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Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Update January 2016


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Finance Ministry focuses on investments by government-private-public sectors

Finance Minister Apisak Tantivorawong

BANGKOK, (NNT) – The Ministry of Finance will focus on investments between the government, private and the public sector in general during 2016. according to the citizen-state policy designed to support the country’s economic stability and equality.

Finance Minister Apisak Tantivorawong said that the Ministry of Finance had laid the groundwork for long-term economic stability in 2015 such as by implementing the civil state policy of allowing the private sector to invest in the government projects which is in line with the establishment of the Thailand Future Fund.

The Minister of Finance also said that the ministry will reform taxes in 2016 such as estate tax and inheritance tax by taking into account the balance and the impact on the public.
 


Uttaradit to launch drought relief campaign for farmers

UTTARADIT, (NNT) – Farmers in Uttaradit Province are urged to cultivate low water consuming plants during the drought season, while training projects on drought relief are scheduled to begin Monday.

Thong Saen Khan District Agriculture Official Bancha Benjamin has revealed that the district is now working to provide assistance to the drought affected farmers in the area by providing seeds of low water consumption plants for cultivation, as an alternative source of income during the drought season.

Under this campaign, agricultural academics and officials have been dispatched to advise and demonstrate farmers, so that adaptations will be made to their own crops.

Moreover, the province will be launching a training and providing necessary items for production in support of the farmers tomorrow, during a ceremony chaired by the vice governor at the sugar cane farm association, in Uttaradit Province.
 


Rubber farmers demand more support from the government

BANGKOK,(NNT) - The Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives accepted a proposal to improve compensation for rubber farmers.

Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives Jintana Chaiyawannakarn joined a meeting with representatives of rubber farmers from six provinces, including Nakhon Si Thammarat, Songkhla, Surat Thani, Trang, Satun, and Krabi.

Rubber farmers have proposed that the assistance program be simplified in order to expedite its access. They also asked the government to provide rubber processing machinery. Mrs. Jintana is expected to investigate why rubber machinery is still among their list of demands, despite previous donations of equipment by the government. Another meeting is expected to be held again between both parties to discuss other needs.

The representatives expressed dissatisfaction with the meeting and decided to hold roundtable talks without public officials until late at night on Sunday.

However, they assured that they will not pressure the government to meet their demands by either blocking roads or stirring political unrest.
 


Ministry of Transport set to expand transportation routes throughout 2016

BANGKOK,(NNT) - The Ministry of Transport has set plans to continuously construct transportation routes in 2016. The construction of the Bang Yai – Kanchanaburi motorway is expected to begin in June this year.

Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith said that in 2015 the ministry improved many land, water and air transportation routes as planned in an effort to help stimulate the country’s tourism and economy. In 2016, the ministry would expand its existing projects such as two double track rail lines and three motorways, said Mr.Arkhom.

The Bang Yai – Kanchanaburi motorway, one of the three mortorways, will be an important economic route connecting Thailand with Myanmar.

As for the ministry’s 10 electric train projects, Mr.Arkhom said he would submit them to the Cabinet for approval and expected to open bidding for all of them. The expansion of electric trains would be included in the 12th National Economic and Social Development Plan, the minister added.
 


Udon Thani Groundwater Resource Office: 14 wells dug in 5 provinces

UDON THANI,(NNT) – Udon Thani Provincial Office of Groundwater Resource Director Wittaya Meenisai has disclosed the progress of developing groundwater resource for agriculture in the drought-affected area for the fiscal year 2016.

Udon Thani Provincial Office of Groundwater Resource has drilled 14 groundwater wells out of the planned 22 wells. The 14 wells are located along Udon Thani's five districts including Nong Han district, Ban Phue district, Ban Dung district, Thung Fon district and Kud Chap district.

Udon Thani Provincial Office of Groundwater Resource’s area of responsibility covers four more provinces including Nakhon Phanom, Mukdahan, Sakon Nakhon, Nong Khai and Beung Kan.


GPS devices to be installed in large trucks and public buses

BANGKOK,(NNT) - The Department of Land Transport is installing GPS devices in every heavy-duty truck and public bus in an effort to help ensure safe driving.

Director-General of the Department of Land Transport Snit Phromwong said the department measured the speed of more than 52,000 vehicles from 29 December 2015 – 4 January and found that 661 of them exceeded the speed limit. Most of the vehicles were mini vans, followed by buses and trucks. The department punished both the drivers and their employers, said the director-general.

Speeding is still the number one cause of road accidents. The director-general said the department needed to step up its road accident prevention measures for the Songkran festival in April this year as well as other long holidays. GPS devices were being installed in large trucks and public buses to help prevent road accidents, said the director-general.


Government to strengthen SME operators in 12 Special Economic Zones

BANGKOK,(NNT) - The Department of Industrial Promotion has unveiled its plan to strengthen Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in 12 Special Economic Zones across 10 provinces.

The plan, which is being supervised by the Network of Engineering Service, would encourage SME operators take advantage of the Special Economic Zones and the ASEAN Eeconomic Community. The campaign seeks to enhance the competitiveness of SME businesses by strengthening SME operators, business structure, and personnel, while connenting SMEs of the same type but on a larger scale, both domestically and internationally.

The government's Special Economic Zone project aims at promoting border trade, while escalating border provinces’s potentials as economic zones, transport hub, and logistic hub. Each economic zone would employ a large number of migrant labor and possess regional tourism services, reaping the full benefit from the establishment of the ASEAN Community.

Currently there are 12 Special Economic Zones located in 10 provinces of the Kingdom, which include Tak, Mukdahan, Sa Kaeo, Trat, Songkhla, Chiang Rai, Nong Khai, Nakhon Phanom, Narathiwat, and Kanchanaburi. In 2014, the total value of border trade through these provinces reached 968 billion baht, which accounted for 98% of Thailand's border trade.

Interested SME operators can join the campaign free of charge before the January 27th deadline. For more information, please visit www.gotoAEC.com


Government to give refugee assistance to Jordan & Lebanon

Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sek Wannamethee

BANGKOK,(NNT) – The government is preparing to give cash aid to Jordan and Lebanon for use in the refugee assistance program.

Director-General of the Department of Information, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sek Wannamethee disclosed that the Thai government would be offering 200,000 dollars to the governments of Jordan and Lebanon to help relieve their burden. Jordan and Lebanon are providing shelter to more than three million Syrian war refugees.

Mr. Sek revealed that Thailand had been closely monitoring the situation in Syria since the crisis erupted in 2010 and was aware of the need to help with the relief mission.

He added that the country previously gave humanitarian aid to countries affected by unrest such as Yemen and Palestine. The assistance, carried out in the name of Thai people, is part of the government’s humanitarian policy for foreign nations.


Yala beefs up security, searching dorms & rented houses

YALA,(NNT) – Security personnel from various units have joined forces to strengthen the crime suppression campaign in target areas.

At Yala Provincial Police Station, Yala Provincial Police Commander Pol. Col. Jamlong Suwaluck, dispatched over 60 police, military officials and civil defense volunteers to dorms and rented houses in three locations in the municipal area to search for illegal items.

Apart from the rented accommodation, authorities have also searched suspicious vehicles. The operation was intended to deter criminals from staging attacks on people and property. The move is also expected to build public confidence in the city’s security measures.


Constitution Drafting Committee believes it will produce a ‘Dream Charter’

BANGKOK,(NNT) – The Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) believes the new constitution will be an ideal one, and that diversity of thoughts is normal and should not be considered as a conflict, according to CDC spokesman Amorn Wanichwiwatana, who said that the drafting process of this charter is independent and is expected to deliver an ideal constitution.

He said the meeting will consider the suggestions and noted flaws of the new constitution, as well as the reform points to be written in the transitory provision, which has actually been specifically mentioned within the articles.

The CDC will be focusing on the law regarding education and legal implementation as they sees these are urgent areas in need of strengthening to prevent the potential sub-sequences, while differing opinions are considered normal and should not be viewed as conflicts.

The CDC’s offsite meeting also has another important aim according to the spokesman: to promote the content of the constitution to the public through easy to understand formats and media outlets.


Chiang Mai to hold 15th Strawberry Fair in February

CHIANG MAI,(NNT) - Chiang Mai provincial administration will organize the 15th Strawberry Fair from February 11th - 14th at Samoeng district office.

Event-goers can participate in many activities such as a strawberry contest, floral floats and a beauty contest, to name a few. Couples who are getting married can also request a strawberry themed wedding ceremony at the event.

Chiang Mai is hoping the assortment of activities would draw a large number of foreign visitors to the event this year.

Samoeng district is known as a one of Thailand's top strawberry producers. According to Chiang Mai's provincial administration, the fair gives an additional distribution channel to strawberry growers.

Chiang Mai has about 5,500 rai of strawberry plantations spreading over 10 districts. Every year, the province produces 13,385 tons of strawberry, which bring in 1.1 billion baht worth of income.


Survey for ancient ruins being conducted at Chiang Mai Woman Correctional Institution

CHIANG MAI,(NNT) - A team of earth science experts are conducting geophysical surveys along the Chiang Mai Woman Correctional Institution to search for artifacts and ancient ruins.

Asst Prof Krit Won-in, Lecturer at the Department of Earth Sciences, Faculty of Science of Kasetsart University has led a team of geophysical surveyors as part of the Wiang Kaew development project by the 8th Regional Office of the Fine Arts Department, Chiang Mai.

Prof Krit said it will take 3-5 days to explore the area of 5,300 square meters, after which the team will process the information extracted. His team is hired by the Fine Arts Department to handle the excavation site.

Meanwhile, Saiklang Jindasu, an archaeologist from the 8th Regional Office of Fine Arts Department, said that if artifacts and ancient ruins were found, an assessment must be made whether the site could be restored. If the site did contain ancient ruins, they will be protected by law and cannot be destroyed.


Trang prepares to be Styrofoam-zero city

TRANG,(NNT) – Different sectors in Trang have kicked off the campaign to make the province a Styrofoam-zero city, starting from the National Children’s Day onwards.

The Styrofoam-free city campaign is one of the 27 missions aimed at returning happiness to Trang people through tourism, agricultural and industrial development. Local food operators and outlets have been asked to phase out plastic and Styrofoam containers to help improve the environment and prevent health risks among consumers.

Dr. Witoon Luangdilok, chief public health officer of Trang province explained polystyrene foam containers are very slow to biodegrade and consist of hazardous chemicals although they are convenient to use.

The recently-launched campaign is expected to add a new charm to Trang. The province is one of the 12 hidden gems recommended by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT).


Rescue teams to stand by to help tourists on Chonburi beaches

CHONBURI,(NNT) – Chonburi provincial governor Komsan Ekachai said Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has instructed the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Tourism and Sports and the police to organize rescue teams on the beaches to help tourists in case of accidents.

The authorities are yet to set guidelines for the province's seaside spots while measures will be taken toward prevention of possible losses of lives and rescue missions. Rescue teams will be set up consisting of staffers from the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation and some trainees.


Thai cosmetics company pulls ad showing actress in blackface

An online advertisement by Thai cosmetics company Seoul Secret showing Thai actress Cris Horwang, right, is displayed on a computer screen in Bangkok. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Jocelyn Gecker, Associated Press

BANGKOK (AP) — A Thai cosmetics company quickly pulled a video in which an actress wears blackface and promotes a skin-whitener with the slogan: "You just need to be white to win." The retraction did little, however, to stem a debate the ad ignited about the regularity of racist advertisements in the Southeast Asian country.

The online ad for the new product called "Snowz" featured porcelain-skinned Thai movie star Cris Horwang talking about being an aging actress in a competitive industry.

"If I stopped looking after myself, everything that I have worked for — all the investment I have made to keep myself white — would disappear," says the 35-year-old actress. "New stars would replace me, I would fade away."

As she speaks, a smiling, younger woman enters the picture and Cris' own image darkens to charcoal black.

A male voice says, "You just need to be white to win."

A tirade of criticism erupted after the video was launched online Thursday. Online commentators labeled the ad as racist and ignorant, while some heaped criticism on the actress for accepting the job. Others called it a strategic way to attract wide attention and boost sales.

"Ewwwwwww," was the reaction of 28-year-old Jutamas Tritaruyanon, one of many to post their disapproval on Facebook.

"This ad is so obviously racist and another attempt to brainwash Thai women," Jutamas, a Bangkok-based office worker, told AP. "They're saying that being dark is ugly. It's a narrow-minded and disgusting attitude."

The Thai cosmetics company Seoul Secret issued a "heartfelt apology" in a statement Friday saying it had pulled the video clip and related advertisements.

"Our company did not have any intention to convey discriminatory or racist messages," the statement posted on its Facebook page said. "What we intended to convey was that self-improvement in terms of personality, appearance, skills and professionalism is crucial."

The ad is hardly the first to use racial stereotypes in Thailand, where beauty is often characterized as fair and delicate. Darker skin is often associated with rural lower-class Thais, and the country has an enormous industry in skin-whitening products and cosmetic clinics to help customers emulate the porcelain complexions of the Bangkok elite.

TV commercials for skin-whitening products regularly promote the idea that white is beautiful.

In 2013, the Dunkin' Donuts franchise in Thailand used a female model in blackface makeup to promote a chocolate doughnut. The company's CEO in Thailand initially dismissed complaints about racism, but the U.S. parent company quickly apologized and pulled the ad.

An herbal Thai toothpaste says its dark-colored product "is black, but it's good." A longtime Thai brand of household mops and dustpans called "Black Man" uses a logo with a smiling black man in a tuxedo and bow tie.

Associated Press writers Nattasuda Anusonadisai and Jason Corben contributed to this report.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Government eases public fears of yuan & stock decline

BANGKOK,(NNT) – The government has eased public worries over the weakened Chinese currency which has led to a global stock crash, saying that its impact on the country would be short-lived and that there were contingency measures for it.

Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak disclosed that China’s decision to let the Yuan further weaken may affect Thailand for only a few days, as the country’s economy relied mainly on the infrastructure which was still robust.

China on Thursday devalued the Yuan by over 0.5 percent, the biggest fall since August. Global stock markets saw the worst start since 2000.

Mr. Somkid dismissed the likelihood of currency war, saying the Ministry of Finance and the Bank of Thailand were instructed to prepare measures to handle the currency exchange rates and values.

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Apisak Tantivorawong said the country needed to reinforce its economy through government investments and public spending in order to be immune to global risks like China’s economy, the unrest in the Middle East and the US’ planned interest rate hike.

Mr. Apisak also asked the public not to overly worry about the Yuan devaluation, adding that the government already had plans to deal with it.


Government brainstorms ways to assist rubber industry amidst price slump

BANGKOK,(NNT) - The government is finding ways to urgently assist rubber farmers as the Ministry of Industry has held a meeting with businesses in the rubber industry to discuss assistance measures.

Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak affirmed that the Prime Minister has given priority to the matter of tumbling rubber prices. Recently, the Ministry of Agriculture and related agencies were told to come up with solutions in the short-term, while the long-term solution rests with the government’s plan to reform the agriculture sector to create sustainability and add value to products.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Industry has invited relevant agencies to discuss ways to reduce the effects of the current price slump. Attending the meeting were representatives from the Department of Industrial Works, the Department of Industrial Promotion and the private sector such as industrial associations on the production of rubber gloves, automobile tires, rubber products and latex. They discussed ways to help rubber growers, buyers, exporters and manufacturers.

According to the meeting’s assessment of the situation, the slump in rubber prices are caused by the economic slowdown in China, the oil prices slump, and an oversupply of rubber in the country.


Government to report progress in tackling human trafficking next week

BANGKOK,(NNT) – The government is scheduled to publicize the progress of its anti-human trafficking efforts on Monday before an official report is sent to the United States for consideration.

After chairing a meeting of the committee on the prevention and suppression of human trafficking, Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwon said the attendants discussed the situation of human trafficking in Thailand and preparations being made prior to the US’s release of its annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report.

The deputy premier revealed that, on January 11, a press conference will be held to allow all related agencies will present the results of their anti-human trafficking operations, including those concerning illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. Following the event, a report on the matter will be submitted to the Prime Minister for review on January 13 before being forwarded to US authorities on January 19.

The report will be factored into the TIP Report 2016, which will come out later this year. With the improvements made so far, Gen Prawit expressed hope that Thailand will this time be removed from the Tier 3 Watch List. He affirmed that all involved units have been doing their best to eradicate the human trafficking problem in the country.


Mass Transit Authority considers renting electric buses from China

Deputy Transport Minister Omsin Cheevapruek.

BANGKOK (NNT) - The Bangkok Mass Transit Authority of Thailand (BMTA) will propose to the Cabinet that electric buses be leased from China instead of bought, given that the price is roughly the same.

Deputy Transport Minister Omsin Cheevapruek said that electric buses are ideal because they are more accessible to persons with disabilities.

They can travel 250 kilometers on a single charge and can reach a maximum speed of 70 kilometers per hour. Mr. Omsin had the opportunity to travel on the first electric bus during its trial run.

The Deputy Transport Minister is considering whether it would be cost effective to lease these buses instead of having them made. Thailand had earlier rented one from China at the cost of 15 million baht. However, the cost of importing electric car parts, including tax, will total 16 million baht.

BMTA Acting Director Pranee Sukrasorn said she preferred renting buses due to price-related factors. The electric buses can begin service next year, if the Cabinet approves the BMTA’s proposal within a few months.

As for the purchase of 489 NGV buses, the Ministry of Transport will start an auction for the government procurement contract next month. If everything goes according to plan, the natural gas buses are expected to begin service before the end of August.


Thailand earned 2 trillion baht in tourism revenue last year

BANGKOK,(NNT)-Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has instructed the Ministry of Tourism and Sports to raise tourists’ confidence of their trip to Thailand by setting up a one-stop service center.

Tourism and Sports Minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul reported to the Cabinet meeting that tourism generated 2 trillion baht in revenue to the country last year. The figure was higher than what the ministry had expected.

The meeting was chaired by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha who stressed the need to ensure tourists’ safety, promote locally made products and set up the one stop service to cater to all tourists’ needs.

Minister Kobkarn said the Ministry also met a success in introducing a traditional tourism concept to foreign visitors through the “12 cities to visit” campaign. The revenue increased on an average of 13% compared to the year earlier. The tourists’ spending increased to 5,050 baht per day per person from previously 4,500 baht.

The Ministry of Tourism and Sports will launch a similar campaign called 12 cities to visit plus. More tourist attractions within the vicinity of the 12 cities will be introduced in an attempt to increase their popularity.


BBC says Thailand among the best countries for retirement abroad

BANGKOK,(NNT) - The BBC reports that Thailand is among the best countries for retirement.

A travel article written by the BBC's Rob Budden revealed that Thailand, known as the "Land of Smiles," is a good country for retirement due to its low cost of living, tropical climate, culture of respecting their elders, and the lack of tax on retiree income from abroad.

Thailand's retirement visa is also available to all retirees with monthly pensions of 65,000 baht per month, or a pension deposit of 800,000 baht in a Thai bank account.

Meanwhile, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office recommends that retirees pay for Thai health insurance, given that the country's private healthcare is on par with western standards.


Progress of Peace Talks on the Southern Border Provinces

BANGKOK,(NNT)-Some progress has been made on peace dialogues that are expected to reduce the severity of violent incidents and bring about lasting peace in the southern border provinces.

Spokesman of the Internal Security Operations Command Major General Banpot Poonpian quoted Chief of the Peace Dialogue Panel General Aksara Kerdphol as saying that confidence-building and safety zones are among major points in the peace dialogues. These points are a focus of attention among various sectors of Thai society.

Major General Banpot said that Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha, in his capacity as Chairman of the Steering Committee for Peace Dialogue had set three phases for the process of peace dialogues. The first phase involves confidence building. The second phase seeks to sign ratification for peace-building. In the third phase, consensus will be reached for the end of conflicts through peaceful means. Then a roadmap will be worked out for lasting peace.

He said that the first phase is considered the most difficult task in the peace talks with “groups holding different views and ideologies to that of the state.” The expected outcome of this stage is the scale of violence will be limited. Informal talks have been held recently, with an emphasis on the exchange of views with various sectors in the country.

Other issues in the talks include designating representatives from each side for the peace dialogues and the listing of problems and frustration of various groups. In the latest developments, a Joint Technical Team has been formed to set rules for the process of the dialogues. Several meetings have been held through the facilitator on this issue. The Joint Technical Team will report results of their talks to the decision-making level of each side.

With regard to the designation of safety zones, the topic will be submitted to the next step of peace dialogues. In recent years, efforts have been made on the issue of safety zones. During this round of peace dialogues, both sides will ensure that violence will not take place in the designated safety zones. The objective is to reduce violence in certain areas first.

In addition, the safety zones must be clearly defined, in respect of international practices. They must also be prepared as a way of confidence-building. Another important factor is that the public sector and the groups holding different views and ideologies to that of the state must accept the views of local residents, as well as their culture. The voices of local people, especially those who have suffered losses of lives and property because of unrest, must be thoroughly recognized.

The Peace Dialogue Panel believes that the southern situation in 2016 will improve to the point that it will no longer be a worrisome issue, in response to the expectations of local people. The panel will encourage relevant groups to participate in the peace dialogues and refuse all forms of violence. The ultimate goal is to bring about sustainable peace. As for measures to maintain peace and security, the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) Region 4 Forward, as the Area-based Inter-agency Coordination Working Group, will be responsible for preventing any groups from creating new negative conditions for perpetrators of violence to take advantage of.

At the same time, it will create an atmosphere conducive to the process of peace talks, which will continue with a strong intention to stop violence and bring lasting peace to the southern border provinces.


Consumer confidence highest in 7 months

BANGKOK,(NNT) - The Center for Economic and Business Forecasting (CEBF) has reported that Thailand's consumer confidence index continuously increased to the highest point in seven months, mainly due to the government's economic stimulus measures.

CEBF Director Thanawat Polwichai said the consumer confidence index in December 2015 rose in all categories as consumers felt that the economy was better. They hoped that the Thai economy would recover in the near future because of the government's stimulus measures, said the director.

The consumer confidence index increased to 65.1 point in December 2015 from 63.4 points in the previous month.

The center also found that 20.87% of the people were benefited from the 15,000-baht shopping tax break at the end of last year. 79.13% said they were not benefited from the measure since their income was tax-free.

The shopping tax break helped increase circulating money during the New Year holiday by almost 15 billion baht and cost the government around three billion baht. The tax break helped stimulate the economy by 0.1%, said the director.


Thailand Post unveils stamps celebrating Children’s Day

BANGKOK,(NNT) – Thailand Post has introduced a special set of stamps celebrating Children’s Day and the realization of the ASEAN Community, featuring mailboxes from 10 ASEAN countries.

Thailand Post will begin selling the special stamp collection from 9 January 2016, to celebrate Children’s Day and the commencement of the ASEAN Community.

The set of 10 stamps featuring pictures of mailboxes from the 10 ASEAN member countries, along with important national landmarks as backdrops, is expected to raise awareness amongst Thai youth about the ASEAN Community.

This year’s stamp is the fourth Children’s Day set, telling the story of ASEAN countries since 2013. It will be available for sale at post offices, the stamp museum in Bangkok, and on www.postemart.com. For more information, please call 0 2831 3856, visit “stamp in love” Facebook page, or message to stampinlove LINE account.


Royal Thai Army Medical Department celebrates 116 yrs

BANGKOK,(NNT) - Commander of the Royal Thai Army Gen Teerachai Nakwanich presided over a ceremony to commemorate 116 years of the Royal Thai Army Medical Department, before his inspection of the ASEAN Center of Military Medicine.

The Royal Thai Army Medical Department was established in the year 1900 and remains an important part of the Thai military. Its mission this year is to develop the department to serve the army's needs in the region.

Meanwhile, ASEAN Center of Military Medicine will have its official opening on January 29th, led by Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan.

The Center is the first of its kind and will coordinate efforts among medical professionals in the ASEAN region. Its role is especially important during disaster situations that require cooperation from neighboring countries. The center also serves to augment the Thai military's role on the international stage.


Ministry of Finance devises more stimulus measures, targets 3.8% growth in 2016

BANGKOK,(NNT) - The Ministry of Finance has been tasked with implementing additional stimulus measures to achieve the government's 2016 economic growth target of 3.8%.

Permanent Secretary of Finance Somchai Sujjapongse revealed that the ministry will focus its assistance on farmers and low-income earners. For example, financial institutions will be asked to approve more loans and ease payment deadlines.

Mr. Somchai said that the first quarter of 2016 is expected to perform well, citing projects to support small-scale investments. In the second quarter, he said the challenge is maintaining this positive momentum through a series of carefully timed stimulus measures.

The Bureau of the Budget is planning to allocate 70 billion to 100 billion baht to fund stimulus measures in the first half of the year. Then several infrastructure projects will begin in the third quarter and help the country achieve its annual growth target.


Ministry of Science holds Children's Day event

BANGKOK,(NNT) - The Ministry of Science and Technology is holding the event, "Streets of Science," from now until Children's Day on January 9.

Science and Technology Minister Pichet Durongkaveroj officiated the event, which was organized in a fun fair style at the ministry's headquarters on Rama VI Road. The "Streets of Science" offers children more than 100 games and exhibitions to help them learn about topics in science and technology.

The Office of Public Awareness of Science Director, Ganigar Chen, told the media about the event's goals and the importance of exposing children to science.

The event opens from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm until Saturday, January 9.


Local & foreign visitors enjoy sea fog in Yala

YALA,(NNT) - A large number of tourists have visited the southernmost province of Yala to catch a glimpse of sea fog in Aiyoeweng subdistrict.

Previously, the Aiyoeweng sea fog was known only among local residents and Malaysian tourists. Thanks to media promotion, it has become a tourist hotspot for nature lovers both in Thailand and abroad.

Against a mountainous backdrop, visitors have called the natural phenomenon the most beautiful sea fog of the South. Fog is visible from dawn until the late morning.

The Aiyoeweng district office believes the attraction will see a growing number of tourists over the next holiday.


South Korean ambassador discusses ways to increase bilateral cooperation

BANGKOK,(NNT)-The South Korean ambassador met with Prime Minister’s Office Minister M.L. Panadda Disakul at the Government House to promote bilateral cooperation in various areas.

M.L. Panadda gave South Korean ambassador, Mr. Noh Kwang-il, a warm welcome before both parties discussed future cooperation.

Thailand and South Korea have enjoyed good diplomatic relations since 1950 when Thai soldiers joined the United Nations troops in the Korean War. M.L. Panadda said the relationship between the two nations have only grown stronger.

In terms of tourism, the two sides shared a view that more and more people from both coutries are exchanging their visits each year.

The Korean ambassador noted that Thais are increasingly interested in Korean culture and many have taken up Korean language classes. Due to the popularity of the Korean culture in Thailand, South Korea has sent teachers to teach Korean language to Thai students.

The Thai minister, meanwhile, reaffirmed Thailand’s readiness to expand cooperation with the Republic of Korea in every dimension.


Deputy PM Somkid: Thai economy will grow by 2.8% - 3% in 2016

BANGKOK,(NNT) - Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Chatusripitak has expressed his satisfaction with last year’s economic growth and predicted that the Thai economy will expand by 2.8% - 3% compared to 2014 when the growth rate was just 0.9%.

Mr.Somkid on Wednesday said this year’s economy would be better that last year despite negative outlooks from many sectors. The government would do the utmost in steering the economy by pushing for a 5% export growth and continuous increase in the tourism sector, he said. He added that the government would focus on helping low-income people and suggested that the private sector expedite investment.

The government will also continue the Village Fund program and develop broadband Internet so that it reaches the public more.

Meanwhile, Minister of Tourism and Sports Kobkarn Watthanawarangkul said she would discuss with Deputy PM Somkid to find a special budget for the development of new tourist sites in an effort to attract more tourists to travel Thailand.

President of the Federation of Thai Industries Suphan Mongkholsuthi said he believed this year’s economic growth would increase by 3% - 3.5% and suggested that the government expedite investment in infrastructure for the agricultural sector and increase values of agricultural products.


Energy consumption in Thailand to rise by 3% this year

BANGKOK,(NNT) - The Ministry of Energy has forecast that energy consumption in the country will rise this year, as global oil prices continue to decline.

Energy Minister Gen Anantaporn Kanjanarat has revealed that average fuel consumption last year increased by 4.2% or 600,000 liters a day. Benzene was the most popular type of fuel used in Thailand.

Demand for Benzene increased by as much as 13.2%, as the prices of crude oil have plummeted by roughly 70 US dollars a barrel. However, demand for liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) decreased to 5.4% last year, after it became more expensive.

The Energy Minister added that energy consumption in 2016 is expected to rise by 3% from last year. The forecast is also in line with the projected GDP growth of 3-4%. The consumption of Benzene and diesel is expected to grow by 9.7% and 1.8%, respectively.

However, the consumption of LPG is expected to decline by 2.5%, while the consumption of NGV, or fuels used in natural gas vehicles, is expected to decline by 1% .


Police builds case against Blink Hackers Group

BANGKOK,(NNT) – Police have finished collecting evidence to prosecute the group of hackers who defaced several police websites.

Commander of the IT Support Division Pol Maj Gen Siripong Timula has been preparing to file a police complaint against the hackers with the Technology Crime Suppression Division.

Deputy National Police Spokesperson Pol Col Krissana Pattanacharoen explained that legal action against the hackers may take some time, due to the complex nature of cyber crime. Investigators must be cautious when examining the evidence and other information.

At least five police websites were attacked by the Blink Hackers Group. The homepages were replaced with a black-and-white message criticizing the Thai justice system.

The hackers are believed to be Myanmar nationals protesting the death sentence of two Burmese immigrants, who were convicted of killing two British tourists on Ko Tao island in Surat Thani province.

The Deputy National Police Spokesperson said that Blink Hackers Group has no prior history of attacking websites that belong to other governments. Pol Col Krissana assured that the wrongdoers would be caught and punished accordingly.


Commerce Ministry keeps 41 products on price control list

BANGKOK,(NNT) – The central committee on prices of goods and services under the Ministry of Commerce has resolved to keep 41 items under its price control while product prices this year are expected to stay at the same levels as in 2015.

After chairing this year’s first meeting of the central committee on prices of goods and services, Commerce Minister Apiradee Tantraporn said among the issues discussed were the regulation of product prices, price trends, assistance measures for consumers and the development of community markets. She said the committee laid stress on vendors’ cooperation in using packaging that is appropriate for the size of the product and clearly displaying prices to customers.

As for the review of the price control list, which previously contained 41 products and services, the central committee agreed to keep the list unchanged. The listed items comprise those under various categories, such as food, consumer products, agricultural materials, construction materials, transport equipment, petroleum products and medicines.

The committee is also ready to review the list of products and services under close monitoring. The decisions on both lists will be submitted to the Cabinet for approval next week.

Ms Apiradee gave assurances that the Commerce Ministry will continue to ensure fairness in product pricing. As operators have affirmed they are not intent on adjusting their prices any time soon, the minister expressed confidence that product prices will remain rather stable this year.


Assistance measures issued for rubber farmers, price hike still unfeasible

BANGKOK,(NNT) – The Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives has adopted aid measures for rubber planters after turning down their request for an increase in rubber price.

Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Gen Chatchai Sarikulya pointed out that the price of rubber in the country remains low because of the slump in rubber and oil prices in the global market. Based on a recent survey, prices of crude rubber and smoked rubber sheets in Hat Yai district of Songkhla, Nakhon Si Thammarat and Surat Thani were found to be in the range of 34-36 baht per kilogram on average.

In response to rubber farmers’ demand that the rubber price be raised to 60 baht a kilo, Gen Chatchai admitted that such a hike cannot be implemented. Instead, he said the Agriculture Ministry is providing the rubber growers with eight assistance measures, aimed to support them in doing sideline jobs and planting alternative crops to supplement their income.

In the meantime, the minister revealed that he will lead a group of delegates to India and Russia in an attempt to seek more channels to release Thai rubber. Domestic use of rubber will also be increased to prevent oversupply.


Ministry of Commerce announces achievements despite slow economy

Chutima Boonyaprapas

BANGKOK,(NNT) - The Permanent Secretary of Commerce said she was pleased with the ministry's achievements, despite several limitations.

Permanent Secretary of Commerce Chutima Boonyaprapas said she would give her ministry an 85 out of 100 for its several successes over the past year. These include maintaining the cost of living, promoting exports, and selling off five million tons of rice from the government stockpile without affecting the market price. Ms Chutima praised these achievements, in the context of a slow economy.

The Ministry of Commerce will continue to ensure that prices of food and everyday items remain affordable. It also plans to launch a food campaign at 10,000 locations nationwide, in order to prevent vendors of ready-to-eat meals from raising prices.

The ministry is also determined to sell off as much of the 13 million tons of rice remaining in government stocks as possible this year. To this end, the ministry will reach out to Iran, a major rice importer, as soon as its political situation returns to normal.


Taking custody of illegal migrant children

Police General Adul Saengsingkaew

BANGKOK,(NNT) - The Ministry of Social Development and Human Security is planning to use the government’s childcare and development center to care for the children of illegal migrants.

Social Development and Human Security Minister Pol Gen Adul Saengsingkaew said the children of illegal migrants, ages between 3 and 12, will be in the ministry's custody while their parents are being detained.

The move is aimed at providing what they need for growth and development. The childcare and development center at the Immigration Bureau on Soi Suan Plu is the primary childcare facility. The center cares for an average of 20 - 25 migrant children each day.


Water levels in Mekong River reaching record lows

NONG KHAI,(NNT) - The water level in the Mekong River has been steadily decreasing, sparking concerns that it will significantly affect water supplies.

Recent measurement of the Mekong River by the Nong Khai Provincial Department of Water Resources reported a depth of 1.84 meters, a 12 centimeter decrease from the day before, making it the lowest level this year with the likelihood of a further decrease.

The lowest recorded level last year was on March 8 at 1.21 meters.

The sharp decline may be due to the decrease in water levels of dams in China, resulting in less water flowing through to Thailand.

Meanwhile, Nakhon Phanom Province is experiencing a shortage in water supplies, prompting officials to dig new irrigation canals to better distribute water.


Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation providing help to drought-affected people

ANGKOK,(NNT) – Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation (DDPM) Director General Chatchai Promlert disclosed that provincial military units and relevant agencies have provided assistance to drought-affected people by mobilizing trucks carrying water to distribute water, drilling 80 artesian wells for reserve water to be used during the dry season. They have also implemented 2,229 water management projects which are expected to store 294.5 million cubic meters when completed and benefit more than 1.08 million households covering more than 3.19 million rais of farmland.

In addition, DDPM has organized 169 projects entitled Beautiful Canals with Clear Water Making Thai People Happy in 26 provinces to provide sustainable solutions covering all aspects of drought crisis problem.


Chao Samran beach sees high number of tourists

PHETCHABURI,(NNT) - The famous Chao Samran beach in the capital district of Phetchaburi province had welcomed more than 20,000 visitors daily during the New Year holidays.

Tourists were attracted by the beach's relaxing vistas and numerous food and local product vendors. Municipality officials were on the scene to assist tourists and screen local vendors for fair pricing.

Officials credited the high tourist turnout of Chao Samran beach to the municipality's PR campaigns and strict regulation of public space. They also cited the beach's natural beauty and the municipality's readiness to look after tourists.


Metropolitan Police to give back 905 impounded vehicles

BANGKOK,(NNT) - The Metropolitan Police Bureau has unveiled its project to give back unclaimed or stolen cars to the public as a New Year gift for 2016.

According to Pol Lt Gen Sanit Mahathaworn, cars to be given back include vehicles that were seized, unclaimed, stolen or unregistered within the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan Police, which includes 88 police stations across the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration.

Authorities will give out a total of 905 vehicles, consisting of 689 cars previously owned by individuals and 208 under car loans.

Pol Lt Gen Sanit affirmed that the cars were not cars that were seized from drunk drivers during the New Year while adding that many of those receiving the cars have yet to fully pay off their car loans.

Those who filed stolen vehicle reports can bring their vehicle registration and identification card to claim their cars at the Royal Thai Police Sports Club between January 5 and 9 and will then be able to pick up their vehicles at the designated police station.

Pol Lt Gen Sanit also revealed that the Motorcycle Hire-Purchase Association gave him a thank you present for the Metropolitan Police for its work in reclaiming stolen vehicles.


Soldiers give blankets to winter affected public in Uthai Thani

UTHAI THANI,(NNT) – Soldiers distributed blankets to the public affected from cold weather in Uthai Thani Province, as temperatures continue to drop.

Soldiers from the 4th Infantry Regiment’s 2nd Battalion and related agencies have distributed 80 sheets of blanket to elders and underprivileged individuals affected from the cold spell in Phai Khiew Subdsitrct, Uthai Thani Province, as temperatures continue to decrease affecting the local people.

One of the persons receiving aid on this occasion is a senior citizen aged 103 years old. All of the distributed blankets were proven to help the wearers resist the cold weather conditions.

The military unit will continue to distribute blankets to the affected public residing in other affected areas, as sponsored by the Royal Thai Army.


Thailand Anti-Corruption Coordination Center confirms progress in Rajabhakti park probe

BANGKOK,(NNT) – Justice Minister Paiboon Khumchaya confirmed that the Thailand Anti-Corruption Coordination Center has made progress in the investigation into a Rajabhakti park scandal.

The center has been cooperating with the Department of Special Investigation, the Office of the Auditor General, the police and judicial branch in the probing into allegations that the construction of the army's historical park in Hua Hin city had been largely prone to corruption and embezzlement.

While some progress in the probe has been reported to the government, those who might have any tip-off useful to the investigators can submit it to the TACCC, said the justice minister who concurrently heads the center. He added that a press conference on progress in the probe might be held at a later date.

Deputy Defense Minister Udomdej Sitabutra earlier dismissed allegations that the Rajabhakti park project had been carried out by corrupt hands involving certain army officers and maintained that it was entirely free of graft, however. Gen Udomdej was in charge of the park project during his time as army commander-in-chief a few years ago.

The army park locates statues of seven great monarchs of Siam, a former name of Thailand.


Department of Employment establishes studying committees for labour import

BANGKOK,(NNT) – The Department of Employment (DOE) has established committees to study the pros and cons of the labour import scheme, says DOE chief.

The DOE Director-General Arrug Phrommanee has revealed that the department has established two committees tasked with the feasibility study in amending the employment seeking and employment seekers protection law, and in legislating the immigrant employment law to further enhance the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on labour import with other countries.

He said Thailand's current processes of labour import are sluggish and require renovation, extended to the importing process, legal protection, and employee's benefits.

The DOE is now set to invite the delegation from the International Labour Organization (ILO) as an adviser on the renovation of immigrant workers protection scheme, aiming to increase the responsibility from the importing employment agencies on labour protection, and guarantee working conditions that comply to their related contracts.

The DOE director-general ensured that the department will establish a sustainable solution on migrant employment, in compliance with domestic demands.


More cameras to be installed at Thailand borders

BANGKOK,(NNT) – Thailand’s border crossing facilities will be equipping more CCTV cameras to enhance the immigration process, as approved from the government.

The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence Gen Prawit Wongsuwan has chaired a meeting with the Deputy Minister of Finance Wisudhi Srisuphan and heads of the related agencies regarding the installation of 500 additional CCTV cameras at border posts nationwide.

The new cameras will be used to facilitate the identification verification process for persons crossing the border. The cameras will be operable for no less than 10 years, and will take 3-4 months to install, which will be overseen by the Customs Department in cooperation with the Royal Thai Police and the Revenue Department.

The government will also proceed with the Civil-State Housing campaign under a 1.4 billion baht budget run by the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security.

Authorities in charge of the housing campaign is now surveying the priorities in each areas, with concrete process expected by April 2016.


Domestic tourism to grow this year

BANGKOK,(NNT) - The Association of Domestic Travel (ADT) has revealed that the North of Thailand remains the most visited region during the New Year holidays.

ADT President Yuthachai Soontornrattanavate said there were around 18 million tourists traveling in the country during the holidays. Many travelers chose to visit the North, due to a large number of tourist attractions and the cold weather.

Mr. Yuthachai said that cash flow during the New Year holidays was lower due to the economic slowdown. The ADT President added that the government’s tax deduction scheme will only promote short-term spending among shoppers.

However, he gave a positive outlook for tourism in 2016. Tourist arrivals are expected to increase and meet government targets. Despite the trend, Mr. Yuthachai cautioned that the global economic slowdown, stalling export growth, and declining prices in farm goods could impact the tourism industry.

Around 10% of 17 million domestic tourists are expected to travel through tour agencies this year, a 3% increase from the year before, following the government’s domestic tourism measures promoting elder and student travel.


Prime Minister wants drink drivers licenses to be impounded

BANGKOK,(NNT) - Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has thanked officers and the public for cooperating with the government during the New Year holiday so that no violent incident took place.

The PM on Monday said he was still concerned about losses caused by road accidents. He added that he would not cancel his order, under Section 44 of the interim charter, which had been enforced to prevent road accidents. However, Gen.Prayut said he had instructed relevant officers to consider impounding driver's licenses instead of vehicles of drink drivers.

Gen.Prayut refused to answer the media's questions about his concerns for the current political situation.


Government confident Thai economy will rebound this year

BANGKOK,(NNT) – The government believes the country’s economy will recover this year as speculated.

Government Spokesperson Maj Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd said the government had been content with its economic stimulus between December 25th and December 31st of 2015 which is when it granted tax breaks to all shoppers.

He said the incentive triggered spending throughout the kingdom and is considered very successful.

The spokesperson noted that due to the world economic recovery, Thailand’s economy is expected to rebound while the weakening baht will help boost Thai exports.

In addition, the government will continue to encourage more spending and investments as well as achieve higher tourism growth this year. The government is set to periodically issue measures and incentives in order to make sure that this year’s growth target will be achieved.


Chiang Rai bustling with tourists visiting temples to make merit

BANGKOK,(NNT) – Chiang Rai is bustling with tourists during the New Year holidays especially at Huai Pla Kang Temple, Muang district, Chiang Rai, where tourists flocked to see the beauty of Huai Pla Kang Temple and worship the Buddha images.

Many families who visited the temple have said that they came to ask for blessings from the sacred Buddha Images at the temple before visiting other tourist attractions in Chiang Rai.

A large number of tourists visiting Chiang Rai has benefited the restaurants and shops selling souvenirs in the northern province.


Five days of holidays causes 2,753 accidents

BANGKOK,(NNT) – The center for road accident prevention and reduction of New Year holidays has urged agencies to inspect drivers more frequently, to prevent road accidents.

The center for road accident prevention and reduction run by the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation (DDPM) has revealed that the number of accidents during 29 December 2015 - 2 January 2016 was recorded at 2,753 cases, with 292 fatalities and 2,855 injuries.

In wake of the incidents, the center is now calling upon provincial agencies to prioritize traffic management on main roads along with strict regulations on traffic rules and obedience to the law, especially for overspeeding and drunk driving.

Authorities have been appointed to carry out more frequent inspections for suspicious looking vehicles, place more checkpoints, and regulate drivers' behavior for the safety of the public.

On this matter, the DDPM Director-General Chatchai Promlert has said that the number of accidents during in the past five days is considered high, thus safety measures must still be carried out in an attempt to prevent more accidents from happening.

Many of the general public are travelling back to Bangkok today, with various reports of speeding despite traffic congestion, thus causing a risk for accidents. The road safety center is now working to ensure travelers’ safety for the Bangkok-bound commute, with facilitation and assistance duties intensified.


Northern region most popular destination on New Year holiday

BANGKOK,(NNT) - President of the Association of Domestic Travel Yutthachai Sunthonrattanawet has estimated that there were around 18 million people traveling in the country during this New Year long holiday with the northern region as the most popular destination.

Mr.Yutthachai said most of the travelers chose the northern region due to its diverse tourist sites and cold weather on the mountains. He however admitted that the economy which had not recovered yet made people more careful about their spending.

As for the government' tax break to persuade people to buy goods, the president said he believed that it would be able to help stimulate purchasing power in the short run.

Mr.Yutthachai added that the Thai tourism in 2016 would likely expand and predicted that the number of tourists would reach target. He also warned that decreasing exports, agricultural product price drop and the global economy might affect people's travel spending.
 


DAILY UPDATE

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HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

Finance Ministry focuses on investments by government-private-public sectors

Uttaradit to launch drought relief campaign for farmers

Rubber farmers demand more support from the government

Ministry of Transport set to expand transportation routes throughout 2016

Udon Thani Groundwater Resource Office: 14 wells dug in 5 provinces

GPS devices to be installed in large trucks and public buses


Government to strengthen SME operators in 12 Special Economic Zones

Government to give refugee assistance to Jordan & Lebanon

Yala beefs up security, searching dorms & rented houses

Constitution Drafting Committee believes it will produce a ‘Dream Charter’


Chiang Mai to hold 15th Strawberry Fair in February

Survey for ancient ruins being conducted at Chiang Mai Woman Correctional Institution

Trang prepares to be Styrofoam-zero city

Rescue teams to stand by to help tourists on Chonburi beaches


Thai cosmetics company pulls ad showing actress in blackface

Government eases public fears of yuan & stock decline

Government brainstorms ways to assist rubber industry amidst price slump

Government to report progress in tackling human trafficking next week


Mass Transit Authority considers renting electric buses from China

Thailand earned 2 trillion baht in tourism revenue last year

BBC says Thailand among the best countries for retirement abroad

Progress of Peace Talks on the Southern Border Provinces

Consumer confidence highest in 7 months

Thailand Post unveils stamps celebrating Children’s Day


Royal Thai Army Medical Department celebrates 116 yrs

Ministry of Finance devises more stimulus measures, targets 3.8% growth in 2016

Ministry of Science holds Children's Day event

Local & foreign visitors enjoy sea fog in Yala


South Korean ambassador discusses ways to increase bilateral cooperation

Deputy PM Somkid: Thai economy will grow by 2.8% - 3% in 2016

Energy consumption in Thailand to rise by 3% this year

Police builds case against Blink Hackers Group

Commerce Ministry keeps 41 products on price control list

Assistance measures issued for rubber farmers, price hike still unfeasible

Ministry of Commerce announces achievements despite slow economy

Taking custody of illegal migrant children

Water levels in Mekong River reaching record lows

Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation providing help to drought-affected people


Chao Samran beach sees high number of tourists

Metropolitan Police to give back 905 impounded vehicles

Soldiers give blankets to winter affected public in Uthai Thani

Thailand Anti-Corruption Coordination Center confirms progress in Rajabhakti park probe


Department of Employment establishes studying committees for labour import

More cameras to be installed at Thailand borders

Domestic tourism to grow this year

Prime Minister wants drink drivers licenses to be impounded


Government confident Thai economy will rebound this year

Chiang Rai bustling with tourists visiting temples to make merit

Five days of holidays causes 2,753 accidents

Northern region most popular destination on New Year holiday

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