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Protests continue

Posted by hasekamp on 31 May 2008 at 15:59 PM
Anti-government led by the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) vowed they would not give up their street protest although Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej warned that he may give the order for the police to force the demonstration to disperse. Later a more onciliatory-sounding Interior Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung said the government would not use force but while acknowledging that there had been some earlier concern about bomb threats and the plot was uncovered, asked the PAD not to exaggerate the likelihood of government intervention to break up the protest. Minister Chalerm said the government wanted to reduce tensions and not increase them. The PAD issued its latest statement saying that it would continue the protest as it was their right under the constitution and that the demonstration was being carried out peacefully. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Riot police against protesters

Posted by hasekamp on 31 May 2008 at 15:53 PM
More than 200 riot police arrived at the Ratchadamnoen Avenue on Saturday afternoon and began forming skirmish lines opposite what appears to be 1,000 or more anti-government protesters, amid signs they would try to clear the streets. Members of the People's Alliance for Democracy made lines behind a barricade about 10 meters away. Police reinforcements were receiving helmets, shields and truncheons, but had no firearms in sight. Many in the PAD crowd had home-made plywood shields and indicated they would try to resist any police advance. The police, all armed, came on 10 buses and stationed in front of the Education Ministry at 6.30pm. The protesters have blocked main Bangkok streets in the old city, or Rattanakosin area, for a week. Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej on Saturday morning ordered the demonstration cleared by nightfall and a confrontation began to appear inevitable at 5pm Thailand time. Tension between several thousand anti-government protesters and rows of riot police appeared to ease just before dusk on Saturday, but demonstrators vowed they would not give up their street protest despite an order by the prime minister to disperse. Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej ordered the week-old demonstration ended today. It appeared that would happen only by force, as the protesters vowed to remain on the street until they toppled Mr Samak's government. Most of several thousand police pulled back and took off their riot gear just before dusk. The People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) kept up a noisy street protest, while some PAD members faced off with a line of riot police across a five-metre barricade just behind the protest. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Constitution not to be changed

Posted by hasekamp on 30 May 2008 at 11:17 AM
The proposal to amend the constitution was automatically killed by parliamentary procedure on Friday after seven backers withdrew their support, meaning the measure no long has enough sponsors to be presented to the House. The charter rewrite motion was lodged by 164 lawmakers last week, but the number went down to 124 on Friday. At least 126 parliamentarians are needed as signed sponsors in order to put the measure onto the official agenda of Parliament. Suphan Buri senator Prasit Photisuthon, one of the seven senators, said he pulled his backing for the amendment so that the supporters of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), would no longer have an excuse for their street rally against amendment. PAD core leaders, meanwhile, presented a list of 31,881 people to Senate Speaker Prasobsuk Boondech to impeach the lawmakers who backed the motion.
The core leaders are scheduled to announce later Friday whether to continue to rally to oppose the charter rewrite. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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No coup expected

Posted by hasekamp on 29 May 2008 at 19:26 PM
Finance and Deputy Prime Minister Surapong Suebwonglee insisted Thursday that the fundamentals of the Thai economy remain strong and that fears of a new coup d'etat are unfounded. Dr. Surapong made his comments in response to the continued nosedive of the Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET) index in recent days amid political tensions. Thai share prices closed 0.29 per cent lower Thursday as foreign investors continued to sell-down the market amid fears of prolonged anti-charter amendment protests, dealers said. The volatile downward movement of the SET index in recent days, he said, resulted from the psychological unease of investors, not from the actual state of the Thai economy which he said is healthy. He gave reassurance that Thailand will not undergo yet another coup given the "temporary nature" of the circumstances that have not yet arrived at a deadlock. (Source: The Nation)


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Teleworking for civil servants

Posted by hasekamp on 28 May 2008 at 15:33 PM
The government is looking to have civil servants work from home in a bid to help save energy. The "e-office" idea is under study and will be tested soon tested to see if it efficient, and safe from online intrusion, Education Minister Somchai Wongsawat said Wednesday. The project may see entire departments working from home. Meetings will held via teleconferencing and paperwork can be authenticated using e-signatures. The Public Sector Development Commission will trial the idea within six months. No Cabinet approval or law changes are required for the idea to go ahead. (Source: The Nation)


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Shop owner robbed

Posted by hasekamp on 27 May 2008 at 22:47 PM
A restaurant owner was robbed of his cellphone and the Bt5,000 he withdrew from an ATM in Bangkok's Suan Luang district at 3am yesterday, police said. The victim, Suchat Thongwilai, 49, said he was attacked by three men, one of whom was armed with a stick. Suchat told police that he ran to a nearby 7-Eleven store to seek help only to find that the three clerks were all female. The robbers then beat Suchat up some more before taking his money and cellphone, and also robbing the store of Bt300. Later yesterday, police issued arrest warrants for two men whose faces were captured clearly by the store's CCTV. (Source: Daily Xpress)


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The Nation in business news

Posted by hasekamp on 27 May 2008 at 12:13 PM
As part of a two-pronged strategy to build the widest English-language media audience in Thailand, The Nation this week will position itself as the country's highest circulation business daily, with a strong focus on economic and national affairs. A grand-launch party will be held tomorrow evening at the Four Season Hotel for distinguished guests, including leading local and foreign business figures. It will also be attended by 60 guest columnists from the business community who will strengthen the paper's comprehensive news coverage. The Nation intends to boost its core business-news readership, considered a sophisticated market with high purchasing power. The recently launched Daily Xpress freesheet has meanwhile established itself as a mass-circulation English-language daily. (Source: The Nation)


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Temporary reduction on skytrain

Posted by hasekamp on 27 May 2008 at 12:09 PM
Passengers on the BTS skytrain have been offered a 20% discount on value-added tickets in the hope of attracting more commuters. The offer, to run from June 1 to Aug 31, will apply to the SKY Smart Pass, a ticket that requires holders to regularly deposit money to keep the card valid. The discount will reduce fares from between 15 and 40 baht to between 12 and 32 baht, which means eligible passengers can save three to eight baht per trip. The company, which operates the elevated train over a 23km route in central Bangkok, said the fare reduction was possible because its electric trains, unlike buses, have not been seriously affected by surging oil prices.(Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Protest by rice farmers

Posted by hasekamp on 26 May 2008 at 17:17 PM
Farmers in Thailand's northernmost province continued blocking main roads for the third consecutive day Monday, demanding that the government honor its promise to buy unmilled glutinous rice from them a the Bt8 per kilogram rate they say the government guaranteed. As of Monday evening, protesting farmers were blocking Phaholyothin Road between Chiang Rai and Mae Sai at the Myanmar border while another group blocked the road between Chiang Rai and Phayao province. Traffic near the areas was virtually standstill as farmers demanded the government to urgently open outlets to buy glutinous grain from them directly after millers refused to buy at the government-guaranteed price. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Patent for full moon party?

Posted by hasekamp on 26 May 2008 at 17:12 PM
Commerce Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Mingkwan Saengsuwan plans to patent the full moon party - an idea which an intellectual property law expert calls "impractical". (In most countries this would beimpossible, because of the lack of a technical aspect, and the lack of novelty, of course!)
Mr Mingkwan yesterday said he had instructed his officials to patent the full moon party, to prevent other countries from copying Thailand's famous festival. The all-night beach bash is held each full moon on the tourist island of Koh Phangan, off Surat Thani province. The party draws large numbers of young foreign tourists. The idea of copyrighting (this is a completely different idea) the full moon party, the minister said, came to him after he learned that Singapore had organized a similar party on its artificial island of Sentosa. Besides seeking to protect the party's name from commercial use in foreign countries, the ministry would also promote the full moon party as a "selling point" while promoting Thai tourist attractions abroad. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Government insists on amended constitution

Posted by hasekamp on 25 May 2008 at 11:35 AM
Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej on Sunday said his coalition government would go ahead to amend the constitution and seek an emergency decree, if necessary, to hold a referendum on whether people want to retain the current charter or prefer to have a new one. Mr. Samak said during his weekly TV and radio address that the decree is necessary to hold a referendum, as there is no law now addressing the subject. He said he would give the public as well as politicians 45 days to discuss and debate their differences regarding political ideology. The government will spend Bt2 billion to organizing and conduct the referendum, Mr. Samak said earlier. Bangkok police will be deployed near the Democracy Monument on Rajadamnoen Avenue to see that the planned rally by the anti-charter amendment People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) does not turn into violence. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Fish dies after power drop

Posted by hasekamp on 24 May 2008 at 23:39 PM
A 13-hour power blackout in Thawi Watthana district on Thursday night caused all the ornamental fish in fish shops at the Sanam Luang II market to die from lack of oxygen. About 40 fancy fish shop owners turned up at the market's office yesterday to demand authorities take responsibility. Damage was estimated at about five million baht.The shop owners were angry at the office for failing to notify them about the power blackout on Thursday night that lasted until morning. They vented their anger by dumping thousands of foul smelling dead fish in front of the office. The vendors left after being asked to register their names and describe the damage caused to them. A draft compensation proposal is expected to be drawn up by June 3. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Less cars in Bangkok?

Posted by hasekamp on 23 May 2008 at 10:17 AM
Bangkok governor Apirak Kosayodhin has put the brakes on plans to charge cars wishing to run on certain parts of Bangkok saying he wants more time to study it. He said the proposal, made by a businessman in Bangkok, sparked concerns that city dwellers may have to deal with extra costs during tough economic times. \93I want to try and make the public understand first that the main idea behind this proposed policy is to develop certain areas of Bangkok such as Silom, Sathorn and Sukhumvit, so that they are less congested,\94 he said. \93This policy has already been implemented in Singapore but it took a lot of time to get people to understand the aim behind the plan.\94 He said related authorities have been assigned to assess the possibilities of seeing this project through in Thailand but expressed readiness to scrap the project if findings show that it will not work in Bangkok.(Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Petition for new investigation

Posted by hasekamp on 23 May 2008 at 10:10 AM
More than 4,400 people, mostly foreigners, have \93signed\94 an Internet petition seeking another formal investigation into the crash of One-Two-GO Airlines Flight OG269 at Phuket International Airport on September 17 last year. The petition calls for a formal probe into claims that the crash may have been caused by controversial management practices by the airline. Relatives of some of the 90 people killed in the crash have written to Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej seeking an independent inquiry into allegations raised by a television report that the boss of One-Two-Go and its sister airline Orient Thai encouraged pilots to adopt unsafe practices, such as excessive flying hours. The allegations are detailed on the website www.investigateudom.com set up by the American sister of a man who was killed in the crash. Many of those who have signed the petition have also expressed a lack of faith that the inquiries being conducted by the Department of Civil Aviation will get to the true cause of the crash. (Source: The Phuket Gazette)


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PM popularity sinks

Posted by hasekamp on 22 May 2008 at 19:38 PM
The popularity of Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej among the Thai capital's residents has dropped sharply, with more than half being quite unhappy with the behaviour of politicians in general, according to a survey by the Assumption University ABAC Poll. The survey was conducted to seek the opinions of people living in metro Bangkok and its environs with a random sample of 2,008 persons on "The Current Political Situation in the Eyes of Public." It found 87.8 per cent of people surveyed felt uneasy with the conduct of politicians across the board at present, with 61.5 per cent believing that proceeding with the constitutional amendment process will lead to violence, 60.6 per cent saying they think there might be a coup, and 59.9 per cent fearing there will be a seriously disruptive incident in Bangkok. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Briton arrested for sex trafficking

Posted by hasekamp on 21 May 2008 at 15:21 PM
A former British policeman was arrested at an apartment house in the Suan Plu area of Bangkok for alleged involvement in the international sex trade, police said on Wednesday. The flesh-trading suspect, identified as Ian Suttleworth, 42, was once a British police officer who allegedly lured an unidentified Thai woman into forced prostitution in England and Scotland. Mr. Suttleworth had allegedly taken his prey on a zigzag trip to England, seizing her passport and forcing her to have sex on hire in many areas including London, Coventry and at least one unidentified location in Scotland. The woman said she had borrowed Bt530,000 to cover her trip to England and that she had been told by the ex-cop that he would find her a job in a restaurant somewhere in that country. The woman ended up in forced prostitution after she had been traded for some 28,000 pounds or Bt1.7 million to a woman pimp, only identified as Mam, at a London restaurant. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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More cockfights proposed

Posted by hasekamp on 20 May 2008 at 18:16 PM
Interior Minister Chalerm Yubumroong backed a proposal on Tuesday to allow cockfighting rings to open more than one day in a week as it promoted a "traditional sport" and entertained people. The proposal was submitted to Chalerm by singer Yeunyong "Ad" Opakul, who chairs the Association of Thai FightingCocks Career Promotion yesterday morning before Chalerm joined the Cabinet meeting. The association wanted the cockfighting issue to be placed on the Cabinet agenda as it benefited grassroots people.
Currently the sport is allowed on every second and fourth Sunday. attractions. The proposal also included a request to cancel an Article that states: 'The governor must take the responsibility for his/her decision for any damage that is caused by cockfighting rings." (Source: The Nation)


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Gorbachev buys property in Phuket

Posted by hasekamp on 19 May 2008 at 18:23 PM
Thai mass media say that the first and only president of the USSR Mikhail Gorbachev bought a mansion in Phuket, Thailand. (So farvwe did not find this in the Thai media). This island, with lots of wealthy inhabitants, is considered one of the most popular in the country. (Source: Pravda)


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Leave the monarchy in peace

Posted by hasekamp on 18 May 2008 at 10:45 AM
Gen Surayud Chulanont said during a speech at his alumni Suan Kularb College that the mention of the monarchy is something he disapproves of and he is closely monitoring the subject as a Privy councilor. He said it would be ideal if all sides avoid implicating the monarchy altogether because it will only cause social divide and will not solve outstanding political problems. Gen Surayud refused to comment directly on rumours that another military coup is possible. He said political problems should be solved through peaceful means. In a question and answer session after his speech, Gen Surayud said he and ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra have never been enemies. "We may not share the same views at times, but we have never been enemies," he said. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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No pyjamas during lectures

Posted by hasekamp on 15 May 2008 at 11:21 AM
Thammasat University students at the Rangsit campus who regularly wear pyjamas to lecture rooms will soon find their liberty limited after a new dress code becomes effective. The dress code will also restrict all types of casual wear worn by male or female students that are deemed inappropriate, although they have been allowed in lecture rooms at the Rangsit campus. All students at Sanam Luang campus are required to wear uniforms during lectures on weekdays and casual clothes in certain classes during the weekend. Casual dress is allowed under a long leniency period for students at Rangsit campus, where dormitories are provided for them, but the restrictions were needed because, according to deputy rector Parinya Thewanaruemitkul, the freedom of dress code "had long been overexploited". Tight blouses and short skirts were unconditionally banned in both campuses, he said. Other clothes to be forbidden include revealing or too tight or sleeveless blouses or T-shirts. Shorts or skirts too high above knee level will be banned, while males must not wear shorts above the knee, pyjamas, sleeveless shirts to lecture rooms or entering the premises. (Source: The Nation)


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Landslide alert for Phuket

Posted by hasekamp on 15 May 2008 at 11:16 AM
As heavy rains continue to dowse the island, the Phuket office of the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation (DDPM) has issued a landslide warning, effective until at least tomorrow. \93We have received good feedback from all 18 local administration organizations in Phuket. We have officers on 24-hour standby, manning phones and radios, ready to deal with any problems,\94 said Chotenarin Kerdsom, chief of the DDPM \96 Phuket office. \93Because of the southwest monsoon wind, Southern Thailand can expect to have more hard rain, hard wind and waves of up to two meters high in the Andaman Sea. Small boats should not leave the shore,\94 he added. K. Chotenarin named 14 landslide risk areas: Baan Mai Reab, Baan Nua and Baan Kalim in Kathu; Baan Kanan, Baan Kuan, Baan Pak Cheed, Baan Lipornbangkok and Baan Tha Rua in Thalang; and Baan Kata, Baan Bangla, Baan Kokchang, Baan Watmai, Baan Laem Promthep and Baan Chidcheaw in Muang district. (Source: The Phuket Gazette)


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Most swimming pools dangerous

Posted by hasekamp on 14 May 2008 at 17:20 PM
Most swimming pools at schools, hotels, fun parks, condominiums and malls are substandard and put users' health at risk, warned the Department of Health's director general. A survey found that more than 85 per cent had residual chlorine with a pH value lower than 5.5, compared to the required value of between 6.5 and 7.5, Narongsak Angkhasuwapala said Wednesday. He urged pool owners to regularly check water quality and update results so that people know pools are well maintained. The survey was conducted in 2004 and 2005 at 476 swimming pools in Bangkok and nearby provinces. Narongsak warned that some pools used chlorine with too much acidity, causing dental erosion among swimmers. (Source: The Nation)


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Burma accepts Thai help

Posted by hasekamp on 14 May 2008 at 17:16 PM
On the 12th day of the Burmese cyclone disaster, the military junta has agreed to welcome an all-Thai medical relief team sent by His Royal Highness Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn to help the victims. Public Health Minister Chaiya Sasomsab said 30 volunteer doctors will help treat Burmese victims of Cyclone Nargis, which devastated much of Rangoon and the southern rice delta on May 2 and 3. Psychiatrists are also part of the team, and will be able to deal with trauma among the surivors, most of whom have been neglected for more than 10 days by the junta. The medical team is to leave Thailand on Friday, and will be on duty in Burma for two weeks. On Tuesday, His Majesty the King urged Thai people to help Cyclone Nargis victims. The cabinet also approved a grant of $500,000 (16 million baht) for Burma. According to World Health Organization figures based on junta reports, 31,938 people were killed, 1,403 injured and 29,770 were missing since the cyclone hit Burma. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Airport link nears completion

Posted by hasekamp on 13 May 2008 at 14:44 PM
Construction of the Bangkok to Suvarnabhumi Airport Link is 84 per cent completed, with a system test expected to take place within this year, State Railway of Thailand (SRT) chairman Somsak Boonthong. Speaking after inspecting progress in the construction of the mass transit electric rail system that links Suvarnabhumi Airport with the city, he said the project is nearly completed. He expressed confidence the civil work would be completed and that the system test could be conducted by the end of the year. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Flooding continues

Posted by hasekamp on 13 May 2008 at 14:39 PM
Flooding for the second day is still worrisome in the southern province of Surat Thani, while about 180 villages in the northern province of Uttaradit is prone to flash flood and land slide. In Surat Thani, the floodwaters are rising in two districts, both hit by flash floods. The water depth in some areas has reached 1.5 metres. Several roads were cut and about 800 acres of farmland were damaged. The flood has expanded to the Tha Chang district and affected 20 houses. The flood is expected to recede if there is no more rain. Local authorities have distributed relief supplies to villagers in flood-hit areas and issued a warning of possible flash flood and landslide in at-risk areas. In Uttaradit, the disaster prevention and mitigation office conducted a survey and found 178 villages in the mountainous area are prone to flash flood and landslide, particularly in three districts -- Muang, Lablae and Tha Pla-- struck by the disaster in May 2006. It warned local authorities and villagers in those at-risk areas to brace for flash floods, which can occur if there is incessant heavy rain and to check the warning system to make sure it is in good condition. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Consumers want public health minister to go

Posted by hasekamp on 12 May 2008 at 16:25 PM
The Consumer Foundation will submit 20,000 signatures collected from members of public across the country to ask the Upper House to impeach the Public Health Minister, Chaiya Sasomsap. The foundation's manager, Saree Ongsomwang said Chaiya was accused of losing the country Bt2.4 million by revising the compulsory license for four cancer drugs in March. His announcement caused the drug company that manufactures Clopidogrel used to treat heart disease to delay export of its first batch of the drug to Thailand. Chaiya had violated the Constitution because he had revised the compulsory licensing of the four drugs before the government stated its policy to Parliament. He also transferred the top health official involved in the compulsory licensing without reason. Saree said Chaiya's behaviour was an obstacle for the health system and health promotion for Thai people and this was the reason why the consumer network will submit the petition to the president of the Senate on May 15th. (Source: The Nation)


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Heavy weather in the north

Posted by hasekamp on 12 May 2008 at 16:22 PM
Torrential rain has battered the northern provinces since Saturday night, triggering mountain runoff that has caused widespread flooding, with Kamphaeng Phet the hardest-hit area. Officials said villages at the foot of mountainous Klong Lan National Park in Kamphaeng Phet's Muang district bore the brunt of the onslaught when 17 hours of non-stop rain caused a powerful flood that blacked out the area. The flood washed away power poles, damaged roads and submerged large areas of farmland. The weather office said about 160 millimeters of rain fell in the province.
In Ban Nong Kong, the provincial disaster prevention and mitigation office rushed to help flood victims by providing boats for transport after the access road was cut. Kamphaeng Phet governor Witaya Piewpong ordered quick assistance to the area. Kamphaeng Phet regularly suffers severe flash flooding at this time of year.
In Phichit, more than 1,000 rai of farmland was inundated and mudslide warnings were issued in four districts.
In Nan's Wiang Sa district,a flash flood burst through Ban Pa Phae in tambon Mae Kaning on Saturday, sweeping livestock and motorcycles into a canal. About 100 homes were also damaged in Muang district.
The Meteorology Department warned of more torrential rain in provinces nationwide over the next four days _ especially Chiang Mai, Tak, Kamphaeng Phet, Nan, Nakhon Sawan, Prachin Buri, Chumphon, Surat Thani, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Ranong, Phangnga, Phuket, Trang and Satun. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Surayud will go to Birma

Posted by hasekamp on 11 May 2008 at 11:13 AM
Privy Councillor and former prime minister Surayud Chulanont and a six-member entourage will reportedly fly to Burma\92s new capital Naypyidaw today in an effort to convince the ruling junta to accept humanitarian aid for cyclone victims. Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama was reported to have told reporters in Japan that one of the missions of Gen Surayud\92s delegation was to convince the Burmese government to accept humanitarian aid from other countries and allow international aid workers into the cyclone-ravaged country. Gen Surayud\92s entourage includes air force commander-in-chief ACM Chalit Pookpasuk and Raja Prachanukroh Foundation secretary-general Prasong Phithunkijja. The foundation is under His Majesty the King\92s patronage. They will also present aid packages provided by the King to the Burmese generals today. The King yesterday instructed the foundation to send 2,000 bags of utensils and bedding weighing 10 tonnes to Burma. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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PM will not go to Burma

Posted by hasekamp on 9 May 2008 at 19:32 PM
Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej decided to cancel his trip to Burma this weekend after the military junta said it would not welcome foreign aid workers. His cancellation came just a few hours after Mr Samak told reporters that he would go to the neighbouring country to persuade the junta to open door for western aid after the country was hit by Cyclone Nargis. Mr Samak said Prime Minister Thein Sein told him Friday he would be free to meet Mr Samak on Sunday, but the junta said Friday that they would not welcome foreign staff. "So there is no point of me going there," he said. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Royal Ploughing Ceremony

Posted by hasekamp on 9 May 2008 at 19:30 PM
Thailand's traditional soothsayers predicted an abundance of food production\A0 during the coming year, and an average supply of water -- with plentiful rice yields -- in the royal ploughing ceremony, marking the beginning of the planting season on Friday. The ceremony was presided over by His Royal Highness Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn; Her Royal Highness Princess Srirasmi, Royal Consort to His Royal Highness Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn; and Her Royal Highness Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana. Permanent Secretary for Public Health Charanthada Kannasuta, who served in the Brahman ceremony from ancient India as the Lord of the Plough, was offered three pieces of folded cloth of different lengths and he selected one of medium length. Based on his selection, average water supply, with plentiful food and rice were predicted. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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US ask Thailand to help

Posted by hasekamp on 8 May 2008 at 19:17 PM
The United States yesterday desperately sought Thailand's help to get into cyclone-ravaged Burma and deliver humanitarian assistance to millions of storm victims in the secretive country. US Ambassador Eric John met Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej to ask him to facilitate permission from Burmese leaders for the US emergency relief team to enter the country. Samak gave some assurance that he and his government would work closely with the US to help Burma, John said. However, Samak failed to get through to paramount leader Than Shwe and his deputy Muang Aye due to poor communications, government spokesman Wichianchot Sukchotrat said. If contact cannot be made, Samak will fly to Burma soon to talk to the leader, the spokesman said. John urged the junta leaders to make a quick decision to let the US disaster team, waiting in Bangkok, get in soon. (Source: The Nation)


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Cellphone use while driving banned

Posted by hasekamp on 8 May 2008 at 10:23 AM
From today it is illegal to use a mobile phone while driving a vehicle on a road, unless using a hands-free device. Police want to publicise the ban before getting tough and will probably issue cautions at first. "First, we\92ll warn violators to alert them to the danger. "We will fine the stubborn ones from May 20 onwards," said deputy Metropolitan Police Bureau chief Panu Kerdlarbpol. Police have been told to take pictures of drivers who flout the ban, to serve as evidence. After the grace period ends, offenders will be fined 400 to 1,000 baht. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Studying climate change

Posted by hasekamp on 8 May 2008 at 10:19 AM
A team of scientists recently erected a pilot 10-metre tower in the middle of Ratchaburi's deciduous forest to measure carbon flux - the net difference between the CO2 gobbled\A0 up by photosynthesis and the CO2 produced by respiration. Changes in the carbon flux rate help scientists monitor the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere. At the same time, it also helps them keep track of the health of the forest with changes in temperature, rainfall and humidity. "Scientists all over the world are increasingly interested in carbon flux in forests," team leader Dr Amnat Chidthaisong, from the Joint Graduate School of Energy and Environment, said. "Various types of forests in different part of the world exchange CO2 differently. Hopefully, our studies will contribute to the world's understanding of the role of forests as carbon sinks." (Source: The Nation)


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Coral reef postponed

Posted by hasekamp on 7 May 2008 at 17:38 PM
The sinking of 10 decommissioned military aircraft nicknamed "the Coral Reef Squadron" to create Thailand\92s largest artificial reef has been postponed until November, Tourism Authority of Thailand South Region 4 Office Director Suwalai Pinpradub announced today. Speaking at a press conference this afternoon, K. Suwalai said that the strong winds and large waves that have arrived with the rainy season monsoon have now made it too dangerous to sink the aircraft in Bang Tao Bay.
The operation was set to begin today and wrap up with Tourism and Sports Minister Weerasak Kowsurat and Thai celebrities attending the final-day festivities on Monday. A date has yet to be set for the operation to continue, K. Suwalai said. (Source: The Phuket Gazette)


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Fight against dengue fever

Posted by hasekamp on 6 May 2008 at 11:54 AM
Experts from 22 Asia-Pacific countries are meeting in Singapore to draw up an eight-year battle plan against dengue fever, participants said Tuesday. Details in the Asia-Pacific Dengue Strategic Plan are being finalized during the week-long meeting, with results to be presented in September to regional health ministers. It is crucial that the plan be compelling enough to attract both the money and political will to fight the disease, said Dr John Ehrenberg, the Western Pacific regional adviser of the World Health Organisation (WHO). Dengue fever respects no borders. "It is an urban disease, a product of our global village, where people move around a lot," said Dr Michael Nathan, chief of vector ecology at WHO's department of control of neglected tropical diseases. The Asia-Pacific region accounts for more than 70 per cent of dengue cases, WHO said. Some 50 million to 100 million cases have been reported worldwide annually, 30 times higher than 50 years ago.
There have been more dengue cases in Thailand during the first four months of this year than the same period of 2007. The plan is expected to cover strategies on surveillance, case management, changing behavior and combating the dengue-spreading Aedes mosquito. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Thailand helps Burma

Posted by hasekamp on 6 May 2008 at 11:51 AM
The government approved an aid fund of about 3 million baht to help the neighbouring Burma after it was hit by Cyclone Nargis over the weekend, Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama said Saturday. Mr Noppadon said the ministry decided to donate a total of 100,000 USD through the Ambassador of Burma to Thailand U Ye Win to help the Burmese victims. He also said that Thailand is willing to provide assistance should the Burmese government ask for it. "What Myanmar really needs now are tin sheets and tents as we are initially sending them food and water supplies," he said before attending a cabinet meeting. "This is a tsunami-like disaster in which many more unaccounted bodies are buried deep under the debris," he added. Mr Noppadon also suggested that the Burmese military junta accept assistance to international countries as well. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Save your rice

Posted by hasekamp on 5 May 2008 at 15:42 PM
Thailand's National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB) warned farmers not to empty their rice barns for instant cash but to save some "for a rainy day". NESDB Secretary-General Ampon Kitti-ampon said the surge in rice prices had the effect of making farmers rush to sell all grain in hand, including supplies that would have normally been set aside to provide for future seed and household consumption. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Cabinet members get low marks

Posted by hasekamp on 4 May 2008 at 14:44 PM
Bangkok voters have said that if the cabinet were a 36-member classroom, the entire student body would fail. The Bangkok University's Bangkok Poll last week interviewed 1,228 people in the capital and asked them what they thought of the members - who was good, who was bad. Deputy Prime Minister and Commerce Minister Mingkwan Sangsuwan scored the highest. Interior Minister Chalerm Yubamrung was at the very bottom, just a little worse than second-worst cabinet member and Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej. But the news was actually all bad. Mr Mingkwan was merely best out of a cabinet where every minister got a failing grade. Asked to rate the ministers on a scale of 10, respondents to the poll game Mr Mingkwan just 4.96, not even the 50 per cent needed for a minimum passing grade of D-minus. Second "best" was Tourism and Sports Minister Weerasak Kohsurat with 4.93 points and Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Somsak Prissananantakul with 4.91 points. Mr Samak got just over 40 per cent down near the bottom - a grade of 4.04 from Bangkokians - and Mr Chalerm managed to outdo him, with an horrendous 3.39 score out of 10 to finish behind every one of his 35 cabinet colleagues. FYI: This result is nothing top worry about for the cabinet members. We believe that there hardly is any government in the world that gets high marks from its voters! (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Birth control works

Posted by hasekamp on 4 May 2008 at 10:27 AM
Thailand's birth rate in 2008 is reported to be alarmingly low due to overly exerted contraception, revealed Director-General of the Department of Health Dr. Narongsak Angkhasuwaphla.
Dr. Narongsak, presiding at a conference on Communication and Reproductive Health Services, said Thailand's current birth rate in 2008 was only 1.5 per cent lower than the targeted minimum of 2 per cent, or two children per household. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Train derailed

Posted by hasekamp on 4 May 2008 at 10:21 AM
One passenger died and 13 others were hospitalised after a train derailed in the southern province of Songkhla, officials of the State Railway of Thailand (SRT) said Sunday morning. The accident occurred Saturday night when a train from Phatthalung enroute to Sungai Kolok on the Malaysian border derailed near a railway station in a village of Songkhla province, they said. Fourteen injured passengers were sent to a hospital in Hat Yai, but one man died shortly of multiple injuries to his abdomen, officials said. (Source: Thai News Agency)


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Cyclone alert

Posted by hasekamp on 4 May 2008 at 10:05 AM
Sixteen provinces in upper Thailand went on alert on Saturday as tropical cyclone Nargis moved so close to Thailand that it ripped off Burmese roofs and closed down Rangoon airport and broadcasting stations. The Thai provinces, mostly in the North, were on special watch for flash floods and mudslides through the weekend, according to the Meteorlogical Department. The Disaster Prevention and Mitigation office in Lampang province instructed all five of its relief agency offices in the North to closely track the cyclone, which is expected to dump inches of rain on the already wet area. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Thailand warns rice cartel

Posted by hasekamp on 2 May 2008 at 10:37 AM
Thailand wants to form an Opec-style rice cartel to give it more control over international rice prices. The world's biggest rice exporter plans to talk to Laos, Burma, Cambodia and Vietnam about co-operating on prices. Rice prices have tripled so far this year with countries such as India and Vietnam restricting their exports. A Thai government spokesman confirmed that the cartel idea had been discussed in talks between the prime ministers of Thailand and Burma on Wednesday. (Source: BBC News)


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Cheap land for rice

Posted by hasekamp on 2 May 2008 at 10:35 AM
The Treasury Department will lease 200,000 rai of land to farmers for rice and biofuel-crop production in a bid to increase supply and ease price pressures, Deputy Finance Minister Ranongrak Suwan-chawee said this week. She said by 2011, the department would lease 1 million rai to farmers, who will only have to pay Bt20 per rai annually for a three-year contract. The department will consult with the Agriculture Ministry on the list of farmers eligible for the leases and the amount of land they can have. Previously, the department granted each farming family a maximum of 15 rai. Farmers in Udon Thani are expected to be the first group to benefit from the government policy, she said, as state agencies have handed over land in the provinces to the department. Most of the land is concentrated in five provinces: Kan-chanaburi, Nakhon Ratcha-sima, Surat Thani, Kalasin and Ratchaburi. (Source: The Nation)


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Burmese leader in Chiang Rai

Posted by hasekamp on 2 May 2008 at 10:29 AM
Burma’s leader Gen Thein Sein will visit Chiang Rai province on his final day in Thailand. He is due to inspect the Mae Fah Luang Foundation and its various projects to enourage locals to cultivate agricultural crops instead of opium.
There are reports that the Thai and Burmese governments are embarking on a joint project to develop the Shan state in Burma. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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