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HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

International agencies witness poppy eradication at Doi Sammuen area

Get ready for Chinese New Year

Thailand should make ready for some changes

Thai elephants are to have their own ID card

Thai villagers protest relocation of Hmong from temple

Chiang Mai governor gets involved in the elephant fracas

600 police volunteers will allow us to sleep safe in our beds

State Railway of Thailand launches One Tambon - One Product plan

IBM wants to maintain IT leadership

Representatives from Laos PDR study the management of the Ping River Basin

1000-year-old pottery found in Chiang Rai

Registration on the move

Red buses stall at the first set of traffic lights

Drugs offences top the list in Chiang Rai courts

Drug locations in the north well known

Researcher shows go-go bar hill tribe boys at risk

Child molestation case continuing against Swedish national

Marijuana bars confiscated while being prepared for export

Fly-past of new and upgraded pilots at Wing 41

International agencies witness poppy eradication at Doi Sammuen area

By Metinee Chaikuna
Photo by Nuttanee Thaveephol

More than 20 international officials led by the Northern Office of Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) joined a field trip to the remote areas bordering Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son provinces to eradicate opium poppies.

White poppies are popular in Doi Sammuen because of their perfect resin.

Mrs. Ratsamee Witsawawet, deputy secretary general of the ONCB led the contingent which included representatives of international organizations from 20 countries to study and observe the public eradication of opium by the Third Army at Doi Sammuen area, Chiang Dao, Chiang Mai.

The team consisted of 50 INTERPOL officers, representatives from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC), and representatives from international narcotics control organizations from Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, UK, USA, and China. The representatives from Thailand consisted of the ONCB, the Royal Thai Police Department, and the Customs Department.

Representatives from INTERPOL helped eradicate opium plants in the Doi Sammuen area.

The opium eradication in the Doi Sammuen area had begun two days earlier after the Third Army had discovered the crop. They had eradicated 56 rai of the opium farm, and found that the poppies were blooming and growing, and ready to be cut for transforming into the drug resin.

The Doi Sammuen area is located between Mae Hong Son and Chiang Mai, in Pai District, Mae Hong Son. Most villagers are Thai Yai, Chinese Haw, and Lisu who live their life by farming and caring for livestock. Most of the poppies are white because they give more resin than those of other colored poppies.

Ratsamee said that the international organization had joined Thailand in drug suppression, so the ONCB organized the trip so that they could see first-hand the drugs control policy and management being carried out by the Thai government. The trip was to show Thailand’s capability to eradicate opium crops. The ONCB expects that the trip would strengthen the cooperation between Thailand and other countries to resolve the drug problems.

Pornthep Eamprapai, deputy director of the Northern Narcotics Control Office, said that drug-eradicating teams are making satisfactory progress in trying to reach PM Thaksin Shinawatra’s policy to suppress the drug trade within 3 months. To achieve the target, officers need to be strong and involved organizations need to cooperate in preventing drug selling and production.

Ratsamee also told reporters that at the moment the ONCB has imported mobile X-Ray units to check the transportation used by drug smugglers. Lt. Col. Boonyuen Inkwang, infantry battalion commander 2 of the Infantry Battalion 1, Muang Kong, Chiang Dao welcomed the representatives from other countries and spoke on the progress of drug suppression. He said that narcotic plants were still popular, especially opium, among the hill tribe peoples. The major reason to plant and sell the opium was its high price and the fact that the climate in the hills is ideal for the opium poppy.


Get ready for Chinese New Year

Bring the kids to Waroros Markets

Metinee Chaikuna

Chiang Mai Municipality will hold a traditional Chinese New Year Celebration February 1-2 at the Lao Jow Alley in the Waroros Market area on Kuang Main Street close to Thapae Rd. The celebration will run from 10 a.m. - 10 p.m., and promises many fun activities.

The Chinese arch has been prepared for the New Year.

The main parade, which will include Chinese lions and dragons, will begin from the Chinese Consulate. The celebration will start this Saturday with strings of Chinese beads available for those who attend the event.

Between 3 & 4 p.m. there will be a performance by the Yunnan-Chiang Mai Association with Chinese gymnastics, and from 5-6 p.m. the Woo Zoo Club will be on show.

At the Imperial Maeping Hotel at 6-7.30 pm., there will be a Teng Li Jen singing contest (named after a famous Chinese singer). At the same time, Chinese food and beverages from famous hotels and restaurants in Chiang Mai will be available.

On Sunday February 2, beginning at 1-2 p.m., there will be a Chinese kiddy contest for 4-6 year old boys and girls, and at 3-4 p.m. there will be a Chinese kiddy contest for 7-9 year old boys and girls.

Then from 4.30-6.30 p.m., MP Pakorn Buranupakorn will preside over the grand opening of the celebration, with the Chinese lion parade being held between 4.30-6.30 p.m. starting from Thapae Gate and moving along Thapae Road, turning left into the Kuang Main Rd.

The Chinese New Year celebration was held last year for the first time at the Waroros Market, which is the trading and business areas for most Chiang Mai Chinese residents, and received good feedback from both townspeople and tourists. Consequently, the municipality has decided to make the celebration an annual event.


Thailand should make ready for some changes

PM Thaksin’s master plan unfolds

Supatatt Dangkrueng

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said after a workshop at Suan Bua Resort Hotel, that Thailand must be ready to change its weak points and build on its strong points to compete in the global market competitively.

PM Thaksin noted that the economic experts of the United States of America and Singapore have focused on the same topics as Thailand has. This gives the government more confidence to solve the problems, and the PM believes that they are going in the correct direction as Singapore did before.

The government is focusing on the importance of productivity as a long term investment. Government hopes to make some changes in the future to develop our economy similar to Switzerland, to be a leader in the international forum, to have the best quality products and services, create innovations from learning, support small investors, be proud of the culture and our wealth of natural resources and the environment.

The National Economic and Social Development committee will spend one billion baht raising the status of our country. This budget will be used in research and to study all kinds of data, after which the data will show us the direction that we must follow.

He added that the plan to develop our country must be flexible and rely on the world’s current best practices. It is inevitable that some plans may be changed, and once a year there will be a meeting to adjust the strategy and work through it.


Thai elephants are to have their own ID card

What’s next? A tail light?

The National Elephant Institute, the Thai Elephant Conservation Center, and the Forest Industry Organization in Lampang are regulating elephants in cities by forcing the elephants’ owners to register their elephant’s description on an ID card. Veterinarian Preecha Puangkam, director of the National Elephant Institute, said that the purpose is to ascertain the real number of elephants and their true owners.

There are some entrepreneurs who rent or buy elephants for illegal purposes; for example, bringing the elephants to wander as beggars in some big cities. The survey showed that there were 170 elephants wandering in Bangkok, but after the regulation, the elephants were sent back home.

The National Elephant Institute wants to warn owners that from now on they have to carry the elephant’s ID card and show how they have come to possess the elephants.

The director of the National Elephant Institute said that whenever the police arrest an elephant on illegal business, the Forest Industry Organization will keep the elephant until the case is over.


Thai villagers protest relocation of Hmong from temple

Holding banners and delivering speeches, about 4,000 villagers and local officials in northern Thailand protested Monday against plans to move Hmong refugees from Laos to the area.

Protesters from five districts near the Myanmar border gathered at a checkpoint in Mae Sot, 370 kilometers (230 miles) northwest of the capital, saying the influx of 1,441 Hmong hill tribe people would worsen social problems in the area.

“There are thousands of Burmese (Myanmar) refugees in our region,” said the leader of a Thai-Myanmar border organization, Paniti Tanpharti. “If the Hmong of Tham Krabok are moved here, it will double the problems.”

The Thai government has announced it will start relocating the Hmong refugees beginning in March.

The refugees settled at the Tham Krabok Temple in Saraburi, 90 kilometers (56 miles) north of Bangkok, in the 1970s and 1980s after a communist regime took power in their homeland at the end of the Vietnam War in 1975.

The Laotian government claims the temple is a sanctuary for Hmong anticommunist insurgents. Tham Krabok is also known for a drug treatment program in which herbal remedies are used, though some Hmong residents have allegedly become involved in amphetamine trafficking.

Boonthum Kitsantia, a local administrator in Tak Province’s Phopphra district said, “We are afraid of drugs. We are concerned about our young generation.”

He said Phopphra was already home to about 20,000 Hmong - half the population - and that the new arrivals would strain local food supplies, forcing them to turn to the drug trade or illegal logging to support themselves.

The protesters submitted a petition to Tak provincial authorities with more than 12,000 signatures calling on the government to halt the planned transfer.


Chiang Mai governor gets involved in the elephant fracas

Sets up working committee to resolve Chiang Mai elephant’s problems

Governor Pisit Khetphasook has set up a team in charge of Thai elephant conservation in Chiang Mai to deal with problems such as elephant torture, incorrect use of elephant labor and other items regarding the correct care of the beasts.

The Chiang Mai governor said that at present, the team is being led by himself and consisted of Chiang Mai deputy governors, the director of the Tourism Authority of Thailand Northern Office Region 1, the head of Chiang Mai Provincial Public Relations Office, directors of management offices in the north, the director of the National Elephant Conservation Institute, the president of the Northern Newspaper Association, the director of Chiang Mai Zoo, the president of Chiang Mai Tourism Business Association, the president of the Northern Jungle Tours Club, chief district officer, commissioner of Provincial Police Region 5, the president of Chiang Mai Elephant Parks, the Friends of the Elephant Foundation, the Chiang Mai Provincial Administrative Organization, the Chiang Mai mayor, head of Chiang Mai Livestock Development Office, head of Animals Health Development Group, and head of Livestock Development Group.

The team is supposed to work on the problems immediately, and with all the heavyweights involved, something must be done quickly.


600 police volunteers will allow us to sleep safe in our beds

Nuttanee Thaveephol

Six hundred municipal police volunteers in uniform will be patrolling their communities through the Chiang Mai Municipality’s environment and anti-drugs policy.

Mayor Boonlert Buranupakorn said that Chiang Mai recruited volunteers over the age of 18 from each community in the municipal area, and then set up a police volunteer group from these recruits. The volunteers will go on duty after they finish their normal working day.

Municipal police volunteers will gather after work and will be riding bicycles to patrol their own communities. The municipality will give them some allowances and provide the bicycles.

“This project aims at encouraging people to avoid drugs, and to help increase general security and prevent dangers in municipal areas,” the mayor said.

Volunteers will be responsible for their own community, similar to a police patrol. If anything is wrong, they can inform security officers or police officers nearby. The police volunteers will be wearing khaki uniforms with Chiang Mai Municipality armbands.


State Railway of Thailand launches One Tambon - One Product plan

I’ll have one railway train to go, please

Supatatt Dangkrueng

To support the One Tambon - One Product campaign, the State Railway of Thailand has opened a booth selling local products at the platforms of railway stations.

Chiang Mai MP Yaowapa Wongsawat cuts the ribbon to open the booth at Chiang Mai Railway Station.

The governor of the State Railways of Thailand, Dr. Jitsanti Thanasophon, said that to support government’s One Tambon - One Product, railway authorities are offering an area in each railway station to set up a booth to sell these goods. The first was launched at the Chiang Mai Railway Station.

Dr. Jitsanti said the reason Chiang Mai was chosen to open the first booth was because of the high numbers of tourists, both domestic and international, coming through the station.

The sales booth has been offered by Siritosapat Partnership Limited and Thai Telecontainer Co., Ltd. free of charge. These companies will provide 50 booths on the platforms of railway stations all over the country. These will sell many outstanding products, such as silk, woodcarving and handicrafts.

Chiang Mai MP Yaowapa Wongsawat said this would be good, making an empty area of the railway station very useful. After Chiang Mai this project will be launched in Phitsanulok, Phichit, Udorn Thani, and Ubon Ratchathani.

The State Railway of Thailand is aiming to increase its profits 50 percent over the previous year, and these sales booths will help them realize this goal and keep ticket prices unchanged.


IBM wants to maintain IT leadership

Supatatt Dangkrueng

IBM Chiang Mai officially opened their service center in Chiang Mai Land Housing Estate, Chang Klan Road, to serve its northern region customers on January 17 this year.

Songtham Phianpattanawit (center), Thamrong Kiatiwongse (right), and Orawan Siriwongse (left), met the press at IBM’s Chiang Mai opening.

Songtham Phianpattanawit, country general manager for IBM Thailand Co., Ltd., said that IBM’s goal this year is to sustain their position as the leader in Thailand’s IT industry.

IBM has been established for 80 years and is in a leading position in the IT industry with total revenue of over 80 billion US dollars in 2001. It began its computer and technology business in Thailand 50 years ago, and is still growing with more than 900 staff and many professional services and products.

IBM Chiang Mai is aiming to provide professional solutions in products and services regarding personal computers, storage, servers, and printers and after sales service. It covers 9 provinces in the northern region with a free warranty.

The forecast this year is to provide professional service in all regions with the opening of service centers in Chonburi, Hat Yai, Khon Khaen and Nakhon Ratchasima.


Representatives from Laos PDR study the management of the Ping River Basin

On January 21-25, representatives of Laos organizations concerned with the Ngam River in Laos, led by the minister of water resource, came to study the river basin management here in Chiang Mai, including the local Huai Hong Krai Royal Development Study Center in Doi Saket.

The visitors also participated in a session with 10 representatives of local agricultural scientists and farmers from Chiang Mai and Lamphun to exchange knowledge and experience on the water basin.

Supaporn Thongpuk, a working committee member on the upper Ping River basin management project said that the Water Resource Department of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment has followed the current government’s policy by firstly setting up a project to solve water problems, and then launching a prevention program for the water crises in the upper and lower basin of Ping River.

The project encourages local people to participate in the management program. The working committee has held local discussions three times this month, regarding the river and water management to keep people informed at the grass roots level.


1000-year-old pottery found in Chiang Rai

Ban Tung Man Village hopes it will draw the tourists

The villagers of Tambon Wiangkalong, Wiang Pa Pao, Chiang Rai have discovered ancient pottery aged more than 1,000 years old in their district and want the area declared as a tourism site in order to keep the artifacts as the community’s property.

Numerous old kilns were found in Ban Tung Man, with bowls, dishes, jugs and Buddha images uncovered. Some of the items have Chinese inscriptions.

Ancient objects have been unearthed in this Tambon for 20 years, but the poor villagers unknowingly sold thousands of complete pottery pieces at very low prices to tourists.

However, now the villagers are trying to conserve these objects by setting up a museum and registering the regions as important ancient sites. Rather than keep pottery in their houses, the villagers can display them and keep their ancient items as community property.

Tipayapan Wisanya, a local villager, said that being a tourism attraction can raise people’s income in the area and they will not have to sell their objects to the outsiders anymore. This area used to be Wiangkalong ancient city and was the pottery source during the Chiang Saen era (one of Chiang Rai’s ancient cities).

Visit Sittisombat, the chief of Wiang Pa Pao District, said that he will present various pottery items as the village promotion and development project for tourism. The project will be proposed to Chiang Rai Governor Narin Panitchkij to support this local endeavor.


Registration on the move

Another government reform

Surachai Srisarakham, the registrar at the local administration department, said the department has launched its first mobile registration unit which can handle general services such as birth and death reports, and residents’ movements. In addition, it can provide ID cards and can search background information on minority groups, by using on-line and off-line systems.

Chiang Rai Governor Narin Panichkij, acting as a representative of the local administration department, received the mobile registration unit from Michael Dimon, the director of Plan Organization, Thailand, at Pa-Tung Administrative Organization, Mae Chan, Chiang Rai and the service was officially commissioned on January 25.

The registrar at the local administration department also said that the mobile unit is a new service system in line with the government’s system for reform.


Red buses stall at the first set of traffic lights

Pay demands impossible says mayor

Nuttanee Thaveephol

The red minibus systematization is now in the pending list of Chiang Mai Municipality projects because there is no budget to cover the drivers’ demand for income assurance.

Red minibuses pass through Chinatown. (Photo by Metinee Chaikuna)

Chiang Mai Mayor Boonlert Buranupakorn informed Chiangmai Mail that the red minibus drivers demand 600 baht each per day. This would amount to more than a million baht per day for the assurance, but there is no budget for this purpose.

“It’s impossible to find over a million baht for the drivers’ incomes. The municipality can find other ways to systemize the city traffic instead of paying that sum and there will be new kinds of transportation even if the red minibus cooperatives do not join this project,” Mayor Boonlert said.

The mayor insisted that the red minibuses could earn enough money if they cooperated in the 19 routes systematization project and he does not care if the drivers are not satisfied because the municipality will be going ahead and will have enough power to rearrange the city’s regulations independently.

“The thing we can do at present is to get rid of the dilapidated buses from the area and after we receive the authority to rearrange the transportation system the minibus concession will depend on the municipality instead,” the mayor said.

Mayor Boonlert remarked that the municipality can create its own transportation system at a lower cost and the people will have their alternatives and their rights to select the best one for themselves. It looks as if the red busses might have found a permanent red light!


Drugs offences top the list in Chiang Rai courts

Thirty-one suspects receive death penalty and 90 get life imprisonment

Figures have just been released by the Chiang Rai Provincial Court disclosing that during the past year, the majority of cases heard by the courts were drug related. The judgments included 31 drug dealers who were sentenced to death, and 90 drug peddlers sentenced to life imprisonment.

During 2002, 2,778 cases were brought to the court. 2,560 cases were drug dealers, with 2,094 involving amphetamines, 113 heroin, 58 marijuana and another 292 cases were opium and 3 cases were morphine.

This year there are 1,028 cases left over from last year, and of this number 931 cases involve ya ba, 42 cases are heroin, 3 marijuana, 50 opium and 2 are morphine cases.

It was also reported that the Chiang Mai Juvenile Court released figures that showed that there were more than 1,000 youth cases heard at the court, and about 480 were involved with drugs.


Drug locations in the north well known

What will the authorities do in PM’s three-month crackdown?

Governor Pisit Khetphasook called a meeting to discuss the means of drug suppression in this area, which needs to be resolved within 3 months, beginning February 1. Addressing the group, Pititham Thitimontree, the head of the Chiang Mai Provincial Administration Office, said that drug smuggling into Thailand was not likely to be less than that of last year, especially the area opposite that occupied by Wa troops inside Burma and the Mekong river basin.

There are 7 passes for drugs to be transported into Chiang Mai Province: Doi Hua Waen in Mae Taeng, Kiew Chang Kup in Chiang Dao, Ban Laowoo in Wiang Haeng, Doi Fai in Chiang Dao, Nong Kheow or Nong Kalang in Chiang Dao, Pa Daeng in Chai Prakarn, Pong Tong in Fang, and Pha Hom Pok in Mae Ai.

The figures quoted included the number of storage depots, with there being 5 villages in Wiang Haeng, 10 villages in Chiang Dao, 5 villages in Chai Prakarn, and 7 villages in Fang, known to the authorities.

He also quoted that there are 42 drug networks in Chiang Mai, with a total of 1,706 drugs dealers, 421 drug kingpins and 1,285 drug peddlers. There are also 17,000 drug addicts; 13,410 on ya ba, 31,113 opium addicts, 1,355 heroin addicts, 257 marijuana addicts, and 658 other addicts.

According to the edict from the PM, they have three months to flush them out. That works out as 20 dealers and 200 addicts a day that require rounding up. Do we have detention centers large enough?


Researcher shows go-go bar hill tribe boys at risk

Metinee Chaikuna

During a special “academic week” recently held at Chiang Mai University, many papers from the social research institute were presented and distributed, and an open forum was presented for researchers and professors to discuss and express their opinions.

Sukanya Pornsopakul, a sexual service bars researcher, presented findings from research done on go-go bar boys in relationship to the welfare of disadvantaged people. The result of his research, which was gained from three gay bars in Chiang Mai, showed that most of the employees in those bars were hill tribe boys from several ethnic backgrounds, including Thai-Yai from Burma, and the Esarn or Northeastern boys. There were very few city dwellers amongst the studied group.

The reasons the boys gave for taking up this type of career were often very different, but the researcher claimed that most said they were ashamed of their work. They claimed that they were often ill, caused by the fact that they were semi-naked, working in air-conditioned cold and in smoke filled rooms. When they were sick, they could not use the 30 baht medical scheme because they are far away from their registered homes. Since they worked long hours at night, they were forced to sleep during the day and had to seek medical advice from after-hours clinics that were even more expensive.

Regarding sexually transmitted diseases, most of the boys felt that they were safe but looking at the degree of protection they were using, this was far from the reality. In addition, since their work was illegal, they were taken advantage of, receiving no holidays or days off, and they could not get social insurance because the labor protection law does not cover illegal occupations.

The researcher also concluded that most of the bar boys were forced to have sex with the owners of the bars, which was a sexual violation in itself.


Child molestation case continuing against Swedish national

Remains in jail while investigation underway

Metinee Chaikuna

On December 31, Simon Engstrom, a Swedish tourist, was arrested by Chiang Mai police after accusations of child molestation involving a 6-year-old girl. The alleged incident occurred at a restaurant in Chang Klan Road, Chiang Mai City.

The girl had been eating out with parents and relatives, went to the toilet, but when she did not return, the staff went looking for her and found her near the toilet with the foreign man. The girl had been attacked and was crying for assistance. The restaurant staff and her parents called for police intervention. The 21-year-old Swede was then accused of child molestation and taken into custody.

Currently he is confined in the Chiang Mai Central Prison, and the Swedish consul and an attorney are assisting in the investigation. Police sources said Engstrom had accepted that he had dealt incorrectly with the young girl that evening.

Our sources at the Swedish Consulate said that the consul assisted by finding an attorney for Engstrom but would not interfere with the work of the Thai police.

Pol. Lt. Col. Winai Suksiri, deputy superintendent of the Muang Chiang Mai Police Station, said that Engstrom’s background was checked and they had found out that he had no record of child molesting in Sweden, but that he had mental problems.

Pol. Lt. Col. Winai also explained that the police had gathered evidence to submit to the public prosecutor to pursue this case. However, they need to wait for the medical report regarding the girl’s condition, but they already have five eye witnesses who would testify.

Prosecutor Raksapong said that one witness has already made an official report, but police are waiting for the remaining witnesses to make their reports before police proceed with more formal charges.


Marijuana bars confiscated while being prepared for export

Thais and foreigners behind the drug export scheme

Drug traffickers left behind 317 kilograms of marijuana while they were being hunted by police from Hang Dong Police Station. The marijuana, which had been condensed into individual bars, was found in Chiangmai-Muangmai housing estate, Chiang Mai-Hang Dong Rd, Tambon San Pak Wan, Hang Dong District.

Police investigation showed that the drugs were imported from neighboring countries, passed the northeastern region of Thailand and were packed in Chiang Mai.

Police checked on the source of the containers and found that the paper boxes were produced in Chiang Mai and the order came from a gift shop exporting company for delivery to Germany. The boxes have the letters C.N.D. Company on them.

Other clues included a vehicle registered at Udon Thani Province and a motorcycle registered at Phayao that were left behind at the scene of the drug horde.

The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) in Chiang Mai was also involved and said that the marijuana was packed for exporting to America, but would have first passed through Europe. The gang of dealers includes Thai and foreigners, according to informed sources.

Pol. Lt Gen. Inthadej Pornpeerapan, commissioner of Provincial Police Region 5, has launched a local drug suppression project policy pursuant to the government’s policy that within 3 months the drug problem must be contained.


Fly-past of new and upgraded pilots at Wing 41

Metinee Chaikuna

The end of training fly-past began with warplanes flown by the trainees. After the air display, Group Captain Anont Arayapan, the commander of Wing 41 presented certificates to the four pilots.

Group Capt. Anont Arayapan, commander of Wing 41 presents a good luck flower garland to the new pilot.

After the display, the pilots stand to show respect for the commander.

Experienced and upgraded pilots on the left wear gray uniforms whereas the war alert pilots on the right wear green uniforms.

Two of the pilots who finished the flying course are on war alert, Wing Commander Sorapat Petmonkol and Wing Commander Mahittipong Worachat, while the upgraded pilots are Group Capt. Man Sitajit, the deputy commander, and Group Capt. Thanasak Metanan, another deputy commander.

The two new pilots on war alert were given academic and technical instruction, as well as the practical course. The upgraded pilots were basically on a refresher course to bring their skills up to battle ready once more.