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Metropolitan police chief orders thorough investigation of shooting of ASTV news cars

BANGKOK, Jan 27 - Metropolitan Police chief Kamronwit Thoopkrachang has ordered a thorough investigation and asked the issue not yet be concluded as a media threat.

Pol Lt Gen Kamronwit said regarding the shooting of ASTV cars parked in front of the ASTV headquarters on Phra Arthit Road on Saturday that footage from surveillance cameras found that the gunman shot from the other side of the road. However, two security guards said they did not know the cars had been shot when the incident took place.

The shooting occurred at 3.26 am and police were informed about the shooting at 9 am. ASTV executives will be question if there is any conflicts with anyone, he said.

The metropolitan police chief said he did not want the shooting to be prejudged as media threat or the action of officials linked to a soldier protest at the ASTV news office earlier this month.

Some 30 soldiers protested at the ASTV-Manager office on Phra Arthit Road on January 12, demanding the media outlet apologise for its criticism of Army Chief Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha.

Meanwhile, Democrat Party spokesman Chavanond Intarakomalyasut said that the party called for Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and Police Chief Pol Gen Adul Saengsingkaew to find out and arrest the gunman shooting at ASTV news cars because the action is outrageous and considered as a threat to media.

He said as closed circuit television cameras can capture the image of suspects, it will be not difficult for the police to find the culprit.

The government has to maintain safety for the public however, and Chavanond said that there have been media threats and that the government did not seem to take them seriously. He expressed suspicion that if the gunman cannot be arrest, a person in the government may be involved in the incident.

Hotel destroyed by fire declared off-limits

BANGKOK, Jan 27 – An eight- storey hotel destroyed by fire Saturday night, was declared off-limits after a man was killed in the fire.

The fire broke out at the Grand Tower Inn hotel located at Soi Charoen Nakhon 14/2 in Khlong San district.

Utcharawadee Chaisuwirat, director of the Khlong San district said that officials will inspect the area and determine the cause of the fire. Witnesses said the fire was sparked from an electrical circuit on the seventh floor.

Hotel guests evacuated and a body of a 30-year-old Thai man was found in a room on the third floor.

The room had been rented by a man named Thanawat since January 22.

It took about an hour to put the fire under control. Twelve people were injured from smoke inhalation in the incident while two victims remain in the Intensive Care Unit. (MCOT online news)

Plurality of Bangkok voters to choose governor based on policy: Poll

BANGKOK, Jan 26 -- A plurality of Bangkok voters will make their decision who to choose as Bangkok governor based on policies announced during election the campaign, while 17% plan to cast their ballots based on qualifications or party affiliation, according to Suan Dusit Poll.

The survey was conducted by Suan Dusit Rajabhat University from January 20-25 among 1,139 respondents in the capital city of Bangkok and concluded that the major factor for Bangkok residents to decide who they would vote for as governor was the policies that each candidate presented during their campaign.

Almost half, or 46.20 per cent of the respondents, said they would make decision based on the police while 17.74 per cent said that they would decide based on each candidate's qualification or their political party affiliation.

Some 13.91 per cent said they would select based on image and perceived honesty.

Among those polled, 35.04 per cent wanted to tell the candidates that their policy should be feasible, more than 20 per cent wanted to see Bangkok developed in all aspects and slightly less than 20 per cent preferred to request the Bangkok Governor election be a free and fair election.

The majority of the respondents agreed that Mr Suharit Siamwalla's campaign was the most innovative, which relied on new technology.

Seven more candidates applied to enter the race for the March 3 Bangkok governor election on the last day of applications Friday, bringing the total number of candidates to 25.

The Election Commission will check the qualifications of each candidate and would announce the list of eligible candidates on February 1, while lists of eligible voters would be announced on February 5.

New Zealander dies in fall from boat in Phuket

PHUKET, Jan 25 -- A New Zealand yachtsman was found dead after falling from his boat in Thailand’s southern resort of Phuket.

Local police said the victim, identified as Richard Ernest Spraggs, 59, fell into the sea at Chalong Pier in the Phuket provincial seat, apparently hitting his head on another boat and that he probably died from drowning.

Police found a wound on his head but no sign of being hit anywhere else on his body.

According to initial investigation, Mr Spraggs was the owner of the yacht and sailed to many countries, visiting Phuket every year for the past six years.

Police said the death was believed to be caused by drowning, and that it was an accident.

At around 3am, Mr Spraggs used an inflatable boat to pick up a friend at Chalong Pier.

After he returned to his vessel, the waves drove a larger boat moored nearby into his yacht.

Trying to push the other boat away, he lost his balance and fell into the water, hitting his head on the way down.

Police said he may have been knocked unconscious and drowned. (MCOT online news)

Army chief laments lax security in South

BANGKOK, Jan 25 – Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha conceded today that loopholes remain in preventing violence and attacks on teachers in Thailand’s far South despite reinforcement of state security personnel in the region.

He was referring to Wednesday’s daylight attack on Ban Tanyong School in Narathiwat province in which a Muslim teacher was killed.

Gen Prayuth said the government is accountable and must take responsibility for the fatal shooting despite the school’s refusal of security protection by the authorities.

The army chief said he informed Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra that the armed forces have regularly adjusted their security measures in the South where mutual agreements have been reached with many of the schools, be they Buddhist or Muslim.

Patrol police officers are on duty during the day but loopholes are not ruled out, he said, adding the management of Ban Tanyong School did not blame the authorities for the incident.

“It’s not easy to instruct 60,000 personnel from different units, including army privates, to work in unison,” he said.

To solve the southern problems, the army chief said, law enforcement is necessary while wrongdoers should be encouraged to give up and join in the country’s development. (MCOT online news)

JICA proposes water bypass to prevent severe flood in central region

BANGKOK, Jan 25 – The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) proposed flood prevention plan for the Chao Phraya River Basin, recommending construction of a water bypass through the central province of Ayutthaya for speedy water diversion into the sea.

JICA proposed the revised master plan for Chao Phraya River Basin flood prevention to Royal Irrigation Department Director-General Lertviroj Kowattana.

Yusuke Amano, a JICA academic, said the agency conducted an aerial survey on areas hit by the devastating 2011 flood for accurate calculation and analysis of the flood prevention plan.

The existing system and facilities must be fully and efficiently utilised, in particular all dams, which need systematic management and assessment, he said.

According to the aerial imagery, more appropriate water bypasses and floodways will help drain water from low-lying areas, affected by flooding.

Diverting water to the east and the west sides of the river basin does not help much to alleviate flood impacts.

However, JICA advised an additional 20km bypass through Ayutthaya, north of the capital, will reduce water volume in an amount that does not exceed the holding capacity of the Chao Phraya River and prevent large amounts of water from flowing into business areas in the lower central provinces including the capital.

Regarding water retention areas, an unspecified number of such zones must be maintained more systematically, Mr Amano said. (MCOT online news)

PM stresses four-point national strategy to move country forward

BANGKOK, Jan 26 -- Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on Saturday stressed the government's four-point national strategy and infrastructure investment plan to move the country forward for sustainable growth.

The PM, on her weekly TV programme "Yingluck Government Meets the People," said that the government has plans to spend 2 trillion baht budget to implement a four-point national strategy, while adhering to fiscal discipline and transparency to prevent potential corruption.

Ms Yingluck said she believed that the national strategy would enhance the country's effectiveness and draw more foreign investment.

The premier has clarified that in the first strategy, the government will focus on capacity-building to enhance Thailand’s competitiveness in the long run for sustainable growth.

In the second strategy, the government would seek to reduce social disparity between low-income and high-income earners and provide greater opportunities for the people based on economic, social, and political equality.

For the third strategy, the government would emphasize “green growth economy” and would promote the people’s quality of life and environmentally friendly growth.

In the fourth strategy, the government would improve effectiveness in management, focusing on good governance.

The strategies would drive the country forward in a sustainable manner in accordance with His Majesty the King’s sufficiency economy initiatives, she said. (MCOT online news)

PM briefed on Thailand’s planned defence in temple row

BANGKOK, Jan 25 – Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra reasserted today that Thailand will forge onward in protecting the kingdom’s sovereignty concerning the dispute with Cambodia over land in the area surrounding Preah Vihear temple.

In a security meeting with high-level officials, the premier expressed confidence in the government’s move in contesting the dispute, pending a decision by the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Thailand and Cambodia are required to give their respective oral statements before the ICJ in April and the ruling is expected in October.

The Foreign Ministry is in charge of supervising the Thai-Cambodian relationship at all levels, she said.

Today’s two and a half hour meeting was attended by Deputy Prime Minister/Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul, Deputy Prime Minister/Education Minister Phongthep Thepkanchana, Defence Minister Sukumpol Suwanatat, Veerachai Palasai, leader of Thailand’s legal team in the case, the chiefs of the three armed forces and the national police chief.

Nuttavuth Potisaro, deputy permanent secretary for foreign affairs, said the meeting was satisfactory with Mr Veerachai’s outline on Thailand’s stance and defence in the dispute. The prime minister instructed officials to work with full commitment in protecting the national sovereignty on the Thai-Cambodian border.

He said the Foreign Ministry is willing to accept feedback and suggestions from the public, especially on the issue of the ICJ jurisdiction which Thailand will raise in its April statement.

“We are confident of success in the case given the ICJ’s 1962 ruling which only touched on the temple, and not the surrounding area covering 4.6 sq km,” said Mr Nuttavut.

Thailand has followed every point of the ICJ’s ruling including removal of troops from the temple and adjacent area and the return of ancient objects, discovered in 1954, to Cambodia, he said.

Mr Veerachai said the content of the oral statement is completed except for some minor points.

Cambodia has asked the ICJ to rule on the 4.6 sq km of land surrounding the temple where troops of both countries have been deployed and clashes have erupted sporadically. (MCOT online news)

Bangkokians want problems engaged, solved

BANGKOK, Jan 25 – Solutions to traffic congestion, pollution, rising crime and development of mass transport are high on the agenda of demands for the next Bangkok governor to solve, according to an academic poll of city voters.

In a survey of 1,500 eligible voters in all 50 Bangkok districts last week, the National Institute for Development Administration (NIDA) reported that 42 per cent of respondents wanted an improved traffic system for the capital 16 per cent called for expanded mass transport in all areas of the city and slightly over 10 per cent raised the issue of crime and the security of the property as issues in their lives.

Other concerns included water, air and noise pollution, garbage and clogged floodwater drainage (7.5 per cent), economic development to compete with Southeast Asian countries (5.5 per cent), improved knowledge about on the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), improved language skills and knowledge (5.40 per cent), and improved image for Bangkok including solutions to political disorder, homeless, vagrants and roadside sellers (nearly 6 per cent).

On the feasibility of developing Bangkok as the city to become the hub of ASEAN's AEC, 54 per cent said the possibility was at medium range while 35 per cent were optimistic that the potential is high and 10 per cent were pessimistic.

Sompoj Kannuj of the NIDA Faculty of Social and Environment Development said the poll results reflected Bangkokians’ desire for real solutions to many of the problems especially the city’s traffic clogged streets.

Commuting is one of the economic factors in doing business and daily life, but no candidate for Bangkok governor has clearly addressed the issue-- including town planning-- to cope with the city’s expansion, he said. (MCOT online news)

10th anniversary of the United Nations Day of Vesak to be held on May 21-22

BANGKOK, 25 January 2013 (NNT) – The 10th anniversary of the United Nations Day of Vesak is set to be organized in Bangkok during May 21-22. Buddhists from around the world are expected to participate in the event.

Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya University and the Thai Government will jointly play host to the 10th anniversary of the United Nations Day of Vesak (UNDV), to be held at the United Nations Conference Centre (UNCC), in Bangkok, during May 21-22, 2013.

The event will be attended by thousands of Buddhist leaders and scholars from around the world. The theme of this year’s event is ‘Education and Global Citizenship: A Buddhist Perspective.

Besides providing an opportunity for Buddhists to celebrate the birth, enlightenment, and final passing away-Nirvana- of the Lord Buddha, the event is also aimed at honoring the 100th Anniversary of the birthday of the Thai Supreme Patriarch, His Holiness Somdet Phra Nyanasamvara, who has reigned as the Supreme Patriarch for the past twenty-four years.

Education Minister discusses solutions to help restive south teachers

BANGKOK, 25 January 2013 (NNT)-As violence continues plaguing the three southernmost provinces, educators in the restive region have reportedly come up with a proposal requesting higher compensations to boost morale of teachers and related personnel working in the area.

According to Education Minister Pongthep Thepkanchana, a meeting was held among Education officials, teachers and school administrators in the restive South to find solutions and relieve their hardship in carrying out duties.

He said the proposal weighs the importance on raising risk allowance for teaching personnel working in the region, increasing compensations for teachers and staff killed in the violence, a rise in government subsidies given to private general education schools, and the planned construction of student dormitories in private Islamic schools known as Po-noh.

The proposal will be reviewed by an ad-hoc Committee on for Special Development Zone in the Southern Border Provinces, before being submitted to the Cabinet for consideration.

Mr. Pongthep also said that there is no need to send border police to teach students in affected schools as there already are volunteers who are also locals and hold qualified degrees to do the jobs.

On the proposed construction of dormitories for teachers, the Minister said it is pending a fact finding procedure to see whether the plan is the right answer as many teachers have indicated they prefer to stay with their families.

Fourth Army Commander says no need to set up Rohinya camp

BANGKOK, 25 January 2013 (NNT)-Fourth Army commander Lt Gen Udomchai Thamsarorat said Thailand is only a transit point for Rohingyas trying to migrate to a Muslim country, and there is no need to set up a migrant camp.

According to Lt Gen Udomchai, displaced Rohingyas have been sneaking into Thailand through passages in Ranong and Satun provinces or travelling by boat from the Andaman Sea. The army has been working side by side with the local Immigration Office in tracking those that have managed to dodge the Thai authority.

The Fourth Army commander, meanwhile, said the army would, on humanitarian grounds, temporarily take care of those refugees until they were transported to a Muslim country. He, however, did not see any need to set up a refugee camp; given a small number of Rohingyas were currently staying in Thailand.

He also urged everyone not to look at this issue as a religious matter and that the authorities were trying to identify suspects who had been behind the trafficking of these Rohingyas. The public was also encouraged to inform the authority should they witness any migrants illegally entering the country.

Outstanding inventors to get awards on Inventors’ Day

BANGKOK, 25 January 2013 (NNT) - The National Research Council of Thailand has announced that it will hold an award presentation to honor outstanding researchers and inventors on Inventors' Day, February 2nd.

A successful breeding of the first Thai Eld’s deer in the world by veterinarian Dr Amphika Thongpakdi and her team has won the outstanding research award from the National Research Council. The Thai Eld's deer is an endangered species. The breeding was conducted through an in-vitro fertilization (test tube). Currently, the endangered Eld's deer are found in its natural habitat in Salak Phra Wildlife Sanctuary, Huai Sadong, in Kanchanaburi.

Outstanding awards will be given to 34 inventors for the year 2012, whereas only 4 researchers on Thai behaviors will receive excellent and consolation prizes. Both award categories are to honor inventions and research projects which benefit the nation.

Every year, the National Research Council of Thailand invites several organizations and agencies to propose their research projects and PHD theses for the annual awards. The award presentation ceremony will be held on Inventors’ Day, February 2nd at IMPACT.

MRT blue line extension proceeds as tunnel boring machine introduced

BANGKOK, 25 January 2013 (NNT) – The MRT blue line extension from Sanam Chai to Tha Phra stations will proceed after Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra yesterday introduced a tunnel boring machine capable of excavating tunnels beneath the Chao Phraya River.

Prime Minister Yingluck on Thursday presided over the opening ceremony of the MRT Blue Line extension construction, where a tunnel boring machine was introduced, aiming to help Thailand carry on its MRT projects. The machine will dig a tunnel under the Chao Phraya River. It will be the first MRT line that goes under the water level.

According to Ms Yingluck, the new MRT route will help ease heavy traffic and enhance the country’s transportation system.

Other than the blue line extension, Ms Yingluck also held a talk with Transport Minister Chatchart Sittipan regarding other MRT projects. After the talk, the transport minister said the MRT projects were part of Ms Yingluck’s plan to improve the quality of life of the residents, especially those who have low income. He said the Prime Minister wanted the MRT project to be completed as scheduled, given chronic traffic congestion has put Bangkokians under severe strain for years.

Two Nigerian scammers nabbed for luring lonely Thai women

BANGKOK, Jan 23 - Thailand's Department of Special Investigation (DSI) arrested two Nigerian men suspected of operating a scam misleading and luring Thai women, through social networking websites, who ended up sending as much as Bt20 million for false marriages.

DSI and Immigration Bureau officers arrested Benjamin Olakunle Oyewole and Oladapo Awooyele for conspiracy and using false information on internet sites, and causing damage to others.

DSI Foreign Affairs and Transnational Crime Bureau director Pol Col Songsak Raksaksakul told a news conference that the suspects committed their scam via websites such as Tagged and Facebook, as well as other social networking sites.

The suspects claimed to be US Navy sailors based in Afghanistan, showing the victims photos of good-looking naval personnel. They told their victims they would like early retirement in order to marry them, but said some payment would be required immediately in order to do that.

The Nigerian men worked as a team and had separate duties to lure targeted single women aged over 40, or widows.

According to the investigation, they allegedly committed their crime in many countries including Sweden, Britain, Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong. Over 400 women became the gang's victims. (MCOT online news)

Democrats sue DSI chief, top officials for abuse of authority

BANGKOK, Jan 24 – Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva and his deputy Suthep Thaugsuban filed a lawsuit against five senior officials of the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) for abusing their power and falsely imposing charges against them in connection with the 2010 political upheaval in Bangkok.

Lawyer Bundith Siriphan represented the plaintiffs in submitting the lawsuit on Wednesday, charging DSI Director General Tarit Pengdith and four other officials with breaching Articles 157 and 200 of the Criminal Code.

Mr Tarit and his DSI associates were accused of unlawfully charging Mr Abhisit and Mr Suthep with initiating the murders of people during the political disorders when they, in fact, carried out their duty under the emergency decree.

Mr Abhisit said he would wait to see if the court will accept the case for trial while he and the Democrat MP from Surat Thani are ready to testify.

The former prime minister said he is not worried about possible interference by the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (the Red Shirts) during the Democrat Party’s political rally in the northeastern province of Nakhon Ratchasima this Saturday. (MCOT online news)

Foreign Ministry talks with international bodies on Rohingya underway

BANGKOK, Jan 23 – Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials will meet with related state agencies Friday seeking practical solutions to the problem of Rohingya migrants in Thailand in preparation for further talks with international organisations.

Deputy Prime Minister/Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul said the results of the Friday meeting will inform discussions with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Organisation for Migration and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

He said international organisations should collaborate with Thailand in helping the Rohingya migrants.

Defence Minister Sukumpol Suwanatat reported that 4,000 Rohingya migrants illegally entered Thailand in the past three months, while Thai authorities have had several rounds of fruitless talks with Myanmar, which insisted that Rohingya people are not Myanmar citizens.

He said army officers implicated in smuggling Rohingya people into the country will face severe punishment, adding that he has yet to receive an official report from the Fourth Army Region. (MCOT online news)

Ivory traders required to register with authorities to prevent illegal trade

BANGKOK, Jan 22 – Ivory traders nationwide are being required to register with the authorities within 30 days and have certificates of origin to identify ivory goods to prevent illegal trade and the smuggling of African elephant tusks.

The action is the first of its kind taken by the Department of National Parks Wildlife and Plant Conservation since it was empowered by the Commerce Ministry. The department met with traders of tusks and ivory products to inform them.

The move came after the World Wildlife Fund, an international conservation group, said last week that "massive quantities" of African ivory are being imported illegally into Thailand, where they are carved into Buddhist statues, bangles and jewelry that are then sold to tourists or smuggled elsewhere.

It urged Thailand to ban all ivory trading, warning that rising demand for tusks is fueling an unprecedented slaughter of elephants in Africa.

Theerapatr Prayoonsitthi, department deputy director-general said the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) banned all international ivory trade in 1989 and asked Thailand to tighten measures against the illegal smuggling of ivory.

As ivory from domesticated elephants can be traded legally, to prevent smuggling of African tusks, he said the department instructed about 100-200 local ivory traders across the country to register with the commerce ministry within a month and that their ivory must be documented, showing the origins of their goods.

The department will randomly check traders to ensure they comply with the regulations. Any violator will be subject to serious legal action, the senior official said.

The department has stored about ten tonnes of confiscated tusks pending the prosecution of the cases in the court, Mr Theerapatr said.

They were registered and kept records and closely monitored to prevent them being stolen for sale in the market. Ivory has a street value of roughly 50,000 baht per kilogramme, he added. (MCOT online news)

Bangkok governor candidates warned to only campaign practical & permissible election policies

BANGKOK, 24 January 2013 (NNT) – All contenders in the upcoming Bangkok gubernatorial election are warned to only employ campaign policies, which are practical under the jurisdiction of the capital governor.

Bangkok Election Commission Office Director Veera Yee-prae said on Wednesday that, so far, there have been 18 candidates, who have registered their names to run in the March-3 gubernatorial poll. The candidacy registration will stay open until January 25.

The Bangkok Election Commission Office Director said that a verification process is underway to check the qualification of each candidate before an official confirmation of the endorsed contenders can be made within February 1.

Meanwhile, Mr. Veera warned all Bangkok governor candidates to make sure that their future deputies, secretaries and advisors, have given their written consents to use their names in the election campaign and to confirm their readiness to start working if their respective candidate wins the election.

He added that all campaign policies must also be realistic and possible for execution under the authority of the Bangkok Governor, without exceeding the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration’s allocated budget.

In addition, Mr. Veera noted that anyone who submits false evidence to disqualify any candidate may risk being put behind bars, while any lawmaker who has been proven to do so may be removed from office and see their party dissolved.

Northern Royal Rainmaking readied for execution when needed

BANGKOK, 24 January 2013 (NNT) – The Northern Royal Rainmaking Center has been on the lookout for drought and haze problem in the region while staying ready to induce rain if needed.

The Northern Royal Rainmaking Center Director Song Klinprathum revealed on Wednesday that a close surveillance has been launched in all 17 Northern provinces to monitor the drought crisis and the haze problem.

Mr. Song stated that Thailand’s North tends to experience either or both problems during the months of December and March. Therefore, the center needs to constantly assess the weather conditions to see if artificial rainmaking is possible.

He said that the Northern Royal Rainmaking Center can make quite a precise assessment, which allows the rainmaking crew to starting the cloud seeding process to ease drought and haze.

Over 1,300 Rohingyas now detained in Thailand

BANGKOK, 24 January 2013 (NNT) - Police have so far detained over 1,300 Rohingyas; while the Defense Minister revealed that up to 4,000 Rohingyas have been picked up in Thailand in the past three months, saying all sides must help solve this problem.

Defense Minister Sukampol Suwannathat said the influx of Rohingyas into Thailand is the problem that needs cooperation from all sides in order for it to be solved, especially that from international organizations such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). He admitted that up to 4,000 Rohingyas have been caught entering Thailand illegally in the past three months. Clashes and discrimination in Myanmar have forced many Rohingyas to flee their country for shelter, mostly in Malaysia.

Meanwhile, police reported that over 1,300 Rohingyas have so far been detained in Thailand. They are under the care of the Thai immigration police and other government agencies. On Wednesday the Border Patrol Police and Phang-Nga Water Police arrested nearly 180 Rohingyas. This group of refugees reportedly left Rakhine in Myanmar on January 7th. While at sea, they consumed only water and four meals of raw rice.

In Songkhla, the Rohingyas who were asked to identify the people who trafficked them were too scared to do so. Only after the officials had assured them of their safety that they pointed out the culprit, but then a fight broke out between a Rohingya and a detention officer. The officer will be interrogated.

Most Rohingyas stranded in Thailand had been tortured, beaten, and deprived of food before the Thai authorities found them. All of them wanted to go to a third country and asked, in fear of their own lives, the Thai officials not to send them back to their country.

Close race for two strongest rivals in Bangkok campaign

BANGKOK, Jan 23 – An academic poll released today showed Democrat candidate Sukhumbhand Paribatra leading slightly and his rival Pongsapat Pongcharoen from the government bloc running almost neck and neck in their campaigns to win the March 3 Bangkok gubernatorial election.

Referring to its interviews with 1,500 respondents above age 18 in all 50 districts of the Thai capital late last week, the National Institute for Development Administration (NIDA) said 20.60 per cent of residents will vote for ex-Bangkok governor Sukhumbhand while 19.13 per cent opted for national police former deputy chief Pongsapat.

Other candidates were trailing, and received much less attention. Former national police chief Seripisut Temiyavet led the also-rans with 4.93 per cent, Suharit Siamwalla had 1.13 per cent, and Kosit Suvinitchit came last with 0.27 per cent.

However, the NIDA poll indicated that more than half of the voters -- 52.80 per cent -- remain undecided and 1.13 per cent say they will refuse to go to the polls at all.

Bancherd Singkaneti, dean of the NIDA Faculty of Law, said the poll results reflected the two rivals’ close relations with their respective political strongholds, while the independent candidates look to be at a strong disadvantage as the lack significant political bases.

Prof Banchert said the percentage of undecided voters is rather high probably because they are awaiting clearer policy statements from the candidates.

Eighteen candidates have officially applied to run for the Bangkok governorship. (MCOT online news)

Foreign Ministry insists assistance for Rohingya only temporary

BANGKOK, Jan 23 – Thailand's Foreign Ministry has called on the world community and other countries to lend their hands in solving the problem of Rohingya migrants in the long run.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Manasvi Srisodapol said the government intends to assist more than 800 Rohingya migrants arrested and sheltered in Thailand only a temporary basis while discussing with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees on further assistance to them.

The Foreign Ministry has also consulted with Myanmar, the Rohingya’s country of origin, on solutions to the problem both in short and long terms, he said.

Mr Manasvi said a resolution of the Rohingya problem will not be successful unless the world community and third countries join hands.

He said the government is seriously dealing with the issue including investigating alleged human trafficking which, if confirmed, will tarnish Thailand’s reputation.

The Royal Thai Police and the Social Development and Human Security Ministry are investigating allegation that army officers are involved in human trafficking, he said. (MCOT online news)

Japan-bound otters seized at Suvarnabhumi Airport

BANGKOK, Jan 23 - Thailand's Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation seized 11 otters at the country's main international airport and confiscated other protected species at the heart of Bangkok.

Deputy Director-General Theerapat Prayoonsit said the Customs Department found 11 otters in a passenger's baggage at Suvarnabhumi Airport's departure terminal.

He said authorities are now identifying the owner of the seized baggage. It was believed the baggage belonged to a foreigner who was filmed on the airport's closed circuit television.

Initial investigation found that the otters were being smuggled to Japan for a circus show.

Mr Theerapat said the department confiscated protected rare birds at Chatuchak weekend market including white-rumped shama and red-whiskered bulbuls.

The owner of the birds did not show up at the scene.

Department agents inspected bird vendors at the statue of Brahma at Ratchaprasong intersection, in the city centre, and seized a number of rare birds. Legal action will be taken against vendors who violate the Wildlife Preservation and Protection Act, Mr Theerapat said.

He urged the public not to buy birds from the vendors for freeing them as a merit-making, saying that the more the people buy caged birds for merit, the more they encourage illegal trade. (MCOT online news)

2012 Prince Mahidol Award presentation ceremony next Wednesday

BANGKOK, Jan 23 - The presentation ceremony for the 2012 Prince Mahidol Award in the fields of Medicine and Public Health will be held at the Chakri Throne Hall on January 30.

Supat Vanichakarn, Prince Mahidol Award Foundation secretary general said that Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, representing His Majesty the King, will confer the 2012 Prince Mahidol Award on distinguished persons in the fields of medicine and public health at Chakri Throne Hall on January 30 at 5.30pm.

On behalf of His Majesty the King, Princess Sirindhorn will also host the banquet in honour of the laureates at Boromrajasathitmaholarn Throne Hall at 7.30pm that evening.

The Prince Mahidol Award Foundation decided last November 9 to confer the 2012 Prince Mahidol Award in the field of medicine to Sir Michael David Rawlins of United Kingdom while in the field of public health, the award will be conferred to Dr Uche Veronica Amazigo of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Established in 1992 by His Majesty the King to mark the birth centenary of his late father His Royal Highness Prince Mahidol of Songkla, the foundation is headed by Princess Sirindhorn as president.

The foundation honours an individual or organisation for making a major contribution to humanity in medicine medicine.

Each prize comes with a medal, certificate and a cash award of US$100,000 or Bt3 million. (MCOT online news)

Police raid traditional medicine factory, seize 2.5 million baht worth of fake medicine

BANGKOK, 23 January 2013 (NNT) – Police on Tuesday raided a traditional medicine factory in Pathumthani and seized several types of medicine that have been advertised on the internet and cable television as aphrodisiacs.

Acting on a tipoff, Police and Food and Drug Administration officials raided Thanat herb factory in Pathumtani and seized herbal capsules, cosmetic and skin products worth 2.5 million baht altogether; that were labeled with distorted information, which violates the Consumer Protection Act. The police also found some medicine that were illegal produced without an FDA license .

According to FDA Secretary General Dr. Boonchai Somboonsuk, the arrest came after it had received a number of complaints on medicine falsely claimed to have helped treat erectile dysfunction and improve sex drive. The factory was also producing modern medicine even though it was not permitted to.

BMA forecasts minimum 70% voter turnout at 2013 Bangkok gubernatorial election

BANGKOK, 23 January 2013 (NNT) – The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) is hopeful that there will be a significant number of voters who show up to exercise their rights at the upcoming Bangkok gubernatorial election.

BMA Permanent Secretary Ninnart Chalitanon said on Tuesday that at least 70% of voters are expected at the March 3 poll across the capital. The voter turnout prediction was based on the statistics recorded during the latest general election in July 2011.

Mrs. Ninnart stated that such a record can be achieved if all related parties, including the BMA’s PR office, the Election Commission and all candidates, work hard enough to encourage Bangkok voters to visit the polling booths.

She added that Dusit and Khlong Toei districts are likely to see the relatively-low voter turnouts like always, because of the frequent mobility of residents in both areas.

The BMA Permanent Secretary also brushed aside worries about the fact that the election will take place on the same day that Grade-12 students are scheduled to take General Aptitude Test (GAT) and Professional Aptitude Test (PAT) for their university entrance examination.

Even though around 6,000 of these students are eligible voters, Mrs. Ninnart said that this number remains very small when compared with the 6-million eligible voters in the capital.

In addition, she urged all who will not be able to cast their votes on March 3 to contact their respective district offices to make an advance ballot or make-up ballot, which is permissible 7 days before or after the election day.

UNHCR lending helping hand to Rohingyas

BANGKOK, 23 January 2013 (NNT) - The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on Tuesday visited the detained Rohingyas in Songkhla Province to determine their need to move to another country.

Representatives of the UNHCR, along with Foreign Affairs officials, have visited the Rohingyas to check up on their living conditions while being detained as refugees at the Thai-Malaysian border.

They also visited Rohingya children and women who were separately detained in the Songkhla Children and Families shelter to assess their needs and listen to their problems. One of their requests was for them to be moved to a third country instead of being sent back to their home country for fear of being persecuted.

According to Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Manasvi Srisodapol, the government has set up a budget to take care of these refugees and will continue to provide them with humanitarian assistance.

As for allegations that 8 soldiers have been involved in human trafficking, the spokesman said the government was seriously looking into the matter as the incident could tarnish the country’s image, adding that he Foreign Ministry had forwarded this matter to the Royal Thai Police for further investigation.

NBTC inspects shops to ensure prepaid mobile consumers their benefits

BANGKOK, 23 January 2013 (NNT) – Officials from the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) have inspected the sale of prepaid cards and new prepaid numbers in mobile phone shops in Siam Paragon in order to make sure mobile operators abide by its rules.

The NBTC officials, along with executives of AIS, DTAC, and True Move, visited J-Mart, True, DTAC, and AIS shops in the shopping mall to make sure all prepaid cards are sold under the NBTC’s regulations. The NBTC has recently demanded that the sale of prepaid SIM cards must be properly registered, carry no expiry date, and be charged at no more than 99 satang per minute.

NBTC commissioner Suthipol Thaweechaikarn said as the expiration period of prepaid cards is not yet finalized, mobile operators cannot impose an expiry date for the moment. He added an operator had proposed to the NBTC a 60-day expiration period, but he expected other operators to come up with a better timeframe.

In addition, operators are required to register personal details of prepaid customers, while the call charge must not exceed 99 satang per minute. Since the new regulations were applied on January 18th, there have been over 700 complaints, mostly about the operators imposing prepaid credit expiry deadline.

Government continues 'One District One Scholarship' project

UTTARADIT, Jan 21 - The cabinet resolved to continue the “One District One Scholarship” project initiated by ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra, elder brother of Prime Minister Yingluck, Government spokesman Tossaporn Serirak said today.

This year the government will spend Bt395 million on the project and from 2014-2020, it plans to spend Bt14 billion for young people to study in non-Anglo-Saxon countries such as Chile, Brazil, Belgium, Hungary, Portugal, Hong Kong, South Korea and Indonesia, he said.

Students are required to pass both written examinations and interviews.

The spokesman said the prime minister instructed the education ministry to help students prepare for language learning before they go to study overseas.

Each year, they are required to return home to share their experience with intending scholarship students. Officials of state agencies must train students who have graduated students to give them work experience.

PM outlines directives for Thailand’s prosperity

BANGKOK, Jan 22 – Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra today announced a package of national strategies to move the country forward for sustainable growth and readiness to be integrated into the Southeast Asian economic region.

She met with provincial governors and senior officials to confer the government’s policy and work on budget allocations for the 2014 fiscal year.

In a four-point strategy to herald Thailand's arrival at a new era, Ms Yingluck urged the public sector to strengthen Thailand’s competitive edge to lift the country from low-income to middle-income levels, and minimise disparity in society to create equal opportunity.

She said the government emphasises growth on the quality-of-life and environmentally-friendly basis, as well as development of state administrative system.

The strategies will sustainably move the country in accord with His Majesty the King’s sufficient economy initiatives, she said.

The premier said taking the helm of Thailand in over a year has been challenging given internal and external factors, including volatile economy and international relations particularly with Europe which signifies democracy and equality.

“The country’s economy has been imbalance and society lacked management. Cooperative and integrated management in the public sector has quickly revitalised the economy, contributing to a national reserve of 48 per cent which is higher than earlier predicted while this year’s GDP is forecast at 5.5 per cent,” said Ms Yingluck.

She added that inflation is back to normal at 3 per cent while the government successfully alleviated the deficit which was recorded at Bt400 billion in the past.

Public debt is at 43.9 per cent which is much better than the situation in many countries in the region, she said. (MCOT online news)

French PM to visit Thailand next month

BANGKOK, Jan 22 - French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault is scheduled to visit Thailand early next month at the invitation of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

The Thai foreign ministry's statement said Mr Ayrault, accompanied by his spouse Madame Brigitte Ayrault, will pay a two-day official visit February 4-5, as the first visit by a high level representative of France to the kingdom in seven years.

The last visit was that of former French President Jacques Chirac as a Royal Guest of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej in 2006.

The French premier's visit follows that of Prime Minister Yingluck to the French Republic last July.

The statement said the past and upcoming visits underscore the commitment of both countries to boosting the Strategic Partnership between the two countries initiated in 2004. It is also an opportunity to add another chapter in the long history of Thai-French relations which began with the reciprocal dispatch of embassies in the 17th century.

Mr Ayrault will meet with Ms Yingluck on February 5, focusing on expanding trade and investment opportunities between the two countries, as well as increasing cooperation in varied fields including developing basic infrastructure, education and research and alternative energy.

The two leaders will also discuss regional and global issues of common interest and concern, including the continued prosperity and stability of Southeast Asia, based on a competitive ASEAN Community and a more connected Mekong and wider Asia-Pacific regions as well as developments in Europe and the European Union.

The French premier is expected to speak on relations between Thailand and the French Republic at Thammasat University. He will also preside over the inauguration of the Franco-Thai Business Forum and then meet the French community in Thailand. (MCOT online news)

Ultranationalists demonstrate against Phra Viharn ruling

BANGKOK, Jan 21 – A Thai ultranationalist group rallied at the Royal Plaza in Bangkok today to protest against the world court’s ruling on the Phra Viharn (Preah Vihear) temple dispute.

The Thai Patriots Group, led by Chaiwat Sinsuwong, said it will not accept an International Court of Justice decision on the disputed 4.6 sq km area surrounding the Phra Viharn temple which Cambodia has filed for ownership with the court. The ruling is tentatively scheduled for October this year.

The group submitted a letter of protest to the court via the United Nations ESCAP regional headquarters in Bangkok, before moving to present petition to army headquarters and the Supreme Court under the watchful eyes of the metropolitan police.

Mr Chaiwat said the petition was endorsed by 1,249,773 signatories. He said a ruling against Thailand in the Phra Viharn dispute means the country to lose the disputed 4.6 sq km area near the temple. He further claimed that the action will lead to Thailand's further loss of ocean bed, some 17 million rai in the Gulf of Thailand for which Cambodia has unlawfully claimed ownership.

The dispute between Thailand and Cambodia erupted shortly after the UNESCO approved Cambodia's bid to have the Phra Viharn temple named a World Heritage Site in July 2008.

Thailand claims ownership of 4.6 sq km land next to the temple, reasoning that the border had never been officially demarcated. (MCOT online news)

ISOC Ranong opposes sheltering Rohingya

RANONG, Jan 22 – The seaboard province of Ranong has expressed a severe disapproval of setting up a temporary shelter for Rohingya migrants who illegally entered Thailand in the past weeks.

Col Narin Pannarai, deputy commander of Internal Security Operations Command’s Ranong Centre, said today that the province has to deal with problems arising from migrant employment and the existence of workers from Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos. The southern province on the Andaman coast is opposite the Myanmar border.

Twenty-two Rohingya migrants who were recently arrested for illegal entry have been confined at Ranong immigration centre, he said, adding that the provincial authorities are working with related government agencies to deal with them on humanitarian basis as were the cases with other illegal migrants.

He called on the countries of origin which shelter the Rohingya minority people to solve the problem.

National police chief Adul Saengsingkaew said the policy of repatriating or sheltering the Rohingya migrants depends on the government’s decision. Police have coordinated with all parties concerned in providing special assistance to the ethnic people here, he said.

More than 800 Rohingya migrants were arrested earlier this month with most in the Thai-Malaysian border province of Songkhla. Some are in Satun and Narathiwat. (MCOT online news)

Nakhon Sawan village with no electricity set to continue being in the dark

NAKHON SAWAN, Jan 22 – Some 50 people in a tiny village, about 10 km from the provincial town in this Thai province, gateway to the North, have led their entire lives without electricity, it was reported, and there is no promise or hint of change.

Too small to even have a name, the tiny village with seven houses in Takianluen sub-district of the provincial seat, the residents, mostly farmers, have always yearned for electricity.

Boonruen Taptiang, 72, said she has never watched TV and that she always cooked food using charcoal stoves – a similar practice in every house.

Nukul Panneng, 46, said government officials installed solar panels to generate electricity in the village four years ago but the system broke down six months later and it has never been fixed.

“We have asked the authorities many times for electricity but were told that there wasn’t enough budget,” he said.

Children must rely on light from gasoline lamps in doing their homework and go to another village five kilometres away to watch TV, he said. (MCOT online news)

Army Chief ensures humanitarian aid for Rohingyas

BANGKOK, 21 January 2013 (NNT) - Army Commander-in-Chief Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha has confirmed Thailand is ready to provide humanitarian assistance to illegal Rohingya immigrants although the country, at the same time, needs to take into account its national security.

Gen. Prayuth on Monday said currently there are more than 300,000 illegal immigrants in Thailand, including the Rohingyas, who are in the process of being sent back to their countries of origin or sent to third countries. The army chief affirmed that after being arrested by Thai officials, the asylum seekers had been given proper care and assistance. However, he explained that if the Thai government accepted them, there might be problems afterwards.

The army chief added that whether temporary shelters would be built for the illegal immigrants would be decided by the government.

Regarding the allegation that some Thai officials and army officers had facilitated the Rohingyas’ entering into Thailand, Gen. Prayuth insisted that the army would press a maximum charge against any officer who was proven to have taken part in the case.

Defense Ministry unworried about protest movement against Cambodia

BANGKOK, 21 January 2013 (NNT) - Defense Minister ACM Sukumpol Suwanatat is unworried about the current protest against Cambodia, in relation to the Preah Vihear dispute, while calling on all sides to wait for the International Court of Justice (ICJ)’s verdict on the case.

The minister said on Monday that while the protest by a group called “Khon Thai Hua Jai Rak Chart” was the exercise of the right to freedom of expression, their movement must be based on reasons.

He confirmed that the government will listen to the protesters and that the officers stationed at the disputed border area do have clear understanding about the situation.

ACM Sukumpol stated he was not concerned that the protest would ignite another conflict between Thailand and Cambodia.

He said that Thai military officers have been doing their best around the Preah Vihear area as it is their duty to follow the laws and take proper actions after the ICJ issued the injunction. The Defense Minister added that the two countries should together find solutions to the dispute through bilateral talks.

Special Report: Seripisut promises truth and action

After registering for the Bangkok Governor race, all of the candidates have come up with different policies. Despite running as an independent candidate, former Police Chief Police General Seripisut Temiyavet is among the front runners for this upcoming gubernatorial election.
Leading the group which calls itself "Bangkok Power", Police General Seripisut has launched a campaign under the slogan “Dare to Speak, Dare to Act, Accountable, and Assessable.” He also vowed to change Bangkokians’ standard of living for the better, if he is elected.

His policies include setting up almshouse, free air-conditioned bus to help solve traffic problems, and reducing crime rates. The former police chief is known for his courage in fighting crimes, undaunted by any influential figures or politicians.

The former police chief, however, admitted it would be a Herculean task to win over candidates from political parties. But since he believed that Thailand's political party system was the root cause of divisiveness, he decided to enter the race as an independent candidate.

He also introduced a team of Deputy Bangkok Governors, which included former People’s Alliance for Democracy leader Prapan Kunmee and Director of the Natural Research Centre at Rangsit University Seree Suprathit.

Police General Seripisut is running aginst two other big-name front runners: Pol. Gen.Pongsapat Pongjaroen from Pheu Thai and M.R. Sukhumbhand Paribatra from the Democrat party. The gubernatorial election will take place on March 3rd.

Pollution Control Dept toughens law on pollution sources

BANGKOK, 22 January 2013 (NNT) – The Pollution Control Department (PCD) has launched a caravan of its officials who will visit industrial sites possessing sources of pollution and explain them on a ministerial regulation requiring them to report all waste treatment activities to the department.

According to Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Sakda Noppasit, the PCD has been examining pollution sources created by ten types of businesses and their waste treatment systems. In the inspection process, owners of those businesses are told to follow the ministerial regulation issued under Section 80 of the Environmental Act B.E. 2535, regarding environment quality and promotion. The regulation specifies 10 businesses to compile and report statistics of waste treatment regularly, namely hotels, industrial estates, factories, hospitals, gas stations, condominiums, aquaculture ponds, department stores, housing development, and restaurants.

He reiterated that those business owners, from now on, will have to strictly follow the regulation, by reporting every step and detailed information back to the Pollution Control Department. Anyone found in violation of the environmental law, he/she is entitled to a fine of no more than 100,000 baht or an imprisonment of no more than 1 year, or both.

Donations for Rohingyas total 2 million baht

SONGKHLA, 22 January 2013 (NNT) - Donations for Rohingya migrants totaling 2 million baht have been made by Thais across the country, while measures to deal with the asylum seekers are being discussed among international and local agencies.

According to reports, donations continued to be received at the immigration office in the southern province of Songkhla, where over 200 Rohingyas are detained. Food, clothing and relief packages have also been donated to the migrants by visiting residents.

Members of the public who wish to donate funds to the Rohingyas can transfer money to an account named “Rohingya Assistance Fund” of the Islamic Bank of Thailand, Songkhla Branch. Thus far, the money in the account has amounted to over 2 million baht.

Meanwhile, Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand Amara Pongsapit said the commission is holding talks with the UN’s refugee agency, the UNHCR, on helping resettling a large number of Rohingyas in a third country. The commission is also urging the government to establish a concrete and permanent policy on ways to cope with future instances involving refugees fleeing home-grown violence to Thailand.

All set for cabinet meeting in Thailand’s North today

UTTARADIT, Jan 21 – The provincial administration and private sector here are expected to show up in full force as Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra leads her ministers and high-ranking officials to a mobile cabinet meeting in this primarily agricultural province today.

Uttaradit Governor Chalermchai Fuangkon said provincial officials are ready for the meeting which will take place on the campus of Uttaradit Rajabhat University.

Six major issues slated for discussion today involve trade and investment promotion including the opening of the Mae Sot special economic zone in Tak province, reviewing a project to develop Phitsanulok as the transport hub for Thailand’s lower Northeast and the Indochina region, and water resource management.

The Uttaradit administration will propose many projects for cabinet deliberation, such as opening a permanent checkpoint at Chong Pudu Pass, tourism promotion for the farming district of Laplae and a budget request for Bt1.2 billion to develop Uttaradit Hospital as a major medical centre.

Two other national sessions to be simultaneously held during the cabinet meeting are that of the Joint Public and Private Sector Committee and a meeting of governors from the lower northern provinces.

Deputy Prime Minister/Education Minister Phongthep Thepkanjana arrived yesterday and was briefed on a planned communication network and a large flood prevention project in the province under the government’s Bt100 million development budget. Both will be considered by the cabinet today.

Mr Phongthep said Uttaradit, 490km north of Bangkok, is a feasible base for a communication networking project linking Thailand with Myanmar in the West and with Laos in the East.

In the Joint Public and Private Sector Committee, Thai investors and industrialists will discuss development of high-speed and dual-track rail systems to upgrade Thailand as the a transport hub, or what they called the “Indochina intersection”, in preparation for the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) in 2015 and to promote domestic tourism.

In nearby Tak province, Ms Yingluck and some cabinet members were briefed on the planned development of a special economic zone in the Thai-Myanmar border district of Mae Sot.

Tak Governor Suriya Prasartbundit said the northern province generates an annual revenue of Bt40 billion – Bt39 billion from border trading, and revenue will possibly increase to over Bt50 billion when Thailand is integrated in the AEC. (MCOT online news)

Patriotic rally, election activities to invigorate Bangkok today

BANGKOK, Jan 21 – Metropolitan police are fully deployed for a two-pronged activity in the heart of the capital today, one involving the city gubernatorial election and the other the Phra Viharn (Preah Vihear) temple dispute.

Pol Maj-Gen Prinya Chansuriya, Metropolitan Police deputy commander, met yesterday with to review security for the two events will take place at separate locations less than five kilometres apart.

He talked with leaders of the Thai Patriots Network who said they will gather at the Royal Plaza before moving to the Supreme Court and the headquarters of the three armed forces to submit petitions on the International Court of Justice ruling on the Phra Viharn temple dispute between Thailand and Cambodia.

Gen Prinya said police must assure that the rally will not spillover to cause inconvenience at City Hall where Bangkok election candidates are scheduled to show up on the first day of candidacy registration.

The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration has set Jan 21-25 for Bangkok election candidate registration.

Gen Prinya said more than 100 police will be assigned at City Hall to direct traffic and facilitate candidates and their political advocates who are expected to come in thousands to give their moral support. (MCOT online news)

PM visits Thai-Myanmar border town planned to be set up as special economic zone

TAK, Jan 20 – Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on Sunday visited this Thai-Myanmar border province to see a business area in Mae Sot district, planned to be developed as a special economic zone, ahead of Monday's cabinet meeting in Uttaradit.

Ms Yingluck, accompanied by the foreign minister, commerce minister and transport minister visited a market at the Moei River in Mae Sot, where the first Thai–Myanmar Friendship Bridge is located.

To ease congestion of cross-border transportation, the construction of a second friendship bridge will be considered as a solution and if the construction is approved, the new bridge is expected to be finished in 2014. The prime minister said she asked relevant agencies to study the bridge project and propose it to the cabinet.

The transport minister said what is urgent at the moment is repairing parts of the first friendship bridge by reinforcing the bridge’s columns to support the weight of heavily-loaded vehicles.

After being briefed about the planned establishment of the Mae Sot economic special zone by the Tak governor, she left for the Si Satchanalai Historical Park in Sukhothai province.

The prime minister will later travel to Uttaradit Rajabhat University to meet the joint state and private committee and to preside over a meeting with governors of the lower northern provinces.

Monday's cabinet meeting in the lower northern province of Uttaradit is expected to discuss logistics development in the region and a new border crossing between Thailand's Uttaradit and the Lao PDR.

The new border pass will also become a transportation hub for the lower North region as goods can also be distributed to China through this route.

Ministers on Sunday observed several development projects in five lower northern provinces, as the cabinet meeting will discuss allocation of 100 million baht budget for each province.

Infrastructure development such as roadway upgrades and flood prevention projects for the Yom River and the Nan River will be also considered at Monday's meeting. (MCOT online news)

Myanmar suspects wanted for Rohingya migrant trafficking

SONGKHLA, Jan 21 – More arrest warrants will be issued for Myanmar suspects involved in the smuggling of over 800 Rohingya migrants into Thailand, according to police in this southern province.

Songkhla police earlier released three warrants for the arrest of two Thais and Myanmar national on charge of illegally arranging the Rohingya migrants’ trip to Thailand and confining them on Thai soil.

The three suspects were identified as Prasit Laemlae, former deputy mayor of Padang Besar municipality, Sarote Kaewmaneechote, former operator of a cock-fighting den, and Jama Nadin, a Myanmar citizen.

Police said the trio will surrender to the authorities soon and information from them should lead to more arrests.

An ethnic Rohingya man identified as Muhammad Alla led police into a forest near the Khao Kaew mountain range in Hat-Yai's Chalung sub-district close to the Malaysian border to search for more migrants suspected to be in hiding.

Police found no migrants but saw broken branches pointing to the Malaysian border as if giving directions to illegal migrants trekking from nearby Satun province.

Songkhla health officials gave medical checkup to Rohingya migrants at different temporary shelters yesterday and said they mainly suffered from dehydration, malnutrition and malaria.

Psychiatrists said many were stressed in fear that the Thai government would repatriate them to Myanmar. (MCOT online news)

Two districts in Lamphun declared disaster zones due to drought

LAMPHUN, Jan 20 – The northern province of Lamphun declared two districts disaster zone affected by drought.

Phinit Harnpanich Lamphun governor said he ordered local authorities to provide initial assistance to affected villagers as more than 5,000 households in Ban Thi and Li districts facing water shortages to find water reserves, as the drought situation is likely to escalate.

The water level in the Ping River in Pa Sang district is critically low and water shortage has started to impact farmlands, such as rice paddy fields and longan orchards in some areas. (MCOT online news)

New sleeping pills labeled as lethal

BANGKOK, 18 January 2013 (NNT) - The Public Health Ministry is issuing a warning against new sleeping pills containing Phenazepam, which has been proven to have lethal side effects.

According to the ministry, the drug’s effect can last up to 60 hours. Prolonged use may result in loss of coordination, drowsiness, amnesia and even death.

A number of cases associated with the misuse of Phenazepam-based pills have been reported in the South. Nearly 2,500 tablets have recently been confiscated in Songkla Province. Phenazepam is categorized as type 2 controlled substance in Thailand and has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

The ministry warned that the penalty for smuggling and distributing such illicit drugs is a jail sentence of up to 10 years and a fine of up to 300,000 baht.

Phenazepam is a benzodiazepine drug, which was developed in the Soviet Union in 1974. It is currently produced in Russia and a number of Eastern European countries. The drug is used to treat neurological disorders such as epilepsy, alcohol withdrawal syndrome, and insomnia. Recently, phenazepam has gained popularity as a recreational drug with misuse being reported in the United Kingdom, Finland, Sweden, and the United States.

Bangkok sets up 15 locations for campaign rallies

BANGKOK, 18 January 2013 (NNT) - In preparation for the upcoming gubernatorial election, Bangkok’s Election Commission Office will designate 15 sites around the capital as campaign stages.

Those running for the Governor’s seat are required to register their candidacy at the City Hall during January 21-25 . Eight candidates including incumbent MR Sukhumband Baripatra have so far said they will compete in this year’s election.

The locations where candidates are expected to hold their election rallies include Lumpini, Benjasiri, Queen Sirikit, Chatuchak parks and Rama VIII Bridge park. Candidates need to inform the EC office three days prior to the day they intend to campaign at one of the sites.

The Office’s organizing committee will summon candidates and their teams to a briefing on proper conduct during election campaigns, at the Thai-Japanese Youth Centre on February 1.

Foreign Affairs and NSC to find long-term solutions to problems of Rohingya migrants

The Foreign Affairs Ministry assures that Thailand’s treatment of all Rohingya migrants has always been provided on a humanitarian basis, even though they have entered the Kingdom illegally.

Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul said on Sunday that the problems of the Rohingya migrants have been the responsibility of the National Security Council (NSC), with support from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Mr. Surapong said their joint meeting last week concluded that the Rohingyas currently under detention in Thailand must be treated as illegal migrants. He added that further verification will be conducted to determine whether they are security threats or merely migrants, seeking refuge in a third country.

Mr. Surapong, however, stated that the Prime Minister had instructed relevant government units to provide care to the Rohingyas in accordance with the humanitarian principles.

As for long-term solutions, the Foreign Affairs Ministry and the NSC will discuss the matters with related international organizations, said the minister.

Mr. Surapong reiterated that the Thai government always gave top priority to the problem of human trafficking as it could affect Thailand economically.

He assured that the government has continuously been tackling the problems of human trafficking in a bid to boost international confidence in Thailand after the U.S. Department of State put the country in the Tire 2 Watch List for three years in a row.

Sukhumbhand vows to make Bangkok a green and clean city

BANGKOK, 20 January 2013 (NNT) – The Democrat Party gubernatorial candidate carried on his campaigning, which includes a promise to make Bangkok a green and clean metropolis.

M.R. Sukhumbhand Paribatra, Bangkok Governor candidate from the Democrats, accompanied by party leader Mr. Abhisit Vejjajiva, election campaign key strategist Mr. Apirak Kosayothin and campaign chief Mr. Ong-art Klampaiboon met with Bangkok residents at Lumpini Park on Sunday.

M.R. Sukhumbhand promised capital voters to increase the so-called “lungs of Bangkok” with 5,000 rai of green area. He also assured the continued construction of 3 large public parks, which are now in process, while stating that more land will be sought for the construction of additional 7 others.

The Democrats contender is scheduled to travel to the Bangkok City Hall to register his candidacy on Monday, January 21, the first day of the gubernatorial candidate registration.

Dusit Poll: Bangkok voters prefer party candidate

BANGKOK, 20 January 2013 (NNT) – The latest Suan Dusit Poll revealed Bangkokians are likely to vote for a Bangkok governor candidate running under a political party.

According to Suan Dusit Poll, 56.47 % or more than half of the respondents said that they will vote for a party-supported candidate, basically due to their appreciation of the party while some 40% would cast their vote for an independent contender. Only 3.45% said they remain undecided.

When asked what they look for in the candidates, 47.30% said they hope to hear clear-cut policy campaigns from party candidates and vision as well as clear work directions from independent candidates.

The survey also revealed that 52.17% felt the upcoming Bangkok Governor poll will be fierce because of the rivalry between the 2 major parties, namely the Pheu Thai and the Democrats.

In addition, 53.88 % of the respondents expect conflicts will remain after the election because of the ongoing split in Thai politics and the society. Moreover, the majority of those, who answered the survey, said there will still be vote-buying during the Bangkok Governor election.

Natural Resources Ministry to propose THB50m levee restoration project in Sukhothai

BANGKOK, 20 January 2013 (NNT) – The Natural Resources and Environment Ministry will ask for the Cabinet approval of tens of millions baht in state budget to strengthen levees along the Yom River in Sukhothai Province.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Preecha Rengsomboonsuk revealed on Sunday that he will seek an approval from the Cabinet for 50.1 million baht in a special budget to construct and restore flood walls and levees along the banks of the Yom River at in Sukhothai province.

Mr. Preecha’s request is set to be made during this week’s mobile Cabinet meeting in Uttaradit Province, He said that the construction and the restoration will be immediately launched after the budget approval.

The Natural Resources and Environment Minister is confident that the project will help prevent Sukhothai residents from future flooding.

Meanwhile, Mr. Sermsak Pongpanit, Deputy Education Minister, on Sunday, traveled to the ASEAN Educational Center at Anuban Phitsanulok School, where all information of ASEAN member countries, including ways of life, cultures, governments and politics and languages, has been collected for research purposes.

The Deputy Education Minister also urged provincial state executives under the Education Ministry to make sure that Thai youths are offered equal educational opportunities.

King praises Japan as model for natural disaster recovery

BANGKOK, Jan 18 -- His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej on Thursday told visiting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that Japan is a model for natural disaster response and dealing appropriately with other problems, as he expressed appreciation for the close ties between the two countries.

Mr Abe and his wife Mrs Akie Abe, who were on a two-day official visit to Thailand, were granted an audience by His Majesty the King at Siriraj Hospital on Thursday evening.

Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra led the Japanese premier to the audience with the monarch.

Mr Abe then presented His Majesty the King a letter from the Japanese emperor, conveying his thanks to the Thai people for their kindness in extending assistance to the Japanese people in the time of their disasters.

The monarch, in his reply, praised Japan for its technological advancement, fortitude and harmony, which he hoped would lead the Japanese people to weather their time of trials, catastrophes and economic hardships which occurred in their country.

The king expressed his belief that the Japanese response and approach to their problems would provide a good example for other countries.

King Bhumibol also expressed admiration for the close ties enjoyed by the two royal families and the peoples of Japan and Thailand, which he said would help the already good bilateral relations to be further strengthened. (MCOT online news)

Southern Thailand warned of heavy rain & strong wind during 18-21 January

BANGKOK, 18 January 2013 (NNT) – The Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation (DDPM) has issued its latest warning for residents in the southern region, where harsher weather conditions are forecast from now until early next week.

DDPM Director-General Chatchai Promlert said on Thursday that information provided by the Meteorological Department shows the northeast monsoon over the South and the Gulf of Thailand will strengthen during January 18 and 21.

As a result, more rain is forecast, while some areas will likely be hit by heavy downpour and experience strong wind and waves.

Mr. Chatchai added that flash flood and landslide are expected in 9 provinces, including Phetchaburi, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Chumphon, Surat Thani, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Phatthalung, Songkhla, Pattani and Narathiwat.

Therefore, the DDPM Director-General has asked people in affected areas to keep a close watch on weather forecast and warnings as well as to monitor the natural settings in order to allow for timely evacuation.

He also noted that fishermen should be particularly more careful while at sea until the situation improves.

Mr. Chatchai went on to say that the DDPM already initiated the collaboration with its branch offices in Prachuap Khiri Khan, Surat Thani and Songkhla as well as all 9 provincial offices to be ready for any circumstances and to be on stand-by to lend assistance to those in need, at all times.

Islamic community seeks government leniency for Rohingya migrants

SONGKHLA, Jan 18 – Muslim groups in Thailand have called on the government to temporarily suspend the deportation of Rohingya migrants who illegally entered the kingdom in the South last week and are seeking international cooperation in resettling the ethnic people in a third country.

At the central mosque in Songkhla province, representatives of the Central Islamic Committee of Thailand, the Sheikhul Islam Office and Islamic committees in five southern provinces said they were willing to provide temporary shelter to the Rohingya migrants without criminal charges until suitable settlements were arranged for them.

They offered the central mosque in Songkhla as the Rohingya migrants’ temporary home and asked for people’s donations and food.

Tawee Sodsong, secretary general of the Southern Border Provinces Administrative Centre, and Songkhla Governor Krisda Bunrat visited Rohingya children and women at the Home for Children and Families in Songkhla yesterday. Thai health officials were also available to give them health checks.

Pol Col Tawee said they were not the first groups of Rohinya migrants who illegally entered Thailand, and the Foreign Ministry and National Security Council would have to find long-term solutions and assistance to the Muslim ethnic people fleeing from Myanmar.

In neighbouring Narathiwat province, Muslim and Buddhist Thais brought a truckload of necessities to the Home for Children and Families to be donated to 18 Rohinya migrants residing there while about 20 youths will arrive at the home in the next few days.

Thailand declares war on piracy, intellectual property violation

BANGKOK, Jan 18 – Thailand will set up a special centre to crack down on intellectual property infringement with tough government action against violators, according to Deputy Commerce Minister Nattawut Saikua.

The minister said the Policy Committee of the National Intellectual Property Bureau has moved to set up the Operations Centre for the Suppression of Intellectual Property (IP) Infringement to deal strictly with the long-standing issue. Mr Nattawut himself will head the centre.

Several IP-related laws such as legislation concerning copyright, patent, trademarks, food and drug regulation, and consumer protection will be applied to take legal action against IP violators, Mr Nattawut said.

The centre will also monitor money trails, tax payment records and money laundering activities of piracy suspects, he said, adding that the authorities are keeping a close watch on the movement of a major producer of IP-infringed products, his warehouse and distribution channels in Bangkok and upcountry.

An arrest of the violator is imminent, he said.

Mr Nattawut said the IP meeting on Thursday also agreed to intensify an effort to have Thailand removed from the Priority Watch List (PWL) in a report prepared annually by the Office of the United States Trade Representative under Section 301 as amended to the Trade Act.

Thailand is accelerating action to prevent IP infringement such as amending the copyright law to protect IP on the Internet and customs law to empower authorities to confiscate pirated merchandise.

The measures should materialise in time for the next PWL evaluation in April, the minister said, adding that proprietors of commercial complexes where pirated products are sold will be invited by the authorities to be briefed on the government’s anti-piracy policy. (MCOT online news)

NBTC: “Viewers will not need new TV sets for digital system”

BANGKOK, 18 January 2013 (NNT) – The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) has come out to calm nationwide viewers, who have been anxious about the country’s changeover from analog to digital television.

NBTC vice chairman Natee Sukonrat said on Thursday that the country’s transition from analog to digital broadcast system will start with the bidding process to find providers of the business channels. After that the NBTC will move on to the allocation of public program and community service channels.

All of this is scheduled to be completed before the end of this year, according to the NBTC vice chairman.

Mr. Natee stated that the transition will offer Thailand a total of 48 digital TV channels. He added that the analog system will still be functional until the transition is accomplished.

He went on to say that viewers will not have to acquire new TV sets to accommodate the digital broadcast as their existing units will be able to work with the new system through inexpensive set-top boxes.

Thai Public Health Ministry asks WHO to cancel budget cut for SEA

BANGKOK, 17 January 2013 (NNT) - The Ministry of Public Health is preparing to submit a letter to the World Health Organization (WHO) after countries in Southeast Asia were handed a budget cut of 380 million USD for health promotion and disease prevention.

Public Health Minister MD Pradit Sinthawanarong has talked with WHO representative to Thailand Dr. Monirul Islam after the organization announced that it would decrease the budget for Southeast Asia by 11% or 380 million USD from 2014-2015. The minister said he would ask the WHO director-general in written words to stop the budget cut this Friday, in time for the 132nd session of the WHO executive board meeting from 21-29 January 2013 in Geneva.

MD Pradit pointed out that the budget should not be lowered as most member countries in Southeast Asia were poor and underdeveloped in terms of medicine and public health. Although the budget cut would not affect Thailand much, he said the letter would be submitted to the WHO director-general to show the country’s stance and unity of Southeast Asian countries.




Back to Main Page

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PM visits Thai-Myanmar border town planned to be set up as special economic zone

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Two districts in Lamphun declared disaster zones due to drought

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Foreign Affairs and NSC to find long-term solutions to problems of Rohingya migrants

Sukhumbhand vows to make Bangkok a green and clean city

Dusit Poll: Bangkok voters prefer party candidate

Natural Resources Ministry to propose THB50m levee restoration project in Sukhothai

King praises Japan as model for natural disaster recovery

Southern Thailand warned of heavy rain & strong wind during 18-21 January

Islamic community seeks government leniency for Rohingya migrants

Thailand declares war on piracy, intellectual property violation

NBTC: “Viewers will not need new TV sets for digital system”

Thai Public Health Ministry asks WHO to cancel budget cut for SEA




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