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Rice-pledge agency denies losing 3 million tonnes of rice

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

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

PWO denies losing 3-million tonnes of rice
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: The Public Warehouse Organisation yesterday denied that it had lost as much as 3 million tonnes of rice as leaked by an audit committee source to the public, saying a figure was missing from the relevant documentation.

“Rice has not disappeared from stockpiles. The report claiming missing stock came from a June 26 [2013] survey, when some rice had been polished and was waiting for delivery to the governments’ warehouses,” said Chanudpakorn Vongseenin, president of the PWO, a state enterprise under the Commerce Ministry.

To clarify inventory levels, the ministry has set up a working committee to review rice stockpiles.

The ministry will promptly send a team to report to the military coup-makers’ National Council for Peace and Order the rice stocks figure. The PWO and the Internal Trade Department should be able to provide the right figure to the NCPO.

Team from NPCO

To recheck the figures, the ministry’s working committee will also cooperate closely with the NCPO’s team to inspect rice warehouses.

According to a study by the audit committee, about 2.9 million tonnes of rice have gone missing from government warehouses.

According to the ministry’s own report, about 13 million tonnes of milled rice remained in warehouses, of which 4 million tonnes already had purchasing contracts and were waiting to be delivered. The remaining 9 million tonnes were under no obligation and could be sold.

Surasak Riangkrul, director-general of the Foreign Trade Department, said it needed to go slowly with its rice-delivery and marketing plans until it gets clear instructions from the junta. However, rice for China under government-to-government deals will continue to be shipped out.

General Chatchai Salikalya, vice chairman of the NCPO’s economic team, will today meet with senior officials of the Commerce Ministry.

The topics for discussion are expected to be rice stocks and the rice-sales plan as well as measures to drive exports and control the cost of living.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Environment

Greenpeace Thailand names 5 local companies “top plastic polluters”

Caitlin Ashworth

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Greenpeace Thailand names 5 local companies “top plastic polluters” | The Thaiger

After collecting thousands of pieces of plastic waste, Greenpeace Thailand found that the majority of the trash comes from 5 Thai Companies, naming them the “top plastic polluters.”

Volunteers from Greenpeace collected plastic waste from Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai and Wonnapa beach in Chon Buri. Out of the 13,001 pieces of plastic was collected, they say most of the waste traced back to 5 Thai companies: CP Group (which operates Thailand’s 7-Eleven convenience stores), Dutch Mill Company, Osotspa (which produces M-150 drinks), TCP Group and Lactasoy.

This is the third year that Greenpeace Thailand and each year they find the same types of plastic from the same companies, according to leader of the organisation’s “Plastic Project” Pichmol Rugrod. The CP Group was named the top polluter for the second year in a row.

“Single-use plastic has devastating effects not only to nature but to frontline communities as well. There will be no solutions to the plastic crisis unless there is a plan to urgently reduce plastic production and consumption.”

“In addition, corporations must take full responsibility for the pollution they have caused, taking into account the externalised cost of their single-use plastic products- such as the cost of waste collection treatment, their continued contribution to greenhouse gas emissions and the irreparable environmental damage that will continue to harm people and biodiversity for years to come.”

Director of Thailand’s Ecological Alert and Recovery, Penchom Saetang, says the Thai government needs to step up plastic waste management and motivate companies to reduce single-use plastic products.

SOURCE: Greenpeace Thailand

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Crime

5 shot and in critical condition after gang clash in Phitsanulok

Caitlin Ashworth

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5 shot and in critical condition after gang clash in Phitsanulok | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Nation Thailand

5 people were shot and severely wounded in an alleged turf war between 2 rival gangs in Phitsanulok’s Wang Thong district. Police say gang members attacked another gang because they were on “their territory.”

Police say the alleged attackers threw ping pong bombs and fired shots at the rival gang members. The victims were reportedly found with several bullet wounds and are now in critical condition.

No arrests have been made. Police are investigating.

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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Tourism

What has the pandemic taught hotels about luxury. Is ‘less’ more?

The Thaiger

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What has the pandemic taught hotels about luxury. Is ‘less’ more? | The Thaiger
PHOTO: The Naka Island - The Luxury Travel Expert

by Anthony Lark

“Let’s say goodbye to all that stale pretence and manufactured pomp”

Until the collective nightmare that was 2020, many of the so-called high-end hotels had a reputation for trying to convince guests to pay for often dingy guestrooms lacking any real views inside an otherwise ornate structure with a storied, celebrated past, where the first impression was a check in often akin to applying for a bank loan. Defined as “luxury”, in the good old days they got away with it.

Over the thirty years I spent running Amanpuri and Trisara on Phuket, I heard hundreds of people complain of feeling ripped off at “legendary” and “iconic” hotels by staff that rudely treated them as anything but guests.

How many of us did not tip the head waiter after dinner on the first night, to return the next evening and find ourselves stashed at a table by the kitchen door, or getting ushered past the prime and utterly empty deck chairs (with a book on them) by an indifferent pool boy rushing to count his bounty at the pool bar.

As we in the hotel business look towards vaccine jabs while collectively praying for people to start travelling again, let’s say goodbye to all that stale pretence and manufactured pomp. Emerging from the darkness that was 2020, we hoteliers need to consider that life will not bounce back to all that, nor should it. Good riddance to the seller’s market when hotels could charge like the light brigade for sub-par accommodations and indifferent service while expecting our guests will automatically keep coming back for more.

Merriam-Webster ‘luxury’ definition #1: a condition of abundance or great ease and comfort.

“There will always be people willing to pay,” said the late, great Natale Rusconi of the Cipriani in Venice and Splendido in Portofino.The size of the room didn’t matter, he observed, nor did the price of a cup of coffee, as long as they felt cocooned in an ‘exclusive’ world with an established reputation of being the “best.”

A classic negroni or a plate of risotto on the terrace at Cipriani is luxurious, not so much because of the ingredients of the food and beverage (although it is the best), but because it’s a rare experience.

Sonu Shivdasani, owner of Soneva resorts, hits it on the head when describing luxury.

He points out “Our external communication focuses much more on our brand proposition of “Inspiring a Lifetime of Rare Experiences”.

For example, we touch upon the point of our guests being able to walk barefoot for a week. This is rare and hence a luxury.

Change is in the luxe-wind

There is definitely change in the post-covid wind. In virtual conversations with many wealthy, well-travelled former guests of mine living in the northern hemisphere, they are explicit about what they yearn for on the other side of their drawn-out lockdowns.

These people are the ones who every year asked me for the largest villa with the bluest views and the most kitted out yacht for a day on the Andaman Sea and now I sense they seek something distinctly less material. While I am not surprised to hear them in their Bel Air mansions and apartments overlooking the River Seine asking for deals, what they say next piques my interest. “Anthony, I don’t need the presidential suite when we come back,” they say without a whiff of disappointment to downgrade. They are increasingly asking not for the specs on yachts but for news of wellness offerings and rare, secret local experiences.

One company already excelling in this beyond luxury space is Six Senses, purchased in 2019 by the behemoth InterContinental Hotels brand but left to run relatively independently under CEO Neil Jacobs. In interviews and on panels throughout the pandemic, Jacobs has spoken often of his personal aversion to the very word ‘luxury’ as well as to ‘exclusivity,’ which he sees in direct opposition to Six Senses’ holistic ethos.

Community engagement, he argues, is not only an aspect of the brand’s sustainability guidelines but also critical to “the intrinsic value of the content around what is being offered” at each individual property.

Like Jacobs, I noticed even before Covid that bragging rights back home no longer focus solely on price-tagged acquisitions. Those same guests who regaled me during lockdown with tales from their past travels, talked about meaningful encounters with Bhutanese textile weavers, Portuguese sourdough bakers, Colombian coffee farmers or Thai fishermen with whom they shared meaningful encounters on immersive, often unexpectedly transformative journeys. Perhaps we all learned in lockdown that these memories endure far longer than we can linger on even the most decadent bed linens or the hotel’s fluffy-as-a-cloud bathrobes.

Even before any of us had given a thought to wet markets in Wuhan, our industry was abuzz with these ‘experiential’ and ‘transformational’ travel offerings, and we see smaller, more nimble independent hotels and resorts luring guests away from staid grand dames of the past, while commanding higher rates.

I suspect we will now enter a new era, best described by Morris Sim, one of the smartest marketing minds I know.Travellers he predicts, will be embracing the idea that “ luxury is the outcome of an experience, not a product.”

Merriam-Webster luxury definition #2: something adding to pleasure or comfort but not absolutely necessary.

To be clear, this is not a rallying cry to spend amidst an economic crisis. Luxurious experiences may be as humble as a thoughtful gesture or act of kindness by a staff member. It’s surprising our guests on their return to the hotel room to find their laundry cleaned, folded and tied with a beautiful bow, or that feeling of being cared for to discover one’s toothpaste, sunscreen and deodorant arranged like tiny soldiers on the bathroom vanity.

Going forward, those hotels that also help guests to make meaningful, immersive connections with the surrounding culture and environment while also delivering unpretentious, anticipatory service with thoughtful human touches will redefine luxury.

Merriam-Webster luxury definition #2b: an indulgence in something that provides pleasure, satisfaction, or ease

Throughout the heady 1990s, we opened a new Amanresort every year or so. While now considered places of beauty that were undeniably desirable, they were initially revolutionary upstarts compared with the most famous resorts of the 70’s and 80’s where gold sink taps stood out against bathrooms laden with Carrera marble.

Into this arena where remote controlled toilets that blew air on your arse were regarded as luxurious, Adrian Zecha’s vision for each Aman was unashamedly simple in design and utterly lacking in superfluous finishing’s. The late architect Ed Tuttle, who mastered this design of understatement used to tell his team (including his lead designer Pin Tan, who now holds that title at Six Senses) and clients that “it’s not about embellishment, it’s about owning the space.”By this he meant that humans are most at ease in spaces that function well when for them rather than for shelter magazines and marketing brochures.

As we look towards leaving hibernation behind, I strongly believe our guests will gravitate to uncluttered places where simplicity reigns, where they can look better and feel better about their emergent selves and where they can enjoy consequential encounters with fascinating strangers, after feeling cut off for so long.

At Trisara Phuket, the team here serves local residents and Bangkokians down for the weekend gourmet Thai-inspired lunches prepared by chefs under a Thai carved sala roof overlooking a charming lake at the resort’s nearby working farm, engaging with locals tending the farm while keeping comfortably cool and exquisitely sated.

My personal view is that successful hotels must throw off any remaining shackles of our industry’s past definitions of ‘luxury’ and pivot towards delivering authentically local guest experiences and anticipative service that surprises and delights.

Are we headed towards a new paradigm where our job is to nurture the “outcome of the experience” rather than the showmanship of counting threads of Egyptian cotton and embroidering initials on pillowslips?

What has the pandemic taught hotels about luxury. Is 'less' more? | News by The Thaiger

Anthony Lark is the founding and current president of The Phuket Hotels Association. He also runs his own luxury hospitality company focused on resort and residential villa design & master plan concepts, plus management auditing of existing properties as hotels prepare for a post-covid world.

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