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Obama, Asean leaders discuss trade, South China Sea

Posted by pakin On February - 17 - 2016 ADD COMMENTS

US PRESIDENT Barack Obama gathered with leaders from Southeast Asia on Monday to strengthen trade ties and form a common stance over the South China Sea in a summit that the White House hopes will solidify US influence in the region.

US PRESIDENT Barack Obama gathered with leaders from Southeast Asia on Monday to strengthen trade ties and form a common stance over the South China Sea in a summit that the White House hopes will solidify US influence in the region.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said in the meeting that finding solutions to an economic downturn, notably in the Asean region, was a priority for the US and Asean.

The two sides should open their respective economies to each other, he said.

The Asean-driven Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and the US-dominated Trans Pacific Partnership could complement each other, he told the summit.

On Monday the leaders were slated to focus on economic issues, including discussion of the TPP, which includes four Asean members: Vietnam, Singapore, Brunei and Malaysia. Others are interested in joining, and the White House wants to make sure the pact takes effect.

The US is preparing to unveil a plan to set up centres in Singapore, Bangkok and Jakarta as part of an effort to help promote innovation and entrepreneurship in Asean, according to Singapore’s The Straits |Times.

Each centre – likely to be set up within the US missions in each city – will help coordinate existing US programmes and channel US business investment in the region, as well as develop new projects.

It will be part of an initiative known as Asean-US Connect that is aimed at enhancing US economic engagement in the region.

Advocacy group Human Rights Watch urged the Obama administration to object to human-rights violations in countries such as Cambodia and Thailand during the summit.

The president touched on the issue without specifics during his remarks. Thai people in the US staged their respective rallies in California in support or against Prime Minister Prayut, who seized power in 2014 in a coup.

While the pro-Prayut group expressed their gratitude to him, the anti-junta group denounced the action to topple the elected government.

How to make Thailand the educational hub of Asean

Posted by pakin On January - 25 - 2016 ADD COMMENTS

TRANSFORMING Thailand into Asean’s educational hub within the next five years is the ultimate goal of Suphachai Chearavanont, co-chairman of a working panel on basic education and leadership development under the Joint Public-Private Steering Committee.

But to achieve that ambition, the country needs to start building a favourable landscape now, with world-class laboratory facilities, massive funding from both the state and private sectors, and top researchers, plus attractive incentives from the government to make all this happen.

“Our long-term goal is to make Thailand the Asean educational hub. We have to begin by defining which research areas are important to the future of the world. The researches that are important to the world future are biotechnology, digital technology, robotic technology, or nano-technology,” the True chief executive officer said in an interview with The Nation.

He said Thailand had good fundamentals for doing research in the biotech, digital and robotic arenas. The country needs to set up open and world-class lab facilities to conduct research in these areas.

Suitable universities should be selected to host each of these labs, while the state and private sectors step in to provide support and incentives. The labs will also enlist top local and international academics to strengthen their work.

Suphachai estimated that setting up one lab would require funding of US$1 billion, so focusing on three areas would mean an investment of $3 billion (Bt108 billion). The government could allocate this funding from the annual education budget of Bt500 billion. If it did so, there is a chance that the three universities hosting the labs would see their rankings move up.

If all of the above could be realised, parents from all over Asean would send their children to enrol in these universities, which would make Thailand the centre for producing competent human resources in the region, said Suphachai, who also serves as vice chairman of Charoen Pokphand Group.

But this is the long-term plan. For now, his working panel is focusing on the immediate plan of reforming the country’s basic education.

He said that to reform education, four areas had to be improved: transparency in the educational system, evaluation processes, learning methods, and the human resources that could help lead the changes, including school principals.

He said citizens and private companies could donate money to help schools, as they were eligible for tax deductions, but they might feel hesitant to do so, as they could not easily check how schools spend their donations and how they were performing. Once people could be confident about schools’ transparency, he believed a massive number of people would be happy to provide financial help to them.

He added that school principals had to be evaluated and at the same time rewarded, according to their performance. The parents in each school’s area should also be encouraged to take part in this evaluation to create engagement between schools and communities.

He suggested that recruitment of foreign principals would help boost the education system. If the country wants Thais well versed in foreign languages, it must be willing to spend on hiring foreign teachers.

Moreover, teaching and learning methods should be changed from one-way communication to two-way, moving away from urging children to memorise text towards encouraging them to ask questions.

Students should be encouraged to engage in debate among themselves, while teachers assume the roles of facilitators and encourage the students to build up their potential. In Suphachai’s opinion, the learning process should be child-centric.

“When children ask ‘why’, they will then go on to do research or Google, and that is a life-long perspective of the entire learning process,” he said.

To accelerate these changes, he said the private sector could play a major role by becoming what he calls “dedicated sponsors” of their preferred schools and provide them with mentors to see what these schools really need. The mentors would also work closely with the principals to improve school performance.

The working panel has passed its plans on to Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak and Education Minister Dapong Ratanasuwan. Dapong chairs the team in the working panel from the state sector, while Suphachai chairs the private-sector team.

Among the top executives in Suphachai’s team are Isara Vongkusolkit, chairman of Board of Trade and Thai Chamber of Commerce, and Kan Trakulhoon of Siam Cement Group. The panel is working out more details of the plans before submitting them to Somkid in the next couple of weeks.

Suphachai said that when the immediate plan is approved, the government would deploy it in a large number of schools.

The working group on education is one of 12 joint public-private-sector working groups appointed by the government last month to help it steer the economy.

Asean set for tourism push

Posted by pakin On January - 21 - 2016 ADD COMMENTS

As grouping turns 50 next year, campaign will promote 600 destinations in the region.

IN ORDER to build a real sense of community, Asean will for the first time launch a regional tourism campaign to promote 600 destinations to boost arrivals and income when the regional grouping turns 50 next year.

Pongpanu Svetarundra, permanent secretary of the Ministry of Tourism and Sports, said officials of national tourism organisations from the 10 nations had agreed at a meeting in the Philippines to introduce “Asean at 50” as the new regional tourism campaign.

The campaign will be announced tomorrow at the Asean Tourism Forum in Manila and there will be a grand opening at the International Tourism Berse (ITB) in Germany in the first quarter of this year.

“Asean promotes itself as a single-market tourist destination as all members were integrated into an economic community at the end of last year. The campaign will be part of Asean’s 50th anniversary celebrations,” Pongpanu said.

Asean will be promoting 600 attractions located across the region, which will be divided into 12 different categories under the theme of “50 Best…”.

The dozen categories will be the 50 best of cities, hotels, restaurants, food, festivals and celebrations, beaches, shopping, historical sites, adventure tourism, small towns and villages, markets, as well as unforgettable experiences.

Pongpanu said each Asean member would propose their attractions and products to a central committee, which should complete the selection procedure before the grand opening in Germany.

Thailand is assigned to lead the selection of two categories: festivals and celebrations, as well as unforgettable experiences, he said.

“The new campaign should boost tourism income and total arrivals in the region by 15 per cent from 100 million to 115 million,” he added.

Officials from national tourism organisations also approved another 10-year Asean Tourism Strategic Plan (ATSP) set for 2016-25, while Asean tourism ministers adopted the ATSP 2011-15 that focused on 19 measures.

Plan for tourism professIonals

The 10-year plan is also expected to boost tourism earnings for the entire region from 10 to 15 per cent in 2025, while employment in the sector should rise from 3 to 7 per cent, travellers’ length of stay will climb from 6.3 days to eight days and average spending per trip per visitor will rise from $900 to $1,500 or Bt 27,000 to Bt45,000.

According to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, the total number of international arrivals inAsean is expected to rise to 123 million by 2020, 152 million by 2025 and 187 million by 2030.

Pongpanu said Asean will be also focusing on other developments such as improving infrastructure, enhancing competency, labour transfer, a single visa for all nations in the grouping as well as maintaining major tourism markets such as China, India and Russia.

On January 19, all 10 Asean tourism ministers signed an agreement on the establishment of the Regional Secretariat to support the implementation of Mutual Recognition Arrangement on Tourism Professional (MRA-TP.) The secretariat will be based in Jakarta and will commence operations this year.

Signed by Asean Tourism Ministers in November 2012, MRA-TP was developed to facilitate mobility of tourism professionals in the region.

Dr Ong Hong Peng, secretary-general of Malaysia’s Tourism and Culture Ministry, said the MRA-TP marked a significant milestone for tourism development in Asean.

“Moving forward, Malaysia, as chairman of the Asean Tourism Professional Monitoring Committee, will fully support and contribute towards the realisation of the objectives and targets of the Asean MRA-TP,” he said.

Shipping and transport firms enjoy streamlined services

A new start-up,, which has won three major start-up pitches and competitions this year, has an ambitious dream of being a global platform for supply-chain systems.

It won a Thailand ICT Award in the Start-up Category, the Digital Winners Award from DTAC Accelerate Batch 3, and Echelon Thailand 2015’s Start-up LaunchPad award. It also walked away with the title of Most Promising Start-up.

Sittisak Wongsomnuk, 25,’s chief executive officer and co-founder, said it started offering services in September by positioning itself as an e-marketplace for logistics services to pinpoint addresses for shippers and transport providers. It can help shorten a logistics service’s quotation period from two hours in the domestic market, 10 hours in Asean market, and two days for with Europe or North America to nearly real time.

It provides lists and details of shippers and transport providers so users can quickly and easily find logistics services.

The service is provided free of charge to shippers, and its revenue comes from commissions and transition fees charged to transport providers that get customers via

Shippers can source the transport providers verified by and quickly get transport and freight clearance, while transport companies have a greater opportunity to get customers easily. They can increase revenue by not needing to invest in technology and sales procedures. currently serves around 100 shippers and more than 100 transport companies, 20 of the latter in Thailand. The rest are in mainland China, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Sir Lanka, Britain, Australia and the United States.

The competitive advantage of is to offer easy ways to handle logistics for both shippers and transport providers. The shipper can compare prices, while the transport company can sell its services anywhere.

Sittisak said Giztix’ platform made the logistics services enjoyed by large companies available to smaller firms at an affordable cost.

Next year, aims to have more than 10,000 active users per day, of which 80 per cent are shippers and the rest transport providers. It also expects to be available in 15 countries with total transaction value of US$10 million (Bt357 million).

He said aimed to cash in on the high potential logistics value in Asean, a market worth around $20 billion and which is expected to grow by 2-6 per cent per year.

From being an e-marketplace for logistics services, by mid-2016 plans to extend its service to cover the whole supply-chain system through partnerships with large e-commerce service providers.

“We aim to be the platform hub of the global supply chain system through integrating with international e-commerce players such as Alibaba and,” Sittisak said.

He said was seeking venture-capital fund-raising worth $300,000 for team expansion. It is also applying for support from the Board of Investment.

It plans to launch a mobile application early next year.

Out of 100 applications, 15 teams were selected to make their pitch in front of judges on the first day of “Echelon Thailand” in Bangkok. Five start-ups were shortlisted to make a presentation in front of a live audience and a panel of five judges. They were Ardent Capital CEO Adrian Vanzyl; Linear Venture founding partner Harry Wang; Andrew Kvalseth, head of the strategy and innovation division of Total Access Communication (DTAC); Gobi Partners investment director Victor Chua; and GREE Ventures associate Albert Shyy.

As part of the grand prize, Giztix received three years’ access to BizSpark, BizSpark Plus and $120,000 worth of Azure credits from LaunchPad prize sponsor Microsoft. These prizes will allow Giztix to access software and tools like Visual Studio and Office, alongside training courses and a vibrant technology community.

Additionally, the Giztix team received a pair of tickets to “Echelon Asia Summit 2016”, and an exhibition booth at the international summit to be held in Singapore next June.

Echelon is Asia’s premier technology and business conference that celebrates the start-up industry and its change-makers. It is organised to convene the region’s tech space, investors and influencers to discuss Asia’s emerging trends and ascend to a higher value proposition.