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Posted by arnon_k On September - 23 - 2010 1 COMMENT

Grand historical sites dating more than two centuries to the early Rattanakosin period abound in inner Bangkok. Exploring the area on foot, starting with the main roads along the Emerald Buddha Temple and Wat Pho, and weaving through small sidelanes, one will find modernisation has fused well with history and things other we associate with that era.

The Rattanakosin era started in 1782 when King Rama I ascended the throne and built a new city on the eastern banks of the Chao Phraya River. His residence, the Grand Palace, shares the same compound as the Emerald Buddha Temple. Around the city he built 14 forts, reinforcing them with walls 3.6 metres tall and 2.7 metres thick.

But not all of them are on view today. Only two of the forts still remain standing and in good condition, too: Phra Sumen on Phra Arthit Road and Maha Kan on Ratchadamnoen Klang Avenue.

Around these historical places new communities have mushroomed. Phra Chan is the name of another fort from that time. Today it’s an road with a pier on its western end called Tha Phra Chan. Here you can find not only various types of food and snacks such as mataba (stuffed roti), crispy garlic bread and roasted duck with rice, but it is also a hub for all kinds of services. The area has three narrow walking alleys or trok packed with shops selling amulets and Buddha images.

Tha Phra Chan is also where you will find fortune-tellers. It is a place where you can buy or rent academic gowns, purchase herbal medicine or even order a pair of customised high-heeled shoes.

Crossing the Chao Phraya River from Tha Phra Chan to Wang Lang pier on the Thon Buri side, you arrive at what today is the Siriraj Hospital. The area used to be the location of the royal residence of Krom Phra Ratchawang Boworn Sathan Phimuk, King Rama I’s nephew and a high-ranking prince.

A must-visit spot here is the local market located in a small lane packed with stalls and shops selling food and beverage, Thai dessert, Japanese sushi and somtam papaya salad. It is also a happy hunting ground for trendy youngsters looking for second-hand goods like clothes and bags, cheap fashion accessories and T-shirts.

From Wang Lang cross the river back to Tha Chang on the Bangkok side. Literally, Tha Chang means elephant pier, so called because during King Rama I’s reign mahouts used to take elephants from the royal stable to bathe there. A short walk from the pier, you will find a gate leading to the Grand Palace and the Emerald Buddha Temple.

Another landmark in the area is the Silpakorn University which boasts a gallery where works of art are on exhibition all year round. It’s also a nice place to give your tired legs some rest.

Immediately south of the Grand Palace, separated by a road, is the Temple of the Reclining Buddha or Wat Pho. It boasts a 46-metre-long statue of reclining Buddha, yoga inscriptions, sculptures of demons from the Ramayana epic and giant rock sculptures sourced from China.

The temple is also popular among visitors for its highly acclaimed traditional Thai massage.

Cyber crime techniques grow more sophisticated

Posted by arnon_k On September - 23 - 2010 ADD COMMENTS

Security experts have warned of increasingly sophisticated cyber threats, such as ‘SpyEye’, which target cyber banking details, as well as mobile malware and other threats against businesses and political targets.

The surging number of internet users and connecting devices, especially mobiles, is to blame for the explosion in security threats, says President and Founder of ACIS Professional Center, Prinya Hom-anek.

SpyEye aims to steal bank account, credit card and other sensitive data from the victim’s computer.

With SpyEye, the hacker modifies the content of an online bank’s login page, adding additional form fields to phish for information.

As of June 30, Thailand has more than 17 million internet users, which ranks it 10th in Asia for Internet penetration and thus making it attractive to cyber criminals.

Many hackers work for organised crime groups, which means they are well funded and have access to advanced technologies and techniques over a prolonged duration of operation, and often have specific targets, particularly in businesses and politics.

Department of Special Investigation Deputy Director-General Yanapol Yangyuen added that there is an increasing trend to make fake social network pages which aim to damage the image of businesses or their executives.

Those companies often employ teams to track down and close such fake sites, as well as reassure customers and business partners in a bid to reduce damage.

The majority of these crimes are carried out by competitors and former employees, so staff at all levels need to be educated in security awareness.

Such crimes are also increasingly employing social engineering techniques and capitalising on human greed by luring victims with the promise of high returns for low investment.

Thailand represents an attractive destination for cyber criminals because the kingdom boasts a good technological infrastructure and high-speed broadband.

Foreign criminals are known to use Thailand as a base even for luring victims back home, such as Chinese gangsters using Thai IPs to launch cyber attacks in China.

Prinya said these trends will be discussed at the annual Cyber Defense Initiative Conference on Oct 12-13 at the Impact Arena, Muang Thong Thani, under the theme “360i{aac} Cyber Security: IT Governance and the Challenges of Information Operation”.

This theme reflects how cyber security should be viewed at 360 degrees and requires the application of IT governance.

The most crucial issue at the seminar will be the use of social networks as tools for propaganda.

China’s Wen threatens new action in Japan boat row

Posted by arnon_k On September - 22 - 2010 ADD COMMENTS

China’s premier threatened “further actions” if Japan fails immediately to release a trawler captain, as Beijing staged its highest-level intervention yet in a bitter row between Asia’s biggest powers.

Japan in turn called for talks to resolve the feud, but rejected China’s territorial claim to disputed islets near where the Chinese skipper was apprehended by Japanese coast guard crews two weeks ago.

“I strongly urge the Japanese side to release the skipper immediately and unconditionally,” Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said in New York, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

“If Japan clings to its mistake, China will take further actions, and the Japanese side shall bear all the consequences that arise,” he said, urging Tokyo to “correct its mistakes to bring relations back on track”.

The dispute between Asia’s rising giant and its most advanced economy has drawn concern in Washington, and both Wen and Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan are due to hold talks at the UN this week with US President Barack Obama.

Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara, also visiting New York for the UN General Assembly, dismissed China’s longstanding claim over the rocky islets, which lie near possible oil and gas fields in the East China Sea.

“There is no territorial issue,” he said.

However, Japan said Wednesday it was ready for dialogue.

“It would be good to hold high-level talks, including a comprehensive and strategic dialogue, as quickly as possible,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku told a news conference in Tokyo.

Asked if Kan should try to hold direct talks with Wen on the UN sidelines, Sengoku said: “That would be one option. We should also check if there are other ways, as soon as possible.”

China had on Tuesday dashed any hope of fence-mending talks between Wen and Kan, with a foreign ministry spokeswoman saying the atmosphere was “not suitable for such a meeting”.

“The issue has severely hurt bilateral relations,” she told reporters.

China has repeatedly demanded that detained skipper Zhan Qixiong be released, summoning Japan’s ambassador six times, calling off several official visits and planned negotiations, and cancelling cultural events.

It further announced on Sunday that it had suspended high-level exchanges after Japan decided to extend Zhan’s detention until September 29, when he must be either indicted or released.

The dispute has caused anger among the Chinese public, which is still ambivalent towards Japan after its forces occupied swathes of northern China before and during World War II.

Sengoku, the Japanese government’s top spokesman, on Tuesday emphasised the importance of keeping “narrow-minded, extreme nationalism” at bay.

At the weekend, small groups of anti-Japan demonstrators rallied in three Chinese cities over the captain’s arrest near the islands, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, but the protests were brief and peaceful.

On Wednesday a group of Hong Kong nationalist activists set sail for the disputed chain aboard a 150-foot (45 metre) vessel, trailed by two Hong Kong marine police boats.

US Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg has said the flare-up is “unfortunate” in light of efforts by China and Japan to repair relations in recent years.

“Good relations between China and Japan are in our interest. It’s in the interest of everybody else in the region,” he said, before China warned the United States Tuesday to stay out of its territorial disputes elsewhere.

Sino-Japanese ties hit rock-bottom during the 2001-2006 premiership of conservative Junichiro Koizumi due to his annual visits to the Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo, which honours 2.5 million Japanese war dead, including war criminals.

Relations have gradually warmed in recent years as Koizumi’s successors have refrained from visiting the shrine, seen by Japan’s East Asian neighbours as a symbol of Tokyo’s past imperialism.

Wen broke the ice when he made a visit to Japan in 2007, the first visit by a Chinese leader to Tokyo since 2000.

PTT pressured to end Carrefour bid

Posted by arnon_k On September - 22 - 2010 ADD COMMENTS

Cabinet questions state enterprise role

PTT Plc may abandon its bid to purchase the assets of the Carrefour retail chain in Thailand in the face of pressure from cabinet members.

Ministers yesterday questioned whether it was appropriate for the majority state-owned oil company to bid against the private sector.

The issue arose after prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva asked Energy Ministry officials on Monday whether PTT had received approval from its board to pursue the Carrefour deal.

Vachara Kannikar, a deputy government spokesman, quoted Energy Minister Wannarat Channukul as telling the cabinet that PTT would scrap its bid because retailing was not a core business of the company.

Mr Abhisit said PTT executives should consider carefully whether to go ahead because its large capital and state enterprise status _ it is also the largest listed company on the Stock Exchange of Thailand _ gave it advantages over private companies.

“At a time when the economic structure is changing very fast, a state-owned enterprises should be very careful with any move as sometimes the investment may not be for the national interest but rather for the state enterprise itself,” said Mr Abhisit.

Also bidding for the French retailer’s 43-store network in Thailand, estimated to be worth 16-19 billion baht, are Central Group, the SET-listed trading group Berli Jucker (BJC), and the French retail chain Casino.

PTT executives declined to comment yesterday on the latest developments.

Mr Wannarat said that even though PTT had entered the second round of bidding for Carrefour, PTT’s board had yet to approve the bidding intention.

He said the board and not the Energy Ministry should have the final say on whether to proceed.

Another source quoted Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij as saying that while PTT Plc was a listed company, it was still majority state-owned.

Since the 2007 Constitution prevents state enterprises from competing with private companies, PTT might be on shaky legal ground, Mr Korn said.

“Also, retail is not PTT’s core business and it also is not related to energy security. Thus PTT should not bid for Carrefour,” he said.

Mr Wannarat said PTT reasoned that it was interested in the retail business as a way to diversify risk away from heavy dependence on fuel.

Shares of PTT closed yesterday on the SET at 287 baht, up three baht, in trade worth 1.54 billion baht.