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MediaWATCH: Flying Arms Cache Crew Arrested

Monday, December 14, 2009
Phuketwan MediaWATCH

A daily wrap of Thailand news, with a Phuket perspective, plus relevant reports from national and international media.

reuters.com Thailand will press charges against the crew of a plane forced to land in Bangkok and found to be carrying arms from North Korea, officials said, adding it was unclear where the plane had been going. Military and police sources, declining to be named, said the US had tipped the Thai authorities off about the 35 tons of arms that the plane held, which flouted UN sanctions. Crew members, four from Kazakhstan and one from Belarus, were saying little.

guardian.co.uk A lethal cargo of rocket launchers, grenades and other weapons seized in Thailand may be just a glimpse of what US and UN investigators say is a global North Korean illegal arms smuggling network used to finance its proscribed nuclear weapons program. Authorities in Bangkok said it was unclear where the Ilyushin IL-76, registered in Georgia, was heading. But suspicion immediately fell on Iran. North Korea is estimated to make about $1billion a year from arms sales.

washingtonpost.com The seizure in Thailand of some 35 tons of war weaponry from North Korea and the arrest of five foreigners charged with illegal possession of arms may prove a blow to efforts by the US to negotiate a halt to Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions, observers said. The seizure came just days after President Barack Obama's special envoy made a rare three-day trip to North Korea on a mission to persuade Pyongyang to rejoin six-nation nuclear disarmament talks.

xinhua.com Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has arrived in Cambodia to meet a Thai engineer who was sentenced to seven years in jail by a Cambodian court for stealing information and passing it to his government. Sivarak Chotipong, 31, was expected to be released on Monday after Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni pardoned him on Friday.

smh.com.au Tiger Woods was variously thought to be heading to sea, to Sweden or to sexual-addiction rehab after his dramatic announcement of an indefinite break from golf. But it was clear that, whatever the intentions of his wife, some of the corporate backers who made Woods the first billion-dollar brand in sport were no longer going to stand by their man after his spectacular fall from grace.

tmz.com Tiger Woods' wife-for now, Elin Nordegren, bought a six-bedroom house in Sweden on December 1. Does Tiger Woods get a bedroom? Elin sealed the deal and plunked down a reported $2.2 million. It's on an island near Stockholm that is only accessible by boat.

bbc.co.uk The giant management consultancy firm Accenture has ended its sponsorship of Tiger Woods, saying the golfer is ''no longer the right representative''. Until the scandal broke, Woods was one of the biggest targets for global corporations. The Associated Press says he is believed to be the first sports star to have earned $1billion.

easternecho.com Tiger Woods can have multiple affairs for multiple years, and reporters assigned to cover him were clueless about it? Are you kidding me? Either IMG had such a stranglehold on Tiger that the journalists surrounding him truly were in the dark. In which case, they probably should have tried to crack the PR shell instead of being contentedly spoon-fed. Or journalists knew about Tiger's multiple indiscretions, but, for whatever reason (nudge nudge, wink wink), decided not to report them.

smh.com.au The Defence Secretary of Sri Lanka, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, told a battlefield commander to kill Tamil Tiger rebel leaders rather than allow them to surrender in the closing stages of the country's civil war, the former army chief Sarath Fonseka alleges. General Fonseka, who retired as military chief last month and is a candidate in presidential elections next month, told a newspaper that Gotabaya Rajapaksa, brother of the President, Mahinda Rajapaksa, instructed soldiers not to take prisoners as the Tamil Tigers were overrun by Government troops in May.

cnn.com Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi will stay in a hospital for observation overnight after being hit in the face at a campaign rally in Milan. Police were questioning a man with a history of mental illness in connection with the attack, which left the 73-year-old Berlusconi bleeding profusely from his left upper lip and cheek.

aap A Danish police crackdown on climate protesters in Copenhagen in which hundreds were arrested was pre-planned and apparently without justification, according to an Australian eyewitness. Simon Sheikh, national director of the progressive Australian lobby group Get Up, said: ''At a preplanned time they ran with full riot gear straight at women, children and families. We were taken aback.''

chinahospitalitynews.com According to udnbkk.com, one of Thailand's largest Chinese media outlets, the director of the East Asia Office of the Tourism Authority of Thailand has said that Thailand will host 700,000 Chinese tourists in 2009, a decrease of 12 percent compared with the 900,000 visits of 2008. The director said that if the situation in the country stays normal, TAT will get a budget of 60 million baht from Thailand's recovery plan, and will launch promotional activities with the aim of attracting one million Chinese tourists in 2010.

dpa Five years on, there are questions about the readiness of the region for a disaster like the 2004 tsunami. A warning buoy off the coast of Sumatra has been out of commission most of this year. Thailand has decided to buy three new buoys for 200 million baht and to place two more in the Andaman Sea. The Nicobar buoy is due to be replaced on December 15. Viriya Mongkulveerapan, director of the National Disaster Warning Centre, claimed the system can warn beach-goers in Phuket and Phang Nga within three minutes, allowing 25 minutes to evacuate. Phuket residents note that most people on the island don't really seem to care, given the remote possibility of another tsunami.

scmp.com Greg Torode writes: A strategic shift in focus from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean will see 60 percent of the US submarine fleet active in the Asia-Pacific region. Thirty-one of America's 53 fast-attack submarines will move to the region, a reversal in cold-war priorities where such vessels had once protected the US coast from large Soviet submarines. A planned swing to Guam was announced last week in a little-noticed release from the US Pacific Command.

smh.com.au The families of the Australians killed in the Garuda plane crash in 2007 are angry and disappointed that the pilot will escape a prison term and will be able to return to flying if he chooses. Marwoto Komar had his conviction for criminal negligence quashed by an Indonesian court, in a shock decision made public last week. Captain Marwoto had been sentenced to two years in prison in April after a court heard evidence he ignored 15 automated warnings and brought his plane into land too fast and from a much greater height than normal.

Phuketwan Update Phuket's Land Transport Office is seeking investors to run the 1009 kilometre Pattaya to Phuket bus line twice daily (existing prices: VIP 1131 baht, regular 848 baht) and the Phuket Nongkai route of almost 1500 kilometres, which terminates near Laos (VIP 1663 baht, regular 1247 baht).

wsj.com A tapas-style menu, a hotel location and a major focus on the bar scene are hallmarks of restaurants around the US that are best surviving the economic turmoil of the past year. These components are also likely to be the defining traits of the next generation of high-end restaurants, say many leading restaurateurs, and are already being deployed in cities across the country.

scmp.com Zheng Fan, 39, is a private detective in Shenzhen, although the name is a false one because he believes a little self-protection is necessary when the media report on him. He also calls himself a ''doctor of extramarital affairs'' who can heal some marital illnesses. One or both spouses in most marriages in China are involved in affairs, Zheng says, and 90 percent of the wives whose husbands have affairs don't know how to get their cheating mates back to their families.

pr-inside.com Phuket Royal Marina will host Pimex, the annual marina and lifestyle exhibition, from January 7-10. Now in its seventh year, the event boasts the largest in-water display of any boating exhibition in the region. An addition will be seminars organised by the Human Development Forum Foundation on harbor security, archipelago states security, security of sea lanes, and new sustainable technologies.

nationmultimedia.com Thanasiri Group expects its share price to stay above the initial public offering price and earnings forecasts exclude the value of a 105-rai plot in Phuket, which is estimated to be worth about 600 million baht. ''We bought it at 50 million, and the plot will generate significant income. The land should be developed in the next one to two years, probably as villas, condominiums or a hotel, as Phuket is a popular destination of foreigners,'' a family spokesman said.

washingtonpost.com Liz Sinclair writes: I stared at the travel agent in horror. ''I have a 12-hour layover in Singapore? How am I going to spend 12 hours in an airport? That's my idea of hell on Earth.'' The agent smiled and patted my arm. ''Don't worry,'' she said reassuringly. ''It's Changi Airport. We call it Club Changi. You'll have plenty to do. You'll see.'' How right she was.
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