Thailand in the News Week Ending 01/02/10

New Year’s Day road deaths 37% higher than last year

New Years day in Thailand saw the usual carnage on the roads with 686 road accidents killing 70 people and injuring 737, bringing the casualty count for the long holiday to 238 deaths and 2,725 injuries from 2,510 accidents.

The death toll was 37% higher than last years toll with accidents edging in at 50% higher than last year. More than half of all the accidents were related to drunk driving and speeding.

From The Nation:

Most accidents involved motorcycles at 84.9 per cent and occurred between 4pm-8pm. Checkpoints stopped 715,516 vehicles and arrested 69,515 motorists, with the main offence being not carrying a driver’s licence at 23,006 cases, followed by bikers not wearing a helmet at 21,195 cases.

While Yasothon was the only province still to report no accidents, Nakhon Si Thammarat had the most at 83 followed by Phetchabun at 82 and Chiang Mai at 80.

Chanthaburi and Ayutthaya were the most deadly at 10 deaths each, while Phetchabun had the most injuries at 99 followed by Nakhon Si Thammarat at 98.

The government began the seven-day safe driving campaign on Tuesday to reduce road casualties by 5 per cent from the last New Year break, which had logged 367 deaths and 4,107 injuries in road accidents nationwide.

Uthairat also said the Excise Department had arrested 277 roadside shops for selling alcoholic drinks without permission and had revoked 26 liquor licences for selling booze during times and at venues that were prohibited.

The checkpoints seem to be getting more than a fair few drivers off the road but I think Thailand will have to double or triple the amount of checkpoints next year to make any discernible impact in the numbers. The best advice I can give is stay off the roads of Thailand during the New Years holidays because the odds are against you.

More North Korean Refugees Arriving in Thailand

While the outrage over the repatriation of the Hmong refugees back to Laos continues more North Koreans flee to Thailand. Many North Koreans fleeing their country take the long and dangerous over land route through China and Laos , finally crossing the Mekong into Northern Thailand.

Thai immigration Authorities stated they have taken over 1000 North Koreans into custody during 2009 which was a marked increase over the 400 in 2008.  If caught during their journey to Thailand the North Korean refugees would be returned to their home country by both China and Laos. Thailand holds a different view on these poloitical refugees.
Police superintendent Sutham Chatarsa says:

they come to Thailand because, unlike in China and Laos, they will not be sent home, where they could face execution.

We don’t have the policy to send them back to North Korea,” he said.  “We want to take care of them until they are accepted into a third country.  It’s not the same as people coming from Cambodia or Laos.  North Koreans come here because of political problems.  So, we want them to get to a third country.

Diplomats from 12 natins met in Thailand last year to discuss the situation and raise awareness to the plight of North Korean refugees. It was noted that North Koreans caught fleeing by other countries such as Laos and China faced abuse before being returned and it was concluded that pressure needed to be put on China and other countries in the region to give these refugees legal status.

Thai authorities expect the number of refugees from North Korea to grow in the coming years and this issue needs to be addressed now before more problems arise.

Jazzman Rice Ramping up Production

The Louisiana Company that claims to have re-produced Thailand’s famous Jasmine rice is in the news again claiming that by 2011 they will be producing as much as 63,000 tons of the rice which would account for as much as 18%  of 2009 imports.

Thailand was initially upset with Jazzman and they conducted tests on the rice to see if the company had violated Thailand’s patent on the Hom Mali rice which is the Thai name for Jasmine rice. The concluded  that the jazzman rice was of an inferior Chinese variety.

Question is…will it matter? Most Americans don’t understand the differences between rice and if Jazzman can get the rice production back on par to what it was before hurricane Katrina struck the region then Thailand could lose a very big share of the American Market.

American rice farmers will never produce any amount of rice to rival Thailand’s production but they may be able to produce just enough of a strain close enough to take away some serious market share.

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