HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Landslides and debris hits Om Koi and Mae Hong Son

Air pollution problems under the microscope

Lamyai growers concerned about plummeting prices

Logos to mark HM the Queen’s birthday on display

The hills are alive with Lanna music

Five Chiang Mai districts at risk of flooding

Upper Mae Tang River Basin Network and Wiang Hang community ask CMU to halt its environmental study

National Security Council gives Border Distribution Center the once-over

14,000 refugees uneasy in new camp

Metered taxis proving popular

Mae Sariang residents on flash floods alert

Summer flash floods cause extensive damage along several highways

Myanmar opens doors to agents, travel media

Buddhist Holy Day of Wisakhabucha - June 2

Motorists complain petrol stations taking them for a ride

Whistle blower Forestry official threatened

Diet supplement food store raided

British businessman found dead in hotel

Hmong drug dealer killed during sting operation

Thai police arrest husband and wife linked to fugitive drug lord

Landslides and debris hits Om Koi and Mae Hong Son

The rain depression has severe impact

Nopniwat Krailerg and Jiraphat Warasin

The depression over May 19 and 20 caused flooding and damage in four Tambons in Om Koi district including Yang Piang, Sob Khong, Mae Taun and Mon Jong. The rain depression caused landslides with 300 tons of stumps and branches flowing down the mountainside to hit the residential areas.

390 Houses were damaged in Tambon Mae Taun and Tambon Mon Jong, with 29 houses destroyed. Baan Luang, in Tambon Mae Taun, which is about 257 kilometres from the heart of Chiang Mai was also severely hit with 138 houses suffering damage and Baan Huai Lor Duk in Tambon Mae Tuan having 128 houses damaged.

The Bann Mae Taun School in Tambon Mae Taun was also severely damaged and may have to be relocated as it is too easily flooded where it currently stands.

Five bridges in Tambon Mae Taun and Tambon Mon Jong were washed away, and people were stranded in their villages. However, the 30-metre temporary metal bridge was built on May 24 was still standing.

Kwanchai Wongnitikorn, deputy Chiang Mai governor, and Kritsadaporn Siampakdee, permanent secretary of Chiang Mai Provincial Authority, were closely overseeing the situation. Approximately 1,000 people from government offices including the Forestry Office, military camps, police stations and Disaster Prevention and Relief Operation Center and local residents were cooperating to assist the people in the affected areas. It was expected that it will take a week to clear the area, said the deputy governor, Kwanchai.

Prior to the Om Koi flood, the rain depression on May 17 also caused flooding in Baan Sob Khong in Mae Hong Son’s Sob Moei district. The Mae Ngao and Sob Khong Rivers overflowed to the residential areas. Long Pae Wittaya School and dwellings in the area were severely hit and four people were reported as injured. Livestock including 1,000 pigs, ducks and chickens were killed. 200 rai of crops were lost. It was estimated that the flood caused an approximate 4 million baht loss.

Air pollution problems under the microscope

SRI research and CMU professor submit report to Chiang Mai Mayor

Jiraphat Warasin

The Chiang Mai mayor received an environmental report from Dr. Duongchan Apavatjrut Charoenmuang, a researcher from the Social Research Institute (SRI), and Ussanee Winijketkamnuan, Chemistry Department professor, Chiang Mai University Faculty of Medicine. Their report indicates that burning garbage and traffic congestion are the causes of pollution in Chiang Mai City.

Dr. Duongchan Apavatjrut Charoenmuang, Social Research Institute (SRI) researcher showing the Chiang Mai City air pollution map to Chiang Mai mayor, Boonlert Buranupakorn.

Dr. Duongchan and Ussanee studied the environmental problem in Chiang Mai and submitted a petition to the Chiang Mai governor last April, to raise the local officials’ awareness of the problem.

Boonlert Buranupakorn, Chiang Mai mayor, spoke on the progress and that he and the officials in every organization in Chiang Mai had already acknowledged the severity of pollution in Chiang Mai.

The municipality has a hotline number - 199 - to call for collection of garbage from people who place dustbins in front of their houses.

Chiang Mai Municipality also has signed a contract to purchase garbage steaming equipment as another alternative to waste removal. Old incinerators are being phased out, and new ones are smokeless.

Regarding the pollution caused by traffic, Thai Electric Car Co. will provide electric cars for the next three months as a free service for students at the major sites where traffic jams usually take place, to see if there is a reduction in pollution levels.

On June 15, tramcar experts from the Czech Republic will come to Chiang Mai to study the traffic system, and will advise accordingly.

Mayor Boonlert added that he would bring up the pollution problem at the next municipality meeting and assured that he would seriously and continuously look for solutions to the pollution problem.

Lamyai growers concerned about plummeting prices

Result of unregulated over-production

Saksit Meesubkwang

About 300 members of the Northern Lamyai Growers Association in Chiang Mai and Lamphun provinces descended on Chiang Mai City Hall to petition the governor to address the drop in lamyai prices.

Anan Wangwieng (left), president of the Northern Lamyai Growers Association, petitions Sophon Suphasap from Chiang Mai Provincial Cooperatives Office representing Suwat Tantipat, Chiang Mai governor.

They were accompanied by association president Anan Wangwieng, who said that both northern provinces were important lamyai plantation areas. Lamyai plantations not only were a source of income for families but also helped employment and generate money in the rural areas. Lamyai exports previously accounted for more than a billion baht a year.

“However, the price of lamyais has been constantly dropping over the past years although annual production is increasing, because the domestic demand has remained static. There are also more impediments in the international market,” the president said.

The Agricultural Economic Center predicts that more than 500,000 tons of lamyais would hit the market in 2004, much more than last year, with a resultant drop in prices.

The Northern Lamyai Growers Association, speaking on behalf of the farmers, says if no systematic measure is taken to address the fall in the price of the crop, the problem will never be solved.

Sophon Suphasap from the Chiang Mai Provincial Cooperatives Office told the protesters that their letter petitioning Chiang Mai Governor Suwat Tantipat would be submitted to Somsak Thepsuthin, the Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives.

The protesters dispersed peacefully, but are awaiting a further response about government assistance.

Logos to mark HM the Queen’s birthday on display

Jiraphat Warasin

The National Museum in Chiang Mai is displaying an exhibition of logos for Her Majesty the Queen’s 72nd birthday until May 28.

About 53 contestants from around the country submitted over 85 designs for the competition. The logo designed by Supaluck Ampaiporn, an architecture and handicrafts art technician, has been chosen as the winning design.

Logos of HM the Queen to celebrate the occasion of her birthday celebration on her 6 year-circle on August 12 are being displayed at the Chiang Mai National Museum.

Sahawat Nannah, head of 8th Fine Art Unit in Chiang Mai, said that the organizing committee to arrange the celebration of the Queen’s 72nd birthday - which has the Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra as its president - assigned the Fine Arts Department of the Ministry of Culture to arrange the logo competition to celebrate the special and auspicious occasion.

The director-general of the Fine Arts Department was appointed president of the working committee to arrange the competition.

This exhibition has been displayed in other regions, including the National Museum in Bangkok from January 30 to February 8.

For the North, Chiang Mai was chosen to display the logos.

The exhibition has been organized to present to the public the designs that show loyalty to HM the Queen and to praise the contestants in order to inspire and encourage them to produce more artworks for the country.

The hills are alive with Lanna music

Jiraphat Warasin

The Lanna Musical Band Center at Wat Kao Klang has organized a Lanna Music Preservation project that offers free musical training courses to children and youths. The avowed aim is to keep the body of Lanna musical knowledge alive.

Students practicing xylophone and Teng Thueng.

Phra Niwat Kittsophon (Khru Bah Moh), the abbot of Wat Kao Klang, Tambon Pa Daed in Chiang Mai says he realizes the significance of Lanna music and wishes to implant basic knowledge of it in interested young people who do not have the opportunity to learn more about it.

A working group including Ekachai Nadi, the director of the Lanna Music Preservation project, has worked to draw up the curriculum. It is divided into six courses, providing instruction on two string instruments, the Sueng and Slor, two wind instruments the Pei Tiw and Pei Path, plus the dulcimer and the sword dance.

It is supported by Phra Niwat Kittsophon (Khru Bah Moh), with the collaboration of five unpaid instructors, who are sharing their knowledge because of their love of Lanna music.

Ekachai, the project director, explained that local Lanna music is not as popular among Lanna youth as instrumental Thai music. There are many reasons for this, such as lack of formal instructions. A positive spin-off of this, however, is that playing techniques have become diverse.

But the most apparent problem is the lack of teachers, as the seniors within the village are able to play the musical instruments, but cannot pass on their knowledge as lessons.

One set of musical instruments that is rarely paid attention to is called “Teng Thueng Drum Band”, which consists of Kong Wong (a group of small gongs strung in a semicircle on a frame), and high-tone and low-tone xylophones, requiring three players in a team. It is feared that bands playing these musical instruments will soon disappear as fewer children are playing them, as individual string and wind instruments are more popular.

Playing music can develop children in terms of their mental development, knowing how to relax in the proper way. The music of each locality also reflects its history. “We should preserve and encourage the youth to play our Lanna music,” the director said.

Five Chiang Mai districts at risk of flooding

Landslides and mudslides blamed on deforestation

Nopniwat Krailerg

There are concerns that five districts in Chiang Mai including Om Koi, Mae Jam, Samoeng, Mae Wang and Doi Saket are at risk of flooding. The concerns have arisen following the flooding in Baan Sob Khong, Mae Hong Son’s Sob Moei district and three Tambons in Chiang Mai’s Om Koi district which have caused trouble and suffering for the residents.

Chuchart Hongrat, head of the Land Development Station speaking with Chiangmai Mail.

Suwat Tantipat, Chiang Mai governor, said that the province had been keeping watch on many risk spots and has been prepared for the flood by warning the people who lived in those flood prone areas. Hopefully, if flooding occurs, the people will be able to manage and deal with it immediately.

Since the flooding is an annual event in the province, added the governor, to solve the problem will need every concerned organization to cooperate with each other.

Chuchart Hongrat, head of the Land Development Station, said that the cause of the flood in Chiang Mai was from the chronic problem of slash and burn farming which destroyed the forests in those areas and triggered the flash floods during periods of heavy rain.

The station would help prevent future flooding by instructing the people on the appropriate way to use their land to reduce the risk of landslide, said Chuchart.

However, he said that the station lacks budget and personnel to work on the problem. In the short term they have to find a method to conserve soil and water in the highlands. One such was the planting of Vetiver grass since it has long roots which can hold the soil and prevent landslides.

Upper Mae Tang River Basin Network and Wiang Hang community ask CMU to halt its environmental study

Saksit Meesubkwang

Natniti Wuttithammapanya, chairman of the Upper Mae Tang River Basin Network, and 50 people from Wiang Hang Community in Chiang Mai, went to submit a request to Asst. Prof. Dr. Thanan Anumansajathon, vice president of Chiang Mai University (CMU) to cancel the study on the effects of the lignite mine development project being conducted by the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT).

The chairman of the Upper Mae Tang River Basin Network said that EGAT had initiated the project of development of a lignite mine in Mae Tang River Basin, Wiang Hang District, Chiang Mai, claiming that the district was suitable for integrating with the lignite coal at Mae Moh Mine in Lampang.

They believe that EGAT signed a contract with CMU to study environmental and social affects that were causing apprehension among the residents in Wiang Hang District.

The chairman said that if the Wiang Hang Lignite Mine was opened, it would affect the local lifestyle and cause subsequent problems, such as deforestation, dust and noise, water distribution for farming, and other problems.

The Upper Mae Tang River Basin Network and Wiang Hang Community saw that CMU was a trustworthy academic center and was well accepted nationally and internationally. If the result of study on Wieng Hang Lignite Mine Development Project was not accepted, the prestige and credit of the university would be affected.

After receiving the letter, Asst. Prof. Dr. Thanan stated that the university was not aware of the case but there could be some professors agreeing to work with EGAT and suspected that they might do it as a personal project. However, their letter would be submitted to Prof. Dr Nipon Tiwanon, CMU’s president.

National Security Council gives Border Distribution Center the once-over

Prakij Prachonpatchaneuk, Vice Secretary of the National Security Council Office, attended a meeting to be better informed about the situation regarding border security in Mae Hong Son province.

Supoj Laowansiri, Mae Hong Son Governor, reported the information and the events surrounding commercial collaboration with Burma. They wanted the Security Council to become involved, supporting the trade in the province to promote Mae Hong Son as a commercial transportation route.

After the conference, the Mae Hong Son Governor led the committee from the Office of the National Security Council to the border point at Ban Huay Pheung, where the One Stop Service Center is being constructed to be border goods exchange center.

This center will encompass administration offices, which will evaluate and inspect the imported and exported products at the border point, customs house, immigration office, livestock development office and the office of commercial affairs will be also built on the area.

The Mae Hong Son Governor is looking at developing and promoting border commerce, and stated that the province has to hurry up and build relationships with neighboring countries.

With this in mind, the committee and people involved with the commercial and tourism development plan went to promote good relations in Burma and met with the city leaders of Taunggy and Mandalay, located 300 kilometers from Mae Hong Son.

The commodities that Burma needs are electric appliances, engines and consumer goods. Both Thai and Burmese committees have successfully agreed on the opening of the commercial and tourism route through Ban Huay Pheung.

14,000 refugees uneasy in new camp

Status of school children uncertain

Col Nopporn Ruanjun, Commander of the 36th Military Ranger Department, met with representatives from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), foreign non-governmental organizations and three heads of refugee groups at the Theppa Singh Military Camp in Mae Sariang district, Mae Hong Son to discuss measures to control and monitor border refugees.

Prior to the conference, the government had ordered the refugee camp in Ban Mae Kong Ka-Sala in Mae Sariang district to be moved to a new location in Mae La Oon forest in Sop Moei district. The relocation was completed by March 20.

Currently the Mae La Oon refugee holding center has 2,505 refugee families comprising 13,992 persons. However, during the shift, 3,000 refugees returned to Myanmar, with 2,000 adults afraid of security in the new camp and 1,000 of the number being school children who returned to Myanmar to visit relatives during the Thai school holidays.

However, before their relocation to the Mae La Oon camp, it was made clear that if any refugees went back to their native country, they would not be allowed to return to Thailand. If they tried to return, they would be repatriated to their homeland.

The conference decided it did not have the authority to decide on the fate of refugee students who had returned to their native countries during the school break and who then returned to Thailand. This matter would be referred to higher authorities.

Netu, leader of the refugees in the Mae La Oon Camp, said that they did not feel secure in the new camp. They wanted the military rangers to conduct patrols in case alien armed forces accessed the area near the camp.

The Commander of the 36th Military Ranger Department insisted that the Thai army would not allow any alien armed forces to enter the kingdom and military rangers had been positioned along many land and water routes to thwart any invasion.

He asked all refugees to trust the military rangers. The camp should also provide guards to watch over the area. If they found anything suspicious, they should inform the rangers so that they can inspect the area, the commander added.

Metered taxis proving popular

Is this the final flagfall for the red buses?

Nopniwat Krailerg

Chiang Mai’s three metered taxis are in such demand that another three will be added into service next month, and a further 10 within this year.

Singhkam Nunti, president of Nakhon Lanna Transport Cooperatives, has confirmed that local residents as well as Thai and foreign visitors are making full use of the metered taxis, the first three of which were introduced late last year.

The taxi rate begins at 30 baht flagfall and increases at four baht a kilometer. Customers who phone for a taxi pay an extra 20 baht service charge.

Another three metered taxis will be added into service next month, and a further 10 within this year.

Singkham said a recent meeting between PM Thaksin Shinawatra and Bangkok taxi drivers at Government House approved the project of Eua Arthorn Taxis that use Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) fuel. However, the Eua Arthorn taxis will not expand operations to Chiang Mai yet.

The Nakhon Lanna Transport Cooperatives would have to raise the capital itself to increase the number of taxis in the city, said their president.

On the matter of CNG gas, Singhkam thought it was not worth Chiang Mai taxis converting to use it since there is no petrol station that supplies CNG in the city at present. In future, if there are about 200 taxis, it will be possible to have a petrol station supplying it.

Singhkam also voiced his opinion on the upcoming Chiang Mai mass transportation. He said that red-minibus drivers, who are also members of the Cooperative, will not be unduly affected by the introduction of 26 buses into public service in July.

During a meeting with the Deputy Minister of the Interior, Pramual Rujanaseree, on April 8, it was mentioned that PM Thaksin also cared about the red-minibuses and pledged that he would not ignore them and was willing to support the drivers if they could not find other careers.

Moreover, the Cooperative had liaised with entrepreneurs of over 4,000 minibuses from throughout the province to bargain with the government if they felt were suffering injustice and were disadvantaged, added Singhkam. They have also tried to use bio-diesel fuel to help the country save energy.

The red-minibus drivers were keeping to the provincial resolution to the decrease of one red minibus per one increase in metered taxis or air-conditioned vans, he said. Eventually, 300 metered taxis would be allowed to operate, although they would be gradually introduced into public service. The Cooperatives would also be permitted to run 300 air-conditioned vans. However, at present there are only six serving the city at the Arcade Bus Terminal, Suan Dok and Huay Kaew Botanical Park.

Singhkam also said that the Cooperative runs a radio station, “Puarn See Lor” (Friends of Four-Wheel Mini-bus Drivers) on air daily on 91.75 MHz between 4-6 p.m. The station provides an opportunity for drivers to exchange information and inform others about accidents or events and link with associated organizations in the same way as “Jor Sor 100” in Bangkok.

The telephone numbers for the metered taxis are 01-9520900 and 0-5327-1242 and are operational daily.

Now if the Cooperative can ensure its taxi drivers can speak English, Chiang Mai will see itself become a more favoured destination for tourists.

Mae Sariang residents on flash floods alert

It never rains but it pours!

Nawarat Srikaewlert

The Mae Hong Son deputy governor has sent urgent messages to seven district officers, warning them of flash floods that could inundate residential areas and agricultural plantations. The alert comes as the water level of the Yuma River, in Mae Hong Son’s Mae Sariang district, continued to rise.

Shana Naksuriya instructed the district officers to prepare to evacuate people in the lowlands in the event of flash flooding. He also directed administration officials and relevant authorities to contribute assistance to citizens who might be affected if the cyclone, which was apparently weakening into a depression, caused floods.

Col. Nopporn Ruangchan, commander of the 36th Military Rangers, has 50 rangers ready for deployment to provide assistance to people residing along the banks of the Yuma River.

There have been reports that the river level was rising quickly after three days of heavy downpours in Mae Lanoi and Mae Sariang districts. At press time, the water level had risen by 70 centimeters. An official said that if it rose to the one meter level, residents along the riverbanks would be affected.

Prasit Mahasingha, Mae Sariang district officer, has also ordered officials to inform residents living along the riverbanks to monitor the water level closely and be prepared to evacuate their properties in a hurry.

Summer flash floods cause extensive damage along several highways

After the drought came water - with a vengeance

Damnoen Tuamjork

Flash floods and landslides caused by the summer depression paralyzed traffic on Mae Hong Son highways - but authorities were quick to clear up the debris.

Pramual Rujanaseree, deputy minister of interior inspected the flooded area at a bridge in Mae Ramat district of Tak province, and comforted people affected by the flash floods.

Mae Hong Son highway district engineer Son Kasidith Wattanasapth said that after the depression had swept over Mae Hong Son the previous day, flash floods brought down trees and other debris that piled up on Highway 108 (Mae Hong Son-Mae Sariang) at Ban Huaypapah, Mae Lanoi district. However, authorities managed to clear away the obstruction within about two hours.

Heavy rains also washed down rocks onto Highway 1095 (Mae Hong Son-Pai) which, was also able to be cleared quickly.

The floods brought in large pieces of wood which became stuck at the bridge in Mae Ramat district, Tak.

Watchara Plaengcham, highway district engineer for Tak, reported a landslide that blocked Highway 105 (Mae Sod-Mae Sariang) over an distance of 60 meters at the 49 km. marker. The highway was badly damaged. Road clearing machinery was quickly mobilized to clear the soil off the road. Near the 33 km. marker, over a distance of about 375 meters, floodwater also destroyed the footbridge. At the 43 km. marker, the road was under water so that vehicles again could not pass. Three kilometres further a landslide partially blocked the road, but vehicles could pass on one side. At the 80 km. marker, another footbridge had been washed away, and vehicular traffic was again obstructed.

Highway 105 has since been cleared by the Tak Highway District authorities.

Myanmar opens doors to agents, travel media

The Myanmar Tourism Promotion Board (MTPB) is organizing a series of heavily-subsidized fixed-date fam trips for travel agents, travel writers, travel photographers and others involved in the promotion of travel to the Far East.

There will be eight week-long trips between now and the end of September, with departure dates every fortnight from June 15 to September 21. The itinerary takes in Yangon, Mandalay, Pagan and other key destinations.

The trips are priced at 344 Euros per industry member and 418 Euros per companion. Prices include flights from Bangkok to Yangon with Myanmar Airways International or Thai Airways International, seven nights accommodation in Myanmar based on twin sharing basis; domestic flights within Myanmar; sightseeing and ground handling with English-speaking guide; and entrance fees to certain pagodas.

A letter stating proof of employment must be received on company letter head accompanying the booking form. Self employed persons in the industry must submit proof of work done in the tourism field. Visit (www (TTG Asia)

Buddhist Holy Day of Wisakhabucha - June 2

Celebrating the birth - enlightenment and death of the Buddha

This coming week, on June 2, one of the most venerated holidays on the Buddhist calendar will be celebrated: Wisakhabucha Day.

(Note: government offices and banks will be closed.)

Wisakhabucha Day marks the beginning of the Buddhist Era 2,547 years ago, and celebrates the miracle of the Buddha being born, reaching enlightenment and passing away all on the same date.

According to scripture, Prince Siddhartha, also known as Gautama, who became the Buddha, was born in the eastern foothills of the Himalayas on the 15th day (full moon) of the sixth lunar month in 623 BC, attained enlightenment while sitting under a fig tree at the edge of the Nerunchara River on the 15th day (full moon) of the sixth lunar month in 588 BC, and then passed away at the age of 80 on the 15th day (full moon) of the sixth lunar month in 544 BC.

The word wisakabucha comes from the word wisaburanamiibucha which means to pay homage to Buddha on the day of the full moon in the month of wisaka (the sixth month).

The holy day is usually observed each year during May, but this year it falls in June because it is a leap year, determined by the lunar calendar, and is on the 15th day of the waxing moon during the 6th month of the Thai calendar. It dates back to ancient celebrations in India and Sri Lanka.

For this holiday, killing any kind of animal and drinking alcohol or intoxicating substances is forbidden for 3 days. Wats are to be adorned with lanterns, flowers and joss sticks as symbols of worship, and skyrockets will be lit for three days to celebrate.

The day is also designated as National Tree Day in Thailand.

Gautama (Buddha) was brought up in the family of a clan leader of regal status, sheltered from life’s miseries. Later in life, after observing a decrepit old man, a diseased man, a dead man, and a sage he realized the impermanence of earthly things and began his quest for enlightenment.

For six years he sought enlightenment through ascetic practices. He eventually decided it was not to be found in that manner and resumed the life of a wanderer living on alms. While sitting under a fig tree in a posture of meditation for what is described as a period of seven weeks, Gautama resolved not to stir until succeeding. He achieved his quest, becoming the Buddha, entering a state of Nirvana while still alive.

Whatever took place on that day was the start of Buddhism, as Gautama set forth to reveal his discovery, eventually spreading the word into many parts of Asia. Gautama was later recognized as one in a great line of Buddhas with a concept going back to Vishnu or Siva.

The large following created over 25 centuries ago and continuing to this day is witness to the fact that something of distinct value was found, which was explained in the Buddha’s first sermon at Benares when he said the key to enlightenment is the presence of suffering.

The sermon told of the “Four Noble Truths” identifying suffering (birth, decay, illness, death and rebirth) and the failure to always be able to obtain one’s desires as the continuing antagonists in life.

Secondly, since everything has a cause, so has suffering, and when its causes and conditions are removed suffering is eliminated according to the third truth. The key is to allow the karmic effects already in existence to play out - not producing any further karmic chains. Once the cessation of desire ends, all causes have taken affect and the suffering ends, leading to discontinuing the cycle of rebirth.

The fourth truth is the path to the cessation of suffering, the “Eightfold Path” or a “middle way” between extremes of abstinence and indulgence. The steps in the “Eightfold Path” consists of: correct views, correct aspiration, correct speech, correct conduct, correct livelihood, correct effort, correct thought, and correct concentration or meditation.

Devout Buddhists consider Wisakhabucha Day as an important event and crowds of devotees will participate in ceremonies at nearby temples, making merit in the morning by bringing alms to monks and listening to sermons. Later in the evening devotees will continue assembling at temples to conduct the “Wien Tien” ceremony, walking around sacred temple grounds three times holding candles, joss sticks and flowers honoring the Buddha, the Dhamma (Buddha’s teachings) and the Sangha, the Buddhist Monastic Order.

The Thai government implemented “National Tree Day” in the year 1985 as part of a program to restore the forests and increase public awareness of the importance of preserving the natural environment. National Tree Day was designated on the same day as Wisakhabucha Day and activities include many levels of government, schools and local organizations planting trees in addition to observing Wisakhabucha Day.

Motorists complain petrol stations taking them for a ride

Weights and Measures department now weighing and measuring

Saksit Meesubkwang

The head of the Chiang Mai Provincial Commerce Office has led a team to inspect petrol stations in the city after receiving complaints from the public. Wipada Trisata, with Surachai Sangsrikaew, chief of the Weights and Measures Center for the north, and Fuengfah Tulardhammakoon, head of the Foreign Trade Office in Chiang Mai, inspected two petrol stations - one on Chiang Mai-Hang Dong Road, and the other on Chiang Mai-Hot Road.

The office had been approached by members of the public who said they had taken their cars to a petrol station on Chiang Mai-Hang Dong Road and suspected that they did not get the correct amount of petrol. The Weights and Measures officers checked the quantities at the two stations and found they were not standardized.

Wipada disclosed that most of the petrol stations they had inspected so far, gave correct volumes. However, if any station was found guilty of misconduct in the sale of petrol under the Weights and Measures Act, they would be closed down and would only be able to resume business after they were re-examined and received official approval.

She also stated that the inspection at petrol stations was part of an investigation into weights, measures and price tags. However she followed the ‘official’ line, saying the rise in the price in consumer goods was not caused by the hike in the oil prices, but from the impact of avian flu that increased the price of pork, chicken meat and eggs following the law of supply and demand.

The Ministry of Commerce has collaborated with other departments to do random inspections on prices of commodities, in a campaign that will not end until August 13. If any retailers do not display prices, they can be fined up to 20,000 baht.

Whistle blower Forestry official threatened

Mafia tactics being used to intimidate

Nopniwat Krailerg

The president of Tambon Mae Hia Administration Organization claims he has been threatened after “influential persons” who trespassed on conserved forest were arrested.

Thanawat Yodjai said he was threatened after he had disclosed the facts behind the forest invasion to the press and brought over 200 community leaders to examine the forest situation last month.

The President of Tambon Mae Hia Administration Organization, Thanawat Yodjai showing where his car was vandalized.

According to Thanawat, 176 invaders trespassed on over 500 rai of forest in Moo 3 of Tambon Mae Hia. Consequently, warrants of arrest against some invaders were issued.

Thanawat said he had received telephone threats both at his office and at home. His car had also been vandalized to intimidate him.

However, he said he would continue to carry out his duties in monitoring deforestation and forest fires in the national park area. At the same time, he had asked Pol Gen Prasert Chantrapipat, deputy commander of Chiang Mai Provincial Police Station, for police protection.

Thanawat said that his work could be considered successful because the Tambon and villagers got their forest back and some government officials who trespassed on the forest had been removed. The courts had also issued warrants of arrest against some forestry officials who were involved in the forest invasion.

He said that, before his present position, he had been a local politician and lawyer for over six years and had never faced threats like this.

The invaders trespassed on and occupied hundreds of rai of forest although the Forestry Office checkpoint is also located in the area and the forest area lines were cleared marked.

It seemed to him that the invaders have many networks to work with. Initially, it is known that the invaders bought the land from other persons with no documentation for between 10,000 and 100,000 baht per rai.

Thanawat was proud that he could help protect the forest and that, as a representative of the Mae Hia people, he could return over 200 rai of forest.

Diet supplement food store raided

Public Health Department states supplement misrepresented

Saksit Meesubkwang

A Chiang Inn Plaza store selling dietary supplements has been raided and the owners faces criminal charges.

Police, armed with a search warrant, raided the fourth floor store, which belongs to the Right Power Co Ltd. The operation was led by Pol Lt Maj Narich Sorndith of the Muang District police station, accompanied by officials from the Chiang Mai Provincial Public Health Office led by Issara Nanawichit, a Pharmacist.

After searching the store, police confiscated cosmetics and 456 boxes of dietary supplement, from Indian Brake and Horthorn, under the Right Move brand, which were seized as evidence to use in the case against the store’s owner.

Pharmacist Issara disclosed that the dietary supplement contained a substance which had no effect on weight reduction other than being a normal laxative. When taking this product continuously, the human body would not be able to absorb the food taken in, so that the consumers would become slimmer. However, the high concentration needed to do this had cardiac effects.

Lampas Chaidharma, 41, the company’s controlling manager of the Northern branch, said that he came from Bangkok to make contact with Chiang Mai Provincial Public Health to get results of their test of the product. He had been staying in Chiang Mai for three days and his meeting with the Public Health Office was always denied. Then in the meantime, the police officers and the officials raided the store which he found very strange.

Pol Lt Maj Narich said that if the Public Health office pressed charges, the company would be charged with distributing an incorrect dietary supplement, according to Food and Medicines Bill of 1983, and the owners could be imprisoned for 2 years.

British businessman found dead in hotel

Drug cocktail indicated in demise

Nopniwat Krailerg

A British businessman has been found dead in a Chiang Mai hotel room, possibly after taking drugs. This was the initial findings released by police.

Pol Capt Sa-nguan Sankam of the Muang Chiang Mai police station, accompanied by a doctor from Maharaj Nakhon Chiang Mai Hospital, found 33 year old Englishman David Harrison Laws sitting cross-legged on the floor with his head bowed.

There was no sign of a struggle and it is suspected that he had died at least two days prior. Police found a wrapper with 0.02 grams of heroin and an amphetamine tablet on the floor.

Preliminary investigations showed that Laws had travelled from Bangkok and checked in at the hotel on May 16, on business in Chiang Mai. He had informed the hotel he would stay until May 20.

The police suspect that the man had visited night entertainment outlets in Chiang Mai and bought the drugs. He possibly took two kinds of drugs at the same time, and suffered from heart failure as a result.

His body was taken to the Maharaj Nakhon Chiang Mai Hospital for the exact cause of death to be ascertained.

Hmong drug dealer killed during sting operation

200,000 amphetamine tablets seized

Police of the northern Narcotics Suppression Division clashed with a Hmong drug network with one of the drug couriers killed in a gunfire exchange. The incident took place on the roadside at Ban Pongyaengnok, Mae Rim-Samoeng Road, Tambon Pongyaeng in Chiang Mai’s Mae Rim district on the night of May 20.

The drug dealer who was shot by police fell down a ravine over 100 meters deep and the body had to be recovered by a police rescue team. Police later identified the body as 26-year-old Chai Laotang, a Hmong from Tambon Huay Pong, Muang district in Mae Hong Son.

Inspection of his pickup truck revealed two white gunnysacks covered with waterproof nets. Inside were 200,000 ya ba amphetamine tablets.

Chai and a second drug dealer had bought the tablets from a police informant for over 4 million baht, but during the transaction, the dealers recognized that it was a sting operation and pulled out their weapons and began firing at the police. After the five minute gunfight, police found Chai had been fatally wounded; however, his accomplice managed to escape.

Thai police arrest husband and wife linked to fugitive drug lord

The Associated Press

Police arrested a Thai couple Monday who were previously convicted of laundering money for a major drug trafficker.

Chaturong Danprachan, 66, and his wife, Amphapan Denwipaiwong, 56, were arrested for trying to obtain fake identification cards in Chiang Mai, said police Lt. Col. Charuk Chothigo.

Chaturong, also known as Lingsang Tongwilai, was convicted in 2001 of laundering money for Wei Hsueh Kang - described by the U.S. government as one of Asia’s biggest drug traffickers.

His wife was reportedly involved in the same case.

The United States has offered a US$2 million reward for the capture of Wei, who is also wanted by Thai authorities for a 1987 drug conviction. He is believed to be in Myanmar, where he allegedly is involved in trafficking heroin and methamphetamines.

Chaturong and his wife have been charged with filing false information with officials and face up to five years in prison and a 100,000 baht (US$2,500) fine.

Police also seized assets from them including cash and gold jewelry worth 100 million baht (US$2.5 million), reported the Thai News Agency.