NEWS
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Chiang Mai Night Bazaar blaze razes six shophouses

Sweden’s King Carl Gustaf XVI and Queen Silvia visit Chiang Rai

Hot weather coming in late March, says Meteorological Center

Wiang Kum Kam celebration runs for five more weeks

Chiang Mai Zoo is improving every week, says zoo director

14 artists from 5 countries join the Mekong Artists’ Residency Program March 10-30

China has banned Thai longan imports

300 million baht to be spent to improve Pai Airport

Furniture export is growing annually at 10%

Livestock Department releases funds to help flood affected farmers

Get better or get charged says Probation Office

Local police and Chinese chiefs looking to pool information

Another drug suppression policy has been launched by Education Ministry

Check carefully summer courses in US says employment office

CMU lecturer receives prestigious International Award in Iran

Police trap kills drug dealer, but two escape

Thai Yai man hides ya ba in his rectum

Two pubs, 2 clubs closed by order Ministry of Interior

Drug suppression assessment shows Chiang Rai still underachieving

Chiang Mai Night Bazaar blaze razes six shophouses

Causes 1.5 million baht damage

Phitsanu Thepthong
Photos by Nuttanee Thaveephol and
Metinee Chaikuna

A pre-dawn fire broke out at the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar, destroying six shop houses and their contents with an estimated loss of 1.5 million baht.

Police and firefighters inspect the scene of a pre-dawn blaze at the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar. The fire destroyed 6 shop houses and caused an estimate 1.5 million baht damages. No casualties were reported.

According to a source at Chiang Mai’s Fire Brigade, there was no report of deaths or injury. The blaze appeared to have started in a wooden handicraft shop belonging to Monchai Satapornchaipanitch, a businessman from Tambon Padaed in Muang District. He had opened the shop only two months previously.

Kinaree woodcrafts were destroyed during a pre-dawn fire at the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar.

Fire inspectors attempt to determine the cause of a fire that broke out in a wooden shop house selling handicrafts.

A lone, burnt statue stands sentinel over the carnage at the Chao Mae Guan-im woodcraft shop in the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar.

Ten fire engines were called in, and firefighters had the blaze under control in half an hour. However, in that time the conflagration spread to four other shop houses, quickly spreading to the upper floors. Another two residences were threatened by the flames. A grass fire also occurred as the dry grass caught alight.

It appears the source of the fire was in Monchai’s shop; however, until experts have examined all the evidence there is no exact cause being given as this issue went to press. The Fire Brigade would not be drawn into comment as to whether arson was suspected.

Chiang Mai Governor Pisit Khetphasook was at the scene of the inferno, overseeing the fire control and relief operation.


Sweden’s King Carl Gustaf XVI and Queen Silvia visit Chiang Rai

King Carl Gustaf XVI of Sweden and Queen Silvia flew in to Chiang Rai aboard the Royal Airplane of the Royal Thai Air Force, from Phitsanulok.

The royal couple was met by Chiang Rai Governor Narin Panichkij, his wife, government officials and other Chiang Rai townspeople at Chiang Rai Airport. They were also treated to local dancing and Sa Bad Chai drum performances by the Damrongraj Songkroh School.

Following the welcome, the King and the Queen visited Wat Phra Kaew in Muang District and paid veneration to the Buddha while the monks prayed for the visiting royal couple.

Theprattanamunee, the abbot of the temple presented them with a souvenir made of teakwood and covered with gold leaf, fashioned in the image of a Lanna style flower.

The King planted a tree in front of Wat Phra Kaew and sat in the royal pavilion to watch a parade of Chiang Rai jade Buddha images.

Later they attended a reception organized by the governor and his wife.


Hot weather coming in late March, says Meteorological Center

Nuttanee Thaveephol

The Northern Meteorological Center is warning of fires, storms, and water shortages resulting from the hot weather coming at the end of March.

Summer this year begins this month with the wind from the south and east. The average high temperature is forecast to be 35-37 degrees Celsius and will cover the northern region; however, in Mae Hong Son, Lampang, Nan, Uttaradit, and Tak provinces the average temperatures will be around 40-42 degrees.

Following the high temperatures, there will be a lack of water both for consumption and agriculture. The Meteorological Center is advising everyone to save and reserve water.

There will also be a higher than average fire danger. During summer there may also be hailstorms or summer storms that can damage buildings and cultivated areas.

The weather statistics in March during the years 1951-2002 show the highest temperature was 42.7 degrees Celsius in Uttaradit Province on March 7, 1958, and the highest rainfall was 158.1 mm on March 8, 2001 in Muang District, Phrae.


Wiang Kum Kam celebration runs for five more weeks

Historical site celebrations displaying Lanna civilization

Nuttanee Thaveephol

Wiang Kum Kam, the Underground Empire has been holding celebrations every Sunday since February 2nd and they will continue until April 6th this year. The Chiang Mai Provincial Office is promoting the ancient remains as a historical attraction.

Wiang Kum Kam can tell us about the Lanna civilization and its people.

Last week, Chiang Mai MP Yaowapa Wongsawat joined the local artisans in a ritual to show respect to “Kaanthom”, King Mengrai’s famous architect who constructed the empire’s buildings.

There are many activities at Wiang Kum Kam, such as art and cultural performances, culture tourism by bicycle, small train, tricycle, horse and carriage, and elephant tours, local khantoke, and a local market.

Visitors can feel the old style of Lanna living in the ancient city and can also buy food and souvenirs using the old fashioned “bullet money” instead of the current currencies.

Wiang Kum Kam is the site of the ancient empire of King Mengrai. This historical site is located in Saraphi District, not far from Nong Hoi intersections of Mahidol Road. For additional information call Khun Lek, 09 514 4273 or Khun Noot, 09 818 8796.


Chiang Mai Zoo is improving every week, says zoo director

Nuttanee Thaveephol

Chiang Mai Zoo is enhancing their staff’s abilities and improving the location’s standards.

Chiang Mai Zoo buses, part of the innovations going on at Chiang Mai Zoo, are always available to take animal lovers around the zoo.

Chiang Mai Zoo director, Tanong Nateepitak said that with government backing, and following the Zoological Park Organization and Chiang Mai Provincial Office’s policy to enhance the province’s tourism potential, Chiang Mai Zoo has embarked on an ambitious plan of improvements.

The first step is that the zoo now pays even more attention to the animals’ quality of life, which includes nutrition and biology. There are also many added items, such as the transportation service provided for visitors who do not want to bring their own vehicles inside the zoo.

The zoo has arranged new entertainment programs, animal feeding shows and animal talent shows, which can attract more people to come to the zoo.

The zoo director said that Chiang Mai Zoo is in the 2nd step of improving surroundings, past of which includes the Panda house construction that will be finished by this August.

Chiang Mai Zoo also received budgetary provision from the government for 6 development projects which include constructing a more beautiful entrance, improving the Sri Nakhon Ping 700 Years Aquatic Animals Park, raising the standard of public utilities, creating better paths, laying a new sewer system and building a 106,000-cubic-meter water reservoir. The entire project will be finished within this fiscal year.


14 artists from 5 countries join the Mekong Artists’ Residency Program March 10-30

Nuttanee Thaveephol

Chiang Mai University Art and Culture Exhibition Hall and the Dance Theatre Workshop, New York, with the support of the Rockefeller Foundation, will arrange the Mekong Artists’ Residency Project in Thailand. This program brings together artists from 5 countries located in the Mekong Basin, and from America, to exchange art and culture. The Chiang Mai University Art and Culture Exhibition Hall is the venue March 10-30.

The artists from Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, China (Yunnan) and Thailand will stay together for 3 weeks. They will exchange performing arts, which include drama, local dance, music, and live performances. It is hoped that this opportunity for the artists to share, learn, and understand each other, will make the artistic community more creative.

The public can view the performances free of charge at 7 p.m. March 15-16 at the C.M.U. Hall theatre, 7 p.m. March 19 and 8 p.m. March 20 at the Performing Arts Institute in Kad Suan Kaew’s 7th floor.

The artists who will be in the program are Gao Xiang and He Ying Ying from Yunnan, Le Vu Long and Hoang Ly from Vietnam, Mann Kosal and Pich Kakada from Cambodia, Ladda Phommalath and Nouth Phouthavongsa from Laos, Maura Nguyen Dondhue and Vong Phrommala from America, and Thitipol Kanteewong, Pradit Prasartthong, Sineenart Kateprapai, and Sirithorn Srichalakom from Thailand.

The Chiang Mai University Art and Culture Exhibition Hall is located on Nimmanhaeminda Road near Ton Phayom Market and Chiang Mai University. For additional information contact: 053 944 846 or 01 885 1409.


China has banned Thai longan imports

Toxic chemicals discovered, say Chinese

Nuttanee Thaveephol

China has banned Thai longan imports, claiming that the toxic chemical DDT has been found. Newin Chidchob, the deputy minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives said that Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives officers have opened negotiations with China.

The deputy minister said that 99 percent of the pesticide DDT is actually imported from China. The Thai government has already banned this substance as well and also carries out random checking of agricultural commodities from China at border checkpoints, especially in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai.

Newin claims that the current Chinese ban on longan imports does not affect the Thai longan market because it is not peak production season at present. However, the Chinese ambassador to Thailand will negotiate with the deputy minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives. Newin expects that the problem will be solved during this month.


300 million baht to be spent to improve Pai Airport

Open for commercial traffic as well as military

Nuttanee Thaveephol

The Communications Ministry has allocated a budget of 300 million baht to improve Pai Airport to serve tourists and passengers, starting in the next fiscal year.

Pichet Sathirachawan, deputy minister of communications said that since Pai is becoming an important tourist site, business owners in Pai District, Mae Hong Son have demanded that Pai Airport become a commercial airstrip to facilitate the tourist air transportation.

“Currently, Pai District has its own airport but only for military purposes,” said the communications deputy minister.

The airport project will use a budget of around 300 million baht to construct a 1,500 meters long runway.

More than 300 tourists visit Pai each day. This district is located 1,800 meters above sea level, and tourists have to spend 3 hours traveling to Pai by road to visit the “World of Villages”.


Furniture export is growing annually at 10%

Supatatt Dangkrueng

Chiang Mai Export Promotion Center director, Jiraporn Tulyanond has announced that Thailand’s total furniture export revenue in 2002 was USD962.03 million, an increase of over 10% from the previous 12 months. Furthermore, it is expected that this year it will increase to reach to USD1,058 million.

The situation regarding furniture export from the northern region is very favorable because our main competitor, Malaysia, is limited in exporting to the European market. In the furniture exports industry, we have to compete with China, Vietnam and Malaysia, and our markets are Sweden, Switzerland, USA, Italy, Japan and Malaysia as well.

The European market is currently not accepting products from Malaysia, so it is considered to be an ideal opportunity to develop our products and place them in the European marketplace.

Director Jiraporn recommended that new players in this field, who are stepping into international markets, must know themselves and their products and be prepared to maintain quality as well as on-time delivery and international communication.

To find out essential information everyone is welcome to use the Chiang Mai Export Promotion Center library at Singharaj Road, Muang District, or call them on 0 5321 6350-1.


Livestock Department releases funds to help flood affected farmers

Teera Ananworapanya, Chiang Mai Provincial Livestock Office chief reported that the office has released a fund to help farmers who lost livestock during the flood crisis last year. The cabinet has agreed to give assistance to the flood victims, depending upon the degree of loss.

The official Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives figures for compensation for lost cows is 15,000 baht each cow, but they will not pay for more than 2 cows; B. 1,300 for each pig, but they will not pay for more than 10 pigs; B. 27.50 for a local chicken but they will not pay for more than 300 chickens; B. 20 for a trading chicken but they will not pay for more than 1,000 chickens and B. 20 for a duck, with the same conditions as for trading chickens.

The floods in September thru November last year caused heavy losses for the farming community in several Chiang Mai districts. The Chiang Mai Livestock Development Office has administered a livestock compensation package amounting to 605,615 baht, divided in to 7 districts; B. 81,590 in Muang, B. 104, 652.50 in Mae Rim, B. 29,110 in Chorm Thong, B. 15,000 in Phrao, B. 279,935 in Mae Chaem, B. 65,287.50 in Omkoi, and B. 30,000 in Mae On.


Get better or get charged says Probation Office

Is compulsory rehabilitation the key?

Nuttanee Thaveephol

Chiang Mai Probation Office is introducing an “Addicts Efficiency Recovery Action” by using a new way for addicts to recover, called “Compulsory Treatment”, said Rommanee Klanbida, director of the Chiang Mai Probation Office.

Director Rommanee said that the office has provided a new alternative for solving the drug addicts’ problem: Compulsory treatment is the way to recovery. This new program started on March 3, 2003 (an auspicious day, being 03-03-03), in 36 pilot provinces, including Chiang Mai. “Actually, drug addicts can participate in the voluntary treatment system, but this program cannot force the patients to join in all the steps in that recovery program. Therefore, there are many patients who turn back to drugs, so that is the weak point of the previous system,” said Rommanee.

The public prosecutor will reduce criminal action against addicts and send them to compulsory treatment programs instead, until they are completely recovered, after which patients can go home and the court will acquit them. But, if the patient cannot complete the entire program, the prosecutor will proceed with legal action against them.

The Addicts Efficiency Recovery Action 2003 program proposes that treatment is an important issue, and is the government’s policy to focus on prevention before suppression.


Local police and Chinese chiefs looking to pool information

Is this the start of Chinterpol?

Supatatt Dangkrueng

Police officers from Provincial Police Region 5 and their counterparts from Yunnan, China met at the Imperial Maeping Hotel in Chiang Mai to discuss the progress of setting up a joint information center.

The participants from Thailand and China.

High-ranking officers from Provincial Police Region 5, led by Commissioner Pol Lt Gen Inthadej Pornpeerapan, attended the meeting with the Yunnan Provincial Public Security Bureau. The head of the Chinese delegation was the director general of Yunnan Provincial Public Security Bureau, Xian Yanming.

Pol Lt Gen Inthadej Pornpeerapan (left), the commissioner of Provincial Police Region 5 and Xian Yanming (right), director general of Yunnan Provincial Public Security Bureau of P.R. China, co-chaired a meeting to discuss the progress of setting up a joint information center.

Pol Lt Gen Inthadej noted the relationship between the Provincial Police Region 5 and Yunnan authorities could be considered to be very close, so good cooperation is possible.

There will be an exchange of information, such as drug networks, illegal immigration and counterfeiting that damages the economies and reputation of both countries. Officials at the meeting were hopeful that in the future, confidential documents and information could be exchanged very quickly to enhance speedy law enforcement.

This was the second meeting of the two groups, the first meeting was held last year in China.


Another drug suppression policy has been launched by Education Ministry

Metinee Chaikuna

Manu Maneerat, Chiang Mai Provincial General Education Office director reported that his office has received a policy from the Ministry of Education on drug suppression, which follows the drug suppression policy of PM Thaksin Shinawatra.

The target announced for Thailand set by the Ministry of Education is that there should be less than 3% drug addicts in each school, but the target for schools under the Chiang Mai Provincial General Education Office is less than 2%. Statistics have to be sent in regarding drug addicts, drug traders, and those who risk dealing with drugs, to the office within 3 months.

Manu said that from the reports he received from the schools, progress has been quite satisfactory so far. He also said that there are selection processes to detect drug addicts, drug traders, and the groups of students who could be at risk. After students had been assigned to the correct groups, they would be sent for education and rehabilitation.

The Provincial General Education Office has other activities as well, including home visits by teachers to assess the drug situation in the home.


Check carefully summer courses in US says employment office

Nuttanee Thaveephol

Orachon Rattanamanee, the director of the Chiang Mai Employment Service Office said that the office has been informed by the Employment Department that many companies are offering exchange students opportunities. The Employment Office has investigated some of these companies and found that they are marketing overseas study in Australia, New Zealand, England, and the United States.

The USA summer student exchange program is an opportunity for Thai students to exchange culture and learn English by being trainees in the US during summer. This kind of program has been available for a few years. The companies dealing with this program must have a contract with a non-profit organization sanctioned by the US government, such as the Council on International Education Exchange (CIEE), or Intact Work Travel.

Thai students can join the program during March-June and the organizations will proceed with visa (J-1) requirement for exchange students, find lodgings, and take care of them throughout the duration of the program.

The Chiang Mai Employment Service Office warns students who wish to join the program to check all details to avoid being cheated. The program is for 18-25 year old students who can speak English, and participants will have to pay 40,000-60,000 baht. For further information and more details, check at the Chiang Mai Provincial Employment Service Office, 053 222 865-6 ext. 17 and 19 during office hours.


CMU lecturer receives prestigious International Award in Iran

Phitsanu Thepthong

Assoc. Prof. Dr Jiradej Manosroi of the Faculty of Pharmacy, Chiang Mai University (CMU) has received a research and development award from the Ministry of Science, Research and Technology, Iranian Research Organization for Science and Technology (IROST). He joined other scientists from England, New Zealand, South Africa, China, Pakistan, India, Sudan, Bulgaria, and Egypt, who were recognised for their outstanding contributions in the science and technology fields.

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Jiradej said this award was not just for his work, but also for the Institute for Science and Technology Research and Development, and the Faculty of Pharmacy, and would stimulate him into producing more research and development (R&D) work.

Dr Jiradej’s award came from his ground-breaking work on tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), a cooperation with Boehringer Ingelheim International, Germany. This research work has been registered with international patents in 111 countries, including Japan and Thailand.

The drug dissolves clots in the blood. It is a human protein which is produced in bacteria using recombinant DNA technology. The method discovered by the research team led by Assoc. Prof. Jiradej yields a protein which needs much less processing than the old method, making it up to 90 percent less expensive to produce.

The awards are given annually, and were named after the world’s renowned Iranian astronomer and mathematician, Abu Jafar Muhammad Ibn Khwarizmi (770-840 AD). The presentation has been given to scientists achieving world breakthroughs since 1991, covering the fields of engineering, basic science, human science, agriculture, and arts. All scientific work must be new inventions or innovations, and their application should be in the field of industry, personal training and other scientific areas.

At this year’s award presentation ceremony, there were 198 scientists from more than 50 countries who were under consideration, but only 10 in the fields of fiber optics, medical sciences, insecticides, proton structure and electrochemistry received the coveted award.


Police trap kills drug dealer, but two escape

Another one bites the bullet, literally

Metinee Chaikuna

San Kamphaeng police last week sprung a trap to apprehend some drug dealers named on their blacklist. The police pretended to be customers wanting 10,000 ya ba pills from 3 drugs dealers, with the exchange point being at the newly built ring road in Donchan, Tambon Tonpao in San Kamphaeng District.

During the transaction the drug dealers got wind of the fact that their customers were police, so they immediately opened fire with pistols. The police took cover and began returning their fire, with the gun battle raging for over 60 minutes. Finally, one of the criminals, Apa Saemue, a Lahu man, was hit and killed, but the others escaped on a motorcycle.

Another drug bust was carried out by the Pha Muang Special Task Force’s troops pretending to be customers asking for 10,000 ya ba pills at Ban Arunothai in Chiang Dao District. One fell into the trap, with the troop arresting Boonyoung Meesamoot, a 47-year-old drug dealer from Sukhothai Province as she was smuggling 10,000 ya ba pills into the city.

She confessed to the police that she had been hired to deliver the ya ba from Burma’s Tachilek border town, opposite Mae Sai District in Chiang Rai, to traders in Uttaradit Province. She would get 20,000 baht for successful delivery. What she will get now is quite different.


Thai Yai man hides ya ba in his rectum

Police get to the bottom of the scheme

Metinee Chaikuna

Pol. Lt. Jaruek Chotigo, an investigator from Chiang Mai Police Station, said that law enforcement officers received information that there would be some ya ba smuggled into the Chiang Mai Provincial Police Station jail. Police sent a plainclothes officer to the jail who then asked if he could buy some ya ba pills from Mr Chai (surname unknown), who would be making a delivery to Ms Kai, his wife, who has been in jail since February 25 on charges of possessing and selling drugs.

Chai put the ya ba pills in a plastic tube covered by a condom and secreted it in his rectum to conceal it from police. He attempted to pass on his little bindle, but police intercepted the movement and arrested him too.

The police found 120 ya ba pills and a pack of heroin. Chai has now been charged with both possessing and selling drugs.

This month Chiang Mai police have arrested 772 drug dealers, four of whom were killed whilst trying to resist arrest. However, another 72 drug dealers were killed by the drug networks themselves. The Chiang Mai drug suppression results are over 35%, which is higher than the Ministry of Interior minimum level.


Two pubs, 2 clubs closed by order Ministry of Interior

Crackdown on illegal drugs and alien workers

Deputy Minister of Interior Pracha Maleenon inspected entertainment outlets in Chiang Mai, looking for drugs, underage patrons and alien workers. Late at night on March 1, the raiding party first visited massage parlors including Pandora, Sayuri, Nancy in President Hotel, Sauna Health Club in Chiang Mai Hills Hotel, Chiang Mai Massage Parlor in Phucome Hotel, and Phumarin Massage Parlor in Pink Payom Hotel. This initial blitz turned up some alien workers and 18 patrons tested positive for drugs.

Officers also inspected the Bubble Disco Club in Pornping Hotel and found a pack of marijuana on the floor. Police checked 239 teenagers, with 8 of them, including 6 foreign nationals, turning up positive.

The deputy minister has instructed Chumporn Sangmanee, the Muang Chiang Mai chief district officer to inform the entertainment operators to follow the regulations by not allowing children and alien workers to be in the premises.

In addition, Deputy Pracha ordered closure of two well known entertainment outlets, Imagine and Toclub. Muang Chiang Mai chief district officer Chomporn has also proposed to close another two pubs - Underworld in Robinson Shopping Plaza and Mummy in Kinnaree Hotel.


Drug suppression assessment shows Chiang Rai still underachieving

No we’re not, says police chief

Supatatt Dangkrueng

In the area covered by Provincial Police Region 5, four provinces from the eight administered did not pass the assessment set up by the Interior Ministry, those being Chiang Rai, Lampang, Phayao and Nan.

Pol Lt Gen Inthadej Pornpeerapan, Provincial Police Region 5 commissioner, said he was not worried about the government’s evaluation because in the beginning there was confusion about the strategies to be applied. “There are still 2 months left to prove how well we can do,” he said.

Chiang Rai Governor Narin Panichkit said one reason that the results might seem low is because they had launched a war combating drugs last year, long before the government launched this national agenda. That in turn made the suppression statistics in Chiang Rai seem lower than other provinces. The governor said he was satisfied that the suppression efforts in Chiang Rai have been efficient because they have arrested many agents from large networks.

After disagreement on the process of evaluation, the Ministry of Interior has changed their method, and now the number of unidentified people, such as fugitives and immigrants, are cut off from the total number of drug dealers in the region.

Pol Maj Gen Wut Withitanond, Chiang Rai Provincial Police commander, said that the MoI’s new evaluation approach might bring Chiang Rai’s figures up to pass the test. After cutting off the number of dealers who have fled, plus the suppression before February 1st, the statistics reach 40 percent, which passes the Interior Ministry’s evaluation.