HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Chiang Mai Province inundated

EGAT sale electrifies protests

TAT to concentrate on marketing

Government ready to throw money at flood problem

Government to build more cheap houses

Military’s role in rural areas examined

Computer seminar held on video editing

Minority groups propose “road map” to Burmese government

Historic flights and planes remembered

Thailand and Burma hold joint conference on public health

UNICEF/UNESCO meeting focuses on care and education for increasing numbers of children affected by HIV/AIDS in the Mekong Region

Orange growers to be screened

Chiang Mai to be seen as green and clean

Wing 41 wins rehabilitation award

Thai-Laos cooperation promised on border problems

Extra-judicial killing nails top dealer

Chiang Mai Province inundated

Flashfloods damage homes and farms while Chiang Mai city mops up

The floodwaters from last week’s torrential downpour are retreating, while thousands of people and businesses all over the province get out the mops and begin to count their losses. Farmers have been amongst the hardest hit, with thousands of rai of planted land submerged and livestock swept away by flashfloods.

It was “BYOS” (bring your own snorkel) on the terrace at the Riverside Restaurant when the Ping River decided to pay them, and many other businesses along the riverbanks, a visit last week. Much of the north was under water when a low-pressure area passed across Northern Thailand, bringing with it heavy downpours in northern districts of Chiang Mai. (Photo by Michael Vogt)

Despite government warnings and plans, and the Northern Meteorological Center in Chiang Mai advising residents living in the low-lying areas and high-risk flood areas to prepare for a flashflood and landslide, people were still caught unawares.

The floods were the result of a low-pressure area passing across Northern Thailand, bringing with it heavy downpours in northern districts of Chiang Mai.

On Friday night September 12, it was soggy feet around Suriwongse Hotel near Chiang Mai Night Bazaar on Changklan Road. (Photo by Phitsanu Thepthong)

The continuous rains for consecutive days created the turbulent floodwaters that gushed and overflowed into Mae Ta Lop Dam and then caused damage to several villages including Sri Dong Yen, Intraram, Lay Fay, Huay Tag, Sai Kao and Chiang Man villages.

More than 200,000 rai of farming lands in the upper North’s seven provinces were damaged, with about 100,000 rai in Phayao Province receiving the most severe damage. Also affected were the provinces of Phayao, Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai, Sukhothai, Nan and Lampang.

Are these streets or tributaries? It was difficult to tell at the Amari Rincome Hotel intersection on Friday night. (Photo by Michael Vogt)

After being flooded during the past week, more than 400 households in Fang and Chai Prakarn districts were given food and necessary consumer goods by the Chiang Mai Provincial Red Cross and other charity organizations.

Soldiers from the Army’s Pha Muang Division took charge of the areas under their responsibility, which included having vehicles at the ready to evacuate people to higher ground. Some schools were ordered to close down until the situation returned to normal.

The Ping River rose up to the Brasserie Restaurant, shown here on Saturday September 13. (Photo by Michael Vogt)

In Mae Ai, the water inundated Tambon Mae Sao and San Ton Mue with another 400 households flooded. Flat-bottom boats were needed to evacuate property and cattle to the safety of higher ground.

As the Ping River rose to more than one meter above normal, various areas in Chiang Mai City became impassible for vehicular transport and rescues were carried out by boat through some of the streets alongside the river.

In Chiang Mai, workers began pumping water from inundated areas as soon as the waters began to recede, especially the roads leading to the business centers and schools near the Ping River.

At the time of going to press, large areas, up to more than 200,000 rai of land in the upper north, were still under water, with several provinces still experiencing the aftermath of the rain.

In Chiang Mai, officials said nearly one hundred villages in a dozen districts and sub-districts had been affected and 55,000 rai of agricultural land damaged.

It was also reported that the government is working urgently on a flood abatement plan, as well as arranging for fresh water supplies to affected regions.

EGAT sale electrifies protests

Workers fear utility prices will rise

Hundreds of Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) officials and staff are protesting the government’s decision to sell EGAT. The main complaint stems from the fear that a sale will lead to an increase in the cost of utilities.

Protest leaders took their forum to the Mae Moh lignite mine power plant, taking turns making their points in front of the crowd. They argued that the government was not being sincere enough in solving the EGAT internal problems from being a government enterprise, particularly in its decision to sell EGAT.

The protest leaders also stated that EGAT has been very profitable for the government, unlike other state enterprises such as the Express Transportation Organization of Thailand, and the State Railway of Thailand, which always run at a loss. However, the government still wants to keep them operating.

They also claim that state enterprises that had been sold, such as the Communications Authority of Thailand and the Expressway and Rapid Transit Authority of Thailand, resulted in an increase in the cost of postage and the tollways became more expensive.

Further protests will be held at EGAT’s Bang Kruay headquarters in Bangkok to keep putting pressure on the government not to sell off this state enterprise.

TAT to concentrate on marketing

Local authorities to cover market development

The new direction for the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has caused some confusion. To counter this, a seminar on the new roles of TAT was held for local staff with Wanchai Thawornsuk, director of Pacific-Asia Travel Association (PATA), as guest speaker.

Attendees were told that TAT used to take responsibility in both tourism development and marketing but following the bureaucracy reform being launched by the Thai government, TAT has been assigned to work only on the marketing and planning of the Thai tourism industry while the provincial authorities and local organizations would be responsible for tourism development in their regions.

All 900 officials who work in 22 TAT offices around the country would have to adjust to their duties and roles, said Wanchai. At the beginning, the work might be delayed and confusing for them, but they soon would be accustomed to their new duties.

The new main thrust of TAT included attracting tourists from all around the world to travel or visit Thailand, making the tourist destinations well known among foreigners and trying to push Thailand as the tourism destination of Asia.

Until this year, tourist arrivals had increased annually by 5-6%, but the recent SARS debacle had seen tourist numbers plummet by 20%. It is expected that by next year, the number of tourist arrivals will be on the upscale again, with figures of 6-7% expected, provided there are no more serious situations or economic crises affecting the Thai tourism industry.

In the upcoming APEC meeting in Bangkok, the topic of tourism will also be discussed among the leaders and this will help promote the Thai tourism industry, claimed Wanchai.

Government ready to throw money at flood problem

But ultimately the problem’s ours

According to the permanent secretary of the prime minister’s office, Pol. Maj. Yongyut Sarasombat, the government is doing its best as far as flood mitigation is concerned. On September 14, he met with local officials and discussed the plight of the people who had been flooded in Chiang Rai.

The Ping River overflowed its banks during the last deluge of rain this past week. (Photo by Michael Vogt)

During his inspection in the north, he said that in every fiscal year budget, the government sets aside 7 billion baht towards helping solve problems from flooding. However, he stressed that every province must manage its own problems. “In the long term, every province must have its plan for the management of water usage to prevent flood and drought problems,” he said.

He noted that even though Chiang Rai Province is not one of the 15 provinces that have been flooded repeatedly, there should be a master plan to prevent this problem recurring.

Government to build more cheap houses

Over a thousand units being made available

Low income workers will have more opportunities to own their own houses when the Eua Arthorn low housing project 3 is built in San Kamphaeng District, Chiang Mai, with more than a thousand units being made available.

Seama Wichaiyo, chief of Chiang Mai based National Housing Authority (NHA) Office stated that the new housing project is going ahead to provide for more residences. More homes will be built at Tambon San Ton Pao, San Kamphaeng District, Chiang Mai.

1251 units are being built on 122 rai of land, which will consist of 837 two-story single houses and 414 two-story duplexes.

Commencement date for the new projects will be December this year and they should be finished in 12 months.

A family that has an income lower than 15,000 baht per month can make a reservation at Chiang Mai Community Housing Authority office on Chiang Mai-Lamphun Road, Tambon Nong Hoy, Muang District, from now on.

Military’s role in rural areas examined

YMCA runs seminar for the military

Phanomwan Yoodee, associate general secretary of the YMCA’s Northern Development Foundation, said that 100 soldiers from the four provinces Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Nan and Phayao participated in a two-day seminar on the Thai Military’s roles in strengthening the process for sustainable development. The seminar took place at the YMCA International Hotel, Chiang Rai.

The seminar was jointly organized by the Senate Standing Committee on Military Affairs, Third Army Region, Chiang Mai University, Mae Fa Luang University, the YMCA of Chiang Mai and the YMCA Northern Development Foundation (YNDF).

Major General Narit Srinet, the Third Army Region’s deputy commander presided over the opening ceremony and spoke on the rural development mission of the Third Army Region. He said most rural development works are done under His Majesty the King’s initiatives and all of the military are pleased to work on them.

The participants were made aware that the emphasis for the military is moving away from only war to other involvements within the communities.

Assistant Professor Sunantha Fabrau from Mae Fa Luang University and Arnek Nakabutra, the director of Local Wisdom Management Supportive Institute also gave their opinions on the effects of globalization on military roles.

Four representatives from civilian life spoke on various aspects, including the roles of Buddhist monks in recovering natural resources, the role of the education sector in community development, the cooperation between community and the military and the increasing importance of women in strengthening the community.

The second day’s program included field visits to Mae Fa Luang district’s Yao Lao Sib Village, the area coming under the Pha Muang task forces. They promote self-sufficiency in agriculture following HM the King’s initiatives, making bio-fertilizer, growing vegetables, raising fish, raising domestic fowls and providing a sports area. The participants saw that the soldiers from the Pha Muang task forces had very good relationships with all villagers.

All of the participants understood more about the new role of the military and that they have to integrate their military tasks and be development facilitators in the name of national security.

Computer seminar held on video editing

Cut and paste with the electronic scissors

Home video editing has always been a daunting task. Edit suites were expensive and you had to be very technically adept to be able to do it. With the advent of modern computing, that is all changing.

To introduce the new technology to Chiang Mai, Chi Chang Computer with the cooperation of SIS and Pinnacle System held a seminar and training session at the Chiang Mai Orchid Hotel on the topic of how to become a professional video editor.

In the seminar, the general public were shown the success and behind the scenes of famous films by using the Pinnacle’s equipment. The sessions also gave the participants more knowledge about buying computer hardware, such as video cameras, editing cards and software that allows people to professionally edit their own video.

Minority groups propose “road map” to Burmese government

Attempting to introduce democracy in Burma

Representatives of Burmese minorities in the area have implemented a plan, which they call the “road map”, to try to introduce democracy in Burma. They are attempting to produce a cooperation council for the nation, and set their framework for the constitution and are calling on other nations for assistance.

The road map includes proposals for regional human rights, giving women and children priority, as well as exchanging ideas on labor and trafficking. The Ethnic Nationalities Solidarity and Cooperation Committee (ENSCC) in Brussels, Belgium, and other minority groups in Burma made a joint declaration to the Burmese government regarding the road map.

The map has six main items, with two stages of implementation. In the first two years there should be brought into operation a National Cooperation Council that, in accordance with the resolution of United Nations, includes representatives of the military, the party that won the election and representatives of minority groups.

A representative of the minority groups said that their proposals differed from those of the Burmese government, which did not indicate exactly when it would be applied. According to the Burmese government road map, the council cannot have input into the government plan and the supreme command headquarters can seize power at anytime.

The claim is that the government does not support democracy in Burma, so other nations should help Burma towards real democratic policies, said the representative.

Historic flights and planes remembered

“Miss Siam” was the first Thai civilian aircraft involved in international travel

Group captain Veerayuth Disayasarin, president of the Thai Aircraft Conservation and Development Foundation, spoke in Chiang Mai on an aircraft called Nang Sao Siam (Miss Siam), the first Thai civilian aircraft involved in international travel.

The celebration of the anniversary of that flight was also shared with the respect for the 71st birthday anniversary of Her Majesty the Queen and to celebrate the 71st anniversary of group captain Lean Pongsophon who flew the airplane to China, Laos and Vietnam to promote and strengthen relationships between Thailand and these neighboring countries. Incidentally, they also celebrated the 100th anniversary of flight in the world.

Group captain Veerayuth Disayasarin flew the historic plane himself to Chiang Mai, with flights to Lampang and Bangkok. On September 23-28, the aircraft will travel between Bangkok, Nakhon Ratchasima, Khon Kaen, Nakhon Panom and Ubon Ratchatani. The public will be able to inspect the plane at each destination.

Following the function in Chiang Mai, the Miss Siam aircraft flew to Lampang.

Anyone interested in these historic aircraft can contact the foundation on 02 534 5012-3. Income raised from these events will be going to Her Majesty the Queen to support Her many royal charitable projects.

Thailand and Burma hold joint conference on public health

Is lead poisoning in drug runners on the agenda?

Chiang Rai Governor Narin Panichkij stated that the Thai Ministry of Public Health would host the 3rd public health conference on Thailand-Burma cooperation September 28-29 at Dusit Island’s Resort Hotel in Chiang Rai.

During the conference, both Thai and Burmese Public Health Ministries will arrange exhibitions on the public health situation in the Thai-Burmese border areas, from their different perspectives.

The Public Health Ministry of Burma will first present its exhibition in Burma on September 27 and then the Thai ministry will present its counterpart in Thailand on September 28 at the Chiang Rai Sinthanee Complex building.

The Thai and Burmese ministers of public health are expected to jointly preside over the opening of the exhibition in their own countries on those days.

UNICEF/UNESCO meeting focuses on care and education for increasing numbers of children affected by HIV/AIDS in the Mekong Region

Chang Mai, September 16 - A regional workshop on children and HIV/AIDS opened this week at the Imperial Maeping Hotel in Chiang Mai. The meeting, jointly sponsored by UNICEF and UNESCO, brings together representatives of governments, the United Nations, non-governmental and religious organizations and HIV-positive community leaders. It will look at the special needs of children affected by AIDS throughout the region.

The numbers of children affected by AIDS is increasing as HIV/AIDS epidemics in Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand, and Viet Nam are reaching a phase where more of the infected adult population dies. Thailand had a cumulative number of 290,000 children orphaned by AIDS as of 2001; in Cambodia, the number reached 55,000 and in Viet Nam, 22,000.

Many children have little or no access to preventive education and children affected by HIV/AIDS are often not allowed to enter or remain in schools due to fear among parents of non-infected children.

In an effort to tackle these and other related problems, several organizations and communities in the Mekong Region are stepping up their activities. New and innovative approaches to providing social services for children affected by AIDS, as well as better preventive education for those vulnerable to HIV/AIDS, have created hope for thousands affected by AIDS in the region.

In an opening speech to the workshop, Robert Bennoun, UNICEF’s regional advisor on HIV/AIDS, said that the complex nature of the HIV/AIDS epidemic requires a coordinated response from health, education and social welfare sections. He said that children affected by HIV/AIDS should have equal access to shelter, good nutrition and health and social services.

The UNICEF/UNESCO workshop brings together a wide range of agencies who are caring for children affected by HIV/AIDS in the Mekong Sub-Region. They will share information about what efforts have been successful in improving the situation for children.

The workshop aims to kick-start stronger coordination and collaboration between education and social welfare ministries, community-based groups and NGOs, the religious sector, and groups representing people living with HIV/AIDS.

Orange growers to be screened

Worry re toxic chemical use

Research has been started on the dangers of toxic substances used in orange orchards in Fang District, Chiang Mai. The Research Institute for Health Sciences (RIHES) at Chiang Mai University will spend eighteen months examining the toxic hazards involved.

Boonserm Jitjansuwan, Fang District chief officer said that he had contacted Prof. Dr. Theera Sirisuntanon, the director of RIHES, who has assigned ten researchers, along with research team leader Dr. Tippawon Prapamonton to examine the community problem. The research team would be selecting blood tests for orange growers in the Fang District areas.

The district officer also said that if it were found that the orange growers or any Fang people have absorbed toxic quantities of the substances they would be taken care of by the RIHES.

Chiang Mai to be seen as green and clean

Everyone comes out a winner

Following the edicts of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s policy on developing Chiang Mai as a green and clean city, the Green and Clean Project has been launched. Following the hoped for success of this project, and Chiang Mai has been given two years to complete it, the flow-on will go to similar projects in Lamphun and Mae Hong Son provinces.

Chiang Mai Deputy Governor Prinya Parnthong said the Green and Clean City Project, which Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has decreed for his Chiang Mai hometown, will include plenty of green trees, maintenance of cleanliness, having a systematic management for city environmental issues, and promoting and organizing city planning.

With this project, it is expected that the improvement will be seen by tourists, heightening Chiang Mai in their minds. It is believed that the target is achievable, because the communities can all become involved and in the end, everyone profits, said the Chiang Mai deputy governor.

Wing 41 wins rehabilitation award

But the pupils are grounded

Pichitpon Tongtuek

“Viwat Pollamuang” is a Chiang Mai school for people with good behavior, especially for the development of inmates, and is a project being run by the Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) in cooperation with the Corrections Department.

The students take part in group activities.

The RTAF project is about taking care of, and the probation of prisoners who are soon to be released after taking a training course at the air force bases.

The project at Wing 41, Chiang Mai takes around 140 days to complete and keeps 120 prisoners from Nan, Lamphun, Mae Hong Son’s Mae Sariang District, and Chiang Mai’s Fang District, all prisons that joined in this project.

During the 140 days, the prisoners learn about military life and receive educational development in both health and mind as well as learning about agricultural occupational training, feeding chickens, ducks, catfish and frogs, as well as growing vegetables.

Some of the students learn how to grow vegetables.

At the beginning of September, the Viwat Pollamuang School, under the supervision of Wing 41 was awarded the first prize for the most outstanding rehabilitation performance, selected from 89 entries from throughout the country.

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra presented the award to Wing 41.

With plenty of time on their hands, some of the more artistic students can produce beautiful woodcarvings.

Students listen to the instructor from Chiang Mai Provincial Employment Service Office.

One of the students teaches his friends, who cannot write, to write their names.

Students who can cook teach their friends to cook “pa tong ko”.

Thai-Laos cooperation promised on border problems

Borderlines, drugs, illegal aliens all fixed!

Chiang Rai Governor Narin Panichkij, together with high-ranking provincial officials, attended a joint conference with Buasorn Siliphunya, Bor Keo provincial governor to discuss cooperation between the two countries on Thai-Laos Border Security.

This conference is to become an annual event, with Thailand and Laos taking turns being the hosts. Both countries will watch over the Thai-Lao borders and outposts, and all the natural resources around those areas. They will also finish delineation of the (sometimes disputed) borderlines.

The two provinces have also agreed to keep their own residents apprised of the border regulations and how they apply to them as individuals.

During the conference, they also agreed to work together on border drug suppression, and prevention of illegal laboring.

There was agreement in principle on constructing a bridge over the Mekong River to link the routes between Chiang Rai’s Chiang Khong District to Ban Huay Sai, Bor Keo and Luang Namtha provinces inside Laos. At this stage this is a feasibility study only.

Extra-judicial killing nails top dealer

Caught by police sting operation

The drug suppression police killed a drug network member after he tried to resist police arrest when he was trapped in a sting operation. The dead man is reputed to be the nephew of Wei Hsueh-kang, a feared drug warlord heading one faction of Burma’s ethnic United Wa State Army.

Maj. Gen. Adithep Panjamanont, drug suppression police force commander, was tipped off that the drug dealer would smuggle 10,000 ya ba pills from the Wa factory in Burma into Thailand and deliver the drugs to a Thai agent. Police set up their decoy, using a plainclothes police officer who arranged to meet the drug dealer at a deserted village in Mae Sai district in Chiang Rai. When the dealer was asked to show the undercover agent the drugs, he became suspicious and opened fire, but was then surrounded by the police and died in the shoot-out.

The police searched the dead man’s car and found 10,000 ya ba pills, a list of his drug agents and many high-ranking government officers’ name cards.

The dead man was identified as Yuttachai Sasin, a Chinese Haw managing director of Rian Fong Co. Ltd., in Chiang Saen district, Chiang Rai, who was running a business importing and exporting steel and tea with China.

Maj. Gen. Adithep said that the dead man was one of the country’s most important drug agents and was the adopted child of Wei Hsueh-Fong, the brother of Wei Hsueh Kang, the most important drug trafficker.

“Yuttachai ran many businesses in Chiang Rai as a front” said Maj. Gen. Adithep. He also built up a close relationship with many high-ranking officers in Chiang Rai to prevent them from getting in the way of his illegal trading.

Police had him under surveillance for some time, and since he had been forced to act as the drug courier himself, after his subordinates had been apprehended or killed, police knew it was only a matter of time before they could make an arrest.

Appropriation of property and the factory in Chiang Saen district, Chiang Rai was made, as well as his tea garden in Mae Chan district, which he had been renting from a former important politician.