HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

City spruce-up to be completed in time for Cabinet visit

Illegal aliens being hunted

Chickenpox epidemic hits 20,000

Orange farmers meet to discuss lemons in their industry

Grassroots communities take pride in their forests

Unrest in Thailand’s south affecting the tourism trade

Mae Hong Son gearing up for future Myanmar trade

Request to go to cabinet to control hill tribes

Phrae governor trucks in water to stricken residents

Homes, orchards devastated by summer storm

Opposition gears up for censure motion before May 10

Death sentence passed on 50cc scooters

Over 1,000 dwellers rally to protest against over-eager forestry officers

Chiang Mai governor asks hoteliers to smarten their properties

Record companies pursuing copyright violations

Walking Street going in the wrong direction?

Phrae hopes old shells will become eco-tourism magnet

Randy 30-year-old catfish caught in Chiang Khong

Japanese language school opens in Chiang Mai

EU denies travel ban to Thailand

Artificial rain fails to make impact on parched land

Phrae lashed by successive storms

Public asked to come to the rescue as Thailand faces bleaker future for its senior citizens

Production of a million ya ba tablets thwarted

Two faculty of engineering students charged with theft

50,000 ya ba tablets seized

Orange farmer arrested for misappropriation of national park land

City spruce-up to be completed in time for Cabinet visit

Good thing, as it’s causing even more traffic jams than usual

Nopniwat Krailerg

The improvement to the streets along Chiang Mai’s outer city moat is expected to be completed before the mobile Cabinet meeting on May 15.

Chiang Mai governor Suwat Tantipat said that the road improvements were being carried out ahead of the mobile Cabinet meeting. The street surface has been removed, which has caused serious traffic jams. The streets become muddy, especially when it rains, and there is concern that the incomplete roadworks might give the province a poor image during the upcoming cabinet meeting in the city.

Representatives of Chiang Mai municipality reported that they have received additional funding, valued at 19,463,000 baht, from the government to improve the surface of both outer and inner streets around the city moats and 370 waste treatment wells.

During improvements to Maneenopparat Road, the municipality has liaised with traffic police officers to assist motorists using that section. It is anticipated that the improvements will be finished by May 15.

Illegal aliens being hunted

Jiraphat Warasin

An improvement in the economy and a greater demand for cheap labor are contributing to a large number of alien immigrants entering Thailand.

Lt Gen Prathompong Kesornsuk, the Royal Thai Army deputy chief of staff and his delegation board a helicopter to inspect the border area and routes used by illegal immigrants.

This assessment comes from Lt Gen Prathompong Kesornsuk, the deputy chief of staff of the Royal Thai Army. He said Chiang Mai province at present faces the problem of huge numbers of illegal immigrants, but military forces deploying along the borders, under the 3rd Army Region, have launched preventive measures against them.

Military intelligence is also conducting investigations into some of the manufacturers who employ alien workers, as they pay salaries lower than the minimum level for Thai workers. “These aliens tell their friends, relatives and neighbors to come to work in Thailand,” Lt Gen Prathompong said.

He added that the illegal immigrants used the same routes as smugglers, mostly entering Thailand in the North-West, such as Mae Hong Son, Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai and Mae Sot district, Tak province.

Lt Gen Prathompong, as the head of the Illegal Immigrant Workers Prevention and Control Board, visited Pha Muang Task Force to hear reports on the current situation. It was apparent that illegal alien workers were entering the country in border areas that coincided with areas of the minorities controlled by village chiefs and headmen.

After being briefed, the deputy chief of staff and his delegation continued by helicopter to examine the areas at Kiew Pha Wok border pass, Chiang Dao district, and the checkpoint at Doi Kiew Hung, Mae Ai District in Chiang Mai.

Chickenpox epidemic hits 20,000

The Ministry of Health has warned of a chickenpox epidemic sweeping across Thailand, with over 20,000 people now infected. Figures collected from public health offices across the country, disclosed by Permanent Secretary for Public Health Dr. Vallop Thainuea; show that 22,833 people have been infected with the virus since the beginning of the year, with the highest risk group being children aged 5-9 years.

The highest rate of infection is in the northern region, with an infection rate of 63 per 100,000, while in the southern region the infection rate is only 19 per 100,000. Dr. Vallop urged anyone infected with the virus to take around five days leave from work or school in order to help reduce the chances of contagion. (TNA)

Orange farmers meet to discuss lemons in their industry

Oranges told to become more competitive

The Thai orange is facing a serious threat with the invasion of its cheaper cousin from China. The danger is considered so life-threatening, a seminar was organized at Fang Chinuprathum School in Chiang Mai’s Fang district with 400 orange growers, agricultural academics, and farmers taking part. Anunt Dalodom, senator for Surat Thani province and the president of the Thailand Horticultural Association, presided.

The seminar looked at problems surrounding orange planting and marketing and to inspire orange farmers to improve their production and make their fruit more competitive.

Anunt said that, as a result of the Free Trade Area agreement with China, many Chinese fruits are being imported into Thailand - and at cheaper prices. This affects the sale of Thai oranges because consumers have naturally turned to buying the cheaper Chinese oranges.

The seminar included talks on the development of orange planting and marketing. Participants were faced with the question of what kind of expansion the orange orchards faced.

Also discussed was the subject of the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperative (BAAC) and its loans to orange farmers.

The seminar also encouraged orange farmers to establish associations or unions to help them develop their plantations and make their oranges more competitive.

Free Trade agreements always tend to favour one side or another, and the local oranges are finding they are turning into lemons.

Grassroots communities take pride in their forests

“Forest Pride Festival” from May 14-16

The Chiang Mai Art Museum will hold a “Forest Pride Festival” from May 14-16 to mark the efforts and activities of people at the grassroots level, the villagers throughout Thailand who have been working to protect, regenerate and manage their forests.

The festival will reflect their intentions in managing their forests with pride or “with flowers in their hearts”.

These people have been using and managing their forest areas in a responsible and sustainable way and conserving them for the future of their own livelihoods, nation and global community of their own free will.

Community Forest Networks from all nine northern provinces, with support from related networks in the northeast, south, east and west of the country have taken the initiative to hold this festival. Around 30 other groups - including community-based organizations, NGO’s and government agencies are helping to support and organize it.

On the first day, three study trips will be done in the morning, taking a small number of people to visit communities in Lamphun, Nan and Chiang Rai to discuss many topical issues. Those interested in joining this group should phone 053 810 623-4. Numbers are limited.

At the museum, a series of exhibitions related to community forestry and forest products will be on display from 4 p.m. Local musicians and an award winning Thai youth chamber music ensemble will perform in the early morning. A video narrated in Thai language will introduce the issues raised during the festival and will be screened on May 14 and 15 at 8 p.m.

On May 15, the seminar entitled “Spiritual world of grassroots people” will be held. Villagers from various ethnic groups around the North will speak on forest ordination ceremonies, paying respect to the forest, fire and water resource spirits, taboos around forest springs and other spiritual ceremonies.

Academics from around the country will discuss “Local energy and change in Thai resource management” in the afternoon, followed by musicians, poetry reading and performances from each province.

On the final day, a thousand people are expected to walk in procession to the foot of Doi Suthep. Christian, Buddhist and traditional ceremonies will be observed at venues along the way. People will pay respect to the Kruba Sriwichai statue. A smaller group will move up to the Wat Prathat Doi Suthep to pay respect and take part in a Hmong spiritual ceremony in a nearby village.

A Cabinet minister has been invited to take part in the ceremony and receive a statement from local grassroots people on their willingness and intention to manage the forest.

Unrest in Thailand’s south affecting the tourism trade

A statement issued last week by the Pattani United Liberation Organization (PULO) warning foreigners to stay away from Thailand’s southern provinces, has thrown the country’s tourism industry into disarray.

A Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) spokesman told TTG Daily News its overseas offices had been flooded with enquiries from anxious travelers wanting to know whether it was safe to visit Thailand.

“We are trying to work out a response. All we can do is to try to make it clear the threat is in the far south of the country, more than a thousand kilometers from Bangkok,” said the spokesman.

Thai Hotels Association (THA) vice president, Prakit Chinamourphong, said violence in the south had devastated holiday bookings even before the tragic events when 107 people, mostly Muslims, were killed.

“But this PULO threat has considerably worsened the outlook because it is not confined to Yala, Pathani, Narathiwat and Songkla; it is also threatening neighboring provinces. We have to take the threat seriously. These people are angry,” he said.

Meanwhile, the US, the UK, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, France, Australia, Canada and numerous other countries have posted advisories warning their nationals against non-essential travel to Thailand’s south.

The US advisory said, “We recommend against all non-essential travel to these four provinces - Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and Songkla.” Further updates to include Phuket and other southern were expected.

The managing director of one of Thailand’s leading inbound tour firms, requesting anonymity said, “Thailand is the cornerstone of tourism to Asia. If the security situation deteriorates here the ramifications will be serious for the whole region.” (TTG Asia)

Mae Hong Son gearing up for future Myanmar trade

Delegation visiting Myanmar to forge business links

Mae Hong Son is upgrading its border facilities and efficiency to meet the growing business relations with its northern neighbors in Myanmar (Burma).

To this end, the Office of Mae Hong Son Education, Zone 1, has planned training courses this month to improve the quality and efficiency of the border personnel. Attention will be paid to learning more about the living conditions of the people of Myanmar, to more effectively develop border business and trade, as well as initiate investment projects.

A Mae Hong Son delegation left for an official visit to Myanmar this week. Governor Suphot said the visit to Mandalay and Taunggy provinces had been planned with the cooperation of the Thai embassy and the Ministry of Commerce’s business and trade department.

The delegation consists of members from public and private sectors, including representatives of the Chiang Mai Chamber of Commerce, Tourism Business Association, and heads of local government offices in the province.

The governor added that they would invite their counterparts in Mandalay and Taunggy to visit Thailand.

Border gates to link with Taunggy would be opened at the border village of Ban Huay Pueng, Tambon Huay Pha, in Mae Hong Son’s Muang district, where the market place would also be set up. The Burmese authorities are said to support the initiative.

Both sides have also pledged to further cooperate in the suppression and prevention of smuggling of goods and products from Myanmar. The border checkpoint will be manned by government troops, immigration officers and custom officers. A “One-Stop Service Center” will be placed at Ban Rong Haeng to cater for border trade.

Request to go to cabinet to control hill tribes

Allocate land to stop the destruction of forests

Navarat Srikaewlert

Worawit Chuasuwan, director of the 6th Nakhon Sawan National Park Conservation Areas Administration Office is suggesting the Cabinet be asked to take a new look at its policies on keeping hill tribes in order and to allocate land to tribesmen so they will stop destroying the forests.

Last week Worawit led a team of more than 100 forestry officials, forestry police and Mae Sariang Forest Conservation and Control Division officials, who inspected conservation areas in the national park. They found illegally paved land and over 100 rai of forest areas had been slashed and burned.

During the inspection, the officials arrested a 30 year old refugee, known only as Pabu, whom they found hiding in a shed. Pabu admitted that he had sneaked out from the temporary hilltribe refugee camp at Ban Mae Surin, Khun Yuam District to work. He said he earned 80 baht a day for slashing and burning the forest. He was later transferred under police arrest to face prosecution. It was not made apparent who was paying Pabu 80 baht a day, or who might have paved the land.

On how to solve the deforestation problem, Worawit said that in the long run it would be proposed to the Cabinet that it revise its May 11, 1999 resolution to arrange the mountain communities in orderliness and to allocate land to the tribesmen.

He felt this would help suppress the recurrent and never-ending deforestation problem. “At present, the slash and burn type of deforestation has destroyed the natural resources, ecological system and water sources, resulting in more damage than those of the usual deforestation a hundredfold,” he said.

At this time it is not known what action, if any, will be taken against the businessmen and authorities that profit from the deforestation.

Phrae governor trucks in water to stricken residents

Mae Son weir almost dry

Almost no water is flowing from the Mae Son weir, fed by the Yom River in Song district because of the ongoing drought. This is posing a serious threat to Phrae and Sukhothai, Phitsanulok, Phichit and Nakhon Sawan provinces as the Yom River flows through all of them.

On April 26 the water level in the only large weir on the river was so low that only a little water was running through its gates. Unless the area gets plentiful rains soon, the water supply from this source will stop.

The water levels at Kaeng Sua Ten dam in the Yom National Park and in the river itself are also worryingly low. Kaeng Sua Ten is a popular tourist spot, but it has not seen many holidaymakers this year because of the drought. Some visitors said they were dissatisfied because the water level was so low that they could not enjoy swimming in the river.

Phrae Governor Somsak Boonplueng has assigned each district to dispatch water-trucks to supply water to residents in the drought-stricken areas.

The Water Resources Department has also arranged a seminar on the planning of the administration of water resources in the Yom River basin to find ways to address the situation. The seminar proposed that more weirs and dams should be built on the smaller rivers branching out from the Yom River. Phrae province has already begun a project to act on this proposal.

Homes, orchards devastated by summer storm

A summer storm damaged 400 houses of villagers in Tambon Huay Lan, Dok Kham Tai district and Tambon Huay Kaew, Phu Karm Yao sub-district in Phayao province.

The storm on April 22 tore off the roofs of the houses.

Longan and lychee orchards over a 200-rai area were also affected. Damage is estimated at 3 million baht. The local leader has been assessing the damage.

This summer storm is the first major disaster to hit the area of Tambon Huay Lan in 30 years.

The government is trying to provide basic assistance to villagers affected by the disaster.

Opposition gears up for censure motion before May 10

The government is left with a matter of weeks to cobble together a defense after the Opposition announced that it would table a censure motion by May 10, while hinting that it could request the impeachment of several government ministers.

Revealing for the first time the possible date of the long-awaited censure motion, Democrat leader Banyat Banthathan said that the Opposition was now preparing information on which to grill the government. If the motion is tabled by May 10, the debate is likely to take place around May24-25, although the exact date and the length of the debate depends on the government and the Speaker. Although Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has mocked the Opposition by calling for a 10-day debate, the Democrat Party has said that around five days should suffice.

Banyat also hinted that the Opposition could try to impeach a number of other ministers in addition to Education Minister Adisai Bodharamik, accused of violating the Constitution, against whom an impeachment motion has already been lodged.

But he allayed fears that the Opposition could drag the prime minister’s daughter into the debate on the alleged leaking of university entrance examination papers, saying, “I can’t yet confirm whether or not we will speak about the leaked questions and the entrance examination, but we will not talk about children’s issues.”

Even before the censure debate, Banyat began laying into the government, questioning the fact it had not made any declaration of its performance over the past year, as stipulated by the Constitution. He also accused Thaksin of failing to keep his pledge to engage in public issues rather than enter politics simply for the purpose of political victory. (TNA)

Death sentence passed on 50cc scooters

51-year-old Customs act being finally enforced!

Jiraphat Warasin

If you own a 50cc scooter, you might have just become a criminal, according to a 51-year-old Customs statute. You are liable to a fine of four times the value of the two wheeled device, and perhaps even five years in jail to repent the error of your ways.

In a heavily clandestine operation, doughty reporters from the Chiangmai Mail managed to capture a photo of this, one of the delinquent scooters that are on sale to the public. Beware! It is against the law to ride one.

To escape the long arm of the law, you may have to dump it. Most of the scooters are considered to be illegal and the provincial police bureau has ordered a crackdown on them, effective since the beginning of April. This is in belated response to the announcement issued by the Ministry of Commerce in 1998 that the scooters or their components are prohibited as imports into the country.

According to the police commander of Chiang Mai Provincial Police Division, the Provincial Police Bureau, Region 5, “Anyone who owns or has any scooter with a capacity of not more than 50cc will be charged,” Pol Lt Gen Kasem Rattanasoonthorn added.

He told Chiangmai Mail that there is a large number of people who ride scooters with wheels under 10 inches in diameter in public. Parts for these scooters were illegally smuggled into the country to be assembled in Thailand. He said, “Therefore, they are all illegal product under the Customs Act 1953, Article 27, which says that anyone who owns or has such a scooter would be fined four times the price of scooters, or face imprisonment of not more that five years or both.”

However, the good news for the scandalous scooter owners is that those scooters registered before March 29, 1994 had been exempted, ten years of age being the age of scooter majority. “But owners will have to show the traffic police the official document to prove the registration date.”

Meanwhile, Pol Cap Pichet Rungraksa, a Chiang Mai traffic policeman, confirmed they had launched the crackdown on the city roads for the illegal scooters. “If we find any roaming the streets, we could charge them immediately,” he said. The Chiangmai Mail applauds this decision. Roaming scooters under ten years of age should be sent home immediately to stay with their parents.

Over 1,000 dwellers rally to protest against over-eager forestry officers

Allowed to continue farming for personal use, for now

Saksit Meesubkwang

About 500 families in Mae Hong Son’s Sop Moei district have carried out a street demonstration to protest against forestry officers who had confiscated their harvesting land and arrested and threatened their relatives.

The protesters demanded that the officers release all arrested dwellers and let them carry on their lives and farming as usual.

Finally, after the officers and dwellers came to an agreement, the protesters dispersed.

Sop Moei district chief officer Phitsanu Senawin said in an interview with Chiangmai Mail that the protest arose from the disagreement between forestry officers and the dwellers and “a mistake” by forestry officers.

Phitsanu added that before they arrested the villagers who allegedly had been guilty of deforestation, the officers should have informed the village headmen and responsible persons. He hoped that such a protest would not happen in his area of jurisdiction again.

In reality, the dwellers farm primarily to earn a living and they are “not involved with any capitalists,” said the district chief officer.

Phitsanu said that after the protest ended, he negotiated with both sides. The forestry officer also ceased their arrest because they realized the area was a rice paddy. Thus, if the officers asked them to halt harvesting their crops, they would refuse. The officers, then, allowed them to continue growing their crops for the time being. They would find other measures to solve the problem next year.

The Mae Hong Son governor ordered officials to examine the area to check the number of farming families in the district. They were to report back by May 4.

Chiang Mai governor asks hoteliers to smarten their properties

Part of Visit Chiang Mai 2006 project

Plans to build an international conference center, open about 10 top class hotels, and run a night zoo are some of the attractions to help promote the “Visit Chiang Mai Year” project for 2006. The upcoming World Horticulture Exhibition will also help attract tourists worldwide to the city.

Governor Suwat Tantipat mentioned these points at a recent meeting with tourism operators, whose help he has enlisted to develop Chiang Mai as the aviation centre of the north.

He was following up on a call last month by Vichet Kasemthongsri, deputy minister of transport and communications, that the province fulfill the criteria necessary to become the aviation hub. The governor said the Thai Hotels Association’s northern chapter had the capacity to become involved in this.

He asked hoteliers to spruce up the landscape in front of their hotels and fly national flags as part of the scheme to beautify Chiang Mai City.

Tantipat added that a “mobile Cabinet meeting” would take in Chiang Mai on May 17-18.

Record companies pursuing copyright violations

Now it’s the Chiang Rai Music Police

Music companies have enlisted police assistance to inspect almost 100 entertainment outlets, including karaoke bars and restaurants in Chiang Rai, to check for pirated CDs which violate copyright laws.

Ten establishments have been found to have violated music companies’ intellectual property. The owners of these establishments will now face the music.

One of them asked why the entertainment companies were acting as if the entertainment outlets were drug dealers or perpetrators of serious crimes. They wanted the companies to be gentler with them because even though they had broken the law, their actions were not as serious as other crimes.

Pol Lt Col Susan Kulkanith of Chiang Rai’s Muang District police station said that the law breakers would be sentenced by the court. The usual fine would be at least 20,000 baht. The pirated CDs would be confiscated as evidence.

She warned other owners of entertainment places and karaoke bars that they should buy the rights to intellectual property. “Typically, once people buy the copyright from the companies, they can use the products all life long,” she said. For example, any shop owner can buy intellectual property from R S Promotion Co at around 13,000 baht. Grammy sell their intellectual property at 7,000 baht. However, if shop or bar owners wanted to use the music companies’ intellectual property for commercial purposes, they would have to pay 400 baht a month.

Walking Street going in the wrong direction?

Vendors selling space instead of souvenirs

Nopniwat Krailerg

The “Sunday Walking Street” is to be revamped to return it towards supporting Lanna goods. This was the main thrust of a meeting chaired by Chiang Mai Governor Suwat Tantipat, which was also attended by Pornchai Jitnawasatian, the Chiang Mai Municipality’s mayoral secretary.

The governor said the Walking Street project had been organized to promote tourism and jobs in the community. Nevertheless, some of these objectives had been forgotten and the project had developed in the wrong direction. Consequently, he called on all traders to assist the province by making the street more attractive and interesting for tourists.

Pornchai asked the traders not to sell products which are not Lanna handicraft and artwork - such as plastic toys from China, factory made goods, and spaghetti straps and shirts. (Home made spaghetti may be OK.)

The committee organising the Sunday Walking Street admitted that it had received numerous complaints. These included bribes being paid to municipal police officers and unfairness of space distribution for trading stalls. The most serious complaint was that sellers who had been allocated space on-sold it to other traders. The municipality does not charge sellers space rentals, but they are supposed to inform it weekly that they are continuing to trade there.

An ID card system for the traders will be introduced to make it easier for officials to keep a check and sellers will no longer have to report to the municipality every week.

Pornchai said misdemeanours could be reported to him on 01-6813444. “The charm of the Walking Street is fading, so sellers should restore it by using Lanna art and culture as the selling point,” he said.

Phrae hopes old shells will become eco-tourism magnet

Fossils discovered are over 200 million years old

Chatchai Puangkachorn

Shell fossils dating back more than 200 million years have been found in the teak garden opposite the Erawan cave at Ban Kang Luang in Phrae’s Long district.

Pornsawat Wattagul, a lecturer in the geology department of Kasetsart University (Bangkhen), and Aphichart Lamjuan, a freelance researcher and formerly a geologist at the mineral resource department have confirmed the age of the fossils.

This means that the region was once the seabed, said the two experts.

The province has declared the area protected and have informed visitors this is another historic and geological spot of importance.

Phrae Governor Somsak Boonplueng said the province would include the area in its promotions of local tourist attractions. The province has allowed lecturers from Kasetsart University to develop the site and provide information to instruct visitors about its significance.

Phrae has promoted eco-tourism in Ban Kang Luang in the Long district for some time, with Erawan cave as its most prominent tourist attraction. There are many other activities provided for tourists, including boating, canoes and mountain biking.

It is believed that the discovery of fossils in the Erawan cave area will become a further magnet to attract more tourists.

Randy 30-year-old catfish caught in Chiang Khong

First catfish caught in two years

Samphan Changthong

Pla buek (giant catfish) hunters from Chiang Rai have caught three specimens in the Mekong River, the largest weighing a whopping 220 kilograms. The other two weighed in at 180kg and 170kg each. Pla buek is the largest fresh water fish in the world and is found only in the Mekong River.

The fishermen were from Ban Had Krai in Chiang Rai’s Chiang Khong district, and were so thrilled with their catfish catches that a press conference was called, attracting Chiang Rai Governor Narin Panichkij, Chiang Mai MP from Thai Rak Thai party Buasorn Prachamorn, and Chiang Khong district chief officer Nipon Jangjan.

Poom Boonnak, chairman of the Pla Buek Club of Ban Had Krai reported that two groups of fish hunters led by Sumnuek Suwanta and Pitak Seangpetch hunted down the pla bueks. Pla buek hunting is a tradition in the Had Krai village.

The pla bueks did not give up without a struggle, tearing nets apart with their teeth. The crews, however, were very delighted with the catch because they had come home fishless for the last two years.

The crew ironically suggested that everybody should help conserve the pla bueks by keeping seaweed, on which they feed, in the Mekong River. This would make sure they had enough conserved pla bueks to take home, in other words, help keep them alive so that we can kill them.

Taweesak Charnprasertporn, head of Chiang Rai Fishery Office, said the pla bueks were gigantic and almost 30 years old. “The pla bueks are in the reproductive period and try to swim northwards to breed. After the last hard rains, the fresh water may have stimulated their reproduction,” he said.

The Fishery Office has removed their sperm to try artificial insemination. This may take some of the fun out of being a giant catfish, but may ensure that there are some for the villagers to catch.

Japanese language school opens in Chiang Mai

Konichiwa - not Sayonara!

Saksit Meesubkwang

Chiang Mai has a new Japanese language school. Saowalak Shimada, managing director of Kokusho Education Co invited Chiang Mai Deputy Governor Prinya Panthong and Katsuhiro Shinohara, Japanese consul-general in Chiang Mai, to preside over the opening ceremony of the school. More than 200 guests and Japanese businessmen who have been doing business in Thailand also attended.

(From left) Rachan Veeraphan; Japanese consul-general in Chiang Mai Katsuhiro Shinohara; Chiang Mai Deputy Governor Prinya Panthong; and Saowalak Shimada, managing director of Kokusho Education Co Ltd at the opening.

The language school is on the 5th floor of the Chiang Mai Siripanitch Building in Tambon Suthep, Muang district.

The deputy governor congratulated Saowalak and his partners. “It is fortunate for Chiang Mai residents that there are businessmen concerned about the importance of Japanese, as this is in accordance with the government’s policy of promoting Chiang Mai as the center of the Upper North and an aviation hub in the future.”

“Therefore, it is advantageous if Thai youth and citizens are capable of speaking and writing Japanese. Thailand and Japan have had good relations for a long time and many Japanese businessmen are investing in Chiang Mai and the neighboring provinces,” he said.

EU denies travel ban to Thailand

On April 29 the European Union (EU) dismissed fears that it had issued a warning against EU citizens traveling to Thailand, but admitted that a number of individual EU member states had advised their nationals to avoid traveling to the country’s southern border region unless it is strictly necessary.

In a meeting that was supposed to be focused on the expansion of the EU on May 1, EU representative Klauspeter Schmallenbach found himself hounded by journalists wishing to know whether or not rumors of an EU-wide travel ban were true. Denying the reports, however, Klauspeter said that travel warnings were at the discretion of individual member states.

However, Dutch Ambassador, Gerard JHC Kramer, conceded that a number of EU member states, including the Netherlands, had warned their nationals against traveling to the southern region unless it is strictly necessary. Nonetheless, he stressed that the Dutch ban applied only to the three southern border provinces of Yala, Narathiwat, and Pattani, and not to Thailand as a whole.

Meanwhile, Australia has also warned their nationals to avoid traveling to Thailand’s southern border region and Malaysia’s coastal areas. The warning was seen in the Australian Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministries’ websites, saying that Australian people should avoid traveling to Thailand’s four southern border provinces of Yala, Narathiwat, Pattani, and Songkhla, which are the focus of this year’s spate of violence and unrest.

The on-line warning also said that Australian nationals should also exercise caution when traveling to Thailand’s southern Satun Province and areas along the Thai-Malaysian border. A number of Australian tourists visit Thailand’s southern resort islands of Phuket and Samui in Surat Thani Province every year.

The warning said that Australian people should also be more careful when visiting Malaysia’s coastal areas and the Sabah State, where they are at risk of being targets of kidnapping and criminal gangs, as well as separatists from the Philippines’ southern region. (TNA)

Artificial rain fails to make impact on parched land

Farmers hoping desperately for artificial rain to solve weeks of drought received a disappointing message today; humidity levels in some parts of the country are so low that artificial rain-making equipment will simply not cause any rain to fall.

Announcing drought relief measures this week during his weekly radio address to the nation, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said that the Cabinet had approved an initial 4 billion baht to battle this year’s severe drought conditions. Nonetheless, he conceded that in a number of places the absence of humidity meant that artificial rain would not be a solution to the problem.

Thailand is suffering from one of its worst droughts on record this year, with several parts of the country facing severe water shortages. (TNA)

Phrae lashed by successive storms

Many families left without roofs

A second thunderstorm has lashed Phrae over two days, wrecking the rooftop of Phra Thart Chorhae temple hall, damaging the Provincial Community Economic Center as well as de-roofing houses of over 100 families.

The first thunderstorm had destroyed more than 300 homes in many districts on the previous day.

At Phra Thart Chorhae Temple in Tambon Chorhae, several pieces of roof tile were blown away, with showers drenching the interior. The abbot, Phra Kru Wimolkittisoonthorn, ordered the hall entrance closed for fear that the roof could collapse and worshippers injured.

Located on the opposite side from the temple’s front gate, the Provincial Community Economic Center (where Phrae’s OTOP ‘One Tambon One Product’ wares are displayed and sold), part of the steelwork of its rooftop collapsed and smashed into many houses located downwind.

Kasorn Plalas, mayor of Tambon Chorhae, asked municipal members to help storeowners take out the undamaged goods, as they were afraid the entire roof could collapse.

It was also reported that a windstorm wrecked official buildings and houses in Tambon Wiang Ta, Long District, while in Tambon Wiang Thong, Sung Men District, dozens of families were left homeless.

Damage from the first day’s thunderstorm was still being assessed by the provincial authorities when the second struck one struck at almost the same time 24 hours later.

Public asked to come to the rescue as Thailand faces bleaker future for its senior citizens

Elderly population expected to double in next 20 years

The percentage of elderly people in Thailand is expected to double in the next 20 years. Death from old age will rise from 400,000 to 700,000 a year. And every fourth elderly person will face chronic diseases and have weakened health.

These statistics were presented by Deputy Minister of Public Health Sirikorn Maneerin.

The deputy minister was speaking at this year’s Rod Num Dam Hua ceremony for the elderly on National Elderly Day held on April 30 at Chiang Mai University’s Convention Hall.

Elderly people from the province’s 22 districts and two sub-districts marked the day in a parade from in front of the university’s Art Museum to its Convention Hall.

During the ceremony, Sirikorn said senior citizens constituted 10 percent of the population at present, but the percentage was increasing.

“In the next 20 years, the number of old people is expected to double to about 13.7 million, while the figure of newborn babies will decline because more and more couples are tending not to have babies and more and more women are inclined to remain single,” Sirikorn said.

“Meanwhile, the figure of death at old age will rise from 400,000 to 700,000 a year and one out of four older people will face chronic disease and have weakened health.

“Therefore, the government will have to encourage people to stay healthy before reaching old age.

“As a first step, every tambon should promote the establishment of clubs for the elderly as centers to take care of their physical and mental health,” Sirikorn said.

The Public Health Ministry wants at least 50 percent of the senior citizens in Thailand to become members of such clubs that should offer activities for them every month.

The deputy minister also encouraged networks working for elderly people in Chiang Mai to be the country’s leaders in arranging activities for them and collaborating with the Provincial Public Health Office.

Production of a million ya ba tablets thwarted

Police confiscate 2 kg methamphetamines

Surapong Matmontri

Phrae provincial police have arrested two alleged drug dealers with enough ingredients to produce nearly a million ya ba tablets.

Anurak Yano, 33, a resident of Chantaburi province’s Tamai district, and Samarn Rodjaroen from Bor Rai district in Trat province were arrested in Loei province in the northeast region, on May 1, while attempting to smuggle over two kilograms of ingredients to make the tablets.

The suspects were arrested after a tip-off to a police operation headed by Pol Col Sutheera Punnabutra, deputy commander of Phrae Provincial Police Division. Police were informed that the dealers would pass by on the Chiang Rai-Phayao-Ngao-Song route. Officers and a special operation unit were stationed at the Nang Fah checkpoint in Phrae’s Song district to search every suspicious car passing through.

Eventually they discovered the drug dealers’ vehicle with over two kilograms of the methamphetamine precursor for producing ya ba.

The two men arrested confessed that they bought the substance from hill tribes living in Phu Chee Fah in Chiang Rai’s Toeng district and the substance would have been used to produce about a million pills. They now have time to think on the million reasons why this was not a smart move.

Two faculty of engineering students charged with theft

Caught with large booty of stolen goods

Saksit Meesubkwang

A Chiang Mai University engineering student and a recent CMU faculty of education graduate have been charged with theft after they allegedly pried open motorcycle seats and entered university dormitories and government offices.

The two suspects, Surachai Waisupa and Pichitpong Lampaopatong, are students at CMU’s faculty of engineering.

The suspects are Surachai Waisupa, 24, from Saraphi district, and Pichitpong Lampaopatong, 25, from San Kamphaeng district.

The evidence seized includes 30 mobile phones, five Sony and Panasonic video cameras, an ATM card, a Colt 11mm pistol, five rounds of ammunition, a Honda motorcycle and four sets of car stereos.

ID cards, ATM cards, driving licenses and other official document as well as other valuables such as mobile phones and computers, and a handgun were stolen.

While police questioned the two, many victims went to the police station to reclaim some of the stolen items.

Pol Cap Jarun Kampar, investigation officer of Phu Ping police station, said that many victims had notified the police about the thefts. An investigating team was therefore set up. Police found that the thieves usually wandered around the targeted places, observing the goings on. When they found nobody around, they would pry open the cushioned seats of motorcycles to steal belongings which were kept in them.

Some of the stolen items were sold for money to be spent at nightclubs, while the thieves kept others for their personal use.

The two students allegedly confessed that they stole other belongings as well for almost a year.

Pol Col Prachuab Wongsuk, superintendent of Phu Ping police station, said that initially the two were charged with theft and illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition. Victims should go to the police station to check whether their stolen possessions are among the items police seized, so they could be reclaimed.

50,000 ya ba tablets seized

Claimed for personal use - a large habit!

Police have seized opium and almost 50,000 ya ba pills from a Lahu tribesman.

The 60-year-old accused man, Japeu Yajiw, living at Ban Pahran, Moo 3, Huay Chompoo in Chiang Rai’s Muang District, was allegedly caught red-handed with the huge amount of amphetamine tablets.

The arresting police also confiscated 190 grams of opium buried in the ground within his dwelling area. The accused apparently has confessed that the drugs had come from a foreign agent and that he had been keeping them for personal use and to sell when friends dropped by. Police weren’t impressed, for if he was to consume the total amount he was caught with, he would need to consume half a gram of opium every ten days and 14 ya ba tablets every day for the next ten years. More likely, he has lots of “friends”.

Pol Capt. Somporn Chaibarn of Mae Yarng police station in the Muang District admitted that the landscape of Tambon Mae Yao was mountainous and said, “Anyone can easily walk into and out of Myanmar.” For this reason of easy access, the area is favoured for drug transportation and as a temporary stopover for drug dealers, who are difficult to catch. However, cooperation from everybody would result in more efficient raids on dealers and confiscation of drugs.

Orange farmer arrested for misappropriation of national park land

Implicated state officials have been warned

Nopniwat Krailerg

An orange orchard owner has been charged with invading a national park to set up a 700 rai orange plantation.

Pol Maj Gen Sawek Pinsinchai, commander of the Forestry Police Bureau, accompanied by more than 200 national park officials and Border Patrol Police on April 29 raided the Thanathorn Orange Orchard 2 in Tambon Monpin in Chiang Mai’s Fang district.

The police had earlier been informed that the conservation area had been taken over as an orange plantation. The owner, Banthoon Jirawatthanakul, was also alleged to have built an illegal dam, using water from Mae Maw reservoir for his personal use, affecting other farmers and residents living nearby. It was also claimed that he employed 122 alien workers on the plantation.

Police arrested Banthoon and initially charged him with invading the forest and national park areas, offering shelter to aliens, and interfering with a natural water source.

Pol Maj Gen Sawek said they had conducted the raid with such a large contingent because the tip-off had come from a trustworthy source. He said, “This was the first arrest of investors overrunning the national parks and conservation areas in Fang, Mae Ai and Chai Prakarn districts. The arrest had been carried out “under orders of his superior, without compromise”.

“If any officials are found during our raids to be conspiring with those investors, a report will be sent to Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra for further penalties,” the commander warned.