HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Have a safe, fun Loy Krathong this weekend

PM Thaksin Shinawatra presents royal kathin robes at Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep

Helicopter crash injures infantryman personnel in Mae Hong Son

Joyful Panda reunion

University looking to upgrade OTOP goods

Rajabhat Institute hosts folk remedy expo

More in-bound Japanese tourism needs greater language proficiency

New shopping center on Chang Klan Road has ‘mayoral’ approval

Agricultural exports up 50 percent

World’s largest pot of Kaeng Kae Kai Muang at 16th Chiang Mai Food Festival

PM switches on solar powered health care center

Chiang Mai’s CEO strategies

TAT pushing for International Convention Center in Chiang Mai

BoT reveals 3rd quarter figures

Thai Ambassador to Japan sees opportunities for Thai goods there

Chiang Mai to have e-government, e-education, e-society, e-industry and e-commerce

Ambassador says Thai women have false perception of Japanese sex industry

More drug arrests, says Provincial Police Bureau, Region 5

Drug free factories in Lamphun

Three small girls drowned in the Ping River

Rewards offered for drug information

Two drug couriers killed by Chiang Rai police

60-day countdown unearths more drugs in Pai

Have a safe, fun Loy Krathong this weekend

Loy Krathong and Yi Peng explained

In case you’ve been living “behind the mountain” and don’t already know, this weekend is the Loy Krathong Festival, and nowhere does it quite like Chiang Mai.

There will be festivals, parades, events and exciting things going on all over the area, as this is one of the Kingdom’s favorite times of the year. So, take your loved one gently by the hand, lead him or her to the water’s edge, and float your krathong together - it is an experience you won’t soon forget.

If you’d like to know some of the history and traditions behind this event, read on:

According to history written by King Mongkut in 1863, the Loy Krathong festival has its roots in ancient Brahmin culture, going back some 700 years. The spirits of the river were given offerings which were sailed in the river in small boats (krathongs) and in this way the owner of the krathong would gain absolution. This was a Brahmin belief.

The small boats fashioned by the beautiful and talented Nang Noppamas, the daughter of a Brahmin priest and wife of King Phra Ruang, were notable for their construction and beauty. It was this king who then dedicated the krathong to the memory of the Buddha, and decreed that the event would be called Loy Krathong and that it should become an annual celebration to commemorate the skill and beauty of his consort. In this way he lifted it out of Brahmin culture and installed it into the accepted Buddhist way of life. This is the reason that the krathongs now carry three incense sticks representing the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha.

Loy Krathong is known as the Yi Peng Festival in Northern Thailand because the way the northern people count the months is different from other regions. Yi refers to the second month of the year in the northern calendar and is the same month as November. Peng refers to the night of the full moon, so Yi Peng is the full moon in the second northern calendar month.

During the Yi Peng Festival, people always decorate their krathong with flowers, joss sticks and candles which will then sail away, taking with them bad health, bad luck and unhappiness.

Lanterns are well-known symbols in the Yi Peng Festival too, being used to decorate houses and temples in worship of the guardian spirits. There are four kinds of lantern used in the festival: the hand-held rabbit lantern, the hot air balloon lantern, the hanging lantern for religious worship, and the spin lantern installed at temples. The belief in lanterns is that the lights inside compare with the wisdom the people will get in the next life.

PM Thaksin Shinawatra presents royal kathin robes at Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep

Phitsanu Thepthong and Phisut Itsaracheewawat

Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep is a royal temple, built in 1373 by Phra Chao Kuena Thammikaraja, to house relics of the Buddha in the revered pagoda. It is synonymous with Chiang Mai’s identity.

A royal kathin ceremony is held annually at the temple, where high ranking government officials, public and private sectors and the general public participate in the kathin presentation to the monks.

The Prime Minister’s public persona is always immaculate, and this year was no exception when he arrived at Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep to pay respect to the relics of the Lord Buddha, and present kathin robes to all the monks.

This year, PM Thaksin arrived at Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep to pay respect to the relics of the Lord Buddha, and presented kathin robes and cloth materials to all the monks.

According to the monk’s consideration, they decided to give the kathin robes to Prayarnsomphot, the abbot of Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep who has been living here for many years. His Majesty the King also donated Three million baht.

After the ceremony, PM Thaksin went inside the temple to change the 45-meter long ordained clothes covering the pagoda of the Lord Buddha’s relics.

Helicopter crash injures infantryman personnel in Mae Hong Son

A helicopter from the special task force of the 17th Infantryman Regiment, stationed at Baan Montalaeng Muang district Mae-Hong Son province, crashed in thick fog when the helicopter rotor struck a tree as they attempted to land.

The accident happened near Huay Luang village, Tambon Tungyao, Pai district, Mae-Hong Son province approximately 10 km away from Pai district. Direct access was not possible and rescuers were forced to trek 3 km to the crash site.

The crew included Maj Songpol Klongthong as 1st pilot, First lieutenant Pairoj Prasart 2nd pilot and Sergeant Major 1st class Utain Watchara and Sergeant Major 3rd class, Nilan, mechanics on the flight.

The mechanics suffered minor injuries, but both pilots were unhurt. Further investigations into the cause of the accident are continuing.

Joyful Panda reunion

Immigration procedures over and health checks OK

Fifteen days after their ticker-tape welcome to Chiang Mai, the two Chinese friendship ambassador giant panda bears have been reunited. They had been kept in separate accommodation while zoo veterinarians checked them both for any health problems, making particular note of the fact that both had arrived with black eyes. The condition is permanent and normal, said a spokesperson for the pandas.

Young couple in love - the giant panda ambassadors were reunited in their new home at Chiang Mai Zoo. (AP Photo/Wichai Taprieu)

After being separated for nine days the panda couple embraced warmly in their new air-conditioned house, and toured the facilities together. Chiang Mai Zoo officials said that the duo were fine and had adapted well to their new surroundings and said they hoped that the giant pandas would be ready for public visits soon. Invitations to the house-warming party will be coming directly from the pandas themselves. The Chiang Mai governor and the mayor have apparently said they will both attend.

University looking to upgrade OTOP goods

Mae Fah Luang University, Chiang Rai, in cooperation with Asia-Seed Institute of Japan is carrying out a pilot project to upgrade One Tambon One Product (OTOP) goods with the objective of making them unique and high quality while providing sustainable occupations for local people.

The pilot project has been in operation since June 2003 with some original ideas from both university teachers and students, said Assoc Prof Dr. Wanchai Sirichana, the university rector.

In addition, this project aims to provide local entrepreneurs with some knowledge on the operation of small and medium-sized enterprises (SME’s) as well as applying electronic commerce for export products in the international marketplace.

The OTOP goods are being featured in five categories - textiles and garments, food and beverages, furniture and decorative items, gift items and souvenirs, and information and technology.

Rajabhat Institute hosts folk remedy expo

Anyone for snake oil?

The 2nd Expo and Seminar to gather folk doctors’ knowledge has been organized by the Folk Medical Science College of Chiang Rai Rajabhat Institute in cooperation with Thai Research Funds (TRF). It will run from November 27-30, from 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. daily. It aims to develop standard medical books for folk doctors as well as establish a network of folk doctors to help their local communities, said Assist Prof Dr. Yingyong Taoprasert, the director of the Folk Medical Science College.

Amongst the activities the visitors are invited to take part in are lectures on the roles of folk doctors in the public health service system given by some national prominent scholars along with the exhibition on the knowledge of folk remedies.

Visitors can purchase herbal products and folk food supplements from eight provinces in the northern region and can experience free services such as folk massage, fortune telling and other examples of local wisdom.

More in-bound Japanese tourism needs greater language proficiency

Thai Ambassador lays down key factors to boost Chiang Mai Tourism

Phisut Itsaracheewawat

Following the new THAI direct flight from Tokyo to Chiang Mai, the Tourism Authority of Thailand predicts 1.3 million Japanese visitors next year, and suggests pushing historical tours, eco-tourism and local handicrafts as main attractions.

Japanese tourists rank 5th behind UK, USA, France and Germany. Last year Thailand received 45,000 Japanese tourists.

Thai ambassador in Tokyo, Kasit Piromya, says local government should put more focus on historical tours, eco-tourism and local handicrafts and encourages local residents to learn Japanese to increase tourism to the region.

The Thai Ambassador in Tokyo, H.E. Kasit Piromya suggested that hygiene, tourist security and ability to converse in the Japanese language should be the main factors urgently addressed to satisfy Japanese tourists.

“I think that Chiang Mai should focus more on its cleanliness, growing more flowers to live up to its name as the ‘City of Flowers’ and have police at the main tourist spots to ensure their safety. Local government should also convince its constituents to learn the Japanese language,” the ambassador said.

As Chiang Mai now has its Chiang Mai City Art and Cultural Center, he said that Chiang Mai should arrange a cultural show every night to promote Lanna traditions and draw tourists.

According to this year’s GDP figures, Thailand earned 37 billion baht from tourism and related services, accounting for about 36 percent of the GDP. Charubun Pananon, director of TAT Tokyo office, expects that next year Thailand would receive more than 1.3 million Japanese tourists.

New shopping center on Chang Klan Road has ‘mayoral’ approval

30-mio baht development

Phisut Itsaracheewawat

Chiang Mai people have a new major shopping center on Chang Klan Road, called Chang Klan Shopping Plaza.

The Buranupakorn family, Boonlert (2nd left) and Aemorn (2nd right) at the soft opening of the shopping plaza on October 22.

Aemorn Buranupakorn, one of the owners of Chang Klan Shopping Plaza, felt that constructing this new shopping complex would benefit everyone as it is located close to Chiang Mai’s Night Bazaar, banks and hotels along the Chang Klan Road. “I have invested 30 million baht to build this plaza to be a family center for shopping and dining after work and school,” she said.

Already 60 percent of this shopping plaza has been reserved by many international franchises of well-known restaurants, fashion stores and luxurious spas.

Agricultural exports up 50 percent

Ong-ard Kittikunchai, a spokesman from the Chiang Mai Provincial Industry Federation, stated that during the first three quarters of this year, the export of food and agricultural processing products from Chiang Mai and northern regions has increased by 20-50%.

However, exporters have been facing difficulties with the relative strength of the Thai baht compared to other local currencies. Ong-ard said that the main export market for Chiang Mai’s food and agricultural products is Japan, Korea, Taiwan, China, France, and Germany.

Following on from Thailand’s agreement on the free trade of fruit and vegetables with China, China is now exporting their fruit and vegetable products into the Thailand market. However, the local authorities did not know what Chiang Mai should export to China other than longans.

With the end of the season, and China looking for Thai fruits like mangosteen, durian, and rambutan, there is a problem, as these fruits are not grown in large quantities in the north.

World’s largest pot of Kaeng Kae Kai Muang at 16th Chiang Mai Food Festival

Bring a large plate

Chiang Mai Restaurants Association will arrange the 16th Chiang Mai Food Festival at the end of this month, with the biggest pot of Kaeng Kae Kai Muang in Thailand as a highlight of the festival.

Ratchasak Sriphumin of the organizing committee for the Food Festival, said that over 50 famous restaurants in Chiang Mai would present at their individual booths their best dishes for all people to taste and purchase. All of the restaurants in the festival have been approved by Chiang Mai Provincial Public Health Office that they meet all hygiene standards.

This year’s food festival will be held from November 29 to December 5 at the activity hall, Central Airport Plaza. Famous chefs will also demonstrate their cooking methods and let people taste their creations. There will be art and cultural performances by famous artists and contests including the most beautiful food vendor, and beer drinking and food eating competitions are other interesting activities in the festival.

The biggest pot of Kaeng Kae Kai Muang in the country will be cooked and sold at the festival. Funds raised by the activities will be donated to the school for the blind.

PM switches on solar powered health care center

The sun shines on San Kamphaeng

The National Science and Technology Development Agency (NASTDA), northern network, showed off its solar cell electric generating system on Friday October 31, presided over by Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. The grand opening took place at Pa Tarn Health Care Center, San Kamphaeng district, Chiang Mai.

Thailand’s NASTDA, with cooperation from the Renewal Energy Development and Conservation and Development Department, of the Energy Ministry, developed the high quality solar cells and plans to set them up in 16 public health care centers, with the first being the Pa Tarn center.

The solar cells development has many important cost and environment saving features, aiming to reduce the high cost of importing fossil fuel sources such as petroleum, coal and natural gas.

Chiang Mai’s CEO strategies

Northern governors to promote Lanna culture

Chiang Mai is carrying out development strategies to become the “City of Life and Prosperity” and support the Buddhist way to create harmony for its community projects.

According to Suwat Tantipat, Chiang Mai’s governor, there are four strategies for Chiang Mai, which involve solving the problems of the poor, supporting tourism and hospitality services, supporting local investment and developing the economy up to an international level and developing local knowledge in the society.

Deputy Interior Minister Pramual Rujanaseree (center) at the CEO forum received a warm welcome from Chiang Mai Governor Suwat Tantipat (left).

Towards these aims, Governor Suwat invited the provincial government officials in Chiang Mai to a seminar about the Buddhist way for their community projects. Governor Suwat said, “This project supports tourism and service strategies to promote Chiang Mai. This way, the teenager social problem which affects the image of travel in Chiang Mai will be solved.”

Another CEO style meeting was also held in the north, with Pramual Rujanaseree, the deputy minister of interior presiding over the CEO strategies meeting of the four northern provinces of Chiang Mai, Lamphun, Lampang and Mae Hong Son.

Deputy Minister Pramual said, “It’s very easy to make your people impressive and build up the Lanna kingdom. There are many amazing things in the Lanna northern region that will persuade tourists to travel here, such as the friendliness of Northern Thai people, the world renowned industries and agriculture. But the important thing is prosperity in the region and tourist safety.”

TAT pushing for International Convention Center in Chiang Mai

1.4 billion baht earmarked for the construction

The Tourism Authority of Thailand announced the current progress for the construction of an International Convention Center Project which has been approved by the Cabinet with a promised government budget of 1.4 billion baht. Work is expected to start in mid-year 2004.

Chalermsak Suranant, director of TAT, Northern Office, Region 1 said they have assigned Sindhu Poonsiriwong to do a feasibility study on the project in terms of MICE marketing (meetings, incentives, conferences, exhibitions). “From the beginning, we knew that Chiang Mai had the location because the government has decided to provide 400 rai of land on the property belonging to Nong Hor military training center on Klong Challapratharn (Irrigation) Road near the city hall,” he said.

This project will be using 240 rai for the construction site for the convention center, plus other projects including an SME Center using 95 rai and the Agricultural Product Distribution Center for the Northern Region using another 65 rai. In all these projects, the government will be the investment partner.

The Cabinet has already approved a budget for construction. The work for all projects is expected to be finished by mid-year 2006.

Director Chalermsak also said that when the center is finished, there would be many tourists and seminars that would come to Chiang Mai, estimated to be at least fifty thousand people a year. As a result, income from tourism will rise to three billion baht annually.

BoT reveals 3rd quarter figures

Domestic consumption and exports up

Chin Ratitamkul

Somsak Vongpanyathavorn, Bank of Thailand (BoT) senior director of its Economic Research Division revealed that in the 3rd quarter of this year the northern economy improved across the board.

The industrial sector in the areas of vehicles, tobacco, and petroleum have gone up 10.5 percent compared with last year’s figures, and productivity figures were steady, he said at the BoT’s Northern region press conference.

Bank of Thailand senior director, Somsak Vongpanyathavorn of the Economic Research Division gives his northern economic report.

Domestic consumption is increasing by 39 percent, calculated by the increased number of motorcycles bought this year (229,977) prompted by loan interest reductions.

Despite the fact that the SARS epidemic is well behind us, the service sector is still in recession, as indicated by a decreased number of airport arrivals. Somsak did say that the situation seems to be better than the 1st and 2nd quarters of the year.

Exports aimed at the old markets of Japan, USA, Singapore and Hong Kong had risen by 14.2 percent, equivalent to 1.182 billion dollars. The relative calm situation across borders is another factor boosting border trade by 48.4 percent.

Thai currency is now standing at 39.71 baht/US dollar and seems to have become a little stronger in the 4th quarter, although BoT has a currency speculation protection policy. “I believe that it would not affect our economy and I think that if our currency becomes stronger and more reliable, it will attract foreign investors, boosting our economic outlook,” he added.

Thai Ambassador to Japan sees opportunities for Thai goods there

Phitsanu Thepthong

H.E. Kasit Piromya, Thai Ambassador to Japan, said that the Japanese market has room for Thai OTOP and SME product sales.

The Thai government has set up promotions for Thai exports from dried shrimp to snack food products including Thai fruits and vegetables; fashion items, furniture, garments, and textiles.

H.E. Kasit Piromya, Thai Ambassador to Japan, said that the Japanese market has room for Thai OTOP and SME product sales.

Thai manufacturers have begun to produce more Thai exports for Japanese consumers, including household items for daily use. “Design, styles and colors of the products for clothes and garments made from both Thai silk and cotton are popular among young Japanese girls and women,” he said. He added that the garment market has shown a greater than 10 percent growth rate in that country.

He encouraged Thai producers to increase their output, and suggested that targets should be set and met. In the agricultural produce market, he saw high potential for asparagus, lychee, and lamyai (longan) products for export to Japan.

He also said many kinds of OTOP agricultural and consumer products have the same potential for sales in the Japanese market. “OTOP exports could be handbags made from wicker, rubbish bins, and household items, and clothes.”

A slight cautionary note was expressed by Wanchai Ratchadamas, the director of Industrial Promotion Center, Region 1 office, who said that a large amount of Thai OTOP and SME products are exported annually to Japan, but Thai products and exports must be up to international standards and quality and designs in order to satisfy Japanese demand.

Chiang Mai to have e-government, e-education, e-society, e-industry and e-commerce

Minister assures government backing, e-said

Phisut Itsaracheewawat

Following Phuket and Khon Kaen provinces, Chiang Mai is now ready for information and communication technology (ICT) city development, focusing on 5 strategies - e-government, e-education, e-society, e-industry and e-commerce.

Dr. Surapong Suebwonglee, ICT minister, said the government is ready to financially support Chiang Mai as an ICT city but collaboration is necessary.

Dr. Surapong Suebwonglee, minister of information and communication technology, said that it is a challenging thing to make a city into an ICT city. An ICT city aims to give people easy access to the global information network, and then use that information to improve their businesses and enter the world market with their products. “To become an ICT city, Chiang Mai residents need to be fully involved to make this goal come true with full support from the ICT Ministry,” the ICT minister challenged.

A meeting was held last week with 150 people from government and private sectors to discuss how to make Chiang Mai into an ICT city and set a firm goal to achieve it within 2 years. The government has promised a billion dollar make-over for Chiang Mai ICT city, to provide more infrastructure and government offices.

Ambassador says Thai women have false perception of Japanese sex industry

Phisut Itsaracheewawat

H.E. Kasit Piromya, the Thai Ambassador in Tokyo, addressed women’s groups on the realities of life in Japan for Thai sex workers. He described it as a crisis situation. He also accused Thai society values as forcing Thai women into prostitution to pay off family debts.

There are 20,000 illegal Thai workers in Japan and 80 percent of them are Thai women involved in prostitution to pay debts incurred by their parents, he said.

Thai Ambassador to Tokyo revealed the truth about Thai service girls’ lives in Japan.

H.E. Kasit revealed that the women are expected to repay one million baht each so they have to work for two years, being forced to have sex with 10-15 Japanese men per day with no days off, even for medical reasons, and if they refuse to work, they will be beaten.

Poverty, materialism and a sense of indebtedness to parents are influential factors enticing Thai women, especially from rural areas, to work in Japan, he said. This image of Thai women being available for sale is demeaning for Thailand. He added that now Japanese human trafficking networks are invading the Thai rural areas, where that sense of indebtedness is still important and dominant. He advises village leaders to watch out for these organized networks.

The Thai government and the Thai embassy in Tokyo are pushing the Japanese government to establish laws to counter human trafficking, as well as help Thai workers receive some social security benefits, as they pay tax to the Japanese government but get little in return.

“We are preparing to talk with NGO networks in Japan, asking them to take care of foreign women working there as well as arrange talks with the Japanese government to facilitate labor registration,” the Thai ambassador said.

He finished by saying that women’s organizations should make sure that this group of young women would not be threatened by the same network again and that they should be fully welcomed back by the local people.

More drug arrests, says Provincial Police Bureau, Region 5

Elimination of major drug dealers within 60 days claimed

Police Lt. Gen Chalor Choowong, commissioner of the Provincial Police Bureau, Region 5 said that his bureau would continue to suppress drug trafficking and try to arrest the main drug dealers in the northern region in the sixty days countdown for drug eradication.

A press conference was given to report on the arrest of Ajian, a Burmese national and a member of the Wa minority group. He was arrested smuggling 390,000 methamphetamine pills from the border area into Thailand through Tambon Wiengpangkam in Mae Sai district, Chiang Rai province on October 30.

He was arrested by the drug suppression police in combination with personnel from the Office of Narcotic Control Board (ONCB), but his two accomplices avoided capture. The accomplices believed to be Arfa and Akab.

Commissioner Pol Lt. Gen Chalor said, “At this time, the provincial police are trying to eliminate all 43 drug dealers still left on the blacklists in the northern region. We expect that we will be able to arrest all drug dealers before the ending of the sixty days countdown for drug suppression.”

Drug free factories in Lamphun

79 out of 149 factories participating in the ‘white factories’ program

Weera Phukhajornpanich, the head of Lamphun Provincial Labor Protection and Welfare Office was interviewed on Radio Thailand and Television Broadcast Station in Chiang Mai, on the subject of the 60-day countdown program for drug elimination. It was claimed that the situation regarding drugs among the factory workers in the province was improving with 79 factories participating in this program to keep their factories free from drugs.

Only seven out of 64 factories in the Northern Region Industrial Estate area did not take part in the program because of obstacles such as annual checkups and ongoing campaigns.

It was reported that during the past two years, three workers in factories which had joined the program were found to be addicts, but after their rehabilitation program, they had returned to work.

Weera expressed with confidence that there were no longer any drug problems in the industrial factories.

Three small girls drowned in the Ping River

Bodies found on the riverbank

Three young schoolgirls, Ngern and Buao, both 11 years old, and Jina 14 years old, children of Thai Yai laborers, were apparently sucked under by a whirlpool underneath the Rama IV bridge in Tambon Paton, Muang District, Chiang Mai. The tragedy occurred around 2.30 p.m. on November 1.

The area is a popular swimming spot for local children, and the three little girls had gone there with two friends that afternoon. The young girls apparently slipped from the upper edge of the bridge and were taken by the rapid currents and whirlpools. Three of the girls disappeared. The other two panicked and ran home shouting for help.

Rescue and relief teams, including divers from Chiang Mai Municipality, immediately began a search of the area, but the divers had to give up when it became too dark.

The next day, retrieval attempts began at first light, but the rescue team from Ruamjai Foundation and a team of divers from the municipality gave up their attempts to find the bodies because the currents and whirlpools were considered too hazardous.

A few days later, all three bodies were found washed up on the shore in various areas about a kilometer away from the scene of the accident.

Pol. Lt. Patpong Kamkaew, police inspector at the Chang Puak Police Station, previously said that police had assumed that all three girls drowned and rescue attempts were abandoned.

The children’s parents are Thai Yai who came from Burma to work as laborers in Chiang Mai.

Rewards offered for drug information

60-day countdown produces wallet-jerk response

Phrae province has launched its strategic operation on drug suppression by providing cash rewards of 2,000 baht to anyone who gives information leading to the arrest of drug pushers or addicts during the drug elimination 60-day countdown for drug elimination.

The assistant district chief officer, Samart Loypah presided over a meeting of the drug suppression unit of Phrae province, and said that during the 60-day countdown for drug elimination to celebrate His Majesty the King’s birthday anniversary on December 5, the province is taking the elimination very seriously. They are keeping a lookout for drug dealers as well as addicts who they want to join the ‘Return good citizens to a society’ project.

To achieve the excellent performances on drug suppression, 2,000 baht cash would be given to anyone assisting the team to capture Phrae’s drug dealers and addicts.

Five districts in the province, Wang Chin, Long, Nong Muang Khai, Soong Men, and Den Chai districts had clear records of drug dealers and addicts while other districts such as Ban Kok Nan Tha of Rong Kwang, Ban Mae Ram of Song, still have a problem regarding drugs and dealers.

Two drug couriers killed by Chiang Rai police

Police sting operation turns into shootout

Chiang Rai police last week shot dead an assistant village headman and his accomplice who were acting as drug couriers for a notorious drug smuggler.

The police had planned a sting operation, attempting to buy 100,000 ya ba pills, but the couriers were tipped off before they handed over the drugs and took the money and tried to escape.

A shoot-out at the scene resulted in both men being killed. There were no police casualties.

After the gun battle, police found the bodies, two .38 pistols and the pick-up truck with its load, supposedly a box of apples, but inside there was a haul of 100,000 methamphetamine pills.

According to Chiang Rai police, the two men were assistant village headman Wichai Kumpeera, 42 years old of Mae Sai and his accomplice Rin Tongnumman, 40 years old.

The police confiscated the drugs as evidence.

60-day countdown unearths more drugs in Pai

The arrest of another drug dealer in Pai district, Mae Hong Son province with a haul of 20,000 methamphetamine pills showed that the fight is not yet over, according to the police.

Following orders from Mae Hong Son Governor Suphote Laowannasiri, the police superintendent of the Mae Hong Son Police Station, Pol. Col. Sompong Putnil, the drug suppression deputy superintendent, said the 60-day countdown operation for drug elimination is well underway.

One drug trader, identified as Kittiwat Saeju, 19, from Tambon Wieng Tai, Pai district, Mae Hong Son was charged with possession of 20,000 ya ba tablets discovered in a sting operation led by Pol. Lt. Col. Songkit Ontrakrai, the investigation inspector, and Pol. Lt. Kijja Srikantha, the head of the special task operations unit.

Kittiwat confessed that he was hired to deliver the goods, but refused to disclose details of his employer. Meanwhile, police are keeping alert and looking out for drug problems in Pai district to comply with the 60 day deadline.