HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Road deaths mar Thailand’s New Year celebration

Traditional Craftsmen put their work on display

Martello Real Estate moves to Chiang Mai

Mae Hong Son to get solar power

A glimpse of tradition

The cream of SE Asian youth orchestras to perform in Chiang Rai

Over 100,000 fish get new homes

Phase 2B of Central Airport Plaza finished

New bridge between Thailand and Burma to be built

CMU to become major IT network center

Chumpol Chutima selected as the new CCC president

Another day- another dealer

Chiang Mai fingers 54 officials in drug war

American passes away in guesthouse

Hunan pair arrested for mobile phone theft

3rd Army were concerned about drug movement over Songkran

Road deaths mar Thailand’s New Year celebration

Road fatalities during Thai New Year celebrations, when water fights and drunkenness often lead to a staggering number of accidents, have jumped from last year despite government efforts to limit the carnage, officials said Sunday.

Some 198 people have died on Thailand’s roads in the two days since festivities began to mark the New Year, or Songkran, according to figures released Sunday (when Chiangmai Mail went to press) by the Public Health Ministry. Last year, 142 people died during the same period.

Another 7,706 people have been injured since Friday, when millions of Thais began traveling for family reunions across the country, the ministry said.

More than 90 percent of the victims were riding motorcycles without helmets, it said.

Deputy Prime Minister Jaturon Chaisaeng said a government safety campaign had failed to bring down the Songkran death toll.

During last year’s holiday, 567 people died on the roads and nearly 38,000 were injured. This year, the Public Health Ministry has deployed doctors at 900 accident-prone areas around the country to try to bring down the number.

Jaturon said drunk driving and riding motorbikes without helmets contributed to the high number of deaths this year.

Authorities banned high-pressure water guns and ordered women not to wear revealing tops, considered immodest in Thailand’s generally conservative Buddhist society, during the April 12-16 festival.

No fines or punishments were imposed, and authorities admitted the ban was virtually impossible to enforce.

Traditional Craftsmen put their work on display

Exhibition runs through April 30

Supatatt Dangkrueng

The Faculty of Fine Arts, Chiang Mai University (CMU), in cooperation with the Chiang Mai Provincial Authority, have organized a “Follow the Footsteps of Traditional Craftsmen” exhibition at CMU’s Art Museum. The exhibition began on April 9 and runs through April 30.

A Sa Lah (traditional craftsmen) explains the intricacies of his work to Governor Pisit Khetphasook (2nd right).

Youths work with silver, creating art by using methods they learned from an older generation.

The opening ceremony on April 9 was presided over by Chiang Mai Governor Pisit Khetphasook, who then toured the exhibition to view art pieces created by traditional craftsmen, well known as “Sa Lah” in the northern language.

The exhibition has been organized to show off the fabulous works of locally talented, traditional craftsmen and artisans. Textile weaving, basketry, pottery, wood crafting and more are on display.

A Sa Lah (traditional craftsmen) molds clay into a sculptured work of art.

A traditional craftswoman, dressed in Lanna clothes, cuts palm leaves to make artificial flowers.

Two young women are deep in concentration as they decorate lanterns.

Organizers also hope this exhibition may inspire the new generation to continue to preserve traditional crafts passed down from generation to generation. To help achieve this, organizers held a workshop that ran April 9-15.

The traditional arts and crafts exhibition will continue at the CMU Art Museum until April 30.

Martello Real Estate moves to Chiang Mai

Over 150 properties up for auction

Martello, a leading international real estate firm that has been operating successfully in Thailand since 1997, has now opened an office in the North of Thailand.

To mark the opening of this office, Martello is holding a series of auctions throughout Thailand. The first auction will be held at the end of April in Chiang Mai. Ms Rattya, regional asset manager said, “We have over 150 properties for our first auction and we are planning future auctions over the next few months.”

Phil Alexander, the president of Martello Holdings, said that Martello has undertaken an aggressive expansion policy in Thailand and expects to have 10 new offices open by the year end.

Martello is in its sixth year of real estate and restructuring operations in Thailand. The Martello group operates in Europe, North and South America and the Asia Pacific Region. In Thailand Martello provides a full range of real estate activities from a number of regional offices, including Phuket, Pattaya, Bangkok and now Chiang Mai.

For further information about Martello and its upcoming auction, phone Khun Pitinut on 02-238 1000 or email [email protected]

Mae Hong Son to get solar power

Solar plant to be located in Tambon Pang Moo

Ampai Kuntawong

Aphichart Dilogsophon, director of research and development and head of the generating and distribution of electricity from solar cell demonstration project, said that the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) solar energy project for Mae Hong Son is proceeding according to schedule.

The solar cell power plant project in Mae Hong Son will generate power to help supply the distribution systems of already existing generating power stations. These include the Department of Energy Development and Promotion’s Mae Sa Nga and Pha Bong hydro-electricity power plants and EGAT’s diesel electricity power plant.

The solar power plant will also be used for conducting research on this form of power generation. Director Aphichart said that in the beginning the project will be operating in the Muang district, and the solar cell power plant with 500 Kilowatt capacity will be located in the vicinity of the diesel electricity power plant, Tambon Pang Moo, Mae Hong Son.

This project is being supported by a 168 million baht budget from the Funds for Energy Promotion and Conservation, plus another 26 million to be allocated by EGAT itself.

A glimpse of tradition

In the middle of the hustling and bustling Night Bazaar area, both Europeans and Thais made merit and poured water over various Buddha statues. A very welcome gesture compared to the wild activities which went on in other areas of the city.

The cream of SE Asian youth orchestras to perform in Chiang Rai

Autsadaporn Kamthai

The Southeast Asian Youth Orchestra and Wind Ensemble (SAYOWE) will perform for the first time in Chiang Rai, at the Mae Fah Luang University April 23 - 25.

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Wanchai Sirichana, president of Mae Fah Luang University, said that the SAYOWE wonderfully displays the musical ability of youths aged between 14-23, from 9 countries in southeast Asia including Burma, Vietnam, Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand.

From the initial 376 young musicians who applied to perform, only 132 were finally selected. These 132 musicians are divided into 2 groups, with 69 musicians for the symphony orchestra and 63 for the wind ensemble. All of these young musicians came from 14 cities in SE Asia including Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Nakhon Ratchasima, Songkhla, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh, Jakarta, Manila, Rangoon, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Vientiane and Phnom Penh.

The SAYOWE project was initiated by Thai Deputy Prime Minister Jaturon Chaisaeng, supported by Adisorn Piangket. The coordination center of the youth orchestra is located at the Musical Instrument College, Mahidol University (Salaya).

On April 23, wind ensemble, conducted by Dr. Eugene Corporon, will perform and ticket prices start as low as 100 baht. The performance will start from 7 p.m., and will be held on the 2nd floor of Mae Fah Luang University Building D1.

The symphony orchestra, conducted by Terje Mikkelsen, will perform on April 25, starting at 7 p.m. at the C4 building. Tickets for the symphony orchestra are 800, 500, 300, 200 and 100 baht.

For more information contact the Public Relations Department, Mae Fah Luang University, tel. 053 916 027-9.

Over 100,000 fish get new homes

Supatatt Dangkrueng

Chiang Mai Governor Pisit Khetphasook led Chiang Mai people to release sixty thousand fish into the city moat near Thapae Gate on April 9, and another fifty thousand fish were released on April 13 at Mae Ngad Dam in Mae Taeng District.

Governor Pisit Khetphasook presided over the release of tens of thousands of fish into the Chiang Mai moat.

Everyone enjoyed the activity.

Sixty thousand fish found new homes in the Chiang Mai moat.

Chiang Mai Provincial Fishery Office chief, Paibool Runphiboolsophit, said that since 1984, April 13 each year has been designated as National Fishery Day, and over the years, millions of fish have been released into natural water resources to celebrate the day, which also happens to be Songkran Day.

As part of the tradition, people are encouraged to refrain from fishing on April 13 to preserve and realize the importance of marine life. It is considered as a way to make merit during Songkran, the northern Thai New Year celebration.

Releasing fish ceremonies were held in many areas all over the country, putting some 99 million fish into water sources.

Phase 2B of Central Airport Plaza finished

Northern village and a new aquarium prime attractions

Autsadaporn Kamthai

Kobchai Jiratiwat, the managing director of Central Pattana Public Company Limited, stated that the construction and expansion of phase 2B of Central Airport Plaza is finished and the plaza is ready to serve both Chiang Mai residents and tourists. The expansion over the 32 thousand square meter area cost over 2.13 billion baht.

The front of the northern village at the Central Airport Plaza, phase 2B.

Bringing the sea to the highlands - the huge new salt-water aquarium.

In the new expansion, the company has set up a Northern Village area on 5,300 square meters to support the “One Tambon - One Product” scheme. The northern village, decorated in Lanna style, is a center for northern handicrafts, ornaments, artists and local artisans.

A new attraction is the huge aquarium of 5 meters in diameter and 3.30 meters in height. It is the first aquarium in the northern region with colorful sea fish and various types of corals, bringing the beauty and charm of the underwater world for Chiang Mai residents to experience. The aquarium is located on G floor.

New bridge between Thailand and Burma to be built

Mae Sai to benefit from increasing trade

Chaiyot Yongcharoenchai

The Thai government has approved, in principle, the budget necessary to build the second Thailand-Myanmar Bridge in the Chiang Rai border district of Mae Sai. It is expected that this will stimulate the economy and tourism and strengthen bilateral relations between Thailand and Myanmar in this region.

The Thai government has allocated 38 million baht to build the connecting bridge, as the old Mae Sai-Thachilek Bridge is now very narrow and not suitable for transportation. This new bridge will be built 1.5 km away from the old one. Customs officials and other authorities are looking to secure 200 rai of land for the construction. The project could start within this year.

The Mae Sai district customs officer said that when this new bridge is finished Chiang Rai will become the center of business and investment and Mekong travel by having better transportation and facilities.

CMU to become major IT network center

Autsadaporn Kamthai

Chiang Mai University (CMU) is preparing to become a major IT Network Center in response to the government’s plan to develop Chiang Mai as an IT City.

CMU President Dr. Niphon Tuwanont said CMU is an important supporter of the Chiang Mai IT City development project. CMU has an important role in providing IT personnel and publicizing information about IT systems, he said.

CMU is already well on the way to becoming the first e-University. At present CMU already uses IT systems in the management of registration and enrolments, and internal communications, for over 50% of the work.

Surapong Suebwonglee, minister of information communication technology, said that the government is ready to support Chiang Mai’s drive to become an IT City, since it has seen the success of such developments in India. India has transformed itself from being a poor nation with few well-educated people, into a world leader in computer technology.

He said Thai youngsters are interested in IT systems because so many use the Internet from a very young age. However, the government is still concerned about computer use among young Thais because many are preoccupied with on-line games.

The government has responded to this concern by setting rules for Internet cafes, such as user age limits, time limitation, and registering Internet cafes and online games.

Chumpol Chutima selected as the new CCC president

Chumpol Chutima was chosen as the 14th president of the Chiang Mai Chamber of Commerce (CCC), succeeding former president Rachan Veeraphan.

Chumpol, who was vice president of the CCC and manager of the Old Chiang Mai Cultural Center, said he promises to work closely with CCC members.

He was selected, together with the 31 new CCC committee members, at the CCC general meeting held late last month at the Novotel Hotel, Chiang Mai. He said that he would follow his former president’s main working policies, and would provide knowledge on free trade under the framework of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

He said he believes the CCC should have an active role in the Quadrangle Economic Development Plan in the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS), which has been pending since the 1997 economic crisis, promoting the development of transport and communications including river, road and railways projects among the countries in this development scheme.

He said that he would work closely with his CCC members and has aims at developing an Information Technology management system, updating technology applications, and integrating up-to-date business development plans for Chiang Mai.

Another day- another dealer

Chaiyot Yongcharoenchai

Pha Muang Task Force troops raided a hill tribe village in Chiang Dao District in their search for drugs, arresting one man in possession of a number of ya ba (amphetamines), heroin and raw opium.

Maj. Manas Paorik, the commander of Pha Muang Task Force commanding the 3rd Cavalry Regiment’s Special Task Force led the sweep on the village.

Uthai Doiking, a villager, was charged but an accomplice, Awu Saewu escaped. The troops confiscated 8,000 tablets of ya ba, some heroin, and 7 kg of raw opium.

Personal assets were also seized, including a gun, a car, 3 motorcycles and 4 trucks. The accused is confined at the Chiang Dao police station.

Chiang Mai fingers 54 officials in drug war

Another 10 under suspicion, but still small fry

Autsadaporn Kamthai

The anti drug war in Chiang Mai has exceeded the 75% target set by the Interior Ministry during the last three months of operation. Chiang Mai Governor Pisit Khetphasook has now declared he is set to continue the campaign to make Chiang Mai a drug-free city before August next year.

The Chiang Mai governor said that 54 government officials have been punished after having been found to be involved with drugs. All guilty officials were fired and relocated from their prior areas. However, there are still about 10 officials suspected of involvement with drugs and are being investigated.

Governor Pisit had commanded all provincial officers to keep a close watch on drug dealers who might take the opportunity to sell their drugs during Songkran.

American passes away in guesthouse

Foul play not expected

Supatatt Dangkrueng

Ramon Trust, a 46-year-old American tourist, was found dead on April 8 in his rented room at a guesthouse on Chaiyaphum Soi 1. No injuries were evident on the body, and it appeared that the man had died some hours before discovery of the body.

Mrs. Watcharaporn Lucksup, a guesthouse staff member said that Ramon had stayed at the guesthouse for 3 months. She last saw him on the night of April 7 after he came back and he appeared to be intoxicated. “It was a normal situation because he got drunk very often,” she said.

When Ramon did not go out during April 8, Mrs Watcharaporn felt that something was amiss, so she knocked on the door and called him but there was no answer. The guesthouse staff then broke into his room but found he was already deceased.

His body was taken for autopsy at the Maharaj Nakhon Chiang Mai Hospital to ascertain the cause of death.

Hunan pair arrested for mobile phone theft

Used a variation of “bait and switch” to steal from department stores

Supatatt Dangkrueng and Ampai Kuntawong

Zhu Jianping, 30, and Luo Goncheng, 24, from Hunan were arrested last week for suspicion of stealing mobile phones from local department store counters. The two allegedly used a variation of the “bait and switch” method to distract clerks.

Luo Goncheng (left) and Zhu Jianping (right) have been charged with stealing mobile phones from department stores.

On April 7, Preedaporn Akethanawong, a sales clerk at Tesco Lotus Kamthieng Department store notified Pol Col Boonrak Khampraphan, police inspector of Chang Puek Police Station, that at around 9.15 p.m., the two Hunan tourists stopped by his booth feigning interest in a 16,900 baht phone. They allegedly took it out of the box for a closer look, then told the clerk they weren’t interested after all, and gave the box back to the clerk, then left. Preedaporn said that when she opened the box later, it was empty.

Investigating police were able to get pictures of the two suspects off the store’s security video, which they distributed to other convenience and department stores in the area with a warning for clerks to be on the lookout for the two suspects.

Victims in Lampang, Surat Thani, Sara Buri and Samut Prakarn provinces responded, telling Chiang Mai police that the suspects had gotten away with the same scam at their stores over the past few months.

A few days later, security guards at Big C Super Center in Chiang Mai saw the two suspects enter the store and approach the mobile phone counter, so they detained them and called the police.

Once at the station, both denied all accusations. However, police weren’t impressed and remanded both suspects in custody.

3rd Army were concerned about drug movement over Songkran

Yong Kha village development touted as a success

Supatatt Dangkrueng and Autsadaporn Kamthai

Lt Gen Picharnmate Muangmanee, the commander of the Third Army Region was concerned about drug movement during the Songkran festivities. After his recent visit to the boundary areas, he ordered the military officers to keep close watch on drug traffickers believing that they might seize an opportunity during the Songkran festival to smuggle drugs into Thailand.

The commander said one solution in the border regions was a project initiated by the Thai government in collaboration with Mae Fah Luang Foundation, to construct and establish public utilities, provide job training courses for hill tribe people in Ban Yong Kha or Wa controlled communities. This has been a very successful project, he said.

He stated that in Yong Kha village, Burma, there has been construction and establishment of streets, irrigation systems, public health and schools and there would soon be the construction of a hospital.

The project also aims to support villagers in planting soybean and sending their production to Thailand, which will have advantages for both countries.