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Street mafia to be fought

Posted by hasekamp on 31 March 2005 at 10:59 AM
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has ordered that street markets across Bangkok be rearranged to prevent mobsters from extorting money from vendors. Mr. Thaksin said yesterday he would invite the street vendors to give information about protection rackets in a bid to create new conditions in which none of them would be pressured into paying illegal fees in order to make a living. The police inspector-general will head up a new street market and parking lot order committee, and the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration will be asked to issue papers for zones in which stalls are allowed, to help prevent future extortion rackets, the prime minister said. Thaksin’s actions follow television pictures aired by iTV on Sunday showing an extortion gang beating up a vendor who refused to pay protection money. (Source: The Nation)


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Thaksin admits mistakes in South

Posted by hasekamp on 31 March 2005 at 10:52 AM
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra caught critics by surprise by admitting mistakes in handling the southern violence. Mr. Thaksin thanked opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva for his advice on how to douse the violence in Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat, saying they shared several ideas in common. The prime minister said that while on a recent holiday in Japan he had a chance to review his stand on southern unrest and saw what had gone wrong. "We are human, and humans make things right or wrong. I am now determined to undo what I have done wrong in the past," he said.
During the joint House-Senate meeting, Mr Abhisit proposed nine solutions and asked the government to adopt them as part of its drive to return peace and unity back to the Muslim-dominated provinces. Mr. Abhisit thanked the government for hosting the special joint session of parliament to debate the southern problem even though it resulted from the government's mishandling of the situation over the last four years. This included - among other events - the government's war on drugs leading to the deaths and abduction of Muslim people, Mr. Thaksin's careless remarks about the southern situation and more. "Now most local people have lost confidence and trust in the government. To get the southern situation back to normal, the government must restore that trust as quickly as possible," Mr Abhisit said. Can it be that Mr. Thaksin studied the advice by Their Majesties the King and Queen more deeply? (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Officials: Warning system not good enough yet

Posted by hasekamp on 30 March 2005 at 10:20 AM
Monday night’s tsunami scare in southern Thailand revealed flaws in local authorities’ evacuation plans, senior officials warned. "Many people were left stranded on beach roads because of confusing traffic directions. They could well have died if a tsunami really had hit the shoreline," Phuket Governor Udomsak Aswarangkul said yesterday. Udomsak said the wireless telecommunication system had collapsed minutes after tremors from the 8.7 magnitude quake near western Sumatra, which quivered along the Andaman coastline. "Just like during the December 26 quake and subsequent tsunami, mobile phones became useless again on Monday and this complicated evacuation efforts," he explained. Udomsak added that he had no idea what had caused the failure in the wireless system. He urged mobile-phone service provi-ders to investigate the reasons. He also suggested that road safety officials simplify signs along evacuation routes for motorists near beach areas. He added that three observation towers for advance tsunami warning should also be erected on Patong Beach. Udomsak explained that Monday’s tsunami scare provided authorities with a good opportunity to recognise and remedy shortcomings in their emergency plans. For instance, landline phones and amateur radio networks should be enlisted to facilitate communication in case of emergencies, in case of problems with mobile phones. (Source: The Nation)


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Thaksin satisfied about tsunami alert

Posted by hasekamp on 30 March 2005 at 10:15 AM
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra yesterday expressed his satisfaction with the tsunami alerts issued on Monday night after a powerful undersea quake struck off Indonesia's Sumatra island. But a top disaster preparedness official noted flaws in the warning system. Mr. Thaksin said the country had done much better as far as tsunami alerts were concerned. "We can now tell the world we have learned from past experiences. Even though our equipment has not yet been completely installed, we can assure that tsunami warnings will always be issued beforehand," he said. The quake triggering tsunami warnings caused panic across the Indian Ocean. Tsunami warnings were issued in Ranong, Krabi, Trang, Phangnga, Phuket and Satun shortly after strong earthquake tremors were felt throughout the lower southern region. Locals and tourists were repeatedly bombarded with tsunami alerts by all television channels, radio stations, community broadcasting towers, police and disaster prevention teams along with the wailing of evacuation sirens. Mr Thaksin said Thailand would press ahead with building its own early warning system which, in the future, would be linked with the international network. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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New theatre for Bangkok

Posted by hasekamp on 29 March 2005 at 14:40 PM
A private sector company is investing Bt 1.5 billion into the construction of a new theatre for Bangkok, which is hoped will become a major draw for foreign visitors when it opens in November. The Rachada Grand Theatre, located near the South Korean Embassy in Bangkok, is being constructed by the Rachada Theatre Co. Ltd. Touted by the company as being the first theatre in the capital to show Thai cultural performances specifically for the benefit of foreign visitors, the theatre will open with a show entitled "Siam Magic". The theatre complex will also feature a four regions Thai village and two restaurants. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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No tsunami

Posted by hasekamp on 29 March 2005 at 14:36 PM
Although the earthquake near Sumatra (Indonesia) yesterday killed 1000 people or more, no tsunami has shown up anywhere in the region. Thailand's Meteorological Department canceled a tsunami alert and said people could now safely return home. "The situation has returned to normal. It is safe now and the Meteorological Department has canceled the evacuation order. People can return home," the department said in a statement some five hours after the 8.7 magnitude quake on Monday.
Experts said the quake was likely to have directed any tsunami south toward the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius and away from southern Thailand. Thai authorities had quickly issued evacuation orders in the six provinces, including the island of Phuket which has struggled to win visitors back following a devastating tsunami triggered by a huge quake on December 26. Phuket deputy governor Wichai Buapradit said earlier that about 3,000 to 4,000 tourists and locals had been evacuated from Patong and Kamala beaches to higher places. On Phuket, the route inland from Patong beach to Phuket town was jammed with people rushing to higher ground, only minutes after the tsunami warning was broadcast on radio and television. There were no official reports of casualties or major damage. (Source: Reuters)


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Breaking news: Tsunami fear

Posted by hasekamp on 28 March 2005 at 23:01 PM
Today at about 16:10 hours GMT (23:10 hours Bangkok Time) there was an earthquake again near Sumatra. Its strength was reported to be 8.2, 8.7 according to other sources, on the Richter scale. This time the center of the earthquake was west of the Northern part of Sumatra, in the ocean. Panic broke out in Sumatra. People were trying to get away from the beaches, in fear of a new tsunami.
Also in the other the countries that were hit by the December 26 tsunami panic broke out. On international news channels pictures by Thai iTV were shown, where people were leaving houses and hotels and got away.
So far (more than 4 hours after the earthquake) no tsunami has been reported anywhere. We will come back on this when there is news. (Sources: CNN TV, BBC World TV, Dutch TV)


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Thaksin's human rights watchdog

Posted by hasekamp on 27 March 2005 at 13:41 PM
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said yesterday that his administration would set up an audit body on human rights protection to restore the country’s image in the eyes of the international community. The planned body would consist of representatives from non-government organisations, academia and the government, said a senior Government House official. In the past four years, the Thai government has often been sharply criticised by local and international rights bodies for its mishandling of human rights issues. Some of the most damaging criticism stemmed from narcotics suppression and unrest in southern Thailand. Last year, the government was also hit hard by a barrage of criticism over its handling of the Krue Se Mosque and Tak Bai incidents, in which 32 and 85 people were killed, respectively.
The prime minister yesterday told government officials during a top-level management workshop at Government House that he expected all officials to adhere to democratic principles, including the protection of human rights. Thaksin also pledged to improve the country’s record on human rights protection and to regain international recognition. The government, he said, would also listen more to the public.
Although this effort seems good, we would have preferred a completely government-independent human rights watchdog in Thailand. But right now the above mentioned option seems to be the best achievable one. (Source: The Nation)


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President of EPO: Thai Patent awareness low

Posted by hasekamp on 27 March 2005 at 13:19 PM
Raising patent awareness should be a key priority for Thai authorities and European partners in promoting intellectual property rights in Thailand, according to Professor Alain Pompidou, president of the European Patent Office (EPO). He said that issues related to trademarks and copyrights had already received high attention from the public but awareness about patent issues was still weak as evidenced by low number of patent application at international offices. Between 1999 and 2003, only seven patent filings from Thailand were made at the EPO, the patent-granting authority for 30 states in Europe. Patent filings from other Asean countries were also low during that period with the exception of ones made from Singapore, which totalled 128. The EPO received 180,000 applications in 2004 and expects to receive almost 200,000 applications this year.
Prof Pompidou said as the knowledge about patents was still limited, EU experts in this field would work with both the public and private sectors in Thailand to train patent attorneys, judges, researchers as well as companies about the rising role of patents and potential benefits of patenting their inventions. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Rebuilding Phi Phi

Posted by hasekamp on 25 March 2005 at 18:01 PM
More than 6,000 people died as a result of the December 26 tsunami in Thailand, and the paradise island of Phi Phi was one of the worst-affected areas. In the immediate aftermath of the disaster, all those who survived were encouraged to leave the island. Now, three months later, Phi Phi is bveing rebuilt. Local Thais work alongside foreign volunteers, to clean out partially destroyed buildings and help bring the tourist island back into business. Much remains to be done. Huge piles of rubble need to be shifted, and most of the islanders are still living in temporary shelters in the nearby mainland town of Krabi. The Thai government has yet to decide its long-term plans for Phi Phi, making it difficult for people to really begin rebuilding.
We understand that money has to made out of most of the beautiful places in Thailand. But we wonder if it will be wise to rebuild Phi Phi island as a tourists resort with hotels, bars, a "nightlife" and what not.
We have visited the - then - tropical paradise of Phi Phi between 5 and 10 years ago. Then it was an island with hardly any touristic aims. There were two sets of bungalows near the beaches and one or two restaurants. That was all, as far as tourism was concerned. There were woods, beaches and unspoilt land. The island was popular then with day tourists from Phuket and Krabi. Local people could make money from them. In the afternoon the tourists left again and peace returned. Nature was preserved reasonably well then.
The first wave of destruction of nature on Phi Phi came with the making of the - not very well received - Hollywood movie "The Beach". After that, most of the natural beauty of Phi Phi was replaced by concrete and bricks, "to please the tourists" and to make more money. Never mind about the natural beauty. Man can create artificial beauty, that should do, if money has to be made. Most of this "man made beauty" has now been faded away. Wouldn't it be a wise idea to reconsider the position of the island and would day-tourism not be a better destination than to spoil this tropical paradise again? We do believe so! (Source for the first part: BBC News).


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Dengue fever in Phuket

Posted by hasekamp on 25 March 2005 at 17:21 PM
A report by the state-run Thai News Agency (TNA) reported on March 23 that almost 100 people a month are now seeking treatment for dengue fever. However, the Chief Of Phuket Provincial Health Office (PPHO), today denied these media reports, saying that only half that number had been confirmed as having the disease (which in pour opinion nevertheless is alarming!). PPHO said that dengue fever has been spreading since the beginning of the year. About 100 people report themselves as possible cases, PPHO said. But there have been only 50 confirmed cases, with none of them serious and no deaths, the organization says. Whatever is true, even the lower PPHO number of confirmed cases is still more than double the total number of confirmed cases in the whole of last year. Last year there were about 20 cases of dengue fever in Phuket province. PPHO is now taking steps to prevent an outbreak of dengue fever, mainly consisting of educational tools. (Source: The Phuket Gazette)


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Artificial rain was successful

Posted by hasekamp on 23 March 2005 at 10:58 AM
The nationwide efforts to create artificial rain yesterday were mostly successful, with rain falling in 10 provinces in the North and Northeast, according to Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister. Initial reports from rain-making centres said rain fell in Nakhon Ratchasima, Sakon Nakhon, Nakhon Phanom, Ubon Ratchathani, Petchaburi, Rayong, Nakhon Nayok, Chonburi and Prachinburi, the Miniter said. However, efforts to create artificial rain had to be postponed in the South due to malfunctioned aircraft. But in the South - at least in Phuket province - natural rain seems to be coming already. (Source: The Nation)


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Prices go up

Posted by hasekamp on 23 March 2005 at 10:53 AM
Yesterday's in Thailand the diesel price increased three-baht. Immediately after that a chorus of announcements of higher prices by transport operators and goods manufacturers could be heard, with calls for help from the fisheries and tourism sectors, while the government has announced no price-control measures. The diesel increase, decided by Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra yesterday and effective from midnight, also touched off chaos at petrol stations across the country, with motorists who rushed to fill their tanks having to wait in long queues only to be told later the pumps had run out of diesel.
Energy Minister Viset Choopiban said the government decided a one-shot three-baht hike was the better alternative to gradual increases, as this would leave businesses no reason to keep on adjusting their prices, prevent speculation and deflate the Oil Fund's ballooning subsidy burden of more than 77 billion baht. Mr Thaksin admitted that the government could not continue pegging the diesel price, and prices would be reviewed if global oil prices surpassed US$50 a barrel.
The finance minister, said the Commerce Ministry would ensure prices of goods actually reflected higher production costs, while the Energy Ministry would negotiate with oil companies for low-priced diesel for fishermen.
The Transport Minister said the diesel price rise will cause the cost of provincial and Bangkok bus and train services to rise and fare increases might be unavoidable. The State Railway of Thailand governor said the railway agency uses about 10 million litres of diesel per month so the price increase would cost the agency 30 million baht more monthly, or 360 million baht more annually. A price rise there is also likely. The managing director of the Chao Phraya Express Boat Co said the company had sought permission from authorities to raise fares by 20%, or to 20 baht for the entire route.
Overlooking all this, your next holiday in Thailand will be more expensive. Neventheless you should go there, be it only in order to support the local economy. But we are sure you also will have a good time there. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Dengue fever vaccine under development

Posted by hasekamp on 22 March 2005 at 10:03 AM
Yesterday we reported about an uncommon outbreak of dengue fever in Thailand. Today we can follow this up with the report that Thailand plans to test a vaccine against dengue fever over the next three years. So, it can not yet be used now.
This single vaccine against all four strains of the disease has been developed by Thai medical scientists. The vaccine is to be tested in three phases, including testing on humans over the next three years. The Ministry of Public Health’s Department of Disease Control has made preparations for the tests in the country's central province of Ratchaburi. About 2,500 people are needed for the planned test during 2008-2010.
If the vaccine is a success, Thailand expects to save more than one billion-baht budget a year from both the central and provincial administrations in the treatment of dengue patients. It is the world’s first-ever vaccine against dengue fever. It was developed by Thai scientists after they earlier successfully nurtured the dengue virus in chicken egg yolks. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Patong gets warning system soon

Posted by hasekamp on 22 March 2005 at 9:58 AM
Thailand’s first tsunami warning system will be installed at the Patong Beach in the country's southern resort province of Phuket before it is extended to other areas along the Andaman coast. Three signal towers will be constructed to cover the length of the Patong Beach by the end of April, Phuket’s Governor, Udomsak Asswarangkura, told the press on Monday. The towers will be linked to the National Disaster Warning Center. If the system detects huge movements of tsunami waves, the data will be transmitted to the center which will alert television and radio networks across the country and cell phone SMS (short message systems) to broadcast the warning. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Drought: Phuket thinks it's over

Posted by hasekamp on 22 March 2005 at 9:54 AM
Phuket can expect more rain this afternoon (Tuesday) after a heavy shower of about 30 minutes yesterday, mostly around Thalang and the airport. The director of the Southern Meteorological Center (West Coast) told that this rain is following the normal pattern of the rainy season in the South – the rain usually starts by the end of March or the beginning of April. Historically, May is the wettest month in Phuket. (Source: The Phuket Gazette)


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Water crisis worsens

Posted by hasekamp on 21 March 2005 at 18:14 PM
More than 12,000 villages across the country will run out of water for daily use within 10 days, an anti-drought taskforce revealed yesterday. However, the Agriculture Ministry’s permanent secretary said that they hey can request help and we will provide them with water within 24 hours. The taskforce, which is operating under the ministry’s authority, surveyed 45,032 villages between Thursday and Saturday in a bid to assess the extent of the drought crisis. By today it expects to have investigated a further 30,000 villages. Of the more than 45,000 surveyed by Saturday, 12,742 villages were running out of water for daily use and 16,616 others were short of water for farms and livestock. Only 15,662 villages remained unaffected by the drought. (Source: The Nation)


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Another tsunami effect

Posted by hasekamp on 21 March 2005 at 18:10 PM
Earnings from foreign film makers dropped sharply after the tsunami hit Thailand's Andaman coast late last year, according to a senior Tourism and Sports Ministry official. The spectacular scenery of the local area had been a popular backdrop for many foreign movies and advertisements. The deputy director of the Tourism Development Office said Thailand generated 1,128 million baht from foreign film makers last year, but after the tsunami earnings fell by 14 percent. The tsunami has directly affected this industry. In the first three months of this year, our income from foreign film makers has declined by 14 per cent from the same period last year. That is a big loss. Not a single foreign movie had been shot in Thailand this year, only a short documentary and a number of advertisements. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Dengue fever

Posted by hasekamp on 21 March 2005 at 18:07 PM
A rapid rise in dengue fever cases has rung alarm bells in the Public Health Ministry, which yesterday warned that the situation could get worse. Concern was raised at the ministry after an unusual leap in the number of patients in January and February: 2,769 cases, a 75% increase over the same two-month period last year. A spkesman said past experience indicated the country could expect the situation to get worse once the rainy season starts. The virus causing dengue is transmitted by the Aedes aegypit mosquito. All provincial health offices have been alerted to keep a close watch on patients with high fever for more than three consecutive days after receiving medical treatment. A dengue pandemic first broke out in Thailand in 1958 in Bangkok and surrounding provinces. Now dengue can be found in every province. This year, the ministry had set a target, aiming to keep cases below 31,500. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Police are loosing antique fight

Posted by hasekamp on 20 March 2005 at 18:21 PM
After years of fighting, law enforcement authorities have conceded they are unable to put an end to the smuggling of historic artifacts in a business deeply involved with thefts, antique shops and corrupt officials and politicians. Two weeks ago, city police and Fine Arts Department officials raided suspected antique shops at River City shopping complex in Bangkok, which houses more than 100 antique shops. They confiscated about half a dozen pieces of artifacts suspected of having been illegally acquired. However, most shops claimed they sold only replicas of ancient products. Some traders claimed their artifacts were imported from Laos and Cambodia and were asked to supply documents of origin and import tax. "I can say that 95% of antique shops breach the law," a police spokesman said. "Illegal trading of ancient artifacts is rampant, with Bangkok being the trading hub. Normally, shops selling historic items will not display these items, but they are widely known among collectors of these goods," he said, citing police intelligence reports. Some immoral state officials turn a blind eye after receiving bribes of 300-500 baht. How could ancient artifacts be smuggled out of the country if there were no such corrupt officials?". Some thieves even entered the monkhood to get information about ancient items. After leaving the monkhood, they came back to steal Buddha statues and other artifacts. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Australian teenagers guilty of murder

Posted by hasekamp on 20 March 2005 at 12:09 PM
Two Australian teenagers were found guilty in Sidney (Australia) on Saturday of murdering two Thai-born prostitutes who were bound and thrown alive into a crocodile-infested river in northern Australia. A jury unanimously convicted Ben William McLean and Phu Ngoc Trinh, both 19, on two counts of murder each over the deaths of the women, who were based in the Northern Australian Territory capital of Darwin. They were both given mandatory life sentences, with a non-parole period to be set in May. The trial heard that sex workers Phuangsri Kroksamrang, 58, and Somjai Insamnan, 27, were bound with cable ties and thrown alive into the Adelaide River in March last year. They had been weighed down with car batteries and thrown into the river with rope tied around their necks. Both men admitted having sex with the prostitutes but claimed an Asian crime gang killed the women. (Source: AFP)


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King oversees rain making personally

Posted by hasekamp on 17 March 2005 at 12:05 PM
His Majesty the King, whose kindness is often symbolised by gentle, serene rainfalls, has stepped in to lead state efforts to solve one of the worst droughts ever to threaten the country. The beloved monarch, who holds a patent on a cloud-seeding technique, will personally oversee artificial rain-making efforts to end the current severe drought wreaking havoc on livelihood of millions of his subjects. He has set up a centre in Hua Hin, location of his Royal retreat, to direct rain-making and will personally command the operation to help some 63 out of 76 total provinces reeling from the serious shortage of water for consumption and agriculture, Cabinet ministers said.
The crisis has forced soldiers to guard waterworks canals against desperate farmers, prompted national park authorities to ban overnight tourism in some areas, and some farm animals have had to be fed with water squeezed out of banana tree trunks.
His Majesty last weekend expressed his concern over the drought with Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and said the government should focus on cloud-seeding efforts. (Source: The Nation)


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Extra rain making

Posted by hasekamp on 16 March 2005 at 19:29 PM
Deputy Agriculture Minister Newin Chidchob said yesterday the government will expand cloud-seeding operations from 10 to 22 provinces within this week, with 17 planes from the armed forces and police. The planes will take off for the mission whenever humidity is over 50%. "We must accept, however, there is normally no rain in March and April. So each rain-making attempt for the time being bears fewer chances of success. We must understand that this is the dry season," he said. However, similar attempts brought some rain to several districts in Chiang Mai, Lamphun, Nakhon Si Thammarat and Rayong. The rain was not plentiful but enough to increase humidity and slow down forest fires, he said. Mr Newin said the government's rain-making planes should have higher capacity to carry more loads of chemicals to increase chances of success. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Money for drought

Posted by hasekamp on 16 March 2005 at 13:39 PM
The Thai government plans to pour 200 billion baht into solutions to Thailand's drought and water shortage in the long run, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has announced. Thailand's water resources and warter management will be restructured in order to solve the problem in the long run, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra told journalists here after Tuesday’s cabinet meeting. The government plans to provide job training and short-term employment for residents in rural areas hit by the severe drought as an ad hoc solution. As a medium term solution, Thailand will negotiate water sharing schemes with its neighbours, including Myanmar and Laos. The agricultural sector has been hard hit by the drought and is in need of urgent government assistance.
Meanwhile, the Governor of the northeastern Khon Kaen Province has called for an urgent meeting to establish a water distribution system as the level of the province’s main source of water, the Ubonratana Dam, has fallen dramatically. Nearly 500,000 local residents have been affected by the drought and have demanded urgent government assistance, including the immediate provision of water for agricultural use and consumption. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Bad start for the new cabinet

Posted by hasekamp on 16 March 2005 at 13:34 PM
Members of the new Thaksin Cabinet were treated to rare and expensive Chinese food from a well-known restaurant yesterday during their first meeting. The costly dishes, including so-called "monk jumps over the wall" soup and shark fins were ordered from a very exclusive Chinese restaurant and served at Government Gouse for the Cabinet members’ lunch. The soup is so called because legend has it that it is so delicious and made from such rare and expensive ingredients that Chinese monks will jump over their temple walls to sneak out to eat it. Other dishes included dim sum, fried spring rolls, roasted ducks and legs of geese. Well-known Chinese desserts were also served.
We find this a bad example by the new cabinet towards the Thai people. All these rare dishes are not only expensive (and have to be paid by the Thai tax payer), but most of them are being prepared out of rare and - in many cases - protected animals. If this shows the mentality of the Thaksin 2 cabinet, we do not expect much good for the environment, which already was an underfocussed item for the Thaksin 1 cabinet. (Source: The Nation)


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Many still in shock after tsunami

Posted by hasekamp on 16 March 2005 at 13:24 PM
Two-and-a-half months after the Dec 26 tsunami disaster, up to 400 mentally-traumatised victims require prescription medication, eight remain hospitalised and around 400 orphaned children are still receiving counselling. The director of a hospital in Surat Thani, the mental rehabilitation hub for tsunami victims in the six southern provinces, said the center had carried out mental therapy and counselling sessions for 10,000-12,000 patients since the tsunami struck. Almost all were now recuperating or had returned to normal, while 300-400 others, or about 10% - mostly from Phangnga province - remained stressed and needed prescription sleeping pills. The doctor said that about 400 children, orphaned by the tsunami, needed continued counselling sessions with psychologists. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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New Cabinet sworn in

Posted by hasekamp on 15 March 2005 at 0:01 AM
His Majesty the King urged members of the new Cabinet, sworn in yesterday, to stick to pledges made before him that they would perform their duties honestly. His Majesty asked them to work honestly and sincerely for the benefit of the country and the people.
"I urge you to review the message in your pledge every day. Please work for the happiness of the people. I hope all of you will be able to do as you have promised for the benefit of the country and yourselves," His Majesty said.
Monday evening the King granted an audience to Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and 35 members of his Cabinet (nine of whom assumed their offices for the first time) at the Klai Kangwon Palace in Hua Hin, Prachuap Khiri Khan. The new Cabinet’s swearing-in ceremony was held before the King. His Majesty said he believed if the Cabinet members carried out their duties as they had pledged, it would not be too difficult for them to tackle national problems.
"Even though there are several difficulties and obstacles in terms of the economy and politics these days, you should be able to succeed if you keep your pledges," he said. The King then wished the Cabinet members success in their work. (Source: The Nation)


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King wants drought-help in tsunami areas

Posted by hasekamp on 14 March 2005 at 11:22 AM
His Majesty the King has instructed the Chaipattana Foundation to help people in tsunami-ravaged areas cope with the ongoing drought. The dry spell has made things worse because there was already a shortage of drinking water after the December 26 tsunami turned drinking water in local ponds saline. Especially people in the remote islands of Trang and Ranong are suffering from the impact of the drought. The foundation has worked with the Water Resources Department to deliver fresh water to local people, as an immediate solution, in addition to trying to dig non-saline artesian wells for them. Agriculture Minister Sudarat Keyuraphan said she planned to request 17 aircraft from the Royal Thai Army and Royal Thai Police to seed clouds to make rain because the drought was affecting more than 60 provinces across the country. Sudarat said she would convene a meeting of all relevant agencies on Wednesday after which she expected to get a clearer picture of what should be done to alleviate the immediate suffering caused by the drought. She said the authorities would also draw up a national water plan within the next six months for the development of 25 water basins and to look at ways of diverting water from the Mekong River. Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra admitted that the effects of the drought had been particularly severe this year and said he was praying that rain would come by May. (Source: The Nation)


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Severe drought in 66 provinces of Thailand

Posted by hasekamp on 13 March 2005 at 16:29 PM
With drought ravaging many areas of the country, the government is today forming a national relief center that will place top priority on getting water to where it is most needed. The unusual dry spell has been designated a national emergency after His Majesty the King expressed his concern during a Royal audience with Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra on Friday. "I am aware of the magnitude of the drought and I have given instructions for intensified efforts on cloud seeding in all areas deemed feasible," Thaksin said yesterday.
Acting on Royal advice, he said he had also ordered relevant agencies to quickly reopen underground water wells that had been shut down due to accumulated sediment. Sufficient funds have already been allocated to solve the clogged wells and officials will have to show quick results.
Some 66 provinces have been designated as drought-stricken zones, 10 of which are regarded as worst hit areas. (Source: The Nation)


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Updated tsunami stats

Posted by hasekamp on 11 March 2005 at 12:49 PM
The Tsunami Center in Phuket has issued updated statistics of the number of victims from the December 26 tsunami, following deduplication of lists. We copy them without comment.
The total number of dead from the tsunami is now officially 5,395 people, comprising 1,926 Thais, 1,953 foreigners and 1,516 of as-yet-unidentified nationality.
A total of 8,457 people were injured – 6,065 Thais and 2,392 foreigners. Still missing are 2,932 people, of whom 2,023 are Thais and 909 are foreigners.
By province the numbers are:
Phang Nga: Dead: 4,224 (1,253 Thais, 1,633 foreigners and 1,338 unidentified); Injured 5,597 (4,344 Thais, 1,253 foreigners); Missing: 1,733 (1,428 Thais, 305 foreigners).
Krabi: Dead: 721 (357 Thais, 203 foreigners and 161 unidentified); Injured 1,376 (808 Thais, 568 foreigners); Missing: 569 (329 Thais, 240 foreigners).
Phuket: Dead: 279 (151 Thais, 111 foreigners and 17 unidentified); Injured 1,111 (591 Thais, 520 foreigners); Missing: 620 (256 Thais, 364 foreigners).
Ranong: Dead: 160 (156 Thais and four foreigners); Injured 246 (215 Thais, 31 foreigners); Missing: nine Thais.
Trang: Dead: five (three Thais and two foreigners); Injured 112 (92 Thais, 20 foreigners); Missing: one Thai.
Satun: Dead: six Thais; Injured: 15 Thais. (Source: The Phuket Gazette)


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Lookout towers to be built

Posted by hasekamp on 11 March 2005 at 12:43 PM
The Phuket Provincial Administration Organization (OrBorJor) intends to build 12 permanent watchtowers, where observers can watch for signs of future tsunami, and also monitor the safety of tourists. Some of the towers will replace existing lifeguard stations, others will be completely new. The OrBorJor Vice-President said there would eventually be three towers around Kata and Karon; three in Patong and Kalim, two at Surin Beach and one each at Nai Harn, Kamala, Laem Singh and Bang Tao Beaches. He said the calculated cost for each tower would be no more than 250,000 baht to build, and that the Bangkok Phuket Hospital had offered to pay for the construction of 10 of the 12. (Source: The Phuket Gazette)


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Thaksin promises to listen better

Posted by hasekamp on 10 March 2005 at 10:43 AM
Thai PM Thaksin Shinawatra promises to keep an open mind, listen to dissent, make up with the press, respect human rights, support non-governmental organizations and return power to people by promoting participatory democracy in his second term. It sounds too good to be true, but he made the pledges after receiving royal endorsement as prime minister for a second term yesterday. His pledges were uncharacteristic, considering Mr. Thaksin was criticized more than once during his first term in office for thinking and acting unilaterally. Mr. Thaksin said he would exercise his absolute House majority wisely, and not abuse his power. "I will not use that political security in a wrong way but will maximize it for the love and unity of Thais, to make them become one and to solve problems and eliminate obstacles," he said.
The Royal command appointing Mr. Thaksin prime minister was read to him at Government House last night following House approval of his nomination in the morning. Mr. Thaksin said democracy would be developed further, and that could come in the form of strengthening grassroots-administration bodies, ensuring independent organizations could be truly independent and supporting NGOs (non-governmental organizations), which make "constructive" contributions. "I will respect NGOs that have no hidden agendas," he said.
Mr. Thaksin pledged to increase people's power, partly by returning power taken from them by various laws. He would also give people a chance to exercise their power by visiting them and giving them a say, calling public hearings or even holding a referendum on important matters.
Mr. Thaksin furthermore promised to promote (which is much more than "just" to respect!) human rights. He would discuss with human rights groups ways to lift Thailand's standard of rights protection, open a center to track down missing people and identify unknown bodies.
He also promised to develop his relations with media outlets that treasured Thailand's dignity and wanted only good things for the country. "I will try to understand the media which is still trying to keep pace with development," he said.
Time will learn us if Thailand will indeed become the "promised land" of SE Asia. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Quintuplets born

Posted by hasekamp on 10 March 2005 at 10:32 AM
A 28-year-old woman gave birth to quintuplets, three boys and two girls, in Hat Yai on Tuesday. All the babies survived, but were weak, doctors said. The mother from Surat Thani province, was admitted to Hat Yai Hospital on Tuesday morning. Although only seven months pregnant she was in labour. The babies were born at one-minute intervals. The gynaecologist who headed the operation said the mother Had become pregnant by in vitro fertilisation after previous attempts to have children failed. The five babies were fully formed and cried loudly after being delivered, but they were weaker than normal babies because they were small and premature. This was normal under the circumstances. The mother was safe, the doctor said.
The mother said she had learned she was having quintuplets when she was three months pregnant. She had thought about having an abortion because she had wanted twins. Her doctor refused, explaining that the babies had already developed a skeleton and an abortion could have harmed her. Like any mother, she was worried about her babies' condition. The father, 30, said he was delighted and ready to raise all the babies. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Thai generals dismissed

Posted by hasekamp on 8 March 2005 at 19:37 PM
Three Thai generals have been dismissed after an inquiry into the deaths of demonstrators during a protest in the country's mainly Muslim south (Takbai). The three will be moved to advisory positions, the military said. They were blamed for mismanaging the break-up of last year's Takbai protest, but will not face disciplinary action.
During the clashes with security forces at Takbai, at least six protesters were killed. More than 1,000 were then loaded into army trucks, where 78 people died from suffocation or crushing. Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra promised an investigation into the deaths. Announcing the sanction on Monday, Army Chief Gen Pravit Wongsuwan said: "There is no disciplinary penalty for the ranks of general and no disciplinary punishment is being meted out. Punishment through dismissal is already regarded as the most severe. All the three have carried out their jobs faithfully, but they still need to be held accountable." (Source: BBC News)


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Capsized ferry was overloaded

Posted by hasekamp on 7 March 2005 at 14:46 PM
The ferry boat that sank in a heavy storm near Koh Yao Noi on Saturday was heavily overloaded, with at least 79 people on board while it was licensed to hold only 22 passengers, Phangnga governor Anuwat Maytheevibulwut said yesterday. Mr Anuwat said the actual number of people known to have died was eight, not 10 as previously reported. The bodies of six drowned passengers were plucked from the sea on Saturday. Fifty-nine passengers survived the accident. Two were earlier reported to Koh Yao police station as missing. The rest were still unaccounted for, the governor said. Mr Anuwat said the boat made five trips a day between Phuket and Koh Yao Noi. The boat was making the last return trip on Saturday when it ran into a heavy storm and capsized in rough seas. Since it was the last trip, the boat was packed with many more passengers than usual. It was also carrying two motorcycles and a large quantity of construction materials and other articles. The owner and operator of the passenger boat Rungroj, reported to Koh Yao police on Saturday night. He said most passengers were cousins and acquaintances and he could not refuse to let them board. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Drug traffickers shot dead

Posted by hasekamp on 6 March 2005 at 16:44 PM
At least nine suspected drug traffickers were killed yesterday in two police sting operations and an Army shootout with a drug caravan. Soldiers seized 25 kilograms of heroin after a fierce 20-minute exchange of fire with traffickers manning a drug caravan in Mae Hong Son’s Pang Mapha subdistrict along the Thai-Burmese border yesterday morning.
In a separate incident, four members of the Wa ethnic minority were killed by police, while two other suspects managed to flee in Chiang Mai’s Sansai district during a sting operation.
Police seized 100,000 methamphetamine tablets, which they had arranged to buy in an undercover operation.
On Friday afternoon a Thai man and two Burmese men were killed by police in the border town of Mae Sot in Tak province. It was a sting operation by the Narcotics Suppression Division. The suspects were killed in a shootout on the Thai side of the border.
The killings came just as Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra had vowed in his weekly radio address that he would keep up his tough anti-drugs stance during his second term in office. Thaksin’s 2002 "war on drugs" claimed at least 2,500 lives and triggered charges from domestic and international human-rights groups of extrajudicial killings by Thai authorities. It is not over yet. (Source: The Nation)


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Boat near Phuket capsized

Posted by hasekamp on 6 March 2005 at 16:39 PM
At least 10 people, including two children, drowned yesterday when a boat, crammed with passengers, capsized in a heavy storm near Koh Yao Noi, east of Phuket. Thirty people were injured in the accident, and about 30 passengers are still missing. All the casualties are believed to be Thai nationals. Meanwhile, a festival scheduled to take place last night on Patong beach aimed at helping revive tourism in the province, was cancelled due to stormy weather conditions. The navy and marine police as well as private disaster relief organisations dispatched boats to lead rescue efforts. About 30 passengers were plucked from the sea and rushed to Vajira Phuket, Koh Yao and Thalang hospitals. Eight of the most seriously injured survivors were being treated at Vajira Phuket hospital. Sources said the boat was making its last trip of the day from Phuket to Koh Yao Noi, and was believed to have been overloaded with goods and passengers. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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King addresses new MP's

Posted by hasekamp on 5 March 2005 at 14:34 PM
His Majesty the King yesterday urged members of the new House of Representatives to consult with each other rationally, amicably and sincerely for the best interests of the country and public. "From now on it is your duty and direct responsibility to pool your forces and work to the best of your ability to ensure that the running of the country goes straightforwardly and satisfactorily," His Majesty said. He was speaking to the 500 newly elected MPs while presiding over the opening of the new parliamentary session yesterday evening. The function, held at the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall, was also attended by senators, public officials and foreign diplomats. (Source: The Nation)


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Website to attract tourists?

Posted by hasekamp on 4 March 2005 at 13:18 PM
A private tour company has launched a website to promote tourism in Thailand to the world community. The company is also planning to expand tourism market in Eastern European region. The A to Z Professional Travel Co., Ltd. stated that the aftermath of Tsunami disaster last December has caused a number of hotel accommodation reservations to be below the target. So far, an approximate 15,000 to 20,000 rooms have been reserved. Therefore, the company has recently adjusted its marketing strategy by offering tourists a special package tour and launching a website (http://www.morethailand.de) to promote tourism in Thailand. It is a German language website, aimed at expanding the customer base to Australia, Switzerland and countries in Eastern Europe. The first introduction of this website will be made at the "International Travel Berlin (ITB)" fair. It is the world class tourism fair, which will be organized in Berlin of Federal Republic of Germany between March 11th and 15th, 2005.
The site does not impress us. It looks like one of the tons of commercial websites by hotel offices or tour organizers. So we do not see how this site could promote tourism and we wonder why an official Thai institution promotes this site. But judge for yourself. (Source: Public Relations Department)


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Thaksin seems to listen

Posted by hasekamp on 2 March 2005 at 11:03 AM
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra yesterday amended hid tactics following widespread concern that the government’s heavy-handed tactics were inflaming violence in the deep South. A day after the government’s policies in the South were roundly criticized by two Privy Council members, Thaksin met with Privy Council Chairman and elder statesman General Prem Tinsulanonda for closed-door talks. As we reported, Prem suggested that the prime minister should adopt advice from Their Majesties the King and the Queen and follow a cautious and peaceful approach to solving the southern unrest, rather than rushing in to fight without gaining an in-depth understanding of the situation. After yesterday’s meeting with Prem, Thaksin said: "I came to pay a courtesy call on Prem and we talked about things in general, touching on no specifics." Political observers speculated that the prime minister might have tried to explain his stance on the southern situation to Prem, who advises His Majesty the King. Earlier yesterday, Thaksin told his Cabinet he was pinning his hopes on the newly formed National Reconciliation Commission to shed light on a sustainable solution to restore normalcy in the deep South. (Source: The Nation)


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Privy Council: Thaksin should listen to Their Majesties

Posted by hasekamp on 1 March 2005 at 11:49 AM
In a major rebuke to Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s current heavy-handed approach to settling the southern conflict, two top Privy Council members have urged the government to adopt the Royal approach, which focuses on pacifist and development-oriented means. General Prem Tinsulanonda, chair of the Privy Council and a former prime minister, was very clear in his opening speech during a workshop on "Collaboration in Solving Problems in Southern Thailand according to the Royal Approaches". He referred to the situation in Yala, Narathiwat and Pattani as having worsened since January 4 of last year. In handling the southern conflict, he said it was imperative for the government to stress accessibility (khao thueng), understanding (khao jai) and development (pattana). Daily violence has become a common occurrence over the past year, with more than 600 officials and civilians killed.
The workshop yesterday also featured a lecture from Dr Kasem Wattanachai, another Privy Council member, who spoke of the wisdom of Their Majesties. He quoted His Majesty the King for most of his presentation and said that problems in the deep South should be approached with this wisdom. He reiterated that solving the southern conflict required using the experience of many parties in a collaborative process.
Recently, General Surayud Chulanont, another Privy Council member, criticized Thaksin’s zoning policy in the South as divisive and unconstitutional. He said that Thai-Muslims had been mistreated and that the authorities must listen to locals. (Source: The Nation)


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Mister Energy

Posted by hasekamp on 1 March 2005 at 11:38 AM
He is just a cardboard cut-out, but the Energy Policy and Planning Office (EPPO) is hoping that 'Mr. Energy' will encourage motorists in Bangkok to put the brakes on excessive fuel consumption. Under the slogan 'Thais help Thailand by cutting down on energy use', EPPO hopes to be able to help the public weather the storm of rising fuel prices. Representing an ordinary member of the public, 'Mr. Energy' is appearing in billboards along major thoroughfares across Bangkok to show motorists how they can drive without wasting precious fuel. EPPO has also teamed up with radio stations to put its message on the radio. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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