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HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Athletes and spectators treated to fantastic 33rd National Games opening ceremony

60% of motorcycle road accidents are alcohol related

Royal Projects on show

Upcoming holidays update

Chiang Mai University receives 10 million baht grant for energy management

Campaign launched to reduce death tolls during New Year festival

300 registrations expected for local IT conference

Royal Advisory Council and agricultural officers from Bhutan visit Nan

100 red minibuses parading around Chiang Mai City

Dredging the Ping River begins

1,143 villagers made stateless

Mae Hong Son police arrest Shan man during Shan New Year celebrations

Nineteen bombs found in Phrae

Chiang Mai Zoo’s latest baby giraffe has died

Five drug suspects killed in clash with Thai soldiers

Thai and Burmese officials thrash out drug problems

International envoys believe Thailand not involved in Bali bombing

Nan silk stuns the world

Proper tourism planning can mean success in Northern Thailand

Athletes and spectators treated to fantastic 33rd National Games opening ceremony

Organizers of the opening ceremony for the 33rd National Games (Nakhon Chiang Mai Games) in Chiang Mai outdid themselves last week, putting on a show for the ages.

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra hugs his niece Chayapha Wongsawat during the opening ceremony of the 33rd National Games in Chiang Mai. 

Thousands of spectators and athletes watched in awe the flower parade, folk dancing, and Bai Sri blessing when flower petals rained down from the sky.

The lighting of the ceremonial flame prompted a fantastic light and sound presentation covering the legend of Lanna, starting from the 3 Kings era to current day Chiang Mai.

Athletes representing 76 provinces are participating in the Games, which continue through this weekend and end with the closing ceremony on Tuesday, December 24, beginning at 7:30 p.m. at the 700 Years Anniversary Sport Complex. Don’t miss it - it’ll be an experience you won’t soon forget!


60% of motorcycle road accidents are alcohol related

Another 20% involve unlicensed drivers

According to Dr. Theerawut Komutabutre, the doctor in charge of the Emergency Relief Work Department, statistics collected at the Nakhonping Hospital have shown that the hospital records about 20 motorcycle accidents a day.

Lt Gen Lertrat Ratanavanich, deputy chief of staff of the Royal Thai Army presents a plaque to Prof Chuckree Senthong, vice president for research affairs, Chiang Mai University, at the opening ceremony for a training course on riding safety held at the Empress Hotel in Chiang Mai.

These statistics and more were released at a recent road safety training course held at the Empress Hotel.

The national road toll is considered far too high, with the cause of about 60 percent of accidents being alcohol related. Many other accidents stem from inexperience or from the driver being under aged.

Other statistics showed that 20 percent of the people involved in accidents were unlicensed.

At present, there are about 500,000 motorcycles registered with the provincial authorities.


Royal Projects on show

20th year Anniversary of Huay Hong Krai Royal Development Study Center

Supatatt Dangkrueng

Privy Councilor Palakorn Suwannarat presided over the 20th anniversary ceremony of the Huay Hong Krai Royal Development Study Center on December 11, and described the center as a place where students and interested people can come to view the nature museum. It is aimed to show the depth and all-encompassing nature of the projects of His Majesty the King.

Privy Councilor Palakorn Suwannarat cut the ribbon to officially get the anniversary celebrations opening ceremony underway.

Privy councilors and high-ranking officials tour the exhibitions and activities at the center.

During the festivities there were many activities and exhibitions, including an academic seminar, fertilizer demonstrations, preserved food and wine demonstrations, exhibitions of fishery management, frog breeding, mushroom growing, and a fishing contest.


Upcoming holidays update

Many Thailand businesses to take 5-day holiday during New Year festival

Thai people will have the opportunity to celebrate a longer New Year festival this year, as the cabinet approved a 5-day holiday during the New Year period.

Government spokesman Sitha Thivaree said the cabinet approved December 30 as one more holiday day during the New Year period, “This allows Thai people to have five consecutive days off for holidays during the New Year Festival, from Saturday to Wednesday - December 28 to January 1.”


Chiang Mai University receives 10 million baht grant for energy management

Nuttanee Thaveephol

Chiang Mai University (CMU) is preparing to become a “Green and Clean Campus” after proposing an energy management project to the Ministry of Energy. It is one of 7 universities involved in a Thailand-wide project where each receives 10 million baht to proceed on energy saving activities.

Chiang Mai University (CMU) is preparing to become a “Green and Clean Campus”.

Dr Nipon Tuwanon, CMU president, said that the Ministry of Energy has planned to support the undergraduate institutes’ plans to become energy saving universities. For its part, CMU has set up committees responsible for targeting energy reduction and to propose their project, supported by CMU’s Energy Management and Conservation Center (EMAC), to the Ministry of Energy.

The budget will be received by CMU in January next year and will be used towards four activities. The 4 activities include the “Unity Under Iris Tree”, aiming to reduce fuel usage, “White University” and “University as our Home”, aiming to encourage students to save electric power, and “Fresh Daybreak University”, aiming to save the environment.

All of the activities will also help improve the physical appearance of the university to make it a “Green and Clean Campus” by promoting a bicycle campaign, footpath construction, mass transit and electric transportation.


Campaign launched to reduce death tolls during New Year festival

Interior Minister Wanmuhamadnoor Matha has announced that three ministries will join forces to launch a campaign aimed at reducing accidents and the death toll during the coming New Year festival.

The Ministries of Interior, Transport and Communications, and Public Health have agreed to join forces in launching the campaign, which began on December 16.

The agreement was reached at a meeting of ministers of the three ministries, and representatives of other agencies concerned, to make preparations for accident prevention because of Thailand’s record of high road fatalities during this annual holiday season.

“In launching the campaign, the three ministries will seek cooperation from the public and private sector, as well as the general public in promoting public awareness on three safety guidelines, including no drunk driving, use of seat-belts, ride motorcycles carefully to ensure safety, and always wear safety helmets when riding motorcycles.” Wanmuhamadnoor stated.

“After the tripartite-cooperation campaign was launched on December 16, the laws will be strictly enforces and violators will be arrested,” he said.

The campaign aims to reduce death tolls of road accidents during the coming New Year festival to no more than 500, said the Minister.

Officials of agencies involved in safety control have been asked to be on duty from December 27 - January 2, so that they will be fully-prepared to assist New Year revelers. (TNA)


300 registrations expected for local IT conference

On-line learning in a digital world, with particular reference to post-secondary education and higher education will be discussed at the first international symposium held by the Far Eastern College and UNESCO on January 15-18, 2003 at the Chiangmai Orchid Hotel.

Chancellor of Far Eastern College, Dr. Nimit Jiwasantikarn, said this meeting will propose policies focusing on the educational management of computer and IT, and the presentation and demonstration of the latest equipment.

Topics for the meeting have been arranged by many organizations including a specialist in Higher Education with UNESCO, Mr. Wang Yibing, Multmedia Education Institute Ewha Women’s University-Republic of Korea, Simon Fraser University, National Institute of Education Singapore, University of South Australia, Curtin University and Chiang Mai University.

300 participants are expected of which 150 are coming from overseas and the other 150 from Thailand. For further information, contact Far Eastern College on 0 5320 1800 ext 1331-2 or www.fareastern.com/conference


Royal Advisory Council and agricultural officers from Bhutan visit Nan

Here to see how the locals do it

Nuttanee Thaveephol

Members of the Bhutan Royal Advisory Council came from seven different provinces investigate the possibility of a cultural and information exchange with community organizations and governmental officials in Nan.

Phra Kru (teaching priest) Pitaknantakhun (right), president of the Hug Muang Nan Foundation, described aspects of local resource management to Rinzin Gyltshen (2nd right), chairman of the Bhutanese delegation, and the councilors.

The Bhutanese delegation consisted of 7 Royal Advisory Councilors and 3 officers from the Bhutan Ministry of Agriculture. The delegation visited Thailand to observe the South East Asian region during late November this year. The Southeast Asia Regional Initiatives for Community Empowerment (SEARICE) in cooperation with the Biodiversity Use and Conservation in Asia Program (BUCAP) selected Nan to encompass the field of agriculture, community forests, and aquatic resource management for the delegation to visit.

Indigenous bean seeds collected by farmers in Nan were presented to the Bhutanese delegation chairman as a symbol of local community knowledge.

The Hug Muang Nan Foundation, an associate member of the Community Biodiversity Development and Conservation Program (CBDC) played an important role in arranging the natural resources observation program for the Bhutanese delegation by showing them around the communities which have aquatic resource management, forest conservation, and historical sites.


100 red minibuses parading around Chiang Mai City

Celebrating the Nakhon Chiang Mai Games

Nakhon Lanna Transportation Cooperatives celebrated the National Games by driving around Chiang Mai City. In order to be good hosts for the Nakhon Chiang Mai Games, the red minibus group is ready to serve all the people who visit Chiang Mai to participate in the Games, which are being held through December 24.

Deputy Governor Udom Puasakul gave a speech to the parade participants, asking them to welcome all guests, even after the games are over.

100 red minibuses are parading around the city to show they are willing to serve the people during Nakhon Chiang Mai Games.

Chiang Mai Deputy Governor Udom Puasakul, presided over the parade opening ceremony and exhorted the leaders of the red minibus group to welcome all guests, not only during the National Games but also at other times, and to be goodwill ambassadors for the city.

100 red minibuses participating in the ceremony have Nakhon Chiang Mai Games signs attached and started the parade on December 11. They will continue to display the stickers whilst running around the city picking up and setting down passengers until the end of the sports games season.


Dredging the Ping River begins

River disruptions likely for three months

Supatatt Dangkrueng

Pichet Sathirachawal, deputy minister of transport and communications, cut the ceremonial ribbon to open the dredging project of the Ping River. This is a two-part project to dredge the Ping River in Chiang Mai and Lamphun. The Chiang Mai section is expected to finish in March next year.

Pichet Sathirachawal cuts the ribbon at the opening ceremony of the Ping River dredging project.

Work on the river will run from Mae Rim District to Saraphi District; a total of 31.6 kilometers. The project in Lamphun will then commence, and is supposed to be completed within 150 days.

Large cranes balanced on dry docks have begun digging out sand and mud from the Ping River.

The dredging, it is hoped, will alleviate both the floods during the rainy season and the droughts in summer. “We also hope this project will conserve the natural environment around the Ping River, which will be advantageous to tourism,” Deputy Minister Pichet said.

The total distance to be dredged is over 60 km and a budget of 76.65 million baht has been earmarked to cover the hiring of a private contractor to carry out dredging over 26 km in Chiang Mai and 30 km in Lamphun. The remainder of the distance of the Ping River is being covered by the River Transportation and Commerce Department.


1,143 villagers made stateless

Suing Mae Ai District Officer for corrupt practices

Supatatt Dangkrueng

Last week more than 400 people from 10 villages in Tambon Tha Ton, Mae Na Wang, Mae Saw and Mae Ai, who have been made stateless, converged on the Chiang Mai Administrative Court and added their names to sue Thongchai Setthapat, a district officer, for allegedly causing 1,143 people to be made stateless.

The lawyer from the sub-committee on Stateless and Displaced Persons counts the names on the list of the people calling for their rights and nationality.

Mae-Ai people gathered, then moved to Chiang Mai Administrative Court to sue the district officer of Mae-Ai.

Siwakorn Srichai, the headman of Rom Thai Village said these people have been cut off from house registration since February 5 this year and that made them lose their rights as Thai citizens. The now stateless people in Rom Thai village discovered they were being expelled when the electoral roll was published in April this year.

Siwakorn revealed that these people went to the Administrative Court because they wanted to call for their rights as Thai citizens, and hope they can get help from the Law Society of Thailand through the Sub-committee on Stateless and Displaced Persons.

Winit Lamlhuea, director of the sub-committee, said people can file charges against Thongchai Setthapat, a Mae-Ai District officer, to revoke the orders and to protect them during the pending proceedings.


Mae Hong Son police arrest Shan man during Shan New Year celebrations

Ethnic minority and Shan State Army in uproar; Thai-Burmese relations endangered

Phitsanu Thepthong

When a Thai Yai hilltribe singer was arrested on stage in Mae Hong Son Province, it resulted in some far reaching issues.

The incident occurred at a concert held by anti-Rangoon Shan State Army troops (SSA) during Shan New Year celebrations in Muang District, Mae Hong Son, on Dec 4-5.

With national security in the border regions being important, the Mae Hong Son provincial authorities, according to a reliable source, are now very strict in following regulations. During the Shan New Year celebrations, Mae Hong Son Governor Supoj Laowansiri ordered a close watch on the movement of Thai Yai minority groups for security reasons.

During the concert, Mae Hong Son police chief Pol Maj-Gen Thong-in Harnphachonsuek said a Shan man, identified only as Mr Yi from Burma’s Ban Mok Mai, was arrested on illegal entry charges. He was arrested while singing on a stage which was decorated with two large Shan national flags.

The source said Mr. Yi opened the concert to celebrate the Shan New Year on the orders of SSA military leader Col Yod Suek. A border official said the band, comprising SSA troops from Doi Tai Lang opposite Pang Ma Pha District, gave the fair organizer 10,000 baht, and distributed leaflets asking Burmese Shan people to serve the SSA.

Pol Maj-Gen Thong-in ordered the special branch police in Mae Hong Son to stop the show, which was felt might create a negative effect on Thai-Burmese relations, including relations among the Thai Yai themselves.


Nineteen bombs found in Phrae

Police confident not work of insurgents

Metinee Chaikuna

Nineteen bombs were discovered at a grove near the Phrae Provincial Accelerated Rural Development Office, Nam Cham, Muang Phrae. Police from the Huay Mah police station in Muang District, Phrae confiscated the military arsenal.

Pol. Lt. Maj. Nakorn Kwanpet reported to Pol. Maj. Gen. Niyom Klanklinhorm, the provincial Phrae police commander, that they were accelerating investigations to find the people who hid the bombs. The investigating team was confident that these weapons belonged to the military, which narrowed the investigation.

Pol. Lt. Maj. Nakorn Kwanpet said that where they found the weapons was not a dangerous spot, and they were in a box 300 meters from the Accelerated Rural Development Office. They were of the opinion that the Accelerated Rural Development Office was not under threat of sabotage because it was quite deserted.

Police assume that these weapons were removed from a battalion, and police are confident they will find who was behind this misappropriation case.


Chiang Mai Zoo’s latest baby giraffe has died

Nuttanee Thaveephol

Chiang Mai Zoo has lost its newest member, a baby giraffe born in the evening of December 9, through a bacterial infection in its blood. Tanong Nateepitak, the director of Chiang Mai Zoo revealed that the giraffe died on December 10, only one day after birth. The baby was not strong enough because it cannot naturally stand to suckle, but mother giraffe, Bai Mon, did not allow anyone to approach her stricken baby.

The zoo veterinarians and experts from Chiang Mai University conducted a post mortem examination of the baby giraffe and found that the bacterial infection was wide-spread throughout the little animal’s body, causing its death.

An official from Chiang Mai Zoo said it will have the little giraffe stuffed in order to show it as an educational exhibit for students.

However, the local giraffe family will get another baby giraffe next year from a giraffe named Ung Phueng, which is pregnant.

One of Chiang Mai Zoo’s other young giraffes, Janpha, was given to the Dusit Zoo as a New Year present.

Dusit Zoo reciprocated by lending Chiang Mai Zoo 30 animals, such as lorises barn owls, musk deer, iguanas, pythons, civets, white frogs, and great hornbills. All the animals in the Chiang Mai Zoo will be on show over the New Year period.


Five drug suspects killed in clash with Thai soldiers

The Associated Press

Thai soldiers shot dead five suspected drug traffickers Monday during a clash near the border with Myanmar, army officials said.

About a dozen armed men believed to be from Myanmar’s Wa ethnic group opened fire on the troops after refusing to submit to a search, sparking a 20-minute gunfight, said Maj. Gen. Nakhorn Sripetphan. No Thai soldiers were injured.

The fight took place in the jungle just two kilometers (1.24 miles) from the Thai-Myanmar border in Chiang Mai Province.

Five of the suspects were killed while the others fled across the border into Myanmar, leaving behind three AK-47 assault rifles, Nakhorn said. It was not immediately known if any drugs were confiscated.

Nakhorn said intelligence sources had tipped off the soldiers, saying that a group of ethnic Chinese and Wa drug traffickers would travel through Chiang Mai over the weekend to collect payment for an earlier delivery of methamphetamine, the drug also known as ya ba.

A week ago Friday, one Thai soldier was killed and three others were seriously wounded in a similar gunfight along the border. One of the wounded soldiers died last Sunday. Three alleged smugglers were also killed.

More than 336,000 methamphetamine tablets were seized by Thai authorities in that clash.


Thai and Burmese officials thrash out drug problems

Burmese keen to put blame on Thailand’s neighbors

Phitsanu Thepthong

Thai and Burmese officials attended a two-day meeting on Thailand - Burma law enforcement cooperation on December 13-14. The high-ranking officials from both sides met to exchange information and reports for future planning to solve the drug problem.

(From left) Deputy Head of the Ministry of Military Intelligence Department Headquarters Col Sann Pwint, Pol Maj Gen Khin Yi, Burmese police chief, Kitti Limchaikij, the general secretary of the Office of Narcotics Control Board (ONCB), Pol Lt Gen Charlermdej Charmpunot, and Chiang Mai police chief, Pol Maj Gen Bamrung Kerddee.

The Burmese delegation, led by Pol Maj Gen Khin Yi, the police chief of Burma and secretary general of Burma’s Central Committee on Drug Abuse Control (CCDAC) was accompanied by Col. Sann Pwint, deputy head of department headquarters of the Ministry of Military Intelligence, and Pol Col. Hkam Awng, joint secretary CCDAC.

The Thai delegation was led by Pol Lt-Gen Charlermdej Charmpunot; Kitti Limchaikij, the general secretary of the Office of Narcotics Control Board (ONCB); Chartchai Sukhikhom, deputy secretary of general NCB and Pol Maj Gen Bamrung Kerddee, chief of Chiang Mai police.

Chartchai Sukhikhom said that if there was found to be Thai investment in factories producing drugs like ya ba, in Burma close to the Thai - Burmese border, Thai authorities would immediately take action and arrests would be made, including those who deliver chemical supplies to the Burmese side.

Pol Maj. General Khin Yi, head of the Burmese delegation, said the two countries, Thailand and Burma, have a long border, so there may be drug smuggling and trafficking which must be suppressed. “During the past, the two countries have cooperated successfully,” he said.

Recent reports that one billion ya ba amphetamine pills were expected to be smuggled into Thailand from Burma, he said were mere speculation. Khin Yi noted that Thailand has other neighboring countries, and pointed an accusatory finger, claiming that drugs can be smuggled into Thailand from these sources. Burma criticized Thailand’s neighboring countries for failing to stop the smuggling of precursor chemicals used in methamphetamine production.

He said, “However, if there is some smuggled from Burma, Burmese authorities will be pleased to solve this problem, and Thailand and other internationals should cooperate with Burma and assist. I believe that if our neighboring countries combine we will suppress this drug trafficking effectively.”

Col. Sann Pwint added that Burma has a policy to promote drug free zones within its borders, including opium production. He said that drug free zones will be introduced in the Shan state, with ministerial responsibilities over each part.

It was mentioned that good cooperation between Burma and its ethnic minorities was helpful in destroying drug factories. However, the usual cry of a lack of funds was tabled, with international funding being asked for yet again. “The government budget alone is not enough; sometimes financial help is needed from internationals. We have to use our own domestic fiscal year budget for drug suppression. A meeting between Burma and the US was held to discuss further aid assistance for drug control, but so far, the US aid directly to Burma is only one opium control project to be run by UNDCP, to be implemented in the southern part of Shan State inside Burma,” he said.


International envoys believe Thailand not involved in Bali bombing

The deputy permanent secretary for foreign affairs stated on December 13 that ambassadors of 34 countries are convinced by verified facts that Thailand had nothing to do with the tragic bombing in Bali, Indonesia on October 12th which left many people dead or seriously injured.

“The Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs invited top envoys to be briefed on situations in Thailand following recent news reports in the foreign media that members of the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) terrorist group might use Thailand as a venue to plot the Bali bombing plan,” Krit said.

Krit said that the envoys were told that a probe by Indonesian officials showed confirmed evidence that there was no linkage between Thailand and the terrorist attack. Evidence also shows that there are no terrorist networks in Thailand, according to the senior official.

Krit conceded, however, that the JI group could possibly have used Thailand as a transit to other countries. He said that authorities concerned have stepped up security measures at key places in the kingdom, including local airports, foreign embassies, and international schools to prevent terrorist attacks.

The measures include strict control and inspection of weapons and explosive devices, as well as fake documents and money laundering. Laws will also be amended to cope with new forms of terrorist acts, Krit stated.

To deal with terrorist problems, the Thai government has also reduced the number of countries being given visa-free privileges for their citizens traveling to Thailand from 57 down to 38 countries. (TNA)


Nan silk stuns the world

Wins top international award at 19th World Silk Conference

Nuttanee Thaveephol

The 19th World Silk Conference was held recently at Queen Sirikit National Convention Center, Bangkok, and silk textiles from Nan Province in Thailand won the world silk competition against strong opposition from more than 30 countries around the world. Nan Province’s entry was in dyed silk produced at Ban Na Pha Village.

Samples of colorful Nan Silk clothes.

The silk from Ban Na Pha is created from Nan’s silk cotton. Jutharak Rattanasila, Ban Na Pha silk producer said that Nan Province is proud of its achievement in the world silk arena. The silk textile, which won the award, is of the highest quality, woven and dyed by professionals and comes from natural silk.

The Ban Na Pha Village has over 200 workers; some come from nearby villages or other districts, and the factory covers every step in the silk production process.


Proper tourism planning can mean success in Northern Thailand

Study the market and plan ahead, says travel operator

Phitsanu Thepthong

Being service minded is a very important factor for the tourism industry, according to Mrs. Saowalak Shimada, a leading inbound tour operator. She added that whilst dealing with the Japanese tourist we must be honest, work to a system, and get together with them in planning the stages.

She has foreseen bright prospects for the tourism sector as well as the export handicraft products industry, all of which can mean success in Northern Thailand.

Saowalak said at a recent special “lunch talk” on the Industrial Restructuring Plan for Tourism that to increase business competition, case studies and marketing strategies must be undertaken. “Chiang Mai needs a trade show promoting hand-made products, and we must compete with other countries like China; however, we have a bright outlook for marketing our agricultural, industrial, and tourism sectors abroad.”

She said strategy and planning is significant, and that this should follow Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s vision on global change, where technology can really help speed up the change process, “from the best practice to become the best performance.”

Chiang Mai can be a most attractive place for tourists for eco-tourism, as well as agro-tourism, among the countries located along the Mekong River Basin: Burma, Laos, Vietnam, China and Thailand, “From orange orchards in Fang District, and bird-watching tours in Chormthong, as well as home stays in the rural villages, these are becoming more popular among visitors at present,” she noted.

Saowalak remarked that Wieng Kum Kam, with its ancient and historical ruins, is another attraction that when it is promoted could become a world heritage site, while health tourism for health resorts and spas, or traditional massage, and an international conventional center could be built here.

As a tourism operator for more than 20 years, she said, “Information Technology, new knowledge, social welfare, and new chances for working staff or guides to gain more skills and knowledge from training courses, will help expand the tourism business.”