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Sukhumbhand lists 10 urgent tasks for city government

Posted by Rattana_S On March - 30 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

Bangkok Governor MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra yesterday set 10 top priorities for city officials as he was inaugurated for a second term.

The priorities include the installation of 20,000 security cameras, implementation of the community volunteer programme to fight crime and illicit drugs, and the reduction of fares on two BTS Skytrain extension routes to Bt10.

Other urgent tasks are the reduction of interest charges in city-run pawnshops; the enhancement of job skills, including free training in foreign languages; pay increases for the staff of city-run day-care centres; and the establishment of 5,000 free Wi-Fi spots.

Meeting with top city officials, Sukhumbhand thanked them for their hard work organising the gubernatorial race.

He said the 1.2 million votes he received “are both a mandate and a sign of the great expectations placed in me and the Democrat Party to get the job done”.

He promised to unveil his administrative team, including his deputies, by Monday.

Today the governor is scheduled to inspect fire-fighting teams’ readiness in the capital’s eastern districts of Nong Chok and Lat Krabang.

Train project ‘will only benefit the rich’

Posted by Rattana_S On March - 30 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

The opposition Democrat Party mounted an attack on the government in relation to the proposed Bt2-trillion infrastructure projects in the second and final day of the House debate, saying the high-speed-rail system would mostly benefit the rich and there was no proper planning to accommodate changes in the areas involved.

Meanwhile, the Council of State has ruled that the proposed mass-infrastructure projects are legal and can proceed, Finance Ministry permanent secretary Areepong Poo-cha-um said.

Kanok Wongtra-ngan, a Democrat party-list MP, said that as per the calculations of the plan submitted by the administration of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, commuters would end up having to pay about Bt1.30-Bt3.50 per kilometre for the high-speed train. In other words, a 700km journey could cost between Bt1,800 and Bt2,000, higher than some low-cost airlines.

“If there are fewer than 49,600 commuters per day, the ticket costs will be even higher. Any route that costs commuters more than Bt1,000 one-way will not have customers, because they will choose a cheaper mode of transport. Hence these high-speed trains will only benefit rich folk and businesspeople,” Kanok said.

He also slammed Transport Minister Chadchart Sittipunt, saying the remarks he made in Parliament on Thursday were reckless because no plan had been put forward yet as to how all the electricity needed for these trains would be generated.

Chadchart defended himself yesterday by saying that it was important to put this high-speed-rail project in motion and that the Pheu Thai government would implement this as well as the link to Nong Khai if elected for a second term.

The high-speed train is meant to link Bangkok with Chiang Mai, Nakhon Ratchasima, Hua Hin and Rayong.

“The government is not being reckless because we’re working within a feasible framework,” he said. “For those who think the tickets [for the high-speed train] will be expensive, I think everyone understands that the target groups differ from those using double-track [ordinary] trains, and that’s why the government is investing in the ordinary trains nationwide first. In order to serve people’s needs, there are more proposed double-track train projects than high-speed ones.

“As for our readiness, we have signed memoranda of understanding with China, Japan and France to get people trained. As for the need for more electricity, we have calculated that this project will only use 1 per cent more power,” Chadchart said.

Samart Rajpolsit, another Democrat party-list MP, also questioned why the estimated cost of construction for the high-speed rail system had doubled from Bt300 million per kilometre in 2010 to Bt600 million now.

Democrat MP Boonyod Sukthinthai asked why Wip Winyarat, son of prime minister’s policy adviser Pansak Winyarat, was appointed to conduct feasibility research on the high-speed-rail project even though he has no engineering background.

Red Cross Fair in Bangkok

Posted by Rattana_S On March - 30 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

The Red Cross Fair takes place twice a year to raise funds for the Thai Red Cross society. It is a combination of a temple fair and open-air market, with a multitude of merchandise from private, government and non-government organisations as well as carnival games and food stalls.

The venue is at Suan Amporn, the expansive outdoor ground near the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall and the Royal Plaza. Much of the Red Cross Fair is about goodwill and volunteerism, particularly those under the guidance of HM the King and members of the Thai Royal Family. The main theme usually revolves around an anniversary celebration of the royal duties and various sustainable projects. Healthcare education is also an integral part of the fair, as well as charity raffles, games and shopping.

(Reuters) – About two dozen Filipinos were nailed to crosses on Good Friday in an extreme display of devotion that the Catholic church looks down upon as a form of folk religion but appears powerless to stop.

The re-enactment of the passion of Jesus Christ draws thousands of tourists to the Pampanga region, 80 km (50 miles) north of the capital, to watch barefoot penitents flagellate themselves and a series of crucifixions on an artificial hill.

The practice, which took hold in the province about 60 years ago as form of religious vow by poor people seeking forgiveness, a cure for illness and the fulfilment of other wishes.

Archbishop Paciano Aniceto said the gory practice was a distortion of Christ’s teachings of love and selfless service. But he conceded that the church could not stop the ritual that he described as “popular piety”.

Another bishop said people had to understand the folk Catholicism widely practiced in the Philippines, which has the largest Christian population in Asia. About 80 percent of its 96 million people are Catholic.

“We are in no position to suppress them,” Auxiliary Bishop Pablo Virgilio David told Reuters.

“I do not think it is right to close our doors to them just because they are more attracted to these folk practices than to our Roman liturgy which they may find too foreign or cerebral.”

Devotees, insisting they were prepared to endure pain as penance, had 5-inch stainless steel nails driven into their hands. Then, for a few minutes, they were hanged on wooded crosses.

“We do this because of our faith not because we’re paid,” Ruben Inaje, a house painter who has played the role of Christ for 27 years, told Reuters.

“Two years ago, I said it would be the last time I’d do it. But every time I say that, my wife gets sick. I guess God wants me to continue this sacrifice as a lifetime vow,” he said before taking up a 50 kg (110 lb) cross and heading to the crucifixion site.

A circus-like atmosphere prevailed on a sun-drenched day.

“It’s my first time to witness a man being crucified,” said Charlotte Johansen, 26, a Norwegian non-government organisation worker, was taking pictures with her friends.

The village of Cutud has built the hill with three crosses for the main ceremony with crucifixions also taking place in two nearby villages.

Souvenir and food vendors staked out the hill and people selling ice-cream and sodas wandered among the crowd.

“The crucifixions here have become a purely tourism event,” said an official from the area, who handles accreditation for the flock of journalists which descends every year.

(Additional Reporting by Romeo Ranoco and Pedro Uchi; Writing By Manuel Mogato; Editing by Robert Birsel)