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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Refugee camp fire kills 30; SET plunges; Nationwide alcohol ban mulled for Songkran

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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Refugee camp fire kills 30; SET plunges; Nationwide alcohol ban mulled for Songkran | The Thaiger
PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

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

Fire kills 30 at Mae Hong Son refugee camp

The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: A blaze raged through a refugee camp in the northern Mae Hong Son province on Friday evening, leaving at least 30 people dead and dozens others injured.

About 100 houses in the Baan Mae Surin refugee camp, located in Khun Yuam district, were destroyed in the fire. There are more than 3,500 residents in the camp, most of them Karen refugees from Myanmar. The fire started at about 4 pm and it took fire-fighters more than two hours to control the blaze. There were conflicting reports involving the cause of the fire. Some sources said it was caused by a forest fire while others blamed careless cooking by some camp residents.

Yingluck plays down replacement fears
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: In In response to speculation that her older sister might replace her, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra yesterday only frowned, saying she was far too busy to pay attention to such rumours.

“It is not that easy to replace a prime minister, because it is the people’s mandate. I have been entrusted to do this job and am backed by a majority vote under democratic rule,” she said.

The prime minister is currently on an official visit to New Zealand.

Yingluck said people could and would render their judgement on her leadership, adding that though she is not that good at promoting herself, her performance will speak for itself.

“I may fumble with my words when making a speech, but please don’t try to fault me, because I speak from my heart,” she said.

Speculation that fugitive ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra might replace Yingluck with his other sister was bolstered by last week’s resignation of Pheu Thai Chiang Mai MP Kasem Nimmolrat.

The ruling-Pheu Thai Party’s executive committee later decided to field Yaowapa Wongsawat in a by-election scheduled for next month. Opposition politicians then started saying that Yaowapa might replace Yingluck as government head, but Thaksin rejected this speculation as groundless.

The Constitution requires the prime minister to be an MP.

The inconsistencies in her asset declaration with the National Anti-Corruption Commission and her government’s decision to issue a new passport for Thaksin are the two issues that have put Yingluck in a hot seat – leading to speculation that her sister is being groomed to take over.

However, a survey in Bangkok and adjacent provinces found that most people don’t believe Yaowapa will replace Yingluck.

About two in five of the 1,123 respondents said they wanted a limited change in the Cabinet line-up, while three in 10 supported a major reshuffle.

Some two in five respondents said they wanted to see new faces in the Economic Ministry, while more than half of the respondents said they did not see the coalition getting any stronger if Yaowapa’s Matchima faction joined the government.

The survey was conducted and released yesterday by Bangkok University.

SET nosedives 4% on Cyprus, political concerns
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: The Thai bourse plunged steeply yesterday due to the effects of the Cypriot bail-out and banking crisis, as well as domestic hiccups, but managed to show signs of resilience with daily turnover swelling to Bt101.36 billion – the highest in its 39-year history.

It easily surpassed the previous record of Bt81.27 billion, registered on January 10.

“Looking forward, we remain optimistic of the long-term prospects for the Thai market,” said Chanpen Sirithanarattanakul, head of research at DBS Vickers Securities (Thailand). “At current levels, the market is trading at 2013 PE [price-earnings ratio] of 13.6 times, which is still attractive given strong projected earnings growth of 17.4 per cent for this year.”

DBS expects the index to rise to 1,688 points in the next 12 months. Despite the 3.30-per-cent loss yesterday, the target remains intact.

The Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET) composite index lost 50.55 points yesterday to close at 1,478.97 points, narrowing the nearly 4-per-cent loss seen in the morning session.

Tisco Securities dubbed yesterday’s slump part of a correction following the sharp spike in the index in recent weeks. It foresees the correction lasting three to four weeks, until after the Songkran Festival, pending clarification of the Bt2-trillion infrastructure borrowing bill and the amnesty bill. The borrowing bill is slated for House debate on March 28-29.

SET president Charamporn Jotikasthira said at a hastily called press conference yesterday that the market fall serves as a reminder to all investors that profits and losses are intertwined when it comes to stock investment. “The volume at Bt100 billion does not reflect speculation. It reflects the timing that some investors want to unload shares, particularly shares of highly-speculated stocks. Overall, the index was down by only 3 per cent, but highly-speculated stocks were down by 9 per cent,” Charamporn said. In particular, he is concerned about individual investors.

“It’s just a market correction,” echoed Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong. “Profit taking can occur after sustained increases. It’s not something to panic about,” he said, pointing out that there has been no change in the country’s economic fundamentals.

The Thai bourse, experiencing its biggest weekly slump since the global financial crisis of 2008, joined some regional markets in showing losses. European markets also opened with losses yesterday as concerns about Cyprus and the euro zone escalated.

While foreign investors appear to have become more risk-averse, Thailand remains attractive to foreign investors. According to Bloomberg and Tisco Research, this month through Thursday, foreign inflows to the stock market reached US$167 million (Bt4.8 billion). They remained net-buyers yesterday, but with a small net-buy position of Bt73.55 million.

Aside from the Cypriot crisis, domestically, unfavourable factors prevailed. Investors were concerned that the bourse may increase margin requirements on equity trading. The exchange may increase the level of collateral that customers must maintain in their trading accounts to 20 per cent of their credit line, from 15 per cent. There were also fears that the Bank of Thailand will launch capital control measures to stem the baht’s appreciation, which could encourage outflows from the country. The baht yesterday weakened slightly against the US dollar to 29.30 in the afternoon, after touching 29.08 on Wednesday, the strongest level since a devaluation sparked the Asian financial crisis in 1997.

“I can assure that the market slump has nothing to do with investor fears that the central bank would implement capital controls,” said Bank of Thailand Governor Prasarn Trairatvorakul. “It has nothing to do with capital inflows, as most of the inflows are channelled to the bond market. In the past two months, foreign capital inflow to the stock market has been low. The sharp fall followed sharp spikes, which led to warnings against investment in some stocks.”

— Phuket Gazette Editors



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Thai Life

Top 10 Things NOT to do in Thailand – the basics (2019)

Tim Newton

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Top 10 Things NOT to do in Thailand – the basics (2019) | The Thaiger

Thailand is a wonderful place, full of new adventures, different cultures and a surprise around every corner. You better believe it. Thailand is unique in the region with very little overt western influence throughout its history and a proud culture that puts the needs of its people first, ahead of appeasing westerners. Most of this is a mystery to be discovered but sometimes you’ll just mess it all up by not knowing the basics. Here’s Thai culture DOs and DON’Ts Lesson One.

1. Don’t point with your feet

…or doing just about anything with your feet. Thais consider the feet the most lowly part of the body (physics and gravity support their contention). As the head is revered as the top of the body and closest to heaven, the feet are close to the ground and just ‘dirty’.

So doing anything with your feet, especially pointing with them when seated, is against the grain of Thai culture. It probably goes without saying, you should ‘t put your feet on tables or on chairs when in the company of Thai people or in public.

Tuck your feet away when seated and try not to point you feet in the direction of a Thai person. For example, if you’re sitting cross-legged in the company of Thais you’ll probably be inadvertently pointing your feet at someone.

Whilst we’re on the feet, remove your shoes when going into a Thai person’s home or even some shops and offices. Take the lead of the people before you. If they’re taking off their shoes, do the same. You will see a lot of slip-on shoes and sandals worn around in Thailand, for good reason. You’re always slipping them on and off.

Top 10 Things NOT to do in Thailand - the basics (2019) | News by The Thaiger

2. Don’t touch people on the head

From the feet we head north to the head, the loftiest and most holy part of the body. Touching someone on the head, if you’re not intimate with that person or unless they’re very young, is going to be taken as an disrespectful or, at least, a cultural faux-pas. Thais take their hair very seriously, washing it often and grooming their ‘do’ endlessly during the day. Pull up at a set of traffic lights and you will often see the true reason Thai’s have large rear-view mirrors on their motorbikes – they will be touching up their hair whilst waiting for the lights to turn green. It’s also cited as a reason for the Thai resistance to wearing motorbike helmets.

Top 10 Things NOT to do in Thailand - the basics (2019) | News by The Thaiger

3. Don’t flash the flesh

It might be OK to walk around some streets in the world with your top off, bath topless at the beach or get around in the skimpiest of cheeky, skin-revealing outfits. Not so in Thailand. Despite the few notable streets in places like Bangkok, Pattaya and Phuket where you’ll see quite a lot of flesh exposed to tantalise customers, Thais are mostly a conservative bunch and will frown on your showing of extra skin when it’s not required.

Going into many offices around the Kingdom without the proper attire – not covering your shoulders, knee-length skirts, long pants, no shorts, no T-Shirts, etc – will see you pointed politely towards the exit. This rather conservative attitude towards showing too much skin may seem contradictory in some situations, and it is. Just be guided by what Thais are wearing around you and save the confusion for a discussion between your foreign friends. If in doubt, ask – your hotel reception staff and concierge will provide advice what you should be wearing in most situations.

Top 10 Things NOT to do in Thailand - the basics (2019) | News by The Thaiger

4. Don’t discuss the Thai Monarchy

Thailand is indeed a Kingdom, a modern constitutional democracy (sometimes) with a King as their head of state. The Thai King, Rama 10, still retains a highly revered place in Thai society despite the monarch having their absolute powers taken away in a bloodless coup back in 1932.

The current King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s father, King Bhumibol Adunyadej, was highly revered during his astonishingly long 70 years on the Thai throne. Through his tireless work for the Thai people, along with effective PR and communication from the Palace (King Bhumibol was an excellent photographer and accomplished musician), he made the position of the monarch much more than just a mere constitutional role.

For these reasons any discussion, at all, about the Thai royal family is strongly discouraged. Be aware of the image of the King on money, numerous signs and images around the country and try and avoid anything that could be misconstrued as offensive towards the royal family. At the very least Thais will be greatly offended. At worst you could end up in jail.

Top 10 Things NOT to do in Thailand - the basics (2019) | News by The Thaiger

5. Things NOT to do around monks and temples

Most visits to Thailand will include at least one visit to a temple. You will also see monks collecting alms (food offerings) early in the morning as they walk the streets around their temples. Thais have fine-tuned their own version of Buddhism over the centuries with historical and geographic influences fused with aspects of Hinduism and Animism. Just about all young Thai men will become a monk as a right-of-passage, usually in their early 20s as a symbol of respect for their family. You will never really understand Thailand without understanding a bit about Thai Buddhism – it’s a lot more than just a religion, it’s an intrinsic part of their daily life.

Monks play a special role in Thai society and its best to know what to do when in temples and around monks. These are some general tips but also follow the guidance of the Thais and other people around you if you’re not sure.

• Especially ladies, don’t touch the monk. If you want to hand something to the monk put it on a table or the ground and let them pick it up. Or hand it to a male who will then hand it to the monk. If they stand, you stand, if they sit, you sit.

• Remove your shoes before entering the temple’s most holy areas and try and avoid stepping on the threshold at the top of the steps or at the doorway.

• Walk slowly and keep your chatter to a minimum. Walk around sacred object in a clock-wise direction and back away from any Buddha image and don’t turn your back.

• Don’t point at Buddha images (more about pointing later) and keep your position lower than the Buddha image or statue at all times.

• Remove your hat and sunglasses, turn off your mobile and remove headphones.

• Taking photos will probably be OK but look out for signs that ask you not to and never get a photo taken when your back is facing the Buddha.

• It goes without saying that you should dress appropriately when visiting a temple. Many temples will have sarongs and shawls available for those who are not appropriately attired.

Top 10 Things NOT to do in Thailand - the basics (2019) | News by The Thaiger

6. PDAs (public displays of affection) are not welcome

Thailand isn’t Italy or Spain where public displays of affection are a part of life. And the streets of Thailand aren’t all like that girlie bar you visited in Pattaya where the girls were wearing short shorts and a flimsy singlet.

When in public in Thailand you will rarely see any displays of affection towards each other in public. Even simply holding hands may be frowned upon by some older Thais, certainly when you head out of the capital and the tourist spots. If you watch Thai soap operas all they ever seem to do is go in and out of relationships, fight, shoot guns and glare at each other – drama, drama, drama. But in real life most Thais prefer a simpler, gentler life without too much overt physical contact. So keep your romantic moments to yourselves – they probably won’t be appreciated on the streets of Thailand.

Top 10 Things NOT to do in Thailand - the basics (2019) | News by The Thaiger

7. Don’t lose your cool

…or how to lose friends and not influence people in Thailand. Getting angry, even raising your voice, never goes down well in Thailand. You may have been waiting in the immigration queue for two hours, are trying to get your visa extended or trying to wade your way through the ‘labyrinth’ a.k.a. Thai Banking! All these things will test your mettle and patience. But don’t, just don’t, get angry and try and shout your way out of the situation.

It will never, repeat NEVER work in Thailand. Thais really hate conflict and raising your voice or losing your temper will be seen by most Thais as a sign of madness.

The young lady behind the service counter or the poor officer sitting behind the immigration counter will likely smile at you whilst you rant on about your ‘rights’ and that you ‘know somebody’. Once you’re finished they either walk away or completely ignore you and start serving the next person like you never existed.

If you run into Thai police, same applies x 10. If you think getting into any argument with the Thai boys-in-brown is a good idea we can guarantee that you will come off second best every time. In all situations never lose your cool, try and be polite and take a deep breath.

Top 10 Things NOT to do in Thailand - the basics (2019) | News by The Thaiger

8. Dress up, not down

You’re here for a relaxing holiday but keeping neat and clean, no matter what you’re wearing, will be appreciated by Thais. Whilst your skimpy beach wear will likely be tolerated and your singlets will be OK for wandering around the streets in the tourist areas, a smart pair of shorts and a nice shirt or blouse is going to earn you big points in the eyes of your Thai hosts. Wearing nice shoes is something that is also appreciated. When meeting Thais, even in business situations, don’t be surprised if they check out your shoes with a discreet glance down.

Top 10 Things NOT to do in Thailand - the basics (2019) | News by The Thaiger

9. Don’t whistle at night and other superstitions

Don’t whistle at night. It’s a Thai superstition that you will call in the ghosts and other bad spirits if you whistle in the evening. Generally, Thais don’t whistle at any time but if you are a happy whistler better to keep it to the shower and not try and impress the locals with your whistling skills whilst in Thailand in the evenings.

Whilst we on superstitions, Don’t cut your hair on Wednesdays, if you eat the last piece of food on the plate when sharing you will get a handsome boyfriend or pretty girlfriend, don’t leave home if you hear a gecko, if your right eye twitches it means something bad is going to happen but if it is the left eye you will have good luck, you will see a ghost if you bend down and look between your legs, your finger will fall off if you point at a rainbow, consult the monk to decide on the best day for your wedding or buying a new car, toot your horn when passing a temple or shrine… we could go on but let’s move onto Number Ten.

Top 10 Things NOT to do in Thailand - the basics (2019) | News by The Thaiger

10. Don’t take things too seriously

Mai phen rai & sabai sabai

Translated ‘don’t worry/no worries’ and ‘relax, take it easy’. These two phrases sum up a lot of Thai thinking. Put simply, don’t think too much about things in Thailand. Many things will simply not have a reason or purpose and your western logic and thinking simply will not be applicable in many confusing moments in the Land of Smiles. Many expats use the code ’TIT’ when confronted by some of the seemingly absurd things that happen in every day life living in Thailand – ‘This Is Thailand’. And it is.

Enjoy the roller coaster because it’s THEIR country, THEIR culture and THEIR way of life. Expecting things to be like your country will just get you frustrated so enjoy the adventure. For every little annoyance you will be rewarded with many more wonderful moments and a lifetime of memories.

10a. Don’t point with your index finger

We said we’d say something about pointing. Don’t point with your finger. If you want to indicate something and draw attention to it, point with your fingers together and hand held sideways. Pointing with your index finger is considered rude and only done as a derisive gesture. There are a few other hand gestures to talk about but we’ll leave that for another Top Ten on another day.

Having said that, there is an article called Thais Pointing at Things which celebrates the irony that Thais, indeed, love pointing at things.

Top 10 Things NOT to do in Thailand - the basics (2019) | News by The Thaiger

As a footnote we should say that, although these ten recommendations about Thai culture are a good guide, there may be local nuances around the country. From north to south, east to west, city to up-country, Thailand has a lot of variations, accents, foods and traditions.

Many of these things in our Top 10  are traditional cultural faux pas and perhaps less commonly frowned upon in modern times but they still prevail with the older generation.

You’ll find that the Thais will tolerate western culture more easily in the tourist areas. Enjoy discovering Amazing Thailand.

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Business

Strong baht a concern for Thai hotel sector

Bill Barnett

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Strong baht a concern for Thai hotel sector | The Thaiger

by Bill Barnett

Thailand’s baht performance against Asian currencies in 2018, was unmatched, with the exception of the Japanese yen.

Commenting on the trend financial news Bloomberg have highlighted that in 2019, a further 4% in growth this year have it sitting at the top of the table.

Oddly, one of the underlying factors stimulating the baht’s appreciation is the recovery in tourism arrivals which has a double-digit impact on the country’s GDP.

While the elections remain a wild card on forward expectations, the reality is that the currency has not been hit like the Chinese yuan, which has been disrupted by a threatened U.S. China trade war and slowdown in its economy.

Despite higher than expected tourism numbers in 2018, hotel owners are cautiously optimistic on the prospects for the year.

In reality, despite rising prices for visitors, the economic climate is leading many property developers turning to hospitality assets as the real estate market remains volatile. The general view is that sustainable cash flow as part of their business mix is good and that tourism fundamentals remain strong.

Still, looking at nearby competitors such as Vietnam, which is rapidly growing from a cub into a tourism tiger, the issue of affordability is concerning. Currency swings remain a real and present factor in demand, so expect hoteliers to keep watching currency levels closely in 2019.

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Thailand

A mother and two young daughters killed when their car is hit by a train

The Thaiger & The Nation

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A mother and two young daughters killed when their car is hit by a train | The Thaiger

A mother and two young daughters have been killed when their car was struck by a train at a railway crossing in Surat Thani’s Phun Pin district this morning.

The Nation reports that police say the accident happened at a rail crossing in front of the Tambon Phun Phin Administrative Organisation that is located between Maluan and Thung Pho railway stations.

The car was hit by a Bangkok-Yala train.

Police say 34 year old Amornrat Suator was killed behind the wheel and her 4 and 7 year old daughters died after being rushed to the Phun Pin Hospital.

Amornrat’s sister told police that Amornrat was sending her elder sister for special tuition and she might not have been familiar with the road that has a rail crossing without barriers.

Train passengers told police that the train driver used a horn to signal the car to move off the rails before the crash.

Surat Thani provincial governor Witchuwit Jinto says he has now instructed officials to improve visibility by cutting trees and tall grass near the rail crossing.

The governor says he would cooperate with the State Railway of Thailand to find measures to prevent more accidents. The same train hit a pickup truck in Surat Thani’s Tha Chana district on January 22, killing two people.

SOURCE: The Nation

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