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Google unveils virtual tour of Buckingham Palace

Posted on 21 January 2016 by admin

LONDON – Web surfers will be able to peek into the gilded interiors of Queen Elizabeth II’s home in a new virtual reality tour launched by Google on Wednesday.

Buckingham Palace, the queen’s primary residence, has opened its doors to Google for 360-degree photos of some of its richly-decorated rooms.

Buckingham Palace, the queen’s primary residence, has opened its doors to the tech giant for 360-degree photos of some of its richly-decorated rooms.

The tour can be viewed on a computer or in 3D on a mobile phone through the official British Monarchy YouTube channel — one of several digital initiatives adopted by the royal household in recent years.

Visitors are welcomed by a virtual Master of the Household and then guided by curator Anna Reynolds through lavish chambers including the Throne Room.

At the end of the video, which lasts aroundಊ minutes, virtual visitors are also shown a secret door through which the queen arrives at receptions.

The programme is intended for schoolchildren and was created under Google’s Expedition programme.

Instead of having a virtual guide, teachers dictate the tour and highlight interesting topics for pupils.

“For schoolchildren, Buckingham Palace is one of the most iconic, magical buildings in the world,” said Jemima Rellie, director of content at the Royal Collection Trust which worked together with Google.

Jennifer Holland, Expedition’s programme manager, launched the tour at an event in London with pupils from a school in east London.

“We asked them, if you could go anywhere in the world where would you want to go and they replied — Buckingham Palace,” she said.

The photos for the tour were taken last week with a 16-camera rig placed in a circle.

The virtual tour will also be available through the official British Monarchy YouTube channel.

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Palace Fair in Lop Buri

Posted on 21 January 2016 by admin

From Feb 13-21, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT)’s Lop Buri office invites locals and tourists to wear traditional Thai costumes to the “Land of King Narai The Great Fair 2016″, which will be held at Phra Narai Ratchaniwet Palace, Muang district of Lop Buri.

Phra Narai Ratchaniwet Palace.

Visitors will be able to watch cultural and art performances and traditional games, enjoy lucky draws and shop for food and handicrafts using old-style coins called phod duang at a retro market in the fair compound.

On the first day, a parade under a historical theme will take to the streets from Sa Kaew Roundabout to the palace starting at 3pm, followed by the opening ceremony at 7pm.

Throughout the fair, the retro-style market will be open from 10am-9pm with cooking and handicraft-making demonstrations from 1pm-11pm.

The hourly change of guards at the palace’s Phayakkha Gate is from 10am-11pm and the display of traditional houses, ways of life and cultural performances is from 6pm-10.30pm.

Highlights will be a nightly light and sound show depicting the history of Lop Buri and a nightly dinner reception in front of Phiman Mongkut Royal Mansion and two cultural performances a day at the palace’s Sipsong Thong Phra Khlang, Foreign Guests’ and Phra Chao Hao buildings.

On Feb 16, almsgiving and religious ceremonies as well as ceremonies to pay respect to the spirits of King Narai the Great and King Rama IV, who loved to spend time in the region, will take place from 7pm-10pm.

Visit www.tat7.com or contact the TAT’s Lop Buri office on 036-770-096/7.

Elephant polo in Bangkok

Anantara Hotels, Resorts Spas will host theಎth King’s Cup Elephant Polo Tournament on March 10-13 at VR Sports Club, about 15 minutes drive south of Suvarnabhumi airport.

Ten teams will compete in the event with a total of 40 players including professional horse polo players, New Zealand All Blacks rugby players, Thai celebrities and a Miss Tiffany cabaret team. A total of 18 elephants will take part in the festival.

The four day festival will feature the Opening Parade, Children’s Educational Day, Ladies Day and elephant-related activities for visitors with children.

According to Anantara, the event has raised nearly US$1 million (36.4 million baht) since it was launched in Hua Hin in 2001. The proceeds have been donated to projects relating to elephants in Thailand and neighbouring countries such as the Thai Elephant Conservation Centre in Lampang, the Government Elephant Hospital in Krabi, funding farmer/elephant conflict mitigation projects in the western part of Thailand and funding the protected forest in Cambodia’s Cardamom Mountains.

Anantara has its own elephant conservation project which it launched in 2005. The Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation is located in Chiang Rai and has raised and looks after 40 elephants which were rescued off the streets.

Visit anantaraelephantpolo.com.

Two fests in Bali

From tomorrow to Saturday, the Bali Barong Festival will be held at the Art Centre in Denpasar, featuring various kinds of Barong, including Barong Ket, Barong Buntut and Makendang.

A Barong is a lion-like creature and character in the mythology of Bali, Indonesia. He is the king of the spirits, leader of the hosts of good and enemy of Rangda, the demon queen and mother of all spirit guarders in the mythological traditions of Bali.

On Janಚ, the Besakih Temple, also known as the “Mother Temple” in Bali, will celebrate its biannual Piodalan temple anniversary.

Located at the foot of Mount Agung, the island’s highest peak, this day is set for a unique and exhilarating religious tradition when pilgrims from all over the island head to the temple for prayers.

Visit www.balitourismboard.org.


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The two-coloured Rivers city

Posted on 21 January 2016 by admin

Widely known as Pak Nam Pho, Nakhon Sawan is a gateway to the North of Thailand. It holds significance in terms of history and culture aside from also being a hub of transportation and trade in the past. Besides its famous Chinese New Year celebrations, this province has hidden treasures, including local museums, a river island and the small town of Chum Saeng for visitors to explore.

“Nakhon Sawan is a legendary city. In the past, many Chinese migrants settled down here because Nakhon Sawan has rivers and abundant resources. This year, we celebrate the centenary of our Chinese New Year parades. You will be able to see old things and places here,” Supaporn Taengnara, chairwoman of the Nakhon Sawan Tourism Association, noted.

According to the Thai Tourism Society, a community tourism advocacy group, the other name of Nakhon Sawan was probably derived from the words, Pak Nam Phlo, meaning “the mouth of a river emerges”, as the Chao Phraya River begins here. The 740km-long Nan River, originating in the Pua district of Nan, flows south and meets the Ping and Wang rivers in tambon Kwai Yai, Muang Nakhon Sawan. The 550km-long Yom River, which originates in Phayao, flows south through Phrae, Sukhothai, Phitsanulok and Phichit, meeting the Nan River at Wat Koeichai Nua in Chum Saeng district, Nakhon Sawan. The Ping-Wang rivers and the Yom-Nan merge to form the Chao Phraya River at Pak Nam Pho. Another old name of Nakhon Sawan, given by the visiting King Rama V, is muang chon tawan, meaning a city that faces the Sun in the morning.

The history of this city dates back to prehistoric times – the late Iron Age or about 2,000-3,000 years ago. This is confirmed by the discovery of human skeletons, fragments of pottery, stone axes and iron tools on Khao Chong Khae Hill in tambon Chan Sen and at Ban Mai Chaimongkol Village in Ta Khli district. Aerial photos show traces of more than 20 ancient cities of the Dvaravati Period around the 11th-16th centuries scattered in Nakhon Sawan while archaeological excavations found pottery, ruins of pagodas, bases of Buddha statues, Wheel of Dhamma statues, Buddha amulets and jewellery at Chan Sen Ancient City.

During the Sukhothai Period about 600-700 years ago, this town was called Muang Phra Bang, a “muang na dan” border town south of Sukhothai, as mentioned in King Ramkhamhaeng’s First Inscription Stone. During the early Ayutthaya Period, it was a buffer zone. In the reign of the Ayutthaya Kingdom’s King Borommatrailokkanat (1448-1488), the king renamed Muang Phra Bang as Nakhon Sawan which then became a trading hub and a centre for troops to gather for war.

During the Thonburi Period in 1775, King Taksin the Great led his army to await and fight Burmese invaders here. During the early Rattanakosin Period, Nakhon Sawan was a major town for military logistics for northern towns. Goods from the North were transported by boat past this city, especially rice, via the Nan River and teak logs via the Ping River. The city grew and many Chinese migrants settled down there after the construction of the railway in the reign of King Rama V. The glory of this city reached its peak in the reign of King Rama VI and continually declined after the extension of the railway to Chiang Mai and the Great Depression during the 1930s, which affected the whole world. Nakhon Sawan has become less important and has acted as just a gateway for goods since the opening of the Bangkok-Chiang Mai highway and the Dechatiwong Bridge over the Chao Phraya River in 1950.

Must-sees in Nakhon Sawan are the History of Muang Pak Nam Pho Museum, Yom Island, the centuries-old Chao Phor-Chao Mae Pak Nam Pho Shrine, the Walking Street and the old commercial town of Chum Saeng, about 40km north of Muang Nakhon Sawan.

During our recent Thai Tourism Society study trip for Bangkok’s community tourism networks, we visited the museum and shrine. While travelling by boat on the Nan River to Yom Island, we spotted a few raft houses with people still living there. On the island, we visited a fish sauce factory-turned-farm, an old shipbuilding yard, a soy bean preserving house and a candle making house. After returning to the city centre, we strolled down the riverside Walking Street which is open every Saturday evening. There we found a wide array of goods, ranging from clothes, handbags, accessories, toys, small trees and puppies to local and foreign food on sale from dusk until around 9.30pm.

The next morning, our group headed to Muang Chum Saeng Municipality. Prior to the construction of the northern railway in 1915, Chum Saeng Market had been a hub of commerce and log trading and a stopover for merchants who had travelled by boat between the northern towns and Bangkok. It remained popular until the construction of roads in 1950. Today, the atmosphere there is peaceful as always. Amid a lot of rundown shophouses, a number of old-style shops remain open. Fortunately, there is a ray of hope since local people and the municipality have joined hands to promote local tourism for people who yearn to reminisce about the good old days.

Santi Kunawong, managing director of Fairy Land Department Store who initiated and operates the History of Muang Pak Nam Pho Museum in this mall by borrowing the most displayed objects from local people, said that “the population of Nakhon Sawan comprise six groups of people – Thai, Chinese, Mon, Vietnamese, Laotian and descendants of migrants from the Indian subcontinent. All the groups live in harmony without conflict and conserve their cultures. Nakhon Sawan is full of delicious food due to its multiculturalism”.

Located 240km from Bangkok, Nakhon Sawan is easily accessible by train, bus and car as well as by public van from Victory Monument.

To get to Chum Saeng, you can travel from Muang Nakhon Sawan either by train or by car or bus using Highway 3600.

Riding a ferry across the Chao Phraya River costs 20 baht per person per return trip. Hiring a boat to tour any of the rivers costs 400 baht per hour and 700 baht per two hours per boat. Each boat can accommodate up to eight passengers.

The southern end of Yom Island is where the green-coloured Ping- Wang rivers and the brown-coloured Yom-Nan rivers meet to merge as the Chao Phraya River. In the past, many raft houses lined the river. There were at least three markets and even a school on rafts. Big shops on rafts were mostly owned by the Chinese. Most raft residents moved to live on the river banks after the Great Depression and the construction of roads.


Wat Koeichai Nua in tambon Koei Chai, Chum Saeng district, is believed to have been built over 600 years ago. The assumption is based on the fact that the principal pagoda, Phra Boromthat Chedi, is in an inverted bell style (Lanka style) with an octagonal base and sema (boundary) stones made of slate stones — the Sukhothai style. Other must-sees are Phra Buddha Srisanphet, the principal Buddha of the old ordination hall, the statue of the late former abbot Phra Khru Niraphaivithet, the statues of the infamous crocodile Dang Koeichai, the confluence of the Yom and Nan rivers, the Local Art Exhibition and two museums on the templeâ��s antiques and books. Admission is free.

In Chum Saeng, must-sees include Chum Saeng Railway Station, Srisuwan Drugstore, two printing houses, Chum Saeng Gallery, Kaewchai Hotel, Chaiwan Grocery Store, Mae Yuan goldshop and Chum Saeng’s first bookstore Kiatying. Visitors should pay respect to the statue of King Taksin the Great who led his army to suppress the rebellious ruler of Phitsanulok and was shot in one of his legs in Chum Saeng. The king had also led his troops to Nakhon Sawan to await and fight Burmese invaders several times.


Chao Phor-Chao Mae Chum Saeng Shrine has been a spiritual pillar for local people and boat travellers for almost a century. Every February, locals celebrate the birthdays of both deities. Every December, they take the statues to the streets around Chum Saeng Market in a parade for blessings. This tradition has continued for over 80 years.



Tang Seng Ha fish sauce factory is now the Tanwisuth Farm. As the numbers of small fish in the river have decreased and vanished in the past 40 years, the factory had to stop producing fish sauce and started raising fish, pigs and crocodiles for sale. At present, the farm, owned by Pong Tanwisuth, has over 60 fish ponds, 400 pigs, almost 100 crocodiles and numerous fighting cocks.

Chao Phor-Chao Mae Pak Nam Pho Shrine is located in tambon Khwae Yai by the Chao Phraya River opposite Pak Nam Pho Market. This Hainanese shrine must be older than 145 years because a Chinese man presented a bronze bell to the shrine in 1870. The shrine has the statues of Chinese deities Poon Thao Kong, Guan Yu and Chao Mae Tubtim, who protects seafarers. During the Chinese New Year Festivities around February, locals take all the statues in a procession around Pak Nam Pho Market with big celebrations as well as lion and dragon dances. This tradition has continued for a century.

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Cable car plan to get OK?

Posted on 21 January 2016 by admin

Phu Kradueng is a scenic destination and tourists fear the cable car development would ruin the national park.

The cable car project to the mountaintop of Phu Kradueng National Park has entered its final stage. In December, all feasibility studies, environmental impact assessments, public hearing sessions and opinions from various parties were submitted to the cabinet for approval.

Phu Kradueng is a famous destination in Loei province. The cable car idea was initiated in 1982 by Phu Kradueng National Park, and Kasetsart University was assigned to conduct a feasibility study and environmental impact assessment two years later. More studies have been conducted in the past decades, with mixed opinions. While conservative groups opposed the plan with high concerns about natural deterioration, locals supported the idea.

No progress was made till 2012, when Loei revived the project and officially submitted it to the cabinet. The cabinet then assigned Designated Areas for Sustainable Tourism Administration (Dasta), a public organisation, to conduct studies and public hearing sessions.

Dasta suggested that, if approved, a ropeway should be built at the southeastern corner of the national park. Seven poles will support the cable, a length of 4.40km. The mountain station will be situated 600m west of Lang Pae, the point where trekkers reach the park’s plateau, which elevates a bit over 1,200m above sea level.

According to the plan, the cable car would neither ruin the scenery nor bother trekkers. It will climb up and fly over a mixed deciduous forest, dry evergreen forest, hill evergreen forest and pine forest, respectively. It requires 5,700m² for two stations and poles. The study insists that no big trees would be felled. It will be aerial ropeways with a mono cable detachable gondola to accommodate eight passengers at a time. The gondola would be able to carry 4,000 passengers per hour. It is estimated that the new mode of transport could serve 20,000 passengers per day, or 7 million passengers a year.

The project investment is estimated to be 6Ȃ million baht. Dasta sees it is worthwhile as the cable car will attract more tourists during low season and generate more income for local businesses. Rainy season is the low season for Phu Kradueng as the conventional trail is slippery and dangerous.

Easy access via cable car allows the national park to limit overnight tourists at 5,000 people a day, according to the park’s capacity. Those beyond the carrying capacity can make day trips.

The cable car will reduce trekkers, ease a garbage problem in the park and help with first-aid problems. Trekking to the plateau of Phu Kradueng requires an overnight trip up a 9km trail, which is impossible in a day.

More than 30 workshops with local people were organised, along with three public hearing sessions. More than 70% of community leaders in Loei, Phu Kradueng and porters, which make a living by carrying tourists luggage, agreed with the project. However, more than 60% of trekkers disagreed with the project, according to Dasta’s report.

Loei governor Viroj Jivarangsan hopes that the cable car would be a new magnet attracting tourists from nearby Asean countries to the province. Growing tourism would also benefit nearby attractions like Phu Rua, Chiang Khan, Dan Sai and Na Haew, as well.

In 2013, the province welcomed 1.5 million tourists, however only 60,000 visited Phu Kradueng, partly due to its difficult access.

A porter carries tourists’ luggage to the top of Phu Kradueng.

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The travel barometer

Posted on 21 January 2016 by admin

Seeking new experiences is the top reason why people want to travel, according to the TripAdvisor’s TripBarometer study.

Taste of Hong Kong.

The research is based on an online survey conducted between Oct 15-29 last year by Ipsos, a global research firm. A total of 44,782 people participated in the survey. They are 34,026 consumers who are TripAdvisor website users and Ipsos online panellists and 10,756 representatives from accommodation properties who use TripAdvisor’s free marketing services.

The study found that people want to seek new experiences with 69% of participants wanting to try something new in 2016. About 20% of them want to try a cruise for the first time this year while 17% plan to travel solo. About 15% will try adventure travel for the first time.

People tend to choose destinations based on culture and the people of the specific country ࿏%), special offers of hotels or tour packages (21%) and TV tourism programmes (20%).

When choosing a place to stay, the top factors on the list are having air conditioning (63%), followed by free in-room Wi-Fi (46%), breakfast (40%) and a swimming pool (26%).

The study also found that 33% of travellers are open to spending more this year than they have in the past. Almost half of those who plan to increase their travel budget give the reason that it is “because I or my family deserve it” and 31% agreed that it will be because “it’s important for my health and well-being”.

In addition, about 47% of hoteliers globally plan to increase room rates in 2016 as they want to compensate for increased overhead costs (65%), recently completed renovations (37%) and because of increased demand (35%).

Hotels will invest more on their online reputation as 93% of hoteliers said that online traveller reviews are important for the future of their business.  

A taste of Hong Kong

Taste Festivals will be hosted for the first time in Asia starting with “Taste of Hong Kong” between March 10-13 on the Central Harbourfront in Hong Kong.

The food festival was launched in 2004 with the first Taste of London before expanding to other cities throughout Europe, the Middle East, South Africa and Australia.

Taste of Hong Kong will include the participation of 12 of Hong Kong’s Michelin-star restaurants and Hong Kong’s top chefs serving more than 40 signature dishes and iconic one-off festival creations. The four-day event will also provide exclusive Champagne masterclasses, local artisanal produce to buy and interactive food and wine attractions.

Visit www.DiscoverHongKong.com.

Airlines update

Lufthansa has opened its first family check-in service at Suvarnabhumi airport.

Bangkok is the first airport in the Asia Pacific region that offers this unique service, said Dirk Grossmann, the Lufthansa general manager for Thailand and the Mekong Region.

At the counter, children can climb a few steps so they can watch the check-in procedure, receive their boarding pass and also a special boarding pass for their “Best Friend” such as a teddy or cuddly toy accompanying them on their flight. Lufthansa also has mascots Lu and Cosmo to welcome children at the airport. “Even prior to take off our young passengers should have a memorable experience with Lufthansa. We are therefore delighted that we are now also able to offer this new family-friendly service in Bangkok,” he said.

In the past year the crews welcomed more than 750,000 children and adolescents on board.

Visit www.lufthansa.com.

Bangkok Airways has launched an additional daily flight between Bangkok and Phnom Penh, increasing the number to six flights a day.

The new flight is in the early morning. It departs Suvarnabhumi airport at 6.20am and the return leg from Phnom Penh airport is 8.20am. The travel time is one hour and 10 minutes.

The airline uses Airbus A319, featuring 12 business class seats and 108 economy class seats.

Visit www.bangkokair.com or call centre at 1771.

Hotels update

X2 will open its first hotel in Buri Ram. X2 Vibe Buriram will offer 68 rooms including one suite in its five-storey building. On the rooftop will be a bar and lounge where guests can see the city view. Also provided are a swimming pool, 24-hour fitness centre, a meeting room which can accommodate up to 80 people and a restaurant.

“The X2 Vibe Buriram is just one of the many exciting openings that we have lined up for 2016,” said Anthony McDonald, CEO of Bespoke Hospitality management based in Bangkok and founder of the CrossTo brand.

The hotel is a short drive to Buriram United International Circuit and the Buriram United football stadium. 

X2 Vibe Buriram is open for reservations and will be launched in the second quarter of this year.

Visit www.x2vibe.com/x2-vibe-buriram.


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Russian faces deportation over gun attack

Posted on 18 January 2016 by admin

From the revamped home page of the Immigration Bureau at www.immigration.go.th.

Authorities will deport a Russian national who was arrested over the weekend following a gun attack at a resort on Koh Phangan if he is found guilty of breaking Thai laws.

Sergei Milentie, 31, was apprehended on Saturday in connection with the pre-dawn attack at the Palita Lodge Bungalow which caused panic but no casualties.

Pol Maj Gen Surachet Hakpan, commander of the Tourism Police Division, said foreigners found to have violated the laws will not be allowed to stay. The Russian suspect faces deportation if he is proved guilty.

The Russian is one of the first to feel the effects of new policies currently being adopted by the Immigration Bureau.

Sergei Milentie: Denies any involvement in Koh Phangan shooting. (Photo by Supapong Chaolan)

They include the catchy slogan featured on the bureau’s new web page at immigration.go.th: “Good guys in, Bad guys out”.

Immigration police announced Monday the opening of a centralised mechanism to oversee and control the entry and exit of foreigners.

The newly established Thai Immigration 24/7 Centre, located at Immigration Bureau headquarters, is divided into three working rooms where officers can monitor real-time CCTV footage at airports, ports and border checkpoints.

An advance passenger processing system installed at the centre will allow officers to know personal details of visitors before they arrive, with more than 50 airlines cooperating.

“In the past, Thai police didn’t have an official command operation centre like this to oversee the travel of foreigners, Pol Gen Wuthi Lipthapallop, deputy commissioner-general of the Royal Thai Police, told reporters.

“But from now on, commanders can quickly and concisely see every movement in each airport, port and border checkpoint nationwide,”

“This centre will be able to entirely control the foreigners in order to let the good guys in and keep the bad guys out,” Pol Gen Wuthi said.

That has become the Immigration Bureau’s new slogan and can be seen on its revamped web page launched at the New Year: Good guys in, Bad guys out.

The new centre opens after the deadly bomb attack at the Erawan shrine killed 20 people and injured more than 100 last August. The blast prompted Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to order a reform of the country’s security and border control systems.

Mr Milentie’s arrest also underlined concerns by Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon who has instructed local authorities in Surat Thani to stamp out foreign mafia groups on the resort islands of Koh Phangan and Koh Samui in the wake of the attack.

Gen Prawit is concerned about influential figures who have frightened tourists and hurt the tourism industry, especially foreign business operators. “Be they foreigners or Thais, authorities will make a concerted effort to stamp out mafia groups,” said Pol Maj Gen Surachet.

Mr Milentie appeared at a police press conference Monday, where he was told through an interpreter that his alleged offence could result in his deportation.

The Russian suspect denied being a member of any mafia groups and said he had nothing to do with the shooting.

He faces initial charges of violating the immigration law and the night entertainment business law.

His arrest followed those of three Thai nationals including 54-year-old Chanin Petchsri, mayor of Tha Khanom municipality in Surat Thani’s Khiri Ratthanikhom district. The two others are Sihanath Chaipinij, 62, and Jarong Hongthong, 38, while a fourth suspect, Jirat Khwatkaeo, 38, is still on the run.

The court on Monday denied bail to the three Thai suspects out of concern they would interfere with the police probe.

Mr Chanin is accused of hiring two men to open fire on Palita Lodge, a resort next door to Chang Phuek Bungalows and Similan Bar, the property he owns on Koh Phangan’s Hat Rin beach.

He leased the bar to the Russian businessman.

Meanwhile, Surat Thani police chief Maj Gen Apichart Bunsriroj has told officials to scrutinise all foreign nationals doing business in tourist areas and draw up a list of Thai nationals partnering with them.

The database will be used in the campaign against both Thai and foreign mafia groups.

Pol Lt Gen Nathathorn Prousoontorn commander of the Immigration Bureau, at the airport: Good guys in, bad guys out. (File photo by Somchai Poomlard)

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Prawit orders island mafia crackdown

Posted on 18 January 2016 by admin

Koh Phangan, site of the full-moon party, reportedly has fallen under influence of what Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon calls “foreign mafia groups”. (AFP photo)

Surat Thani: Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon has instructed local authorities in Surat Thani to stamp out foreign mafia groups in Koh Phangan and Koh Samui, following a shooting attack at a bar last Tuesday on Koh Phangan.

A Russian suspect, along with three Thai nationals, was detained over the bar attack which caused panic but did not result in injury.

Following Gen Prawit’s order, Surat Thani provincial governor Wongsiri Phromchana told all government agencies in the province to accelerate their work to suppress foreign mafia gangs in the province, particularly on the two resort islands, Pol Maj Gen Apichat Boonsriroj said Sunday.

As a result, a major crackdown on foreign mafia gangs is expected in Koh Samui and Koh Phangan, infamous for its full-moon rave parties, Pol Maj Gen Apichat said.

Mr Wongsiri had received reports about foreigners illegally operating businesses such as restaurants and resorts on Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao districts.

These places have become meeting points for foreign mafia gangs to expand their illegal networks.

“I’ll order state agencies to launch a massive inspection of those businesses as well as the money trails. Gen Prawit paid a lot of attention to these [mafia-style] influential foreigners and stressed that Thai state officials must not be involved with them or support these criminal activities,” Mr Wongsiri said.

State officials found involved in foreign mafia activities would face stiff punishment, he said.

The state agencies would inspect the legality of businesses on the three islands, with the main focus on foreigners working illegally and possible drug problems, he said.

“We have to get tough on these people, or they may damage our tourism and even national security,” he said.

A source who is a local tourism business operator in Koh Phangan said the foreign mafia groups liked to hire tourists from their own countries to work illegally as tour guides or at entertainment venues or resorts.

They were affecting the quality of service in the tourism businesses of the province, the source said.

Sergei Milentie, 31, a Russian national was arrested on Saturday, after the previous arrests of three out of four Thai suspects in connection with Tuesday’s pre-dawn shooting attack at Palita Lodge Bungalow.

The three Thai suspects detained are Chanin Pechsri, 54, Sihanath Chaipinij, 62, and Jarong Hongthong, 38. Jirat Khwatkaeo, 38, the fourth suspect, is still on the run.

Police said Mr Chanin, the mayor of Muang Tha Khanon municipality in Khiri Ratthanikhom district and owner of Chang Phueak Bungalow and Similan Bar, was found to be the mastermind behind the shooting attack.

They said they believed Mr Sihanath was the gunman.

All arrested suspects, except Mr Chanin, confessed to being involved in the attack. However, police had enough evidence to prosecute Mr Chanin, Pol Maj Gen Apichat said.

Police found Mr Chanin had rented out Simiran Bar on Rin Beach in Koh Phangan to Mr Milentie who is now facing several charges including working illegally and selling alcohol without permission, he added.

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B2bn tram in the works for Phuket

Posted on 18 January 2016 by admin

A tram system like Hong Kong’s Light Rail Transit (above) has been under discussion for the island province for three and a half years. (Photo courtesy The Phuket News)

A light rail system worth more than 2 billion baht will be constructed between Phuket International Airport and Chalong intersection to boost the country’s tourism in the South.

Speaking after a meeting on the Phuket mass transit system, transport permanent secretary Chartchai Thipsunawee Sunday unveiled details of a 60km rail tram which will be constructed between the airport to Chalong intersection in Muang district.

Mr Chartchai said the Mass Rapid Transit Authority of Thailand (MRTA) will be commissioned to supervise the project.

He said the tram with a speed of 100 km/h will have 23 stations along its route. Planners were deciding whether there will be a special lane for the tram or if it will share lanes with other vehicles.

The stations will include Phuket International Airport, Thalang and Koh Kaew and the second provincial bus terminal.

Mr Chartchai, however, voiced concern over what to do about level crossings, saying the tram route will pass 39 intersections and 37 U-turns in the province.

He told the Office of Transport and Traffic Policy and Planning, the Department of Highways and the Department of Rural Roads to devise solutions to the problem.

The agencies had to specify whether an overpass or tunnel will be built at each crossing or if traffic lights will be used if the tram and vehicles share the road. After this has been settled, work on the construction design will commence, he said.

For a crossing at the airport’s entrance, an overpass will be built to connect the tram with its station in the airport’s premises. A 150-metre skywalk connecting a station with a terminal will also be built, said Mr Chartchai.

“For the investment, the MRTA will study whether the private sector will be responsible for the entire investment or only as a joint venture,” he added.

Mr Chartchai also discussed the construction of a 150km railroad linking Surat Thani, Phangnga and Phuket provinces to boost tourism.

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Bullet train billed as running art museum to debut in Japan

Posted on 16 January 2016 by admin

The operator of the Joetsu Shinkansen bullet train line unveils the exterior of a special train, adorned with images of fireworks taken by renowned photographer Mika Ninagawa on Jan 12, 2016 at Omiya station, north of Tokyo. (Kyodo photo)

TOKYO — A special bullet train billed as a running modern art museum will debut on the Joetsu Shinkansen line this spring, featuring modern art both on the exterior and in the interior.

The modern art Shinkansen, a six-car train, will run between Niigata on the Sea of Japan coast and Echigo-Yuzawa, a gateway to hot spring and ski resorts, mainly on the weekends and holidays.

East Japan Railway Co unveiled the train’s exterior on Tuesday. It is adorned with images of fireworks taken by renowned photographer Mika Ninagawa.

Inside the train will display works such as paintings by Nao Matsumoto and videos by Brian Alfred.

JR East said the train will offer not only “the world’s fastest art experience” but also a cafe serving coffee and sweets.

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Dairy farming fest in Saraburi

Posted on 14 January 2016 by admin

From Jan 27 to Feb 2, the “2016 National Dairy Farming Festival” will take place at the Dairy Farming Promotion Organisation of Thailand’s Thai-Danish Dairy Farm in Muak Lek district, Saraburi province.

The opening of the festival will be presided over by Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn on Jan 27. Activities will include visiting the dairy farm and its Cowboy Town, tasting milk, watching dairy cow contests and exhibitions, attending academic seminars and shopping for dairy products, One Tambon One Production goods as well as cowboy items. The objectives of the fair are to honour His Majesty the King who introduced dairy farming to Thailand about 50 years ago, to showcase dairy farming and production technology and to introduce modern farming technology to farmers and promote milk drinking in Thailand.

Visit www.dpo.go.th or call the farm on 036-909-697.

Cowboy fest in Kanchanaburi

The “Lao Khwan Cowboy Day: Grilled Food Festival” is being held in front of Lao Khwan District Office, Kanchanaburi province, and ends today. As one of the country’s biggest sources of cattle, Lao Khwan District is hosting the fair that aims to promote cattle raising and local tourism and to also boost the ties between the public and private sectors and local people. This area lacks natural water sources and depends on rainwater and water from Huay Thian Reservoir. Therefore, local people opt for cattle raising and raise more than 50,000 oxen and cows.  

Activities include exhibitions, oxen and chicken contests, a beauty contest, concerts by bands Phatthalung, Labanoon, Klom, Malee Huanna and Od 4S, and the sale of Otop goods.

Call Lao Khwan District Office on 034-576-114 and the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s Kanchanaburi Office on 034-511-200.

In honour of King Naresuan

From Jan 17 to Jan 18, the annual “Elephant Battle Day And The Heroic Deeds Of King Naresuan The Great” fair will take place at Phukhao Thong Field near the statue of King Naresuan the Great in Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya district, Ayutthaya province.

The event commemorates the elephant battle between King Naresuan and Phra Maha Uparaja, the Burmese viceroy, which took place on Jan 18, 1592. The hosts��– the public and private sectors of the province – wish to express their gratitude towards King Naresuan who won that battle and eventually declared the independence of the Ayutthaya Kingdom from Burma. On Jan 18, 417 monks will pray during a religious ceremony at 4.30pm. Each evening throughout the event, visitors will be able to watch a mini light and sound show depicting the works and elephant battle of King Naresuan, a likay performance by Sornram Nampet troupe, concerts by singers Kratae and Kratai R Siam and other kinds of entertainment.

Admission is free.

Call the Ayutthaya Provincial Administration Organisation on 035-796-432.

Lantern fest in Bangkok

From now until Feb 22, the “Asean Lantern Festival” will be held at Siam Park, or Suan Siam waterpark, Bangkok, during 10am-10pm. The event features models of 10 Asean countries’ important places which are decorated with big lanterns and lights, an Asean food fair, an Asean Shopping Zone, fun games and a lantern parade, which begins at 6.30pm daily.

A highlight is the light and sound show with the Asean nations’ cultural performances starting at 7pm on Fridays and at 3.30pm and 7pm on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays.

Admission fee is 500 baht per day for adults, 120 baht for children, 350 baht for adults and 60 baht for children after 5pm. Admission is free for children under 100cm.

Visit www.siamparkcity.com for more information.


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