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Thai, Air Asia suspend flights to Wuhan because of Novel Coronavirus

Greeley Pulitzer

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Thai, Air Asia suspend flights to Wuhan because of Novel Coronavirus | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Thai Airways and Thai Air Asia have separately suspended flights to the Chinese city of Wuhan - Tha PBS World
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Thai Airways and Thai Air Asia are both taking steps to prevent any possible spread of Novel Coronavirus pneumonia through tourist arrivals from Wuhan, the source of the outbreak. Thai Air Asia, which operates two daily flights to Wuhan from Bangkok and one from Phuket, suspended services yesterday. Meanwhile Malaysia-based Air Asia, has also suspended scheduled flights to and from Kota Kinabalu to Wuhan.

Passengers who have already booked these flights will be able to seek refunds before February 15, or change their bookings to other cities in China at no extra charge, depending on seat availability.

A spokesperson for Thai Airways says the national carrier has also adopted preventive measures to maintain confidence among passengers and Thais concerned about the spread of the virus beyond the shores of China. The measures include cabin cleanliness, thermal screening of passengers before boarding, observation of unusual symptoms of passengers while onboard and the use of face masks and gloves by cabin crew. AoT airports in Thailand are also routinely screening passengers as they disembark flights from China.

At the same time, China has introduced unprecedented measures to curb the spread of the Coronavirus, basically placing Wuhan, a city of 11 million, on lockdown. Steps include suspension of all public transport, long distance coaches and outbound traffic at airports and railway stations. Highways have also been sealed off.

“Without a special reason, city residents should not leave Wuhan,” the city’s special command centre to combat the virus said today. Hours later, state media in neighbouring Huanggang, a city of six million, announced it was also placing the city on lockdown. Residents are required to wear face masks in public and are not allowed to leave city without approval.

China’s National Health Commission announced today as of yesterday Thursday January 23, the number of patients infected with the Novel Coronavirus had risen to 830, while the death toll from the virus had risen to 25, according to Al Jazeera.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World | Al Jazeera

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Thailand

3 solutions to Thailand’s English teacher shortage

The Thaiger

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3 solutions to Thailand’s English teacher shortage | The Thaiger

byEric Haeg

Thailand needs 10,000 English teachers. News of a teacher shortage is no surprise, but news that the Ministry of Education has recently urged embassies to find English teachers has raised eyebrows.  The US Embassy confirmed it participated in the meeting, and it has also been reported that over 20 other embassies participated in the discussions.

According to Thailand’s Education Minister, “The aim of the discussion was to seek cooperation from embassies.” He went on to say, that foreign teachers must have some professional training to qualify for the job, adding that a language teaching certificate is preferred.

It’s refreshing to see the MoE taking proactive measures, but finding workable solutions on a large scale may be far off.With the start of the next academic school year coming up this May, here are three possible solutions that could be implemented by schools now.  

1. Cut out the middleman

Many schools outsource teacher recruitment and employment to agencies. The agencies charge fees to the school, thereby driving down teacher salaries to offset costs. As a result, Vietnam and even China have lured many teachers away from teaching English in Thailand.

Schools cannot afford the luxury of agencies, nor the inconvenience of high turnover when teachers quit because they’ll be paid more at a new direct hire job. 

2.Hire fluent non-native speakers

While most experts agree fluency is what’s important, most Thai students, parents of students, and teachers assume an English teacher’s most important qualification is their nationality. Hiring only native speakers is understandable if that’s what the market wants. The problem is that the demand is based on a false assumption.

Well-informed school administrators hire non-native speakers who can prove their fluency, some hire non-natives but only after they can’t find a native speaker. Others flat out refuse. As a result, countless qualified applicants are turned off or completely discouraged from finding work in Thailand after reading most of its job ads for native English speakers who only come from six countries as per the MoE’s definition.

Perhaps the embassies could bring in experts to help share information about the value qualified, fluent non-native teachers bring to the classroom. This information can then be shared within local communities to better understand what makes a good English teacher. Over time, the market may increase its acceptance of non-native English teachers. 

3. Hire from abroad

Thai employers prefer hiring teachers within Thailand, yet most prospective teachers hope to secure employment before taking the massive commitment of moving to Thailand.Those who aren’t prepared to come over without a job end up looking for work in countries like South Korea, Japan and China, where they can do Skype interviews and sign contracts before leaving home.

While there are inherent risks associated with hiring from abroad, there are also benefits, like attracting more teachers.  

In order to mitigate the risks, schools could at least consider overseas recruitment for applicants who have teaching experience, can provide years’ worth of teaching portfolios, as well as those who’ve already taught English abroad. Without at least trying, Thailand remains at risk of losing quality candidates who need job security before moving here.

These solutions may seem difficult, but actions worth doing usually are. Approaching embassies may help further down the road, but students need solutions now.

If current recruitment trends continue, Thailand can hardly expect to increase its English teacher workforce by 140% as planned.

One definition of insanity is repeating the same actions and expecting different results. Well, perhaps it’s time to try something new.

3 solutions to Thailand’s English teacher shortage | News by The Thaiger

Eric Haeg is the Course Director of TEFL Campus and has been training English teachers in Phuket since 2007. For more information on teaching English in Thailand, email info@teflcampus.com

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Business

Thailand’s General Motors plant sold to China’s Great Wall Motors

The Thaiger

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Thailand’s General Motors plant sold to China’s Great Wall Motors | The Thaiger
PHOTO: GM pulls out of Thailand and SE Asia, China moves in - General Motors website

China’s Great Wall Motors has agreed to buy the General Motors’ Thailand manufacturing plant in Rayong. It’s expected than the transaction will be completed by the end of this year. GM announced this week that it is accelerating a retreat from “unprofitable markets”, becoming more dependent on the US, China, Latin America and South Korea for its manufacturing. Read more about the pull-out HERE.

“GM is focusing on markets where we have the right strategies to drive robust returns, and prioritising global investments that will drive growth in the future of mobility, especially in electric and autonomous vehicles.”

GM said it will also pull the Chevrolet brand from Thailand, a major pickup and SUV market. With the proposed sale of the Thailand plant to Great Wall, GM passes up opportunities to expand operations in Southeast Asia.

Great Wall, one of China’s biggest SUV makers, says it will sell vehicles from the Thai manufacturing plant in Thailand, other ASEAN countries and Australia as the automaker seeks to expand globally amid a slowing domestic market. Earlier this year, it signed an agreement to buy a GM plant in India. The companies said they expected the transaction would be completed by the second half of this year.

Shi Ji, analyst at Haitong Internation, told Reuters that these two plant acquisitions will certainly accelerate the opening up of the auto market into parts of SE Asia.

“Such an acquisition could give Great Wall quick access to the ASEAN market, and Thailand is a good choice for its production base amid the country’s established supply chain in the automotive industry.”

Thailand produces around 2 million light vehicles each year, with just over half exported, most of them Japanese-based brands like Toyota, Honda and Suzuki. Great Wall may consider also building pickup trucks and SUVs in Thailand.

The automaker, which is building a car plant in China with BMW Group, sold 1.06 million light vehicles last year, including 65,175 units for export.

“There is no choice, if we don’t go global, we will not survive,” Wei Jianjun, chairman of Great Wall Motors said last year when they opened their first full assembly plant in Russia. Great Wall rival Geely is also looking to expand light-vehicle sales across the ASEAN region with Malaysia-based brand Proton.

SOURCE: Auto News

Thailand's General Motors plant sold to China's Great Wall Motors | News by The ThaigerThailand's General Motors plant sold to China's Great Wall Motors | News by The Thaiger

A few of the Great Wall SUVs and pickups currently made in China – Great Wall website

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Songkran

Thai government ponders nine day Songkran holiday

The Thaiger

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Thai government ponders nine day Songkran holiday | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Will we have enough water for a nine-day Songkran holiday? - ArtzSamui

With the impact of the coronavirus cutting deep into the Thai tourism industry, and tourism accounting for around 18% of the Thai GDP, the government are eyeing some additional public holidays to boost spending and activity.

The Thai PM announced yesterday that the government is considering adding two public holidays to the annual Songkran festival. Songkran, the Thai new year celebration, is held on April 13 every year. A full nine days are being considered for this year’s celebrations, but the PM said cabinet was yet to come up with the details.

“The final decision has not been made yet.”

PM Prayut Chan-o-cha says the extended holiday would help tourism operators.

This year the Songkran break would start on Monday, April 13 through to Wednesday, April 15. If you add the weekend preceding the holiday, you already have a five day holiday.

The Bangkok Post reports that Deputy PM Somkid Jatusripitak came up with the idea of extending the Songkran break this year to also include the Thursday and Friday as well, making it a total of nice days (from April 11-19).

“The long period will encourage more people to travel and spend money to give the tourism industry a boost after a sharp drop of tourist numbers from China.”

But the extra two days won’t come for free. Two public holidays in the second half of the year might be cut to compensate them if the plan to extend Songkran is approved.

The coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak, which started in China during December last year, continues to take a toll on Thai, and international, tourism as people avoid travelling. China banned tour groups in the middle of January as part of measures to contain the virus.

Chinese tourists are Thailand’s largest tourist demographic accounting for some 25-30% of all arrivals.

The next question is if the the drought-stricken parts of the country would be able to survive a nine-day water splurge! Songkran is a celebration of the end of the annual dry season and a welcoming of the wet season rains.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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