HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Whisky Distillers threaten to burn Thai Rak Thai membership cards

Controversial high-rise municipal offices in the news again

Summer storm uproots tree, damages office and coffee shop

Malaysian government interested in the One Tambon - One Product concept

Iraq conflict - EGAT has enough generating capacity says governor

Storm damage in Nan results in 2.5 million baht loss

7 million baht earmarked for Denchai Railway Station improvements

Electric school bus shuttle finally runs out of batteries

After the big drug busts, provincial governors state their results

Chiang Mai City’s red minibuses stick a toe in the water

Dots cured me - it will cure you too

Drug suppression efforts go online

Lampang provincial authorities finger drug tainted government officials

Ya ba cost increases to 400 baht

Third Army ready to crack down on Thai-Burma border villages

Assistant village headman shot dead, another man injured

100 million ya ba pills unable to cross into Thailand

Thailand, China and Myanmar join forces against drugs

Whisky Distillers threaten to burn Thai Rak Thai membership cards

Unbottled anger at discriminatory tax laws

by staff reporters

20,000 members of Local Liquor Distillers Network stormed Chiang Mai City Hall to protest against the Excise Department’s resolutions.

Protesters prepare to burn their Thai Rak Thai membership cards and jackets. Over 20,000 Local Liquor Distillers Network protesters gathered in front of Chiang Mai City Hall to protest the government’s new tax resolution

The protest group, led by Borisut Jaisard passed on the letter to Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra though Chiang Mai Governor Pisit Khetphasook, opposing the Cabinet’s answer to their problems proposed on January 21 this year.

The protest group said that they still could not accept the Ministry of Finance proposals, especially the tax collection procedure which is still a big problem for them because they are only small producers and cannot compete on the same scale as the large distilleries.

Local Liquor Distillers Network protesters move on Chiang Mai City Hall.

Artit Javana, a committee member from the San Kamphaeng District Local Liquor Network said the problem was not about the process of production, but about the rules and regulation processes under the supervision of the Excise Department and the liquor tax which is too high for local producers.

Local producers have to bring their product for registration at the Department of Internal Trade. Following this registration, authorities send officials to check their quality of products, which costs 4,000 baht each time. They have to do this many times to make sure that the liquor quality is up to standard. The Local Liquor Network also pays 4,600 baht each year for a permit from the Excise Department.

Other rules promulgated by the Excise Department include the Local Liquor’s product having to be registered as a juristic entity, which necessitates hiring accounting staff. On top of that, it becomes necessary to have the accounts audited each year, which costs another 10,000 baht annually.

The Local Liquor Network in the North staged their protest on the same day as The Local Liquor Network in the Northeast staged a rally at the Buriram City Hall.

On March 17th, a protester asked Kwanchai Wongnitikorn, permanent secretary for Chiang Mai Provincial Authority, for tents, water and mobile toilets to be made available during the protest gathering. The authorities agreed to provide 200 tents, if they moved out of the city hall parking lot.

The protesters gathered in front of City Hall entrance to make a bonfire of their Thai Rak Thai membership cards and jackets. Another group of protesters moved to the Thai Rak Thai party office on Loi Kroh Road to tell the party’s representatives to send their proposals to PM Thaksin Shinawatra. They are insisting that they will stay 5 days awaiting a new resolution from the government and the protests will continue if the result is not satisfactory.

Controversial high-rise municipal offices in the news again

Will the mayor ever get it off the ground?

The Chiang Mai City Study Center strongly opposes the municipality’s proposal to build its high-rise municipal offices and further mounts a strong protest against any ongoing high-rise building projects and will try to stop them.

According to a usually reliable source at the study center, local residents also disagreed with the high-rise building plans in Chiang Mai City. The source said that the Chiang Mai municipality should not continue any high-rise projects near the Ping River, irrespective of whether it is a 7, 8 or 12-storey - building because these buildings are not fitting for Chiang Mai, an old heritage and tourism city.

“Chiang Mai City is famous as a historical and beautiful destination, so any municipal projects should not be allowed to be located near the riverbank as it would not be appropriate with the city’s identity and heritage. Chiang Mai should be a model city of this country,” said the spokesperson.

It is believed that Chiang Mai people do not need the high rises as they could block the views of Doi Suthep Mountain, and furthermore the high-rise building is very costly requiring a budget or loan of 200 million baht to be allocated from the Ministry of Interior.

Initially, Chiang Mai Mayor Boonlert Buranapakorn had planned to build a 12-storey building costing about 200 million baht near the Mae Ping River, but Chiang Mai people disagreed with his idea. Consequently, he decided to reduce the height from a 12-storey building to an 8-storey building, including the basement.

This project is still a controversial issue. Some parties have indicated they will continue to protest against his project. His term as mayor finishes in December this year, but the mayor still wants to continue his high-rise project.

Summer storm uproots tree, damages office and coffee shop

Do you want a lump of wood with your coffee?

Nuttanee Thaveephol

The first summer storm on March 14 caused a large tree on the Chiang Mai-Lamphun Road to fall on an office and coffee shop in Tambon Nong Phueng, Saraphi District. The office and coffee shop were destroyed. The tree was estimated to be many hundreds of years old.

The first summer storm on March 14 felled an old tree, which in turn destroyed an office and coffee shop as well as tearing down power lines and poles.

The fallen 40-meter high tree also damaged electric poles and telephone lines in the area, and the damage is considered to be many millions of baht. The Chiang Mai-Lamphun Road in Saraphi District is covered by large trees along both sides. Residents have complained that there are always accidents from broken branches or fallen trees because of their age.

The Meteorological Center reported that the westerly trough in Myanmar had moved through northern Thailand, resulting in thundershowers with gusting winds and hail in some areas of northern Thailand.

Malaysian government interested in the One Tambon - One Product concept

Supatatt Dangkrueng

Following on from the last visit to Chiang Mai by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Muhammad, where he expressed interest in the One Tambon - One Product project, we were hosts to a two-day visit of Malaysian government officials.

The Malaysian delegation listens to the One Tambon One Product lecture at city hall.

The 48 delegates from the Agricultural Department of Malaysia, led by their assistant director, Flarida Mohammed, inspected the best of Chiang Mai products. In the morning, they dropped by the Department of Export Promotion center to see the products at the northern region’s permanent exhibition.

Afterwards they visited city hall to attend a special lecture on the Chiang Mai brand name as it applies to the One Tambon - One Product. Udom Maneekat, chief Chiang Mai Community Development officer, and Wiphada Treesat, director of Commercial Affairs Chiang Mai were guest speakers.

Forty-seven of our best products were presented to the delegation, including Teen Joke woven cloth, wickerwork, wood carvings, preserved foods, snacks and bamboo umbrellas. At the conclusion, the delegation was taken to visit the Huay Hong Krai Royal Development Study center.

Iraq conflict - EGAT has enough generating capacity says governor

Ampai Kantawong

The governor of the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) stated that the war between Iraq and the United States will not affect electricity generation and there has already been a team on standby to cover any fuel shortage.

Sittiporn Rattanopass, EGAT’s governor said in Chiang Rai Province that despite any war, electricity supply would be maintained. However, the day-to-day situation will be reported to the Integrated Energy Center, but he felt that there was no cause for alarm.

Governor Sittiporn also said that there was no trading in high voltage electricity between Thailand and Burma, and the lines connected along the border were low voltage electricity provided by the Provincial Electricity Authority.

Storm damage in Nan results in 2.5 million baht loss

Autsadaporn Kamthai

Namuen District in Nan Province was hit last week by a rogue summer storms. Residences, temples and government offices were damaged with damages estimated to be about a 2.5 million baht.

The full extent has not yet been recorded, but so far there have been 181 residences destroyed by the storm and 7 people injured. Altogether there were 14 villages that suffered varying degrees of storm damage.

The Namuen district chief organized assistance for local people with the removal of wreckage, temporary repairs to houses and emergency food and supplies. This involved over 100 police and volunteers in the district.

Nan Governor Suwat Choksuwattanasakul was made aware of the local predicament and the storm damage, and was satisfied that all that could be done has been effected.

7 million baht earmarked for Denchai Railway Station improvements

The State Railways of Thailand and the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) are working together to improve Denchai Railway Station as the gateway to improved tourism in the region.

Denchai District in Phrae has many tourist attractions and is the transportation hub for the neighboring provinces of Nan, Phayao and Chiang Rai. The director of Tourism Planning Division of TAT, Suraphol Sawetseranee, is supporting the project and is setting maps of the region’s tourist attractions at the railway station.

The government has set aside a budget of seven million baht for the work planned this year and it is hoped that the standards in the station will be improved to world levels. In addition, this project is expected to also provide improvements to the railway route Denchai-Chiang Rai, which will be linking up with neighboring countries in the very near future, which should provide an economic boost for Phrae Province.

Electric school bus shuttle finally runs out of batteries

The US led Iraq conflict blamed

Nuttanee Thaveephol

Chiang Mai Municipality has finally admitted that the electric shuttles project is not going ahead because there are no imported batteries from the US due to the expected war in the Gulf. Students are now being told they have to wait for another project called Euro bus as a replacement.

Panyapol Mongkolcharoen, chief of the municipal commerce bureau said that Chiang Mai Municipality has had to change the electric school bus transportation plan again, a project that has been continually postponed since October last year.

“We are back to the beginning of the transportation development project after the electric shuttle struck lack of batteries problems and high maintenance costs could not be overcome,” Panyapol said.

The municipality is trying to solve this conundrum by initiating a new project, called Euro bus, which is much more energy efficient than the usual buses. Panyapol informed Chiangmai Mail that there would be one or two of the 17-seater Euro buses running in Charoen Prathet Road instead and there might be some red minibuses that will join the program during peak hours next semester.

After the big drug busts, provincial governors state their results

Supatatt Dangkrueng

The governors and deputy governors from eight provincial authorities jointly promised to suppress the drug trade. As witness to this, they stated the figures from their areas of responsibility.

Governors and deputy governors from 8 provinces with representatives from the 3rd Army Region and Office of Narcotics Control Board announce the results of drug suppression.

Those who attended a joint meeting were Chiang Mai Governor Pisit Khetphasook, Chiang Rai Governor Narin Panichkit, Lamphun Governor Tawat Satiennam, Nan Governor Suwat Chokesuwatthanasakul, Phayao Governor Somsak Boonplueng, Lampang Deputy Governor Direk Kongleeb, Phrae Deputy Governor Nakorn Boonprasert, and Mae Hong Son Deputy Governor Chana Naksuriya.

Focusing on Chiang Mai, Governor Pisit said that during the period February 1 - March 9, the results of suppression were that 782 people surrendered; there were 5 extra judicial killings and 97 deaths from unknown causes. The authorities confiscated 94,000 speed pills, 78 properties and assets valued at 16 million baht. In addition, they seized a methamphetamine manufacturing machine, which could produce more than a thousand pills a day.

In Chiang Rai, Governor Narin said, “Chiang Rai is unfortunately well known for its ya ba marketplace.” There was intensive suppression before the government launched the war against drugs and 36 ya ba networks have been caught and goods confiscated to the value of more than 400 million baht. After February 1, the suppression was judged to be at 40 percent of the target, lower than that set by the Interior Ministry. Governor Narin, however, insisted that the suppression in his province was continuous with more intensive operations.

Lamphun Governor Tawat Satiennam said his provincial authority has achieved the Minister of Interior ‘s evaluation, with 55 percent, including 608 traffickers surrendered and 4,269 drug users being reported to the authorities.

In Nan Province, Governor Suwat Chokesuwatthanasakul remarked that in Nan there were no extra judicial killings, but they had arrested 554 dealers and 4,053 users. And he hoped that by the end of April, 90 percent of drugs in Nan would be wiped out.

In Phayao, an alleged transit route for drugs, Phayao Governor Somsak Boonplueng said they are working hard to stem the drug flow and are cracking down on drugs above the target at 60 percent of 1,057 dealers on the black list.

The deputy governor of Lampang, Direk Kongleeb said they have arrested 208 dealers, 26 government officials and one person has been killed. The war against drugs begins at school, where students will point out drug users and dealers and keep watching for them.

Nakorn Boonprasert, the deputy Phrae governor, said he was satisfied with the results of suppression. He predicts they will reach 50 percent suppression goal of drug dealers and 75 percent of drug users and they had already seized assets valued at 27 million baht.

At Mae Hong Son Province, Deputy Governor Chana Naksuriya said there were 7 districts connected to 3 states of the neighboring Burma. They resisted drug smuggling through Thailand by using night patrols using village volunteers in all areas.

Chiang Mai City’s red minibuses stick a toe in the water

Agreement reached on fixed routes for rush hours

Nuttanee Thaveephol

Nakhon Lanna Transportation Cooperatives Limited has just agreed to introduce some red minibuses serving fixed routes during the peak hours. Panyapol Mongkolcharoen, chief of the municipal commerce bureau said that the municipality is reviewing the 19 new bus routes for the 30 red minibuses that will shortly join the project.

The pilot busses will run on the fixed routes only 2 hours a day from 7-9 a.m. The municipality will pay 200 baht for each bus daily as income assurance. That will cost the municipal coffers about 180,000 baht per month.

Previously, the red minibus cooperatives president insisted that the municipality pay 600 baht for each bus per day if the local administration wanted all the red minibus drivers to join the fixed route scheme. However, the municipality would not accept the proposal because it would cost more than a million baht every day.

Chiang Mai Mayor Boonlert Buranupakorn said, “Actually, if the red minibuses joined the project, they would certainly get enough income because city people still need public transportation and running on the fixed routes can make the buses get more customers.”

The project will be expanded if the minibuses find that it is possible to earn suitable income by running on the fixed routes.

Dots cured me - it will cure you too

Supatatt Dangkrueng

March 24 each year is designated Tuberculosis Day by the World Health Organization (WHO). This year’s slogan for TB Day is ‘Dots cured me - it will cure you too’ hoping to eradicate the disease from the world.

The Office of Communicable Disease Control, Region 10 Chiang Mai is launching a campaign to assist understanding and awareness of TB, as well as prevention and eradication from Thailand.

Dr Songwut Hutamai, director of the office, remarked that the situation regarding TB in 6 provinces in upper northern Thailand shows patient numbers are still increasing.

The preferred treatment is called Dots: Directly Observed Treatment, Short Course and has been used in Thailand since 1996. Patients must receive treatment by taking continuous medication for six months.

Figures indicate that 58.2 percent have been cured but 22.4 percent have died. Most of the deaths are HIV/AIDS patients. It is difficult to eradicate such a disease that is passed on by coughing, he said.

Anyone who has a cough for more than 3 weeks must go to see a doctor to have a sputum test carried out. TB can be cured if you take pills regularly and follow the doctor’s instructions.

Drug suppression efforts go online

Supatatt Dangkrueng

The Government Public Relations Office, Region 3 Chiang Mai (upper northern region) has set up a Joint (Pool) Information Center for Drug Suppression in the Upper Northern Region, covering 8 provinces in the north of Thailand.

(L to R) Athichai Tonkanya, MC of the television program Everyday on TV Channel 11, Duan Intha and Pol Lt Col Viroj Kesaporn stay tuned to 93.25 Mhz every evening.

Director Jintana Phanfak broadcast live on TV Channel 11 during the official opening ceremony of the Joint Information Center for Drugs Suppression in the Upper Northern Region.

Miss Jintana Phanfak, the director, said that the office has set up the center with cooperation from other government organizations, private organizations and people in the region’s 8 provinces. Work commenced on the center on February 18, and the official opening ceremony was held on March 11.

The goal of the center is to gather any important information and inform the public via television and radio, broadcasting from 5.30 to 6.00 p.m. every day on radio 93.25 Mhz and 5.15 to 5.30 p.m. on TV Channel 11.

There is also a website where you can see up to the minute information on drug suppression. To contact the center or pass on any important information regarding drugs, please call at the Joint Information Center for Drugs Suppression in Upper Northern Region 053 284 178 and 053 284 179 and fax number 053 283 788 and 053 283 740.

Lampang provincial authorities finger drug tainted government officials

Autsadaporn Kamthai and Ampai Kuntawong

The hunt for drug rings continues, with Lampang provincial authorities closing in. Lampang Governor Chalermpol Prateepanich said that at present there are 26 government officials suspected of being involved with drugs on the province’s blacklist. They have already found enough evidence that 7 of these officials have been sufficiently involved with drugs and have therefore been fired from their positions.

The other 19 officials will be closely watched, but as yet there is insufficient evidence to prove their guilt.

The Lampang governor also mentioned that in Lampang, about 1 million baht has already been confiscated from drug dealers who law enforcement officials had clear proof of involvement in the drug trade, information that was related to the Anti Money Laundry Office (AMLO).

Even though some drug dealers have surrendered, the criminal cases against them will still proceed. The dealers’ property will be confiscated and the individuals sued. After judgment in court, the person who informed the police would be rewarded with 30% of the confiscated property.

Ya ba cost increases to 400 baht

Law of supply and demand pushes up price

The Office of Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) stated that the domestic price for ya ba is increasing up to 300-400 baht. Teerapat Santimetaneedol, deputy secretary of the ONCB said that the war on drugs has been quite successful, especially in the area of suppression of drug production, dealers and users.

The ONCB also expects that drug related violence would not escalate because most of the influential drug barons have already fled from the North of Thailand.

The government, in conjunction with the police, the Anti Money Laundering Office (AMLO), and the ONCB have located and confiscated large amounts of property, but all concerned agencies and units will still have to be watchful, especially at the borders.

A reliable source informed Chiangmai Mail that there is a huge shipment of methamphetamine pills waiting to be imported and transported through the country.

With the increase in ya ba prices, this has prompted an increase in the number of ‘glue sniffers’, an unfortunate backlash, as addiction to this substance is potentially even more dangerous.

Third Army ready to crack down on Thai-Burma border villages

Commander calls for AMLO to speed up its operations

Ampai Kantawong and Autsadaporn Kamthai

Lt. Gen. Udomchai Ongkasing, commander of the Third Army Region said that the army has launched measures to investigate at least 46 border villages to weaken the power of drug dealers and to strengthen local communities.

Initially, the army sent its soldiers to be stationed at the targeted villages to obstruct drug dealers’ movements. Lt. Gen. Udomchai said for the time being, there was no need to impose a curfew because this could produce international criticism. Instead, the army would send out thousands of troops into the borderlands.

Lt. Gen. Udomchai suggested that the money confiscated from drug dealers should be used to pay for anti drug operations. He also said that the Anti Money Laundering Office (AMLO) should be located in Northern region to speed up the confiscation process since Chiang Rai Province has done the best job in drug suppression.

However, the commander was concerned with the degree of cooperation between the soldiers, police and government officials as with insufficient information it makes the job of suppression not effective.

The government must negotiate an agreement with Burma over controlling minority groups, especially the Red Wa. The Third Army Region is insisting it will continue to carry on the drug suppression measures, even though the government war on drugs campaign will be officially ended this April.

Assistant village headman shot dead, another man injured

Chaiyot Yongcharoenchai

Assistant village headman, Boontham Pheamphun, from Song Kwae Tai village in Koh Kha, Lampang, was shot and killed while having his hair cut. The crime took place in the early morning of March 10 in Tambon Na Saeng.

According to the Koh Kha police, one of the killers, wearing a helmet, shot Boontham through the forehead, the right side of his head and right cheek. With such massive head injuries, he died immediately. The killer then jumped on the back of an accomplice’s motorcycle and they made their escape.

When they arrived at a bridge to cross to Song Kwae Pathana Village, Boonyean Satham, the former village headman of Song Kwae Pathana village abused the two criminals because they were riding too fast and making a loud noise. The criminals then turned on him and shot him three times. Fortunately, the bullets did not hit any vital spot, hitting him in the shoulder, injuring him but not seriously.

Police are assuming that the crime was the result of personal or business conflicts; however, it is believed that both of the victims never had any enemies or any problems with anyone in their villages before. Investigation is still continuing.

100 million ya ba pills unable to cross into Thailand

Third Army Region commander-in-chief predicts influx into Laos

Lt. Gen. Udomchai Ongkasingha, the Third Army Region commander-in-chief said that there are still more than 100 million methamphetamine pills waiting to be delivered into Thailand, but due to the concentrated supervision, the shipments have stalled.

Since the Third Army Region has now gone on the offensive, putting pressure on the drug syndicates, this action will be continued because Lt. Gen. Udomchai Ongkasingha believes the government’s 3 months is not sufficient to get rid of ya ba from all of Thailand.

Despite the volume of drugs dealers are attempting to transfer across the border, the commander in chief does not believe that the big drug syndicates will escape within Thailand. Lt. Gen. Udom said that the frontier from Chiang Rai to Tak Province is being intensively supervised. He said that the drug dealers might flee to Laos or Myanmar or other less intensively overseen areas.

Lt. Gen. Udom has told Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra there was no change in the army’s policy because it had already proceeded on the correct path. Military training can be used in many ways to put pressure on the dealers.

Thailand, China and Myanmar join forces against drugs

Thailand and two neighboring countries adjacent to the Golden Triangle, a notorious source of drugs production in the region, are joining forces in tackling drugs problems.

Narintr Panitchkit, Governor of Chiang Rai announced that representatives of Thailand, China and Myanmar attended a conference in this northern resort province to jointly work out on strategies to address drugs problems.

Narintr inaugurated and presided over the opening ceremony of the conference on March 14. “The conference was aimed to seek cooperation among the three neighboring countries in narcotic prevention and suppression,” he said. “Ways and strategies to concretely tackle the drugs problems were discussed,” he added.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra conceded he was informed by intelligence sources that drug gangs outside the country had set a cash reward of 80 million baht for anybody who successfully assassinates him.

“It’s risky for me, I know, to declare war against drugs with decisive suppression. But I must go ahead with the policy to create the drugs-free society for our younger generations. I’m getting old already, whatever will be, will be,” Thaksin told reporters.

The Thai leader said, however, that he will use a bulletproof car as part of security measures provided for him by authorities concerned. (TNA)