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HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Chiang Mai restaurant owners get behind the drug fight

ONCB offering 1 million baht for information

Tourists bring 500 million baht to Chiang Mai

APEC visitors welcomed by the world’s largest Tung flag

CMU holds Education Fair to assist students select courses

Maka Bhucha Day Sunday 16th

The village people become involved in local tourism

Air-Scouts take annual training course at Wing 41

BoT optimistic over Thai economy

CMU Faculty of Medicine joins the Kidney Transplant project

War on drugs escalates

National Housing Authority offers accommodation to displaced residents

Drug suppression - not everyone happy

Interior Minister receives list of almost 40,000 drugs dealers

Community Forest Network demands action over deputy chairman’s murder

Chiang Mai restaurant owners get behind the drug fight

Everyone should get involved

Supatatt Dangkrueng

Chiang Mai restaurant owners, at a seminar at the Lanna Palace Hotel, made a mass resolve not to be involved with drugs.

Deputy Chiang Mai Governor Boworn Rattanaprasit led Chiang Mai’s restaurant entrepreneurs in a mass resolve not to be involved with drugs.

The ceremony was led by Deputy Chiang Mai Governor Boworn Rattanaprasit. Boworn noted that the drug problem is an extensive issue, but Chiang Mai people have accepted the government’s agenda to fight against the drug cartels.

Deputy Boworn said that we should be aware of drug trafficking because Chiang Mai is on the main route to transfer drugs from the neighboring countries to Bangkok. The fact that our province has a boundary more than 200 kilometers long, makes the drug problem even more difficult to control.

He wanted the restaurant owners, especially those with discotheques and pubs to be strict in enforcing all the regulations from the Ministry of Justice covering the license matters, age of patrons, closing time, drugs, obscene shows and carrying weapons. All business owners should get behind the government to control the drug situation.


ONCB offering 1 million baht for information

Receiving cooperation from Burma and Laos

Supatatt Dangkrueng

The director of the Northern Office of the Narcotics Control Board (ONCB), Pittaya Jinawat said his office’s reporting has been moved from the Office of the Prime Minister to the Ministry of Justice, emphasizing the important role in drug suppression, and now the war combating drugs, which is part of the government’s national agenda.

As part of that, they have increased the reward for vital information leading to the arrest of drug dealers from 200,000 baht to 1,000,000 baht per successful case.

ONCB has been working hard after the government released its national agenda to wipeout drugs in 3 months, and is working with both government and private organizations to bring about this mission.

The office has received collaboration with neighboring countries Burma and Laos to exchange information on investigations in the borderlands, such as Mae Sai, Chiang Rai and Mae Sod in Tak Province. They also have become involved in the rural villages, in boundary areas, to deal with drug problems.

In addition to suppression, the ONCB has been working through the legislation covering a bill on drug prevention and suppression, and the Act on drug addict rehabilitation and on narcotics.


Tourists bring 500 million baht to Chiang Mai

TAT says hotel occupancy rates up 10-20%

Chalermsak Suranan, director of the TAT Office, Region 1 said that over this winter season, the numbers of Thai and foreign tourists visiting Chiang Mai increased the room occupancy rate in the city’s hotels by 10-20%.

Director Chalermsak said that during the Flower Festival, Chiang Mai brought in revenue of at least 500 million baht.

Other tourism events that should swell the city’s coffers include the Mae Cheam District Teen Jok Textile Fair on February 14, while on the same day there was the Satok Elephant Fair in Lampang.

On February 16 there will be 100th Anniversary celebrations of Samoeng District, which attracts tourists every year.


APEC visitors welcomed by the world’s largest Tung flag

Chiang Rai Airport to fly the flag February 12-21

Delegates at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Chiang Rai were met at Chiang Rai Airport, which was flying the world’s largest Tung flag.

Flying Officer Wisit Iwprapa, Chiang Rai Airport director said that the Tung flag was larger than that used to honor the late HRH princess Mother for her the 90th Anniversary celebration.

The new Tung flag is decorated on both sides. The first side is painted with the image of an elephant bringing the lyrics of the Lord Buddha, a portrait of King Mengrai the Great, the Chiang Rai founder, the pictures of Phaya Naga, and Wat Phra Thart Doi Thong.

The reverse side of the flag has the picture of a lotus, Phaya Naga protecting Chiang Rai City, Doi Tung, Pasuk, and Jonkiti.

The flagpole is sculptured teakwood and has the image of the 12 animals of Chinese horoscope.

The flag, which cost over 600,000 baht, is 1.50 meters wide, 29 meters long, and weighs 300 kg and was designed by famous artist Chalermchai Kositpipat.

The flag is constructed in Lanna style and like normal Tung flags readily seen in the North, portrays the era of the past Lanna Empire.


CMU holds Education Fair to assist students select courses

5000 school leavers take advantage of career advice opportunity

Supatatt Dangkrueng

The 7th Education Fair drew interest from students in Chiang Mai and neighboring provinces to attend the Chiang Mai University Convention Hall over two days in early February.

With it now getting so close to entrance examinations, high school students all over the country are preparing themselves to go on to study to gain a university degree.

The CMU Education Fair provided information on all courses from both government and private universities. It is expected that this would have helped all the visitors make correct decisions on which degree course to go on to study. Additionally, it informed all the students on the regulations for the latest entrance exam.

The PM’s chief advisor and Education Ministry’s advisor, Krasae Chanawongse said, “It would be advantageous for students, at the age of critical choices, to make the correct decisions and prepare themselves for the entrance examination to the university.”


Maka Bhucha Day Sunday 16th

Supatatt Dangkrueng

The day of the full moon of the third lunar month is known as Maka Bhucha Day in Thailand and this year falls on Sunday, February 16. It is one of the Buddhist holy days, and all Buddhists will do merit making, stay away from the temptation and honor the five Buddhist precepts.

The five precepts are basic for the life of all Buddhists. They include Thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt not lie and thou shalt refrain from intoxicating substances.

To mark this holy day, in the morning Buddhists will place food into the priest’s bowl, then in the late morning they will gather at the temple to hear the sermons from the monks and novices. They will gather again in the evening at the temple to do carry out a ritual known as ‘Wian Tien’. This involves the people walking clockwise around the Buddhist monastery carrying lighted candles and meditating on the triple gems (Buddha, Buddha’s teachings and the Buddhist clergy).

There were 4 significant happenings on the middle of the third lunar month in the Buddha’s life. The first was the gathering, without being summonsed, of 1,250 monks, who had been ordained by Buddha. Then, the Buddha gave his teachings to the 1,250 Buddhist saints. That teaching is called ‘O Wah Tha Pah Ti Mok’ and is a significant aspect of Maka Bhucha Day.

The third important happening was the Buddha appointing his two chief disciples, Phra Sareebutra and Phra Mokkallana. The last significant aspect was that the Buddha said that in three months time he would die, known as ‘Pa Ri Nip Pahn’.

This Sunday, Maka Bhucha Day, the Buddhist rituals are carried out in temples all over Thailand, and it is hoped that everyone will remember the significance of them.


The village people become involved in local tourism

TAT and JBIC back the project

Supatatt Dangkrueng

Using funds from the Japan Bank Incorporation Corporation (JBIC), the Tourist Authority of Thailand recently supported a leadership training program to boost community tourism in the northern region.

In collaboration with the Tourist and Service Development Office, the Department of Industrial Promotion, the Hotel and the Tourist Training School, the Tourist Authority of Thailand Northern Region ran a two day seminar for village leaders, with 35 participants from the northern provinces of Thailand.

Tourist and Service Development Office director, Chamnan Muangtim said the people in the community are the grass roots of the local tourism industry, because they are closest to the visitors. The objective of this project is to develop human resources for the tourist industries. It is necessary for participants to gain experience and skills from this seminar and use it to promote tourism in their own communities.

After the seminar, it was hoped that participants would be ready and skilful in managing community tourism. Visitors would get the best service and be left with good lasting impressions of traveling in Thailand.

The Japan Bank Incorporation Corporation (JBIC) has supported the project to develop the tourist business in Thai communities. They expect that promoting tourism will develop employment opportunities, enabling villagers to earn a sustainable living.


Air-Scouts take annual training course at Wing 41

Daring young people in flying machines

The Air Force has a policy of supporting the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides movements, and holds training sessions for air-scouts every year. In Chiang Mai, Wing 41 held the air-scout training for two groups; the first on January 30 and the second was trained February 6-8.

Air Scouts in Wing 41.

Four schools participated: Wattanothai Payap School, Kaveela College, Wat Tatonkao School, and Prince Royal’s College supplied students. The training took place at the Wing 41 Headquarters and consisted of providing aircraft knowledge, such as the evolution of flight, information on spaceships and air traffic, the compass and maps, and making a glider out of Balsa wood.

Air Scouts participate in the seminar at Wing 41.

The students who participated in the project and passed their training received certificates from Wing 41.

Wing Commander Khanitta Maneenai, the PR officer at Wing 41, said that the Air Force has a policy to support and develop the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides activities every year to encourage the children to receive knowledge on aircraft and flying while at the same time fostering a good attitude toward the Air Force.


BoT optimistic over Thai economy

Global influences only real problem

Supatatt Dangkrueng

The Bank of Thailand (BoT) Northern office forecasts that the economic situation this year will be bright; however, it will be dependent on the world’s current influences.

Ruangwit Sawekgomut, the executive of the BoT, Northern region, said last year’s economic figures showed that the economy was expanding faster than that two years ago.

The economic aspect for 2003 is expected to see continuation of the increase over the previous year. There are many government policies to boost the country’s economic growth, and as well there is no pressure from price wars. All factors will be advantageous to the industrial sector, especially to the construction and commercial areas that will expand following on from the investments in housing and accommodation.

The service industry forecast is not so strong, being dependent upon many outside factors. 2002 saw a global downturn. Tourism also remains strongly influenced by external factors.

The agricultural sector looks favorable, with gross production expanded due to rapid production whilst replacing the flood damage of last year. There is enough water supplies in reservoirs to support farmers through the dry season.

However, the world’s current problems are an important aspect affecting the economic situation in many countries, with the Middle East crisis being foremost. That may affect both the macro and micro economy of Thailand.


CMU Faculty of Medicine joins the Kidney Transplant project

Celebrates 80th Anniversary of HRH Princess Galyani Vadhana

On the occasion of the Renal Disease Foundation of Thailand’s 25th Anniversary on May 6, a Kidney Transplantation project will get underway, which will also mark the 80th Anniversary of HRH Princess Galyani Vadhana. The project will enable kidney transplantation for 81 patients, and will be done in the name of the Princess’s charity.

Currently, kidney transplantation is considered as the best treatment for end-stage renal disease (ESRD), the other treatments are haemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis but at best, these are stopgap ways to extend the patient’s life, while awaiting transplant.

In Thailand, kidney transplantation has been carried out since 1972, but there are only 26 hospitals in Thailand which can do this operation. This means that only 200 patients a year receive new kidneys even though there are 2,000 patients waiting for the transplants.

The aim of the project is to help patients get their kidney transplant, and encourage people to donate a kidney, as well as become organ donors. This will encourage the setting up of kidney transplant units in other hospitals as well, as there are only 20 hospitals participating in the project at present.

The Maharaj Nakhon Chiang Mai, Faculty of Medicine, Chiang Mai University are both participants. The hospital does not receive the 150,000 baht fee for the operation; the costs are supported by the Renal Disease Foundation of Thailand.


War on drugs escalates

3rd Army Region mobilizes full support

Supatatt Dangkrueng

Lt Gen Udomchai Ongkasing, commander of the 3rd Army Region, said that his troops are ready to support the government’s agenda in the war on drugs. The drug situation in the north of Thailand has now been challenged, and the traffickers and dealers are aware that to make a move on drug transfers will bring them under intense scrutiny.

The commander said his officers have been working hard in the boundary areas, covering Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai, Mae Hong Son and Tak, in a radius of up to 50 kilometers from the border.

In the cities, the police are taking responsibility with collaboration from officials from the Office of Narcotics Control Board (ONCB), the Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO), and local administration officials.

Specialized training courses will be given to compliment normal routine for the officers in risky areas from February through April. Hopes are that this will facilitate the “drug suppression within 3 months plan”, part of the government’s agenda.

Lt Gen Udomchai told the press that after the government declared a war against drugs, there has been panic among dealers and traffickers, which has resulted in rash movements and some of have even been killed.

It is also causing some of the dealers to turn in others, hoping for leniency for themselves. In addition, he admitted there may be some officers involved with drugs, but if evidence is found, there will be intensive investigation.


National Housing Authority offers accommodation to displaced residents

Mae Kha community refuses to move

Representatives from the community living beside Mae Kha Canal said they did not wish to stay in the flats managed by the National Housing Authority, and recently 200 people from Chiang Mai’s Mae Kha community rallied in support of living in their old location.

Former PM Banharn Silpa-archa, acting leader of the Chart Thai Party, had followed up the work on the housing project and has inspected the housing project. He has also spoken with Chuanpit Chaimuenwong, director of the National Housing Authority.

Chuanpit said that the housing project was not designed to evict the Mae Kha community, but for those who had housing problems in Chiang Mai and Lamphun.

Banharn Silpa-archa also said that the housing project and the Mae Kha community improvement were not the same issue. The housing scheme was for those who really needed to participate in the project, not to move the Mae Kha community out from where they were. He said the Mae Kha problem needs to be resolved by the provincial office and the municipality, as it is a chronic problem.

As for the housing project, over 2,000 people are interested in putting their names down for a house. Organizers expect to expand this into a second project in San Kamphaeng District. There would be four single houses and townhouse developments to resolve the problem of habitation for poor people living in town.


Drug suppression - not everyone happy

Local people angry with Saraphi police

Pol. Col. Sopan Thongharn, superintendent of the Saraphi Police Station and over 50 policemen have been covering the Saraphi District to suppress the drug trade. During the maneuvers, houses have been searched, including policemen and teachers’ houses, which has angered some of the house owners.

According to the prime minister’s policy, authorities need to suppress the drug trade all over Thailand within three months. So the Saraphi policemen have a target to suppress the drug dealers who have a significant influence over local people in the area, such as teachers, policeman and government officers.

Despite the complaints, the searches continue and the superintendent said that although they did not find any evidence, it made the traders understand they were under pressure.

Currently, police have a list of 83 names of drug dealers in Saraphi. Most of them have moved out of the area or have now stopped selling drugs. However, there are 43 still left and police are trying to finish the drug connections to the Saraphi region.


Interior Minister receives list of almost 40,000 drugs dealers

As local and national officials across the country continue to wage the government’s latest war on drugs, the interior minister announced on February 7th that he had received a list with the names of nearly 40,000 drugs dealers and that a center to win the battle on drugs had been established, with the aim of eradicating the country’s drugs problem within three months. The first target the center has set for itself is to deal with any civil servants found to be involved in the drugs trade by February 15.

Wan Muhamad Noor Matha said that provincial governors and district chiefs sent in a list containing the names of 39,000 narcotics dealers, but that there were likely to be many more whose names had not yet been included and that additional lists would be drawn up.

He said the Interior Minister would investigate the names on the list and take further action as appropriate.

Of those on the list, 2,000 have already been arrested, while a further 7,000 have sworn to provincial governors and district chiefs that they will forgo involvement in drugs from now on. (TNA)


Community Forest Network demands action over deputy chairman’s murder

Protest taken to PM

By staff reporters

200 people from the Community Forest Network, led by Thaweesin Srirueng, rallied in front of the provincial city hall to air their grievances and to hand over a letter of complaint to the government’s representative regarding the headman who was murdered by a forestry official.

“I do understand how all of you love your forest, and what you have done to fight for the forest. I would like you to believe us that we will try to urgently resolve all the problems you have,” said Permanent Secretary Kwanchai Wongnitikorn.

The case in question began with the death of Kampun Suksai, the village headman of Tambon Mae Na, Chiang Dao District, Chiang Mai, who also acted as the deputy chairman of the Community Forest Networks in the upper basin Ping River.

It was later found that Chankaew Chandaeng, a wildlife conservation zone forestry official in Chiang Dao had shot Kampun. He was arrested on the following day; however, the Community Forest Network felt that nothing was being done and the community wanted justice.

52-year-old Kampun Suksai was shot by Chankaew Chandaeng on February 1. Chankaew surrendered to police on February 2. Chankaew said that he was angry with Kampun as he had arrested him 2 years previously, after Chankaew had cut down part of the forest. He was still angry and got his revenge by shooting him.

The Chiang Mai Provincial Office permanent secretary met with the community forest network.

A letter of complaint had been submitted ten times, according to the Community Forest Network, but no one paid any attention to it. A representative at the rally said that the group regretted that Chiang Mai Governor Pisit Khetphasook paid little attention to the death of the village headman, adding that the government officials treated the murderer better than they treated local people. “The forestry official who killed our headman is treated too well, he was even picked up by a Mercedes Benz,” one of the protesters said.

The mood of the crowd was one of anger, with some being directed at the prime minister. “PM Thaksin claimed that he would make war against poverty. But as we see from what he did with the recent protesters in Bangkok, and the way he neglected our community, we feel that the Thai Rak Thai party does wage war against poor people but not against poverty,” said another representative.

Governor Pisit was not available to receive the letter from the group as he was on government assignment on that day; however, Kwanchai Wongnitikorn, Chiang Mai Provincial Office permanent secretary received the letter and did meet with the group. Kwanchai said, “I acknowledge receipt of the letter and will urgently fax the prime minister and the minister of interior. Having been the district chief of Mae Chaem, I do understand how all of you love your forest, and what you have done to fight for the forest. I would like you to believe us that we will try to urgently resolve all the problems you have.”

This sign written by Chiang Dao locals states, “Forestry official destroys forest”.

There are other problems in this case and some of the Community Forest Network believe that there is a cover-up. Illegal logging has been carried out with the help of some dishonest forestry officials. The Community Forest Network said that they resisted the illegal logging and protect over 5,000 rai of community forest, developed by the local people.

The Community Forest Network also said that the government has not allowed local people to conserve their own community forest, and all decisions on forest conservation were carried out by the Forestry Department. Local people had asked to participate in the conservation as well, so that they could check and balance the government officials. The Community Forest Network wants to participate in the Ping River basin management to help manage the land conservation.

The Community Forest Network said that Bills need to be amended and adopted by the House of Representatives, as soon as possible, so that the community representatives will be able to take part in the forest management. While waiting for the endorsement of the Bills the networks representatives asked the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment to enforce ministerial law instead so that the people could get involved with the community’s forest management.