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Thailand promotes natural breast enhancement

Posted by hasekamp on 28 February 2005 at 16:03 PM
Concern over "miracle" creams, and a recent bare-breast promotion of one product, has prompted the Thai Health Ministry to campaign for breast-enhancement through exercise. The products were spotlighted last week after police charged three models and the makers of a "15-minute breast-enhancement cream" with indecent exposure after a bare-all demonstration. The manufacturing company said it staged the event to prove the effectiveness of the cream, critics said it offended traditional Thai sensibilities and the Ministry of Public Health ordered it off the shelves pending a scientific investigation of its claims. "I'd like to warn women that before purchasing such products they should check that they have been licensed by the Food and Drug Administration. If they haven't passed inspection, they could be dangerous," Health Minister Sudarat Keyuraphan said. She said that the "best way to enhance one's breasts is to engage in suitable forms of exercise," adding that her ministry would campaign for women to engage in such exercise to counter the popularity of the breast-enhancement roducts. (Source: Associated Press)


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No need for vaccination after all

Posted by hasekamp on 28 February 2005 at 15:47 PM
Contrary to former press issues, the Thai government now says there is no need for bird flu vaccinations in Thailand at the moment because the country’s bird flu outbreak is under control. The authorities are ready to use of the vaccine if there is a major outbreak in the future, the Director of Department of Livestock Development's Bureau of Disease Control and Veterinary Service said. Government officials are stated to have found the most effective vaccine for local use from laboratory studies and plan to import it in the case of a major outbreak. Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said on Saturday during his weekly radio broadcast that the government would allow the use of vaccines for fighting cocks and indigenous chickens. But its use with export chickens was still banned. The country’s 13 million migratory ducks will all be thoroughly examined. If a flock is found to be infected with the bird flu virus, it will be destroyed. But the authorities did not intend to cull all the wild ducks.
EU (European Union) officials who recently reviewed the bird flu situation in Thailand were satisfied that it was contained, but the possibility of resuming the exports of frozen Thai chicken to the EU remained relatively low. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Parliament opens 4 March

Posted by hasekamp on 27 February 2005 at 12:19 PM
Thailand’s newly chosen parliament will convene on 4 March. His Majesty the King has given his Royal approval for the parliament to open its first session. Under the constitution, elected members of the House of Representatives must hold their first meeting 30 days after the general election. All MPs elected at the latest election on 6 February have now registered with the parliament, after they were officially endorsed by the Election Commission. The Thai Rak Thai Party, led by Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, won 377 seats in the 500-seat House of Representatives. The Democrat Party won 96 seats, Chart Thai Party 25 seats and Mahachon Party 2 seats. Now TRT leader Thaksin Shinawatra can form the country’s first ever elected single-party government. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Tourists choose Hua Hin

Posted by hasekamp on 27 February 2005 at 12:15 PM
The sleepy seaside town of Hua Hin is reaping the benefits of foreign tourists who have chosen to visit here instead of the tsunami-hit southern coastal areas. Both Hua Hin and Cha-am, where the sea is particularly clear during this time of year, have not only seen more older foreign tourists, but also increasing numbers of younger people. Hotels are reporting their best-ever occupancy rates. However, congestion in Hua Hin is expected to worsen in the coming months, especially at the weekends, as people from Bangkok head to the resorts for the school holidays. The Tourism Authority of Thailand’s (TAT) local office has reported a significant increase in Scandinavian and German tourists at four- and five-star hotels along the coast. (Source: The Nation)


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AIDS vaccine under development

Posted by hasekamp on 25 February 2005 at 13:13 PM
The AIDS Vaccine work program will definitely be a success, according to Rayong Public Health Doctor Wiwat Wiriyakijja. A meeting has been held to assess and review the progress of developing an AIDS vaccine in Thailand, and to go over the work achieved in the past 6 months. So far, in the 3rd phase of the program, there are 5,000 volunteers from Rayong and 5,000 from Chon Buri. The program requires 16,000 volunteers in total, of which 6,000 are still needed. Currently, there are some obstacles with trying to attract the remaining volunteers as the program stipulates that the volunteers must stay in the program for three and a half years. To deal with this obstacle, the work method and program may have to be altered to convince the volunteers to stick with the program until the end.
The 3rd phase to develop an AIDS vaccine is a project aimed at studying and developing a vaccine for those not yet affected by the HIV virus. It will prepare and encourage the immune system to protect the body against any possible infection of the HIV Virus through the use of 2 vaccines. (Source: Public Relations Department)


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Human Rights Watch warns Thaksin

Posted by hasekamp on 25 February 2005 at 13:06 PM
Thai leader Thaksin Shinawatra's tough handling of violence in the country's south is likely to inflame tensions further, Human Rights Watch has said. "The policies that the government seems to be pursuing almost seem aimed at attracting jihadis," said a spokesman for the campaign group, Brad Adams. The group particularly criticized a recent plan to deny funds to villages thought to be supporting militants. A Thai government spokesman has hinted that this plan might be reconsidered. Mr. Thaksin has favored a tough response to the uprising. But his scheme to restrict funding to villages that support the separatist militants, has already been criticized by Muslim and human rights groups. The plan, announced last week, would divide over 1,000 southern villages into red, yellow or green zones according to their level of alleged sympathy for the rebels. "If you want to attract jihadis to Thailand, by all means, pursue red, yellow and green zones and talk about denying development aid and blame the victims of suffocation deaths for being Muslim and fasting," Adams said. (Source: BBC News)


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Wildlife sellers arrested

Posted by hasekamp on 24 February 2005 at 10:46 AM
Sixty-two vendors were arrested yesterday in Bangkok and the provinces for selling (protected!) caged birds and turtles to Buddhists to release on Makha Bucha Day. Police rounded up 19 vendors in Bangkok with 2,300 birds and 204 turtles, while 43 vendors were nabbed in the provinces with 3,517 birds and 229 turtles. All the vendors were arrested in temples and markets. They were charged with possessing protected wildlife without permission, a crime punishable by up to four years in prison and a Bt40,000 fine. The commander of the Forestry Police Division, said many people are not aware that the birds and turtles are protected species and that they are abused before and after the trade. Many die during transportation as they are crammed together. Turtles live in still water. If they are released in rivers, they die. Birds live in rice fields and eat rice. If they are released in the city, they are unable to find food and die.
It is strange how careless people handle their fellow-creatures on this planet. They only seem to be interested in making money from them, not caring about their welfare or even their lives. Luckily there are actions like this to catch some animal abusers. (Source: The Nation)


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Tsunami damage estimated again

Posted by hasekamp on 23 February 2005 at 11:31 AM
December’s tsunami disaster has caused more than thirteen billion baht damage to Thailand’s economy and people, according to the latest government report. Farms and agricultural land, hotels and resorts, and houses, worth more than thirteen billion baht, were destroyed as a result of the tsunami on 26 December, according to a report submitted to this week’s cabinet meeting. More than 800 children were orphaned after the massive tidal waves struck the villages and beach resorts along the Andaman coast in the six southern provinces of Phuket, Krabi, Pang Nga,Ranong, Satun and Trang. The report from the government’s tsunami relief operations said 5,500 death bodies had been found. But only 1,800 could be identified, of which nearly 1,500 were Thais and the rest foreigners. Most of the bodies have now been collected by their relatives. Around 1,500 corpses cannot be identified – even whether they are the bodies of Thais or foreign tourists. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Land shifts due to seaquake

Posted by hasekamp on 23 February 2005 at 11:27 AM
Phuket shifted 32 centimeters to the southwest and Bangkok moved nine centimeters as a result of the Sumatra earthquake that caused the devastating tsunami two months ago, a Chulalongkorn University lecturer said yesterday. The head of the Faculty of Engineering’s Survey Engineering Department, said the positions of Phuket and Bangkok were measured and compared with data recorded in October. He said the measurements were carried out using GPS (global positioning system) receivers installed at Phuket’s Promthep Cape and at the Faculty of Engineering. The movement of land would have no effect on the general population, but it would have technical repercussions on certain agencies, such as the Royal Military Survey Department. The survey team took three weeks to measure the two locations as it required the use of high-precision GPS receivers and the data had to be analyzed by software from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at Nasa, in the United States. (Source: The Nation)


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Vaccination plan for fowl

Posted by hasekamp on 22 February 2005 at 14:01 PM
At last Thailand seems to see that it is not so easy to stop the bird flu. The Thai government will vaccinate backyard chickens, fighting cocks, exotic birds and ducks – but not chickens for export – against bird flu over the next two months, Deputy Prime Minister Chaturon Chaisang said yesterday. The vaccination list was decided at a meeting yesterday of relevant agencies and World Health Organization (WHO) experts. The director-general of the Department of Disease Control said the vaccination would be tightly controlled and based on theories which both the WHO and World Animal Health Organization support. That approach is in line with other countries, he said. Mr. Thaksin also urged authorities to launch twice-yearly, nationwide, checks for the virus. The Department of Livestock Development has divided bird-flu-watch areas into green, yellow and red color zones depending on the seriousness of the situation. (Source: The Nation)


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Thaksin defends his hard line policy

Posted by hasekamp on 21 February 2005 at 10:29 AM
Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra lashed out at critics on his hard-line policy in the troubled Muslim south today, saying they had no idea what they were talking about and never came up with viable solutions. "You can't tackle a problem by just sitting in Bangkok and using your imagination without going to the place," an angry Thaksin told. A Bangkok university poll said on Sunday 63 percent of 1,800 respondents disagreed with his idea to grade villages by their level of cooperation with authorities and withhold government funding from those deemed to be trouble spots. Muslim leaders and opposition politicians in the restive region, which has a long history of separatism, have reacted angrily to the initiative, unveiled less than two weeks after Thaksin's landslide election victory. "Where is their sense of nationality? They can't just have a humanitarian outlook," Mr. Thaksin said.
However, Thaksin said he would hold a meeting next week with academics. He gave no further details. (Source: Reuters)


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Bush Sr. and Clinton ask for more donations

Posted by hasekamp on 21 February 2005 at 10:21 AM
Two former US presidents, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, have pledged to seek for more donations from the US public and private sectors to support tsunami victims in Thailand and other countries hit by the massive waves on 26 December. The former US presidents made the pledge at a joint press conference with Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra after they visited Baan Nam Kem, a fishing village, in Thailand's southern resort province of Phang-Nga, which was one of the most tsunami- devastated areas in the kingdom, with nearly 50% of its 5,000 residents reportedly killed by the natural disaster.
Former President Bush and Former President Clinton were visiting the Thai kingdom on 19-20 February to express their condolences to tsunami victims on behalf of the US government and people, and to express their appreciation to the Thai government and people for their assistance rendered to foreign nationals affected by the tsunamis. They are assessing damages caused by the disaster and exploring opportunities for cooperation with the Thai kingdom in the latter's rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts.
The two former US presidents said at the joint press conference that an unprecedented US$7 billion has already been raised so far for the tsunami relief. However, about US$5 billion more is needed for the reconstruction of the tsunami-stricken areas across the Indian Ocean, they estimated. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Mobile phones to be temporarily blocked

Posted by hasekamp on 19 February 2005 at 17:42 PM
The government will temporarily block mobile phone signals subsequent to bomb blasts in the deep South to stop insurgents using remote-controlled (by mobile phone) secondary explosions to kill officers at the scene. A powerful blast outside the Marina Hotel in Sungai Kolok district of Narathiwat on Thursday night in which six people were killed and 37 injured has set off concerns that separatists are using increasingly sophisticated and deadly techniques to lay the seeds of chaos. This blast was the first successful car bomb attack in the deep South of Thailand. Police believe Thursday's explosion in the tourist district was triggered by remote control. They said a pick-up was left by the roadside in front of the Marina Hotel. It was driven away and the parking spot was immediately taken over by a different car, packed with the bomb. The blast triggered by a mobile phone occurred five minutes later. The car's boot was packed with 100 kilogrammes of a home-made bomb, a mixture of dynamite and urea fertiliser. The Army has offered a cash reward of 100,000 baht for any leads as to the whereabouts of the perpetrators of the car bomb attack. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Lawsuit in US by tsunami victims

Posted by hasekamp on 17 February 2005 at 16:55 PM
The Thai authorities yesterday said they would have to consider the legal procedures required to tackle a lawsuit to be filed at a New York City court today on behalf of foreign tsunami victims alleging their failure to issue a warning of the killer waves. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will consult with international law experts and the Office of the Attorney General on the legal implications of the case. Attorneys in Austria pledged on Tuesday to sue an American tsunami-warning center, the Thai government and an international hotel chain, claiming they must each bear some responsibility for the events of December 26 that killed hundreds of thousands in Asia and Africa. Representing 14 Austrian and five German victims, American attorney Ed Fagan said he would demand records from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, based in Hawaii, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Thai government to determine who should be held accountable for the failure to warn of the tsunami, the Austria Press Agency reported. Fagan said he would file a class-action suit in New York City today. Also named in the suit is the Accor Hotel, the parent company of the hard-hit Sofitel hotel in Khao Lak. The tsunami warning center in Hawaii registered two heavy earthquakes but failed to act, other than to issue a bulletin for the Pacific region advising that no danger existed there, attorneys alleged. (Source: The Nation)


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Dengue fever in the South

Posted by hasekamp on 16 February 2005 at 13:43 PM
A dengue fever outbreak has hit the southern provinces hard with the number of cases soaring past last year’s record, according to disease control officials. They suspect a foreign type of dengue virus, probably spread from neighboring Malaysia. About 1,500 cases of dengue have been reported since the beginning of the year, mostly in the southern provinces. The figure is 30 per cent higher than the number of cases reported during the same period last year. Even worse, is that twice the number of cases are being reported in some southern provinces such as Phuket, he said. Although the situation was not considered severe, Phuket health officials conceded that the number of cases was alarming considering that the rainy season – the peak season for dengue – is still to come.
The Disease Control Department found that Stereotype-4 dengue virus, which is rarely found in Thailand, was detected in a considerably high number of people in Hat Yai. Malaysia recently carried out health warnings about the spread of dengue fever, which has killed up to 10 people there so far. The south of Thailand shares the weather conditions of Malaysia and Singapore, constant drizzle, and the change in type of dengue virus now spreading.
The only difference between Thailand and Singapore is that the disease seems less virulent than in Malaysia, which might explain why Thailand and Singapore have had more medical success against the latest outbreak. There has only been one death in Thailand so far. It will be wise to consult a doctor before you travel to the Southern provinces of Thailand now. Vaccination against dengue fever does exist, as far as we know. (Source: The Nation)


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Crime rate higher after the tsunami

Posted by hasekamp on 16 February 2005 at 13:40 PM
Police are reporting a surge in crime brought about by the downturn in the tourism industry following the tsunami, and are advising people to take extra precautions to protect themselves against opportunistic thieves. A press release issued by the Phuket City Police states there has been an increase in home and office burglaries, purse snatchings, shoplifting, muggings and other crimes born out of economic desperation. Many of the crimes have been carried out in and around shopping malls. Police suggest the following practical measures residents could take to avoid becoming victims of such crimes:
- Business owners making large cash deposits in banks before or after weekends should exercise caution and consider employing security personnel for added protection. Cash stored in homes or the workplace should be kept in a safe or under the supervision of a security guard.
- Jewelry shop owners should install closed-circuit TV security systems and staff should be especially vigilant when customers enter the shop and ask to inspect merchandise.
- Homeowners and tenants should put valuables in a safe place before leaving home and ensure that all doors, windows and locks are secure and tamper-proof.
- Jewelry and other accessories should be worn under clothing so as not to attract thieves.
- Motorcycle riders should be cautious when carrying valuables, and should never place wallets, purses or other valuables in the front basket. (Source: The Phuket Gazette)


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Thaksin orders crackdown on Southern rebels

Posted by hasekamp on 15 February 2005 at 11:19 AM
What we feared has happened. After the huge election victory of the Thai Rak Thai Party its leader feels confident and solves problems his (hard) way. But, we repeat it, the Thai people has chosen for this.
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra yesterday ordered security chiefs in the deep South to employ a proactive approach in hunting down militants as violence flared again - ahead of his visit tomorrow. Thaksin will be visiting the predominantly Muslim region from tomorrow to Friday to discuss ways of controlling the violence with local officials and leaders. Sources at yesterday’s security meeting said the premier instructed officials to crack down on religious teachers suspected of masterminding the violence. The PM also ordered the full implementation of martial law to authorize the intensive military operation, they said. The premier believed using massive force to suppress the militants is the proper way to handle the situation and vowed not to change course despite the Thai Rak Thai’s huge election loss in the region, which suggests the PM’s hard-line approach is widely disliked.
The Yala-based Young Muslim Association of Thailand yesterday demanded the government lift martial law and employ more peaceful methods. The head of the Southern Border Provinces Peace Building Command, who attended yesterday’s meeting, said he would intensify the operation to hunt down suspected militants for whom there are outstanding arrest warrants. The tens of thousands of troops stationed in the deep South would be instructed to reach out to local residents and authorities would not reduce the number of troops as has been demanded by religious leaders and local residents. (Source: The Nation)


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Royal baby expected

Posted by hasekamp on 15 February 2005 at 11:09 AM
Mom Srirasmi Mahidol na Ayudhya, consort of HRH Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, is expecting a child, the Royal Household Bureau announced yesterday. She is expected to give birth in May, the bureau said. The announcement was aired on all state television channels last night. It is to be hoped, in order to save the Thai dynasty, that the expected new member of the Thai Royal Family will be a boy and - if so - that he will be able to get the respect of the Thai people during his growing up. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Tsunami risk areas to be mapped

Posted by hasekamp on 15 February 2005 at 11:02 AM
A map of the areas of the Andaman coast most likely to be hit by flooding resulting from any future tsunami will be ready in March, the Deputy Director of the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) said yesterday. Speaking at yet another seminar in Phuket he said that the map will also indicate escape routes from land of a low elevation, such as beaches, to nearby areas of higher land. The map and all data recorded would also serve as an educational tool for Thai students. Students in Thailand will have to study tsunamis as part of the curriculum from now on. The map will be vital for residents and businesspeople in the risk areas. The findings of the mapping will also form the basis for future government planning in those areas. The map and findings would also be presented to the Department of Works and Town Country Planning (DWTCP). (Source: The Phuket Gazette)


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Tourists want bargains after the tsunami

Posted by hasekamp on 15 February 2005 at 11:01 AM
The Managing Director of Thomas Cook told local tourism operators yesterday that her clients are not very eager to go to Thailand after the tsunami. The immediate solution, she said, will be to offer "very, very attractive prices". She warned, at a meeting at the Sheraton Grande Laguna Phuket, that tourists are expecting bargains in the tsunami-hit areas. She added that Phuket was facing tough competition from other long-haul destinations. Some, including those in the Caribbean, are offering very, very attractive prices, she said. "We are very anxious to help you rebuild your businesses and get back to the top spot. But customers are still unclear. There has been an enormous amount of coverage of the tsunami in the UK. We need education to help them understand what the situation really is, and help reassure
them." Ms Edmunds of Thomas Cook was one of six tour company representatives from the UK and Ireland who came to Phuket at the weekend to see for themselves the extent of the damage caused by the tsunami and to discuss ways of attracting tourists from Europe back to Phuket, Phang Nga and Krabi.
Thai Airways International (THAI) could possibly help Phuket compete by operating direct flights between the UK and the island. THAI, which was one of the organizers of yesterday's meeting, has yet to relaunch any of the international direct services to Phuket that it cut soon after the tsunami. (Source: The Phuket Gazette)


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Early warning system by April

Posted by hasekamp on 13 February 2005 at 12:36 PM
A tsunami early-warning system will be installed by April at the latest, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said in his radio program yesterday. He said Thailand planned to have the warning system in place with or without other countries in the region taking part and was prepared to pay Bt 400 million for the facility. The prime minister said the official in charge of developing the tsunami warning system had made a rough study of the plan together with a team of experts and they expected it to be in place next month or in April at the latest. Within two years a permanent facility will be operating. Thaksin said countries had begun to stop warning their travelers about the danger of tsunamis and in the areas stricken by the December disaster nature had resumed its normal course more quickly than people believed it could. Nevertheless, he said he would give his personal attention to getting the tsunami-stricken areas restored to their former condition. He said that as part of efforts to restore the morale of the local tourism industry the Miss Universe pageant later this year would be held, in part, in Phuket. Thaksin also announced that two former US presidents, Bill Clinton and George Bush Senior, would visit Thailand next week, making an overnight stopover on Friday before flying to other countries.
We support the effort by Thailand to install its tsunami warning system as soon as possible, if necessary on its own. Internationally led projects take masses of time, but if the international system (against expectations) develops speedily after all, Thailand can – and will, we believe – always join later. (Source: The Nation)


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Opposition sought

Posted by hasekamp on 13 February 2005 at 12:28 PM
Civic and pro-democracy groups say they are ready to back the leading opposition party in keeping a watchful eye on the government, after hopes of raising enough seats to censure ministers for corruption and abuse of power have all but vanished. Surichai Wunkaew, president of the Campaign for Popular Democracy, said the people are ready to help out if the Democrat party play their cards right. Mr Surichai urged the Democrats to raise issues that are in the interests of the public, such as how millions of baht have gone into the rehabilitation of tsunami-hit provinces but people have received very little. They should share their information with the civic organizations involved, to form an indestructible team. Under the 1997 constitution, the opposition can call a censure debate against a minister if it commands at least 100 seats, and against the prime minister if it holds 200 seats. For an impeachment, 125 votes in the 500-seat lower house are required. The Democrats currently control 97 seats, Mahachon two and Chart Thai 25, adding up to 124 seats, just one short of the required minimum for a no-confidence motion against a minister suspected of corruption or abuse of power.
Theoretically, the ruling Thai Rak Thai party, with 376 seats, could also vote for and approve an amendment of the Constitution, which requires 333 votes in the 500-seat lower house. So, it is to be hoped that all other parties join hands to give TRT a opposition to be taken serious. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Eco city planned

Posted by hasekamp on 11 February 2005 at 14:18 PM
Thailand will develop an "eco-city", where residents adopt a more environmentally friendly lifestyle that includes use of renewable energy. Deputy Prime Minister Chaturon Chaisaeng said he backed the joint venture between the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), in his capacity as chairman of the cabinet screening committee. Details would go to cabinet soon. The model green community would aim for sustainable development, and was likely to be built somewhere close to mass transit systems. The community would practise energy preservation, efficient waste management, green and efficient transport and limit air and noise pollution. It could be set up in an existing community or created from scratch. The Natural Resources and Environment Ministry believes the project could be completed in three to four years. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Record poll turnout

Posted by hasekamp on 10 February 2005 at 11:02 AM
Last Sunday's general election has made it into the record books with the highest voter turnout in Thai history, the Election Commission (EC) said yesterday. Nationally, average voter turnout was a record 72.3 per cent. The figure is unofficial, based on the 329 constituencies that have completed vote counting. The average turnout in Bangkok was 72 per cent, also a record high. A total of 44,846,472 people were eligible to vote in the country’s 21st general election. In the general election in 2001, voter turnout was 69.9 per cent. The province with the highest turnout this time was Lamphun, with 89 per cent. The southernmost provinces also had high voter turnouts with Narathiwat clocking up 71.6 per cent, Pattani 73 per cent and Yala 75.1 per cent. An unexpectedly high number of residents cast their votes in Bangkok. The capital, which recorded the lowest turnout nine times since the country’s first election in 1933, clocked in with 72 per cent. (Source: The Nation)


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Final election results on March 25

Posted by hasekamp on 10 February 2005 at 10:58 AM
The Election Commission (EC) plans to organise re-elections on Feb 20 where needed and finalise all election results by March 25. The EC would meet daily until February 14 to consider poll complaints involving leading candidates. Within the next three or four days the commission would announce the constituencies where re-elections were needed. The EC has to announce the official list of MPs by March 25 in order to keep the schedule of the Royal inauguration of the first parliamentary session. The EC had put 15 complaints involving leading candidates on its agenda but he declined to name the constituencies. As of yesterday the EC had received 328 complaints of poll irregularities. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Sex crimes to be fought better

Posted by hasekamp on 10 February 2005 at 10:53 AM
A two-week regional training programme on combating serious sexual offences is being held in Bangkok to help law enforcement officials fight the global threat posed by sex offenders. Britain is paying for the programme, which costs about 2.7 million baht, though the United States and Australia are also contributing. Britain's Foreign Office Minister Bill Rammell said sex tourists and internet predators are issues of growing concern in Southeast Asia. London wanted to tackle abuse of children overseas by British paedophiles, and arrest offenders. The course, which runs until tomorrow at the International Law Enforcement Academy in Bangkok, has drawn 55 police and other law enforcement officers from the Philippines, Indonesia, Cambodia, China, Laos, Macau, Brunei, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Volunteers need work permits

Posted by hasekamp on 9 February 2005 at 13:25 PM
Foreign volunteers assisting in tsunami-related charity work are required to hold work permits, regardless of whether they are being paid for their efforts or not. The head of the Phuket Provincial Employment Service Office [ESO], said yesterday that there could be no exceptions and that his office would begin to enforce the regulations soon – possibly in March. "There can be no exceptions. Work is work, even if it is for charity," he said. We find this a strange, if not unacceptable requirement. These people come to do the work others do not want to do, or others have no time for, and requiring work permits (consistinmg hardly of more than a payment in cash) should be out of the question!
Nevertheless relief workers are urged to apply for work permits. They would be easily to obtain for those working for recognized charitable organizations anyway. "They can just present a document certified by the charity organization they work for and we will issue them with work permits; then they will be able to work legally." Any foreigner caught working without a work permit is liable to hefty punishment, the maximum penalty being three years in jail, a 30,000 baht fine, or both.
We are not here to promote illegal working, but we believe that the foreign volunteers deserve better than this! (Source: The Phuket Gazette)


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Chinese New Year

Posted by hasekamp on 9 February 2005 at 13:14 PM
Today is Chinese New Year, and we enter the Year of the Rooster. Chinese New Year festivities in Bangkok's Yaowarat district took off today with the capital's Chinese community out in force to celebrate the 50th birthday of Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, and 30 years of Thai-Chinese diplomatic relations. The importance of the festival in Thailand's tourism calendar was highlighted by the fact that the ceremonies were officially opened this morning by Tourism and Sports Minister Sontaya Kunplome. Joining him in the show were Bangkok Governor Apirak Kosayothin, the Chinese ambassador to Thailand, and the deputy governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT). Although China and Thailand have enjoyed diplomatic relations for only three decades, Mr. Sontaya pointed out that the relationship between China and Thailand stretches back hundreds of years, with the Chinese community acting as an important driver of the nation's development. To show the strength of this relationship, the Chinese Ministry of Culture has sent over performers for this year's New Year festivities in Bangkok's Chinatown and in Thailand's southern provinces affected by the 26 December tsunamis. The TAT hopes - of course - that the Chinatown celebrations on 9-10 February will attract (at learst) two million visitors, who will flock to the Yaowarat district over the next two days. Reporters in the Yaowarat district spoke of crowds dressed in red packing the central thoroughfare and visiting six designated sacred places. Worshippers who go to all the six have the chance to put their names and addresses in a giant golden egg for tomorrow's prize draw, with 99 prizes, including a house and land worth Bt 5.5 million, cars, airline tickets and package tours. Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, who has strong links with China through her cultural work, joined the festivities this evening. (Source: Thai News Agency)



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Thailand even more divided after election

Posted by hasekamp on 8 February 2005 at 11:38 AM
The Thai Rak Thai party’s failure to win over the South in Sunday’s election and its resounding triumph in the rest of Thailand will leave Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra with a deeply divided nation. The ruling party won just one seat in the South – in tsunami-hit Phang Nga – and lost out to the Democrats in the three southernmost provinces. That nearly the entire region declined Thai Rak Thai in Sunday’s general election means Thaksin’s most formidable challenge in his first term will only grow more daunting as he prepares for his second term. Further complicating matters is the massive landslide Thai Rak Thai enjoyed in all other parts of Thailand, including Bangkok. With more than 60 per cent of votes counted yesterday, Thai Rak Thai seemed to have scored absolute victories in 42 provinces. The party nearly secured a clean sweep of Bangkok as well, but four Democrats and just one Chat Thai candidate managed to get through.
The ruling party was shut out of the southernmost provinces of Yala, Narathiwat and Pattani. Mr. Thaksin described the still unofficial results as a “wake-up call” to his government, but insisted he would not alter his approach to what he calls a “law and order” problem. “This is a disappointing result. We should have won some,” Thaksin told reporters in Bangkok after it became clear that none of the 11 Thai Rak Thai candidates in the southernmost provinces would make it to parliament. The turnout at many polling stations in the region was between 70 and 80 per cent, more than the average of 60 per cent at the 2001 poll, election officials said. “If Thaksin becomes the prime minister again, we Muslims will suffer for another four years,” said an Islamic leader in the region. (Source: The Nation)


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Probably single party rule

Posted by hasekamp on 7 February 2005 at 15:39 PM
Thai Rak Thai has made history by grabbing the most of the MP seats in a high-riding poll victory to lead a single-party government while critics also labeled yesterday's general election one of the dirtiest the country has ever seen. The party's huge electoral margin has virtually driven all other parties to oblivion. It has more than double the number of MPs as the Democrats, Mahachon and Chart Thai parties put together, according to the Suan Dusit exit poll. Thai Rak Thai supporters said the party had written a new chapter in political history in being handed a mandate to "go solo" in forming the next government.
Yesterday, on Election Day, complaints of vote fraud and campaign irregularities were common. The foul play evaded the eyes and ears of the Election Commission, sources said. The Pollwatch Foundation said the election was plagued with violence. Voters and candidates were intimidated and state power was twisted to manipulate votes. Thai Rak Thai had voters under its spell. It crushed rival parties' attempts to garner enough accountability votes to keep a tight leash on Thai Rak Thai. Credits for the party's poll triumph include Mr. Thaksin's political prominence.
Running the country in the next four years would not be as easy as in the past. The party rode to office on the crest of favorable factors such a global economic recovery but the next four years would be strewn with obstacles including high fuel prices and bird flu pandemics.
Mr Thaksin said single-party rule would assure the world of a stable government. He pledged to expedite pushing through economic policy by restructuring the economy. Poverty eradication was high on the agenda and he reiterated the need to partially privatize state enterprises. Funds would be mobilized to build and expand mass transit projects. He insisted cabinet members; their assistants as well as advisers would be acceptable to the people and had no problem working with him. He would not hesitate to replace them at the first sign of incompetence.
Mr. Thaksin denied he was a dictator. Only few people had any idea how democratically minded he was. Mr. Thaksin repeatedly ruled out approaching the Chart Thai party to join the new coalition government. Although the pool result was overwhelming in favor for TRT, we fear that a one-party rule will not benefit Thailand. But, as we wrote yesterday, Thailand has made it possible by itself, so it should not complain if a second TRT rule appears to work out different from the expectations of the voters. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Election Day: TRT seems to win

Posted by hasekamp on 6 February 2005 at 12:40 PM
The ruling Thai Rak Thai (TRT) Party - led by Mr. Thaksin Shinawatra - has won an overwhelming 399 Parliamentary seats, according to Suan Dusit's exit poll. The poll which closed at 3 pm Bangkok time today showed the Democrat Party winning just 80 seats, Chat Thai 20 seats and Mahachon 1 seat, according to the exit poll conducted by a unit of a state-owned university. Heavy turnout was recorded throughout the day and is expected to break the 70 per cent record for an estimated 44 million eligible voters. Thailand has a population of 66 million.
In the 2001 national election, Thai Rak Thai won 296 seats, Democrat 130, Chat Thai 30. Mahachon was established then. Thai Parliament's Lower House has 500 seats comprising 400 Contituency seats and 100 proportional representation seats, commonly known as party list.
The Suan Dusit's exit poll gives Thai Rak Thai a wider winning margin than most previous poll forecasts including one by The Nation which gave the rulling party 340 seats. Both numbers are never sufficient enough for Thai Rak Thai to form a single party government, the first to do so through democratic election.
So, whatever your opinion, it looks like TRT is going to rule the country with almost no opposition. We think this is not good for a democratic country. But ... in this election Thailand gets the government it deserves. They chose it themselves, after all. (Source: The Nation)


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Tsunami warning tower

Posted by hasekamp on 6 February 2005 at 12:32 PM
Thailand is taking its plans to build a tsunami warning system seriously, be it that the first part is not really high tech. The first tsunami warning tower has been erected in Takua Pa district, in Phang Nga province, in a bid to calm paranoid villagers, who witnessed the devastation caused by the 10-meter-high tidal waves. Tsunami rumours were still circulating in the district, prompting residents to flee for their lives almost daily. Most of the tsunami survivors are refusing to return to their ravaged villages for fear of the earthquake-triggered waves. It is hoped that the observatory will ease their fears. The tower is a "manual" warning sytystem. Three navy personnel from the Third Fleet will be asked to stand by at the tower 24 hours a day to keep close watch on the sea, turn on the siren and fly a red flag at the top of the tower if unusual sea levels are detected. The 12-meter-high tower is the first of its kind. The Thai Red Cross and the college plan to build 27 more such towers in Krabi, Phangnga, Phuket, Ranong, Satun and Trang. A Thai Red Cross official said, however, that the project would be suspended until the government's tsunami "high tech" early warning system is in full operation. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Tourists from Sweden

Posted by hasekamp on 6 February 2005 at 12:23 PM
The Tourism Authority of Thailand governor Juthamas Siriwan yesterday welcomed the arrival of 350 tourists from Sweden, the largest group of Swedes to have visited since the tsunami struck. Therefore it was worthwhile for them to be welcomed by Mrs Juthamas personally! Mrs Juthamas said the tourists arrived on two chartered flights, and will stay three weeks in Phuket, Phangnga and Krabi. More Swedish tourists are expected to arrive on two to three flights every day, she said. Mrs Juthamas will travel to Sweden today to promote Phuket with tour agencies. The luxury tour boat Star Cruise would also resume service next month, bringing 2,000-3,000 tourists a week. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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SET up to 830?

Posted by hasekamp on 4 February 2005 at 11:24 AM
The Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET) index (around 720 now, and not touched at all - it seems - by the tsunami) is likely to rally up to 830 points, following the country’s general election, since certain concerns on future uncertainties have eased. This is the opinion of a Thai analyst. He said that while the investment sentiment looked unfavorable last year, he believed the market would turn bullish this year with the index likely to run uphill to the 830-point level, particularly after the general election this weekend. The election is one of many key factors that make investors have hesitated to invest.
Furthermore the continued growth in performance results of listed companies and the significant improvement in investment sentiment would encourage investors to increase trading on the market. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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1,000 bird flu cases

Posted by hasekamp on 4 February 2005 at 11:16 AM
More than 1,000 chickens have been found with bird flu-like symptoms in Suphan Buri and Phitsanulok following the launch a few days ago of a nationwide inspection programme. The director of the Livestock Development Department's Bureau of Disease Control and Veterinary Services, said the sick fowls were both layer and home-raised chickens. They were found in three locations in Suphan Buri and in eight Phitsanulok tambons. Provincial officials has culled the birds and has sent tissues to the lab to be tested for the virus. Officials have also detected sick birds in four other provinces: Phichit, Nakhon Sawan, Phetchabun, and Udon Thani, but their symptoms were unlike avian influenza.
Since February 1 provincial officials have ordered to relaunch thorough checks for bird flu in a bid to strengthen control measures against the disease which had recently re-emerged in neighbouring countries, particularly Vietnam where several people had died. Similar checks were conducted in October on the orders of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who learned the disease was spreading despite control measures then conducted by the Livestock Development Department. (SOurce: The Bangkok Post)


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Chinese tourists could bring deadly disease

Posted by hasekamp on 3 February 2005 at 10:22 AM
The Thaksin government has always wanted to attract as many tourists as possiuble, if not from the West, then from the East. Now they may have to reconsider: Chinese people visiting Thailand next week could bring meningococcal meningitis with them, the Public Health Ministry says. It is warning the public about possible infections as the disease spreads in China. A spokesperson said health workers were worried that Chinese tourists visiting Thailand during Chinese New Year could infect local people.
The meningococcal meningitis outbreak in Anhui and Jiangsu provinces has killed 16 Chinese people and infected 258 according to Chinese health authorities. The disease is characterised by a sudden onset of fever, intense headache, nausea and vomiting, stiff neck and shock and even death in severe cases. It is transmitted by direct contact. The same bacteria could also cause meningococcaemia when it enters the bloodstream. The incubation period varies from two to 10 days, and the mortality rate in Thailand is 10%. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Crown Prince visits deep South

Posted by hasekamp on 3 February 2005 at 10:18 AM
HRH Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn starts a one-week visit to the deep South today, where HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn has been since Monday, to represent Her Majesty the Queen. The crown prince will stay at Thaksin Ratchaniwes Palace in Narathiwat on his visit to Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat. The Queen has asked him to check progress in self-defence, handicraft and farming projects which she started during her September-October visit there.
He will call meetings of temple abbots, Muslim religious leaders and local leaders. On Sunday the crown prince will visit Ban Rotanbatu, a village founded in Narathiwat's Muang district for women widowed by violence in the deep South. On Wednesday, he will visit the central mosque of Narathiwat to listen to a reading of the Koran, and then visit a 50-year-old restaurant Jin Hua, or Ang Mor. The restaurant was bombed by insurgents last November but repaired by the navy. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Counterfeit goods destroyed

Posted by hasekamp on 2 February 2005 at 17:02 PM
The Customs Department of Thailand has implemented the destruction of counterfeit goods infringing intellectual property rights, which were worth around 50 million baht. The department has invited related agencies to witness the destruction procedure. The Director General of the Customs Department presided over the "destruction of illegal properties" at the parking space in the Customs Department building today. The Director General indicated that steamrollers and construction vehicles were used to annihilate these properties, so that they would be completely destroyed. The destroyed goods included more than 100,000 audio and video CDs and DVDs, 165,100 adhesive chemicals, 70,000 medical products, as well as 35,000 illegal drugs.
Cigarettes and other tobacco products have been incinerated and buried at samut Prakan province. Furthermore, 158 dealers who have infringed upon intellectual property rights have been arrested. (Source: Public Relations Department)


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Anti-logging rewards

Posted by hasekamp on 2 February 2005 at 16:58 PM
The Phrae provincial administration has paid rewards of 2,000 to 4,000 baht to people giving information leading to the arrest of illegal loggers under a programme to protect dwindling forests. Prae Governor Santhad Chatuchai said if the offender was a civilian the informant was given 2,000 baht and 4,000 baht when the offender was a state official or member of a local administration organisation. Timber was illegally felled on a total of 32,700 rai of national parks in all eight districts of Phrae last year, the governor said. Is this really the way to stop illegal logging? It looks like it! (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Long queues at subway

Posted by hasekamp on 2 February 2005 at 16:54 PM
Commuters thronged back to the subway yesterday when services resumed, putting aside their safety fears following the accident last month that shut the system down for two weeks. During rush hour at Bang Sue station were long queues at the ticket windows and trains ran packed along the entire 20km route to the end of the line at Hua Lamphong. The rush of passengers has given the government and agencies responsible for the system a big relief. They feared people would stay away from the subway, following the collision at Thailand Cultural Centre station on Jan 17 that injured about 200 people and shut down the system for 14 days. Bangkok Metro Co Ltd (BMCL), the subway concessionaire, said 95,000 passengers used the underground train from 6am to 6pm yesterday, compared with 120,000 riders during the same timespan on January 11. The service runs from 6am till midnight, with fares during the promotion period at 10-15 baht. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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No alcohol during general election

Posted by hasekamp on 2 February 2005 at 16:49 PM
There will be a total ban on the sale and provision of alcohol anywhere in Thailand before and during Sunday’s general election. In accordance with the Election Act, shops, bars, restaurants and hotels are prohibited to sell or provide alcohol to customers or patrons between 6 pm on Saturday, February 5 and midnight at the end of Sunday, February 6. Although there is no requirement for bars to close, it is expected that many will. The maximum penalty for owners or managers of outlets selling or distributing alcohol during the election, or even supplying it free, is six months in jail or a 10,000-baht fine, or both. Police officers will be checking establishments that are open to ensure that the law is strictly adhered to. (Source: The Phuket Gazette)


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Thailand will develop own tsunami warning system

Posted by hasekamp on 1 February 2005 at 11:27 AM
Thailand is not prepared to wait for a planned regional tsunami warning center to be completed, and will in the meantime forge on with creating its own system, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said yesterday. As we reported yesterday, Thailand has not been chosen to house the regional system to be built.
The Thai warning system will be operational in six months, Mr. Thaksin said. In the first three months, some 10 million Baht will be invested in a system capable of assessing the magnitude of earthquakes and any movement of the Earth’s crust they cause, he said. “We will do it whether or not anyone joins us and it will be a private investment if no one wants to share. We will not be stingy when it comes to saving the lives of our people and tourists,” Mr. Thaksin said during his opening speech at a seminar to discuss the system in Bangkok. “We proposed hosting the regional center because of our location between the Pacific and Indian oceans, between South and East Asia. We just want the center established. We are not suggesting that it must be only in Thailand, but rather at a place that is qualified, accountable and able to take care of the whole region and link with other regions,” he said. “Some countries are concerned too much about themselves and are less concerned about the region,” he said, adding that no concrete solutions had emerged from last week’s tsunami summit in Phuket. (Source: The Nation)


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New homes ready in June

Posted by hasekamp on 1 February 2005 at 11:21 AM
Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has said that the first set of permanent houses for tsunami victims is expected to be completed by June. The people to live in these houses had lost their homes during the December 26th tsunami. Speaking before entering the cabinet meeting today, the Prime Minister said that the government will continue to deliver permanent homes for those victims who became homeless during the tsunami. Mr. Thaksin added that a total of 5,000 housing units - we understand that this will be temporary houses - will be provided by the government to people who lost their houses, between May and June. (Source: Public Relations Department)


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