Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Another week brings another Russian couple caught in the act

Faithful mark Buddhist All Saints Day with rituals steeped in tradition

Buddhist faithful attend a religious ceremony
at Wat Nong Yai on Makha Bucha day.

Staff reporters
Crowds of Buddhist faithful visited temples throughout the kingdom and abroad on February 28 to worship and make merit on Makha Bucha Day (Buddhist All Saints Day). This important occasion for Buddhists marks the first sermon of the Lord Buddha to 1250 monks.

Locally, Wat Chaimongkol, Wat Sawang Fa, Wat Photisamphan, Wat Boonkanjanaram and Wat Nong Yai were filled to capacity when thousands of devout Buddhists turned out to conduct ceremonies that have been performed throughout Buddhist history, and make merit for themselves and their families.

Many also prayed for His Majesty the King’s health and quick recovery.

Anan, 59, who turned to religion and the temple to meditate for inner peace on this most holy day said, “Making merit is considered the most holy act of benevolence. On Makha Bucha Day, I hope and I pray for peace in our country and may all that is sacred grant His Majesty the King good health.”

The morning ceremonies were filled with people presenting alms to monks (“tak baht”) and listening to monks preach the Dharma, or teachings, of the Buddha.

Ceremonies were continued in the evening, with many people performing the “Wien Thien” whereby believers light candles and circle the temple’s prayer room three times, paying homage to the “Triple Gem” or the Buddha, Dharma (Buddhist teachings) and Sangha (monks).

This holy day commemorates the miraculous event when 1,250 disciples of the Buddha, Gautama Sakayamuni, traveled to Weluwan Mahawiharn Temple in the area of Rachakhryha, India to meet with the Buddha with no prearranged agreement.

Worshipping or ‘Bucha’ occurs on the 15th Day of the waning moon of the third lunar month, or ‘Makha’. This year the event fell on Sunday, February 28.

Somying, 52, said, “I am a vegetarian and uphold the precepts of Buddha Dharma in my daily life. I feel that because of the unstable social and economic situation in Thailand, the Thai people can take solace in Buddhism by making merit on Makha Bucha Day which we hope and pray will bring peace and prosperity to our people and our country.”

Banks, government offices and some businesses were closed on Monday, March 1 in observance of the holy day. Many bars were closed on Sunday, February 28 as a sign of respect for the nation’s religion.

The day gained official recognition in Thailand during the reign of King Rama IV and became a nationally observed day with all government institutions closing down and observing the rituals associated with Buddhist commandments.

Other countries where the Buddhist faith is predominant and where Makha Bucha Day is officially observed as a national day include Nepal, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Sri Lanka and India. Other countries with populations observing the day but in limited numbers include China, Korea and Vietnam.

Disseminating the Buddha’s teachings and the journey to meet with the Buddha on the 15th night of the 3rd lunar month are part of the historical events that include the sermons and truths spoken by the Buddha.

Having good intentions, not harming others, avoiding evil actions and making the heart and mind pure in thought were among the truths spoken by the Buddha. Additionally, other truths spoken by the Buddha cautioned individual restraint in all that attracts one’s attention, to include desiring possessions belonging to others, and exploiting others for personal gain.

Before departing, the Buddha also referred to the people’s interest in making merit, gaining self-esteem and a comfortable reassurance that moral integrity exists. More importantly, having faith in the “Triple Gem” (Phraratanatrai) was illustrated by emphasizing the importance of avoiding drunken, irresponsible and immoral behavior, and maintaining focus on supporting loved ones while being content in one’s existence with friends and without selfish greed.

HM the King returns to hospital after short palace visit

His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej returned to Siriraj Hospital early Sunday after a brief visit to his home at Chitralada Palace.

HM the King left Siriraj Hospital Saturday night for the first time after being admitted for treatment of a lung inflammation on September 19 last year.

Wearing a pink shirt, the monarch sat in a wheelchair with his pet dog at his side on Saturday night. His van arrived at the palace, passing rows of his subjects, sitting along the way, shouting encouragement by voicing “Long Live the King’.

The 82-year-old monarch has appeared in the public only twice during his hospital stay, on two special occasions - Chulalongkorn Day on October 23 and in November for the Loy Krathong festival.

The disappearance from the public eye of the world’s longest-reigning monarch has caused great concern among the Thai public and was linked to the largest decline in some two months in the Stock Exchange of Thailand in October after rumors circulated among investors of a deterioration in HM the King’s health. (TNA)

Thai court orders assets seized from ex-PM Thaksin

Grant Peck
Bangkok (AP) - Thailand’s highest court ruled Friday that ousted leader Thaksin Shinawatra abused his power to enrich himself and his family while in office and ordered that $1.4 billion of his telecommunications fortune be seized.

The ruling likely disappoints, if not angers, Thaksin’s millions of partisans, boding ill for mending the rifts in Thai society after four years of political unrest centered around him.

However, some analysts suggested the court’s decision not to seize all 76 billion baht ($2.3 billion) at stake was a compromise that could foster reconciliation.

Thaksin was deposed by a September 2006 military coup after being accused of corruption and abuse of power. The action was meant to quell tensions sparked by months of anti-Thaksin protests, but instead polarized the country.

“The conflict won’t go away immediately. This verdict will simply allow the Thai people to cautiously carry on their lives the same way they have for the past two years,” said Prinya Thaewanarumitkul, a law professor at Bangkok’s Thammasat University. “I think we need to wait until the next general election to learn if the conflict will end.”

The country had increased security leading up to the verdict, but no major violent reaction was immediately reported. Thaksin, speaking by video link from exile, told his supporters to continue to fight for what he terms justice and democracy, but to do so nonviolently.

The passions Thaksin sparked led to the occupation of the seat of government for several months and seizure of the capital’s two airports for a week by his opponents in 2008, and rioting and disruption of a conference of Asian heads of government by his supporters last year.

His so-called Red Shirt supporters continue to rally on his behalf, and have promised a “million-man march” for later this month. They seek to force the government of current Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, a Thaksin opponent, to call new elections.

Thaksin and his followers insist he was ousted because Thailand’s traditional ruling class - the military, the bureaucracy and circles close the royal palace - felt threatened by his political popularity. He and his party won two sweeping election victories based on populist policies that benefited the country’s poor rural majority.

Speaking Friday night, Thaksin told his followers that unless they continued to struggle, “the country will remain in the hands of the elite forever.”

He also insisted, with a vow that he be struck dead if he were lying, that he never committed a corrupt act.

The Supreme Court ruled that in four of five cases presented to it, the 60-year-old billionaire politician had used his authority as the country’s leader in 2001-2006 to implement policies that benefited him, sometimes at the expense of the state.

As a small consolation, the court said that only 46 billion baht ($1.4 billion) of 76 billion baht ($2.3 billion) of his family’s assets that were frozen in Thai accounts after the coup should be seized. With other cases pending against him and his family, it is unclear when the remainder might be released. An unknown amount of Thaksin’s fortune is banked overseas.

The Supreme Court said seizing all the assets “would be unfair as some of it was made before Thaksin became prime minister.”

The most straightforward case of what is termed “policy corruption” involved a US$127 million low-interest government loan to Myanmar in 2004, which the court ruled Thaksin had promoted with the intention of securing its purchase of satellite services from Shin Satellite, then controlled by Thaksin’s family.

The other rulings charged that telecommunications policies had resulted in benefits for companies he controlled.

“Had they ordered to seize all assets, people would think Thaksin was not being treated fairly,” said law professor Prinya. “Now the friction has decreased, but we still need to watch Thaksin’s next move.”

Audio of the judges reading the 7 1/2 hour verdict was broadcast on several local television stations. Hundreds of people gathered at the headquarters of the opposition Puea Thai party - allied to Thaksin - booed as the final judgments were read. Some women began crying and one man jumped up on a chair and started screaming at a television screen broadcasting the proceedings.

“There is no justice in Thailand anymore,” said Krongtong Phuengsang, a 65-year-old housewife. “The Red Shirt people will continue fighting. But we will not create violence.”

Some chanted “Thaksin fight, fight” while others cursed the court.

Thaksin struck a familiar mix of self-pity and defiance in his video address from Dubai, his home in exile.

“Today’s lesson for businessmen, do not enter politics. If something happens, they will confiscate your money,” he said. “Let me be the last victim.” He was convicted in absentia in 2008 for a conflict of interest violation and sentenced to two years imprisonment.

Suriyasai Katasila, a leader of the People’s Alliance for Democracy movement that has spearheaded protests against Thaksin since 2006, expressed satisfaction with the court’s decisions.

“I don’t think the amount of assets to be seized is more significant than Thaksin’s wrongdoing being dissected and explained to the people,” he said. “This verdict will set up standards for future governments and politicians by letting them know the outcomes of abuse of power.”

Thanet Charoenmuang, a political science lecturer at Chiang Mai University, said he felt the verdict “eases worries among the public and could easily win the hearts of those in the middle.” He said it “could be viewed as an attempt at compromise by the judges who considered Thaksin’s actions unlawful.”

“The path to peace in Thai society depends on three things: the Red Shirts’ movement, economic and social circumstances and the government’s sincerity in solving the political conflict,” he said.

CARAT 2010 expected to begin mid-year

Patcharapol Panrak
The annual Thailand and United States-led CARAT multinational naval exercise is expected to take place sometime in the middle of the year.

Rear Admiral Chaiyot Sunthonnak (left), commander of the Royal Thai Navy’s Frigate Squadron 2 and Rear Admiral Nora W. Tyson (right), commander of the U.S. Logistics Group for the Western Pacific pose for an official photograph during their final CARAT organizational meeting in Sattahip.

Rear Admiral Chaiyot Sunthonnak, commander of the Royal Thai Navy’s Frigate Squadron 2 and Rear Admiral Nora W. Tyson, commander of the U.S. Logistics Group for the Western Pacific held their final organizational meeting Feb. 23 in Sattahip, but no date for the exercise has been released. It traditionally was held in June, following May’s annual Cobra Gold war games. But the latter exercise’s move to February last year has also affected the schedule for Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training.

Frigate Squadron 2 Rear Adm. Chaiyot Sunthonnak said that the CARAT exercise gives Southeast Asian countries - including Thailand, the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia - the chance to exchange information and expertise with their counterparts in the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps.

The exercise will focus on increasing experience levels for gunships, amphibious attack units and focus on marine security and target practice in Thai territorial waters.

Frigate Squadron 2 will lead the Thai side of the exercise, with the Royal Thai Fleet, Royal Thai Marine Corps Command, Air and Coastal Defense Command, Naval Armament Department and Naval Medical Department joining in. The U.S. will task Special Operational Naval Forces 712 and the Logistics Group with the responsibility of running their side of the operation.

Mekong River countries work together to help disabled citizens

Representatives from countries in the Mekong River Basin begin working together to improve the lives of their disabled citizens.

Vimolrat Singnikorn
The five countries in the Mekong River Basin have begun working together to improve the lives of their disabled citizens.

During a week-long sensitivity training session at the Redemptorist Foundation for People with Disabilities for those working with the disabled, government and private-sector officials from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam and host country Thailand discussed programs to increase knowledge and understanding for the rights of people with disabilities among organizations associated with their welfare.

Suporntham Mongkolsawat, director of the Redemptorist Vocational School for the Disabled, said the project - overseen in Thailand by the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security and National Office for Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities - is the Mekong River Basin countries’ effort at complying with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which calls on governments to reduce barriers and discrimination against the disabled and give them more power and independence in their lives.

Training programs outlined at the Feb. 21-27 seminar call for creation of “power groups” to push for disabled rights, recognize obstacles to member countries reaching international training standards and creation of a training handbook. This also will serve as a foundation for better networking among the five countries, Suporntham said.

Free dog vaccinations, sterilizations at Nong Yai Temple

Veterinarians and helpers conduct vaccinations and sterilizations on dogs and cats at Nong Yai Temple.

Phasakorn Channgam
Pattaya and Chonburi veterinary surgeons will be offering free dog vaccinations and sterilizations at Nong Yai Temple through April 20.

Services offered during morning hours include rabies vaccinations, sterilization and anti-flea and worm medications. Owners seeking sterilization are warned to not give their pet any food or water for six hours prior to the injection.

The program comes as the government tries to corral the growing number of stray dogs in the area, many of which start life as household pets but are abandoned by their owners.

Deputy Mayor Verawat Khakhay said the treatments help not only the animals, but people as well, which are kept safe from transmitted diseases.

4-meter python swims to safety

Police and rescue workers wrestle with the monster snake after saving it from drowning in a local well.

Theerarak Suthathiwong
Animal rescue officials pulled a 4-meter-long python out of a garbage-filled well by getting the snake to swim.

Sawang Boriboon Rescue Foundation officers were called to the Pacific Park Village on Soi A.R. in North Pattaya after city worker Nopadon Pankaew said he encountered a frazzled telephone line repairman who saw the 20 kg. snake fall into the disused well.

A professional snake catcher was called in to corral the slithery suspect, but couldn’t reach it due to a low water level and piles of garbage that kept the snake mostly below surface level. So the technician decided to fill up the well with water from a fire engine and the snake swam to the surface and was easily snared.

All ended well for the snake as it was released into the wild again later.

Ko Chan residents rally military, police to uphold peace

Residents of the Ko Chan district in Chonburi, dressed in pink, march through the streets in their district to promote peace and unity.

Theerarak Suthathiwong
About 200 residents of the Ko Chan district in Chonburi presented bouquets of flowers to police and military personnel in front of the Army Support Command in Chonburi to boost their morale in fighting crime and unrest in the country.

Kittipong Chantanawiwat, president of the Ko Chan Village Scouts, led the Feb. 24 delegation and was met by Col. Siriwat Tabtimtes, chief of staff the 1st Army Support Command, and Col. Wiroj Noodsorn, chief of the Combat Division.

Kittipong said the residents that participated value love, peace and harmony, wish to see peace in the country, a good economy, happy people and people being united. They wish to see the military and police remain supporters of the people.

Kittipong also submitted a letter urging the military and police to fight against all evil in society and create faith and trust in the people. He also asked that they respect the monarchy and preserve democracy.

Police breakup schoolgirl prostitution ring

Police arrested Cholthicha Thapmanee and detained 4 school girls for prostitution.

Boonlua Chatree
Police have broken up a ring of school girls who sold sexual services to pay for their educations.

Acting on an informant’s tip, police arrested 18-year-old Cholthicha Thapmanee, who admitted she ran an escort service for about 10 school-age girls. Customers called her on her mobile phone and she arranged appointments for 1,500 baht, with her taking 500 baht of that as a commission.

Police made the arrest Feb. 21 after using an undercover officer to meet four teen girls at a Third Road restaurant. Once they paid Cholthicha the 6,000 baht in marked notes, they took her into custody. Two of the girls brought to the restaurant were under 18 and all four were from Roi-Et Province.

Cholthicha told police she arranged the appointments at the requests of the girls, who said they needed money to pay for their schooling.

Another week brings another Russian couple caught in the act

Boonlua Chatree
Another week, another Russian couple were caught having sex on Pattaya Beach.

Seemingly not bothered by others looking on and taking photos, this Russian couple finally put their clothes on when police arrived.

In what has become an embarrassing regular event, police converged on the sand near Bali Hai Pier in the wee hours of Feb. 22 to find a crowd looking on and shooting pictures as two partially nude Russian lovers engaged in intimate acts better left in the bedroom.

The couple was fined on the spot and simply got dressed and strolled back on to Walking Street in search of a more-private venue.

Exorcism miraculously ‘cures’ poor Bang Saray girl supposedly possessed after visit to haunted drug den

Kritsada Saenkhot (left) performs his ritual exorcism on a 16-year-old as the girl’s father looks on.

Patcharapol Panrak
The parents of an apparently mentally disturbed girl blamed ghosts and called in an exorcist to “cure” their daughter after her visit to a supposedly haunted Bang Saray beach house often used as a drug den.

Rather than consult doctors, impoverished Pia and Bunchouy Sornchanwong brought in a monk, an Indian-faith mystic and the media to witness the alleged mental illness and strange behavior of their 16-year-old daughter. They said the girl has been ill since she wandered off on Bang Saray Beach near their home and was found inside an abandoned building portrayed on film and television as a haunted house and a site that has seen a rape and frequent drug use by locals.

The girl’s parents, however, appealed to the media, claiming their daughter was possessed, but they had no money to take her to a doctor. They claimed she alternated between being nearly catatonic and raving, couldn’t sleep, wouldn’t eat and is quickly distracted. She often would speak in a man’s voice or not at all, and her parents expressed concern that she acts more like a boy than a girl and often tries to run away.

Neighbors believe the girl suffers from attention-deficit disorder or other mental illness and urged them to seek professional help. Instead, however, they took her to a local temple, where they had her baptized by a monk in hopes it would bring her peace. To an extent it did, as she slept more.

After their initial plea to the media brought attention, but little cash, to their case, they called in reporters again to witness an “exorcism” by a practitioner of Indian-style spiritual healing. Kritsada “Ajarn Robert” Saenkhot laid the girl out on a sofa in the couple’s dilapidated shack, used a twig to sprinkle allegedly “holy” water over the girl and, miraculously, she suddenly awoke from her catatonic state, professed to feel fine and asked to return to school.

Thais love a good ghost story, especially one with a happy ending. But, just to be sure, father Pia plans to keep the girl at home for a while to track her recovery.

Naklua karaoke manager arrested for human trafficking

Kee Sukserm (left) has been arrested
for trafficking three underage Laotian girls (right).

Boonlua Chatree
Chonburi Immigration Police arrested a Thai man and are seeking another for running a brothel that employed underage Laotian girls.

Six immigration officers raided Chuanchom Karaoke in South Naklua Feb. 13 after two undercover officers purchased the sexual services of two 15-year-old girls from karaoke bar manager Kee Sukserm. The 27-year-old Loei native was arrested and police are looking for his employer, a 50-year-old identified only as “Somkhuan.”

During the raid, investigators found three underage Laotian girls, a ledger detailing the brothel’s operations and a book of rental coupons for the hotel 20 meters from the karaoke bar officers were told to meet the girls.

The girls told police they had entered Thailand on Laotian passports and were taken to an associate of Kee’s in Loei. They were then transported to Pattaya where their services were sold for 2,000 baht per customer, of which they received only 400 baht.

Kee was charged with human trafficking and his case was featured during last week’s presentation to Thailand’s deputy prime minister in Bangkok as proof of the Immigration Police’s efforts to stamp out human trafficking.

Raving Russian floored by Fairtex boxer after attacking hotel staff

Boonlua Chatree
A raving Russian took a knockout blow from a foreign boxer after he allegedly hit a hotel security guard with a bottle and locked an electrician in his room.

Police take in a handcuffed Baksa Zoltan for a stay in the local monkey house.

Police and Sawang Boriboon Foundation were called to the Fairtex Hotel in North Pattaya around 4:30 a.m. Feb. 24 on a report that a Russian man, who acted either drunk or high, had attacked hotel staff and was in a standoff with guests while threatening them with a sharp piece of metal.

Officers found Baksa Zoltan, 28, in a second floor corridor where another guest, who was also training as a boxer at the Fairtex sports complex, facing down each other as Thai staff and guests looked on.

The standoff continued for nearly an hour until the boxer managed to floor Zoltan with a punch to the face. Once the Russian was down, the Thais too scared to approach him before set upon him in a pack, until they could be pulled off by officers.

Injured security guard Phumirate Sangban, 28, said Zoltan had checked into the hotel on Feb. 18, but was rarely seen with other people and spent most of his time in his room. While patrolling the hotel that night, Phumirate said he heard noise coming from the second floor and, upon investigating, saw Zoltan had injured his hand somehow.

The guard said he and a hotel electrician went to tend to the Russian’s bleeding hand and were attacked, with Zoltan allegedly hitting Phumirate in the head with a bottle and locking the electrician in his room. It was then he called police.

Medics treated Phumirate for his injury at the scene and urged him to file charges against the rowdy Russian.

Navy launches annual training exercise

Patcharapol Panrak
With the six-nation Cobra Gold exercise behind it, the Royal Thai Navy continued its field training with a day of training exercises.

Thai forces storm a boat as part of their day of military training exercises.

Navy Commander in Chief Adm. Kamthorn Pumhiran opened the exercise from the desk of the RTN Naraesuan at Laemtien Pier in Sattahip Feb. 18. During the exercises, naval forces honed their battle-readiness, including troop deployment, logistics, power usage and target practice.

Kamthorn said the war games emphasize making troops combat-ready and covers all the steps of battle preparedness, from pre-planning to field work to seminars on abstract concepts. A post-exercise presentation will be developed to illustrate training for those who did not participate.

The training ties in to the Eastern Seaboard’s emergency preparedness plans and aims to improve the navy’s ability to position ships, evacuate the public and counter terrorism.

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