HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Fire razes warehouse in Hang Dong

Flash floods are here again

‘Big fish’ among those caught appropriating land in national park

Regulation ahead for spa and health

New water pipes to supply sufficient water to zoo

Task force to protect the forests counts its successes

Drought prompts calls for artificial rain in rainy season

Chiang Mai temples urged to improve their surroundings

Police tear down illegally erected shops

Motorists, motorcyclists rush to beat price hike deadline

Has drought problem been solved for Chiang Mai?

Northern economy shows positive growth for first quarter

Motorists getting really pumped up as Chiang Mai gets to serve itself

International drug video-conference calls for plea bargaining

Ban Chiang Mai Home for Boys receives approval

A new bus terminal for Chiang Rai

Chiang Mai-Lamphun road link almost finished

Anonymous Clinic reports an increasing numbers of clients

Drugs officials warn of narcotics amassed at the border

Thais stranded in US complain to Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Fast baht from football

Ride-by robber arrested

Drug production continues despite suppression

Fire razes warehouse in Hang Dong

3 million baht damage caused by oxy-welder

Nopniwat Krailerg

The United Arts Company warehouse was consumed by conflagration on May 8, according to the Hang Dong police, led by Pol Lt. Col Thanapol Noisuwan, who liased with the fire fighting units at the scene.

Sparks from oxy-acetylene welding caused a major fire at the United Arts Company warehouse.

The blaze had a huge hold on the handicraft factory’s warehouse. Eight water trucks from Hang Dong district office, nearby Tambon Administration Organization, Chiang Mai Provincial Administration Organization and Chiang Mai Municipality were sent to fight the fire.

The blaze spread very quickly because of the flammable materials and goods in the warehouse. Firefighters were also afraid the blaze would spread to the adjacent warehouse. The employees assisted by transferring remaining products out of the burning building. In the end, it took around 30 minutes to put out the fire.

United Arts Company is apparently owned by Piyawart Buacheen, the daughter of Dr Thawil Buacheen, a well known business person in Chiang Mai.

On the day of the fire, a mechanic was called to repair the warehouse’s roller door. The mechanic had been doing oxy-acetylene welding and sparks flew onto a pile of paper boxes resulting in the blaze. Police took in the mechanic, Mongkol Junwan, for questioning. It is estimated that the fire has caused 3 million baht loss to the company.

Flash floods are here again

Regional Irrigation Office has plans - but will they work?

Phitsanu Thepthong

With the heavy downpours and flashfloods in Chiang Mai City last week, many residents in the flooded areas have lodged complaints, asking why it happens like this every year.

The flash floods occurred mostly on Huay Kaew Road and Suthep Road, and resulted from the overflow from the Klong Chollaprathan canals (irrigation canal system) starting from Tambon Suthep in the north to Tambon Mae Hia in the south of the city.

One official said, on the condition that his name not be disclosed, that the flashfloods were caused by the irrigation canal system that was built to attempt to move flood waters southward to the agricultural land in the area of Tambon Padaed, Muang district and Tambon Mae Hia, Hang Dong district in the southern part of Chiang Mai.

Many streams or creeks crossing the irrigation canal system, such as Huay Mai, Huay Kaew and Huay Changkien, are supposed to flow through pipes beneath the canal system but this does not work.

City development has also continued, with builders supplying insufficient drainage to allow water to get to the Ping River course.

The office has a plan to build dams at a cost of 262 million baht, which has been sent for approval to Suwit Khunkitti, the minister of natural resources and environment. Three of these are proposed for the foot of Doi Suthep Mountain, and near Mae Taeng district.

‘Big fish’ among those caught appropriating land in national park

And they’re not Pla Bueks!

People described as “influential” and “in uniform” have been revealed among those guilty of trespassing in the Doi Suthep-Pui National Park.

Thanawat Yodjai, chairman of the Mae Hia Tambon Administration Organization in Chiang Mai’s Muang district, admitted that committee members appointed to investigate trespassing, are “feeling heavy hearted” because “uniformed, influential persons” are involved in trespass.

He was speaking at a meeting of the working sub-committee investigating the illegal invasion of the national park. The meeting was called after the announcement of the names of 176 persons who had to clarify their right to possess land in the park before the May 4 deadline.

The next step would be to send the sub-committee to inspect the land in question, accompanied by their owners. Following this, the results of their inspection would be summarised and a report sent to the provincial committee and the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plants.

Those persons found guilty of breaking the law would be prosecuted and hopefully found guilty.

Thanawat, one of the investigating committee members admitted, “I feel heavy hearted about the inspection, as more than 50 percent of the total 176 people named includes uniformed, influential persons.”

Regulation ahead for spa and health

Chiang Mai to be the Health Hub

The law to control spa and massage service industries will be applied by July this year, as health and spa industries are still being backed as main businesses for Chiang Mai, said Dr. Paisarn Tanyawinichkul, the deputy provincial chief medical officer of Chiang Mai.

He stated that Chiang Mai Provincial Public Health Office is raising the standard of the spa and massage industry in the province and wants to encourage every spa to register with the Public Health Office.

The laws on spas and the massage industry in the country are going to be applied to control the national standards. Thai spa and massage industry standards would then be universal, said Dr Paisarn.

There are three main categories in the health industry in Chiang Mai, being medical and dental treatment, spa, massage and herbal products, declared Dr. Paisarn.

There are 10 hospitals that have high potential for providing good medical services and dental treatment. The office has plans to promote Chiang Mai’s medical and dental treatment, along with Chiang Mai’s tourism, in their road show to add value to its tourism. “It is estimated that medical treatments will provide the province with hundreds of millions of baht as revenue,” he added.

At present, Chiang Mai province has 30-40 spa outlets and on average each one earns about 30,000 baht a day, bringing in an estimated 300 million baht per year from this industry, said Dr. Paisarn.

There are around 100 massage service shops with 1,000 masseurs and masseuses in Chiang Mai. The massage industry earns the province approximately 500-600 million baht annually.

Regarding the herbal products, universities in the North have assisted by doing research on herbal goods to upgrade and improve the products.

“In the previous year, the province gained about 2 billion baht from the health industry and this year’s earnings are targeted at 2.5 billion baht.”

Now if they can also fix the air pollution problem we should all live healthily and happily forever.

New water pipes to supply sufficient water to zoo

Worries about drought affecting drinking water for animals

Nopniwat Krailerg

Thammasak Tiansawas, director of the Regional Water Works Office, Zone 9 in Chiang Mai, revealed that he has plans to lay new water supply systems to Chiang Mai Zoo.

It will be an integrated solution for the problem of insufficient water supply for the animals’ needs occurring during the dry season. Levels actually fell so low in the reservoirs that the zoo had to truck in 2,000 baht of water each day.

At present, he said, the provincial Water Works Office normally provides water supply and service to the zoo, but reticulation problems within the zoo area compound the lack of water.

10 million baht will now be spent within the zoo confines to alleviate this, as the zoo requires 400 cubic meters per day, he added.

He said that the Water Works would lay a new water pipe system starting from Ratchamangkala Institute of Technology and direct it into Chiang Mai Zoo, which he is confident would make sure the supply is sufficient.

Task force to protect the forests counts its successes

Lots of wooden faces in court

Nopniwat Krailerg

A total of 278 people have been arrested in connection with deforestation in the north during April alone, with 52 already having been charged.

Wiriya Chuaybamrung, chief of the Chiang Mai Provincial Forestry Office and head of public relations for the Northern Special Task Force, announced these details last week.

The task force to work in the northern provinces was established on the orders of PM Thaksin Shinawatra, after H.M. the Queen visited Chiang Mai’s Omkoi district.

Wiriya said the minister of natural resources and environment, Suwit Khunkitti had appointed him as its commander, while Wichai Laemwichai, deputy director-general of natural parks, wildlife and plants has been promoted to its director and Pol Maj Gen Sawek Pinsinchai, commander of forestry police bureau has been named as deputy director.

There are two mission bases, one at Ban Mae Soon, Fang district in Chiang Mai and at Mae La Noi district in Mae Hong Son. The areas of the current mission are then divided into the Upper North and the Lower North.

Wiriya said the Upper North provinces of Phrae and Nan had seen the highest percentage of illegal teak deforestation during April. In the areas under the 13th Conserved National Park Control and Management Office, the second ranked province was Lampang, with Chiang Mai and Lamphun ranked equally in third place.

Suspects were arrested in connection with deforestation of over 8,000 rai in the forest area of Mae Hong Son and at Mae La Noi Juncture, while at Mae Soon Juncture in Fang district, suspected deforesters of over 1,000 rai have been captured.

Drought prompts calls for artificial rain in rainy season

The extent of Thailand’s drought crisis was brought home on May 9 when the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives conceded that it might have to extend its artificial rain program to cover the upcoming rainy season in order to ensure sufficient rain for the nation’s farmers.

Amphon Kittiamphon, permanent secretary for agriculture and cooperatives, said that the ministry had asked the Royal Irrigation Department to work with the Bureau of Royal Rainmaking and Agricultural Aviation to come up with a plan.

It is hoped that the project will help ensure sufficient rain during next year’s hot season by boosting water levels in reservoirs across the country. The project, which will give the Royal Irrigation Department an accurate picture of available water resources, would both help relieve drought and assist in the drafting of future water management plans. (TNA)

Chiang Mai temples urged to improve their surroundings

Nine temples indicated by deputy governor

Chiang Mai’s deputy governor has urged nine temples in Chiang Mai to do something about their appearance. The call was in line with the overall scheme to upgrade and beautify Chiang Mai.

Among the wats inspected by deputy governor Prinya Panthong and his working team are Wat Suan Dok and Wat Jed Yod. They are among the nine temples urged to carry out restoration by landscaping and expanding green areas, in keeping up with the “Green and Clean” and “Beautiful Chiang Mai City” themes.

Wat Jed Yod is an important temple, where the 8th World Revision of the Buddhist Tri-Pitaka Scripture took place and which has a magnificent Stupa.

The nine temples which the deputy governor feels need refinement and landscaping are Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Chiang Yuen, Wat Buppharam, Wat Suan Dok, Wat Chai Sripoom, Wat Chai Mongkol, Wat Jed Yod, Wat Nantharam and Wat Ram Poeng Tapotaram.

“Apart from being an important religious site, temples are also places of wisdom and an important tourist visiting site, contributing to the distinction of Chiang Mai,” he said.

The project to restore the temples is expected to start by the beginning of next month.

Police tear down illegally erected shops

Vendors say they were only trying to earn an honest living

Autsadaporn Kamthai

Municipal police have begun to demolish 34 food stalls and shops located along the sides of Nong Hor Reservoir behind the King Rama IV Lanna Public Park in Chiang Mai. The action against the vendors, who mainly sell local foods and beverages, began on May 6.

The usual number of customers that used to go there to eat.

Two day earlier, Chatri Churahmanocharn, deputy mayor for public works, warned them to demolish their stalls and shops and move out as they were trespassing on public area. The warning followed an order by Chiang Mai Governor Suwat Tantipat to the municipality to evict all 34 stalls and shops from the area because of complaints from parents that these had become a hangout for their children during school hours and for teenagers at night.

Officers demolish the illegal food stalls and shops.

The municipality issued its first warning to the vendors in September last year. The vendors, however, negotiated a stay on their removal until they found an alternative place to ply their trade. The municipality therefore allowed them a period of grace to remain until last month.

Anussara Butratip, 36, one of the vendors affected, said that they accepted that they had invaded a public area. However, they wanted the officials to find them a new place to go because they would have no income if they moved out without an alternative. The vendors could earn about 3,000 baht a month and almost 1,000 baht a day during special festival times, revealed Anussara.

“We want to move to Huai Mae Yuak, in Tambon Mae Yuak, Muang district to run our businesses. This is the only source of income many of us have. Many of the vendors are uneducated,” said Anussara.

They have already contacted the property owner for permission to set up their stalls in the Huai Mae Yuak area, but do not yet know whether they will be allowed to do so because of concerns that their stalls will destroy the surroundings and atmosphere at the Huai Mae Yuak.

In response to the complaint about their shops being a hangout for teenagers, another vendor insisted that they had helped the province by not allowing students at their stalls during school hours and had put up signs prohibiting youths aged below 18 from loitering there. However, he accepted that it was difficult to control and stop teenagers from doing so.

Decha Pooplub, from the municipality, said that after all the vendors move out, the municipality plans to landscape the area along the Nong Hor Reservoir to use it as a public park.

Motorists, motorcyclists rush to beat price hike deadline

There’s no fuel like an old fuel!

Kaweeporn Wachirarangsiman

Cars and motorcycles flocked into petrol stations in Chiang Mai City on May 6 after news spread that the government had approved a forthcoming petrol price hike of 60 satang a liter.

“The peak was around 3 p.m. today,” said Nikom, a petrol pump attendant at a service station on the Chiang Mai-Hang Dong Road. However, the rush continued well into the night.

A petrol attendant on Suan Dokh Road fills up the tank of a motorbike. Three cars in the background also wait to fill up before the increase in the price of petrol came into effect.

Although it was announced that only the price of 95 octane petrol would increase, many apprehensive 91 octane and diesel users turned up at service stations as well, so that supplies of the 91 octane fuel quickly ran out.

Motorcyclist Kam Machaiya, 65, said, “The government’s going to raise the oil price, so I came to have my motorcycle filled up.” When asked how he had heard about this news, he replied with a smile, “It’s been said,” before riding off with a tank full of ‘cheap’ fuel.

Another petrol station near Chiang Mai Psychiatric Hospital was also busier than usual with motor vehicle drivers and motorcyclists. The petrol attendants said they were even “too busy” to be interviewed. Many customers also seemed to be in a hurry, wanting to make sure they had filled up their vehicles before the midnight deadline for the old prices.

The government has agreed to the increase in the retail price of petrol to relieve the burden on the Energy Fund Administration Institute (EFAI) which has had to subsidize fuel, keeping it at 16.99 baht per liter of petrol (actual cost 19.79 baht) and 16.19 baht per liter of diesel (actual cost 16.48 baht). EFAI spent 7.5 billion baht on fuel subsidies in 116 days, and 140 million baht daily in the past few days alone.

Analysts reveal that the world oil price increased after an oil facility in Saudi Arabia, located at the industrial port of Yanbu in the Red Sea, was attacked by gunmen who killed five personnel of the ABB European Engineering Group and a member of the Saudi Arabia National Guard. Another factor was the interruption in oil supplies as a result of the increasing conflict between Iraqi fighters and U.S. armed forces.

Has drought problem been solved for Chiang Mai?

Throw money at it seems to be the official response

Nopniwat Krailerg

Chumporn Intathep, head of the Chiang Mai Public Disaster Prevention and Relief Operations Office, stated that during this year from January to April, the office recorded that 21 Chiang Mai districts had become drought stricken and only the three districts of Muang, Saraphi and Chiang Dao were not classified.

90 tambons and 454 villages had suffered the drought situation.

With 135,704 people left short of water for consumption, the office, with cooperation from local administration organizations such as the municipality, Tambon Administration Organizations and district offices, supplied over 10,686,000 liters of water to those in need.

This year, Chiang Mai has a budget, to be allocated under the authority of Chiang Mai Governor Suwat Tantipat, of 50 million baht. Each district would be distributed 1 million baht to help relieve the drought situation.

Six districts including Doi Saket, Hot, Mae Ai, Om Koi, Fang and Mae On sub-district have been drawing on their budget and Doi Saket has already used their allocation and requested 800,000 baht more.

Chumporn concluded by saying this province has already spent 4,679,392 baht to help relieve the drought. In future, Chiang Mai will have to find extra water resources to respond to the growth of the city.

Northern economy shows positive growth for first quarter

No SARS this year, but avian flu took its toll

Staff Reporters

The economy in the north has recorded positive growth up until March, the Bank of Thailand (Northern Region) reports.

The production of the industrial sector expanded to meet the demands of the international markets, while the service sector also grew, as it was not affected by the impact of SARS, unlike last year.

However farmers’ income was reduced because of a drop in the price of agricultural crops, Bank of Thailand (BoT) officials said.

The consumption of chicken meat and eggs slowly picked up but remained erratic in line with the fluctuating news about the avian flu.

The consumption spending index looked good, but the general consumer goods price index recorded a high increase. The percentage of bank deposits among commercial banks increased to some extent, but they also reported a large rise in credit to the commercial sector and for investment in improving manufacturing in the agriculture processing industry.

In general, the BoT said the northern economy grew well in the first quarter, as the consumption of the private sector was an important mechanism.

Manufacturing in the industrial section increased in good response to exports.

The service sector improved from the previous quarter as a result of low-cost airlines and the addition of direct air flights to Chiang Mai, and the increase of seminars of both governmental and private sectors.

However, earnings from the main agricultural crops and chicken raising decreased, while the investment in construction, especially for housing, slowed down as a result of the haste in housing purchases before the termination of tax relief measures last year, and the rise in steel prices.

Motorists getting really pumped up as Chiang Mai gets to serve itself

Autsadaporn Kamthai

Customers can now fill up their motorcycles and cars themselves at the Bang Chak Petrol Station on Ratcha Chiang Saen Road. This petrol station and another on Charoenmuang Road are now offering self-service facilities, to the amazement of some motorists and delight of other customers who have just recently had their first experience at pumping by themselves.

International drug video-conference calls for plea bargaining

This does require the drug suspects to remain alive

According to the video conference conducted between officials working with drug suppression and solutions in Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Hawaii and San Diego, the most interesting issue was that of negotiation with the drug suspects.

The conference discussed that if the arrested drug dealers and traffickers could link or trace the top ringleaders or the mastermind of the whole networks, the traffickers’ penalties will be reduced.

Another issue that was addressed was the close collaboration necessary between drug suppression officials and public prosecutors to allow effective sentencing of those found guilty.

Pittaya Jinawat, Narcotics Control Board northern office director, said that the second issue could be applied immediately and the recent dismissal of the important drug case of Laota Seanlee should be used as the case study for this issue. The plea bargaining issue will be looked at further, he said.

In the meantime, it is presumed that extra-judicial ‘justice’ prevails?

Ban Chiang Mai Home for Boys receives approval

Meets Children Protection Bill criteria

Nopniwat Krailerg

Ms Boonmee Sawangtharm, director of Ban Chiang Mai Home for Boys, revealed that the Social Development and Human Security Ministry had gazetted the places approved under Children Protection Bill 2003 and Ban Chiang Mai Home for Boys was included.

The Children Protection Bill 2003 was enacted according to Article 80 of Constitutional Law of the Thai Kingdom, to protect juvenile welfare and rights, preventing any problems from occurring among children. At the provincial level, the deputy governor would be appointed as the director.

The main issues are as follows: children must not be discriminated against and the highest benefits to them are to be considered important. No advertisement is allowed to publicize through press or any kind of media, if aimed at harming juveniles spiritually, according to the treaty guaranteeing children rights.

This convention compels the public to refrain from behavior that would be brutal to children both physically and mentally.

The guardians must not abandon, neglect or impede the child’s development. No illegal exploitation, hazardous employment or improper conduct is permitted. Violations are subject to imprisonment for 3 months or fines of not more than 30,000 baht or both.

Ban Chiang Mai Home for Boys meets the responsibilities according to the promulgation of Children Protection Bill 2003. At present, there are 188 children under its control.

A new bus terminal for Chiang Rai

After internal squabbles are resolved

Chiang Rai province is preparing to build a second transport terminal and expects to pay up to 30 million baht for it. An area of 10 rai in Tambon San Sai of Chiang Rai’s Muang district has been earmarked for the development.

The development of a second terminal has been given the approval of Chiang Rai governor, Narin Panichkij and the Chiang Rai Provincial Administration Organization (PAO) also approved the scheme because it realizes the new terminal’s impact in supporting the economy in the province. The PAO owns 10 rai and the idea is that the transport terminal will be moved to be under control and administration of the PAO.

However, the terminal will be built according to the Land Transportation Department’s plan and the 10 rai of land for the new terminal will belong to the department afterwards.

The Land Transportation Department will shortly call for tenders from the private sector to build the new bus station. If the department finds no suitable bidder, Neua Sud Sri Wilai Co, Ltd will be assigned to do the construction.

Chiang Rai governor, Narin Panichkij has also said that the province requires a two-rai area in the new terminal for OTOP shops.

Chiang Mai-Lamphun road link almost finished

“Twin Cities” project moving ahead

Nopniwat Krailerg

The road that will link Chiang Mai and Lamphun, running parallel to the railway line, is over 80 percent complete, and will be open to traffic by next month.

Pojchanee Kajornpreedanon, director of the Chiang Mai Public Works and Urban Planning Office, reported on the progress of the roadwork this week that will realize the government’s policy of developing Chiang Mai and Lamphun as “Twin Cities”.

The Cabinet accepted the 1995 resolution to develop this road link to relieve traffic congestion on both Highway 106 and Highway 11 linking the Chiang Mai and Lampang super-highway, and at the same time, promoting Highway No 106 as “the cultured road” with rubber trees growing along each side.

The Public Works and Urban Planning Department of the Ministry of Interior took responsibility for the planning of the construction, Pojchanee said. She added that the road link would promote Lamphun, the ancient city that went back to the reign of Princess Charma Dhevi over 1,400 years ago, and Chiang Mai, which is more than 700 years old. “There is also the historical remains of Wiang Kum Kam situated between the two cities,” she said.

There are several construction phases. Firstly, the road runs along the railway track on the eastern side for 28 kilometers from Chiang Mai railway station to Doi Ti Junction, Lamphun (Highway No 114). The road has an asphalt-concrete surface, two traffic lanes and is six meters wide, with one meter wide verges on each side.

In the second phase, the road runs along the railway tracks on the western side, with the total distance of 8 kilometers, from Mahidol Road (Highway No. 1141) until Pah Dad Junction (Saraphi railway station). This road is asphalt-concrete, two traffic lanes and is five meters wide, with 0.5 meter wide verges on each side and two meter wide bicycle lanes.

There would also be development to some areas, including the construction of parking lots and landscaping of the area in front of the railway station.

The third phase would be the development of Chiang Mai and Lamphun as “twin cities”.

The budget required to complete the first phase was 146 million baht and for the construction of the 14 connected routes 100 million baht.

Anonymous Clinic reports an increasing numbers of clients

17 new cases of HIV infection isolated

Jiraphat Warasin

The Chiang Mai Anonymous Clinic under the supervision of the Thai Red Cross Society, Chiang Mai Branch reported an increasing number of patients during the past two years. The period from December 2003 to February this year was the busiest.

In the past 12 months there the clinic has received over 1,000 patients, with the majority requesting blood testing for HIV, Hepatitis B, CD4 and syphilis. There were also many who presented just for advice, or rang in seeking assistance.

Of those having HIV checked, 124 had negative results, while 17 were found to be HIV positive.

Over 85 percent of the clinic’s patients were Chiang Mai residents. The age group that consulted most was aged 21-30 and males outnumber female patients.

Drugs officials warn of narcotics amassed at the border

Narcotics suppression officials based in Chiang Mai warned that despite the government’s strict law enforcement policies, drugs producers are stockpiling huge quantities of drugs at the border and are changing their transportation routes into the kingdom.

Phitaya Jinawat, director of the northern office of the Narcotics Control Board, said that Rangoon’s conciliatory policies towards minority groups across the border from Thailand are sending drugs producers in a panicked rush to get their products over into Thai territory. At the same time, drugs producers are shifting their transportation routes towards Tak and Uttradit Provinces.

A meeting was held with Tak officials in order to thrash out measures to address the problem. The urgency of the issue was highlighted by a recent poll of residents in 10 provinces in the northern region, who said that methamphetamines were beginning to pour into the country again, after several months hiatus following the government’s war on drugs last year. (TNA)

Thais stranded in US complain to Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Claims promised jobs a myth

Jiraphat Warasin

Thais who flew to the United States with promises of working on farms have complained to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that most of them have been duped.

Orachorn Rattanamanee, chief of the Chiang Mai Employment Services Office, revealed last week that the ministry had alerted the Department of Employment Services about complaints referring to Global Horizons Manpower Inc., which had allegedly offered Thais jobs on American farms.

The Thai workers stranded in the US claimed that the employment agency had not adhered to the employment contract, as most of them were provided with neither a job nor welfare services. Only a few had been offered work, but at a very small wage, they claimed. They had been given no explanation and were now trying to look for jobs in the US by themselves.

To protect other Thai job seekers and prevent a repetition of this situation, the Department of Employment Services said it has suspended granting permission for Thais applying to work in the US through Global Horizons Manpower Inc.

The Department of Employment Services also revealed that it had been informed by the Employment Services Office of Thailand in Hong Kong that several Thai workers had entered Hong Kong as tourists. Their tourist visas expired after 30 days, but they worked illegally in Thai massage parlours. However, immigrant workers are not allowed to work as masseurs or masseuses, as this is a reserved career in Hong Kong. If caught, they would be considered as illegal aliens and not protected under Hong Kong’s labour laws.

Chiang Mai Employment Services Office issued a warning to any Thai interested in working in Hong Kong that they should consider carefully and check on work restrictions and travel details beforehand.

In case of doubt, job seekers should seek clarification from Employment Services Office officials or call 053-223325.

Fast baht from football

Shock of shocks - gambling still exists in Thai society

Comment by Chiangmai Mail editorial staff and feature by Autsadaporn Kamthai

The fact that gambling exists in Thai society should not surprise. What is surprising is that people are surprised by this fact! Gambling has long been a part of every society, all over the world, including Thailand. The government-accredited lotteries are, in fact, just another form of gambling. A chance to win big money from small money. Just another gamble, hoping that your numbers come up.

However, while a government backed gamble is legal, other forms of gambling in Thailand are not. That goes from the large casino style operations (frequented and some owned by Thais in Cambodia), to small suburban card games and football results.

Football gambling tickets are easily purchased - just enter shops under some dormitories on Santitham area. These shops run other businesses as a front for their illegal trade.

Football gambling in the UK and Europe is one reason for the popularity of the game and the vast sums of money tied up in the football leagues. Certain high-flying Thai businessmen have recognized this fact and are cashing in on the football boom.

Many bars are crowded with football lovers to cheer their favorite teams, especially with big matches like Manchester United Vs Liverpool.

However, the small-time Thai punters who would like a footy flutter have to go ‘underground’ to indulge themselves, as opposed to their brothers and sisters abroad. Chiangmai Mail reporter Autsadaporn Kamthai took a look at soccer gambling - the chronic and neglected problem. Her report follows.

Gambling has spread widely among adults as well as teenagers, especially amongst the males and its addicts have increased in number.

Teenagers hang out at bars with live telecasts of major football matches.

There will be those who say that football gambling seems to cause crime in the country, not only adult crime but also teenage crime. To cite an example, there was a report of two men charged with theft who said their motive for the crime was to pay debts from football gambling.

So who is really to blame for this? Thai society? Inefficient Thai police? Bribery? Influential persons who dominate this business or is it an unanticipated cause just from the existence of football itself?

“As long as football exists, football gambling still goes on,” said 19-year-old Chad, who admitted he was a football gambler. He admitted that betting on football made him enjoy watching football. By laying a bet he received more pleasure from the matches. Toi, another football gambler agreed that gambling added color and excitement to the football matches he watches.

Football news magazines are very advantageous for punters to study, opined 22-year-old Toi. They give useful analyses and advice on playing style, techniques, players in each team and potential winners of each match.

So how much money are they prepared to wager? Even though Chad is in his teenage years and still studying, he occasionally wagers 5,000 baht on some football matches. Sometimes luck is on his side and he can win over 10,000 baht from the gambling. However, Chad said he would not let his mother know he had been gambling since he spent the allowance that his mother gave him on laying a bet. Chad realizes it is illegal but he does not want to stop doing it since it earns him a great deal of money. Chad said that he does not think he is addicted to football gambling since he stopped gambling when he was penniless.

“The owners of gambling dens are influential and bribe police so they can run their business,” Chad bravely revealed from his experience in the football gambling circle. Football gambling dens are located in Chiang Mai on Huay Kaew Road, Charoen Muang Road, Santitham Road, and Kotchasarn Road.

Rak, another informant who owns a small bar on Santitham Road, said that group rented his bar as a gambling den during daytime, while at night it was a regular bar. A number of people, aged from 15-40, go to his bar for gambling. Lamentably, some students even go there while wearing their uniforms.

Commonly, there are two classes of football gambling den - large and small. The large dens accept only bets over ten thousand baht while small dens accept less. The gambling dens’ owners collect 10-20 percent of the wagered money from each winning gambler. A middleman who acts as courier between the dens and the gamblers will be paid 2 percent of the money he collects from the punters.

Muang District Police Station reported that there were only 10 people charged with football gambling last year and this year there have been only three. Obviously the number of arrested punters is very far from the actual numbers of football gamblers, intermediaries and den owners.

Fines are only 500-1000 baht and imprisonment is rare. The punishment is not enough to stop the gambling, and may even stimulate punters, adding that little extra risk to the ‘sport’.

Ride-by robber arrested

Traced by using stolen mobile phones

Autsadaporn Kamthai

Wasun Pansuwan, a resident of Tambon Chang Klan, in Chiang Mai’s Muang district was arrested for a series of ride-by robberies.

Evidence seized included hauls of mobile phones, a Guy Laroche wallet, a talking dictionary, black jacket, grey helmet and red Honda motorcycle.

The snatcher’s haul.

The offender admitted to two robberies. On May 2, Wasun snatched belongings of Ms. Supawadee Supannapayak on Arak Road in Tambon Sri Phum while he was riding his motorcycle and wearing helmet to avoid identification. On May 3, he grabbed belongings belonging to German woman, Ms Andrea Wintermantel.

Wasun Pansuwan (middle), was arrested by Muang District police officers led by Pol First Lt Kraisri Jurapak (right), deputy investigation inspector, and Pol Cor Amnaj Plalart (left).

Both the victims notified police officers of the thefts. Police officers from Muang District Police Station led by Pol First Lt Kraisri Jurapak, deputy investigation inspector, traced the culprit by investigating his use of the stolen mobile phones’ numbers.

The police officers found that the ride-by robber worked at the Mitra Barber shop and with a search warrant found stolen goods and finally arrested him. Wasun will now be getting short back and sides from the prison barber.

Drug production continues despite suppression

But manufacturers changing presentation and formulation

Saksit Meesubkwang

Pittaya Jinawat, Narcotics Control Board northern office director, said that after the government ordered strict suppression of drug trafficking, everyone, including soldiers, police and narcotics suppression officers, had been pursuing the manufacturers and dealers so that traffickers in the North did not risk continuing.

They believed the officials’ actions also caused drugs to gradually fade away from the kingdom, especially trafficking in ya ba. They did acknowledge that there were still many large amounts of drugs outside Thailand’s borders, waiting for the right time to be shipped in.

Director Pittaya said that some manufacturing groups were formulating new ingredients of drugs to trick the officials and make their suppression and arrest more difficult.

Recently, the officials confiscated new kinds of ecstasy which were orange in colour and looked quite different from the usual presentation. The new tablets were sold for 500 baht each, a much higher price than the usual ya ba tablets.