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Dhara Dhevi wins Top Hotel in Thailand

TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice Awards

The Dhara Dhevi took Thailand’s Top Hotel award in TripAdvisor’s Travellers’ Choice Awards.

Dhara Dhevi Chiang Mai has been named the Top Hotel in Thailand in the 2014 Travellers’ Choice awards by TripAdvisor. The luxury resort was voted the best among properties around the kingdom in the category of Top 25 Hotels in Thailand. Other properties in the voting for Top Hotel included Anantara Chiang Mai Resort & Spa, Code (Samui), Layana Resort and Spa (Koh Lanta), 137 Pillars House (Chiang Mai), Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai, U Sunsuri Phuket, Mandarin Oriental Bangkok, Conrad Koh Samui, The Peninsula Bangkok and Renaissance Phuket Resort & Spa (Mai Khao).
This latest international accolade joins a host of other awards the property has earned, including Conde Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards 2014, Travel + Leisure World Best Resort 2013, Voyages & Hotel de Reve Top 50 Hotels in the World 2013 and Travel + Leisure Top 500 World’s Best Hotels 2013.
This is the 12th edition of the 2014 Travellers’ Choice awards. The awards for the winning hotels and resorts were based on the reviews and opinions of millions of TripAdvisor travellers from around the world. In total, 7,123 unique properties worldwide won awards in 2014, with Asia and Thailand featuring 1,518 and 130 unique hotel winners respectively.
“To be considered the Top Hotel in Thailand is a true honour”, said Dhara Dhevi Chiang Mai general manager Andrew Quinlan. “To be considered the best by the very travellers who experience not only your product but that of others as well, makes it all the more rewarding and is something all staff can be extremely proud of. Paying attention to details and anticipating the needs of our guests is a top priority for us.”


Air Asia launches 3 new routes from Chiang Mai

Free tickets for lucky winners

Air Asia Thailand promoted their new direct Chiang Mai flights and special deals for residents of Chiang Mai at Tha Pae Gate on January 25, 2014.

Nopniwat Krailerg
Air Asia held a party at Tha Pae Gate on January 25, 2014 celebrating their three new routes and to launch a competition for lucky winners to score free tickets on Air Asia. The company recently launched direct flights from Chiang Mai to Hong Kong and Krabi and will launch a new route to Hangzhou this month. The new routes are offering a 20% discount for all seats.
Tassapol Beleveld, the Chief Executive Officer of Air Asia said that this year Air Asia will focus on the importance of provincial aviation bases, especially Chiang Mai. He noted that this major city of the north is a major attraction that receives a lot of visitors both Thai and foreign. Because of the increased attention to Chiang Mai Air Asia launched two routes in late 2013 and early 2014, Air Asia launched 2 routes; Chiang Mai – Krabi and Chiang Mai - Hong Kong. They will begin service to Hangzhou in China from Chiang Mai on February 21, 2014 in order to provide Chiang Mai people even more travel choices.
Air Asia held activities around Chiang Mai to launch their new promotion of 1 Bill Fly Free which will allow Chiang Mai people to compete for free flight tickets for the 3 new routes as well as promote the 20% discount for all seats. The company hopes to boost awareness of Air Asia’s flights and routes to people in Chiang Mai.
Under the 1 Bill Fly Free contest, people can earn a chance to win 15 flight tickets on the 3 new routes by eating, drinking or shopping in 25 participating restaurants, cafes and shops in Chiang Mai. Spending 500 baht in one bill will give one coupon in the contest. The contest, which will be held until February 16, will see the winners announced on February 24, 2105. Check the Air Asia Thailand Facebook page for more details.


Winter blooms bring tourists

“Falling in Love with Chiang Mai”

The Dok Siew or Chongko flowering tree is one of the highlights of the new tour routes.

Chiang Mai Mail reporters
The newest promotion of Chiang Mai’s spectacular winter blossoms is being held by the Tourism Authority of Thailand Chiang Mai and the Highland Research and Development Institute and was announced at the Orchid Garden at Royal Park Rajapruek on January 22, 2013.
“Falling in Love with Chiang Mai; the 7 blossom routes” begins with “beautiful flowers at Royal Park Rajapruek.”. The 2nd route is “Worship at Phrathat Doi Suthep and visit the rose garden at Bhubing Palace.” The 3rd route is “Mon Cham, the Romantic Mountain, and learn at the botanical garden”. The 4th route is “See the sea of mist at Huay Nam Dung, and visit Ban Wat Chan Pine Forest, Galyani Vadhana District.” The 5th route is “Worship at Phramahathat Chedi, view winter flowers at Khun Wang, the top of Doi Inthanon.” The 6th route is “See the spectacular flowers at Doi Ang Khang” and the 7th route is “Worship Wat Phrathat Doi Saket, and see the blooming butterfly tree (Dok Siew) at Thep Sadet”.
The TAT wants to especially promote the 5th route; viewing winter flowers at Khun Wang at the top of Doi Inthanon as the flowers there are quite spectacular.
Chareonrit Sanguansat, the Deputy Governor of Chiang Mai, Wisut Buachoom, director of Tourism Authority of Thailand (Chiang Mai Office), and Siripong Hungsapruek, director of Highland Research and Development Institute (Public Organization) announced the new planned routes for tourists. The TAT hopes the project will impress tourists and visitors with the natural beauties of Chiang Mai province.


Maya Lifestyle Shopping Mall opens to great fanfare

The ribbon cutting ceremony was attended by the Deputy Governor as well as company executives, government officials and celebrities.

Chiang Mai Mail reporters
The grand opening of the new Maya Lifestyle Shopping Center, located at the Rin Kham intersection, was held on January 23, 2014 at 7:30 p.m. Presided over by Deputy Governor Adisorn Kamnerdsiri along with officials and famous celebrities as well as honored guests, the grand opening saw music concerts, shows and contests as well as heavy traffic on the Superhighway from those visiting the mall.
The first shopping mall form the Maya Development Co. Ltd (SF Group), construction began in mid – 2012 on 9 rai of land at the Rin Kham intersection of Huay Kaew Road and the Superhighway. Located in the trendy Nimmanhaemin area, with easy access for area residents and university students, the mall has clothes stores, health care, a unique 4 D show experience, the SFX Cinema with shows in English and Thai and a popular Rimping Supermarket offering a sushi bar, cheese bar and wine along with their popular grocery store.
With its modern design, top location and variety of stores both international and local brands Suwat Thongrompo, Executive Chairman of Maya Development Co., Ltd. said that the Maya will create a new dimension of lifestyle shopping to fulfill the lifestyles of consumers, he is sure the Maya will become an iconic symbol of the area.

Representatives of the Japanese Consulate General join Rimping executives and Suwat Thongrompo, Executive Chairman of Maya Development Co., Ltd. at the grand opening of the newest branch of Rimping Supermarkets in the Maya Lifestyle Shopping Mall.

Suwat Thongrompo, Executive Chairman of Maya Development Co., Ltd is joined by Deputy Governor Adisorn Kamndersiri and company executives for the grand opening.

Maya Lifestyle Shopping Center held several days of celebrations for Chinese New Year with their Carnival Spectacular Maya Sphere show with Chinese music performances and featuring a concert by Katreeya English and an aerial acrobatics performance that kept the audience enthralled as the aerialist hung by silk pieces of fabric hanging high above the crowd.


Tourism, gems & jewelry and food industries hit hardest by protests

Chiang Mai tourism still positive

The Industrial Promotion Department disclosed that Tourism, Gems & Jewelry, and Food industries had been the most affected industries by the political protest during the last three months.
Mrs.Atchaka Sibunruang, Director-General of Industrial Promotion Department said that the political demonstration in Bangkok during the last three months had already affected industrial sector, especially the SME industry related to tourism. The most affected businesses were Gems & Jewelry and One Tambon One Product (OTOP), while Food Industry came second, stemming from the decreasing number of tourists, and thus lower demand. However, an assessment on the impact was being conducted to work out ways to help these businesses.
Nonetheless, an overall perspective for the SME business is still positive, especially in tourism destination provinces such as Chiang Mai. As a way to remedy the situation, the entrepreneurs would have to adjust themselves, reduce the cost of capital and other essential expenses, including stockpiling of products to minimize risk. In addition, highly skilled labour, machinery improvement, human resources development and expansion of market channels, such as selling products via phone and online as well as expanding the market to ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) should be the strategies to focus on. (NNT)


Thai exports suffer first deficit in four years

Thailand’s exports last year declined by 0.3 per cent from the preceding year – the country’s first such deficit in four years, a senior Commerce Ministry official said on January 31, 2014. Srirat Rastapana, Permanent Secretary for Commerce, reported last year’s export value at US$228.5 billion and imports at US$250.7 billion, or a 0.29 per cent increase.
She said Thailand’s export deficit was less severe than those of Malaysia and Indonesia, both of which reported deficits at 8.96 per cent and 6 per cent respectively. Vietnam, on the other hand, enjoyed a 16.47 per cent export growth.
Exports in December enjoyed a slight increase to US$18.4 billion despite registering a deficit in the three preceding months.
She predicted Thailand’s gross domestic product (GDP) to grow 3-5 per cent this year, which is equivalent to the average projected GDP growth in China, India and Southeast Asian countries.
Regarding the downward trend of Thai baht this year due to the US adjusted measures on quantitative easing, Ms. Srirat said Thailand’s medium-term export growth should be at 5 per cent this year.
In the best case, exports could enjoy a double-digit growth, and a deficit in the worst case, she said, adding that the prediction was purely based on economic factors without taking political issues into consideration.
Thailand’s overall economic landscape will not be positive if political conflicts remain unresolved, she said. (MCOT online news)


Central bank predicts gloomy economy in first half of 2014

Thailand’s economic policy will be disrupted, with direct and indirect impact on the economy and state investments, if the political stalemate prolongs until the middle of this year, according to the central bank governor.
Prasarn Trairatvorakul projected this year’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth at less than 3 per cent, or similar to last year, saying the Bank of Thailand’s interest rate cut has only slightly stimulated the economy.
If a new government cannot be formed by the middle of this year, execution of the government’s policies, investment projects and budgeting will be slowed down, thereby affecting investment, economic expansion and domestic consumption in the private sector, he said.
Despite unfavourable economic factors, Thailand’s economic fundamentals are strong enough to cope with political issues and a volatile money market for a certain period, he said, adding that credit rating institutes have maintained the country’s rating.
The downward trend of the Thai baht was not too harsh compared to currencies of newly-emerging markets, thanks to Thailand’s strong fundamentals.
Thailand has not faced problems with inflation or a current account deficit, while the exchange rate is flexible and international reserves are as high as US$200 billion, or 50 per cent of GDP, said Mr Prasarn.
Kosit Panpiemras, executive chairman of the Bangkok Bank, said Thailand’s GDP and exports will grow 3 per cent and 7-8 per cent, respectively, despite the political stalemate, thanks to the private sector’s competitive capabilities.
Financial institution lending will expand by almost 5-6 per cent, he said, adding that Thailand’s competitiveness will be strengthened in the long term if the country can operate with less populism and corruption.
Supavud Saicheua, managing director of Phatra Securities’ research group, predicted Thailand’s GDP growth at only 2.8 per cent this year on the condition that the new government is formed by the second half of the year.
GDP growth in the first half of the year will be only 0.6 per cent and will jump to 5 per cent in the second half, he said.
This year’s export growth will be around 4 per cent, concurrent to the strengthening global economy, while investment in the public and private sectors will grow at only 1 per cent, he said. (MCOT online news)


A New Fight Against Corruption in Malaysia

Cynthia Gabriel of the Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism hopes to educate rural people that loyalty to certain people or groups does not mean tolerating corruption and cronyism.

Citra Dyah Prastuti, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Kangkung or water spinach is a cheap dish in Malaysia, but the vegetable has been the source of much discussion recently following recent remarks by Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak.
Razak cited kangkung as an example of a commodity that has dropped in price because of the actions of his administration. He complained that the government is often criticized for rising prices, but ignored when prices go down – a statement that has been widely ridiculed online.
“Malaysians have a brilliant sense of humor,” says Ambiga Sreenevasan, a leading activist who chaired the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections, or Bersih. “The government doesn’t realize that this is not about kangkung, but a lot more than that. I think if prices went up, people could accept it if the government was also doing its best to tackle corruption,” she says, “In fact, if they did take those things seriously we may not have to face such a price increase. So that’s what is getting people angry.”
Sreenevasan says Rakak’s comments show that he is out of touch with the general population.
The government recently asked Malaysians to tighten their belts in the face of price hikes, but some ministers continue to live lavish lifestyles, throwing birthday parties and weddings at luxurious hotels in Kuala Lumpur.
“Oh you can see it in the houses that are built, in the entertainment that they have, the weddings... lavish lifestyles... and the cars that they drive... so people are not blind,” says Sreenevasan, “You cannot tell people to tighten their belts but you carry on spending. It’s not right.”
The recent Asia Pacific Fraud Survey Report shows that Malaysia is one of the most corrupt nations in the region. Retiree Vince Lee, 58, says he almost became a victim. He was driving with his motorcycle when he was suddenly stopped by a police officer.
“They deliberately stand in places where motorists are going to get caught,” says Lee, “It’s actually entrapment. They block you in places where they know motorists will break the rule.
That’s a very obvious way to get money from people.”
Lee refused to pay a bribe and when he went to court he convinced the judge that he didn’t deserve a ticket and managed to avoid any penalty.
Malaysia has an official anti-corruption body, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), but anti-graft activists like Ambiga Sreenevasan says there’s a lack of political will from the government.
“The MACC may be doing its job, but ultimately the decision to prosecute goes to the Attorney General,” she says, “And I believe there id government intervention because you can see there is selective prosecution.”
In Malaysia, there are a number of human rights NGOs tackling corruption. Most recently a new group, the Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism, or C4, was launched in the capital. The group describes itself as the civil society’s response to the rampant and endemic problem of corruption in Malaysia.
Co-founder Cynthia Gabriel says one of their main campaigns is educating people in rural areas about corruption. “In rural areas, it becomes very problematic,” explains Gabriel of endemic graft, “Because they’re fed mainstream information and they’re made to believe that they need to be loyal to certain political forces.”
Gabriel hopes that C4 can push the government to be more transparent and accountable. “Only the corrupt will be afraid of an organization like C4. There will be a lot of people celebrating C4, and there will be a lot criticizing C4,” she says, “And you know that they would probably be afraid that their own practices will be exposed. So we know who is who then.”
For his part, retiree Vince Lee says he’s started the discussion about corruption within his family. “I will tell them not to either offer or accept bribe to get things done,” he says, “If you feel that it’s not the right thing to do, that shouldn’t be done.”
This article was first broadcast on Asia Calling, a regional current affairs radio program produced by Indonesia’s independent radio news agency KBR68H and broadcast in local languages in 10 countries across Asia in conjunction with the Faculty of Mass Communications Chiang Mai University. You can find more stories from Asia Calling at www.portalkbr.com/asiacalling


HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

Dhara Dhevi wins Top Hotel in Thailand

Air Asia launches 3 new routes from Chiang Mai

Winter blooms bring tourists

Maya Lifestyle Shopping Mall opens to great fanfare

Tourism, gems & jewelry and food industries hit hardest by protests

Thai exports suffer first deficit in four years

Central bank predicts gloomy economy in first half of 2014

A New Fight Against Corruption in Malaysia