BANGKOK, 9 April 2015 – The Ministry of Commerce has asked the private sector to help relieve financial problems of oil palm growers by purchasing their produce.

During a meeting with oil palm growers and processors, Commerce Minister General Chatchai Sarikulya called on private operators to buy fresh palm oil from small-scale agriculturists owning farming areas of no more than 50 rai, to enable this group of farmers to cope with the drop in product price led by the rapid expansion of oil palm farming.

General Chatchai did not specify the rate at which operators should pay farmers, but suggested that prices be fair to both agriculturists and processors. The private sector agreed to comply with his proposed short-term solution.

As for long-term solutions, the Commerce Minister will discuss his plan to revamp the industrial structure of the palm oil industry with related sectors to prevent a further price decline.

The revamp will focus on the zoning of oil palm farming, regulation of refinery numbers, and the actual demand for alternative energy. Results of the meeting will be submitted to the National Palm Oil Committee for consideration.

Fertilizer companies meanwhile have decided to lower fertilizer prices by at least five percent for an initial six months, from April 16 to October 16 to help farmers reduce production costs.

BANGKOK, 9 April 2015 – The Ministry of Commerce has instructed its provincial offices nationwide to make certain there are no products being overpriced during this Songkran long holiday. After chairing a meeting to follow up on the work progress of all provincial commerce offices, Commerce Minister Gen Chatchai Sarikalya revealed that he has instructed the offices to impose strict regulation on sales of products in their respective areas during the Songkran Festival. The order is aimed at preventing vendors from using the traveling season to their advantage by pushing up the prices of goods. From now, the minister said each office will be dispatching its staff to survey product prices in prime tourist locations as well as train stations and bus terminals. Despite the holiday period, the Department of Internal Trade’s hotline 1569 will remain open to consumers’ complaints around the clock. Furthermore, Gen Chatchai also assigned the commerce offices to assess the local output of seasonal fruits, such as longan, longkong and mangosteen, which are expected to saturate the market soon, in order to formulate appropriate preventive measures against price declines.

CHIANG MAI, 9 April 2015  – More than a thousand villagers from Doi Lo district of Chiang Mai province have staged a protest against the planned construction of a halal industrial estate in their area, citing its impact on local agriculture.

Chiang Mai Governor Suriya Prasatbandit traveled to the Doi Lo District Office in order to accept a letter from Doi Lo residents concerning their disapproval of the project to establish a halal industrial estate on an 800-rai plot of land in the district. Over 1,500 people reportedly joined the demonstration on fear that such a project would bring about changes that would affect their way of life.

The letter claimed that no surveys have ever been conducted by the project supervisors on the locals’ opinions regarding the project while there are also attempts to convert Doi Lo from an agricultural to an industrial zone. As most of the residents are agriculturists, water is a much-needed resource in the area. Should the industrial estate be set up, the local farmers doubt how much water would have to be used for industrial purposes and whether the remaining supply would suffice their need.

On this occasion, Mr Suriya clarified to the protesters that the halal industrial estate would open up a large number of job opportunities for the locals. Moreover, it could establish Doi Lo as a hub for halal food, thus generating more income for Chiang Mai province and the northern region as a whole.

Nonetheless, the Governor insisted that the project is now in the early stage, with location surveys still being carried out. He affirmed the letter of objection from residents will be passed on to concerned agencies, believing it could potentially lead to the cancellation of the project.

BANGKOK, 9 April 2015 – The Pollution Control Department (PCD) has named 11 rivers which are unfit for the water-splashing activities for Songkran revelers due to their high concentrations of Coliform bacteria.

The 11 rivers reportedly contain an excess of 4,000 units of fecal coliform, which is an indicator of water quality from natural sources. Fecal coliform bacteria are the most common microbiological contaminants of natural waters. They in the digestive tracks of warm-blooded animals, including humans, and are excreted in the feces. Some of these bacteria can cause illnesses such as ear infections, typhoid, hepatitis A, and cholera.

The rivers with alarming levels of Coliform bacteria include the Yom River in Muang district of Sukhothai province, Kwan Phayao in Muang district of Phayao province, the Chao Phraya River in Muang District of Nakhon Sawan province, the Loei River in Muang district of Loei province, Lampao River in Muang and Kamalasai districts of Kalasin province, and the Chumphon River in Muang district of Chumphon province

The water in the city moat in Chiang Mai meanwhile is of moderate quality. Experts said that the water was usable for the water-splashing activities but suggested revelers avoid its direct contact with skin wounds. Merrymakers who use water from natural sources are advised to test the water quality by observing its color and smell and their skin’s reaction to it.

Experts also suggested that revelers wash their bodies immediately after finishing the Songkran water-splashing activity.

UDON THANI, 9 April 2015 – 19 Local Administrative Organizations in Udon Thani are urged to take care of the safety features of railroad crossings in the province to prevent the accident during Songkran holidays.

The Governor of Udon Thani Noppawat Singsakda has inspected the province's safety and accident prevention measures for railroad crossing in the Nong Khon Kwang subdistrict of Mueang Udon Thani district. This railroad crossing was the location of a fatal accident that happened during the previous New Year holiday.

After his observation, he praised the Ban Chan and Nong Khon Kwang subdistrict municipalities' accomplishments for improving the safety instruments at this crossing.

Provincial staff will be stationed at this level crossing during 9-16 April 2015 to provide assistance and assure the safety to the traffic crossing the railway. Information on the train timetable from the Nong Khon Kwang railway station will also be provided.

There are 59 railroad crossings in Udon Thani province under the supervision of 19 Local Administrative Organizations. Only 15 of the crossings are equipped with barriers, while the rest are awaiting equipment from the State Railway of Thailand, thus temporary safety solutions are required.

BANGKOK, 10 April 2015, - The Department of Energy Business (DOEB) is increasing the ratio of palm oil in bio-diedel from 3.5% to 7% beginning on April 16th .

Director-General of the DOEB Witoon Kulcharoenwirat said the move would help absorb the oversupply of palm oil in the market, in accordance with the subcommittee for oil palm and palm oil management's decision, which is expected to lower the national crude palm oil stock to 170,000 tons.

By increasing the ratio of palm oil from 3.5% to 7%, changing the bio-diesel formula from B3 to B7, the consumption of palm oil would increase by 70,000 tons a month.

According to the Director-General, the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand has been asked to use more palm oil in producing electricity in its power plant in Krabi. Furthermore, the department has also urged the private sector to purchase raw palm oil at least at the current price tag.

Farmers, meanwhile, have been asked to refrain from harvesting their palm fruit prematurely.

BANGKOK, 10 April 2015- According to a research by the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, 119 billion baht of public spending is expected during this year’s Songkran holidays, an increase of 2.01% from the year earlier.

The figure, despite being the highest prediction, is actually the slowest expansion rate in 5 years, thanks to the rising prices of commodity products and services.

The research indicated the reason behind the slower spending growth is the public concerns over the local economy and low agricultural product prices which cause residents to be more frugal.

Nonetheless, the research pointed out that this year would be the first year that Thai celebrants focus more on party expenses, such as food, drinks and alcoholic beverages. Meanwhile, fewer people were spending on merit making activities and tourism, a sentiment that reflects worries among the public.

BANGKOK, 10 April 2015, - The local economy is showing signs of recovery given the government collected 1.15 trillion baht in revenue during the first 6 months of this fiscal year, which started from October 2014 to March 2015.

According to the Finance Minister, Sommai Phasee, even though the figure is 3% higher than that of the same period last fiscal year, it fell short of target by 2%.

The Department reportedly collected 61 billion baht in Value Added Tax (VAT) at the end of March --the end of the first half of the fiscal year-- an on-year increase of 6.6 %, which signals the recovery of the local economy, said the minister.

Domestic VAT collection increased by 19.5% year-on-year, while VAT collection from imports dropped by 9.5%. The minister attributed the positive signs to the government’s previous stimulus package.

BANGKOK, 9 April 2015 -Thais have been told to brace for summer storms during Songkran holidays.

The Meteorological Department has said the high pressure system is expected to move from China to the upper part of Thailand next week.

Tropical storms have been forecast to make landfall from April 11th – 14th. The easterly wind will gain strength and bring more rain to the South of Thailand, especially in the Gulf of Thailand. Fishermen should remain ashore as sea conditions are not ideal for fishing.

Scattered thundershowers have also been predicted in the North of Thailand during the same period. The temperature will likely plunge to the lowest degree of 23 degrees Celsius and rise to as high as 36 degrees Celsius at midday.

Chiang Mai residents have been told to be cautious when leaving their homes during the adverse weather conditions as strong winds could easily knock off trees and street signs.

BANGKOK, 9 April (2015) - The Ministry of Social Development and Human Security (MSDHS) has held a second public forum for the prevention of human trafficking in hopes of receiving feedback and suggestions from the general public.

The forum was chaired by the Minister of Social Development and Human Security Police General Adul Saengsingkaew with the purpose of opening a dialogue with the public, international organizations, foreign diplomats and the media.

A memorandum of understanding was also signed between the ministry, the Royal Thai Police, the Department of Special Investigation and the Office of the Supreme Court to develop a database network between the groups in order to exchange information on human trafficking cases and efficiently relay information to related agencies in the future.

In his speech, Gen Adul said the country’s development as the region’s transportation hub has attracted many laborers from neighboring countries both through legal and illegal channels. The country has been committed to combating human trafficking by enforcing the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act (2008) and has adhered to international standards.