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MediaWATCH: BA Strike Alarms Christmas Fliers

Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Phuketwan MediaWATCH

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

smh.com.au Up to one million British Airways passengers could be stranded this Christmas after the struggling airline's cabin crew voted to walk off the job for 12 days. Nine out of 10 BA staff voted in favor of striking from December 22 to January 2 amid a bitter dispute over pay and job cuts.

ft.com Airlines across Europe have been struggling with industrial action, threatened and real, throughout much of this year as they try to control costs in the global aviation downturn. Lufthansa and Iberia have faced action from cabin crew. Finnair has cancelled flights because of a dispute with its ground staff. But the impending BA strike is, so far, one of the most dramatic in terms of its proposed length and timing: right in the middle of what is normally one of the most profitable periods for the airline.

guardian.co.uk Passengers at Heathrow made the same point again and again: the airline simply can't afford yet another public relations disaster. ''I'll be fine today, but my daughter is travelling out later this month,'' one business traveller said. ''If the strike plays havoc with our family Christmas then I imagine that we will all hate BA for a long time to come.''

234next.com There has been squabbling between the workers union and the airline management over the latter's decisions to reduce staff strength by about 5000 by March 2010, introduce changes to staff contracts, and carry out a two-year pay freeze.

scmp.com A cargo plane seized in Thailand suspected of smuggling North Korean arms was owned by a Georgian firm but had been leased to a company operating out of either Ukraine or New Zealand, officials said. This emerged as Thai investigators were trying to determine the final destination of the plane and Bangkok Criminal Court approved a police request to extend the detention of the five-man crew by 12 days. This will give officials more time to scrutinise the rocket-propelled grenade and surface-to-air missile launchers and other weapons seized under the latest UN sanctions against Pyongyang.

csmonitor.com The seizure at Bangkok's airport of 35 tons of North Korean arms being shipped by plane raises a disturbing question: How many weapons is North Korea managing to ship undetected to Iran and other clients worldwide? The commander of US troops in Korea, General Walter Sharp, refrained, however, from talking about the intelligence that tipped off authorities in Thailand to the cargo they found aboard the plane during a refueling stop at Don Muang military airport.

cbsnews.com Tiger Woods' wife Elin Nordegren was spotted in Florida filling her SUV while her kids waited in the back seat. But something was missing: Nordegren's wedding ring. The 29-year-old Swede and former model reportedly moved out of Woods' house a week ago amid an infidelity scandal that has led the world's richest athlete to give up professional golf indefinitely while he tries to repair his family.

nytimes.com The Ampatuans' control of Maguindanao is almost absolute. Most of the province's 36 towns are run by mayors and deputy mayors who are either sons, grandsons, cousins, nephews, in-laws or close allies of the senior Mr. Ampatuan, according to a study by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism. Since he became governor in 1998, Mr Ampatuan has carved out at least eight towns from existing ones and named all of them after his sons and other relatives. The entire Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, which is composed of five predominantly Muslim provinces, including Maguindanao, is run by one of his sons.

straitstimes.com Miss Indonesia 2009 Kerenina Sunny Halim has been linked to an alleged sex cult organisation. The 23-year-old beauty has admitted that she is a member of The Family International, which is the modern day spawn of The Children of God, a sex cult group which has been mired in child and sexual abuse allegations by former members. Halim told the Jakarta Globe that she is a member of the church, for which she did humanitarian work after the Asian tsunami in 2004.

jakartaglobe.com The mother of Manohara Odelia Pinot has said her daughter will not return to her Malaysian royal husband, saying that she is afraid for her safety and that the family would not adhere to an Islamic court ruling. In May, the US-Indonesian model slipped away from the prince's guards at a Singapore hotel and returned to her family in Indonesia with tales of abuse, rape and torture at the hands of the 31-year-old prince.

bloomberb.com President Barack Obama's administration notified lawmakers that it will pursue a trade accord with a group of Asian nations, the first such initiative of his presidency. Four nations initially negotiated the trade agreement, New Zealand, Chile, Brunei and Singapore. At the end of last year, Peru, Vietnam and Australia said they would like to join, too. The US has individual free-trade deal with Chile, Singapore, Peru and Australia.

Phuketwan Update AirAsia is offering an introductory rate of 690 baht, excluding airport tax, on its new service between Phuket and Udonthani. It hopes to encourage travellers from southern Thailand to visit the Northeast, playing up the region's access to destinations in Laos. Flights to Udonthani from Phuket on the new service from December 21 will now depart on Monday, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. The schedule is Phuket-Udonthani (FD3984) Depart 2.40pm Arrive 4.20pm, Udonthani-Phuket (FD3985) Depart 4.50pm Arrive 6.30pm.

timesonline.co.uk An octopus that ferries around coconut husks while ''stilt-walking'' with its extended arms is among the most primitive species yet found to use tools, research has suggested. Veined octopuses from Indonesia have been observed stacking coconut shells thrown away by humans and then transporting them across the sea floor, using them as portable armour to protect against predators.

voxy.co.nz New Zealanders living and working in Southeast Asia and conversely, Southeast Asian communities in NZ represent a growing impetus for closer links with Southeast Asia, says a new Asia NZ Foundation report. The report says given the importance of the emerging Free Trade Agreement involving New Zealand and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, along with China and Australia, these diasporas are set to become important players in this transnational future.
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