Wednesday, November 29, 2006

child orphans of the war on drugs face malnutrition and lies

There's always money for airports or other hare-brained schemes, never enough money to feed even one orphan of parents murdered by government death squads. Thailand's twisted and corrupt value system-- sign of a decadent and contemptable society, rotten to the core.

from The Nation:

Child victims of the war on drugs:

Ban Mae Maeh School director Saneh Jai-ut can never bring himself to speak the truth when his students ask him expectantly: "Have you had any word from my parents?"

Most of the 136 boarding-school students here come from families torn apart during the Thaksin Shinawatra government's war on drugs.

Some of the children are yet to learn the painful fact that their parents are either in jail for drug offences or were killed in the crackdown.

"The best thing I can say is, 'Yes, your parents ask

you to be good and study hard. They say they will come to pick you up when they have time'," Saneh said.

Located in the remote hill country of Chiang Dao district, the school is inaccessible by road and cellular telephone signal.

The government's Basic Education Commission provides needy schools with a daily food allowance of Bt6 per student. This meagre amount is not enough for Ban Mae Maeh School. It must serve three meals a day - not just lunches like others. "Boiled rice and boiled cabbage are our main dishes," a Grade-6 student at the school said.

Most students do not return to their homes during school breaks because they have no one to return to, he explained.

A young girl said she missed her home but had no idea how she could return by herself.

"Usually, I ask my headmaster to call my parents. But I have rarely seen any parent come to visit their children," she added.

When she first arrived, there were just 60 students but that soon doubled.

"I have shared a bedroom with 31 other girls. We take turns cooking and cleaning," she said.

Aree Boonkerd, a 26-year-old school worker, said border-patrol officers, village heads and government officials brought the children to the school during the government war on drugs.

The Thaksin administration launched the crackdown in early 2003. It left as many as 2,500 people dead. Many were the victims of extrajudicial killings.

Human-rights activists allege many innocent people were killed. They now demand Thaksin be held responsible.

Ban Mae Maeh headmaster Wong Kaewjaima said the number of children sent to the school did rise during the anti-drug efforts.

"The school has become overcrowded. The school and its students need assistance," he said.

Saneh hoped his students would be better fed and they could enjoy their education. "We teach students from kindergarten level up to Grade 6. Our concern is with our graduates. We don't know what will happen to those who cannot continue their education at secondary schools."

Saneh said the school tried hard to rehabilitate students so that they could live happily in society.

"We hope our students will be good members of society," he said.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Over 1,000 schools closed in Thailand's south as undereported guerilla war rages out of control

The same reason exists for both the war's origins and why it has been underreported: Thai people in the central region control both the government and the national media.
Central Thais do not care about or feel any particular kinship with the majority Malay or Thai-Malay people who make up the bulk of the population in the three southernmost provinces. In fact, Thai-Malay or 'south people' are even less accepted when it come to credentials of 'Thai-ness' (vitally important in this extremely though falsely ethnocentric land) than the ethnic Lao and Thai-Lao who inhabit the rural northeast.

Central Thais see the south as a territorial issue, and always speak of it as such. Southern Thais view the south in different terms -- the holy trifecta of ethnography, identity, and self-determination.

The three southern border provinces of Thailand were historically an independent kingdom and did not really become part of Thailand until around 1900, an event which coincided with the emergence of finely drawn borders and modern 'nation-state' identity for Thailand. Most of those in the south are Muslim Malays and maintain a completely a different religion, custom, and language from the Buddhist Thais of the central, north, and northeast regions.

Over 1,000 schools closed

Narathiwat, Yala teachers follow Pattani colleagues

The Teachers Federation has decided to close down all schools in Yala and Narathiwat indefinitely until the government can guarantee the safety of teachers.

That will bring the number of schools shut down in the troubled South to more than 1,000.

Teacher representatives from Yala and Narathiwat yesterday met to discuss the issue of safety after a string of shootings and arson attacks last week left two senior teachers dead.

"The federation has reached an agreement that all 240 schools in Yala and 336 schools in Narathiwat would be … shut starting from [today]," said Sa-nguan Intarak, secretary of the Teachers' Federation of Narathiwat.

Sa-nguan said teachers in 100 private schools were also in fear of their lives and had agreed to close down, pushing the number of shut schools past the 1,000 figure.

Their move to close down the schools in Narathiwat and Yala followed their colleagues in Pattani who decided to close the province's entire 336 schools from yesterday because of fears for their safety.

Teachers have been a common target of the insurgency. Last week a headmaster was burned to death in his car and another teacher was shot. At least 60 teachers have been killed since the violence re-emerged in the three southernmost provinces in January 2004.

"The conclusion will be sent to all the schools, and it is up to each school's principal and executive members to decide if they want to follow suit," said Sa-nguan.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Education said it was concerned about how Matthayom 6 students would perform in the upcoming entrance exam.

"We understand that closing schools is the best solution for teachers in the current situation. But what concerns us most is the fate of the Matthayom 6 students who will be having the entrance exam soon," said Prasert Kaewpetch, the inspector of education in Area Zone 12.

He said the ministry was planning special tuition classes for the students.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Third world flavor: Hundreds of cabbies block taxi terminal at Suvarnabhumi Airport in protest over 'corruption'

Before anyone makes the mistake of feeling sympathy for the Thai taxi drivers who inconvenienced thousands of Bangkok travellers last night with their single-minded, selfish, and totally over-the-top protest, it is good to keep in mind what lying theiving scumbags the majority of them are.

Taxis are supposed to turn on the meter when collecting fares from the airport, not attempt to extort a flat rate fee which is often two or three times the meter prices. At the old airport, due to heavy police enforcement, taxis switching on the meter slowly became the norm and there were far fewer taxi scam ripoffs. Reports from the new airport indicate that the old taxi scams are back. This 'protest' was all about the police trying to do their job, and the taxi 'union' responding like the petty mafia they are.

A spotty bit of leftist reporting from The Nation, with missing facts filled in:

Hundreds of cabbies blocked the taxi terminal at Suvarnabhumi Airport last night in protest at a police arrest and ticketing of a driver. [ed. why is this allowed to happen? they should be arrested and their cars impounded]

As many as 300 police were deployed to the protest.

The arrested driver had failed to turn on his meter when ferrying a passenger to the airport from Chon Buri province. [ed. he left the meter off and then tried to extort an exorbitant sum from the passenger upon arrival; the passenger objected, and the police got involved. It should also be noted that the passenger was coming from nearby Pattaya, not the wilds of 'Chonburi province' - a factoid no doubt inserted to make the cabbie's case appear stronger.]

One of the protesting drivers said the blockade demanded justice for the arrested driver. [ed. no, the blockade was a revolt by thugs against a police crackdown on taxi scams. When is the light rail system to the airport going to be ready and why haven't the government officials involved in the delay been held accountable? A great example of the slap-dash and totally thoughtless way Thaksin and cronies 'got things done' regarding ill-conceived mega-projects like Suvarnabhumi airport.]

He said taxis travelling interprovincial routes did not have to use meters. [ed. there are set fares for Pattaya, Hua Hin, and other common destinations, but these are to and from central Bangkok, not Pattaya - Suvarnabhumi. Part of the rationale for placing the new airport at the Eastern edge of Bangkok was that it would serve as a local airport for Pattaya, which is quite near, as well]

The protest organiser, who asked to not be identified, alleged staff at a company that operated an Airports of Thailand taxi concession were corrupt.

They allowed "ghost taxis" to freely pick up passengers at the airport while those who paid Bt50 to enter the airport had to wait "hours" to collect a fare.

Staff received Bt20 kickbacks from each unauthorised taxi. [ed. I somehow doubt that. The real issue is taxis picking up passengers upstairs at the departure gates, after they have dropped off their fare. But this situation only exists because people are actually willing to physically carry their bags upstairs to avoid the anarchy and bedlam of the arrivals lounge downstairs. Much of this bedlam is caused by the taxi drivers failing to police themselves.]

Hundreds of taxis blocked entrances and exits to the commuter area while others blockaded the Thai Airways catering building, causing traffic congestion in the airport compound.

Passengers injured when train ferrying them to Chiang Mai flora expo in Thailand hit by another

Phichit - A special-service train ferrying passengers from Bangkok to the flora expo in Chiang Mai was hit by another train, causing part of it to derail and injuring many passengers. [ed. the 'express train' was hit in the back by the normal train, believe it or not]

Police said the accident happened at ten minutes after midnight Sunday night between the Huayket and Taphan Hin stations in Phichit's Taphan Hin district.

Police said the normal service train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai hit the last car of the special service train, causing the last car and the engine and a goods car of the second train to derail.

Police said the injured passengers included foreigners but their exact number was not known yet.

The Nation

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Suvanabhumi - a world class shithole that gives even the causual traveller a good idea of what Thailand is really like

What a piece of shit Suwannapoom (badly translated and official name: Suvnabhumi) is. Thais seems hell bent on 'developing' Thailand into a totally unliveable and unvisitable shithole. All with sort of mounting arrogance that makes one want to drop a nuclear weapon on the country.

New airport is a bad first and last impression of Thailand

I am a frequent traveller through Bangkok's new airport, Suvarnabhumi, and am sad to say that even with the billions of baht spent, I can't see any improvement on Don Muang. In fact, many aspects of the new airport are far worse than the old-looking but well organised and convenient Don Muang.

The merging of three terminals at the old airport into one at Suvarnabhumi makes checking in much noiser and slower; the cramming in of as many shops as possible makes the air-side corridors narrower; the design of the gates means enormous distances have to be walked; the general dirtiness and shoddy construction don't appeal; and the departure lounges are cold and unwelcoming.

Whilst previously I could feel sure of reaching Don Muang in 20 minutes from downtown, it now takes the best part of an hour to reach Suvarnabhumi.

It's a poor first and last impression many tourists and businessmen now have of what is still a wonderful country. I beg the Thai authorities to reopen Don Muang as an alternative to the hell of Suvarnabhumi for discerning travellers.

Many other cities in the world have a choice of airports, why not Bangkok?

Absolutely not a baht for people in need. Meanwhile, billions of baht are spent on idiotic projects like the latest SME / OTOP initiative.

Inundated and frustrated

Orchid growers allowed their land to be flooded to protect Bangkok, but still await any form of relief

It has been almost a month since the triumphant faces of the director-general of the Royal Irrigation Department and the Bangkok governor appearing on television upset Suchart Dokrak.

"Khun Apirak always smiles on the news, full of pride, saying that he was able to save Bangkok. How about the life of simple people like me? I was good enough to help Bangkok, but not worthy enough to receive relief from the capital," said the orchid farmer, whose life was turned upside down overnight on October 26.

The 44-year-old resident of Song Phi Nong district was sailing a wooden boat given to him by his neighbour when The Nation visited him on Friday. Three metres below the surface were some 205,000 orchid plants he and his wife Rapeeporn had carefully planted two years ago.

From being one of the province's high-profile orchid growers who generated income of more than Bt10,000 a day by exporting their blooms to Italy and India, Suchart and Rapeeporn now make about Bt50-Bt60 daily by fishing in the three-metre-deep pond where a month ago their orchids flourished.

The turning point of their life was late on the morning of October 26.

"I heard a loud noise. I turned round. It was terrifying - a huge volume of water was flooding through a broken earth dam. By late afternoon it had become like this," Rapeeporn recalled, indicating the brown waters around her. "I fainted from shock and had to spend a day in hospital."

Yesterday Suchart and about other 100 orchid growers who were affected by the flooding gathered at the office of the Thai Orchid Garden Enterprise Association in Nakhon Pathom.

Payong Kong-udomsup, president of the association, said he had called the meeting so his members could share their suffering. Information was being collected and will be reported to Agriculture Minister Thira Sutabutra and Samart Chokekhanapitak, director-general of the Irrigation Department.

"We hope the details we collect here today will be used to evaluate compensation for flood-affected people," said Payong.

Payong said at least 30 big farms in Suphan Buri, Nakhon Pathom, Ayutthaya and Nonthaburi had been completely inundated. Though the majority of his members were able to save their farms, many had to spend more than Bt1 million to do so, he added.

Suchart said he had tried to protect his farm, but failed.

As a member of the Bangtakien Tambon Administration Organisation, he was informed on October 15 by local Irrigation Department authorities that all farm areas, including his 50 rai, were part of areas that had been designated for water retention to protect Bangkok from being flooded by the huge volume of water rushing in from the North.

Before being hit by the water, irrigation officials went to his farm to take photographs, saying the pictures would be used later when calculating his compensation.

Suchart decided to assign only 40 rai, where there was a fish pond and orchards, as areas to be submerged. The remaining 10 rai was an orchid farm, an area he had to protect.

Almost Bt100,000 was then spent on building a three-metre-high earth dam to encircle the 10-rai orchid farm, in the hope that it would be strong enough to protect the valuable blooms.

"We didn't know how high we should make the dam because the irrigation authorities failed to tell us the volume of water they estimated would be diverted to our land," said Rapeeporn.

The couple soon learnt the volume of water - on October 26 after the dam burst under the pressure of floodwater. By the evening, even the three-metre-high dam was under water discharged from the Prayabunleu irrigation system.

The orchids and other assets that drowned in the murky depths were worth about Bt2 million, he said, adding, "Now it's worse as I have no way to generate income to repay the Bt3.5-million loan I took out with the SME Bank in 2003 to invest in the farm."

Suchart said he would soon ask the bank for a three-year debt moratorium.

Hope surfaced when the couple heard that Prime Minister Surayud Chulanond was to visit flood-affected people in the province on November 10, with promises of compensation.

However, relief turned to despair again when Suchart was approached by the chief of Song Phi Nong district, asking him not to report his situation to the premier, saying that Surayud already knew about it and had ordered measures to assist all victims.

No assistance has been forthcoming so far.

Suchart said he wished the Bangkok governor and the head of the Irrigation Department would show more concern for people like him, who had sacrificed their entire fortune to protect the metropolis. At least, he said, they could help him by asking the SME Bank to accept his request for a debt moratorium.

He said that since the local irrigation authorities told him about their plan to discharge water onto his land, he had never seen anyone from the department again. Nor have representatives of any state agencies - not even the Agricultural Promotion Department or district officials - visited him.

The couple still do not know when their life will return to normal, and they have no idea how long they have to keep storing the water to protect Bangkok residents.

"I would like to meet the head of the Irrigation Department and ask him when he will come take his water back. He has left it with us too long," Suchart said.


Monday, November 20, 2006

BTS a major culprit in noise pollution

The BTS is the local elevated rail system, also known as the 'skytrain'. The noise it generates is not the sound of trains on tracks but all the advertising announcements.

from letters section of The Nation:

From the bottom of my heart, thank you for the editorial on "Tackling the problem of noise" (Bangkok Post, Nov 18). You rightly identify BTS as a socially irresponsible corporation.

Recently, in addition to their screens and loudspeakers positioned at the top of the stairs, BTS has installed loudspeakers at regular intervals along the platforms. Consequently, passengers who could previously avoid the ear-splitting noise of the advertisements are now terrorised by it wherever they wait for the train.

Moreover, BTS has not turned down the volume of its video advertisements on the trains, as you suggest. Quite the contrary. Even if you give up your seat and stand in the corners next to the doors, you will still need earplugs. At Mor Chit, while waiting for the train, you are bombarded by BTS-generated intrusive commercials, and while you are on the train waiting for it to leave, you get all the noise both from the platform and from the on-train video.

It has become unbearable. I think that only sick minds can come up with this sort of excessively intrusive and asocial advertisement strategy.

Bangkok's governor must keep in mind that he has promised us a "livable" Bangkok, and that BTS is public space operated by a private company. If people at BTS cannot control their greed, then Governor Aphirak must intervene with a regulation.

If nothing else helps, we might have to turn to this military government that has adopted "sufficiency economy" as a major approach to regulating economic activities. BTS clearly is still caught in the Thaksin-era of boundless greed for profit, and its concomitant asocial behaviour, including contempt for its passengers.

Maybe, thinking about their actions from this perspective will help people at BTS to come to their senses and become a good corporate citizen.

I don't hold my breath, though.


Dual pricing - institutionalized racism in Thaland

from the Bangkok Post letters section:

Mr Knipfing (Postbag, Nov 20) made some valid points and also appears to have been lucky. Not only have I seen non-Thais sail through the Thai queue, I have been with a white-skinned, Thai-born friend with an ID card, who was refused entry under the Thai price. The only explanation in this case was skin colour.

In many cases it is not double prices but as much as 20 times the local price
, with foreign children being charged more that Thai adults.

I have seen the case with the Thai man in the latest BMW and gold Rolex (really) getting in for free, while the backpacker paid the special foreign prices.

I have also seen this pricing policy in action in India but this does not justify the practice.

Section 30 of the last Constitution covered discrimination based on race. If the prices were being set based on per capita personal income tax paid, then foreigners have more than covered their local upkeep obligations.
[ed. and yet, some cretins have the cheek to call us 'guests']

Why Somchai can't export -- the real problem with SME competitiveness in Thailand

The Thai government routinely interferes on an almost Stalinistic level with the day-to-day operations of SMEs. How they propose to 'help' by adding additional regulatory burdens and restrictions on the supposedly free market is paternalistic and insane. Most investors have figured out that doing business in communist Vietnam is far easier.

And why does The Nation continually publish 'blame it on the foreigner' allegations by lazy and corrupt Thai government officials without explanation or analysis?

Thousands of SMEs predicted to go under

Published on Nov 20, 2006

Competition from abroad proves too intense: agency

Nearly 10,000 small and medium-sized enterprises will fold this year in the face of fierce competition from overseas.

These companies are neither capital-intensive enough to withstand cheap products from China and Vietnam, nor quality-oriented enough compete with high-end products from the United States and Europe.

According to Jhitraporn Techacharn, director-general of the Office of Small and Medium Enterprises Promotion, many SMEs in various industries will go under now free-trade agreements with countries like Australia, China and New Zealand are effective.

Meanwhile, SMEs face strong domestic competition from large foreign investors expanding in Thailand, especially in the retail sector. As a result, a number of SMEs have already closed. [ed. must be referring to Tesco and Big C. Erroneous, since it's been repeatedly proven that Thai owned 7-11 Thailand (CP Group) is the real competition faced by Thai mom and pop shops and the reason for their closure, not the huge box stores. Besides, if it benefits the average consumer, and employs plenty of Thais, which it does, then why is the Thai government interfering?]

"Some of Thailand's SMEs cannot adjust to meet the new business environment and as a result they have had to quit," Jhitraporn said on Friday. [ed. that's called free market economics, so take a macro view and stop fretting]

The value of SME business will comprise 4 per cent of gross domestic product this year, compared with 4.7 per cent last year. [ed. hardly a disaster]

Jhitraporn said SME business value had grown only slightly because of an increase in operating costs and a lack of competitiveness.

However, her office plans to help with product development and data to meet market demand. [ed. oh god!]

Though some SMEs are disappearing, others are emerging. So far this year 40,000 new SMEs have registered.

"SMEs have to develop niche products not cheaper products because they cannot compete with imports from China. But they have to develop trendy products or creative products that meet demand both domestically and internationally," she said. [ed. sweetie, let the free market figure out what's really needed]

The office will spend Bt700 million to help SMEs in the fiscal year ending next September. [ed. how many schools would that fund? total waste of taxpayer money]

That money will pay for new development centres. There are just six today but within the next 12 months their number will grow to 30. Centres provide suggestions for product development to meet customer demand both here and abroad. [ed. Thai government bureaucrats are going to give product development advice? Where do all these stupid ideas come from? I thought it was Thaksin, but he's gone now]

The office has another Bt500 million to spend expanding One Tambon One Product (OTOP) products. [ed. please de-list that line item from the central budget unless an equivalent return in tax revenue can be shown from last year's OTOP program]

Jhitraporn said makers of OTOP products had the potential to become SMEs if they received good advice and developed packaging and design. [ed. most OTOP products are a piece of shit that operate in a vacuum with no consumer demand. Demanding that SMEs spend more on packaging is not going to help.]

"Our target in the next year is not a high growth of SME numbers but to help existing operators produce high-quality products and strengthen businesses that will survive competition," she said.

Her office in conjunction with the Federation of Thai Industries has created six new projects to strengthen SMEs. It will spend Bt1.2 billion doing so.

These projects include promotion of industry standards, training, business matching between producers and buyers, logistics development, machinery renovation and industry development in provincial areas. All projects will last one year. [ed. what is needed is a fundamental overall of the Thai educational system, from the ground up. Nothing else will help]

Jhitraporn added it would soon work with other industry associations in similar joint ventures.

Today there are almost 2.25 million SMEs and 5,000 are active exporters.

Exporting SMEs recorded sales of Bt1.37 trillion in 2005 and that figure will be Bt1.54 trillion this year - a 12-per-cent increase.

Jhitraporn said if the target were met, SME export growth would average 11 per cent a year. [ed. so if we spend 1.2 billion baht and SME exports don't increase 11 percent by next year, can we shut this thing down?]

Chalida Ekvitthayavechnukul,

Somluck Srimalee

[ed. will you two newsies follow up this story in a year's time? Or even relate it to similarily idiotic stories from last year and the year before? No, of course not.]

The Nation

And now, a good summary of what really ails SMEs in Thailand:

Product development is not the main concern for SMEs

Re: "Thousands of SMEs predicted to go under", Business, November 20.

A government office giving suggestions about product development sounds like a bad idea. As the owner of a small SME (small and medium-sized enterprise) going for the high value-added, high-tech market, competing directly with European products, I think the biggest problems are:

1. Lack of skilled staff

2. Suppliers responding too slowly. In Singapore and China we receive quotations the same day. In Thailand it takes a week - but only after calling the supplier daily.

3. People not doing what they say they will do.

Please address these fundamental issues first, as they are the main reasons SMEs go under, not the products.



Saturday, November 18, 2006

Thailand's IP double standards -- the baby lizard with the forked tongue wants somethng for nothing

Why don't the Thais get rid of the IT black market at nearly every shopping mall in Bangkok, Panthip in particular, before whining about someone patenting a drink with lychee flavoring in it, or bitching to the WTO about shrimp import quotas. Last I checked, the WTO considers intellectual property rights to be an important element of cross border trade that each and every member is expected to do their part to uphold and protect. Thailand has failed miserably at this, due to lack of honest effort. If the US decided to take this to the WTO, I am sure they would 'win'. But as a certain Thai trade negotiator is about to find out, 'winning' at the WTO is not the same as winning favorable trade for your country. That is done through trust, mutual respect for protocol, and competent negotiation between the two countries. The US side keeps showing up, ready to do business, but where are their competent counterparts on the Thai side?

Re: "Warning over Apec-wide FTA", Business, November 16.

This article warns about the possible dangers of an Asia-Pacific free trade area and the fact that the US wishes to enforce its intellectual property rules.

Some time back, a letter from a Thai professor stated words to the effect that, "Those cunning Americans will enforce ... IT rules ... [which would] cost Thais billions".

A few days later there was an article about an American company that wanted a patent on some kind of Thai fruit drink. This was met with fierce opposition in Thailand and a vehement desire to protect Thailand's intellectual property.

I don't care if the US trades with Thailand or not, but how do you deal with people who admit to being pirates and have two sets of standards?

Raymond O'Neal


21 hurt as Thai Airways nearly collides with Korean jetliner

Total silence from the Thais on this. Accountability? Just last year, another Thailand based carrier, Phuket Air, was banned from landing at European airports due to longstanding failure to correct a variety of serious safety issues. It was Phuket Air which famously criticized passengers after an incident in which takeoff was aborted due to panic over copious amounts of aviation fuel spilling from the wing of one of their aircraft.

from The Nation:

21 hurt in plane's near-miss over SKorea

A THAI aircraft was suspected of flying on the same altitude of a Taiwanese plane and nearly caused collision.

SEOUL - Twenty-one people aboard a Taiwanese plane were injured Thursday when it was forced to change course to avoid another aircraft while approaching South Korea's Jeju island, airline officials said.

Nineteen of them needed hospital treatment and three are still in hospital including one with a brain haemorrhage, medical staff said.

The accident happened when a Boeing 757 operated by the Far Eastern Air Transport Corporation was approaching the southern resort island.

Airline spokesman Chang You-peng said the plane was told by flight controllers to reduce altitude from 35,000 feet to 34,000 feet.

But an alarm designed to avoid airborne collisions went off, prompting the pilots to make an emergency descent for around 10 seconds, Chang told AFP in Taipei.

"The pilots said they suspected it was a Thai jetliner flying nearby on the same altitude," he added, praising their "correct and proper" handling of the incident.

The pilots had no time to warn passengers of the sudden descent, Chang said, adding that 16 passengers and five crew were injured out of 129 passengers and eight crew members on board.

Medical officials in Jeju said two people suffered fractured ribs and one had a brain haemorrhage.,

Chang said around half the passengers were en route to Shanghai and were transiting in South Korea.

A four-member team from South Korea's transport ministry was sent to Jeju to investigate.

"An investigation will be carried out to determine the cause of the accident by analyzing the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder of the aircraft and interviewing the pilots, flight attendants and passengers," said ministry official Byeon Soon-Cheol.

"We don't know yet what caused the airplane to lose height so suddenly."

An official at Incheon Air Traffic Centre said the flight lost height some 50-60 miles (31-37 miles) south of Jeju.

"It is true that a Thai Airways aircraft was flying nearby," said the official, adding that it was bound for Bangkok after taking off from Incheon west of Seoul.

Agence France-Presse

UBC, Thai culture, and honesty -- a fundamental problem with telling the truth

Being told absurd bald-faced lies by Thai customer service agents is routine in Thailand, especially where state sanctioned monopolies like UBC (the local cable company) and TOT (the predominant landline provider) are concerned. Often, the stupidity of this policy is underscored by the fact that it would be easier and more effective to simply state the truth than concoct fabulous lies.

In this case, UBC has cancelled the MTV and VH1 (two channels that form the basis of most customers' decision to sign an overpriced 'premium' contract) because the licensing fees would cut into UBC's existing profit more than offering third rate and basically free local programming.

UBC's inability to face up to this business decision and accept some acocuntability for it by maintaining some modicum of honesty and consistency in its message to customers is just a reflection of the inherent corruptness of Thai social practice and 'culture'. Until monopolies like tihs are disbanded, there will be no change in Thai society, as there will no opportunity for competitors to adopt a strategy of accountability and directness, which they might easily do as a means to distinguish themselves and gain a competitive edge. This has already happened to some extent with the deregulation of the mobile phone market as upstarts DTAC and TRUE introduced a simplified and above-board fee structure that eventually prompted industry dinosaur AIS to do the same.

from The Nation:

UBC keeps changing story on departure of music channels

Is it actually possible to get an honest answer from UBC? On the first of this month I called to enquire the wherabouts of MTV and VH1. I was told the channels were dropped because UBC had replaced them with "alternative channels"; namely Mahjung TV and TRUE Music, neither of which carry international music.

I called again on Friday to ask whether they had reconsidered and was told that actually they had wanted to keep MTV and VH1 but that those companies refused to sign a new contract with UBC. To quote: "Why would we cancel those channels when so many of our subscribers like them?"

Exactly! Why would they? And why would I be told two different stories? In the past I have enquired regarding English subtitles for movies such as Suriyothai and was told that subtitles weren't available. A curious excuse as I had already watched it at the cinema with subtitles! UBC seem to think that a polite voice and a "sir" or "khun" represents customer service rather than actually telling their customers the truth.

The sooner this monopoly is broken the better

Friday, November 17, 2006

40 Thai schools close as southern violence intensifies

from The Nation:

Over 40 schools in Narathiwat closed after teacher slain by militants

Narathiwat - Over 40 schools in the Rusoh district are closed Thursday with no schedule for reopening after a female teacher was killed by a drive-by shooting on Wednesday.

Phairaj Saengthong, director of Narathiwat's Education Zone 1, said the schools stopped teaching because teachers feared about their safety and because they wanted to mourn the death of the female teacher.

Kulthida Inchampa, 33, acting deputy director of Lamoh School, was shot dead by militants while she was riding her motorcycle home after classes.

Phairaj said Kulthida had been teaching in the area for over 10 years and had a role for education development in the area.

Thailand's top heavy military bureaucracy gets a shake-up to forestall second coup in one year

The question not asked by The Nation, as usual, is why a small country like Thailand with an outmoded and generally ridiculous army, total control over its borders, and little influence in international affairs would have hundreds if not thousands of 'Lieutenant Colonels'. Unreal.

Thai Army rotates 136 lieutenant colonels

The Army Friday released a list of rotations involving 136 lieutenant colonels assigned to battalion-level positions, seen by critics as an attemt to foil a second coup.

The list took effect since Tuesday and was endorsed by Army Commander-in-Chief General Sonthi Boonyaratglin.

Army insiders said Sonthi had ordered his two assistants, General Saprang Kalayanamitr and General Anupong Paochinda, to reassign battalion commanders.

Sonthi's instruction coincided with the military jittery caused by the warning of former prime minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh over the weekend.

The new lineup included Lt Colonel Banyong Thongnuam as commander of the Second Battalion of the First Infantry Regiment.

Lt Colonel Surin Preeyanupap became commander of the First Battalion of the Second Infantry Regiment.

The Nation

Thais reject US call to negotiate shrimp case because a renegade Thai bureaucratic thinks she can make big face and 'win'

Meanwhile, Thais fight for every last red cent they can squeeze out of a relationship today, fuck the future. Why does the US coddle these asses? Didn't we just extend the General System of Trade Preferences to help our little monkey friends here? And now they take up shrimp duties straight to the WTO, despite a diplomatic overture to settle things quietly? Fuck them, and fuck Thailand. Bring the trade war. You are seeing the true Thai national character, which is like that of spoiled brat adolescent-- smug, selfish to their own detriment, credentialed but far from educated ruling class, self-important, irrational, myopic, unreliable, incapable of comprehending the concept of partnership.

US call to drop shrimp case rejected

Thailand has insisted that it will continue to pursue a complaint lodged with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) against the United States for employing unfair trade practices against Thai shrimp exporters, despite a US request to cancel the petition.

The complaint relates to a practice called zeroing, under which sales that could reduce or remove margins are not counted.

Chutima Bunyapraphasara, director-general of the Trade Negotiations Department, said Friday that Thailand was confident of winning the case. Although Washington has offered to review its zeroing calculation methods if the case is withdrawn, she said Thailand would follow the complaint through because the US practice clearly violates WTO regulations.

The Thai petition accuses the US of implementing dual trade protection measures against Thai shrimp since March this year through a continuous bond and an anti-dumping duty.

If Thailand succeeds in having zeroing removed the dumping duties on Thai shrimp entering the US would probably be heavily reduced or removed.

The WTO is considering setting up a panel with representatives from India, Mexico, Brazil, China, Chile and the European Union to review the case in January next year.

The Nation

US business leaders "puss out" on further action after meeting with Thai PM

The US Chamber of Commerce came away with some empty words, broken promises, and forked tongue PR speak, and in true cowardly kiss-ass fashion declared victory. When are there going to learn that monkeys don't respect you in the morning?

Nevermind that Thailand has become, through it's government policy, one of the most hostile, corrupt, and inefficient countries to do business in this side of North Korea. Two-faced as well, because Thailand positively drools over foreign money then immediately slaps the face attached to the hand that feeds it, by blaming foreigners for Thai misdeeds and piling additional arcane and idiotic regulations on to a creaking bureaucracy of PO-faced Somchais who can barely comprehend and execute the ones in place now.

Hey Daley, whatever happened to the Treaty of Amity, goddamnit?

US firms 'committed to Thailand'

American business leaders affirm their support following Surayud's 'frank and professional articulation of policy'

American business leaders yesterday expressed their commitment to do business in Thailand after meeting Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit.

Matthew Daley, president of the US-Asean Business Council, said after the one-hour meeting: "I think the audience emphasised the commitment to Thailand and determination to continue business operations in Thailand. Everybody who spoke made that affirmation."

Surayud met with around 30 American businessmen from companies such as Chevron, Citigroup Inc, ConocoPhillips, FedEx, Hewlett Packard, IBM, Johnson & Johnson, Merck & Co, Microsoft, New York Life International, Oracle, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Qualcom, Boeing, Dow Chemical, Time Warner, Saltchuck and Sierra Machinery.

Nicholas C Walsh, executive vice president of American International Group, said after meeting Surayud: "He is very open, very frank in his views on many issues. We appreciated his answers very much. He's very professional."

Asked if martial law had hindered his business operation in Thailand, Walsh said: "I am in the financial business, and there's business as usual."

Daley said: "We welcomed the prime minister's articulation of policy. There is recognition that there would be continuity in economic policy. He said that he believed his term in office will be only one year and so he's conscious that with some projects he can lay the foundations but perhaps will not see them through to completion."

Surayud's meeting was a highlight of his trip to Vietnam. Officials said his main agenda was to clarify the Thai situation to Apec investors.

Daley said the meeting had touched a wide variety of issues. For instance, the American audience asked about the maritime border dispute with Cambodia. Some also asked about the regulatory environment for the media, tourism and the telecommunications sector.

Surayud aimed to assure foreign investors that the military-installed government would continue to follow an open economic policy.

Before the meeting with American investors, Surayud gave a speech during the CEO summit. Catherine Weir, Citigroup's head of Asean corporate and investment banking, introduced Surayud to the podium by describing him as a "man known for his modesty and strong sense of duty to Thailand".

Asked what he planned to say to US President George W Bush at today's meeting between Asean and US leaders, Surayud said he did not plan to say anything specific.

"Nothing special. We are trying to do our best in a short period of time. I didn't think I wanted to do it [become prime minister], but it's a necessity. When I agree to do it, I have to do my best."