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Minister says FBA flaws fixed

Posted by pakin On November - 27 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

Foreign investorsgive cautious approval

Commerce Minister Chatchai Sarikulya has approved amendments to the controversial Foreign Business Act (FBA) but insists they involve mainly investment promotion, simplifying business procedures and facilitating trade and investment.

Stanley Kang, chairman of the Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce in Thailand (JFCCT), said he felt slightly relieved even though the minister did not say directly whether areas of foreign concern had been touched, particularly the definition of “foreign” in relation to voting rights, management control, shareholdings and capital.

“As far as we understand from the government’s explanation, it is not likely that it will employ further restrictions, particularly for the ‘foreign’ definition,” he said.

“Thailand has been open for foreign investment for 40 years, and the existing FBA is strict enough. It is not necessary to make any more controls.”

Mr Kang said Gen Chatchai also urged foreign investors not to worry about the FBA, as any amendments still needed to go through many processes.

The JFCCT will submit recommendations to the Commerce Ministry by mid-December, but its position will remain unchanged that it will not support any changes to the FBA that make it more restrictive or protectionist.

The European Association for Business and Commerce (EABC) said its position was that liberalisation of trade and services was very important.

“If the government implements the three principles outlined by the minister, that will be the right direction, as the previous position would have restricted foreign businesses and investments,” said EABC president Rolf-Dieter Daniel.

“However, we’re not yet clear what the minister means or how it will be implemented.”​

The Commerce Ministry yesterday held a briefing on the FBA review to provide greater clarity and an opportunity for stakeholders to discuss changes.

It was attended by representatives from embassies, foreign chambers of commerce and foreign investors.

Foreign chambers have been lobbying the government, saying any amendments must not make the FBA even more protectionist and restrictive.

They are concerned the government will impose new conditions that would make what some businesses are doing illegal, while big law firms have urged the government to facilitate investment by multinational corporations.

Gen Chatchai said Thailand was undergoing reform to enhance its competitiveness and promote trade and investment.

The reviews of relevant laws are part of this process, and the FBA is being studied by the ministry with a view to enhancing the legislation in accordance with international practice without affecting the investment climate.

The study on amending the FBA, which will be concluded next month, will determine issues that are in accordance with the government’s policy regarding foreign investment and could be undertaken by the present government.

The proposal will be submitted for cabinet approval early next year.

Nishikawa Issei, governor of Fukui prefecture in Japan, yesterday held discussions with the Industry Ministry about the FBA, saying Japanese investors were waiting for a clearer plan from the government about whether the Act would be amended.

They have also called on the government to be more flexible regarding work permits for Japanese investors representing small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Thailand.

The Fukui government recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the Industry Ministry for investment by Japanese SMEs in textiles and garments in Thailand.

They want to use Thailand as their base for producing and exporting to Asean markets.

Hong Kong – Hundreds of Hong Kong police Wednesday cleared a pro-democracy protest camp, arresting Joshua Wong and another student leader and reopening a main road blocked for almost two months.

Pushing back protesters, police with the help of workmen removed tents and other obstacles blocking the six-lane Nathan Road in Mongkok district.

It is seen as the most significant move so far in efforts to clear away protest camps at three separate locations in the city, as public sympathy with the demonstrators wanes.

Scuffles broke out earlier in the day as police wearing helmets and brandishing batons moved in to protect the workmen from the crowds that surged forward to try to stop them tearing down road barricades.

The operation went ahead a day after nearly 150 demonstrators were arrested as authorities cleared a smaller section of the Mongkok protest camp.

Hundreds of police quickly pushed protesters back, and removed wooden and metal barricades, tents and other obstructions along a 500-metre stretch of Nathan Road.

Around two hours after the operation started, only a handful of protesters remained at the edge of the site.

The movement’s student leaders Wong and Lester Shum were arrested at the scene, according to protest group Scholarism and the Hong Kong Federation of Students.

A well-known protester and member of the League of Social Democrats party, Raphael Wong, who was arrested along with the pair said on his Facebook page that they were being held at a police station.

“I am at the Kwai Chung police station, next to me is Joshua and Lester, we have been charged with contempt of court and obstructing public officers,” Wong wrote.

“It is possible we won’t get bail tonight and will be at a magistrates’ court tomorrow.” Police were unable to immediately give a reason why the three had been arrested when contacted by AFP.

’We won’t lose heart’

Tensions were running high Wednesday after scuffles the previous day when police used pepper spray on protesters at the site.

Mongkok was the scene of some of the most violent clashes since the sit-ins began in the city on September 28.

“If we lose here, we won’t lose heart. We can go somewhere else (to occupy). It doesn’t need to be here,” Kelvin Ng, 21, told AFP.

Demonstrators are demanding fully free elections for the leadership of the semi-autonomous southern Chinese city in 2017. But China has refused to budge on its arrangements for the poll.

Police said they arrested at total of 148 people, including a 14-year-old boy, in the two-day Mongkok operation and that 22 police officers were injured.

“If anyone attempts to block reopened roads…police are duty bound to take resolute actions,” Police spokesman Hui Chun-tak told media at a briefing Wednesday.

Wednesday’s clearance was the third since Hong Kong’s high court granted injunctions ordering the operations, responding to petitions from a building owner and public transport operators.

“Please obey the injunction, leave immediately,” a court bailiff told the crowd before the operation began.

Civilians wearing “I love HK” T-shirts and red baseball caps began removing barricades blocking the road but protesters remained defiant.

“I won’t leave. It’s (the sit-in) been illegal from day one with or without the court order,” said one demonstrator, wearing a yellow helmet and a mask, who refused to give his name.

Waning public support

The protests on a few occasions drew tens of thousands of people onto the streets. But the crowds have dwindled markedly in recent weeks as the movement has struggled to maintain momentum and commuters have grown weary of transport disruptions.

The Hong Kong Federation of Students, which has led the protests, said it was considering the next step.

“The path of communication has run its course. If the government continues to resort to collusion with the police, unscrupulously going against the tide, then we can only take the next step of action,” it said on its Facebook page without elaborating.

Separately, seven police officers who were suspended after a video emerged of them beating and kicking a handcuffed man have been arrested.

“Police have arrested seven police officers suspected of assault causing bodily harm,” police said in a statement late Wednesday, adding that investigations are ongoing.

The video that emerged in October showed plainclothes officers hauling a handcuffed and unarmed demonstrator to a dark corner of a protest-hit public park. One officer stands over the man and punches him, as three others are seen repeatedly kicking him.

The limited TV series, which is currently being shopped to premium cable networks, is based on Liane Moriarty’s No.1 New York Times best-selling novel.

Two of the most successful Hollywood actresses, Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon, will be returning to the small screen as the pair are set to star in an upcoming television series titled ‘Big Little Liars.’

The two movie stars have signed on to star alongside each other in a limited series based on Liane Moriarty’s book of the same name, written by David E. Kelley, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The project isn’t attached to a network, but it is currently being shopped to premium cable network channels.

More: Reese Witherspoon Gets ‘Wild’ At BFI London Film Festival And Talks 2013 Arrest

Rights to the No.1 New York Times best-seller, published in July, were optioned byKidman and her Blossom Films banner as well as Witherspoon and her Pacific Standard production company back in August, Deadline reported. The pair initially intended to adapt the story into a feature film.

More: Nicole Kidman Gushes About Husband Keith Urban’s Support After Her Father Died: ‘I’ll Do Anything For That Man’

The novel follows three mothers of young kindergarten students whose seemingly flawless lives quickly spiral out of control after they are at the centre of a murder-mystery that takes place during a tragic parents’ night at an elementary school fundraiser.

Witherspoon and Kidman, along with their companies, will serve as executive producers alongside the show’s scribe Kelley and the novel’s original author Moriarty.

Despite not having a network on board yet, this limited series will most likely be worth a watch as it boosts a very impressive cast and crew. Witherspoon previously won an Oscar for her role in 2005’s ‘Walk The Line,’ whereas Kidman was awarded one for 2003’s ‘The Hours,’ and Kelley has been prized with ten Emmys.

Syria air strikes on IS ‘capital’ kill 63 people

Posted by pakin On November - 26 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

BEIRUT – A string of Syrian regime air strikes on the Islamic State group’s self-proclaimed capital Raqa on Tuesday killed at least 63 people, more than half of them civilians, a monitor said.

The air strikes were the deadliest by President Bashar al-Assad’s air force against Raqa since the Sunni extremist IS seized control of the city last year.

“Among the 63 killed were at least 36 civilians,” said Rami Abdel Rahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

“There were also 20 unidentified victims who could be civilians or jihadists, as well as the disfigured remains of at least seven other people,” he said.

The director of the Britain-based monitoring group said previously that “most of the casualties were caused by two consecutive air strikes” on Raqa’s main industrial zone.

“The first strike came, residents rushed to rescue the wounded, and then the second raid took place,” Abdel Rahman, whose group relies on a network of sources on the ground in Syria for its information, told AFP.

Amateur video footage distributed by activists in Raqa showed several bloodied bodies laid out on a street near an apparent bombing site, as an ambulance rushed to the scene.

Aid workers in red overalls bearing the Red Crescent symbol could be seen placing the corpses into white body bags.

Activists from the city meanwhile denounced the raids as a “massacre”.

– Regime strikes ‘most feared’ –

The Islamic State organisation emerged in Syria’s war in spring 2013.

It took over Raqa, the only provincial capital to fall from government control since the outbreak of a 2011 revolt, and turned it into its bastion.

Most of the city’s civil society activists, as well as rebel fighters who expelled Assad’s troops, have either been killed, kidnapped or forced to flee for other parts of Syria or neighbouring Turkey.

For many months, Assad’s regime only rarely targeted Raqa city, apparently reserving most of its firepower for areas under rebel control.

But late this summer, the government intensified its air strikes against IS positions in northern and eastern Syria.

On September 6, 53 people were killed in air raids on Raqa, among them at least 31 civilians, according to the Observatory.

The US-led military coalition that has been carrying out air strikes against IS in Iraq and Syria has also targeted the jihadist group in Raqa.

Activists say Raqa’s residents fear the government’s strikes far more than those of the coalition because most of the casualties from the regime’s attacks have been civilians.

There are now 7.6 million people displaced inside Syria and 3.2 million others have fled the country, mostly to bordering nations.

Some 12.2 million Syrians are in need of aid, up from 10.8 in July.

The UN Security Council will move to allow cross-border deliveries of relief supplies to Syria for another year, the president of the council said, as new figures showed more Syrians were in need of aid.

The Council in July agreed in a resolution to allow truckloads of much-needed aid to cross into rebel-held Syrian territory without the consent of the Damascus regime.

Australian Ambassador Gary Quinlan, whose country chairs the 15-member council this month, said his country along with Luxembourg and Jordan would move quickly to seek a 12-month extension of the aid deliveries.

– Brutal, highly-organised system –

Strategically located on the river Euphrates near the border with Turkey, Raqa had a pre-war population of about 220,000 but it is now home to 300,000-350,000 people, including many displaced by the conflict, according to the Observatory.

Since the jihadists first started moving into the city, they have been gradually imposing a brutal yet highly-organised system with all the trappings of a state, experts say.

Elsewhere in Syria, IS members stoned to death two men in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor on Tuesday after claiming they were gay, the Observatory said.

And in the central province of Homs the jihadists beheaded a member of the minority Ismaili community, accusing him of “apostasy,” said the monitoring group.