Laos – Xaysana’s Associate, Drug Kingpin Sisouk Daoheuang Captured

Since the capture of notorious kingpin Xaysana “Vanlob” Keophimpha earlier this year, authorities have been on a manhunt for all of Xaysana’s known associates, including drug kingpin, Sisouk Daoheuang.

A senior official confirmed that the arrest of Sisouk was made by Lao authorities in Luang Prabang on Friday, and the suspect was transported to Vientiane Capital for questioning. However, the official maintains that details of the case still remain unclear and  the investigation is still ongoing.

Though captured in Luang Prabang province, Sisouk is said to have owned and operated a used luxury car shop and a horse-riding business in Vientiane, both of which have since been closed.

Thai police major general Pornchai Charoenwongse, deputy chief of the Narcotic Suppression Bureau, has stated that Thai officials are preparing to travel to Vientiane to investigate the alleged felon and that the NSB officers are set to join the Narcotics Control Board in the interrogation expected to take place next week.

Sisouk, who fled authorities after the arrest of Xaysana, is suspected to be part of a major methamphetamines distribution network in Southeast Asia, operated by the 42-year-old Lao national.

As previously reported by The Laotian Times, Xaysana was arrested on Jan. 19 at Thailand’s Suvarnabhumi Airport following a five-year investigation by Lao and Thai authorities.

Authorities assert that the drug baron was distributing caffeine-laced meth tablets known as “yaba” throughout the region.

On Jan 10, police captured a major drug trafficker said to be even bigger than Xaysana, 50-year-old Khonpasong Soukkaseum, also known as Xiengther, along with three of his associates.

Source – Laotian Times

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Cambodia – New mobile app blazes trail into cashless payments

Cambodian software development firm Pathmazing officially launched its Tesjor mobile application for meal ordering yesterday, aiming to kickstart digital payments in the country by only offering cashless transaction options.

The application allows users to order food from 85 restaurant outlets in Phnom Penh for dine-in, pick up or delivery. The platform is backed by several digital payments options, including partnerships with Wing, Pay&Go, Acleda Bank, as well as integration with ABA Bank’s newly developed PayWay payment gateway that enables payments for Visa and MasterCard holders.

Steven Path, CEO of Pathmazing, said during the launch ceremony that the primary purpose of the app was to place Cambodia on a trajectory towards a more digital economy and widespread e-commerce activity.

He added that Tesjor was currently the only platform in the country that relies entirely on digital payments.

“Today, we believe that e-commerce is at the launching pad, and we are going to experience explosive growth, especially in the next couple of years,” he said. “What we believe, in order to accelerate e-commerce, is that we need to require e-payments.”

Tesjor aims to instil trust in online payments to help steer customers away from their reliance on cash and spur the growth of digital payments and e-commerce, Path explained.

United States Ambassador William Heidt emphasised during a speech for the event that Tesjor was developed by Cambodians and represented a source of pride for the burgeoning tech sector in the Kingdom.

“The launch of Tesjor is great news for Cambodia’s tech sector as well as concrete proof for one very important thing, and that is that the ingredients for successful tech ventures are now in place in Cambodia,” he said. “This is an app that I am pretty sure is going to revolutionise the dine-in and carry-out business in Cambodia, and eventually the tourism business too.”

Tesjor, which translates to “tourism” in Khmer, also intends to position itself as a platform for tourists visiting Cambodia through which they could pay for nearly all their expenses directly on the app. Minister of Tourism Thong Khun has endorsed the application for its potential benefits to the country’s tourism sector.

Rolls-Royce brings its malefic Black Badge to the Bangkok International Motor Show

Rolls-Royce brings its malefic Black Badge to the Bangkok International Motor Show.

Billed as the alter-ego of the world’s leading super luxury brand, the Rolls-Royce Black Badge makes its Southeast Asian debut this week, with the Wraith model showing its star quality to visitors at the 38th Bangkok International Motor Show.

According to Rolls Royce, Black Badge speaks to a younger, more assertive customer, the people they call the “rule breakers” and the “disrupters”, those that work hard in the day and commit the same intensity to play once darkness falls.

“Southeast Asia is now a global hub for highly successful young entrepreneurs, who have broken away from tradition to make their own mark in the world. Rolls-Royce Black Badge is presenting a darker and bolder proposition to suit this new attitude,” says Paul Harris, regional director for Rolls-Royce Motor Cars in the Asia Pacific region.

“These clients are assertive, demanding and unafraid to take charge. Black Badge is the perfect bespoke answer to this distinctive, decisive and dynamic breed of owner-drivers without compromising the sublime Rolls-Royce driving experience.”

Starting from Bt35 million depending on the bespoke specification, the metamorphosis of the Rolls-Royce Wraith into its Black Badge alter-ego starts with the intensity of the black. Multiple layers of paint and lacquer are repeatedly hand-polished in the most exacting process ever developed for a solid colour. The result is a black that’s darker than night, sinister but sensuous and above all smart.

The Wraith Black Badge also includes a sophisticated centrepiece – aerospace-grade aluminium-threaded carbon fibre composite surfacing. Threads of aluminium just 0.014mm thick are woven together and bonded with carbon fibre through a painstaking process, resulting in one of the world’s most innovative and super-luxury materials.

Black Badge holds the ground with exclusive composite carbon fibre and lightweight alloy wheels, developed over four years, featuring 22 layers of carbon fibre laid in three axes and folded back on themselves to create 44 layers of strength. Further strength is added via a 3D forged, aircraft-grade aluminium hub, which is bonded to the rim using titanium fasteners.

And while the intense black will appeal to many, customers can specify whatever colour they want for the exterior and interior of their Rolls-Royce Black Badge.

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Cambodia bans breast milk exports after international media coverage

Cambodia has permanently banned the sale and export of human breast milk a week after suspending exports by an American company that was harvesting it from impoverished mothers.

In a letter to the Ministry of Health yesterday, Cambodia’s governing Council of Ministers officially banned the sale and export of pumped human breast milk, putting an end to a controversial industry that has grabbed attention locally and worldwide.

Cambodian women began selling their breast milk to the Utah-based Ambrosia Labs over a year ago. They would generally earn between $7 and $10 per day for the sale of their milk, a sum that allowed many to support their families. But welfare officials argue the practice is exploitative and could impact the nutrition of the women’s children.

“Even if Cambodia is poor, it is still not alright for people to sell breast milk,” read the Council of Minister’s letter, which was signed by Secretary of State Ngor Nongly.

The Ministry of Health immediately responded by releasing a statement on its Facebook page asking Ambrosia Labs, which is currently the only company known to export Cambodian women’s breast milk, to terminate its activities immediately.

The government suspended Ambrosia’s trade a week ago after news of it gained traction in local and international media. The trade was first exposed by The Post in 2015, and drew wider attention after a recent article on the women’s website Broadly, part of Vice.com.

The sale of breast milk is a global trend, with mothers selling their excess lactation online via sites like Only the Breast to mothers who need it for their newborns, as well as to bodybuilders seeking “liquid gold”, cancer patients and breast milk-fetishists who get a sexual charge from consuming mother’s milk. Ambrosia insists its milk is sold to mothers who cannot supply enough milk on their own.

Company spokesmen could not immediately be reached to comment on the permanent ban.

At its annual meeting on Tuesday, the Cambodian Ministry of Women’s Affairs named the sale of breast milk and participation in commercial surrogacy as two of the newest issues impacting Cambodian women today. She noted that a law regulating the commercial surrogacy industry, in which a woman rents her womb to carry the child of strangers, should be completed in the near future.

“At first the sale of breast milk seemed to be happening on a very small scale, but now it seems this company was selling a lot of breast milk,” said Minister of Women’s Affairs Ing Kantha Phavi.

Phavi argued that the sale of breast milk could stunt children’s growth and development by thwarting the government’s efforts to promote breastfeeding among new mothers.

“The government had a program to push women to breastfeed their babies instead of using powdered formula,” she said. “But now women are selling their breast milk and continuing to feed their babies with formula.”

Ambrosia, however, has maintained that its work helps Cambodian mothers and children by encouraging women to breastfeed longer while providing them with a steady income. It said it allowed donors to pump no more than twice a day to ensure they had enough to feed their own children.

In a statement after the suspension it said: “We believe in empowering the mothers of Cambodia with a way to make money while nurturing their families, as well as others, through the donation of their excess milk.”

Ros Sopheap, executive director of the NGO Gender and Development for Cambodia, welcomed the government’s decision on Tuesday, saying that rather than empowering mothers, the breast milk industry was fuelling social inequality in Cambodia.

“The company has said that it is providing economic opportunities, but I don’t agree. They are not really helping the women, they are treating them as a tool to benefit themselves,” Sopheap said. “This is really against women’s rights and human rights. Even if the women agree to sell their breast milk, they are targeting poor and under-educated women.”

But some Cambodian mothers selling their breast milk have lamented the loss of the industry, saying it provided important supplemental income.

Chek Srey Toy, a 19 year-old mother of a one-year-old girl, said the $10 she made selling her breast milk every day allowed her to support her daughter.

“I would give some of my breast milk to my daughter and the rest to the company to sell,” she said. “I am very sorry that they closed. I am very poor, and I don’t know what to do.”

Bangkok International Motor Show kicks off today

Automakers hopeful of boost as motor show kicks off today

THE 38TH RUNNING of the annual Bangkok International Motor Show (BIMS) kicks off today at Impact Muang Thong Thani with automakers crossing their fingers for the market to continue growing after finishing last year with a slight shrinkage.

Altogether 768,788 vehicles were sold in the domestic market last year for a drop of 3.9 per cent, but auto companies are optimistic that the market has bottomed out and sales would reach 800,000-810,000 units this year.

The BIMS is considered a sales extravaganza, with companies launching fleets of new and improved models while dangling irresistible promotions.

More than 30 auto and 12 motorcycle brands are showcasing their products at the event, which goes to April 9.

“The BIMS is an auto exhibition event that brings together the highest level of automotive technology and one that helps drive the economy,” said Prachin Eamlumnow, chairman of the organizing committee. 

“Throughout the event, starting from construction to the last day, no less than Bt40 billion is expected to be spent.”

The show serves as a platform for displaying the latest automotive trends. It also helps stimulate the car market, allowing consumers to compare makes and models by visiting just a single venue.

Several companies are also showing off futuristic concept vehicles.

Toyota is displaying its FCV Plus, while Mitsubishi is putting the spotlight on the MiEV Evolution III. Nissan is unveiling its SOFC (solid oxide fuel cell) vehicle, featuring the world’s first bio-ethanol electric power system.

Prachin expects increased competition in the passenger-car market this year.

“Since the start of the year, there has been a good number of new passenger car launches for small and medium-sized models, which were postponed from last year because of the passing away of King Bhumibhol. The premium market is also seeing a lot of action due to the increasing number of players,” he said.

The premium segment is welcoming a new player, as Meister Technik Co has been appointed as the new official Audi importer and is offering a large combination of models to compete against leaders Mercedes-Benz and BMW.

Many consumers are ready to replace vehicles purchased through the last elected government’s first-car-buyer scheme, with the five-year ownership requirement ending last October for the first batch of buyers.

“We believe that this group of buyers will start looking for a new vehicle, but we can’t pinpoint what type of vehicle they will be interested in. They could upgrade to a larger model or still go for a small car,” Prachin said. 

Eased financing measures during the past two years have helped more people purchase vehicles, he added.

 Source – TheNation

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Indonesia – Transjakarta increases 2017 target to 185 million passengers

Public transportation provider PT Transportasi Jakarta (Transjakarta) hopes to attract some 185 million passengers this year, or 62 million more than last year’s target, an executive has said.

The company is optimistic that the new target can be reached because in February alone, the number of passengers had increased by 34.4 percent compared to the same month last year, said Transjakarta president director Budi Kaliwono.

“As of February this year, we have served 22.4 million passengers compared to 16.7 million in February 2016,” Budi said as quoted by tempo.co during the celebration of PT Transjakarta’s third anniversary at the Harmoni bus stop in Central Jakarta on Monday.

Budi also promised to keep improving Transjakarta’s services. Passengers can report inconveniences they experience while taking the bus.

“For example, if the air conditioning is not cool enough, passengers only have to report it to get the bus upgraded,” he said.

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SINGAPORE ranks 1th in travel freedom among Southeast Asian countries

Henley & Partners, a firm that studies citizenship and residency visa issues, has announced that Singapore ranks first in travel freedom among countries in Southeast Asia.

The data was announced in the firm’s 2017 visa restriction index, which was created in cooperation with the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

The index measures the number of countries a particular country’s citizens can visit on a free-visa policy.

Currently, the Indonesian passport enables its holders to travel to 57 countries on a .

The rank shows that Indonesia’s travel freedom is lower than that of Timor Leste, which sits in fourth place with access to 83 countries on a free-visa policy.

(Read also: What your passport color really means)

Singapore tops the index with access to 173 countries on a free-visa policy, followed by Malaysia with access to 164 countries.

In addition, Henley & Partners stated that more and more individuals are living and doing business on an international scale.

“Residency visas and dual citizenship are becoming increasingly attractive options,” the firm said in an official statement as quoted by tempo.co.

According to the firm, additional passports could be the solution to unlocking travel potential for citizens from countries with fewer visa waiver agreements.

“This second passport gives a business person access to the global market, which in turn creates opportunities for growth,” the firm said.

Top 10 ranking

Singapore – 173
Malaysia – 164
Brunei – 151
Timor – 83
Thailand – 71
Philippines – 61
Indonesia – 57
Cambodia – 48
Laos – 48
Vietnam – 45
Myanmar – 41

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Supercar caravan marks Ferrari’s 70th anniversary

FERRARI importer Cavallino Motors is staging a caravan of 70 Ferraris from Bangkok to Ayutthaya Historical Park on March 25 today to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Italian sports-car brand.

Making its appearance in Thailand is the LaFerrari Aperta, a hybrid supercar. Only 209 cars will be built and one is available for Thailand.

Cavallino Motors enjoyed 60-per-cent sales growth during the past two years, which it attributes to improved after-sales facilities, and plans to open more centres in the future, said Voravud Bhirombhakdi, the company’s vice president.

“Establishing more integrated service centres is the goal,” he said.

 It is also offering restoration services for cars older than 20 years, offering certificates from the Ferrari factory in Italy, which helps boost resale value.

In terms of unit sales, managing director Nondhamalee Bhirombhakdi said, the company’s growth each year is driven by the popularity of models among the Ferrari fan club in Thailand. This depends on the price – a higher-priced model tends to lead to a more niche client base |but revenue per unit will be higher. 

The company offers a wide range of models, including vehicles for everyday life such as eight-cylinder models – California T, 488 GTB and Spider – as well as 12-cylinder models such as GTC4 Lusso and the newest 812 Superfast, she said. 

The company can also arrange financing deals to meet customers’ budgets, in line with the goal to increase trade-ins of second-hand Ferraris for new models. 

As many as 60 per cent of sales come from new customers introduced by existing customers, Nondhamalee said.

Source – TheNation

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Netherlands, Vietnam sign 49 food security contracts.

Hanoi – Forty-nine contracts were signed during the two-day regional conference on food security in Hanoi, which ended Thursday, the Netherlands’ deputy minister of agriculture said.

The Netherlands has three major contracts, which includes a commitment to an investment package worth 150,000 EUR (US$ 162,000) to develop a seafood index and governance, thereby supporting seafood companies in Asia towards achieving sustainability in aquaculture, Sonnema said.

The European nation will also help Vienam implement a project aimed at cutting down post-harvest losses. Both countries will also sign a protocol on enhancing co-operation in food security, she said.

Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Nguyễn Xuân Cường said the conference focused on steps to promote co-operation between countries to overcome challenges, on creating a sustainable agricultural sector, and on contributing to ensure food security and safety amidst climate change.

At a press conference in the Capital on Thursday, Sonnema said her country, with its experience, expertise, technology and capacity, can help Vietnam build a sustainable agricultural sector.

She spoke about the common grounds the two countries have to enhance co-operation in agricultural development – both sides export agricultural products and both face challenges caused by climate change, especially in water management for agricultural production.

During the Dutch minister’s four-day visit to Vietnam, from March 20 to 23, many events were arranged to boost partnership between Vietnamese and Dutch enterprises, laying the foundation for strengthening economic and trade links between the two countries in the future.

Source – VNS

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Divers clean up Bali reefs

Forty-four divers cleaned up the underwater area around Nusa Dua and Tanjung Benoa, two of the most popular destinations for snorkeling and watersports in Bali.

The divers from the Nusa Dua Reef Foundation (NDRF), divers associations and watersports operators collected 25 sacks of plastic and other non-organic trash from the area, which is rich in species of coral and fish.

“Non-organic trash is a serious problem that has threatened the health and beauty of the marine ecosystem in Nusa Dua and Tanjung Benoa. They are popular destinations for marine tourism, which heavily relies on the beauty of the coral reefs,” said Pariama Hutasoit of the NDRF on Friday.

Every year, she said, 8 tons of plastic trash ended up in the sea in the area, threatening marine life, harming seabirds, sea mammals and killing fish and coral reefs. The trash was often carried away by currents, polluting beaches and disrupting tourist activities along the coastline.

During the World Ocean Summit in Bali last month, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) declared war on plastic trash in the ocean through its worldwide campaign of #CleanSeas.  The Indonesian government has also made a commitment to reduce plastic trash by 70 percent by 2025.

Since 2014, the NDRF has teamed up with Conrad Bali to clean up underwater areas.

“This time, we are focusing the underwater clean-up on areas around Nusa Dua and Tanjung Benoa. We aim to clear non-organic trash and raise public awareness on the importance of coral reefs and to support the #CleanSeas campaign,” Pariama said.

Source – TheJakartaPost