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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        27  January 2011

Thai rice filing hits EU hurdle

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Five European nations oppose Thailand's registration with the European Commission for geographical indication (GI) of Thai jasmine rice - labelled Khao Hom Mali Thung Kula Rong Hai.

France, the UK, Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium contend Thailand should not be the only country allowed to register jasmine rice, or khao hom mali, as other countries can also grow it, said Pajchima Tanasanti, director-general of the Intellectual Property Department.

They suggest Thailand register only Thung Kula Rong Hai, but Thailand says the northeastern location name applies not only to rice, but includes other products as well. Thung Kula Rong Hai covers five provinces: Roi Et, Maha Sarakham, Yasothon, Si Sa Ket and Surin. Moreover, khao hom mali is a Thai-language term, and the department has successfully registered it as a trademark in more than 50 countries.

GI is used to protect the names of products from specific areas, Champagne from France being a well-known example. The approval process for GI registration takes two years. Thailand submitted its application on Nov 21, 2008, but the five EU countries filed their opposition just two days before the deadline.

The government wants the Thai product to be sold at a premium price with the approval designation displayed on the packaging. The rice must be packed at the site it was cultivated and be traceable back to the field.

Last year, Thailand exported 153,233 tonnes of jasmine rice worth 5.15 billion baht to the 27 EU members.

Thailand is the first country to apply for GI protection in the EU and the first applicant to encounter opposition.

For its part, Thailand says it has been improving enforcement of intellectual property rights (IPR). The government said authorities last year seized 4.4 million items in 5,171 infringement cases.

However, Thailand is unlikely to be removed from the US priority watch list in its annual review of IPR protection.

The US wants Thailand to enact stricter laws against cameras recording films in cinemas and crack down harder on internet copyright violations.

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This year in Thailand-what next?

04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More

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