HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Chiang Mai Municipality councilor murdered

PAO president celebrates after election

Chiang Mai welcomes PATA delegates

500 ex-drug addicts attend retraining

Dog packs leave boy and father injured

Forest fires prevent aircraft landings in Mae Hong Son

55 million baht in car tax arrears collected last month

200,000 tons of longans this year

Another Bird flu outbreak assumed in Sansai

Wing 41’s operational readiness checked

Policeman recovering from multiple gunshot wounds receives visits from top brass

TOT behind the Chiang Mai ICT push

Drug War II has started

Chiang Mai Immigration seeks better communication with the public

TT&T join the high speed internet services race

HRH Queen Sirikit advises forest firefighters to be vigilant

War on Drugs, the second wave part two

Chiang Mai Municipality councilor murdered

Organized group of four hit men make the contract

Saksit Meesubkwang

Surarat Muangnoi, 39, (AKA Eed Muangnoi), a well known local politician, was shot dead by four gunmen while he was playing snooker on Santhitham Road in Tambon Changpuak, Chiang Mai. Surarat was also an influential figure in the gambling business, said police.

He was assassinated around midnight by four assailants dressed in black, who had been waiting for the moment in the snooker hall. He was shot at point blank range with a 9 mm firearm. He was rushed to the Maharaj Nakhon Chiang Mai Hospital Intensive Care Unit, but was pronounced dead shortly afterwards.

Pol Lt Col Wichian Chaisuparb from Tambon Changpuak Police Station said police are investigating the motives behind the murder, and are looking at leads provided by the gambling organization. They are also looking for any local political conflicts.

Surarat was born in Phetchaburi province, and has operated his businesses in Chiang Mai since 1987. He became a rich man from his operations and was to be announced as a local member of Chiang Mai Municipality council.

PAO president celebrates after election

Promises to make good his promises

Nopniwat Krailerg

Thawatwong na Chiangmai, known locally as “Chao Nui”, appears to have won the Provincial Administration Organization (PAO) presidency with a sizable majority.

The new PAO president Thawatwong na Chiangmai.

Thawatwong said that his main policies were to assist farmers and the tourism industry, which will improve the economic situation for every one of his constituents.

After the preliminary results of the election had been announced, the new PAO president Thawatwong held a press conference at Thai Rak Thai party building in Chiang Mai. Thawatwong declared that he and the other 30 elected Thai Rak Thai PAO members were ready to work for Chiang Mai residents.

Vote-counting still in process on Sunday (Election Day) at the Chiang Mai PAO building

The policies were directed to lift the standard of living, economic situation and environment of Chiang Mai, support education and stability of life in Chiang Mai.

In the beginning, the new PAO president and members will focus their administration on agriculture matters since 60 percent of residents are farmers. They would increase agricultural product prices, provide markets for the products especially rice, longan and oranges.

The PAO would arrange a road show and promote tourism, which is the main income generator for Chiang Mai, said Thawatwong. Even though tourism industry involves a minority of residents, the income gained from this industry will be distributed widely, he said.

Thawatwong said proudly that Thai Rak Thai leaders, PM Thaksin Shinawatra and Deputy Prime Minister Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudth sent their congratulations on the win.

He said that he did not have any political conflicts with other candidates since they were all friends. There would be no petition to the Election Commission on his political campaign since he did nothing against the law.

Meanwhile, Kanapol Pinkaew, permanent secretary of Chiang Mai PAO and the election director, said that a small number of eligible voters in Wiang Haeng district and three polling stations in Muang district had petitioned because officials did not make the voting procedure clear and they cast their ballots incorrectly.

Other irregularities were reported at Nong Jom village, Sansai district and this polling station will have to wait for the Commission’s decision.

The election director stated that the number of people who exercised their right was very satisfying, as around 80 percent of eligible voters turned out to vote in the PAO presidential race. Only 4 percent of ballots from all electoral regions were spoiled.

Chiang Mai welcomes PATA delegates

By the middle of this coming week, more than 350 delegates to the “2004 Mekong Tourism Forum” will be with us in Chiang Mai. The forum is organized by the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), in collaboration with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), and will be hosted by the Tourism Authority of Thailand.

Boonlert Buranupakorn, Chairman of the Chiang Mai Tourism Promotion Board

The Sheraton Chiang Mai will be the venue for dialogues between the public and private sectors, strategic seminars, and discussions on development and promotion of travel and tourism to and within the Greater Mekong Sub-Region, claimed to be currently the fastest growing tourism destination in the world.

This years’ theme is “Protect, Position and Promote,” focusing to encourage multilateral cooperation on tourism development and marketing within the Greater Mekong Sub-Region (GMS), comprising Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and Yunnan, China (PRC).

The Chiangmai Mail is delighted to exclusively publish the welcome message from Boonlert Buranupakorn, Chairman of the Chiang Mai Tourism Promotion Board.

“On behalf of the City of Chiang Mai, I would like to express my pleasure and gratitude that you have honored and given us this wonderful opportunity to welcome all distinguished guests on your visit to our fair and ancient city.

“By your attending the PATA 2004 Mekong Tourism Forum here in Chiang Mai, you will create the most excellent conditions to foster and strengthen friendships between our peoples. This is also an excellent opportunity for us to promote Chiang Mai, the ‘Asia’s most fascinating city’, to the people of the whole world. May you be able to turn your meetings into productive solutions for the correct positioning, promotion, and protection of the Mekong tourism.

“Chiang Mai is a very important tourist destination in Thailand and has become world renowned for its enormous number of tourist attractions. Chiang Mai has a very strong infrastructure to be able to accommodate and provide all the luxurious amenities at reasonable cost to visitors, not only the holidaymakers, but also for business travelers.

“Once again on behalf of the people of Chiang Mai, I would like to extend from the bottom of my heart, a warm welcome to you, our dear and valuable guests. May you all have a happy and productive stay here in Chiang Mai. I hope we are able to impress you with our hospitality, our friendship, and our traditions. And on your departure, may you take back home, happy memories of our city and our people.

“Wherever your travels and your destinies take you, I wish you all a safe and pleasant journey.”

500 ex-drug addicts attend retraining

And score a 20,000 baht bonus!

Nopniwat Krailerg

Udom Maneekhat, Chiang Mai Provincial Development Office head, said that the Chiang Mai Provincial Authorities appointed his office to work with former drug addicts who had been rehabilitated during the war on drugs. Part of the rehabilitation was training in useful occupational skills and investment management methods.

In addition, the office has arranged training courses in March on the Poverty Eradication Scheme in seven districts, including Samoeng, Mae Rim, Mae Taeng, Chiang Dao, Phrao, Fang and Mae Ai districts.

Approximately 500 former drug addicts attended the course. After the completion of the courses, the province gave each group of attendees 20,000 baht investment money to begin their small businesses. The Provincial Development Office will be responsible in following up their business acumen.

Udom added that this occupational training course would inspire former drug addicts to be eager to earn a living themselves.

Dog packs leave boy and father injured

Autsadaporn Kamthai and Saksit Meesubkwang

A nine-year-old boy was attacked in the area of Ban Sanpooloie, Doi Saket district on March 13 by a pack of dogs that included a St. Bernard and four Dalmatians. The boy, Husen Sriwichai was bitten on his face, neck, and both legs by the five dogs belonging to his neighbor. His father, Arun Sriwichai, was also bitten while attempting to drive the dogs away and rescue his son.

Some of Suraket’s fierce dogs.

Arun said that his son Husen was returning home passing the house belonging to Suraket, one of his neighbors, as Suraket’s daughter took the dogs out for walk. The pack pounced on the boy, and the girl was unable to control them.

The father, on hearing the commotion, attempted to drag the dogs off his son, but was then also bitten. The dogs’ owner, Suraket came to their aid and called off his dogs and rushed the injured pair to hospital.

Husen, the wounded boy, and his father Arun, undergoing treatment at the McCormick Hospital.

Arun said that he and Suraket had agreed on compensation, and the dogs’ owner agreed to pay for their medical care. Arun also said that Suraket kept many fierce dogs that were known in the neighborhood to bite passers by. He hoped that following this incident, Suraket would keep the dogs muzzled.

Forest fires prevent aircraft landings in Mae Hong Son

Samarn Tansai

Forest fires happen every year in Mae Hong Son, with again most fires the result of carelessness or stupidity by people in the forests. The result of forest fires is far reaching, with effects on the environment, economics, tourism and aviation.

Chana Naksuriya, Mae Hong Son deputy governor, presided over a conference with associated government organizations to discuss forest fire control and prevention.

Two days before the conference, many forest fires erupted and planes were unable to land. Many arrival flights had to be cancelled, producing an immediate loss in tourism income, said the deputy governor.

The province has assigned Tambon Administration Organizations, Municipality, Provincial Administration Organization, Highway Department and National Park, Wildlife and Plants Department to keep a watch on their areas of responsibility, said the deputy governor.

The province also put up a 5,000 baht reward for people who inform the authorities about arsonists.

Artificial rainmaking was suggested as another solution for the forest fires, said Chana. If the budget for generating artificial rain was not sufficient, the governor as CEO could ask for a supplementary budget for solving this forest fire situation.

55 million baht in car tax arrears collected last month

Half million owners still in default

Nopniwat Krailerg

Archsathai Ratanadilok na Phuket, Head of Chiang Mai Provincial Land Transportation Office, stated that after the office had announced the tax amnesty for car owners to pay their outstanding vehicle tax by February 25 this year, the office received over 55 million baht.

The rush to pay was such that the office was forced to extend its working hours and take no lunch breaks. The office also opened during weekends in February, and for the final two days the office stayed open all day.

During the amnesty period, 86,124 car’s owner paid their tax dues, but there are still 510,717 car owners who have not yet paid their tax dues.

200,000 tons of longans this year

Production up, but is consumer demand up?

Chiang Mai’s lamyai or longan production this year will be around 180,000-200,000 tons in the markets, Chiang Mai Provincial Agriculture Office has estimated.

Winai Laoterdphong, head of Chiang Mai Provincial Agriculture Office, said that Chiang Mai has 247,000 rai of lamyai trees under cultivation and 54,000 longan planters.

One reason for the increase has been the suitable climatic conditions experienced last year, particularly during the period November-February. The long cold spell had been very beneficial for the planter’s harvests.

Market surplus could be a problem, admitted Winai, but they hope to counteract the surplus by exporting both fresh and dried longan to international markets.

Winai said the longan planters have to nourish their crop and only use natural fertilizer as chemical substances are strictly forbidden according to the government decree on goods being supplied to the international markets.

Another Bird flu outbreak assumed in Sansai

Either that or 26,000 chickens in mass suicide pact

Nopniwat Krailerg and Saksit Meesubkwang

Chiang Mai people are again afraid of Bird Flu after 26,000 chickens and ducks have been found dead. The populace is now nervously awaiting the results from testing by the Chiang Mai Provincial Livestock Office.

Wild doves picking food from the farm, likely to spread potential danger in the wild.

The latest presumed outbreak has claimed 300 ducks in Tambon Changpuak, Muang District and more than 26,000 chickens were found dead without an obvious reason in the area of Tambon San Nameng, Sansai District, Chiang Mai Province. The chickens came from the ‘Hia Daeng’ chicken farm.

Laborers at one of the concerned farms in San Nameng are shocked because of the new developments.

The provincial livestock officials are destroying the remainder of the chickens to prevent the spread of the virus. The officials have also announced this area is a disease control area. 10,000 eggs from this farm have also been recalled.

Chicken carcasses have been sent to the Northern Medical Sciences Research and Development Services Veterinarian Center, Hang Chat district, Lampang province. Officials said identification and verification would take a week.

Villagers who live nearby area expressed fear that they were once more afraid to consume chicken and eggs.

Wing 41’s operational readiness checked

Efficiency and security of paramount importance

Saksit Meesubkwang

Wing 41, our local Royal Thai Air Force base in Chiang Mai has just had its inspection. The inspection committee chairman, Group Captain Vinai Dussarak, visited the Wing to ascertain the Wing’s readiness for combat and to test security of the airport operations units here.

Group Captain Vinai Dussarak inspects RTAF personnel at the ready to do battle ceremony.

This inspection committee’s visit was expected to boost Wing 41 outpost’s protection efficiency. Other aspects reviewed included vehicle patrol operation testing, vehicle examination, station patrol operation testing and medical check-ups.

At the end, the Royal Thai Air Force officers, personnel and staff attended a brief ceremony and military drill held at the Wing 41 security force field, presided over by Group Captain Vinai Dussarak.

Policeman recovering from multiple gunshot wounds receives visits from top brass

Saksit Meesubkwang

Police Sergeant Somchai Chusakul, an officer in the Drug Suppression Police Unit at the Provincial Police Bureau, Region 5, was hit more than 10 times in a gunfight with drug dealers.

Provincial Police Bureau Region 5 commissioner, Police Lieutenant General Chalor Chuwong (left), and Police Major General Kasem Rattanasunthorn (right), commander of the Chiang Mai Provincial Police visited the injured police Sergeant Somchai.

He was admitted to Maharaj Nakhon Chiangmai Hospital, and recently received a visit from the Provincial Police Bureau Region 5 commissioner, Police Lieutenant General Chalor Chuwong, and the Chiang Mai Provincial Police commander, Police Major General Kasem Rattanasunthorn, and more than 20 other officers.

After receiving a police tip-off, police went undercover to buy 200 drug tablets from four drug sellers at the Bang Chak gas station in Chiang Dao District, Chiang Mai. However, the dealers were tipped off as well and a 10-minute gun battle ensued. Sergeant Somchai was hit; one dealer was killed, another arrested, and two others escaped in the melee.

Police Lieutenant General Chalor Chuwong said that Police Sergeant Somchai Chusakul was now out of danger; however, the police are guarding him closely. His family is currently being looked after by a special fund run by the Police Affairs Department. He also said that Police Sergeant Somchai will be considered for promotion. There are probably less painful ways of gaining a senior sergeant’s stripes!

TOT behind the Chiang Mai ICT push

Seminar on the new technology presented to local businessmen

Nopniwat Krailerg

The Telephone Organization of Thailand (TOT) hosted an information communication and technology (ICT) seminar at Sheraton Hotel, Chiang Mai, to show Chiang Mai businessmen the newer technologies and what to expect in the future. The seminar was also held in response to the government policy on ICT development.

ICT minister, Dr. Surapong Suebwonglee spoke live to the Chiang Mai seminar via a video conference link from Bangkok.

Dr. Surapong Suebwonglee, the ICT minister used the new technology to speak to the conference via video-conferencing from Bangkok. “Chiang Mai is one of the three provinces of the country, which has a very high potential as an ICT city. This will strengthen and develop the local economy, especially the promotion of the software industry, which has the potential to be one of the top income generators in Thailand,” he said.

TOT showcased their new services, such as answer services with faster data transfer under the Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM), Remote Access Network (RAN), Circuit Emulation Service (CES), Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL), Digital Data Network (DDN), Internet Protocol Virtual Private Network (IP VPN), Internet Protocol Virtual Private Dial up Network (IP VPDN), and other wireless internet services or Wi-Fi, with high speed data transfer, and Frame Relay.

Chiang Mai deputy governor, Thongchai Wongrianthong was a guest speaker on the subject “Ready for ICT Life”, and was followed by Dr Panuthat Techasen from the Software Industry Promotion Agency, who spoke on ICT & Modern Business, while Dr Monchai Noosong of TOT spoke on Broadband Technology as the “Way to ICT City”.

Tutorials in acronyms are not yet being offered, but are obviously going to be necessary in the brave new world. Perhaps it is time to start opening some ISOITAs (Internet Schools Of Information Technology Acronyms).

Drug War II has started

The second wave of skewed statistics underway

Saksit Meesubkwang

The Northern Narcotics Control Office (NNCO) reports that it is ready to launch the second War on Drug campaign, and has more than 4,600 suspects on the blacklists.

This time, the NNCO officers would seek more cooperation from non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and local residents as sources of information rather than just the official government sources.

The director of NNCO, Pithaya Jinawat, said that following the first War on Drugs campaign last year, held in compliance with the government’s policy, more than 23,000 drug dealers were stopped, of which 7,000 dealers were killed and the other 16,000 dealers surrendered to the authorities. These dealers came from the names of 101,000 drug traffickers on the blacklists.

He expressed thanks and gratefulness to the Third Army Region commander and the border patrol police (BBP) for their assistance in the drug suppression, arrests and confiscation of properties.

During this second War on Drugs campaign, each district has been instructed to build up a strong community liaison to monitor the drug situation, while the Department of Local Administration should monitor all government officials, especially the Power of the People volunteers.

During Drug War I, many those involved with drugs came from those volunteers, he said. Many of them had purchased fake ID cards.

In this second operation, which will run from March 8 - June 8, 2004, the office has collected more than 4,600 names of drug dealers. This operation is being carefully and covertly implemented because some dealers could hire top lawyers to plead their cases, leading the courts to dismiss the charges.

Director Pithaya also spoke on the case of the Chiang Mai Provincial Administration Organization member for Hot district, saying that further steps would be taken to prove his guilt and ensure punishment. He insinuated that this case was involved with not only police but also some prominent organizations.

He was also looking to China and Burma to provide cooperation on this serious issue. He finally noted that when they received enough details this would result in more arrests of the drug dealers.

With 101,000 names on the blacklist in Drug War I and only 23,000 accounted for (7,000 killed), this leaves 78,000 still at large. This time, the figure is given as only 4,600 suspects on the Drug War II blacklist, which prompts the question as to what happened to the other 73,400?

Chiang Mai Immigration seeks better communication with the public

Alastair Connon, KTTR

The policy of Police Lieutenant General Chanvut Vajrabukka, commissioner of the Immigration Bureau Thailand, and Police Major General Patrachai Hiranyaveja, commander of Immigration Division 3, is something which can not be found everywhere in Thailand, but is probably admired by many.

Chiang Mai Immigration Superintendent Pol. Col. Jinabhadra Tansrisakul.

The superintendent of Chiangmai Immigration has asked his officers to provide information to the general public via the local community radio stations that broadcast each Thursday on FM 99 Mhz between the hours of 11 a.m. and 12 each week.

Inspector Kanokpun Roobkajorn and Senior Sergeant Major Wittraya Singhamanee.

The public can telephone or write in, to have their questions answered by local officers. During the live broadcast, information is given about recent arrests of illegal aliens, immigration law and public enquiries are answered.

Also, a central telephone number was given for the public to contact if they have information on, or if they have suspicions of, any terrorist acts. Telephone 053 201 755-6, fax 053 277 510.

TT&T join the high speed internet services race

T-speed the latest entrant

Phitsanu Thepthong

Broadband internet users are being targeted by TT&T, the number of users estimated as being over one million people by the end of the year. The company wants to attract subscribers to their T-speed system, a communications tool that would bring Thailand up to the same IT level as internet users overseas.

TT&T believe they have something to dance about! (Photo by Saksit Meesubkwang)

Prachuab Tantinon, president & CEO of TT& T said after the company launched its new telephone line installation, they then looked at how to improve and use the developments of new technology. The result was T-speed.

T-speed uses Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL) technology that can convert analog telephone lines into a communications pathway for high speed data communications while still being able to use the telephone at the same time. T-speed could facilitate VDO conferencing, public Web phone and other ICT services such as multimedia applications and on-line interactive games.

Chiang Mai Deputy Governor Thongchai Wongrianthong presided over the launching ceremony of the T-speed services at the Central Airport Plaza.

HRH Queen Sirikit advises forest firefighters to be vigilant

Forest monk inadvertently sparks Huay Khakhaeng inferno

Saksit Meesubkwang

Forest fires in the north have been worsening since 1995. “This could be the worst season for years because of the severe prolonged dry season,” said Plodprasob Surasawadi, permanent secretary of the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry.

Plodprasob Surasawadi, permanent secretary of Natural Resources and Environment

Surapol Leelawaropas, Forest Fire Operation Center Chiang Mai and Lamphun director, revealed that since November last year, there have been more than 1,600 forest fires, causing damage to 10 thousand rai.

For safety reasons, forestry officers have been watching over the Phuping Palace where Her Majesty the Queen is residing during her visit to the North for some months. 50 firefighters from Phuping National Park and another 60 from Khon Kaen, Chumporn and Phitsanulok provinces, plus 30 border patrol police have been appointed to 24 hour patrols around the palace.

Plodprasob said that Her Majesty the Queen had called for all forest firefighters to keep watch and prevent forest fires spreading. The Queen also reminds them if the fire destroys the forest, it will destroy the prosperity of the forest and will take about 10 years for the forest to recover.

The greatest majority of forest fires are the result of the actions of human beings, revealed the permanent secretary. Villagers like to set fires to collect forestry products in the wet season, and some are still using slash and burn agricultural methods.

The recent forest fire in Huay Khakhaeng wildlife sanctuary area was caused by a forest monk who passed into the area and was unaware that his candle had started the conflagration. Local officials are now making this area off-limits for forest monks on pilgrimage.

According Thai law, the punishment for arson is imprisonment for 10 years and 150,000 baht fines. Rewards for information on arsonists are 5,000 baht.

War on Drugs, the second wave part two

3rd Army chief blames foreign countries and Hi-So users

Saksit Meesubkwang

The Third Army Region is worried about a new wave of drugs being introduced to teenagers, according to Lieutenant General Phicharnmek Muangmanee, the commander in chief of the Third Army Region.

Lieutenant General Phicharnmek Muangmanee, commander in chief of the Third Army Region.

He stated that following the last War on Drugs, amphetamines have become less available, but new drugs are taking their place. “There are new kinds of drugs which are replacing the old, such as ice, cocaine, ecstasy and love drug, and the drug dealers are targeting high society customers who enjoy the entertainment places at night. These drugs cost much more than other drugs,” he said.

He claims that the distributors of the drugs are capitalists from major cities of three or four foreign countries. “We have to cooperate with our neighbouring countries like Burma and Laos to keep a close lookout for drug smuggling,” he told reporters in Chiang Mai recently.

Chiang Mai Governor Suwat Tantipat also announced the second wave of the War on Drugs. He stated that this is in response to the government policy of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra who had called on March 8 for provincial governors, provincial police commanders including the chiefs of different government organizations concerned to cooperate in drug elimination for the second time. He also said that he believes the first plan of the War on Drugs had been proven very successful.

However, PM Thaksin has asked all officers to assist each other to observe the communities, educational institutes, dormitories and factories. He also wants soldiers and police to pursue people on the old blacklists. In addition, officers should provide more training courses informing villagers who live along the border area to report when they see drug smuggling. The governmental policy is for eliminating drug use in Thailand, Suwat concluded.