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MediaWATCH:  Pattaya, Samui Plan Recovery

MediaWATCH: Pattaya, Samui Plan Recovery

Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Phuketwan MediaWATCH

A daily wrap of Thailand news, with a Phuket perspective. Reports from national and international media, with translations into English from Thai.

Associated Press Facing its worst crisis in years, Thailand's tourism industry is going to great lengths to drum up business that has plunged thanks to political upheaval, the global recession - and now swine flu fears. Kongrit Hiranyakit, head of the Tourism Council of Thailand. expects the tourism industry will lose about 200 billion baht ($5.6 billion), down by more than a third from about 540 billion baht last year. Many fear recovery is a long way off for the industry that employs 2.5 million people and is a pillar of the economy. So far, the slump has not led to big job losses, but many hotels have put employees on temporary leave without pay. For tourists who do visit the ''Land of Smiles,'' there are plenty of good deals.

Bangkok Post The number of visitors to Koh Samui is down 40-50 percent, especially expats, for the first six months of the year, compared to the same period last year, Koh Samui Tourism Promotion Association, Senee Phuwasetthavorn, says. Khun Senee attributed the disappearance of tourists from the resort island to the global economic recession, the political turmoil and the swine flu pandemic. The TAT had joined forces with hoteliers and restaurant operators to launch an ''Amazing Grand Sale'' campaign offering a package tour to Koh Samui with a room rate reduction by as much as 50 percent.

pattayadailynews.com Pattaya City Council and tourism-related business in the city are now making all out efforts to woo tourists back in time for this year's high season, following the most dismal low season ever, with hotel occupancy in June down to 20 percent of what it was a year previously.TAT has decided to divide tourists into four categories: ''Ready to Travel:'' India, Russia, Indonesia, the Persian Gulf and Scandinavia, who are not sensitive to the political situation and are solvent; ''Potentially Returning Visitors:''most of Europe and the US, who show concern about the political situation and are becoming value-conscious; ''Concerned Travellers:'' China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Vietnam and Australia, who are very anxious about Thailand's political situation and are currently affected by the economic slowdown; ''Highly Sensitive Travellers:'' Japan, Korea and Taiwan, who are extremely sensitive to Thailand's political instability and suffering from extreme recession.

MediaWATCH Update

smh.com.au Michael Jackson's body will make a poignant final journey to Neverland Ranch, fuelling speculation that the sprawling fantasy retreat could become a permanent memorial to the tragic pop icon. A motorcade reportedly plans to escort the body on Thursday to the King of Pop's 2600-acre estate, a monument to Jackson's obsession with childhood that once included a fairground and a private zoo. CNN and the celebrity news website TMZ.com, quoting police sources, said the Jackson family planned a public viewing on Friday - which could draw a crush of fans to the isolated compound north of Los Angeles.

AFP Thai PM Abhisit Vejjajiva says he will invoke an internal security act to prevent protests at a regional summit in Phuket that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is due to attend. The move comes after an incident in April when anti-government protesters loyal to ousted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra forced the chaotic cancellation of a major Asian summit in the Thai resort of Pattaya. Abhisit said the cabinet had agreed to declare the internal security act on Phuket and 5km around the tourist island from July 10 to 24 for the Asia Regional Forum.

nationmultimedia.com Even though it will take away some basic rights for the duration, the latest move for July's foreign ministers meeting on Phuket is aimed at boosting international confidence in Thailand. Asean dialogue partners, including the US, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as well as China and Japan will attend. Thailand's Council of State, the government's legal adviser, will flesh out the security plan in accordance with the law and propose it to the Cabinet again next Tuesday, an official said. PM Abhisit defended the decision to call up Isoc, saying security law enforcement would restore confidence in the international community. Suthep Thaugsuban, the deputy premier in charge of security affairs, said the security blanket over Phuket during the Asean Summit would not cause hardships for tourists and ordinary people there.

Associated Press US officials say that a North Korean ship has turned around and is headed back toward the north where it came from, after being tracked for more than a week by American Navy vessels on suspicion of carrying illegal weapons. The move keeps the US and the rest of the international community guessing: Where is the Kang Nam going? Does its cargo include materials banned by a new UN anti-proliferation resolution? The ship left a North Korean port of Nampo on June 17 and is the first vessel monitored under UN sanctions that ban the regime from selling arms and nuclear-related material. It traveled south and southwest for more than a week; then, on Sunday, it turned around and headed back north, two US officials said on condition of anonymity.

Today's Must Read

jpost.com (jerusalem post) In a frantic race with high winds, bone-chilling ice storms and rattled political nerves, the American defense establishment has been rushing to meet the threat now faced by Hawaii, Guam, Alaska and possibly the West Coast of the US mainland - a North Korean advanced Taepodong-2 missile. The now-contested regime of Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been a full partner in the development. Bellicose and prone to tantrums, North Korea's bizarre strongman Kim Jong-Il has ordered a test of the Taepodong-2, apparently in the direction of US territory. Hawaii, Guam and Alaska are in the crosshairs. The defense establishment is convinced the decisive moment will once again come provocatively on America's national holiday, July 4. This moment has been coming for more than a decade, and the Pentagon, North Korea and Iran have been preparing for it.

wsj.com How long will the US and its allies keep misperceiving North Korea as a communist state? For decades the regime in Pyongyang has preached the racial superiority of the Korean people, and still the red label sticks. Now the country is in the throes of a massive military propaganda campaign exhorting its citizens to increase productivity not to better the people's lives, but to strengthen national defenses against the racial enemy - ''the Yankee beasts in human masks,'' as North Korean television news put it last week. If Washington doesn't recognise Kim Jong Il's regime for what it is - a hardline nationalist state - it will make dangerous policy miscalculations.Those in the West who still place their hopes in negotiations and trust-building measures need to ask themselves this simple question: How could the North Korean regime continue to justify its existence after trading national pride for an aid package?

Bangkok Post The United Arab Emirates has promised to expel ousted PM Thaksin Shinawatra and send him to Thailand if he is found in Dubai. While the two countries do not have an extradition treaty, there is a reciprocal arrangement that allows for the exchange of fugitives.Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said Thailand had already sent six fugitives to the UAE as requested by Abu Dhabi. His UAE counterpart, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, admitted Thaksin had stayed in Dubai, Khun Kasit said. The UAE was looking into the issue of whether Thaksin had re-entered the country by possibly using a passport from another country or another name. Thaksin told supporters of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship on Saturday he was making the phone call from Dubai.

Reuters A trade union group criticised Tesco for its record on workers' rights in some markets, days ahead of an anticipated AGM showdown between Britain's biggest retailer and a domestic union. The UNI Tesco Global Union Alliance has released reports criticising Tesco's labor practices in Thailand, South Korea and the US, following local complaints. According to the reports, Tesco coerced employees in Thailand and South Korea into working unpaid overtime, and refused to discuss the possibility of organised labour representation in the US. Tesco, which employs around 470,000 staff in 14 countries, said the reports were ''a travesty'' and politically motivated.

independent.co.uk The UNI Tesco union alleges that Tesco's operation in South Korea forced" employees to work up to 20 hours a week of unpaid ''voluntary'' overtime and employed contract workers on lower pay, allowances and job security than permanent employees. In Thailand, UNI Tesco claims the grocer required employees to work two shifts of 18 hours back-to-back. A union spokesman praised Tesco's relationship with the shopworkers union Usdaw in Britain, but said: ''When you go abroad the reality is very different.'' A Tesco spokesperson denied the claims and said: ''Wherever we operate in the world, all staff are free to join trade unions and can voice their opinions in a number of ways, including our anonymous annual staff survey.''

AFP Indonesia is planning to ask all people arriving from swine flu-affected countries to wear face masks for at least three days, the health minister says. The presence of the H1N1 virus was confirmed in Indonesia only last week and so far four of the eight known cases have been expats. ''It's a precautionary measure we're taking to avoid human-to-human transmission of the virus,'' sais Health Minister Siti Fadilah Supari. ''We'll give them the masks when they arrive at the airports and tell them to wear them for three days. There'll be no penalty if people don't wear them. You can't expect people to wear masks when they're swimming.''

Phuketwan Phuket News

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