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Thailand’s democracy rating slips

Posted by arnon_k On January - 14 - 2011 ADD COMMENTS

Thailand is among 25 countries which showed significant declines in democracy last year with little serious resistance from the democratic world, the watchdog group Freedom House says.

It was the fifth consecutive year the Freedom House has reported a decline in political rights and civil liberties worldwide.

“Our adversaries are not just engaging in widespread repression, they are doing so with unprecedented aggressiveness and self-confidence,” said David J Kramer, executive director of the group.

“And the democratic community is not rising to the challenge.”

The report’s survey of 194 countries and 14 territories around the world found that China, Egypt, Iran, Russia and Venezuela continued to increase repressive measures with little significant resistance from democracies.

The number of electoral democracies dropped to 115, the lowest level since 1995, after reaching a high of 123 in 2005.

Of the 47 countries ranked not free, nine countries and one territory received the survey’s lowest possible rating for both political rights and civil liberties: Burma, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Tibet, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

Eleven countries were credited with making gains last year, but 25 others were cited as showing significant declines.

The 25 countries listed as declining in their levels of freedom were Afghanistan, Bahrain, Burundi, Cambodia, Ivory Coast, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Fiji, France, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Hungary, Iran, Kuwait, Latvia, Madagascar, Mexico, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Thailand, Ukraine, Venezuela and Zambia.

The Middle East and North Africa remained the regions with the lowest level of freedom while Ukraine and Mexico fell from the “free” to the “partly free” category, the report said.

“Authoritarian regimes will have a much freer hand to silence their domestic critics if there is no resistance from the outside world,” said Arch Puddington, director of research at Freedom House.

New border crossing hits snag

Posted by arnon_k On January - 13 - 2011 ADD COMMENTS

The opening of a new permanent border crossing between Thailand and Cambodia may be further delayed by the current tension along the border, Burapa Task Force commander Maj-Gen Walit Rojanapakdi said on Thursday.

Maj-Gen Walit, commander of the 2nd Infantry Division, was referring to the new border checkpoint between Ban Nong Ian in tambon Tha Kham of Aranyaprathet district in Sa Kaeo province and Stung Bo in Bantey Meanchey province of Cambodia.

Cambodia proposed the opening of this checkpoint two years ago. The proposal had been considered by a joint Thai-Cambodian committee, the Sa Kaeo governor, and the National Security Council (NSC). It is about to be forwarded to the cabinet for final approval.

The new checkpoint was intended to ease the heavy traffic through the Khlong Luek- Poi Pet checkpoint.

It is also part of an exclusive economic zone project to make Aranyaprathet the gateway to Cambodia, Vietnam and Indochina.

“As commander of a unit in the area, I will propose that the opening of the new border checkpoint be delayed for some time because it is not far from the the Klong Luek – Poi Pet checkpoint, where the situation is not yet normal.

“This would affect local people involved in the cross-border trade,” Maj-Gen Walit said.

Ban Nong Ian is located between border posts Nos 50-51, where the boundary is clearly defined by a stream.

Thailand, Cambodia drop visas

Posted by arnon_k On December - 17 - 2010 ADD COMMENTS

SA KAEO : Thailand and Cambodia have revoked the need for entry visas between the two countries as a “gift” for the people to mark the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations on Sunday.

Bangkok and Phnom Penh have agreed to allow their citizens a 14-day stay in each country without the need for a visa, effective yesterday.

Senior authorities yesterday celebrated the joint decision on the Thai-Cambodia Friendship Bridge near the Klong Luek border checkpoint in Aranyaprathet district.

Cambodia’s Banteay Meanchey governor Ung Oeun viewed the agreement as a “gift for the people of the two countries” while Sa Kaeo governor Sanit Naksuksi welcomed the move as a way to promote tourism and trade.

The friendly gesture was a break from the usual tension that has lingered since Thailand and Cambodia locked horns over their overlapping borders in the Preah Vihear area.

Honda adds Brio to eco-car market

Posted by arnon_k On December - 1 - 2010 ADD COMMENTS

Honda has confirmed plans to sell an eco-car in Thailand early next year but plans for a hybrid remain unclear even though Japanese rival Toyota has two petrol-electric models available.

Honda yesterday introduced its Brio eco-car prototype, which will be featured at the Thailand International Motor Expo that runs from today to Dec 12 at Impact Muang Thong Thani.

The prototype is close to the mass-production model, which will go on sale in March at a starting price of around 400,000 baht, said Honda Motor chief executive Takanobu Ito.

That price would make the Brio 25,000 baht dearer than the Nissan March, the first eco-car launched locally in March this year.

The Brio five-door hatchback has a 1.2-litre gasoline engine, and a four-door sedan might be considered later.

Honda also aims to introduce the Brio in India next year with a starting price below 500,000 rupees. Brios made in Thailand and India might be exported to other markets in the region except Japan and China.

Mr Ito said the Brio, which is smaller than the City and Jazz, reflected worldwide demand for smaller cars as well as consumers’ concerns about fuel economy and impact on the environment.

He said the car had been developed based on Honda’s concept of local production including the use of locally produced tooling in addition to locally procured parts and materials.

To accomplish this, Honda has adopted specifications optimised for the Asian market and accelerated the use of local suppliers in Asia, said Mr Ito.

Fumihiko Ike, president of Asian Honda Motor, said Honda was in no hurry to market a hybrid in Thailand as it wanted to observe consumer reaction to the Toyota Camry and Prius models.

Both have been well received so far, with the receiving more than 1,000 presale orders even before the retail price was formally announced.

Honda has hybrid models in its lineup to respond to the needs of consumers and believes the hybrid market will grow in the future, said Mr Ike.

Honda is waiting for more details on Thai government support for hybrids.

Currently, hybrid cars enjoys a 10% excise tax, significantly lower than the normal rate of 30% and upward, and hybrid parts not available in Thailand can be imported duty-free.