Sunday, August 31, 2008

No progress on deposit agency


No progress on deposit agency


No progress has been made in establishing the Deposit Insurance Agency, despite the relevant legislation being passed, says an official of the Bank of Thailand. The Deposit Protection Act was endorsed by the National Legislative Assembly and took effect on Aug 11. But the appointment of its management executives and chairman, in accordance with the law, is pending cabinet consideration, said Sorasit Soontornkes, an assistant central bank governor.

The agency will remove the Financial Institutions Development Fund's full guarantee on deposits, which has been in place since 1998.

The Deposit Insurance Agency is due to start phasing out this full guarantee one year after the new law took effect. Deposit insurance will progressively decrease to 100 million, 50 million, 10 million and one million baht per account in the second, third, fourth and fifth year.

Regulators expected the agency's operation to improve risk management in depositors and the banking system.

The agency will also act as liquidator in case any financial institution closes down.

Yet, despite the banking system responding to the passing of the Deposit Protection Act by launching campaigns to expand their deposit bases, Mr Sorasit said there has been no progress in implementing the new law.

''The deposit insurance agency has not started operating. The appointment of directors and management has been constantly postponed from the cabinet's meeting agendas,'' he said.

In a separate development, Singhachai Boonyayotin, the director of the central bank's Financial Market and Reserve Management Department, said the second-phase financial master plan would aim at improving the banking system's liquidity risk management through derivatives instruments.

Other measures include promoting mortgage insurance and allowing financial institutions to use securities other than government bonds as borrowing collateral to improve liquidity.

The Central Bank also plans to develop payment systems that facilitate cross-currency real-time settlement, he said.

Betagro aims to build equipment exports

Betagro aims to build equipment exports

New facility will target emerging economies


Betagro Group, one of the country's largest food processors and exporters, has set its sights on exporting farm equipment to emerging nations now that its manufacturing facility is ready for commercial production.

The company announced its export objective as it launched two products yesterday _ ventilation controller technology (VenTech) and 50-inch energy-saving fans for an evaporative cooling system and for pig farming (PowerTech).

The products have emerged from collaboration between the Betagro Group's subsidiary B International and Technology and King Mongkut's University of Technology Thonburi (KMUTT) carried out under the Industry Technology Assistance Programme (iTAP) of the National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA).

According to Nopporn Vayuchote, executive vice-president of the Betagro Group, six more projects are in the pipeline: weighing apparatus for measuring feed in silos; heating pads for piglets; biogas production technology; energy-saving inverters for evaporative cooling systems; and energy-saving cooling pads.

Mr Nopporn said equipment from the company's production lines would not only supply the group but also be exported, especially to emerging markets including India, Bangladesh and Nepal, and to neighbouring countries with growing livestock industries such as Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.

Betagro has been developing farm equipment for four to five years and Cherdchai Sinsarng, general manager of B International & Technology, estimates that producing its own equipment could save the group more than 100 million baht a year from imports.

B International is committed to setting aside about 3% of the company's sales in research and development and plans to introduce at least two new farm equipment products a year, he said.

B International currently generates about 400-500 million baht sales per year, contributing 1% to Betagro's revenues, which are expected to top 45 billion baht this year.

Thailand's farm equipment market is valued at about four billion baht a year, with imported products valued around 1.5 billion baht. Mr Cherdchai said he did not expect this market to expand this year.

''As livestock prices are not very good at the moment farmers are unlikely to want to replace much of their equipment this year. We therefore expect our sales to see flat growth in 2008,'' said Mr Cherdchai.

Issues behind the ads

CORPORATE Counsellor

Issues behind the ads


In a scene that unfolds every day, the marketing team of a consumer goods company engages an advertising agency to create a campaign to promote a product. The product manager briefs the agency, identifies media channels and provides general direction on the scope and look and feel of the campaign.

Weeks later, the agency comes back with a campaign proposal and mock-up. The management and the product manager like the idea and decide to proceed. Storyboards and artwork of brochures, magazine ads and billboards are later forwarded to the product manager for approval, and ultimately to senior management, who sign off on the production. The whole process seems complete, but is it?

There is one step missing that is crucial in mitigating unnecessary trouble and expense for the company: legal clearance. The issues relevant to attractive and effective advertising materials go beyond marketing strategy. Critically important legal issues such as intellectual property (IP) clearance and regulatory compliance must also be considered.

In terms of IP, clearance of photos or ad soundtracks, presenters' rights and trademarks must be given adequate thought. Often, advertising will rely on a celebrity presenter. The agency usually has the responsibility of hiring and entering into a contract with the presenter (though in many cases in Thailand, a contract may not exist at all).

The agreement with the presenter serves to protect the interests of both presenter and company. Ideally, it should identify who the actual hirer is and who is entitled to the final rights of production. The scope of work performed must be clear. To avoid a dispute that could lead to negative publicity, this is a good time to agree whether adaptation of the work (for example, from a TV commercial to a still shot for a subsequent magazine ad) is permissible and what the compensation is for that additional use.

If the advertising piece must borrow photos, graphics or songs from other authors, a licensing agreement or permission from those creators must be sought. It is imperative that the creator grant authorisation to the agency or the hiring company for multiple use of the work, while confirming that the creator understands that the work will be published or broadcast several times.

Alternatively, if artists (e.g., photographers, composers, singers) are hired to create new copyrighted work, a written agreement must ensure that the hirer is identified as the proper rights owner and copyright has been assigned.

Certain catchy slogans or other wording used in the advertising material could potentially be a registered trademark of another party. Current law in Thailand provides that use of a trademark does not necessarily need to be an exact duplication to result in an infringement. Other factors that need to be taken into account include the degree of similarity in appearance and pronunciation, types of goods and likelihood of public confusion. To ensure that the advertising material does not unintentionally infringe someone's right, legal clearance is strongly recommended.

Regulatory compliance is also important. As a general rule, language used in advertising material in Thailand must not lead to a misunderstanding and should not be false, deceitful or contrary to Thai culture. It is not permissible to use words that exaggerate product quality such as excellent, exceptional, perfect, effective, magic, or best. Any claims of effectiveness or quality must carry scientific proof to substantiate such statements.

Some industries are required to comply with specific rules and regulations. Examples of industries that must exercise caution before issuing communications to the public include tobacco, alcohol, pharmaceutical, food, medical devices, and cosmetics. Advertising material for certain products must receive approval from the Food and Drug Administration before use in the marketplace.

Violation of advertising rules and regulations runs the risk of fines from the FDA. If the Office of the Consumer Protection Board is responsible, an order to amend the material or make a restatement may be issued. Complete removal of the material is often seen as the appropriate action. Needless to say, this results in significant expense that could have been avoided if the proper preventive measures to confirm regulatory compliance had been undertaken.

Written by Areeya Ratanayu, Consultant, Intellectual Property Department, Tilleke & Gibbins International Ltd. Please send comments or suggestions to Marilyn Tinnakul at

Food and drink producers ask for a sugar subsidy


Food and drink producers ask for a sugar subsidy


The Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) wants the the Cane and Sugar Fund to subsidise sugar for food and drink manufacturers to help alleviate their troubles.

FTI chairman Santi Vilassakdanont yesterday told Industry Minister Mingkwan Sangsuwan that the food and drinks industry had been severely hit by sugar's price increase by five baht a kilogramme approved by the cabinet in April.

The industry asked the ministry to help, or its sales, production and growth would be affected, said Mr Santi.

''The industry uses 800,000 tonnes of sugar yearly, or 40% of domestic demand. Given the size of its consumption and the sugar price increase, its operating costs have increased dramatically,'' Mr Mingkwan said after the talks.

The industry asked the ministry to consider a special quota of low-priced sugar to food and drink manufacturers whose sales were for the domestic market. It also asked officials to review regulations so that local food and drink manufacturers could buy sugar for export, which is sold at lower prices, more easily.

The industry proposed that the Cane and Sugar Fund subsidise its sugar price by five baht a kilogramme now that the fund pays mills less after the price rise.

The fund's director declined to comment, saying he needed to look at the proposal carefully first.

The fund now has a deficit of 24 billion baht, owed by cane farmers who needed to borrow money as farmers received revenue from selling cane at a price that did not cover production costs.

The cabinet's approval of a higher sugar price was intended as an incentive for cane farmers to remain in business and produce enough sugar to meet local demand, support the ethanol industry and keep Thailand as a leader in world sugar exports.

Thailand is the second largest sugar exporter to the world market after Brazil.

Dhipaya plans to lure more retail clients


Dhipaya plans to lure more retail clients


Dhipaya Insurance is banking more on personal lines as premium contributions from the construction industry and megaprojects are likely to be bearish this year because of political instability and unfavourable economic conditions. ''We hope to expand into personal lines as much as possible, as new construction and megaprojects planned by the government are unlikely to take place within this year, mainly because of political uncertainties,'' said the company's managing director Charuek Kungwanphanich.

He said contributions from big corporations and state enterprises, one of Dhipaya's major customer groups, were relatively sluggish in the first half, resulting in flat growth overall.

However, insurance contracts with big clients are generally signed in the third and fourth quarters of the year.

For the first six months, Dhipaya reported written premiums of 3.69 billion baht, 2.12 billion of which came from miscellaneous business, mostly from megaprojects of the government and state enterprises.

Motor insurance generated 1.06 billion baht, fire 399.14 million, and marine and cargo 105.48 million baht. Underwriting profit increased by 11% to 707.45 million baht, with investment profit increasing by only 4% to 172.47 million.

Net profit rose 3.23% to 303.90 million baht from 294.39 million a year earlier.

According to Mr Charuek, greater contributions from state megaprojects in the second half were expected to help raise written premium growth by 5-6% this year.

To meet the growth target and tap more into personal lines, the company yesterday launched TIP SMART, a smart-card programme aiming to attract buyers of personal accident and household insurance.

''TIP SMART will make insurance much more convenient and simple. Buyers just rub off the access code on the back of the card and call back the call centre at 02-660-3455 and the policy's protection will become effective immediately,'' he said.

Mr Charuek admitted returns from investments were likely to remain bearish until the end of this year, as the investment environment, particularly for the stock market, was unlikely to improve soon.

The company currently has investment assets of six billion baht, with about one billion in stocks.

It expects net profit to increase to about 565 million baht by the end of the year, up slightly from 531 million a year earlier.

CPF to benefit from WTO shrimp ruling

CPF to benefit from WTO shrimp ruling

US to cut its anti-dumping duties


Charoen Pokphand Foods Plc, the country's largest food producer, stands to gain from a World Trade Organisation ruling against the United States in an anti-dumping case involving Thai shrimp exports.

According to Adirek Sripratak, the CPF president and CEO, the decision by the WTO's top court was good news for the entire shrimp industry.

The ruling would increase the competitiveness of Thai shrimp products in the United States, as exporters' costs would decrease, he said.

The Department of Commerce in Washington has just announced duties for Thai shrimp at 3.18%, far lower than previous 6.05% penalties.

''The WTO ruling will benefit CPF as it gives the company more opportunities to increase sales in the US,'' said Mr Adirek.

Mr Adirek said CPF now expects to raise its shrimp shipments to the United States to 40,000 tonnes this year, compared with 34,000 tonnes last year.

Shrimp exports to the US generally account for 20% of CPF's sales.

CPF expects a 10% rise in total sales this year to 150 billion baht thanks to higher market prices of all meats.

Revenue from foreign operations accounted for about 17-18% of the company's total last year. It is expected to rise further this year when the CPF plant in Russia opens this month.

A number of food products under the CP brand are now marketed in 40 countries after three years of steady efforts to build the brand.

According to Mr Adirek, overall Thai shrimp exports are also expected to stand to benefit from the ruling, raising shipments to 400,000 tonnes this year from 350,000 tonnes last year.

The country's shrimp export value is expected to grow by at least 15% this year to 80 billion baht this year.

Thailand is the world's top shrimp producer and the number-one source of shrimp for the United States.

The US is Thailand's biggest market for shrimp, comprising 42-43% of exports, followed by Japan at 20%, the European Union at 15%, and Australia and Canada making up the rest.

CPF shares closed yesterday on the SET at 3.90 baht, up 12 satang, in trade worth 78.27 million baht.

Budget carrier's planes probed


Budget carrier's planes probed


The safety reputation of One-Two-Go Airlines has been called into question further by Spanair's fatal plane crash in Madrid on Aug 20 and the extended suspension of the Thai carrier's operating licence by another 30 days.

The Spanair accident that killed 153 people involves a McDonnell Douglas MD-82, a similar type of jetliner to that used on the Thai budget carrier's ill-fated flight OG269, which crashed in Phuket on Sept 16 last year, leaving 89 dead and 41 injured.

Thailand's Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) has extended the suspension of One-Two-Go's licence to Sept 20 as the airline failed to meet the safety standards on the Aug 21 deadline.

One-Two-Go executives explained the airline was unable to meet the deadline as its pilots, numbering more than 60, had to wait their turn for retraining on busy flight simulators in Japan.

Last month, the DCA suspended the airline and parent carrier Orient Thai Airlines after discovering sub-standard safety requirements, lack of proper airline management, and falsification of documents by some pilots who misstated their level of aviation proficiency.

A senior executive of One-Two-Go agreed with aviation industry analysts that the two cases were worsening the carrier's image, and that could affect whether it would be allowed to fly again.

''It will be an uphill task for One-Two-Go to restore passengers' confidence in its services because it is served by an all-MD-80 series fleet,'' said the executive.

Shortly after the crash, Spanair said the US-made MD-82 airliner experienced overheating in an air intake valve before a first attempt at takeoff, but added that it was not clear if that had anything to do with the crash.

International media reports raised questions about the safety of the MD-80 series of aircraft, which they said has had a particularly troubled history.

American Airlines was forced to ground its entire MD-80 series earlier this year after a safety audit, canceling around 6,000 flights as hydraulic wiring was checked.

Almost 400 people have died in accidents involving the MD-80 series over the past five years, including the One-Two-Go runway crash at Phuket International Airport in Thailand and the 2005 West Caribbean Airways flight 708 crash in northwest Venezuela that killed 160 passengers and crew.

However,, a website dedicated to aviation safety information, ranks the MD-80 series as the second safest plane in the skies. It also lists 18 major accidents involving the model since its introduction.

The mid-range, two-engine, single-aisle jet, built by McDonnell Douglas of Long Beach, California, was introduced in 1980. MD-80 series aircraft carry up to 172 passengers, depending on seat configuration and requirements.

Nearly 1,200 were built until production ceased in 1999, two years after McDonnell Douglas's merger with the US plane-making giant Boeing.

Authorities have indirectly signalled One-Two-Go executives, who seemed to be disheartened by the turn of events, to call it quits for good, say aviation industry insiders.

But before deciding on the fate of the airline, One-Two-Go bosses want to first pass the DCA's safety audit hurdle in order to ''retrieve our pride and honour''.

About half of some 1,000 staff, including 80 cockpit staff employed by One-Two-Go and parent carrier Orient Thai Airlines have reportedly been seeking an exit as the airline plunged into financial difficulties due to the grounding.

The airlines are also facing a string of multi-billion-baht lawsuits in US courts by lawyers representing British and American families of victims of OG 269.

Thai-Cambodian oil talks stall

Thai-Cambodian oil talks stall

Border dispute blocks long-sought deal


Negotiations involving overlapping claims to undersea oil and natural gas fields in the Gulf of Thailand are likely to drag on as both Thailand and Cambodia still need to seek agreement on the disputed border area, says Krairit Nilkuha, the director-general of the Department of Mineral Fuels.

The two countries had opened negotiations in 1995 in a bid to tap into potentially rich reserves.

The talks led to a memorandum of understanding signed in 2001 by the Thai and Cambodian prime ministers.

Under the pact, they agreed in principle to join in development and share profits from a total of eight blocks of petroleum fields in the overlapping claims area (OCA).

The 2001 agreement still needs approval of the Thai House of Representatives to comply with provisions in the 2007 Constitution governing international agreements and treaties.

However, the main obstacle centres on two petroleum blocks, designated Block 5 and 6, where clarification of the disputed sea border is still sought.

Since the memorandum of understanding was signed in 2001, only five meetings have been held with no real progress made, even though both sides have clearly expressed their willingness to reach a conclusion as soon as possible.

Committees and working groups are working to seek an agreeable solution for the whole 26,000-square-kilometre OCA.

Leaders from both countries last failed to hammer out a formal arrangement in 2006 during a visit to Cambodia by former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

However, Mr Krairit said he was optimistic that negotiations could be concluded soon, with a goal of seeing production from the areas begin within 10 years.

''All state agencies related to the OCA are accelerating efforts to seek the best solution that could help resolve the disputed sea border between the two countries, so we could resume talks,'' he said.

Thailand first awarded exploration licences to work in the areas in 1968 to Idemitsu, Chevron, British Gas and Mitsui Oil.

However, the dispute first arose in 1972 when Cambodia claimed its overlapping sea border. The Phnom Penh government also later awarded the licences over the exact same areas in 1997 to Conoco Phillips, Shell and Idemitsu.

As the dispute remains, those licence holders are unable to gain access to the areas in question.

Mr Krairit said he believed that resources in the area were plentiful, based on results from blocks nearby in the Pattani basin in Thai territory, where there are proved reserves of 5.4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas by US-based Chevron and Thailand's PTT Exploration and Production.

No data on petroleum reserves within the disputed areas have been revealed due to the extreme sensitivity of the border claims.

Mr Krairit said the talks should rely on the International Territory Law following the model of a Thai-Vietnamese sea territory clarification in 1997, or the Malaysia-Thailand Joint Development Area (JDA) in 1990.

Viraphand Vacharathit, the Thai ambassador to Cambodia, agreed that the prospects for the talks seemed brighter, adding that the two governments had agreed in principle that the benefit-sharing model of the Thailand-Malaysia JDA was the best solution.

''What has yet to be concluded is sharing ratio for the spilt of the resources,'' said the ambassador.

Authorities on both sides have discussed OCA issues occasionally. Talks have been positive so far because both parties want to reap benefits from the untapped gas deposits.

''It is believed that the OCA has more natural gas reserves than oil. However, the amount of reserves has yet to be confirmed,'' Mr Viraphand said.

Boathouse taps affordability


Boathouse taps affordability


HUA HIN : Speed and adaptability help in any game of life, and the developers of Boathouse Hua Hin have applied this by introducing lower-priced townhouses in tune with the current cautious mood.

Praphaisith Tankeyura, managing director of the Cha-am based 80-rai development bordering Hua Hin beach, said that instead of building 13-million-baht villas he has subdivided the land for townhouses.

The development will now feature 5.3-million-baht two-storey houses on its 24-square-wah plots closest to the sea along with 4.7-million-baht three-storey houses on 35-square-wah plots further from the sea.

There will also be semi-detached duplex houses on 46 to 66 sq wah plots, which will be priced between 5.6 and 7.9 million baht, depending on their proximity to the sea.

Reflecting a cost-conscious shift in investor sentiment over the last three years, the cheaper units are selling best.

Among locals _ who love the seaside town and make up 70% of buyers _ the strategy is also working well. Mr Praphaisith admits, though, that his company has had less success in Dubai and among Thais in New York.

In the United States, he found that parents are still attached to Hua Hin but their children ''are already Americanised''.

''They no longer want to stay in Hua Hin or Thailand,'' he said.

Two-storey houses on 24-square-wah plots closest to the sea will sell for 5.3 million baht.

In Dubai, promising leads turned out to be speculators unwilling to place a 30% down payment.

Mr Praphaisith's next target is Singapore, where he plans to participate in a marketing event in October.

But in all overseas markets, he says he faces a perception of economic and political problems that has kept foreigners away from all of Thailand's sectors.

''Overseas investors are nervous about Thailand,'' he said. ''They don't understand the real situation. As we are Thai, we know that Thaksin comes and goes, governments come and go, but the system is still here and still works.''

If this hurdle can be overcome, he claims his development can attract buyers through occupying a different niche to other resorts such as Phuket, where medium- and low-priced developments have suffered.

He dismisses Koh Samui as hamstrung by poor town planning. ''It will be a mess in future,'' he said.

Nor does he see a threat in Pattaya's continuing success.

''The buyers are not the family type,'' he said. ''It's a different market. Hua Hin is family-oriented plus you have a lot of golf courses, a lot of cultural attractions. We have good food and restaurants too.''

He claims Boathouse Hua Hin also has an edge over other developments because it obtained its land a few years ago at only three million baht a rai _ rather than at the 50-million-baht price tag prime plots carry today.

''Our condominiums are selling for less than 100,000 baht a square metre. On the top floor it's around 90,000 baht (a square metre). On the lower floor it's around 60,000 baht,'' he said.

The advantages of starting early carry into construction.

''When we signed the contract with Christiani and Nielsen to develop the infrastructure, one barrel of oil was only 37 dollars,'' he said.

As with many developments in the current inflationary context, Boathouse Hua Hin is being built with a focus on costs and with the application of value engineering to increase construction efficiency.

The potential risks of overlooking such considerations, says Mr Praphaisith, are illustrated by a Bangkok-based property company that failed to lock in construction costs before selling 70% to 80% of its units.

Mr Praphaisith said he hoped that all of Boathouse Hua Hin's 40 townhouses and duplex houses would be sold this year. Construction of these relatively simple structures should then start next year and finish by the end of 2009.

The selling of units in two more condominium buildings would then be launched, with construction starting once 40% are sold.

He added that Boathouse Hua Hin was launched with an 800-million-baht bank loan _ in addition to 720 million in cash _ and that he hoped 500 million baht would be repaid to the bank by the end of this year when units in the project's Condominium C will be transferred to buyers.

BJC aims to raise share free float, expand abroad


BJC aims to raise share free float, expand abroad


The SET-listed trading conglomerate Berli Jucker Plc (BJC) is considering raising its market free-float and also investing in Vietnam and Malaysia to expand in foreign markets.

The projects may be partially financed by operating cash flow and some bank loans, president Aswin Techajaroenvikul said yesterday.

''However, we are also studying a capital-increase programme to fund the projects and boost liquidity of our stock trading,'' he added.

The company has four core businesses: packaging, consumer and logistics, technical and industry, and information technology.Mr Aswin said the company had a 15% free-float of total shares listed on the Stock Exchange of Thailand. Its paid-up capital is 1.58 billion baht with a share par value of one baht. As of May 2008, TCC Holding, controlled by liquor billionaire Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi, held a 75.04% stake in BJC.

Although the company's market capitalisation ranks fifth in the SET's commerce sector, its price-to-earnings ratio is only 5.8 times, compared to the double-digit rates of its industry peers.

''This might be because of our low market liquidity,'' Mr Aswin said. ''Thus, we are studying possibility of increasing capital together with investment expansion. All issues will be finalised within the third quarter.''

BJC spent 180 million baht to buy Jacy Foods Sdn Bhd in Malaysia in June. It will use the Malaysian company as its production base for Halal snacks to export to the Middle East and other Muslim countries.

For its investment in Vietnam, there are two or three projects including new machinery for glass manufacturing and the building of a factory to make consumer products.

Mr Aswin said BJC's export revenue was now less than 5% of total revenues but it would rise more in the near future.

The company posted 10.96 billion baht in revenue in the first half of this year, up from 9.265 billion in the same period last year. Net profit was 673 million baht, compared to 531 million a year earlier. Its gross margin was 25.2%, up from 24.9% the year before.

He said the company was trying to maintain its gross margin although it was being challenged by external factors such as high oil prices and falling domestic consumption.

The company has set its 2008 revenue target of at least 20 billion baht, up more than 10% from last year.

BJC shares closed yesterday on the SET at 5.25 baht, up five satang, in trade worth 1.18 million baht.

Asia Fashion Federation extends its role

Asia Fashion Federation extends its role


The Asia Fashion Federation, which represents organisations from five countries including Thailand, has announced that it will extend its activities beyond textiles to cover lifestyle products.

Secretary-general Yodsapon Kijkusol said expanding to cover products such as leather goods, jewellery and decorative items would promote links among related industries and foster new joint ventures, data connections and fashion trends.

Mr Yodsapon added that the move would also help the industry grow and increase channels in marketing and sales.

The Asia Fashion Federation held a forum on Wednesday as part of the Bangkok International Fashion Fair and Bangkok International Leather Fair 2008 (BIFF & BIL 2008). The event at the Bangkok International Trade and Exhibition Center (Bitec) in Bang Na is open to trade visitors today and to the general public tomorrow and Sunday.

BIFF & BIL 2008 is positioned as a leading regional sourcing and networking platform for local and overseas fashion trade professionals. It aims to cover Thailand's fashion and leather business across design, manufacturing and merchandising.

Commerce Minister Chaiya Sasomsap said the ministry was confident that Thailand's fashion, textile and garment exports would grow at least 10% this year to US$7.83 billion.

Market growth is particularly rapid in Europe, Asia, China and Asean, he said.

Canon has new line-up for the home

Canon has new line-up for the home

Faster printers and scanners, new features


Among the new line-up from Canon, the PIXMA Photo iP 2680.

TOKYO : This month Canon introduced a broad range of printers and scanners for home and small office users offering enhanced features that include wireless connectivity with improved security, "photo lab quality" output, a grey ink cartridge for better black and white photographs, plus improved performance and ease of use.

In all, 13 products have been launched - seven Pixma multi-function devices (MFDs), three Pixma inkjet printers and three scanners, with models either available now or early next month.

At the heart of the Pixma inkjet printers is Canon's full photo-lithography inkjet nozzle engineering technology that Canon developed in-house and which can deliver ink droplets in sizes down to one picolitre, with standard format printers having up to 7,680 nozzles.

This delivers prints with photo lab quality and long life thanks to Canon's recently-introduced Chromalife100+ dye-based ink and enhanced consumables, according to Canon's GM for inkjet marketing, Takao Hada.

He and other Canon executives announced the new models to reporters from Southeast Asia at Canon's Tokyo headquarters earlier this month. Canon unveiled new MFDs and inkjet printers with innovations including a grey ink cartridge for improved monochrome output and "auto photo fix," featuring face detection which automatically analyses and categorises scenes in photographs to optimise the appearance of prints.

There is also now a quick start mode, providing instantaneous operation when a printer is switched on, potentially saving energy, and improved functionality with an easy-to-use scroll wheel and duplex printing capabilities in some models.

Two of the premium MFDs are also capable of 802.11 wireless connectivity that supports WEP and WPA security, while Wi-Fi protected set-up (WPS) is supported.

The Canon Pixma MP988 and Pixma MP628, formally announced yesterday, can also be shared over a wireless LAN, according to Hada.

All the new inkjet models embody a new design philosophy which, according to Yoshinori Inukai, Canon Design Centre's assistant general manager, would mean that "you can tell it's a Pixma from 10 metres away" and they were designed to be "so elegant that they look to be worth more than their price."

The design of the new Pixmas features high-glossy piano black and matte silver finishes in an "elegant cube" format with rounded corners and "sweeping sidelines," Inukai said, noting that the new Pixmas were designed to be clutter free, with hidden memory card and access slots and user-friendly controls.

Canon is introducing four premium Pixma Photo MFDs, with the flagship Pixma MP988 having a CCD sensor being capable of 4,800 by 9,600dpi scans, with the ability to scan 35mm slides and negatives. This model also offers wireless connectivity and features a sixth ink tank with grey ink.

Like the other three premium MFDs also introduced yesterday, the MP628, MP638 and MP545, the MP988 can do automatic duplex printing while supporting 4-in-1 and 2-in-1 printing layouts, offering maximum print resolutions of 9,600 by 2,400dpi.

The four premium MFDs have ink drops as small as one picolitre and can deliver colour A4 prints at speeds of up to 21ppm while taking 20 seconds for a 4 by 6in. colour photograph. The MP638 also features automatic duplex printing and CD/DVD printing.

In the category of affordable Pixma Photo MFDs, Canon is also introducing three models, the MP245, MP486 and MP198 offering 4,800 by 1,200dpi printing, with print speeds up to 20ppm for monochrome and 16ppm for colour, or 45 seconds for a 4 by 6in. colour photograph, while the scanning resolution for these models ranges from 600 by 1,200dpi for the MP198 up to 2,400 by 4,800 with the MP486.

Canon's photo printers deliver on Canon's "home photo lab" vision, according to Canon Singapore consumer imaging group vice-president Melvyn Ho, with three new models, the Pixma iP2680, iP4680 and iP1980.

These offer print resolutions from 4,800 by 1,200dpi up to 9,600 by 2,400dpi and print speeds of up to 21ppm for colour output, taking as little as 20 seconds to deliver a 4 by 6in. colour print. The iP4680 and iP3680 models, introduced yesterday, have inkjet nozzles with a minimum size of one picolitre and five ink tanks.

Asked whether the designation "Photo Pixma" for the printers and MFDs might dissuade some buyers who did not print many photographs, Ho said that this possibility had been discussed internally before the latest announcements, but that Canon felt that one of its strengths lay in its being a provider of cameras and scanners as input devices. This was part of Canon's "DNA" and differentiated the company from competitors such as Epson and HP, he added.

Discussing ink consumption, Ho noted that Canon's document output was efficient and attractive while the use of ink had been lower than customers' expectations, noting that ink consumption by Canon and HP was very similar, while for Epson it was slightly higher.

Canon would embrace an emerging new ISO standard that would soon be announced that would measure inkjet consumption on plain paper, he added.

The company also introduced three scanners earlier this month that feature an auto-scan mode, recognising different types of documents and scanning them accurately with the press of a button. The CanoScan 5600F has a CCD sensor along with high-brightness white LED technology that provides an instant start-up. The other two models, the slim-line LiDE 200 and LiDE 100 have CIS sensors and three-colour LED light source.

The 5600F can scan 35mm film strips or slides and can image an A4 colour image at 300dpi in 11 seconds, compared to 14 seconds for th LiDE 200 and 24 seconds for the LiDE 100.

Canon is the leader in Thailand for both printers and MFDs, having a 43 per cent market share for single-function printers and 33 per cent for MFDs. The company has seen strong growth in MFDs across the region, with Canon's own sales projected to be up by an estimated 146 per cent in Thailand over 2007 revenues, whereas sales of single function printers here were up by 43 per cent in the first quarter of this year, according to IDC.

Building on this leadership, Canon's mission across the region was "to sustain a strong No. 1 market share in single-function printers and to capture the No. 1 position for MFDs," according to Ho, who noted that while the sale of MFDs in Thailand greatly exceeded that of single-function printers, in Indonesia 80 per cent of all sales were printers. Region-wide, the predictions are that the sale of MFDs would exceed single-function printers in 2010.

Among Canon's strategies to reach out to customers were its original ink centres, here in Thailand as well as in Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and India, where only original Canon ink was sold, as well as Canon-to-Canon shops that sold Canon-only goods: Cameras, in addition to printers and scanners.

There are also customer service centres, a Canon portal offering online registration, training at Canon Digital Labs and showrooms. The 13 new products were aimed at home and small office customers and they augment several printers introduced earlier this year for business users, such as the MX series, while a few more would be introduced in the autumn, according to Ho.

One of these models, the MX7600, introduced Pigment Reaction technology (PgR), a breakthrough technology for plain paper printing that pre-treats the media with a clear layer ahead of the ink, effectively turning plain paper into coated media, which Canon claims "delivers laser-quality colour documents and superb photos on plain paper," along with added benefits of water fastness, anti-curling, higher intensity images as well as being smudge resistant.

Highly-portable and affordable netbook


Highly-portable and affordable netbook

First impression of the Aspire One: Stylish


The Aspire One marks Acer's entry into the fast-growing netbook market, an era begun by the Asus Eee 701. Like other 8.9in. netbooks, the unit is compact and light, with a footprint about 68 per cent of an A4 page and weighing less than 1kg (with an 8GB SSD and three-cell battery). It comes in five colours; brown, black, white, pink and blue, all with their associated feng shui explanations on Acer's web site.

The test version, with Linpus Linux Lite installed, is in sapphire blue with a matt black bottom. The polished blue lid does attract fingerprints, but the well-built curvy device looks compact and doesn't in any way appear cheap, despite its plastic body. The unit's speakers are located on the bottom - you have to flip the unit over to see them. My first impression is that the Aspire One looks stylish, but let's examine it a little more closely.

The left side of the machine features a power socket, VGA output, a LAN port, USB port and an SD card reader. A Wi-Fi switch is located on the front, to the right. The right-hand side has a mic input, headphone socket, two USB 2.0 ports and another memory card reader (a Multi-in-1 card reader). Like the Eee PC, the Aspire One is quite generous with its connectivity options.

But why two memory card readers, you might ask?

The SD card reader on the left is intended to be a memory expansion slot. This is where you put an SD card semi-permanently to add to the memory capacity to the machine. The slot supports up to 8GB. The unit's own solid state drive is also 8GB, so total drive capacity could be doubled to 16GB, which should be plenty for a Linux netbook.

Time to open the lid. The hinge is firm, and there are no latches to secure the unit during transportation. Although there has been no latches on any netbook I've reviewed so far, I think that, more than any other form factor, a netbook should be equipped with latches - it's likely to be carried around more often, and should be capable of being securely fastened in transit.

The lid can be opened wide, resulting in a comfortable viewing angle even when you place it on your lap. The interior is bi-coloured; shiny black at the top and sapphire blue at the bottom. Like the exterior of the lid, the screen and its bezel are fingerprint magnets. A 0.3MP webcam is at the top centre of the frame, with a microphone next to it. The matt black keyboard, measuring 24 by nine centimetres is about 60 per cent the size of my Lenovo Thinkpad's. The touchpad is tiny, with buttons on the side, similar to those on the HP 2133 Mini-Note PC.

Now, let's turn it on. The first thing I noticed turning on the Aspire One is the fast boot-up speed. The machine is ready to be used in about 25 seconds. It can be turned off even faster (20 seconds). There really are no excuses not to use this device.

The 8.9in. TFT LCD with LED backlight is bright and vibrant. The trade-off is its reflective surface which is somewhat difficult to work with in a bright environment. Wearing my glasses, I have no problem reading the screen at a resolution of 1,024 by 600. Web surfing is also practical at this setting.

The keyboard is well made, and while it may feel cramped - a normal characteristic for a machine of this size - it doesn't flex. It offers good tactile feedback and adequate travel, making typing a joy, considering its size. As for the touchpad, I have no problems using it except I couldn't find a way to swap the buttons. Nor could I manage to set the mouse for left-handed use.

The Linux operating system pre-installed in the machine is, in principle, similar to the one on the Asus Eee PC. The four application groups, Connect, Work, Fun and Files, are all on-screen, each group showing three applications. You access the rest of each group by clicking the "More" button, an action that expands the selected group to full screen.

Like the Eee PC, the Aspire One is a freeware showroom. It contains all the necessary applications for your daily chores, the Firefox web browser, OpenOffice suite, games, webcam application and a file browser, among other things. Instead of providing Mozilla's Thunderbird for email, the Aspire One includes Acer's One Mail instead. This has the ability to see whether people in your address book are on-line and enables you to chat with them. Cool. With all the software installed and the OS, only about 3.2GB of SSD memory is left available.

With a 1.6GHz Intel Atom and 512MB of RAM, operations on this Linux machine are quite snappy - except for jerky HD video playback (WMV game trailers with resolutions of 1,280 by 720). YouTube's low-res video playback is fine, however. So, if you plan to watch videos on this machine, make sure they are within the supported resolution range (1,024 by 600 or lower.)

Overall ease of use is amazing. I like its instant Wi-Fi connection, which requires the input of my WEP's key only the first time, unlike the Eee 900 PC's Xandros Linux, which requires the key to be input every time.

Linux is still strange territory for most mainstream users, myself included. If your need in applications deviates from the standard, or if you want to customise the machine the way you do with a Windows notebook, then you need to know more about Linux. Or you may need the Windows version instead.

Because of the unit's Linux nature, I didn't run the PC Mark test, but I did perform a battery test, running MP3s continuously until the machine shut itself down, using the default power setting out of the box and Wi-Fi off. In such testing, the battery lasts about two and a half hours, which is average for a three-cell netbook battery.

Heat generated during this test is low. During the entire battery test with the machine on my lap, I can only feel slight warmth. Great heat dissipation doesn't come with any noticeable costs - the noise of the internal fan is barely audible even in the quiet environment. Besides moderate battery operations time, I wish the built-in speakers produced better sound, and Acer should have equipped the device with a better web cam. But such complaints are minor.

While many people would choose this model simply because of its cute looks, the Acer Aspire One is a good netbook which would serve you very well, especially as a second notebook.

There are two versions available, the Linpus Linux Lite with 512MB RAM and 8GB SSD, priced at 14,900 baht (ex. VAT), and the Windows XP Home with 1GB RAM and 120GB hard disk, priced at 19,900 baht (ex. VAT). The former weighs 0.995kg and is available in white and blue, while the latter is 1.26kg and available in white, blue, brown and black. A six-cell battery (with a six hour rating) is available as an option at 3,900 baht.



Dimension: 249 by 170 by 29mm

Weight: 995g

OS: Linpus Linux Lite/ Windows XP Home

CPU: Intel Atom 1.60GHz

RAM: 512MB, 533MHz Front Side Bus for Linpus Linux Lite/1GB for Windows XP Home (one additional slot available for memory upgrade)

Connection: Wi-Fi 802.11b/g, 0.3 MP webcam, 10/100Mbps LAN, three USB 2.0 ports, no Bluetooth support

Display: 8.9in. WSVGA TFT LCD, 1,024 by 600 resolution with LED backlight

Storage: 8GB Flash memory for Linpus Linux Lite/120GB HD for Windows XP Home, one storage expansion and one multi card reader (both support up to 8GB of memory)

Audio: HD audio support, two built-in speakers

There's no room for complacency when it comes to security


There's no room for complacency when it comes to security


I am working through the System Preferences in OS X, and am now at the letter S, which means Security, Sharing, Software Update, Sound, Speech, Spotlight and Startup Disk. For now, I will skip Q (for Quick Time).

Security is a high priority for all users. While Mac users claim that OS X is more secure than other operating systems, there is no room for complacency. The Security Preferences section is there to be used. It works with other parts of System Preferences (like Accounts and Sharing) for a safer environment if used properly. The Security Preference pane has three sections: General, File Vault and Firewall.

In the General panel is a check box for a password if the computer is in sleep mode or the screensaver active. This is a simple and effective first line of defence. I use this in conjunction with Active Screen Corners - moving the cursor to (in my case) the bottom right of the screen turns on the screensaver and the computer is safe from prying eyes. The only way to circumvent this (if, for example, the computer is stolen) is to restart the computer.

The FileVault panel of the Security Preferences in OS X, 10.5, Leopard.

The second checkbox prevents automatic login. Used with the screensaver lock, Firmware Password Utility and tracking software, this may help us recover a stolen computer.

OS X allows a multi-user environment, although some prefer a single user account. A check box locking each preference pane will prevent other users changing the OS settings.

If essential tasks are not running, activating the next check box will automatically log the user out after a certain time. The time can be selected in a small panel. The default is 60 minutes. Secure virtual memory is used to ensure that any data, such as passwords, in virtual memory is erased.

Finally, in this panel, is a box to disable the infrared receiver used by the remote control. This prevents others using another remote control and accessing media (music, photos, movies). For additional security, the remote device itself can be paired with the computer, also ensuring that others do not have access.

The second panel in Security Preferences focuses on what Apple calls FileVault. The icon (a house with a safe dial superimposed) signifies the ability to lock the user's Home folder by way of encryption. If users have this activated, files are decrypted and encrypted while working. A user enters the account as normal, using the password. There are two parts to this feature - the file vault protection itself, which needs a considerable amount of hard disk space for the file swapping that will occur; and the Master Password. Apple calls this a "safety net" as it will allow unlocking of any File Vault account. If this master password is lost, then you can kiss goodbye to your data, and not even Apple can help. An extended discussion of FileVault by F. J. de Kermadec can be found at the O'Reilly, MacDev Centre at

Anyone who does not use a firewall these days is asking for trouble. There were significant changes to the firewall in OS X Leopard. It is now application-focused rather than port-focused. It allows a program the correct access instead of specifying port numbers. There are three settings: Allow all incoming connections; Allow only essential services; and Set access. The first is too open for proper security. The second is too harsh limiting operations to only a small list of allowed connections. Updating from 10.4 will default to this setting. The third option is right for most users although may need a little fine-tuning to optimise operations.

As new applications are installed, they will access the internet and many will need incoming connections to be allowed. Examples are Safari and Firefox. It is safe to block some applications. I prevent Skype from making incoming connections but I am still able to call out. It is easy to change this if required with a click in the panel that lists the applications and their status. We can also add an application if it does not make an automatic request. For outgoing connections, a third-party utility like Little Snitch is essential.

The Firewall panel also has a button marked Advanced. This reveals a further panel with two additional settings. The first enables firewall logging; and the log, if we ever take the time to read it, can reveal some interesting or disturbing information. I see this morning that CAT, a local ISP and my web host have all probed my Mac. The log may only be accessed by an Admin user.

The other check box in the Advanced panel allows activation of Stealth mode, so that any outside probing that occurs (such as that shown in the logs) will have no response. The computer will not even appear to exist. Anyone who ignores security is taking a gamble.

Graham K. Rogers has OS X-flavoured web pages, with links to an RSS feed and a weekly podcast at

Green Law


Green law


Recently, law students from more than 10 countries gathered in Bangkok to attend the Alsa Annual Forum 2008, the biggest event of the Asian Law Students Association (Alsa). Their aim was to find a legal solution to cope with the environmental crisis.

The topic of the forum, which ran from Aug 2 to 9, was "Environmental Issues and Solutions toward Asia's Responsibilities". More than 200 delegates from Alsa member-countries and participants from Europe and Australia took part in the discussions.

One of its goals is to draft an international convention for environmental problems, so as to raise public concern over the issues involved. The areas considered included factory emissions control, natural resource management, fishery control, marine pollution, wildlife protection, forestry issues and city pollution.

"As law students, we believe this could be the best way to solve environmental problems - by using legal mechanisms," said Nutta Vasantasingh, president of the Alsa Annual Forum 2008 organising committee.

"We want to do something substantial in terms of the law. As a new generation of lawyers, we should present our ideas on how the law can be applied to resolve environmental problems, such as marine pollution or fishery control. Our objective is to encourage people to become aware of our various conventions and put them into practice," she continued.

One important scheme is the Environmental Project, in which the group from each member-country chooses one environmental problem that it is concerned about, and tries to deal with it legally.

"The main idea of the environmental project is to have members put theory into practice rather than just have discussions," said Nat Boonjunwetvat, the former president of Alsa. It was the fifth Alsa forum, and it is the first time that Thailand acted as host. The previous one, in 2007, was held in Seoul, Korea.


Launched in 1989 by a group of Indonesian law students, Alsa has expanded considerably. The organisation now has members from nine countries: China, Indonesia, Korea, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand.

This non-political, non-governmental and non-profit organisation aims to encourage members to get an insight into the legal system inside each member- country as well as foster long-term relationships among law students of diverse cultures and international backgrounds.

"We are encouraging law students to exchange ideas. By doing this, we can see the different legal problems from the perspectives of young people. Later, we can apply this knowledge to our profession," said the former president. "Today, we are in the world of globalisation. We cannot know only our legal system or see only our own problems. We have to seek international coordination and exchange knowledge so that we can develop ourselves."

Anisa Putri Larasati Sulaiman, an Alsa member from Indonesia, talked about some of the benefits of being a member of the association: "You can expand your network of legal contacts, practise your legal skills and exchange knowledge on the different cultures and legal systems of Asian countries."

Other Alsa activities include the Asian Law Students Conferences and study trips to member countries. In the future, the association expects to hold public legal seminars, according to Nutta.

For more information about Alsa, visit . Any university interested in joining Alsa may contact Ms Chompoonut Wiroonpan on 089-992-2909.

The peaceful teaching of Theravada in busy Bangkok

Living dhamma

The peaceful teaching of Theravada in busy Bangkok


Bangkok has long been a hub for people travelling throughout Southeast Asia. It offers things both good and not-so-good to the visitor, although Theravada Buddhism - the cultural cornerstone of Thailand and a source of tremendous pride for Thais - has not been proactive in teaching the international community about its many offerings.

Need for an alternative

While Thailand's temples shimmer majestically in photos, non-Thais interested in the peaceful teachings those temples enshrine are often left in the dark. The buildings are beautiful and inviting, but the teachings and principles of enlightenment they hold remain a mystery to most non-Thais, many of whom would like to know more. There are many reasons, but a major one is the language barrier.

For this reason, last year a small group of us decided to launch an experiment aimed at presenting those precious teachings in English to local expatriates and foreign visitors.

Accordingly, the international community of Bangkok is invited to attend a series of dhamma talks in English which will explore one of Thailand's most precious gems, called: "Theravada Buddhism. Living Dhamma". The series will take place on Thursdays from Aug 21 to Oct 9. The talks will cover topics on Buddhism, mindfulness and meditation, and promise to be easily understood by newcomers, while offering fresh insights into topics that regular mediators will find interesting and challenging.

Rites, rituals minimised

"The Living Dhamma" series will run for eight consecutive Thursdays. This means that topics covered will be explored methodically and thoroughly.

The rites and rituals surrounding dhamma, as taught in Theravada Buddhism, will be kept to a minimum. Instead, the focus will be on how the teachings can be brought to practical and peaceful uses.

The talks will examine how the various methods of reflection and meditation can be used to console one's thoughts and feelings, offering a taste of the meditative peace that lies beyond.

In fact, there is a pure, psychodynamic aspect of the teachings that resides beneath the rituals, and this has been of growing interest to the West, especially in psychology.

For example, more than 17,000 people have completed the University of Massachusetts' "Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction" programme, which utilises many of the techniques found in Theravada and Zen practices.

One aspect of the programme scrutinises these teachings under the microscope of science. The course founder, Dr Jon Kabat-Zinn, maintains close ties to the Buddhist roots of the course through the Mind and Life Institution - a group that "explor(es) the relationship of science and Buddhism".

However, how much can science cut away with "Occam's Razor" before losing sight of the spiritual goal of enlightenment?

Training the mind

The mind, by nature, is universal and warrants investigation. And while Buddhists appreciate the scientific interest from psychology, Theravada Buddhism focuses on more than just stress reduction.

Training the mind to step back and observe itself strips the "self" identity to its bare roots. Our parents and teachers never really taught us to notice this, enthralled as they were with exam scores.

This quiet, yet awake, mind is where the mind unifies. Kayagatasati Sutta observed that a monk must seek to be: "Heedful, ardent and resolute, and any memories and resolves related to the household life (should be) abandoned, and with their abandoning his mind (should) gather and (be) quieted inwardly, (be) unified and centred."

At the talks, participants will look at modern research and how it relates to dhamma topics, says co-organiser Dr Holly Dugan, a former professor of East-West Psychology at Abac University.

Dugan says, "I think the crowd will give us some ideas about future topics, but Buddhist Psychology is a natural [topic]. Oh, and lots of people are interested in Christianity and Buddhism, a subject I've chewed on a bit."

So far, participants have presented a wide range of ideas for discussion. With knowledge of Pali terminology and Buddhist learning, participants show just how far the West has come in its understanding of Asian religion and thought.

Bangkok 'sangha'

Several participants come from backgrounds in yoga and spiritual massage. Others come from more academically rooted philosophical and psychological backgrounds.

The universal appeal of Theravada Buddhism can be seen through the diversity of persons who gather for the talks. However, attendees are not required to believe in any specific faith or be a member of any specific group. The more diverse the crowd, the more interesting the discussions can be.

Over the next several weeks. we will take a detailed look at these teachings. Hopefully, there will be as many answers as questions, and in the near future we can expand the format to include more informal gatherings.

Indeed, since forming last year, many lasting friendships have grown in our Little Bangkok Sangha - which is part of the larger plan. The word "sangha" originates from Pali and translates roughly as "community"; but in a broader sense it can mean a group of like-minded people.

The upcoming talks will be held at Wat Yannawa, which is a three-minute walk from Saphan Taksin Skytrain Station. They will run from 6:30pm to 8:15pm every Thursday beginning Aug 21 and will continue for eight weeks.

The format will include a dhamma talk, simple meditation instruction for those who do not have an established regimen, meditation, and Q&A. All the events are free of charge, and no reservation is needed.

For more information, visit . For a list of discussion topics each week, visit .

Phra Cittasamvaro Bhikkhu is a British national who was ordained in 1996 in Thailand. He has a BA in Buddhist Psychology from Mahaculalongkorn Rajavidyalaya University ('Monk's University', Bangkok). He is a co-founder of 'The Living Dhamma' series of discussions and workshops in English.

Pick your seven natural wonders


Pick your seven natural wonders


Nature lovers be prepared. The New 7Wonders Foundation is asking every Internet user to vote for the New Seven Wonders of Nature.

The campaign is still in the process of nomination during which you can suggest nominees or vote for your favourite places until the end of this year. At present, there are 290 nominees: 62 from Asia, 59 from South America, 58 from Europe, 48 from Africa, 47 from North America and 16 from Oceana.

On the Asia list, there are three nominees from Thailand - Ko Phi Phi, Phangnga Bay and Khao Yai National Park. The rule is that only the top-77 official nominees will be eligible for consideration by the New7Wonders of Nature panel of experts. One person has one voice, but seven votes.

As far as Thailand is concerned, so far only Ko Phi Phi makes the top-77 list.

So if you like see other Thai sites make the cut, check out the web site

Power from bio-mass

Evason Phuket is using energy generated from bio-mass - plants sourced from 64 acres of tropical parkland in which it sits - to power an air-conditioning unit that feeds all storage areas at the 260-room resort.

Built with Danish money and expertise, the bio-mass plant consumes 140kgs of organic rubbish daily to generate power that drives its 20-ton absorption chiller air-conditioning unit.

In addition, the resort recently moved all over-head electrical cabling underground, and replaced its iconic tramcars with electric vehicles.

More Bkk-Phuket flights

Since August 15 Bangkok Airways has increased daily flights between Bangkok and Phuket from two to three on Friday, Saturday and Sunday using the 162-seater A320 on the route to cope with rise in passenger traffic.

The additional flights leave Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport at 1:45pm and on the return leg depart Phuket at 3:50pm.

Asian airlines win praise

Singapore Airlines took the top slot in Skytrax's latest survey of 15 million passengers conducted from August 2007 to June this year.

It was followed by Cathay Pacific, Qantas, THAI and Asiana.

The survey also voted Asiana for best economy class and cabin staff, Eva Air for best premium economy class, Singapore Airlines for best business class, Cathay Pacific for best first class, and easyJet as best low-cost airline.

Emirates was voted for best inflight entertainment, Austrian Airlines for best onboard catering in business class, Qantas for best onboard catering in economy class and best first class lounge, Virgin Atlantic for best business class lounge, British Airways as best trans-Atlantic airline, Air New Zealand as best trans-Pacific airline, and Bangkok Airways as best regional airline in Asia.

For more information, visit

Book highlights Indochina

The Mekong Tourism Office has published The Guide to Responsible Tourism in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam to facilitate travel in Indochina.

The book is designed for tourists who want to pick up a copy and go, and for tour operators and travel agents who would like to add responsible travel experiences to their Mekong sub-region itineraries, said Peter Semone, senior advisor to the Mekong Tourism Office based in Bangkok.

The 148-page guide is penned by Guy Marris, Nick Ray and Bernie Rosenbloom and edited by Ken Scott, all of them seasoned travellers in the region.

It has full contact and booking information for all the recommended activities in the three countries, practical information for travellers, and a list of useful resources and organisations involved with heritage, conservation and responsible tourism.

The book costs US$15 (inclusive of postage) and can be ordered through the Pacific Asia Travel Association.

For more information, visit the web site

If you have any comments or news to share, mail them to

People person with a keen eye for detail


People person with a keen eye for detail


Choo-Leng Goh fits to a "T" her new position as manager at the Royal Orchid Sheraton. A Singaporean national, she has worked for Starwood Hotels & Resorts for close to a decade and prior to her recent promotion was the Royal Orchid Sheraton's regional director for sales and marketing (Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam) for five years. She is the first Asian woman in the company to be elevated to the post of hotel manager.

The seasoned, 45-year-old executive had this to say about the public perception of women like her: "Female, Asian hotel managers are still relatively uncommon in this part of the world, so I sometimes see people raise their eyebrows when they find out that a woman is running a five-star establishment. In all fairness, I feel [that having a] female [as] hotel manager is definitely a plus - you have to agree that women have a keen eye for detail!"

Living in Thailand for close to two decades now, and married with two children, Goh says that to juggle the demands of a high-pressure career with the responsibilities of raising a family takes a lot of patience, perseverance and passion.

What's been the biggest challenge for you, so far, as a hotel manager?

I've been in my current job for just a month, so getting to know the 700 members of staff personally [will be] a big challenge. However, I'm looking forward to that. I speak Thai, so that makes it easier to bridge the culture gap.

Have your leisure-travel habits changed since you entered the hotel industry?

I've begun to prefer destinations which are less frequented by tourists - places which offer picturesque, natural surroundings. I don't plan extensively for family vacations any more; I like to go with the flow.

How have your experiences as a traveller assisted you in your work?

Being a guest in another hotel always helps in better understanding the requirements of hotel guests. Both my business- and leisure-travel experiences have helped me get a better picture of the various types of guest profiles to expect, and I have adjusted our hotel services accordingly.

What, in your opinion, are the strengths of the Thai hotel industry?

It definitely has to be the people! Thais are naturally suited to working in the service industry; that's why this country is known as the Land of Smiles! We can build beautiful hotels with the latest technology, but it's meaningless if the service culture isn't there! The majority of compliments we receive from guests focus on our service-minded staff; there's hardly ever any mention of the 'hardware' of the hotel.

How much of an impact has the volatile political situation had on hotels under the Starwood banner?

Business has indeed slowed a little but this [can be attributed to] many factors. The world economy has slowed down and the high fuel surcharge on air tickets, etc, have held off some decisions on leisure travelling. Of course, having a stable political situation would help to increase demand [for holidays] to Thailand, as safety and security is one of the highest priorities for both leisure and business travellers.

Hoteliers have to stay on top of their game to succeed during hard times such as these!

Tell us about your dream destination.

With two young girls - aged five and nine - my husband and I are now limited to Disneyland, ski resorts and child-friendly leisure destinations! But when the kids grow older I'd like, perhaps, to revisit some of our favourite holiday spots.

What's your idea of the perfect vacation?

[It] would mean balancing my time, [being able] to both relax and to enjoy activities that I'm passionate about such as snorkelling, mountain trekking, skiing and, of course, shopping! Good food and wine is also a must.

What are your views on pet-friendly hotels?

I think as long as the hotel is able to keep the hygiene [up to standard] and have the right facilities and amenities for the pets, it's fine. Bringing a pet as a companion on a holiday is getting common nowadays. The trend has become increasingly popular because, for a lot of people, pets are just like children. For me, going on a holiday without my children would be devastating, so I can wholeheartedly empathise with pet lovers. I don't think this trend has caught on in Thailand yet, but maybe in the next couple of years ...

In the US, some of our Starwood hotels are pet-friendly, especially our "W" brand [hotels and resorts group].

Which province, or provinces, in Thailand are you most fond of?

I have to be biased, here: Chiang Rai is my favourite because that's where my husband and I fell in love! We love the natural surroundings in Chiang Rai. And the Golden Triangle, where the three countries meet, never fails to brighten my spirits. I'm very excited that Starwood is going to build a Le Meridien in Chiang Rai in the next two months.

In what ways could the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) better assist the domestic hotel industry?

TAT has always been very supportive of us. Change and growth are an integral part of breaking into new markets [so] I'd like to see better cooperation between key international hotel chains, especially during hard times such as these, in expanding each other's customer-distribution network. As a country, we have more to offer tourists than just Bangkok and Phuket. Promoting other provinces in Thailand will surely help in establishing markets in Europe and Asia, because people are always looking for new places to visit.

To contact the writer, email

Little sympathy in London town

Little sympathy in London town

A random survey of Thais in the UK conducted by PATCHARIN WONGSATIEN failed to turn up much support for former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra's plea for political asylum.

Nike, president of the Thai Festival Organisation:

'I quite understand why they did it. If you're in that position, being used to power and having all the money in the world, would you care to spend time in prison? I don't think so.

"I think they are good people, but they were unfortunate to have had bad advice. I mean, when they went back to Thailand from exile last time, they should have kept a low profile in politics. Personally I think they should stand trial in the Thai courts, but they decided that they had to flee because they could not get a guarantee or assurance that the court would grant them bail. Otherwise, I don't think they would have left and made themselves fugitives in another country.

"From my point of view, the possible outcome facing the family if they were to fight all the charges in the Thai courts is dim. Evidence against them is very strong.

Personally, I don't think it was right that they violated the bail conditions, but for them it's the right move. They have witnessed their lawyers being sent to jail, and also the three-year prison sentence for Khunying Potjaman was enough to convince the family that perhaps it was time to go."

Kampol Nirawan, former political activist during October 14, 1973

student uprising:

'I believe Thaksin's self-imposed exile has put him at a disadvantage. Firstly, he would in effect strip himself of a chance to fight in court because the trial will go ahead in absentia. Secondly, his assets in Thailand will be seized and he also risks having his assets here restrained by a court order since Thai and British police have reciprocal agreement to co-operate in a criminal offence."

Siriruk, a city worker:

'I don't think Thaksin and his wife should have been allowed to leave the country in the first place to go to China, especially when Khunying Potjaman was in effect a convicted prisoner and their court cases were still pending. Personally I think Mr Thaksin, as former leader of the country, showed no respect for the Thai constitution.

"It's utter nonsense what he claimed - that he would not get a fair trial in the Thai justice system and there was not any hard evidence against him and his family. Seeking political asylum here is an easy escape. But I do hope that the English courts would see through him and refuse his application, because he is not facing a death sentence at home nor is his life in danger. The family is very lucky because they are so rich, they can afford to do anything. But they should not be above the law. What I believe is that what goes around comes around. Perhaps they cannot buy their way out of what has come around this time."

Parn, a city worker:

'In my opinion, I don't think his claim that he could not trust the Thai justice system is justifiable. It's more of a case of political miscalculation. After all, his wife has been through the trial in Thailand and has received a jail sentence. I think Thaksin could see that he would face the same fate. That was why they decided to flee.

"As for whether or not he would seek political asylum here, I think at the end of the day he will get away with everything. Look at Rakesh Saksena (fugitive Thai bank adviser), for example. He was never brought back to face trial in Thailand. Having said that, I don't really think Thaksin will apply for asylum here."

Malisa Butterworth, a businesswoman:

'It would be ridiculous if Thaksin and his wife are allowed to claim political asylum here. The 1951 United Nations refugee convention states clearly that the claimant must have a well-founded fear of persecution because of his/her race, belief, political opinion or belong to a particular social group. The question for Thaksin and his wife is: do they fit into any of these categories?

"He (Thaksin) argued that he chose the UK because democracy means more here. But people can see it that the court proceedings in Thailand are carried out under the strict rules of constitution. However, I wouldn't be surprised if he and his wife are allowed to live here. After all, many former world leaders who abused their own people and violated human rights in their countries, like Augusto Pinochet (late dictator of Chile), were welcomed to the UK. Still, I believe its not a bad thing that he left Thailand. At least it helps reduce political temperature and conflicts there."

Supa Korprakong, Home Office employee:

'I don't think Thaksin should be granted political asylum here. It's obvious that he and his wife are trying to run away from the punishment they deserve. If they don't believe in the Thai justice system, why did they go back last time? They did because they thought their friends in the government could help them. Now they know their friends could not help, so they left to spare themselves a jail sentence. It's simple. There is nothing to do with the fairness of our judicial system.

"I feel sorry for Thailand and poor people. The family is so rich but they never want to give anything back to society. When Thaksin was in power, his policy was always for short-term gain. They should look up to Bill Gates. He is rich but he is willing to do something good for others in the world. Unlike Thaksin, whose only interest is to grab as much as he can and who thinks about nothing else except creating his image. He is getting what he deserves."

Steps to improve your reading speed

Time to read faster

Steps to improve your reading speed


If there is a way to use your brain better, reading faster with more comprehension is one of the ways. A lot of people wish that they could read faster so they could learn more things or cover more materials in less time. This way not only will they be "smarter" but they will also have more free time to do what they want.

There are actually steps that you can take to improve your reading speed. Some people might think learning to speed-read is hard but it is not so. This is more about acquiring useful habits and work at them every time you read. This will help not only with your speed but also with your comprehension. We don't want speed without comprehension.

First of all there are three negative reading habits that we picked up along the way since we were learning to read in first grade.

- The first one is sub-vocalisation. This is a tendency to "mouth" or pronounce the words you are reading. Sub-vocalising happens because it's the way we were taught to read but it will slow us down as an adult reader. When we read with our eyes, we read at the speed of light, but when we pronounce the words in our minds, it will reduce our speed to the speed of sound.

- The next one is the habit of finger-pointing. Using guides such as pens, knitting needles or chopsticks to point on the page is a good technique to help keep your eyes on track. But if you use your finger to point, the rest of your palm will block the sight of other letters.

- The last negative reading habit is back-skipping and regression. Our eyes sometimes have a tic and we back-skip without realising ourselves. Regression happens when we tend to read "too fast" thus lose comprehension and must go back to reread. Both can be reduced by using guides and making sure you get the point before moving on.

Once we already took care of the three habits, we have to look at our own internal interferences. One thing that people are not often aware of is their time of reading. Because of the habits formed in school many people have not tried to find the times of the day when they do their best learning or reading. It is important to experiment with reading at different times. We all have peaks and slumps during different times of the day. Some find they study best during mid-morning while others find late-night more suitable.

One of the most famous reasons for reading too slow is our habit of concentrating too much on the details. Please be aware that our brains like to process information from "the big picture" to the small details. Therefore, when we approach a book, we must see the book for "the big picture", looking at the summary of each chapter and reading the bullets of the whole book before diving into the details.

Another technique that I find useful is called "opening peripheral vision". Usually we tend to focus our vision too much on the letters that we are reading. This habit fatigues our eyes. So opening the field of vision can be done when you learn to read two lines at a time or learn to see "around" the letters you are reading.

Let me show you concrete examples of famous people who used speed-reading techniques to improve their work and their lives.

Former president Franklin D. Roosevelt was one of the fastest readers and leaders of the US. It is reported that he could read a whole paragraph at a glance and a whole book in one sitting. When he started out he was an average reader. But when he decided to pick up speed reading he decided to increase his original span to four words per stop and then six and eight. He subsequently practiced reading two lines at a time then zigzag his way down the page and reading small paragraphs with single eye movement. What he did was identical to today's world renowned speed readers.

The other is former president John F. Kennedy. He made it publicly known that he had studied speed reading and improved from 284 words per minute to about 1000. This ability allowed him the exceptional flexibility to vary his speed on the different variety of materials he is obliged to read every day.

Once you have practiced some speed reading techniques, do not worry that you can't read for pleasure anymore. Once you have achieved the speed you desire, you can adjust it any way you want.

This is like a professional driver who can adjusts her speed to suit the kinds of roads she is dealing with. If you learn to read professional materials faster, you will have more times for the things you need.

Perhaps you can spend more time gardening, chilling out with your loved ones, or just sipping coffee on the porch. And, you can even afford to slow down on your pleasure reading if you wish. Enjoy reading.

Vanessa Race or 'Nu Dee' is the founder of Genius Creator and inventor of the genius development programme at Vanessa School. She has a master's degree in education from Harvard University.

Psychology of successful investing


Psychology of successful investing


So many books on how to invest in the stock market have been published. Many have focused on the technical, fundamental, or other strategies for sophisticated and amateur investors. However, not many have stressed on the psychological effect of one's investments.

Banjong Amorncheevin believes psychology is no less important than other factors influencing an investor's mind and the decision-making process.

All stock markets worldwide have been painted with emotions, mood and feelings, be it tears, laughs, gladness, disappointment and so on. All have been caused by these two words: Greed and fear.

Fear of losing money during the times of market downturns or chances to earn more when the market is skyrocketing. Greed of wanting to earn as much profits as others or even more than others.

Thus, to win the battle, the writer believes the essence is to truly understand ones' psychological stage and personality that actually influences one's decision-making process.

In the first few chapters, the writer discusses the different types of personality disorders such as paranoid, schizoid, schizotypal, histrionic, narcissistic, antisocial, borderline, avoidant, obsessive compulsive and depressive. They all impact and disrupt the decision-making process.

Other things like the person's ego, learning process and childhood experiences also affect the investor's choice.

The latter half of the book outlines ways to balance the aforementioned emotions and the disorders and get the best results out of it. One thing he cautions is stress. Basically stress does have big influence on investors' decisions. So it's necessary for investors to find ways to cope with it.

Patience is another key word here. The writer believes it's the core necessity for all investors. Good investments do take times. However, investors are often and easily lured into quick money or overnight richness. The media can also misguide investors, he says.

In the last few chapters, the writer outlines guidelines on how to change ones' behaviour patterns to fix the mistakes in investing.

The book is a good read for both beginners and even sophisticated investors.

However, it contains too many psychological jargon that may somehow, confuse readers.

Luxury look is all the rage amid current economic woes

Decor trends

Luxury look is all the rage amid current economic woes


The luxury look is in trend this year and is likely to continue with one possible reason being that the rich want to display their wealth amid the current global economic turmoil, says Niwat Aunprueng, senior partner of P Interior and Associates Company (PIA).

"This style is about creating the ambience of a five-star hotel. Just close your eyes and imagine sitting at the Four Seasons with soft and comfortable seats and pieces imported from the US that look very expensive. That is considered luxury," said Niwat.

The modern look has come down a notch or two, but there is an overlap Niwat points out - a modern style can also be luxurious. An example of this is a very big sofa that is simple, clean and comfortable.

"This is an Italian trend that focuses on modernity. In Europe and the US the situation differs a little bit, as Italians focus on simple furniture lines with comfort. American and European furniture tend to have a lot of details, such as stitching work, but the price level is about the same."

Italian furniture designs dominate the Thai market with around 60 to 70 per cent of the importers selling pieces produced there. The remainder of the market is dominated by US-made products.

Those splurging on decorating their inner-city condominiums to create this plush look are mostly the older set who own around 200 to 400m2.

Another group is those buying pricey villas and condominiums in Phuket and Samui with both groups demanding expensive imported brand-name pieces. Sometimes they fill their whole residence with these costly imports.

"Many of them have children who completed their education abroad and they want to use big brands," said Niwat.

He has noticed that the Thai market for imported furniture is getting bigger because more showrooms have opened up in the Thong Lo and Langsuan areas this year.

"Thais have this habit: 'Let me try sitting on it first, touch it first, if I like it I'll buy it.' Around 90 per cent of the people I have worked with have this habit."

While Thai furniture makers do produce and export a sizable amount, Niwat noted that some companies only manufacture for export. Many of the people involved are young designers focusing on tropical styles and the use of wood and rattan. "We are very good at this, Thais are famous for this, foreigners acknowledge this, and this is our strong point."

Some companies produce pieces that look very similar to the costly imports but Niwat pointed out that the difference is in the interior with the wooden frame and springs not being the same as what is produced overseas and this makes them less flexible.

Tan and earth tones seem to be all the rage right now, said Niwat.

Tastes have also changed when it comes to the material with folks preferring sofa sets made of real leather rather than upholstered in various kinds of fabric. "If you go back three to four years, fabric played a big role but the design trend has steadily switched to leather."

One reason for this switch is maintenance because leather is a lot easier to clean and keep in tip-top condition, whereas upholstered sofas not only tend to collect dust, the cleaning agents also tend to leave patches on the fabric.

"Some people are allergic to dust and if you hit the sofa once the dust spreads all over. So I recommend that my clients use leather."

Things have changed in the dining room too with Niwat noting that the upper class now favour dining tables topped with light-coloured marble with carrara being a big favourite.

The current preference is for the legs to be made of stainless chrome rather than wood as was previously the case. Chairs too are now mostly light-coloured with this being an about face from the popularity of their dark cousins just a few years ago.

The focus in the bedroom is on earth tones and the usage of embroidery work, mainly flowers and borders.

IA is also doing a lot of work overseas, mainly in India and Dubai, with hotel and serviced apartment operators there preferring Thai designers' styles.

"They like our styles because they are contemporary yet luxurious, we focus on using materials simply. India and Dubai now want to upgrade to the international level and don't want anything that has a lot of their own culture in it, they want modern styles."

As much as 60 to 70 per cent of PIA's revenue is currently from India and this work has been steady for four to five years. Other Thai design companies have benefited from the Indian boom as well.

However, this work is only for business operations with their executives now realising that it is essential to become a bit more international. When it comes to private residences, Indians still prefer their own styles.

Feline infectious enteritis is one of the most deadly communicable diseases


Better safe than sorry

Feline infectious enteritis is one of the most deadly communicable diseases


Though feline infectious enteritis (FIE) is a fatal disease - which claims numerous cats annually - it can be prevented through simple means. Annual inoculation against this infectious disease is the most practical preventive measure, and it can eliminate concern about the spread of FIE among the feline community.

According to Dr Araya Phonsuwan, from Vet4Polyclinic Animal Hospital, FIE, also known as "feline panleukopenia" or "feline parvovirus", is a life-threatening disease, in which most infected cats die if not treated early.

"Feline infectious enteritis is one of the most deadly communicable diseases. Cats with lower immunities are easily susceptible and most will die shortly after since the infectious virus will quickly destroy their internal organs," explained the vet.

Cats that develop FIE show obvious symptoms including listlessness, loss of appetite, diarrhoea with blood and severe vomiting. Besides, their entire body will turn pale.

"If cat owners see any one of these signs, I strongly recommend them to take their infected cat to the vet immediately. Don't wait too long since the cat can die of dehydration," suggested the vet.

This disease occurs in cats of all ages. Kittens aged two months are most susceptible to the FIE virus, and the chances of them fully recovering are nil. But if the disease infects adult cats, their chances of survival are more positive since they are more immune. However, there is no guarantee.

According to the vet, it is easy to diagnose whether an infected cat has parvovirus. This virus destroys bone marrow and reduces the number of white blood cells. Therefore, a simple blood test can identify the level of white blood cells and determine whether or not the cat is infected.

When FIE breaks out, the whole feline community, within close vicinity, is prone to this "massacre" since the disease can spread far and wide in a short period. FIE can be transmitted by infected cats through fluids such as blood, saliva and mucus.

"The horrible thing about this disease is that it can spread like bush-fire. And the situation is aggravated further when lots of cats are living together in the same place. An infected cat will die within five to 10 days if not treated right away," the vet added.

The best way to reduce the severity of this phenomenon is to separate infected cats from the rest as soon as possible. But the best way to prevent this disease is to vaccinate cats, according to the inoculation timetable recommended by vets.

As for kittens, two injections are needed: When the kitten is eight weeks old and again when it's 15 months old. An adult cat must be given a booster shot every year throughout its lifetime. Adult cats that have never been vaccinated can receive a vaccination against FIE, so long as it hasn't developed an infection such as hepatitis and has no fever.

"Most of the cat owners I know pay no attention at all to this disease [FIE]. They only have their cat vaccinated for rabies since it is communicable to us. But giving their cat a vaccination for FIE is also necessary since it can help keep the animal healthy. If you can't keep your cat indoors at all times, it's best you follow the inoculation schedule," the vet said.

Brave father finds a role model in his impaired son


Brave father finds a role model in his impaired son


Walter Lee's main principle of parenting is fairness.

"If my son gets naughty or disobedient, he gets a smack, just like his brother and sister. He is unique, but not special," said Lee of his youngest son, Zy. This would be normal if you overlook the fact that the two-year-old boy has only one functional arm, half a right arm, a distorted left leg and no right leg at all.

But Lee insists on sticking to his principle, in every possible way. After a prime-time talk show featured the story of Lee and his son, a massive number of people were immensely moved by his positive attitude and courage to make sure his son has every opportunity a human being should have.

Zy was born with congenital limb deficiency, without any warning from doctors. His condition is very rare and difficult to treat compared to patients born limbless, who have better balance.

"Imagine the delivery room, which was full of joy and expectation. After the birth, there was only silence," Lee recalled the moment, a heartbreaking scene for any parent.

Lee's wife, Nok, cried for over three months. She could not bear the shock of carrying her child for nine months without knowing anything was wrong.

Lee managed to regain emotional control quickly.

"I'm the head of the family. I have a role to play, a duty to do. We have two other children to take care of. I don't have the luxury to remain shocked or upset," he remarked.

Lee, the owner of Venturetec Marketing Company Limited and a TV cooking show host, started searching for any possible treatments. Every doctor, every hospital told him the same bad news: Wait until the boy grows up and then give him artificial limbs. This news would sound rational and acceptable to most, but it was not good enough for Lee. He wanted immediate treatment.

"I intend to offer my son more choices. I want him to be able to stand and walk. This is a fundamental right for all humans, and is integral to their dignity. It's important to talk to people face to face without having to look up," Lee explained. "Children are the future. How can they bloom without a chance to show their potential?"

Eventually, with his friend's help, Lee found hope at Heidelberg Orthopaedic University Clinic, which has specialised in limb abnormalities and amputee patients since World War Two.

Last October, Lee and his wife took young Zy to the hospital. Despite the hope in his heart, Lee was still shocked when he was informed that the chance for Zy to stand and walk was only 80 per cent. Though Zy's hip is dislocated, the German doctors insisted he still may walk using only his tendons and muscles. The news was so wonderful but he still had a lot of things to be worried about. Zy had to be treated until he was fully grown. The first phase of the treatment would take almost six years.

"I was so glad with the news but I was afraid I wouldn't be able to afford it, as it would involve 17 years of treatment. Money was a big issue, and we had to take care of two other children. It's unfair if the decision effects them. But then again, like the old Japanese saying, 'Let tomorrow's wind blow tomorrow.' I decided to do it."

The first treatment started in March and lasted six weeks. Zy was attended to by a big team which consisted of an orthopaedist, a technician and other relevant specialists.

"I was impressed with their attitude. They argued and discussed issues in an attempt to find the best solutions, the best answers. It taught me that with the right attitude you can overcome anything,"

After his personal tragedy, Lee began looking beyond his immediate family. He wished for others who face a similar problem to receive the opportunity Zy has. His very first attempt was unsuccessful; no doctors, hospitals or medical schools accepted his invitation to travel to Germany to observe the treatment of his son. However, the recent visit of Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn at Heidelberg Orthopaedic University Clinic has sparked a bright future for patients with limb abnormalities in Thailand.

"In the future, Thailand could become a hub for treatment," Lee said hopefully.

Inspired by his first-hand experience, Lee also wants to set up a counselling centre.

"It's easy to understand why such a trauma could cause problems within a family. In our case, no one cared about our mental or emotional state. My wife cried every day. I admitted that I would never really understand her sorrow. A mother who carried her baby for nine months has created a special bond that is far beyond our understanding. Even now, my wife hasn't recovered completely. From the very beginning, I knew I had to heal Khun Nok first."

The story of Lee's family has received an unexpected and overwhelming response. Lee has taken countless phone calls from parents who share the same plight, thanking him for his strong will that has encouraged them.

"One women called to thank me. She said that after seeing them on TV, her husband, for the first time, held their disabled baby four months after he was born."

The little Zy has become an icon of hope. At the clinic at Heidelberg, the sight of the little boy joyfully walking around the hospital gave some patients a smile and some a tear.

"The doctors there said that my son really encourages their patients. His image is so powerful. It is human nature to feel better when they see others in a worse situation."

The incident also convinced Lee that human compassion still exists. One of his friends flew all the way from abroad just to give him a hug. Another one returned home earlier because he missed his wife and children after visiting Lee's family.

All in all, the most precious lesson is that the human spirit is hard to dampen.

"I will not allow my son to feel sorry for himself. People might call him names, but when you let yourself feel sorry for him or give up, that's the worst thing that can happen."

Lee insists on taking Zy to public places regularly to make him and the whole family become familiar with being stared at. As if he almost foretold events, Lee named the boy Zy, which is derived from the word Chai, meaning "victory".

"I believe normal and disabled people should be integrated. Everyone is born with their own kind of strength. It's up to you to find it."

Zy might have given him a shock at first, but he turned out to be a true gift for Lee.

"I often called him my little professor. He teaches me lots of things. He opens my eyes, and stimulates my thoughts and potential as a human being."