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THAI executive has to go

Posted by hasekamp on 30 September 2006 at 11:40 AM
Thai Airways International Plc yesterday sacked an executive over the hours-long luggage delays on the opening day of Bangkok's new international airport. "The problem was caused by internal management problems at Thai Airways. We have already sacked a top person in charge of handling luggage," said airline president Apinan Sumanaseni.
THAI's board members held an urgent meeting yesterday to discuss the luggage problem and decided to reshuffle several executives.
The board has removed Pethai Boonyaves as vice president for ground equipment services and appointed Chokchai Panyawong, director of project investment, to replace him. The board said that Pethai had failed to deal with the luggage-handling problem.
Suvarnabhumi airport officially opened on Thursday, with more than 800 flights carrying 120,000 travellers passing through the new airport on the first day.
However, the new airport was flooded with complaints from disgruntled international passengers who had to wait several hours to collect their luggage. Airports of Thailand (AoT), which operates Suvarnabhumi, blamed Thai Airways for causing the long delays. "Luggage-handling equipment from Thai Airways did not arrive on time, and some luggage-handlers from the airline did not even show up at the airport," said Chotisak Aspaviriya, president of the airport operator.
"The airline must take responsibility for these problems," he said.
Chotisak said services to passengers on Thursday night and early yesterday morning had significantly improved even though there were larger numbers of passengers on both inbound and outbound.
He added that AoT and THAI staff had remained on duty overnight to ensure smooth service to passengers. The general manager of Suvarnabhumi, Somchai Sawasdeepon, said all operations, including luggage-handling, had improved yesterday. (Source: The Nation)


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US does not want military leader

Posted by hasekamp on 30 September 2006 at 11:25 AM
The United States expressed unease over reports Friday that a former army chief had been chosen to run Thailand's government after the military ouster of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack withheld formal comment on the reports that Thailand's ruling junta had selected retired general Surayud Chulanont,63, to replace Thaksin pending confirmation of the appointment. "But certainly somebody with close ties to the military is going to have to at least overcome the perception that they are maintaining a close relationship with the military and may be not acting in defense of Thai democracy," McCormack said. Thaksin was toppled by the military on September 19 as he was attending the UN General Assembly in New York. The junta pledged to appoint a new premier within two weeks to guide Thailand towards elections in October 2007.
State-run Thai radio and other media reported Friday that the military had chosen Surayud, an advisor to the king, as prime minister and that the appointment would be announced on Sunday. (Source: The Nation)


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Economic growth despite coup

Posted by hasekamp on 28 September 2006 at 11:07 AM
The Thai economy is expected to continue to grow 4-4.5 per cent this year despite a military coup last week, according to an economist. The Director of Bangkok Bank’s Macro-economy Analysis Centre, said the coup d’etat staged by the Council for Democratic Reform under Constitutional Monarchy had not affected the economy in the short run as could be witnessed by a slight weakening of the baht and the Stock Exchange of Thailand’s index.
As a result, he believed the economy would continue to grow 4-4.5 per cent this year, boosted by the increased exports.
But how the economy would be in the long run depended on many factors such as CDRM’s future role, policies and a name list of new cabinet members of the interim government. (Source:Thai News Agency)


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Some problems at airport

Posted by hasekamp on 28 September 2006 at 10:59 AM
Passengers at Bangkok's new international airport Thursday faced delays in collecting their bags and checking in on the first full day of operations because of computer and mechanical glitches. Thousands of passengers arriving on the first flights had to wait one hour to collect their bags as equipment was slow in arriving from the old airport, which closed during the night. "The delay was caused by the delay of moving Thai Airways ground handling equipment from the old airport to the new one," said Chotisak Asapaviriya, president of Airports of Thailand, which operates the facility.
"It's just a minor error, and it will be the only one," he said. But at Thai Airways check-in counters, computers crashed before the first flights out of the new Suvarnabhumi Airport, causing delays as airline workers had to issue handwritten boarding passes and baggage claim tags. That left long lines, but many passengers seemed prepared for delays on the first full day of operations, when some 800 flights will fly through.
The first commercial flight that landed at new airport following its official opening was Russian Airlines' V V171 from Kiev, which landed at 4:25 am, which was ten minutes behind schedule due to poor visibility.
Airport officials, who were waiting for the first group of passengers, gave them applause and some souvenirs. (Source: The Nation)


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Storms hit north and central Thailand

Posted by hasekamp on 26 September 2006 at 15:29 PM
Riverside areas in the lower North and Central regions were flooded yesterday, as rainwater continued to pour into dams and rivers. In Phichit, more than 1,000 homes in seven districts were submerged after the Yom and Nan rivers overflowed.
In Phitsanulok province, some 22,231 people were affected. Although the Nan River gradually receded below critical levels, Phitsanulok city council arranged sandbags along the river banks and set up water pumps last night. In Lampang, three villages in Thoen district and four villages in Mae Prik district were two metres underwater. Three schools in Mae Prik were closed indefinitely.
In Nakhon Sawan 101 villages with over 10,000 families and some 27,000 rai of farmland were flooded, while five local schools were closed. Lop Buri's Pasak Dam contained 680 million cubic metres of water - over two thirds its full capacity, dam chief Saksiri Yusuk said.
Bangkok Governor Apirak Kosayodhin said the rise in water levels from Thursday to Saturday - due to floodwater from the North and high sea tides - was worrying. He ordered canals to be excavated and for 200,000 sandbags to piled along the banks of Chao Phya and water pumps installed in key areas. The Meteorological Department warned of a depression in the South China Sea expected to trigger heavy rains and floods in Loei, Nong Khai, Nong Bua Lamphu, Udon Thani, Sakon Nakhon, Nakhon Phanom, Mukdahan, Khon Kaen, Nan, Uttaradit, Phitsanulok, and Phetchabun. Surat Thani was on watch for landslides and ready to evacuate 15,000 residents. (Source: The Nation)


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Draft constitution

Posted by hasekamp on 26 September 2006 at 15:16 PM
A draft temporary constitution for Thailand's interim government to serve the country has been completed and is expected to be submitted for royal endorsement this weekend, Thailand's Council for Democratic Reform under Constitutional Monarchy (CDRM) head Gen. Sonthi Boonyaratkalin said Tuesday. A draft containing 39 articles was to be viewed at its final stage Tuesday (September 26) by a group of academics and other civilians specially invited for this matter before being forwarded to His Majesty the King either on Saturday (September 30) or Sunday(October 1), he said. Gen. Sonthi did not elaborate on details of the temporary charter. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Military ask understanding

Posted by hasekamp on 26 September 2006 at 15:12 PM
One of the six generals running Thailand's new military council has pleaded for international understanding of the reasons behind the coup. Lt Gen Winai Phattiyakul said the army intervened because of the likelihood of clashes between supporters and opponents of the former prime minister. He described the army as being badly divided before last week's coup. And he accused ousted PM Thaksin Shinawatra of planning to use elements of the military against the opposition. While last week's coup has been widely welcomed in Thailand, it has been condemned by most Western governments as a step backwards. (Source: BBC News)


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Mrs Thaksin goes to London

Posted by hasekamp on 25 September 2006 at 12:04 PM
The wife of deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Pojaman, left Bangkok early Monday to join her husband in London as the nation's new military leaders launched graft probes against him, the chief of immigration said. "She has left with two others, her housekeeper and a close friend, at 1:30 am on Thai Airways Flight 910" to London's Heathrow airport," Lieutenant General Suwat Thamrongsrisakul said. Pojaman is widely believed to have exerted great influence over her husband's activities. Much of the billionaire politician's wealth is held by her and their three children. One of his daugters lives in London. His two other children are believed to be in Thailand.
Meanwhile the foreign press reports that Mr Thaksin has been sending bags filled with cash abroad for several weeks now. So: "Take the money and run". (Source: The Nation)


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Phi Phi still not recovered from tsunami

Posted by hasekamp on 25 September 2006 at 11:59 AM
Rehabilitation of the tsunami-hit Phi Phi island is proceeding at a snail's pace almost two years after the Dec 26, 2004 tsunami. Natthawut Kaenthong, coordinator for a joint rescue operation for small entrepreneurs and tsunami victims, said residents agreed that the tambon administration organisation of Ao Nang should be in charge of overseeing the rehabilitation work with the support of other agencies. Cooperation is needed from agencies such as the provincial public works and town planning office, the Provincial Waterworks Authority and the Provincial Electricity Authority. The local body of Ao Nang had been given 101 million baht to spend on six rehabilitation projects for other villages and could complete the work in seven months, Mr Natthawut said. He said the Public Works and Town and Country Planning Department, and the Designated Area for Sustainable Tourism Administration (Dasta), which are responsible for the rehabilitation of Phi Phi island, had achieved little progress. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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New airport needs expansion

Posted by hasekamp on 24 September 2006 at 15:10 PM
Before the new Bangkok airport has even been opened, Kasikorn Research Centre (KRC) recommended that agencies involved with Suvarnabhumi Airport consider expanding the hub to keep pace with a rapidly growing aviation industry. According to International Air Transport Association (IATA), in the next five years, commercial passenger service will grow by 5.6 percent per year, while cargo business will grow by 6.3 percent per year. "Suvarnabhumi Airport covers 8,000 acres, making it possible to host a maximum of four runways, 112 flights per hour, 100 million passengers per year and six million tonnes of cargo per year," KRC analysts wrote in their report.
For the time being, Suvarnabhumi has two runways, and can accommodate 45 million passengers per year, 76 flights per hour and three millions tonnes of cargo per year. During the airport’s second phase of construction, there are plans to add two more runways. "It will be necessary to expand Suvarnabhumi. Agencies have to start working on it right now, otherwise we may not be able to serve future growth and may not be able to become the regional hub," KRC analysts reported.(Source: Thai News Agency)


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Ceremony for Royal Order

Posted by hasekamp on 22 September 2006 at 15:33 PM
Gen Sonthi Boonyaratglin Friday entered a ceremony to officially receive His Majesty's the King's endorsement of his leadership as leader of the Council for Democratic Reform under Constitutional Monarchy (CDRM).
In a ceremony broadcast on TV pool, Army Commander in Chief Gen Sonthi Boonyaratglin stood before a shrine to HM the King while Adjutant Generals Department's Adjutant Maj Gen Manote Premwongsiri read out the Royal Order.
"Gen Sonthi informed HM the King that Thaksin Shinawatra as the prime minister severe division within the nation and destroyed national unity. This is something that has never happened in the country's history," according to the order as it was read out.
Most people believes that his administration was plagued with irregularies and corruption. Political interventions on independent bodies were rampant under Thaksin's watch. These interventions have created conflict and division. Many parties have tried but failed to accommodate the matters.
Therefore, the armed forces, police and civilian have decided to seize advministrative power under the leadership of General Sonthi Boonyaratglin, the head of the Council of Democratic Reform under Constitutional Monarchy.
For the sake of peace and national unity, HM the King has issued the Royal Order for General Sonthi as the leader of the Council of Democratic Reform under Constitutional Monarchy.
We urged the public to remain clam and we asked that all government civil servants support General Sonthi Boonyaratglin.
In white uniform, Sonthi -- flanked by other officers -- kneeled and bowed before a portrait of the king above the flower-bedecked shrine.
Analysts say royal support for the coup is the main reason why there has been no violence. Soldiers patrolling the streets have tied yellow ribbons on their weapons out of respect for the king.
In white dress uniform, Sonthi -- flanked by other officers -- kneeled and bowed before a portrait of the king above the flower-bedecked shrine. (Source: The Nation)


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Thaksin: I am on holiday

Posted by hasekamp on 22 September 2006 at 13:32 PM
Ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra yesterday called for new elections to be held quickly, but said he would be taking a "deserved rest" from politics. "We hope the new regime will quickly arrange a new election and continue to uphold the principles of democracy for the future of all Thais," he said in a statement distributed in London. "Dr Thaksin as of now will take a deserved rest," it added. He planned to carry out development and possible charitable work for Thailand. Dressed casually and smiling as he emerged with his daughter, the ousted premier said he was now on holiday and going to buy some Thai groceries as he left an apartment block opposite Hyde Park and got into the back of a blue van with Thai diplomatic plates. His whereabouts overnight had been a mystery. He didn't turn up at his London home, but speculation centred on the posh Dorchester Hotel, where the statement was handed out by his aides.
The statement added: "The event in Thailand during the last two days should not detract from my main aim of national reconciliation. Therefore [I] would like to urge all parties to find ways and means to reconcile and work towards national reconciliation for the sake of our King and country." (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Ministers in custody

Posted by hasekamp on 22 September 2006 at 13:29 PM
Former Prime Minister's Office minister Newin Chidchob and former natural resources and environment minister Yongyuth Tiyapairat reported to the Council for Democratic Reform (CDR) yesterday. They had been summoned to report by noon yesterday. Both were then detained. The CDR had ordered the two close aides of deposed caretaker prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra to turn themselves in. They were linked with activities to counter movements and activities of Mr Thaksin's opponents before the coup. Speaking in a phone interview, Mr Newin said he decided to turn himself in because the CDR was royally endorsed. The former deputy agriculture minister said he did not feel intimidated or fear being detained. Mr Newin was said to have fled to Singapore after the coup. Both reportedly asked their relatives to drop off their personal belongings at the army headquarters in the evening. CDR spokesman Lt-Gen Palangkul Klaharn said yesterday that Mr Newin and Mr Yongyuth would remain in CDR custody until a new civilian government is in place, expected in two weeks. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Local radio banned

Posted by hasekamp on 21 September 2006 at 17:29 PM
The services of over 300 local radio stations in the three upper northern provinces of Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Mae Hong Son have been instructed to close down their community radio operations.
The Public Relations offices in Lamphun, Lampang and Phayao also told community radio stations in those northern provinces to turn their transmitters off.
The head of the community radio union in the upper northern provinces, said the 300 stations were taking a break to prevent airing any programming that might go against the policy of the CDRM. Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Lamphun form the political stronghold of the Thai Rak Thai Party, where many local people are still believed to be loyal to sacked prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. "I look at it as an attempt of the military to prevent Thaksin from using the community radio network in his political base as a channel to air his side," he said. LtGeneral Saphrang Kanlayanamitr of the Third Army Area has called a meeting with operators of more than 500 community radio stations at the Third Army headquarters in Phitsanulok. Terdsak said the union would meet the military to discuss the status and future of community radio out of concern that stations across the country would be dissolved now that the Constitution has been revoked.
Terdsak said many people called him to say that they felt frustrated with the shutdown of community radio and uneasy that they had no medium to voice their opinion. (Source: The Nation)


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Ban on political meetings

Posted by hasekamp on 21 September 2006 at 17:09 PM
Thailand's Council for Democratic Reform under Constitutional Monarchy on Thursday announced a ban on political parties meeting and barred the establishment of new parties. "Meetings of political parties and conducting any other political activities are banned," said the statement read on national television. The council said in its statement that the move is necessary to maintain law and order. It was the latest announcement after the council imposed martial law on a nationwide basis, and repealed the 1997 Constitution when they effected a bloodless coup d'etat Tuesday night to overthrow caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. And this is how dictatorship often starts. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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CDR claims endorsement King

Posted by hasekamp on 21 September 2006 at 12:26 PM
The Council for Democratic Reform (CDR) announced His Majesty the King's endorsement of Gen Sonthi Boonyaratkalin as its leader yesterday in what was seen as confirmation that the council had the situation under control. The council made the announcement late yesterday afternoon, several hours after Gen Sonthi appeared on television with the rest of the council members to affirm that the utmost effort would be made to return sovereignty to the people as soon as possible. During the afternoon press conference, Gen Sonthi promised to usher in an interim civilian government within the next two weeks. In that time, the council would draft an administrative charter to accommodate the formation of the new interim government, which will spend up to a year penning a new constitution for political reform. Once the new constitution is in place, the general election will be called, he added.
Our comment: We do not believe that His Majesty endorsed the coup. He may have more sympathy for Sonthi than for Thaksin, but that is a different matter. Can a constitutionally monarch agree with an overthrow of the democratically formed government by a military coup, aftyer which the leaders put the constitution aside? We have to wait for the words by His Majesty himself, before we know what his opinion is. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Civil government promised

Posted by hasekamp on 20 September 2006 at 19:35 PM
Thai Army Commander-in-Chief Gen. Sonthi Boonyaratkalin assured members of the diplomatic corps that the Administrative Reform Council he chairs will restore normalcy soon by effecting an interim constitution, appointing a civilian prime minister within two weeks and a constitution-drafting body as soon as possible. Gen. Sonthi also said that no legal action is being taken against ousted caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his family. Over 70 members of the diplomatic corps representing 43 countries and various international organisations attended the briefing at the Army headquarters chaired by Gen. Sonthi. Gen. Sonthi explained through a translator the reasons why the Council had to seize power. He pledged to put an interim Constitution in place within two weeks, along with appointment of a civilian prime minister. New elections will take place in a year's time.
At the same time, a legislative body and a constitutional drafting council will be appointed to expedite works towards a general election, he said.
Moreover, Gen. Sonthi pledged ARC will abide by all UN charters and agreements, as well as all international treaties Thailand has committed to. The country will also maintain good ties with the world community. Gen. Sonthi told the diplomatic corps that the coup took place peacefully with "cooperation from the people and without resistance." The Council was also granted an audience with their Majesties the King and Queen. Responding to the questions posed by diplomats, Gen. Sonthi said that the martial law applies only to designated areas and it is not enforced in the border areas. To the question of what the ARC intends to do with Mr. Thaksin and his family, Gen. Sonthi said there is no action whatsoever planned against the former prime minister and members of his family who enjoy every right as Thai citizens. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Coup opfficially confirmed

Posted by hasekamp on 20 September 2006 at 11:30 AM
General Sonthi Boonyaratkarin, Army Chief and leader of the Administrative Reform Council (ARC), along with the Chiefs of the Royal Thai Navy, Air Force and Police as well as the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces announced that they had successfully seized power. Gen Sonthi announced that the Constitution of 1997 had been withdrawn and the senate, parliament, ministerial cabinet, and constitutional court had all been dissolved. He continued that the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces along with the Heads of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Police all backed the move. He said that the rule of the acting government had caused deep divisions in society as had never before occurred in Thailand and that the administration of the country had been widely mismanaged, corrupt and had been run for the benefit of the government’s cronies. He added that the government had also interfer ed in the work of independent bodies to the extent that they could not perform their duty or solve the nations problems. If the situation was allowed to continue it would have consequences to national security and the economy, therefore the ARC had to step in and seize power to bring the situation under control and return the country back to normality, he said.
Gen Sonthi assured the population that the council had no intention of ruling the country permanently and would return power to the people under the constitutional monarchy as soon as possible and would uphold peace, stability and the monarchy. He concluded by asking the people to remain calm and to help the Council achieve their aims.
Meanwhile Bank of Thailand Governor MR Pridayadhorn Devakula has cut short his trip to attend the International Monetary Fund/World Bank meeting in Singapore and he will arrive Bangkok at midday. He has said that he has agreed to become Prime Minister. Regardless, it is expected there would be a press conference at the Armed Forces auditorium today. (Source: The Nation)


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Foreign leaders concerned

Posted by hasekamp on 20 September 2006 at 11:24 AM
Foreign leaders reacted with concern over the military coup against caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan saying "this is not a practice to be encouraged" (Mr. Thaksin is at the UN at the moment). Speaking to CNN television on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting, Annan said: "We as an organization [UN] have always supported governmental changes through democratic means, through the ballot box. As the African Union, for example, has indicated they do not support those who come to power through the barrel of a gun." Annan urged Thai people to remain calm. He told CNN: "Over the past decade or so they have established a solid democracy and institutions under the leadership of the king. And I’m sure they will be able to restore that institution and go back to a democratic system as soon as possible."
Thaksin is in New York for the General Assembly but canceled his plans to give a speech to the meeting after the military staged a coup. Thaksin, who was due to speak today, initially switched places with Montenegro on the speaker’s list to allow him to speak yesterday evening due to the coup. But, just three hours before he was expected to address the UN, a spokesperson announced that "Thailand is no longer on the General Assembly speaker’s list this evening."
It is expected that Mr. Thaksin will fly to London.
Meanwhile, the United States said it was monitoring the situation with concern and was uneasy about the military takeover in Thailand. The US State Department said in a statement issued yesterday said it hoped the political differences in Thailand could be resolved through democratic principles. In New York, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice returned to her hotel from UN headquarters to speak with her staff about the coup. US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton said it was still too early to comment but appealed for the maintenance of the rule of law.
France’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement: "We are following the situation closely." It urged some 6,000 French citizens resident in Bangkok to stay indoors.
Britain is "never happy" to see a military coup in a country, Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett said yesterday in a reaction to the overฌthrow of caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
Australia said it was gravely concerned at the "unacceptable" overthrow of the Thai government in a military coup, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said yesterday.
The Netherlands’ main airline, KLM, said it had made no changes to its flights to Bangkok for the moment, as the situation in the Thai capital appeared to b e calm. (Several sources; compiled by The Nation)


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Media buildings occupied

Posted by hasekamp on 20 September 2006 at 11:16 AM
Around 9 pm last night, before the Administrative Reform Council’s first announcement, soldiers entered Shin Satellite headquarters – the control room for the Thaicom III satellite. All employees were cleared out. "I had no idea what happened then. It’s startling," said a control officer, who anticipated the soldiers could have blocked satellite transmissions. Hours later, UBC signals broadcast via Thaicom were shut down. At first, there were negotiations to block only news channels – particularly CNN and BBC – but later all channels, including entertainment, were off air. Thaicom III building on Phaholyothin Road also houses control facilities for Advanced Info Service, which operates a GSM mobile phone network. It was seized at about 8 pm. "No soldier went inside the building but we were terrified, seeing soldiers sur rounding the building like that," said an AIS employee. "Still, we waited until 11 pm, after learning about the coup and seeing no violence. Then, we headed home." AIS services are operating as usual.
There were also reports the Administrative Reform Council (ARC) sought to cut off all mobile phone networks, but operators talked them out of it because of emergency health situations.
Besides former Shin Corp media outlets, now owned by Temasek Holdings of Singapore, the offices of other mass media including Nation Multimedia Group (NMG) have been encircled by troops. At the office of NMG on Bangna-Trad Rd, 40 soldiers are stationed around the building. They claim to be here to "protect and provide security". Those wanting to enter or leave the property were required to present identification.
Meanwhile all six free-to-air television channels have suspended their normal programsuntil further notice and are broadcasting songs praising His Majesty the King. (Source: The Nation)


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Military Coup in Thailand

Posted by hasekamp on 19 September 2006 at 19:51 PM
The army commander Gen Sonthi Boonyarataglin staged a coup d'etat Tuesday evening (Thailand time) and ousted the government of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Mr Thaksin was in New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly, and had earlier tried to dismiss Gen Sonthi and order troops back to their barracks. His order, via a voice broadcast on TV and radio, was cut off halfway as the dramatic coup unfolded. Tanks and troops of the Fourth Cavalry Battalion moved into strategic points in Bangkok, including the Royal Plaza. A so-called "Democratic Reform Council" declared itself in control, a throwback to former coups when military commanders promised more democratic reform. Like most of the previous 19 military coups since 1932, there was no violence. Tanks surrounded Government House and apparently some newspaper offices. All broadcasting on local TV was interrupted, and replaced by a notice which stated the military takeover and apologised "for any inconvenience." At least in the early hours of the coup, most other communications continued uninterrupted. Cable-TV broadcasts continued -- including foreign news reports of the coup -- and the airports remained open. Thailand websites including the Bangkok Post were operating under very heavy loads as people tried to find out what was happening. As always, local broadcast media contained no breaking updates. Mr Thaksin said he would return to Thailand from New York. The shadowy coup administrators said he would not be allowed to resume his post as prime minister. Sources told the Bangkok Post that Privy Council president Gen Prem Tinsulananonda had tried and failed to mediate between the coup forces and another army faction loyal to Mr Thaksin. Gen Prem was summoned to the Royal Palace. The whereabouts of most of the members the government were unknown. Mr Thaksin, Deputy Prime Minister Surakiart Sathirathai and Foreign Minister Kantathi Suphamongkol were in New York. Deputy Prime Minister Chidchai Wannasathit, the caretaker premier, was reportedly detained by the military. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Hat Yai Bombing: Economy at risk

Posted by hasekamp on 18 September 2006 at 23:17 PM
Saturday's bomb blasts in Hat Yai would have negative repercussions for the national economy as business people fear that the violence may no longer be contained within three provinces in the far South, the Bank of Thailand said yesterday. The Bank of Thailand deputy governor Tarisa Watanagase said the blasts would have an adverse impact on the entire country, as Hat Yai was one of the country's main tourist and commercial hubs. The blasts have already dealt a serious blow to tourism as more than 7,000 tourists have cancelled trips to Hat Yai after the blasts. The loss in tourism revenue has been estimated at Bt100 million. Hundreds of foreigners fled the area following the bombs on Saturday night. Somchart Pimtha-napoonporn, president of the Hat Yai Hotels Association, estimated that more than 7,000 tourists, mostly Malaysians, had cut short holidays in Hat Yai, which had been a popular destination for Malaysians and Singaporeans. Shortly after the blasts, the average hotel occupancy rate in the city plunged from its normal 80 per cent to single digit figures. The occupancy rate is usually 100 per cent on weekends. (Source: The Nation)


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Hunt for Hat Yai bombers

Posted by hasekamp on 17 September 2006 at 11:56 AM
Senior police officers in the deep South met Sunday to assess Saturday night’s incidents in which five bombs exploded in central Hat Yai city in this southern province, killing four people and injuring 59 others. Police officers discussed the incidents and ways to hunt the bombers. Hat Yai is a key commercial and tourist centre in Songkhla province near the Thai-Malaysian border. Initially, authorities believed the explosions were planted by militants with an aim to create chaos in Hat Yai, said Somporn Chaibangyang, provincial governor, admitting that it was difficult to prevent violence in the district because it was a big city and a tourist destination. Saturday’s incidents will definitely affect tourism in the area as confidence of foreign tourists, especially Malaysians and Singaporeans who usually visit the district, will diminish , he said. Police believed that bombs planters belonged to the same group that has been instigating unrest in the three southernmost provinces – Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat – since January 2004. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Queen's eyesight back to normal

Posted by hasekamp on 16 September 2006 at 19:08 PM
The condition of Her Majesty the Queen's right eye has returned to normal after a surgical operation in June, a Royal Household Bureau statement said yesterday. It has now been six weeks since the operation and Her Majesty's eyes are fine. A team of doctors will continue to monitor her condition. The doctors have asked Her Majesty to continue resting and refrain from carrying out royal activities. (Source: The Nation)


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New reentry rules

Posted by hasekamp on 16 September 2006 at 15:14 PM
Thailand will tighten its immigration rules for tourists who exploit visa free regulations, effective on October 1. The move will affect tourists from 41 countries who have been enjoying privileges by being allowed to stay in Thailand without a visa for up to 30 days. Among the 41 countries are Australia, the UK, Canada, France, Germany, Japan and the US.
Tourists can extend their stay by travelling to neighbouring countries - Cambodia, Malaysia Laos and Burma - and returning with new entry stamps.
The new rules are issued as an increasing number of tourists have overstayed the period allowed.
"Under the current rules, people from these countries can stay in Thailand for as long as they want. Some even stay here for one year. Many work illegally in Thailand," an informed source said. From October 1, tourists from the designated countries may still enter Thailand without visas and stay for up to 30 days, but their entry stamps will be renewable twice at most for a maximum stay of 90 days. Tourists who stayed for 90 days must leave the Kingdom for at least 90 days before being permitted to reenter Thailand. (Source: The Nation)


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Power cut at Suvarnabhumi airport

Posted by hasekamp on 16 September 2006 at 11:04 AM
Caretaker Transport Minister Pongsak Raktapongpaisal ordered an investigation into three electricity blackouts at Suvarnabhumi airport yesterday morning which he believed were part of a coordinated attempt to derail the airport's commercial operation beginning yesterday. Airports of Thailand (AoT) also filed a complaint with police against a suspect spotted on video footage from the airport's security cameras. "We want to know who is behind the sabotage, and what is the motive," Mr Pongsak said. Security at the airport would be stepped up and people entering and leaving the airport checked. More security cameras would be installed at the airport, especially in control rooms, he added. The security measures also require officials entering and leaving the airport's control rooms to pass security cameras. They are to sign their names and give phone numbers before entering and leaving the control room as well. Staff will have to wear ID badges. The first power blackout took place at 1.02am at Thai Airways International (THAI) check-in counters, which was followed by a second at 1.08am at Bangkok Airways counters and a third at 1.10am at AIMS building. The blackout at THAI check-in counters forced staff to process passengers manually. The power outage caused the first commercial flight from Suvarnabhumi, bound for Phitsanulok, to be delayed for 30 minutes. Mr Pongsak said the airport's telephone cables laid in ventilation pipes had been sabotaged before. It disrupted the airport's communication system. "To prevent further sabotage, it's better to have the airport operational as soon as possible," he said.
The airport's full commercial opening is scheduled for Sept 28. Yesterday's operation saw two carriers using the airport: six THAI flights, to and from Phitsanulok, and two Jetstar flights, from Suvarnabhumi to Singapore. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Protests in New York expected

Posted by hasekamp on 15 September 2006 at 15:21 PM
Thais in New York will stage protests against Caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinwatra in front of the UN buildings where Thaksin is scheduled to attend UN General Assembly. The group, People's Alliance for Democracy for Democracy in New York, is permitted by New York police to conduct the protest for three days, starting from Monday. Thaksin who is now in Havana, Cuba, for Non Aligned Movement meeting is scheduled to attend the UNGA in New York from Sunday to Wednesday. Thainewyork.com said that Thaksin would be the first Thai leader who faced the protest at the UN headquarters and in front of foreign leaders. The website said that Thais living in many US cities Washington DC, Boston, Connecticut, San Francisco and Los Angles, have promised that they would travel to New York to join the event. For Monday and Tuesday, the protests will be from noon to 3pm and for Wednesday, the event will start at noon until 6pm. All protesters will wear yellow. (Source: The Nation)


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Artificial coral reefs

Posted by hasekamp on 12 September 2006 at 22:09 PM
More than 100 designs of fiberglass sculptures have been placed on the seabed in Thailand's Andaman Sea as artificial coral reefs to boost tourism and to save the country's marine environment. The artificial coral reefs in various designs have been recently placed at the bottom of the sea off the six Andaman coastal provinces to attract divers and to be new diving sites, according to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment. It is expected that the new underwater tourist sites will help the country earn Bt10-20 million (about US$265,000 to US$535,00) each year. What more can you do to attract tourists? (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Military coup?

Posted by hasekamp on 12 September 2006 at 22:01 PM
It was true, rather than just rumor, that some militarymen were trying to stage a coup d'etat in Bangkok to oust caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Thai government Spokesman Surapong Suebwonglee said Tuesday. Surapong told a press conference Tuesday morning that a group of militarymen, as reported earlier, were mapping out a plan to stage a military coup while the caretaker Prime Minister was out of home for an overseas business trip. Thaksin, said in an interview Tuesday that he believed some people are trying to force him out of post. He said that since they had planted a car bomb, which was reportedly foiled as an assassination plot on Thaksin, and also tried a ccoup. (Source: Xinhua)


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Residents find airport too noisy

Posted by hasekamp on 10 September 2006 at 13:44 PM
Residents around the new Suvarnabhumi Airport yesterday said they wanted to move away from the unbearable noise and urged Airports of Thailand (AOT) to negotiate with them regarding payments to relocate or Bt1-million compensation for each home to be made soundproof. The residents - together with the King Mongkut's University of Technology Lat Krabang - appealed for the company to solve the noise and environmental problems before the airport's opening on September 28, and vowed to set up a movement to pressure the company. Living just one kilometre away from the runway, residents already know from trial flights that they will be affected by the roar of jet engines as aircraft take off and land, resident Suradech Benjakul said. The sound of a jet engine often reaches 120 decibels while the generally acceptable maximum level for human health is 70 decibels. Suradech said residents needed the company to discuss with them the problems following the airport's opening, when they will have to endure an aircraft arrival or departure every two minutes. At this stage AOT apparently lacked clear solutions and had no interest in talking with them, he said.
They also want the government to solve the regular flooding and with no clear answers for both issues, residents would join the university in a protest on Friday. Residents may also file complaints with international airlines and media, such as the Far Eastern Economic Review and Times, so that the world would know that Thailand, while boasting of being the aviation hub of Asia, did not care about the effects on the neighbourhood, said resident Jutharat Janthorn. (Source: The Nation)


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ID for elephants

Posted by hasekamp on 10 September 2006 at 13:41 PM
Public opinion will be sought on a proposed new law relating to elephants before a final revision of the draft bill is submitted for parliamentary consideration, the vice minister of the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry said yesterday. Noppadol Pattama said the bill, which the ministry has recently drafted, complies with and consolidates about 10 existing elephant-related acts and contains 17 key provisions to protect both wild and domestic elephants. These include controversial new regulations regarding the issue of elephant identification documents and the establishment of a DNA database of the animals. Under the new law, the birth of a domestic elephant must be reported to the ministry within seven days for an elephant ID card to be issued. If an elephant dies, the owner must report the death to officials within 24 hours. The draft bill also states that a DNA database will be set up when such technology is available in the country. It has been more than a decade since the government and conservationists first tried to revise all elephant-related laws. The bill also covers the process of importing and exporting elephants, as well as measures to provide welfare for the animals. Noppadol said the ministry was seeking comment from all parties, especially people who had businesses that utilise elephants. (Source: The Nation)


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Diplomats visit airport

Posted by hasekamp on 8 September 2006 at 16:43 PM
Representatives from 46 Bangkok-based embassies and consulates toured Suvarnabhumi Airport on Friday as part of an effort to acclimate diplomats with the new facility. Swedish Ambassador Jonas Hafstrom said he was amazed by the airport, and confident that once it opens more Swedish investors and tourists would come to Thailand. Hafstrom was among the 100 diplomats that partook in Friday’s event, which began at the Novotel Suvarnabhumi Airport Friday morning. Visitors were welcomed by Foreign Minister Kantathi Suphamongkhon, and then briefed by Transport Minister Pongsak Ratkaphongpaisal and other high-ranking officials from Airports of Thailand Plc. They toured various areas of the new airport including the passenger terminal and VIP lounges. Pongsak said the primary purpose of the visit was to introduce the foreign diplomatic community to Suvarnabhumi Airport, which will be the initial platform in welcoming visiting dignitaries and heads of state in the near future. Friday’s tour was also an opportunity to assure officials that the airport and its security system were ready for the September 28 opening. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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King's condition improves

Posted by hasekamp on 8 September 2006 at 16:41 PM
His Majesty the King's condition has improved to the point that he has gained some weight and his leg muscles have grown stronger, according to a Royal Household Bureau's statement. A team of doctors has prescribed medicine to alleviate muscle aches during His Majesty's exercises. His Majesty had been advised to gradually stop using a walker as his condition improves. His Majesty the King received spinal surgery in July. An Xray showed that some ribs that had fractured during his fall in May have been reattached. His Majesty still has occasional pain in his right shoulder and chest. A team of doctors suggested that His Majesty rest and refrain from any activities. (Source: The Nation)


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General accused for murder attempt

Posted by hasekamp on 7 September 2006 at 23:46 PM
One of three military personnel linked to the alleged car-bomb plot to kill the caretaker prime minister turned himself in to police yesterday and said four other senior officers were behind the plot. Police said Sgt-Major Chakhrit Janthara told them a four-star general masterminded the murder plot against Thaksin Shinawatra for "having damaged the country". Citing what they described as Chakhrit's 10-page written confession, police said three other officers were involved in the murder plot - a Maj-General Sor, a Maj-General Tor and a Colonel Bor, all assigned to the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc). Chakhrit was also at Isoc. Three Army personnel, including Chakhrit, surrendered to police yesterday. Combined with Chakhrit's implication of four other officers, as well as the two officers currently in military custody, the total number of military personnel allegedly involved in the plot has grown to nine. General Pallop Pinmanee, a deputy Isoc director who was sacked on August 24, the day police intercepted the Daewoo sedan loaded with explosives, said he would not comment on Chakhrit's statement in regard to the "mastermind" issue. Excluding Chakhrit, who is the most junior of the military personnel in custody, no other officers have cooperated with police. (Source: The Nation)


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Vegetarian Festival in yellow

Posted by hasekamp on 6 September 2006 at 13:32 PM
Organizers of this year’s Vegetarian Festival in Phuket have asked for those taking part to wear yellow shirts on the second day of the festival, October 23, to commemorate HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s Diamond Jubilee. Participants traditionally wear white throughout the festival as a sign of purity. The announcement came during a meeting of the event’s organizing committee at Phuket Town Inn. Phuket Vice-Governor Pongsak Praivet chaired the meeting, which was also attended by Suwalai Pinpradab, Director of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Southern Region 4 Office, and Prasert Fukthongphol, Chairman of the Phuket Shrines Association.
This year’s festival, which runs from October 22 to 30, will once again feature a stage set up at Saphan Hin, the traditional center of activities. One of the largest street processions will be a walk from Queen Sirikit Park to Saphan Hin, starting at 1:29 pm on October 23, with vegetarian fare to be served along much of the route. K. Suwalai said she expected this year’s festival to the biggest and best ever, as it falls in the year of HM The King’s Diamond Jubilee. Seventeen shrines are expected to join the festivities, which will include a special ceremony for HM The King at 5:45pm at Saphan Hin on October 23. Those attending will be expected to kneel for one hour, he said. (Source: The Phuket Gazette)


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Thief takes hostage

Posted by hasekamp on 6 September 2006 at 10:55 AM
A thief was arrested yesterday after taking a woman security guard hostage from a subway station while trying to escape. But his accomplice got away on the subway. The two men stole gold necklaces from the Carrefour department store at Ratchada and fled in a taxi to Ratchadapisek subway station, where security guards tried to obstruct them. One of the gun-toting robbers, Vorapoj Buaphet, 35, held the woman guard, Saowanit Kaewdeang, 31, hostage and forced her to hide in Soi Ratchada 22 - while watched by onlookers. The robber refused to negotiate with police officers but approached a pickup truck driven by an observer. He forced the driver to get out of the car then drove it towards Ratch-ayodhin, still holding Saowanit. Bang Khen traffic police finally stopped the vehicle at a roundabout and charged the man. But the guard had been freed by then, and got away with just minor injuries. (Source: The Nation)


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Appeal to His Majesty

Posted by hasekamp on 6 September 2006 at 10:52 AM
Small retailers from 20 districts across the country yesterday appealed to His Majesty the King to help stop the expansion of foreign-owned superstores into their communities. About 100 people representing neighbourhood shops in Surat Thani's Koh Samui, Sakon Nakhon's Sawang Daen Din and Ang Thong's Wiset Chai Chan converged at the offices of His Majesty the King's Principal Private Secretary. In separate petitions, they emphasised they were in weaker positions than neighbourhood shops in big cities to compete with the advance of superstores. Superstores also threatened the network of social relations that neighbourhood shops had built up, they added. "Trading in small communities is not only about trade, but also about relationships between people who treat each other as relatives," said Panthep Suleesatira, representing Wiset Chai Chan's retailers. The Commerce Ministry's Internal Trade Department said it was gathering information on the impact on smaller retailers and asking superstores to submit their expansion plans. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Crown Prince visits deep South

Posted by hasekamp on 4 September 2006 at 23:49 PM
His Royal Highness Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn arrived in the deep South yesterday for a one-week visit to meet local people and check on the progress of royally initiated projects. The Crown Prince was accompanied by HRH Princess Srirasmi, HRH Princess Bajrakitiyabha and HRH Prince Dhipankara Rasmijoti to stay at Thaksin Ratchanives Palace in Narathiwat, the Royal Household Bureau said. Army chief Gen Sonthi Boonyaratkalin travelled to the deep South to provide security for the royal party which will return to Bangkok on Sunday. The provinces of Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala have been plagued by violence for more than two years. In a bid to quell the bloodshed and return peace to the area, Gen Sonthi said on Friday he was trying to organise talks with the leaders of the Bersatu, or the United Front for Independence of Pattani, believed responsible for the violence in the three southern border provinces. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Ready for new airport

Posted by hasekamp on 3 September 2006 at 20:12 PM
The Immigration Bureau is ready for Suvarnabhumi International Airport’s commercial opening on September 28. Immigration Bureau Chief Pol.Lt. Gen. Suwat Thamrongsrisakul said officers have been trained and assigned to 124 checkpoints in the arrival section of the passenger terminal and 72 in the departure section. All immigration officers have undergone English language training sessions. Data has shown that it should take the average passenger 20 seconds to pass immigration, although in some cases it may take a bit longer if there are questions. Gen. Suwat said airlines have been requested to submit passenger data ahead of an aircraft’s arrival in order to quicken immigration procedures, in particular for large tour groups. This kind of arrangement is currently in use in many other countries. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Flooding update

Posted by hasekamp on 3 September 2006 at 20:09 PM
The Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Department has reported on the flooding situation in many areas, which resulted from recent heavy downpours, and indicated that so far 6 provinces have been affected. Up until this morning the flood-affected provinces include Lampang, Lamphun, Sukhothai, Phitsanulok, Tak and Chanthaburi. Sukhothai province still has inundation in 5 of its districts. The water level in the Yom river portion in the districts exceeds the level of its banks by about one meter. In Phitsanulok water from Chomphu canal and Wangthong river has overflowed the banks and flooded homes and farmlands in 8 districts. However the height of the flood level does not exceed half a meter. In Tak province the water the flood water in its two flooded districts range from 0.2 to 0.6 meters. In Lamphun and Lampang provinces the flood water level is less than 0.4 meters whereas in Chiang Mai the situation in the municipality and outlying districts has returned to normal. In the meantime inundation remains in Tha Mai district in Chanthaburi province, consequent of forest floods. However the water condition in Chanthaburi will return to normal within today should there be no more rain. (Source: Public Relations Department)


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Once more flooding in the North

Posted by hasekamp on 2 September 2006 at 13:06 PM
Hundreds of people in Uttaradit yesterday evacuated to higher ground in the face of imminent flooding and landslides. The evacuation followed flash floods in the province late Thursday night that affected a large number of residents. Many had to struggle for their lives when the floods hit their homes and cut off local roads. Rescue workers were working hard to help the flood victims. Several leaders in Uttaradit's Laplae district yesterday ordered the evacuation of residents. The electricity supply was also cut off in the district after many people suffered electric shocks while trying to move their belongings out of their flooded homes.
In Chiang Mai, an overflowing river also slowly raised flood levels in the city. Many houses were submerged. In Mae Rim district, more than 15 water buffaloes at a tourist attraction were evacuated to higher ground after their shelter was submerged. Meanwhile, heavy downpours caused flooding in Phitsanulok's Chat Trakan and Nakhon Thai districts, where several villages were marooned. Local authorities also warned residents in Phitsanulok's economic zone to brace for imminent flooding as the water level in a local river rose dangerously.
In another province, Phetchabun, a furious torrent of floodwater swept away a man, while another person died from electrocution. Both residential areas and farmland were flooded.
In Tak's Sam Ngao district, the rising water level in the Wang River caused alarm among authorities. Sandbags formed a temporary embankment along the river as people packed their belongings in preparation for immediate evacuation in case of flooding.
The State Railway of Thailand suspended its train services between Chiang Mai and Bangkok yesterday and today pending track repairs in Phrae and Lamphun.
The main cause for all these floodings is deforestation. (Source: The Nation)


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Upgrade your SIM card

Posted by hasekamp on 1 September 2006 at 15:16 PM
Mobile phone users can start upgrading their SIM cards for the new 10-digit numbers free of charge from today at all operators' shops nationwide. They have until Nov 30 to upgrade the cards, or they will not be able to receive incoming calls. Market leader Advanced Info Service (AIS) said its customers can upgrade their SIM cards via www.ais.co.th/10digits. Alternatively, they can have their cards updated at 600 AIS shops and 200 mobile caravans in communities in remote areas. DTAC customers can get their numbers updated at 23 DTAC service halls and 312 shops countrywide. Those using Symbian phones can update their cards themselves at www.dtac.co.th or www.happy.co.th and download the "Add 8" programme. They can also call the 1678 DTAC call centre or send an SMS to 7099.
A total of 32 million mobile phone users, both pre-paid and post-paid, will have to add an 8 in the middle of the existing two-digit prefix to make mobile-to-mobile calls. Numbers starting with 01, 09 and 06 will become 081, 089 and 086. International calls made to local mobile numbers will also have to add 8 after the country code, followed by the one-digit prefix and seven-digit number. For mobile-to-fixed line calls, numbers will not change. After today all new mobile subscribers, both pre-paid and post-paid, will be put on the 10-digit system. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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