NEWS
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

National Geographic slams Chiang Mai as tourist destination

Entertainment venues warned to toe the 48-year-old line

Youth cultural exchange hoped to defuse Southern border problems

Schoolchildren taught respect during Visakha Bucha

Venus transits the Sun

Minor earthquake shakes Chiang Mai

Brave young woman beats motorcycle bandit at his own game

Urgent renovations needed to save Chedi at Doi Suthep temple

Important financial considerations for visa holders

Not everyone is happy to have Hollywood shooting in their back garden

Pandas showing interest in precocious sex

Chiang Mai’s Consumer Protection Committee protecting whom?

Killer flood’s costly trail of destruction assessed

Banks and financial institutions to hold home auction

3 billion baht proposed to increase local tourism

Chiang Mai bird flu no cause to worry

Police tighten security for foreigners

Teens making homemade grenades

Ya ba pills found in pickup outside police station

Drug running increases in wet season

Want an eye-catching number plate?

Northern workers drugged into fisheries sector

National Geographic slams Chiang Mai as tourist destination

After the rhetoric, here comes the truth

Nopniwat Krailerg

Chalermsak Suranant, director of TAT, Northern Office, Region 1, admitted that the TAT is concerned after the National Geographic Traveler magazine March 2004 issue ranked the world’s 115 tourist sites into three categories: The Good, Not So Bad and Getting Ugly, and placed Chiang Mai and Phuket in the latter category (Getting Ugly).

Chiang Mai was ranked 29 out of 37 and the negatives included the environment, the negative change of the Chiang Mai socio-cultural structure and poor tourism management.

Director Chalermsak stated that he had urgently informed Suwat Tantipat, Chiang Mai governor, and Boonlert Buranupakorn, Chiang Mai mayor, who are the area’s chief executive officers, to collaborate in solving the problems.

Governor Suwat said that he had ordered the authorities responsible to discuss and review the magazine’s criticism. Suwat also assigned the provincial tourism promotion board and the concerned groups to adapt their strategies in competing in the tourism business. A conference about this would be arranged as soon as possible next week.

Boonlert Perela, president of Chiang Mai Tourism Business Association, admitted that Chiang Mai had changed so that outsiders felt the city was not the same as before. The three aspects that the magazine had criticized Chiang Mai for were undeniable, especially that of environment. “If Chiang Mai City does not improve itself, its role in the world tourism will be lessened,” he noted.

Perhaps now is the time for the city fathers to address the fact that tourists cannot get about easily. Red minibuses with no marked destination are not tourist friendly and packing tourists off early to bed is in contradiction of the world trends. Even Singapore has relaxed its previously enforced early closures. Perhaps now is the time to enforce zoning and allow those venues zoned for entertainment discretion on closing times. The long awaited electric transportation system would assist environmental concerns if the current public transport is then phased out.


Entertainment venues warned to toe the 48-year-old line

The fun police are watching you

Nopniwat Krailerg

Chiang Mai has toughened up its stance on entertainment venues that violate the law. Offenders face being closed for 30 days as punishment.

District chief officer Chumporn Sangmanee has set up a team to patrol the venues and enforce the law even more strictly.

Chumporn Sangmanee, Muang district chief officer, at the weekly press conference at Chiang Mai City Hall.

He announced at a press conference at Chiang Mai City Hall that six clauses in the Entertainment Outlets Act of 1956 had to be followed - or else.

The patrols will monitor the following:

* Entertainment venues are not allowed to be open outside appointed times;

* No illegal drugs are allowed at those venues;

* The ages of clients must be strictly controlled;

* No obscene shows are permitted;

* The carrying of firearms or other dangerous weapons is not allowed;

* The type of business each outlet runs must match its license.

The governor must authorize the 30-day closure of a venue if the owner violates the law. Since October last year, 18 entertainment outlets so far have been punished or are in process of facing closure. The majority of violations have been with closing times and underage patrons. Another 100 entertainment venues have been penalized for less serious violations.

Chumporn claimed that Chiang Mai, as a tourist city, was different from other tourist destinations such as Pattaya and Phuket. “Chiang Mai is unique because it is a city of arts and culture, ancient monuments and ruins, surrounded with many educational institutions,” he said.

“High ranking officials also expect it to be more strictly patrolled as it is the hometown of the prime minister. Therefore, only good things should be happening in the city, in keeping with government policies and the path that PM Thaksin has set as a precedent.”

He continued, “For example, no business owners in Chiang Mai should ever become involved in paedophilia or drugs.”

Somewhat confusingly, he said that entertainment outlets should conform to the concept of tourist cities, but at the same time strictly follow the rules.

The Muang District Office, as one of the organizations directly responsible for law enforcement, is therefore working together closely with Mae Ping, Phuping, Chang Puek and Muang district police stations, the Provincial Public Health Office, regional revenue office and the regional excise office to uphold these 48-year-old statutes.

The district office also carries out undercover investigations, but the procedure to enforce the 30-day penalty has become more complex as prosecutions must be brought within 15 days.

The entertainment venues being closely watched in the Muang district include 10 discotheques that under Article 3(1), must be closed before 2 a.m.; one tavern registered under Article 3(2); six massage parlors under Article 3(3); and 306 karaoke lounges, restaurants and pubs with music performance registered under Article 3(4). The latter three categories have to close at 1 a.m.

A Royal Decree on zoning has been proclaimed and covers the area from city hall to the police booth in San Pheesua district in front of Ruan Phrae Restaurant, and no licence will be issued for any new outlets.

At present, the Muang District Office patrol team consists of the deputy district officer and officials from district and provincial Territorial Security Volunteers who take turns in inspecting the outlets. The team submits a daily report to the district officer and reports are presented once a week to the provincial authority.

“We will not allow any favoritism in the inspection, and if any district officials are found to have accepted bribes, they will be relocated,” the district chief officer warned. It was not made immediately clear whether this relocation would include any legal action.

He added that if the public had information about entertainment venues transgressing the law, they can inform at the Muang District Office at any time.

All that must be done now is to tell the tourists what time they have to go back to their hotels. But will they understand why? And be willing to come back next year?


Youth cultural exchange hoped to defuse Southern border problems

Samphan Changthong

Youths from the north and from the south have enriched each other immensely in an inter-Thai “cultural exchange” programme, claims the commander of the 3rd Army Region.

Lt Gen Picharnmeth Muangmanee, the commander of the 3rd Army Region has praised the excursion program for the youths from the northern and southern borders, saying it will establish good inter-regional relations and offer them the chance to learn about each other’s cultures.

He was speaking at the Phoo Klar (Brave Men) Grounds, in the Mengrai the Great Military Camp on May 28, where he received 255 youth representatives from Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai, Mae Hong Son, Nan and Tak. Afterwards, they left on a Royal Thai Air Force plane from Chiang Rai Airport on an excursion to the southern border provinces.

The trip was part of the Rom Thong Thai (under the Thai national flag) Project under the Internal Security Operations Command. It was aimed at offering youths in the border provinces the opportunity to meet and learn about the landscape, and social, economic and cultural aspects of one another’s homes.

Lt Gen Picharnmeth also said the cultural exchange program between the youths of the two regions would form good relations between them and help them solve local problems in the future.

On the same day, a group of 225 youth representatives of the southern border provinces of Songkhla, Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat and Satun arrived in Chiang Rai. They spent two days travelling around the province before going on to Bangkok, where they linked up with the northern youth representatives for joint activities.


Schoolchildren taught respect during Visakha Bucha

Wat Pan On holds Thai good manners contest for students

Autsadaporn Kamthai

20 pairs of primary students and 27 pairs of secondary students from Chiang Mai and nearby provinces were entered in the Bencha Kapradith Thai good manners contest. The main objectives of the contest was to conserve Thai traditions and suitable manners among the young generations and promote practicing performing the wai in the correct manner.

Phrathep Visuthikul, chief monk in Chiang Mai province presided over the awards presentation ceremony to the students and teachers of Wattanothai Payap School at Buddha Satharn on May 27.

Sirimangkalajarn School was selected as the winner at the primary level with Kowit Thamrong Chiang Mai School and Ban Mae Rim Tai School as the first and second runners-up.

At the secondary level, students from Wattanothai Payap School were the winners with students from Kowit Thamrong Chiang Mai School and Wat Ping Muang Municipality School first and second runners-up respectively.

Apart from the Thai good manners contest, the contest on knowledge of Buddhist issues was held on the same day at Buddha Satharn Religious venue.

The students from Dok Ngurn Municipality School won at the primary level while students from Kawila School and Yupparat Wittayalai were the winners from secondary and high school levels respectively.


Venus transits the Sun

Tom Matty

On June 8, this coming Monday, people around the world will have the opportunity to witness an event which has not been seen for more than a century. During a six hour period, Venus will transit the sun. The disk of Venus is large enough that even the unaided eye, provided proper precautions are taken, can see the small dark dot which is the planet Venus as it moves across the bright image of the sun.

The full transit is visible from all of Central and Northern Thailand. First contact, when the outer rim of Venus touches the outer rim of the sun, will occur at 12:13 in the afternoon. Fourth contact, when the last bit of Venus leaves contact with the edge of the sun will occur at 6:20 p.m.

How to see it

Do not ever look at the sun directly with your eyes for any length of time. The damage to your vision can be irreparable. But this doesn’t mean you have to miss the event. Here are three ways you can see it safely and conveniently.

Here’s a picture of what a transit looks like, taken on May 7, 2003 when Mercury transited the sun. The image was taken with an 8 inch f6 Newtonian telescope using eyepiece projection. (Photo by Tom Matty)

The safest way is to use a thin piece of cardboard. Use a pin to punch a small hole in the cardboard. Position this piece of cardboard above a white piece of paper so that the sun’s image shines through and onto the paper.

Still very safe is to try to find a number 14 welder’s glass of high quality. This is dark enough for you to view the entire event safely looking directly through the glass.

It has sometimes been recommended that you take a piece of clear glass and hold it over a burning candle. The soot from the candle flame will coat the glass and make it dark enough to use. This method is not recommended as it may not bar all types of radiation sufficiently for complete safety.

If you have a telescope, binoculars or other optical enhancement device you can use this to get a close up of what is happening. Never look directly through the eyepiece at the sun. What you do is put a large piece of white cardboard or paper six to twelve inches back from the eyepiece. Use this to align your optics so that the suns disk is projected onto the board. Focus by moving the cardboard back and forth until the image becomes sharp. You also can see sunspots this way.

There’s lots more information available about this on the internet for anyone who is interested. If you have any questions I can try to answer them for you. Contact Tom Matty at 01 883 3013, email [email protected]

Enjoy this rare and wonderful natural event.


Minor earthquake shakes Chiang Mai

Seismic activity also on Myanmar border

Nopniwat Krailerg

A slight earth tremor rattled Chiang Mai shortly before midnight on May 30. The meteorological office of the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology reported that the earthquake, measuring 2.0 on the Richter scale, occurred at 11.53 p.m. Its epicenter was about 13 kilometers northeast of the seismic measurement station in Chiang Mai based at the foot of Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep Mountain.

The quake was restricted in the San Sai district of Chiang Mai, where some residents felt the tremor. No casualties were reported, officials said.

Meanwhile, the seismic measurement station of the Royal Thai Navy’s hydrographic department reports that another tremor measuring 5.2 on the Richer scale was felt at 8.53 a.m. on May 31 along the border between Thailand and Myanmar. Again there were no reports of casualties.


Brave young woman beats motorcycle bandit at his own game

The mouse that roared!

Nopniwat Krailerg

Motorcycle snatch and flee thieves have been carrying out their brazen crimes without restraint daily in many areas of Chiang Mai. However, a plucky young woman retrieved her stolen handbag from a ride-by thief, in a daring reversal of fortunes, resulting in the arrest of the repeat offender.

Meethawee Phrommanee, 20, a female dental clinic employee had her shoulder bag snatched shortly before midday on May 31. Not giving up, she instead gave chase on her own motorcycle. Catching up with the thief at the traffic intersection at the King Rama IV Bridge on Rattanakosin Road, she kicked over the thieves motorcycle, sending both it and the rider tumbling. The thief got up and ran off on foot down the Ping riverbank in an attempt to escape.

In the meantime, Pol Lt Col Samphan Sirima of the Chang Puek police station received an emergency call about the event and alerted a police patrol vehicle. Pol Sgt Maj Boontuan Yudee and Pol Cpl Pattaraphop Mookam responded and found Meethawee beside the thief’s unlicensed motorcycle. She had already retrieved her shoulder bag, which contained documents, her purse and mobile phone, which the thief had dropped as he made his getaway.

He was described as a teenage boy with short hair and wearing a green T-shirt and black pants, seen fleeing in the direction of Muang Mai Market. People fishing in the Ping River told police patrol searching for him that they had seen someone fitting his description walking along the riverbank. They suspected he might be heading to hide in a house near the Muang Mai Market.

Hot on the trail, the police officers found the culprit and arrested him. He appeared to be under the influence of drugs.

The 16-year-old suspect, who may not be named because he is a minor, lives at Tambon Huay Sai in Mae Rim district. The youth admitted he had previously used the same modus operandi to steal many times before.


Urgent renovations needed to save Chedi at Doi Suthep temple

Temple says it needs another 2 million baht

Nopniwat Krailerg

The Fine Arts Office, Chiang Mai, plans to renovate the Great Pagoda at Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep temple which has deteriorated into a critical condition.

Sahawat Naenna, the Fine Arts Office director, said that it was initially decided that the Chedi’s pinnacle would be renovated first. However, after the Fine Arts Department conferred with others, it was concluded that it would be risky, for fear of collapse. They suggested that the renovation should be done at the central base because it could keep the pinnacle erect.

It was finally agreed that renovation of the main Chedi had to be done. It will take about three months to complete the restoration, and if the temple can afford it, the whole pagoda will be renovated during the winter season.

Examinations revealed that the main Chedi is in bad a bad state - especially its interior, which is subject to high humidity. Sahawat said that humidity was not the only cause of damage, but also there had been inadvertent deterioration from previous attempts at restoration. This had been carried out in 1998, but was unsatisfactory as the artisans had inserted iron rods inside the main Chedi which subsequently caused parts of it to swell.

Since the Chedi is covered with brass and gold plates, the humidity inside cannot be released. To make matters worse, water leaks in through cracks, and the marble paving around the Chedi also prevents ventilation.

The main structure of the Chedi is made of bricks and lime which have a high water absorption quality, again adding to the humidity inside. When the temperature changes rapidly, condensation develops inside, making the brass plates covering the pagoda turn green.

A survey shows that the north-eastern side of the Chedi is most at risk because the land on that side is sloping, was previously land-fill and not fully compacted.

Sahawat said it is extremely costly to control the humidity inside the Chedi. The Fine Arts Department recently gave the temple 5 million baht, but the caretakers of the temple are afraid this will not cover renovation costs, which are estimated at 7 million baht.


Important financial considerations for visa holders

Minimum income re-stated by Immigration Bureau

The Immigration Bureau

In accordance with the Immigration Bureau’s order No. 110/2546 subject to regulations and requirements of stay for foreigners which has been effective since July 10, 2003, and for the visa extension concerning business and Thai Sponsor or Permanent Resident sponsor, which will be effective from July 10, 2004.

The Immigration Bureau states the foreigner’s minimum income regulation which will be effective from July 10, 2004, as following:

1. Income necessary for Visa extension for business of foreigners

(Nationality) Japan, U.S.A., Canada: (Stipulated minimum monthly income) 60,000 baht. Europe, Australia: 50,000 baht. Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Great Britain, Singapore, and Malaysia: 45,000 baht. India, Middle East, China, Indonesia, Philippines: 35,000 baht. Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Africa: 25,000 baht. Correspondents: 20,000 baht.

2. Visa extension concerning Thai or Permanent Resident Sponsor

For foreigners who sponsor a Thai or Permanent Resident, he/she must have not less than 400,000 baht in a savings account or not less than 40,000 baht monthly income.

For foreigners who obtain sponsorship from a Permanent Resident, such Permanent Resident must have not less than 400,000 baht in a savings account or not less than 40,000 baht monthly income.


Not everyone is happy to have Hollywood shooting in their back garden

Villagers file protest with authorities

Saksit Meesubkwang

Chiang Mai’s Mae Taeng district residents are angry that an overseas film crew has disturbed their peace and annoyed them with noise pollution caused by helicopters, bombs and gun fights scenes, frightening elephants roaming in the area. “This is a violation of our individual rights,” a spokesman for the villagers said.

On May 30, villagers of Ban Kidchang, Tambon Kidchang, Mae Taeng district said that both the mental and physical health of many elephants were affected by the film shoot. Some of them were pregnant or disabled.

The disturbances occurred during April and May when scenes for the action film “Into the Sun” were being shot. Famous Hollywood names including Stephen Segal star in the film. The film crew together with six helicopters and a herd of elephants from Surin province were brought in for the shoot.

Local villagers were opposed to it and complained of “the deafening scenes that caused the elephants to become fierce and dangerous, which in turn made the villagers frightened.”

The agitated elephants posed a danger of destroying their property and attacking them. The crew at the time was shooting a scene of smuggling opium from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Myanmar. The scene was accompanied by loud bomb blasts and gunfire. Frightened elephants took flight and some ran into trucks which were damaged.

Although the film producer expressed his “deep regret” to the villagers and paid some compensation for the damage caused, the locals have not been placated. On May 20, the villagers lodged a complaint with the authorities concerned with wildlife and animal organizations, as well as environment bodies, especially the representative of World Wildlife Organization.


Pandas showing interest in precocious sex

Patter of little Panda feet soon?

Saksit Meesubkwang

The two pandas at Chiang Mai have been a hit with the public, and authorities are making sure they stay that way. Sophon Dhamnui, director of the Zoological Park Organization of Thailand, says they will be given a vaccine to protect them against distemper, as Thailand has many dogs and cats, and these animals could infect the pandas.

The two pandas have not been vaccinated previously.

The vaccine has been produced through genetic engineering of the infectious ferret distemper. The vaccine is distributed commercially and can be used on pandas, raccoons, wolves, lions, tigers and leopards.

Veterinarians inject the pandas with a distemper vaccine.

China has approved the vaccination for its ‘on loan’ pandas. The results will be sent to China, so that authorities can use the vaccine on other pandas there.

During this summer school break, the number of people who visited the pandas fell by 20 percent, so Chiang Mai Zoo will run a special promotion by letting two people visit them on only one ticket, the director said.

The veterinarians who watch over them said they are ready to breed, even though the male Tewan is only three years and eight months and the female Tewee is only two years and eight months old. They are in good condition and have started to show sexual interest in each other.

However, officials say that they will inform China about this new development. They also believe that as daytime lasts longer in Thailand than in China, the pandas would have more time and be sexually aroused more quickly.

Premature breeding may not be such a strange matter. It would be good news for both Chiang Mai locals and Thais if they soon hear the patter of little panda feet.


Chiang Mai’s Consumer Protection Committee protecting whom?

Not the purchasers it seems, but the sellers

Saksit Meesubkwang and Jiraphat Warasin

The 50cc scooter problem just doesn’t want to go away. On the one hand we have the owners who claim they have bought the small scooters, in good faith, from registered motorcycle dealers, and on the other hand we have the upholders of the law who say they are illegal and cannot be ridden on Chiang Mai’s busy streets. Where can the aggrieved owners turn? To the Chiang Mai Consumer Protection Committee? Not so, it appears.

Asdsathai Rattanadilok na Phuket, head of Chiang Mai Provincial Transport Office.

Chiang Mai’s Consumer Protection Committee has come out to say that the consumers purchased these small motorcycles with the awareness that no unlicensed vehicle can be legally ridden on public roads. The 50cc scooters are not excluded from that law. The office’s committee and officials reiterated that it was a law that the general public must know, and apparently ignorance of the law is no excuse.

Our automotive expert informed us that it is legal for a dealer to sell an unregisterable motorcycle (just as it is legal to sell a riding lawnmower – but it isn’t legal to take that mower out onto the streets and downtown to pick up your groceries). “The smaller bikes are supposed to be ‘fun’ bikes for riding around the scrub, or in your back yard. It is caveat emptor. If you buy a bigger bike from the dealers they will register it for you, and you buy it with the government insurance and number plates pending.” They of course cannot, and will not, do this for the smaller bikes.

It is not legal to ride these scooters on public roads, and the authorities say that they will stop and fine you if you do.

However, a case might be made for requiring dealers to inform unknowing buyers of this law, perhaps by placing a sign in the display area or by attaching stickers to the bikes stating that it is against the law to ride them on public roads.

Chiang Mai Traffic Police Works noted that the police must uphold the law, so they have to arrest riders of 50cc scooters. Otherwise, the traffic police would be charged with negligence of their duties.

Asdsathai Rattanadilok na Phuket, head of Chiang Mai Provincial Transport Office, said that, according to the law, each vehicle with an engine under 50cc and wheel diameter below 10 inches cannot be registered. The fact that these small scooters are assembled here or overseas does not change the situation. The law has always been there.

He added that this was an endless problem as no one organization looks at it seriously, and while roaming around the city roads, the owners did not pay road tax to the government. “It is up to the traffic police to arrest the riders of these 50cc scooters,” he said.

We approached Pol. Maj. Gen Kasem Rattanasoonthorn, commander of Chiang Mai Provincial Police Division and Pol. Lt. Col. Weerayut Prasobchoekchai, the head of Chiang Mai Traffic Police Works, who told Chiangmai Mail that they had not been assigned by their superiors to take action yet.

It was observed that the police did not take the case seriously. The police at the superintendent level refused interview, but threw the case to suppression police inspectors or those at the lower ranks.

Since the police seem to be turning a blind eye to the extremely dangerous lack of wearing of helmets by riders of all sized motorcycles, the 50cc furor is perhaps attracting much more attention than the situation would merit.


Killer flood’s costly trail of destruction assessed

6,000 people affected

Saksit Meesubkwang

The devastating floods in the north have brought the Deputy Minister of the Interior up to inspect areas damaged by the recent flash floods in Mae Ramat district in Tak province.

Pramual Rujaneree, accompanied with Phongpayom Wasaputi, the director general of the Department of Public Disaster Prevention and Relief, and an inspection committee came to inspect the damage caused by one of the largest and worst floods in the area.

More than 6,000 people were affected and 39 houses were swept away by the current. Hundreds more were damaged. Government service officials delivered rice, dried foods and drinking water to those affected.

Each family, whose house was damaged, stands to be allocated compensation of between 200,000-300,000 baht, Pramual announced.

The flood was exacerbated by forest and environmental destruction. Thousands of felled trees ended up in the inundated areas. Initial estimates put the cost of the damage at more than a hundred million baht.

The bodies of a couple, 90-year-old Ta Wanpoon and 63-year-old Kampang Wanpoon who drowned, have since been recovered but two other persons are still missing, 58-year-old Kankam Kampala and 46-year-old Yongyuth Supanakorn. They all lived under the same roof in Tambon Mae Ramat, Mae Ramat district and their house was completely carried away by the current.

The deputy minister asked villagers to be alert for deforestation, because that is one reason why the floodwaters could flow unhindered. He also suggested ways to prevent a repeat of the disaster. Firstly, the reservoir should be enlarged. Secondly, the Mae Ramat Creek should be dredged to let the current flow easily. Thirdly, the forests and the natural sources should be preserved.

Dr Surasen Tangtong, director of the Education Office, Region 2, Tak said that five schools located in the inundated area were ordered to close. It was also discovered that several school buildings were damaged and money for repairs must be allocated quickly.


Banks and financial institutions to hold home auction

Going once, going twice, going three times, Sold!

Jiraphat Warasin

The Thai Bankers’ Association in cooperation with RK Media Holding, Seuwattasarn Co., and 14 financial institutions will hold the “2nd House Fair Auction 2004” with many special and promotional campaigns to attract buyers. The fair will be held June 11-13 at Chiang Mai Central Airport Plaza.

Suwat Tantipat, Chiang Mai governor, said that Chiang Mai’s real estate business in 2004 contributed more than 400 million baht in taxes to the province. It is also expected that this business section will grow 33 percent in this year, following the lowering of interest rates, making it easier to purchase homes. Foreigners can purchase homes at the auction, subject to the usual restrictions.

Dr. Thawatchai Yongkittikul, secretary of the Thai Bankers’ Association, said that in the past Thais did not favor second-hand homes but that attitude has changed, as these houses are being sold at lower prices and the consumers are also able to choose their required locations, as they have so many on offer.

A home auction fair had been very successful in Bangkok, and this is why they have brought the concept to Chiang Mai, as the banks in Chiang Mai have several properties for sale. At the auction the banks will be offering different lines of credit, and prices can be negotiated.


3 billion baht proposed to increase local tourism

Locals will benefit, say pollies

Kanyarat Antrakul

Chiang Mai MPs plan to spend about three billion baht promoting tourism and thereby increase the incomes of the local population. This is their strategy in response to the Thaksin Shinawatra inspired “war on poverty”.

They plan to increase the budget for the 2005 fiscal year to push Chiang Mai City, which is regarded as the northern transportation hub, and to welcome the World Horticulture Exhibition in 2006. Pakorn Buranupakorn, Chiang Mai MP for the Thai Rak Thai party, announced he would submit the budget for next year.

One long term plan is for an electric train service linking with districts located outside Chiang Mai to be run under the supervision of the Chiang Mai Municipality.

The municipality has been assigned to carry out a feasibility study of this project for the years 2006-2008. The results of the study would be discussed by the Cabinet.

The MP’s also propose the construction of a large 300 million baht aquarium to promote tourism to the region. Other ideas include increasing financial support for the Chiang Mai University’s Fine Arts department to help survey and promote the Wiang Takarn ancient remains located in Tambon Ban Klang, San Patong district. This could be developed as a historical site for tourists.

Taking up the PM’s call, Pakorn wants to create job employment and decentralize the income distribution in the local area. The Thaksin administration envisages that the region’s income will be increased from 50 billion baht to 110 billion baht in the next five years.


Chiang Mai bird flu no cause to worry

Thailand’s new round of bird flu is not widespread, as it has been found only at Chiang Mai University’s experimental farm, according to Deputy Agriculture Minister Newin Chidchob.

Speaking on May 28 he said that a number of chickens at the experimental farm had died, and their carcasses had already been destroyed.

After samples from the chicken’s carcasses tested positive to the avian flu, the area in a one-kilometer radius around the farm had been put under close monitoring.

Newin said that authorities had no concerns about the return of bird flu in the northern province of Chiang Mai, as other farms are unaffected, unlike the outbreak earlier this year. He also expects no impact on the country’s exports of chicken meat. (TNA)


Police tighten security for foreigners

To be watched over and watched out for

Nopniwat Krailerg

Mae Rim police will be keeping a careful watch on foreigners, both to ensure the safety of tourists and to be on the lookout for international terrorists.

Pol Col Pornchai Pakpongsri, superintendent of Mae Rim district police station, said that the Provincial Police Bureau, Region 5 on May 31 issued an urgent instruction that police in the district more strictly monitor foreigners’ security at tourist sites and at the international school area in Mae Rim.

Detectives attached to the police station have also been told to discreetly scrutinize the behavior of foreigners that may suggest links to international terrorism and crime and report to their superior officers.

Police are to keep a particular watch on the Mae Sa Elephant Camp on the Mae Rim-Pong Yaeng Road and Prem International School in Tambon Huai Sai. Patrols will be increased in frequency in these areas because there are many foreigners staying in the region.


Teens making homemade grenades

A new OTOP best seller?

Nopniwat Krailerg

A 17-year-old youth has been arrested for possession of a home made explosive devise, which was later found to be a kind of grenade.

A local resident informed police from the Muang district police station that a group of teenagers had gathered in front of a karaoke bar on Moon Muang Road on May 24 and it appeared a sociable fight was in the offing.

A police officer from Muang district police station shows the homemade grenade.

Police rushed to the scene, but the youths fled when they saw the officers arriving. However, they managed to apprehend one of the gang, a 17-year-old who cannot be named, as he is a minor. Performing a quick frisk, they found he was carrying the explosive devise. He claimed that it was not his, but belonged to one of the gang members who had already legged it. The youth said he had been waiting for his girlfriend who works at the karaoke bar, and his friend left the grenade with him for safe keeping.

He told the police officers that they made the grenades themselves and carried them as protection from their “many enemies”.

He was charged with carrying a dangerous explosive in a public area without a suitable reason. (It is hard to imagine a suitable reason!)


Ya ba pills found in pickup outside police station

Owner already in remand

Saksit Meesubkwang

38,000 ya ba tablets were found in a vehicle parked at the San Sai district police station. Police discovered the tablets under the tray bed protector of a Nissan pickup that had been parked in the police station’s parking area for a month.

Officers help pull out the tray bed protector to search for the ya ba, as Tewarit watches anxiously.

The confiscated vehicle belongs to Tewarit “Joe” Sae Wang, 26, who has been in Chiang Mai Central Prison since April 20 after being found guilty of possession of more than 400 ya ba pills that he was keeping for distribution.

Police advised the superintendent of Chiang Mai Central Prison, asking permission to secure a temporary release for Tewarit to guide the officers to where he had hidden the drugs. Meanwhile, forensic police officers were called in to pry open the car’s tray bed protector to search for ya ba, where they discovered 38,000 ya ba pills in 18 batches.

Many batches of ya ba were pulled out from beneath the confiscated pickup vehicle’s tray bed protector.

After Tewarit’s arrest in April, police not only seized the 400 pills but also a Toyota pickup, Nissan pickup, Honda motorcycle and three mobile phones. The estimated value of the confiscated drugs and vehicles was 5 million baht.

Pol Col Sukij Setthinunt, superintendent of San Sai district police station, said that the court had sentenced Tewarit to seven years imprisonment. The offender has since petitioned the Supreme Court for his conviction to be overturned.

In light of the new discovery, Tewarit’s request for a retrial will most likely be granted, but it is unlikely the outcome will be what he was hoping for, and he could face an even stiffer sentence.


Drug running increases in wet season

Commander of the 3rd Army Region warns three northern provinces

Saksit Meesubkwang

Lt. Gen. Picharnmeth Muangmanee, commander of the 3rd Third Army believes that the incidence of drug running across the borders will increase for the next few months. He said the drug traders, who are more experienced with the routes and able to travel by foot along the hillsides to smuggle in the narcotics, are favoured by the seasonal weather.

Lt. Gen. Picharnmeth Muangmanee, commander of the 3rd Army Region.

Commander Phicharnmeth said Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son provinces must be closely watched, as they are the provinces which are connected to the neighboring countries that are making drug deliveries. These three provinces are mountainous and cannot be traversed with vehicular transport. Even using helicopters for surveillance is difficult with the thick undergrowth and they are forced to use foot patrols.

Neighboring countries Burma, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and China also have concerns over drugs. However, the best way is if everyone in the nation alerts state officials when they have evidence of drug transactions taking place.


Want an eye-catching number plate?

014U2?

Nopniwat Krailerg

Want to own a “cool” vehicle number plate? Willing to pay over 50,000 baht for one? The Chiang Mai Provincial Transport Office is to auction 301 number plates on June 24-25, and you are invited.

Starting bids at the auction will range from 500 baht to 50,000 baht and the income generated will go to the Road Safety Fund to spend on promotional campaigns and road accident prevention.

Asdsathai Rattanadilok na Phuket, head of the Chiang Mai Transport Office, said that after the auction, the “Kor Yor” category of number plate may start being displayed. The numbers are grouped into four main types, with different deposits and opening bids for the auction.

The first type covers the quadruple identical digits, 1111 to 9999. Bidders have to put down a deposit of 5,000 baht. The starting bid will be 50,000 baht, with 5,000 baht increments in bidding.

The second type of number includes nine of one single digit (e.g. 8), nine of two repeating digits (e.g. 88) and nine triple digit (e.g. 888) numbers. Deposits are set at 2,000 baht and the starting bid is 10,000 baht with 2,000 baht increments.

The third type includes numbers like 1000, 2000, 1155, 2299, 5775, 4343 and others. The starting bid for this type is 3,000 baht with a 1,000 baht increase per bid. The deposit is set at 1,000 baht.

The last type is of numbers like 1122, 1133, 1001, 1221, 1010, and 1212. For this type, bidders have to put down 500 baht as a deposit and the auction starts at 500 baht with 500 baht increments per bid.

Asdsathai said, “Apart from gaining merit, people who take part in the auction would possess cool number plates which can be inherited by their descendents or be resold at a higher price.”

The number plates at this upcoming auction are beautifully decorated with graphics which will be distinguishable from the common plates seen on the streets.

People interested in taking part in the auction should register in advance, before June 23 between 9 a.m. - 4.30 p.m. on working days, at the Chiang Mai Transport Office 2 or call 053 270 412. To register, they will have to bring photocopies of their ID cards or the certificate from a juristic person or passport or a letter of attorney in cases where people cannot act on their own behalf.

The auction will take place at the Phumirapee Room of Chiang Mai Phucome Hotel from 8.30 a.m. to 3.30 p.m.


Northern workers drugged into fisheries sector

Workers from Thailand’s northern region are being tricked into the fisheries sector through the use of drugs, alcohol and violence, head of Chiang Mai’s employment office warned. Orachorn Rattanamanee said that the provincial employment office was well aware that fisheries operations were using unscrupulous methods to trick people into working for them, and was working hard to solve the problem.

The latest incident involved northern workers accosted by agents at Bangkok’s Hualamphong Railway Station and in Samut Sakhon Province. After being taken to a hotel in the southern province of Songkhla, the workers were drugged or made drunk, and knew nothing more until they found themselves in fishing boats in the middle of the sea. The Department of Fisheries describes such incidents as ‘common’.

Urging workers to exercise caution and beware of job offers from strangers, Orachorn said that workers could search for employment vacancies at the provincial employment office. (TNA)