Vol. II No. 26 Saturday 28 June - 4 July 2003
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HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Thailand and Burma sign MOU on labor exchange

India joins Asian nations’anti- drug fight

Beware of ‘copy petrol’

Local whisky production gets CMU attention

Robots found in Chiang Mai

Ministry of Public Health launches disability prevention project

ACD ratifies Asian Bond Market Fund

Hemorrhagic fever on the rise again

South Korea and Thailand hold talks as Chiang Mai hosts major ACD conference

Housewives honor H.M. the Queen with concerted fight against AIDS

Watch out for wild forest mushrooms

Free Aung San Suu Kyi

Another elephant injured by landmine

Illegal aliens apprehended

Border Patrol ambushed in Mae Hong Son

Illegal loggers and gunmen still in Phrae, says governor

Police commandos arrest alleged drug baron Laota Saenlee and his sons

National Municipal League of Thailand holds conference in Chiang Mai

Thailand and Burma sign MOU on labor exchange

Illegal workers will be repatriated - only contract workers can be employed

Supatatt Dangkrueng

Thai and Burmese governments signed a memorandum of understanding on cooperation over the employment of workers during the second Asia Cooperation Dialogue meeting in Chiang Mai. The formal signing ceremony was carried out by Thailand’s Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai and Myanmar’s Foreign Minister Win Aung, and was witnessed by Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

The MOU is on the cooperation framework for the employment of labor from both countries covering legal employment, repatriation process after conclusion and during the contract, the rights of workers and preventing illegal works transfers.

Following the signing of the MOU, all illegal workers will be repatriated and only contract workers can be employed eligible for social welfare and covered by provident funds. If the memorandum becomes a treaty, workers from each country would be entitled to a work contract of up to four years.

The operation was made effective immediately after the signing of the MOU on June 21, 2003. It was also decided that both countries will hold dialogue on the issues at least once a year.

India joins Asian nations’anti- drug fight

By Grant Peck

Chiang Mai (AP) - India last Saturday joined four Asian nations at the core of the region’s drug trade in a new plan to fight the production and trafficking of opium, heroin and methamphetamines.

Thai Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai said he and visiting ministers from India, Myanmar, Laos and China met in this northern city to endorse the scheme.

India was represented by Information Technology and Communications Minister Arun Shourie, while the other ministers held the foreign portfolio.

Under the plan, opium-producing countries will step up efforts to make poppy farmers substitute their crops with legal ones so they can earn a reasonable living, Surakiart said.

The ministers also agreed to work more on marketing substitute crops to make their production more lucrative, and therefore more attractive to farmers, Surakiart said.

Apart from India, the four countries have already been working together in a formal framework since 2001 to curb the production and flow of drugs. A formal signing ceremony for India’s accession to the group will be held in July in Thailand during another ministerial meeting of the five countries, a Thai Foreign Ministry official said.

Thailand began the crop substitution project several decades ago to successfully bring its opium output down to negligible levels.

Pilot projects are underway in Myanmar, which has vowed to make the country drug-free by 2004. Laos has targeted 2005 for eradicating opium.

The five countries also agreed to more tightly regulate the chemicals needed for the production of the illegal stimulant methamphetamine, which is mostly smuggled from China and India.

Controls on these chemicals are lax because they also have legal uses, such as in medicine and dye.

The Golden Triangle area where the borders of Thailand, Myanmar and Laos meet has long been one of the world’s major sources of opium and its derivative, heroin.

Myanmar is the world’s second largest producer, after Afghanistan, of opium and heroin, and recently has become a major exporter of methamphetamines. Laos is the world’s third biggest opium producer.

Myanmar and China have serious drug addiction problems, with users of heroin responsible also for the rapid spread of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Thailand has a huge methamphetamine addiction problem.

Saturday’s meeting was held as part of the second annual gathering of the Asian Cooperation Dialogue, which comprises 18 countries.

The ACD members are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Bahrain, Bangladesh, China, India, Japan, South Korea, Pakistan, and Qatar.

Beware of ‘copy petrol’

Look for the guarantee sign

Nantanee Jedsadachaiyut

The Energy Business Department in cooperation with the Energy Office, Region 10 Chiang Mai has launched a new campaign to check the quality of petrol at the pumps and are encouraging people to only use good quality gas stations displaying a guarantee sticker.

Chumpol Titayarak, the director of the Energy Office Region 10 said that the quality of gasoline needs to be monitored. He said that the petrol retailers would have a chance to participate in the quality control of gasoline to ensure consumers receive a good quality product.

The Energy Business Department will award a special symbol, which looks like a smiling petrol pump, to gas stations that meet the quality standards. However, the energy office also stated that gas stations owners should take the initiative and always check the quality of the petrol they receive.

Local whisky production gets CMU attention

Teaching best methods of home distilling

Surachai T. Bunditkul

The Faculty of Agriculture, Chiang Mai University (CMU) is arranging a special seminar and training course for communities to show them the best production and marketing methods for Thai fermented liquors, and to solve problems dealing with home distilling of Thai whisky.

Assoc. Prof. Pornchai Lueng-ar-papong, the deputy dean of Academic Service and Technology Transfer of the Faculty of Agriculture, CMU said that the faculty will launch this special program to local communities on July 9-10, at Chiang Mai Phucome Hotel.

This training course will help support Thai farmers to have a supplemental job to increase their incomes. The participants at the course will be given advice on how to make and process fermented liquor.

Further information and reservations can be made at the Academic Service and Technology Transfer of the Faculty of Agriculture, CMU, 3rd floor Doi Kam Building, tel. 053 944 088 during office hours. The registration fee is 400 baht per person.

Robots found in Chiang Mai

Pre International Robot Olympiad 2003 at Montfort College

Surachai T. Bunditkul

A “Robot Developing Competition” was organized at Montfort College’s main conference building, with the Chiang Mai Governor Suwat Tantipat presiding over the opening ceremony on June 21.

Students from Assumption Sriracha School put their minds together to try and design a robot program.

Montfort College and Gammago (Thailand) launched the robot competition for primary and secondary school levels, aged under 19 years old, for the Pre International Robot Olympiad (Pre IROC) 2003.

The contest aimed to encourage teachers and students in developing their computer program skills, and to support young people to learn about the robot-development program. It also allowed children to use creativity in their free time.

The winning team will be our representative to compete in the national and international contests to be held in October.

Ministry of Public Health launches disability prevention project

Prevention of disabilities needs cooperation from everyone

Surachai T. Bunditkul

Disability Prevention in Thai Societies was the theme for an event held at the Thapae Gate, presided over by Pol. Gen. Pracha Promnok, the assistant minister of public health. He pointed out that the event was to honor HRH Princess Galaya Nivadhana on the occasion her 80th year anniversary celebration.

Disabled persons performed a stunning wheelchair dance.

It is important that people realize that prevention of disabilities should be foremost in people’s minds. Although we have high technology and advanced medical services, there are still disabilities. The emotional needs of the disabled are very important to make them and their families stay living happily in their societies. However, the prevention of disabilities still needs cooperation from everyone.

Many activities that evening provided a chance for disabled people to show off their talents and capabilities, and representatives from the centers for the disabled in Chiang Mai were present to receive all types of medical equipment.

ACD ratifies Asian Bond Market Fund

Plan of action set into gear

Phitsanu Thepthong

The two-day meeting of the second Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD) Ministerial meeting on June 21-22 in Chiang Mai has ended with the successful establishment of the Asian Bond Market Fund plan of action among ACD member countries.

Thai PM Dr Thaksin Shinawatra gave the keynote address at the ACD closing ceremony. PM Thaksin said the future is bright for the Asian Bond Market, “For Asia, the ACD is a ‘teach-a-man-to-fish’ empowering process towards self-reliance, which is in harmony with the increasingly interdependent world.”

PM Thaksin Shinawatra’s address on “The Future of Asia” was met with loud applause from the representatives from 18 Asian member countries, including the four newly recognized ACD countries of Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Oman, and Sri Lanka.

“The 18 ACD members backed the proposed Asia bond market, with the expansion plan of the second Asia Bond Fund,” said Foreign Minister Dr Surakiart Sathirathai at the press conference held after the ACD meeting ended at Chiang Mai University’s Convention Center. He said India will be the latest entry to provide the USD 1 billion to double the funding initiated by Thailand.

In the future, the plan may include an Asian currency unit; however, in the initial phase, the US dollar will be the common unit.

The fund would also assist joint development for finance and trade, to open up free trade areas in the Asian area, covering commodities, products, goods, and services, as well as tourism-related business, services, industries and aviation.

At the conclusion of the Asia Cooperation Dialogue, there were 15 development projects set up for further study and applications, especially in the field of financial cooperation in this Asian region. The following countries indicated their willingness to head the different projects - Bahrain and Indonesia on energy; Bangladesh, Cambodia and Vietnam on alleviation of poverty; China on agriculture; India on transport linkages and on biotechnology; Malaysia on e-commerce and on infrastructure tax; Pakistan on the Asian Institute of Standards; Singapore on cooperation between SMEs; Republic of Korea on IT development; the Philippines on science and technology; Thailand on financial cooperation; Thailand and Cambodia on tourism; Vietnam on Human Resources development; Japan on environmental education and on the strengthening of legal infrastructure.

This ministerial ACD meeting will be held annually, and next year will be hosted by China with Thailand as the meeting coordinator.

Hemorrhagic fever on the rise again

187 cases reported so far this year

Supatatt Dangkrueng

Chiang Mai Provincial Public Health Office has released the number of hemorrhagic fever cases in the province (up to June 13), which shows that 187 cases have been reported in Chiang Mai, with Muang District having the most.

The situation in Chiang Mai from January to May has also shown an increase, almost one and a half times, to 72 patients. The majority of the patients are in Muang District, followed by San Sai, Hang Dong, Doi Saket and San Patong.

Focusing on Muang, the fever broke out in Tambon Suthep with 27 cases over the past five months. Sporadic, but frequent occurrences also were recorded in Sriphum, Chang Moi, Hai Ya, Pa Tan, Pa Daed and Wat Gate.

Neighboring provinces have also shown an increase in the numbers. The Provincial Public Health Offices in Lampang reported 169 patients, Lamphun 43 patients and 25 patients in Phayao.

South Korea and Thailand hold talks as Chiang Mai hosts major ACD conference

Tourism, economics, trade, investment, and transportation discussed

Phitsanu Thepthong

The first joint commission meeting for bilateral cooperation between Thailand and South Korea saw important dialogue between Dr Surakiart Sathirathai, the Thai minister of Foreign Affairs and his counterpart South Korean Foreign Minister Yoon Young-Kwan, at the Westin Hotel, Chiang Mai. Both Thailand and South Korea discussed the mechanism for cooperation, during the Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD) conference held here from June 21-22.

The agendas for the two countries had been identified in several fields including economic, trade, investment, information communications technology (ICT), transportation and tourism. “Korea fully supports PM Thaksin Shinawatra’s ACD,” said Dr Surakiart.

In the ITC field, he said the chairman of working committee would be the Korean foreign minister, and it is expected this would result in better cooperation between the two countries. Thailand is the 7th country selected for Korean investment projects, especially in the fields of ICT and textiles. Both countries agreed to cooperate in the broadband Internet service and the establishment of an e-government in Thailand.

Talks also covered the regulations for liberal or free trade zones to be announced by the two countries. However, he said it may take time to accomplish this free trade project and cooperation, as some items are still “sensitive” issues. Thailand and Korea have agreed to seek ways to ease trade barriers and increase their bilateral trade, especially in agricultural products such as rice, tapioca, frozen chicken, and fresh fruits. South Korea is willing to assist in promoting the Thai rice market in that country, “However, these kinds of agricultural products exported to Korea must be up to standard,” the Korean foreign minister remarked.

Thailand and South Korea agreed to cooperate in promoting peace and stability in this region by supporting the ASEAN Regional Forum’s role in tackling problems in the Korean peninsula, particularly the nuclear weapon situation in North Korea.

Thailand and Korea also are looking at close cooperation in the Mekong River Basin, as Korea could receive an influx of laborers from there, with more Thai workers going to Korea each year, currently numbering about 20,000 workers, both skilled and unskilled. He also urged his Korean counterpart to take care of all Thai workers legally entering his country, provide them with training to upgrade their skills, and provide them with health insurance.

As regards reciprocal tourism, Minister Surakiart said that the Thai side hopes that Thai tourists to South Korea could be issued visas more easily. He also said that with good cooperation from both countries, about 700,000 Korean visitors will travel to Thailand each year.

Cultural exchanges between religious leaders and academics of the two countries will also receive a major boost to promote better understanding between the peoples of the two regions.

Housewives honor H.M. the Queen with concerted fight against AIDS

To build HIV/AIDS social service centers

Nantanee Jedsadachaiyut

The Interior Ministry Housewife’s Association has launched a promotional campaign against HIV/AIDS as part of the celebrations to honor Her Majesty the Queen’s 6th cycle birthday anniversary on August 12 next year.

This campaign is aimed to give merit and esteem to Her Majesty the Queen. The Interior Ministry Housewife’s Association is going to expand a network for helping HIV/AIDS patients, build a complete social service center to provide treatment and rehabilitation for patients, stop the spread of HIV/AIDS and coordinate efforts to solve AIDS problem at the district and provincial levels.

The HIV/AIDS provincial center in Chiang Mai is established, while those in the districts are in the process of being established. The HIV/AIDS center would be located in each district; the officers would provide suitable support, plan policies and activities to control the spread of HIV/AIDS in the area, provide help for the HIV/AIDS patients’ families, and importantly, create the proper understanding about HIV/AIDS for people in their communities.

Watch out for wild forest mushrooms

Tame ones are safer!

Surachai T. Bunditkul

Chiang Mai Provincial Agriculture Extension Office has published a warning about eating forest mushrooms, because some are extremely toxic and can kill people who eat them.

The head of the office, Supot Nimanon, said that this is the start of the wet season and there are many kinds of forest mushrooms springing up. Local people pick these to sell in the rural markets, especially in northern and northeastern regions where people enjoy wild mushrooms.

Unfortunately, some forest mushrooms are poisonous and the results of eating them are serious. The types to avoid are colorful, fragrant and are called ring forest mushrooms. Effects are generally felt within 8-12 hours, with vomiting, intoxication, lethargy, headache and diarrhea. The toxins can destroy the nerve system, liver, kidney and optic nerve.

Immediate First Aid for an adult who has ingested a poisonous mushroom is to take a tablespoon of castor oil (children should take a teaspoon) and then go straight to the closest hospital.

Free Aung San Suu Kyi

Pro-democracy dissidents stage peaceful protest

Nantanee Jedsadachaiyut

Friends of Burma Coalition in Chiang Mai staged a peaceful protest and a candlelight vigil on June 19, chosen as Aung San Suu Kyi’s 58th birthday. The demonstration was organized at Thapae Gate to call for Aung San Suu Kyi’s and all political prisoners’ freedom in Burma.

Friends of Burma Coalition in Chiang Mai staged a peaceful protest and a candlelight vigil on June 19, calling for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners in Myanmar.

According to some reports, the Burmese military junta apprehended Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD) and Nobel Peace Prize winner and her entourage on May 30 in Northern Burma. During that clash some pro-democracy activists and NLD members are reported to have died. Since then, Aung San Suu Kyi has been kept in “protective custody.”

Min Min Oo, a representative of the Friends of Burma Coalition, addressed the meeting saying, “Now the military authorities are claiming that they are working towards democracy - this must be a fantasy. How can authorities that are so afraid to grant basic democratic rights to people construct a democracy? The fact is that the present military authorities are in great fear of people power. Their minds seem to be set on the idea that only by keeping the people crushed and subjugated they can exist. Such people can never construct democracy.”

Around 500 people, including Thai, Burmese, and international citizens gathered to support the pro-democracy fight for peace in Burma. “We want the world to know that we are prisoners of our own country,” said Min Min Oo.

Another elephant injured by landmine

Female elephant appears to have come from Laos

The National Elephant Institute, Hang Chat District, Lampang Province has taken in an injured female elephant, which appears to have come from Laos. The elephant had stepped on a landmine.

The injured elephant shows its wound to the Chiangmai Mail reporters.

Veterinarian Sitthidej Mahasawangkul, head of the Elephant Hospital Department said that the elephant has no name or owner and had extensive injuries to its left foot. Its wound looked like the animal had stepped on the mine about one week previously. The new case was sent to the institute from the Uttaradit Provincial Livestock Office, which had found the wounded and hungry elephant.

The institute found that the elephant’s wound was infected, with some parts of its flesh necrotic because it had received no treatment after its injury. Treatment at this stage is in cleaning the wound and cutting away the necrotic material. There appears to be no other injuries.

Illegal aliens apprehended

Woman charged with human trafficking

Surachai T. Bunditkul

The Provincial Police Region 5 caught and arrested 10 illegal alien workers on the Chiang Mai-Mae Rim Road on June 17. They also just happened to be carrying 800 ya ba pills.

Pol. Col. Danai Boonreang, provincial police region 5 superintendent and his team arrested 39-year-old Mrs. Sim Huang Sae-lee or Je Hom, who was charged with smuggling the 10 illegal Thai Yai workers through the northern Thai border near Myanmar. During the check, police discovered the 800 ya ba pills concealed behind a loudspeaker.

Mrs. Sim Huang confessed that she would get 500 baht per person for successful transfers.

Police files show that Je Hom has been linked with a Khun Jor, who was the head of a human trafficking gang in Pong Pakam Village on the Myanmar border opposite Tambon Muang Na, Chiang Dao District, Chiang Mai. According to the police, both persons were known to be human traffickers.

Border Patrol ambushed in Mae Hong Son

Two Thai soldiers were injured after a gun battle with unknown assailants at the Thai border of Ban Doi Sang in Tambon Pang Moo, Muang District, Mae Hong Son.

The battle apparently started when 12 Thai soldiers on routine patrol were attacked by an unidentified group using M 16 and AK-47 assault weapons. The fighting continued for about 5 minutes and ended with the two Thai soldiers shot and severely injured.

Privates Pompetch Kengjing and Udorn Suma were evacuated by a medical helicopter and brought to Sri Sang Wan Hospital in Mae Hong Son and later sent to Maharaj Nakhon Chiang Mai Hospital with Private Pompetch suffering with severe internal bleeding.

Lt. Col. Nuttawut Chunhanan, the commander of the 172nd Infantry has now stationed extra patrols in the area and is continuing to look for the enemy group. It is believed that this armed force was still hiding somewhere around the Thai border.

Illegal loggers and gunmen still in Phrae, says governor

Nuttanee Thaveephol

The Phrae governor has already handed in his province’s list of dark influences, which includes illegal loggers, hired guns and the illegal lottery figures. However, he says that the problem in suppressing the influential agents in Phrae comes from the fact that the gangster syndicates have long been rooted in the province.

Governor Amornphan Nimanan said that he sent his list of influential figures to the Ministry of Interior on June 18 and that quashing the influential agents was the top priority of his administration, so all the information could not be revealed at this time.

“Phrae government is intent on suppressing the illegal loggers and gunmen that have been a large problem for a long time, affecting other provinces around us. These dark influences and influential syndicates have to be eliminated immediately,” said the Phrae governor.

Police commandos arrest alleged drug baron Laota Saenlee and his sons

War on drugs beginning to bring in the big boys

Phitsanu Thepthong

On Thursday, June 12, a team of about 100 commando police, led by assistant national police chief Pol Lt-Gen Priewphan Damapong, along with ONCB officials and US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officers, raided the house of drug baron Laota Saenlee, a Lisu hill tribesman in Ban Huay San village, Group 10, in Tambon Tha Ton.

Laota was arrested, along with his two sons, Wijarn and Kasem. The three suspects were flown to Bangkok for further questioning and they were charged with drug trafficking along the borders in Northern Thailand and on charges of conspiring to export heroin, including to the United States.

Sources at the Office of Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) disclosed that police have been investigating Laota for some time and more major suspects believed to belong to Laota’s drug gang are expected to be arrested soon. The police action to arrest Laota was based on information received from a drug suspect arrested in Bangkok about a year ago with 1.6 kg of heroin.

Last week, Chiang Dao district police ordered further investigation after one of Laota’s aides was killed in a gun battle with local police on Chiang Mai- Fang Road. 10,000 ya ba pills were discovered at the scene. Pol Col Nithipat Pattanathabutre, the superintendent of Chiang Dao police disclosed that Laota’s aide, a person named Chatchawan, was also involved with car and motorcycle theft in the provinces of Chiang Mai, Lamphun, Lampang, Nakhon Prathom, Nakhon Sawan, Kanchanaburi, Ratchaburi, Bangkok, Samut Prakarn, Tak, Ayutthaya, and Prathum Thani.

Police sources also claimed that Laota ‘s drug ring and network had been linked with some of the provincial council members. Claims include that he was involved with the Lampang Provincial Council member Phanom Sap-anek, and his assistants who were arrested previously on drug charges.

Police are amassing more evidence for the arrest warrants of another son, Banyat Saenlee, and son in law, Somchai Saenmee, who are still at large. Much police information came following the previous arrest of Somsak, another of Laota’s right hand men, who confessed that he, Laota, and his two sons, Wijarn and Kasem had delivered a large amount of heroin into the USA. He also claimed that Laota had twice delivered drugs to Taiwan.

Laota is alleged to be involved with Wei Hsueh-Kang, a famous drug warlord heading one faction of Burma’s ethnic United Wa State Army, and believed to be the biggest drug producer in the Golden Triangle area.

Wei is also wanted by the American DEA.

An ONCB official said Laota joined the drug rackets headed by Khun Sa after the Shan rebel leader took control of the Doi Lang area on the Thai-Burmese border in the early 1980s. Laota later developed close ties with Wei Hsueh-kang after Khun Sa surrendered himself to the Burmese government.

Laota Saenlee may be extradited to the USA after being processed under Thai law.

National Municipal League of Thailand holds conference in Chiang Mai

Surachai T. Bunditkul

Government officials from 1,129 municipalities all over Thailand attended the National Municipal League of Thailand (NMLT) conference in Chiang Mail June 19-21. The meeting was held at Lotus Pang Suan Kaew Hotel, Chiang Mai.

Pracha Promnok presented awards to officials from Phuket, Tabom Plaeksa and Tambon Renunakhon, winners of the NMLT “Nice to Live In” municipality contest. (Photo By Supatatt Dangkrueng)

The meeting involved government staff from 1,129 municipalities. (Photo By Supatatt Dangkrueng)

Deputy Minister of Interior Pracha Promnok presided at the opening of the 46th conference, held to summarize the consequences and results of NMLT works during the year. Principal amongst these was the transferring of properties and manpower from the Ministry of Interior to the NMLT to manage.

The NMLT also announced the winners of the “Nice to Live In” municipality contest, with Phuket Municipality being the winner of group 1 while Tabom Plaeksa and Tambon Renunakhon were the winners of groups 2 and 3.

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