Tuesday, December 18, 2018
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BAIKONUR (KAZAKHSTAN) – Astronauts from Russia, Japan and the United States Thursday docked successfully with the International Space Station under six hours after they launched, NASA television showed.

The Soyuz TMA 17M rocket — carrying cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, US astronaut Kjell Lindgren and Kimiya Yui of Japan — had roared skyward from Russia’s Baikonur cosmodrome in the barren Kazakh steppe at 2102 GMT.

After a fly-around at around 350 meters (1,150 feet), the rocket manuevered to a rendezvous with the ISS, at 10:46 EST (0246 GMT Thursday).

“We have contact,” a NASA announcer said, as the craft soared high above the coast of Ecuador, 402 kilometres (250 miles) over the Pacific.

One solar array — a type of power supply that captures energy from the sun — did not deploy on time, but this did not affect the rocket’s flight as the others were still operating, the US space agency said.

Scientists and space enthusiasts around the world were watching the launch closely, and with some concern, since the mission had been delayed by two months because of a Russian rocket failure.

Russia was in May forced to put all space travel on hold after the unmanned Progress freighter taking cargo to the ISS crashed back to Earth in late April.

The doomed ship lost contact with Earth and burned up in the atmosphere. The failure, which Russia has blamed on a problem in a Soyuz rocket, also forced a group of astronauts to spend an extra month aboard the ISS.

A workhorse of space that dates back to the Cold War, the Soyuz is used for manned and unmanned flights.

Ahead of the liftoff, the three men met with 81-year-old cosmonaut Alexei Leonov, the first man to walk in space and one of the Apollo-Soyuz commanders.

Sending the first man into space in 1961 and launching the first sputnik satellite four years earlier are among key accomplishments of the Russian space program and remain a major source of national pride in the country.

But over the past few years, Russia has suffered several major setbacks, notably losing expensive satellites and unmanned supply ships to the ISS.

PM claims sole power on reshuffle

Posted by pakin On July - 23 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha insisted yesterday he does not have to consult any ministers if he decides to instigate a cabinet reshuffle.

He said changes to the cabinet lineup will depend on the performance of cabinet members.

The prime minister’s comment came amid mounting speculation of a looming cabinet reshuffle, particularly in the economic affairs section to restore public confidence in the government amid an economic slump. Speculation about changes has also focused on the defence minister.

Gen Prayut also responded to media reports that he was reluctant to reorganise the cabinet so as not to hurt the feelings of those he had invited to work for his government, several of whom are his military seniors.

“Since I’m now the person who is responsible for this, any decisions [about cabinet replacements] are my business,” he said. “I’m the one who got them to work [in the cabinet]. I have absolute power here. There’s no one else above me.”

Gen Prayut insisted there would be no favouritism in a cabinet reshuffle if he decides to make lineup changes.

“The media may need to correct factual errors [speculating about] who might emerge as new cabinet ministers,” said Gen Prayut. “Why fuss over cabinet reshuffling? It depends on how the members work.

“If they all do what I tell them to do, I won’t change anything. But if they don’t do as they are told or are not effective, I will have to adjust something then,” he said.

The cabinet is currently undergoing weekly assessments to follow up on ministers’ progress on assigned work, he said.

Gen Prayut said he has two simple rules for his ministers when it comes to leading the cabinet. The first rule is that they should follow his instructions and if they are unable to, they must be able to explain why, he said.

The second rule is that if they don’t agree with his orders, they must tell him and he will provide suggestions.

The bottom line in measuring the performance of cabinet ministers is their efficiency, he said.

Regarding speculation that Udomdej Sitabutr could replace Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon in September, Gen Prayut blamed media for spreading such rumours.

“Next time, you [reporters] may become defence minister, then you can appoint anyone you want,” he said. “Not everybody can be defence minister.”

Gen Prawit was absent from yesterday’s Defence Council meeting, which was instead chaired by Gen Udomdej, further fuelling speculation.

But Gen Prayut dismissed it, saying that Gen Prawit had fallen ill.

The prime minister declined to comment on a report by local media that Deputy Prime Minister Pridiyathorn Devakula had told the Thai Bankers Association on Friday that the PM did not really understand economic matters.

The article said the comments provoked Gen Prayut into considering his transfer. MR Pridiyathorn yesterday denied the report.

“I did speak with those bankers but I didn’t say the prime minister didn’t understand economic issues. He actually knows best about the economy. Why would I say that?” MR Pridiyathorn said.

He said there had been attempts at spreading malicious rumours aimed at removing him from his position of overseeing economic affairs.

He said he attended the meeting to tell bankers about government policy and to ask them for their cooperation in speeding up the provision of small- to medium-sized business loans.

According to political observers, the amended interim charter that took effect on July 15 paved the way for changes among economic ministers, as it allows banned politicians to join the cabinet.

The focus is on Somkid Jatusripitak, an advisor to the National Council for Peace and Order who served a five-year political ban until 2012.

Finance Minister Sommai Phasee, who is also rumoured to be facing a transfer, said the conjecture originated with those who want to oust him from the ministry.

“Finance minister is a position that creates more enemies than friends. I’m still motivated to work however,” he said.

Gen Udomdej, meanwhile, dismissed rumours that he is likely to replace Gen Prawit as defence minister. “I don’t think that is true. It’s simply a rumour. I think everyone has been working to their fullest capacity,” he said.

BTS Sansiri Holding to build 25 condos

Posted by pakin On July - 23 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

A JOINT venture between BTS Group Holdings and Sansiri – BTS Sansiri Holding – has set aside at least Bt70 billion to develop 25 condominium projects valued at Bt100 billion combined from this year through to the end of 2019.

Some Bt14 billion of the total will be invested over the remainder of this year by launching five projects together worth Bt20 billion.

The joint venture has in fact already had success with its initial project, the Bt6-billion Line Chatuchak-Mochit condominium, which sold out in the second quarter, Keeree Kanjanapas, chairman of BTS Group Holdings, said at a press conference yesterday.

“Our five-year partnership will start to generate income in 2018 after our first condominium project, the Line Chatuchak-Mochit, is completed and transferred to customers. We target net profit from the joint-venture business averaging around Bt1 billion a year, which will start to be booked to BTS Group Holdings in 2018,” he said.

Up to 70 per cent of the investment budget for BTS Sansiri Holding will come in the form of bank borrowings, with the remainder injected by BTS Group Holdings and Sansiri, he added.

The two listed companies established the joint venture last October, with the registered capital of Bt100 million being split on a 50:50 basis.

BTS Group Holdings’ business strategy for the development of residential units for sale will be focused on the partnership with Sansiri, while it will invest by itself in property that generates recurring income for the group, such as offices, hotels and retail, he explained.

In the second half of this year, BTS Group Holdings plans to invest Bt18 billion to develop office and hotel projects in two Bangkok locations: a Bt10-billion mixed-used project comprising office space and a hotel in Phaya Thai district, and an Bt8-billion office development in Chatuchak district.

“We target recurring income accounting for about 10 per cent of our total revenue in the next five years, against an average of 5 per cent currently,” he added.

For its last fiscal year, which ended in March, BTS Group Holdings posted overall revenue of Bt9.03 billion and a net profit of Bt2.94 billion.

The company targets revenue growth of 4-6 per cent this fiscal year, Keeree said.

He also told the press conference that BTS Group Holdings continued to be interested in developing a double-track rail system from Bangkok to Khon Kaen.

The proposed Bt120-billion mega-project is being considered by the government.

The company is also interested in joining the bidding to operate the extended Skytrain Green Line route from Mochit to Saphan Mai when the government puts the contract up for auction, he added.

“We have more than Bt24 billion in cash, enough to support our expansion both in property and mass-transit business in line with our business plan,” Keeree said.

Meanwhile, Sansiri chief executive officer Apichart Chutrakul |said four of the five projects set |to be launched by year-end under the joint venture would use the |Line brand, with the fifth adopting a new brand dedicated to projects in the capital’s central business districts.

The Line projects will be located on Sukhumvit 71, Wongsawang, Phaholyothin and Petchaburi 18, he said.

“Our business strategy for the joint venture with BTS Group Holdings is to develop condominiums worth more than Bt5 billion per project, located close to the mass-transit system. This is a different customer target from other residential projects developed by Sansiri,” said the CEO.

Under the business plan, |BTS Sansiri Holding will start booking revenue averaging Bt20 billion a year from 2018, on |the basis that five projects worth Bt20 billion a year are launched through to the end of 2019, he explained.

“Our joint venture may launch more than 25 projects, or perhaps fewer, depending on the country’s economy. We can revise the business plan if we see a change in the economic situation.

“But this year, we are confident that the demand for condominiums is continuing to grow from both domestic and foreign buyers,” he added.

Witness to the times

Posted by pakin On July - 23 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

A new translation of Lao She’s Play “Teahouse” paints a vivid picture of China between 1898 and 1949

AN ACCOMPLISHED SCIENTIST, musician, artist, writer and translator, Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn is once again demonstrating her linguistic talents with the launch of “Teahouse: A Play in Three Acts”, a translation of the drama penned by the noted Chinese novelist and dramatist Lao She.

At Siam Paragon last week to preside over the opening of exhibitions “HRH Maha Chakri Sirindhorn’s Studies of China”, and “The Teahouse and the Chinese Way of Life”, the Princess spoke a little about her latest oeuvre, which is published by Nanmeebooks.

Writing in Chinese and translating it into Thai has long been a passion of the Princess, who currently has 13 books and 12 translations of novels, poems, and documentaries to her credit.

Divided into three acts, “Teahouse” is told through a cast of more than 60 characters who frequent the ancient Beijing teahouse known as Yu Tai from the end of Qing Dynasty to the 1940s. During these 50 years, Chinese society was in turmoil, its people impoverished and threatened by state agencies and corruption was rife. The clients of the Yu Tai teahouse witnessed these social events with despair.

“Cha Guan”, as it is known in Chinese, is also a tragic story: both the novelist and his main character, teashop owner Wang Lifa, ended their lives by their own hand s – Lao She, which was actually the penname of Shu Qingchun, by drowning himself in Beijing’s Taiping Lake in 1966 and his protagonist Wang by hanging.

The Princess had a chance to visit Lao She’s house during her brief studies in Beijing and says she was guided on the tour by the novelist’s daughter as Lao’s wife was more than 100 years old and unable to welcome the Princess. She died not long after the Princess returned to Thailand.

“Lao She was born into a poor family. His father was a guard soldier with the Red Banner and died when he was young. Lao was a good student and graduated as a teacher from Beijing Normal University. He was greatly influenced by the May Fourth Movement and went on to lecture at London University’s School of Oriental Studies, as well as in Singapore and later in China. He was influenced by the works of Charles Dickens, Joseph Conrad and the great Russian novelists and lived for a while in the US. But his disappointment with the cultural revolution proved too much and so committed suicide,” the Princess says.

“Teahouse” is an important chronicle of Chinese society spanning the five decades from 1898 until the eve of the 1949 revolution and while the physical premises were turned into a clubhouse under authoritarian rule and no longer exist, a new teahouse on Qianmen Street bears the author’s name.

The play itself is noted for its vivid portrayal of characters and lively use of Beijing dialect, but its main thrust lies in Lao She’s vision of history, which is prophetic of later political movements and their disastrous effects on the average Chinese.

The first act is set at the end of the nineteenth century after reforms and the ensuing crackdown have reduced China to a weakened state. The populace is poor and foreign aggression is the rise. Many of the peasants have been forced into bankruptcy and are selling off their own children. Residents in Beijing, as exemplified by the teahouse’s customers, are largely apathetic but a few become involved, advocating political reform and trying to persuade the reigning Emperor to head the movement. Others pin their hopes on industrialisation, seeing it as the only way to bring the nation to prosperity.

“Cha Guan represents all walks of life. It offers a social and cultural commentary on the problems, culture, and changes within China during the early twentieth century and its transformation from tradition to modernity. It’s probably like our Thai ‘Sapa cafae’ (“Thai coffee-shop parliament”) but Wang Lifa is worried about getting into trouble so he puts up a big poster banning talk of politics and this later becomes the centrepiece of the Yu Tai teahouse. Customers tell stories instead and some of them start selling foreign goods like pocket watches, opium or cigarettes, even children. At first I didn’t know how to call these human traffickers because they were more like agents or middlemen,” the Princess adds.

The key words in the story are ‘change’ and ‘reform’, the Princess continues.

“One of the conversations in the play which I find most interesting is when a starving mother and a daughter come into the teahouse begging. A customer takes pity on them and treats them two bowls of noodles. But he is quickly criticised by the landlord, who says this is not the right way to help the poor. He, on the other hand, dreams of building a factory that would provide everybody with job security and money to buy food while producing goods to do away with the need for imports. He says his way would help the nation. When I was young, I used to do the same through my free lunch projects for poor students. Some people say that is not the sustainable way to help people, that you must provide them with education or skills to work,” the Princess says.

The second act takes place 20 years later. The Dynasty has fallen, a Republic has been set up, but the people are worse off than ever. In the same teahouse, Wang tries his best to keep up with the times, with new decorations, posters of beautiful girl and modern seating, and even turns the area at the back into a dormitory. There is the rumble of a revolution: the younger generation, represented by the students, are restive and fomenting protest under the banner of patriotism and democracy.

The third act takes another 30 years down the line. After eight years of bitter war against the Japanese, WWII has ended but the people have hardly had time to celebrate China’s victory before reactionary factions in the Kuomingtang instigate an all-out civil war. The political situation becomes even more oppressive and corrupt, and this is seen and felt in the teahouse. Wang, who is now in his 70s, is reduced to despair and ends his live.

Readers of the translation will enjoy not only the literary quality and the clever conversation, which varies from humorous to sentimental and occasionally satirical, but will also learn about many interesting aspects of Chinese society under the Qing Dynasty and the hopes for a new order.

Appendices at the back of the book provide information about Princess Sirindhorn’s previous works on Chinese tea, the country’s tea culture and its history.

During the launch, Act I was performed for the Princess and she laughingly told the crowd that the character of a young girl whose father wants to sell her off must be very easy to play because when she appears on the set, she faints.

“However, the girl is only 15,” says the princess, “I already 60 so I really can’t portray her.”


-“Teahouse: A Play in Three Acts” is priced at Bt165 and available at Waenkaew Bookshops, Nanmeebooks and other stores.

– For more information, call (02) 662 3000.