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Disaster aftermath update 31 December

Posted by hasekamp on 31 December 2004 at 11:40 AM
Official figures released by the emergency center at Phuket Provincial Hall at 4.30 this afternoon (30 December; 09:30 GMT) show the number of dead in Phang Nga, Phuket and Krabi, the three provinces worst hit by the tsunami, has climbed to 2,232 .
In Phuket the number of dead has risen to 282 (149 Thai, 108 foreigners and 25 of unknown nationality). No new deaths reported today.
In Phang Nga the situation is far more grim; the death toll now stands at 1,583 (1,073 Thais, 510 foreigners), with 280 more deaths recorded today.
In Krabi, the number of fatalities has risen to 367 (108 Thais, 88 foreigners and 171 of unknown nationality), with 13 deaths recorded today.
The number of people injured in Phuket now stands at 1,272 (386 Thais, 225 foreigners, and 661 people whose nationality was not recorded at time of treatment), though no people with injuries w ere recorded as being treated between 1 am and 4.30.
There are now 1,808 people reported missing in Phuket (979 Thais, 600 foreigners and 229 people of unknown nationality). There were no new reports of missing people between 1 am and 4.30, however.
LATER REPORT: As rescue workers in Khao Lak continue the gruesome task of recovering the bodies of those killed in the December 26 tsunami disaster, the death toll from Phang Nga rose overnight to a staggering 3,689 corpses – more than double the figure reported at 4:30 yesterday afternoon. The figures were released at 8 am today (31 December; 01:00 GMT) by the emergency center at Phuket Provincial Hall. In the six provinces affected, the death toll now stands at 4,510 (2,092 Thai, 2,230 foreigners and 188 of unknown nationality). A total of 9,849 were reported injured and 6,475 people are still listed as missing. The chance that they are fopund alive may not be estimated high.
The fatality figure accounts only for bodies recovered; the actual number of deaths is probably far higher, as many people are thought to have been sucked out to sea by tsunami undertow and will likely never be recovered.
Of the 3,689 bodies recovered in Phang Nga, 1,662 bodies were somehow classified as Thais and 2,027 as foreigners. Identification is becoming increasingly difficult. A total of 1,272 people were reported as injured in the province, with 2,123 people listed as missing.
In Phuket, however, the number of dead has been adjusted down to 279 (151 Thais, 111 foreigners, 17 of unknown nationality) from 282 yesterday afternoon. The toll of injured stood at 1,272 and 2,123 people have been reported missing.
In Krabi, there have been 367 reported deaths (108 Thais, 88 foreigners and 171 of unknown nationality), 2,649 injured and 1,913 reported missing.
Of great concern is the number of people missing at Phi Phi Don Island, where reports say only two hotels remain standing. Most of the island’s dozens of hotels and guest houses were located on a narrow stretch of sand between two beaches, which appears to have been hammered by the tsunami from both sides.
On the basis of older figures of the TAT some 1,065 tourist arrived on Phi Phi Don each day. Multiplying this figure by the average length of stay, there were probably no fewer than 2,900 tourists staying overnight on Phi Phi Don when the tsunami hit, and that figure would not include the number of residents, day trippers and workers.
PATONG: There will be a memorial service for victims of the December 26 tsunami at midnight tonight at Loma Park, on the waterfront at Patong. The event is being organized jointly by the Phuket Tourism Association and the Patong Beach Hotel Business Association as a way for survivors to remember friends and relatives who perished in the tragedy. People who want to take part in the memorial should bring one candle each. These will be lit at midnight and a moment of silence will be observed for all victims. Interior Minister Bhokin Bhalakula is expected to attend.
The national government has canceled official New Year’s Eve celebrations as part of the national mourning, but sources in Patong say that more and more bars and entertainment venues are reopening for business – and the government will allow bars to stay open all night. (Source: The Phuket Gazette)


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First visitors return to beaches

Posted by hasekamp on 30 December 2004 at 12:10 PM
A few tourists returned to Kata beach yesterday, three days after the tsunamis. Also one of the traditional Thai masseuses (47) was there, offering a traditional Thai massage. The other 20 masseuses who normally ply the beach were nowhere to be seen. The sight of about 20 tourists swimming and sunbathing happily on the seashore suggests the beach is still enticing despite the ravages of the ocean on Sunday.
The beach is clean now, thanks to the efforts of 60 soldiers from Ratchaburi, staff from local bodies and tourist businesses, and local villagers. Even tourists helped with clearing away the wreckage.
The mayor of tambon Karon said more than 100 beach masseurs and masseuses normally worked in the municipality. At the moment he was in contact with very few of them.
It seems a bit strange at this moment, with the country still in full mourning, but we believe that if you keep going to Thailand, and not cacel your holiday, you will help the local population best. You don't have to worry about the hotel owners in Phuket. They are rich enough, but the small tradespeople, small restaurant owners and - indeed - the traditional masseuses on the beach need your support. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Funeral rites for Khun Poom (Bhumi)

Posted by hasekamp on 30 December 2004 at 11:44 AM
Her Majesty the Queen will today attend her grandson Khun Poom ("Bhumi") Jensen’s funeral rite at Sala Sahathai Samakhom in the Grand Palace compound. The rite service for Princess Ubolratana’s son is bestowed by His Majesty the King. The seven-day rite continues until next Tuesday. There will be no service on New Year’s Eve and New Years Day. There will be a Buddhist merit-making ceremony for the seventh day of his death, on Sunday. Royal Family members including HRH Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, HRH Princess Chulabhorn Valayalaksana, HRH Princess Somsavali, HRH Princess Siribha Chudhabhorn, HSH Princess Siriwanwaree Mahidol, and Khun Ploypailin Jensen and Khun Sirikitiya Jensen have already attended the funeral. On Tuesday, more than 400 people attended Khun Poom’s funeral. Among them were the prime minister’s wife Pojaman Shinawatra and her daughter Paetongtarn Shinawatra, MR Yongsawasdi Kridakorn, Khunying Piyapas Bhirombhakdi, and Public Health Minister Sudarat Keyuraphan. Meanwhile, the public is welcome to send condolences and present wreaths at Sala Sahathai Samakhom from 8am to 4pm. Thousands of people - Thais and foreigners - from all walks of life have already visited to express their grief. (Source: The Nation)


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Update: Various short reports

Posted by hasekamp on 30 December 2004 at 11:35 AM
Pang Nga: The bodies of over 1,000 victims of the tsunami have already been recovered in Phang Nga and the number is expected to rise as rescue teams continue their search. The Phang Nga Governor added that rescue workers would try to complete their searches of Tai Muang and Takuapa Districts today.
Patong: Patong Municipality yesterday approved a 20-million-baht budget to begin clean-up operations following the devastation wrought by tsunami waves on Sunday. Mayor Pian Keesin today said that municipal officials were still searching for bodies, but that 100% of those who suffered injury had already been sent to hospitals. He said that after the cleanup, he would use the disaster as an opportunity to ensure that redevelopment took place in accordance with the Municipality’s new town planning scheme.
Free air transport: At least five Thai commercial airlines are offering free flights to Bangkok to assist the government effort in evacuating the dead and wounded from the island. A pokesman said that Thai Airways had already evacuated some 1,100 people to Bangkok today.
Fishermen to be compensated: Deputy Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Newin Chidchob arrived on Phuket yesterday afternoon to offer assistance to local fishermen who lost their boats in Sunday’s tsunami. He said he had received reports of damage to 300 large fishing boats and 2,400 longtail boats. Some 20,000 people employed in coastal fishing in the six affected provinces, such as fish farmers and those who trap fish in pens, had the equipment on which they depend for their livelihoods damaged or destroyed, he said. Initially, the Ministry will pay out a minimum of 12,000 baht per claim. "I will propose greater compensation to fishermen who lost their businesses in the next Cabinet meeting. If approved by the Cabinet, the funds should be available to fisher men in the first week of 2005," he said. (Source: The Phuket Gazette)


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Latest official figues (30 December)

Posted by hasekamp on 30 December 2004 at 11:25 AM
The latest figures we can find, released this morning (Thai time) by the emergency center at Phuket Provincial Hall list 1,536 people dead, 8,953 injured and 4,073 missing in the six southern provinces affected by Sunday’s tsunami waves.
Among the dead are 187 foreigners, 1,175 Thais and 174 people whose nationalities remain unknown.
The specification of the figures (per provice) is as follows:
Phuket: 233 dead; 1,268 injured; 1,580 reported missing.
Phang Nga: 952 dead; 5,541 injured; 1,377 reported missing.
Krabi: 198 dead, 1,881 injured; 1,018 reported missing.
Ranong: 142 dead; 182 injured; 97 reported missing.
Trang: 5 dead; 66 injured; 0 reported missing people.
Satun: 6 dead; 15 injured; 1 reported missing.
(Literally taken from our source: The Phuket Gazette)


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Race against time

Posted by hasekamp on 29 December 2004 at 12:16 PM
The Ministry of Public Health was today assigned responsibility for dealing with the hundreds of corpses which are still piling up along the Andaman coastline following Sunday’s tsunami tragedy. With many of the bodies now beginning to decompose, Public Health Minister Sudarat Keyuraphan said that her ministry had been asked by the government to take urgent action to prevent further delays. Ministry officials will now compile a list of the dead, take as much information on each person as possible, and find locations to bury unidentified victims whose bodies have not been claimed by relatives. Mrs. Sudarat confirmed that the bodies would not be cremated, and that the bodies of unidentified victims could be exhumed after burial for further investigation. With the threat of disease now one of the biggest problems affecting the tsunami-hit areas, the public health minister said that she had ordered the Department of Disease Control and the Department of Health to set up standpipes and latrines for the survivors by tomorrow, and to ensure that basic medication reached the survivors. The ministry is also mobilizing mobile medical units, which will operate in the six affected provinces until the situation has eased. These will be joined by medical volunteers from abroad, including Japan. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Websites for missing people

Posted by hasekamp on 29 December 2004 at 12:13 PM
Today we cannot find a (reliable) update of the number of daed and missing in Thailand. A lot of work is being done in the hit areas, however. Many bodies have to be removed and cremated or burried.
Also a large volume of requests for assistance with regard to missing persons is being received. In order to "widen the.net" and increase the likelihood of readers getting into contact with someone who might know the whereabouts of a missing person, the Phuket Gazette Online, a sister publication of The Nation, has set up a special English-language facility. Readers concerned about the fate of someone known to have been in southern Thailand on the day of the catastrophe are welcome to post a message, and, if possible, a photograph of the person who may have been endangered. They can do this at http://www.phuketgazette.net/classifieds/placead.asp?categoryid=54
All missing-persons messages will be published widely and without charge. They will be indexed to the Gazette Online home page and be copied by email to as many local area hospitals (Phuket, Phang-nga and Krabi) as possible
Meanwhile, the Thai government has put up two websites with the list of injured and dead, where you can also search for missing relatives and friends. They are http://www.narenthorn.or.th , http://www.disaster.go.th and http://www.phuketcity.com . (Source: The Nation)


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Natural Resources Ministry: Don't rebuild illegally

Posted by hasekamp on 29 December 2004 at 12:02 PM
The Natural Resources and Environment Ministry is now determined to restore order to tourist areas in the South, pledging that any resorts located on forest and protected land will not be rebuilt. Many resorts obliterated by the powerful tidal waves had encroached upon protected areas in national parks, top environmental officials said. "Our work could be made easier. Why not turn the crisis into an opportunity," said Natural Resources and Environmental Minister Suwit Khunkitti after a two-day visit of the devastation left by the tsunamis that hit the southern resort islands. Mr Suwit said the next move by his ministry after the rescue and clean-up operation of the beaches would be to ensure land use was brought in line to end long-running conflicts between national park officials and "certain investors" who have encroached on protected forest areas to expand their resorts. Many "businessmen" have operated resorts without land ownership deeds and since the construction of them was complete, it was very difficult to make them leave. To give two examples: Hat Chao Mai Marine National Park in Trang (Phuket), and Phi Phi Island Marine National Park in Krabi have been encroached illegally. Many cases were taken to court, but this was a lengthy, time-consuming process. However, the tsunami trail of destruction had left many bungalows and resorts on Phi Phi destroyed, leaving only scattered debris across the area, according to the latest helicopter inspection by the department chief. In Khao Lak Marine National Park in Phang-Nga province, numerous resorts have been wiped off the map by the series of deadly waves. There has been concern over the years that many establishment have been located in protected forests. Senior officials now have agreed to come up with an action plan to ensure that any future resorts that were built complied with land use regulations.
Phi Phi Island (Krabi province) is one of the hardest hit areas in Thailand, and one where "uncontrolled" building has been excessive. we hope thet the government will be able to withstand the Phuket and Phi Phi "mafia" in the process to rebuild the areas. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Confirmed dead in Thailand: 918. Still 1000 missing

Posted by hasekamp on 28 December 2004 at 11:31 AM
The death toll from Sunday’s tsunami is estimated to rise to 2,000 for Thailand today. So far 918 people have been confirmed killed, and more than 1,000 others are still missing. In Phuket 123 dead have been confirmed, in Phang Nga 537, in Krabi 130, in Ranong 117, in Satun 6 and in Trang 5.
The expected death toll can reach 2,000, because of the many missing people, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra told reporters in Bangkok. He was speaking after returning from the western coast where corpses were lined up along roads and laid out on debris-strewn beaches. The body count grew fast as rescue workers found dead Westerners, Asians and Thais – many with broken necks, arms and legs. Felled trees, smashed vehicles and toppled buildings littered the ground in many areas. As Thailand coped with its biggest natural disaster ever, families across the world anxiously sought news of loved ones. His Majesty the King had instructed the Ratchaprachanukroh Foundation to distribute food and clothes to the victims.
Calls from worried relatives overheated hotlines set up by foreign ministries and tour operators, while embassy officials scrambled to affected areas and were overwhelmed with inquiries. Hundreds of foreign and local holidaymakerswere on the rescue ships. They were picked up from islands after being stranded overnight. There still are no official figures for dead tourists, but foreign governments have confirmed that at least 49 of their nationals were killed on Sunday: Australia (2 dead), Austria (4 dead, 20 missing), Belgium (2 dead, 30 missing), Britain (8 dead), Canada (2 dead), Chile (1 dead), Denmark (3 dead, 5 missing), Finland (1 dead), France (3 dead), Italy (9 dead), Japan (19 missing), the Netherlands (19 missing; later corrected to 13), Norway (8 dead), Russia (4 missing), South Africa (2 dead), Sweden (7 dead), Taiwan (7 dead, 35 fishing vessels missing).
The tsunami spared no one. Western tourists were killed as they sunbathed on the beach, poor villagers were drowned in their seaside homes and fishermen died in their boats. (Sources: The Nation, the Bangkok Post)


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Latest figures by The Nation

Posted by hasekamp on 27 December 2004 at 11:32 AM
The Nation reports: Rescue teams searched beaches and remote islands in search of the missing Monday as Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said that up to 700 people died when earthquake-induced tidal waves hit resort areas of southern Thailand. This is a higher number than earlier released by the Public Relations Department; see an earlier message on this page. The commander of Phuket's police force, said that 35 of the victims who died on the island have been identified as foreigners. However, the number of Western and Asian tourists who died is expected to rise further. News media reported nationals of South Korea, Japan, Germany, South Africa, Hong Kong, Britain, the Netherlends, Ireland, Denmark, Australia, Malaysia, Mexico, Russia, Sweden, Chile and the US are among the dead and missing. We, being Dutch, can report that 15 Dutch nationals are missing or confirmed dead in Phuket. (Source: The Nation)


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King's only grandson killed in disaster

Posted by hasekamp on 27 December 2004 at 11:28 AM
Yesterday evening we had to report that the grandson of His Majesty the King was missing. Now we have to report the sad news that the only grandson of His Majesty was killed in the diusaster that hit Phuket yesterday. He was on vacation on Phuket with his mother, Princess Ubol Ratana, the eldest daughter of Their majesties. The Princess married an American citizen (Mr. Jensen) and lived in the US with him. After her divorce the Princess moved back to Thailand with her children.
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra announced the news of the death of Khum Bhumi today. He said that the body of Bhumi Jensen, 21, was found at the resort of Khao Lak in Phang Nga province about one hundred metres away from where he was last seen before the waves hit on Sunday. His body would be brought to Bangkok by HRH Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn and Princess Ubol Ratana.
This really is a heavy blow for Their Majesties the King and Queen and we offer them our sincere condolences.
Khun Bhumi had just ended his University education. Although he was no obvious candidate to ever ascend the Thai throne, he was the only grandson of This Majesties the King and Queen. (Main Source: The Nation)


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Dissaster Aftermath: Update 27 December 03:00 GMT

Posted by hasekamp on 27 December 2004 at 11:14 AM
The Thai Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation, of the Ministry of Interior, issued an updated report at 10:00 am today (=03:00 GMT) by announcing that currently at least 438 people have been killed, while 3,144 have been injured following the tidal wave which struck the South of Thailand. The department has confirmed that there were 130 deaths from Phuket, 4 from Phang Nga, 45 from in Krabi, 71 from Satun, and 112 from Ranong. The tidal wave has affected six provinces, damaging 308 houses, and 620 fishing boats as well as livestock.
The Royal Thai Police has set up a 24-hrs rescue centre in Phuket and Krabi to provide further rescue assistance. This centre can be contacted by calling number 1155. Meanwhile, Thai Navy has coordinated relief efforts by sending out warships and aircraft on a search and rescue operation for 24 hrs, focusing on the areas around the islands. (Copied literally from the Public Relations Department)


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King's grandson missing in Phuket

Posted by hasekamp on 26 December 2004 at 20:52 PM
The shocked Kingdom awaits with great anxiety for the latest news on Princess Ubolratana’s (the oldest daughter of His Majesty) son, Bhumi Jensen, 21, who went missing after giant waves hit the resort island where he strayed. A statement issued at the order of provincial governor Udomsak Asvarangkul said Khun Bhumi was last sighted in Khao Lak wearing a black jet-ski shirt. He had been holidaying with Princess Ubolratana in Phuket since Friday. The statement did not give the circumstances under which Khun Bhumi went missing but suggested he could have been riding on a jet-ski. "Anyone who spots a young man wearing a black jet-ski shirt please ask him whether he is Khun Bhumi, " the statement said. Anyone finding a person matching his description was instructed to contact any government office. Earlier, unconfirmed reports said that Khun Bhumi was among those present in wave-hit areas in Phuket. Khun Bhumi was born in 1983. He has been studying at Kasetsart Demonstration School. (Source: The Nation)


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Toll for Thailand now: 160 comfirmed dead

Posted by hasekamp on 26 December 2004 at 20:41 PM
The death toll from the earthquake and tsunami which shook South East Asia without warning on Sunday morning is continuing to mount. So far more than 160 people have been killed and thousands injured, a government disaster center said. The Public Health Ministry put the death toll at 57 in Phang Nga, 40 in Phuket, 35 in Krabi, 25 in Ranong, 7 in Satun, and 4 in Trang.
Navy inspection flights following the natural calamities found nearly 4,000 people still stranded on the Phi Phi island, the chief of staff of the Royal Thai Navy said. Helicopters and ships had been sent to pick up the stranded tourists and local residents from Phi Phi and several other islands in the vicinity, he said. Communications in the area are difficult due to the changeable seas. More tsunamis (walls of water) are also expected as a result of anticipated aftershocks, he added. The Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) has sent two C130 aircraft with some 40 doctors, nurses and other personnel have flown to Phuket and set up an emergency unit at the airport.
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has ordered relief officials to provide immediate assistance to earthquake victims in Thailand’s three southern resort provinces. Phuket was hardest hit by the earthquake, but Takua Pa district in Phang-nga province and Phi Phi island off Krabi province were also badly shaken. The Prime Minister said he had ordered the military, police and other government officials to send assistance to the affected areas and help stranded victims. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Evening report (local time) from Phuket

Posted by hasekamp on 26 December 2004 at 14:10 PM
The Chief of the Phuket Office of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation (ODPM), early this evening (in Thailand the time is 7 hours ahead of GMT) said that 66 people were confirmed dead by the tidal wave which ravaged Phuket’s coastline this morning. Of the dead, 20 were foreigners. Another 691 people were reported injured and 22 more missing. Phuket International Airport resumed normal inbound and outbound flight services at about 5 pm (local time), after debris left strewn across the runway by the tsunami was cleared off. Traffic onto and off the island has been redirected over Tao Thepkrasattri Bridge, as the older Sarasin Bridge will remain closed until the government is confident that Phuket is no longer in danger of being hit by a second wave. In the meantime, many coastal residents have moved inland, fearful that another wave might hit Phuket.
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was expected to arrive in Phuket at about 7:30 pm, to inspect the damage and to speak to people suffering from the wave’s devastating effects.
If calling from outside Thailand, the telephone number for Phuket Provincial Police Headquarters is: +66 76 212046. Phuket Tourist Police may be reached at: +66 76 355015, if dialing from outside the Kingdom. (Source: The Phuket Gazette)


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BBC News about Thailand disaser

Posted by hasekamp on 26 December 2004 at 14:02 PM
BBC News reports as follows: At least 100 people died and 1,000 were injured after the massive sea surges caused by an earthquake smashed into Thailand's western coast. The worst hit areas were on beaches near Phuket, with reports of divers and sunbathers being swept out to sea. Hotels were under water after 5m-10m waves hit the coast and there were reports of tourist bungalows being carried away by the water. Tourists spoke of their disbelief at the scale and speed of the disaster.
"The beach is a disaster now with all of the local restaurants and beach chairs businesses totally destroyed," one reader in Phuket told the BBC News website. One hotel worker in Phuket said the tide of water flooded the hotel lobby and pulled furniture onto the street.
Thai officials said at last 120 people were dead, but the toll was expected to rise because scores of people were still missing. There were particular fears for divers, since the tidal wave hit when hundreds of tourists and instructors were in the water for a Boxing Day dive. On the island of Koh Phi Phi officials spoke of widespread damage and islanders and tourists being airlifted to safety. One report from the island said 200 bungalows had been swept out the sea.


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Associated Press reports on Phuket situation

Posted by hasekamp on 26 December 2004 at 13:56 PM
Under the hectic circumstances we prefer to cite the best news services we can find, about the disaster in Phuket. This is an extract of what AP reports:
Nearly 160 people were killed and more than 1,900 injured, with scores missing in southern Thai resorts after a major earthquake hit Southeast Asia on Sunday, causing tidal waves and flooding, a government disaster centre said. About 10,000 tourists were trapped on higher ground, while others were stuck at sea in boats. It wasn't clear how the 158 died. The daed victims were in Trang, Songkhla, Phuket, Krabi, Ranong, Phang Nga, Satun and Surat Thani provinces, which draw thousands of visitors each year because of their world-famous beaches. Five- to 10-metre high waves crashed onto beaches and roadways in Thailand following an 8.9-magnitude earthquake in Indonesia.
In the midst of the Andaman Sea on Phi Phi island 200 bungalows at two resorts were swept out to sea, along with some of its staff and customers. "I am afraid that there will be a high figure of foreigners missing in the sea and also my staff," said the owner of the PP Princess Resort and PP Charlie Beach Resort.


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Reports by the Phuket Gazette

Posted by hasekamp on 26 December 2004 at 13:39 PM
To give further information of the disaster that hit Phuket we cite parts of some reports by the Phuket Gazette (http://www.phuketgazette.com):
Emergency response units have been scrambled after waters off Phuket surged onto land this morning, washing away homes on the east coast and causing damage at resorts all along the west coast. The sea rose after tremors from an earthquake just before 7 am off Sumatra, Indonesia, that measured 8.1 on the Richter scale. The Chief of the Phuket Office of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation (ODPM), has told the Phuket Gazette that homes along the west coast are being evacuated as a precaution. The move follows waters at Khao Khat, on the east coast, reaching up to about 300 meters inland, washing coastal homes and vehicles away. People were holding on to whatever they could to stop from being swept away.
In Patong a Gazette columnist, Woody Leonard, reported: "A giant wave went up the beach, at least as far up as Beach Road. People were running from the beach as fast as they could. The beach is devastated Many people on the beach were swept away by the wave." The waters reached as far inland as the Club Andaman Resort.
A later report says: The tidal wave that hit Phuket this morning has claimed the lives of 35 people and injured some 355, Wisut Romin, the Deputy Secretary of Phuket Provincial Administration Office, has announced. An earlier report had recorded that 11 people died at Kata Beach, and nine more died at Nai Yang, where some 91 people were injured and unknown number of people have since disappeared. K. Wisut added that three people died at Patong, two died at Nai Harn, another two died at Rassada Port, in Phuket City, and two more died at Kamala, where about 150 people were injured.
And in a still later report the Gazette writes: An unconfirmed 22 people have died and more than 1,000 people have sought refuge at the Phuket Provincial Office in Phuket City after Phuket’s coast was swamped by a tidal surge caused by an earthquake off Sumatra this morning. Waters off Phuket surged onto land, washing away homes on the east coast and causing damage at resorts all along the west coast. The Gazette received a separate report that several people at Kalim, in Thalang, were killed in the surge, though that report has yet to be confirmed.
Kawee Sukunthamath, Chief of the Phuket Office of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation (ODPM), has told the Gazette that homes along the east and west coasts are being evacuated as a precaution in anticipation of an aftershock expected to arrive at about 3 pm. A warning has been issued on local radio stations asking people to stay away from the beaches until further notice. All flights inbound and outbound from Phuket International Airport have been canceled until further notice. At Khao Khat, on the east coast, waters reached up to about 300 meters inland, washing coastal homes and vehicles away. People were holding on to whatever they could to stop from being swept away. K. Kawee said that the tremors were also felt in Phang Nga, Ranong, Krabi, Trang and Pattani.


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BREAKING NEWS: Phuket hit by tide waves. Around 100 dead

Posted by hasekamp on 26 December 2004 at 13:21 PM
The western side of the island of Phuket has been hit by high waves due to the earthquake that has hit SE Asia, with its center near Borneo. The earthquake seems to have hit India and Sri Lanka hardest, with hundreds of dead there. The total number of dead there might rise to 1000.
In Thailand Phuket seems to have been hit hardest. We have not yet heard or read reports from other provinces in Thailand that were hit.
The first reports from Phuket say that about 100 people died there, among them tourists. Many other tourists have lost all their possessions. Many people (those on excursions) are still missing.
The western coast of Phuket only has been hit, with Patong (the center of tourism on Phuket) and Kata mostly. Many people have been evacuated to the eastern part of Phuket island, where no damage of importance seems te be. Tourists have been brough to Rang Hill in Phuket City, we hear from a relative in Phuket.
Phuket International Airport has been closed until further notice. The damage in Patong is enormous, we hear.
More news to follow later. This is the first information we can bring. It has been gathered from various sources.


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Money or mangrove?

Posted by hasekamp on 24 December 2004 at 13:25 PM
Residents want Laem Chabang Port to hand over to the municipality's safekeeping this region's last abundant mangrove forest, after complaints about forest encroachment there. "Businessmen" have filled the province's last fertile mangrove forest owned by the port. Tambon Laem Chabang municipality yesterday called a meeting to dicuss solutions. The mayor said the municipality wanted to turn the mangrove forest into a natural resource studies hub and a tourist attraction in the form of a floating market. The project was expected to cost at least five million baht, which the private sector had offered to pay. It was aimed at preventing forest encroachment, increasing incomes for local people and improving villagers' living conditions. The port would take legal action against encroachers.
We are not conifident that yet another floating market, with all the tourist attractions, gibbon abuse and what more, can safeguard the mangrove forest in any way. The argument that the floating market is "to prevent encroachment" sounds very unreal and unrealistic to us. And again: who wants another floating market, except those "honest businessmen" who want to make money out of it? Most of Thailand's mangroves have been destroyed in favor of prawn farms (so don't eat prawns when in Thailand!). Should the rest be destroyed for yet another useless "tourist attraction"? Why are people so gready! (Source for the first part: The Bangkok Post)


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Phuket aquarium to re-open after all!

Posted by hasekamp on 24 December 2004 at 12:52 PM
A few days ago we reported that it is unclear when - if ever - the Puket aquarium in Ao Makham reopens. Following Governor Udomsak Usawarangkura's announcement that a private aquarium may be built at Surin Beach, the Phuket Marine Biology Center (PMBC) today told the Phuket Gazette that the PMBC aquarium will be open in time for the Songkran holiday period in April 2005. The PMBC aquarium closed more than two years ago for renovations. The work should have taken around a year, but problems with the water system caused a long delay. However, the delay is said to be over and that staff is now in the process of checking the work and the water supply, and re-stocking the tanks. Plans include remodeling the old interior and creating a glass tunnel so visitors could walk "under water" and see the fish and animals in the tanks from a different perspective. It is hoped that the aquarium will attract around 500,000 visitors annually and generate at least 10 million baht a year. (Source: The Phuket Gazette)


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Full report will not be published

Posted by hasekamp on 23 December 2004 at 15:08 PM
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra yesterday promised to make public the executive summary of the Pichet report on the Tak Bai incident, in which more than 80 protestors were killed, and to discipline the officials identified as responsible for the errors made in crowd dispersal. However: "Releasing the full report is inappropriate because it contains sensitive material," Thaksin said. "I take special note of a key observation that the anti-riot operation had gone wrong partly because senior officials had left the scene and delegated low-ranking officials to supervise the transport of detained protesters", the PM said. Thaksin said he would meet chairman Pichet Soonthornpipit and his nine panel members this week, to discuss major findings and recommendations. "The report is very fair and I will abide by recommendations from the Pichet panel," he said, adding that the report provided a detailed account of the events that transpired on that day in October. "I believe the findings are accurate and impartial", Mr. Thaksin also said. (Source: The Nation)


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Movie by Thaksin

Posted by hasekamp on 23 December 2004 at 15:03 PM
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, also a telecommunications mogul, once was also a film producer. He produced a film "Sai Sok" which is now due to go into the National Archives. The 35mm film cost about 800,000 baht to make in 1981 and is owned by Culture Minister, who worked in the film industry before taking up politics. Directed was Noi Sawet. The film will be shown by the National Film Theatre as part of a Thai movie festival tomorrow. There - sadly - are no plans to show this masterpiece on the Internet. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Teachers killed. Schools shut down

Posted by hasekamp on 23 December 2004 at 14:59 PM
Teachers in Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat say they will close indefinitely all schools in the three troubled provinces after two teachers were killed. Teachers federations and heads of schools in Pattani reached the decision at a meeting yesterday.
On Tuesday, Manoon Koch-on, 52, a physical education teacher of Ban Pakaharang school in Pattani's Muang district was shot and killed by a motorcycle rider who followed him from school.
Hours later, Suthee Meesrisawat, 46, of Ban Korortanyong school in Nong Chik district was shot dead on the Pattani-Yala road in Yarang district.
The vice-chairman of the teachers federation in Pattani said all schools in the three troubled provinces would be closed from today. He would send the decision to the Pattani provincial governor and directors of the two education zones. Teachers federations in the three provinces would meet to discuss safety measures. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Energy saver for air conditioners

Posted by hasekamp on 22 December 2004 at 12:21 PM
Deputy Prime Minister Somsak Thepsutin is backing a new invention by Thai researchers, which could potentially save Thailand about 1.4 billion baht in electricity consumption per year. This new invention is an appliance that can be utilized in air conditioners. The Deputy Prime Minister was present at Government House to see a demonstration of the new invention. The energy-saving equipment comes from researchers from King Mongkut’s University of Technology in Thonburi and King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology in Ladkrabang. The equipment is suitable for most old air conditioners. Mr. Somsak stated that Thailand would be able to save around 30 percent of its energy if about 4 million air conditioners throughout the country will be installed with the new appliance. The Deputy Prime Minister has delegated the Department of Alternative Energy Development and Efficiency to further support this new invention and to coordinate with the relevant private sector. The research took approximately 4 years to complete. The new invention will be used in various public and private services. (Source: Public Relations Department)


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His Majesty the King helps

Posted by hasekamp on 22 December 2004 at 12:14 PM
His Majesty the King has instructed concerned agencies to support a 12-year-old girl who runs six kilometres every day to feed her paralysed mother at their home in Phichit’s Muang district, deputy governor Chairot Meedaeng said yesterday. The girl (Malairat Mansamrit) wrote a letter to the King dated September 30 in which she told of the harsh life she has been living, with her father having died when she was only a year old and her mother later becoming paralysed. She runs the six kilometres between Wat Thongthaiyaram School and her home every day at lunchtime in the heat to feed her mother, as her mother cannot help herself. Her neighbours said that the girl is diligent and always very grateful whenever she is able to work to earn money to buy medicine and food for her mother. Thanks to a nearby temple and the help of her neighbours, Malairat and her mother have been able to survive.
The girl saw the King on the television news and found that his look of kindness inspired her to seek his help. "I gave the letter to someone I don’t know but they were going to Bangkok. I could not believe that the King received my letter," she said.
The girl and her mother now will get continuing support. Hua Dong municipality will give her an allowance of 600 Baht every month. Malairat also received a 3,000 Baht scholarship for her essay writing. Next year she will receive a scholarship of 5,000 baht per semester. Her mother will also receive a disability pension. The King also instructed the National Health Insurance Office’s secretary-general to take care of her mother’s health. And, finally, the kamnan of Tambon Hua Dong, Wirat Pattaraprasit, will donate a bicycle for the girl to use to go to school. The municipal government will also provide her with a place to live that has water and electricity. (Source: The Nation)


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Hunt for pirated CDs

Posted by hasekamp on 22 December 2004 at 12:05 PM
The Thai Cabinet has approved in principle a budget of 13 million baht for police in six areas of Bangkok and Chiang Mai, Phuket, Surat Thani, Pattaya and Songkhla to crack down on pirated CDs. A government spokeswoman said the crackdown would focus on bootleg CD production sources, warehouses and stores and last until September next year. Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra had asked police to start the crackdown immediately. Problem areas where the discs were often sold were Klong Thom shopping district, Pantip Plaza shopping centre, Khao San road, Patpong and Silom roads, and Sukhumvit road between sois 3-19, the Night Bazaar in Chiang Mai, Patong beach in Phuket, Chaweng beach in Surat Thani, Pattaya beach, and Santisuk and Kimyong markets in Songkhla. So, if you are intersted in buying pirated CDs, you are probably too late already to find a bargain. If you are selling them, I would reconsider my position, if I were you! (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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New Aquarium in Phuket?

Posted by hasekamp on 21 December 2004 at 14:14 PM
Representatives of the Phuket Sea Shell Co met Governor Udomsak Usawarangkura yesterday to seek his support for the plan to build an aquarium near Surin Beach. The island’s sole aquarium, at Ao Makham and run by Phuket Marine Biological Center (PMBC), closed more than two years ago for renovations, which were supposed to take only one year to complete, but the project has since stalled and it is unclear when the aquarium reopens, if at all.
Looking to resurrect the PMBC aquarium, Phuket Governor Udomsak earlier this year called for private investors to join. However, Phuket Sea Shell declined the offer, saying that the area set aside at the PMBC was not enough and that the company did not want to spoil the beautiful beach there. After also declining the Governor’s suggestion to site the aquarium in Mai Khao, as it is too far from the tourist areas, Phuket Sea Shell suggested building an aquarium on government land near Phuket FantaSea. The proposal must first be approved by the Interior Ministry in Bangkok. If it is approved, said K. Phiboon, construction could start early in the new year. (Source: The Phuket Gazette)


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Buffalo horn products are popular

Posted by hasekamp on 21 December 2004 at 12:40 PM
Products made from the horns of water buffaloes have become very popular among many foreign tourists, according to local business people. Europeans, particularly, find them more environmental-friendly than home decorative items made of ivory.
This conclusion is not correct, because the import of all ivory products is forbidden in Europe and - if found in your luggage - they will be confiscated, and you will get a heavy fine.
Back to the buffalo horns now. Carved horns are among the best-selling items, according to Jampa Kraithong, who runs a craft business in Bangkok’s Minburi district making products from buffalo horns. Large carved horns of between 18 and 20 inches that resemble ivory, selling for 1,000 baht a pair, are particularly popular among the Europeans. Lucky charms, smaller horns carved in animal shapes - owls, cats or eagles – are, particularly, popular with Japanese and Koreans.
Home decorative items, key chains and wristbands are among the products made of buffalo horns on display at the ongoing OTOP (One Tambon One Product) City fair, being held right now at the IMPACT Trade and Exhibition Centre. With the rising demand for these products, the prices of water buffalo horn have increased.
We are concerned about this development. The water buffalo is the Thai farmer's "best friend". He can do lots of work and does not ask much in return. Since - say - a decade, however, tractor salesmen are convincing farmers to "put" their faithful friend "away". Many buffaloes have ended up in slaughterhouses during the last decade and the farmers who owned them now look up at high maintenance bills for their tractor.
If the price for a water buffalo rises now due to demand out of the tourist industry, this is not in the interest of the Thai farmers, and the buffalo might even get extinct.
If this is not what you, and as a tourist you should not want this, do not buy these products. The rule is "stop the demand and the supply will stop". So, please don't but items made out of buffalo horn. We are very disappointed about the fact that OTOP, which in itself is a good system, promotes the killing of water buffaloes. (Source for the facts: Thai News Agency)


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Thailand wants to plant more trees

Posted by hasekamp on 20 December 2004 at 11:55 AM
Speaking at the UN conference on climate change in Argentina, top officials from Thailand have stressed on the need to plant more trees. The Thai delegates said they had tried to push for inclusion of issues relevant to Thailand in the Clean Mechanism Development (CDM), one of the important tools of the protocol. Two major initiatives that Thailand has focused on during the negotiations at the UN conference were forestation and the use of renewable energy. Thailand's Land Development Department director-general, who led the negotiations on forestry, said that Thailand had proposed the inclusion of tree-planting by farmers in their rice fields among the CDM projects. He added that Thai proposals also include small-scale tree-planting in this scheme to benefit Thai farmers. Thailand’s proposal has gained wide support among the Asian delegates. The UN conference, which ended on Saturday, took place in Argentina to finish off the final round of negotiations under the Kyoto Protocol.
It is of course a good plan to plant new trees, but that won't solve the problem of deforestation. We remind our readers of the fact that growing a new teak wood tree, that can be used to make furniture, takes 200 (two hundred) years. So please do not believe the sellers that tell you that their teak wood comes from reforestation. They did not plant those trees 200 yaers ago. You can be certain of that! (Source: Public Relations Department)



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New cigarette warnings proposed

Posted by hasekamp on 18 December 2004 at 19:21 PM
Cigarette packets across the world generally contain the same set of warnings, cautioning smokers that cigarettes can pose serious health risks. But cigarette packets sold in Thailand could soon be printed with a uniquely Buddhist message: Don’t Donate To Monks. Dr. Chakratham Thammasak, director of the National Buddhism Office, said today that he would propose to the government that temples were added to the government’s list of smoke-free zones, which already includes hair salons, restaurants and department stores. He also urged the public not to donate cigarettes to monks before the ban came into force, and said that he would propose that the Ministry of Public Health printed the message: ‘Donating Cigarettes to Monks is a Sin’ on cigarette packets, while encouraging monks addicted to smoking to enter free rehabilitation programmes. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Thaksin: No unrest in Bangkok expected

Posted by hasekamp on 18 December 2004 at 19:18 PM
Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has dismissed reports that militants in the south plan to create unrest in Bangkok. Mr. Thaksin told journalists that reports of plans to sabotage the capital were unfounded and city's residents should not panic. More suspects behind the violent unrest in the South are expected to be arrested soon as officials have sufficient evidence, he said. "Most southerners are good people and want to live in peace while a handful of evil people continue to frighten the good ones," Mr. Thaksin said. The government will take tough action against the bad people, the PM promised. Mr. Thaksin also told the reporters that he had not yet seen the independent report on the Tak Bai incident in which 78 Muslim protestors died in police custody. The PM said he would prefer to meet the panel members before commenting on the conclusions. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Tai Bak investigation ready. Publication next week

Posted by hasekamp on 17 December 2004 at 11:15 AM
An independent fact-finding inquiry into the deaths of 85 Muslim youths during the Tak Bai incident has concluded its investigation, according to the head of the probe. The report has been written and is due to be sent to the Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra today, the head of the government’s independent investigation, Pichet Sunthornpipit has said. The committee’s findings are not expected to be made public until next week. The committee’s conclusions were based on strong evidence, Mr. Pichet said. As we reported, at least 85 people died in custody during the Tak Bai incident almost three months ago now. Most of them suffocated as they were being transported from the southern border town to a military camp in the neighbouring province of Pattani. The independent committee was appointed by the premier to seek the truth about the incident and to explain it to the public. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Better economy in 2005 (if Thaksin remains!?)

Posted by hasekamp on 17 December 2004 at 11:11 AM
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has expressed confidence towards a better economy after his return as the next Prime Minister of Thailand. In his speech on the topic "Building on for the future: Next steps towards continued economic prosperity" given during a luncheon of the American Chamber of Commerce, Prime Minister Thaksin said he was confident that he would come back as the next prime minister after the February 6th general election. He also believed that his second-term administration would even push the economy to a higher level, and he would continue to support the Thai-US trade. He remarked that the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and the southern unrest had limited this year's GDP growth at 6 percent, but solutions were being accelerated. The government is launching many policies to lift the standards of living of the grass-roots people. (Source: Public Relations Department)


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At least 100 rebels sought in South

Posted by hasekamp on 17 December 2004 at 11:07 AM
The government is still hunting nearly 100 suspected ringleaders behind the southern violence, says Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who warned the region's troubles may not end soon. However, he said, the arrest of four key ringleaders this week had given the government the final piece of the puzzle. "Our control of the situation is better. But we still have to be patient and swallow a lot of blood. Innocent people are still being killed every day," Mr Thaksin said.
Waeyusoh Waedeuramae, Ahama Bula, Abdulrohseh Haji Doloh and Muhamad Kanafi Doloh, teachers at two private Islamic schools in Yala, Thamma Witthaya School and Satri Islamic Witthaya Foundation School, were arrested this week for alleged involvement in a series of attacks which began with the Jan 4 raid on an army camp in Narathiwat where four soldiers were killed and more than 400 guns stolen. The four, and Sapaeing Basor, 67, headmaster of Thamma Witthaya School who is still at large, have been charged with treason, terrorism, arson, theft and forcing others to act against the state against their will. They could face death if convicted. Seven others are also being sought under warrants issued by the Yala provincial court.
Mr Thaksin said the arrest of the four gave the government the final piece of a jigsaw puzzle. "We can now see the whole picture. We can now see which people are playing which roles and how they are connected to one another," he said. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Phuket further degraded

Posted by hasekamp on 15 December 2004 at 17:50 PM
As the high season gets into full swing, trees around Nai Harn Lake have been felled in a project to "improve the view" around the tidal lake. The narrow grassy area around the lake has already been dug up and tons of rock are being dumped to strengthen the banks. Local residents have been disturbed to see brown earth from the excavations leaching into the lake, discoloring it, and have complained about the sound of excavators, and the combination of their exhaust fumes and dust from the work disturbing what was until recently a peaceful location. However, when the work is over the area will be much improved, according to the Rawai Tambon Administration Organization.
A spokesman "explained" that the old trees had to be cut down to be able to plant new ones. The new trees will have yellow flowers, and will look better than the [non-flowering] trees they will replace.
Construction of three toilet-and-shower blocks just off Nai Harn Beach has also begun as part of a 40-million-baht improvement plan for the Rawai area. The next stage of development will see a new 300-meter-long pier. Koh Lone, too, will get a new pier, and sea walls will be built close to Rawai Beach to protect it from erosion. These projects are part of a massive 350-million-baht plan for "Phuket International City". The name speaks for itself! "Away with nature, let's build a City all over the island!"
Earlier we have already predicted the end of the island of Phuket, and we are serious about it. We come every year in Phuket and make a tour around the island then. And this year, like former years, rubber plantations had gone, forest was gone, but hotels, houses and other buildings had come.
We believe that nobody - at least not the local government in Phuket - will even try to stop this. So we seriously think that within 10-20 years Phuket has sunken into the sea. Maybe not literally, but the attractiveness to tourist will be gone by then. No tourist is interested in a solid concrete island. (Source: The Phuket Gazette)


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THAI must remain World Class!

Posted by hasekamp on 14 December 2004 at 17:45 PM
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has issued a threat to the chief executive officers of Thai Airways, warning that urgent adjustments must be made in order for the airline to maintain its reputation as a world-class carrier. The prime minister said that he had ordered THAI to regain its reputation as one of the world's leading airlines. However, he admitted that operations within the airline were often hindered by state enterprise bureaucracy. A THAI spokesman has stressed that the airline will complete modifications to its seating and entertainment systems by the end of next year. In addition, the airline is continuing to make good profits, despite the oil price crisis. (Source: Public Relations Department)


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Six types of birds have bird flu

Posted by hasekamp on 14 December 2004 at 17:41 PM
Six species of birds have contracted avian influenza, the Livestock Department said yesterday. The six are pigeons, Asian hornbills, a dove known as "nok khao fai", and three local species: "nok kratib khee moo", "ka nam lek" (small cormorant) and "sang seao" (drongo).
The infected birds were found in Chachoengsao, Saraburi, Na-khon Sawan and Lop Buri, the department said. As of yesterday, the watch list for bird-flu infections included 71 areas in 19 provinces.
The majority of chickens culled belonged to small-scale farmers, many of whom owned less than 100 fowls. The chairman of a strategic planning panel charged with combating bird flu, said Hong Kong authorities have agreed to carry out a joint research study with local counterparts to develop a vaccine for avian flu. The panel was close to completing a draft of six strategic plans to tackle the disease.
The first plan will focus on minimising bird-flu infection in the poultry industry. The second will seek to contain the disease. The third calls for an improved monitoring system to prevent the disease’s spread to humans as well as other birds. The fourth plan promotes the development of a vaccine. The final two plans seek to create an awareness campaign to be used for preventive measures and to combine ways of combating the bird-flu epidemic over the longer term. (Source: The Nation)


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Thai Rak Thai said to be violent

Posted by hasekamp on 13 December 2004 at 15:23 PM
Human rights advocates yesterday said that the Thaksin Shinawatra-led government has a tendency towards violence and for committing serious human rights violations. They warned that the next four years could see a worsening human rights situation if the Thai Rak Thai party also forms the next government. The advocates gathered at the Oct 14 Memorial to discuss government violations as they marked International Human Rights Day, which fell on Dec 10. Their warning was aimed at voters going to the polls in the general election scheduled for Feb 6. They hoped voters would base their decision whether to vote for Thai Rak Thai on the current human rights situation. Participants in the discussion came from various human rights organisations including the Working Committee to Protect Human Rights Defenders and Amnesty International Thailand. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Children want sex transition

Posted by hasekamp on 12 December 2004 at 23:15 PM
Thai boys as young as 10 intent on having sex changes are buying and using over the counter female hormones in an early bid to smoothe their transition to womanhood, a leading surgeon said. Dr. Preecha Tiewtranon, considered Thailand's godfather of sex reassignment surgery (he helped pioneer 25 years ago), said youngsters routinely acquired estrogen and other hormones available without prescription in the kingdom, which has emerged as a world leader in the swelling cosmetic surgery industry. "They have been taking hormones from a young age ... sometimes 10 years old," Preecha told reporters at Bangkok's BNH Hospital, where he was conducting a sex change operation Friday at a workshop of dozens of international doctors in the field.
He said Thais needed a single consultation with a psychiatrist to determine if they were mentally prepared to undergo gender re-assignment. Sex transition operations are the most "popular" ones in Thailand.
Westerners also come to Thailand for the operations mainly because rising insurance rates and the threat of malpractice suits have driven up medical costs, and the waiting list for such procedures can be years long. (Source: AFP)


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Thaksin campaigns

Posted by hasekamp on 12 December 2004 at 23:09 PM
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has vowed to end poverty in Thailand within four years. The leader of the ruling Thai Rack Thai (TRT) party also promised that if his government were reelected in elections scheduled for February 6, every farmer in the country would have the deeds to their own land. The prime minister made the remarks during a campaign stop in the northern province of Sukhothai. Several ministers, including Deputy Prime Minister Somsak Thepsuthin and Transport Minister Suriya Jungrungreangkit, accompanied Mr. Thaksin on the trip. The prime minister later traveled on to Phitsanulok province, and was due to continue on the campaign trail with a trip to Nakhon Sawan province. He told journalists that he was certain that his party would win more than 60 constituencies out of 78 in the North in the next election. The leader of TRT is scheduled to launch a similar campaign in the southern province of Satun on Monday. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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New public park

Posted by hasekamp on 11 December 2004 at 15:25 PM
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has invited families and the general public to visit a new public park in Bangkok, which has just been opened in honour of Her Majesty the Queen on the auspicious occasion of her 72nd birthday this year. Speaking on his weekly radio address, the prime minister said that the new public park, named the "Benjakiti Park", is located in the compound of the Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre in the heart of Bangkok. Her Majesty Queen Sirikit officially opened the new public park on 9 December. The new public park is part of land owned by Thailand Tobacco Monopoly, which is moving to the upcountry over the next three years. The new public park includes a large pond and a botanic garden. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Corruption worse?

Posted by hasekamp on 10 December 2004 at 3:49 AM
Corruption is now the "most serious in a century" under the Thaksin Shinawatra administration, with complex policy-related graft and equal benefit sharing among business groups owned by 10 families, a local anti-corruption network alleged yesterday. The allegations were made at a seminar organised by the network yesterday at Thammasat University to mark International Anti-Corruption Day. Network members claimed there were irregularities in the granting of a 270-billion-baht Laem Chabang port concession to a private firm, the Board of Investment's tax exemption for a satellite operator partially owned by the Shinawatra family's Shin Corp, and the Export-Import Bank's granting of a 600-million-baht soft loan to Burma's telephone and internet projects which later went to a supplier from Shin Corp.
"The government has declared war on corruption but it never takes any serious action. Independent organisations fail to do their monitoring duty and even betray the people by indulging in corruption themselves. Only NGOs are determined to fight corruption," a apokesman said. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Will Phuket be saved?

Posted by hasekamp on 8 December 2004 at 4:46 AM
Soon visitors to Phuket will be able to stroll down sheltered walkways connecting buildings in the town’s historic quarters. Together with residents on Thalang Road, the Old Phuket Foundation will tear down railings currently barring access to the 50-year-old Ngo Kha Khee arcades, flanked by almost 150 Sino-Portuguese buildings. The Ngo Kha Khee arcades on Thalang Road are a charming part of town. In their prime, the arcades were the centre of trade and life in Phuket town because people didn’t have to worry about rain or shine as they moseyed around. The arcades served as a shopping mall in olden days.
For three decades, owners of the historic buildings on Thalang Road have fenced off the arcades by erecting railings around their properties in order to gain extra space for storage and parking.
On December 5, His Majesty the King’s birthday, Phuket Governor Udomsak Usawarangkura officially opened the first segment of the restored arcades to the public, starting with four houses in which the owners had agreed to have their railings removed.
The next step in saving Phuket - in our opinion - would be to stop all building activities immediately. Every year we visit the island, and every year we see areas that were green in the past year, but have buildings on them the next year. We beleive that the island of Phuket is destroying its beauty in a very fast way and that the island - the richest province of Thailand - is now on its way to decay and poverty. But before that, of course, some people will be able to make fast money before the final curtain falls. (Source for the first part: The Nation)


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Thousands of wild birds killed

Posted by hasekamp on 8 December 2004 at 4:35 AM
Farmers have taken matters into their own hands and poisoned thousands of migrating birds for fear of a bird flu outbreak in their own backyards, said an academic yesterday. Speaking at a seminar on the bird flu epidemic, Professor Prathana Ngarmwongwan said farmers in Chon Buri's Phan Thong and Phanat Nikhom districts had poisoned migrating open-bill storks and cattle egrets in the thousand. Those migrating birds spent almost eight months a year in Thailand, feeding on golden apple snails and other small creatures found in rice fields across the country. Since the bird flu virus can survive in water, the farmers are afraid their livestock and they themselves could be infected.
Roongroj Jukmongkol, vice chairman of the Bird Conservation Society of Thailand, said if farmers lashed out at migrating birds in an insensible manner, they themselves would face serious pest problems. "The storks consume enormous numbers of golden apple snails, which could destroy a rice field in seconds. By killing off these birds, the farmers themselves won't have any natural means left to fight the snails and will have to resort to pesticide," he said.
We hope, but - sadly - we don't expect, that this senseless and stupid crime against Nature will be punished by laew. Otherwise we wish these farmers bad crop, or no crop at all, for many years. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Thaksin: New era!

Posted by hasekamp on 7 December 2004 at 4:17 AM
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra spoke yesterday of a new era of hope and reconciliation after nearly 100 million origami birds of peace were dropped over the country’s troubled Muslim-majority south. More than 50 aircraft were involved in dropping the folded paper birds across the three border provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat in an operation timed to coincide with the King’s birthday on Sunday. The prime minister said the government would continue to focus its efforts on securing peace for the region in a spirit of unity and reconciliation. "Today is a good beginning. I hope that from now onwards, we will see greater cooperation," he said.
Mr. Thaksin also said he had been emotionally affected by the public’s response to his "birds for peace" campaign, saying people across the country – regardless of the religious affiliation – had made the birds as a gesture of support for those in the south. The prime minister had folded and signed a number of birds, and promised a dinner at government house for those who found thenm. If we are correct, ealiers he promised a complete education! Maybe it will be both now. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Newest harvest: stones

Posted by hasekamp on 7 December 2004 at 4:12 AM
Normally, they would be harvesting their crops at this time of year. But this year the farmers of Ubon Ratchathani are experiencing the worst drought conditions in two decades, and have turned to collecting stones from local riverbeds to sell to landscape gardeners. Agents are now going round villages in tambon Nong Khon in the province’s Muang district to sell the stones, which are also used by the manufacturers of village water filtering systems and people keeping tropical fish. One of the people who has turned to collecting the stones says that each day he takes a basket to the riverbed, sifting out its contents to get stones of the right size. The stones are then left to dry, before being arranged according to size and placed in 15kg bags, each of which fetches Bt25-45. The business is proving highly lucrative, with each stone collector earning Bt500-1,000 per day. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Birds bring smiles

Posted by hasekamp on 6 December 2004 at 4:02 AM
Thailand's three crisis-plagued southernmost provinces went into frenzy yesterday as thousands from all walks of life gathered at various locations to snatch origami birds dumped from the sky as part of a government campaign against the ongoing violence that has claimed about 500 lives this year. Thousands of people, mostly children, gathered at Pattani's city hall, scrambling to snatch up millions of paper birds gliding down from military transport planes, which swooped down to make the drop-off. For a brief moment, there were smiles and laughter among young and old alike. A sort of collective consciousness developed between those gathered at the designated location in this Muslim-majority region, where rampant violence has taken its toll on local residents and torn into the fabric that holds the Buddhist and Muslim communities together. (Source: The Nation)


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Light hearted birthday speech

Posted by hasekamp on 6 December 2004 at 3:59 AM
His Majesty the King, accompanied by the Crown Prince, held his traditional birthday speech on 4 December. His Majesty used no notes whatsoever and made a lively speech of about 90 minutes. The speech even was punctuated with laughter from well-wishers.
The ceremony began with a speech by the P)M, Mr. Thaksin Shinawatra. He recounted all the benefits the King had done for the country. When he was finished, the King said that he thanked Mr. Thaksin, but that Mr. Thaksin had forgotten one thing: His music, and that was what he liked to talk about. Then he started to talk about his passion for New Orleans Jazz, and said that he had tried to create Thai jazz music.
His Majesty the King asked Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to help youngsters say no to drugs, drinks and dance to guarantee this country has a future. The King's concerns for young people, who would have to take over from older generations the task of leading Thailand further into prosperity, were evident in his speech, traditionally given to the nation on the eve of his birthday every year. The King turned 77 yesterday.
Addressing 22,175 well-wishers at Chitrlada Palace, in a message broadcast live, the King said he always listened to Mr Thaksin when he talked to people on radio every Saturday morning and that the prime minister had made good points. Mr Thaksin was right in saying that children must listen and learn and a good future would await them and their country, he said. "But children are not studying these days. That is no good. What can the nation's future hold?" he said. The King said he was worried about minors entertaining themselves in discotheques which played ear-shattering music, as loud noise would impair their hearing. "If children cannot hear well, they cannot understand well and so they cannot be creative," he said. The King said people as young as 15-16 had already developed hearing problems and he suggested the Public Health Ministry launch a programme to examine their hearing ability (expect this program to be launched today). The King wondered what the future held for any 15-year-old who already could not hear well. He urged the government to start focusing on prevention rather than cure, to save billions of baht in hearing aids which in no way could help hearing-impaired people work as efficiently as people with normal hearing ability.
"The government also may have to ban children going to discotheques or listening to music to solve this problem," he joked. The King said people needed cheering during this stressful time.
Smoking, the King said, also impaired hearing as it caused clogging of arteries carrying blood to the ears. Tobacco and drugs also destroyed the ability to think, as well as being bad for everyone's health. Anti-smoking campaigns helped many adults kick the habit, but an increasing number of minors had become smokers, particularly girls, he said. His Majesty the King said he used to smoke, but when he fell ill his doctors asked him to quit the habit. So he hid his cigarettes under a high stack of official documents and eventually was able to stop smoking. The King said the government should ensure children receive as much knowledge as they can possibly absorb since not every child can fare well academically. In the cartoons he saw on television, the King said, a lightbulb would appear over the head of a character who thought of a bright idea. The King, teasing the prime minister, said in the case of Mr Thaksin it would be a satellite, not a lightbulb. "Some children's 'satellites' are good, but for many of them they are not. But still we have to help them go as far as they can," he said. The King said healthy children could live longer and had several more years to serve the country, he said. (Main source: The Bangkok Post)


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One hundred million paper cranes

Posted by hasekamp on 4 December 2004 at 12:53 PM
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra yesterday handed over to the Air Force about 100 million paper cranes to be dropped over the deep South tomorrow. Mr Thaksin, joined by senior government officials and hundreds of school children, also saw off a C-130 aircraft taking the paper cranes to the South. The paper cranes, well beyond the target of 62 million, would be dropped tomorrow to mark the birthday of His Majesty the King over the three southern provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat and some parts of Songkhla that have been hit by violence this year.
The air-drop was inspired by Her Majesty the Queen's recent speech which called on Thais to join a concerted national effort to bring an end to the violence.
We wonder who is going to clean up the south after 100.000.000 paper cranes have been dropped there! (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Thaksin believes in paper birds

Posted by hasekamp on 2 December 2004 at 15:46 PM
Everybody in Thailand is folding paper birds, these days. They are collected in public places, department stores, and where not, and will be dropped over the three southern provinces on 5 December. Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra believes that people who live in three southern border provinces will appreciate the millions of paper birds from around the country. Mr. Thaksin revealed that the government will continuously wipe out the mafia and insurgency elements in the southernmost area.
The Premier believes that the paper birds as a sign of peace, which will be dropped from the sky on December 5th, would reduce the degree of violence from the insurgency which has been going on since the beginning of the year. (Source: Public Relations Department)


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Pirate discs seized

Posted by hasekamp on 1 December 2004 at 15:01 PM
More than 200 policemen raided shops in the Klong Thom and Ban Mo areas and seized over a million pirated CDs, VCDs and DVDs yesterday at the start of a 90-day campaign to stamp out their illegal manufacture and distribution. Police said it concerned music and movie discs that were mostly pirated. They also included pornographic movies and a recording of a sex party attended by the well-known singer Joey Boy. The raid was carried out by about 200 border patrol policemen from Kanchanaburi and Prachuap Khiri Khan provinces. The officers had surrounded 12 major distribution spots in Klong Thom and Ban Mo before moving in to seize the discs from vendors. A separate squad also inspected factories in the Sai Noi and Bang Bua Thong districts of Nonthaburi and impounded four disc pressing machines that were altogether worth 100 million baht. We believe this will never stop, but the police does its best. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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