Vol. II No. 20 Saturday 17 May - 23 May 2003
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NEWS
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Forest fires rage behind 700-Year Anniversary Sports Complex

Hot spell ups electricity usage

Chiang Mai to improve cityscape

Night spots under inspection again

Chiang Mai Municipality pawnshops ready for new school semester

Industry Fair scheduled for May 22-23

Sharpen your scissors

Mekong Basin Lodge opened

Rajapruek tree planting to honor His Majesty the King’s 80th birthday

Royal vehicle brought out on Visakhabucha Day

Lampang looks to recycling to solve garbage problem

Doi Inthanon logo contest

AIS open new building

The school buses are finally coming

No SARS in Lamphun, says Public Health Office

Markets checked for illegal food additives

Huge haul of smuggled emeralds found in Mae Hong Son

More protests from local hooch producers

Summer storm flattens 10 houses in Rong Kwang, Phrae

Samurai gang attacks students in Chiang Rai

Can’t see the wood for the trees (again)

Forest fires rage behind 700-Year Anniversary Sports Complex

Autsadaporn Kamthai

The mountains behind the 700-Year Anniversary Sports Complex were ablaze again on May 10. Helicopters from the Chiang Mai Ministry of Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives were called in to help extinguish the fire.

A helicopter from the Chiang Mai Ministry of Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives fills its bucket with water from the Mae Chok Luang reservoir before flying to the burning mountains.

The helicopters took on water from the Mae Chok Luang reservoir, located near the sport complex, dumping the loads on to the forest blaze.

Mae Hong Son Province has been facing a severe fire danger at present, but Chiang Mai too is being hit with fires, especially on Doi Intanon, the country’s highest mountain. City dwellers often disregard the plight of those who live on the mountain, but during these high-risk periods, everyone must be careful.

Thailand’s forest fires are prevalent during the hot season because of drought, but mostly from man’s misdeeds or human error.


Hot spell ups electricity usage

New record set, but still plenty of power left

Nuttanee Thaveephol

Demand for electricity broke a record on May 6 as the fierce heat sent people rushing to turn on their air conditioners, according to the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT).

Demand for electricity on the day stood at 17,852.7 megawatts, breaking the previous record of 17,826.4 megawatts set last month on April 8, and exceeding the peak demand forecast by EGAT, which previously predicted that peak demand this year would grow by 7 percent.

The Meteorological center reported that the highest temperatures recorded on May 6 were 41 degrees Celsius in Sukhothai and 40 degrees Celsius in Lampang.

The excessive use of electric appliances, especially fans and air-conditioners to counteract the heat, increases the load every summer.

Kalyanee Yaowapongthai, EGAT Mae Moh Plant Public Relations director said that although electricity usage has gone up there is still standby power of another 30 percent, meaning that there would certainly be enough electric power for the community.


Chiang Mai to improve cityscape

Must look our best for APEC

The forthcoming Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) conference has spurred Chiang Mai Governor Pisit Khetphasook to say there would be a beautification program in the city, especially in the municipal area and nearby sites.

The improvement project has been proceeding following government policy on environmental conservation and creating tourist attractions. However, the city development can be stepped up to welcome the APEC conference in Chiang Mai during July - August this year.

There will be many other APEC related groups attending the conference such as the Women’s Leader Network, Business Section, APEC Ministers, and 1st Sub-Group on Micro-Enterprise.

The governor also said that Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has ordered the provincial government to hurry up and finish this project within 2 years because Chiang Mai should be a clean, green, and beautiful city.


Night spots under inspection again

No decision yet on later closing times

Supatatt Dangkrueng

Chiang Mai officials are examining entertainment places - pubs, discotheques, restaurants, karaoke and massage parlors - looking at licensing requirements, opening and closing times, ages of customers, drugs, obscene shows, and carrying weapons.

Chiang Mai Chief District Officer Chumporn Saengmanee said the venues could expect regular checks. "If they have broken the law, they will be prosecuted and can be closed permanently," he said. There were about 20 places in Chiang Mai that had been temporarily closed for one month, and three have been closed permanently. Most of these venues had allowed youths aged less than 18 to enter, had obscene shows, or employed alien labor.

Two weeks ago, the House Committee on Tourism visited Chiang Mai to look at the possibility of late closing (4 a.m.) and the findings of the committee will be released within 3 months.

Chumporn added that if the closing time was extended to 4 a.m., there should be zoning to keep the entertainment venues in the same area. "Personally, I would prefer to maintain the closing time as 2 a.m.," said Chumporn.


Chiang Mai Municipality pawnshops ready for new school semester

Officials expect up to 60 million baht will be needed

Nuttanee Thaveephol

Due to the economic hardships experienced in Chiang Mai, the municipality has prepared 60 million baht for its pawnshops. Chiang Mai Mayor Boonlert Buranupakorn said that this year the municipal pawnshops will have to lend parents of schoolchildren an estimated 30 million baht for the new semester’s expenses. This is more than previously, as Chiang Mai, a tourist city, has faced economic problems, the result of the Iraq war and perceived SARS problem.

Chiang Mai municipal pawnshops like this one on Bamroong Buri Road, are ready for the new school term to begin.

There are 3 municipal pawnshops and more than 10 private ones in Chiang Mai. The mayor has warned the people to be careful in money matters because despite the private pawnshop offering higher amounts, the interest charges are higher too.


Industry Fair scheduled for May 22-23

Autsadaporn Kamthai

The Industrial Fair (Northern Region) will be held on May 22-23 this year at Chiang Mai University Convention Hall, promoted by the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) of Chiang Mai and Lamphun Branch, the Office of Chiang Mai and Lamphun Provincial Industries, Industrial Promotion Center and Read Tradex Co. Ltd.

The fair aims to give opportunities for SME’s to get information on new industrial production processes and technology to enable them to develop their production methods, marketing and administrative techniques, and enhance their competitiveness in the marketplace.

There will be new technology on show and demonstrations of various industrial machinery, materials and equipment. A conference on "Northern Industry" and a seminar addressed by successful enterprise owners will also be held on those days.

The fair will run from 10 a.m. till 6 p.m. and is open to the public. It is estimated that 1,000 people will attended the seminar and the first 500 applicants can attend the seminar free of charge.


Sharpen your scissors

Hairdressers needed for international competition

Autsadaporn Kamthai

The Hair Festival Northern Region will be held on May 28, to find talented hairdressers to compete in the international hairdressing contest. Ampai Cheehan, president of the Chiang Mai Beauty Culture Association Northern Region, said that the festival aims to raise the work of Thai hairdressers to international standards.

Ajarn Suchat Khuanreak with PM Thaksin Shinawatra’s trophy and diploma.

Ajarn Suchat Khuanreak, president of the Beauty Culture Association of Thailand, announced that the festival will be arranged in all 4 regions of Thailand and is supported by the Beauty Culture Association of Thailand, the Department of Labor Development, the Business Development and Promotion Department, the Vocational Education Department and the Tourism Authority of Thailand.

The North was chosen to host the first hairdressing competition, which will be held on May 28 at Ban Lan Tong room, Lotus Pang Suan Kaew Hotel, Chiang Mai. The next rounds will be held in Udorn Thani in the Northeast on June 25, Surat Thani in the South July 30 and Chonburi, the East, August 27.

Four models presenting 4 colorful hairstyles.

On the day of competition at Central Airport Plaza, there will be a fashion show, plus showing the hairdressing style of the former Thailand hairdressing champion, Ajarn Somchai Boonprakorb; and the Loreal champion 2000, Arjarn Thanadon Songklao, and hairdressing by overseas hairdressers.

All class winners will receive a trophy from PM Thaksin Shinawatra and 5,000 baht prize. All winners and runners-up from each region will compete for the Queen’s Cup at the international hairdressing contest in Bangkok in 2004.


Mekong Basin Lodge opened

Autsadaporn Kamthai

The Mekong Basin Lodge, a new mountain resort hotel in Chiang Saen district, Chiang Rai province, is ready for tourists and visitors to the famous Golden Triangle areas bordered by Burma, Laos and Thailand. It was officially opened by MR Disnadda Diskul, the CEO of Doi Tung Development Project.

The new Mekong Basin Lodge.

The lodge is 60 kilometers from Muang Chiang Rai district, 10 kilometers distance from Chiang Saen town, and only 3 kilometers from the Golden Triangle. It features 28 rooms and 18 two-bedroom bungalows on beautiful mountain slopes. Each room has TV, refrigerator, air-conditioner and hot water jug.

The lodge also offers three seminar rooms, one large with 250 seat capacity and two smaller ones of 30 seat capacity.

From now till April 30 next year, a single room costs 1,600 baht including breakfast, a double room 1,800 baht with breakfast and extra beds costs 500 baht each. For more information or reservation contact Chiang Rai office at 053 767 015-7 ext. 230, 231 or Bangkok office tel. 02 252-7114 ext. 217.


Rajapruek tree planting to honor His Majesty the King’s 80th birthday

Autsadaporn Kamthai and Nuttanee Thaveephol

The Office of National Identity Promotion Committee is to start planting Rajapruek (Indian Laburnum) trees, or Golden Flower trees, which will bloom throughout the country to celebrate the occasion of His Majesty the King’s 80th birthday in 2007.

Golden flower tree blossoms around the city moat.

Charoonroj Chimsamran from the Chiang Rai Provincial Public Relations Office said the planting will follow His Majesty the King’s wishes in developing and conserving natural resources and the environment and, in another way, encourage Thai youths to realize the value of trees.

The planting of 9 million Rachapruek trees will be done in suitable areas of all 76 provinces in Thailand. Officials expect the project will be finished within 5 years.

Charoonroj said the prime minister’s office has adopted the Rachapruek tree as our national tree, for the tree’s flower has related to the monarchy and the yellow flower of the tree traditionally refers to the birth of His Majesty on a Monday. Moreover, Rachapruek is easy to plant and produces beautiful appealing flowers.

Charoonroj said that on this auspicious occasion, the committee has considered this national tree to show respect to His Majesty the King.

In Chiang Mai, we can see the golden flower trees blossoming during summer around the city moat. Thai people call the flowers, "Dok Koon" or "Dok Lom Laeng", meaning "Summer breeze flower".


Royal vehicle brought out on Visakhabucha Day

Chiang Mai Provincial Administration Organization invited this special vehicle, which translates to "the royal holy water on throne car", to participate in the Visakhabucha Day ceremonies at Wat Prathart Doi Suthep Pagoda on Visakhabucha Day on May 15, a Buddhist Holy Day. Many Buddhists joined the march up to Doi Suthep Mountain on the evening of May 14 for the annual ritual to celebrate the birth, enlightenment and death of the Buddha. (Photo by Nuttanee Thaveephol)


Lampang looks to recycling to solve garbage problem

Nuttanee Thaveephol

Lampang is reviewing its environment problems, especially garbage and water resources, and with the cooperation of its people will follow Phitsanulok Province’s successful recycling campaign.

At a recent conference on Lampang’s environment quality management, the committee discussed two main problems, garbage and water resources, and assigned the Environment Office 2nd Region, Lampang to proceed with finding solutions.

Lampang has been dealing with a garbage problem for several years, especially as there are too few local dumping sites. The committee agreed to follow Phitsanulok Province’s recycling program, which they hope could reduce waste by 70%.

Regarding water management, the province has asked every district to conserve water. Athikom Supannapong, Lampang deputy governor, who presided over the meeting, said that environmental problems are different in all localities; therefore the local people have to participate in solving their individual problems.


Doi Inthanon logo contest

Keep our mountain garbage free

A recycling campaign to keep the Doi Inthanon National Park clean, natural and beautiful has been instituted. This is to make the general public aware of garbage problems in the area. The recycling project is meant to set a good example for younger generations, according to the judging committee.

To really press the point home, a logo is being sought that can express the idea of recycling, conservation, and preservation of Doi Inthanon.

Only two entries per person are allowed, and the winner will get a certificate and accommodation and meals at the Doi Inthanon National Park’s lodge to the value of 15,000 baht, while the first runner-up will get a certificate and 6,000 baht value of accommodation.

The logo contest is open until May 30 and those interested in submitting entries for the competition should contact the Office of the Doi Inthanon National Park, in Chormthong District, Chiang Mai 50160, tel. 01-188 1734-6 and 053-268 550, for more details.


AIS open new building

Supatatt Dangkrueng

Advance Info Service (AIS), a large wireless and telecommunication company, last week held an opening ceremony for its new building in Chiang Mai. Chiang Mai Governor Pisit Khetphasook, Chiang Mai Mayor Boonlert Buranupakorn and Chiang Mai Chief District Chumporn Saengmanee attended the official opening ceremony on May 7th.

Chiang Mai Governor Pisit Khetphasook (third left) and Chookiert Watthanakul (fourth left) at the opening ceremony of the AIS operations building.

Chookiert Watthanakul, the operations manager of the upper northern region, said that this office would be the center of command for engineering, marketing, after sales service and distribution for the northern region. Other centers are at Nakhon Sawan, Nakon Ratchasima, Chonburi, and Surat Thani.


The school buses are finally coming

But it’s been a long wait at the bus stop

Nuttanee Thaveephol

Three large buses and 30 red minibuses will stand by to carry schoolchildren in the early morning of May 19, the first day of new semester, says Chiang Mai Mayor Boonlert Buranupakorn. The schools to be serviced are Montfort Primary, Regina Coeli, Sacred Heart, and Chairoj schools on Charoen Prathet Road.

The large buses are being rented from Bangkok and the red minibuses are from Nakhon Lanna Transportation Cooperatives. "Each bus has a teacher responsible for their students who will take the bus at the starting point, Chiang Mai Land Housing Estate on Mahidol Road. This is a free service for the schoolchildren," said Mayor Boonlert.

The red minibuses joining the project must be in good condition and less than 2 years in service. The drivers will receive 250 baht per day. The municipality has earmarked nearly one million baht for this school bus project. The buses will be in service 7-8 a.m. and 4-5 p.m. It is expected that the school buses will reduce peak hour traffic by 20%.


No SARS in Lamphun, says Public Health Office

Returning laborers from Taiwan not infected

Lamphun Provincial Public Health Office followed up Thai laborers who came back from high-risk countries and found there were no SARS cases. After 19 Lamphun laborers came back from working in Taiwan, one of the high-risk countries, the Lamphun Provincial Public Health Office followed them all for 10 days and found that 16 workers had no sign of infection and 3 of them were declared clear upon further checking.

Mayuree Pornpibul, chief of the Disease Control Center, said that people should not worry about the disease outbreak, but should exercise at least 15 minutes per day and should not share spoons with others because SARS can be passed on via saliva and phlegm.

"There was one SARS suspect but after 15 days confinement, it was found that the patient had recovered from the sickness. Therefore, there is no SARS in Lamphun Province," said Disease Control Center chief.


Markets checked for illegal food additives

Some found to be using possibly toxic chemicals

Nantanee Jedsadachaiyut

Lamphun Provincial Public Health Officials inspected the town’s markets and warned some retailers about chemical food contamination, including borax and purifying substances in food for sale in the fresh markets.

Other chemicals found by the Lamphun Provincial Health Office included red dye for pork, formaldehyde, insecticide, toxins and anti-mould chemicals. These additives were meant to impart a pleasant color to the food, but in some cases could be toxic.

Cheera Wiphakswong, consumer protection director, said that the chemicals were found in eight fresh markets around Lamphun. Although the salespeople were cautioned against the use of chemical substances, the consumers should also be careful by observing the color and smell. "If there is something unusual, people should ask the salesman or send a food sample to the health office for testing," he said.

"Next time, the officers will institute legal proceedings against people who use these dangerous chemical substances," he said.


Huge haul of smuggled emeralds found in Mae Hong Son

Mae Hong Son Customs officials at the Thai-Burmese border in Mae Hong Son last week confiscated contraband Indian emeralds. The illegally imported emeralds were hidden in Wat Kam Koa and Wat Klang Tung in Muang District.

Anek Ornthanalai, Customs Region 3 director said that the two boxes of emeralds were imported from India, coming through Burma, with the final destination being Bangkok.

The customs officers found the emeralds hidden behind a Buddha image in Wat Klang Tung and in a building in Wat Kam Koa, Tambon Jongkham.

Anek stated that customs officials are aware that attempts would be made to smuggle silk and jewelry, and they have been on the alert.


More protests from local hooch producers

Autsadaporn Kamthai

Over 2,000 members of the Thai Local Liquor Network in Nan, along with the networks from Lampang, Phayao, Phrae, Chiang Mai and Uttaradit provinces, gathered in front of the Nan Special Education School on May 7 to call for leniency from the Excise Department, which will be in a position to arrest producers of local liquor.

The officials from the department had previously explained the government’s resolution, launched earlier this year and slated to begin on June 1, to levy a 19.60 baht per bottle excise tax on local liquor, but Local Liquor Network members were not satisfied with the explanation and demanded to negotiate with Nan Governor Suwat Choksuwattanakul.

The protesting Local Liquor Networkers presented 14 proposals to Nan Governor Suwat, asking for leniency in the regulations. Governor Suwat agreed to help them by registering the members of networks gathered there to guarantee that their products are legal before May 17, ordering the related offices to start registering the liquor producers on May 14.

The network also proposed a new liquor tax of 300 baht per year to replace the government resolution. Governor Suwat promised to pass the proposal to PM Thaksin Shinawatra and the network members left satisfied, presumably going home to open a bottle to celebrate.


Summer storm flattens 10 houses in Rong Kwang, Phrae

Damage to 100 others and orchards stripped

Nuttanee Thaveephol

Summer storms attacked Rong Kwang district and left more than 100 houses damaged. Another 10 houses were absolutely destroyed and more than 1,000 rai of mango and jackfruit orchards were stripped.

The storm began around 5.30 p.m. on May 8 and continued for only 20 minutes but the severity shocked villagers, who were left to mop up the damage. Eye-witnesses reported that all the mangoes had fallen and some trees were uprooted. Numerous electricity poles were destroyed and caused power cuts in many villages, leaving an emergency for the Provincial Electricity Authority trying to restore power.

This disaster was a result of the high-pressure moving over the northern part of Thailand bringing rain and strong winds. The Phrae Meteorological Center had given storm warnings beforehand.


Samurai gang attacks students in Chiang Rai

Parents complain to local MP of police inaction

A gang wielding samurai swords last month attacked 4 students in Chiang Rai, and so far, justice has yet to be served. All the victims were seriously injured, with one victim requiring 200 stitches, another had the tendon severed in the right leg and 2 boys received facial and arm wounds.

Paradol Chaimangua, Nuttawit Hattasorn and their parents lodged a complaint with Buason Prachamon, Chiang Rai Member of Parliament that the victims had already notified the police about the slashing but there was no apparent progress.

The 4 students are studying in Boonrueng Wittayakhom School, Chiang Khong district, Chiang Rai. On April 4, they were in Wat Ban Ton Plong’s celebration and had an altercation with the Samurai group.

The report of the incident was given to the police of Tambon Boonrueng, Police Station of Chiang Khong district; however, there is neither progress in investigation nor any punishment of the criminals.


Can’t see the wood for the trees (again)

There they were - gone!

Nantanee Jedsadachaiyut

Mae Jua villagers in Phrae have lodged a complaint about illegal logging going on in the nearby national park forest sanctuary, home to 200-year-old teakwood. Villagers also are insinuating that forestry officers are involved.

The deputy director-general of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plants, Wichai Laemvilai responded to the complaints by inspecting the forest sanctuary areas in Phrae province, accompanied by Kraipetch Pansomboon, director of Section 13 Forest Conservation Management Office.

After the deputy director-general inspected the area he agreed that illegal logging had taken place. The director-general also noted that there might have been some government officials or influential people associated with this case. However, the haul of wood in question has been confiscated and stored under the responsibility of the Forest Industrial Organization in the proper areas. "I don’t want history to repeat itself like the Salween logging scandal," said Wichai.



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