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Traffic chaos in Bangkok due to rain

Posted by hasekamp on 27 March 2017 at 13:23 PM
Overnight downpours resulted in heavy traffic congestion in many areas of the capital on Monday. Commuters spent more time on the roads trying to reach their workplaces and one staff member told the Nation that it had taken her almost three hours to get into work as opposed to the usual journey time of one hour. One of the roads hardest hit by the congestion was Bangna-Trat, with the the inbound lanes backed up for several kilometres before the expressway gate toll. Meanwhile in Nakhon Ratchasima province, heavy rains led to flash flooding in many districts. In some areas, cars were submerged, bringing the traffic to a complete standstill. The Meteorological Department has warned of variable weather conditions in the north, the lower northeast, the central and the east until Wednesday.


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Brushing up the image of Pattaya

Posted by hasekamp on 27 March 2017 at 13:16 PM
With mascots dressed as smiling fish and a police rock band, Thai authorities launched a "Happy Zone" at the weekend to improve the image of a city notorious for sex tourism. Stung by foreign headlines portraying the seaside resort of Pattaya as "Sin City" and "The World's Sex Capital", Thailand's government has begun a new effort to re-brand it. But the contradictions in Pattaya highlight Thailand's challenge in tackling a side of its tourist industry that remains economically vital while being officially excoriated. In fact, sex tourism is not growing as fast as other aspects of Thailand's tourist industry - the only bright spot for an economy whose expansion has been by far the slowest among major Southeast Asian economies since the 2014 coup. The rise of Pattaya dates back to the Vietnam war days when US troops stationed in Thailand used it as an R and R spot, though prostitution is just as evident in parts of Bangkok and other resorts. The number of female sex workers in Thailand was put at over 120,000 in a 2014 UNAids report. Some estimates run to double that and not all the women who get paid for sex are full-time prostitutes. The latest of many crackdowns in Pattaya happened after foreign newspaper reports last month, which drew an angry response from Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, for whom bringing order is a mantra. A handful of bars were raided. Bar owners and working women were fined. Scared to venture out, tourists looking for sex stayed in hotels. Street vendors and shops saw sales tumble. The money which flows to all levels in the city - including law enforcement agencies - fell off. The Happy Zone approach is a softer way to try to show that something is being done. If it works on Walking Street, the idea will be spread to the less sanitised sois. Businesses in the Happy Zone are asked to make the area feel safer, there are increased security patrols, police launched a mobile phone app for visitors to summon them in emergency. "This is a pioneer project to organise a tourist destination and elevate it to promote Thailand's quality tourism," Apichai Krobpetch, chief of Pattaya city police, told Reuters. "We will also stamp out prostitution in the area." (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Krabi monkeys take a swim

Posted by hasekamp on 21 March 2017 at 11:12 AM
At least a hundred monkeys climbed down a hill to cool off in a pool of water at Wat Tham Sue in Krabi yesterday. Krabi has not seen rain for about two months and this particular area has experienced a severe rise in temperature. "The monkeys climbed down into the pool, close to where tourists had come down for refreshments. Everyone was delighted to be able to enjoy a surprise appearance by the 'guests'," Jamras Sornsuvann, the temple keeper, told the Phuket Gazette. The monkeys playfully splashed around in the water and smiled at tourists as they took pictures. Mr Jamras warned people to be careful, adding that monkeys become aggressive in hot weather and could end up biting someone. "Do not feed them, as they are naturally able to procure food for themselves," he warned. He also noted that tourists should only take photos, and not touch, play with or provoke the monkeys in any way. (Source: The Phuket Gazette)


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Phuket gold thief wanted

Posted by hasekamp on 21 March 2017 at 11:08 AM
Police are hunting for a suspect who stole gold from at least two jewelry stores in Wichit and Phuket Town last week. The woman's face was captured by CCTV cameras at both stores. She is believed to be about 30 years old and 150cm tall. The footage was shared on various social media forums, including LINE groups, warning other store owners to be careful. The latest incident took place on Saturday morning, when she entered a gold shop named 'Yong Dee' in Wichit. CCTV footage showed her browsing around the shop, looking at various items of jewelry. As soon as the store attendant turned away, she swiped a 15g gold necklace and put it in her pocket before leaving the store. The store attendant only learnt about the missing necklace that evening, when she was counting inventory before closing the shop for the night. She then filed an official complaint and submitted the CCTV footage as evidence to Wichit Police Station. The owner of another store, 'Ying Jaroen', in Talad Nue also filed a complaint against her at Phuket City Police Station on Friday. This time too, the suspect's face was captured on CCTV. Col Sermpan Sirikong, deputy commander of Phuket Provincial Police, called officers from both police stations to discuss the issue. "We will check CCTV footage from nearby public areas to find out where she went. We already know her face and vehicle licence plate number, so we are sure we'll find her soon. We have also provided her description and information to officers at Tah Chat Chai checkpoint, so they can arrest her in case she tries to leave Phuket," said Col Sermpan. (Source: The Phuket Gazette)


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Prayut's birthday

Posted by hasekamp on 21 March 2017 at 11:04 AM
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Tuesday thanked Government House reporters for giving him a birthday card and their good wishes to mark his 63rd birthday. General Prayut admitted that sometimes he became aggressive with reporters but that was due to work-related stress, adding that he held no personal grudge against them. "I just want what we are doing to be completed successfully, otherwise we will not be able to move further," he told the media. "We have attained many successes. In some areas, we are in the process of doing [work] and almost succeeding. But in some areas, we are just in the starting point." Prayut asked the media to accept the fact prime ministers have different characters. "I am what I am," he said. The PM gave a commemorative coin in memory of the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej to each of his media well-wishers at Government House. On Tuesday morning, he and his family offered alms to nine monks at his residence inside the First Infantry Division to mark his birthday. (Source: The Nation)


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Rare black panther spotted in Tak

Posted by hasekamp on 21 March 2017 at 11:01 AM
Video images of a black panther have been recorded near a long-closed road through Tak's Umphang Wildlife Sanctuary, a source at the sanctuary said on Tuesday. The footage, shot between Wednesday and Saturday last week, indicates the forest's growing fertility to the point of having more of rare, top-of-food-chain animals such big cats. The image was captured near Highway No 1117 (Khlong Lan-Umphang), which cut through Tak's Umphang Wildlife Sanctuary and has been closed since 1977 to allow nature recovery. Previously, sanctuary officials had only spotted black panther footprints and faeces, and captured only the occasional grainy still photograph. Besides the black panther, sanctuary officials have also recorded footage of a family of four tigers in the 1.6 million-rai Umphang forest. The sanctuary is working to bring back 10 rare wild animals including tigers, leopards/black panthers, elephants, tapirs, Fea's muntjacs, deer, serows, gaurs, bantengs, and bears. (Source: The Nation)


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Turtle with coins dies

Posted by hasekamp on 21 March 2017 at 10:51 AM
Orm Sin, the coin-swallowing sea turtle died on Tuesday morning after lapsing into a coma following a second operation to repair its tangled insides. The veterinary team at Chulalongkorn University decided additional surgery was needed to resolve complications after more than 900 coins were removed from its stomach in a nine-hour operation two weeks ago. The faculty of veterinary science announced on Tuesday afternoon that the surgery was unsuccessful and the 25-year-old sea turtle, affectionately nicknamed Orm Sin (money bank), had died around 10.10am. On March 6, the team removed 915 coins weighing a total of 5kg from the stomach of the suffering female turtle, which had swallowed coins thrown into its pond by people seeking good fortune. After the operation, the turtle's condition showed improvement and it could eat and swim. However, veterinarians on Saturday decided on further urgent surgery after the turtle's condition deteriorated due to high levels of nickel in its body, absorbed from the coins. The turtle had 200 times more than the usual amount of nickel in its blood, resulting in lowered immunity which affected its heart and muscles. The turtle's intestines were also tangled. Its intestinal muscles were unable to recover due to loss of protein. This led to a buildup of toxins in its blood, vet Nantarika Chansue, director of Aquatic Animal Research Centre, said. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Phuket bus operators cheated for millions

Posted by hasekamp on 9 March 2017 at 16:34 PM
A group of ten bus operators in Phuket yesterday filed a complaint at the Damrongdharma Center, saying they had been cheated out of millions of baht by a company acting as a middleman in a rental contract. Two bus operator representatives, Suthin Chandauykit and Thanapon Permpoonchonchart, told officers that a company named 'Chill Duay Kan' had rented 20 buses from them to transport Chinese tourists in Phuket and neighboring provinces. The price negotiated in the contract was 50,000 baht per bus per month for a year-long contract. The contract was signed at a coffee shop, as the company representatives had said that their offices were under construction at the time. "Everything was fine in the first month. However, in the second month, they only paid us half of what they owed us, and from the third to fifth months they did not pay at all. In total, they owe us about 200,000 baht per bus, which comes to 4 million baht overall," said Mr Suthin. "We approached the tour company directly, but they said that they had already paid the full amount to the middleman," he added. They then asked a lawyer to send a letter to that company, only to find that no such company existed at the address listed in the contract. (Source: The Phuket Gazette)


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BTS extension delayed

Posted by hasekamp on 9 March 2017 at 16:27 PM
A section of the Green Line rail route, linking Soi Bearing and Samrong stations, due to be launched on April 1, risks delay as authorities struggle over budgetary issues. The two stations are part of the Green Line extension project that runs from Soi Bearing in Bangkok's southern outskirts to Samut Prakan. It is the new 12.8km elevated track that City Hall has taken over from the Mass Rapid Transit Authority of Thailand, which is building the route, but it needs to pay the MRTA several billion baht for the transfer. "To run the service, talks are needed on the rent," MRTA governor Peerayudh Singpatanakul said Wednesday, referring to money the city has to pay to his agency once it starts operating. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Royal funeral in October

Posted by hasekamp on 9 March 2017 at 16:23 PM
Public interest is keen and growing in plans for the funeral of His Majesty the late King Bhumibol. As the groundwork is laid for the royal crematorium expected to be finished in September, Professor Tongthong Chandransu, an expert on Thai history and the monarchy in particular, will talk about royal funerals on Thursday at the Siam Society. "I'll be talking about royal funerals and cremations in Thailand over the past 100 years," he says. "I'll be referring to old records and images depicting these important events from the death of King Chulalongkorn [Rama V] to the impending cremation of our beloved King Bhumibol Adulyadej." Hinduism and Buddhism, the religions that have had the greatest influence in Thailand, also inform the monarchy and its rituals, including those performed following the death of members of the royal family. The rites accompanying their funerals are largely governed by Buddhist philosophy, Thongthong says, but with clear evidence of Hindu traditions influencing the proceedings. "One of the clearest manifestations of Hindu influence is the Phra Merumas, or Phra Meru, an edifice constructed only for the solemn ceremony of a royal cremation. 'Phra Meru' represents Mount Meru, the abode of the gods in Hindu mythology." By tradition, the Phra Meru is built of wood and decorated with paper, dried flowers and other ornamental features in carved wood. It is in sharp contrast to the use of more durable materials in modern buildings and thus construction takes much longer, slowed further by the many merit-making ceremonies involved. "In Thailand the year-long funeral ceremony culminates in the rites of cremation, with the ensuing ashes used in subsequent merit-making ceremonies," Tongthong notes. The funeral of the late King Bhumibol Aduyadej will be held in late October 2017. (Source: The Nation)


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Lifts for disabled at four BTS Skytrain stations

Posted by hasekamp on 4 March 2017 at 12:45 PM
Lifts for disabled and elderly commuters were officially launched on Friday at four BTS Skytrain stations by the Bangkok MetropolitanAdministration (BMA). City Hall governor Aswin Kwanmuang said yesterday that three lifts each were installed at Ratchadamri, Phrom Phong and Thong Lor skytrain stations while another two were also launched at On Nut station. The four stations are among 19 stations which are scheduled to be installed with lifts. The BMA is in the process of constructing 45 other lifts at the rest 15 stations. Ramps and other disabled-friendly facilities will also be installed at ground-level to ticket booths and from ticket booths to platforms. Of the 15 stations, construction of the lifts at Taksin station had to first wait for the Rural Roads Department’s decision on expansion of skytrain tracks, Pol Gen Aswin said. The lift installation was conducted in compliance with a 2015 Supreme Administrative Court ruling which instructed the BMA to provide lifts at all Skytrain stations so disabled and elderly commuters could easily access public transportation. The installation also aimed to enhance the quality of Skytrain stations to be on par with international standards, Pol Gen Aswin said. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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Swindle by Phuket woman

Posted by hasekamp on 4 March 2017 at 12:39 PM
Two women filed a complaint against another earlier this week for allegedly scamming them out of millions of baht and lying about business investments. Pitchayatida Piyodecha and Thaworn Srikanjana filed complaints of fraud at Wichit Police Station against the suspect, named only as 'Anny' by police. "Ms Pitchayatida says she was introduced to Ms Anny through a mutual acquaintance. Ms Anny claimed to be the daughter of a former minister as well as a former officer in the court with 'connections in high places'," said Wichit Police Superintendent Nikorn Suksom. "The suspect allegedly said that she could help Ms Pitchayatida to procure a loan of 60 million baht for her brother, who needed the money to build a condo. She said that she had made arrangements with a loan company who would offer her the money at a 2 per cent rate of interest, but that Ms Pitchayatida would have to put up 3mn baht as guarantee money. Ms Anny claimed that she would add 2mn baht of her own money to put down a total of 5mn baht as security against the loan," added Col Nikorn. After transferring the guarantee money, Ms Pitchayatida waited for her loan to be approved, but after a two-month delay with no results, she asked for her 3mn baht to be returned. "Ms Anny refused, saying she was entitled to the money as a 'consulting fee'. Eventually, after a long argument, Ms Anny paid back just 20,000 baht," said Col Nikorn. Police are gathering more evidence and investigating the matter further. They have so far learned that Ms Anny was arrested by the Crime Suppression Division in Krabi for defamation in another case, the policeman said. (Source: The Phuket Gazette)


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Turtles for the US Embassy

Posted by hasekamp on 4 March 2017 at 12:34 PM
Eighty-nine freshwater turtles were released to roam free inside the American ambassador's residence compound after they were rescued from temple ponds that are in poor condition. The released marked World Wildlife Day Friday. The 22 rai (3.5 hectare) compound is a good environment for the turtles with plenty of food for them. Nantarika Chansue, director of the Sea Animal Diseases Control Centre, Faculty of Veterinary at Chulalongkorn University, said she was glad the turtles finally had a good quality of life. "My sincere appreciation to the US Embassy, Bangkok, for hosting a turtle release programme in the embassy grounds on the World Wildlife Day," Nantarika said. "After vet treatments, they are now living happily ever after in the ponds that the US Fish and Wildlife Department has deemed to be a wildlife sanctuary." (Source: The Nation)


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Summons in connection with Pathum Thani Temple

Posted by hasekamp on 4 March 2017 at 12:31 PM
SUMMONSES have been issued to 30 people, including politicians, protest group guards and members of the public, accused of defying a junta order declaring Dhammakaya Temple in Pathum Thani a controlled area in the search for fugitive former abbot Phra Dhammachayo. The latest move in the temple siege saga was announced yesterday by Department of Special Investigation (DSI) deputy chief Pol Colonel Songsak Raksaksakul. All 30 individuals are accused of flouting the order, issued by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha under the all-powerful Article 44 of the interim charter. Songsak said the National Office of Buddhism (NOB) had been asked to help bring in the temple's communication chief Phra Sanitwong Chareonrattawong, who failed to respond to a summons but was reportedly still in the temple, and three monks to answer charges of incitement. The Dhammakaya supporters' protest tent site at the Klong Luang Central Market would soon be cleared, Songsak said. The temple continued to be cordoned off in keeping with the junta order, despite two deaths, one of them a protest suicide by a man in his 60s. The circumstances surrounding the later death of female assistant pharmacist Pattana Chiangraeng, 48, reportedly from an asthma attack, have been surrounded by controversy. Monks claimed an ambulance was stopped by authorities and could not reach her in time, while the government has insisted it was a distortion of the facts. Besides cutting phone signals in the area, the DSI issued summonses or even arrest warrants for the temple's communication team members, including spokesman Ong-art Thamnita, outspoken disciple Ai Petchthong and Phra Sanitwong. (Source: The Nation)


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THAI to cut more jobs

Posted by hasekamp on 2 March 2017 at 13:01 PM
THAI AIRWAYS International is considering cutting more jobs as it enters the third phrase of its transformation plan. Meanwhile, the airline is strengthening its sales strategies to boost online bookings and seeking more income from subsidiary units. Usanee Sangsingkeo, executive vice president for the aviation business unit and acting president of THAI, said the airline might need to cut some more staff this year as part of its continued rehabilitation and cost-cutting plan, but not as much as it has over the last two years. "It will be [done on a] case-by-case basis," she said. THAI's board of directors recently agreed to increase staff salaries by an average of 6 per cent, while pay rises for executives would be lower than 6 per cent, retroactive to January. The national carrier is planning to increase ticket sales via online channels along with seeking more income from its catering unit, its ground-handling unit, and other business. The airline is confident of bringing in more income from ticket sales as this year its seat capacity has been increased by 7 per cent thanks to more aircraft and refurbishment of older planes. (Source: The Nation)


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Koh Tao verdict upheld

Posted by hasekamp on 2 March 2017 at 12:56 PM
The family of the 24-year-old Briton killed on the southern island of Koh Tao has expressed confidence in the Appeals Court's decision to uphold the death sentence for two Myanmar migrants on Wednesday. "We remain confident that this is the correct decision. We hope that the Thai authorities will show leniency in relation to the death sentence," the family of David Miller said. On Wednesday, the Appeals Court upheld the death sentence on Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun, aka Wai Phyo, both 24, for the murder of the Briton and for the rape and murder of compatriot Hannah Witheridge, 23, on the island of Surat Thani province on Sept 15, 2014. "We have always said that we did not want innocent men sentenced nor guilty parties acquitted on a technicality. In the end, the evidence is overwhelming and we feel that justice has been done," wrote the parents, who said they had attended most of the court proceedings and learnt first-hand the facts of the case through unbiased translation by friends in Thailand. They were referring to the evidence found in Witherdige's body. "During autopsy, semen in Hannah's body had been found and this was analysed in the accredited Institute of Forensic Medicine and Pathology in Bangkok well before the two guilty men were detained," it said. This find triggered an extensive DNA testing of all workers and inhabitants around the crime scene, eventually leading the police to the link they sought and to Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo, they said. "Their DNA was retested in court and found to match the results from samples taken at the autopsy. The defence team was then given the opportunity to retest the autopsy samples and they declined, despite requests to do so. That moment was telling," the statement said. Apart from the forensic tests, circumstantial evidence also pointed to the same direction, the family continued. "Both Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo admitted in court to being at the crime scene that night, just feet from where the murder weapon was kept (and replaced) and metres from where the murders took place. (Source: The Bangkok Post)


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