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Thailand Live Wednesday 16 Mar 2011

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Politicians found smuggling oil

By The Nation

The Public Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC), focusing on civil servants for smuggling oil in the South, has made an usual discovery - Songkhla politicians had dug waterways to hide oil boats in their backyards, the PACC secretary-general said yesterday.

Ampol Wongsiri said after he received complaints from Phatthalung residents and gas station owners about officials taking bribes to accommodate the oil smuggling, a PACC special team was sent to investigate. They visited Phatthalung as well as Songkhla, Trang and Satun.

They found oil being smuggled into Thailand in trucks modified to contain at least 400 litres and in large fishing boats for distribution at retail gas stations. Every day, up to 500 trucks transport illegal oil from Satun's Wang Prachan border, he said. There are 22 oil-storage locations and officials were seen taking bribes at each checkpoint.

He said oil smuggling, backed by local and national politicians, led to Bt10-billion in taxes lost per year. Diesel is normally priced at Bt30 per litre; but smuggled diesel is sold at Bt25 to Bt26 per litre. Ampol said the smuggled oil was also low in quality and could damage the engine after prolonged usage.

PACC has reported the oil findings to Justice Minister Pirapan Salirathavibhaga and Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, Ampol said.

"PACC found some local politicians behind the oil smuggling in Songkhla's Singha Nakhon district had even dug a waterway so that oil boats could be towed to their backyard," he said, adding that many legal gas stations were on verge of bankruptcy while the smugglers prospered.

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-- The Nation 2011-03-16

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POLITICS

Party alliance open to new members

By THE NATION

The alliance between the Chart Thai Pattana and Bhum Jai Thai parties is open to new members, though no other parties have approached them, a party adviser said yesterday.

The alliance's next move would hinge on the election outcome, Somsak Prissanananthakul of Chart Thai Pattana said. Commenting on the government's tentative plan to dissolve the House by early May, Somsak said his party's chief adviser, Banharn Silpa-archa, was sceptical.

He said Banharn wanted the government to complete its term, continuing to rule for eight more months.

"The political situation has yet to be normalised and the government should spend the remaining time bringing about normalcy," he said.

Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said he saw the alliance as normal politicking by two parties to gain more leverage.

He said the Democrats had worked with the two parties for more than two years, and had a full understanding of the alliance. He added that the ruling party would go ahead with campaign plans and was not worried about the rival Pheu Thai Party wooing the two parties to form the next government.

Bargaining for power-sharing is normal, he said, reminding parties concerned not to speculate before the election outcome. He confirmed the Democrat Party had parted ways with MP Somkiat Pongpaiboon, who had criticised fellow party members. He will not be nominated for re-election under the Democrat banner, Suthep said.

In a separate development, two Puea Pandin MPs - Kittisak Roongtanakiat and Satit Tapwongsirirut - indicated they might move to Bhum Jai Thai to seek re-election in Surin.

Puea Pandin spokesman Alongkot Maneekad said he was not surprised by their pending defection.

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-- The Nation 2011-03-16

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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW

Dalai Lama confident of living to 113 and seeing a free Tibet

By The Nation

Dharamshala, India

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In an exclusive interview with The Nation group editor Suthichai Yoon, His Holiness the Dalai Lama said he was confident that he would live until 113 years of age, visit Beijing, witness a free Tibet, choose the next Dalai Lama if he's still alive and pass on his political power to an elected leader.

After his morning sermon to Buddhists from Thailand, China, South Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia and Burma, the Dalai Lama granted an hour's interview to Suthichai yesterday in the reception chamber of his palace in Dharamashala, Himalchal Pradesh.

During the interview, Tibet's spiritual leader confirmed his plan to retire later this year and devolve political power to an elected leader. He expects a nod to his planned retirement and power devolution from his ministers at an upcoming parliamentary session. If the ministers disagree, the Dalai Lama will try to talk with them and convince them of the benefits of his plans. "Some formalities must change," he said.

The Dalai Lama also took the opportunity to take China to task for its past and present aggression and its hard-line stance towards Tibet.

"I've just told Tibetans gathering here this morning that they need to be more educated themselves and follow peaceful means to achieve Tibet's autonomy. My position is clear: autonomy. The international community supports us because we use peaceful means to call for our country's autonomy," he said.

"I laughed when I heard the Chinese government had called me a splittist. I take pity with the Chinese hard-liners. They are harmful to their future."

The trends in the world are "the rule of law, transparency, fairness, honesty and respect for human values". China is going counter to the trends, and needs to learn from India about democracy among people of different languages and ethnic backgrounds, he said.

"In India, because of the rule of law, there's harmony in society, which has different languages and scripts. Democracy in this country is very deeply rooted not because of the country's poor conditions, but because of transparency.

"In China, there are state secrets. People in China should learn from India's experience. Military occupation will not solve problems," he said.

He hopes to see a free Tibet while he's alive. Some 20 or 30 years from now, he will concentrate on his spiritual, not political, role, confident that he's fit enough to live through his 113 years.

"Forty years ago there, I was predicted to live to 113. One Tibetan writing dating back 100 years describes a person in today's world who will live through 113 years. That person is thought to be me because I share his qualities. In my dreams, I am 113 years old. I'm quite sure of my age. You can extend your life.

"I'll live long enough to see a free Tibet in my lifetime. If I'm still alive then, I'll choose the next Dalai Lama on my own. All my political power will be with an elected leader. I'll concentrate on my spiritual duty. We can meet for an interview in Beijing then. Then, you need to prepare some oxygen and go to Tibet," he said with a laugh.

The Dalai Lama then received a group of over 100 Thai pilgrims in his palace and delivered a speech that touched on various subjects from "a turmoil by red shirts" and the Japanese tsunami to the late Buddhadasa, his passion for science and psychology, and the pursuit of happiness and compassion.

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-- The Nation 2011-03-16

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Ethics panel wants Wongsak back

By Tha Nation

Interior Ministry inspector-general Wongsak Phongpanich should be reinstated as director-general of the Provincial Administration Department, despite permanent secretary Wichian Chawalit's argument that the post could not be taken away from the incumbent, the ministry's ethics panel said yesterday.

Panel spokeswoman Jaruayphorn Thorranin said it was the ministry's responsibility to seek Cabinet approval to retract the order naming Mongkhol Surasajja as director-general of the department, a more prestigious position than inspector-general.

She also dismissed Wichian's threat to petition the Central Administration Court to revoke the panel's ruling, citing regulations that only the aggrieved party could lodge such a complaint, while the ministry was merely a litigant.

"Wongsak instead is entitled to petition the court, or even file a criminal lawsuit against the ministry's leadership for malfeasance, if it fails to reappoint him to the director-general post," she said.

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-- The Nation 2011-03-16

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Wall St ends down

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 137.74 points, or 1.15 per cent, to close at 11.855.42 overnight

The S&P 500 fell 14.52 points, or 1.12 per cent, to close at 1,281.87. The Nasdaq composite fell 33.64 points, or 1.25 per cent, to close at 2,667.33,

London Brent crude fell over 4 per cent to below USD109 a barrel, while U.S. light sweet crude dropped more than 3 percent below USD98 a barrel, amid expectations that global demand for oil will slow following the quake / tsunami in Japan.

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-- The Nation 2011-03-16

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Meteorological Dept says Thailand will continue to see thunderstorms and strong winds today /TAN_Network

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Army chief confirms arrest of suspects in weapons theft in Prachuab Khiri Khan; army to send sniffer dog teams to Japan /TAN_Network

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Suthep Denies Personal Gains from Palm Oil Shortage

In the censure debate yesterday, Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban was accused of having benefitted from the recent palm oil shortage.

He vowed to retire from politics for life if he is found guilty.

Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban, also head of the National Palm Oil Policy Committee, talked about the palm oil shortage problem at the parliamentary censure debate, noting that he has been assigned by the prime minister to oversee palm oil, rubber, and shrimp production in the country, with the aim of increasing Thai producers' overall income, which is expected to benefit the economy as a whole.

Suthep said he is responsible for the current high palm oil prices after allocating a portion of the domestic crop for the production of bio-diesel.

However, Suthep admitted that there has been a miscalculation of the domestic supply due to last year's floods.

The deputy prime minister claimed that other palm-oil producing countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia are having the same problem, which has resulted in high global prices.

The deputy prime minister has challenged the Opposition to form a committee to investigate the palm oil shortage after accusing him of rigging the market for personal gains.

Suthep vowed that if he is found to have benefited from the shortage, he will retire from politics for life, to show his integrity.

He also denied that the prime minister had anything to do with the shortage.

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-- Tan Network 2011-03-16

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Thailand to Revise Energy Plans After Blasts at Nuclear Power Plant in Japan

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