วันศุกร์ที่ 15 มีนาคม พ.ศ. 2556

Strong Support for Tourism in the Andaman Sea and OTOP Products

(21/03/2012)

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has expressed strong support for cultural tourism in the Andaman Sea and for southern products under the “One Tambon, One Product (OTOP)” program.

The issues were raised during the visit of the Prime Minister in the southern province of Phuket during the third mobile Cabinet meeting under the present administration on 19-20 March 2012.

During the visit, the Prime Minister made an inspection of the Police Patrol Boat Tor 813 Tsunami Memorial site in Phang-nga province. She also presided over the opening of an OTOP Fair in Mueang district of Phuket.

The Prime Minister called for the development of tourism destinations in the Andaman, which covers six coastal provinces, namely Ranong, Phuket, Krabi, Phang-nga, Trang, and Satun. These provinces were hit by the disastrous tsunami waves that struck many parts of Asia on 26 December 2004. She stated that tourism promotion in this area should be carried out together with the development of local wisdom.

The OTOP fair, held between March 19 and 25 in Phuket, also aims to give a major boost to products under the Foundation for the Promotion of Supplementary Occupations and Related Techniques (SUPPORT), established by Her Majesty Queen Sirikit. Products from all over the country will be exhibited in 300 booths at the fair.

The Prime Minister emphasized that the Government would join forces with various relevant organizations in setting up a counseling service clinic to give advice to OTOP entrepreneurs. She pointed out that OTOP and SUPPORT programs are complementary. OTOP is a major policy of the Government to build up small enterprises in communities by encouraging the people to manufacture local products using their homegrown skills and expertise. It was initiated in 2001, with the Government assisting in the marketing of these goods, in cooperation with the private business sector.

SUPPORT was initiated by Her Majesty the Queen, who has taken a particularly deep interest in arts and crafts and has set an example in the preservation of Thai arts and culture. Her awareness of the importance of preserving Thai arts and crafts resulted in the establishment of the SUPPORT Foundation under her patronage in 1976, with the primary objective of setting up women’s groups and providing rural Thai women with equipment, materials, and training in cottage industries. Apart from benefiting craft makers and their families, SUPPORT plays a part in reviving traditional crafts and preserving them.

Prime Minister Yingluck urged the people to buy Thai products under the OTOP and SUPPORT programs, which reflect local wisdom and the excellent craftsmanship of the Thai people.


Inflation Remains Manageable Despite Higher Oil Prices

(19/03/2012)

The Governor of the Bank of Thailand, Prasarn Trairatvorakul, has cited higher oil prices as a cause of higher inflation. However, inflation is now still manageable.

Mr. Prasarn and other senior officials attended a meeting with Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to discuss the topic of higher prices for consumer products.

He explained that an increase of 10 percent in oil prices each time would lead to higher inflation of between 0.3 and 0.4 percent. Inflation is unlikely to be a serious problem now, so there is no need for the Government to introduce any measures to deal with the problem.

The Prime Minister called on all government agencies to place great importance on energy saving by reducing energy use by 10 percent. She also said that higher prices of commodities were also a result of the flood crisis in 2011.

In his recent speech assessing recent economic performance and challenges for the period ahead, the Governor of the Bank of Thailand stated that Thailand must stay focused on ensuring post-flood recovery and restoring confidence this year. The damage from the floods was severe. Economic activity contracted by 9 percent year-on-year in the final quarter of last year and the economy barely grew over the year as a whole. However, the impact of a one-time shock of this kind will likely be temporary and there is no doubt that Thailand will recover strongly. Indeed, notwithstanding some slight delays associated with the need to import machinery and the processing of insurance payouts, the recovery process is well under way. Thailand expects that growth will rebound to 4.9 percent in 2012.

As clearer signs of a pick-up in economic activity have been seen, along with the recent rise in global oil prices, upside risks for inflation have become more elevated. It is unlikely, though, that inflation would accelerate to the extent that it would threaten economic stability. Nonetheless, he said, monetary policy will remain watchful, as the pick-up in public and private spending and cost-side pressure stemming from various government stimulus packages may add extra inflationary pressure in the period ahead.

From a longer-term perspective, he reiterated the Bank of Thailand’s commitment to inflation-targeting framework. Since the adoption of this policy over 10 years ago, the framework has endowed monetary policy with a degree of flexibility and credibility that has proved extremely valuable. Especially through trying times with high levels of uncertainty, the framework has imparted a degree of stability by helping to anchor public expectations of monetary policy. In delivering Thailand’s primary mandate of macroeconomic stability, inflation targeting will continue to be a central pillar. 

Haze Situation in Northern Thailand

(16/03/2012)

The haze situation in northern Thailand is improving. Even so, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has told governors of nine haze-hit provinces not to be complacent but to arrange surveillance units to deal with the problem.

In a video conference, the Prime Minister urged the governors of Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai, Lamphun, Lampang, Mae Hong Son, Nan, Phrae, Phayao, and Tak to follow up the haze situation closely.

Concerned about the problem, she said, the Government had instructed the Department of Royal Rainmaking and Agricultural Aviation to launch more rainmaking operations to reduce the severity of forest fires and haze pollution in the North. The Department was upgraded from the Bureau of Royal Rainmaking and Agricultural Aviation, which was set up at the initiative of His Majesty the King. Prime Minister Yingluck said that the Department had played an important role in easing the haze situation.

She said that, generally, the situation in the haze-hit provinces was improving, except in Mae Hong Son, where the level of dust particles in the air was still high. His Majesty the King assigned the Northern Royal Rainmaking Center in Chiang Mai to conduct rainmaking in Mae Hong Son. The situation in Mae Hong Son is expected to gradually improve soon. The Government has also launched a “No Burn” campaign to encourage local people not to burn in forested areas. Joining the campaign were volunteers from educational institutions. Stricter law enforcement has also been applied by prohibiting burning in forested areas. Violators will be fined up to 150,000 baht and subject to a jail term of up to 15 years.

The smoke haze and bushfire problem usually arises from January to April each year. It is caused by all kinds of burning in various communities, as well as the slash-and-burn farming technique employed by farmers. The Government has suggested local people to shift from slash-and-burn farming by planting perennial trees, such as rubber, coffee, and various fruit trees.

Prime Minister Yingluck assigned Minister of Science and Technology Plodprasop Suraswadi and governors of the nine provinces to select representatives of the people in each province to help ease the problem and provide the people with advice to stop the problem. Provincial public health offices were also told to take special care of older persons, children, and pregnant women. Dust and smoke particles from forest fires cause health hazards, particularly respiratory illness.

Haze pollution also takes place in neighboring countries. In bringing the problem fully under control, the Prime Minister instructed Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul to coordinate with neighboring countries to ease the problem. Laos and Myanmar have given good cooperation and sent reports of their management in controlling the haze situation.

Thailand’s International Agriculture Strategies for 2012-2016

(16/03/2012)

Thailand’s international agriculture strategies for 2012-2016 focus on creating confidence in Thai agricultural products and food in order to strengthen the country’s farm sector on a sustainable basis.

The strategies were approved by the Cabinet, during its meeting on 13 March 2012, following a proposal by the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives.

They seek to enhance the competitiveness of Thailand’s agricultural and food businesses, develop the quality of Thai food and other agricultural products for both traditional and emerging markets, and promote cooperation with the international community under various cooperative frameworks.

During the five-year period, the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives will prepare for holding international negotiations to ease the problem of protectionist measures imposed by foreign countries. It will also step up public relations campaigns to promote Thailand’s agricultural commodity and food standards and make them better known in the international market.

In order to develop international cooperation with foreign countries, the Ministry will work in partnership with international organizations for research and development, as well as technology transfer. It reported to the Cabinet that the five-year strategies are in line with the Government’s polices presented in the National Assembly in August 2011.

According to the policies, the Government will expand the role of agricultural and food businesses, which have long been Thailand’s national income and employment sources. The objective is to develop Thailand as a center for food trade and food production of high quality in order to meet the demand of consumers with high income and unique preferences. Moreover, the Government will strive to develop Thailand to be the center of futures markets for such agricultural commodities as rice, sugar, and tapioca. The move will help accelerate the country’s ambitious project to turn Thailand into the “Kitchen of the World.”

Regarding the agricultural sector, the Government will increase crop productivity through research and development on crop strain improvement, develop production technology, and transfer research knowledge to farmers, so that they can use crop strains and technologies that are appropriate to local conditions.

It will also develop value-added agro-industries to increase Thailand’s competitiveness in the world market. Efforts will be made to upgrade the quality of Thai agricultural goods, so that they will gain greater recognition in foreign markets. Apart from expediting negotiations on various agreements concerning Thailand’s agricultural commodity and food standards, the Government will boost Thailand as the Kitchen of the World, in terms of agricultural products, food, and the country’s agricultural investment overseas.

Sufficiency Economy to Be Highlighted at the Royal Institute’s International Conference

(13/03/2012)

The Royal Institute of Thailand will organize an international conference, which will highlight the Sufficiency Economy approach as a way of improving the people’s quality of life and tackling various problems in a holistic manner.

Vice-President of the Royal Institute, Dr. Sobha Chupikulchai Spielmann, said that the conference would take place at the Dusit Thani Hotel in Bangkok from 18 to 20 June 2012. It was earlier scheduled for 16-18 November 2011, but had to be rescheduled because of the flood crisis last year.

According to Dr. Sobha, this international conference will be the first of its kind to be organized by the Royal Institute, and it aims to commemorate the “Celebrations on the Auspicious Occasion of His Majesty the King’s 7th Cycle Birthday Anniversary 5th December 2011.” About 200 Thai and international academics, researchers, and specialists in various fields, as well as members of the International Union of Academies, will attend the conference.

Dr. Sobha stated that the event would provide a good opportunity for both Thai and international academics to discuss the topic of Sufficiency Economy, after the Royal Institute of Thailand was accepted in May 2011 as a full member of the International Union of Academies. This prestigious union of learned societies was founded in 1919, with institutions from 63 countries around the world as members. The admission of the Royal Institute into this union has enhanced Thailand’s international recognition and its role on the global stage.

The upcoming international conference is entitled “The Role of the Learned Societies in Improving the Quality of Life in the Context of Globalization.” Mr. Ampol Senanaron, Privy Councilor, will preside over the opening ceremony and give a keynote address. Apart from many speakers from Thailand, there will be 16 speakers from such countries as the United States, the People’s Republic of China, the Republic of Korea, Nepal, and several European nations.

Many challenges and complicated problems have been arising around the world, and they have become more and more difficult to deal with. In the face of this situation, Dr. Sobha pointed out that there is a need to adopt a holistic approach to problem solving, so that people would live happily together and the ongoing crises would ease, as well.

The Sufficiency Economy, advocated and developed by His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, encompasses three components, namely moderation, reasonableness, and self-immunity. In fact, this philosophy has been developed from the cultural roots based on most religious principles. Any global problems created by human greed can be dealt with adequately with Sufficiency Economy, which will lead to well-balanced and sustainable development, thus bringing about happiness and a better quality of life.

Thailand Emphasizes Its Strategic Economic Partnership with Japan

(08/03/2012)

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra stated that the Thai government was determined to support Thailand’s strategic economic partnership with Japan.

During her visit to Japan from 6 to 9 March 2012, Prime Minister Yingluck met her Japanese counterpart Yoshihiko Noda and Japanese business people to exchange views on economic cooperation and progress in the Japan-Thailand Economic Partnership Agreement.

She said that the economic partnership has led to an increase in trade and investment, with Japan using Thailand as a base for production and exports. It has also created jobs in the country and contributed to human resource development and technology transfer from Japan. The Thai government is therefore determined to support this strategic economic partnership, aimed at enhancing global competitiveness for the business sectors of both countries. Thailand has set a target to increase annual bilateral trade to 100 billion US dollars in 2017, as a way to stimulate both Thai and Japanese economic sectors.

The Prime Minister highlighted Thailand’s four strengths to help promote Japanese investment in Thailand. First, Thailand is a center in the region, with transportation and communication links with neighboring countries. Second, it has an integrated production network, which enables the country to host large industries. Third, Thailand has an agricultural sector that is potentially strong and addresses the issue of food security, and fourth, it has capable and service-minded human resources.

She hoped that Japan would use Thailand as a base for goods distribution and as a hub for regional business expansion. Thailand is ready to become a major investment base for Japan, and the Government maintains a policy to promote investment. She pointed out that supporting industries in Thailand are strong and there are competitive advantages in terms of investment capital for business. Corporate income tax has been decreased to 23 percent of the net profit, and will be decreased further to 20 percent by 1 January 2013. The Government maintains consistent and continuous policies to develop infrastructure for the future of the country.

In the past year, both countries faced the most severe natural disasters in history. The earthquake and tsunami in Japan during the beginning of 2011, and severe floods in Thailand in the same year had adverse impacts on businesses in both countries.

Prime Minister Yingluck thanked Japan for its assistance during the flood crisis in Thailand. She stressed that the Thai government was well aware of the hardships faced by Japanese companies during the flooding situation. It has implemented measures to address the needs of the Japanese companies to restore their production capacity. She believed that the measures carried out by the Government would ensure its ability to cope with possible severe floods in the future.

Launching the Campaign “Unbeatable Thailand, Unparalleled Opportunities”

(08/03/2012)

The Office of the Board of Investment (BOI) has started a major campaign to enhance Thailand’s image as one of Asia’s key investment and tourist destinations.

The campaign “Unbeatable Thailand, Unparalleled Opportunities” was launched during the official working visit to Japan by Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra from 6 to 9 March 2012.

For the first time in Thailand’s recent history, the campaign has brought out one of the country’s renowned symbols “Thai Fighting Spirit of Muay Thai,” to express the indomitable spirit of Thais and their ability to overcome all challenges.

Industry Minister M.R. Pongsvas Svasti explained that that key message BOI wanted to convey to investors was that the fighting spirit is embedded in the DNA of all Thais. The campaign emphasizes not only the strong spirit of the Thai people and Thailand, but also the country’s incomparable key strengths, such as its strategic location, world-class infrastructure, cost-effective workforce, strong economic fundamentals, and diverse resources. He pointed out that these key strengths are evident and make Thailand an unbeatable investment destination that offers unparalleled opportunities in trade and investment.

BOI Secretary General Atchaka Sibunruang stated that the new campaign was launched on an international scale for the first time in Japan, as well. She said that BOI had received a positive response from Japanese investors participating in its seminar under the campaign, both in Tokyo and Nagoya.

After Japan, BOI will organize more road shows in other countries, such as the Republic of Korea and China. These road shows will be headed by Prime Minister Yingluck and they will demonstrate Thailand’s firm commitment to further strengthening relations with those countries and ensuring investor confidence in Thailand.

BOI earlier met members of the Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce in Thailand to share with them the most recent policies and actions taken by the Government to boost investor confidence. For instance, immediate measures have been introduced to help mitigate natural disaster impacts on businesses and bring them quick recovery.

In January 2012 alone, BOI received 80 applications from foreign investors for BOI promotional privileges. These applications, worth 25 billion baht in value, represent an increase of 19.4 percent over the same period of 2011. Japan remains the largest group of foreign investors in Thailand, followed by the United States, Switzerland, and Singapore. 

Thailand to Seek Cooperation from Neighboring Countries in Haze Pollution Control

(05/03/2012)

Haze pollution remains a major problem in northern Thailand. Apart from stepping up efforts to tackle the problem, the Government will seek cooperation from neighboring countries in haze pollution control.

Deputy Public Health Minister Surawit Khonsomboon said that, in order to bring the problem fully under control, neighboring countries would be asked to reduce burning as well.

Representatives from Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam joined the Second Meeting of the Sub-Regional Ministerial Steering Committee on Transboundary Haze Pollution in the Mekong Sub-Region, held on 29 February 2012 in Ha Noi, Vietnam. They were told that the prevailing La Niña is expected to weaken by May 2012, with a likelihood of neutral conditions for the rest of the year. Wetter conditions are expected with the start of the traditional rainy season around June 2012.

The meeting discussed and shared various initiatives to reduce field and forest fires and to control smoke haze pollution during the current dry season. Thailand set up the Zero Burning Village criteria, introduced and implemented the Regulation of Agricultural Residual Burning, and set up its national hotspot reduction targets based on 2011 situation, with 10 percent reduction by 2013 and 30 percent reduction by 2015.

The meeting also agreed to strengthen the capacity of countries in this subregion in air quality monitoring including the conducting of Training Workshop on Air Quality Monitoring by Thailand, tentatively in April 2012. Laos and Myanmar will continue to deploy mobile air quality monitoring units from Thailand during the dry season.

In Thailand, 10 northern provinces, namely Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Lamphun, Lampang, Mae Hong Son, Nan, Phayao, Phrae, Phayao, and Tak, have been affected by haze pollution. The Ministry of Interior has instructed governors of these provinces to impose stricter measures to prevent local residents from burning in forested areas. It is also ready to ask the Bureau of Royal Rainmaking and Agricultural Aviation for royal rainmaking operations to reduce the haze of harmful smoke particles in the North. The Government will consider imposing heavier penalties on those who employ the slash-and-burn farming techniques, which are a major cause of the smoke haze and forest fire problem.

Haze pollution also causes health hazards. A report from the Ministry of Public Health shows that local people in the upper North recently suffered from respiratory ailments most, followed by heart, coronary, eye, and skin diseases. The Ministry is still in a position to handle the situation and it has also advised the people to take care of themselves by not smoking, for instance. Another 300,000 sanitary masks have been prepared for distribution to affected people in case of emergency.

Official Working Visit to Japan by Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra

(05/03/2012)

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra will urge Japan to participate in the rehabilitation of infrastructure in Thailand following the flood crisis.

The Prime Minister is scheduled to pay an official working visit to Japan on 6-9 March 2012 to strengthen bilateral relations and restore Japanese investors' confidence in Thailand’s flood solutions.

Joining the trip will be Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong, Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul, Minister of Information and Communication Technology Group Captain Anudith Nakornthap, Commerce Minister Boonsong Teriyapirom, Industry Minister M.R. Pongsvas Svasti, and Deputy Transport Minister Chadchart Sittipunt.

On March 7, Prime Minister Yingluck will give a keynote address at a seminar of business people, organized by Thailand’s Office of the Board of Investment, and meet President of the Japan Finance Corporation Shosaku Yasui and a group of Japanese tour operators. On the same day, after meeting the President of the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry and giving a speech at a meeting of Thai and Japanese business leaders, Prime Minister Yingluck will hold talks with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda.

As Thailand and Japan celebrate the 125th anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relations in 2012, the Prime Minister will propose the promotion of strategic partnerships between both countries in all aspects. Emphasis will be placed on ASEAN connectivity with the Greater Mekong Subregion, especially cooperation in economic rehabilitation, since both countries suffered severe natural disasters in 2011. She will inform Japanese public and private sectors about Thailand’s anti-flood programs.

Leading Thai business people accompanying the Prime Minister during this trip will discuss with their Japanese counterparts cooperation in enhancing the competitiveness of Thailand as Japan’s production base and product distribution center. Japan continues to be the largest foreign investor in Thailand.

On March 8, Prime Minister Yingluck will have an audience with Crown Prince Naruhito before leaving for Sendai, the capital city of Miyagi Prefecture, to visit local residents affected by the “Great East Japan Earthquake.” She will also visit flood-hit Thai workers who have been transferred to work temporarily in Japan. The Tourism Authority of Thailand, the City of Sendai, and the Tohoku Tourism Promotion Organization in January 2012 signed a letter of intent to use tourism as a means of helping to facilitate economic and social recovery from the natural disasters that have struck both destinations.

On March 9, the Prime Minister will give an interview to NHK Television before returning to Bangkok.

Buddhism Week in Commemoration of Magha Puja 2012

(05/03/2012)

A Buddhism week is being held nationwide to mark Magha Puja, the first major Buddhist anniversary of the year. People have been invited to join the week, scheduled for 3 to 7 March 2012, with various religious activities, especially Dhamma practice.

In Bangkok, the focal point of this event takes place at the Sanam Luang ceremonial ground and in the provinces at major temples. Magha Puja falls on the full-moon day of the third lunar month, coinciding with March 7 this year.

Magha Puja is among the four Buddhist holy days recognized by the Government as national holidays. Three others include Visakha Puja, Asalha Puja, and Khao Phansa, or the beginning of the Buddhist Lent.

Buddhism began 25 centuries ago in northern India. Magha Puja commemorates a great event that took place once during the Buddha’s lifetime. According to Buddhist scriptures, nine months after his enlightenment, the Buddha traveled to Rajgaha, a center of religious activities in India, and stayed there for several months.

On the full-moon day of the third lunar month, a total of 1,250 monks from different places gathered to pay homage to the Buddha, each on his own initiative, without prior notification. All of them were enlightened monks, and they had been individually ordained by the Buddha himself. Such a unique gathering had never occurred anywhere else. On the evening of that day, the Buddha gave them the Ovadha Patimokha discourse, laying down the principles of his teachings. The principles can be condensed into three major guidelines: to do good, to abstain from bad, and to purify the mind.

For Buddhists, to do good and to abstain from bad means, first of all, to follow the five precepts of refraining from destroying life, from taking what is not given, from immoral sexual behavior, from false speech, and from taking intoxicating drinks.

Buddhism and Thailand have a close relationship. The roots of the Thai nation are evident as far back as 2,000 years ago. In the same period, Buddhism came to the region and it has played an important part in Thai history ever since. The Thai nation became firmly established in present-day Thailand 700 years ago. Also seven centuries ago, it adopted the present form of Buddhism.

Out of the population of 63 million, more than 90 percent of Thais are Buddhists. So Buddhism has had a deep influence in Thai arts, traditions, learning, and the character of the people. The charm that has earned Thailand the reputation as the “Land of Smiles” undoubtedly comes from the influence of Buddhism over the people. Being interdependent, Buddhism and the Thai nation are bound together by mutual responsibility to contribute to the well-being of all people.

Realizing this fact, the Government, through the Ministry of Culture, has taken the responsibility of promoting Buddhism, and the organizing of the Buddhism week is an example.

Fighting Haze Pollution in Northern Thailand

(04/03/2012)

Agencies concerned are working to bring the haze pollution problem in northern Thailand under control. They are also monitoring the situation closely and providing assistance to local people.

Eight affected provinces in the upper northern region include Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Lamphun, Lampang, Mae Hong Son, Nan, Phayao, and Phrae.

The Ministry of Public Health has sent 50,000 sanitary masks to the eight provinces so that local residents could protect themselves from haze pollution. Around 60 hospitals in these provinces reported that the number of patients suffering from heart, coronary, respiratory, and eye diseases has been on the rise. However, the report did not conclude that the smoke haze was a factor contributing to the increase. Public Health Minister Wittaya Buranasiri said that he would send occupational and environmental health experts to the areas to gather information for disease control and surveillance.

Chiang Mai Governor Mom Luang Panadda Diskul said that the haze pollution problem was among the top priorities for Chiang Mai officials; they would work to mitigate adverse effects for the time being. The problem would not only cause health hazards, but would also harm the tourism industry. Stressing the need for local people to reduce burning, the Governor has instructed officials to impose strict measures to prevent people from burning on farms and in forest areas.

Statistics compiled by the Chiang Mai Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Office show that 162 forest fires took place in the province between 5 January and 15 February 2012. Almost 400 acres of forest land, mainly in Hot, Mae Chaem, and Doi Tao districts, have been damaged.

A study indicates that the smoke haze and bushfire problem usually arises in Thailand from January to April each year. It is caused by all kinds of burning in various communities, as well as the slash-and-burn farming technique employed by farmers. Dust and smoke particles from haze pollution cause air pollution and health hazards, particularly respiratory illness. Artificial rain-making has been adopted as one way to help ease the problem. Campaigns are launched each year to encourage local people ton fight the problem by refraining from burning during this period.

Several other ASEAN countries also face this problem each year. ASEAN ministers responsible for the environment have agreed to set up a fund to provide immediate assistance for affected countries. At their latest meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on 18 October 2011, the ministers noted that several ASEAN Member States had contributed to the ASEAN Transboundary Haze Pollution Control Fund towards realizing the pledge of providing an initial seed contribution of 500,000 US dollars for the Fund. Thailand has also cooperated with Lao PDR and Myanmar in providing air quality monitoring stations to fight the problem in the region.

Foreign Ministry Spokesman Comments on UN Press Statement and Other Developments Related to the Explosions Incident

(27/02/2012)

In response to media enquiries about the United Nations Security Council issued on attacks against Israeli diplomatic personnel, a Thai spokesman recently commented that like other members of the international community, Thailand condemns terrorism in all its form and manifestation, whenever and wherever it takes place.

Mr. Thani Thongpakdi, Director-General of the Department of Information and Foreign Ministry Spokesman stated that Thailand had been actively working to combat terrorism within various fora, including the United Nations and ASEAN.

He said that the Ministry had been informed by the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Thailand that, following verification of their nationalities by the authorities concerned in Tehran, it could be confirmed that the two suspects currently being detained in Thailand are of Iranian nationality.

"The Embassy reiterated, however, that the said suspects were not linked with the Iranian Government or organizations in Iran and that they had acted independently as individuals. As a consequence, the Embassy has sought consular access to the two suspects which the Ministry is currently coordinating," he said.

According to Mr. Thani, from police investigations thus far into the explosions incident on Sukhumvit Road on 14 February 2012, no linkage had yet been found between this incident and those that recently took place in India and Georgia. Investigations are still on-going and should new evidence emerge, further announcements would be made upon the facts gathered.

Regarding the extradiction request for the suspect currently being detained in Malaysia, he said that the official request had already been conveyed to the Malaysian authorities concerned through diplomatic channels through the Royal Thai Embassy in Kuala Lumpur.

The spokesman said that all parties concerned should therefore rest assured that the investigations by the Thai agencies concerned into the said incident would be conducted professionally and thoroughly with respect for the due process of law. In addition, it is hoped that all the parties concerned would respect Thailand's sovereignty and not undertake any activities in the Kingdom that may affect the country's national security or use Thailand as a base to undertake activities targeting other countries, their nationals or interests.

Government Adopts His Majesty the King’s Advice on Forestry Conservation

(27/02/2012)

The Government has vowed to adopt His Majesty the King’s advice on forestry conservation in its implementation of water management plans.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said in her weekly television program, “Yingluck Government Meets the People,” that His Majesty the King had suggested that more trees be planted to prevent flooding.

The suggestion was made when the Prime Minister and members of the Strategic Committee for Water Resources Management and the Strategic Committee for Reconstruction and Future Development were granted an audience with His Majesty on 24 February 2012 to present a report on the Government’s progress on water management. The audience came after the Government had a five-day tour of upstream, middle-stream, and downstream provinces to inspect anti-flood operations and flood rehabilitation.

The Prime Minister said that His Majesty stressed the need for reforestation, which would help prevent landslides, as well. Severe action should be taken against those responsible for deforestation. As for the tackling of deforestation, she said that tree-replanting must start now and would continue on a long-term basis.

Regarding water management, she said that the Government would bring about a natural equilibrium between flooding and drought. For instance, water in major dams would be released regularly and as much of the released water as possible must be used for agriculture.

Prime Minister Yingluck said that, out of his concern for the well-being of the people, His Majesty was monitoring the country’s water management all the time. After presenting the report to His Majesty, the Government would improve all water management plans, so that they would be integrated. Another urgent task was that a national water information center would be set up to unify the management of information on water resources.

The Prime Minister believed that there would be no recurrence of the devastating flood this year, as all parties concerned have prepared well for situations that could occur. In this connection, the Government is setting up a single command authority to manage the country’s water in an integrated manner. It will also follow up on the progress of flood control periodically.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Interior, through the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation, held a meeting with governors of 11 provinces along the lower Chao Phraya river basin and the Bangkok Governor. The meeting discussed flood prevention and crisis management plans drawn up by each province. It was told that a major flood evacuation drill would be held by April this year to ensure that all related agencies would be ready to deal with any possible flooding situation.


Thailand’s National Budget for the 2013 Fiscal Year

(24/02/2012)

The national budget for the fiscal year 2013 has been set at 2.4 trillion baht, with an emphasis on maintaining monetary and fiscal discipline.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra gave a briefing on the 2013 national budget to heads of government agencies on 23 February 2012, after the mobile Cabinet in Udon Thani had approved the budget.

The 2013 national budget represents an increase of 20 billion baht, or 19.5 percent, over that of the 2012 budget. The year 2013 will be another year for a deficit budget. The Government has set a deficit of 300 billion baht, while it is expected to collect revenues of 2.1 trillion baht.

Out of the national budget of 2.4 trillion baht, 1.88 trillion baht will be set aside for regular spending, accounting for 78.5 percent of the total budget. About 467 billion baht will be allocated for investment, representing an increase of 19.5 percent, and 182 billion baht has been set for debt repayment. The Government has based the 2013 national budget on the assumption that the country’s GDP would grow by 4 to 5 percent and exports by 16 percent, with inflation standing at 3.8 percent.

The implementation of the national budget will begin on 1 October 2012 and end on 30 September 2013.

Prime Minister Yingluck said that budget planning for the 2013 fiscal year must take into account risk factors from the volatility of the global economy. One way to reduce the risks is to depend more on the domestic economy. She called for greater emphasis on stimulating the local economy and increasing productivity in various industries, especially small and medium-sized enterprises.

As Thailand is located in a strategic position within Southeast Asia, the Prime Minister pointed out that the country has become an attractive investment base. In this regard, she stressed the need to develop infrastructure in preparation for Thailand to move forward toward the ASEAN Community in 2015.

The Prime Minister cited 2012 as the year for flood restoration and rehabilitation. She believed that Thailand’s GDP growth in 2012 would be 5.5 to 6.5 percent. The Government would emphasize monetary and fiscal disciplines, as it expected a balanced budget in the future.

Prime Minister Yingluck urged all government agencies to tighten their belt, since a large amount of the national budget would be spent on infrastructure development. In their budget planning, she told them to put priorities on the implementation of the Government’s 16 urgent policies presented in the National Assembly in 2011.

She also stressed that budget preparation must respond to the needs of the people and be spent with efficiency and transparency. 

Making Northeastern Provinces Drug-Free Areas

(24/02/2012)

Deputy Prime Minister Police Captain Chalerm Ubamrung has stated that the Government would make 20 northeastern provinces drug-free areas.

The statement was made during the mobile Cabinet meeting in the northeastern province of Udon Thani on 21 and 22 February 2012, when Cabinet members visited local residents to listen to their problems.

Northeastern Thailand, commonly referred to as I-San, covers an area of around 170,000 square kilometers, or one-third of country’s entire area. It is made up of 20 provinces, out of the country’s 77 provinces.

Police Captain Chalerm, who is also Director of the National Command Center for Drug Elimination, revealed that the target for a drug-free northeastern region will begin in Udon Thani. He emphasized the national drug control strategy “Force of the Land to Defeat the Drug Problem,” saying that the Government had discussed ways to tackle the drug problem along the border with neighboring countries and China. The discussions also touched on the issue of preventing the smuggling of illicit drugs. He pointed out that serious action would be taken against drug traffickers, while drug addicts would be provided with treatment and rehabilitation. He reaffirmed that in cracking down on drugs, the Government would adhere to the rule of law.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, during her visit to a drug rehabilitation camp in Ubon thani on 21 February 2012, urged young people undergoing rehabilitation at the camp not to return to drug use. She called on them to perform good deeds and keep themselves away from narcotic drugs for their better future and the happiness of their parents. The Prime Minister said that the Government was ready to provide financial support for all drug-related programs.

The drug rehabilitation camp in Udon Thani has offered training for young drug addicts, so that they would turn a new leaf. It has mapped out an action plan for 2012 in line with the Force of the Land to Defeat the Drug Problem strategy.

According to the Office of the Narcotics Control Board, the Government has set a target of bringing 400,000 drug addicts, out of 1.2 million, to undergo rehabilitation in 2012. From October 2011 to January 2012, the authorities were able to seize 600 million baht in assets from drug cases.

The present Thai government intends to bring the drug problem under control in the first year of its administration. It firmly stresses the policy of giving full cooperation on drug control to foreign countries and international organizations. In its area approach, all provinces, comprising districts, subdistricts, and villages, will be strengthened as a national platform to combat the drug menace. Local authorities and their networks will play a key role in identifying local drug issues and formulating plans to address the problem. 

Iran Cooperates with Thailand in Identifying the Suspects in the Explosions Incident

(23/02/2012)

The Iranian Ambassador has expressed readiness to cooperate with the Thai authorities in verifying the identity of the suspects in the recent explosions on Sukhumvit Soi 71 in Bangkok.

Referring to the incident that took place on 14 February 2012, the Islamic Republic of Iran has reaffirmed that it was not involved in any way.

Mr. Thani Thongphakdi, Director-General of the Department of Information and Foreign Ministry Spokesperson, stated that the Iranian Ambassador had expressed readiness to cooperate with the Thai authorities in verifying the suspects’ nationality, as well as the authenticity of their passports.

In this connection, he said, the Iranian Embassy in Thailand had already transmitted relevant documents to the Iranian Foreign Ministry and is awaiting results from Tehran.

According to Mr. Thani, as of 21 February 2012, 15 countries and economic zones have issued travel alerts and advisories regarding the incident. They include Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Austria, the Netherlands, Japan, South Korea, Brazil, New Zealand, Italy, Norway, Israel, Taiwan, and Switzerland.

They have not warned their nationals against traveling to Thailand, but only advised their citizens to closely monitor the situation, exercise caution and follow safety advices issued by Thai security agencies.

Regarding the extradition of the suspect detained by Malaysian authorities, he said that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had received an official request from the Office of the Attorney-General on 21 February 2012 regarding this issue and is in the process of conveying the request to the Malaysian side via diplomatic channels.

Thailand Welcomes Positive Developments in Myanmar

(22/02/2012)

As a close friend and neighbor, Thailand has welcomed all positive developments taking place in Myanmar, particularly the recent establishment of the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission.

Mr. Sihasak Phuangketkeow, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, stated that Thailand was pleased that the developments in Myanmar were being recognized by the international community, and it would continue to support Myanmar in the democratization and national reconciliation of the country.

Mr. Win Mra, Chairman of the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission, paid a visit to Thailand on 12-15 February 2012 and exchanged views with Mr. Sihasak.

The visit was part of the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission’s tour to meet the National Human Rights Commission in ASEAN member countries.

Responding to questions from journalists at a joint pres conference, Mr. Win Mra said that the exact number of political prisoners in Myanmar is still not definite, given the fact that it is hard to differentiate between political prisoners and criminals. However, the figure the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission has at the moment is 128.

Concerning the degree of power the council has, Mr. Win Mra said that the present government gives importance to issues of democracy and human rights, as could be seen in the recent establishment of this council.

Regarding Thailand’s policy in closing temporary shelter areas for displaced persons from Myanmar and the need to return about 140,000 displaced persons to Myanmar, Mr. Win Mra said that he was not aware of the issue, but was ready to work on it.

Mr. Sihasak added that before they return, Thailand must ensure that the situation is safe for them, as well as training and educating them in order to equip them with self-sufficient skills they may use upon returning back home. This is a fine example of the close cooperation between both countries.  

Government to Strive for Women’s Empowerment through the National Development Fund for Women

(20/02/2012)

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has stated that the setting up of the National Development Fund for Women was an effort to empower Thai women and enhance their potential. It is among the Government’s 16 urgent policies to be implemented in the 2012 fiscal year.

Prime Minister Yingluck gave a briefing on the policy and guidelines for the operations of the fund at the Santi Maitri Building, Government House, on 18 February 2012.

Attending the briefing were Cabinet members from seven relevant agencies, namely the Prime Minister’s Office, the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Public Health, the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, the Ministry of Labor, the Ministry of Education, and the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security. The participants also included senior officials from all 20 ministries, governors from 77 provinces, representatives from related organizations, and members of the media.

The Prime Minister said that the Government would work with both local and national women’s organizations and provide greater opportunities for their participation in national development. She called for cooperation from various agencies to publicize the National Development Fund for Women and promote its operations for the sustainable development of women.

She pointed out that although the Government was well- aware of women’s problems and attached great importance to gender equality, it was necessary to establish mechanisms and measures in order to promote the roles of women and to protect them effectively. For this reason, the Government has decided to set up the National Development Fund for Women.

The fund, which is under the Prime Minister’s Office, serves as a revolving funding source for women to borrow with low interest or without interest. The money will be used to develop their occupations, generate employment and income, promote their welfare, ease their problems, and enhance the potential of women’s networks.

Each province will be granted 100 million baht on average, based on its population, to set up a women’s development fund. Registration will be opened for members of the fund between February 19 and March 2, when public forums will also be held in all regions of the country to listen to the opinions of women’s networks.

Prime Minister Yingluck cited Her Majesty the Queen as a model for women development. For instance, Her Majesty established the Foundation for the Promotion of Supplementary Occupations and Related Techniques, or SUPPORT, to provide Thai people, especially women, with sufficient training to enable them to turn out high-quality crafts and thus earn extra income. The setting up of the National Development Fund for Women is also meant to pay tribute to Her Majesty on the occasion of her 80th birthday anniversary in 2012. 

Thailand and Germany Celebrate 150 Years of Diplomatic Relations

(20/02/2012)

Thailand and Germany celebrate the 150th anniversary of diplomatic relations in 2012, with several events organized throughout the year.

Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul and Mrs. Cornelia Pieper, Minister of State at the Federal Foreign Office of Germany, recently discussed the longstanding relations between the two countries.

The Foreign Minister stated that Thailand would play a central part in the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015, while Germany would continue to be a stalwart in the European Union.

A report from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that Germany is now Thailand’s number one trading partner in the European Union, with trade amounting to 9,154 million US dollars in 2011, an increase of 14.5 percent from the previous year.

In terms of tourism, about 600,000 German tourists visit Thailand each year. Around 30,000 Germans reside in Thailand, while there are roughly 55,000 Thais living in Germany. With such a strong foundation in Thai-German relations, both sides were of the view that this would be a good opportunity to increase and expand cooperation to cover new sectors like environmental preservation, technological know-how, and health care, as well as the exchange of personnel and technologies.

Foreign Minister Surapong thanked the German side for its assistance in the form of water strainers, boats, and lifebuoy equipment sent to Thailand during the floods. Germany also pledged to assist Thailand with the flood-hit Ratchaburana Temple in Ayutthaya province with assistance in the amount of 100,000 euros, or about 4.2 million baht; which the German side would discuss the project in detail with the Fine Arts Department.

Regarding the recent bombing incident in Bangkok on 14 February 2012, Foreign Minister Surapong thanked the German side for not issuing a travel alert. He also took the opportunity to provide details on the progress of the incident, whereby the police had arrested two suspects and were in the process of further investigations to determine the authenticity of their passports and nationalities. It is likely that these explosive devices were intended for the assassination of an individual or individuals, rather than a large-scale attack.

In this regard, Foreign Minister Surapong reassured the German side of the prompt actions taken by the Thai authorities, who would also give priority to ensuring the safety of foreigners residing in Thailand.

Thailand and Germany established diplomatic relations on 7 February 1862 with the signing of the Treaty of Amity, Commerce, and Navigation. One of the projects marking the 150 years of Thai-German diplomatic relations is the establishment of the Thai-German Engineering Software Center for the Sirindhorn International Graduate School of Engineering, with an aim toward capacity-building of a Thai institution in order to be among the leaders in the region.

OTOP Fair in Celebration of Her Majesty the Queen’s 80th Birthday

(18/02/2012)

The Government will hold a special OTOP fair, which will give a major boost to products under the Foundation for the Promotion of Supplementary Occupations and Related Techniques (SUPPORT), established by Her Majesty Queen Sirikit.

The fair will take place at Challenger Hall, IMPACT, Muang Thong Thani, Nonthaburi province, from 21 to 27 February 2012.

Organized jointly by the Ministry of Interior and the Office of the Prime Minister, the fair is meant to celebrate the 80th birthday anniversary of Her Majesty the Queen this year. It is aimed at generating income, stimulating the local economy, and promoting the marketing of OTOP goods.

OTOP stands for the “One Tambon, One Product” program, a major policy of the Government to build up small enterprises in communities by encouraging the people to manufacture local products using their homegrown skills and expertise. It was initiated in 2001, with the Government assisting in the marketing of these goods, in cooperation with the private business sector.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra urged the people to visit the fair, where OTOP products and SUPPORT handicrafts from all parts of Thailand would be put on display and on sale. The fair will reflect the craftsmanship of the Thai people.

Her Majesty the Queen has taken a particularly deep interest in arts and crafts and has set an example in the preservation of Thai arts and culture. Her awareness of the importance of preserving Thai arts and crafts resulted in the establishment of the SUPPORT Foundation under her patronage in 1976, with the primary objective of setting up women’s groups and providing rural Thai women with equipment, materials, and training in cottage industries. Apart from benefiting craft makers and their families, SUPPORT plays a part in reviving traditional crafts and preserving them.

Meanwhile, Industry Minister M.R. Pongsvas Svasti revealed that the Ministry of Industry would place special emphasis on the development of OTOP products, designs, and packaging, so that Thailand’s community goods would be competitive in the local and overseas market. It will work closely with the Ministry of Commerce in distributing these products both inside and outside the country. He said that a target would be set to increase OTOP income from about 80 billion baht to 100 billion baht a year.

Severe floods last year had a massive impact on OTOP producers. A survey conducted by the Community Development Department shows that the flooding affected more than 1,200 groups of OTOP entrepreneurs in 62 provinces. A campaign for buying OTOP products is being stepped up, so that OTOP producers would be able to recover quickly.

Mobile Cabinet Meeting in Udon Thani

(18/02/2012)

The second mobile Cabinet meeting under the Yingluck Shinawatra administration is scheduled for 21-22 February 2012, in the northeastern province of Udon Thani.

Prime Minister Yingluck will leave Bangkok for Loei province first, on 21 February 2012, before traveling by helicopter to Udon Thani to chair a meeting of the Regional Joint Public/Private Sector Consultative Committee.

The Cabinet meeting will take place on February 22 at the auditorium of Udon Thani Rajabhat University in Muaeng district. The Office of the National Economic and Social Development Board will propose a number of projects for the Cabinet to consider during this meeting. The projects will be carried out in 12 northeastern provinces, namely Udon Thani, Nong Bua Lamphu, Nong Khai, Loei, Bueng Kan, Mukdahan, Sakon Nakhon, Nakhon Phanom, Khon Kaen, Maha Sarakham, Roi Et, and Kalasin.

Among them are the construction of roads, the expansion of traffic lanes, water management, and tourism development. Another project seeks to develop Khon Kaen province as a center for public health services. Nakhon Phanom will also propose the construction of a regional health center and a convention for the Greater Mekong Subregion.

President of the Federation of Thai Industries Payungsak Chartsutipol said that, at the upcoming meeting with the Cabinet in Udon Thani, the Regional Joint Public/Private Sector Consultative Committee would urge the Government to speed up the construction of a dual-rail link between Bangkok and Nong Khai, so that they would be completed by 2019.

The private sector has also called for the acceleration of a high-speed train project, linking Bangkok with Nong Khai, as well as the improvement of transportation routes along the Mekong River, and the construction of a railway linking four provinces, namely Maha Sarakham, Roi Et, Mukdahan, and Nakhon Phanom.

Other proposals include ways to promote trade and investment and develop the logistics system so that it is able to cope with economic growth in the northeastern region, connecting with neighboring countries. As for tourism promotion, the private sector will ask the Government to consider supporting the construction of a cable car project at the Phu Kradueng National Park in Loei.

The mobile Cabinet meeting will provide a chance for ministers to visit local people to listen to their problems and follow up on the implementation of various government projects. Prime Minister Yingluck wanted a mobile Cabinet meeting to be held once a month. The first mobile Cabinet meeting took place in the northern province of Chiang Mai in January this year. After the second one in Udon Thani in February, the third one is scheduled for 19-20 March 2012 in the South, and the fourth one for 23-24 April 2012 in the central region.

Diplomatic Missions Provided with Information on Explosions Incident

(17/02/2012)

Members of the diplomatic corps and international organizations have been invited to attend a briefing on the explosion incident on Sukhumvit Soi 71 in Bangkok.

The briefing, held on 15 February 2012 at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was made by Mr. Sihasak Phuangketkaew, Permanent Secretary for Foreign Affairs, and Police General Pansiri Prapawat, Deputy Police Commissioner-General.

Participating in the briefing were heads of missions and high-level representatives of 45 countries and two international organizations. According to Mr. Thani Thongphakdi, Director-General of the Department of Information and Foreign Ministry Spokesperson, the main purpose of the briefing was to provide accurate and timely information regarding the incident from an official source, so that the missions could report back to their respective capitals and headquarters.

In addition, he said, the briefing provided an opportunity for the Ministry to inform the missions about actions taken by the Thai authorities to ensure the safety and security of foreign nationals and foreign interests in Thailand.

It included details about the incident that took place given the latest evidence gathered. As for the two suspects arrested, the Thai authorities were in the process of verifying their nationalities as well as the authenticity of their passports. Arrest warrants for another two suspects have also been issued.

The Permanent Secretary sought cooperation from friendly countries in providing any information deemed useful for on-going investigations. He also stated that Thailand understood that each country had the responsibility of providing advisories and the latest information to their nationals to ensure their safety and security. In this connection, he expressed the hope that the actions and measures taken by the Thai authorities would be taken into account and that the advisories issued would be commensurate with the situation.

Representatives of some embassies inquired about possible links between this incident to the issuance last month of travel alerts and advisories for Thailand by some countries or to the recent assassination attempts in India and Georgia. In this regard, the Permanent Secretary said that based on the evidence gathered thus far, there was no indication that the incidents were linked. Investigations, however, were still on-going.

Responding to a reporter’s question on whether concern was expressed about the incident during the briefing, the Spokesperson stated that most of the questions raised were more of a general nature with no particular concerns raised, which may reflect the confidence in actions and measures taken by the Thai authorities, which have in fact stepped up security measures as a precaution since last month.

The Spokesperson added that, prior to the briefing, the Iranian Ambassador to Thailand met with the Acting Director-General of the Department of South Asia, Middle East and African Affairs, during which the latter requested cooperation from the Iranian side in helping to verify the nationality and authenticity of the passports of the two arrested suspects.

Press Briefing on Explosions Incident in Bangkok

(17/02/2012)

Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul has given a pres briefing regarding the explosions occuring on Soi Sukhumvit 71 in Bangkok on 14 February 2012.

The briefing took place at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bangkok on 15 February 2012, with the participation of several senior officials responsible for national security.

A report issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that, on 15 February 2012, the National Security Council convened an urgent meeting of the Thai security authorities concerned regarding the incident which was attended by several high-ranking officials, including the Secretary-General of the National Security Council, the Director of the National Intelligence Agency, the Director of the Office of Policy and Planning of the Ministry of Defense, the Deputy Commissioner-General of the Royal Thai Police, and the Permanent Secretary for Foreign Affairs. Based on the preliminary investigation and existing evidence, the meeting arrived at the following conclusions:

1. The explosive devices found are improvised explosive devices (IED) with C4 components and magnetic strips. No link between this incident and the arrest of Mr. Atris Hussein earlier last month has been found. It is likely that these explosive devices were intended for the assassination of an individual or individuals rather than a large-scale attack;

2. The suspects comprise three men and one woman. The Thai authorities reacted promptly to the incident, and two out of the four suspects have already been arrested. The first suspect was the man injured from the explosion at the scene of the incident, while another suspect was the man arrested at Suvarnabhumi Airport while trying to flee Thailand. Although both suspects were found with Iranian passports, further investigations will be conducted before determining the authenticity of the passports and their nationalities;

3. At present, the Thai authorities have not yet identified the two arrested men as terrorists. The Thai police will press criminal charges on these two men on the grounds of possessing explosive devices that caused danger and injuries to others, as well as attempted murder. Further investigations will have to be conducted before any conclusion can be made.

At 15.30 hr on 15 February 2012, the Permanent Secretary for Foreign Affairs gave a briefing on this incident to members of the diplomatic corps and international organizations at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Police General Pansiri Prapawat, Deputy Police Commissioner, joined the briefing.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that it had been monitoring the travel alerts and advisories issued by countries regarding this incident and found that, as of 15 February 2012 at 11.50 hr, 10 countries, namely Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Austria, the Netherlands, Japan, South Korea, Brazil and New Zealand, have issued travel advisories, providing information about the incident and stating that the Thai authorities are investigating. While most of them merely advised their citizens to exercise caution in public areas, none of them has linked the incident with terrorism.

The Foreign Minister also sought cooperation from the Thai public to remain vigilant and encouraged them to quickly report to the police should they come across any unusual activities.

Accelerating the Reconstruction of Industrial Estates Affected by Floods in 2011

(15/02/2012)

Thailand places high priority on accelerating the reconstruction of industrial estates and logistics systems that were affected by severe floods in 2011.

Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul, in his address at the Fourth Meeting of Delhi Dialogue in New Delhi on 13 February 2012, said that the world is facing new and common challenges that require innovative and collective responses. Last year, he said, Thailand was affected by one of the worst flooding catastrophes in its history.

The Thai government has set up two strategic committees on national reconstruction and water management as part of anti-flood operations.

He said that an integrated water management master plan, with USD11 billion set aside for a new and improved water and crisis management system, would ensure a safe and stable industrial base in Thailand contributing to uninterrupted ASEAN supply chains and transportation networks.

The Government’s flood prevention measures sek to build new flood barriers to protect key economic areas and create floodways and floodplains to drain out water quickly. Moreover, early warning systems will be developed.

Most importantly, a single command authority will be in place to manage the crisis.

Government to Focus on Flood Prevention in Its Water Management Plan This Year

(15/02/2012)

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who is on a five-day tour to inspect anti-flood operations and flood rehabilitation, stated that the Government would focus on flood prevention in its water management efforts this year.

The inspection tour, scheduled for 13-17 February 2012, has taken the Prime Minister and her team to visit many provinces in upstream, middle-stream, and downstream provinces, from the northern to the central regions, that were hit by severe floods last year.

The visit came after the Cabinet, during its meeting on 7 February 2012, had approved the setting up of a single command authority to manage the country’s water in an integrated manner. At the same meeting, the Cabinet also approved the formation of the National Water and Flood Policy Committee, chaired by the Prime Minister, and the Water and Flood Management Committee, which will be responsible for working out action plans.

To aid flood prevention this year, Prime Minister Yingluck stressed the need to look for two million rai, or 800,000 acres, of land to hold floodwater. In this regard, the authorities would have to reach out to local people in the areas that would be made into floodways. They must be well informed about the situation to ensure that they would be as little affected as possible. In the initial stage, the respective provincial governors will need to find places for the relocation of affected residents and provide them with compensation.

The Prime Minister said that the Government would install a closed-circuit television system at various flood sluices to manage water drainage effectively. Moreover, she said, water gates would be repaired and embankments would be reinforced, while reforestation and construction of more weirs would be emphasized in the northern part of the country.

The Prime Minister said that she had instructed all provincial governors to dredge canals and waterways and focus their attention on disaster warning and communication, so that people would have access to information for preparedness.

She urged Thai people to unite in preparation for coping with possible floods this year. In 2010, the country faced about 16,000 million cubic meters of floodwater, but the amount rose to 20,000 million cubic meters in 2011. The Prime Minister pointed out that moral support should be given to one another to ease flood-related problems this year.

Meanwhile, the World Bank will release an economic report on the Thai economy in April 2012, as Thailand suffered flood damage of 1.4 trillion baht in economic loss last year. The report says that the Government’s allocation of 2.2 trillion baht for investment in water management and infrastructure would help restore the confidence of investors and consumers.

Thailand’s National Development Fund for Women

(15/02/2012)

Each province in Thailand will be granted 100 million baht to set up a women’s development fund to promote women’s roles and improve their quality of life.

Minister to the Prime Minister’s Office, Dr. Nalinee Taveesin, said that she was assigned by Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to supervise the National Development Fund for Women in line with the Government’s urgent policy.

In the urgent policy of improving people’s access to sources of funding, the Government will establish a fund to develop women’s roles, with 100 million baht provided to each province for the purpose.

Toward this aim, the Government has formed the National Development Fund for Women Committee, chaired by the Prime Minister. Five subcommittees were set up to operate the fund, establish the provincial and subdistrict committee on the development fund for women, hold public forums to listen to the opinion of women’s networks, launch the fund, and carry out public relations for the fund.

On February 18 at Santi Maitri Building, Government House, Prime Minister Yingluck is scheduled to give a briefing on the policy and guidelines for operations to provincial governors and representatives from relevant agencies, such as the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Public Health, the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Labor, the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, and the Prime Minister’s Office.

About 7.7 billion baht will be spent on the fund, which serves as a revolving funding source for women to borrow with low interest, or without interest. The money will be used to develop their potential and occupations, promote their leadership, and ease their problems. Campaigns will also be launched to create better understanding about women in all dimensions. Between 60 percent and 80 percent of the fund will be set aside as loans for women, while the rest will be used to protect the rights of women and assist women facing hardships.

The Office of the Non-Formal and Informal Education, which was assigned to handle the registration of members of the fund, has set February 18-29 as the period for registration in all communities nationwide. Members of the fund must be female Thais, aged 15 and over, and their names must appear in the house registrations in the areas where they register. Local public forums will take place from March 2 to 7 to select village representatives as members of the provincial and subdistrict committees on the development fund for women.

Officials involved will visit all regions of the country from February 19 and March 2 to listen to the opinions of women and their recommendations on the fund.

The Government will officially launch the National Development Fund for Women on March 8, which marks International Women’s Day. Out of Thailand’s population of 65 million, more than 33 million people are females.

Southern Border Provinces Development Policy, 2012-2014

(13/02/2012)

The National Security Office has come up with the southern border provinces development policy to be implemented from 2012 to 2014.

The Secretary-General of the Office of the National Security Council, Police General Vichean Potephosree, said that the policy emphasized the participation of all sectors of Thai society.

He revealed that members of civil society organizations and the Advisory Council on the Administration and Development of Southern Border Provinces also took part in drafting this policy, which would be used as the direction for resolving problems in the deep South.

Police General Vichean said that the policy is divided into two parts, comprising both security and development strategies. It states that the Internal Security Operations Command must adjust its plans and operations in line with this policy. The Southern Border Provinces Administrative Center will be instructed to follow the three-year policy in working out its strategies. All relevant agencies will also apply this policy to its operations in a systematic manner.

According to Police General Vichean, the Southern Border Provinces Development Policy for 2012-2014 aims to eliminate all negative conditions that might be used by perpetrators as a pretext to initiate acts of violence. It will be translated into action, based on His Majesty the King’s wise advice to “understand, reach out, and develop” and the philosophy of Sufficiency Economy, advocated by His Majesty to lead to well-balanced and sustainable development.

In addition, he said, the policy seeks to deal effectively with southern unrest through peaceful means, decentralization of administrative power, respect for human rights, and the rule of law. It calls on all members of society to join hands in handling the southern situation and all relevant agencies to work on southern problems in an integrated manner. This close cooperation was cited as the key to lasting peace in the southern border provinces.

Apart from striving to make the southern border provinces free from the conditions that might lead to violence, the Government will create a favorable atmosphere for the settlement of the southern conflicts through non-violence. Moreover, all sectors of society will be provided with better understanding of the situation and will be encouraged to participate in the peace-building process.

Police General Vichean pointed out that another emphasis involves the tackling of unrest through the principles of reconciliation and harmonization. In this regard, those who had been misled into creating unrest would be sent for training before being released to lead their normal life, so that they would be able to reintegrate into society. 

Inspecting Flood Prevention Measures from Upstream to Downstream Provinces

(13/02/2012)

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is scheduled to inspect work on the solving of the flood problem in upstream, middle-stream, and downstream provinces from 13 to 17 February 2012

During the inspection tour, the Prime Minister will listen to the problems and obstacles faced by those provinces and will also explain the Government’s flood prevent plans.

The trip will take the Prime Minister to Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Sukhothai, Uttaradit, Tak, Nan, Phrae, Lampang, Lamphun, and Phayao, which are upstream provinces. In the middle-stream provinces, she will visit Phitsanulok, Nakhon Sawan, Uthai Thani, Phichit, Kamphaeng Phet, and Chai Nat. The downstream provinces include Suphan Buri, Ayutthaya, Prachin Buri, Sing Buri, Ang Thong, Lop Buri, Saraburi, Nakhon Nayok, Nonthaburi, Samut Sakhon, Samut Prakan, Chachoengsao, Nakhon Pathom, Pathum Thani, and Bangkok.

Prior to the inspection tour, Prime Minister Yingluck will hold an event to thank all parties involved for their work in easing the recent flood crisis in Thailand. The event will take place between 5:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. on February 10 at Santi Maitri Building and in front of Thai Khu Fah Building, Government House. It will be televised on NBT (Television Channel 11), Modernine TV (Television Channel 9), and Thai PBS.

The President of the Privy Council and Senior Statesman General Prem Tinsulanonda has been invited to preside over the event. Among the participants will be privy councilors, members of the diplomatic corps, military and police leaders, government officials, representatives from the business sector, and members of the Strategic Committee for Water Resources Management and the Strategic Committee for Reconstruction and Future Development.

The meeting of the Strategic Committee for Water Resources Management, chaired by the Prime Minister on February 3, approved the organizing of four workshops from February to March this year to explain the Government’s Master Plan for Water Resources Management and the action plan to mitigate floods on an urgent basis. The workshops will also sound out the opinions of various sectors of society on several issues, such as floodways, flood diversion channels, and forest rehabilitation to create natural equilibrium.

The master plan covers flood prevention projects, worth 350 billion baht, to be implemented on both an urgent and sustainable basis. An integrated water management organization will be established to handle the entire water management system.

The meeting was also informed that the Office of the Council of State had proposed that the integrated water management organization be set up as a “Single Command Authority,” with the Prime Minister serving as chairperson of the policy body. As for the executive committee, it was suggested that members of the national water and flood management committee be included.

Smoke Haze, Bushfire, Drought, and Cold Weather Situation in Thailand

(10/02/2012)

Prompt action is being taken to deal with the smoke haze and bushfire situation in the upper northern region, comprising eight provinces, namely Mae Hong Son, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Lamphun, Lampang, Phayao, Phrae, and Nan.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment is closely monitoring the situation and implementing measures to prevent and ease the problem.

The smoke haze and bushfire problem usually arises from January to April each year. It is caused by all kinds of burning in various communities, as well as the slash-and-burn farming technique employed by farmers. Dust and smoke particles from forest fires cause air pollution and health hazards, particularly respiratory illness. They also contribute to global warming and affect the country’s tourism, as well as land and air traffic.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment believes that the smoke haze and bushfire situation this year will be less severe than last year because of the “La Niña” phenomenon, which has resulted in a large amount of rain in the early months of the year. The amount of rain has eased the smoke haze problem. At the same time, because of a successful campaign, local residents have cooperated with the authorities by reducing the burning of farmland after harvest.

The Pollution Control Department is implementing an action plan on the solving of the problem from 2012 to 2016. It has also sent officials to Laos and Myanmar to monitor the situation there in order to reduce the problem in the region. Lampang Governor Booncerd Kidhen signed an announcement on February 8, controlling the burning of waste and leaves in the entire province to prevent aggravation of the problem. The decision was meant to maintain the level of dust particles in the air at not more than the accepted safe standard of 120 micrograms per cubic meter.

The floods have abated in many provinces in Thailand and, for the most part, the situation has returned to normal, but several provinces are now facing drought, a new natural disaster. According to the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation, five provinces are suffering from drought. They are Kamphaeng Phet, Lamphun, Sukhothai, Loei, and Chanthaburi. The affected provinces have set up relief centers and assigned officials to deal with the situation.

Regarding the cold weather problem, the Director-General of the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation, Wiboon Sanguanpong, said that cold weather posed a major problem in many provinces this year. Thirty-three provinces were declared cold disaster zones: 13 in the north, 17 in the Northeast, and three in the central region.

Thailand’s Bid to Host World Expo 2020 Placed on the National Agenda

(10/02/2012)

Thailand’s ambition to host the World Expo 2020 has been included in the national agenda.

The decision was made by the Cabinet, during its meeting on 7 February 2012, when the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was assigned to serve as the core agency in the campaign for hosting the World Expo 2020.

A national committee, chaired by the Foreign Minister, will be formed to work out strategic and action plans for the campaign. The Government will call a meeting of related agencies to discuss ways to translate the plans into action. Among the related agencies are the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Commerce, the Prime Minister’s Office, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Transport, and the Office of the National Economic and Social Development Board.

The World Exposition, also known as the World Expo, is one of the world’s oldest and largest international events; it takes place every five years and each time it runs for six months. Since the first exposition, which took place in London in 1851, member countries have taken turns being the host when it joined the 1862 universal exhibition. Thailand became one of the first three Asian nations to participate in the exposition, along with China and Japan.

The Thai government on May 16, 2011 submitted a letter of intent to the Bureau of International Expositions in a bid to host the World Expo 2020 in Ayutthaya province, Thailand’s former capital. Ayutthaya has been cited as a city where industry and agriculture coexist and where tradition and innovation are seen going hand in hand.

Thailand is the only country in Asia that has been successfully nominated as an official candidate to host the World Expo 2020. It was among the five countries submitting a proposal to host this event. The four other countries include Turkey, Russia, Brazil, and the United Arab Emirates. The voting on the bid will be held in late 2013. The winner will have to gain the majority vote from 157 members of the Bureau of International Expositions.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs informed the Cabinet that the campaign for the bid would last two years, from 2012 to 2013. During the period, Thailand needs to submit progress reports on its preparations for hosting this event.

The Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau attended the General Assembly of the Bureau of International Exposition in November last year for the presentation of Thailand's bid to host World Expo 2020. It also proposed themes for side-events under the overall concept of "Redefine Globalization: Balanced Life, Sustainable Living", and highlighted progress in the awareness-building campaign for the bid. This was Thailand's second opportunity to join the General Assembly to present progress in the country’s bid to host World Expo 2020.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs added that the campaign was an urgent task and needed a clear policy from the Government.