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Time to Unite for LGBT Rights in Thailand

Anti-government Thalu Fah and LGBT activist groups wrap the Democracy Monument in rainbow cloth at a pro-democracy protest on Oct. 10, 2021. "Down with patriarchy. Long live diverse justice," reads the banner.

A foreign correspondent asked me earlier this week why it’s taking so long to achieve same sex marriage in Thailand and why we are not yet there. This came days after the Constitutional Court ruled that marriage, defined as a union between man and woman, is constitutional. The ruling was greeted with outrage by LGBT groups and human rights organizations. 

The foreign correspondent from Australia pointed out to me that Thailand “has a reputation of being LGBTIQ friendly – with transgender politicians, pioneering gender reassignment surgeons, popular ladyboys, and whole tourism campaigns aimed at gay tourists.” She asked if the court’s ruling wasn’t a contradiction. “Isn’t it odd, that same sex marriage has not been legalized?” 

In trying to understand the perceived contradiction we have to look closely and first recognize that there exists a generational gap when it comes to openness towards accepting LGBT rights. Virtually all the nine constitutional judges are elderly people, over 60. On the other hand, many of those visibly campaigning for LGBT rights are decades younger.

To be fair to the nine judges who made the ruling last week, no where did the judges say that same-sex marriage is unconstitutional and it added an addendum that the executive and legislative branch could find a path around the issue. So yes, it’s been delayed, it’s a detour and despite the court’s failure to endorse same-sex marriage as constitutional it was not an absolute snub. Perhaps they were reluctant, believing that change should come gradually, or were too literal in interpreting the old law that marriage is a union between man and woman and simply stated that this is constitutional — but the court definitely did not say same sex-marriage is unconstitutional. 

Be that as it may, if we look at the larger context, there exist no visible or coherent opposition to same-sex marriage among the public, be it by religious or political groups. (The last publicly visible homophobic anti-LGBT pride parade was in fact made by Chiang Mai 51 redshirts group who “successfully” opposed holding a Pride Parade back in 2009). But unlike countries like Australia where the same correspondent told me there’s a strong Christian opposition to same sex-marriage, there exist no organized anti same-sex marriage group in the kingdom.

In Thailand, while it’s still difficult, or impossible, to be openly gay and ordained as a monk, there exist no public opposition among Buddhist clerics when it comes to same-sex marriage. 

The second factor that needs to be pointed out is that although many who are visibly campaigning for LGBT rights and same-sex marriage are young and vibrant, they are largely confined to the political opposition side, the monarchy-reform and anti-government side which includes Move Forward Party, of the political divide. On Sunday, LGBT groups will in fact hold a demonstration in Bangkok as a result of the ruling and also to show their opposition to the Prayut Chan-o-cha regime. This in itself may be a good thing but we must consider the fact that the current political situation is toxic. Cross political-divide LGBT alliance needs to be forged to ensure that Thailand will attain legal same-sex marriage rights. Those who strongly support LGBT rights on both sides should put politics aside and work to realize their long-aspired common goals.

Additionally, where there already exists a tacit consensus in Thai society that LGBT people are equal and just like the rest of us and should enjoy equal rights in all aspects, it’s unfair to leave the remaining fight to LGBTIQ people alone. This is a common fight for a more inclusive and tolerant society and against homophobia. It bears upon the rest of us in Thai society, the non-LGBT people, to join the fight and see it through.

Draft bill for civil partnerships is neither sufficient nor just. LGBT people deserve equal and same rights under the laws. It is unjust and cruel for Thai society to prolong the situation and deny them equal rights and we all need to do what we can to finally make it a reality. 

French Expat Branded ‘Persona Non Grata,’ to be Deported

Yan Marchal.

Update: Yan Marchal was deported from Thailand on Saturday night.

BANGKOK — Long-time French expat and critic of the monarchy Yan Marchal has been denied reentry to Thailand Saturday morning and is being expelled to Paris from Suvarnabhumi Airport tonight.

Marchal said on the phone from Phuket airport shortly after 7am Saturday that immigration police told him that he is a threat to national security for attacking the monarchy and will be forced to take a flight back to Paris.

“I knew it was a possibility…They say it’s because of my behaviour posting on Facebook. I will try to call the embassy and see but I don’t think they can do much,” said the Tiktok star widely followed in Thailand. “Basically the officer told me I am attacking the king, causing problems for the king.”

Marchal was forced to fly from Phuket to Suvarnabhumi, arriving around noon today. He was informed that the ticket for Paris from Bangkok will cost 12,750 baht. Marchal showed an official letter he received stating that he is being expelled because he exhibits “behavior which would indicate possible danger to public.”

The notice says that Marchal may lodge an appeal to immigration within 48 hours. His lawyer, Natalie Bergman, said on the phone at 10am Saturday that she will lodge an appeal later today.

“[Immigration] officers cannot force him out [of Thailand]. Yan has no criminal case against him, nothing. He has an occupation and children [in Thailand], but the immigration police letter stated that he poses “possible danger to public.” They need to clearly explain because it affects [his] rights.”
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Asked whether he thinks Thailand, his adopted home for 18 years, is turning dictatorial, the 48-year-old software business entrepreneur and Tiktoker with more than 566,000 followers said. “That’s what it is.”

World Races to Contain New COVID Threat, the Omicron Variant

People line up to get on the Air France flight to Paris at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa, Friday Nov. 26, 2021. Photo: Jerome Delay / AP

BRUSSELS (AP) — Nearly two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, the world raced Friday to contain a new coronavirus variant potentially more dangerous than the one that has fueled relentless waves of infection on nearly every continent.

A World Health Organization panel named the variant “omicron” and classified it as a highly transmissible virus of concern, the same category that includes the predominant delta variant, which is still a scourge driving higher cases of sickness and death in Europe and parts of the United States.

“It seems to spread rapidly,” U.S. President Joe Biden said of the new variant, only a day after celebrating the resumption of Thanksgiving gatherings for millions of American families and the sense that normal life was coming back at least for the vaccinated. In announcing new travel restrictions, he told reporters, “I’ve decided that we’re going to be cautious.”

Omicron’s actual risks are not understood. But early evidence suggests it carries an increased risk of reinfection compared with other highly transmissible variants, the WHO said. That means people who contracted COVID-19 and recovered could be subject to catching it again. It could take weeks to know if current vaccines are less effective against it.

In response to the variant’s discovery in southern Africa, the United States, Canada, Russia and a host of other countries joined the European Union in restricting travel for visitors from that region, where the variant brought on a fresh surge of infections.

The White House said the U.S. will restrict travel from South Africa and seven other countries in the region beginning Monday. Biden issued a declaration later Friday making the travel prohibition official, with exceptions for U.S. citizens and permanent residents and for several other categories, including spouses and other close family.

Medical experts, including the WHO, warned against any overreaction before the variant was thoroughly studied. But a jittery world feared the worst after the tenacious virus triggered a pandemic that has killed more than 5 million people around the globe.

“We must move quickly and at the earliest possible moment,” British Health Secretary Sajid Javid told lawmakers.

Omicron has now been seen in travelers to Belgium, Hong Kong and Israel, as well as in southern Africa.

There was no immediate indication whether the variant causes more severe disease. As with other variants, some infected people display no symptoms, South African experts said. The WHO panel drew from the Greek alphabet in naming the variant omicron, as it has done with earlier, major variants of the virus.

Even though some of the genetic changes appear worrisome, it was unclear how much of a public health threat it posed. Some previous variants, like the beta variant, initially concerned scientists but did not spread very far.

Fears of more pandemic-induced economic turmoil caused stocks to tumble in Asia, Europe and the United States. The Dow Jones Industrial Average briefly dropped more than 1,000 points. The S&P 500 index closed down 2.3%, its worst day since February. The price of oil plunged about 13%.

“The last thing we need is to bring in a new variant that will cause even more problems,” German Health Minister Jens Spahn said. Members of the 27-nation EU have experienced a massive spike in cases recently.

Britain, EU countries and some others introduced their travel restrictions Friday, some within hours of learning of the variant. Asked why the U.S. was waiting until Monday, Biden said only: “Because that was the recommendation coming from my medical team.’’

The White House said government agencies needed the time to work with airlines and put the travel limits into effect.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said flights will have to “be suspended until we have a clear understanding about the danger posed by this new variant, and travelers returning from this region should respect strict quarantine rules.”

She warned that “mutations could lead to the emergence and spread of even more concerning variants of the virus that could spread worldwide within a few months.”

“It’s a suspicious variant,” said Frank Vandenbroucke, health minister in Belgium, which became the first European Union country to announce a case of the variant. “We don’t know if it’s a very dangerous variant.”

Omicron has yet to be detected in the United States, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious disease expert. Although it may be more transmissible and resistant to vaccines than other variants, “we don’t know that for sure right now,” he told CNN.

Speaking to reporters outside a bookstore on Nantucket Island, where he was spending the holiday weekend, Biden said the new variant was “a great concern” that “should make clearer than ever why this pandemic will not end until we have global vaccinations.”

He called anew for unvaccinated Americans to get their widely available doses and for governments to waive intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines so they can be more rapidly manufactured around the world.

Israel, one of the world’s most vaccinated countries, announced Friday that it also detected its first case of the new variant in a traveler who returned from Malawi. The traveler and two other suspected cases were placed in isolation. Israel said all three were vaccinated, but officials were looking into the travelers’ exact vaccination status.

After a 10-hour overnight trip, passengers aboard KLM Flight 598 from Capetown, South Africa, to Amsterdam were held on the edge of the runway Friday morning at Schiphol airport for four hours pending special testing. Passengers aboard a flight from Johannesburg were also isolated and tested.

“It’s ridiculous. If we didn’t catch the dreaded bug before, we’re catching it now,” said passenger Francesca de’ Medici, a Rome-based art consultant who was on the flight.

Some experts said the variant’s emergence illustrated how rich countries’ hoarding of vaccines threatens to prolong the pandemic.

Fewer than 6% of people in Africa have been fully immunized against COVID-19, and millions of health workers and vulnerable populations have yet to receive a single dose. Those conditions can speed up spread of the virus, offering more opportunities for it to evolve into a dangerous variant.

“This is one of the consequences of the inequity in vaccine rollouts and why the grabbing of surplus vaccines by richer countries will inevitably rebound on us all at some point,” said Michael Head, a senior research fellow in global health at Britain’s University of Southampton. He urged Group of 20 leaders “to go beyond vague promises and actually deliver on their commitments to share doses.”

The new variant added to investor anxiety that months of progress containing COVID-19 could be reversed.

“Investors are likely to shoot first and ask questions later until more is known,” said Jeffrey Halley of foreign exchange broker Oanda.

The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention discouraged any travel bans on countries that reported the new variant. It said past experience shows that such travel bans have “not yielded a meaningful outcome.”

The U.S. restrictions will apply to visitors from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, and Malawi. The White House suggested the restrictions will mirror an earlier pandemic policy that banned entry of any foreigners who had traveled over the previous two weeks in the designated regions.

The U.K. banned flights from South Africa and five other southern African countries and announced that anyone who had recently arrived from those countries would be asked to take a coronavirus test.

Canada banned the entry of all foreigners who have traveled to southern Africa in the last two weeks.

The Japanese government announced that Japanese nationals traveling from Eswatini, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana, South Africa and Lesotho will have to quarantine at government-dedicated accommodations for 10 days and take three COVID-19 tests during that time. Japan has not yet opened up to foreign nationals. Russia announced travel restrictions effective Sunday.

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Story: Raf Casert and Calvin Woodward. Woodward reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Lorne Cook in Brussels; Colleen Barry in Milan; Pan Pylas in London; Jamey Keaten in Geneva; Mike Corder in The Hague, Netherlands; Dave McHugh in Frankfurt, Germany; Carley Petesch in Dakar, Senegal; Andrew Meldrum in Johannesburg; Frank Jordans in Berlin; and Darlene Superville in Nantucket, Massachusetts, contributed to this report.

CPF (Thailand) wins Distinguished Awards for Marketing Excellence at the Thailand Corporate Excellence Awards 2021  

CPF (Thailand) Public Company Limited, a subsidiary of Charoen Pokphand Foods Public Company Limited (CP Foods), received Distinguished Awards for Marketing Excellence at Thailand Corporate Excellence Awards 2021, reflecting its commitment to deliver high quality food and services with responsibility and promote the sustainable diets. 

Ms.Anakarwee Chooratn, Senior Vice President for corporate marketing, represented the company to receive the award from General Prayut Chan-o-cha, Prime Minister of Thailand at the ceremony held at the Athenee Hotel Bangkok. 

Ms.Anakarwee said that the award reflects the commitment to develop excellent products and services in line with the company’s “Kitchen of the World” vision. CP Foods aims at creating excellence products for its consumers. The company has continuously developed and invented nutritious, safe and high quality products that meet consumers’ needs at affordable prices.

CPF (Thailand) strives to conduct responsible marketing and takes into account the well-being of Thai people. It places importance on providing nutrition information to consumers and food products are also traceable throughout the supply chain. 

To meet the consumer changes and food trends, CPF Food Research and Development Center (RD Center) has worked together with food experts to develop healthy fresh and processed foods. For example, probiotic-fed meat products under the brand CP Selection, and Omega-3 rich Cheeva Pork which resulted in the company’s  winning the Outstanding Innovative Company Awards at the SET Awards 2021. 

The company partnered with a world-class plant-based products company, as well as experts from the U.S and Taiwan to develop PLANT-TEC innovation that gives a meat-like texture and introduced the plant-based products under the Meat Zero brand. 

Meat Zero enjoys success in Thailand. Over 4 million packs were sold since launching in May this year. It also won BEST PLANT-BASED BRANDING from Root The Future Plant-Based Food Awards 2021. 

During the Covid-19 pandemic, the company has initiated “CPF food from the heart against COVID-19” to deliver nutritious food to doctors, nurses, medical staff and other vulnerable groups throughout Thailand. 

As a result of operation excellence, CP Foods has also been selected as a member of the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices (DJSI) in 2021 for the 7th consecutive year and the company has also been selected Top 3 in the Food Products Industry. Both distinctions are based on its outstanding performance in Innovation Management, Health and Nutrition and Food Loss and Food Waste./

Thailand Prime Minister Meets Huawei CEO to Promote Collaboration

 on Digital Transformation and Talent Development

[Bangkok, Thailand, November 25 2021] Today, H.E. General Prayut Chan-o-cha, Prime Minister of Thailand, attended a virtual executive meeting with Mr. Ren Zhengfei, CEO of Huawei Technologies. Gen Prayut expressed appreciation for Huawei’s continued support of Thailand’s digital transformation and post-pandemic recovery, and his eagerness to further strengthen cooperation with Huawei to promote the Thailand 4.0 strategy and digital talent cultivation.

Virtual Executive Meeting
Left: H.E. General Prayut Chan-o-cha, Right: Ren Zhengfei, CEO of Huawei Technologies

During the virtual meeting, Gen Prayut and Mr. Ren exchanged views on how to consolidate digital competitiveness and build a strong foundation for ICT talent in Thailand. 

Gen Prayut also stressed the important role that advanced ICT technologies and digital innovation would play in supporting Thailand’s economic resilience and sustainability, stating that “Huawei has provided profound contributions to Thailand’s fight against the pandemic and digital transformation. I am deeply impressed by Huawei history and dedication culture. In the future, Thailand is eager to cooperating with Huawei in various areas, including digital economy, 5G smart hospital, cloud and computing, digital power, smart logistics and data center.”

H.E. General Prayut Chan-o-cha

Mr. Ren expressed his gratitude for Thai government’s trust in Huawei and congratulated Thailand on its achievements in 5G rollout. He emphasized that “Huawei and Thailand have been working together to build a strong digital infrastructure foundation. In the future, we look forward to accelerating the integration of digital technologies in Thailand’s key industries, especially in port and airport scenarios.” 

“We have strong belief in Thailand’s successful digital transformation and talent development. Our local team will closely with Thai customers and partners to serve the country’s social and economic development with technology solutions.” Ren said. 

Ren Zhengfei, CEO of Huawei Technologies

In the previous years, in order to support Thailand’s digital blueprint to become the ASEAN digital hub, Huawei and Thailand have been closely cooperating in two key areas that could be further strengthened in the future.

First, in line with the Thailand 4.0 strategy, Huawei has worked with its customers to accelerate Thailand’s digital transformation and ICT infrastructure innovation. Through the adoption of 5G, Cloud, and AI, Huawei and its industry partners are enabling Thailand’s key sectors and creating exciting opportunities across multiple areas, including healthcare, education, transportation, e-government, and smart city, to bolster Thailand’s long-term socioeconomic development and digital ecosystem.

Among these actions, smart port and airports are important potential cooperation areas for Huawei and Thailand. Mr. Ren introduced the company’s best practices in Smart Port and Smart Airport Solutions in China, which builds automation capabilities based on all factors — people, vehicles, goods, enterprises, and places — to help build safe, efficient, and intelligent world-class ports and airports. 

Second, Gen Prayut and Mr. Ren also highlighted a commitment to cultivate upskilled and digital talent in Thailand. In order to drive Thailand’s digital transformation and long-term development, both men stressed that the public and private sector must work together to build an open, shared ICT talent ecosystem that benefits all.

Aiming to cultivate Thailand’s local ICT talent and digital workforce, Huawei established the Huawei ASEAN Academy (Thailand) in 2019, which has trained over 41,000 ICT professionals and provided training to 1,300 small and medium-sized enterprises. Huawei has also signed MOUs with more than 20 Thai universities. With a digital world fast approaching, Huawei is determined to ensure that no one is left behind through digital inclusion initiatives that enhance the digital knowledge and employment prospects of vulnerable groups.

Since its establishment in Thailand in 1999, Huawei has been fulfilling its mission to “Grow in Thailand, Contribute to Thailand”, by continuously working to support Thailand’s digital transformation journey and contributing social value. Huawei Thailand currently has over 2,800 employees, 86% of whom are local employees, and indirectly generates more than 8,500 job opportunities. In March 2021, Huawei Thailand has been chosen for the Special Prime Minister Award as the “Digital International Corporation of the Year”. The award recognizes Huawei for its valuable support and outstanding contributions to Thai society and its efforts to support digital transformation. It is the only company to receive this award.

US Lawmakers Meet With Taiwan President in Surprise Visit

Republican Nancy Mace talks to supporters during her election night party on Nov. 3, 2020, in Mount Pleasant, S.C. Five U.S. lawmakers including Mace are visiting Taiwan on Friday, Nov. 26, 2021 in a surprise one-day visit, the American Institute in Taiwan, the de facto embassy, announced. Photo: Mic Smith / AP

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Five U.S. lawmakers met with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen Friday morning in a surprise one-day visit intended to reaffirm the United States’ “rock solid” support for the self-governing island.

The bi-partisan group of lawmakers from the U.S. House of Representatives arrived in Taiwan on Thursday night and were planning to meet with senior leaders including Tsai, said the American Institute in Taiwan, the de facto embassy. No further details were provided about their itinerary.

The visit comes as tensions between Taiwan and China have risen to their highest level in decades. Taiwan has been self-ruled since the two sides split during a civil war in 1949, but China considers the island part of its own territory.

“When news of our trip broke yesterday, my office received a blunt message from the Chinese Embassy, telling me to call off the trip,” Representative Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich., who is part of the delegation, wrote on Twitter.

Representatives Mark Takano, D-Calif., Colin Allred, D-Texas., Sara Jacobs, D-Calif., and Nancy Mace, R-S.C., are also part of the visiting delegation.

“We are here in Taiwan this week to remind our partners and allies, after two trying years that we’ve endured, that our commitment and shared responsibility for a free and secure Indo-Pacific region remain stronger than ever,” said Takano.

Takano added that the U.S. relationship with Taiwan is “rock solid and has remained steadfast as the ties between us have deepened.”

Tsai, who welcomed the lawmakers and the AIT director at the Presidential Office in Taipei, noted the two sides’ cooperation in veterans’ affairs, economic issues and trade while reiterating the island’s close alignment with the U.S.

“Taiwan will continue to step up cooperation with the United States in order to uphold our shared values of freedom and democracy and to ensure peace and stability in the region,” Tsai said.

The visit is the third by U.S. lawmakers to Taiwan this year and comes just a few weeks after a group of six Republican members of Congress visited the island. That delegation met with President Tsai, National Security Secretary General Wellington Koo and Foreign Minister Joseph Wu, among others.

In June, three members of Congress flew to Taiwan to donate badly needed vaccines at a time when the island was struggling to get enough.

The Biden administration has also invited Taiwan to a Summit for Democracy next month, a move that drew a sharp rebuke from China.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on Wednesday, “What the U.S. did proves that the so-called democracy is just a pretext and tool for it to pursue geopolitical goals, suppress other countries, divide the world, serve its own interest and maintain its hegemony in the world.”

Story: Huizhong Wu

NSTDA joins hands with CP Foods to create next gen food innovators

The National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA) joins hands with Charoen Pokphand Foods Public Company Limited (CP Foods) to host the challenge program on “Food Innopolis Innovation Contest 2021” to find the next generation of food innovators.

The project aims to increase competitiveness of the country’s food industry from upstream to downstream. The winning team will work together with CP Foods to develop new products and upscale to the market.

At this event, CP Foods has brought its expertise on food innovation, marketing brand building to connect the new generation with markets. The company also showcased healthy food innovations including CP Selection, Meat Zero, U FARM, and Innoweness, in a virtual exhibition.

Dr.Sommai Tachasirinugune, Executive Vice President of CP Foods, said that it is an honor to be a part of this project. The project is a great opportunity for food startups to introduce new food products for the future. Thailand has the potential to create food security in line with the company’s vision of becoming the ‘Kitchen of the World’.

“The future of food trends will be healthy foods and higher nutritious foods with the concept of “Food as a Medicine”. This project is a path to create a new generation to continue inventing on food products that support future market trends, especially in the aging society,” Dr. Sommai, said.

The Food Innopolis Innovation Contest 2021 project is a competition for applying science and business knowledge to create innovative food products that meet the needs of consumers in the present and the future.

Food Innopolis annually monitors the world’s food trends to determine the challenge. This year challenges including, 1.  Food Heritage Innovation, applying science and local wisdoms to create innovative food products and 2. Future Lifestyle Food Innovation.

CP Foods is committed to producing quality, clean and safe food for consumers by continuing to develop research and development of food products, bringing innovation and high technology to create sustainable and healthy food.

Siam Piwat Reaffirms Its Position as a retail leader in creating unprecedented and unique experiences,   Introducing ‘Siam Discovery Everyday Gifts’, 

Siam Piwat, the owner and operator of leading global retail destinations Siam Paragon, Siam Center, and Siam Discovery, and a joint-venture partner of ICONSAM and  Siam Premium Outlet Bangkok, reaffirms its position as The Visionary Icon, a retail leader in creating unprecedented, unique and the first-ever experiences at all of its retail premises. The company has launched the world’s first and retail industry’s premier experience-oriented gift giving campaign to welcome the festive season at Siam Discovery. The unique gift campaign called “Siam Discovery presents The Magical Sensation, Discover Extraordinary Gifts from the Universe,” is developed under the ‘Everyday Gifts’ concept and set to welcome shoppers to revel in the land of unique gifts.  The campaign centerpiece is ‘HYPE BOX,’ the first campaign of the retail business, to bring joyous experience to both givers and receivers through personalized gifts, tailored for their loved ones, to make each present most memorable.

Miss Pawina Gajaseni, Siam Discovery Director of Commerce said, “As the Visionary Icon, a retail leader in creating unprecedented, unique and the first-ever experiences, Siam Piwat  focuses on Customer-Centric and Emotional Engagement strategies to create personalized experiences according to customers’ needs and preferences like a true companion, while creating a lifestyle that  seamlessly connects offline and online experiences. This festive season, Siam Discovery the Exploratorium welcome visitors to Experiment, Create and Cultivate remarkable experiences through our brand-new ‘Siam Discovery presents The Magical Sensation, Discover Extraordinary Gifts from the Universe’ campaign , seasoned under the ‘Everyday Gifts’ concept. Through this campaign, people will discover the magic of gift giving and delightful experiences of being the givers and the receivers. Siam Discovery is an expert in sourcing fascinating varieties of gifts that cater to the needs of different targeting communities. 

Siam Discovery: The World of Magical Gifts 

Since all gift collections at Siam Discovery have been curated and exclusively selected, visitors are bound to find gift products suited their preferences and their communities at Her Lab, Beauty Lab, His Lab, Street Lab, Digital Lab, and Creative Lab. Fashion enthusiasts can browse various  leading fashion labels to their heart’s content, both for men and the ladies, from luxury brands to streetwear. Shoppers will also find beauty guru’s best-selected beauty products. In addition, an array of edgy tech gadgets, homely décor goods and Thai handicrafts products at ICONCRAFT, O.D.S., eco-friendly products Ecotopia and Japanese lifestyle products from Loft can all be found at Siam Discovery.

To help shoppers find the perfect gift for either themselves or their loved ones, Siam Discovery is confident that everyone can discover the gifts they love. Siam Discovery has been offering ‘Everyday Gift,’ emulsifying wide ranges of lifestyles and elevating experiences of the ‘givers’ and the ’given.’ 

To bridge the offline and online retail experience, and deliver unparalleled experiences anytime and anywhere , Siam Discovery presents ‘Siam Discovery Magical Catalog’ that offers a simplified and convenience gift searching experience by assembling over tens thousands gift items on the e-catalog, available on social media channels where customers can directly select their favorite items, and users can continue to shop online — all of which are combined to deliver a seamless retail experience.

Extraordinary ‘HYPE BOX’ Unveils the first Surprised Personalized Joy

One of the highlights of ‘Siam Discovery presents The Magical Sensation, Discover Extraordinary Gifts from the Universe’ is the launch of ‘HYPE BOX’ which enables shoppers to discover the magic of personalized gifts to add even more values to the gifts. Shoppers can select their preferred gift items across all Labs at Siam Discovery and then hand to ‘HYPE BOX’ G Floor. Siam Discovery will directly send an SMS message to the recipient, inviting them to discover the surprise in-person.

‘HYPE BOX’ is Siam Discovery’s latest innovative approach that underlines how it truly understands the needs of all its targeting communities through the ‘Customer Centric’ and ‘Emotional Engagement’ strategies. Gift giving will be an extraordinary and value-added experience than ever.  

In addition, Siam Discovery takes the ‘HYPE BOX’ even further with the ‘Citizen of Love’ campaign. Shoppers can share the fulfilling gifts to underprivileged children in rural areas, a truly a sustainable gift giving to the communities and the society.

Make your gift most memorable with personalized ‘Wrapping Special’  

Loft, a leading Japanese lifestyle store and the year-round destination of gift shopping known for its eclectic mix of gift wrapping especially Japanese gift-wrapping style plus varieties of gift boxes and greeting cards, has invited a wrapping guru to guide shoppers on how to create their own unique wrapping, making each personalized gifts exponentially more valuable and bound to leave unforgettable impression on the recipient. 

“This festive period marks another chapter that Siam Discovery deliver unapparelled experiences of gift giving, invites shoppers to discover new experiences and elevate the gifting ritual unlike any other. We believe that Siam Discovery will solidify its position as the ‘Everyday Gift’ destination and be the lifestyle solution for all targeting communities,” Miss Pawina Gajaseni concluded.

Some Fear China Could Win From US Spat With Marshall Islands

An aerial photo shows a small section of the atoll that has slipped beneath the water line only showing a small pile of rocks at low tide on Majuro Atoll in the Marshall Islands on Nov. 8, 2015. Photo: Rob Griffith / AP

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — For decades, the tiny Marshall Islands has been a stalwart American ally. Its location in the middle of the Pacific Ocean has made it a key strategic outpost for the U.S. military.

But that loyalty is being tested amid a dispute with Washington over the terms of its “Compact of Free Association” agreement, which expires soon. The U.S. is refusing to engage the Marshallese on claims for environmental and health damage caused by dozens of nuclear tests it carried out in the 1940s and ’50s, including a huge thermonuclear blast on Bikini Atoll.

The dispute has some U.S. lawmakers worried that China might be willing to step into the breach, adding to a bruising competition for geopolitical dominance between the two superpowers.

Since World War II, the U.S. has treated the Marshall Islands, along with Micronesia and Palau, much like territories. On the Marshall Islands, the U.S. has developed military, intelligence and aerospace facilities in a region where China is particularly active.

In turn, U.S. money and jobs have benefited the Marshall Islands’ economy. And many Marshallese have taken advantage of their ability to live and work in the U.S., moving in the thousands to Arkansas, Hawaii and Oklahoma.

But this month, 10 Democratic and Republican members of the House of Representatives wrote to President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, about the U.S. compact talks with the Marshalls, Micronesia and Palau.

“It is distressing that these negotiations do not appear to be a priority — there have been no formal meetings since this Administration began — even as our international focus continues shifting to the Indo-Pacific,” they wrote.

The lawmakers said the delays were putting the U.S. in a weaker position, and “China is all too ready to step in and provide the desperately needed infrastructure and climate resiliency investment that is sought by these long-time partners.”

China’s Foreign Ministry said the U.S. should face up to its responsibility to restore the environmental damage it caused with its nuclear tests. It said China was willing to engage with the Marshall Islands and other Pacific island nations on the basis of mutual respect and cooperation under the “One China Principle,” in which Taiwan is viewed as part of China.

“We welcome efforts to boost economic relations and improve the quality of life between the sides,” the ministry said in a statement.

China has steadily poached allies from Taiwan in the Pacific, including Kiribati and the Solomon Islands in 2019. Just this week, angry protesters in the Solomons set fire to buildings and looted stores in unrest that some have linked to the China switch.

James Matayoshi, the mayor of Rongelap Atoll on the Marshall Islands, said he and hundreds of others have remained displaced from their atoll since the nuclear tests and want to see it revitalized. He said officials have been talking with potential investors from Asia, after a previous proposal by a Chinese-Marshallese businessman fell through.

“It would be a business transaction. We don’t advocate for war or any superpower influence,” Matayoshi said. “But we want to be able to live in our backyard, and enjoy life here.”

Like many others on the Marshall Islands, Matayoshi believes a U.S. settlement of $150 million agreed to in the 1980s fell well short of addressing the nuclear legacy. He said his late mother was pregnant at the time of one massive nuclear blast and got exposed to radiation that was the equivalent of 25,000 X-rays before giving birth to a stillborn baby.

But the U.S. position has remained static for more than 20 years, the last time the compact came up for renegotiation. The U.S. maintains that nuclear compensation was dealt with in a “full and final settlement” and cannot be reopened.

Marshallese Senator David Paul — who is on the islands’ negotiating committee and also represents Kwajalein Atoll, which is home to a major U.S. military base — said continuing high cancer rates and the displacement of people remain huge issues.

“Everyone knows the negotiations at that time were not fair or equitable,” Paul said. “When you look at the total cost of property damage and the ongoing health issues to date, it’s a drop in the bucket. It’s an insult.”

Various estimates put the true cost of the damage at about $3 billion, including for repairs to a massive nuclear waste facility known as the Cactus Dome which environmentalists say is leaking toxic waste into the ocean.

A report to Congress last year from the U.S. Department of Energy said the dome contains over 100,000 cubic yards (76,000 cubic meters) of radioactively contaminated soil and debris but the structure wasn’t in any immediate danger of failing. The report concluded that any contaminated groundwater flowing beneath the structure was not measurably impacting the environment.

As it did in earlier compact negotiations, the U.S. has stonewalled discussions on the nuclear legacy, something that American officials acknowledge.

“We know that’s important, but there is a full and final settlement, and both sides agreed to it,” said a senior U.S. official who wasn’t authorized to publicly discuss the issue and spoke on condition of anonymity. “So, that issue is just not subject to being reopened. But, we’re still quite willing to work with the (Marshallese) on the broader issues that are important to us and that’s what we hope to do.”

The U.S. State Department said the Indo-Pacific is central to U.S. foreign policy.

“We are prioritizing achieving success in the negotiations related to the Compacts with the Freely Associated States as a regional foreign policy objective,” the department said.

The frustrations of the Marshallese were apparent in a letter sent last month by Foreign Minister Casten Nemra to Rep. Katie Porter, a California Democrat who chairs the House Natural Resources Committee’s oversight and investigations panel.

“The State and Interior Department officials involved have been unwilling to discuss an agenda for the talks and tried to confine the discussion to their own limited proposals,” Nemra wrote. “The nuclear issue clearly was one reason. All issues raised by the Marshall Islands were met with assertions that they did not have authority to discuss the matters without any indication that they would seek it.”

Sen. Paul said the American approach needs to change.

“I believe the U.S. has the legal and moral obligation to make sure they clean up this debris,” Paul said. “We want to make sure we get a better deal this time around. As they say, the third time is a charm.”

___

Story: Matthew Lee and Nick Perry. Lee reported from Washington.

3 Men Charged in Ahmaud Arbery’s Death Convicted of Murder

This photo combo shows, from left, Travis McMichael, William "Roddie" Bryan, and Gregory McMichael during their trial at at the Glynn County Courthouse in Brunswick, Ga. Jurors on Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2021 convicted the three white men charged in the death of Ahmaud Arbery, the Black man who was chased and fatally shot while running through their neighborhood in an attack that became part of the larger national reckoning on racial injustice. Photo: AP

BRUNSWICK, Ga. (AP) — Three men were convicted of murder Wednesday in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, the Black man who was running empty-handed through a Georgia subdivision when the white strangers chased him, trapped him on a quiet street and blasted him with a shotgun.

The February 2020 slaying drew limited attention at first. But when video of the shooting leaked online, Arbery’s death quickly became another example in the nation’s reckoning of racial injustice in the way Black people are treated in their everyday lives.

Now the men all face a mandatory sentence of life in prison. The judge will decide whether their sentences are served with or without the possibility of parole.

As the first of 23 guilty verdicts were read, Arbery’s father had to leave the courtroom after leaping up and shouting. At the reading of the last criminal count, Arbery’s mother dropped her head and quietly pumped her fists.

“He didn’t do nothing but run and dream,” Marcus Arbery Sr. said of his son. Outside the courthouse, dozens of Black supporters hugged and cried.

The jury deliberated for about 10 hours before convicting Greg McMichael, son Travis McMichael and neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan.

The McMichaels grabbed guns and jumped in a pickup truck to pursue the 25-year-old Arbery after seeing him running outside the Georgia port city of Brunswick. Bryan joined the pursuit in his own pickup and recorded cellphone video of Travis McMichael fatally shooting Arbery.

The father and son told police they suspected Arbery was a fleeing burglar. But the prosecution argued that the men provoked the fatal confrontation and that there was no evidence Arbery committed any crimes in the neighborhood.

“We commend the courage and bravery of this jury to say that what happened on Feb. 23, 2020, to Ahmaud Arbery — the hunting and killing of Ahmaud Arbery — it was not only morally wrong but legally wrong, and we are thankful for that,” said Latonia Hines, Cobb County executive assistant district attorney.

Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski added: “The jury system works in this country. And when you present the truth to people and they see it, they will do the right thing.”

Travis McMichael, 35, stood for the verdict, his lawyer’s arm around his shoulder. At one point, he lowered his head to his chest. After the verdicts were read, as he stood to leave, he mouthed “love you” to his mother in the courtroom gallery.

Greg McMichael, 65, hung his head when the judge read his first guilty verdict. Bryan, 52, bit his lip.

Speaking outside the courthouse, Ben Crump, attorney for Arbery’s father, repeatedly said that “the spirit of Ahmaud defeated the lynch mob.”

Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, thanked the crowd gathered for the verdict and said she did not think she would see this day.

“It’s been a long fight. It’s been a hard fight. But God is good,” she said, adding that her son would now rest in peace.

Travis McMichaels’ attorneys said both he and his father feel that they did the right thing, and that they believed the video would help their case. But they also said the McMichaels regret that Arbery got killed.

“I can tell you honestly, these men are sorry for what happened to Ahmaud Arbery,” attorney Jason Sheffield said. “They are sorry he’s dead. They are sorry for the tragedy that happened because of the choices they made to go out there and try to stop him.”

They planned to appeal.

Bryan’s attorney, Kevin Gough, said his team was “disappointed with the verdict, but we respect it.” He planned to file new legal motions after Thanksgiving.

Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley did not immediately schedule a sentencing date, saying that he wanted to give both sides time to prepare.

In a statement, President Joe Biden said Arbery’s killing was a “devastating reminder” of how much more work the country has to do in the fight for racial justice.

“While the guilty verdicts reflect our justice system doing its job, that alone is not enough. Instead, we must recommit ourselves to building a future of unity and shared strength, where no one fears violence because of the color of their skin,” Biden said.

Though prosecutors did not argue that racism motivated the killing, federal authorities have charged them with hate crimes, alleging that they chased and killed Arbery because he was Black. That case is scheduled to go to trial in February.

The disproportionately white jury received the case around midday Tuesday.

Soon after returning to court Wednesday morning, the jury sent a note to the judge asking to view two versions of the shooting video — the original and one that investigators enhanced to reduce shadows — three times apiece.

Jurors returned to the courtroom to see the videos and listen again the 911 call one of the defendants made from the bed of a pickup truck about 30 seconds before the shooting.

On the 911 call the jury reviewed, Greg McMichael tells an operator: “I’m out here in Satilla Shores. There’s a Black male running down the street.”

He then starts shouting, apparently as Arbery is running toward the McMichael’s idling truck with Bryan’s truck coming up behind him: “Stop right there! Damn it, stop! Travis!” Gunshots can be heard a few second later.

The graphic video emerged two months later, and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation took over the case, quickly arresting the three men.

Defense attorneys contend the McMichaels were attempting a legal citizen’s arrest when they set off after Arbery, seeking to detain and question him after he was seen running from a nearby home under construction.

Travis McMichael testified that he shot Arbery in self-defense. He said Arbery turned and attacked with his fists while running past the truck where McMichael stood with his shotgun.

At the time of his death, Arbery had enrolled at a technical college and was preparing to study to become an electrician like his uncles.

Shaun Seals, a 32-year-old lifelong Brunswick resident, rushed to the courthouse to join the crowd cheering the verdict.

“We just came out to witness history,” said Seals, pushing his 10-month-old daughter in a stroller.

Seals, who is Black, called the convictions a victory not just for his community but for the nation.

“It’s not going to heal most of the wounds” from a long history of inequality, he said. “But it’s a start and shows people are trying.”

Story:  Russ Bynum

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