What's new in business news: June 2, 2014

Hijacked Thai tanker has cargo stolen, call for relaxed curfew for Koh Phangan full-moon party & future of govt rice subsidies debated by farmers & academics.

A full moon party-goer waits on Koh Samui to board a high-speed boat to Koh Phangan on Sept 2, 2013. (Photo by Boonsong Kositchotethana)

TRANSPORTATION 

Hijacked Thai tanker has cargo stolen 

A Thai diesel oil tanker, MT Orapin 4, with 14 crew aboard, arrived at Chon Buri’s Sri Racha on Sunday night after being hijacked on its way from Singapore to Indonesia. The pirates boarded the tanker and destroyed all communications equipment and stole the cargo and other valuables. The tanker was left with sufficient fuel to return to port. All crew are safe.

In an earlier incident in late April, pirates raided a Thai tanker off the coast of Malaysia taking 3 million liters of fuel.  

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TOURISM 

Tourist operators request relaxed curfew for full-moon party on Koh Phangan

SURAT THANI – Tourism operators are asking the army to relax the curfew for the next full moon party on June 12.  The Tourism Promotion Association on Koh Phangan has sent a letter to the army asking them to allow the party to be held all night. The party date had been set in advance and the curfew could spoil the fun for tourists who planned to visit the island Koh Phangan for the party.

The entire country is under a curfew from midnight to 4am. The full-moon party is held on Haad Rin beach until dawn. It draws tourists directly from other countries and neighbouring Koh Samui. Foreigners hanging out at night on the island have complained about the curfew which is forcing them to return to their hotels early. The local tourism association is confident that the curfew will be eased as operators try to revive the tourism industry.

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AGRICULTURE 

Future of govt rice subsidies debated by farmers and academics 

Farming industry leaders have called on the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) to issue a policy guaranteeing rice sales at 10,000 baht per tonne for the next crop, amid fears the price of the grain is falling. The former government's rice pledging scheme guaranteed a rice price of 15,000 baht per tonne in 2011. The current market price is about 5,000-6,000 baht per tonne and each farmer has invested at least 5,000 baht per rai so farmers may suffer big losses from selling their rice at market prices. 

A farmer's association suggested the intervention be carried out for the next two crops, until the market price of rice returns to normal. They argued the situation would improve if rice stockpiles were sold off because the former government tried to sell a huge amount of rice stock, which forced the market price of the grain to drop. According to Ministry of Finance inspectors, the rice-pledging project is projected to have cost the country 500 billion baht, while millions of tonnes of rice have disappeared from stocks.

Academics and rice experts hold that previous experience has proved that market intervention by offering higher-than-market price has incurred massive losses and destroyed the overall market. A limit on subsidies should be imposed on each household, while poor and needy farmers should be clearly defined and identified, they argue. Currently, a study and survey on poor farmers nationwide for the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives(BAAC) is being carried out. The preliminary study found about 10% of the population or about 670,000 could be classified as “poor”, with family members earning less than 1,200 baht per month per person. Direct subsidies should be given to poor farmers both in the form of production cost compensation and paying the difference between target and market prices instead of buying up the yields, they argue. For general farmers, the subsidy should be offered when farm produce prices are low, while the subsidy should be capped, for instance, at not more than 10 tonnes per family for rice and the prices should be based on averaged prices over the last few years, they argue.

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Writer: Jon Fernquest
Position: Online Writer