Thailand Bulletin For Monday, December 10
Roundup of Thailand news with AJW
BKK Weather 33C
SET Index 1335
Thaksin attacks opponents live on state TV. Government steps up charter rewrite bid. Democrats say fake witnesses in murder case.
Ghana's president wins re-election. Messi beats Muller's 85-goal record. 3 dead, 3 children hurt in California shootings. Venezuela's Chavez cancer returns.
- ARCADIA SUITES OPENS IN BKK: Compass Hospitality has opened its first all-suite serviced apartment in Bangkok, the Arcadia Suites.
Arcadia Suites, Bangkok, is located in Nai Lert, just a few minutes’ walk from the BTS Phloenchit sky train station.
Close to shopping centers: Central Chidlom, Gaysorn Plaza, Amarin Plaza & Erawan Shine, Central World, and All Seasons Place.
Arcadia Suites offers 73 suites with LCD TVs, wireless Internet, en-suite bathrooms, and a fully-equipped kitchenette.
- ACCOR: Europe's biggest hotel operator plans to locate half of its new Southeast Asia properties in Indonesia to take advantage of the country's growing economy and expanding middle class. The Paris-based company plans to increase the number of its hotels in the region to more than 200 from 132, said Robert Murray, Chief Operating Officer for Accor's northeast and southeast Asian operations.
- EXPEDIA: Several major hotel chains in Norway are cutting their ties with Internet giant Expedia and dropping out of Expedia's hotel reservation service Hotels.com. Their executives cite "sky-high commissions" and Expedia's alleged demands that the hotels can't offer any lower rates themselves on their own websites than what Hotels.com offers.
"We can't live with the commissions Expedia is demanding," said Morten Thorvaldsen of Thon Hotels, claiming the commissions vary between 18 and 25 percent. "Nor can we live with Expedia's demand that we can't set our own room rates on our own websites."
Expedia, the hotel operators fear, holds far too much market power to steer room rates in Norway if the hotels themselves can't. International hotel organizations have also worried that the number of online booking services has been greatly reduced to a few players who how hold huge market power.
-SAMUI BLACKOUTS - EGAT DENIAL: The Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) insists that it did not cause blackouts on Samui and Pha-ngan islands.
An electrician at EGAT's station in Nakhon Si Thammarat's Khanom district said the station cut the power temporarily for maintenance on December 4 but after doing this it released electricity through a cable. Three minutes later, a problem occurred with the cable which caused the blackouts.
Once power was released past Egat's system, it was the Provincial Electricity Authority's responsibility.
Power returned to the islands on Friday after a 3-day blackout.
Meanwhile, more than 30 mobile generators are "on standby" in case residents and tourists have another power crisis during the holidays.
After using 35 mobile generators to produce electricity during the blackout period, the PEA said it was not sure if the islands will black out again as there will be high power usage during the festive season.
About 80-90 percent of hotel rooms have been reserved via the Internet, mostly by tourists from the UK, Germany, Russia, and China despite the 3-day blackout, said Panu Woramit, Director of the Tourism Authority of Thailand's Surat Thani Office.
There are 490 hotels outlets with 19,500 rooms on Samui Island and 300 sites providing 7,000 rooms on Pha-ngan Island.
- NEW ZEALAND WINE: A great pre-Christmas choice from Hawkes Bay with a deep ruby Trinity Hill Syrah 2011 and a peppery Trinity Tempranillo 2009 by John Hancock rounded off with a honey sweet dessert wine from Mission Estates NZ's oldest vineyard.
- BILLION TOURISTS: A record one billion people will travel across an international border as a tourist in 2012, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council. That means that one in 7 people on the planet will participate in world traveling this year.
- TEMPLE OF THE DIVINE MADMAN: Bhutan's religious heritage is among the most fascinating in the world, with numerous sites open to tourists. One, the fantastically-named Temple Of The Divine Madman, was built in the 15th century and has been restored, dazzling with brilliant golds, blues, and reds. As you walk up a dirt path towards it, guides explain that the Divine Madman was so called because of his preference for conducting his teachings via womanizing, drinking, and generally "acting crazy."
The temple is believed to have been built to mark the saint's success in defeating a trio of devils who had been eating local people. Meanwhile the Madman's legendary sex life gained him a lasting reputation for fertility which encourages childless couples from Bhutan and beyond to make pilgrimages here. Once inside they pray and receive blessings. Many choose a card from a special pack offered by the temple's chief monk who then shows them the name – and, therefore, the sex – of their future child written on the back.
- PHUKET MURDER: A second Hungarian suspect surrendered to Samui Tourist Police, denying any involvement in the grisly murder of a countryman in a Phuket house. Lajos Gyorgy Kvalka, 48, is now in Tourist Police custody in Phuket.
- MANDELA ILL: Nelson Mandela, South Africa's first black president, spent a second day at the Pretoria hospital where he is said to be undergoing tests. On Saturday he was flown from his rural home in the Eastern Cape to the capital Pretoria to receive medical attention.
Mandela's admission to the hospital sparked screaming newspapers headlines and ripples of fear that the frail leader is fading further away. And as his African National Congress political party stands ready to pick its leader who probably will be the next president, some believe governing party politicians have abandoned Mandela's integrity and magnanimity in a seemingly unending string of corruption scandals.
- STAR GAZER DIES: Tributes have been paid to the "irreplaceable" British astronomer Sir Patrick Moore who has died at age 89. The eccentric broadcaster passed away peacefully at his home in Selsey, West Sussex, after being struck down by an infection.
- FOOTBALL: Robin van Persie scored a stoppage-time winner as Manchester United clinched a dramatic 3-2 away victory over Manchester City to extend their lead at the top of the Premier League to 6 points. At the final whistle it felt like bedlam, with Carlos Tevez and Sir Alex Ferguson contemplating whether to prolong an old argument, Gareth Barry screaming at Roberto Mancini, Rio Ferdinand nursing a line of blood above his left eye, and Phil Jones, already booked for inciting the crowd, determined to milk the moment some more.