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Update February 2018


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Update by Natrakorn Paewsoongnern
 
 
 
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Update February 24, 2018

Rare Disease Day 2018 event to be held

Bangkok, 21 February 2018 (NNT) – The Thai Rare Disease Foundation has joined with Ramathibodi Hospital to hold the “Rare Disease Day 2018” event, seeking to raise awareness of the up to 8,000 rare diseases yet to be recognized in the public health system.

Head of the Department of Medicine at Ramathibodi Hospital, Dr. Duangrudee Wattanasirichaikul, stated at the press conference for “New Life on Rare Disease Day 2018” that a rare disease is any disease that affects less than 1 person in 2,500, of which there are between 7,000 and 8,000. She explained that such diseases can only be diagnosed through blood analysis and that modern medicine, while able to treat most complications of such ailments, lacks adequate supply of the required pharmaceuticals. The rare disease day event is to raise awareness of rare diseases.

Thai Rare Disease Foundation President, Preeya Singhnarala, said her foundation was established to promote understanding of rare diseases not yet recognized by the Thai public health system as well as to serve as a connection between patients and medical organizations in Thailand and abroad so that diagnoses of such diseases can improve.

Ramathibodi Hospital physician, Dr. Thanyachai Sura, remarked that rare diseases are costly to treat due to the range of treatments needed and due to the fact that many medications are not listed in the nation’s compulsory registry.


Winter festival features student shows on Tuesday

Bangkok, 21 February 2018 (NNT) - Visitors to the winter festival, being held in Bangkok, are enjoying beautiful winter flowers and spectacular cultural performances by school students.

Many people have continued to make their way to the winter festival to learn about the lives of people during the reign of King Rama V. Most visitors were dressed in traditional costumes.

Cultural shows featured on Tuesday night attracted many visitors. A shadow-puppet show performed by students from Trang province was among several performances that brought smiles to many faces.

Located to the east of the Equestrian Statue of King Chulalongkorn the Great is an outdoor movie theater. It is a place for people to reminisce about their childhood years when indoor movie theaters were not as ubiquitous as they are today.

The winter festival was initiated by His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn for people of all backgrounds to enjoy and learn about major events that took place during the reigns of King Rama V and King Rama IX.

The festival is open every day until March 11th from 10.30 am to 9 pm, but stays open until 10 pm on Fridays and Saturdays. Entry is free of charge.


Japanese man given custody of 13 surrogate kids

In this Aug. 12, 2014, file photo, the media attend a press briefing where Thai police display projected pictures of surrogate babies born to a Japanese man who is at the center of a surrogacy scandal during a press conference at the police headquarters in Chonburi, Thailand. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit, File)

By Kaweewit Kaewjinda, Associated Press

Bangkok (AP) — A Thai court on Tuesday granted legal custody of 13 babies carried by surrogate mothers to a secretive Japanese millionaire who is their biological father, reviving a bizarre tale that captured tabloid headlines four years ago, but leaving some basic questions unanswered.

Mitsutoki Shigeta's case raised eyebrows in 2014 when police raided a Bangkok condominium and found nine babies and nine nannies living in unfurnished rooms. It was determined that Shigeta had fathered the children using Thai surrogate mothers. The case, along with several others, helped usher in a Thai law prohibiting commercial surrogacy for foreign clients.

Bangkok's Central Juvenile and Family Court gave Shigeta sole legal custody of the children, ruling that he is financially stable and had showed his plans to care for them.

The ruling said Shigeta had a right to custody because the children were born before the new law was enacted, and because the surrogate mothers signed documents waiving their custody rights.

Shigeta, who has kept an extremely low profile, did not attend the court's sessions and had a lawyer represent him.

Shigeta is the son of an owner of a Japanese company and earns over 100 million baht ($3.1 million) in annual dividends, which shows he is financially capable of looking after the children, the court said in a statement. He is now 28 years old, according to a copy of his passport released by Thai police in 2014.

It said DNA evidence confirmed that Shigeta is the children's' father, and that he plans to send the children to an international school and has bought a piece of land to house them next to a large park in central Tokyo, where they will be looked after by nurses and nannies.

The court also said Shigeta had opened bank accounts in Singapore for all 13 children whose custody he was awarded Tuesday. Reports in the Thai media in 2014 said he had fathered 16 children in Thailand, but the court's decision mentioned only 13.

The court's statement did little to lift the veil of mystery over Shigeta, who had minimal contact with the surrogates. After his case made headlines, a group of prominent lawyers sent letters warning Japan's mainstream media not to report Shigeta's name or the names of his family members, according to news organizations that received the letter.

Several Japanese magazines and online publications nonetheless identified him as a son of Japanese tycoon Yasumitsu Shigeta, founder and chief executive officer of the Japanese communications and technology company Hikari Tsushin.

In 2014, a woman who was recruited through an online advertisement to be one of his surrogates recalled meeting Shigeta for the first time two months after giving birth at the fertility clinic that arranged the deal, for which she was paid $10,000.

She described him in an interview with The Associated Press as tall, with shaggy, shoulder-length hair, and dressed casually in jeans and a wrinkled, button-down shirt he left untucked. The woman, who asked to be called by the pseuudonym "Wassana" to avoid embarrassment to her family, said his lawyer accompanied him to the meeting, where she and Shigeta signed a document granting him sole custody.

"He didn't say anything to me," said Wassana, a sidewalk food vendor who took on the surrogacy job to help pay her rent. "He never introduced himself. He only smiled and nodded. His lawyer did the talking."

When public interest in the case became intense, Shigeta said through a lawyer that he simply wanted a big family.

But Mariam Kukunashvili, founder of the New Light clinic that recruited Wassana, said he told her "he wanted to win elections and could use his big family for voting,"

"He said he wanted 10 to 15 babies a year, and that he wanted to continue the baby-making process until he's dead," Kukunashvili told the AP in 2014.

Wassana's doctor, Pisit Tantiwattanakul, told the Medical Council of Thailand — which was concerned that there had been ethical breaches in the case — that Shigeta said he had businesses overseas and wanted a large family because he trusted only his own children to take care of them.

According to Tuesday's court statement, Shigeta has taken care of other children, born from surrogacy, and raised them in Japan and Cambodia, where they were well looked after. The children that he cared for in Japan now all have Japanese citizenship, it said.

It is unclear where the children raised in Cambodia are now. Cambodia inherited much of the surrogacy-for-hire business for foreigners after Thailand banned it, but later passed its own law against it.

The court said Shigeta did not show behavior linking him to human trafficking, which had been a concern when his story was originally revealed.


Protesters win agreement for new reviews of coal plants

 

Protesters cry during gathering near government house in Bangkok, Thailand, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018. Protesters seeking to stop construction of coal-fired power plants in the country's south have claimed victory, as the Energy Ministry agreed to order news assessments of the health and environment impacts of the projects. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

By Tassanee Vejpongsa, Associated Press

Bangkok (AP) — Thailand's energy minister told protesters Tuesday that the health and environmental impacts of two planned coal-fired power plants in the south will be reassessed impartially, an announcement the group termed a victory.

About three dozen demonstrators who had been holding a hunger strike ended their protest in the capital after Energy Minister Siri Jirapongphan met with them and agreed to suspend work on the projects in the seaside provinces of Krabi and Songkhla until neutral reviews are done.

The protesters sang, cried and hugged each other as the agreement was announced.

Protesters gather near the government house to protest the construction of a coal power plant in Bangkok, Thailand, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

Siri, speaking in front of the protesters, agreed to withdraw the assessments by the state enterprise Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand and undertake broader reviews of whether the projects are suitable from impartial participants agreed upon by both the ministry and the protesters.

The ministry agreed not to proceed with either project if the new review finds them unsuitable. The proposed Krabi plant would generate up to 800 megawatts and the Songkhla one 2,200 megawatts of power. The areas under consideration have notable tourism and fishing industries.

Activist Roonguna Kitiyakara expressed confidence that new, fair reviews would mean a halt to the projects.

"The real victory is the reassessment of the environmental and health impacts, making sure the process is impartial, transparent and fact-based," he said  "Because we all know that it is impossible, if you consider all the facts, to find these areas, like Krabi, suitable for power plants, especially coal-powered plants. Perhaps other types of power plants may be possible."


Update February 20, 2018

EEC investment to boost Thailand's GDP growth by 5%

NNT

Bangkok - The projected substantial investment in eastern provinces under the government’s Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) project could help boost the country’s economy by 5 percent in 2018, according to officials.

Secretary-general of the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) Office, Kanit Sangsubhan, said investments in the eastern provinces will help raise Thailand's gross domestic product (GDP) in the latter half of this year.

For the first five years under the EEC’s implementation plan, there are four investment categories with a total of 15 projects. These included a project to develop U-Tapao international airport as the eastern region's aviation city, a high-speed rail project connecting Don Muang, Suvarnabhumi, and U-Tapao airports, the expansion of Laem Chabang deep sea port, Maptaphut, and Sattahip ports, the construction of a dual-track railroad connecting the three ports, and the construction of highways and roads.

The total investment cost is projected at no less than 1.7 trillion baht, or 49.9 billion US dollars.

The 200 billion baht U-Tapao airport development project and the 64.3 billion baht high-speed rail link connecting the three airports are expected to commence their TOR drafting processes this year, with actual processing by private firms expected to start by the end of this year. Both projects are expected to be completed by 2023.

After completion, U-Tapao airport will be able to accommodate 15 million passengers over the first five years and the capacity will increase to 30 million in 10 years, and to 60 million in 15 years.


Wissanu: Election timeframe to be clearer in June

Deputy Prime Minister for Legal Affairs, Wissanu Krea-Ngam.

NNT

Bangkok - Deputy Prime Minister for Legal Affairs, Wissanu Krea-Ngam has indicated that the exact date of the next general election will be announced in June.

Asked about National Legislative Assembly President Pornpetch Wichitcholchai’s comment that the election will be postponed until March 2019, Wissanu said the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) will issue an order calling on related agencies to discuss an election date in June, which is after the enactment of all election related laws.

At present, he said it is still difficult to predict when the election will take place.

When asked what would happen if the joint committee formed by the legislature decided not to accept the last two organic bills governing the elections of the lower and upper houses, Wissanu said the 2017 constitution doesn’t specify who should be responsible for a rewrite, meaning the government can either form a new committee to redraft the laws or let the Constitution Drafting Commission rewrite them.

The most likely scenario is that the incumbent charter drafting team would take up the responsibility if the bills are rejected.


Phang Nga launches safety operations on tourist islands

 

NNT

Phang Nga - Relevant agencies in the southern province of Phang Nga have launched joint safety operations on tourist islands in Koh Yao district to ensure legal compliance by service operators.

The operations, involving officials in charge of administrative affairs, security and marine and coastal resources, entailed inspections of frequently-visited spots and tourist boats as well as drug tests on boat drivers on Koh Khai Nai and Koh Khai Nok islands.

The officials have found two parasailing motor boats that carried an incorrect type of service license and six unlicensed jet skis. The owners of the two parasailing motor boats face a fine of 10,000 baht for each boat. The jet skis’ owners are subject to similar penalties. Drug tests on boat drivers’ urine indicated no narcotic substance in the samples.

Phang Nga’s Regional Marine Office cautioned tour service providers to strictly observe the laws and safety rules, saying officials would launch random boat inspections regularly.


Thailand to host International Earth Science Olympiad in August

NNT

Bangkok - Thailand is preparing to host this year’s International Earth Science Olympiad (IESO).

This year’s competition, which will take place from August 8-17 at Mahidol University, Kanchanaburi, will be held on the theme "Earth Science for All" to raise awareness of global environmental challenges. The event will consist of theoretical and practical tests covering three branches of science: geography, meteorology and astronomy.

Representatives of 35 countries are expected to participate in the competition. The 12th International Earth Science Olympiad is also meant to encourage relevant bodies to modernize science curricula.

Thailand has taken part in the IESO on nine occasions. In last year’s competition hosted by France, Thai students gained five gold, 156 silver and 13 bronze medals.


Update February 19, 2018

Thailand rated 'least miserable' country for fourth consecutive year

NNT

Bangkok - The Prime Minister says he is satisfied with the latest Bloomberg published Misery Index where Thailand was listed as ''the least miserable'' economy out of a total of 66 countries for the fourth consecutive year.

Thailand scored 2.5, which pertained to its low inflation and unemployment rate, reflecting a well-performing economy.

The Bank of Thailand had estimated that Thailand will have only a 1.3 percent unemployment rate this year, with 0.66 percent inflation rate, thanks to the government's economic promotion measures.

The five least miserable countries included Thailand, Singapore, Japan, Switzerland, and Taiwan.  Venezuela topped the list as having the most miserable economic outlook.

The premier said the government is improving the grassroots economy, and expressed well wishes for Thai-Chinese people currently celebrating the Chinese New Year to have a happy and successful life.


Public Health Ministry on alert against possible spread of bird flu

NNT

Bangkok - The Ministry of Public Health is on alert to prevent any spread of bird flu following reports of the finding of the virus in China.

After China confirmed the first human case of H7N4 bird flu, the Public Health Ministry has been prompted to stay vigilant about any possible spread of the virus in Thailand, where the last case was reported in 2006, said Permanent Secretary to the ministry, Dr. Jedsada Chokdamrongsuk.

Director-General of the Department of Disease Control, Dr. Suwannachai Wattanayingcharoenchai, added that all DDC offices have been alerted to work with the Department of Livestock Development offices in their respective areas, to be on the lookout to prevent any infection in both humans and animals.

Dr. Suwannachi said that although there has not been a case of bird flu infection in Thailand for over 10 years, the risk of the spread of the virus remains due to the migration of birds from infected areas and the travel of people from such areas.


Police to collect public feedback on involuntary DNA tests

NNT

Bangkok – The Justice System Reform Commission (Police Reform) will hold a public forum on the proposed authorization of the police to order DNA tests from criminal suspects without their consent.

Justice Reform Commissioner Manit Suksomjit said that the proposed adjustment to criminal cases processed by the police would authorize investigators to assign physicians or other experts to collect DNA samples from the suspect without requiring their consent in all criminal cases, adding that the change is aimed at helping improve the efficient processing of cases.

The proposed changes will expand the coverage of the practice which is currently limited to suspects in criminal cases that will result in more than 3 years detention, and requires consent from the suspect. The collection of DNA samples will help investigators gain a more complete set of evidence to prove the innocence or guilt of a suspect.

The methods of DNA sample collection are limited to buccal DNA collection in an appropriate manner which causes minimum pain and no harm to the person.

The proposed changes are subject to the processes of a public forum under the constitution. The forum will be held on 20th February 2018 at Centra by Centara Government Complex Hotel & Convention Center in Bangkok.


Bangkok dust levels close to normal

NNT

Bangkok - The Pollution Control Department reports dust levels in Bangkok are falling back to normal.

Air quality monitoring stations have indicated a gradual decline in fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) in most areas except the Thanon Intharaphithak area in Thonburi district where PM 2.5 particles are still above the standard level at 45-54 micrograms per cubic meter.

The Meteorological Department has forecast moderate weather for Bangkok. The temperature is likely to drop by 1-3 degrees Celsius, with morning fogs and 88 percent humidity. The capital city has a 20-30 percent chance of rain until 21st February.

Residents in areas with high levels of PM 2.5 who have respiratory tract disorders and cardiovascular disease are advised to put on face masks when going outdoors and to see a doctor if any health irregularities are detected.

All sectors are cautioned against any activities that might raise pollution, such as burning garbage, unsystematic building demolition and driving poorly maintained vehicles.


Update February 17-18, 2018

Thai industries likely to grow impressively alongside EEC

NNT

Bangkok - A leading high-street research agency has predicted a bright future for three industries after the passing of the new Eastern Economic Corridor bill.

Siam Commercial Bank’s Economic Intelligence Center or EIC believes the aviation and logistics industry, the robotics industry and the digital industry will play a more important role after the EEC bill is put into effect as they will be the ones to support the growth of other sectors.

It elaborated that development of U-Tapao Airport is expected to be able to accommodate up to 60 million passengers within the next 14 years while the air transport business in Asia is expected to expand by 60 percent.

This will also lead to the development of adjacent towns and eventually the setting up of an Airport City, the EIC commented.

Meanwhile, all digitally-related businesses are projected to expand impressively and the total spending on digital technology is projected to rise to 135 billion baht in 2020 from 73 billion baht in 2015.


Chinese New Year being celebrated nationwide

NNT

Bangkok - Thais of Chinese descent engaged in ceremonies across the nation Thursday to mark Chinese New Year, with many traveling to shrines in search of good fortune.

Members of the largely Chinese population of Yaowarat road in Bangkok attended Wat Mangkol Kamalawas, in an act believed to bestow merit and good fortune upon those who pay their respects during auspicious occasions. When asked about their visit to the temple most of them remarked that they come annually to ensure good fortune for their families.

Many more Chinese New Year revelers were seen along Yaowarat Road, Bangkok’s China Town, purchasing offerings such as meats, fruit and desserts.

The road this year, is hosting the “Rich and Fortunate Year of the Dog” event in its Chalerm Prakiat Gate area. It has attracted both local and foreign visitors in big numbers.

Similar scenes took place at the popular Chao Pho Suea Shrine with most visitors seeking to circumvent bad luck brought on by their year of birth according to traditional Chinese beliefs.

In Phuket province, a major activity was set up with feasts and dragon dances taking place on the occasion of Chinese New Year. Chiang Mai province held the 16th incarnation of its Chinese New Year celebration, taking place on Chang Mai road and Wichayanon road, which have both been decorated in Chinese motifs such as glowing red lanterns.


Royal Thai Navy launches new patrol boats

NNT

Chonburi - The Royal Thai Navy held a ceremony Friday at the shipyard of Marsun Company Limited in Samutprakan to deploy five new M-21 patrol boats brought in to replace older vessels.

Navy Commander-in-Chief, Adm Naris Pratoomsuwan, presided over the ceremony marking the deployment of the vessels which bear pennant numbers 265, 266, 267, 268 and 269.

Joining Adm Naris was the Navy Wives Association President, Kesara Pratoomsuwan, who officially launched the vessels (it is a tradition to have a woman launch a new boat or ship).

These patrol vessels will be stationed at the Royal Thai Navy’s Coast Guard Squadron and are tasked with protecting Thai waters and the marine ecosystems in the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand. The M-21 boats also have defensive capabilities and onboard facilities to help victims of natural disasters.


Illegal migrant workers in Sukhothai urged obtain legal status

NNT

Sukhothai - Many business operators in Thailand's Sukhothai province have taken their migrant workers to One Stop Service centers to obtain legal documents that allow them to continue working in Thailand.

At present, there are 2 million legal migrant workers in the kingdom, whereas nearly 2 million others are working without a permit. Despite having been allowed to stay in the country temporarily, illegal alien workers are still required to register for legal status.

There are around 742 migrant workers from Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar living in Sukhothai at present. Of this number, 413 of them have already had their identities checked while the remainder have not.

Employers have until the end of this month to legalize their workers' status at One Stop Service centers. Those working in the fishing industry have until November next year.

After completion of the registration process, migrant workers whose nationalities have already been verified will be granted a working visa.


Update February 16, 2018

Thailand's former top cop grilled over brothel owner's loan

Former national police chief Somyot Poompanmoung, center, speaks after being interrogated at the Department of Special Investigation in Bangkok, Thursday, Feb. 15. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

Bangkok (AP) — Thailand's former national police chief, who currently heads the Thai Football Association, met Thursday with investigators to explain his financial links with a fugitive massage parlor owner accused of human trafficking.

Somyot Poompanmoung reported to the Department of Special Investigation in the wake of his admission that while serving as top policeman he borrowed 300 million baht from Kampol Wirathepsuporn.

Kampol is owner of the Victoria Secret massage parlor, which also operated as a brothel, and has been charged with at least 12 separate counts, many related to human trafficking.

Police raids in January revealed that the massage parlor employed underage women and allegedly trafficked some of them into the sex trade. Investigators also discovered that police officers had received sexual favors from staff. Police have raided several other venues that Kampol owns.

Somyot told reporters he was interviewed by investigators as a witness, but declined to elaborate.

Supat Thamthanarug, director of the DSI's anti-trafficking section, said Somyot's large loan was under investigation but he declined to provide further details.

After news of the charges was made public, Somyot told the media that Kampol was an old friend who shared a love of sacred Buddhist amulets, and had helped him out at a difficult time. He said he had paid the money back and declared the loan to the relevant authorities at the time.

The story provoked widespread comment in Thailand about links between police and the criminal underworld. Newspaper opinion writers condemned the former police chief's behavior as "shameless."

Somyot sullied his image even more in a recent media interview in which he said that being Thailand's top policeman had only been a sideline and that his real job was speculating on the stock market.

Somyot made international headlines in 2015 when he announced a reward of 3 million baht for information leading to the arrest of the perpetrators of a deadly Bangkok bomb attack, then awarded it to his own police officers once arrests had been made.

He became head of the Thai Football Association in 2016 after leaving his police post. He took over from Worawi Makudi, who was banned in 2016 from all national and international football-related activities for five years by FIFA, the international governing body of football, for ethical violations including forgery.


Forensic evidence found in Italian Thai CEO's car

NNT

Bangkok - Forensic police have made progress in inspecting a vehicle used by Italian Thai Co Ltd CEO Premchai Karnasutra and three others on an alleged illegal hunting trip but are waiting on confirmation of their findings.

Forensic Science Police Commander, Pol Maj Gen Tawachai Mekprasertsuk indicated Thursday that an inspection of the Land Cruiser used by Premchai and his party when they entered Tungyai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary has turned up finger prints and gun powder residue but added that unidentified sets of finger prints were also found. All of the prints are to be tested against the weapons found at the scene to establish if any were the shooters.

Blood samples thought to be from poached animals found in the vehicle have been forwarded to the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation for DNA analysis. Police found no signs of adaptation of the car for hunting purposes but are to continue the analysis until a 30 day deadline is reached.

Head of the Phaya Sua Unit, Chaiwat Limlikitaksorn, meantime disclosed that a secondary survey of the scene where Premchai and his party were found turned up pieces of animal intestine and two bone fragments with evidence pointing to the animal having been used for food. The evidence is to be forwarded to police investigators who are to further inspect the area later.

Meanwhile, at Premchai’s Rangyen Resort in Loei province, which is suspected of having encroached on a national park, Director of the Forest Fire Prevention Office of the Royal Forestry Department, Cheewaphap Cheewatham, on Thursday filed charges with the Dan Sai Police Station against CPK International Co Ltd, accusing it of circumventing the law to take ownership of 6,215 rai of land and convert it into a resort.


4 fetuses found in trash at Thai resort town

During a headline case in November 2010, police discovered over 2,000 fetuses hidden at a Buddhist temple in Bangkok. (AP Photo/file)

Bangkok (AP) — Garbage collectors have found four fetuses in the trash at the popular resort town of Hua Hin, police said Wednesday.

Police Lt. Sommit Petchpradab said the fetuses were discovered Tuesday by garbage collectors and were found together in a large black plastic bag.

Sommit said police are still investigating the case. He said two of the fetuses had a gestational age of between six and eight months, one between three and four months and the other between eight and 10 weeks.

There are legal restrictions on abortion in Thailand, and the procedure is generally socially taboo, so some women patronize underground abortion clinics.  In 2010, police discovered over 2,000 fetuses hidden at a Buddhist temple which appeared to have come from illegal abortion clinics.


Justice Min campaigns for legal awareness among Thais

NNT

Bangkok - A transit advertising campaign is being organized by the Ministry of Justice in various provinces to raise awareness of the law and the justice system among public members and state agencies.

The Justice Ministry has kicked off the transit advertising campaign as part of its endeavor to ensure Thai people are well informed about the law and the justice system and have equal access to justice services in accordance with the 20-year national strategy.  The campaign is also in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal Number 16, which seeks to develop a peaceful society through the promotion of the rule of law.

The transit advertising campaign is running from now until March 24 in several provinces. The launching ceremony was attended by a number of Thai country singers and accomplished film director Bandit Thongdee, who has produced a short film on legal knowledge particularly for the campaign.

During the campaign, there will be seminars by legal experts and lawyers in each locality to exchange legal knowledge with residents as well as entertainment activities.


Update February 15, 2018

Major drinking water manufacturers agree to use less plastic

NNT

Bangkok - Government agencies and the private sector have signed an agreement to stop using plastic film covering water bottle caps in an effort to reduce plastic garbage on land and sea.

Permanent Secretary for Natural Resources and the Environment Wichan Simachaya, presided this week over the signing of the agreement between the Pollution Control Department, the Department of Environmental Quality Promotion, the FDA, the Office of The Consumer Protection Board, the Thai Beverage Industry Association, the Thai Retailers Association, the Thai Plastic Industries Association and the Plastics Institute of Thailand.

According to the ministry, Thailand produces around 2.6 billion plastic water bottles a year. The lightweight plastic covering water bottle caps poses a threat to the environment on land and at sea since it does not decompose.

Five major drinking water manufacturers have agreed to stop using the plastic covers from 1st April this year. After that, the ministry will urge other companies to follow suit.


Air quality worsens in Thai capital

A woman wears a face mask to filter out some of the thick air pollution in downtown Bangkok. (AP Photo)

NNT

Bangkok - The Pollution Control Department has reported an air pollution level that exceeds the safe limit on three main thoroughfares in Bangkok.

The air pollution level has registered between 48-64 micrograms per cubic meter, higher than the safe level of 50 micrograms per cubic meters. The three main roads with the worst air pollution are Rama IV, Intharaphithak and Lat Phrao Roads. The department also found that the amount of PM10 will likely increase in all areas.

At-risk people and patients with respiratory tract or heart diseases are strongly advised to wear face masks when entering an area affected by air pollution.

The department has urged all industries, especially construction, to help prevent PM10 affecting the air.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has instructed the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment, and the Pollution Control Department to impose measures to tackle the problem as a matter of urgency, suggesting they create artificial rain to reduce dust in the air.


Public Health Min to promote safe drug use in hospitals

NNT

Bangkok - The Ministry of Public Health is set to implement a multi-pronged policy to promote correct drug use, as well as transparent drug procurement by hospitals.

According to Deputy Permanent Secretary for Public Health Dr. Tharet Kratnaiyarawiwong, the ministry developed the policy in response to Cabinet resolutions.

Under the policy, seven measures grouped into three prongs will be enforced to ensure drug quality in hospitals and that patients always receive prescription information for their medication. Hospitals must also take steps to avoid excessive medication, in order to curb drug resistance and the use of antibiotics among patients by 50% and 20%, respectively.

Dr. Tharet revealed that more than 80% of hospitals nationwide are expected to comply with the policy by 2021. He claimed the move would save on unnecessary drug-related expenses and promote safe drug use.

As for medical procurement, certain criteria are currently being developed to ensure transparency and allow any anti-graft agency to examine the process.


Agencies discuss aging society in Thailand

Deputy Prime Minister Gen Chatchai Sarikulya.

NNT

Bangkok - Chulalongkorn University and public health agencies held a seminar this week to discuss the future of Thailand as an aging society.

Deputy Prime Minister Gen Chatchai Sarikulya inaugurated the event and called for all sectors to contribute to improving the quality of life for children and the elderly, in accordance with the country's 20-year national strategy.

Participants discussed policies for low-fertility rates and case studies from other countries, a study of Thailand's aging population, and a survey of attitudes towards having children.


Update February 14, 2018

Myanmar's presence downplayed at Thai-US military exercise

Soldiers attend the opening ceremony of the joint military exercise Cobra Gold 2018 at U-tapao Airport in Rayong Province. Tuesday, Feb. 13. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

Jerry Harmer

U-Tapao Air Base (AP) — Thailand and the United States downplayed the presence of a Myanmar military officer at the opening Tuesday of the largest annual joint military exercise in Southeast Asia.

Myanmar's military has been accused of massive human rights violations in its crackdown on the Rohingya Muslim minority, who have fled by the hundreds of thousands to neighboring Bangladesh.  U.S. lawmakers had demanded Myanmar's exclusion from the exercise.

"The truth is Myanmar is not a participant nation," U.S. Ambassador to Thailand Glyn T. Davies told reporters at in the Cobra Gold exercise in eastern Thailand. "They're not part of the exercises here." He did not explain the Myanmar officer's attendance.

Thai Gen. Thanchaiyan Srisuwan acknowledged inviting Myanmar to the opening ceremony. However, Myanmar's flag was not flown at the ceremonial opening. It's believed Thailand invited Myanmar to send three personnel though only one appeared to be attending.

In Washington last week, both Republican and Democrat members of congress criticized the invitation to Myanmar. Sen. John McCain, the Republican chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told The Associated Press "militaries engaged in ethnic cleansing should not be honing their skills alongside U.S. troops," a reference to accounts of atrocities committed by Myanmar troops.

A U.S. statement said 11,075 service members from 29 countries are taking part in this year's exercise, with Thailand, the U.S., Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia and Malaysia the seven main participants.

It said the aims of the exercise are to enhance security cooperation, develop peacekeeping forces and maintain readiness for humanitarian aid and disaster relief missions.

The exercise includes humanitarian components, such as evacuation drills, as well as traditional military exercises such as amphibious landings.

Disaster relief has assumed a high profile in recent years, especially after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that killed 230,000 people in 14 countries. Multinational forces mobilized for relief efforts after that crisis, as they did again on a more limited scale after 2008's Cyclone Nargis devastated Myanmar, killing upward of 130,000 people.

Davies, in an indirect reference to such crises, told reporters that "It's very important that everyone from around the region have an eye on what's happening here and to some extent to be part of it, but I'll come back to what I said earlier that Burma (Myanmar) is not a participating nation."


Police deployed to China Town ahead of Chinese New Year

NNT

Bangkok – The Ministry of Tourism and Sports has deployed over 100 police officers to Bangkok's China Town to ensure public safety ahead of Valentine’s Day and Chinese New Year.

Tourism and Sports Minister, Weerasak Kowsurat, launched a tourist safety campaign on Yaowarat Rd with the aim of raising tourists’ confidence in their safety during this week’s celebrations.  Canine units and police officers have been stationed at the venue to maintain law and order.

According to Weerasak, the number of Chinese tourists in Thailand this year has increased by 10% compared to the previous year while an average spending per Chinese tourist has risen from 4,500 baht to 6,000 baht.

The minister also asked the locals to be good hosts and that tourism-related firms promote tourist destinations, in addition to China Town, in order to boost tourism revenues elsewhere in the country.


Thai pilgrims visit Lord Buddha’s birthplace in Nepal

NNT

Bangkok - A group of Thai Buddhists on a pilgrimage funded by the 4th Region Forward Command of the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) traveled to Lumbini garden earlier this week, the birthplace of Prince Siddhartha, covering an area of 2,000 rai (790 acres).

Lumbini was inscribed on UNESCO's List of World Heritage in 1997 as the place where Gautama Buddha was born. It is a Buddhist pilgrimage site in Nepal where Queen Mayadevi gave birth to Siddhartha Gautama in 563 BCE. Lumbini has a number of temples, including the renowned Mayadevi Temple. Another historical site is the Puskarini, or the Holy Pond, where the Buddha's mother took the ritual dip prior to his birth and where he had his first bath.

The Buddhist pilgrims performed morning chanting and made meditation in Mayadevi Temple for the prosperity of themselves and their families and prayed for peace in Thailand's southern border provinces.

The Buddhist pilgrims said they felt overwhelmed for having this opportunity to visit the birthplace of the Lord Buddha once in their lifetime, and thanked the ISOC for organizing this project.


More than 11.9 billion baht spent through state welfare cards over first 4 months

CGD Deputy Director-General, Yanee Sangsrichun.

NNT

Bangkok - According to Thailand's Comptroller General's Department (CGD), more than 11.9 billion baht was spent during the first four months of the state welfare card scheme.

CGD Deputy Director-General and spokeswoman, Yanee Sangsrichun, reported that 10.9 million out of 11.4 million people who are eligible for the social welfare card program have already received their cards.

She clarified that, in the first four months of the scheme, 11.8 billion baht was spent at Pracharat Blue Flag shops, 14.3 million baht on cooking gas, 38.2 million baht on bus fares and 65.3 million on rail fares.

She added that a total of 20,272 electronic data capture (EDC) devices have been installed at participating stores, 8,789 of which were installed at Blue Flag shops, 828 at cooking gas retailers, 534 at the State Railway of Thailand, and 121 at the Transport Company Limited.

Yanee said the government will install an additional 20,000 EDC devices to serve cardholders to improve their quality of life in the long term.


Update February 13, 2018

Thailand welcomes UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson

 

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, left, shakes hands with Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha during their meeting at the Government House, in Bangkok, Monday, Feb. 12. (Narong Sangnak/Pool Photo via AP)

Bangkok (AP) — British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson met Monday with Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and other Thai officials and discussed neighboring Myanmar's persecution of ethnic Rohingya Muslims and plans for elections in Thailand to end military rule.

A statement from Britain's Foreign & Commonwealth Office said their discussions also covered "cooperation on education, the digital economy, science and innovation, financial technology, and trade and investment, as well as further co-operation to tackle the Illegal Wildlife Trade."

"Our relationship with Thailand spans a broad range of issues from bilateral trade and investment to regional security and the Illegal Wildlife Trade," the statement quoted Johnson saying. "I look forward to further strengthening the UK's relationship with Thailand in the future."

Thai Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai, one of the officials who met with Johnson, told reporters that the British government is especially concerned about the plight of the Rohingya. About 700,000 members of the Muslim minority have fled to Bangladesh to escape violence by Myanmar security forces that has been characterized by some human rights experts as ethnic cleansing.

Johnson is in Thailand after visiting Bangladesh, where he met Rohingya refugees, and Myanmar, where he held talks on the Rohingya situation with the country's leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.

In Myanmar, Johnson also visited areas in the western state of Rakhine, the site of the violence that drove the Rohingya to flee.

Plans to repatriate the Rohingya have been made by Bangladesh and Myanmar, but are a major concern of the international community. Human rights advocates insist that any repatriation be carried out under verifiably safe conditions.

"Shocked at what I saw during tour of northern #Rakhine," Johnson wrote on Twitter. "The devastation of hundreds of villages torched. UK already a major donor to crisis and will continue to use our influence to provide a better future for the #Rohingya community."

"In the eyes of the British government right now, they are putting an emphasis on fixing the issue of Rohingya in Rakhine state, first and foremost," Don said, adding that Britain did not ask for the Thai government's help in the matter.

Don said Johnson was not concerned by the Thai government’s most recent election date postponement, after several earlier promised deadlines for a return to an elected government passed.

"They are not pressuring Thailand to hold elections because they do not see it as having any impact on England," Don said.

Johnson's visit to Thailand came after an official visit last Friday by Italy's foreign minister, and will be followed by the French deputy foreign minister on Tuesday. Thai Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Busadee Santipitak said last Friday that the trips are a sign of improved relations between Thailand and European nations following the EU's easing of sanctions.


Transport Ministry says Japan still interested in high speed train project

NNT

Bangkok - Officials from the Ministry of Transport have shot down claims being made on social media that Japan has withdrawn interest in investment in the Bangkok-Phitsanulok portion of the Bangkok-Chiang Mai high speed train project.  The ministry explained that the speculation was based on an assessment report following talks between the ministry and Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism and clarified that no agreements for investment have yet been secured. The office affirmed Japan is in the process of evaluating data and considering its investment model, with an emphasis on reducing the burden on Thailand.

The officials added Japan is considering the Life Cycle Cost of the rail system and changes to its top speed after finding that reducing the system’s speed from the usual 300km/h would not result in any significant change to cost.

The Ministry of Transport confirmed its intention to develop the rail system for the betterment of Thailand’s economy and society and for the facilitation of travel and logistics throughout the nation’s regions.


US criticizes Thailand for deporting Cambodian shoe thrower

Cambodian national Sam Sokha  is shown in this Thursday, Feb. 8, 2017, photo. (Pool Photo via AP)

Washington (AP) — The U.S. has criticized Thailand for repatriating a Cambodian labor activist wanted for throwing a shoe at a billboard depicting Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

The activist, Sam Sokha, was arrested after she was returned to Cambodia last week.

Police said she was to serve a two-year prison sentence after being convicted in absentia on Jan. 25 on charges of insulting a public official and "incitement to discriminate."

State Department spokeswoman for East Asia, Katina Adams, said Monday the U.S. was "deeply concerned" that Sam Sokha was repatriated in spite of her U.N.-recognized refugee status.

Adams urged Thailand to refrain from "involuntary refugee returns."

A 13-second video clip that circulated last April showed Sam Sokha throwing shoes at images of Hun Sen and a party colleague.


Police name possible coordinator of ItalThai CEO's illegal hunting trip

NNT

Kanchanaburi - Thailand's Natural Environment Police (NE Police) have secured a warrant for Noppadol Prueksawan after he was identified as being the coordinator for an illegal hunting trip conducted by Italian Thai Co Ltd CEO Premchai Kannasutr and three others.

NE Police Deputy Commander, Pol Col Suwat Intasit, said investigators are to question agents of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plants at Thong Pha Phum, the area of Tungyai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary where Premchai and his party were discovered. Police are also to take a statement from Noppadol Prueksawan, a former agent of the department alleged to have coordinated the hunting trip, on February 16. Noppadol has responded to the call but has not confirmed his appearance date. Police believe he will show up on schedule but have prepared measures in case he fails to appear.

All statements collected are to be compiled to move the case forward.

Head of Tungyai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary, Wichien Chinnawong, has already led two of those under his supervision to meet with police in Thong Pha Phum to provide them with a statement. They were questioned for over an hour.

Director of Conservation Area 12 in Nakhon Sawan, Wittaya Hongwiangchan, and Director of Tungyai Naresuan World Heritage Coordination, Apicha Yusomboon, met with Wichien during the questioning to offer him moral support and to hand over donations to rangers working in his sanctuary.

Wichien thanked the two and his superiors for their close attention to the case. He assured that all of his agents are committed to seeing the matter through.
 


DAILY UPDATE

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HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

Rare Disease Day 2018 event to be held

Winter festival features student shows on Tuesday

Japanese man given custody of 13 surrogate kids

Protesters win agreement for new reviews of coal plants


EEC investment to boost Thailand's GDP growth by 5%

Wissanu: Election timeframe to be clearer in June

Phang Nga launches safety operations on tourist islands

Thailand to host International Earth Science Olympiad in August


Thailand rated 'least miserable' country for fourth consecutive year

Public Health Ministry on alert against possible spread of bird flu

Police to collect public feedback on involuntary DNA tests

Bangkok dust levels close to normal


Thai industries likely to grow impressively alongside EEC

Chinese New Year being celebrated nationwide

Royal Thai Navy launches new patrol boats

Illegal migrant workers in Sukhothai urged obtain legal status


Thailand's former top cop grilled over brothel owner's loan

Forensic evidence found in Italian Thai CEO's car

4 fetuses found in trash at Thai resort town

Justice Min campaigns for legal awareness among Thais


Major drinking water manufacturers agree to use less plastic

Air quality worsens in Thai capital

Public Health Min to promote safe drug use in hospitals

Agencies discuss aging society in Thailand


Myanmar's presence downplayed at Thai-US military exercise

Police deployed to China Town ahead of Chinese New Year

Thai pilgrims visit Lord Buddha’s birthplace in Nepal

More than 11.9 billion baht spent through state welfare cards over first 4 months


Thailand welcomes UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson

Transport Ministry says Japan still interested in high speed train project

US criticizes Thailand for deporting Cambodian shoe thrower

Police name possible coordinator of ItalThai CEO's illegal hunting trip

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