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HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

EGAT to be sued in Chiang Mai Administrative Court

Chiang Mai Zoo’s panda house given 5 star rating by Chinese delegation

American export expert points the way for Thai entrepreneurs

Chiang Rai plans for the future

Chiang Rai and Bor Kaew in Laos agree to build bridges

Prince Mahidol’s memory celebrated at CMU

Biomass power we can grow for ourselves

Home schooling for handicapped children

More water supplies with royal artificial rain making operations

Yok Dok for OTOP

Schools to be closed in remote areas

Wide road project is proven a success

The future of the Salween Dam

EGAT accelerates Environment Impact Assessment for Wiang Haeng lignite mine

Hill Tribe leaders come back to be trained

Chiang Mai welcomes the president of Indonesia

AIDS orphans show behavioural problems

Truck accident on Chiang Mai-Lampang Superhighway kills driver

Three Pakistani men and two Burmese immigrants arrested

Workshop looks at problems encountered by Thai women seeking employment abroad

EGAT to be sued in Chiang Mai Administrative Court

Coughing Mae Moh villagers say open the coffers

The villagers in Mae Moh district, Lampang, have filed a lawsuit against the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EAGT) in the Administrative Court in Chiang Mai.

On August 30, many sick people from 16 villages gathered at the Administrative Court file a lawsuit calling for 1.08 billion baht compensation for the respiratory problems they claim are caused by the Mae Moh lignite power plant.

The villagers from 16 villages in the district are suing the Mae Moh lignite power plant operated by EGAT and are calling for 1.08 billion baht compensation for the respiratory problems they claim are caused by the plant, and asked for the environment around Mae Moh area to be rehabilitated.

The villagers also asked that the government spend 3.7 million baht to hire doctors from Rajavithee Hospital, Bangkok to work and be stationed in the area.

Somboon Srikumdorkkae, the chairman of the Thai occupationally affected patients network said that more than 2,000 people in Mae Moh district had been experiencing health problems for more than 10 years since the power plant was built.

In the past, EGAT had sent doctors to take care of the villagers but they were of the opinion that they could not solve any problems and sometimes made mistakes in diagnosis. When the villagers went to Rajavithee Hospital, it was found that more than 130 villagers had inflamed lungs and respiratory problems caused by sulfur dioxide exposure over a long period of time. Many people had died over the past 10 years.


Chiang Mai Zoo’s panda house given 5 star rating by Chinese delegation

Local bamboo also given Highly Recommended classification by panda diners

The much celebrated Chiang Mai Zoo panda cage is already 80% completed with the construction work allocated a budget of 39 million baht by the Thai government.

To inspect the progress, Chinese officials led by Zhern Run Zheng, the secretary of Wildlife Animals Association, China, looked at the 3,000 sq. meter panda cage construction at Chiang Mai Zoo.

Montree Nawigphon, the chairman of the Zoological Park Organization, said that after the Chinese officers had inspected the construction work, they were very satisfied but asked that the barrier between the area where the panda bears live to the public viewing area be altered as they were afraid that the pandas could climb out. A panda bear wandering loose amongst the visitors to the zoo, although exciting, would not be a good thing.

On September 1-5, Thai Deputy Prime Minister Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh and other delegates went to Sichuan, China to select the pandas and will bring them to Thailand’s Chiang Mai Zoo in October this year, after suitable travel documents have been issued.

Initially, Thai Airways International will bring the pandas’ bamboo food from China. However, the Royal Project has grown bamboo and sent this to China to allow the pandas a taste test, and the Chinese officials said that the Thai bamboo received the panda good housekeeping seal of approval.


American export expert points the way for Thai entrepreneurs

Metinee Chaikuna

Chiraporn Tullayanond, the Director of Department of Export Promotion (DEP), Northern Center, Chiang Mai arranged a seminar to present new ideas for Thai businessmen looking to export Thai goods to the USA.

Last year, US exports earned 570,000 million baht, but this year the USA faced many problems like war and SARS. The DEP was expected to expand the market in the world and try even harder to get in to US markets during this time.

Chiraporn Tullayanond, the Director of DEP, Northern Center in Chiang Mai encouraged Thai exporters to enter into the US market.

“We need to try harder and be more aware. Lately we asked fashion experts from New York to explain to us their thoughts on cloth products so that we could take part on the fashion stage of New York. Northern Thai cloth is interesting, it’s beautiful and classic, and people would like that. So the market there should open up for us,” Chiraporn said.

To assist the DEP and local entrepreneurs, marketing expert Mary Storch was invited to address the seminar and give some strategies to assist breaking into the big marketplace in the USA like Atlanta, New York, and Los Angeles, the director said.

However, she said that they did not aim only at the USA but also the European market and the Middle East and further seminars would cover these opportunities. Government was also fully supporting the export push, with 53 provinces now having a Foreign Trade Department.

In the seminar, marketer Storch gave advice on the US market and regional differences. The major market centers of gift and home decor in each region are San Francisco, Los Angeles in the West, Chicago in the Midwest, New York in the Northeast, Dallas, Atlanta, and High Point in the South.

She also pointed out the color trends for 2004 for home fashion which will begin a new focus on soft, fresh and elegant colors. The trends will range from soothing tones to neon bright. The Thai entrepreneurs left suitably dazzled.


Chiang Rai plans for the future

Commercial hub for the Greater Mekong Sub-region

Nantanee Jedsadachaiyut

More than 200 people including the directors of Provincial Administration Organizations, district and tambon municipalities, and other related officials participated in a seminar organized by the Office of Public Works and City Planning, Chiang Rai province, aiming to create a framework for developing Chiang Rai.

Samreuang Boonyopakorn, Chiang Rai Provincial Election Committee chairman, presided over the opening ceremony at Mae Fa Luang University, Chiang Rai of the seminar titled “Strategies for Developing City and Rural Areas by City Planning Measurement.”

At the seminar, Yuanyong Prasittiprom, Chiang Rai Public Works and City Planning official, notified that Chiang Rai would transfer the provincial management and administration to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) system this October. Future development strategies must now be organized not only for local government but also social and environmental development as well. The strategies would be guided by city planning and framework, which intended to make Chiang Rai a healthy city and to be the hub in the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS).


Chiang Rai and Bor Kaew in Laos agree to build bridges

Literally and metaphorically

Thai-Lao relationships have been improving, with the local provinces being very much involved in this process. On August 29, Narintre Panitchkit, Chiang Rai Governor, and the Chiang Rai government sector met with the local administrators of Laos, led by Buasorn Silipanya, Laos’ Bor Kaew provincial governor.

The meeting was declared most successful and the parties agreed to meet at least once a year to continue to work on better relations. Boundaries and borders were discussed, with demarcation and environmental issues foremost. The border check-points should be the responsibility of both governments, was the feeling of the meeting.

Drug suppression was another topic with both sides agreeing that increased surveillance is needed between the check-points. Alien labour was also discussed and the problems experienced by both sides aired.

Everyone agreed to set up a project to look at building a bridge across Mekong River between Chiang Khong district, and Huai Sai and Luang Namtha in Laos. Many bridges have been built with this improvement in relationships between the two countries.


Prince Mahidol’s memory celebrated at CMU

Chiang Mai University students from six health science faculties including Medicine, Pharmacy, Veterinary Medicine, Nursing, Dentistry, and Associated Medical Sciences, arranged Mahidol Day activities at the end of August, with the Faculty of Medicine and Faculty of Science organizing further Mahidol activities again in September.

Mahidol Day is to honour His Majesty the King’s Father who is regarded as the Father of Thai Medicine. The CMU activity included a seminar and quiz competition on health science, Cheerleader contest, singing contest, a debate, and a ballroom dancing show.

There were also activities concerning health care and exhibitions from the six health science faculties including basic rescue demonstrations, home pharmaceutical suggestions, first aid demonstrations, blood checks, and vaccinations.


Biomass power we can grow for ourselves

Nantanee Jedsadachaiyut

Agricultural waste products could be the way to cheaper fuel in the future, according to a seminar promoted by the Engineering Information Institute, Chiang Mai University entitled Optional Energy for Sustainable Development.

Pornsak Pornchanatham, director of Biomass Electric Plants, spoke on the Roi Et Green Power Plant.

Pornsak Pornchanatham, director of Biomass Electric Plants, called attention to the Roi Et Green Power Plant in Roi Et province, saying that at the moment, the Thai government was promoting the use of renewable energy as a fuel in the electricity supply industry by allowing Small Power Producers (SPP) to sell power to the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT), and biomass has been playing an important role as an optional energy.

Thailand as an agricultural country with many agricultural wastes such as rice husks, bagasse, wood chips, and corncobs could serve the power production inside the country, and importantly, it would reduced dependence on fuel imports, said Pornsak.

However, Phataraphong Thapha, an EGAT official, mentioned that the agricultural wastes, the raw material for generating biomass power plants, would be dependant on each season’s crops, so that at present biomass could not effectively serve the whole country’s electricity generation needs. He agreed that biomass could be useful in the rural areas. It could reduce the cost of transmitting electricity through the electric cable lines, but at the same time, the cost for constructing the biomass plant was quite high said Phataraphong.


Home schooling for handicapped children

Nantanee Jedsadachaiyut

Samai Sirithongthaworn, director of Rajnakarintr Children Development Institute, said that home schooling in Thailand had been established for ordinary children since 1999, and that Ministry of Public Health initiative covered home schooling projects for handicapped children as well.

Speaking at a Rajnakarintr Children Development Institute seminar on home schooling for handicap children at the Suriwong Hotel on August 28, she said that the project was intended to improve the potential for home schooling and to assist parents, who planned to educate their children by themselves.

The participants included parents, teachers, and public health officers who all were given the opportunity to discuss home schooling for handicapped children with special guest speakers from both Thailand and Hong Kong.

The seminar was expected to strengthen the parents’ network and help these parents find effective and concrete strategies for educating handicapped children through home schooling.


More water supplies with royal artificial rain making operations

Nantanee Jedsadachaiyut

Farmers have faced water shortages in the northern region for several months. Now the Royal Rain-Making Center is in cooperation with Flight Operations Unit of the Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF). This operation will provide royal artificial rain for agricultural sectors in need. The RTAF and Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives have been launched with over 7 aircrafts from the Royal Rainmaking Center, providing artificial rain which supports agricultural production in the region.

Somchai Ruangsuthi-naritphab, director of the Royal Rainmaking Center notified the request to Wing 46, Phitsanulok base, supporting aircrafts to proceed with royal artificial rainmaking in the upper north.

The agricultural lands in many northern provinces have faced drought for months, especially in the areas of Lampang, Lamphun, and Phayao provinces. The large amount of agricultural products would have been damaged if the drought problem had not been immediately solved, said Somchai.

More than 50,000 rai of sugar cane plantations in Sobprab, Kao Kha, and Mae Ta districts in Lampang, and large areas of rice fields, and fruit orchards in Phayao, Lamphun, and southern part of Chiang Mai have faced drought problem.


Yok Dok for OTOP

Lamphun silk best in the North

The yok dok silk from Lamphun got the nod as the best Thai silk product during the recent One Tambon One Product (OTOP) competitions in the north.

The yok dok silk is sold through Lamphun’s Thai silk shop Lamphun Pha Mai Thai, established in the Changkong community, Muang district, Lamphun. In the past, people in the Changkong community manufactured the silk cloth for household use only, however, in 1993, housewives of the Changkong community group set up the Lamphun Thai silk shops to be supplied by their 300 members.

The silk cloth, which won the award as the best silk of the OTOP goods, was woven by Orasa Khunkamsaeng. She wove the yok dok silk in the Suriyashai (sunshine) pattern. She got the idea of this pattern from an ancient northern woven cloth and combined it with a currently popular pattern, so it is the mixture of ancient and modern.

Each cloth is 1 meter wide, and 4 meters long. Each piece takes over 2 months to complete and is suitable for party dresses, bride’s dress, or Thai tradition suits for both men and women. Because of the versatility of the cloth, the committee decided to grant best OTOP award to the Changkong group.

The winner also received a shield and 200,000 baht from Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Orasa, the weaver, said proudly that she was delighted to receive this reward as she had done her best with the cloth. She also asked Thai people to wear Thai cloth which is uniquely Thai as well.


Schools to be closed in remote areas

Children’s rights groups up in arms

Nantanee Jedsadachaiyut

22,000 small elementary schools around the country will be closed this October according to the Ministry of Education. Small primary schools with less than 60 students would be eliminated, decreasing the number from 40,000 to 18,000 schools, with most of them located in the remote areas.

Chiang Rai senator, Tuanjai Deethes, pointed out that the deletion of small elementary schools would disrupt the educational opportunities for children in the countryside. This was because they would have to leave their families to go to study in a larger community, where they were in danger of losing their own identities.

This decade was announced by UNESCO to be a “Decade of Education,” to create sustainable development and to promote cultural conservation, especially for ethnic groups all over the world. But why now does Thailand, which retains cultural diversity of many ethnic groups in the remote areas, set a policy to pull children away from their origins, questioned Tuanjai. The decrease in the number of schools went against the international convention on children rights, which states that the government must provide basic education for every child.

“It is completely wrong to only consider the cost of education because a large amount of the budget has to spent for human resource development, and the Ministry of Education should provide literacy for children in the countryside equal to those provided in the cities,” noted Tuanjai.

Santiphong Moonfong, the secretary of Children’s Rights Protection Center in Mae Hong Son, expressed concern that the decrease in numbers of small elementary schools was bad for many provinces for example Mae Hong Son. Many children in primary level had to cross rivers or mountains or both to study in other villages, which was very tough for young students.

Even though Ministry of Education planned to provide a transportation budget, it was not the solution, because in many villages in the highland province like Mae Hong Son, vehicles were meaningless, said Santiphong.


Wide road project is proven a success

Supatatt Dangkrueng

San Pa Fai Road entering into the Northern Region Industrial Estate (NRIE) in Lamphun Province has daily chaotic traffic amongst cluttered vendors adding up to about 50,000 people jammed together creating aggravating situations, but now this has changed because of the new wide road project.

Cars parking in front of the Northern Region Industrial Estate are obviously in order after Lamphun Provincial Authorities launched their “wide road project”.

Lamphun Governor Tawat Satiennam said the original thought of the wide road project had begun when he had taken a trip in February and became stuck in traffic on San Pa Fai Road. He then realized that immediate action must be taken concerning the systemization in front of NRIE where traffic chaos is often created. Pol Lt Col Songsak Sawangprasert, deputy superintendent of traffic police, Lamphun said the wide road project was launched on March 1, 2003.

Now, while entering into NRIE 30 from 7 a.m. - 8 a.m. and from 5 p.m. - 6 p.m., officers are enforcing laws while giving regulation handbooks to all passing. People are giving much collaboration to keep their town in order, making the project a full success. To date, all are following the new and improved traffic rules and regulations.


The future of the Salween Dam

And there are five of them

Nantanee Jedsadachaiyut

Mae Yuam Local Organization Administration in Mae Hong Son arranged the community discussion on the Salween dam construction project, which mainly focused on the effect after the construction has been finished.

More than 60 local people attended, most being community leaders and members of the local administration organization. Good participation followed the community discussion with the three main topics being the effect of the Salween dam construction, the future plan for developing the Salween basin, and the energy situation in Thailand.

Montri Intawong, an officer from Life and Nature Restoration Foundation, stated that in fact there were five Salween Dam construction projects; three located in Burma, and the rest sited along the Thai-Burmese border in Mae Hong Son.

One of the two Thai based projects is located along Salween River about 14 kilometers north from a checkpoint at Sob Ngae village, Mae Sa Riang district. The top of the dam will be 570 meters wide, and 168 meters high. This concrete dam could generate 2,000 megawatts of hydro-electricity.

The second dam project is situated about 15 kilometers along the river in the area of Tha Ta Fang village, Sob Moei district. This one is 379 meters wide, and 49 meters high, and could generate 476 megawatts of electricity. The budget for construction is estimated to be 270,000 million baht.


EGAT accelerates Environment Impact Assessment for Wiang Haeng lignite mine

With Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) being subject to villagers demands over other mines, the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) study of the Wiang Haeng coal mine has been pushed forwards but the results will still take two years.

Sanga Boonchom, assistant manager Wiang Haeng development project, as a guest speaker at the seminar held in Mae Ai district said that EGAT working in cooperation with Chiang Mai University have now been studying its EIA and are studying how to protect the environment from negative effects and plan for developing the quality of life for Wiang Haeng residents.

He added that Wiang Haeng district is a small town and would be able to make about 0.5 to 1 million tons of coal per year, if the lignite mining becomes operational.


Hill Tribe leaders come back to be trained

Nantanee Jedsadachaiyut

Chiang Rai Provincial Administration has again organized a training program for hill tribes at Little Duck Hotel, Chiang Rai, to bring them up to date on Thai politics and local administration. The program had the backing of Narintr Phanichkit, Chiang Rai governor, who said that according to the Local Administration Department’s (LAD) policy on decentralization, Chiang Rai Provincial Administration should organize the training course for hill tribes in Chiang Rai each year.

178 participants at the training course included the hill tribes’ community leaders and the permanent secretaries from 15 districts and 2 sub-districts in the province.

The training aims to extend the concept of decentralization by informing the hill tribes about the rules of law and the role of local administration towards local community. In addition, the training program included special lectures that focused on the functions of the LAD and the position of highland people, the national security and drugs problem, ongoing sustainable strategies against drugs, development of occupation skills, and effective management of the village fund.


Chiang Mai welcomes the president of Indonesia

The Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra welcomed the visiting president of Indonesia, Megawati Sukarnoputri and her spouse at Wing 41 of the Royal Thai Air Force, in Chiang Mai.

The impressive welcoming party included many performances from local people such as Fon Leb or fingernail dance, the local northern Thai traditional performances, and Tung (long flag).

After arrival at the northern capital, PM Thaksin led the group to the Queen Sirikit Botanical Garden in Mae Rim district and in the evening, the dinner party reception was held for the Indonesian president at the Prime minister’s house in Mae Rim.

Several topics were discussed between the two leaders on the following day, including the security pact, working in cooperation on anti-terrorism in the Asean region, as well as on bilateral trade agreements. Indonesia has agreed to maintain its rice imports from Thailand, and continue to grant fishery concessions to Thai fleets. In return, it was reported that Thailand would buy artificial rainmaking aircraft and train bogies from Indonesia.


AIDS orphans show behavioural problems

Nantanee Jedsadachaiyut

A research project on the “Community and Affected Children of HIV/AIDS” was led by Aphidech Chairacha, whose team has been conducting research in various areas of Tambon Buak Khang, Chae Chang, and Pu Kha, in San Kamphaeng district, Chiang Mai.

The research showed that not only were there the educational problems that many AIDS orphans are facing, but also mental problems as well.

Aphidech Chairacha, the research team leader, pointed out that many AIDS orphans expressed their frustrations through aggressive behaviour because they did not have any relationships with others, especially with family members. “The children feel lonely. They think that nobody wants to take care of them, so this is a reason why they do whatever they want, ignore others, and become aggressive,” says Aphidech.

However, the community could play an important role to change the children’s behaviour. Aphidech said that the research strategies could be adapted to solve the problem of the children’s behaviour by focusing more on community participation.

Aphidech also said that understanding was the most important aspect for resolving the problems, and the community leaders should be acting as the counsellors between children and local people in the community.


Truck accident on Chiang Mai-Lampang Superhighway kills driver

The downhill section of the Chiang Mai-Lampang Superhighway at Khun Tan Mountain slope area in Hang Chat District claimed another victim last weekend. A 10-wheel truck crossed the dividing fence after the driver apparently lost control of the vehicle while carrying K-Line containers travelling from Chiang Mai to Bangkok. The driver, Teeranun Wang-ngoen, died at the scene of the accident.

The truck had been seen passing traffic at high speed at the Khun Tan Highways Information Center, on the way between Chiang Mai and Lampang. On the notorious downhill section the truck was seen to veer across the road and mount the central dividing fence and overturn, blocking the Superhighway for two hours before police could clear the road. Locals report that there were many accidents on this stretch of road, particularly during the rainy season.


Three Pakistani men and two Burmese immigrants arrested

Police suspected they have links to terrorists

Phitsanu Thepthong

The Chiang Mai Immigration Police charged five men on entering the country without carrying passports. The three Pakistani were Bashira Ahmad, 29, Saif Jamal Shah, 32, and Jawaif Ahmaf, 45, while the Burmese were Rasif, 20, and Kasim, 22.

“They were accused of illegal entry from India, Pakistan and Burma while the country was in preparation for the APEC summit in Bangkok,” said the police inspector. Some believe that their entry might have been linked to terrorist groups, a theory which is being followed up by the Thai officers.

The police force led by superintendent Pol. Col. Shinapat Tansrisakul of Chiang Mai Immigration Police Office raided a house owned by a local Thai villager named Satun Rakham, 29, in Ban Kiewnoi, Tambon Ban Mae, San Patong district, Chiang Mai, after tip -offs from local people that claimed there were suspicious foreigners hiding there.

Mr Ahmad failed to produce immigration papers while the other two Pakistani men were carrying expired passports. Chiang Mai immigration police said the three were suspected to have links with international terrorist networks.

According to the police, they passed through the Sadao border check-point in Songkhla Province in the South and hid in Thailand for more than a year by living in Uttaradit Province, and then went into hiding in Chiang Mai.


Workshop looks at problems encountered by Thai women seeking employment abroad

Nantanee Jedsadachaiyut

A networking workshop for Thai women living in foreign countries was held in Lampang on August 15. Srinoi Khasemsanna Ayutthaya, director of Women Affairs and Family Institute Affairs Office stated that at present the problem of violence against children and women has increased, with most of the victims being uneducated and forced to be dependent.

After the economic crisis an increasing number of Thai women made a decision to go abroad in order to earn a living to support their families, and expected to find high-paying jobs, even though most of were being mistreated.

“Without a working understanding of the situation they were being forced into, these women are easily suppressed, but they often have to accept this fate because they have nowhere to go,” said the director of Women Affairs and Family Institute. In order to solve this problem the regional women networks were created to provide support and education for women in every social class around the country.

Srinoi says, “Knowledge is the most important thing for women. They will be able to protect, fight, and earn a living by themselves, and most importantly, to be independent.”

However, Srinoi also said that at the moment Thai national legislation on women’s issues is being highly reformed; for example, the law concerning women and child trafficking and prostitution. The director of the network replied, “But the legislation would be useless if the law enforcement was imprecise.”