• Rally held supporting Chula professor facing probe for campaigning against use of chemicals in agriculture

    Thailand’s famous “song for life” rocker Add Carabao was among a large group of supporters of a ban on two herbicides and a pesticide who rallied at Chulalongkorn Hospital on Thursday to offer moral support to Professor Dr. Thirawat Hemajutha, chief of the Information Centre for Emerging Infectious Diseases.

    Dr. Thirawat, an outspoken advocate for the ban on paraquat, glyphosate and chlorpyrifos, is under investigation by Chulalongkorn University following a complaint made by Ms. Anchulee Lakamnuayporn, president of the voluntary network of Rak Mae Khlong lovers, accusing Dr. Thirawat of providing misleading information about the three toxic chemicals to the public in a way which paints farmers, the prime users of the chemicals, in a bad light.

    She also claimed that Dr. Thirawat had implied that her network is suspected of being funded by chemical companies.

    Supporters of Dr. Thirawat, who include former senator Rossana Kositrakul and Panthep Puapongpant of Rangsit University, insist that the information distributed by Dr. Thirawat is factual and not distorted, as claimed by his accusers.

    They also threatened to sue Ms. Anchulee Lakamnuayporn if she does withdraw, what they claim are, her unfounded accusations.

    Dr. Thirawat, however, said that he was not perturbed by the investigation and vowed to educate the public about the health risks posed by these chemicals.

    Chulalongkorn University vice rector, Professor Boonchai Sathitmunnaitham, made it clear that a probe following a complaint is a normal part of the process, intended to establish the truth of the matter.

    He said that most of the members of the investigating panel are university staff, though some outsiders with relevant expertise may be invited to present their opinions.


  • Southern insurgency suspect dies after 35 days in coma

    “Suspects had provided some useful information but are still reluctant to disclose the rewards they were promised.”

    Thailand’s national police chief says that it has been difficult for investigators to track down the real masterminds behind the recent bombings and arson attacks in Bangkok and neighbouring Nonthaburi province. Police have arrested at least two people and held others in custody for questioning since last Friday morning’s bomb attacks around the city.

    But Pol Gen Chakthip Chaijinda claimed 80-90% of bombing incidents in Thailand are politically motivated.

    “The motives for the recent incidents are difficult to determine because the attacks were prepared meticulously.”

    Two suspects, 22 year old Lu-ai Sae-ngae and 29 year old Wildon Maha, were arrested in Chumpon province as they were heading south in a passenger van to Narathiwat province from the Chatachuk area in Bangkok early last Friday morning, before the bombs started going off around the city during the Friday morning peak hour.

    Pol Gen Chakthip says the pair are among about 25 people thought to be involved in the incidents. Both have been charged with criminal association, possession of explosives and attempted murder. He said the suspects had provided some useful information, but are still reluctant to disclose the rewards they were promised.

    On arrest, the two suspects each had five sets of clothing in their backpacks, to be changed in the course of their operation to make them hard to identify. The national police chief also accused the two suspects of involvement in the attack on a marine base in Narathiwat in 2013.

    Meanwhile, Pol Lt-Gen Suwat Chaengyodsook, the assistant national police chief, in charge of handling the case, told the media that police believe four groups of people were involved, namely a strategy group for planning, the instigators who handled recruitment and issued the orders, the logistics group which provided help before and after the execution of the plan and the operations group which executed the plan, altogether over 25 people, some of whom are thought to have already fled abroad.

    SOURCE: Thai PBSThai Police Chief admits difficulties in solving last Friday's bombings | News by The Thaiger


  • Investigation follows claims of first gene-edited babies

    A Chinese scientist’s attempt to produce the world’s first gene-edited babies immune to HIV has sparked heated controversy among the public and academics.


    In an online video posted on Monday, He Jiankui, a biological researcher, announced that twin baby girls, Lulu and Nana, born healthy a few weeks ago, were conceived through in vitro fertilization and genetically edited for immunity to HIV infection.

    “The mother started her pregnancy by regular IVF with one difference. Right after sending her husband’s sperm into her eggs, we also sent in a little bit of protein and instructions for gene surgery,” said He, from Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, speaking in the video. “Lulu and Nana were just a single cell when the surgery removed the doorway through which HIV enters to infect people.”


    He, believed to be in Hong Kong to attend the Second International Summit on Human Genome Editing, a three-day conference due to open on Tuesday, could not be reached for comment on Monday. But his announcement sparked heated controversy over concerns over medical ethics and effectiveness.

    The Associated Press reported on Monday that He sought and received approval for his project from the ethics committee of Shenzhen Harmonicare Women’s and Children’s Hospital, and an approval document from the hospital circulated online on Monday.

    However, the Shenzhen commission said the hospital’s ethics committee was not valid because the hospital did not register the committee’s establishment with the commission as required.

    The commission has started an ethics investigation and will release the results to the public, it said. The hospital would not comment on Monday.

    Southern University of Science and Technology said on Monday that it was not aware of the research, as He did not report it to the school.


    A worker places an embryo in a storage tube at a laboratory in Shenzhen. [Photo/Agencies]

    The university said the academic council of its biology department, where He works as an associate professor, thinks that the research seriously violated academic ethics and rules. The university said it would immediately set up an independent investigation team for the matter.

    A regulation released in 2016 by the former National Health and Family Planning Commission — now the National Health Commission — requires health institutions to establish ethics committees with authority over biological or medical research involving humans that would have to approve the research.

    On Tuesday, the commission told its provincial branch in Guangdong to investigate the matter and handle it according to laws and regulations. The information should be made public in a timely way, it said in an official release.

    Bai Hua, head of Baihualin, a nongovernmental organization that promotes the interests of people with HIV/AIDS, said on Monday that the parents of the twins were likely to have HIV.

    He Jiankui spoke with Bai in April 2017, hoping to find people with HIV for the research, Bai said, adding that he spread the news and about 200 showed interest.

    “Of the group infected with HIV, many have special conditions such as inability to conceive naturally, but the reality is that they cannot have babies through IVF in hospitals,” he said. “Many of them thought the research gave them a chance to have babies who do not have the risk of getting HIV.”

    Mixed reactions

    On Monday, more than 120 scholars from prestigious universities and institutes from China and abroad such as Tsinghua University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology strongly condemned the research in a signed statement, saying it lacks effective ethics oversight and amounts to human experiments.

    In the statement published on, they said any attempt to change human embryos with genetic editing and allow the birth of such babies entails a high degree of risk due to inaccuracies in existing editing technologies.

    Wu Zunyou, chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said: “Genetic editing technology is far from mature and could have unforeseen consequences for the subjects.”

    Some researchers are trying to use genetic editing technology to treat people infected with HIV, so the virus will not replicate and be transmitted to others, he said. “Animal experiments should be done to assess gains and risks for the subjects, before the possibility of doing this with humans.”

    Some scientists in Hong Kong for the summit think it could induce serious problems for a person’s immune system, while others think people should not be overly scared because it would not affect the core genome.

    Tsui Lap-chee, president of the Academy of Sciences of Hong Kong, said if one gene is edited, it will affect others that interact with it. And the whole genome, a collection of genes, may also be affected.

    Robin Lovell-Badge, group leader and head of the Division of Stem Cell Biology and Developmental Genetics at the Francis Crick Institute, said “gene editing is not something to be scared about”, and he doesn’t think what He has done will affect a human’s core genome. Side effects may not be very serious as there are millions of healthy people with the exact same mutation.

  • Laos to work with Korea, Thailand on dam investigation: Lao PM

    The government will work with the countries whose companies are stakeholders in the Xe-Pian Xe-Namnoy hydropower project to investigate the cause of the collapse of the project’s saddle dam, Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith announced yesterday.


    The 410 MW capacity hydro plant is a joint venture between SK Engineering and Construction (Republic of Korea), Korea Western Power (Republic of Korea), Ratchaburi Electricity Generating Holding PCL (Thailand), and Lao Holding State Enterprise (Laos).

    The collapse of the dam flooded many villages in Sanamxay district, Attapeu province, having located the remains of 10 people as of  yesterday and with more than 100 still declared missing. Thousands more have been left homeless.

    Mr Thongloun pledged a thorough investigation into the cause of the collapse, saying it would take place in a transparent and just manner.

    “The government of the Lao PDR will cooperate with the governments of countries whose companies have been registered [as a stakeholder] to address this issue,” he said while visiting the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare to witness the donation of relief supplies.

    “The government of Laos will investigate intensively to find out the true cause.”

    The design, the construction contractor, and the consulting companies will also be investigated, he added.

    “The government will also look into the responsibilities of the authorities,” the premier told officials and media present at the ministry.

    All of the investigations will take place in a “transparent and just manner”, the prime minister said. Mr Thongloun told media last week that the newly-established National Ad Hoc Committee in charge of dealing the disaster will work with the project developers to seek common ground concerning the responsibilities and obligations of the party whose actions were deemed to have caused the tragedy.

    Minister of Energy and Mines Dr Khammany Inthirath told a press conference last week that the company concerned would not be in a position to deny its responsibility for the deadly flood, the biggest to occur in Laos.

    “Regarding the matter of compensation, I would like to affirm that, based on the concession agreement, all incidents related to the construction of the dam must be borne by the project developer 100 percent,” he said.

    An official from the Xe-Pian Xe-Namnoy Power Company agreed that the firm would take full responsibility under the law and its concession agreement.

    Mr Thongloun pledged that the government, with support and assistance from all sectors, friendly countries and international organisations, would do its utmost to search for and rescue all those who were still missing.

    The government will also do its best to provide relief assistance and rehabilitate those who had lost houses and other property as well as rebuilding their communities to enable them to return to a normal life.

    Representing the Lao government and people, he expressed heartfelt gratitude to the Lao people, all sectors, the governments and peoples of friendly countries as well as international organisations for all the valuable assistance and support extended in the search, rescue and relief effort.

    The nation

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