In Thailand English-language News for April 14, 2017, Newsline presenter Sandra Hanutsaha tells us about:
• The Bureau of the Royal Household has affirmed that the Grand Palace will remain open during the 2017 Songkran holiday period to enable those wishing to pay their respects to the late king Bhumibol Adulyadej, who died last October 13 after a reign of more than 70-years, to do so. Volunteers are continuing to provide those visiting the Grand Palace with food, water, and medical assistance, while sheltered areas are established to provide cover from the elements.
• Thailand Tourism and Sports Minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul said on Thursday that Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha has ordered her to ensure criminal charges are brought against all of those responsible for stranding more than 1,000 people at Bangkok International Airport after duping them into participating in a pyramid selling scheme that included low-priced tickets to Japan. Those caught up in the scheme had been promised a trip to Osaka, Japan, flying Cathay Pacific, only to find they had been conned when they arrived a the airport to begin their trip only to find no aircraft waiting for them.
• Thailand Tourism and Sports Minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul said yesterday that this year provided a good opportunity for visitors to Thailand to experience the various ways Songrkran is celebrated throughout the kingdom, noting that celebrations differed from region to region, despite revolving around the same central theme.
Visitors to Bangkok can visit the forecourt in front of Bangkok City Hall where traditional bathing rites for the Phra Phuttha Sihing Buddha image, which ordinarily resides in the National Museum Bangkok, will continue through until April 15.
Ms Wattanavrangkul also urged people to be especially vigilant when travelling, noting that this is traditionally one of the deadliest periods on Thailand’s roads with more than half of Thailand’s 67 million population travelling over the holiday period.
In attempt to achieve a minimum 5 per cent drop in road fatalities over the period the government has mobilised civil and military personnel, conducted a broad public eduction and information campaign, and toughened numerous laws relating to road safety… and ensured their compliance. In addition a wide range of civic society groups have set up tens of thousands of rest and vehicle inspection and assistance centres staffed by volunteers nationwide, while law enforcement officials have orders to show zero tolerance to offenders.
• The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has launched Amazing Songkran 2017 events in 14 provinces nationwide aimed at promoting the traditional, cultural aspects of celebrations with alcohol-free merit making. At Wat Arun in the Bangkok Yai district of Bangkok, Buddha statues from 13 temples have been gathered for people to pour holy water over as part of the new year blessing ritual. Foreign visitors to Bangkok are encouraged to visit, but are reminded to dress appropriately when doing so.
• NBT has a close look at the water fights at Siam square i the heart of Bangkok and speaks with a diverse range of foreign tourists on their impressions of the celebrations.
• The University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce’s (TCCs) Center for Economic and Business Forecasting (CEBF) has predicted spending over the Songkran period will exceed a 12 year high of Bt125 billion (about US$3.642 billion), a 2.5 per cent year-on-year increase on 2016. According to the CEBF over 65 per cent of the expenditure is on necessary consumables, and inflated goods and services fees. Its survey found some 71 per cent of people will attend festivities in their home provinces.
Thais holidaying in the country are forecast to spend an average of Bt3,951 ($115), while those holidaying abroad are expected to spend an average of Bt75,300 ($2,194).
• The Director-General of the Department of Fisheries (DoF), Adisorn Phromthep, has asked Thais releasing fish into waterway as part of new year merit making ceremonies to only release native species in an effort to protect the ecological system.
• Tossapol Tungsubut, Director-General of the Department of Intellectual Property, said yesterday that the use of Section 44 of the 2014 Interim Thailand Constitution, the so-called omnipotent clause, was a temporary measure to speed up the issuing of patents. The DIP, he said, receives over 9,000 patent applications annually, but over the last 20 years has only had 24 patent inspectors. This has resulted in a backlog of more than 36,000 patent applications, of which some 12,000 were over five years old. The faster granting of patents would not necessarily result in increased prices of pharmaceuticals, he said.
• The Treasury Department is to ease the criteria for low-income earners applying for new public housing projects to enable greater participation. Applicants will still be restricted to those with a maximum monthly income of Bt20,000 ($582.75).
• The government has announced it plans to increase monthly payments to elderly citizens in need by up to 150 per cent – from from Bt600 ($17.48) to between Bt1,200 to Bt1,500 ($35 -$43.70), and the establishment of an ‘elderly fund’ to help meet the challenges of Thailand becoming an ageing society. About 10 million elderly, some two million of who are classified as ‘at need’, will be covered by the fund. Elderly low-income earners are encouraged to register for State welfare before May 15.
• The Thailand Ministery of Commerce (MoC) will closely monitor a meeting between US Vice President Mike Pence and Japan’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Taro Aso, next week to try and measure the effects of America’s new trade policy on country’s with which it has a deficit. Once the position becomes clear the MoC will meet with the private sector to discuss the changes. Air conditioner parts and travel accessories are expected to be removed from the US government’s Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) list when they expire at the end of the year, though Thailand will ask for cover to be extended.
• and more.
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Newsline is a daily Thailand English-language news and current affairs programme produced by the National News Bureau of Thailand (NNBT) under the Thailand Government Public Relations Department (PRD) for *NBT World, the NNBTs 24/7 English language television service delivering Thailand government news and information to the Thai, Asean, and wider Asian communities via cable and satellite. It is also available via android and iOS apps. AEC News Today publishes Thailand English-language News M-F.