Saturday, October 31, 2009

Advisers named for Thailand's SCIB bank sale

Tisco Securities and UBS were engaged yesterday as financial advisers for the sale of the 47.58 per cent of Siam City Bank (SCIB) held by the Bank of Thailand's rescue fund.
The other applicants for the job were Quant Group, Trinity Advisory 2001 and Phatra Securities.
Tongurai Limpiti, the assistant governor supervising the Financial Institutions Development Fund (FIDF), said strategy, planning and also the experience of the financialadvisers in terms of human resources and organisation were most in line with the requirements of the FIDF.
All qualifications met the terms of reference and gained the highest marks, he said.
Tisco completed the paperwork on October 22 and started meeting to prepare for the share sale on the same day.
It has been given a one-month deadline to finalise the plan.
The central bank may sell its shares in Siam City Bank in the second quarter of next year if the market is favourable, Tongurai said.
The FIDF seized the lender in the aftermath of the Asian financial crisis more than a decade ago.
SCIB is the seventh-largest bank, with Bt413.8 billion worth of assets at the end of June, according to a central bank statement.
Recently, Thanachart Bank expressed strong interest in FIDF's stake in SCIB.
Thanachart has asked for shareholder approval to increase its capital by Bt40 billion to support its intention to buy SCIB.
The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China is also a strong contender to buy the SCIB shares.

Thai travel agents report huge contraction

The Association of Thai Travel Agents (ATTA) projects international tourist arrivals to Thailand through its members will decrease by 38% to 1.5 million this year due to the persistence of global economic problems and local political instability.

Consumers crowd a display at the 17th Discovery Thailand & Discovery World 2009, which opened yesterday at Impact Muang Thong Thani. Tour operators, hotels and airlines are offering deep discounts of more than 50% at the fair that runs until Sunday. APICHART JINAKUL

Surapol Sritrakul, the association's president, said advance bookings for the high season had been meagre. ATTA expects the number of tourists the last two months of the year will be lower than in 2007, which totalled 470,000.

In the first 10 months of this year, ATTA reported tourist arrivals through its members dropped by 30% year-on-year to 1.257 million. The lowest point was October with only 89,388.

"Initially, we expected October arrivals of 140,000, slightly lower than last year's 143,746, but the strike by railway workers caused many rail-based tour groups, especially those from Malaysia and Singapore, to cancel their trips," he said.

The incident also affected European visitors who bought rail packages, as they simply moved to other countries.

Mr Surapol added that the greatest plunge in visitors came from South Korea, whose arrivals dropped by 56.5% to 70,526, followed by Japan, off by 38.4% to 135,202, and Finland, down by 37.9% to 8,095.

Arrivals from the Nordic market, an important target for tourism operators, dropped by 13% to 14,280. However, arrivals from the Middle East grew by 5.64% to 44,436. He acknowledged the Middle East is a burgeoning market.

"The challenges for this market are language and facilities in hotels, such as halal restaurants and prayer rooms. We will educate our members to focus on Muslim tourists and teach them how to penetrate this market," he said.

There are 2 billion Muslims worldwide and 658 million of them travel, he said. More than 80,000 UAE visitors come to Bumrungrad Hospital in Bangkok for medical treatment and checkups per year. These visitors are affluent and love shopping. If Thailand can offer them proper facilities and understand their culture, it will benefit local tourism.

Thailand has only 59 restaurants with halal standards and 26 hotels with halal restaurants and prayer rooms for Muslim guests.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Thai 3G auction may be delayed to Feb -regulator

* Late Jan or Feb now seen as more likely than Dec

* Telecom shares down, underperforming market (Adds details, shares reaction)

By Khettiya Jittapong and Manunphattr Dhanananphorn

BANGKOK, Oct 30 (Reuters) - Thailand's long-awaited auction of third-generation mobile phone licences could be delayed to February as the documentation process may take longer than planned, a regulatory official said on Friday.

"The appropriate timimg should be late January or early February," Settaporn Kusripitak, one of the members of the National Telecommunication Commission (NTC), told Reuters.

Concern about yet another delay pushed telecom shares down in a generally firmer market. Although a possible postponement to the first quarter of 2010 had been expected by some, repeated delays to 3G licensing over the years have spooked investors.

"This is still within our timeline expectation, but telecom stocks will be under pressure from the delay," said Kim Eng Securities analyst Solaya Na Songkhla.

She added that top mobile operator Advanced Info Service (ADVA.BK) (AIS) would be less affected than rivals by the delay due to a more favourable cost structure.

At the midsession break, AIS shares were down 1.42 percent at 87 baht, while the overall market was up 0.67 percent.

True Corp (TRUE.BK), a major shareholder of number three operator True Move, was down 1.1 percent at 3.56 baht and second-ranked Total Access Communication DTAC.BK (TACC.SI) had fallen 0.64 percent to 39 baht.

The NTC had planned to hold the 3G auctions -- expected to generate around $1.2 billion for the state -- in the middle of December.

But it is holding a second public hearing on the draft terms for the auction on Nov. 12, and Settaporn said it should then take around 45-60 days for interested operators to prepare documents, rather than the 30 days previously announced.

Licensing is seen as a key step in reforming the $4.7 billion sector because companies will pay licence fees instead of handing over a portion of their revenue to state-owned firms for the right to operate networks they built and paid for themselves, which is what happens now.

Telecoms operators are keen to receive 3G licences on the new 2.1 GHz spectrum. which analysts say should reduce their regulatory costs.

The faster 3G technology, which allows users to surf the Internet and download music with mobile handsets at faster speeds than current systems, would enable operators to tap new revenue sources in a market where almost everyone has a mobile phone.

While the mobile penetration rate is reaching 100 percent, the number of Internet users in Thailand remains low. Continued...

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Chiang Mai Exploring the old alleyways of a former kingdom's capital

An ancient moat and the remains of a red-brick city wall still surround the Old Town of Chiang Mai, which was built 700 years ago by the Lanna king Mangrai to be the kingdom's capital. In the 14th century, Lanna's golden age, the kingdom spanned the area that is now northern Thailand. The word Lanna (sometimes spelled Lan Na) -- "the country of a million rice fields" -- is still used to describe the region's architecture and cuisine.

Today, Chiang Mai's Old Town seems chockablock with tourist traps: nondescript hotels, trendy cafes, backpacker bars and tattoo parlors. Venture down its many soi (lanes or alleys), however, and another Old Town emerges, one of charming wooden houses and leafy gardens clustered around peaceful, centuries-old wats, or Buddhist temples, that still serve as spiritual and social community centers.

This tour, which begins at a traditional morning market and ends at a revered wat, skirts main streets and sticks to soi that crisscross parts of the Old Town, where life proceeds at the slow pace of long-ago decades. Along the way you'll take in religious and cultural attractions, make a couple of shopping stops and sample some Lanna cuisine.

Sunscreen is a must if you're visiting during the dry season (November through May); otherwise, bring an umbrella. Slip-on shoes will make touring wats easier. Bottled water can be purchased en route, as can delicious and energizing cut tropical fruits and fresh-squeezed orange juice sold from curbside carts. Soi are numbered and appended to the name of the major street that they run off (not all soi, however, have clear signs); and most street signs appear in the Latin alphabet as well as Thai script.


Somphet Market, at the mouth of Thanon Moon Muang Soi 6 (in Thai, thanon means road), is a lively jumble of stalls selling fresh ingredients and prepared delicacies. It's the perfect introduction to northern Thailand's distinctive cuisine, which dotes on pork, incorporates unusual cultivated and wild herbs and vegetables, and features sticky (glutinous) rice as the main starch. Just outside the market along either side of Soi 6 are cubbyhole shops serving soup noodles and khao tom (rice porridge with pork or chicken). Vendors display luscious grilled pork sausages, packets of sticky rice and vegetables to eat with nam prik (dips), plus Thai sweets like sticky rice with coconut custard wrapped in a banana leaf and miniature banana breads. A short walk up the soi is Real Coffee, a pleasant cafe where you can sit inside or out and wash down your breakfast with a cappuccino.


Continue west on Soi 6 until you reach the first cross soi. Then turn left onto this soi, which doesn't have a sign. You'll pass a clutch of teeny cafes, bars and massage and tattoo parlors, though most are closed at this early hour. The soi ends at relatively busy Thanon Ratrithi. Turn right, and then left at the first intersection, which is Ratchapakhinai Road.

A few steps up the block is Wat Umong Mahathen, which was completed in the late 14th century. The Lanna origins of its small viharn (the main prayer and meeting room of a wat) are evident in the tiered, flaring roofline. A series of colorful murals inside, starting above the entrance and continuing clockwise, depict the Buddha's many past lives. More murals decorate the walls of the wat's ubosot, or ordination hall.


Exit Wat Umong Mahathen through its rear gate and you'll be on a short soi that ends at Wat Duang Di, a late-15th century temple. Stop at the cafe Baan Rimruan, consisting of several tables set in a garden fronting a quaint wooden house on your left. The owners, a friendly elderly couple, serve cold drinks and sometimes also light dishes.

Wat Duang Di (its name translates as "Good Luck Monastery") features a tall, narrow viharn set in an enclosure of mature longan trees, an Asian variety that begins to bear clusters of golden brown, litchi-like fruit in April or May.

Adorned with beautiful gilded-wood carvings outside, the viharn is rather plain within -- more in keeping with central-Thai architectural style than northern. For instance, there are no supporting pillars; the roof is supported by thick wooden crossbeams instead. Note the square, stucco structure with a three-tier roof to the left of the viharn; it's a repository for historic scriptures.


From Wat Duang Di, turn left and go along the curving soi; after a few minutes you'll hit busy Thanon Phra Pokklao. Across the street is the Three Kings Monument, which portrays Mangrai (sometimes spelled Mengrai) with his allies, the kings of Sukothai and Phayao, as they discuss the layout of his new capital.

The grand early 20th-century building behind the monument once housed provincial offices and is now the Chiang Mai City Arts and Cultural Center (open 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., closed Mondays; admission $2.70). Though not all of the Center's exhibits -- which document the area's history from pre-Chiang Mai to modern times -- have signs in English, many include English-language audio guides. Don't miss the short video clips of elderly Chiang Mai residents describing daily life in the city, back in the days before it gained a spot on the international tourist map.


Head south on Thanon Phra Pokklao. When you reach Thanon Ratchadamnoen, cross diagonally to the intersection's southeast corner, where the Lanna Architecture Center (open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., closed weekends; free admission) is partially hidden by a white stucco wall.

The late-19th-century building, restored and maintained by Chiang Mai University's architecture faculty, is a lovely combination of Western colonial and Lanna architecture, with grand arches on its ground floor and an upper level built in the style of a traditional Chiang Mai wood house. Rotating exhibits about Lanna architecture are staged in a small gallery on the upper level.

Exit the Architecture Center and turn left, retracing your steps to Thanon Phra Pokklao, and cross the street to Wat Phan Tao, which is much admired for its teakwood viharn, one of the last all-wood wat buildings in Chiang Mai.

The structure, formerly a royal residence, was moved to the temple grounds in 1875. Above its entrance is a large carving depicting a peacock -- the symbol of Chiang Mai kings -- over a curled-up dog, the zodiac animal for its former royal resident, Chao Mahawong, who ruled from 1846-54. Inside are wooden pillars lacquered a striking crimson; a large, low platform with rows of brass bowls (monks gather here for prayers); and rustic block-printed prayer flags suspended from the ceiling behind a statue of a serenely smiling Buddha.

Next door is Wat Chedi Luang, the Monastery of the Great Stupa. In 1411, when it was completed, the temple was the largest building in Lanna. Legend has it that it was built after King Saen Muang Ma had a vision to build a chedi as high as a dove could fly. (A chedi or stupa, sometimes called a pagoda, is a dome-shaped shrine meant to hold the ashes of an important person.)

This religious monument is still largely intact. Its 60-meter- high stepped chedi (the original rose 90 meters) was built to enshrine the remains of King Saen Muang Ma's father. At the chedi's east side, monks wait on benches to talk with visitors. At "Monk Chat," as it is known, you can find out about monastery life while the monks practice their English. Above the benches, a sign says, "If you only look and walk away we feel disappointed."

Wat Chedi Luang also boasts an auspicious view of sacred Doi Suthep (Mount Suthep), a famous pilgrimage site in Thailand for the temple Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, which sits on the slopes of the mountain.

12:30 P.M. HUEN PHEN

Time for lunch. Exit Wat Chedi Luang through its back gate, turn left and continue to Huen Phen (112 Thanon Ratchamanka; lunch for two, $7). Opened more than 30 years ago as a street stall selling somtam (green papaya salad), this casual restaurant specializes in northern Thai dishes. Place your order at the counter before sitting down.

Good bets include the laab khua (chopped pork with fresh herbs and dried spices, served with fresh vegetables); jaw pakkat (pork and flowering mustard in a sour turmeric-scented broth);nam prik ong (tomato and pork relish reminiscent of Italian meat ragu) or nam prik num(pounded roasted green chilies), moo tawt (crispy fried pork), and saa makhya, or roasted eggplant salad. Somtam is a must here, and eat everything with sticky rice -- but skip the khao soi (noodles in coconut curry soup); there are better places in town to sample this classic Chiang Mai dish.


From Huen Phen cross Ratchamanka Road (sometimes spelled Rachamankha), walk to the right a few meters, and duck down Ratchamanka Soi 6, on your left. Turn west (right) at Samlarn Soi 7 and continue walking across the main street. You'll pass Wat Puak Hom, with its crumbling chedi and somewhat neglected, scrubby grounds, and hit a "T" in the road; turn right here.

If you're in the mood for pottery shopping, turn left at Samlarn Soi 6. Mengrai Kilns, at number 79/2, is a sprawling shop overflowing with celadon and other ceramic styles to suit every taste and budget and it can arrange shipping. Otherwise, cross the street and keep straight, then take a left at the "T." Soon you're back on Ratchamanka, where you can have your future told by a fortune-wheel-wielding woman to your right and, just beyond, taste kafe booran (Thai coffee made the old-fashioned way, in a sock drip; booran means "ancient") at a roadside stall. Or stop at Wat Mae Tang, where two energetic myna birds -- a starling indigenous to Southeast Asia -- recite a steady chorus of "sawatdee jao," a common northern Thai greeting.


Cross Ratchamanka and continue straight ahead. After passing the Northern Thai School for the Blind you'll emerge onto Samlarn Soi 1, where more tempting local crafts await, if you turn right, at Tai-Lue Princess (31/9 Samlarn Soi 1). The shop's textiles -- made by those members of the Tai-Lue ethnic minority group, originally from China's Yunnan province who now live in northern Thailand -- come in eye-popping colors like magenta, orange, lime green and turquoise, a change of pace from the neutral-hued textiles available elsewhere in town. A striped cottonpatoong (woman's long sarong) costs less than $20; a gorgeous, one-of-a-kind, hand-embroidered silk wall hanging that took two to three years to make costs $6,000.


Continue east on Samlarn Soi 1. If, by now, your feet are tired, stop at The Oasis Spa for a foot massage (4 Thanon Samlarn; 66-539-20111; best to reserve two hours in advance). The entrance is through a wooden gate at the corner of Thanon Samlarn.

Otherwise, turn left at the corner of Thanon Samlarn and walk about five minutes to Wat Phra Singh, Chiang Mai's principal monastery. Built in 1345, it is most famous as the home of the Phra Singh image, a venerated Buddha figure of the north.

Skip the large central viharn -- it's relatively new, having been constructed in the 1920s, and not particularly appealing -- and head for the charming small viharn located nearby (if you're facing the central viharn, the smaller one is to the left).

Called the Viharn Lai Kham (the "gold-patterned" viharn) and built in the mid-14th century, the smaller prayer and meeting room boasts a dramatic, flared triple-tiered roof and a brilliantly gilded and carved facade. Inside walls are adorned with early 19th-century murals illustrating tales from the "Jataka," a body of literature from India about the previous lives of the Buddha.

Just behind the small viharn is a tall chediwith, carvings of elephants along its square base. On one side is a hand-cranked pulley that carries a bottle of water to the top, where the container then turns upside down and douses the chedi. End your tour by leaving a donation in the box, and gain merit by giving the chedi a bath.

—Robyn Eckhardt is a writer in Kuala Lumpur.

Monday, October 26, 2009

How to Make a Thailand Visa run to Vientiane, Laos

It somehow seems hard to find concrete information on the web regarding how to make a Thailand visa run to Vientiane, Laos. I have been on two visa runs to Vientiane recently and have taken notes to show the costs and how it really is not a very difficult process. The first time I went, I obtained a 2 month tourist visa. The second time I got a job teaching English in Bangkok and went to Vientiane to apply for a non-immigrant B visa so that my job could then apply for my Thai work permit.

Vientiane, Laos

Vientiane, Laos

I have had positive experiences both times and things have run smoothly. There are a number of ways to get to Laos but this is what I chose to do.

1. Bus from Khao San Road Bangkok, to Vientiane, Laos

Bus leaves daily at a time between 7 pm and 8 pm (no one knows for sure when so be early). I arrived at Khao San road Bangkok around 5pm to purchase the ticket and then hung out till it was time to leave. Any of the tour agencies will sell the ticket and it will cost between800 and 900 Baht which will cover everything all the way to the center of Vientiane, Laos.

2. At the Laos border you need to apply for a visa

To get a Laos visa you need:

  • Filled out application form which the bus will give you.
  • A passport photo for the application.
  • Payment (For US citizens it was $36), Try to pay with USD if you can because in Baht they overcharge.

3. Across the Border

When you get across the border there will be a bus waiting for you to carry you to Vientiane center about 30 minutes from the border. This is all included in the bus fee from Bangkok. You should arrive in Vientiane at about 9-10 am the next day.

4. Tuktuk in Vientiane to the Thai Embassy

When the bus drops you off, immediately hop onto a jumbo tuktuk and tell the driver to take you to the Thailand Embassy. Should cost anywhere from 100-200 baht round trip. The embassy stops accepting visa inquiries at 12 pm so don’t lallygag.

5. At the Thai Embassy

At the Thai embassy before you do anything pick up a number. Then grab the form and fill out all the information asked for. Along with the form you will need:

For the tourist visa:

  • Application (from the embassy)
  • Passport
  • 2 passport photos
  • Copy of passport
  • Payment if needed

For the non-immigrant B visa for my English teaching job in Bangkok, I needed:

  • Application (from the embassy)
  • Passport
  • 2 passport photos
  • copy of passport
  • payment of 2000 Thai baht
  • copy of University degree
  • copy of TESOL certificate (bring original)
  • packet of official papers from employer

6. Place to Spend the Night

Ride back to the Vientiane fountain where there are loads of hostels and hotels to stay at. I stayed at the Saysouly guest house which runs 300 baht per night for a double room. The guest house is quite adequate but there are loads of other options as well if you have a look around.

7. Free Time

After taking care of business in the morning, the main thing to do in Vientiane is relax and eat. At sunset be sure to check out one of the main joys of Vientiane; having a meal of grilled fish and a beerlao while watching the sunset over the Mekong River. There are loads of eateries set up on the banks of the river. I would also highly recommend drowning yourself in all 16 inches of a Laos style sandwich, known as the Laos Insanewich.

8. Passport Pickup

The next day you need to return from 1pm to 3pm in the afternoon to pick up your passport with the visa included. Take a look at your passport and visa to make sure it is correct.

9. Return Bus to Bangkok

Again, any of the tour agencies in Vientiane will sell you a tourist VIP bus all the way back to Bangkok, to either Mochit Station or Khao San Road. The price should cost 700 to 800 Baht. It will take you accross the border to Thailand, hassle free, and you will arrive in Bangkok anywhere from 5 am to 6 am the next day.

Here is what I spent in 2 days and 3 nights:

  • VIP Bus (2 ways)- 1600
  • Laos Visa $36 about 1200 (note: if you pay Thai baht it will be more like 1400)
  • Thai non-immigrant B visa- 2000
  • 1 night room- 300/2- 150
  • Food and drinks- 500

Total price to get a Thai Non-Immigrant B Visa in Vientiane Laos-5450 Baht

Hope this is a helpful guide to making a visa run from Bangkok to Vientiane.

If you do have more time to spend in Laos it is a marvelous treat to spend time in Luang Prabang or boat the Mekong River for a couple days.

For more information check out the official website of the Thai Embassy in Vientiane, Laos.

-Migration Mark


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Leaders likely to approve Asean infrastructure fund

CHA-AM : A planned Asean infrastructure fund to channel the region's savings into infrastructure investments is likely to be endorsed by Asean leaders at their summit this weekend.

Commerce Minister Porntiva Nakasai said the fund would mainly finance infrastructure development and road networks to facilitate production and logistics.

Deputy Commerce Minister Alongkorn Ponlaboot said that China and Japan had also proposed to participate in the fund but details were not disclosed.

Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij earlier proposed each country contribute to the fund based on its readiness, with financing from direct budget allocations, foreign reserve holdings or even private-sector investments.

Countries could tap the fund to finance domestic infrastructure plans, with the Asian Development Bank a guarantor for bond issues.

However, at an Asean economic ministers' meeting in August, China promised a US$10-billion China-Asean Investment Co-operation Fund to support infrastructure, notably for road, rail and port facilities where gaps existed in the region.

Mr Alongkorn said the China-Asean fund could supplement the Asean fund in which the Japan International Co-operation Agency(JICA) has also proposed to participate.

He said Thailand had proposed two road projects linking Mae Sot with Mawlamyine in Burma via Myawaddy, and Kanchanaburi and Dawei in Burma.

In a related development, Asean economic ministers also agreed to speed up the development of customs procedures, tariff systems and technology under the Asean single-window scheme to facilitate trade, and a green lane to facilitate transport in order to reduce production costs.

Arin Jira, chairman of the Asean Business Advisory Council, said the private sector also urged governments to set up an SME Fund to provide soft loans to help liquidity-starved small businesses.

Asean governments are also being urged to accelerate cutting import tariffs under the Asean Free Trade Area, especially for the agricultural sector, in which most rates are due to fall to between zero and 5% next year.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Thai Banks mint money in Q3 2009

Most banks delivered stunning net profits in the third quarter due mainly to decline in funding and operating costs and increase in fee income.

Bank of Ayudhya was the best performer in the third quarter. Its consolidated quarterly net profit jumped 114 per cent year-on-year to Bt2.18 billion, thanks to a 135per cent surge in non-interest income.

"Although loan portfolio remained flat as a result of the weak economy, net interest and dividend income increased 2 per cent while noninterest expenses grew only 7 per cent. The bank's costtoincome ratio thus improved markedly from 61 per cent down to 52 per cent," the bank's president and chief executive officer, Tan Kong Khoon, said in a statement.

For the ninemonth period ended September 30, the bank recorded a consolidated net profit of Bt4.96 billion, a 22-per-cent year-on-year increase.

The improved ninemonth earnฌings could be ascribed to a 55-per-cent increase in noninterest income, and a 2percent increase in net interest and dividend income.

The thirdquarter earnings of four small-sized banks - ACL Bank, Thanachart Capital, Tisco Financial Group, and Kiatnakin Bank - grew more than 10 per cent.

ACL Bank showed an 80.94-per-cent year-on-year increase in its third-quarter financial results to Bt234.58 million while its ninemonth net profit soared 39.71 per cent from the same period last year to Bt448.66 million.

Siam Commercial Bank (SCB) reported unaudited consolidated third-quarter net profit of Bt5.2 bilฌlion, up 7.7 per cent from the same period last year, because its noninterest income shot up 30.1 per cent, mainly from fee income and investment profit. The slight increase of 1.4 per cent yearonyear in its expenditures also gave the bank's quarterly earnings a boost.

Non-performing loan (NPL) decreased to 4.7 per cent of outฌstanding credit as at the end of September from 5.2 per cent at the end of last year.

However, the bank's net profit during the first nine months this year was down by 8.3 per cent to Bt15.98 billion from Bt17.43 billion during the same period last year.

Vichit Suraphongchai, chief executive officer of SCB, said the main factor boosting the net profits of the bank was fee income, especially from the creditcard business, bancassurance, and mutual funds.

Fee income in the third quarter was Bt4.85 billion, up 12.8 per cent on year.

State-owned Krung Thai Bank (KTB)'s thirdquarter net profit was Bt4.25 billion, up 9.5 per cent from Bt3.88 billion in the third quarter of last year. The net profit in the first nine months of this year was at Bt9.47 billion, decreasing by 4.7 per cent from Bt9.94 billion from the same period of last year.

CIMB Thai Bank's quarterly net profit amounted to Bt461 million, down 54.3 per cent from the same period last year to Bt10.09 billion. However, the bank had a net loss of Bt40 billion for the first nine months this year, compared with a net loss of Bt974 million in the same period last year.

Subhak Siwaraksa, president and CEO of CIMB Thai Bank, said yesterday that the bank's netinterest margin (NIM) widened from 2 per cent to 2.4 per cent in the third quarter this year because the bank's deposits fell to Bt97 billion from Bt160 billion at the end of last year.

The bank expected to restructure its deposits by increasing current and savings accounts to 50 per cent of total from the current 25 per cent. As a result, the bank's NIM was expected to widen further.

He said the bank was expected to record net profit in hundreds of millions of baht and be able to pay dividend from this year's earnings.

The country's largest bank by assets, Bangkok Bank (BBL) announced that its third quarter net profit of Bt5.07 billion was up 17.45 per cent on year from Bt4.32 billion in the same period last year.

Higher fee income and lower operating costs were the main reasons for the improved earnings.

For the first nine months, BBL reported net profits of Bt14.8 billion, marginally down by 1.2 per cent from the same period of last year.

Kasikornbank recorded net profit of Bt3.72 billion in the third quarter, down 3 per cent from the same period of last year at Bt3.84 billion.

Meanwhile, its net profit for the first nine months dropped 10.5 per cent yearonyear to Bt11.22 billion.

TMB Bank reported net profit of Bt526 million in the third quarter of this year, down 68 per cent from Bt1.66 billion in the third quarter of last year.

For the first nine months of this year, the bank's net profit was Bt1.36 billion, down 69 per cent from Bt4.41 billion in the same period last year.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Miss Thailand 2009

Beauty and Beyond

Under this year's concept, the Miss Thailand 2009 contest will search for someone with a good heart as well as brains and looks

Little girls dream of being a beauty queen, and at the national level there are three titles to pursue: Miss Thailand, Miss Thailand Universe, and Miss Thailand World.

The Old Vajiravudh Students Association revived the national beauty contest in 1964, and eight Miss Thailands were crowned till 1972.

A dream come true for Chutima 'Kaimook' Durongdej, she became Miss Thailand Universe 2009, which took her to the Miss Universe pageant in the Bahamas, to bring back home the Miss Photogenic Universe Award. Channel 7 has been running this beauty contest since 2000 with Kaimook as the 10th Miss Thailand Universe.

Entertainment giant, BEC-Tero sends their beauty queens to the Miss World contest. The Miss Thailand World 2009 final will be televised tomorrow night on Channel 3, from 10:30pm, and the winner will go to the Miss World contest in December in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The original Miss Thailand though is organised by the Old Vajiravudh Students Association, which now has MCOT and Modernine TV as its partners in broadcasting the contest. Also taking place this month, the Miss Thailand 2009 attracted 310 applicants but only 18 hopefuls have made it to the final on October 28.

The winner will join the Miss Thailand Hall of Fame, which includes Apasra Hongsakula, Cheranand Savetanand, Kanok-orn Boonma, Porntip Nakhirunkanok and Sawinee Pakaranang.

The first Miss Thailand, then Miss Siam, was Kanya Tiensawang. Beauty and politics seem to be of two different worlds but the Miss Siam contest was actually a spin-off from the change in the country's ruling system. Held on December 10, 1934, at Saranrom Royal Park, it was a highlight of a fair to celebrate the Constitution and to promote democracy.

Apasra Hongsakula, Miss Thailand 1964 and Miss Universe 1965.

After Kanya Tiensawang, there were four other Miss Siam, before changing the title to Miss Thailand in 1939. The annual beauty contests were cancelled during World War II, then resumed from 1948-1954. The government then stopped organising the Constitution fair as well as the pageant.

Its comeback a decade later not only gave the country a Miss Thailand but a Miss Universe. The beauty contest was revived by the Old Vajiravudh Students Association, which after two years of crowning a Miss Vajiravudh renamed it as Miss Thailand.

Finishing high school in Penang, Apasra Hongsakula entered the Miss Thailand 1964 contest, and after winning the title, she went on to become the first Miss Universe from Thailand.

''It was the first time for Thailand to participate in the Miss Universe contest. Thus, the new age of the Miss Thailand beauty contest began to follow an international standard of beauty, for example height was important as well as communication and language skills. Miss Thailand took on a greater responsibility as a cultural and tourism ambassador to promote Thailand to the rest of the world,'' she said.

The judges didn't overlook beauty and they were backstage taking a close look of the contestants, who had to get up very early to come to Saranrom Royal Park. ''We didn't even have the time to finish putting on makeup, and so the judges virtually saw our true beauty and they even looked at our hands,'' said Apasra, who's now a spa entrepreneur.

MCOT’s vice president marketing, Kematat Paladesh.

She emphasises that Miss Thailand should be as beautiful from within, and the position will give her a great opportunity to give back to society.

After Apasra, Porntip Nakhirunkanok, now married to an American tycoon, was the second Thai to win the Miss Universe title in 1988.

Changing times bring a different definition of beauty, and today, the prestigious Miss Thailand title asks for more than having a pretty face and a perfect figure.

''Beauty contests were regarded as wethee kha orn referring to a competition of physical features, like nice legs. The Miss Thailand contest no longer has a swimsuit competition, and so it looks beyond external beauty. Contestants shouldn't only be sweetly smiling on stage but can smartly answer questions and express their viewpoints,'' said Miss Thailand 2008, Panprapa Yongtrakul, a fourth year medical student.

Over the years, more and more highly-educated contestants have contended for the title and previous Miss Thailand with a medical background include Dr Apisamai Srirangsan (Miss Thailand 1999) and Lalana Kongtoranin (Miss Thailand 2006).

The 18 finalists of the Miss Thailand 2009 contest. The winner will be announced on Wednesday, October 28.

After winning the title, Panprapa managed well both university schooling and the obligations of being a Miss Thailand. ''As Miss Thailand, I have contributed to society by promoting culture and tourism and helping charity. It also gave me opportunities to do things that I had always wanted to do like newsreading,'' said Panprapa, who's a Channel 9 newscaster on Saturday and Sunday nights.

Panprapa was the first Miss Thailand under the cooperation between the Old Vajiravudh Students Association and MCOT. In its second year, the producer has put together a modernised beauty contest-cum-reality show to search for a digital age beauty queen.

Kematat Paladesh, MCOT's vice president of marketing, noted that the Miss Thailand 2008 was a phenomenal beauty pageant since the contestants had fan clubs.

The reality TV show lets the audience get to know more about their personalities, and so the audience may develop a liking for a particular contestant and join her fan club,'' he said. ''Moreover, this year the contestants will be writing diaries, blogs, and tweeting to further reach out to people who go online to update on the beauty contest.''

Panprapa Yongtrakul, Miss Thailand 2008.

The reality show will even feature commentators to advise contestants on personal developments. And of course, SMS voting will be a part of the pageant to find a Miss Popular Vote.

Affirming that it's not an Academy Fantasia-like gimmick, Kematat said: ''Audience participation makes it more interesting whereas the reality show and the online content will allow the contestants to express their thoughts and feelings, adding value to themselves.''

From October 18-27, social, cultural, religious and charitable activities will have the 18 finalists proving themselves that they fulfill the qualities of being Miss Thailand. Under this year's concept, the Miss Thailand 2009 contest will search not only for someone with beauty, brains, and special abilities, but also a good heart.

Miss Thailand 2009 reality show airs on Oct 21, 22, 23, 26, 27 on Modernine TV, from 8-8:30am. The final to be held at Aksra Theatre will be televised on Oct 28, from 10:15pm. For more information, visit

Crowning glory

Burin Wongsanguan with the Miss Thailand 2008 crown.

A painter, an architect, a publisher, a PR man and even a filmmaker, Burin Wongsanguan has done so many things in his life. Long associated with the Miss Thailand beauty pageant, he even scouted contestants, including Saengduean Maenwong, who won the title in 1968. Moreover, she took home the dazzling crown designed by him.

Burin became involved in designing the Miss Thailand crown in 1966. Beforehand, it was a tiara; for example, Apasra Hongsakul's was a silver tiara with 200 diamonds.

Inspired by the Miss America crown, he designed a bigger and more majestic crown with an even level across it. While probably making it too heavy for a beauty queen's head, she couldn't complain.

Lighter and sloping down the sides designs followed. Not only did he think up their shapes and proportions, much of the jewellery on them were his designs. Notably, Miss Thailand crowns feature iconic blue jewels, which represent the "ocean blue" concept and Vajiravudh spirit.

"Each crown has its own history and was designed to represent an important occasion of the year. For example, the Miss Thailand 2006 crown, worn by Lalana Kongtoranin, had gold diamonds to mark the 60th anniversary of His Majesty's accession to the throne," said Burin, whose other post-retirement activities include reviving ballroom dancing.

At 73, he continues to be the crown designer for this year's contest. A huge crown made from silver immersed with platinum, it's adorned with precious diamonds and pearls while its platform boasts a lotus petal shape to portray elegance and purity. Taking three months to make, it costs around 400,000 baht.

The winner of the Miss Thailand 2009 pageant will receive the glittering crown, a million baht, a trophy, and a car. Burin, however, believes that the crown is a real treasure to a beauty queen because it brings out an aura whenever she wears it.

This year’s crown has over 1,000 diamonds and pearls.