NEWS
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Protest at the Water Forum in Chiang Mai

Young man throws Molotov cocktail at US Consulate in Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai Red Cross and Winter Fair 2004 coming next month

THAI announces new flights to Luang Phabang and Rangoon

Life and Sexual Health Festival

Thailand warmly embraces Pandas

Tomorrow I will be an artist

International Day for Disabled held at Rajabhat Institute

Chiang Mai traffic strangled by its own exhaust pipe?

Chiang Mai Railway Station receiving a facelift

Chiang Rai on target to eradicate dark influences

17,000 refugees on the move

Could poverty and social problems in Thailand be solved soon?

Stateless people in Mae Ai appeal to senators

Protest at the Water Forum in Chiang Mai

Damn the dams! was the cry

Natchawi Srirat

A protest group representing the Northern Farmers Union Community under the Northern River Basin Organization Network gathered at the Imperial Mae Ping Hotel on November 21 to express their concerns over water management issues. The protest leader also presented the group’s petition to the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Prapat Panyachatraksa, who was attending the Water Forum.

Sonthong Chailangkha, representing the Northern Farmers Union Community protest group, presented a petition to Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Prapat Panyachatraksa, demanding that the minister stop constructing those damn dams.

In the petition, they ask the ministry to stop constructing dams, and abandon the water management project because many people would suffer from water shortages in areas such as the Yom River Basin (following the Kaeng Sua Ten Dam construction), Kharn River Basin (Mae Kharn Dam), Mae Kuang Dam Management, and the Yang Weir Construction.

Showing that everyone likes a good protest, a crowd gathers as a protest leader stands in the back of his pickup truck and, using a PA and loudspeaker system set up for the occasion, outlines the group’s problems.

The protestors have demanded that Minister Prapat do something to stop the dam construction projects before they are given Cabinet approval. Many people living in those river basin areas would suffer from alternating water shortages and floods, as well as a lack of potable water.

“We hope that in the new draft water resource law, people from every river basin and farmers’ networks would be allowed to participate (which would) demonstrate the overall transparency of the process,” said Sonthong Chailangkha, the leader of the group.


Young man throws Molotov cocktail at US Consulate in Chiang Mai

Goes beyond being a prank

Phisut Itsaracheewawat

On Wednesday night, November 19, a young Chiang Mai man threw a Molotov cocktail at the US Consulate, allegedly challenging the power of police and law, and trying to prove that he was “cool”. The devise failed to explode.

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra told reporters that the attack was not linked to terrorism, and was probably a prank.

Although there have been many teenage daredevil pranks pulled lately in Chiang Mai, this was perhaps the worse case ever.

Although earlier reports had said that more than one person took part in the attack, chief investigator, Pol. Capt. Boontham Kamlai said witnesses spoke of seeing only one man in his 20s. “Police are hunting for him. We do not yet know his motive,” Boontham said.

Witnesses reported that the young man arrived on a motorcycle with a burning two-liter bottle of fuel that he threw at the US consulate gate, but luckily it failed to explode.

A special investigator from the consulate said that he was cooperating with the police to investigate the matter and uncover the identity of the assailant. He confirmed that this attack was not linked to terrorism.

“Police are gathering all information needed to capture this juvenile delinquent ... He will be accused of arson and destroying public property. I think this daredevil action might have happened because many teenagers are bored,” he surmised.

No alarm has been announced, “Everything is still proceeding normally ... the security staff is working as usual but might be beefed up with cooperation and support from (local) police,” the special investigator added.


Chiang Mai Red Cross and Winter Fair 2004 coming next month

No parking problems this time, and yes, another beauty contest

Phornphimon Thimsat

The annual Chiang Mai Red Cross and Winter Fair 2004 will be held from December 30 to January 11 at the field behind the Chiang Mai City Hall. The fair is an opportunity to show off local products and to celebrate the New Year festive season.

This year, Chiang Mai Governor Suwat Tantipat wants each government organization to present their achievements and promote any of their products to the public.

The Miss Chiang Mai Beauty Contest will be promoted by the Tossapak Company who say the ladies will be bigger, brighter and more beautiful than ever before.

Chiang Mai has invited well-known singers to be the guests of honor every night including Palmmy, Ai-Nam, Kala, Bang Kaew, Clash, Taxi, Micro, Carabao, Hyper, Jintara Poonlap, Mike Piromporn, Pamela Bowden, and Apaporn Nakhon Sawan.

Chiang Mai will also promote OTOP and hi-tech products to the fairgoers. The National Science Museum will show its scientific successes for anyone who wants to unravel the mysteries of science, and the Ministry of Justice led by Pongthep Thepkanchana, justice minister, will present the Justice Tour Project to provide people with knowledge on the law.

Last year there were some problems with parking, amongst other things, so this year Chiang Mai provincial authorities have prepared for the crowds by expanding the parking lots and placing the fairgrounds on the grassy areas to decrease dust problems.


THAI announces new flights to Luang Phabang and Rangoon

New air routes take off today

Natchawi Srirat

Thai Airways International (THAI) has inaugurated new air links from Chiang Mai to Luang Phabang, Laos and to Rangoon in Burma adding to Chiang Mai’s position as Thailand’s northern aviation hub. The new flights will commence at the end of November.

Miss Prakaidao Horwattanakul, THAI’s district sales manager for the north announces the new air routes to be launched today.

Chiang Mai to Luang Phabang flights will be twice daily on Monday, Thursday and Saturday, using 66-seat ATR 72 aircraft. Designated as flight No. TG 688, departure will be at 10.40 a.m. arriving at 11.50 a.m. and flight No. TG 689 will leave at 12.20 p.m. arriving at 1.35 p.m. Cost will be 3,000 baht for one way or 5,000 baht return.

It is hoped the new air links will be very useful for tourism and business in both countries as both cities are centers of tourism and economic development.

The new Chiang Mai to Rangoon air link will be operated four days a week (Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday) and twice daily. The first flight from Chiang Mai will depart at 8.40 a.m. by TG 301 arriving at 9.25 a.m. and the second will leave at 9.55 by TG 302 arriving at 11.35 a.m. Costs one way are 3,300 baht and 5,500 baht return.

Additional information on these flights can be obtained at Thai Airways International offices, or at Chiang Mai International Airport or visit the Website: www.thaiairways.com


Life and Sexual Health Festival

“Sex” on stage for Thai youth

Phornphimon Thimsat

The Youth Family and Community Development Project (YFCD) of the Chiang Mai University Nursing Faculty and The Youth Love Health Club, which is supported by the Foundation for Health Organization, promoted a “Life and Sexual Health Festival” November 21-22 at Chiang Mai University Convention Center. The festival was presided over by Chiang Mai Deputy Governor Udom Poursakul.

Governor Suwat Tantipat participated in aerobic dance with the students at the event.

The objective of this festival was not a sexual free-for-all, but an attempt to make teenagers realize the importance of their bodies and to take care of their health, especially their sexual health.

Addresses were given by many speakers, with one titled Love and Sex...XXX given by nun Sunsanee Satainrasud, a panel discussion concerning Love and Sex of Teenagers, plus others of relevance for the young rebellious Thais.

Finally there was one topic that everyone could experience - a dance contest, which after all the lectures was held very healthily!


Thailand warmly embraces Pandas

Greatest money machine since the ATM

Natchawi Srirat

A huge stream of tourists has been visiting Chiang Mai Zoo to see the two Chinese friendship ambassadors Chuang Chuang and Lin Hui. The furry pair are earning approximately 100,000 baht per day and selling more than 100,000 baht worth of souvenirs.

Chuang Chuang and Lin Hui, the new stars of Chiang Mai Zoo, wonder why, since they are friendship ambassadors promoting goodwill towards friends from other countries, officials have decided to spoil this gesture by charging foreign visitors twice as much. (Photo by Phisut Itsaracheewawat)

Rossukhon Chuicomwong, a public relations officer at Chiang Mai Zoo, revealed that last weekend the zoo welcomed almost 5,000 domestic and international tourists, bringing in 240,000 baht per day.

The zoo says that during the long holiday for the His Majesty the King’s birthday, they predict 10,000 visitors a day and expect to make about 500,000 baht a day. They have already prepared a special promotion to reward tourists planning to visit on the most auspicious day during the weekend.

The first public visit not only brought more tourists, but also boosted sales of souvenirs. Apex Toys, a major manufacturer of Chiang Mai Zoo souvenirs, said that after November 26, their sales increased 70 percent, hitting 100,000 baht per day with the two leading products being panda dolls and electronic pandas.

With the gate sales being so high, perhaps Chiang Mai Zoo might consider dropping the double pricing as a sort of ‘friendship ambassador’ gesture towards foreign tourists, both western and Chinese.


Tomorrow I will be an artist

The artistic endeavours of one woman

Phornphimon Thimsat

The Education Ministry’s former deputy permanent secretary, Savitri Suwansathit, wanted to use her artistic skills to present to other people her experiences from many places.

Savitri Suwansathit (R) explains the meaning of each painting to Chao Duangduan na Chiang Mai (L).

She had no artistic background, but starting painting because she wanted to draw - that’s it. She said that she had worked hard, travelled to many places, and met many people. She wanted to pass on these things that other people have had no chance to see or meet, but she had.

Savitri started painting 4 years ago and has always said, “Tomorrow I will be an artist,” because she thinks that she was not ready to be an artist for today. As opposed to just bringing back photographs, her paintings come from her feelings and emotions which were stimulated at the time.

She has painted 500 canvases but in this exhibition she chose only 60 to exhibit. She said that the two important elements in her life are People and Places, which then became the title of this exhibition held at the AUA Auditorium this month.


International Day for Disabled held at Rajabhat Institute

Administrators should provide them the same opportunities and rights as other students

Chin Ratitamkul

Chiang Mai Disabled Association last week held its International Day for disabled people at the Rajabhat Institute of Chiang Mai. Thongchai Wongrianthong, deputy Chiang Mai governor presided over the opening ceremony.

Students performed a wheelchair dance during the festivities.

Sanit Suweera, the president of Chiang Mai Disabled Association, said the objective of this event was to provide opportunities for the disabled to show their abilities.

Sanit said that over 2,000 people attended and more than 26 organizations from the government and private sectors cooperated in setting up booths and stalls at the institute.

Chiang Mai people have changed their attitudes towards disabled people. President Sanit said, “Society has accepted that disabled people still have abilities that they could use in many jobs. Blind people can earn their living by foot massage, crippled people can use computers.”

However, he explained that he was worried about their education. “Most government schools have accepted disabled students but there is a lot of resistance from private schools,” Sanit said.

“School administrators have to change their minds and give the same opportunities and rights as normal students. If the academics pushed for more education for these disabled people, their lives would become better and they could become self sufficient,” Sanit concluded.


Chiang Mai traffic strangled by its own exhaust pipe?

Public transportation should be high priority

Chin Ratitamkul

The Chiang Mai transportation system is in critical condition as the number of vehicles on the roads has risen. Figures released by the Department of Land Transport showed that in 2002 there were 870,000 vehicles, whereas in 1998, there were only 403,876 vehicles in Chiang Mai. This is more than double in four years.

The development of transportation in Chiang Mai. (Graphic by Chin Ratitamkul)

Road construction has not kept pace with this growth, consequently the traffic system is clogging up, making people look again at public transport.

Wallop Saetieo, ex-managing director of Chiang Mai Thai Transport Limited, said that the company used to have four “yellow bus” lines, but claimed they could not survive in Chiang Mai because there were not enough passengers, insurance premiums were too high, there were no bus lanes and no support from the government sector. However, he believes that if government supports a public transport system, this business would still be a viable public service.

Today the main modes of Chiang Mai transportation are red mini-bus (song taew) and tuk-tuks. The most important in Chiang Mai is currently the red mini-busses from Nakhon Lanna Transport Cooperative, which has 2,791 mini-busses on 32 city routes.

Drivers of these mini-busses have a bad reputation for overcharging and an unprofessional attitude; however, Singkom Nanti, the president of Nakhon Lanna Transport Cooperatives, explained that there are only some drivers at fault.

Another alternative is the Kwan Vieng bus which is bringing about reform in Chiang Mai transportation. The latest research involved dividing mini-bus routes into 19 lines.

Nikorn Jumnong, deputy minister of transport who chaired a recent transportation system seminar titled, “The direction for survival of transport entrepreneurs in Chiang Mai” at the Empress Hotel, said that now the government needs to support this business to develop the region. Next year, Chiang Mai would receive a 72 million baht budget to reform the transport structure.


Chiang Mai Railway Station receiving a facelift

Bandages off in 90 days

Natchawi Srirat

Train travelers are wondering what is going on in the Chiang Mai railway station area, with bricks and construction equipment all over the place. People have been wondering whether it will be a shopping center or a spa or a five star hotel or all of these?

The railway station makeover will include a food center, souvenir shops, parlor for guests, new ticket offices and an information area.

The notice board says it all, however. Aek Pra Jim Engineering is the contractor for this construction project and the contract was signed on July 23, 2003 with 9,250,000 baht as the budget for this project. The period allowed under the contract is 90 days for completion. Construction began on September 24, and will be (should be?) completely finished on December 28, 2003.

The budget was made available to support and promote tourism in Chiang Mai. The makeover includes a food center, souvenir shops, parlor for guests, new ticket offices and information area.

It was necessary for the budget to come from the government as the railway is not self-funding, and has actually been running at a loss

. “The Railway Station never makes any profit, we have made a loss every year. However, we have to stay on our feet,” said Suthep Suphanpayak, head of Chiang Mai Railway Station.

The information office will be larger and more comfortable, the ticket office will be more organized, and there will be more seats for passengers waiting for trains. There will also be a small park to relax in as another waiting area, in case, heaven forbid, the train happens to be a little late.

After the construction is completed, we will find out whether this project has helped increase the number of tourists.

Chiang Mai is being considered the aviation hub, but we should not forget our Chiang Mai Railway Station.


Chiang Rai on target to eradicate dark influences

12 caught, another 8 charged - only 8 to go

Following the government’s war on dark influential persons, Pol. Maj. Gen. Wut Withitanon the assistant commissioner of the Bureau, Region 5 said that deputy prime minister, Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, had assigned his subordinates to solve the dark influence problems in Chiang Rai, the pilot province for the scheme.

The police have destroyed some of the influential networks, but in fact there were less influential people in Chiang Rai than there initially appeared to be, because many people came in from the other provinces making Chiang Rai just a meeting place.

Some pleasant dark alleyways for the dark influences!

The deadline is December 2, and Pol. Maj. Gen Chamnong Kaewsiri, the commander of Chiang Rai Provincial Police, said they have to speed up their apprehending of the remaining people.

The current situation sees one influential person has escaped to Laos and of the total influential persons in Chiang Rai of 28 persons, 12 have been caught, eight have been charged and the other eight are being closely watched by police officers.


17,000 refugees on the move

Concerns over border proximity

Mae Hong Son province has been preparing to move 17,000 refugees in the Ban Gongka Sala Holding Center in Mae Sariang district to a new location at Ban Mae La -uon in Sobmoei district. The move is expected to be completed this December.

Sittichai Prasertsri, deputy governor of Mae Hong Son province said the relocation of the refugee camp was well underway, especially the road improvement plan, which is expected to be finished for the move.

The Ban Mae Gongka Sa-la camp is situated in the middle of Salween National Park where some of the refugees in the holding center have created problems with logging and smuggling trees from the Salween forest.

Flooding of the camp area has also caused 20 deaths.

The new location at Ban Mae La-uon covers 800 rai, which the Forestry Department has provided, but is only 4 km from the border.

Concerns over the border situation were dismissed by deputy governor Sittichai who insisted that provincial authorities had already prepared the location and alerted the military force and border patrol police to take care of this area. There are also some territory security volunteers in the center to protect the occupants of the camp.


Could poverty and social problems in Thailand be solved soon?

PM Thaksin gives 6-year time frame

Natchawi Srirat

The Thaksin Shinawatra Administration has announced that it is their policy to solve social problems and poverty in Thailand within 6 years. Chiang Mai has been selected as one of the eight pilot provinces.

Udom Maneekhat from the Chiang Mai Provincial Community Development Office, declared that the Thai government requires data surveying to find the correct solutions for social and poverty problems.

The Local Administration Department (LAD) is also responsible for registering the seven main problems which the government has indicated. These are agriculture and farming, homeless people, illegal employment, supporting students into more appropriate jobs, being defrauded, people in debt and housing the poor.

Chiang Mai has to process the surveys being done from now until December 4 this year. All the surveyed data will be verified and registered by the LAD by March 31 next year.

The Chiang Mai Provincial Community Development Official also said that they would require good cooperation from everyone to be able to complete the registration in time.

Kritsadaporn Siempakdee, permanent secretary for Chiang Mai Provincial Authorities said, “There are only three steps for the whole project. They are compiling data, analyzing it and then solving the problems. However, we cannot solve the problems in two or three days after getting your questionnaires. We hope that people will understand this,” he added.


Stateless people in Mae Ai appeal to senators

A testing suggested. “Did Not Allow” citizenship?

Chin Ratitamkul

Senators led by Maj Gen Manoonkrit Roobkajorn, House senate chairman (speaker), joined in meeting the people on Sunday at Chiang Mai University (CMU) to listen to the people’s voices about their problems. They were welcomed by Suwat Tantipat, Chiang Mai Governor, and Asst Prof Dr. Nipon Tuwanon, CMU.

Senator Vichai Krongying promised to help solve the stateless people problem as soon as possible.

500 people attended, including Prommin Intralavichai, a representative from Mae Ai district, who complained to the senators that 1,043 Mae Ai people had been stripped of their Thai nationality without any real investigation. He said that all of them and their families had stayed in Thailand for over 100 years, but the government officials didn’t survey or seriously investigate the plight of these now stateless people. Prommin said the problem was in Mae Ai district area only, a sensitive area between Thailand and Burma.

Prommin Intralavichai from Mae Ai questioned the senators about the stateless people problem in Mae Ai.

Senator Vichai Krongying said they had received news of the Mae Ai case in the parliament and the government would form a committee to investigate as soon as possible. “However, the authority to follow the government procedures must be also approved by Chiang Mai’s governor. It will take a long time to examine the facts. Though we could verify the nationality by DNA testing, we couldn’t find the DNA from their ancestors,” he explained.