HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Onion farmers complain they are being skinned

Thai Cabinet strikes compromise on closing times for nightspots

Chiang Mai’s Safe Driving Week launched

Mae Sai bridge to open more trade with Burma (Myanmar)

Chiang Rai preparing for an economic boom

Own a car? The tax man is looking for you!

Increases in electricity charges not caused by power shortage says EGAT

Ban Tawai chosen as OTOP pilot village

San Kamphaeng fair popular with locals

NOHMEX 2004 scheduled for March 5-9

Metered taxi service looks to the future

Villagers thank police for return of stolen Buddha images

The patter of little feet in Chiang Mai Zoo?

Chiang Mai plans short-time drought strategies

Forest fires show their potential

Ministry of Culture looking to upgrade its officers

Chiang Mai talkback listeners agree with EGAT privatization

Heifer International opens office in Chiang Mai

Strategies proposed to drag Chiang Mai into the 21st century

Four nations look at shipping route problems

“At Risk” groups for human trafficking advised

Chiang Mai governor wants arsonists charged

Is KTTR a real step forward in police relations?

New Chittagong-Chiang Mai route brings counterfeiters closer, quicker

Onion farmers complain they are being skinned

Brought tears to the eyes of 1,000 growers

Saksit Meesubkwang

More than 1,000 onion planters and farmers from San Pa Tong and Mae Wang districts gathered at Chiang Mai City Hall to register their protests against the low onion prices. The demonstration came about after their letters of complaint were not acknowledged.

The farmers said they had not gained any assistance from the authorities concerned. Onion prices dropped to 1 baht a kilogram, while the investment cost of onion planting is about 4-5 baht per kilogram.

Protesting onion farmers say they are being skinned, so last week over 1,000 onion planters and farmers from San Pa Tong and Mae Wang districts gathered at Chiang Mai City Hall to register their protests against the low onion prices.

Saokham Yon-in, chairman of Don Pao Tambon Administration Organization and the leader of onion planters, said that the planters had banded together to help each other by protesting and making an official petition.

“If the authorities will guarantee that the onion prices will not be lower than the investment cost, they will be satisfied. But they are upset because the authorities accepted their petitions, but did nothing to help the planters raise onion prices,” he said.

Chiang Mai Governor Suwat Tantipat invited representatives of the onion ‘union’ to discuss the situation. After listening to the onion growers, Governor Suwat vowed to alert the Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives Ministry and appointed representatives to help solve the problem with the official authorities.

With tears (of joy) in their eyes, the skinned onion growers finally dispersed after hearing that someone was taking their tears seriously.

Thai Cabinet strikes compromise on closing times for nightspots

The Associated Press

Bowing to protests from Bangkok’s world-famous nightlife industry, the Cabinet agreed Tuesday to compromise on a regulation that would have forced many nightspots to close at midnight, two hours earlier than the current deadline.

All nightlife establishments, including restaurants, bars, massage parlors and nightclubs, will be allowed to stay open until 1 a.m. no matter where they are located, according to a regulation approved at Tuesday’s weekly Cabinet meeting.

As part of its campaign to curb youth crime and promote traditional values, the government announced in January that all nightspots outside specified entertainment zones would close at midnight instead of 2 a.m.

The regulation was supposed to take effect Monday night but was suspended at the last minute.

The Cabinet revised its decision after vigorous protests from business owners and workers in the nightlife sector, who said they were not consulted and that the earlier closing hours threatened their livelihoods and the tourism industry.

The new regulation must still be reviewed by legal experts, but is expected to come into effect on April 1.

Deputy Interior Minister Pracha Maleenont described the new Cabinet decision as a compromise.

“This decision meets halfway between what is wanted by operators of such places and law enforcers,” said Pracha, who is in charge of the government’s so-called “social order” campaign to clean up Thai society.

Setting earlier closing hours is part of a government effort to curb growing juvenile crime, restore traditional values and alter the country’s well-entrenched image as a raunchy paradise for sex tourists and thrill seekers.

“I am confident that the new measures will prevent youth from being spoiled by those places, and we can also reduce number of crimes and accidents,” Pracha said.

Nightspot operators had mixed feelings about the Cabinet move.

Sura-aek Mekprasertwit, a co-owner of the Good Evening pub and restaurant, said it was a relief that everyone would receive the same treatment, “but still there will be a lot of negative impact on businesses and people working at night, including taxi drivers.”

Chiang Mai’s Safe Driving Week launched

Will only work if the authorities continue more than 7 days

Nopniwat Krailerg

Chiang Mai Governor Suwat Tantipat presided over the opening ceremony of the Safe Driving Week, promoting headlights on and helmets worn, to help reduce the number of road accidents. The Command Center for Road Safety Control has set up the week long campaign in every province as Safe Driving Week.

Helmet sales boomed on the day campaign was launched.

On February 27, there was a parade of motorcycles, at the Chiang Mai Municipal Stadium, where the Chiang Mai Provincial police commander, Pol. Maj. Gen Kasem Rattanatsoonthorn also attended. On the day there were motorcycle service clinics and a good standard safety helmet could be bought for B. 99.

The parade with headlights on and helmets worn.

Governor Suwat said turning on the headlights of the motorbikes would make the motorcyclists easier to see, and could help prevent road accidents. The province is responding to the government’s policy and campaign with the hope that the people in Chiang Mai province would cooperate and help prevent road accidents.

Mae Sai bridge to open more trade with Burma (Myanmar)

Another bridge over troubled waters?

Samphan Changthong

Pachara Sinsawas, chief of Mae Sai Customs House said that the second Thailand-Burma Bridge at Mae Sai in Chiang Rai province is scheduled to be opened in April. This is in response to increased border trade over the past year.

The Mae Sai Customs House chief said that border trade at present is continuing to be prosperous with a great number of visitors traveling through the area and as a result, income from taxes has exceeded the previous estimated figures.

The plan to introduce another custom house at the new bridge is underway with budget support from the government and 200 rai of land would be expropriated for road construction around the Mae Sai district, leading to the bridge.

He believes that the new bridge would help build up not only strong relationships between Thailand and Burma, but also benefits in trade and tourism for both countries.

Chiang Rai preparing for an economic boom

Trade with Burma, Laos and China proposed

Samphan Changthong

Chiang Rai Chamber of Commerce in cooperation with Mae Sai Customs House, Department of Customs arranged a seminar on the potential of business, tourism and investment in Chiang Rai province’s economic border area to urge local business people to be prepared for commercial and trade competition with other countries.

Sermchai Kittirattanapaiboon, president of Chiang Rai Chamber of Commerce, said that the Golden Triangle in Chiang Rai was a significant spot for Thai trading exchange with neighboring countries like China, Burma and Laos. “If the entrepreneurs are not well prepared for business competition, they might miss a good commercial and trade opportunity,” he said.

Pachara Sinsawat, chief of Mae Sai Customs House, stated that this seminar would increase confidence and potential of trading competition with neighboring countries located in the Golden Triangle area.

Many experienced people from the Foreign Trade Department, Custom Department and Committee of Chiang Rai Chamber of Commerce were invited to be instructors at the seminar to give information on trading such as importing and exporting procedures, policies of export promotion with tax and tariff and other duty-free trading zones.

The seminar was held at Inn Come Hotel, Chiang Rai province. Rachen Phojanasoonthorn, Foreign Trade Depart- ment director-general, presided over the opening ceremony and 300 entrepreneurs and businessmen attended.

Own a car? The tax man is looking for you!

Last year, Atsathai Rattanadilok na Phuket, head of Chiang Mai Provincial Transport Office, announced a type of amnesty for car owners who had not paid their taxes. The period of grace has now finished, and the Chiang Mai Provincial Land Transport Office will now proceed with decisive measures to identify the tax evaders.

If you use a public road, you will pay your dues to the government, is the new watch-phrase. This can involve 10 or 20 years back taxes in addition to fines as set by the law.

The fine, according to the vehicular act, is 1,000 baht and transportation fine is 5,000 baht. However government policy is now to prosecute and recover all debts owed to the state.

Increases in electricity charges not caused by power shortage says EGAT

Shocking news from Mae Moh plant

Kiartisarn Ekaphan, the assistant governor of Mae Moh Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) said rising charges were not related to any shortage of electricity, as they have 35 percent more power in reserve over and above current demand.

Rising oil prices would result in increasing the cost of power generation, even though more than 70 percent of fuel used is natural gas from the Gulf of Thailand and Burma. However, oil demand is rising in the power plant owing to the problems with the natural gas pipeline from Burma.

“The EGAT only submitted a report related to higher cost of electricity generation for consideration by the committee concerned with pricing, and it was this committee that raised the charges,” said Kiartisarn.

He said that all power plants across Thailand could supply electricity at an average of 26,000 megawatts; the entire power consumption in the country is only 65 percent of that, leaving 35 percent in power reserve. Even if the demand for power increased by 20 percent in the near future, Thailand had no need to invest in additional power plants.

He also expressed the opinion that there are no problems with the supply of raw materials for the production process, so this also means no increasing electricity charges.

Ban Tawai chosen as OTOP pilot village

Local government still clinging onto hope of tourist dollars

Supol Ditsukthaworn, district chief officer of Hang Dong, Chiang Mai feels assured that Ban Tawai, as the pilot One Tambon One Product (OTOP) village could attract visitors and support folk wisdom.

The district chief officer said that Ban Tawai of Moo 2, Tambon Khun Khong, was qualified as a pilot OTOP village for tourism with budget put aside of more than 4 million baht to be kept under the supervision of Khun Khong Tambon Administration Organization. This follows the government policy in terms of tourism leading to an economic boom within the province.

He also believes that this project would help demonstrate the craftsmanship skills and folk wisdom of local manufacturers in producing various products from materials found in the area.

Plans to link this village with other tourist spots in San Kamphaeng district and the historical sites of Wiang Kum Kam in Saraphi district, would be carried out after the project was judged as achieved. Meanwhile, the districts were in preparation to welcome all visitors during the coming Songkran festival, which they believe would bring revenue to the local communities.

San Kamphaeng fair popular with locals

Let’s do it every year urge townspeople

Nopniwat Krailerg

San Kamphaeng district has launched an ambitious 10 week plan called San Kamphaeng, the land of handicrafts. According to San Kamphaneg district officer, Surachai Chongrak, they have been holding the tourism promotion event every Saturday for the past 10 weeks and it has proven to be a success so far.

District officer Surachai Chongrak.

He noted that many tourists visit the district fair, generating more than 300 million baht, which has resulted in an economic boom in the district, bringing back life to San Kamphaeng once again.

From a survey conducted by Chiang Mai University, although many townspeople expressed their concerns, 97 percent still want the street fair next year, as it generates income and promotes tourism to the region. The district chief officer said that it was, however, just initially a trial period of tourism promotion in the district. “If this event will continue, district officials will work in cooperation with local agencies, housewives, village headman, and others,” he added.

The highlight of the promotion plan will include the street fair, umbrella painting demonstrations, handicraft show and entertainment.

The highlight of the promotion plan will include the street fair, umbrella painting demonstrations, handicraft show and entertainment. The exhibition hall, displaying the history and background of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, will also be open to the lucky public.

NOHMEX 2004 scheduled for March 5-9

Modern Lanna crafts featured

The Northern Craft Design Festival 2004 will be held March 5-9 at the Art Museum, Chiang Mai University, by the Northern Handicrafts Manufacturers and Exporters Association (NOHMEX). The hours will be from 10 a.m. till 4 p.m.

In cooperation with the SME Center the festival will be displaying and selling retail products, featuring best design and beautiful products with good quality. The festival concept will be mainly on modern Lanna style, emphasizing handicraft and sculpture. Visitors will find good quality products which are aimed for export on display, according to Sukin Wongsa, the president of NOHMEX. People could also go shopping to choose and buy OTOP and SME products.

Sukin expected that the sales target would be around 10 million baht, as there will be about 200 shops selling different items.

A seminar on SME production will be also organized for interested entrepreneurs including the demonstration of products, an industrial clinic, product design contest, packaging contest, as well as, entertainment for festival goers.

Metered taxi service looks to the future

Tourists are looking anxiously down the road

Nopniwat Krailerg

Singkham Nanti, chairman of Nakhon Lanna Transport Cooperatives, stated that the cooperative started metered taxi service on February 14 and many Chiang Mai people and tourists in the local areas have been using the taxi service.

An increasing number of residents and tourists turn to the metered taxi instead of the red song taew mini-busses that have been the symbol (but primitive) mode of public transportation services in Chiang Mai. The cooperative’s metered taxis are the same colors as those used in Bangkok.

In the near future, it is planned that more than 300 metered taxis will replace some red mini buses in the Chiang Mai City area. One metered-taxi will replace one red mini bus to maintain the balance.

Singkham also guaranteed that there would be no opposition from tuk-tuk drivers even though the taxis are their competitors, because all the tuk-tuk drivers have accepted the Chiang Mai Provincial Transportation Office’s resolution that allows the taxis to be used, replacing the song taew mini busses.

Currently the cooperative has only 3 metered taxis and that seems to be inadequate. Passengers who want to take the metered taxi service can call 053 271 242 and 01 952 0900. The taxi service starts at 6 a.m. and runs until midnight each day.

An efficient taxi service is one area of Chiang Mai’s tourism that has gone unheeded for too long, and it is one positive step in the correct direction.

Villagers thank police for return of stolen Buddha images

Nopniwat Krailerg

70 villagers and students from Maepong School, who respect the revered Buddha images from Wat Maepong, Doi Saket district, Chiang Mai, were led by Phra Kru Manit Pattarakul, the abbot, and Phra Somyos Piyathammo, the deputy abbot, to express their gratitude to the police investigation team on recovering their stolen Buddha images. This was held at the Provincial Police Bureau, Region 5.

Villagers from Doi Saket district pay respect to the returned Phra Yongkaeng Buddha image.

The villagers’ representative thanked the police for their part in recovering one of the most respected Phra Yonkaeng images, more than 1,000 years old.

Phra Kru Manit Pattarakul, the abbot of Wat Maepong, has asked the officers to mete out heavy punishment to the culprits.

Villagers and students’ representative presents flowers to thank Pol Lt Gen Chalor Chuwong, the commissioner of the Provincial Police Bureau, Region 5.

Pol Gen Lt Chalor Chuwong, the commissioner of the police bureau, region 5, said during the past three years there have been about 50 cases of Buddha image robberies, but only 22 cases resulted in successful recovery.

He said that all three most revered and respected images that were recently snatched from a temple in Hot district were recovered and returned to the temple in Hot District.

The patter of little feet in Chiang Mai Zoo?

Chinese officials to look into nocturnal nuptials, as pandas get frisky

Nopniwat Krailerg

Chiang Mai Zoo is buying up heavily on panda ‘pampers’ as the gossip columnists are predicting hearing the sound of little paws later this year. Thewee and Thewan, the Thai-Chinese friendship ambassadors, have been becoming very friendly recently.

The pandas sleep, regaining their strength after a heavy night?

According to Gen Lertrat Rattanawanitch, chairman of the committee on marketing of the Zoological Park Organization, and the research project for the pandas in Thailand, said they are expecting the birth of the first baby panda in Thailand soon.

Judging by the age of the pandas, it was thought that they would not be having a family until around 2007; however, it appears that they might have begun early, having thrown off the constraints of living at “home” in China and perhaps putting together some of those long-lasting holiday memories.

Chinese officials are traveling to Chiang Mai around March-April this year to study their breeding habits. If they score the jackpot and fireworks fly the first time out, the delivery would be expected around August or September.

Both bears are very healthy and strong, eating around 10 kilograms of food per panda, per day. The female panda’s weight has risen from 60 - 80 kilograms, while the male has gone from 106 to 125 kilograms.

Since the two pandas from China settled down on October 20, more than 400,000 visitors have come to see them, generating more than 15 million baht in revenue for the zoo.

Chiang Mai plans short-time drought strategies

But will they hold water?

Saksit Meesubkwang

Chiang Mai plans to launch its strategy to prevent drought and solve the problem before this year’s dry season. Chumporn Intathep, head of Chiang Mai Public Disaster Prevention and Relief Operations Office, stated that the Chiang Mai office has set strategies that would integrate with other organizations for continual cooperation and sustainable prevention. The offices in the province’s districts also plan to develop more water resources.

The office has made an index of drought villages by listing them in order of priorities. It has also assigned to many districts the plan of conserving and supplying water to provide villagers with enough water during the drought season. Promotional campaigns of public water resources development have been launched to help conserve and sustain the resources.

Chumporn said that the preparation plan for the strategies has been divided into 3 periods: short-time, medium-time and long-time period. The office also assigned many districts to check their water trucks, water pumps and all machines dealing with the drought to be immediately ready for use.

The office also stays in close cooperation and contact with other associated organizations including the Water Resource Department, Underground Water Department, Irrigation Department and Royal Artificial Rain Project.

Chumporn said that last year the press reported the wrong information on the drought situation, which caused a negative impact on the office and associated organizations. Consequently this year, he has appointed every district office to send their reports on the drought situation to the provincial office to encourage the press to report the correct information.

Forest fires show their potential

Fireman severely injured

A visit to give moral support to Somnuek Chaipanya, an injured fireman, was carried out by Siri Akka-akara, the director of the Prevention of Forest Fires, National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department.

The fireman was seriously injured while taking part in an operation to control the forest fire situation in Mae Yuam National Park. He was rushed to Mae Sariang district’s hospital in Mae Hong Son province.

Director Siri ensured that the man and his family had enough funds for their immediate needs and then visited the scene of the forest fire around a steep mountain region, known to be prevalent for repeated fires.

He expressed the opinion that the situation regarding forest fires in Thailand would be more serious this year due to the drought. However, he also expressed confidence that his office would be able to manage this problem, but did ask for more cooperation from local residents to keep alert and immediately inform the officers regarding the discovery of any forest fires.

Ministry of Culture looking to upgrade its officers

Saksit Meesubkwang

Lotus Pang Suan Kaew Hotel was the venue for Chiang Mai province’s officials to meet with their Ministry of Culture, and be advised as to their functions and the requirements of their posts. This was in a milieu of the officials being told they were free to put forward their points of view as well.

Anurat Jureemas, the Minister of Culture

Anurat Jureemas, the Minister of Culture, told the attendees at the seminar that although the ministry is a new one, it has excellent policies, but if the officials in the operation level do not participate or understand the principles, the outcome will not be successful and it will also create problems. “If the officials at every level cooperate in determining the vision and plan the work together, the work will definitely run well,” said the minister.

M.R. Chakarot Jitraphong, permanent secretary of the Ministry of Culture said that the role of the academic has changed. It is a government policy that the Ministry of Culture would consider the qualifications of all personnel, be that executive, academic or operational level.

During April, the ministry will have a personnel reshuffle. For the groups who have the new vision, they will have a good chance for the future, not like the conservative groups that work slowly. Last week, he authorized transfer documents for 17 people because qualified persons were not working in the right job. From now on, the Ministry of Culture will rearrange all positions in the appropriate way to drive the mission the most efficiently.

The permanent secretary also added that the ministry has plans for a Masters Degree Education Project where their people can continue learning and working at the same time. The Ministry has arranged with Thammasat University for the new syllabus of the Management of Cultural Affairs that will start the first semester in this educational year 2004.

Chiang Mai talkback listeners agree with EGAT privatization

But many have worries about escalating prices

Samphan Changthong

Most of Chiang Rai’s local listeners indicated their support for the policy to privatize the EGAT and introduce it to the Stock Exchange of Thailand. The opinions were aired through Radio Thailand, Chiang Rai station’s talkback program. The radio program follows PM Thaksin Shinawatra’s weekly live broadcast through radio networks under military and police supervision across the country, every Saturday’s morning.

However some were concerned with the possibility of higher charges for electricity and recommended a public referendum on this issue before any decision by the government due to lack of information forthcoming on the impacts of privatization.

Privately, many residents are more worried about the loss of control over ‘public’ utilities and their control by private interests, that could then hold the country to ransom. At this time the privatization gives more “power” to the rich and less of a voice for the poor.

Heifer International opens office in Chiang Mai

That’s no bull!

The 30th anniversary of Heifer International Thailand was held recently in Chiang Mai during the opening of its new office here.

His Serene Highness Prince Bhisadej Rajani, chairman of the Royal Project Foundation attended and jointly presided over the opening of the new office with Charles Stewart, chairman of Heifer International. HSH Prince Bhisadej also made a presentation to Dr Chau Ba Loc, the director of Heifer International Vietnam.

His Serene Highness Prince Bhisadej Rajani (2nd left), chairing the opening ceremony of the new office with the guests of honor and Heifer International staff.

Others at the opening ceremony included Pramoj Ua-amnuay, director of Heifer International Thailand; Dr James De Vries, senior vice president for programs; senator for Chiang Rai Tuanjai Deethes, and Dr Mahendra Lohani, director of Heifer International for the South Asia-Pacific zone, and officials from the Livestock Department and from Chiang Mai University’s Faculty of Agriculture.

Strategies proposed to drag Chiang Mai into the 21st century

Everything is on the way up - other than entertainment opening hours!

Ministerial representatives, district chief officers and sub-district chief officers met at Chiang Mai Hills Hotel in an effort to implement strategies for benefits of our Thai citizens and at the same time, conform to provincial integrated administration.

On this occasion, Suwat Tantipat, the governor of Chiang Mai, said that the three aspects of provincial strategies include proactive plans to build a new economic structure with a boost to investment and new industries, while at the same time, adjustment plans were put in place to increase the value of the present economic structure to benefit industries, tourism, agriculture and sustainable development, whilst restoring folk culture as well as promoting it to the outside world.

Other plans to push the provincial strategies ahead focused on appropriate management of natural resources such as forest rehabilitation, highland development and improvements in the use of water resources accompanied by measures to solve poverty, secure life and property, and conserve natural resources.

The ceremony was attended by representatives from 20 concerned parties and they agreed to follow the proposed strategies of the province to help the integrated administration in a bid to boost Chiang Mai as the city of life and prosperity.

The Chiang Mai governor presided over the ceremony to sign the agreement on provincial strategies for the 2004 fiscal year.

Four nations look at shipping route problems

Giant catfish just one of them

A committee comprising experts from the four countries China, Thailand, Burma and Laos are surveying the Mekong River as further steps to expand water routes linking the South China Sea.

The Joint Committee of Coordination on Commercial Navigation of Lan Chang-Mekong River (JCCCN), consisting of representatives from the four countries, carried out the third survey and plan to improve water channels for commercial navigation covering a distance of 331 kilometers of water routes from Guanlei border point of China to Chiang Rai province of Thailand.

Zhao Zhue Ming, the Chinese survey team leader, said the plan to dynamite rocks and cataracts to make convenient watercourses along the Lan Chang and Mekong River would be completed soon and erecting navigation signs along the routes is underway.

However, some areas marked by Thailand and Laos such as Kon Phi Luang of Tambon Rim Khong, Chiang Khong district, Chiang Rai province were proposed for reconsideration and additional surveying because the citizens are worried about the environmental impact that might end up leading to the giant catfish (pangasianodon gigas) becoming extinct.

He added that the survey of navigation routes at Kon Phi Luang and the decision to dynamite rocks obstructing the waterway would definitely be done, and more than 30 Chinese experts on the environment, fishery and navigation are collecting data and procedures to avoid negative impacts on the environment, endangered fish and rare plants, found in the Mekong River.

The decreasing water level in the Mekong River now was relayed back to the committee from the four countries. During this period, dams in China would be periodically shut down to block the transportation routes for three days and allow only one day for navigation activities.

“At Risk” groups for human trafficking advised

Vocational training centers to get message across

Vocational training courses will help reduce the problem of trafficking in women and children, says Minister of Social Development and Human Security Sora-art Klinprathum. He disclosed that measures to establish vocational training centers together with homes for children and women across the country could help reduce the serious problems of trading in women and children.

One course was delivered at the Vocational Training Center, Chiang Rai, with more than 400 participants from the at risk groups paying much attention to the programs. The government also announced it has planned to introduce more training centers in the northern region to address the problem of human trafficking.

Officials were monitoring the situation and took responsibility to supervise the at risk groups, especially hill tribe people and other residents from rural areas. However, he added that the government was keeping alert on the situation and would seek close cooperation from neighboring countries to help solve the human trafficking problem.

Chiang Mai governor wants arsonists charged

Forests going to blazes say officials

Saksit Meesubkwang

Chiang Mai CEO Governor Suwat Tantipat complained to the Provincial Forest Office about their failing on the management and control of forest fires and said decisive measures must be instituted now.

Pakorn Jringsoongnern, the director of Forest Preservation and Management, Area 16 Office, reported on the fire situation.

The press conference on the occasion of Toxic Smoke Free Day was organized by Pakorn Jringsoongnern, the director of Forest Preservation and Management, Area 16 Office, at Huay Kaew Botanical Park, Chiang Mai Province, and saw some incendiary remarks from the Chiang Mai governor who presided over the event.

Suwat Tantipat said that the forest is a precious treasure of our country, and forest fires affect the total economic system of the country.

The governor said that since he has been in charge, he has never seen even one arsonist brought to justice. In the past, the Provincial Forest Office just worked on the campaign to educate people to understand about loss from forest fires, but it was already proved that forest fires are not because of natural phenomena but man made in 100 percent of the cases. “Therefore, we have to punish these persons, because they are not afraid of the law. This year, the Provincial Forest Office must be strict and apply decisive measures against the arsonists and prosecute to the full extent of the law to prevent imitators,” he said.

Suphol Leelawaropas, the director of the Forest Fire Operation, said that the drought will come earlier than last year because the wind and monsoons from southern China. Since December 2003 up till now, more than 1,000 forest fires took place in the areas of Chiang Mai and Lamphun. The Forest Preservation and Management of Area 16, with the 720 officers and 16 fire-fighting units located in every district of both Chiang Mai and Lamphun are responsible for an area of 7,000 rai. It is impossible for our officers to fight fires in every area, he protested.

It is very necessary for every person to assist because the forest natural resource does not belong to the officers or an organization only. It is the duty and responsibility of every person to look after our valuable resource so that in the future the next generation can appreciate the green forest.

Is KTTR a real step forward in police relations?

Certainly a real step forward for foreigners

Chiang Mai businessman Alastair Connon, a former UK Crime Prevention chairman, has been appointed as the first foreign adviser to assist the KTTR committee and help promote better relations between the Royal Thai Police and foreigners.

KTTR is an abbreviation of what is more widely known by Thais as “Kor tor tor ro” (aka the National Federation of Police Monitors), which is now turning its attention to promoting its role to foreign investors, tourists and residents.

Pol. Col. Jinabhadra Tansrisakul, superintendent Chiang Mai Immigration, and Alastair Connon.

Unfair treatment, corruption, apathy and intimidation are just some of the reasons people mistrust the police and are reluctant to contact them. In recent times things have changed dramatically. Since KTTR’s inception some three years ago, people have felt more optimistic that their complaints about the police’s actions will actually be dealt with.

KTTR is responsible for closer relations between police and the people. It has the legal right to inspect and monitor police performance relating to their handling of the public, and to help create a better understanding and mutual respect.

Over the past 3 years, the organisation has grown substantially, with most police stations in Bangkok now having a KTTR presence of 5 to 7 members, bridging the gap between senior police officers and the public.

These representatives are primarily involved with assisting the public in understanding the role of the police and how they work, by guiding them through police procedures, giving them advice and, most importantly, giving the public the opportunity to complain without feeling intimidated or worried about any repercussions.

Essential information on most crimes is out there and the feedback provided by the public to the police via KTTR has resulted in a reduction in corruption, and valuable intelligence on drug suppliers has also been forthcoming.

For the skeptics who feel that KTTR has no teeth, they should consider the case of a former chief of police who, after having been reported as unwilling to work with KTTR and the local community, was moved to another province, and the three superintendents who were suspended from duty after KTTR found that the underground lottery was still flourishing in their districts - despite government funds being made available to them to combat the problem.

Understanding the need to promote better relations between the Royal Thai Police and foreigners, Deputy Commissioner-General Suthorn Saikwan has appointed Chiang Mai businessman Alastair Connon as the first foreign adviser.

Part of the new foreign adviser’s brief is to highlight possible areas of breakdown in communication and gather information and comments from members of the foreign community and to provide an avenue for foreigners to raise their ideas for improvements.

Commander, Immigration Division 3, Major General Patrachai Hiranyaveja has already instructed the creation of a new English language “Immigration Bureau” website, which is currently under development - resulting from feedback Alastair Connon received from the foreign consulates in Chiang Mai of the need for detailed immigration information available in English.

If you have any suggestions, you can contact Alastair Connon. Write in English to [email protected] or in Thai to [email protected]

New Chittagong-Chiang Mai route brings counterfeiters closer, quicker

Vigilant immigration police spot fakes as well as fakers

Saksit Meesubkwang

Pol. Lt. Col. Grish Saengpol, inspector at the Chiang Mai Immigration Police Office, in cooperation with police officers from Phuphing Police Station, arrested two Bangladeshi passengers at Chiang Mai International Airport, found carrying counterfeit US dollar banknotes.

The aspiring scam artists, Manik and Mohammed Shahid, were passengers on a Thai Airways flight, hoping to bring a suitcase full of new imports to Thailand to redress the balance of exports between the two countries.

They were arrested during the arrival baggage checking process after the officers found many fake US banknotes in their luggage. After investigating, it was found that both Manik, 51, and Mohammed Shahid, 45, were in possession of fake 100 dollar bills. They were charged with possessing and illegally carrying counterfeit currency into the kingdom.