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Phuket tuk-tuk fares to be controlled

Posted by hasekamp on 29 January 2011 at 11:57 AM
A provincial committee set up to find a solution to the old problem of tuk-tuk drivers overcharging tourists in Phuket will start by setting a maximum 200 baht charge for any tuk-tuk journey within Patong. The committee, chaired by Phuket Governor Tri Augkaradacha, met at Phuket Provincial Hall earlier today. Will this eventually end one of the largest annoyances of Thailand? It looks to us that this is only a very modest start to solve the problem! 200 baht for a ride in Patong? That really is heavily overcharged already! (Source: The Phuket Gazette)


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Paedophile sentence commuted

Posted by hasekamp on 29 January 2011 at 11:52 AM
The Court of Appeals yesterday commuted a lower court's sentence on a foreign homosexual child molester, citing his belated guilty plea. Canadian Christopher Paul Neil, 35, was originally sentenced to a total of nine years for crimes committed against a nine year old boy seven years ago. The lower court sentenced English tutor Neil to one year for detaining the child, three years for molestation and five years for taking illegal custody of a child with sexual intent. Following yesterday's verdict, Neil will serve five years and four months in prison and pay Bt50,000 to his victim. (Source: The Nation)


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Sanam Luang to reopen in April

Posted by hasekamp on 29 January 2011 at 11:44 AM
Sanam Luang is expected to reopen in three months, says Jakchai Mokkahsmita, commander of the army's 1st Development Division. Col Jakchai said military engineers have worked on Sanam Luang's landscaping since July last year and the renovation work is now 60% complete. The division has been commissioned by the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) to renovate the vast grounds in front of the Grand Palace, which have served as a venue for various royal and state ceremonies, political rallies and even as a place to sleep for homeless people. The renovation work includes the installation of water drainage systems and underground electric lines. Two hills will be built on the left and right sides of the park, with native ya nuan noi grass planted on them, said Col Jakchai. The army's development division will also lay a 30-metre road between the two hills. The road and footpaths in the park will be paved with cement tiles. Sanam Luang is 200 metres wide and 800 metres long. Col Jakchai has urged the public to participate in the paving of the road and footpaths around the park on March 18. A total of 26,250 tiles will be used on that day, he said. The renovation of the park, carried out by 200 military engineers, is scheduled to take 300 days at a cost of 181 million baht. It is due for completion on April 26 in time for the Royal Ploughing Ceremony in May. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Great performers in Phuket Chinese New Year

Posted by hasekamp on 26 January 2011 at 13:15 PM
Phuket will ring in the Chinese New Year with top entertainment from mainland China. To mark the arrival of the lunar new year on February 3, the Phuket Provincial Administration Organization and the Phuket Provincial Office will stage seven hours of entertainment at Sanaam Chai field, opposite Phuket Provincial Hall, starting at 4pm. Highlights include the gravity-defying stunts of Chinese acrobats from Kuyang, China; a martial arts demonstration by Shaolin warriors and a “Lion Gives Birth” dance reportedly never before performed in Thailand. There will also be musical performances by Ruth The Star, winner of The Star reality TV show, Beck Palitchoke and the G20 Band. Chinese arts and culture will be on prominent display the following weekend when Phuket City Municipality and related organizations host the 12th Phuket Old Town Festival, from February 8 to 10. (Source: The Phuket Gazette)


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General election in April?

Posted by hasekamp on 26 January 2011 at 13:09 PM
There is a possibility the House of Representatives may be be dissolved in April and a general election called, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said on Wednesday. Mr Abhisit was replying to a question by a reporter, who asked about the April option. He said if the joint sitting of parliament on Feb 10 and 11 approves the two charter amendment bills in the third reading, the government would then be able to proceed to a general election without having to wait for the deliberation of draft organic laws to be issued under the amended provisions of the constitution. The House-Senate joint sitting on Tuesday and Wednesday passed two charter amendment bills in the second reading. However, the government would also have to consult the Election Commission on this matter, he said. Mr Abhisit said if yellow-shirt rally continues without disrupting the peace or adversely effecting the public it would not be an obstruction to a general election. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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In trouble? Go to the Tourist Police!

Posted by hasekamp on 25 January 2011 at 13:01 PM
The Tourist Police are teaming up with soft drink bottler Haad Thip to build a refuge shelter for foreign tourists who fall on hard times during their stay in Phuket. With millions of tourists visiting Phuket each year, inevitably some run into problems. These include financial difficulties, having no place to stay, and physical or mental health issues, said Phuket Tourist Police Superintendent Ekachai Pramanakul. Many of the problems are alcohol-related, he said. In some cases, tourists fall prey to gangs involved in gambling, property investment scams or drugs, he added. With support from Coca-Cola bottlers Haad Thip PLC, the regional Tourist Police will build temporary accommodations near their headquarters on Yaowarat Road in Phuket Town. The one-bedroom building will provide both tourists and expats with a place to stay in case of an emergency. The Tourist Police will co-operate with honorary consuls based in Phuket to establish a fund which will take care of tourists in trouble and help them return home as soon as possible, said Lt Col Ekachai. Some tourists may need to leave Thailand quickly, because they could be putting others at risk, he said. The presence of foreign vagrants could also have an affect on Phuket and Thailand’s image, he added. (Source: The Phuket Gazette)


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Last day of Phuket food festival

Posted by hasekamp on 24 January 2011 at 16:51 PM
Tonight is the last night of the Phuket Local Food Festival, which drew big crowds at Saphan Hin over the weekend. Organized by the Phuket Provincial Administration Organization (OrBorJor), the event features over 100 stalls offering local culinary specialties at “normal” prices. Entertainment on the main stage has included everything from cultural shows by local schoolchildren to song and dance by trans-gender performers from Simon Cabaret. Tonight’s entertainment will be music by the Shadow Band and Khun Thanit’s Band, other musical performances from Bang Neaw Municipal School and schools under OrBorJor administration, and a cultural performance organized by the Phuket Culture Office. Activities run from 4pm to 11pm. (Source: The Phuket Gazette)


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Pattya to disappear in 5 years?

Posted by hasekamp on 24 January 2011 at 16:48 PM
Sand erosion could cause Pattaya Beach to vanish in the next five years, a Chulalongkorn University researcher says. The science faculty's head of disaster studies, Thanawat Jarupongsakul, has released a paper which shows erosion at the beach is now "critical". The erosion is caused mainly by changes in wave patterns reducing deposits of sand on the beach and this is being exacerbated by increased beach use. Pattaya Beach covered 96,000 square metres (about 60 rai) in 1952, with the distance to the water about 36 metres. The beach area had fallen to 50,500 square metres (31 rai) by 2002, with 18.7 metres to the shoreline. "The latest survey found the beach width had dropped sharply to just four to five metres," Prof Thanawat said. "Without serious action, Pattaya Beach will disappear within five years." Prof Thanawat said Chulalongkorn University's Aquatic Resources Research Institute, its science faculty and the Marine Department of Transport Ministry had together prepared a plan to counter the erosion. This involves 200,000 cubic metres of sand being filled along the 4.48 kilometres of the beach to expand its width to 30 metres. (Surce: The Bangkok Post)


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Corals need rest

Posted by hasekamp on 23 January 2011 at 16:05 PM
Closing popular diving sites will provide only short-term relief to the problem of coral bleaching, but cost the tourism industry millions of baht a year, industry experts say. The Marine and Coastal Resources Department is pressing ahead with a plan to close 10 popular diving sites in five provinces to limit the impact of tourism on severely damaged coral. The sites attract about one million tourists a year, and could be closed for up to 14 months. But diving operators say tourism is but one cause of the bleaching phenomemon, and if the diving sites are closed for as long as proposed, taxpayer help may be needed to keep some companies alive. "Diving companies are being singled out for blame, when the main cause is a warming of sea temperatures," said one disgruntled company head. Some coral reefs may need several years to recover, not just a matter of months, they say.Veteran marine biologist Thorn Thanrongnawasawat said closing the coral reefs will give the coral time to recover, but more permanent solutions are still needed. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Another reds demonstration

Posted by hasekamp on 23 January 2011 at 16:02 PM
The supporters of the United front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) started marching from Ratchaprasong intersection heading to the Democracy monuments, reports said. A large number of the red-shirts gathered at the Ratchaprasong intersection about 1.30pm on Sunday, to hold activities in remembrance of their colleagues killed during the crackdown on protesters in April and May. Traffic from Ratchaprasong intersection to Pratunam intersection was closed, said the reports. Somyos Pluesakasemsuk, core member of the June 24 Democratic group, said members of his group will certainly join the mass rally of the red-shirt people group at the Democracy Monument about 6pm to midnight. Mr Somyos was confident that Jatuporn Prompan, a UDD co-leader, would join the protest and take to the rally stage on Ratchadamnern Avenue to talk to red-shirts late this afternoon. He also believed that former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra would also phone-in to talk to his supporters tonight, but did not known when. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Drug charges for three foreigners

Posted by hasekamp on 20 January 2011 at 11:37 AM
The Narcotics Suppression Bureau (NSB) recently arrested three foreigners over drug charges. The bureau's chief, Pol Lt-General Atithep Panjamanon, told a press conference yesterday that 33-year-old Malaysian, John Lim Kuok Liang, was nabbed at Suvarnabhumi Airport allegedly in possession of 4 kilograms of crystal meth-amphetamine. The suspect was about to board a flight to Jakarta. "He is under detention pending further legal action," Atithep said. NSB deputy commander Maj-General Hanphon Nitwiboon said two Lao nationals were arrested in the parking area Carrefour Rangsit in Pathum Thani with 2,000 meth-amphetamine tablets allegedly in their possession. The suspects were identified as Thao Kamtan Thepwongsa, 32, and Buaphan Thepsuruang, 28. Hanphon said the Laotians were arrested in a sting operation. (Source: The Nation)


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Huge Chinese shopping mall

Posted by hasekamp on 20 January 2011 at 11:29 AM
The entry of a Chinese mega-mall has raised huge concerns that cheaper goods and strong financial support from China will hurt small Thai businesses throughout the supply chain from manufacturing to wholesale centres and community shops. China City Complex, a 45-billion-baht investment by the Yunnan-based state enterprise Ashima Yunnan Cultural Industry Group, was launched with great fanfare on Tuesday. It will include Thai-China International Products City, Thailand's biggest wholesale centre for consumer and lifestyle goods, with 2 million square metres of retail space on Bang Na-Trat Road. Its first phase will open in October next year. A huge influx of cheaper Chinese goods could defeat local producers, especially Thai SMEs with weak financial status, said Manapol Poosomboon, a vice-chairman of the Federation of Thai Industries. "Chinese manufacturers have large economies of scale of their production and thus lower production costs per unit than Thai small enterprises," he said. As well, he said, the Thai government lacked effective measures to control the quality of imported goods. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Red shirts go to International Criminal Court

Posted by hasekamp on 19 January 2011 at 15:30 PM
The red shirts have agreed to appoint international lawyer Robert Amsterdam to represent them in suing the government with the International Criminal Court, their leader said Wednesday. Thida Thawornseth, acting chairwoman of the red shirt movement, told a press conference that a meeting of red shirt leaders agreed to "heighten our fight to the world court level". She said that the red shirts decided to "seek justice" regarding the government crackdown on the red shirt protesters in May last year by appointing Amsterdam to represent them in bringing their case to the International Criminal Court.
The ICC prosecutes individuals for crimes against humanity and similar crimes. On January 31, a press conference will be held through a video-link from overseas about the move to sue the Thai government, according to Thida. Amsterdam, a Canadian lawyer and founding partner of the law firm Amsterdam & Peroff, with offices in Toronto, Washington and London, has been hired by former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who is a major supporter of the red shirt movement. Thida said the red-shirt leaders would cooperate with relatives of Hiroyuki Muramoto, a Japanese cameraman for Reuters who was killed during the protest crackdown on April 10 last year, to sue the Thai government with a Japanese court seeking criminal penalties and civil damages. She also said she had learned that relatives of Italian photographer Fabio Polenghi, another foreign journalist killed during a later protest crackdown, had sued the Thai government with a court in Italy seeking both criminal and civil punishment. (Source: The Nation)


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Diving paradises to be closed

Posted by hasekamp on 17 January 2011 at 11:38 AM
The Department of Marine and Coastal Resources is seeking the closure of two diving paradises, the Similan and Surin national parks after the coral there was found suffering from bleaching. The scope of the corals destroyed from the bleaching has been wide and unless proper measures are issued, more coral would be destroyed by the phenomenon, said department director general Kasemssan Jinnawaso on Monday. "The damage found on the coral for now is vast, probably the worst in history and certainly more than when The tsunami hit this area in 2004. The species affected are the Staghorn, Ring, Double Star and Mountain coral," Kasemsan said. His department has already submitted a request to the National Parks, Wildlife and Plants Conservation Department to close parts of Similan and Surin National Parks to prevent any further damage to the coral. A cause of the coral bleaching is the rising temperature of the sea water, which has reached 30 Celsius since the middle of last year, he said, adding that waste and pollution from diving boats are also contributing to the phenomenon. (Source: The Nation)


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PM will bring peace in deep South

Posted by hasekamp on 17 January 2011 at 11:29 AM
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva made a visit to the southern province of Pattani on Monday morning to meet the people of Mae Lan district, where the emergency decree has just been lifted. Accompanied by Education Minister Chinnaworn Boonyakiat, Mr Abhisit first went to CS Pattani Hotel to preside over a ceremony in remembrance of teachers who have died in the three southernmost border provinces since violence erupted afresh in the region in January 2004. The premier said southern unrest had affected children's education and had taken away the lives of teachers, but the government will continue trying to solve the problem by adhering to His Majesty the King's advice. "The government is aware of the religious and cultural divergence in the South but it is determined to create peace in the region. "The number of violent incidents has been reduced but the government has not been able to restore public confidence," Mr Abhisit said. A special cabinet group had been set up to directly oversee issues in the South and new laws had been passed to specifically administer the region. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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PM will bring peace in deep South

Posted by hasekamp on 17 January 2011 at 11:26 AM
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva made a visit to the southern province of Pattani on Monday morning to meet the people of Mae Lan district, where the emergency decree has just been lifted. Accompanied by Education Minister Chinnaworn Boonyakiat, Mr Abhisit first went to CS Pattani Hotel to preside over a ceremony in remembrance of teachers who have died in the three southernmost border provinces since violence erupted afresh in the region in January 2004. The premier said southern unrest had affected children's education and had taken away the lives of teachers, but the government will continue trying to solve the problem by adhering to His Majesty the King's advice. "The government is aware of the religious and cultural divergence in the South but it is determined to create peace in the region. "The number of violent incidents has been reduced but the government has not been able to restore public confidence," Mr Abhisit said. A special cabinet group had been set up to directly oversee issues in the South and new laws had been passed to specifically administer the region. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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(De)forestation

Posted by hasekamp on 15 January 2011 at 16:11 PM
The government's flagship policy on community land deeds could jeopardise conservation efforts that have seen Thailand's forest area increase for the first time in decades. Adis Israngkura, a researcher from the Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI), said deforestation had slowed from 3 million rai a year to 300,000 rai a year. Last year the country's forest area increased by 0.1%, said the researcher, who headed a team of experts that produced an annual report on the state of the environment. "0.1% is a small figure, but it is big progress in our forest conservation efforts," Mr Adis said. The report, which was jointly produced by the TDRI and the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning, was released yesterday to mark National Forest Conservation Day. However, the researchers fear that the policy to give land rights to people living on state land, including protected forests, could pose a threat to forests. The government launched the scheme to help poor people who do not have any land. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Price freeze

Posted by hasekamp on 12 January 2011 at 11:10 AM
The government will not allow manufacturers to raise their product prices before March this year, Internal Trade Department director-general Watcharee Wimuktayon said on Wednesday. "The department will not approve any price rise proposal for two months. Producers of consumer goods have already agreed to freeze their product prices until March to ease people's financial burden," Mrs Watcharee said. Manufacturers of instant noodles, printing and writing paper, tissue papers, corrugated fiberboard, car tyres, construction materials, medicines and pesticides have asked the department to approve price increases, saying they could no longer bear the burden of surging production costs. Thai President Foods Plc, the maker of Mama instant noodles, said costs had soared due to the rising price of palm oil, wheat flour, vegetables and labour. The company would be able to keep its prices at current levels for only two months more. The company last increased the price of a packet of Mama three years ago, to six baht from five baht. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Hunt for fake cosmetics

Posted by hasekamp on 12 January 2011 at 11:05 AM
A team of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officials yesterday raided factory in Nonthaburi province and seized fake cosmetic products, such as skin-whitening cream, acne cream and weight loss pills worth more than Bt30 million. The products were being illegally marketed through beauty clinics both in Bangkok and upcountry, Public Health Minister Jurin Laksanawisit said. The factory, located in a two-storey house in Nonthaburi's Bang Kruay district, was also found using banned chemical substances such as glutathione, sibutramine, hydroquinone, vitamin A acid, clindamycin, clotrimazole and minoxidil in its products. Chemicals such as sibutramine, which when mixed with psychotropic substances to create weight-loss pills, can have consumers suffering from severe depression. Similarly, minoxidil, which was also found at the factory, can put consumers at the risk of developing vitiligo and liver disease. During the raid, 10 factory workers were also arrested, and the owner faces a myriad of jail terms and fines for different offence. The factory owner will be given five years in jail and fined Bt10,000 for illegally producing and selling cosmetic products. In addition, he will face another three years imprisonment and a Bt5,000 fine for illegally importing chemical substances, as well as a one-year term and Bt60,000 fine for producing and selling unsafe products. FDA's secretary general Dr Pipat Yingseri said products from this factory were being illegally distributed in more than 100 beauty clinics nationwide. (Source: The Nation)


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Phuket City wants on UNESCO list

Posted by hasekamp on 11 January 2011 at 13:47 PM
The Senate tourism committee has asked the Culture Ministry to push for listing the century-old Sino-Portuguese buildings in Phuket city as well as the resort island itself as United Nations World Heritage Sites. Culture Minister Nipit Intarasombat said yesterday that he had assigned the Fine Arts Department to see whether the old town and the island matched the selection criteria of the World Heritage Committee.
The Senate committee's panel for following through on the country's world heritage development for tourism had proposed two options, he said. The first is world heritage registration of the Sino-Portuguese buildings. The ministry was asked to conserve and restore the structures as close as possible to their original condition while improving the environs by burying all wires. Phuket would join with Malaysia's Malacca and Penang, as they all shared this traditional architectural design. The second option is the registration of Phuket island on its own, citing its outstanding cultural and natural features along with Phang Nga Bay and Krabi. The Sino-Portuguese style, with influences from the East and West, appeared in 1511 on the Malay Peninsula. Similar buildings can be seen in Malacca and Penang as well as Singapore and Macau. Thailand has such buildings in Phuket, Ranong, Krabi, Phang Nga and Trang. Most were built during the time of Phraya Rassadanupradit Mahissarapakdi (Khaw Sim Bee Na Ranong), who governed Phuket from 1901-1913 during King Rama V's reign. In 1994, Phuket Municipality designated the Sino-Portuguese town covering 210 rai (33.6 hectares) on Rassada, Phang Nga, Yaowarat, Krabi, Deebuk and Thalang and Thepkasattri roads as a conservation area and prohibited buildings more than 12 meters high.
The world heritage idea was discussed when the panel raised four issues with Nipit over Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya Historic Park. The issues were the government's unclear policy towards the park, the lack of education about the site for Thais, the disunity in administration and development of the park, and insufficient public relations work. Agencies in the area must understand their duties regarding the park, as several tasks were not the Fine Arts Department's responsibilities, such as re-landscaping and burying the power wires. The administrative power over this world heritage site was also assigned to the governor. The Fine Arts Department would promote the park among the public, Nipit said. (Source: The Nation)


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When will there be elections?

Posted by hasekamp on 11 January 2011 at 13:39 PM
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has unveiled quite a few "gifts" for Thai citizens - all of which have been met with varying degrees of indifference. The one "gift" Mr Abhisit has not yet unveiled, however, has kept people if not exactly enthralled then at least mildly entertained: when will he dissolve the House? Considering the PM's condition that the charter must be amended before the new election can be called, political analysts have made the calculation and concluded that the possible time for the general election is either in May or October. Timing is everything, right? In this case, timing is every vote. There are proponents and opponents of both possibilities. The reasons are quite illustrative of the state of our politics, too. For people who prefer an early election, their assumption is the Democrats are at an advantageous position right now, with lots of crowd-pleasing policies announced and some goodwill reaped, but the hard part of making them come true, and criticisms that always come along with it, not yet begun (whether this assumption is right or wrong is another question). Those who would rather have an election later, say in October, believe there is nothing to lose when you stay in power. The longer you hold on to state power, the more goodies that power will bring along your way. For the October camp, the Abhisit govt would reap the most benefits if it hangs around long enough to oversee another round of military and bureaucrat reshuffles. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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National Children's Day

Posted by hasekamp on 9 January 2011 at 16:43 PM
Thai kids enjoyed special treats and fun activities provided by state agencies, organisations and companies as the country celebrated National Children's Day yesterday. At Government House, in keeping with tradition every year, children formed a long queue for a chance to sit on the prime minister's seat in the Thai Khu Fa building. Among the children were 13 whose parents were killed in the Southern unrest. They were taken to meet PM Abhisit Vejjajiva who greeted them. Nine-year-old Alimin Waetingwae from Narathiwat said the premier's seat was soft. He also said that Abhisit was handsome and that he too wanted to become a prime minister in future. Abhisit had earlier presided over the event hosted by the Education Ministry at Sanam Suapa and another by the Metropolitan Police before his meeting with 241 Thai Student Council representatives. He also attended a videoconference with youth representatives of four regions at Government House.
At Parliament, children watched in awe a light and sound show of a 3D House meeting in which they saw PM Abhisit explaining a fiscal matter, House Speaker Chai Chidchob performing his duty and MP Chalerm Yoobumrung giving a speech. They also got a chance to act as news broadcasters from a mock-up TV studio and to learn about Thai politics and royal projects from the exhibition there.
Many military bases also hosted special events for kids and were a popular choice for parents to take their kids to yesterday. The Defence Ministry headquarters in Bangkok hosted many games. There were plenty of photo opportunities for kids to pose with military machines, and also the opportunity to ride one of 32 horses. (Source: The Nation)


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30,000 at Reds-rally

Posted by hasekamp on 9 January 2011 at 16:37 PM
About 30,000 supporters of the red-shirt United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship gathered in Bangkok on Sunday, police said, in their biggest show of strength since a deadly military crackdown on their mass anti-government protest in April and May last year. A security force of 1,000 was deployed in the capital for the march, at which members of the movement, dressed in their trademark red clothing, clapped and sang, some with banners backing non-violence. Police Major General Piya Utayo of the Metropolitan Police told AFP that 30,000 people had gathered for the rally, a figure also confirmed by a special branch police source. The UDD supporters have vowed to hold rallies twice a month in Bangkok to secure the release of their leaders who were jailed after their protest in April and May last year, which saw more than 90 people killed in clashes with troops. "I'm doing my best to call for the release of people jailed and to remember those who lost their lives," said Jatuporn Prompan, a lawmaker and one of the senior red-shirt members facing terrorism charges. Mr Jatuporn, who himself has been granted bail, said legal experts had told him he could take part in the protest without violating his bail conditions so long as he did not speak to the crowds. Sunday's rally comes as Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva -- whose term runs out at the end of this year -- announced a new welfare package, which is designed to help low-income groups and address social inequalities. The red-shirts' two-month rally last year, which attracted 100,000 people at its peak in support of their demand for immediate elections, was brought to a bloody end on May 19 with a military assault on the group's base. After the crackdown, a small band of militant protesters set dozens of buildings ablaze across Bangkok, including a glitzy shopping mall. The group has since staged several rallies in the capital, the last attracting around 10,000 on December 19, despite a state of emergency banning gatherings of more than five people, which was lifted late last month. (Source:The Bangkok Post)


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Elephants butchered and sold by Temple

Posted by hasekamp on 7 January 2011 at 12:49 PM
Following news that a Maha Sarakham temple butchered the carcasses of three elephants and sold the meat, skulls and tusks for Bt2 million, elephant conservationists yesterday called on the government to rescue the remaining beasts and do something before tourism was affected.
The case has disturbed elephant conservationists worldwide, raised questions over the temple's treatment of its animals and highlighted Thailand's severe cruelty against elephants, said Thai conservationist and one of Time Magazine's Asia's Heroes 2005, Sangduen Chailert. The government should assist the remaining seven elephants there, she said. The Elephant Nature Foundation president said the elephants seemed to be suffering from severe malnutrition and could die if they did not receive treatment. Sangduen said the government should use this incident as the starting point for passing an elephant protection law. The beasts are a symbol of Thailand and could become extinct if not protected, she said. A source said the temple bought 10 elephants including two from Phuket, two from Phang Nga and two from Mae Hong Son. Krittapol Salangam, manager of the Elephant Village in Surin's Tha Tum district, said two elephants were sold two months ago from Bang Bon village in the district to a temple in Maha Sarakham. One of them was a fierce 13 year-old beast with tusks, he said, adding that he didn't know why the temple wanted the elephants. His own village had not sold the temple any elephants, he said. Thailand remains the transit point for the illegal trade in ivory tusks and Thai customs officials often seize tusks and arrest smugglers. Customs Department chief Prasong Poonthanet yesterday announced the seizure of Bt10 millionworth of ivory tusks from Mozambique. Officials checking packages in transit at the Thai Airways Cargo found 73 pieces of ivory in two large boxes that were declared personal belongings and bound for Laos. (Source: The Nation)


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New cancer diagnosis drug

Posted by hasekamp on 7 January 2011 at 12:44 PM
Chulabhorn Hospital has succeeded in developing a radiopharmaceutical substance called "11CCholine", which can be used in conjunction with a PETCT scan to examine tumour cells in cases of prostate, bladder, lung, oesophageal and liver cancer. The substance, when used along with a PETCT scan, helps diagnose abnormalities and differences in cells. It will also help doctors diagnose brain tumours, as well as evaluate the size and formation of cells before and after treatment. Chulabhorn Hospital is the first to develop the substance in Southeast Asia, manager of the institute's National Cyclotron and PET Centre, Assoc Prof Dr Rujjaporn Chaichana, said. The hospital started developing and completed research on the substance in 2009, and has used it on 80 patients. The drug costs Bt40,000 per patient. (Source: The Nation)


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Phuket's last mangroves

Posted by hasekamp on 6 January 2011 at 16:48 PM
Out of fear of losing their community and way of life to “selfish people” allegedly encroaching on protected mangrove forests, Pa Khlok villagers submitted a formal complaint to the Phuket governor yesterday. About 20 villagers, led by chief Cha-euan Hemhong and community leader “Uncle” Jurun Ratchapol, handed the letter to Gov Tri Augkaradacha requesting immediate investigation into the matter. The land in question is between the Phuket Home for the Elderly and the Phuket Airpark. It is currently in the process of being transferred from protected forest department land to “community forest”, which would allow local villagers to collectively manage and use the land for their benefit. This transition would delegate land preservation responsibilities to the local community while simultaneously allowing them to benefit from having access to it. However, it appears someone is trying to beat the villagers to the punch. They claim that intruders have been clearing the land, little-by-little, and planting coconut trees to convert the area to agricultural land to be sold in the future. Mr Cha-euan said, “This forest should be under the care of local villagers soon, but we are afraid that property development rapidly approaching our area will encourage some selfish people to illegally reserve the land for themselves and then sell it off to developers”. The villagers filed a complaint regarding the encroachment at the Thalang District Office on September 18 last year, but no progress has been made, he said. “Our fishing life will be affected for sure if we don’t stop this encroachment,” Mr Jurun added. “So, I would like to beg Governor Tri to give us a hand very soon.” Mr Jurun is brother to Jurin Ratchapol, a well-known local environmental activist gunned down in a Pa Khlok forest in 2001. (Source: The Phuket Gazette)


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Traffic problems soon over?

Posted by hasekamp on 4 January 2011 at 10:50 AM
People in Greater Bangkok are being warned of "nightmare" traffic jams for the next three years as construction on at least seven railway lines gets into full swing. Long-distance commuters can expect to spend four to six hours a day commuting until 2014, said Soithip Trisuddhi, director of the Transport Ministry's Office of Transport and Traffic Policy and Planning. Tenders for the electric train projects, preparation of construction sites and partial construction will start this year. Work on at least five new projects will begin late in the year, in addition to the two that have already begun. Bangkok is expected to have 236 kilometres of electric train lines and most railway crossings will be replaced by flyovers by 2015, Ms Soithip said. "Bangkok in 2015 will be a better place to live. It will be totally different from what it is today," she said. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Death toll in the holidays

Posted by hasekamp on 4 January 2011 at 10:47 AM
The death toll from road accidents nationwide since last Thursday stood at 325, the government's road accident prevention and reduction centre announced on Tuesday. There were 3,227 road accidents, in which 3,453 people were injured. Chiang Mai had the highest number of fatalities, while Phitsanulok recorded the highest number of accidents. The biggest cause of accidents was - as usual - drunk driving, followed by speeding. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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