Tuesday, October 17, 2017
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FRESNO, CALIFORNIA – Relatives of two exchange students from Thailand who were killed in California are planning funeral ceremonies after their bodies were pulled from a mangled rental car lodged on boulders in the middle of a river, a Thai diplomat said on Tuesday.

A recovery team reclaimed the two bodies on Friday from the car in the Kings River near Fresno, more than a month after it careened down a cliff on July 26.

Relatives of the two victims endured weeks of waiting before the team felt it was safe to enter the dangerous rapids deep in a gorge.

“It was agonising for them,” said Tanee Sangrat, consul at the Consulate-General in Los Angeles. The relatives have come to “accept the fates of their loved ones,” he said.

The Fresno County Sheriff’s Office used a helicopter to lower the recovery team into the river. They used a hand wench to pull the car to the riverbank and free the bodies.

Crime scene analysts used fingerprints to confirm that the victims were Pakapol Chairatnathrongporn, 28, and his friend Thiwadee Saengsuriyarit, 24.

They were students at the University of South Florida and were visiting Kings Canyon National Park in the Sierra Nevada when their car crashed through a guardrail and plunged into the river.

The story has gripped Thailand, Mr Tanee said.

Authorities have not yet released the cause of death. Fresno officials turned over the remains to a funeral home and relatives will have them cremated before a ceremony expected later this week at a temple in North Hollywood, Thai and Fresno County officials said.

Relatives of Thiwadee will take her ashes back to Thailand, while Pakapol’s cremated remains will be scattered in California because “he loved the US.”

Investigators as a result of the recovery effort also found another car submerged nearby that authorities believe was driven by a missing couple from China.

Officials think the second car crashed into the same stretch of river around Aug 6.

Authorities have said it could take weeks for the river’s level to drop enough for them to retrieve that car and determine if anyone is inside.

 

Appeals Court upholds jail term for Sorrayuth

Posted by pakin On August - 29 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS

The Appeals Court on Tuesday upheld the first Court’s ruling to jail a popular host of morning news programme Sorrayuth Suthassanachinda to 13 years and four months in the Rai-Som bribery and embezzlement scandal.

Sorrayuth, the founder of Rai-Som Co Ltd, has long been a popular host of the morning news show “Rueang Lao Chao Nee”. He has also appeared in two other news programmes; all of them are broadcast on Channel 3.

Last year, Rai-Som, Sorrayuth and one of his former staffers, Montha Thiradet, were convicted of wrongdoing related to the payment of more than Bt600,000 to Pitchapa Iamsa-ard, who was then an employee of MCOT, between 2005 and 2006.

Pitchapa, a defendant in the same case, did not report to MCOT additional TV commercials that Rai-Som aired during its popular TV programme “Kui Khui Khao” on Channel 9. As a result, Rai-Som received additional advertising revenue that was not shared with MCOT, resulting in damages of more than Bt138 million.

 

Bringing about the end of cash

Posted by pakin On August - 28 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS

Imagine a society where cash is no longer the king of payment, but rather an archaic medium of exchange, and electronic transaction is the name of the game. Such imagination is not limited to a Kubrick or a Spielberg film, as digitalisation has turned such futuristic fantasy into reality.

Patchara Jenvitayavechakul, an employee of Kasikorn Business Technology Group (KBTG), starts his working days in Muang Thong Thani on Chaeng Watthana Road like other salarymen. But he has changed his payment habits during the past six months, evidenced by how he rarely takes out his wallet.

Using a quick response (QR) code, Mr Patchara scans a K+Wallet application on his smartphone to pay for his breakfast in the blink of an eye.

He seldom withdraws cash from ATM terminals and only carries his wallet to buy food and beverages or 10-baht items in his office canteen or coffee shops around the office.

Mr Patchara spends around 80-100 baht a day to pay for his meals and drinks at KBTG’s office, where KBank’s financial innovation unit is testing out its QR code payment service, an emerging payment technology.

“I really appreciate digital payment. I no longer have to worry whether I have enough cash or only big banknotes to pay for a dish of rice and curry priced 30-40 baht,” he said.

At another corner in Bangkok on Rama III Road, Jiwamol Kanoksilp, 45, a tech-savvy worker at Bank of Ayudhya (BAY), is using her smartphone with a built-in camera function to scan a QR code at a stall in the bank’s canteen to pay for a food bill.

“I enjoy using the QR code payment and it’s very convenient. It makes me feel like my mobile phone is a wallet. Normally, we see people carry wallets to buy food, but what we see at the banks’ canteen is people are lining up to scan QR codes to pay. It is very easy. We don’t need to take money out of wallets and wait for change,” she said. “QR code payment takes less time than swiping debit or credit cards.”

As a QR code fan, Ms Jiwamol is eager to see the payment method adopted outside of BAY’s headquarters, particularly in convenience stores such as 7-Eleven, as the platform is well-suited for high-traffic offline vendors.

The new habits of these bank employees reflect how digital payments are gaining a foothold in Thailand and increasingly becoming a part of everyday life.

QR code payment development

QR code payment services from both KBank and BAY are in the trial phase, offered in limited areas. The Bank of Thailand is set to roll out standardised QR code payments on Aug 30 to allow consumers to use a single code to process payments through different local banks and non-bank payment networks, while merchants can display one QR code to collect payment when the service is officially launched.

KBTG executive vice-president Somkid Jiranuntarat said the innovative payment technology has received good responses from both users and merchants mainly due to convenience, with no glitches reported during the six-month trial period.

“Even rice and curry stall owners at KBTG’s canteen, some of whom are 60 years of age, and their employees can use K+ Wallet smoothly because of its simple and easy features. Users don’t need to have sophisticated knowledge of information technology,” he said.

KBank, the country’s fourth-largest lender by total assets and a leader in mobile banking payment with over 5 million users, aims to expand the testing of its QR code payment service to other areas such as Chatuchak Market, Siam Square, and Pratunam shopping district.

BAY head of digital innovation Thakorn Piyapan said the bank is testing its e-wallet called “Di Wallet” on a closed-loop basis, starting with letting staff use the platform to pay for food and beverage at the bank’s headquarters.

Di Wallet is a pre-paid system that requires users to deposit money to their accounts beforehand. Users must create their own accounts and passwords on the Di Wallet application installed in mobile phones. They must also enter a password every time to process QR code payments to ensure that others cannot access their accounts.

After ordering food and beverage, users open the Di Wallet application and click on “scan to pay” button. They then proceed with scanning the QR code displayed at the store and entering the purchased amount, followed by tapping on the purchase icon to deduct money from user accounts to transfer to the merchant’s.

So far testing has been running smoothly and it has received positive feedback from both users and merchants, said Mr Thakorn, noting that the bank plans to expand its digital wallet service to the flea market near the bank’s head office on Rama III Road.

Despite user-friendly QR code payments, banks still need to further educate vendors on the benefits of digital payment. Banks should allow these merchants to open savings accounts at any branch to offer as much convenience as possible, he said.

BAY is developing a credit card-based QR code payment, the features of which are more complicated and need to be developed further in the next phase. Credit card-based QR code payments would be an ideal fit for supermarkets, department stores and larger scale merchants.

Electronic know-your-customer (e-KYC) technology is also necessary in order to transform a cash-based society to a cashless one.

The state-owned Government Savings Bank (GSB) is the only financial institution in Thailand that has commercially rolled out QR code payments — MyMo Pay — which is a debit QR code payment system similar to Alipay and WeChat Pay, and MyMo My Card — a QR code-based ATM withdrawal system.

GSB president and chief executive Chatchai Payuhanaveechai said the number of customers using this service is unclear, as it is in an infancy stage, but it is expected that more bank customers will come to use the service because of its convenient features.

“GSB stands ready to roll out a full-scale QR code payment system in accordance with the standardised QR code set by the Bank of Thailand. We expect to be the first bank to do so with all the systems in place,” he said.

Mr Chatchai said there are 1.5 million customers using its mobile banking application “MyMo”, with the number expected to rise to 2 million by the end of this year.

Processing cash withdrawal transactions through a QR code also helps eliminate the risk of card skimming at ATMs or other machines, which should make customers more comfortable in using the applications over electronically-embedded plastic cards, he said.

Mr Chatchai expects 500,000 customers to use MyMo My Card service by the end of this year.

Promising signs of e-payment

Thanks to the national e-payment initiative, digital payments have grown at a faster pace and have played a greater role in daily purchases in recent years.

According to the Bank of Thailand’s data, e-payment has taken off in Thailand with transaction value increasing at a compound annual growth rate of 11.4% over 2010-16. In nominal terms, e-payment transaction value nearly doubled to 328 trillion baht last year from 172 trillion in 2010.

In terms of number of transactions, e-payment rose more than double to 3.21 trillion baht last year from 1.13 trillion logged in the previous six years.

For PromptPay usage, money transferred through the service hit 105 billion baht since the service commenced on Jan 27.

As of Aug 10, PromptPay registrations that linked savings accounts with citizen IDs and mobile phone numbers totalled 32 million. As of Aug 13, 45,379 juristic entities signed up for PromptPay’s business-to-business (B2B) service, up from 28,500 recorded at the end of April.

PromptPay is an online money transfer service that allows users to send money to different banks or the same bank in different zones free of charge for up to 5,000 baht per transaction — part of the four-pronged national e-payment scheme designed to transform Thailand into a digital economy in line with the Thailand 4.0 model. Other measures include e-tax, electronic card and electronic data capture (EDC) expansion, as well as e-welfare and subsidies.

Even though the plan to install 184,000 card-swiping terminals at merchants across the country at the end of June is behind schedule, installers voiced confidence that the 560,000 EDC devices would meet the March 2018 deadline. With the widespread availability of EDC terminals, the government hopes it will become a boon for card spending.

The contact-less Rabbit card is another e-payment platform, with 8 million cards in circulation. More than 10 million people are estimated to reside in Bangkok and its vicinity. The Rabbit card, which is used to pay fares on the skytrain, has spread its tentacles to fast food chains, restaurants, convenience stores and supermarkets.

Bangkok Smart System (BSS) managing director Ratchanee Saensinchai said the number of Rabbit card users increases around 20-30% annually, with card users expected to reach 9 million at the end of the company’s financial year, which was in March 2017.

BSS is the operator of Rabbit card.

She said transactions made through Rabbit cards amount to 40 million baht per day, of which 90-95% is used to pay for public transit and the rest for retail transactions.

Transactions made through Rabbit cards were at 10 million baht per day when the card was launched in 2012. Card transaction value expanded by 15-20% per year because of the extension of skytrain lines, promotional campaigns for retail transactions, and an increased number of card readers, said Ms Ratchanee.

The number of Rabbit card readers is expected to hit 6,000 by year-end 2017, up from 4,000 at present. Most of the card readers have been installed at small-ticket merchants such as restaurants, cafes, food courts and convenience stores, she said.

Ms Ratchanee said customers have become more comfortable with paying for larger-ticket items through Rabbit cards in supermarkets, with an average transaction of 500 baht.

“As customers become more comfortable using this mode of payment, which has proven to be safe, the number of users is expected to continue to rise,” she said.

As the government has made great strides in promoting the national e-payment scheme, consumers have become more familiar with digital payments and Rabbit cards have risen in popularity.

Cash will remain king for a while yet

With high internet penetration and rising smartphone usage, the government’s push to go cashless and the trend of digital payment options have given a big boost to e-payment in Thailand. But a spate of hurdles still remain for the country’s transition to a truly cashless society.

These obstacles include a deep-rooted cash culture, the reluctance of people who have less sophisticated technology in adopting new payment options, and an entrenched fear of cyberattacks.

Against the backdrop of the fast-growing digital payments changing the payment landscape, cash still dominates the payment system in Thailand, constituting some 80% of payments.

“I’ll certainly use QR code payments if the service is commercially rolled out as it is convenient. However, I may restrict e-money purchases to small-ticket items as it is difficult to top-up accounts with significant amounts of money,” said Ms Jiwamol.

She said e-payment tends to be a worthy substitute for cash, but she plans to keep some paper money in her purse because very few small merchants, particularly street vendors and mom-and-pop stores, accept such non-physical payment.

 

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Sunday denied that former Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra had used Cambodia to flee Thailand.

Hun Sen made the remarks during a closed-door weekly meeting with some 4,400 garment workers at Koh Pich Grand Theatre in Phnom Penh, the minister said, without giving other details.

The denial came after media reported that the former Thai prime minister fled her country through Cambodia and Singapore for Dubai earlier this week, after she failed to show up at a court trial.

Thailand’s Supreme Court issued an arrest warrant for Yingluck on Friday after she failed to appear in court on the judgment day of a rice lawsuit filed against her.

The Supreme Court postponed the reading of the verdict for the case against Yingluck until Sept. 27. Her lawyer had reported that the former leader was suffering from Meniere’s disease and feeling dizzy and thus was unable to attend.

Sources from Yingluck’s Pheu Thai Party told the media Saturday that Yingluck had left Thailand last week and flew via Cambodia and Singapore to Dubai where her brother, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, lives in self-imposed exile.

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