Monday, March 19, 2018
Get Adobe Flash player

LOS ANGELES – Leonardo DiCaprio won his first Oscar on Sunday for his leading role in revenge movie “The Revenant”.

DiCaprio, 41, had been nominated four times previously for an Oscar over a career spanning 25 years. But he was favourite to finally take home the best actor Academy Award this year for his grueling portrayal of a fur trapper left for dead in an icy wilderness after being mauled by a bear.

Alicia Vikander won best supporting actress for “The Danish Girl”, and Mark Rylance best supporting actor for “Bridge of Spies”.

THE COUNTRY’S largest music and entertainment giant, GMM Grammy, plans to cut more than 100 jobs as cost management efforts and restructuring of the organisation into a provider of total media solutions, according to a source at the company.

“This appears to be the biggest lay-offs at the company in the last seven years,” the source, who did not want to be named, told The Nation.

The 100 employees will be laid off with effect from tomorrow. GMM Grammy is reportedly also considering cutting more jobs from its current staff strength of 3,000 employees.

The affected staff will get full compensation under labour laws plus an extra three months of salary due to the urgent notice.

The redundancy follows slide in the performance of its business units such as music, digital content production, public relations and accountancy. The company has been restructuring its internal management since the last two years in transforming the music and entertainment-based company into a total media solutions provider.

Under the restructuring plan, the company has set up a content-marketing unit to work with other departments to optimise and monetise content through various media platforms, both at home and overseas. The new department is also working closely with clients and sponsors to design and develop TV and radio programmes, film and marketing activities to engage with target audiences.

In line with those activities, last year the company decided to exit non-core business, selling its shares in SE-Education, Post Publishing, Matichon and Index Creative Village. The company also sold its magazine business to C True, which is majority-owned by Thai AirAsia chief executive officer Tassapon Bijleveld.

However, the source insisted that the recent move was not related to its terrestrial-based digital TV businesses – GMM 25 and One channel – who are seeing a boost in popularity and advertising revenue.

In a previous interview, Paiboon Dumrongchaitham, chairman of the music and entertainment giant, said he was impressed with the performance of both digital TV stations.

“Although its digital-TV business is still suffering from the huge investment cost of content production, the ratings and audience share of both One and GMM 25 channels have continued to rise after the revamp of its programming with prime-time soap operas and situation comedies,” he

Students get Army lessons on referendum

Posted by pakin On February - 29 - 2016 ADD COMMENTS

Critics say students shouldn’t be used as ‘political machinery’; teachers endorse NCPO pole in coup.

A VAST historical battlefield at the foot of the legendary mountain Khao Chon Kai is usually the site of weapons and ammunition stockpiles for military training.

But now it is dotted with giant infographic vinyl boards in preparation for a new campaign.

As a referendum on the new charter draft draws near, the Army has turned this training field into an open classroom for Thai Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) students from across the country. Its aim is to educate these forces about democracy and the content of the new charter so they can help to encourage people to turn out and cast their votes.

The one-day charter introductory course is part of the “ROTC Volunteer” project the Army introduced a few months ago to recruit the corps to do extra volunteer work, including raising public awareness on issues of importance.

Under the project, up to 80,000 ROTC students have registered with the consent of their parents. Army chief General Theerachai Nakvanich has expressed a wish to see students help to move the country forward.

Since the first charter draft was developed more than a year ago, opposition has been growing, raising fears that the trend could undermine efforts ahead of the referendum. A low voter turnout is among the issues of concern as it could result in the referendum being considered invalid.

Controversial topics and content to be presented include the new election methods for MPs, Senators and the premiership; the prime minister’s role; and stringent measures limiting politicians’ power and governing their conduct.

Territorial Defence Command Chief Lt-General Weerachai Intusophon said the Army realised the referendum would involve important decisions about the country’s future and people should have a good understanding of it before making a decision.

As a result, the military plans to educate students and assign them to encourage voters to exercise their voting rights.

The volunteer students will be visiting communities in every district from March to May before the referendum near the end of July.

“At least, they will be able to ignite people’s interest in the new charter to learn more about it,” Weerachai said.

In talks with the Election Commission (EC), the Territorial Defence Command agreed to develop the unconventional training class, which is meant to expose students to the charter draft and referendum. According to Sampun Sangkumlerd, deputy director general of the Department of Election Campaign and Information Dissemination, students will then have a role in returning democracy to the country.

In the course curriculum, instruction materials are used along with verbal instructions, according to Maj-General Prakran Padavanija, commanding general of the Reserve Affairs Centre. Students are also meant to learn ideas by themselves using the infographic boards, he said.

The newly designed curriculum is based on six installations, which present subjects including environmental preservation, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) roadmap, the referendum roadmap, the controversial content of the charter draft, the concept of democratic citizenship and the volunteers’ mission, said Lt-Colonel Boonlerst Yimyai, a lead trainer.

The content is then transformed into fieldwork. Last week, The Nation observed as the six installations were set up at the Khao Chon Kai military camp on an outdoor cement platform. The installations are called “Learning Stations” and decorated with large, coloured vinyl canvases.

About 600 female reservists trotted to the learning bases to escape the scorching sun. A couple of young military trainers greeted the girls and instructed them to sit down.

The students were divided into six groups to visit each station with each learning session lasting seven minutes. When one session finished, students moved to another base where a military trainer explained the NCPO’s roadmap and mission with a large picture of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha in the backdrop.

“If [during the 2014 coup] the NCPO had not taken the country over and governed it, what would have happened” the trainer asked the audience.

“How would Thailand have been seen in other countries’ eyes” she continued.

“Bad,” responded the students.

Standing by the side of the NCPO’s roadmap display, a male trainer explained the new election system outlined by the draft charter. “Look at the infographic board and go through the content,” said the trainer.

A couple of minutes passed. “The new election method enables people to get involved in politics more,” the trainer added.

“Understand” shouted the young trainer. “Yes!” answered the fourth-year female students.

After finishing sessions at every base, some students shared their views with The Nation. Napath Rattanakrittiyapar, a female fourth-year student said: “It gave me a rough idea of the referendum. It’s good. The NCPO is also good. They are clear and manage things [in an] orderly [way].”

Some students, however, thought differently.

“My friends and I did not learn about the charter draft much in the camp. I’m not really interested in politics and the charter. Only a couple of my friends in the battalion joined the ROTC Volunteer project,” said Thun Chakshuraksha, a leader of the second-year student battalion.

Since the course began, some political observers have voiced concerns over the short duration of the training, saying a few minutes were not enough to help the students to understand the complicated content of the charter draft and the referendum. But more critically, they questioned whether it was appropriate to get Army reservists involved in political matters.

“This is not the Army’s responsibility, but I’m not surprised about this move. This is a military government,” said Sombat Boonngamanong, a pro-democracy activist known as Bor Kor Lai Jud.

“This could be a strategy convincing people to accept the charter. This is political machinery asking people to cast votes in the referendum,” said the activist, who specialises in using political symbolism. EC member Somchai Srisuthiyakorn disagreed: “[For ROTC students] to campaign to draw people’s attention to the charter draft and the referendum is fine. It is not using the students to instruct people to vote ‘Yes’. But if that was so, it would be unacceptable.”

The EC also insisted it had designed the content to fit the course duration. “The content regarding democracy and the road to the referendum is simple and concise. We only aim to raise the students’ awareness of democratic citizenship, a general election and the referendum,” Sampun said.

ROTC students are also using social media daily and can pass on what they learn to other people around country, which was the real reason why they were chosen, lead trainer Boonlerst said.

“It is easier to teach the young than the old. The reason why we target ROTC students is that it is easy for us to approach them, compared to high school or university students,” he said.

WHEN NOK AIR scrapped nine flights on Valentine’s Day, at the very least it forced the government to look at what’s really happening in the Thai aviation industry.

It would be too easy to say that a strike by pilots was the main reason for the cancellation of flights. Surprisingly, it was revealed that there were only two pilots stopping work on that day.

Was it a lack of pilots or perhaps a lack of crisis management that might better explain the situation?

Work stoppage by only two pilots could not have resulted in nine flights being cancelled.

Nok Air chief executive officer Patee Sarasin said recently there was a shortage of pilots. He explained that many were working hours in excess of the standard limits on flying.

Nok Air’s abandonment of more than 1,000 passengers at Don Mueang Airport for 10 hours with no senior officials to take care of them can only be explained as a lack of crisis management.

All fingers now seem to be pointing at fierce competition in the industry, caused by the rising number of low-cost airlines.

Learning a lesson from the Nok Air fiasco, the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT) recently ordered all 14 domestic airlines to submit contingency plans on managing crises in aviation operations, aviation safety, and computer and IT.

Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith earlier suggested that the CAAT, as aviation regulator, should consider the number of pilots when permitting airlines to increase their number of flights.

But that is not enough. In fact, the CAAT should constantly update its auditing of airlines’ status. How would it become known if the number of pilots shown during the audit process changed the day after permission was granted for more flights?

Nok Air’s flight cancellations also expose the gaping holes in how authorities are regulating air operators. Nok Air might be the weakest link among peers.In spite of lower fuel prices the first nine months of 2015 while Bangkok Airways and Asia Aviation, which together own a 55-per-cent share in Thai AirAsia, recorded a net profit in excess of Bt1 billion.

“Fierce competition” could be the catalyst to push Nok Air to hit the jackpot in terms of performance. Meanwhile, the red flag for the country’s aviation safety audit standards in June last year by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) should be a wake-up call also for all airlines. This means airlines registered and certified by Thai aviation-related authorities will not be allowed to expand their destinations or frequency of flights and will be banned from flying to other countries if their aviation regulators follow the result of ICAO’s assessment.

The US Federation Aviation Administration also downgraded the country’s aviation safety standard to category II status following the ICAO’s concerns in December last year while the European Aviation Safety Agency is in the process of examining the country, which it hopes to pass.

Because of the ICAO’s red flag, the CAAT was set up, replacing the Department of Civil Aviation, to be responsible for regulating air operators for aviation operation and aviation safety standards as part of the country’s overhaul of aviation regulations to meet international standards after years of neglect.

For the red flag to be removed, the CAAT would need to recruit more than 500 experts in the next three years, a half of them expected to be transferred from existing relevant agencies, in a bid to expedite the air operation certificate recertification for 41 airlines. One of the important issues that the ICAO will consider is about rules on flight time and flight duty period limitations.

The CAAT’s recertification time frame was delayed several times since the end of last year due to disruptions from being examined by international aviation agencies. In the meantime, the authority needs to help Nok Air restore passenger confidence before it harms the industry. Recently, Nok Air announced it would cancel more flights and would fly charter aircraft until the end of this month, after 20 flights were cancelled on Monday.

So, this could be the light at the end of the tunnel to complete the recertification for all 41 airlines by the end of this year, implying that Thailand will have to bear the red flag at least until next year.