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Not enough ethanol

Posted by hasekamp on 30 December 2005 at 15:18 PM
An ethanol supply is likely to be insufficient for local consumption early next year since popularity in gasohol has significantly increased, according to the Energy Ministry. We remind our readers that His Majesty the King mentioned gasohol for a moment in his birthday speech. A spokesman said that the popularity in the consumption of premium gasohol had risen considerably with a sale of more than 3 million liters per day. Many oil traders had expressed interest to make regular gasohol available at their service stations. Should the demand continue to rise and new ethanol plants, which are set to begin production in January, fail to produce as planned, the gasohol supply might be in shortage. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Singer gets eight years

Posted by hasekamp on 30 December 2005 at 15:13 PM
The Criminal Court yesterday sentenced a former singer (Pornpan Rattanamethanont, 24) to eight years in jail and her boyfriend to 33 years and four months behind bars for trafficking methamphetamine late last year. The court found Pornpan and Jitapat Sangsuwan, 28, guilty of possessing methamphetamine pills for sale. Pornpan, once known as "Joyce" of the now disbanded Triumph Kingdom pop dance duo, and Jitapat were arrested in Nonthaburi province in Nov, 2004 while supplying 300 pills to an addict working for the police. A search of Jitapat's home in Nonthaburi found 3,740 more pills. Pornpan was sentenced to only eight years in jail and fined 340,000 baht because the court believed she was aware of only 140 pills in a noticeable container in the house. The rest were well-hidden, so the court held only Jitapat responsible for them. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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New Year countdown in Chiang Mai

Posted by hasekamp on 29 December 2005 at 15:57 PM
Thousands of people, both Thais and foreign tourists, are expected to join the forthcoming countdown event at Chiang Mai Night Safari. The new attraction has been under heavy criticism for the aquisition of many wild animals from Kenya and for an idea to open a restaurant with wild animals on the nmenu.
The New Year countdown event would begin from 06:00 p.m. on December 31. Activities in the event include bike and mini marathorn races, as well as animal shows and displays of modern and folk music, according to the officials. However, there will be no firework displays, as it will disturb and panic animal flocks in the night zoo. The Chiang Mai Night Safari has unofficially opened for the public for over one month, attracting more than 800,000 visitors so far. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Briton may face death penalty

Posted by hasekamp on 29 December 2005 at 15:46 PM
A 47-year-old British man could face the death penalty in Thailand after being charged with drug trafficking in the popular seaside town of Pattaya, officials said Thursday. Mark Freely, who lives in Britain's second city Birmingham, was arrested on Christmas Day in Pattaya for allegedly trafficking one kilogram (2.2 pounds) of cocaine. Four other Britons, Jack Dean, 40, Lee Spence, 37, Nicholas Millburn, 26, and Nicola Allan, 34, from London, also remained in custody after they tested positive for drugs, said the British diplomat here who declined to be named. They have been charged with taking illegal drugs, the diplomat said. Although the maximum penalty for drug trafficking in Thailand is the death sentence by lethal injection, police said no foreigner charged with drug trafficking in Thailand has been executed in the last 30 years. "Even though foreigners were sentenced to death, the penalty was reduced to life imprisonment at maximum thanks to royal pardons," said a Thai police official, requesting anonymity. (Source: The Nation)


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Post-tsunami engagemant

Posted by hasekamp on 28 December 2005 at 11:39 AM
Today a wedding engagement ceremony took place in a red and white rose-bedecked hospital room. Ron and Dorit met amid, and because of the immense tragedy of last year's tsunami. Ron Bombiger was carried to the Bangkok-Phuket Hospital, carried to a bed in patient room 432, where he was hospitalised, and came to meet scores of people he had never imagined he would meet. On the third day - Dec 28, 2004 - Ron met Dorit, a medical doctor who came to dress the wounds. The day they met in 2004 was to be their engagement day and and they returned to Thailand for a time.
Engineer Ron Bombiger, 49, was on holiday when he met medical doctor Dorit Nitzan, 48, one year ago. The two Israelis announced their engagement Tuesday a special room at the Bangkok-Phuket hospital, the same room when he was hospiatlised and they met one year ago. Their romance developed as they traveled back to their home country, Israel, and they decided to exchange engagement rings in Thailand. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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War on drugs to continue

Posted by hasekamp on 28 December 2005 at 11:28 AM
An advisor to prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra stated that the government will continue its efforts to eradicate narcotics in Thailand. He said this endeavor is the government’#39;s New Year’#39;s gift to the general public. The premier’#39;s advisor said the government will recommence its fight against narcotics after it had succeeded in doing so in the year 2003. Every related agency, Thailand’#39;s neighboring countries, and the Thai people nationwide will be urged to cooperate with the government on this scheme. He said concerned officials will be assigned to intensively x-ray all areas throughout the country. Solving narcotics issues will also help the government in eradicating poverty and crime problems, said the advisor. (Source: Public Relations Department)


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Official tsunami remembrance, an overview

Posted by hasekamp on 26 December 2005 at 17:31 PM
The Thai government is holding today the first anniversary memorial service on the tsunami strike on six southern Thai provinces on the Andaman coast, to mourn the death of over 5,000 people, both locals and foreign visitors. When combined with the number of fatalities in other countries, the tsunami death toll on December 26th, 2004 was over 140,000. Deputy Prime Minister Suwat Liptapanlop, chairman of the committee organizing the 1st tsunami commemorative ceremony, said the government is organizing the event in accordance with the world tradition and to make known to the world Thailand’#39;s spirit and assistance extended to the affected people, as well as the progress of rehabilitation. According to Mr. Suwat, the number of participants is not as important as the traditional observance of this memorial event. He added that it is important to let the world witness the rehabilitation and the construction of early warning systems, all of which are in much progress. The tsunami-hit region used to generate 130 billion baht in revenue, accounting for one-third of the country’#39;s economy. The Deputy Prime Minister reiterated that it is necessary to revive the damaged economy as soon as possible. Mr. Suwat quoted reports by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Interior as saying that a total of 6,348 people have accepted the Thai Government’#39;s invitations to attend the 1st anniversary of the tsunami strike. The number includes 4,513 Thais who were in the incidents last December and 1,359 foreigners comprising 14 VIP and ambassadors from six countries, relatives and dependents of the fallen victims, the injured and their relatives, as well as representatives of international organizations. Swedish participants account for the largest group of foreign participants in this year’#39;s memorial service, followed by the British, the Australians, the Germans, and the French.
Other Thai participants are 476 VIPs including Cabinet members, MPs, senators, heads of official units and those who had supported the relief operations. The visits of all the 6,348 participants will be sponsored by the Thai government, which has set aside 300 million baht for the purpose. Mr. Suwat mentioned that the King of Sweden and the US President have informed they would be unable to attend the ceremony due to similar services in their respective countries.
The tsunami commemorative function on December 26th is divided into three parts: the morning memorial ceremonies, the laying of a foundation stone for the tsunami monument and the evening memorial service and exhibitions.
The Morning Memorial Ceremonies will be held at 10.00 am at seven locations in four provinces and will be presided over by different Cabinet members. In Phuket at Mai Khao morgue, Kamala Beach and Bang Niang Beach. In Phang Nga at Bang Niang Beach and at Ban Nam Khem Beach. In Krabi at Phi Phi Island. In Trang at Hat Jao Mai Beach. The ceremonies will be simple and similar at all sites, with government representatives giving a memorial speech and laying wreaths.
The Foundation Stone Laying for the tsunami monument will take place at about 4.30 pm with Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra presiding over the ceremony. It will take place at Khao Lak Lam Loo National Park in Takua Pa District, Phang Nga Province which is the hardest-hit spot. The foundation stone to be laid is a metal plate inscribed with the horoscope and the names of 38 countries which lost their nationals in the tsunami strikes on December 26th, last year.
The Evening commemorative service at Bang Niang Beach in Phang Nga. This ceremony in Takua Pa District will be presided over by Princess Ubol Ratana, who lost her only son in the disaster. The ceremony will include exhibitions on Khun Phum, Princess Ubol Ratana’#39;s late son, and on paintings about the December 26th disaster by 60 national artists. Religious functions will be performed in six faiths: Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, Brahminist Hindu, Sikh and the Jewish religion. Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra will give a speech on this occasion. Thereafter, Princess Ubol Ratana will be speaking on behalf of the survivors. This will be followed by poem-reading by Miss Tilly Smith, the British girl who was the first person who shouted warning of the tsunami to others on the day of the tsunami strike, resulted in the saving of many lives. A Thai boy who has survived the disaster but lost his father will also read a Thai poem.
Last in this series, 5,000 sky lanterns will be floated. (Source: Public Relations Department)


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Ceremony in Patong

Posted by hasekamp on 26 December 2005 at 17:16 PM
Local and foreign tourists took part in lighting up some 100,000 candles at the Patong Beach in memory of those killed by tsunami on December 26 last year. The ceremony was held by the Phuket Provincial Administrative Organisation (PAO) and chaired by Phuket PAO president Anchalee Wanit Theppabutr. The ceremony, titled Light-up at Patong, took place at 7:10 pm. The candles lined up about three kilometers long on the beach. (Source: The Nation)


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Phi Phi islanders blame government

Posted by hasekamp on 26 December 2005 at 17:13 PM
For some residents of Phi Phi island (that was levelled by the tsunami) today's commemoration of the disaster's first anniversary only evokes memories they would rather forget. "I have almost forgotten the tragedy but the government's commemorative event is making me think about it again," said a petrol vendor, who lost his house and nearly his life to the monster waves. He said initially he had a hard time trying to forget the death and destruction, and only succeeded in doing so after several months had passed. A boat-taxi driver at Tonsai beach, who lost his elder brother, said the commemoration would be a depressing event for those who lost loved ones. He recalled that he spent many days trying to find the body of his brother and when he did, it broke his heart. Another boat-taxi driver, said many locals who lost loved ones would not be attending the ceremony. He questioned the activities planned by the government and some businesses on the island, saying it looked more like they were meant to promote business rather than help victims. He said taxpayer money would be better spent to rehabilitate affected islanders. But a tour company operator, dismissed the scepticism, saying the event would be held to make merit for the dead and not to benefit any particular interest group or political party. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Volunteers prefer own remembrance

Posted by hasekamp on 26 December 2005 at 17:08 PM
Volunteers working in tsunami victim identification opted to hold a private tsunami memorial service yesterday, separate from the huge commemorative event to be hosted by the government today in the province worst hit by the killer waves. The government's ceremony was simply an event aimed at promoting tourism and to showcase the government's performance in recovery efforts rather than bringing together victims, volunteers and state officials who struggled to work in difficult conditions in the aftermath of the tsunami, one of the volunteers said. About 30 volunteers, who worked hand-in-hand with a forensic expert yesterday held a quiet reunion at the temple in remembrance of their relentless efforts to help the victims to be returned home. The gathering took place as the conflict between Khunying Porntip and the police resurfaced. The police say Khunying Porntip's efforts failed to meet international standards, blaming it on young inexperienced volunteers. The police argue that the law requires post-mortem work to be performed by policemen and doctors. The volunteers had no prior training and so their work could be considered illegal. As a result of the volunteers' inexperience and what they feel is a sloppy identification process, several corpses had been sent to the wrong families, they claim.
We believe that much of the identification work would not have been done at all without the help of the volunteers. Can the police seriously state that their work has been done without any errors? (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Flooded provinces cry for help

Posted by hasekamp on 24 December 2005 at 14:17 PM
Frustrated with slow relief assistance from local authorities and the government, flood-hit residents in the South made a direct plea to chief Privy Councillor (and former PM Prem) Tinsulanonda for immediate help. Prem immediately instructed officials from the Prem Tinsulanonda Foundation to begin seeking out companies to sponsor the provision of relief supplies for the region. The former Army chief said he and foundation officials would visit the flood-hit areas next week. Flood-affected residents made telephone calls directly to the foundation pleading for help. The government has been criticised for its slow response in providing assistance to people in seven southern provinces affected by flooding, which has been taking a toll on the region for the past three weeks.
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra yesterday headed to the region to inspect Songkhla’#39;s Hat Yai district. He admitted that flood-drainage operations in the region had been too slow in many areas, especially in Hat Yai. Thaksin said he would not inspect flood-hit areas tomorrow if the water level had receded by then, but would instead fly directly to Phuket to preside over government-sponsored tsunami memorial ceremonies. (Source: The Nation)


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Young tsunami survivor teaches how to survive

Posted by hasekamp on 24 December 2005 at 14:09 PM
A young British survivor of the tsunami, Tilly Smith, urged Thai children - especially those who live in coastal provinces - to learn more about tsunamis and earthquakes, so they could save their lives and loved ones from future natural disasters. "So many people lost their lives in last year's tsunami because they didn't know about it. I learned about the tsunami in my geography class and that helped me to see signs of the tidal waves," the 11-year-old schoolgirl told the Bangkok Post. Tilly noticed that seawater began to froth and bubble and swiftly receded while she walked with her parents and seven-year-old sister on Mai Khao beach in Phuket on the morning of Dec 26. "It was the same sight I saw pictured in a video about a Hawaiian tsunami my geography teacher showed me in school, so I told my mum a tsunami was coming," said Tilly, from Oxshott, Surrey, south of London. "At first my parents didn't believe me, but as I kept shouting that there is going to be a tsunami, they eventually told tourists and hotel staff to run for higher ground," she said. Tilly, who was 10 years old at the time, said nobody seemed to know the word "tsunami" except a Japanese chef, who later helped the Smiths alert other people that tidal waves were only minutes away. Eyewitnesses said the tsunami alert from the 10-year-old girl saved about 100 vacationers at the hotel. Tilly revisited Mai Khao beach with her family on Tuesday.
Tilly has been invited to many places over the past several months to speak about the importance of natural disaster education. Last month, she was invited to the United Nations headquarters in New York, where she met former US president Bill Clinton, also the UN's Special Envoy for the Tsunami Recovery. After listening to Tilly's experiences, Mr Clinton said: "Tilly's story tells us about the importance of teaching young people about natural hazards. Her story is a simple reminder that education can make a difference between life and death." (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Relatives still searching for tsunami victims

Posted by hasekamp on 23 December 2005 at 13:57 PM
Almost a year after the devastating tsunami changed their lives forever, some families are still burying their loved ones, while others have yet to find the bones and ashes that were unwittingly cremated by other families. An Italian couple recently flew to Phang Nga province to dig up the body of their daughter, who was mistakenly buried by a Muslim family who thought she was their daughter. On November 18, a police oficer travelled from Nakhon Phanom to the Tsunami Victim Identification Centre in Phuket to locate his dead sister. Two days before, they said the body of his sister was identified from 1,143 other bodies at Mai Khao cemetery. His sister was left to freeze in a container with a temperature of minus 14 degrees Celsius. The centre found her body through DNA matching.
Since January 13, the centre has identified 2,645 bodies. Because 5,395 people perished from 38 countries, the identification of the victims presented a challenge for local and international forensics experts. About 45 per cent of the victims – almost all of them foreigners – could be identified by dental records; 35 per cent – mostly Thais – were matched through fingerprints; and the rest were identified by DNA.
The centre and the Mai Khao cemetery in Phuket were closed early this month. All 1,143 bodies, 805 of which have yet to be identified, were transferred to the Tsunami Repatriation Centre in Phang Nga’#39;s Bang Maruan. The centre’#39;s facility in Phuket was transferred to the police headquarters in Bangkok. (Source: The Nation)


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Criticism after heavy flooding in the South

Posted by hasekamp on 23 December 2005 at 13:52 PM
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra will visit the flood-stricken South on Sunday amid complaints by locals that the government is neglecting their grievances. Mr Thaksin said he would stay overnight in the South on Sunday before leaving for Phangnga province to attend the Dec 26 tsunami commemorative event. He dismissed heavy criticism that the government had ignored the plight of flood victims in the South because it was a political stronghold of the opposition Democrat party.
The Meteorological Department yesterday announced that downpours and strong winds in the Gulf of Thailand were expected. It warned of flash floods, forest run-offs and overflow from rivers in the South. Waves would be as high as two to four metres. The Mineral Resources Department also warned of possible mudslides in Chumphon, Krabi, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Narathiwat, Pattani, Phatthalung, Songkhla, Surat Thani, Trang, Satun and Yala. Deputy Interior Minister Somchai Sunthornwat praised the Hat Yai municipality for protecting business areas in Hat Yai district of Songkhla from the floods. However, the outskirts of the town were still under water yesterday. His Majesty the King had donated five water pumps to drain floodwaters from Hat Yai, Mr Somchai said. Several southern provinces were hit (again) by heavy rains yesterday.
In Nakhon Si Thammarat, residents feared they would face a fourth round of flooding. While floodwaters in many areas receded, many people in Cha-uat, Chian Yai, Pak Phanang, Hua Sai and Chalerm Prakiat districts were yesterday evacuated to higher ground because of the flood. Damage caused by the floods was initially estimated at 125 million baht. In Yala, residents yesterday rushed to move their animals to higher ground after heavy rains hit the province. Several mosques and houses were damaged by recent flooding which caused damage worth 112 million baht. Bannang Sata district was the worst hit, with more than 1,000 people left homeless by mudslides.
Continuing rain brought fears to residents of Trang province, particularly in Kantang district where floodwaters were still high. In Surat Thani, around 1,000 fishing boats yesterday rushed back to shore due to heavy rains and high waves about two to four metres high.
In Narathiwat, five districts remained inundated, with Rueso district the worst hit. More than 500 residents had to seek shelter at local mosques. So far, no state assistance has reached the locals.
In Satun, several areas were flooded. About 30 families in Langu district were in dire need of drinking water.
In Pattani, floodwaters gradually receded to 40cm from a metre high. As heavy rains struck the province again yesterday, authorities put more sandbags around areas vulnerable to flooding.
Since Dec 14, the flooding has claimed 24 lives. Yesterday alone, three people were killed and two others were missing. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Kenya postpones sending animals

Posted by hasekamp on 21 December 2005 at 19:20 PM
Kenya has postponed a plan to send a batch of wild animal to Chiang Mai Night Safari in Thailand's northern region pending a court verdict. The Kenyan government this week adjourned the plan, based on a memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed earlier between Nairobi and Bangkok, following a lawsuit lodged by the Nairobi community and Kenyan wildlife conservation groups. The local wildlife protection groups and the Nairobi community asked the Kenyan court to review the legitimacy of the Thai-Kenyan MOU. Under the deal, Kenya would send a batch of 175 wild animals to Chiang Mai Night Safari as a goodwill gesture and symbol of closer ties and cooperation between the two countries. However, the Nairobi community and the local civic groups have opposed the accord. The Chiang Mai Night Safari, the first of its kind in the Thai kingdom, is scheduled to officially open by early next year.(Source: Thai News Agency)


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No Thai to follow Kofi Annan

Posted by hasekamp on 21 December 2005 at 19:18 PM
The Thai Embassy in the US has urged the Tai government to withdraw Deputy Prime Minister Surakiart Sathirathai’#39;s candidacy for the post of UN secretary-general. The embassy suggested the longer Thailand waited to exit the campaign, the greater the political damage it faced. The Foreign Ministry was advised that Surakiart’#39;s bid to replace outgoing UN Secretary General Kofi Annan was in doubt, because the US did not support it. Support by the US is important for any candidate, since Washington, as one of the five permanent members of the Security Council, has the right to veto. Surakiart claims to have the support of China and Russia, two of the five permanent members. The government was urged to assess Surakiart’#39;s candidacy honestly, without bias or personal ambition, because the country had more important things to do with its money than spend it on Surakiart’#39;s campaign. (Source: The Nation)


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Thaksin promises end of slums and traffic jams

Posted by hasekamp on 19 December 2005 at 12:21 PM
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra yesterday promised to implement a number of grassroots projects and mega-projects aimed at restoring public faith in the party. A large number of the plans are designed for Bangkok, where the ruling Thai Rak Thai Party is suffering a serious popularity crisis. Thaksin pledged that Bangkok residents would get a large-scale mass transit system, only have to pay a flat rate of Bt10 for air-conditioned public buses and that there would be more seats at prestigious schools, among other things. Speaking to party members at the Thai Rak Thai’#39;s annual seminar, Thaksin downplayed anti-government sentiment in Bangkok and dismissed the adage that provincial people build a government, while people in the capital topple it. Thaksin boasted that GDP this year reached 4.5 per cent even though the country has been hit hard by bird flu, rising oil prices and violence in the South. He said his strategy to fight poverty adhered to the principles of self-sufficiency. Thaksin added that he had instructed permanent officials to conduct surveys of every family so that he could analyse their problems. He pledged to win the war against poverty in three years. (Source: The Nation)


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11 Dead after floods

Posted by hasekamp on 19 December 2005 at 12:17 PM
Songkhla's Hat Yai district has been declared a disaster area after heavy downpours and a runoff from the Kho Hong mountain triggered flash floods in most parts of the district. The southern floods left 11 people dead yesterday, one in Hat Yai, two in Yala, six in Nakhon Si Thammarat, one in Phatthalung and one in Narathiwat. Many roads in the inner part of Hat Yai were impassable with the water level rising to 80cm. Residents were playing it safe by parking their vehicles in multi-storey buildings such as department stores. The floods also brought business to a standstill, forcing the closure of most shops and shopping malls. Over 100,000 sandbags were placed along the embankments of the U-tapao canal and in 12 other flood-prone areas. The flood situation worsened in Muang district of Songkhla with the water level exceeding one metre in low-lying areas. Efforts to pump out water out failed because of a high tide. Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra yesterday ordered water tunnels to be dug to speed up drainage from Hat Yai town. All South-bound trains now only head for Hat Yai station.
In Yala, the floodwater in municipal areas rose to one meter as a runoff from nearby provinces contributed to the problem. Some roads in the greater municipality area were rendered impassable. In Satun, widespread flooding was reported in six districts. Khuan Don and Langu districts were the worst hit. In Narathiwat, a forest runoff struck 13 districts, turning many roads into canals. In most areas, the floodwater was higher than 1.5 meters. Mudslides were also reported.
In Trang provincial authorities yesterday ordered the temporary closure of all schools until Friday as the province has been under water for the last four days.
Waves as high as four meters yesterday damaged about 20 houses in Surat Thani's Don Sak district. Provincial authorities yesterday warned all boats to stay ashore.
In Nakhon Si Thammarat province, over 85% of Phak Phanang district was flooded. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Now Hat Yai is inundated

Posted by hasekamp on 18 December 2005 at 20:03 PM
The southern commercial hub of Hat Yai plunged into a state of turmoil yesterday as rapidly rising floodwater stalled all business and residents scrambled for assistance. The cost of lost business was estimated at more than Bt500 million. And the Songkhla irrigation chief said last night there was worse to come. "We would like to warn Hat Yai people to quickly move their possessions to the highest place possible as another influx of water is expected around midnight," he said.
Hat Yai district is the commercial centre and main tourist town in the South. The flooding has already forced the suspension of train services between Hat Yai and Padang Besar, shut down schools and damaged many roads. The situation is now so critical that the prime minister has ordered some portions of railway lines in Hat Yai district to be removed to allow floodwater to flow out of town. The Hat Yai mayor believed the raging flood could be even worse than the one five years ago. "In 2000, the floodwater flowed out quite fast, but this is not the case this year," he said. There was one death in the town yesterday, which took the overall toll throughout the South in recent weeks to more than 20. (Source: The Nation)


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Kenyan protest against wildlife transport

Posted by hasekamp on 17 December 2005 at 14:56 PM
More than 500 angry Maasai warriors, tribal elders, women and children staged a protest on Friday to demand a stop to Kenya's planned gift of 175 wild animals to Thailand. The chanting protestors marched around the edges of the famed Maasai Mara National Reserve, threatening to shed blood if the controversial transfer goes ahead. "We have been given a raw deal and we are ready to defend the animals with the few weapons we have," a protestor said. "The animals can be of better use while in the country than taking them to Thailand for selfish interests".

The protestors, many dressed in traditional tribal garb, presented the following petition, to pass to President Mwai Kibaki:
"We the undersigned, as the Narok community, are opposed to the pledge by the government to give away 175 wild animals to Thailand. We don't want our wild animals been kept in captivity and we don't want to see them performing tricks in zoos or circus."
Plans to send the animals to Thailand have been bitterly opposed by wildlife groups, who launched a vigorous campaign to halt the move when news of it became public earlier this year. But last month, during a visit to Kenya by Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, the Kenyan government agreed to give Thailand 175 wild animals and birds from 24 species, including zebras, flamingos, buffaloes, wildebeests, hippos, spotted hyena, silver-back jackals and impalas. The gift will see the animals shipped in the coming months to the soon-to-be-opened Chiang Mai Night Safari in Thaksin's home region in northern Thailand. Critics in both Kenya and Thailand argue the gift is tantamount to giving away Kenya's heritage as well as potentially dangerous for the animals that will be forced to live in conditions far unlike their native habitat. Opponents were further outraged in mid-November when a senior Thai official said a restaurant in the park would offer a daily buffet of giraffe, zebra and crocodile to hungry visitors. After howls of protest, the official, Vice Minister for Natural Resources and Environment Plodprasop Surasawadi, said plans to serve exotic meat in the park would be reviewed. (Source: The Nation)


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Doi Inthanon website

Posted by hasekamp on 15 December 2005 at 12:32 PM
The Research Support Fund, in cooperation with the Doi Inthanon National Park, has set up a website at http://www.doiinthanon.com, to facilitate tourists who want to obtain information before traveling. The head of Information Technology and Communications said that the website is aimed at providing more convenience to tourists wanting to inspect information before traveling. He said that the information on accommodation, on-line reservation, the rooms’#39; conditions and prices, tourist destinations and histories, distances, and nearby popular tourist sites will be provided. He said that during December 25-January 5, the website will provide information on real-time application, which the tourists can check for information for 24 hours.
We have checked out the site and it looks well. It has pages in Thai and in English. Althhough the Thai psges look more extrensive, the English pages provide good information. (Source: Public Relations Department)


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Third false tsunami alarm

Posted by hasekamp on 15 December 2005 at 12:22 PM
Several people were hurt in road accidents as locals fleed after the third faulty signal in a year. Frightened villagers in six Andaman coastal provinces yesterday headed for the hills in panic when sirens went off at the hands of a 'careless' American technician, officials said yesterday. Several people were injured in a spate of road accidents as residents fled Krabi, Phuket, Ranong, Phang Nga, Trang and Satun provinces. No fatalities were reported.
This is the third time since last year’#39;s tsunami that the National Disaster Warning Centre has mistakenly sounded the alarm. The first two mistakes were caused when the centre’#39;s senior staff overreacted. The warning center as the authorised agency has to take responsibility even though it was the carelessness of the staff of the American company hired to set up the system, aspkesperson said, apologizing. An American technician accidentally pushed the alarm button because he thought it was a testing button. He tried to cancel the alarm but it was too late. (Source: The Nation)


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Tsunami Identification Center relocated

Posted by hasekamp on 14 December 2005 at 17:50 PM
The Thai Tsunami Victim Indentification Centre (TTVI) has not closed but is only being relocated from Phuket to Bangkok, a senior police officer said Wednesday, explaing that a small office would be maintained at Phang Nga. The new address in Bangkok is Building 19 at Royal Thai Police Headquarters in Bangkok.
Relatives of tsunami victims can now contact Bang Maruan cemetary in Phang Nga or the Royal Thai Police headquaters in Bangkok. A spokesnam said that the Royal Thai Police could identify 2,867 (Thai) tsunami victims from around 3,700 bodies that were responsible. Most of the bodies were picked up by their relatives. There are 163 bodies awaiting to be collected by their families.
However, another 805 bodies awaiting indentification are also being kept, making a total of 968 bodies currently at Mai Khao cemetary in Phuket. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Who is the richest in the land?

Posted by hasekamp on 14 December 2005 at 17:43 PM
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's family are the richest shareholders in the kingdom's stock market, with shares worth 33.2 billion baht, according to a survey. Pinthongta Shinawatra, Mr Thaksin's 23-year-old daughter, is Thailand's richest stakeholder (so also a good match!) and owns shares worth 19.2 billion baht, up 6% over 2004, said the survey in ifMoney and Banking magazine. The Shinawatra family is the richest for the second consecutive year on the Thai stock exchange. Ms Pinthongta holds a 14.7% stake in Thailand's technology and communications giant Shin Corp, which was created by her father, with another 29% stake in the Shinawatras' property unit, SC Asset Corp. Bannapoj Damapong, the elder brother of Mr Thaksin's wife, ranks second, holding a 13.5% stake in Shin Corp, worth 16.6 billion baht. Coming third is Anant Asavabhokin, board chairman and managing director of the giant real estate company Land & Houses Plc, with shares worth almost 15 billion baht. Mr Thaksin's son, Panthongtae, ranks fourth for the third straight year. He is the third largest shareholder in Shin Corp, with a 9.8% stake, or 12 billion baht in assets.
Premchai Karnasutr, managing director of Italian-Thai Development Plc, ranks fifth with shares worth 8.1 billion baht.
The Shinawatra clan is also the richest Thai family, with assets worth 33.2 billion baht. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Thailand wants to produce ethanol from hays

Posted by hasekamp on 13 December 2005 at 12:38 PM
Thailand has expressed interests in China’#39;s production of ethanol from hays, and Chinese authorities pledge their willingness to support Thailand in technology related to alternative energy. His Majesty the King has suggested in his birthday speech for Thailand to use more fuel from alternate sources, and since that day the media are full of follow-ups. This is just one of them.
Prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra commented on his bilateral meeting with Chinese leaders in Malaysia that currently China can produce ethanol from hays, adding that Thailand is very interested in the project. He said that China has expressed willingness to support Thailand with the knowledge and technologies required for the production. He said that the Energy and Agriculture Ministers have been assigned to follow up on this issue. (Source: Public Relations Department)


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ASEAN plus six countries (EAS) to combat bird flu

Posted by hasekamp on 11 December 2005 at 14:36 PM
The leaders of 16 countries in Asia and the Pacific are expected to issue a statement to express their concerns and pledge cooperation in the fight to combat avian flu, a senior official from the Asean secretariat said. The leaders of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) grouping will join those from China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand at an inaugural East Asia Summit (EAS) in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday to discuss issues of mutual concern. Their concerns over the spread of avian flu and pledge to cooperate in the battle to combat it are expected to be expressed in a statement, which will be issued separately from a joint end of summit declaration, the source said. Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said the 16 leaders would set the tone to the direction of the EAS. Australia believes the meeting will make a solid contribution to regional security and economic prosperity, he said. A major focus for Canberra would be capacity building in education and technological development in Asia and the Pacific. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Songkhla under water

Posted by hasekamp on 9 December 2005 at 11:22 AM
Torrential rains throughout Wednesday triggered flash-floods in the southern provinces of Yala and Songkhla and threatened to dislodge hillsides in Nakhon Si Thammarat, local relief authorities said yesterday. Several areas in Songkhla’#39;s Muang Songkhla, Sadao and Hat Yai districts were inundated. Residents were told to prepare to leave their homes in case of more run-offs. The local weather bureau said monsoon-like downpours in the province and nearby areas would last until today and moderate rain might follow due to the constantly changing weather pattern in the South. People in Nakhon Si Thammarat living near mountains in Tha Sala district and Nopphitam sub district have been alerted to possible mudslides. Flash-floods and heavy seas are also possible. The Meteorological Department warned of possible flash-floods and raging rivers in Chumphon, Surat Thani, Pattani and Narathiwat as a result of storms forecast for the next few days. (Source: The Nation)


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Massage without customers

Posted by hasekamp on 8 December 2005 at 14:13 PM
Almost a year after the 2004 December 26 tsunami, the air at Kata, Karon and Patong beaches is once again filled with the scent of massage oil, and some 300 masseuses are now back at work. However, there are no customers to look after. The women sit down and share their experiences of life after the tsunami. Some did not see each other for months after the tsunami struck. Without tourists and tools to make a living - beach umbrellas, canvas beds, towels and aromatic oil - they stayed away temporarily. Most masseuses cannot yet shake off fears of another tsunami, but they take comfort in the fact that at least they know what to do and where to go should danger arrive. Meanwhile, 1,200 foreigners have accepted an invitation to take part in an event to mark the first anniversary of the tsunami, said Deputy Prime Minister Suwat Liptapanlop. Among the guests are Miss Universe Natalie Glebova and Tilly Smith, an English schoolgirl who recognised the warning signs of a tsunami and managed to save 100 people from the waves. The girl will read a poem at the event. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Ang Thong market lost in fire

Posted by hasekamp on 7 December 2005 at 17:44 PM
A fire broke out at a famous century-old market in Wiset Chai Chan district early yesterday, consuming historical wooden buildings and causing damage estimated at over 300 million baht. The destruction of the market, one of the province's top tourist destinations, will have a major impact on the provincial economy. Officials declared the area a danger zone. At least 300 wooden houses in the market were lost and at least 1,000 people were left homeless. Two relief centres were set up at the entrance to the market and at Wat Nang Nai temple to provide temporary shelter, food and drink to distraught residents. There were only minor injuries reported and no deaths. The cause of the fire has yet to be established. Apart from the physical damage to the market, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) expressed concern over losing the traditional way of life at the market which was a reason it was such a popular tourist attraction. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Tourists with high income please!

Posted by hasekamp on 6 December 2005 at 18:05 PM
The Tourism Authority of Thailand has revealed that the number of Asian and European tourists has continually increased and that campaigns will be stepped up now to attract high income tourists worldwide to choose Thailand as their destination. The majority of tourists are from Japan, China and Korea and European tourists are ranked (as a group) after those. European tourists are British, German and French. After that group, American tourists come in the ranking.
TAT is now trying hard to draw tourists from the United States to travel to Thailand by cooperating with Tourism Authority of Thailand at New York and Air Canada Vacation Co.Ltd. American tourist spend more money than others. Therefore they are most interesting.
TAT is expecting more tourists from United States and Canada and lately TAT had an opportunity to join the World Travel Mart in London, United Kingdom in which Thai tourism has been fully reserved till next year, which guarantees that Thailand will have more than 3,000,000 European tourists next year.
The whole idea is 'if there are (still) less tourists coming, let us see that we attract thw ones that spend most money'. If this short-time-policy will work, will have to be seen. We also see at least one disadvantage: If Thailand succeeds in attracting 'rich' tourists, we fear that prices thare will go up, and less rich tourists may reconsider their trip to Thailand. Thought of that too, TAT? It definitely is short-time-thinking. (Source: Public Relations Department)


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More about the birthday speech by HM the King

Posted by hasekamp on 5 December 2005 at 17:38 PM
A different report on the birthday speech by His Majesty theKing:
His Majesty the King told Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra yesterday - in his birthday speech - to be open to criticism and not to overreact when countering his critics. The King said the prime minister should stop responding to his critics on a daily basis. The King did not go into detail, but said the distribution of DVDs and frequent television broadcasts to defend the prime minister had bored viewers, who preferred watching soap operas. "The prime minister is taught by the law to counter criticism with criticism. It may not be nice for me to talk about this because it is a personal matter.
I don't want to say what is right or wrong. Legal experts should know what is right or wrong. But there's no need to speak it every day," the King said. In a show of his open mindedness, His Majesty told the audience at Dusitdalai Pavilion he also wanted to be criticised. His Majesty talked about the information given to newspapers, radio and TV, that whatever the King does, one cannot criticise, that it's improper to do so and is prohibited by the constitution. See our former report for thus part of the speech.
His Majesty also suggested the prime minister teach the parliament about a sufficiency economy, but he could skip the opposition because it had already adopted the concept. "No need to teach the opposition. At least its former leader is a most sufficient person," the King said. "He made the country spend only a little amount of money, and that wasn't enough so he had to leave the position."
He compared the sufficiency economy to his Kam Ling (monkey's cheek) project that has proved successful. "People were laughing when we first talked about Kam Ling, but not anymore. Because a monkey must have cheeks. Without cheeks, it can't survive. A man too must have cheeks, and they can be like those of the monkey," said the King. As the monkey's cheeks could save water, a man's cheeks could save his words.
The King also touched on the prime minister's small irrigation projects known as Fai Maew (check dams), which upset the prime minister when they failed to save Chiang Mai from flooding. He said it was because the project was not carried out correctly, and urged the government to study the success of the royally initiated dam project at Kui Buri in Prachuap Khiri Khan. The King also stressed the importance of biodiesel development. He thanked people for giving him their blessing, and wished that everyone, the government and the opposition, would not quarrel with each other. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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King gives birthday speech

Posted by hasekamp on 4 December 2005 at 20:25 PM
His majesty the King gave his traditional birthday speech today, on the eve of his 78th birthday. Accompanying His Majesty the King were HRH Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, and HRH Princess Chulabhorn Valayalaksana. Prime Minister Thaksin Shina-watra led the Cabinet and their spouses.
In his speech His Majesty refuted the long-accepted tradition of constitutional monarchy that the King can do no wrong. He said: "If the King can do no wrong, it is akin to looking down upon him because the King is not being treated as a human being. But the King can do wrong." It is a violation of the law to criticise the monarchy in Thailand, but His Majesty the King welcomes criticism — if it helps to keep the monarchy informed and helps to correct any mistakes. "If you say that the King cannot be criticised, it suggests that the King is not human," His Majesty said. "If someone offers criticisms suggesting that the King is wrong, then I would like to be informed of their opinion." He admitted that before he became King, he experienced moments of regret, but after taking the throne, he became more careful in his actions, because if he was not careful enough, he would have been faced with death. "If we do wrong, we will all die. Everybody is in this same situation," His Majesty said.
His Majesty the King also called on everybody to adopt his Sufficiency Economy theory as a way forward, echoing remarks made by His Majesty in 1996, before Thailand plunged into an economic crisis the following year. The principles of the Sufficiency Economy urge Thailand to stand on its own two feet no matter what happens in the outside world.
His Majesty the King said that if the prime minister and his spouse and all other Cabinet members practised economic self-sufficiency, Thailand could sustain itself for another 40 years. (Source: The Nation)


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Celebration for 60 years on the throne

Posted by hasekamp on 3 December 2005 at 18:04 PM
His Majesty the King yesterday reminded some 2,000 Royal Guards at their annual parade to do their duties of defending the country and protecting the people with a full sense of responsibility. The King was addressing soldiers from 12 Royal Guard battalions who gathered at the Royal Plaza for their annual parade to mark His Majesty's 78th birthday on Dec 5. "Soldiers are responsible for defending the country and protecting the people to ensure peace and happiness for them. This is a very important responsibility, especially when the situation in the country is volatile and fraught with danger," the King said in his speech to the Royal Guards after they swore allegiance to him. "By fulfilling that duty, a soldier is regarded as having succeeded in his career with honour and dignity", the King said. "A country with soldiers like that would remain stable and her people would live in happiness", he concluded.
The King's birthday is on Monday. He will (probably) hold his traditional birthday speech on Sunday. The event almost coincides this year with the 60th anniversary of his ascension to the Thai throne. (Source : The Bangkok Post)


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Street touts in Patong to be arrested

Posted by hasekamp on 2 December 2005 at 13:23 PM
Municipal officials will patrol the streets of Patong day and night this high season in a crackdown on touts and street vendors harassing tourists. "We need to ensure that touts do not distribute leaflets or grab tourists' hands to try to persuade them to buy from their shops. We will arrest them for being a public nuisance, which carries a maximum fine of 2,000 baht," an official said. "We have received many complaints from tourists who had been harassed by touts," he added.
We find this the best news from Phuket for years. We wonder if the tuk-tuk drivers in Patong also are considerd as touts. They are very annoying too!
The latest move to curb street touts intrusive methods has already upset some shop owners. A Patong tailor (they are the worst) said that municipality officers arrested one of his shop staff for "just standing" in front of his shop. Believe me, no tailor staff member ever "just stands" before hisd shop. He addresses EVERY tourist. (Source: The Phuket Gazette)


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Students possessed by spirit. School closed

Posted by hasekamp on 1 December 2005 at 11:39 AM
The Director of Cherng Talay Wittayakom secondary school sent students home for three days from Monday, following an apparent case of mass hysteria the previous Friday. On that afternoon, a number of students were supposedly possessed by a spirit after a backhoe being used as part of a renovation project accidentally damaged an old Chinese shrine behind the school. According to some accounts, one girl first became possessed by the shrine's spirit. She began pointing her finger at School Director Nachai Keimnipatt, screaming abuse at him. Other students also showed signs of possession, some screaming until they collapsed. The wave of hysteria then spread in varying degrees to other students — and to some staff. The cause seems to be that the students participated in the vegetarian Festival in October. They were still haunted by spirits now... (Source: The Phuket Gazette)


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