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On the surface, we Thais seem relaxed and carefree. After all, ours is the country known as the “Land of Smiles.”

But after two decades of firsthand Bangkok experience, I've learned not to be fooled by everyone who comes at me bearing a wide, toothy grin.

In addition to watching out for unscrupulous locals, there are the obvious pieces of advice to keep in mind, such as making sure street food is properly cooked (unless you want a case of tong sia) and avoiding dark alleys at night. 

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Yesterday's flooding in many Bangkok areas pointed to flaws in the capital's drainage systems, according to experts, some of whom also questioned the government's decision to direct upriver run-offs into the sea through the heart of the capital.

Meanwhile, the National Water Resources and Flood Policy Committee (NWRFPC) said its plan to install water-pushing machines and other flood-prevention devices in canals in eastern Bangkok had saved residential areas near Lat Phrao Canal from flooding on Thursday night.

The NWRFPC said these machines had smoothly drained flood water from Lat Phrao Canal into the Rama IX flood-diversion tunnel, which would drain the water into the Chao Phraya River.

The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) said the flooding in the residential areas surrounding Lat Phrao Canal was caused by the NWRFPC's incomplete dredging.

The NWRFPC cancelled its plan to open the watergate at Klong Song Canal after heavy overnight rain and thus prevented the discharge of water into Lat Phrao Canal.

The drainage test scheduled for yesterday was supposed to examine the efficiency and capacity of Lat Phrao Canal to drain water into the Rama IX diversion tunnel.

After cancellation of the drainage test, the NWRFPC decided to run all the flood-prevention machines, including pumps and water-pushing machines, which previously had been installed for the drainage test. The use of the machines was aimed at helping the BMA drain water out of the capital and also study the capability of these devices.

Because of the heavy rain on Thursday night, the level of water in some canals in Bangkok rose sharply - to 145 millimetres in Saphan Sung district, and 109.5mm in Sai Mai district and Klong Saen Sab.

"The decision to cancel the drainage test was based on academic knowledge, not on pressure from the BMA," said NWRFPC member Royol Chitradon, who is director of the Hydro and Agro-Informatics Institute.

Joint decision

The NWFPC jointly made the decision with BMA Deputy Governor Wanlop Suwanphakdi to cancel the test, he added.

The water level in the canal before the rainfall was measured at 60 centimetres from mean sea level. After the heavy rain on Thursday night, the level in the canal was measured at 1 metre from mean sea level.

"We would not be able to control the situation if the level of water in the canal continued to rise," Royol said.

Meanwhile, Samai Jai-In, an NWRFPC member, said the committee had seen many weak points in the drainage system in many canals, particularly Lat Phrao Canal, which is on a low plain area and has been shallow. Moreover, a lot of garbage has been found in the canal, especially in the Rama IX flood-diversion tunnel, which makes drainage difficult.

"The flood-prevention equipment that we had installed in this canal could drain water within three hours," he said.

Bangkok Governor MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra posted comments in his Facebook account and told Bangkokians not to be worried about the flood situation. He added that the level of water in Klong Song was too high and that was the reason the BMA did not want the NWRFPC to open the watergate.

"I can handle any problem during the government's drainage test, discharging water into the heart of capital," he said.

He later held a news conference to explain the cancellation of the test, saying he wanted to thank the government for listening to the recommendation from his agency.

"The BMA's facilities were good enough to drain flood water into Rama IX flood diversion by midnight," he said.

Professor Thanawat Jaruphongsakul, a senior seismologist at Chulalongkorn University, said the government should divert flood water to areas outside the capital, as flood-prevention infrastructure in Bangkok was not ready to cope.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said the government might consider running the drainage test again next week.
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The Transport Ministry is planning to set up an infrastructure fund to raise capital to build new motorways.

The plan will help the government finance five inner-city motorways that will cost more than 192 billion baht to build, said Deputy Transport Minister Chadchart Sittiphan.

Under the scheme, people can invest in the infrastructure fund through commercial banks, like a mutual fund, and earn interest on their investment, he explained. Meanwhile, the government will have more money to finance its projects without incurring new public debt, Mr Chadchart added.

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Two long-awaited international fashion brands _ Ralph Lauren and H&M _ are ready to debut in Thailand soon.

The American Ralph Lauren brand will open its first flagship store in Thailand at Central Embassy, the new complex at the Phloenchit intersection.

The H&M clothing chain, which has more bargain offerings, will anchor its first store with a two-storey unit at Siam Paragon in October.

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The National Economic and Social Advisory Council has suggested that some regulations of the new Bangkok city plan be changed to suit the current economic, social and environmental climate.

Prateep: New city plan needs tweaking

The previous city plan was designed to allow people to work in the city and live in the suburbs 30-50 kilometres away, which was enacted during lower oil prices from 1957-77.

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The 3,000 new public buses fuelled by natural gas for vehicles (NGV) should be ready to seek cabinet approval next month at a cost five times lower than first proposed, says Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong.

The NGV public buses were initiated by the Bhumjaithai Party, the coalition during Abhisit Vejjajiva's administration, but the Democrat Party opposed the project as too expensive at 15 million baht each for 4,000 buses offered by a Chinese company.

The Land Transport Department came up with the same project last month but at a new price, of 10-12 billion baht for 3,000 buses at 3 million baht each, said Mr Kittiratt.

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The Transport Ministry plans to hold an international bidding contest early next year for high-speed train projects linking Bangkok with four provinces not far from the capital.

Instead of starting the projects by picking destinations in Chiang Mai and Nong Khai in the far North and Northeast, the ministry has decided to have the trains run shorter distances to Phitsanulok, Nakhon Ratchasima, Prachuap Khiri Khan's Hua Hin district and Rayong.

Deputy Transport Minister Chadchart Sittiphan expects better returns from the four routes than from more distant provinces, which have less dense populations.

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A 50-year-old scavenger has confessed to a series of caustic acid attacks in Bangkok, admitting to about 30 offences in two months, police said on Monday morning.

Pol Maj Gen Kamronwit Thoopkrachang, the acting metropolitan police chief, said scrap dealer Rachan Theerakitnukul told investigators that he felt quite normal at the time, but had been using crystal methamphetamine, or ice.

The suspect said he committed the attacks because he felt neglected, under pressure and disrespected by people around him.

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The hullabaloo surrounding Lady Gaga's Rolex tweet proves that when it comes to honest self-assessment Thailand can be downright monstrous

I know, I'm a week late, but I just had to get my two baht's worth in about this fake Rolex watch business with Lady Gaga.


Technically I'm not that late, because last Monday there were new developments in the news story that threatened to shred Thailand's international reputation, and those developments I'll talk about in around 15 paragraphs time.

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