Vol. II No. 2 Saturday 11 January - 17 January 2003
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NEWS
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

500 milk producers stage city hall protest

New Year road fatalities appallingly high

Chiang Saen International Skill Development Institute to open this year

America provides US$1.25 million for Mekong Flood Mitigation

Three hospitals in Chiang Mai quit the 30 baht Medical Scheme

500 million baht rung up in Chiang Mai cash registers over the long holiday

Lamphun says “On Yer Bike!”

Phuket pulls the plug on Chiang Mai

Central Chiang Mai Memorial Hospital holds New Year charity activities

Financial brains meet with the IMF and ADB in Chiang Mai

Chiang Rai’s economy looking up

Free trade zones in the north slow in coming

Have you paid your taxes?

Bootleg Whisky kills two and blinds two more

Drug purge by provincial police this year

Mae Sa Village raided in drug swoop

Thai-Burma drug crackdown policy thrashed out

500 milk producers stage city hall protest

A case of crying over spilt milk?

Supatatt Dangkrueng

More than 500 farmers are demanding solutions to the over production of fresh cow’s milk in Chiang Mai, and to show they mean business, they staged a protest, pouring milk on themselves, on city hall and into the grass field in front of city hall.

Protesters poured milk over one of the farmers in protest of an apparent over production of milk in Chiang Mai. The farmers called for the governor to re-implement zoning to solve the problems of overlapping suppliers.

The protesters arrived at City Hall carrying 40 liters of milk and wanting to meet with Chiang Mai Governor Pisit Khetphasook. The demand to see the governor was initially refused, so the protestors dumped all 40 liters of milk.

Governor Pisit eventually agreed to meet the protesters and was told that there are more than 1,500 farmers in the north producing 101 tons each day, while the demand in Chiang Mai was only 80 tons per day. The farmers said the problems began following the cancellation of zoning after the Khon Kaen milk scam was revealed and that the late commencement of the school milk project was adversely affecting Chiang Mai farmers. The protesters want the government to re-implement zoning to solve the problems of overlapping suppliers.

During the meeting with the governor, the strikers threw milk over the door and some poured milk over themselves.

The protesters also wanted the government to guarantee the price of the products in the ‚one brand - one price - one quality‘ legislation. The protesters gave letters to the governor to send to Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, to advise him of their plight.

During one stage of the protest, farmers doused the front doors of city hall with milk.


New Year road fatalities appallingly high

51 people will not see the rest of 2003

By Nuttanee Thaveephol, Supatatt Dangkrueng
and editorial staff

In the Chiang Mai area, around 4000 people were injured over the New Year break, with road traffic accidents and driver error being the main causes for the shocking statistics. The Chiang Mai Provincial Public Health Office released the details of accidents which occurred during the New Year celebration with further details reported by Wieng Ping Rescue Service, collected from 41 public health service centers.

In Chiang Mai, the injuries were reported as 2,375 cases, with 339 accidents daily. There were 33 fatalities and road traffic accidents were the principal cause of death, with 82 percent dying as a consequence of road accidents. The highways with the highest number of accidents were the Chiang Mai-Hang Dong Road, Chiang Mai-Doi Saket Road, and Chiang Mai-Mae Jo Road. Causes included hazardous areas of road repairs, inoperative traffic lights, and drunken drivers.

Chiang Mai was not the only center to have disastrous holiday road tolls, as there were 1,751 accidents, and 18 fatalities in other regions in the north. The Public Health Centers of Nan, Phayao and Lamphun reported these appalling statistics. Dr. Preeda Deesuwan, the Nan provincial chief medical director said that there were 671 accidents and 10 killed in Nan, 822 accidents and 6 deaths in Phayao and 258 accidents and 2 deaths in Lamphun.

The majority of deaths occurred with carelessness in motorcycle riding being the prime reason, with December 31st being the worst day. Males outnumbered females 1,257 to 494.

Kesorn Karnjanathiwat from the Lamphun Provincial Public Health Office said that the accident experience was much the same as last year, even though the safety riding campaign had been promoted. „Given the high number of accidents this New Year, the Public Health Office will have to improve the campaign for the Songkran Day in April this year,“ he said.

The causes of road traffic accidents are well documented in this country, and it should come as no surprise that the most killed are motorcyclists and pillion passengers, and the most common factor is alcohol impairment. Compulsory wearing of accredited safety helmets by anyone on a motorcycle would halve the death toll, and the use of safety belts reduce the death toll in motor vehicles. Stricter controls on alcohol and driving would then reduce the statistics even further. The death and injury toll over Songkran last year would be considered a national disgrace in other developed countries, and further fatalities would bring down a government. There will undoubtedly be much official arm-waving before April, but will we be reporting the same shocking statistics of needless waste of life and limb after Songkran?


Chiang Saen International Skill Development Institute to open this year

Developing the growth of technology

Nuttanee Thaveephol

The International Skill Development Institute in Chiang Saen District of Chiang Rai Province, which has been under construction since 1999, will be opened this year under the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) economic development project.

Surin Jirawisit, director general of the Skill Development Department in the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare, has followed up the construction of the Chiang Saen International Skill Development Institute and said that the institute will be opened within the year for Chiang Rai people to take advantage of the growth of technology.

The institute is part of the Thai government’s interest in the GMS cooperation and development project that consists of Thailand, China, Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos, and Vietnam.

Development of skills, sharing of knowledge, cultural differences and technology exchange are the objectives of the institute which can be beneficial for the six neighboring countries.


America provides US$1.25 million for Mekong Flood Mitigation

The U.S. Agency for International Development, Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA) signed a cooperative agreement with the Mekong River Commission (MRC), providing US$1.25 million for a five-year flood early warning project.

The Mekong River Commission is an intergovernmental river basin organization sponsored by Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam.

The first phase of the project will be implemented in Cambodia and Laos to enhance their flood disaster management capacity. USAID/OFDA and MRC anticipate that the flood forecasting and early warning systems developed in this project will be transferable to the other countries, as well as other flood-prone river basins in Asia.

Following unusually severe and damaging floods over the last three years, member countries asked the MRC to formulate a mitigation and flood management strategy. The MRC council approved a flood management program, which includes a warning and forecasting component.

USAID/OFDA’s support will (1) strengthen MRC flood warnings, making them more responsive to the needs of the at-risk populations and communicating promptly with the most flood-vulnerable communities, and (2) develop tools, methods and protocols with community-based partners to enable flood-vulnerable populations to effectively respond to MRC prepared warnings.


Three hospitals in Chiang Mai quit the 30 baht Medical Scheme

Medical cover is far from universal

Dr. Nisit Wattanatchariya, the deputy director of Chiang Mai Public Health Office, revealed that three hospitals have indicated that they cannot continue to honor the 30 baht medical cover cards. They are the Mother and Child Hospital, Chiang Mai Neurological Hospital, and the Rajavej Hospital.

The Mother and Child Hospital and the Chiang Mai Neurological Hospital indicated that they are specialist hospitals and give that as their reason to quit the scheme. Rajavej Hospital is a private hospital, which has admitted a large number of chronic, long stay patients. Consequently the hospital has had expenses for these patients well in excess of 30 baht each.

Dr. Nisit said that the private hospitals are at risk of operating at a loss anyway, because there are only 150,000 people in the municipal area. Each private hospital needs 30,000 admissions just to cover costs, but in reality there are only 10,000 patients.

People carrying the 30 baht scheme cards are transferred from these three hospitals to the Central Memorial and Ruam Pat hospitals.


500 million baht rung up in Chiang Mai cash registers over the long holiday

Tourists come for cool weather and abundance of activities

Supatatt Dangkrueng

It was a banner year for business in Chiang Mai this New Year, as over the long weekend tourists filled the local coffers with over 500 million baht.

Chalermsak Suranan, Tourist Authority of Thailand Region 1, Chiang Mai Office director announced the figures last week and said that there were many contributing factors to the banner year.

“Chiang Mai is a major tourist destination in the north where thousands celebrate the New Year holiday every year,” he said, and “This year, attractions such as the Winter Fair behind Chiang Mai City Hall brought many tourists to the region - with their money.”

Director Chalermsak also said that most of Chiang Mai’s hotel rooms had been booked out for several weeks, and the result was a windfall for tourist spots and souvenir shops in the area. Unfortunately, there was a downside; that being increased traffic which brought traffic jams to the main streets.

Results from circulated questionnaires indicated that many tourists chose Chiang Mai as their destination because of the cool weather and abundance of tourist attractions. Many said that the scenic nature of Chiang Mai was a factor in their choice.

Many tourist spots, such as the Night Bazaar, Doi Suthep, and Doi Inthanon, and tourist venues in the districts of San Kamphaeng, Mae Rim and Hang Dong, were crowded with new faces, most of whom were again big spenders.


Lamphun says “On Yer Bike!”

Supatatt Dangkrueng

Lamphun Governor Thawat Satheinnam said Lamphun is ready to commence organized tourist bicycle rides to Chiang Mai, riding through tourist attractions and historical building sites. The route has been surveyed and there will be another survey on the 19th of January.

The Lamphun-Chiang Mai trip is 25 km long, commencing from Cham Dhevi Monument in Lamphun, passing Muang Nga, Pratu Pa, Nong Chang Keun, Chonkhan Pinit Weir, Ban Tam Nak and Wiang Kum Kam.

Along the way there are many interesting places with traditional and historical sites, such as temples and old buildings. Besides these, there are 130 year-old longan trees called Ton Muen (the ten thousand tree) because this tree can produce longans and earn approximately ten thousand a year.

The destination is Wiang Kum Kam in Saraphi District, well known as the underground empire. These buildings, temples, pagodas and chedis are buried 1.20 meters below ground level. This ancient city was established by King Mengrai 716 years ago.

It is hoped that this project will encourage people to ride bicycles and is another way to boost tourism.


Phuket pulls the plug on Chiang Mai

Big shock as electric bus project delayed

Nuttanee Thaveephol

Chiang Mai Municipality’s electric shuttle bus project cannot be turned on because Phuket Province has pulled our plug by buying all the busses in the Electric Shuttle Company stock.

Chiang Mai Municipality had planned to launch the electric school bus project for students as their New Year present but now faces a delay caused by the company’s lack of stock.

Through the order from Phuket, the Electric Shuttle Company has sold all of their stock and since Chiang Mai City was only going to lease the busses, Phuket Province, which bought the busses, got first choice.

Panyapol Mongkolcharoen, the chief of the Municipal Commerce Control Division of the Chiang Mai Municipal Clerk Office revealed that the municipality might have to buy the electric buses instead of leasing to ensure we get our own shuttles.

However, there must still be a budget appropriation for the project and so far that has not been done, as the city fathers were sure that they could lease the rolling stock. Meanwhile, the red busses are quietly chuckling.


Central Chiang Mai Memorial Hospital holds New Year charity activities

Donates first aid kits and sports equipment

Metinee Chaikuna

To celebrate the New Year, Central Chiang Mai Memorial Hospital carried out charity activities under the Royal Project at Thapae Gate. Dr. Nisit Wattanajchariya, provincial deputy chief medical director presided over the opening ceremony of the 6th public charity activities, and was joined by Rasee Arnondawilas, the vice president of the Lions Club, 130-A, and the members of Chiang Mai Lions Club, Mae Raming as well as other interested parties.

Waranya Lienglucklert, director of the Central Chiang Mai Memorial (standing back row center) gave sporting equipment to schools in the Chang Klan area and Mae Hia area.

Waranya Lienglucklert, the director of the Central Chiang Mai Memorial said that the hospital participates in the 30 Baht Medical Project, and is in charge of the Chang Klan area which covers around 24,000 residents, 9 schools, 8 communities, and the Mae Hia area, which covers 10 villages, and 3 schools. The hospital also provides a free mobile medical service to serve the residents in the area.

Waranya Lienglucklert, (standing second right) and Dr. Nisit Wattanajchariya, (standing next to Waranya), provincial deputy chief medical director gave first aid kits to representatives of local schools.

The hospital holds these public charity activities each year, this being the 6th occasion. The hospital donated Thai encyclopedias to 9 schools in the Chang Klan area, and 3 schools in Mae Hia. The hospital also donated items as glasses, study books and medicines to the local poor.


Financial brains meet with the IMF and ADB in Chiang Mai

Phitsanu Thepthong

The 15th Asia - Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Finance Minister’s technical working group meeting ended successfully with preparations set for the upcoming 10th APEC finance ministers forum to be held in Phuket September 4-5.

Visit Srisuphan, the director of the Office of Financial Economy, said that about 80 officials participated from APEC membership countries, through 17 economic zones, as well as representatives from International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, and Asian Development Bank (ADB).

Director Visit indicated that the IMF has estimated that the global economy has been recovering continuously since the beginning of 2002, and the production rate in the industrial and trade sectors is increasing.

However, he concluded that the IMF has stated factors that may be affecting recovery are the uncertainty of economic status in the USA, the increase of oil prices in the global market, the change of important capital markets in the world, and the risks of economic recoveries among the “new economy” countries, particularly those countries in the economic group of Latin America.

The meeting also discussed the fiscal and financial aspects of regional trade arrangements, in responding to free trade policies in this region, and bilateral free trading. Other aspects covered included bank deposit quarantine, disclosure of financial information, good management, bankruptcy law, and money transferred for the purpose of terrorism.


Chiang Rai’s economy looking up

Joint Economic Quadrangle Development plans hinge on roads

Phitsanu Thepthong

The Chiang Rai border province has a bright future and high potential for economic development through cooperation in border trade this year, according to Damrong Saengkaweelet, the deputy director of the Office of National Economic and Social Development Board.

Since China gained membership in the World Trade Organization recently, it appears likely that Thailand-China relationships in terms of the international economic cooperation will improve.

Under the cooperation plan, China will play a large role in the Association of Southeast Asia member countries located along the Mekong River, known as the Joint Economic Quadrangle Development Plan that is a part of Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) - in which many countries concerned called for establishment of international transportation routes and communication links.

The roads linking Chiang Rai with southern China passing through Burma and Laos are being built and developed under the Asian Networking plan, said deputy director Damrong. “When the East-West corridor is completed, the road distance will be reduced to 2,000 km, while the sea route is more than 2,800 km from Thailand to China via Hong Kong, and the Chiang Rai - Kunming Road will be cut down to only 1,200 km,” he said. He also said at the Chinese trade seminar on investment opportunities in south China for Thais, held at the Bank of Thailand, Northern branch recently, that transportation costs would be reduced through the shorter trade routes.

There are three possible routes that could connect Thailand with China, with one passing through Burma at the Mae Sai checkpoint, one passing through Laos at the Chiang Khong checkpoint, and another one passing through Laos at Nan’s Huay Kron checkpoint.

In the meantime, China has constructed more motorways connecting Burma and Laos with Thailand, “But a road passing through Burma is still problematical because of the security dangers. That passage is influenced by the minority groups,” he remarked.

However, the road linking Chiang Rai with China passing through Laos is expected to be finished in 2007. These planned roads connecting Thailand, Laos, Burma and China follow the GMS summit agreement on the Asian highway networks. This Chiang Rai - China motorway link covering a distance of 1,000 km is part of the special economic zone development plan for Chiang Rai.

Meanwhile, a railway construction project from Denchai District in Phrae Province to Chiang Rai is under review by the Thai government. This is also expected to help boost transport and communications.

As regards using the waterways, it is possible for cargo ships to proceed along the Mekong River’s upper reaches after agreements were reached among four member countries in the year 2000. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has provided some assistance with technicians and loans for a feasibility study to adjust and drain the waterways. There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that the previously locked China is the prize, but access is the key.


Free trade zones in the north slow in coming

We are lagging behind claims Economic and Social Development officials

Metinee Chaikuna

According to the Economic and Social Development Northern Region Office, preparations for free trade and border trading in the north needs to be improved. The main issues are production factors and labor quality.

In the past, natural resources have been used extravagantly in the industrial development of the north. As natural resources are diminished, prices for finished goods are pushed upwards. This in turn has meant that local goods have become uncompetitive in the world market.

Preparations for free trade zones and trading across borders around the north needs to see improvement in production methods and quality so that the country’s products can be sold in the new global market. In the local geographic area, Thai wages are higher than those of the surrounding countries, which was again another factor in making local goods higher priced than those from the neighboring countries.

Officials of the Economic and Social Development Northern Region brought the issue of the North’s competitiveness to light, and are facing the challenging problem that needs to be discussed to find the solution.


Have you paid your taxes?

Pay on time - or wear the fine

Supatatt Dangkrueng

Chiang Mai Mayor Boonlert Buranupakorn is reminding the people of Chiang Mai to pay their taxes by the due date. The announcement from Chiang Mai Municipality particularly refers to business owners who have to pay tax for their signs, and landowners in the municipal area who have to pay land rates.

The signboard tax has to be remitted, with the appropriate tax payment forms, before March 31 and the land taxes have to be submitted before April 30 at the municipal districts. All taxpayers can contact their local municipal offices at the following phone numbers - Nakornping Municipal Office (0 5325 2478-89 ext 382), Kawila Municipal Office (0 5324 9328), Mengrai Municipal Office (0 5328 0928-9), and Sriwichai Municipal Office (0 5335 8125-6).

Taxpayers who have not paid their taxes by the due date will be found guilty and fined and subsequently the tax rate will be increased.


Bootleg Whisky kills two and blinds two more

Licensed producers call for stricter controls

Nuttanee Thaveephol

Construction workers from the Panpong Thai Company Limited, on the Phrae Christian Hospital site had been drinking ‘moonshine’ (whisky laced with methanol) and two became very ill and died, despite being rapidly transferred to the Phrae Hospital.

The deceased were Wittaya Phadta and Longkham Aisaen, while Udom Kamsaew, their friend, was admitted to the Phrae Hospital after having become blind.

After the incident, Phrae Hospital was informed that there was a 4th patient rushed to the hospital when he drank the bootleg whisky and had become partially blind. The doctors were able to save him and expected that he would make a full recovery.

The Phrae Local Whisky Network is licensed to produce a local whisky called “Local Wisdom Liquor”, but now is worrying about some dealers who apparently have been adding methanol which will tarnish the image of the local whisky. The network is demanding that the standard government regulation covering the production of whisky be adhered to.


Drug purge by provincial police this year

Police on the spot in 5 minutes says commissioner

Metinee Chaikuna

Pol. Lt. Gen. Inthadej Pornpeeraparn, commissioner of the Provincial Police Region 5 emphasized that drug cases will get maximum priority this year. He said that nobody was above the law in this regard and even policeman would be investigated if they were found to be involved with drugs traders. If found guilty they would be punished and discharged from the force.

The commissioner said that the main reason for the increase in drug trade locally was that the area is a checkpoint next to the number 1 trouble spot of the country.

Provincial Police Region 5 drug arrest statistics in the year 2002 revealed that more drug busts were made this year than over the same period last year.

This year, the commissioner said, they will take this once step further, and there will be an improvement in operations and police teamwork for those in charge of drug investigations. There will also be further training for officers on the topics of money laundering and drugs. The training will be given by experienced local officers in cooperation with anti-drug organizations from the USA. Police will also increase investigations into the network of drug traders and minor dealers.

Pol. Lt. Gen. Inthadej Pornpeeraparn also said that police response will be quicker, and when an offense is reported by the public, officers will arrive at any situation within 5 minutes. However, he said, the main work for the police this year will be eliminating drugs.

Police will also cooperate with Thanyarat Hospital in order to assist drug addicts into therapy.


Mae Sa Village raided in drug swoop

200 police nab dealers, weapons and drugs

Metinee Chaikuna

200 policeman from the Mae Rim Provincial Police Station, the Chiang Mai Provincial Police, and the Office of the Narcotics Control Board with police sniff dogs surrounded a Hmong village in Ban Mae Sa Mai, Pongyaeng, Mae Rim District, Chiang Mai having suspicions that the village was being used to harbor drug activities.

The officers were divided in to groups to capture the drug dealers, with 20 targets to find, and arrest warrants ready for 10 individuals. The drug dealers were arrested and yaba pills, heroin, opium, and weapons confiscated in the raid.

Manas Thanomworakul, the headman of Mae Sa Mai village was arrested, and 1 firearm, 1 pistol, 1 shotgun and 8 bows were confiscated from the village. Shumporn Thanomrungrueng, Cha Lertchaisahakul and Lue Youngsirisuk, on the wanted list, were also arrested.

An illegal immigrant Burmese, Mong Lay and 8 drug dealers were also arrested with 68 yaba pills, a pack of heroin and opium tendered as evidence.

Pol. Lt. Gen. Inthadej Pornpeeraparn, commissioner of the Provincial Police Region 5, said that Mae Sa Mai Village had been one of the main drug sources, and the center for drug addicts for a long time.


Thai-Burma drug crackdown policy thrashed out

Phitsanu Thepthong

Both Thailand and Burma agreed to seek further cooperation from the Burma side of the border during a bipartite meeting between Thailand’s Office of Narcotic Control Board (ONCB) and Burma’s Central Committee for Drug Abuse Control (CCDAC).

The ONCB was led by Kitti Limchaikitch, ONCB secretary general who also acted as the head of the Thai delegation and as the meeting chairman, while Pol Maj Gen Khin Yi, the Burmese police chief and the secretary general of CCDAC, acted as the head of the Burmese delegation and the co chairman of the meeting.

The establishment of Work Coordination Offices was announced at the meeting, with one located at Mae Sai District to work in coordination with Thachilek Province in Burma, and the other at Mae Sod District, Tak Province, where to work in cooperation with the Mywaddy Province of Burma.

These offices to be will be operating under the drug control and development projects, along the border crossings, and are supported by the United Nation Drug Control Program (UNDCP) with some financial support from Thai government. A third office is being considered for Victoria Point on the Burma side opposite Ranong Province in the south of Thailand.

Burma has asked Thai authorities to organize training courses on investigation for Burmese investigators. This training project is supported by the Japanese government and will coordinate work covering Burma, Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia.

There is certainly much work to be done in this area, as the Drug Suppression Police Command has arrested three suspects, with a haul of 139.65 kg heroin, in the past few months. In addition, working in cooperation with Burmese authorities, the Drug Enforcement Agency, and the Office of the CCDAC has resulted in Burma arresting three Burmese suspects, with a haul of 36 kg of heroin, more than 5 million methamphetamines, 338 kg of ephedrine, and 40 kg of caffeine in Thachilek Province. In April 2002, with cooperation from Burma, Thailand and China, 17 suspected drug traffickers who were networking in 3 countries were caught with a haul of 345 kg of heroin in China. Yaba is still a major item in cross border trafficking with 32 million tablets being confiscated by the relevant authorities.

The next conference will be hosted by Burma in July.



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