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General elections on 13 February

Posted by hasekamp on 30 November 2004 at 10:38 AM
The election commissioner insists Feb 13 is the most appropriate date for the general election, even though the prime minister wants it brought forward. Advancing the date would cause difficulties and could put some parties at a disadvantage. Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has asked for an earlier election: on Jan 30 if possible. The law requires the EC (Election Commission) to hold the general election within 45 days of the expiration of the government's four-year term. The government's last day in office is Jan 5. The commission has tentatively set Feb 13 for the nation to go to the polls. It was not at all certain the EC could finish all poll preparations by Jan 30. So, with the campaigns already started, we will know in February if Mr. Thaksin will get enother term. We will cover the elections on this page, of course. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Thai Rak Thai expects to win elections

Posted by hasekamp on 29 November 2004 at 14:45 PM
The ruling Thai Rak Thai Party, led by PM Thaksin Shinawatra, expects to win a minimum of 244 House seats out of the 400 available through direct voting and at least 70 seats out of the remaining 100 reserved for party-list candidates, a party source said yesterday. The electoral projection is based on the results of an opinion survey Thai Rak Thai has commissioned in order to gauge the extent of its electoral support nationwide. The survey says that Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his ruling party continue to enjoy an aggregate of more than 70 per cent of the popular support in the northern, northeastern and central regions. The opposition Democrat Party maintains a marginal lead in the South while voters in Bangkok are evenly split between the two rival parties. The survey predicts that Thai Rak Thai will win 15 proportionate votes, exceeding the unprecedented 11 million ballots it received in the last general elections. (Source: The Nation)


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Chiang Mai to become regional aviation center

Posted by hasekamp on 29 November 2004 at 14:40 PM
The Thai government has announced that it will accelerate plans to ensure that Chiang Mai becomes transformed into a fully-fledged regional aviation centre within the next three years. The Department of Aviation Transport is currently negotiating with several international airlines to liberalise scheduled aviation routes in and out of the city, and is also offering unlimited access for international charter flights. The aim will be to ensure that transportation arrangements respond to the development of the city and its industries, both for the present and in the future. The city also aims to become a regional medical hub by 2007. The government has already designated 2007 as "Visit Chiang Mai Year", and hopes to be able to boost the number of tourists visiting the city from 2 million to 3 million people. (Source: Public Relations Department)


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Natural krathongs favorite

Posted by hasekamp on 28 November 2004 at 16:11 PM
Last Friday was Loy Krathong day. Everywhere in the country krathongs were put in the water and wishes were made.
The majority of people celebrating the Loy Krathong festival in Bangkok this year used floats made from natural materials. Officers from the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) found after cleaning up the Chao Phya River that Bangkok residents had responded well to Governor Apirak Kosayodhin's campaign encouraging citizens to make more floats using natural materials. This year about 1,420,000 floats were collected from the river. Among these, about 350,000 were made from plastic foam and 1,070,000 from natural materials. The number of floats made from plastic foam was reduced by 60 per cent compared to last year.
The latest novelty this year were krathongs made out of some kind of bread, so that they could be eaten by the fishes, after their use as an offering to the Goddess of the Water. This is the ultimate natural krathong, in our vision! (Main source: The Nation)


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ASEAN top: Thaksin threatens to walk out

Posted by hasekamp on 27 November 2004 at 4:29 AM
Thai PM Thaksin Shinawatra threatens to fly back to Thailand if on the ASEAN summit in Laos the Tak Bai "incident" will be duiscussed.
Diplomatic tension therefore heightened yesterday between Thailand and Malaysia. Just a day after Malaysia's parliament endorsed an opposition motion condemning the Tak Bai clampdown on October 25 that led to the suspicious deaths of at least 85 Thai-Muslim protesters, Thaksin threatened to walk out of the Asean summit in Laos next week if leaders raised the "internal" issue of Thailand. ASEAN's policy of not interfering in the affairs of its 10 members "should not let it happen", Mr. Thaksin said. But the foreign minister of neighbouring Muslim-majority Malaysia said there was "no such thing as absolute non-interference". We will see what happens. Fact is - according to us- that nobody can just call an "incident" in which 85 people died, and for which so far no good explanation has been given, an "internal affair". (Source: The Nation)


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Tropical storm damage less than expected

Posted by hasekamp on 27 November 2004 at 4:21 AM
Tropical storm Muifa was more a blessing than a curse because it brought rain to drought-stricken Prachuap Khiri Khan and Petchaburi, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said yesterday. Muifa weakened as it crossed over to the Andaman Sea and caused minimal damage to the South of Thailand thanks to a prompt emergency plan, he said.
The storm started out with deadly force, with fatalities reported in the Philipines. It was forecast to make landfall in Nakhon Si Thammarat province but swerved north to Chumphon, dumping water in parched areas of neighbouring Prachuap Khiri Khan and Petchaburi. Most damage was reportedly centred in Chumphon province. In Chumphon's Muang district, about 100 houses lost their roofs in the wind and many large trees were uprooted. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Spa or sex venue?

Posted by hasekamp on 25 November 2004 at 5:14 AM
The federation of southern spa operators has protested against the Excise Department's classification of their business as sex-oriented, which subjects them to a 10% excise tax. About 100 spa operators from Phuket, Krabi, Phang Nga and Surat Thani's Samui island lodged a protest with the provincial health office, the provincial excise office and other provincial authorities. The chairman of Phuket's spa business association, said the department's classification based on the fact that bathtubs were provided at the venues was wrong. Spas are about water therapy and related equipment must be provided. The federation wanted to provide alternative health treatment, not sex. A provincial spa examination committee was also in place to examine venues and verify them as alternative health treatment venues. We have feared from the start that the Thai Spa business would become a cover-up for sex venues. Are we right after all? (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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No chickens, no Airbus!

Posted by hasekamp on 24 November 2004 at 4:58 AM
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has ordered Thai Airways International to suspend a new airplane procurement contract with Airbus Industrie pending clarification of the European Union's position on Thai chicken imports. He said THAI would be allowed to sign a memorandum for the purchase, but that the deal would be completed only if three conditions were satisfied.
"We will not sign any contract until the EU proves to us that they are not bullying us over chicken," Mr Thaksin said yesterday.
"Second, we'll ask for fairness. And third, the EU must also purchase more agricultural goods from us." Mr Thaksin said a countertrade deal was necessary to ensure balance in the country's trade account.
The EU, Thailand's second largest poultry export market, has suspended frozen chicken and raw poultry imports from Thailand since the bird flu was detected in January, although cooked meat imports have been allowed. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Worries over Phangnga

Posted by hasekamp on 24 November 2004 at 4:55 AM
Worries over the degradation of Phangnga bay in southern Thailand is mounting as the government and developers cash in on its coastal beauty. The area already draws more than a million tourists a year.
The bay was a topic of discussion at the World Conservation Congress, which concludes tomorrow. Thai delegates presented it as an example of conflict between man and nature. The bay is surrounded by three popular tourist provinces: Phuket, Krabi and Phangnga. It is rich in mangroves and dotted with karst formations. The small islands are a magnet for visitors with one island boasting a seafood restaurant and others offering a beach paradise. However, the continuing promotion of tourism in the area seems to go against the need for natural resources protection and is a cause of alarm. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Ratchadamnoen Road to become Champs Elysees

Posted by hasekamp on 22 November 2004 at 5:04 AM
The Thai Government has plans to attract more tourists to Ratchadamnoen Road, by bringing back the old atmosphere and landscape this avenue had when it was first built, during the reign of King Rama V. Deputy Prime Minister Suwat Liptapanlop says the cabinet has already approved the Ratchadamnoen Road Development Master Plan, to be implemented during 2005 to 2007. The development will start from Phan Fa Bridge in front of Loha Prasat Temple to Rattanakosin Hotel, at the north-eastern corner of Sanam Luang. The 1.5 kilometre road will be made shadier, while all of the buildings along the way will be conserved. However, parks, a museum, a modern shopping centre and first-class hotels will be added. Pavements on the banks of Klong Lod Canal and on Khao Sarn Road will be widened to allow members of the Ratchadamnoen community to use. Moreover, a space which used to house the Government Public Relations Department will be developed as a special plaza in honour of His Majesty the King for his 80th birthday in 2007. (Source: Public Relations Department)


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Are the militants foreign?

Posted by hasekamp on 22 November 2004 at 4:56 AM
Supreme Commander of the Thai army Chaisit Shinawatra (yes, related) said militants from neighbouring countries had a hand in fomenting unrest in the South, but declined to say where they were based. Gen Chaisit said there had been reports of infiltration but solid evidence to back this claim was still lacking.
Her Majesty the Queen observed the unprecedented escalation of violence and said in her televised address last week that she did not believe the instigators were Thai Muslims. Gen Chaisit refused to identify the foreign militants pulling strings or say where they were from. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Thailand rejects UN investigation

Posted by hasekamp on 21 November 2004 at 10:10 AM
Thailand has rejected a request by a United Nations expert to look into the deaths of 85 Muslim protesters. Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said the government had deemed it inappropriate to allow the UN to investigate the incident because a government-backed independent panel was already doing the job. Mr. Philip Alston, a special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, said in a statement he was concerned about the deaths in Tak Bai on October 25th and about reports that up to 40 people are still unaccounted for. Mr. Alston had asked to visit Thailand to assess the situation in the southern Muslim provinces. (Source: Public Relations Department)


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Muslims hope for King's influence

Posted by hasekamp on 21 November 2004 at 10:06 AM
Muslim leaders in the three southernmost provinces yesterday expressed hope that security agencies would heed the advice of His Majesty the King to work together for peace. "It was His Majesty's moral authority that brought all sides to turn to one another and work towards a common goal," said Nimu Makaje, the vice chairman of the Islamic Council of Yala. Waeduramae Mahmingji, chairman of the Islamic Council of Pattani, agreed with Nimu's statement and said all related parties had a moral obligation to see to it that His Majesty's wishes are fulfilled. Abdulrahman Abdulsamat, chairman of the Islamic Council of Narathiwat, said all parties and government agencies should use this opportunity for a fresh start. In a recent statement to an audience of 78 military and police officers, the King urged the military and police to work together to bring about peace in the restive region. His statement came a day after Her Majesty the Queen called for unity in the Kingdom. (Source: The Nation)


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Mass aerobics at Sanam Luang for peace

Posted by hasekamp on 21 November 2004 at 10:02 AM
More than 77,000 people turned up at Sanam Luang to join a mass exercise yesterday and took the opportunity to send a goodwill gesture to southern people. The happening was broadcasted live on TV. The participants, led by the Public Health Minister, made 40,000 origami paper cranes, a symbol of peace, for distribution. The government expects to collect 62 million paper cranes across the country and distribute them in the troubled South on His Majesty the King's birthday on Dec 5. The public health minister also wrote down: "May peace be with the people in the three southern provinces... from people in Sanam Luang and across the country."
The event, presided over by Princess Ubolratana (the oldest duaghter of Their Majesties who lived in the US for years, but returned after her divorce there), was to mark His Majesty the King's birthday on Dec 5 and Her Majesty the Queen's 72nd birthday on Aug 12. The Minister will travel to Narathiwat today to discuss measures to boost the morale of people affected by violence. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Dead pigeons cause panic

Posted by hasekamp on 19 November 2004 at 5:44 AM
Public-health volunteers are closely watching more than 500 students at two schools in Sukhothai's Thung Saliam district, after a large number of dead pigeons found in the schoolyards tested positive for bird flu. There have been no reports of human infection from the school. Following the recent outbreak, the two schools closed temporarily. Local hospitals have been instructed to be on alert for patients with symptoms similar to bird-flu. Patients with such symptoms should be prescribed Tamiflu, even though they may test negative for bird flu, an official said. Tamiflu is touted as an effective treatment for avian influenza.
Meanwhile, Sri Racha Tiger Zoo in Chon Buri yesterday opened to the public for the first time since the bird-flu outbreak spread to its animals. As reported, the zoo lost 147 of its tigers to the disease last month, both through direct infections and culling as a preventative measure to curb the outbreak. (Source: The Nation)


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His Majesty the King has spoken too

Posted by hasekamp on 19 November 2004 at 5:39 AM
Peace advocates have asked the government to use "extreme caution" in dealing with violence in the South, warning that mishandling the problem will only sow hatred and widen the conflict. The peace workers, from the Peace Strategies Committee, yesterday met Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra for the first time since the committee's appointment in 2002. The meeting was seen as Mr Thaksin's immediate response to calls by Their Majesties the King and Queen for an end to troubles which have plagued predominantly Muslim Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat provinces since January.
On Wednesday, the King told newly-appointed police and military generals that the violence in the deep South witnessed by the Queen during her two-month stay in Narathiwat should not have happened in the first place. The King said if the police and military worked well together, troubles would be alleviated. If not, Thailand could be doomed, he said.
"A collapsing country means its people cannot live a happy life and lack safety. The task of building and safeguarding peace belongs to the police and military. Even when they are not carrying weapons, they must keep in mind their duties of keeping peace, order and security of the country. If people can live happily and peacefully, that means the police and military have done a perfect job," the King said.
The King's advice came a day after the Queen made an emotional plea for Thais to unite in bringing the southern violence to an end. The committee suggested Mr Thaksin and his government to prove they had heeded Their Majesties' calls by listening to opinions from all sides, and cooperate with other people in bringing peace back to the South.
The government must take "the middle p.th" (peaceful means) in working towards achieving peace and reconciliation in the deep South. It must also implement peaceful measures that could pull the country out of the crisis and show victims of the violence in the deep South that it really cared for their well-being.
Mr Thaksin said the panel had passed on several useful peace-oriented measures, which the Defence and Interior ministries and the NSC would now consider. Mr Thaksin said he disagreed with any move to whip up nationalism. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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IUCN conference opened

Posted by hasekamp on 18 November 2004 at 4:28 AM
Her Majesty the Queen yesterday made an impassioned plea for intensified efforts to bring about and spread knowledge about conservation efforts and to take better care of the environment during an award ceremony in her honour. "My dream is that one day soon, ordinary people everywhere will have a greater desire to protect their children's future livelihoods by not only refraining from harming the environment themselves but also helping the authorities prevent others from doing so," she said. The Queen was presented with the IUCN Golden Award medallion for her efforts in protecting and reviving forests, wildlife and the environment at the opening ceremony of the IUCN World Conservation Congress, which began in Bangkok yesterday. The Queen's environmental initiatives in northeastern Thailand in the late 1980s have been recognised around the world. One of her best-known conservation efforts is the "Forests-Love-Waters Project," a reforestation project introduced in 1982 in Sakon Nakhon. After the award ceremony, the Queen took time to take a quick look at all the exhibition booths from various organisations, leaving behind smiles at every cubicle she visited. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Reactions to Queen's speech

Posted by hasekamp on 18 November 2004 at 4:25 AM
Her Majesty the Queen's message for peace in the far South has triggered an avalanche of promises by the government and others to translate it into action. Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said the Queen's speech urging unity to quell the unrest was profound and meaningful. It was time people from all regions banded together to show they loved and cared for their fellow Thais in the far South. "We will campaign to return peace to the deep South," he said. We wonder how, but of course the government has to obey the Queen, here in Thailand. "Those elements consumed by villainous ambition who are driving separatism will be dealt with firmly by the law," the prime minister said. "That won't be too hard a task to accomplish."
The cabinet has agreed to a nationwide campaign to encourage all Thais to fold paper cranes symbolising peace and solidarity. The cranes would be dropped from the air over Narathiwat, Yala and Pattani on Dec 5 to coincide with the birthday of His Majesty the King. Air force planes would also perform a flypast and release coloured smoke in the pattern of the Thai national flag. "Everyone must join hands to show love for the motherland and denounce any attempt to split the country, Mr Thaksin said. The goodwill gesture to the far South would transcend any religious divide," he said. First and foremost, Mr Thaksin said, the daily killings by militants must be stopped. He vowed to hunt down separatist leaders and prosecute them.
The Queen's televised message had given momentum to those fighting separatism and was a morale booster to people in the deep South, Mr Thaksin said. We hope that Mr Thaksin's planned actions will indeed bring peace, and no further unrest.
Waedueramae Mamingji, chairman of the Pattani Islamic Committee, said the Queen's remarks were uplifting and psychologically empowering. Mr Waedueramae said a clear line must be drawn between good, law-abiding Muslims and those who seek violent means to settle disputes. The Queen's address also came as a reprieve in the wake of disheartening mass transfer requests by teachers in the deep South. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Emotional Queen speeks to the Thai people

Posted by hasekamp on 17 November 2004 at 4:47 AM
Her Majesty took an unprecedented step in effort to end southern violence. An emotional Queen yesterday made an impassioned plea for a concerted national effort to halt the spiralling violence in the deep South. "Every Thai owns this country and residents have every right to live and remain in the three southernmost provinces," Her Majesty said before an audience of close to 1,000 people at Dusit Palace. The speech was later broadcastes nationwide. The unprecedented engagement with leaders of communities, associations, non-governmental organisations, the media and members of the Cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, came after Her Majesty recently spent two months in the deep South.
"I came across countless tales of brutal killings of innocent civilians as well as state officials that I must share with the Thai people so that they become aware and care for their fellow Thai citizens." She recounted - among others - the story of a child who tried to put the head of her murdered father back on his body. The man\92s head was cut off by two gunmen after they stormed into the family\92s home and shot him.
Her Majesty, accompanied by HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, called on the entire nation to form a force of opposition to the "brutal bullying" of helpless deep-South residents who have nowhere to run. "I don\92t mean that people should take up arms, but they should display a force of spirit," she said. "It is not right to allow people to kill people. We have laws, but I don\92t know why they cannot be used [to stop the killings]."
The speech lasteed more than one hour, and according to reports, impressed the whole of Thailand. (Source: The Nation)


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Dirty old man

Posted by hasekamp on 17 November 2004 at 4:40 AM
Mobile phones can be handy and useful, but they can be abused too, as a Thammasat University student experienced. She was injured yesterday when she tried to apprehend a man who allegedly tried to take pictures under her skirt. Fourth-year student Pakhinee Srimangkla, 21, complained to police that the man attempted to take the photographs with his mobile-phone camera while she was riding on an escalator. The student, a trainee with Channel 3 television station, said she felt something touch her skirt and turned to see a middle-aged bald Thai man holding a mobile phone. She asked him what he was doing, and he said he did not do anything and tried to run away. She grabbed him but he shook her off so violently that both fell. The man escaped but Pakhinee sustained a cut to her left leg requiring seven stitches and sprained her right ankle. (Source: The Nation)


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Crocodile meat for China

Posted by hasekamp on 16 November 2004 at 15:32 PM
The Deputy Director General of the Department of Fisheries said after a meeting with the Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Quality Control and Disease Examination of China that the department has planned to export crocodile meat to the People's Republic of China. He said that the department has proposed the Chinese government to import crocodile meat for consumption from Thailand. This mainly because the crocodile breeding system and farm management in Thailand are now in an acceptable standard. Thailand is currently producing 100,000 crocodiles per year. Moreover, the major export market of the Thai crocodile meat is in the European Union (EU). Although it is possible that there is enough crocodile meat in Thailand, we, being environmentalists, oppose against any farming of anuimals that are protected elsewhere. We also see black markets coming into existence. So our opinion is: Leave crocodiles what they are: wild animals. (Source: Public Relations Department)


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Hotel as Temple replica?

Posted by hasekamp on 16 November 2004 at 4:36 AM
About 70 people from Lampang yesterday visited a hotel in San Kamphaeng district to protest against the building of a replica of their revered Wat Lai Hin. Hotel staff took the villagers for a close look at the replica temple, in the grounds of the three-billion-baht Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi hotel. The protesting villagers believed the replica resembled Wat Lai Hin in every detail and that building it without the temple's permission was insulting to Buddhism and local wisdom. They also feared that fewer tourists would visit the real Wat Lai Hin. That might not be tue, but we can feel the problem of these villagers, who see a Temple as a sacred place. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Baht strengthens against dollar

Posted by hasekamp on 13 November 2004 at 11:01 AM
The Thai baht ended at a six-month closing high against the dollar in Asian spot trade yesterday after the greenback plunged against regional currencies overnight on the view that US authorities will allow it to weaken and Chinese authorities will begin to revalue the yuan next year. The dollar finished at Bt 40.445, down from Bt40.69, at the Asian close on Thursday.
The US currency is expected to trade over the weekend in a range of Bt 40.35 to Bt 40.50, subject to volatility in the yen, a regional trend-setter. The dollar is expected to extend its slide due to the size of the US current-accounts deficit and to a revaluation expected by many economists next year in the yuan. (Source: The Nation)


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Foreign demand for OTOP goods

Posted by hasekamp on 12 November 2004 at 16:38 PM
Thai herbal goods under the government's one tambon, one product (OTOP) scheme are now popular on international markets, with a large number of orders placed from importers in the United States and Singapore. Currently, all Thai hand-made herbal OTOP items, particularly fragrant bergamot, are increasingly popular overseas, according to the secreatary of a women's municipal development group in Thailand's southern province of Prachuap Khiri Khan. The fragrant bergamot is now a five-star OTOP goods in Thailand's southern region. Orders for other Thai herbal and beauty products, normaly used in the spa sector, are also on a rise promisingly. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Tongdaeng as a cartoon character

Posted by hasekamp on 11 November 2004 at 23:35 PM
The Story of Tongdaeng, a biography of His Majesty the King's favourite pet dog, has made a comeback as a cartoon book and goes on sale at book stores in Thailand from today. The country's bestseller in 2002, it is the story of a street dog who became the King's favourite pet dog. This time it comes in the form of a 172-page Thai-English cartoon book which depicts Tongdaeng and the monarch's other pet dogs with the King's English translation and colour drawings produced by cartoonists Chai Ratchawat, Om Ratchavej, Sala Nakbamrung and Thiewwat Pattarakulvanich, and art designer Pitsanu Supanimitr.
In the book, the King tells readers about Tongdaeng's background and special traits, especially her gratitude to her mother Mae Mali. The monarch has high praise for the dog which is "unlike some people who forget who they used to be and insult those who are kind to them only because they are from poor backgrounds." (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Bird flu inspection by EU

Posted by hasekamp on 11 November 2004 at 11:42 AM
Representatives from the European Union (EU) will arrive in Bangkok on November 24th to begin an eight-day tour to verify the safety of poultry exports. According to Deputy Prime Minister Chaturon Chaisang, the EU team will be inspecting government laboratories and poultry farms across the country. Despite rigorous efforts to prevent further spread of the epidemic, the bird flu virus is still present in 13 provinces, 32 districts and 14 tambons.
Ministers from China, South Korea and Japan will meet in Bangkok on November 25th and 26th to exchange information and enhance cooperation in fighting the virus. Meanwhile the director of the government's command center on bird flu, said laboratory tests on pigs that had died in early October showed that they were not killed by bird flu, but by a bacterial infection. (Source: Public Relations Department)


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Thais abroad: Cast your vote!

Posted by hasekamp on 11 November 2004 at 11:37 AM
The Election Commission of Thailand (EC) has relesed a message, telling that Thais who live abroad can vote in next year's general election. The EC showed that figures suggest that around 76,000 overseas Thais have already registered to vote, out of a total of around 840,000 eligible voters. This is less than 10%. The EC hopes that more overseas Thais would exercise their voting rights next year, when the country is due to go to the election polls. In the 2001 election, 14,521 overseas Thais voted, out of a total of 40,670 registered. So, Thais abroad, register at your local Thai Embassy and let Thailand know whether you like the current government or not! (Source: Public Relations Department)


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Price of rice to remain high

Posted by hasekamp on 10 November 2004 at 13:47 PM
The prices of Thai rice will remain high over the next three years due to lower supply caused by drought and high demand overseas, according to the Commerce Minister. The minister told a meeting of Thai rice exporters yesterday that the Ministry of Commerce was confident that the prices of Thai rice on the world market would stand at the current high level over the next three years. This was due to lower supply, as the current drought in many areas in Thailand, particularly in the country's North and Northeast, could reduce the next harvest, while demand for high quality Thai rice overseas would remain high. Due to the high quality of Thai rice, local rice exporters should not be afraid of cheaper rice from our rival countries. The government would, however, continue to intervene on the domestic rice market through its rice deposit scheme to ensure that local farmers could sell their rice produce in line with the market mechanism. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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King advises different time for artificial rain

Posted by hasekamp on 10 November 2004 at 13:42 PM
The government has adjusted the timing of its artificial rain-making programme on the advice of His Majesty the King. The rain flights will, from now on, be scheduled for periods in which there is a higher level of humidity in the air - between 4 a.m. and 9 a.m. in the morning, and from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. in the afternoon. This is expected to increase the likely success of the rain-making efforts because of a more appropriate mixture of rain clouds at that time. A spokesman declined to give precise details of the timing of previous rain-making operations. Responding to emergency relief assistance for drought, water pumps have already been provided to areas most affected by the drought, mostly in the northeastern and lower northern regions. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Nightlife policy maintained

Posted by hasekamp on 10 November 2004 at 13:33 PM
Deputy Interior Minister Pracha Maleenont insists on continuing his policy of early closing of night entertainment venues despite calls from operators for opening hours to be extended. He has given the go-ahead for all provinces, though, to hold public hearings on whether to expand the special zones where nightspots can remain open until 2am instead of the 1am deadline. Mr. Pracha reiterated the government's policy after a number of entertainment venue operators publicly urged a government review. Under the regulations, nightclubs in designated zones are allowed to open at 9pm and stay open until 2am. Those outside the zones are allowed to open at 9pm but must close at midnight. Massage parlours inside the zones can open at midday and must close at midnight while those outside the zones can operate only between 6pm and midnight. Karaoke bars and discotheques within the zones can open from 6pm and then close at 1am, while those outside must close at midnight. All entertainment venues serving food and liquor with live music shows are allowed to open at 6pm and close at 1am. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Campaign about Southern problems

Posted by hasekamp on 9 November 2004 at 12:52 PM
The Thai Chamber of Commerce, in cooperation with the private sector, will launch a campaign tomorrow to encourage the southern people to be confident and alert in solving problems in the three southernmost provinces of Thailand. The Thai Chamber of Commerce, in cooperation with the Industrial Council of Thailand, the Thai Bank Association and other private firms, is preparing to launch a campaign on the 10th of November aimed at solving the southern problems. A target has also been set to collect a total of 200 million baht in funds for organizing activities to stimulate beliefs among Thai people. The activities will include campaign walks against violence in the southern area, as well as other activities that encourage local residents to participate. (Source: Public Relations Department)


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Chicken smuggling hugely reduced

Posted by hasekamp on 9 November 2004 at 12:48 PM
The smuggling of banned chickens and meats across the Thai-Malaysia border has decreased by nearly 90 percent in the past two weeks. Latest statistics showed that only around 50 kg of such items were brought in daily by travellers compared to around 500 kg previously. There had been a steady decrease in the smuggling of these banned items in the past two weeks and this had helped the efforts to prevent the spread of the avian flu virus significantly. Since the middle of this year, the agencies concerned have cooperated with other agencies such as the Health and Customs Departments and the police to stem the smuggling of Thai chickens and meats into the country. (Source: Public Relations Department)


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Rainmaking in North fails

Posted by hasekamp on 7 November 2004 at 13:23 PM
The worst drought in two decades has spread from the Northeast to the upper North, including Tak, a centre for research official said yesterday. The severe drought afflicting farmers in many areas owing to a drier-than-usual October has prompted His Majesty the King to initiate a special artificial-rain operation. The water held in Tak's Bhumibol dam has diminished, but more worrying is the Mae Kuang dam in Chiang Mai's Doi Saket district. The drought is expected to last into the dry season next year. Farmers in Tak have been warned to switch to a drought-resistant crop or reduce planted areas in anticipation of the coming dry growing season.
Cloud-seeding efforts have failed by inadequate relative humidity, resulting in difficulty of precipitation and little, if any, artificial rain. His Majesty has suggested flights in the evenings, when the air's humidity rises to 60 per cent, enough to squeeze out rain. Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said drought and the long lull in rainfall were cause for concern. (Source: The Nation)


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Governor apologises

Posted by hasekamp on 6 November 2004 at 12:46 PM
The provincial governor, on the instructions of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, has apologised to relatives of protesters who died in the Tak Bai tragedy on Oct 5. "I want to express my sincere apologies and remorse for what happened. The prime minister and the government are very sorry about it and told me to make an official apology to relatives of those who died," Mr Pracha Terat said. His apology came with a traditional wai before more than 200 relatives of 64 of the 85 dead protesters. Addressing the relatives gathering at the central mosque yesterday at his and the provincial Islamic committee's invitation, the governor said he was in deep sorrow at the Tak Bai deaths. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Coconut pickers are affected by the violence

Posted by hasekamp on 5 November 2004 at 16:28 PM
Violence in the South is hurting the incomes not only of rubber tappers but also coconut plantation workers and their helpers. Rubber tappers, who usually start work before dawn, now wait until it is light while coconut-pickers say they do not dare enter isolated plantations. Both groups earn less those days. And they say it is for the best. Coconut exports to Malaysia have dropped. Growers, who usually sell coconuts to Malaysia at three baht apiece, now settle for 1.50 baht each. Pickers now earn 40 satang (0.40 Baht) for every coconut they collect. Before the violence they earned 200-300 baht daily. Coconut collectors can't help feeling scared when they are working in the plantations. All they have is a long knife and a monkey who is far from being a bodyguard, although he would attack strangers. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Six more murdered in the South

Posted by hasekamp on 5 November 2004 at 16:22 PM
The violence in the deep South of Thailand continues. Six people have been killed and four others wounded, including a monk, in attacks in the deep South as violence mounts in the wake of last week's mass deaths of Muslim protesters in Narathiwat. Among the victims, a railway worker's body was torn to pieces after it was left on a railway track.
Furthermore in Songkhla a monk was seriously wounded when two gunmen on a motorcycle sprayed bullets at him as he sat in the rear of a pick-up truck in Chana district. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Thaksin wants Muslims to advise him

Posted by hasekamp on 4 November 2004 at 17:42 PM
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has asked key Muslim figures to forget the past, and start anew. Together with their communities he wants to discuss what they want the government to do to end violence in the deep South. Mr. Thaksin said the government was ready to do what needed to be done. "Just tell us what your problems are and we will solve them," he said. He promised justice for Muslims who were still angry with anything if they came out to air their grievances with him.
Mr. Thaksin held a reception for about 400 Muslim leaders and representatives of Islamic organisations in 32 provinces at Government House yesterday after their daily Ramadan fasting. Also invited were 17 foreign ambassadors, eight senators and 10 MPs. Mr. Thaksin said he told the Muslim leaders he wanted respected Muslims in all regions to help by discussing with communities in their areas, as well as ministers, MPs and Islamic teachers, ways for the government to return peace to the deep South. He was impressed with the teachings in the Koran and believed if those teachings were strictly obeyed peace would eventually return to the South. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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More effective breast-cancer test

Posted by hasekamp on 4 November 2004 at 17:38 PM
A recent announcement made by Siriraj Hospital has revealed that the hospital has developed a new technique capable of detecting breast cancer faster, cheaper and more efficiently, sparing patients from the discomfort of invasive surgery, side effects and long hospital stays. According to a surgeon at Siriraj Hospital, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Adune Ratanawichitrasin, the new technique focuses on the sentinel lymph node, the first node "standing guard" over the breast. If cancer cells break away from the tumor and travel away from the breast via the lymph system, the sentinel lymph node is more likely to contain cancer than other lymph nodes. Instead of removing 10 to 30 lymph nodes and analyzing them for cancer, surgeons only need to dissect one sentinel lymph node that is most likely to have cancer. If this node is clean, chances are the other nodes have not been affected. (Source: Public Relations Department)


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Government: Bird flu under control

Posted by hasekamp on 4 November 2004 at 17:37 PM
During the operation to wipe out the avian flu virus in October, the government destroyed more than 1.5 million fowls and 147 tigers. The Government confirmed earlier today that the October operation has now brought the avian flu epidemic in Thailand under control. According to Deputy Prime Minister Chaturon Chaisang, who is in charge of the national committee in fighting against the avian flu, the spread of the disease in chickens has been substantially slowed, and there have been no new cases of infections in humans. At the same time, he said the Public Health Ministry has distributed 100,000 doses of influenza vaccine to hospitals throughout the country, in which the vaccine will be given to villagers and officials who have been exposed to infected fowls. These vaccines should help prevent the bird flu virus mutating if humans are infected. (Source: Public Relations Department)


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Southern Thai beheaded

Posted by hasekamp on 2 November 2004 at 18:08 PM
Local people found the head of a 58-year-old deputy village leader on a roadside in Narathiwat province. The incident came as Thailand named a panel to investigate last week's deaths, and how dozens of people came to suffocate inside army trucks. The army commander in charge of southern Thailand has been moved from his post and will return to Bangkok. "I am ready to face any outcome of the investigation," he said.
The corpse of the murdered man was discovered more than 1 km away from his head. He is the second Buddhist to be beheaded in the region in recent months. A hand-written note was found by the head, saying: "This is revenge for the innocent Muslim youths who were massacred at the Takbai protest".
Thailand's Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra is under fire for the handling of the Takbai protest, in which dozens of Muslims youths were bundled into army vans without enough air to breathe and 78 died. (Source: BBC News)


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King speaks to Thaksin

Posted by hasekamp on 2 November 2004 at 16:42 PM
His Majesty the King has told the government to handle the troubles in the South "with care" and give local people a say in settling the problems, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said yesterday. Mr. Thaksin, who was granted an audience with the King at Klai Kangwon Palace in Hua Hin on Sunday, said the King was concerned about the safety of his people and felt that local participation could help the government make that region safer. The King, Mr. Thaksin said, urged both the government and the Muslim militants to refrain from violence. The King was concerned about the crackdown on Muslim protesters in Narathiwat's Tak Bai district on October 25 and wanted to know all the details. The army chief had given the King a report. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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