Vol. III No. 3 - Saturday January 17 - January 23 2004
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FEATURES
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Pure Heart Project satisfies a heart-felt need on Children’s Day

A wonderful day out for children and parents

Three Jewels in the Heart of Chiang Mai

The Road Toll. How much will we accept?

Pure Heart Project satisfies a heart-felt need on Children’s Day

Text by Marion Vogt
Photos by Michael Vogt

The theme of this year’s Children’s Day was ‘Love your country, love your parents, learn to be good and your future will be bright’. All wonderful sentiments, but there are still thousands of children in the north of Thailand who can not live on love alone - food, warm shelter and education are needed to achieve this bright future.

But some people who have an understanding of the true needs established Pure Heart, a hill tribe children education project in Mae Khachan, and decided to use the Children’s Day 2004 as their fundraising day for underprivileged youngsters.

Pure Heart was founded by an international group of people, based on Christian principles and responsibility for one’s fellow human beings, to do something about the number of social problems they could see. This non-profit organization called Pure Heart Thailand also cooperates with other organizations with similar aims.

Saturday night’s charity dinner at Rydges Tapae Chiang Mai began with an address by Pure Heart’s president, Dr. Suriporn, and a video narrated by the MC’s (and Pure Heart volunteers) Marcus Vigilante and his wife Boom. They explained that money Pure Heart urgently needs is used to provide education for almost 50 hill tribe children, accommodate them close to a school, feed them and take care of the ‘normal things’ which everybody takes for granted but which also have to be purchased, such as pens, exercise books, tables, chairs, lockers, computers, clothes, rice, milk products, sports and leisure equipment, toys for all ages, mattresses, blankets, pillows, mosquito nets, hygiene articles, detergents, sewing machines, fabrics, sewing things, kitchen equipment, fridges, rice-cookers, fans and hospital room needs.

Klaus Trebs, the principal volunteer who is determined to reach the goal to give ‘his’ children a chance for a better life, thanked the sponsors of the evening: Boots, Kad Suan Keow shopping complex, Sizzler Chiang Mai, Blessing House Doi Saket and especially the young performers from Voice Studio Entertainment, who shared their joy of music with an enthusiastic audience.

Klaus emphasized that Pure Heart is not only in need of money, but also in need of physical items, and volunteers are more than welcome. (More information is available at www.pureheart-thailand.org or [email protected])

The evening ended with the song ‘We are the World’, leaving smiling faces everywhere, on the faces of adults who were thrilled by the children’s performances, and the children who understood very well that they not only sang their way into the hearts of the audience but also helped other kids their age who are not as fortunate as they are. A truly enjoyable night, by which a Pure Heart will hopefully benefit more children.

Pure Heart project leader and passionate volunteer Klaus Trebs (front), MC’s Marcus Vigilante and wife Boom (background).

Charming Warwisa Seamore (15) sang a Hmong Hill tribe song.

(From left) John Aloia, vice consul US consulate; president of the Pure Heart Project, Dr Suriporn; Klaus Trebs, project leader; Dr. Rebecca Lomax, Marion Vogt; Michael Vogt, Boom and Marcus Vigilante and Frank Weicks, Rotary Club Chiang Mai West.

Nong Ning (12), Pan Pan (11) and Nong Ying (11), the unbeatable trio, were also their own MC’s, changing effortlessly between Thai and English.

Ying (11) sang straight from the heart with real love coming from within.

Nong Wai is only ten years old but moved like a professional movie star.

Dancing to music sponsored by Voice Studio.

The Blessing House Doi Saket’s ‘Hand Dance’. Very unusual but from the heart.

The repertoire of ‘Pan Pan and friends’ left the audience stunned, seeing children as small as four years old performing with such a professionalism.

A classical trio played during dinner.


A wonderful day out for children and parents

National Children’s Day celebrations in Chiang Mai

Natchawi Srirat

January 10 every year is celebrated as national Children’s Day, and there were many venues from both government organizations and private agencies providing activities for the children in Chiang Mai.

Ratchamangkala Institute of Technology set up dozens of stages with various activities and games presented for the children who attended. Colorful balloons attracted many to join in on the day. Free ice cream was given to children and many prizes on the stage were given to ones who displayed their entertainment talents. There were also many prizes on display, with a lucky draw at the end. Many children were just hoping that they would be the lucky one!

Chiang Mai Zoo also celebrated, with thousands of people joining the fun activities from the many booths and on the stage a lucky child won a large Panda bear in the lucky ticket drawing. The yogurt-eating contest was fun for the children, with contestants being blind-folded. This game brought much laughter from the audience.

Of course, Panda fever is still on in Chiang Mai - thousands of children went to visit the Pandas, but on this day, the Pandas were more interested in some peace and quiet.

In Wat Suan Dok, the Lucky Dogs Club with community volunteers held activities for children including free food - an item that children seem to need continuously. For entertainment, the Lucky Dog Club led by Nienke Parma, Robby, Rochan and Wilaiwan put on a canine talent show.

Other activities were presented for the children included a puppet show to teach children how to treat their puppies and how handle the situation with stray dogs.

The Suan Dok community cooked various treats and gave them to the children which the children very much appreciated. The abbot of Wat Suan Dok, Phra Amorn Wetee, also gave a blessing to the children and encouraged them to be good children for their parents and be good persons for the society and the country.

Mmmmmm, I wonder where the starter is?

A real attraction for most children were the jets and Starfighters at Wing 41.

I want to be the same as “Les Ketchup” - the local children talent show.

Blow hard! First “boom” wins the prize!

Will I win? I hope I will.

Eating yogurt game - yummy!

Nienke from the Lucky Dogs Club and her smart little dog showing not all dogs are dumb.

The dance team - “together” we’re going to be the stars.

Someday one of these may be a star.


Three Jewels in the Heart of Chiang Mai

(Part One)

Jim Messenger

When King Mengrai founded Chiang Mai some 700 odd years ago, he designated one sector to be the heart or navel of the town. Here he placed the Lak Muang, or city pillar, representing the city’s connection to the divine. Wars and subsequent shifts of history moved the pillar to the grounds of Wat Chedi Luang where it can be seen today, in its own building, on the left as you enter the grounds. There is a special festival dedicated to keeping that link strong and the mighty tree that stands beside it is said to represent the wealth of the city. Were the tree to fall, goes the saying, woe betides the people therein. ’Tis a tale, but one that has endured!

Chanin Chargham on aspects of the Buddha’s life - Buddhist light.

The original heart of the city can still be found. The navel temple still exists, in the part-form of a canopied Buddha much visited at night, be-candled and be-decked with flowers; and much loved by the populace. Nearby stand two small chedis and the Three Kings Monument all lit up and shining. These three kings are Mengrai himself and his two brother kings from Nan and Sukothai, who came to give him counsel on the laying out of the new city.

Jonpon Poatven’s Thai Kitchen.

Behind them is the first jewel, and the next is behind the shrived Buddha. Down the road, beyond the place where King Mengrai supposedly was struck by lightning, lies the third.

These three are my jewels of Chiang Mai lore. For here resides the telling of the history and development of the city, the high points and the low. The point of this article is to honor the past, and learn what is still here for us to see.

One of the pictures which reflect the typical hard life of a rice farmer.

Our first stop, nay our first jewel of three, is the Chiang Mai City Arts and Cultural Center, directly behind the Three Kings. It is a former government space with a grand inner courtyard and a serene, double-storied wooden ambience.

You enter through the back and come suddenly to the courtyard; lush green plants and an open space begging for a fountain. The permanent exhibition takes up 2/3 of the space, while the smaller l/3 is dedicated to roving shows. What they have on currently is called, “The Arts of the Earth”, a somewhat misnamed show which does, however, present a stunning array of art pieces in a tight space. Some 60 or so paintings, as well as some wood and stone sculptures, make up the show. Like everything it’s a ‘catch as you can’ show, with a variety of tastes and abilities jammed in together. This is from a group of artists that regularly exhibit together. Made up of professors, students and former students of CMU, it is nice to see the progression of some of their art styles.

Of course, as in any exhibition you can always find something to please. My first delights were the three pointillist oeuvres of Soagbut Chaowitsit, who did renderings of Wat Saeng Fang that shimmer in the half-light. Manooon Kungpookaew’s black and white buffalo horns were relegated to its own solitary corner. He is one of the Night Market resident dabblers.

I also liked the two smallish pieces by Chanin Chargham on aspects of the Buddha’s life and Jonpon Poatven’s Thai kitchen scene. I guess I was most attracted to Gat Luang (Warrorot Market) by Jaetguen Manijan. It is a watercolor and a technique that you don’t see used very much these days.

The permanent exhibition has an entrance fee of B. 90 but the alternating shows are free. Lots to see and admire here. Grab a peak at the small downstairs room, just off a smaller open court. The room is called: “The Best of Chiang Mai”. Here you’ll find a little boudoir rendition of the city all done up in large format photos by Chiang Mai’s own Angela, which is always a treat. Certainly a pleasant afternoon’s enjoyment. Tuesdays to Sundays, 8.30 a.m. to 5 p.m.. Further information on 053 217 793.

I look forward to showing you the second and third of Chiang Mai’s inner city jewels.


The Road Toll. How much will we accept?

Dr Iain Corness

All progress has a price. From the day we stepped down from the trees and started on that long journey towards today, we have measured progress with only one yardstick. Unfortunately, that yardstick is human life itself.

As the pace of progress has accelerated over the past century, that cost of progress has also escalated. Whether it be electricity, dams, air travel or motor cars, our embracing of these elements of progress has been at the cost of countless human lives. It has become an accepted part of progress that there is an acceptable cost.

There will be those who will argue that even one life lost is too high a price. There will also be those who feel that in all fields of human endeavour must be a certain risk. No risk, no reward. Different societies also put different values on human life. An acceptable level for one may be totally unacceptable for another.

Looking specifically at the road toll and attempting to be a pragmatist has meant that I too have had to examine what level I find acceptable. To quantify this in numbers defies my psychology. My medical training tells me that all of life is sacred. One death is too much. My scientific training tells me that any machine has the power to kill. My engineering experience tells me that no matter how safe any machine can be in its operation, human beings will operate it in an unsafe manner. Motor vehicles are purely machines. On their own they kill no one. It is the way we use them that kills.

To eliminate unsafe use of motor cars requires education and legislation, and even then it will not stop the road toll completely. There will always be errors, mistakes, mistiming and “bad luck”.

Those errors, mistakes and bad luck has resulted in 902 deaths over the New Year period as reported by the Public Health Ministry’s Narainthorn Centre. This is appalling.

Did you also know that before the Xmas-New Year holidays last year there was a concerted drive to ensure the safety of vehicles driven on our roads? Many of the auto and motorcycle manufacturers got behind the government sponsored project to give free safety checks and discounted parts to result in fewer un-roadworthy vehicles on our roads. Service organizations were also behind this, with free motorcycle safety checks. This was being touted as a great way to lower the holiday road toll. Did it work? It most certainly did not – the road toll has been steadily going up.

What was ignored were the statistics produced by the RSA (Road Safety Audit) in Thailand. The auditing showed that when looking at the cause of accidents, 83% were caused by reckless driving, 16% were classified as “other” and 1% of the accidents were caused by vehicle condition. In other words, all that huffing and puffing was looking at 1% of the accidents and ignoring the other 99%. Scarcely logical. All those free motorcycle checks might have a bearing on 1 percent of the road toll. 1 percent, ladies and gentlemen.

Getting back to this year’s 902 souls lining up at the pearly gates, the compelling figures for me were not the gross number, but actually who was being killed. Guess what? Most cases of death or injury involved motorcycles, said the government report compiled from Dec 29 to Jan 4. Most accidents happened on highways and involved motorcyclists and passengers not wearing crash helmets.

At last, are we at the stage where we can point the finger in the correct direction? Of course we are, but what are we going to do with the knowledge that 83% of accidents are caused by reckless driving or riding, and of those who are killed (this year around 80 percent) are motorcycle riders and passengers without helmets?

Here is the ‘official’ stance as put forward by the government minister in charge. He said he would put a road accident proposal to cabinet. Better road safety measures were needed, harsher punishment for drunk drivers and more breathalysers for police. Highway and local police would be asked to monitor road safety on highways and the traffic fine-sharing and traffic engineering systems would be improved. Accident insurance would be revamped by sharply increasing premiums for people involved in multiple road accidents and reducing premiums for those with clean accident records.

The PM got into the act too, being reported in a major Bangkok daily as saying that measures to reduce accidents during the New Year festival did not fail and he believed authorities had done their best. Ungentlemanly conduct, disregard of traffic rules, disrespect shown to other road users and recklessness were major causes of the holiday road death toll, he said.

Can you see through the smokescreen? The government is jumping on the western model bandwagon with threats of breathalyzers and speed guns on motorways. Why not? After all, the slogan “Speed Kills” has been waved as the call to the faithful for many years. It incidentally has led to enormous revenues for the western police forces, with hidden speed cameras being the method of choice.

I am not going to debate the case for and against breathalyzers and speed cameras, being quite conversant with the problems associated with the alcohol impaired driver, but I also know that the concept “Speed Kills” is an oversimplification – speed by itself does not kill, it is the sudden stop that does it.

Where I would take the slavish following of this western model to task is in the appropriateness for the local situation in Thailand. The traffic itself is quite distinctly different in Thailand vis-เ-vis America, Europe, UK or Australia, all countries using the aforementioned breathalyzer/speed camera approach to lower the road toll. Cause and effect being touted as the reason behind it all. Back to Booze and Speed Kills.

The reason that following this line of approach does not work in Thailand can be quickly seen by looking at the analysis of road traffic and deaths. By far the majority of vehicles on the roads here are motorcycles, not cars as in the west. Subsequently the majority of road deaths comes from motorcycle accidents, not cars. One does not need rocket science to work that one out. These motorcycle accidents were also not caused by mechanical failure of the machine, brakes, tyres etc., so all the good intentions of those running charity motorcycle clinics will obviously come to naught. The vast majority of these fatal accidents are also not caused by excessive speeding – inappropriate perhaps, but not excessive. And of course alcohol plays a major part in the inappropriate road behaviour, no-one would deny that.

What also comes out of the analysis is the fact that what kills these motorcyclists and pillion passengers is the unprotected skull bouncing down the bitumen. And speeds from around 12 kph is enough. Speed Kills? No, as I said before, it is the sudden stop that does it. By the way, for all those people who think that I am exaggerating, try jumping out of your car at 12 kph on to your head. Get your relatives to tell me how right I was.

So how do we stop this (probably alcohol induced) carnage? Speed guns and breathalyzers on the motorways will obviously not catch motorcycles, as motorcycles are banned from the motorways anyway. So perhaps the answer is to ban motorcyclists drinking alcohol? Stop alcohol sales at the pumps? For these to have even the slightest impact on drunken riding is wishful thinking. The rider can buy his or her booze at the 7-11, and to change the way society thinks takes at least three generations. We do not have the luxury of all those generations.

Back to breathalyzers – this time in the cities? Now is the time to be realistic. Can any police force check every motorcyclist in town on any one night or day? Of course not. Certainly picking off one in every ten motorcyclists might net a few and scare some others, but it will hardly put a dent in the figures.

There is only one, very well documented way to stop motorcycle fatalities. Compulsory wearing of crash helmets. It has overnight lowered the road toll in countries that have adopted the helmet rule. Neurological wards have shrunk in size after 90 percent of their patients are no longer coming up from ER after falling off their motorcycles on to their heads.

Thailand does have statutes requiring motorcycle riders to wear a helmet. Why has this not worked? The helmet rule has not produced the lowering of the road toll, because quite simply the rule-makers are not enforcing the rules. The riders are simply not wearing them.

Where the helmet rule also falls down is that there appears to be no standards set down covering the capacity of the helmet to do its job – protecting the skull from impact. Some of the thin plastic ‘helmets’ are not as sturdy as some ice cream containers for sale in the same supermarkets where you can buy the 199 baht plastic scalp warmer (I refuse to call it a helmet).

It was the Bell helmet people many years ago that ran the brilliantly simple ad – “If you’ve got a $10 head, wear a $10 helmet.” How true! What is needed is for the authorities to insist that retail outlets only sell helmets that meet a world recognized standard. Now I also know full well that the “better” helmets are more expensive – but please say aloud the Bell helmet advertising slogan! If you are riding a 40,000 baht new bike (or even a 20,000 baht second-hand motorcycle), then you can afford 1,000 baht for a good helmet. You just budget for it.

So what should be done? Promulgation of a road rule that designates the minimum standard needed for helmets is a start. Follow this with the requirement that the helmet must be done up, and every person on the motorcycle must wear one. It is a simple rule to police. Bare heads are readily visible, as opposed to trying to pinpoint a rider with a belly full of booze.

The ability to lower the road toll in Thailand is in the hands of the legislators and the law enforcement agency - the police. Will we see progressive, preventive thinking and the laws enforced, or will we see breathalyzers and speed guns? One course of action will work, but the other gets more kudos for the legislators and doesn’t stir up the compulsion and civil rights debate.

Songkran 2004 will soon show which way the coin has fallen. The prophet of doom has spoken.



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