Vol. II No. 8 Saturday 22 February - 28 February 2003
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NEWS
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Farms and buildings damaged by hailstorm

TV and radio group donates winter woollies

What do you call a new baby camel?

Maka Bhucha celebrated in Chiang MaiChiang Mai voices its anti-war protest

Cheap mass weddings in Chiang Mai in May

Guides ask officials to reduce the B.200 entrance fee for Lod Cave

Lampang AIDS Center to become Drug Rehab Center

Maharaj Nakorn Chiang Mai Hospital gets 357 million baht boost

King Kaveela remembered

Chiang Mai voices its anti-war protest

APEC members meet in Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai Safari Night zoo project on track

Chiang Rai children with a harelip to receive help

70,000 baht in jewelry goes missing at the 700 Year Anniversary Stadium

Lahu Villages under siege in latest drug bust

ONCB reports results of drug suppression

Drug Suppression in the North making progress

Motorcycle bandits snatch and grab a British tourist’s bag

High-ranking officials pleased with Chiang Mai’s drug suppression success

Deputy Minister of Interior Pracha Maleenon is cracking the whip

Farms and buildings damaged by hailstorm

Phrae and Lampang provinces worst hit

Severe winter hailstorms occurred last week in Ban Tungsri, Rong Kwang District, Phrae, damaging houses, tobacco factories and farms and causing power blackouts in the some of the surrounding towns for several hours.

Supan Singkha, a tobacco farmer in Ban Tungsri said that rain started at around 5 p.m., and was followed by a hailstorm that destroyed tobacco leafs in the entire farm. About 1,000 rai of tobacco plantations in Tungsri were damaged. The telephone lines and poles also suffered damage.

In Lampang, over 30 houses and 100 rai of farm products were damaged by the hailstorm on the same day. Many signs and billboards in the urban area were also destroyed.

Shoosak Khanchaiwong, the headman of Ban Sai Tai, Muang District, Lampang Province said that his village was one of the villages damaged by the hailstorm. Over 30 houses and cornfields, chilies, garlic, and onion farms were also destroyed. A cottage in a fish farm of aqua culturalist Teera Thamchai collapsed.

In the first stage of the relief operation, Pichai Sub-district Administration Organization, and the Pichai Municipality surveyed the damage cost and assisted the hailstorm victims in the area by urgently repairing roofs.

Regarding the damaged farms, Sai Tai villagers have asked for aid assistance from Muang, Lampang Authority and hope they will get help soon.


TV and radio group donates winter woollies

Supatatt Dangkrueng

Members of the Chiang Mai - Lamphun Television and Radio Reporters Association donated winter clothes to villagers in the Chai Prakarn district, Chiang Mai Province.

The members of the association had previously visited Chai Prakarn District, north of Chiang Mai, where many poor people have to exist in cold weather. During the visit, the media association gained an understanding of their plight, so they returned, bringing clothes and blankets for approximately 350 people from 18 villages.

Kanittha Srirat, the director of TV Channel 11 and the chairperson of Chiang Mai and Lamphun Television and Radio Association, said that they regularly help people who are in trouble from natural disasters, such as the flood victims in Mae Chaem District and Doi Tao District in Chiang Mai. All their public charity work receives support from many organizations and business firms who donate both money and goods.

TV Channel 11 has also planed to hold National Radio Broadcasting Day festivities on February 25 at the Public Relations Department Region 3 Chiang Mai. The organization will be holding many interesting activities on that day, including official meetings between government and private organizations, and recognizing the high standards of radio and TV broadcasters as well as a merit-making ceremony for the members who have passed on.


What do you call a new baby camel?

Humpy?

Supatatt Dangkrueng

Chiang Mai Zoo recently played midwife and is proudly displaying a newborn Arabian camel. Officials at the zoo have also extended an invitation for the public to come and name her.

This newborn Arabian camel is the latest member of the camel family at Chiang Mai Zoo.

Ms Rossukon Juikhamwong, public relations officer at the Chiang Mai Zoo, said that on the 4th of February, a female camel named Chabaa gave birth after being pregnant for 13 months. The camel’s baby weighed 30 kilograms and makes her the sixth member of the camel family in Chiang Mai Zoo.

Rossukon said the father camel, named Dam, was delighted with his new daughter and very proud of mother camel Chabaa. This was Chabaa’s first baby, and the zoo staff helped her giving birth, during a short 30 minute labor.

The Arabian camel is native to the Balkan Peninsula. They grow to approximately 1.8 meters tall and predominantly eat grasses and leaves, similar to bulls, goats and sheep. Gestation is around 12-13 months with a birth weight between 30-50 kilograms. Life expectancy for an Arabian camel is about 40 years.

Chiang Mai Zoo says visitors can now come to see the latest attraction, the newborn Arabian camel.


Maka Bhucha celebrated in Chiang Mai

Many devout Buddhists make merit

Supatatt Dangkrueng

Sunday Feb 16 was Maka Bhucha Day in Thailand, and devout followers made merit, stayed away from temptation and embraced the five Buddhist precepts. During the day, Buddhists also placed alms into priests’ bowls and gathered at the temple to hear sermons from the monks.

Chiang Mai Mayor Boonlert Buranupakorn (front left) and Maj Gen Thawat Jaruklas (front right), commanding general of the 33rd Military Circle, led citizens and soldiers through the ‘Wian Tien’ ceremony on Maka Bhucha Day in Chiang Mai.

The Lord Buddha’s Teaching Publication Center at Wat Pan Ont, Chiang Mai suggests that on Buddhist holy days, Buddhists should bring their children to make merit at the temples, as it is a good way for children to understand and appreciate the inherent goodness of Buddhism.

In the evening people gathered again at the temple to carry out the ritual known as Wian Tien, which is a ceremony where followers walk clockwise three times around the Buddhist temple, carrying lighted candles and meditating on the triple gems: Buddha, Buddha’s teaching and the Buddhist clergy.

Chiang Mai Mayor Boonlert Buranupakorn led Chiang Mai people in the ‘Wian Tien’ at Wat Chedi Luang. The people had gathered at Wat Chedi Luang around 6 p.m., bringing with them flowers, candles and joss sticks to join in with the mayor.

The Lord Buddha’s Teaching Publication Center at Wat Pan Ont, Chiang Mai suggested that on the Buddhist holy days, Buddhists should bring their children to make merit at the temples. This is a good way for children to understand and appreciate the inherent goodness of Buddhism.


Cheap mass weddings in Chiang Mai in May

But only if you are Thai, as the promotion has two-tiered pricing

The Tourism Authority of Thailand, in cooperation with the Chiang Mai Cultural Council and Chiang Mai Public Health Office, will hold a mass Lanna wedding, known locally as ‘Koo Kaew Muang Wattanatham’ on May 11 this year. All interested couples, both Thais and foreign nationals are invited to join in this Lanna wedding ceremony.

The couples will be married at the Chiang Mai Plaza Hotel and a Khantoke style lunch will be provided for the couples and up to 4 guests. The organizers will also prepare invitation cards, wedding souvenirs and marriage officials to prepare the marriage certificate. Government offices will arrange wedding photography and will provide small gifts for the happy couples.

If you want to marry your loved one on the 11th of May, you must be aged more than 20 years, and be prepared to pay 8,900 baht for Thai couples and USD700 (around 29,000 baht, which does not include transportation and residence) for foreign couples. It was not made clear why the price for foreigners is over 3 times that for Thai couples.

The organizers will also promote a seminar on family and health checks before marriage.

Chalermsak Suranan, TAT Northern Region 1 director, said that the Lanna style wedding ceremony is meant to preserve the traditional wedding ceremony. Couples interested in the project can contact the Chiang Mai Public Health Office, tel. 053 211 048 ext. 141 or 131, fax: 053 211 740 or email: [email protected]

It will be unlikely that there will be too many foreigners tying the knot!


Guides ask officials to reduce the B.200 entrance fee for Lod Cave

Tourists staying away forcing guides towards bankruptcy

Local guide groups in Pang Ma Pha District have asked the government to reduce the entrance fee for the foreign tourists to Lod Cave. The combined groups assembled at the Lod Cave Public Park to ask the Department of Forestry to reduce the B. 200 entrance fee, “Because of the high entrance fee, the number of foreign tourists interested in traveling through Lod Cave has fallen,” reported their spokesman.

This decrease has resulted in dramatic falls in revenues for the tour guides, which in some cases have fallen to between 300-500 baht per guide for one month. Many have had to take out bank loans to supplement their income. If the high entrance fees continue, the guides cannot see how they will be able to keep going.


Lampang AIDS Center to become Drug Rehab Center

Supatatt Dangkrueng

The Public Health Ministry plans to change the role and functions of the AIDS treatment center into a drug addiction rehabilitation center in Lampang Province, which will come under the network of the Chiang Mai Drug Dependence Treatment Center. The Lampang center will provide drug treatment for patients in 7 northern Thailand provinces.

The change was decided after the Deputy Minister of Public Health, Pol Gen Pracha Promnok, visited Lampang to investigate whether the Lampang AIDS recovery center could become a drug treatment center.

Pol Gen Pracha said drug rehabilitation is one of six major items in the Public Health Ministry’s policies this year. Due to the national agenda of fighting the drug war and the situation of the AIDS patients now being better under control, and the fact that they can be treated in their own homes, lent weight to the change of direction.

In the 17 northern provinces, there are 10,800 registered patients. In the 7 provinces of Lampang, Lamphun, Phrae, Nan, Utradit, Phayao and Chiang Rai, 3,943 addicts were treated in 2002.


Maharaj Nakorn Chiang Mai Hospital gets 357 million baht boost

Ministry of Finance backs building new hospital but not equipment

Supatatt Dangkrueng

Maharaj Nakorn Chiang Mai Hospital is going to get a new hospital wing to celebrate the 50th year on the throne of His Majesty the King Bhumibol the Great.

Prof Supoj Wuttikarn, dean of the Medical Faculty at Chiang Mai University, stated that on this auspicious occasion, the Finance Ministry has launched a project to construct nine buildings in hospitals all over the country to commemorate the event.

Maharaj Nakorn Chiang Mai Hospital was allocated a budget from Ministry of Finance of 357 million baht to construct the 16-storey building covering 29,600 square meters area.

The new building is located near the old outpatient department and ER. Construction work began in the middle of January and is expected to be completed by the end of year 2004.

During the construction, there will be some changes in the traffic flow and transfer of patients. The entrance to the Sripat Building in the hospital is now a one-way street and parking is not allowed.

The budget from the Ministry of Finance is covering only the construction and excludes equipment.


King Kaveela remembered

On February 5 1774, King Kaveela led the Lanna people to join the army of King Taksin the Great to drive out the Burmese army from Chiang Mai. It was a successful campaign and to commemorate the event the 33rd Military Circle of the Royal Thai Army organizes a ceremony every year.

King Kaveela monument.

Soldiers pay respect to the King Kaveela monument.

Dance performance during the ceremony.

This February 5, being the 31st Anniversary celebration, the 33rd Military Circle of Royal Thai Army organized a propitiating ceremony for King Kaveela’s spirit at the King Kaveela monument opposite the Kaveela military Camp.

The ceremony began with floral offerings and tributes to the King Kaveela Monument, followed by military drill and dance performances in front of the monument.


Chiang Mai voices its anti-war protest

Hundreds gather for peaceful march against war

On February 15, various groups in Chiang Mai protested against the possibility of a US-led war on Iraq. About two hundred academics, students, representatives of religious organizations, artists and writers in the North gathered to ask for peace, to avoid the war, and to condemn terrorism and violence.

The group marched from Thapae Gate in the city to the grounds in the front of the Three Kings Monument on Phra Pokklao Road. The group leader said that this anti-war activity was held at many places throughout the world on the same day.

The group also submitted a letter through the Consulate-General of the USA in Chiang Mai and the USA embassy in Bangkok to be sent to the American president at the White House.

On the same day, 138 monks, students and representatives of Buddhist, Christian, and Islamic groups held a seminar on the topic “How does religion solve society’s problems?” at Mahamakut University, Chiang Mai Campus (University of Monks) at Wat Chedi Luang Temple.

The main issues were the problems between Iraq and US. The meeting came to the conclusion that they would also submit a letter to President George Bush. The main thrust was to ask the president to reconsider the war on Iraq and to request cooperation from Iraq’s Saddam Hussein for UN weapons inspections.


APEC members meet in Chiang Mai

Terrorism and its effects on free trade discussed

Supatatt Dangkrueng

The APEC Customs Sub-committee Meeting was opened by Deputy Minister of Commerce, Wattana Muangsuk, at Westin Riverside Plaza Hotel. He welcomed all the guests to the prime minister’s hometown and exhorted all the delegates to work together in collaboration for trade and national security.

The meeting had representatives from all the members from 21 economic zones: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Republic of China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Taiwan, United State of America, Vietnam and Thailand.

After the terrorist attack in America, the situation regarding exports all over the world has changed. The situation has increased expenses for insurance and customs protocol and the consequent problems were discussed to find solutions to make trade and exports more convenient for all parties.

Nangnoi Na Ranong, Customs Department deputy director-general, said the conference was advantageous for all members to discuss and exchange ideas regarding trade and investments in these economic zones. It would increase exports and facilitate trade between these regions.

Commerce Deputy Minster Wattana said members noted that this meeting had high security. It showed that Thailand is safe and ready to host international meetings. This too would be good for the economy and tourism of our country.


Chiang Mai Safari Night zoo project on track

Could be up and running by 2005

Phitsanu Thepthong

A source at the Forestry Department disclosed recently that Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra approved a government budget of 10 million baht to acquire a feasibility study for project implementation and marketing strategies to help develop the Night Safari Zoo as one of the region’s top tourist attractions.

Construction work is expected to commence in January next year and it is likely to open its gates to the public in 2005, organizers concerned have said. It is expected to attract at least 800,000 visitors in its first year.

According to the source, the 625-rai project is located in Tambon Mae Hia near Doi Suthep-Pui National Park and is expected to cost one billion baht to build. Experts project it to make a first-year profit of 27 million baht and to break even in seven years.

The park will consist of a 375 rai Savannah Safari, 187.5 rai Predator Prowl and 62.5 rai Swan Lake, which will include a village on the lake, a separate village devoted to ancient Lanna culture, a jaguar trail, restaurants, souvenir shops, tram stations and parking spaces. Indigenous animals will be complemented by exotic species imported under a wildlife exchange program.


Chiang Rai children with a harelip to receive help

Charity groups organize surgery for the poor

The Northern Women’s Development Foundation and the Overbrook Hospital in Chiang Rai are getting ready to launch a project in Chiang Rai to help children requiring an operation for harelip.

Kuenkham Singhanet, president of the Northern Women’s Development Foundation and Dr. Pluem Supapanya, director of the Overbrook Hospital signed a memorandum to work in close cooperation on the project.

Phanomwan Yoodee, the foundation’s general secretary, said that there are many harelip children in the north and most are so poor that they cannot get treatment. So the foundation, the Overbrook Hospital, and the Y.M.C.A. of Chiang Rai combined forces to fund the project to help children who are not able to pay for the reconstructive operations.

The project will not only provide for the operation and recovery, but will also include speech therapy afterwards.

Families with harelip children under the age of 15 years can contact the hospital or the Y.M.C.A. For more information, tel. 053-702763-4.


70,000 baht in jewelry goes missing at the 700 Year Anniversary Stadium

Korean football team complain robbery isn’t cricket

Metinee Chaikuna

Lee Hun-Na, 22, the Korean football team coach’s daughter checked into the dorm at the 700 Year Anniversary Stadium on February 3. The football team had booked 10 rooms from February 3-7 and the organizers provided accommodation on the 4th floor.

Boonthan Muangchuen, the director of the Sports Authority of Thailand, Region 5 (center), apologized for what happened and said he hopes there will be no recurrence of this kind. With him are Somporn Wannasari (left) of the Scientific Sports Office, and Songpol Muangsri.

On February 6, Lee Hun-Na reported that earrings and rings valued at 70,000 baht were missing. The counter service asked her to recheck but with the jewelry still missing, it was suggested she report the matter to the police.

Pol. Capt. Alongkorn Promta, the investigating officer from Mae Rim Police Station checked the room and called in for questioning the 3 maids who were responsible for the room. Police assume that this was an ‘inside’ job as there was no evidence of forced entry and the room had not been ransacked.

Boonthan Muangchuen, director of the Sports Authority of Thailand Region 5 apologized for what had happened and said he hopes there would be no recurrence of this kind of situation. He also said that the security system will be tightened.

At press time there was no report as to the fate of the maids, or of the jewelry.


Lahu Villages under siege in latest drug bust

150 drug suppression personnel in operation

150 Pha Muang military task force personnel, Wiang Haeng policemen, drug suppression police, and some government officials besieged the border Lahu hilltribe village of Ban Huai Krai, a new community village in Tambon Piang Luang, Wiang Haeng District.

They did not come away empty handed, as in this case 4,000 ya ba pills, 1 gun, and 1 bomb were found buried in the garden near the village, and a Thai Yai man was arrested for being a suspected member of the drug network.

On the same day, the officials also searched the Huai San village, Moo 4, Tambon Tha Ton, Mae Ai District where Laota Saenlee, the former headman and an important suspect in the drugs network had influence. No attacks occurred and only one person was found guilty of being in possession of an unlicensed weapon.

The officials took Laota and another 20 drug addicts in the village to take an oath not to deal with drugs in the future. The officials said that the operation had been accomplished under martial law in the border area, and they needed to decrease the influence of Laota so that villagers in this area would not become addicts.


ONCB reports results of drug suppression

Property worth 448 million seized

Metinee Chaikuna and Supatatt Dangkrueng

The Office of the Narcotic Control Board (ONCB) has just released the results of the drug suppression policy in the North. According to the report, in the period from July 2002 - January 2003, the ONCB checked and seized property in 742 cases regarding drug dealers and the nominal value of the properties is over 448 million baht. This figure includes 137 cars and 63 motorcycles.

Some of the confiscated drugs, guns and pistols on display at the press briefing.

The more recent figures, following the government’s latest crackdown, showed that from February 1-12 this year, there have been 9 cases examined and over 1.6 million in property seized.

To carry out the drug suppression activities, 276 personnel are involved; 145 officials from the Provincial Police Region 5, 104 officials from the Provincial Police Region 6, 12 officials from the Drug Suppression Command Division, and 15 officials from the ONCB.

The Provincial Police Region 5 has been the most successful and received commendation from the director general of Region 5 of the Official States Attorney’s Office for investigating 535 cases and confiscating over 364 million baht of property.


Drug Suppression in the North making progress

More than 50 drug dealers surrender

Metinee Chaikuna

Over 50 drug dealers at Chiang Dao, Chiang Mai, surrendered to Somdet Muangpon, the chief of Chiang Dao district office, and Pol. Col. Danai Boonrueng, the Superintendent of Chiang Dao Police Station, making a promise that they would not return to drug dealing in the future.

Despite their surrender, the dealers were still worried that the police would confiscate their properties and what their relatives who had stopped being drug dealers and moved out of the area should do next. The superintendent said that the police needs to check their backgrounds and then follow up to see if they had really stopped being involved in illicit drugs.

Public affirmations against drugs are now being carried out all over the north, with 2,000-3,000 Lisu in the Thailand Lisu Association taking the oath at Ban Khun Kong, Ping Kong, Chiang Dao.

In Nan, drug dealers also surrendered to government officials. Kongkam Thisema, the headman of Thung Srithong Sub-district, took the drug dealers on the police blacklist to surrender to the police and asked them to take the oath.

In Chiang Rai, the Doi Tung Development Project director said he agreed with the policy of the government on drug suppression, but suggested officials had to be careful to arrest only drug dealers and not innocent victims.

M.R. Disnadda Ditsakul, the general secretary of the Mae Fah Luang Foundation and the director of the Doi Tung Development Project said drugs destroy families, society, and the nation. Despite the application of the death penalty, the long-term problem has not been solved.


Motorcycle bandits snatch and grab a British tourist’s bag

Gang makes off with 60,000 baht

Supatatt Dangkrueng

Tahir Hamid, 32, a British tourist informed police that two men riding a motorcycle snatched his bag while he was walking in a city soi. Pol Sub Lt Thamrong Kahabodeekanokul of Muang Chiang Mai Police Station revealed that Mr. Hamid claimed he had lost a gold ring valued at 12,500 baht, a necklace and a diamond locket valued at 27,600 baht, two bracelets costing 10,000 baht and a 10,300 baht diamond ring, a total of more than 60,000 baht.

Mr. Hamid told police that he had just checked out from a hotel and was walking along Thapae Road, Soi 5, where two men on a motorcycle approached him, snatched his valuables and rode off.

Pol Sub Lt Thamrong said this case is still being investigated, and that it is quite difficult because the victim was unable to give a description of the miscreants. It happened in the alley and the tourist was alone. He suggested that tourists should keep their valuables in a body belt and people should be aware and be careful when traveling in dangerous places.


High-ranking officials pleased with Chiang Mai’s drug suppression success

Deputy Minister of Interior Pracha Maleenon said he was satisfied with the result of drug suppression as a whole, but there are still some provinces that must improve their operational strategies. Pracha said during his Chiang Mai visit to review drug suppression that he was satisfied with the cooperation from all parties and he would like to praise all concerned who are working hard to wipe out drugs from our country.

In addition, Prawit Sisophon, Interior Ministry permanent secretary came to review the working procedures at the drug treatment center at the city hall which comes under Chiang Mai Governor Pisit Khetphasook, who acts as the director of the drug treatment center.

After the briefing, Prawit said Chiang Mai has already reached an excellent level because there was good cooperation to wipe out drugs from the country, so the outcome so far is highly satisfactory.

Prawit also visited the center at Doi Saket, Chiang Mai and listened to Chief District Officer Suraphol Panusamphol’s report of operations regarding their 51 targets, where they found and confiscated 24,000 speed pills, plus another 22 drugs surrendered to the police.

Prawit said he was delighted that the government agenda was combating drugs, and in Doi Saket it also seems successful. Now is a good chance for the surrendered dealers to behave and stay away from drugs, he said.


Deputy Minister of Interior Pracha Maleenon is cracking the whip

Entertainment outlets must follow the rules

Deputy Minister of Interior Pracha Maleenon last week visited Chiang Mai to follow up the social order management in the entertainment service sector. Whilst here, he chaired a meeting at the Chiang Mai Plaza Hotel on policy assignments for local administration officials and entertainment entrepreneurs.

Chiang Mai is a big province, he said, and there are many entertainment outlets like pubs, discotheques, restaurants, karaoke and massage parlors providing services to the night’s travelers.

He emphasized that all concerned have to be strict with their application of the rules and governing regulations. These are the opening and closing times, age of the customers, drug abuse, obscene shows, and carrying of weapons.

Flaunting these regulations can lead to closure for 30 days or even cancellation of the license by order of the governor.

“This action is not to be thought of as just finding faults, but it is watching and preventing youths from the dangers of drugs,” said the Deputy Interior Minister. Pracha asked all concerned to realize the dangerous and insidious nature of ya ba and to keep within the regulations.



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