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Beijing issues new smog warning

Posted by Nuttapon_S On January - 31 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

Authorities temporarily shut down over 100 factories to try and tackle extreme air pollution in the Chinese capital.

Extreme air pollution in the Chinese capital Beijing has prompted authorities to increase the level of health warnings and order the temporary shut down of more than 100 factories.

Authorities urged the city’s 20 million people on Wednesday to stay indoors and shut windows, eat a “balanced diet” and drink plenty of water. A third of all government vehicles have also been ordered off the road.

The director of Beijing’s children’s hospital said earlier this week that the “continuous smoggy weather has significantly increased the number of child patients”.

One mother said she was worried that the air was worsening her son’s allergic condition.

“The weather is just too terrible. And a respiratory infection actually has a pretty big effect on these kind of kids,” she said.

Emergency measures were issued on news websites and microblogs, as well as in bulletins carried by the state broadcaster.

‘Never this bad’

“I have lived in Beijing for four years and I have not seen it this bad before,” said Jiang Hua, a domestic cleaner.

Authorities announced the closure of 103 factories and ordered 30 percent of government cars off the road on Tuesday.

More than 43,000 people had voted in favour of new laws to tackle the smog in a survey posted by Pan Shiyi, a real estate tycoon and blogger running the campaign.

Earlier this month, the US embassy in Beijing recorded that the pollution in the city was 45 times above the recommended safety levels.

China’s pollution problems are blamed on rapid urbanisation and dramatic economic development.

Red Line deal inked; some Hopewell pillars to stay

Posted by Nuttapon_S On January - 31 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS
BANGKOK, Jan 31 – The State Railway of Thailand (SRT) today signed two deals, worth a combined Bt21 billion (US$700 million), to expand Bangkok’s  urban mass transit rail projects to the northern side of the city.
Transport Minister Chadchart Sittipunt presided over a ceremony to sign the agreements between the SRT and Italian-Thai Development Co.
The first deal covers a 21km rail system between Bang Sue and Rangsit (Red Line) and the construction of six stations, including Don Meuang, along the route. The second agreement involves construction of the foundations for future expansion of two major stations – Samien Naree and Lak Hok.
Construction will take three years and the Transport Ministry projects the Red Line to service 30,000-40,000 commuters per hour.
Half of the existing concrete pillars of the unfinished Hopewell rail link project will be useful as structures while substandard pillars will be demolished. The pillars lining Vibhavadi-Rangsit Road were abandoned for 15 years after the Thai subsidiary of Hong Kong-based Hopewell Holdings discontinued building the mega mass transit project.
Mr Chadchart said SRT retained consultants have pinpointed which pillars will be torn down and noted that the use of the remaining ones is not a breach of contract with the original contractor.
The minister said he has ordered the SRT to speed up construction of rail link stations at the Thammasat University Rangsit campus, Nava Nakhon industrial estate, Samien Naree and Lak Hok, and ensure that connections for passengers to the stations are convenient.
He said the original plan to integrate city rail links and high-speed rails could be impractical and a separate four-track system may be needed for a high-speed train.
Mr Chadchart  said private contractors in provinces along the high-speed rail line will be invited to join bids to build railway stations which can be expanded to include hotels and shopping complexes. (MCOT online news)

Yingluck stresses she’s real prime minister

Posted by Nuttapon_S On January - 31 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS
BANGKOK, Jan 31 – Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra today categorically denied an international  news report that her elder brother, ousted premier Thaksin, controls the cabinet remotely from abroad via various telecommunications channels.
The New York Times said Mr Thaksin, in self exile since 2008 and residing mostly in Dubai and London, has made important political decisions for the government via mobile phone and social media applications such as Skype, LINE and Whatsapp.
Ms Yingluck stood firm that she is the genuine prime minister of Thailand and that she and her cabinet jointly and clearly run the country.
“Opinion polls show that my leadership and recognition among the people has increased. I have successively proved myself in the past year. I’d rather have people judge me from my performance,” she said.
“I can’t stop people’s thinking but I believe lots of people are fair to me. What a working person wants is moral support.”
She described as groundless the report which said Mr Thaksin participated in some cabinet meetings and ordered ministers through Skype, saying the cabinet conferences are off limits to telephones. (MCOT online news)

Travelling back in time through Bangkok’s Chinatown

Posted by Rattana_S On January - 31 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

Perhaps one of the more bizarre scams in Bangkok involves gem hustlers telling tourists that the whole of Chinatown is shut down, in hopes that the more gullible travellers will visit a great little store they know of instead.

But this outlandish claim – that the lively, sprawling commercial and residential neighbourhood might be closed for the day – might not be far off. With the Bangkok subway extending into the heart of Chinatown in the next few years, with some work already underway, developers are keenly eyeing the area’s prime real estate. Already a few battle lines have been drawn between residents defending their historic trading spots and the developers who have turned much of the Thai capital into a never-ending line up of shopping malls.

If the alleys around Yaowarat and Charoen Krung roads – the main arteries of Chinatown – share the same fate as the rest of the city, it would be a great shame. For those who complain that Bangkok has lost its exotic flavour, Chinatown is the answer. While the rice fields of Sukhumvit – one of the longest roads in Bangkok and in the world – have been replaced by skyscrapers, luxury malls and entertainment plazas, Chinatown has cleaved stubbornly to its history and its identity, making it the most fascinating part of town to explore.

The first Chinese traders arrived in Thailand in the 16th Century, when the kingdom’s capital was still in the city of Ayutthaya, about 80km north of Bangkok. Famine and persecution of Teo Chew Chinese from the Chaozhou area in present-day China led to several waves of arrivals, who settled near the Chao Phraya River, which today slices through the west of the city. When the capital eventually shifted to Bangkok and the Grand Palace was built in 1782, the Chinese were requested to move outside the city walls. From this vantage point, they established what became the country’s commercial heart for the next two centuries.

Bangkok’s commerce and shopping centres have now shifted to the neighbourhoods of Siam, Sathorn and Sukhumvit, yet Chinatown remains a vibrant hub that still largely reflects what life was like in the 1960s, ‘50s and even the ‘20s.

Most of the wares being sold – car parts, cheap electronics, low-quality plastic toys from China – are not necessarily of interest to travellers. But unlike much of Bangkok, which is fully geared toward serving the needs of the city’s burgeoning tourist and expat population, Chinatown’s charm lies in the fact that, over here, it is not really about the traveller; Chinatown exists first and foremost for the Thai-Chinese.

The community rewards those who meander and observe. The pleasure of Chinatown is in taking a wrong turn and getting lost, ending up somewhere strange and unexpected.

Life goes on in Chinatown the way it has for decades. Bangkok’s oldest cinema, Sala Chalermkrung Royal Theatre was built in 1933 and still shows Thai movies on special occasions, although now it mostly stages dances and plays. Tang To Kang, the capital’s oldest gold shop, and Chao Krom Pho, the city’s oldest Chinese medicine store, are still doing business the way they did more than a century ago. Nearby Wat Chakrawat is known as the Crocodile Wat for good reason – the monks at this temple have been raising the reptiles for more than 200 years.

Aside from these landmarks, the area is also home to some of the city’s best food, with delicious scents from an unassuming curry stall mingling with the smells from the neighbouring Indian district, causing passers-by to perform double takes.

Shrines for the ancestor-worshipping Chinese pop up in unexpected corners – havens of reflective peace in the middle of chaotic streets. A favourite is located in the 100-year-old – and inappropriately named – Talat Mai (New Market). Smack in the middle of the cramped, packed stores hawking shark’s fins, bird’s nests, fossils, precious stones and sea slugs, a small gateway leads to the courtyard of the Leng Buai Ia shrine, where the noise of the outside bustle immediately falls away.