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Uber makes first two-wheeler foray

Posted by pakin On February - 25 - 2016 ADD COMMENTS

UBER OFFERED its first motorbike taxi service yesterday, launching a pilot scheme in Bangkok, which could spread across Asia as it takes on chief regional rival Grab Taxi.

Motorbikes have long been a popular commuting option in |the Thai capital, which has horrendous traffic jams due to increased car ownership and poor city planning.

Ubiquitous motorbike taxi drivers, found at stands across the city wearing bright-orange jackets, weave in and out of stalled traffic with both skill and knuckle-whitening speed.

An Uber motorbike that collects passengers from their office or home could prove popular with commuters.

But Uber will be up against both Singapore-based Grab Taxi, which began offering a Bangkok motorbike service alongside its cabs last year, and the tens of thousands of regular motorbike taxi drivers who jealously guard their patches.

“I’m really excited to say Thailand is the first country to launch a two-wheeled motorcycle product in all of our cities,” Douglas Ma, Uber’s head of Asia expansion, told reporters.

The US company has become one of the world’s most valuable start-ups, worth an estimated $50 billion (Bt1.7 trillion) and with a presence in 68 countries. But it has faced regulatory hurdles and protests from established taxi operators in most locations where it has launched.

Both Uber and Grab Taxi have shaken up the taxi industry in Bangkok, providing an alternative to the capital’s often-mercurial cabbies, who routinely decline fares or refuse to use their meters.

The company will initially roll out the bikes in three commercial districts and says the fares should be cheaper than regular motorbike taxis.

Uber will focus on Thailand but does not rule out launching similar services in other traffic-clogged Asian megacities like Jakarta and Manila.

“This is the first time we’re doing it in any market in the world, so our hope is to develop it and innovate it,” Ma said.

“If it makes sense, absolutely we want to look at other markets.”

In the thousands

Ma declined to say how many motorbike drivers the company had already signed up but said it was in the thousands.

At a stand in the commercial area of Chidlom, motorbike taxi driver Winai Bunprueng said he was unlikely to join up.

“If I joined the app and I refused to go, they would reprimand or sack me, but for me now, if I can’t agree with passengers on the prices, I won’t go,” said Winai, 37.

Chalerm Changthongmadan, head of the Association of Taxi Motorcyclists of Thailand, said he was concerned by the arrival of start-up competitors.

“I think it will bring conflict among people who do these jobs,” he said.

Meechai rejects call for five-year ban on junta

Posted by pakin On January - 21 - 2016 ADD COMMENTS

Charter drafters resume work in Bangkok after Cha-am retreat.

THE CHIEF constitution drafter maintained yesterday that he saw no need to stipulate in the new charter that coup makers stay clear of politics for five years after stepping down.

Meechai Ruchupan, chairman of the Constitution Drafting Commission (CDC), dismissed a proposal from panel adviser Jade Donavanik that the new charter prohibit members of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) from politics for five years after the next general election is held.

Ahead of the CDC meeting yesterday, Meechai dismissed Jade’s suggestion, but said the drafters would have to discuss the matter again.

Jade was a member of the previous CDC, which also came up with this idea in a bid to reassure the public that the NCPO would not cling to power once the new charter is adopted.

Yesterday was the second day for the drafters to work at their office in Bangkok after returning from a retreat in Phetchaburi’s Cha-am district last week.

CDC spokesman Chartchai Na Chiangmai, meanwhile, said yesterday that the panel was reviewing the 261 finished articles on a one-by-one basis to ensure everything is correct.

As of yesterday, some 60 articles had been reviewed, though the drafters have not yet started writing the last chapter on Transitory Provisions.

Chartchai said the revision would be completed this week, and since the January 29 deadline is fast approaching, drafters would spend next Monday and Tuesday completing the remaining provisions.

However, the drafters already have a rough idea that the Transitory Provisions chapter will cover three major parts, the spokesman said.

The first part will involve stipulations on how relevant organic laws required under the new charter would be written and how long it should take, he said.

The second part will be about reforms, including education reform and other points proposed by the National Reform Steering Assembly (NRSA) and others.

The last part will involve the transition towards the new charter and will also stipulate how the NCPO should step down from power, Chartchai said, adding that the drafters were still figuring out these issues.

He also pointed out that there were some differences between previous charters and the new one; for instance, the terms of independent agencies are changed.

Apart from that, the CDC has set out its public relations plan to create understanding about the draft charter among the public and relevant bodies.

As soon as the initial draft is released on January 29, CDC members will hold a non-formal meeting with the NRSA and the National Legislative Assembly to explain the draft, the spokesman said.

The drafters are also planning to host a big-scale event, perhaps at Impact Arena Muang Thong Thani, to present the first complete draft. At the event, all 21 drafters will be ready to accept any inquiries from the press and the general public.

Chartchai said the CDC would ask the Interior Ministry to have its officials nationwide watch the event, expected to be broadcast live on state-run television channels.

FOUR members of the Resistant Citizen group have filed a petition with the Bangkok Military Court, opposing a move to have them tried at the military court.

Anont Nampa, Sirawit Serithiwat, Pansak Srithep and Wannakiat Chusak yesterday made an appointment with the court to deliver their first testimonies in the case after being accused of violating the National Council for Peace and Order’s ban on political rallies. The Pathumwan Police Station police arrested them after they led a rally at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre on February 14 where they called for an election next year.

Prosecutors of the military court later filed a criminal suit against the four, accusing them of breaching NCPO order No 1 7/2557.

Pansak said the military court accepted the petition questioning the authority of the military court over civilians.

The military court ordered prosecutors to have the Pathumwan District Court set up a committee to rule on the court’s jurisdiction.

He said the military court and the Court of Justice were also considering which court has the authority to try the case against former education minister Chaturon Chaisang.

He said he did not accept the authority of the NCPO because he believes the junta does not run the country democratically. If the committee appointed by the Pathumwan District Court decides that the case against his group can be tried under the military court, he would see if the reason given were justified.

Magic in the moves

Posted by pakin On October - 6 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

South American troupes bring classical and contemporary ballet to Bangkok’s International Festival

COMING TO THE Thailand Cultural Centre this month are two of South America’s top dance companies – Ballet Nacional Sodre (BNS, or National Ballet of Uruguay) and the Deborah Colker Dance Company out of Brazil. One is classical, the other contemporary.

Uruguay’s national ballet company, which is celebrating its 80th anniversary, has a long history. Legend has it that the much-celebrated Nijinsky almost accepted an offer to start a school in Uruguay after his final tour with Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes in 1919. Uruguayan choreographer Alberto Pouyanne founded an earlier incarnation of the BNS known as the Corps de Ballet Sodre, which became one of two major South American ballet companies in the 20th century, the other being Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires.

Over the years a number of Europeans left their mark on the company, staging major classical works such as “Les Sylphides”, “Swan Lake” and “Coppelia”. Then in 1971, a fire ravaged the company’s base, Estudio Auditorio del Sodre, and for almost 40 years the theatre was closed, finally reopening in 2009. The following year Uruguay’s president, Jose Mujica appointed multi-award-winning Argentinean star dancer Julio Bocca as the artistic director.

A gifted dancer, for two decades Bocca was the principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre (ABT), and a guest artist with the Royal Ballet of London, Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow, Kirov Ballet in St Petersburg, and Alla Scala de Milan, among others.

In a short period of time he dramatically elevated the standard of the BNS, first expanding from only 25 dancers to 68, and going from just 15 performances a year to 90, with national and international tours. He also mounted full-length productions of “Giselle”, “Swan Lake”, “The Nutcracker”, “La Sylphide”, “Le Corsaire” and Natalia Makarova’s staging of “La Bayadere”, and triple bills of ballets by choreographers such as William Forsythe, Jiri Kylian and Nacho Duato.

In addition he enticed ABT ballerina Maria Riccetto back to her homeland, making her the principal with the company, and then promoted the young Spanish dancer, Ciro Tamayo, to principal in 2013. Both will perform in Bangkok in an exciting programme this Sunday that takes in Venezuelan choreographer Vicente Nebrada’s “Our Waltzes”; “Coppelia – Pas Deux” by Enrique Martinez; Oscar Araiz’s “Adagietto”; “Le Corsaire Pas De Trois” by Anna-Marie Holmes; and “Don Quixote Suite” by Silvia Bazilis and Raul Candal.

At the other end of the spectrum is the Deborah Colker Dance Company. Born and raised in Rio de Janeiro, Colker founded her company in 1994, taking it to the world stage with productions featuring elaborate installations and sets, and a choreographic direction that tackles abstract themes strongly influenced by her heritage.

The company went on stage for the first time at the Rio de Janeiro Municipal Theatre, sharing the night with Momix, Moses Pendleton’s renowned cult group. It was the inaugural edition of the show “O Globoem Movimento”.

With sponsorship from Petrobras, the company acquired their own studio in 1996, the same year as their first world premiere abroad at the prestigious Biennale de La Danse de Lyon with “Mix”, which combines excerpts from earlier works “Vulcao” and “Velox”.

Since then they have performed in Argentina, Austria, Canada, Chile, Columbia, Ecuador, France, Germany, Holland, Hong Kong, Israel, Italy, Japan, Macau, Mexico, New Zealand, Oman, Portugal, Singapore, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

In 2001, the company was awarded the Laurence Olivier Award in the category “Outstanding Achievement in Dance” by the Society of London Theatre, an honour never before awarded to a South American artist or group.

In Bangkok, they will recreate their “Mix”, a highly physical blend of gymnastics and acrobatics, which praises the beauty of the moving human body.

International Cultural promotions is grateful to the shows’ sponsors – Bangkok Bank, Bangkok Dusit Medical Services, B Grimm, BMW, Beiersdorf, the Crown Property Bureau, the Dusit Thani Bangkok, Indorama Ventures, PTT, the Nation Group, Singha Corp, Thai Airways International, the Tourism Authority of Thailandand the Ministry of Culture.