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Climate summit in Bangkok

Posted by hasekamp on 30 April 2007 at 23:10 PM
Climate change experts are meeting in Bangkok for a major conference to discuss ways to combat global warming. It is the third such summit this year held by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Those attending hope to finalise a report on how the world can mitigate rising levels of greenhouse gases. A draft version of the report, seen by the BBC, says it is possible to make a real difference, but countries need to implement policies immediately. Environmentalists argue that while it will need investment to put these policies into practice, the eventual consequences of doing nothing far outweigh the cost of tackling global climate change now. (Source: BBC News)


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Criticism in the US

Posted by hasekamp on 29 April 2007 at 15:57 PM
A top Democrat yesterday urged the government to swiftly respond to what he described as a coordinated attempt to discredit Thailand in the United States that is being orchestrated by former premier Thaksin Shinawatra. The article blasts the Thai government over its patent dispute with US drug firms. "We've long regarded Thailand as a fine little country," Adelman wrote in the article that accuses Thailand's military of trying to steal US intellectual property (IP). Thailand now belongs to what he calls "the axis of IP evil". Korbsak said the tone of Adelman's article made it apparent that he was trying to discredit the government on behalf of Thaksin, although Adelman signed the article in his capacity as director of USA for Innovation, a group that lobbies for US pharmaceutical firms. Adelman's article attacks the Thai government over its capital controls as well as the drug patent row, Korbsak said. He said the article written on behalf of USA for Innovation sounded like it was actually written by Edelman on behalf of its client. The website for USA for Innovation advises visitors to "tell President Bush to stand up to Thailand's military". (Source: The Nation)


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New constitution not yet acceptable

Posted by hasekamp on 29 April 2007 at 15:53 PM
The Council for National Security (CNS) chairman Gen Sonthi Boonyaratkalin yesterday called for the new charter to enhance the monarchy's honor, power and status. Addressing a seminar on the constitution and the nation's future, he said Thailand would remain under a constitutional monarchy, so the charter should uphold the institution better. Gen Sonthi's remarks followed the emergence of video clips deemed insulting to the King on the YouTube website. Several messages also deemed offensive to the King were posted on the Time website as the magazine's readers voted for candidates in the "Time 100" poll. Gen Sonthi raised the issue regarding the monarchy after saying that certain charter improvements he had suggested had not been addressed by the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC). Article 8 of the draft, which was being released to the public, retains Article 8 of the 1997 constitution. It states that the King "shall be enthroned in a position of revered worship and shall not be violated and that no person shall expose the King to any sort of accusation or action". Gen Sonthi noted that he understood the CDC was working against time and was under pressure. He called on all parties involved to be open-minded and to exercise tolerance, noting there was room for people to initiate amendments to the new charter. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Start of birthday celebrations

Posted by hasekamp on 22 April 2007 at 11:08 AM
Thais across the country attended multi-faith ceremonies yesterday to celebrate the 80th anniversary of His Majesty the King's birthday (on December 5th). The government-sponsored ceremony began on April 17 with the participation of people of all religions. HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn presided over religious rites at the Temple of the Emerald Buddha where 81 senior monks chanted prayers for the monarch.The ceremony was attended by Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont, cabinet members and senior government officials. Thousands of people gathered at Sanam Luang at 5pm to join 801 Buddhist monks in prayer to bless His Majesty as the highlight of the six-day ceremony, which ends today. Preecha Kantiya, director-general of the Religious Department, said 5pm was an auspicious time for people nationwide to pray together for the King. In Yala, Muslims and Buddhists had joined together in their religious rites to express their love and loyalty to His Majesty. Buddhists offered alms to monks while Muslims prayed for Allah's blessing for the King. Similar religious rites were held in other provinces across the country. Provincial governors presided over the rites in the provinces. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Chiang Rai shopping mall destroyed

Posted by hasekamp on 20 April 2007 at 23:30 PM
A fire gutted Chiang Rai province's oldest shopping mall on Wednesday, leaving 200 employees without jobs and causing damage estimated at 60 million baht. Police said an electrical short circuit could have started the blaze. An initial inspection found burned-out electrical wiring yesterday on the mezzanine floor of the three-storey Api Plaza, in Muang district. The wires will be sent for further examination. Investigators also questioned an electrician and mall executives, and the scene was declared off-limits to the public. Pol Maj Sakon Apiniwet, son of the owner, said the mall had a 10-million-baht fire insurance policy. He said about 200 employees were now without jobs, but some would be transferred to work at a new branch to be opened soon. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Thailand performs low in Asian economy

Posted by hasekamp on 18 April 2007 at 16:19 PM
Thailand currently occupies the lowest rung on South-East Asia's economic growth 'ladder', according to the United Nations, which Wednesday said that the kingdom achieved only 5.0 per cent GDP growth in 2006, compared to its 4.5 per cent growth in 2005. While the Thai economy rose marginally, the forecast for the coming year is that Thai GDP growth is expected to be lower in 2007 than 2006, at 4.7 per cent, pressure for the baht's appreciation will likely continue, and investment looks gloomy, with only Indonesia performing more poorly in the region. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Songkran: 318 dead

Posted by hasekamp on 18 April 2007 at 16:17 PM
Some 318 people had been killed and 4,293 others injured in car accidents over six days of the Songkran holiday, the Road Safety Center announced yesterday. The number of holiday travelers killed so far this Songkran was 29 lower than the same period last year, while 57 more people had been injured. The number of accidents (3,823) up to Monday night was 40 more than last year, the Interior Minister and the centre's deputy director Aree Wongsearaya said. On Monday alone, there were 417 accidents. Most of them (86 per cent) involved motorcycles. Some 45 were killed and 461 others hurt.
Nakhon Phanom, Lampang, Sing Buri, Sa Kaew, and Bangkok topped the list with three deaths each, while Chiang Rai had the most injuries at 19, followed by Udon Thani (17), Kanchanaburi and Si Sa Ket, which had 14 each. Chiang Rai also experienced the most accidents with 19, followed by Udon Thani (15) and Suphan Buri, with 14.
In the six days (April 11-16), 2.4 million vehicles were stopped at checkpoints nation-wide and 41,696 motorists found to have breached traffic laws. Most failed to present driver's licenses, wear helmets or seat belts. With many holidaymakers returning to Bangkok from the provinces on Songkran's last day yesterday, Aree contacted public transport agencies to ensure there were sufficient seats for all. (Source: The Nation)


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Back to Siam?

Posted by hasekamp on 17 April 2007 at 16:12 PM
Historian Charnvit Kasetsiri says he has not given up in his bid to change Thailand's name back to Siam, despite a lukewarm public response to the idea. Mr Charnvit launched his campaign online at http://www.petitiononline.com/siam2007 two weeks ago, seeking public support to have the name Siam restored in the new constitution. Siam was used in the country's first charter in 1932. About 800 people have signed up in support of the campaign so far. Last week he sent a letter to several leaders, including the prime minister, the head of the Supreme Court, the National Legislative Assembly and the Constitution Drafting Committee. Mr Charnvit said Siam was a term that better signifies ethnic and cultural diversity and its use would boost national unity. The change of the country's name to Thailand in 1939 was made out of "ethnocentrism" that was incorrect, factually and historically, he said. There have been a few attempts to change the name back to Siam, including prior to the 1949 and 1968 constitutions.
"Many things were changed by Field Marshal Plaek Pibulsonggram out of racism. For example, Phra Siam Devatiraj was changed to Phra Thai Devatiraj and Siam to Thailand. Surprisingly, our country is the only nation in Asia that uses '-land' at the end of its name," he said. He said the campaign has attracted more people from the younger generation. Mr Charnvit said the old name Siam would help create harmony within Thai society, which comprises people of different ethnic, linguistic and cultural identities. However, he said, he realised the 'Siam not Thailand' campaign might not bear fruit in the new constitution now being drafted. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Flood watch

Posted by hasekamp on 17 April 2007 at 16:09 PM
Forestry staff will be stationed upstream from popular riverside attractions in major national parks to watch for flash floods and sound the alarm, to prevent a repeat of Saturday's waterfall tragedy in Trang, which killed 38 people. In Khao Yai National Park, staff will be stationed near watershed areas on the mountain and will sound a warning if there is water run-off. The head of the security protection division at the national park, said the park staff will be in place from early morning until 5pm when the park closes. After the Trang tragedy, forestry officials were blamed for failing to issue warning alerts ahead of the flash floods at Sai Rung and Phrai Sawan waterfalls in Yan Ta Khao district. Khao Yai National Park, a World Heritage site, had 100 natural waterfalls, the biggest number in the country. It was absolutely necessary to have a warning system in place upstream to ensure the safety of visitors. Staff equipped with radios would stand guard from morning until 5pm. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Songkran road tool, the first figures

Posted by hasekamp on 15 April 2007 at 10:40 AM
As Songkran festivities continue, the number of road-accident victims stands at 169 dead and 2,296 injured in the first three days of the holiday, the Road Safety Center said yesterday. The road toll to date is down - so far - on that of 2006, Public Health Deputy Minister Dr Morakot Kornkasem said. To us this is no real improvement: Once again, drinking drivers are causing most accidents. Everybody knows this, and still the authorities let it happen every year without issuing effective measures like intensive alcohol controls. (Source: The Nation)


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Drama caused by flash flood

Posted by hasekamp on 15 April 2007 at 10:33 AM
Raging mountain torrents killed at least 23 people as they were spending their Songkran holiday at crowded Sai Rung and Phrai Sawan waterfalls in the southern province of Trang. Run-off caused by heavy rain roared down from the Banthat mountain range to waterfalls where hundreds of tourists were bathing. The flash flood carried the victims downstream, slamming them against rocks and drowning them, rescue officials said. Nineteen people died at Sai Rung waterfall and four at Phrai Sawan, about 10 kilometers north of Sai Rung, according to provincial officials. The casualties comprised 12 women, two men, seven boys, and two girls. One report put the number of people injured at 20, with another 30 thought to be missing. The injured were admitted to Yan Ta Khao hospital. Most victims were Trang residents and tourists from neighboring provinces. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Huge revenues for Songkran?

Posted by hasekamp on 14 April 2007 at 11:59 AM
On 12, 13 and 14 April Songkran is being celebrated in Thailand. Traditionally the Bangkok Post has the best pictures of the event!
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The Tourism Authority of Thailand is confident that the nation will earn more them 9 billion baht in revenue during the Songkran festival. The Governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand said that the TAT was confident Thailand would earn more than 9 billion baht in revenue from April 8-15 of the Songkran Festival, higher than in the previous year. An estimated 270,000 foreign travelers are also expected to visit the nation. The TAT Governor said that Asian tourists are becoming more prevalent due to an increase of at least 35 charter flights available from China, Korean,and Taiwan. Tourism companies are also making 40 flights available for travelers. Mrs. Polsiri said that Songkran festivities in Hat Yai was attended by a large number of travelers from Malaysia and Singapore. Hotel bookings are 100 percent full. The TAT Governor said that the three southern provinces were not major tourism destinations, and therefore would not impact the nation's tourism sector. (Source: Public Relations Department)


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PM stays on

Posted by hasekamp on 12 April 2007 at 19:44 PM
Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont yesterday vowed to stay on as premier, despite mounting pressure for his resignation and rumors of a fresh coup. However, he did not rule out the possibility of his early exit if he encountered a "serious obstacle". "I'm doing my best to solve the problems the country faces," he told Government House reporters on his first day back at work after three days in hospital for a medical check-up. "If there is no serious obstacle affecting the way I work, I surely intend to deliver on my commitment," Surayud said. However, he could not predict whether such an obstacle would arise in the next six months of his government's term. Asked whether he would stay on until his government's term expired, Surayud insisted he was fully dedicated to his commitment to the nation. He said he would solve problems only through peaceful means. If he cannot do it and the situation turns violent, however, he will have to keep his promise [to resign], he said. "I don't want to see Thais fighting each other, which could eventually lead to bloodshed," Surayud said. "I am trying my best to prevent this happening."
There have been rumors that Surayud was pressured to resign following an alleged rift with Council for National Security (CNS) chief General Sonthi Boonyaratglin over his refusal to declare a state of emergency to suppress anti-CNS protests. (Source: The Nation)


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Swiss man gets Royal Pardon

Posted by hasekamp on 12 April 2007 at 19:41 PM
According to Dutch radio news the Swiss man who offended His Majesty the King by smearing his portraits with paint or other materials, and who was sentenced top 10 years in prison, received a Royal Pardon from His Majesty the King.
The Dutch News Agency also reported that the Swiss government had not interfered in this case. So far5 we can't find this news in the Thai media, therefore we can only give this short message, as heard on Dutch radio.
Later we read on the BBC News site: "The king in his kindness has granted him a pardon and he has been transferred from prison and is in the process of being deported from the country," Chiang Mai police Col Prachuab Wongsuk told.


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Extra security for Khao San Road

Posted by hasekamp on 11 April 2007 at 13:04 PM
Security will be boosted on Khao San Road, Bangkok's well-known backpacker street, to ensure safety for water-splashing celebrants during the upcoming Thai traditional New Year or Songkran festival, a business leader said Tuesday. Mr Piyabutr Jiwaramonaikun, chairman of the Association of Khao San Traders, said more than 100 soldiers, policemen and civil volunteers would be on duty in the festival area while bomb detectors would also be used as part of the security measures. The festival will be held on Khao San Road on April 12-15. Mr.Piyabutr expected that more than 10 million baht would be circulated during the four-day event on Khao San Road which should see a daily turnout of 40,000-50,000 Thai and foreign celebrants. He said revelers would be banned from applying talcum powder on others and each day's festival would end at 7 pm. Water gun is one of the favorite equipments to splash water on others during the festival. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Serious bus accident

Posted by hasekamp on 11 April 2007 at 13:01 PM
Seven people were killed and 31 others injured when a twin-deck bus drove off a mountainous road in Na Di district in Prachin Buri early yesterday, police said. One of the dead was a foreigner, identified as Alan Thomas O'Conner, 60, they said. His nationality was unknown. The Nong Khai-Rayong coach was carrying 50 passengers when it veered off the road and plunged 10 metres down a hill, Na Di police Major Mongkol Janploy said. The accident happened at 2.20am yesterday. Rescue workers freed the injured from the coach and transported them to Wang Nam Khiew Hospital. The seriously injured were transferred to Maharaj Hospital in Nakhon Ratchasima province. It took workers 90 minutes to retrieve the dead after a crane hauled the coach back to the road. Bus driver Jirapat Waipantha, 44, said he veered to avoid a car while travelling down a hill, causing the coach to overturn. He has been charged with reckless driving causing death, injury and property damage. (Source: The Nation)


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PM in hospital

Posted by hasekamp on 9 April 2007 at 17:37 PM
Thailand's Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont was admitted to a Bangkok hospital for a check-up Monday and is expected to be discharged on Thursday, according to his personal doctor. Dr. Prinya Taweechaikarn at privately-run Bangkok Hospital told a press conference that initial tests found that the premier's health condition is not serious, but nonetheless explained that it was necessary to check him in for further medical tests. "He needs to be hospitalized for two or three days. If the check-up finds nothing wrong, he will be able to go to work. So far tests have found no indication of any condition that will prevent him from working," said Dr. Prinya. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Government shuts Pantip forum

Posted by hasekamp on 9 April 2007 at 17:29 PM
The Information and Communications Technology Ministry (ICT) has shut down a popular online political forum ''Ratchadamnoen'' on www.pantip.com, saying some opinions posted on the web board were a threat to national security. ICT Minister Sitthichai Pookaiyaudom said the ministry had told the webmasters of the Pantip website to temporarily close down its well-known web board, and warn its members against posting provocative messages on other Pantip web boards. The web board was taken down completely yesterday evening. Earlier, webmasters put up a notice saying "ICT has asked for the temporary closure of [the political forum] 'Ratchadamnoen Room' after it found several topics that might endanger national security. The web page is suspended as requested. We would like to ask members to not post [political messages] in other rooms, otherwise the entire site will be closed. Sorry for any inconvenience." Mr Sitthichai said a number of opinions posted on the web board were an obvious threat to national security, without elaborating. If such opinions continued to be posted, the website would face complete and immediate closure.
The ministry has also asked for "cooperation" from two other websites, www.prachatai.com and www.mthai.com, to watch out for and remove any messages it deemed were sensitive or contained hints of lese majeste that may offend the royal institution. The action came just days after the popular video-sharing site YouTube was blocked for videos deemed insulting to the monarchy. From the outside world this looks like the appointment of a censor is nearby. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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World Bank lowers Thailand GDP

Posted by hasekamp on 5 April 2007 at 16:42 PM
The World Bank has revised Thailand's gross domestic product (GDP) growth estimate for this year downward to 4.3 per cent, citing consumers and investors had slowed spending due to a lack of confidence in political developments and economic policy. Kirida Bhaopichitr, a country economist at the World Bank's Bangkok office, said in a report on "Monitoring the Thai Economy" released twice annually that the bank had decreased Thailand's GDP growth projection to 4.3 per cent from the 4.6 per cent forecast in November last year. The downward revision was made because the bank sees that household consumption, as well as private and state investment in the country, had slowed down because of the political uncertainties and the ambiguous economic policy adopted by the current government. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Promoting tourism

Posted by hasekamp on 4 April 2007 at 19:03 PM
Thai Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont on Monday reiterated his government\92s strong intention to develop and promote the country\92s tourism industry to meet the sustainable quality standard. Presiding over the opening of the "Thai-Japanese Tourism Promotion for 2007" scheme in the first day of his four-day official visit to Japan, he said Thailand and Japan had forged firm bilateral ties for 120 years. In particular, the relationship of people of both countries is very close. Now, around 50,000 Thai people stay in Japan and 36,000 Japanese people live in Thailand. He said promoting the tourism industry is considered a key policy his government had adopted. To ensure the sustainable development of the country, the government had come up with the tourism promotion strategy to develop and promote the tourism industry to meet the quality standard so that the industry could enjoy a sustainable growth and compete in the world market. He said the government had an intention to promote tourism for education and creativity for social benefits. It also wanted to distribute tourism in a balanced manner, increase Thailand’s tourism value, and boost awareness of local tourism among foreign tourists. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Phones in cars may be banned

Posted by hasekamp on 4 April 2007 at 18:29 PM
The Justice Ministry today will ask the cabinet to consider enforcing a law banning drivers from using mobile phones, including hands-free sets, to curb the number of road accidents. Justice Minister Chanchai Likhitjitta said the ministry would call on the cabinet to approve the ban on drivers using mobile phones, which is part of the 1979 Road Traffic Act which police are responsible for enforcing. An official said the ban would extend to the use of hands-free equipment. Penalties for infringements would be based on the Road Traffic Act. Mr Chanchai said the ministry had previously proposed the government amend the act to require drivers to take a breathalyser test when asked. "This amendment is being reviewed by the National Legislative Assembly," he said. "Under the bill, if a driver refuses to take the test, the police could presume they have a higher alcohol level than the law allows."
One of the most common causes of road accidents is drink-driving because people see penalties under the Road Traffic Act as being light, he said. Mr Chanchai will defend this amendment before the assembly tomorrow. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Thaksin children have to pay

Posted by hasekamp on 4 April 2007 at 18:26 PM
Two grown-up children of deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra must pay 5.69 billion baht in personal income tax incurred from Shin Corp share deals they made with their own firm, Ample Rich Investments last year, the Assets Scrutiny Committee (ASC) ruled yesterday. The ASC added that Panthongtae and Pinthongta Shinawatra would have to pay 847 million baht in surcharges on behalf of Ample Rich as the firm failed to submit withholding tax to the tax agency upon the transfer of the shares. The two also face the prospect of being forced to pay a huge fine equal to the personal income tax amount plus surcharges as they seem not to have included this tax liability in their tax returns submitted to the Revenue Department yesterday, said ASC tax probe team chief Viroj Laohaphan. A lawyer for the Shinawatra family insisted the pair would appeal the ruling and seek the Supreme Court's verdict. Yesterday was the deadline for taxpayers to submit their tax returns for 2006.
Ample Rich sold 329.2 million Shin shares to the pair on Jan 20, 2006 for one baht each. One working day later, they sold their Shin shares to Temasek Holdings of Singapore for 49.25 baht apiece, reaping capital gains of over 15.8 billion baht. The transactions were part of the 73.3-billion-baht buyout of Shin Corp by Temasek. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Campaign for traditional clothes

Posted by hasekamp on 2 April 2007 at 12:30 PM
The Ministry of Culture campaigns for Thai traditional clothes to conserve the country’s characteristics against the backdrop of globalization. Culture Minister Khunying Khaisri Sri-arun says the ministry has sent letters to government and private organizations, calling for their officials to wear Thai traditional clothes. The ministry has also cooperated with recreational venues, including the Siam Niramit Theatre, the Rose Garden, and the Wax Museum, in giving fare discounts to visitors dressing in Thai clothes. As for this year’s Thai Heritage Conservation Day, the ministry has planned to arrange activities to celebrate Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sinrindhorn’s contribution to Thai culture and arts. The activities include the broadcasting of documentary program in honor of HRH Princess Sirindhorn via Thai TV Pool today (April, 2nd) and an exhibition about His Majesty the King who was hailed as Father of the Thai Heritage Conservation. The ministry will also arrange performances on ten incarnations of the Buddha and select outstanding persons who contribute to Thai culture and arts to receive an award. (Source: Public Relations Department)


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Ten years for offending the King

Posted by hasekamp on 2 April 2007 at 12:24 PM
This message is a few days old already, but we publish it anyway now. A Swiss man who faced up to 75 years in prison after pleading guilty to charges for defacing images of King Bhumibol Adulyadej on the revered monarch's birthday, was convicted to 10 years in prison by the Criminal Court in Chiang Mai. A long-term resident, Oliver Rudolf Jufer was arrested in December in the northern city of Chiang Mai after black paint was sprayed on several portraits of King Bhumibol, 79, whom many Thais regard as semi-divine and a cornerstone of stability in times of crisis. Foreigners are expected to show the same respect as the locals, and not doing so can have serious consequences. A French businessman was arrested in 1994 for insulting the monarchy during a Thai Airways flight from London with two members of the royal family on board. He was later acquitted. Other foreigners have run afoul of the law occasionally, but jail terms were rare so far. It can be more serious for Thais. For Mr. Jufer who pleaded guilty, the court set sentenced him to serve ten years on March 29. (Source: Farang Pai Nai)


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Mekong is dry due to Chinese dams

Posted by hasekamp on 1 April 2007 at 20:43 PM
The arrival of the dry season and the emergence of two mega-dam projects in China have contributed to severe drying of the Mekong river, with water levels dropping to less than one meter in many sections. Hardest hit are cargo boats, which are taking a month to complete a journey that normally takes three days between Chiang Saen district in Chiang Rai province and China's Xihoungbanna in Yunnan province. "Boats have to navigate the river in groups of three or four with a crewman leading the way, periodically using a long stick to check the water level," said cruise manager Yu Yan. The worst is yet to come. China is now building a third dam, Xiaowan, in a series of eight hydro-electric dams it plans for the Mekong river in a bid to counter floods and retain water. This could intensify problems already caused by the two existing Chinese dams, Manwan and Dachaoshan. But China has the upper hand because one-third of the 4,900km river which forms in Tibet is in China. Apart from China, the Mekong river is a lifeline for millions of people in the downstream countries of Burma, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia. The river has survived a fierce development war, which ranged from islet destruction by explosives for pier construction and better navigation to dam construction in upstream China. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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