Friday, August 22, 2008

Qualified beggars only Being a beggar will not be so easy anymore

the week IN REVIEW : AUGUST 16 - AUGUST 22

[B]HOME: Qualified beggars only Being a beggar will not be so easy anymore if draft legislation approved by the cabinet Tuesday becomes law.

The bill proposed by the Human Security and Social Development Ministry sets conditions for people who want to be beggars.

They must provide proof they are underprivileged, disabled, homeless or elderly without children to care for them. And this will be a reserved occupation, exclusively for Thais who must carry ID cards.

Would-be professional beggars will have to report to local administration organisations for approval and work permits.

Local agencies will be responsible for controlling beggars in their jurisdictions, while the Social Development and Welfare Department will have special centres to help them and programmes to care for them.

Those who force other people to beg, or exploit them, will be liable to criminal punishment, deputy government spokeswoman Suparat Nakboonnam said.

Passing the legislation into law would help the authorities get rid of the large number of foreign beggars in the country, she said. The bill will soon be handed to the government whips and then go to parliament for approval.

If passed, it will replace the 1941 Begging Control Act, which is outdated and begging for a makeover, Ms Suparat said.

Eight BMA officials on land scam charges

The National Counter Corruption Commission (NCCC) has resolved to charge former Bangkok governor Bhichit Rattakul and seven other senior officials of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration with allegedly colluding in a corruption scam related to a BMA land purchase. NCCC spokesman Klanarong Chanthik said the commission agreed to charge Mr Bhichit, his former secretary Somkad Suebtrakul and former director of Bang Sue district Chuan Pattanawaranon, and five other BMA officers, with colluding in a corruption scam involving Bang Sue district's purchase of a 270-million-baht land plot in 1997.

The land was intended to be a parking area for the BMA's garbage trucks.

The NCCC found the land was surrounded by other properties and did not have an exit to the main road, while the BMA paid a highly inflated price for the land, said Mr Klanarong.

As Mr Bhichit, who was then Bangkok governor, had approved the purchase, he was to be accused of violating articles 149, 151 and 157 of the Criminal Code, said Mr Klanarong.

Suspected killers surrender

Six young men suspected of killing a traffic policeman who tried to arrest illegal motorbike racers on Aug 13 have surrendered to police.

They denied killing Samrit Taemthong, 50, a traffic police officer from Vibhavadi station.

Their surrender came one day after Jirawat Putbumrung, 20, was apprehended in Lat Phrao district on an arrest warrant issued by the Criminal Court and charged with involvement in the officer's murder. Pol Snr Sgt-Maj Samrit was killed on Vibhavadi Rangsit road about 1am on Aug 13. He had gone to the area where more than 100 motorcyclists were racing.

A forensic examination found that he had been strangled to death.

Earlier, Pichai Iam-on, Mr Jirawat's lawyer and relative, told police that he would bring in six other suspects who were allegedly involved in the murder.

Students caned for absence, not protest

The caning of eight students at Yothinburana school was unrelated to their attendance at a protest against the relocation of the school to make way for a new government building, deputy secretary-general of the Basic Education Commission Mangkorn Kullavanich said Wednesday.

The commission asked school heads and the Office of Bangkok Education Zone 1, which supervises the school, about reports eight students were caned after they took part in the protest.

The school said they were caned as punishment for their unexplained absence from class.

The punishment had nothing to do with the students' participation in the protest on Aug 15, said Mr Mangkorn.

According to the school, in Bangkok's Dusit district, only five students were caned by physical education teacher Suwattana Permpool on Monday. More than 500 students from the school had joined the march to Government House to demonstrate their opposition to the relocation plan, which would clear land for the new parliamentary site.

BoT to be more independent

The Bank of Thailand (BoT) will increase its political independence and accountability to the public in its conduct of monetary policy, central bank governor Tarisa Watanagase said Thursday.

She added that the new Bank of Thailand Act would improve checks and balances for the bank's operations, as an outsider would now act as the bank's chairman.

The law also calls for the appointment of more outsiders as directors than bank executives on the board. Mrs Tarisa said remarks by His Majesty the King on Tuesday highlighting the importance of maintaining monetary stability had given a morale boost to central bank officials.


Taliban kill 10 French troops

Taliban rebels ambushed a group of elite French soldiers on Monday as they climbed a mountain pass, killing 10 troops in a militant stronghold outside the capital. In a separate coordinated attack, a team of suicide bombers tried unsuccessfully to storm a US base near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

French paratroopers and a Foreign Legion soldier were among the dead, the biggest single combat loss for international forces in Afghanistan in more than three years. The group was on a reconnaissance mission in the Surobi district, about 30 miles east of the Afghan capital, when they were ambushed Monday afternoon, officials said Tuesday. Nato sent backup and said a "large number" of the attackers were killed in the long, drawn-out gunbattle.

France's top military official, Gen. Jean-Louis Georgelin, said most of the French casualties came in the minutes after the team was climbing a mountain pass. The fighting lasted until nightfall, he said.

Manila moves to flush out rebels from south The Philippines ordered troops to clear Muslim guerrillas out of several towns on the southern island of Mindanao on Monday after they attacked soldiers, burnt houses and forced hundreds of people to flee.

The attacks came days after government troops halted a fierce offensive against Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels in another part of Mindanao and was the latest outbreak of violence since a territorial deal with the group was halted earlier this month.

The previous week the military bombed MILF positions for four straight days, triggering an exodus of around 160,000 people, amid accusations the rebels had occupied Catholic farmlands.

The situation on the ground has deteriorated rapidly since the Supreme Court earlier this month halted a territorial deal between the MILF and Manila that was meant to re-open formal peace talks to end the conflict.

Thousands watch topless parade in New Zealand Thousands of spectators turned out to watch about 30 topless women take part in a so-called Boobs on Bikes parade through Auckland's main street Wednesday after a judge rejected a city council bid to stop it.

The council failed on Tuesday to get a court injunction to stop the parade organised by a self-confessed pornography baron, with Judge Nicola Mather saying it may be tasteless but "in a mature society the vast majority might consider it harmless".

Anti-pornography campaigners staged protests before and after the parade down Queen Street in New Zealand's biggest city. Parade organiser Steve Crow told reporters, "it's nice to see a few protesters exercising their right to free speech".

Crow, who organises the parade to publicise his annual Erotica Lifestyles Expo, said he started the parade in 2003 as a protest against sexual discrimination after a woman was arrested for baring her breasts in a city street.

A police spokeswomen could not estimate how many people watched the parade but said it was 'plenty more' than the 80,000 estimated to have turned out last year.

Rice in surprise visit to Baghdad

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived unannounced in the Iraqi capital on Thursday to meet with Iraqi leaders, including Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, to discuss the future of US forces deployed in Iraq.

Her arrival comes after 10 months of difficult negotiations on the US military presence in Iraq between Washington and Baghdad. Reports suggest a compromise draft is being considered by both governments.

Negotiations have been held up by disagreement over the timing of the final withdrawal of US forces from the country and the immunity of US soldiers from prosecution under Iraqi law. Ms Rice said no agreement had yet been reached, but that good progress had been made.

Fruit juice 'could

affect drugs' Drinking fruit juices may not be as healthy an option as thought - they could reduce the effectiveness of some medicines, it is being claimed. Research presented at a US conference suggested a chemical in grapefruit juice could stop anti-allergy drugs being absorbed properly.

A University of Western Ontario team said oranges, and possibly apples, had similar ingredients.

Grapefruit juice is already known to interfere with blood pressure drugs.

"This is just the tip of the iceberg - I'm sure we'll find more drugs that are affected this way," said Dr David Bailey of the University of Western Ontario.

Some medications apparently are made more potent by chemicals in fruit juices, while some are made less potent. Professor James Ritter, a clinical pharmacologist at King's College London, said: "The observation is very interesting. It will need more work to establish how important such interactions are in clinical practice and for what drugs and juices."

Deadly bombing in Pakistan The death toll from an attack by two suicide bombers outside Pakistan's biggest weapons factory complex rose to at least 70 on Friday, officials said, a day after the deadliest strike ever by the Taliban, which has said the bombings were in response to a fierce Pakistani military campaign, including fighter jets and helicopter gunships, that has unfolded over the past two weeks in the tribal region of Bajaur.

The insurgents warned of more attacks if the government continued its campaign, which the military says has led 200,000 people to flee their homes.

Following the resignation of President Pervez Musharraf on Monday, the twin suicide bombings underscored the Taliban's determination to safeguard their strongholds in the lawless tribal areas, no matter who holds power in Islamabad.

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