Thailand in the News Week Ending 11/21/09

Trouble at PB AIR

PB Air

Anyone going to PB Air’s web site this week saw a message on their screen they might not have expected, “all flights are suspended until further notice”.  There was no reason given on the site as to why operations had ceased but it wasn’t long before the answers cam in.

PB Air, founded by Boon Rawd Brewery beer baron Piya Bhirom-Bhakdi, had previously leased it’s airplanes through Bangkok Air who repossessed said planes at the end of October. This shouldn’t have been a problem though because PB Air had earlier  ordered two planes through American based lessor AeroCentury. The first of these planes came were delivered in September with the second scheduled to be delivered by October. Unfortunately when the first of the two Saab 340 turbo props was delivered PB Air found them to be in less than satisfactory condition and didn’t accept it.

PB Air chief executive Pornsartid Naruenartwanich said that due to the condition of the plane delivery had been put off until probably the end of next month. Not good for some airports in North East Thailand as PB Air holds the sole contract at more than a few. PB Air is the sole carrier at Nakhon Phanom airport, which I am sure will see lay offs until flights can be established again.

I had wondered about PB Air in September when I received an e-mail from a reader about flying in to Nakhon Phanom. I had told him PB was the only option unless he wanted to take Thai Air to Ubon and then drive 250 kilometers or so. He had said he was having problems with the site and it wouldn’t let him buy tickets into the future.

Hopefully this one gets worked out soon so jobs can be saved and so weary travelers won’t be stuck driving or taking the bus. I’ve taken the bus and flown PB Air…flying is always the better option.

New Thai Air President Lays it on the Line

Thai Air Logo

Newly appointed president of Thai Air, Dr. Piyasvasti Amranand, laid it all on the line this week during a stop in London on his investor good will tour. Monday the state owned carrier reported a net loss for last quarter of 121 million dollars.

The president pulled no punches when he let investors know that previously “management was not really allowed to manage” because “ The company had been interfered heavily by the board, by the politicians. That had substantially weakened the management of the company, and our response to the crisis.”

The results for the July-September quarter were far worse than had been expected and it’s expected that the fourth quarter losses will be equally as dismal. It’s been noted that the new president might be an odd choice for Thai Air as in his previous job as a Fund Manager he flatly refused to own shares in Thai Air. Not so odd when you consider his reason why, “Thai Airways was a company which did not provide transparent information to investors.” “Thai Airways management were not able to provide clear directions or policy to investors. Most of the big funds, whether in Thailand or outside Thailand, stayed away from Thai Airways stocks.”

Dr. Piyasvasti Amranand went on to say that he felt the biggest problems in the company were nepotism and favoritism in promotions and awarding contracts, “When you promote people who have connections but no ability, initially it’s
okay, but eventually it weakens the company,
Mr Piyasvasti also said. “It reduces the quality of the work. That is what has happened to Thai Airways.”

Dr. Piyasvasti Amranand sounds as if he is the right man for the job but is it too little too late to save the airline from itself? The new president has a tough job ahead of him but only time will tell if he can pull Thai Air back from the abyss.

More African Ivory finding it’s Way Into Thailand

Illegal ivory carvings

This week Thai police arrested two Thai men for smuggling African ivory into the country to supply shops that sell jewelry and trinkets. Thailand as well as all of Asia has become a hot spot in the illegal ivory trade and the Thai authorities are strictly enforcing wildlife protection laws.

Col. Seubsak Chavalviwat, deputy commander of the police’s Natural Resources and Environment division, said “Thailand has been criticized for neglecting wildlife trafficking,” and “We had to step up and get more strict on these crimes.”

The illegal ivory seized this week was the result of an undercover police sting where undercover officers contacted and purchased ivory from the two Thai men. DNA tests were done to determine the origin of the Ivory which turned out to be African. Records seized showed that sales of the ivory had been made over the internet with at least one sale going to a customer in the United States.

Hopefully this evidence has been forwarded to U.S. authorities as America has some of the strictest wildlife protection laws on the books. Just being in possession of an eagle feather you found on the ground can get you 3 years in a U.S. prison.

Dealers have operated across South east Asia for years with impunity but these arrests show that Thailand  is starting to catch up to the dealers and middle men. While the arrests this week were of middle men hopefully it will lead to further arrests higher up the ivory supply chain.

The wildlife protection group TRAFFIC has said that in recent years Thailand has surpassed traditional hot spots for illegal ivory such as Japan and China. While they applaud the recent arrests still much more needs to be done in this area as well as educating everyone from vendors to consumers. Hundreds of venues still sell the illegal ivory carved into tourist trinkets and jewelry. These items can be found in five star hotels as well as popular Thai markets such as Chatuchak weekend market.

Merchants who sell thousands of items from expensive Buddha statues to plain bangles made of the ivory have long benefited from loop holes in Thai law that allow grandfathered ivory to be sold. It becomes hard to distinguish from the old stock and fresh illegal ivory for Thai authorities.

Much of the illegal African ivory is now smuggled into South East Asia where artisans carve the ivory up and sell it off to the tourist trade and overseas. Just this past August Thai authorities seized two tons of African ivory at Bangkok International airport estimated to be worth 1.5 million dollars while Vietnamese authorities seized 6.2 tons of high quality African ivory just last march with an estimated value of 29 million dollars.

It would be nice to see the African government taking a more active stance in finding and executing the poachers who are at the root of this trade. The consumer needs to be better educated as well as most of the trinket buyers have no idea that an elephant was killed so they could take home something to set on the mantle.

sig1 Thailand in the News Week Ending 11/21/09

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11 Responses to Thailand in the News Week Ending 11/21/09
  1. Jack
    November 22, 2009 | 6:13 pm

    I never heard of PB Air. I’ve flown Thai Air, Bangkok Airways, Nok Air and Air Asia.

    What routes do PB Air serve?
    Jack´s last blog ..The Mistakes Most Men Make with Thai Women – Don’t Let This Happen To You! My ComLuv Profile

    • Talen
      November 22, 2009 | 6:59 pm

      I’m pretty sure PB Air only fly’s between Bangkok and certain North Eastern cities. Maybe 6 or 7 cities tops. The only city I’m 100% sure of is Nakhon Phanom.

  2. brodie
    November 23, 2009 | 6:18 am

    i’ve commented once before on this Thailand News posts. but they are great and please continue writing them

    • Talen
      November 23, 2009 | 1:14 pm

      Thanks for the kind words Brodie.

  3. Martyn
    November 23, 2009 | 12:38 pm

    Talen I’ve not heard of PB Air before and I’m fairly sure they don’t fly to Udon Thani. Reading that they refused to take a sub standard plane is encouraging but they would appear to have a lot of work to do if they are going break into the big players of the Thai air industry.

    Big players…Thai airways is a big boy and they are suffering like the rest of Thailand from the drop in tourism and big Thai businesses cutting back, perhaps there’s a few laptops appearing on the VIP buses now.

    Thai and Vietnamese custom officials seizing over 8 tons of ivory is a phenomenal and sad figure. The ivory trade is a lot bigger than I imagined. Something definitely needs to be done.

    Keep up the reporting, I think your weekly news report is an excellent idea and a great source of information that covers some stories that I’d never read or even hear about.
    Martyn´s last blog ..Habits, Rabbits and Dog Bits My ComLuv Profile

    • Talen
      November 23, 2009 | 1:17 pm

      Martyn, PB is very limited on it’s flights but they charge well for the pleasure of using them. Similar Thai air flights from the region cost half of what PB charges.

      The ivory trade is very big…I didn’t realize just how big either…there won’t be elephants left in Africa soon at this rate.

      Thanks, for the pat on the back….There is always Thai news to be had but I kinda like the more offbeat stories or the ones that aren;t making the rounds as much.

  4. Air Commando
    November 23, 2009 | 2:02 pm

    Latest News: Nok Air will be flying to Nakhon Phanom and most likely Sakon Nakhon on the way within a couple of days. They have hired ground crews and no doubt acquired a permit to fly there. No idea what will happen to PB Air, but can for see no way two airlines could possibly compete on this milk run considering the number of clients. Wonder if I should hang my PBAir tickets on the wall? Wonder if VISA will return my money?! Working on that!!

    • Talen
      November 24, 2009 | 7:55 pm

      That’s good news but I wonder if they will be charging the same prices as PB was charging.

      Hopefully Visa gets your money back on those PB tickets.

      • Air Commando
        November 26, 2009 | 11:35 am

        Actually Nok Air is charging less. RT for 2 in January 10,220 Baht. (About $315.00) PB Air was about $378.00.

        Nok Air is running a special until Dec 15, two for one. Must fly by Dec 15th.

        Nok Air Web site has details. Only fly 3 days a week to NKP and one day to Sakon Nakhon without connection between the two.

  5. Catherine
    November 24, 2009 | 9:20 am

    Talen, you are certainly choosing Thai news that I know nothing about – the local airlines, and smuggling ivory into Thailand. Good job!

    When I was in Burma, I couldn’t help but to admire what I thought were fake ivory carvings. They were not. Either that, or the chap selling them was trying to get a higher price for naught.

    No matter how beautiful, there is no way I would purchase art made from elephant ivory.

    On the other hand… Deer on Borneo drop their antlers each season, so the locals don’t see the sense in keeping to rules that make no sense.
    Catherine´s last blog ..Thai Turkeys for Thanksgiving My ComLuv Profile

    • Talen
      November 24, 2009 | 7:56 pm

      Cat, I find my Thai news in a special hidden place ;P

      I wouldn’t buy the ivory trinkets either but you just know there are many tourists out there that would because they are clueless.

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