NEWS
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Blast at gas refilling plant leaves one dead

Entertainment venue closing time debacle remains as clear as mud

No Burmese trade embargo as Mae Hong Son and northern neighbour strengthen links

Commercial cooperation on the Mekong unites four countries

Chiang Mai Zoo visitors to get bird’s-eye view

School uniform prices remain reasonable

Province proud of more communities producing quality products

- Editorial Comment -

Border villages and schools receive army largesse

Two day conference focuses on human trafficking

Parents face back to school money problems

Computer game shops targeted

Canals to be dredged in Nan province to counter drought

Plans set to help Om Koi’s citizens

Spy on students to prevent drug abuse advised

Tropical heat too much for European car?

Cooking gas to cost more, but won’t affect inflation, says official

Task force patrolling Chiang Rai border kept busy

Taiwanese drug dealer caught with 40,000 tablets in biscuit boxes

Retired American shot dead in his home

Drug dealers feeling pinch, moving to Lao border

Ebb and flow of drugs tracked

Heavily armed policeman arrested on deforestation charges

Yunnanese drug dealers killed in shootout with undercover police

Blast at gas refilling plant leaves one dead

Owner charged with negligence and culpable homicide

Saksit Meesubkwang

An employee at a gas-refilling factory was killed instantly when the tank he was refilling exploded. The accident left one person dead, two injured, and damage estimated at 1 million baht. A six-wheeled truck for transporting gas containers and 50 gas tanks were also damaged.

The explosion occurred at the Mae Ping Oxygen Limited Partnership gas-refilling plant and Pol Lt Col Komdej Jantaramanee of San Sai police station in Chiang Mai was summonsed. At the scene, police found the factory building had been badly damaged by the blast. Human remains and debris from gas tanks were strewn over a large area.

The dead man was identified as twenty five year old Phansa Palama, of Ban Perng, Tambon Muang Jee, Muang district, Lamphun.

The owner, Weera Chuanchaisit, told police that the plant refilled gas tanks for distribution in Chiang Mai. Phansa and a colleague, Sen Saikuensri, had refilled the first tank without incident. Phansa then proceeded to fill the rest of the lined up tanks. There was an explosion which tore open the roof of the plant, killing the worker immediately. Weera and Sen, who were sitting 20 meters behind Phansa, were only slightly injured.

Wichai Pipatsoonthorn, director of the Chiang Mai Industry Provincial Office, inspected the scene and said he suspected the explosion was due to tanks and equipment not meeting safety standards. Pol Lt Col Noppakhun Kiratikarnkus of the Chiang Mai Police Forensics Department inspected the factory accompanied by the owner, and examined the evidence. Equipment, including the valve used to open and close the gas hose, was found to be sub-standard or old.

The owner, Weera, has been charged with negligence and culpable homicide, and his license has been revoked.

The factory is situated far from the residential area, so that no residents were injured or affected by the explosion.


Entertainment venue closing time debacle remains as clear as mud

Government, police and entrepreneurs all have different alarm clocks

Saksit Meesubkwang

The confusion over the government’s social order campaign to force nightspots to close earlier is just as muddled as it was from the outset.

In Chiang Mai, the entertainment entrepreneurs are doubly confused because the police insist on a midnight closing time, although the law still allows entertainment venues to remain open till later.

Chanasuek Noochai, assistant district chief officer of Muang Chiang Mai Office, met with entertainment venue entrepreneurs on May 12 to discuss the impact of changes to opening and closing times of restaurants, bars, karaoke bars, pubs and discotheques which the government is trying to enforce.

Santi “Tong Bossy” Pitikram, president of Chiang Mai’s Entertainment Business Club, and Naiyaneth Wairatchapanich, the club secretary, took part in the discussion, attended by over 200 entrepreneurs of entertainment outlets in the city.

This meeting was a follow-up on a previous one which took place five days earlier at the Muang District Office between the Chiang Mai Public Health Office, provincial authorities and police.

At that meeting, it was agreed that all entertainment outlets must close at 1 a.m., except those which have licenses in line with Article 3(1), that may stay open till 2 a.m. - particularly outlets in designated entertainment “zones”.

Contradicting this agreement, however, police have been ordering nightspots to close at midnight, “due to the law”. As a result, entrepreneurs do not know whether they have to follow Article 3 (1) or “the law”.

To add to the confusion, Chumporn Saengmanee, Muang district chief officer, has stated that the province announced a “zoning measure” of entertainment outlets. The measure, applicable since March 26, includes the setting of opening and closing times of entertainment outlets and emphasizes entrepreneurs must strictly follow “the law” since there were some petitions against outlets which did not do so.

The instigators of the suppression, the Ministry of the Interior, puts emphasis on its standing policy and urges officers to carefully monitor entertainment outlets on strict adherence to opening and closing times, prohibition on drugs, prohibition on minors in these venues, not providing obscene shows, the ban on carrying firearms in these venues, and whether owners have the necessary license to carry out their entertainment business.

According to the Royal decree on zoning, opening times for categories of venues governed by Article 3(1) zoning have been set for 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. and outside zoning from 9 p.m. to midnight, Article 3(2) from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. to midnight, Article 3(3) zoning from 4 p.m. to midnight and outside zoning from 6 p.m. to midnight, Article 3(4) zoning area from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. and outside zoning from 6. p.m. to midnight and Article 3(5) zoning from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m.

At present, entertainment outlets are still allowed to stay opened until 1 a.m., except outlets that fall under Article 3(1) which can operate until 2 a.m. in anticipation of the ministerial regulation’s reapplication.

Meanwhile, Santi, of Chiang Mai’s Entertainment Business Club said that the government’s social order was a good thing because it could make society “ordered and neat”. Nevertheless, the new law that brings forward the closing times affects entrepreneurs’ incomes, especially owners of discotheques. The government and associated organizations should take this into consideration, was the feeling of the entrepreneurs.

If you can fully understand the provisions of Article 3 (1, 2, 3, 4 and 5) please see the entertainment operators near you - they need you! The commonly supposed idea that Thailand means the “Land of the Free” obviously needs total revision too.


No Burmese trade embargo as Mae Hong Son and northern neighbour strengthen links

Myanmar junta happy to do business

A delegation from the Mae Hong Son provincial government officials, and the private sector involved in border trade and tourism, has travelled to Yangon for negotiations with the Myanmar Minister of Foreign Affairs. This was announced by Mae Hong Son Governor Suphot Laowanasiri.

Myanmar is reported to be ready to do business with Mae Hong Son province and appointed the town of Taunggy, about 300 kilometers from Mae Hong Son, as a commercial “twin city”.

However, there are still some obstacles in easy access to Taunggy. The Myanmar Minister of Interior has indicated he will speed up improvements to the route from Taunggy to Ban Hua Muang on the Thai-Myanmar border.

Taunggy and Mandalay require electrical appliances, second hand cars and motorcycles, and consumer goods.

Thai goods from Mae Hong Son are reported to be very popular across the border, especially in Taunggy. The majority of the Thai Yai population from Shan State also lives in Taunggy, having previously lived in Mae Hong Son.

Goods from Taunggy that are sold in Mae Hong Son include crafted and processed wood, and marble. The results of the negotiations on trade and tourism are being described as “very successful indeed”. While this may be good for Mae Hong Son and Taunggy, it does not fit in with the international attitudes towards Burma.


Commercial cooperation on the Mekong unites four countries

China promises to stop damming the river upstream

The four countries located along the Mekong River are signatories to a project to improve commercial cooperation on the river.

Seventy-seven ship navigation signs have been erected, while China has confirmed that the dam located in its territory upstream will not be closed, letting the water flow as usual.

The Joint Committee on Coordination of Commerce on the Lanchang-Mekong River met for the signing ceremony at a Chiang Rai Hotel. The committee consists of representatives from China, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand.

At present, the project has progressed to its third phase.


Chiang Mai Zoo visitors to get bird’s-eye view

Skytrain proposed to show Chiang Mai’s Zoo’s Who

Saksit Meesubkwang

Chiang Mai Zoo plans to add a new, fast monorail skytrain. This will run above the zoo, in a circle of about two kilometers in length, for the convenience of visitors and to give another viewpoint of the facility.

Kanjanachai Sanwong, deputy director of Chiang Mai Zoo.

Kanjanachai Sanwong, deputy director of Chiang Mai Zoo, said the project has been contracted to a private company, Sanphoo Engineering Co Ltd, who will have a 20 year concession to operate the skytrain. Construction is expected to cost over 119 million baht.

He said the zoo initiated the development plan to provide tourists with modern services. Each train carriage will be able to accommodate 60 passengers and it is expected there will be at least 20 carriages. Tickets will cost an average of 40 baht per person.

During the first 10 years of the concession, Chiang Mai Zoo has to stand surety for the expected returns from the skytrain being 32 million baht annually.

However, if the income is higher than this amount, 50 percent of the excess would go to the zoo, and 50 percent to the concession holder.

For the second 10 year period of the concession, the contract agreement is being drafted.

Kanjanachai added that a committee had yet to approve the blueprint for the concession project. Construction would be started soon after approval.


School uniform prices remain reasonable

Controlled by Products Prices and Services Act of 1996

Kaweeporn Wachirarangsiman

Parents seem to be okay with the prices of school uniforms this year, saying they’ve risen only slightly.

Before the start of the new school year around the third week of May, many parents with their children head for the shops at Kad Luang or Ton Lamyai Market in Chiang Mai.

“How’s this one for size?” Pairs of shoes in different sizes and styles are placed before these young students to try on.

This year was no exception, despite price hikes for consumer goods and fuel.

“People have started coming in to buy student uniforms since the beginning of this month,” a shop assistant in the clothing department on the second floor of the market said.

Uniform prices vary according to the school grades.

The average price for a set of shirt and pants or skirt for kindergarten students is 100 baht, while that for an elementary school student is between 100-200 baht, depending on the size. The price for secondary school students can rise to about 300 baht.

Puangthip Chuarsuwan, who came to buy uniforms at the market with her grown daughter and three other young children who are in grades 1, 4 and 7, said, “I could not afford buying them everything at once. There are many expenses in the family. I am going to buy them new school shoes this time and the sizes must be slightly too big so that the kids can at least wear them until next year as well.”

However, she said she was not upset by the current cost of the items. “The prices have not gone up much - about 10 to 20 baht,” added Puangthip.

Chanika Soikabkaew, who was shopping for her grade 1 daughter who accompanied her and her son at home, agreed that prices had not increased significantly.

However, she didn’t buy a whole new set of uniforms, but only a new shirt for her son and shoes for her daughter.

The prices have not risen much because of the Cabinet resolution passed in March that listed student uniforms as one of the 21 products that fall under price controls, in keeping with the Products Prices and Services Act of 1996.


Province proud of more communities producing quality products

Local hooch gets OTOP approval

Nopniwat Krailerg

Six more communities in Chiang Mai province have received certificates approving their products as meeting OTOP (One Tambon One Product) standards. Provincial Deputy Governor Kwanchai Wongnitikorn presented the communities with their OTOP certificates issued by the Chiang Mai Provincial Industry Office.

San Kamphaeng Agricultural Cooperative received a certificate for its alcohol, fruit wines and herbal wines, while Sorasart Alcohol Co Ltd in Muang district was recognised for its grape wine.

In the costumes category, Tin Jok Weavers Group at Ban Thongfai in Mae Chaem district was selected. In the ornaments category, Tambon Pah Bong in Saraphi district received an OTOP certificate for its bamboo products.

Ban Tawai Handicrafts Group in Hang Dong district and Ban Baimai Group in Doi Saket district received official approval for their wood handicrafts.

Deputy Governor Kwanchai told representatives from these six communities that the people of Chiang Mai province were very proud of them. They were contributing to the province’s reputation and earnings at the same time.

Chiang Mai estimates the income from OTOP products at 800 million baht this year. “So far, 600 million baht has been brought in, the other 200 million baht will not be too hard to achieve,” said the deputy governor.

He encouraged the producers to aim for even higher standards as the government had put its faith in them and would promote OTOP products on the international market. Fifteen Chiang Mai communities have previously been awarded OTOP certificates.


- Editorial Comment: When is football gambling not football gambling?

When the government wants to buy a football club

by Ngoo Ngoo Pla Pla

Last week, the Chiangmai Mail ran a piece on the problems associated with football and gambling. While gambling on football results is against the law, the government is heavily involved in another type of football gamble – the much publicized purchase of a 30 percent share of the English Premier League soccer club Liverpool.

It was originally thought that the PM Thaksin Shinawatra was going to delve into his very deep cookie jar and come up with the money – a cool five billion baht – but now it seems that this may not be the case. The public purse is to be involved.

It has been reported that the Tourism and Sports Ministry wants to run a special football lottery to raise not five billion, but ten. This legal government gamble offers a one billion baht first prize, half a billion for second and 15 third place lucky numbers picking up 100 million baht each. There will also be ‘minor’ prizes of ten, five and one million baht. Still worth a flutter for the paltry ticket cost of only 500 or 1,000 baht. It is all government guaranteed, with the Ministry of Tourism and Sport favourites to run the lottery.

So rather than spending time in dimly lit bars watching Liverpool play and hope to win a few thousand baht, tomorrow’s young football gamblers can go for the big one, and perhaps come away one billion baht richer. And it’s all legal, thanks to the forward thinking PM, who can recognize a good bet when he sees one.


Border villages and schools receive army largesse

Part of a project to increase stability and security in the border area

Nopniwat Krailerg

The commander-in-chief of the Royal Thai Army, Gen Chaiyasith Shinawatra, visited the Pha Muang task forces in Chiang Mai province and distributed equipment to schools and villages. This was part of a project to increase stability and security in the border area, following His Majesty the King’s initiative.

Gen Chaiyasith, commander-in-chief of the Royal Thai Army, visited the Pha Muang task forces in Chiang Mai province and distributed equipment to schools and villages.

The general brought equipment used in long distance education, including satellite dishes, 25 television sets and video players for schools. Six computers were also given to Ban Nar Mon School, four to Ratch Rath Uppathum School and five to Ban Huai Krai School in Wiang Haeng district and another five computers and kitchen appliances to Arunothai School in Chiang Dao district.

Gen Chaiyasith told the villagers the most significant contribution they could make was to help the government by cooperation with officials, informing and warning them about problems within their communities.

He hoped that the equipment granted to the schools would help in the education of the local students and youth. He asked them to make good use of it.

He also told the students that if they wanted any sports equipment, they should make a request to him via his website www.uncletui.com and he would provide it. (“Uncle Tui” or Loong Tui is Gen Chaiyasith Shinawatra’s nickname.)

He said the operations of the Pha Muang task forces along the border were progressing well, although they lacked some electronic military equipment to make the border areas secure, such as X-ray and scanning machines for preventing drug smuggling and border crossings of illegal immigrants.


Two day conference focuses on human trafficking

End results well known, but the framework to stop it not as evident

Deputy Prime Minister Purachai Piumsomboon has now declared war on human trafficking. He says the problems of human trade are becoming greater and the solutions of the past are no longer effective.

Deputy PM Purachai last week presided over the opening ceremony of a two-day seminar on the topic in Chiang Rai, and gave a talk on the policy and strategy of the Thai government in attempting to prevent and solving the human traffic problem. He said the government in the past has focused on the war on drugs, but the drug trade and human trade were actually related and of comparable importance.

“Human trade is a serious crime as it not only destroys human value and dignity, which is against Articles 4 and 5 of the Constitution, but it also affects the nation in terms of the country’s development and social structure,” he said.

The Department of Social Welfare presented figures showing the rescue of 166 foreign children in 2000. However, that figure rose to 414 last year. In 2002, 66 Thai women were rescued and 95 last year.

He said these statistics were only of reported cases. The exact number of women and children who had been trafficked was probably much higher. Many of them had fallen victim to human trade networks and waited to be rescued by the government.

“It has been ascertained that Thailand is a transit base for the export of children to other countries. The human traffic ring uses Thailand as the center of human exploitation, such as the commercial delivery of women to hotels and massage parlors, and of laborers to factories, beggars in public places, garland sellers, home maids and some construction site laborers,” Purachai said. An effective solution to human trafficking had not been found and a clear policy was lacking.

“Trafficked children must not be treated as criminals or offenders but sheltered as witnesses,” he said. “However, those involved in human trade rings should be severely punished.”

“The community must be strengthened to cooperate in solving the problem by informing officials about human trafficking and people in upcountry areas must be provided vocational opportunities so they are not lured into the trade in humans or sell their children to human trafficking networks.”

Sora-art Klinprathum, minister of social development and human security, said the problem of trading in women and children had became more complex, as it was a lucrative business. “This crime is connected to the sex industry, labor exploitation and being held captive. There is also the practical obstacle of lack of cooperation among law enforcement organizations to eradicate the problem,” the minister said.

Over 300 representatives of the government and private sectors, consulates and international organizations attended the seminar. The Office of the Permanent Secretary of the Prime Minister, Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, National Police Office and United Nations project against trafficking in women and children were in attendance.


Parents face back to school money problems

Gold and TV sets popular items to ‘pop’

Nopniwat Krailerg

Many parents facing financial difficulties with back to school fees, books and materials are expected to head for pawnshops to get the money required. Awaiting the onslaught, Chiang Mai’s municipal pawnshops have set aside over 50 million baht.

Senee Wilaijit, manager of Chiang Mai Municipality Pawnshop 1, and inspector of Pawnshops in Region 7, said that the new school year placed financial burdens on many parents.

Three pawnshops fall under the aegis of the municipality - in front of the Buddha Sathan religious place, at Chang Puak bus station and at Pratu Chiang Mai gate.

There is no doubt that these shops are both popular and needed by the cash-strapped society. This year, at Municipal Pawnshop 1, 7,080 people had pawned items valued at over 49 million baht; at Pawnshop 2, items valued at over 53 million baht had been pawned by 7,629 people; and at Pawnshop 3, items worth 70 million baht had been pawned by 9,802 persons.

The most popular items pledged were gold ornaments. According to the law, they can be pawned at no more than 80 percent of the gold price of that particular day. TV sets and stereos were also popular items to be pawned.


Computer game shops targeted

The electronic nanny has her plug pulled

Autsadaporn Kamthai

Computer game shops in Chiang Mai are being accused of aiding and abetting truancy by letting students skip class and play games during study hours.

It is claimed many students spend between four and five hours a day playing computer games, which negatively affects their studies and behavior.

At the beginning of March, police were assigned to check how many computer shops there were in their area of jurisdiction. It was found that there are 366 computer game shops in Chiang Mai - of which 210 are located in the Muang district alone.

Police at the same time checked on every shop’s licence and their video games, laser disks, digital video disks, video CDs and CD ROMs.

However, there is concern about the online gaming service because at present there is no law to control and cover games downloaded from the Internet.

Computer game shop owners have been asked to cooperate by prohibiting students from entering their shops during school and study hours.

School administration departments and student superintendents are being asked to keep watch and prevent their students from spending study time playing computer games. With the schools reopened in Chiang Mai, police will strictly enforce measures against offending computer game shops.


Canals to be dredged in Nan province to counter drought

Waste not, want not, to fully use its water irrigation system

Nan province’s drought and flooding problems are easily solved, authorities have decided. Simply drain its canals and build breakwaters along their courses to let water run off onto adjacent agricultural land, is the plan.

Provincial Governor Suwat Choksuwattanasakul examined the problems that occur in Nan every year. It was discovered that there are more than 200 moats and canals that need to be improved. Each of these can be used as a source of water for agriculture in the dry season - which would simultaneously drain off water and prevent flooding in the rainy season.

The 150 kilometer Nam Kan Canal, located in the Phu Pieng sub-district, has previously been dredged, solving the annual flooding in that area. A similar project is now being planned to dredge the San Keu Canal at Ban Thung Setthi, Tambon Pah Singha in Nan’s Muang District. It falls under the control of the Pah Singha Tambon Administration Organization.

Concrete breakwaters with water gates will be constructed along the canal, which will put a stop to flooding that affects the two villages of Tambon Pah Singha.

The operation is expected to cost 15 million baht.


Plans set to help Om Koi’s citizens

Poverty, public utilities and tourism earmarked

Autsadaporn Kamthai

Om Koi district is concentrating on three main issues in its integrated development strategy - war on poverty, improving fundamental public utilities, and tourism and culture promotion.

The plan was outlined by Pakorn Polsri, senior assistant district officer of Om Koi district. He said over 465 million baht has been set aside - 86.21 million baht for the war on poverty, 352,98 million baht for public utility development, and 23,97 million baht for promoting tourism and culture.

District officials requested the budget from the mobile Cabinet meeting, Provincial Administration Organization, Tambon Administration Organizations and municipalities. It is estimated that the district will take about five years to accomplish its three-pronged strategy.

The major objectives are to improve the citizens’ standard of living, ensure they have adequate incomes, do away with drugs and corruption, and conserve natural resources, the environment and their art and cultural identities.

During the visit, citizens complained to the PM Thaksin Shinawatra and asked him to help them cope with the drop in the price of crops and with the lack of public utilities.

“Om Koi’s weak points are its citizen’s poor status and health conditions, while its strong points are the beauty of its nature and tourist sites,” said Pakorn.

Om Koi district has 23 villages and four polling booths that are not even accessible by road. Helicopters must be used to collect voting boxes at election time.

“The annual average income of Om Koi’s citizens, most of whom belong to hill tribes, was only 2,500 baht per head in 2002, although it rose to 6,300 baht in 2004. However, the increase in average income does not indicate that Om Koi’s citizens are escaping poverty. The district therefore has decided to help all citizens so that they earn at least 20,000 baht each annually,” Pakorn announced.


Spy on students to prevent drug abuse advised

The ‘snooze and sniffer snoops’ are watching

Kaweeporn Wachirarangsiman

Owners and supervisors of student dormitories have been asked to keep a closer eye on the students in a new offensive in the War on Drugs. Following the central government’s lead, Chiang Mai province has declared the second War on Drugs which started on March 8 and will end on June 5.

Participants during the dorm wars seminar.

The call was made at a seminar organised for the Chiang Mai Private Dormitories Entrepreneurs Network at Srithana Commercial and Technological College on May 12. Several experts from the northern Office of Narcotics Control Board (ONCB), Chiang Mai Provincial Social Development and Welfare Office, Chiang Mai Municipality, Phuping police station and Tambon Suthep Administration Organization were present.

Dormitories are regarded as one of the six enterprises which, under the Narcotics Control Act, require “attentive management” as the lodgers are students who do not stay with their parents.

Susheap Kotcharin, an official of Policy and Planning Analysis at the ONCB northern office, told the meeting, “A recent poll conducted among students, both at vocational college and university levels, shows that 36 percent of them are highly susceptible to narcotic addiction. Dormitories are dangerous places for drug parties, as are pubs, discotheques or warehouses.”

Dormitory owners are required to observe, inspect and supervise the behavior of lodgers so that they do not become involved in drugs.

Participants at the seminar (fewer than 30 dormitory entrepreneurs attended the seminar, although more than 90 had been invited) were advised that each dormitory should keep records of inspections and visitors as proof to officials that they are seriously trying to prevent wrongdoings involving drugs on their premises.

“Any commercial lodging house which has five or more undergraduate students not over 25 years old is certainly counted as a dormitory,” explained Manasaporn Pamornbutra from the Chiang Mai Provincial Social Development and Welfare Office.

Apart from the Narcotics Control Act, dormitory entrepreneurs were also compelled under the Dormitory Act of 1964 to keep profiles of tenants, covering details on personal information, educational institutions and phone numbers to contact in case of emergency.

Each dormitory must also be suitable as a residence and for studying, protect from temptations and have adequate health and safety standards. Student dormitories must also be clearly segregated for male and female lodgers.

“After entertainment outlets close around 1-2 a.m., young people continue to enjoy the night by having drug parties in their dormitory rooms,” Pol Capt Banjongsak Kamjai from Phuping police station told the seminar. Dormitory supervisors should be aware of their lodgers’ comings and goings and observe suspicious behavior, smells and fumes coming from tenants’ rooms. “Cocaine smells like vanilla,” he said.

However, the police advised dormitory owners against directly warning lodgers or entering their rooms to conduct searches without being accompanied by a police official. Instead, they should note suspicious incidents and inform the police. “This is to prevent revenge attacks against the owners or lodgers filing invasion of privacy lawsuits against them,” Pol Capt Banjongsak said.

One of the seminar attendants commented that the Dormitory Act was impractical, because it requires dormitory owners “to ensure lodgers do not fall pregnant prematurely or become infected with HIV/AIDS”.

Manasaporn, from the provincial Social Development and Welfare Office, agreed that the Act had been passed years ago and was undeniably outdated, “But many measures in the Act, if properly adapted, are useful to both owners and tenants,” he argued.

Manasaporn also announced that officials with police sniffer dogs would conduct random raids on dormitories, and urine tests for narcotics would also be conducted between May 24 and June 4.

Sorasak Wajeesath, deputy permanent secretary of the Tambon Suthep Administration Organization, added that students are circumventing the measures of the Act by renting private houses in groups. This shows a remarkable ability to see through the regulations.

For more information or consultation on dormitory management or inquiries about measures stipulated by legislation, contact the Chiang Mai Provincial Social Development and Welfare Office.


Tropical heat too much for European car?

Or perhaps it was just a little too old

Saksit Meesubkwang

Some people believe that many vehicles built in Europe are unsuitable for tropical Asian countries. Whilst this might have been true once, the manufacturers today would deny this vociferously.

A fire fighter battles to extinguish the fire.

An old Volkswagen was the latest to succumb to the Chiang Mai heat on May 1. Pol Lt Col Chakrit Eakasingha of Phuping police station was informed there was a burning car parked in front of Kru Bah Sri Wichai monument. A fire engine from Chiang Mai Municipality fire brigade, located over 10 kilometers away, was dispatched to put out the fire. However, by the time it reached the scene, almost the entire car had been gutted.

The fire drew quite a crowd.

After the flames were extinguished, the vehicle was positively identified as belonging to Patchara Sawetsritawan of Bang Rak district in Bangkok.

She had taken her family to visit Chiang Mai and left the car at the foot of Doi Suthep Mountain, continuing up the mountain by red minibus instead, as she was not experienced in driving in mountainous terrain.

When they returned from Doi Suthep, the driver was unable to start the car and then saw smoke coming from the engine, which burst into flames.

Pol Lt Col Chakrit said that he suspected the fire started by auto-combustion as the car had been standing in the heat the whole day. This particular auto certainly showed combustion! Damage was estimated at 450,000 baht.


Cooking gas to cost more, but won’t affect inflation, says official

His wife must only use electricity!

The cost of cooking gas has increased by 1 baht a kilogram to 16.81 baht a kilogram since May 7. A 15 kilogram gas tank that used to cost 237.17 baht now costs 252.15 baht. This is the first time the price has increased since December 5. This announcement came from Metta Bantoengsook, director of Energy Policy and Planning Office.

According to government policy, the rise in the price of cooking gas will help reduce the Fuel Reserve Fund’s burden. The Fund has to use 160 million baht a day to fix fuel prices, and to date it has spent 8 billion baht.

The increase in the price of petrol and cooking gas will not affect inflation, according to Metta, because these fuels are not used in general goods and services on the market.

The increase of in the cooking gas price will cause the cost of rice with curry to increase by 0.03 baht and taxi drivers will pay an extra 20 baht per 12 hour shift. Households will have to pay 15 baht more a month - or 0.50 baht a day - for a 15 kilogram tank of cooking gas. Industrial factories which mainly use gas in their production, will increase their expenditure by 36 million baht a month.

So provided you do not cook with gas at home, eat out, buy anything produced in a gas-fired factory or catch a taxi, there are no increases as the Energy Policy and Planning Office says.


Task force patrolling Chiang Rai border kept busy

72 kg heroin intercepted in past six months

Saluay Niramai

The Pha Muang Task Force, the 1st Cavalry Department special unit, has intercepted 72 kilograms of heroin at the Mae Sai border in Chiang Rai.

The force gave a report on its activities over the past six months, stating that as well as the 72 kilograms of heroin, more than 700,000 ya ba pills and 1,900 grams of the “ice” drug were confiscated.

Col Wilart Arunsri, commander of the unit, said it was assigned to guard the 224 kilometer border between Chiang Rai province and Myanmar.

In the period between last October and March this year, the unit seized two displaced soldiers and carried out constant ambushes on drug caravans. The unit also obstructed contraband import and export along the border.

Its intervention in combating the illegal trade across the border had increased the government’s tax collection by 58 million baht - a 10 percent rise over last year’s tax collection.


Taiwanese drug dealer caught with 40,000 tablets in biscuit boxes

Planned to export them to Taiwan at 25-40 x profit

Samphan Changthong

Police who pulled over a Mae Sai-Bangkok bus caught a Taiwanese drug dealer who was transporting 40,000 amphetamine tablets hidden in biscuit boxes.

On May 17, Mae Sai police with the help of the Chiang Rai Highway Police searched the bus that had been stopped at the Tambon Huay Krai police box and found the tablets stashed in nine biscuit boxes. Yi Sae Ji, a 27-year-old Taiwanese, admitted to be the owner.

He confessed to having bought the tablets in Myanmar at 20 baht each and would sell them in Taiwan for between 500-800 baht each.

Police took the drug dealer into custody before handing him over to investigators. It was discovered that Yi belongs to the same network as Tien Tichuan, a Taiwanese who police caught the previous night.

This Taiwanese drug network is believed to have a branch in Bangkok, from where the tablets are transported to Taiwan.

Investigations are continuing and police expect to make more arrests.


Retired American shot dead in his home

Returns from golf game and surprises burglars

Nopniwat Krailerg

A wealthy American has been shot dead as he tried to fight off burglars in his Chiang Rai house.

Fifty-six-year-old Bradley John Taylor returned from a game of golf and found burglars rummaging through his belongings. He accosted them, but sustained a gunshot wound.

The burglars made off with valuables taken from the house.

At 3 p.m. on May 14, Pol Sec Lt Supoj Suwan of the Muang Chiang Rai police station was informed of the burglary and shooting at Ban Rai community, Moo 5 in Tambon Ban Doo. Accompanied by police colleagues, he went to the scene, a large European style house built on more than 1 rai. Bloodstains were found at the front gate that the wounded victim had apparently crawled to in order to summon help. There were signs of a struggle inside the house.

Police also collected as evidence a bullet casing they found lying on the floor.

Taylor was taken to Chiang Rai Rajaprachanukroh Hospital with a bullet wound to the chest and several bruises. He succumbed to his injuries a short time later.

Taylor’s 36-year-old wife, Chornapah Harkai, told police that he had previously lived in California and they had been married for many years. Three years ago they moved to Chiang Rai. He was a wealthy man who used to be a computer programmer in the US before he retired and moved to Thailand.

Chornapah said she was taking their children and his relatives from America on a trip to the checkpoint at Mae Sai border when she was informed by mobile phone that Taylor had been murdered.

After their home was checked, it was ascertained the burglars had made off with a notebook computer, over 150,000 baht in cash, and a platinum and gold bracelet and necklace valued at over 200,000 baht.

Police believe there were at least two burglars. Police took fingerprints and notified the American consulate to send officials to take part in the investigation.


Drug dealers feeling pinch, moving to Lao border

Royal Thai Army keeping a close watch on Thai-Burma Friendship Bridge

The commander-in-chief of the Royal Thai Army expressed concern over the narcotics problem at Thai-Burma border, as drug networks shift their transportation routes northeast along the Lao border.

Gen Chaiyasith Shinawatra was visiting the soldiers of the Pha Muang Task Force stationed on the Thai-Burmese border.

He also checked progress on the construction of the Thai-Burma Friendship Bridge at Ban Wieng Hom in Chiang Rai’s Mae Sai district.

He was received by Brigadier Gen Mien Saw, a representative of the Myanmar Ministry of Defense, Col Ko Ko Maung, Myanmar’s deputy military attach้ to Thailand, and other officials from Myanmar and Thailand.

Gen Chaiyasith said there has been a decrease in narcotics smuggling across the 2nd Thai-Burma border bridge, thanks to the good cooperation from Myanmar in suppressing the drug trade and arresting dealers.

However, he is concerned that these positive results are leading to drug networks shifting their routes to the northeast at the Lao border to transport drugs into Thailand.

The military has adapted its strategies to intercept them, though.

The new friendship bridge under construction would benefit both Thailand and Myanmar. It would serve as a gate and commercial path to the south of China, the general said.


Ebb and flow of drugs tracked

Successes in war noted

Nopniwat Krailerg

The amount of heroin seized in the north has more than doubled as a result of the government’s war on drugs, while the number of arrests for amphetamines has dropped.

Pittaya Jinawat, director of the northern Office of Narcotics Control Board (ONCB), has disclosed that 40 kg of heroin a month are seized, compared with a previous monthly average of 19 kg.

The number of amphetamines intercepted has dropped from 26 million tablets to 70,000 tablets a month.

The ONCB and National Fighting and Victory Over Drug Center believe the situation has improved due to the anti-drugs war.

However, Pittaya says, the north is still a preferred channel for drug smuggling into the country, and this remains a serious problem. About 60 percent of drugs are sneaked in through Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, 30 percent through Tak and Mae Hong Son and 10 percent are beginning to get in through the northwestern provinces of Phayao, Nan and Uttraradit.

Mae Sot district in Tak and Uttraradit province are reported to be sensitive areas, as statistics indicate an increase in narcotics-related arrests there.

The latest arrests in Phrae province show drug smugglers are bringing in amphetamines in powder form, to be made into pills inside the country for distribution. They are also reported to be constantly developing new methods to deceive narcotics officials.

“Ketamine drugs and cough remedy mingled with dorein (particles of opium), which used to be seen in the south of Thailand, has moved to the north to a certain extent,” Pittaya reported.

According to the director, the National Fighting and Victory Over Drug Center in March estimated the success in drug suppression at over 87 percent.

However, while the number of drug dealers in each community has reportedly decreased, the number of users is said to be rising.

An estimated 500 million amphetamine tablets have been smuggled into the country so far this year, which represents a decrease from past years. But more heroin and new sorts of narcotics such as Ecstasy and Ketamine drugs are entering Thailand.

The ONCB’s northern office disclosed that it has a blacklist of between 80 and 100 drug dealers and is cooperating with the Provincial Police Bureau, Region 5 and 6 to investigate and find evidence in order to nail these wrongdoers.

“Information about the drug network in the north will be continuously updated in order to keep up with the current situation. The narcotics suppression officers in the border areas will not be put off guard,” according to Pittaya.

Solving the drug problem is regarded as more difficult in urban than rural areas because it is related to other juvenile and criminal problems. The ONCB has organized seminars with different groups, such as youth groups and non-governmental organizations, to assess the narcotics situation.

“We are asking these groups to work together with us and local administration organizations in drug suppression,” says Pittaya. There are more than 508 urban communities and rural municipal areas in the north, where the ONCB has allocated over 15 million baht.


Heavily armed policeman arrested on deforestation charges

Needed rocket launcher to grow oranges?

A police officer, who wanted to grow oranges, has found himself on the wrong side of the law and has been arrested. His arsenal of weapons has also been confiscated.

Pol Sgt Maj Adul Phusua, 48, of Wiang Haeng district police station in Chiang Mai was charged with trespassing into a national forest, a conservation area, and resisting arrest. The police officers seized him along with his weapons that included an M-16 firearm, an M-72 missile launcher, a rifle and a chain saw, perhaps the latter for when all else fails.

Officials of the 16th Conserved Forest Area Administration Office together with forestry police and local police officers investigated a case of invasion into the Mae Ngad national forest at km marker 69 of the Chiang Mai-Phrao Road in Tambon Long Khod of Chiang Mai’s Phrao district.

During the course of their investigation, they found Pol Sgt Maj Adul clearing a path and deforesting an area of 100 rai to grow oranges.

When they tried to apprehend him, he threatened the police with his weapons and tried to escape. The officers encircled the area and summonsed his relatives to convince him to surrender.

He finally agreed and surrendered after two hours. The weapons have been confiscated to be traced to their source.

Meanwhile, another two invaders were arrested in Chiang Mai’s Mae Ai district and charged with invasion into 900 rai of conserved forest in the Fang River basin to again cultivate oranges. A large water irrigation pump valued at over 2 million baht was confiscated.

With the legitimate farmers complaining that they cannot sell their oranges because of cheap Chinese oranges, one wonders at the rationale behind the illegal growers’ thinking.


Yunnanese drug dealers killed in shootout with undercover police

10 million baht sting operation also nets 450,000 Ya Ba tablets

A gunfight between an undercover drug suppression police team and Chinese drug dealers that lasted for over 15 minutes ended with three of the dealers killed. Those killed were Amnuay Saeyang, and Jintai Saeseu, both 22, and another unidentified man. All three were reported to be Yunnanese (southern China) and lived in Pai district, Mae Hong Son.

The drug exchange was arranged on the Chiang Mai-Pai Road in Ban Pang San, Tambon Pah Pae in Chiang Mai’s Mae Taeng district. While handing over the amphetamines to undercover police, in exchange for 10 million baht, the drug dealers suddenly realized this was a sting operation and drew their firearms. During the gun battle, two attempted to run away, but were shot while fleeing, said the police.

The drug suppression group seized 450,000 amphetamine tablets and three firearms including an AK-47 assault rifle, plus ammunition left behind by the dealers in their pick-up.

Police said that the Yunnanese drug network had been transporting amphetamines from the Thai-Burmese border in Mae Hong Son to deliver to clients in Thailand.