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Thailand Live Wednesday 2 Feb 2011

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Democrats urged to back savings fund bill

By The Nation

At a meeting yesterday, the Democrat Party urged its MPs to support the National Savings Fund draft bill, which will be considered by the Parliament today.

After chief government whip and deputy party leader Wittaya Kaewparadai encouraged Democrats to vote for the bill, deputy party leader and Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij explained fine points of the bill.

The new fund would let Thais aged 15 to 60, who were not members of the Social Security Office or other welfare services, and senior citizens who had no pension, to join in. Their monthly contributions would be met with government contributions at different rates.

For instance, people aged 15 to 30 will be entitled to 50 per cent government contribution, those between 30 and 50 would get 80 per cent, while those over the age of 50 would get 100 per cent. People need to contribute a minimum of Bt50 per month and a maximum of Bt1,100 per month. The monthly contributions will also earn an interest of 2.5 per cent a year.

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-- The Nation 2011-02-02

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Social security scheme deemed ineffective

By Pongphon Sarnsamak

The Nation

An independent health economist yesterday slammed the Social Security Fund (SSF) for its ineffecฌtive management and inability to provide proper healthcare to its members.

Dr Pongsadhorn Pokpermdee, who conducted a study comparing healthcare coverage under the National Health Security Fund (NHSF) and the SSF, said the SSF paid Bt2,105 to cover hospital expenses for its members, but the hospitals only spent about Bt700 per member and kept the rest of the money for themselves. This means, the per capita spending on healthcare coverage under the SSF should be lowered.

A source from the National Health Security Office (NHSO), who wanted to remain unnamed, said the SSF spent about Bt22 billion per year on providing healthฌcare for its 10 million members, with about 50 per cent of the hosฌpitals registered under the SSF being private institutions.

Pongsadhorn, meanwhile, lamented the lack of records on how this percapita budget was being spent since the SSF was established 20 years ago.

Moreover, he said, many hospitals under the SSF did not refer serious cases to other hospitals that could provide better treatment, because they did not want to share the SSF contribution.

Dr Vichai Chokwiwat, a member of the SSF medical panel, said hospitals registered with the SSF did not prescribe expensive medฌication because they wanted to save the money contributed by the SSF.

"We found that SSF members do not have access to the kind of medication NHSO members have," he said.

The Labour Ministry's permanent secretary Somkiat Chayasriwong said he accepted the fact that there were problems related to services offered under the social security schemes, such as substandard medical services and noncoverage for some treatments.

He said the Security Social Office (SSO) would listen to all complaints and come up with answers for its members.

In addition, there's a problem with the scheme's management system, which could not be resolved right away. The NHSO, on the other hand, had a welldeveloped system to start with.

He said he has told the SSO's executive board and medical panel to adapt their management style.

People have also been complaining about the SSO's regulations, for instance the one that only allows members to access medical services under the SSF after they've made contributions for three to six months. Somkiat said the SSO was looking for a resolution to solve this problem.

He said this regulation was established in 1991 to prevent some members from exploiting the fund, and that it would be changed soon.

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-- The Nation 2011-02-02

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Senators want govt to respond to concerns

By NERISA NERYKHIEW,

KORNCHANOK RAKSASERI

THE NATION

Senators are planning to scrutinise the government over its handling of conflicts with groups such as the yellow shirts, about the Cambodian border, and justice issues raised by the red shirts.

Uthai Thani senator Singchai Thungthong said yesterday he was getting signatures from colleagues so that they can propose a motion to debate the government's performance in a parliamentary meeting.

Fifty senators - one third of the total (150) - are required to open such a debate. Senators can pose questions in "general debate" for the government to clarify. But there is no voting as in censure debates.

As of yesterday, Singchai said he had 25 signatures.

"I want to urge the government to think creatively how to solve its problems. It should not ignore when yellow shirts protest about Thai-Cambodian border disputes," he said.

"And the red shirts' protest about injustice - that they feel especially when their leaders are still in jail but (Thai Patriots Network's leader) Chaiwat Sinsuwong has already got bail.

"Whether the accusations are true or not is another issue, but the government should make people understand and have confidence that the government has a good plan for the country," the senator said.

"The government must not think it is Democrat Party. It must think as the government for the whole country. It has just rebutted political attacks by its rival. But it should have thought of strategies to really solve the problems."

Singchai said the ruling party must not be worried about its popularity or the conflicting interests of coalition parties.

He said it was difficult to prove or agree clear-cut about the sovereignty of disputed areas on the border. But the government should think of how Thailand and Cambodia could join hands to make the most of the areas.

Appointed Senator Ruangkrai Leekitwattana said he supported the motion to exercise their right to examine the government's work. However, he thought Singchai's motion should be more specific.

"I once proposed a motion asking the government to clarify its legitimacy in getting to power on December 15, 2008. I still want the answer," he said.

Appointed Senator Ninlawan Petcharaburanin said she did not know about the move - but she would back it, as she also wanted to hear about the government's plans. However, she feared there may not be time for the debate before the term for appointed senators ends on February 18.

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-- The Nation 2011-02-02

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Mingkwan chosen to lead censure debate for Pheu Thai

By THE NATION

Pheu Thai MP Mingkwan Saengsuwan has won the trust of the main opposition party to lead the censure debate and become the designated replacement prime minister.

Pheu Thai Party rallied yesterday behind Mingkwan and to give him a full mandate to draft the motion of no-confidence and single out targets for grilling. Ranking MPs and executives turned out in full force. Also at yesterday's meeting were party leader Yongyuth Wichaidit and MP Chalerm Yoobamrung.

Mingkwan said, in response, he would start his work right away by meeting today with fellow members to map out a strategy. He would invite Chalerm to join the team grilling the government.

Chalerm, in turn, said he would not make a public statement about his role to avoid any misunderstanding. He used to lead past grillings, and many felt he was snubbed.

Chief opposition whip Withaya Buranasiri said Mingkwan was picked for the job because he was a capable leader seen by many as a potential replacement for Premier Abhisit Vejjajiva.

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-- The Nation 2011-02-02

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Free park stay for couples who register on Day of Love

By The Nation

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Sweethearts who register their marriage at four "romantic" national parks on St Valentine's Day will receive a free stay at a park of their choice.

The marriage-registration service will be specially made available on the Day of Love at Doi Inthanon National Park in Chiang Mai, Chao Mai Beach National Park in Trang, Kaeng Krung National Park in Surat Thani, and Kaeng Krachan National Park in Phetchaburi.

"They can exercise their right [for a free stay] at any of the 50 national parks until September 30," Sunan Arunnopparat, the head of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, said.

He said his department would give the same prize to 84 couples who declared their marriage on official paper on February 14 under a project conducted in collaboration with Nonthaburi provincial government.

"During the free stay, the couples will be treated like VIP guests. Chiefs of the national parks will be tour guides for them and they will learn about eco-tourism," Sunan said.

He described the treat as a honeymoon in the embrace of nature.

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-- The Nation 2011-02-02

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68 Thai nationals stranded in Egypt arrive Thailand safely via Amman, Jordan after spending three difficult days at Cairo airport /MCOT

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More than 10,000 US flights are canceled and several airports closed as monster storm dumped freezing rain, sleet and snow on huge swathe of the country /MCOT

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BoT pledges to add gold and donations of revered monk to international reserves

BANGKOK, Feb 2 – Bank of Thailand (BoT) Deputy Governor Suchada Kirakul on Tuesday pledged that the central bank would place the gold and currency received in donations of Luangta Maha Bua Yanasampanno as part of the country’s international reserves as asked by the late revered monk Luangta Maha Bua.

Ms Suchada said the central bank had not yet been officially informed of the late monk’s intentions stated in his will to assign the cash monies gained from donations, as well as gold bars, and let the bank keep them as part of Thailand’s international reserve.

Two committees will be officially set up on delivery of the assets. One would be tasked to oversee the transfer of gold, and the other to examine the weight and purity of the gold. Some committee members will be disciples and followers of the monk.

The Audit General Office will observe as it had done with delivery of gold from Luangta Maha Bua in the past.

Ms Suchada affirmed the BoT would keep the gold bars and donations in the BoT strong room and put them as part of the country’s international reserve as intended by the donor. They would be booked into the special reserve account.

“Please rest assured that the money and gold donated by Luangta Maha Bua will be used as intended by the revere monk. Should there be a need to combine the special reserve account with the regular reserve one in the future, the account of money donated by the monk will be separated,” she said.

Since July 6, 1998, Luangta Maha Bua had donated gold and cash funds to the BoT on 15 occasions, with an accumulated total of 967 gold bars weighing 12,079.8 kilograms.

Luangta Maha Bua launched his fund-raising campaign to gather dollars to give the funds to the BoT for Thailand's national reserves in April 1998 as the country was in the midst of the so-called Tom Yum Kung financial crisis in 1997-1998.

He died of lung infection and an intestinal obstruction early Sunday at the age of 98 at Wat Pa Ban Tad in the northeastern province of Udon Thani. (MCOT online news)

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-- TNA 2011-02-02

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Stranded Thais return

The 87 Thais, who were earlier stranded in Cairo following an unrest, returned to the Suvarnabhumi International Airport early Wednesday morning.

The chartered Flight TG 8851 of Thai Airways International arrived at the airport at 3:50 am.

The Thais were evacuated to Amman, Jordan, where they boarded the chartered flight back to Bangkok.

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-- The Nation 2011-02-02

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Australia's Cyclone Yasi scores first hit

Sydney - The mammoth cyclone barreling towards Australia's northeast coast Wednesday lived up to its category-five billing by knocking out the equipment that meteorologist are using to predict its path and strength.

Officials said that when contact was lost with the Bureau of Meteorology's radar station on Willis Island, 450 kilometres east of Cairns in far-north Queensland, the wind speed recorded was 185 kilometres per hour.

Cyclone Yasi is expected to pack wind gusts of over 280 kilometers per hour when it hits land late Wednesday.

The four staff of the Willis Island station were evacuated on Tuesday

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-- The Nation 2011-02-02

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