Wednesday, April 29, 2009

SCG profits hit by low paper prices

Group set for 20-25% fall in annual revenue
By: NAREERAT WIRIYAPONG
Published: 30/04/2009 at 12:00 AM
Newspaper section: Business

Siam Cement Group expects its revenue for this year to be down 20-25% from 2008 after poor first-quarter results, which fell on sagging petrochemical and paper prices.

Kan: Company will definitely report profit

First-quarter net profit declined by 27% to 5.18 billion baht, after SCG's quarterly sales plunged by 30%, the company reported yesterday. This prompted Thailand's largest industrial conglomerate to revise down its 2009 revenue forecast to 20-25% below the 290 billion baht it posted last year, president and chief executive officer Kan Trakulhoon said.

"Earlier we thought this year's sales would decrease by 10% from 2008's performance. But given the first-quarter results, the company now estimates our fall would be in a range of 20-25%," he said. "However, we will definitely report some profit this year."

Net profit dropped from 7.1 billion baht in the same period in 2008, due to a sharp fall in petrochemical and paper-product prices. Net sales totalled 55.2 billion baht, down from 78.6 billion the previous year.

Earnings recovered to 8.66 billion baht from the quarter before, while sales were flat, he said.

"Our performance has significantly improved from the previous quarter, with a price recovery and higher margins in the petrochemical business."

SCG's petrochemical business returned a net profit of 2.47 billion baht after the company booked inventory losses in the last quarter of 2008. But earnings slipped by 1.39 billion baht, compared to the same period last year, after sales fell by 42% to 21.59 billion baht.

However, the quarterly results were well above the 3.71 billion baht median estimate of six analysts surveyed by Bloomberg News. Investors responded positively, pushing Siam Cement shares up 8.29%,to close yesterday at 117.50 baht, in trade worth 755.2 million baht.

The paper business, however, continued to decline year-on-year in the wake of the economic slowdown, he said.

SCG Paper's profits declined by 68% year-on-year to 239 million baht, while sales fell 21% year-on-year to 9.69 billion baht. The cement business, meanwhile, posted a 16% increase to 1.96 billion baht, but sales slid 3% from a year earlier to 12.37 billion baht on lower exports and domestic trade.

Mr Kan said an additional supply of 8 million tonnes of petrochemical output from India and Middle East would come onstream in the second quarter, dimming SCG's improving prospects in the latter half of the year.

"We target a significant upturn in the petrochemical business in 2010," he said.

In the paper sector, prices have decreased sharply to about US$300 per tonne from $470 in mid-2008, but the company believed that demand and prices would stabilise in this quarter, Mr Kan said.

The cement business, for which first-quarter demand fell 10% year-on-year, should benefit from the government's economic stimulus packages and infrastructure projects.

SCG had 36 billion baht in cash as of the end of March, indicating sound liquidity should the group seek to buy regional assets, Mr Kan said.

The group is reportedly in talks with US-based Dow Chemical, but Mr Kan declined to comment, saying the results would be announced in the third quarter.

Kim Eng Securities said that SCG's earnings were better than its previous estimates of 3.5 billion to 4 billon baht, thanks to increased petrochemical capacity utilisation, and cost reductions from the energy-saving waste heat generator projects.

Kim Eng said SCG should record a profit of about 17 billion baht this year.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Briton Fined 500 Baht for Being Impolite

Simon Burrowes outside Phuket Court: 500 baht fine imposed
Monday, April 27, 2009
SIMON Burrowes, the British tourist jailed in Thailand for three weeks after he was allegedly rude to an official at Phuket airport, was fined 500 baht today.

Mr Burrowes, given the option by a judge in Phuket Court of pleading not guilty and possibly facing a jail term or pleading guilty, opted to plead guilty.

The charge was that he spoke impolitely to an official.
Mr Burrowes told Phuketwan outside the court that he had caught the bus back to Phuket from Bangkok for today's hearing.

He said that police in Phuket had asked him why he did not have an appropriate visa. Mr Burrowes told them that his application for a visa extension had been refused.

Officials were today in the process of working out how to provide him with an appropriate visa. He says his plan is to return to Britain in about a fortnight.

Mr Burrowes, 44, was arrested after the encounter at Immigration as he attempted to catch a flight back to Britain on January 31. He spent three weeks in Phuket Jail before being granted bail.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Phuket Plan Will 'Legalise' 100,000 Burmese

By Chutima Sidasathian and Alan Morison
Sunday, April 26, 2009
A SO-CALLED ''working visa'' is to be established for up to 100,000 illegal and legal Burmese under a plan to control labor numbers on Phuket.

The idea, already being termed the ''Phuket model,'' will enable Burmese to register and be given an ID from local administrators at Provincial Hall.

Employers will be responsible for making sure their workers go to be fingerprinted and photographed as part of the ID process.

The decision to introduce the new system appears to be a breakthrough that could reduce the need for illicit labor on Phuket, and possibly also minimise human trafficking.

The Burmese workers will have to have health checks, and make social security and health contributions at a higher rate than Thais.

Burmese illegals have always been seen as a drain on the Thai system. On Phuket, Burmese workers are obliged to obey an 8pm curfew and forbidden from using mobile telephones or motorcycles.

Construction company bosses have been urging the change because their needs have not been diminished by the world economic downturn.

Phuket Governor Wichai Praisa-Nob has given his approval to the ''working visa'' idea and says the problem had been a big one for Phuket.

The process was a kind of ''pardon'' for the construction and fishing industries, and it could bring huge change, he said.

Once the national government approves the ''working visa'' Phuket model in a Cabinet meeting, it will become the first of its kind in Thailand.

Last week a 25-member investigating Labor Commission, headed by Phuket MP Laywat Areerob, heard about the problems of Phuket in meetings at Provincial Hall.

A decision to rapidly implement the concept to meet the island's needs quickly emerged.

At present, 29,000 registered Burmese work on the island under a quota system that has been criticised for years as inadequate.

Construction companies have made the point that they keep illegal Burmese workers in small camps of up to 30 families, so that if discovered, their labor losses and fines are minimised.

It would be more effective for administration and health to have the workers in larger camps, the official inquiry was told last week.

A form of temporary work-based ID for Burmese has been in use in the northern border town of Ranong, capital of the province of the same name.

There, the Burmese population is of such a size that local supermarkets have signage in Thai, English and Burmese. Burmese even run their own underground schools.

At this stage, the ''working visa'' concept will only apply to the construction and fishing industries, and a date for its introduction depends on a Cabinet decision.

The plight of illegal Burmese and Rohingya boat people has received attention since the suffocation of 54 Burmese in a container truck in April last year and reports in January of brutal ''push-backs'' from Thailand in which hundreds died.

Phuket Still Hungry for Burmese Workforce
Latest Construction on Phuket is not being slowed by the economic downturn and thousands more Burmese laborers are required, a Parliamentary Labor Commission hears
Phuket Still Hungry for Burmese Workforce

Human Trafficking: Suffocation, or Solution?
LatestDesperation drives Rohingya, Burmese and others into the hands of human traffickers, putting their lives on the line. The Bali Process this week may provide answers that Thailand needs.
Human Trafficking: Suffocation, or Solution?

Thailand's UN Pledge: No More Boat People Deaths
Photo Album No more pushing back the boats: that is the guarantee extracted from Thailand by the UN as an international body looks at human trafficking and its tragic outcomes.
Thailand's UN Pledge: No More Boat People Deaths

Phuket Plan Will 'Legalise' 100,000 Burmese

By Chutima Sidasathian and Alan Morison
Sunday, April 26, 2009
A SO-CALLED ''working visa'' is to be established for up to 100,000 illegal and legal Burmese under a plan to control labor numbers on Phuket.

The idea, already being termed the ''Phuket model,'' will enable Burmese to register and be given an ID from local administrators at Provincial Hall.

Employers will be responsible for making sure their workers go to be fingerprinted and photographed as part of the ID process.

The decision to introduce the new system appears to be a breakthrough that could reduce the need for illicit labor on Phuket, and possibly also minimise human trafficking.

The Burmese workers will have to have health checks, and make social security and health contributions at a higher rate than Thais.

Burmese illegals have always been seen as a drain on the Thai system. On Phuket, Burmese workers are obliged to obey an 8pm curfew and forbidden from using mobile telephones or motorcycles.

Construction company bosses have been urging the change because their needs have not been diminished by the world economic downturn.

Phuket Governor Wichai Praisa-Nob has given his approval to the ''working visa'' idea and says the problem had been a big one for Phuket.

The process was a kind of ''pardon'' for the construction and fishing industries, and it could bring huge change, he said.

Once the national government approves the ''working visa'' Phuket model in a Cabinet meeting, it will become the first of its kind in Thailand.

Last week a 25-member investigating Labor Commission, headed by Phuket MP Laywat Areerob, heard about the problems of Phuket in meetings at Provincial Hall.

A decision to rapidly implement the concept to meet the island's needs quickly emerged.

At present, 29,000 registered Burmese work on the island under a quota system that has been criticised for years as inadequate.

Construction companies have made the point that they keep illegal Burmese workers in small camps of up to 30 families, so that if discovered, their labor losses and fines are minimised.

It would be more effective for administration and health to have the workers in larger camps, the official inquiry was told last week.

A form of temporary work-based ID for Burmese has been in use in the northern border town of Ranong, capital of the province of the same name.

There, the Burmese population is of such a size that local supermarkets have signage in Thai, English and Burmese. Burmese even run their own underground schools.

At this stage, the ''working visa'' concept will only apply to the construction and fishing industries, and a date for its introduction depends on a Cabinet decision.

The plight of illegal Burmese and Rohingya boat people has received attention since the suffocation of 54 Burmese in a container truck in April last year and reports in January of brutal ''push-backs'' from Thailand in which hundreds died.

Phuket Still Hungry for Burmese Workforce
Latest Construction on Phuket is not being slowed by the economic downturn and thousands more Burmese laborers are required, a Parliamentary Labor Commission hears
Phuket Still Hungry for Burmese Workforce

Human Trafficking: Suffocation, or Solution?
LatestDesperation drives Rohingya, Burmese and others into the hands of human traffickers, putting their lives on the line. The Bali Process this week may provide answers that Thailand needs.
Human Trafficking: Suffocation, or Solution?

Thailand's UN Pledge: No More Boat People Deaths
Photo Album No more pushing back the boats: that is the guarantee extracted from Thailand by the UN as an international body looks at human trafficking and its tragic outcomes.
Thailand's UN Pledge: No More Boat People Deaths

Phuket may gain from bullish view on Thai markets

PHUKET: Renowned investment guru Mark Mobius remains upbeat about the Thai stock market, due to its "undervalued prices and high dividend yields".

Speaking on Friday at a seminar in Bangkok entitled "The Thai Economy: If It Can Recover", Mobius said the dividend yield on Thai shares currently averages about 5.5%, well above that of other emerging markets, which are at about 4%.

As well, Mobius sees the Thai baht as a whopping 14% undervalued against the US dollar.

Mobius is president of the Templeton Emerging Markets Fund, an impressive 10% of which is currently invested in Thai equities. The fund, managed by Mobius, had $391.1 billion under management as of March 31, up from $371.6 billion in February.

PTT and Siam Commercial Bank are among Thai shares accumulated by the fund, he said.

The fund has snapped up Thai bank and energy stocks while avoiding the tourism sector, due to the latter's current low trading liquidity. But if markets are generally heraldic and do 'price in' the condition of a nation's medium term economic outlook, then perhaps the outlook for Thai tourism, and that of Phuket in particular, is better than currently perceived locally.

Mobius said the recent political chaos in Thailand could happen anywhere in the world and was not an issue for him.

"Thailand's overall politics remain peaceful," he said.

Regarding Thailand's gross domestic product, he said it would rebound from a contraction of 3-4% this year to growth of 2-3% next year.

"And the US economy will recover faster than many expect. Recessions don't last long," he said.

Self-exiled Aussie dies in Bangkok Immigration Prison

A Melbourne man who preferred to live in a crowded Bangkok immigration cell rather than return to Australia has died.

Colin Hansch, 61, told Thai authorities he would rather stay in jail than return to Australia, even though he only slept on a mat and received a small serve of rice and soup each day.

"I've not been back to Australia for 30 years. I don't want to go back. I've got nothing to go back to," Mr Hansch said last year.

A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade confirmed Mr Hansch's death in a police hospital in Bangkok.

The spokesman declined to reveal the cause of death.

People who visited him in the detention centre say he probably died from an overdose of prescription medicine.

Mr Hansch, a computer engineer who left Australia decades ago, refused offers by the Australian embassy in Bangkok to issue him a limited Australian travel document to allow him to return to Australia.

It is believed he wanted a passport so he could again leave Australia.

Mr Hansch had been detained at the Immigration Centre in Bangkok, near the Australian embassy, since September 2004.

He was transferred there, supposedly pending deportation, after serving two years in a Bangkok jail for assault causing bodily harm that related to a dispute with a bar girl in the tourist resort city of Pattaya.

There are about 25 Australians among thousands of foreigners being held in Thai jails, most of them for drug related offences.

Nicholas Zemlianski, another elderly prisoner from Melbourne, is believed to be unwell in a prison hospital in Bangkok.

Australia has an agreement with Thailand that allows prisoners there to be transferred to Australian jails but the process is intensely bureaucratic and there have been only a handful of exchanges.

- The Age (Australia) / 2009-04-23

Friday, April 24, 2009

10 new underlying stocks for Single Stock Futures

Another 10 new underlying stocks for Single Stock Futures to be debut soon

Investors in Thailand will soon have greater alternatives after the Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET) will add Single Stock Futures of 10 new underlying stocks.

The 10 new Single Stock Futures will be chosen based on trading liquidity and price volatility to allow investors to exploit them in managing risk, SET Chief Marketing Officer Markets & PostTrade Services Sopawadee Lertmanaschai told reporters.

Most of the 10 new Single Stock Futures are banks and the remainders are energy and property developers, she said.

The debut date could not be set exactly yet as some Single Stock Futures with banking stocks as underlying assets are not listed on the SET50 Index, they then needs to seek an approval from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), she said.

SET already submitted the filing to the securities watchdog, she added.

According to the SETs data, Thailand's first six largest commercial banks comprising Bangkok Bank (BBL), Krung Thai Bank (KTB), Siam Commercial Bank (SCB), Kasikornbank (KBANK), TMB Bank (TMB) and Bank of Ayudhya (BAY) listed on the SET50 Index.

Since November last year, Thailand Futures Exchange (TFEX) a unit of SET introduced the first three Single Stock Futures, Advanced Info Service Plc (ADVANC), PTT Plc (PTT) and PTT Exploration and Production Plc (PTTEP) of which are underlying assets. PTT, PTTEP and ADVANC are the SET's three largest market cap stocks at Bt498.45 billion, Bt324.95 billion and Bt229.58 billion, respectively as of April 23, 2009, according to the SET.

The standard size of contract is 1,000 shares and each contract matures in March, June, September and December. Its minimum tick size is at Bt0.10 and the ceiling and floor of 30 per cent of the previous trading day is also applied.

Sopawadee admitted that the first three Single Stock Futures could not catch investors' interest as seen from its thin trading volume.

As of April 23 this year, there are only 56 Single Stock Futures contracts, 16 are ADVANC, 3 are PTT and the rests are PTTEP.

"We hope that after the number of underlying assets of Single Stock Futures increases from 3 to 13, they can increase investors' appetite and trading liquidity. We expect that Single Stock Futures' trading volume would average at 100 contracts per day," she said.

For Derivative warrant (DW), Sopawadee said it would be unveiled in the third quarter of this year and 23 brokers have already expressed interest to becoming DW's brokers.

SET is also conducting a study on an introduction of Exchange Traded Fund (ETF), foreign index of which is underlying asset, on the stock market.

TFEX, which commenced in 2006, now have four products SET50 Index Futures, SET50 Index Options, Single Stock Futures and Gold Futures.

Tourism revenue to drop by 35% in 2009: Thailand

Thailand is predicting that it will see tourism revenue drop by 35% or THB190 billion (US$5.3 billion) for the full year, as its economic woes are compounded by the impact of political demonstrations.

In a report released Wednesday by the Tourism Council of Thailand (TCT), it was expected that full year tourism revenue will only reach THB350 billion, down from the THB540 billion achieved in 2008.

This was largely due to international traveller arrival expectations of only 10.9 million, down 22% from 2008’s achievement of 14.1 million arrivals.

If revenue and visitor numbers fall by that much the TCT estimates that up to 275,000 travel industry related jobs could be lost.

So for the industry to better whether the storm, the TCT has recommended 17 different initiatives set to stimulate travel including dropping visa fees, landing fees at lowering airports, enhancing the image of Thailand through PR initiatives, and establishing an ASEAN forum to strengthen relationships with key partners in the region.

An ASEAN meeting planned for Pattaya was cancelled after anti-government protestors stormed the hotel where the meetings were to be held.

The Thailand foreign ministry is also working hard to negotiate with neighbours who still have travel warnings placed on the country to change their stance. Currently 22 countries are still warning its nationals about travel to Thailand.

Bangkok, Thailand’s capital has been plagued with protests held by supporters of two different parties, with Royalists dubbed the “yellow-shirts” and former Taksin supporters dubbed the “Red Shirts”.

Applying for a Myanmar visa

Applying for a Myanmar visa is now easier after the embassy streamlined rules on documents required and extended its working hours.

The embassy claims it now requires fewer documents and has extended opening hours with both morning and afternoon sessions.

According to tour operators in Thailand, the visa procedures are more convenient as a visitor is required to submit a passport, a photocopy of the passport, two photographs, an application form for a tourist visa and the appropriate fee.

Before, visitors had to present their bank statements, copy of house registration, in addition to all the above travel documents.

A tourist visa still takes three working days and currently costs Bt810, but tour operators said they no longer need to queue. Generally, if visitors apply through a travel agency, the visa will cost Bt1,000. “In the past we had to queue as early as 0500, now you can just go and apply for the visa any time during the day,” said one of the tour operators, who works with the embassy.

The additional charge for a same-day visa is Bt450 and Bt225 for a two-working day visa. However, in order to get the same-day visa, visitors need to be there early in the morning to gain approval by mid-afternoon.

The Embassy of the Union of Myanmar is open for visa applications from Monday to Friday, 0900 to 1200 and 1400 to 1630. Although visas applications are usually done individually, a group visa is possible. It depends on whether the tour company has a close relationship with the embassy.

Journalist, photographers or any one related to the Thai military face a more complicated process. They are likely to be refused, or face delays while a lengthy process of authorisation comes through from Yangon.

The Myanmar Embassy is located at 132 Sathorn Nua Road in Bangkok.
http://www.ttrweekly.com/site/index.php?id=article&tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=1426&tx_ttnews%5BbackPid%5D=115&cHash=dcff2207f2

Thaksin Shinawatra is in Liberia, Africa to explore Thai investment and cooperation

Runaway former Thai PM Thaksin in Liberia

Published on April 23, 2009

Fugitive ex-Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra is in Liberia, Africa to explore Thai investment and cooperation, Star Radio of Liberia reported on Tuesday.

Thaksin has held talks with Liberia's Vice President Joseph Boakai aimed at exploring avenues for a huge investment in Liberia.

The radio quoted Thaksin as telling Boakai that it is his strong intention for Thailand to have good relations with African Countries.

According to him, Thailand would like to share its success and failure in the areas of agriculture and poverty eradication.

He said his group is interested in oil and mineral exploration and extraction, agriculture, telecommunication license and Lottery.

The Thai billionaire arrived in Liberia early Tuesday and would continue his journey to Ivory Coast and other African Countries on Wednesday.

Making remarks, Boakai welcomed Thaksin and delegation and urged the Thais to investment in Liberia as the country has all of the minerals.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Thailand Vacation Series - Pattaya Attractions

Chon Buri The Nearest Seaside Retreat

Chonburi, Bangkok's nearest seaside town, is located on the eastern coast of the Gulf of Thailand, only 80 kilometers from Bangkok. The area boasts abundant natural resources, which are highlighted by delightful beaches, local colors, traditions, delicacies and fresh seafood.

This is a popular resort among Bangkokians who seek the nearest escape from hectic weekly schedules as Chon Buri has something for everyone. In addition, Chon Buri is the center of the Eastern Seaboard Development Project, with its industrial parks and fishing villages.

Pattaya - A Travelers Paradise

Pattaya is nestled along a picturesque bay on the East Coast of the Gulf of Thailand, roughly 170 kilometers southeast of Bangkok. From a fishing village in the 1960's, Pattaya has emerged as the favorite Southeast Asian vacation center. A fascinating escape where tourists, holiday makers and vacationers from around the world unfold an incomparable array of possibilities to unwind during an exotic holiday beach vacation.Unlike other beach resorts, where natural surroundings are used as magnets to attract tourists, Pattaya makes an all-out attempt to provide the best of everything. Here, everything means everything a tourist can imagine while on holiday: recreation, entertainment, sports, sightseeing and fun. To put it simply, Pattaya is a paradise for everyone, as it has a variety of attractions suitable for all types of visitors.

This is the place where you can fill your day, from dusk to dawn, with endless activities, or you may choose to do nothing at all and relax.The PastPattaya's name was originated from the march of Phraya Tak (later known as King Taksin the Great) and his followers from Ayutthaya to Chanthaburi just before the fall of the Ayutthaya Kingdom to the Burmese invaders in 1767.When Phraya Tak's army arrived in the vicinity of what is Pattaya today, he encountered the troops of Nai Klom who tried to intercept him. When the two leaders met face to face, Nai Klom was awed by Phraya Tak's dignified manner and his army's strict discipline, thereby surrendering without a fight.

The place where the two armies confronted each other was later called Thap Phraya, which means the Army of the Phraya. This was later changed to Phatthaya, which happens to mean the wind blowing from the southwest to the northeast at the beginning of the rainy season. Today the spelling of the name has been simplified to Pattaya.

For centuries, Pattaya was a small fishing village almost cut off from the outside world. But a big change occurred on 29 April 1961 when the first group of about 100 American servicemen who would join the Vietnam War arrived in Pattaya for relaxation. Soon, sleepy Pattaya became Thailand's premier and most successful beach resort, which annually attracts hundreds of thousands of pleasure-seeking visitors.

A full range of accommodations from super deluxe hotels to bungalows and mini-pocket guesthouses replaced fishermens huts along the beach. Fishing vessels were adapted to become tourist boats and swimmers and sunbathers from various parts of the world frequented the quiet powdery golden beaches. Places of nighttime entertainment have also sprung up and are popular among international tourists.

The PresentPattaya currently integrates the delights of a 1st class beach resort, city-like dining, shopping and night entertainment facilities with more than 300 assorted hotels, thousands of shops, restaurants and bars. In addition, there are an array of sports and recreational activities including beaches, golf courses, tennis courts, go-kart, gyms for working out, weight lifting and Thai-boxing gear. Pattaya offers a broad range of things to do. During the day, one may enjoy riding elephants or driving humble automatic mini-bikes, monstrous motorcycles, or even monster multicolored convertible Jeeps.

Others go for shooting firearms, scuba diving and surfing, deep-sea fishing, speed boats, scooters, water-skiing, parasailing, or aerial sports such as gliding ultra-lights and flying motor-propelled gliders. On the other hand, at night, there are restaurants, bars, theaters, cabaret shows, night clubs, bowling halls, billiard & snooker clubs, discos, sauna & massage parlors, not to cite its absolutely incredible shopping which is available non-stop both day-and-night.Pattaya FactsThis exotic beach resort welcomes approximately 5 million visitors a year. The friendly and hospitable Thai nature boosts its promotion, frequently bringing back the repeat visitors and constantly increasing the number of newcomers.

Pattaya city is located on the eastern coast of the country at latitude 13 N and longitude 101 E in the area of Chon Buri province. It is 147 kilometers from Bangkok and lies parallel to Sukhumvit Road on its east and the coastline on its west. Pattaya occupies an area of 208.1 sq. km. that is divided into 53.44 sq. kilometers of land and 154.66 sq. kilometers of islands and sea. Its coastline is 15 kilometers long.Pattaya has a plain on the coast with some high mountains to the south. The area on the east slopes down towards the sea on the west.

Wall St to drag on Thai shares, foreigners selling

 BANGKOK, April 23 (Reuters) - Thai stocks could track Wall
Street lower on Thursday on concerns about the financial
sector, with continued foreign outflows likely to depress the
market, dealers said.
 The Dow and S&P fell as fears that government stress tests
would reveal weakness in banks and the wider economy.
 "I see the market coming down, with the support level at
460 and then 453. Today's factor will be a drop on Wall Street
on concerns that U.S. government stress tests will undermine
confidence in banks," said Chakkrit Charoenmethachai, a senior
analyst with Far East Securities.
 "Fund flows could continue to drag the market down as we
see profit-taking in this region," Chakkrit added, expecting
resistance at 470 if the market did manage to rise.
 On Wednesday, the benchmark SET ended down 1.24 percent at
460.62, ending a four-day rise, weighed down by energy
heavyweights and top banks, with foreigners selling a net 151.3
million baht ($4.3 million) of shares.
 Click [TH/TRADING01] for cumulative trading value by
investor type.
----------------------MARKET SNAPSHOT @ 0206 GMT ------------
                  INSTRUMENT   LAST       PCT CHG   NET CHG
S&P 500 .SPX 843.55 -0.77% -6.530
USD/JPY 97.82 -0.14% -0.140
10-YR US TSY YLD 2.9304 -- -0.011
SPOT GOLD 891.7 0.29% 2.550
US CRUDE CLc1 48.5 -0.72% -0.350
DOW JONES .DJI 7886.57 -1.04% -82.99
ASIA ADRS .BKAS 96.93 -0.76% -0.74
-------------------------------------------------------------
MARKET SUMMARY > UPDATE 9-Oil rises,stock market outweighs
inventory builds[O/R] > Dow and S&P drop on bank worries, Apple
jumps late [.N] > FOREX-Yen gains on export data, dollar
dips vs euro [USD/] > TREASURIES-Bonds slip as home data,
supply fears curb bid [US/] > PRECIOUS-Gold rises on higher
physical demand, PGMs rise [GOL/]
 STOCKS AND FACTORS TO WATCH
 - The Thai economy could shrink as much as 3.5 percent this
year, the worst performance since 1998, because of the global
economic crisis and political turmoil at home, the Bank of
Thailand said. [nBKK429052]
 - Thailand's plan to auction new licences for
third-generation mobile phone services may be delayed from this
year if its political crisis drags on, the industry regulator
said. [nBKK469236]
 - Tongkah Harbour PCL THL.BK
 The second-biggest gold miner expects to complete the
purchase of a tin mine in Indonesia by the middle of this year
as it extends capacity, its managing director said.
[nBKK403269]
 - Phatra PCL PHAT.BK
 Stockbroker Phatra said a drop of over 50 percent in daily
share trading volume and dwindling foreign interest would
weaken its business in 2009 and first-quarter profit was
certain to be lower. [nBKK457529]
 - For the Thais press digest click on [PRESS/TH]
 - For Thailand's IPO diary click on 
 - For Thailand's stock exchange news click on [TH-SET]
 - For Thailand corporate earnings: [TH-RES-RTRS]
 - For Thailand economic forecast: [POLL-ECI-TH-RTRS]
($1=35.55 Baht)
(Reporting by Ploy Chitsomboon; Editing by Alan Raybould)

































































Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Thailand's growth slashed to negative 3.5%

Uptick expected to begin next year
By: PARISTA YUTHAMANOP
Published: 23/04/2009 at 12:00 AM
Newspaper section: Business

The Thai economy could shrink by 3.5% this year as a result of the global recession and domestic political instability, according to the Bank of Thailand.

Duangmanee: Fiscal outlay could worsen decline

The central bank yesterday slashed its 2009 growth forecast to a range of -3.5% to -1.5%, down from a forecast of zero to 2% growth made in January.

The contraction would mark the first in 11 years for the Thai economy. Growth is expected to rebound to a modest 1.5% to 3.5% for 2010, down from earlier forecasts of 2% to 4%, according to the central bank's latest Inflation Report.

Duangmanee Vongpradhip, the central bank's assistant governor for the Monetary Policy Group, said the forecasts, made on April 8, remained plausible even with the economic impact of the Songkran riots and the state of emergency imposed on Greater Bangkok.

The political turmoil could push the economy toward the "lower range of the forecast", she said.

A potentially greater risk is government spending, viewed as the main driver for the economy this year as domestic consumption, investment and exports all declined.

Miss Duangmanee said there was a possibility that the economy could decline even further than current projections if fiscal spending missed targets.

Economic forecasters have been forced to revise their estimates in the wake of this month's crisis, which saw the red-shirted members of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship successfully disrupt the Asean summit in Pattaya and culminated with widespread protests across Bangkok and the country over the Songkran holidays.

Miss Duangmanee said it was too early to estimate the impact the protests would have on tourism this year, but added that April was typically the low season for the industry.

She said the blockade last December of Suvarnabhumi Airport by the yellow-shirted People's Alliance for Democracy, a group opposed to former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, had a greater impact on tourism as it came at the height of the season.

In any case, tourism bodies have estimated the damage from the Songkran riots at 200 billion baht, with arrivals projected to fall to just 10.9 million from 14.1 million last year. Cabinet ministers on Tuesday agreed to a range of new measures to assist the tourism sector.

In any case, the central bank yesterday said its forecasts projected the US economy to stabilise in the second half, with growth resuming in mid-2010.

"There have been signs of bottoming out in the world economy, but we cannot judge the trend from just a single month's data. There is a possibility that the global economic recession could deepen or slide again after a temporary rebound," Miss Duangmanee said.

The Thai economy suffered its most severe slump in the fourth quarter of 2008, at -4.3% year-on-year and -6% from the previous quarter as the falling exports and sagging investment was compounded by the airport seizure by the PAD, she said.

Miss Duangmanee repeated that the main downside risk to economic growth for this year and 2010 was fiscal spending.

The central bank's new forecasts include lower estimates for public investment and public consumption.

Most of the 98 billion baht in stimulus funds committed by the government this fiscal year under a supplementary budget are targeted at stimulating household consumption, rather than for investment.

Moves by the government to cut 200 billion baht in spending from the fiscal 2010 budget due to sliding tax revenues could also affect economic growth this year, although the impact could be mitigated by off-budget spending and front-loading disbursement at the beginning of the fiscal year starting October.

Miss Duangmanee said the government's public-utility subsidies for low-income households and its free education policy for schoolchildren would help curb inflation this year. In any case, she said, the central bank saw no prospects for deflation.

29 arrested for assault on Thai border casino


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Written by Khouth Sophakchakrya
Monday, 20 April 2009

AT least 29 Battambang villagers were arrested and charged with destroying public and private property and assaulting police during clashes along the Cambodian-Thai border on the first day of the Khmer New Year holiday, a court official said.

Sar Yousthavrak, chief prosecutor at Battambang's provincial court, said Sunday the villagers were arrested Tuesday while they fought with police and attacked a Thai-owned casino near the border in Kamrieng district's Boeung Raing commune.
"We detained them in Battambang prison on Friday and are awaiting an investigation," he said Sunday.

He added that the villagers, responding to the reported beatings of two Cambodians inside Thailand, had caused serious injuries to two police officers during the clashes, in addition to vandalising a Military Police car and hurling rocks at the Sranasie casino, reportedly owned by a Thai businessman.

New Year gone wrong

Battambang police chief Sar Theth said that fighting started during a New Year's dance, leading to the attack on the casino early Tuesday morning. He said as many as 60 people threw stones at the facade of the main building and at police brought in to quell the violence.

Police arrested 44 people on the spot, but 15 people were later released when it was found they were innocent of wrongdoing, he added.

"Now we will arrest some more of the inciters of the attack in order to send them to court," Sar Theth said.

Nam Mech, 32, a villager in Kamrieng district's Doung village, told the Post that the villagers who attacked the casino numbered more than 60 and tried to force their way across the Doung border crossing armed with rocks and wooden branches.

But he said the group was turned back by police and Military Police armed with guns and electric tasers. "I and other villagers are very nervous because we have never seen this kind of riot before," he said.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Bangkok to install 10,000 CCTV cameras for added security

BANGKOK, April 20 (TNA) - The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) will install 10,000 additional closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras intended to monitor traffic and crime in major areas throughout Bangkok, according to BMA City Clerk Pongsak Semson.

Dr. Pongsak, met with officials of the BMA’s Traffic and Transportation Department, said he had ordered the department to verify the CCTV operating system to assure it is fully functional and efficient. Repairs and maintenance work will bring the system to full capacity, he said.

The Bangkok city clerk also instructed the officials to install additional CCTV cameras in critical locations in both urban and suburban Bangkok, covering all corners of the capital, to improve traffic monitoring and crime surveillance.

Installation is scheduled to be completed this month or at least by the end of the fiscal year on September 30. Currently, he said, the municipality has 699 CCTV cameras for security purposes and other 3,000 for traffic control in congestion-prone areas.

Dr. Pongsak said BMA had planned to install additional 10,000 CCTV cameras and the decision would be made later on how many camera would be installed for traffic and security.

In addition, Dr. Pongsak also advised the BMA Traffic and Transportation Department to ask for cooperation with private companies who had their own surveillance (CCTV) system such as department stores, hotels, and petrol stations to access their system.

The system connection would help expand the network of CCTV which would eventually increase the surveillance ability for traffic control and security purposes. CCTV throughout Bangkok could help officials monitor protesters and traffic conditions

The plan to install more CCTV cameras followed the recent political turmoil in the capital and the failed attempt to assassinate Sondhi Limthongkul, a media mogul and a key leader of People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) last Friday. At that time, the five closed circuit television cameras (CCTV) at Bangkok's Bangkhunprom intersection where Mr. Sondhi was shot on his way to work were out of order. (TNA)

Monday, April 20, 2009

Foreign sentiment plummets after riots

By: VICHAYA PITSUWAN AND NAREERAT WIRIYAPONG
Published: 21/04/2009 at 12:00 AM
Newspaper section: Business

Foreign investment in Thailand has started to flee the country following the red-shirt riots during Songkran last week, with at least three multinational firms hinting they may withdraw investments from the kingdom.

Nandor von der Luehe, chairman of the Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce of Thailand (JFCCT), said unrest has definitely hurt investors' perceptions.

"So far, two expansion projects are likely to be put on hold," he said.

Existing investors know business continues as usual but most new investment is made by management overseas, who see Thailand through the media, he said.

"I have heard that at least one multinational fund-management company will withdraw its operations from Thailand. Some investors are taking a wait-and-see approach with some fear of political violence," said Peter van Haren, a former JFCCT chairman.

The Japanese Chamber of Commerce (JCC) said Thailand has about a year to stabilise its political conflict or Japanese investors may switch to other nations. "Bad images about protests and riots are still in the minds of Japanese investors," said JCC Bangkok president Fukujiro Yamabe.

The Board of Investment (BoI) has cut its 650-billion-baht target for investment applications to 400 billion baht this year. In the first quarter the agency saw a 16% year-on-year fall in investment applications to 127.3 billion baht.

The BoI will have a meeting today chaired by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to discuss urgent measures to restore foreign investors' confidence.

Meanwhile, Moody's Investor Service warned yesterday about negative consequences for credit fundamentals if the country's political unrest continues.

"While the immediate risk that Thailand's Baa1 credit strengths would be rapidly undermined is low, recent events in the country signal a marked downturn in its economic prospects at a time when the government is trying to cope with the adverse effects of the global recession," said Thomas Byrne, a senior vice-president of Moody's Sovereign Risk Group.

"If Thailand's institutions are incapable of defusing an increasing destructive political dynamic, then the political situation could over time potentially have negative consequences on Thailand's credit fundamentals."

Sangkhla Buri's iconic wooden bridge into Burma

Riveting frontier

Sangkhla Buri's iconic wooden bridge, scenic mountains and warm Mon hospitality mesmerise travellers

By: YVONNE BOHWONGPRASERT
Published: 16/04/2009 at 12:00 AM
Newspaper section: Horizons

Sangkhla Buri, a cosy district in Kanchanaburi province, never fails to mesmerise visitors. Bordering Burma, its town area is a colourful mix of ethnic cultures _ Thai, Mon, Karen and Burmese.

The earliest settlers in Sangkhla Buri are believed to be Mons. Making my second trip there in close to a decade, I was eager to observe the changes it had undergone in that time. Back then it offered very little in terms of accommodation to the few tourists who took the trouble to venture to the sleepy little town traversing winding roads up mountain slopes. Tourism was still in its infancy but Sangkhla Buri's rich ethnic diversity, where each group held fast to its tradition and culture, made it an attractive proposition even then, inviting travellers to come and explore the district on their own.

This time, the improved state of roads and general infrastructure leading to the town area meant that tourism has since made great strides but without sacrificing its rustic appeal. Numerous types of tourist accommodations have sprung up throughout town. Locals have become business savvy, with rows of souvenir shops lining main tourist spots such as the landmark 850-metre-long wooden bridge, also called Saphan Mon, the link for villagers to Sangkhla Buri town. Close by, clusters of guesthouses built as floating rafts proved an eyesore.

The wooden bridge provides a stunning view of Khao Laem reservoir. A student doubling as tour guide said during rainy season the level of water flowing under the bridge rises, sometimes almost touching the horizontal beams, but at other times of the year most of the bridge is in view. Given its poor state, motorcycles are not allowed on the bridge, although you can ride bicycles.

Tourism's ugly side is beginning to surface in the town area, but away from it you can still spot communities that welcome visitors with a genuine smile. One such village is Fang Mon that can be reached by boat or a walk across the wooden bridge.

One of the most photographed landmarks in Sangkhla Buri, this wooden bridge is a place to catch the sunrise, the surrounding landscape and laid back lifestyle of the locals. However, the cheap wooden guesthouses under the bridge were an eye sore to what once was a picture perfect setting.

Sangkhla Buri's other landmark is Wat Wang Wiwekaram and its highly revered abbot Luang Pho Uttama. The temple's architecture is a mix of Thai, Indian and Mon influence. Sometimes it is also called Wat Mon because most of the monks and villagers in the area are of Mon origin. It has a striking white marble Buddha image built in Mon style and murals depicting various stages of Buddha's life. The top of its stupa contains Buddha's relics from Sri Lanka.

The former Wang Wiwekaram temple, also known as Muang Badan, is another attraction. Submerged as a result of building of the Vajiralongkorn Dam in 1979, it is only on view during the dry season when water level in the reservoir, spawned by the dam's building, has receded to a sufficient level. Visitors can take boats from the town area to the temple.

Last but not least, is the Three Pagodas Pass. The miniature pagodas are reminders of the route favoured by Burmese soldiers invading Thailand during the Ayutthaya period (1350-1767). It is also the site of a border market selling everything from wooden handicrafts to herbal balm from Burma.

THE JOURNAL OF AN ED-VISA APPLICANT

Here is a step by step account of exactly what is involved in applying for and acquiring an ED Visa for a typical student on the CTLS 200-hour Thai Language and Culture Course.

1. The first step involves discussing all the requirements with the Director of CTLS, so you know exactly what is involved.

At this stage, apart from initially registering at the school for the 200-hour Thai Language and Culture Course, you will be expected to pay 50% of the Bt28,000 course fees (Bt14,000) as deposit for the course. You will also be told the three main advantages of having an ED Visa, namely that you can apply:

a) for a Thai driving licence
b) for medical insurance
c) to open a Thai bank account.

Special privileges are available if students open an account with the branch of the Kasikorn Bank nearest to the school, including the granting of an ATM debit/withdrawal card, as well as a credit card. To do this, you will be issued with a letter of authorisation from the school and you will also have to produce your passport and obviously have to have a certain amount of cash to open the account.

Other advantages of an ED Visa include being able to obtain 3-monthly renewals at the local Jomtien Immigration Office, as opposed to having to make regular visa runs to Cambodia, Penang or Laos, for example. You will also endear yourselves to the Thai authorities, who appreciate the fact that you are learning the language and about the Thai culture, and also that you will be officially locatable, as part of the process requires the registration of your address and giving proof of residence in the form of ownership documents, a lease, or rental agreement with your name on the form.

A pleasant aspect of applying for an Ed Visa via CTLS is that all the paperwork and documentation is handled by the school, with you only having to sign the various documents and submit a copy of your passport. 12 passport-sized photos are also required.

2. Having paid your Bt14,000 deposit, given the school the necessary passport copies and photos and having signed the relevant pages of the documentation, submission is then made by the school to the Educational Department in Chonburi for ratification. After approximately 5 days, the ratified documents will be ready to be picked up from the school. It is advisable to then wait until the expiry of your current (probably Tourist) visa before applying for the new 3-month temporary Ed Visa. NB both 14 pages of documentation and 2 of the photos are required to be taken to a Thai embassy for the next step of the process. Failure to do so will mean a temporary Ed Visa cannot be issued!

3. The next step is to apply for a 3-month temporary Ed Visa by going to a Thai embassy in Phnom Penh, Cambodia; Vientiane, Laos; Penang or Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; or Singapore (note that the Thai Embassy in Singapore doesn’t have any Thai speakers, which could present problems). The visa application is normally a two-day affair, requiring passport and documentary submission before 12pm and collection in the early afternoon of the following day, usually at a cost of Bt2,000. Alternatively, application can be made at a Thai embassy in your home country, in which case the deposit will have to have been paid into the CTLS bank account, beforehand, along with submission of photographs. NB Thai embassies are now demanding at least 4 clear pages in a passport valid for at least one year after application before a temporary Ed Visa will be issued.


4. On your return to Thailand with your new 3-month temporary Ed Visa, your passport with the visa in place must be given to the school within the first 2 weeks, so a copy can be taken for the school records and a Student ID Card issued in your name. The Student ID Card will serve as necessary ID for most purposes in Thailand and means you don’t have to carry a valid copy of your passport wherever you go. The remainder of the course fees i.e. Bt14,000 must be paid at this stage.

5. Next, your course timetable must be agreed with the CTLS Director for Educational Department purposes and to actually acquire your 1-year ED Visa. Classes are normally held 4 times a week for 50 weeks, but breaks are permitted, though you must go to the Immigration Office in Jomtien to get a Re-Entry Permit of Leave if you want to go out of the country, otherwise the ED Visa will be invalidated!


6. 2-3 weeks before the expiry of the 3-month temporary Ed Visa, apply to the school for the new documentation necessary to apply for the full 1-year ED Visa. You will also have to furnish the school with:

a) a photo of you outside your residence, with the number of the address clearly visible
b) a photo of you inside your residence
c) a photo of you inside the classroom – which the Director will take for you
d) proof of residence in the form of ownership documents, a lease, or rental agreement with your name on the form and duly signed by the landlord or seller.

The new documentation, plus the other requirements above, must then be resubmitted by the school to Chonburi Educational Department. The turnaround period is approximately 2 weeks.

7. Once the documents return, you can take them with your passport and 2 photos to the Jomtien Immigration Office where you will then be granted a 1-year ED Visa, which requires to be renewed every 3 months. Each application will normally cost you Bt1,900 every time. Note that CTLS doesn’t actually charge you for an ED Visa, it is effectively free; the Bt28,000 is for the 200-hour course fees only.

8. When you have your 1-year ED Visa stamped into your passport, return to the school, so a copy can be taken again for the school records. You will also be able to actually start your Thai course shortly afterwards, as stipulated on your timetable.


9. As each of the three 3-monthly renewals of the 1-year ED Visa requires the resubmission of documentation to Chonburi, application at the school should be made at least 2-3 weeks before the 3-month period is up. Remember, each renewal costs Bt1,900 every time and also requires 2 photos, in addition to all the documentation.

10. At the expiry of each 1-year ED Visa, application can be made at the school to join a more advanced Thai course, or any of the numerous other courses run by the school, such as various computer, or foreign language courses. Each of which is priced according to the course and all of which entitle you to extend your 1-year ED Visa accordingly, effectively ad infinitum.



Note, although the 200-hour Thai Language and Culture Course is delivered in English, special provision is made for speakers of other languages such as Arabic, Russian or Korean, who can apply to have the course taught in their own language, either by class or individually, at a specially discounted price. Note also that CTLS Language School is fully licensed by the Ministry of Education to teach a whole variety of courses.

Conclusion

Although this process may appear to be complex, it is essentially no different to that required for a residence or retirement visa, with the advantage that all the complicity is taken care of by the school, which handles all the paperwork, at no extra cost. Note also that over 500 students at the TLS Language School in Bangkok have both successfully completed the 200-hour Thai Language and Culture Course and have managed to obtain the 1-year ED Visa with the minimum of hassle or frustration.


Details are available from info@tlslanguageschool.com or in person from CTLS, 202236 Moo 9, Pattaya Central Road (down the side of Carrefour Supermarket).
Telephone : 66 038 416891, 66 038 416892
www.tlslanguageschool.com

THE LIGHT AT THE END OF THE VISA TUNNEL THE LIGHT AT THE END OF THE VISA TUNNEL [view 4217 ]
Many of you without valid work permits, retirement visas or any other kind of long-term guaran­teed means of staying in Thailand will have viewed with trepidation the new im­migration policy of ....
04-04-2009

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Stock Exchange of Thailand index down 0.2%

Submitted on Saturday, 18 April 2009 Stock Exchange of Thailand index down 0.2%

Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET) on Thursday closed at 452.97, down 0.91 or 0.20% in trade worth 22.14 billion baht.

Read the original here:
SET index down 0.2%

Thailand’s economic growth is falling by more than earlier expected amid a sharp and continuing decline in global trade.

With unemployment on the rise, the number of people living under the poverty line will likely increase. Employment opportunities for workers in the urban informal sector, such as contract workers in manufacturing, in construction, and in tourism are shrinking, and it is unclear if they can go back to agriculture. As the government plans another economic stimulus program, considerations should be given to measures that will boost employment and specifically target these workers.

The Thai government announced an economic stimulus program totaling 117 billion baht ($3.34 billion). The program included a host of short-term measures to boost household consumption and assist lower-income families. The government is now preparing a second stimulus package worth 1.6 trillion baht ($45 billion). Among other initiatives, this package focuses on public investment in infrastructure projects, which the government hopes will help create 1.6 million jobs. “The infrastructure investments, if implemented, will help generate growth and improve Thailand’s competitiveness,” said World Bank. “However, it is worth noting that financing for infrastructure has been available for the past few years. What has suppressed investment was not funding, but rather political and institutional constraints.” While the impact on the real sector has been larger than expected, the global crisis has not shaken the Thai financial sector. The World Bank attributed this to Thailand’s strong macroeconomic fundamentals; low external debt coupled with high international reserves; and a sound financial sector, which has undergone a series of reforms following the 1997 crisis.

In December 2008, the overall economy in Thailand contracted from the same period last year. On the supply side, manufacturing production and tourism sector continued to contract, while farm income slowed down as a result of the deceleration in both major crop production and price. On the demand side, export, investment as well as import also contracted, while private consumption slightly improved from last month due to the cease of political turbulence as well as extended New Year holidays. Overall economic stability remained sound in Thailand . External stability was upheld by high international reserves, while trade and current account were close to balance. Regarding internal stability, inflation rose from last year in line with higher oil prices, despite a downward trend during the second half of the year. Unemployment rate in Thailand remained low but employment started to deteriorate in the forth quarter, particularly in the production sector affected by economic slowdown.

SET index down 0.2%

SET index down 0.2%

From September 15th to November 25 th before the takeover of the airports, the baht has depreciated by 2 percent against the US dollar. It has, however, appreciated against regional currencies by 6 percent. Similarly, the nominal effective exchange rate (NEER) had appreciated by 2 percent.

Loan growth in Thailand, however, will slow down next year. As the economy slows down, liquidity in the global markets tightened, and corporate balance sheets weaken, commercial banks have signaled that they will focus more on risk management than on loan growth. Commercial banks’ loan growth next year will likely be in a single digit after registering 11.2 percent growth as of October this year.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Thai govt to invest in tourism rehab plan


Source from
Bangkok Post: 16 Apr 2009
B6.6bn tourism rehab planned
Bangkok Post Apr 16, 2009

The government plans to invest about 6.6 billion baht in tourism projects over the next three years as part of its efforts to rebuild the industry, currently being battered by political tension.

The package excludes 10.23 billion baht in tourism-related infrastructure spending, planned for the same period.

According to Tourism and Sports Ministry permanent secretary, Dr Sasithara Pichaicharnnarongthe, the investment framework has already been approved by the cabinet. Its details will be confirmed later and re-submitted for the cabinet's approval, probably in May or June this year.

Investment is due to start in the 2010 fiscal year in October. Initiatives include:

- 75 million baht to restore foreign-visitor confidence and upgrade warnings and safety measures in tourism spots.

- 325 million baht to convince foreign visitors to travel to Thailand both for business and leisure.

- 2 billion baht to build new tourism products, including developments such as the Royal Coast plan, the Chiang Mai convention hall, and tourism routes linking South China to Malaysia and Burma via Laos and Vietnam.

- 3.55 billion baht for rehabilitating the environment at tourism spots, such as the national parks and the royal projects.

- 593 million baht for upgrading tourism standards and developing human resources in the industry.

The infrastructure investment package will include 4.12 billion baht for improving and upgrading tap water systems in 11 tourism spots; 1.95 billion for installing and improving power supplies at tourism spots; and 4.16 billion for upgrading 58 bus and railway stations, according to Dr Sasithara.

She said the ministry also had received the go-ahead for the Royal Coast project. Formerly called Thailand Riviera, this tourism megaproject requires 10 billion baht in public funds as well as private investment totalling 21 billion for infrastructure development.

Initiated in 2005, the Royal Coast project aims to make the upper region of the south an internationally renowned destination.

The project will develop facilities in four provinces - Phetchaburi, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Chumphon and Ranong - which currently have great untapped tourism potential. The 400-kilometre coastal area already has good basic facilities and infrastructure, especially roads, railways and air links.

The four provinces have many diverse and famous attractions, such as historical and cultural sites, national parks, beaches and hot springs. They will also be linked to eastern coastal tourist sites such as Pattaya, Sattahip and Rayong.

The original development timeframe, between 2007 and 2011, envisions Phetchaburi becoming a centre for historical and cultural tourism, with Prachuap Khiri Khan and Chumphon developed as natural attractions, while Ranong would be positioned as a centre for health tourism.In the first three years, Dr Sasithara said the ministry plans to invest in tourism routes linking destinations in each province, with new piers and ports to support marine tourism, and diving centres in Chumphon.

She said details of these projects would go before the cabinet in June.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Thailand revokes Thaksin passport

A protester holds a sign praising former Thai leader Thaksin Shinawatra
Thaksin is living outside Thailand, but is still the focus of the protests

Thailand's government has revoked all the passports held by ex-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra in the aftermath of the protests that paralysed Bangkok.

It leaves the exiled former leader without any legal travel documents.

An arrest warrant has also been issued for Mr Thaksin, who has been calling for a popular uprising in Thailand.

Bangkok is now calm but under heavy security, after violent clashes between police and anti-government protesters left two dead and over 100 injured.

On Wednesday, Mr Thaksin published a statement calling on his followers to pursue their struggle through peaceful means.

He blamed Monday's violent scenes in the capital solely on the government's decision to deploy the army against his red-shirted supporters.

Status unclear

The decision to revoke Mr Thaksin's personal passport also follows the recent disruption of a major Asian summit by his supporters. His diplomatic passport was invalidated in December.

A government spokesman said that if a person was "doing anything that could undermine the security of the nation, then we have the right to revoke the passport".

A cyclist rides past a soldier standing guard on a street near to the government office in Bangkok on April 15, 2009.
A state of emergency is still in force, but the streets are quiet

The BBC's Jonathan Head in Bangkok says the move leaves the exiled former leader with no legal travel documents - unless he can persuade another country to give him asylum.

Until now he has been living mostly in Dubai, but it is not clear what his status there will be now he has no passport, our correspondent says.

The government says it has been in talks with other countries and Interpol to try to get him sent back to Thailand, where he has been sentenced to two years in prison for abuses of power when he was in office.

He now also faces additional charges of inciting a public disturbance - for which an arrest warrant was issued by the authorities on Tuesday in the wake of the protests.

Police are still hunting 10 key protest leaders, after three others surrendered.

Secret location

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva welcomed the end of the protests on Tuesday, but said his government would remain on guard.

He is now working from a secret location because he fears an assassination attempt, our correspondent says.

Mr Abhisit has accused Mr Thaksin's supporters of stockpiling weapons for a possible armed struggle against the government.

During the three-week-long rally, Mr Thaksin addressed the red-shirted protesters nearly every night via a video-link. In one speech, he called for a "revolution".

The protests shut down large parts of Bangkok, as the demonstrators called for the current government to step down and call fresh elections.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Scientists fear worst on global warming

• Poll admission that official targets are unrealistic

• Public doesn't realise 'how serious climate change is'

Path of global warming

A fisherman in the dried reservoir of Lam Takhong Dam, northeast of Bangkok, Thailand. Droughts and heatwaves are predicted to spread if average temperatures rise by 2C. Photograph: Vinay Dithajohn/EPA

Politicians insist that urgent and widespread action can yet prevent the worst of global warming but the cracks in that argument have been showing for some time.

Officially, UK efforts on climate change are in line with a global ambition to limit the temperature rise above pre-industrial levels to below 2C - a threshold the EU has defined as dangerous. But in 2006 David King, then the government's chief scientist, said a 3C rise was likely. Last summer, Bob Watson, the chief scientist to the environment department (Defra), told the Guardian the world needed to prepare for the possibility of a 4C rise. This autumn, Oxford University will hold a conference to discuss life in a 4C warmer world.

Hit with a double whammy of spiralling carbon emissions from the coal-fired boom in developing countries such as China and political stalemate, many climate scientists have become noticeably nervous in recent years. While technical papers in academic journals have tracked increasingly desperate predictions, most have put on a brave face in public. Likely failure to meet the 2C target, and the certainty of dreadful consequences, has been the worst-kept secret in climate science.

No longer. Today's Guardian poll of attendees at a climate conference last month in Copenhagen exposes the gulf between political rhetoric and scientific thinking. Of more than 250 experts surveyed, more than half said the 2C target could still be achieved but only 18 thought that it would be. By the end of the century, most thought average temperatures would rise by some 4C.

The figure is not plucked from their imaginations. The authoritative report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2007 laid it out in simple terms. If carbon emissions continue to rise at present rates, then the IPCC's best guess is a 4C rise by 2100. The Guardian poll merely highlights a belief that the warning has simply failed to penetrate. As one said: "I think a full understanding of what must be done quickly, and the consequences of insufficient action, is lacking among the policy makers and the public." Another said: "Current government actions are playing into the hands of ... an electorate that doesn't quite understand how serious climate change is."

Survey respondents were promised anonymity. Many scientists are reluctant to admit publicly that the 2C target is unrealistic, and several warned that simply raising the subject was sensitive. One said: "Telling people that x% people think it can't be done would be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Great things can only be achieved by everyone believing it can be done ... Churchill didn't stand around saying most people think we will lose the war. He said we will fight it on the beaches."

Several scientists said the G20 summit in London, where climate change was barely considered, had convinced them the action required would not be taken. Simon Lewis, a climate researcher at the University of Leeds, said: "The summit shows that political leaders do not regard climate change as an urgent issue. They were tasked to re-configure the global economy and they chose to re-affirm the old model, and not move to a low-carbon economy as scientists have urged. The summit was more of an end-of-the-world order than a new world order."

Bob Doppelt, director of the climate leadership initiative at the University of Oregon, said: "One of the problems is that the issue is still being framed as a scientific and environmental issue. This is a major mistake. Climate change is just a symptom of dysfunctional social and economic practices and policies. It is a social and economic issue. The emphasis needs to shift away from the biophysical sciences now to the social sciences if we have any hope of solving this problem."

Others said it could take a series of extreme weather events similar to Hurricane Katrina and the 2003 European heatwave to force political action. One said a "9/11-type event" that could be traced to increased greenhouse gas emissions might break the political deadlock.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Thai firm wants road through Shan territory

News - Shan Herald Agency for News
Report by BNI
Saturday, 27 December 2008 07:44
Saraburi Coal Mining, a Thai firm that has recently been granted concession by Naypyitaw to extract coal from Mongkok, 70 km north of Chiangrai border, is applying for permission to build a road through the area controlled by the anti-Naypyitaw Shan State Army (SSA) South, according to a highly-placed security source.

"Our initial response is that the road is not necessary as there is already one through Tachilek," said the officer who requested anonymity. "There are also other issues involved including drug trafficking and deforestation."

The SSA South's Lt-Col Gawnzeun, Commander of the Kengtung Front based at Loi Gawwan, 10 miles east of the proposed border pass, expressed surprise at the news but said, "I don't suppose they (the Thai company) will go ahead with the road construction without informing us in advance."

The proposed road, on completion, would be able to transport 5,000 tons of coal per day, according to the security source.

The Burmese Army, since 1996, has made several unsuccessful attempts to dislodge the SSA from its mountain base. The last time was in 2005.

11 things to know about Burma's Kachin

11 things about Kachin by (http://pulitzercenter.typepad.com/)


Tim Patterson and Ryan Libre ,ndai yan ka ai Kachin a lam hti yu ga.

In the interest of clarity, here are 11 key points that will help a general audience make sense of the drama unfolding in the Himalayan foothills of northern Myanmar

1. The Kachins are a group of six tribes.

Each of the six tribes collectively known as ‘Kachin’ has their own language, but they share a common origin myth and many cultural traditions.

Foreign influence on the part of Christian missionaries and British officials, along with the continued threat posed by the Burmese military, helped unify the Kachins as a single nation.

These days most Kachins can understand Jinghpaw, the language of the most populous Kachin tribe, in addition to their own tribal language and Burmese.

The word ‘Kachin’ is actually a term used by ethnic Shan and Burmese; Kachins use the term “Wunpawng”.

2. Blame the British.

Like many ethnic conflicts worldwide, the Kachin struggle for freedom has its roots in the collapse of the British Empire.

Historically, the Burmese kings never controlled what is now Kachin state. After the British Empire collapsed, the new country of Burma included lands, like Kachin, that were outside the historic range of Burmese control.

The Kachins agreed to join the new federation of Burma by signing the Panlong agreement in 1947, which promised them autonomy and the option to secede from the Burmese federation after ten years. After the military seized power in Burma, however, the provisions of the Panlong agreement went out the window and the guerrilla war began.

3. Kachin state is rich in natural resources.

Kachin state is lightly populated, but rich in natural resources, which include timber, gold and the world’s only significant deposits of high quality jade. Most of these resources are exported to China, which is the biggest provider of arms to the Myanmar military.

Hydropower is another valuable resource in Kachin state. Several dams are under construction near the headwaters of the Irrawaddy River. The electricity from these dams will go to China, with the Myanmar military reaping the profits.

4. The Kachin struggle is separate from Burmese opposition to the military government.

Kachins see their freedom struggle as separate from political opposition on the part of the ethnic Burmese majority. Even if a democratically elected government were to replace the junta, the Kachins doubt any Burmese government would respect their cultural and political autonomy.

While most observers focus on the Burmese opposition, embodied by Aung San Suu Kyi, the struggles of ethnic minorities receive less attention. The tacit assumption that a change of power in Burma would lead to the resolution of ethnic conflicts seems overly optimistic.

5. The 1994 ceasefire did not solve the conflict.

The ceasefire stopped a bloody and brutal conflict, but there has been no attempt at genuine reconciliation. Effectively, the war is on pause, and most Kachins expect another outbreak of fighting in the near future.

There is still an impasse between the Kachin demand for autonomy and the Burmese position that Kachin is an integral part of Myanmar subject to the complete control of the central government.

“We will never surrender,” several Kachins told me. “We will never give up our arms.”

6. The Burmese military government controls most of Kachin state.

Trying to break down who controls what in Kachin state is almost impossible, as the power dynamic is constantly shifting and depends on personal relationships and negotiations between various “big men” in both the military government and the Kachin Independence Organization.

The territory under exclusive KIO control is quite small, limited to a few pockets of land along the Chinese border. However, the KIO is influential throughout Kachin state, and KIO officers claim almost every family in Kachin state has some tie to the KIO.

Neither side is shooting at each other these days, but coexistence is tense and the balance of power is never cut and dry.

7. The Kachins were important American allies in World War II.

Kachin rangers fought bravely alongside American paratroopers against the Japanese in World War II. The jungles of Kachin were one of the frontlines of the conflict, and while Burmese accepted Japanese occupation, the Kachins never surrendered.

Even after the British withdrew to India, the Kachins raised the Union Jack in the northern town of Putao.

The infamous Stillwell Road, a military transport route linking India and China that crossed Kachin state, could not have been built without support from Kachin rangers who provided security for the road construction teams.

To this day, Kachins speak proudly of their service in World War II and hope their old allies the Americans will return to help them.

8. The Kachins are predominantly Christian.

Few Christian missionaries have been as successful as Dr. Hansen, a Swedish-American whose work in Kachin resulted in the conversion of almost the entire population to Christianity.

Most Kachins are Baptist, although there are also some Catholics and Anglicans. Christianity helps bind the Kachin nation together and the Church provides social services to the community.

Although the Church is not actively engaged in politics, many pastors support the independence movement and use parables to organize and motivate their congregations.

9. The Kachin Organization is committed to opium eradication.

The Kachins have a reputation as active participants in opium production. The most revered leader of the KIO, a Baptist headmaster named Brang Seng, was once denied a visa to the United States because of his supposed involvement in the opium trade.

Although some opium is grown in Kachin, most of it is in areas controlled by the Burmese military. The Kachins are concerned about drug abuse among their youth, and have made an enormous effort to make Kachin an “opium free state”.

“The KIO are one group that is clearly sincere about eradicating drug production,” says David Mathieson of Human Rights Watch. “The international community has to recognize the good intentions of the KIO.”

10. The role of the international community is vital.

Without active participation by the international community, the conflict in Kachin will not be resolved anytime soon.

In particular, support for the Myanmar government on the part of China and the ASEAN member nations makes it very difficult for the Kachins to gain traction in their quest for autonomy.

11. The elections scheduled for 2010 could spark a new episode of armed conflict.

The Burmese military has scheduled elections for 2010 that no one expects will be free or fair. Many Kachins expect the elections will lead to a renewed outbreak of war, because the military will probably use the (fraudulent) results to justify more complete control over Kachin state.

In particular, the Kachin youth expect more fighting, while the older generation and those who have gotten rich since the ceasefire are more cautious.

“My generation thinks there will be a war,” said a young cadet at the Kachin military academy. “We don’t know what the leadership will decide. We will follow their orders.”

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Thursday, April 9, 2009

Thai Premier Stands Firm as Protests Spread, Threaten Summit

By Daniel Ten Kate and Suttinee Yuvejwattana

April 10 (Bloomberg) -- Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva rejected the demands of protesters who used taxis to block Bangkok’s streets in a bid to force his ouster before he hosts a summit of Asian leaders that starts today.

Tens of thousands of people remained camped out at the premier’s office and other locations in the capital after bringing traffic in key intersections to a standstill. Abhisit, declaring today a public holiday, said the protesters “broke the law” and vowed not to quit or call an election.

“Dissolving the parliament is not an appropriate option at the moment,” Abhisit, 44, said in a nationally televised address late yesterday. “The right time to consider that is when we have political stability and the expression of people’s rights without a climate of violence.”

The expanding rallies threaten to undermine Abhisit’s four- month-old administration as he welcomes 15 leaders attending the three-dayAssociation of Southeast Asian Nations meeting. Demonstrators, who have surrounded his office since March 26, say his government is illegitimate because he took power after a court disbanded the former ruling party.

“The situation is volatile and could turn violent,” said Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a professor at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University. “They have pent-up rage from being insulted, underestimated and dismissed by the establishment.”

Protesters planned to travel to Pattaya, a resort town 150 kilometers (90 miles) south of the capital, where the Asean summit will take place, said protest leader Jatuporn Prompan. Leaders from China, Japan, India, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand also plan to attend the meeting.

Disable Government

“Our aim is to make the government unable to function,” protest leader Jatuporn Prompan said by telephone. “Our demand hasn’t been met.”

Abhisit said the government has stepped up security in Pattaya to prevent demonstrators from disrupting the summit. His car was attacked by a group of protesters on April 7 in the resort town as he returned to Bangkok from a cabinet meeting.

The protests escalated on April 8 when crowds besieged the house of Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda, 88. They say Prem, King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s top adviser, and two fellow advisers should step down for allegedly plotting the coup that ousted former Prime MinisterThaksin Shinawatra. Prem has denied any involvement in the 2006 coup.

In targeting Prem, a former army chief and prime minister, the demonstrators face accusations they are criticizing the monarchy, a crime in Thailand that can see offenders jailed for as many as 15 years. Under Thailand’s constitutional monarchy, the king is head of state while the prime minister and parliament govern. The king must still approve all legislation.

Red Shirts

The protesters wear red shirts to distinguish themselves from rivals who sported yellow to show loyalty to King Bhumibol during a 193-day campaign to remove a pro-Thaksin government last year. They came from 35 provinces, mostly in Thaksin’s electoral base in northeast Thailand, to join the April 8 march.

“We love peace, but we need to fight,” Thaksin told a rally late yesterday via videophone. “We have to tell the world this government is no longer legitimate.”

Thaksin, who fled Thailand last year to escape corruption charges, has spoken to his supporters through a video link-up in rallies throughout the country since Abhisit took power. He was sentenced to two years in prison in October for helping his wife buy land from the government while he served as prime minister.

Since the coup, the courts disbanded two pro-Thaksin parties and banned about 140 politicians loyal to him, including former Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat in December. Parties linked to Thaksin have won the past four national elections on heavy support from the northeast, Thailand’s poorest region.

Airport Protest

Abhisit took power in December after protesters who support him shut down the country’s airports for eight days and a court dissolved the ruling party for vote buying. He wooed a faction of lawmakers that previously backed Thaksin to join his coalition, and consolidated his parliamentary majority in a March 21 confidence vote.

Thailand’s consumer confidence fell to the lowest level in more than seven years in March, buffeted by the protests and an economy heading for its first annual contraction in more than a decade. The index dropped to 66 from 67.2 in February, the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce said yesterday.

Thailand’s Stock Exchange of Thailand will remain open today along with banks, Patareeya Benjapolchai, its president, said by phone. The benchmark SET Index has risen 1.6 percent since protests began March 26, compared with a 3.7 percent rise in the MSCI Asia Pacific Index.

To contact the reporters on this story: Daniel Ten Kate in Bangkok atdtenkate@bloomberg.netSuttinee Yuvejwattana in Bangkok atsuttinee1@bloomberg.net

Last Updated: April 9, 2009 13:03 EDT