Tuesday, June 27, 2017
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A meeting of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) on Tuesday approved the invocation of special power under Article 44 of the interim charter to accelerate the development of projects in the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC).

Invocation of this special power is expected to take place in the next few days, covering three areas, said Government Spokesman Lt-General Sansern Kaewkamnerd.

First, it will be executed to speed up the conduct of environment impact assessment (EIA) of each of the planned key projects in the EEC, with the national environment committee being able to appoint a panel of experts to dedicatedly study the environment impact of specific projects.

Foreign experts will also be allowed to sit on this committee, which will have to finish the EIA study of each project within a year of receiving the preliminary EIA report on the project, he said.

Second, the special power provided for under Article 44 will empower the board steering EEC development policy to approve the various public-private partnership (PPP) projects that will be set up in the corridor, without the need to seek consideration of the PPP committee, the spokesman said.

However, approvals of these PPP projects will have to involve consultation with the Finance Ministry and related state agencies in order to ensure transparency.

Third, Article 44 invocation will permit foreign private-aviation firms to hold a share of more than 50 per cent in aviation-related businesses they plan to invest in the EEC’s aviation industry zone, Sansern said.

Industry Minister Uttama Savanayana said the board steering EEC development policy, which is chaired by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, would have direct authority to consider on a case-by-case basis which foreign companies should be allowed to over 50 per cent in aviation businesses within the zone, as the privilege would not be on offer to all foreign entities.

Foreign firms eligible to enjoy the privilege must submit proposals that cover investment, technology transfer, local employment, and a plan to support related businesses in Thailand, the minister explained.

The EEC – taking in the provinces of Chachoengsao, Chon Buri and Rayong – is targeted for massive infrastructure spending to support technologically advanced industries.

 

The downfall of millionaire “Mr X”, long shielded by cash and contacts in Laos, has highlighted the role of the secretive, communist country in showering pills across Southeast Asia.

Allegedly a key figure among gangs buying drugs from Myanmar’s meth labs, Laotian Xaysana Keophimpha — dubbed ‘Mr X’ — is believed to have used his graft-riddled country to shuttle narcotics south, first through Thailand then onto Malaysia.

[The Mekong middlemen running drugs across Asia]

The heavy-set 42-year-old was arrested by armed Thai police on 19 January at Bangkok’s main airport en route to Laos where he lived freely, revelling in a lifestyle of celebrity parties and supercars.

He denies charges of drug possession and smuggling.

But subsequent police operations have turned up several more men accused of running drugs through Laos, an opaque country whose role in the regional narcotics trade is gradually emerging.

They are the suspected middlemen of the ‘Golden Triangle’, shifting pills, ice and heroin from the world’s second largest drug producing zone to a regional market.

Among the accused is Xaysana’s friend Sisouk Daoheoung — a minor Laos celebrity with a penchant for thoroughbred horses and a shared devotion to fast cars and fancy holidays flaunted on social media.

If police are right, their ostentation in one of Asia’s poorest countries was funded by smuggling highly-addictive caffeine-laced methamphetamine pills — better known as ‘yaba’ or crazy medicine — and crystal meth (ice).

“From Xaysana’s phone and Facebook records it was clear he and Sisouk are friends… their (drug) groups are connected,” Thai Police Major-General Supakit Srijantranon told AFP last week.

Meth men

At $8 a pop in Thailand, the best yaba pills rise in price the further they move from source, bringing extraordinary rewards to the traffickers.

Stamped with a distinctive ‘WY’, the pink and green pills of the Myanmar drug labs are supercharging everyone from Malaysian farm hands to Bangkok’s “Hi-So” (high society) party crowd.

Each year regional seizures break records, according to the UN’s crime agency.

That points to better law enforcement, they say, but it also show that the cartels can ramp up production at will to cover losses.

The highest quality pills (15-20 percent meth purity) come from the factories of the North and South Wa — armed ethnic groups marshalling a self-governing state on the Myanmar-China border — and by the Lahu hill tribe.

Poor, corrupt and bordering five countries, Laos makes for an ideal transit route to the rest of Southeast Asia.

Drugs are shifted across the Mekong river into Thailand then onto Malaysia and beyond.

Thailand is being hit hard by the trade.

Between October last year and April, Thailand seized 74 million pills, according to the kingdom’s Narcotics Control Board (NCB), as well as two tonnes of crystal meth and 320 kilogrammes of heroin.

Official estimates say the kingdom has around 1.3 million addicts, with drug convictions accounting for the bulk of Thailand’s prison population of 290,000 — the tenth highest incarceration rate in the world.

“Drugs are destroying everything. They affect the security of our country, our society and people,” NCB secretary-general Sirinya Sitdhichai told AFP.

Cops are fighting back and say they have battered three major Laos-linked drug networks, confiscating tens of millions of dollars-worth of assets including hotels, cars, cash and even a horse riding school in Vientiane.

They are still hunting a fourth group led by Usman Salameang, a Thai believed to be holed up in Laos, wanted for moving gear through Thailand’s violent border area into Malaysia.

“He is the only big boss we are still trying to arrest,” Sirinya said.

All roads lead to Laos

Historically, communist Laos has been reluctant to admit it has a drug problem.

But under Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith the country is keen to show it is flushing out criminals and corrupt officials.

The recent arrests are part of his get-tough message to the drug gangs.

Last year Laos authorities reeled in a record 144 kilogrammes of crystal meth and nearly 21 million yaba pills.

The once toothless Lao National Commission for Drug Control and Supervision (LCDC), has been beefed up under control of the Ministry of Public Security.

The fall of Xaysana and co. is being bundled up as victory for intelligence-sharing between Laos and Thailand.

But with many western embassies still unable to post specialist narcotics police in Laos it is hard to get facts on the country’s suspected role as a haven for drug producers.

The LCDC did not respond to AFP requests for comment.

And while Laos authorities sweep up mid-ranking henchmen they do not touch “the major organised crime behind significant production and trafficking,” according to Jeremy Douglas of the UNODC.

Questions remain over how high-profile suspects could have operated beyond the law for so long.

One reason for that impunity is their aversion to publicity and violence — in contrast to their Latin American peers — a western drug enforcement official told AFP, requesting anonymity.

They live by a maxim of “Don’t bring attention to your operations. You work in silence, you work in the dark.”

 

Healthcare at |your fingertips

Posted by pakin On May - 9 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS

KING MONGKUT VARSITY STUDENTS DO THAILAND PROUD BY WINNING |THE IMAGINE CUP IN |SOUTHEAST ASIA WITH THEIR UNIQUE INVENTION AND NOW SET THEIR SIGHTS ON THE WORLD FINALS IN SEATTLE IN JULY

A NEW INVENTION by a group of students from King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi promises to break new ground in helping people’s healthcare.

The university’s Team Welse has developed a portable Internet of Things (IoT) device that facilitates clinical lab tests on blood samples, so that people can easily monitor their health by testing their blood.

Team Welse, who were winners of the Imagine Cup Thailand 2017, made their impact in the region when they beat teams from nine other countries in the inaugural 2017 Imagine Cup Southeast Asia, held in the Philippines on April 24. They are now one of seven teams to reach the World Finals in Seattle, in July.

Kanes Kemiganithi, a member of the Team Welse, said their aim was to come up with an invention that would enable people to monitor their health and detect any problems instantly without having to rush to a hospital.

Welse developed the project over a year, before submitting it for the Imagine Cup Thailand, which they won.

“Competition taught us a lot; feedback is very important to help us improve our products. Other teams and expectations also gave us the inspiration to do better and improve our product,” said Kanes.

Welse’s concept is: early detection will |save cost, time, and offer the opportunity to recover.

The concept operates through a platform and a device. The platform collects health information of people from existing medical devices such as iHealth, detect glucose in blood, Fitbit, Kinsa, and Jawbone. Meanwhile the device, designed as a lab on a chip, will test the blood and send the data up to the cloud.

The existing device mostly is a single test or single monitoring health information. “The beauty of Welse is it can perform multiple tests that can detect three things in the same device. It changes a chemical substance on the chip to detect different matters. A single drop of blood can be used to detect three different enzymes,” Kanes said.

“We bring the existing technology in the lab, condense it to make it practical enough to be used on a small device, and digitalise the device to send the data up to |the cloud,” Kanes explained.

Their project received support from many quarters. Siam Photon assisted with design and manufacture of the chip and device; the District Health System Programme provided collaboration for testing; and Mahidol University supported the reagents and samples.

Welse is a rapid test that provides a screening test. Target users are both healthcare units and individual users.

By the end of 2017, it aims to create a Welse device with a plastic chip for testing the functioning of the liver and by the middle of 2018 the plastic chip can detect the body’s fluid data analytic.

Siriporn Pajharawat, the director of Developer Experience and Platform Evangelism (DX) Group, Microsoft Thailand, said that Imagine Cup Thailand 2017 was held under the theme “StudentsInSTEM”, with an emphasis on science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines that equip students with the necessary skills in critical thinking, problem solving, and creativity essential for successful implementation of Thailand 4.0.

“We are entering what is widely referred to as the 4th Industrial Revolution, an era where the development of new materials, breakthroughs in the field of genetic engineering and digital transformation are increasingly blurring the lines between the physical, biological and digital worlds,” said Siriporn.

According to a list of the Most Promising Jobs of 2017 published by LinkedIn, all the top 20 occupations require STEM skills. Moreover, a World Economic Forum survey revealed that a digital transformation era will make STEM professions one of the fastest-growing in the next five years.

“To prepare for this new digital era, Thailand needs to focus on equipping the future workforce with technological and critical thinking skills, and inspire Thai youth to innovate and develop. The recent Microsoft Asia Digital Future Survey showed that Thai youth feel the winds of change |as 70 per cent of them agree that the country is ready to adapt to digital disruptions. We very much hope that Imagine Cup will serve as the platform for our next generation to further develop their STEM skills, and most importantly their creativity as prospect innovators.

“That’s why for Imagine Cup 2017 this year, we were looking for deep technology integration in fully formed apps and devices that have real-life implementation potential,” said Siriporn.

 

CIMB Thai aims to become a high-performance mid-tier bank with annualised profit before tax of Bt15 billion within five years. As part of that effort, it is using digital banking to support new business areas.

Kittiphun Anutarasoti, president and chief executive officer of CIMBT, said the bank planned to make rapid transformations in order to improve productivity and efficiency and provide good experiences to customers.

The bank has divided the transformation project into three phrases. Phase 1, which will be carried out this year and next, is the rapid-transformation stage. The bank will focus on strengthening its foundations in various areas such as asset-quality management, operational processes and control, revenue acceleration, and capital optimisation.

“We are looking to outsource the transformation to ensure it starts off on the right foot,” Kittiphun said. “We will be leveraging the expertise of world-class consultants in|Phase 1.

“They will help to validate the transformation opportunities identified for the organisation, with a strong focus on execution and value creation for our shareholders, customers and employees.”

He added that the bank’s strategy this year would be to continue investing in new growth engines for the future such as digital banking to expand customer base and business base and maintain its competitiveness. It will also focus on improving portfolio asset quality, process efficiency and employee capabilities to respond efficiently to clients’ requirements and promote sustainable growth in its commercial banking operations.

The bank moreover will continue to focus on serving corporates with Asean aspirations, generating sustainable income flows and cross-selling for wholesale banking.

In Phase 2, planned for 2019-20, the bank will focus on building new capabilities and growth engines. It aims to accelerate and intensify its growth in key areas such as small and medium-sized enterprises, private banking and digital banking, which it believes offer huge opportunities to grow.

The final phase, in 2021-22, will be the bank’s final sprint towards achieving its aspiration to become an Asean-focused mid-tier bank in Thailand and complete the transformation project.

“We expect that the Thai economy will continue growing in 2017, albeit at a slow pace,” Kittiphun said. “The main growth engines for Thailand this year will be tourism and public investment, given the low-interest-rate environment.

“Meanwhile, Thailand’s banking industry is still one of the most attractive in Southeast Asia, with revenue pools expected to reach about US$60 billion [Bt2 trillion] by 2020.

“Thailand will continue to be a key strategic market for CIMB Group over the long term.”

He said CIMBT was expected to return to profitability by the end of this year and was targeting a return on equity of more than 6 per cent, loan growth including lending and money-market products of 5-10 per cent, and net interest margin of about 3.8 per cent.

 

 

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