Thailand and Laos Agree on the Development of Transport Connectivity
The issue was among major topics of discussion during the second Thai–Lao Joint Cabinet Retreat, held in Chiang Mai province on 19 May 2013. The joint cabinet retreat was co-chaired by Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong of Lao PDR.
Among the transport connectivity projects discussed at the meeting was the construction of a railway, linking Nong Khai in northeastern Thailand and Thanaleng in Laos. The railway will serve as a linkage with the Chinese high-speed train system along the North-South Economic Corridor.
Laos welcomed Thailand’s decision to upgrade two more Thai-Lao border temporary checkpoints into permanent checkpoints, effective on 19 May 2013. The two checkpoints are Phu Du in Ban Khok district, Uttaradit province, and Sop Ruak in Chiang Saen district, Chiang Rai province.
Both Thailand and Laos agreed to promote regional tourism and shared the view that the ACMECS Single Visa would be a scheme to help boost tourism in the ASEAN region as a whole. Laos has shown an intention to prepare for the adoption of the single visa.
Thailand and Laos also expressed their readiness to solve the problem concerning illegal migrant workers from Laos. The Thai Cabinet has approved the operations of the One-stop Service Center for another 120 days, from 14 April 2013 onwards, in order to facilitate the verification of Lao workers’ nationality. Both sides reaffirmed that they would facilitate the immigration of legal Lao workers, based on the 2002 MOU on Thai-Lao Employment Cooperation.
The meeting ended with the signing of three documents: the Joint Statement of the Second Thai-Lao Joint Cabinet Retreat, an MOU on agricultural cooperation between Thailand and Lao PDR, and an agreement on ownership, management and maintenance of the Fourth Thai–Lao Friendship Bridge (Chiang Khong – Houayxay).
Satun Province to Be Developed as a Leading Eco-Tourism City in ASEAN
The southernmost province of Thailand on the Andaman Sea, Satun is located 973 kilometers from Bangkok bordering Perlis and Kedah in Malaysia. With its unique location, this southern province is an attractive destination for tourists, adventurers, and businesspeople, as well as nature lovers.
It is famous for pristine nature spreading over jungles, mountains, and beaches, and is suitable for development into an eco-tourism center, with great potential for an increase in cross-border trade with Malaysia, as well.
The province has set its vision as “a leading eco-tourism city in ASEAN, an agricultural standard city, and a happy city.” The name “Satun” comes from the Malay word satoye, meaning “santol,” a kind of fruit known in Thai as kraton, grown everywhere in Satun. Santol is round and green, and when ripe, and it turns yellow. The skin of the fruit is covered with soft velvet-like fuzz, and the meat is white, thick, soft, and sweet, with a slightly astringent taste. The town of Satun was later named “Negeri Setoi Mumbang Segara,” also in the Malay language, meaning the “Ocean God,” which has become the symbol of this province.
Thailand launches One-Stop Crisis Centre to respond to violence against women
The launch of Thailand’s pioneering One-Stop Crisis Centre by Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on 9 April reinforces the continuing efforts to respond to and prevent violence against women and girls after Thailand joined UN Women’s newest global initiative, COMMIT.
The One Stop Crisis Centre (OSCC) includes a hotline managed by trained staff, a network of 22,000 crisis centres around the country and 1,300 mobile units to access communities nationwide. The crisis centres will receive complaints, transfer cases and coordinate responses between Government agencies. Despite existing response services, multi-sectoral coordination mechanisms remain a challenge. The mobile units will raise public awareness, and also proactively lead interventions in communities where complaints have been received.
The Ministry of Education is joining hands with Women’s Development Funds to help develop ASEAN language skills for Thai women across the country.
The objective is to equip women of all occupational groups with knowledge about English and at least one ASEAN language for use in communication, when the ASEAN Community is in place in 2015.
Read more at link.
Thailand authorities, Muslim rebels launch peace talks
Thai authorities and Muslim separatist leaders on Thursday started peace talks aimed at ending almost a decade of unrest in the country’s far south, as a fresh attack by suspected militants killed three Thai soldiers.
Thailand’s National Security Council secretary-general Paradorn Pattanathabutr (above, center) said the first meeting with the rebels led by the National Revolution Front, also known by its acronym BRN, will focus on “developing relationship and trust.” The talks are being held in Malaysia.
Prime Minister Promises to End Thailand’s Ivory Trade
The prime minister of Thailand pledged Sunday to end the nation’s ivory trade, responding to growing calls from international wildlife groups desperate to stop the slaughter of African elephants.
In a speech at the opening of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species conference in Bangkok, the prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, promised to amend the kingdom’s laws, which critics say include loopholes that have allowed smugglers to ferry African tusks to Thai markets and onward, often to China, the world’s top destination for illegal ivory. Thailand is believed to be the second-biggest market for illicit elephant tusks.
“We will work towards amending the national legislation with the goal of putting an end to ivory trade and to be in line with international norms,” Ms. Yingluck said. “This will help protect all forms of elephants, including Thailand’s wild and domestic elephants and those from Africa.”
The announcement, which pleased environmentalists, places additional pressure on China to halt its legal ivory trade, a thriving industry that experts say has helped fuel the highest rate of African elephant poaching in decades.
Since the beginning of 2012, conservationists say, more than 32,000 elephants have been killed by poachers. Although some of the ivory ends up in Thailand, much of it is smuggled to China, where it is carved into the figurines, chopsticks and other trinkets coveted by that country’s newly affluent consumers.
Animal rights groups have accused the Chinese government of failing to stem the surge in illegal ivory, a charge that Beijing denies.
Changing Thai law, which currently violates international rules set by the convention, would also remove the threat of trade sanctions against Thailand that have been sought by conservation groups.
Ms. Yingluck did not give a timeline for amending the legislation, a point of concern for conservationists, who note that Thailand has been promising to change its laws for several years, to little effect.
“I’m not opening the Champagne yet,” said Mary Rice, executive director of the independent Environmental Investigation Agency. Ms. Rice, who is attending the conference, also criticized the ambiguity of Ms. Yingluck’s promise, which did little to clarify whether the proposed ban would halt both international trade and domestic sales.
Thai law currently allows for the sale of ivory from domesticated local elephants, one of the loopholes that critics say has given smugglers ample legal cover for laundering poached African ivory into Thailand and beyond.
Before the conference, conservation groups, including the World Wildlife Fund and the trade monitoring agency Traffic, urged the convention to punish Thailand, along with Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo, for not doing enough to stem illegal ivory trading.
But other groups cited the absence of China from this list as proof that politics had contaminated efforts to save Africa’s herds. “The whole issue of what’s happening in China is the elephant in the room,” Ms. Rice said.
Arts of the Kingdom: An exhibition of masterpieces of Thai craftsmen
A number of exquisite and rarely seen traditional Thai crafts have been displayed at a permanent exhibition ‘Arts of the Kingdom,’ in the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall in Bangkok, where visitors may appreciate Thailand’s national heritage.
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, accompanied by some Cabinet members and senior officials, on 2 May 2012 visited the magnificent exhibition to view the masterpieces of Thai craftsmen.
All the masterpieces have been created by craftsmen from the SUPPORT Training Center, located in the compound of Chitralada Villa, the royal residence of Their Majesties the King and Queen in Bangkok. The center is operated by the Foundation for the Promotion of Supplementary Occupations and Related Techniques, known in short as SUPPORT.
The SUPPORT Foundation was established by Her Majesty Queen Sirikit in 1976 to promote local arts and crafts and provide supplementary income for farm families. This organization came into being following her frequent visits to rural areas of the country to obtain first-hand information about local people. Her Majesty noticed farmers’ difficult living conditions and found that their fine craftsmanship in arts and crafts should be preserved for future generations. She wanted to see farmers engaged in supplementary occupations to earn more income and spend time fruitfully. Her awareness of the importance of preserving Thai arts and crafts resulted in the establishment of the SUPPORT Foundation under her patronage.
Before the Arts of the Kingdom became a permanent exhibition in 2008, it had been arranged as a special and grand exhibition on significant occasions, such as the celebrations of Her Majesty the Queen’s fifth cycle, or 60th, birthday anniversary in 1992 and the 60th anniversary of His Majesty the King’s accession to the throne in 2006.
Each art object on display reflects excellent craftsmanship, and some pieces took one or two years to complete. For instance, a miniature royal barge is modeled after Suphannhong, which is known as a masterpiece of Thai cultural heritage, and it has also become an outstanding symbol of Thailand. Suphannahong, or the Golden Swan, is a major barge used in a royal barge procession, held only on special occasions.
Butsabok is a small throne pavilion with a square tent-like structure that tapers from the base up to an ornately decorated tiered roof topped by a spire. It is an artistic creation combining several crafts, such as woodcarving, coloring, and gold and silver making.
Phuttan Khram Thong Throne, a royal seat, is modeled after the original one, made of wood, which is now on display at the Bangkok National Museum. It is made of iron covered with gold niello and decorated with diamonds and gems and green beetle wings.
Phra Wo Siwikakan, or the Royal Palanquin with Two Poles, is used in a royal cremation ceremony for a king, a queen, or a high-ranking royal who contributed significantly to the nation. It is an open seat with four poles, with curtains on all poles.
The Ananda Samakhom Throne Hall, which is the location of the Arts of the Kingdom exhibition, was constructed in Western style more than 100 years ago. The Western style of architecture is blended with intricate Thai furnishings and topped with domes. The Ananda Samakhom Throne Hall is the venue for the inauguration of the National Assembly. On the auspicious occasion of the 60th anniversary of His Majesty the King’s accession to the throne, this throne hall was used to receive foreign monarchs and royalty attending the ceremony of the presentation of congratulations to His Majesty the King.
Operating hours are from 10.00 to 18.00 hr, except Monday. Admission costs 150 baht for the general public and 75 baht for students with student ID cards. Visitors should remember to dress appropriately.
Chile hopes to sign a free trade agreement with
Thailand soon and is seeking to expand a limited one it has with India, as the Andean country looks to deepen its open, export-dependent model, foreign affairs minister Alfredo Moreno said on Saturday.
The country is also working on broader agreements, including with fellow Pacific Alliance members Colombia, Mexico and Peru as well as negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
“Chile has just concluded negotiations with Thailand, I expect (the agreement) will be signed soon,” Moreno said. “And (Chile) is starting negotiations with India to expand the very limited agreement we have with India.”
He didn’t provide details of the agreements or time frames.
External trade represents around 75 percent of Chile’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). World No.1 copper producer Chile also exports wine, fruits, salmon and wood pulp.
The South American country has increasingly turned to Asia as a growing market for its products.
Thailand developing International Convention and Exhibition Centre in Chiang Mai
A world-class convention and exhibition center being built just outside the northern city of Chiang Mai will help boost Thailand’s meetings, incentives, conventions, and exhibitions (MICE) business.
The Government intends to develop Chiang Mai into a “MICE City” in the ASEAN region and use the center to stimulate the local economy.
The Chiang Mai International Convention and Exhibition Center Commemorating His Majesty’s 7th Cycle Birthday Anniversary, also known as the Chiang Mai International Convention and Exhibition Center, has been established as part of the celebrations of His Majesty the King’s seventh cycle, or 84th, birthday anniversary in 2011.
Construction of the center will be completed in March 2013. When it is finished, the Chiang Mai International Convention and Exhibition Center will become the largest convention center in Southeast Asia. Deputy Permanent Secretary for Tourism and Sports Seksan Narkwong said that the center would accommodate a growing number of visitors after the realization of the ASEAN Community in the next two years. Its operations would also respond to the Government’s policy to achieve the tourism revenue target of two trillion baht by 2015.
Located in Chang Phuak subdistrict, Mueang district, the center covers an area of 521,600 square meters and can seat up to 10,000 participants. About three billion baht has been used to construct the center, which is a 10-minute drive from the city of Chiang Mai. Various facilities will be offered, such as WiFi Internet, a business center, a post-office, a prayer room for Muslims, a food center, restaurants, VIP rooms, a first-aid room, convenience stores, souvenir shops, and ATM booths.
The Chiang Mai International Convention and Exhibition Center will also host various events, such as concerts and other cultural shows. The Ministry of Tourism and Sports believes that the center would help expand the MICE industry in Chiang Mai by 10 percent a year. A proposal has been made for linking the center with Chiang Night Safari and the Royal Flora Ratchaphruek, in terms of marketing.
It is expected that the first activity will be held at this center in May 2013. Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul revealed that the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment would host the Asia-Pacific Water Summit at the Chiang Mai International Convention and Exhibition Center in June 2013. The next Asia Cooperation Dialogue will take place at this center, as well, in 2015.
Recognized as a regional aviation hub for the Greater Mekong Subregion, Chiang Mai is now a popular long-stay destination, a medical tourism center, and an education hub. It is rich in culture and traditions and boasts numerous tourist attractions that have become a magnet for both local and international visitors.
Thailand and Cambodia have agreed to jointly develop connectivity and tourism in order to facilitate the travel of tourists visiting both countries.
They have announced the implementation of the ACMECS single visa, effective on 27 December 2012. ACMECS stands for the Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy. Member countries include Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam.
The announcement on the ACMECS single visa was made at the end of the Eighth Meeting of the Joint Commission for Bilateral Cooperation between the Kingdom of Thailand and the Kingdom of Cambodia, held at the Dusit Thani Hotel in Bangkok on 25-26 December 2012. The meeting was co-chaired by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Thailand, Mr. Surapong Tovichakchaikul, and the Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Mr. Hor Namhong.
With the implementation of the single visa agreement, tourists from 35 countries will be allowed to obtain one visa to visit both Thailand and Cambodia and stay in Thailand up to 60 days and in Cambodia up to 30 days.
The meeting was told that the State Railway of Thailand is ready to support the construction of a railway linking Khlong Luek in Aranyaprathet, Sa Kaeo province, with Poi Pet in Cambodia. The railway will facilitate the increasing goods transportation and cross-border trade and travel in the area. The Neighboring Countries Economic Development Cooperation Agency will also support a feasibility study of developing Route 48, which connects with the Southern Coastal Corridor in Cambodia.
The meeting approved the opening of a border trade checkpoint at Ban Non Makmun in Sa Kaeo province, opposite Banteay Meanchey province in Cambodia. This border checkpoint will serve as a channel to promote cross-border trade and people-to-people contact.
Both Thailand and Cambodia agreed on the management plan for the opening of a new permanent border checkpoint at Ban Nong Ian in Sa Kaeo province, opposite Stung Bot in Cambodia. The plan includes the construction of a checkpoint office to facilitate goods transportation to cope with growing border trade and investment.
The meeting also discussed ways to ease the rosewood smuggling problem along the border. It agreed to create a communication channel between the relevant agencies of both countries to tackle and prevent the problem.
Thailand and Cambodia agreed to increase bilateral trade target of 30 percent between 2012 and 2017. On this occasion, Mr. Hor Namhong paid a courtesy call on Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, as well. They also discussed the Thai-Cambodian Joint Cabinet Retreat, to be held in the first half of 2013.
PICTURED ABOVE: Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina shakes hand with her Thai counterpart Yingluck Shinawatra at the Prime Minister’s Office in Dhaka on Saturday.
Bangladesh, Thailand wants to double bilateral trade by 2016
According to The Financial Express, Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her Thai counterpart Yingluck Shinawatra acknowledged the importance of enhancing connectivity between the two nations through increased regional cooperation and developing roads and shipping infrastructures linking Bangladesh and Thailand.
The two premiers entrusted the Bangladesh-Thailand Joint Commission to discuss and make recommendations on specific areas of cooperation with a major focus on connectivity, according to a joint statement signed on the day on the occasion of the Thai premier’s visit to Bangladesh.
The two sides recognised that the region is being increasingly used by criminals for arms, drugs and human trafficking. The two leaders expressed concern about the serious challenge posed by the threats of terrorism and condemned it in all its forms and manifestations.
The two noted with satisfaction that bilateral trade has increased by over 65 per cent in the last year (FY 2009-10 to FY 2010-11) and crossed the US$ one billion mark in 2011.
Hasina invited the Thai private sector to invest in infrastructure development, food processing and power generation sectors.
Besides, the two sides agreed to explore the possibilities of cooperation between their respective oil and gas companies in Exploration and Production (E&P) opportunities in Bangladesh.
The Thai PM welcomed Bangladesh’s plan to hold a Single Country Fair in Thailand in 2013.
The Klong Toey Community Lantern — a community space in the oldest and largest of Bangkok’s slums — was built very quickly. Not quite as quickly as shown in this three-minute timelapse video, but construction for the project took just three weeks thanks to the help of the community.
But while construction went fast, Norwegian architects Yashar Hanstad and Andreas Gjertsen — of the firm TYIN tegnestue Architects – took six months to design the space. They conducted interviews with Klong Toey residents and held public workshops to find out exactly what the 140,000 person community — which struggles with rampant unemployment, drug use and substandard housing — needed. The goal was to create a safe oasis for community members of all ages to play and congregate.
The centerpiece of the Community Lantern is a soccer field, with bright lighting, that can double as a basketball area. Around it is an open structure with informal rooms for groups to hang out in and hold their own events. The walls are climbable and include hanging swings, for easy game watching.
“The area struggles with drugs and crime amongst other challenges, and we hope this project can be a little contribution that can lead to something positive,” says Hanstad.
Hanstad and Gjertsen have been named the latest winner of The City 2.0 award for the Community Lantern, and for similar projects they’ve launched in underdeveloped areas of Uganda, Sumatra and Norway.
In 2012, the TED Prize was bestowed upon an idea rather than an individual — The City 2.0, an online platform for the sharing of ideas to make cities function better. The $100,000 prize was broken into 10 grants of $10,000 each, to be given to a variety of projects spanning areas like transportation, education, housing, health, public space and food. Hanstad and Gjertsen have been given the ninth of the grants.
To suggest a project for the final City 2.0 awards nominate it through The City 2.0 website.
Thais Celebrate 85th Birthday of Revered King
Vast crowds of devoted Thais turned out Wednesday to catch a brief glimpse of their beloved king as the world’s longest-reigning monarch celebrated his 85th birthday with a rare public appearance.
King Bhumibol Adulyadej sat on a throne on a balcony overlooking a plaza packed with a crowd that police estimated at 200,000 as he delivered a brief homily on national harmony.
Most in the crowd were dressed in the royal color of yellow, many waving Thai flags and flags adorned with the king’s insignia.
Respectfully silent during the monarch’s halting words, they shouted “Long live the king” afterward, as well as when he made his way to and from the ceremonial Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall.
The turnout was a vivid demonstration of the affection in which many hold the king, despite political turmoil in recent years that has raised doubts about the future of the monarchy.
The Thai Government has provided educational support for Thai Muslim students in Egypt, which is attaching greater importance to the Asian region than before.
During his recent visit to Egypt, Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul met Thai Muslim students and paid a visit to the international ladies’ dormitories at Al-Azhar University. The Thai government offers a donation of one million baht to support activities carried out by Thai Muslim students at Al-Azhar University each year. There are currently about 2,000 Thai Muslim students in Egypt, and the majority of them are women.
According to a report from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Thailand is pushing for the construction of a women’s dormitory for Thai students there, in order to boost the welfare and security of female Thai Muslim students. Foreign Minister Surapong also explained to his Egyptian counterpart Mohamed Kamel Amr the situation in Thailand’s three southern border provinces of Yala, Pattani, and Narathiwat, which are predominantly Muslim. He said that the Thai government had adopted His Majesty the King’s wise advice to “understand, reach out, and develop” as guidelines for dealing with problems and restoring peace in the southern border provinces.
Egypt is a popular Islamic study center among Muslim Thais from the southern border provinces. The Foreign Minister asked Egypt to help create better understanding about the southern situation in the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC). He also expressed hope that OIC’s resolutions concerning the southern border provinces of Thailand would reflect reality.
Foreign Minister Surapong informed Professor Dr. Ahmed Mohamed Ahmed Al-Tayeb, Grand Sheik of Al Azhar, that Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra would like to invite him to visit Thailand, and the Grand Sheik accepted the invitation. On this occasion, both countries signed an agreement on technical and development cooperation. They will celebrate the 60th anniversary of Thai-Egyptian diplomatic relations in 2014. Thailand will also host the third meeting of the Thailand-Egypt Joint Commission in 2013.
The Thai side proposed that Egypt use Thailand as its gateway to ASEAN, while Thailand will use Egypt as its gateway to North Africa. The Thai private sector was also invited to explore investment opportunities in Egypt, especially in the fields of tourism, hotel business, and food processing. Egypt is Thailand’s second largest trading partner in Africa. Trade between the two countries amounted to 805 million US dollars in 2011. Major Thai exports to Egypt include canned seafood, automobiles and auto parts, rubber, and household utensils.
Vast opportunities are still opened to Thai-Egyptian trade and investment. Apart from serving as a gateway for Thai products to Africa, Egypt also serves as Thailand’s gateway to Mediterranean countries.
a 50 year old elephant from Thailand who lost her front left leg in 1999 after stepping on a land mine left over from ongoing conflicts along the Thai-Myanmar border. When the accident occurred Motala was a working elephant who moved trees for a living. She was simply foraging for food in the forest when she stepped on the mine.
Although her owners tried to save poor Motala’s leg, the limb was so badly damaged that it eventually had to be amputated below the knee. It wasn’t until 2006 that she was able to receive her first artificial leg. It was only a temporary solution, but she successfully learned to walk on it. In 2009 Motala received her first permanent prosthesis, made for her at the Friends of the Asian Elephant (FAE) elephant hospital in the Mae Yao National Reserve in Thailand. Because prosthetic legs must be changed according to weight, Motala has been given other legs accordingly and received a new one last year, her third.