Thailand and Vietnam have expressed their intention to achieve bilateral trade target of 15 billion US dollars by the year 2020.

The issue was discussed when Permanent Secretary for Foreign Affairs and Acting Foreign Minister Sihasak Phuangketkeow co-chaired the 4th Thailand – Vietnam Political Consultation Group with Mr. Pham Quang Vinh, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs of Vietnam, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bangkok.

Mr. Sihasak reiterated Thailand’s commitment to enhance bilateral cooperation with Vietnam, which was upgraded to a strategic partnership in 2013.

Both sides attached importance to enhancing regional connectivity by utilizing R8, R9 and R12 ASEAN highway routes for trade and investment benefits. Currently, Thailand is in the process of finalizing three bills related to the Mekong Sub-region Cross-Border Transport Facilitation Agreement.

Both sides also discussed commemorative activities for celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Thai-Vietnamese diplomatic relations. Vietnam and Thailand officially established diplomatic relations on August 6, 1976.

Thailand and Vietnam also agreed to cooperate on consular affairs and set up a mechanism to handle this matter. The Permanent Secretary requested Vietnam to reduce the death sentences handed down to two Thai women for drug offences. The Vice Minister accepted the Permanent Secretary’s request for further consideration.

On ASEAN, Vietnam expressed its appreciation to Thailand for the latter's role as coordinator for the ASEAN-China relations. Both sides placed importance on peace and security in the region, especially in the South China Sea, and welcomed the recent relocation of China’s oil rig from the disputed area.

Thailand and Vietnam also agreed upon expediting negotiations between ASEAN and China on the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea in order to set a legal binding instrument to increase mutual trust, build confidence and reduce tensions in the South China Sea. Presently, four ASEAN Claimant States (Brunei, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam) are discussing the possibility of tangible measures that ensure avoidance of conflict and build trust among parties concerned in the South China Sea. Thailand will host the Senior Official Meeting of ASEAN-China on the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) in October 2014.

Finally, Mr. Sihasak expressed his appreciation to Vietnam for its understanding of the political situation in Thailand. He also briefed the Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs of Vietnam on the recent political developments and the the National Council of Peace and Order's three-phase roadmap.

The Permanent Secretary of Commerce is confident that the announced VAT hike, from the current 7% to 10% in October 2015, will not affect public spending.

According to Commerce Permanent Secretary Ms. Chutima Boonyaprapatson, the VAT hike is inevitable as the economic setback forced the previous government to hold it on hold and that the hike is more acceptable to the public now as the local economy has begun to improve.

Furthermore, the VAT hike is making more sense as the kingdom is entering the AEC next year, saying the nation must adjust its tax rate to match those of other ASEAN members.

The public has been given ample time to prepare for the change thus the hike should not affect their spending, she added.

YALA, 18 July 2014 - Five police officers were wounded and three insurgents were killed in an intense 15-minute shootout between the two sides in Yala province.

Nurses and rescue officials have quickly rushed in to evacuate Police Sergeant Major Chalerm Petchrod, who was shot in the flank of his body, causing him to be seriously wounded. Another officer, Police Corporal Chatchai Promthong was shot in the shoulder. Three other officers were also wounded from the flames that resulted from the M-79 grenade explosion. All of them were taken to the Pattani Hospital for treatment.

The attacks happened at 8:00 pm on July 17th, when a group of assailants launched an M-79 grenade at the Baan Nam Dam Police Station. A 15-minute violent gun battle then ensued between the two sides, resulting in the death of three of the attackers and causing five police officers to become wounded.

NAKHON SI THAMMARAT, 18 July 2014  - Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn yesterday opened a public library built in her honor in Chang Klang District.

The library, named “Chalerm Ratchakumari”, is the 90th of its kind in the country. The government sets to build a total of 100 Chalerm Ratchakumari libraries nationwide to honor Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn on the occasion of her 60th birthday anniversary in 2015.

The Chalerm Ratchakumari Public Library is intended to be a center of information and knowledge for people of all ages and promote reading habit and life-long learning.

Her Royal Highness on this occasion observed activities around the library, particularly the Nakhon Si Thammarat Room where an exhibition is held to demonstrate the history and ways of life of the people in this province.

PATTANI, 18 July 2014  - The Social Development Office of Pattani yesterday held an event to promote unity and reconciliation among people with different political opinions.

Mr. Thanin Somboonsan, Director of the office, said a forum was arranged for representatives from all sides of the conflict to exchange views and discuss ways to reduce rifts and misunderstanding.

The forum also discussed ways to an integrated social development, educational promotion through religious involvements, and land management for agriculture.

The Director stressed that the seminar was aimed at minimizing the violence, returning happiness to the society while creating harmony and improving the overall quality of life of local people.

YALA, 18 July 2014 – Military officials in the southern border provinces are maintaining strict security measures during the final ten days of the Ramadan period, while also helping to facilitate the religious affairs of Muslims.

In Yala, paramilitary rangers have been seen manning many road checkpoints to screen vehicles and persons passing and traveling into the downtown area, in an effort to prevent explosives or car bombs being planted inside the city. Intelligence officials issued multiple warnings this month against the threat of insurgents' car bombs during the month of Ramadan.

On Thursday, rangers from the task force of the 33rd Rangers Regiment were seen handing out dates to Muslim locals who were passing through a permanent checkpoint on route no. 410, which links Yala city with Betong district. The fruit hand-out was aimed at facilitating locals' religious activities and promoting warm relations between state officials and local residents.

CHONBURI, 18 July 2014  – All of the 105 people who were hospitalized after exposure to chemical fumes that leaked from chemical tanks in Laem Chabang deep sea port on Thursday are now safe, according to the Ministry of Public Health.

Most of the sick were students from five schools in Siracha district of Chonburi, who were exposed to the fumes after the chemical leaked from a container that was being moved in Laem Chabang Port. The patients, most of whom had symptoms that included dizziness, irritated eyes, coughing, nausea, vomiting and drowsiness were sent to three different hospitals. The majority of them were discharged after being examined by doctors.

Port workers had been moving tanks of Butyl Acrylate onto a cargo ship when one of the tanks dropped onto the deck and leaked out fumes. Wind then carried the fumes inland, into nearby homes and schools.

According to the Laem Chabang Port authorities, Butyl Acrylate is difficult to contain and specialists need to be brought in to seal the leak on the container in question. The ship has been ordered to anchor off shore to allow the chemical to dissipate. The air quality in nearby factories in Laem Chabang Industrial Estate is being monitored. If the fumes do not lift, factory workers may need to be evacuated.

On the same day, Public Health Ministry permanent secretary Narong Sahamethaphat asked that local residents avoid traveling near the site of the leak.

SAMUTSONGKRAM, 18 July 2014,  - The Samutsongkram Excise Department has handed over confiscated alcohol and cigarettes to local farmers in order that they can manufacture homemade pesticide.

After being biologically fermented for about a week, the solution from the mixture of the two ingredients--alcohol and tobacco-- effectively repels various kinds of insects that regularly feed on their produce, locals farmers claim.

The formula stemming from local-wisdom has been slightly modified from the traditional fermented vinegar and tobacco mix used in earlier times.

Officials say the alcohol and the cigarettes given away to farmers had been seized during raids and used as evidence in closed court cases. It was deemed to be more useful to give it away to farmers to make pesticide, given that the cigarettes and the booze, would have to be destroyed anyway.

BANGKOK, 18 July 2014,  – The Ministry of Interior has instructed all provinces to quickly establish a universal public service center.

Mr. Wibul Sanganpong, Interior Permanent Secretary, stated that the scheme is to upgrade the existing center, known as ‘Dumrongtham’ center, which used to receive complaints from public members only. The new ‘Dumrongtham’ centers will provide information and news about missions and responsibilities of all departments of the Interior Ministry while also processing a range of public services.

He stated that he has signaled to all heads of departments and provincial governors to speedily implement the upgraded part of the Dumrongtham centers. The officials mentioned have been invited to a meeting in Bangkok on July 22nd to discuss the implementation and ensure the success of the project.

BANGKOK, 17 July 2014  - Thailand’s foreign permanent secretary Sihasak Phuangketkeow extended a warm welcome to Vietnam’s deputy foreign minister Pham Quang Vinh on Thursday. 

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