Five countries: Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar, agreed in 2005 to relax immigration procedures to attract more non-Asean visitors to the region under the framework of Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation.
They created the Five Countries One Destination campaign and ACMEC Single Visa to attract tourists from outside the region, especially from Europe, North America and Australia. Tourists applying for a visa at any of the countries would
automatically be allowed entry to the other four countries under the scheme, which is similar to Europe's Schengen system.
In July, the CLMV Single Visa was launched by Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam. However the Thai government, after years of negotiation, refused to join the agreement, saying it already permitted visitors from up to 45 nations to enter without
Thailand also signed a deal with Cambodia in 2007 for a single-visa scheme, but that too is not yet activated.
Thailand is suspected of fearing a loss of revenue from visa fees if it joined ACMEC, which requires tourists to pay the fee at the country of entry.
Private operators in Thailand now fear that inbound tourism will drop if non-Asean tourists enjoy greater convenience when entering other countries.
Residents in 27 at-risk communities in Bangkok have been warned to brace for floods this weekend as heavy rains are expected from tomorrow (Friday) until Monday. All the flood-prone communities, home to around 1,200 families, are located
along the Chao Phraya River in areas that have no embankment.
However, having an embankment is not always a guarantee against flooding. Such is the case in Sukhothai, which has seen water from the Yom River seeping in even though the level is not overflowing the embankment.
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra reckoned that relevant authorities would have to shift their focus on provinces downstream from Sukhothai.
We are now assessing the situation and trying to prepare solutions for all possible scenarios, she said. When asked whether her government would be able to control the flooding, Yingluck said, I can only say that we are doing our best
In a separate interview, Komsan Maleesee, deputy dean of the Faculty of Engineering at King Mongkut's Institute of Technology Ladkrabang, said the government should not just say that the problem was beyond control.
Airline passengers flying into Thailand will soon receive on-board warnings against bringing counterfeit products into the Kingdom, otherwise they risk being fined and seeing their goods confiscated.
The move is part of a 'serious' crackdown on counterfeit and pirated goods.
Commercial airlines will be required to warn their passengers that carrying counterfeit products into the Kingdom is a violation of Thai copyright law and rather unfairly subject to punishment.
The department will also ask the Customs Department and the Information and Communications Technology Ministry to amend concerned laws for better suppression of fake products. The ICT Ministry will also focus more on blocking websites that sell
fake or pirated products.
The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) has announced it is to hike park entrance fees from October 1 at 29 national parks countrywide.
TTR Weekly reported that fees for Thais to visit most parks will rise from B40 to B100 for Thais.
For foreigners, the rise for most will be from B200 to B500, others will rise from B400 to B500.
TTR Weekly quoted the managing director of Nutty Adventures and Ayutthaya Boat and Travel, Nithi Subhongsang, as saying that the announcement had come as a shock and would have a horrible impact on inbound tour operators because contracted
prices are signed for the entire year and the ones for next year are effective until October 2013.
The parks department claims the top national parks are suffering from too many tourists and the new fees will be a deterrent to help fight deterioration of a sensitive environment. Also, the department says, it will use the additional revenue to improve facilities to better serve tourists
Park fees were last raised five years ago, also at short notice, causing a storm among mass operators.
Banned Thai political drama Shakespeare Must Die , directed by Ing K, will be among the films screening in the Asian Competition section of the 6th Cinema Digital Seoul Film Festival (CinDi).
The director said at the opening ceremony:
I thank CinDi for inviting my film even though they had to ship it under a secret name -- Teenage Love Story -- because the film is banned in Thailand, where people live in fear. I'm suing the government so I shouldn't even be here.
We are fighting because in Thailand, directors have less than human rights. But I promise Shakespeare Must Die is not boring. I made it like a Mexican soap opera and a Thai horror film. You can see it, even though Thai people can't see it.
Thailand's Daily News newspaper has reported the alarming news of the latest move by the Thai TV censor to improve the country's notorious soap operas.
Thais and even some foreigners who have been here long enough know how many of these popular TV melodramas are committed to over-dramatisation and stereotyping of characters.
Jealousy, class discrimination, chauvinism, exaltation of wealth and power, violence, typecasting and reinforcement of prejudices against people like housemaids, ethnic minorities and transvestites prevail in these television series. In recurring
soap storylines, protagonists often can't seem to do anything wrong even when they commit some wrongs.
Daily News quoted Supinya Klangnarong, a member of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC), as saying guidelines will be issued to TV and radio producers addressing the negative aspects of Thai soaps in the hope that
the industry can regulate itself. While such a code of ethics will be non-binding, a warning will have been given and the future granting or renewal of permits by the NBTC to produce TV and radio content will be conditional on a review of
soap-opera content, she said.
Supinya, who chairs the committee for the promotion of self-regulation, was quoted as saying that she is aware that Thai soap operas are like sweets.
The more you eat the more delicious they become. But if you eat them everyday you will become fat. So [the challenge] is how to imbue Thai soaps with morality that will cultivate the hearts of viewers.
This writer can't help but wonder if Thailand will really become a good society if all TV stations air moralistic soap operas, along with religious programmes and mini-dramas extolling the virtues of the monarchy. Perhaps it depends on how
you define a good society. I am concerned, however, that people will become increasingly unable to shoulder responsibility and apply common sense by themselves - and this can't be good.
Taxes for liquor and cigarettes were increased yesterday, with government officials projecting the tax hikes will generate an additional 12 billion baht in revenue for the state each year.
The boost in excise taxes for liquor and cigarettes is also expected to reduce consumption by increasing consumer prices.
Cabinet members approved an increase in taxes for white spirits to 150 baht per litre of 100% alcohol content, up from 120 baht previously. For blended spirits, the tax was increased to 350 baht per litre of 100% alcohol content, up from 300 baht
Cigarette excise taxes, meanwhile, were increased to 87%, up from 85% previously.
Officials estimate that store prices for Marlboro cigarettes should increase by eight baht per pack, six baht for Mild Seven cigarettes and six baht for Krong Thip cigarettes.
Benja Louichareon, director-general of the Excise Department said that the tax hikes were relatively limited as many rates already were at or near the ceiling permitted under the law. Sharp increases could result in more smuggling or tax evasion,
she said, adding the Excise Department favoured an overhaul of the entire excise tax structure to allow current rate ceilings to be increased.
A fire raged through a Phuket nightclub popular with farangs early on Friday morning, leaving at least four people dead and more than 20 others injured, officials said.
Hospital workers said farangs were definitely among the casualties in the blaze at the Tiger night club and discotheque on Bangla road in Patong.
There are four confirmed dead. We believe they are foreign tourists but it's not yet confirmed, Phuket deputy governor Chamroen Tipayapongtada told AFP by telephone: The fire was caused by lightning, which struck a transformer and the
fire spread throughout the place.
According to Phuket News, police and a nightclub employee said the building caught fire as the result of an electrical short circuit during torrential rain.
A hospital worker said: We received more than 20 people who have injuries from the Tiger Pub fire. Most are suffering from smoke inhalation. Two are in critical condition from severe burns.
Concerns about fire safety at Thai nightclubs were highlighted by a massive blaze at a Santika Pub in the capital Bangkok in 2009 that killed more than 60 people, including foreigners, as people celebrated the New Year.
Two new laws have entered service in Thailand. One banning drinking of alcoholic beverages in vehicles and the other banning sales and drinking of alcohol in factories. They have been published in the Royal Gazette and were effective from today,
The two announcements were issued under the Alcoholic Drinks Control Act of 2008.
Jadet Chaowilai, adviser of the Network of People Affected by Alcoholic Drinks, thanked Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra for issuing the two laws which hopefully will reduce the number of deaths, injuries and disabilities as a result of
It was also pointed out that the law may provide another opportunity for the police to harangue people with false or real claims that passengers were drinking.
A Cambodian boy has died of suspected hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) in Rayong's Klaeng district, triggering panic in the eastern coastal province.
Workers hose down and scrub the exterior of a train at Hua Lamphong station yesterday. It was part of a joint clean-up campaign by the Transport and Public Health ministries aimed at preventing the spread of hand, foot and mouth disease.
Rayong provincial health authority chief Krit Palasuth said the two-and-a-half-year-old died in emergency treatment, two hours after being admitted to Klaeng Hospital on Wednesday. The boy arrived at the hospital with breathing difficulty,
fatigue and blisters on his palms and feet.
Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) urged the public not to be fooled by claims that an energy drink can prevent HMFD. The warning follows a report that Cambodians are taking an energy drink together with honey to prevent HFMD.
FDA deputy secretary-general Srinual Korakochakorn said energy drinks are classified as food and beverages and cannot cure or prevent diseases. She said the energy drink should be called a caffeine drink and the FDA in fact has a health
warning out for this beverage.
From the Chao Phraya's source in Nakhon Sawan to its mouth near after Bangkok, flood barriers are going up.
Construction is full steam ahead in many provinces where the 2011 flood crisis remains a haunting memory.
After the disaster last year, residents in Nakhon Sawan and all riverside communities feel they must erect 5.5m high flood barriers to protect themselves the way Bangkok has done.
I am confident that my area will be able to tackle flood risks well this year, Nakhon Sawan Municipality Mayor Jittakasem Nirojthanarat said, as workers busily reinforced the floodwall structure.
Although the whole project is scheduled for completion in 2015, there is a crucial stretch that will be finished in time to protect Nakhon Sawan municipality's most important zone this year. There construction is expected to be complete at the
end of next month.
Thee Thai National Economical and Social Advisory Council (Nesac) has urged the government to exclude alcoholic beverages from the list of goods to be covered by the proposed Thailand-EU free trade agreement (FTA).
The council claimed that the exclusion of alcoholic beverages is somehiow crucial to efforts to curb alcohol abuse in the country.
The scope of what will be covered in the Thailand-EU FTA talks is expected to be submitted for parliamentary endorsement next month.
Jiraporn Limpananont, a Nesac member, said that in future negotiations the Thai team must follow the cabinet's decision to not include alcoholic beverages.
She also recommended the government accelerate the process of passing a bylaw to ban stores selling alcohol and sales of blended iced alcoholic drinks within a 500 metre radius of any educational institution. Jiraporn called on the government to
consider raising the excise tax of alcohol to its ceiling and to step up crackdowns on illegal sales of alcoholic beverages to people under 20 years of age.
[If she was really so concerned about health you would think she would get local alcohol prices increased first. Imported drink is always going to be more expensive, and will therefore have little effect, if
any, on the health of Thais].
The Bt300 minimum wage policy has failed to elevate workers' quality of life, according to the results of a survey released by the Thai Labour Reconciliation Committee (TLRC), which urged the Labour Ministry to review its role and do more to
protect workers' rights.
The minimum wage policy, in effect in seven provinces since April 1, hasn't forced many establishments to raise their minimum wages and most companies are including their welfare allowance with the wage in order to meet the policy requirement,
TLRC chairman Chalee Loysung said.
Subcontract companies that employ such workers as security guards and maids told their employees that the wage hike was out of the question because the contract was already fixed, Chalee said.
The policy of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's administration calls for a daily minimum wage of Bt300 and a salary of Bt15,000 for workers with bachelor's degrees, but the private sector is not complying because of a lack of clear guidelines,
Chalee said. The TLRC will gather the workers' complaints and submit them to Labour Minister Phadermchai Sasomsap.
TLRC deputy chair Wilaiwan Saetia said employers were using the minimum wage policy to reduce taxes, which mainly benefits big companies while small businesses simply threatened their workers with layoffs to force them to take the lower than
Wilaiwan urged the government to implement the Bt300 minimum wage nationwide by the end of this year as it had promised before the election, and resist the push by employers to postpone the wage hike.
The Thai Inter-provincial bus operator Transport Co has responded to a petition calling for movies containing violent content to be banned as on-board entertainment.
The online petition was led by Sajin Prachason who started the campaign at Change.org on July 13, calling on the company to stop showing violent films on coaches. The petition noted:
Like many parents, Ms Sajin doesn't let her young children watch violent films. But when she took a trip on the Transport Co's special air-conditioned coach from the Northeast to Bangkok recently, she and other travellers had to endure over two
hours of throat-slashing and grenade-exploding in Rambo 4.
About 300 people signed the petition. Under Change.org's system, every time a person signs their name to a petition, an email will be sent directly to the decision-maker on the particular issue. In this case, the petition was sent to Wuthichart
Kalayanamit, president of the Transport Co, and three other executives.
Wuthichart has now sent an email to Sajin saying he had received all the petitions and he would instruct bus conductors and attendants to make sure no 'inappropriate' movies are shown on the buses.
The public prosecutor has decided to drop a lese majeste case against Chotisak Onsoong and his friend who did not stand up for the royal anthem in a Bangkok cinema in 2007.
The prosecutor explained that by not standing up for the royal anthem, and by saying Why is it necessary to stand up when it is not required by law? , the actions of the accused did not constitute insults or defamation.
On 20 Sept 2007, at a cinema in the Central World shopping complex in downtown Bangkok, Chotisak and his female friend, whose name is withheld, had a heated argument with Navamintr Witthayakul who was among the audience, after the two ignored
Navamintr's demand for them to stand up for the royal anthem which precedes every movie shown in Thailand's cinemas.
Chotisak called the police and filed complaints at Pathumwan police station against Navamintr for verbal and physical abuse, damage to personal property and coercion, while Navamintr filed a lese majeste complaint against them.
In April 2008, Chotisak and his friend were charged with lese majeste by the police.
In Sept 2008, the public prosecutor dropped the physical abuse charges against Navamintr, and in Oct 2008 the police forwarded the lese majeste case against Chotisak and his friend to the public prosecutor.
It seems that free to air satellite viewers in Thailand will see only blank screens rather than the Olympic Games they may be expecting.
Although the Olympics are free to air on the main broadcast channels, once these are retransmitted via satellite, then the signals have to be blanked due to rights issues.
As usual the authorities claim to be making frantic efforts to find a solution, but they always say this whilst achieving nothing. Similar blanks screens were the order of the day in the recent Euro 2012 tournament, despite the 'frantic efforts'
of the authorities.
The London Games will be held from July 27 to August 12. The media rights to broadcast this tournament are currently held by the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union (ABU).
TV Pool members held talks with the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) along with representatives from major broadcasters at the NBTC's roundtable discussion about the non-availability of upcoming copyrighted sports
tournaments, including the Olympics and the Fifa World Cup.
As a result of being a member of ABU, TV Pool received the rights for free-to-air terrestrial broadcasting. TV Pool groups four major TV broadcasters - BEC's ThaiTV3, Royal Army's TV5, BBTV's Channel7 and MCOT's Modernine TV - to jointly acquire
the rights to broadcast international sports events on a cost-sharing basis.
TV Pool will negotiate with ABU and the IOC to allow TV Pool channels to transmit encrypted satellite signals to satellite TV receivers equipped with a conditioned access (CA), so pay TV viewers may be lucky.
Meanwhile Wichit Aurareevorakul, executive adviser of the Thailand Cable TV Association, said that though cable TV operators will not be affected by restrictions.
The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) has announced that Thai viewers will be able to watch the London 2012 Olympic Games live via satellite and normal TVs.
NBTC Chairman Colonel Natee Sukolrat said he has received confirmation from Lt. Col. Chatchai Sirikalya, Director of Royal Thai Army Radio and Television and the Television Pool of Thailand (TPT) that the 2012 Olympics can be viewed via satellite
and on free TVs.
The TPT has reportedly been granted the rights to broadcast the games and, according to the NBTC, there will be no blackout during the live broadcast. According to The NBTC Chairman, said the NBTC has drafted regulations to prevent conflicts
similar to those reported between UBC and GMM during the European Cup, and allow the general public to view the global event on TV regardless of who their service providers are.
Update: Government licensing 'solutions' may end premium sport on terrestrial TV
The operators of free TV channels could run into copyright-violation problems if upcoming must carry regulations are not followed cautiously, broadcasters and a media agency have told The Nation.
Last week, the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) approved the draft of a regulation guaranteeing the basic right to access all free-to-air TV content in the Kingdom on any platform, without any conditions.
However, Wichit Aurareevorakul, executive adviser of the Thailand Cable TV Association, said that it might cause copyright problems for free-TV channels. The free-TV channels that could run into copyright issues as a result of the regulation
include BEC's ThaiTV3, the Royal Army's TV5, BBTV's Channel 7, MCOT's Modernine TV, NBT and ThaiPBS, as each operator has imported content such as sports, movies, TV series, live broadcasts and cartoons.
The draft of the must-carry rule will go before a public hearing at Bangkok's Century Park Hotel this afternoon. The revised draft will then be submitted for NBTC approval on Wednesday, before the regulations are announced in the Royal Gazette.
Under the must-carry rules, transmission frequencies for radio or television broadcasting and telecommunication are considered national resources for the public interest. Therefore, free-to-air TV operators must be responsible for providing
public broadcasting services across the country on any platform.
The unstated issue is that if the main broadcasters are forced to repeat terrestrial programming on free to air satellite (that may be received outside of Thailand) then they may be forced to licence the material for the region within the
footprint of the satellite. This is probably unfeasible and the end result is that the main channels wont be able to show premium sport at all.
Thailand's constitutional Court defused a potential political crisis Friday by dismissing a complaint that the ruling party's attempt to amend the constitution amounted to plotting to overthrow the monarchy.
Had the court sustained the complaint, it could have ordered Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's party dissolved just a year after the landslide election that brought it to power. Many feared such a ruling would have provoked mass street
protests and possible violence.
Thailand's constitution was written in 2007 under an interim, unelected government temporarily in power after a military coup. Seeing the charter as undemocratic, lawmakers from Yingluck's Pheu Thai party wanted to establish a drafting committee
to amend it.
In reading the compromise verdict, judge Nurak Marpraneet said the charter could be amended section by section, though it could not be entirely rewritten. Nurak then said there are not enough facts to show that the charter amendment aimed
to topple the constitutional monarchy. What the complainants indicated in the petition was merely speculation, he said.
The constitutional Court is closely identified with a conservative, elite establishment that has long seen Thaksin's popularity as a threat to its own power and influence. There are complaints the court wields too much power and that its rulings
serve political aims; its judges have removed two Thaksin-allied prime ministers in the last four years, and they have dissolved major political parties and banned top politicians from politics.
A new Bangkok-based group took to Khao San Road to voice their disapproval of Buddha the cartoon dog and local souvenirs they feel are offensive.
The Knowing Buddha Organization demands an end to all commercialization of Buddha, including retail statues, wall hangings, T-shirts, sex toys, furniture, tattoos and other decorations within Thailand and worldwide.
One particular example particularly rankles the organization. Buddies is a series of children's movies from Walt Disney. It features a big dog named Buddha, who avoids meat and stress, enjoys yoga and meditation, and eats out of a
dish on the floor labeled with his name. The Buddies are named Budderball, RoseBud, B-Dawg, MudBud and Buddha.
Acharavadee Wongsakon says she created the Knowing Buddha protest movement after seeing Walt Disney's Buddha dog in a film rented by her daughter. She said:
If you [Disney] put this with Jesus's name, or Mohammad's, I don't think you'd have a place to stand in the world. Because those people, their religions, they're strong.
We would like to ask the Buddhists around the world to boycott the 'Buddies' movies.
We want Disney to stop using the name Buddha for a dog. No need to cancel the series, just remove that character, or change the name. The public should feel shocked.
We will ask Thailand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs to do what they can.
During the protest, Knowing Buddha Organization also unveiled a List of Disrespectful Businesses!! naming bars, hotels, shops, spas, restaurants and other venues in the United States, Europe, and elsewhere -- plus their websites.
In Thailand, they targeted Buddhi Belly, a frozen yogurt franchise with several cafe's in Bangkok.
But America is seen as the main offender. Acharavadee explained:
Our major problem cases are in the United States -- in Los Angeles and New York especially -- with the film industry giving the wrong impression of how to treat the Buddha image.
In L.A., it is considered hip if you have a Buddha statue in your place as a decorative item. In New York, there is a tattoo group which tattoos Buddha on peoples' legs. They have a statue of a person, where a dog's head replaces the Buddha
head, she says.
We would ask the [Buddha] Bar in Chinatown, in San Francisco, to stop using his name and image,
Suvarnabhumi airport general manager Somchai Sawasdeepon is insisting Thursday's subsidence on the western runway was caused by normal wear and tear.
During the repairs, hundreds of flights were delayed and 11 diverted. The subsidence caused delays for 200 take-offs and landings
But airline managers have questioned if the airfield had been built with proper civil engineering techniques and high-standard construction materials.
An area of 3,600 sq cm (60cm by 60cm) at the northern part of the western runway was found to have subsided by 5cm about 8pm on Thursday night. The airport was closed for repairs about 8.30pm but was quickly reopened at 9pm when the repair work
had been completed.
Somchai insisted the problem was due to heavy use of the western runway as the other runway, on the eastern side, has been closed for an overlay since June 11.
However, Thailand-based managers for international airlines said they were astonished by the large number of soft surface problems.