BUSINESS & TRAVEL
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Central bank urged not to raise policy interest rate too sharply

“The environmental issues of Chiang Mai”

Sop Moei Arts - a fascinating history

Charity Gala in memory of the Thai “Father of Law”

Payap’s “Students in Free Enterprise” team’s success in national contest

Thai exporters urged to upgrade seafood products to EU standard

Thailand’s inflation likely to hit double digits in August

Central bank urged not to raise policy interest rate too sharply

The Bank of Thailand (BoT) Monetary Policy Committee should be wary of raising the policy interest rate by more than 0.5 per cent in the second half of this year, according to a leading economic forecaster.
Thanawat Palavichai, director of the University of Thai Chamber of Commerce (UTCC) Economic and Business Forecasting Center, said a survey was conducted on business conditions for the first half and projecting the outlook for the second half of this year by seeking the opinions of 400 entrepreneurs from June 25-30.
It found that total sales and profits had dropped by 47 per cent and 69 per cent, respectively, while costs had increased by 14 per cent. The survey also forecast that the total sales and profits would plunge by 45 per cent and 58 per cent respectively in the second half of the year, while costs would rise by 7 per cent for the whole year.
Key factors relating to business performance included the rising fuel prices, political instability, currency exchange rates, higher prices and production costs for products, the public’s purchasing power, interest rates, and confidence among investors and consumers.
The survey showed that slightly over one-third - 35 per cent - of Thailand’s entrepreneurs believed that the business performance would deteriorate in the second half of the year while 33 per cent believed it would pick up.
Most expected the farm, food, petroleum and vehicle sectors to improve in the second half of the year.
Thanawat said what entrepreneurs want the government to address urgently are the problems of soaring oil prices that adversely affect transport overheads, political challenges, unstable currency exchange rates, higher interest rates and general unrest in the country.
The business community wants to see the baht stay at 33 to the US dollar and the lending rate at 7.5 per cent per annum.
Dr. Thanawat said he personally believes that if the central bank’s monetary committee sees the need to raise the policy interest rate, they should not increase it by more than 50 base points.
He also forecast that the country’s economy would grow 4.5 per cent in the second half of the year and overall was likely to expand by about 5 per cent for the whole year. (TNA)


“The environmental issues of Chiang Mai”

Residents gather at monthly meeting

Once a month, a group of foreign and Thai residents of Chiang Mai gather at the Art Museum to discuss their environmental and other concerns with the Mayor of Chiang Mai and members of her administrative staff.
At this month’s meeting, held on July 1 and attended by 65 people, (55 Thais and 10 expats), discussions focused on the environment. Present at the meeting were Dr. Somchote Ong-Sakul , (CMU), representatives from the Chiang Mai Cycling Club, Dr. Jermpol, (CMU), Dr.Wasan, (CMU) ,members of Chiang Mai Friends Group and Chiang Mai Expats Club and Pakee,(Kon Rak Chiang Mai).
Topics for the meeting were cycling lanes in the city, stressing cooperation from local police in forbidding cars to park in cycling lanes; improving the city’s pavements; controlling the use of billboards and tidying electricity cables; increasing “green areas” in the city by planting more trees, flowers, etc; improving the public transport system by providing more buses and routes, and making available comprehensive maps of the city.
The meeting was told that the Mayor and her team will be speaking with local police commanders about finding a solution to Chiang Mai’s worsening traffic problems. On general topics, an information centre will be set up to enable citizens to inform the Mayor and municipality officials about any problems or complaints, and to suggest solutions. It is important that all work together to solve environmental problems. The email address for the centre is forchiangmai @gmail.com; residents are invited to use this new service, as now is the time to do, not talk!
The next meeting will be held on August 5; all meetings are held in the Thai language. However, for those who do not speak Thai and who wish to attend, please apply to join Chiang Mai Friends. Your complaints and suggestions can be sent to the Mayor through the group, and a Thai speaker will translate for you during the meeting.


Sop Moei Arts - a fascinating history

30 years of support and friendship to Pwo Karen

Sop Moei Arts will be bringing a selection of their lovely and original Pwo Karen textile goods and baskets from their shop on Chareonrajd Road to show at the special Shopping Mall being set up for the Hillside 4 Charity Rooftop Party’s Fashion Show on Aug 27. The history of this highly successful project is fascinating, and began 30 years ago as an attempt to improve the health of Pwo Karen mothers and children living in a remote village area amidst the spectacular mountain scenery of Mae Hong Son, some 300 kilometres from Chiang Mai, and, at that time, almost inaccessible.
Kent Gregory and his wife Britt-Marie had arrived in Mae To La, one of 18 tribal villages in the immediate area, intending to start a clinic for young children - it soon became obvious that their first priority would be to learn the Pwo Karen language, as the villagers could not speak Thai! Happily, that and other obstacles were soon overcome by the couple’s determination, with the result that the original clinic became a “mobile” health service encompassing 15 villages - the “mobility” being provided by elephants!
After ten years in the village, Kent, having already determined that the next step for the villagers would be to become self-sufficient, persuaded five village women to join in a textile-weaving project. A six-year grant was received from SIDA, new looms were set up, and Sop Moie Arts became a reality. The Pwo Karen weavers’ skills were second to none, both in textiles and in basket weaving; however, the simpler traditional designs were utilised, and the local market for such products proved limited. Development came gradually, and even involved the help of foreign textile designers who advised on colour selection and an expansion of style for use in modern homes and lives. In 1990, as the textile project had become successful, Kent introduced traditional woven baskets into the programme. With both projects, scrupulous attention has always been paid to quality, detail, design and innovation - the result is that the Pwo Karen villagers are now self-sufficient; they eat better food, their health is improved, their children are better clothed and they have better houses.
From the five Pwo Karen women who originally joined the project 18 years ago, there are now nearly 70 weavers, both men and women, in eight villages. Another thirty men weave baskets. Villagers’ pride in their skills and their traditional arts promotes a strong motivation to produce goods of the highest quality. Sop Moie Arts is a non-profit organisation; the income it earns is ploughed back into the communities, and a proportion is allotted to an educational fund for Pwo Karen students who wish to continue their education at a higher level than that provided by village schools. A quote from the project’s book, “The world of Sop Moie Arts” says it all, “The road to the future lies ahead, but echoes of the past still linger. As the Pwo Karen face a multitude of changes, they do so with pride in their unique identity, remaining faithful to important cultural traditions and holding fast to their most cherished values”.


Charity Gala in memory of the Thai “Father of Law”

Thai legal circles remember HRH Prince Rapee Patannasak

Organizers, designers and models at last week’s press conference,
held to publicise the upcoming Charity Gala in memory of Prince Rapee.

CMM Reporters
August 7 is celebrated in Thai legal circles as a memorial day in recognition of the work of HRH Prince Rapee Patannasak (1874-1920), known as the “Father of Law” in Thailand for his creation of the modern-day Thai legal system. This year in Chiang Mai, members of the judiciary, prosecutors, police, lawyers and law students will join together to organize an evening charity gala to pay tribute to HRH Prince Rapee and to raise funds for the foundation which bears his name.
Mayuree Jamigranont, chief of judges in Region 5 and President of the Rapee Foundation, will chair the event, which is being organised by Komgrit Wannapaiboon; chief of judges in the Juvenile and Family Court. The gala evening will be held in the Grand Hall of the Empress Convention Center and will begin at 6:00 pm on the 3rd floor lobby - soft drinks, light snacks and a short live performance will be provided.
During dinner, guests will be entertained by the band of the 33rd Regiment; after dinner the entertainment will continue with competition winners B-Boy Band and a one-hour concert of popular music given by the well-known Palapol Polgongseng. At 9 pm, guests will be treated to a fashion show, with sponsors Tananan Wilson, Yodaya, Jolie Femme, Classic Model and Fai Ngam providing the beautiful outfits, shown by honorary models including George Sioris, Dararat Shinawatra, Michael & Shannon J. Morrow, and Rachan Verapan, the honorary consul for Bangladesh, with his son. Young celebrities in Chiang Mai will also be modelling, as will their parents, and Maross’s fashion designer will be providing outfits for 2008’s 10 loveliest young university students. At 10 pm, there will be dancing, and the evening will end with the drawing of door prizes at 11 pm. A delightful evening is promised - a fitting memorial for HRH Prince Rapee.


Payap’s “Students in Free Enterprise” team’s success in national contest

2nd Runners-Up aid Karen coffee-growers to improve businesses

Mark Hefner
Payap University’s “Students in Free Enterprise” team, recruited from students at the International College, travelled to Bangkok recently to represent the university in the 2008 Annual National SIFE contest, competing against teams from 22 other Thai universities. First place went to Silpakorn University, whose team will compete in the SIFE World Cup contest to be held in Singapore this October. The 1st runners-up were the Chiang Mai University team, followed by the team from Payap University who were second runners-up - a great result for Chiang Mai, as the two teams placed higher than teams from such highly regarded places of education as Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok.
SIFE is an international organisation that mobilises university students from around the world to make a difference in their communities whilst developing their own skills in order to become socially responsible business leaders. 47 countries’ student teams participate in their own national contests, the USA’s being the largest with over 600 teams competing.
Chua Yini Tamgelia (Tam) from Singapore, who led the Payap team, mentioned that this was not the first time Payap had competed, as two previous projects had been entered, the first of which, a home stay project for a village in Doi Saket district, had taken them into that year’s semi-finals, and another project at Ban Pa Pai village, where the team taught simple business concepts to children aged 7 to 12 years.
The project which secured their success in the 2008 contest was striking in its common-sense approach. Called “Tobeebay Coffee” it was designed to help coffee growers in the Karen Hill Tribe communities around Northern Thailand to be more self sufficient and to improve the returns from their coffee businesses. One village, Mae Klang Luang in Chiang Mai’s Chomthong district, was chosen as a model to conduct their research; once their findings prove successful, they can apply what they learned in Mae Klang Luang in other Karen Hill Tribe coffee-growing communities.
Typically, villagers grow the coffee and sell to Chiang Mai buyers at a very low price. The buyer then sells the coffee in Chiang Mai for a higher price than he gave. Basic business economics - but - the growers were aware that, to get better prices for their crop and increase their self-reliance, they would have to change their business practices! Which, of course, is where the Payap SIFE team came in, suggesting and helping design new and more attractive packaging, encouraging better marketing skills and a higher level of quality control in the roasting process and giving essential knowledge and success skills in the fields of entrepreneurship, accounting, production and business ethics. According to the team, the villagers were extremely cooperative and happy to be in the project. Although the contest is now over, Payap’s SIFE team is still working with Mae Klang Luang in order to ensure the success of the newly re-structured venture.
The 2008 Payap University SIFE Team was composed of the following members:
Chua Yini Tamgelia, Naw Hser Mu Paw, Ubollux Ariyakul, Suttida Sudadokfah, Puttapaun Tanruangpaun, Kedwajee Rungson, Kannika Maichomphu, David Sala, Kafira Nitida Lake, Naw Purity, Phyo Teiza Aung, Josiane Thaise Mohler, Richard Mark Hefner and Wu Qi. Congratulations to them all!
Special thanks go to Payap’s SIFE Advisors: Dr. Tatikul Chaiwun (Dean of Business Administration Faculty), Dr. Somboon Panyakom (Head of IMBA Program), Sunisa Kotchasee (Head of IBM Department), Kankajit Koomsorn (Instructor IBM Department), and Narutup Euatrongchit (Instructor of IBM Department).


Thai exporters urged to upgrade seafood products to EU standard

Thailand’s Foreign Trade Department has warned exporters to improve their monitoring of standards in producing and processing seafood and fishery products in order to meet the quality standards set by the European Union.
Director-General Apiradi Tantraporn, reporting from Brussels, said that the EU might consider banning imports of frozen seafood from some countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations due to concerns over hygiene issues. Apiradi stated that many seafood and fishery products, including frozen shrimp and canned or frozen squid, had been examined since January 1 by EU officials, who had found that some products were not meeting the set standard. The products concerned have been placed on the European agency’s warning list. She warned that Thai exporters should take care to produce seafood and fishery products that meet the required standards. Any suspect products may risk an import ban or quarantine.


Thailand’s inflation likely to hit double digits in August

Thailand’s inflation rate is likely to rise above 9 per cent this month and penetrate the double-digit ‘ceiling’ in August due to the continued rise in consumer product prices fuelled by relentlessly rising fuel prices, according to the Kasikorn Research Centre. The leading think tank reported that the general inflation rate in June surged to 8.9 per cent, somewhat higher than the 8.5 per cent forecast earlier by many analysts. It is the highest level in almost a decade.
The country’s core inflation rate soared to 3.6 per cent, Thailand’s highest in almost 10 years. It is also the first time the rate has stayed above the inflation target range of 0-3.5 per cent set by the Bank of Thailand. KRC predicts that core inflation will exceed 4 per cent in August and stay higher at 4.5-5 per cent at the end of the year. The issue will definitely be discussed by the Monetary Policy Committee on July 16 and at its subsequent meetings. KRC believes that the prices of raw materials, particularly fuel, will continue increasing. The global crude price is projected to move to US$150-170 per barrel during the remainder of the United States summer, when oil demand is higher due to heavy air-conditioning and holiday travel.
At the same time, domestic fuel prices are expected to increase as the Thai government is due to reduce its subsidy, and the prices of commodities such as steel and natural rubber are expected to rise further. Given these factors, the producer price index in July might surge above 20 per cent, the highest in almost 30 years.
KRC said the substantial overhead costs of entrepreneurs might push up the consumer price index to 9 per cent in July and reach the double-digit level in August. If that occurs, the index is likely to stay high in the range of 9 per cent in the remaining months of the year, resulting in the average inflation rate staying at 7.4-8 per cent for 2008. (TNA)