HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Big guns to fall silent over Songkran

Emirates will carry Kuwait Airways Passengers

Government advises against travel to China, Hong Kong and Vietnam

Thailand to hold steady on plans to boost tourism despite war

Bang Sai Royal Folk Arts and Crafts Center now welcomes tourists

Big guns to fall silent over Songkran

National Police chief says water guns pose threat

As global protestors voiced their anger over war in Iraq, in Thailand a more unusual ‘anti-war lobby’ recently scored a major victory, with the news that the Office of Industrial Product Standards (OPIS) has banned the use of that most lethal of weapons - the water gun.

The OIPS ruling means that revelers celebrating Songkran - the water festival that marks the Thai New Year - will no longer fall victim to the gun’s soaking discharge.

The OIPS decision, which is bound to produce cries of ‘spoil-sport’ from hardened Songkran warriors, came after concern expressed by National Police Chief Pol Gen Sant Suratanon over the dangers posed by high-pressure water guns, particularly those that failed to meet production standards.

Accusing the water guns of causing “physical injury and psychological trauma to their victims,” the National Police Bureau and the OIPS held a joint meeting to determine just what types of water pistol could be classified as toys, and which bordered on dangerous weaponry.

A police bureau spokesman revealed that a meeting of OIPS technicians on March 20 had decided unanimously that any water gun acting as a cylinder, whether made from PVC piping or from other plastic, was not a toy, and that permission would not be given for their production, import or distribution.

He also warned that any manufacturer that put the ‘mor or gor 685’ symbol on such products, which suggested that in the Thai language they are toys, was acting against the law and could be faced with a three-month prison sentence.

Users of such guns who caused injury to other people could be put behind bars for up to two years, and if the guns caused blindness or deafness the prison sentence could last for anything up to ten years.

An industrial standards technician said that officials would inspect shops to check that they were not selling the offending weapons.

Last Songkran 575 people were arrested on charges of causing physical or emotional injury through the inappropriate use of water guns. (TNA)

Emirates will carry Kuwait Airways Passengers

Emirates has entered into an agreement with Kuwait Airways that allows all Kuwait Airways passengers to travel on Emirates flights without the need for their tickets to be endorsed.

This follows Kuwait Airways’ suspension of its world-wide operations with the exception of services to Dubai and Cairo. Now, for example, a Kuwait Airways ticket-holder traveling from Singapore-Kuwait-Beirut can now travel without endorsement on Emirates Singapore-Dubai-Beirut.

The Endorsement Waiver Agreement between the two airlines came into operation Sunday March 23.

Kuwait Airways will rebook its passengers on Emirates flights where possible. Emirates will accommodate Kuwait Airways ticket-holders that have not been rebooked on a standby basis. The agreement will remain in effect until further notice.

In normal circumstances, Kuwait Airways must endorse its own tickets before they can be used for travel on Emirates.

Ghaith Al Ghaith, Emirates Commercial Operations director, said: “In this extraordinary situation, Emirates is offering every assistance to Kuwait Airways and its passengers to whom we will extend every consideration.”

Emirates is continuing its flights between Dubai and Kuwait. Timings are changed for the afternoon service but not for the morning ones.

The boarding of passengers, traveling to Kuwait as their end destination, on flights to Dubai from stations across the network has now been resumed.

For more detailed information contact Fay Thompson, Media Relations Manager (Cargo & Data), Emirates Corporate Communications. Tel: 00 97 14-2032142; Email: [email protected]

Government advises against travel to China, Hong Kong and Vietnam

The government made moves to curb the spread of a deadly new influenza virus, cautioning Thai nationals against travel to China, Hong Kong and Vietnam, while insisting that no cases of the virus had yet cropped up in Thailand.

Public Health Minister Sudarat Keyuraphan said the mystery virus is still claiming victims and urged the Thai public to avoid travel to these countries if possible. She said that the Ministry of Public Health was coordinating with airlines serving the three countries to closely inspect their passengers for symptoms, and will refuse to allow them on aircraft traveling to Thailand.

Dr Veerasak Jongsuwiwatwong from Prince of Songkhla University’s Faculty of Medicine, called to allay public fears by saying that the virus would not spread easily if kept under proper control. He also pointed out that the death rate from the virus appeared to be very low. (TNA)

Thailand to hold steady on plans to boost tourism despite war

The tourism minister played down speculation that the war in Iraq combined with fears over Asia’s new killer pneumonia and terrorist attacks would have a devastating effect on the Thai tourism industry, predicting growth of no less than six percent for the coming year.

Sonthaya Khunpluem Minister for Tourism and Sports said that despite reports from the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) that around 50,000 tourists had cancelled their bookings for April to June since the outbreak of war in Iraq, and that hotels were seeing cancellation rates of between five and 10 percent, and the situation was not yet critical.

Sonthaya remained upbeat that the TAT’s revised marketing strategies would pull in tourists from Asian markets to compensate for cancellations from European visitors. “We are searching for ways to pull people out of their homes at a time when they might be a bit hesitant to venture out,” he said. “We must regard what we are doing as upholding Thailand’s situation, rather than simply selling tours.”

Calling on all parties to work together to ensure tourism growth, he said that despite the war in Iraq, last year’s terrorist bombing in Bali, and Asia’s new killer pneumonia, Thailand’s tourism industry was sufficiently strong to ensure growth of no less than six percent this year, brining in revenue of around 370 billion baht.

Sonthaya said that in addition to targeting Asian markets, the TAT would also focus on domestic tourism, as revenue from domestic tourism was worth 300 billion baht per year.

To attract more Asian tourists, the TAT will organize tourism road shows in Asian markets, with the first to be held in China on April 21, led by Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Chatusripitak. The TAT will also organize special tours for visitors from countries including China, Hong Kong, Korea, Japan, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand.

The TAT has set up a Crisis Management Center, bringing together representatives of Thailand’s hotel and tourism businesses, to monitor the affects of war on the tourism industry. (TNA)

Bang Sai Royal Folk Arts and Crafts Center now welcomes tourists

Bangsai Arts and Crafts Village at the Bangsai Arts and Crafts Center, Ayuthaya was recently introduced as a new tourist attraction. The center is a village representing four regions of Thailand with examples of traditional Thai houses, living styles in the olden days, folk arts and crafts, landscaping and gardening of the four regions of Thailand. This project has Royal support.

Built and donated to the center by the Tourist Authority of Thailand (TAT) the center will be a permanent showcase of Thai culture.

The Royal Folk Arts and Crafts Center is under the Promotion of Supplementary Occupations and Related Techniques (SUPPORT), an organization under the Royal Patronage of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit.

An annual fair at the end of January highlights the center’s craft products. A variety of performances enliven the fair.

To get there, take a bus from Bangkok’s Northern Bus Terminal (telephone 02 272-0299) or take a boat up the Chao Phraya River.

The center is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. daily except Monday. The admission fee is 20 baht for children (both Thai and foreigners), 50 baht for Thai adults and 100 baht for foreigners.

For more information, call 035 366-092 or 032 225-8165.