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HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Winter ailments on the way

Karen’s attack on Burmese soldiers has produced a border alert

Flogging OTOP to the world

Border district promoting Home Stays

1st Southeast Asia Water Forum in Chiang Mai

Development of San Kamphaeng district forging ahead

Little Miss Noppamas Beauty Contest in San Kamphaeng

Chiang Mai International Airport gains development budget

French Ambassador pays official visit to Chiang Mai

Do you want some deafness to go with your software, Sir?

Ban Huoak on the Thai-Lao border to be another checkpoint?

Eight northern provinces to become the Lanna Group

Elephant recovers after miscarriage

New SME Bank opens

Fingerprint collection begins for US visa applicants in Thailand

Sports Day held for women prisoners

Chiang Rai in attempts to counter the dark influences

Mae Sai Border turns lively

Appeal for public support for female prisoners

Another sting goes wrong

Winter ailments on the way

Hypothermia and fires a hazard

The Public Hazard Center in Mae Hong Son province is warning people to be prepared for the upcoming cold season. During winter each year, there are always natural disasters caused by the weather in the north and northeastern parts of Thailand.

This is as the result of the high pressure or cold front moving from China and then covering the upper north of Thailand. At this time of year, the change in the weather brings on colds and sickness, especially in the old and infirm.

The droughts that occur at this time of year also result in forest fires caused by indiscriminate use of fires for heating.

This time of year also produces road hazards as there will be thick morning mist in early morning and evening in Mae Hong Son province. All motorists should be aware of this and drive accordingly.


Karen’s attack on Burmese soldiers has produced a border alert

Volunteer defense forces needed for border

The Khaya Karen minority group has attacked Burmese soldiers which resulted in Burmese people swarming into Thailand, but they are being repulsed and returned to their own side of the border by Thai troops.

The battle between the Burmese soldiers and the Khaya minority group occurred opposite Ban Klang, Mae Hong Son. The Ban Klang villagers could hear the noise of gun fighting and heavy weapon fire for more than 30 minutes.

Authorities have coordinated with the 17th Infantry Regiment’s Reservists to control the situation along the Thai-Burmese border in Mae Hong Son, to set up the 1st Territorial Volunteer Defense Division in case the border situation deteriorates.

“We will push those people who crossed over the border back to their own country and prepare our Thai troops to be on alert and be ready at all times,” said one Thai authority.

“However, the local people have to keep a close eye on any situation and if they find aliens in Thailand they should inform the officials and military officers immediately. We will also prohibit Thai people going to the Burmese side because they may be kidnapped and held for ransom by some of those groups,” warned the Mae Hong Son authority.


Flogging OTOP to the world

Let’s hope it isn’t a dead horse

Natchawi Srirat

Chiang Mai provincial authorities have just held a seminar, at Chiang Mai Phucome Hotel, to examine the promotion and future marketing of local OTOP products.

Chiang Mai Governor Suwat Tantipat was the chairman at the seminar, whose members were sharing experiences, knowledge and problems, to help find the ways to increase and realize the potential of OTOP.

Chiang Mai Governor Suwat Tantipat chaired the OTOP meeting at Chiang Mai Phucome Hotel.

At the seminar, Governor Suwat said, “The intensive strategies for the future possibilities will be in the changes to promote Chiang Mai to be an aviation hub, while Chiang Rai will be the Gateway to Asia, Mae Hong Son to be the Spa City with its natural sources in the area and OTOP will be used as the symbolic products of the northern region.”

Products from the northern region are becoming well known in the world market with almost 200 million baht being brought into the country from the sales of OTOP products. It was also noted that most of the OTOP products from the north have five star ratings.


Border district promoting Home Stays

Natchawi Srirat

Mae Ai district on the Thai-Burma border has begun a Home Stay Traveling promotion. It has backing from several government organizations and agencies including the “Small Hut in The Huge Forest Project” under the royally initiated scheme of His Majesty the King in Doi Pah Hom Pok mountain range.

Adisorn Kamnerdsiri, Mae Ai district chief officer, said they have had local meetings to plan promotional campaigns and make preparations for the tourist accommodations.

It was hoped that visitors could experience the lifestyle of the villagers and see the local handicrafts, silverware and cross-stitching. “We will ensure the villagers welcome the tourists and visitors. The home stay project will kick off next year,” said Adisorn.


1st Southeast Asia Water Forum in Chiang Mai

Water conservation number one. Did the speakers get cold water I wonder?

Natchawi Srirat

The first Southeast Asia Water Forum was held from November 17-21 at the Empress Hotel Chiang Mai with the cooperation of Chiang Mai provincial authorities, Water Resource Department, the Royal Irrigation Department, Water Resource Association, Global Water Partnership-Southeast Asia Technical Advisory Committee, Engineering Faculty of Chiang Mai University and Ground Water Resource Department.

The presenters, delegates and participants gathered on stage to show great cooperation. (Photo by Phornphimon Thimsat)

Nimith Damrongrat, the deputy minister of the prime minister’s office, presided over the opening ceremony on behalf of Deputy Prime Minister Suvit Khunkitti, saying, “I hope that after the forum is over, the Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) will be efficiently used in our region and nation. All the Southeast Asians will walk together to find better results for our region.”

Southeast Asia is one of many regions fertile with water resources. However, there are several things missing in this region including the determination, collection and connection of the water problems as united problems of the whole region.

To have regional strategies and cooperation in terms of policy and solutions, the Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) appears the best strategy to use and it is acceptable world wide.

More than 400 people participated from 10 countries: Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam and Thailand. Seven main themes were being presented such as water and sanitation service for health, conflict resolution and basin organizations, community and local management of water resources, water, environment and ecosystems, integrated coastal area and river basin management, water and food and the last theme; floods and droughts.

People attending the forum felt that now is the time for people all over the Southeast Asian region to realize the importance of water and how to conserve water sources. Sustainable development and management will be the key.


Development of San Kamphaeng district forging ahead

Phornphimon Thimsat

According to the San Kamphaeng Development Project, the construction of Koung San Kamphaeng is aimed to promote the district as a center of tourism as it was in the past.

It is proposed to build the centre on eight 8 rai of land owned by the district office which would feature parking space for tour busses, restaurants, OTOP booths, tourist information, restrooms, a San Kamphaeng museum, and a hall dedicated to the history of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

To publicize this project, JSL Entertainment has been hired to run shows under the theme of San Kamphaeng - The Source of Lanna Folklore, beginning December 13 this year and running for 10 weeks from 12 noon - 10 p.m.

The entertainment will be along the road starting from the San Kamphaeng District office to the front of the main market of San Klang Pra village. The weekly programs cover silk, cotton, souvenirs, silverware, ceramic, umbrella making, woodcarving, Sa paper, a San Kamphaeng beauty contest and fashion show.

According to San Kamphaeng District officials, the construction of the new government district center will also be done on land that is currently Treasury Department property in the Mae On Tobacco Office area. However this project is waiting for approval from the Ministry of Finance, district officials said.

Finally, the construction of Chiang Mai- San Kamphaeng Cultural Road, along the old Highway 1006 would be undertaken, after the Department of Highways has finished processing tenders for the construction. It is expected that the winning tender will be under 208.5 million baht.


Little Miss Noppamas Beauty Contest in San Kamphaeng

37 young kindergarten girls participated in the Miss Noppamas Beauty Contest in San Kamphaeng District. Organized by the Bua Restaurant, former MP Khingkarn na Chiang Mai presided over the opening ceremony with Dr. Tawil Buajeen.

Dr Tawil Buajeen presented first prize to Suthida Mahawan.

The Winner was Junior Noppamas number 28, Suthida Mahawan “Ying” (Thepbadin School), the 1st Runner-up was Wannarat Na Lumphun (Bunthamphesat Shop) and the 2nd Runner-up was Supawadee Sorawong “Kra Tai” (Premreudee School) who was also Miss Popular Girl.


Chiang Mai International Airport gains development budget

Flying Officer Sutara Houngsuwan, the Airport Authority of Thailand’s executive director for Chiang Mai, said Chiang Mai Airport is ready to be developed into the aviation hub of the north following the government’s policy to develop air transportation services and facilities in the region.

Chiang Mai International Airport at night.

At the beginning of this year Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra assigned the Ministry of Transport and Communications to look at the possibilities of developing either Chiang Mai, Phuket, Hat Yai, Khon Kaen, Udon Thani or Ubon Ratchathani airports. The end result was Chiang Mai and Phuket Airports getting the go ahead.

For the triennium 2003-2006, the Thai government has set aside a substantial budget, with Chiang Mai’s portion being quite a bit larger than Phuket’s portion. The details of the development include the expansion of the international passenger’s lounge with a budget of 15 million baht, the construction of a walking path connection and aero bridges to the planes and a bus gateway for 95 million baht, the improvement of the passenger terminal, 308 million baht and an environmental impact assessment (EIA) at 3 million baht.

The director said most of development work will start at the end of 2003, and there could be interruptions to the usual smooth flow within the airport terminal.


French Ambassador pays official visit to Chiang Mai

Michael Vogt

Thomas Baude, French Honorary Consul in Chiang Mai had the great pleasure to welcome HE Laurent Aublin, the French ambassador and his wife Pascale in the garden of the Alliance Francaise in Chiang Mai.

Vigil Varna, Anil Varna (Indian Consul to Chiang Mai) chatting with Nit Wangviwat (Hon. Consul of Canada).

Laurent Aublin, who always wanted to be stationed in Thailand, since he first visited the country in 1975, is a specialist in Asian affairs and after living in Hong Kong as well as in Jakarta feels at home in Bangkok.

It was their first official visit to Chiang Mai and many members of the diplomatic corps Chiang Mai were present to welcome Laurent and Pascale Aublin. Laurent and Pascale, who are both great lovers of art and music plan to promote French artists and might even start a French cultural festival in 2004, which of course would also be of benefit for Chiang Mai.

From left: Nit Wangviwat with his wife (Hon. Consul of Canada), Poo Baude with her daughter Pan hiding behind her, Supawat Poowakul (Hon. Consul of Finland), Mrs. and Mr. Peng Ren Dong (Consul General of the People’s Republic of China), in the front Prang Baude (8), behind her Pascale and HE Laurent Aublin (Ambassador of France) watched over by Thomas Baude (Hon. Consul of France to Ching Mai), Eric Rubin (Consul General of the USA) with his wife Nicole, Michael Vogt (MD Chiangmai Mail), Wanphen and Hagen Dirksen (Hon. Consul of the Fed. Republic of Germany to Chiang Mai).


Do you want some deafness to go with your software, Sir?

Noise prevails at Chiang Mai Computer Fair

Michael Vogt

Thousands of computer buffs and ordinary ‘users’ flocked through the gates of the CMU International Center on the final day of the Chiang Mai Computer Fair 2003.

Thousands came to enjoy looking at the newest IT gadgets at the CMU International Center.

Hundreds of professional retail booths had been set up, all trying to attract potential customers and their wallets, presenting colorful displays of computer hardware, with ever present sales staff handing out kilograms of flyers and brochures, manning video presentations, and producing much noise.

Some sales executives must have been working on “the louder, the better” concept. But this is not the way in my book. Whilst most visitors of a fair such as this intend to spend money, it was impossible to communicate with most of the sales reps without yelling at each other, because one had to overcome the 150 dB of the competitors next door. I prefer to spend my money in the quiet atmosphere of a computer shop.

However, at least two people I know of were happy that day - the first one being my banker, as I did not have to overdraw my account again, and the second one being my wife, as I did not get home with a new and, of course, much needed gadget.


Ban Huoak on the Thai-Lao border to be another checkpoint?

The Foreign Affairs Ministry is preparing to promote the temporary checkpoint of Ban Huoak, Phayao province, on the Thai-Laos border to be a full checkpoint to promote tourism and trade for both countries.

Surakiart Sathirathai, Minister of Foreign Affairs visited the checkpoint and mentioned the possibility that this checkpoint in Baan Huoak will probably be upgraded following the proposal of Phayao provincial authorities.

“In my personal opinion, I agree with the change because this could make the tourism and trading better. However, I still have to take this matter to be discussed with the National Security Council of Thailand first,” he said.

There is another proposal to support the Laos government by construction of a road link into Laos for approximately 42 km, and this is possible to do because this matter is within the scope of the economic cooperation with neighboring countries. This matter will be brought into the discussion between the Foreign Minister of Laos and his Thai counterpart at their next meeting.


Eight northern provinces to become the Lanna Group

Thotsaporn Bunjan

The northern region has a new strategy in bringing all eight provinces from the upper north under the one umbrella. The board of directors for the Committee of Screening Strategy Development of the provincial group have suggested there be only one entity in the region, called the Lanna Group which has high potential in the trade and investment plans in the future.

Athikom Supannapong, deputy governor of Lampang, presented the CEO strategies of his province to the screening committee at Bangkok. Somkid Jatusripitak, deputy prime minister as the director of the committee thought that if the two major provincial groups of Chiang Mai, Lampang, Lamphun, and Mae Hong Son provincial group and Chiang Rai, Phayao, Phrae, and Nan provincial group joined together, this would be beneficial for all provinces.

The board also recommended that Chiang Rai become the gateway to Indochina and Chiang Mai be the IT City.

Deputy Prime Minister Somkid added more about the outstanding potential in each province such as eco-tourism in Nan, ceramics in Lampang, inland fisheries of Phayao province and Northern Region Industrial Estate in Lamphun and Chiang Mai.


Elephant recovers after miscarriage

Second success in the world

A team of veterinarians from the National Elephant Institute in Lampang and doctors from Chiang Mai University have made history with a successful operation to rescue an elephant that had miscarried.

The 32-year-old elephant, “Pang Chan Daeng”, had mated with Seedor Satit in the beginning of the year 2000, but she had gone past term. The veterinarians found that there was compelling evidence that the baby had died, and the mother was in pain, prompting the heroic operation.

The operation took three hours to remove the body of the baby who had died more than one year ago.

In the past, in a situation like this the mother would die within three days after the operation. There is only one other case where the mother survived (at a zoo in Germany) and “Pang Chan Daeng” is only the second case in the world to survive, following the success of the Thai veterinarian team.


New SME Bank opens

Anyone for an NPL?

Chin Ratitamkul

The Small and Medium Size Enterprises Development Bank of Thailand (SME Bank) is now open for business. Thitsadee Chusiriwong, the manager of this SME Bank said their function was to support SMEs and make access to investment sources much easier.

The SME Bank has launched new services in leasing, and loans for overseas Thai enterprises and make loans available for exporters.

Thitsadee explained that leasing periods included 3 month, 7 month and 1 year depending upon the values of the assets. In addition, he said, this service does not require taking a mortgage over property as a guarantee.

Anyone wishing to avail themselves of this new service must register. Loans for SME exporters in the northern region are available for many types of exports, except agriculture and real estate sectors which are supported by Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC) as well as The Government Housing Bank.

This year, the SME Bank provided loans worth 350 million baht. Thitsadee expected that by this year end, the SME Bank would release credit of not less than 500 million baht to the people seeking loans.


Fingerprint collection begins for US visa applicants in Thailand

Information Resource Center, Public Affairs, U.S. Embassy

On Friday, November 14, 2003 the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok will begin collecting fingerprints from most applicants for nonimmigrant visas. The collection of a “biometric* identifier” was mandated in Homeland Security Act of 2002. Fingerprints were chosen because they believe them to be the most effective and least intrusive biometric available.

The law requires that all U.S. embassies and consulates start collecting fingerprints by October 26, 2004. By the end of November 2003, about thirty posts will be collecting fingerprints.

The Consular Section will take prints of the right and left index fingers. Fingerprints will be taken electronically. No ink is used, and the process takes only a few seconds.

All visa applicants will be fingerprinted except: (1) children under 14 years of age; (2) applicants over 79 years of age; (3) employees of foreign governments and international organizations traveling on official business.

Only those who are applying for a new visa must be fingerprinted. Previously issued visas will remain valid; no one will need to renew a valid visa until it expires. Travelers who do not require a visa do not need to come to the embassy to be fingerprinted, though their fingerprints will be taken when they arrive in the U.S.

Travelers entering the U.S. will have their fingerprints matched to those collected at the time of visa application, thereby preventing use of the visa by anyone other than the individual it was issued to. Information on the implementation of this system at U.S. ports of entry is available on the Department of Homeland Security’s website at: http://www.dhs.gov/us-visit

Fingerprints will be used only by authorized officials and for official purposes. There are no plans or agreements to share fingerprints with any foreign government.

The collection of fingerprints is the latest step in the U.S. government’s efforts to improve the security of the visa process. These efforts will enhance the security of U.S. citizens and visitors, expedite legitimate travel and trade, and ensure the integrity of the immigration system, a press release from the US Embassy read.

* A “biometric identifier” is a measurable, physical characteristic of a person which can be used to uniquely identify that person. Biometric identifiers include: the face, fingerprints, hand geometry, handwriting, patterns in the eye’s iris and retina, voice and others. The U.S. National Institutes of Standards and Technology recommended the use of fingerprints as the biometric to be used for visa purposes.


Sports Day held for women prisoners

Tunnel digging and fence leaping very popular

Chin Ratitamkul

Chiang Mai Women’s Correctional Institute held its sport day for prisoners last week, with Thongchai Wongrianthong, Chiang Mai deputy governor, presiding over the opening ceremony.

Thongchai Wongrianthong, Chiang Mai deputy governor, gave the opening speech at the ceremony held at the Institute.

Thongchai said it is important that every organization realize the need for the war on drugs and respond to the government policy. To back this up, the women arranged an exhibition on the dangers of drugs.

The director of the institute, Nowwarat Thanasrisutharat, said that the objectives were to use sporting activities for creating awareness about the problems with drugs. Four sports were played, included volleyball, basketball, badminton, and the cheerleader teams.

This Sports Day activity was also held to promote His Majesty the King’s birthday on December 5, 2003.

Inmates give it their all in the Cheerleader Contest.

Rah, rah, sis boom bah, get me outta here, ya, ya, ya!

A fashion show of products from the Women’s Correctional Institute was presented.


Chiang Rai in attempts to counter the dark influences

Everyone being issued with torches?

Chiang Rai’s provincial governor does not worry about his being the pilot province countering dark influences, says Narin Phanitchakit.

“Chiang Rai has long border lines with neighbors Burma and Laos, so it is hard to suppress all, because there are some suspects which escape to reside in the neighboring countries. We are cooperating with the local officials and request the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to help too.”

He welcomes the 60-day countdown against drugs as part of the celebrations for His Majesty the King’s birthday. This year Chiang Rai has no serious problems and about 80 percent of the plan has been completely done,” said Governor Narin.


Mae Sai Border turns lively

Customs officials promising security (and inconvenience)

Mae Sai Customhouse officials are predicting that the business and the tourism sectors at the Mae Sai border will be lively once more after a period of gloom and doom recently.

Pachara Sinsawas, a Mae Sai Customs official said that there had been unrest in the Mae Sai area, opposite Burma’s Tachilek province in the past, but now the Mae Sai border in Chiang Rai is picking up again. “It is improving because it is going into the high season for tourists and also following the cooperation between the Thai and Burmese officials Mae Sai is peaceful right now,” he said.

“The situation in Mae Sai was produced by a group of persons who were fighting our strict measures against illegal products and smuggling. However, we will have even more measures to catch contraband and drug smugglers, but I will apologize in advance to the travelers for any inconvenience too,” said Pachara.


Appeal for public support for female prisoners

Chin Ratitamkul

Mrs. Naowarat Thanasrisutharat, director of the Female’s Correction Institution has revealed that female prisoners have some extreme social and personal problems. In addition, over 300 female inmates were found to be illiterate from the total number of 1,942 prisoners.

Mrs. Naowarat said she has appointed the committee to look into the provision of social welfare and urgent help in terms of urgently giving them education.

She said that the institution aims to help these prisoners return to society and be well educated. Some of them had the ability to study further towards a bachelor degree at Sukhothai Thammathirath Open University, but they could not afford the fees.

Alienation from the outside world is also a problem. “At present, 60 percent of all prisoners here have no visits from relatives.”

There are also shortages in personal use items for the female prisoners and director Naowarat has requested the society outside help support these female prisoners by providing them intimate daily use items.

Mrs. Naowarat remarked that financial donations are used to buy necessities, and especially sanitary napkins which are really essential.

Almost 20 prisoners are pregnant and close to delivery, leaving a responsibility to provide milk for their newborn babies.

Director Naowarat concluded that the Female Correction Institution’s most pressing needs are textbooks and sanitary napkins.


Another sting goes wrong

Another policeman gets a helicopter ride

The drug suppression police task force from and officers from the Office of the Narcotics Control Board mounted a sting operation against the Hmong drug dealers’ movement, resulting in the death of one drug dealer and one policeman injured.

The police task force was led by Pol Lt Col Somboon Homnan who had planned a sting operation, attempting to buy 50,000 methamphetamine from the hill tribe drug dealers at Ban Pang Khum. The police raided the methamphetamine refineries but the dealers had obviously been tipped off before the police handed over the marked money and a gun battle ensued.

After the shoot-out, police found that one drug courier had been killed and Pol. Sgt. Maj Somsak Puangpak had been shot in the left arm and was taken to Maharaja Hospital by the Border Patrol Police helicopter. Police pursued the other five drug runners, but they were fleet of foot and left the police flat-footed as they escaped into the nearby jungle.