Thursday, 30 June 2011

AOT to raise air passenger fees

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BANGKOK, 30 June 2011 (NNT) – The Airport of Thailand Plc (AOT) is preparing to increase the Passenger Service Charge (PSC) due to higher operating cost that the AOT is shouldering and the investment it has recently made. 

AOT Senior Executive Vice President for Business Development and Marketing Nitinai Sirismatthakarn said the PSC on international flights would be raised to 800 baht from the original 700 baht while the charge on domestic flights would be increased to 250 baht from 100 baht currently. 

The vice president then announced that the rate adjustment would be proposed to the Civil Aviation Board (CAB) for consideration soon. 

According to Mr Nitinai, the AOT has to adjust the PSC as the company has invested a lot of money in improving facilities at the Suvarnabhumi International Airport. The PSC has been directly calculated from the operating capital. 

Nevertheless, the AOT may decide to raise the PSC on international flights to 900 baht and maintain the charge for domestic flights at 100 baht instead if the CAB does not want the increase to affect domestic passengers. 

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Fugitive ex-leader Thaksin dominates Thai election

SANKAMPHAENG, June 29, 2011 (AFP) - With his vast riches and family ties, fugitive former Thai leader Thaksin Shinawatra may be on the verge of a remarkable comeback, despite being convicted of graft and wanted on terrorism charges.

But if his opposition Puea Thai Party wins this weekend's election, as polls suggest is likely, the controversial ex-premier will have to savour victory from afar.

Ousted in a military coup five years ago, the former tycoon lives in self-imposed exile in Dubai, having fled Thailand in 2008 before a court sentenced him in absentia to two years in prison for corruption.

The 61-year-old remains an idol for many rural and working class voters for his populist policies while in power, but is hated by the ruling elite who see him as corrupt and a threat to the revered monarchy.

"People who thought that the coup of 2006 was going to be the flush of the toilet for Thaksin were absolutely wrong," according to Thailand expert Paul Chambers.

Parties linked to Thaksin, the former owner of Manchester City football club, have won the most seats in the past four elections, but the courts reversed the results of the last two polls, angering his supporters.

Today he is seen as the driving force behind Puea Thai, whose candidate for premier is none other than his youngest sister Yingluck Shinawatra.

But not all the family is happy with Thaksin's efforts to return to the political limelight.

"His father wouldn't support him if he were still alive," Thaksin's 82-year-old aunt Taowan Shinawatra told AFP in an interview at her home in northern Thailand, saying he should stick to business.

"We have enough as it is. We don't need to go into politics. People who go into politics can't let go of the prestige. He is obsessed by it."

Many think Thaksin would continue to call the shots if the opposition wins, and its campaign slogan -- "Thaksin thinks, Puea Thai does" -- appears to leave little doubt.

Far from trying to ignore him, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has made his rival a central theme of his own election battle, urging voters "to get rid of the poison of Thaksin."

The ex-premier remains a hugely divisive figure in Thailand, where he faces a raft of criminal charges including terrorism -- an accusation linked to mass opposition protests by his "Red Shirt" supporters last year that turned deadly.

If found guilty, he could in theory face the death penalty.

The opposition has proposed an amnesty for convicted politicians if it wins the election -- a move apparently aimed at bringing Thaksin home.

But many doubt the Bangkok-based elite in government, military and palace circles would allow him to return a free man.

"I don't think Thaksin will be coming back to Thailand any time soon. I think if he does, that would be a green light for a possible coup," said Chambers, a senior research fellow at Payap University in northern Thailand.

Born into one of the most prominent ethnic Chinese families in northern Chiang Mai province, Thaksin, whose father was also a politician, gave up a brief career with the police to study in the United States.

He went on to form telecoms giant Shin Corp and in 1998 moved into politics when he started his own political party, Thai Rak Thai (Thais Love Thais).

He was elected as prime minister in 2001 -- becoming the country's first premier to serve a full term -- and re-elected four years later to create Thailand's first single party government in seven decades.

In the Shinawatra family's hometown of Sankamphaeng, famous for its fine silks, the boy who used to sell coffee and ice cream at his father's shop is still a hero to many.

"He was a good boy, very kind," said 79-year-old market vendor Somjit Suwanthip. "He helped the country. I want to see him back."

As well as his sibling, Thaksin also has a niece standing for parliament in northern Thailand and a son at the helm of a media group, Voice TV, which gives prominence to the family's political activities..

The former tycoon, who insists he has no ambition to lead Thailand again, describes his youngest sister as his "clone" -- a description she says underlines their similar thinking.

"We are alike in the sense that I have learned from him in business and I understand his vision, how he solves problems and the way he built everything from the beginning," Yingluck told AFP on the campaign trail.

She makes no secret of her attempt to ride on her brother's coat-tails.

In a careful choreographed campaign, she starts her rallies by asking the crowd: "I don't know how much you love Thaksin. But can you share some of this love for me, his younger sister?"

Phuket Customs warns of foreigners cheating Thai ladies

Thai Customs have issued a warning for Thai ladies to beware of cheating foreigners.

PHUKET: -- Thai Customs officials at Phuket International Airport have issued a warning for Thai ladies not to be deceived by foreigners asking for money to help pay for import or customs duties.

“Customs have received many complaints from victims explaining that the ‘thieves’ are foreigners they made friends with on the internet,” said Customs officer Monthira Cherdchu.

“For awhile, they send the victims presents, but then they phone or email the victims asking that they transfer money to their accounts to pay for VAT [value-added tax] or import taxes at the airport,” she added.

Ms Monthira explained that one foreigner asked a Thai woman to send him money because he said he was being held at Phuket Airport by Thai Customs for trying to bring into the country too much foreign currency.

“Instead, the lady contacted Customs officers here at Phuket Airport. The officers checked but then told the lady that no foreigners with the name she gave were being held at the airport. The officers suggested she report the problem to the police,” she said.

Mrs Monthira urged anyone who receives similar pleas for help to contact the Customs Office at Phuket Airport by calling 076-327435.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Unesco urges Thailand to reconsider

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Unesco has urged Thai government to reconsider its decision to leave its World Heritage Committee, saying the committee has not yet discussed Cambodia's proposed management plan of the Preah Vihear Temple as earlier reported.

Director General Irina Bokova said in a letter dated June 27 addressing to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva that there was no any push from her side for the discussion of the management plan.
"I hope sincerely that the Kingdom of Thailand will carefully consider its future course of action in respect of this important convention and will continue to be an active participant in the international cooperation for the protection of the world's outstanding heritage," she said.

The letter was sent after Thai negotiation chief; Suwit Khunkitti, walked out from a World Heritage meeting in Paris and announced Thailand's withdrawal from the World Heritage Convention during a Unesco meeting in Paris last Saturday in protest on the committee's plan to discuss Cambodia's management plan.

Bokova said it was most unfortunate this has happened in relation to the examination of the issue concerning the Temple of Preah Vihear World Heritage site by the World Heritage Committee. "I cannot but express disappointment at as such an announcement of the possible withdrawal of the Kingdom of Thailand from the World Heritage Convention, in light of your country's longstanding commitment to and active support of the latter."

Bokova denied some news reports that after the walkout, the committee discussed the management plan.

What the committee decided after the walkout was only reaffirmation of the need to ensure the protection and conservation of Preah Vihear temple from any damage, read the letter.

It further encouraged the two countries to use the 1972 World Heritage Convention as a tool to support conservation, sustainable development and dialogue.

She added that Thailand's bid to postpone the debate on the management plan was not supported by another member of the committee.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Election Commission admits technical glitches in advance election

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BANGKOK, June 27 -- Election Commission (EC) secretary-general Suthipol Thaweechaikarn on Monday admitted that there were some technical glitches in the advance election on Sunday as slightly over 50 per cent of eligible voters who had registered for advance voting exercised their rights.

Mr Suthipol said the advance election nationwide was run smoothly in general, with some 1.49 million voters or 55.6 per cent of some 2.6 million voters who had registered for advance voting outside their constituencies casting their ballots. Meanwhile, some 90 per cent of voters who registered to vote in advance at their constituencies exercised their rights.

However, the EC secretary general said that the main problems found were the voters could not vote in time when the polls closed at 3pm as many voters had registered for advance voting, while some other voters' names went missing.

Mr Suthipol said the EC would discuss the problem and work out the solution.

The EC was also confident that there would be no problem in the process of transporting the ballot boxes back to the provinces for counting on the election day on July 3.

Meanwhile, Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) Permanent Secretary Charoenrat Chutikarn said in Bangkok alone, 1,079,923 persons who had registered for advance voting and 631,513 or 58.48 per cent cast their ballots in advance at 50 districts of the capital.

At Bangkapi district where 104,016 people registered for off-constituency voting in advance, the highest number in the country, 59,913 or 57.60 per cent of the voters turned out to vote.

While advance voting in constituency, 35,037 had registered and 31,144 or 88.89 per cent cast their ballots.

The highest turnout in Bangkok districts was at Bangkhen, where 1,199 persons or 87.17 per cent of the 1,367 registered voters cast their ballots.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Heavy police presence for advance voting by 2.6 million today

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A total of 35,000 policemen will be deployed at 557 poll stations nationwide for advance voting today, national police adviser Pol General Pongsapat Pongcharoen said yesterday

More than 2.6 million people have registered for advance voting at 154 off-constituency polling stations and 403 on-constituency poll stations, according to Pongsapat, chief of the centre in charge of security in the run-up to the July 3 election.

Police will be at the polling stations to ensure law and order from 5am on.

He also said advance poll boxes would be tightly guarded so that it would not be possible to change a box or add ballots to benefit anyone.

Pongsapat also reported that a police team led by Pol Lt-General Assawin Kwanmuang had arrested one suspect in the attempt killing of Pheu Thai MP candidate for Samut Prakan Pracha Prasopdee. The investigation has been extended to link with the June 16 murder of Suban Jiraphanwanich, the chief of the Lop Buri Provincial Administrative Organisation. He said there would be good news about the progress of the probe soon.

National police chief General Wichean Potephosree, who presided over a video conference from Nakhon Ratchasima, urged police to be neutral in the election and to crack down on crime, influential figures, professional killers and war weapons before and after the elections.

After the meeting he told reporters that the next week was the last curve in the road before the election, so police were beefing up security and updating the situation on a daily basis. He said police and election officials must remain neutral and that three officers - one from the Metropolitan Police and one each from Regions 4 and 5 who failed to be neutral - faced disciplinary punishment.

While inspecting a polling station in front of the Nakhon Ratchasima City Hall, Wichien said he expected 100 per cent of the people registered for advance voting would turn up nationwide. He also commented that the red-shirt people's poll watch was a good idea to ensure the election would be transparent and just, and urged them to follow the law and not to violate others' rights.

Maj-General Akara Thiprote, deputy chief of the Internal Security Operations Command Region 4, said that about 20,000 people would cast ballots in advance at the three southernmost provinces and Songkhla's four districts. Some 11,000 officers would provide security for the polling today. As it was the day for people to exercise their right to vote, he said there should be no violent incidents, from politics or from the southern insurgency.

In related news, police presented a 32-year-old suspect linked to a recent political killing at a press conference yesterday evening, along with a pistol, 30 rounds of ammunition, Bt41,377 in cash, three cell phones and a Honda Wave motorcycle and a Chevrolet car as evidence.

Ekkachai Pompadet is accused of assisting the murder of Lop Buri official Suban Jiraphanwanich. They said Ekkachai used the motorcycle as a getaway vehicle for the hitman, whom police identified as Sirapong Artdech.

Ekkachai was arrested at a hotel in Nonthaburi on Friday evening, after police found he was among a "hit team" captured by security cameras. He is alleged to have confessed that the payment for killing Suban was over Bt1 million and the team got the job through Akkharawat Petchchandra. They were also involved in the shooting of Pracha Prasopdee. Ekkachai confessed to watching the area while the hitman shot Pracha. Police will take him to re-enact the Suban killing near Khao San Road this morning.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Thailand burns 6 tonnes of contraband drugs, worth Bt7.4 billion

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BANGKOK, June 25 – Thailand on Friday burned nearly six tonnes -- 5,844kg -- of illegal drugs, worth an estimated Bt7.4 billion on International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking Day.

Public Health Minister Jurin Laksanawisit presided over the incineration of drugs for international anti-drug day, which falls on June 26. Thailand’s 39th burning of the proscribed drugs in cooperation with the Ministry of Public Health, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Office of the Narcotics Control Board.

Burned at the Bangpa-in Industrial Estate on Friday, the illegal drugs included nearly two tonnes (1,997kg or 22 million pills) of methamphetamines, 248kg of heroin, 23kg of crystal methamphetamine (ice), about 8kg of ecstasy, 7kg of cocaine, 72kg of opium, 56kg of codeine, and 3.5 tonnes ( 3,418kg) marijuana.

The drugs were incinerated at high temperatures (over 850 degrees Celcius) which causes no air pollution.

From Oct 1 last year to April 4 this year nearly 55,000 drug addicts received treatment, the minister said. Most, he said, some 83 per cent, were addicted to methamphetamines.

Of all addicts receiving treatment, one-third are young people aged 18-24 years. The minister expressed concern regarding the next younger group aged 7-17, as the numbers in this group tend to rise

Friday, 24 June 2011

Nationwide ban on alcohol this weekend

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Phuket's tourist-popular Soi Bangla in Patong will be
dry Saturday night through Sunday – maybe.

PHUKET: -- The sale of alcohol will be banned throughout Phuket this weekend ahead of the polls opening for the absentee and early voting on Sunday, Phuket Police Commander Pekad Tantipong has confirmed to the Phuket Gazette.

“The sale of alcohol will be prohibited from 6pm on June 25 [Saturday night] through to midnight on June 26 [Sunday night],” Maj Gen Pekad said.

“We will have police teams checking whether shops adhere to the ban,” he added.

The ban is nationwide as people across the country who cannot travel home for the July 3 election cast their ballots early.

Patong Police Superintendent Arayapan Pukbuakao explained that the ban would be very similar to what is planned for the July 3 election day, the only difference being that candidates will still be allowed to campaign during early voting.

“All bars in Patong can stay open and sell food, but there must be no alcohol sales at all,” he added.

In Phuket Constituency 1, which comprises all of Muang District except for Rassada and Koh Kaew subdistricts, 1,008 people have registered for advance voting, which will take place at Phuket City Hall on Narisorn Rd in Phuket Town on June 26.

In Phuket Constituency 2, a total of 669 people have registered for advance voting that will take place at Phranangsang School in Thalang on the same day.

There are 110,135 eligible voters in Phuket Constituency 1 and 113,986 eligible voters in Phuket Constituency 2, according to the election commission.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Colourful characters spice up Thai election

BANGKOK, June 23, 2011 - A charismatic former massage parlour kingpin and a one-time coup general are among the wilder characters wooing voters as elections loom in politically volatile Thailand.

Among the mostly banal images of suited hopefuls on party billboards, a few candidates stand out -- one gripping a panda, a man who appears to be suffering from eye-popping road rage and another with the head of a buffalo.

With the comedy also comes controversy: one poll hopeful was in charge of overthrowing an elected government five years ago in a military coup that eventually led to deadly street protests and a deep rift in society.

The man he ousted from power was Thaksin Shinawatra, whose sister is now the main opposition candidate for prime minister.

Chulalongkorn University political scientist Thitinan Pongsudhirak described the candidacy of General Sonthi Boonyaratglin, a Muslim hoping for votes in the insurgency-plagued deep south, as a "farce for Thai democracy".

Only slightly less controversial is Chuvit Kamolvisit, a businessman who made his fortune with a string of massage parlours and hotels and has admitted to bribing authorities in the past.

Even so he has vowed to fight corruption, a stance some see as surprising given his colourful past.

"I am the insider, I know how to pay. I know how to bribe," he told AFP.

"You see bribery in Thailand is a deeper issue, problem than anyone can think.... everybody likes me. They like the truth, but no one wants to say the truth."

Chuvit -- whose posters show him in odd poses angrily clutching a steering wheel or squeamishly holding a baby -- described the traditional party candidates as "dinosaurs" in uniform or suits.

Former director-general of the Zoological Park Organisation of Thailand Sophon Damnui is trying a different tactic, appearing on posters with a giant panda in an attempt to boost his appeal.

"People ask who they should vote for -- the one with the bald head or the one with the black eyes," the follicly challenged politician said on a recent walkabout at a Bangkok zoo to showcase his environmental credentials.

The July 3 election is mainly a fight between the incumbent Democrats and the Puea Thai party, allied to fugitive ex-leader Thaksin, who was ousted in 2006 and lives abroad to avoid a jail term for corruption.

But these parties represent the two sides of a damaging split in Thai society and analysts say some voters will be searching for alternatives.

Political analyst and author Chris Baker said there were "people who are rather fed up of the recent politics" and wanted to cast their vote in a "non-standard way".

Puea Thai has pulled ahead in the voter opinion polls, but may still have to form a coalition with smaller parties to be able to govern.

It remains to be seen whether Yingluck Shinawatra, Thaksin's younger sister and the Puea Thai candidate for prime minister, would be willing to join forces with the general who removed her brother from power.

The most bizarre posters of all aim to persuade people not to vote for any party by portraying politicians with the heads of various different animals, an image Thitinan said was "very offensive" in Thailand.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Police nab hit team suspect, hunt gunman in Suban killing

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Police have arrested a man suspected of being part of a five-member hit team that gunned down Bhum Jai Thai canvasser Suban Jiraphanwanich in Bangkok last week.

Police sources said the unnamed man was possibly in charge of helping the trigger man escape after shooting at Suban, his wife and a female aide. The gunman fled the scene in Khao San Road on the pillion seat of a motorcycle.

Apart from the gunman, the five-member hit team included a target identifier, a scout, a getaway motorcyclist, and the man in custody who took the gunman out of Bangkok, the sources added.

Sources from the metropolitan police Crime Suppression Division, and detectives from the Regional Police Bureau 1 jointly working on the Suban murder case, have indicated the hit team was associated with what they refer to as "men in uniform." However nobody has yet been implicated as masterminds behind the killing.

The gunman could be a career assassin, possibly based in Lop Buri, where Suban had influence as head of the Provincial Administrative Organisation. In addition to the gunman, all four other members of the hit team could be under protection of the "men in uniform" based in the central province, another source from metropolitan police said.

Pol General Phongsaphat Phongcharoen, head of the police centre handling security during the run-up to the July 3 election, said police now knew the whereabouts of Thongchai Khongprajak, a gunman on a 75-member blacklist, and had set a deadline for him to surrender in the next 24 hours.

"At the end of the deadline, he will face a massive manhunt and eventual capture," he said, adding that Thongchai's absence had not indicated his intent or plan to kill anyone or any candidate.

Kamol, Suban's father, called on former general Panlop Pinmanee to "stop his men from doing anything which may set Lop Buri on fire". He did not elaborate or indicate any links between Panlop and the killing of Suban in his statement, made after a three-hour interview with Lop Buri police.

In the wake of Suban's killing and claims of extensive threats from rival parties, most BJT canvassers now have bullet proof vests and wear them during party rallies. A kamnan in Muang district, Jamras Bunkhlai, said the vest was a primary and affordable measure he was now adopting to protect himself.

Mallika, Suban's sister and a BJT candidate in Lop Buri, said she suspected an Army officer, who showed up during the application of constituency candidates last month, could be linked to the killing. She said this unnamed officer accompanied a rival party member and pointed at Suban in an insulting manner which later led to an altercation between BJT's and the other party's supporters.

"I think the officer, hiding behind the demeaning gesture and by fingering Suban, identified the target to the hit team members - or the gunman - who were among that party's supporters on application day," she added.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Russian found hanged in Phuket police cell

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The motorbike rental operation where the young
Russian threatened to self-immolate on Saturday night

PHUKET: -- Phuket Police are investigating the apparent suicide of a Russian tourist while in a detention cell at Patong Police Station on Saturday night.

Patong Police duty officer Pattapee Srichay confirmed the identity of the deceased as Evgeny Otrubyannikov, a 26-year-old Russian national.

Mr Evgeny apparently took his life at about 10pm by using his shirt to hang himself by the neck from an iron bar inside a cell where he was being held in solitary confinement.

“We do not yet know what caused him to commit suicide. We intended to question him the following day, after he calmed down,” Lt Pattapee said.

Mr Otrubyannikov’s detainment followed a report earlier the same day by a motorbike rental operator on the beach road, opposite Burger King.

Under the condition of anonymity, the operator said that the man appeared at about 5:30pm with two gasoline-filled bottles – and a cigarette lighter.

“He just walked up and poured the gasoline onto my rental motorbikes and onto himself, while holding a lighter. I pushed him away from my motorbikes, and some tuk-tuk drivers helped me grab him and seize the lighter,” said the operator.

“He seemed quite drunk and smelled of alcohol. Meanwhile, he said something about his passport that I didn't understand very well,” he added.

The operator denied having rented a vehicle to the Russian, who was in possession of the passport when taken into custody by Patong Police.

“He may have had a problem with another rental outfit and got confused,” said the operator.

Arguments between motorbike rental operators and their clients are a common source of problems in the Phuket tourism industry.

Although required by law to be able to be able to produce their passport at any time when requested to do so by authorities, many tourists willingly hand over their travel document as a form of surety when renting out a bike.

Problems inevitably result when there is a motorbike accident, injury, arrest or the passport is accidentally lost.

Although the issue has been raised repeatedly in recent years at meetings among the island’s honorary consuls and sitting governor, little has changed in how the motorbike rental industry operates.

Renting a motorbike is a dangerous but financially attractive option for tourists in Phuket.

A good-quality motorbike can be rented out for a whole day for about 150 baht, about half the cost of a short ride in a tuk-tuk.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Pheu ThaI still leading

Opinion polls, which Democrat Party senior officials were reluctant to believe, continue to tip the Pheu Thai Party as the frontrunner in the July 3 election - the latest indicating that Pheu Thai would win about half (51.5 per cent) of the vote for party-list candidates.

The Suan Dusit Poll, released yesterday, showed that a majority of 102,994 people interviewed across the country would vote for Pheu Thai and 34 per cent for the ruling Democrat Party.

The poll was conducted from June 4 until Saturday June 18 in all the 375 constituencies.

It found that only 2.4 per cent of the respondents have yet to decide on which party to vote for, while 1.4 per cent said they would cast a ballot on election day but would vote for nobody.

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According to the survey, Pheu Thai would get 64 seats for its party-list while the Democrats would get 43 seats. Bhum Jai Thai is third, but it would get only four seats on the party-list. The election on July 3 will be for 500 seats of the House of Representatives, of which 375 represent constituencies while 125 come from the proportion of votes for the party.

The Suan Dusit Poll did not conduct the survey for constituency candidates.

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Democrat secretary-general Suthep Thaugsuban said he did not pay attention to opinion polls and they did not disturb him or his party.

"I will not argue with the polls and people should not pay much attention to them," he said. "Let us see the real result of the election on the day and we will know which poll is more accurate."

Suthep said he was still confident the poll did not reflect the real vote for the Democrats.

Another survey conducted on June 13 by the National Institute of Development Administration (NIDA) with a sampling of 1,247 indicated the same trend as the Suan Dusit poll.

It suggested Pheu Thai would win 30.5 per cent while the Democrats would get 17.4 per cent in the entire country.

Both surveys indicated Pheu Thai had support from many regions, except the South, a traditional Democrat stronghold. Pheu Thai got only some 10 per cent of vote in the South, according to Suan Dusit and NIDA polls.

In Bangkok, where many academics have tipped the urban middle class will support the Democrats, the polls indicated Pheu Thai would get significant support from voters.

Red-shirts Commemorate 13-Month Anniversary of Rally Crackdown

Yesterday evening the red-shirt group gathered at the Ratchaprasong Intersection to commemorate those who lost their lives during the crackdown on the group's gathering 13 months ago.

Several red-shirt group factions gathered yesterday evening at the Ratchaprasong Intersection to conduct activities to remember those in their group who were killed during the dispersal of their protest 13 months ago.

One of the activities was planking, intended to serve as a reminder of the victims who lost their lives in the dispersal and as a way to encourage Thais to go out and vote on July 3.

For those of you still new to the latest fad, planking is when a person lies flat on his or her face in a private or, many times, public places.

There were also speeches, musical performances, and poetry recitals on stage before the group finally dispersed at around 8 P.M.

The Pheu Thai Party had earlier coordinated with the red-shirt group, asking that it not hold activities on June 19, as it may dampen the party's election campaigning in the lead-up to the election.

The group compromised by limiting its activities, keeping them to a smaller scale.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Probe into prison riot in Narathiwat that left 25 injured

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Narathiwat governor Thanon Vejkornkanont has set up a committee to investigate a prison riot yesterday that left 20 police and five defence volunteers injured.
He wants to try to find out which prisoners incited others to attack the officials

The chaos began at about 7am when Deputy Narathiwat Governor Dejrat Simsiri led a 150-strong team of police, military and civilians to search the male prisoners' dormitory as part of a drug-suppression operation, while the 999 male inmates were gathered in the yard. The officials were seizing methamphetamine, crystal meth and cell phones hidden in the dormitory when several inmates jailed for violations of national security, got upset and suddenly urged others to stop the search. The inmates hurled metal pipes, wooden sticks and stones at the officials.

The officials escaped but 25 were injured - 11 with serious head wounds. But no inmates were hurt.

After hours of negotiations, the provincial governor, who went to try to control the situation, got the inmates to stop their protest.

Thanon later said he ordered prison officials to monitor the situation with a combined force to guard the prison to prevent another riot.

He also set up a committee to investigate which inmates started the riot and which inmates attacked the officials. He said it was tough to control rioting in the jail partly because it was located in the city centre.

Thanon urged a thorough check on how prohibited items were smuggled into the prison and punishment of any official involved in the smuggling.

Prison commander Suphot Suwantip also blamed the location of the jail for problems controlling prisoners and said relocating the jail would be a good long-term solution. He said the prison wall wasn't very high so people with bad intentions may be able to throw prohibited objects into the jail.

Corrections Department deputy director-general Thanit Sriyapan said plans to move the prison to a 342-rai plot in Tak Bai district's Ban Khok Kradook Moo were ongoing, with the construction budget set at Bt500 million. He said details would be put to the Justice Ministry shortly.

The prison holds 1,100 inmates - 140 of them for people who broke national security laws in the far South.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Is Yingluck Shinawatra Promising The Thai People More Than They Bargained For?

Oh dear. Thaksin Shinawatra's easy on the eye younger sister Yingluck - a Prime Minister in waiting if you believe the polls - seems to be offering clients of her/Thaksin's property company SC Assets - a terninal solution to their problems.
Well we all have a rough idea how many innocent people were 'injudicially killed' during her brother's 'War on Drugs', could there be a hidden reference from Pheu Thai's* 'honey trap' for the middle-aged.
Well 'completed living' I daresay is just another advertising gaff and not what Thaksin has in store for the likes of me when/if he returns later in the year. We can read these sort of things every day in the English language press and on billboards throughout the country, which is why I refer to Pheu Thai* and not Pheua Thai because the Bangkok Post swears by the former.
I have often thought people are actually scared to tell these advertising moguls that they can't speak English: The King's Birthday suit and all that.
I've stopped reading politics this week. Its just too depressing. But as there is not much else in the papers I found myself reading the back of my  box of 'Coco Pops" 
 I gave up on reading politics after being seized upon by depression when I saw all those familiar names which never ever seem to go away. You know, Banharn, Newin, Chalerm, Sanan, Chavalit.  Pass the sick back Alice. Plus Ca change.
Just happened to be visiting a friend on a nearby estate when the SC Asset band rolled in offering free, noodles, satay, coconut ice cream and give-aways including the carrier bag (left) and beads and buttons, yes beads and buttons. I grunted and took mine.. I had to pinch myself to make sure that I was not at an electioneering meeting.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Brother of Lop Buri candidate gunned down in Bangkok

A brother of a Bhum Jai Thai Party candidate for Lop Buri was gunned down in a broad day light in Chanasongkram district on Wednesday. Police believed the attack was politically motivated.

Subhan Jirapanwanich, 53, a chairman of Tambon Administration Organisation in Lop Buri was rushed to nearby Washirapayabaran Hospital, but he was later pronounced dead.

Police were alerted at about 2.45pm about the attack which took place near Lottery Bureau of Thailand on Khao Sarn road.

The victim's wife and secretary were also wounded.

His sister; Malikha, was competing for a parliamentary seat in Lop Buri under the banner of Bhum Jai Thai Party.

Some reports stated that Subhan had told some reporters that he was followed and could possibly be a target of assassination by local politicians.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Three men plead guilty in largest human trafficking case in U.S.

WASHINGTON D.C. (BNO NEWS) -- Three U.S. men on Wednesday pleaded guilty to human trafficking charges in the largest case of its kind in the country's history, the U.S. Justice Department announced.

Bruce Schwartz, 53, pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit forced labor while co-defendants Sam Wongsesanit, 40, and Shane Germann, 42, pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit document servitude.

The three defendants were involved in the largest human trafficking scheme in the U.S. involving the Los Angeles-based recruiting company Global Horizons. The illegal operation exploited approximately 600 Thai workers.

"These defendants pleaded guilty to participating in the largest human trafficking scheme ever seen by the Department of Justice," said Thomas Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division.

On January 18, a superseding indictment charged eight defendants in connection to the scheme to lure about 600 Thai nationals to enter the United States under the federal agricultural guest worker program between 2001 and 2007.

According to the indictment, the defendants conspired to coerce the agricultural labor and services of the Thai nationals by fraudulent means. The workers were induced to incur substantial debts secured by the workers' homes and family land.

Furthermore, the defendants confiscated the workers' passports and threatened to repatriate the victims to face destitution, homelessness and other serious harm if they did not remain in the defendants' service in exchange for meager earnings.

"Through successful prosecution of those who take advantage of immigrant workers, we strive to ensure that the U.S. continues to be a land of economic opportunity, as it has for generations of workers preceding them," said Florence Nakakuni, U.S. Attorney for the District of Hawaii.

Schwartz, Wongsesanit and Germann are awaiting sentencing and each face maximum sentences of five years in prison. Another co-defendant, Podjanee Sinchai, was charged and convicted in Thailand with recruitment fraud and sentenced to four years in prison.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Tourism sector not happy with party vows

The private sector rated the tourism policies of five of the leading political parties in the current election campaign as below expectations after they were announced to the public yesterday.

"Most of the plans are not new. Not even one party committed itself to helping tourism," said Prakit Chinamourphong, president of the Thai Hotels Association.

Charoen Wanganaond, spokesman of the Federation of Thai Tourism Associations (FETTA), expressed disappointment with the policies.

"I rated them at only 50 per cent, as nobody offered new hope to the industry," he said.

Five parties - the Democrats, Pheu Thai, Bhum Jai Thai, Chart Pattana Puea Pandin and the Civil Peace Party - participated in a seminar on "Tourism Policy ... with New Government" organised by FETTA and Post Today newspaper.

Chart Thai Pattana, which currently oversees the tourism sector, was absent from the panel.

Charoen called for the new government that comes to power after the July 3 election to focus on the tourism sector by working more closely with the private sector to drive tourism and solve current problems.

He said private businesses wanted to see the new government continue the National Tourism Agenda to enhance and develop the entire sector.

"Some other issues that the private sector would like to see [dealt with] is airport policy - single or dual airports?" he said.

Opas Netraumpai, vice president of the Thailand Incentive and Convention Association, said the parties on the panel fell short of the expectations of the private sector despite the fact that the tourism industry is an important driver of the country's economy.

Anchalee Vanich Thepabutr of the Democrat Party said it would promote 61 provinces to be tourist attractions by granting a budget of Bt6.6 billion per year for development.

The party would increase marketing to help the private sector.

She said a new act on public demonstrations was being filed and would be enforced soon, which should help bring peace to Bangkok and decrease violence.

However, the party would provide urgent measures to help private businesses in case of unexpected issues.

She also said the country would prepare for the Asean Economic Community in 2015.

"A lot of workers will flow through the region, so we should improve our human resources. Moreover, damaged tourist attractions need rebuilding."

Supachai Jaisamut, spokesman for the Bhum Jai Thai Party, said that if elected it would provide Bt100 million per year per province to encourage local administrations to develop their products and to manage their communities.

More mega-projects such as airport expansion and infrastructure are needed.

Supachai said Bhum Jai Thai would provide more financial assistance to local communities to develop tourism.

He added that local administration should have the right to use their taxes to develop their communities.

Kornpoj Asawinwichit from Chart Pattana Puea Pandin said the party would increase arrivals from emerging markets.

The party proposed a "one district one attraction" scheme to lure tourists into communities.

However, Kornpoj pointed out that political rallies were the people's right in a democratic state.

Phuvanida Kunplin of the Pheu Thai Party said it would invest in mega-projects across the country. One project would be to develop Suvarnabhumi Airport into a regional hub by increasing connecting flights.

Moreover, it would build an airport link from Bangkok to Pattaya along with dual-track high-speed trains to key provinces.

Seri Suwanpanon, leader of the Civil Peace Party, said it would maintain peace in the Kingdom to help people conduct business without internal conflicts.

"If we continue to have conflicts, there will no tourists coming in. So I would raise tourism in the national agenda," he said.

A 24-hour tourism channel is another option.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Thailand ready to allow EU election observers

Thailand's electoral authorities said Monday they would welcome European Union observers at the July 3 polls, extending the invitation a bit belatedly.

"The Election Commission is ready to allow the international community, particularly the European Union, to come observe the election," chairman Apichart Sukhakanond said.

The invitation, coming less than a month before the polls, was deemed too late to prepare a full-scale EU election monitor team to come to Thailand, diplomatic sources said.

"These things have to be planned in advance," said one European diplomat who asked to remain anonymous. "The EU might be able to send some experts to monitor to the polls at this stage, but this is not what we'd call an election observation mission."

EU observation missions usually arrive in a country six months in advance of the polls, and can involve up to 120 people.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Thai Airways to acquire 23 Airbus, 14 Boeing planes

BANGKOK, June 13, 2011 (AFP) - Thai Airways announced Monday that it would acquire 23 Airbus and 14 Boeing airplanes for about $3.9 billion to modernise its ageing fleet after a period of financial turbulence.

The carrier said the deals, which have been approved by its board of directors, would enable it to grow profits and be among the top three leading airlines in Asia in terms of quality and service efficiency.

The airline plans to buy six Boeing 777-300ER planes, four Airbus A350-900s and five A320-200s for a total of about $1.6 billion, for delivery between 2014 and 2017.

It will also lease 22 aircraft, including eight Boeing 787 Dreamliners, to be delivered between 2012 and 2017, a company statement said.

"Acquiring new aircraft made from lightweight and non-corrosive composite material to replace retiring aircraft will save fuel and maintenance costs," it added.

The company is bouncing back after a tough spell that saw it sink 21.3 billion baht ($702 million) in the red in 2008 owing to the global financial crisis, high fuel costs and political protests that temporarily shut Bangkok's airports.

The carrier posted a net profit of 1.6 billion baht in 2010, up more than threefold compared with 2009 as revenue more than doubled.

The airline faces increased competition from regional low-cost carriers such as Air Asia and last year announced plans to start its own budget airline in cooperation with Singapore's Tiger Airways.

Currently Thai Airways operates a mixed fleet, including some ageing Boeing 747 jumbos and Airbus A300s, which are no longer being produced.

Thai Airways president Piyasvasti Amranand admitted in October that the carrier's planes were "pretty old" and said the company needed to move quickly given the backlog of orders facing Boeing and Airbus.

The new orders are on top of a plan announced a year ago to take delivery of seven Airbus A330-300s medium-range aircraft and eight Boeing 777-300ER long-range planes by 2014 on lease.

The group has delayed delivery of six Airbus A380s, now due to arrive starting from 2012, because of a shortage of cash.

The launch of Boeing's new 787 Dreamliner, heralded as a new generation of highly fuel-efficient mid-sized aircraft, has been repeatedly delayed due to a string of technical mishaps.

Delivery of the first 787s is now scheduled for the third quarter of 2011 to inaugural customer All Nippon Airways of Japan.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Tour operators concerned about noisy Russian tourists

Lack of diversity can lead to problems

BANGKOK: -- According to reports a leading Scandinavian tour operator is concerned that the growing dominance of some nationalities in Phuket and Pattaya can cause difficulties for other guests and urged hotels to diversify the nationalities to which they market.

Christian Clemens, CEO of TUI Nordic, a leading Scandinavian tour operator, said that European guests who preferred a peaceful atmosphere and wanted to learn more about the local culture have been unhappy with the growing dominance of one particular nationality. Given the makeup of tourism in Pattaya, it would appear the CEO is referring to the growing number of Russian tourists coming to Thailand.

The company is targeting hotels that cater almost exclusively to Scandinavians in order to avoid the cultural clashes that seem to be occurring.

According to ATOR Analytical Service, the number of Russian tourists visiting Thailand is showing high growth with the number of Russians visiting in January high season up 48% from the previous year.

Thailand's biggest competition in the future will be the Caribbean, particularly Mexico, said Mr Clemens.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Thai Immigration tightens requirements for retirement visa extensions

BANGKOK: The Immigration Bureau has tightened the requirements for retirement extensions.

"It has been reported that along with the statement the applicant has made at their embassy stating their monthly income, for the past month the Immigration Bureau has asked to see proof of at least two months of pension income. This requirement is not just for new applications but renewals as well", says Sunn Justubavornchai, legal advisor at Sunbelt Asia Co., Ltd.

It has always been the case that Immigration can ask to see supporting evidence behind the income letter issued by an embassy, but previously has rarely been enforced. That position now seems to have changed. For some nationals it won't make any real difference, as they already have to provide supporting evidence to their embassies to obtain the income letter. Notable exception are citizens of US, Canada and Australia where no evidence of income is required for issue of embassy income letter, just sworn declaration of income required. It looks like The Immigration Bureau has closed the loophole on citizens providing false (unsupported) declarations to obtain income letter.

The financial requirement for obtaining an extension of stay based on retirement is 800,000 Baht in a Thai bank for qualifying period, or an income of not less than 65,000 Baht per month, or a combination of bank balance and monthly income to arrive at 800,000 baht.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Pattaya Ladyboys

Pattaya Ladyboys, Katoeys & She-Males In Pattaya

As with all sexual preferences, Thai ladyboys aren't everyone's cup of tea. Whereas some guys swear they've had the hottest sex ever in Pattaya with a ladyboy, others might have been robbed by a gang of katoeys on Beach Road, or simply despise them as a matter of principle.
Ladyboys (or
katoeys as the local she-males and transvestites are called in Thai) are a common feature of everyday life all over Thailand. Due to the tolerant nature of Buddhist culture, ladyboys, as well as people with a bisexual orientation, are more visible and more accepted in Thai culture than transvestites or transsexuals in most Western countries.
While the katoey phenomenon isn't restricted to urban areas and you can come across ladyboys in every small village of Thailand, tourist places like Pattaya or Bangkok - worldwide famous for their "naughty" nightlife - attract a large number of Thailand's ladyboys.

Thai ladyboys are famous for their sexy looks and their potential to offer you a sexual experience of a "different" and slightly sleazier kind.Born as true men, some say, katoeys know best how to satisfy a man using all parts (and holes!) of their bodies. Because of their sexual condition, many ladyboys are said to be ready for sexual experiments that a standard bar girl may find disgusting - juicy b--- jobs, a--- sex, dildo play, and other less ordinary sex practices. Many ladyboys also have massive (silicon) boobs - a sexual stimulus most ordinarily-equipped Thai girls can't offer.
Just like many Thai women enter prostitution in Pattaya, many Thai ladyboys work as
freelance prostitutes on Pattaya Beach Road or Walking Street. Others have "regular" jobs in beer bars or AGoGo bars where they often mix with "real" girls, sometimes making it difficult to decide if that half-naked, big-busted hottie is Pattaya's latest candidate for the "Miss Thailand" beauty contest or just a convincingly made-up "bloke with boobs"?
Those ladyboys who don't work as prostitutes (often to re-pay costly sex reassignments) usually work in traditionally feminine occupations such as hairstylists in beauty salons, shop vendors or waitresses - whereas more talented katoeys may seek a job as show dancer in one of Pattaya's world-famous
transvestite cabaret theatres - Alcazar and Tiffany. (Of course, many still freelance as 'part-time hookers' in Pattaya's notorious discotheques or ladyboy meeting points on Walking Street to earn a few extra Baht on the nightshift.)
This means, you could bump into a ladyboy in the next best 7-eleven store, as well as as come across a stunning Pattaya bar "girl" with a suspiciously dark voice and an Adam's Apple, in any bar or nightclub in town.
On top of that, there are special entertainment and nightlife areas (Soi 6/Yodsak, Walking Street and Pattaya Beach Road after sunset), where - although not specifically designated to katoeys - ladyboys can be found in abundance.
However, depending on your sexual flavour, it is important to know that not all Thai ladyboys are equally equipped physically. So before you take the next best katoey back to your room, there are a few details you should know.

So what exactly is a katoey or ladyboy and, most importantly, how can you
tell a ladyboy from a "real" girl? Sometimes not so easy for Pattaya newbies ...
First of all, there are three types of ladyboys representing different stages of "gender change": (1) transvestites, (2) "she-males" , and (3) "post-OP ladyboys" who have undergone full sex reassignment.

(1) The first type are
transvestites, i.e. physically normally developed men, who simply dress and make up as women. While even those ladyboys - most of whom undergo a hormone replacement therapy, but cannot afford to pay for a costly breast implantation or complete sex reassignment - may look extremely attractive in their fancy dresses and evening gowns, they are still 100% men physically (with very small or no boobs at all).
The other two categories of Thai ladyboys have (partly) undergone plastic surgery and represent different stages of sex reassignment.

(2) Probably the most common type of a Thai ladyboy is best described as
"she-male". That's a katoey, who has had his secondary sex characteristics modified and, thanks to plastic surgery, often has unusually big and perfectly-shaped breasts (while most Asian girls have small boobs). Whereas big boobs probably turn most normal men on, please remember that these seemingly perfect "women" still have a little manhood. These cross-gender creatures, combining the physical attractions of both sexes, provide the typical katoey experience most ladyboy lovers seem to be looking for.

(3) A third categoty of ladyboys are such katoeys, who have undergone a full sex reassignment and had their
primary sex characteristics altered as well. Having had their sexual organs transformed, ladyboys on this stage of sex change are physically complete women - except for the fact that they were born as men. Also referred to as "Post OP ladyboys".

Thailand has gained a reputation for medical tourism and cheap yet quality plastic surgery or sex reassignment. For Thai standards, however, a complete sex change is still extremely expensive, so most ladyboys in Pattaya are either just transvestites (men dressed and made-up as girls), or transsexuals, who have had breasts created by plastic surgery. For most Pattaya ladyboys, the final step is simply too expensive. Those who could afford it, might not feel the financial urge any longer to prostitute themseves.
Tip: If you want to check whether a ladyboy's boobs are "real" or if the bra has just been stuffed with textiles, don't be shy and grab for them! , they're usually happy to let you touch their boobies and even show them to you before making your choice.
Most ladyboys will be honest and let you know whether they still have a manhood or not - which, by the way, can be hidden away quite easily, so that they can wear sexy tight skirts and jeans without revealing their sexual identity. If so, they should readily offer you a b--- job or other pleasures.
 Whereas most Pattaya residents and 'old hands' have developed an ability to recognize ladyboys even from the distance, Pattaya 'newbies' are often at risk of making surprising and undesired (?) sexual encounters.Thai ladyboys are probably the most attractive "women" you will come across in Thailand. Tall as supermodels and with perfectly-shaped boobs, they're often more beautiful than the "real thing". What most ladyboys have in common, though, is an unusually girlish behaviour and exaggarated sexy walk. Whereas some Pattaya bar girls walk like real yokels, most katoeys overdo the sexy walk on their high heels and walk like divas on a cat walk or a red carpet. Their often slutty dress style!

Thai PM slams rivals' Thaksin 'whitewash'

BANGKOK (AFP) - Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva accused the opposition Wednesday of inflaming political tensions by "whitewashing" the crimes of their de facto leader, fugitive ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

Abhisit is in the midst of a tough electoral battle against Thaksin's allies in the Puea Thai party, who want an amnesty for politicians who have been charged or convicted if they win the July 3 vote.

This would potentially pave the way for the return of Thaksin, who was ousted in a 2006 coup and lives abroad to avoid a jail term for corruption. He is also charged with terrorism in relation to unrest in Bangkok last year.

Abhisit, who heads the establishment-backed Democrat Party, said it did not make sense for political parties to "try to introduce fresh points of contention", such as "whitewashing Thaksin".

"I don't believe their (Puea Thai's) plan is one for reconciliation," Abhisit told foreign correspondents in the capital.

He said one of the Puea Thai leaders, Chalerm Yubamrung, "has been very clear about that. He wants Thaksin back, basically whitewashing Thaksin, and we offer the country to move beyond that problem."

Thaksin's youngest sister, political newcomer Yingluck Shinawatra, is the Puea Thai's top candidate for prime minister, underscoring her brother's ongoing dominance in Thailand's fractured political scene.

Parties linked to Thaksin have won the most seats in the past four elections, but the results of the last two were reversed by the courts.

Abhisit said that if Puea Thai wins the most seats they would "get the first shot" at forming a government.

Oxford-educated Abhisit, who came to power at the end of 2008 in a parliamentary vote and is accused by critics of having no popular mandate, said a return by Thaksin as a free man "doesn't augur well for the rule of law".

"He should come back and serve his sentence as any Thai would have to."

Thaksin, a former telecoms tycoon, is hailed by many rural and working-class Thais for his populist policies but loathed by the Bangkok-based elite which sees him as corrupt, authoritarian and a threat to the monarchy.

Protests by his "Red Shirt" supporters led to Thailand's worst civil violence in decades last April and May, in which more than 90 people died in clashes between the opposition street movement and security forces.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

A vicious cycle that will likely keep spinning

Posted Image

If Thaksin Shinawatra was a chicken, the Thai military would be the egg.

That's the bad news. Worse news is, we have gone way past "who came first?" - the divisive question that brought us our misery and to which whatever answer you think you have, doesn't matter. We still see no light at the end of the tunnel. The question of the hour is: Who will come after July 3?

In other words, the paradox and all its implications will still plague our country's future. Forget the promised computer tablets, or income guarantee, or farmers' credit cards, or the economic index, or how the "drug war" should be waged. These are mere props on the stage, intended to give the upcoming poll some semblance of a democratic contest. The two big political possibilities looming over us after the election will both have little to do with them. Either Thaksin will be poised for a grand return, or the element that sent him into exile manages to keep him that way.

There are other possibilities. The Democrats might still win it against all odds, particularly if the vast number of "undecided" voters in Bangkok wake up on July 3 feeling pity for Abhisit Vejjajiva. Or a narrow Pheu Thai victory would either kill its chances of forming a government or, if not, delay its "blanket amnesty" plan. Or an "alternative prime minister" may be appointed for the sake of national reconciliation, in which case the amnesty scheme, Thaksin's virtual ticket home, would be put on the backburner.

But even those lesser scenarios stemmed from the ultimate Thaksin-military impasse, which has blocked Thailand's positive political progress and created sub-plots that are no less destructive and help feed the dilemma. Thais will go to the poll fed with rhetoric from both sides but knowing deep down in their hearts that whatever decision they make, it will still be far from over.

For all Yingluck Shinawatra's friendly character and unprovocative silence, and Army chief Prayuth Chan-o-cha's attempts to avoid discussing his future, this political race will be influenced by fears of Thaksin's homecoming on one side and the military's intervention in politics on the other. When Yingluck said over the weekend she was ready to pay a courtesy call on Prayuth and "seek his advice", she sounded sincere enough, but the remark inadvertently brought home the unpleasant image of the Thai military.

The anti-Thaksin camp, meanwhile, is charging that he, again, is trying to abuse an electoral mandate. The amnesty will not only allow Thaksin to come home, it is alleged, but it's also part of his "four-step" plot to return as prime minister. With Pheu Thai proposing the amnesty during its election campaign, the party could argue that bringing him back was a deal with the voters. That, however, would only serve to strengthen the impression that the election was being used to absolve one man.

Will it be deja vu all over again? Samak Sundaravej crashed and burnt soon after hinting at a charter amendment to help Thaksin. Will the yellow shirts be as strong, ideological and committed if Yingluck starts putting things in place for her brother's amnesty? They have dwindled in numbers and it's not very clear where their allegiance now lies. In addition, the movement has declared that Thaksin from now on would be the "Democrats' problem".

So, we can more or less take the yellow shirts out of the equation, out of their own free will, so to speak. This leaves Thaksin and the military. We have tried to figure out who is worse and have emerged a train wreck ourselves. Remedy may lie in the natural way people act when the original chicken or egg puzzle does their heads in. They stop thinking about it.

Easier said than done, of course. We need big help from both sides to move beyond this destructive paradox. If the military is determined to block Pheu Thai's rise to power at whatever cost, it will never end. Nor will it if Pheu Thai is hell-bent on giving Thaksin amnesty. How about the military letting democracy run its course no matter what happens on July 3 and Thaksin forgetting about his "vindication"?

Easier said than done, again. After all, sacrifice and selflessness are the most common political pledges that are always broken, even before people say them. But if the "chicken" and the "egg" of the Thai impasse both want to be there after July 3, they will destroy, not fix, and "reconciliation" will remain as elusive as ever. That much is certain, regardless of whom begat whom.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011


Working legally in Thailand
Seminar from Helping Hands radio program

Posted Image
Rhuchuchai Pothai, 2nd left, and Witthaya Singmanee, 2nd right,
answered questions on the live radio broadcast at the Imperial
Mae Ping in Chiang Mai on Wednesday, June 7, 2011.

The Helping Hands radio program from NBT radio station 93.25 was established in 2001 and started English language programming for the expat residents of Chiang Mai. In conjunction with this idea of offering local expats as much knowledge and information as possible, they organized a seminar with head of the Work Permit Department at the Labor Office Rhuchuchai Potha and Immigration Investigative Division officer Witthaya Singmanee at the Imperial Mae Ping on Wednesday, June 7, 2011.

The evening saw over 60 people attend dinner and a further 40 fill the room to hear their questions answered. Since it was a live broadcast on the radio, host Wouter Van der Stichel read the submitted questions aloud in English which were then translated into Thai by the Thai announcer.

Some time was spent offering up descriptions of the duties of their offices and the legal definition of work that is used by the Labor Department; "to engage in work by exerting energy or using knowledge whether or not in consideration of wages or other benefits". Additionally Khun Rhuchuchai pointed out that beyond the application, is the intent. If it’s clear there is intent to work with a goal to profit from that labor, either on the part of the foreigner or of the business, then that is also illegal.

A key question that was asked was in regard to performers who wish to perform a one off show for charity or otherwise. He said there is a temporary permit to work for not longer than 15 days, free from his office and considered on a case by case basis. But, he pointed out several times, you must apply for it. He reiterated that he supports those who wish to perform legally, and will be happy to approve such applications for these kinds of shows once applied for and considered on a case by case basis. Anything over the 15 days requires a legal work permit, which requires a sponsoring business or charitable organization.

Volunteer work, he pointed out, requires a work permit, however, many charities are looking for volunteers and are willing to sponsor people and he suggested that he could offer guidance to those interested in such a work permit. For those who wish to work at multiple organizations, he pointed out that that initial work permit is required but it is possible to add an employer or job to the work permit once its issued. This would also apply to musicians who wish to play at different venues.

He noted that the office offers different periods of work permits, from a year for 3,100 baht to 6 months for 1,550 baht and 1-3 months for 750 baht.

He added that there is no “freelance” work permit, that one must be sponsored by a company. However, when asked about specialists offering advice for overseas clients in overseas markets, he felt that so long as they did not offer that advice to Thais or foreigners in Thailand that would be acceptable.

A company started by a Thai person and employing and paying social security for 4 Thai employees can offer one work permit for a foreigner without needing the required 2 million baht in registered capital.

The Immigration officer, Khun Witthaya, addressed the issues of overcrowding at the Immigration office noting that they have requested budget for expansion but the money must come from the Ministry of Interior in order to expand the premises, or parking. He added, he knows there are problems and that queueing can be very long and recommended to people that until any funds are granted, they avoid visiting after a holiday. He pointed out that the ratio of officers to foreigners resident in Chiang Mai is quite high and that the officers work as fast as they can but, especially on busy days, they reach capacity and go no further. When asked if there were plans to allow a fast track service for longer term resident foreigners, Khun Witthaya said that he had asked the main office this question and the answer was a clear “no”, there was going to be no fast track option.

Retirement visas were introduced and he reiterated the qualifications; must be age 50 or over, and must have either 800,000 baht in a Thai bank or a pension of 65,000 baht a month that must be certified by the Consulate or a combination of both. He added that the money must be in the bank for a minimum of 3 months on the first application. Permanent residency was introduced and while he said applications are taken usually once a year, he is not sure when the next announcement will be. He said a non-immigrant visa for 3 years is necessary, and either working in Thailand, having invested in Thailand or married to a Thai national will offer eligibility to apply for permanent residency. Khun Rhuchuchai pointed out that if you obtain PR you must still get a work permit to work.

The issue of musicians being arrested for performing at jam sessions was discussed and it was said that if a complaint is made then they must investigate. Venues that offer regularly and publicly advertised shows are clearly obtaining a benefit from the performance and that this shows the intent to profit from it. Khun Rhuchuchai said, there is no problem with a spontaneous jam session, and a work permit is not needed for that. But at a regularly advertised show, the intent is clearly to make a profit from performers. He added they didn’t just swoop in and arrest people but investigated the venues and visited them regularly to ensure that this was a regular occurrence.

He reiterated to performers that for one off shows a free, 15 day permission can be applied for at the Work Permit office. He said, you must request it properly that you perform and he has no problem granting permission for that.

As one of the organizers pointed out later, while not all questions were answered as comprehensively as some may have hoped, the officers did seem to make an honest attempt to answer all questions to the best of their knowledge and ability.

Posted Image
DJ’s, Helping Hands organizers and executives and
government officials joined the two officers for a group
photo before the live broadcast.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Bangkok ranks 2nd in ASEAN as city with highest living cost

BANGKOK, 7 June 2011 (NNT) – The capital of Thailand is rated second as the city with the highest living costs in ASEAN, according the 2011 cost of living survey of the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) of the Economist Magazine.

It was found that Singapore had the highest living cost in the ASEAN region and was ranked tenth in the world while Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur, the capital city of Malaysia, were ranked second and third in ASEAN as well as 72nd and 90th in the world respectively.

EIU economists said prices of domestic products and exchange rates were the major factors driving the living cost in Asian countries.

Tokyo of Japan reportedly had the highest living cost in the world, followed by Osaka of the same country. Paris of France fell to the third place after it was at the top of the table in 2010 due to the Euro depreciation compared with the Yen currency.

Hong Kong moved up to the 11th from the 28th while Shanghai and Beijing of China were also rated 29th and 36th after they were ranked 45th and 58th last year respectively.

Nevertheless, there were five cities in Asia on the list of top 10 cities with lowest living costs, comprising Manila of the Philippines, Kathmandu of Nepal, New Delhi and Mumbai of India and Karachi of Pakistan.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Profile: Abhisit Vejjajiva

Abhisit Vejjajiva (12 December 2008)
Abhisit Vejjajiva hails from a wealthy family of Thai-Chinese origin
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is the English-born, Oxford-educated 44-year-old leader of Thailand's Democrat Party.

Young and photogenic, though not known as particularly dynamic, he has a reputation for "clean politics".
Distinctly upper-class, Mr Abhisit hails from a wealthy family of Thai-Chinese origin. Both his parents were medical professors.
He was born in the British city of Newcastle in 1964 and educated at England's top public school, Eton. He then went on to gain a degree in politics, philosophy and economics (PPE) at Oxford University.
Mr Abhisit's support is drawn mainly from southern Thailand and from Bangkok's educated middle-classes. He has had less success in attracting the support of working class and rural Thais.
In 1992, Mr Abhisit joined Thailand's oldest party, the Democrats and, at the age of 27, entered parliament as one of its youngest ever members. Having tried and failed to become party leader in 2001, he eventually got the post in 2005.
Championing a raft of populist policies, Mr Abhisit campaigned under the slogan "Putting People First".
The Democratic Party failed to win power at national elections, but in December 2008 the Constitutional Court found the ruling party, led by allies of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, guilty of electoral fraud and banned it.
Amid the turmoil of the airport blockade caused by anti-Thaksin protesters, a few Thaksin loyalists changed sides.
This enabled Mr Abhisit to form a new government and become the next prime minister without calling elections.
The Democrats are not openly allied to one group of protesters or the other.
But in the past the party has been closely associated with elements of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), whose protests helped depose Mr Thaksin and his allies.
Mr Abhisit was criticised for his choice of foreign minister, Kasit Piromya, who was an open supporter of the PAD movement and its airport blockade.
Anti-corruption platform
While not entirely ditching the liberal reforms of "Thaksinomics" - a term used to refer to the economic set of policies of the exiled former leader - Mr Abhisit has argued for a more statist approach.
Among other things, Mr Abhisit has advocated free healthcare, a higher minimum wage, and free education, including textbooks and milk for nursery-school children.
Thaksin Shinawatra and his wife, Pojaman (31 July 2008)
Mr Abhisit opposed the Thai military when it overthrew Thaksin Shinawatra
He has also been a consistent campaigner against corruption.
When Mr Thaksin called a snap election in February 2006, Mr Abhisit's campaign pitch was that he was "prepared to become a prime minister who adheres to the principle of good governance and ethics, not authoritarianism".
Later that year, he opposed the military when it overthrew Mr Thaksin in a coup.
"We cannot and do not support any kind of extra-constitutional change, but it is done. The country has to move forward and the best way forward is for the coup leaders to quickly return power to the people and carry out the reforms they promised," he said at the time.
The patrician also said he expected high standards of probity from his party and any government he led.
Going beyond the current transparency rules for Thai MPs, he said he would require all future Democrat Party representatives to declare their assets and any involvement in private companies. Currently, those measures apply only to cabinet members.
However, that has not shielded his government, or party, from corruption allegations, including claims of a cover-up of illegal donations by a petrochemical firm.
Before entering parliament, Mr Abhisit had a brief academic career. After Oxford, he taught at Thailand's Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy.
Later, he returned to Oxford to study for a Master's degree. He then taught economics at Thammasat University before studying law at Ramkhamhaeng University.
Mr Abhisit's family is a circle of accomplished individuals. One of his two sisters is a professor of child psychology, while the other is a leading Thai author.
Mr Abhisit's wife is a dentist-turned-mathematics lecturer at Chulalongkorn University. They have two children.
Among the chinks in the Abhisit armour are his failure, so far, to win the popular vote and the impression that his good looks tend to outshine his sometimes rather bland political pronouncements.
In March 2010, he was spirited away to a barracks when red-shirted opposition protesters marched on Bangkok for days of mass rallies, denouncing him as an illegitimate leader.
The prime minister may find that only the popular mandate of a national election win will ultimately silence his critics.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Pheu Thai complaint against multi-coloured-shirt leader

The Pheu Thai Party has decided to file a complaint against multi-coloured-shirt group leader Dr Tul Sitthisomwong after he vowed to launch a graft complaint with the Department of Special Investigation to probe Yingluck's role as a nominee in the asset-concealment case involving former premier Thaksin Shinawatra and his family.

Pheu Thai Party spokesman Prompong Nopparit alleged yesterday that Tul intended to undermine Yingluck's popularity, thereby violating Article 53 (5) relating to the election of MPs and senators. The offence carries a maximum 10 years imprisonment and a Bt200,000 fine.

The spokesman said that he would file the complaint with the Election Commission in the coming week.

Prompong said the move to wreck Yingluck's reputation was initiated because poll surveys showed she and the Pheu Thai Party would emerge the winner in the July 3 election. He said his party believed there were others behind Tul's action. He urged them to stop their "dirty tactics" of spearheading a graft drive in the middle of an election campaign just to destroy political rivals.

"People who benefit from the move to discredit Yingluck are none other than those who side with Dr Tul. His action is not gentlemanly because he is harassing a woman who is volunteering to solve the problems of the country and the people,'' he said.

Asked if Tul's plan to file a graft complaint against her on June 21 would adversely affect the party since it is close to election day, Yingluck downplayed the move, saying she must see the complaint in detail first. She said she just has to clarify the matter and let it move in accordance with the law.

Tul who spearheaded the multi-coloured-shirt campaign last year will launch an anti-Yingluck campaign by setting up a table to solicit signatures at Thammasat University on June 18.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Thai hospitals on E coli alert

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BANGKOK, June 4 -- Thai hospitals nationwide have been instructed to be on alert for a deadly new toxic strain of E coli that has killed about 20 people worldwide. It is believed to have originated from poor hygiene at a farm, in transit, or in a shop or food outlet, senior Thai public health ministry officials said.

Permanent Secretary for Public Health Dr. Paijit Warachit said the ministry’s Disease Control Department found that typically about one million patients suffering from diarrhoea are found in tropical countries annually. Since the beginning of this year, about 530,000 patients suffering from diarrhoea were found in Thailand, of which 21 died, but no cases of the rare strain of the bacteria which is now attacking European countries were found in this country so far.

Dr Paijit said his ministry is now monitoring E coli in two ways: through food and drug checkpoints which is the responsibility of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and through hospitals throughout the country which have been told to immediately send samples for laboratory tests on patients suspected of suffering from acute diarrhoea.

Dr Rungrueng Kitphati, director of the Bureau of Emerging Infectious Diseases, said hospitals nationwide have been instructed to accelerate diagnosing patients suffering from severe diarrhoea and send samples for laboratory tests as Thailand has never experienced this disease before, and people should not panic because the number of patients found in Europe now is still relatively small.

“There are reports that the source of E.coli is attributed to changes in environment which has contaminated food and agricultural products. People who have eaten these contaminated food will suffer from acute diarrhea and frequent vomiting, causing kidney to function abnormally and some patients would die between three or four days after being infected,” Dr. Rungruang said.

Dr Pipat Yingseri, secretary-general of FDA, said his office had conducted random tests on vegetables and fruits from Spain and Germany but did not find any of them tainted with the new bacteria.

Reuters, a global news agency quoted European health institutes as saying yesterday that the spread of E coli can be contained by washing vegetables and hands before eating, or preparing food to avoid bacteria being passed on from the faeces of an infected person.

The failure to find the source of the outbreak, complicated by the fact that salads include a variety of ingredients from different producers often from different countries, has becoming increasingly worrying for health authorities and consumers, Reuters said.

The centre of the outbreak of the deadly bacteria was reported in early May in Hamburg, Germany, and the number of those detected with the disease in that country rose to 1,733 with the death toll at 18 as of yesterday, according to Reuters. (MCOT online news)

Friday, 3 June 2011

Phuket steps up fight against illegal timeshare touts

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The government sign in Patong, on Phuket's west coast, warning tourists
about dodgy timeshare schemes.

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Patong Mayor Pian Keesin called for officials to be investigated.

PHUKET: -- A multi-agency task force will be set up to investigate timeshare companies operating in Phuket, especially Patong.

Tasked with investigating the companies, their workers and any officials involved in allowing the timeshare companies to operate, the “committee” is expected to launch an investigation by October, just before the annual tourism high season begins, Vice Governor Somkiet Sangkaosutthirak announced.

The committee will comprise officials from agencies including the Tourist Police, Royal Thai Police, Provincial Police, Public Prosecutor’s Office, Provincial Office and Patong Municipality.

“It’s a big problem. Tourists book holidays with timeshare companies, but when they arrive in Patong, the companies don’t have any hotel rooms for them to stay in. That is destroying our tourism reputation,” said V/Gov Somkiet.

Patong Deputy Mayor Chairat Sukkaban identified three types of timeshare companies operating on the island.

“There are genuine timeshare companies that are registered and have their own offices, such as the operation run at the JW Marriott [Resort & Spa in Mai Khao]

“But there are also people who rent hotels and properties for only a couple of years, but then offer clients use of the properties over 10 to 30 years. That’s cheating,” Mr Chairat said.

“Third are companies that don’t have anything at all, but they tell their clients that they have got everything for them,” he added.

“Many of these operators set up companies and ‘sell’ anything they can, making anywhere from 100 to 500 million baht. They then close their companies and run away.

“Later they open a new timeshare company, because it is easy to open such companies in Thailand, and cheat people all over again. It is damaging our tourism,” he added.

Deputy Mayor Chairat called on other government departments to help clamp down on illegal operators.

“Before issuing any work permits for such companies, the Department of Employment needs to look in detail at such operators, such as checking whether they have their own properties and offices,” he said.

Supporting Patong Mayor Pian Keesin’s call for the committee to also investigate officials, V/Gov Somkiet warned that any officials found to be involved in any illegal timeshare operations will be reported to their office chief.

Also, timeshare cheats were not only affecting foreign tourists, V/Gov Somkiet added.

“About 30 Thai people filed complaints at the Damrongtham Center. They said a well-known company in Thalang had cheated them of about 80,000 to 100,000 baht each.

“When they got to the hotels where they had paid to stay, there were no rooms for them,” he said.

The meeting on Tuesday was called after Patong business owners filed complaints to the Damrongtham Center.

The complaints alleged that more than 100 foreign workers were on the streets of Patong selling timeshare without work permits.

The complaints, filed with details and photographs, explained that timeshare workers continually rode motorbikes around Patong looking for potential “customers” and they stopped mid-traffic to pitch their sales.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Pheu Thai MP Candidate Lie down in Coffin for Good Luck

Pheu Thai constituency MP candidates lied down in coffins ahead of the election, believing that it will bring them good luck and will protect them from any violence during the election campaign.

Pheu Thai Nonthaburi MP candidates, Nitad Srinon, Udomdetch Ratanasatien, Walaiporn Archariyaprasit, Montri Tungcharoentavorn, and Chalong Riewrang recently made merit at Takien Temple in Bangkruay Subdistrict in Nonthaburi Province.

All five MP candidates lied down in coffins, believing this will bring them luck in the general election scheduled for July 3.

They also asked for amulets to protect them from any violence that may break out during the election campaign.

Chalong said in an interview that making merit can get rid of ill fortune and provides candidates with moral support.

Many Thais believe that lying down in coffins signify being reborn, which will bring them a turnaround from bad to good fortune.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Thaksin Shinawatra: Exiled in Dubai – but still he dreams of Thailand

Ousted in a bloodless coup in 2006, the former PM is desperate to regain power – for his sister.

Would you you like some durian?" A smile flashes across the face of Thaksin Shinawatra as he thinks of the notorious Asian fruit, famed for both its sweet taste and wrenchingly rotten smell. The former Thai prime minister has already served steamed pork balls, coconut noodles with green onion and a prawn and minced-pork curry, but he is adamant the meal will not be complete without this addition. He calls for one – thankfully it is not too ripe – and he appears content. "I always say the best Thai restaurant in Dubai is my home," he chuckles.

The business tycoon and former owner of Manchester City football club is perhaps the world's most famous political exile. Since being ousted from office in a bloodless coup in 2006, he has lived a peripatetic lifestyle, travelling the globe in his Bombardier Global Express jet in search of safe havens to continue his business operations and rally his supporters in Thailand. He has spent periods in Hong Kong, Singapore, China, Brunei, the UK (where he complained he could not find a decent barber), Nicaragua, Montenegro and Cambodia.

Two-and-half years ago he decided to base himself in Dubai, where he lives in a comfortable villa, set on a private compound looking out to a lake and a golf course. Two luxury cars sit in his driveway, a Lexus LS 600h L and a gleaming black Jaguar, and he says he has flown 750 hours in the last 10 months. He admits he remains a billionaire.

Now, the 61-year-old is to once again be thrust centre stage in Thailand's bitter political turmoil as the party he controls from overseas, Pheu Thai (PT), launches an election campaign before a vote on 3 July. Thaksin has appointed an inexperienced but photogenic younger sister, Yingluck, as the party's prime ministerial candidate. A number of polls give PT an edge as it battles to beat the incumbent, Abhisit Vejjajiva, and his Democrat Party, but most observers say the outcome remains uncertain. The behaviour of the army, which has seized power on 18 occasions since the 1930s, will be crucial

"I think it looks very good. The popularity of the party and Yingluck is getting more and more," says Thaksin, as he voices concern that his opponents may try and undermine any PT victory by other means. "Even though we are the opposition, we still have the highest number of MPs in parliament. That's why they're scared, [why] they might use the same tricks. But if [our opponents] were to do it again, it would mean that they don't care [about] the world. They don't care [about] democracy in Thailand."

Thaksin remains a deeply divisive figure. He has widespread support among the rural and urban poor, especially in Thailand's north and north-east, who benefited from a series of populist measures he introduced between 2001-2006. Last year, his Red Shirts supporters filled the streets of Bangkok for many weeks as they demanded parliament be dissolved. But among the urban middle-classes and the political and business elite, he is often despised. Having been convicted in absentia of corruption in 2009 over a series of measures he took while in office which the country's highest court said benefited his extended family, £900m of his assets were seized and his passport was revoked, forcing him to obtain alternatives from Nicaragua and Montenegro. Many consider him nothing less than a fugitive from justice.

During his time as premier, the telecommunications tycoon also faced criticism from human rights campaigners, particularly for military operations in the "war on drugs", in which hundreds of civilian and dissidents were said to have been summarily executed, and for shutting down of critical journalists. In one incident at Tak Bai in October 2004, 78 men were suffocated and crushed to death after being loaded into the back of army trucks.

In the summer of 2007, when Thaksin bought Manchester City, a team whose fortunes he says he still follows, Human Rights Watch described him as a "human rights abuser of the worst kind".

Thaksin insists he is seeking reconciliation. Even though his supporters earlier this year filed an application at the International Criminal Court in The Hague seeking to have Mr Abhisit charged with crimes against humanity, he says the PT is ready to reach out to its opponents. "PT offers reconciliation. Even though we are the victims of this bullying, we offer this... if we win, we offer reconciliation. We don't want revenge," he says, sitting in a drawing room containing photographs of himself and various world leaders. "We don't want the country to be back down any more. We want the people to be back to normal life, we want the economy to progress. We want the country to move forward."

At the same time, particularly after the example of the protesters involved in the Arab spring, he doubts his supporters would sit back quietly if a fairly elected PT government was not allowed to take office. (After he was ousted, two subsequent allies who became PM were forced from office by the courts, over what supporters say were politically motivated allegations.) He believes the wider world would also not tolerate more violence. He has called for international observers to participate in the polls.

"There has to be a reason. They cannot just say we don't want you to become the government," he tells The Independent and another international newspaper. "If [our opponents] were to do something unethical, unlawful, it's not good for them, not good for the country, not good for the people... I really urge them to let things go according to what we call... democracy."