The Australian government has called on Thai authorities to clamp down on violence, extortion and scams against foreign tourists on the resort island of Phuket.
The call comes after the June 20 stabbing murder of 60-year-old Michelle Smith by a bag-snatcher. Australia's ambassador to Thailand, James Wise, flew in from Bangkok to meet provincial leaders and senior police.
There have been concerted attempts by honorary consuls from countries including Australia, Germany, the Netherlands and Britain to ensure a crackdown on thugs and organised criminal rip-offs. But bloody assaults have continued unabated - often
carried out by the operators of taxi services as well as various touts and scam merchants.
Scams include gross overcharging of tourists by some taxis and tuk tuks, as well as demands for huge cash payments for allegedly damaged jet skis that have been hired on Phuket's beaches. Another racket centres on renting motorcycles and then
arranging to have them stolen by an accomplice. The luckless visitor is then made to pay thousands of dollars.
Thailand's Culture Ministry will call a meeting with organisers of Thailand's Got Talent after the popular programme aired a female contestant painting on a canvas with her bare breasts blurred out on national television on Sunday.
Minister of Miserable Culture, Sukumol Khunploem, said that the programme had high ratings and people of all ages watched it. She said that he programme was televised when children were likely to be watching:
There must be limits on artistic expression. I was shocked when I saw the clip. The ministry will meet the organisers of Thailand's Got Talent to get an explanation.
However the show was a recording and not a live broadcast and the organisers edited out inappropriate content, she added.
Family values campaigner Rabiabrat Pongpanich said Thailand's Got Talent focused too much on business and the broadcaster should censor the act before the actual audition. She seems to have mixed up her tenses when she spouted:
The Thai society does not accept this. The police will consider whether this is obscene. This also shows that the Thai society is ailing and it's becoming a sex-consuming society.
One of the three judges claimed the act was inappropriate to the country's culture and expressed her disappointment with many of the audience who voiced their support for the 23-year-old contestant. But the other two judges said the woman passed
the audition, saying the act was another type of artistic expression.
The art or obscenity scandal over the latest episode of Thailand's Got Talent television show now threatens to expose grave violations of media ethics as allegations came out that the contestant in question had been hired to
go on stage.
Following strong criticism of the show's Sunday episode showing a female contestant paint on canvas with her bare breasts, Thai Rath newspaper reported yesterday that Duangjai Jansaunoi had been hired by the show's producers - Workpoint
The news report quoted a close friend of the contestant as saying that Duangjai had been paid Bt10,000 (S$403) to help boost the show's ratings, but she did not know what she had to do until just before the show was recorded. The friend went on
to say that Duangjai was not an independent artist as claimed but a nude model in real life.
Meanwhile, Workpoint Entertainment CEO Panya Nirankul dismissed the allegations in an interview on the Reung Den Yenni TV show , saying that he had asked around and concluded that Thailand's Got Talent producers had nothing to do with it.
He explained that agents hunted down many of the contestants, which might be the reason behind this controversy.
Update: A Cacophony of Miserable Moralists and Censors
Channel 3 operator Bangkok Entertainment Company (BEC) has been fined Bt500,000 ( £ 10,000) by Thailand's TV censors of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commission (NBTC) for allowing a female
contestant to paint on canvas with blurred bare breasts on the prime-time show Thailand's Got Talent.
Perapong Manakij, chairman of NBTC's subcommittee on programming and content, said that the TV station had failed to cut inappropriate content in its prime-time programme, so a high fine had to be levied under the 2008 Broadcasting Act.
Pravit Maleenont, the boss at BEC, said that he was sincerely sorry for this mistake and promised it would not be repeated. The company was implementing all measures needed to prevent such problems in the future, he added.
The ever whingeing Culture Minister Sukumol Kunplome called on the show's producers and the television station to take responsibility for allowing the contestant to go bare breasted on television (albeit all blurred out).
The police are also investigating whether the incident falls under the frame of lewd acts. Police spokesman Piya Utayo said Metropolitan Police that if it is deemed a lewd act, the police would punish those who had supported the contestant to
behave in this way.
Narathip Phumsab, member of the Moral Promotion Centre's board, said this was a major concern and it should not just be blamed on the media - organisers and everybody involved should take responsibility.
First she made a joke about buying a fake Rolex. Now Thailand's culture ministry has filed a complaint to police against Lady Gaga for misuse of the Thai flag during her show last month.
The ministry claimed the part of Lady Gaga's performance when she wore a traditional headdress and sat on a motorcycle in a skimpy outfit with a Thai flag trailing behind was inappropriate and hurt Thai people's sentiment .
We are not asking police to prosecute her but it's our normal procedure to file complaints to concerned agencies when we receive them, a senior ministry official, who declined to be named, said.
There has been worldwide criticism of the Thai authorities over a court ruling that penalized a webmaster for criticisms of the monarchy posted to a Bangkok-based website.
Chiranuch Premchaiporn, who manages web content for Prachatai, violated the Computer Crimes Act because she failed to quickly erase content deemed critical of the monarchy, Bangkok's Criminal Court said. The court fined her and imposed an
eight-month jail sentence that it suspended for one year.
The ruling is a serious threat to the future of the Internet in Thailand, Ross LaJeunesse, Google's head of public policy in the Asia-Pacific region, said in a statement:
The precedent is bad for Thai businesses, users and the innovative potential of Thailand's Internet economy.
Telephone companies are not penalized for things people say on the phone and responsible website owners should not be punished for comments users post on their sites. But Thailand's Computer Crimes Act is being used to do just that.
The sentence is the latest in a growing number of convictions for royal criticism that has prompted academics to call for revisions to the lese-majeste law, a move the country's major political parties have denounced. The U.S., European Union and
United Nations asked Thailand to respect freedom of speech following convictions last year.
Reporters Without Borders condemns today's decision by a Bangkok appeal court to uphold Prachatai news website editor Chiranuch Premchaiporn's May 2012 conviction on a charge of lese-majeste for failing to remove anti-monarchist comments from the
site quickly enough. Reporters Without Borders said:
This ruling sets a dangerous precedent for editors, who could now be held responsible for the comments that visitors post on their sites. The judicial system's obstinacy is appalling, but the fight for freedom of information must not be
abandoned. We will keep on condemning use of lese-majeste charges to persecute critics of the monarchy.
The court also upheld the eight-month suspended prison sentence that Chiranuch received at the original trial, arguing that, as an experienced journalist, she should have known that criminals often use the Internet to attack the monarchy
and that it is every Thai citizen's duty to defend the royal family.
But the Eden of their dreams has a dark underbelly which reveals itself on the beaches of Phuket and Pattaya, a local mafia-run jet ski scam which has ripped off scores of foreign tourists. The racketeers' modus operandi is simple: they rent out
jet skis, which have some damage in a not-so-discernible place, to vacationers at attractive rates. Then, when the joyride is over, they pounce on the unsuspecting tourists for having caused the damage and extort huge amounts from them,
quite often at knifepoint.
Thai lawmakers just made world headlines. It wasn't exactly the kind of international press that would make them or Thailand proud. A BBC world headline on April 18, 2012 read Image of naked woman halts Thai parliament debate. At home, the
Bangkok Post published the image of a half-naked woman captured on the parliament LCD screen.
The revelation caused much brouhaha in the porn-loving Thai online community (which just freshly emerged from virtual Songkran reveling with the famous Japanese adult video star Sora Aoi in Buriram). Nonetheless, not all could openly profess to
appreciate pornography like ordinary netizens, especially those with a public face to keep.
With the image of a panty-less woman in a provocative pose flashing across a giant monitor, face the size of the Thai parliament hall was shattered. Senior lawmakers blushed profusely, scrambling to give a plausible explanation. Hackers must have
infiltrated the parliament network, they said.
A new Thai film based on William Shakespeare's, Macbeth , has been banned by censors on the grounds that its content may cause disunity among the people.
Shakespeare Tong Tai , or Shakespeare Must Die , is directed by Ing K and Manit Sriwanichpoom.
The film is the first Thai rendition of Macbeth, a bloodstained tragedy in which a Scottish general, with the help of his insidious wife, assassinates a king to pave his way to the throne.
The film includes a contemporary allegory about a fictitious nation where a popular politician rises up the echelons of power.
A document from the Ministry of Culture's Office of Film and Video says that since the film undermines the unity of people in the country , the censorship committee refuses to give permission to screen it in Thailand. The committee that
banned the film was chaired by Police Major General Anek Samplang.
The film-makers will appeal against the decision.
Shakespeare Must Die runs for 178 minutes and was partly funded by the Ministry of Culture under the 2010 Thai Khem Khaeng stimulus scheme.
Thailand's film censors have banned an adaptation of Shakespeare's Macbeth, claiming it could inflame political passions in the country where it is taboo to criticize the monarchy.
One of the film's main characters is a dictator named Dear Leader, who resembles former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, whose ouster in a 2006 coup sparked years of political turmoil between his supporters and critics.
Ing K., the film's director, said the censorship committee objected to anti-monarchy overtones in the film as well as politically charged content, including a scene based on an iconic photo from Bangkok's 1976 student uprising showing a
demonstrator being lynched.
The committee questioned why we wanted to bring back violent pain from the past to make people angry, Ing K. said in an interview. The censors also disliked the attire of a murderer in the film, who wore a bright red hooded cloak, the same
color worn by the pro-Thaksin demonstrators known as the Red Shirts.
The director called the ruling absurd and a reflection of the fear in Thai society. She said the character resembling Thaksin could represent any leader accused of corruption and abuse of power: When Cambodians watch this they'll think
it's Hun Sen. When Libyans watch it they would think it's Gadhafi.
KFC Thailand has apologisesd for a Facebook Gaffe during the recent tsunami warning.
While millions of people evacuated the Indian Ocean coastline for higher ground, KFC Thailand suggested that they rush home and order a bucket of chicken.
According to the Associated Press, in an inopportune moment KFC posted on its Facebook page:
Let's hurry home and follow the earthquake news. And don't forget to order your favorite KFC menu.
By the time tsunami warnings subsided, hundreds of people began lambasting the company on Thai web pages, prompting the immediate removal of the message. An apology replaced the post, asking for forgiveness for the error.
The European Union could take legal action against Thailand over import charges imposed on alcohol, says the bloc's Trade Ambassador Karel De Gucht.
The additional costs were unacceptable and against the World Trade Organisation's rules, he said on the sidelines of the annual Asean summit.
Taking legal action through the international courts was an option and the matter would be raised in bilateral talks with the Thai delegation. He said: it's a very clear infringement of the rules.
Thailand taxes alcohol imports by up to 60%, despite the fact that tariffs once imposed on producers from within the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) were cut to zero at the start of last year, when the Asean Free Trade
Area came into force.
That's a major concern for us, De Gucht said. The tariffs are of a purely discriminatory manner.
The EU has already petitioned Thailand over the issue in 2010.
Tanusak Lek-uthai, a Thai deputy finance minister, has proposed a new method of taxing wine which he says would cut imported wine prices and encourage errant importers to pay their revenue bills.
Talks between the EU and Thailand on a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) have stalled amid the political ructions that followed the September 2006 coup. The dispute over tariffs on imported alcohol remains an important stumbling block and there are
fears Thailand could be missing out while its rivals within Asean forge ahead with trade agreements involving the EU.
The Sports Authority of Thailand (SAT) has confirmed that it has banned mixed martial arts (MMA).
It is brutal and it is not boxing, said SAT deputy governor Sakol Wannapong who oversees professional sports: It is against the 1999 boxing law. Organising a MMA event here would hurt the image of Muay Thai,
SAT officials met last week to discuss whether holding an MMA event was lawful or not following a request from a private company and they finally agreed that under the 1999 boxing law, it is unlawful to stage an MMA event in Thailand.
There have been two MMA events held in Bangkok and neither were approved by the SAT, according to Sakol.
If you want to do this kind of business, you should do it in another country, Sakol said, and with some unfathomable Thai logic added: Organising MMA here could mislead the public into believing that Muay Thai is brutal.
MMA is a full contact combat sport that allows the use of both striking and grappling techniques, while standing and on the ground, including boxing, wrestling, Muay Thai, kickboxing, taekwondo, karate, judo and other styles.
A string of orchestrated explosions rocked southern Thailand over the weekend, killing 14 people, wounding 340 and raising fears of larger and deadlier bombs being used by Muslim insurgents.
One attack came just before noon on Saturday at a busy shopping and dining area in the city of Yala, the capital of Thailand's southernmost province: After a large truck bomb exploded, a car bomb went off 20 minutes later as onlookers gathered
and rescue personnel began to arrive. The twin blasts accounted for 11 of the 14 fatalities.
This is the worst attack in the past few years, Col. Pramote Promin, deputy spokesman of a regional security agency, told The Associated Press. The suspected insurgents were targeting people's lives. They (chose) a bustling commercial
area, so they wanted to harm people.
Another bomb attack on Saturday, in the southern city of Hat Yai, struck a high-rise hotel favored by Singaporean and Malaysian vacationers, The A.P. reported. The explosion started a fire in the hotel, and photos at the scene showed a
ground-floor McDonald's engulfed in smoke.
Also, the police said, a motorcycle bomb exploded near a police station in the Mae Lan district of Pattani Province, wounding one police officer.