HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Pang Daeng villagers request clarification from PM Thaksin over arrest of 48 hill tribe people

Prathat Doi Suthep grand pagoda repairs start mid-August

OTOP workshop to upgrade products and marketing

‘Super’ ya ba crosses the border

Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever down this year so far

Gift of life to honor Her Majesty the Queen

Thai Buddhists and Thai Muslims in Chiang Mai find the ‘middle way’

89 men make merit for Her Majesty the Queen

Thai workers being skilled up for overseas work

Southern conflict military operation on the right track says Gen. Chaisit

Local people protest at road and dam construction

Teenage hoodlums kill rival

More than 10 kg of heroin seized

Five new ‘Green Factories’ in the north

20-strong raiding party arrests porno VCD peddler

Pang Daeng villagers request clarification from PM Thaksin over arrest of 48 hill tribe people

Ready to go to UN with racial prejudice grievances

Saksit Meesubkwang

Pang Daeng villagers are protesting the July 23 arrests of 48 of their fellow villagers, saying the arrests were unconstitutional and racially motivated. They are prepared to take their case to the United Nations if necessary.

On July 28, Suriyan Thong-noo-iad from the Northern Farmers Federation, and Wiroj Dulyasophon from the Committee for Coordination of Northern NGOs met with 100 relatives of the 48 villagers of Ban Pang Daeng, Chiang Dao District, who were arrested on July 23. Somchai Precha-silpakul, an academic expert in law from Chiang Mai University was invited to the meeting to provide basic knowledge for the affected villagers.

One purpose was to prepare a press release and to submit a letter of protest to PM Thaksin Shinawatra.

Suriyan Thong-noo-iad said, “The policy on the management of natural resources and environments has completely failed. The arrest of 48 villagers in Ban Pang Daeng happened only because some government officials would like to create a good performance profile to show to their boss.”

It was further claimed that PM Thaksin had previously said that officials should proceed decisively with the case of capitalists who illegally invade and destroy the forest. On the other hand, cases involving people who farm for their living should be proceeded in a merciful way and with justice.

“However, we have not seen any government officials, no forestry attendants, policemen or others from related agencies, proceed with any single case against capitalists. The only ones that have been arrested are low-level employees who took care of the gardens,” Suriyan Thong-noo-iad said.

It was further claimed that the proceeding of their cases went very slowly and they finally subsided. Now the attention is being turned towards vulnerable villagers who have minimal knowledge and do not have a way to fight.

Arresting Ban Pang Daeng villagers demonstrates clearly how people are discriminated against. Most of arrested people are hill-tribe villagers and the bail set by the court is not less than 100,000 baht for each person, he added. “Their current income does not even reach 10,000 baht a year. Where will they get money for bail?” he asked.

Somchai Precha-silpakul, instructor in law at Chiang Mai University said, “When I started working in Chiang Mai in 1998, my first job was to help Ban Pang Daeng villagers arrested in similar circumstances by forestry officers. Years have passed and the same thing has happened again, which is quite a surprise for those who are experts in law.

“By principle, to conduct any searches inside houses or conduct any arrests, a warrant issued by the court is required prior to proceeding such actions. However, in the arrests of Ban Pang Daeng villagers in 1998 and again this year, authority officials did not have any search or arrest warrants. This action has obviously violated constitutional law. Besides, based on initial data obtained, the government has adopted a policy and announced Ban Pang Daeng as an area for land reform in preparation for this land to be used by people to farm and alleviate their poverty.”

Suriyan said that the petition will be prepared for submission to the prime minister, the Commission on Human Rights, and finally to the United Nations Organization, in order to provide a push for provision of assistance on humanitarian grounds. Four items to be included in the petition are as follows:

1). Set up a committee to investigate the arrest of villagers of Ban Pang Daeng and find out the reasons behind this. If what villagers had done was considered a flagrant offence, why didn’t officers arrest them when they first arrived in the area? As officers let them do as such for a while before arresting them, it should be considered that the officers did not previously carry out their roles correctly and this could even be considered misconduct.

2). A confirmation is to be made that such area is selected as an area for poverty alleviation according to the policy of the government. The arrests in all areas must be discontinued.

3). Release all 48 arrested persons, as they are believed to be not guilty of the accusations made by officers.

4). Government must clearly define permanent areas for villagers to farm. This will prevent any further arrests.

Prathat Doi Suthep grand pagoda repairs start mid-August

Considered to be part of the Queen’s birthday celebrations

Nopniwat Krailerg

The initial stage of repairs to the famous Doi Suthep pagoda will start on August 15 to celebrate the auspicious occasion of the 72nd birthday of Her Majesty the Queen, which falls on August 12.

The famous Doi Suthep pagoda is about to begin undergoing urgent repairs.

The temple has allocated a budget of 400,000 baht. After this money has been spent, repairs will be suspended for a while, as they will need to wait for the 5 million baht set aside in the government 2005 budget. A major repair covering the entire pagoda will be undertaken at that time.

Investigations revealed cracks were caused by the humidity inside the pagoda. Hence it sounded reasonable to urgently examine and repair the pagoda.

Governor Suwat Tantipat has appointed a committee from the Fine Arts Department to inspect and control every step of the repair.

Kwanchai Wongnitikorn, Chiang Mai’s deputy governor, assuming his role as chairman of the committee for inspecting and granting official acceptance of the repairs, said that Preeya Dhurakij Limited has been assigned the contract to proceed with the repairs. They will need to finish within 90 days. Any small items removed, grains of sand, soil and stones obtained from the top; sacred objects, golden leaves and crystal balls from the top of the multi-tiered umbrella during each single step of the repair will be catalogued.

He assured that, “If necessary, photographs will be taken for all of them. Each item will be registered and stored properly. No one will be allowed to take any item out of the area. All employees of the contracted company will wear ID’s with photographs and will be only allowed to enter and work during specific shifts determined by the committee. The temple committee and agencies under the Fine Arts Department will oversee the repairs throughout the entire course until completed.”

OTOP workshop to upgrade products and marketing

Saksit Meesubkwang

A training workshop for OTOP entrepreneurs to upgrade products and marketing was held on July 28 at Chiang Mai Phucome Hotel.

Thongchai Wongrienthong, Chiang Mai deputy governor was present, along with Direk Jino, director of the Academic Service Unit, Udom Maneekhat, head of Chiang Mai Provincial Rural Community Development Office, and Assoc Prof. Sirikiat Rutchusanti, academic in marketing and business administration from Chiang Mai University.

Deputy Governor Thongchai said, “One Tambon One Product (OTOP) is a good project that has achieved its goal in creating vocations and generating income for people, and ensuring a better quality of life for them. So it is important for the government and related agencies to work together with the people to ensure the sustainability of this project.

Udom Maneekhat said, “All OTOP products must have their standards screened and classified.” He also indicated that the former governor of Oita province in Japan will make a special presentation on OTOP since the OTOP concept originated in that country. All OTOP entrepreneurs in 17 Northern provinces will be invited to this future meeting as well.

The focus of activity this time was marketing, as it is the heart / key component of business. Good products are meaningless if marketing is not well managed. They should also look towards certain targets such as neighboring countries or a large market like China, or even America and Europe.

For example, the attendees were advised that there will be a trade fair in Milan, Italy, and the chamber of commerce there has invited only three countries from Asia (India, China and Thailand), and this is a very good opportunity.

Nine entrepreneurs have been selected to participate in this fair to get acquainted with potential markets before the Promotion and Distribution Center for SME Products will be set up in Chiang Mai in 2006.

‘Super’ ya ba crosses the border

3rd Army presumes it comes from neighboring countries

Saksit Meesubkwang

Lt. Gen. Picharnmeth Muangmanee, Third Army Region commander has heralded a warning about a new hallucinogenic drug named PCP, which can cause greater effects than those of ya ba.

Gen. Chaisit Shinawatra, Royal Thai Army’s commander-in-chief (2nd left), and Lt. Gen. Picharnmeth Muangmanee, the commander of the Third Army Region, at the PCP press briefing in Chiang Mai.

PCP has come from several places along the border between Thailand and a neighboring country (which was not named at the Army press conference). Urgent action is to be taken by the Third Army to control all traffic routes along the border to prevent an influx of PCP and trafficking in it.

Gen. Chaisit Shinawatra, Royal Thai Army’s commander-in-chief, said that the new narcotic drug called PCP is in a form of white crystalline pellets or white powder. An assumption was made that PCP came from the border area and was produced in a neighboring country.

The users who are already addicted to other kinds of drugs would mix PCP with marijuana, whiskey or soda pop before taking it.

According to Lt. Gen. Picharnmeth, “This drug is more expensive than ya ba but a little bit cheaper than heroin. The use of this drug has not spread at the moment. If it spreads widely among adolescents and students, the complications and severity of the problem will be twice as much compared to that of amphetamine,” he added.

Currently, all necessary units of the army have modern instruments available for testing for narcotic substances. Some of these substances can be detected simply by applying the solution on the skin of an addict and it will yield the result right away.

Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever down this year so far

Public Health officials still worried

Nopniwat Krailerg

The statistics covering the first six months of this year have indicated that there were 271 cases of Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever (DHF) in Chiang Mai province, and resulted in one death.

488 cases were found during the same period last year (2003). The highest incidence was reported in Mae Rim district (36 cases) followed by Muang district, San Patong, Chiang Dao and San Sai.

“Despite the drop in such numbers, some issues remain, hindering DHF prevention and control for this year,” said Chiang Mai Provincial Public Health Officer, Dr Ratthawuth Sukmee. “For instance, some patients have no fixed residence, especially aliens, and ones who work inside the city will go back up country. Due to this circumstance, follow up of cases cannot be carried out. I ask that anybody who finds DHF patients or suspected cases should notify health officers or municipality staff responsible for their respective area. There are staff members and volunteers who are on stand-by all the time looking for any outbreak,” he said.

The provincial public health official also requested everybody assist in getting rid of mosquito breeding grounds with a concerted effort every Friday. Public health officers in all districts have been advised to monitor the DHF situation very closely, as the incidence may increase during August and September, which is still in the rainy season.

Gift of life to honor Her Majesty the Queen

Alastair Connon, Police Monitoring Committee

Immigration Officers around the country will give a very personal gift to mark the occasion of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit’s birthday.

(From left) Pol. Lt. Col. Inspector Kanokpun Roobkajorn, Pol. Sergeant Major Wannida Wongchai, Pol. Sergeant Major Suranuch Srilaphet, and Pol. Sergeant Thanadit Kongin.

On August 23 Chiang Mai officers will donate blood at The Red Cross, 369-371 Wichayanon Road Chiangmai.

Pol. Lt. Col. Inspector Kanokpun Roobkajorn commented, “We would like foreign residents and visitors to join with us or to visit any hospital to participate in giving this wonderful gift of life.”

Thai Buddhists and Thai Muslims in Chiang Mai find the ‘middle way’

Find a solution to land dispute

Saksit Meesubkwang

Although discussions at times were heated, two local communities were able to hash out an agreement over a disputed piece of land.

Narong Rungprakai-ravin, chairman of Tambon Pa Daed Administration Organization (TAO), Muang district, Chiang Mai, officially invited the Muslim Committee of Chang Klan, Chiang Mai and the Village Committee of Moo 3, Tambon Pa Daed, for a meeting to reach an agreement about the construction of a multi-purpose hall proposed for the area in front of the Muslim cemetery.

Protagonists gather at the site for the multi- purpose hall.

TAO chairman Narong brought out that the dispute centered on a 36 square meter piece of land located in front of the cemetery of Chang Klan Muslim Community. The location had become an issue, with Muslims claiming that this was an area Muslims used during mourning.

Discussions took place over three hours and were heated at times, with threatened walk-outs and strong words. However, Pa Daed TAO chairman Narong was able to get control of the situation and led it until an agreement was reached.

Amnuay Seramun, chairman of Chang Klan Muslim Community, gave a summary of the meeting, saying that, “I don’t want the issue of a small piece of land - only few square meters - to cause a misunderstanding between Muslims and Buddhist friends. I don’t want the problem to become increasingly complicated, as religious issues are very sensitive.”

With the wisdom of Solomon it was proposed that the Muslim Community of Chang Klan will collect donations up to 300,000 baht. “This amount will be given to the Moo 3 Village Committee to buy a new plot of land for constructing their multi-purpose pavilion for their activities,” he said.

This final solution was amicably accepted by both parties.

89 men make merit for Her Majesty the Queen

Autsadaporn Kamthai

In honor of Her Majesty the Queen’s birthday, 89 devout Buddhist men underwent ordination to dedicate the merit they were gaining to Her Majesty the Queen on the occasion of her birthday.

The men about to enter the monk hood wear white and hold the set of Buddhist monk’s robes during the ceremony.

The ordination ceremony took place on July 29 at Wat Phra Singh, Chiang Mai. Chiang Mai provincial chief monk, Phrathep Wisuthikul, and advisor of the provincial chief monk, Phradechphrakun Phrathamma Sittacharn, oversaw the religious ceremony while Governor Suwat Tantipat led the Chiang Mai laymen.

The ceremony began when all 89 men, all of differing occupations and ages, apologized to their parents and relatives, according to Thai belief that requires all men to eradicate their mental burdens and purify their minds before entering the priesthood.

The governor, as a leader of the laymen, lit the candle to pay respect to the Buddha images and gave blessing in front of the portrait of Her Majesty the Queen.

All 89 novitiate monks have resided at Wat Rum Perng and will stay in the order for 15 days beginning July 29. When the term is finished, a ceremony will be done again at Wat Phra Singh to allow them to leave the Buddhist monkhood.

Thai workers being skilled up for overseas work

Government behind improvement scheme

Nopniwat Krailerg

Workers who are skilled in Thai cooking and traditional massage are greatly in demand by employers abroad.

Many new Thai restaurants are being set up overseas but the supply of trained workers has been minimal. To meet this need, the Labor Skills Development Center has produced standard skilled workers in both commercial and Thai food preparation.

Chalermpong Boonrod, assistant director of Labor Skills Development Center, Chiang Mai province, is proud of the success of trainees who have completed skill development training courses in more than 140 branches of vocational specialties.

Upon completion of the training, workers receive a training certificate issued by Chiang Mai Labor Skills Development Center. They also need to obtain another certificate certifying that they have passed a standard test on work skills practice according to each specialty.

“Once they have the latter certificate, Thai restaurants in foreign countries have confidence in their standards. These employers correspond with us expressing intention to employ these workers. Through this, the workers can enter overseas countries with a work visa, not a tourist visa. They would no longer have to live and work there secretly,” he said.

Assistant Director Chalermpong also mentioned the second most popular vocational specialty saying, “Most recently, some delegates from Dubai contacted us through the Department of Export Promotion (DEP) and came here to select eight workers trained in Thai massage. They wanted to employ these workers to work in Dubai. In order to prevent possible deception, we then requested an official working in the Dubai DEP to check whether the contracting company did exist. We received confirmation and so we felt assured,” he said.

There are also opportunities for hotel and restaurant service staff overseas, but there is a need to upgrade the standard of their skills to reach international level. The skills being trained here are very basic, as it takes only two months for the training. The Office for the Standard of Labor Skills is working on this to upgrade them before issuing the work skill certificate.

Southern conflict military operation on the right track says Gen. Chaisit

18 stolen rifles have been recovered

Saksit Meesubkwang

On July 30, Gen. Chaisit Shinawatra, Royal Thai Army commander-in-chief, said during a promotional visit to Mae Rim that our men have been able to recover 18 guns, rifles and war weapons that were stolen from the Army in the South.

“You will hear something more in the future; just keep an eye out for it. During the past 5-6 months, all parties involved have tried their best, but we have to admit that solving problems in the South is not easy,” he said, in a masterpiece of understatement.

“However, it is believed that our operation there is now on the right track. The result of the operation this time has been reported to the Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and it will be concluded as an assignment for the defense minister to take further action. Our guess is that a number of the robbed weapons are still hidden in the area, while some of them may have been moved to somewhere else,” he added mysteriously.

“We will make public relations with people in the South further in Yawee language so they will know about the policy being implemented by government personnel. It seems that recently the people in the southern borders have cooperated more with government officers, which is good and we will continue this further,” he said.

Local people protest at road and dam construction

Claim flooding and environmental damage will result

Saksit Meesubkwang

Sarapee district residents are confused and upset over recent road construction and plans to construct a dam in their area. The new road has caused their houses to flood, and they say a new dam is unnecessary, as the dam they have works fine. The worst problem, however, is that they don’t know who to complain to.

Somboon Boonchu, member of the Upper-northern Ping River Basin Subcommittee

Somboon Boonchu, a member of the Upper-northern Ping River Basin Subcommittee and a member of Sarapee Tambon Administration Organization, Sarapee district, claimed the construction of the road from Chiang Mai to Lamphun has caused a range of impacts on local people in Tambon Yang Nerng of Sarapee district.

The road has triggered a flooding situation for the past two months, as people’s houses are now about three meters lower than the level of the road. They called for assistance from any associated agencies, but there was confusion as to which agencies were involved in the project.

Somboon said people were not provided with detailed information about this construction project and its benefits. The only reason given was tourism; however, the names of agencies responsible were not clearly revealed.

Somboon claimed an agency went into the area and collected information through questionnaires without presenting its identity and without telling them specifically about the objectives of the construction; consequently, people in Sarapee sub-district are confused.

According to the data they received, a dam will be built to reserve water for the urban area. The dam will also serve as another tourist spot for the community. To construct this dam, however, another existing dam, built by the villagers, will be removed.

The local people are not in agreement on removing the old dam, as people of both provinces starting from Sarapee district and those residing on both sides of Mae Ping River may be affected. They need clarification from the agencies involved, but as they do not know who is behind the project they have little hope of having their grievances heard.

Teenage hoodlums kill rival

Three apprehended, one escapes

Nopniwat Krailerg

Chiang Mai police have arrested three gunmen who allegedly killed Warawuth Mankong, a member of a rival gang. He was shot in front of the Thai News building.

Police investigation revealed that the suspects were four teenagers who would come to Chiang Mai for a ‘good time’ which generally involved getting drunk and picking fights with rival teenager groups.

On July 24, the four men started an argument with three other customers while drinking at a shop near Thipanetre movie theatre on Thipanetre Road at around midnight. The four were said to be very drunk when they finally left on two motorcycles.

A couple of hours later, the four met up with the other three protagonists outside the Thai News building and the arguments continued, escalating into a gunfight, in which Warawuth Mankong, 22, was shot and killed.

Pol Major Gen Kasem Rattanasunthorn, commander of Chiang Mai Provincial Police Division, assigned the Muang Chiang Mai police to investigate the case. Their investigations revealed that the four suspects were from Lampang, and they had rented a house in Tambon Tasala, Muang District, Chiang Mai.

Two days later, at 6 a.m., police surrounded the premises and moved in. They were able to arrest only three, as the fourth member fled.

Two of the three suspected gunmen caught were underage and cannot be named, the third was Thani Rassamee, 18, from Sumut Prakarn. The police also seized their weapons, including an 11 mm home made pistol, 11 mm Colt pistol with 12 bullets, some other some weapons, and the two motorcycles that were used.

The three suspects confessed that they shot Warawuth Mankong as they said he was their rival.

More than 10 kg of heroin seized

Presumed to have come from Burma

Worachat Kongkaew, Public Relations Department, Chiang Rai

Gen Chaisit Shinawatra, commander in chief of the Royal Thai Army held a press conference in Chiang Rai over the seizure of heroin weighing more than 10 kg confiscated from Pai, in Mae Hong Son.

The 10.6 kg of heroin was seized at Ban Santichol, Tambon Pai, Mae Hong Son, by the Naresuan Force from Kwangkwa (or Laokwa) Saeju, of Ban Santichol.

The officers searched his house, and found a bucket containing 28 high grade 4 heroin bars wrapped in saa paper.

The authorities have presumed that it was brought from Ban Hua Muang, Burma and then hidden in Ban Santichol.

Gen. Chaisit presented awards to the task forces and the village committee of Ban Santichol for their cooperation in the seizure of the heroin.

Five new ‘Green Factories’ in the north

19 to receive honor plaques at employment fair

Nopniwat Krailerg

In Chiang Mai, five business premises have qualified as ‘Green Factories’. These are: Thanapakdee Co., Ltd. (Chiang Mai Whiskey Refinery); George Jensen Co. Ltd. (Thailand), San Kamphaeng district; McKean Institute of Rehabilitation; Thai Am Tobacco Export Corporation Ltd., Saraphi district; and PTT PCL. (Chiang Mai Petroleum Tank Farm).

So far a total of 145 premises have participated in the “Green Factory” project. To qualify, participants have to grow trees and plant decorative gardens. Following inspection, a total of 19 premises will receive a plague of honor presented by Mrs. Uraiwan Thienthong, Labour Minister, at the “Employment Fair” scheduled to be held August 6-7 at Chiang Mai Airport Plaza.

Chiang Mai Provincial Labor Protection and Welfare Officer, Miss Tipakorn Udommanee-suwath, said that the project has been implemented according to the policy of the Labor Protection and Welfare Department, and it is compulsory for all agencies under its administration in every province to implement this. The project started in late 2003.

There are three criteria used for determining “Green Factories”. The first one is beauty and shadiness (which includes decorative gardens). The second criterion is sustainability (e.g. availability of persons assigned for taking good care of the trees). The third criterion concerns the layout of the planting area.

Tipakorn said, “This project will be implemented continuously. For several factories that have not passed, the Provincial Office for Labor Protection and Welfare will oversee and provide close guidance.”

20-strong raiding party arrests porno VCD peddler

Claims high ranking civil officials were asking for them

Saksit Meesubkwang

Twenty tourist police, led by Pol. Maj. Gen. Panya Maameng, commander of Tourism Police Headquarters and his deputy, Pol. Col. Sakonrat Therasawat descended on Chiang Mai’s VCD shops looking for the VCD of the moment, ‘starring’ Nong Nat Ketsarin showing her anatomy in Thuer Chue Ann, or She’s Ann, and Mora.

Yongyuth Worasuparp, the chief judge authorized the search warrant of the Pert CD 4, a VCD shop at San Sai Market Intersection. The owner, Kritsada Toonsarp, was in the shop attending to the fairly warm VCD players.

Police found a total of 178 porno VCDs that could be worth 12,460 baht. Kritsada was then charged with having pornographic VCDs in his possession without permission to sell them.

Kritsada said that he ordered these VCDs from an agent in Bangkok at 30 baht each and sold them here for 70 baht a disc. He also told police that the porno VCD starring Nong Nat was in great demand, which included high-ranking civil officials. Nong Nat’s CD was also available in several other shops in the North and in Chiang Mai. It was a good seller and in some other shops where this CD was stocked, customers were happy to pay up to 150-200 baht for it.

Pol. Maj. Gen. Panya Maameng, commander of Tourism Police Headquarters said that Kritsada Toonsarp was arrested because of the government’s compulsory policy. Other persons who have conspired with Kritsada will be traced and charged as well.

We can all feel a little more pure knowing that the 178 confiscated naughty videos are now safely in the hands of the police who will no doubt have to check each one.