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HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Lampang officials arrested on drug charges

WHO addresses AIDS in the Asia-Pacific region

Thailand to hold 2nd ACD conference in Chiang Mai this June

Saa paper making money for everyone

Chiang Rai busses in the tourists

Sato to have national tasting competition

Chiang Mai prepares for APEC

Low price Lanna goods at the 9 Weeks Lanna Trend Fair

Cobra Gold 2003 opens at Mae Rim

Restaurant censured for inappropriate use of Buddha image

Elephant camp at Huay Kaew Waterfall meets opposition

Second Sai River Bridge going ahead

The giraffes have been at it again

Chiang Mai police confiscated yet more ya ba plus 5 suspects

Mafia bosses watch out

Alien immigrants agents arrested in Mae Hong Son

Stateless people in Mae Ai still protesting

Lampang officials arrested on drug charges

Bail application opposed by police

Nantanee Jedsadachaiyut

Police have arrested Phanom Supanek and his assistants, who were charged with drug dealing and highway tax sticker fraud, at a resort in Hang Dong District, Chiang Mai, May 19.

Police have arrested Phanom Supanek (right) and his assistants, who were charged with drug dealing and highway tax sticker fraud, at a Resort in Hang Dong district, Chiang Mai, May 19.

Pol. Lt. Gen. Preawphan Damaphong, the assistant commissioner of the Royal Thai Police Department, together with Pol. Col. Perapan Premaputi, the general secretary of the Anti Money Laundering Office, announced the arrest of Phanom Supanek, a member of Lampang Provincial Council, and his assistants Tiwa Prompong and Paiboon Mahatham. "He is an important and influential person, and at this moment I can’t mention just how far his network expands," said Pol. Lt. Gen Preawphan.

The officers also found 2 shotguns with shells, 2 armored vests, a car, and cash amounting to 60,000 baht during the arrest.

Phanom’s brother Mana Supanek, along with his lawyer, intend to apply for bail, rejecting all accusations, and said he would give testimony in court. In addition, Mana claimed that his brother was in contact with the commissioner of Provincial Police Region 5 indicating he would surrender.

"Phanom planned to go to Bangkok and came back with his lawyer to surrender, but it was too late," Mana said. However, police have opposed bail for the alleged offenders because it was an important case, and some material evidence might be removed.


WHO addresses AIDS in the Asia-Pacific region

The World Health Organization (WHO) held its meeting in Chiang Mai on HIV/AIDS care from May 12-15, participated in by the country teams, government organizations (GOs), non-governmental organizations (NGOs), people living with HIV/AIDS groups and international organizations from throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

The participants met and discussed the issues regarding the HIV/AIDS policy in the region and new AIDS treatment strategies emerging for Asian countries, as well as how to include Antiretrovirals (ARV) in basic HIV care packages in this region.

The goal of the meeting was to develop new strategies to address the needs of the nearly 7 million people living with HIV/AIDS in the region - about one sixth of all people living with HIV and AIDS globally.

WHO stated unequivocally that this meeting was "intended to revisit and build upon strategies discussed at the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS (UNGASS), held in June 2001." At that time, 180 governments and a diverse group of NGO’s made a collective commitment to address urgent issues of care and treatment for people living with HIV and AIDS.

All segments of society should be engaged, together with the international community, to develop national strategies that "Strengthen health-care systems and address factors regarding the provision of HIV-related drugs, including antiretroviral treatments." The governments that signed on the 2001 UNGASS Declaration are now being held accountable for those commitments

Antiretroviral treatments have turned HIV/AIDS into a manageable chronic condition in richer countries in recent years, and even in the developing world, scaling up access to ARVs has been shown to be a feasible option. In Brazil, 115,000 people were on ARV treatment by mid-2002.

It was estimated that between 1994-2002, 90,962 deaths have been averted (a 50% decrease in mortality). Median survival of participants with AIDS increased from 18 months in 1995 to 58 months after the introduction of antiretroviral treatment. As one of the first countries in Asia to provide ARVs as part of the standard care package, Thailand’s current strategy also provides an excellent case study for the process of scaling-up HIV/AIDS care in the Asia-Pacific.

An increasing number of generic HIV drug manufacturers are making ARV’s every year, decreasing the yearly costs of the drugs to around US $300 per person, from previous costs that were more than ten times higher. Falling drug costs have allowed the Thai Ministry of Public Health to support 13,000 people with ARV treatment in 2002. The government aims to support 50,000 people living with HIV/AIDS on treatment by the end of 2004.

Despite falling drug prices, and the availability of ARV’s in the private medical services of most countries in Asia, effective treatments still remain beyond the reach of most people who need them. WHO aims to collaborate with governments and non-governmental groups to make these drugs more accessible to people living with HIV/AIDS throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

Dr. Uton Muchtar Rafei, the regional director for WHO’s South-East Asia Regional Office in New Delhi, foresees a major challenge being strengthening the capacity of health care systems in the region’s most affected countries. He noted that, "WHO advocates including HIV/AIDS care, including antiretroviral treatment, into national HIV/AIDS prevention and control policies."

Dr. Shigeru Omi, the regional director for WHO’s Western Pacific Regional Office added said, "In order to develop effective and sustainable HIV/AIDS care including antiretroviral treatment, it is crucial to establish partnerships between public health and medical services, people living with HIV/AIDS, NGOs and the community at all levels."

This combined stance marks a firm direction for HIV/AIDS care-related policies, which are now likely to encompass the entire continuum of care, including services as counseling for people being tested for HIV infection, established treatments for so-called ‘opportunistic infections’ that people living with HIV are prone to - as well as treatment with ARV drugs that attack HIV directly.

Participants arriving for the meeting commented on the importance of including people affected by HIV/AIDS in this kind of dialogue. "Having seen so many people in the region - friends, colleagues and partners - die from lack of adequate treatment, today’s discussions must translate into action immediately," said Greg Gray, regional coordinator of the Asia Pacific Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS (APN+).

"While inviting affected communities to take part is an essential step, it is also crucial that we come to the table as equal partners," he added. Stigma, legal issues, and other humanitarian concerns remain important topics for discussion within this AIDS care framework. With respect to all of these critical issues, the regional WHO consultation will propose concrete recommendations and strategies for the advancement of HIV policy at national and regional levels.


Thailand to hold 2nd ACD conference in Chiang Mai this June

Nuttanee Thaveephol

Thailand is ready to host the Asian Cooperation Dialogue (ACD) in Chiang Mai June 21-22, says Wittawas Sriwihok, director of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Planning and Policy Office.

The office director said that the 2nd ACD meeting is to follow up on the work in progress for Asian cooperation among the 18 ACD member countries.

The follow-up meeting will be looking at many topics including the cooperative dimensions of solutions to poverty, energy stability, agriculture, biotechnology, communication links, environmental issues, and information technology development.

Thailand has been assigned to be the leader for tourism cooperation and finance. There is an ACD Tourism Business Forum during May 22-24 this year in Phuket to look at methods of tourism cooperation in Asia. The tourism issues to be discussed are regional tourism promotions and the medium and small-scale tourism business after the SARS crisis.

The ACD’s aim is to create unity among the Asian countries by utilizing the best from each country to strengthen Asian power in the international arena. ACD countries include 10 ASEAN member countries and China, Japan, South Korea, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Bahrain, and Qatar.


Saa paper making money for everyone

Autsadaporn Kamthai

Saa paper and Saa product manufacturing are projects of the One Tambon - One Product, in Tambon Suthep Muang, Chiang Mai. The permanent secretary for the Prime Minister’s Office, Pol. Maj. Gen. Yongyut Sarasombat, recently visited Chiang Mai to observe the process.

There are 18 members in the manufacturing group and all of them are wives of airmen in Wing 41. Sommai Choocham, who was trained in artificial flower making at Suan Chitrladda Occupational Training Center (Royal Folks Arts and Crafts Center), is the group leader and teaches all members how to make flowers from Saa paper.

Each member earns 5,000 baht a month from her Saa paper and products and the group’s products are distributed for sale both locally and abroad.

Pol. Maj. Gen Yongyut said during his visit that the government is searching for ways to improve our products’ standards and find more domestic market outlets, such as petrol stations. Foreign markets for the One Tambon - One Product scheme, such as the JETRO Organization in Japan, is also showing great interest in these local products.

Last year, products from the scheme earned the country 12 billion baht and the government has indicated a 20 billion baht target for this year. The target looks to be obtainable, as during the past 5 months 12 billion baht of the products have been sold already.


Chiang Rai busses in the tourists

Deputy governor says more buses mean more tourists

To promote the province’s tourism, Chiang Rai has provided more air-conditioned buses to serve tourists traveling between Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai. Sukijja Karunanon, deputy Chiang Rai governor said that Chiang Rai Provincial Authority has cooperated with Thai Pattanakij Transportation Company to provide more buses, with the fare set at 240 baht per person, between Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai. This service will commence late May.

The Golden Triangle in Chiang Saen District is one of the famous symbols of Chiang Rai.

"Every year, there are about 1,200,000 passengers to Chiang Rai; however, if there are facilities provided for the travelers to move between the two centers, there will be more tourists coming to this country’s northernmost province," said the deputy governor.


Sato to have national tasting competition

Fermented liquors increasing in popularity

Autsadaporn Kamthai

Ekkasak O-charoen, Excise Office Region 5 director, stated that the Excise Department is organizing national tasting contests for locally produced fermented Sato.

The first round of the contest was held last month, and the second will be held in June in Ayutthaya, the third in August in Khon Kaen and the fourth in September in Chiang Mai.

Collective scores will be taken with the overall result being announced in Bangkok in November this year. Certificates will be issued and the Minister of Finance will reward the top 3 winners with special trophies and certificates.

Ekkasak also said that following the government’s resolution to allow people to legally produce local liquor, there are now 1,112 people licensed to produce fermented liquors and 495 for distilling liquor.


Chiang Mai prepares for APEC

Women gear up to address gender issues

Nuttanee Thaveephol

The Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation conference (APEC) on Women’s Leaders’ Network (WLN) will be held July 30 - August 3 this year at Chiang Mai Plaza Hotel. The topic is "Women Make the World of Difference: Partnerships for Gender and Development".

Parinya Panthong, Chiang Mai deputy governor and Associate Prof. Juree Vijitwatakarn, the president of the Public Benefit and Society Center, participated in the steering committee meeting for the WLN conference preparation. The topic is aimed at encouraging women leaders, at any level, to exchange opinions and experiences and cooperate in solving the problems that come with globalization and free trade.

80 percent of participants are the small and medium sized entrepreneurs. Assoc. Prof. Juree said that the preparation is well in hand. Thailand will present issues on women’s lives, domestic and international cooperation, women’s aid and provide a forum to let the women who have been successful in business relate their experiences to others.

There will be 500 participants including women leaders from government, private, academic, and public sectors in 21 economic zones.


Low price Lanna goods at the 9 Weeks Lanna Trend Fair

Featuring: from animal lovers to extravaganza sale

Nuttanee Thaveephol

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) will arrange the "9 Weeks Lanna Trend Fair" beginning May 30. It will only be held between 4-11 p.m. at Kad Choeng Doi fairgrounds each Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of the 9-week period.

It is hoped the fair will promote Chiang Mai as the commercial and tourism hub to international markets. Exhibitors will be encouraged to show new products at the fair, and groups or clubs will have space to display low priced items.

This fair is expected to attract new small and medium entrepreneurs that will bring economic development to the region. The local communities will also gain more sustainable income whilst the products are distributed to customers.

The first week of the 9 Weeks Lanna Trend Fair has the theme: animal lovers. The second week is old vehicle lovers and then woven textiles for the third week, Thai folk song, occidental music, Lanna music and fruits, and short-movie lovers are for the next weeks. The final week of the fair will be on July 25-27 with an extravaganza sale and Tiffany contest.

Kad Choeng Doi is located near Chiang Mai University’s eastern entrance. Interested people can contact the Kad Choeng Doi Office, Chiang Mai, 053 400 167 or 06 990-3990 for further information.


Cobra Gold 2003 opens at Mae Rim

Nantanee Jedsadachaiyut

The Thai and U.S. special armed forces are participating in Cobra Gold maneuvers, exchanging experience, military tactics, and maintaining a good relationship between the 2 national armies.

Eric S. Rubin, the U.S. consul-general of Chiang Mai, was the chairman of the opening ceremony of Cobra Gold 03, on May 16, at the 5th special force regiment, Mae Rim District, Chiang Mai.

In this training exercise, there were 550 soldiers participating, 150 from the U.S. special armed force, and 400 Thais.

The field training, running May 1-29, is being held at the 5th special force regiment in Mae Rim District, at the artillery field of the 33rd Military Circle, at Chorm Thong District, Chiang Mai, and the Pra Tupa special field training in Mae Mao District, Lampang.

The two national special armed forces will have a chance to exchange experiences in military tactics and fighting materials, to improve their fighting skills, and maintain national relationships.


Restaurant censured for inappropriate use of Buddha image

Nantanee Jedsadachaiyut

The Chiang Mai Buddhist Organization found a Buddha image being used as a decorative item in a restaurant, and weren’t happy about it. Wanlop Namwongprom, director of the Chiang Mai Cultural Council and the vice-president of Chiang Mai Sahatham Association investigated the Kum Nam Ping Restaurant in Charoenprathet Rd., Tambon Changklan, Muang District, Chiang Mai and found a Buddha image statue used as a decorative antique and put inappropriately on the floor.

This Buddha image statue, being used as a decorative antique in Kum Nam Ping Restaurant, was apparently placed in an inappropriate place, raising the ire of the Chiang Mai Cultural Council director.

Somphong Santisuk, who built the restaurant, said that the owner of the restaurant, a Mr Aserting, a German businessman, had bought this statue from Kham Tiang Market, but currently he was abroad.

"It’s a great insult. It’s not in the Buddhist tradition and the owner shouldn’t say he didn’t know Thai culture," said Wanlop. The owner has been informed he has seven days to put the statue in an appropriate area, and he must send a letter of apology to the Buddhist organization.


Elephant camp at Huay Kaew Waterfall meets opposition

Metinee Chaikuna

A private enterprise plan to set up an elephant camp business around Huay Kaew Waterfall, close by the most respected and revered Kruba Sri Vichai statue, has raised some public concerns.

Karun Klaiklung, the chairman of Suthep Tambon Administration Organization (TAO), Muang District, Chiang Mai said that the owner of the Elephant Camp, Paitoon Muenthaisong, who used to run an elephant business in Chiang Mai, was clearing 4 rai of land near the statue, which is private area.

National Parks officials have inspected the area and although Paitoon has verbally asked for permission from the Suthep TAO, he still has not submitted an official letter to the authorities. The TAO is now temporarily suspending the construction work and process.

On the possibility of running an elephant camp, Karun said that although the entrepreneur has his rights in the area; he still needs to be aware of the impacts on community and environment.

The TAO officers have also inspected the area, and are still concerned over the elimination of elephant dung. Though Paitoon was convinced that there would not be any negative impacts, the local people still did not agree with his business project.

Chumporn Sangmanee, Chiang Mai district chief said that he has been informed, but has not received any letter seeking permission. "Although there is a legal process for the project and the businessman has rights in the area, the government would not approve the plan anyway because of its negative affect on the local communities," said Chumporn.


Second Sai River Bridge going ahead

Construction of the Thai-Burmese Bridge, to be built across the Sai River, started this week after Thailand and Burma signed a contract to construct the second Sai River Bridge in Mae Sai bordering Thachilek Province, Burma.

Charndej Wongcharoen, Chiang Rai Highway District Engineering chief, said that Thai and Burmese government authorities had already signed the memorandum of understanding for the 2nd Sai River Bridge, located in Ban San Pak Hee, Mae Sai District, Chiang Rai.

Charndej said that this construction project is one of the Thai-Burmese Government Cooperation Projects. The objectives are to join the transportation route between the two countries, support the borderline towns development, and promote commerce and tourism. This project will also foster international relations and bilateral cooperation.

The Chiang Rai Provincial Authority is improving the Thai border road, to include a parking area and a 2 lane access. 38 million baht is earmarked for the construction.


The giraffes have been at it again

Chiang Mai Zoo gets another new baby giraffe

Chiang Mai Zoo was proud grandparents to a baby male giraffe born on the morning of May 15. The newborn baby is the 6th African giraffe in Chiang Mai Zoo, and is yet un-named, waiting for its name from the children who come to the zoo.

The zoo’s new member weighs around 50 kg. Its parents are Kwanwiang, the only male African giraffe, and mother giraffe, Euang Phueng. Chan Pha, the baby’s elder brother was sent to Dusit Zoo at the beginning of the year.

Tanong Nateepitak, the director of Chiang Mai Zoo said that the little giraffe is the third one born in Chiang Mai and there will be a fourth one next year. This new baby is especially important, after the zoo lost the previous baby on December 10 last year.


Chiang Mai police confiscated yet more ya ba plus 5 suspects

Will they never learn?

Nuttanee Thaveephol

Drug Suppression Police from Provincial Police Region 5 and the Chiang Mai Provincial Police Division surrounded 5 ya ba dealers at Makro Superstore and came away with a haul of 344,000 amphetamine pills (ya ba).

Pol. Col. Suthep Dechraksa, deputy commander of Chiang Mai Provincial Police Division led more than 30 police officers to the scene after receiving a police tip-off that there would be a drug delivery to Makro Superstore’s parking area.

The police arrested two Lisu hilltribe persons, Ekapoj Sirinkulda, 22 years old and Phamorn Hipa, 38 years old. The 2 suspects were forced to show where they had hidden the stash. In a warehouse, police found the pills buried in sand.

Following this discovery, police arrested three other suspects, including Charoen Chairakprangbuddha, 35 years old and his wife Saisunee, 34. The couple claimed that they were Chinese Haw people living in Tambon Mae Ngon in Fang district. Pin Pinya, a 33-year-old Thai Yai who was the warehouse keeper, was also arrested.

Furthermore, police discovered 2 bank accounts containing 230,000 baht, and more than a million baht circulating that belonged to Saisunee.


Mafia bosses watch out

The Northern Provincial Police are watching you

Nantanee Jedsadachaiyut

The commissioner of Provincial Police Region 5 has ordered the eight commanders of the Northern Provincial Police to update their lists of felons, including those who misappropriate power and water.

Provincial Police Region 5 commissioner, Pol Lt. Gen. Prung Boonpadung

Included in these lists are those who control motorcycle taxis, which in turn are keeping the poor in poverty, and those who hold mock auctions, domestic robbers and other petty criminals.

The commissioner of Provincial Police Region 5, Pol Lt. Gen. Prung Boonpadung said that police officers must review their lists of Mafiosi to present to the National Police Office during May this year. Currently there are over 100 names on the list.


Alien immigrants agents arrested in Mae Hong Son

No, MIB not involved

Nuttanee Thaveephol

Two Thais were arrested, charged with smuggling three alien immigrants into Mae Hong Son. Pol. Lt. Col. Jetsada Jutopama, inspector at the Mae Hong Son Immigration Office reported that his operations team apprehended the two men riding at high speed to the checkpoint in Ban Pha Bong.

The two Thais were Kwankaew Damrongdhammakeeree and Vinai Kantima who had brought three Burmese immigrants known as Mon, Mong and Mrs. Lee into Mae Hong Son.

Kwankaew and Vinai admitted that they were smuggling Burmese laborers to Khun Yuam District for a fee of 1,500 baht each. This was the third time they had carried out the illegal ferry run.

The Provincial Immigration Office also confiscated their two unregistered motorcycles.


Stateless people in Mae Ai still protesting

Reinstatement of Thai citizenship being refused

Supatatt Dangkrueng

Following conflicts since December last year between local people and government officers, 1,143 people in Mae-Ai District in Chiang Mai have become stateless. Representatives of these people filed a lawsuit against the Mae Ai district chief who caused them to lose their rights of citizenship.

The district chief has refused to reinstate Thai citizenship to these families despite having been told to do so by the Local Administration Department (LAD).

In December last year about a hundred stateless people came to Chiang Mai Provincial Administrative Court to sue a district chief of Mae Ai, Thongchai Setthapat, and wanted their rights and citizenship back. Since then only 10 of the 1,143 people have had their Thai nationality re-instated.

Parinya Udomsap, from the LAD, said that the special operation committee assigned the Mae Ai district chief to investigate stateless people and look for evidence of this fact, and to show they are not aliens.

Since there has been no progress, the provincial authorities and the LAD would send their officials to help in the investigation and to check Thongchai’s work in this case.

Thongchai claimed that the proceedings are not progressing because the people have insufficient evidence to verify their nationality. Most of them have only oral evidence that they cannot prove.

Thongchai said there is no persecution with the check; however the district office is still receiving people’s petitions. If the stateless people have enough weight of evidence, the Mae Ai District Office could help them get their Thai nationality back.