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The ivory trade in Thailand

Posted by hasekamp on 24 February 2013 at 11:14 AM
Ivory industry representatives and wildlife officials yesterday took another step to shake off Thailand's image as the world's second-biggest destination for illegal ivory shipments. A meeting was held with local ivory-product traders in Chiang Mai to ensure strict compliance with laws. Entrepreneurs from Lamphun and Mae Hong Son also joined in. Although the ivory trade is legal in Thailand, only the ivory of domesticated elephants is allowed. But last year, a report by Cites (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) revealed that Thailand was just behind China when it came to smuggled ivory. The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), according to the Deutsche Presse-Agentur, on Thursday called for strong economic sanctions against several countries, including Thailand, for their involvement in the illegal ivory trade. Jongklai Worapongsathorn, the director for wildlife conservation for the Chiang Mai-based conservation area management office, told yesterday's meeting that if the sanctions were imposed, Thailand's trade in many areas could suffer. "We have exported orchids to the tune of billions of baht each year," he said. He said because the illegal ivory could fetch more than Bt35,000 per kilogram on the black market, smugglers continued their trade despite the many arrests and seizures by Thai authorities. According to Jongklai, Thai officials have seized about 10,000kg of illegal ivory from smugglers flying into Suvarnabhumi Airport. Sermyos Somman, who heads the Chiang Mai-based conservation area management office, which covers Chiang Mai, Lamphun and Mae Hong Son, keeps a watch on the ivory trade. "From our registration, there are 465 domesticated elephants in these three provinces," he said. According to WWF Thailand, the sanctions were invoked before in 1991 and it is possible that these economic measures will be used again. WWF Thailand has said the amount of smuggled ivory to Thailand was up to 11 tonnes between 2009 and 2012. Ivory products, including ivory ornaments, are widely available at Chatuchak Market, amulet shops and hotel gift shops. A 2008 survey showed eight shops in Nakhon Sawan had more than 7,600 ivory pieces for sale, and 151 shops in Bangkok had more than 12,000 ivory pieces. Thailand will host the sixth meeting of the conference of parties to Cites from March 3 to 14. WWF Thailand is calling on Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to temporarily ban the ivory trade until measures can be put in place that ensure only legal ivory products are sold in the country. (Source: The Nation)


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Interesting new museum

Posted by hasekamp on 24 February 2013 at 11:08 AM
Museums don't generally register very high among Thais on their list of places for a day out, but the police hope a new facility dedicated to them will be an exception. "I would like this museum to last for 100 years for our children in the future," Pol Col Jiradul Sothibandhu said, referring to part of the 107-year-old Chitrada Villa in Bangkok which is being turned into the Police Museum. Chief of the Royal Thai Police Office's museum section, Pol Col Jiradul is supervising the formation of this first-ever facility, which is located in the compound of the Parusakawan Palace near the Royal Plaza. Its opening, to be presided over by Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, is scheduled for March 28, and Pol Col Jiradul's intention is to make the museum one of the best historical venues in Thailand. The police colonel conceded Thais really aren't the type to add a museum visit to their itineraries. However, he hopes the beauty of the elegant villa, the display of well-selected items and his carefully prepared management plans will be enough to make the museum a popular venue. The Police Museum is divided into two main buildings: the Chitrada Villa, which displays His Majesty the King's functions regarding the Thai police, and a newly built, two-storey glass building, which exhibits the history of the police force. The Chitrada Villa, currently registered as a national historical site by the Fine Arts Department, is the pride of the museum. It was built on the orders of King Rama V as a residence for his son, His Royal Highness Crown Prince Vajiravudh, who later succeeded his father as King Rama VI. The two-storey villa, designed by Italian architect Mario Tamango and completed in 1907, is a mix of the well-known Stile Liberty, Baroque and Rococo architectural styles in Europe. This architectural and historical significance will add to the experience of visitors who will not only learn about His Majesty the King's works, but also enjoy the beauty of the past as they are allowed to visit all areas of the building, including the bedroom of HRH Crown Prince Vajiravudh. Police Museum visitors will learn about the Thai police force’s history while appreciating the unique architectural style of the old Chitrada Villa. The building is intended to allow them to "absorb the atmosphere of the Chakri Dynasty", Pol Col Jiradul said. For the glass building, the exhibition is divided into six zones, all of which take visitors closer to the lives of the Thai police. In the first zone, visitors will travel back to the ancient Kingdom of Sukhothai in the 13th century where the police force was first established, and learn of its development in later centuries. The atmosphere is brought closer to the present era in the second to fifth zones where visitors are introduced to the types of police units, their legendary deeds and what police do in a make-believe police station, which is named "Sor Nor Ratchadamnoen" for the location of the Parusakawan Palace, which is near Ratchadamnoen Nok Avenue. The sixth zone is specifically for children who dream of becoming a police officer when they grow up. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Swiss student pleads guilty

Posted by hasekamp on 22 February 2013 at 17:48 PM
The Swiss student, who was thought to be missing for a month before being found in Ranong Prison (see our archives), has pleaded guilty to the theft charges levied against her after she balked at an immigration overstay fine and stole an immigration officer’s camera. When Tscherina Nora Janisch, a 22-year-old Swiss exchange student, refused to pay a three-day visa overstay fine, she was arrested by Ranong Immigration officers (story here). While officers were processing her arrest, Ms Janisch picked up an immigration officer’s Canon PowerShot A640 and put it in her pocket. At the time, Ms Janisch denied that she had stolen the camera. However, Ms Janisch pleaded guilty in the Ranong Court on February 9. “She received a 6,000 baht fine and was sentenced to seven months in prison,” a prison officer said. “However, because she pleaded guilty, she received a one-year suspended sentence,” he added. (Source: The Nation)


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Leonardo DiCaprio campaigns against ivory trade

Posted by hasekamp on 22 February 2013 at 17:44 PM
Acting on reports that Thailand is second only to China as a hub for unregulated ivory trading, wildlife conservationists are aiming to collect one million signatures calling on prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra to suspend the trade in Thailand. During campaigning yesterday by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Thailand and TRAFFIC to protect African elephants from a spike in poaching, WWF representative Janpai Ongsiriwittaya said illegal traders had exploited a loophole in Thai law. Thailand's had become the second-largest unregulated ivory market, she said, because although Thai law prohibited trade in African ivory, it allowed trade in domestic elephant ivory, which criminals were exploiting as a loophole. Janpai said activists aimed to gather one million signatures against the trade by next week, after already securing 400,000 signatures, including that of American actor Leonardo DiCaprio. She said the signatures would be presented to Yingluck ahead of the 16th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), pressing her to suspend the ivory trade in Thailand and amend the law by placing all elephants, domestic and wild, under the Wildlife Protection Act. Soraida Salwala, founder of the Friends of the Asian Elephant Foundation, said that although ivory traders had to be registered in Thailand, there was still a lot of ivory being smuggled from Africa into Thailand. Hence, she said, the legal ivory trade should be suspended while loopholes in the law were closed. She also urged Natural Resource and Environment Minister Preecha Rengsomboonsuk to explain to the CITES meeting why Thailand had failed to stop the illegal trade in ivory, and present the country's standpoint and measures on the issue. (Source: The Nation)


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Safer Bangkok wanted

Posted by hasekamp on 22 February 2013 at 17:40 PM
The next Bangkok governor should ensure cleanliness and safety, convenience and comfort for visitors, private tourism operators say. The operators have come up with some ideas for upgrading Bangkok's tourism industry and proposed them Monday to candidates Pongsapat Pongcharoen and Sukhumbhand Paribatra. The operators said they also hoped the Bangkok governor can deliver a vision about new tourism products which will help keep international tourists here longer. They stay for an average of only one day now. About 38 per cent of international tourists who come to Thailand visit Bangkok and about 251 billion baht of tourism revenue, or half the total, is made in the capital. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Facebook photo saves buffalo

Posted by hasekamp on 22 February 2013 at 17:36 PM
A picture posted on Facebook has helped save a water buffalo from the slaughterhouse and it is now on course to star in movies. The Movies, Music, Arts and Communications Cooperative purchase "Ruam Boon", a 19-year-old male buffalo, on Friday from the abattoir in Muang district of this northeastern province for 100,000 baht. Cooperative chairman Aroon Onglaor and actor Darm Dussakorn paid slaughterhouse owner Somjit Thainguluem for the animal. Mr Aroon said the organisation decided to save the buffalo's life after seeing its picture on Facebook with its beautiful downswept horns 2.4 metres long. The money was contributed to a pool by the cooperative's members, who were moved by the animal's beauty, Mr Aroon said. Ruam Boon will be taken to the Assawin Production House in Nong Khaem district in Bangkok to be trained for movies, he said, adding that its performance fee would be used to buy food. Abattoir owner Somjit said he bought the buffalo at a cattle market in Buri Ram for 50,000 baht three months ago. It was being fed and fattened up and when it was fully healthy would have been consigned for slaughter. He expected to get 70,000 baht or more from its meat, sent to fresh markets. He said a foreigner had also contacted him, offering to buy the horns for 50,000 baht after it was killed. The picture of the animal was posted on Facebook because its horns were similar to the logo used by Carabao, a famous songs-for-life rock band. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Water shortage in Phuket

Posted by hasekamp on 17 February 2013 at 23:00 PM
Despite the assurance that water supplies were going to keep taps in Phuket wet, the Phuket Gazette received a report on February 14 that a resident of Baan Rockgarden 5 in Rassada had been without water for three days. The Gazette relayed the information to Mr Pisak and learned that a water pipe had broken, preventing water from reaching the area. “On February 11, the water pipe that carries water from the filtration plant in Bang Jo in Thalang broke, so it caused a water shortages in Kamala, Cherng Talay, Srisoonthorn and Rassada,” Mr Pisak said. “We have been able to fix the problem,” he said. (Source: The Phuket Gazette)


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Expensive roses

Posted by hasekamp on 14 February 2013 at 11:44 AM
With Valentine's Day upon us, prices of roses in Thailand are the highest in the world, according to a popular flower and bouquet delivery business. The average price of a dozen roses in other countries is 3,000 baht, but the price in Thailand is about 4,000 baht, Rawat Chindapol, chief executive officer of Miss Lily Flower, said on Wednesday. "If the roses are imported from the Netherlands, or if they are 'black roses' from foreign countries, a bouquet can cost around 9,000 to 10,000 baht," Mr Rawat said. The company has increased the price of a single rose from 370 baht to 400 baht, up about 10%, because of higher fuel costs and higher wages.
He said Thai people now have more spending power and were paying 3,800 to 3,900 baht for a bouquet delivered on Valentine's Day, Feb 14. Last year, Thais paid around 3,300 to 3,600 baht for a bouquet. Long stemmed roses are currently priced at 1,500 baht each, "black roses" at 900 baht each and common roses 400 baht each. Roses from Tak province (normally one baht each) are now 15 baht. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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World Expo in Thailand?

Posted by hasekamp on 14 February 2013 at 11:39 AM
Thailand remains committed to its bid to host World Expo 2020, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said on Tuesday, discounting a report the Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB) planned to withdraw the application. She said the report was incorrect. Thailand's bid to host the Expo was being implemented by the Tourism and Sports Ministry. Ms Yingluck also rejected speculation that Thailand would withdraw to pave the way for Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), to host the exposition that year. The media report on Monday said the Yingluck government is reluctant to put in the effort to secure the ruights to host Expo 2020 because of the high investment cost, estimated at up to 70 billion baht. The report said Thai lobbyists did not show up at the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, to seek support from international leaders for the event. Ayutthaya governor Witthaya Piewpong confirmed that the province was ready to host World Expo 2020. The province had already spent around 300 million baht in preparing its case. Another 10 billion baht would be needed if the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) chose Thailand as the 2020 host. The four other countries bidding for Expo 2020 are Turkey, Russia, Brazil and the UAE. The decision will be announced in November this year. The governor said the province had not been told Thailand would back off from the bidding. In his view, the investment would be worthwhile. Thailand's proposal is being presented with the theme "Redefine Globalisation: Balanced Life, Sustainable Living. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Care for stray dogs?

Posted by hasekamp on 12 February 2013 at 9:55 AM
Bangkok governor election candidates pledged yesterday to take good care of the city's stray dogs. City Hall should provide shelter and take care of the abandoned animals, four candidates told a debate yesterday. Pheu Thai candidate Pol Gen Pongsapat Pongcharoen joined three independent contestants _ Pol Gen Sereepisuth Temeeyaves, Kosit Suvijjit and Suharit Siamwala _ in a debate at Chulalongkorn University's faculty of veterinary science. The candidates were invited by the Foundation for Stray Dogs to present their views. Aritouch Rodniran, foundation chairman, said Bangkok had more than 700,000 stray dogs. Pol Gen Pongsapat said the capital would have a fully equipped centre for stray dogs if he was elected. The centre would include an animal hospital and training facilities for strays. It could be funded by the government since the problem of stray dogs was now a national issue and needs to be solved, he said. Pol Gen Sereepisut said such animal care centres must be available in every district. Mr Kosit also agreed City Hall needed a new working unit to tackle the stray dogs issue. Stray dogs must be given proper care. The smart ones could be trained to work as guide dogs for blind people. The city under his leadership would encourage dog owners to take good care of their pets and not abandon them, he said. Mr Suharit said he planned to work with Bangkok residents to find homes for stray dogs. (Source:The Bangkok Post)


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Buffalo marriage

Posted by hasekamp on 12 February 2013 at 9:48 AM
Two water buffaloes "tied the knot" on Monday in a ceremony that has more meaning than just their happiness. Chuwit Pitakpornpallop, a Pheu Thai Party MP for Udon Ratchathani, took Chiang Yuen, a 23-year-old male buffalo, from the northeastern province, to "wed" Thong Kwaw, which is 15 years younger, at Wat Pho Than in Sena district in an event witnessed by monks, villagers and the district chief. An open field in front of the the temple was turned into a wedding site for the couple. Mr Chuwit led the traditional khan mak procession comprising klong yao performers and a band of woodwind instruments for the 700 kilogramme "groom", while 99,000 baht in cash was raised as the sinsod, or gift, to ask for marriage permission from the 600kg "bride's" owner, the Tambon Administration Organisation of Ban Pho. The ceremony ended when district chief Rewat Amphawanont inked his signature on their "marriage certificate" amid wishes of happiness from participants. "It's [a new] one in my lifetime and I was excited about being part of the event," Mr Rewat said. Mr Chuwit and Witthaya Buranasiri, an MP for Ayutthaya from the same party, said they decided to organise the ceremony to raise public awareness of the need to conserve locally bred buffaloes which face a bleak future. "I hope the public will pay more attention to this issue. Buffaloes should be saved and be a part of farming in Thailand," Mr Witthaya said. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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His Majesty still under treatment

Posted by hasekamp on 12 February 2013 at 9:42 AM
Doctors who have been treating His Majesty the King at the Sirirat Hospital have found that His Majesty is having bacterial infection in blood, the Royal Household Bureau announced. It its announcement issued Sunday night, the bureau said doctors have given His Majesty injections of anti-bacteria medicine and medicine for treating inflammation at the left knee. The bureau said the swelling of the knee has improved and His Majesty no longer felt the pain at the left knee. His body temperature has improved and His Majesty now has normal heartbeat and breathing and could eat and sleep well. (Source: The Nation)


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Chinese New Year

Posted by hasekamp on 10 February 2013 at 15:21 PM
All Thais of Chinese descent across the country flocked to temples to pray for prosperity and happiness in the Chinese New Year, which began on Sunday (January 10). People visited Chinese and Buddhist temples in the early hours of Sunday after the Year of the Snake began after midnight. The most popular places for worship in Bangkok include Wat Mangkon Kamalawat in Yaowarat, where Thailand's largest Chinese community is holding an event to celebrate the new year until Monday. The snake has traditionally been seen as a symbol of wisdom, wealth and longevity, but is considered less auspicious than other animals in the 12-year Chinese Zodiac such as the dragon. It is said to bestow mystery, intelligence and beauty on those born in a snake year. In other provinces from Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai in the North to the deep southern provinces, people took their families to temples to pay respects after decorating their houses with red paper with messages like "Good Luck", "Happiness" and "Prosperity." The celebration went without incident in the provincial towns of Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala where tight security was enforced over the weekend to ensure a good start to the Year of the Snake. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Are Russians welcome or not?

Posted by hasekamp on 8 February 2013 at 17:36 PM
Phuket will hold its annual full-scale tsunami evacuation and marine rescue drill at Karon Beach on February 21, but the tsunami warning messages will not be played in Russian, the Phuket Gazette was told today. “The Ministry of Interior requires the six Andaman provinces in the tsunami hazard zone to hold a tsunami evacuation and marine rescue drill at least once a year,” Phuket Vice Governor Chamroen Tipayapongtada explained. “Karon Beach was chosen for the drill because it is a popular tourist destination in Phuket,” he added. (Source: The Phuket Gazette)


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Queue for Englsh lessons

Posted by hasekamp on 8 February 2013 at 17:33 PM
Parents of students at Chulalongkorn University Demonstration Elementary School queued up overnight yesterday to enrol their children in the British Council's English Language Programme, which is hosted by the school's parents and teachers association. The queue started forming at 1pm on Wednesday afternoon. The parents insisted that the queue method, which meant waiting overnight, was appropriate and better than a lottery-type drawing. Only 120 students are admitted to the English course. (Source: The Nation)


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Snow sculpting champions!

Posted by hasekamp on 8 February 2013 at 17:28 PM
Although they probably never saw snow on the streets, a Thai team claimed the title of Grand Champion at the 40th International Snow Sculpture Contest in Hokkaido, Japan, for a fourth time on Friday. The Artist from the Wild. Photo courtesy of 64th Sapporo Snow Festivali. The 40th International Snow Sculpture Contest was held as part of the 64th Sapporo Yuki Matsuri snow festival, held annually in Hokkaido's capital city Sapporo from Feb 5-11. Teams representing 11 countries put their works on display at the city's Odori Park. Thai representatives Kusol Boonkorbsongserm, Amnuaysuk Srisook and Kritsana Wongthet beat the rest of the field with their winning entry "The Artist from the Wild", a snow sculpture of a mother elephant drawing His Majesty the King's portrait on a canvas along with her three calves, the organisers announced. Thailand previously won in 2000, 2009 and 2010. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Elephant tusks seized

Posted by hasekamp on 6 February 2013 at 23:58 PM
Thai police have seized 20 elephant tusks and arrested a police captain for smuggling the illegal cargo into Thailand, anti-animal trafficking sources revealed Sunday. FREELAND Foundation, a Bangkok-based international organisation dedicated to eradicating wildlife trafficking, welcomed the seizure and arrest. Thailand is scheduled to host the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) inBangkok in March. On Saturday, police in Chumpon province stopped uncovered 20 elephant tusks hidden in fertilizer bags. The driver, a police captian, was arrested and charged with violating Thailand’s Wild Animal Reservation and Protection Act (WARPA). Police said the suspect claimed to have been hired to smuggle the elephant tusks from Malaysia into Thailand. The illicit trade in ivory is expected to be high on the agenda of the upcoming CITES meeting in Bangkok. (Source: The Nation)


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King still in pain

Posted by hasekamp on 6 February 2013 at 23:55 PM
His Majesty the King's left knee remains in pain, and he has been injected with anti-biotic dose in it, after an earlier medication that failed to rid of the pain, said the 61th statement of the Royal Household Bureau released last night. The pain in his right knee is gone, said the Royal Physicians. The monarch still has low fever and shows sign of weakness, but can eat normally now. His heartbeat rate and blood pressure are also normal, said the statement. (Source: The Nation)


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Serious bus accident

Posted by hasekamp on 6 February 2013 at 23:52 PM
Five people including a French tourist were killed when a tour bus overturned Wednesday en route to a beach resort in southern Thailand, police said. Chumphon Police Colonel Narudaet Ingkhajan identified the French casualty as Delphine Jofette Raene Kiesser, 23. Sixteen passengers including six foreign tourists were hospitalized with injuries, among them one British man who lost his leg in the crash, Narudaet said. The accident occurred about 4 am on the highway to Chumphon, 380 kilometres south of Bangkok. "We think the accident was caused by a tyre blowout," Narudaet said. The driver fled the scene. (Source: The Nation)


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Corruption cause of camera attacks

Posted by hasekamp on 3 February 2013 at 10:58 AM
Following a spate of attacks targeting security cameras in the southern border provinces, the government has just awoken to the problem and is acting to prevent corruption in camera procurement that cost a huge amount of the taxpayers' money. Since many closed-circuit television systems installed in the restive southern provinces are of poor quality and have failed to function effectively, the government has issued a policy that specifications for security cameras must be approved by the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology. Just a month into the new year, at least 100 security cameras have been targeted in arson attacks and thefts. More than 400 cameras have been burnt down in a spate of 10 attacks since the latter half of 2011. Few suspects involved in the attacks have been arrested so it is likely that more security cameras will be destroyed. A report by a House special committee scrutinising this problem found that the procurement of the security cameras was marred by corruption right from the bidding process. Purchase contracts were found to have been altered and sometimes subcontractors have even abandoned their work. Officials believe corruption is a part of the reason for so many security cameras being burnt down in coordinated attacks. State agencies requested funds to buy high-quality and high-priced cameras but they ended up buying cheap and low-quality ones in the belief that with insurgency rife in the areas, no one would dare to go to remote areas to check if the cameras they had bought were the same as the one they had proposed to buy. "Burning down the cameras sometimes is the work of officials who want to destroy evidence,'' an official said. (Source: The Nation)


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Royal knee infection

Posted by hasekamp on 3 February 2013 at 10:54 AM
His Majesty the King's knee infection (which he has had for some time) has improved but the Royal physicians still administered medication for treating the infection, the Royal Household Bureau announced on Thursday. In its 60th statement about the King's condition, the bureau said his doctors reported that the swelling and infection have improved substantially. The King still had low fever sometimes and his breathing was slightly faster than normal. However, his heartbeat and blood pressure were normal. The doctors also reported that His Majesty could sleep well and dine "almost at a normal level", according to the statement. (Source: The Nation)


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Warnings on cigarette packs larger

Posted by hasekamp on 3 February 2013 at 10:44 AM
The size of the warnings, which are dominated by graphic photos showing the consequences of smoking, will be expanded to cover 85 per cent of the pack, up from the current 55 per cent, Public Health Minister Pradit Sinthawanarong said Friday. He told reporters after a meeting with national tobacco control board that they agreed to issue a ministerial declaration that would increase the size of the picture warnings from 55 per cent to 85 per cent of the packs as they believed that this would help reduce tobacco consumption. (Source: The Nation)


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