HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Nightriders ignore helmet rule

A nightmare lived - Georg Taubmann reflects on 102 days in Taliban captivity

Big Brother is watching what you’re watching!

Second phase of Eua Arthorn low cost computers starts

Software promotions office open as part of the Chiang Mai-ICT city

Valentine’s Day is for lovers in Chiang Mai

Chiang Rai to integrate local wisdom and education system

Hill tribe cultural festival for Chiang Rai

Government attempting to get three large projects underway

TAT gears up for 7th Thailand Tourism Awards

Thailand-China FTA under the microscope

Chiang Saen looking for world heritage listing

Chemistry researcher wins top Japanese award

Nam Yom watershed development project

Alcoholism increases as drug availability decreases

Water wars in Phrae

Pha Muang Task Force uncovers another huge drug haul

Paranoid drug addict holds 2 year old as hostage

Local radio listeners agree with curfew for U-18’s

Lamphun governor looks for unruly youths

Over 400 female students behind bars

Spreading peace through science and commerce in developing countries

Nightriders ignore helmet rule

Young adults the main offenders - and the most killed

The much vaunted police crackdown on motorcyclists is largely being ignored by the group most at risk – young motorcyclists. The Chiangmai Mail carried out its own survey last week to see if the local motorcyclists were heeding the police call to turn on their headlights and wear their helmets. The results turned out to be very surprising.

Only two out of six, or exactly one-third, of the riders shown here are wearing helmets. This is not a good sign if the authorities hope to reduce the death toll on our roads.

A couple of months ago, less than 20 percent of motorcyclists were wearing helmets, with most riders apparently leaving their life protecting headgear at home. With the well-publicized road safety campaign and police hiding round street corners with violations book at the ready, it initially appeared as if it were actually beginning to take effect.

A middle of the day survey showed that the motorcycle riders were now, more often than not, wearing a helmet, with around 2/3rds obeying the law. Pillion passengers were, however, still largely ignoring the statutes, with only around one third of them wearing any type of helmet. This was still a much better result than before the Xmas-New Year period.

Repeating the survey in the evening, as a confirmation, turned in some devastating statistics. The compliance as far as helmets was concerned fell to around only one third of riders and much less than that for their pillion passengers.

With the alcohol factor being so much greater at night, it will be unlikely that the road toll will be less at Songkran if the helmet rule continues to be ignored by those most at risk. Can we ask that the Chiang Mai police be just as vigilant at night as they are during the day? Many Chiang Mai mothers will support you.

A nightmare lived - Georg Taubmann reflects on 102 days in Taliban captivity

Miracles do happen

Michael Vogt

Recall mid August 2001 - the international media was full of reports of eight foreign aid workers detained in Afghanistan. The expatriate relief workers were accused of preaching Christianity among Afghan Muslims. Under the Taliban’s strict interpretation of the Islamic law, the penalty for both proselytizing and apostasy (conversion from Islam to another religion) is the death sentence.

Georg Taubmann, director of Shelter Now International, Kabul. (Photo by Marion Vogt)

Looking at Georg Taubmann and his wife Marianne now, they appear cool, calm, and collected, and were more than willing to share their phenomenal story and personal experiences in an exclusive interview with Chiangmai Mail.

“At that time, we had lived and worked in Afghanistan and Pakistan for 18 years. Our organization had built houses, canals, wells, roads, had supplied food and medical aid to thousands and thousands of people, and took care of street kids. We provided aid and clothes to refugee camps, sheltering tens of thousands of people. We were welcomed with open arms, and had support from basically all international countries and governments. And then, out of the blue, it all went terribly wrong.”

Georg and Marianne Taubmann showing pictures taken in captivity. (Photo by Marion Vogt)

The story sounded more like a script for a Hollywood movie, and even Georg admitted to that, as it included Black Hack helicopters, secret service agents with night-vision goggles, but also the horrific scenes and scenarios one normally looks away from when shown on TV.

“Several times during our detention, we were not only relocated from one prison to another, but also brought to places where other prisoners were shot or hanged. At one stage, we were told to watch a soccer game in a stadium. After the stadium was filled with spectators, the exits were locked, and a number of prisoners were publicly executed, in front of an audience of a few thousand.”

Georg still recalls the sounds and screams of detainees being tortured, and the sight of those prisoners afterwards. “The hacked body parts were put on sticks around the area, clearly visible for all,” said Georg recalling the horror.

“All in all, we were kept in five detention centers, including our final prison in Ghazni, where we had neither water, nor a toilet. The plan was that this destination was just an overnight stopover on the road from Kabul to Kandahar, which was the Taliban’s stronghold in the south of the country. Luckily, the Taliban left Ghazni without us, after having been attacked by locals.” From their cell, the detainees listened to the shooting outside. “We were absolutely certain that we would die that night,” Georg said.

After some time of not knowing what to expect, the cell doors suddenly were broken open by anti-Taliban locals who declared the detainees free. “It was one of the many miracles which we experienced during our 3-month ordeal,” Georg reaffirmed.

After such a horrific experience, I asked him how he feels about it now. “We are only humans, and therefore feel a certain hatred. But I must say I am a Christian, and the Bible tells me that I have to forgive. I have forgiven them for what they have done to us.”

After his rescue, Georg Taubmann returned to Germany, only to find out that he did not really belong there. A few months later, the whole family returned to Kabul. They found their house plundered and destroyed. But even the loss of 1.5 million euros could not awake bitterness in them.

However, the horror did not end there. Exactly one year after his arrest, Georg was in the Pakistani mountain resort of Murree, where one of his sons was enrolled in a Christian school. On that day, masked gunmen, armed with Kalashnikov rifles, stormed the campus, killing six Pakistani workers. His son, mercifully, was not injured.

“Many years ago, the country’s situation could only be described as ‘hopeless’. Now, after the Taliban regime, this has turned into ‘hope’. We still have a lot to do,” he said with a smile.

George has been awarded a number of international recognitions, including the German ‘Bundesverdienstkreuz’, the highest award the German president gives out each year. He did not receive those awards for his time in captivity, but for his work as director of the Shelter Now Organization. A remarkable, strong, and positive-thinking family you do not meet every day.

Big Brother is watching what you’re watching!

The Thought Police are closing in

Sakasit Meesubkwang

Dr. Surapong Suebwonglee, the Information Communication Technology minister, said the ministry has been working assiduously to control obscene websites for the last six months. They have established a special team unit generally known as Internet Cyber Inspectors, to receive information from concerned parties and keep a lookout for impolite words as well as obscene pictures on websites.

Following their vigilance, more than 1,000 websites in this country were forced to end their services. However, he expressed the serious concern that many obscene websites from overseas were still a problem, due to not enough information. Fortunately, the Ministry of Culture accompanied by the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security have kept watching and at the same time a tip off by many volunteers has led to fining or arresting people who acted against the law.

The minister noted that the new Whale program, developed in Thailand, is an effort to block websites with impolite words or obscene pictures. This new program allows young citizens to surf internet secure in the knowledge they would not inadvertently stumble across any naughty words.

However, he added that this serious problem is still difficult to stop through the great number of obscene foreign websites and new website names that are cropping up. He also asks for cooperation from internet surfers to immediately inform the ministry about inappropriate websites.

We have checked the Chiangmai Mail website and are removing any words ending in the letter x and deleting all words that have only four letters.

Second phase of Eua Arthorn low cost computers starts

It’s trade in time!

Thanawan Chumsaeng

In line with the government’s aim of having Thailand an e-community, the second phase of Eua Arthorn low cost computers will be operational next month.

Dr Surapong Suewonglee, minister of Information and Communication Technology, (ICT), said the government has instituted a computer exchange program to allow computer users to exchange their old computers for new ones.

The plan is for current users to bring in their old computers and get new ones and the old ones will be donated to schools in the provinces. The computers will all be Pentium 4, 256 Ram of memory, and 40 Gigabyte hard disks. The prices are currently being negotiated.

The plan is to have 20,000 computers ready for exchange by March 12. The committee has also collaborated with many businesses to provide these computers and will be circulating a list of prices and computer specifications during the 3rd week of this month.

Software promotions office open as part of the Chiang Mai-ICT city

Does Bill Gates know about this?

Saksit Meesupkwang

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) minister Surapong Suebwonglee presided over the opening ceremony of the Software Industry Promotion Agency (Public Organization).

The computer business is looking up ... ICT minister Surapong, center, presses a button to mark the opening.

Minister Surapong said the establishment of the new center would bring great benefit to this province and before further implementation in Khon Kaen province and Phuket.

The plan to push Chiang Mai forwards as an ICT city had gained full support from the organizations concerned such as the Software Industry Promotion Agency, National Economic and Social Development Board, Chiang Mai Office, Provincial Chamber of Commerce and other educational institutions.

To achieve the results from this software plan, a budget worth than 420 million baht was prepared to support the software industry within the province and at the same time promote tourism, and handicrafts.

Additionally, the project encompasses setting up a telephone network system, with high speed internet and mobile phones through multimedia system under the Telephone Organization of Thailand that would be soon launched in Chiang Mai in preparation for it becoming an ICT city.

He also added that the Smart ID Card project was scheduled to be introduced by April this year in Chiang Mai as the first pilot province.

Valentine’s Day is for lovers in Chiang Mai

Don’t bump me, I’m full of eggs

Hundreds of couples, imbued with the loving spirit of Valentine’s Day, registered their marriages with the local government administration.

Couples waiting to register their marriage at the Chiang Mai Muang District Office on February 14.

In the Muang Chiang Mai district, eggs were also presented to the couples, provided by the district officer Chumporn Saengmanee.

3,000 chicken eggs were prepared by the district officials, while some hotels from the Thai Hotel Association, Northern Chapter also provided free rooms for bridal couples who registered on the auspicious day.

On Doi Saket district, some couples registered their marriage in a hot air balloon. Surapol Panas-ampol, Doi Saket district officer registered seven couples who fell in love and got married while drifting in the clouds of love.

Chiang Rai to integrate local wisdom and education system

But is this wise?

An international seminar was held at Dusit Island Resort Hotel, in Chiang Rai Province, organized by the Ministry of Education entitled “The integration of local wisdom with the educational system”. Participants came from 11 Asian countries including Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos P.D.R., Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam, China, Japan and India.

Rung Kaewdaeng, Secretary General of the Educational Council, Ministry of Education, presided over the opening ceremony. The seminar was also a cooperation between the Educational Institute General Secretary’s Office, the Ministry of Education, the Cultural Center of Education for Development in Asia Pacific, the United Nations Science and Cultural Education organization, the Regional Center of Archaeology and Fine Arts, and the Regional Center for Development of Higher Education Institutes and Chiang Rai Provincial Authorities.

Rung Kaewdaeng said that the seminar took the form of brain storming and exchange of ideas, looking for ways to use local knowledge to overcome education problems as they pertain to the different countries and to see if cross-cultural solutions could be found.

Hill tribe cultural festival for Chiang Rai

Visitors invited to try khamu alcohol

Samphan Changthong

The lifestyle of the hill tribes men will be presented at the Amazing Ethnic Groups Festival in Chiang Rai, beginning at 5 p.m. on February 27.

The Chiang Rai provincial hill tribe development and welfare center in Tambon pa sang, Mae Chan district will hold the festival, to preserve the primitive cultures of each minority group in Thailand

Pinchai Pinkaew, director of the Center, says visitors will be amazed at their stunning costumes, their cultural performances, their food, drinks, herbal drinks and the potent khamu alcohol.

Thanya Nikrotharnond, director of Tourism Authority of Thailand, Northern Region 2 Chiang Rai said this cultural festival would be something new to attract visitors, and especially the traditional large swing ceremony, normally held around August and September each year.

Kraisith Sithichok, director of the Akha Association of Thailand, said this festival would include various ethnic groups and their preservation, as many hill tribe men from throughout the country have been invited to attend the event.

Government attempting to get three large projects underway

Problems ahead with traffic and waste disposal however

Chiang Mai is slated to press ahead with three large government backed projects. These include construction of an International Convention and Exhibition Center, a Northern Agricultural Products Distribution Center, and an SME Product Center.

The permanent secretary of the prime minister’s office, Pol Major Yongyuth Sarasombat last week followed up the progress of the three projects at a meeting with the officials and government offices concerned at Chiang Mai City Hall.

During this meeting, the traffic problem and construction sites were discussed and the committee finalized the decision to locate the International Convention and Exhibition Center at Tambon Mae Hia with approval of the cabinet. It was suggested that public utilities in the area should be improved to avoid future traffic problems.

The SME Product Display Center would be located at Ban Nong Hor, Tambon Chang Puak, Muang, Chiang Mai, while the Center for Agricultural Product Distribution (Northern Region) was not approved not to be built at this area, due to the traffic problem and 40 ton garbage waste each day which would result in wastewater in the irrigation canals, the main source of running water for the city.

The new site of the Agricultural Center is expected to be at the White Mulberry Station in the Institute of Dry Crops near Maejo University in San Sai district.

Some representatives of the Chiang Mai commerce expressed the opinion that this latest center should be located on Highway No.11 and the committee allowed them 30 days to carry out a feasibility study and report back.

Those projects are expected to be completed by 2006 before the World Horticulture Fair in this area.

TAT gears up for 7th Thailand Tourism Awards

Ceremonies must end by midnight

Saksit Meesupkwang

The Director of Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), Mana Chobtham, chaired the TAT seminar at Mae Ping Imperial hotel on February 12, regarding the 7th Thailand Tourism Awards of 2004.

Tourism sector personnel attending the TAT seminar at the Imperial Mae Ping Hotel.

Director Mana said this project was introduced to encourage tourism entrepreneurs to upgrade tourist services to a higher level in terms of service and environmental awareness. He put strong emphasis on environment conservation as the main tourist attractions bringing the tourism dollar into Thailand.

Recipients of the tourism awards would be those who assist the public and support tourism activities, specifically foreigners who after traveling across the kingdom promote tourism activities in Thailand.

The award categories include the Tourism Award, Tourist Accommodation Award, Tourism Promotion Organization Award, Tourism Development Project Award and Public Relation Award.

The award ceremony will be on September 27, which is World Tourism Day. Special awards called Friends of Thailand will be presented to Thailand’s allies for their efforts to help support Thailand’s tourism in their own countries while the Excellent Tourist Guide Awards will be given to tourist guides who demonstrate excellent performance.

TAT has organized seminars throughout the country and worldwide to boost tourism activities in Thailand. TAT activities are regarded as ways to produce higher standards of Thailand’s tourism as well as improving our reputation overseas.

The unanswered question is still whether international tourists are prepared to come to Thailand, to be told they have to go to bed at midnight.

Thailand-China FTA under the microscope

Saksit Meesupkwang

The Thai government’s policy is to open up more agricultural markets abroad, and this is being done through Free Trade Agreements (FTA), especially with China which was effected from October last year, for agricultural products, vegetables and fruit.

Assoc Prof Napaporn Mekhayai (right), the dean of the Agricultural Business Faculty, presents an honorary doctorate degree in economics to Dr. Pittayaphol Narthataradol, the manager of Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives during the seminar.

Maejo University’s Agricultural Business Faculty held a seminar on “Directions of Thai farmers markets, in the age of FTA”, with Associate Prof Napaporn Mekhayai in attendance. The seminar was organized along with the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC) which has foreseen the significance of prices of agricultural products.

Currently it was accepted that marketing was a major factor in both domestic and foreign markets. Well prepared planning and marketing will result in good prices for the produce.

Guest speakers were Dr. Pittayaphol Narthataradol, the manager of BAAC, who spoke on the roles of agricultural cooperatives and the agricultural markets in the age of IT; Wiwat Maikaensarn, the deputy senior committee of the Charoen Phokaphan Co (CP); Kangwan Tantipong-anant, the secretary of Thai-Chinese Economic Association; Dr Suthiporn Jeeraphanthu, the secretary of the Agriculture Economic Office and Rujana Supnirand, managing director of Maboon Krong Rice Co.

The seminar resulted because the economics experts at Maejo University expressed their concerns over the Thai government policy on FTA with China. Assoc Prof Dr. Prasert Chanyasuparp, a lecture on economics and agricultural cooperatives at Maejo University remarked that with the agreement between Thailand and China for free trade, Thailand should gain a major advantage over other countries, since China is a big market with a huge population.

However even though Thailand pays zero percent import duties into China, there are still many areas of rules and regulations in which China still has the upper hand in trade. This was why agreements with China must be reviewed and discussed to make sure we get the advantage. Dr. Prasert also said that in the current world it is very important for markets to have freedom and good export agreements between countries to help support the economy and encourage growth.

Governments must help exporters to move their products to appropriate countries to help the economy and discourage high import and export fees so that the businesses will still gain from exporting.

Chiang Saen looking for world heritage listing

But much work needed

Charoonroj Chimsamran

Chiang Rai’s deputy governor Sriprom Hormyok said Chiang Rai is preparing to promote the ancient city of Chiang Saen for world heritage listing.

Old Chiang Saen town, at present still maintains an unspoiled natural beauty as well as its historical remains. It has been found that it was rich in archeological evidence that were rich in historical studies and preserved original artifacts.

Deputy Governor Sriprom said that Chiang Saen town should be preserved and the town area itself should be studied further in more detail. He added that Chiang Rai province has given an important significance to old Chiang Saen town, and will push for world heritage listing, a decision that came from public debate in the province.

The working committee has much to achieve yet, including directing, surveying, budgeting, academic studies and public relations campaigns. The government has shown interest and provided the guidelines.

In addition, Chiang Rai provincial authorities have looked at separating new developments such as the industrial estate and the existing Chiang Saen port, from heritage areas.

He said the port will be rebuilt at Ban Sobkok village, and the industrial estate will be in Doi Luang area. New roads would assist tourists to visit the region.

Chemistry researcher wins top Japanese award

Flow injection analysis scoops prize

The Japanese Association for Flow Injection Analysis (JAFIA) has presented its top award and the association’s certificate to Dr Ket Krutphan, a lecturer at the Chemistry Department, Science Faculty of Chiang Mai University (CMU).

His outstanding performance was original work on the development of Cost-Performance Flow-based Chemical Analysis Systems. The official presentation of the award will take place at the 44th academic symposium at Okayama University, Japan, and also at the 12th international conference on Flow Injection Analysis and Related Technique (12th ICFIA), in Venezuela.

This award is only presented by the association to leading scientists at the international level, and Assoc Prof Dr Ket Krutphan, has also been invited to be a guest speaker on such the development at the 12th ICFIA.

Assoc Prof Dr Ket Krutphan has many academic credits, and has also been awarded other accolades for his research work, being recipient of the national most outstanding researcher in the field of science, and chemical pharmacy of the National Research Council of Thailand, as well as many other national and international awards.

Nam Yom watershed development project

Feasibility studies continue

Phrae province provincial meeting held further discussions on the integrated Nam Yom watershed development project. Somsak Bunpluang, governor of Phrae chaired the second meeting this year on the water conservation topic and appointed a working group to follow up and evaluate, and consider the project and whether is should go ahead.

The working group consisting of delegates and individuals from Phrae, Phayao, Sukothai and Phichit provinces participated in the discussions. These four provinces are some of the most affected regarding water sources and program development.

The meeting discussed many different concerns concerning water resources, and discovering new water sources, choosing which water to preserve, recovering old water sources and solving water shortage problems. Other water-related issues that came from the public forum at the Pongsanuk School in Phrae were also brought to the discussion table.

Another topic was the preservation of the forests, since many of the water sources are deep in these forests, and to preserve the underground water table, natural fertilizers should be used rather than chemical fertilizers.

The conference ended with the committees willing to accept any speakers who have ideas or comments about the plans or implementation techniques to help preserve our natural water.

Alcoholism increases as drug availability decreases

Mae Hong Son addresses the problem

Dr. Seree Tujinda, the director-general of the Department of Medical Services revealed that the governmental policy on drug elimination, known as the war on drugs, has certainly reduced the numbers of drug addicts. However, those who were addicted are now turning to legal drugs, and alcohol in particular.

To attempt to turn the tide, the Mae Hong Son Remedy and Rehabilitation Center has been opened to treat alcoholism in the community. A special building was built to serve as an alcoholism Out Patients Department. The emphasis here is to return the alcoholics and drug addicts to society, in some cases using the Drug Addicts’ Rehabilitation through Agriculture Project (Baan Saeng Tawan). The project allows the patients to delay payment for the Out Patient services until they are back in useful employment and receiving a salary.

Mae Hong Son Remedy and Rehabilitation Center has developed and refined the treatment to serve both drug addicts and other narcotic addicts and alcoholics.

Water wars in Phrae

Sungmen, and Denchai all pumped up in drought

Surapong Matmontri

The dry season has started, and now two districts in Phrae province are fighting over the allocation of irrigation water. On February 15, Mrs. Thongwan Pinjai, the kamnan of Tambon Pongpawai, Denchai district, led her merry band of 200 soybean farmers to the water system run by the Department of Irrigation, where they set up water pumps at the Nam Maeman Reservoir in the Sungmen district.

Since both districts were lacking water, with more than 10,000 rai of soybean farms being parched, it was agreed that the two districts could take three million cubic meters from the Nam Maeman reservoir, - of which one million cubic meter would go to Denchai district, and the other two million cubic meters to Sungmen.

The agreement did not last long as the Sungmen district villagers turned off the water flowing into Denchai district. This resulted in a fight with drawn water pistols at the ready, requiring the negotiating skills of the assistant Sungmen district officer Charoen Ungkham, plus Kanit Satsue, irrigation engineer of Phrae province, and Ekphan Kaehorm, secretary of the Tambon Administration Organization. They met with Mrs. Thongwan Pinjai, and the villagers of the two districts to seek a solution that would hold water with both thirsty camps.

It was decided that the Irrigation Department would add more pumps so they could irrigate the 10,000 rai in Sungmen district, so that those farmers would not block the water to the Denchai farmers.

Pha Muang Task Force uncovers another huge drug haul

7 kg heroin, 20,000 ya ba pills and 2 kg of ‘ice’ drug

Supin Chindaluang

The military special task force led by Maj Gen Manus Paorik, Pha Muang Force commander, received a tip-off that there would be a drug smuggling and transfer at the Per ferry crossing, Tambon Mae Sai, Mae Sai district, Chiang Rai.

From a hiding point, the task force saw four suspects carrying boxes across the river border, from Burma to Thailand. The Army identified themselves but the drug runners left their boxes and fled the scene.

On inspection, the force found 20,000 ya ba pills, 7.1 kilograms of heroin and 1.9 kilograms of the designer drug ‘ice’. The Pha Muang Force later held a press conference at the 33rd Military Circle Club at Kawila Camp, to appraise the media of the results of further investigation and they expected to make arrests of the culprits shortly.

Paranoid drug addict holds 2 year old as hostage

Police defuse situation and then file charges

Prien Khampekkad, a 39 year old, known drug addict was too intoxicated to find his own house and had been wandering the suburbs, obviously in a drug and alcohol induced haze. Suddenly a spark of recognition saw him knocking on the door of a friend’s house in Tung Fai, Muang District, Lampang province. There he asked if he could stay with him.

Boonchu Khampek, the owner of the house, took pity upon him, but Prien’s paranoia soon took over and feeling that Boonchu was going to hurt him, seized Pornkasem Khampek, a two year old, and holding scissors to the young child’s throat told everyone to leave him alone.

Police were called from Tung Fai police station who spent many hours trying to calm him down. Prien eventually was so weak that police were able to disarm him and made sure the child was unharmed. Police then charged him with attempted kidnapping and aggravated assault.

A police spokesman said this situation reflects the problem with drugs and other narcotics that have been spreading in Lampang province.

Local radio listeners agree with curfew for U-18’s

Zoning not popular and Valentine’s Day under fire

Chiang Mai’s residents expressed their concerns through Radio Thailand, Chiang Mai station’s talk-back program but supported the new rule on curfews on Under-18’s.

Following the PM’s weekly broadcast, many local listeners expressed their opinions about the new rule to limit the time for youngsters being out at night unsupervised, saying that all those under 18 should be home by 10 p.m.

However, the majority did not support the idea of entertainment area zoning because these can be easily managed at the time of registration of proposed businesses. Entertainment outlets near temples or schools should have their licenses revoked.

Another hot issue raised by local people was related to the Valentine’s Day and they exhorted youngsters not to follow this new trend in the society. The mass media should not support this value but educate them on the origin of Valentine’s Day instead.

And just what is the origin of Valentine’s Day? As a public education, Chiangmai Mail would ask that the callers to the program read the following brief history. Valentine’s Day goes back to the ancient Roman celebration of Lupercalia, which was held on February 15. At this celebration, the available girls’ names were placed in a box and the young men drew out the name of their sexual partner for the next 12 months. A real lucky dip!

The festival became Valentine’s Day when a Catholic priest, Valentine, was stoned and put to death on February 14 by Emperor Claudius II for having disobeyed his orders and secretly marrying soldiers. He was later made a saint and when Christianity took control of Europe the priests moved Lupercalia from February 15 to February 14 and renamed it St. Valentine’s Day to honor Saint Valentine.

So if the people today are worried that the day of roses and chocolates is being cheapened with promotions for condoms and other contraceptive advice, they should hearken back to the Lupercalia, the true origin of the event.

Lamphun governor looks for unruly youths

50 man force fails to find any

Lamphun Governor Thawatch Satieranam led a 50 member force of police and volunteers to inspect entertainment areas near the Northern Region Industrial Estate. This crowded area is well known as a gathering place for local youths, who can be seen drinking till late. The widespread news reports of gang violence prompted the governor to gather his posse together and ride into karaoke valley.

Following the patrol and inspection, the governor said they found no youths aged under 18, and only turned up those who had not brought their ID cards with them before going to the pubs and restaurants.

The governor said the provincial authorities are closely following the situation, especially brawls among the young gangsters because there were so many of them going to the entertainment outlets.

Perhaps they think that by closing the outlets down, the problem will just quietly disappear?

Over 400 female students behind bars

Nearly 450 female school children and students are currently being held in Thailand’s prisons, according to data released this week by the director-general of the Department of Corrections.

The statistics disclosed by Nathi Jitsaawang indicate that there are currently 445 young students in correctional centers and prisons across the country, of which 172 are vocational students, 134 are university students and 118 are high school students, together with one extra-mural student.

Eighty-seven percent of these young women are being held on drugs charges, with the rest held on general charges. One is on death row, while another five are serving life sentences.

Nanthi attributed these women’s crimes to the desire for a luxurious lifestyle, or because they had got in with the ‘wrong crowd’ of friends. He also noted that many of the women were suffering from family problems, or that their friends had tricked them into a life of crime.

Nonetheless, he stressed that their time in prison was often positive, as they receive life training and psychological help designed to prevent them from re-offending. With training from Sukhothai Thammathirat University, these young women learn skills including computing skills, meditation, fashion design, music and arts, while at the same time learning social skills. This in turn enables them to improve their lives and engage in further study when they are released from prison, he said. (TNA)

Spreading peace through science and commerce in developing countries

Marion Vogt
Photos IPF

The International Peace Foundation (IPF) sponsored another of its keynote speeches at Chiang Mau University’s Faculty of Medicine last week. The Dialogues Towards a Culture of Peace invite everybody to cross borders and build bridges by listening to and opening up other viewpoints, generating new ideas and developing innovative forms of co-operation.

Uwe Morawetz, Chairman of the International Peace Foundation.

Uwe Morawetz, the Chairman of IPF arranged more than 100 lectures, seminars, workshops, conferences and major public events all over Thailand in the past six months. The Dialogues Towards a Culture of Peace aim at achieving a better co-operation for the promotion of peace, freedom and security, promoting Thailand as a pioneering center for peace, diplomacy and non-violent conflict resolution at an international level and establishing creative solutions for the growing threats of war and international terrorism. However, with the ongoing problems in the south, Thailand can no longer be held up as a role model.

Dr. Richard J. Roberts, a Nobel Laureate for Medicine was the latest keynote speaker brought to Chiang Mai by the IPF.

Funds which are raised from these dialogues will be donated to peace, education and development programs of already existing organizations and institutions in Thailand. A globalized world needs broad strategies for change to secure a sustainable future for us and the next generations.

Dr. Richard J. Roberts was the latest keynote speaker brought to Chiang Mai by the IPF. He is a Nobel Laureate for Medicine and a Research Director at New England Biolabs, Beverly, Massachusetts. He began his address saying, “Science is an inherently peaceful activity, one in which disputes are solved, not by violence, but by the exercise of logic and reason. It is a universal discipline, being practiced in essentially the same form in every country of the world. There is no room for the fervent fundamentalism that characterizes many other social and religious activities. Disagreements are resolved by peaceful meetings of the antagonists, debate among them and the application of logical reasoning. The practice of science transcends the national boundaries of the political systems and the cultural bounds of religions.”

He explained the importance of dialogue between colleagues from the west and east. How the discovery of DNA produced a whole new industry of biotechnology. But he also added his concern saying, “of course one will also need to consider carefully the whole question of intellectual property in these areas, to be certain that the benefits of technology do not outweigh its disadvantages. It should not be forgotten that the genetic heritage of the developing world is every bit as important a natural resource as minerals, timber or oil that we traditionally think of as the key to prosperity.”

He spoke of his work in the biological field, of supporting laboratories in developing countries and regarding finding treatment for the top six tropical diseases targeted by the World Health Organization. Diseases, caused by parasitic worms, mostly in third world countries, where research results have had many spin-off activities and products that have arisen solely because scientists chose to study these diseases.

Dr. Roberts closed with the words, “By practicing science and staying aware of commercial possibilities, I believe that the cause of peace can be promoted. Ultimately, if we are all citizens of a world in which the logic and reason of science prevails and there is sufficient commerce to ensure prosperity, the chances of that world being peaceful are greatly increased.”