* 48 Heroes Of Philanthropy – 2013

By John Koppisch
Forbes Asia

This is our seventh annual project highlighting the generous and often innovative efforts of the Asia-Pacific region’s most notable givers. We feature biotech entrepreneur Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, who’s working to improve cancer care in India. And, below, we spotlight the 2013 crop of 48 leading philanthropists in the region. MORE

I contributed to this annual issue of Forbes Asia.

* Coupon clash

By Susan Cunningham
Southeast Asia Globe

As discount deal websites explode in the region, a Thai company shows how it’s done.

Deep-discount deal sites have been surging throughout the United States and Europe for almost three years, but they were late off the starting blocks in Southeast Asia – arriving only in mid 2010. Since then, they have moved and morphed, bought and sold themselves.

In June 2010, when Tom Srivorakul and his two younger brothers launched Ensogo, the first deal website in Thailand, they employed five people and had a single offer: a 60% discount at ice cream chain iBerry.

A year later, when Ensogo was bought for an undisclosed sum by LivingSocial–the second-largest US deal company with a monthly revenue of $50m as of the start of this year–the start-up had 430 employees, 17 city sites in Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia and more than two million subscribers to its daily discount deal e-letter … MORE

* The Crowning Fortune

By Susan J. Cunningham
Forbes Asia

The king of Thailand controls vast wealth. Just how vast wasn’t clear, until some sleuthing by a Bangkok academic and some new openness by the monarchy’s investment arm.

The Thai monarchy’s family fortune has always been shrouded in secrecy. Last year FORBES ASIA valued it at a conservative $5 billion. Other estimates have put it at $8 billion. But this year–using an exhaustive academic study of the monarchy’s investment arm, the Crown Property Bureau–FORBES ASIA now values the fortune at … more

* All about Thai caves

Some of Thailand’s biggest and most beautiful caves are all the more intriguing because they have been discovered only in the past decade. Yet all the superlatives must be couched in tentative terms (such as the “tallest known column”) because there are certainly more caves to be unearthed.

“Discovered” may not be the most accurate term. Frequently local villagers have known for countless generations that a nearby cave existed, but they had never ventured very far within because they feared ghostly occupants or lacked proper lights and equipment. The recent teams of foreign cavers therefore have often found themselves to be the first people to enter an underground chamber with a 15-metre high ceiling or to gaze upon a thousand-year-old flowstone resembling a frozen waterfall. Continue reading

* Prostitution in Thailand: Her fate, or choice?

Thailand has a prostitution problem. It is of neither recent nor imported vintage. Nobody really knows quite how big the problem is or how many Thais are involved in the industry because, contrary to the impressions of many tourists, the sale of sexual services is illegal. Social scientists estimate that the number of prostitutes ranges from 500,000 to 1 million within Thailand. Tens of thousands of Thai women also work overseas as prostitutes, mostly as illegal migrant workers in Germany, Switzerland, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia and other countries.

The 500,000 figure works out to be 10 percent of all Thai women aged between 15 and 25. When the large numbers of children, older women and men (the latter including transvestites and transsexuals) are considered, the estimate doesn’t seem far-fetched. After all, a well-known Thai journalist, Soporn Ongkara, a few years ago pointed out that in Bangkok there was only one neighborhood, the old royal city area, where sex was not for sale.

He was wrong, though. Continue reading