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Dinosaurs in the big city
The Nation November 23, 2015 Writer: Phatarawadee Phataranawik

Youngsters cavort around the dinosaurs on display in Parc Paragon. Nation/Julladit Onlamoon

Schoolchildren are dwerfed by the replica of Phuwainagosaururus sirindhornae, a dinosaur species after HRH Chakri Sirindhorn. Photo/EPA

A replica dinosaur skeleton looms menacingly over a cellphone-toting visitor. Photo/EPA

Recently unearthed dinosaur bones are on display. Nation/Julldit Onlamoon.

Orn-uma Summart, a Sirindhorn Museum geologist, points out a case showing fossils from a theropod unearthed in Phu Noi, Kalasin in 2007. Nation/Julladit Onlamoon.

Fossils unearthed around the country prove that Thailand was once teeming with giant lizards, but they avoided bangkok - until now
"DINOSAURS IN TOWN!" schoolboys shriek in delight while playing with a T Rex that's strutting around in front of Siam Paragon. It's far too cute to be terrifying, but more than ample for drawing attention to the exhibition of actual prehistory on view at the mall, starting inside a huge air-conditioned tent that dominates Parc Paragon.

"The Amazing Asian Dinosaur at Siam" show is a chance for Bangkok bone buffs to see what they're missing in the far Northeast. There are three dozen genuine dinosaur fossils shared by the Sirindhorn Museum in Kalasin and the Phuwiang Fossil Research Centre and Dinosaur Museum in Khon Kaen, along with replica skeletons of the "terrible lizards" that have been found in Isaan, Laos and Japan.

Out front of the tent prowl Siamosaurus suteethorni, which is named for Thai paleontologist Varavudh Suteethorn, and Phuwiangosuarus sirindhornae, the former bearing Siam's name and that of its bones' discoverers, the latter the surname of Her Royal Highness Prince Maha Chakri Sirindhorn and the locale that was once its habitat.

"Thailand is the dinosaur hub of Southeast Asia," says Naramase Teerarungsigul of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment's Department of Mineral Resources. "Ever since we found the first 130-million-year-old fossil in Phuwiang National Park in 1976, Thailand has been uncovering various species. Most of the discoveries have taken place in Khon Khaen, Kalasin, Chaiyaphom and Nakhon Ratchasima, but in recent years we've found more in the North, in Chiang Muan in Phayao, and in the South, in Klongtom in Krabi."

These discoveries are still going on, Naramase emphasises. Excavation is underway in Kalasin's Kham Muang district, where a team from the department led by Dr Phonpen Janthasit has found more than 2,000 dinosaur bones along with the remains of prehistoric fish, turtles and crocodiles.

The department has mounted the 10-day exhibition to let more people know what a wealth of important dinosaur finds have turned up in Thailand. Some of the fossils brought to Bangkok haven't even been shown to the
public in the Northeast.

One zone, titled "Treasures of Siam", recounts the history of Thai palaeontology over the last four decades. Eleven glass display cases contain 37 fossils unearthed since 1976. There is also a tribute in text and photos to Princess Sirindhorn, a keen enthusiast in the field, plus a mammoth replica of the skeleton of Phuwiangosaurus sirindhornae and a model and the actual teeth from a small, long-extinct mammal also named in her honour, Tarsius sirindhornae.

The faux Phuwiangosaurus skeleton is the department's birthday gift to the Princess, to be formally presented to her next Saturday. The skeleton on which it was modelled was found in 1999 at Ban Na Krai in Kalasin's Kuchinarai district - 160 bones that, once assembled, reared up nearly 11 metres in height. The Princess will also receive a 1:27-scale model of the creature.

The bones, first spotted by local residents who realised they'd found something unusual, were dug from the red siltstone of what geologists call the Sao Krua Formation. During the Mesozoic era there were only two seasons - rainy and dry - and siltstone accrued in the floodplains of slow-flowing rivers.

The epoch, running 220 million to 100 million years ago, remained dry enough to preserve the fossils well. So today we have pretty accurate ideas of what this giant looked like, as well as a sauropod unearthed at Phu Kum Khao and a Spinosaurus, which are also on display, along with the teeth of various dinosaurs.

"The continuing discoveries have proved that Thailand was once an important dinosaur habitat," Naramase says, adding that Malaysian palaeontologists are always keen to work here.

Orn-uma Summart, a Sirindhorn Museum geologist, points out a case showing fossils from a theropod unearthed in Phu Noi, Kalasin. "We found this upper jaw with some teeth in good condition in 2007. It might be more than 130 million years old."

Inevitably drawing a great deal of attention, a new species of tyrannosaur was found at Phuwiang and subsequently named Siamotyrannus isanenis (after Isaan). It remains the subject of further research involving scientists in Sichuan, China, which is another rich hunting ground for fossils.

Inside the tent in front of the mall are the roars of the beasts and the thud of their footsteps, adding to the thrills for the younger visitors. People are having their photos taken with 3D dinosaurs, digging up their own fossil replicas hidden in sand and finding out just how sharp the beasts' teeth can be.

Just outside the tent is the Paleo Pond, with a waterfall and models of fish-eating dinosaurs and ancient crocodiles also found in Thailand, some of them previously unknown species.

Another zone, "Jurassic Wonders", reconstructs the prehistoric world with a dozen more dinosaur species, as well as plants and other animals.

And "Revival of Ancient Times" has more skeleton replicas, dinosaur eggs and footprints. The 150-metre-tall skeleton of the vegetarian sauropod Tangvayosaurus hoffeti comes from Savannaket, just across the Thai-Lao border from Mukdahan. Japan has shared a theropod, Fukuiraptor kitadaniensis, and a iguanodontid, Fukuisaurus tetroriensis.

Also surveying the dining possibilities in Bangkok are Kinnareemimus khonkaenensis, an "ostrich dinosaur", dug up in Khon Kaen in 1982, 130 million years old; Isanosaurus attavipatchi, the earliest known sauropod at 200 million years old, found in Chaiyaphum in 1998; and Ratchasimasaurus suranareae, a "new" species of iguanodontid, 110 million years old, found in Nakhon Ratchsima in 2011.


- "The Amazing Asian Dinosaur at Siam" is open from 10am to 10pm daily until Sunday at Siam Paragon. Admission is free.
Border disease patrols
The Nation November 23, 2015 1:00 am

The Public Health Ministry ordered that three contagious diseases be closely monitored along the border region in Ranong province as the establishment of the Asean Community will encourage the movement of more people in the future.
Dr Sopon Mekthon, permanent secretary of the Public Health Ministry, said the ministry has asked hospitals and clinics in the Thai-Myanmar border area at Ranong to put in place preventive measures to stop the spread of tuberculosis, cholera and malaria from Myanmar, which may occur more frequently in the future.

Sopon said many patients with these three infective diseases are identified every year by having foreign workers as carriers, so it is possible that the infection rate may rise soon as more people will be able to travel more freely across the border.

He also noted that the ministry has increased the budget to enlarge the hospitals in border area to prepare for more patients in the future.
Buildings and roads by canals monitored for structural woes
THE NATION November 23, 2015

BANGKOK officials have ordered close monitoring of buildings and roads for structural damage due to the very low water level in the current dry season. They have also warned people not to plant rice.

Deputy Bangkok governor Jumpol Sumpaopol said yesterday that Bangkok was also hit by the drought, as water in many canals and wells had been reduced to a very low level. This caused the soil to become unstable and could affect structures nearby.

Jumpol said that many roads beside canals had been damaged, such as Klong Krathumlom Road, Klong Sibsong Road and Klong Sibsam Road. Most of these areas were in eastern Bangkok.

"The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) is addressing this problem by trying to keep the water level in the canal high enough to prevent a landslide into the canal and fixing damaged roads," he said.

"The BMA also ordered all 50 district offices in Bangkok and the Public Works Department to check the strength of buildings and roads, and prepare to address this problem.

"Experts on building structure from district offices will also |meet with property owners to |alert them on how to look out for cracks on buildings."

With agricultural areas still in some parts of Bangkok, he said that farmers were warned not to plant more rice to avoid crop failure. The city administration is preparing for a shortage of water for consumption by providing water tanks in areas that run short.

Lamtakong basin also affected

Meanwhile in Nakhon Ratchasima, Lamtakong Dam has already cut its discharge of water, as the water level is less than what the Royal Irrigation Department expected.

Suthiroj Kongkaew, Lamtakong Irrigation and Maintenance Project director, revealed that Lamtakong Dam had 109.5 million cubic metres of available water - just under 36 per cent of overall capacity.

Water users in Lamtakong Basin agreed at a meeting not to use water to irrigate fields this dry season.

"The water discharge will reduce to 4 cubic metres per minute or overall 12 million cubic metres per month for domestic consumption and to sustain the ecological system only, from November 2015 to January 2016," Suthiroj said.

Lamtakong Basin is the latest region that has implemented a water saving policy that restricts water use in farming.

The Chao Phraya River Basin has implemented this policy since last month.
Security beef-up ordered for Loy Krathong, festive season
THE NATION November 23, 2015

PRIME Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has ordered security agencies and related ministries to beef up security during the Loy Krathong and New Year festivals.

Government spokesman Maj-General Sansern Kaewkamnerd said Prayut had instructed security agencies and the ministries of Transport, Tourism and Sport, and Culture to be extra vigilant.

Sansern said the prime minister instructed the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation, operating under the Ministry of Interior, to be the lead agency coordinating with other agencies in stepping up security measures under the agenda "Safety Thailand".

"The objective is to make Thailand a nice place to live and travel with high security and safety and the capability of handling any disasters immediately and efficiently,'' he said.

Sansern said Prayut had ordered concerned agencies to launch campaigns aimed at making people behave during Loy Kratong and other upcoming festive activities.

There has also been call for people to respect the environment during the |festive season.

Pollution Control Department director-general Vijarn Simachaya said Thailand was the sixth worst country in terms of garbage ending up in the ocean after China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Sri Lanka.

Plastic and foam take hundreds of years to decompose.

A meeting between the Ministry of Tourism and Sports and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment resolved that the Department of Pollution Control would handle garbage management at tourist sites during the festive season.

The aim is for all sectors of society to play a part in managing garbage in order to improve the environment and tourist sites as part of a sustainable development push.

The public is urged to select materials that easily decompose when making krathongs such as banana leaves, orchids and other leaves. People are urged to refrain from using foam and plastic, which pose threats to marine life.

Vijarn said a krathong made from bread could cause water pollution if the water did not flow as it is composed of protein, carbohydrates and fats that deprive water of oxygen, which was needed for natural decomposition.

Sansern said the government had set the ultimate goal of zero public transport accidents during the festive season.

Agencies in charge of piers and places where people float krathongs have been told to check safety equipment to ensure they function well.

The government wants the public to co-operate by wearing polite clothes to preserve and uphold Thai culture and prevent danger from ill-intentioned groups.

The government has assign security officials in an effort to prevent the public from floating lanterns near airports.
Educator dreams up hydro plant
Writer: Chularat Saengpassa-The Nation
Chiang Mai November 23, 2015

A hydropower plant has been constructed on a stream in Chiang Mai

Innovative charity-funde project aims to provide free electricity in remote Chiang Dao district

VOCATIONAL teachers and students have joined forces with local people to construct a hydropower plant at the foot of Doi Luang Chiang Dao Mountain.

Manus Daomanee, president of the Toyota Automotive Technological College, is credited with starting this innovative project at this remote corner of Chiang Mai's Chiang Dao district.

Manus hopes his charity-funded project will provide free electricity for a local school and a temple from next May.

"This power plant may also be able to provide free lighting on local and public roads at night, as the school and the temple won't need to use much electricity after nightfall," said Manus.

Nestled as it is in a timeless rural setting, the mountain has attracted a high number of tourists over the years. Manus was one of those tourists and he was inspired to start the project during cycling trips to the area to take in the fresh air and indulge in a slower life. During his many visits, Manus noticed that a stream by the Doi Luang Chiang Dao Mountain never ran dry.

"It has water in all seasons. That's why I believe it should be possible to set up a hydropower facility here for a good cause," he said.

Manus turned his idea into action, encouraging his friends who had solid knowledge of hydropower technology to check the water flow in the Doi Luang Chiang Dao Mountain and inspect a hydropower plant in a nearby village.

He also held meetings with locals to find out if they would agree with his idea.

After he got the green light, he raised Bt3 million via two merit-making campaigns for the hydropower-plant project.

Lecturers and students from Samut Prakan Technical College have also jumped on his bandwagon. With their help in welding, designing and assembling, key parts of the 100-kilowatt hydropower plant have already been installed.

"I think we will launch one more charity campaign to raise additional funds for this project. We need some more money to buy devices such as a transformer and electric wires," Manus said.

He also hopes this project can become a learning centre in the future too.

Wimon Sripakdee, a local resident who also serves as a tour guide and village-defence volunteer, said he had taken part in the hydropower plant project from the very beginning and is keen to embrace Manus' initiative.

"I would like to contribute wherever I can. I am ready to learn new things and help run the power plant," he said.

Taweesak Khiewthong, director of Samut Prakan Technical College, said Manus's project has provided vocational students with a good opportunity to work on a real project.

"This project also gives a boost to the image of vocational students. It is also in line with the government's policy to encourage students to put their knowledge to good use," he said.

Wanit Uamsri, deputy secretary-general of the Office of Vocational Education Commission, described the hydropower plant project as an exemplary model of fruitful collaboration between private and government-run vocational education institutes.

"Through such collaboration, vocational students and teachers focus on not just learning and teaching at their institutes, but also how to apply their knowledge to benefit society and community," he said.


Oceans of determination
Swede Jonas Colting braved jellyfish, strong waves and the blazing sun to become the first man to swim around Phuket


Jonas Colting on the first day of the swim.

Jonas Colting last Wednesday emerged from the blue water and became the first man to have swum around Phuket Island. The Swedish ultraman took eight days, in our scandalous summer heat, to complete the task that hadn't been attempted before, and that took him from the tip of the western coast of the island, going south counter-clockwise past Patong, Karon, the horn of Phrom Thep Cape, Chalong Pier, then turning northward to Lam Hin, Ao Poh, Sarasin Bridge and ending at Mai Khao Beach.

"No more swimming after today!" Colting joked over the phone right after the deed was done. "We did 142km in eight days. On average we swam 18km each day, for four to five hours each day, and we didn't swim in a straight line [because of the tides]. The worst parts were probably the southern cape and on the east coast of Phuket Bay, where there were some really big waves."

Colting undertook the feat with his training partners Thobias Peterson and Daniel Karlsson Engdahl. The event, which the Swede initiated to create awareness about ocean preservation, was supported by Phuket province, Thanyapura, as well as other resorts on the island. The organisers are now contemplating the idea of making "Swim Around Phuket" an annual event to attract marathon swimmers around the world. The 142km Colting covered seemed gruelling, but the Swede, a well-known ultra-athlete, once did a very long swim of 640km between the east and west coasts of his home country, a charity event that took him six weeks.

In the tropical waters and heat, things were different though. "The waves, the wind, the climate -- everything put together made it a tough swim," said Colting. "Obviously the sun was very strong here, and the water very warm, we
started very early each day as soon as daylight broke, at around 6am. But swimming in the ocean is very unpredictable, with the tide shoving us out. It was nothing like swimming in a lake or a pool. We took a lot of proactive measures, lots of sunscreen and some young coconut every day after finishing.

"It was hugely different from when I swam in Sweden, which was much cooler -- and we don't have jellyfish there!" In fact the jellyfish were one of the nuisances that complicated the already demanding enterprise. Colting's swim was accompanied by a support team, and he credited them as an important part in the undertaking, with one team member in a kayak serving as a watchman to help the swimmers navigate through the jellyfish. The swimmers were
stung three times, though the harm was minor.

The log record of the swim -- the event was also reported in Instagram and YouTube -- read like an adventure story of huge swells, head winds, rough sea, killer heat and of course jellyfish, with constant tensions and at times, they admitted that it seemed ridiculous to keep on going in the conditions. On day four, for instance, they only made it after an extended break and minimum recovery time. Sometimes they were pushed out to 5-6km from the shore.

The wind and the tides weren't in our favour for the most part. So it's been slow going with longer swims than I had planned," says Colting. "After all, you have to be mentally prepared when going into the ocean. You have to have a lot of practice, sure, but I'd say it's 75% mental." But it was done, in style, and Colting's marathon feat will add a shine to Phuket's waters. "I always see the short from where I was swimming, but sometimes it just seemed too
far away!" he said. "But Phuket is beautiful, and it's such a pleasure to experience it from the water."


Jonas Colting, centre, with his training partners Thobias Peterson, left, and Daniel Karlsson Engdahl.



Malaysia on high alert for Uighur attacks
ASIA NEWS NETWORK April 11, 2016

Surveillance tightened after reports that two suspects had exited Phuket.

MALAYSIAN authorities are on high alert following revelations from Thailand that two Uighurs of Turkish descent, suspected of plotting terrorist attacks in Thailand, are heading to their country. Meanwhile, a leaked intelligence memo said two unidentified Chechens were planning to attack Russian interests in Thailand.

Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar said police and other agencies at all entry and exit points to the country had been put on alert and surveillance had been beefed up.

"We are closely monitoring the situation," he said on Saturday. He was responding to a news report that quoted Thailand's Surat Thani Governor Wongsasiri Promchana as saying he had been informed of the men's departure to Malaysia by the Phuket immigration office.

"But this is just initial information from the immigration office which believes the names [of the Uighur men] are the same as in the [intelligence] memo," he told Bernama. Wongsasiri did not reveal the exact date the two Uighurs left Thailand for Malaysia and whether they used land or air routes. An intelligence source told Bernama the two could be headed to Malaysia en route to Turkey, Indonesia or Singapore.

The two Uighurs were identified as Ali Yalcin Egin and Hidayet Dorsun, who arrived in Phuket from an unidentified location on March 23. They might stage attacks on Chinese targets and interests in Southeast Asia, said the leaked memo

In an immediate response on Saturday, Thailand's police chief Pol General Chakthip Chaijinda acknowledged that the leaked intelligence memo was authentic and the force had been working on the matter for the past week. The governor said on Wednesday he had received the sensitive intelligence dossier from the National Intelligence Coordination Centre Region 4 on the possible threat on April 5.

The intelligence memorandum, according to him, detailed a warning about possible terror attacks in Koh Samui and Phuket. Both places are expected to be crowded in view of the four-day Songkran Festival that begins tomorrow. Paiboon O-mak, Samui district chief in Surat Thani province, confirmed the memo warned of the presence of the two Uighurs given the fact that the province is a tourist attraction for local and foreign visitors.


Ageing society faces quandary over pensions

Half of elderly lack savings, prompting call for govt AID


FROM 2018 onward, about 1 million Thais will reach retirement age each year. But very few have hefty savings put aside for their dreams of comfortable golden years. To tell the truth, available statistics show more than half of all elderly Thais have no savings at all. "This is on top of the fact that the elderly usually have significant expenses, particularly in regard to their medical needs," Sukanya Paisanthum said in her capacity as director of the Labour Ministry's Informal, Handicapped and Elderly Workers Division.

Citing the Foundation of Thai Gerontology Research and Development Institute, she also suggested the elderly would be unable to depend as much on their children and grandchildren as in the past. Growing urban areas have spawned the explosion of nuclear families, while extended families living under the same roof are less prevalent. The birth rate has also fallen significantly in recent decades.

In the face of such circumstances, it appears the elderly will need to rely more on themselves. Without savings of their own, they will badly need jobs. Under current regulations, civil |servants must retire at the age of 60. Meanwhile, several private firms have agreed to keep employees on only until the age of 55 years.


Employers are prone to choose younger candidates, too, even for |positions where age is not mentioned in the qualifications. Recognising the problems facing so many elderly Thais, the Labour Ministry has been preparing a project to promote job opportunities for this sector of society.

"The ministry has also engaged the private sector. This project will be done in collaboration with the Thai Chamber of Commerce, the Federation of Thai Industries and the Thai Bankers Association," Sukanya said. She said the project would officially kick off next month and focus on part-time jobs first.

The Labour Ministry has also been preparing to compile databases within the six months of employed people aged between 55 and 60 years of age, according to Sukanya."We will check their number and the positions they are now holding," Sukanya added. She said the information could be useful in planning job opportunities for persons about to retire.

She disclosed that the Labour Ministry and the Foundation of Thai Gerontology Research and Development Institute would be working together in determining wage guidelines and laws that could be used to protect elderly workers. At present, 14.9 per cent of the population or about 10 million Thais are over 60 years old. The percentage is expected to rise to 20 per cent by 2021 and 30 per cent by 2035.

"2035 will mark the start of a 'super ageing' period. By then, the number of Thais reaching 60 years old will exceed the number of people jumping into the labour market," Sukanya said.

The Employment Department has said it is also helping elderly Thais find jobs. An official said 102 elderly people had registered with her department and their qualifications matched about 3,700 job vacancies in which employers did not stipulate age limits.

"Most of these jobs are unskilled types - such as sales clerks, security guards or workers on assembly lines," she said.
Because of the growing elderly population, several parties are pushing hard for the mandatory retirement age to be changed to 65 instead of 60 years. However, a senior civil servant said that such a change should by no means take effect across the board. Speaking on condition of anonymity, she pointed out that not all civil servants at the age of 60 were fit and keen to continue working.

"A blanket measure would only hurt the bureaucracy's performance," she said. She recommended a performance system to determine which civil servants should be eligible to continue working, and which fields of work were appropriate for the elderly. Last Friday, hundreds of people from elderly and workers' groups submitted a petition to Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha to provide more comprehensive welfare assistance for the elderly.

"Each elderly Thai should earn Bt2,500 a month, the poverty line in Thailand, as a state-provided pension," Nooken Intajan of the Four Regions Slum Network said. Presently, the government provides subsidies of between Bt600 and Bt1,000 a month to each elderly citizen in need. The amount provided grows according to age.

Oranuch Lertdilokkul, a representative of an elderly network, said she was aware the government had already allocated a budget of Bt63 billion this year for the payment of subsidies. Still, she believed state subsidies for the elderly should increase even if the budget had to double.

"A budget of more than Bt100 billion is well worth it if it can provide a guarantee that all elderly Thais will have enough money to subsist," she said.



Road carnage claims 116 lives in two days
THE NATION April 14, 2016

Soldiers yesterday load motorcycles impounded from drunk drivers in Phitsanulok province onto a truck to transport them to an Army camp where the vehicles would remain until April 19.

Most accidents blamed on speeding, drunk driving; offenders may be asked to do public service.

THE SEVEN days of the Songkran break entered the second day with the number of road fatalities standing at 116, a 97-per-cent increase from the same period last year, the Road Safety Directing Centre said yesterday. So far, there have been 907 road accidents, which injured 981 people, higher than last Songkran's 723 accidents and 765 injuries.

Drunk driving and speeding were the two biggest factors leading to the road carnage, at about 33 and 35 per cent respectively, while 80 per cent of the accidents involved motorcycles, said Dr Sopon Mekthon, permanent secretary for the Public Health Ministry. Buri Ram province recorded the highest number of fatalities at eight deaths, followed by Prachin Buri with seven and Phichit with six. Chiang Mai had the highest number of casualties at 48, followed by Udon Thani at 37 and Phitsanulok and Lampang at 32 each.

Chiang Mai had the highest number of incidents at 45 cases, followed by Udon Thani at 34 and Nakhon Si Thammarat with 32. So far, Samut Prakan is the only province that has not reported a road accident, while 23 provinces have not reported any deaths from road accidents.

On Tuesday alone, there were 520 road accidents killing 64 and wounding 550 others, Sopon said. Officials at 2,125 checkpoints arrested 104,484 law violators - most of whom were nabbed for not wearing a helmet (30,201) or failing to present a driver's licence (29,747).

As to whether the centre would adjust its plans considering that the death rate has almost doubled, Sopon insisted that the authority's plans were perfectly fine. Chatchai Phromlert, chief of the Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Department, said April 13 usually saw the highest number of deaths through road accidents every year. Since more than half of such deaths involved locals, he said the centre had instructed provincial authorities to have local administrators warn motorists to be more careful and refrain from traffic-law violations.

Meanwhile, Pol Colonel Narat Sawetanant, director-general of the Probation Department, said yesterday that his agency was coordinating with hospitals to have people caught for drunk driving during Songkran to provide public service at hospitals as well as to work at morgues and intensive-care and emergency units. He said the court would order drunk-driving offenders to perform at least 48 hours of public service in these areas.

He said such public work would help the offenders become aware of the consequences their actions can have and also reduce drunk-driving-related accidents by 10-20 per cent. A source said the number of Songkran drunk drivers under probation was high and that Bangkok had the highest number of such parolees. In 2011, there were 6,032 drunk-driving offenders on probation nationwide, compared with 5,005 in 2012 and 4,691 in 2013. The number of cases dipped to 3,826 in 2014 and rose to 4,051 in 2015.

As for the agency's moves to apply "social measures" to punish probation-breaching individuals, Narat said his department was officially cooperating with two agencies. From December to February, the Land Transport Department, which screens driving-licence applicants, found that 570 of the applicants were term-breaching parolees. The National Office of Buddhism found 108 parolees trying to be ordained as monks

So far, this Songkran has seen many drunk drivers and speed-limit violators have their vehicles impounded by the authorities. In Phitsanulok, 29 vehicles have been seized over the past two days, and they will be kept at an Army camp until April 19, when the motorists can come and reclaim them. In Phuket, a total of 34 vehicles including six cars and a public transport truck were seized from drunk drivers.

In related news, Chana Silpa-acha, 23 - a distant relative of former prime minister Banharn Silpa-Archa - was hit with an additional drunk-driving charge yesterday after tests found him intoxicated with an alcohol level of 0.77 milligram per litre. He had crashed his Toyota Harrier into a Bangkok food shop on Tuesday night, injuring four people. He was initially charged with reckless driving resulting in others' injury and property damage, but was released on a bail guarantee of Bt20,000, though his vehicle has been impounded.
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Songkran Festival
Bangkok has highest number of road fatalities
THE NATION April 16, 2016

BANGKOK has had the most road fatalities at 14, while Chiang Mai has the highest tally of people injured, at 104, as well as the most accidents with 100 cases over the first four days of the “seven dangerous days” of the Songkran Festival.

The total number of road accidents from April 11-14 stood at 2,216, which left 259 people dead and 2,378 injured, Lt-General Theerawat Boonyawat, head of the Civil Affairs Division of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) Secretariat, told the press at the Road Safety Directing Centre yesterday.

There were 11 provinces - Trat, Pattani, Phatthalung, Phrae, Yala, Ranong, Lamphun, Samut Sakhon, Sing Buri, Nong Bua Lamphu and Angthong - that did not report any deaths from road accidents, he said.

On Thursday alone, 555 accidents claimed 78 lives and left 601 people injured.

Most accidents - 79 per cent - involved motorcycles and many stemmed from drunk driving (40 per cent), followed by speeding (32 per cent).

Most accidents - 34 per cent - occurred between 4pm and 8pm and more than half of the victims (55 per cent) were in the working-age group.

Officials at 2,128 checkpoints charged 112,617 motorists, 33,381 of them for failure to wear a motorcycle helmet and 30,701 for failure to show a driver's licence.

Highways and key transport hubs upcountry started to see crowds as some holidaymakers yesterday began to make the journey back to work in Bangkok and its neighbouring provinces earlier than most to avoid heavy traffic this weekend.

Meanwhile, Colonel Peerawat Saengthong, the Internal Security Operations Command spokesman, said Army chief General Teerachai Nakwanich had instructed officers to monitor secondary roads in order to reduce accidents while also preventing drug smuggling, as many people start to return to Bangkok.

In Chiang Mai, police manning checkpoints impounded 640 vehicles from drunk drivers from April 11-14 under the NCPO order for strict action against drunk driving.

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Death toll hits 181 on third of ‘seven dangerous days’
THE NATION April 15, 2016

DESPITE authorities taking tougher action against law-breaking motorists and the Army’s seizure of drunk drivers’ vehicles, the road toll remains higher compared to Songkran last year. Three days into the so-called “seven dangerous days” saw 181 deaths and 1,777 injuries in 1,661 road accidents nationwide - marking an across-the-board increase from 121deaths and 1,281 injuries in 1,215 accidents over the same period last year.

Army and police have also reported that 64,310 motorists were found driving under the influence of alcohol over the past five days. Of these, some 30,000 drunk drivers (including 19,577 motorcyclists) face prosecution and as many as 1,565 vehicles (including 1,182 motorcycles) have been seized, National Council for Peace and Order deputy spokesperson Colonel Sirichan Ngathong said.

At a press conference held by the Road Safety Directing Centre yesterday, Tourism and Sports Minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul said that on Wednesday alone there were 754 accidents killing 65 people and wounding 796 others.

Drunk driving and speeding were still main factors linked to 40 and 33 per cent of accidents respectively, while most crashes involved two-wheelers (83 per cent) followed by pick-up trucks (7 per cent). On the same day, officials at 2,129 checkpoints arrested 111,629 motorists - most of whom (32,278) were caught for not wearing a helmet, while 30,625 were unable to produce driving licences.

As people continued to celebrate Songkran by splashing with water and drinking alcohol, Kobkarn said officials manning checkpoints had been told to get tougher with motorcyclists who are not wearing helmets and speeding pick-up trucks loaded with water tanks to splash revellers.

So far, Chiang Mai has had the highest number of total accidents at 74 and the highest number of injuries at 80, while Buri Ram province had the highest number of fatalities with 10 deaths.

Meanwhile, in Bangkok's Chatuchak district, a speeding Honda Jazz sedan overturned after crashing into a tree past midnight yesterday, killing four people and wounding six others. At 6am, a brake malfunction caused a city garbage to crash into four taxis and a parked motorbike near the entrance of Royal City Avenue. It resulted in six injuries, with a taxi driver in critical condition, officers from the Makkasan Police Station said.

Deputy National Police chief Pongsapat Pongcharoen yesterday inspected some houses in Bang Khen district placed under police protection from last Tuesday until Monday. He said the protection scheme has been operating for 15 years and the number of homeowners seeking protection for their property rose to about 5,500 nationwide this year.

He said Bangkok had more than 2,000 homes added to the scheme, while Chokchai Police Station alone had to look after 100 homes. He added that police kept homeowners posted with updates on the situation every two hours via the LINE chat application.



Asean currencies not spared
The Nation June 24, 2016 3:18 pm

A two Euro coin is pictured next to a one Pound coin on top of a portrait of Britain's Queen Elizabeth./Reuters

The Thai baht and other Asean currencies were not spared from Brexit chaos.

As the pound sterling lost 12 per cent to hit the 31-year low, the Thai baht lost 0.6 per cent in the morning to Bt35.40 per US dollar. Singapore dollar was 1.5 per cent lower to 1.3580; Malaysian ringgit 2.3 per cent lower to 4.1120; and Indonesian rupiah 1.2 per cent to 13,425.

To United Overseas Bank, the fall in Asean currencies are well within expectation. It earlier anticipated 2-3 per cent appreciation in the Brexit scenario.

Against US dollar, the euro fell 3.2 per cent to 1.1020. The Japanese yen, a safe haven currency, soared over 6.7 per cent to almost 99 yen per dollar.

The sterling has crashed close to 12 per cent, to a low of 1.3225/30 from high of 1.5022 earlier this morning, the lowest level since 1985. Looking further out, UOB expects the sterling to remain under pressure and decline further to the mid-1.20s by the end of third quarter.

Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services warned earlier that the UK could lose its "AAA" credit rating following the fallout from the EU referendum results.


Brexit will have limited impact on Thailand

Brexit impacts
GREATER volatility in the financial market is the most imminent impact the Thai business sector should brace for if British nationals vote to leave the European Union in Thursday’s referendum, according to economists.

Nevertheless, the impact on Thai trade should be limited as less than 3 per cent of Thai exports go to the UK annually, against nearly zero UK imports to the Kingdom. Also, the |UK was not a major destination for Thailand's overseas investment.

In the Brexit scenario, global economic risks would be heightened but impacts on the Thai economy would be gradually phased in over a two-year period, during which the UK would complete the disintegration process, economists said. "There will be greater financial volatility - particularly in the foreign exchange and bond markets, which could influence the cost of funding, but I don't expect an economic shock," said Narit Sathapholdeja, an economist at TMB Bank.

A Financial Times poll updated on Friday showed 43 per cent of eligible voter in the UK supported remaining in the EU, while 48 per cent wanted to leave. Nine per cent were undecided. The immediate reaction to the Brexit scenario would largely hit the baht during the Asian session on Friday, as the vote count will end at 10pm in the UK.

Ahead of the vote, funds have flowed to traditional safe havens like the US dollar, the yen and the Swiss franc. In the past two weeks, the euro weakened to US$1.1131 (Bt39) before firming at $1.1257 on Friday on market speculation that the vote would be postponed following a British lawmaker's murder.

The cost of hedging against volatility in pound sterling and the euro over the next week will hit multi-year highs, but this may move sharply either way after the vote is over.

The baht has appreciated by 1.45 per cent to end last week at 35.25 per US dollar. As the dollar and the yen may surge in the case of Britain voting to leave the EU, Siam Commercial Bank expects the baht to slightly weaken against those currencies. The depreciation should be limited given Thailand's high current account surplus and reserves, it said.

Usara Wilaipich, senior economist at Standard Chartered Bank (Thai), believes that the Thai business sector should also be prepared for a reverse move: the baht could appreciate sharply if the "Remain" campaign wins and that would hurt exports badly.

"The currency volatility will be here for a short term until the markets can adjust themselves," said Kobsak Pootrakool, vice minister at the Prime Minister's Office.

Therdsak Thaveeteeratham, executive vice president of Asia Plus Securities, noted that Brexit could trigger panic selling of Thai shares on Friday. Expected to move in a range of 1,410-1,435 points ahead of the vote, the SET Index may fall below 1,400 in the Brexit scenario or reach 1,450 points if the "Leave" campaign wins.

The focus is now on the short-term impact, amid recognition that exiting the EU would cast long-term challenges to the global economy. These include the risk that other countries from the 28-member EU bloc may consider "exit" referendums.

Kasikorn Research Centre anticipates a sharp depreciation in pound sterling and the euro against other currencies in the second half of this year. This will pressure EU demand for Thai exports and may lead to a cut in travel expenses.

In the first four months of 2016, tourists from EU and UK generated Bt290 billion for Thailand's economy, or 20 per cent of the total reaped from inbound tourists.

According to the Commerce Ministry, the United Kingdom is Thailand's third-largest export market among EU countries. In the past three years, the average export value from Thailand to the market was $3.87 billion, while the average shipment value to the EU market was $20 billion each year.

Commerce Minister Apiradi Tantraporn admitted that global trade could be affected by an |exit.

This would delay the global economic recovery, Narit of TMB said. Yet, he noted that the key risks now to the Thai business sector were the unsustainable recovery cycle, with only the US leading the way in the past two years, as well as the US presidential election.

"Thai businesses should start thinking about this now, before borrowing or investing. To me, the political uncertainties are key risks and they are now underpriced," Narit said.


Review urged on high-speed rail projects


Photocopy from: High Speed Rail Projects

Transportation experts speaking at a Thailand Development Research Institute seminar yesterday urged the government to review its high-speed rail projects, citing their doubtful economic worth and a poorly conceived development model for the multi-billion baht projects.

Sumeth Ongkittikul, TDRI research director for Transportation and Logistics Policy, said Thailand should use a single technology for all high-speed rail projects or set a standard so they can be linked and work together.
"There is rather a high risk on budgeting. Isn't it too much that we are building all four routes at the same time?" he said, suggesting the government should pick just one route to start work on first.

Premier Prayut Chan-o-cha in March gave the go-ahead for the 253-kilometre Bangkok-Nakhon Ratchasima high-speed rail project under government-to-government cooperation with China. The administration is also working with the Japanese government to study the northern route from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, as well as the southern and eastern economic-corridor routes that will use the public-private partnership (PPP) investment method.

Sumeth said there had, however, been no public disclosure on how much of the cost of these projects taxpayers would have to shoulder. "High-speed trains are expensive, which might be suitable for the middle class. The government should not provide too much subsidy," he said. "With the high investment cost, it will create a problem in the future," the researcher warned.

Former Bangkok deputy governor Samart Ratchapollasit described the government's latest decision to commence the Bangkok-Nakhon Ratchasima project with just an initial 3.5km section as "image making, and a juggling act".

"It [building just 3.5km of the route] is not worthwhile in either the short or the long term," he said.

Samart said the decision to simultaneously build a dual-track metre-gauge railway along the same routes as high-speed rail tracks, and to build a motorway from Bangkok to Nakhon Ratchasima, undermined the feasibility of the project. The dual-track railway, construction of which is due to commence shortly, will cut the journey time from the capital to Nakhon Ratchasima province from four to five hours to just over two hours, with fares expected to cost Bt100-Bt200.

In comparison, the fare for travelling on the high-speed train is expected to be no less than Bt2 per kilometre, or Bt500 per passenger.

Moreover, the Bt80-billion motorway project will cut road-travel time from Bangkok to the northeastern province to less than two hours. "If you will travel with a few people, would you take the high-speed train for two-and-a-half hours? There is also a problem of connecting to the city [of Nakhon Ratchasima], as there is no transportation system to facilitate it," he added.

Agachai Sumalee, director of the Smart Cities Research Centre at King Mongkut's Institute of Technology Lat Krabang, told the seminar that whereas it was usually difficult to get a feasible financial return from mass-transit projects, many countries had used high-speed rail projects as a national development tool.


Police investigate cause of deadly dock blast in Ayutthaya
The Sunday Nation July 3, 2016


Photo Bangkok Post.

Forensic police yesterday inspected the scene of an explosion on Friday at a dock in Ayutthaya’s Bang Sai district that killed four workers - to try to determine the cause of blast.
The provincial industry office ordered the dock closed for 30 days pending the outcome of the investigation and safety improvements, Ayutthaya Governor Rewat Prasong said. He said Labour Ministry officials would provide aid to the families of the deceased workers in accordance with the law.

Killed were a Thai national and three documented Cambodians.

Dock owner Chatchai Sonmafeung said the dock obtained a proper licence and would cooperate with the police investigation.

Chatchai will host funerals for the deceased workers at Wat Kok Kaew Burapha as well as pay compensation to their families. He believed the explosion was an accident.


Problems dog plan to reclaim and redistribute seized land
The Nation July 11, 2016 \ Pratch Rujivanarom

Insufficient resources for landless farmers, while others fear they will lose plots
THE Agricultural Land Reform Office's (ALRO) land reclamation campaign faces a raft of problems, including insufficient land for distribution to landless farmers, the practice of land reclamation and the campaign's effect on local communities.

An order from the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) to reclaim ALRO land was widely cheered as a solution to the chronic problem of ineffective law enforcement contending with powerful illegal landowners.

However, stakeholders have admitted the designated land will not be enough for the more than 400,000 farmers on the waiting list and the operation may unavoidably affect people who live on land.

ALRO secretary-general Sunsern Aggutamanus said problems with law enforcement have left the agency unable to take the land from powerful landowners, adding that was the reason the Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry proposed the NCPO use its special powers to seize land. But he admitted the order would not solve all the problems.

"We proposed this order because in the past, if we wanted to take land back from illegal landowners, we had to sue them first and it would take years to get an order from the court forcing them to return the land," Sunsern said.

"But this order can turn things around, as it allows us to seize the land first, and if landowners want to protect their claim, they can sue us later. Moreover, very few landholders have legal deeds to the disputed land, so we have a greater chance of winning the case."

Sunsern said another reason to use the special powers of the NCPO to reclaim land was because it was hard for ALRO officers to fight the influence of powerful landholders on their own. "Even with the support from military and police officers under the NCPO order, it will still be difficult to get some plots of land from powerful landowners," he said.

Last Tuesday, the NCPO issued the order to retake ALRO lands that had been occupied by wealthy parties and redistribute them to the landless farmers.

However, Sunsern admitted that problems still remained.

"We have to distribute the land to the local people first, so we will get around 100,000 rai [16,000 hectares] of land to give to the landless farmers on our list. According to our current standards, we will give five rai of land to each family, so there will be around 20,000 families receiving land from this operation," he said.

Eathipol Srisawaluck, a lecturer at Chulalongkorn University Faculty of Law, praised the order as major progress in solving ALRO land problems, but added it would not be enough to fulfil the agency's mission to provide land for all affected farmers.

Eviction fears in Surat Thani

"I understand the land shortage problem is very hard to solve. This order can help to retake a large portion of land that can be given to many farmers, but more efforts are needed to secure even more for landless people," Eathipol said. He suggested that ALRO should get more land by purchasing it from private landowners - and, more importantly, ALRO should ensure that people live sustainably on the land and do not sell it.

Meanwhile, Suraphol Songrak, a Southern Farmers Union executive committee member from Klong Sai Pattana in Surat Thani, expressed concern that his community would be evicted as a result of the campaign. "We support the government decision to take back the land from the capitalists, but we want ALRO to make it clear that our people will not be forced to relocate from our land," Suraphol said.

Klong Sai Pattana community, which has 210 residents, is situated on an ALRO plot from which the palm plantation company, Jiu Kang Jui Pattana, was ordered to return 1,440 rai of land to the agency in 2014. So far ALRO has been unable to reclaim the land so it is now on the list to be reclaimed under the NCPO order.

Suraphol said previously ALRO intended to move everyone and redistribute the land, but he argued the plots that ALRO promised to give to people as compensation would be too small and the relocation would destroy the community.

"If ALRO forces us to move, where can we go and who will take care of our crops? They also promised to redistribute the land to us, but it will not be enough because each family will get only five rai of land. We cannot sustainably make a living from such a small-sized plot," he said.

"We would like ALRO to let us manage the land instead. As of now we have a system to look after community members and prevent the land from being transferred to capitalists."


The Nation:

BMA backs away from street food ban, but adds conditions
April 20, 2017 15:21

A street vendor on Yaowarat road looks on as shoppers walk by Thursday.

Street food vendors in Bangkok will still be allowed in small alleys and designated areas, but they have to be properly managed to prevent negative impacts on other people, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) has announced.

In s press conference on Thursday morning, Wanlop Suwandee, chief adviser to the Bangkok governor, said street vending in China Town’s Yaowarat and Khao San Road would still be allowed in zoned areas.

“The BMA plans to promote Yaowarat and Khao San Road as major tourist attractions in Bangkok. Street food and street vendors are still allowed in the zoned areas, as we are trying to make the areas tidy and clean, but sellers must comply with the law,” Wanlop said.

He added that street food vendors operating in small alleys would still be allowed, with the condition that they must not cause difficulties for other people. The BMA also acknowledged that street food was integral to the soul of the city.

However, he said street food vendors would not be allowed to operate anywhere they chose, as was the practice in the past, because Bangkok had become a crowded city.


Pattaya Today:
10-year visa questions

The Thai Cabinet has now agreed to offer a 10-year expat visa for aliens over the age of 50, but has left the all-important details to be worked out by the Interior Ministry. The new visa in reality will be for five years, extendable by another five years if the paperwork is still in order. However, successful applicants will still need to report their address every 90 days unless they leave the country before the end of the three months’ reporting period. Pattaya Today has held informal meetings with immigration staff, but stresses that the detail will likely not become absolutely clear for several months prior to implementation.

It is known that the new visa will require proof of an overseas income of at least 100,000 baht monthly, or a Thai bank balance of at least three million baht, plus health insurance cover which pays out at least 10,000 US dollars. Although not specified, it is likely that other required documentation will be proof of address, such as a yellow book (tibean bahn), or ownership of a condominium unit or a rental agreement. It is not clear whether the new visa will include a re-entry provision or whether this must be obtained separately as at present. Nor has it been stated whether the current one-year, renewable retirement visa will continue in its present form; we believe that it will. It is rare in Thai immigration history for an established visa to be withdrawn unless a very similar alternative is introduced.

A big question mark hangs over how applicants will prove they have a foreign income of at least 100,000 baht monthly. At present, aliens applying for the one-year retirement option can request a letter from their embassy “confirming” their income of at least 65,000 baht monthly. However, it is well known that most embassies do not check the veracity of the claims of their nationals and some do not ask to see any documentation, relying on an affidavit in front of an officer. It has been suggested that immigration staff may need to see the applicant’s home bank book data in connection with the 10-year visa.

An alternative to the 100,000 baht a month income threshold is to have three million baht in a Thai bank account. In practice, the sum would need to be higher as the cabinet resolution apparently specified that the amount must not fall below that amount in the first year of the life of the visa. There is also a requirement to show after five years that at least half of the three million baht has been spent in Thailand.

This suggests that the visa holder will need to keep various bills including medical treatment expenses, and accommodation charges as well as major shopping receipts. It is not even clear which banks qualify for holding the cash or what sort of account is required. Moreover, there could be a rule stating how long the money needs to be in Thailand prior to the submission of the application.

There are even bigger question marks over the requirement to have medical insurance. The floor of 10,000 US dollars, or equivalent, seems a small amount given that most surgical procedures in Thailand are much more expensive than that. Moreover, insurers are reluctant to cover ageing men and women, particularly over 70, and frequently terminate the cover or raise the premiums. Some rich foreigners may have pre-existing conditions which would create exclusion clauses in any document but may have their own private resources to cover hefty bills in Thai private sector hospitals. It is not clear why the drafters of the initial document to be considered by the Thai Cabinet would insist on proof of very modest insurance. An immigration source said this clause might well be dropped at the review stage.

Amongst other queries yet to be resolved are whether the foreign spouse of a successful applicant could apply for the same facility, especially if he/she did not have a separate income and was under 50 years of age. Nor is it yet explained whether an initial non-immigrant visa is needed before application for the 10 year visa is made. All in all, the idea of a 10-year visa – not to be confused with the 20 year Elite Card, by the way – is a welcome one and will be looked at closely by the wealthier end of the older expat market. But the devil is in the details. It is always so.

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