Thai News

2009: July-Sept

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28th September   

Dangerous Thailand...

UK press report another rape on Ko Samui
Link Here

A 28-year British tourist was raped by her taxi driver on the Thai holiday island of Koh Samui, police said.

The woman hired the taxi to take her back to her hotel, but instead was driven to a coconut plantation, where she was beaten and raped. After the attack she was then robbed of her cash and dumped by the road to walk home.

On Sunday, police charged a 21-yr-old local taxi driver with rape. They are questioning an accomplice who used his pick-up to dump the woman referred to as Lily (not real name) afterwards and then robbed her of 1,700 Thai baht (£32)

Paiboon Krajakchan, the deputy police commander said: We are treating this matter seriously. It is important that Koh Samui is seen as a safe destination for tourists.


26th September   

Bounty Hunters...

Thailand outlines a new scam opportunity targeting copy software used by businesses
Link Here

Computers used in Phuket businesses will be targeted in raids by bounty hunters on the lookout for unlicensed copies of software from October 26 onwards.

Under intellectual property rights legislation, the Business Software Alliance (BSA) will be sending inspectors acting on behalf of copyright holders to search offices, first in Bangkok and then in Phuket, which is a principal target province for the piracy raids.

In the past, such bounty hunters have worked in tandem with local police, invading businesses, seizing software they assert ownership of and any hardware containing it. An unidentified official with the Department of Intellectual Property in Bangkok told the Gazette that the latest search is part of an on-going program, now two years old, that has been in abeyance for some time.

As many complaints have been received from software companies, the program is being resumed in earnest. Those caught with illegal software will be fined from 10,000 to 200,000 baht and face jail time of from six months to one year, the source said.

The searches are in line with Thailand's Intellectual Property Act of 1994, which was passed under pressure from foreign companies and governments angered by the free-wheeling trade in illegal copies of software and media protected by copyright.


21st September   

Please Be Upstanding...

Daily national anthem singing through Thailand's provinces
Link Here

The government will encourage the Thai people in all provinces to come out to sing the National Anthem at 6 pm every day until 5 Dec to promote unity and patriotism. The events will be broadcast live from each province, starting with Krabi.

On 15 Sept, PM's Office Minister Sathit Wongnongtoey said that the Cabinet had approved the United and Strong Thai Project to urge the Thai people to love the country and act in the best interests of the nation, not of certain individuals.

He wants the people to show their patriotism every day by singing the National Anthem, and ask themselves when was the last time they sang the song.

The activities will be held in each province, starting on 20 Sept in Krabi, as the first province alphabetically in Thai, to the last province on 4 Dec. All 76 provinces will take turn to hold the activity each day, with provincial governors leading the singing.

And on 5 Dec, the PM will host the closing ceremony and sing with representatives from all provinces at Sanam Luang, Bangkok, to celebrate the King's birthday.

The activities will be broadcast live from each of the provinces through all TV and radio stations every day. Before each day's broadcast, a 2-minute documentary will be shown featuring the patriotic feats of people in that particular province


20th September   

Yellow Scuffles and Red Rallies...

Reds mark 3rd anniversary of coup whilst yellows reclaim Preah Vihear temple
Link Here

Thousands of Thailand's anti-government protesters last night braved torrential rain and flooding to mark the third anniversary of the coup that toppled controversial former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Some 10,000 campaigners, dubbed Red Shirts, defied thousands of riot police and soldiers to rally in Bangkok, calling for the resignation of a senior royal adviser they believed masterminded the ousting of their hero.

They did so despite a new law enacted just last week that empowers the military to curb the movement of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), as the group is formally known, and break up protests in the event of clashes.

Separately, an unknown number of people were injured yesterday in clashes between villagers and supporters of the anti-Thaksin People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) in northeastern Si Sa Ket province bordering Cambodia.

Channel 9 television said a state of emergency had been declared in the province's Kantharalak district, with riot police sent to break up fighting between yellow-shirted PAD protesters and villagers armed with slingshots and stakes.

Scores of villagers hurled rocks at cars and buses transporting 4,000 protesters to the disputed frontier, where they planned to rally to reclaim the 11th century Preah Vihear temple, which an international court awarded to Cambodia in 1962.

The PAD is a loose grouping of royalists, businessmen and the urban middle class. They are led by media mogul Sondhi Limthongkul and Chamlong Srimuang, a former general with close ties to Prem Tinsulanonda.


15th September   

Tax and Welfare...

Calls to legalise prostitution in Thailand
Link Here

Udon Thani Industrial Council chairman Prayoon Homewong has called on the government to legalise prostitution.

We can never get rid of it. So, I think we should pass laws to regulate it, Prayoon said at a meeting with relevant authorities in Udon Thani.

He described prostitution as an old profession, which many foreign countries have recognised legally. Prayoon added that if the flesh trade were stamped out altogether, sex crimes would soar.

If there were laws to regulate prostitution, sex workers would be eligible for legal protection and benefits, while the government would earn income from the tax, Prayoon said: And it would be easier to control.

He added that red-light district zoning could be imposed once laws were passed.

Friends of Women Foundation director Thanavadee Thajeen agreed with imposing zoning and providing prostitutes with access to social security in line with other careers, but moves towards a prostitute-regulation system could only come after consultation with relevant groups: There are so many karaoke lounges and other night spots with covert prostitution and some are located near temples and schools. Zoning could help solve this problem .

However, I don't agree with the registration system because it could adversely affect sex workers. Registration means a woman is willing to be stigmatised for the rest of her life as a prostitute, which may effect her chance of finding another other job in the future.

Regardless of whether prostitution was legalised, she said the government should help prostitutes gain access to the social security system. Prostitutes' employers should be forced to register with their Social Security Office as employers, she said.

Campaigns among men to deter them from buying sex from women should help - if there are no buyers, there won't be sellers, she said.


14th September   

Baggage Handlers Stitched Up...

Bangkok Airport seeks to end pilfering and scams
Link Here

Baggage handlers at Bangkok airport now wear uniforms with pockets sewn shut to prevent pilfering. Police are hauling away illegal taxi touts. And cushions are being added to metal seats at departure gates derided as a pain in the rear.

The overhaul is under way to try and put its scandal-plagued past behind it.

Free Wi-Fi will be in place by the end of the month and 126 Internet terminals have been installed for travelers without laptops. Other upgrades include more restrooms, improved signs and the upholstery of all 19,000 cold metallic seats with turquoise, peach, green and purple cushions that brighten Suvarnabhumi's concrete-and-steel design, panned by some critics as too monotone.

We must have high and strict standards, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said during his Aug. 15 visit, prompted by highly publicized claims by European tourists that they were falsely accused of shoplifting at duty-free stores and then taken to seedy motels and extorted by a police interpreter. On Abhisit's orders, tourists accused of stealing will now be handled transparently so there are no complaints, said Ayuth Sucantharuna, a spokesman for Airports of Thailand, or AOT. They will be interrogated at the airport, rather than transferred to an outside police station, and interviews will be videotaped.

So far, a six-week crackdown on illegal taxi touts and unauthorized tour guides at Suvarnabhumi has resulted in more than 1,200 arrests a misleading number since several are repeat offenders, AOT and police officials say. Touts are charged with creating a public nuisance, which carries a maximum 1,000 baht ($30) fine and is too weak a deterrent, authorities say. Fifty new security cameras are now being installed in the arrival zone to get proof of trespassing and other offenses that carry stiffer penalties.

Another 327 new security cameras are going up in the luggage-sorting zone, where a no pocket rule took effect Sept. 1. They walk in with the clothes on their back without pockets and no mobile phones, no wallets, nothing. Not even a pen, said airport manager Nirandra Theeranartsin: And they come back out the same way.


11th September   

No Riff Raff...

Back to Back tourist visas now restricted
Link Here

In a crackdown on the 60-days tourist visas, several Royal Thai Embassies and Consulates has announced increased screening of tourist visa applicants. We also have several reports on the Thaivisa Forum that this practice already has been enforced by some Embassies and Consulates.

The joint announcement reads: As there has been a number of visa applicants having entered Thailand via tourist visa and misused it to illegally seek employment during their stay and, upon its expiry, sought to re-apply their tourist visas at the Royal Thai Embassy or the Royal Thai Consulate in neighboring countries, requests for visa renewal by such applicants are subject to rejection as their applications are not based on tourism motive, but to continue their illegal employment, which is unlawful.

This is in accordance with the Immigration Act, B.B. 2552 which stipulates that visa applicants are required to clearly express their real purpose of visiting Thailand. Should the case be found that the applicant's real intention were concealed, the application will be rejected.

Please be informed that the intention of applicants to repeatedly depart and re-enter Thailand via tourist visa issued by the Royal Thai Embassy or the Royal Thai Consulate in neighboring countries in recent years upon its expiry, is considered as concealment of real purpose of visiting Thailand. Thus their visas applications will be rejected.

Foreigners living in Thailand are advised to obtain a Non-Immigrant visa, which can be extended up to one year by the Thai Immigration Bureau for those aged over 50, married to a Thai national or working in a profitable company has today confirmed with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bangkok, that the extended applicant screening will take effect immediately.


6th September   

The Airside Story...

Recognising the gangs of Bangkok Airport
Link Here

Despite the government's recent campaign to keep the international gateway to Thailand clear of thugs and cheats, it seems to be business as usual for illegal taxi operators and tour guides at Suvarnabhumi airport.

The Airports of Thailand (AoT) Plc recently reported to the cabinet that more than 600 people had been caught at the airport in the past two months for various offences.

However, airport authorities with a trained eye still see unauthorised taxi operators and tour guides preying on victims, but claim they get intimidated when they approach these people, who then claim they have connections in high places.

Often these people claim they know AoT executives to scare away authorities and keep their businesses going. Some just say bluntly that they need money to pass on to their bosses, which is understood to mean AoT executives, said one inside source.

The source added that there are more than 20 powerful groups operating in the airport which come under the command of major gangs - Kamnan Samruay, Boonruang Srisang, Sak Pakphanang and Pirap.

The Kamnan Samruay camp used to operate at Don Mueang airport, where they provided underground foreign exchange services. At the new airport, the gang has extended its business to cover ticketing and illegal taxi and tour guide services. It also collects "protection fees" from smaller gangs.

The Boonruang Srisang gang also runs an illegal taxi and tour guide service network. It has a small number of members and is independent. The Sak Pakphanang gang is a break-away from the Boonruang Srisang gang, while the Pirap group is believed to have strong connections as its leader has the same last name as an AoT executive.

There are also two prominent groups known as the Pattaya Mafia gang and the Phuyai Daeng gang. The Pattaya Mafia gang, whose leaders are known as Steve and Montri and who are neatly dressed and can easily pass as passengers, is stationed on the fourth floor of the passenger terminal. The Phuyai Daeng gang, with good connections with influential figures in Samut Prakan, works more like a lobbyist for fraudsters who want to gain entry to the airport.


27th August   

Updated: On Yer Bike...

Thailand is deadliest holiday destination for Britons
Link Here

British tourists are more likely to be killed in Thailand than any other destination, according to new figures released today.

Motorbike accidents are the main reason why 269 Britons died there last year, according to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).

The figures mean that Thailand has the highest rate of deaths in proportion to the number of British tourists of any country worldwide. In the year to March, an estimated 860,000 British tourists visited Thailand.

This figure also makes Thailand the country where, proportionately, British tourists are most likely to end up in hospital, according to the organisation's British Behaviour Abroad report, released today.

The majority of 324 reported hospitalisations in Thailand were due to motorbike accidents, says the FCO, and a high proportion are fatal.

The figures for the report are based on incidents reported to British consulates abroad, so actual numbers could be higher.

Update: Not So Dangerous

27th August 2009. See article from

Actually the 269 death of Britons in Thailand figure is from a previous year. In the year to April 1, 2009, a total of 288 Britons died in Thailand.

However, as the British Embassy in Bangkok or the Foreign Office could have told the reporter, most of those deaths were natural and had nothing to do with motorbikes.

The timesonline report simply ignores the 41,000 Britons who are residents in Thailand and who in the course of events die from natural causes, and the 810,000 visitors (not 860,000) some of whom just happen to die while on holiday.

'It turns out last year five British tourists were murdered in Thailand out of a total of 12 foreigners.' [But here the article is surely underestimating the amount of murders, Thai authorities seem to accept that wrong medications are accidents and balcony flying is always suicide. Surely a proportion of these can be traced to poisoning or a bit of a shove off a balcony].


19th August   

Inappropriately Tight...

Perennial story to highlight the attractions of Thailand
Link Here

Chulalongkorn University (CU) is campaigning for students to comply with its dress code, while Thammasat University (TU) wants to the government to launch a Social Cabinet to tackle the issue of students wearing uniforms inappropriately.

At the project launch yesterday, CU rector Pirom Kamolratanakul said wearing a Chula student uniform, the only one to be granted by the monarchy, is a privilege.

TU deputy rector said that Thammasat was less strict about the uniform than some other universities, but insisted students wear appropriate clothes to classes.

Blaming the influence of fashions worn by movie and TV stars, he urged that a Social Cabinet comprising the efforts of several ministries should be set up to help universities solve the problem. The Culture Ministry could ask celebrities to wear clothes appropriate to the time of day and occasion as well as promote good values, he added.


17th August   

Cabbie Round Up...

Unlicensed taxi drivers rounded up at Bangkok Airport
Link Here

Police arrested nearly 300 unlicensed taxi drivers and tour guides in the two-week crackdown on crime at Suvarnabhumi Airport, said Piyapan Champasut, who chairs the board of directors of Airports of Thailand (AoT), the private corporation which oversees all operations there.

Police and AOT security personnel have worked together to crack down on illegal taxi drivers and tour guides at Suvarnabhumi Airport since July 31. Two hundred and five unlicensed taxi drivers and 83 illegal tour guides have so far been arrested, Piyapan said.

More than 100 officials work daily at the airport and more 30 surveillance cameras were installed to capture the footage of scammers.

Regarding baggage theft, Piyapan said that AOT will meet with representatives of two companies Bangkok Flight Services (BFS) and Thai Airways International (THAI) -- to consider improved policies on preventing baggage theft. The two companies are service providers at the airport.

Revised policies are expected to be implemented by September1, he said adding the policies include installing more surveillance cameras, and requiring baggage handlers to wear uniforms without pockets.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on Saturday ordered airport officials to resolve malpractice problems at Suvarnabhumi Airport and restore confidence among foreign tourists.


1st August   

Pardon Me!...

Thaksin petitioning for a return to to Thailand
Link Here

Thousands of supporters of deposed Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra have gathered to collect signatures for a petition seeking a royal pardon for the fugitive former leader.

They are aiming to collect as many as five million signatures in the campaign extending from Bangkok to the provinces, in a bid to rehabilitate Thaksin who was ousted in a 2006 military coup.

At least 5,000 of his supporters gathered at an open field in the historic heart of the capital, with more expected to arrive.

They plan to stay until dawn and keep gathering signatures from around the country for another seven days. Some of the participants submitted thousands of signed petition forms from their provinces.

While the petition is unlikely to have legal consequences, it threatens to renew political tension between rival political groups that have staged sometimes-violent protests over the past three years.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva dismissed the attempt to petition the country's revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej: A royal pardon can only be sought by the individual or their family members as the person faces his sentence.

A plea for a royal pardon must also be vetted by the Justice Ministry before it is submitted on behalf of a convict


27th July   

Dangerous Thailand...

Most likely holiday destination to be a victim of crime
Link Here

As many as 7% of British travellers have been victims of crime overseas in the last five years. A total of 5% have had personal belongings stolen, with 4% having money taken while abroad, a survey by InsureandGo found.

Also, 1% have been the victim of a physical or sexual assault while holidaying overseas, the survey of 2,000 UK adults found

Based purely on the number of incidents involving Britons, Spain is the leading crime country for UK visitors.

This is unsurprising due to the fact that Spain plays host to huge numbers of UK visitors. Proportionately, Thailand is the country where Britons are most likely to become crime victims, with one in 13 suffering a crime incident there.

Spain is, in fact, comparatively safe, with only five times as many incidents of crime against Britons than Thailand even though Spain receives 36 times the number of UK tourists as Thailand.


24th July   

Dangerous Pictures...

Forum website owner given suspended jail sentence over user who posted pictures without girl's consent
Link Here

The owner of a forum website got a suspended one-year jail term and a fine of Bt20,000 after a user posted sex-scene pictures of a Thai woman on his site.

The Criminal Court found Pongwit Singsun guilty of violations of the Computer-Related Crimes Act for allowing his website to be used to damage another person's reputation.

Public prosecutors charged that the crime took place from October 6 to November 30.

A user posted the sex-scene pictures of a woman in Nakhon Sawan, who alerted police.

The court initially sentenced Pongwit to 2 years and fine of Bt40,000 but commuted the penalties by half after he pleaded guilty.

The court later suspended the one-year jail term and put him on probation for two years during which he must report to probation officials for eight times. He is also required to carry out social service for 48 hours.


19th July   

Swine Flu Uproar...

Part 11: To glove or not to glove?
Link Here

The Thai Press (both languages) are in an uproar over the increasing number of deaths from H1N1 in Thailand. As of FRI (the 17th) there have been 24. A "massive" jump in their estimation; with 2-3 new deaths being reported daily. "Confirmed" cases are over 4000. For all the reasons noted below in Part 10, these numbers bear watching but are far from disturbing. But the press is the press and they NEED a crisis to report even if none exists.

Diseases do not spread in a straight-line, linear graphic fashion. Nor are they up and down like a financial page graphic. As I described earlier in this series, it is better to think of disease spread as a target-like series of concentric rings. Each outer ring is the number of people infected from the ring inside it. Obviously, each ring is somewhat bigger than the previous one. But the important factor is its width. If a small number of people are infected from each case, the outermost ring is thin. As long as the rings remain fairly thin-- not too many people infected from prior cases -- then there is no crisis. That seems to be the case for now. If the next ring suddenly gets really wide; things are getting worse. This might be an indicator that the virus has mutated to a more infective form.

Similarly, if flu-related deaths continue to occur in a scattered, rather random fashion and seem to be limited to people with chronic diseases then there is no need for panic. However, should deaths begin to occur in clusters, then that is an indication that a mutation has taken place and that the strain in that cluster is more virulent than the current strain. Any cluster of deaths among a case and those infected by that person will be a cause for alarm that a mutation for the worse has occurred.

It will be years (if ever) before we have a true picture of the actual number of people world-wide infected by this virus. It is highly likely that the vast majority of cases are mild and are never seen in the medical care system and therefore are not documented nor counted among the "confirmed". Death, however, is a seminal event. It is quite likely that just about every H1N1-related death is being documented. The only number available to use as a denominator to calculate a death rate is that count of "confirmed" cases. But this is a bogus number with a large element of bias. Affluence, for one, will determine if the sick individual seeks medical care and gets tested. So, as a measure of actual infections it is nearly useless, but it is all there is!

This current virus has a foothold almost everywhere in the world. For some strange reason (???) India seems almost completely unaffected. Strong people, they? Could this be a case of "don't ask; don't tell"???

The virus will continue to spread until it runs out of people to infect. That won't happen until something like 80% of the world's population is exposed. To date in Thailand, the "confirmed" infection rate is less than 0.001% of the 66M Thais. Even if the "real" infection rate is 100 or even 1000 times that, we've got a long way to go.

In this time of economic down-turn, perhaps there is a place for a new niche industry: cotton gloves!

Despite the advice that flu is spread mainly by physical (hand-to-hand-to-mouth) contact, Asians, in particular, seem to resort immediately to donning cotton face-masks. One newspaper characterized them as "masks of terror"; worn by people terrified of getting sick. Seemingly, if there is a barrier to be worn, it should be a disposable glove. Latex might be too hot and restrictive; hard to drink a cup at Starbucks wearing a rubber glove. Maybe the manufacturer could even capitalize on the Michael Jackson craze by showing those pix of him wearing that one glove? Of course, he was famously photographed in a mask as well!

IF ONLY we could truly convince people that they do NOT get the flu from breathing in the virus, a lightweight cotton glove MIGHT be a goldmine of a product!


7th July   

Big Boy Needs Home, Own Fertilizer...

Thailand looks to end elephant nightlife patrols
Link Here

Elephants idling outside discos or lumbering through traffic have been part of Bangkok's colourful nightlife for nearly two decades. Now authorities want to send them back to the jungle.

Thai officials say they have come up with an innovative solution: offering them up for adoption. Elephant owners can use the money to get into a new business, and those who refuse reasonable offers will be fined, city officials said.

Several groups have already paid the estimated 500,000 baht (£9,000) to buy an elephant and relocate it to a reserve in the countryside.

Half of the city's 200 elephants have been relocated since the programme began in March, and Bangkok Governor Sukhumphan Boriphat vowed that the rest would be out within a year: Roaming elephants can cause accidents, especially at night, and even more importantly are harmful to themselves. It's important that we get elephants out of Bangkok as quickly as possible."

Elephants first arrived in Bangkok in the late 1980s after a logging ban made them redundant in forestry work. The elephants' handlers persuade tourists to buy the animals sugar cane and other snacks or use the elephants to promote the sale of ivory trinkets. Many of the animals get hurt when they collide with cars or step into drains or potholes.


2nd July   

Swine Flu Uproar...

Part 10: Dying in Thailand
Link Here

The Thai news is in an uproar in that 5 Thais (count them 1-2-3-4-5) have died from the H1N1 flu. Of course, the Thai media never heard of the word statistics.

Given that there are almost 1500 "confirmed" cases from which those 5 came, things are not so bad. But you'd never know it from the press. Then again these are the same "journalists" who never took a math class in their life. Annually, during the major holiday periods, they front page the highway death toll with dire messages that the toll keeps climbing! HORRORS! Never is there a mention that the population of the country grows as well -- and in all likelihood faster than the death count.

They did, however, have the generosity to relate that at least two of the five had complicating chronic diseases (like leukemia) and that two others were obese (at least by Thai standards). So there MAY be something of a trend there. I'd be willing to believe that obesity COULD be a contributing factor to one's death from this disease. But that remains to be proven.

Of course, a death preceded by a febrile illness is VERY likely to get tested for H1N1. But, even with Thaksin's 30-baht health plan, I'd suggest that the 1500 "confirmed" cases is a bit on the low side. IOW, those with mild cases are simply not seeking treatment of any kind. Naturally, as a tourist haven, Thailand isn't going to be scouring the country looking for unreported cases. There is nothing to suggest that the gov't is hiding any cases that it knows of; just that it won't be looking for any that don't present on their own. Maybe in three years someone can do their doctoral thesis on the TRUE incidence of H1N1 antibodies across the country.

As has the trend with "swine-flu" in history, many of the cases are among the teen and early 20s crowd. These are NOT generally the target of the "standard" annual flu. One was a Navy recruit in basic training. He was one of the two reported as obese. It almost seems as if it has become a "badge of honor" for a school in the BKK area to have a student with H1N1 forcing that school to close for a week.

All told, things STILL don't look too bad for the human race versus H1N1.

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