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.

BANGKOK, 9 April 2015 - A member of the National Reform Council (NRC) has said that the first draft of the constitution contains too much detail and therefore expects much feedback from NRC members.

NRC member Prof Sombat Thamrongthanyawong, who also chairs the NRC's committee on political reform, said he believes the wordy first draft will lead to controversy in its interpretation. As an example, he pointed out a provision that disallows Members of Parliament from also holding the premiership or cabinet positions while another provision calls for the cabinet to be a part of parliamentary proceedings.

Prof Sombat said he therefore expects NRC members to raise more questions regarding the complexities of the draft charter in the upcoming debate on April 20 - 26.

His suggestion was that the charter drafters should reduce the details of the constitution to its core principles, while leaving the specifics to organic laws instead.

Moreover, Prof Sombat opined that the key to a successful constitution is the proper establishment of checks and balances between the three major branches of government while still enabling them to efficiently work in hand with each other.

BANGKOK, 8 April 2015  – The government has reiterated its wish to strengthen friendship and cooperation with all nations, expressing thanks to those that continue to show amicable support for Thailand.

The statement came after the meeting between Mr. Dmitry Medvedev, Prime Minister of the Russian Federation and Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha. During the visit to Thailand, Russia expressed interest in buying 80,000 tons of Thai rubber in 2016 as she sees an opportunity to sell defense equipment to Thailand.

Speaking on behalf of the premier, Deputy Government Spokesperson, Col. Sansern Kaewkamnerd stressed the country’s appreciation for all the countries which have maintained friendly ties with the Thai government all along, despite cool reaction from certain countries whose stance Thailand respects.

According to the Deputy Government Spokesperson, the government’s active bids to boost ties with other countries are indeed a gesture of gratitude to those that understand the country’s situation and continue to cooperate with the government in a constructive manner, clearing up doubts as to whether the government is trying to compensate for the impact of reaction of some countries.

Col. Sansern said the country merely hoped for understanding from foreign countries as it carried on with the national reform, which should be based on trust and mutual respect.

BANGKOK, 9 April 2015 - The Whip of the National Reform Council (NRC) has revealed the agenda of the meeting between the NRC and the Constitution Drafting Committee.

NRC Whip Wanchai Sonsiri said the meeting was to focus on achieving three main agendas.

The first was to agree on the debate format of the upcoming NRC deliberation scheduled for Apr 20 - 26 and the main topics to be discussed.

The second agenda was to agree on the time each member was given the floor and the ordering of speakers according to topics.

The third agenda was to finalize the number of amendments proposed by the NRC, which the NRC whip said would be eight.

Furthermore, Mr Wanchai affirmed that the meeting was held to ready the members for the debate and did not serve as a lobbying session.

BANGKOK, 9 April 2015, The Ministry of Tourism and and Sports and the Tourism Authority of Thailand are joining hands developing tourist spots in response particularly to Russian tourists' demands.

According to the Minister of Tourism and Sports, Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, the new tourist spots are aimed at drawing tourists from the already overpopulated areas such as Bangkok and Pattaya to other cities

The ministry plans to come up with traveling itinerary that particularly responds to Russian tourists' demands; for example, tie-in weight loss programs, which target female Russian travelers. Ms. Kobkarn expects the plan to boost the number of Russian tourists, which currently stands at approximately 1 million, by 5% next year.

A Thai-Russian joint committee will soon be formed, which will be tasked with formulating marketing plans to entice more Russian travelers, especially those who like sport and those traveling with family members, to visit Thailand, said the minister.

BANGKOK, 9 April 2015 - The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) has utilized the power granted to it under Section 44 of the interim charter to issue a new order pertaining to the protection of public interest on Wednesday.

In issuing the NCPO order no. 4/2558, the council said that there remained widespread perpetration of actions that violated public interest while law enforcement has not been optimal. Consequently, members of the public continue to be afflicted by matters such as encroachment on public space, national parks and forest preserves, resulting in obstruction of traffic. Therefore, the NCPO deemed it necessary to come up with measures that would augment the enforcement of law.

NCPO order no. 4/2558 stipulates that Cabinet ministers may seek the assistance of military officials to ensure efficient enforcement of law. A minister would make such request through the minister of defense, and the latter would assign military officials to the requested task. Full authority normally vested in state officials of various agencies may also be given to the military officials assigned to assist the minister, pending approval of the head of the National Council for Peace and Order.

BANGKOK, 9 April 2015 - Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha is encouraging the public to preserve old traditions and promote family activities during the Songkran festival this year.

In his message to the public on the occasion of the annual Songkran festival, General Prayut indicated that Songkran was an important period when family members are afforded the opportunity to get together for activities such as alms-making, Buddha image bathing, listening to religious sermons, seeking blessings from seniors and water splashing. These activities invariably strengthen relations between family members as well as create peace of mind for each individual.

The prime minister indicated that the government has a policy of preserving, restoring and propagating Thai cultural heritage, which would provide the tourism sector with a sustainable selling point. Members of the public are urged to carry out each Songkran activity politely, don appropriate clothes and be mindful of the safety of others and themselves.

On this occasion, Gen. Prayut also wished everybody happiness and prosperity

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