HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Hill tribes people arrested on forest encroachment charges

Alien labor registrations proceeding in Chiang Mai

Alien labor registration to carry stiff penalties for violations

Road Safety conference brings forward ideas

Manual to be compiled to reduce air pollution

PM approves a number of projects proposed by Chiang Mai

New elephant camp proposed for Night Safari Zoo

The return of the bird flu?

SME Bank wants to help small businesses get bigger

PM opens solar powered generating station

Americans train Thai troops to combat drug trade

Red minibus drivers feel left out of the tourism agencies loop

Drug dealers take to the water

Chiang Mai petrol consumption continues to rise

Mae Hong Son gets 1.5 billion baht from sympathetic PM

Mirror, mirror on the wall, is Chiang Mai the ugliest of them all?

Vandals target Chinese consulate-general

Ambitious plans devised for cleaner air in Chiang Mai and Lamphun

Flash flood claims life of woman in Fang district

Hill tribes people arrested on forest encroachment charges

Claims of ethnic prejudice by Forestry Department

Saksit Meesubkwang

On July 24, the secretary of the Northern Farmers and Ethnic Groups Network of Thailand, Wiwat Tamee, led 100 villagers from Ban Pang Daeng to protest against Forestry Department officials and police after 48 hill tribe villagers were charged with encroachment on national conserved forest.

The protesters distributed leaflets to passers-by in front of the Chiang Mai Provincial Court, where they were held in custody.

A great number of protesters assembled at the court, complaining about the unfair arrests. (Photo courtesy of Northern Farmers and Ethnic Groups Network of Thailand)

Wiwat said that more than 100 forestry officials and Chiang Dao police encircled the village of Ban Pang Daeng, in tambon Chiang Dao in the early morning of July 23 and arrested the villagers as they were preparing their morning meals. They were locked up in the cells at the Chiang Dao police station until they appeared in Chiang Mai court the next day.

Of the 48 villagers charged with encroaching on forest land, 25 are Lahu, 19 are Palong Karen, three are local people and one is Lisu. Some of them were couples, and it is claimed children and disabled persons were among those carried away and charged.

Wiwat said that the action of the officials and police in encircling the village was heavy-handed and unnecessary. He said the villagers had been living in the national conserved forest for a long time and they had never been harassed by officials before. “That causes them to feel the officials have a bias against them, and they are treating the arrests as unfair,” he said.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives had previously planned to apply a pilot project for those people living in the forest village, but it didn’t eventuate, Wiwat claimed.

Alien labor registrations proceeding in Chiang Mai

7,000 employers finally toeing the line

Public Relations Department, Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai already has more than 60,000 alien laborers registered with the local administration department and provincial authorities, while Fang district has about 20,000, according to Orachorn Rattanamanee, the chief of Chiang Mai Provincial Employment Services Office.

She said that from July 1-21, 7,000 employers had registered with the authorities to ask permission to employ 44,140 alien laborers with 21,815 as farm workers, 10,000 as construction workers, 3,780 as domestic workers and the rest in other areas of employment.

The provincial sub-committee worked out career quotas. Registered laborers must have medical check-ups and health assurance cards from the Public Health offices, Orachorn said.

Alien labor registration to carry stiff penalties for violations

Reward for reporting illegal laborers after August 1

Nopniwat Krailerg

After the cut-off date of July 31, specific teams will be set up to investigate the employment of unregistered alien workers. In the meantime, the Ministry of Labor will propose a reward for persons giving information leading to the arrest of illegal alien laborers. Half of the reward will go to the person making the arrest, 30 percent to the whistle-blower, and 20 percent to the government.

On July 24, Deputy Prime Minister Wan Muhamad Noor Matha, in his capacity as chairman of the Alien Workers System Management Committee, chaired a workshop on ‘Northern Alien Workers System Management for 2004’ at Chiang Mai City Hall.

The Deputy PM said that the workshop was held to discuss with provincial governors and government agencies involved to identify problems. In the North, the number of aliens who had been registered so far was still minimal for Tak and Mae Hong Son.

The workshop was a platform to listen to the problems of entrepreneurs as well. Previously, the government had facilitated the registration for laborers, including the ones who had no specific or permanent residence. The Department of Provincial Administration assigned a dummy residence for them. This time, the registration not only covered the alien workers themselves but also their entire families. The main objective behind this registration is to ascertain the number of alien workers and their family members, as well as the kinds of laborers needed.

This data was to be obtained precisely to serve as input for the amendment of regulations and for proper planning. The legalization of these laborers was another objective, but of secondary importance. It had been stressed that the registration period would not be extended.

The Local Administration Department advised that the more than 170,000 hill tribe people who will gain Thai nationality in November should be instructed not to register now.

Meanwhile, Labor Minister Uraiwan Thienthong said, “If alien workers, or employers on their behalf, have not properly registered for issuance of ID for aliens, they will not be permitted to live on Thai soil and will be sent back to their countries of origin. They would be charged on the spot for violating the Alien Employment Act BE 2521 (1978) and the Immigration Act BE 2521 (1977).”

The Labor minister continued, “Employers who hire aliens without the proper work permit will be liable to imprisonment not exceeding three years and/or a fine not exceeding 60,000 baht. Employers who provide residence for illegal aliens will be sentenced to imprisonment not exceeding five years and/or a fine not exceeding 50,000 baht. Illegal workers face imprisonment not exceeding three months and/or a fine not exceeding 5,000 baht. For aliens who have entered the kingdom illegally, the penalty shall be imprisonment not exceeding two years and/or a fine not exceeding 20,000 baht.”

Road Safety conference brings forward ideas

But results only in surveys and more meetings

Saksit Meesubkwang and Editorial staff

The Road Safety Command Center in the Office of Disaster Prevention and Relief met with heads of all government offices associated with work involving road safety and natural disasters.

Piyanart Sukumoljan, head of the Chiang Mai Insurance Office, talking about the goals to reduce street accidents and address natural disasters.

Around 50 participants, including heads of administration organizations, representatives from the Chiang Mai Provincial Police Station, Provincial Transportation Office, Office of Education and many insurance companies gathered at the Training Institute of Disaster Prevention and Relief on July 22. They discussed strategies to lessen road accidents, and prevent and prepare for natural disasters during the rainy season.

Piyanart Sukumoljan, head of the Chiang Mai Insurance Office, said that cooperation from parents, students and educational institutions was needed to reduce the number of street accidents. She also urged the police to carry out their duties and be much more strict in enforcing the law.

A number of goals were set. Firstly, that 90 percent of drivers must fasten their seatbelts and motorcyclists must wear helmets, whether inside or outside the municipal area; secondly, that the figure of 25 percent of accidents caused by drunken drivers be reduced; thirdly, that at least 90 percent of drivers must possess a valid driving license; and fourthly, that strict suppression on modifying engines and driving at high speed be enforced to reduce the accident rate by at least 25 percent.

While most of these are very noble sentiments, one wonders that if the call is for stricter law enforcement, why was the figure of only 90 percent of drivers should wear a seatbelt and again why only 90 percent should possess a valid driving license? There was no reported method to reduce the incidence of drunken driving, and suppression of modified engines has been shown many times over not to work.

Educational institutes were asked to identify with these goals and convey them to students through training. Police officers were asked to circulate memoranda to every police station urging their colleagues to carry out their duties comprehensively and continuously in line with the laws. “If all parties cooperate, road accidents would be reduced dramatically,” said Piyanart. Again a noble sentiment without the infrastructure to make it work.

It was noted that the heavy rains caused disasters such as flooding and landslides. Administrative officers and health personnel in each district were asked to conduct a survey and record statistics showing areas repeatedly affected by flooding; areas through which water flowed down from mountain forests; and areas with frequent landslides.

Officials in these areas were urged to prepare reports, with suggestions for solutions and estimated budgets to be urgently submitted to provincial offices. The governor would acknowledge the reports and approve the budgets for prevention and solutions before disasters took place.

Once again, this problem is perennial, the reasons are already well documented and surely now it is time for real action.

Manual to be compiled to reduce air pollution

Medical authorities worried

Saksit Meesubkwang

Dr Duangchan A. Charoenmuang, the head of the project for developing measures for reducing air pollution reported to a meeting on air pollution control saying that, “We have collected data from hospitals all over Chiang Mai and found that children and the elderly constitute the highest percentage of people who suffer from respiratory diseases caused by burning in open space.”

According to statistics covering the 1994-2004 period, 50,000 people developed lung and bronchial cancers. Chiang Mai had the highest rate in Thailand, she added.

Dr Duangchan has asked for public cooperation in helping reduce air pollution caused by outdoor burning. Dr Duangchan said, “Burning in open spaces is one of the main causes for creating air pollution in Chiang Mai. It is responsible for 50 percent of air pollution in municipal and surrounding areas. Smoke from such burning affects the health of the city and will cause air pollution to reach critical levels. A survey found that the air of Chiang Mai has been polluted and the quantity of polluting particles in the air is the highest in the whole country.”

The committee of the project for developing measures for reducing air pollution has met to develop a manual to tackle the problem. The manual will include implementation methods, authorities involved, roles and functions of agencies and organizations, and provisions of laws including penalties. The manual will be supplied to local administration organizations as well as the private and public sectors.

PM approves a number of projects proposed by Chiang Mai

Rejects several others

Nopniwat Krailerg and Saksit Meesubkwang

Chiang Mai Governor Suwat Tantipat put forward eight projects to further develop the province’s infrastructure when Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra visited Chiang Mai.

PM Thaksin greets one of his closest old friends in the northern dialect during his meeting at Chiang Mai’s 700 Year Sports complex.

PM Thaksin remarked that many of the proposals did not cover development in the rural areas and remote smaller districts. However, he said he would approve urgent proposals that help the villagers, such as a project to build two reservoirs to address water shortages.

These are the Mae Hoy construction project for a 10 million cubic meter reservoir in Chorm Thong district costing 170 million baht, and the Mae Sa Luang reservoir in Phrao district costing 200 million baht. He said construction would take about three years to complete.

The PM also approved the construction of a 55 km rural road, a center at Mae Jo University for quality control on community-produced agricultural products, improvements on abandoned land behind Chiang Mai City Hall, improvements to the drainage system to solve floods, and the continuation of the Chiang Mai Green and Clean campaign.

The PM committed the government to 82.5 million baht for the road construction, expecting it to serve the transportation of agricultural products from local areas to distribution centers. Mae Jo University would get 64 million baht for its quality guarantee work. The abandoned land behind the City Hall has been earmarked for international fairs and other public recreational activities, with the focus on a water sport center.

Another 261 million baht was allocated for improvements to the drainage system to solve flooding in the west and south of Chiang Mai City. It will take two years to complete this project. The Mae Taeng irrigation and Mae Kha drainage systems are included in these improvements.

Another 261 million baht was set aside for the Chiang Mai Green and Clean campaign as the PM considered that it enhances the city’s image.

One of the proposals rejected was a request for 40 million baht from the government in line with its “War on Poverty”. The plan was for 20,000 households to be given 2,000 baht each. The PM said the province should instead request the money from the National War on Poverty Combat Center.

Other proposals turned down included improvements to the city’s historic and cultural sites, which would have required 270 million baht, and a project for paving local streets which would have cost 288 million baht.

The PM allowed public appeals, which included complaints about the low longan prices, lack of teachers, and issuing of land title deeds.

New elephant camp proposed for Night Safari Zoo

But PM’s approval needed for funding

Saksit Meesubkwang

Plodprasop Suraswadi, the former permanent secretary in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, called a meeting of the Elephant Camping Park Board to discuss progress in the construction plan for an elephant park near the Chiang Mai Safari Night Zoo.

Plodprasop Suraswadi, the former permanent secretary in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, at the meeting in Chiang Mai to discuss the possible launch of the elephant park.

The heavyweights in the industry, including Sophon Dumnui, the director of the Zoological Park Organization of Thailand; Maj Gen Chirachai Dechdamrong representing the Royal Thai Army; Sermsuk Chonlawanich representing the Deputy Secretary-General of the City and Urban Planning Department, Surapan Chunpicharn representing the National Economic and Social Development Board, and project advisor Dr Bernard Harrison, all took part in the conference.

The principal reason was to summarize progress, so that a budget proposal can be submitted to PM Thaksin Shinawatra.

Plodprasop said the elephant project was close to the Night Safari and located on 6,000 rai, and will cost an estimated 700 million baht. The elephants will be bought from other private zoos or brought from forests in Thailand. Owners of elephant camps in the North are invited to share their elephants with the new proposed elephant camp. Homeless or roaming elephants in both towns and forests will be transported to the new camp as well.

The elephant camp is expected to open within three months after the official launch of the Night Safari Zoo but admission to the camp will not be included in the admission price to the night zoo.

The project will be completed if the PM approves the budget proposal.

The return of the bird flu?

Chiang Mai province gets ready with Check Point Chook

Nopniwat Krailerg

All Chiang Mai districts adjoining other provinces have been ordered to set up checkpoints to inspect all ducks and chickens being brought into the province.

Chiang Mai Deputy Governor Kwanchai Wongnitikorn said Lampang, Lamphun and Chiang Rai provinces had been singled out.

The province has been cooperating with the Chiang Mai Provincial Livestock Office to ban the transfer of all ducks and chickens into the province that have not been inspected. Residents have also been asked not to feed their poultry in open fields.

Kwanchai suggested that livestock officials should keep an eye on the situation. If they suspected poultry were contaminated, they should inform the province immediately.

An operations center to combat bird flu has been established following the new outbreak and the Livestock and Agricultural Office will meet weekly to review the situation.

However, at the time of going to press, there was no report of bird flu in Chiang Mai. The province believes it has good preventive measures in place against the epidemic. All products from other provinces and suspect areas will be tested carefully.

The deputy governor gave the assurance that the province was keeping a close eye on the situation as it was afraid it could affect tourism.

SME Bank wants to help small businesses get bigger

The money is waiting for the better entrepreneurs

Autsadaporn Kamthai

The Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) Development Bank of Thailand plans to liaise with governors to support small and medium enterprises and OTOP (One Tambon, One Product) entrepreneurs in the regional areas.

The SME’s Bank car that will be used in August to carry the message to all regions.

The SME Bank ran a training course for Chiang Mai government officials at the Imperial Mae Ping Hotel on July 23, covering ‘Commercial Strategies for SME’s and OTOP’. This was a pilot project.

The SME Bank is the first non-commercial bank in Thailand that provides financial support for SME’s and OTOP entrepreneurs throughout the country as it sees them as significant drivers of economic growth.

“As planned with the Ministry of the Interior, all SME Bank branches will start to liaise with all 75 governors this month to increase economic growth by producing more new enterprises,” said Chotisak Assapawiriya, the bank’s managing director.

“The bank has put emphasis on asset conversion by encouraging local entrepreneurs to add value to their products, to upgrade them and increase income,” said Chotisak.

Recently, the bank asked all governors to choose 100 outstanding products in their areas for proposed financial support and branding from the bank.

Chotisak revealed the bank had approximate 5 billion baht for loans to support SME’s and OTOP manufacturers countrywide, and 3.8 billion baht to work on the campaign of issuing product brands.

The bank also has 75 mobile SME Banks that will go into service during August to spread information and provide suggestions to the SMEs and OTOP producers in rural and regional areas.

PM opens solar powered generating station

Two billion baht savings predicted

Thailand entered a new phase of alternative energy development on July 22 when Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra opened the Pha Bong solar powered electricity generating station in the northern province of Mae Hong Son.

The power station, owned by the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) will give a much needed energy boost to Mae Hong Son, the only province in Thailand not covered by EGAT’s national power grid.

Although the province is already home to a hydroelectric and a diesel powered station, these are both small scale, and cannot produce sufficient electricity to meet the province’s growing energy needs as the province’s natural tourist attractions are discovered by increasing numbers of visitors.

Already, power cuts are not uncommon. Khamphui Jeeraruensak, EGAT deputy senior governor for power systems transmission, said that such power cuts were taking an inevitable toll on the province’s economic expansion.

The Pha Bong station has a production capacity of 500 kilowatts, enabling it to generate 700,000 units of electricity each year. This will reduce diesel consumption by local power stations, producing savings of over 2 billion baht.

The power plant cost 187.11 million baht to construct. Most of the financing came from the Energy Policy and Planning Office. Construction began in February last year, and the first test runs were carried out in March this year. Full production commenced in April. (TNA)

Americans train Thai troops to combat drug trade

Autsadaporn Kamthai

A Thai-American joint military exercise codenamed ‘Baker Torch 04-3 B’ kicked off on July 26 at 3rd Development Battalion to improve the ability of Thai troops in drug suppression.

Lt. Gen Phicharnmeth Muangmanee, commander of the 3rd Army Region and the US Consul Henry Jardine in Chiang Mai, salute at the launch of the joint military exercise. (Photo courtesy of the Pha Muang Task Force)

Lt. Gen Phicharnmeth Muangmanee, commander of the 3rd Army Region and the US Consul Henry Jardine in Chiang Mai presided over the launch of the exercise.

The Royal Thai Army assigned the 3rd Army Region to the joint military exercise. It is taking place in the grounds of 3rd Development Battalion, 5th Special Force Regiment, and some areas in Chiang Mai’s Mae Rim and Mae Taeng districts. It will end on August 27.

Lt. Gen Phicharnmeth Muangmanee, commander of the 3rd Army Region, inspects the US troops. (Photo courtesy of the Pha Muang Task Force)

A total of 75 Thai soldiers are taking part with 28 from the 4th Infantry Division, 28 from the 1st Cavalry Division, four from the Commanding Unit of Special Warfare and 15 from of 3rd Region Border Patrol Police Headquarters. There are 15 trainers from the United States.

The exercise aims not only to develop the capability of both Thai and American troops and patrol police involved in drug suppression, but also to advance Thai and American cooperation on drug eradication.

Red minibus drivers feel left out of the tourism agencies loop

But how many can actually talk to the tourists?

Nopniwat Krailerg and Editorial staff

The leader of the red minibus drivers has complained that tourist-related organizations have not consulted them, but are quick to blame them.

Singkham Nunti, chairman of Nakhon Lanna Transport Cooperatives Limited.

Singkham Nunti, chairman of the Nakhon Lanna Transport Cooperatives Limited, claimed that despite its status as one of the tourism-servicing units of the city, his organization had never been used by tourism agencies. They had also never valued the importance of the cooperatives’ members, the red minibus drivers themselves. “But whenever problems arise, the cooperatives and their members are blamed,” Singkham said.

On the setting up a parking center or ‘Call Center’ for vehicles under its chain at a hotel in Chiang Mai, Singkham said that around 20 million baht had been allocated from a loan taken from the Cooperatives Development Funds. The budget will be spent on purchasing an additional 30 cars to be used as meter taxis. The construction of the Call Center should be completed by early 2005 as a New Year gift for Chiang Mai residents.

“Phoen Si Lor” (red minibus’s friend), a radio program broadcast via Community Radio FM 91.75 MHz, has been promoting public relations, and serves as a channel to receive suggestions for improving services of red minibuses.

Red minibus members, through the coordination of this radio program, have returned over 100,000 baht in items which passengers left behind in the vehicles, including cameras and mobile phones.

Meanwhile, Achasathai Rattanadilok na Phuket, chief of the Chiang Mai Provincial Land Transport Office, gave an update about the idea of incorporating red minibuses into a comprehensive mass transportation system of Chiang Mai, which will include electric monorails and public buses.

He said, “This project has progressed slowly because the structure of an organization to be established for overseeing this system has not been concluded. We are speeding up our work on it. Upon completion, a committee at provincial level will forward a proposal to the Ministry of Transport for approval. Around 390 million baht will be required over a three year implementation period for this project.”

Whilst the red minibuses may do a reasonable job for Chiang Mai residents, the Cooperative still has a long way to go as far as servicing the needs of tourists. Destination signs and an ability in basic English are needed before the red minibuses can become a valuable part of the tourism industry.

Drug dealers take to the water

Mekong River popular in the GMS

Public Relations Department, Chiang Rai

The Mekong River is becoming increasingly used as a transit route for drug smuggling and a rendezvous point for drug dealers.

This was claimed at a workshop on international cooperation in drug suppression, especially along the river, that took place from July 20-22 at the Wiang Inn Hotel in Chiang Rai and was organized by the Border Drug Suppression Center, Office of Narcotics Control Board, and the United Nations.

Representatives from the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) countries - China, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand - and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime as well as observers from the Japanese consulate and about 60 other participants.

The workshop aimed to give officers in the four countries along the river an opportunity to exchange opinions and share experiences to strengthen their drug suppression coordination.

The participants also discussed effective solutions to the drug problem in the GMS and planned an operation strategy to suppress trafficking along the Mekong border lines.

Chiang Mai petrol consumption continues to rise

Nopniwat Krailerg and editorial staff

Chiang Mai motorists used 12 percent more fuel in the first four months of the year than in the comparable period last year. Northern region figures indicated consumption of 1.4 billion liters of benzene (91 and 95) and diesel. Of this volume, 547 million liters were used by Chiang Mai motorists alone.

Participating in the radio program ‘Ruam Duay Chuay Gun’ (Lending Helping Hands), Chumpol Pittayarak, director of the Energy Bureau, Region 10, Chiang Mai, gave information about the situation regarding world crude oil prices. He said that the fluctuation of oil prices may continue, though, due to concerns over violence in Iraq and financial problems encountered by the Yukos huge petrol company in Russia.

Statistics from the Department of Energy show that the government has so far spent more than 18 billion baht to subsidize the price of petrol. Current local retail prices are lower than the real selling prices on the world market. Without subsidies, the actual prices per liter in Thailand would be 20.26 baht for 95 octane and 19.75 baht for 91 octane.

With regard to cooking gas, changes in prices have been minimal, as it can be produced domestically, unlike petrol that has to be imported.

Following the government’s energy saving policy, more than 700 petrol stations in the northern region have cooperated by closing services at midnight without the need to use law enforcement. The rate of such cooperation in Chiang Mai is 50 percent.

Many observers would question the overall efficacy of this dictum. All this will do, say the non-believers, is increase the volumes at the bowsers during daytime, and put night staff out of work.

Mae Hong Son gets 1.5 billion baht from sympathetic PM

Damnoen Tuamjork Public Relations Department,
Mae Hong Son

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra approved all eight proposals submitted by Mae Hong Son for development in the province, costing the government almost 1.5 billion baht in total.

PM Thaksin also assigned provincial authorities to carry out the construction of a shortcut linking Mae Hong Son to Chiang Mai for greater convenience for travelers.

The premier met the people at Ban Pangmu School in Muang Mae Hong Son district, where he was warmly welcomed by Governor Suphot Laowannasiri and the heads of government departments. (With 1.5 billion baht at stake, the greeting would have been very warm.)

PM Thaksin said he fully supported the provincial development projects. Mae Hong Son asked for approval for improvements to the Highway 108 and Highway 1095 costing 643 million baht, construction of concrete roads in villages costing 41 million baht, improvements to the Mae Hong Son airport costing 262 million baht, the Pai airport improvement project worth 11.5 million baht, the Mae Sariang airport improvement work costing 9.5 million , the construction project for electricity supply for the 115 KV current system worth 430 million baht, the establishment of Chiang Mai Rajabhat Institute, Mae Hong Son campus, at 75.6 million baht and a reforestation project worth 9.3 million baht.

Mirror, mirror on the wall, is Chiang Mai the ugliest of them all?

Overcrowding and selfishness blamed

Saksit Meesubkwang

A forum attracting over 500 people was held on the topic ‘Is Chiang Mai getting ugly?’ in response to a recent travel magazine comment to that effect.

Representatives of stakeholders in Chiang Mai were invited to attend, including Mayor Boonlert Buranupakorn; Chao Duangduen na Chiang Mai, chairperson of the Chiang Mai Provincial Cultural Center; Insom Panyasopha, president of the Northern Press Association; Dr. Thanes Charoenmuang, an academic from Chiang Mai University; as well as business people from the private sector and students from various educational institutions in Chiang Mai.

From left: Jumpol Chutima, president of the Chiang Mai Chamber of Commerce, Chiang Mai Deputy Governor Prinya Panthong, and Mayor Boonlert Buranupakorn, during the panel discussion at the forum on the city’s image.

Before the discussion started, a video was shown to explain the reasons behind the Chiang Mai population explosion. In addition to the availability of employment, there are a number of educational institutes that have gained national fame, and students coming here to study have also swelled the population numbers.

The forum was told that numerous problems have now surfaced, such as water and air pollution and the quantity of garbage that keeps on increasing. Chiang Mai residents, accustomed to their traditional way of living, have to become more competitive to survive in the present world. They have had to adjust and learn how to use modern technology, and have to dress themselves like people of the new era, and eat western food. All this has made them focus only going forward without looking back to their traditional way of living in Lanna style, which has developed over thousands of years. If this valuable heritage is not preserved, there will be obvious repercussions on the next generation, it was postulated.

Chiang Mai councilor Pornchai Jitnavasathien said, “Chiang Mai Municipality has adopted a policy to preserve Lanna cultures and traditions by launching a compulsory regulation that constructions of buildings, roads or any other kinds of construction must be consistent with Lanna culture.”

“The municipality has conducted a survey of old houses that are well preserved and are still in their original shape and style. Certificates will be awarded to owners of these houses. Each house will be promoted as worthy of viewing as a model of a former era.”

Dr. Thanes Charoenmuang of the Political Science Department in the Faculty of Social Science at Chiang Mai University, said the population had become self-centered. “As a consequence, people are more competitive in life and business. Their interest in old things from the past has waned. They go to temple less often. When they build a house, for example, they do not care about the next person. They think that if they have the money, they can construct anything that they want to.”

“According to the history of Chiang Mai, especially for the inner area surrounded by ditches and moats, governors in the olden days announced that no one was allowed to construct any buildings taller than three stories, lest they obstruct the visual field when the city was being attacked.”

“There were also several temples and sacred objects in the inner area. If a house or building was higher than the tops of pagodas, it would be considered as higher than Lord Buddha (and the monks), which is not a good thing. People have had this belief and practiced it for 700 years,” he added.

While these may be valid observations of change, the forum apparently did not come up with how to change our ugly image into a more beautiful one.

Vandals target Chinese consulate-general

Could have been an illuminating experience

Saksit Meesubkwang

Unknown vandals threw electric light bulbs onto the tennis court of the Chinese consulate-general on Thong Lor Road at 11.30 p.m. on July 19.

The guard at the Chinese consulate-general points out where the incident took place.

Forensic police and officers from the Muang district police station found fragments of light bulbs scattered over the court and next to the side wall of the consulate. As the road running alongside the diplomatic site is generally deserted, police suspect the culprits threw the light bulbs onto the tennis court while there were no witnesses to identify them.

Two guards on duty, Boonserm Buatib and Tawee Huansri, said that while they patrolled the premises they heard the sound of breaking glass coming from the court. They discovered the glass fragments and called the police.

It is thought at this stage that the culprits are mischievous teenagers, rather than heralding an anti-Sino relations guerilla group. Police investigations are continuing.

Ambitious plans devised for cleaner air in Chiang Mai and Lamphun

Exhaust emissions and burning off indicted

Saksit Meesubkwang

A conference on Air Pollution Management was held at the Chiang Mai City Hall on July 19, with participants from Chiang Mai and Lamphun provinces, provincial administration organizations, municipalities, the Provincial Environment Office and associated offices. These included deputy permanent secretary of natural resources and environment, Chalermsak Wanichsombat, pollution control department director-general Apichai Chawachalernpan, the deputy dean of Chiang Mai University’s Engineering Faculty Dr Wasan Chompakdee, and 20 heads of relevant offices.

Chalermsak said that Chiang Mai and Lamphun are surrounded by mountains and have a dry climate during winter, which are contributing factors to pollution in their cities.

The department’s air quality control found the dust levels of minute particles in the air was above the standard and acceptable levels for two thirds of the year.

Causes of air pollution in the two provinces included communities burning leaves, farmers burning weeds, construction works, vehicles and forest fires.

A five year plan to solve the pollution was devised, divided into short-term and medium-term goals. A 800 million baht budget has been prepared to carry out the plan.

The short-term plan will be put into operation this year and next year, with a budget of 276 million baht with 252 million baht for Chiang Mai and 24 million baht for Lamphun. The plan will cover looking at mass transportation, controlling exhaust fumes (which cause 50 percent of current air pollution), the promotion of bio-diesel fuel and controlling outdoor burning.

The medium-term plan will run from 2006-2009 and 670 million baht has been allocated - Chiang Mai getting 546 million baht and Lamphun 124 million baht. The plan will place emphasis on the development of a mass transportation system and the further crack down on vehicle exhaust emissions.

It will promote the use of bio-diesel, the reduction of forest fires, and establishing service centers for agricultural wastes to reduce burning by farmers.

Minister Suwit Kunkitti, minister of natural resources and environment, who presided over the seminar, said that work to solve the pollution problem should begin immediately, or people’s health and tourism would suffer. He said he would like to draw in technical college students to help check the state of vehicles within the city areas on a continuous basis.

“Monitoring forest fires and burning is also necessary in wintertime and the law should be applied to prevent illegal outdoor burning,” he said.

“More importantly, the cooperation from the public is needed to help the officials accomplish the plans. So local administration organizations will have to play a much bigger role and encourage people to cooperate,” he warned.

Flash flood claims life of woman in Fang district

More heavy downpours predicted

Nopniwat Krailerg

A flash flood hit two villages in Fang district, claiming one life. The Meteorological Department, Northern Region Office has also warned of more heavy rains with the prospect of further flash floods.

On Monday, July 26, at 3 a.m. about 700 households in the two villages of Moo 6 and Moo 12 of tambon Mae Kha, 20 km from Fang district town, were hit by flash floods from the nearby mountains. The water had collected in the mountainous region and poured down onto the village.

Kampaeng Namchaipop, 55, was killed and 68 households were damaged. Kampaeng was living with her daughter and her nephew. Her house was positioned directly in the path of the current, and they did not have enough time to flee.

District officials had reportedly told the headmen of the villages to inform the inhabitants about the danger last Friday, but they did not take it seriously.

After they were notified of the disaster, territorial security volunteers were called in to aid the flood victims. The Fang Red Cross Society also distributed 500 parcels of food and other items. The district officers have donated 3,000 baht to the owners of each house that was damaged. The family of the deceased woman received 5,000 baht.

Last year, the same location was also hard hit by flooding but no severe damage resulted.

Meanwhile, the Northern Regional Meteorological Center predicted a low pressure system in the area because of a south-westerly monsoon causing heavy downpours of up to 50mm of rain over the whole of Thailand. Some downpours will last for several hours and those living in areas prone to flash floods should take extra precautions.