Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Leaning tower condemned; Thaksin tweets; Natural Fruit human rights under fire

– Thailand news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Tilting building near Bangkok urged demolished
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: A seven-storey apartment building under construction at the back of Zeer department store north of Bangkok has been declared off limits, after it tilted and was inspected by local administrators.

Public works officials with Khu Khot Municipality in Pathum Thani, who have jurisdiction over the site, said details about the land owner and firm constructing the building will be announced later.

Construction stopped on Sunday night after a verbal warning by public works officials, and owners living by the building filed a complaint with police. Thanes Weerasiri, head of Engineering Institute of Thailand under HM’s Patronage, said the building has tilted at six degrees, and should be demolished, or heightened and rebuilt.

The tilting was caused by the foundation not being solid enough, and the stakes unable to manage the total weight. Heightening of the building could cost the project owner the same amount of money needed to demolish and rebuild it.

“Personally I think it should be demolished and rebuilt,” he said. Building had continued until recently, before the inclination became visible on Sunday night, but workers have since been evacuated. Signboards showing details of the project, including its owner, have been removed since the news emerged, except for one notice about the construction firm: Choke Charoen Co Ltd.

The construction continued for more than a year, and it has been extended once, public works chief Nares Srimuang said. He said a civil engineer would soon determine if the builders violated regulations or implemented beyond the conditions originally requested.

I’m still alive, Thaksin tweets
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: After being away from Twitter for over a year, fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra chose April Fool’s Day yesterday to come back – to rebut rumours he had died in an accident in Dubai and to say he will soon post articles on Facebook to share stories he thinks interesting.

“Hello Thailand! Sawasdee krub, my dear Thai brothers and sisters. I have been away for a long time, I’m back here to greet you again as I received phone calls from my family since the morning. They told me there were rumours that I might have died in an accident in Dubai. Then many of the red shirts and people who were concerned also called me. Here please allow me to tweet and clarify that I am doing fine. There was no such accident as [in] the fabricated story. It’s April 1, April Fools’ Day,” he posted.

Thaksin’s last tweet before this was on November 1, 2011 when he posted a message about rehabilitation after the flood.

Meanwhile, Thaksin’s son Panthongtae posted on Facebook that his dad had returned to Thailand and had registered to run in Chiang Mai MP by-election.

Panthongtae said his joke was a reaction to rumours spread by anti-Thaksin groups about his dad having an accident.

Full-year inflation rate put at under 3.4%
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: The Commerce Ministry is confident inflation this year will not surge beyond 3.4 per cent as goods prices are expected to remain calm, leaving breathing room for a cut in the policy interest rate to curb the baht’s appreciation.

“The situation next year should not be tense because most goods prices will be unchanged, as the cost of production is stable. Market competition will also help control the cost of living this year,” permanent secretary Vatchari Vimooktayon said yesterday.

The year-on-year rise in the Consumer Price Index slowed last month to 2.69 per cent from 3.23 per cent in February.

Month on month, inflation was 0.07 per cent, mainly on higher food prices.

Last quarter, the CPI climbed 3.09 per cent year on year. The inflation rate is projected to stay at 3.1 per cent this quarter.

Inflation should come under the ministry’s forecast of 2.8-3.4 per cent this year on expected stable goods prices, lower fuel costs and the extension of the government’s cost-of-living relief measures to September, Vatchari said.

Whether the government decides to lower the policy rate will depend on the Monetary Policy Committee, but inflation is not a factor to worry about, she said.

The ministry’s 2013 inflation projection assumes an exchange rate of Bt28.5-Bt32.5 against the US dollar and an average Dubai crude-oil price of US$100-$120 per barrel.

The slide in the CPI was mainly due to the decline in the non-food-and-beverage index of 0.04 per cent, while the food-and-beverage index rose 2.80 per cent, mainly on the increase in the prices of vegetables and fruit as the country enters the drought season.

Of the basket of goods used to calculate the March CPI, 161 products increased in price, 77 decreased and 212 products were unchanged.

Core inflation last month was 1.23 per cent year on year and down 0.01 per cent month on month.

Core inflation in the first quarter was 1.47 per cent year on year, well within the Bank of Thailand’s target band of 0.5-3 per cent.

Natural Fruit takes human rights activist to court
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: The vice president of canned-pineapple and juice-concentrate producer Natural Fruit yesterday maintained the company had suffered Bt300 million in lost orders since British human-rights defender and labour activist Andy Hall this year accused the firm of several labour violations.

Hall alleged that the company had engaged in the hiring of child labour, paid less than the minimum wage and physically abused workers, among other violations.

Kachin Komneryawanich insisted none of the allegations was true and said the firm’s legal representatives had filed both libel and criminal charges under the Computer Crimes Act against Hall. The Criminal Court conducted a preliminary examination of the charges yesterday.

Natural Fruit is seeking Bt300 million in damages and Hall, if found guilty, could be jailed for up to seven years.

Meanwhile, Helsinki-based human-rights monitor Finnwatch, which jointly conducted research into Natural Fruit with Hall, issued a statement yesterday calling the legal move against him “an attack” against a human-rights defender and freedom of expression.

The statement claimed that the workers, some of whom it said were undocumented migrants, “reported poor working conditions, unlawfully low wages, confiscation of official documents, use of child labour and excessive overtime”.

Finnwatch added in its statement that interviews with employees had been recorded and could be verified.

As neither Hall nor any of his legal representatives was present at the Criminal Court yesterday, the court told the plaintiff’s lawyer, Somsak Torugsa, to check with the Immigration Office as to whether Hall was still in the Kingdom.

If Hall, a former researcher at Mahidol University, had left Thailand, then a court notification would be sent to his home address in the United Kingdom, said Somsak.

He called on Hall to show up and fight the case to prove his in

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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