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

Economic and political situation forces local SME’s to cut investment

Chiang Mai tops Bangkok in Tripadvisor’s “Top Asian Destinations” poll

Chiang Saen second port project on go-slow...

CM based Burmese news agency’s website suffers Denial of Service attack

Economic and political situation forces local SME’s to cut investment

Elena Edwards
According to the president of a leading local association of small and medium-sized enterprises, Akhom Suphangphao, the majority of SME’s in Chiang Mai and Lamphun are reconsidering expansion strategies due to the economic downturn and political uncertainties. Although the recent decision to lift the state of emergency in Bangkok has been welcomed by businesses in the tourism sector, falling domestic consumption and escalating costs have resulted in an erosion of confidence and a delaying of investment plans. SME’s in all business sectors, including tourism and the manufacture of handicrafts are said to be affected. It remains to be seen whether the upcoming high season brings relief, as the worldwide banking crisis and the increase in aviation fuel costs is predicted to reduce the number of visitors.


Chiang Mai tops Bangkok in Tripadvisor’s “Top Asian Destinations” poll

Elena Edwards
The UK travel website Tripadvisor’s “Travellers’ Choice-Best Destinations 2008” awards have listed Chiang Mai in 9th position out of its 25 “Top Asian Destinations,” with Bangkok coming in as number 10. Also listed were 5 other Thai destinations, Phi Phi, Don, Phangan, Krabi and the Tao Islands. Tripadvisor is considered to be the world’s number one website for hotels, airlines and information on destinations worldwide, with over 25 million hits monthly. Chiang Mai’s “boutique” Field Village Resort, recently reviewed in this newspaper, also won an award in the “Best Hidden Gems” section on hotels and places to stay, coming in at no. 2.
Another tourist website, SmartTravel, in its poll conducted amongst prime business and leisure travellers whose key area is Asia, recently rated Chiang Mai as no. 8 in their Top Destinations 2007 listings.


Chiang Saen second port project on go-slow...

...as new Chinese city rises in Lao

Elena Edwards
Delays in inaugurating a promised government port project in Chiang Saen are worrying local government officials and businesses, as development on the Lao side of the Mekong River and other areas roars ahead as a result of Chinese investment.
The existing port, constructed of floats, has long been considered too small to accommodate the expected increase in cross border trade caused by the development of the adjoining countries and the growth of Chinese exports aimed for south-east Asian countries. Port records state that in 2007, container ships made 2,500 visits to the port’s inadequate loading and unloading facilities, carrying mainly fruit, vegetables, palm oil and vehicles. Originally, the government sponsored second port was slated to be open by 2006.
Developers of ancillary businesses eager for the area to become a logistics hub are finding it difficult to acquire land, mainly due to its restrictive sor por kor 4 status which allows only agricultural use. At the same time, across the Mekong, Chinese investors and the Chinese government are leasing vast tracts of land for development, including 90,000 rai of land in Lao’s Bokeo province, which will house a complete new community of up to 100,000 Chinese settlers, as well as parks, shopping centres, hotels, casinos and golf courses. Construction of the new city and the more than 30 housing, and entertainment projects financed by Chinese businessmen on the Lao bank of the Mekong is reported to be on schedule to be completed next year.
There is concern amongst business owners and local Chiang Saen officials that not enough is being done to promote both business and tourism in the area, which is rich in historical sites. Should the port project be delayed further, or cancelled, entrepreneurs fear that a golden opportunity to take advantage of increased trade due to the rapid developments taking place across the Mekong will be permanently lost.


CM based Burmese news agency’s website suffers Denial of Service attack

Elena Edwards
The Chiang Mai-based Irrawaddy magazine’s website, together with the websites of two other Burmese news agencies in exile, the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), and the New Era Journal, came under a sustained distributed denial of service attack last week, leading all three websites becoming inaccessible It is unclear when their service will be able to be resumed.
The attacks are a deliberate attempt to disable the sites, preventing news form Burma being released into the public domain. The Irrawaddy’s site became inaccessible from last Tuesday night, with confirmation of the DDS attack on Thursday. Surfers found they were unable to reach all three sites by last Wednesday.
The Oslo-based DMB had suffered a previous attack in July, and the website of Mizzima, another Burmese news agency based in New Delhi, also came under attack in July. A spokesman from DVB said that, although the persons behind the attack are as yet unknown, it is certain that the attacks are targeted to Burmese news agencies in exile.
As of Friday 19, the Irrawaddy’s website is still down, with no idea when it will be re-established. Attempts were made to redirect readers to a mirror site, which also almost immediately came under attack. The magazine’s technicians worked overnight to correct the problem, but finally had to take both sites offline. The website’s host has informed the company that the attack was severe and sophisticated and that attempts to restore the service will result in its immediate resumption. The Irrawaddy has also received news from Burma that internet speeds have slowed considerably, and that internet cafes in Rangoon are being kept under heavy surveillance, with police and officials checking customers’ ID cards and monitoring Internet use.
The developments come on the anniversary of last year’s monk-led uprising known as the “Saffron Revolution.” At the height of the crackdown on peaceful demonstrations, the Burmese regime stopped all Internet traffic into and out of the country to stem the flow of information about atrocities being committed by the army and security forces.
As a temporary measure, the Irrawaddy will be posting online content on a new blog, http://theirrawaddy. blogspot.com, until further notice. Please visit this site for updated news and other regular features.