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MediaWATCH: Sondhi Tells of Moment Shots Fired

MediaWATCH: Sondhi Tells of Moment Shots Fired

Friday, May 1, 2009
Phuketwan MediaWATCH

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

Reuters: Yellow shirt leader Sondhi Limthong has blamed soldiers for the Songkran assassination attempt on him. ''They want me out of the way because I am the biggest obstacle. I see through every one of them,'' the co-founder of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) told the Nation Weekend, a Thai language magazine. Khun Sondhi, recovering from a head wound, said the gunmen were soldiers and police. ''I saw the face of my assassin when he aimed his gun at me,'' Sondhi told the magazine. Khun Sondhi is now due to make a television broadcast at 12.30pm on Sunday.

The Nation: While noting problems with red shirts have to be overcome, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has pledged to resolve animosity between rival groups and foster reconciliation in six to eight months to pave the way for an election. ''If things proceed as anticipated, then I aim to steer the country out of the present turmoil and bring about normalcy in six to eight months, following which I won't mind dissolving the House,'' he said.

Bangkok Post: The Government has stepped up swine flu prevention at major airports after the World Health Organisation raised its global alert to '''pandemic imminent'''. Incoming passengers at major airports have to answer a questionnaire on whether they have visited affected countries while those who have been to high-risk countries have additional body temperature checks; Thailand ''has not made sufficient progress'' on intellectual property rights and will remain on the Dirty Dozen pirate list, says Washington.

bbc.com: Mexico is preparing for a five-day shutdown of parts of its economy in a bid to slow the spread of swine flu. Non-essential government services will be suspended, while businesses such as cinemas and restaurants will be closed. Cases of swine flu have now been confirmed in 12 countries across three continents.

New York Times: A member of the delegation that accompanied US President Obama to Mexico in mid-April has come down with flu-like symptoms. With the WHO online reporting 257 confirmed cases of the flu worldwide, the European Union was expected to announce that it would consider a request by France, where 30 possible cases are being investigated, to suspend all flights to and from Mexico. (The move was rejected.) In New York City, with 49 cases, Mayor Michael Bloomberg tried to tamp down anxiety by emphasising practical measures to limit the spread of infection: he advised staying home from work or school if feeling ill, washing hands and covering mouths. ''We do not recommend using a mask,'' he said. ''We don't think the likelihood'' of infection goes down that much by using them, he added.

Daily News: Factory workers are heading back to villages in increasing numbers across Thailand as orders in manufacturing plants drop by 30 percent on last year. Overtime has disappeared and working hours are now being cut. German experts have offered to help Thailand grow and process cassava, for flour and tapioca, more efficiently.

Al Jazeerah.net: A court in Thailand has begun a new round of extradition hearings on the alleged international arms dealer, Viktor Bout. He is the man the US government wants extradited, having been accused of supplying millions of dollars worth of weapons to Colombia's FARC rebels and to countries under UN arms embargoes. Conspiracy to kill US officers and employees, and conspiracy to acquire and use an anti-aircraft missile are among other far from everyday charges. Bout, a former major in the Soviet military, was arrested in March last year during a sting operation set up by US agents in Thailand.

monstersandcritics.com: Keiji Fukuda, WHO assistant director-general for health security, had rejected pleas to drop the swine description. Fukuda said WHO would go with a scientific designation of ''a new variant of influenza A(H1N1).'' EU ministers decided to call the illness ''novel flu.'' ''We know it is an H1N1 virus,'' Fukuda said. ''This is scientifically accurate and doesn't place any stigmas.'' Mexico's tourist sector was devastated as cancellations soared. Mexico City hotel occupancy dropped below 20 per cent. The tourism council of Cozumel, an island off the Yucatan, said that 14 ships, with an average of 2500 people each, failed to dock in the past two days, costing the Caribbean resort an estimated $1.6 million.

Today's Must Read

Christian Science Monitor: In an appearance on a television chat show, gaffe-prone US Vice President Joe Biden made some remarks about swine flu that led to anger in the US travel industry. The Air Transport Association's CEO fired off: ''On behalf of the nation's airlines, I am writing to express my extreme disappointment at your suggestion that people should avoid air travel in response to the H1N1 flu outbreak. The fact is that the air onboard a commercial aircraft is cleaner than that in most public buildings.'' A conservative web site added: ''If President Obama wishes to handle this crisis by sending Vice President Biden to an undisclosed location until it's over, well, sacrifices must be made.''

Thai Rath: An Asean summit involving 10 nations from around the region will be held on May 7-8 to discuss ''war on the virus.'' The Government Pharmaceutical Organisation has accelerated production of an extra million antiviral tablets. Red shirt protesters have been demonstrating for two days in Udonthani province. On May 6 red shirts are planning to return to Bangkok to seek the reopening of their television station.

CBCnews.ca: ''As Southeast Asian tourism heats up, it's harder than ever to find breathing room at the most popular destinations,'' says this online site. ''Where can you experience authentic Southeast Asia without sharing it with busloads of other travelers?'' The article suggests Hua Hin as a quick alternative from Bangkok and also notes the extra space on and around Langkawi in Malaysia and even Sri Lanka. Non-stop flights from the US to Asia have almost tripled in 10 years, the report says, with Vietnam and Cambodia now regular stops.

New York Times: A Practical Traveller article notes that recent anti-government protests ''may well damage the country's increasing reputation as a place where travelers can find affordable luxury, five-star treatment at three-star prices.'' But discounts and deals and improvements in the value of the US dollar are retaining Thailand's appeal, says author Michelle Higgins. One travel agent says the September 11 terrorist attack made tourists more robust. ''We have found that our travelers are much more sanguine about facing the world, even during times of instability and unrest,'' she says. Some people are avoiding Bangkok in favor of alternatives such as Phuket but Thailand is still a popular destination, the article concludes.

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