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MediaWATCH: Two 'Turned TAT into Piggy Bank'

Thursday, August 27, 2009
Phuketwan MediaWATCH

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

Associated Press A filmmaking couple devised bribes to Thai officials to land lucrative projects such as the Bangkok International Film Festival, a federal prosecutor said, opening their trial. Gerald and Patricia Green paid off the former governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, Juthamas Siriwan, by transferring money into bank accounts of her daughter and a friend so they would be awarded business contracts, said Jonathan Lopez, a senior trial attorney. The ''bribes-for-contracts'' scheme netted the LA couple about $13.5 million, Lopez said. ''This case is about greed, it's about corruption and it's about deceit,'' Lopez told the jury. The Greens ''turned TAT into their own personal piggy bank,'' he said.

nation.com.pk Nine people died and three were missing when a passenger boat sank off the Indonesian resort island of Bali, an official said. The boat carrying 25 people was travelling from Kusamba beach in eastern Bali to Nusa Penida island when it capsised, a health ministry crisis centre official said. It is not yet known what caused the boat to capsise.

propertycommunity.com The condominium market in Thailand is showing signs of an early recovery as selective investors return to buying properties and real estate stocks, a report claims. All major developers are reporting stronger sales than expected after a dismal end to 2008 but lack of finance could end up hindering the tentative recovery, according to a report from Raimon Land. In the first few months of 2009 pre-sales more than doubled compared with the last quarter of 2008, signalling that the market has already bottomed out, the report says.

wsj.com Australia's second-largest airline, Virgin Blue Holdings Ltd, has posted a loss of A$160 million for the year to June 30, compared with a net profit of A$97.7 million a year earlier. However, its cautiously optimistic outlook echoes that of its major rival Qantas Airways Ltd, which posted an 87 percent decline in annual profit last week. Virgin Blue expressed hope in further route expansion, starting with Phuket in November and Johannesburg in March.

Bloomberg Malaysia slipped into its first recession in a decade after the economy contracted for a second quarter, even as the central bank predicts a recovery by the end of the year. Southeast Asia's third-largest economy shrank 3.9 percent in the three months ended June from a year earlier, after a 6.2 percent contraction in the first quarter, the central bank said in a statement in Kuala Lumpur.

Bangkok Post The owner of the Santika pub, where a blaze killed 66 and injured hundreds in the first few seconds of this year, has told a court he could offer just 30,000 baht in compensation to relatives of the dead and to surviving victims. The offer was part of a second round of court settlement talks. Families affected by the Santika fire have filed seven civil suits demanding compensation totalling 105.7 million baht.

bbc.co.uk Thousands of people have fled across the Burmese border into China in recent weeks amid violence between ethnic groups and the government, reports say. Some 10,000 people have entered China from Burma's north-eastern Shan state this month, according to Chinese media. Hundreds of government troops are reported to have moved into the area.

smh.com.au A young Australian tourist found dead in Rome had been partying with an organised pub crawl group before he died, a spokesman for an Italian pub crawl group says. The 20-year-old man's body, which had a severe head wound, was found in the Tiber River. He had apparently fallen from a bridge. A spokesman for Spanish Steps Pub Crawl said the man was one of its customers

afp.com US Senator Jim Webb, back from a rare trip to Myanmar, called sanctions against the military regime ''overwhelmingly counter-productive'' and asked the opposition to consider taking part in upcoming elections. Webb, who became the first US official to meet the junta's reclusive leader Than Shwe, voiced concern that Western isolation of Myanmar pushed it into the arms of China, ''furthering a dangerous strategic imbalance in the region.''

irrawaddy.org Pyinya Zawta writes: Jim Webb recently traveled to Burma to lean not on Burma's military regime, but to pressure my country's democracy movement into giving up economic sanctions - the most important tool in our struggle for freedom. Although he emphasised the necessity of the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, this falls far short of the demands of the US, the UN and the EU for the immediate and unconditional release of all my country's 2100 political prisoners. Webb claims that the Burmese people would benefit from interaction with the outside world, as if we need to be condescendingly ''taught'' by Americans about our rights and responsibilities.

nytimes.com Jim Webb writes: For more than 10 years, the US and the EU have employed a policy of ever-tightening economic sanctions against Burma, in part fueled by the military government's failure to recognise the results of a 1990 election won by Aung San Suu Kyi's party. The ruling regime has become more entrenched and at the same time more isolated. The Burmese people have lost access to the outside world. there is room for engagement. Many Asian countries - China among them - do not even allow opposition parties.The US needs to develop clearly articulated standards for its relations with the non-democratic world.

voanews.com Burmese state media reported that border police seized a large quantity of heroin and other illegal drugs near the border with Thailand this week. The reports say an anti-drug squad found more than 700 kilograms of heroin and nearly three million methamphetamine pills in the town of Tachilek. Officers arrested four people and confiscated two guns and ammunition from the raid on two houses.

smh.com.au The loud pitter patter of baby elephant feet has helped Taronga Zoo claim the title of Sydney's favorite attraction. The zoo won 24 percent of votes in the Sydney Chamber of Commerce's annual favorite things survey. The birth of Asian elephant calf Luk Chai in July has also boosted zoo visitor numbers, with Sydneysiders and tourists flocking to Taronga. Sydney Opera House came second in the survey of most popular attractions, with 22 percent of votes, followed by the Sydney Harbor Bridge/Bridge Climb on 18 percent.

wsj.com Indonesian national airline PT Garuda Indonesia aims to raise $300 million to $400 million from an initial public offering that it plans to undertake in the first half of 2010, Chief Executive Emirsyah Satar says. Satar told reporters the proceeds of the deal are to be used to fund Garuda's planned business expansion. He added that Garuda is worth an estimated $1.5 billion. Garuda, one of the world's few profitable airlines, now plans to expand its fleet and service more international routes

dailyindia.com The world's largest species of fruit bat, Pteropus vampyrus, could be driven to extinction in Peninsular Malaysia at the current hunting rate, scientists have warned. They say that around 22,000 of these bats, also known as the ''large flying fox,'' are legally hunted each year in Peninsular Malaysia, a level that is unsustainable based on their estimates of the number of bats. Researchers reckon hunting will drive the species to extinction in as little as six years. The bats migrate between Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia.

newyork.grubstreet.com A New York vendor advocate writes: We're disappointed that today the New York City Police Department levied thousands of dollars in fines against disabled war veterans for standing more than 18 inches from the curb. It doesn't have to be this way. Street vending offers a viable economic pathway out of poverty for hardworking, ambitious entrepreneurs such as disabled veterans, recent immigrants, and the newly unemployed. Rather than stifle those opportunities, the city should embrace them and open our sidewalks to make vending laws work better for vendors, their customers, and everyone else.

cnn.com User-generated internet content sites like Wikipedia appear to be evolving. Some experts say they need more rules. So when the user-written encyclopedia that's built an empire on this ideal, decided this week to add a layer of oversight to its system, the Web erupted in debate. The popular encyclopedia, which has drawn criticism for inaccuracies, says it will try assigning editors to some of its entries. These trusted volunteers likely would have to approve public edits before they're published to English-language stories about living people. Some see the move as a sign that crowds of people aren't able to produce a usable and accurate body of information.

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