Chiang Mai people light candles to
humbly bless Her Majesty Queen Sirikit
Long live HM the Queen
On August 12, every organization in Chiang Mai gathered
to bless Her Majesty Queen Sirikit on her 71st birthday anniversary.
of Chiang Mai people lit candles in unison with the rest of the Kingdom to
pay respect and bless Her Majesty Queen Sirikit on Her birthday, August 12.
(More photos appear on page 5)
One of the major events took place at the 700 years
sports complex, where organizations such as government offices, court
personnel, police, Wing 41 personnel, private organizations, and schools;
including Montfort College, Prince Royal’s College, and other private
The representatives wore uniforms of their institutes in
the morning and Thai tradition clothing in the afternoon.
In the afternoon, Chiang Mai Governor Suwat Tantipat lit
a candle at the same time as other provinces, and all joined with other
people throughout the nation to sing the blessing song for HM the Queen.
Long live HM the Queen!
from several organizations presented jasmine flowers to the image of Her
Majesty Queen Sirikit on Her 71st birthday anniversary.
people humbly presented jasmine flowers to the image of Her Majesty Queen
Sirikit on Her 71st birthday anniversary, wishing Her a long life.
Chiang Mai Governor
Suwat Tantipat lit up a special candle in front of a portrait of Her
Majesty Queen Sirikit.
Mai Governor Suwat Tantipat joined with other people throughout the nation
to sing the royal anthem for HM the Queen.
The Voice of Youth: Heard around the World
Chiangmai Mail special
correspondent Peter Cummins was recently in Sri Lanka on an assignment with
the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and he found the country -
especially its children - bearing a number of similarities to our own
Thailand. There was an air of hope, expectation and increasing tolerance,
especially among the younger generations who have known violence for most of
to the rescue: helping disadvantaged girls in Sri Lanka.
This story accentuates the similarities rather than the
differences between the two predominantly Buddhist cultures, and
concentrates on the great gains being made by Thai young people - with much
support from UNICEF, individuals, non-governmental organizations and
institutions in both the public and private sectors - with just passing
references to Sri Lanka’s children.
A world fit for
Things are happening in the world, things besides murder,
mayhem, corrupt corporations, cheating, lying, war, famine abject poverty of
millions, greed and child abuse, to name a few of the great achievements of
the human race these past few years (decades, centuries?).
temple housing the tooth of Buddha, Kandy, at dusk.
Rather than “things”, though, it is a movement. Not
the tired old movements which have appeared over the years: rallies,
marches, protests and groups gathering and raising their collective voices
defending their rights against whatever causes bother them at any given
time, eventually to disappear.
Now, there are voices raised - voices which are going to
“be heard around the world”, as a renowned leader once said of an
anti-war movement many years ago. These new voices are going to be with us
for a long time; in fact they are going to be the leaders of a, hopefully,
different world in the decades to come.
Lanka children perform a dance on family conflict.
It is the “Voice of Children”, to borrow from the
title of a new publication of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)
and it is voices being heard around a world that they are now having a
little chance of shaping, thanks to a global movement, nurtured by the
United Nations, non-governmental organizations and many institutions in both
the public and private sectors.
In Thailand, as elsewhere, children are not only “tuned
in” to the media - they are running some of it: radio, television and such
programmes as Child Wave Radio, a Youth News Centre and in some up-country
areas, training for youth and students in theatre and radio production,
empowering them and providing the channels for communicating and expressing
their views on community affairs. Histrionics, to emphasize a problem, is a
great medium used in such countries as Sri Lanka where children perform live
tableaux in village squares, to bring home the dangers of such diseases as
dengue fever, conflict in unhappy homes which cause enormous stress for
young people, simulated scenes of child labour and a myriad other social
tableau of the dangers of dengue fever unfolds in a Sri Lanka village
“The Child Wave Radio”, specifically, operates five
days a week in Phitsanulok and Chiang Rai and, now, with UNICEF assistance,
has been extended to almost half of Thailand’s provinces, with more than
500 young people airing their views on social issues, child’s rights and
many other matters which affect them specifically and the social fabric
ubiquitous Sri Lanka elephant: watching over society.
There is another good comparison here with Sri Lanka
also: the Thai Youth News (TYN) is operated by youngsters who are being
trained in all forms of media and is aired once a week on Thailand’s
National TV Channel 11. The Young Asia Television in Colombo produces daily
spots. Although not specifically aimed at children’s rights, nevertheless
YATV - as it is euphemistically called - produces documentaries covering the
gamut of human problems. The average age of the channel’s personnel, who
are all trained from novices in all forms of media - is just 23 years.
There is hope for the future: it is in the “Voices of
The Thai National Youth Parliament
Suchart was just so excited that he could hardly breathe,
let alone be able to express his views reflecting those of Thai children AND
have the opportunity of not only meeting his own prime minister and
accompanying senior Thai government officials, but to interview them and be
empowered to table the concerns of young people in a face-to-face meeting
with the country’s leaders, through the medium of the National Youth
H.E. Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Minister Suwit
Kunkitti, Deputy Minister of Education Dr. Sirikorn Maneerin, Minister of
Public Health Sudarat Kaeyurapan and other key government officials joined
with senior UNICEF staff on a visit to the Thai Youth Parliament, a first
for both government officials and Thai young people.
Suchart was very quick to rise to the occasion, however,
and although this meeting took place in January when Thailand celebrates
Children’s Day, it was the first-ever Thai National Youth Parliament and
has set a new course for Thai children and, by their example, children
elsewhere in the world.
Along with another 250 youth representatives from all of
Thailand’s 76 provinces, including a big contingent of physically
disadvantaged young people, Suchart and many of his peers were able to
present to the government a number of the vital and pressing issues facing
young people in the Kingdom - in fact globally - in the broad context of the
improved protection of children from violence, abuse, exploitation and
These are some of the themes, in fact, which reverberated
throughout the corridors of the United Nations, at the recent United Nations
General Assembly Special Session on Children. The world’s young people
raised their voices in unison, as accredited delegates to the Assembly, not
just requesting the world’s leaders to hear them and then merely pay
‘lip service’ to their needs and rights, as in the past, but to
galvanize into action on such destructive forces as AIDS and other diseases
afflicting children. The young people demanded access to education for an
estimated 120 million children worldwide, who were denied even the basics of
learning. Furthermore, the youth delegates railed strongly against
governments which fail to respect children’s rights - even among UN Member
States which have acceded to the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights
of the Child.
Thailand’s Youth Parliament represented a direct
approach to its leaders and the reaction was most positive. The prime
minister himself praised the Thai youth “for their creativity” and
pledged that the “government agencies concerned with children, youth, the
family and education” would apply the needs of youth, as expressed in the
forum, into government policy which has already been approved by the Thai
UNICEF is making great strides in fighting HIV/AIDS, a
scourge of Thailand’s north and north-east provinces, the poorest in the
Kingdom where, in co-operation with the Buddhist clergy, state agencies and
individuals, UNICEF supports (for more than eight years) a programme known
as “The Sangha Metta”. This self-help idea is implemented by the
Buddhist Monks who use the local temple (Wat) as a base to work with village
head-men, house-wives, in fact, everyone involved - to help alleviate the
suffering and overcome the superstition and ignorance surrounding the
epidemic - a stigma which impacts very negatively upon the child victims of
A number of projects have also been initiated to help the
Hilltribe people, with education, skill development and other assistance
which has gone a long way to help these young people - so prone to social
and sexual exploitation - become proud, independent and productive, many
maintaining their own crops, cattle and fish farms, all producing income.
Also related to the northeastern areas of Thailand is a
project pioneered by a group of Bangkok-based international hotels and
strongly supported by UNICEF known as the Youth Career Development Programme
(YCDP). Established in 1995 by the Pan Pacific Hotel in Bangkok, this unique
programme is designed to train disadvantaged girls to enter Thailand’s
burgeoning hotel and tourism industry. It has developed from a few hotels
back seven years ago, taking on some trainees, to 14 hotels with 67 trainees
in 2000. Now, in 2003, the intake is over 100, for 19 leading hotels, with
the Standard Chartered Nakornthon Bank joining as a sponsor and Bumrungrad,
one of Bangkok’s leading hospitals, recognized among the world’s best,
offering full nursing scholarships to 25 young girls.
All girls selected for these programmes are disadvantaged
by poverty and, thus, highly vulnerable to exploitation, drug abuse and
prostitution from which the only way forward is downwards. Now, after
undertaking their five-month (hotel) and nine-month (nursing) courses, these
girls will be equipped to handle and, indeed, embark on a life of hope,
pride and accomplishment.
The hotels train the interns in a wide range of facets of
the hotel and tourism sectors, including housekeeping, laundry, flower
arranging, food and beverage. Perhaps as importantly, the young girls learn
“life-coping” skills, including sex education, the study of the
insidious dangers of HIV/AIDS, child rights and child protection awareness
Those graduates who do not, in fact, join their
sponsoring hotel’s staff enter government, teaching or private sector
So successful has this programme been that a similar
scheme has been adopted by the Royal Thai Government Skills Development
Department for training young people nation-wide in the services sector and
in such non-governmental organizations as the Royal Project Foundation.
Furthermore, the Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering Centre of the
government’s Ministry of Science is now training at-risk adolescent girls
in such areas as tissue culture and agro-industry.
Dilemmas in anti-trafficking operations Part 1
A raid took place in Chiang Mai almost three months ago.
Target was the karaoke bar Baan Rom Yen, where a large number of women were
employed as sex workers, apparently including trafficked women and minors.
As usual, the local media reported the event from the perspective of the
“raiders.” The women and girls were portrayed as law-breakers or hapless
Even when seen from the women’s perspective, the
circumstances surrounding the raid are distressing: their work was
disrupted, they were forced to go with the raiders and face an uncertain
future. This alone disempowers and robs them of constructive choices.
A number of women’s rights organisations subsequently
condemned the raid. One such group, EMPOWER Chiang Mai, has been fighting
for the past twelve years to secure more rights and better working
conditions for female employees in the entertainment industry.
In its capacity as a watchdog, EMPOWER circulated a
report in the aftermath of the raid, accusing the raid-organisers of
“employ[ing] methods using deception, force and coercion.” (EMPOWER
Report, May 2003)
The advocate worker for EMPOWER, Pornpit Puckmai,
explained the group’s guiding values: “In everything we do, the women
themselves come first. Their experiences, their feelings and thoughts - that
is what matters. After all, they are the ones who actually work in the
entertainment industry and suffer the most from unfair or corrupt practices,
biased laws and sloppy law enforcement.”
Pornpit reiterates that raids like this one do more harm
than good. She and the other staff and volunteers had been familiar with the
karaoke bar. They had had contact to several of its women employees via
EMPOWER’s classes and information drives. Pornpit remained firm in her
defence of the women: “The raid reinforced the status quo of victimising
women, who, like all working women were simply trying to make a living to
support their families.”
Yet the motivation behind this raid differed from those
previously launched against Baan Rom Yen and similar establishments in
Chiang Mai. Although the police was still the implementing force, the
initiators belonged to a larger network: the Anti-trafficking Coordination
Unit of Northern Thailand, otherwise known as TRAFCORD.
The unit’s Programme Coordinator, Ben Svasti, shares
EMPOWER’s concern for the women. He also welcomed their critical
observations: “Any healthy and democratic network has a clear voice of
opposition within it. We need the voice ... in order to balance our policies
and advocate for groups which might otherwise become even more
marginalized.” Ultimately, he admits, both organisations share the same
Founded little over a year ago and internationally
funded, TRAFCORD unites those NGOs, government entities and other concerned
agencies in the anti-trafficking movement. The main objective is to prevent
the trafficking of women and children into and beyond the borders of
Suriya Kasemsirisawat, TRAFCORD manager, admits that the
fluid, web-like nature of the unit can sometimes complicate things. “Our
semi-NGO status allows us broad autonomy in decision-making and action,”
he explained, “yet at the same time we are bound by the MOU between the
TRAFCORD partner organisations. We thus also collaborate with state
authorities, including administration officials and the police.”
He confirms the unspoken question hanging in the air.
“Yes, we are aware of the corruption that this specific body is so
frequently accused of. It constantly raises questions as we work.”
TRAFCORD’s two full-time and two part-time employees
share space and resources with the Chiang Mai Coordination Center for the
Protection of Child Rights (CCPCR), based at city hall. CCPCR has been in
place for four years and had originally been charged with the task of
combating the trafficking of minors. As it also deals with many other issues
affecting children, TRAFCORD has taken over the anti-trafficking emphasis.
Both cooperate closely when it comes to operations like raids, or rescue
missions. These aim to free child sex workers and slaves from their captors
and assist in their rehabilitation.
Ben spells it out: “The bottom line is that if places
of entertainment continue to use children and slaves to sell sexual
services, then they will be ‘raided’ relentlessly by rescue teams like
What actually happened in before, during and after this
particular raid? The agreed upon facts are as simple as the details are
The starting point lies in March 2003. An affiliated NGO
received news via a volunteer posing as a client that an underage sex-worker
was being held at Baan Rom Yen against her will. The NGO informed TRAFCORD.
The girl after some time admitted that two other girls had also been
trafficked. All three apparently wanted to return to Burma.
On May 2nd, 2003 police spearhead the raid, accompanied
by TRAFCORD’s strategic team and journalists. 20 women and girls are found
on the premises. They are transported to the Chiang Mai Public Welfare
Boys’ Home. All in all, 29 women and girls are placed in the Home. They
cannot leave until their cases have been processed.
Not one has returned to Burma yet.
To be continued...
Persimmon being looked at as high income winter fruit
Supply currently cannot meet demand
Persimmon, a new winter agricultural product (fruit), is
in demand at local markets and could become a high earner for local farmers
willing to cultivate the fruit.
Kriengkrai Kanongdechachart, Agricultural Extension and
Development Office Zone 6 director, said that the winter fruit could provide
high incomes for highland farmers.
former Kuomintang (KMT) military officer from Mainland China grows and peels
Japanese persimmons at Ban Luang plantation in Angkhang mountainous areas in
Fang District, about 160 kilometers north of Chiang Mai City. (Photo by
The Highland Agricultural Extension Office, in
cooperation with the Royal Project’s research team, is encouraging
highland farmers to cultivate persimmon, a relatively new cash crop being
grown in many areas around upper northern Thailand, especially in Chiang
Mai, Chiang Rai, and Mae Hong Son provinces.
persimmon tree in Ban Luang, a former KMT village in Fang. (Photo by
Kriengkrai said that at present, more than 2,000 rai in
Pang Ung and Kaenoi villages in Mae Chaem, and Hot District in Chiang Mai
are being used to grow 2 strains of persimmon: P2, and Fuyu.
persimmon fruits are a favorite local winter fruit. (Photo by Phitsanu
Experts expect that about 300 tons of persimmons will be
produced this year, which is not enough to cover demand for the fruit in
domestic markets, even though the fruit costs about 35 baht per kilogram,
which is considered quite high. They are therefore suggesting that many
highland agriculturalists (northern farmers) should begin growing
“Along with apples and strawberries, persimmons have
become Thai people’s number one most appreciated winter fruit,” said
A new era begins at Chiangmai Mail
The Chiangmai Mail team began a new era last Sunday,
August 17 when we picked up our gear and moved across the street to our new
Our first office was getting too small after only 10
months in business. Luckily, the new premises are almost next-door, and
Chiangmai Mail now has a very wide and comfortable 2-story office building
with separate rooms for each department. It will be a tremendous help,
allowing administration, accountants, sales and editorial staff to still
work close together with the management, but in peace, harmony and privacy
which is a big step forward towards a healthy, peaceful and fruitful working
On moving day Sunday August 17, everyone assembled very
early in the morning at the new premises to await the 5 monks from Papang
Temple and their master of ceremonies, all of whom were invited by COB
Norachai Prasertmanukit and MD Michael Vogt to make this a lucky day with a
special northern Thai ceremony, called “withdrawing and getting into a new
house”. The MC from Prapang Temple started the withdrawing ceremony by
removing evil and bad spirits, which might have been settled inside.
For this, he used 7 “Satuang”, which are trays made
of banana leaves, filled with flowers, candles, incense and water. These
satuangs were placed on a special shelf in front of the building, where he
then kneeled down and prayed.
After this, it was time to move good spirits in by
letting the monks, which had arrived by that time, place 4 satuangs in all
corners of the new building and pray, asking for good luck, health and
success at every single satuang in all 4 corners.
Then the monks walked slowly to the main reception area,
sat around the small ‘holy tray’ and prayed together with everyone
present. After approximately 1 hour, the male staff thanked the monks with
presents, and they blessed everyone in return by sprinkling holy water. The
revered monks also blessed the entrance doors with gold, which hopefully
will bring luck and prosperity to Chiangmai Mail and everyone involved
At around 11 a.m., the monks were presented with food and
afterwards all joined together for the first lunch in the new Chiangmai Mail
The afternoon was dedicated to work, and that’s what
everybody did. Reporters, sales, administration, senior and junior staff,
everyone joined together to move furniture and equipment from the old office
to the new.
Our new address is 156 - 158 Im- boon Housing Estate,
Muangsamut Road, Tambon Changmoi, Muang District, Chiang Mai. 50300. Tel:
053 234 102, 06 654 5451-2, fax 053 234 145.
the new offices.
first person to congratulate us (although it was not the “Grand
Opening” yet) was Somdul Saengfai (left) from Perfect Shield Co., Ltd.
Prasertmanukitch, COB Chiangmai Mail, receives his white string from the
monk, which is believed to ensure good luck, fortune, and happiness for
revered monk from Wat Pa Paeng Temple nearby blesses our new surroundings.
the solemn ceremony at the new offices.
latest “News” - indeed, this little fellow (on the right, as on the
left is Chiangmai Mail’s very own Marion Vogt) has been named
“News”. Why? His Mom started to work for our paper just at the
beginning of her pregnancy, and decided that “News” would be the most
appropriate name to give him. Mom is not in the picture, as she went to
hand-deliver some newspapers.
elements (fire, earth, metal, water, and wood), as well as all 4 corners
of the new location were blessed, and the spirits were humbly asked to
keep an eye on the area.
one of Chiangmai Mail’s reporters who has been with us from the very
beginning, receives his band.
joined in to lend a hand, collecting, packing, and re-organizing boxes of
files, computers, and an awful lot of paper.
Chiangmai Mail gang, assembling in front of the new premises, just 30
meters on the left from the previous Office.
the monks indeed had a very busy schedule last Sunday, they were kind
enough to pose with the Chiangmai Mail Team for a quick photo.