Thailand's Immigration Bureau has responded to a recent rash of criticism over its handling of arrivals and departures at Suvarnabhumi international airport, claiming a combination of understaffing and a steady increase in the number of
passengers has left it overwhelmed.
Since New Year, the division has been flooded with complaints over the long lines at the immigration check counters, despite how hard our officers work, Pol Maj Gen Natthorn said: They sometimes even skip trips to the restroom when
faced with a line of angry passengers.
At least 20 additional immigration officers should be added to the Suvarnabhumi workforce, airport director Somchai Sawasdipol said.
Transport Minister Jarupong Ruangsuwan said he had recently discussed with Finance Minister Kittiratt NaRanong a proposal to improve the working conditions of Suvarnabhumi's immigration officers. Jarupong suggested cash incentives such as a piece rate
of 25 satang per passport-check on top of their salary, and a reward of 100,000 baht for anyone who successfully detects a terrorist suspect.
Jarupong said he also had instructed Airports of Thailand (AoT) to increase the number of staff who speak languages other than Thai and English, so that passengers who do not speak either can receive help with filling out immigration forms and
understanding the immigration procedure.
Marisa Pongpattanapun, chairwoman of the Airline Operators Committee (AOC), a coalition of global airline managers, said the AOC was well aware of the problems facing Immigration Division 2 and had discussed possible solutions with the AoT and
the Immigration Bureau. She said it was important to resolve the problems at immigration because long queues can cause passengers to miss their flights. The matter really needs to be resolved for the sake of the country's tourism reputation,
Two countries, Bahrain and Belarus, have been moved from the under surveillance category to the Enemies of the Internet list, joining the ranks of the countries that restrict Internet freedom the most: Burma, China, Cuba, Iran,
North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam. They combine often drastic content filtering with access restrictions, tracking of cyber-dissidents and online propaganda. Iran and China, in particular, reinforced their
technical capacity in 2011 and China stepped up pressure on privately-owned Internet companies in order to secure their collaboration.
Iran has announced the launch of a national Internet. Iran and Vietnam have both launched a new wave of arrests, while the bloody crackdown on protests in Syria is hitting netizens hard and is enabling the regime to perfect its mastery of online
surveillance with Iran's help. Turkmenistan has fought its first battle in the war over Information 2.0 while North Korea, which is developing its online presence for propaganda purposes, is confronted with an increase in smuggling of banned
communications equipment across the Chinese border. In Cuba, bloggers supportive of the government and those critical of the regime argue online.
Saudi Arabia has continued its relentless censorship and suppressed coverage of a provincialuprising. Uzbekistan took measures to prevent Uznet from becoming a forum for discussing the Arab springs. There is one light of hope: the situation is
improving in Burma, where the military have permitted the release of journalists and bloggers and the unblocking of news websites, but the legislative and technical tools for controlling and monitoring the Internet have yet to be dismantled.
Bahrain offers an example of an effective news blackout based on a remarkable array of repressive measures: keeping the international media away, harassing human rights activists, arresting bloggers and netizens (one of whom died in detention),
smearing and prosecuting free speech activists, and disrupting communications, especially during the major demonstrations.
In Belarus, President Lukashenko's regime has increased his grip on the Web as the country sinks further into political isolation and economic stagnation. The Internet, a space used for circulating information and mobilizing protests, has been
hit hard as the authorities have reacted to revolution via the social media. The list of blocked websites has grown longer and the Internet was partially blocked during the silent protests. Some Belarusian Internet users and
bloggers have been arrested while others have been invited to preventive conversations with the police in a bid to get them to stop demonstrating or covering demonstrations. The government has used Twitter to send messages that are meant
to intimidate demonstrators, and the main ISP has diverted those trying to access the online social network Vkontakte to sites containing malware. And Law No. 317-3, which took effect on 6 January 2012, reinforced Internet surveillance and
The 2012 list of countries under surveillance
India [new entry]
Kazakhstan [new entry]
The countries under surveillance list still includes Australia, whose government clings to a dangerous content filtering system; Egypt, where the new regime has resumed old practices and has directly targeted the most outspoken bloggers;
Eritrea, a police state that keeps its citizens away from the Internet and is alarmed by its diaspora's new-found militancy online and on the streets of foreign cities; France, which continues its three-strikes policy on illegal
downloading, with suspension of Internet access, and where administrative filtering is introduced by an internal security law and appears with increasing frequency in decrees implementing laws; and Malaysia, which continues to harass bloggers
(who have more credibility that the traditional media) in the run-up to general elections.
The under surveillance list also includes Russia, which has used cyber-attacks and has arrested bloggers and netizens to prevent a real online political debate; South Korea, which is stepping up censorship of propaganda from its northern
neighbour and keeps an array of repressive laws; Sri Lanka, where online media and journalists continue to be blocked and physically attacked; Thailand, where the new government sends bloggers to prison and is reinforcing content filtering in the
name of cracking down on lese-majeste; Tunisia, where freedom of expression is still fragile and content filtering could be reimposed; Turkey, where thousands of websites are still inaccessible, alarming filtering initiatives have been taken and
netizens and online journalists continue to be prosecuted; and the United Arab Emirates, where surveillance has been reinforced preventively in response to the Arab Spring.
Since the Mumbai bombings of 2008, the Indian authorities have stepped up Internet surveillance and pressure on technical service providers, while publicly rejecting accusations of censorship. The national security policy of the world's biggest
democracy is undermining freedom of expression and the protection of Internet users' personal data.
Kazakhstan, which likes to think of itself as a regional model after holding the rotating presidency of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in 2010, nonetheless seems to be turning its back on all its fine promises in order to
take the road of cyber-censorship. An unprecedented oil workers strike, a major riot, a strange wave of bombings and the president's ailing health all helped to increase government tension in 2011 and led to greater control of information,
especially online information: blocking of news websites, cutting of communications around the city of Zhanaozen during the riot, and new, repressive Internet regulations.
Venezuela and Libya are no longer under surveillance.
Thailand put on Warning
If Thailand continues down the slope of content filtering and jailing netizens on lese-majeste charges, it could soon join the club of the world's most repressive countries as regards the Internet.
More than 5,000 pages with content deemed to be critical of the monarchy were taken down between December and March, Thailand's national police spokesman Piya Utayo told reporters.
According to Thai government body the National Economic and Social Development Board, Facebook has a lot to answer for in the country.
It said that Thai teenage mothers accounted for 14% of all births in 2009 and 2010, putting Thailand top of Unicef's list of most teen pregnancies in Asia.
The research, reported by Thailand's National News Bureau, seems to tie together the fact that 18 to 24-year-olds are the largest group of Facebook users, with the suggestion that young folk post seductive messages or video clips online.
Not surprisingly, the ludicrous correlation from the NESDB has drawn the ire of local bloggers. Saksith Saiyasombut argued that Thailand's prudish attitude towards sex education might be more to blame. He revealed that recent national sex ed exam
asked students: What should you do if you have a sexual urge? The answer, apparently, was call friends to go play football .
Now the auspicious moment has arrived... I would like to declare the combined joint Exercise Cobra Gold 2012 open. These words were spoken by Gen. Sakol Sajjanit, Deputy Chief of Royal Thai Defense Forces, who took part in the opening
ceremony which officially began Exercise Cobra Gold 2012.
The exercise is an annual multi-national combined joint training exercise held throughout the Kingdom of Thailand. It is the United States' largest multilateral exercise in the Asia Pacific region and offers more than 20 participating countries
critical training opportunities to improve interoperability in conducting multinational operations.
In its 31st iteration, Exercise Cobra Gold demonstrates multi-national commitment to allied forces in the Asia-Pacific region and focuses on regional partnership, prosperity and security commitments in the region.
Exercise Cobra Gold 2012 is taking place throughout the Kingdom of Thailand with event concluding on Feb 17.
Thai police are asking parents to lock up their daughters and not let under 18s outside after 10pm on Valentine's Day.
Police spokesman Maj-General Piya Uthayo said the national police chief was worried about youths acting 'inappropriately', taking drugs or engaging in other forms of vice on the day, hence police would be dispatched to patrol public parks,
theatres, karaoke bars, night venues, dormitories, apartments and hotels. If police find anyone under 18 outside after this time, they will be brought to police stations for their parents to pick them up, he added.
Intending also to ask night-entertainment venues not to allow the under-aged to enter their premises, with the presumed risk that they could engage in sexual activity.
Police will also punish shops that sell alcohol to under-aged persons, and will set up checkpoints to stop drunk and/or reckless riders.
Moreover, they will seek the public's cooperation, especially women, who are asked not to wear racy clothe.
Thai Channel 3 looks to more child-friendly programming
There's not much left to censor on Thai TV and still social problems persist. Total failure to 'cure' any of the world's ills via censorship is always just taken as a bogus justification for censoring more.
Thai Channel 3 soap opera fans will no longer get to see any kissing scenes.
The channel is now only allowing love scenes to feature kissing on the cheeks and foreheads, hugging and embracing.
Channel 3 is moving top more child-friendly programming and more children programs.
Channel 3 Executive Prawit Maleenont has banned kissing in soap operas and told soap producers to go the traditional Thai love scene route with only kisses on the forehead and cheek and hugging and embracing.
Production executive for Channel 3 Somrak Narongwichai says this year's soap will reflect social problems and will be more realistic in that characters will have occupations and careers.
But of course less realistic in that lovers will go round kissing each other on the forehead.
Keeping vigilant and keeping abreast
of the situation
Britain's Foreign & Commonwealth Office has issued teh following travel advice for Thailand:
The Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs has responded to media enquiries about a possible terrorist threat in Bangkok, following a warning issued by the US government to its citizens. On 13 January they said:
The Thai Government is also aware about such a possible threat and that the authorities concerned have been in close co-ordination with each other as well as with relevant countries. In this regard, security measures have been increased as a
precaution to prevent any incident that may occur. The authorities will continue to remain vigilant and monitor the situation closely
We therefore advise visitors to exercise vigilance and keep abreast of local security advice and media reports
Police have found more than 4,300 kilogrammes of urea based fertiliser and other materials used for making explosives in a building in Samut Sakhon's Muang district after the arrest of a middle-east terrorist suspect, national police chief
Priewpan Damapong said Monday.
More than 200 police raided a three-storey commercial building in Mahachai area after Atris Hussein, a Lebanese man carrying a Swedish passport who has suspected links to the Hezbollah militant group was arrested at Suvarnabhumi airport on Friday
evening. He confessed that explosive ingredients were hidden there, Pol Gen Priewpan said.
He said 4,380 kilogrammes of urea based fertiliser, 260 litres of ammonium nitrate and 400 electric fans were found on the second floor of the building. The police also discovered many pairs of slippers, A4 paper and 400 table fans on the ground
The terror suspect told investigators that the terrorist group had not been planning attacks in Thailand. It just wanted to hide the components in Thailand. They were then to be concealed inside table fan boxes and shipped to other countries,
according to the suspect, Pol Gen Priewpan said.
Thailand's first lady boy air stewardesses have taken part in PC Air's inaugural flight from Bangkok to Surat Thani.
The new airline took on four transgender crew last year when hiring thirty in-flight staff.
PC Air boss Peter Chan told the Daily Telegraph last year: I think these people can have many careers -- not just in the entertainment business -- and many of them have a dream to be an air hostess. I just made their dream come true. Our
society has changed. It's evolution. I'm a pioneer and I'm sure there will be other organisations following my idea.
Thailand is considered one of the more tolerant countries towards the wide spectrum of transgenderism. Transgender women are often referred to as the third sex , or as katoeys , which is sometimes seen as a pejorative term.
The Telegraph reports that despite differently-coloured name tags, few passengers could tell the transgender stewardesses apart from the other female crew.
Comment: Interesting to note the My Way slogan for the airline. I wonder if Frank Sinatra had a ladyboy BJ in mind for the last verse of the great song:
For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught
To say the things he truly feels and not the words of one who kneels
The record shows I took the blows and did it my way!
A Thai man who spread a disaster prophecy over the internet is facing legal action by the provincial administration organisation chief, who says the prediction has damaged Tak's economy.
Thongbai Khamsi, 73, a Chanthaburi resident, had publicised claims made by his late son 37 years ago that Bhumibol Dam in Tak would burst at 10pm on Dec 31, 2011. Needless to say that the prophecy proved to be bollox.
Thongbai's son Suthas, or Pla Bu , was said to be a psychic and made his prediction not long before he died at just seven years old of a brain tumour. His father claimed the boy had predicted his own death and had also foreseen the 2004
tsunami. His vision of the Bhumibol dam break included resultant major flooding in downstream areas, including Bangkok.
The prophecy made its way on to the internet and the rumour spread rapidly.
The prediction had generated panic among locals and badly damaged the province's economy, said Songkhram Manassa, president of the Tak provincial administration organisation. He filed a complaint with the local police against Thongbai, claiming
he had made a false statement and publicised it online.
A large number of visitors flocked to the dam to either take part in the New Year countdown festivities on its banks or to take photographs of the structure while it is still standing in case the prophecy comes true. Provincial authorities
arranged the official countdown event at the dam as a way to prove their confidence that the prediction is false.