Thai News: AirAsia seeks hub; Prissana bowls over judges; Kaew’s goldrush

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

AirAsia seeks Don Mueang for budget hub
Phuket Gazette / The Nation
PHUKET: AirAsia, Asia’s biggest low-cost carrier, has urged the Thai government to promote Don Mueang Airport as a regional hub for low-cost carriers.

“Its international airport tax should be lowered from Bt750 to Bt250,” Tony Fernandes, chief executive of AirAsia Group, said after opening the airline’s ASEAN office in Jakarta.

Thailand should grab the opportunity to pursue this goal after facing troubles, especially political demonstrations, in recent years, he said. That will help boost its tourism industry by bringing in more visitors. Clearly, Thailand is one of the world’s major vacation destinations for foreign tourists.

Malaysia is an example. It has opened an airport specifically for low-cost carriers (LCCs) and it has gained recognition. Its international airport tax is Bt250.

Having several airports dedicated solely to LCCs in the region will be more useful, he said. Bangkok can play up its geographic advantage in connecting to other parts of the region after the implementation of the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015.

Beyond Bangkok, the government should open up more provincial airports and make better commercial use of those, such as Phuket, Chiang Mai and Udon Thani, because they are in a strategic position to connect to neighboring nations, Fernandes said.

The ASEAN market of 600 million consumers holds a big potential for doing business. The region is AirAsia’s core market, even though it has expanded rapidly into India and China. The carrier is now training its sights back on the region after aviation liberalisation, especially low-profile cities.

The bloc should move towards unified civil aviation standards, he said. All members should work more closely to define its direction to improve its development, including pilot and aviation license standardization.

Tassapon Bijleveld, CEO of Thai AirAsia, said ASEAN should create a single aviation body like the European Union did to look after the industry. AirAsia would take a leading role in forging cooperation among members. However, in Thailand the Civil Aviation Department under the Transport Ministry should enhance its role to be in line with the changing aviation industry under the AEC.

Thailand’s tourism policies should all go in the same direction, he said. State agencies should work together more closely. For example, the government wants to promote the tourism industry, but its policies such as airport tax, club zoning and prohibitions on alcohol consumption are counterproductive.

Prissana crowned Miss Thailand 2012
Phuket Gazette / The Nation
PHUKET: Prissana Kampusiri, or “Bowling”, 25, a masters degree student at Thammasat University, was crowned Miss Thailand 2012 on Thursday night.

The first runner up was Bunnisa Sirisang or “Baitoey” and the second runner up was Nutta-orn Sophon or “Dao”.

Prissana, who was also named Miss Think Positive by BSC Cosmetology and Miss Friendship, received a total of Bt8 million in prizes including Bt1.2 million in cash and a Mitsubishi sedan.

Kaew’s gold push
Phuket Gazette / The Nation

PHUKET: Thailand’s hopes of an elusive Olympic gold medal remained alive last night after veteran light flyweight Kaew Pongprayoon edged out Russia’s David Ayrapetyan 13-12 to book a place in today’s final showdown against reigning Olympic champion Zou Shiming of China.

After 14 days of competition at the London Games, which conclude tomorrow, the Kingdom has managed to claim only a silver medal from weightlifting and a bronze from taekwondo. The tally is a far cry from the haul the country achieved in the previous edition in Beijing, where Thailand claimed four medals, two of them gold.

Kaew, 32, is the country’s last remaining hope in London. Yesterday’s win gives the Kingdom a chance to salvage its pride with an Olympic title for Kaew, who is making his first and possibly last Games appearance.

Given his age, it is perhaps inevitable that many have compared Kaew to former Olympian Somjit Jonjohor, who ended his career with a flourish by capturing a gold at the age of 33 in China four years ago. The boxers also have two stand-out characteristics in common – strong determination and a never-say-die spirit. Those attributes came to the fore in Kaew’s win over the third-seeded Russian last night.

Entering the ring in a pair of white shoes – a lucky charm given to him by Somjit, who bought them from the Cuban opponent he beat in the final in Beijing – Kaew started his bout strongly, landing a couple of counter-punches cleanly. However, the opening round ended in a 3-3 draw.

Facing an opponent shorter than him for the first time, Kaew adjusted his boxing style by taking the bout to the Russian in the second round. The move paid off as the Thai surged forward by a single point. In the third and final round, Kaew stood firm in the face of a fierce attack from the Russian and eventually came away with a win by the slimmest of margins.

Kaew’s victory was celebrated jubilantly in every corner of the country, including the diminutive fighter’s home town, Kamphaeng Phet, where a big crowd gathered at his parents’ house to watch his semi-final bout on giant screens.

His 68-year-old mother Mali, who became an Internet sensation with a video clip showing her wearing red gloves and punching the air while cheering her son in previous rounds, said she would give Kaew a big kiss on the cheek when he returns home.

“This is the happiest day of my life. My son is the best. He’s going to win the gold 100 per cent,” said a delighted Mali.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

Thailand News

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