Vol. II No. 41 Saturday October 11 - October 17, 2003
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HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Panda mania reaches fever pitch in Chiang Mai

More orange orchard problems

White-cattle egrets fly in to visit Nan

Volunteer Tourist Guides to assist tourists and visitors

Chiang Rai maps out its future

Rajabhat Institute of Chiang Rai ready to serve tourists as well as students

Awards to be given to brilliant schools

Randy elephant assisting science

U.S. State Department gives 38 million baht to counter human trafficking

Thai Public Health Ministry and Burma to cooperate on drug problem

Chiang Mai governor says CEO system will increase GDP

This way to the Xylotrepresgideon

60-day countdown started to deal with drugs

MP’s looking at traffic problems

Lampang governor arranges an anti-drug army of 300

Fatal auto accident on a scenic road claims tourist’s life

Snatch and grab robbery claims another victim

Pirate CDs to be stamped out

AMLO to put Lampang’s major drug dealer’s assets on the auction block

Muang Phrae district has most HIV in the north

Japanese language teacher dies in Chiang Mai

Drug-free zone in four villages announced

Panda mania reaches fever pitch in Chiang Mai

Or is it pandemonium?

Phisut Itsaracheewawat

Last Sunday, October 5, Chiang Mai Municipality, in cooperation with Chiang Mai Zoo, jointly held a panda pre-welcoming activity at the city’s Walking Street fair. The event took place in front of the Three Kings Monument to announce the arrival of the two Chinese friendship ambassadors, Chuang Chuang and Lhin Hui on October 12.

Mayor Boonlert Baranupakorn presided over the opening ceremony at Walking Street.

Chiang Mai Mayor Boonlert Baranupakorn presided over the opening ceremony saying that he was so glad that the two new members from China were coming, and he strongly believes that they would help boost the country’s tourism.

During this activity, the local names for the bears were announced. In addition there was an art contest and a mascot contest. The winner of the mascot contest will be asked to join the welcoming parade on October 12.

While waiting for the panda couple to arrive, local residents made mascots from recycled rubbish.

After a difficult judgment, the two new members to be received their new names. Chuang Chaung will be referred to as ‘Kham Aye’ (Big Brother) and Lhin Hui will be ‘Kham Auey’ (Young Sister).

The Chinese friendship ambassadors will have a nice new home in Chiang Mai, which features 6 rooms and lots of facilities.

UPDATE: The flight schedule and arrival time of the two Chinese friendship ambassadors has been slightly changed from what was announced earlier. The private and newly arranged flight will be TG 8890 and is expected to arrive at Chiang Mai International airport around 5 p.m. on October 12.

Director of Chiang Mai Zoo, Thanong Nathiphitak, said he hopes that within two hours of the flight, the panda couple will be in a good mood. “If they are in a good mood, we will put them on television to let Thai people see how cute they are,” he said optimistically.

However, organizers of the welcoming party are still concerned about how many people will participate. Chiang Mai Governor Suwat Tantipat said he hopes that Chiang Mai residents will turn up in force to participate in the welcoming parade, “Because this is considered to be the greatest event that has ever taken place in Chiang Mai.”

More orange orchard problems

Land invasion, intrigue, smuggling and contamination. It’s a minefield out there!

Due to an increasing demand for oranges, many areas in Mae Ai, Fang, and Chai Prakan district of Chiang Mai have been misappropriated to plant orange trees, resulting in chemical contamination in the local water supply.

On September 28, people from Huay Ngu village, Moo 5, Tambon Sansai, Fang district, Chiang Mai held a merit-making ceremony over 300 rai of forest areas to pledge to prevent orange orchard investors from illegally making use of these areas and destroying their water resources.

Akekapob Ubali, a village leader, said that local residents have had a problem with chemically contaminated water sources for a long time. Wimol Tuikaew, a leader of Forest Preservation Club, supported that notion, saying, “We cannot solve this problem alone because we thought there was an agreement between the investors and forestry officers.”

There has been no clear response on this from the Forestry Department, but Viriya Chuaybumrung, a forestry officer with foresight, said that, “If this problem is going on, it definitely will lead to a serious problem in the future.”

It is now in the process of investigation under the supervision of Praphat Panyachartrak, deputy minister of the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry. A lumberjack will be fined 2,500 baht for every single tree and sprout smugglers will be fined with 5 baht for every sprout. The oranges are keeping silent.

White-cattle egrets fly in to visit Nan

Legislation passed so they don’t get the flock out of there

A large flock of white-cattle egrets appeared at the pond in Ban Muang Tid, Tambon Muang Tid, Phu Pieng sub district, Nan province.

The arrival of a flock of around 2,000 of these birds has excited the local people; however, the local authorities have said hunting of the birds is illegal, and rushed through statutes to declare the pond a tourist zone.

Tawet na Nan, the president of Muang Tid Tambon Administration Organization, said that normally this flock of white-cattle egrets will arrive at this pond in winter, but not in as large numbers as this year.

For bird watchers, the best times are in the morning around 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. or in the late afternoons around 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Volunteer Tourist Guides to assist tourists and visitors

To operate as a back-up team for Tourist Police

100 volunteer tourist guides underwent thorough training at the Suriwongse Hotel on how to help and provide security for tourists, as well as how to assist tourist police perform their job.

This move has been welcomed by the Chiang Mai tourist police, which now has a back-up team to provide security for tourists.

Chiang Mai receives 3,400,000 incoming tourists each year, but there are only 80 tourist police and five Tourism Authority of Thailand officers in the Chiang Mai office to answer their queries. These numbers of trained personnel are considered to be inadequate.

It is hoped that with the volunteer brigade, the tourists will be impressed and return to Thailand, to be impressed again in the future.

Chiang Rai maps out its future

But is the special industrial estate on the road map?

The prime minister’s secretary, Yongyuth Tiyapairat presided over a recent meeting about mapping out a development strategy for Chiang Rai province.

The secretary said that the establishment of an industrial estate was only part of the overall development plan for the “special border economic zone.” The people concerned must realize that there are other issues as well.

The meeting, held on October 5 at Dusit Island Hotel, also focused on the province’s budget for further development projects, and was participated in by 150 people, including the department heads of government offices, members of parliament, senators for Chiang Rai and the mass media.

Yongyuth added that the development plan for these special economic zones in border areas, particularly in Mae Sai and Chiang Saen districts, have progressed well so far, “But setting up a new industrial estate is not the most urgent case, and we need to study (the plan) further to see its potential and its impact on local people ... as well as (study) other priority issues, such as promoting travel among the neighboring countries.” The other “issues” include developing tourism, transport, commerce, trade, and services.

The secretary added that the plan to set up an industrial estate in the aforementioned special economic zones must be studied carefully beforehand, “Because we are afraid that there could be negative impacts to the locality later on,” he said.

Rajabhat Institute of Chiang Rai ready to serve tourists as well as students

Opens Chiang Rai Information Center

The official opening of the latest initiative from the Chiang Rai Rajabhat Institute is the Chiang Rai Information Center or ‘Bua Luang’ (Grand Lotus). This will serve tourists in the Chiang Rai Night Plaza areas.

Associated Professor Dr. Manop Pasitvilaithum, president of the Chiang Rai Rajabhat Institute, said that this center is being provided to give strangers to Chiang Rai up to date information about local hotels and restaurants in Chiang Rai, as well as provide a free internet service for locals and tourists. He also said that the Bua Luang service center can be used as a channel to promote local products from every community in Chiang Rai province.

All profits from the Bua Luang Center will go to keep the Chiang Rai Rajabhat Institute independent, ensuring its future as an autonomous educational institute, within which many projects have been carried out successfully.

The president added that Chiang Rai Rajabhat has been constantly upgrading its facilities to provide a 24 hour educational center as well as becoming an important part of the Chiang Rai community by arranging activities with local people and the institute is hoping it will become a fixture in the hearts and minds of the community.

Awards to be given to brilliant schools

Step aside OTOP - it’s now ODOD

Following a nod from the Cabinet to boost the tourism industry in the country, the government has allocated around 31 million baht to be shared between outstanding schools and students as educational tour awards to allow visits to tourist points across the country, said Paiboon Sieangkong, the deputy secretary general of the Board on Fundamental Education. This year, 525 schools will receive the awards.

In an attempt to spread out awards to all 175 sub-regions, many schools under the One District One Dream school project were found to meet qualifications for the package tour awards, added Paiboon.

Ten outstanding students studying international or national projects in sciences, mathematics, and arts, plus two teachers from each school, were qualified to receive awards as well. Schools receiving the awards could make their decision on new tourist sites or confirm their specified package tours.

In addition to expanding Thailand’s tourism industry, this program would benefit the students’ learning process as well as raise their awareness of tourist attractions.

Randy elephant assisting science

How to have safe sex in the jungle

Thai veterinarians are continuing with a project of artificial insemination to assist elephant breeding in Lampang province. The project is being coordinated between the Thai elephant Center and the Veterinary Faculty at Chiang Mai University.

According to researchers, the number of Thai elephants roaming the forests is decreasing very fast, and the Elephant Center is afraid that the Thai elephant could soon disappear completely.

This project started by injecting the frozen sperm from “Ply Jum Pui”, a 30-year-old elephant, into the womb of “Pung Prajuab”, a 22-year-old female elephant, which had not previously conceived, and was found suitable for breeding at this time. All the equipment was supported by Keperfomance Company.

Success or failure will not be known until two months after the artificial insemination, but Pung Prajuab has been seen studying baby catalogues. If successful, the female elephant will enjoy 23 months of pregnancy, so that’s a lot of baby books.

The total cost of this project so far is about 200,000 baht, and it should be noted that costs overseas for similar breeding programmes would be in excess of 2 million baht.

U.S. State Department gives 38 million baht to counter human trafficking

NGOs in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai to receive funding

U.S. Department of State has approved financial assistance worth over 38 million baht to Thailand to fight the human trafficking problem in the Kingdom. The grant was announced in Bangkok by the chief of the Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Human Trafficking on October 6.

John R. Miller, director of the US office, said the approved assistance for the fiscal year 2003-2004 would go to the Royal Thai Government (13,060,000 baht) and non-governmental organizations (24,980,600 baht).

The assistance to the Royal Thai Government is designed to increase the police forces’ understanding of human trafficking laws and criminal procedures, promote a human rights approach to protect victims, and to support the increase of arrests and prosecutions of traffickers.

It is also aimed to help train policemen, prosecutors, NGO’s, social workers, and medical professionals to protect victims and fight against human trafficking.

Many NGOs in Bangkok, Pattaya, Chiang Mai, and Chiang Rai will also receive funding from this assistance program for prevention, protection, and prosecution activities.

In October 2002, the U.S. Congress ordered the U.S. Department of State to report annually on the measures that other governments are taking to fight human trafficking. Countries are ranked in three tiers, depending on the extent of government efforts to implement prosecution, protection, and prevention measures. In 2002 and 2003, Thailand was ranked in Tier 2 in recognition of its efforts to protect victims and to implement measures that prevent this trafficking.

Thai Public Health Ministry and Burma to cooperate on drug problem

We supply treatment if they stop supply!

Dr. Wanlop Thainua, permanent secretary of the Public Health Ministry, is preparing to send Thai officials to Yawn in Burma to solve a problem with drug manufacturing. He said while in Mae Hong Son that he would send some Thai officials to take care of drug addicts in Yawn (it’s a town) in exchange for their stopping delivering drugs into Thailand.

“Providing a modern health system to help Yawn people in the Shan State will benefit Thailand in that we will create a strong and united relationship between Burma and Thailand and soon this will lead to a cooperation to prevent drug transfers to Thailand,” he said.

“In the past, we only saw Yawn as a major drug manufacturer and didn’t take serious how to solve and moderate the problem, but now I feel certain there is a strong chance to forge bonds to stop the spread of drugs,” he added sprightly.

Chiang Mai governor says CEO system will increase GDP

APEC support of OTOP ok, too

Chiang Mai Governor Suwat Tantipat is certain that the CEO governor role will play an important part in increasing the country’s Gross Domestic Product. At the CEO committee meeting he said that the government wants to see the GDP in the country growing to 8%. And he sees Chiang Mai as an important province that can help to push the GDP towards that goal.

He said that Chiang Mai has many potential qualities and high achievements, and the important thing that the government emphasizes is economic development.

The government is supporting local products which can be labeled “Chiang Mai Brand”. About 90 are products eligible. Last year, the One Tambon One Product (OTOP) benefit for Chiang Mai was 420 million baht from the scheme.

Governor Suwat believes that sales volume will increase because of support from the government, especially from the APEC committee and their meeting this October.

This way to the Xylotrepresgideon

Rajabhat Institute of Chiang Rai demonstrates Xylotrepresgideon bodybuilding

Xylotrepresgideon (AKA Kwang) will be exhibited by the Rajabhat Institute of Chiang Rai this Saturday (October 11). Ranida Pingmuang, deputy director of Biological Diversity Institute, Chiang Rai Rajabhat Institute, said that on the 11th from 8.30 a.m., the institute will hold a seminar on the topic, “How to breed Kwang with local wisdom,” at the Princess Mother Garden Live Museum.

How big is your kwang? If you’re not satisfied and would like to make it bigger and stronger, perhaps you should attend the above-mentioned seminar at Chiang Rai Rajabhat Institute today (Oct. 11).

The institute wants to show how to increase the wisdom of this little creature, and to preserve and feed them as part of a plan to maintain Thai local custom. The seminar will feature speakers showing how to breed Kwang, a feeding demonstration (breast as opposed to bottle feeding) as well as a Kwang bodybuilding contest. Who said body builders are dumb?

For more information, contact Rajabhat Institute of Chiang Rai Biological Diversity Institute.

60-day countdown started to deal with drugs

Another road map - but to where?

Phisut Itsaracheewawat

Chiang Mai Governor Suwat Tantipat and Chiang Mai Mayor Boonlert Buranupakorn announced they would rid Chiang Mai City of all drugs before December 2 as a part of the celebrations for His Majesty The King’s birthday.

Chiang Mai officials met to discuss strategies for taking serious action on the drug problem from October 1 until December 2 to stop the spread of drugs in the Chiang Mai community.

This is the second page of the “road map” launched on May 1 this year, where Chiang Mai will be taking serious action on the drug problem from October 1 until December 2 to stop the spread of drugs in the Chiang Mai community.

As part of this, the Chiang Mai local government will re-examine entertainment complexes and roadside liquor bars and look into schools and dormitories in the center of Chiang Mai.

However, there is at least one voice looking at the practicalities. Prinya Panthong, Chiang Mai vice governor said, “We would try to destroy drug networks as much as we can, but still it cannot be 100 percent guaranteed that the drug network would be eliminated from Chiang Mai. Comparing drugs to goods, someway and somehow manufacturers will try to find a niche to distribute their product to their consumers. It’s an easy kind of marketing strategy so again somehow they will find a gap to distribute their products.”

The situation regarding the drug problem is less than before, but still it can be seen in urban areas, especially in groups of young people living apart from their parents, and there is another pocket along the border between Mae Hong Son and Chiang Mai provinces.

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in his weekly broadcast said that 20 percent of drug dealers still remain throughout the nation, and said the challenging mission to eliminate them should be done within 60 days.

The road map began on February 1 this year and was divided into 3 sections. The first was from February 1 to the end of April to screen and scan major drug areas. Second from May 1 to December 2 to stop the spread and develop community strength, with the final period from December 3 to September next year to maintain the plan.

MP’s looking at traffic problems

Roads rail, bus - everything but personal gyrocopters

Chiang Mai MP Boonsong Teriyapirom said that Chiang Mai MPs have been trying to push through many useful campaigns to solve the traffic problems. This includes building a road alongside the railway from Chiang Mai City to Lamphun province and planning a new mass transit system proposed by Chiang Mai University, which will use their own transport resources, and reorganizing the routes of the red mini bus service.

The Chiang Mai MPs voiced full support for constructing a new Chiang Mai-Lamphun road going along with the railway, as well as planning a new transport system to welcome the World Horticulture Conference in 2006, when Chiang Mai will be expecting three million people.

Sanguan Pongmanee, a Lamphun MP, argued that there should be a meeting to discuss an overall vision on how to solve the city’s traffic problem and they should research many guidelines, especially the Chiang Mai-Lamphun Twin City development plan.

“They should not forget the Northern Region Industrial Estate (NRIE) area in Lamphun, which has 38,000 workers and 30 percent of motorists and drivers inbound to Chiang Mai are from Lamphun. If the government wishes to promote Chiang Mai as a travel hub, they should build a road to the NRIE,” he said.

Lampang governor arranges an anti-drug army of 300

Last mission before retirement

Chalermpol Phathipavanich, the provincial governor of Lampang presided over a day long event to push forward the operations of a force of over 300 men to become involved in the local drug problems. Their role will involve prevention and investigation, as well as helping authorities with crime prevention and assist them with the young hoodlum problems.

The gathering of the People’s Force was organized at the Khelang Nakhon Park, Muang District, Lampang and was joined by the government administrative officials, soldiers, police, volunteers, and village police, who were all assigned responsibility to solve the problems.

On the occasion of his retirement, Governor Chalermpol delivered a speech full of admiration for the cooperation he has received from all concerned authorities and officials following the policies of both the government and the Interior Ministry during his term of appointment as the Lampang governor.

As well as following Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s personal directives to make the province into a “drug-free zone”, Chalermpol gave moral support to his team, especially the operation teams concerned with the drug problems.

He expressed concerns over the future of the situation and promised he would make a note to the new governor to keep a lookout for any worsening situations.

Fatal auto accident on a scenic road claims tourist’s life

Three others seriously injured

Story and photo courtesy of Thai News

A group of 32 tourists from Israel rented eight Jeep Caribbeans from ‘Thana Tour Off Road Company’ in Chiang Mai to take a scenic ride to Mae Hong Son.

The group was led by a tour guide in car no. 1 and an assistant tour guide in the last car. On the way back to Chiang Mai, at 12:00 p.m. on September 28, car number six of the convoy decided to overtake the others on a curve and crashed into a big oncoming bus in the area of Ban Mae Jum, Tumbol Phabong, Muang district, Mae Hong Son.

When the police reached the scene, they found about 30 foreigners helping to give first aid to the injured. It took over an hour to get everyone out.

The police questioned Tharapong Poungmala, Thana Tour Off Road company’s tour guide, who said, “On the way back, the group of tourists drove together, except car number six, driven by Mr. Eagle. Car #6 was driving faster than the others, which caused this terrible accident in the sharp curve.”

The ten passengers on the bus were luckily not injured, but three people from the tour group were seriously injured and one tourist died.

The names of the injured people were Mr. Eagle (24), Miss Saron (25) and Miss Vicky (25). Mr. Tamir (24) was not so lucky. He died instantly in the accident.

The police said that the road between Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son is very dangerous because there are more than 1,850 curves and the road, which goes up and down hill for many kilometers, has some very sharp curves. So drivers and guides who rent cars or accompany convoys like this have to be most careful and should receive strict training.

Snatch and grab robbery claims another victim

7,000 baht necklace taken

A 46-year-old saleslady was rushed to hospital after being thrown from her motorcycle by a snatch and grab bandit who made off with her 7,000 baht gold necklace. Eyewitnesses rushed to her aid, but were unable to stop the thief.

The robbery took place in broad daylight on the Chiang Mai-Hang Dong Road, said Pol Lt. Col. Wichian Kamsao, an inspector at Muang District police station.

The victim, Kreuwan Saikamai from Tambon Wongwaen, Hang Dong, Chiang Mai received injuries to her arms and legs during the assault and was taken to Krai Mor Hospital.

The bandit was described as tall and thin, and although at this stage the police are not confident of making an early arrest, they are keeping an eye out for tall, thin people.

The police have also indicated that there has been a spate of snatch and grab robberies in Chiang Mai, with most of the perpetrators being from the youth gangs seen hanging out in the entertainment places.

Pirate CDs to be stamped out

Anyone seen Long John Silver?

Since July this year there has been a crackdown on ‘copy’ CDs in Thailand. Following the government’s policy, 129 shops with 50 salespeople in Chiang Mai were found guilty of selling illegal CDs worth more than 50,000 baht, according to Methee Buaphueang, the assistant chief of the Provincial Commercial Affairs Office in Chiang Mai.

Most CDs seized from shops failed to demonstrate the correct licenses and the specified names of manufacturers or manufacturing employers on the labels. Shop owners caught selling these CDs have been prosecuted under the law while the roadside stalls with no commercial licenses were told to take immediate action to bring them in line with the law.

The results of the latest raids looking for pirated CDs during the last 3 months were satisfactory since more shops are now respecting copyright laws. The government hopes that this signals the end of the problems with pirated CDs in Chiang Mai. This will benefit the economy as well as change the ‘bad’ image that foreign tourists have of Thailand, said a government source.

AMLO to put Lampang’s major drug dealer’s assets on the auction block

“No reasonable offer will be refused”

The Anti Money Laundering Office (AMLO) has announced it will sell the confiscated assets of Phanom Sap-anek, including his traditional Thai -style house in Lampang, at a public auction. Phanom Sap-anek was a major Lampang drug dealer who was arrested on drug charges.

AMLO will also sell 25 seized trucks and trailers. Police Maj Gen Pheeraphan Premphuti, the AMLO secretary general, has given permission to auction Phanom’s properties on October 29 from 12.30 p.m. onwards at his house in Tambon Chomphoo, Muang district, Lampang. Bidders can register and preview the properties on October 28 from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. at the house. Guarantees of assets or detailed accounts of cheques are needed.

Open verbal bidding on the properties will be used and no reasonable offer will be refused. Phanom’s assets are worth more than 800 million baht, according to the AMLO report.

Muang Phrae district has most HIV in the north

The HIV situation in Phrae province has been serious since the beginning of the epidemic, and the province still has the worst statistics in the north.

Phrae Provincial Public Relations Office revealed that the number of people living with AIDS has been recorded since 1987, with now 2,230 infected: 1,653 males and 577 females. Muang Phrae district is the worst area, having 620 cases, followed by Rong Kwang district with 431 cases and then Sung Men district with 399 cases.

About the only good news was the fall in percentage of infected pregnant women and conscripts, with the figures now down to zero, having been as high as 3.31 percent for pregnant women three years ago. Conscripts were recorded as having a 1.9 percent incidence three years ago, and they too have recorded no new cases since then.

Japanese language teacher dies in Chiang Mai

No suspicious circumstances say police, but a post mortem is ordered

A Japanese language teacher who had been staying at a guesthouse in the heart of Chiang Mai City was found dead on October 6. Local police investigated immediately, with Police Major Phairach Nitithumajany in charge of the group of police and Rum Jai rescue volunteers.

His group arrived to find the residents very agitated, but he was able to impose order immediately. The body was identified as being that of Horigawa Abushi, 45, from Japan. Police estimated that judging by the decomposition of the body, the death would have occurred at least three days previously, which, coincidently, was the last time he had been seen.

It was an alert resident who investigated initially to make the gruesome find.

Police were informed that he had lived there for two months, earning his living as a Japanese language tutor. He was very quiet and minded his own business, so nobody really knew him.

A doctor from Maharaj Hospital in Chiang Mai said after examining the body, that they found he was using diabetic medication, and assumed that he might have died from diabetes.

Police have already sent the body to the Forensic Department at Maharaj Hospital for autopsy to determine the exact cause of death.

Drug-free zone in four villages announced

Only 36 to go!

The Pha Muang task force held a ceremony to witness the “drug-free zone” project for four villages situated in hillsides around Chiang Mai.

Col. Prakarn Cholayut, the deputy commander of Task Force Unit, 3rd Cavalry Department, presided over the ceremony to hand over a flag proclaiming a “drug-free zone” to the four village leaders of Ban Pang, Ban Norlae, Ban Dong, and Ban Wangpai indicating there were no drug producers, traders, or drug addicts found in their villages.

It was also noted that community committees had been formed in the villages to prevent and solve drug problems. The agreement by drug dealers and addicts to not to get involved with drugs in the future was achieved. Local residents vowed to pursue legal jobs in line with the concept of a self-sufficient economy in addition to providing cooperation with government officials to keep their village free from drugs.

Under this project, which was run by the Pha Muang task force and the Internal Security Command, the Third Army Region, it is assumed that the remaining 36 villages out of a total of 40 are still involved with drugs but measures are being invoked to suppress drug abuse for all the remaining villages so they could speed their way into the “drug-free zone” by the end of this year.

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