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Web-only Exclusives
November 30, 2000

From Our Correspondent: Hirohito and the War
A conversation with biographer Herbert Bix

From Our Correspondent: A Rough Road Ahead
Bad news for the Philippines - and some others

From Our Correspondent: Making Enemies
Indonesia needs friends. So why is it picking fights?

Asiaweek Time Asia Now Asiaweek story

Week of July 23, 1999

BUSINESS BRIEF Thailand's central bank took control of Nakornthon Bank, ending three months of talks to sell the ailing institution to Standard Chartered. Nakornthon will be auctioned to a foreign bank within 60 days. Standard Chartered can still bid.


Week of July 16, 1999

BANGKOK By 2007 the Defense Ministry will reduce all armed forces by 72,000 people, about 17% of the current 423,000 in uniform. Army chief Gen. Surayudh Julanond says his service will cut troop strength from 230,000 to 190,000 in the next 10 years and retire thousands of inactive generals as part of the military's cost-cutting efforts.

BUSINESS BRIEF: Creditors sued 57 Thai companies that failed to meet a court-imposed deadline for signing debt-restructuring agreements. Some 173 other firms could face suits too.


Week of July 9, 1999

BANGKOK The economy recorded its first quarterly economic growth - 0.9% - since early 1997, when it effectively allowed the baht to float and set off Asia's economic crisis.


Week of July 2, 1999

REZA MOGHADAM, THE IMF REPRESENTATIVE in Bangkok, agrees: Thailand's target of 1% GDP growth this year is achievable. Around the time Moghadam made his pronouncement, PM Chuan Leekpai inaugurated the new Central Bankruptcy Court, formed to help clear the mountain of bad loans plaguing financial institutions.


Week of June 25, 1999

KANCHANABURI Police identified a body pulled from a river 128 km from Bangkok as that of an Israeli man in his 20s, but ruled out any link with the apparent serial murder of six Western tourists in the past 10 months. The body, found inside a bag, was punctured with multiple wounds.


Week of June 18, 1999

BANGKOK An Egyptian national, Ghanam Elsayed Mohamad, is the prime suspect in the murders of six foreign tourists in the last 10 months. The victims - two French nationals and one national each from Germany, Austria, Iran and the United Arab Emirates - were all single males who arrived at the Bangkok airport late at night and apparently used unlicensed taxis to get into the city.

A RECENT POLL OF THAI BUSINESSMEN placed the customs department, the police and the revenue department as first, second and third in a ranking of the most corrupt organizations in Thailand.


Week of May 28, 1999

ACCORDING TO A SURVEY OF 200 COMPANIES carried out by Capital Nomura Securities, in conjunction with The Nation, a majority of firms in Thailand believe the economy has bottomed out, though there is a marked reluctance to say recovery is underway. Most companies contacted feel the appropriate level for the baht is 40 to the U.S. dollar - 8%-10% lower than where it is now.


Week of May 21, 1999

BANGKOK Auto industry exports surged 84.2% in the first quarter of this year, with revenues climbing some 44.9% to $207.1 million.

WTO LEADERSHIP European ministers meeting in Berlin admitted that the EU has no unified position on who should lead the WTO, Supachai Panitchpakdi or Mike Moore, and will leave the decision up to the WTO in Geneva.


Week of May 14, 1999

BANGKOK Share prices soared in response to a foreign currency outlook upgrade by Moody's Investors Service from stable to positive, citing greater domestic economic stability

FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE SOURCES are taking special interest in an international Tamil conference organized by the Thai-Tamil Cultural Association to be held in Bangkok at the end of May. Sri Lankan officials worry it might become a platform for calls for a separate Tamil state in northern Sri Lanka. There are also concerns in intelligence circles that the conference - expected to attract several hundred delegates - may provide a place for Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam operatives in the region to confer. It might also serve as a cover for illegal Tamil immigrants stranded in Bangkok to be moved on to destinations in the West.


Week of May 7, 1999

HUA HIN A team of U.S. experts arrived to investigate possible toxic waste residue left over from chemical testing sites used during the Vietnam War. The government allowed the Americans to use six air bases to stage military operations against Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s. Fumes from containers made more than 100 workers and residents ill when they were unearthed last month during runway renovations at the airport in Hua Hin.


Week of April 30, 1999

BANGKOK Opposition leader Chavalit Yongchaiyudh resigned as head of the New Aspiration Party to force internal elections that could drive opponents from high-ranking party posts. With a stronger grip on power, Chavalit is expected to challenge PM Chuan Leekpai's coalition government.

ACCORDING TO THE ASIAN DEVELOPMENT BANK'S Development Outlook for 1999, growth in the Asian and Pacific region is expected to pick up this year, from 2.6% in 1998 to 4.4% this year. Of four major Southeast Asian countries - Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, and Thailand - Malaysia and the Philippines are the ones most likely to grow, although at modest rates of 0.9% and 2.4% respectively.


Week of April 9, 1999

BANGKOK The cabinet approved an economic stimulus package which will inject about $3.5 billion into the economy through direct funding, slashing personal income and business taxes, and creating 486,000 new jobs. The value-added-tax rate will be cut to 7% from 10% and small businesses will be given VAT exemptions, while taxes on personal income below 50,000 baht ($1,330) per year will be waived. The World Bank and Japan each contributed some $600 million to support the plan.

UH-OH. The temporary offices housing the royally patronized Astrologers' Association of Thailand burnt down. Inauspicious, yes. Worse, the blaze also reduced all the association's star charts to ash.


Week of April 2, 1999

BANGKOK A compromise giving Myanmar a "passive role" at May's Joint Cooperation Committee meeting between ASEAN and the E.U. makes way for the first meeting between the two blocs in two years. The agreement allows Myanmar to be present at the meeting as an observer along with Laos, which also joined ASEAN in 1997, and possibly Cambodia, which is still waiting to become an official member.

BANGKOK The government's auction of loans salvaged from insolvent finance companies attracted bids worth less than 20% of their estimated value of $6 billion. It was the second such failed "fire sale" and the Asset Management Corp., a government agency set up as a bidder of last resort, was left holding shaky loans worth about $830 million. Separately, Bangkok and the IMF agreed to a new stimulus plan to create jobs.


Week of March 19, 1999

BANGKOK Following weeks of denials, the Thai Military Bank announced it is talking with potential partners, including foreign investors. It is the clearest indicator so far that the military is serious about leaving the banking industry.


Week of March 12, 1999

BANGKOK Standard & Poor's warned that the credit ratings for the country's foreign-currency obligations - mostly government bonds - will be reduced to junk level if restructuring efforts are not implemented soon. For now, the ratings will remain slightly above investment-grade level, where they have been since January 1998. Some officials and investors had expected the levels to be raised when the credit-rating agency made its review.

It's been unheard of at Thai banks until now, but most of them are cutting their lending rates to single-digit figures. Even so, few new loans are being made and, as Bank of Thailand governor Chatumongkol Sonakul points out, rates will have to drop "much lower than this, as our economy has slowed down sharply."


Week of March 5, 1999

BANGKOK Deputy Prime Minister and Commerce Minister Supachai Panitchpakdi is confident of winning the top job at the World Trade Organization. At a press conference, he denied a report in the Feb. 26 issue of Asiaweek that he is considering dropping his bid. "It is not true, we are still in the lead," he told reporters. Supachai has the backing of most of Asia, including Japan, and some European members. But the Americans have thrown their weight behind New Zealand's Mike Moore, a former prime minister. The twice-postponed selection process is now scheduled for March 12 in Geneva.

Following its 1998 success auctioning off art held by bankrupt Thai companies, Christie's will open a branch in Bangkok. Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn will preside over the April 28 inaugural ceremony.


Week of February 5, 1999

BANGKOK The Jan. 24-26 meeting between ASEAN and the European Union was canceled when the Europeans reportedly insisted, at short notice, that Laos and Myanmar could attend only if they sat behind a "New Members" sign. Other ASEAN members could not reach agreement on the demand.

BANGKOK As parliament girded for a three-day censure debate against three ministers, opposition leaders launched a bitter personal attack on PM Chuan Leekpai. "We chose not to grill the prime minister because he has nothing to debate, he is so bland and obscure," former PM Chavalit Yongchaiyudh said to explain why he and his colleagues had decided not to confront Chuan directly during the debate.


Week of January 15, 1999

BANGKOK PM Chuan Leekpai confirmed that he has written to U.S. President Bill Clinton asking him to support Deputy Prime Minister Supachai Panitchpakdi as next director general of the World Trade Organization. Chuan said he had written to nearly 100 countries so far. Most of Asia backs Supachai, while last month Britain became the first EU nation to pledge him its support.

Thai authorities have blamed a rash of jailbreaks last year on the bad economy. They say budget cuts caused a shortage of staff and stretched security facilities to the breaking point. More than 105 prisoners escaped from Thai jails last year. Over two-thirds were recaptured and a few shot dead.


Week of January 8, 1999

In its year-end summing up, Thailand's central bank found non-performing loans held by Thai banks soared to $58 billion, or 46% of total lending, by the end of October. Bank of Thailand deputy governor Kitti Patpongpibul said the bad loans of the country's debt-ridden finance companies represented 63.58% of the banks' total lending.


News from Thailand in 1998


News from Thailand in 1997


News from Thailand in 1996


News from Thailand in 1995


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