Tuesday, September 19, 2017
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FRESNO, CALIFORNIA – Relatives of two exchange students from Thailand who were killed in California are planning funeral ceremonies after their bodies were pulled from a mangled rental car lodged on boulders in the middle of a river, a Thai diplomat said on Tuesday.

A recovery team reclaimed the two bodies on Friday from the car in the Kings River near Fresno, more than a month after it careened down a cliff on July 26.

Relatives of the two victims endured weeks of waiting before the team felt it was safe to enter the dangerous rapids deep in a gorge.

“It was agonising for them,” said Tanee Sangrat, consul at the Consulate-General in Los Angeles. The relatives have come to “accept the fates of their loved ones,” he said.

The Fresno County Sheriff’s Office used a helicopter to lower the recovery team into the river. They used a hand wench to pull the car to the riverbank and free the bodies.

Crime scene analysts used fingerprints to confirm that the victims were Pakapol Chairatnathrongporn, 28, and his friend Thiwadee Saengsuriyarit, 24.

They were students at the University of South Florida and were visiting Kings Canyon National Park in the Sierra Nevada when their car crashed through a guardrail and plunged into the river.

The story has gripped Thailand, Mr Tanee said.

Authorities have not yet released the cause of death. Fresno officials turned over the remains to a funeral home and relatives will have them cremated before a ceremony expected later this week at a temple in North Hollywood, Thai and Fresno County officials said.

Relatives of Thiwadee will take her ashes back to Thailand, while Pakapol’s cremated remains will be scattered in California because “he loved the US.”

Investigators as a result of the recovery effort also found another car submerged nearby that authorities believe was driven by a missing couple from China.

Officials think the second car crashed into the same stretch of river around Aug 6.

Authorities have said it could take weeks for the river’s level to drop enough for them to retrieve that car and determine if anyone is inside.

 

Tillerson to press Thailand on North Korea

Posted by pakin On August - 3 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS

WASHINGTON – US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will press Thailand and other Asian countries to take tougher action against North Korea when he visits Bangkok and attends regional meetings in Manila starting this week, a senior US official said on Wednesday.

Tillerson will visit Thailand next Tuesday and then Malaysia. His visit includes a trip to the Philippines this weekend for the start of Asean meetings and the Asean Regional Forum (ARF), which includes North Korea.

Susan Thornton, the acting assistant secretary of state for East Asia, said Tillerson will meet with Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai during his overnight stay in Bangkok Tuesday night. The two met privately in Washington in May.

His visit to Bangkok will be the first by a US secretary of state since the military seized power in the May 22, 2014, coup.

US-Thai relations have warmed this year, after the election of President Donald Trump. President Barack Obama and his secretaries of state – Hillary Clinton and John Kerry – pressured Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and the regime to hold elections and resume democratic rule.

He plans to engage with China’s foreign minister at the meetings of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Manila, but had no plans to meet North Korea’s foreign minister there.

Thornton said Tillerson, who begins his quick Asean tour in Manila on Saturday, will press Thailand for greater cooperation in isolating North Korea and in enforcing UN sanctions over its missile and nuclear weapons programmes. She said Washington wanted to see countries “drastically” reduce their dealings with Pyongyang.

“What we are trying to do is galvanise this pressure and isolate North Korea so it can see what the opportunity cost is over developing these weapons programmes,” she told reporters in a telephone briefing to preview Tillerson’s trip.

During his overnight stay in Bangkok, Mr Tillerson will pay respects to the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej. He is expected to stress the “enduring” US-Thailand partnership, his spokesman said earlier.

Mr Tillerson is intimately familiar with Thailand. As a rising executive on his way to become chief of Exxonmobil, he was president of Esso Exploration and Production Khorat Inc.

Starting in 1996, he directed the ramping up of production in Thailand’s first commercial natural gas field at Nam Phong district of Khon Kaen.

Thailand has diplomatic relations with Pyongyang including full embassies in each other’s capitals.

Thornton said China had taken “significant steps, … frankly unprecedented steps” to increase pressure on its neighbour North Korea, but it could do “a lot more” to step up enforcement of existing sanctions and to impose more.

“We would like to see more action faster and more obvious and quick results, but I think we’re not giving up yet.”

US President Donald Trump on Saturday accused Beijing of doing “nothing” to help on North Korea and pointed to the huge US trade deficit with China.

A senior Trump administration official said on Tuesday that Trump was close to a decision on how to respond to what he considers China’s unfair trade practices and was considering action that could lead to tariffs or other trade restrictions on Chinese goods.

Thornton declined to comment on any possible action but stressed that despite Trump’s tweets, North Korea and the trade issue were not linked in a “transactional,” but “in a sort of philosophical way.”

“Can we work together jointly on the key security challenge facing Northeast Asia, which is the North Korea challenge?” she said. “If we can work together to do that, surely we can have a productive, mutually beneficial economic relationship in which we both enjoy reciprocal and fair access to each other’s markets.”

Thornton said Tillerson would continue to press China on the South China Sea issue while in Asia, where the United State has been pressing for rapid adoption of a code of conduct over competing territorial claims.

She said the United States would “certainly” raise human rights with Philippine President Duterte’s government.

US criticism of Duterte’s bloody war on drugs under Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama damaged relations between the long-standing allies. Duterte has remained defiant, accusing critics of “trivialising” his drug campaign with human rights concerns.

 

Isaan feels wrath of tropical storm

Posted by pakin On July - 31 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS

Emergency teams evacuate trapped and work to clear flooded areas hit by landslides.

FLOODS AND heavy rains brought by tropical storm Sonca continued to wreak havoc in upper parts of Thailand, particularly the Northeast yesterday.

Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha instructed officials to aid flood victims and clear flooded or landslide-blocked roads or railways and provide alternative transportation for people, said Government Spokesman Lt-General Sansern Kaewkamnerd.

Most parts of Sakon Nakhon city and roads were submerged while Sakhon Nakhon Airport announced it would temporarily close until this afternoon or until the flood situation improved. Some parts of the city also had electricity blackouts. Sakon Nakhon Hospital had to move patients to upper floors away from the flood.

Sakon Nakhon disaster prevention and mitigation office head Nitiwat Nitthinanthan said that over 100 flood victims had moved into a temporary shelter at the provincial administrative organisation stadium. He said people trapped in flooded homes should call the flood command centre’s number at 0 4271 1171 for help.

The command centre at the provincial governor’s residence would monitor the situation and dispatch staff and tools to aid affected residents, he added.

In Nakhon Ratchasima, 229 villages in five districts of Theparak, Prathai, Sida, Bua Lai, and Noen Daeng were submerged. Worst-hit Prathai reported 15,800 residents affected, and 28 roads, three reservoirs and 28,000 rai (4,480 hectares) of farmland under water.

In Khon Kaen’s Muang district, floodwater as deep as one-metre hit the city area on Thursday afternoon, especially Maliwan Road, where 30 cars were damaged. Road islands were demolished by the authority to help drain floods faster.

Days of heavy rains and northern runoffs have led to the Yom River bursting the flood barrier dam in Sukhothai’s Muang district, sending 80cm-deep floods to the Muang Sukhothai Municipality’s fresh market yesterday morning. The flood barrier had leaked the night before, resulting in slight flooding, but officials sealed the hole with large sandbags and continued to monitor the situation.

At 5am, the river bust the flood barrier again, 30 metres from the previous night’s leak. This time the floodwaters flowed along the Ratchathani Road and vendors at the market’s 50 shops had to close their businesses temporarily in the wake of 40cm- to 80cm-deep torrents.

As officials attempted to seal the new leak behind Wat Chai Chumpol in the afternoon, another 100-metre-long section of the barrier broke and floods covered the municipality’s economic area, including Rat-uthit, Thassanapanich roads. Wichien Jamnong and Khlong Taphetch communities were also submerged.

Yom River in front of the provincial governor’s residence was at 7.37 metres and flowed at 549 cubic metres per second between 8am and 2pm.

Royal Irrigation Department deputy chief Thongplew Kongchan cited a report by the Smart Water Operation Centre that noted the largest volume of water in the Yom River had passed Sukhothai’s Sri Satchanalai district via Ban Hat Saphan Chan sluice gate at 697 cubic metres per second at 4am yesterday.

The department was diverting water through Khlong Hok Baht at 170 cubic metres per second to help lessen flood risk to the Muang Sukhothai Municipality area by keeping it at a “manageable” level of under 550 cubic metres per second.

In Maha Sarakham, the widespread flooding has prompted the Highway Department to temporarily close two bridges on Highway 208; the bridges at kilometre markers 12+400 and 17+137 were under 50 centimetres of water and showing signs of erosion. Motorists are advised to instead use other routes.

Permanent Secretary for the PM’s Office Jirachai Moontongroy said his office’s fund to aid disaster victims was currently Bt700 million from previous flood donations.

He said the fund committee would have a meeting on August 4 to consider criteria to compensate and assist flood-affected residents nationwide.

He said each province had a Bt20 million budget reserved for disaster mitigation from the Interior Ministry, so they would consider providing aid as soon as possible.

 

Grab app now spots unsafe drivers

Posted by pakin On July - 26 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS

Ride-hailing service Grab on Tuesday incorporated telematics into its mobile application to automatically spot drivers behaving unsafely, such as speeding, swerving and hard braking and accelerating.

The feature uses predictive data analytics to identify unsafe behaviour and “educate” drivers about ways to improve through weekly telematics updates.

The launch across Southeast Asia follows a successful trial in Singapore, where it was rolled out in June.

Grab said in a press release that the feature has helped reduce driver speeding by 15 per cent, instances of hard braking by 11 per cent and instances of sudden hard acceleration by 18 per cent.

 

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