Wednesday, January 31, 2007

SECURITY / MAKING THE MOST OF CCTV

The cameras are turned on but is anyone watching ?

NINA SUEBSUKCHAROEN

While the recent bombings in Bangkok have increased people's awareness of security, it is noteworthy that most closed-circuit TV (CCTV) systems here are not active in that they are not monitored, says David Viccars, the managing director of Chubb Thailand.

One of the main differences between London, which has a history of terrorist attacks, and Bangkok is that the former has well-trained response teams monitoring the majority of CCTV systems.

"In Thailand most CCTV systems are not active, they are not monitored, they tend to be used in the recorder mode so they tend to record something that has actually happened rather than be used as a tool to prevent something happening."

While not suggesting that Bangkok is exposed to anything akin to what the British capital has experienced, Mr Viccars mentioned that aside from an extensive network of CCTV installations, London has controlled zones, areas where vehicles are not allowed, and checkpoints.

"It's a combination of CCTV and pro-active manpower. It's a whole matrix, isn't it? I mean, in the UK they allow stops and searches under certain circumstances. So it's a matrix of measures."

Mr Viccars also observed that in London one does not see unattended luggage anywhere because people are aware of the risk, but in Bangkok one often sees unattended bags in malls and hotels.

"Again, it's about the actual risk, isn't it? The security measures have to be devised for the appropriate level of risk and you can't draw a comparison between the level of risk as a whole in New York and the level of risk as a whole in Bangkok.

"Clearly there are individual properties, premises and companies that would have a greater level of risk attached to them than the rest of the city, but again it's about tailoring your security measures to your perceived risk."

Selecting a CCTV system from hundreds of types available can be perplexing and Mr Viccars' advice is to identify the purpose and then the location, as these indicate the required level of sophistication.

"About the location, for example, do you only need a camera by day or only by night? Do you need a camera looking at a fixed point or do you want it to move? There are so many variables. It's impossible to actually say what we would recommend because it's very much case by case."

Also, some buildings clearly are at greater risk than others by nature of their location but also the nature of their occupants. "You know, without naming names, certain nationalities, individuals and corporations are at higher risk than others."

The New Year's Eve blasts, which kept Chubb Thailand very busy with significant demand for additional guards from clients, many of whom are multinationals, have also led to these clients becoming far more aware of security than they had been a couple of months earlier.

"We have had inquiries about security systems such as CCTV and access control systems," says Mr Viccars.

Access control, he says, is a very appropriate way to monitor who is allowed in and out of a building or an office, but in order to reinforce it, it should be installed with a CCTV so that there is visual proof that is linked to the record on the access control computer system.

While agreeing that terrorists and other miscreants are also smart and could possibly outsmart the best system, Mr Viccars mentioned that disabling a CCTV system is difficult because most have independent power sources.

"But as I said, it's a matrix of measures. You cannot rely on just one system, there has got to be a security plan or a matrix that covers all eventualities.

"One of the main things about a security plan is that it must be infinitely variable and flexible and must not be predictable, because if it's predictable then by its very nature it will have weaknesses which an outsider watching will be able to identify."

Where individual homes are concerned, Mr Viccars says the approach is similar to that used with offices or public spaces _ it all comes down to location and who lives there. "It's a different risk. With individual homes it's often theft as opposed to individually targeted terror attack."

From a security standpoint, there are pros and cons to living in a house or a condominium, but with a single dwelling house someone has to be there all the time and it is easier to break into than a condo. "You cannot let terrorists dictate your lives. The whole thing has to be taken into a perspective. Take sensible measures but don't allow your lives to be dictated to."

Mr Viccars added that Bangkok continues to be one of the world's safest cities, with incidents such as the new Year's Eve blasts extremely rare. "Let's not overreact, I would say _ take sensible measures."

Bangkok Post
Wednesday January 31, 2007
Money grows on trees

Forget the metaphors about cultivating and harvesting returns. Touchwood Forestry offers investors a chance to watch real trees grow and pay off at maturity

SOMPORN THAPANACHAI

With local interest rates poised to head downward, and stocks and bonds in the doldrums, individual investors are looking at alternatives, but it's certain that very few have ever considered trees.

A portfolio made up of wood may seem exotic or even risky, but Touchwood Forestry Co believes it has found a niche. It specialises in agarwood, one of the most expensive woods in the world, which is used to produce essential oils and scented hardwood.

The local unit of Hong Kong-based Touchwood Ltd is offering investments in its reforestation projects.

It is a medium-term investment requiring an initial sum to purchase the trees and an annual maintenance fee for five years. In the sixth year, investors have the option to sell the trees back to the company or other buyers.

Six investment packages available, starting from 64,500 baht for 23 agarwood trees on a 25-square-wah plot, to the largest one of 2.176 million baht for 920 trees on a 2.5-rai plot.

Touchwood promises to repurchase the trees after six years. As with any commodity, market prices can vary but current contracts are being based on a buyback price of 10,000 baht per tree, which would represent an annual return to investors of 18-22%.

Investors will receive a harvest certificate indicating the plantation plot and number of trees they hold, as well as expected yield in terms of essential oils and scented agarwood. The certificate is transferable. Investors are also required to sign a land-leasing agreement.

Investors who opt out before six years can sell their holdings back to the company after two years. They will receive the cost of the tree plus two years of maintenance fees.

Touchwood will guarantee damages at a minimum of 6,000 baht per tree if it cannot find replacements for the investors, according to Patcharapol Suviyanong, the company's general manager.

Agarwood is a high-value tree, but only 7% of naturally grown trees produce the precious dark hardwood, and take more than 10 years to generate sufficient resin. Therefore, Touchwood has applied a patented technique, owned by the University of Minnesota in the US, which stimulates the trees to produce agarwood.

Touchwood aims to used the technique, created under a joint research project, to speed up agarwood generation and cut the production process of oil extraction and scented wood to six years.

Touchwood Forestry was granted Board of Investment privileges to grow agarwood and sandalwood in Thailand for export. Incentives include an eight-year corporate tax holiday for a 1,900-rai agarwood plantation.

Mr Patcharapol said the company had planted around 700 rai of Aquilaria Crassna agarwood so far in three sites in Kabin Buri district of Prachin Buri. About 50% of the trees are the company's assets _ grown for commercial cutting and to replace damaged trees on leased plots. It is now developing a fourth plantation. It has the capacity to grow about 200,000 trees a year. It produces the seedlings from seeds collected mainly in Khao Yai.

He said Touchwood would establish its own oil-extraction factory in the next two years to produce oil for export to the Middle East, Europe and China.

Touchwood Group has more than 15,000 acres of plantations for sandalwood, mahogany and vanilla in Thailand and Sri Lanka. It has also started producing gum trees in Australia.

Although the investment package provides attractive returns, potential investors are advised to give it careful consideration as it is new to Thailand.

On the Net: www.touchwood.com

Bangkok Post
Wednesday January 31, 2007
HELP DESK

Need to get back to normal

When I click to get Outlook Express, at the top there used to be: create, Reply, Forward, Delete, etc. All of a sudden I now have: File, Edit, View, Tools, Message, Help. How do I get it back to the way it was?

Also, what, if any, is the rule for when to single click and when to double click?

ROY BETTIS

Database replies: Wanda Sloan replies: Click on View, then Layout. Put a tick in the Toolbar box. If nothing happens, do this again, choose Customise Toolbar, and make sure you have chosen at least one or more buttons to put on the Toolbar.

If that does not work (sometimes it does not), you have two choices. One is to edit the registry, the other is to reinstall the Outlook Express program with your Windows installation CD.

If you want to try editing the registry, which is not that big a deal, please look at this link and follow the directions there:

http://www.ieinfosite.co.uk/tipview.asp?id=162.

As for clicking, there is no one-size-for-all rule because you can set up your computer in different ways, thereby changing the rule. We can say that in general, it will take a double click to activate a flat icon, such as on your desktop or a web page - but it will take a single click to activate a link such as you see on the web. You can have icons on your own machine or on the web, and the same goes with links.

For example, the items in your Start Menu (probably) are links, and require only a click, while the icons on your desk can either be links or flat icons depending on your Windows version and just how you have chosen to set up your desktop.

Bandwidth blues

I read Wanda Sloan's YouTube review (Database, Nov 1) with delight but I have a problem: my daughter sends me a lot, but when I open them it is interrupted all the time. I have a Toshiba laptop that came from France but when I am at an Internet cafe I can watch and hear the videos without any problems.

Please help guide as to what I should do. I am an amateur, and I know nothing about technical words or work.

GEORGES LOESCH
Pattaya

Database replies: Wanda Sloan replies: The reason you get the interruptions when watching online video is almost always because your connection is not fast enough. I think probably that your Internet cafe has a high-speed Internet connection, while at home your connection is not quite fast enough.

For example, the popular 256K ADSL connection by a local Internet provider is usually not quite enough to show videos with sound - without frequent stops and interruptions.

If this is a problem for you, there are two possibilities. One is to download the videos and view them on your computer after they are entirely on your machine. The web site (http://www.keepvid.com) can help you with that. The other is to upgrade your Internet connection to 512Kbps, or better still, twice that.

Trojan removal

I am a regular fan of Database and this is my first time to write to you.

My antivirus program (Symantec) detected a worm or virus called W32.linkbot in c:\WINNT\SYSTEM32\spooIsv.exe but it cannot remove it. Is there anyway I can get rid of this worm?

I am using Window2000 on an IBM notebook.

PICHAI

Database replies: Wanda Sloan replies: As we have said many times, Symantec's antivirus program is difficult to maintain, although I am surprised it will not deal with this fairly easy problem. Almost every anti-virus program can remove this trojan.

As it happens, Symantec has information on how to remove this malicious software manually. There are two main steps involved:

- Turn off System Restore

- Go into the registry and delete keys used by this trojan.

After that, check the Windows Startup programs (Click Start, Run, then type MSCONFIG) to be sure no programs are running you do not want. Then reboot and you should be okay.

The instructions are here:

http://www.sarc.com/avcenter/venc/data/w32.linkbot.m.html.

PDF converters

Love the Database and am always looking forward to Wednesdays. It would be great if you could have the Database twice per week!

The reason why I am writing you is because I was wondering if there are any free PDF converters to PowerPoint? Also, is there any way to prevent PDFs from being converted into PowerPoint or Word documents?

JUNE OHATA

Database replies: Wanda Sloan replies: I never have seen free utilities for PDF conversion (except text). These seem to be the main way the PDF companies make their money.

Yes, you can restrict or even prevent access to PDFs. As the author of a PDF, you can apply many "digital management rights". In the extreme, you can make the PDF read-only (no changes, no access whatsoever) only to people with the correct password.

Send your letters by email to database@bangkokpost.net

Bangkok Post
Wednesday January 31, 2007

Sunday, January 28, 2007

With A380 delays, Airbus offers THAI discounted A330s

Airbus has offered Thai Airways a US$10-million (Bt358 million) discount on each of eight medium-range A330-300 aircraft, with an option for four more, in compensation for delays in the delivery of six A380 superjumbo jets.

Four board members - Sirin Nimmanahaeminda, Pichai Chunhavajira, Sivaporn Dardarananda and Apinan Sumanaseni, who is also THAI president - have been appointed to the negotiating team, THAI chairman Chalit Pukbhasuk said late on Thursday.

Following a meeting with Airbus representatives yesterday, Apinan said Airbus had also proposed paying THAI a total of $28 million in compensation for the delayed delivery of the six superjumbo jets. "We've reached no agreement. The compensation should be higher," he said.

Chalit added that any details ironed out in the meeting would have to be referred to the board of the state-owned company and then to the Cabinet for approval. He added that no date had been set for the next board meeting.

Delivery of the first A380 is expected to be delayed about 22 months, forcing the national carrier to reduce revenue projections, Chalit said.

The airline has ordered six of the long-awaited double-decker jumbos. Three were originally scheduled for delivery in 2009 and another three in 2010.

Chalit said the board decided to continue negotiations with Airbus on the size of the deposit required for the medium-range A330-300s, the first of which could be delivered late next year or in 2009.

With the newly offered discount, the A330-300s would cost $90 million each. Chalit said the board was likely to accept Airbus' offer, because THAI planned to retire dozens of planes over the next decade after 20 years in service. The carrier plans to retire three planes in the near future and a total of 40 in 10 years.

Chalit said it was still "possible" that THAI would cancel the purchase of the A380s if it were not satisfied with the outcome of negotiations. Cancellation, however, would mean the airline would forfeit a total deposit of $97 million on the six aircraft, he said.

Chalit said the discounted price of the A330-300 aircraft - $90 million each - would not be subject to further negotiations.

The delays in delivery of the A380s will reduce revenue projections, because each of the aircraft seats about 500 passengers, while the A330-300 seats about 300, said Chalit.

He said that in order to retire the old fleet, THAI needed 24 new aircraft in the next five years and another 40 in the five years after that - 64 new aircraft total in the next decade. Added to the new fleet will be Airbus A330-600s, Boeing 747s and Boeing 777s.

Apinan added that delayed delivery of the six Airbus A380 superjumbos would affect THAI operations, because THAI needed aircraft that offered 550 seats, rather than the 390-seaters now in service.

"If we can't have aircraft with more seats, our operating costs will rise."

The Nation, Agencies

The Nation Thailand
Sunday January 28, 2007
ASIA FOCUS

When managers leave or are dismissed

A mismatch between management and the company is keenly felt when a team is small. Cultural, monetary or skills-related differences can eventually result in departures

In common with large companies, entrepreneurial firms make mistakes when hiring senior managers.

However, unlike the case with larger organisations, recruitment missteps have a far greater impact on a high-growth company.

A surprisingly large number of respondents in INSEAD's survey of Asian entrepreneurs have admitted to experiencing significant problems with their managers, to the point where the owners/founders were forced to let them go.

Entrepreneurs therefore have a larger stake in ensuring that their selection of key personnel does not lead to future business disruption or failure.

As discussed previously, managers are hired primarily on the basis of congruence in values and relationships. Unsurprisingly, the same elements account for the majority of failures in retaining management talent.

While company owners may make an effort to build trust, sometimes "bad apples" may be hired. A conundrum that many entrepreneurs face is ensuring adequate background checks with a paucity of resources.

One way to overcome this challenge is to develop sufficiently robust social and professional networks, which can in due course yield reliable management talent.

A significant segment of the survey respondents (35% of the sample) reported exits at the management level, both voluntary and forced.

Hiring mistakes that the respondents ranked as significant typically related to time pressures, i.e., rushing to fill key management roles, the founders' lack of experience in managing an organisation and underestimating the importance of background checks when hiring candidates.

Interestingly, entrepreneurs in our survey often, although indirectly, blamed themselves - either for hasty and wrong decisions or for not acknowledging a problem early enough.

Deep-seated cultural differences that originate from a divergence of professional backgrounds, personalities and personal goals can also undermine a manager's position within the entrepreneurial team.

At the operational level, the inability to adapt to the new organisation and difficulty in execution are often manifestations of these types of cultural tensions.

If the situation persists (or, worse, goes unnoticed), the manager will more often than not simply pack up and leave.

Of course, there are other reasons why managers may leave. Money is a motivator, and sub-optimal compensation may result in exits.

In many instances, the manager may simply not be suitable for the task at hand; senior personnel tend to have more generalist roles in smaller organisations, whereas the manager may have specific competences, which in isolation will prove inadequate (a classic case of organisational mismatch).

However, the primary catalysts for recruiting failures are differences in values and culture. Entrepreneurs need to ensure that the people they hire "get" the company's vision and culture, i.e., understand, believe in and are willing to adapt to the organisation's attitudes and values.

Bangkok Post
Sunday January 28, 2007
Water pipe in Suvarnabhumi toilet comes loose

Baggage damaged by leak on lower floor

A pipe in the toilet of a passenger terminal in trouble-plagued Suvarnabhumi airport came loose, causing water to leak and seep down to the lower floor and damage baggage, the airport director said yesterday. The problem adds yet another concern to the growing question of the reliability of the three-month-old airport. It has been plagued by a host of problems, the most serious of which include runway and taxiway cracks.

Suvarnabhumi director Somchai Sawasdeepol said a connecting joint in a pipe in one of the toilets on the third floor of the terminal came loose. Water then leaked, some seeping down to the baggage storage room on the second floor below.

The water damaged some bags and their owners would be compensated, the director said. Airport workers turned off the water valve and mopped up the area.

Also yesterday, a worker in the construction project building a train link to the airport was crushed to death by falling metal scaffolding.

The body of Rungchai Moongpulklang, 18, was pulled from the wreckage. Police suspected the accident, which occurred in Lat Krabang, was caused by scaffolding bearing too much weight.

Meanwhile, Democrat party deputy spokesman Apichart Sakdiset demanded the government express regret over the resignation of the Bangkok Post's former news editor Chadin Tephaval, and the dismissal of senior reporter Sermsuk Kasitipradit due to a Suvarnabhumi runway cracks report in 2005.

Mr Apichart said the Bangkok Post was the first newspaper to expose the cracks but was rebuked harshly by then prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra for being unpatriotic. The Post front page story on Aug 8, 2005 quoted a source as saying a team of US experts hired by Mr Thaksin to inspect Suvarnabhumi airport had found cracks on the runway. The paper retracted the story and apologised the following day.

On March 13 last year, the Criminal Court opened the first hearing on the case in which Bancha Pattanaporn, acting president of Airports of Thailand Plc (AoT), and New Bangkok International Airport company (NBIA), sued Post Publishing Plc as publisher of the Bangkok Post and its editor Kowit Sanandang on charges of defamation over the paper's runway crack coverage.

Mr Apichart said the discovery now of cracks in the runway and taxiways was a national embarrassment.

''Who will be responsible for what happened to the Bangkok Post and the fate of the two senior staff?'' Mr Apichart said.

He added the Thai Journalists Association and the Press Council of Thailand must take the issue as a case study of political pressure on the media while the Bangkok Post should also reconsider the punishment ordered against Mr Chadin and Mr Sermsuk for the sake of the working morale of its news staff.

Mr Sermsuk said in an interview on iTV that he had no hidden agenda in reporting the runway cracks story.

Bangkok Post
Sunday January 28, 2007
Use Don Muang during repairs : 2 airlines

Bangkok Airways and Thai AirAsia have urged the government to move domestic flights back to Don Muang temporarily so that Suvarnabhumi Airport can be partially shut down for repairs to cracked taxiways.

Bangkok Airways CEO Prasert Prasartthong-osoth yesterday said moving domestic flights to Don Muang would allow Airports of Thailand, Suvarnabhumi's operator, to close parts of the new airport for repair without causing problems to air traffic as happened two days ago.

The move would ease the traffic at Suvarnabhumi by 30 per cent, he said. "The old airport can still serve airlines," he added.

His comments followed the air traffic problems on Thursday at Suvarnabhumi when a number of flights were forced to circle around the airport or divert to U-Tapao military airfield, as debris was found on the western runway which was closed for repairs.

Thai Airways International president Apinan Sumaseni said after a board meeting yesterday that if traffic problems continue at Suvarnabhumi, THAI would need to stock more fuel.

Sehapan Chumsai na Ayutthaya, executive vice president for marketing at Nok Air, said that each diversion to U-Tapao cost an airline Bt100,000-Bt200,000 depending on aircraft size.

Transport Minister Theera Haocharoen said on Thursday that the repairs could be carried out without having to move flights to Don Muang.

But Prasert, whose company built airports at Koh Samui, Trat and Sukhothai, suggested that the only way to mend the cracks caused by inferior building materials was to lay new foundations. The reconstruction would take at least 15 to 18 months and cost about Bt50 billion.

He pointed out that since the runways need fixing, the responsible parties might as well fix other problems within the airport too: the severe lack of toilets, lighting, space, conveyor belts and shuttle buses. The malfunctioning online immigration system, which is supposed to link to a global system, has also allowed illegal immigrants to slip in.

"The airport authority should install new facilities, instead of fixing them," he said.

Prasert added that the runway cracks had been caused by the misuse of coarse-grain sand, which failed to absorb water. Expired cement worsened the already fractured surface.

As a result of its premature opening and bargain-quality construction materials, Suvarnabhumi Airport has yet to pass the International Civil Aviation Organisation's safety oversight audit.

"Many airlines have lost faith in the safety of the new airport and have turned to use neighbouring countries' airports. The government should quickly solve this problem before there is a crisis," said Prasert.

Tassapon Bejleveld, CEO of Thai AirAsia, also proposed that the government move all domestic and some international flights back to Don Muang airport to avoid air traffic congestion while repairing the taxiway and runway at Suvarnnabhumi.

Thai AirAsia wants to move all its operations from Suvarnabhumi to Don Muang to reduce its operating costs and make it easier for passengers connecting between its domestic and international flights.

Nok Air and One Two Go have also urged agencies to reopen Don Muang airport as a domestic airport.

Chaisak Angkasuwan, director-general of the Civil Aviation Department, said the department and related bodies - including Airports of Thailand, Aeronautical Radio of Thailand and Thai Airways International - would meet on Monday to reach a conclusion about using Don Muang airport.

The Nation Thailand
Sunday January 28, 2007
True Move seeks injunction against TOT

True Move has sought an injunction from the Central Administra-tive Court to prevent TOT from disconnecting its 1.5 million new phone numbers.

The cellular operator's chief executive Supachai Chearavanont said yesterday that True Move had also decided to allow subscribers issued with these numbers to make calls free of charge to any fixed-line network in Thailand as compensation for their inability to receive calls from TOT subscribers.

True Move applied for the court injunction on Thursday after TOT said it would have to do so first if it wanted TOT to enable the connection between its subscribers and the 1.5 million new phone numbers, Supachai said.

True Move introduced the new 1.5 million phone numbers only recently. The dispute began when TOT refused to integrate the new numbers and another 1.5 million from Total Access Communication (DTAC) into its network, citing their refusal to pay its access charges.

A telecom operator needs all other operators to integrate, or in technical terms "translate", its new numbers into their switching systems so that the numbers are recognised by other networks.

TOT's refusal to integrate their new numbers means calls from its fixed-line phones will not reach the new numbers issued by DTAC and True Move.

Cellular operators True Move, DTAC and Digital Phone are all concessionaires of CAT Telecom Plc. DTAC sought a similar injunction from the court on January 17, and it was granted.

CAT Telecom said on Thursday that True Move had agreed to pay the access charge to TOT, but only in the payment cycle that was due last December and only for its existing phone numbers. The access charge, at the heart of the dispute, is a cost against CAT Telecom's cellular concessionaires. It covers the cost of these operators connecting their subscribers' calls to other networks via TOT's facilities.

True Move and DTAC want to pay only the interconnection charge instead of both access and interconnection charges.

The interconnection-charge rule was introduced recently by the National Telecommunications Commission and mandates that all operators share revenues from voice and data calls between their networks on a fair basis.

Usanee Mongkolporn

The Nation Thailand
Sunday January 28, 2007
VISIT TO THE SOUTH

Surayud focuses on development

Prime minister embarks on tour of troubled area with new olive branch

Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont yesterday began a tour of the Muslim South, his third visit in fewer than four months.

His purpose is to promote peace and encourage reconciliation between Muslim and Buddhist residents.

He spoke to about 1,500 local officials and Muslim leaders and said development was the key to long-term prosperity in the region and success in ending insurgent violence.

Religious teachings and mainstream education for Muslim youth should be provided alongside one other, he told the group. The government will promote educational-exchange programmes between Thai-Muslim students and those in other Muslim countries.

He said Southeast Asia was home to the world's largest Muslim population and regional natural resources were abundant.

"If we have failed to take advantage of these factors to develop the country and ourselves it is no different from throwing away a great chance on purpose," he added.

Surayud pledged to end violence and develop the region into a regional transportation and economic hub.

Pattani Muslim Committee head Madaeramae Mamingi praised Surayud and his visit, saying it was vital to ending violence and seeing action on development initiatives.

He pleaded for greater recognition for junior officials and local people.

Senior Yala cleric Nimu Magaje regarded Surayud's visit as a gesture of trust between the prime minister, clerics and community leaders. He said Surayud's approach would win support from local residents.

"In the past it has been mostly instruction on state policy and assignments from high-ranking ministers to junior officials, but this time the country's leader arrived himself, a great encouragement to local people," he added.

Before Surayud arrived in Pattani yesterday morning, suspected Muslim insurgents shot dead a policeman and torched a school in the province. The unidentified officer was shot and killed while on patrol late on Friday night.

The Nation Thailand
Sunday January 28, 2007
Some see Thaksin role in CNN delay

Cable network blames technical glitches

By Wassana Nanuam & Supawadee Inthawong

A delay in Council for National Security chief Sonthi Boonyaratkalin's interview on CNN has triggered speculation about deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra's international media campaign. Gen Sonthi's interview on CNN, which was initially scheduled to be aired on Friday evening, was postponed to tomorrow. The delay was widely discussed at the gathering of Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School alumni in Nakhon Nayok to mark the school's 49th anniversary.

''I don't know if CNN was sent [to interview me]. The questions concerned the [New Year's eve] bombings and whether Mr Thaksin was involved,'' he told military top brass.

Asked if he thought there was something unusual about the delay, he hesitated before saying that he did not know and that he was not the one who requested an interview.

Gen Sonthi said he was informed by subordinates about satellite transmission problems which disrupted the airing of the interview.

The 40-minute interview with CNN correspondent Dan Rivers was supposed to be aired at 7.30pm on Friday.

The Democrats' Sirichoke Sopha expressed scepticism, saying the incident lent weight to media reports that Mr Thaksin hired lobbyists and public relations consultants to help him return to the country and protect his political interest.

CNN interviewed ousted prime minister Thaksin in ''Talk Asia'' which was to be aired on Jan 15 while the former leader was in Singapore. However, the broadcast was delayed by UBC, the cable television operator, amid CNS concerns that it would affect national security.

The cable operator eventually aired the interview a few days later.

The former leader's visit to Singapore also sparked a diplomatic spat between Bangkok and the island state. He was received by Singapore Deputy Prime Minister S. Jayakumar. Political activists staged protests in front of Singapore's embassy in Bangkok.

Mr Sirichoke claimed CNN made gains during the Thaksin administration, referring to advertisements of Thailand's Elite Card on CNN.

Thailand Privilege Card (TPC), operator of the elite card, bought airtime on CNN worth 149 million baht.

The media spending drew attention when Thai Representation Co, representing CNN in Thailand, demanded TPC settle bills.

He said the committee picked up the case for investigation only to find that no contract had been signed.

The panel had called for documents and was later told that the debts were cleared by phuyai.

''Who else can clear [this sum of money] if not Mr Thaksin? The party will follow the matter,'' said Mr Sirichoke.

CNN's office in Thailand said yesterday Gen Sonthi's interview could not be aired as initially scheduled due to technical problems.

CNN's Narunart Prapanya said satellite transmissions experienced technical glitches on Friday, so CNN head office solved the problem by having its correspondent who interviewed the general clarify it via video-conference.

He said Gen Sonthi's interview would be aired tomorrow at 6am.

Bangkok Post
Sunday January 28, 2007
ShinSat thinks it is time for new satellite

Shin Satellite (ShinSat) is working on a plan to build a new satellite to continue cashing in on market growth, president Nongluck Phinainitisart said yesterday.

She said ShinSat would decide by the end of the year whether the Thaicom 6 satellite would be used for conventional broadcasting or for broadband like the company's existing iPSTAR.

"We're analysing the market trend. Usually, demand for satellite service grows 10 per cent each year," she added.

She said 60 per cent of the combined capacity of ShinSat's four existing satellites were utilised to provide broadcasting services and the rest for Internet services.

ShinSat operates three broadcasting satellites - Thaicom 1, 2 and 5 - and the broadband satellite iPSTAR. It disconnected its broadcasting Thaicom 3 satellite last year following an irreparable glitch.

The Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Ministry granted a 30-year concession to ShinSat in 1993.

ShinSat has paid a concession fee on an incremental basis, starting from 5.5 per cent and going up to 22.5 per cent of total revenues. This year it will share 17.5 per cent of revenues with the ministry.

The company said its minimum concession fee guarantee for the whole concession period stood at Bt1.415 billion.

ShinSat paid a combined

concession fee of Bt3.698 billion up to last year, surpassing the combined minimum guarantee of Bt381 million over the same period.

In 2005, 77 per cent of its total revenues came from foreign markets, totalling US$68 million.

Yesterday, ShinSat invited the press to see its operations, in order to show that its satellites were designed only for commercial use. Members of the Council for National Security voiced concern this week that Singapore could be listening in on its members' confidential calls, since state-linked Temasek Holdings purchased Thai telecom Shin Corp last January.

Shin is the parent of both ShinSat and cellular operator Advanced Info Service. The ICT Ministry is setting up an investigative committee to probe the case.

Nongluck denied the allegations of eavesdropping. "Our satellites are just a medium for sending information or mirrors for reflecting two-way information," she said.

She said two kinds of information were transmitted via the satellites: encrypted information like pay-TV content, in order to prevent interception; and non-encrypted.

"And we have never had a code-breaking tool. We've always observed ethical conduct in doing business. Moreover, our shareholders have never ordered us to do anything unethical," Nongluck said.

She added that cellular operators rarely deployed satellite signals to transmit calls, wanting to avoid the high cost involved.

Before the establishment of ShinSat, Thailand had used a foreign satellite, Indonesia's Palapa.

Usanee Mongkolporn

The Nation Thailand
Sunday January 28, 2007
Rifts in KNU seen as bad for security

Faction goes to peace talks with Burma

By Supamart Kasem

Rifts have emerged within the Karen National Union (KNU) which could affect border security. The conflicts have surfaced a little more than a month after the death of its former leader Bo Mya on Dec 24, said a KNU officer.

If the friction within the KNU continues to widen, it could stall the ongoing peace process between the KNU and the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), Burma's military junta, the officer said, adding that fresh armed clashes were likely between the two sides along the Thai-Burmese border.

Border trade would suffer as a result. The value of cross-border trade at Tak's Mae Sot district has peaked to 12 billion baht during the past two years.

Gen Bo Mya was a skilled negotiator who had initiated truce talks with former Burmese prime minister Gen Khin Nyunt, now serving a jail sentence for corruption, in late 2004 in Rangoon.

Gen Bo Mya died at the age of 79 at a private hospital in Mae Sot district from natural causes.

Signs of a split in the KNU ranks first appeared when the commander of KNU's 7th Brigade Maj-Gen Htay Maung led a delegation to undertake a peace dialogue with Burma's military government on Jan 3, the KNU officer said.

According to an officer of the 7th Brigade, the Burmese military government has agreed to withdraw its troops from non-strategic areas in Karen state, but will keep troops in other key locations.

''However, the 7th Brigade delegation acted purely on its own accord and did not represent the KNU's Central Committee. It seems that the Burmese are plotting to divide and rule us. I don't believe they would really pull out,'' the KNU officer said.

The KNU's central committee made it clear at a meeting on Thursday that they had not endorsed the dialogue and also condemned it as going against the KNU's interests.

KNU secretary-general Mahn Sha said the latest negotiations were initiated by Maj-Gen Htay Maung and the delegation was not appointed by the committee.

''They (the delegates) are willing to go along with the SPDC so that they could get an opportunity to expand their businesses in Burma.

''This would not be in the best interests of the KNU,'' said Mahn Sha, though he insisted the KNU has not abandoned peace talks with Rangoon.

The talks, however, must be pursued on an equal footing, he said.

The KNU was the first among Burma's nationalities to rebel against the central government following the country's independence in 1948 from Britain.

It is one of the last armed groups that continues to actively oppose the military junta, prompting annual offensives in Karen state that have driven an estimated 140,000 civilian refugees to border camps.

Bangkok Post
Sunday January 28, 2007
SUVARNABHUMI

Rescue plan for airport

Expert warned 15 years ago building on a swamp was trouble

A top architect has suggested ways to save the Bt150-billion Suvarnabhumi Airport.

Dr Sumet Jumsai said the increasingly serious runway cracks had to be resolved.

"We have to make Suvarnabhumi work because it is already there.

"For the runways, repairs to the cracks must continue, but Airports of Thailand should sheet-pile both sides of the runways along their entire length.

"This should lessen the subsoil shift and reduce cracks on the apron's surface," he said.

"In the long run it may be necessary to pile all the aprons. The new runway east of the existing polder [a polder is a dyked area], slated for expansion, might be built sooner rather than later.

"In this respect the polder must not be expanded, and the new runway must not be land-filled. Instead the runway should be built above flood level on piers in order to allow flood water to pass under it," Sumet said.

"In this way it will not impede water flow or further reduce the flood-retention capacity of Nong Ngu Hao swamp [on which the airport is built]."

"There is nothing new in this. You can draw a lesson from the traditional Thai house on stilts standing comfortably in watery terrain. Traditional Thai architecture is amphibious and in harmony with nature."

Sumet, who opposed building the airport on the site because of unfavourable subsoil conditions, suggested air traffic at the four-month-old Suvarnabhumi Airport should then shift to the newly piled runway to allow the existing aprons to be piled.

Alternatively, the old Don Muang airport north of Bangkok could be recommissioned to accept flights while repairs are carried out.

Sumet said his measures would not resolve flooding outside the polder, since the water-retention capacity of the swamp had been severely compromised by the airport.

Sumet, one of Thailand's top architects, with many buildings in Bangkok, the provinces and neighbouring countries, recalled how 15 years ago he had fought against the location of an airport at Nong Ngu Hao on the grounds it went against nature.

"Nature is now taking its toll in this swamp, and I feel everyone has got it wrong in the ongoing investigation. The bottom line is that with or without corruption - and every government in the design and construction phases is implicated - the runways and any structure not on piles will be subject to differential settlement and cracks," he said.

"All you have to do is to look at the Bang Na-Trat Highway. After so many years and multiple layers of compressed sub-base, the road still sinks," he said.

The Nation Thailand
Sunday January 28, 2007
Punish wrongdoers, Banthoon tells govt

The current government with its powers should speed up punishment of unethical people, Kasikornbank chief executive Banthoon Lamsam said yesterday in his first public comments since the Surayud administration took office.

Speaking as the treasurer of Wat Bowornniwet Vihara at a seminar entitled "How to build up social merit", Banthoon said the authorities at all levels should act as leaders in ethical social management, in terms of both encouraging good practices and punishing the wicked.

But Thai society is weak when faced with power and money, he said.

"The government right now holds the sacred sword of power. If they do nothing with it, they might as well be using it as a knife to chop ginger for a drink to relieve their boredom," he said sarcastically.

Banthoon went on to say that some people saw nothing wrong with what a group of people did as long as they were in power but changed their minds after the group lost power. And some people still stay silent and refuse to point the finger at the wrongdoers because they fear they will return to power, he said.

Some people are cunning and able to survive under any government, which reflects the weakness of Thai society, the banker said.

He said it was very hard to judge who were the people of merit, and even more difficult to point out those who were not.

"For example, someone spoke recently about a charismatic person outside the Constitution, but nobody could specify who he or she was," Banthoon said.

Therefore to build a meritorious society there is a need to build up transparency, he said, adding that Thailand's rules had been improved and should now be enforced.

Banthoon said he hoped Thai society would grow strong enough to rid the country of unworthy people.

Somruedi Banchongduang

The Nation Thailand
Sunday January 28, 2007
Phoned pill reminders make inroads against TB

Coordinators of a tuberculosis-treatment project in Chiang Mai believe they have found a very promising new weapon in the long war against the disease, which the country has been losing for many years since the re-emergence of the illness.

Just a mobile phone with a cheap calling promotion has dramatically improved the success rate of the treatment.

Since a major factor blamed for the failure of TB treatment has been patients' inconsistency in taking the drugs, the project has come up with the idea of calling patients to remind them when it is time to take their medicine.

For three months, Chiang Mai, a province with a high number of TB patients, has been piloting the project on about 60 patients who are on a six-month TB treatment. The outcome has been very promising, said Dr Surasing Visrutarana, the province's chief health officer, adding that the drug-taking consistency rate was more than 90 per cent, compared to the average rate of successful treatment in the conventional programme.

Figures from the Public Health Ministry show new cases of TB stand at about 50 per 100,000 people, or about 90,000 cases a year, and the rate of successful treatment is still far below the World Health Organisation's standard of 85 per cent.

Each year at least 12,000 people die of TB. As a result, Thailand is grouped with the 22 "high-burden countries", alongside such impoverished countries as Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Uganda and Cambodia, which have much lower hygiene standards.

In the Chiang Mai mobile-phone project, the patients are given a phone with a calling promotion that allows them to receive calls only, and a number of trained volunteers who are former TB patients call to remind them on a daily basis when it is time to take the drug.

"To my amazement, the daily call is not just a good reminder to those patients who forget to take the drug, but it also comes in a way that makes them feel cared about and supported," said Surasing. "This leads to better cooperation on the part of the patients."

Using former patients as guardians is also an important part of the success because they have experience with TB drugs and treatment, he said.

"Advice and reassurance from an experienced person always sounds more convincing than from even a medical professional: they speak the same language," said Surasing.

Even before this pilot project is finished, Surasing hails it as a great success at a low price.

Actually, he said, this mobile project costs almost nothing. All that is required is a calling promotion worth about Bt100 per person, because most of the patients and volunteers have their own mobile phones.

This project will be concluded in the next three months, and then the success could spread, said Surasing.

Arthit Khwankhom

The Nation

Chiang Mai

The Nation Thailand
Sunday January 28, 2007
SEX CLASS AT THE MONASTERY

Novices receive education in the facts of life

ANJIRA ASSAVANONDA, HAT YAI, SONGKHLA

The classroom where the 14 novice monks study at Mahapanya School is filled with fun and laughter. To the astonishment of outsiders, they are openly discussing sex.

A bigger surprise: the teacher is a woman.

"Today's lesson is called 'Let's think first'. I'd like you to divide into six groups to think of possible causes and results of premature and unprotected sex," Khru Kung, or Supaporn Sithiphan, tells her students at the start of a sex education class.

The answers from the novices were similar to those you would expect from youths. They cited rape, seduction, revealing clothing and the influence of pornography as factors causing premature and unprotected sex. These, they said, resulted in unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted disease, stress, loss of future opportunities and social condemnation.

When asked how to ensure safe sex, the novices promptly replied "use a condom".

Ms Supaporn introduced the sex education curriculum to the school's 57 students over a year ago after undergoing training funded by the Programme for Appropriate Technology in Health (Path), an international, non-profit organisation to promote public health.

Her students are novice monks aged 13-18. Many of the novices, from different parts of the country, come from poor or broken homes.

Conservative Buddhists may find it strange that sex is taught in such an unlikely place as a monastery.

But Ms Supaporn has a reason.

"These novice monks are teenagers. The only difference is they are in saffron robes and have religious principles that bar them from doing many things they want. Sex education is necessary for all teenagers no matter if they are monks or laymen," she said.

School records show that 80% of novice students will not continue into monkhood. They will go back into society and get up to all the things that young men do.

Samanera Jenwit Jankham, 14, concedes he was familiar with porn before getting ordained. His primary school friends used to show him porn videos. He wondered what it was like to have sex, and his friends told him he had to experience it for himself.

At school, the Internet has become a common study tool for the novices. Samanera Jenwit said many novices have had the chance to chat online with young women.

"Chatting with a woman is not allowed, but some of us did it secretly. It is just occasional and involves simple boy-and-girl conversation," said the samanera.

"There are moments I feel some sexual drive, and part of me wants to try like other boys my age. But the dharma disciplines force me to control my feelings," he said.

Samanera Jenwit said the curriculum helps him to understand women and sex in a way he has not known before.

"I learn a lot of new knowledge, such as how complicated women's sexual organs are and how a woman becomes pregnant. When I was at primary school, I heard friends say we could get a girl pregnant by external ejaculation, but in this class we learn that is impossible," he said. "Also we learn that a girl won't get pregnant if she has sex during her period."

The young man believes what he has learned in the class will be helpful when he enters the layman's world.

"It is better to teach them these things about sex and male-female relationships so they can handle it properly when they grow up and leave the monastery," said Ms Supaporn.

The lessons she teaches do not cover only intercourse, but also sexual health, caring for oneself, and about emotional relationships and the responsibilities that come with them.

She said she gave it thorough consideration before deciding to start the sex education class.

"Surely there are questions in our society about if it's right to teach novice monks about sexual things, but I believe it will do more good than harm," Ms Supaporn said. "Giving them proper knowledge is better than letting them learn mistakenly on their own."

Phra Mahapol Thitapho, the school principal, said he has never opposed the idea of giving sex education to novice monks.

"Sex is a common thing to every human being. We let our students know so they'll stop wondering about it. They'll understand that sex is just a rotten bait that lures fish to a trap. Once they know, they'll be able to overcome their feelings and pass that knowledge to others," the principal said.

Bangkok Post
Sunday January 28, 2007
BREAKING SEXUAL TABOOS

Muslim teachers are unsure about what they should tell students when it comes to sex

Story by ANJIRA ASSAVANONDA

When it comes to teaching young people about sex, teachers across the South are having a bit of trouble knowing what to tell their students. Teachers here say religious beliefs are an obstacle to attempts to introduce sex education into schools across the region.

The comments were made when teachers gathered along with students for a seminar on sex education for teenagers. Teachers said the curriculum was first introduced to schools in the region three years ago.

Sex education has been introduced to 110 schools in 10 southern provinces since the ''Teenpath'' project was launched by the Programme for Appropriate Technology in Health (Path) in 2004. The project, which is also active in other parts of the country, aims to equip teenagers with life skills that include sex and relationship issues in modern society.

At one panel discussion, teachers from southern Islamic schools addressed the sensitivity of sex education with regard to religious principles.

''Students today are going into deeper detail. Often they ask teachers about masturbation, what it's like or how to do it,'' said Sunattha Charoenpol, a teacher from Nakhon Si Thammarat. ''And that becomes a debate whether it goes against religious rules or not.''

Aphisit Sentira, from Darul Ma'aref School in Satun, said masturbation is taboo in Islam, but he said it is important to teach his students about what it is.

''It's natural for boys to have sexual urges. Many times it happens naturally as they have wet dreams, and masturbation is a way to cope with their feelings.

''If they don't know how to let go of their emotions, it could be harmful to their health,'' he said.

While some Muslim teachers feel reluctant to talk about it openly, he said he would answer his students' questions if they asked him.

''But while we talk about masturbation, we also need to advise them to control their emotions by avoiding temptations such as pornography,'' he said.

Phawana Wienrawee, a Path representative, said apart from religious beliefs, other factors that hinder sex education programmes include attitudes of parents and teachers who mistakenly think sex education is only about sex and that it's not appropriate for children to learn.

''Some male teachers laughed when we told them we had gone through sex education training,'' a female teacher told the seminar. ''They joked why we had to attend such a course, or didn't we know enough about sex?''

Some parents, said Ms Phawana, were angry when they discovered their children had condoms in their bags. Educating parents is also important to correct their attitudes on sex education, she added.

Another major problem is a lack of commitment from school administrators and policy makers in pushing for sustainability of the project.

''The policy makers may have to send stronger messages to the schools,'' said Ms Phawana, noting that school managements' support of sex education was just lip service as most school administrators still place academic development before life skills.

''We still think a good school is determined by the number of students who can pass the entrance exam with high Onet and Anet scores. It remains unclear what we want more, happy or high-scoring children,'' Ms Phawana said.

That prevailing attitude results in sex education being treated as an aside in other subjects, rather than a class of its own. School administrators should consider setting up an independent body to develop knowledge about sex education and be responsible for project management at all levels, she said.

Bangkok Post
Sunday January 28, 2007
INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY / CUSTOMS CRACKDOWN

More seizures reflect better enforcement

WICHIT CHANTANUSORNSIRI

Seizures of pirated goods have risen sharply over the past four years, reflecting stronger enforcement against violators of intellectual property rights, according to the Customs Department.

Chavalit Sethameteekul, the customs director-general, said officials recorded 373 cases of intellectual property violations in fiscal 2006, with seized goods valued at more than 60 million baht.

This compares with 111 cases worth 126 million baht recorded in fiscal 2004, and only 19 cases worth eight million in fiscal 2003, the first year that the department began collecting data on IP violations.

The European Union and the United States have long accused Thailand of turning a blind eye to IP violations and allowing pirates to operate freely in the local market.

The International Intellectual Property Institute estimates that up to 5% of the products in the market are counterfeit knock-offs of protected brands and trademarks.

Mr Chavalit said a new law awaiting approval by the government would significantly increase the authority of customs officials in inspecting shipments suspected of IP violations.

Under the new law, customs officials would be allowed to order the inspection of suspect packages directly. Direct inspections currently are not permitted without authorisation from the owner of the shipment.

Mr Chavalit said the department had also set up a new team to clamp down on the practice of tax evasion and false declarations by importers.

The department will work with the Department of Special Investigation and the Revenue Department to monitor goods frequently declared at rates below their true value. They include auto parts, cosmetics and cigarettes.

For fiscal 2007, the Customs Department has a revenue target of 85 billion baht. It recently revised the target down from 88 billion baht, to reflect the impact of the appreciation of the baht last year and slowing import and consumption trends.

Bangkok Post
Sunday January 28, 2007
RULE EASED

IRPC takes second look at plans for refinancing

BOT announces capital-control exemption for offshore loans

IRPC - formerly Thai Petrochemical Industries - is revising its US$800-million (Bt27 billion) refinancing plan, with a possible increase in the portion of its dollar-denominated debt to 70 per cent from the 50 per cent planned earlier, in response to a relaxation by the central bank in its capital-reserve requirement.

IRPC president Piti Yimprasert told Dow Jones Newswires the higher percentage would conform to the proportion of the company's dollar income.

Piti said the company would decide later whether to refinance with long-term bonds or a loan and that it hoped to finalise the refinancing by June.

The $800 million in debt to be refinanced comes due in September. At present, half of its debt is dollar-denominated, with the balance in local currency. Local companies have complained the current requirements make funding costs too high.

Yesterday, the Bank of Thailand (BOT) announced that local companies borrowing offshore would be exempt from the central bank's 30-per-cent reserve requirements from next Thursday if fully hedged with currency swaps covering foreign-exchange risk.

BOT Governor Tarisa Watanagase yesterday insisted the relaxation would not compromise its objective of stabilising the baht.

The bank believes its withholding requirement will contribute at least 0.79 per cent to the gross domestic product (GDP) this year. The bank has downgraded its GDP forecast to 4-5 per cent, from 4.5-5.5 per cent previously.

Some have called the capital-control moves "draconian".

The statement came after the baht in offshore markets rose to about 34.09 to the US dollar on Thursday - a 3.29-per-cent jump from Wednesday's 35.21 to the greenback.

Dealers say they believe that the central bank on Wednesday stepped into the onshore market, where it cost Bt35.75 to purchase $1.

The baht opened yesterday at 35.86/35.88 to the dollar, then peaked at 35.80 before closing at 35.85/35.87 to the dollar.

The bank's statement said swapping offshore loans into baht - which entails a future obligation to swap back to the foreign currency originally borrowed in - would allow transactions to take place without disrupting the regular baht spot market.

Tarisa said the BOT maintained its objective of stabilising the baht, but the private sector would be able to cover currency risk, and volatility in the foreign-exchange market would be prevented.

"[With hedging], the private sector will know the costs [currency risks] well. The BOT has discussed this with the private sector. An official announcement will be made next Monday or Tuesday. It will take effect from February 1," said Tarisa.

Borrowers not wishing to hedge will have to comply with the reserve requirement, she said.

The BOT governor insisted the difference in baht value between the onshore and offshore markets was an expected result of central-bank measures to curb speculation.

Baht liquidity in the offshore market was limited, owing to the 30-per-cent withholding measure.

"Many mistakenly assume when the baht appreciates in offshore markets, it will strengthen onshore, too. But it doesn't. The BOT has already completely separated the markets.

"The difference in [baht value] in both markets won't be a concern. Finally, baht value in the offshore market will adjust itself," she explained.

Tarisa added that values in offshore markets had strengthened significantly over the past week, as baht liquidity offshore dried up as a result of bank measures preventing non-residents access to baht liquidity - an integral part of the anti-speculation policy.

She warned exporters to take care when quoting prices, because of the two-tier market system.

she said that quoting dollar values from the wrong market would result in losses.

Assistant Governor Suchada Kirakul yesterday said 30-per-cent reserve requirement would boost GDP 0.79 per cent this year.

Although the measure will reduce stock-market capitalisation and investors' paper wealth and slow economic growth, a weaker baht would boost exports.

She said higher export growth would offset falling domestic demand.

Anoma Srisukkasem

The Nation Thailand
Sunday January 28, 2007
Habitat in image makeover

The Habitat showroom in Bangkok is getting an image makeover and will emerge as a "lifestyle home-furnishing shop", says the operator of the British-based retailer.

Harvest Enterprises said the conversion would shed Habitat's "furniture shop" image.

The company said renovation and a change in marketing strategy would achieve the company's aims.

Chief marketing officer Brent Smith yesterday said the company started renovating its Siam Discovery Centre showroom last March and would be finished this June.

It is completing the renovation stage by stage.

He declined to disclose the total cost but said it was the biggest overhaul since opening 10 years ago.

At the same time, Habitat will expand more than twice in area and to two levels. There will be more departments in the new 1,569-square-metre showroom. New to Habitat will be kitchens - focusing on free-standing items rather than built-in sets - window coverings and a cafe.

It will extend bathroom collections and its art gallery - where buyers can order customised frames and canvases.

Habitat will add to the array of decorative items from local designers.

Smith said Thai-designed articles would account for 5 per cent of about 3,500 items sold. Local products may soon be offered at Habitat's 60 shops worldwide if headquarters gives the green light.

The company has already agreed to sell one designer's products from June. It is in talks with university design departments about opportunities for students to train at Habitat.

Six students have already studied with Habitat for one term.

Habitat in Bangkok will soon offer design consultants, too.

Smith said the renovation would convey a "lifestyle experience to customers", allowing Habitat to compete directly with furniture sellers.

He said local consumers were demanding in terms of design quality and availability.

He said the current economic sluggishness and political worries had opened up opportunities for Habitat in one way: people preferred to stay home and were seeking a more comfortable environment.

Smith would not divulge Habitat's 2007 advertising budget but said it was higher than last year's.

Nitida Asawanipont

The Nation Thailand
Sunday January 28, 2007
Frenchmen arrested in Pattaya

Accused of forging credit cards

Police have arrested two French nationals in Pattaya, who confessed to counterfeiting bank cards, officers said yesterday. Tachefini Smaine, 20, and Alexandre Guasmia, 21, were arrested on Friday in the tourist resort, tourist police said.

The pair were found in possession of various materials for counterfeiting bank cards.

Police also confiscated blank plastic cards and chips, which would have been encoded with bank card data.

Police said the men confessed to using a ''skimmer'' to steal information from the magnetic strip on the back of bank cards.

After the men had stolen the electronic data, they would covertly watch as a potential target typed in his ATM code, police said.

If convicted, the pair will face maximum jail terms of seven years.

Meanwhile, tourism operators in Pattaya have been encouraged to set up a fund to combat rising crimes against tourists.

The fund would provide immediate help to tourists falling victim to crime gangs, and support ongoing efforts by the state to crack down on tourism crimes.

Bang Lamung district chief Prateep Jongsuebtam said the tourism industry is an important revenue generator which must be protected.

Hoteliers will be asked to contribute first, although other tourism businesses would also be approached.

''We all face this problem together, and it needs immediate solutions,'' Pattaya deputy mayor Ronakit Akasing told tourism operators at a meeting to discuss the fund yesterday.

Tourists robbed and injured as a result of criminal activities need quick help and this would be possible only if there was a special fund to cover their expenses.

It could also help pay for joint patrols between police, soldiers, and civilians in tourist spots including the Pattaya beaches. The government also plans to recruit more informants to improve security.

The businesses should contribute to the fund for their own sake and the general public good as well, Mr Prateep said.

Bangkok Post
Sunday January 28, 2007
Customs to get tougher on pirates

The Customs Department will re-enforce its campaign against pirated goods, as well as get tougher on importers avoiding full duties, director-general Chavalit Sethameteekul said yesterday.

Thailand and other Asian countries are under pressure from the US and Europe to be tougher on fake goods violating intellectual property rights.

Chavalit conceded Thailand was a transit point for pirated goods heading to Europe and the US.

The government is drafting new laws to give the department powers to inspect containers bound for third countries. Australia imposed a similar law, he said.

Random transhipment checks will reduce the volume of pirated goods transiting from Thai ports, he said.

Western governments have identified China as one of a number of countries producing copied brand-name goods.

The department will also impose tough measures on importers declaring goods at artificial purchase prices in order to evade full duties, Chavalit said.

The department will focus on products such as automobile parts and cigarettes.

Importers complain they are treated differently by customs officials responsible for tariff charges and goods clearances.

"I will get rid of double standards and rotate officials to stop this," Chavalit promised. He was recently reappointed director-general.

The National Counter Corruption Commission is investigating a telecom equipment tariff scandal involving Shin Satellite - a subsidiary of Shin Corp.

In addition, the Department of Special Investigation is probing allegations of cigarette importers evading duties.

In another development,

the Customs Department reduced its 2007 tariff-collection target to Bt85 billion, from Bt88 billion previously.

The baht's appreciation and a domestic-consumption slow-down have contributed to the reduction, said Chavalit.

Wichit Chaitrong

The Nation Thailand
Sunday January 28, 2007
IN BRIEF

Contract defaults

Department blacklists four Indonesian trading companies The Export Promotion Department yesterday blacklisted four Indonesian trading companies after they were found to have intentionally defaulted on payments to Thai companies and to have refused to deliver goods for Thai customers.

Two of the four are e-trading companies - PT Hilman Jaya and PT Johanes Setla - that export MP3 and computer equipment. They have not shipped goods that were already paid for by Thai customers.

Two other companies - fruit importers Pt Putrabima Internusa and PT Hinosjaya Mandiri Indonesia, which recently changed company name to PT Elkana International - have defaulted with Thai companies.

The four firms have been proved to have cheated Thai exporters and customers, according to Supawadee Yamgamol, director of Thai Trade Centre in Indonesia.

"Those companies will be banned from trading with Thai firms. The department will also record their history for further consideration by Thai trade representatives in Indonesia." - The Nation.

Gold shops: More accurate weighing soon

The Internal Trade Department has ordered all gold shops nationwide to use a two-digit weight measure instead of the current one-digit system by March 14.

Siripol Yodmuangcharoen, director-general of the department, said that it wanted to install a unified system out of concern for consumers.

"Gold has high value. The more precise the weight machine, the more benefit to consumers," said Siripol.

Gold traders found to be disobeying the order will be subject to imprisonment of up to six months or a Bt20,000 fine, or both.

The department also urged the approximately 7,000 gold traders nationwide to provide scales and weighing machines that consumers can easily see and monitor. This will create fair practice for both traders and consumers, it said. - The Nation.

Standard and poor's: Asia-Pacific sovereign debt to grow

Standard and Poor's Ratings Services predicts that sovereign debt markets will continue to deepen in the Asia-Pacific region during 2007, albeit at a slower pace than in recent years, according to a report published today titled "Asia-Pacific Sovereign Debt Will Exceed US$10 Trillion in 2007".

"The Asia-Pacific region accounts for almost 40 per cent of global sovereign debt outstanding, and Japan will maintain its position as the dominant borrower in the Asia-Pacific, with over 80 per cent of expected debt stock in 2007," said Standard and Poor's credit analyst Brendan Flynn.

"Similarly, sovereign commercial borrowing globally is projected to be just over $4 trillion [Bt143 trillion] in 2007, of which Asia-Pacific will account for 37 per cent. Domestic borrowing will remain the preferred funding source in the region, with an ever decreasing reliance on external debt."

Sovereign commercial debt outstanding in the region is likely to increase and breach the $10-trillion mark for the first time. Of the 21 sovereigns in the region rated by Standard and Poor's, 13 are projected to record increases in debt in US dollar terms, while five are projected to reduce sovereign commercial debt and three are forecast to remain at zero commercial debt outstanding. - The Nation.

The Nation Thailand
Sunday January 28, 2007
CONSTITUTION

Charter reforms 'aimed at TRT'

Chaturon says proposals would weaken big political parties

Chaturon Chaisang, caretaker leader of the Thai Rak Thai Party (TRT), said yesterday the new constitution would most likely undermine the strength of political parties, especially large parties like Thai Rak Thai, and enable the military to extend its rule.

Chaturon criticised junta-appointed Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont for earlier saying that the number of MPs might be reduced from 500 to 300 and senators could be appointed. The moves would lead to weak and turbulent politics, warned Chaturon.

"I don't know where the premier got the ideas from. I think he must have received them from someone who lacks understanding. Those in political circles feel that such a direction would destabilise political parties and the political system. The negative result would be that members of parliament could not adequately look after their constituencies," said Chaturon, who added that reducing the number of senators would also add burden to MPs, as the two houses are sometimes required to work together.

What's more, said Chaturon, scrapping the party-list MP system would further destabilise Thai politics, especially TRT, as the idea was intended to reduce the number of the party's MPs. The party-list system was a guarantee that minority voices could get into parliament and it would be unfortunate to scrap the system just because they want to undermine the future of TRT, he said.

For his part, Surayud on Friday said the ideas under discussion were not his personal views but those of some politicians, and some of them were brought up during a discussion with the Election Commission.

Chaturon is not convinced, apparently. "From what I heard there is an attempt to weaken the political party system, to return to an era where money mattered more than policy. Local influential figures will also return to power, despite the fact that their influence has been greatly reduced over the past four to five years. Whatever change they introduce must be based on the understanding of the existing situation and not based on a bias against political parties - otherwise everything will be pushed backward."

He suggested that the new constitution should instead be based on the 1997 constitution. "It shouldn't reach back any further than that," he said. "Otherwise they should simply write down that Thai Rak Thai need not run in any election."

Meanwhile, former charter drafter Kanin Boonsuwan warned that if the current drafters tried to reduce the number of MPs the charter would likely be defeated in the upcoming referendum.

Kanin had three suggestions for the charter writers to bear in mind.

"First, do not take away the power of the people to vote and decide whom they want to represent them. Second, do not destroy democratic principles. And third, do not reduce the power of the people at local administrative bodies.

"I don't think other issues will be decisive for the referendum," he said.

The Nation Thailand
Sunday January 28, 2007
IN Brief

CDMA work completed

COMMUNICATIONS :Huawei Technologies says it has completed its CDMA mobile network expansion for CAT Telecom, covering 51 provinces in addition to the 25 already served by the Hutch cellular service in which CAT is a partner.

The Chinese telecom equipment supplier said the CDMA2000 1x system would support a variety of existing and future applications including Voice over Internet protocol (VoIP), wireless broadband and streaming media.

"The reliability testing of the project was finished on Jan 22, which was very satisfying," said Zuo Yongqian, managing director of Huawei Technologies (Thailand) Co Ltd. "We have overcome many challenges and unexpected difficulties such as floods, lack of electricity, and unrest in southern Thailand."

New scales required

GOLD :The Commerce Ministry has ordered retail gold outlets to acquire digital scales with high-precision measurement to two decimal points (0.01 grammes) in order to improve measurement accuracy.

Scales should show exactly 15.16 grammes for a one-baht weight, the standard used in sales of gold accessories such as chains, says Siripol Yodmuangcharoen, the director-general of the ministry's Internal Trade Department.

The scales must be installed by March 14 in shop areas that are clearly visible to both buyers and sellers. Shops that fail to comply could face fines up to 20,000 baht and/or jail terms up to six months.

14-day bills yield 4.75%

DEBT MARKET :The Bank of Thailand yesterday auctioned 25 billion baht worth of 14-day bills for a weighted average accepted yield of 4.75925%. Accepted bid yields ranged from 4.72% to 4.775%, with the bid coverage ratio 1.46 times.

Reserves up $100m

FINANCIAL DATA :International reserves totalled $65.6 billion as of Jan 19, compared with $65.5 billion the week before, the Bank of Thailand said yesterday.

The net forward position was $7.9 billion as of Jan 19, unchanged from the previous week. Net claims on government were 38.9 billion baht, compared with 59.1 billion. Net claims on financial institutions were -916.8 billion baht, compared with -740.7 billion. Reserve money was 794 billion baht, compared with 817.3 billion.

Bangkok Post
Sunday January 28, 2007
Authorities mull return to Don Muang airport

(TNA, BangkokPost.com)

The government and airport executives are considering whether to reopen Bangkok's 90-year-old airport at Don Muang as attempts to fix the brand-new Suvarnabhumi Airport are causing disruption. On Saturday morning, one of the two runways was closed for repairs.

About 100 cracks were found at the new airport's taxiways and runaways and damaged sections are being closed off while repair work is carried out.

Transport Minister Admiral Thira Haocharoen told reporters the possibility of moving some flights back to Don Muang is being considered, especially for point-to-point domestic flights.

Don Muang was decommissioned as Bangkok's main airport in September when the new airport was officially opened but support for reopening the Don Muang facility is gaining momentum as more troubles are reported at Suvarnabhumi.

The minister said that the move would speed up the repair work and help ease traffic congestion at the new airport, adding that government agencies and airline executives will discuss the issue next week.

Adm Thira maintained that Thailand would not shut down Bangkok's spanking new US$3.8 billion international airport completely.

He admitted there were doubts about whether it was appropriate to carry out repair work in sections before a detailed study of the damage at the new airport has been completed.

The cabinet on Tuesday decided to convene a panel of "independent" experts to determine how serious the cracks are and what has caused them. The head of the panel is a board member of Airports of Thaland, which runs the facility.

The airport, which was officially opened in September, was designed to handle 45 million passengers a year.

The minister said problems at Suvarnabhumi would not only disrupt air traffic for several weeks, but also undermine the confidence of both the public and airlines.

More disruption was forecast for Saturday as the airport's east runway was closed from 2 to 6 a.m. for repairs, said Passakorn Surapipith, deputy director of the Suvarnabhumi Airport.

He added that the 40 incoming and outgoing flights scheduled would use the west runway.

Bangkok Post
Sunday January 28, 2007
Anger, confusion and doubt at Democrat Party trial

A prosecution witness became confused and very angry during yesterday's hearing of the electoral fraud case against the Democrat Party in the Constitutional Tribunal.

Another witness claimed he only got his information from the media.

And a representative for the Democrats said some of the witnesses, while not politicians, had connections with the Thai Rak Thai Party.

Yesterday was the second hearing for the electoral fraud case against the Democrat and Progressive Democratic parties.

The case stems from the election in April last year. The Democrat Party is accused of hiring candidates from the Progressive Democratic Party to run in the ballot in Trang. The Democrats are also accused of hiring the leader of Better Life Party to frame Thai Rak Thai.

Many Thai Rak Thai candidates who stood in constituencies around the country failed to win seats after the April 2 poll because, as sole candidates without any rivals - because major opposition parties boycotted the election - they failed to get the required minimum of 20 per cent of total votes. If other candidates contested the same constituency, those who received the most votes had a chance to win without the minimum vote requirement applying.

Yesterday, Budsayamas Klinpetch, owner and editor of the local newspaper Trang Naewna, said she wasn't sure if she was a member of Thai Rak Thai Party, as she formerly testified to the former Election Commission.

Budsayamas said she had been a member of the New Aspiration Party but learned later that her name was listed as a Thai Rak Thai member since 2004, without her applying to the party. The New Aspiration Party was merged with Thai Rak Thai in 2001.

Democrat representative Nipit Intarasombat said Budsayamas was the only person to hear a conversation about irregularities at the candidate registration in Trang.

Budsayamas said some television reporters were with her at the venue but she could not remember clearly who was there at the time.

Her newspaper, which was quoted by a witness in the case, printed the headline, "Vicious technique frames TRT".

Nipit said the headline implicitly accused the Democrats and asked her to give details to support the headline.

But she claimed the headline was written to attract readers and as an editor she could create any headline she wanted.

And while she knew Thai Rak Thai former MP Kraisin Totabtiang, she said she was never sponsored by the Thai Rak Thai Party [to write the report].

Throughout the hearing she appeared irritable and often spoke angrily.

Prosecution witness Tawee Surabarn was the Thai Rak Thai candidate for Trang who filed a complaint against the Democrats alleging they hired Progressive Democratic Party candidates to run in the election and to frame Thai Rak Thai. But yesterday he said he only heard about people being hired by the Democrats from the media.

Tawee was a Thai Rak Thai party-list MP, but as the only candidate in the constituency failed to get the minimum 20 per cent votes in the April 2 poll. He also failed to get most votes in a by-election on April 23 against other candidates.

Democrat representative Nipit Intarasombat tried to show the Tribunal that Tawee, a former Democrat MP, had conflicts with the Democrats.

Tawee denied this, but conceded the Thai Rak Thai Party promised to give him a better opportunity, and would reward him if he got a seat for the party in Trang.

Watwarit Tantipirom, leader of the Better Life Party, said he was threatened by the Democrats, including Thaikorn Polsuwan, who forced him to frame Thai Rak Thai.

He said he then asked for help from Maj-General Prasit Tamdee, a police officer he knew in Chaiyaphum. He said Prasit told Police Lt-Colonel Ruthapol Naowarat to accompany him (Watwarit) and secretly record a video of a conversation between Thaikorn and Watwarit at Bangkok's Grand Hotel.

Democrat representative Taweesak Na Takuatung asked why Watwarit had asked for help from police officers in Chaiyaphum when his home was in Nakhon Ratchasima. He also questioned if Prasit and Ruthapol had links with a former Thai Rak Thai Buri Ram MP, as both of them had worked in Buri Ram for some time.

Taweesak also pointed out that the transcript of the recording made by Ruthapol and his aides filed to the tribunal came in two versions of different length.

Tribunal judge Vichai Chuenchompoonut asked whether Ruthapol knew about the scope of his duties and authority when he was stationed in Chaiyaphum, as he had also investigated the electoral case in Bangkok.

Ruthapol said he did as ordered by Prasit.

Kornchanok Raksaseri

The Nation Thailand
Sunday January 28, 2007
ASIA FOCUS

Looking to 'Chindia'

Thai companies should learn how to crack into the key economic drivers in Asia

UMESH PANDEY

Thai companies looking to expand should start to look at the so-called "Chindia" as the key driver of future growth, says Piyabutr Cholvijarn, the deputy minister of industry.

"There is no doubt about the fact that Chindia [China and India] would be the next economic powerhouse of the world, and we have to tap this market," Mr Piyabutr said during a recent dinner talk hosted by the India-Thai Business Forum.

Mr Piyabutr, who was instrumental in helping push for higher trade volumes with India during his earlier tenure at the same position under the Thaksin Shinawatra administration, says that both China and India offer great potential for companies that venture into their markets.

Companies that cater to the booming middle class segment, especially in the finance, retailing, computer and electronics, pharmaceutical, biotechnology and tourism sectors, will be the ones that reap the highest benefit, he said.

Another area that could be a possible growth area would be the so-called "Stick" - Singapore, Thailand, India, China and South Korea - although this is some two decades away.

Both China and India are among the most under-tapped markets for Thai companies, as fears of intense competition in China and the unknown markets in India have kept most investors at bay.

India has a population of more than one billion, 40% of whom are in the robust middle class with high spending power. It is a market that only started to open up under then-finance minister Manmohan Singh, who is currently the prime minister.

In the last few years India has managed to attract some of the world's largest companies, which are investing billions of dollars in various projects, including knowledge-based industries.

But despite the influx of investments in IT, India is seeking more inflows in infrastructure, an area in which it admits it trails other countries in the region, including Thailand. A catalyst for investments between Thailand and India is trade, which has shown tremendous growth following the limited bilateral free trade agreement concluded last year. After the early-harvest of 82 products was implemented, more discussions are taking place to expand the product base and increase the two-way trade, although they have been stalled for some time.

Over the past five years, trade between the two countries has grown steadily. Between 2000 and 2004, it grew at around 15%, but in 2005 it expanded by more than 20% year-on-year to $2.8 billion, a sharp increase from less than $1 billion seen just a few years ago.

"From a mere $1 billion some four years ago to $4 billion, which looks achievable during this fiscal year, the two-way trade between the two countries has shown tremendous growth, but there is greater potential than this," said Latha Reddy, the newly appointed Indian ambassador to Thailand.

"We would like to see a quantum leap in the economic and bilateral relations between the two countries, especially during this year which marks the 60th anniversary of the diplomatic relations between the two countries," the ambassador said. He added that the embassy was there to assist in anyway possible to help achieve that goal.

Thai companies, Mr Piyabutr said, should also take advantage of the knowledge-based economies available in countries such as India to add value to their products.

"The way to move forward is to tap into the wisdom-based economy, such as information technology, and bio-products and services such as stem-cell [research] and others," he said.

Less competitive industries such as textiles, pulp and paper, rubber and so on should look to increase efficiency and production processes to keep themselves competitive, he added.

"Value addition is the way to go, especially in the present scenario where we see the appreciation of the Thai baht," Mr Piyabutr says.

His comments were seconded by Satit Chanjavanakul, secretary-general for the Board of Investment in Thailand, who said that the aim of the BoI was now shifting toward giving more incentives to companies that are not in the old economy that are labour-intensive.

"We want to promote things that are not labour-intensive," he said. "As we are losing out on the low-skilled labour, our focus is more on the higher value-added industries that are technology- and science-based."

The transformation is already taking place, as seen by exports which show that computer and electronic parts comprise the largest bulk of exports from Thailand - a far cry from when garments were the largest in 1993.

Automotive parts and components have risen to become the second-largest export category, up from the 17th position in 1993.

Thai companies, he said, needed to spend a higher proportion of revenues on research and development to be able to remain competitive.

Currently a mere 0.1% of Thai GDP is invested in R&D, against 1.9% in Singapore, 2.6% in the United States and 3.2% in Japan.

To make matters worse, the private sector accounts for only 33% of R&D funding in Thailand, while government pays for the rest. The private-sector proportion is 66% in Malaysia, 62% in Singapore and 78% in Japan.

Bangkok Post
Sunday January 28, 2007