HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Chiang Mai receives huge jade Buddha image

“Less than brilliant” credit card thief apprehended

Mayor targets untidy Waroros Market and Night Bazaar

Dual nationality traffickers blamed for drug upsurge

Millions of methamphetamine pills destined for Thailand

THAI blames weather for Mae Hong Son crash

Chiang Mai mayor announces administration team changes

Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever outbreak in Mae Hong Son

1 million fish celebrate Her Majesty the Queen’s birthday

Wat Suan Dok community protests building extensions

Deputy PM speaks on human trafficking

Solar cells for Chiang Rai

Dromedary dies in Chiang Mai zoo after tea

Locals looking for reopening of Kiew Pha Wog Burmese border checkpoint

Chiang Rai-Laos cable car idea needs more discussions

The 1st Cavalry Division and Pha Muang Task Force move towards an e-Army

Trouble looming regarding Long Necked Karen peoples

Chiang Mai Administrative Court presents three year results

Smuggling thwarted by Chiang Mai Customs officials

3,800 ya ba pills found at border village

Chiang Mai receives huge jade Buddha image

Jade found by friends of Burma’s leader

Nopniwat Krailerg

A huge Buddha image in jade has become the symbol of acts of faith of many in the Chiang Mai Buddhist community. Phra Kru Phisan Boonnivith, the abbot of Wat Ou Sai Kham told Chiangmai Mail that he wanted people of the following generations to have a heritage property that was originally produced in this era.

“Sculpting a Buddha image from jade has important value in terms of artistry and in people’s faith. This new carving is a very rare type of Buddha image,” said Phra Kru Phisanboonnivith.

“Life span of human beings is very short, around 70-80 years only. But the sacred articles built by people of ancient times are all more than 600-700 years old,” said the abbot, looking ahead to the future which will have this ‘new’ jade Buddha.

Senior Buddhist monks gathered for the Buddhabhisek ceremony on July 24.

“I started during a journey to India and visiting Bodhagaya, the place where the Lord Buddha gained enlightenment. At this place, I made a wish that the sculpting of a jade Buddha image could happen and that there would be people with Dhamma charisma come to help me to successfully achieve this.

108 senior Buddhist monks gathered to consecrate the jade Buddha image.

“After that, my wish came true. I went to the source of jade in Myanmar without any money; however, I tried hard to coordinate with all parties until Buddhist monks and Buddhist people in Myanmar helped me.

“I met Aung Kham Thi and Nevin Tun, close friends of Gen. Khin Nyunt, the prime minister of Myanmar. They were concessionaires for jade mining.

They both agreed to find a huge piece of jade for sculpting a Buddha image and such piece of jade would be given as a memorable article to Thailand.”

The search for a large piece of jade took two years of digging in area of Mandalay until six pieces were found. After cutting and checking colors and fissures, five of them were rejected, but the sixth was 141-570 million years old and weighted more than two tons.

“We were very lucky because there would never be another piece of jade as big as this one. The price of this piece of jade was 15 million baht. However, with assistance from Myanmar, the price was lowered to 2.5 million baht,” he added.

The temple at Wat Ou Kham Sai then received assistance from Pakorn Buranupakorn, the Chiang Mai MP, to arrange a Kathin ceremony collecting donations from Buddhists to pay part of the price of this piece of jade.

The piece of jade arrived in Chiang Mai on September 10 last year. It was then taken to a workshop in Mae Sai district, Chiang Rai province, for cutting. After that it returned to Wat Ou Sai Kham to be sculpted as a Buddha image by sculptor Lek Ratanawimon.

It took nine months before completion. The weight after carving was a little more than 800 kilograms. There were some parts of jade left afterwards and the temple used them to make sacred articles (small Buddha images) such as Jade Buddha images of Lamphun series; Benjapakee jade Buddha images; Phra Kong; and Phra Sing Yok Lek (tiny jade Buddha images). The Buddhabhisek ceremony to consecrate these images was held on July 24 this year with a gathering of 108 senior Buddhist monks.

On July 31, a ceremony took place in the grounds in front of Thapae Gate for the relics of Lord Buddha to be kept inside the Phra Buddha Sihing jade, the new jade Buddha image.

Somchai Wongsawas, permanent secretary at the Ministry of Justice; Pakorn Buranupakorn, MP for Chiang Mai, Region 1; and Suwat Tantipat, Chiang Mai governor, jointly presided over the ceremony. This was the first time in 700 years that such a ceremony had been held in front of Thapae Gate.

“This Jade is invaluable material and is very rare. It also has its own natural beauty. Sculpturing a Buddha image from jade has important value in terms of artistry and in people’s faith. This new carving is a very rare type of Buddha image,” said Phra Kru Phisanboonnivith.

“Less than brilliant” credit card thief apprehended

Gave her address to department store for deliveries!

Nopniwat Krailerg

One of the world’s less forward-thinking thieves was arrested in the Buak Had community, Tambon Phra Sigh, Muang District, Chiang Mai. She had been dressing like a university student, mixing with the younger students and calmly walking off with their bags and cases.

Mrs. Jirawan Sattapunsiri, 32, was arrested by Pol. Cap. Anuparp Chaisiri, assistant detective inspector of Phu Phing police station, after police made a search in her room and found stolen articles, including three mobile phones, eight wallets and purses, five shoulder bags, gold ornaments and 59 other items. The police took her into custody and investigated further.

The police found that the thief had used a credit card stolen from one of the university students to purchase goods from a department store on Huay Kaew Road and asked the store to deliver the article to her home, leaving her address with them.

She confessed that she had been doing this for a long time. Most of the stolen articles were sold, but she kept some for personal use.

Her favorite haunts were Rajabhat University, Chiang Mai University and Payap University. In committing the crimes, she disguised herself as a student of each targeted institution. The most recent was where she dressed herself as a medical student and mingled with medical students at the Faculty of Medicine, Chiang Mai University. While one of the fifth year medical students was not watching, she stole her purse. After that she used the student’s credit card to purchase items until she was traced and eventually arrested.

Mayor targets untidy Waroros Market and Night Bazaar

Will he remember how it was when he worked there?

Nopniwat Krailerg

Chiang Mai Mayor Boonlert Buranupakorn has indicated his next project is to beautify both the Night Bazaar and the Waroros Market. He said he plans to implement this immediately and that it should be completed by December this year.

Vendors at the Night Bazaar

The ugly and untidy stalls must be changed. Transparent material will be used instead of zinc plates for the walls on both sides of the stalls. Stallholders in front of the market will be moved to the space on both sides of the road parallel with the Ping River, from the base of Nakhonping Bridge to the Waroros Market.

All this is being done for cleanness, tidiness and beauty, says the mayor, who began his working life selling kapi with his brother from a stall in the market.

Unsightly billboards will also be removed during this time, he said.

Stalls at the Waroros Market

Dual nationality traffickers blamed for drug upsurge

Suppression has produced more inventive ways of transporting

Saksit Meesubkwang

On August 4, Pittaya Jitranawat, the director of Narcotics Control Board, Northern region, was the keynote speaker at a workshop on ‘Case Studies on Drug Suppression and Solutions; and Geographic Study’, hosted by the Commander of 3rd Region Army at Lotus Pang Suan Kaew Hotel.

The director of the Narcotics Control Board, Northern Region, Pittaya Jitranawat, at the workshop.

Pittaya said that 20 drug traffickers on the black list were aware of being traced by the authorities and had fled to live in neighboring countries.

Another 40 traffickers who were not included on the black list also escaped to neighboring countries. The fact that they possess identification cards issued by two countries as having both Thai and Burmese nationalities has become a major obstacle in searching for them.

Although the ya ba trade in the north had been reported initially as lessening, traffickers have come back again with such groups as the Go Gang, Wa and other minority groups.

The hill tribe teenagers and youths from minority groups and aliens who work in the city are being hired to transport drugs for these dealers. The director warned hill tribe youths, who might be thinking of conspiring with drug traffickers, to be aware they are being used as tools and it could cost them their future and/or their lives.

New methods are being used to transport drugs to fool the inspection officials. For example, drugs are being hidden in a brassiere, underwear or even inside the rectum. If the quantity was quite large, the drugs would be hidden inside a spare tire hanging under a vehicle, or hidden inside car seats.

Pittaya mentioned that in the North, heroin, cocaine, ice and evaporative substances are being hawked among people in night entertainment outlets, rather than ya ba.

He added that the Board’s performance on reduction of opium planting in the North met the target. By next year, the NCB will completely eliminate all opium growing areas.

The NCB has run two operations with military and police offices. The first is to deal with the new influx of narcotics into Thailand through 288 routes and the second is to stop precursor substances from being sent out from Thailand. Once they are sent out, they are used for producing ya ba in the neighboring countries.

The NCB found some improvements were still needed. Racial discrimination still exists. When villagers lack security they will not assist the authorities to keep a watch on drug trafficking. There are also some government officials who are still involved with drug dealing.

Lt. Gen. Picharnmeth Muangmanee, commander of the 3rd Army Region, said he was invited by the Myanmar authority to meet with the commander of its Southern Army. It was reported that Myanmar authorities had arrested and punished one high-ranking Myanmar military officer who was involved in a deal of several hundred thousand ya ba tablets.

China also reported that a heroin trafficker was arrested recently in northern China and several hundred kilograms were confiscated. These were mentioned to demonstrate that neighboring countries have placed more importance on, and extended more cooperation with each other in solutions for drug problems.

With the main factory production sites being in the neighboring countries, one is tempted to point out the old adage that ‘one swallow does not make a summer’!

Millions of methamphetamine pills destined for Thailand

Thai anti-narcotic officials have warned that the country may be facing a flood of drugs in the near future. There are millions of methamphetamine pills, or ‘ya ba’ currently stored in many secret spots along Thailand’s northern border, which are waiting to be smuggled into Thailand later, according to the Office of the Narcotics Control Board (ONCB).

Thailand’s war against drugs last year forced many drug lords to flee into neighboring countries. These drug barons may try to take advantage of any relaxation by the Thai authorities along the border to try to get back into business, according to senior ONCB official, Pittaya Jitranawat.

Thailand’s anti-drug officials have detected a resurgence of heroin and other narcotic drugs lately, as a result of drug suppression operations in China and Myanmar.

Heroin smuggling has more than doubled so far this year, compared to the same period last year, according to ONCB officials. More “club drugs”, like ecstasy, cocaine and ketamine have been found in entertainment places in northern Thailand.

“Drug smugglers might change their transport routes back into Thailand and find new groups of carriers such as hill tribe teenagers and local students to try to deceive officials,” Pittaya said.

Around twenty drug lords have fled to Laos and Myanmar. The Thai authorities are cooperating with the two countries to get these traffickers deported to Thailand.

No newly produced methamphetamines have been found in the latest seizure of the pills smuggled into Thailand. Pittaya also dismissed reports that PCP - the new narcotic substance - was being smuggled into Thailand. So far there have been no seizures of PCP in the country, he said. However, some PCP had been detected in some fishing travelers, but only in very small quantities, he added.

The ONCB is confident that Myanmar’s recent tough measures on drug suppression and its cooperation with Thailand along their common border will help stamp out the cross-border traffic in drugs. (TNA)

THAI blames weather for Mae Hong Son crash

Undercarriage collapsed on landing claimed

Nopniwat Krailerg

Thai Airways International (THAI) insists its TG 198 aircraft landing in Mae Hong Son on Saturday, August 7 suffered from an undercarriage failure following a rough landing due to bad weather and high winds.

Tewan Damronghat, THAI’s manager at Mae Hong Son Airport said the aircraft’s nose wheels did not fail to fully extend before landing, despite all the reports in the popular media. He claimed that the collapse of the undercarriage was due to a heavy landing on the runway caused by the changeable strong wind and rain at the airport that afternoon. He added that the conditions in Mae Hong Son changed very quickly, and high winds could spring up without warning.

The plane was a THAI ATR-72 aircraft, flying from Chiang Mai to arrive at Mae Hong Son airport at 4.35 p.m. In the landing, it scraped along the tarmac for 100 meters, sliding to a stop across the runway. None of the twenty-eight passengers or four crew members were injured.

The stricken plane was removed to the old terminal the next day. The cost of the damage is yet to be confirmed as THAI will wait for the mechanics from the THAI HQ in Bangkok to confirm the damage.

Chiang Mai mayor announces administration team changes

Three months trial over

Nopniwat Krailerg

Boonlert Buranupakorn, Chiang Mai Municipality mayor, has announced changes to his team following the three months trial period from April - July 2004 for his new council.

He added that the changes were based on ability and appropriateness, not because of internal conflicts.

The changes are Manas Sirimaharaj, the deputy mayor for finance being moved to public health, Poolsawas Worawal, from public health to public works and Chatree Chuamanocharn, from public works to finance.

Mayor Boonlert said all his deputy mayors would work most efficiently and at full capacity; however, there will be more team evaluations in the next 3-6 months, so that they could work to meet the municipality’s goals and targets.

Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever outbreak in Mae Hong Son

103 cases reported

Autsadaporn Kamthai

The Communicable Disease Control Division of Mae Hong Son Provincial Public Health Office reported 103 people were infected with Dengue Haemorrhagic fever in Mae Hong Son province.

The breakdown showed 53 lived in the Muang district, 40 were from Mae Sariang district, 4 from Sop Moei, 3 from Pai, 2 from Khun Yuam district and 1 from Pang Mapha district. Hemorrhagic fever struck in all Mae Hong Son’s districts, except Mae La Noi district, said the official.

Last year only 83 cases were reported with Dengue Haemorrhagic Fever and the rise to 103 is worrying, despite the fact that the Muang and Mae Sariang District Public Health Offices have attempted to control the spread of this disease by spraying chemicals to kill mosquitoes and have encouraged residents to get rid of mosquito breeding grounds.

1 million fish celebrate Her Majesty the Queen’s birthday

Saluay Niramai, Public Relations Department, Mae Hong Son

Officials announced that 1 million fish, all local Thai fish strains, would be released in response to HM the Queen’s initiatives in promoting Thai natural resources.

Chod Charnarong of the Mae Hong Son Provincial Fishery Office said that pla soi kao, pla baa, pla tapian kao, and pla tapianthong were released on August 12 in the Mae Hong Son natural water resources.

The first batch of 119,000 fish were released at the Mae Hong Son Provincial Land Development Office area in Tambon Pangmoo, Muang District, and the rest are being distributed to the public in each district, until all one million have safely swum away.

Wat Suan Dok community protests building extensions

Insult to Buddhism being claimed

Nopniwat Krailerg

People in Suan Dok community have protested against the construction of a three storey dormitory into six storeys, claiming it will be an eye-sore and an insult to the religion. Signatures were collected in front of the main sermon hall of Suan Dok Temple on Asarnhabucha Day, July 31.

Protests were signed in front of the main sermon hall of Suan Dok Temple.

A petition was drawn up that was later given to the Chiang Mai MP at the Thai Rak Thai party office, to the Chiang Mai governor, and to the Chiang Mai mayor, to request them to review the impact of the construction on the temple.

The local residents protested against this once before when Prawit Srisophon was governor. As a result, the construction was stopped for over two years before suddenly starting again. Chiang Mai Municipality has been asked the question of how permission for such construction has been granted.

The construction can be seen from the temple.

The three storey building is situated outside the perimeter fence of the temple but in front of the main sermon hall.

Surapol Wiriyapan, the chairperson of Baan Chum Muang Yen Club of Maha Chulalongkorn University, Suan Dok Temple, and the former chairperson of Suan Dok community, said people in this community felt that it was inappropriate to build a high building in the area close to Suan Dok Temple.

The three-storey building which the owner wants to make into six storeys.

The face of the main Buddha image enshrined inside the hall is pointing to the dormitory. If the extension was completed and there were people living there, they could hang their clothes and undergarments there, which would be a religious insult.

There is also the situation of heavy construction trucks and the impact on the environment.

Dwellers will have to use temple parking spaces. There will be vehicles driving in and out day and night, which will cause a nuisance for people living close by and for the pupils of Suan Dok School.

It was reported that the owner of the dormitory being extended claimed that she came from a royal family of Chiang Tung and she knew high-up people in this country. It was alleged that she had asked the building contractor to threaten people to keep away from becoming involved in this situation.

The protesters are looking for action from responsible agencies in finding out whether permission for this construction is in line with the Building Act. The dormitory previously requested an extension to a height of 26 meters but what is being extended now is for 30 meters high. Related agencies must give clear explanation to the temple, people living in this community and other Buddhists living in Chiang Mai.

Chiang Mai Mayor Pakorn Buranupakorn said the municipality would ask for the dormitory construction to be suspended while an investigation is conducted to find out whether permission for the construction has been granted properly. The municipality has assigned staff working in the building control section to check this against municipal regulations.

As prescribed in such regulations, the maximum allowable height of any building in an area within 100 meters of a temple or school is 16 meters.

Deputy PM speaks on human trafficking

Chiang Rai is the gateway says Wissanu

Phitsanu Thepthong

At a seminar in Chiang Rai, Deputy PM Wissanu Krea-Ngarm said Chiang Rai could become a transit route for human trafficking, a situation that worries the Thai government, as well as the United Nations. “This human flesh trade is regarded as an international problem, when Chiang Rai is the gateway to Burma, Laos and southern China,” he said.

Deputy PM Dr Wissanu Krea-Ngarm (3rd right), and Dr Jakrapob Penkair, the government spokesman (2nd right) at the seminar. (Photo by Saksit Meesubkwang)

“It (Chiang Rai) can be the transit point for human trade,” he remarked, adding that “human trafficking still exists in the country because some government officials are involved with it,” he said, without indicating which officials, or which departments.

Jadoon Apichartabute, an inspector at the Ministry of Interior, said Thailand has been blamed by international agencies for relaxing vigilance on the use of alien labor, as well as trafficking in women and children.

The UN has paid interest in Thailand’s human flesh trade, especially the service girls transported from Thailand abroad. “This human trafficking is considered and counted in the national agenda, such as the war on poverty, war on drugs and war on corruption. Many sides concerned would come to help solve this social problem, and find the right management even if it will be with the tough action that is pledged by Deputy Prime Minister Purachai Piumsomboon,” Jadoon said.

The latest report announced was that the Thai government would spend 500 million baht to tackle the flesh trade, and other social problems. PM Thaksin said that the government would deal with human trafficking the same way it dealt with illicit drugs. The report did not elaborate on how this would be done.

However, Dr Wissanu added that the government wants to change the infamous Golden Triangle from the negative impacts to become positive.

Solar cells for Chiang Rai

Will power two fluoro’s and the government TV channel

Autsadaporn Kamthai

Chiang Rai Provincial Electricity Authority is installing solar cells to 5,213 households in rural areas to provide them electricity under the rural development budget. This will cost 146 billion baht.

Currently, the installation was being done in Chiang Rai’s Muang district, Mae Sai, Terng, and Mae Chan districts, stated Surachai Rongjamras, assistant head of the marketing division of the Chiang Rai Provincial Electricity Generating Authority.

By the winter season, solar cells will be furnished to targeted households in Parn, Wiang Papao and Mae Suay districts since these households are located in areas where the officers can not reach during the rainy season.

The solar cell can generate 120 watts of electric power. However, this solar cell can power only two fluorescent lams and a 14 inch television. The cell can be used to provide them light during the night and a channel to receive government information and news, said Surachai.

It is estimated that the installation to all 5,213 targeted houses will be finished within 9 months. After installation, Tambon Administration Organizations would oversee and provide maintenance for the solar cells within their responsible areas. The solar cell is said to generate electricity for approximately 15-20 years.

Dromedary dies in Chiang Mai zoo after tea

Autsadaporn Kamthai

A female dromedary (camel) has died at Chiang Mai zoo, not long after giving birth to four babies. Veterinarian Chatri Kuhataeparuk suspected that the camel might have succumbed to pneumonia.

Some of the camels left at Chiang Mai Zoo.

An autopsy will be carried out at the Lampang Animal Disease Autopsy Center. The actual cause of death will be known next week.

The 11-year-old camel was bought from Australia and two months ago gave birth to four baby camels. Three of them are now feeding independently, while the fourth will now have to be fed by the zookeepers.

One humped camels are called dromedary camels, which have their origins in the North Africa continent. They are well adapted for extreme climates and harsh terrains, especially in the dessert. Hairy ears and heavy eyebrows with long eyelashes cover the face from the sun and blowing sand. They eat vegetation that other desert animals cannot tolerate. Since they sweat very little, dromedary camels can go long periods without water. The hump stores fat for times when food is scarce.

Locals looking for reopening of Kiew Pha Wog Burmese border checkpoint

Ministry of Interior has the power

Nopniwat Krailerg

Villagers of Ban Arunothai, Moo 10 (formerly Ban Nong Ouk) want the Kiew Pha Wog border crossing to be reopened. Their business and incomes have been negatively affected in the past two years since the checkpoint was closed.

The base of the 133rd Calvary Battalion, Pha Muang Task Force is located in front of the Kiew Pha Wog checkpoint.

Boonruang Karnman, a member of Chiang Mai Provincial Administration Organization, as the representative of these people, submitted a letter to Chiang Mai provincial authorities in early June 2004 but received no response. He then submitted the case again to PM Thaksin Shinawatra during the mobile cabinet meeting in Lamphun province on July 28, 2004.

Pha Muang Task Force bunker opposite the closed Thai-Burmese checkpoint.

This time, the issue received some action and a letter was prepared for submission to the local Thai-Burmese Border Committee (TBC) for considering reopening the Kiew Pha Wog checkpoint.

Somsak Ninbancherdkul, commander of a special unit of the 133rd Calvary Battalion, Pha Muang Task Force responsible for the area, said that the power to open or close the checkpoint belongs to Chiang Mai Provincial Authorities led by the Chiang Mai governor, who need approval from the Ministry of Interior.

Pha Muang Task Force soldier on patrol around the Ban Arunothai border village near Kiew Pha Wog checkpoint.

The Kiew Pha Wog border crossing was first opened on October 24, 1997. Since then it has opened and closed many times. Now all that is needed is an announcement from Chiang Mai provincial authorities for its reopening.

This year, the MDX Group Company of Thailand has been allowed through this checkpoint. The company has been contracted to build the Tha Sang dam located at the Salween River inside Myanmar 150 kilometers away from the checkpoint. This is a part of a Thai-Burmese collaborative project to generate electric power to sell to Thailand.

So far, the company has made only a few trips into Myanmar to conduct surveys and transport some materials. Once the actual construction begins, 50-100 trucks loaded with materials and equipment would go through this checkpoint each day.

Chiang Rai-Laos cable car idea needs more discussions

Provincial governor in Laos sees potential, but needs government approval

Staff Reporters

Tao Somporn Wannasi, the governor of Huay Sai province in Laos, said he would be pleased to support the Chiang Rai provincial authorities, by assisting with the cable car construction project; however, he must consult with the Laos central government first.

On August 7, Chiang Rai governor, Dr Narin Panichakitch assigned Bampen Binthaisong, the district officer of Wiang Kaen, along with Buasorn Prachamon, the Chiang Rai MP, to further negotiate with the Laos authorities over the progress of the cable car plan.

Tao Somporn of Laos said they were happy to cooperate with Thai authorities and this was a development project for international relations as well as tourism promotion in this Golden triangle region.

He said he was not against the ambitious Thai plan, but this project had to be approved by the Laos government first.

Chiang Rai Governor Narin Panichakitch initiated the plans for the cable car system across the borders to Burma and Laos, in the Chiang Saen district. This plan is also supported by the Thai government.

However, there was no indication given in the latest communiqu้ from the Chiang Rai Public Relations Department as to who would foot the bill and who would collect the revenue from ticket sales.

The 1st Cavalry Division and Pha Muang Task Force move towards an e-Army

Riding electronic horses?

Nopniwat Krailerg

Modern technology is being incorporated into the operation of military units for several reasons. Firstly is to respond to Army policy that suggests the use of technology to enhance capability and efficiency of military units is part of modernization.

A military operation to control aliens crossing the Mekong River in Chiang Rai.

Another reason is the fact that the area under the responsibility of the 1st Cavalry Division and Pha Muang Task Force is quite large, with many units under their supervision.

Maj. Gen. Manas Pao-rik, commander of the 1st Cavalry Division and Pha Muang Task Force, is incorporating full use of IT and other modern technologies into military operations in the areas of control and management.

IT equipment being used by the task force personnel to assist operations.

Currently, Pha Muang Task Force is already using IT systems in its activities. This includes a paper-less office system, video conferencing through hi-speed communicating systems, and installing additional circuits to maximize the power of Army radio communications. With all these in place, Pha Muang Task Force is considered as having made best use of technology among all units in the 3rd Army Region.

Training for military personnel is also important. Pha Muang Task Force emphasizes training of its personnel on how to use the new technology.

Trouble looming regarding Long Necked Karen peoples

Aliens ask PM Thaksin for help

Saksit Meesubkwang

Suphot Laowansiri, provincial governor of Mae Hong Son, has admitted that representatives of long necked Karen people living in Ban Nam Piang Din and Ban Huay Sua Thao, tambon Pha Bong, Muang district, Mae Hong Son province, submitted a letter to PM Thaksin Shinawatra last month.

Mother, child and baby long necked Karen in Mae Hong Son.

The letter was to request his assistance in finding two of their relatives who were abducted by businessmen in 1997.

According to Mae Hong Son Governor Suphot, “The long necked Karen people originally came from Khya State in Myanmar. They escaped as refugees from the war inside Myanmar and have lived in the area of Mae Hong Son province for more than 10 years. They have now become an important tourism symbol of Mae Hong Son. It is not right for capitalist business entrepreneurs to take these long necked Karens out of the area to use as tourism attractions. Taking them out of the confinement in the Mae Hong Son area is also considered as a violation of immigration laws on the grounds it is bringing illegal aliens into the country. Furthermore, it is also employment, which is not in line with the objectives defined in the regulations covering alien registration. It’s not right for capitalists to take long necked Karen to show outside the area, as they should be allowed to live naturally in their own way,” said the governor.

It was revealed that the two Karen reportedly abducted were Miss Moo Pli, 24, and Miss Moo Tue, 23. They were taken to Ban Ya Pha in Tambon Tha Ton, Mae Ai district, Chiang Mai province, where long necked Karen people are being shown to tourists.

Meanwhile, Adisorn Khammerdsiri, Mae Ai chief district officer, admitted that there are some entrepreneurs who have set up a village of long necked Karen people. The entrepreneurs have already taken all 20-30 Karen people living in this village for registration as alien laborers.

Further examination of the problem has shown that in Mae Ai district, there are currently not one, but two long necked Karen villages in tambon Tha Ton. One of them is Ban Kor Ae. This village is 5 kilometers from Ban Ya Pha and is the village to which the allegedly abducted two long necked Karen people from Mae Hong Son were taken.

The businessmen who planned the abduction is a Lahu hill tribesman known only by his nickname ‘Addy’. He and some lowland business people worked together in the tour business. There were officials who facilitated the abduction from Mae Hong Son to this village.

Apparently their relatives tried several times to search for them. However, the influential businessmen stopped the Karen people from Ban Nam Piang Din from entering the village at Ban Ya Pha where the two long necked Karen girls were being held. The relatives then heard that PM Thaksin Shinawatra would visit Mae Hong Son and prepared a submission to the prime minister requesting his assistance. The prime minister is the last resort in their quest to see their relatives again.

The Mae Hong Son governor finished by saying, “As this problem has been raised, an investigation will be made clearly and thoroughly. The report will then be submitted to Suwat Tantipat, Chiang Mai governor. If the data obtained relates to the missing women from Mae Hong Son, they will be sent back immediately,” he added.

It would appear that there is more than one group keen on using these refugees as tourist attractions, but are quite happy to keep them as aliens, where they can be controlled more easily. There are many questions still unanswered, and it will be interesting to see if the PM responds.

Chiang Mai Administrative Court presents three year results

Saksit Meesubkwang

Arlai Ingkawanich, director-general of Chiang Mai Administrative Court has reported on the ‘Chiang Mai Administrative Court Meets Lanna People’ project.

The forum was held at Duang Tawan Hotel, Chiang Mai province, and attended by more than 500 people from Chiang Mai and neighboring provinces, personnel from government and private sectors, as well as students from various institutes in the North.

Arlai stated that Chiang Mai Administrative Court is the first ‘Administrative Court of the First Instance’ established upcountry. The court began functioning in 2001 and now has seven judges.

Chiang Mai Administrative Court provides services covering nine provinces of the upper north including Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Mae Hong Son, Lampang, Phrae, Nan, Phayao, Uttaradit and Lamphun with plans for setting up another administrative court in Phrae.

Over the period from 30 July 2001 to 28 July 2004, a total of 624 cases have gone through the Administrative Court in Chiang Mai. Among these, 95 cases have already had verdicts passed, while another 529 have been settled out of court. Legal action in the entire region totaled 967. Chiang Mai was the highest, followed by Chiang Rai (120), Lampang (82) and Uttaradit (57).

Smuggling thwarted by Chiang Mai Customs officials

Nopniwat Krailerg

Officials from the Customs Office at Chiang Mai International Airport revealed that during the past two years they have intercepted contraband goods totaling over one million baht per month.

Confiscated vehicles at the Customs Office.

The principal items include automobiles, electric appliances, clothes, luxury goods such as wine and cigarettes as well as agricultural goods.

Booncherd Jantrawatana, head of the Customs Office at Chiang Mai International Airport said they have confiscated six vehicles this year with a duty value of over 4.5 million baht.

The smuggling methods were diverse. Some are hidden in containers with non-auto goods, whilst others are disassembled and brought in as parts, with the lower duty applicable. They are then reassembled in Thailand.

Cross-border smuggling is generally getting vehicles out of Thailand, rather than into Thailand, he said. Smuggling automobiles into the country across the northern border seems impossible since the route is too. Most illegal imports come from the south where the road is in good condition. Most of the vehicles come from Malaysia and Singapore and of the high price brands as Mercedes, Jaguar or BMW.

So far, the auto smugglers have not identified vehicles as a big business. Most cars are smuggled in by persons who want to have them for their own use.

3,800 ya ba pills found at border village

Three arrested, including one Burmese

Staff reporters

The Pha Muang Task Force has released a statement that the Ban Arunothai Village committee members in cooperation with Pha Muang Task Force have charged three drug traffickers in their village.

The local people tipped off the authorities, led by Lt Gen Manas Pao-in, the commander of Pha Muang Task Force. On August 6, the village safety and security guards and the Task Force arrested the three suspects: Laosue sae Yang, 30, a resident of Ban Arunothai, with 400 ya ba tablets; Kaungju sae Joe, 29, also from the Ban Arunothai, and Archai sae Huang, 30, from Burma, with hauls of 3,400 ya ba tablets.

The ya ba was confiscated and all the accused were brought for further questioning at Tambon Nawai Police Station, Chiang Dao district.