Thailand in the News Week Ending 7/10/10

Rumors of Carrefour Exit unfounded?

Thailand Carrefour ad

Over the past week rumors circulated that Carrefour was getting out of the South East Asian market as it was losing money and there were more profitable areas to explore. The speculation was that Carrefour would off load it’s outlets in Malaysia, Singapore, and in Thailand for around $1 billion. The Bangkok Post fueled rumors this week by printing that the chain had been communicating with potential buyers and the British supermarket chain Tesco was the one expressing the most interest in purchasing Carrefour’s stores in Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia.

The speculations began as Carrefour started directing more of its resources to serve the key European markets in France, Spain, Italy and Belgium and it would have made perfect sense to the public, if Carrefour let go of its South Asian stores, since they are not on the high priority list markets for this Company. Analysts justified the rumors by stating that markets in France alone stand for almost half of the Company’s annual income and the fast-growing China, Brazil, and Indonesia stores have also been added to the main branches of the Company.

One thing to keep in mind though is the fact that Thailand is still working on a Retail Act that is supposed to curb the expansion of foreign owned supermarkets in the kingdom and that could cause problems for Carrefour and Tesco alike.

For now all the rumors and speculation have been denied by Carrefour and hopefully that is all there is to it. While I like Tesco I have found more variety and some better pricing in Carrefour…although that statement is subjective as both stores are on the expensive side if you are buying anything imported.

Dutch Murderer’s Thai Connection

Joran Van Der Sloot

While Joran Van Der Sloot awaits a judge’s decision in Lima, Peru, that might see him released from prison, law enforcement officials in Thailand have been investigating the 22-year-old Dutch national’s connection withsex trafficking and the possible disappearance of several young Thai women in 2008.

According to the National Enquirer, Joran Van Der Sloot allegedly recruited women for the sex trade while he lived in Thailand in 2008. According to Thai police sources, several young women went missing while he was there and they are investigating to see if he may have been involved.

Joran Van Der Sloot, currently in a Peruvian prison after being arrested on suspicion of murdering 21-year-old Stephanie Flores Ramirez in May, set up shop in Bangkok, Thailand, after Aruban authorities failed to charge him is the disappearance of 18-year-old Alabama high school student Natalee Holloway. Although arrested twice, Van Der Sloot was released both times due to lack of evidence.

In Bangkok, Van Der Sloot posed as a production consultant for a modeling agency, sourcestold the National Enquirer. A source within Thai law enforcement noted,”There are girls who went missing in Bangkok while van der Sloot was there. Thai investigators are looking into whether he might have been involved.” The source said that many young women often are killed in the sex trade, especially if they threaten to go to the police or resist their recruiters.

Many of these girls have no legal documents. If they go missing, nobody notices. It’s easy to kill them, hide the bodies and get away with it.

But the sex trade story is not a new one. Some believed Joran Van Der Sloot may have sold Natalee Holloway into slavery in 2005. The story that arose via the Dutchman’s activities in Thailand only seemed to substantiate what had  been only suppositions before. Joran Van Der Sloot is believed to have recruited Thai women to work in his native Netherlands as prostitutes, convincing them that they were going to Europe to become models.

His illicit enterprise ended when Dutch freelance reporter Peter De Vries conducted a sting operation on Van Der Sloot’s sex trade business in Bangkok’s Landmark Hotel. De Vries captured Van Der Sloot on tape talking about how he got $13,000 per woman he delivered to his Dutch contacts. According to the tape, which was broadcast in November 2008, Van Der Sloot showed up with several young women and told a man who was posing as a Dutch sex trade industry ‘boss’ that he could obtain passports and visas to get his recruits to the Netherlands, where they would work as “dancers” for $300 per month.

Peter De Vries told De Telegraaf, “The pictures show how little respect this 21-year-old has for the lives of others. The fact that he goes into the trafficking of women after the disappearance of Natalee is typical of him. Making preparations for people smuggling is a crime. It could land him into big problems in Thailand.” The sting was De Vries second regarding Van Der Sloot. De Vries won an Emmy for his undercover sting reporting when he taped Joran Van Der Sloot confessing to being with Natalee Holloway on the night she disappeared and hiring a boat to dump her body in the Caribbean.

Van Der Sloot would later say he lied about the Holloway confession. Aruban authorities would refuse to charge him via the taped evidence. It has not gone without notice that Joran Van Der Sloot is the son of a prominent Aruban judge.

This guy is a real piece of work and hopefully will be making a lot of new friends in the Peruvian prison system.

American Passports Have a New Fee

American Passport

If you are an American citizen living outside America or just travel a lot then chances are you have run out of pages in your passport at one time or another. Not a big deal as all you had to do was head to the local American embassy and get pages added to your passport for free. Well the State Department in it’s infinite wisdom has now decided to charge for this service and it won’t be cheap. After July 13, 2010 this service will now cost you $82.

If you are running low on passport pages now I would suggest heading to the embassy before the 13th. While the Embassy maintains an appointment is necessary for this service they have always taken in walk in traffic before so I wouldn’t bother with an appointment because it is likely they will tell you they are booked solid until after July 13th.

As an aside it may just be cheaper to get a brand new passport with extra pages as that will work out cheaper in the long run. While they have raised the cost of a new passport to $110 having extra pages added when you order shouldn’t cost you any more which will definitely give you a savings.

I can understand charging for this service as the pages and the time to add them does cost money but $82 to do so, as my British friends would say, is taking the piss.

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13 Comment(s)

  1. Talen, I saw the increased US passport charges come pounding by on twitter. There were more than a few upset Americans there, frothing at the mouth.

    Catherine | Jul 11, 2010 | Reply

  2. Cat, I have seen a lot of upset passport holders in the various Thailand forums that are upset as well…I guess the State Department wants to lessen the debt in one fell swoop.

    Talen | Jul 12, 2010 | Reply

  3. When an American is overseas, they are not contributing (much) to the US economy. So maybe that’s it?

    Catherine | Jul 12, 2010 | Reply

  4. Talen we Brits beat you to this one(passports)trust me the US one is still good value.

    Maybe its because I am a Brit but I honestly do not like Carrefour, Tesco every time for me. Well they are French……….:-)

    Mike | Jul 12, 2010 | Reply

  5. Ah… The Carrefour on Pattaya Klang.

    My wife enjoys shopping there on occasion but more often than not we go there just to eat at the MK restaurant.

    As much as I enjoy Thai food the hot pot just does not satisfy me.

    I usually go to the Subway a few doors down and then meet my wife and her friends at the MK where I eat my sandwich and maybe a little Dim Sum. (If we get there early enough.)

    The more I hear about this Van Der Sloot guy the more I think they should chain him to a wall and let anyone who wants kick him in the balls for a week or so then shoot him in the head. Case closed.

    ChuckWow | Jul 12, 2010 | Reply

  6. The rumors may have a very solid foundation and a good reason why for the time being Carrefour is not soundly disputing the rumors and have more to do with putting the current encumbant Thai Government on notice that is does not appreciate their attempts to control aspectings of retail markets, ie: pricing, inability to import certain products and inability to open its own bank.

    Carrefour is not alone, the Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET) is having trouble attracting services partners to open up its intra-day and alternate trading systems, one of which such partners is Carrefours Asias banking partners.

    Lloyd | Jul 12, 2010 | Reply

  7. Lloyd, Carrefour is also rumoured to be pulling out of Malaysia and other SE Asian countries as well.

    Rumour or no, it can’t be doing their reputation any good to have this hanging.

    Catherine | Jul 12, 2010 | Reply

  8. Mike, I can only guess how bad you Brits have it, but there is the queen in the poor house and all.

    I like Tesco but it often seems Carrefour has a better selection to me…but you do make a good point about them being French :P

    Talen | Jul 12, 2010 | Reply

  9. Chuck the dim sum there is quite good.

    I have a feeling we haven’t heard the last of this van der sloot guy…very slimy and he may just walk again.

    Talen | Jul 12, 2010 | Reply

  10. Lloyd, Carrefour is actually soundly disputing the rumors.

    I can see why Carrefour would want the Thai government to but out but it is their playing field and you gotta play by their rules.

    Talen | Jul 12, 2010 | Reply

  11. Hey I just said they “may” have very solid foundations to think about it!

    Carrefour released a statement to deny what was published by Reuters and Bloomberg only not specific questions asked by market analysts relating the winding down of operations in Thailand and Singapore, as compared to Indonesia, which could cause an unwanted reevaluation in its share price.

    Thailand is the only region in Asia where Carrefour, and its banking partners, have been unable to provide full linked financial services.

    Carrefour has only two stores in Singapore, not exactly a market leader, I doubt they would even be noticed if they pulled out.

    Lloyd | Jul 13, 2010 | Reply

  12. Lloyd, given that Tesco also have lots of financial services(in the UK) I take it the same applies to them in Thailand?

    Mike | Jul 13, 2010 | Reply

  13. What an interesting selection of items, today, Talen. I prefer Carrefour, sorry. I think it has a better variety of goods and foods. Although it’s not deep in selection, it just seems to have what I want on Rama IV. I’ll skip commentary on the sc*mbag. I passed along your info on US passport charges to my friends and they didn’t really appreciate it. Hmmm.

    RE banking, isn’t there a regulation that Thailand doesn’t allow more than one representative office for foreign banks. E.g., my bank HSBC has only one branch. I imagine TH would be scared sh*tless if it opened the gates to foreign banking giants.

    SiamRick | Jul 16, 2010 | Reply

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