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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.

Thailand gains from China’s outbound travel boom

Posted by pakin On January - 14 - 2016 ADD COMMENTS

South Korea, Thailand, Japan and Taiwan are among the top five favourite destinations for Chinese travellers, which were numbered 109 million in 2015.

According to GfK’s analyses, by the start of November 2015, counting air and overnight visits, the number of Chinese travellers to South Korea showed an increase of 112 per cent since 2011. Thailand experienced an increase of 263 per cent, Japan by 157 per cent and Taiwan 54 per cent.

Hong Kong, which was the preferred destination for China’s outbound tourists up until 2013, saw a 37 per cent increase in the period.

“China’s outbound tourists remain strategic to Hong Kong and its businesses – but other destinations are jumping ahead in winning their favour. Destinations such as Hong Kong need to re-evaluate China’s new breed of young and independently-minded travellers, to understand how best to attract them and capitalize on the growth of China’s outbound tourism,” said Laurens van den Oever, global head of travel and hospitality research at GfK.

Since 2014, increasing numbers of China’s outbound tourists have been opting for other destinations that offer historical and cultural experiences, as well as shopping.

The analyses showed that last year China produced 109 million outbound tourists who spent a total of US$229 billion (approximately Bt8.2 trillion).

These statistics consolidate China’s position as one of the top global sources of tourists, in terms of both number of trips and money spent during international travel. At the same time, there have been profound changes in the behaviour of the typical Chinese traveller, with Chinese Millennials firmly established as the core drivers of China’s outbound tourism spending.

Europe remains the most popular destination for Chinese travelling outside of Asia, showing an increase of 97 per cent in the number of air and overnight visits in the last four years. This is followed by North America (up 151 per cent) and the Middle East (up 177 per cent). Africa remains the destination least visited by Chinese tourists – but with signs that this could be changing, as visits have risen by 306 per cent since 2011.

According to GfK data, half (50 per cent) of China’s outbound travellers are aged 15-29 years old – the “millennials” group – while over a third (37 per cent) are aged 30-44 and 10 per cent are 45-59.

An annual study from GfK shows that Chinese Millennials are more ambitious than their predecessors, aged 50 and above – and more hedonistic in their willingness to spend money to indulge and pamper themselves. They are also slightly less price sensitive, being the biggest purchasers of luxury goods in Asia Pacific.

For destinations looking to attract this lucrative group, then, the ideal approach is to approach them not as ’tourists’ but as independent travellers who will respond to opportunities to plan personalised trips.

BEIJING – Britain pledged pound sterling2 billion on Monday for a nuclear plant set to be built in England by a consortium, including Chinese firms, which would be the country’s first such new power station in decades.

Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne announced the funding during a visit to China, saying the Hinkley Point plant was necessary to meet Britain’s energy needs as older coal and nuclear plants are retired.

A consortium led by French energy company EDF is expected to make a final decision this year on whether to invest in the plant, but the firm’s chief executive welcomed the funding pledge.

“The Chancellor’s approval of the infrastructure guarantee is a clear sign of the Government’s commitment to Hinkley Point C,” Vincent de Rivas was quoted as saying in a statement from the British Treasury.

EDF is the lead contractor in the consortium, which also includes state-run Chinese firms China General Nuclear Corporation and China National Nuclear Corporation.

The Chinese companies are expected to largely finance and get a stake of around 40 percent in the project, which will have two new reactors that authorities hope will generate seven percent of Britain’s electricity.

The announcement came during a five-day trip by Osborne during which he is pushing for closer trade ties with the world’s second-largest economy, even as global concerns deepen about its health.

“We very much welcome Chinese investment not just in that project but the potential for majority Chinese investment in future nuclear projects in the United Kingdom,” he told reporters.

The final decision on investment in the plant could come during a visit to Britain by Chinese President Xi Jinping next month.

The Austrian government has filed a legal complaint to the European Court of Justice against state subsidies for the Hinkley Point nuclear plant, on the grounds they distort the market.

Seen as a major boost to the nuclear industry four years after the disaster at Japan’s Fukushima plant, some environmentalists see Hinkley Point as an unnecessary support for nuclear energy just as renewable energy technologies begin to take hold.

Five Thais held in China prostitution scam

Posted by pakin On August - 5 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

FIVE THAIS suspected of being members of a transnational gang that forced Thai women into prostitution in China by promising “hooter girl” jobs have been arrested after four victims filed police complaints.

Pol General Somyot Pumpanmuang, national police chief, said yesterday that police were looking for four other suspects and probably more, mostly foreigners.

The gang was believed to have operated since 2012 promising women jobs in China, Malaysia and Singapore.

The five were Sunatta Oopkaew, 32, who was nabbed in Samut Sakhon; Inthu-on Polpanchu, 25, and Pradit Thadee, 25, both caught in Bangkok; Srilakhon Thongkhao, 39, in Samut Prakan; and Jittanan Sithichai, 31, in Phuket.

Police spokesman Prawut Thawornsiri said this was one of the 34 human-trafficking gangs that Thailand presented in its update to the United States’ “Trafficking in Persons” report.

Somyot said he hoped this bust would show the international community that Thailand was serious about suppressing the human trade and would help get Thailand out of Tier 3, the lowest level, in the TIP report.

Pol Maj-General Thiti Saengsawang, commander of the Anti-Human Trafficking Division, said the gang targeted good-looking woman via social media, a Facebook page named Jen Modelling, and falsely offered “hooter girl” jobs in the city of Chongqing.

Sunatta allegedly arranged for four women to travel to China accompanied by two Chinese men – Wei Kanghow and Keng Siangtan. Inthu-on delivered the women’s passports prior to departure, police said. The women then found themselves locked up and forced into the flesh trade in the Chinese city, police said.

One victim pretended to be seriously sick and paid Bt50,000 to Pradit’s bank account to be released to return to Thailand, where she filed a police complaint and sought the assistance of the Foreign Ministry to contact Chinese authorities to rescue her three friends, police said.

Jittanan was identified as the owner of the phone used in the gang’s communications.

There were likely more than 20 victims, since Srilakhon’s credit cards were used 23 times to buy plane tickets, police said.