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Finance: Key areas investors must watch out for

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Finance: Key areas investors must watch out for | The Thaiger
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PHUKET: Trump has been in office less than a month and already some of his most strident critics are acting as if it’s the end of the world. However, what investors need to remember is the fact that Trump faces an extremely hostile national/Washington DC press along with plenty of opposition from within his own government (such as Federal bureaucrats fearful of any effort to ‘drain the swamp’) and even within his own party (the so-called ‘establishment Republicans’ still bitter over their defeat in the primaries).

While there are plenty of distractions being created by both Trump and his opponents, these are the three key areas that investors need to keep a firm eye on for this year:

1. Tax Reform: Earlier this month, Trump announced that he would be releasing his ‘phenomenal’ tax plan in the next few weeks. That news sent the S&P, Dow and Nasdaq to record highs and triggered a broad-based dollar rally. Keep in mind that any kind of large scale tax reform will be difficult to pass when there are so many entrenched special interests. However, the markets will remain happy – so long as they see progress on any tax reform plans being made.

2. Obamacare: So far, the only real move by the Trump administration against Obamacare has been to scrub positive language about it on the HealthCare.gov website and to issue an executive order to ‘minimize the financial burden’ of it on insurers and healthcare providers. Keep in mind that long-time Obamacare foe Tom Price, a Republican Congressman who’s an orthopedist by training, has only just been sworn in as the new secretary of HHS.

Price could decide to keep the law on life support by altering the benefits required to be provided by insurers or he could just pretty much blow up the whole thing by altering enforcement of the individual mandate. Beyond such tinkering, repealing and/or replacing, it won’t happen overnight – especially with health care accounting for as much as one-fifth of the US economy and disagreement or uncertainty among Congressional Republicans over what to do about the law.

3. Immigration: Trump’s travel ban on travellers from seven majority-Muslim countries is more or less a distraction or a proxy fight as the real fight will be over other more dramatic immigration policy changes. In Silicon Valley, an estimated one-third of the workforce is foreign-born with tech companies keeping a wary eye on any effort to restrict H-1B visas (a move that would be widely popular with American workers) or immigration in general. However, most big tech companies have a presence overseas where work can easily be shifted to and there are already reports that cities like Vancouver are trying to capitalize on the uncertainty surrounding future immigration changes.

We may not know for certain what Trump’s tax reform or Obamacare plans will be; but if they are well received by business and investors alike, stocks will definitely move higher. Likewise, immigration is an emotional hot button issue; but one that ultimately has little impact on the top or bottom lines of most stocks when compared to tax reform and fixing or repealing Obamacare.

My job for my clients is to make money over time and this requires me to ignore politics and focus 100 percent of my attention of the price action of our stocks and funds regardless of what the new president is tweeting.

It is important to stay invested in the leading sectors and stocks until the trend changes. The leadership stocks and sectors currently are in technology (software, semiconductors), industrials and steel; even emerging market countries, such as Thailand and Russia, look good.

Don Freeman, the President of Freeman Capital Management, is a fee-only Phuket-based registered Investment Advisor with the US Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) who has over 15 years of experience providing personal financial planning and wealth management advice with an emphasis on investing in low-cost ETFs to both working and retired expatriates.

— Don Freeman

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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Business

“Come and see” – Ministry invites diplomats to see coconut-picking monkeys in action

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“Come and see” – Ministry invites diplomats to see coconut-picking monkeys in action | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Atlas Obscura

The monkeys, and the Thai government, are hitting back at accusations macaque monkeys are being exploited, even abused, and forced to pick coconuts for commercial farmers. Some larger western retailers say they’re going to pull Thai coconut products off their shelves after being lobbied by animal rights activist that the coconuts were picked by abused and over-worked macaque monkeys.

The Thai Commerce Ministry, coconut farmers and the “monkey school” trainers are dismissing reports, and a dramatic video from PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animal), that the coconut-picking monkeys are maltreated. So they’re organising a tour for foreign diplomats and the media to see the monkeys at work and decide for themselves.

The permanent secretary for commerce, responding to the reports, says the monkey owners don’t abuse or exploit the animals which have been “humanely trained” to pick coconuts. He has instructed attaches in foreign Thai embassies to provide an explanation to retailers in other countries who have expressed concerns and even instigated boycotts.

“The ministry is ready to invite foreign diplomats to visit coconut plantations and see how the monkeys pick coconuts so they will realise this is not animal cruelty.”

The Bangkok Post reports that Pramual Pongthawaradej, a Demo­crat Party MP for Prachuap Khiri Khan province, the Chair of a House subcommittee tackling falling coconut prices, says they’ve approached owners of coconut milk plants to justify their practices to PETA. They’ve also asked the Department of Agriculture to provide details regarding the use of monkeys to pick coconuts.

A video from Touronthai shows an operating monkey-school posted 4 years ago…

But Somjai Saekow, an owner of a monkey school which trains macaques in Surat Thani, says… “the practice of capturing monkeys from the wild to pick coconuts ceased a long time ago”.

“Currently, monkeys are bred and raised before being trained. They are not forced to pick 1,000 coconuts from trees everyday, and they don’t work every day.

“Coconut-picking monkeys are mostly males and their abilities vary. The owner of the monkey receives 2 baht per a coconut picked.”

“Foreigners may not understand our livelihood. Also, humans are not built to climb up a coconut tree to pick fruit. They will be at risk, compared to monkeys which have the natural ability to do so.”

An owner of monkeys in Surat Thani, denied the claims of poor treatment or abuse of the coconut-picking monkeys.

“There is no cruelty. Actually, they are looked after well. They are fed well with rice, milk, and fruit three times a day. They are treated like family members.”

PETA claims pigtailed macaques in Thailand were treated like “coconut-picking machines”.

“Following PETA’s investigation, more than 15,000 stores will no longer purchase these brands’ products, with the majority also no longer buying any coconut products sourced from Thailand monkey labour.”

PETA said it had found 8 farms around Thailand where monkeys had been forced to pick coconuts for commercial export.

“Male monkeys are able to pick up to 1,000 coconuts a day.”

“Other coconut-growing regions, including Brazil, Colombia and Hawaii, harvest coconuts using humane methods such as tractor-mounted hydraulic elevators, willing human tree-climbers, rope or platform systems, or ladders, or they plant dwarf coconut trees.”

“PETA went further by calling on “decent people never to support the use of monkey labour by shunning coconut products from Thailand”.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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PETA reveals ‘abused’ monkeys used to pick coconuts in Thailand

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PETA reveals ‘abused’ monkeys used to pick coconuts in Thailand | The Thaiger
PHOTO: PETA

A boycott is in full swing amongst western retailers to pull Thai coconut products off their shelves following allegations that the coconuts have been picked by monkeys who were ‘abused’ to learn how to pick coconuts. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals director, Elisa Allen, claims the macaque monkeys are “snatched from the wild” and cruelly trained to climb up coconut trees and pick up to 1,000 coconuts a day.

“These curious, highly intelligent animals are denied psychological stimulation, companionship, freedom, and everything else that would make their lives worth living, all so that they can be used to gather coconuts.”

PETA says that the Thai pigtailed macaques are treated like “coconut-picking machines”. A new investigation into Thailand’s coconut industry reveals the monkeys are confined to cramped cages, chained, and forced to work. PETA reports that the monkeys are used by commercial farms that supply 2 of Thailand’s best-known coconut milk brands, Aroy-D and Chaokoh. Both brands are exported EU countries and the US.

In the UK, Waitrose, Ocado, Co-op and Boots have now announced they will stop selling some coconut products from Thailand. A spokesperson for Tesco told the BBC… “Our own-brand coconut milk and coconut water does not use monkey labour in its production and we don’t sell any of the branded products identified by PETA”.

“Following PETA’s Asia’s investigation, more than 15,000 stores will no longer purchase these brands’ products, with the majority also no longer buying any coconut products sourced from Thailand monkey labour.”

PETA has shared a video narrated by Downton Abbey star Peter Egan. According to PETA, the video shows ‘monkeys pacing and circling endlessly on chains… confined to cramped cages with no shelter from the rain… forced to climb trees and pick coconuts for milk sold by major brands’.

PETE claims it had found 8 farms in Thailand where monkeys were forced to pick coconuts for export around the world. Male monkeys can pick up to 1,000 coconuts in a day. It’s thought that a human can pick about 80.

“Other coconut-growing regions, including Brazil, Colombia and Hawaii, harvest coconuts using humane methods such as tractor-mounted hydraulic elevators, willing human tree-climbers, rope or platform systems, or ladders, or they plant dwarf coconut trees.”

The group said it has uncovered “monkey schools”, where the macaque species monkeys are trained to pick coconuts, fruit, as well as ride bikes or play basketball for the entertainment of tourists.

“The animals at these facilities, many of whom are illegally captured as babies, displayed stereotypic behaviour indicative of extreme stress.”

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Crime

Prohibition activist criticises unequal enforcement of Thai alcohol laws

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Prohibition activist criticises unequal enforcement of Thai alcohol laws | The Thaiger
PHOTO: The Thaiger

The head of the prohibitionist Alcohol Watch Network is criticising the Office of Alcohol Beverage Control and police for looking the other way after ML Piyapas Bhirombhakdi posted a photo of herself showing off a branded bottle of an alcoholic drink on her Instagram profile (the picture has since been deleted). Piyapas is not only a great-granddaughter of HRH Prince Nares Varariddhi, a son of HM King Rama IV, but is the wife of Chutinant Bhirombhakdi, an heir to the Boon Rawd Brewery fortune and executive vice president of Singha Corp. Her post showed her holding a new Boon Rawd product.

Kamron Choodecha argues that the bottle and brand were clearly visible and, given that Piyapas has a vested interest in Boon Rawd’s sales, her post must be construed as sales or marketing, violating the Alcohol Beverage Control Act, which prohibits any sort of alcohol marketing online. He claims the fact she has not been fined, even as police extract hundreds of thousands of baht in fines from ordinary people posting harmless photos of themselves enjoying alcoholic beverages, shows the inequality in Thai society and the privilege elites are given when it comes to the law.

Others may argue, however, that the hypocrisy of the incident illustrates only how ludicrous the law is. Sporadically enforced over the years, the law again made headlines this year when foreign-managed alcohol distributor Beervana was fined 50,000 baht for an online post describing one of its products as “refreshing,” which contravened a ban on adjectives in marketing copy.

In the days that followed reports surfaced across the country of the OABC and police summoning people and slapping them with huge fines for posts that had no connection to sales or marketing.

Most recently, a young woman in Thailand’s South was fined 17,000 baht for posting a photo of a beer she liked to a beer fan page. The page owner was so outraged that he paid 5,000 baht of the fine and met face to face with regulators to protest the law.

Even Kamron, an anti-alcohol zealot, admits that the law is being misused by police and authorities. He says simply using the word “beer” or posting photos of bottles or glasses does not break the law, as long as brands are not shown. He believes the law’s intent is only to prevent advertising of alcoholic beverages on conventional and social media platforms. He argues that if the poster had no commercial intent, no one should be fined.

“But if authorities are going to strictly interpret the law, distant royal relatives or any other elite member of society should be punished equally.”

By the way there is an alcohol ban on for the next two days.

2 Buddhist holidays, Asahna Bucha Day and the start of Buddhist Lent, fall this weekend, and as a result the government has added Monday, July 6, as a national holiday. There will be an alcohol ban on the Sunday (July 5) and Monday (July 6). No alcohol will be sold or served on these days.

Prohibition activist criticises unequal enforcement of Thai alcohol laws | News by The Thaiger

PHOTO: Nation Thailand

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