Experts said on Saturday, Feb. 14, that an idea floated recently by Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha to construct high-speed train service to popular resort provinces in an attempt to boost Thailand’s tourism industry would be difficult to implement.

NAKHON  PHANOM, Feb 17 - Local agencies have been deployed to provide assistance in two districts of Nakhon Phanom province, which was hit by a storm last night, causing the biggest damage in some five decades.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015 14:21

PM advises caution against dengue

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 17 - Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak on Tuesday advised the people to take precautionary measures against dengue fever and seek assistance immediately if struck by the disease.

The prime minister said precautionary measures must be taken immediately because the number of dengue fever cases was rising by the day.

He gave the advice in the latest post on his Twitter account. The tweet was accompanied by infographics on the steps to take when struck by dengue fever.

These measures include seeking doctor's advice; drinking plenty of boiled water and resting; avoiding consumption of aspirin by children below 12; bathing to bring down body temperature and consuming paracetamol for fever and pain.

Director-General of Health Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah reported last Friday that 15,039 cases of dengue fever had been reported so far this year up to Feb 7, up by 59 per cent or 5,586 cases compared to the 9,453 cases for the corresponding period last year.

Forty-four people have died of the disease this year up to Feb 7 compared to 17 during the corresponding period last year. (BERNAMA)

Tuesday, 17 February 2015 14:20

Mass exodus begins for Lunar New Year

SEOUL, Feb. 17 - The annual migration of South Koreans for the Lunar New Year began Tuesday with millions heading to their hometowns ahead of the traditional holiday.

Lunar New Year's Day, which falls on Thursday this year, is one of the largest holidays in South Korea with this year's holiday running from Wednesday to Sunday.

Lunar New Year, or "seollal," provides a rare opportunity for South Koreans to go home and spend quality time with family and friends. Families typically eat rice cake soup to mark adding a year to one's age and perform ancestral rites during seollal.

As of 1 p.m., some 200,000 cars have left Seoul, with 240,000 more expected to follow by midnight, according to the Korea Expressway Corp.

Traffic congestion was already noticed in some highway sections, with travel time from Seoul to the southern port city of Busan estimated at 6 hours and 50 minutes. To the central city of Daejeon, the expressway operator said it would take four hours from Seoul.

Traffic will reach its peak around 6 p.m. and continue until past midnight, the operator said.

About 33.5 million trips are expected to be made during this year's holiday, 15.7 percent higher than last year, according to the transport ministry.

More than 8 in 10 people said they will drive, while some 10.3 percent chose to take the bus. The remaining 4.4 percent said they will take the train, fly or travel by boat, according to a survey conducted by the Korea Transport Institute.

Most of the country has been forecast to be cloudy with patches of rain or snow expected in early afternoon, according to the Korea Meteorological Administration. (Yonhap)

Tuesday, 17 February 2015 14:19

"Red envelopes" not to fade away

BEIJING, Feb. 17 - "Red envelopes" are known as a long-standing fixture of Chinese Lunar Year celebrations whereby money is gifted, usually from adults to young relatives.

In recent years, China's big online payment platforms have dragged the tradition into the 21st century by simply pressing couple of buttons on cell phone applications, defining traditional custom again.

According to the People's Bank of China, the central bank, mobile payments have grown very strongly, with turnover soaring by 134 percent year on year to RMB 22.59 trillion in 2014.

As the Lunar Year approaches, three major Internet companies Alibaba, Sina and Tencent have announced promotional events in which users have a chance to win “red envelopes full of cash and coupons”.

In fact in 2014, this type of campaign debuted during Chinese Lunar Year with Tencent's widely used messaging application WeChat  proven to be a huge success.

This year, the three companies have all increased the leverages, determining to conquer the market.

Alibaba's Alipay, for instance, has offered RMB 600 million, including “cash-filled envelopes and envelopes with online shopping coupons.” It also has offered up to 50 percent discounts for those who shop in its brick-and-mortar partners' outlets in South Korea, Thailand and Singapore during the holiday.

To Alibaba's competitive tactics, Tencent fires back with its own RMB 800 million offering via its app store as well as WeChat promotions.

Also, Sina's Weibo provides gift money to subscribers who follow the Weibo account of celebrities, enterprises and media, and participate in its online activities before a certain time.

As can be noticed, the campaigns are typical strategies for the mobile payment platforms. It is now undoubtedly becoming a must-have feature to attract new mobile payment users.

Yet problems occur when Alipay's campaign has driven negative public opinions. Complains ranged from the confused to the incensed, with most of them being negative. The public is grumbling about the size of some prizes, saying that the true value is so low that it cannot contribute much to their daily purchases.

In addition, some are complaining about the designing of the game. When the game begins, users flood into its site. But they have to move quickly enough as there are 30 seconds' time limit. Even if they click off all the red envelopes, most users will be notified that they have not won a thing.

Nevertheless, in spite of anger and skepticism the platforms giveaway has won many users and truly brought considerably huge visibility to the brands.

Customers are happy to see positive changes that integrate traditional life style with modern payments technology. It is for sure that commercial campaigns like the red envelopes will not fade away from people's eyes any time soon.

At this matter, companies are required to provide what customers potentially need and not breach the law or have a negative impact on the market. (Xinhuanet)

BANGKOK, Feb 16  Submission of bid applications for the 21st round of Thailand's oil and gas exploration concessions, scheduled earlier for this Wednesday, might have to be postponed, according to Puangthip Silpasart, Director-General of the Energy Ministry’s Mineral Fuels Department. 

Saturday, 14 February 2015 13:58

Couples flock to marry on Valentine’s Day

BANGKOK, Feb 14 - Several thousand couples rushed to district offices to register their marriages on Saturday --  St. Valentine’s Day -- with Bang Rak district, which translates to "village of love" being one of the most popular districts for marriage registration in the capital, which can register only around 1,000 couples.

Saturday, 14 February 2015 13:55

13 bidders to contest for energy exploration

BANGKOK, Feb 14 - Deputy Prime Minister Pridiyathorn Devakula said 13 bidders, including a French firm, will contest in the 21st round of bidding on concessions for oil and gas exploration in Thailand.

BEIJING, Feb. 14 - The State Council, China's cabinet, has called for strengthened safety measures for tourists for the upcoming dual holidays after a deadly stampede in Shanghai on the New Year eve.

"(Related departments) should be on alert of potential risks and keep a strong sense of responsibility so as to map out sound arrangements and safety measures to ensure the security of tourists' lives and assets," said a circular from the cabinet on tourists' safety for the Spring Festival holiday and the Lantern Festival in early March.

The circular cited the deadly stampede in the Bund, Shanghai's riverfront tourist hotspot where 36 were killed on Dec. 31 while people gathered to usher in the new year. The tragedy saw 11 local officials punished.

"The lessons from the Shanghai stampede and similar accidents should be well learned," it said.

According to the document, local governments at or above the county level are responsible for coordinating efforts to ensure tourists' safety within their jurisdictions, and detailed obligations must be delegated to specific people.

The cabinet vowed to pursue the liabilities of officials for inadequate safety measures, slack supervision or duty negligence that lead to severe tourist safety accidents.

The circular called on local authorities to focus on mass gatherings and celebration activities, urging key tourist attractions and large hotels to map out emergency response plans in case of stampede and fire.

It also stressed safety checks targeting accommodations, shopping malls, passenger vehicles, cable cars, elevators and other facilities in popular tourist sites. (Xinhua)

Friday, 13 February 2015 13:53

Doctors remain alert for deadly diseases

BANGKOK, Feb 13 - Although the overall situation of the Ebola disease has improved in West Africa, the Public Health Ministry and other concerned agencies are still on alert with preventive measures still in place in Thailand, said Deputy Prime Minister Yongyuth Yuthavong.

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