctant to use condoms for the purpose they are made for, but inventive other use is being made of them.
- Traffic on some highways was paralyzed over the weekend as Songkran celebrators rushed home to the oldest members of their families.
- At Bangkok's Southern bus terminal, almost 300,000 passengers embarked for destinations in the East and South on Saturday night. More than 200,000 seats had been reserved for travel last night.
- Most travelers, however, were going to their Songkran destinations by private cars, particularly pickup trucks. Each truck carried no less than 10 (ten) passengers average.
- A number of travelers were stranded at the Bangkok bus terminal until 2 am on Saturday night as inbound buses were delayed in traffic for four to five hours.
- Two bus terminals in Nakhon Ratchasima (Khorat) were also packed with tens of thousands of people who were to take connection buses to other northeastern provinces.
- Samui Island still is very popular during the Songkran festival, with an average of 5,000 tourists a day. More than 90 per cent of 12,000 accommodation units on the island are booked. (Source: the Bangkok Post)


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First 90 Songkran deaths

Posted by hasekamp on 12 April 2004 at 19:03 PM
As we have reported repeatedly, Songkran is an occasion on which the Thai take lots of extra alcohol, causing an excessive number of rods accidents. The Songkran holiday started on Friday, this year. Songkran Day is on Tuesday 13 April. The nationwide Songkran death toll from Friday and Saturday is 90 already, the deputy prime minister directing the road safety center has said.
On Saturday alone, road accidents killed 60 people and injured 3,612. When combined with accidents on Friday, the number of deaths surged to 90, and injuries to 5,921. Despite that, the road toll in the early phase of the holiday was lower than expected! Songkran is the family gathering occasion of the year. Therefore thousands of Songkran revelers left Bangkok over the weekend to celebrate the festival upcountry. The Songkran holiday ends on Thursday. Police has been asked to swiftly prosecute motorists caught driving drunk. Most road accidents over the weekend involved motorcycles.
Sadly we can be certain that the death toll on the roads will rise substantially in the next few days. And, even more sadly, we also can be certain that alcohol will be the main cause of these deaths, despite measures taken by the authorities. (Source: the Bangkok Post)


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More Songkran zones and more restrictions!

Posted by hasekamp on 10 April 2004 at 12:19 PM
The Governor of Phuket has ?after all- designated two more zones for Songkran water play. We published some time ago that in Phuket Town only in Saphan Hin it would be allowed to throw water during Songkran. In a pamphlet, issued by the Provincial Public Relations Office, the Governor listed the following areas as places where people may legally fling water at one another during Songkran: Muang District: Saphan Hin, Tambon Rawai, King Rama IV Park (Suan Luang); Thalang District: Nai Yang Beach; Kathu District: Patong.
Nevertheless within these areas severe regulations will apply:
- High-powered water guns, water-and-talcum-powder mixtures and dyed water are banned. Violators will be subject to a maximum of one month in jail, or a fine of 1,000 baht, or both.
- Water-play among under-18s should be strictly monitored for safety by parents or guardians.
- No alcoholic beverages are to be consumed.
- Obscene or immoral behavior during water play is prohibited. Violators will be subject to jail terms of up to 10 years or a maximum fine of 10,000 baht, or both.
And the following general regulations will apply to the Island of Phuket:
- Drivers found to be drunk will face a three-months in jail or a fine of up to 10,000 baht, or both.
- Motorcyclists riding without helmets face a maximum fine of 500 baht.
- Vehicles that have been modified face seizure.
- Those failing to produce a driving license on demand face seizure of the vehicle. If the driver is not the vehicle owner, police will take legal action against the owner too
- Those caught exceeding speed limits face a maximum fine of 1,000 baht.
- Those caught racing on public roads face a jail sentence of up to three months or a fine of up to 10,000 baht, or both. Violators will also be suspended from driving for anything from one month to life.
Patrol police will man checkpoints throughout the holiday period, with the period of strictest enforcement being from 2 pm to 10 pm each day. All offenders, especially drunk drivers, will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, the pamphlet warned.
Can we still say "Happy Songkran" to the Songkran celebrators on Phuket Island? We fully agree, in particular, with are the severe anti-alcohol measures. Every Songkran shows a huge number of traffic accidents, most caused by excessive alcohol consumption, that seems to "explode" during the Songkran holidays. And many of those have fatal consequences. We will ?as usually- publish these statistics. But why should the other traffic safety measures just be so strict during the Songkran period? (Source: The Phuket Gazette)


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Think before you export antiques!

Posted by hasekamp on 8 April 2004 at 19:26 PM
We recently came across this message, which seems useful for our readers: Officers from the Customs Office at Phuket International Airport and from the Thalang National Museum have issued a reminder that people wanting to take antiques or Buddha images out of Thailand must first obtain a permit to do so. It will bring you into serious trouble if you "forget" to obtain suchy a permit! A committee of officials from the Phuket Fine Arts Office and the Thalang National Museum, which examines applications to export items of cultural value, must approve each application before passing it on to the Governor of Phuket for approval. Reckon with four days for the issue of a permit. People caught taking cultural artifacts out of Thailand without a permit should reckon with seizure of the items and detention by Customs officials. (Source: The Phuket Gazette)


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New Phuket-Singapore service

Posted by hasekamp on 8 April 2004 at 19:25 PM
Air Andaman will begin a regular service between Bangkok and Singapore from May 13, stopping at Phuket on the way. The airline is awaiting delivery of two new Fokker-100 jet airplanes to fly the new route. With capacity for 108 passengers, the new planes will replace the smaller F-50 aircraft, formerly used by the carrier. The fares, yet to be announced, will be "competitive". The service is scheduled to fly every Tuesday, Thurday, Friday and Sunday. The company has also applied for permits to fly from Phuket to Vietnam via Pattaya. And, if that is not yet enough, the feasibility of a direct service to the Andaman Islands from Phuket is being studied. Air Andaman is also planning services to India and southern China. (Source: The Phuket Gazette)


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Phuket ICT better than Singapore?

Posted by hasekamp on 8 April 2004 at 19:23 PM
Thailand, and maybe Phuket in particular, has always had high thoughts of its ICT capabilities. Phuket's newly established Software Industry Promotion Agency (SIPA) office has now predicted that the information and communications technology (ICT) in Phuket will outstrip that of Singapore within two years. The President of SIPA also announced that its office in Saphan Hin is now partially staffed and is ready to register information technology (IT) companies. IT investors have been invited to a meeting on April 25 to discuss the problems they have encountered setting up businesses on Phuket. After the meeting the information gathered will be used to develop a plan to meet the needs of investors and IT specialists working in Phuket. And here it is: "Within two years, ICT systems in Phuket will be better than in Singapore".
There are now more than 200 IT firms located in Phuket, and a number of international companies have set up businesses here to produce short-range wireless network devices and medical equipment.
We prefer to wait and see, before we dare to agree with the prediction of SIPA! (Source: The Phuket Gazette)


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Songkran speed limit

Posted by hasekamp on 6 April 2004 at 19:08 PM
Songkran seems to become full of new regulations this year. Did we have to report some time ago that only in certain areas it will be allowed to throw water, now we have to report that speed limits will be imposed on pick-up trucks used for water splashing during the Songkran festival (13 April). The deputy Transport Minister said police would determine the speed of pick-up trucks, the most common cause of road accidents after motorcycles during Songkran.
"This year will be the first year we are imposing strict speed limits. Trucks carrying passengers on loading platforms and going at more than 90 km/h will be seized," a police spokesman said.
And on top of that, to reduce the fun further, the cabinet has approved a budget of 113 million baht for speed detectors and breath-alcohol testers at police checkpoints nationwide. We wonder how much fun people will have during this Songkran. We must admit, however, that alcohol tests are ?sadly- a necessary thing during the Songkran holidays. (Source: the Bangkok Post)


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Sex workers go overseas

Posted by hasekamp on 5 April 2004 at 19:23 PM
The government's recently enforced strict social order campaign has driven many sex workers overseas as they can no longer earn a living here, a seminar on prostitution has been told. The reduced opening hours for bars and massage parlors have cut deeply into night workers' incomes. As reported, the cabinet recently ordered pubs, discos and karaoke bars to close at 1 pm, one hour earlier than before. Massage parlors are not allowed to open until 4 pm, four hours later than previously. Many sex workers say they have no choice but to go into debt with agents who find them work overseas. But this comes with a price: women working in Hong Kong must have sex with 200 clients within two weeks to pay back around 400,000 baht to their "agent", a spokeswoman told at the seminar, which took place in Phitsanuloke. (Source: the Bangkok Post)


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Whose fault is the water shortage?

Posted by hasekamp on 5 April 2004 at 19:22 PM
Intensive farming and expansion of cropland under the government's policy to promote farm exports has contributed to severe aridity in forests nationwide, lead to the current water shortages, forestry and wildlife experts say. Farms, especially vegetable and fruit plantations on high land, have been drawing a large amount of underground water and water from natural creeks year-round. This is why water released from the forests to major rivers, known as side flow, has dropped sharply in recent years, according to experts. Almost every protected forest is encircled by farmland, which is expanding because of the government's emphasis on agricultural exports.
The overuse of water by the agricultural sector, particularly fruit orchards in watershed areas in the North, is apparently a major cause of the current water shortage, not the diminishing forest cover.
A government official rejected the criticism, saying stringent protection ensured forest cover had not decreased in the past few years. However, the government is enjoying revenue from farm exports at the expense of natural resources, particularly water resources and forest lands. Buffer zones are needed between protected forests and cropland to stop farmers drawing water directly from the forest, according to environmentalists. (Source: the Bangkok Post)


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Hailstorm in several provinces

Posted by hasekamp on 3 April 2004 at 13:02 PM
Hailstorms hit Phrae and Phitsanulok provinces between Thursday night and Friday, causing severe damage to buildings and crops. In Phrae more than 180 houses were damaged in storms that struck on Thursday night. Collapsing buildings and falling trees also damaged many vehicles. Hailstorms also occurred in Phitsanulok with about 400 buildings and many fruit plantations damaged by the hail. Local farmers reported that hailstorms had damaged their lychee, longan, tamarind and rambutan plantations. The hailstorms were the heaviest local people could remember. Large piles of hail were still lying on the ground at noon, several hours after the storms. (Source: The Nation)


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First batch of smart cards

Posted by hasekamp on 3 April 2004 at 13:01 PM
The Thai government has issued the first batch of Smart Cards on April 1st. The Deputy Prime Minister has confirmed that the service provided by the government will be more effective with the Smart Cards. The first 10,000 smart cards will be issued to the Cabinet, senators, members of the House of Representatives, and a few members of the public. There was a crowd of people queuing for the smart cards. The smart card will contain only necessary information on Thai citizens, such as the tax payee number, ATM card number, and social security number. It only takes about 15 minutes to issue a smart card. With the smart cards, the government will be able to serve the people faster and more effective. The smart card will be useful for the police when searching for criminals, since the smart card also contains the holder?s fingerprints. The smart cards will be issued to the people in the 3 southernmost provinces and those who registered on poverty eradication program first. (Source: Public Relations Department)


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Bird-flu outbreak finally under control?

Posted by hasekamp on 1 April 2004 at 19:57 PM
The recent flare-up of bird flu in two Chiang Mai districts has been suppressed and no new infections have been reported, the provincial livestock chief said yesterday. We believe, however, that it is too early to say once more "everything is under control". The second outbreak was detected early last month when about 20,000 fowl in San Sai and Muang districts died. Lab tests returned positive results for the avian influenza virus. Authorities immediately ordered a mass culling and restrictions on the movements of poultry. The source of the outbreak probably were the (popular) fighting cocks in the area. We hope they have been culled now.
Any farmer filing false reports about bird-flu casualties to try to get government compensation will now face legal action by the government. Convictions could bring up to one year in jail or a fine of Bt 100,000. (Source: The Nation)


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Fire in Doi Inthanon National Park

Posted by hasekamp on 1 April 2004 at 19:49 PM
A forest fire has been raging in Doi Inthanon, Thailand's highest point and a major tourist attraction in Chiang Mai province. A forest area of over 200 rai (2.5 rai = 1 acre) having been damaged so far. The fire has started last night, and has quickly spread. Forest officials have faced difficulties in controlling the fire, as the area is near a cliff, and, thus, is non-accessible to fire machines. They had, however, gone by their own feet to try to extinguish the fire, a radio news report stated. Many long-standing trees in the area have already been damaged. The latest news report of TV Channel 3 said that the forest officials were now able to control the strong fire, but the area has been damaged by the fire for over 1,000 rai now. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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