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  • Thailand’s “agriculture 4.0” … a dream come true?
    Suwit Traichok, a 60-year-old melon producer, was the pioneer of Thailand’s young smart farmers. Despite having a promising career and a decent salary in a well-established organization, Thai Airways International,...

    Suwit Traichok, a 60-year-old melon producer, was the pioneer of Thailand’s young smart farmers. Despite having a promising career and a decent salary in a well-established organization, Thai Airways International, he quit the job and moved to his hometown, in Ayutthaya province, to pursue his dream job in agriculture.

    He started his pilot project on a very small scale on family-owned land. With a degree in Engineering, the farmer’s son knew only practical farming, so he sought theoretical advice from the instructors at Kasetsart University. He returned to his farm to try the methods, then went back to the university and asked again. Combining knowledge in Agriculture, Chemistry and Engineering, he developed his vegetable cultivation techniques, a combination of local wisdom and modern technologies, by himself. After being tried and tested for several years, his efforts eventually paid off.

    Now, 30 years have passed, and his melon farm has expanded from 150 square meters to 40 acres. Suwit makes profit every single year.

    Thailand’s agricultural sector, using our own technology, generates 8.4% of the country’s GDP and employs 40% of the country’s labour force, making it part of the backbone of the Thai economy.

    The primary agenda of the Thailand 4.0 development plan, launched by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s government, is to eliminate social inequality and pull the country out of the middle-income trap. Focusing on ten targeted industries, one of which is efficient agriculture and Biotechnology, Thailand agriculture 4.0 aims to make the most of its abundant resources and add more value to the products through the adaptation and adoption of advanced technologies and innovations for farming, in order to increase quality, uniformity and efficiency.

    “This is how I respond to the government policy, Thailand 4.0. Actually, I thought about using technologies on my farm a long time ago, but I was unable to do anything and had to wait as our infrastructure was not ready. Now, we have 4G, and 5G is coming soon. Hopefully, when 5G is available, we can use an IoT controller, which is co-designed by NSTDA (National Science and Technology Development Agency) and myself. If our protocol succeeds, we can save a lot of time and money. Moreover, will be able to make many more controllers for Thai and ASEAN farmers” Suwit said.

    One year earlier, the research and development team from NSTDA and Suwit developed a controller-censor system, connected to a mobile phone application. It allows the user to check the temperature, humidity and solar radiation, as well as remotely activate the drip irrigation and fertigation system.

    All the melons are grown in an open field, divided into three stages, namely seed planting and germination, blooming and ready to harvest.  Suwit claims that his melon farm is high efficiency farming, yet the one of the lowest investment budget in Thailand.

    “A full controller system costs less than ฿100,000. I do not invest much in hardware, because software is much more important and expensive. Most importantly, I became a software expert myself,” Suwit said. “I studied until I knew every single detail about melon growing, for instance good soil preparation, plant diseases and how to control them, also the design of the irrigation system.”

    Super smart farmer

    Nowadays, the majority of Thai farmers earn ฿132,000 per household annually, according to the Office of Agricultural Economics. Smart farmers should be able to increase annual income to more than ฿180,000 per household, equivalent to the minimum wage of fresh graduates. Super smart farmers, however, should make an annual profit of over ฿500,000 per household.

    Suwit’s farm produces around 20 tonnes of melons in one harvest, every 15 days. With a wholesale price of ฿50 per kilogram, he generates more than two million baht per month. As he mainly grows Japanese melons, such as green and orange Pearl Melons and Galia Melons, he co-operates with a Japanese seed company. They help develop melon varieties which are suitable for an open field in Thailand’s climate. During the winter months, he grows special Earl’s Melon, the price is as high as ฿2,700 ($90) a piece. 90% of the melons go to domestic markets, include modern trade, wholesale and online channels, and another 10% is exported to the Maldives and Germany.

    When asked how he sees his melon farm in the next 5 years, Suwit said “in the future my farm will be totally changed, we will not do the same again. It’s because big multinational companies, who own high technology, are now farming against minimal competition. They don’t see us as competitors. Therefore, we have to improve ourselves, learn how to use advanced technology to increase efficiency, use automated drones to spray chemicals, apply IoT and machine learning AI to control the farming. We must transform ourselves to be precision farming”

    Recently, a multinational technology company, IBM, purchased the Weather Company, introducing super precise weather forecasting. They also own high-tech apparatus that can analyze data from satellite imagery and from terrestrial sensors. Artificial intelligence, developed by IBM, is capable of tailor-made management models for soybeans, corn, barley, wheat and other crops.

    “However, those giant corporations don’t know the local environment, nor the big data. It’s crucial that we must keep the big data with our people, otherwise they will do as we do and become our competitors eventually. I think we should be fast swimming fish, rather than big fish, so that we can survive in a digital world”, Suwit said.

    Reporting by Jeerapa Suvanvitit

    18 January 2020
    Business
    https://www.thaipbsworld.com/?p=244081
  • Embassy protest plan banned as President Xi meets Myanmar leaders
    YANGON (Reuters) – Myanmar authorities have rejected a plan by a group of protestors to rally in front of the Chinese Embassy in Yangon to oppose “exploitation of natural resources”...

    YANGON (Reuters) – Myanmar authorities have rejected a plan by a group of protestors to rally in front of the Chinese Embassy in Yangon to oppose “exploitation of natural resources” in Myanmar as Chinese President Xi Jinping holds talks with Myanmar top leaders.

    Xi arrived on Friday for a two-day visit, the first of any Chinese president in 19 years. State counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi greeted him with a handshake on the steps of the presidential palace after a ceremonial welcome by  Myanmar President Win Myint and a military marching band.

    President Win Myint told reporters at the palace it was a “very historic and important trip”.

    Analysts say Xi will seek to reinvigorate stalled infrastructure projects central to his flagship Belt and Road Initiative described as a “21st century silk road”.

    The two countries have had a historically fraught relationship, with many in Myanmar suspicious of the tremendous sway China holds over its smaller neighbor, but have moved closer since the expulsion of the Rohingya in 2017 was met with international condemnation.

     

    More than 730,000 Rohingya were forced to flee western Myanmar after a military crackdown the United Nations has said was executed with “genocidal intent”. China has defended the country on the global stage and is viewed as the biggest obstacle to a prosecution of its leaders at an international war crimes tribunal.

    China is the second biggest investor in Myanmar, behind only Singapore, data published by the World Bank shows. Myanmar’s exports to China, its largest trading partner, were worth $5.5 billion in 2018, while imports were worth $6.2 billion.

    Hundreds of school children and government staff lined the road from the airport on Friday, waving flags and chanting, “Chinese president!” “May his health be good!”

    “China always helps our country when we are in crisis or when we face natural disasters,” said Aye Aye Mu, a local teacher. “They always support us and send donations to us.”

    But many in Myanmar view China warily and infrastructure projects have been deeply unpopular, uprooting thousands of villagers and wreaking environmental damage.

    Irrawaddy News reported that authorities had rejected plan by protesters  outside the Chinese embassy in Yangon on Saturday to oppose the “exploitation of natural resources” in Myanmar, including the $3.6 billion Myitsone hydropower dam project, which was suspended in 2011 but may be restarted.

    “We were told that the Yangon regional government did not give permission to gather outside the embassy as it might harm bilateral relations,” said Ko Aung Soe, an event organizer.

    According to Irrawaddy News, they were hoping to urge Xi to terminate the Myitsone Dam project, to protect the environment and to have full transparency in investment and other projects. They also wanted to see benefits to residents from investment and projects, an end to illegal Chinese migration and more cultural understanding from Chinese tourists and business owners to avoid misunderstandings.

    They planned to give a letter to Xi after the event.

    “The Dagon police said we were not allowed to protest so we have changed the plan,” Ko Aung Soe added.

    The activists instead plan to gather in front of City Hall on Saturday afternoon. Only four organizers are allowed to walk to the embassy, approximately 4 km from City Hall, to hand over the letter.

    18 January 2020
    Asean
    https://www.thaipbsworld.com/?p=244078
  • Piyabutr warns of serious consequences if Future Forward is dissolved
    Future Forward secretary-general Piyabutr Saengkanokkul is confident that his party will not be dissolved by the Constitutional Court and he warned that the country may face three adverse consequences if...

    Future Forward secretary-general Piyabutr Saengkanokkul is confident that his party will not be dissolved by the Constitutional Court and he warned that the country may face three adverse consequences if it is.

    Chairman of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, Jatuporn Promphan, said he believes, however, that the Future Forward party will be dissolved when the Constitutional Court delivers its ruling on January 21st on the party and its leadership, who are charged with sedition.

    Piyabutr pointed out that Section 49 of the Constitution, which was cited in the accusations filed by Mr. Nathaporn Toprayoon, a former advisor to the ombudsman, did not empower the court to disband a party found to have misused free expression to overthrow a democratic system.

    He accused Nathaporn of having an ulterior motive by mixing the sedition charge against the party with the campaign, some years back, for the amendment of the lèse majesté law by the Nitirat group, of which he was a member, Thanathorn’s previous speeches and their joint investment in the publication of the Fah Daew Gun (One Sky) left-wing magazine.

    If the Future Forward party actually intends to overthrow the constitutional monarchy, Piyabutr asked why the Election Commission allowed the party to contest the March 24th election and why 6.3 million people voted for the party.

    He said that the junta and its supporters were afraid that they would not have “standing room” in the Thai political landscape if the Future Forward party was allowed to persist and, hence, they want the party eliminated.

    If Future Forward is dissolved by the charter court, Piyabutr claimed that the political the divide would widen between the old and new generations, leading to clash of ideologies, which would bode ill for the country.

    The party’s dissolution may convince people that the Monarchy has been used as a tool for political destruction, and this may force some groups to turn against the highest institution in the land.

    Another adverse consequence of a dissolution, said Piyabutr, is that the younger generation would be confused as to what kind of politics this country wants, if a party like Future Forward, which has rejected money politics and has played by the rules, is banished by the court.

    UDD chief Jatuporn said several parties have been disbanded by the charter court, ranging from Thai Rak Thai, Palang Prachachon and Chart Thai to Matchimatippatai.

    Dissolution of parties is an unusual situation in Thailand which should not happen, because new parties are formed by politicians from the disbanded parties, he said.

    17 January 2020
    Highlight
    https://www.thaipbsworld.com/?p=244075
  • Nine illegal trash trucks caught using City Hall’s incinerator
    Bangkok governor Aswin Kwanmuang led city officials and police to prevent nine garbage trucks from Samut Sakhon province illegally dumping trash at the Nong Khaem incinerator on Thursday. The governor...

    Bangkok governor Aswin Kwanmuang led city officials and police to prevent nine garbage trucks from Samut Sakhon province illegally dumping trash at the Nong Khaem incinerator on Thursday.

    The governor said that city officials had been quietly keeping a close watch on the activities of the trucks at the garbage disposal facility for about a week before the raid yesterday.

    He said that the City’s auditors had become suspicious of an unusual increase in the costs of trash disposal amounting to about 100,000 baht a day at the incinerator, which normally burns about 3,500 tonnes of garbage daily.

    An investigation was then launched, with plain-clothes officials sent to the facility to observe, until it was confirmed that there was something amiss.

    It was reported that two tambon administration organizations, at Tha Mai and Suan Luang in Samut Sakhon, had hired a private firm to dispose of garbage in their localities.  Instead of disposing the trash by itself, the company allegedly colluded with officials at the Nong Khaem incinerator to do the job.

    Governor Aswin said he believes some city officials were involved in the illegal activity and promised to order an investigation, adding that a complaint will be filed with the police to demand compensation from the owner of the rogue garbage trucks.

    17 January 2020
    General
    https://www.thaipbsworld.com/?p=244067
  • Thanathorn invites supporters to his “final” political rally at Thammasat U on Saturday
    Embattled Future Forward party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit has invited his supporters and members of the public to attend the party’s political gathering at the Rangsit campus of Thammasat University tomorrow...

    Embattled Future Forward party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit has invited his supporters and members of the public to attend the party’s political gathering at the Rangsit campus of Thammasat University tomorrow (Saturday) at 2pm.

    “This maybe the last day that I will speak in front of the people as a party leader,” said Thanathorn in his Facebook post today, noting that he may be banned from politics and his party dissolved on January 21st, when the Constitutional Court is due to deliver a ruling on the party accused of harbouring an intention to overthrow the democratic system with the King as the head of state, widely known as the “Illuminati Case.”

    “I still believe in our innocence and believe that the evidence and legal process of this case are motivated by the desire to get rid of political enemies, rather than being a matter of right or wrong. If that is the case (dissolution), it means that the “Future is Now” event will be the last opportunity for me to address the people as the leader of the Future Forward party,” said Thanathorn.

    On the same subject, he said that party secretary-general Piyabutr Saengkanokkul will deliver the party’s closing statement about the “Illuminati Case” outside the courtroom.

    Whatever the Constitutional Court’s ruling, he vowed to carry on with his fight and political activity outside parliament.

    The charges were lodged against the Future Forward party and its executive committee on May 15th last year by Dr. Natthaporn Toprayoon, a former advisor to the ombudsman.

    The Constitutional Court accepted the case for consideration, claiming that the petition was substantiated and there was no need for an inquiry to be held.  The court scheduled the first hearing of the case on January 21st and it is anticipated that the court would deliver its judgment on the same day.

    17 January 2020
    News
    https://www.thaipbsworld.com/?p=244068
  • Brackish tap water threatens flora it Government House compound
    Brackish tap water, caused by the intrusion of seawater into the Chao Phraya River, is threatening some of the flora in the compound of Government House, prompting officials to seek...

    Brackish tap water, caused by the intrusion of seawater into the Chao Phraya River, is threatening some of the flora in the compound of Government House, prompting officials to seek help from the Agriculture Department.

    Government House officials said that several small trees, such as Lamduan, Chor Sumalee, Rachavadi, Nom Maew and Hom Muenlee, are vulnerable to the salinity of brackish tap water, which is used to water the gardens there.

    They said that, although the saline level was only 400 mg/litre, which is still within the 1,000 mg/litre standard, some of the plants could not tolerate it.

    Exacerbated by stagnant air, the dust problem in the northern provinces of Lampang and Phrae today is worse than in Bangkok and its suburbs, with the levels of PM2.5 particulate matter in the two provinces being measured at 76 and 77 microns respectively, compared to 28-55 microns in most of the capital and its vicinity.  Khlong Toei district had the highest level of the fine dust particles, measuring 60 microns.

    Areas in Bangkok with excessive levels of PM2.5 dust particles today are:

    • Din Daeng Road in Din Daeng district, 55 microns
    • Khlong Goom and Bung Goom districts, 55 microns
    • Lat Phrao Soi 95, 58 microns; Rama III-Charoenkrung Road, 58 microns
    • Nawamin Road in Bang Kapi district, 51 microns
    • Lat Krabang Road in Lat Krabang district 52 microns
    • Charoen Nakhon Road in Khlong San district 52 microns
    • Khlong Toei district, 60 microns
    • Tambon Thung Song Hong in Laksi district, 54 microns
    • PahonyothinRoad in Bang Khen district, 51 microns

    Satellite images, from Geo-Informatics & Space Technology Development Agency (GISTDA), on Thursday showed a total of 126 hotspots in Thailand, 59 in farm land and 26 in Sor Por Kor (land reform) land.

    The images also showed 957 hotspots in Cambodia, 130 in the Lao Republic and 42 in Myanmar.

    17 January 2020
    General
    https://www.thaipbsworld.com/?p=244069
  • Xi arrives in Nay Pyi Taw for state visit to Myanmar
    NAY PYI TAW, Jan. 17 (Xinhua) — Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Nay Pyi Taw on Friday for a state visit to Myanmar. During his two-day stay, Xi is...

    NAY PYI TAW, Jan. 17 (Xinhua) — Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Nay Pyi Taw on Friday for a state visit to Myanmar.

    During his two-day stay, Xi is scheduled to attend a series of state events held by Myanmar President U Win Myint, hold talks with State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, meet with Commander-in-Chief of Defense Services Min Aung Hlaing, and exchange views with the leaders of Myanmar’s parliament and political parties.

    Xi will also join Myanmar leaders in a series of celebrations to mark the 70th anniversary of bilateral diplomatic ties and the launching ceremony of the China-Myanmar Culture and Tourism Year program.

    It is Xi’s first overseas trip this year, and the first visit to the Asian neighbor by a Chinese president after an interval of 19 years.

    17 January 2020
    Highlight
    https://www.thaipbsworld.com/?p=244064
  • Quote of the week
    17 January 2020
    Quotes of the week
    https://www.thaipbsworld.com/?p=244061
  • Quote of the week
    17 January 2020
    Quotes of the week
    https://www.thaipbsworld.com/?p=244058
  • Rain brings joy for Australian firefighters, farmers
    Drought-breaking storms dumped desperately needed rain on some bushfire-ravaged parts of eastern Australia on Friday, while giving joy to many farmers who have faced losing precious livestock and crops.  ...

    Drought-breaking storms dumped desperately needed rain on some bushfire-ravaged parts of eastern Australia on Friday, while giving joy to many farmers who have faced losing precious livestock and crops.

     

    The rains gave exhausted firefighters a boost in battling some of the blazes, with more relief expected over the weekend as the wet weather is forecast to hit other hotspots.

    The unprecedented fires, fuelled by climate change and a years-long drought, have claimed 28 lives over the past five months.

     

    They have scorched massive tracts of pristine forests in eastern and southern Australia, decimated livestock on already barren farms and destroyed 2,000 homes.

    Following extreme hot and dry weather that have fuelled the fires, Friday saw the heaviest rainfalls in nearly a decade in some areas close to hotspots.

     

    “Rain has fallen across most fire grounds over the last 24 hours, which is great news,” said the Rural Fire Service of New South Wales, the eastern state where many of the worst blazes have raged.

    “Our fingers are crossed that this continues over the coming days.”

     

    – Crisis not over –

    However the rains have not hit all fires in New South Wales, nor in the state of Victoria to the south, where many of the worst blazes are raging.

    The rain has also completely missed Kangaroo Island, the nation’s third, biggest off the southern coast of the mainland that is famed for its pristine wilderness.

     

    Fires have devastated the national park on the island, wiping out much of its koala population and threatening to completely eradicate bird and other endemic marsupial species.

    Authorities have warned the crisis could worsen again with Australia only halfway through its summer.

     

    – Celebration –

    Still, the prospect of more wet weather across eastern and southern Australia over the coming days offered further hope.

    The bushfires and the drought have pushed many farmers in Australia to the brink, and this week’s heavy rain gave many rare cause for celebration.

     

    “What can I say, we are so lucky. Before this, dams were dry, and we were carting water and feeding stock for months,” Stephanie Stewart, who lives on a farm in northern New South Wales, told AFP.

    “This has made life a lot easier on the land, that’s for sure. Now hoping it spreads and can ease the burden for so many other amazing farmers who have been and still dealing with this dreaded drought.”

     

    – Animal rescues –

    Roughly a billion animals are estimated to have died in the fires nationwide.

    With huge tracts of their habitats destroyed, environmental groups have warned the blazes could drive many species to extinction.

     

    Much attention has focused on Australia’s tree-dwelling koalas, with images of the cuddly-looking animals being rescued from wildfires making world headlines.

    But on Friday morning, some koalas and other native animals at the Australia Reptile Park on the east coast of New South Wales had to be rescued from floodwaters.

     

    “This is incredible, just last week, we were having daily meetings to discuss the imminent threat of bushfires,” park director Tim Faulkner said.

    “Today, we’ve had the whole team out there, drenched, acting fast to secure the safety of our animals and defend the park from the onslaught of water.

    “We haven’t seen flooding like this at the park for over 15 years.”

     

    – Rain dangers –

    The heavy rain is being seen as a double-edged sword.

    The water could also make it harder for firefighting trucks to venture deep into forests on muddy tracks, authorities have warned.

     

    Flash floods are another concern, with scorched mountains unable to hold the water and potentially sending torrents of muddy ash into waterways.

    Such torrents have already led to huge numbers of fish dying in rivers that were poisoned by the muddy ash, local media have reported.

    17 January 2020
    Environment
    https://www.thaipbsworld.com/?p=244054