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HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:
AAPH chairman Teo says “no real crisis ceen in Thailand”
French mineral water faces 10-year back taxes
Yanhee clinic now rivals Taiwan’s Shing Kang
Fujitsu General lodges complaints against estate neighbor
Local contractors feel the heat of special yen loan conditions
A small tube of urine could cost Baht 1,500

Viagra faces true rival - Thai harbal formula

Members form alliance in move to boycott UBC

AAPH chairman Teo says “no real crisis seen in Thailand”

The chairman of the Asean Association for Planning and Housing, Mr. Daniel Teo Tong Hao, said he had not seen a real economic crisis in Thailand. He said that there were still shoppers crowded into the city’s department stores, the whole Kingdom seemed to be less hit by the regional crisis and is likely to start an upturn this year.

According to Mr. Teo, a Singaporean, besides the banking and finance sectors, the property development industry in every Asian country has been hardest hit by the regional crisis. Singapore has not suffered any less, as property prices in the city state island nation have fallen more than 50 percent after the crisis started, he said.

"The crisis is not new, however," Mr. Teo said. "A man of my generation has seen such crisis three times. However, the present one might be the most devastating one," he said. Mr. Teo believes that Singapore’s economy will be stable this year while the Thai economy is yet to pick up and begin its upturn.

Thanks to Singaporean government whose timely tax and the US$10.5-billion property loan package helped stopped the crisis; the Kingdom has suffered less because of its richness in natural resources, said the chairman.

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French mineral water faces 10-year back taxes

The Excise Department has imposed 20-percent, 10-year back taxes on France’s renowned mineral water Perrier after finding that it is not pure and natural but processed. The move is suspected by the European Union’s Bangkok office to be trade discrimination.

The department’s sources said Perrier, imported by Perrier Vittel (Thailand), is not bottled pure from its natural well in the Vergaze district of the French city of Gard, but is carbonated to add minerals. This, according to Thai laws, makes it a soft drink and thus subject to different tax rates.

Replying to the EU office regarding the question of discrimination, the department said that the retroactive taxation has been in accordance with Thai laws. The tax is in line with GATT’s National Treatment accords and is not discrimination.

France has been accused of spearheading EU’s moves to end the GSP tax privileges enjoyed by a number of Thai products to the EU market.

Campaign against French-made chemicals still goes on in local farm sector; EU mission asked if back taxation on Perrier could be relaxed; talks under way between the importer and the department.

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Yanhee clinic now rivals Taiwan’s Shing Kang

Yanhee Hospital, with its renowned beauty clinic, has become the chief rival of Taiwan’s Shing Kang Hospital. Over the past 10 years Shing Kang has become internationally recognized for its plastic surgery services. Thailand’s Yanhee Hospital has, however, gained an edge with its lowest-in-Asia price policy, while maintaining the same quality and technology.

According to the hospital’s director Dr Supoj Samritvanitcha, Yanhee’s healthcare service is in line with the government’s policy to promote services with potential for foreign tourists and foreign customers in general. The baht depreciation has been a competitive edge in competing, he said.

Yanhee Hospital has been regionally recognized for its advance transsexual operations. The hospital was in fact the only place in Asia which had the technology to implant female sexual organs on male clients, said Dr Supoj. The hospital also offers hair transplant operations to cure baldness, with only a Baht 25,000 servicing cost. The Hair transplant machine and the latest hair care technology are imported from France.

The hospital’s 6 plastic surgeons can cover all types of beauty surgery. Though it is difficult to compete in the world market with Shing Kang, Yanhee has already had a good start, as the beauty clinic has attracted a number of foreign customers, mainly Japanese.

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Fujitsu General lodges complaints against estate neighbor

Fujitsu General (Thailand) has filed complaints against its neighbor Thailox, accusing Thailox of emitting chemical fumes harmful to the environment. Fujitsu said its was hit by the toxic fumes while applying for the ISO14001 good environmental management certification.

According to Mr. Yukio Tanaka, Fujitsu General’s chairman of working safety, Thailox, which produces industry screws and bolts, has been sending chemical fumes into the neighborhood inside the Laem Chabang Industrial Estate for 9 straight months. The stench has caused the working efficiency of Fujitsu employees to suffer, Mr. Tanaka said in a recent complaint.

The estate manager, Mr. Sanit Banthuchan, said a security team has looked into the problem and will tell Thailox to get it solved. Part of the problem was that Fujitsu General expanded its facility closer to that of Thailox, and was disturbed by the fumes, said Mr. Sanit.

There are 101 companies inside the estate, almost all are small and medium-scaled industries. 44 produce auto parts. Very few environment-related problems have been reported since operations began in 1991. The environmental quality of companies is inspected every four years. The Thailox case might have been caused by worn out machines.

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Local contractors feel the heat of special yen loan conditions

Contractors working on the new Nong Ngu Hao international airport projects have expressed concern over the government’s plan to switch to a Japanese "Special Yen Loan" scheme.

The Transport and Communication Ministry is reportedly exploring its options, and is reportedly keen to use about Baht 40 billion from the special yen loan scheme to refinance another loan with a much higher interest rate from Japan’s Overseas Economic Cooperation Fund. But the conditions attached to the new loan package would require Japanese companies to be the main contractors working on the Nong Ngu Hao construction projects.

Transport and Communication Minister Suthep Thuagsuban leaves for Tokyo early this month to talk with Japanese officials about easing the terms and conditions of the loan. According to ministry sources, Minister Suthep is to ask Japan to include Thai sub-contractors or Thai-Japanese consortiums.

The special yen loan scheme offers a 1 percent interest rate and a 10-year grace period, while the government currently pays a 2.75 percent rate to OECF loans. New Bangkok International Airport Co. has Baht 60-70 billion in loans from OECF, but only Baht 10 billion of the package has been disbursed. The ministry has been under pressures from the ‘6 NBIA tigers’ - large contractors constructing the airport.

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A small tube of urine could cost Baht 1,500

A small, unique, plastic tube of urine costs as much as Baht 1,500 in certain Bangkok nightclubs. Bangkok police perform spot checks as part of their campaign against ecstasy and other drugs, and there is always urine for sale inside many of Bangkok’s elite pubs to help customers evade urine tests done by police.

Selling urine does make money. Waiters and waitresses are told by operators to prepare their own urine. They then contact guests at clandestine "E parties" organized by the pubs, to be ready for possible police raids. The evading tactic is proposed, which is simple but highly effective in most cases.

The loophole is that the police do not follow suspects into the pub’s toilets after small plastic tubes, the size of a color film case, are distributed to be filled with urine. That was where ‘pure’ urine was given to drug takers, said business sources.

A tube costs from Baht 500 to Baht 1,500 depending on client’s name- the richer, the more expensive tubes; 500 party-goers were arrested in a raid on XJ Pub on Ram Khamhaeng Soi 83 last year, but fewer were arrested in recent raids on major parties; more were arrested in most recent raid on an E party on Petch Kasem 20, but most of those were foreigners who were not privy to the evading trick.

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Viagra faces true rival - Thai herbal formula

A group of Thai scientists have announced a herbal formula which permanently cures impotency and erection loss in males. The scientists also claim the formula is of much better quality than Viagra made by Pfizer. Moreover, the formula, with a natural extract from red kwao krue plant called phytoendogent, is far less expensive than a Viagra tablet.

The formula, now available in gel form, costs patients only Baht 500 a pack for one-month use. "Patients just apply the gel and later find it comes to life with sexual sensitivity," said Dr Vichai Cherdcheevasart of Faculty of Science at Chulalongkorn University.

"The herbal extract, when regularly applied, could permanently cure lost efficiency in sex, while Viagra tablets only help bring about erections per use," said Dr Vichai.

The Kwao Krue plant is not new to Thai traditional medical practices, Dr Vichai said. Its sister, white kwao krue, has been used for many years as a revitalizing agent in cosmetics for females, he said.

The formula has been patented internationally; the gel formula will soon be available in the market, while a local company is producing the medicine in capsules; with twice a day applications, normal sex efficiency could come back in just 4 days.

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Members form alliance in move to boycott UBC

Phone calls last week jammed telephone lines at a radio station during a broadcast on UBC’s plan to increase its service fee. Callers who claimed to be UBC subscribers said the network had taken advantage of its members.

The cable TV industry has now been monopolized and the monopoly should be abolished, said many of the callers. Those subscribers had formed a loose alliance to spearhead campaigns against what was called the ‘exploitation of members’ by the Universal Broadcasting Corporation. One member, who introduced himself as Mr. Montri Sritaptim, has been chosen as the campaign leader.

Law and communication arts academics have questioned the Mass Communication Organization of Thailand over the status of UBC, as to whether or not it is a monopoly. Mr. Vissanu Varanyoo, a Thammasart University law lecturer, said MCOT has never disclosed the legal interpretation on the status of UBC made by the office of the Council of State.

Law experts, academics to discuss the UBC question in a seminar planned at Chulalongkorn University on April 5; service fee is even much higher than that in Japan, argued leading academics; UBC’s new fee structure, scheduled for May 1, was approved by MCOT; while maintaining its fee for the basic package at Baht 400, the network brings its popular package from Baht 890 to Baht 1,090 a month; the company said the new fee structure would help it survive the costs, which is 60 percent in US dollars.

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