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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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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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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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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Thais go Travel alone

According to research conducted by Booking.com, three in five Thais (62 percent) are planning to travel solo for the first time this year.

According to research conducted by Booking.com, three in five Thais (62 percent) are planning to travel solo for the first time this year.

Whilst travelling for the first time can be a scary prospect, three in four (79 per cent) feel it is worth it to be able to see a new place, and more than half (55 per cent) believe any nerves felt when they travelled somewhere for the first time have usually been unwarranted.

The research reveals that 11 per cent had their first travel experience somewhere outside Thailand and that most are planning to head to far-flung destinations. Among the top international destinations for Thai travelers are Siem Reap in Cambodia, Seoul and Jeju of South Korea, Kyoto, Tokyo and Osaka in Japan, Beijing in China, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia.

From cobalt blue seas, adventurous roof-down road trips and delicious cuisine – social media feeds are full of the filtered fantasy of the travel dreams. So it’s no wonder that the research reveals how social media is playing a hugely important role in deciding where to go for a first-time travel experience, especially with 18 to 34 year olds. In fact, about half (49 per cent) of millennials said that they use social media posts to help them remember their first-time travel experiences.

The research reveals how first-time travel ignites the travel bug for Thais with three in five (60 percent) confirming their first-time travel experiences inspired them to try a new or different type of travel experience or accommodation the next time. In fact, almost half are planning to be more adventurous in their next travel plans with three in five (67 per cent) resolving to travel further away from home.

The types of first-time experiences people want to try this year is also broadening beyond the traditional beach holidays or city explorations, with road trips proving to a popular choice (44 per cent), followed by eco tours (39 per cent), spiritual adventures (23 per cent) and volunteering-based trips (21 per cent) selected by wanderlust travelers in their travel plans.

Source – TheNation

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Thailand – Wine from the Monsoon Valley

Monsoon Valley Vineyard kicks off 2017 with the Vineyard Harvest Festival 2017” in Hua Hin.

Formerly known as Hua Hin Hills, the name of the vineyard was changed to Monsoon Valley to honour its award-winning, globally renowned wine. The festival, now in its eighth year, runs through the end of March. 

Apart from daily grape picking, the festival also offers specially curated daily activities like “From Vines to Glass”, where patrons are taken on a vineyard tour on a jeep. Guests can also participate in grape-stomping or “pigeage” and wine tasting right in the vineyard, priced from Bt550 to Bt900 per person. 

Every Friday throughout the festival period, wine enthusiasts will get to enjoy “The Grapevine Experience” where wine experts from the vineyard take turns to educate and share their insights. The fun-filled day caps off with barbecue dinner, paired with two glasses of Monsoon Valley wines. The “Experience” runs from 3 to 6 and is limited to 20 participants per day. It costs Bt650 per person.

Source – TheNation

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Interpol: $5.1 million of illegal wildlife and timber seized

Interpol says a three-week operation to tackle the illegal trade in wildlife and timber in 43 countries has led to the seizure of $5.1 million worth of illicit products from wild cats to seahorses and the jailing of almost 90 people.

The operation, codenamed Thunderbird, was carried out jointly by police, customs and border agencies, along with environment, wildlife and forestry officials ahead of World Wildlife Day on Friday.

Its results put a spotlight on the increase in wildlife trafficking and the billions of dollars it generates annually in illegal profits.

“Simply put,” said Interpol Secretary-General Jurgen Stock, “criminals are helping themselves to the environment’s precious resources without a care for the cost to our planet.”

He said in a statement that the success of the operation demonstrates what can be achieved by international cooperation.

The operation from Jan. 30 to Feb. 19 has already resulted in 370 investigations which have led to 89 people being jailed for terms ranging from several days to seven years, Interpol said.

According to Interpol, the seizures included 60 tons of wood and timber, 4,770 birds, 1,240 reptiles, 100 wild cats, 2.75 tons of pangolin scales, 2.5 tons of raw and processed ivory, 25 tons of various animal parts and 37,130 other products including medicines, ornaments and carvings.

US authorities seized 180 dead seahorses concealed in snack boxes, Interpol said, while officers in Hong Kong seized 1.3 tons of red sandalwood hidden in a container shipped from Malaysia.

World Wildlife Day, which was established in 2013, commemorates the adoption of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora known as CITES on March 3, 1973.

“Given the current rate of poaching and smuggling, will future generations one day speak of elephants, rhinoceros and many other endangered species as we speak of mammoths.?” CITES Secretary General John Scanlon asked at a UN event Friday marking the day . “We must not and will not allow this to happen.” (**)

Source: TheJakartaPost

Facebook helps mother locate son after 33 years of parting

A 54-year-old mother has located her 33-year-old son by simply typing his name on Facebook search, allowing her to meet him in person Wednesday night.

Wiphawadi Thisorn from Udon Thani broke down into tears when she saw her son, Parinya Thisorn, get out of a bus from Chiang Rai at the Hat Yai bus terminal. The son knelt down in front of her and the two hugged and shed the tears of joy at 9 pm Wednesday.

Wiphawadi recounted that the poverty was the main reason that prompted her to separate from Parinya’s father, whose family stays in Chiang Rai’s Wieng Pa Pao district.

She said she could visit her son sometimes shortly after the divorce but she later had to move around from Bangkok to Phuket to seek job so she eventually lost contact with her son.

 Now, she is frequently traveling between Singapore and Hat Yai and she has a house in Hat Yai because she has a food shop in Singapore. Now that she has a more comfortable life she wants to take her son to live with her.

Wiphawadi said when she remembered her son recently, she searched his name on Facebook and it popped up. So, they arranged the meeting in Hat Yai.

Wiphawadi said she felt it was wrong for her to abandon her son.

Parinya said he was very happy to meet his mother because he thought she has died. He said he has never been angry at her for abandoning him. “Now, we will never part,” he said.

Source: TheNation

Sky is the limit for ticket booking application of Penguin airline

PENGUIN, Thailand’s first travel-tech mobile application, is expected to generate online air-ticket transactions valued at Bt500 million annually in the next couple of years, making it the No-1 travel app in a fast-growing market.

Kittikorn Kunnalekha, chief executive officer of Asia One Click, said the company had developed Penguin as an air-travel booking app to support the high growth potential for online airline ticketing. 

 The mobile app sets out a range of special prices and promotions, from which users can choose the best option and reserve and pay for the ticket via their smart phone.

 “We are providing a travel-tech application to support the new era of online travel. Our system is able to connect with more than 500 airlines with promotions and special prices for customers. The software was launched at the end of last year and Penguin now has around 20,000 active download users, which is expected to rise to 300,000 active users by the end of this year,” he explained.

Asia One Click expects that within the next couple of years, Penguin users will be generating ticket purchases worth around Bt500 million annually, making it the app the Thai market leader for mobile reservations, the CEO added.

 The company’s income from the app comes from an air-ticket booking commission paid by users, and payments made by participating airlines. 

 Google reported recently that the online air-ticketing market in Thailand was valued at US$2.4 billion (Bt84 billion) in 2015, a level that is expected to reach $12 billion in the next 10 years, with annual growth of around 18 per cent. 

Source: TheNation

CNN names Isaan as one of best places worldwide to visit this year

THAILAND’S northeastern region of Isaan was recently named by CNN as one of the top 17 places in the world to visit this year.

Yuthasak Supasorn, governor of the TAT, (TAT) said: “Isaan has a long history with some of Southeast Asia’s oldest settlements found here. In modern times, the region is famous for its fiery salads, country music, stunning scenery and elaborate temples. 

“There is so much to be enjoyed here and most of it is unseen by tourists, so we encourage people to explore and discover their own amazing Isaan stories.”

The flowers of the Red Lotus Sea in Khumphawaphi district of Udon Thani are usually in full bloom from New Year until around February. Tourists can hire a boat to see the red lotuses up close and enjoy the natural scenery of the freshwater lake and waters, which are home to a variety of fish, birds, wildlife and aquatic plants.

 The list was put together by CNN travel experts and international reporters who named their favourite destinations around the world for a feature on the news organisation’s website. Other destinations on the CNN list included Penang in Malaysia, Columbia, Bordeaux in France, Bhutan, Albania and Senegal.

Isaan was cited as “a piece of Thailand that’s still largely unexplored by the international market”. CNN also noted Isaan’s “excellent infrastructure” including domestic airports and hotels.

CNN also wrote about Isaan’s most famous food exports, sticky rice and papaya salad, as dishes that are among Thailand’s best – provided diners can handle the spices.

Aside from Isaan, Bangkok was named the “Best City” in Asia by readers of DestinAsian, a travel and lifestyle magazine in the Asia-Pacific region with a print run of 33,414 copies and a readership of 100, 242 per edition.

This is the 12th annual DestinAsian Reader’s Choice Awards and Bangkok took the top spot in the city category with Singapore and Hong Kong taking the second and third place on the list. Another popular Thai city, Chiang Mai, was also popular with DestinAsian readers, taking ninth place in the poll.

This poll shows how Bangkok is fast becoming a popular short-haul trip for travellers and tourists across the region. The city offers a range of shopping and entertainment as well as historic sites, temples and attractions that can be easily enjoyed by visitors coming for a few days visit.

Source: TheNation