A daily wrap of Thailand news, with a Phuket perspective, plus relevant reports from national and international media.
Frank Rich writes: If there's been a consistent narrative to this year and every other in this decade, it's that most of us have been so easily bamboozled. The men who played us for suckers are the real movers and shakers of this century's history so far. That's why the obvious person of the year is Tiger Woods. His sham beatific image, questioned by almost no one until it collapsed, is nothing if not the farcical reductio ad absurdum of the decade's flimflams, from the cancerous (the subprime mortgage) to the inane (balloon boy).
We have no problems with the Bangkok Post's tsunami special over the past couple of days, reporting on how Phuket and the region is coping five years after the big wave. However, the most important fact, the number of people who were killed by the tsunami, appears to have been exaggerated . . . by 2800 victims. On Monday, the Post told us that more than 8200 people died. Phuketwan
believes the number was 5395. Today, the Post tells us that 523 Swedes died. The tallies among both Swedes and Germans were above 530 each. Combined, they accounted for more than 1060 of the dead. Getting these basic figures wrong on such an important anniversary is a great shame. It reflects poorly on the Post's sources. Is the Post big enough to set this right? It is, after all, Thailand's history.
A massive undersea earthquake is long overdue beneath the Mentawai islands in Indonesia and could cause another deadly tsunami, say scientists mapping one of the world's most quake-prone zones. Unlike the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, which killed around 226,000 people, this tsunami is expected to be smaller but may be just as deadly as it would hit Sumatra's densely populated coast, said Kerry Sieh, the director of the Singapore-based Earth Observatory.
Airlines are trying to shrug off a financially-plagued decade by promising passengers more low fares as well as a seamless, paperless and even ''contact-less'' travel experience, industry executives said. After electronic ticketing and check-in booths, Dutch carrier KLM is trying out automated bag drop machines, while the International Air Transport Association is promising queue-skipping mobile phone boarding passes, ID scans and ''self boarding.''
Korean budget carrier Jin Air launches its first international route between Incheon and Bangkok today, joining the budget carriers' race to internationalise. The 180-seat B737-800 flights depart Incheon every morning at 9:20am and arrive in Bangkok at 1.30pm, making it the nation's first morning flight to Bangkok. Returning flights depart Bangkok at 2.50pm and arrive in Incheon at 8pm, the company said. The route met with high demand through the online reservations prior to the launch, due to departure time and pricing.
They have long worked illegally in the shadows of Indonesia's police stations, attorney general's office and courts, the common link in what is called Indonesia's ''judicial mafia.'' Called ''markuses,'' they are middlemen who can persuade corrupt police officers, prosecutors and judges to drop a case against a client for the right amount of money. The markuses gained national attention in wiretaps involving a long-running battle between the nation's law enforcement agencies and anticorruption officials. With that leap to unwanted prominence, they were transformed overnight into symbols of Indonesia's broken justice system.
US airlines could face stiff fines for stranding passengers aboard grounded planes for more than three hours, according to a regulation that officials said was aimed at upholding passenger rights. The Transportation Department initiative tries to address public and government frustration with lengthy runway delays, especially those that leave passengers without food, water or adequate bathroom facilities. ''These new rules will require airlines to live up to their obligation to treat their customers fairly,'' said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
Phuket's Kata Rocks has appointed the celebrity interior designer Kelly Hoppen to do the interior design and furniture packages. Ms Hoppen has designed the homes of the rich and famous over the past 30 years starting with actor Martin Shaw when she was only 17 and including David and Victoria Beckham, Elton John, Jude Law and more. With this appointment, Ms Hoppen now gets to add adventurer and TV personality Bear Grylls to her client list as he is buying at Kata Rocks.
Casino company Las Vegas Sands Corp. expects the first part of the casino-resort project in Singapore to be open by April. The casino resort in Singapore's central business district was scheduled to open by end of March. The Singapore project, originally expected to cost around $3.2 billion, has also suffered overruns and is now expected to cost more than $5.25 billion.
A top Malaysian general sold an air force jet engine, which was kept in a military warehouse, into the black market abroad and made millions of dollars, as details of the theft began to emerge in the media. The unnamed Brigadier-General and 40 other armed forces personnel were sacked late last year over their alleged involvement in the case of the missing 50 million ringgit jet fighter engine belonging to the Royal Malaysian Air Force.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand has honoured Faasai Resort and Spa, a four star hotel in the newly emerging tourist destination of Chanthaburi on the Southeast coast of Thailand, in its 2009 Green Awards. The owners of Faasai Resort and Spa, Surin Laopha and Bronwen Evans, a Thai-New Zealand couple, say the resort, which offers nature-based tourism, is part of the local community of Kung Wiman, a fishing village in the Southeast of Thailand, and it supports Buddhist principles of caring and respect for others.
Budget carrier Tiger Airways has informed Singapore's central bank of its plans to list on the Singapore Exchange ahead of an initial public offer. The airline said in a statement it ''has lodged its preliminary prospectus with the Monetary Authority of Singapore on 21 December in connection with a proposed listing on the main board'' of the Singapore Exchange.
Five years on, the final tally of Thailand's tsunami dead remains elusive. Was their double counting, with some Missing and Dead actually being counted twice?
Tsunami Plus . . . here is Phuketwan's list of the most important stories of the decade on Phuket and in the Andaman region, including some that we may yet see repeated.
A British man is dead after a sailing tragedy off Phuket. Police say the man was hit by a toppling mast and went under the water. It is believed he was a tourist.
The end may be nigh for the Patong guesthouse as Tune Hotels finally declares its hand in Thailand, promising quality at a low price . . . plus AirAsia style aggressive marketing.
AirAsia declared Phuket to be a hub and has been busy adding flights, despite the downturn. The latest is to Udonthani, and it's almost certain to attract travellers.