Category Archives: General

Launch of 24 Hour English News Channel in Thailand

When I first came to Thailand it was very difficult to get much news about the country in the English language.  That all changed with the launch of Thailand Outlook Channel a few years back. For the first time we were getting English language news and variety programmes on cable television. They then re-branded under the Thai-ASEAN News (TAN) Network and can now be found on True Visions Channel 78. They became far more serious with news content  and they started to live up to their slogan of being “Thailand’s first and only 24 hour English news channel”. However, they now have competition in the form of ASEAN TV which also broadcasts on True Visions on Channel 99.

ASEAN TV have been around for nearly two years as a project of MCOT. In April 2011 they joined with Nation Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) and The Nation and started to produce three hours of original news and analysis per day from Monday to Friday. 21st June 2011 saw the official launch of ASEAN TV where they announced that they will now be producing 6 hours of air time per day. 75% of time slot will be allocated to 9 news and news talk programs while another 25% of time slot allocated to documentary programs, socio-cultural programs, travelling programs as well as programs on food and beverages.

Asean News Room: offering news on ASEAN member countries from The Nation News Room and ANN (Monday – Friday at 7.00-8.00 a.m. and 9.00-10.30 p.m.)
Asean Business Report: Economics and Monetary News, Stocks reports from dominant stock markets in Asia (Mon-Fri 12.00 a.m.- 1p.m.)
Asean TV News: 1.5 hours daily providing updated news (Mon-Sun 1 – 1.30 p.m., 5-5.30 p.m., 8-8.30 pm)
Asean Talk: Conversation with Important figures in policy making from various countries in ASEAN (Mon-Fri 8-9.30 p.m.)
Hourly News Update: Monday–Sunday at 09.00 a.m., 10.00 a.m., 11.00 a.m., 12.00 a.m., 2  p.m. , 3  p.m. and 5  p.m.

Mekong sub region (Series): Offering new changes in Mekong sub region on Friday at 10.00-11.00 p.m.
Towards 2015: Each countries preparation to become ASEAN community in 2015. Wednesday-Thursday at 10.00 p.m. -11.00 p.m.
INSIDE ASIA: Offering current situation and interesting figures every Friday at 7.00-8.00 p.m. hosted by Thanong Khantong, and Kavi Chongkittavorn
VIEWPOINT: Stories and viewpoints of celebrities from all over the world by Veenarat Laohapakakul on Thursdays 7.00 p.m. -8 p.m.

9 Entertainment programs  consist of :

Panorama series every Monday-Friday at 10-11 am.
Asean  Documentaries
every Monday-Friday at 5.30-6 pm and
Nation documentaries
Monday-Friday at 7-8 pm
Healthy Flavor: Healthy Food program offering healthy food option every Saturady at 9.30-10.00 am
Live the Life: Teenage backpacking traveling program to various countries in ASEAN every Sunday at 9.30-10 am
THIS IS THAILAND: introducing travel destinations and community tradition in Thailand every Saturday at 9-9.30 am
POP ASEAN: introducing cultures from various ASEAN countries every Monday at 11.00-11.30 pm
Art Connection: takes you to Art Galleries all over ASEAN countries every Tuesday at 11-11.30 am
Design Asian: introducing creative decoration ideas every Wednesday-Friday at 11.00-11.30 pm

In the run-up to the Thai national elections, ASEAN TV have regular programming covering election news. On election day they will be reporting live from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. which will be the first English news coverage of a Thai Election. In October, MCOT and NBC will increase production to 8-10 hours daily. ASEAN TV broadcasts via THAICOM 5 satellite. You can watch on True Visions 99, PSI Channel 88 and also on the MCOT iPhone app. It should also be possible to pick up the signals on four continents around the world.

Korn Chatikavanij on the Election Campaign Trail

One of the most charismatic politicians in Thailand at the moment is Korn Chatikavanij. He used to be an investment banker and is now currently the caretaker Finance Minister. Like other high profile politicians, he has been travelling the country in order to help local candidates in the Democrat Party with their election campaigns. On Friday 17th May 2011, Korn came to Samut Prakan in support of the local Democrat Candidate Saracha Weerachatwattana.

Last week, Yingluck from the Phue Thai party visited Samut Prakan and had a very warm welcome (see here). Which is not surprising as many areas in Samut Prakan have been designated “Red Zones”. The election posters that have been defaced the most here are for the Democrat Party. On Monday, Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban came to our province and had an egg thrown at him. Last month, Pheu Thai MP Pracha Prasopdee was shot in an apparent assassination plot. So, I guess it is not surprising that Samut Prakan has been declared “Thailand’s most likely scene of poll-related violence”.

After taking pictures of Yingluck’s visit to Samut Prakan for my local newspaper, I was keen to get some pictures of a Democrat politician. So, I sent Korn a private message on Twitter and asked when he was coming to Samut Prakan. As luck would have it, he said that he was coming that very week. With Yingluck, I only took pictures of her at Paknam Market. But Korn suggested that I join him on the pick-up trucks for the tour of the constituency. I had never done that before so I jumped at the chance. He told me to meet everyone at the Esso petrol station in Samut Prakan.

When I arrived, the local Democrat Candidate Saracha Weerachatwattana was already there. She was discussing with the police the route that they would be taking around the constituency. Everything had been planned in great detail in advance in order to secure the safety of Saracha and Korn. Apparently they hadn’t requested a police presence but after the incident with the egg-throwing on Monday they weren’t taking any chances. Even the provincial police chief was there and he told me that there were twenty policemen here at the start of the parade with a total 200 policemen being utilized along the entire route.

In the parade there were two pick-up trucks that had been converted to carry the candidate and the Democrat Party support staff. As you can see, they are also fitted out with a sound system. These pick-up trucks have been driving around town every day for the last few weeks playing music and broadcasting political messages.  Out in front were a dozen people on motorcycles flying banners of the Democrat Party and also the Thai flag. Surrounding them were the police escort as well as plain-clothes policemen videoing the crowd.

Korn and Saracha jumped on the front pick-up truck and I went on the rear truck. For most of them time they were too far in front for me to take any pictures and I couldn’t really see what was going on. However, every time they made a U-turn, I had a photo opportunity to get some good pictures. Korn was waving and wai-ing people by the side of the road and Saracha raised ten fingers symbolizing the number for their party. Korn had a big smile on his face for the majority of the time regardless whether anyone smiled back at him or not.

Along the way we went through several housing estates and also stopped at two different markets. At these places Korn had the opportunity to speak to the crowd about the policies of his party. At the same time the Democrat support staff were handing out pamphlets. At each market there was a reasonable number of onlookers who gathered round to listen to his speech. Though the majority of the people carried on with their business. Like with Yingluck last week, quite a few people came forward to give them roses and other flowers.

After the stop at the first market I switched pick-up trucks and jumped on the one with Korn and Saracha. My purpose was to get some pictures from a different angle but it also painted a very different picture for me. When I was in the truck at the end of the parade I hardly noticed any public reaction. It felt like he was almost wasting his time as people either didn’t know who he was or just didn’t care. After all, these pick-up trucks pass through here often and people have stopped paying them any attention.

Now that I was in the lead pick-up truck with Korn, I could see how much he was working the crowd. He was continually looking around and either waving or giving the Thai wai. He was very energetic despite the fact that he had just flown back in the morning from up north. Quite a few people, when they recognized him, smiled and either gave a “wai” back or raised their ten fingers. I was surprised with the positive reaction he was getting. Very different to Suthep’s visit to Samut Prakan.

The impression that I got was that not all of these people were Democrat voters but were just genuinely pleased to see him. Thai people are naturally very polite and kind to visitors. So, for many of them it was probably an automatic reaction to smile back. But, the majority of the people that we passed  just gave him blank stares either out of hatred or indifference. Which is very different to elections in the past. Politics has changed so much now and people are far more serious about their affiliations. Even people from the same family are having heated arguments. This picture shows some of the election posters for the Democrats which have had Abhisit’s face cut out.

It is difficult to gauge how useful people like Korn are for the local candidates. They have a very tight schedule and even though Korn only visited one constituency there was still a large area to cover. Korn travelled around on the pick-up truck for nearly two hours. When Yingluck came to Samut Prakan she spent most of the day visiting various areas. She started in Phra Pradaeng, then Samrong, Paknam and finally Bang Phli. In the late afternoon she drove up to Ayutthaya. But, to be fair to Korn, he still has to run the Finance Ministry. Anyway, other ministers, including the prime minister, will be coming to campaign in Samut Prakan soon. I doubt if anyone else from Phue Thai will come again.

I had a really great time going around Samut Prakan in the Democrats campaign trucks. It was very interesting for me to see the reaction of local people to Korn and his party. It was also interesting for me to compare this with the reaction that Yingluck got from the people. Politics aside, at the end of the day, Korn is a warm, generous and passionate man who loves the work that he does. He has no ambitions of being prime minister and he said that he would be perfectly happy spending the remainder of his political life assisting Abhisit in a Democrat led government. When he entered politics in 2004, he made a promise that he would only stay for 15 years. He says that he has full intention of keeping that promise.

This is a personal blog with my observations and views of things that I see in my every day life in Thailand. I do it for fun. I don’t sell these pictures though the ones taken in Samut Prakan sometimes appear in the Paknam Post newspaper.

Yingluck’s Whirlwind Tour of Paknam Market

The number one party list candidate for the Pheu Thai Party is Yingluck Shinawatra. She is busy campaigning now for the upcoming Thai elections in early July. Some people are speculating that she might very well be Thailand’s first female prime minister this year. To be honest, I am not sure if this will solve any of our problems as she is, of course, the sister of Thaksin, our former PM. I am worried that it might lead to a new round of street protests and more violence. However,  I am happy for Thailand if they get a woman as a prime minister. Maybe a feminine touch is just what the country needs at this time.

Yingluck has been busy travelling around the country in order to drum up support for the local candidates in the Pheu Thai Party. Which is why today she came to my neighbourhood of Samut Prakan. She started the day of in Phra Pradaeng before crossing the Chao Phraya River to meet the staunch red shirt supporters at Imperial World Samrong. From there, Yingluck and her caravan of election canvassers drove south to Paknam, which is the capital city of Samut Prakan. This is where I was waiting to take her picture for my local newspaper.

By the time I arrived at Paknam Market at about 1 p.m. there were already several hundred people. This number swelled to about 500 by the time she arrived half an hour later. It was difficult to tell who were actually Pheu Thai supporters and who were just interested onlookers. However, there were many people holding red roses and other flowers to give to Yingluck. What she was going to do was enter Paknam Market from the Southern end and exit at the other end where her car was waiting. This was the first time for me to cover an election campaign.

I really only needed one good picture for the Paknam Post newspaper and a few others for our website at www.Paknam.com. This was easier said than done. The main problem is that she was mobbed by people wanting to get close and also to have their picture taken with her. She had minders who were doing their best to keep everyone moving along. The lady to her right is our local candidate. She is the wife of a banned Thai Rak Thai politician and the owners of Imperial. To be honest, she was outshined here by Yingluck and the people that I asked couldn’t even remember her name. But then, I guess they will vote for Number 1 whoever it is.

Paknam Market is not a very big place and it is quite dark too. I didn’t really have much media competition so there was no scrum, and clashing of cameras, to get a good picture. But it wasn’t that easy and it was all over very quickly. From the time she stepped out of her car and then got back into it at the far end, about 15 minutes had passed. I like the challenge of taking pictures at live events like this one where you don’t get much control. But, I much prefer taking pictures at the cultural events, like the one I attended this morning. Hopefully out of the 200 pictures that I took of Yingluck’s whirlwind visit, the editor will be pleased with at least one or two.

American Arrested in Thailand for Linking to a Website from his Blog

Bloggers in Thailand, be careful what you write and link to from your website.

For some years now I have been very careful about what I write and discuss on the subject of Thailand. The name of the country is supposed to translate as the “land of the free”. However, it is only free up to an extent. Thailand these days now has one of the worst track records for freedom of the press. I own a number of blogs and forums. Everything has to be carefully moderated and anything posted that might be seen as detrimental to the institution has to be quickly deleted. This includes comments made by other people. If we delay deleting something, even as late as only 24 hours, we could be arrested and sent to prison. It doesn’t matter if we wrote it or not. As moderators and administrators we have to take responsibility.

The highest institution is of course the royal family. I think even newcomers to blogging in Thailand know that they should avoid that subject. Personally I don’t discuss anything to do with the royal family on my blogs unless I close the comment section. It is just too risky. And not only in the comments as some Thai people might misunderstand the intention of my own words. When it comes to the lese majeste law, anyone can file a complaint with the police and it must be followed up. The Nation recently reported that between 2006-2009 the number of cases have increased by 1,500% compared to the previous period [see story].

What I want to do here today is warn any foreign bloggers or forum moderators out there based in Thailand that they too can be targetted. It wasn’t that long ago that an Australian wrote a novel that had a page about a fictitious crown prince. It was self-published and only sold a handful of copies. But, that didn’t make any difference. He was arrested and charged with lese majeste [see story]. I cannot even tell you about the case otherwise I could be charged with lese majeste for talking about it. That is what happened to some foreign journalists who gave a talk at the FCCT in Bangkok [see story]. So, up to now, it is pretty clear you have to be careful what you write and discuss on your blogs and forums based in Thailand.

Now comes the news that an American citizen has just been arrested for linking to a pdf download of a banned book about the Thai King. We don’t know many details yet as the Thai media are not allowed to discuss lese majeste cases in detail. However, from Prachatai I have managed to get the followed information:

Apparently the DSI brought Joe (not his real name) to the Ratchada Criminal Court on 26th May 2011 with the charges of lese majeste and the Computer Crime act. Joe is a 54 year old resident of Nakhon Ratchasima Province. He is Thai by birth but has lived in Colarado, America for 30 years. He recently returned to Thailand for medical treatment. The blog in question dates back to 2007 where he allegedly put a link to a download of a banned book, “The King Never Smiles”. Joe denies doing this and has requested help form the American Embassy. He was denied bail and now resides in jail at the Bangkok Remand Prison.

So, I cannot emphasise enough, if you are a blogger or forum administrator based in Thailand or go to Thailand for your holidays, be careful what you write, or allow to be written on your blogs and forums. You could end up in a Thai prison if you don’t practice self-censorship. Don’t say that you weren’t warned.

Link to original story in Thai: http://www.prachatai.com/journal/2011/05/35124

UPDATE: This story has now been picked up by the AP and AFP and is being widely reported around the world [see story]. New details emerging from the police are this: “He translated articles which are deemed insulting to the monarchy and posted them on his blog. Also he provided a link to a book”. I will update more later if anything new emerges. However, we are not allowed to report on exactly what he translated.

Thailand Map of Movie Locations for Hangover 2

The Hangover Part 2 has just been released in America. The first one was shot in Vegas, but now Bangkok has them. There has been some mixed reviews on the Internet. I just got back fromw atching it and had a really enjoyable time. There were plenty of belly laughs to make it worthwhile. After reading the comment by the American film critic Roger Ebert that Hangover 2 “plays like an anti-travelogue paid for by a rival tourist destination — Singapore, maybe” I thought that the TAT might need to do some damage control this weekend. But, I don’t think it was bad at all. There were certainly plenty of clichés in the movie. But the scenery around Krabi in Southern Thailand makes me want to go there for my next holiday.

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This is a map of Thailand showing the various locations used by the film crew for the shooting of The Hangover Part II in Thailand. The film opens in Krabi with the beautiful white beaches and limestone cliffs. This is in Southern Thailand. The film then jumps to Bangkok. Many of the outdoor scenes were shot in Chinatown. The bars were shot at Soi Cowboy and Sukhumwit Soi 7/1. There were also some scenes on a long-tailed boat on the Thonburi canals and a speedboat on the Chao Phraya River.

Some of the backdrops to the monastery were shot at Ancient City in Samut Prakan. However, it looked to me like most of the scenes with the monks were probably shot in the USA. Mainly because they used Tibetan monks. They wear different coloured robes compared to Thai monks. They also had eyebrows. Thai monks shave theirs off. A lot of the other scenes that were inside, like in the hotel, GoGo bar and tattoo parlour, were most likely shot in a studio in the USA as well.

If you can help adding more locations to the map then please let me know.