Saturday, April 21, 2007


Everyday dharma

A new translation of Lord Buddha's teachings and a book of reflections on everyday living offer fresh insights on Buddhist practice


A new translation of Lord Buddha's book of teachings, the Dhammapada, has recently been published, as has a new work by Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hahn.

Through verse, the Dhammapada lays out the basic Buddhist teachings. Originally composed by Lord Buddha some 2,500 years ago, the Dhammapada has undergone many translations into many different languages. This English translation was done by Glenn Wallis, who has a PhD in Sanskrit and Indian studies from Harvard University. Wallis, an associate professor of religion at the University of Georgia, has done a wonderful job here - the translations are easily understandable and the points are well made.

My favourite verse from the Dhammapada says that "hatred does not cease by hatred, but by love alone". Wallis translates this a little differently, saying: "In this world hostilities are never appeased by hostility. But by the absence of hostility are they appeased. This is an interminable truth."

For Buddhism students, Wallis includes with his translation a "Guide to Reading the Text", which is made up of about 100 pages of insights - technical or otherwise - into each of the Dhammapada's 26 chapters. This is a rich resource that would be well worth reading in itself. It explains many difficult terms such as "mind", "heart" and "self" that may baffle beginners. For example, on "mind", Wallis writes: "The word translated as 'mind' in this chapter [Chapter Three] is citta, the sense of personal identity and the 'centre' of lived experience." He goes on to say that, "Citta is the human capacity to attend to things, to think, plan, scheme, be anxious, ponder and long. This is a range of function that includes cognitive and affective, as well as reflective, qualities. For this reason, citta is often translated as 'heart', or even 'heart-mind'."

The Buddha meant very precise things when he gave his dharma; each term has to be understood correctly so that the dharma itself may be understood correctly. In that respect, the author's "Guide to Reading the Text" is invaluable. Highly recommended.

Nhat Hahn needs little introduction: A Vietnamese monk now based in France, he is the founder of Plum Village Buddhist community, the author of numerous books and a well known speaker. Inspired by his efforts to promote peace, Dr Martin Luther King Jr nominated Nhat Hahn for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967.

His most recent work, Present Moment Wonderful Moment: Mindfulness Verses for Daily Living is designed to bring dharma into one's everyday life. The book takes the form of verses, or gathas, about very ordinary aspects of normal life: Waking up, brushing one's teeth, beginning to eat. Each gatha is accompanied by a short explanatory note.

Here's the gatha for "Turning on the Water":

"Water flows from high mountain sources

Water runs deep in the Earth.

Miraculously, water comes to us

and sustains all life."

The commentary makes note of how we often take water for granted even though it is the source of all life. "Water is a good friend, a bodhisattva, that nourishes the many thousands of species on Earth." The monks says that, "To celebrate the gift of water is to cultivate awareness and help sustain our life and the lives of others."

There are 53 of these gathas altogether, written in Nhat Hahn's typical, down-to-earth style.

Both these books are available at Asia Books; to shop online, visit

Nick Wilgus is the author of the murder mysteries 'Mindfulness and Murder' and 'Garden of Hell', which feature Thai Buddhist monk Father Ananda and his novice sidekick, Jak.

Bangkok Post

Last Updated : Saturday April 21, 2007

A family gathering

Local heartthrobs Tawan 'Tle' Jaruchinda and Woranuch 'Noon' Wongsawan keep the children entertained

The Children's Discovery Museum has long been known for the huge crowds of children that gather at the venue for both recreational activities and gaining knowledge at weekends. However, it was particularly busy on April 8, when two television stars, the multi-talented Woranuch "Noon" Wongsawan and Tawan "Tle" Jaruchinda, took over duties as "Friends of Love", representing the "Aeon-rak Pak Jai for His Majesty the King" project, in a special event - The Robot Zoo: Oon-rak Pak Jai for His Majesty the King.

It was a day of love, smiles, laughs and generosity, brightened up by the innocent vivacity of the children and their families, who gathered at the museum to participate in the many activities, including cooking, games and scientific experiments. The afternoon session saw actor and television presenter Kirk Chiller inviting children to take part in the heart-warming "Looking for My Daddy" game, in which the youngsters competed to find their father. The children were also entertained with a mini-concert, The Adventure of Kan Kluay.

Many children also visited a special booth, "Write Heart-Warming Words to HM the King", at which they had the chance to express their loyalty to and love of His Majesty. Not only did families have the opportunity to spend quality time together, but part of their entrance fees were to be donated to the Phra Dabos Foundation, a royal initiative of the King that helps fund the education of children in need.

Bangkok Post

Last Updated : Saturday April 21, 2007

Easter adventure in Wonderland

To celebrate the arrival of the season of colours and blooms, as well as the Christian religious festival of Easter (Easter Sunday was on April 8 this year), CentralWorld hosted a star-studded Easter Festival for local celebrity families to spend quality time together.

The family-oriented event welcomed well-known families from showbiz, including Jetrin and Kejmanee Wattanasin, with their son Jinjet, Pinyos and Pavinee Pibulsonggram, Isareit Chirathivat, Promrak Limsodsai and former Miss Universe, Natalie Glebova.

Held at the Central Court, guests were greeted with a mini dreamland circus, designed around the theme of "Alice in Wonderland", with a merry-go-round, a giant rabbit doll, a mini-studio for children to take part in an Easter egg decoration workshop, and most importantly, the Easter Egg Landmark - the biggest Easter Egg in Thailand, which is over three metres high.

Fashionable working mum Laura Wattanakul took over emcee duties, interviewing guests about their Easter experiences, during which they recalled memorable moments of family warmth, calm religious ceremony in church, seasonal shopping, Easter egg hunting and other joyous community activities. Glebova and a mini-Easter parade took part in the grand finale to the opening of this Easter Festival, which will continue for a month.

Bangkok Post

Last Updated : Saturday April 21, 2007
Final farewell

They had sudden, violent deaths, often in road accidents. Nobody came to claim their bodies. Sometimes their identity was never established. But now the earthly remains of these unfortunate souls are to receive a proper send-off


On the table are silver daggers, ornamental knives and cleavers. A man dressed all in white stands next to the table and explains their purpose. "These are for stripping flesh from the bones of the corpses," he says casually, and demonstrates by slowly drawing a thumbnail down his arm.

We're at the home of the Sawang Boriboon Foundation. Based in Naklua, near Pattaya, it's largely comprised of ethnic-Chinese residents who do charitable work, help the local community, and occasionally dig up the dead.

The group holds a rather macabre Buddhist ceremony every decade or so to exhume the remains of hundreds of people with no surviving relatives. The purpose is to lay the souls to rest, allow volunteers to make merit and also make room for more bodies. But rather than being a solemn affair, the participants chant and clap as they get into the spirit of the ritual.

The day starts at 7am with a vegetarian breakfast. The volunteers, dressed all in white, each wearing a piece of orange cloth for protection against ghosts, then head to Wat Pong, a temple with a cemetery to the rear.

A shrine is erected, decked out in garlands and sacred symbols, and two of the foundation's leaders kneel before it. In time-honoured tradition, two willow branches have been tied together to make a gee, a Y-shaped tool resembling a water-divining rod. The two officiants each hold one side of the gee, wait until it twitches violently and then use it to guide the volunteers to where some bodies have been interred. Also at hand is a tong huang, a bamboo stick which is held aloft in order to direct any wayward spirits towards the temple.

The gee appears to hover over a spot and the digging begins. The soil is sifted and whatever is left in the sieve is handed to dozens of waiting helpers. Bone fragments are laid out on white cloth and cleaned with toothbrushes.

The remains recovered at Wat Pong are an amorphous mass since all the bodies interred here were first cremated. A second cremation is deemed necessary since the corpses were never claimed by relatives and, in some cases, the identity of the deceased was not known.

But at our next stop things are very different.

Inside a Chinese cemetery replete with enormous, glittering tombs is a small, modest, corner for those who died with no family. Jaw bones, thigh bones and teeth are laid out on cloth and teams of volunteers try and piece the human jigsaws together.

I walk over to one section and am told to sit on a small stool. Surgical gloves are placed on my hands and I'm given a knife. A body part - it could be from a child's pelvis, I'm not sure - is handed to me and my task becomes apparent: I have to remove the flesh from the bone.

I do my best but it's a tough job, made more difficult by the smell and the flies. The women around me seem completely unperturbed, though, and just get on with the job.

Nearby a small crowd has gathered. Everyone is looking at a man who is crouching down, holding the corpses of two babies in his arms. Still-born twins, only recently buried, they are laid out on a small wooden board, next to two knives. A woman chants a prayer and calmly goes to work.

The spectators watch the dissection quietly and respectfully. This ceremony is, after all, about ensuring that the dead are given a proper burial. It's about them, not us.

Despite the profusion of bodies and bones the feeling is, paradoxically, one of happiness, and what to a Western mind may seem horrific is here seen as a benevolent act.

Those doing the digging and cleaning are volunteers and the feeling of unity is palpable. People come in their hundreds to help, knowing that they are doing what they can to assist those who died alone.

Once a team has reassembled a skeleton a cheer goes up, and the bones are taken away by helpers, singing and chanting the while. Twenty-baht notes are placed in the oral cavity, talcum powder is sprinkled over the bones, and a lit cigarette wedged between the teeth.

The foundation began operations more than 60 years ago, following the lead of a similar organisation established in the Chon Buri district of Si Racha. At first it was a small-scale affair, involving just a handful of people of Chinese origin who wanted to contribute in some way to the welfare of their community. But as the number of Chinese immigrants grew, so, too, did the group. If a deceased person had no relatives in the area, the Sawang Boriboon Foundation would handle the funeral arrangements.

"Many years ago there was a factory around here which made matches," recalls Prasit Thongtipcharoen, the foundation's coordinator. "The workers had to go out into the forest to collect wood. Many of them fell ill from a disease they'd caught in the forest and died.

"The factory didn't know what to do with the bodies since these people had no family here, so they contacted the foundation for help in conducting funerals."

Since then the foundation has gradually expanded its role as a charity undertaker. Today it dispatches volunteers to the sites of fatal road accidents and often looks after funeral arrangements for victims. Mass exhumations are rare, though; this is the first the foundation has undertaken in 13 years.

The dig goes on for three weeks and at the end of each day the cleaned bones are placed in baskets and taken to the temple. Male and female remains must be separated, and to do this two special sticks are used. They are thrown into the air and the way they fall determines whether the bones are those of a man or a woman.

The remains - those of around 800 people in this case - are later put on display in a special room at the foundation's headquarters for a few days preceding a mass cremation ceremony. An auspicious day for this has been chosen in advance by the foundation's spiritual leader. Monks pray and chant over the remains every night in the lead up to the cremation.

The event begins with the issuing of an invitation to the spirits to attend the ceremony. Of particular importance is a spirit called Saeng Seuh and its eight accompanying angels.

On the day of the cremation the bones will be placed inside two three-metre-tall furnaces, each cylindrical and decorated with ornate Chinese murals. The skulls will be arranged on top in a pyramid formation.

While undoubtedly fascinating, the whole process may, to Western minds anyway, seem gruesome and extreme, but it is carried out entirely for altruistic reasons, to ensure that these unfortunate people receive a proper send-off from this life.

The exhumations in Naklua are scheduled to wind up today and the cremation service will take place on April 29. Visitors should dress all in white.

Bangkok Post

Last Updated : Saturday April 21, 2007

Thailand defeat South Korea 2-1


Thailand defeated South Korea 2-1 to reach the final of the Fed Cup Asia/Oceania Zone Group 1 in Christchurch, New Zealand, yesterday. In today's final Thailand will take on Taiwan.

Thailand had finished with the same number of points as Uzbekistan but went though having won more sets.

In yesterday's action Thailand won both singles matches so the doubles was a dead rubber.

Montinee Tangphong, ranked 346 in the world, was first up for Thailand and put on an impressive display defeating Cho Eun-Hye 6-2, 6-3.

Tamarine Tanasugarn, ranked 68, continued her good form with a 6-3, 6-4 defeat over Yoo Mi.

In the meaningless doubles match Lee Jin A and Yoo beat Tamarine and Napaporn Tongsalee 6-4, 6-2.

Team captain Vittaya Samrej said he was delighted with the team's performance in the competition.

''It is beyond our expectations,'' he said. ''Taiwan are a very tough team but we will do our best.''

The winner will advance to World Group II play-offs in July.

Meanwhile, Thailand's world number 86, Danai Udomchoke is heading for Morocco for his first clay court match of the season.

''I don't expect very much as clay is not my favourite surface but I will do my best,'' he said.

Bangkok Post

Last Updated : Saturday April 21, 2007
Two Thais make the halfway cut

Only two of Thailand's eight players made the cut on the second day of the BMW China Open yesterday. Leading the way for Thailand and for Asia was Prayad Marksaeng who hit an excellent three-under 69 for joint 11th place.

The only other Thai to make the cut was Thaworn Wiratchant whose 73 saw him finish at one over with the cut set at two-over.

Chinarat Phadungsil just missed the cut by one stroke after shooting a 73. Thongchai Jaidee had a better day yesterday with an even-par round of 72 but he still missed out by two strokes.

Bangkok Post

Last Updated : Saturday April 21, 2007

Jacquelin opens up comfortable advantage

Korea's Lee placed three shots behind


Shanghai _ Frenchman Raphael Jacquelin surged into a comfortable three-shot lead at the halfway stage of the BMW Asian Open yesterday with Korea's Lee Sung leading the chasing pack. The overnight leader added a three-under-par 69 to his opening round's 66 for a two-day total of nine-under-par 135 at Tomson Shanghai Pudong Golf Club while Lee, who was born deaf, continued to impress with a 70 for lone second place.

Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez, the winner in 2004, renewed his love-affair with the BMW Asian Open when he charged into contention with a bogey-free 69 to lie five off the lead alongside Scotland's Colin Montgomerie, Australian Scott Hend, Sweden's Joakim Backstrom and Soren Kjeldsen of Denmark.

South Africa's world number five Ernie Els, the tournament's drawcard, carded a second straight 71 for a two-day score of 142. The Big Easy knows he has plenty of catching up to do in his attempt to wrest the BMW Asian Open title which he won by a record 13 strokes two years ago.

The story so far is Jacquelin and the Frenchman hopes Lady Luck will remain by his side as he searches for a second career title. He has enjoyed a good break with his tee times by having the better half of the weather in Shanghai. ''We were lucky this afternoon and the wind died on the back nine. You need some luck sometimes and we were lucky with this side of the draw,'' said Jacquelin.

He took full advantage of calmer conditions, shooting five birdies against two bogeys, and hopes to keep his foot firmly on the pedal after slipping up last weekend at Shanghai Silport when he also led into the weekend by two before finishing tied sixth.

''I am going to play exactly the same. I think the course is a little more fair this week and if you miss the fairway you still have a shot to the green and that will make a big difference for the weekend.

Lee, who quit playing baseball during his teens as he couldn't communicate with team-mates, has emerged as the darkhorse in the BMW Asian Open. He brilliant saved pars in three of his opening four holes before moving close to the lead with three birdies against a lone dropped shot.

''I got up and down four few times which kept me going,'' said Lee, who communicates by lip-reading with his father, Kang-kun. ''I putted well, had 10 one-putts and 26 in total. I'm swinging it good but I felt average today because of the weather change, yesterday was cold, today was hot.

Jimenez, a 13-time winner in Europe, is feeling right at home at the par-72, 7,326 yard Tomson course, with fond memories of his win in 2004 driving him on. He has also hooked up with the club caddie who was on his bag three years ago. The man nicknamed ''The Mechanic'' because of his penchant for fast cars roared into contention with birdies on the 13th, 14th and ninth holes after starting his day from the back nine.

''I feel very comfortable in this position. Five under par after two rounds when it's quite breezy on the golf course is very good. I played very well today, very solid from tee to green and that's the base of my game these last two days,'' said Jimenez.

Els was poised for a weekend charge despite another frustrating day on the greens. ''Just not making any putts out there,'' lamented the three-time Major champion. ''Anyway I am playing okay, just not scoring. A little frustrating.''

China's Liang Wen-chong and Zhang Lian-wei, who chipped in for birdie on his last hole, qualified for the weekend rounds right on the cut mark of 146 but 17-year-old amateur Hu Mu, touted as the next great hope for China, agonisingly missed out by one shot after a frustrating inward 39 for a 73.

American John Daly, one of the marquee names this week, also crashed out of the tournament after adding a 76 to his opening 79.


135 - Raphael Jacquelin (FRA) 66-69

138 - Lee Sung (KOR) 68-70

139 - Soren Kjeldsen (DEN) 67-72, Miguel Angel Jimenez (ESP) 70-69, Joakim Backstrom (SWE) 70-69, Scott Hend (AUS) 69-70, Colin Montgomerie (SCO) 69-70

140 - Simon Dyson (ENG) 70-70, Peter Hanson (SWE) 69-71, Markus Brier (AUT) 71-69

141 - Soren Hansen (DEN) 71-70, Scott Barr (AUS) 71-70, Kyron Sullivan (WAL) 75-66, Gavin Flint (AUS) 68-73, Prayad Marksaeng (THA) 72-69, Marcel Siem (GER) 72-69, Christian Cevaer (FRA) 71-70

142 - Keith Horne (RSA) 73-69, Ernie Els (RSA) 71-71, David Griffiths (ENG) 73-69, Simon Wakefield (ENG) 72-70, Andrew Mclardy (RSA) 72-70

143 - Tony Carolan (AUS) 69-74, Matthew Millar (AUS) 73-70, Paul Casey (ENG) 72-71, Damien Mcgrane (IRL) 70-73, Jarmo Sandelin (SWE) 73-70, Mark Pilkington (WAL) 71-72, Graeme Mcdowell (NIR) 73-70, Simon Yates (SCO) 74-69, Gregory Havret (FRA) 68-75, Garry Houston (WAL) 71-72, Adam Le Vesconte (AUS) 72-71.

Bangkok Post

Last Updated : Saturday April 21, 2007

Crucial games this weekend

Southerners will take on BC/Elite today in a game that they need to win to ensure their spot in the semi-final of the Premier Division which will be most likely against Indian Cricket Club. Indian Cricket club need a huge effort in their match against Siam Parrots tomorrow in order to overhaul BCC from the top of the table and if that can be achieved, it will earn them a place directly into the Grand Final in a few weeks' time.

It is a big task at hand as they need to make up over 20 points which is not impossible but against a determined Parrots side, it could be out of their reach.

There are no A Division games this weekend though last weekend saw AIT CC defeat Aditya Birla CC which has given a huge boost to the students' goal to reach their second final in successive years.

The B Division gets back underway next weekend with Southerners Black leading the way at the top of the table closely followed by Fortune CC and Chicha CC.

Over the past few weeks, there have been several Sixes tournaments around Thailand in which local Bangkok Cricket League teams have competed in, all with some degree of success.

RBSC team competed in the RBSC Sixes during the first weekend of April. The Southerners travelled to Chiang Mai to compete in the 20th Chiang Mai International Sixes where they reached the Bowl final only to be beaten by a Chiang Mai team consisting of some of the Siam Parrots players. The Thai Colts made it to Cup final of the Hua Hin Sixes while the Siam Parrots had players playing for the Parrot Masters in the Masters competition.

This weekend sees the Phuket International Sixes being played in Phuket and the Bangkok Cricket League would like to wish all the best to all participants, especially the teams competing from the local league there, Phuket Cricket Union.

For more information about the Bangkok Cricket League, please go to the website at

Bangkok Post

Last Updated : Saturday April 21, 2007

Postels upset in openers

The second day of the Montpelier Phuket International Cricket Sixes 2007, being played at Karon Stadium, saw a few surprises as round one was completed and teams were allocated to Cup, Plate, Bowl and Spoon Dvisions. Defending champions Perth Postels could not get their game together and with two losses from two games and a low run rate they placed 19th from 19 teams in the tournament and have been consigned to the Spoon Division, along with the Wild Men from Borneo, the fancied Applecross Postels, and Green Man Gunnas.

Topping the standings after Round One are Lamma CC from Hong Kong, regulars at the Phuket Sixes. Two wins from two in the first round plus a solid performance versus Pokari CC of Bahrain in the top Division sees Lamma as strong title contenders this year.

The Bounty Buccaneers may be kicking themeslves for possibly overperforming in round one and finding themselves allocated to the Bowl Division. But in their first match in the Bowl they did manage to defeat a spirited Karon Seasanders side, despite a 34 not out from Mark 'Scarfy' Whetton of the Seasanders in a close encounter which the Buccaneers won with a single off the last ball.

Play continues today from 9am with the Wild Men from Borneo featuring their infamous 'shot box' versus Green Man Gunnas the first scheduled match.

There will be a local children's exhibition match at 5.45pm followed by a charity fundraising Twenty20 cricket match under floodlights featuring the best players from the tournament. Sides will be captained by ex Australian Test cricketer Trevor Chappell and South African pro Kenny Jackson.

Entrance for spectators is free and refreshments are available.

The finals will take place tomorrow.

For further information go to website or contact Mark Burns media.

Bangkok Post

Last Updated : Saturday April 21, 2007
KICK Backs

Now that was supremely awful


It seems hard to imagine that only a couple of years ago England's cricket team rode in triumph through London's streets aboard an open top bus cheered by multitudes of fans after their Ashes victory over Australia. Were they to board such a vehicle when they return to England next week the only thing they are likely to be greeted with at Trafalgar Square is rotten tomatoes. That victory parade had already dimmed in the memories after England were thrashed by Australia in the subsequent Ashes series and now after the World Cup those halcyon days of 2005 seem little more than a fairy tale.

Admittedly, few thought England would do very well in the World Cup, but none would have predicted such an abject display as they have witnessed during the past month. The headlines said it all: ''Sunken Duncan,'' ''Shambles'' and ''Fletcher's Flops''. Perhaps the best summing up came from the Daily Mail which commented: ''The end of England's World Cup campaign finally came last night, it was not so much an elimination as a mercy killing.''

The Mail continued: ''Nothing in even this country's interminable history as great sporting losers quite prepared us for the degradation of this yellow-bellied, scarlet-faced, white-flag surrender by England's cricketers.''

Despite scraping into the Super Eights there had been nothing super about England's performances. Unless they defeat the West Indies today, the only Test-playing nation England have beaten in this World Cup is Bangladesh, hardly a cricketing giant.

In the crucial match against South Africa this week England were supremely awful. Most fans would have accepted defeat if they had gone down with guns blazing, or at least given their opponents a decent game. But the manner of their defeat was little short of embarrassing.

After two overs England were 0-0. After five overs it was 5-0. This would have been regarded as slow even for a five-day Test much, but we were in a 50-over game for heaven's sake! It took captain Michael Vaughan 20 balls to get his first run. After 9 overs England had crawled their way to to 18-1. At the same stage South Africa had 80 on the board.

To give South Africa fair due, they bowled cleverly and at no stage did England ever look like they might get a competitive score. The inevitable and almost comical mid-innings batting collapse just hastened things a little. England have actually perfected the batting collapse to an art form.

At the end of the abysmal England innings, one frustrated Guardian reader wrote: ''I think the England team should all be put in pedalos and told to make their own way home. At least that way if any of them made it we'd have something heroic to celebrate.''

The four best teams have reached the semi-finals although it is still not certain who will play who. One noticeable characteristic of all these teams is that they have aggressive opening batsmen, something England were desperately lacking. It was unfortunate that Marcus Trescothick was not available because he had been one of the few England batsmen who gets after the bowling, something that can hardly be said of Vaughan.

With Freddie Flintoff floundering with the bat it might have been worth the gamble of putting him as an opener and told to go for it, a bit like Ian Botham was used 20 years earlier. A few fours from Freddie at the start of the innings would have been less painful than seeing him scratching around in the middle order for just a couple of runs.

There were not too many bright spots in England's performances. Kevin Pietersen did about as much as he could but they can't expect him to rescue the innings every match. Ravi Bopara showed some promise further down the order and Nixon at least displayed some aggression, admittedly more with his mouth than with the bat.

At least England fans are used to failure so there won't be any burning of effigies or people committing hara- kiri. Instead it will be going down the pub and having a good old moan in true English tradition. You can't beat a spectacular batting collapse for a conversation piece.

Bangkok Post

Last Updated : Saturday April 21, 2007
Wenger vows to stay with Gunners despite Dein exit


London / Arsene Wenger has insisted that he remains committed to Arsenal, despite voicing his regret at the departure of David Dein, the ousted former vice-chairman who brought him to north London.

Dein ended his 24-year association with the club on Wednesday in a development widely linked to boardroom divisions over how to respond to takeover overtures from American tycoon Stan Kroenke.

The departure of Dein left Wenger's future in doubt, particularly as the Frenchman is only under contract with the club until the end of next season.

But after an emergency board meeting on Thursday, Wenger indicated that he continued to see his long-term future at the Emirates Stadium, despite his disappointment at seeing his close friend Dein leave.

''It is a sad day for Arsenal Football Club,'' Wenger told the club's website. ''It is a huge disappointment because we worked very closely together. David has contributed highly to the success of the Club in the last 10 years and even before that as well. Red and white are the colours of his heart.''

Crucially however, Wenger stressed that his own position would not change as a result of the latest developments.

''My position is that I am linked with the club very strongly,'' he said. ''The relationship with the rest (of the Board) has always been very good and we try always to have a good understanding.''

Wenger's comments came after Arsenal chairman Peter Hill-Wood assured the manager and the supporters that the club wants him to stay in charge beyond 2008.

''I think it's well known that Arsene and David have got on very well over the past 10 years and I am certain that Arsene will miss him,'' Hill-Wood said.

''However I believe the relationship that Arsene has with the rest of the board is good.

''He is on contract with us until 2008 and we very much hope that he will extend his contract beyond that, but we haven't got into talking details on that yet.''

Dein left over what were termed as ''irreconcilable differences'' involving the way the club was run.

Those differences are understood to be over the direction and ownership of the club, with Dein known to be very much in favour of the involvement of Kroenke.

Dein's departure has sparked speculation that he was ready to sell his 14% stake in the club to Kroenke, who has already acquired 11% of the tightly-controlled Arsenal shares.

If that was to happen, Kroenke, the owner of Major League Soccer's Colorado Rapids, basketball team Denver Nuggets and ice hockey side Colorado Avalanche, would become the biggest shareholder in the Gunners, currently valued at 420m (US$846m).

But he would remain short of the 30% required to trigger an automatic takeover bid under UK corporate law and the remaining board members, who together account for just over 45% of the shares, have agreed to hang on to their stakes for at least the next year.

Analysts suggested that the stance of the board, led by chairman Peter Hill-Wood, made a takeover unlikely in the short term. But there is certainly scope for a destabilising power struggle.

Bangkok Post

Last Updated : Saturday April 21, 2007

Lampard relishing Man Utd rivalry

Competition good for English game star


London / Chelsea might be struggling to hang on to Manchester United's coat-tails in the final stages of the season, but Frank Lampard insists he is relishing the closest Premiership title battle in years.

Even if it ultimately means he misses out on a third consecutive championship medal, the Blues' England midfielder believes the competition offered by a revitalised United is a good thing for the English game.

United will entertain Middlesbrough today looking to extend their lead over their London rivals to six points ahead of Chelsea's trip to Newcastle tomorrow.

With only five matches left for each of the top two, a single slip-up by either side could prove decisive and Lampard is happy to be at the heart of the nerve-shredding battle.

''We've won the league pretty comfortably for the last two years and this year Manchester United have upped it so it's been a bit different,'' the 28-year-old reflected.

''It's been a much closer race and I think it's probably not a bad thing for English football because everyone likes to see a good battle to the end.''

Newcastle are expecting to welcome back Turkey midfielder Emre after an 11-week injury-enforced absence but star striker Michael Owen looks likely to wait until the following week before finally making his comeback from the serious knee injury he suffered during the World Cup.

United meanwhile are hoping to welcome Rio Ferdinand back for Boro's visit to Old Trafford, easing the defensive injury crisis that manager Sir Alex Ferguson has had to deal with in recent weeks.

Ferdinand's injury has contributed to Wes Brown enjoying a prolonged run in the team and the back-up defender believes United will prove their squad has sufficient depth of quality to hold off Chelsea.

''We have five games to go and we are looking to win every one of them because if we do, we know we have won the league,'' said Brown.

''Middlesbrough will be a tough game because they will get stuck into us, but we are at home and if we play as well as we can do, we can win the game.''

Liverpool can guarantee a top four finish and a place in the final qualifying round for next season's Champions League by beating Wigan at Anfield today.

But, as captain Steven Gerrard acknowledged, the Reds' thoughts are likely to be dominated by next week's Champions League semi-final first leg against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

''I believe there is still more to come from us this season and we have kept enough in the tanks to bring success, and a trophy, back to Anfield in May,'' the England midfielder said.

''Now everyone is playing for places next week down at Chelsea, and that is always a nice situation for the manager to find himself in. We've just about got a full squad to chose from and everybody wants to be involved in the big games.''

Arsenal are also virtually certain of Champions League football next season and Gunners fans will be keen for them to deal a blow to Tottenham's European ambitions in the north London derby at White Hart Lane.

Arsene Wenger's side are seeking to complete a hat-trick of wins over their closest neighbours this season _ an outcome which would bring a welcome respite from the boardroom squabbles currently dominating life at the Emirates.

At the bottom, Watford could be relegated if they lose at home to Manchester City, West Ham must beat Everton to have any realistic prospect of survival and Charlton and Sheffield United meet at The Valley in a match that looks like a duel between the most likely survivors in the bottom four.

Fixtures (1400 GMT unless stated)

Saturday: Bolton v Reading, Charlton v Sheffield Utd, Fulham v Blackburn, Liverpool v Wigan, Manchester Utd v Middlesbrough (1615 GMT), Tottenham v Arsenal (1145 GMT), Watford v Manchester City, West Ham v Everton

Sunday: Aston Villa v Portsmouth (1500 GMT), Newcastle v Chelsea (1230 GMT).

Bangkok Post

Last Updated : Saturday April 21, 2007

Globalisation at the pumps

Phan Thu Houng pulls up to a petrol station, her two children sipping Fantas in the back seat of a new BMW X3. Stepping out of the car, she's wearing a scandalously low-cut blouse and streaked blonde hair, a Nokia mobile phone in one hand and what appears to be an authentic Gucci bag in the other.

This is not Graham Greene's Vietnam.

Since authorities began liberalising the economy a decade ago, change has been rapid, the impact of which has been felt sharply in the past three weeks.

The most recent major event has been a controversial decision to remove fuel subsidies, so motorists for the first time will feel the full extent of the global energy pinch, with dramatic swings in crude and refined oil product prices.

"If the price of petrol goes up 1,000 dong [a litre], I won't mind it so much, but my family is very fortunate," says Mrs Houng, a perfect example of the stark dichotomy in Vietnam between the haves and have-nots.

"But, I know 1,000 dong (about 2.25 baht) is a lot to some people," especially in a country where the average daily wage is 15,000 dong.

The decision to remove government-controlled pump prices has been met with widespread trepidation, despite the fact that the 25 retailers currently operating are state- or majority state-owned.

The main consternation is possible collusion among the 25, which could potentially set prices artificially high. Public concern has peaked, forcing the Ministry of Trade to schedule an online Q&A session yesterday to explain the new policy and try to alleviate any fears.

"Many people are worried about this new step by the government, but I don't think there is much risk in it, because we've seen many similar kinds of changes in the last few years," said Do Gia Phan, vice-president of the Vietnam Standard and Consumers Association (Vinastas).

Even so, Vinastas, a consumer advocacy group, views the removal of fuel subsidies as necessary.

"The government is giving more power to the companies to set prices which is a positive step forward in decentralising the [economic] system," said Mr Phan.

He noted that when the government loosened controls on the telecommunications sector, there was a lot of talk about telephone bills rising, but in the end the decision helped drive prices lower as companies competed for subscribers.

The problem is that petrol prices are heavily dependent on unstable geopolitical conditions and have such a broad-reaching impact that many households and companies are cutting expenditures, waiting to see if the costs of other commodities from produce to steel increase.

On the other hand, the main advantage is that without having to support fuel subsidies, it frees up millions of US dollars a year in the fiscal budget.

According to Nguyen Tien Thon, head of the Ministry of Finance's price regulation department, the subsidies represented about 5% of the state budget annually - money could easily go to building new refineries and power plants, the latter of which are in dire need in a country facing shortages and blackouts.

Last year's fuel subsidy bill was 8-9 trillion dong (about $500 million). State-owned Petrolimex, which holds 60% of the local retail and fuel import market, says it loses more than $2 million a day from keeping pump prices artificially low.

The government is has also lowered the petroleum product import tax from 10% to 5%, which in the short term should curb any increase in gasoline prices.

Though Vietnam is a net exporter of energy commodities, it does not have the refining capacity to turn oil into engine fuel. The government last week reported that the Phuong Dong offshore oilfield, which is being explored by a consortium of local and foreign companies including ConocoPhillips and PetroVietnam, holds as many as 37 million barrels of crude.

Bangkok Post

Last Updated : Saturday April 21, 2007

China hungry for financial talent


April 2 was a landmark day for global banks in China, as more than 100 outlets of HSBC, Standard Chartered Bank and the Bank of East Asia started operations in the country, a move that will also increase pressure on all banks as they scramble to find talent.

The three banks are among the first batch of foreign banks wining approval from the Beijing government to become locally incorporated. They are eager to tap into the booming Chinese market that is estimated at around 30 trillion yuan in household savings, with surging demand for mortgages, credit cards and other services.

Thai banks that are present in China include Kasikornbank Plc and Bangkok Bank Plc, along with Business Development Bank (established in Shantou, Guangdong province in 1992) and owned by the Charoen Pokphand Group.

Under the approval granted by the government, these banks now can offer local currency deposit and loan services to individual Chinese customers, the same as China's local commercial banks. It is a major shift away from the past when foreign banks were restricted to offering foreign-currency services to individuals while capable of providing both local and foreign-currency services to enterprises.

Beijing has been moving swiftly. On March 20, the four banks received approval from the China Banking Regulatory Commission. Nine days later, they were handed their business licences by local governments in 20 provinces and cities.

"Today we opened a new chapter in the bank's 142-year history in China," said Vincent Cheng, the chairman of HSBC Bank (China) at a ceremony marking the local incorporation in Shanghai.

Eight other foreign banks are in the process of incorporating local entities: Hang Seng Bank, Mizuho Corporate Bank, Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, DBS Bank, ABN Amro Holding NV, Wing Hang Bank, Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp, and JPMorgan Chase & Co. Three more banks have applied to do the same: Singapore-based United Overseas Bank Ltd, Citic Ka Wah Bank Ltd, and Bank of China (Hong Kong) Ltd's wholly owned unit Nanyang Commercial Bank Ltd.

However, with more foreign banks getting licences for local entities, a big problem has surfaced - a talent shortage. HSBC has said it would need to hire about 1,000 new employees a year for the next three years. Its total headcount in China is expected to reach 4,000 at the end of this year.

Citigroup has similar plans. President Charles Prince has set a year-end target of 30 branches, up from 16 currently. Standard Chartered aims to have 40 branches in the near future and Bank of East Asia plans to establish more than 100 outlets this year.

The rising clout of China is underscored in a recent survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers. It indicated that the 35 foreign banks currently operating in China have 6,654 employees, a figure set to grow by 154% by 2008.But a report by Deloitte Research pointed to the fact that the biggest barrier to growth of the foreign banks would be the talent shortage. This shortage is likely to offer opportunities for local professionals eager to make more money working for an international bank, due to their perception that they offer higher salaries.

"The salary a foreign bank promises can reach one million Chinese yuan (4.5 million baht per year), several times higher than before, if you are a middle or higher level of a Chinese bank, with enough working experience," said a headhunter who is helping foreign banks look for senior managers.

Wang, who declined to have her last name quoted and who works for a local bank, jumped to the China headquarters of Citic Ka Wah Bank in Shanghai two months ago. "Talents with both working experience and overseas experience are very hot," she said.

The talent competition has also expanded to universities. In each graduating season, leaders of foreign banks can often be seen on campuses, preaching to future bank managers the virtues of their cultures and strategies.

"I prefer foreign banks, because they have sound training systems," said a student majoring in international finance at Fudan University.

With the high demand also comes a high attrition rate, and this has pushed up salaries in China, which has been trying to cap the income gap.

Bangkok Post

Last Updated : Saturday April 21, 2007

Foreign banks busy on two fronts


In the past week, Vietnam's banking sector began its first steps in liberalising under World Trade Organisation commitments that were signed and ratified at the end of last year, and already foreign financial institutes are knocking at the door.

The legal reform has been, like many other issues relating to the country's transformation from a command to market economy, met with a mixture of optimism and concern.

Under WTO commitments, foreign banks as of April 1 were allowed to fully incorporate locally, and will in theory receive the same treatment as domestic banks. Foreign banks currently offer limited service through branch or representative offices.

The new fully foreign-owned, local financial institutes are allowed to provide nearly all the same services as domestic banks with market regulations easing over the next four years. There are also certain financial requirements.

Foreign bankers must have a minimum of US$10 billion in assets to be eligible to set up a Vietnam subsidiary, and in order to set up additional branch, the parent company must have at least $20 billion in assets and inject at least $15 million into each branch.

Already, HSBC and Standard Chartered Bank have voiced interest in the past month of setting up fully owned local subsidiaries under their own names, despite having substantial stakes in other Vietnamese financial firms.

HSBC is tied up with Vietnam Technological and Commercial Joint Stock Bank (Techombank), holding a 10% stake, while SCB is in bed with Asia Commercial Bank with an 8.56% stake.

In a March 30 press briefing, Standard Chartered chairman Melvyn Davies was quoted by local media as saying the bank would incorporate "as soon as the paperwork is ready".

Analysts argue banking sector liberalisation is generally a good thing - increasing competition forces local and foreign players to offer better and broader services to attract customers.

"The new rules certainly open up a lot of opportunities for banks that want to set up a local company especially considering the growth opportunities," said a Calyon Vietnam spokeswoman.

To highlight the "growth opportunities", only 6% of the local population has a bank account versus 14% who own a mobile phone, according to a November 2006 HSBC report.

Admittedly, in a developing economy such as Vietnam, a large portion of the population has no need for a bank account or large loans given the low level of disposable income.

Though as Ayumi Konishi, country director for the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in Vietnam, points out, economic growth requires substantial support from the financial sector and will likely result in greater demand for consumer banking.

In the ADB's Asian Development Outlook 2007 released on March 27, Vietnam's economic growth was estimated at 8.3% this year, and 8.5% next year.

"Commitments given to liberalise the financial sector should speed up bank restructuring," ADB economists wrote in the report.

"Anticipated reforms to state banks, partnerships between foreign and domestic banks, and the boost to equity capital for joint-stock commercial banks likely will mean a strengthened banking system, a broader range of products for customers, and better access to finance, particularly for small and medium enterprises."

The problem, as in any economy, is credit risk - can banks get enough information to accurately assess credit ratings for consumer and SME loans?

Even with large state enterprises there are concerns over transparency, accounting practices and auditing that makes the decision to offer funding difficult.

"Disclosure of financial information remains a challenge," HSBC wrote in its report.

"Further, we found annual reports to contain limited explanation of accounts and the timeliness of release inconsistent with other markets in Asia," though senior government officials are pushing state-owned enterprises and companies listed on the stock market to improve transparency and accounting practices.

The inability to properly assess credit ratings, as a result, puts banks at risk of accumulating non-performing loans.

Second, but by no means a less bothersome concern, is whether market liberalisation under the WTO agreement will continue from now until 2011.

"Domestic risks to the [GDP growth] projections include a possible backtracking in the government's commitment to implementing reforms," said the ADB.

It seems unfathomable that Hanoi would change course, especially with growth so strong over the past few years and household incomes rising, but it is conceivable the government wanting to stray slightly from WTO commitments, especially if local banks come under too much pressure from foreign institutions.

Bangkok Post

Last Updated : Saturday April 21, 2007

From middleman to market leader

The managers have transformed Li & Fung from a trading company to a supply-chain co-ordinator

Li & Fung is an export trading company based in Hong Kong, famous for its innovative development and use of supply-chain management (SCM). The family-run company's 8,000 employees work with more than 7,500 suppliers in more than 40 countries, to provide the following services to a customer base that includes major American and European retailers and brands :

- Designing and developing prototypes of products based on concept designs from customers;

- Sourcing raw materials and factories. Li & Fung optimises the quality of raw materials and production by contracting multiple suppliers and manufacturers across many countries;

- Monitoring production quality and schedules by interacting closely with supply-chain partners; and

- Arranging logistics and customs clearance in order to deliver finished products to retail customers shop shelves.

Li & Fung was founded in 1906 in Guangzhou (then Canton) as a traditional Chinese trading company: a broker between western (especially American) buyers and Chinese sellers. The company's margins dwindled to a paltry 3% over the years as buyers and sellers grew more comfortable dealing with each other directly, thus squeezing brokers such as Li & Fung. To ensure the company's survival, managers belonging to the third generation of the Fung family have transformed the company into a supply-chain co-ordinator.

Li & Fung does not own any sources of raw materials, factories or logistics facilities. Instead, the company has built long-standing relationships with thousands of supply and manufacturing companies worldwide. Using a complex set of information systems, Li & Fung maintains a detailed, up-to-date view of suppliers' strengths and performance history. This helps it find optimal sources of raw materials and output to meet customers' needs.

The company achieves such optimisation by dissecting the value chain, and dispersing constituent activities among suppliers and manufacturers in different locations. That is, rather than settle for a single location or supplier that can do the best job when compared with all others, Li & Fung collaborates with several suppliers and manufacturers, co-ordinating a series of value-added activities tailored to each client's specific requirements.

In the view of the company's non-executive chairman Victor Fung: "[A typical customer order may be] from a European retailer to produce 10,000 garments. It's not a simple matter of [Li & Fung's] Korean office sourcing Korean products or our Indonesian office sourcing Indonesian products.

"For this customer ... we might buy yarn from a Korean producer ... and ship it to Taiwan [for dyeing]. The Japanese have the best zippers and buttons ... we order the right zippers from their Chinese plants. Then we determine that, because of quotas and labour conditions, the best place to make the garments is Thailand. So we ship everything there.

"And because the customer needs quick delivery, we may divide the order across five factories in Thailand. ... Five weeks after we have received the order, 10,000 garments arrive on the shelves in Europe, all looking like they came from one factory, with colours, for example, perfectly matched ... we are customising the value chain to best meet the customer's needs. (Paraphrased from Fast, global and entrepreneurial: Supply chain management, Hong Kong style. An interview with Victor Fung, by Joan Magretta, published in the Harvard Business Review in September/October 1998.)

By "pulling apart the value chain and optimising each step" at a global level, Li & Fung claims to be able to deliver a sophisticated product and to do so fast. The company's skillful co-ordination of a global network of suppliers and manufacturers enables customers to shorten their buying cycle, allowing them to manage inventory more effectively and to respond to market trends faster.

This benefit has proved especially powerful for Li & Fung's customers in consumer-driven, fast-moving markets such as apparel: Customers can respond much better to time-sensitive customer tastes, releasing six or seven seasons a year instead of the traditional two or three.

To make supply-chain co-ordination work at such a complex level, Li & Fung has built solid relationships and trust with more than 7,500 suppliers and manufacturers across the world. The company provides orders big enough to ensure priority attention from partners, but takes care to encourage partners to work with other customers in order to enhance their capabilities and to not depend on Li & Fung for their own survival.

Drawing on detailed benchmarks along its process network, Li & Fung also provides suppliers and manufacturers with feedback that helps them improve their performance continuously.

Finally, to ensure the ultimate focus on customising the value chain for each customer, Li & Fung has structured itself unusually around small, entrepreneurial divisions that focus on one large customer each (or on a similar group of smaller customers), rather than organise geographically. This has helped Li & Fung ensure that its divisions do not compete against one another for business at the expense of losing sight of the company's core capability of pulling together a tailored, global value network for customers.

Li & Fung's model of dispersed production has been extremely successful: The company announced $7.15 billion in revenues and $242.49 million in operating profits in 2005. Not surprisingly, the model has been adapted across Asia over the years. No longer buoyed by a cost advantage, companies in hubs such as Hong Kong and Singapore now undertake sophisticated planning and co-ordinate production by partners in emerging lower-cost centres in China, India and Southeast Asia.

Despite the growing interest in SCM among companies across the world, Li & Fung continues to lead in terms of the scale of its supply-chain network and customer-focused organisational structure. It has become an indispensable intermediary for customers who wish to benefit from increasingly larger-scale, far-flung and complex supply networks.


- Joan Magretta (1998), 'Fast, global and entrepreneurial: Supply chain management, Hong Kong style.' An interview with Victor Fung. Harvard Business Review, September/October 1998, Volume 76 Issue 5, pp. 102-114.

- John Hagel II (2002), 'Leveraged growth: Expanding sales without sacrificing profits.' Harvard Business Review, October 2002, Vol 80 Issue 10, pp. 68-77.

- Robyn Meredith (9 Jan 2006), 'Commercial Crossroads'. Forbes magazine. Accessed online on Dec 8, 2006 at - asia/global/2006/0109/036A.html

- 2005 financial information from Li & Fung Limited. Accessed online on Dec 8, 2006 at

Bangkok Post

Last Updated : Saturday April 21, 2007

Linking supply chains with the right IT

What companies need is technology tailored to their needs, rather than simply more technology, to optimise their supply-chain systems

Access to information, like supply-chain structure, has an impact on supply-chain performance. Information plays a crucial role in enabling transactions in supply chains. Information is said to be the glue that holds supply chains together.

In fact, the key challenges in supply-chain co-ordination are, on the one hand, delayed and distorted information and, on the other, transaction costs in promoting local optimisation. Thus, IT has the greatest impact on supply-chain co-ordination through the elimination of information delays and distortions, and through the reduction of transaction costs.

The advances in communications and computation technologies over the past few years have made it possible to collect, analyse, transmit and deploy the huge amounts of data necessary to run operations on a global scale. Information and communication technologies facilitating closer collaboration and promoting supply-chain transparency are crucial for effective co-ordination.

The objective of supply-chain co-ordination is to enhance transparency through information sharing (e.g. sharing point-of-sales data with the manufacturer) and information deployment (e.g. vendor-managed inventories, efficient consumer response movement and collaborative planning, forecasting and replenishment initiatives), as well as operational flexibility (e.g., assemble-to-order and make-to-order systems).

However, creating an adequate information infrastructure to link the members of a supply network has always been challenging. In the Asian context in particular, such infrastructure needs to simultaneously achieve the following:

- Accommodate members with varying degrees of IT sophistication:

Creating an adequate information infrastructure to interface the members of a supply chain has always been challenging precisely because such an infrastructure must be able to accommodate members with varying degrees of IT sophistication.

When it comes to managing supply chains, Asian markets, as well as different segments within those markets, have been described as suspended in varying stages of SCM development.

One of the reasons for the massive disruptions to worldwide supply chains in 2000-01 was that many Asian manufacturers did not have in place IT solutions that could match the demands of a dynamic market environment. Their IT systems could not integrate effectively with the more sophisticated SCM processes of their overseas customers. (At the time, a commonly heard comment by IT solution providers and systems integrators working with clients in Asia was: "Our biggest competitor is Microsoft Excel.")

- Provide a wide range of functionality, ranging from simple data transmission to access to remote applications:

- or many decades, information was thought to flow exclusively from the market upstream to all the tiers in a supply chain. Innovative organisations such as UPS and Dell have shown the value of providing the customer with real-time information about the status of their package and orders, respectively.

Greater and faster-changing demands from customers must lead to faster and more comprehensive information exchanges among all the players in the chain. In terms of technology, INSEAD research predicts that this will mean not only better Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems but also, in general, enhanced IT tools to integrate the different parties in the supply chain.

- Allow for a constantly changing pool of suppliers and customers within varying stages of relationships:

- urther integration of activities between suppliers and customers across the entire chain has been identified as one of the biggest trends in supply-chain management. Therefore, the ability to engage in but also to disengage from collaborative relationships will be critical.

Asian high-growth companies customers increasingly require mass customisation, while enjoying access to growing transparency in the global marketplace. As such, their requirements not only tolerate very little inventory in the supply chain, but also require drastic modifications in the supply-chain structure. It will be a great challenge for existing ERP systems to maintain sufficient flexibility while the supply chain keeps changing.

Within the context of IT spending on supply chain design and co-ordination, one of the key attributes that set apart high-growth, entrepreneurial companies in Asia from established enterprises is the former are much more likely to be in the early stages of a buyer-supplier relation.

Since the Y2K wave, traditional enterprises have been investing in sophisticated IT solutions such as ERP, Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), supply chain planning, e-procurement and Customer Relation Management (CRM), and increasingly in planning software tools and more advanced web-based technologies.

- or high-growth companies, the pattern of IT investment in SCM has been different. For instance, SCM tools such as EDI have been widely used in the manufacturing supply chain and require only basic computer skills. Given the dedicated communications infrastructure and proprietary standards, however, EDI necessitates significant up-front investment and considerable expense for maintenance. Such investment is difficult to justify for high-growth firms, whose customers are still in the process of assessing the supplier capability and are therefore unable to make long-term commitments.

Entrepreneurs in Asia should be mindful that more technology doesn't automatically equal higher business performance. Not all companies, especially in the high-growth stage, that invest heavily in IT show better business performance and vice versa: A less-than-ideal fit between IT and strategy in this segment doesn't necessarily lead to poorer performance.

Therefore, adequate technology, rather than simply more technology, is what is required of entrepreneurial companies seeking to optimise their supply-chain systems.

Entrepreneurs can also look to the learning experience of seasoned supply-chain managers from bigger enterprises. Findings of worldwide surveys targeting this group of managers clearly show that increasingly, their mandate in deploying and maintaining IT solutions in managing supply chains is to do more than pre-empt disruptions to the chain and minimise cost.

These managers have also been given strategic business responsibilities, such as reducing product complexity, managing the company's supply base, actively building capabilities in agile manufacturing and production planning, designing distribution networks, undertaking cost analyses, managing change and defining IT systems spanning their own company as well as partner organisations.

Going forward, entrepreneurial companies in Asia will witness, and gradually take part in, the following IT trends shaping the regional and worldwide supply chains:

- Movement toward open, modular, Internet-like system architectures. Systems such as ERP were originally intended to replace a multitude of local legacy systems; a great deal of emphasis was therefore placed on the integrated architecture. In the new, networked economy, this former strength has rapidly become a weakness. The lack of open architecture is seen as one of the main stumbling blocks that worldwide supply chains need to overcome.

- Web-based technologies. The Web provides a nearly free platform for enhancing transparency, eliminating information delays and distortions and significantly reducing transaction costs. Web-enabled supply chains are poised to help managers extend the decision horizon for planning within the company; they broaden the physical scope beyond the enterprise to customers and suppliers, and bring together design, marketing and CRM.

- E-markets. Whereas most manufacturers spent the past two decades establishing close relationships with their suppliers under such different initiatives as strategic sourcing and supply base rationalisation, e-markets focus solely on cost reduction, in return for a promised reduction in transaction costs.

Bangkok Post

Last Updated : Saturday April 21, 2007

AYUD stake bought

The German financial services group Allianz has acquired another 15.3 million shares or 6.12% of SET-listed Ayudhya Insurance (AYUD) for an undisclosed amount from Myriad Materials Co, raising its stake in the local insurer to 16.84%. Adisorn Tantianankul, the president of Ayudhya Insurance, said the purchase was purely for investment purposes and no policy or management changes would result.

Allianz entered Thailand six years ago by acquiring a stake in Ayudhya CMG Life, the country's third largest life insurer. The name was later changed to Ayudhya Allianz C.P. Life (AACP).

The German firm has also co-ventured with the CP Group in Allianz C.P. General Insurance Co, which generated last year premiums of 1.1 billion baht, a rise from 977.57 million in 2005.

Allianz last year purchased 10% of Ayudhya Insurance, the country's 14th-ranked non-life insurer. Ayudhya Insurance reported premiums last year of 1.61 billion baht, up 139 million baht from a year earlier, with net profit worth of 360.48 million baht, up from 214.78 million in 2005.

The company expects premiums to grow only 5% this year given the unfavourable economic and political prospects.

Bangkok Post

Last Updated : Saturday April 21, 2007

TMB needs time to persuade shareholders

TMB Bank, the country's fifth-largest lender, will take longer than expected to complete a 35-billion-baht share sale because it needs more time to convince its biggest shareholders to invest. The bank would not be able to complete the sales to existing investors by June as targeted, chairman Somchainuk Engtrakul said yesterday.

Executives were drafting a business plan for the Finance Ministry and Singapore's DBS Group Holdings Ltd, TMB Bank's two biggest shareholders, to consider before they invest, he said.

TMB Bank, in which the Royal Thai Army is also a major shareholder, is seeking new funds after mounting bad loans led to its biggest loss in three years in 2006. Like other banks, it has set aside higher provisions to meet the central bank's stricter reserve requirement for bad loans.

The Finance Ministry has pledged to buy into the sale, though at a smaller proportion than its current stake, said Mr Somchainuk, a former permanent secretary at the ministry.

The Finance Ministry has a 23% stake in the bank and DBS owns 18%.

TMB Bank was being forced to sell new shares because last year's loss made it difficult to raise money from loans or bond sales, Deputy Finance Minister Sommai Phasee said in January.

''We are waiting to review TMB Bank's business plan before we can comment on the capital-raising exercise,'' DBS spokesman Ronald Chong said by telephone from Singapore.

TMB said yesterday that its first-quarter net profit dropped 93% year-on-year to 159 million baht because of an increase in bad loans. The bank lost 12.3 billion baht in 2006, compared with a profit of 7.8 billion baht a year earlier.

Shares of TMB closed yesterday on the Stock Exchange of Thailand at 1.78 baht, up one satang, in trade worth 121.95 million baht. BLOOMBERG NEWS.

Bangkok Post

Last Updated : Saturday April 21, 2007

Oil income to rise B10bn from 2006


The Energy Ministry expects to collect 91.55 billion baht in revenue from petroleum exploration and production this year, a 10-billion-baht increase from last year.

Krairit Nilkuha, the director-general of the ministry's Department of Mineral Fuels, said total targeted revenue would consist of 35 billion baht in royalties, 47 billion in petroleum income taxes, 4.9 billion in special benefits and 4.65 billion baht from the Malaysia-Thailand Joint Development Area (MTJDA).

He attributed the growth to the additional production of 390 million cubic feet per day (mcfd) of natural gas from Block A-18, or the Cakerawala field of the MTJDA, and the additional 100 mcfd from gas fields operated by Chevron Thailand Exploration and Production Ltd.

In addition, the Jasmine field in the Gulf of Thailand, operated by Pearl Oil (Thailand) Co Ltd, had raised its crude oil output from around 7,500 barrels per day in November last year to between 20,000 and 22,000 bpd at the beginning of the year. After the operator installed the third production platform in mid-2007, production capacity would increase to 30,000 bpd, said Mr Krairit.

As well, Chevron Offshore (Thailand) Ltd has recently found crude with a flow rate of 14,000 barrels per day at the Lanta production area located in Block G4/13 in the Gulf of Thailand, added Mr Krairit.

To date, Thailand's total petroleum output averaged 651,900 barrels of oil equivalent per day, consisting of 2.5 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas, 77,700 bpd of condensate and 143,900 bpd of crude.

The Energy Ministry yesterday signed the final two petroleum concessions of the 19th concession bidding round held last year to award the rights to explore and develop oil and gas in three onshore blocks: L3/48 in Lampang and Lamphun, L9/48 in Lampang, Tak and Sukhothai, and L39/48 in Nakhon Ratchasima and Buri Ram.

JSX Energy (Thailand) Ltd will operate blocks L3/48 and L9/48, while India-based Adani Port Infrastructure Private Ltd has the rights to Block L39/48.

The ministry plans to open the 20th bidding round next month. A total of 65 blocks (56 onshore and nine offshore in the Gulf of Thailand) would be put up for bid, said Mr Krairit.

The ministry has taken steps to amend three major aspects of the Petroleum Act of 1971 to promote exploration and production. The amendment is now under consideration by the Council of State, after which it will go to the cabinet and the National Legislative Assembly for final endorsement and proclamation into law, said Mr Krairit.

Bangkok Post

Last Updated : Saturday April 21, 2007
Buddy in talks with power utilities

AIS-TOT venture growing too slowly


Advanced Datanetwork Communications, the provider of the Buddy Internet protocol television (IPTV) service, is trying to revive stalled partnership talks with state electricity authorities to provide broadband service over power lines. ''The move is expected to turn the company's fortunes around and help us survive in the business,'' said an ADC executive who asked not to be named.

ADC is a joint venture between the cellular operator Advanced Info Service (AIS) and the state telecom enterprise TOT Plc. It has registered capital of 957 million baht, with AIS holding 51% and TOT 49%. Its main business is the Buddy Broadband internet service.

TOT recently announced a plan to take over the AIS stake amid reports of a lack of co-operation between the two partners.

Somprasong Boonyachai, the AIS executive chairman, said TOT had not informed him of any such proposal. He acknowledged that ADC had been growing much more slowly than expected but he declined to elaborate on the group's policy for digital broadband TV.

Mr Somprasong also said that AIS, as the market leader, in theory should set the pace for broadband TV development. However, in practice, he said the lack of infrastructure did not support mainstream consumer adoption at this time.

To stimulate the business, the source said ADC wanted to use the fibre-optic lines of the Metropolitan and Provincial electricity authorities to distribute advanced IPTV services to homes.

''The negotiations, if settled, are expected to revive our business after we have struggled to attract more customers,'' he said.

The executive said IPTV over power lines enables customers to simply plug in a set-top box to bring broadband into the home directly, with no need to install a new telephone line. The technology delivers data rates in excess of 200 Mbps to support multiple simultaneous video streams, voice and data services.

The electricity authorities would record an IPTV home's electricity consumption online and not through a meter.''Broadband power line technology is set to remake the IPTV business in the Thai market and boost the number of clients,'' he said.

The executive said that ADC expected to conclude an agreement with the MEA and PEA in the next few months. A trial of IPTV service would be introduced in selected housing estates by the end of this year.

He said IPTV could create a new chapter for digital home entertainment broadcasting services. However, he acknowledged that constraints on TOT's ''last-mile'' access network to homes, as well as the two different business cultures, had stunted the growth of ADC.

The source also said that TOT had refused to commit to its share of a capital increase of 300 million baht, expressing doubt about the viability of the investment. In addition, the state enterprise stopped allowing ADC to use its cooper wires for free, and now charges the company between 300 and 600 baht per line.

ADC charges customers 400 and 650 baht a month depending on the package they select. ''How we can pay the surcharge [for TOT lines] and survive in the business if TOT sets an unrealistic fee?'' the executive asked.

Since its launch in April 2005, ADC has signed up only 20,000 subscribers for Buddy Broadband, far short of its sales target of 120,000 for this year.

Bangkok Post

Last Updated : Saturday April 21, 2007
IN Brief

BBL, SCB cut rates

BANKING :Bangkok Bank and Siam Commercial Bank yesterday announced interest rate reductions, following a move earlier this week by Krung Thai Bank.

Bangkok Bank cut its key lending rates by a quarter-point, with the minimum lending rate cut to 7.25%, minimum overdraft rate to 7.5% and minimum retail rate to 7.75%. Fixed deposit rates were cut by 0.5 percentage points to 2.75% and 3% depending on the term and amount.

Siam Commercial Bank also cut its key rates by a quarter-point. Effective Monday, the bank will quote an MLR of 7.25%, MOR of 7.5% and MRR of 7.75%. Fixed deposits of three-, six- and 12-month terms for less than three million baht will pay 2.75%, down from 3.25%.

IRPC paying dividend

PETROCHEMICALS :IRPC Plc, formerly Thai Petrochemical Industry Plc, will spend 2.34 billion baht to make its first dividend payment in seven years, at 12 satang per share.

The company's shareholders approved the dividend payment for 2006 performance yesterday. The payment amounts to 34% of the company's net profit after tax of 6.82 billion baht in 2006.

Shareholders also approved a plan by the company to set aside 400 million baht as reserved capital.

As well, the company said its planned issue of debentures worth US$400 million for refinancing was expected to be completed before August.

IRPC shares closed yesterday on the SET at 6.05 baht, unchanged, in trade worth 55.6 million baht.

PTT share 'not a threat'

PETROLEUM :The increased market share of PTT Plc in the oil retail market after it acquires 147 Jet service stations should not be considered a threat as long as the company does not take advantage of consumers, according to Energy Minister Piyasvasti Amranand.

The acquisition announced on Thursday would lift the majority state-owned oil company's share rises to 39% from 34% of the refined oil trade of 42 billion litres per year.

The current fuel marketing margin of one baht per litre is higher than it has been in recent months so oil traders have no reason to raise prices, he added.

In addition, competition is heavy because supply from local refineries such as IRPC Plc and Thai Oil Plc exceeds domestic demand.

About 20% of overall refinery capacity is now exported.

20% growth for Visa

CREDIT :Visa International reported 20.6 million cards outstanding in Thailand at the end of 2006, up 20% from the previous year. Credit cards totalled 6.7 million, up 17.3%, with debit cards expanding 21% to 13.9 million.

Spending through Visa cards, including cash withdrawals through ATMs, rose 32% to 1.547 trillion baht. Spending at local and overseas retailers totalled 357 billion baht, up 23%.

Somboon Krobteeranon, country manager for Visa International, said growth well outstripped the 10% average for the card industry, though Visa's figure was down from the 25% gain posted in 2005.

Visa International will soon begin a marketing campaign for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, featuring Jackie Chan in commercials highlighting Visa's status as an official Olympic sponsor.

'W' coming to Samui

HOTELS :Istithmar Hotels and Amburaya Resorts expects to open the W Hotel and Residences on Koh Samui in late 2008.

The 70-villa resort is the first Southeast Asian property for the W Retreat brand owned by Starwood Hotels. It will also include 15 luxury villas for sale.

Istithmar Hotels, owned by the Dubai government, has an investment portfolio worth $3 billion worldwide, including a 24.99% stake in the local developer Raimon Land. Amburaya Properties is a Thai-based developer with properties in Bangkok, Pattaya, Samui and India.

14-day bills yield 3.8%

DEBT MARKET :The Bank of Thailand yesterday auctioned 35 billion baht worth of 14-day bills for a weighted average accepted yield of 3.80082%. Accepted bid yields ranged from 3.785% to 3.81%, with the bid coverage ratio 1.34 times.

Reserves at $70.6bn

FINANCIAL DATA :International reserves totalled $70.6 billion as of April 12, unchanged from the week before, the Bank of Thailand said yesterday.

The net forward position was $9 billion as of April 12, compared with $8.9 billion the week before. Net claims on government totalled 105.9 billion baht, compared with 114.2 billion. Net claims on financial institutions were -1.091 trillion baht, compared with -1.119 trillion. Reserve money was 849.3 billion baht, compared with 829.8 billion the week before.

Bangkok Post

Last Updated : Saturday April 21, 2007

New plant will improve profitability for Post


Post Publishing Plc expects that its new printing facility will boost profits this year despite a weak economy and advertising market. The 1.1-billion-baht facility, located on 20 rai at Bang Na-Trat Km 19, is now undergoing test printing and will be fully operational within the next few months, according to Suthikiati Chirathivat, the company's executive chairman.

''This is the most modern printing facility in Southeast Asia, and will allow us to print eight-page colour [panoramas] to better serve our customers and support higher circulation growth,'' he said at the annual shareholders' meeting yesterday.

The new plant, with a state-of-the-art KBA Prisma double-width press and Agfa computer-to-plate machines, has the capacity to print up to 70,000 32-page colour sections per hour, including eight-page ''panorama'' advertisements, a first for the Thai market, Mr Suthikiati said.

POST publishes the English-language Bangkok Post and the Thai-language Post Today dailies.

According to Supakorn Vejjajiva, deputy chief operating officer, Post Today would soon be able to introduce panorama ads. The Bangkok Post is scheduled to begin offering the service to advertisers by early August.

''Property and motoring will be our priority targets,'' said Mr Supakorn.

He said both daily papers would also be resized down by 1.5 inches in length and width, to offer greater convenience to readers. The resizing will also generate cost savings for the company through more efficient paper usage. The company expects to save 30 million baht in newsprint costs this year.

Although consumer product manufacturers have shifted to more below-the-line marketing, those activities still rely on conventional advertisements to send information to consumers, executives said.

As a result, Mr Suthikiati was optimistic that Post Publishing's ad revenues would be better than those of the overall industry.

According to Nielsen Media Research, ad spending on newspapers dropped 10.2% in the first quarter of the year to 3.58 billion baht, from 3.99 billion in the same period last year. At the same time, overall ad spending from January to March grew only 4.3% to 21.8 billion baht from 20.9 billion a year earlier.

For 2006, ad spending across the newspaper industry fell by around 11%, compared with a 5% decline in ad revenues for Post Publishing.

Mr Suthikiati also said the company had several projects in the pipeline, including an aggressive marketing plan for the group's magazines, which include the popular Thai-language versions of Elle and Cleo. He declined to give details.

Post Publishing reported a 2006 net profit of 111 million baht on revenue of 1.876 billion, down slightly from a profit of 122.8 million on revenue of 1.825 billion the year before. It paid 80 million baht in dividends to shareholders, at 0.16 baht a share, or about 72% of total profits.

''The POST dividend policy is 60% of net profits, and we have typically exceeded that. I am fully confident that we will do so again for 2007,'' Mr Suthikiati said.

The company will pay a final dividend of 50 million baht, or 0.10 baht per share, on May 18 for shareholders registered as of May 4.

Shareholders yesterday also reappointed Johannes Bernardus van der Linden, Chartsiri Sophonpanich, Kuok Khoon Ean, Worachai Bhicharnchitr and Siri Ganjarerndee to the company board.

Post shares closed unchanged yesterday on the SET at 7.20 baht.

Bangkok Post

Last Updated : Saturday April 21, 2007
BAY to increase IT, staff spending


Bank of Ayudhya, with its new partner GE, hopes to become Thailand's ''most admired universal bank'' and generate a 20% return on equity by the year 2010. Tan Kong Khoon, the BAY president and chief executive officer, told shareholders yesterday that the bank would adopt a ''service-led'' strategy.

''We will increase our investment on IT and staff training, especially sales staffs, by double compared with last year,'' he said.

Mr Tan ruled out any early retirement programme, saying that the bank's staff was ''one of two significant resources'' in addition to the bank's capital base that would help drive future growth.

At the end of the first quarter, BAY had a capital adequacy ratio of 17.45%, of which tier-one capital was 13.2%. The Bank of Thailand requires banks to maintain a ratio of 8.5%, with at least half tier-one capital.

The bank increased its capital base significantly after the US financial-services group GE took a nearly 25% stake in BAY in a 22-billion-baht deal in January.

Mr Tan said the bank was targeting net loan growth of 42 billion baht, or 9.3%, this year. Growth for the entire group, including subsidiaries in insurance and asset management, is targeted at 52 billion baht, or 13%.

Corporate lending and small business lending are projected to show 6.5% growth each this year, with retail lending at 20% net growth.

''We expect that there will be more intense competition in retail banking among the large banks. The competition also helps push our market growth,'' Mr Tan said.

Net interest margins, which stood at 3.07% at the end of 2006, are expected to improve slightly this year due to wider spreads from retail lending.

Mr Tan also said that the bank hoped to reduce non-performing loans to under 43 billion baht by the end of the year. Bad loans at the end of March totalled 46.4 billion baht, and 43.6 billion at the end of 2006.

Bad loans rose in the first quarter and were mostly to small and medium-sized borrowers, reflecting a slowdown in debt workouts.

Janice Van Ekeren, the bank's chief financial officer, said GE had sent a team of experts in risk management to help the bank meet its restructuring targets and improve asset quality.

For the first quarter of 2007, the bank booked 2.6 billion baht in profits before provisions and tax, with non-interest income up 40% and net loan growth of four billion baht for the quarter.

Net profit totalled 1.2 billion baht, compared with 1.79 billion the same period last year.

The bank's cost-to-income ratio for the first three months decreased to 58.8%, down from 62.8% at the end of last year. However, the bank expected that the ratio will increase to 60% by the end of the year due to higher investments in staff training and IT.

Shares of BAY closed yesterday on the Stock Exchange of Thailand at 21.30 baht, up 10 satang, in trade worth 182.51 million baht.

Bangkok Post

Last Updated : Saturday April 21, 2007

State rice holdings offered in futures market

The government yesterday embarked on a plan to sell 33,000 tonnes of 5% white rice for the first time through the Agricultural Futures Trading Commission of Thailand (AFET), drawing 25 interested exporters and millers to participate in bids. Deputy Commerce Minister Oranuj Osathananda said the new auction method would help set a direction for rice prices in the marketplace as well as spur more interest in the two-year-old futures market.

She said bidding was on a basis-price method, linked to the price of the 5% white rice contract quoted on the AFET.

The basis can be calculated by considering several factors such as the quality of rice in the stocks of the Commerce Ministry's Public Warehouse Organisation (PWO), and transport and packaging costs.

Winners would be those offering the best basis price, which represents the highest addition or the smallest discount to the prevailing futures price.

Prices in yesterday's bidding varied, with C.P. Intertrade offering the best basis price at about -35 to -55 satang per kilogramme. Most bidders offered -1.00 baht per kg. The winners will be announced on Tuesday with the rice to be delivered by June 1.

According to Ms Oranuj, the government plans to sell a total of 150,000 tonnes of 5% white rice available from the 2005-06 crop season through the AFET by dividing into three lots.

Rut Subniran, the managing director of Patum Rice Mill and Granary Plc, said that selling rice through the AFET was taken a good step and could help lessen the government's burden from guaranteeing rice prices for farmers.

The company yesterday bid for 1,800 tonnes, proposing a basis price at -1.20 baht per kilogramme.

Bangkok Post

Last Updated : Saturday April 21, 2007

Gold and tin should draw new investors


Prospecting for gold ore continues to attract interest from investors while tin ore has tremendous potential for growth, according to Anusorn Nuangpolmark, the director-general of Primary Industries and Mines Department.

About 400 billion baht worth of gold is estimated to be present in Thailand, with the main ore deposits in Phichit, Phetchabun, Loei, Phitsanulok, Prachin Buri, Chanthaburi, Satun and Narathiwat.

Attractive world gold prices have drawn many miners to prospect for and develop ore in Thailand. The precious metal is currently trading around US$680 an ounce, compared with $240 in 2001.

According to Mr Anusorn, the department has awarded special prospecting licences for 60 tracts and another 54 tracts are under consideration. More applications to explore for gold ore in the early stages.

Tin ore, he said, also had great potential for development because the metal's price has almost doubled to US$15,000 per tonne, from $8,000 last year.

To encourage tin ore production, the department is amending the law to reduce ore royalties to more appropriate rates to make the ventures viable.

The amendment is being scrutinised by the Council of State, the government's legal advisory body, before being sent to the cabinet for approval.

The tract with the most potential for tin mining is located in the Andaman Sea, off Phangnga province.

Mr Anusorn said overall mineral production in Thailand was worth 39.5 billion baht last year, a 12% increase from 2005. The five minerals recording the highest values were limestone, lignite, gypsum, gold and zinc. The top five export earners were tin, gypsum, gold, tantalum and zinc.

The highest export volume was for iron ore, at 234,000 tonnes last year compared with 36,000 tonnes in 2005.

Yongyuth Petsuwan, the chairman of Mining Industry Council, said the council had repeatedly warned its members to strictly comply with the laws and regulations, especially paying serious attention to environmental concerns in areas surrounding mining sites.

After mining is finished, he said, the sites should be restored or redeveloped into farming areas to increase their value and improve communities.

Bangkok Post

Last Updated : Saturday April 21, 2007