Vol. II No. 50 Saturday December 13 - December 19, 2003
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NEWS
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Economic Quadrangle Seminar - Cooperation for regional success

Victory over drugs announced on December 3 by PM Thaksin

CMU and University of Ohio collaborate

Underpasses to help relieve the city traffic jams

Chiang Mai Motor Show showing new models

Mysterious craters in Mae Hong Son

CAT promotes its new private enterprise image

Economic Quadrangle agrees to land links

CMU Medical Faculty, worried about the 30 baht medical scheme

Private Sector is key factor Northern economic development

Quadrangle Expo 2003 open until December 14

Medical Faculty against early retirement

A new Food Factory at Kad Suan Kaew

HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn to confer CMU degrees

Economic Quadrangle Seminar - Cooperation for regional success

All the ceremony, but enough of the substance?

Jacquelyn Suter
Photos: Phisut Itsaracheewawat

The Economic Quadrangle Seminar was held at the Empress Hotel on December 7-8, to a full and enthusiastic house of visiting dignitaries and business people. This seminar is an annual forum and workshop for the Economic Quadrangle Project, consisting of ten Chambers of Commerce of Northern Thailand plus those of Yunnan China, Laos, and Myanmar, all nations along the Mekong River.

A very colorful group of delegates from Bangladesh with Korn Dabbharansi (with the flowers) and his wife

The purpose of the Economic Quadrangle Project is to promote and build awareness between the private sector and government in developing the economy and investment potential of the four member countries. Like the European Union and NAFTA agreements in the Americas, Southeast Asia has realized that more growth and prosperity can accrue to each country if resources and investments are pooled to develop a strong regional economy.

Former Deputy Prime Minister, Korn Dabbharansi opened the 4th economic quadrangle meeting

A number of key initiatives are required to make this a reality. Perhaps the most important of these is infrastructure development, such as transport networks (north-south and east-west corridors) linking the region for both trade and tourism. Secondly, cross-border trade and investment barriers need to be lessened or eliminated, and finally there must be development of human resources and skill competencies, protection of the environment and promotion of sustainable development.

The Burmese delegation

A number of speakers at the Seminar addressed the opportunities and obstacles facing cooperative regional development. Former Deputy Prime Minister, Korn Dabbharansi, emphasized very strongly the need for private sector implementation of these initiatives, however no details were provided about how the private sector could fund such projects on the scale of the key initiatives.

Delegates and representatives from the Thai government (on left) and China (on right)

Korn Dabbharansi also outlined other projects related to and connected with the Quadrangle Project, such as PM Thaksin’s new Economic Cooperation Strategy (ECS) between Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar; the recent deep-water port discussions between Thailand and Myanmar; and the BIMST project - similar to ECS but with western neighboring countries Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Thailand.

Jaseem Ahmed from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) reported on the projects being undertaken by the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) Program. Since 1992, the GMS countries (Cambodia, Lao, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, and Yunnan China) have embarked on a program of economic cooperation under the support of the ADB. The ADB’s priority now is the all-important transport network, linking the entire region with land lines to facilitate trade.

The Vice-Minister for Tourism and Sport, Krirk-Krai Jirapaet, spoke candidly about the opportunities and barriers for tourism by having a regional approach. He informed the seminar that the region expects to double its tourist volume in the next six years, however voiced the concern that he was unsure whether the existing infrastructure has the capacity to handle this increase.

Krirk-Krai Jirapaet’s talk was perhaps the liveliest of the day, provoking representatives from Bangladesh and Cambodia to challenge some of his opinions on good-faith discussions regarding GMS (regional) visas and cooperative tourist site promotion.

Krirk-Krai Jirapaet remarked that “we don’t lack ideas, but lack implementation”, a sentiment that world-renowned competitiveness expert, Michael Porter, said in his final report to the Prime Minister regarding Thailand earlier this year.

At this two-day seminar there was a bewildering array of organizations working on regional development that does not lack for ideas, but is deficient in precise implementation plans followed by action that truly benefits all citizens. No one doubts that transport networks will facilitate trade and tourism, and that Free Trade Agreements (FTA) will bring tariffs down enabling greater goods and services exchange.

What was missing from the seminar were specific plans addressing sustainable development. Who exactly is to benefit from these initiatives? Sustainable development means limiting unrestrained growth to address quality of life issues such as environmental resources. There was no discussion as to whether farmers should be involved at the outset in FTA agreements so that they are not blind sighted by lowered barriers on their existing crops, so that they can plan for alternative exportable crops. The issue of monoculture for export versus biodiversity for sustainability was also not explored. What did not seem to be realized by some delegates was that it is the globalization debate on a smaller scale.

For a wealth of information on GMS see http://www.adb.org/GMS


Victory over drugs announced on December 3 by PM Thaksin

Do we hear chickens being counted?

By Chin Ratitamkul

On December 3, Chiang Mai governor, Suwat Tantipat, presided over the ceremony to declare “victory over drugs”, at Chiang Mai University’s (CMU) convention hall. A number of associated organizations received certificates, and also took an oath in the front of His Majesty the King’s portrait, to not become involved with drugs.

Many took part in the ceremony to announce the victory over the drugs at CMU’s Convention Hall.

Governor Suwat said that according to the government’s policy to fight drugs, declared in February 1 2003, the result had been very satisfying and successful.

The drug combat operation center in Chiang Mai successfully destroyed a number of drug networks. Over 400 people who were involved with drugs were arrested and in addition, over 26,000 drug addicts had been sent for rehabilitation.

The strategies involved had three 3 major steps - the first and second being to find and destroy the networks, and the third to assist in the rehabilitation and recovery of drug addicts into society.

Governor Suwat said “We now are on the third phase. The Government insists that we recover the love relationship in the drug addicts’ families, to return them to our society.”

In a televised address, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said the result of the government’s drug crusade was beyond his expectation, and he was overwhelmed learning that a drug problem which had snowballed over the decades took less than a year to wipe out. “Today marks history for all Thai people” PM Thaksin said.


CMU and University of Ohio collaborate

Phitsut Itsaracheewawat

Chiang Mai University (CMU), led by its English Department, and the Global Learning Community, University of Ohio, USA, have completed a cultural drive and collaborative research project.

(From Left) Asst. Prof. Yaowapa Sangkhasilapin, English Department, CMU; Greg Emery, Director of Global Learning Community, Ohio University after successful completion of the joint program.

24 CMU students and 40 Ohio students took part in the first joint project between the two universities, to conduct research on 14 local Chiang Mai entrepreneurs lacking start-up capital.

The research was divided into two steps, with the first step done by the Thai students, gathering information from local manufacturers, and then sending the information to their US counterparts to finish the analysis process.

Asst Prof. Yaowapa Sangkhasilapin, the English Department Head, said that this co-project was not only aimed to help develop student research and English skills, but also raised local entrepreneurs ability to be able to find the right niche to expand their business into the USA.

“The reason we chose to initiate this collaborative program with CMU is that we consider Chiang Mai as a dynamic city, and we foresee a bright future in this city”, said Greg Emery, Director of Global Learning Community, Ohio University.


Underpasses to help relieve the city traffic jams

But will exacerbate the problems during construction

Natchawi Srirat

The underpasses at Kuang Sing and Sarn Dek intersections is estimated to cost 500 million baht, with construction expected to be completed before Songkran 2006, according to the contract signed the end of October. However, the construction plan is almost a month behind, after only two months.

Pakorn Teerathamrong, Highway District Engineer of the Second Chiang Mai Highway District, explaining the traffic situation.

Technicians and engineers in charge of the project expect the number of traffic related problems to actually increase during the construction period, causing traffic jams and more inconvenience while traveling in Chiang Mai.

Pakorn Teerathamrong, Highway District Engineer of the Second Chiang Mai Highway District, said that the Ministry of Transport and Communications has hired a private company to construct the underpass at Kuang Sing intersection between Highway No.11 and 107, with a project value of 243,289,721 baht, while Sarn Dek intersection on Highway No. 11 and 118 is costed at 268,823,714 baht.

Jilathep Limited Partnership has been granted the contract for the construction in both areas, and must complete their work within 900 days, finishing by April 10 2006. Penalties exist for delays fixed at around 80,000 baht per day.

The Bridge Construction Office of the Highway Department will supervise this project, and all involved state that the project will be finalized on time.

To assist people in Chiang Mai get through the construction areas easily, cars coming from the Rincome Intersection can avoid the construction area on Kuang Sing Intersection by taking a left on Lanna Commercial School Road, get through Chotana Road at a Soi of the Office of Accelerated Rural Development, or by using the new road beside the Military Petroleum Authority leading towards Mae Rim District Road or the Middle Ring Road.

Motorists approaching from Sarn Dek Intersection (or Lamphun province) can avoid the construction area by taking a left to the new road beside Kam Thieng market which will lead to the city on Sri Phum Corner, or the road next to Chiang Mai Rajabhat Institute. Cars arriving from Chiang Mai City can turn left on the road next to Bang Chak gas station, which will lead to Super Highway Road, and can make a U-turn, and take a left on Lanna Commercial School road which is the shortcut to Mae Rim district as well.

Cars coming from Mae Rim district can avoid the construction area by taking a left on a Soi on Chotana 6 road which can lead through Super Highway on the street next to Lanna Hospital. Anyone who wants to go into the city can make a U-Turn underneath the Pa Ton Bridge.

For Sarn Dek Intersection, cars from Mae Jo three-way intersection can use the middle ring road of the Department of Rural Highways, cutting through the Super Highway again at Nong Pratheep junction.

Cars which are from Doi Saket district or Chiang Rai province can take a left at the intersection of the Middle Ring Road of the Department of Rural Highways, cutting through the city by-passing Nong Pratheep Junction, or take a left into Chiang Mai Business Park next to AIS Office, then taking a right to the Super Highway next to Carrefour Supermarket.

Cars which come from the city can take a left at Kaew Nawarat Junction which cuts through to Tung Hotel Road, then using the route beside San Goolek Cemetery, to get to the super highway on Mae Jo intersection, making a U-turn to go to Doi Saket district.

Or perhaps a move to Chiang Rai would be in order?


Chiang Mai Motor Show showing new models

But will they trade rickshaws?

Phisut Itsaracheewawat and Natchawi Srirat

The 11th Chiang Mai Motor Show was held at Chiang Mai Central Airport Plaza. The latest models from many leading car manufacturers were on display, including Peugeot, Mazda and Audi.

Chiang Mai Deputy Governor, Thongchai Wongrianthong and Srivalai Chaisaovaong at the 11th Chiang Mai Motor Show.

Thongchai Wongrianthong, Chiang Mai Deputy Governor, presided over the opening ceremony expressing that he was pleased to see an event like this hosted in Chiang Mai, because it proved that Chiang Mai was ready to be an auto center market in the northern region.

Srivilai Chaisaovong, Managing Director of Prempracha Co. Ltd., said that the car sales business in Chiang Mai was showing a positive sign, increasing about 20 percent in sales this year.

“There is a strong movement showing that Chiang Mai car business is going to boom. Both Japanese and European cars are gaining more popularity, especially the latter. People are changing their attitudes toward European cars finding that they are quite inexpensive in terms of upkeep,” she added.


Mysterious craters in Mae Hong Son

Japanese treasure troves or Ya Ba hiding places?

Several craters have been discovered in a main drug dealer network village in Mae Hong Son province, and its Governor is keen to develop the holes as new tourist attractions.

The holes in the ground were discovered when local police, soldiers, and members of the Local Administration Department targeted a group of drug dealers, which resulted in the arrest of 1 person, and the seizure of 90,000 pills of Ya Ba.

However, while digging around, the task force found many large craters, with two outstanding examples about 500 meters south of the village. All sides of the craters were covered with stones and small rocks, covering approximately 100 rai, and it is assumed that the stones and small rocks are solidified lava.

Wijit Supawiroj, assistant village headman, said that these craters were actually found a long time ago, and the name of the village Ban Kued Sam Sib, means Thirty Pits. The two smallest craters were used as a cemetery for horses, cows, buffaloes and other dead animals, and it was local belief that there was a spirit living there.

In 2000 and 2001, some Japanese tourists attempted to descend to the bottom of the crater, but their 700 meter long rope did not reach the bottom of the pit. People who lived in that area assume that the number of Japanese groups which followed came to find the lost treasures of Japanese soldiers, bringing with them various treasure maps. According to the history of World War 2, Japanese soldiers hid many precious objects in the crater and caves in the area of Pangmapha district.

Wijit also said that if Mae Hong Son province would develop the craters into a tourist attraction, people in the village would be ready to help since most of the villagers are poor and would be grateful for this new, positive development in their lives. Currently, they are thought of as being a drug village, so they do not to get the necessary funding from the government for much needed public utilities.

Suphoj Laowansiri, Mae Hong Son Governor, said that Mae Hong Son province would develop these craters as a new tourist attraction, and feasibility studies are currently underway. Once the development of this area is completed (and any WWII treasure dug up), the villagers will benefit from the influx of tourist dollars.


CAT promotes its new private enterprise image

Phisut Itsaracheewawat

The Communications Authority of Thailand (CAT) held a “CAT Telecom - Close to You” promotion to mark its privatization. Chiang Mai province together with six other provinces and the cities of Khon Kaen, Nakhon Sawan, Rachaburi, Songkla, Chonburi and Bangkok have been chosen by CAT to introduce their new image.

Charoen Chaikaew, (left), CAT Assistant Director and Deputy Governor, Prinya Parnthong, (center); and Orachorn Chanwiwattana, (right), manager of Central Airport Plaza, opening the “CAT Telecom - Close to you” activity at Central Airport Plaza.

Charoen Chaikaew, Assistant Director of Northern CAT, said that becoming a private company helps to improve their network to cover more areas, and assist people access their services more conveniently.

CAT is preparing a high speed internet service and “unbelievably low cost” international calls, to be launched on December 15.

A reliable source said that the low cost international calls is a business strategy to block a large Singapore telecom company.

The CAT became a private company with a registered capital of 10,000 million baht on August 14, this year.


Economic Quadrangle agrees to land links

Drive Myanmar to Vietnam via China, Thailand and sunny Laos by 2007

Phitsut Itsaracheewawat

Rachan Veeraphan, Chairman of the Joint Economic Quadrangle Chamber Committee, said that land transportation was the best way to bridge an economic cooperation between Quadrangle member countries. To this end, the government has approved an ambitious plan to build four main roads linking Burma, China, Laos and Vietnam, to be completed by the end of 2007.

Rachan Veeraphan, Chairman of the Joined Economic Quadrangle Chambers Committee, says that ground transportation needs to be facilitated immediately.

Although, there are 12 airlines operating in the Great Mekong Sub-region (GMS), air transportation costs are still a burden for local farmers to export their products.

The main transportation for shipping products from Thailand to China is currently by river along the Mekong, and the Chinese government had injected 240 million baht to extend this main channel to 22 meters in width and 1.5 meters deeper.

Rachan explained that the river transportation had been going for a year and the operation was fine, but when the land transportation was completed, its role would be ‘cruising’ only.

“It is obvious that extending land transport networks to cover many important routes connecting our neighboring countries will help boost the economy within this region,” Rachan said.

However there is one obstacle blocking this project, a bridge to connect Chiang Khong district of Chiang Rai, Thailand and Huay Sai, in Bokeo province of Laos, had not yet been endorsed.


CMU Medical Faculty, worried about the 30 baht medical scheme

Hospitals cannot afford to subsidize treatment

Saksit Meesapkwang

The Dean of Medical Faculty Prof. Dr. Supoj Wuttikarn, expressed his concern about the increasing pressure created by the 30 baht scheme, “But as it is the government policy, we have to follow it. We are worried that there are still many problems, especially the high cost of investment” he said.

“This has affected the doctors in terms of budgeting, as well as the number of patients that can be admitted to the Maharaj Nakhon Chiang Mai Hospital. Most of the patients are from rural provinces and remote villages and are seriously affected with diseases. Therefore, using high technology medical tools and equipment for treatment will certainly increase treatment expenses,” he noted.

An example from the past shows treatment costs totaling up to 100,000 baht with the central authorities compensating the hospital with 70,000 to 80,000 baht, and the hospital itself only subsidizing another 20,000 baht, which was feasible.

However, under the government’s current policy, on a bill of 100,000 baht, the hospital could get back only 3,000-4,000 baht from the central authorities, and then the hospital has to submit a petition to receive the balance back from the Provincial Public Health Office, which normally does not have sufficient funds to pay for it.

Maharaj Nakhon Chiang Mai Hospital is the biggest hospital in the Northern region, with more than 2,500-3,000 patients per day using its services. It has 1,800 beds for inpatients. “This indicates that the expenses to actually operate the hospital are quite high too, plus the hospital needs to buy good quality equipment to serve the increasing number of patients, which again requires more money. Under the current system, the hospital just can not afford it. This is a major problem which needs to be solved urgently”, said Dr. Supoj.


Private Sector is key factor Northern economic development

Korn Dabbharansi speaks new party’s line

Phisut Itsaracheewawat

Korn Dabbharansi, the new Thai Rak Thai party member, said that the private sector was encouraged to take more part in developing the economy in the Northern Region, implementing government initiated projects, developing their products, and planning wise marketing strategies.

Korn Dabbharansi says that the private sector is a key factor to boost the Northern economic region, rather than the government.

At the seminar on Quadrangle Economic Cooperation it was discussed how to develop this ambitious Quadrangle region. The government had started many projects such as the Greater Mekong Sub-Region (GMS), Economic Cooperation Strategy (ECS) and Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), which will be discussed in more in detail in Phuket, in February next year.

Korn Dabbharansi, the former Deputy Prime Minister, expressed his concerns in his opening address over the development project in that there should be side by side collaboration between government and private sectors. “When the government initiates development projects, it is the private sector’s duty to elaborate and drive them successfully. If there is no cooperation between private sectors, those projects could not be implemented,” he said.

He said that the Burmese government had agreed to construct a 18 kilometre road from the Thai-Burmese border into Burma’s Myawaddi town, and then to connect with a deep sea port in Tawai, the capital of Burma’s Tannasserrim region. “This joint project with the Burmese government will bring great benefits to us. Not only will it help us export our products to Europe and Middle East countries more conveniently, but it also saves us 16 days shipping costs,” he said.


Quadrangle Expo 2003 open until December 14

Natchawi Srirat

The second annual Quadrangle Expo was presided over by Korn Dabbharansi on December 6. Many guests from a number of neighboring countries were present, as well as representatives of 10 Chambers of Commerce in the upper north region, including the Chairman of the Chambers of Commerce from China, Laos and Myanmar, and delegates from the Bilateral Trade Countries, Vietnam, Cambodia and Bangladesh.

Korn Dabbharansi (center), with his wife (left) and his two sons standing by (right), prepares to cut the ribbon for the opening of the Quadrangle Expo.

The activities covered by the Quadrangle Expo are divided into 4 parts. The first consists of Products Expo, including local products and products from member countries of the Quadrangle, featuring pottery and silver ware from China, and costumes from Myanmar.

The second part consists of Thai export products, rarely found in Thailand itself, including many additional exhibitions such as the progress of the Quadrangle Economic Projects, with the highlight of the exhibition being the largest paper Thai style house in the world. Cultural shows from four countries on rwo main stages round up the program.

The third part is a seminar following up on the progress of the Quadrangle Economic Project, to combine the same vision and point of view in investment, service, tourism and trade between nations. This seminar was held from December 7-8, at the Empress Hotel.

The last part included shows and performances from famous singers such as Bua Chompu Ford.

Korn Dabbharansi said that there would be more projects concerning the economy of the Asia region, to promote and support the Asian region as a whole. Additional meetings and seminars between members of the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS), consisting of six countries, and the Economic Cooperation Strategy (ECS), consisting of four countries, were also held on December 7-8.

With greater cooperation among the nations in the Asian Region, this would boost the economy, and provide a greater opportunity and development to living standards.


Medical Faculty against early retirement

Dean disagrees with the government policy

Saksit Meesapkwang

The Dean of the Medical Faculty of the Chiang Mai University expressed his concerns over the Government Policy on early retirement before the age of 60.

Prof. Dr. Supoj Wuttikarn, said, “It has brought us into a difficult situation, because in the Medical Faculty alone, there are some 5,600 staff. Many of these come from the group with responsibilities for teaching medical students, giving lectures, and researching and working on academic matters to help hospital work, including looking after patients, and this group is still short of personnel and totally disagree with the early retirement system,” he said.

Due to the economic growth and recovery, many nurses have changed their minds and turned away from their profession to have their own businesses, and since there has been no more recruitment for nurses as government staff, the relative shortages of nursing personnel also makes early retirement a problem.

At this time, the Medical Faculty still lacks many personnel for many sections and these will be affected badly if the early retirement system becomes compulsory, said the Dean.


A new Food Factory at Kad Suan Kaew

Good enough to eat

Chin Ratitamkul

Kad Suan Kaew shopping park & hotel complex has launched a new project called the “Food Factory”. This is in line with the Provincial Public Health Office’s promotional campaign for fresh, healthy and hygienic food.

Crowds at the new Food Factory.

Thai food has become a world-renowned cuisine, and this new outlet sports a One Stop Service, including snacks, main dishes and desserts.

The area is a combination and cooperation between Chiang Mai’s 15 original and most popular food shops in a consumer-friendly atmosphere.

Pol. Lt Suchai Kengkarnkha, Managing Director of Kad Suan Kaew, said that the Food Factory was a new concept which customers can expect cleanliness, freshness, and quality control. Suchai explained that it was a completely different concept from food.com where the Food Factory was a center, combining popular restaurants under one roof, while food.com provides more individual stalls and restaurants.


HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn to confer CMU degrees

Five honorary doctorates to be given on behalf of HM the King

Phitsanu Thepthong

Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn will graciously preside over the degree ceremony at the 38th Graduation Day of Chiang Mai University (CMU) on January 28, next year, said Asst. Prof. Dr. Nipon Tuwanon, President of CMU.

The Princess, on behalf of His Majesty the King, will also confer honorary doctorate degrees to Chao Duangduen na Chiang Mai in Liberal Arts, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Therdchai Cheewaket in Science (Therapy), Prof. Dr. Rolf G. Werner in Pharmacy, Prof. Dr. M. Roy Schwarz in Public Health, and Ajarn Chulathat Kittibutre in architecture.

In addition, prizes will be awarded to Prof. Chitre Jiraratsathit in Medicine, Prof. Vichitre Srisuphan in Nursing, Prof. Thawee Tankasiri in Physics, Prof. Dr. Chote Theetranond in Parasitology, and Prof. Sith Butre-in in Philosophy and Religion.

The university will confer degrees to all 5,465 new graduates, (23 doctorate degrees, 1,783 master degrees and 3,659 bachelor degrees). All graduates must register from January 23-24, before attending the rehearsal and degree ceremony, with the final rehearsal on January 27.

Chao Duangduen na Chiang Mai who will receive an honorary doctorate in Liberal Arts.

Assoc Prof Dr Therdchai Cheewaket will receive an honorary doctorate in Sciences (Therapy)

Prof Dr Rolf G. Werner will receive an honorary doctorate in Pharmacy

Ajarn Chulathat Kittibutre will receive an honorary doctorate in Architecture

Prof Dr M. Roy Schwarz will receive an honorary doctorate in Public Health



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