HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Children’s Day was Fun Day in Chiang Mai

Thailand’s function in the UN discussed

Others may be down, but Chiang Rai’s on the way up

Mekong River Harbors will encourage Quadrangle economy

Bor Sang Umbrella festival this month

Better radio coming for Chiang Mai

Is the 30 baht medical scheme working?

24 deaths from rabies infection this winter

Opium eradication now high priority in the Golden Triangle

Forced migration under the microscope

Recycle to make merit gaining momentum

A Middle East war would have no effect on Thailand’s weapons production

French Teacher Alliance visiting the North

Children’s Day celebrations in Luang Nua

300 kids get together and show what they can do

Children’s Day was Fun Day in Chiang Mai

These children dressed in their best outfits to participate in the Children’s Day festivities this year. Activities were held all over the Kingdom to celebrate this special day, and Chiang Mai was no exception. Fun and games were the order of the day, all the while reinforcing the prime minister’s Children’s Day slogan that children must enjoy their lives with learning, creativity and technology.

Thailand’s function in the UN discussed

Thai woman appointed president of Group 77 representing developing countries

Supatatt Dangkrueng

Thailand’s function in the United Nations was the main topic of discussion at a recent conference, held at Chiang Mai University, organized by the Department of International Organizations, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand.

Atchara Suyanan, the director of the Department of International Organizations, said the United Nations is involved with, and making progress in, many parts of the world regarding politics, economy, society and culture. The UN wants to bring up the standard of living and stop areas of controversy in many undeveloped and developing countries.

At present, there are two international organizations in Thailand working for Thailand’s benefit in Geneva, Switzerland and New York, covering the rights of Thailand and other union countries.

This year, Mrs. Laksanathon Laohapan, the Thai Ambassador at Geneva, has been appointed president of Group 77 representing developing countries. Her appointment was, in part, to show that Thailand has sexual equality in the workforce and in society.

Others may be down, but Chiang Rai’s on the way up

Chiang Rai enjoying increased revenues

Phitsanu Thepthong

Tourism and trade atmosphere at the beginning of 2003 in this northernmost province proved colorful with higher revenues than expected from tourists and visitors during the last weekend when the 9th Mekong River Basin Friendship Culture Festival took place.

Shops selling local products inside Burma’s Tachileck, opposite Mae Sai.

According to sources at the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s Chiang Rai office, last year (2002) more than one million tourists visited Chiang Rai, and about 400,000 of this number were foreigners and about 800,000 were Thais - who between them brought revenues of hundreds of millions of baht to this border province.

However, this year TAT officials estimate that this revenue will be much higher, as Chiang Rai has high potential and a bright future as a tourism attraction, as well as having history and culture. Apart from that, the annual fairs and festivals always draw a large number of tourists and visitors.

The re-opening of the Thai-Burmese border at Mae Sai, after its closure for months last year, produced an economic boom that could be clearly seen, as it was crowded with tourists, visitors, businessmen, and traders. Decha Satthapol, the chief of Mae Sai District Office said the economic impetus saw revenues increased by three times normal. Not less than 10,000 people were around the border checkpoint daily during the long holidays on the New Year and last weekend.

Sermchai Kittrat, president of the Chiang Rai Chamber of Commerce, said that the trade volumes crossing the borders increased by 40% this year, generating revenue of up to some 300 million baht daily. Chiang Rai is taking advantage of the trade through the border points located along the border of Burma and Laos PDR.

Chiang Rai is strategically located the northernmost in the country with neighboring countries such as Yunnan Province of southern China. It is 397 km from Chiang Rung of China and 493 km from Burma, 344 km from Laos PDR and is situated along the banks of the Mekong River. Local officials believe it could suitably be a hub of the Economic Quadrangle development plan.

Mekong River Harbors will encourage Quadrangle economy

Commodities exchange points being constructed

Nuttanee Thaveephol

Chiang Rai is improving and constructing more harbors in Chiang Saen and Chiang Khong districts to become commodities exchange points and for warehousing. Construction is expected to be finished around the end of this year.

Chinese merchant ships anchor near the construction site.

Chiang Rai MP Samart Kaewmeechai said that Chiang Rai is proceeding with this project according to an economic cooperation plan involving countries within the Khong River sub region, namely, Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, and China. Construction will necessitate dynamite clearing of shipping lanes. Before the explosions, there will be a small blast to frighten fish and aquatic animals to leave the area.

The Chiang Rai MP admitted that there would be some environmental effects. An NGO is putting up opposition to this project due to the differing opinions on environmental impact, but it is necessary to produce navigation channels.

MP Samart said that if it is essential, the project may have to be readjusted so as to cause the least damage to the environment in the long term.

Bor Sang Umbrella festival this month

Vote for your favorite Brolly Dolly

Nuttanee Thaveephol

The annual Bor Sang Umbrella festival at Ban Bor Sang village in San Kamphaeng January 17-19 is being arranged by the Tourism Authority of Thailand Northern Office Region 1 in cooperation with Chiang Mai Provincial Office, San Kamphaeng District, Tambon Ton Pao Administrative Office, and private sectors.

This festival is held to preserve the Bor Sang Umbrellas and Lanna arts and culture part of the cultural heritage of Chiang Mai and to promote folk handicrafts. This 20th festival provides many unique activities to display the Lanna culture, the old style of the Northern Thailand.

These activities include a parade, local displays and instrumental show, Bor Sang umbrellas and fans competition, the Miss Umbrella Beauty Contest (known as “women riding the bicycle and holding the umbrellas”) and sales of local handicrafts.

For additional information contact Tambon Ton Pao Administrative Office, 053 338 048-9 or the Tourism Authority of Thailand Northern Office Region One, 053 248 604.

Better radio coming for Chiang Mai

65 million baht earmarked for radio programs in 6 tourism provinces

The Public Relations Department will spend 65 million baht aimed at improving and increasing the technical efficiency of Radio Station of Thailand in Bangkok and other tourism provinces. Our local Chiang Mai 93.25 MHz is included in that allocation.

Bamroong Siriwat, the director of Chiang Mai Radio Broadcasting Station of Radio Thailand said that the money would be used to buy FM radio broadcasting and digital radio station broadcasting equipment. The installation was first carried out at the Radio Broadcasting Station of Thailand in Bangkok, and will be followed by Chiang Mai (93.25 MHz), Phuket (90.5 MHz), Surat Thani (89.75 MHz), Samui District of Surat Thani (96.75 MHz), Songkhla (102.25 MHz), and Chonburi (99.75 MHz).

The new equipment for Chiang Mai Radio Broadcasting Station of Thailand will be installed on January 25. There is also a 2 kilowatt FM radio transmitter that has been in use since November last year.

The director of the Chiang Mai Radio Broadcasting Station said that the quality of radio broadcasting from Chiang Mai may not be good during the installation but after the equipment is set up, the broadcasting will be better than ever.

Is the 30 baht medical scheme working?

Provincial Health Office says it needs central prop-up

Supatatt Dangkrueng

The consensus appears to be that the way to resuscitate the 30 baht Medical Scheme is to extract the excess payments needed from the central government.

Wuttikrai Mungmai, chief of the Chiang Mai Provincial Health Office, stated that after looking at the 30 baht Medical Scheme, which has now been used for some time, there are several problems - mainly budgetary ones and some hospitals do not transfer patients to other hospitals because they do not want to take responsibility for additional costs that may be required.

The solution to the medical scheme problem may be to apply for payments from the central government, and right now carry out a survey to be able to estimate a suitable budget for each hospital.

It is a good sign, however, that many private hospitals propose to take part in the medical scheme. There are some worries that the new medical scheme may affect larger hospitals, where significant numbers of people come for the standard of service, and naturally, they expect the best.

24 deaths from rabies infection this winter

Public Health department issues warnings

Wallop Thainua, the Ministry of Public Health permanent secretary said that the winter period sees an increase in the dog population, and with it, a commensurate increase in the incidence of rabies in the society. The Epidemics Division reported that there were 24 patients who had contracted rabies and all of them had died because there is no medication to counteract the disease.

Rabies in humans is generally contracted from dogs, though other animals can harbor the virus, including monkeys and mongooses. Contact with infected saliva is the usual method of contracting the disease.

Since there is no cure, the emphasis is on vaccination of both humans and pet dogs. Primary courses of human vaccination require three injections, while emergency vaccination requires five injections. This does not give lifetime immunity, and booster injections are required every two to three years.

If you have been bitten, and there is suggestion that the dog was rabid, the only way that the diagnosis can be confirmed is by post mortem examination of the dog’s brain. This can be carried out by the Pasteur Institute, the Red Cross Thailand or the government hospital.

Opium eradication now high priority in the Golden Triangle

Crop substitution the key say officials

Phitsanu Thepthong

Thailand’s Office of Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) hosted a meeting of the 2nd Alternative Development Task Force under the ACCORD Plan of Action. This included a field trip taking the Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN) member countries and China to observe the reduced opium poppy growing areas following the crop replacement program introduced in the highlands.

Mrs. Rassamee Wisathaves (seated 3rd from left), deputy secretary general of the Office of Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) chaired the board’s second meeting at the Imperial Maeping Hotel last Sunday. Some 33 ASEAN member countries sent participants to the meeting, and donor countries Japan, USA, and Australia sent representatives, as did UNODC and the ASEAN secretariat.

Mrs. Rassamee Wisathaves, deputy secretary-general of ONCB, said about 33 participants were from ASEAN member countries, with others from the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crimes (UNODC) and from donor countries like Japan, USA, and Australia.

She confirmed that, “Crop replacement programs can be used as a strategy to help improve the living conditions and economy of the people in remote and rural areas. Fight against drug trafficking and control drug problems by reducing its demand in the market is really needed,” she added.

Using the technology, learning from past experience, working in cooperation in this region and increasing funds and support from abroad for drug abuse control is a part of the cooperation program in the region that is considered as the best practice for the alternative.

Another source noted that this year the officials aim at reducing narcotic plants’ growth in the area of the Golden Triangle connecting Thailand, Laos and Burma by 33%, after the Thai ONCB and United Nations’ organization conduct a survey of opium poppy cultivation.

The source remarked that in 2002, there were about 1,200 tons, and this number has been reduced to 820 tons inside Burma, and the opium and heroin production in Laos was dropped from 130 tons to 110 tons; however, this sizable quantity still worries UN officials. The UN wants to see opium poppy plants totally eradicated by 2008, while ASEAN member countries want to see the area declared a narcotic free zone by the year 2015.

One Burmese delegate said, “We hope to limit and control narcotics production and this should be achieved soon, and particularly by the year 2014, Burma will be getting rid of all opium and amphetamine production.”

Regarding Ban Yongkha in Wa territory inside Burma, he said that Burma was satisfied that with aid assistance from abroad to help implement the alternative project, the project will be successful, especially under the umbrella of the UN and including aid assistance from USA, Japan, Australia, and Thailand.

One Chinese delegate said his government wants to resolve the drug problems as the number of drug addicts is rising in China. “China will play active role in using the alternative project to help prevent the problem ... China continues with serious efforts to use the technology and human resources to try to stop drug abuse among the Chinese.”

After China opened for free trade and tourism in1999, it is found that more drugs began flowing into the country.

The Laos delegate added that by 2005, Laos plans to eradicate all opium growing areas. Last year, opium areas in 11 provinces, especially those locate in the North of Laos, were reduced by 74%, but this year it is hoped all the narcotic cultivation areas will be eradicated, particularly in the two provinces near Vientiane.

She noted that the relocation of factories producing ya ba (amphetamine) in Laos is still worrying officials following a tip-off from American authorities that there are some in areas, especially near the capital Vientiane.

Forced migration under the microscope

200 registrants at local conference

Supatatt Dangkrueng

The 8th meeting of the International Association for the Study of Forced Migration (IASFM) was recently held at Lotus Pang Suan Kaew Hotel in Chiang Mai following cooperation from many organizations.

IASFM and the Chulalongkorn University Asian Research Center for Migration jointly hosted a conference titled, “Forced Migration and Global Processes”. The topic covered the world situation concerning human rights during forced migrations, such as in America and the Asia-Pacific.

MP Surin Pitsuwan, former Thailand Minister of Foreign Affairs opened the conference, which is held every two years and rotates around the membership. This year it was in Thailand and there were more than 200 members from all over the world participating.

All participants shared information and ideas on how to solve problems of forced migration. Being held in Thailand this year, the IASFM hopes to support the Thai government and private organizations’ role in protecting the rights of immigrants, and to develop the work carried out by researchers and study groups in this field.

Recycle to make merit gaining momentum

Everyone invited to participate

Supatatt Dangkrueng

Chiang Mai Municipality is accelerating the Tod Pha Pa Recycle (recycle to make merit) project that has received much cooperation from 4 municipal districts: Nakorn Ping, Sri Wichai, Meng Rai and Kawila.

Students from many schools in Chiang Mai bring recyclable garbage, such as bottles and paper, to participate in the recycling program.

Chiang Mai Mayor Boonlert Buranupakorn said that he has received much assistance from both government and private organizations to complete this program. The date for the grand kick off has been fixed, and is Sunday, February 16 this year at Wat Chedi Luang. Everybody can join this program by bringing their recyclable separated garbage, such as glass, metal, paper and plastic.

The Tod Pha Pa Recycle procession will start at Thapae Street, then will move into the city and head to Wat Chedi Luang.

The mayor said there are 68 communities and 52 organizations from 4 municipal districts indicating their intention to join this program. They will provide 100 garbage cans, which can be used to separate unwanted rubbish items into 4 categories: glass, metal, paper and plastic, and 400 plastic bags are being issued to the these communities and organizations to help them start separating their garbage.

It is hoped that Chiang Mai people will understand that separating and recycling their garbage will protect our environment. If this project is successful, there will be Tod Pha Pa Recycle projects organized in other temples in Chiang Mai.

A Middle East war would have no effect on Thailand’s weapons production

80% export capacity, says munitions experts

Thailand has enough potential to maintain weapons production due to the use of 100% domestic materials. Taweep Chantararoj, the director of the Country Defense and Military Energy Industry Center said that weapons production to support the army is assured as the government and Ministry of Defense’s policy has been focusing on the use of domestic material so that security can be maintained even during critical periods, especially any war between America and Iraq.

Thailand is developing its weapons production for export and can export artillery munitions to the neighboring countries, including the Philippines and Indonesia.

Director Taweep said that at present Thailand was only using 20% of the production capabilities for domestic military use and the remaining 80% capacity can be used for export.

French Teacher Alliance visiting the North

Taking an educational tour through temples and ancient ruins

Metinee Chaikuna

Wichien Noonrowd, the Chiang Mai Provincial Public Relation officer has revealed that the French Teacher Alliance of Thailand is visiting the North from January 17-19, as part of an educational trip. The teachers are going to study ancient sites, Lanna, Lanchang culture and the arts of Sukhothai, Rattanakosin, La wo, Morn, and the Burmese influence in the three provinces of the North: Chiang Mai, Lumphun, and Nan.

The education trip will be led by MR Suriyawut Suksawat, the expert from the Archaeology department, Faculty of Archaeology, Silpakorn University, and he will also be the lecturer and guide for the French teachers’ team when they visit the ancient site at the Wiang Kum Kam, Saraphi District, Chiang Mai.

The first stop will be at the ancient remains in Wiang Kum Kam, Phraya Meng Rai Temple, Phra Ong Dam Temple, and then the E-kang Temple, Poopea Temple, Goopadom Temple. Following these the team plans to visit Chiang Man Temple, Phra Singha Temple, Jedi Luang Temple, Art and culture Museum, Suan Dok Temple, Jed Yod temple, the National Museum of Chiang Mai.

Children’s Day celebrations in Luang Nua

Story and photos by Annelie Hendriks

January 11 was a happy day for many children in Thailand. The schoolteachers really made an effort to make this National Day a wonderful day for the children. At a primary school in Tambon Luang Nua near Doi Saket the children started the day with a prayer together with the monks of the village temple. After that some children performed classical music songs and dances.

Selecting small presents.

Guess who I am...

The whole afternoon was dedicated to games, among which were “Guess who I am”, “Who can inflate the biggest balloon?” and running with ping pong balls between chopsticks.

Every effort was rewarded with small presents and many snacks.

Inflating the biggest balloon.

In the afternoon parents were invited to watch their children playing the games.

The day ended by exchanging presents. Every child brought a beautifully wrapped small present for another child. The choice was made by drawing of lots.

Their bikes loaded with presents, they all went home to show them to their family.

300 kids get together and show what they can do

Supatatt Dangkrueng

300 youths from 17 northern provinces participated in a Children and Youth Assembly organized by the Ministry of Public Health Region 5 at Ban Klang Doi Resort and Spa January 8-11.

A functioning fish scale removing machine - one of the youth inventions.

Youths prepare exhibitions to show off their ideas and creativity.

The health related topic was titled “Children and Youth Assembly on Health and Innovations” and was designed to let the youths show their creativity and present their ideas and opinions, which can lead to solutions for health problems.

There were many interesting activities created by children from the northern region; for example a soft drink free zone and a fish scale removing machine.

Wuttikrai Mungmai, head of the Chiang Mai Provincial Health Office, opened the assembly and visited the exhibitions.

On the last day in the camp, the participants selected 100 representatives from the 300 students to talk to PM Thaksin Shinawatra, and to present their points of view and opinions. It is hoped that children will learn to spend their time beneficially in the future, regarding creativity, teamwork, and to avoid drugs.