Sunday, June 13, 2010

Owning property in Phuket Thailand

How long can I stay in Phuket?

If you own a property and do not have a work permit you are - as a rule of thumb, generally allowed to stay for 90 days on a visitors entry stamp at the immigration check point on arrival. Be advised that if you leave and return again and expect to get stamped in - you will be using the remaining time allotted from the initial 90 days provided .

Plan ahead - if you are sure you will be traveling and residing here for longer then 90 days, apply for a visa from abroad before entering the Kingdom. This will ensure that you can maxmise your stay within any given 12 month period.

For more information please visit

• Can I retire here?

Phuket is great place to retire. For retirement purposes - a non-immigrant "O" visa is required and it must be obtained outside Thailand.

General Requirements: Age 50 or older, reasonable health (the health check can be done in Thailand for B40-100 and is cursory at best), a police clearance from your home country or embassy (just noting that you are not an international criminal on the "lam"), Bt800,000 deposited in a Thai bank (or proof of a certain minimum level of income certified by your embassy) - and the document from the Thai bank showing the money came from outside the country.

You may draw down and live on the B800,000 over the year, but it must be "topped up" again when you extend your visa.

• How do I pay the utility bills?

Most Thai banks now have internet banking available allowing you to take the money out of your local account. If you are renting, most property managers will ask you to keep a currency float with them for miscellaneous items that fall due for payment when you are not in Phuket.

It's a good idea to find out the cost of utilities before you move in so that can check the costs. For example, most utility bills can be paid direct from your bank account and the receipts sent to your residential address.If you need property management then we will of course have no problems recommending you our partner's services (Phuket Island Property Services).

• How safe is Phuket?

Phuket has an enviable reputation as a safe place to visit and live. Even more so, when Westerns consider the disposable income and comparative (economic) well being of many people that they come into contact with.

Thai's are proud and on the whole, friendly, and there is little crime against foreigners. Much of this stems from Buddhist values (not to mention) solid family values, instilled from a very young age. However, like many societies, there is always the potential for confrontation and crime. Its always best to be prudent and sensible. Avoid ostentation - if possible, be weary of money and jewelry and for the most part, keep a level head. Thai's generally won't commit crimes for no reason and most crime, acts of violence etc... can be traced back to instances where there has been a "loss of face" or public humiliation - especially confrontation.

Again, be cool and at all times be respectful. This will not only earn you respect, but will give the perception that you are a sensitive well rounded individual.

• Will I need to bring my own furniture?

There are plenty of fully furnished apartments and condominiums available. If you don't plan to stay in Thailand permanently, it may be better to leave your furniture in storage. It will probably be too heavy for the tropics anyway. Even if you plan to rent or buy a house, you can always get one fully furnished. If you prefer to furnish it yourself, we can advise you on the best places to shop. Why not ask us for advice once you decide where you want to live?

• How do I get around the Island?

If you are going to live on Phuket - the only viable option is to own your own car, truck, or motorcycle. People who plan to stay on the island for a long time will probably choose to buy a car or truck.

Phuket has an organized transportation system consisting of converted buses know as "songthaews" that operate around the island. The service usually operates in the daylight hours and you are reliant on "tuk tuks'", motorcycle taxis and metered taxis - thereafter.

If you want to buy a car in Phuket, you can do so if you have a "non-immigrant" visa and a work permit, a retirement visa, or a Thai guarantor.

Renting is the best option - if you are only for one or two months. A long term car rent will start from about Bt. 20,000 for a comprehensively insured Toyota Vios or a Honda Jazz.

• Is flooding a problem?

That's really a Bangkok question. However, for all intents and purposes Phuket is not prone to flooding as the roads and drainage systems in place have been upgraded and are well maintained, so that there is not a hugh drain on the infrastructure resources like you have in big cities.

• What is the minimum rental contract, and what are the terms and conditions?

Most long term rental contracts are for one year, although some shorter terms are available such as four or even six months. In most cases you will need to pay a two month deposit, and one month in advance - when you sign.

The deposit is refundable when you move out, although the landlord may deduct expenses for any damages to the property during your tenancy.

• Do I as the buyer need to pay you a fee?

No.We collect a standard commission of 3% (of the purchase price) from the seller (vendor). It is know that some agents in Phuket will collect a 5% fee for their services, which may also include an advertising to help promote the development etc. If you are renting a property, a commission is taken from the property owner. Rental contracts in Thailand require the renter to pay a deposit of 2 months rent, and one month in advance. (i.e. 3 months in total)

For more information please visit

Friday, June 4, 2010

Cumbria shootings: Drunk rage at pal got Derrick Bird barred from flight - Exclusive

Derrick Bird (Pic:PA)

Derrick Bird was deported back to Britain for erupting in a drunken rage at an airport.

He lunged at his pal after being teased about money.

The taxi driver was on his way to Thailand with a group of friends when security guards in Qatar banned him from his connecting flight.

Officials at the airport in the capital Doha put him in a secure area to sober up after the departure gate outburst.

Security officers refused him entry to his flight to Bangkok because they considered him a violent drunk and a “flight risk”. They later put him on a plane back to the UK.

The group of single taxi drivers from Bird’s Whitehaven rank – all in their late 40s and early 50s – travelled to Thailand together for a holiday three times a year.

One said yesterday that Bird, 52, was drinking heavily before the argument began.

The friend, who asked not to be named, said: “When they all arrived in Doha it seemed like everyone was getting on.

“It all kicked off though when Birdy mentioned that he loved Thailand because it was cheap and someone made a joke about him being cheap.

“Birdy saw red. He went mad and went for him and officials had to step in.

“They’d never seen him flip before and it really shocked them. He must have had a lot of stress just bottled up.

“He was taken off and the next thing they knew was he wasn’t allowed on the flight and was flown home.”

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Honda forecasts it will sell 1.18 million motorcycles this year

Honda halts bike production on safety concernsHonda temporarily suspended its motorcycle production for the safety of its staff due to political violence in Bangkok.

However, car production in Ayutthaya continued as usual and it will add an extra shift today to keep up with back orders for certain models, said a spokesman for Honda Automobile Thailand.

A senior executive of Thai Honda Manufacturing, manufacturer of Honda motorcycles and power products at Lat Kra Bang in Bangkok, decided to stop production two days _ Thursday and yesterday _ for the safety of its workers after violence in the capital escalated.

The curfew also made it hard for employees travel to and from work. The facilities, which usually close on the weekend, will resume production on Monday.

The executive said the production suspension would not affect the supply of motorcycles and power products. He said Honda could add shifts later to make up any backlog.

Honda forecasts it will sell 1.18 million motorcycles this year.

Honda's automobile production capacity is 2.4 million units per year. In the first four months, it produced 29,739 vehicles, an 18.8% increase year-on-year for 13.3% market share, ranking third.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

On The Road to Mandalay

Theo Underwood searches out the mysteries of the Orient on a luxury cruise on Burma’s Ayeyarwady River

Published: 22/05/2010

The spectacular Ananda Pahto temple, Bagan

IT’S more than 100 years since Rudyard Kipling painted a famous portrait of the East in his poem, Mandalay – and when you sail down the Ayeyarwady River in Burma on a luxury cruiser, you feel that little has changed since then.

It is hardly, of course, a coincidence that the boat we are travelling on carries the same name as Oley Speaks’ later song adaptation of the poem.

The 300ft Road To Mandalay carries 82 passengers in old colonial grandeur and five-star cabins. To catch the boat, you fly to Singapore and on to Yangon before catching the rackety plane which hovers above dense green jungles with Burmese military men taking all the front seats.

After that, the creature comforts of The Road To Mandalay are a soothing surprise.

A £4million refurbishment has created an elegant restaurant with teak wall carvings from Amanpura. Also, 34 new state and deluxe cabins have en-suite bathrooms with Burmese jade wall tiles and walk-in showers.

Now we can sit on deck as Kipling’s vivid vision of dawn breaking like thunder and temples shimmering in the sunlight comes to life before our eyes.

Children splash in the shallows, playing tag among themselves while their mothers wash the family’s longyis – traditional Burmese robes – in the river’s thick, khaki-green water.

Fishermen, armed only with bamboo sticks for rods and the bottoms of plastic bottles for goggles, hunt their daily catch from long-tail boats.

On the river’s eastern bank, small villages of rickety bamboo huts have sprung up to house workers dredging for sand, which will be turned into cement. Their cargo is pumped on to half-sunk barges sitting below the waterline, their engines gurgling under the weight of their load.

Beyond the river’s banks, hundreds of pagodas – some made of red sandstone, others gilded with gold leaf – are scattered across the rice fields.

Burma, for much of the time, seems to have missed out on the 20th century – or perhaps it is a trick of the strange, ethereal quality of the light.

Before setting sail from Mandalay, I took a rowing boat out on Taung Tha Man lake. The light at dusk broke through the teak struts of U Bein’s bridge – a 1,300m long skeletal structure rising from the water.

Ghostly forms appear beneath the surface of the water, creating an eerie calm which is punctured only by the sound of creaking oars and the light chatter of villagers crossing the 200-year-old man-made causeway.

However, one of the most exhilarating experiences which Burma can offer awaited us 120 miles downstream.

A hot-air balloon whisked us 2,000ft above the ancient city of Bagan for a breathtaking view of its 4,000 temples, stupas and pagodas.

The city itself no longer exists, but its shrines to Buddha, built over hundreds of years on a stretch of delta the size of Manhattan Island, appear one by one at sunrise to form an intricate, crimson patchwork on an ochre landscape.

Our bumpy landing eased by champagne, we joined a bicycle tour for a close-up view of Bagan’s temples.

Many are adorned with frescos telling the story of Buddha and, although most have decayed into ruin or are awaiting restoration following the devastating 1975 earthquake, there are a few murals worth seeing – thanks to the intervention of Unesco.

Ananda Pahto, on the north plain, stands out from the others. Besides its brilliantly colourful frescos, it also has four 31ft gold Buddhas – which sit facing outwards from the temple’s inner sanctum and date back to the 11th century. The most recent icon was, however, built just 60 years ago.

Bagan has few visitors, so it was easy to find solitude on one of the pagoda’s west-facing terraces. The spot offered a perfect vantage point to watch the sunset – giving Bagan’s temples a chameleon-style quality of constantly changing colour.

It is easy to be overawed by spectacular monuments to Buddhism in Bagan. While a temple, stupa or pagoda can be found at every turn, Burmese people deeply respect the religion and the monks – even if they are not committed Buddhists.

In Yangon, many monasteries teach English and visitors can be accosted by football fans in orange or crimson tunics keen to discuss the English Premier League. Many monks can be seen studying the football results in one of six weekly newspapers dedicated to the game in Europe.

Their accommodation is sparse. As many as six monks share one room in which they study, sleep and eat without electricity or running water.

During your river voyage – the company’s billing of river “cruise” hardly does it justice – you can try on your own longyi and have your face painted with Thanakha – a traditional yellow-paste made by grinding the Thanakha tree against sandstone.

It is still widely worn by women and children and, as well as protecting their skin from the sun, it supposedly bestows a youthful complexion on those who wear it.

The Governor’s Residence, in Burma’s capital, Yangon, where you stay on the first and last night of your trip, is a match for both the boat and the best hotels.

The old colonial mansion – made entirely from teak – comes into its element at dusk as you sit by the pool with a G&T to watch bats skimming the water’s surface.

Chef Olivier Guilman finds the best local ingredients for menus, combining western classics with variations on Burmese favourites.

Anything with seafood is worth trying, especially after an afternoon’s sightseeing around the magnificent Shwedagon Pagoda and the reclining Buddha – the latter close to where monks held peaceful demonstrations against the military government in summer 2007.

Given the tense political situation, many travellers avoid Burma. However, Orient-Express argues that its involvement preserves jobs – about 150 on the boat and 110 at The Governor’s Residence.

Square your own conscience before you depart. Repression may enable Burma to preserve the mystery of the Orient lost beneath tourist hordes in other parts of south-east Asia.


Theo Underwood was a guest of Orient Express, which offers the five-night journey in Burma from £1,960, including return flights Bangkok-Yangon-Bangkok; two nights’ B&B at The Governor’s Residence in Yangon and three nights’ full board in a superior cabin on The Road To Mandalay; a half-day sightseeing tour in Yangon, and all internal flights and transfers.

Orient Express reservations: 0845 077 2222 and

International flights costs extra, from about £745 return.

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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Thai boss to take over at Siemens Thailand soon

Once Ralph Hasselbacher leaves Siemens in Thailand for a new, challenging assignment in Germany, Katrat Upayokin will become the first local to be promoted to a high-ranking position, effective on June 1.

Hasselbacher, 46, who is the senior vice president and general manager of Transportation Systems Group in Thailanld, seems to have had success in building up local people to the managerial level with "succession planning".

"My main achievement during my time [three years and three months] is strengthening the organisation in Thailand," he said.

As also head of Mobility, covering the transportation and mobility business in Asean, he has been able to share resources and knowledge among Siemens' people working at its units in countries such as Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia.

Apart from the subway and airport link projects in Bangkok, Siemens, the world's largest rail system supplier, won a contract in February to install a highly efficient traction power supply for the "downtown line", Singapore's new driverless metro line. It also won a contract last month for a double-track, main line project in Malaysia.

"We built up local experience in Thailand. Meanwhile skilled people in Thailand were sent to work at our unit in Singapore," he said.

Foreigners on the first day he started working at Siemens in Thailand amounted to more than 70 per cent of the workforce, as some expatriates were sent here. Now, the proportion of foreign workers is less than 50 per cent.

"We have tried to put local people at the manager level like Katrat to oversee rolling stock in Thailand - succession planning to be continued," he said.

Katrat, 39, now head of sales for Industry Mobility, who will be the new head of Industry Mobility, has been working for 17 years.

Before starting with Siemens, in 1998 he was responsible for the maintenance of rolling stock and the workshop for the Skytrain - Bangkok's first mass transit line - for four years and six months.

He then took a three-year break from mass transit to join the Siam Paragon shopping mall as the project director, eventually becoming its general manager.

Since July 2006, Katrat has worked for Siemens and is now in charge of sales, marketing and strategy for Thailand, Cambodia and Burma as well as functions within the Asean cluster.

He is also looking after rolling stock, turnkey and all business units related to sales activities for his own business in the cluster and supports headquarter-driven business in the cluster. "My ultimate goal was to maintain Siemens' position as the No 1 supplier for mass transit in Thailand," he said.

His first priorities are to win the next mass transit project in Thailand and keep a good and close relationship with his customers.

Hasselbacher said Thailand had a very good plan for rail system development. Bangkok could also rise to the status of a world-class capital in the 21st century in 40 years, compared with Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore and Jakarta, which are grouped among emerging countries.

Thailand had the best railway 150 years ago with 100 kilometres of track. But, no more major lines had been developed since then, he said.

"Meanwhile, the railway operators [KTM] in Malaysia are not only talking, but they are doing," he said.

Vietnam was slower in starting to develop its railway system than Thailand, but it now has more modern locomotives than Thailand has, he said.

"Although there have been no lines [under the government's plan to build 10 lines in greater Bangkok] as yet, we haven't lost it. We just keep on waiting," he said, referring to the mass transit electric train projects.

He suggested commuter lines were needed to convey people from inner Bangkok to the city's outskirts.

"However, Siemens' Thai unit is now stronger than before and we are confident we have very good chances for upcoming projects," he said.

Siemens Ltd Thailand was established in October 1995 to position itself as a serious player in its own right, offering an entire range of products, systems, solutions and services. It now has a workforce of 1,800 employees.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Special Report: Royal Ploughing Ceremony

Phra Ratchaphiti Phuetchamongkhon Charot Phra Nangkhan Raek Na Khwan or the Cultivating and Ploughing Ceremony, consists of two ceremonies which are Phra Ratchaphiti Phuetchamongkhon or the Cultivating Ceremony and Phra Ratchaphiti Chaarot Phra Nangkhan Raek Na Khwan or the Ploughing Ceremony. The ceremony is rooted in Brahmin belief, and is held to ensure a good harvest.

The Ploughing Ceremony can be traced back to the Sukhothai period, over 700 years ago. The two royal ceremonies are related to each other which aim at bringing propitiousness to the nation’s crop, boosting farmers’ morale as well as announcing the start of the rice growing season.

These annual events had been observed until 1936, but were temporarily suspended after that. The Cultivating Ceremony and the Ploughing Ceremony were again retrieved in 1947 and 1960, respectively, and have been held together since then with His Majesty the King regularly performs the function every year.

Nowadays, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives serves as Phraya Raek Na or the Lord of Ploughing. The four Celestial Maidens or consecrated women who carry silver and golden baskets containing rice seeds for scattering during the Ploughing Ceremony are deliberately chosen from the single females of the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives. They all have performed the functions overseen by their Majesties the King and Queen.

This year, the Cultivating Ceremony is held during the afternoon of 12 May at the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, inside the Grand Palace. The ceremony is presided over by His Majesty the King or his representative. He performs religious rituals and prays for the nation’s crops. Then, the Chief Brahmin reads the proclamation on the Cultivating Ceremony, which seeks to bring propitiousness to the crops.

The Ploughing Ceremony is held in the morning of 13 May at Sanam Luang, in front of the Grand Palace. At the beginning of the ceremony, Phraya Raek Na performs a rite to predict the amount of rainfall during the coming season by selecting one of the three pieces of cloth in different lengths. Phraya Raek Na together with his entourages then leave the ceremonial pavilion in order to start the Ploughing Ceremony.

Two chosen oxen pull the wood plough and they plough a furrow in the ceremonial ground, while rice seed is sown by Phraya Raek Na. After the ploughing, the oxen are offered plates of food, including rice, corn, green bean, sesame, fresh-cut grass, water, and rice whiskey. Depending on what the oxen eat, the Brahmin makes a prediction on whether the coming growing season will be bountiful or not.

-- NNT 2010-05-13

Friday, May 7, 2010

Four Thai police wounded in blasts near Bangkok business area

BANGKOK, May 8 (Reuters) - Four policemen were wounded after three explosions near a Bangkok business district early on Saturday, police and hospital sources said.


Police officials told Reuters they suspected the loud blasts, near Bangkok's heavily guarded Silom road area and close to an encampment of anti-government protesters, may have caused by grenades. Police were unable to give further details and said an investigation was underway.

Just over an hour earlier, one policeman was killed another wounded along with two civilians in a drive-by shooting in the Silom area, about 50 metres from the front lines of an encampment occupied for four weeks by "red shirt" demonstrators. (Reporting by Ambika Ahuja; Editing by Martin Petty)



Thailand’s tourism industry is severely hit by weeks-long protests. The losses are estimated at $1 billion.

After the images of deadly protests flashing around the world the Federation of Thai Industries fears that the political conflict could cost the Thai tourism industry more than $1 billion.

Thailand is one of the developing world's most popular tourist destinations, alluring to both jet-setters and backpackers. Rising tensions between anti-government protesters and the troops in Bangkok – which are described as Thailand‘s bloodiest political violence in nearly 20 years – now might lead to Thailand missing its target of hosting 15.5 million visitors this year.

In recent years Thailand‘s economy has held up remarkably well despite its many problems including the tsunami in 2004 and a multi-day shutdown of its international airport in 2008. But Thailand‘s current political situation may cause a lasting damage to its economy and international reputation.

According to the Bangkok Post Online, the government earlier expected the country's economy for 2010 to expand 3.5 to 4.5 per cent while international agencies even predicted a 6.2 per cent growth. Finance minister Korn Chatikavanij now predicted that tourist arrivals will be “decimated,” and warned that the country could lose 2 % off its projected 5% GDP growth for the year if order is not restored promptly.

The tourism industry, which accounts for roughly 7% of Thailand's economy, is perhaps the most vulnerable industry. The protests could cost Thailand THB20.8 billion in lost tourism income this year, according to the Fiscal Policy Office.

The tourism sector was heavily hit after more than 40 countries have issued travel warnings for Bangkok. Hong Kong, China and Taiwan accounted for some of the largest groups of international tourists traveling to Thailand in 2009 and belonged to the countries which issued travel warnings for Thailand. Alone in the Thai New Year holiday week all 100 charter flights due from China have been cancelled, said the Bangkok Post.

The protesters – largely supporting the former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra – are occupying Bangkok‘s main shopping and business district resulting in hundreds of popular shops being forced to close over the past weeks. Several hotels in Bangkok are running at roughly 30% occupancy, which is about half their normal rate, while luxury hotels like the Grand Hyatt Erawan Hotel or the Four Seasons are running at zero occupancy.

While Bangkok is a heavily frequented city destination suffering from the protests Phuket and other holiday hotspots away from Bangkok have been largely unaffected by the political situation in the capital. Particularly tourist destinations like Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Phuket and Koh Samui were not affected by the anti-government protests so far.

By Wiebke Wohlfahrt

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Thai Internet users turn to e-commerce

Thailand's growing number of Internet users are, at last, beginning to feel comfortable with e-commerce.

Major online traders are forecasting annual growth in e-commerce ranging from more than 20 per cent to as high as 40 per cent, despite the country's recent political turmoil.'s managing director Pawoot Pongvitayapanu said that Thai Internet users had changed their behaviour to accept online trading and make purchases over the Internet. This is because companies doing business online have made Internet transactions safe and created an atmosphere of comfort for users.

He said consumers were changing their lifestyles and spending much more time online. Traditional businesses are also changing to online operations in order to expand their customer bases. Having adopted information technology, companies are also using enterprise-resource planning to support their operations and are becoming more involved in business-to-business (B2B) trading.

Moreover, a major factor driving e-commerce in Thailand is a trend of empowerment among Internet users, both in cities and rural areas, to make purchases over the Internet, he said. Businesses are able to provide pre-orders to Internet customers and to provide online catalogues.

Pawoot said e-auctions, laws relating to e-commerce transactions, logistics, network infrastructure and the behaviour of Internet users were all playing an important role in driving e-commerce, which should grow by about 30 per cent this year.

According to the National Statistical Office, total e-commerce transactions in 2008 were valued at Bt527.9 billion. Of this, business-to-government (B2G) transactions were worth Bt290.8 billion, or 55.1 per cent; business-to-business (B2B) transactions were valued at Bt190.8 billion, or 36.2 per cent; and business-to-customers (B2C) were worth Bt45.9 billion, or 8.7 per cent of the total.

Fashion and computer and electronic devices are popular categories in which individual customers spend money online.

Pawoot said now provided an online premium mall and a market place, and had a customer base of 1.5 million Internet users.

There are 170,000 online business entrepreneurs with 26 product categories running their businesses via The firm provides a new e-commerce business model for start-ups that runs both offline and online e-commerce transactions. It also provides an augmented-reality product search, making it easier for customers to find products.

The company now has six channels for online transactions or online payments, including bank transactions, credit cards and mPay - which allows users the convenience of shopping and doing business via the e-commerce business model. All of this creates confidence among customers, Pawoot said. is also planning to provide cross-border e-commerce, with links to Japan, Taiwan and China in the near future.

"E-commerce offers an opportunity to encourage Thai business - which is now in a transition period - to adapt to online business and compete on international markets," Pawoot said.

OfficeMate's managing director Worawoot Ounjai said e-commerce business in Thailand was continuing to grow by at least 30 per cent per year because local Internet users had changed their behaviour and lifestyle and were now buying products over the Internet.

"I think that e-commerce business will continue to grow for more than five years at around 30 to 40 per cent per year, since e-commerce in Thailand is just starting up. New infrastructure such as 3G will enable companies to launch online businesses at lower cost and will give customers much more convenience and comfort in shopping online," he said.

Worawoot said his company expected its e-commerce operations to grow by more than 40 per cent this year because the political turmoil was driving Internet users to access products and services online. During March, when the red-shirt protests began in Bangkok, his company achieved revenue growth of about 15 per cent, year on year.

However, he said the quality of some products and online businesses were an obstacle to growth in the e-commerce market.

"He suggested that small- and medium-sized businesses that planned to offer products and services over the Internet should first register with the Department of Business Development and receive a "trust mark" certificate identifying their online business. There are now more than 100,000 online businesses in Thailand and only about 7,000 of them are registered and certified by the department."

Worawoot said his company provided an online business platform for about 80,000 businesses and organisations around the country at They offered about 20,000 products.

The company also provides an e-commerce platform for home users and individuals at

"I try to do new business that is related to existing business, so that these businesses run smoothly without spending a lot on resources. They save the costs of investment. As a result, these businesses are able to run with high efficiency," Worawoot said.

The company is developing an e-procurement customisation system to support paperless procurement for its customers. It is expected to be able to support 80,000 customers in the near future. It is also developing an intelligent selling process that will enable companies to increase sales revenue per transaction.

Worawoot said OfficeMate expected to reach revenue of about Bt1 billion this year, representing year-on-year growth of about 20 per cent from last year, when revenue reached Bt914 million.

It also plans to expand it business into Indochina next year. Vietnam will be its first foreign market, where it intends to run its business with local partners.

"I think we have an opportunity to expand into Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, and then expand to other Asian countries over the next several years," Worawoot said.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Phuket Gains Daring US Navy Visitors

USS Shiloh launched six cruise missiles in Operation Desert Strike

By Phuketwan Reporter

Monday, May 3, 2010
TWO US Navy ships are due to anchor off Phuket on Friday, latest in the continuing friendly invasion of warships and their relaxation-seeking crews.

It seems that the Thailand-wide travel alerts, imposed by the US and many other countries in response to the red rallies in Bangkok, do not apply to military personnel.

Crews visiting Phuket are usually advised not to use tuk-tuks or hire jet-skis, cars or motorbikes, but local taxi drivers have been accused of demanding extortionate fares from navy visitors and cruise line passengers.

Both ships have interesting histories. The USNS Earhart is named after aviatrix Amelia Earhart, who vanished over the Pacific Ocean in 1937.

The ship named in her honor is purpose-built to deliver ammunition, food, fuel and other dry cargo to US and allied warships at sea. It is crewed by 124 civil service mariners and, at times, will include an additional compliment of military personnel and carry two helicopters.

The other ship, guided missile cruiser USS Shiloh, has a record of hot engagement in the Middle East and is capable of facing and defeating threats in the air, on the sea, or underneath the sea. She also carries two Seahawk multi-purpose helicopters, mainly for anti-submarine warfare.

The Phuket Navy League has organised a couple of welcomes. The first is a wardroom welcome party consisting of buffet and drinks at the BBQ Hut on Rat-U-Thit Road in Patong for officers and selected crew of the two ships. Entrance fee is 200 baht for Navy League members, 400 baht for visitors, no cost to ship's crew and media, from 6pm.

An all ships' crew BBQ buffet with 100 baht beers will also be held at Community Affiliate member Malibu Bar in Soi Eric, on Soi Bangla in Patong, from 6pm, with free bbq and a cash bar. Live music.

Phuket Navy League members are also invited to sign up for a special tour of the USNS Earhart, probably on May 8.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Thai Protesters Storm Major Hospital In Bangkok

Major Bangkok Hospital Evacuates Patients After Break-in By Thai Anti-government Protesters

BANGKOK (AP) - A major hospital in the Thai capital evacuated patients and suspended all but emergency surgery Friday after anti-government protesters who occupy a nearby zone stormed in to hunt for security forces they suspected were positioned there.

A group of so-called Red Shirts broke into Chulalongkorn Hospital late Thursday despite pleas from its director, then withdrew back into their enclave after not finding soldiers or police within the sprawling compound.

The Red Shirts, who began their protests March 12 in their campaign to force immediate elections, have defied authorities at every turn, entering the Parliament building, laying siege to a telecommunications complex, blocking roads and staging mass motorized rallies in the Thai capital. At least 27 people have died and nearly 1,000 have been injured in outbreaks of street violence.

Security forces have in almost every instance been unable or unwilling to stop the Red Shirt forays, including the incursion into the century-old public hospital, which feared a second break-in Friday.

However, Weng Tojirakarn, a Red Shirt leader and medical doctor, issued a "deep apology" for the raid staged by up to 100 protesters. He called it "inappropriate, too much, and unreasonable."

In the face of such incidents, Thai pro-establishment activists have demanded military action against the protesters and an end to "anarchy" in the capital.

The re-emergence of the so-called Yellow Shirts - notorious for shutting Bangkok's airports for a week in 2008 - added to the volatility on the streets of Bangkok.

Chamlong Srimuang, a top Yellow Shirt leader, suggested that martial law be imposed, handing over most state functions to the military, and warned that civil war might ensue if the rival "Red Shirt" protesters are not stopped.

The Yellow Shirts represent Thailand's business and bureaucratic elite, whose pervasive influence is deeply resented by the Red Shirts, who largely are drawn from the country's many rural and urban poor.

The unrest is the result of a political standoff over a 2006 military coup that ousted populist Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra on corruption allegations. He is a hero to the Red Shirts and is loathed by the Yellow camp. The Red Shirts are demanding current Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva dissolve Parliament, triggering new elections, because they consider his government illegitimate.

The crisis has hurt business in the capital and devastated Thailand's vital tourist industry, which accounts for 6 percent of the economy.

Parts of Bangkok's commercial heart have become a barricaded Red Shirt protest camp, forcing the closure of some of the city's ritziest malls and hotels. The "occupied zone" flanks Chulalonkgorn Hospital and abuts Silom Road, the capital's "Wall Street" which has become a camp ground for military and police units.

A hospital announcement said patients were being sent to other hospitals or to buildings farther away from the Red Shirts. Almost all outpatient services were being suspended along with surgery, except in emergency cases.

Government forces clashed with Red Shirts on Wednesday as they attempted to hold a rally in a Bangkok suburb. Heavily armed troops fired rifles and threw tear gas at the motorbike-riding protesters and took cover behind terrified commuters' cars. One soldier was killed - apparently by friendly fire - and 18 other people were wounded during the hourslong confrontation.

The crisis spilled into the diplomatic arena Thursday, with Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya censuring some foreign diplomats for meeting last week with Red Shirt leaders.

"We do not want to see that happening again," Kasit told reporters during a visit to Jakarta, Indonesia. Kasit said he had earlier met with Philippine Ambassador Antonio V. Rodriguez, dean of the Bangkok diplomatic corps, to express his concern.

In a note to other diplomats based in Thailand, Rodriguez said Kasit accused some ambassadors of voicing opposition to the constitutional monarchy and criticizing the government's handling of the crisis. Kasit was a public supporter of the Yellow Shirt movement before becoming foreign minister.

"These actions have gone beyond the limits of diplomatic practice and were unacceptable to the Thai government," Rodriguez summarized Kasit as saying. "The envoys' opposition to the government and to the monarchy was inappropriate and will not be tolerated."

Thailand's king is nearly universally revered, and laws severely restrict discussion of him.

The United States and European Union both said they have met with opposition figures and called for a peaceful resolution of the crisis.

Though they have been critical of the Red Shirts' tactics, the Yellow Shirts opened the door to mass street protests with months of anti-Thaksin rallies that ended in the coup that ousted him. When pro-Thaksin politicians later came to power, the Yellow Shirts took to the streets again in 2008 - taking over the prime minister's office for three months and occupying Bangkok's airports for a week. They retreated after Abhisit's arrival in late 2008, but many fear their return could lead to head-on clashes with their rivals.

Scores of Thai hotels reel from plunge in guests


Published on April 30, 2010

About 300 hotels who are members of the Thai Hotels Association (THA) have shut their doors or cut down the number of available rooms and services to cope with the steep decline in guests.

The number of affected hotels account for 30 per cent of THA's 1,000 members. The number represented hotels that have reduced their services by 30 per cent or more. THA is estimating the total damage before seeking government help, said Supawan Tanomkieatipume, chairman of marketing.

Since April 27, Novotel at Siam Square has closed its operations, without announcing a timeline for resumption of service. Since yesterday, Twin Towers Hotel has offered for occupancy only 240 rooms of 640. It plans to resume full service on May 3. Banyan Tree and other big and small hotels located in outer Rajprasong area such as Sathorn, Phya Thai as well as Sukhumvit are reportedly shutting down partial operation.

Earlier, hotels in the Rajprasong area like Grand Hyatt Erawan, InterContinental Bangkok, Holiday Inn Bangkok, Four Seasons and Renaissance closed operations while Dusit Thani closed three restaurants. On April 28, Thailand Convention and Exhibition issued an advisory to business travellers, telling everyone to avoid Rajprasong and Sala Daeng.

Supawan said that at least 300 temporary staff working in hotels in the Rajprasong area are already out of job.

"If the political situation spreads to other parts in the next three months, we would see more people walk out of business," she said.

The average occupancy rate at hotels in Bangkok is 35 per cent, lower than the 65 per cent at the same time last year.

As analysts prepare to revise downward the earnings forecast of Minor International, which owns Four Seasons Bangkok in the Rajprasong area, the company's CEO, William Heinecke, insisted that Minor was mostly unaffected by the antigovernment protests.

In an interview with Bloomberg Television, he said "Ninetyfive per cent of Bangkok remains unaffected" and Minor's operations in the rest of the capital have offset losses from businesses closest to the protest site. He insisted that the company's earnings will meet or exceed analysts' expectations in the first quarter. The company owns 30 hotels in 14 countries.

THA said that hotels in other areas like in Sukhumvit, Rama IX and near Suvarnabhumi Airport are enjoying higher occupancy rate, as many guests were transferred from affected hotels.

"More than 40 countries have issued warnings to their citizens about visiting Thailand. And travel agents overseas are currently not offering Thailand on their menu," she added.

Supawan said some incentive groups have also cancelled trips to Phuket, while tourism and hotel businesses in Pattaya, Ayutthaya and Chiang Mai are also facing a tough situation as in Bangkok.

The number of visitors at Thai Theater Alangkarn has dropped from 8001,000 per day to 200300 per day. The operator is considering reducing the showtime from six times a week to four.

The Professional Tourist Guide Association will today call a meeting on how to assist unemployed tour guides, as thousands of them are expected to be unemployed.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Thailand's international arrivals plunge drastically in wake of red-shirt turmoil

International arrivals plunge drastically in wake of red-shirt turmoil

Published on April 28, 2010

Foreign tourist arrivals at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport, the Kingdom's main international gateway, have plunged dramatically, due to the protracted anti-government protests.

The average number of arrivals is now about 20,000 a day, down from 30,000 prior to the start of protests at the Pan Fah Bridge on March 14, Tourism and Sports Minister Chumpol Silapa-archa said yesterday.

The situation has worsened since Silom Road, in the heart of the city's central business district, was also sealed off in addition to protesters' occupying the Rajprasong area, a major tourism and shopping district.

The Tourism and Sports Ministry is seeking Bt1.6 billion to stimulate tourism in both domestic and international markets, with plans for joint promotional packages in cooperation with foreign airlines and travel agencies.

As well, visas will be issued free of charge to prospective foreign visitors, including 5,800 Chinese tourists who will arrive from May 6-10, while tax incentives will be given to Thai firms holding seminars and meetings at domestic tourist destinations.

In cooperation with foreign travel agencies, the ministry may also provide extra insurance to foreign travellers in Thailand.

Tourism Council of Thailand chairman Kongkrit Hiranyakit said the political conflict would likely reduce tourist arrivals 10 per cent year on year.

"If the Cabinet approves the Bt1.6-billion budget, we should be able to engineer a recovery in the fourth quarter, which is the high season," he said.

In addition to this budget, the government has been asked to provide another Bt5-billion soft-loan facility to help businesses in areas directly hit by the protest.

The council also proposed the government pay compensation to workers in the Rajprasong area, covering 75 per cent of their wages from March 14 to the end of next month.

The council expects the number of tourists to drop 10 per cent to 12.7 million this year, from 14.1 million last year.

In conjunction with the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), the council will issue a statement clarifying the political situation for those foreign markets now warning their citizens about travelling to Thailand.

TAT governor Suraphon Svetasreni said his agency would join hands with foreign business partners, especially international airlines, to sell Thailand more aggressively, in order to counter the downturn in tourism.

Meanwhile, major German tour company TUI yesterday announced it would suspend all tour packages to Bangkok and northern Thailand until next Monday while offering alternative destinations to its customers.

In a statement, it said all present visitors would be sent to Phuket, in the South.