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No artificial rain can be made

Posted by hasekamp on 31 October 2004 at 15:10 PM
The prospect of Thailand's worst drought conditions in two decades came closer today despite government promises to pull out all the stops to mitigate disaster, with low atmospheric humidity contributing to the failure of government plans to create artificial rain. Speaking this morning on his weekly radio address to the nation, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who has vowed to eliminate drought within the next four years, admitted that the north and north-eastern regions were now extremely dry. The prime minister has ordered four ministries - the Ministries of Interior, Agriculture and Cooperatives, Defense and Natural Resources and Environment - to do everything they can to alleviate the problem. But for many farmers, it is already too late. In the north-eastern region there are as many as four centers for the production of artificial rain, but the prime minister conceded this morning that low atmospheric humidity was making artificial rain almost impossible to produce. The Royal Irrigation Department is now urging farmers to abandon their dry-season rice fields until next year. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Queen returns home

Posted by hasekamp on 31 October 2004 at 15:02 PM
Her Majesty the Queen yesterday returned to Bangkok after 56 days in retreat at Taksin Ratchanives Palace in Narathiwat province. The Queen left Ban Thon airfield in Narathiwat in an air force plane. Seeing her off in the rain were several officials and about 300 Muslim people. Her Majesty arrived in Narathiwat on Sept 4. She was originally scheduled to stay there one month, but delayed her return trip out of concern about the ongoing violence in the South. She is scheduled to go in retreat at Phuphan Ratchanives in Sakon Nakhon province from Nov 8. She has asked His Royal Highness Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn to oversee projects, including training village defense volunteers, in Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat, while she is away. The Crown Prince will visit the South from Nov 11-19. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Thaksin wants to make peace with the South

Posted by hasekamp on 31 October 2004 at 14:58 PM
In an apparent attempt to ease tensions in the South, the government has revoked the curfew in Narathiwat province, scene of last week's violence, and freed hundreds of detained protesters. However, schools in Yala and Narathiwat provinces have postponed the start of the new semester, scheduled for tomorrow, out of fear for the safety of teachers and students. A total of 1,225 Thai-Muslim protesters who were rounded up last Tuesday were freed yesterday and given Bt 200 in cash and a free T-shirt. Another 67 detainees, some subject to arrest warrants, will be prosecuted. Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said in his weekly radio address yesterday the detainees had been given T-shirts because when they were rounded up they were ordered to take off their shirts. Buses were also made available to take those freed back to their provinces. (Source: The Nation)


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Thaksin has spoken

Posted by hasekamp on 30 October 2004 at 12:10 PM
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra last night made impassioned pleas for public understanding of the Tak Bai tragedy and pledged full financial compensation for the families of the 85 people who died during and after the bloody clashes on Monday. Addressing the nation in a televised broadcast, Mr. Thaksin said he regretted the loss of lives and expressed his condolences to the families of the dead. "I will help those families in distress. I will compensate and look after them regardless of whether or not their perished loved ones were in the wrong. After all, they were born Thai," Mr. Thaksin said. He was saddened by the knowledge that many Muslim protesters had died without having had the chance to go on the Haj pilgrimage to Mecca.
The government had asked a fact-finding panel to find the truth behind the uprising in Tak Bai district of Narathiwat. He insisted there would be no cover-up. Mr. Thaksin said Pichet Sunthornpipit, the former parliamentary ombudsman, would head the panel, which would comprise experts in law and Islamic religious affairs and crowd-control. "I assure you that I'm willing to do what's right for this country," he said.
Mr. Thaksin said the Monday riot was provoked. Two separatist militants took rifles from six community defense volunteers and forced them to say the weapons had been robbed. The volunteers were later arrested and detained at the Tak Bai police station. The militants drummed up the protest demanding the suspects' unconditional and immediate release and invented rumors to vilify the authorities. They succeeded in inflaming the crowds, prompting security forces to fire tear gas before rounding up 1,298 protesters. Six protesters were shot dead during the clash but by whom was not clear. The arrested protesters were then herded into army trucks, and this was where 78 more had perished from suffocation. Mr. Thaksin said only one person died in the first truck. He admitted it was unfortunate the people in charge had piled up the protesters on the trucks. Hungry and exhausted, many could not breathe. Security forces had ordered the protesters to lie facedown to keep them from falling off the trucks. He said background checks found 16 protesters in detention were wanted on arrest warrants on criminal charges including those in connection with the shooting of policemen. Thirty had committed offences and 160 more were in the middle of trials.
Mr. Thaksin said he was also sad the issue was being portrayed as a religious conflict, when the unrest was not related to religion. The instigators had murdered people regardless of whether they were Buddhists or Muslims. Upholding the law must not be misinterpreted as a pretext to spark religious discord, he said. We publish this account without further comment. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Thaksin explains

Posted by hasekamp on 29 October 2004 at 19:39 PM
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra this evening prepared to stand up to criticism of his conduct over the death of 85 Muslim protestors on Monday, scheduling an emergency television appearance to explain the situation. But the prime minister, who has been blasted at home and abroad for the incident, in which 78 died in military custody and a further seven died during Monday’#39;s disturbance outside Tak Bai police station, began the afternoon with what critics immediately pounced on as a cynical public relations exercise – the donation of over Bt 8 million to mosques in the southern border region.
Mr. Thaksin however hotly denied the claims that the donation of Bt 8.23 million to 1,646 mosques had anything to do with the Tak Bai affair, claiming that he had been planning the donation for some time. He also dismissed claims that the Tak Bai incident was an attack on the Muslim religion. Thailand’#39;s most prominent Muslim politician, Agriculture Minister Wan Muhamad Noor Matha, was quick to rush to the prime minister’#39;s defense today, saying that the government had never intended to act with such force. At the same time, Islamic leaders called on the government and Mr. Thaksin to take responsibility for the Tak Bai incident.
This evening Mr. Thaksin will appear on television to explain the Tak Bai incident. His appearance, after tonight’#39;s Royal News, will not be live, but will be of a pre-recorded tape made this afternoon. The prime minister’#39;s move was welcomed this afternoon by Defense Minister, who expressed confidence that Mr. Thaksin’#39;s television appearance would lead to greater understanding among the public. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Thaksin under US pressure

Posted by hasekamp on 28 October 2004 at 23:42 PM
Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has called a meeting of top security advisers today amid concerns Muslim outrage could trigger reprisal attacks in the far south following the Tak Bai incident. The prime minister came under pressure from a close ally, the United States, to investigate fully the deaths of 78 of the Muslim protesters who suffocated in army custody, after he defiantly defended the actions of his troops.
Officials said the premier is facing fierce criticism at home and abroad for his iron-fisted tactics. He is due to meet his security advisers today to discuss on the Tak Bai incident. The Committee of Security and Strategy, a group of senior generals and other officials, was set up earlier this month to advise the prime minister on major security threats. As grieving relatives prepare to bury their dead from Monday's tragedy, the US government has urged the Thai government not to exacerbate tensions in a region where 440 people have died in a wave of violence since January. (Source: Public Relations Department)


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The World condemns deaths in the South

Posted by hasekamp on 28 October 2004 at 13:46 PM
There was widespread condemnation from the world community yesterday of the treatment of protesters that ended with 78 young men suffocating in the back of crammed Army trucks in the South. Muslim nations were particularly savage, damning Monday’#39;s drama as "state terrorism". Anger and outrage was voiced from especially Indonesia, Malaysia, Iran, Pakistan, Hong Kong and the US.
An Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman said Jakarta was concerned by the escalating tension in Thailand, and hoped it could be resolved in a manner consistent with the Thai government’#39;s commitment to social justice.
Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said he phoned Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to express concern and tell him that Malaysia was watching very closely what is happening.
The Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission said the latest mass killing was the result of a weakening of controls over the police and armed forces in the restive region. It said Bangkok “quot;has blatantly ignored the signs of impending disaster”quot;.
Iran joined the condemnation and urged authorities to prosecute those responsible, the state news agency IRNA reported.
The United States also called for a full probe into the death of the 78 men. It expressed concern over the rising death toll from the Muslim insurgency. (Source: The Nation)
Meanwhile BBC News reports that the Thai prime minister has promised an investigation into the deaths of 78 people after a violent protest in the Muslim south. Mr. Thaksin regretted the heavy loss of life, adding that mistakes were made as hundreds were crammed into trucks and driven away for questioning. Thai officials said most of the victims died from suffocation or were crushed to death while aboard the army trucks. It took the Thai authorities more than 24 hours to announce the death toll. (Source: BBC News)


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Threat for Bangkok attacks

Posted by hasekamp on 28 October 2004 at 13:38 PM
The Pattani United Liberation Organisation (Pulo) is threatening to set Bangkok ablaze as revenge to the riot in Narathiwat's Tak Bai district. "Their Phra Nakhon (capital) will be burned to the ground like the capital of Pattani," according to a message posted on the militant group's website by a suicide squad.
Meanwhile, a group of people in the three southernmost provinces have signed a pact to retaliate against the government, according to Fourth Army intelligence reports. Followers are urged to kill 40 people, including civilians and informants, and to sabotage government buildings. The attacks would be carried out after funeral services for the people who died in the Monday riot. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Violence in South: 78 dead

Posted by hasekamp on 27 October 2004 at 10:46 AM
We do not like to report about acts of violence, but now that the reports have gone around the world we have no choice, if our site has to be taken serious.
On Monday in Pattani 1,000 protesters gathered at Takbai police station. The Thai army urged protesters to disperse, but instead hundreds more joined the protests. Protesters started to hurl objects at police, who use tear gas and fire bullets. Hundreds were arrested and six deaths were reported. On Tuesday officials admitted that 78 others died in army trucks after arrest, many of suffocation. Thai PM Thaksin Shinawatra regretted the heavy loss of life, adding that mistakes were made as hundreds were crammed into trucks and driven away for questioning. He also added that nobody would have died in the army trucks if it had not been the Ramadan period, when Muslims are physically weakened due to the fasting. Mr. Thaksin said the government had resorted to "gentle measures" and did not use force. TV pictures of the arrests have gone around the world meanwhile. They were not pleasant to look at. (Source: BBC News)


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High-tech taxi

Posted by hasekamp on 26 October 2004 at 12:27 PM
Mr. Vichian Simma, owner of a "karaoke taxi", has gone one step further than anybody in the business by offering his passengers free Internet access. The cab driver installed a PC and related equipment in his vehicle three months ago. The computer system cost him around 30,000 baht. The idea to have a PC installed comes from his love for music. He has hundreds of CDs but has run out of space to keep them.
Karaoke-crazy passengers can use the PC to play music, others can check emails or surf the net, free of charge, or just sit back and relax in the front seat which is an electronic massaging chair.
"I spend about 12 hours a day in the cab, so why shouldn't I make it more pleasant and comfortable," the taxi owner said. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Belgium seeks Thai bird smuggler

Posted by hasekamp on 25 October 2004 at 16:45 PM
Authorities in Thailand were yesterday searching for a Thai man who tried to smuggle two Asian eagles into Belgium last week. The birds were found to be carrying avian influenza. Experts in Belgium said that the risk to public health was negligible but urged the Thai man himself to come forward to rule out further infection. He was apprehended when customs officers found the live eagles smuggled in plastic tubing in his bags last Monday, but he was subsequently released. The Belgian news agency reported that the eagles had been destroyed, along with two parrots that were being held in the same customs inspection center. Following the confirmation yesterday, Belgian authorities – anxious to prevent a European outbreak of the deadly virus – appealed to the Thai man who smuggled the infected Asian eagles to make contact. (Source: The Nation)


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Thefts on buses to the South

Posted by hasekamp on 25 October 2004 at 16:40 PM
Tourists are being warned to be on the lookout for thieves stealing valuables from passengers’#39; luggage while traveling on inexpensive buses and vans heading from Bangkok to southern tourist destinations, like Phuket, Koh Samui and Krabi. Police have received many complaints about such thefts. The thieves often lure tourists into a trap by offering them cheap rides from Bangkok to destinations in the South. To prevent the thefts, police are handing out warning brochures to tourists, setting up checkpoints on roads to the South and placing plainclothes officers aboard tourist vans and buses. The Tourist Police have also asked the Land Transport Department to keep a close watch on transport operators. (Source: The Nation)


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No more morning alms in the South

Posted by hasekamp on 24 October 2004 at 14:28 PM
Thailand’#39;s security forces in the country's troubled southern provinces have warned Buddhist monks across the region against collecting alms in the morning. The authorities have urged the monks to temporarily suspend their morning walk after some priests and soldiers narrowly escaped being injured when a home-made bomb failed to detonate last week. The regional army commanders are also concerned about the safety of the soldiers who have been deployed to accompany the monks while they collect their donations. The militants have put a 30,000 baht price tag per head on the government security forces, according to military intelligence reports. Letters have been sent to every Buddhist temple in the three southern border provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat. In the letter, the army has advised the monks to consider suspending their morning walk to collect food donations from villagers, for the next two weeks. The warning follows the discovery of a home-made bomb hidden underneath a bridge where monks pass – guarded by a contingent of soldiers – early one morning last week. The bomb failed to go off. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Vegetarian Festival becomes big business

Posted by hasekamp on 24 October 2004 at 14:24 PM
This year's Phuket Vegetarian Festival in is expected to generate more than 1 billion baht. So from an originally Religious Festival it is becoming booming business. The island resorts and hotels have been fully booked for the last four days of the festival, which began on October 14th and ended yesterday. The Phuket office of the Tourism Authority of Thailand said the annual festival has attracted a large number of foreign tourists, mostly from Malaysia and Singapore. The fair is expected to raise at least one billion baht during the festival period, far more than the Tourism Authority of Thailand's earlier estimate of around 600 million baht. Even more tourists are expected to visit Phuket during next year’#39;s vegetarian festival. TAT is planning to hold a larger festival next year, during which many of the roads on the resort island would be closed to traffic. (Source: Public Relations Department)


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Bird-migration and bird flu?

Posted by hasekamp on 24 October 2004 at 14:19 PM
With migratory birds expected to arrive in Thailand early next month, a veterinarian called on relevant authorities yesterday to stop delivering polemics and start enforcing a concrete action plan to monitor the migration and contain the spread of the bird-flu virus. "Government officials keep on reviewing and debating the action plan when they should have started to enforce it before it is too late," a Mahidol University vet said.
According to a spokesman of Mahidol, vets and livestock officials have information on the birds' migratory routes and sanctuaries and they should get on with the monitoring of wild birds without delay. The system, if enforced, would mobilize vets from the four universities to collect samples of migratory birds for viral checks. The checks would then constitute an early-warning system for wild birds that had been infected with the avian influenza.
If we understand these scientists well, they think that migrating birds that come from other countries could carry avian flu, and should possibly be culled. This – if we understand this right – is among the greatest nonsense we have read in years. Migrating birds from other countries (provided that there is no bird flu in those countries) simply cannot carry bird flu and cannot form any danger at all for Thailand. The problem lies somewhere within Thailand. Maybe with people who own a few chickens and did not report them, despite severe controls b y the government, maybe with larger farms that have kept their chickens from government controls. This is the area where action should be taken. And, of course Thailand still has its famous fighting cocks, which may form a severe danger.
Killing migrating birds would solve nothing. We live in the Netherlands, where there has been a severe outbreak of bird flu, just one or two years ago. Nobody here, however, has suggested that migrating birds could be the cause of, or could have worsened, the epidemic. We hope the authorities in Thailand will leave healthy migrating birds alone and concentrate on the poultry within Thailand in its efforts to control the bird flu. (Source: The Nation)


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Policeman may get death penalty

Posted by hasekamp on 23 October 2004 at 16:42 PM
The policeman suspected of killing two British tourists could face the death penalty if found guilty, the local police chief said yesterday. Police said the man had been charged with intentionally murdering Adam Lloyd, 25, and his girlfriend Vanessa Arscott, 24. Additional charges were illegally possessing a firearm and ammunition, carrying them in public with no proper reason and without permission. The most severe punishment if found guilty would be death, he said. Police yesterday submitted to the prosecution their investigative report into the murder of the two British tourists early last month. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Yet another 20 tigers put to death

Posted by hasekamp on 23 October 2004 at 16:38 PM
There seems to be no end to this disaster: Twenty more sick tigers at Sri Racha Tiger Zoo were put to death in a second round of culling after others displaying respiratory difficulties died, bringing the total number of dead tigers at the zoo to 83 yesterday. A veterinarian said six sick tigers had died since noon on Thursday so the veterinary team decided to cull another 20 to contain the bird flu.
Tigers at the zoo were first reported with bird flu-like symptoms on Oct 1 before starting to die two weeks later. Of 83 that have died or been culled, 23 have been confirmed to have contracted bird flu. Meanwhile, an inquiry team was interrogating middlemen suspected of supplying the zoo with raw chicken carcasses that could have passed on the virus.
The Senate health committee investigating the bird flu situation in Chon Buri slammed the government for failing to stop the disease spreading. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Queen bemoans the South

Posted by hasekamp on 22 October 2004 at 18:21 PM
Her Majesty the Queen has bemoaned the government's failure to bring the violence in the deep South to an end, saying she has been staying in the region for nearly two months now but has seen no sign of the unrest abating. "This two-month period has been full of violent incidents. If the situation continues to go on like this, how can the people live?" the Queen said. Granting an audience to 200 government officials and businessmen from Songkhla at Taksin Palace in Narathiwat yesterday, the Queen said she had been out visiting southern people on behalf of His Majesty the King for the past two months and had seen with her own eyes how difficult their lives were today. The Queen said she was saddened by their plight and that she felt the same pain her people were feeling. The Queen said southern people's quality of life had been improved after the more than three decades that the King and herself had spent implementing various development projects in the region. But now, instead of living happy, peaceful lives, the people had to live in fear as innocent civilians were attacked violently almost every day, she said. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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3 More zoo tigers dead

Posted by hasekamp on 22 October 2004 at 18:18 PM
Three more tigers died yesterday at Sri Racha Tiger Zoo, as veterinarians were giving anti-bird flu shots to the remaining big cats at the private zoo in Chon Buri. Now the zoo has lost 63 tigers out of the previous population of 441. The latest tiger deaths were disclosed yesterday by a veterinarian at the Animals Research and Development Centre for the Eastern Region. The vet said the remaining 378 tigers had been injected with Tamiful, developed by Swiss Hoffmann-La Roche company and Gilead Sciences of America, to fight influenza.
The provincial committee fighting bird flu yesterday questioned the middleman who supplied raw chicken carcasses fed to the tigers at the zoo, in a bid to identify the slaughterhouses where infected chicken cascasses my have originated. However, no details came out of the meeting. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Child abuser from Britain

Posted by hasekamp on 21 October 2004 at 19:13 PM
A Briton has been arrested on suspicion of child abuse after allegedly keeping a teenage Thai boy as his sex slave, according to Thai police and reports. The 41-year-old was arrested at his riverside flat in the northern city of Chiang Mai, where he had allegedly abused the boy from a poor hill tribe community for more than two years, the child told police. Police said they found more than 30 items of pornographic material at the flat. He has been charged with sexual abuse of an underage child. The man initially offered the boy, now aged 14, financial support after his parents were jailed for drug offences, police said. The 41-year-old faces up to 10 years in jail if found guilty of child sex abuse. (Source: AFP)


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A bit less corruption, but still less than a 4 out of 10

Posted by hasekamp on 21 October 2004 at 19:09 PM
There is slightly less corruption in Thailand than there was a year ago, according to the latest Transparency International Corruption Perception Index (CPI). The country received 3.6 points on a scale of 0-10, an increase of 0.3, and ranked 64th among 146 countries on the CPI. Thailand was placed 70th among 133 countries last year.
Finland ranks first, as least corrupt, with 9.7 points while Haiti and Bangladesh are at the bottom of the list. In Asia, Singapore is first with 9.3 points while Thailand ranks seventh.
Will the government's war on corruption help improve Thailand's ranking next year? A spokesperson said that it is a good start but does not guarantee anything. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Another 30 tigers will be put to death

Posted by hasekamp on 21 October 2004 at 19:03 PM
Another 30 (sick) tigers were destroyed at the Sri Racha Tiger Zoo in Chon Buri yesterday, as efforts continued to contain the spread of bird flu. Officials said they still had no clue as to the source of the outbreak, which had earlier killed 30 other tigers. So now the zoo has lost 60 tigers! We still wonder how tigers can catch bird flu.
The Deputy Public Health Minister ordered the cull as public health, livestock and wildlife conservation officials continued their investigations at the zoo. Suspicion has fallen on the raw chicken carcasses the animals were fed each day. Officials know the middleman who supplied the dead birds, but were still tracing the origins of the carcasses. The veterinary investigation team said the slaughterhouse that supplied carcasses to the zoo showed no indication of the disease. Nevertheless the middleman who supplied the chickens has fled, according to good Thai custom. The Zoo managing director said he was cooperating with the cull. At this stage he could not estimate the total loss to the zoo. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Loy Krathong should be safer

Posted by hasekamp on 20 October 2004 at 15:59 PM
The city administration has set up a committee to tackle the dangers that fireworks and firecrackers present during the Loy Krathong festival that occurs next month, Bangkok's new Governor, Apirak Kosayodhin, said yesterday.
Apirak said the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) agreed to issue regulations aimed at improving safety and encouraging people to take precautions when setting off fireworks in public places. The panel, chaired by BMA's deputy permanent secretary, will work with all district offices in the run-up to the festival. BMA officials will also visit shops and stalls selling fireworks and firecrackers, to ensure compliance with safety regulations, Apirak said. Loy Krathong is on November 26 this year.
Contrary to his predecessor, who supported syrofoam krathongs, Apirak will ban styrofoam krathongs in 14 public parks in Bangkok. The BMA plans to encourage Bangkok residents to use krathongs made of natural materials instead of Styrofoam. (Source: The Nation)


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Atoms forced into King's name

Posted by hasekamp on 20 October 2004 at 15:51 PM
Local researchers from the National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA) have succeeded for the first time in manipulating atoms – and rearranging them into His Majesty the King’#39;s initials. Their success shows a significant progression for Thai researchers in the area of nanotechnology. The King’#39;s nano-scale initials, which are 14 nanometers in length and 7 nanometers in height, were presented to His Majesty yesterday during the opening ceremony of Thailand Science-Tech 2004, the country’#39;s largest science and technology exhibition. During his stay in the US a Thai researcher worked with IBM scientists to study materials on an atomic level, and arranged the atoms into HM the King’#39;s initials. The researcher said that the rearranging of atoms was still in the research and development stage, but it showed that Thailand could step up to the next stage of nanotechnology development. The knowledge gained from this success, he said, would be a key foundation for Thai scientists to develop new technology and create innovations with the use of nanotechnology. (Source: The Nation)


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Can tigers die from bird flu?

Posted by hasekamp on 19 October 2004 at 11:43 AM
The Sriracha Tigers Zoo in the eastern province of Chonburi has been closed after 23 tigers have died allegedly from bird flu, said Deputy Prime Minister Chaturon Chaisang Tuesday. Mr. Chaturon, who oversees a government panel to control the bird flu outbreak, said early tests by a team of veterinarians at Kasetsart University suspected that the tigers were affected by bird flu because they had been fed with raw chickens. Kasetsart University's Faculty of Veterinary informed the government late yesterday afternoon that its vet team got some meat samples from the dead tigers to test for traces of bird flu infection. Five tiger caretakers at the farm were sent to hospital for medical examinations. Results of early tests are expected later today. The Chonburi Governor has ordered a closure to the tiger farm until the cause of the tigers' death is determined. Tourists are also forbidden to visit the farm.
Sriracha Zoo has kept more than 400 tigers. It was reported that at least 30 of the animals have developed some symptoms of a respiratory disease, and have died daily since last Thursday. The zoo has been ordered to separate sick tigers from healthy ones and disinfect them. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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One million speed pills, heroin seized

Posted by hasekamp on 18 October 2004 at 18:07 PM
More than one million methamphetamine pills were found at a house in Bangkok’#39;s Suan Luang district during a police search late yesterday morning. One of the largest drug hauls this year was made possible by a tip-off from a man who was arrested earlier in the day during a sting operation, police said. The suspect told police that he acted as a courier, picking up drugs from the house and receiving Bt 3,000 for each delivery. Upon entering the house police detected pungent odors which they believe were left to fester to conceal the drug’#39;s odor. All furniture had been stripped from the first floor of the dilapidated house. On the upper floor, police discovered 110 packs containing 1.1 million "ya ba" pills hidden in a cabinet. Broken mothballs were found scattered on the floor. Police found one occupant who said she was renting the house for Bt 15,000 a month and later admitted to serving as the "Bangkok manager" of a North-based drug racket. She was identified as a 31-year old , from Chiang Mai.
In another major arrest, two people were found in possession of 11 kilograms of heroin worth about Bt 25 million, police said. A man (19) and a woman (17) were arrested in Phetchaburi Soi 19 yesterday morning. The drugs were found in the couple’#39;s suitcase, soon after they disembarked from a taxi near a street alley. (Source: The Nation)


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Rare turtles killed

Posted by hasekamp on 18 October 2004 at 17:58 PM
Two big and rare green turtles have been reported killed off Chumphon by trawlers that had encroached on coastal waters. A 53-year-old coastal fisherman, said he saw two dead green turtles, each about a meter long, floating in the sea about three kilometers off the beach in Pathiu district yesterday. He brought one of the dead turtles ashore in his small boat. The fisherman immediately alerted local marine authorities. But when they arrived, they only found its shell, guts and head. Local villagers were suspected of having sliced it open for the meat. Based on the remains, the turtle would have been 83 cm long and 65 cm wide and about 50 kg in weight. It had taken a bad hit on its shell and head. The protected animals might have been caught by a trawler violating the no-entry zone along the coast that was declared a sanctuary for green turtles. The crew must have killed them before throwing them into the sea. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Thai Rak Thai starts campaign

Posted by hasekamp on 18 October 2004 at 17:55 PM
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra kicked off the Thai Rak Thai party's election campaign yesterday, promising more of his populist policies, something for everyone from cradle to grave. In a speech to supporters Mr. Thaksin promised to end poverty if his party is given another four years in government. He said poverty eradication caravans would be sent to all areas of the country providing occupational training for jobless adults who would be paid a 100-baht daily allowance. Scholarships and education loans would also be available to all who need them until they graduate from college. More schools and universities would be built in the provinces. By next year, all villages would have a budget of their own to solve their own problems. And so on, and so on. It looks like Thailand will become Paradise, provided the Thai Rak Thai party wins the elections, early next year.
And there are programs for the middle class. Mr. Thaksin pledged to spend an estimated 1.1 trillion baht to make traffic flow better in Bangkok and outlying areas by building more skytrains and subways. The fares of those mass transit systems will be kept low, he said.
The environment will be improved with programs to end water pollution. All river basins will be developed with more reservoirs built to cope with floods and drought.
The elderly will be taken care of and be involved in helping to manage child nurseries. The bureaucratic system will be improved and corruption will be dealt with, he said. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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King will preside opening of fair

Posted by hasekamp on 16 October 2004 at 14:02 PM
His Majesty the King will preside over the opening ceremony of the Thailand Science and Technology Fair 2004, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said today. As a celebration of 200th anniversary birthday of the Father of Science, King Rama IV, the government will arrange the Thailand Science and Technology Fair 2004 on the 19th of October, at Impact Arena in Muang Thong Thani. The prime minister would like to invite all the parents to bring their children to attend the exhibition in order to encourage and inspire them in learning scientific and technological knowledge. (Source: Public Relations Department)


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Palace car attacked in the South

Posted by hasekamp on 14 October 2004 at 12:10 PM
Gunmen attacked a palace vehicle when it stopped to buy fruit in Narathiwat's Rangae district yesterday. They fired at least 20 rounds at the Land Rover, killing the two occupants, a retired highway police captain and a police mechanic. They died instantly in the Land Rover. They had driven from the Taksin Ratchanives palace, where Her Majesty the Queen is staying, to pick up fruit that had been ordered. The two officials went to buy fruit on their own, and the Queen was not scheduled to go out of the palace yesterday. More than 200 police and military troops, two armored vehicles and a helicopter were sent out to track down the ambushers.
Meanwhile in Pattani, hundreds of students and staff at the Prince of Songkhla University were seeking a transfer out of the province following the killing of a student at the university over the weekend. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Floods in Chiang Mai

Posted by hasekamp on 13 October 2004 at 12:04 PM
Floods, caused by torrential rain over the past few days, have swept through many villages in the city of Chiang Mai, leading to a widespread inundation, with over 100 houses submerged under water. Four villages in the Sa Luang Sub-district of the province's Mae Rim District and two other Tambons in the Sa Moeng District have been left inundated by floods flowing from a nearby mountain. Roads, bridges and farmland in the areas have also been damaged, with many local residents left cut off from other areas. However, the floods are now receding, and the water levels in most of the areas are returning to normal, while local officials have been assisting the local people. (Source: Public Relations Department)


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THAI discount for Internet bookings

Posted by hasekamp on 12 October 2004 at 11:52 AM
Thailand’#39;s national airline, THAI, is slashing the price of flights between Phuket and Bangkok by nearly 1,000 baht for two months from November 1. The special fare of 1,700 baht one-way will be available for passengers who book "e-tickets" over the Internet and fly between November 1 and December 31. The full one-way fare is 2,625 baht.
In a promotion called "Smile with THAI Sabai with E-ticket", the airline is also offering special fares on other routes, such as Bangkok-Chiang Mai (1,500 baht), Bangkok-Ubon Ratchathani (1,200 baht) and Bangkok-Krabi (1,900 baht).
From November 1, THAI will also operate a ticketless system for all domestic flights. THAI’#39;s introduction of ticketless flights coincides with an announcement by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) that airlines around the world will be looking to replace printed tickets with electronic ones by 2007. See the THAI website for more details. (Source: The Phuket Gazette)


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Thailand a hub for the ivory trade

Posted by hasekamp on 12 October 2004 at 11:15 AM
Thailand is ranked one of three critical ivory trading countries along with Congo and Nigeria. China is categorized as least critical, according to a report presented to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) yesterday. According to the report Thailand's ranking was based on a survey using a reliable Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS). China’#39;s ranking was based on the low amount of illegal ivory trading reported.
Natural Resource and Environment Minister Suwit Khunkitti said the report was based on outdated information. He said the report was conducted by a nongovernmental group and was not an official Cites report. Meanwhile, an action plan by African countries to halt the illegal ivory trade is expected to be officially announced today. (Source: The Nation)


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Wildlife police to be based in Thailand

Posted by hasekamp on 12 October 2004 at 11:10 AM
Asian environment ministers (during the CITES Conference in Bangkok) yesterday agreed to set up a Thai initiated regional wildlife police network. The network, based on Interpol and centered in Thailand, aims to stop the region's wildlife trade, the Natural Resources and Environment Minister said yesterday. The setting up of the network follows Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's opening remarks last week about the need for a regional wildlife police. Indonesia will shortly draw up an action plan and submit it to the Asean secretariat. The conference agrees that the Asian region is rich in biological diversity for both flora and fauna and many species are endangered. The cooperation is to include exchanges of information, financial and technical assistance. With Thailand as the center of the cooperation, a regional wildlife police-training center would be built in Khao Yai National Park. (Source: The Nation)


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More than 7,000 ducks to be buried alive

Posted by hasekamp on 11 October 2004 at 11:35 AM
Over 7,000 ducks in Lop Buri will be buried alive after lab tests confirmed that some of them were infected with bird flu. The provincial livestock chief said the ducks would be herded into deep, freshly dug holes and covered over. Lab tests are continuing to determine whether other flocks in the area are infected. We find this a disgusting way to dispose of these animals and we wonder what kind of people are willing to do this "job".
In Phichit officials had failed to cull chickens at an infected farm quickly enough due to insufficient numbers of staff. Many workers refused to kill the chickens for fear of contracting the fatal disease. Of the 60,000 chickens slated for destruction, 20,000 allegedly were still alive. Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Chaturon Chaisang announced that over 700,000 fowls had been killed since the second round of bird-flu erupted in July. He said he would request that the Cabinet give him a larger budget to handle the situation tomorrow.
Meanwhile the Public Health Ministry had asked the World Health Organization (WHO) to verify reports that Manila’#39;s international airport had set up a special lane for travelers from Thailand as a precaution to ensure the disease did not enter the Philippines. (Source: The Nation)


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Bird Flu: Volunteers check door-to-door

Posted by hasekamp on 11 October 2004 at 11:24 AM
Over 900,000 Public Health Ministry volunteers have been going door-to-door in bird flu-watch areas, registering anyone with respiratory illnesses. The Public Health Minister said the volunteers had visited households every day for the past week and about 100 people with bird flu-like symptoms had been put on a watch list. The sick people would be tested and given appropriate treatment. The visits and registrations are part of the government's latest bird flu containment measures after four deaths from the killer virus in the second outbreak this year.
Meanwhile, the Agriculture Ministry is providing provinces with technological and logistical support in controlling the movement of poultry while the Public Health Ministry takes care of the sick. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Rainy season in Phuket

Posted by hasekamp on 11 October 2004 at 11:15 AM
The Southern Meteorological Center (West Coast) has issued an advisory suggesting that hotels and the Tourism Authority of Thailand’#39;s Phuket office inform tourists (in case they hadn’#39;t noticed) that it is now the rainy season. Heavy showers in the 24 hours this weekend dumped 67.7 mm of rain on the island. The director of the center said: "Phuket is now in the rainy season. There will be rain until the end of this month. There will also be some rain in November, though not much." There is no monsoon wind at present, but people are advised not to go diving or swimming. Local authorities do what they can to ensure that all drains are cleared in order to avert flooding. So, if you are going to visit Phuket this month, be aware that (heavy) rain may fall. (Source: The Phuket Gazette)


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Flood warning

Posted by hasekamp on 8 October 2004 at 20:11 PM
The Chief of the Office of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation has revealed that the moderate active low pressure cell which is covering the gulf of Thailand and the Southern region will probably create flash floods over the next few days. The Government has asked people to evacuate from possible flood areas. Transportation in risky areas will receive local government escorts. However, drivers must be very careful due to the dangerous driving conditions during the thunderstorms. (Source: Public Relations Department)


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Policeman confesses shooting of two UK tourists

Posted by hasekamp on 8 October 2004 at 20:04 PM
The policeman that was suspected of shooting dead two British tourists in Kanchanaburi surrendered yesterday and subsequently made a confession. However, he claimed he had acted in response to being physically assaulted and spat on by the British man. He had been hiding out with a unit of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army in Phaya Tongsu, Burma, opposite the border pass for nearly a month. In a brief statement, he said he had not known the tourists before the shooting. This contradicted the account of his father.
In his account of events leading up to the shooting, he said Lloyd and Arscott were quarrelling when they arrived at his restaurant. He said the Britons drank two bottles of beer and a bottle of liquor. The woman then suddenly rushed off and he and Lloyd decided to follow her in his car. After catching up with the woman, Lloyd, who the policeman claimed was drunk, resumed arguing with her.
The suspect said Lloyd turned on him, punching him, breaking his nose and a rib. Later the man spat on him. He was so angry at having been spat on that he drove up to them and fired at Lloyd until his revolver was empty. He claimed he was unaware he had also shot Arscott. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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New measure to stop bird flu

Posted by hasekamp on 6 October 2004 at 11:45 AM
The Ministry of Public Health has announced new plans to monitor the entire country for the avian flu virus, with every 15 households to be monitored by an individual volunteer, responsible for informing the government of any suspicious poultry deaths or flu-like symptoms among humans. The volunteers will be asked to report to the authorities on every case of illness or death in poultry flocks, and to send any people showing bird flu-like symptoms to receive immediate medical attention. The Public Health Ministry has also requested additional funding of 600 million baht to purchase more anti-viral drugs. Will this system of giving up your fellow-citizens work? We doubt, anyway, if it will work with the cock fighting business, where lots of money are involved. We always come back to this sector, because it is left out of all measures against bird flu systemetically.(Source: Public Relations Department)


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Penalties too light for animal trade

Posted by hasekamp on 6 October 2004 at 11:39 AM
Penalties for those found guilty of trading in endangered species are still too light in most of the world, and laws tend to be very weak, a senior enforcement officer with the secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) said. Citing green monkeys smuggled out of Africa and intercepted in Malta, illegal caviar from the Caspian Sea smuggled to the United States, wheeled suitcases full of turtles from Indonesia, and 4,000 dead birds discovered in a shipment in Hungary, the official said weak laws and penalties for wrongdoers were the greatest threat to animals and plants after loss of natural habitat.
"Organised crime is definitely involved with wildlife crime," he said during a press interview at the 13th Cites Conference in Bangkok yesterday. "Enforcement is increasingly becoming a concern," he said, adding that authorities in many countries simply do not have the resources or experience to cope. He added that greater international cooperation was needed, despite the fact that forensic science and DNA testing are already used in the fight.
"Someone who commits wildlife crime has only a one-in-three chance of going to jail," he said, adding that one person who tried to smuggle live reptiles into the US recently was handed a 41-month jail sentence. (Source: The Nation)


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Wildlife trade in hands of drugs traders

Posted by hasekamp on 6 October 2004 at 11:29 AM
Wildlife and drugs smuggling go hand-in-hand with Asia being one of the prime exporters, said European and American justice officials yesterday. However, a Thai wildlife expert said Thailand had in the past found cases of illicit drugs concealed among live animals sent to the United States, but that was ancient history. "We continue to find various cases of both endangered animals and drugs being smuggled in the same container, or sometimes legal animals are used as live vessels to make it easier to pass through customs," said John Webb, a prosecutor from the US Justice Department. "Drug and wildlife trafficking may be the two greatest money-makers, aside from gun running, why not put them together." Mr Webb also said the illegal combination had roots in Asia but he was not obliged to discuss which specific country. Katalin Rodics of Hungary's Ministry of Environment and Water confirmed illegal wildlife and drugs travel together and smugglers use the former eastern bloc countries as a point of entry.
However, Schwann Tunhikorn, acting director of Cites Office Thailand, admitted Thailand had found cases of snakes stuffed with cocaine about to be shipped abroad, but the catch took place more than ten years ago. "Drugs and wildlife smugglers tend to be in the same gang, so it is possible for such a devastating combination to occur. But I assure you Thailand has had no evidence of such cruelty taking place within our borders for over 15 years." (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Journalists not welcome?

Posted by hasekamp on 4 October 2004 at 13:15 PM
On Saturday the CITES conference started in Bangkok. It took two days for journalists to get press cards to report on the global wildlife trade meeting in Bangkok. Yesterday was the first day that Thai reporters had been able to claim the press cards, necessary to get into the Queen Sirikit National Convention Center, where the meeting is taking place. Reporters had earlier been told that special ink for printing the cards had run out. "We have to wait for new ink to be sent from Geneva," said a Thai registration official, who works for the registration section of the Swiss-based Office of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites), a global wildlife trade watchdog. She said the card-making device from Geneva works only with a certain type of ink. But the number of plastic cards with such ink was limited and many reporters waited fruitlessly for hours on Friday and had still not been given their official cards on Saturday, the opening day of the meeting. Some reporters were eventually issued cards made of regular pink paper with their names written by hand for the opening ceremony. The cards solved the immediate problem of what to do in the absence of the ink. Journalists reported from the same venue during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit late last year, when they say they were greeted with more efficient facilities and press services. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Firework factory explodes

Posted by hasekamp on 4 October 2004 at 13:10 PM
At least 14 people were killed and two injured in a series of explosions at a fireworks factory in Ayutthaya yesterday. Some 32 workers were inside the factory when the blasts went off at about 2 pm. The cause of the explosion is being investigated. The factory was said to be under pressure to meet orders for fireworks ahead of the Loy Krathong festival. Thunderous blasts flattened the steel factory. A nearby house was destroyed. The explosions left two large craters, each about three meters deep and 10 meters in diameter, under where gunpowder and potassium nitrate were stored. More than 100 rescue workers rushed to the scene, which was surrounded by hundreds of curious onlookers, making the work of the rescuers difficult. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Damage by bird flu 50 billion Baht

Posted by hasekamp on 3 October 2004 at 12:33 PM
The bird-flu outbreaks have hit Thailand hard, with damage to farmers and the export sector reaching Bt 50 billion, Thai Agriculture Ministry Permanent Secretary said yesterday. The ministry will within the next two weeks issue regulations to punish farmers who do not follow the standard methods stipulated by the government. Even those who raise poultry in their back yards must put their chickens and ducks in closed coops and not move them around. We hope this also goes for fighting cocks. Nobody needs them!
The minister said he would personally investigate the bird-flu outbreak in Kamphaeng Phet, where two victims recently died after possible human-to-human transmission of the virus, and map out plans with the provincial governor to get the outbreak under control.
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said the government had to hurry to bring the bird flu under control by the end of October, before the cool season brings migratory birds from Siberia and China to the country, which could aggravate the situation.
"We should be more strict. Those who fell ill after contact with chickens must be treated as suspected bird-flu patients, and if necessary chickens must be killed, no matter how many," Mr. Thaksin said. Thaksin urged chicken-breeders to be truthful with officials if their poultry died of the disease. "We must get the public to understand the danger and help destroy the virus, otherwise it could become resistant to drugs or mutate and get even worse," he said. (Source: The Nation)


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Thai foreign minister may succeed Annan

Posted by hasekamp on 3 October 2004 at 12:26 PM
Thailand's foreign minister has been nominated to replace U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Suddenly, the Harvard-educated lawyer and economic expert was chased by the media seeking his views on everything from U.N. reform to his knowledge of French.
Surakiart Sathirathai, 46, was Thailand's youngest foreign minister when he got the job three years ago. He said he never dreamed of being a candidate to replace Annan. But Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra persuaded him to consider the challenge when it became clear that the 56 Asian nations would select the next U.N. chief. So did some of his fellow ministers in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Surakiart said, he got "a green light" from his wife and son. In June, Thaksin announced that Thailand was supporting Surakiart's candidacy.
Traditionally, the United Nations' top job rotates every 10 years by region. Africa should have handed over the job to Asia on Jan. 1, 2002. But Annan was selected for a second five-year term in 2001, in part because Asia could not agree on a candidate. Now Thailand has a chance to become known worldwide. We have confidence in this —unexpected but trustworthy- candidate. (Source: Associated Press)


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Thailand will produce more anti-AIDS drugs

Posted by hasekamp on 3 October 2004 at 12:16 PM
Thailand has reportedly vowed to provide locally made cheap "copycat" anti-AIDS drugs to 300,000 HIV-positive people in the country and overseas within the next two years. The kingdom is one of the world's key production centers for inexpensive generic anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs along with Brazil and India, and has already a production capacity to supply 50,000 low-income Thais living with the virus. ARVs allow many people with HIV/AIDS greatly to extend life expectancy and maintain their health. Government officials said that construction of a new state drug factory would ensure ARV production would reach the target. Thailand has repeatedly come under fire from US drug giants over its anti-retroviral program. The companies argue that generic ARVs break patents and deprive the firms of money needed to research new anti-AIDS drugs. Thailand was one of six nations facing serious HIV/AIDS epidemics which forged a pact promoting low-cost drugs at a world AIDS forum it hosted in July. Brazil, China, Nigeria Russia, Thailand and Ukraine forged the alliance, with the aim of treating up to 10 million new patients. (Source AFP)


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New warning over bird-flu

Posted by hasekamp on 2 October 2004 at 11:56 AM
The current outbreak of bird flu is expected to kill more humans and fewer chickens than the previous crisis, Deputy Prime Minister Chaturon Chaisang said yesterday. The most recent outbreak will probably be worse than the epidemic that gripped the nation less than a year ago, said Chaturon, who acknowledged that bird flu could spread more easily during the cool season. The government will issue measures to encourage farmers to stop raising chickens and ducks in an open environment and change to a closed system.
Dr Kumara Rai, a representative of World Health Organization (WHO), yesterday praised the Health Ministry for disclosing the possibility of bird-flu transmissions between humans. But he said such transmission had so far been limited to one family. "The transmission does not pose a threat to the international community," he said, adding that WHO has yet to find evidence that the bird-flu virus has mutated. "During the devastating outbreak of bird flu in 1918, he said, the virus mutated and human-to-human transmission was as a result faster. The so-called 'Spanish flu' pandemic killed 20 million people worldwide. (Source: The Nation)


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