Thai News

2012: Oct-Dec

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Pungent Culture...

Thailand lists som tam pla ra as a national treasure

Link Here28th December 2012

Som tam or papaya salad seasoned with pungent fermented mud fish, is traditional Isaan delicacy.

It has now been registered as a national treasure by the Thai Culture Ministry. It features in one of seven categories established to preserve the Kingdom's traditional heritage.

Somtam salad and pla ra mud fish have been added to the food category of the heritage list.

Chicken feet green curry, kheowan, has also been similarly recognised with a listing.

Culture Minister Sonthaya Kunplome ludicrously claimed that the registration would encourage promotion of traditions among Thais, especially youth, while serving as a form of immunity against the overwhelming influence of foreign cultures.



Half Way There...

Thailand plans high speed trains to Chiang Mai and Nong Khai

Link Here24th December 2012

Thailand is planning to run Chinese-made high-speed railway systems designed to have time-saving, inexpensive trains for long-distance commuters shuttling between Bangkok and the northern city of Chiang Mai and between the capital and northeastern province of Nong Khai.

  Thai Transport Minister Chatchat Sitthipan said the Thai government has decided to go ahead with the multi-billion-US dollar railway projects under which the so-called Hexie Hao or China Railway Highspeed train system will be used, Xinhua news agency reported.

Construction of the initial stage of the railway project for the Bangkok-Chiang Mai route is scheduled to begin by the middle or second half of next year. The railway project for both routes will be completed until 2015.

Chatchat said commuters will spend only three and a half hours shuttling between Bangkok and Chiang Mai aboard the high-speed train, compared to a dozen hours currently consumed by a rapid train of the State Railway of Thailand. He added:

The high-speed train between Bangkok and Chiang Mai will run 250 to 300 kilometres per hour through terrains and tunnels in the mountains, particularly those in Uttaradit province, to save traveling time for daily commuters. That route will be shortened from 753 km to 680 km.

The 615-km Bangkok-Nong Khai route will consume no more than three hours on a similar high-speed train.

A start-up stretch of the Bangkok-Chiang Mai route has been designed to cover a 342-km distance between Bangkok and Pitsanuloak province, lying roughly halfway between the capital and the northern city.



Updated: Street Parties Unbanned...

Miserable government bans alcohol from pavement cafes and national parks

Link Here22nd December 2012

Starting from the New Year holiday period, roadside food stalls will be banned from selling alcoholic drinks, while all retail sales of alcoholic beverages will be limited to 11am-2pm and 5pm-midnight, Public Health and Morality Minister Pradit Sinthawanarong said. Violators will face up to six months in jail and/or up to Bt10,000 in fines.

Pradit said a meeting of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Committee approved three PM's Office regulations.

  • The ban on roadside alcohol sales, except on private property. Alcohol sales will be banned on all parts of roads, hence owners of food stalls with seating areas on footpaths would face punishment if they sold alcoholic drinks.
  • The time limit on alcohol sales covers all retailers, except at international airports' duty-free zones and service establishments. Previously unlicensed premises were only liable for a negligible 500 Baht fine. The offence will now see a reduced jail term but a heavier fine.
  • The third measure bans alcohol sales and consumption in state-run parks.

The three regulations would be submitted for approval to the National Alcohol Beverage Policy Committee, chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Plodprasop Suraswadi, before the premier signs their implementation. He said he expected the regulations to take effect during the New Year period.

Update: Unbanned

22nd December 2012. See  article from

A newly-proposed restriction on the sale of alcoholic drinks on public footpaths thankfully cannot be imposed in time for the New Year due to delays in the bureaucratic process.

Samarn Footrakool, a senior official who was behind the proposal, accused people whose businesses will be affected of trying to delay or distort information about the restriction campaign:

So far, the efforts to delay the restriction have worked because a meeting to address the issue and secure an order from the Public Health Ministry to officially legitimise the ban has not been scheduled.

He said some sources had told him that the new law could be delayed for a year.



Wheels of Change...

Dual pricing averted for Bangkok's new Ferris Wheel

Link Here16th December 2012

The opening of the 60-metre Asiatique Sky wheel at the night bazaar in Bangkok turned into disaster when the foreign community learned they must pay more to ride.

But now the European owners of the new Ferris Wheel at the Asiatique Riverfront, have just announced via Facebook that all adults will be paying 250 baht per ride regardless of nationality. Previously the farang price had been set 50 Baht above the Thai price.

In the lengthy announcement it was clear that the move was prompted by a never-ending stream of complaints through the social media.

Asiatique is located right on the Chao Phraya river near the Saphan Taksin BTS station and it features an open air shopping mall and a night bazaar with numerous eating places and entertainment spots.



Deviant Book Seller...

Major Thai bookshop chain demands the publishers display censorship warnings on books

Link Here7th December 2012

Thai book seller Se-ed has demanded that publishers put clear warnings of adult content on the cover of books dealing with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LBGT) or sexually explicit content.

According to Isra News Agency the Se-Ed letter asks publishing houses to reconsider or screen books with suggestive content, as follows:

  • LBGT literature
  • Student prostitution
  • Deviant sexual behaviour
  • Sex in public locations
  • Sexual abuse of non-spouses, children, youth and women, and incest (presumably the sexual abuse of spouses is considered to be fine)
  • Arousing graphic details of sexual intercourse

The company threatens to return books that do not comply with these warning guidelines.

According to the Isra report, the letter has met with strong criticism from social groups who claim to be writers and LBGT activists. They say that Se-ed's requirements are too broad, particularly the first rule which clearly discriminates against homosexuality. The groups are now organising a petition on social media against the bookstore. More than 130,000 people have already clicked like on their cause. The group are promoting the banner: We are against the banning of LGBT literature by Se-ed bookstores .

Wiroj Lakkanaadisorn, representative from Se-ed, said the company had no intention of censoring books or halting sales. Instead, the letter aimed to bring distributors on board with a plan to separate books in a category of children's literature from those in a category of erotic literature. The company had received complaints from parents that some children's books actually contained erotic content, and this was not clear from the book's cover.



Cavern Collapse...

Cavern A-GoGo closes on Walking Street

Link Here16th November 2012

Cavern A-GoGo closed its doors on the 14th of November 2012.

It is reported that the venue has been sold but this is not confirmed. The bar will now be closed for a couple of months before something new appears.

The girls have been relocated to sister bars Beach Club and Peppermint.

The Happy group of bars features some of the best looking girls in Pattaya but Cavern never really got its fair share, and so always lived in the shadow of its better sister bars.

One also has to wander if having a twee theme rather loses the bar a bit of street cred.

The GoGo count is in a bit of flux as there are several openings and closings that need to be incorporated.



Update: Sensitive to Criticism...

Google report increased government censorship of content

Link Here14th November 2012

Like other technology and communications companies, Google regularly receives requests from government agencies and courts around the world to remove content from our services. In this report, we disclose the number of requests we receive from each government in six-month periods with certain limitations.

Governments ask companies to remove content for many different reasons. For example, some content removals are requested due to allegations of defamation, while others are due to allegations that the content violates local laws prohibiting hate speech or pornography. Laws surrounding these issues vary by country, and the requests reflect the legal context of a given jurisdiction. We hope this tool will be helpful in discussions about the appropriate scope and authority of government requests.

  • UK.

    We received a request from a local law enforcement agency to remove 14 search results for linking to sites that criticize the police and claim individuals were involved in obscuring crimes. We did not remove content in response to this request. In addition, we received a request from another local law enforcement agency to remove a YouTube video for criticizing the agency of racism. We did not remove content in response to this request.

    The number of content removal requests we received increased by 98% compared to the previous reporting period.
  • US

    We received five requests and one court order to remove seven YouTube videos for criticizing local and state government agencies, law enforcement or public officials. We did not remove content in response to these requests. We received a court order to remove 1,754 posts from Google Groups relating to a case of continuous defamation against a man and his family. We removed 1,664 of the posts, which fell within the scope of the order. We received three court orders to remove 641 search results for linking to websites that allegedly defame organizations and individuals. We removed 233 of the search results requested, which fell within the scope of the orders. In response to a court order, we removed 156 search results because the web pages in question used a trademark in violation of an earlier order.

    The number of content removal requests we received increased by 46% compared to the previous reporting period.
  • Thailand

    We received two requests from the Ministry of Information, Communication and Technology in Thailand to remove 14 YouTube videos for allegedly insulting the monarchy in violation of Thailand's le'se-majeste' law. We restricted three of these videos from view in Thailand out of respect for local law.



Update: Thai Blockosphere...

Thailand's list of blocked website URLs reaches one million

Link Here1st November 2012
Full story: Internet Censorship in Thailand...Thailand implements mass website blocking

Thailand's first blocklist was created by the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology in January 2004 during the Thaksin Shinawatra administration. It blocked 1,247 URLs by name.

Thailand's first blocklist marked the first and only attempt at transparency by Thailand's Internet censors. Every subsequent blocklist, the webpages blocked, the reasons for blocking and even the number of pages blocked is held in secret by Thai government.

Following Thailand's military coup d'etat on September 19, 2006, the military's fifth official order on its first day in power was to block the Internet. Under the coup regime, tens of thousands of webpages were blocked.

The coup government's first legislative action was to promulgate the Computer Crimes Act 2007. In its first drafts, the CCA prescribed the death penalty for computer crimes; this was modified in the final law to only 20 years in prison.

The new elected opposition government has continued the folly of its predecessors. It was further revealed that Thai government censorship was rising at a rate of 690 new pages blocked every single day.

Thailand's censorship has shown no signs of abating and almost none of the webpages blocked during the emergency have been unblocked. In 2012, more than 90,000 Facebook pages were blocked. So are online pharmacies and gambling sites.

To date, Thailand has spent THB 2,173,913,043---more than two billion baht---(almost USD $71 million) to censor our Internet.

On December 28, 2011, Thailand was blocking 777,286 webpages. Today, November 1, 2012, Thailand blocks ONE MILLION URLs



Pla Som...

Thailand tries to ween Issan fans off carcinogenic raw fish

Link Here13th October 2012

Public Health deputy minister Surawit Khonsomboon has  backed the idea of prohibiting state officials from eating raw fish and raw fermented fish, saying they would face a disciplinary punishment for doing this.

Surawit praised the provincial policy to implement this food ban. Local officials have asked 600 somtam shops to serve only cooked fermented fish and have banned officials from eating raw fish - or they would face punishment. This was done to set a good example to the public.

Authorities urged people to stop eating raw fish and raw fermented fish, but Surawit said people weren't scared of Opisthorchiasis as they could take medicine to kill the parasite. But taking such pills too many times could cause Cholangiocarcinoma, he said.

Each year 10,000 Isaan people die from Cholangiocarcinoma, he said. ie the liver fluke parasites in the fish cause liver cancer in humans.



Fueling Inflation...

Thailand to ban 91 octane petrol from 1st January 2013

Link Here11th October 2012

From January 1 onwards, fuel stations nationwide will stop selling 91-octane petrol, which will force owners of 500,000 vehicles and 500,000 motorcycles either to retrofit their engines or switch to 95-octane petrol.

Energy Minister Arak Chonlatanon said that the decision would boost gasohol sales by 8 million litres a day, prompting demand for 800,000 litres more ethanol per day. This is in line with the government's policy to rely more on locally sourced energy and boost farmers' income.

Thailand's 20 ethanol plants, with sugar cane and cassava as raw materials, have combined capacity of 3.27 million litres, but domestic demand is only 1.3 million litres.

Sale of 91-octane petrol was originally set to end on October 1. The three-month extension is to give retailers time to adjust.



Just the Same 6 Channels...

Thailand set for an unimpressive start to Digital TV

Link Here10th October 2012

Six analog terrestrial-television broadcasters will launch digital TV services on a trial basis by the end of the year.

A spokesman from the National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commission said that there are plans to grant temporary licences to the six current free-to-air channels to operate digital terrestrial services as a part of trial run expected to begin in December.

Viewers who can get access to digital TV channels will get the same programmes as those aired on the analog platform.

The NBTC is working on how to increase the penetration rate for usage of digital set-top boxes. This includes a possible government subsidy scheme and the granting of special permission for selling set-top boxes during the trial period, which is also called the simulcast period .

Initially, the NBTC will permit only local manufacturers and producers who meet the basic requirements determined by the commission to sell and distribute set-top boxes for digital TV.

The NBTC said that it would likely take five to 10 years to get 20 million set-top boxes for digital TV into households across the country.



Freedom on the Net...

Freedom House report details worldwide diverse threats to internet freedom

Link Here2nd October 2012

Brutal attacks against bloggers, politically motivated surveillance, proactive manipulation of web content, and restrictive laws regulating speech online are among the diverse threats to internet freedom emerging over the past two years, according to a new study released by Freedom House.

Despite these threats, Freedom on the Net 2012: A Global Assessment of Internet and Digital Media found that increased pushback by civil society, technology companies, and independent courts resulted in several notable victories.

Sanja Kelly, project director for Freedom on the Net at Freedom House said:

The findings clearly show that threats to internet freedom are becoming more diverse. As authoritarian rulers see that blocked websites and high-profile arrests draw local and international condemnation, they are turning to murkier---but no less dangerous---methods for controlling online conversations.

Freedom on the Net 2012, which identifies key trends in internet freedom in 47 countries, evaluates each country based on barriers to access, limits on content, and violations of user rights.

The study found that Estonia had the greatest degree of internet freedom among the countries examined, while the United States ranked second. Iran, Cuba, and China received the lowest scores in the analysis. Eleven other countries received a ranking of Not Free, including Belarus, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan, and Thailand. A total of 20 of the 47 countries examined experienced a negative trajectory in internet freedom since January 2011, with Bahrain, Pakistan, and Ethiopia registering the greatest declines.

Several downgrades, particularly in the Middle East, reflected intensified censorship, arrests, and violence against bloggers as the authorities sought to quell public calls for reform. In Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, Uzbekistan, and China, authorities imposed new restrictions after observing the key role that social media played in the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia.

At the same time, 14 countries registered a positive trajectory, with Tunisia and Burma experiencing the largest improvements following dramatic political openings. The remaining gains occurred almost exclusively in democracies, highlighting the crucial importance of broader institutions of democratic governance in upholding internet freedom.

Countries at Risk: As part of its analysis, Freedom House identified a number of important countries that are seen as particularly vulnerable to deterioration in the coming 12 months: Azerbaijan, Libya, Malaysia, Pakistan, Russia, Rwanda, and Sri Lanka.

Key Trends

  • New laws restrict free speech: In 19 of the 47 countries examined, new laws or directives have been passed since January 2011 that either restrict online speech, violate user privacy, or punish individuals who post content deemed objectionable or undesirable.
  • Bloggers and ordinary users increasingly face arrest for political speech on the web: In 26 of the 47 countries, including several democratic states, at least one blogger or ICT user was arrested for content posted online or sent via text message.
  • Physical attacks against government critics are intensifying: In 19 of the 47 countries assessed, a blogger or internet user was tortured, disappeared, beaten, or brutally assaulted as a result of their online posts. In five countries, an activist or citizen journalist was killed in retribution for posting information that exposed human rights abuses.
  • Paid commentators, hijacking attacks are proliferating: The phenomenon of paid pro-government commentators has spread over the past two years from a small set of countries to 14 of the 47 countries examined. Meanwhile, government critics faced politically motivated cyberattacks in 19 of the countries covered.
  • Surveillance is increasing, with few checks on abuse: In 12 of the 47 countries examined, a new law or directive disproportionately enhanced surveillance or restricted user anonymity. In authoritarian countries, surveillance often targets government critics, while in middle-performing countries, safeguards for user rights and oversight procedures are lagging far behind governments' technical capacities and legal powers, leading to abuse.
  • Citizen pushback is yielding results: A significant uptick in civic activism related to internet freedom, alongside important court decisions, has produced notable victories in a wide set of countries. Advocacy campaigns, mass demonstrations, website blackouts, and constitutional court decisions have resulted in censorship plans being shelved, harmful legislation being overturned, and jailed activists being released. In 23 of the 47 countries assessed, at least one such victory occurred.

Other Significant Country Findings:

  • China: China is home to the world's largest population of internet users, but also the most advanced system of controls---one that has become even more restrictive. In 2011, the authorities abducted dozens of activists and bloggers, holding them incommunicado for weeks and sentencing several to prison. The government also tightened controls over popular domestic microblogging platforms, pressuring key firms to more stringently censor political content and to register their users' real names. Meanwhile, China's influence as an incubator for sophisticated restrictions was felt across the globe, with governments such as Belarus, Uzbekistan, and Iran using China as a model for their own new internet controls.
  • Iran: The Iranian authorities used more nuanced tactics in a continued campaign against internet freedom that began after disputed elections in 2009. These tactics included: upgrading content filtering technology, hacking digital certificates to undermine user privacy, and moving closer to establishing a National Internet. Iranian judicial authorities also meted out some of the harshest sentences in the world for online activities, including imposing the death penalty on three bloggers and IT professionals.
  • Russia: The internet is the last relatively uncensored platform for public debate in Russia. However, since January 2011, massive distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks and smear campaigns to discredit online activists have intensified. After online tools played a critical role in galvanizing massive anti-government protests that began in December 2011, the Kremlin signaled its intention to further tighten control over internet communications.
  • Pakistan: Disconcerting recent developments in Pakistan include a ban on encryption and virtual private networks (VPNs), a death sentence imposed for transmitting allegedly blasphemous content via text message, and a one-day block on all mobile phone networks in Balochistan province. Several other initiatives to increase censorship---including a plan to filter text messages by keyword and a proposal to develop a nationwide internet firewall---were officially shelved in response to civil society advocacy campaigns, although some suspect that the government is still working on them behind closed doors.
  • Egypt: The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) maintained many of its predecessor's tactics of internet control, while intensifying others. Mobile phones, the internet, and social media remained under vigorous surveillance, bandwidth speeds were throttled during specific events, and SCAF-affiliated commentators manipulated online discussions. Several activists and bloggers were intimidated, beaten, shot at, or tried in military courts for insulting the military power or disturbing social peace. Despite recent elections, the future trajectory of internet freedom in Egypt remains precarious and uncertain.
  • United States: Internet access in the United States remains open and fairly free compared with the rest of the world. Courts have consistently held that prohibitions against government regulation of speech apply to material published on the internet, but the government's surveillance powers are cause for some concern. In early 2012, campaigns by civil society and technology companies helped to halt passage of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA), which were criticized for their potentially negative effects on free speech.
  • Azerbaijan: As the host of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in November 2012, the government of Azerbaijan has been eager to promote itself as a leader of ICT innovation, but has also slightly increased restrictions on internet freedom. Rather than significantly censoring online content, the government has employed tactics such as raiding cybercafes to gather information on user identities, arresting politically active netizens on trumped-up charges, and harassing activists and their family members. In a worrisome development, the authorities ramped up their surveillance capabilities of mobile phones in early 2012.

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