BANGKOK, Dec 17 -- Thai Army chief Gen Udomdej Sitabutr said that the deadly attack at an army-run school in Pakistan that killed more than 100 students is not linked to the insurgent violence in Thailand’s southern border provinces.

BANGKOK, Dec 17 -- Two Army soldiers were slightly injured this morning when a large branch fell onto the motorcade of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-o-cha in Sukhumvit Road.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha invited the South Korean private sector to increase its level of investment in ASEAN, especially in Thailand, as it has adjusted its economic measures to facilitate trade and investment.

In the ASEAN-South Korea CEO Summit 2014 in Busan last week, Gen Prayut spoke on the “Global Economic Outlook and the Role of Asia.”

He said Asian countries should quickly strengthen their economies by integrating their strong points.

South Korea is good in education, information technology, green economy, creative and entertainment industries and alternative and renewable energy, he said.

In 2015 the ASEAN countries will combine their markets and production bases which will create new and considerable opportunities for business and investment.

He urged South Korean businesses to make the most use of ASEAN in energy and agricultural fields.

The prime minister said that Thailand is changing its regulations to facilitate business. It is amending all tax-related laws that concern the establishment of regional offices and streamlining procedures to issue work permits for foreigners in order to attract investors.

Gen Prayut invited South Korean businesspeople to invest in small and medium enterprises of Thailand, infrastructure development and digital and green economy to support sustainable development.

He said that Thailand still lacks technologies and knowledge in environmentally friendly businesses, so it is welcoming investment projects which include technology transfers, research and development, and capacity enhancement.

The Thai PM said there is considerable room for ASEAN and South Korea as well as for South Korea and Thailand to cooperate.

A group of Thai fishing operators on Dec. 11 asked the United States to remove Thailand from its worst human trafficking watch list.

The organizations of fishing operators and employers aired their request in a press conference.

They said most operators complied with laws and were ready to prove their employment standards with the US.

Present in the press conference were representatives from the Employers’ Confederation of Thai Trade and Industry, the National Fisheries Association of Thailand, the Thai Overseas Fisheries Association, the Trat Fisheries Association and eight employers’ organizations including the Employers Confederation of Thai Business.

Somsak Thanomworasin, chair of the Employers’ Confederation of Thai Trade and Industry, said it was unfair for the US to include Thailand in its Tier 3 human-trafficking watch list because most employers did not treat their workers as the US accused.

He also said that the Thai government and employers jointly implemented solutions including collecting workers’ profiles and good welfare for employees.

Besides, the employer’s confederation studied issues concerning alien workers and seriously advised its members to provide their workers with good wages and welfare.

In the past 20 years, no members of the confederation had violated laws and the group was ready to prove its employment standard with US authorities, Somsak said.

The operators’ organizations proposed the government seal government-to-government labor agreements, set up an alien labor database and an ASEAN alien labor coordination center, take tough action against human traffickers, and import workers from other countries than Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam to prevent a labor shortage in the next two decades.

SEOUL, Dec 17  - South Korean conglomerates are still sitting on large amounts of cash, wary of economic uncertainties and weak domestic demand, despite government pressure for them to spend more on wages, dividends and facilities, data showed on Wednesday.

The combined retained cash reserves of 83 listed firms affiliated with the country's 10 largest business groups, excluding financial units, came to 537.8 trillion won (US$496 billion) as of the end of September, up 5.7 percent from 508.7 trillion won at the end of March, according to the data compiled by CEO Score, a financial information provider.

Retained cash reserves refer to accumulated earnings held by a company after taxes and dividends are paid out. The reserves also include capital surplus.

The data also showed cashable assets at the 10 conglomerates rose 5 trillion won to 153 trillion won over the cited period.

A rise in such surplus cash usually reflects a firm's improving financial condition, but it may also mean the company is reluctant to spend on dividends and investments.

The South Korean government has said it will tax corporate cash reserves that are in excess of a certain amount in a broader effort to spur fresh investments and revive weak domestic demand by prodding companies to spend more, hoping the money will trickle down to households to give them extra cash for consumption.

Earlier this month, the country's parliament passed a revised bill on corporate tax that will become effective starting next year.

Under the revised tax code, an estimated 4,000 companies will have to pay a surcharge on their corporate taxes unless they spend a certain portion of their earnings on wages, dividends and investment.

By group, Samsung Group, the country's top conglomerate, held the largest amount of cash reserves at 196.8 trillion won at the end of September, accounting for 37 percent of the total. Samsung's retained cash reserves increased 7.9 percent over the six-month period, the data showed.

Samsung Electronics Co., the group's flagship unit, held 168.6 trillion won in cash reserve at the end of September, up 6.5 percent from six months earlier.

Cash reserves of the country's second-largest conglomerate, Hyundai Automotive Group, surged 7.4 percent to 124 trillion won over the cited period, with those of energy and telecom conglomerate SK and home appliance conglomerate LG gaining 6.8 percent and 5.6 percent, respectively, to 58.8 trillion won and 48 trillion won, they showed.

But shipbuilding conglomerate Hyundai Heavy Industries and leading logistics conglomerate Hanjin saw their retained cash reserves dip 12 percent and 3.3 percent, respectively, to 17.2 trillion won and 2.7 trillion won over the cited period, the data showed.

NAY PYI TAW, Dec 17 - Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao said on Tuesday that the holding of China-ASEAN Cultural Exchange Year-2014 was to enhance the spiritual link between peoples in the region, increase traditional friendship and push China-ASEAN relations to a higher stage.

Li made the remarks at the closing ceremony of the China-ASEAN Cultural Exchange Year-2014 in Nay Pyi Taw Tuesday night.

He recalled that during this year, China and ASEAN countries jointly organized a variety of over 100 activities including cultural show, film week, car rally which were welcomed by peoples of respective countries.

China was able to made positive progress in jointly building cultural centers with Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia, he said.

He voiced support for ASEAN's Community Building, expressing China's wishes to jointly build the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, deepen the implementation of "2+7 Cooperation Framework" and create a closer China-ASEAN common destiny.

China is the first dialogue partner to have established strategic partnership with ASEAN and also ASEAN's top trading partner as well.

China-ASEAN Free Trade Area (FTA) also represents the biggest FTA among developing countries, he noted.

According to Li, trade between China and ASEAN amounted to 346. 5 billion U.S. dollars in the first three quarters of 2014, up 7.5 percent correspondingly.

In face of international financial crisis, major natural disaster and communicable disease outbreak, China and ASEAN have mutually helped each other and overcome many difficulties, Li said, concluding that China-ASEAN cooperation has become an example for regional cooperation.

He believed that the China-ASEAN cultural exchange year would contribute to regional peace, stability and prosperity.

BANGKOK, Dec 17 - National football squad (Harimau Malaya) Head Coach, Dollah Salleh hopes to repeat his Midas touch when they take on Thailand in the 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup final first-leg at the Rajamangala National Stadium, here, tomorrow.

BANGKOK, Dec 16 --  The lower price of imported oil should cut Thailand's logistics costs by 3-4 per cent as well as prices of some products and strengthen the public's purchasing power, according to Isara Vongkusolkit, chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce.

BANGKOK, Dec 16 -- Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha urges stock traders not to believe rumours, while the authorities are keeping close watch on possible stock manipulators.

SEOUL, Dec 16 - South Koreans use smartphones more than three hours a day on average, research showed Tuesday, with the younger generation becoming more dependent on the mobile device.

The survey from the beginning of this year to September showed daily smartphone usage at 3 hours and 39 minutes, more than double the 1 hour and 31 minutes in 2012. The survey was carried out by Digieco, a research center run by South Korea's mobile carrier KT Corp.

Those in their 20s spent the longest time of 4 hours and 41 minutes on handsets, followed by teenagers at 3 hours and 59 minutes and those in their 30s at 3 hours and 40 minutes. People in their 50s spent 2 hours and 31 minutes on the device.

Eighty-five percent of the time was spent using applications, such as social networking services. The remaining 15 percent was spent on browsing the Internet.

"While people's daily routines have become much more comfortable because of smartphones, the trend also has brought about changes in lifestyles as people spend less time on their thoughts, taking breaks, and reading books, magazines and newspapers," Digieco said.

The rise of smartphones has also brought changes in the technology industry, edging out former popular devices, such as game consoles, portable media players and MP3 players.

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