Vol. II No. 4 Saturday 25 January - 31 January 2003
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NEWS
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Krathong contest held in Sukhothai

Tourism in Doi Mae Salong down

National Elephant Institute reveals plans for 2003

Pandas are coming

School boat for students next semester?

Chiang Mai’s transportation policy under fire again

Integrated community garbage management program launched

Mayor getting tough on environment pollution

Elderly smokers targeted in Chiang Dao District

Thai-Burmese Culture and Economy Alliance being set up in Chiang Rai

50 million ya ba pills await transport into Thailand

PM’s 3 month ya ba eradication plan in operation

Kwan Nan Center attacks local drug problem

Foreigners targeted for dope testing

Beware of imitation “bird’s nest” energy drinks

Children’s Rights Center reviews results

Krathong contest held in Sukhothai

Phrae, Chiang Rai and Lampang show the way

Metinee Chaikuna

A krathong competition was recently held between 15 provinces in the North, which included Chiang Mai, Lamphun, Lampang, Mae Hong Son, Chiang Rai, Phayao, Phrae, Nan, Phitsanulok, Phetchabun, Sukhothai, Uttaradit, Tak, Pichit, and Kamphaeng Phet. The contest was divided into 2 classifications - the most beautiful krathong and the most creative krathong.

The winner of the most beautiful krathong category came from Phrae, with the first runner up being the Chiang Rai krathong. The winning entry in the most creative category came from Lampang, while the first-runner-up was from Phitsanulok.

Tanyapa Nikrothanond, director of the Tourism Authority of Thailand Northern Office Region 2 said that his office organized Chiang Rai’s entry, in cooperation with Dumrongraj Songkroh School.

Thongpond Sardorn, Chiang Rai provincial education officer added that the Chiang Rai portion of the krathong parade consisted of sabud chai drums, northern sword dances, shows from various Thai races, Lanna lanterns and hill tribe dances.

The Krathong made in the shape of a white lotus was made of sa paper, and was designed by Chalermchai Kositpipat and Konok Witsawakul, famous artists from Chiang Rai.


Tourism in Doi Mae Salong down

Various theories being put forward, but no answer obvious

Metinee Chaikuna

Doi Mae Salong, a famous mountain resort in Chiang Rai is devoid of tourists this year. The downturn has been evident since October, and the number of tourists is very obviously down.

The town is usually bustling with tourist activity at this time of year, but there are no tourists in Mae Salong Nok Village today.

Doi Mae Salong, Ban Mae Salong Nok Village, Mae Fah Luang Sub-district, Chiang Rai has been in the doldrums since the beginning of the winter season, and this had been continuing through the beginning of the year. Shop owners, hotels, and all the business people in the Mae Salong Nok Village have been complaining about the dearth of tourism and its effect on local economy.

Some people have put forward that the reason is because the weather this winter has not been very cold, like every other year. In the New Year, it was also raining.

Chinnakup Sae Tern, a staff member at the Mae Salong Central Hills Hotel said that normally the occupancy rate was nearly 100% in the winter season, and the tea shops around there had been trading well, but this year the tourist numbers were less. “We feel that this is an unusual event since the beginning of October because in the past a large number of tourists, both Thai and foreign visitors, would be here. But this year, there are only few of them. Our hotel had been full all the winter season last year and (tourists) needed to book in advance, but this year there are only a few guests here,” he said.

Chinnakup Sae Tern, a staff member at the Mae Salong Central Hills Hotel, serves hot tea to tourists, but the hotel is silent.

Chinnakup also confirmed that this year the weather was not cold at all, and sometimes it was raining. The Cherry Blossom festival, which just finished, was also poorly attended because the Sakura was not in bloom.

Doi Mae Salong was once well known for the former residences of the Kuomintang Chinese 93rd military division that was located in this mountain in Mae Fah Luang, Chiang Rai. In the mountain, there is a large village, which developed from a hill tribe village. Most of people in the village speak Thai and Chinese, and plant tea as the main industry. The U-Long tea, which is considered as one of the best teas, has been available here. Every year, there are many tourists from all over the world who come to taste the tea; the village became a key tourism site and the village received much revenue from that.


National Elephant Institute reveals plans for 2003

Home stays and mahout training proposed

Supatatt Dangkrueng

Nipakorn Singhaputthangkoon, general administrator of the National Elephant Institute in Hang Chat District Lampang Province, said that the number of tourists has been steadily increasing over the past two years. During the New Year break the numbers escalated to more than 4,000 tourists per day.

Currently, the National Elephant Institute is preparing and developing some programs regarding tourist attractions and toilet facilities to serve the increasing numbers of visitors. This year they plan to construct 20 more houses for long stay tourists and 5 houses in the mahout’s training school.

The mahout training is going ahead full speed this year. They aim to cover every mahout from elephant parks as well as independent mahouts all over the country. It is hoped that all mahouts will have the requisite skills in taking care of their elephants and the public image of the mahout will be improved.

The first period of training focuses on mahouts in the northern region, especially the independent mahouts in the highlands. They will learn how to take care of the elephants with regards to their quality of life.

The training is receiving financial support from government organizations and the Tourist Authority of Thailand. This project will be advantageous to the elephant population and the mahouts and hopefully will do something to overturn the somewhat tarnished image of elephant care in this country.


Pandas are coming

100 engineers building air-con housing for them

Supatatt Dangkrueng

Chiang Mai Zoo is set to become the first in Asia to receive a pair of rare pandas from the Chinese government. To welcome the pandas, zoo officials are making sure that once they arrive, the pair will be housed in comfort.

One hundred soldiers from the engineering battalion in Ratchaburi Province are constructing a “Panda House”, complete with air-conditioning, research center and souvenir shop (for tourists, not the pandas). Officials hope that the project will be completed by July this year.

Chen Run Sheng, general secretary of the China Wildlife Conservation Association, recently led a delegation of Chinese officials to visit the new “Panda House” building project at Chiang Mai Zoo.

Chen Run Sheng said that the panda is a protected animal in China, and to give a pair of pandas for research to Thailand is a sign of the good relationship between the two countries.

The panda population in China is estimated to be around 1,000. There are only 125 pandas in the care of the Chinese government. Currently, only 5 countries have pandas, including Thailand, which is the first Asian country to receive pandas from China. Seven pandas have been sent to America, 6 to Japan, 3 to Mexico, 2 to Germany and now 2 for Thailand.

The panda’s new residence is a one-story air-conditioned building with its own electric power generator in case of an electrical outage. The inside of the building includes a panda’s area, a souvenir shop, panda’s food storage room, staff bedroom, and an observation room.

Just who wouldn’t be a panda?


School boat for students next semester?

Bus or boat, everyone will get to classes

Nuttanee Thaveephol

After next summer’s school term, some students may be getting to class via water transport, according to information given to Chiangmai Mail by Mayor Boonlert Buranupakorn.

The mayor said that Chiang Mai municipality plans to commission the “School Boat” project as a new mode of transportation along the Ping River, in addition to the electric shuttle bus project, which is expected to begin sometime this February.

“Students whose schools are near or located on the Ping River’s bends will be served by school boats as an alternative way of transportation,” the mayor said. The school boats will be launched after the summer due to the Ping River dredging project that will support the water transportation.

As river transport could be dangerous, the municipality will set up a security system for the project. “Everyone has to wear a life vest and there will be security guards stationed in each boat. However, the school boat will not be in service in the tidal season to avoid water accidents,” Boonlert said.

Regarding the electric bus project, the municipality is negotiating with the Electric Shuttle Company Limited to buy the first group of buses. Chiang Mai officials hope to buy the buses with 12 million baht from the prime minister’s budget. The municipality will receive an additional 48 million baht for the transportation systematization project.


Chiang Mai’s transportation policy under fire again

Northern researchers express concern over the impacts on public health

Proposed and current efforts to solve Chiang Mai’s transportation problems may have a downside as well as the hoped for improvements. Assoc. Prof. Lamduan Srisakda, the president of Northern Health Effect Assessment Researcher Network at Chiang Mai University, said that the traffic problem is one of the city’s most important issues.

Research shows that city improvements affect both positively and negatively, especially people’s health, including the physical, mental, social, and spiritual sides. Students and the elderly are the groups that are most at risk, it is claimed.

Next year Chiang Mai will have an elected mayor for the first time, and Assoc. Prof Lamduan said that it is time for every part of society, especially local politicians and mayoral candidates, to rethink and review policies regarding traffic and transportation regulations.


Integrated community garbage management program launched

Mengrai municipal area becomes pilot project

Nuttanee Thaveephol
Photos by Supatatt Dangkrueng

Chiang Mai Municipality’s Mengrai office was the site for a garbage compactor demonstration put on by Lamphun Municipality in accordance with the Integrated Community Garbage Management Program. Prapat Panyachattirak, minister of Natural Resources and Environment presided over the opening ceremony. More than 500 people joined the campaign parade, and the activities included the above-mentioned demonstration, a stage performance and the municipality’s environment exhibition.

This wood chipper has been converted for use as a “garbage chopping machine”.

Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Prapat Panyachattirak presided over the opening ceremony.

The minister of natural resources and environment said that the amount of garbage is increasing rapidly, and there is not enough space to contain it, which in turn causes an environmental problem. Accordingly, the municipality has set up recycling areas and set Mengrai precinct as the pilot area for the Integrated Community Garbage Management Program.

Many colorfully dressed students joined the parade.

“Pleasant Green Heart” - the stage performance at the beginning of this campaign.

Prapat said that the government would fully cooperate in dealing with the garbage, because it has become a large problem with a high cost to manage. However, the people have to solve this problem at its beginning by separating recyclable garbage from organic garbage themselves, “for the future good of their own communities”.


Mayor getting tough on environment pollution

The problem belongs to all of us, says Mayor Boonlert

Nuttanee Thaveephol

Chiang Mai people should pay more attention to our environmental problems as well as try to have greater participation in the city’s activities, said Chiang Mai’s mayor, Boonlert Buranupakorn. Mayor Boonlert told Chiangmai Mail that he is concerned about the environmental problems because the Chiang Mai plain is located on the Ping River in a valley and accordingly the air cannot circulate well enough and may cause some kinds of illnesses, such as allergies.

“Since Chiang Mai is a growing city, we are having more and more pollution. Nowadays, the municipality is trying to solve pollution problems by setting up many projects, such as the pollution signboards which show the pollution level and air quality in the city, and the Green Fleet project which randomly measures vehicle exhaust emissions every week. The very first thing for me to do is to set up the sustainable environmental management,” Mayor Boonlert said.

The Green Fleet project is following San Francisco’s lead, aiming to reduce vehicle emissions by fining owners of polluting motorcycles and cars. The vehicles have to attach a sticker at the first warning and the drivers will be fined 2,000 baht if the exhaust emission is not lowered before the second testing.

The mayor said that another problem for the improvement of the city is the lack of people’s participation. In the past, Chiang Mai people have not participated enough in the city’s activities. “It’s time to join and participate in solving the city’s problems. I need Chiang Mai people to have the sense of belonging.”


Elderly smokers targeted in Chiang Dao District

CMU wants them to live a lot longer

Metinee Chaikuna

Chiang Mai University (CMU) recently launched its “Quit Smoking” project for the elderly in Chiang Dao District, with an exhibition and lectures on the dangers of continued cigarette smoking. Asst. Prof. Dr. Ong-art Praisontarangkoon, head of the CMU Department of Medicine, said this campaign was a cooperative effort by the Quit Smoking Clinic under the supervision of the department, the Chiang Dao Elders Club and the Chiang Dao Hospital.

Following the government’s promotional campaign to decrease incidence of cigarette smoking, it was decided that the Quit Smoking program for the elderly should be instituted. Assoc. Prof. Dr. Wicharn Lorwittaya, director of Maharaj Nokhon Chiang Mai Hospital said that the incidence of smoking related illnesses has been increasing annually.

There are many respiratory diseases that can result in a decreased quality of life, or even premature death, that can be related to cigarette smoking, as well as the increase in cancer deaths. It is never too late to stop, and those who do will have clean lungs after 24 months.

Meanwhile, Asst. Prof. Dr. Chaicharn Potirat of the department said that the project’s objective was to encourage those who had been smoking to realize the dangers of continued smoking and then voluntarily give up. Under the Quit Smoking plan, there are various target groups, with the 500 elderly folk in Chiang Dao District being just one of them.


Thai-Burmese Culture and Economy Alliance being set up in Chiang Rai

The Thai-Burmese Culture and Economy Alliance set up a new branch in Chiang Rai on January 15. It is part of a strategy to foster cooperation between the two countries and another way to support the foreign policy of the government.

Sanan Khachornklum, the senior secretary of the Thai-Burmese Culture and Economy Alliance said that the work of the alliance in Chiang Rai is to connect and tighten the relationships between the people of the two countries in culture, economy, tourism, trading and investment development.

The alliance recently held a meeting, chaired by Sukijja Karunanond, deputy Chiang Rai provincial governor, and attended by officers from government, private company and the mass media, to elect a president and vice president. Dr. Thanomsak Seriwitchayasawat was elected president and said he will set working groups to implement the aims and objectives.

The senior secretary of Thai-Burmese Culture and Economy Alliance also said that anyone interested in becoming a member of the alliance could contact them through the Mae Sai district administration office, Chiang Rai.


50 million ya ba pills await transport into Thailand

1 million discovered in a cornfield by the 3rd Army

Nuttanee Thaveephol

A million amphetamine pills buried in a cornfield in Pai District, Mae Hong Son were seized last week by the 3rd Region Army. The ya ba was contained in 10 field packs, each with 100,000 pills.

Lt. Gen. Udomchai Ongkasingha, the commander of the 3rd Region Army, said that officers are cracking down on drug dealers. They received a report from their informants that there would be a Wa dealer group transporting 2 million ya ba pills into Ban Kaay Luang, Burma.

The commander said that the operation teams could only find 1 million pills because around 400,000 pills had been already delivered to Chinese Haw dealers and another 600,000 pills are apparently still in transit.

Lt. Gen. Udomchai admitted that in each shipment of drugs there is always involvement of the local people, especially the minority groups. He also revealed there is a new delivery ruse for the drugs by putting them into O.K. brand milk containers, and it is believed that the filling process is done out of our country.

“Much of the ya ba is trafficked through Mae Hong Son because the Salwin River makes it easier ... the 3rd Region Army cannot cover many points along the river. The way to solve the problem is to create undercover news sources from the areas. I believe that there are more than 50 million pills waiting for delivered through the border of Mae Hong Son, Chiang Rai, and Chiang Mai,” the commander explained.


PM’s 3 month ya ba eradication plan in operation

One down, how many to go?

Supatatt Dangkrueng

One dealer was killed last week during a ya ba drug transaction sting at Chiang Saen District in Chiang Rai Province. The provincial police region 5 received a tip-off that there would be an amphetamine drug transfer in their area, so Pol. Lt. Gen Inthadej Pornpeerapan, the provincial police region 5 commissioner assigned Chiang Rai provincial police to spring the trap on the drug peddlers.

Ai Nan (seated), accused of drug smuggling, poses with police, 200,000 amphetamine pills and a 9mm pistol (lower left).

Pol. Maj. Gen. Wut Wititanond, the commander of Chiang Rai Provincial Police said the plainclothes officers were sent undercover to buy the ya ba from 4 drug dealers. While making the arrests, gunfire ensued and one dealer was found dead after the smoke cleared.

After that, one dealer was apprehended and 200,000 ya ba pills and a 9 mm pistol were confiscated. Police noted that the packaging used was identical to what they had come across when discovering 600,000 pills a couple days earlier. It is assumed that the dealers are from the same network, and the accused has been taken for questioning.

Pol Lt Gen Inthadej said the ya ba is coming from neighboring countries and being channeled through the border area. The drug caravans are difficult to police, with much subterfuge and disguise being used. Milk cartons are currently being used.

Since it is the PM’s intention to eradicate the ya ba supply within 3 months, the provincial police region 5 has been tasked to try and eradicate an estimated 67 drug networks in the region, and they are in readiness to deal with the drug dealers. But resources and man-power are always a problem.

Pol Lt Gen Inthadej said that briefings are taking place every day with monthly meetings to discuss progress. To control the 67 ya ba networks named on the northern region list, police need more clues and hard evidence and to nail the big one.


Kwan Nan Center attacks local drug problem

The Kwan Nan Center has been set up to look after drug addicts through providing training and rehabilitation. Since November 7 last year, 457 patients have been treated and authorities are satisfied that the project is viable.

Suwat Chokesuwattanasakul, Nan governor, said that the drug problem in Nan affects the social and economic fabric of local societies and is a threat to national security.

Of those who have been treated in the center, less than 5% have returned to their former drug addict ways after completing the 10-day treatment regimen. Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra visited the Kwan Nan Center on January 17 and was very interested in the results.

The center was designed to solve the drug addiction problem, and to encourage people to be aware of drugs in the area and the insidious nature of the addiction cycle. Activities involved in the treatment cover psychological practice, special education from specialists, and remedies.

The patients are taught to spend their daily life in their communities by following social rules with their new awareness. This center also is a resource agency and collects data on drug dealers in order to assist in suppression and prevention, which will eventually lead to a sustainable solution.


Foreigners targeted for dope testing

Apparent ethnocentric bias a worry

Supatatt Dangkrueng

Mae Hong Son Governor Supoj Laowansiri, acting as director of the Provincial Drug Prevention and Suppression Center in Mae Hong Son, said during a recent meeting with the press that according to reports, many foreigners come to Pai District to use drugs. Consequently, he has assigned Pai’s chief district officer to work through the investigation for specific details.

The governor said that many tourists come to visit Mae Hong Son, and to check on drug use he has asked police officers to perform drug tests and search for drugs among foreigners. This rumor has affected the image of tourism in the area and is a very sensitive issue, so the solution to the problem has to be looked at very carefully.

In fighting the drug problem at local levels, the province is focusing on teaching youths to be aware of the drug problem. Projects include the Puan Tuan Puan (Friends Counsel Friends), White School, and the Thai Force to Combat Drugs.

The number of drug addicts in Mae Hong Son compared to other provinces is lower, but the number of drug dealers is higher. For prevention and suppression, the problem may need some intensive solutions, and when using under-cover investigation these have to be done very delicately.


Beware of imitation “bird’s nest” energy drinks

Look before you drink, says chief medical officer

Mae Hong Son Provincial Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Suwat Kittidilokkul reported that consumers should be aware that imitation low priced bird’s nest beverages, sold in plastic cups or by the stalls in markets and fairs, appear to be becoming commonplace.

The chief medical officer said that consumers should understand that those bird’s nests might not be genuine because this kind of beverage is always expensive. The cheap swallow’s nest beverage may be made from a type of wood oil called Darayagum.

“The imitation (drinks) look very much like the real item but are stiffer. It is difficult for consumers to distinguish between them. There is nothing to prove that the false nests are not harmful to the people, so customers should look for the higher priced bird’s nests for their own safety,” said Dr. Suwat.

He stressed that consumers have to be careful and only purchase from reliable sources. Registered commercial beverages must be labeled to inform the purchaser of the name of the food, the registration number, the location of the producers, ingredients, manufacturing date, and expiry date. The chief medial office stated that everyone should read the labels very carefully for themselves.


Children’s Rights Center reviews results

Child abuse, human trafficking and hill tribe education rate high

Metinee Chaikuna

Throughout the year 2002 and into the New Year, police reports were reviewed by the Chiang Mai Coordination Center for Protection of Child’s Rights on juvenile crime, which were divided into 6 groups: 208 property cases, 65 physical case, 1,106 drugs, 34 gambling cases, 79 weapons and bombing cases, 26 sexual assault cases, and 367 others.

The statistics regarding children whose rights had been violated was also discussed. There were 53 girls and 7 boys who were physically and mentally tortured, 12 girls and 14 boys were neglected, 6 girls and 11 boys were picked up begging and the other cases involved 15 children.

Child assistance has included a community play project, which was held on January 24 at the Chiang Mai University Art Museum. The play indicated how children can protect themselves from internet danger. Another activity has been organized by the board from Chiang Mai University. This is a training workshop for teenage hill tribe children on computers, Thai, English, Thai massage, and to give them scholarships to continue their education.

The Chiang Mai Coordination Center for Projection of Child’s Rights also held a meeting of sub-committees and concluded agreements regarding human trafficking. The meeting was held according to the announcement no. 29/2545 of the National Youth Bureau Committee that the sub committee in charge of the children and women in 8 provinces in the North needed to be appointed to help these people. This subcommittee will report back by March.



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