NEWS
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

TAT admits Tourist numbers down 40%

Mae Moh villagers demanding over 1 billion baht compensation

Special Border Economic Zone development continues

ASEAN and UNESCO promote ASEAN handicrafts

Speeding up government processes

ONCB looks for media assistance in ongoing drug suppression

Buddhist training in schools reduced

Nakorn Ping launches “Quit to win in the office” plan

One District One School Project receives budget

Chiang Mai launches World Environment Day activities

Over 600 million to be spent on Lamphun’s transportation infrastructure

300 ex-bootleggers protesting again

Police confiscate 2,800 amphetamine pills and 12 million baht

Police officer arrested transporting illegal aliens

Fewer drugs at the borders these days

Lists of ‘dark influences’ being prepared

Baby elephant receives acupuncture treatment for injured spine

Parents in liposuction accidental death case demand 10 million baht compensation

TAT admits Tourist numbers down 40%

Nuttanee Thaveephol

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Northern Region 1 says perceptions of a SARS threat have affected northern tourism, reducing the number of foreign tourists by 40%. Chalermsak Suranan, TAT director, said that the TAT has turned its focus to tourists from other countries such as Japan, Australia, European countries, and America that are not directly affected by SARS.

Doi Inthanon, one of the most famous tourism sites in Chiang Mai used to attract many tourists before the SARS scare.

To attempt to counteract the downturn, the TAT has launched the “Unseen in Thailand” project, which includes Unseen Prize, Unseen Guidebook, and Amazing Thailand Grand Sale as tourist attractions.

Chalermsak also said that Chiang Mai’s tourism income is usually 37 billion baht per year. This amount comes from 3.4 million foreign tourists and 1.9 million domestic tourists.


Mae Moh villagers demanding over 1 billion baht compensation

Class action suit against EGAT

Phitsanu Thepthong and Nantanee Jedsadachaiyut

The Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) is being sued by Mae Moh villagers, who are demanding 1.086 billion baht in compensation. The Lawyers Council of Thailand has filed the lawsuit on behalf of the villagers, accusing EGAT of releasing toxic chemicals in Mae Moh District, Lampang Province, which has affected the villagers’ health.

At Lampang Provincial Court on May 28, Theerasak Sukhuntot, the chairman of the sub-committee on Environmental Protection, from the Lawyers Council of Thailand, represented 130 Mae Moh villagers, accusing EGAT’s lignite mine power plant that it had caused damage to the environment by creating air pollution with dust, flying ash, sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxide emissions from the state-run power plant.

It is being claimed that the atmospheric contamination levels were higher than the accepted maximum standards allowed and these chemicals endanger human life and plants. Excessive amounts of sulfur dioxide and dust could cause diseases of the respiratory system.

The villagers had asked EGAT to stop polluting the environment and producing a health hazard. Theesarak said that this was a case in which the Lawyers Council of Thailand became involved as a representative of the people to help assist these poor villagers. “Although EGAT is a big organization, we are confident that we have enough evidence to win this case,” he said. “EGAT should pay compensation to those people, and 1,086 million baht including 7.5% interest is our demand,” said Theerasak.

However, he noted that the case might take a long time to come to trial as this was a pauper’s lawsuit, and the court had to prove whether all the 130 villagers were really poor, said Theerasak. However, Suphot Hormchuen, the district chief of Mae Moh Government Office told Chiangmai Mail that the first court hearing has been set for August 4 this year.

It is claimed that EGAT in Mae Moh District used lignite as fuel to generate electricity and there was no adequate system to filter out pollutants and clean any emissions released from the plant.


Special Border Economic Zone development continues

However, it’s still facing some problems and obstacles

Nuttanee Thaveephol

The Special Border Economic Zone should be further developed, says the National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB). Pornchai Rujiprapa, the deputy secretary-general of NESDB has surveyed Mae Sai and Chiang Saen districts in Chiang Rai, both of which are important for Special Border Economic Zone development.

Merchant ships in the Mekong River prepare to sail to China.

Chiang Rai’s Chiang Saen River port’s new quayside and warehouse is under construction.

While it was also found that the work on this project was well underway, Pornchai said this should be accelerated, particularly the Chiang Saen River port, which should be completed this year.

Pachara Sinsawas, Mae Sai Customs Office chief said that this special economic zone development is still facing some problems and obstacles. One example of this is the second bridge being built across the Sai River is too small to serve future commerce and trade in the region.

Sermchai Kittiratanapaiboon, Chiang Rai Chamber of Commerce (CRCC) president said that the government should set up a coordination team with the aim of attracting more local administrative organizations to participate in the project. Anan Laodharmatat, a consultant at the CRCC said that if this Special Economic Zone has few incentives, there will be fewer businesses prepared to move to this region.


ASEAN and UNESCO promote ASEAN handicrafts

3rd “Best of ASEAN Handicrafts” contest underway

The Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) member countries are joining with the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to hold the 3rd “Best of ASEAN Handicrafts” contest. The concept is to push Asian handicraft products to become better known in the global marketplace.

Proponents of this program expect that Asian handicraft products will be upgraded to the very best production standard while at the same time considering environmental impact and cultural conservation.

The competitive items must utilize local materials found or originating in the 10 ASEAN countries. The contest will be divided into sections covering household equipment, clothes, general utensils, ornaments, decorations, gifts, and toys.

Winners will receive certificates from UNESCO. Many interested persons or groups have already sent their entries to the Industrial Promotion Center Region 1 Office, Chiang Mai during May this year.


Speeding up government processes

Budgets and projects currently clogged in red tape

Supatatt Dangkrueng

A conference on how to speed up government processes was held at Chiang Mai Hills Hotel last week for 300 local administration officials. Permanent secretary of the Prime Minister’s Office, Pol Maj Yongyuth Sarasombat chaired the conference whilst expressing concerns over the project to speed up government processes in transferring missions, making budgets, and transferring personnel.

The meeting aimed to make the local administration understand the details and operational process and how the system can get clogged. Pol Maj Yongyuth added that at present there are several problems in the process, especially with the system to appropriate government budgets. The system has now changed with some regulations aiming to make it faster and more comfortable.

“So far, less than 4% has been withdrawn to spend on the community development,” said Pol Maj Yongyuth. As the system was previously very complicated, it slowed down work and development in the community itself.

The conference will be held all over the country to give a better understanding among the local administrative officials.


ONCB looks for media assistance in ongoing drug suppression

Wants to rid the community of drug barons

Surachai Tungteerabunditkul

The Office of Narcotics Control Board (ONCB), Northern Region, invited the mass media in eight upper northern provinces, composed of television, radio and newspapers, to participate in a drug fighting seminar at the ONCB building, Chiang Mai.

The director of the Northern ONCB, Pittaya Jinawat informed the media representatives that in the period that the government had declared the war on drugs, they had apprehended more than 30,000 sellers, especially in the hill tribes. The drugs were produced mainly along the borders outside Thailand.

The ONCB is afraid that with the supplies of ya ba now being limited, that the addicts will turn to other drugs such as cocaine, Ecstasy (E) and K pills. It is claimed that the current source of supply can be found at entertainment outlets. To continue to fight drugs, the government has begun a new policy to rid the community of drug barons, added Pittaya.


Buddhist training in schools reduced

Yes, but no, says curriculum officer

Nuttanee Thaveephol

Following the government’s education reform policy, which reduced the Buddhist study period in schools from twice a week to once a week, the Chiang Mai Buddhist Association sent a letter to the Minister of Education, Dr. Sirikorn Maneerin to show their disagreement on this issue.

Further to this, a seminar was held on May 28 bringing together the Chiang Mai Monk Association, Monk University, and other Buddhist organizations in Chiang Mai to discuss this at Buddha Sathan, a religious place in Chiang Mai.

Dr. Somnuek Thatthong, chief of the curriculum development center said that actually the Buddhist lessons were not really reduced because every academic institution can arrange their own study periods. “The educational Institute can provide Buddhist lessons by separating their contents from other subjects or integrate them with any activities or any subject groups. Therefore, students will still have the Buddhist period twice a week or more,” said Dr. Somnuek, with a fine example of circumlocution.

However, the local Monk Association is still not convinced and believe their demand of the Ministry of Education to revert to the previous number of Buddhist teaching periods should be applied in every educational institute.


Nakorn Ping launches “Quit to win in the office” plan

Trying to encourage smokers to quit within six months

Supatatt Dangkrueng

The Nakorn Ping Hospital has launched a project called ‘Quit to Win in the Office’ to encourage smokers, especially in offices, to quit smoking within six months.

Organizers hope the campaign will reduce the numbers of smokers in offices. Cigarette smoke causes a bad atmosphere and bothers non-smoking staff and affects staff efficiency. In addition, second hand smoke causes medical problems for other office workers, called “passive smoking effects.”

The Chiang Mai Public Relations Office released statistical figures from the Public Health Ministry showing that 42,000 patients die annually due to smoking. Most have lung cancer, heart disease and/or blood vessel disease.

This campaign provides treatment with doctor’s consultations and evaluation from Nakorn Ping Hospital. It is especially organized to encourage the staff in both government organizations and private sectors to participate.

Interested people can phone the Psychiatry Department, Room Number 19, Nakorn Ping Hospital, telephone 053 890 755-64 ext 125.


One District One School Project receives budget

12 million baht earmarked for 24 secondary schools

Nantanee Jedsadachaiyut

Chiang Mai Provincial Administration Organization (PAO) has provided a budget for the One District - One School Project. According to the Local Basic Education Development Project in Chiang Mai, Chiang Mai PAO provided 12 million baht for 24 secondary schools in each district for developing an educational system. Each school would receive 500,000 baht to improve the education system and teaching skills.

The schools in this project were selected by the General Education Department to be networking center schools to improve the educational system in country schools, and to offer the same quality of education as schools in the city, so that students would not have to overload the city schools.

This project would bring teachers from Chiang Mai University, Mae Jo University, Payap University, Rajamangala Institute of Technology, Northern campus, and Rajabhat Institute of Chiang Mai to set up an educational cooperative, teacher training, and hold special lectures.


Chiang Mai launches World Environment Day activities

Everyone must help implement solutions

Surachai T. Bunditkul

June 5 is designated as World Environment Day, and Chiang Mai authorities and its people responded in earnest to encourage everyone to do their part for environmental awareness.

From left: Dr Watson Chompakdee, Chiang Mai Mayor Boonlert Buranupakorn, Chiang Mai MP Pakorn Buranupakorn, and Manus Sirimaharaj played leading roles at the function.

Getting the festivities underway a bit ahead of time, Chiang Mai Mayor Boonlert Buranupakorn and his team participated in a function organized at the Thapae Gate grounds on June 1.

Chiang Mai Municipality collaborated with public and private organizations to highlight World Environment Day and to remind our townspeople of the international environmental cooperation needed for saving the earth and our own surroundings.

Mayor Boonlert Buranupakorn, who presided over the opening ceremony said, “At present, many environmental problems come in the way of our life, and have effects on our health, both directly and indirectly. Improvement measures cannot succeed through just one person or one organization, but must be a collaboration by everyone to help protect Chiang Mai’s environment and develop it in the best direction.”

Mayor Boonlert continued, “Chiang Mai also has large billboards to indicate the city’s air pollution levels, to make people pay attention and help by reducing the number of cars and motorcycles. We hope Chiang Mai will cope with all environment problems and find solutions.”

Chiang Mai MP Pakorn Buranupakorn added, “I would like to see all sides realize the importance of environment problems. Today is a good day for all Chiang Mai people to be alert and interested in the problems of the environment in Chiang Mai, and find the ways to make Chiang Mai a pleasant place.”


Over 600 million to be spent on Lamphun’s transportation infrastructure

Plans to reduce traffic jams, speed up travel

Nuttanee Thaveephol

Lamphun is planning to spend 601 million baht in infrastructure improvements. Lamphun Governor Tawach Satiennam said that according to Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s project “Twin City Development”, they have considered public utilities, transportation systems, water source improvements, disaster prevention, arts and culture promotion, and education as part of the overview.

Passengers will soon able to travel between Chiang Mai and Lamphun on new suburban railways.

Chiang Mai MP Yaowapa Wongsawas has proposed many important projects for Chiang Mai, Lamphun, and Mae Hong Son, including upgrading the local road that will cost an estimated 279 million baht, but should reduce traffic jams on Superhighway No. 11 and highways 106, 108, and 116. He also said that to solve traffic problems on San Pa Tong - Hang Dong - Chiang Mai roads there should be a Chiang Mai by-pass to speed up travel from Mae Hong Son to Bangkok, which would cost 270 million baht.

Another 300 million baht will be put into the Chiang Mai - Lamphun suburban railway construction, 86 million baht into the overpass construction project at the Northern Industrial Estate, and the container yard on the Thai Railway Station’s area.

Lamphun Province has already been granted the go ahead for Lee River improvements. The river dredging will be done along 34 kilometers from Chiang Mai to the Pa Sang District, Lamphun. Lee District has received 24,052,615 baht and Tung Hua Chang District received 25,729,298 baht for this scheme.


300 ex-bootleggers protesting again

“Stop arresting us”

Nuttanee Thaveephol

Members of the Chiang Mai Local Liquor Network protested again at city hall, submitting a letter to Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra complaining that they could not produce their liquor under the regulations promulgated by the Excise Department.

Protesters from the northern region congregated at city hall several times to call for fair play.

The group said that the small village producers could not follow the Excise Department’s regulations because of the complex rules, such as liquor factory location, community liquor producer quality, while at the same time, paying the same tax rate as other business investors.

The local producers also demanded that the government hire accountants for the factory’s accounting as they actually cannot follow this regulation because of the high expenses in employment of such persons.

Somchai Sirichai, leader of the protesters, said that they wanted the government to revise the regulations. The protesters proposed the Excise Department should change the regulations to allow natural liquor producers who are qualified to produce community liquor to pay liquor taxes directly at the Local Administration Department. They also wanted excise officers to stop arresting liquor network members.

Parinya Panthong, Chiang Mai deputy governor received the letter to be forwarded to the Chiang Mai governor and prime minister.


Police confiscate 2,800 amphetamine pills and 12 million baht

Could be close to breaking major drug network

Nantanee Jedsadachaiyut

Chiang Rai Provincial Police Commander, Pol. Maj Gen Wuth Withitanont said last week that Mae Lao police in Chiang Rai discovered 2,800 amphetamine pills in a truck parked along Chiang Rai - Chiang Mai highway. The truck was owned by Pat Suthjaidee.

Chiang Mai Police arrested Pat and confiscated more than 12 million baht from him. Police also arrested his illegal business partner, Phanom Sup-anek, an ex- member of Lampang Provincial Council.

Moreover, the police also received information of an expanded drugs network in Lampang, Tak, and in the central region.

The police commander assigned Pol. Col. Chirud Prommobol, deputy commander of Chiang Rai Provincial Police, and Pol. Col. Thanakrit Reonkeaw, the superintendent of Muang Chiang Rai police station to investigate and inspect Pat’s house in Chommokkeaw sub-district, Mae Lao District, and they found more 350 amphetamine pills there. The officers seized property, which might be involved with drugs dealing, but Pat escaped to his wife’s house in Mae Sot, Tak Province.

Pol. Col. Charin Insuwanno continued the investigation, attempting to destroy the network, and inspected Pat’s 4 houses in Tak. They confiscated cars, land with documents of ownership, and bank accounts containing about 12 million baht, but Pat escaped again.


Police officer arrested transporting illegal aliens

An expensive taxi ride for all concerned

Nantanee Jedsadachaiyut

A team of police officers from Rong Kwang Police Station intercepted Pol. Capt. Anan Nitipeeranan, a police inspector from Thung Chang Police Station in Nan Province, while he was driving a pick up truck to Bangkok. The truck was fine, it was the cargo that was the problem, consisting of 15 illegal immigrant workers who had come from the border district of Tachilek Province, Burma on their way to promised work in Bangkok.

According to the Phrae police, the aliens had paid 3,500 baht each to the accused police captain as commission. The Phrae provincial governor, Amornphan Nimanan said that the government and police officers had already set the rules to deal with any influential people, including government officers, who had illegal or shadowy businesses.

The fate of the police ‘taxi’ driver and his cargo had not been determined by time of publication.


Fewer drugs at the borders these days

International cooperation is the key

Surachai
Tungteerabunditkul

The director of the Office of Narcotics Control Board Northern Region, Pittaya Jinawat said that border drug problems at the present time are less serious than before since neighboring countries are showing a willingness to cooperate with Thai authorities.

Pittaya told a press conference held at Chiang Mai City Hall that the amount of drugs getting across the Thai borders was also less, as local police are now working jointly with Lao and Burmese authorities.

The director said that drug sellers have developed new strategies in trafficking, which include smuggling drugs mixed with agricultural products that make it very difficult to inspect and search. “It should be easier if in the future we use x-ray equipment to check all agricultural products being transported,” he said.

It has been suggested in some quarters that police should check erratically behaved plants after fertilizer application, as this may indicate ya ba contamination.


Lists of ‘dark influences’ being prepared

Lists must be submitted by June 10

Nuttanee Thaveephol

There are 14 influential figures, including 12 gunmen, on Provincial Police Region 5’s black list, says Pol Lt. Gen. Prung Boonpadung, the commissioner of Provincial Police Region 5.

According to the 15 basic categories indicated by the government, the influential persons must show an intent to break the law, for example, by assembling men for illegal purposes, possessing weapons, persecuting others for their own benefit, or destroying public property.

The commissioner has assigned the eight provincial police commanders to prepare the lists. There will be weekly investigations starting on Wednesday June 4. However, it has been noted that among the 14 dark influences there were no police officers.

Pol Lt. Gen. Prung said that the investigations will be carried out at three levels - district, provincial, and national. If the local level units cannot deal with any cases, the higher level units will proceed with the investigation instead.

In Lamphun, Tawach Satiennam, the provincial governor has emphasized every district has to hand in their lists by June 10 this year. He believes that there are evil influences in every district, such as organizers of hired motorcycle riders, hired gunmen, bootleg whisky producers, and squatters on public land.


Baby elephant receives acupuncture treatment for injured spine

It has worked on a horse, so why not try an elephant?

Surachai Tungteerabunditkul

A one year old baby elephant has been treated by the Thai Elephant Conservation Center in Hangchat, Lampang after having fallen into a ravine in the forest and injuring its spine, resulting in partial paralysis.

A veterinarian at the Thai elephant conservation center decided to treat the little elephant, named Pri Boon Rot, using Chinese acupuncture and hydrotherapy, believing it was the only chance to avoid leaving the baby as a cripple.

The veterinarian, Sittidet Mahasawangkol, the head of the Center said, “The elephant was injured around the pelvic bones up to its spinal cord and it could not move its back legs or tail.” Remembering that acupuncture treatment carried out by the faculty of Medicine at Chiang Mai University succeeded with a horse, he decided to try with the elephant. “This is the first time we have used this therapy on an elephant,” he said.

The center also prepared a hydrotherapy treatment pond for the elephant so that it could to move its body whilst being supported by the water. Currently the baby patient is progressing well, but there are still some worries about wound infection.


Parents in liposuction accidental death case demand 10 million baht compensation

Accused doctor expresses shame, but cannot pay that amount

Supatatt Dangkrueng

The parents of deceased schoolgirl, Siriporn Muima, or Nong Kung, who died while undergoing liposuction last year, are asking for 10 million baht compensation from Dr. Charlie Karnchanarak, the accused doctor.

The initial stages of the trial are continuing at the Chiang Mai Provincial Court, and the parents of the dead schoolgirl, Kamol and Mrs. Bang-earn Muima; M.R. Charoensuk Suksawas, the representative from Provincial Attorney Council Region 5, Wichit Makkhasunthon, the lawyer for the accused and the defendant Dr. Charlie Karnchanarak were all present at a hearing last week.

Defending lawyer Wichit told the press that Dr. Charlie would plead not guilty to all accusations, and he is prepared to give his testimony in court. However, Dr. Charlie is reported to have said, “Since this case happened, I feel guilty and very sorry for causing Nong Kung’s death. I wish it never happened ... I am willing to pay compensation to Nong Kung’s parents for what they have lost.”

Nong Kung’s parents have set a figure of 10 million baht compensation from Dr Charlie but he says he cannot pay that amount. He did say he is willing to negotiate.

Lawyer Wichit asks the public not to prejudge Dr Charlie as being guilty because he feels shame and cannot face people when he goes out.

The public prosecutor has asked the Attorney Council Region 5 to file a lawsuit against Dr Charlie in addition to the Kamol and Bang-earn Muima civil case. There will be testimony from 15 witnesses at this proposed trial, so quite some time will have to be set aside for the court to hear the lawsuit.