HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

War on poverty results in war on TRT

Deadly air pollution being addressed

Panthip Plaza, Chiang Mai branch opening this month

Mae Sai’s Friendship Bridge opens April 30

Rabies vaccination program pushed in Chiang Mai

IPC joins the cotton pickers

‘Khu Gamm’, the musical, at the Kad Theatre April 2-4

Musical artists to help keep a child alive

Lamphun’s town planning focusing on industrial estate expansion

Happy Birthday HRH Princess Ubolratana

Which way is Chiang Mai going?

Chiang Mai will be promoted as the health hub

Doi Luang cable car receives 5 million baht feasibility budget

No bonus for burnt Benz

Occupational therapy for Chiang Mai Central Prison inmates

Nan province counteracting women and children victims of human trafficking

Mae Hong Son experiencing severe forest fires

Chiang Mai policeman changes sides

Drug suppression hauls turn up at auction

War on poverty results in war on TRT

Farmers stage rallies over disbanding committee

Saksit Meesubkwang

On March 26, two thousand protesting members of the Federation of Northern Farmers and Northern People Organization Networks with 70 pickup trucks and tour buses from Chiang Rai province traveled to Chiang Mai City Hall to show their solidarity.

Pickup trucks loaded with protesters from Chiang Rai arrive to join the Chiang Mai protesters. They complain that the government has done an about face on PM Thaksin’s promise to solve poverty problems.

Weera Promsorn, leader of the Federation and the Network, said the government has disbanded the committee appointed to administer the eight methods of attacking poverty, thereby doing an about face on PM Thaksin’s promise to solve poverty problems.

The Federation now demands the government solve agriculture problems, such as deforestation, unproductive land, water management, low prices of crops, debt management, and local whisky production, all of which have been affected by government projects.

At two previous meetings with the protestors, PM Thaksin Shinawatra and concerned ministers pledged that solutions would be forthcoming as soon as possible.

The rally leader said that, following the government’s pledge, Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, deputy prime minister, was appointed chairman of a committee to follow up the war on poverty, but then sent a proposal to PM Thaksin to withdraw the appointment of the committee and change the direction of the war on poverty.

For a long time now, the Federation and Network has had faith in and supported the Thai Rak Thai Party, and PM Thaksin Shinawatra, as he was from the North; however, now they feel the government’s actions have deceived them and betrayed their trust.

The protesters presented a new proposal to PM Thaksin through Kritsadaporn Siampakdee, Chiang Mai Provincial Authority’s permanent secretary who pledged that he would send the proposal to the PM.

It is time for the PM to acknowledge he has problems in the North as well as in the South.

Deadly air pollution being addressed

Many causes, but not so many answers

Jiraphat Warasin

With the worsening situation in Chiang Mai as regards air pollution, the Social Research Institute (SRI) at Chiang Mai University supported by the Pollution Control Department and Thai Research Funds (TRF) organized a second meeting with public participation regarding atmospheric pollution in Chiang Mai.

Dr. Duongchan Apavatjrut Charoenmuang, from the SRI, Chiang Mai University, expressed her concerns over the air pollution, saying that this situation has caused the highest incidence of respiratory diseases and lung cancer in the country. Pollution is now at critical levels in the city environment.

The Chiang Mai monks also participated in the meeting and will no longer burn garbage within the temple grounds. They said they hope that their example would be followed by the other religious denominations in Chiang Mai.

Tambon Suthep Administration Organization (TAO) is getting involved since the burning process is often discovered in its areas of responsibility. The measures combating this problem include obtaining information on ways to produce fertilizer from garbage. The TAO would purchase the garbage disposal units.

Asst. Prof. Dr. Senee Kanchanawong from the Faculty of Engineering, CMU said that most tambon municipalities take charge of garbage management in their areas, but some of their methods are substandard.

Manop Kulsiri, an educational supervisor at the Regional Office for Education Area 4, stated one problem is caused by farmers cutting branches off their longan trees and then burning them. They do not appear to realize they can make bio-fertilizer from all organic waste.

Panthip Plaza, Chiang Mai branch opening this month

Local companies vying for outlets

Jiraphat Warasin

The Chiang Mai branch of the renowned Panthip Plaza in Bangkok is due to open soon, construction having been going to plan since November last year.

Panthip Plaza buildings are under construction, and should be open for business this month.

Wisanu Wangvisut, general manager and a board member of the IT City committee has leased the area on Changklan and Sridonchai roads for the construction of the shopping center.

More than 200 outlets, such as Data IT, Mega Universe, A&L, Chi Chang, IT City have reserved positions in the plaza.

Sumalee Lukuan, marketing manager for Chi Chang Computer said they believe the 10 years experience of the Panthip executives would make the new center in Chiang Mai very successful.

Sudaporn Paenkumyat of Campus Computers in Chiang Mai added that her reasons to locate in the new center related to the positive results from its center in Bangkok.

Mae Sai’s Friendship Bridge opens April 30

Thai and Burmese PM’s to be first across

Samphan Changthong

The second Thai-Burma Friendship Bridge will be opened on April 30. The bridge crosses the Sai River in Mae Sai district, Chiang Rai. Thailand has paid for construction of a temporary customs house and landscaping of both riverbanks.

Sriprom Hormyok, Chiang Rai deputy governor, said the opening would coincide with a meeting of the Thai and Burmese economic ministers on April 29 and 30 at Keng Tung or Chiang Tung town inside Burma.

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and Burma’s Prime Minister General Khin Nynt will jointly preside over the opening ceremony.

Burmese authorities have asked Chiang Rai province to allow Burmese tourists to use border passes, valid for seven days, just as Thai nationals do when entering Keng Tung, Chiang Tung and Lar in Burma.

Chiang Rai province will cooperate with Thai government offices to inspect and prevent trafficking in drugs and illegal goods in the border areas. They do not want this new bridge to become a conduit for the drug trade from Burma.

Rabies vaccination program pushed in Chiang Mai

Everybody except the dogs in agreement

Nopniwat Krailerg and
Autsadaporn Kamthai

Following reports of dog attacks, Chiang Mai people have become very wary of the roaming packs of dogs in the city. This is worthwhile, as rabies is still an important, fatal disease carried by the canines.

Theera Anunworapanya, head of the Livestock Development Office, vaccinates a dog.

Vet Somporn Pornwisetsirikul, head of the Animal Health Development Group, Chiang Mai Provincial Livestock Office, said that domestic animals, such as the maligned St Bernard and Dalmatian dogs, were not fierce, but they do need to be properly trained. Similarly with Rottweilers, they are good guard dogs, but can be taught not to bite. He said that the recent attacks may have come about through poor obedience training for the domestic dogs.

He said it is important to attempt to neuter stray dogs and street dogs, as otherwise their numbers become too great. They are also a significant factor in the spread of rabies. Vet Somporn said that people should be very wary of dogs that are foaming at the mouth, as they may have rabies.

The Provincial Livestock Office and Tambon Chang Puek Municipality are carrying out a rabies vaccination campaign, which began on March 15 and which will continue until April 30, to reduce the risks to humans.

On March 25 at Chiang Mai Municipal Stadium, Chiang Mai Deputy Governor Kwanchai Wongnitikorn, accompanied by Decha Kuwuttayakorn, director of Chiang Mai Municipality’s Public Health and Environment Office and Chang Puek municipal councilors presided over the opening ceremonies for the vaccination program. On the opening day, 11 citizens brought in their dogs and cats to be vaccinated against rabies.

For further information on the vaccination service, contact the Provincial Livestock Office, Muang district, Chai Prakan district and Chormthong district, Livestock Operation Center and every Tambon Administration Organization.

IPC joins the cotton pickers

Weaving, plaiting and dyeing exhibition

Nopniwat Krailerg and Autsadaporn Kamthai

Wanchai Ratchadamart, Industrial Promotion Center (IPC) director, said the IPC in collaboration with TV Channel 11 and the Tourism Authority of Thailand, Northern Office would organize the “6th Cotton Weaving, Plaiting and Dyeing exhibition” April 2-6. It will be held from 9.30 a.m. - 8.30 p.m. at IPC on Tung Hotel Road, Chiang Mai.

OTOP products from eight upper north provinces will be on sale from 360 booths. Other products available include cotton clothes, silk, Sa paper products, souvenirs, vegetable fiber wickerwork, jewelry, leather, herbal products and foods, wooden products and earthenware.

There will be training courses on production of dyed fabrics, Batik cloth, and fashionable bags from hemp. Each training course will be six hours, with application fees under B. 200.

Wanchai said that IPC recognizes the significance of cottons and the cotton weavers groups, so they want to push cotton products in the market. The IPC policy in support of OTOP and cotton weavers follows government policy asking for support of 50,000 SME entrepreneurs this year.

‘Khu Gamm’, the musical, at the Kad Theatre April 2-4

Linda Ratchai

Kad Suan Kaew is repeating the very popular musical love story, last performed in their theatre in February. Hailed as the best play seen in the last 10 years, Pol. Lt. Suchai Kengkarnkha, managing director of Kad Suan Kaew said he was proud to bring it back for another short season.

The production team and performers are the same, with Teeranai na Nongkhai, as Angsumalin, Seki Ozeki, the Japanese model and actor as Kobori, plus performers such as Vorarit Fueng-arom, Chalit Fueng-arom, Tanee Poonsuwan, Ranya Siyanon, Neeranuch Pattamasut, Yanee Tramot and Direk Amattayakul.

‘Khu Gamm’ is directed by Suwandee Jakraworawut and is a classic love story between Kobori and Angsumalin. Kobori was a Japanese soldier who was in Thailand during World War II who fell in love with Angsumalin, the only daughter of Luang Chala Sinturat. Angsumalin was already engaged to another Thai man but for political reasons, she was obliged to marry Kobori, the man who she hates most. With his goodness towards her and her family, her hatred is replaced by love but before she discloses her feeling, tragedy tears them apart.

‘Khu Gamm’ runs through Sunday, April 4. Tickets are 350, 650, 800 and 1,000 baht available at the PR Counter, G floor, call 053 - 224444 ext 19911, 19015.

Musical artists to help keep a child alive

Charity concert brings hope to AIDS children

Linda Ratchai

Thai Youth Action Programs (TYAP) recently participated in the “One World Beat Global Music Festival”. In 40 countries across the world, in more than 150 venues, artists raised the awareness of HIV/AIDS to support children and families affected by the disease.

TYAP organized their concert at the Monkey Club, to raise funds for the “Keep a Child Alive” and the PHA Network.

The concert started with a warm welcome for everyone from Oven Elias, TYAP fund raising and communication assistant and Sasithorn Kamrid, who is working for the Community Theater Project and Human Trafficking Control Center in Mae Aie, Chiang Mai.

Independent actress Siwaporn Dangtong performed ‘The Mask of Truth’ and said that she feels a great pity for HIV affected children, and everyone should help and encourage them to go on and try to live as happily as they can.

Rangson Rasi-dip, Season Awards artist 2002, expressed his feeling through music, one of his items including the words, “Like line of raindrops falling on desert, precious love we give each other” backed up with Isara Dawkaew on keyboards, whose ‘Tam Kan Long’ album will go on sale on April 12. They were followed by Scott Jones, a US artist who performed some of his beautiful Thai songs on keyboard. Tanachai Ujchin played the ‘Modern Dog’ and western songs.

At the finale, the profits were donated to Tawee Yodruen, of the committee of People Living with HIV/AIDS Network Chiang Mai, by Mrs. Pattamon Kiatrungwilaikun, owner of Monkey Club and Kaewta Sangsuk, a TYAP staff.

To donate money for the Fund for Children Affected by AIDS, this can be done through Thai Farmers Bank saving account no. 245-2-54386-1, Charoenmuang Branch, Chiang Mai.

Lamphun’s town planning focusing on industrial estate expansion

Saksit Meesubkwang

Prayoon Wongpanitch, Lamphun’s deputy governor, last week chaired a workshop on planning for Lamphun province. About 100 district chief officers, heads of government offices and local administration organizations in Lamphun attended the workshop, which was organized by the Lamphun Provincial Public Works and the Urban Planning Office, and held at the Empress Hotel in Chiang Mai.

Lamphun Deputy Governor Prayoon Wongpanitch said, “The province realizes city problems have increased and will hold discussions with factory owners in the estate to find solutions.”

Deputy Governor Prayoon said that due to the present economic growth, many urban residential areas have been built contrary to city planning and regulations.

Previous city planning has resulted in some positive outcomes, but simultaneously has caused negative affects to the city as a whole. Commercial buildings in Lamphun have produced ghettoes, city streets became narrowed and electricity and water supplies have become inadequate for residential use.

Prayoon mentioned the zoning of Lamphun’s industrial estate. In the past, the estate was not a residential area, but after many factories had been built in the area, many workers moved to live around the estate. Finally, it became a massive community that causes many problems to the city, such as pollution and traffic jams.

“The province realizes city problems have increased and will hold discussions with factory owners in the estate to find solutions,” said Prayoon.

Happy Birthday HRH Princess Ubolratana

Her Royal Highness Princess Ubolratana was born on April 5, 1951, in Lausanne Switzerland. She is the eldest daughter of HM the King and Queen. Chiangmai Mail humbly joins the Kingdom of Thailand in wishing Her Royal Highness Princess Ubolratana a most happy birthday on April 5.

Which way is Chiang Mai going?

Up in smoke says Urban Development Institute

Nopniwat Krailerg

A seminar on Chiang Mai’s many challenges attracted more than 150 academics, students and local residents on March 20. They gathered ideas to solve problems ranging from air pollution and traffic congestion to new problems they asserted were arising from government mega projects.

Students express concerns over worsening pollution.

Yongyuth Sapsin, representing a working group studying air pollution at the Social Research Institute of Chiang Mai University, said air quality in Chiang Mai City is worsening. According to the Pollution Control Department study, atmospheric dust levels around Yupparaj Wittayalai School on March 11 exceeded a standard limit and this continued for several days.

“The levels involved could harm people, leading to reduced life expectancy. Inhaled dust cannot be expelled but attaches to the windpipe and lungs,” he said.

Records for 2003 showed that more than 700,000 patients suffered from respiratory diseases in Chiang Mai province. Of these, 32 percent contracted lung cancer - the second highest level in Thailand after Lampang province.

Other causes of air pollution include smoke from burning garbage, to forest fires and vehicle exhaust fumes.

Students from Prince’s Royal College and Chiang Mai’s Future Club expressed concerns over worsening environmental problems from industrial factories, hotels, households and markets along the Ping River and Mae Kha Canal. The students claimed residents failed to treat wastewater before releasing it into the river.

Other problems include dust from road construction, failures in garbage management, and non-observance of traffic rules. They accused government officials of being unwilling to take action against excess smoke emissions from vehicles.

Chiang Mai will be promoted as the health hub

Will bring in 5 billion baht says government

Komol Chobchuenchom, deputy secretary-general of the National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB), says that the government has planned to push Thailand as health capital of Asia, and is appointing Chiang Mai as a health center in the North.

NESDB is focusing on three main groups of health services including spa, dental treatment and herbal products. It is estimated the government would spend around 174 million baht to push Chiang Mai as the health care center, and this will take about five years to accomplish, starting from this year. It is estimated that these three health-related businesses will generate incomes of at least 5 billion baht.

The 174 million baht budget to be approved by the Cabinet will support laboratory experiments, product examination and product analysis. This Northern Region Health Center will be established at the Nursing Faculty, Chiang Mai University. The Spa for Health Academic Institute will be at the Pharmacy Faculty, Chiang Mai University and these centers are expected to commence within this year.

Doi Luang cable car receives 5 million baht feasibility budget

Another PM Thaksin grand plan

Saksit Meesubkwang

On March 22, Plodprasob Surasawasdee, permanent secretary of the natural resources and environment ministry, chaired a conference on the progress of the cable car system to Doi Luang in Chiang Dao district.

Plodprasob stated that the cable car concept to Doi Luang came from PM Thaksin Shinawatra after he flew over the area and returned to terra firma with the idea that this area should be developed. The PM assigned Plodprasob to oversee this development. A study team was formed to examine the project’s environmental impact on communities, environment, society, traditions and culture in the area.

Participants at this meeting included Sophon Damnui, director of Zoological Park Organization of Thailand; Maj Gen Kraisiri Booranasiri, directorate of Engineering; Nikom Putta, chairman of Ping River Watershed and Resources in the Upper North Networks; Udom Methadamrongsiri, representative from Tourism Authority of Thailand, and academics from Chiang Mai University and Maejo University and associated organizations.

A 5 million baht budget has been set aside for the project’s feasibility study. 3 million baht is earmarked for foreign academics to design the cable car system, while 2 million baht is for Chiang Mai and Maejo University researchers to promote good understanding about the project in the local community.

Nikom Putta said that he did not know much about the cable car project and did not properly understand. Personally, he was worried about the establishment of a cable car in the area since it was his hometown and the government officials did not provide enough information about it.

Nikom also suggested that the government should study the impact of each project before starting them, build understanding with local communities and allow the communities to take part in considering the impact upon the community.

No bonus for burnt Benz

Nopniwat Krailerg

A man who claims his aging Mercedes Benz spontaneously combusted has had his claims for compensation rejected by Mercedes importer and assembler DaimlerChrysler.

Jaruwat Techawut, 30, claimed his car, which had been imported from another country, began belching smoke while he was driving with two friends to Chiang Rai. Jaruwat, who is managing director of Suksawas Mai Ad Thai (Plywood), says he is lodging a complaint with the Office of Consumer Protection.

The fire damaged old Mercedes Benz.

After about 50 km he smelled burning. When it became severe he stopped at Mae Khacharn Hot Spring where fire erupted and spread widely.

Jaruwat, his friends and local villagers failed to extinguish the blaze. According to Jarawut, the old car finally exploded.

He notified the Tambon Mae Chedi police station and contacted a local company to inspect the car and send all relevant information to DaimlerChrysler in Bangkok.

A week later, the company and its Chiang Mai and Bangkok dealerships rejected any claims for responsibility but Jaruwat was offered 100,000 baht discount on a new Mercedes Benz.

Jaruwat denied that the car which he had used for nearly eight years had been modified.

Occupational therapy for Chiang Mai Central Prison inmates

Wing 41 takes them under its wing

Saksit Meesubkwang

150 ‘trusties’ - inmates of Chiang Mai Central Prison, will be going to the Wiwat Pholamuang School in a military camp of Wing 41, for a five months long course to cultivate their occupational skills and mental qualities to prepare them for being sent back into society.

Kritsadaporn Siampakdee visits the inmates at the central prison. With him is Siriwat Sairattana-in (right).

On March 23, Kritsadaporn Siampakdee, Chiang Mai Provincial Authority permanent secretary, presided over the handing over ceremony of this year’s first group of 150 well behaved inmates.

Siriwat Sairattana-in, commissioner of Chiang Mai Provincial Central Prison handed over his charges to Group Captain Naen Sritajit, deputy commander of Royal Thai Air Force’s Wing 41 at the ceremony held at the prison.

Most of the prisoners had been found guilty of drug trafficking - but now are well behaved and intend to work for society.

Siriwat said that in the Region 5 area, there are 19,140 inmates, and 631 inmates in this region were sent to attend training courses in 7 military camps.

At the same time, at the Women’s Correctional Institute, Kwanchai Wongntikorn, Chiang Mai’s deputy governor, was present for the handing over ceremony of 189 female inmates to Wiwat Pholamuang School at the 5th Special Force Regiment in Mae Rim district, Chiang Mai.

Nan province counteracting women and children victims of human trafficking

Adisak Parnthong

Help is available for children and women who are the victims of the flesh trade in Nan. Pimol Saengsawang, head of Nan Provincial Social Development and Welfare Office, said that trafficking children and women has become a widespread problem internationally.

The nine provinces in the upper North (Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Mae Hong Son, Phrae, Nan, Phayao, Lamphun, Lampang and Tak) all have children and women in the flesh trade. Some provinces are gateways for alien children and women who enter Thailand to work as prostitutes or to use Thailand as a passageway to enter a third country.

International organizations have signed an agreement of cooperation on children and women in flesh trade. Nan province has established an operation center to assist these victims, and take disciplinary actions on illegal brothels and traffickers. The center will rehabilitate children and women before they return to society, prevent and work on strategies and activities to cope with the human problem.

They are appealing to the public, that if they find children and women being lured into the flesh trade, forcibly detained, raped or forced to be beggars, to please inform Nan Provincial Social Development and Welfare Office at 054 710 220 or at any district offices and police stations in the Nan province.

Mae Hong Son experiencing severe forest fires

Saluay Niramai

Last week, bush fires spread into two residential areas in Mae Hong Son’s Muang district.

Katanyoo Chaichuen, Head of Irrigation Distribution Division, said that one of the forest fires started on the southern area behind Ban Mon Talang Forest Office and stretched into irrigation office’s area, leaving two houses razed to the ground. Officers from the Irrigation Office, Forest Office and four fire engines spent an hour unsuccessfully trying to extinguish the blaze.

At the second fire at Ban Tung Kongmu village, the blaze took five hours before burning itself out, causing damage to a 15 rai area.

To try to avert total immolation, the Mae Hong Son provincial authorities have run a Forest Fire Prevention campaign in honor of Her Majesty the Queen to celebrate her 72nd anniversary.

Supoj Laowansiri, Mae Hong Son governor, stated that the forest fires were getting more and more severe in this northern province, with negative impacts to the environment, economy, society and health of the residents.

Chiang Mai policeman changes sides

Thought himself above the law, instead of upholding the law

Nopniwat Krailerg

Pol Sergeant Manit Wilairat, 32, has been charged with multiple robberies after a long and detailed police investigation. The accused was a patrolling police officer who used his position to dupe the unsuspecting public. He was finally arrested after 50 city robberies had gone ‘unsolved’.

Pol. Sergeant Manit, the accused policeman

The investigation team came from Muang Chiang Mai Police Station who arrested their brother policeman after a raid produced more than 200 stolen items. Pol Sergeant Manit confessed that he had committed the crimes from October 2003 while on patrol.

Greed seemed to be the factor that brought the robber policeman undone, after more than 50 complaints of vehicles being broken into in the Chiangmai Land Housing Estate at night.

With no movements on the case, Pol Maj Gen Kasem Rattanasunthorn, the commander of Chiang Mai Provincial Police Division, directed Pol Col Taweechai Prateep U-sanont, the superintendent of Muang Chiang Mai Police Station to investigate.

More police were brought in, with the investigation team led by Pol Lt Col Narich Sorndith, spending over a month to observe the area. Witnesses began to indicate that a black Mitsubishi Strada truck was seen at the crime locations. Believing that they were on the trail, they followed the truck lead and found that it was owned by Ms Tassanee Jareonkunwiwat, who admitted that her boyfriend often used the vehicle.

By now, hot on the chase, the police located the boyfriend’s house and with a search warrant they completed their raid. The policemen were shocked to find that it belonged to Pol Sergeant Manit Wilairat, 32, who was the night patrol policeman from Phuping Police Station.

Inspection of the vehicle produced many stolen wallets and personal belongings. In the house, the investigating officers also found wallets, cameras, ATM cards, car keys, US dollars and Korean won banknotes, two 9mm guns and one 11mm gun, sixty-two 9mm bullets and twelve 11mm bullets.

Despite the evidence, Pol Sergeant Manit denied his guilt, even though 10 victims identified him as the thief. Further charges are pending as robberies committed in other areas such as Tambon Chang Puek and San Sai district are being investigated.

Pol Sergeant Manit has been suspended from his duties while the case comes to trial.

Drug suppression hauls turn up at auction

Transactions transparent say NNCO

Sakasit Meesubkwang

The Northern Narcotic Control Office (NNCO) has sold confiscated goods and properties worth 64.7 million baht from its northern region drug suppression operation.

The goods have been sold at 33 auctions since 2000. Confiscated properties sold include cars, motorcycles, rice paddies, cows, pigs, buffaloes, buildings, incubators, chemical fertilizer, pesticide, tea trees, stereos and car accessories and spares.

The most recent hauls were 2.33 million baht of jewelry, diamonds, gold, and precious stones made into ornamental items and small Buddha images plus items of processed woods.

NNCO Director Pithaya Jinawat asserted that each auction was conducted immediately, “Without any payola from any capitalists.” Officers working under the control of the Narcotics Control Office are excluded from the auctions.