Monday, November 30, 2009

SET targets Bt100 bn market cap

The Stock Exchange of Thailand is concentrating on boosting its market capitalisation by Bt100 billion next year, mainly through more initial public offerings. With the listing of state enterprise subsidiaries, the Thai market's weighting in the Morgan Stanley Capital Index would increase.

SET president Patareeya Benjapolchai said yesterday that the bourse's strategy to boost the market's competitiveness and the entire economy would focus on market quality, integrity, liquidity and IT systems to accommodate future expansion and demutualisation.

Daily turnover is expected to reach Bt17.5 billion to Bt22 billion.

For market quality and integrity, the exchange will focus on IPOs. As of October 7, only 31 companies had market caps over US$1 billion, which is fewer than in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia.

As the 31 companies' combined market cap was $128 billion, the market's weighting in the MSCI Index was only 1.9 per cent, down from 3-4 per cent in the past.

In Hong Kong, 250 companies with market caps over $1 billion each have a combined market cap of $3.3 trillion.

Taiwan's 29 companies' market cap was $457 billion, Singapore's 63 companies' market cap was $409 billion, Malaysia's 49 companies' market cap was $208 billion and Indonesia's 41 companies' market cap was $176 billion.

Vichate Tantiwanich, chief marketing officer for issuer and listing, said so far this year the exchange's market cap has risen Bt30 billion to Bt40 billion. Next year, the value would be Bt100 billion, excluding companies seeking a dual listing.

The SET will target large companies holding contracts with the public sector.

The State Enterprise Policy Committee has also shortlisted 10 subsidiaries of state enterprises with listing potential. Their values range from Bt3 billion to Bt10 billion. They include Post Office, a unit of Thailand Post, and Star Petroleum Refining, which is owned by PTT.

"We estimated the Bt100 billion mark through discussions with companies and their financial advisers. The goal would be achieved if state enterprise subsidiaries are listed, and the government is encouraging concession holders to list. We want to raise the weight in the MSCI Index," he said.

Transaction value from institutional investors would be increased from 10 per cent of market cap to 12 per cent. More transactions are expected in derivatives, following amendments in rules to facilitate institutional investors.

The Bank of Thailand recently allowed investors to use foreign-currency collateral, while the Government Pension Fund and Social Security Fund are allowed to increase equity investment, said Sopawadee Lertmanaschai, chief marketing officer for markets and post-trade services.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Expats fall in love with Thailand but not the language

If you are an expatriate, Thailand is the best country to find love - however, it's also one of the hardest places for learning the local language.

Canada, Australia and Thailand are regarded by expatriates as the premier places in the world to live and love, according to the second annual expatriate experience survey by HSBC Bank International.

Canada has the best quality of life and is among the easiest places in the world to integrate with the local population, according to the survey of 3,146 people working in 30 different industries and 50 countries. Australia and Thailand come next on the list.

One in five expats has found love, with Thailand being the most likely place to fall in love followed by Germany and Brazil. Almost half of Thailand's expats say that they have found love.

Asia emerged as the place to go for making friends, with Thailand ranked first, followed by Vietnam, Hong Kong and Malaysia. More than half of the expats questioned in the survey - 58 per cent - have lived abroad for more than five years.

The top three countries for settling down are South Africa, Thailand and Canada, where expats have lived for more than five years.

The survey found that for expats, a higher income does not necessarily mean a better quality of life, said Alan Smith, head of international wealth management for HSBC.

Those earning less are also more likely to find love, with expats earning under US$60,000 (1.9 million baht) more likely to find love abroad than any other group. Similarly, expats over the age of 55 will have a greater chance of finding their life partner - one in four expats around the world aged 55 and over have found love or a life partner while living abroad.

Expats living in English-speaking countries have less trouble with language barriers, regardless of their origins. Learning the local language remains the biggest expat challenge of all.

While Thailand is seen as the easiest place to make friends, it is ranked 26th for ease of learning the local language.

For ease in finding a school, Thailand comes fourth; organising finances, 11th. For arranging healthcare, it is ranked second; finding somewhere to live, first. For setting up utilities, 9th; making local friends, 16th; and arranging accommodation, second.

Last year Germany, Canada and Spain were the top three countries deemed to have the best lifestyle for expats.

In another online survey, the British rated Thailand their No.1 holiday destination of 10 countries.

A total of 1,241 Britons responded to the survey, which polled 24,000 people around the world.

Thailand scooped 25% of British votes and the United States 11% but France came last, scoring a miserable 2%.

Delights of the Singapore to Bangkok 'jungle railway'

The two-day train journey from Singapore to Bangkok offers many delights including a variety of local - sometimes rather pungent - delicacies, as Christine Finn discovered.

Paddy fields seen from the train
The train travels through the countryside of Malaysia and Thailand

One of the biggest questions before a long train ride is about eating. By that I mean not only what food there will be, but whether there will be any at all.

On long-distance trains in America, Japan, China and Siberia, I feasted on delicious finds en route, but journeys like these always start with a stock-up of unfamiliar snacks at the station kiosks.

In Singapore's art deco terminal, bound for Bangkok, I spied something unusual: durian flavoured popcorn.

Now, the durian is a fruit which provokes abject delight or utter disgust. Its pungency is legendary: a mixture of cheese, onions, sherry, rotting meat and drains.

Author Anthony Burgess wrote that it was "like eating sweet raspberry blancmange in a lavatory". The celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain described it far worse: "Like French-kissing your dead grandmother". Oddly, he is still a huge fan.

So potent is the aroma from its large, fleshy lobes that the green, spiny fruit is banned from hotels, hospitals, planes and most other public transport, trains included.

Novices, like me, start the relationship cautiously.

I first sampled it as an ice-cream flavouring. So how could I resist durian popcorn? I bought one of the luridly coloured packets, tucked it into my bag and started my two-day journey.

Spicy rice

Inside train carriage

Sitting in the dining car with mugs of teak-coloured tea and fresh papaya, time flew by in a jungle tunnel.

The first part of my trip to Bangkok began on the jungle train, which burrows through the heart of Malaysia to the east coast.

Rail aficionados love the west-coast route from Singapore via Butterworth and Kuala Lumpur, a journey through British colonial history.

But I fancied fewer rubber plantations and more mystery.

I clambered into my second-class sleeper.

It was comfortable but the upper berth was a little cramped for a picnic of snacks, so I went in search of spicy rice in the dining-car.

Back in my bunk, night fell quickly and the train powered into the dark, as Rudyard Kipling's jungle tales worked on my imagination.

The dawn barely broke through the dense vegetation.

Sitting in the dining car with mugs of teak-coloured tea and fresh papaya, time flew by in a jungle tunnel.

We reached the end of my first line at Wakaf Bharu, and the durian popcorn was still intact in my rucksack.

Off the train and to the border by taxi.

Thai green curry

I crossed into Thailand on foot.

At Sunghai Kolok station, I bought a ticket for the afternoon train to Bangkok. It was a long wait, I was hungry and the durian popcorn was burning a hole in my bag.

Map showing Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia

But the prospect of something freshly cooked was suddenly more compelling. I walked into town and feasted on Thai green curry, watching the world go by.

Back on board, I had joyfully snagged a lower bunk in second class.

"Dinner?" A young Thai man with a long pony-tail and eyes made up like a peacock's tail came to my seat with a menu.

It was one of my most enjoyable train meals ever, memorable also because this time armed guards were patrolling past my plate.

The previous month a train had been targeted by terrorists. But my tensest moment was a light one: a soldier got his rifle trapped in my compartment door and we shared a nervous smile.

Later an attendant - with a magician's flourish - conjured my seat into a single bed, with fine white cotton sheets and a thick white throw as seen at boutique hotels.

I smiled "goodnight" to the woman across the compartment, drew the curtain and slept better than I have in many a stationary bed.

Dawn broke on villages, paddy fields and limestone crags. Children were walking to school, motorbikes coursing across the landscape. Soon we were cruising up the east coast of Thailand, in sight of the sea.

Fishy porridge

We were running two, maybe three, hours late.

Packet of durian-flavoured popcorn

Three weeks later, back in England, the durian popcorn is still unopened

My fellow-travellers were getting tetchy and I was getting hungry. I searched for the durian popcorn.

But I wondered whether I should risk unleashing this incendiary flavour.

As I deliberated, the train stopped at a station full of hawkers bringing food onboard.

"Try!" said a fellow passenger pushing a bowl of fishy porridge into my hands.

Glutinous rice, shrimps and spicy green vegetables. Delicious.

I arrived at Bangkok station still reclining on my white-draped sofa-bed. I had promised myself a Thai beer and the noodle classic, pad Thai, before heading for my plane.

Three weeks later, back in England, the durian popcorn is still unopened.

I gave it to a friend and it has pride of place on his mantelpiece. He loves the lurid illustration on the packet and is waiting for an occasion to open it.

But he has never heard of durian. So, how much should I tell him?

How to listen to: From Our Own Correspondent

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Story by story at the programme website

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Thailand's Elite Card on the auction block

The cabinet on Tuesday assigned the Finance Ministry and National Economic and Social Development Board to draft conditions for the auction of Thailand Privilege Cards Co (TPC), operator of the Thailand Elite Card scheme, deputy government spokesman Vachara Kannikar said.

Mr Vachara said the intention is for a private firm to take over the scheme, which was launched by the Thaksin Shinawatra administration. The drafting of the auction conditions would be done within a month and the auction completed in two months.

He said Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva told the cabinet that some private firms had shown an interest in buying TPC and taking over its debt, on the condition that the government waive visa regulations for card members.

If there was no sale of TPC to the private sector in three months, the government would dissolve the company and transfer its membership to the care of the Tourism Authority of Thailand. No new members would be accepted, the spokesman said.

The cabinet also assigned the Finance Ministry and TAT to check the status of the existing 2,570 Thailand Elite Card members, since 795 of them were believed to reside in Thailand in contravention of the membership rules.

The Thailand Elite Card scheme was launched by the Thaksin government in 2003. The cards promised fast-track immigration, discounts at luxury resorts and golf courses, and many other perks. The scheme was intended to attract the world's weathy and generate high revenue.

But after six years, there are only 2,570 members, and the TPC, set up by TAT to run the scheme, had a crippling net loss of 1.4 billion baht.

Bangkok Faces Grim Future as Waters Rise

17 November 2009

Monsoonal floods in Bangkok, Thailand
Monsoonal floods in Bangkok, Thailand
Built along the banks of the Chao Praya river as it nears the ocean, Bangkok has long been vulnerable to flooding. Poor urban planning and careless expansion have made the problem worse. And now, climate change eventually could help swamp the city.

The late rainy season storm sweeps across Bangkok, sending sheets of rain down, forcing traffic to a crawl, and quickly flooding low-lying areas.

Warning: water rising

Flooding is a regular feature of this city of 10 million. Usually the water drains away within a few hours. But some climate experts and city planners say future floods may cause lasting damage because of rising sea waters.

Batteries of reports warn of the threat of rising waters to this city and other low-lying communities. The conservation group WWF lists Bangkok alongside Dhaka, Manila, Jakarta, Calcutta, Phnom Penh, Ho Chi Minh City and Shanghai as some of the most vulnerable to massive flooding.

And the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on climate change lists Bangkok among the 20 major cities at risk of being swamped by rising sea levels.

Samith Dharmasaroja is the former head of Thailand's metrological department. He gained fame by warning that Thailand's coasts were vulnerable to tsunamis.

The warnings were ignored until the deadly December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Now Samith warns that rising sea levels could swamp Bangkok within two decades.

He says the issue has received little public attention, and unless something is done, Bangkok could be flooded permanently.

"Yes lost forever. Some try to say well forget it because we will move our capital to somewhere else. But it's not that easy," Samith noted. "Moving a capital with 10 million people somewhere; not only the people [have to be moved] you have many constructions - many universities, many government offices, office building, hospitals, and so on. The old historical building - how can you move everything - it would be underwater?"

Preparative measures

Samith says the government should consider building an 80-kilometer long system of dikes at the mouth of the Chao Phraya River basin to hold back rising tides. He estimates it would cost more than $3 billion.

Global warming is contributing to rising sea levels, because of melting ice at the poles and the thermal expansion of the water. The issue will be on the agenda at the global climate talks in Copenhagen next month.

Negotiators at the talks, however, are not expected to reach a binding agreement to limit emissions of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, which are produced by activities such as burning oil. Nor are they expected to agree on aid to developing countries to protect them from rising sea levels and other effects of warmer temperatures.

Bangkok was once known as the Venice of the East because of its system of canals. To contain floods, the city has a system of flood walls, pumping stations, retention ponds and temporary overflows to the north.

But Samith and other experts say that might not be enough. The city has grown dramatically over the past 30 years, spreading into lower lying areas.

Poor urban planning

Danai Rattakul, from Chulalongkorn University, blames poor urban planning for floods
Danai Rattakul, from Chulalongkorn University, blames poor urban planning for floods
Danai Thaitakoo is a lecturer in the Faculty of Architecture at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University. He says poor planning and urban development have allowed many canals to be filled to make way for roads and other development.

"The canal structure - they don't see the canals as a critical structure for this kind of drainage," Danai said. "When they talk about water - and refilling the canals - most of the canals disappear. We don't have that structure that used to be able to drain the water out of the area or even to contain the water for a certain period."

Danai says planners need to consider restoring the canal system. He says Bangkok also faces the threat of coastal erosion from the rising seas and storm surges.

Other researchers warn that naturally occurring subsidence of the land under the city will add to flooding problems.

Combination of factors could be lethal

Bhijit Rattakul, Executive Director of the Asia Preparedness Center
Bhijit Rattakul, Executive Director of the Asia Preparedness Center
Bhijit Rattakul is a former Bangkok city governor who had to deal with the flooding problem while he was in office in the 1990s. Bhijit says rising sea waters and runoff from the northern regions will combine to overwhelm the city.

"There is the overflow of the waters, because of sea level rise and because we cannot discharge the water from the north out to the sea. So that kind of thing will eventually create a scenario … there will be a flood and it's not a normal flood it will be a long flood … not five hours, not six hours may be days before we can pump it out," Bhijit said.

However, engineers with the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority remain confident that existing flood control methods will protect the city for some years to come.

Bangkok faced severe flooding in 1983 and again in 1995. Since then, the government has built 77 kilometers of flood walls along the river banks. The engineers, who are barred by city policy from giving their names, told VOA the walls are a meter high, and that various studies indicate the water level over the next few decades will rise only about 33 centimeters.

The engineers say they will continue to study the issue, but they will need clear evidence that additional work is justified now before asking the city government for more flood control funds.

Thailand's new gold rush

While no investment can truly provide an iron-clad guarantee, one of the safer bets going into 2010 seems to be commodities and precious metals.

Gold, a traditional safe haven for investors, has rocketed to more than $1,100 per ounce in recent weeks, driven by investors seeking an inflation hedge and expecting further US dollar weakness in the years ahead.

At the SET in the City investment exhibition, signs of gold fever could be seen aplenty, with brokers and fund managers pitching the latest services in the form of gold futures contracts or dedicated gold funds.

For a gold investor, it’s never been easier to invest in the metal. Forget about queuing up at your local gold shop or worrying about the security of your home strongbox for holding coins, necklaces or bars. Investment can now be made through a simple call to a broker, or online anywhere at anytime, thanks to the proliferation of foreign investment funds, gold funds and the growth of the derivatives market.

One 58-year-old woman listened with interest to a pitch from a marketing official at Globlex Securities.

“I have been investing in gold bars for 20 years, and can remember when prices were just 800 baht per ounce. These gold futures sound quite interesting,” she said, as she peered at a educational banner through her white-framed glasses.

The investor admitted that the ins and outs of derivatives contracts could be daunting for a novice.

“I have been investing in stocks for a long time. But derivatives is something different. Money isn’t paper – you need time to climb the learning curve,” she said as she filled out an application to open a futures account.

For Globlex, investors already familiar with stocks and the securities market represent a natural target for expansion to futures and options trading.

Parkpoom Pakvisal, the managing director of Globlex Holding Management, said the company signed up 120 new customers in the first day of SET in the City.

“We’re delighted with the response. We had been expecting to get around 200 accounts for all four days,” he said.

Around half of the new accounts opened at the Globlex booth are for gold trading, with the rest a mix of securities and derivatives brokerage accounts.

“There are many investment tools available besides stocks. For now, though, gold is what’s hot, as we are likely to see prices continue to rise through Chinese New Year,” said Mr Parkpoom.

Gold prices, which closed at about 17,500 baht per baht-weight locally and at US$1,106 per ounce in Hong Kong, could reach $1,130 to $1,150 by the end of the month and $1,200 by year-end, he said.

Mr Parkpoom said gold is definitely an asset class that should be in any investors’ portfolio, given the short-term trends.

But new investors just entering the gold market should consider investing in physical gold before they venture into the futures market.

“If you compare gold bars with gold futures, bars are probably best for those looking for a savings vehicle, with a priority on wealth accumulation and limited risk,” Mr Parkpoom said.

“Gold futures, however, offer the chance to profit on either the buy or sell side. The potential is there for higher returns, but with higher risk. You need to know your investment objective first.”

Gold futures are traded on the Thailand Futures Exchange, with each contract based on 50 baht-weight of 96.5% gold, the standard purity used in the Thai market. Prices are quoted based on one baht-weight of gold, with settlement made in cash and contracts offered for each even-numbered month. Trading limits are set at 20% from the previous day’s settlement price.

Kesara Manchusree, the SET’s group head for product development, said that from Feb 8, the TFEX would introduce a new gold futures contract with a size of 10 baht-weight of gold.

Published: 16/11/2009 at 12:00 AM
Newspaper section: Business

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Thailand: What it takes to be rice leader

Written by Lyn Resurreccion / Science Editor
SUNDAY, 15 NOVEMBER 2009 21:28

BANGKOK—Good government policy and research. These are the main ingredients that make Thailand the world’s current top rice exporter, a Thai rice executive said.

“We have the prime minister, even our king, promoting rice. It is very important. Every government [official] is interested in rice,” Chairit Damrongkiat, deputy director general of the Rice Department under the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, told the BusinessMirror at the sidelines of a media seminar in Bangkok conducted by Syngenta and attended by 22 journalists from Asia.

He said the king himself presides at the annual royal rice ceremony.

Damrongkiat noted that Thai farmers learn a lot on rice technology because they have experts who have doing researches in the past years.

“Now we have a lot of good variety of rice, so we can select the best one. Our department has released about 75 varieties but we still have a lot of local varieties, more than 4,000, which we use for niche market, for consumer and for nutrition,” Damrongkiat said.

He said his country has about 200 rice experts.

The world’s top rice exporter, Thailand exported 10 million tons (MT) of rice in 2008, or 33.8 percent of the world’s total of 29.6 MT. It is followed by Vietnam (4.6 MT, or 11.5 percent), other countries (4.5 MT, or 15.5 percent), India (3.3 MT, or 11.2 percent), the US (3.2 MT, or 10.8 percent), Pakistan (3 MT, or 10.1 percent) and China (0.9 MT, or 3 percent), he said in his presentation in the media seminar.

Saying, “Thailand is feeding the world,” Damrongkiat said it has been exporting to more than 150 countries in the past 28 years.

The world’s production of rice in 2008 is 445.6 MT. Of this, China was the top producer with 134.3 MT or 30.1 percent, followed by India, 99.1 MT (22.2 percent); other countries 93.08 MT (20.9 percent); Indonesia, 38.2 MT (8.6 percent); Bangladesh, 31 MT (7 percent); Vietnam, 24.4 MT (5.5 percent) and Thailand, 23.2 MT (5.2 percent).

On the other hand, the Philippines has become the world’s top rice importer. Damrongkiat said Thailand exports to the Philippines an estimated 1.8 million tons of rice annually.

Manila last year bought a record 2.54 million tons (2.3 million metric tons [MMT]) of rice to plug a 10-percent domestic production gap, the Associated Press said. The rice crisis spiked the price of rice worldwide, and reached P40 a kilo in the Philippines.

The Philippines’ situation is made worse by the damage caused by Typhoon Ondoy and three other typhoons that damaged 13 percent of the targeted national rice production in the fourth quarter of the year. The country is importing 850,000 MMT to beef up its stock in the first half of 2010.

What is ironic is that many of Thailand’s rice experts studied from the rice research centers in the Philippines, such as the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), University of the Philippines in Los Baños or the Central Luzon State University (CLSU), he said.

Damrongkiat himself received his masteral degree from CLSU, he told the BusinessMirror.

Meanwhile, as Thailand attains its leading rice-exporting status in the world, the IRRI is launching its 50th anniversary celebration of its work on rice science on November 17 in its headquarters in Los Baños, Laguna. The event will be graced by Thai Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, the IRRI said.

The IRRI will also hold a four-day conference, starting today at the Manila Hotel, of international rice scientists to explore the rice genetic capacity to feed the world, IRRI said.

The importance that Thais give to rice could be traced to the nation’s culture and rituals, Damrongkiat said in his presentation. Thailand has a royal plowing ceremony where the king and other members of the royal family participate. They also perform a praying ritual to Mae Phosop, the rice goddess.

Damrongkiat said Thailand’s rice industry is a major contributor to his country’s economy. It is a stable food source or provides food security, a major source of foreign-exchange earning and a major source of employment for 17 million people out of Thailand’s total population of 61.5 million.

Agriculture accounted for 11.58 percent of the country’s gross domestic product in 2008; of this share of agriculture, 17.5 percent came from rice, he said.

Rice is planted in Thailand’s 10.2 million hectares of land, or 50 percent of the total 21-million hectare agricultural area.

Thailand’s firm policy on ensuring rice production was institutionalized in 1953 with the establishment of the Rice Department, Damrongkiat said. It was merged with the Agriculture Department to become the Department of Agriculture in 1972, but was reestablished under the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives in March 2006.

The rice policy and management is handled by the Board of National Rice Policy, headed by the prime minister, which organization is mirrored down to the provincial level with the Provincial Rice Policy, headed by the governor, Damrongkiat said.

The Rice Department takes care of 27 Rice Research Centers and 23 Rice Seed Centers spread all over the country, he said.

The Rice Department, Damrongkiat added, executes the rice strategy; conducts research to develop new rice varieties, production and postharvest technology; preserve rice genetic diversity; promotes good agricultural practice for rice production; produces and distributes high-quality rice seed to farmers; undertakes value-creation research and rice products development; promotes and disseminates production technology, including the conservation of local wisdom; and disseminates information on rice to farmers and rice traders.

Damrongkiat told the BusinessMirror that his agency transfers new technology from the laboratory to the farmers through the 1,000 extension centers in villages. One center has five farmers who are rice experts.

“We have extension agents in the villages. From them we pass on the technology to the rice community center not only for yield and good variety of seed but for farming techniques, too,” he said.

He said there is a plan to increase the number of extension centers to 7,000 in all villages planting rice.

Considered as a “miracle plant,” Damrongkiat said rice provides food for 50 percent of the world’s population; it is a functional food because it has pharmaceutical, health and beauty properties; it can be used for snacks and beverages; a source of alternative green energy; and provides cultural perspective.

Of the many rice varieties Thailand produces, the most popular primary products are white and brown rice, vitamin coated, herb coated and flavor coated rice.

It also has secondary products, such those that are partly cooked and ready to eat; functional food such as frozen, probiotic rice milk, GABA rice and resistant starch for diet programs. Its byproduct innvovations are rice-bran ceramic, edible rice bran oil, antiseptic from rice, biofuel and fermentation from husk, and biodegradable products.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Listed firm animator among those caught in software piracy net

A listed cooking-ingredient maker and an animation studio were among a group of companies netted in the recent initiative by police offers to reduce software piracy in Thailand.

The companies' names have been withheld for legal reasons, according to a statement.

The cooking-ingredient company, listed on the Stock Exchange of Thailand and among 1,000 under investigation for software copyright infringement, was caught using unlicensed software products made by Autodesk, Microsoft and Thai Software Enterprises. It has registered assets of Bt260 million.

The animation studio was caught working with 17 unlicensed software design programs valued at nearly Bt4 million.

In Thailand's fast-growing animation industry, this company had gained an advantage through its reputation for being a low-cost design provider, according to executives at Autodesk, the software company that filed a complaint for copyright infringement with the Economic and Cyber Crime Police Division (ECD).

"These raids exemplify the reality that the ECD's efforts to reduce software piracy cut across a wide variety of industries and business sizes," said Police Colonel Sarayuth Pooltanya of the ECD.

"The key determination in which companies get raided is simply based on the complaints filed by copyright owners and the evidence that these companies have violated Thai law. The companies that we |are policing for software piracy often have little in common expect for the fact that they are infringing on the copyrights of software developers."

As the government continues in its drive to build a "creative economy", for which intellectual property rights are a major platform, police officers at the ECD are determined to enforce the rule of law for software copyright holders.

As ECD officers work through their case load resulting from 1,000 investigations conducted in September and October, they foresee continuous enforcement actions against companies that violate the Copyright Act BE 2537.

"This is a period of enforcement intensification, but the ECD wants to emphasise that our software-piracy policing teams are in this for the long term," said Sarayuth.

"By staying after this issue day after day and week after week, and by following up on all complaints lodged by software copyright holders, we are confident that progress will be made in reducing the software piracy rate."

The ECD has made a significant impact in reducing the software piracy rate of 76 per cent. In each of the last two years, the rate has fallen by 2 percentage points, a significant drop when compared to the reductions achieved in other countries during the same timespan.