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Yamato

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Everything posted by Yamato

  1. Yamato

    Chiwit Thai

    The best steak I had in this trip is in UNION an American Bistro Was quiet when I arrived at about 4pm Started with a local stout Followed by one of the best wine I had in Castle Rock - Bootleg Here comes my tenderlion Perfectly done Then more diners came Desert chocolate with peanut butter Yummy Patio sitting
  2. Yamato

    Chiwit Thai

    Think was Tuesday morning found a pizza place for breakfast Mod Pizza, one price for each size as for the toppings its up to you Breakfast Very nice place and friendly staff and delicious pizza and beer
  3. Yamato

    Chiwit Thai

    Found another good restaurant in Castle Rock - Castle Cafe Old style American restaurant Jalapeño cream soup Deep fried catfish The restaurant famous pan fried chicken So juicy Great restaurant
  4. Yamato

    Chiwit Thai

    One morning went to IHOP next to hotel at about 7.30am for breakfast
  5. Yamato

    Chiwit Thai

    Went to the "best burger in town" - Crave Real Burger My voodoo The bar and kitchen Fantastic Fried Pickle, my very fist time having this, its simply magical My Cubano burger More beer
  6. Yamato

    Chiwit Thai

    Left Denver this morning. Just board flight from SFO to Narita finally going home. Love United’s pillow and blanket so soft and comfy
  7. Yamato

    Chiwit Thai

    One night pretty late felt hungry to popped in a restaurant next to hotel Had a steak sandwich, pretty good Inexpensive too The onion rings were so good
  8. Yamato

    Chiwit Thai

    One of the days there felt like having BBQ ribs found this nice place for lunch - Black Eyed Pea Lunch is served Chicken Ribs Tender and juicy Falls off the bone
  9. Yamato

    Chiwit Thai

    Some beautiful scenery of the place I spent past 7 days Place named after this rock \
  10. Yamato

    Chiwit Thai

    Just applied for my Thailand Pass online about an hour ago for my trip back to Bangkok, it’s really getting better and better It said 3-7 days but from wife’s experience I’d expect less than 24 hours so this is shocking for me, got approval in 27 minutes can you believe it? Kudos to ThaiPass.
  11. Yamato

    Chiwit Thai

    Googled for Italian so found this restaurant - Scileppi's at the Old Stone Church Inside is beautiful Very nice cabsav from Napa Valley Meatballs Cold cuts Lobster ravioli Great lunch
  12. Yamato

    Chiwit Thai

    Walking the same 2km back to hotel passed by a drive-in fast food restaurant - SONIC. For me this is interesting The car on the right is buying for take away For cars dining in they part their cars like this and make their order, after order is ready will be send to them and eat in car This is outdoor dining-in (there is no indoor dining) however due to covid they don't allow eating here More booths for dine-in yor car Looking at the menu and photos I think they serve very nice fast food. Got to try if have a chance.
  13. Yamato

    Chiwit Thai

    Oh the second night here took a 2km walk and found a Vietnam noodle restaurant Pho 777 It was cold so this bowl of hot pho helps a lot. Tastes well to the soup.
  14. Yamato

    Chiwit Thai

    First night not much sleep as usual. Morning view Breakfast at a family restaurant next to hotel
  15. Yamato

    Chiwit Thai

    Just 5 mins walk to a restaurant for dinner Salad and beer Meatloaf
  16. Yamato

    Chiwit Thai

    Being a frequent traveller for work and not been travelling for almost 2 years I always thought my first trip would be like before, for work and close by however it was not to be as last weekend decided to make a personal family trip not back to Singapore but to the States. Although there is not requirement for visa for me there is still a requirement to apply for an ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization). Its done online - https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/ its easy to fill after that you pay $14 website tells you will reply within 2 days. I received a reply from them in about 1hr 10mins that its been approved. Was surprised. The other things I needed to do were standard stuff - PCR test; vaccine passport and ready to go. Need to be prepared for coming back so insurance is important and return PCR. Finally after LAX arrived in Denver Airport on Wednesday Took a local transport $35 After an hour at a small town hotel Very nice hotel
  17. https://asia.nikkei.com/Politics/International-relations/Dalai-Lama-says-China-can-learn-a-lot-from-Taiwan?utm_campaign=GL_asia_daily&utm_medium=email&utm_source=NA_newsletter&utm_content=article_link&del_type=1&pub_date=20211110190000&seq_num=14&si=44594 Dalai Lama says China can learn a lot from Taiwan Relations between Beijing and Taipei 'delicate,' spiritual leader says Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama speaks from his home in India during an online press conference on Wednesday. (Screenshot from FCCJ Youtube) ANDREW SHARP, Nikkei Asia deputy politics and economics editorNovember 10, 2021 16:50 JST TOKYO -- The Dalai Lama said that China can learn a lot from Taiwan and described relations between Beijing and Taipei as "delicate." Speaking in a sometimes rambling online press conference to the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan, the Buddhist monk mostly discussed spiritual matters but was steered by questions into political affairs. When asked if Taiwan could become the next Tibet -- a Chinese territory since 1951 -- the 86-year-old said that the democratic island has a lot that China can learn from. "I really find that the true Chinese heritage and traditions are in Taiwan. Taiwan has kept a 1,000-year-old Chinese tradition and culture," he said from his home in Dharamsala, India. "Economically, Taiwan gets a lot of help from Mainland China. But Chinese culture, including Buddhism, many Chinese brothers and sisters can learn a lot from Taiwanese brothers and sisters." "I really pray that Taiwan and mainland China are unified peacefully," he said, without clarifying whether that should be under the government in Beijing or Taipei. Tensions across the Taiwan Strait have grown increasingly fraught since President Tsai Ing-wen came to power in 2016. Beijing frequently flies warplanes near the island, and Taiwan's defense minister recently warned that China already has the ability to invade and will be capable of mounting a "full scale" invasion by 2025. The Dalai Lama said he had no plans to visit Taiwan. "The relations between Taiwan and China are quite delicate. I don't want to cause local political difficulties," he said. "I can communicate with people in Taiwan like I am talking to you now [online]." The Dalai Lama has lived in exile in northern India since he fled his Chinese-ruled homeland in 1959. China considers him a separatist even though he long ago abandoned the goal of Tibetan independence in favor of it gaining greater autonomy. At least 130,000 Tibetans live in exile, including 85,000 in India. But most of the world's 6 million Tibetans live in the autonomous Tibetan region of western China and regard the Dalai Lama as their spiritual leader. Asked if he wanted to return to Tibet one day, the Dalai Lama said he is happy to remain in exile in India. "I'm very happy in India. We see snow mountains, lakes, forests. I love this place," he said. "India has complete freedom and religious harmony... The followers of all religious traditions exist in India. It has very good harmony." His word could be interpreted that the Dalai Lama wants Indian government of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party to continue supporting Tibetan refugees. New Delhi has been offering citizenship to Tibetans in India instead of abandoning refugee status. In 2017, at the behest of the Indian government, the Tibetan government-in-exile changed the English name for its political leader from "prime minister" to "president." The Dalai Lama said he was willing to travel to Beijing to meet with Chinese leaders including President Xi Jinping. "China itself is changing," he said. "[Chinese leaders] are sometimes too extreme. They try to control [people]." On spiritual matters, the Dalai Lama said "religion is too politicized, that's a problem." "Your enemy is your best teacher. With an enemy, you can practice patience. That is one of the important factors for peace of mind," he said. "Tibetans generally have a peaceful mind. Inside Tibet also, you can see they are very faithful and often have a smiling face."
  18. Yamato

    Chiwit Thai

    https://asia.nikkei.com/Business/Markets/Commodities/Australian-miner-Kingsgate-to-restart-Thai-gold-mine-operations?utm_campaign=GL_asia_daily&utm_medium=email&utm_source=NA_newsletter&utm_content=article_link&del_type=1&pub_date=20211112190000&seq_num=23&si=44594 Australian miner Kingsgate to restart Thai gold mine operations Government seeks to end dispute through arbitration as critics cry foul Australian miner Kingsgate was forced to halt operations at the Chatree gold mine in Thailand on Jan 1, 2017 after the junta ordered the mine to close, citing environmental concerns. © Reuters APORNRATH PHOONPHONGPHIPHAT, Nikkei staff writerNovember 12, 2021 13:02 JST BANGKOK -- After a four-year dispute, operations at the Chatree gold mine in Thailand, run by Australia's Kingsgate Consolidated, are scheduled to resume early next year once arbitration talks between the Thai government and the mining company are concluded. Talks to resolve the dispute, taking place under the terms of the Thailand-Australia Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA), are due to conclude on Jan. 31, 2022, after being postponed several times. Kingsgate has expressed confidence that it will be able to restart operations at Chatree soon after the arbitrator reaches a final decision. By the end of this year, Kingsgate should be ready to begin refurbishing the mine, with activation of its Metallurgical Processing License and renewal of its lease, Ross Smyth-Kirk, executive chairman of Kingsgate, said in a statement in late October. Although the outcome of the negotiations remains unclear, Kingsgate is considering a number of options, including refurbishing the mine to access low-grade ore stockpiles for processing. The mine has around 6.6 million tons of ore and is estimated to contain 73,000 ounces of gold and 780,000 ounces of silver, according to Kingsgate. Korbchai Sungsitthisawad, permanent secretary of the Thai Industry Ministry, acknowledged that the two sides are negotiating under the TAFTA dispute-settlement process. Opposition parties and other critics accuse the government of caving in to Kingsgate after it realized it had little chance of prevailing, and of using the negotiation process to avoid being forced to pay massive compensation if it lost in the case. The Chatree gold mine is operated by Akara Mining, a Thai subsidiary wholly owned by Australian miner Kingsgate, produces silver and gold. © Reuters Jiraporn Sindhuprai, an opposition member of parliament said that Prime Mister Prayuth Chan-ocha's order to close down Chatree was unfair and unlawful, and that the government's move put it at a disadvantage when Kingsgate brought the case to TAFTA's dispute-settlement mechanism. "The closure of the mine immediately forced villagers and workers out of their jobs, negatively affected the reputation of Thailand and required the country to spend hundreds of millions baht from the budget during the fight," Jiraporn told reporters. The government is believed to have spent around 600 million baht ($18 million) during the arbitral tribunal process and would likely have been forced to pay up to 25.3 billion baht if it lost the case, according to Jiraporn. The dispute began in December 2016, when Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who was then the leader of the military government, invoked a legal provision called "Section 44" to close the Chatree mine in the northern province of Pichit, citing environmental and health concerns. Section 44, which was enacted by the junta, allows the prime minister, as head of the National Council for Peace and Order, as the junta is officially known, to take whatever measures it deems necessary to prevent actions that may subvert peace and order. Kingsgate had operated the Chatree mine since 2001 under Akara Resources, a Thai subsidiary wholly owned by Kingsgate. It had a valid mining license through 2028. Kingsgate, which was forced to halt operations at the mine on Jan. 1, 2017, disputed the government's decision, saying toxic substances found in the area could have come from pesticides used by farmers nearby, and brought the matter to the TAFTA dispute-settlement body. Opposition legislators said Thailand was unlikely to win the case, as Section 44 was seen as inapplicable to a private foreign company, and that the government's evidence was unclear. "That's why the Thai government has never revealed any progress during the fight, and just came up with a negotiation, which is likely to benefit Kingsgate," Jiraporn said.
  19. Yamato

    Chiwit Thai

    https://www.newsbreak.com/news/2431954341797/thai-king-returns-to-germany-with-250-strong-entourage-and-30-poodles Thai king returns to Germany with 250-strong entourage and 30 poodles By Shweta Sharma The Independent 2 hours ago Thailand ’s king Maha Vajiralongkorn returned to Germany for the first time in over a year with his entourage of more than 250 people and a beloved pack of 30 poodles. The 69-year-old monarch and his entourage were pictured at an airport hotel outside Munich after their flight in a luxurious private jet, German tabloid The Bild reported on Wednesday. Wearing a brown and orange tracksuit, the king was pictured on the way to the pool of the Hilton Airport hotel in Munich. The king, who is known for his love of dogs and famously promoted his pet poodle Fu-Fu to the rank of Air Chief Marshall, reached Munich on Monday and booked the entire fourth floor for 11 days. This was the king’s first official trip abroad since pro-democracy protests and unprecedented public criticism of the royals over laws that punish defaming the monarchy with up to 15 years in prison. More than 156 people have charged with the royal laws related to insulting monarchs, said the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights group. His first trip to Germany in more than a year came after the sovereign faced criticism for absence as coronavirus cases spiked in April and May. He was residing in a hotel in Germany’s Bavarian Alps that was closed to the public with his entourage of staff and dogs. “He’s back and is feeling at home with his poodles in his favourite kingdom of Bavaria,” Bild wrote. He returned to Thailand in October last year to mark the fourth anniversary of his father’s death amid pro-democracy protests. But the return was widely believed that it was in response to the criticism. The reason for the king’s frequent trips and his relationship with Germany are not known. He was titled Crown Prince of Thailand by his father King Bhumibol Adulyadej in a ceremony in 1973. In his early years, he was educated in a school in Bangkok and at the age of 13 he was sent to the UK for schooling. He completed his university education in Australia’s Royal Military College, Duntroon, for his arts degree as a corporal. After his advanced training in Thailand, the UK, US and Australia, he took the role of a officer in Thai armed forces and also became a fighter pilot. The king spends most time in his lakeside villa in the town of Tutzing — which is known as a playground for the rich. His trip also coincided with the verdict by Thailand’s constitutional court on Wednesday that protesters’ demands to call for reform of the monarchy were an “abuse of the rights and freedoms and harmed the state’s security.” Protests swept Thailand last over its harshest “lèse-majesté” laws, which makes it a punishable offence for anyone who “defames, insults or threatens the king, queen, heir apparent or regent.” People can face between three and 15 years in prison. The ruling was described as “a judicial coup” by human rights activists who said it can pave the way for more legal cases against the protesters.
  20. https://asia.nikkei.com/Spotlight/Belt-and-Road/Southeast-Asia-s-Belt-and-Road-rail-hopes-beset-by-delays?utm_campaign=GL_asia_daily&utm_medium=email&utm_source=NA_newsletter&utm_content=article_link&del_type=1&pub_date=20211111190000&seq_num=20&si=44594 Southeast Asia's Belt and Road rail hopes beset by delays Only small fraction of Thailand's segment completed after 4 years A rail line from Kunming, China, to Vientiane, Laos, is slated to open on Dec. 2. But other parts of the pan-Asia railway face setbacks. (Photo by Vientiane Times) MARIMI KISHIMOTO, Nikkei staff writerNovember 11, 2021 02:41 JST BANGKOK -- Much fanfare greeted a Chinese plan to connect Southeast Asia through more than 3,000 km of high-speed rail when it arrived in Thailand in 2017. But on the ground near one of its many pieces, the project has so little visibility that a train station attendant struggled to find it. "A construction site for high-speed rail?" the mystified attendant in Nakhon Ratchasima, a two-hour drive north of Bangkok, said last month. "I don't know where it is." The site, only about 100 meters from an existing rail line, had been graded but no rails had been laid. Nor is this the only delay for a project touted as a centerpiece of China's Belt and Road infrastructure initiative. The rail network, variously referred to as the Kunming-Singapore Railway or the Pan-Asia Railway, is supposed to begin in Kunming in southern China and snake through Southeast Asia, ending in Singapore. Once completed, it would give China an artery to move goods and people from a landlocked province all the way to the tip of the Malay Peninsula. In Thailand, the 250 km stretch between capital Bangkok and Nakhon Ratchasima was designated as the first segment. The groundbreaking ceremony in December 2017 was attended by Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and other senior officials. But after nearly four years, only 3.5 km of rail has been laid. Nowhere to go: A section of rail in Thailand's Nakhon Ratchasima province had yet to be laid in October 2021. (Photo by Marimi Kishimoto) The first section was supposed to go into operation this year. Now the start date has been pushed back to 2026, according to the latest schedule by Thailand's Ministry of Transport. Because of delays, the second section connecting Nakhon Ratchasima with the Laotian border will not go into service until 2028. The project to build the section going south from the Thai capital to the Malaysian border has been put on hold. "Construction has been delayed because Chinese engineers can't enter the country due to COVID, as well as delays in land acquisition," said Pichet Kunathamaraks, deputy director-general of the transport ministry's Department of Rail Transport. The section connecting Kunming and the Laotian capital of Vientiane -- the only segment whose construction proceeded on schedule -- is due to begin service Dec. 2. China led that phase and covered 70% of the costs. The segment was completed in roughly five years. Elsewhere, setbacks have been frequent. Plans to build the 350 km segment linking Singapore and the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur were officially halted in January. The two countries formally agreed to the construction in 2013, but former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad froze the project in 2018. Despite efforts to renegotiate the terms of the project, the parties could not come to an agreement before the December 2020 deadline. For the Malaysian segment connecting the city of Kota Bharu in the north to Port Klang in the west, less than a quarter of the construction had been finished by the end of August. Completion is expected to be pushed back by a year from the current target of the end of 2026. The delays will sway the profitability of the various segments, which rely heavily on Chinese financing. Laos estimates that it will take 30 years after starting rail services to pay back the debt for building the line within its border. But that projection depends on receiving enough income from connections to surrounding countries. The spotty construction of the remaining segments will virtually guarantee that ridership will be weak. Some have expressed concern that Laos may be unable to pay back the loans and fall into a debt trap, in which China will take over the rights on a key piece of infrastructure. But for China, too, the ambitious rail project would lose strategic value as a major logistics artery if it remains incomplete. With the Chinese economy showing signs of slowing, there are indications that Belt and Road projects will not be immune to budget scrutiny. How long China will continue to provide financial assistance is unclear.
  21. Yamato

    METAVERSE

    https://asia.nikkei.com/Business/Technology/Into-the-Metaverse-5-things-to-know-about-tech-s-latest-buzzword?utm_campaign=GL_asia_daily&utm_medium=email&utm_source=NA_newsletter&utm_content=article_link&del_type=1&pub_date=20211111190000&seq_num=17&si=44594 Into the Metaverse: 5 things to know about tech's latest buzzword Virtual reality on steroids: Attend concerts with friends in other countries Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks to an avatar of himself during a live-streamed virtual and augmented reality conference to announce the rebrand of Facebook as Meta. © Facebook/Reuters LAULY LI, CHENG TING-FANG and YIFAN YU, Nikkei staff writersNovember 11, 2021 13:44 JST TAIPEI/PALO ALTO, U.S. -- Mark Zuckerburg raised eyebrows when he announced late last month that his social media empire will be rebranded as "Meta." The name is inspired by a sci-fi concept known as the metaverse -- and the company formerly known as Facebook is betting that it represents the future of the internet. But what exactly is the metaverse, and why are companies like Google, Tencent and Nvidia so excited about it? What is the "metaverse" concept and how long has it been around? The term "metaverse" was coined by Neal Stephensen in his science fiction novel "Snow Crash." It describes a virtual world where humans interact with one another through the use of digital avatars. Movies such as "The Matrix" and "Ready Player One" explore this idea. Now, real-life tech players believe it is possible to not only create such immersive digital worlds but also to integrate them with our physical reality. Facebook envisions a scenario in which two people virtually attend the same concert despite being miles away from the venue -- and each other. Or, co-workers in different countries could collaborate as if they were in the same room. Think of it as virtual reality on steroids. Key technologies will include human-computer interface devices such as VR and AR headsets, multidimensional graphics and AI simulations, massive computing power and software and hardware for creating user avatars, to name just a few. Why are companies so interested in the metaverse? Tech companies are looking for the next frontier now that the internet, social media and smartphones have become everyday tools. Facebook, which also makes the Oculus, the world's most popular VR headset, sees the metaverse as "the successor to the mobile internet," Zuckerberg said when the company announced its rebranding. Microsoft, Apple and Google are also pouring resources into virtual and augmented reality tech. Nvidia, the world's most valuable chip developer, has embraced the metaverse with enthusiasm. To promote its Omniverse platform, the company in April held an entirely digital event; even CEO Jensen Huang was digitally simulated. "Omniverse is the engine to create and simulate the virtual world ... and it also allows different agents, different people to connect to the virtual world," Huang told a news briefing on Wednesday. "The metaverse could mean a lot of things to a lot of people, but Omniverse, as we described, has immediate applications today," he added, describing how his company is already using it for a range of applications, including creating a digital copy of the real world in which to test self-driving vehicles. China's tech titans also sense opportunities. Social and video gaming giant Tencent has filed nearly a hundred metaverse-related trademark applications since September, while e-commerce giant Alibaba has registered several related trademarks. A day after Facebook announced its name change, Baidu, the Chinese search engine giant, applied to trademark the term "metaapp." In hardware, Foxconn, the world's largest contract electronics manufacturer, intends to be part of the metaverse supply chain. "The next two big things in the tech industry are electric vehicles and [the] metaverse," Chairman Young Liu said. "Foxconn will definitely have metaverse-related products." What are the technical challenges? Giving users an immersive experience will require fast, low-latency transfers of massive amounts of data. That means wireless 5G connectivity will be a must. Other requirements include high-powered semiconductors to run complex algorithms and devices like VR headsets to enable users to duck into the digital world. Technical hurdles remain. Current VR headsets are heavy and often have issues with visual resolution, causing feelings of dizziness or nausea after extended use. And advanced computing capabilities such as gesture navigation will significantly eat up battery life. Content will be crucial to the success of the metaverse, but 3D modeling software --- integral for building an immersive alt-universe -- is still more expensive than what many developers can afford. What are there skeptics saying? While companies race to embrace the metaverse, analysts are a bit more cautious. Donnie Teng, a tech analyst with Nomura Securities, told Nikkei Asia that the hype around the metaverse is merely the next stage in the ongoing search for ways to put VR and AR technologies to better use. "The concept has been around for quite some time, but it's still emerging, and people are still exploring the possibilities, with no clear answer," Teng said. "At the end of the day, it's still whether there is a good enough tech infrastructure and applications out there to really realize this dream of building a fully virtual metaverse." Are there any other concerns? Data privacy and cybersecurity. Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen said in an interview with the Associated Press that the metaverse "will require us to put many, many more sensors in our homes and our workplaces," she said, adding that the company "should have a transparency plan for the metaverse before they start building all this stuff." Haugen is not the only one urging caution. David Reid, professor of AI and Spatial Computing at Liverpool Hope University, is calling for regulation of the metaverse before the "technology becomes a reality in the next five to 10 years," he said in a statement. "The metaverse has huge implications -- it comes with fantastic advantages and terrifying dangers," Reid said. "We're clearly in the very early stages of the metaverse, but we need to start talking about these problems now before we go down a route we can't reverse away from," he added. "It's crucial for the future."
  22. https://asia.nikkei.com/Spotlight/The-Big-Story/Thailand-s-billionaire-boom-the-rise-of-Sarath-Ratanavadi?del_type=1&pub_date=20211110190000&seq_num=2 Sarath Ratanavadi, Thailand's new energy king, built his fortune via his power company, Gulf Energy. A man of mystery, he is rarely photographed and keeps his affairs private. © Illustration by Hiroko Oshima Thailand's billionaire boom: the rise of Sarath Ratanavadi How the energy tycoon shot to fortune in Asia's most unequal country MARWAAN MACAN-MARKAR, Asia regional correspondentNovember 10, 2021 06:00 JST BANGKOK -- Thailand's richest billionaires and their wives filled an ornate hall in Bangkok's sprawling Dusit Palace complex. In the front row of the gaggle, 20 people: The men dressed in white, military-style uniforms used for royal audiences, their wives in Thai-style, powder-blue long-sleeved blouses and wraps of Thai silk that shimmered in the brightly lit gilded room. A hush came over the group as King Maha Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida entered. The group had gathered in honor of the king's birthday the previous month; it included the wealthiest patriarchs of the country's Sino-Thai clans who have been the country's unofficial oligarchy for years, each bearing two envelopes as gifts. The attendees were well known to each other; the same family names figure on the invite list year in and year out as old fortunes pass from generation to generation. Held last year in August, the gathering included one new face: Sarath Ratanavadi, who in a few short years had vaulted to prominence as Thailand's energy king. The then 55-year-old Sarath stood with his wife, Nalinee, on the far side of the group, the youngest face amid the aging tycoons and barons. Sarath was marked by his trim figure, medium height, thick eyebrows and penetrating eyes. Sarath's elevation to this ultimate circle of privilege came blindingly quick in a semifeudal society where wealth is mainly inherited and political connections count as much as business acumen. There was no public trace of Sarath's wealth before he mounted the Forbes list in 2018, a year after his company, Gulf Energy Development, the kingdom's largest private power producer by market value, made its initial public offering. This year he is the country's fifth-richest, worth $8.9 billion, according to the 2021 Forbes rich list. By February, he had been awarded his first royal decoration, the Knight Grand Cross (First class) of the Most Noble Order of the Crown of Thailand, further cementing his place among the country's uber-wealthy business elite. Thailand’s richest billionaires and their wives, including Sarath Ratanavadi and his wife Nalinee, pictured far right in front of the window, met with King Maha Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida in 2020. (Photo courtesy of Royal Household Bureau) "Wow! That's a bolt from the blue. Who is he?" blurted Kevin Hewison, a veteran Australian academic who specializes in Thai politics, when he spotted Sarath's name on the Forbes list for the first time in 2018. Hewison at the time had just completed a paper, titled, "Crazy Rich Thais: Thailand's Capitalist Class, 1980-2019." "I was also surprised to see someone move up so rapidly into the top five, which had remained pretty stable over the period 2006 to 2019," he said. Sarath is not just another run-of-the-mill billionaire, of which Thailand now has more than 50. His presence among the invitees to the palace "put [him] into a different layer, a different class by being in that exclusive group," Chris Baker, a respected scholar of Thai politics, history and wealth, told Nikkei Asia. "It has clearly made Sarath more public, and he has outed himself by the message it conveys." The billionaire's club Scaling the heights of wealth and privilege so quickly is remarkable in any society but especially so in one that is, by many measures, the world's most unequal. Thailand's political structure -- a succession of 13 military juntas since 1932 and an enduring monarchy -- makes social mobility especially tricky. Before Sarath joined the conclave at the king's birthday, no new family names had been featured since the monarch ascended the throne after his father, the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, died in 2016. Southeast Asia's second-largest economy has straddled economic and social fault lines that pit the majority in the rural heartlands and urban pockets against a smaller, influential and well-heeled affluent class in Bangkok and other large cities. According to a study by the Bank of Thailand, the central bank, the average monthly household income went from 17,000 baht in 2014 to about 22,000 baht ($671) by 2020. At the other end of the spectrum, Thailand's 40 richest this year are worth $151.7 billion, or 28% of gross domestic product, according to Duangmanee Laovakul, an assistant professor at the Center for Research on Inequality and Social Policy at Thammasat University. Thailand's income gap in 2018 was the widest in the world, according to statistics published in the yearly Credit Suisse Global Wealth Databook. The top 1% controlled 66.9% of the country's wealth that year. Although the indicator in 2020 contracted to 40%, in line with most countries during the pandemic, Thailand was still the world's fifth-most unequal out of 40 nations rated by Credit Suisse. The top tier's rapid consolidation of their country's wealth has made Thailand the high net worth capital of Southeast Asia, with 52 billionaires (worth at least $1 billion) last year, according to the Hurun Global Rich List -- 10th in the world, while the economy counted in nominal GDP was the 22nd largest. Reaching the top might be hard, but once one arrives, the atmosphere is collegial, according to Baker. "The Thai oligarchs help one another," the political scholar said. "There is a camaraderie to help each other if one of them is in trouble. There have been times when there has been competition, yet they feel a greater need to stick together." Building an energy empire To be tagged as an insider in Thailand's power circles confirms the long distance Sarath has traveled since the early 1990s, when Thailand's economic growth was galloping along at 8.2% per year. Armed with two engineering degrees, one from Bangkok's prestigious Chulalongkorn University and the other from the University of Southern California, a young Sarath found opportunities as new energy policies were being rolled out. The government had decided to end state control of the power supply and open the market to private independent utilities. The shift, made to meet growing energy demand, resulted in a "gold rush," as some describe. "By going into energy [Sarath] did not join the rest of his generation," a longtime acquaintance recalled. Most of the newly minted graduates from Bangkok's elite universities were drawn to the booming world of finance. A power plant operated by GSRC, a Gulf Energy subsidiary, in Chonburi Province, Thailand. The plant has a power generation capacity of 2,650 MW. (Photo courtesy of Gulf Energy) In a country where generals hold sway, Sarath has benefited from his military pedigree. His father, Gen. Thaworn Ratanavadi, was considered close to Gen. Suchinda Kraprayoon, the strongman who in 1991 staged a coup to overthrow an elected government. His grandfather, Sode Ratanavadi, also a military officer, was involved in a political party that overthrew the monarch in 1932, ending then-Siam's absolute monarchy. His wife, Nalinee, hails from a wealthy Thai-Chinese political dynasty in Tak, a northwestern province along the Thai-Myanmar border. "[Sarath's] wife has been key, and his father-in-law owns a business empire in Tak, so Sarath had money and strong connections when he came back from the U.S.," said Suwat Sinsadok, managing director of FSS International Investment Advisory Securities, a Bangkok business consultancy. Sarath consults Suwat before making business decisions. "But he was very focused even then," Suwat added. "From 1994, Sarath saw power as the future." Sarath built his energy empire under the Gulf brand name. His first foray, in 1994, was with Gulf Electric, which won a bid to build a coal-fired power plant south of Bangkok. These were heady days; economic reforms invited private companies into the power production sector, ending a decadeslong state monopoly. But Sarath ran into stiff grassroots environmental protests, and his project stalled. A decade later, with Thailand being governed by a billionaire prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, Sarath again invested in power, this time in the central province of Saraburi and this time gas-fired plants rather than coal. By then, Sarath had the backing of J-Power, a Japanese utility that had a 49% stake in Gulf Electric. More money, more problems But Sarath's business model -- winning state concessions to produce power -- veered back into controversy in 2013, when Thaksin's sister, Yingluck, was serving as prime minister. A Gulf-affiliated company won bids to build gas turbines in Chonburi and Rayong provinces that could generate a total of 5,300 megawatts. But by scooping up the entire concession, the company raised eyebrows as four other companies who had vied for shares were left in the cold. Independent Power Development, the winning Gulf subsidiary, was 30% owned by Japan's Mitsui & Co. Its chairman at the time of the tender was Viset Choopiban, an energy minister under Thaksin and a former president of PTT, Thailand's state-owned oil and gas company. The concession was thrown into question a year later following the most recent coup in 2014, staged by Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, then the powerful chief of Thailand's army. The junta was determined to pry open any favorable deals that benefited Thaksin-aligned business leaders during his sister's time in office. "One of the reasons his competitors hated Sarath was because of him winning this deal 100%," a Thai energy industry insider said. "They cheered the coup, welcomed the inquiry and expected the military regime to strike down the Gulf deal." olice officers and soldiers stand guard during a protest against military rule at Victory Monument in central Bangkok on May 26, 2014, after a coup led by current Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha. © Reuters Preliminary inquiries by the energy ministry pushed for the deal to be renegotiated, citing irregularities, and in the early post-putsch days, Sarath was summoned by the military regime. But Thai media at the time paid little heed to the still unknown power broker, whose name was misspelled on the summons. Their coverage instead centered on Thailand's better-known billionaires, many from the real estate and construction sectors, who were among 400 prominent people taken to military bases and interrogated. However, following extended negotiations, the cloud hanging over the deal lifted. In December 2016, Prayuth issued an order that countermanded a previous order targeting the concession. The outcome also pleased Pichai Naripthaphan, who was energy minister when Yingluck was in power and the concession was granted. "Gulf won that bid fair and square," Pichai told Nikkei. "It offered the lowest price." (In Thailand, when companies bid for power-producing projects, the bidders offer to produce power at the lowest cost per unit to be sold to the state utility.) That turnaround paved the way for Gulf Energy's IPO in 2017, by which time the group had 13 gas-fired power stations in operation and installed generation capacity was over 4,771 MW. Like that, Sarath found himself as the CEO and largest shareholder of a company that made for Thailand's biggest corporate listing in over a decade, raising $733 million. But there was nothing sudden about it. "He prepared for that listing for more than 10 years," Suwat, the business analyst, said. "He waited for the right time." What stood out was Sarath's ability to win the blessings of the Prayuth regime. He managed this despite being close to the Shinawatras. "Given his closeness to the former government, no one who has migrated to the other side and managed to cultivate allies in the new regime has done as well as Sarath," said an investment banker who has followed the energy tycoon's rise. A power industry insider concurred: "He not only survived the post-coup purge but he springboarded, and he reportedly is still on good terms with Thaksin." Thaksin, whose government was ousted by a coup in 2006 while the prime minister was in New York for a United Nations General Assembly gathering, now lives in self-imposed exile in Dubai. Since the listing, Sarath has used legal threats to deal with critics of his extraordinarily lucrative deals. In February, Gulf Energy filed a lawsuit accusing Bencha Saenchantra, a female opposition parliamentarian, of libel after she alleged that some of the state's policies had favored Gulf and Sarath during a censure motion in parliament against Prayuth early this year. "That was the first time I spoke in public about Gulf," she told Nikkei. She queried the conditions under which Gulf won bids as part of a consortium for two power-related megaprojects. Under Thai law, lawmakers have legal protections for what they say in parliament, though they can be charged with libel if their comments are broadcast to a wider audience. The company had previously sued Sirichai Mai-Ngam, the former president of one of the country's largest trade unions, at the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand, a state utility, after he raised questions in a Thai newspaper about the 5,300 MW concession won while Yingluck was in power. The case was settled out of court. That Sarath and Gulf remain sensitive about the 5,300 MW deal is reflected in the company's latest annual report, filed last December. Toward the end of the report is a summary under the subhead "litigation." It begins by noting that the deal came under scrutiny following the 2014 coup. It also notes efforts during the military regime to undo the deal, the move by the state for the Board of Investment to delay the bidding process, and Gulf's mixed results to win favorable rulings on issues it raised in the courts. The report says that the company in 2020 made no provision related to the litigation because "the Group's management believes that there will be no significant liability from the result of the above lawsuit cases." Friends in high places The legal campaign does little to change the perceptions that successful companies like Gulf face in Thailand, particularly when fortunes have flowed from government concessions. "Gulf's main revenues stem from long-term state concessions, usually 25-year contracts" linked to the state power utility, said Veerayooth Kanchoochat, a Thai political economist at the Tokyo-based National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies. In other words, the government is Gulf's main customer, and the customer has guaranteed sales for the next 25 years. Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Sarath has been able to strike energy deals under the governments of each, despite tensions between Thaksin and Prayuth. (Source photos by Reuters and Getty Images) Sarinee Achavanuntakul, head of Sal Forest, a Thai research company, considers Gulf Energy as one of 57 "political stocks" traded in Thailand. There are three such categories, she says. First, there are stocks of listed state-owned enterprises and government-owned companies. There are also stocks of companies whose main income is from government concessions. Finally, there are stocks whose owners have close family or friendly ties with powerful politicians. "Gulf fits squarely [within the second category]," she said, "and I think many Thai people would regard [it] to fit [into the third] category as well." Sarath's tale is not exactly rags to riches, more like rich to insanely rich. Arriving at the summit of Thai society, he immediately benefited from a new billionaire-centric economic model being pioneered by Prayuth's regime. It has acted to cement the fortunes of the oligarchy in a new social compact called Pracha Rath Rak Samakee (people of the state love harmony). This Orwellian-sounding 2016 initiative offered incentives, including generous tax breaks, to persuade big businesses to rub shoulders with the generals and support the junta's economic solution for rampant inequality. "In doing so, the Prayuth regime changed the relationship between the Thai state and big business in a way we had not witnessed before," said Prajak Kongkirati, a political scientist at Bangkok's Thammasat University and co-author of a paper, "The Prayuth Regime: Embedded Military and Hierarchical Capitalism in Thailand." Prajak added, "They matched the bureaucracy with the top 20 businesses, and the businesses ended up gaining more as they penetrated into the [small and medium sector] markets to strengthen their monopolies." Sarath's proximity to Prayuth, now the prime minister of a pro-military government that succeeded the junta after general elections in 2019, was laid bare after COVID-19 struck Thailand last year. In April, Prayuth sent a letter to the country's 20 richest people his government was close to, seeking their help to revive an economy that was sinking after the first wave of the pandemic began to bite. The Thai media listed the names of the likely recipients of Prayuth's missive. Sarath's name appeared high on the list. Dhanin Chearavanont was also on the list. The 82-year-old presides over the CP Group, an agribusiness conglomerate. He heads Thailand's richest clan and is said to be worth $30.2 billion, making him Thailand's richest billionaire. Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi made the list as well. The 77-year-old heads Thai Beverage, the beer and liquor conglomerate, and is the country's third-richest tycoon. His wealth is estimated at $12.7 billion. Camera shy In the rarefied world of Thai high-rollers, Sarath stamped his new reputation by often traveling in his new, private (Gulfstream) plane, reportedly worth $70 million. Sarath is known as a good golfer with a single handicap, and a lover of fine wines. But to many associates, even close ones, he is a cipher, obsessed with privacy. Finding a photograph of him is difficult; the only one that is public is on Gulf Energy's annual report. Dhanin Chearavanont, left, Sarath Ratanavadi and Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi are believed to be among the 20 richest people close to Prime Minister Prayuth. The Sarath photo, from Gulf Energy, is one of the few of Sarath available. (Source photos by Kosaku Mimura, Gulf Energy, and Getty Images) He rarely gives media interviews, and acquaintances affirm he is fiercely private. Gulf Energy declined to make Sarath or any other senior executive available to Nikkei for an interview. Sarath "is known as a private person," confided a former cabinet minister who has moved in the same social circles as Sarath. Consequently, there is an air of mystery about his wealth and the size, scale and speed of his company's growth -- the recipe for his success in Thailand. Bangkok-based diplomats say they consider Gulf as a company to watch. Hitherto, they paid most of their attention to the "Big 5." The shorthand refers to the five Sino-Thai conglomerates: the CP Group, Thai Bev, the duty-free monopoly King Power International Group, dominant high-end retail trader Central Group and Singha beer maker Boonrawd Brewery. "The same way we pay attention to the Big 5, we have begun to pay attention to Gulf as the next tier of influence," a diplomat from a Western embassy revealed to Nikkei. Another diplomat said Thailand is a country where "often the big families are very influential and have a lot of sway over politics, policies and positions." But while the other families have been more accessible and even attend occasional embassy events, Sarath, he noted, is an enigma who has remained quiet and below the news radar as his wealth has surged. Gulf Energy's JP UT power plant, in Thailand's Ayutthaya Province, has a generation capacity of 1,600 MW. The plant was backed by several Japanese banks, including Mitsui. (Photo courtesy of Gulf Energy) Only a trusted few appear to have penetrated this air of mystery hovering over Bangkok's newly minted billionaire. Suwat, the analyst, is one of them. In February, he met Sarath for lunch in the private room of an elegant Italian restaurant on the ground floor of a 43-story tower on Bangkok's embassy row. It was to discuss Sarath's groundbreaking multibillion-baht deal that was poised to shake up Thailand's telecoms sector. The lunch of salad and spaghetti lasted for three hours, Suwat recalled, as Sarath rolled out Gulf's bid to invest in InTouch Holdings, which controls Advanced Info Service, Thailand's largest mobile phone operator. "Other [Thai] power companies are different," Suwat said. "They grow as the market grows, more organic. Gulf is very different. [Its] empire is much bigger and more aggressive. ... You cannot find a company like this in Thailand." Additional reporting by Akane Okutsu in Tokyo.
  23. https://asia.nikkei.com/Opinion/How-Japan-Inc.-can-do-even-more-to-boost-LGBTQ-inclusivity?utm_campaign=GL_JP_update&utm_medium=email&utm_source=NA_newsletter&utm_content=article_link&del_type=4&pub_date=20211111090000&seq_num=20&si=44594 How Japan Inc. can do even more to boost LGBTQ+ inclusivity Important progress should not be allowed to mask a still troubling reality People gather during a rally calling for the anti-discrimination legislation in Tokyo on June 6: Japan remains one of the few advanced economies without laws to prohibit discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation. © Getty Images Masa Yanagisawa is head of prime services at Goldman Sachs in Japan and chief operating officer for the company's Asia Pacific LGBTQ+ Network Council. This year marks the tenth anniversary of work with Pride (wwP), a nonprofit group formed to promote greater inclusivity for LGBTQ+ people in Japanese workplaces. Later today, the group will announce the results of the latest PRIDE Index -- a widely recognized score card for Japanese companies' inclusivity which is now in its sixth year. Reflecting on wwP's achievements over the past decade is a reminder of how much progress corporate Japan has made, but also how much more the country still has left to do. From the outset, the fate of wwP's mission was uncertain. Two of its founding members, IBM Japan and Human Rights Watch, were international organizations. The fledgling organization turned to western companies, such as my own employer Goldman Sachs, for advice on nurturing inclusive environments. Work with Pride's first and flagship initiative -- a seminar on LGBTQ+ issues in the workplace in 2012 -- was hosted in IBM's offices and focused on the U.S. giant's best practices. Skeptics sneered that LGBTQ+ rights was a foreign issue, irrelevant to Japanese society. But progress came the very next year. In 2013, Sony, one of the bluest of Japan's blue chips, offered their space for the second seminar. Held annually, the event began attracting attention across corporate Japan. Attendance soon ran into the hundreds. In 2017 it was hosted by the Japan Business Federation, or Keidanren, Japan's biggest business lobby that is almost synonymous with Japan Inc. Today, the seminar's steering group consists of representatives from Japan's most prestigious companies, including Panasonic, NTT, Dai-Ichi Life Insurance and Recruit Holdings. Japan's progress toward LGBTQ+ workplace inclusion can be seen clearly in wwP's PRIDE Index. Launched in 2016, the index rates companies' efforts across five categories such as policy, representation, inspiration, development and engagement/empowerment, and provides a set of best practices and bench marks to guide their journey to a more diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace for LGBTQ+ people. In its first year, 82 companies participated in the index, with 53 achieving the top gold ranking. Those figures have grown every year since, rising to 233 participants, and 183 gold recipients last year. The 2021 index, to be announced later today, will hit records for participation and gold awards. This momentum is encouraging. But we must not let it mask a more troubling reality. The overwhelming majority of companies in Japan are small-and-medium sized enterprises. However, most of those participating in the PRIDE Index are large-scale corporates with more than 300 employees. Smaller companies still account for less than 20% of the total. According to a 2020 government survey, only just over 10% of companies in Japan have policies aimed at protecting the rights of sexual minorities. Larger companies were more likely to have provisions for LGBTQ+ employees. By contrast, this is the case at only 9.4% of companies with 100 to 999 workers, and 3.5% of companies with 99 or fewer workers. This is not to say that smaller companies are by definition less inclusive. But what is clear is that workplace inclusion remains a serious issue in Japan, and that LGBTQ+ people are facing discrimination and harassment in their jobs across the country. According to the same government report, 36.4% of lesbian, gay, or bisexual individuals and 54.5% of transgender individuals experienced difficulties in the workplace due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. A study by NPO Nijiiro Diversity showed that roughly 60% of LGBTQ+ people in Japan report hearing negative comments about sexual orientation at work. It also found that mental health was "significantly worse" among LGBTQ+ individuals when compared with the broader population. Given the extent and gravity of the situation, there is clearly a limit to what nongovernmental organizations such as wwP can do. Japan remains one of the few advanced economies without laws to prohibit discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation, or to permit same-sex marriage. Yet it is progress in these two areas that has the greatest potential to improve LGBTQ+ inclusivity in Japanese workplaces. Dedicated and fit-for-purpose anti-discrimination legislation would likely have a direct and tangible impact, pushing hitherto indifferent companies to review their policies and practices. Legalizing same-sex marriage could effect change at multiple levels; crucially, it would send an unequivocal message about LGBTQ+ people's right to equal treatment. Lesbian couple, pictured at Shibuya crossing in Tokyo on Mar. 19: legalizing same-sex marriage could effect change at multiple levels. © Reuters In addition, it would ensure all companies offer equal benefits to their employees with partners, regardless of gender, and eliminate the need for ad hoc workarounds for same-sex relationships that have been costly, complicated and beyond the reach of most SMEs. The cumulative impact could be transformational. There is an ever-growing body of research that demonstrates that diverse, equitable and inclusive societies and companies enjoy better economic growth, while discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity negatively impacts the prospects for business success. With its aging population and ambiguous stance on immigration, the imperative for Japan to engage the full diversity of its workforce is clear. Work with Pride will continue on its mission. This year's PRIDE Index includes a new Rainbow Accreditation recognizing companies for their collective efforts toward promoting awareness and understanding of LGBTQ+ issues and the achievement of equal rights. Goldman Sachs employees of its Tokyo office take part in Pink Friday in November 2019. (Handout photo from Goldman Sachs) Later this month, Goldman Sachs will be welcoming around thirty Japanese companies to join Pink Friday, an annual tradition which began in Hong Kong and has now spread globally, in which our people wear pink on a Friday in November in a visible demonstration of for LGBTQ+ inclusion. Ten years ago, it would have been difficult to imagine Japanese companies rallying around such an event, let alone seeking recognition for collective action on LGBTQ+ rights. Japan Inc. has come far. Let us hope that lawmakers catch up.
  24. Yamato

    Chiwit Thai

    And once again it is time to leave. Boarding the UA 787 aircraft Served dinner after taking off - seabass Then before landing breakfast - Japanese mackerel Almost arriving LAX Landing in LAX Welcome message After clearing immigration at Terminal 1 picked up luggage, after clear customs immediately passed the luggage to ground staff for next flight. Then walked to Terminal 7 a 15-20mins walk Had 2 hours to kill so waited here
  25. Yamato

    Chiwit Thai

    Finally after almost 6hrs landing at Narita Have 2hrs to kill so waited at the ANA lounge Ordered a freshly cooked pork ramen After a while tried the curry (no rice)
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