Sunday, August 20, 2017
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Northern border market under 30cm of floodwater

Posted by pakin On August - 18 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS

The Sai River, swollen by days of heavy rain, flooded markets on both sides of the Thai-Myanmar border late Thursday night.

Popular markets in both Tachileik in Myanmar and Mae Sai in Chiang Rai were inundated, with vendors rushing to move their goods to safety.

Chiang Rai Governor Narongsak Osotthanakorn instructed Mae Sai district chief Chutidej Meechan early Friday to get Disaster Prevention and Mitigation officials to Ban Sai Lomjoi village and the Sai Lomjoi Market community after homes there were delu

Google fires employee behind anti-diversity memo

Posted by pakin On August - 15 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS

Internet giant Google has fired the male engineer at the centre of an uproar in Silicon Valley over the past week after he authored an internal memo asserting there are biological causes behind gender inequality in the tech industry.

James Damore, the engineer who wrote the memo, confirmed his dismissal, saying in an email to Reuters on Monday that he had been fired for “perpetuating gender stereotypes”.

Mr Damore said he was exploring all possible legal remedies, and that before being fired, he had submitted a charge to the US National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) accusing Google upper management of trying to shame him into silence.

“It’s illegal to retaliate against an NLRB charge,” he wrote in the email.

Google, a unit of Alphabet Inc based in Mountain View, California, said it could not talk about individual employee cases.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai told employees in a note on Monday that portions of the anti-diversity memo “violate our Code of Conduct and cross the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace,” according to a copy of the note seen by Reuters.

It was not immediately clear what legal authority Mr Damore could try to invoke. Non-union or “at will” employees, such as most tech workers, can be fired in the United States for a wide array of reasons that have nothing to do with performance.

The US National Labor Relations Act guarantees workers, whether they are in a union or not, the right to engage in “concerted activities” for their “mutual aid or protection”.

Mr Damore, though, would likely face an uphill fight to seek that protection based on his memo, said Alison Morantz, a Stanford University law professor with expertise in labour law.

“It’s going to be a hard sell that this activity was either concerted or for mutual aid or protection, rather than simply venting or pitting one group of workers against the others, which does not sound very mutual,” Ms Morantz said.

Debate over the treatment of women in the male-dominated tech industry has raged for months. Claims of persistent sexual harassment in the ranks of Uber Technologies Inc and of several venture capital firms led to management shakeups.

Management at the largest tech firms, including Google, have publicly committed to diversifying their workforces, although the percentage of women in engineering and management roles remains low at many companies.

Mr Damore’s memo attacked the idea that gender diversity should be a goal.

“The distribution of preferences and abilities of men and women differ in part due to biological causes and … these differences may explain why we don’t see equal representation of women in tech and leadership,” Mr Damore wrote in the internal company memo last week.

Google’s vice-president of diversity, Danielle Brown, sent a memo in response to the furore over the weekend, saying the engineer’s essay “advanced incorrect assumptions about gender”.

 

State hand in Thaicom’s next satellite

Posted by pakin On August - 15 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS

For the first time, the government will take partial control of the management and operation of a new satellite of Thaicom Plc in an effort to channel the benefits of the space economy to the general public.

The government-operated satellite will be dubbed the “national satellite” instead of Thaicom 9, the original name intended by the country’s sole satellite service provider.

The rest of Thaicom’s satellites will eventually fall under the new satellite business operative framework.

“State telecom enterprise CAT Telecom will probably be assigned to partly operate and manage the state satellite,” Deputy Prime Minister Prajin Juntong told the Bangkok Post.

The new state satellite, in orbital slot 119.5 East, is scheduled to be launched by Thaicom in 2019.

ACM Prajin said the move is in line with the new satellite business operative framework, which the government designed to channel benefits of the space economy to the people.

According to a resolution of the national space policy committee led by ACM Prajin in the last two weeks, CAT will partially invest in or operate the new satellite.

ACM Prajin said CAT will submit details of alternative management frameworks under consideration to the committee by the end of this month. The enterprise will also weigh in on the project’s investment budget, he said.

According to a 2016 cabinet resolution, Thaicom 7 and 8 must operate under the old concession system instead of a licensing regime. Meanwhile, satellites after 2016 will come under the new business structure.

Thaicom satellites are currently managed under a licensing regime by their namesake company. Thaicom is a subsidiary of InTouch Holdings Plc, the biggest telecom conglomerate in the country and the owner of AIS, the country’s largest mobile operator.

Thaicom, formerly known as Shin Satellite Co, was originally founded by ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Today, Thaicom operates three satellites under a concession regime: Thaicom 4 (iPSTAR), a broadband satellite; and Thaicom 5 and 6, both broadcasting satellites.

Thaicom 4 is in orbital slot 119.5 East and Thaicom 5 is at 78.5 East. The concessions of Thaicom 4 and 5 under the Digital Economy and Society (DE) Ministry will expire in 2021.

Thaicom had sought an agreement to hire an international satellite builder to construct the new Thaicom 9 satellite for launch by 2019 to replace Thaicom 4. The plan also called for a Thaicom 10 to replace Thaicom 5.

But Thaicom suspended its plan last year amid news that the government was working on improving the operating structure of the satellite business. Thaicom and representatives of the government have negotiated many times but have yet to settle on a new business structure.

A high-ranking source at CAT who asked not to be named said there are three alternatives for the new satellite: CAT leads the operation with the private sector joining in the investment; shareholding under terms of the Public-Private Joint Venture Act; or a private company (Thaicom) leads the operation and CAT buys 30% of transponder capacity to operate for the public’s benefit.

Under the option that CAT leads the operation, CAT has to start a process with the DE Ministry to reserve a satellite orbital slot through the International Telecommunication Union. The ITU is responsible for arranging orbital slots in space for satellites.

“However, CAT will be involve in every alternative, as it is the intention of the government,” the source said.

CAT has three satellite ground stations in Nonthaburi, Chon Buri and Udon Thani.

Vunnaporn Devahastin, secretary-general of the Office of the National Digital Economy and Society Commission, acknowledged that the new satellite at 119.5 East will be called the national satellite instead of Thaicom 9.

In related news, the government is negotiating with Thaicom on a proper method of compensation, in compliance with the resolution of the cabinet in 2016 that Thaicom 7 and 8 are required to turn to the old concession system instead of a licensing regime.

In the government’s view, Thaicom must pay an annual concession fee of 20.5% for Thaicom 7 and 8, a sharp increase from the present 5.75% fee under the licence system.

Thaicom 7 and 8 operate under the single licence of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission, which requires a 5.75% license fee payment to the NBTC.

 

AUDITOR-GENERAL Pisit Leelawachiropas has threatened to release the names of local administrative officials who are organising trips to Bangkok in support of former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra. 

The threat emerged yesterday as Pheu Thai Party secretary-general Phumtham Wechayachai announced that he believed people would “give us [Pheu Thai] a chance to always stand by them”. 

Yingluck, the former leader of Pheu Thai, is fighting charges of negligence related to her government’s rice-pledging scheme, which allegedly caused massive financial damages to the country, at the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Persons Holding Political Positions. 

When she showed up to deliver her closing statements in the case on August 1, more than 1,000 people attended to express moral support for her. 

On August 25, the court is scheduled to deliver a verdict in the case. 

“There are reports that some local administrative body officials have planned trips under the pretext of other missions. Local government officials have told us that there are plans to bring participants to the court too,” Pisit said yesterday. “Such actions happened before on August 1.” He added that his office was investigating the reports and would consider releasing the names of those involved. 

Surasarn Pasuk, a former MP affiliated with the Pheu Thai Party, urged Pisit to disclose the names, adding that otherwise society would be confused by the claim. 

“In my opinion, local administrative bodies have been very careful during the past few years under close scrutiny. I don’t think they will dare using the state budget for such purposes,” he said. 

Thida Thavornseth, a leader of the red-shirt umbrella group United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship, said red-shirt supporters were being suppressed and blocked from travelling to the court to show support for Yingluck on August 25, with most modes of transport having been made unavailable by the government. 

People who wished to show up at the court would have to take public buses, she said. 

Government suppression had caused difficulties for people and as a result angered them, she said, adding that the current situation was even worse than during the era of Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat, whose military-led government in the 1950s and 1960s was notoriously repressive.

In response to Thida’s remarks, National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) spokesman Winthai Suvaree said the government did not intend to prevent people from showing their support for Yingluck, but needed to ensure peace and order. The NCPO had to prevent any mobilisation related to the event from escalating into a big political movement, he added.

Phutham said his party would respect the court’s ruling, regardless of the outcome, while insisting that the rice-pledging scheme had been conducted honestly and cautiously in line with the country’s administrative plan. 

“If our dedication to contribute to the well-being of the majority will hurt us, then we still believe that the people will understand, protect us and give us a chance to always stand by them,” said Phumtham.

The verdict in the rice-pledging scheme is seen as having a profound impact on the fate of Yingluck as well as Pheu Thai Party. 

Phumtham said Pheu Thai believed that national reconciliation could not be achieved unless there was justice in society.

It was the responsibility of the leadership, especially the government, to set an example in ensuring justice equally for everyone, he said.

“Pheu Thai Party has demonstrated our standpoint that unity can happen if the process towards creating it is not merely a ritual based on image, but a sincere effort towards facilitating fairness and equality for everyone,” he said. “With this, true unity can happen and it will be an important way to take our country out of crisis.”

The party secretary-general also denied that Pheu Thai was discussing who would lead the party in the next election, adding that the party was a political institution that had rules and regulations to follow. 

Determining the party leader must be done through an internal democratic process with the participation of party members, he said. However, due to the NCPO’s ban on political activities, it was impossible for a meeting to be held to make such a decision, he added. It was too early to determine whether the next leader would come from the Shinawatra family, he added.

As the day of the verdict approaches, the NCPO has been stepping up security measures and warning against organised mobilisation of Yingluck supporters as well as calling on people to stay home and not turn up at the court to support Yingluck.

Authorities have also ordered the temporary shutdown of a red-shirt TV station, citing one programme’s content as allegedly breaking the law. 

The move ahead of Yingluck’s verdict has been widely seen as an attempt to restrain Pheu Thai supporters from demonstrating their power. The party last week issued a statement calling for the NCPO to end violations of rights and freedoms of ordinary people and the media.

Phumtham said yesterday that all of the public’s basic rights under the Constitution must be respected by the government. 

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