HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Loy Krathong accident rate still appalling

Rev. Jesse Jackson visits Karen refugee camps in Mae Hong Son

Walkathon and mini-marathon for World AIDS Day November 30

Any ideas for New Year gifts yet?

Million baht offers to Long-Necked Karens

Special Remembrance Day ceremony held in Chiang Mai

10 new five star hotels planned for Chiang Mai

Name the pandas competition

Environmental problems in Asia-Pacific under the microscope

The two giant pandas get ready for the curtain to go up

Drug peddlers shoot two policemen leaving 100,000 ya ba as evidence

Tone-AM banned

Anti-Drug athletic competitions to honour His Majesty the King

U.S. offers counter-narcotics assistance to Border Patrol Police

Two Thai and two Singaporean drug smugglers arrested

Loy Krathong accident rate still appalling

Two drownings and over 350 injuries

Each year the injuries from fireworks and traffic accidents remain a blot on what should be a wonderful public holiday period. Figures have been released by the Wieng Ping Rescue and the Ministry of Public Health, showing that two people drowned in the Ping River during the Loy Krathong period. Other statistics showed that injuries from fireworks included 52 males and 35 females. However, these were much less than the 250 males and 45 females who were injured from road traffic accidents.

It is taken as small comfort that these figures were reported as being less than last year. One reason being given was that government officials and the police in each area had caught the unlicensed shops where fireworks were sold.

Hospitals reported the usual run of injuries, but nothing appears to have been done to reduce the road accidents. Until this is done, the figures will remain appalling and fatalities will continue. An increased police presence and arrests for drunken driving could change these statistics.

Rev. Jesse Jackson visits Karen refugee camps in Mae Hong Son

Sittichai Prasertsri, the deputy governor of Mae Hong Son Province welcomed an American delegation visiting the Karen refugee camp and briefed them about the conditions in the region. The principal guest was the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Sr., chairman of the Rainbow/Push Coalition, who visited the refugee camp at Ban Pangmoo Muang District Mae Hong Son.

Rev. Jackson said, “We would like to thank the Thai government for taking great care of the refugees. However, we need the Thai government to note that the refugee camp is only 5 km from the Thai-Burmese border, which is not really safe.”

He added that the Thai government’s education department should provide education to the refugees by supplying teachers to teach them in the camp. “When the refugees go back to their homes in Burma, they will be able to use their knowledge that they learned here to survive.”

Birth control education was another topic raised, with the visiting delegation saying that the Thai government should give the refugees family planning to control the birth rate of the refugees and to protect them from over-population.

Walkathon and mini-marathon for World AIDS Day November 30

The Chiang Mai Runners Club and the HIV/AIDS Infected People Networks in Chiang Mai will be holding a walkathon and mini-marathon competition to mark World AIDS Day at the end of this month.

Nakorn Chaivong, a member of Chiang Mai Runners Club said the club has joined with the HIV/AIDS Infected People Networks and organizations in Chiang Mai to campaign against HIV/AIDS and raise funds to help people who are already infected.

There are several age categories for the event, and the entry fee is only B. 100. Winners in the categories will receive trophies and all contestants will receive a participation memento.

The event will be presided over on November 30 at 6.30 a.m. by Deputy Chief Judge Sooboon Wutthivong, and the start/finish will be in front of the Chiang Mai 700 year anniversary stadium.

People who are interested in participating can get more details and application forms from the HIV/AIDS Infected People Network in Chiang Mai at Chiang Mai City Hall (Revenue Building) tel. 053 890 490, 01 595-6617 or at the Chiang Mai Runners Club in the Chiang Mai Municipal Stadium tel. 053 243 570.

Any ideas for New Year gifts yet?

Chiang Mai says don’t forget OTOP

Natchawi Srirat

Chiang Mai Province is encouraging everyone to buy products from OTOP centers as New Year gifts, said Udom Maneekat, of the Chiang Mai Provincial Community Development Office and secretary for the One Tambon One Product (OTOP) Chiang Mai province. This is following the government policy of support to OTOP projects.

The government hopes that the policy could solve poverty and economic problems at the grass roots level. Chiang Mai province has carried out this project successfully, with selections for outstanding OTOP products and the grading into three, four or five star. OTOP products are also classified into 6 types, food and beverage, textile and costume, appliances and decorations, invention arts and souvenir and herbal items which are not food or medicinal.

OTOP products are appropriate to use as New Year gifts, and the Chiang Mai Provincial Community Development Office will make a list of the gifts including prices, sending it to all official organizations and private companies. There will be some made into gift packages such as health, textile and costume, food and snacks e and ceramics and pottery.

More information is available from the Office of Chiang Mai Provincial Community Development, 5th floor Chiang Mai City Hall, tel. 053-222-2936 or at every office of District Community Development.

Million baht offers to Long-Necked Karens

But if they take it they can be deported!

Phornphimon Thimsat

The Thai press has been buzzing with reports of a tourism operator from Phuket in the South of Thailand wanting to buy the Long-Necked Karen, offering up to 1 million baht to persuade them to go to Phuket as a tourist attraction.

The leader of the Long-Necked Karen minority group in Mae Hong Son confirmed that a business group in Phuket wanted to buy between three to five Karen to leave Mae Hong Son and relocate to live in Phuket for about 5-10 years.

However, the government officials did not confirm this news report, saying that it was just a rumour. A government spokesman said, “In fact, it cannot happen because the Long-Necked Karen are not Thai residents who have freedom to move anywhere in Thailand. They are considered as war refugees from Myanmar. When the situation in their country is resolved they will go back to their country.”

Itsarej Phusara, the Head of Mae Hong Son Tourism Co-ordination Center, told Chiangmai Mail, “If they are going to Phuket, they will become illegal aliens which is against the Thai law.”

It looks as if someone has been short sighted, rather than long necked.

Special Remembrance Day ceremony held in Chiang Mai

Dedication ceremony of Flying Tigers memorial

Marion Vogt

Every year on November 11 at 11 a.m. people all over the world remember those who gave their lives in the service of their country. In America it is called Veterans Day, in France Armistice Day, and in Britain it is Remembrance Day.

Major General (Rtd) Charles Bond spoke on behalf of the legendary Flying Tigers.

At the foreign cemetery in Chiang Mai, more than 150 people gathered to remember. Reverend Jonathan Bates, senior pastor at Chiang Mai Community Church gave the welcoming address to remind everyone what Remembrance Day was all about.

He said, “Today we live in this country of Thailand in marvelous freedom. But such freedom was not without its cost and so we acknowledge that cost and the benefits we enjoy from it. It was borne by many with their lives. But Remembrance Day is not just about remembering the dead, it is also an opportunity to remember the courage and commitment of the living, those who, though surviving, have suffered greatly, both during combat and since, that we might enjoy the freedom we now have. Despite the world’s continuing technological and scientific advances, true peace worldwide seems as far from reality as it perhaps ever was. The need for armed forces for protection seems ever justified. But the threat today has changed in the face of September 11th 2001. Globalization which has benefited so many has also carried with it the globalization of violence. Now our war is against terrorism we are told. So still today we are sending men and women into combat, not so much to wage war as to secure and maintain peace.”

Four of the legendary Flying Tigers who came from the US to participate in the dedication of the memorial.

Rev. Jonathan Bates then asked people to get up, listen to the bugler playing The Last Post and join in two minutes of silence.

The second part was a dedication ceremony, which began by presenting the colours and was joined by representatives of the Royal Thai Air Force, the Free Thai, representatives of the legendary Flying Tigers themselves, the Foundation of the Preservation and Development of Thai Aircraft, the British Council, the US Consul General and the American Ambassador to remember in particular a raid in 1942 on the Japanese Air Force headquarters.

His Serene Highness Prince Bhisadej Rajani laying a wreath at the base of the memorial.

For people who are not so familiar with the ‘Flying Tigers’, this was a small force of crack pilots under the leadership of Colonel Claire Lee Chennault that proved to be one of the most effective units in the history of aerial warfare. Based in Kunming, South China, some 70 pilots were responsible for the destruction of nearly 300 Japanese aircraft, and were credited with another 150. One of these raids on 24 March 1942 was against the Japanese occupying force in Chiang Mai.

In 1990, the wreckage of a P-40 was discovered in the jungle by the Foundation for the Preservation and Development of Thai Aircraft. It was then moved to the Royal Thai Air Force workshops in Chiang Mai. This plane was piloted by William McGarry, who, with Flight Leader Charles Mott, was held as a POW by the Japanese in Thailand. On that same raid Squadron Leader Jack Newkirk was killed when his plane was hit by ground fire and came down in Lamphun.

After a visit by the Flying Tigers in 1994 the governor arranged for a small memorial, while talks continued about a more permanent and appropriate remembrance. This came to fruition on 11/11/2003 in the Foreign Cemetery in Chiang Mai when the memorial was dedicated to recognize the American and Royal Thai Air forces, the Flying Tigers and the Free Thai and in particular to honour Claire Lee Chennault, Jack Newkirk, Charles Mott, and William McGarry.

Highlights of the morning were Major General (Rtd) Charles Bond’s speech, a representative of the Flying Tigers, and the words of His Serene Highness Prince Bhisadej Rajani, who participated on behalf of the Seri Thai and who said, “We all fight for freedom and I am today very honored to meet a tiger in real life, but I am glad he is not on duty anymore.”

The ceremony ended with the laying of the wreaths by the American Ambassador Darryl N. Johnson, Dick Rossi, president of the Flying Tigers Association, and H.S.H. Prince Bhisadej Rajani representing the Seri Thai movement who laid their wreaths at the base of the memorial.

10 new five star hotels planned for Chiang Mai

THA predicting hotel boom

Chin Ratitamkul

Vorapong Muchaotai, president of Thai Hotels Association (THA), Northern Chapter said that Chiang Mai has a high potential to be a gold mine for hotel projects and investment.

“There are preparations for constructing over 10 five star hotels in Chiang Mai municipal and district areas,” said Vorapong, who also anticipated that there are “more than 1,500 rooms to be developed here. There are four hotel groups planning to build new hotels in Chiang Mai, including Amanpuri, Oriental and Banyan Tree.”

Amanpuri Group is constructing a hotel in the area previously occupied by the British Consulate and Consulate Park Restaurant. The five star hotel resort will have 40 rooms and will be named the Chedi (Pagoda). Constructors expect it to be completed next year.

Amanpuri Group is constructing its hotel in the area previously used as the British Consulate and Consulate Park Restaurant for a five star hotel resort with 40 rooms, to be named the Chedi (Pagoda) which is expected to be completed next year.

The Oriental Group’s new hotel will be built on Chiang Mai-San Kamphaeng Road which will be completed in 2006. The room rate will be USD 650 per night.

Radison has chosen a prime area to build its luxury hotel in Mae Rim district, and the Banyan Tree Group is already well underway with its luxury hotel resort, which will be opened next year.

There are some international chains that have been preparing to manage hotels and resorts in Chiang Mai. On November 1, Westin Hotel changed its name to Sheraton and the Regent will be taken over by the Four Seasons Group at the end of this year.

President Vorapong said that the hotel competition would be fierce but denied that there would be a glut of five star hotel properties.

Name the pandas competition

Has anyone asked the pandas what they call each other?

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) together with the Zoological Park Organization and MK Restaurants have declared the Name the Pandas Competition in Thai language open. The competition gives entrants the opportunity to share in the total prizes of 200,000 baht plus a trophy from Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. The competition runs from now until November 30 this year and the results will be announced on January 15 next year.

The competition is open only to Thai children between the ages of 6-12 years. The pandas’ names must be in Thai and have a meaning.

Application forms are available at the Zoological Park Organization at the Dusit Zoo, Khao Kheow Open Zoo Chonburi, Chiang Mai Zoo, Nakhon Ratchasima Zoo, Songkla Zoo and all TAT offices, MK Restaurants and Na Siam Shop branches in Thailand.

First prize is a scholarship worth 25,000 baht with the trophy from Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, plus trips and free entry to Chiang Mai Zoo for one year.

If you are a Thai child, and can read this, sharpen your pencils!

For more information call 02-2827111-3 ext.417, 419 or 02-2819029 during office hours or TAT, Northern Region, Section 1 on 053-248604.

Environmental problems in Asia-Pacific under the microscope

Did they find anything?

Natchawi Srirat and Phornphimon Thimsat

Chiang Mai University in cooperation with Shiga University Japan organized an international symposium on environmental management at Lotus Pang Suan Kaew Hotel, Chiang Mai.

The opening ceremony was presided over by President Nipon Tuwanan of Chiang Mai University. Assoc. Prof. Tanun Anumanrajadhon, the chairman of the International Organizing Committee said that this symposium would motivate people to understand more about the importance of the environment and be aware of environmental conservation.

Dr. Saksit Tridech (right), deputy permanent secretary of the Ministry of Science and Technology shakes hands with a representative from a foreign university participating in the seminar, symbolizing the great cooperation during the symposium.

The symposium attracted 120 attendees, including researchers, academics, both Thai and overseas delegates, teachers and students from various education institutions.

The principal objective of this symposium was to strengthen the knowledge and understanding of environmental management in the Asia-Pacific Region. Several interesting topics were presented in this symposium including, “Towards a Sustainable Society” given by President Kenichi Miyamoto from Shiga University outlining the environmental problems in Japan that affect the society, where the problems came from and how to manage the problems with sustainable development plans.

“The Present Perspective of Environmental Management” was given by Dr. Saksit Tridech, deputy permanent secretary of the Ministry of Science and Technology, who spoke on social and economic development, and gave an overview of environmental administration, environmental problems and global issues and sustainable development.

The two giant pandas get ready for the curtain to go up

Lin Hui has early hairdressers appointment on November 20

Chin Ratitamkul

Chiang Mai Zoo last week allowed the media to visit the panda couple, their first official visitors since they arrived October 12.

Montri Nawikpon, director of the Zoological Park Organization’s executive board, Sophon Dumnui, director of the Zoological Park Organization from Bangkok, and Thanong Nateepitak, director of Chiang Mai Zoo, took the group of scribblers from Bangkok and regional provinces to admire the pandas at the panda exhibition and display section.

Chuang Chuang and Lin Hui show off for the gathered newshounds.

At the beginning of the public introduction, the two giant pandas, Chuang Chuang and Lin Hui were teasing each other and did not pay any interest in the visitors. After 10 minutes, the male made some overtures to the visitors, but no letters or flowers were exchanged.

Director Sophon confirmed that they were in high demand from the public, so Chiang Mai Zoo would prepare more parking space to hold 1,000 cars. The ‘soft opening’ of the panda house will be November 20.

The admission fees to see the Giant Pandas are 50 baht for adults and 20 baht for children. For foreign tourists and visitors, the charges are 100 baht for adults and 50 baht for children. This leads to the question - how much for Chinese tourists to see the Thailand-China goodwill ambassadors? And how much for expatriate residents?

Drug peddlers shoot two policemen leaving 100,000 ya ba as evidence

Stingers stung!

Two policemen wounded during a gun battle with drug dealers were brought to Chiang Mai by helicopter from Ban Mae Wan Noy, Tambon Mae Wan, Phrao District.

The helicopter from the Chiang Mai based Provincial Police Bureau, Region 5 brought Police Senior Sergeant Major Chokdee Chaichareun and Police Sergeant Major Subin Yala to Maharaj Nakhon Chiang Mai Hospital. Both are reported as now out of danger.

The police were engaged in a sting operation when they were stung. They were playing the roles of drug dealers, wishing to purchase methamphetamines from the drug network, but during the course of the transaction their true identity was uncovered and the real drug dealers opened fire.

After the shooting, the criminals fled, leaving 100,000 ya ba pills to be used as evidence.

Pol Senior Sgt Maj Chokdee received one bullet in the left side of his chest, and doctors at the hospital had to remove the bullet. The other policeman, Pol Sgt Maj Subin was shot in the left calf.

Pol Maj-Gen Kosin Hintao, the commander of the Crime Suppression Division (CSD) visited the two injured policemen in hospital. The National Police Bureau has given 10,000 baht for each police as a reward, for their dedication, motivation and as moral support.

With 100,000 ya ba pills and an extracted bullet as evidence, police hope to apprehend the perpetrators very shortly.

Tone-AM banned

Agent’s bank account will be suffering weight loss

Phornphimon Thimsat

The Ministry of Public Health in Chiang Mai has banned the anti-obesity compound Sportron or Tone-AM after the Medical Sciences Department found it contained synthetic ephedrine.

Ephedrine is known to affect the brain and cardio-vascular system, being the base compound used in producing amphetamines (locally called ya ba), if consumed for long periods.

Dr. Phaisan Tanyavinichkul

Dr. Phaisan Tanyavinichkul said at the press conference held at the Chiang Mai City Hall that the Ministry of Public Health had sent the consumer protection officers to examine this product and they found that there were many places at which this product was on sale including several clinics, medical centers, beauty salons, medical stores and through direct sales.

The officers are confiscating stocks of this product for destruction, and recommend that anyone who has a stock of the compounds should send it to the Ministry of Public Health in Chiang Mai immediately. “If we find that you have the product you will be prosecuted and run the risk of a jail sentence for 5-20 years and a 100,000-400,000 baht fine,” he said.

He also warned customers not to believe too much in the advertisements, especially as an anti-obesity foodstuff. It is expensive and a health risk too, he said. The best way to lose weight is to avoid food which contains flour, fat, and sugar and to have regular exercise.

Anti-Drug athletic competitions to honour His Majesty the King

The Tourism, Sports and Recreation Organization, Chiang Mai Center, has organized an athletic competition as part of the anti-drug campaign at the 700 Year Anniversary Sports Complex on November 21. It is also being held as part of the national events to honour His Majesty the King.

There will be 28 competition categories with 36 institutes in Chiang Mai participating. Competitors will be placed in age classes beginning at the Under 10’s, going through to open class. A full range of track and field events will be decided, with distances from the 100 metre sprints through to the 5,000 metre endurance events. There is also the broad jump, pole jump, high jump, triple jump, discus and hammer throwing, shot putt and javelin.

This year, the organization will classify the Under 18 year old athletes with the best representing the 10th education zone consisting of six northern provinces, to compete at the next rounds of the National Student Athletics Competition to be held at Khon Kaen province in the Northeast region.

U.S. offers counter-narcotics assistance to Border Patrol Police

BPP receives 274 M-4s from US and help from NAS, DEA, ONCB & ILEA

US Ambassador to Thailand, Darryl N. Johnson and Police Major General Dhanakorn Siriatha, Commander of the Border Patrol Police (BPP) Regional Headquarters 3, participated in a handover ceremony of US counter-narcotics assistance to Thailand.

Thai Commander Saroj Banya from Bangkok and US Ambassador to Thailand, Darryl N. Johnson (seated center) pose for the official photo after the U.S. handover ceremony.

This assistance is intended to increase the BPP’s ability to protect Thailand’s borders and decrease illegal cross-border narcotics trafficking from Burma. In doing so, the US helps Thailand meet its defined number one security threat - illegal drug trafficking from neighboring countries.

This assistance involved 274 M-4 Carbines for the BPP units who are involved in border security and counter-narcotic missions. The total assistance package, including spare parts and tool kits were worth USD 586,000.

By now the US has worked with Thai authorities on these programs for nearly four decades. This cooperation has involved not only interdiction efforts, but also opium eradication campaigns, alternative development in conjunction with the Royal Projects, demand reduction, drug abuse prevention as well as treatment and criminal law reform. The Embassy’s narcotic affairs section (NAS) has provided over USD 80 million in assistance for drug and other criminal control in Thailand since 1974.

HE Darryl N. Johnson, in his speech at the BPP regional headquarters, said that the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) has not only worked closely together with the ONCB (Office of Narcotics Control Border) but Thailand and the US even co-founded the International Law Enforcement Agency (ILEA) in late 1998 to enhance the effectiveness of regional cooperation against transnational crime in Southeast-Asia, including illicit drug trafficking, terrorism, and other forms of organized crime. The delivery of the equipment signals once again the strong ties between Thailand and the US and with US President George W. Bush designating Thailand as a major non-NATO ally, the cooperation is supposed to grow even stronger in the future.

Two Thai and two Singaporean drug smugglers arrested

1.5 kg methamphetamine and ya ba pills in a shampoo bottle

Chiang Rai’s Mae Chan District Police in cooperation with the Drug Suppression Task Force arrested two Singaporeans and two Thais on drug smuggling charges.

Pol Major Jamnong Kaewsiri of Chiang Rai said police officers from Mae Chan police station and Drug Suppression Task Force arrested the alleged offenders at the Mae Chan checkpoint. Singaporeans Tan Kim San and Yang Tung Lam were found to be carrying 1.5 kg of pure white flake methamphetamine plus methamphetamine pills, which were hidden in a shampoo bottle.

At the same time, Bangkok police rounded up two Thais who were waiting for their hair shampoo. They were Tatjira Jamplaklai, aged 30, living in Bangkok and Anong Youngwai, 40, from Chiang Mai.

According to Major Jamnong the Singaporeans confessed that they had brought the drugs from Burma and would deliver them to Bangkok following Yang Tung Lam orders, who attempted to tell police that they had rubies and not drugs inside the shampoo bottle.