Posts Tagged ‘Thailand’

Trump puts America back in Asia

February 22, 2018

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By Thitinan Pongsudhirak

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Thai junta under pressure to tackle pollution ‘crisis’

February 22, 2018

AFP

© DAILYNEWS/AFP | Around a dozen activists delivered the large hourglass to a representative of Thai junta chief Prayut Chan-O-Cha
BANGKOK (AFP) – Environmental activists presented the Thai junta with an hourglass filled with dust on Thursday as part of a plea to tackle the hazardous levels of air pollution that have hung over the capital in recent weeks.Bangkok, one of the world’s top tourist destinations, has been shrouded in smog for nearly a month, with authorities reporting unhealthy concentrations of harmful microscopic particles known as PM2.5.

Around a dozen Greenpeace activists wearing facemasks and carrying placards delivered the large hourglass to a representative of the Thai junta chief Prayut Chan-O-Cha in Bangkok.

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The gift “symbolises calls on the government to urgently tackle the air pollution crisis”, Greenpeace said in a statement.

The group’s Thailand director, Tara Buakamsri, called on the junta chief to improve the kingdom’s pollution monitoring and warning systems.

“Bangkok cannot continue choking on hazardous air,” he said.

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“It endangers the lives of people, affects economic productivity and negatively impacts the prestige of one of the most popular cities on earth,” he added.

According to the watchdog, on 42 of the past 50 days Thailand’s PM2.5 concentration has exceeded the safety limits recommended by the World Health Organization.

On Thursday Bangkok’s Air Quality Index (AQI) was measured at 119 by the monitor AQICN, a level described as “unhealthy for sensitive groups”.

Thai officials say they expect rain to help clear the air but have warned the young, sick and elderly to stay indoors.

Troops have also been deployed to spray water into the air and wash down streets to help clear the dust, while Bangkok’s governor said open burning would be restricted.

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Greenpeace appeals to Thai PM to tackle air pollution ‘crisis’ — Greenpeace said Bangkok suffered the worst air pollution in its history between Jan. 1 and Feb. 21

February 22, 2018

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The sun is seen through evening air pollution in Bangkok, Thailand February 8, 2018. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

BANGKOK (REUTERS) – Environment group Greenpeace on Thursday called on Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha to tackle an air pollution “crisis” in Bangkok, weeks after a pollution agency said the city’s air quality had hit dangerous levels.

Air pollution has been under the spotlight in Bangkok, one of the world’s most popular tourist cities, with many residents complaining about smog.

Greenpeace said Bangkok suffered the worst air pollution in its history between Jan. 1 and Feb. 21.

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The Pollution Control Department warned this month that the level of particulate matter smaller than 2.5 micrometres, or PM2.5 dust, in the city had hit unhealthy levels and asked children to stay indoors.

PM2.5 dust, the most dangerous kind, includes pollutants such as nitrates that can penetrate the cardiovascular system.

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Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha leaves a cardboard cutout of himself to take questions from reporters — he is known for his distain for the men and women of Thailand and has made a close alliance with China

Critics blame Bangkok’s worsening air pollution on lax enforcement of vehicle emission standards, poor urban planning and insufficient green spaces.

Greenpeace activists presented an hourglass filled with dust from Bangkok and other provinces most affected by severe air pollution to a government representative.

“Bangkok cannot continue choking on hazardous air,” said Tara Buakamsri, director of Greenpeace in Thailand.

“It endangers the lives of people, affects economic productivity and negatively impacts the prestige of one of the most popular cities on earth.”

The prime minister, who is also the chairman of the National Environment board, should order an improvement in air quality, he said.

The PM2.5 level in central Bangkok was at 22.5 micrograms per m3 on Thursday, according to the AirVisual smartphone application.

Earlier this month, the pollution department measured PM2.5 dust in Bangkok at 72-95 micrograms per m3.

That compares with a World Health Organization (WHO) guideline of an annual average of no more than 10 micrograms.

Why the iPhone Is Losing Out to Chinese Devices in Asia

February 19, 2018

Apple’s market share is stagnant or declining in Asia, paving the way for other smartphone makers

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NEW DELHI—The iPhone X has set a new benchmark for smartphone prices and bolstered Apple Inc.’s bottom line, but its steep price may be hobbling its future in Asia’s biggest markets and allowing Chinese challengers to grab market share.

Buyers from India to Indonesia are opting for models from Chinese smartphone makers like Xiaomi Corp.—sometimes called “the Apple of China”—along with BBK Electronics Corp.’s Oppo and Vivo.

China’s manufacturers are increasingly churning out higher-priced devices that compete directly with Apple’s smartphones. They often have high-end features, but carry lower price tags than the iPhone X or even older iPhone models. They are targeting potential Apple customers by offering phones with robust hardware such as metal bodies, beefy batteries and unique features iPhones lack, including special cameras for taking better selfies.

“People don’t have to stretch their budget to buy a top-end” smartphone anymore, said Kiranjeet Kaur, an analyst with research firm IDC in Singapore. Chinese vendors “now boast features which compete with the top-end in the market.”

The iPhone X or Apple’s older, more affordable models aren’t aimed at the mass market in emerging Asia, where telecom companies don’t subsidize devices as in the U.S., meaning most people pay full price for their phones up front. The typical smartphone in India and Indonesia sells for under $200, which is less than even the least expensive iPhone model and much less than the iPhone X, which costs $1,000, according to IDC.

Apple’s high-price phones helped its revenues grow 11% last quarter in the Asia-Pacific region, even though its market share has been stagnant or declining in most Asian markets.

Abhay Shahi, a 28-year-old graphic designer in the Indian city of Ludhiana, has given up on Apple for good, recently ditching his iPhone 6 for a new Xiaomi Redmi Note 4. It has most of the bells and whistles for about a fifth the price of the iPhone X. It costs about $100 less than Apple’s most affordable model, the SE, which was released in 2016.

“It has a fingerprint sensor, the camera is pretty good, and there’s no lag” in Xiaomi’s software, which is more customizable than that of the “overpriced” iPhone’s, Mr. Shahi said. “The build quality feels like a premium phone.”

An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment on its strategy for emerging Asian markets or whether it sees Chinese smartphone makers as rivals to the iPhone.

Attendees at a Jan. 31 launch event for the Oppo R11s smartphone in Tokyo walked in front of an advertisement. Oppo, which passed Apple Inc. and Xiaomi Corp. in its home market, plans to introduce the R11s model next month in Japan.Photo: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg News

In China, Apple’s market share is roughly 8% now from 13% in 2015, research firm Canalys says. In India—which last year overtook the U.S. to become the world’s second-biggest smartphone market—Apple has had just a 2% market share since 2013. Apple’s shipments to India fell last quarter compared with the year before, a rare contraction, Canalys says.

The iPhone maker’s market share in Indonesia, home to some 260 million people, has fallen to 1% from 3% in 2013. Apple’s market share has also dropped in the Philippines and Thailand, and has remained static in Malaysia and Vietnam.

Meanwhile, Apple’s Chinese rivals are gobbling up customers. Beijing-based Xiaomi has jumped to 19% of India’s market today from just 3% in 2015. While much of that rise has been on the back of inexpensive phones, increasingly it is putting more expensive devices on the market that offer the look, feel and functionality of iPhones and even a few extra features.

Chitra Patricia, a 27-year-old Jakartan, picked an Oppo over Apple for its selfie features.

Oppo’s “selfie expert” F3 offers options such as a front-facing camera for selfies with wide angle that lends itself to “wefies,” or group shots with several people crammed into the frame. The phone also has a “beautify” function that smooths out users’ selfies, making them appear younger and more glamorous.

Previous Coverage

  • China Challenge for the iPhone X: Ending Apple’s Long Sales Slide (Sept. 13, 2017)
  • Good News for Apple: China Still Wants Pricey Phones (Aug. 2, 2017)
  • How to Build Your Own Smartphone — for $70
  • Cheaper Rivals Eat Away at Apple Sales in China (Feb. 1, 2017)

“It can capture around a dozen people in one ‘wefie,’” making it great for gatherings, said Ms. Patricia.

Xiaomi has an edge in many markets because it can customize for each country while Apple creates the same products for everyone, said Jai Mani, Xiaomi’s product manager for India.

Apple has worked to foster the development of mobile apps and mapping services in the country, and iPhones support several local Indian languages.

Xiaomi created special chargers for its smartphones that can handle India’s fluctuations in power supply, for example. And in a country where consumers are flooded by promotional text messages, Xiaomi tweaked its software to weed out advertisements so users don’t miss personal texts from friends.

Many Xiaomi smartphones also come with two SIM-card slots, which allow consumers to use more than one mobile network to save money, a common practice in Asia. Customers can also plug SD memory cards into some models so they can add their own music or video files.

Among the newest India-specific creations, Xiaomi announced at a launch event earlier this week in New Delhi: tweaks to its own selfie-beautification software so it doesn’t erase bindi forehead decorations or nose rings, mistaking them for blemishes.

The Chinese brands also are bringing a lot of local flavor to their advertising. Oppo and its sister company, Vivo, have blanketed Indonesia and India with billboards touting features they offer that aren’t found in iPhones.

Wahyu Adi Setyanto, a 36-year-old IT engineer in Jakarta, traded in his iPhone for a Xiaomi recently. It has a touch screen as big and bright as that of any iPhone, he says, and cost only $210.

“The exterior, when you hold it in your hand, it’s luxurious,” he said. “It feels like holding an iPhone.”

—Anita Rachman in Jakarta contributed to this article.

Write to Newley Purnell at newley.purnell @wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/why-customers-from-india-to-indonesia-prefer-chinese-devices-to-iphones-1519036203

Thai ex-PM Thaksin calls for party unity ahead of promised election

February 19, 2018

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BANGKOK (Reuters) – Fugitive former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra met lawmakers from his Puea Thai Party in Hong Kong where he called for party unity ahead of an approaching general election, party members said on Monday.

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Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra — February 23, 2016. Photo: Reuters

Many are watching to see how Puea Thai Party performs in a vote which the military government has promised to hold in November but which could be delayed.

Thaksin, who founded Advance Info Service Pcl, Thailand’s largest mobile phone operator, was prime minister from 2001 to 2006 when he was overthrown in a military coup supported by the Bangkok-based establishment.

Thaksin, who is based in Dubai, continues to loom large over Thai politics and remains popular in the northeast ‘Isaan’ region which, along with the north, forms the stronghold of parties aligned with Thaksin which have won every election since 2001 by appealing to poorer voters.

His sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, was elected prime minister in 2011. She was overthrown in a 2014 military coup.

Yingluck fled Thailand last August, weeks before the Supreme Court found her guilty of negligence in mismanaging a rice subsidy scheme and sentenced her to five years in prison.

Sources in the Puea Thai Party say she is currently based in England.

Thaksin was convicted in absentia in 2006 on conflict of interest charges.

The siblings have been in Asia since the start of the month, said party members, and have visited China, Japan and Hong Kong before traveling to Singapore on Monday.

Prayuth Siripanich, a Puea Thai Party member and its former representative for the northeastern province of Maha Sarakham, said ten lawmakers flew to Hong Kong on Saturday and returned on Monday.

“Thaksin asked lawmakers to be united and not to break that unity,” Prayuth told Reuters. “He asked that lawmakers meet their constituents because the election is fast approaching.”

Piyapong Klinpan, a spokesman for the junta, or National Council for Peace and Order as it is formally known, told reporters in Bangkok that “relevant agencies”, including police, were following Yingluck and Thaksin.

He did not give further details.

Supporters of the Shinawatras say the family are victims of political persecution. Their critics accuse them of widespread corruption, which they deny.

Reporting by Panarat Thepgumpanat; Additional reporting by Aukkarapon Niyomyat; Writing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre; Editing by Nick Macfie

Thai activists plan more protests ahead of coup anniversary in May

February 17, 2018

Reuters

BANGKOK (Reuters) – A group of pro-democracy activists in Thailand said on Saturday that it plans to hold more public protests, despite threat of arrests, to demand the military government not to delay a general election scheduled for November this year.

The junta has promised and postponed elections several times since it came to power following a coup in 2014, with the latest date being set for November.

But a change to the election law by the military-appointed legislature last month means that the election will likely be pushed back to early 2019. That sparked a series of small anti-junta, pro-election protests that is gaining momentum in recent weeks with gathering taking place in Bangkok, Chiang Mai in the north, and Khon Kaen in northeastern Thailand.

Activists from the Democracy Restoration Group (DRG) says they now want to hold a series of pro-election demonstrations starting this Sunday in northeastern province of Nakhon Ratchasima, followed by a protest in Bangkok next Saturday.

Thai anti-government protesters scuffle with a police during a protest in Bangkok on Saturday, February 10, 2018. (AFP)

The activists also announced plans to hold further protests on March 10 and 24 as well as on every Saturday in May, leading to a large gathering that will take place over several days, from May 19-22, marking the four-year anniversary of the 2014 coup.

“We will make May the month for all Thais to think about election and think about how our country should move forward,” Rangsiman Rome, a pro-democracy activist, told reporters at a news conference on Saturday.

Junta spokesman Colonel Winthai Suvaree told Reuters that the government is not concerned by the planned protests and will rely on the police to maintain peace and order.

“If the protest disturbs others than it will be up to the police to respond according to the law,” Winthai said.

Earlier this week, the junta lodged a lawsuit against seven DRG activists for inciting unrest and 43 protesters for illegal gathering after last Saturday pro-election protest by hundreds of people at Democracy Monument in Bangkok.

US eyes heavy tariffs on China, Russia to counter steel, aluminum glut

February 16, 2018

AFP

© AFP | US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross believes that cheap steel and aluminum imports from places like China and Russia “threaten to impair our national security”

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The US Commerce Department said Friday it recommended imposing tariffs on China, Russia and other countries to counter a global glut in steel and aluminum which it says threatens national security.In a report to President Donald Trump, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross includes among the options a nearly 24 percent tariff on all products from China, Russia and three other economies.

Other options would impose either high tariffs or quotas on steel and aluminum imports.

The findings are part of an investigation into the impact of the oversupply of steel and aluminum, and whether it undermines US national security.

In each case “the imports threaten to impair our national security,” Ross told reporters in a conference call about the so-called Section 232 investigation.

China and Russia are primary targets, but many other countries are included in the recommended sanctions, which are sure to spark fears of a global trade war if implemented.

Ross said the sanctions were designed to be broad to prevent targeted countries from circumventing the limits by shipping through a third country.

He said “serial offenders can evade these orders by transshipment through another country.”

For steel, Ross recommended three possible options: a 24 percent tariff on all steel from all countries; a 53 percent tariff on imports from 12 countries, including China, Russia and Brazil; or a quota on steel from all countries.

For aluminum, he recommended either a 7.7 percent tariffs on the metal from all countries; a quota for all countries; or, perhaps the most shocking of all the options, a 23.6 percent tariffs on imports of all products from China, Russia, Hong Kong, Vietnam and Venezuela.

Ross submitted the two reports to the White House in late January.

Trump has until mid-April to decide on any possible action, which he acknowledged likely would prompt action by US trading partners in the World Trade Organization.

US industries have urged the administration to take care since high import tariffs would raise the cost of supplies for major industries.

But Commerce said the goal of the measures is to boost domestic aluminum and steel prodcution.

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U.S. Weighs Tariffs and Quotas on Steel, Aluminum Imports

February 16, 2018

Trump administration weighs different options, ranging from a global tariff of at least 24%, to a more targeted approach focusing on China and other nations

The Trump administration on Friday said it was weighing broad-based tariffs and quotas to curb imports of steel and aluminum to protect national security, though officials stressed no final decisions had yet been made and the ultimate policy could be considerably more limited.

The recommendations were part of internal administration reports released Friday laying out the options for President Donald Trump as he considers how to fulfill a campaign promise to take a more aggressive stance than predecessors to shield domestic steel and aluminum makers from growing foreign competition.

The recommendations suggest the president choose among several options. One of them is a global tariff of at least 24% on all steel imports from all countries. Another is a tariff of at least 53% on steel imports from a dozen countries. Under the latter, targeted option, the tariffs of 53% would be applied on steel from Brazil, China, Costa Rica, Egypt, India, Malaysia, South Korea, Russia, South Africa, Thailand, Turkey and Vietnam.

The report from the Commerce Department also included, as an alternative, a quota on steel products from countries equal to 63% of the countries’ 2017 exports to the U.S.

“I am glad that we were able to provide this analysis and these recommendations to the president,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a statement. “I look forward to his decision on any potential course of action.”

The recommendations are opposed by many lawmakers and businesses who worry that the tariffs risk provoking a trade war and raising prices on a range of domestic products.

The recommendations sent sector stocks soaring Friday. Nucor Corp, the largest U.S. steel producer by sales, rose almost 5% and US Steel Corp and AK Steel Holding Corp gain more than 10%. Aluminum stock reaction more muted, with market leader Alcoa Corp. recently up almost 3% and Arconic Inc up 1.6%, both off earlier highs

Mr. Trump faces an April deadline to decide whether, and how, to restrict imports under little-used section 232 of the 1962 trade law that gives the president wide discretion to impose tariffs and quotas if he deems certain imports pose a national security threat. Mr. Trump launched the studies in a White House ceremony last April with cheering industry and union executives by his side, and he promised at the time dramatic action within weeks.

On aluminum, the Commerce Department recommended global tariffs of at least 7.7% on all aluminum imports, or a tariff of 23.6% on select countries or a quota on imports equal to a maximum of 86.7% of the countries’ 2017 exports to the U.S. Under the second option, which targets individual countries, tariffs would apply to aluminum from China, Hong Kong, Russia, Venezuela and Vietnam.

Write to Jacob M. Schlesinger at jacob.schlesinger@wsj.com and William Mauldin at william.mauldin@wsj.com

 https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-recommends-tariffs-and-quotas-on-steel-aluminum-imports-1518801588

China’s Xi stresses military modernization in pre-new year visit — China should take the initiative in international competition — Create more “Chinese miracles”

February 13, 2018

Reuters

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China stealth aircraft Chengdu J-20

Chinese President Xi Jinping has stressed military modernization and technological advances during meetings with servicemen and women ahead of the Lunar New Year, state media said.

Chinese leaders generally use the time around the festival to make inspection trips around the country where they flag important policy initiatives or areas of concern for the year ahead.

The weeklong holiday starts Thursday, the eve of the new year. It is the most important holiday in the Chinese calendar, when millions of people travel to their hometowns, many for the only time in the year.

Xi has made the upgrading of China’s armed forces a key policy plank, investing in a range of new technologies including stealth fighters, aircraft carriers and missiles.

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On a visit to a satellite launch site in southwestern China’s Sichuan province on Saturday, Xi told senior officers they should work with more commitment and be steadfast in building China’s strength in aerospace to create more “Chinese miracles,” the official Xinhua News Agency said late Monday.

Xi stressed “military training under combat conditions to build the country’s military into a world-class one and improve the country’s strength in aerospace,” the report added.

“Noting that technology was a core combat capability, Xi called for intensified work to make breakthroughs in core and key technologies so that China could take the initiative in international competition,” the news agency said.

Xi also chatted by video conference with soldiers stationed at an island in the Paracels, in the disputed South China Sea, asking them how they were preparing to celebrate the new year, Xinhua said.

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Chinese military bases near the Philippines

China claims a large swath of the South China Sea and has been ramping up its military deployments there, including reclaiming land on reefs and atolls to build military infrastructure such as air bases.

Xi is expected to visit to other parts of the country before and possibly during the holiday.

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Recent aerial photos obtained by Inquirer showed that China was nearly done transforming disputed reefs in the South China Sea into island fortresses.

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Mischief Reef now an extensive Chinese military base

READ: EXCLUSIVE: New photos show China is nearly done with its militarization of South China Sea

 

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China has no greater rights than any other in the sea. China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law.

Thai protesters urge military rulers to give up power — Police beat protesters with batons

February 10, 2018

 

Thai anti-government protesters scuffle with a police during a protest in Bangkok on Saturday. (AFP)
BANGKOK: About 200 anti-government protesters have rallied in the Thai capital, calling on the country’s military rulers to give up power and hold elections they promised soon after staging a coup in 2014.
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Saturday’s demonstration, held despite the government’s efforts to intimidate the protesters with legal charges, was one of the largest in recent years and reflected demonstrators’ renewed confidence as the ruling junta’s prestige has slipped due to corruption scandals.
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The protesters gathered near Bangkok’s Democracy Monument, a traditional venue for political actions, but were kept across the street by more than 100 policemen who kept watch on their nonviolent demonstration.
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More than three dozen pro-democracy activists face criminal charges for their last protest late last month, but many apparently attended Saturday’s rally.

 

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