HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Anti-war demonstrators stage peaceful ride for peace

Briton charged with indecent behavior

City beautification urged

Thip Tara Haeng Puang Chon fountain dedicated to HM Queen Sirikit

Government wants everybody ‘wired’

Entry-Exit permits for border traders put forward

Onion union leader claims bribes have been offered

Provincial Public Health Office fires up anti-smoking laws

Sex Film Festival held in Chiang Mai

32 million baht Buddha image being built in Chiang Saen

Quadrangle Project finds Mekong River a rocky road

Philippine Ambassador visits Chiang Mai Immigration

Central Kad Suan Kaew launches road safety campaign

IBO/UNESCO Cambodian Project

Samaritans Chiang Mai reveals high suicide rate in 2003

Anti-war demonstrators stage peaceful ride for peace

Rallying cries were, “World still says no to war” and “End US occupation of Iraq”

Saksit Meesubkwang

Anti-war protesters marked the first anniversary of the war in Iraq on March 20 with a peaceful rally around the city.

Anti-war demonstrators staged a peaceful ride through Chiang Mai on March 20, calling for an end to US and British occupation of Iraq.

About a hundred members of the United for Peace chapter in Chiang Mai, mostly Europeans, some NGO personnel and Chiang Mai University students, assembled for the anti-war demonstration, calling for an end to the U.S. and British occupation of Iraq and for the Thai government to withdraw troops.

The protesters, easily identifiable by their bright orange “End all wars for profit and power” t-shirts, joined the internationally organized day of protest being dubbed the “Global Day of Action Against the War”.

The demonstrators took their message to the streets of Chiang Mai, riding bicycles and motorbikes, trailing orange balloons behind them. The event started at the PTT petrol station on the CMU campus, moved along Huay Kaew Road, and proceeded around the city’s moat. They passed the British Council, Kawila Military Camp and stopped at the US Consulate-General’s Office on Witchayanond Road.

At the US consulate, they released orange balloons into the air before dispersing.

United for Peace opposes the war and US President Bush because they believe the war was waged for profit and power for Bush. They also suggested that PM Thaksin Shinawatra withdraw Thai troops from Iraq, a resounding call being made by some Thai people.

Briton charged with indecent behavior

Also found with 12 passports and stolen items

Autsadaporn Kamthai

Tourist and Immigration Police forces in Chiang Mai this week arrested British visitor Kenneth John Harding, aged 52, accusing him of indecent behavior, stealing a camera, making false declarations to police, traveling on an expired tourist visa and being in possession of 12 fake passports.

Police arrested British visitor Kenneth John Harding, aged 52, charging him with several significant offenses. (Photo Saksit Meesubkwang)

A travel company operator had tipped off police, alleging that he had witnessed Harding taking photos of his (the owner’s) niece having a bath, when Harding had gone to use the company toilet.

A police search of Harding’s luggage allegedly turned up a camera and a video camera, which were later shown to be stolen from a tour guide, plus 12 counterfeit passports and two albums of obscene photographs of young girls and boys.

Harding had flown from Bangkok to Chiang Mai in January this year, and stayed at a guesthouse in the city.

His home address was given as St Mary Church, Torquay, Devon, England.

Pol Col Sakolrat Theerasawas, Tourist Police deputy commander, and Pol Col Shinapatra Tansrisakul, Chiang Mai Immigration Police superintendent, led the investigation.

City beautification urged

Theresa Green gets municipal vote

Autsadaporn Kamthai

Chiang Mai Municipality urges city dwellers to plant and care for trees in the municipal area, to beautify the city’s environment and impress visitors.

The municipality planted grass and flowers in the median dividing strips along Huay Kaew Road, and is asking the public to water them.

Ken Santitham, permanent secretary of Chiang Mai Municipality, said that the engineering office had encouraged Chiang Mai residents in this regard, as part of environmental concerns.

The municipality planted grass and flowers in the median dividing strips along Huay Kaew Road and selected other roads in the city. The municipality is now asking the residents who live nearby to water the flowers and grass and encouraged them to plant trees in front of their houses to increase the amount of shade in town.

Thip Tara Haeng Puang Chon fountain dedicated to HM Queen Sirikit

Linda Ratchai

The Thip Tara Haeng Puang Chon fountain has been built within the Phuping Palace to celebrate the occasion of HM the Queen’s 72nd birthday and will be open to the public later this month, after the Queen returns to Bangkok.

The beautiful new fountain will soon be on tourist itineraries.

Chalermsak Suranant, director of TAT, Northern Office Region 1 said that Thip Tara Haeng Puang Chon fountain was built as an offering to HM Queen Sirikit, thanking her for her merciful heart in working so hard for her subjects. “This fountain will be one of the tourist spots situated in the palace surroundings,” he said.

The fountain is 15 meters high and has three tiers. At night is lit from below with computer controlled red, white and blue underwater spotlights.

For more information, contact Phuping Palace, telephone 053 223 065, 053 219 932 or TAT Northern Office, Region 1, telephone 053-248 604, 053 248 607.

Government wants everybody ‘wired’

Internet to be the net to catch Thailand’s people

Jiraphat Warasin

The Thai government through the Information and Communication Technology Ministry (ICT) has assigned the Telephone Organization of Thailand (TOT) to organize instruction activities in 12 targeted provinces to introduce Thai people to computers and how to use the Internet.

Interested youths are already getting involved in the “Internet for Thai Youths” scheme.

TOT launched the scheme at Kad Suan Kaew shopping center with a call to the faithful called, “Thailand advances with Internet in people’s heart” to build up the people’s computer skills and reduce the technology gap between rural and urban people.

The training course is being divided into two parts: “Internet for Thai communities” and “Internet for Thai Youths”. All course trainees will be instructed through an “edutainment technique” - combining educational and entertaining activities.

This scheme will be launched in the 12 provinces of Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Nakhon Sawan, Phitsanulok, Udorn Thani, Khon Kaen, Nakhon Ratchasima, Chonburi, Phetchaburi, Surat Thani, Phuket and Songkhla. Each neighboring province of these 12 will send 100 Tambon Administration Organization members or community leaders to attend the “Internet for Thai Communities” course.

1,200 high school students in grades 7-11 from 120 rural schools will attend the “Internet for Thai Youths” course. Computers will be provided for each attendee during the courses. TOT’s engineers will set up the training system.

Dr Satit Limpongpan, TOT chairman said that since TOT is the telephone leader, it intends to support Internet use in every community. The company decided to launch this scheme to enhance Thai people’s abilities to use the Internet, thereby lifting the Thai standard of living.

The training course will instruct website design and homepage design. This training course will run every Thursday, Friday and Saturday until July 31.

Entry-Exit permits for border traders put forward

Seminar held to discuss alien cross-border movements

Autsadaporn Kamthai

A seminar on entry and exit permits for people in special economic zone under the Quadrangle Economic Cooperation plan will be held on March 30 at Ratchaprachanukroh School No. 15, Chiang Saen district, Chiang Rai.

Sermchai Kittirattanapaiboon, president of Chiang Rai Chamber of Commerce (CRCC), said that the CRCC in collaboration with the House committee on Foreign Affairs, will organize the seminar. Wing Commander Decha Sukharom, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee will preside over the opening and will give the keynote address.

Speakers will include Chiang Rai Members of Parliament, Chiang Rai Governor Narin Panichkij, and the police superintendent of Mae Sai Police Immigration Office.

This seminar will provide some basic understanding to help people solve the problem of illegal alien migration, as well as to promote trade and investment in the Quadrangle Economic cooperation area. Chiang Rai’s economy is growing, and main sources of income include agricultural products, tourism and border trading.

The economy is set to boom, Sermchai said, with the industrial estate to be developed in Sridonmool village, Chiang Saen district. He said he expects that Thai and foreign investment projects will be sited in this new industrial estate, and this will bring strong job opportunities as well.

Sermchai also said that if border trade is properly developed, Chiang Rai will become the gateway for foreign goods in this area, which, of course, begs the question of whether it is better to be a hub or a gateway.

This includes importing low cost goods and products from China, and becoming an important port for the exporting of Thai dried longan, jasmine rice and rubber to the markets in South China.

Onion union leader claims bribes have been offered

Turned down as he wouldn’t skin his mates

Nopniwat Krailerg

Again in March, more than 500 protesting onion growers from Mae Wang and San Patong districts gathered at Chiang Mai City Hall to register their second demonstration over the dicey problem of low onion prices.

The onion growers are still complaining, as their tears seem to have fallen on barren ground. No agreement with the government has yet sprouted over the glut of onions and the low prices being offered. Onion growers want a minimum of 7 baht per kg, and want the government to guarantee this price.

The protesting onion union leader of Mae Wang and San Patong districts, Saokham Yon-in revealed “influential persons” had offered bribes to end the demonstrations.

Rather than negotiate with the protesting onion growers, Saokham Yon-in, the representative for Mae Wang and San Patong districts, revealed that he had been offered bribes by “influential persons” to end the demonstration and would receive higher prices for his onions.

However, Saokham said he refused the offers made by “influential persons” because many onion farmers are being adversely affected by the low price problem and he would be considered a selfish person if he peeled away from his group and accepted the perceived bribe of higher prices. He also said that he had recorded the proceedings and would make the tapes public if no assistance was forthcoming.

This time, the protesters asked Governor Suwat Tantipat to introduce urgent assistance for farmers left with 8 million kilograms of onions; however, they learned that the province has approved a budget of 25 million baht for no interest loans to help relieve the situation. The growers can show that the investment cost in growing onions is 4.60 baht per kilogram.

Provincial Public Health Office fires up anti-smoking laws

Shops selling to minors targeted

Jiraphat Warasin

Chiang Mai public health office pharmacist, Pison Sribundit said that they have discovered many shop owners are flouting the law by selling cigarettes to people under 18 years old, in contravention of the Tobacco Product Control Act of 1992.

Chiang Mai public health office pharmacist Pison Sribundit.

To demonstrate the ease by which cigarettes could be bought by minors, they sent a youth, dressed in a Boy Scout uniform, to attempt to purchase cigarettes at five retail outlets. This was monitored by the Phuping Police Station. The junior “undercover” officer was successful in purchasing cigarettes from four of the five outlets, and the Phuping Police were successful in charging the retailers with breaking the law.

The outlets included Tops supermarkets in the Central Airport Plaza, Q 8 gas station Mini-mart on Suthep Road, a grocery store in the front of the Kad Suan Kaew theatre, and the 7-11 on Huay Kaew Road. All were fined 2,000 baht each, and the employees given a suspended one month sentence.

Pison Sribundit added that this operation was part of a build up towards “No Smoking Zones” in public areas such as clinics, medical care centers, hospitals, institutions, universities, department stores and restaurants. Also, all retail outlets that sell cigarettes must be declared non-smoking in an effort to protect teenage health. After all, if youth gang violence and helmetless motorcycle riding doesn’t get them, then health officials don’t want cigarettes to, either.

He said his office would make a survey of all areas in April, with a repeat of the undercover smoking sleuths. Other steps include campaigns to educate retailers and ask them to display non-smoking stickers within their areas. Interested retailers can receive the stickers at the district public health offices in their areas at no charge.

Whilst the Chiangmai Mail applauds this public health promotion, taking police personnel away from stopping more serious demeanors is perhaps not the most efficient way to utilize the police force. Perhaps a look at teenage crime would benefit society more?

Sex Film Festival held in Chiang Mai

But the message was safe

Linda Ratchai and Autsadaporn Kamthai

The Teenpath project under the Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH) in cooperation with M-Plus group screened the Safe Sex Film Festival at the Major Cineplex, Central Airport Plaza.

M Plus and Teenpath members Patcharapong, Thanaphat, Hathairat, Theerapat, Pulin, Ausana, Nittaya and Saowanee spread the safe sex message at their festival.

Five short films from universities around the country were screened in the festival to encourage Thai people, especially teenagers, to discuss the sexual issue and promote sexual education to prevent the spread of HIV. Around 200 people aged between 15 and 25 years old attended the film festival.

The five short films were ‘Test Kit’ from Kanchit Sobchokchai, a TV commercial director; the ‘Story of Girls from the Education Faculty’ by Phra Chormklao Thonburi’s Technology and Communication Arts; Sukhothai University students’ film the ‘Wonder from Communication Arts’, Suan Sunantha Rajabhat Institute; ‘Question Mark’ from Mass Communication Faculty, Thammasart University and ‘Make Love Story’ from the Architecture Faculty, Thammasart University.

Hathairat Suda, a program assistant from PATH, said that these five films were selected from 17 films entered under the theme “Desire and Safety”. They provided opportunities for university students to produce their short films by granting 10,000 baht and arranging a one day workshop on short film production for each group.

Before being shown in Chiang Mai, the festival was also held in Bangkok and Chiang Rai, said Hathairat. It will also be held in another 17 provinces including Lampang, Phitsanulok and other provinces in the Northeast, Central, East and South.

32 million baht Buddha image being built in Chiang Saen

In honour of HM the Queen’s 6th cycle birthday

Samphan Changthong

Pramual Rujanaseri, deputy minister of interior, escorted by Narin Panichkij, Chiang Rai governor, traveled up-river to inspect the construction of the Four Nations Buddha image.

The construction of this Buddha image will be finished before HM the Queen’s August 12 birthday this year, and it would become a center of Buddhist respect.

This Four Nation Buddha image is to be called Phra Buddha Nava Lannatue and will be built on the Mekong River bank, in the area of Sob Ruak village in Tambon Wiang, Chiang Saen district, Chiang Rai. It had been estimated that the construction of this Buddha image would cost about 32 million baht.

Chiang Saen district is an attractive destination for tourists because of its location, enabling tourists to sail across to Burma and Laos, said Deputy Interior Minister Pramual.

After the inspection, deputy minister sailed up northwards along the Mekong River to pay homage to Phra Kruba Boonchum Yannasangwaro, abbot of Prathat Donruang temple inside Burma.

It was noticed that the Mekong River for a distance of 15 kilometers, starting at the Golden Triangle and continuing into the Burma and Laos border areas, is dried up because of hydro-electric power dams construction in south China.

After the construction of Chinese dams blocking the Mekong River is completed in two years time, the water level of the Mekong River will once again rise and the river should become an important sailing route for traveling and trading, just as it was before, said the deputy minister. We all hope so, otherwise it will be a trekking holiday to visit the Four Nations Buddha.

Quadrangle Project finds Mekong River a rocky road

Chinese FTA disadvantaging Thailand

Autsadaporn Kamthai and Linda Ratchai

The Committee for the Joint Economic Quadrangle Cooperation (JEQC) from the 10 northern provinces met in Chiang Mai on March 20 to discuss problems regarding the progress of the economic cooperation plan among the countries located along the Mekong River.

Committee chairman, Rachan Veeraphan said this was a part of their responsibility to push economic development, particularly in the upper North, under the Quadrangle’s ambitious plan. However, it became very apparent that there are still many obstacles. One principal problem being that the cargo ships cannot transfer Thai fruits exports northwards to south China, because the Mekong River is unsuitable for shipping at present.

“Because some newly built hydro-electric dams are underway in China, this has caused the Mekong River to dry up, resulting in water too shallow for river transportation,” he said.

Anant Laothammathat, vice- president of JEQC, added that China plans to build about another twenty hydroelectric power dams. “Currently only three of the planned dams have been constructed. If all twenty dams are built, they will cause the Mekong River to dry up and this will affect all other countries along the river, including South China, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia,” he said.

Therefore, the committee will ask the Thai government to negotiate with the Chinese authorities to stop constructing more dams to stop the negative impact on the Mekong River.

Another item discussed involved the FTA with China. This year’s tonnage of exported longan and lychee to China is down, while Thailand imported a great deal more Chinese fruits during winter. That puts Thailand at a disadvantage.

With river transportation being a problem, it was agreed that land transport from Thailand’s border to China, such as Nan province’s Huay Kron-Pakbeng in Laos route and another from Chiang Rai through Keng Tung to Lar, the Burmese and Chinese border town and then up to Sibsong Panna in China should be developed as an alternative for Thai fruit exports to China during dry season.

However, the Huay Kron-Pakbeng land route has not been constructed, although the Thai government approved the plan and provided an 800 million baht budget for road construction. Using this route, it would not take more than 10 hours to travel from Nan province to Chiang Rung or Jinghong in southern China.

It was suggested that the Keng Tung route through Burma would be another convenient way to transport fresh Thai fruits to China, because of the good condition of the asphalt road connecting to Sibsong Panna, China.

Philippine Ambassador visits Chiang Mai Immigration

Alastair Connon

The Philippine Ambassador, His Excellency Antonio V. Rodriguez, Vice Consul Frank Olea and members of the embassy staff visited the office of Chiang Mai Immigration Superintendent Pol. Col. Jinabhadra Tansrisakul.

Ambassador Antonio V. Rodriguez and his wife met with Chiang Mai Immigration Superintendent Pol. Col. Jinabhadra Tansrisakul.

After presenting his credentials to Suwat Tantipat, the CEO governor of Chiang Mai, the ambassador and entourage visited the immigration offices in Mahidol Road, along with Philippine residents of Chiang Mai, Lampoon and Lampang.

Ambassador Antonio V. Rodriguez, Pol. Col. Jinabhadra Tansrisakul and local Philippine residents.

The Philippine ambassador came to thank Chiang Mai immigration for the assistance they had offered Philippine nationals residing in the northern area of Thailand, and to discuss any problems that had been encountered. He also provided contact details of officers within the Philippines Embassy for immigration officials to quickly liaise with in the event of any future mutual enquiries concerning Philippine nationals.

Central Kad Suan Kaew launches road safety campaign

If everyone follows suit the carnage will be reduced

Saksit Meesubkwang

Central Department Stores, Kad Suan Kaew branch, launched their road safety campaign of turning on headlights and wearing a helmet, at the Kad Suan Kaew shopping centre.

Chiang Mai Deputy Governor Prinya Panthong demonstrates how to wear a helmet while riding a motorcycle.

Deputy Chiang Mai Governor Prinya Panthong attended and flagged off the motorcycle caravan along Huay Kaew Road.

This event was organized in support of the government policy on road safety and to make the department store’s staff more aware of the importance of road safety measures, to reduce the shocking road toll.

Central staff form a procession with headlights on and wearing helmets. Unfortunately, some of the helmets they are wearing would be ineffective in an accident.

The major cause of motorcyclist fatalities is no protection for the skull, and a move to promote the wearing of helmets is a step in the right direction. Now if the government will legislate for appropriate standards of the helmets to be sold and that helmets must be done up, this will then produce a significant reduction in road deaths.

IBO/UNESCO Cambodian Project

Phnom Penh benefits from local teachers

Davidene Hannah

The International Baccalaureate Organization in conjunction with UNESCO has developed a three-year program to promote active learning in Cambodian schools.

Putting together puzzles takes a lot of concentration.

Last year, two international schoolteachers gave a series of workshops for local Cambodian teachers to show ways in which children can be more actively involved in their classroom learning. This year, the second year of the project, three visiting teachers actually taught lessons, observed by local teachers.

Who would have thought that learning could be so much fun?

Sean Murphy, principal of the Junior School and Sara Shadravan, Early Childhood coordinator, both from Prem Tinsulanonda International School, Chiang Mai were chosen to participate in this part of the project.

“It was a wonderful experience to work with the teachers, students and teacher-trainers in Phnom Penh. They were enthusiastic and receptive to new teaching strategies,” commented Sean Murphy.

Together we become a rectangle.

Sara Shadravan added, “We felt really privileged to be involved in such an exciting project in a very real and practical way.”

Annie Auckland, an ex-teacher from Prem who has been heavily involved with the development of this program, was also very much involved with the teaching aspect of this section of the project. Annie taught demonstration lessons to students in Grades 4-6 while Sean and Sara delivered lessons to Grades 1-3.

The Cambodian teachers found these classroom lessons with their 40-50 students extremely helpful and have requested more. When the full project begins in September 2004, support from other International Baccalaureate Asia Pacific schools will be necessary to continue this work.

Samaritans Chiang Mai reveals high suicide rate in 2003

248 admitted to hospital, 55 attempts successful

Nopniwat Krailerg

Guide and advise is the way to stop suicide, especially for those who are sad and lonely - the people most at risk, said Assoc. Prof. Dr. Prieb Kuramarohit, assistant director of Samaritans Chiang Mai. The Samaritans Chiang Mai is a counseling service center for people who feel rejected and desperate.

Dr. Prieb also revealed that the suicide rate in Chiang Mai is far too high. In 2003, 248 suicidal patients were admitted to 21 community hospitals, and 55 of them were successful in taking their own life.

Men commit suicide more than women. The age group most at risk is 20-49 years old with most being students or workers who have emotional or life problems. Those who committed suicide included 35 married people, 14 singles and 6 divorcees.

“From research, we have found that suicidal people were disappointed, felt that they were at fault, quarreled with close family or suffered from chronic diseases like AIDS. Sadness and wanting to be alone were the first symptoms,” she said. Dr. Prieb suggested that at risk people need opportunities to let off steam and by cheering them up you can stop them committing suicide.

Samaritans Chiang Mai are organizing courses for volunteer counselors on April 3-4, from 8.30 a.m. - 4.30 p.m., at Far Eastern College, Chiang Mai. Contact 09-5127350, 01-5316330, 01-6716799 or Samaritans Chiang Mai (from 6-10 p.m. only on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays) or tel. 053-225977-8.