NEWS
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Northern Meteorological Center says oppressive heat will continue

Salween Dam protests continue

Royal Ploughing Ceremony held on May 8

Northern Old Thai Medicine Traditional Hospital to become massage coordination center

Drive for Peace commences next month

Buddhist Holy Day of Wisakhabucha - May 15

23 million Mexican sunflowers to be planted in Chiang Rai

Government sponsored computer project begins

Government to back science and technology in Chiang Mai

Prolong Life (Sueb Chata) ceremony to be conducted for Mae Ta Chang Basin

Government announces concept for Chiang Mai in the next decade

1000-year-old world drumming competition for Lamphun

Use Thai herbs for health and beauty

Design a symbol for the Bangkok World Conservation Congress 2004

Liposuction Clinic to stay closed

Drug dealer shot dead near Chiangmai Mail offices

Young motorcycle thieves arrested

Northern Meteorological Center says oppressive heat will continue

Warns of possible cyclone activity mid-month

Nuttanee Thaveephol

The Northern Meteorological Center predicts the hot weather will continue until at least another week or two, and has issued a warning to beware of heavy downpours, flash flooding and cyclonic activity in mid-May.

Children celebrate their summer with a swim in the Ping River under hot, sunny skies. The Meteorological Center says that the heat will continue until mid-May.

This week, the expected minimum temperature is 14-23 C with maximums of 32-36 degrees Celsius in Chiang Mai. However, the Northern Meteorological Center predicts maximum temperatures could reach as high as 40-43 degrees Celsius in some areas, especially in Mae Hong Son, Lampang, Nan, Uttaradit, Tak, and Phetchabun provinces.

The center also has forecast a tropical cyclone from the Andaman Sea, likely in mid-May, will bring heavy downpours and flash flooding. The westerly trough carrying moisture from the Andaman Sea is moving across Northern Thailand, and accompanied by a confluence of south-westerly and south-easterly winds is producing scattered rain-showers and isolated heavy falls with gusty winds.

People in low-lying areas should be prepared for minor inundation and follow up weather information.

The mean maximum temperature is about the same as it was last year, and the rainfall amounts we’ve received so far are considered to be normal for this time of year. Relative humidity has been 55-90%.


Salween Dam protests continue

Autsadaporn Kamthai

Residents in Mae Sariang District, Mae Hong Son last weekend protested in front of the River House Hotel, where Dr. Kraisak Choonhavan, Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs chairman, and the Salween Dam committee were staying during their visit to collect information on the area. Since most everyone seems to enjoy a good protest, the crowd eventually swelled to about 50 people.

The residents, led by Chalerm Plubpluengprai, Mae Sariang Tambon Administrative Organization president, along with Pho Chuenchupri and Thanawat Khantana, provincial council members, felt that they were ill-informed about the dam projects being implemented in the area, and "demanded" that the government officials provide them with more information.

Dr. Kraisak eventually addressed the assembled throng, and told them that the dam construction was indeed an important topic, as the dam might flood approximately 300 square kilometers, which would affect areas around the Thai-Burma border. He said that because of its importance, approval for the project would need to be gained through constitutional process, and that there would need to be public hearings to address its advantages and disadvantages.

This seemed to appease the group, and they dispersed.

According to a spokesman from the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand, it is possible to construct 5 dams along the Salween River. These dams would generate 12,400 to 16,000 megawatts for both Thailand and Burma.

Two of the dams would be on the Thai-Burma border, and would affect a distance of 127 kilometers from the Salween Wildlife Conservation Zone, Mae Sariang District in Mae Hong Son to Moei River in Mae Sot District, Tak. The other 3 dams will be in Burmese territory.


Royal Ploughing Ceremony held on May 8

The annual Royal Ploughing Ceremony at Sanam Luang near the Grand Palace in Bangkok, and the accompanying Cultivation Ceremony held at the Temple of the Emerald Buddha the day before, are of great significance in Thailand. This year the events took place on May 8.

During the ceremonies, appropriate strains of different grains for cultivating are selected just prior to the planting season, and rituals are performed to interpret the year’s harvest. Grain selection is an important consideration when planting crops, as the crops rely on soil, ample rainfall and other natural factors.

The Cultivation Ceremony is also performed to help keep the different grains free from disease, producing a bountiful harvest.

His Majesty the King, accompanied by Her Majesty the Queen, always preside over the Cultivation Ceremony held at the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Phrasriratanasasadaram).

The Royal Ploughing Ceremony signals the beginning of the planting season in Thailand. Two well cared for oxen of the same color pull an ancient plough, breaking the ground so that sacred seeds may be planted. Two other oxen wait in reserve.

Two Brahman priests sprinkling sacred water along the path lead the royal procession, with its nine-tiered royal umbrella.

Two pairs of female guardians carry grain in one gold and one silver container following behind the plough, seeding the tilled ground.

Three circuits tilling the earth around Sanam Luang are completed and at the end the oxen are offered seven types of foods to select from: rice grain, corn, peas, sesame, liqueur, water and grass. Brahman priests then interpret their selection.

Following the ceremony, many people collect the seeds from the ground to keep as sacred objects promising a prosperous year, while others sow the ceremonial seeds mixed in with other seeds to sanctify the season’s crop.


Northern Old Thai Medicine Traditional Hospital to become massage coordination center

Phitsanu Thepthong

Wasant Chaichakarn, of the Chiang Mai-based Northern Old Thai Medicine Traditional Hospital, has said that Chiang Mai will be the center for health services such as hospitals, clinics, Thai traditional medical services, health spas, resorts, sports clubs, Thai traditional massage, herbal massage, aromatherapy massage, rehabilitation services, fitness, and slimming centers.

Chiang Mai-Thai traditional massage gets more and more popular among foreigners.

Wasant is one of the health - related business operators, and the representative of the Chiang Mai Private Hospital Association, and claimed that during the past 10 years, many foreigners had become interested in these kinds of services, particularly traditional massage. Chiang Mai produces 1,000 traditional massage therapists annually, he said.

The Northern Old Thai Medicine Traditional Hospital will work as the coordination center, to collect information and provide a registration service to monitor standards, ID cards, and primary research along with the Thai Traditional Massage Club. In July, a one million baht budget will be allocated to set up the coordination and information service center, he said.

For the massage therapists, the center will help develop their skills and the professional career of massage, and upgrade them to achieve a high standard. Publicity will be carried out through the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s Public Relations road show to help encourage more massage services among the public.


Drive for Peace commences next month

Autsadaporn Kamthai

Dr. Sawat Banteongsook, president of the International Educational and Cultural Exchange Program, and Phipob Pornsangsilp, the famous artist, will drive around Thailand on the "Drive for Peace - Thailand Event" to foster peace amongst Thai people around the country.

Dr Sawat, a former lecturer at Chiang Mai University, said their Drive for Peace trip would start on June 1st at the Thapae Gate, Chiang Mai. He estimated that they would drive for 5,000 kilometers and spend 1 month to complete the trip.

The Drive for Peace program was first established by the International Educational and Cultural Exchange Program along with UN and UNESCO on June 12, 2000. The former goal of the program was that a caravan would make a trip from Thailand to Turkey in order to encourage peace between the world’s peoples. Unfortunately, this program had to be postponed.

Dr. Sawat said that if the program in Thailand runs well, further programs would be extended into Asian areas. The next Asian route that is hoped for will run through Thailand-Myanmar-Bangladesh-Laos-Cambodia and Vietnam.


Buddhist Holy Day of Wisakhabucha - May 15

Celebrating the birth - enlightenment and death of the Buddha

This coming week, on May 15, one of the most venerated holidays on the Buddhist calendar will be celebrated: Wisakhabucha Day.

(Note: government offices and banks will be closed.)

Wisakhabucha Day is the most significant holy day for Buddhists around the world. It marks the beginning of the Buddhist Era 2,546 years ago, and celebrates the miracle of the Buddha being born, reaching enlightenment and passing away all on the same date.

According to scripture, Prince Siddhartha, also known as Gautama, who became the Buddha, was born in the eastern foothills of the Himalayas on the 15th day (full moon) of the sixth lunar month in 623 BC, attained enlightenment while sitting under a fig tree at the edge of the Nerunchara River on the 15th day (full moon) of the sixth lunar month in 588 BC, and then passed away at the age of 80 on the 15th day (full moon) of the sixth lunar month in 544 BC.

The word wisakabucha comes from the word wisaburanamiibucha which means to pay homage to Buddha on the day of the full moon in the month of wisaka (the sixth month).

The holy day is observed each year during May (June during leap years), determined by the lunar calendar, and is on the 15th day of the waxing moon during the 6th month of the Thai calendar. It dates back to ancient celebrations in India and Sri Lanka, and this year the day is being observed on May 15.

For this holiday, killing any kind of animal and drinking alcohol or intoxicating substances is forbidden for 3 days. Wats are to be adorned with lanterns, flowers and joss sticks as symbols of worship, and skyrockets will be lit for three days to celebrate.

The day is also designated as National Tree Day in Thailand.

Gautama (Buddha) was brought up in the family of a clan leader of regal status, sheltered from life’s miseries. Later in life, after observing a decrepit old man, a diseased man, a dead man, and a sage he realized the impermanence of earthly things and began his quest for enlightenment.

For six years he sought enlightenment through ascetic practices. He eventually decided it was not to be found in that manner and resumed the life of a wanderer living on alms. While sitting under a fig tree in a posture of meditation for what is described as a period of seven weeks, Gautama resolved not to stir until succeeding. He achieved his quest, becoming the Buddha, entering a state of Nirvana while still alive.

Whatever took place on that day was the start of Buddhism as Gautama set forth to reveal his discovery, eventually spreading into many parts of Asia. Gautama was later recognized as one in a great line of Buddhas with a concept going back to Vishnu or Siva.

The large following created over 25 centuries ago and continuing to this day is witness to the fact that something of distinct value was found, which was explained in the Buddha’s first sermon at Benares when he said the key to enlightenment is the presence of suffering.

The sermon told of the "Four Noble Truths" identifying suffering (birth, decay, illness, death and rebirth) and the failure to always be able to obtain one’s desires as the continuing antagonists in life.

Secondly, since everything has a cause, so has suffering, and when its causes and conditions are removed suffering is eliminated according to the third truth. The key is to allow the karmic effects already in existence to play out - not producing any further karmic chains. Once the cessation of desire ends, all causes have taken affect and the suffering ends, leading to discontinuing the cycle of rebirth.

The fourth truth is the path to the cessation of suffering, the "Eightfold Path" or a "middle way" between extremes of abstinence and indulgence. The steps in the "Eightfold Path" consists of: correct views, correct aspiration, correct speech, correct conduct, correct livelihood, correct effort, correct thought, and correct concentration or meditation.

Devout Buddhists consider Wisakhabucha Day as an important event and crowds of devotees will participate in ceremonies at nearby temples, making merit in the morning by bringing alms to monks and listening to sermons. Later in the evening devotees will continue assembling at temples to conduct the "Wien Tien" ceremony, walking around sacred temple grounds three times holding candles, joss sticks and flowers honoring the Buddha, the Dhamma (Buddha’s teachings) and the Sangha, the Buddhist Monastic Order.

The Thai government implemented "National Tree Day" in the year 1985 as part of a program to restore the forests and increase public awareness of the importance of preserving the natural environment. National Tree Day was designated on the same day as Wisakhabucha Day and activities include many levels of government, schools and local organizations planting trees in addition to observing Wisakhabucha Day.


23 million Mexican sunflowers to be planted in Chiang Rai

Autsadaporn Kamthai

In an effort to beautify the countryside, Chiang Rai is set to plant 23 million Bua Tong or Mexican sunflowers over the next few weeks. Narin Panichkij, Chiang Rai governor, stated that the province has a policy of developing the beauty of tourist places to attract and impress tourists and it was felt that planting millions of Bua Tong flowers in the mountainous areas would achieve this.

The province planted 20 thousand flowers on May 7, on the occasion of National Agriculture Day, at the viewpoint area of Huay Sai Maan village, Rim Kong, Chiang Khong district of Chiang Rai, and on May 8, the residents and officials in the province also planted the flowers in the area of Hot Spring, Tambon Doi Hang, Muang District.

The Chiang Rai governor also said that according to the plan, flowers will be planted in Muang, Chiang Khong, Chiang Saen, Mae Sai, Mae Fah Luang, Wiang Kaen districts and on June 1, more flowers will be planted in Muang, Mae Suai, Thoeng, Wiang Kaen, Chiang Saen and Mae Fah Luang districts.


Government sponsored computer project begins

But only 100,000 computers available now, not the promised million

Autsadaporn Kamthai

The Eua Arthorn project to make low price computers available for Thai residents has begun. Dr. Surapong Suebwonglee, minister of Information Communication Technology (ICT) stated that Eua Arthorn Computer project has supplied the first lot of 100,000 computers at the special low price of 10,900 baht to government officials and low income earners who submit a request during May 10-18.

Eligible people can submit their requests directly at the Book and Technology Fair at Muang Thong Thani. After that, the submission form will be available at Government Savings Bank and Krung Thai Bank for 3 weeks. Both of the banks will be the creditors and set conditions of repayment installments. The computers will be delivered within 45 days after the submission is accepted.

Though Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra had announced that the government would provide 1 million computers for Thai residents on the Eua Arthorn project, only 100,000 computers have been provided because the project corporations could only produce 100,000 units in the last 3 months.

A spokesperson for the Government Saving Bank Region 7, Chiang Mai, believes that many Chiang Mai residents will request Eua Arthorn computers, at least as many as applied for the Eua Arthorn Home project. The project is particularly helpful for parents who want to buy computers for their children.


Government to back science and technology in Chiang Mai

Establishing technology centers at CMU and MJU

Supatatt Dangkrueng

Pinit Jarusombat, deputy minister of Science and Technology, opened technology centers at both Chiang Mai University (CMU) and Maejo University (MJU) last week. The deputy minister said the government’s project to promote technology in Chiang Mai Province is part of the plans to push Chiang Mai City as a science park under the IT City and Software Park project serving the northern region.

The technology center at Maejo University was opened on May 2, and the campus kicked off the campaign by starting a water filter project to remove rust in household water. This could benefit over one million people in the northern region.

Deputy Minister Pinit said that Chiang Mai is going to be the second science park in Thailand, after the first was built at Thammasart University. Project administrators aim to establish the province as a center of science, information technology, research, and innovation.


Prolong Life (Sueb Chata) ceremony to be conducted for Mae Ta Chang Basin

Preserving local knowledge and traditions

Nuttanee Thaveephol

Mae Ta Chang Basin committee network will organize the Prolong Life (Sueb Chata) ceremony on May 13 this year at Ban Huay Nam Loam, Hang Dong District.

Chaiyapan Prapasawat, the Community Rights Institute director said that the institute and the nationwide Basin committee network will hold the Prolong Mae Ta Chang Basin’s life ritual in order to continue local knowledge and traditions, and to encourage people to understand conservation and water resource management.

There will be many local activities, including a seminar about the community’s rights in water resource management and the government policy on this, the Prolong Life Ritual, and children’s stage performances.


Government announces concept for Chiang Mai in the next decade

Keep Chiang Mai “green”

Phitsanu Thepthong

The minister of Natural Resources and Environment, Prapat Panyachartraksa, last Saturday spoke about "Chiang Mai in the Next Decade", saying that the Thai government wants to see Chiang Mai’s environment stay green and not become polluted or destroyed.

He said, "Whenever the city’s environment or surroundings are improved, the people will get a better quality of life. The younger generations should live in a good environment, be provided good educational backgrounds, and live in an atmosphere that should be preserved."

Regarding to the ministry’s main policy and planning for regional major cities, he said most of the development is being directed towards decentralization. He also indicated that from now on, the government would try to suspend any construction projects throughout the country, especially those involved in building, road construction and others which are regarded as "hardware" projects. Instead, the Thaksin administration would produce "software" instead of hardware, such as human resources and personnel development to produce more qualified personnel.

For Chiang Mai City in the future, he added that the government would increase pollution control by using more environmental law enforcement.

He said that the local government, following the central government, would be responsible for stimulating and reforming government directions to meet the needs of the people, as the country still needs more software rather than hardware construction and development.


1000-year-old world drumming competition for Lamphun

Autsadaporn Kamthai

A "Glong Luang" drumming competition is being held this week in Lamphun as part of a festival to pay respect and homage to the most revered Buddhist relic chedi in Lamphun, the Phra Borom Mahatart Haripunchai.

Maha Jetijarn, the head of Lamphun’s Provincial Monks Council said the council has arranged the traditional festival to be held from May 8 through to the competition on May 15.

According to the Monk’s Council, May15 is the actual day for paying homage, and the day will start with a traditional presenting food to monks ceremony in the morning. After the ceremony is finished, the world championship "Glong Luang" drumming competition will take place at Lamphun’s tourist center.

Apart from the competition, there will also be competitions for northern folk songs and nail dances, said the head of Lamphun’s Provincial Monk’s Council.

Phra Borom Mahatart Haripunchai was built in 897 in the period of Phra Chao Artitraja, the 33rd king of Lamphun. The ceremony of paying homage has been continued for 1,106 years.


Use Thai herbs for health and beauty

Products on display at Kad Suan Kaew Shopping Complex

Supatatt Dangkrueng

Body lotions using Thai herbal medicines went on display at Kad Suan Kaew Shopping Complex last Saturday. Prof Pichaet Wiriyachitra, the president of Asian Nutraceutical Center, said that the center has conducted research in a new technique to promote a slim shape by using Thai herbal medicines. This consists of a body lotion containing Thai herbal medicines like kola, capsicum, and ginger.

Lovely models present the new Thai herbal lotions designed to promote a slim shape.

Pichaet Wiriyachitra, Asian Nutraceutical Center president and a scientist from the product research and development team.

This is the latest product from the institute and the product demonstration was to introduce it to the Chiang Mai public. Previously, there was a demonstration at the Central Airport Plaza during the Songkran festival and another in Bangkok.

Prof. Pichaet was also invited to present this product at the international conference of the 3rd World Congress on Medicinal and Aromatic Plants for Human Welfare held in Chiang Mai February 3-7 this year.

This product is being distributed by Asian Life Co. Ltd. (Chiang Mai Branch), telephone 053 358 276-7.


Design a symbol for the Bangkok World Conservation Congress 2004

Win fame and a 30,000 baht fortune

Autsadaporn Kamthai

The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plants has launched a contest to design the symbol for the Bangkok World Conservation Congress 2004. The chosen symbol will be used in all official congress papers and press releases.

The symbol must reflect sustainable conservation and restoration of natural resources and environments, and incorporate the words "Bangkok World Conservation Congress 2004" and "The World Conservation Union-IUCN". The symbol must also portray an elephant, since it represents a Thailand natural resource.

All winning entries become copyright of National Parks, Wildlife and Plants Department and The World Conservation Union-IUCN.

Entries must be in the hands of the organizers by May 30.

The winner will receive 30,000 baht, and two runners-up will receive 5,000 baht awards. The winner will be announced on June 16, and the awards ceremony will be held in September.

Further details are available from the office of the Bangkok World Conservation Congress 2004, room 222, Grit Samaputtho Building, 61 Paholyothin Rd, Jatujak, Bangkok, 10900 or call 02 561 4292-2, extension 912 and 913, or fax 02 940-5911.


Liposuction Clinic to stay closed

Application to reopen opposed by parents of deceased girl

Supatatt Dangkrueng

Dr. Charlie Karnchanarak, the owner of the liposuction clinic in which a teenager girl died during an operation last year, filed a request for reopening his clinic, but the girl’s parents immediately lodged an objection.

The tragedy occurred when Nong Kung (Siriporn Muima) made a decision to have liposuction in the clinic. During the operation, she succumbed and the resulting investigation required that the Charlie Clinic close, under the authority of the Public Health Ministry.

Charlie Clinic was closed on December 8, pending investigation into the cause of the young woman’s death. On April 25, Dr. Charlie filed a request to reopen his clinic, but the parents of the girl, Kamol and Bang-earn Muima, went to Chiang Mai Provincial Public Health Office to oppose Dr. Charlie’s application, as they are afraid that the clinic might be reopened while the case is still under investigation.

The case is not closed because investigators are still awaiting reports from the Medical Council, Public Prosecutor, Provincial Polices, and Chiang Mai Public Health office.

Dr. Nisit Watthanutchariya, Chiang Mai Public Health Office deputy chief officer stated that the clinic has been closed, and nothing can be tampered with. If the clinic is reopened, Dr. Charlie would be fined 30,000 baht and risks imprisonment for 3 years.


Drug dealer shot dead near Chiangmai Mail offices

Opened fire on police officers

Supatatt Dangkrueng

Arsieng Saeli, age 24, from Chiang Dao District, was shot dead on Tuesday during an attempt to escape a police drug sting.

After smoke from the gunfight had cleared, a suspected drug dealer lay dead and police had taken another 77,600 amphetamine pills off the streets.

Undercover officers from the Chiang Mai Police Drug Suppression and Prevention unit, led by Pol. Lt. Col. Pinit Puisuwan, had set up a sting operation to arrest the suspect.

The suspect delivered 77,600 amphetamine pills to a local hotel, where undercover police lay in wait. When the suspect realized it was a police sting, he opened fire and tried to escape.

Officers returned fire, shooting him dead.

The shooting took place only 2 kilometers from Chiang Mai Mail offices, nearby the local bus station.


Young motorcycle thieves arrested

Should be called the Dream Team

Nuttanee Thaveephol

Chiang Mai Police this past week arrested two hoodlums who had been stealing motorcycles in Chiang Mai City. The stolen motorcycles were being prepared for selling to a Burmese merchant at the Mae Hong Son border.

The felonious suspects were Weerapong Kongyong, 21 years old, and Taweechai Wasantrakarn, 19. They are both students of an academic institute in Chiang Mai. At the arrest, police seized two Honda Dream motorcycles, registration plates, tax signs and 13 copied keys.

Weerapong and Taweechai admitted that they usually stole Honda Dreams and rode them to Mae Hong Son Province before selling them to a Burmese merchant who this time had placed an "order" for six motorcycles offering 100 thousand baht for the consignment.

The thieves said that they had already stolen and sold 20 motorcycles and had destroyed the registration plates to get rid of the evidence.

They will have new dreams while awaiting trial, but none of them will be sweet.