HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Three quarters of a million ya ba bust in Chiang Mai

Chiang Rai flood damage stands at 12 million baht so far

12 storey municipal offices under protest

Thai-Laos border cooperation discussed in Chiang Rai

Electric mass transit almost ready to roll, says municipality

Ancient sites as tourism attractions not universally popular

Telecommunications seminars held in Chiang Mai

Police to continue road safety campaign and crackdown

Effective micro-organisms to clean Chiang Mai moat

New male prison for Chiang Mai in pipeline

Woman dies of possible meningococcal infection

Spoiled onions leaving a bad smell everywhere

Early release for prisoners

Marry for love, not employment says Provincial Employment Services

Two road accidents claim three lives

Municipality acts on advertising billboards

Chiang Mai Tech College threatening lock-ins for students

Thai-Burmese border situation along Chiang Mai rim

Ride-by bag snatchers prowling city’s streets

Three quarters of a million ya ba bust in Chiang Mai

But the big fish escapes again

Editorial staff and
staff reporters

Drug Suppression Division of Provincial Police Bureau, Region 5, in cooperation with Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), United State’s Department of Justice arrested a Hmong drug dealer, Chaiyong Worachotwanaprai, 31, and seized a total of 750,000 ya ba tablets in Chiang Dao district, Chiang Mai on August 15.

Chaiyong shows where 274,000 pills of ya ba were hidden under the pick-up truck’s mudguards. (Photo courtesy of the Provincial Police Bureau, Region 5)

A press conference was held at the Provincial Police Bureau, Region 5 with Chiang Mai Governor Suwat Tantipat, Pol Lt Gen Chalor Chuwong, Commissioner of Provincial Police Bureau, Region 5, Pol Lt Gen Watcharapol Prasarnratchakij, Commander of the Drug Suppression Division, and American and Thai officials of the DEA, and Chiang Mai Police Airborne Unit in attendance.

Following a tip-off, DEA officials knew that a large quantity of ya ba tablets were being smuggled into Thailand to be delivered to a major dealer in Bangkok. Pissanu Laoree, or Thanapong Taweehirunkul, and his accomplices, who reside in Chiang Dao district, would transfer the ya ba being kept in Ban Pang Klang in Tambon Toong Khao Puang, Chiang Dao district to the dealer by pick-up truck.

The police and DEA officials set up a checkpoint and road block on the Chotana (Chiang Mai - Fang) Highway and arrested the driver, Chaiyong, who had 274,000 ya ba pills hidden under the pick-up truck’s mudguards.

On questioning, Chaiyong admitted that he was paid 100,000 baht to deliver the ya ba to Thanapong and his accomplices. However, police were not the only one’s to receive tip-offs and they found that Thanapong and his gangs had escaped.

Afterwards, the police and DEA officials searched Chaiyong’s father’s house in Wiang Pa Pao district, Chiang Rai, and Chaiyong’s wife in Doi Luang Sub-district, Chiang Rai but they found no ya ba. Another police team discovered 476,000 tablets of ya ba at a house in Tambon Toong Khao Puang, Chiang Dao district, Chiang Mai belonging to Anucha Laoree or Chanon Taweehirunkul, brother of the escaped Thanapong Taweehirunkul.

Chaiyong was charged with being an accomplice with Thanapong and Anucha Taweehirunkul in the possession of drugs. Chanon Taweehirunkul was also accused of possessing a weapon without a permit.

Chiang Rai flood damage stands at 12 million baht so far

Population warned to remain on alert

The Chiang Rai Provincial Authority has repeated its warning to the public to beware of flash floods, especially for people who live near river banks, to keep a close watch on water levels and continually monitor weather forecasts.

Flooding in Chiang Rai has already caused damage of more than 12 million baht, though water levels in the rivers are now reported to be dropping.

Floods from May 5 - August 12 have affected 71 tambons, 260 villages, 15 districts and two sub-districts, and caused widespread damage to about 2,000 households, wats and schools. According to reports, a landslide destroyed two houses, while farmlands of over 20,000 rais, more than 500 fish ponds, more than 4,000 ducks and chickens, 23 roads, eight bridges and 56 weirs were also destroyed.

The Chiang Rai provincial authorities, along with the public and private sectors are now assisting victims of floods and landslides with survival kits, dried food and water supplies and consumption products.

Seree Inthachaiwan, head of the Chiang Rai Provincial Water Resources Division, added that if there is more heavy rain lasting several days, flash floods will ensue, causing the Mae Nam Korn River, Mae Kok River and Mae Nam Ing River to overflow.

12 storey municipal offices under protest

8 storeys counters mayor. Opposition demands a different story!

Nopniwat Krailerg

With strong opposition to the proposed 12 storey municipal building, Chiang Mai Mayor Boonlert Buranupakorn said they had two alternatives. The first is to relocate the municipal offices and the other is to lower the number of floors to eight.

Theerawat Kulwinij, deputy permanent secretary of the Interior Ministry was invited by the House Commission for Natural Resources and Environment to confer with administrators of Chiang Mai Municipality, and meet with the academics who are protesting against the construction of the 12 storey building.

The municipality claims that it would decrease the number of floors from 12 to eight, and would build it in Lanna style and be energy saving.

However, the protestors rejected this attempt at mediation and still object to the construction of the 8 storey building and are calling for it to be built elsewhere.

Thai-Laos border cooperation discussed in Chiang Rai

MOU signed for joint cooperation

Staff Reporters

Chiang Rai’s governor, Dr Narin Panitchakit and Governor Than Kamman Soonwilert of Bo Keo province, Laos, signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Thai-Laos cooperation at a joint meeting held last week.

The joint committee reached agreement by both sides on peace keeping along Thai-Laos border, and the cooperation on strengthening security as well as improving the good relationship on transit and immigration procedures for alien laborers, drug suppression, border trade, tourism, and joint surveys for the Mekong and land transport links in the Greater Mekong sub-region (GMS).

At the meeting, the governors also discussed the possible construction of a cable car system among Thailand, Burma and Laos at the Golden Triangle, but this was left for further consideration and to be placed at the national agenda level.

The next meeting will be hosted by Bo Keo Governor Than Kamman next year, with the agendas to include Thai-Laos border cooperation on boundaries, natural resources utilization, development of a second Chiang Saen port, as well as bridge construction over the Mekong River linking Chiang Khong district and Huay Sai town, Bo Keo province.

Electric mass transit almost ready to roll, says municipality

Nopniwat Krailerg and editorial staff

Chiang Mai Municipality reports that it will start surveying routes for an electric commuter system next month. The government has approved the municipality’s electric mass transit project, and the Office of Transport and Traffic Policy and Planning (OTTPP) in the Transport Ministry has allocated 147 million baht for it.

OTTPP secretary-general Kamrobluk Suraswadi has authorised the municipality to invite experts from academic institutions to conduct a study and design the transport routes for the system as well as identify the appropriate type of vehicle to be used.

However, Chiang Mai Mayor Boonlert Buranupakorn says that the OTTPP would select and employ the experts from academic institutions. Institutions eligible for conducting the study and designing transportation routes would not be limited to only those in Chiang Mai, but to any institutions run by the government.

At a meeting between the municipality and OTTPP on June 20, two initial routes were decided upon. The first will connect tambon Mae Hia and Mae Rim district, passing the international convention center in Mae Hia and the 700 Year Anniversary Sports Complex, and ending at the center for the development and distribution of SME products located behind the City Hall.

The Mae Hia side of this route will start from the new middle ring road and go in the direction of the Chiang Mai-Hang Dong highway before making its way back to the airport. The Mae Rim side of the same route will start from the area in front of Chiang Mai City Hall, go along Chotana Road before connecting with the airport route.

The second route will start from the road surrounding the inner old city along the ditch at Chang Puak intersection. It will then pass Jaeng Sriphum (Sriphum corner) and the area in front of the Municipality Office, continue along the road on a bank of Mae Ping River, make a turn to cut through the night bazaar towards Wua Lai Road, and finally connect with the first route at the airport junction.

The municipality has proposed a type of electric vehicle that requires no rails. A more environmentally friendly type that uses rubber wheels is suggested. Electric conduction plates would be placed about four inches beneath the road surface.

Any casual observer will remain confused. If there are agreed routes, why is the municipality spending money to look at routing? An electric cable-car (tramway) system with conduction strips under the road surface will produce even more traffic chaos with the road surface being ripped up while it is laid. Electric buses with designated stops require no alteration to the roads, or is this too simple?

Ancient sites as tourism attractions not universally popular

Villagers protesting against rampant commercialism

Staff reporters

Villagers of Chiang Mai’s Saraphi district are protesting against tourism-related operators and entrepreneurs in their region, accusing them of breaching their contracts to operate in the Wiang Kum Kam ancient town area, and asking them to leave as a consequence.

The villagers fear that the tourism entrepreneurs will have a negative impact on the ancient remains and their environment. 100 protestors from Ban Changkham, Tambon Tha Wangtarn, gathered to oppose tourist souvenir shops, food shops, the monorail and horse-drawn carriage services operating in the area.

The protesters consulted with Phra Atikarn Veeradej Santi Karo, the abbot of Wat Changkham, with whom the tourism operators had signed contracts for the use of land in the wat areas. However the villagers accused the operators of violating the contracts by constructing and extending buildings in the nearby area.

“These may affect and spoil the Wiang Kum Kam ancient remains, and the wat committee has decided to give them notice to demolish the building expansion in the area, and to terminate the contracts within seven days,” one of the protesters said.

Wanchai sae Ju, one of the tour operators, said that he had signed a contract with the abbot for eight years, of which only two had passed, paying 50,000 baht annually to the abbot, and he had not broken any of the conditions. He would submit his letter of complaint to the 8th Fine Arts, Unit Office, Chiang Mai, he said.

The local villagers feel that the price of tourism progress is too high, despite the annual fees being paid to the abbot.

Telecommunications seminars held in Chiang Mai

Staff reporters

The 24th meeting of the Asia-Pacific Tele-community (APT) Study Group was held in Chiang Mai, from August 11-14 to review the progress so far and develop strategies for efficient completion of studies on telecommunication issues in the region. More than 60 ICT experts, senior industry and government officials from the Asia Pacific region attended.

This was immediately followed by the Study Group meeting on Interconnection and Dispute Resolution and Up-grading Existing Networks to accommodate Broadband on August 15th and 16th. The objective of this seminar was to share information on interconnection dispute resolution and develop a resource kit to resolve disputes.

Welcoming the delegates at the opening session of the meeting, Amarendra Narayan, executive director of APT highlighted the importance of regional cooperation. Amarendra spoke of the tremendous effort put on the development of the study report and the need for the establishment of effective dissemination of the information.

Addressing the opening session of the Study Group Meeting, the Chairperson of the Study Group, Tanvir Ahmed, senior executive vice president of PTCL, Pakistan said that all their efforts should be directed to bridging the digital divide in the region, with an aim to provide digital connectivity to anyone anywhere and at affordable prices.

APT’s report for 18 Study Questions has already been prepared and the additional five Study Questions report are expected to be ready by the end of next month.

APT has been able to help its members in carrying out studies on development, operation and policy issues on ICT. It was established in 1979 by the joint initiatives of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

APT is a unique organization of Governments, telecom service providers, manufacturers of communication equipment, research and development organizations and other stakeholders active in the field of communication and information technology.

It now boasts 32 members, four associate members and 93 affiliate members. Through its various programs and activities, APT has made a significant contribution to the growth of the ICT and the telecommunications sector in the Asia Pacific region.

Police to continue road safety campaign and crackdown

30,000 infringements in first six months of this year

Nopniwat Krailerg

Pol. Lt. Col. Somphong Chamroonphan, deputy superintendent of Chiang Mai Provincial Traffic Police, revealed the statistics on breaches of the traffic rules and regulations during the first six months of this year. Failure to wear a helmet resulted in fines for almost 26,000 riders. Snap checks also turned up almost 11,000 people without driving licenses.

Motorists without seatbelts fastened and motorcycle riders without helmets can still be seen around Chiang Mai.

“Chiang Mai traffic police will continue to enforce traffic regulations very strictly and arrest those who break the laws. I would like to request all people to cooperate and follow the traffic rules very carefully to ensure safety for drivers, passengers and pedestrians, and to also help solve traffic problems in our city of Chiang Mai,” said the deputy superintendent.

Effective micro-organisms to clean Chiang Mai moat

Staff Reporters

During the celebrations for H.M. the Queen’s birthday celebration, Chiang Mai Municipality organized a ‘clean and safe’ campaign.

One of the always present problems is water quality and to clean up our moat, effective micro-organisms (EM) are used since they have always been a way to treat waste and septic systems. According to the municipality, EM reduces odors, sludge and improves water quality by digesting organic matter.

Scott Hansen, from the American Consulate Chiang Mai together with consulate members, holding the Queen’s flag pouring EM into the moat. (Photo by Thongchai Mahachai)

For the municipality it was another activity to celebrate the Queen’s birthday but it was also a project to promote community use of EM, which is a by-product from kitchen, fruit and vegetable waste. EM can not only be used to clean water but also as a fertilizer in gardens without contaminating the natural environment.

The municipality wants to assure concerned residents that it is not just another chemical poured in the moat to kill bacteria, but contains purified water, organic sugar cane molasses, lactic acid cultures, organic mineral powder, sea salt, organic rice bran and is the recommended environmentally friendly clean up system which can be used.

New male prison for Chiang Mai in pipeline

Women to take over old facility

Nopniwat Krailerg

The Department of Corrections has allocated 650 million baht to build a new high-tech male prison in Chiang Mai. Construction will begin in October.

The department’s director-general, Nathee Chitsawang, said the new prison will cover an area of over 100 rai in tambon San Mahaphon, Mae Taeng district.

Male prisoners currently detained in the provincial central prison in front of the Chiang Mai City Hall offices complex will be relocated to the new prison. The correctional facility will then be used by female prisoners who will be moved from the Women’s Correctional Institution located behind the Muang Chiang Mai district office.

The construction has been put out for tender and the contract for construction will be signed by September 30.

Nathee said, “Once all female inmates are moved over, the former prison will be changed into a beautiful public park for Chiang Mai residents. This will serve as another recreational spot in the centre of Chiang Mai city.”

Woman dies of possible meningococcal infection

Nopniwat Krailerg

A 66 year old woman from Sansai district in Chiang Mai has died of what may be Meningococcal disease. The Chiang Mai Provincial Public Health Office has not yet confirmed the cause of death as laboratory test results are still pending; however, other members in her family have received prophylactic medication and have been placed under close observation.

Public Health Office head Dr. Ratthawuth Sukmee said that he received the report on Duang-nga Chanthawong, who lived in Ban Pa Kluay village, tambon Sannameng, Sansai district. “She was admitted to Sansai Hospital for treatment but was referred to Nakhonping Hospital, where she died after four days. Her symptoms included high fever and severe headache, chills and delirium, presence of red spots or bruises all over the body, and development of convulsions,” he said. Based on these symptoms, it was most likely that she had a Meningococcal disease.

Dr. Ratthawuth said that the patient’s daughter took a Burmese child into the house for a special tutorial session before she fell ill. The child might have carried the infection which caused the woman’s illness, though there was no evidence available to confirm this.

“An investigation into where she had been before this is ongoing,” he said. The causative agent of Meningococcal disease could be found anywhere, but was most common among Burmese living along the border between Thailand and Myanmar.

Though it is a severe disease, the incidence is rare. Only one or two cases are found in Chiang Mai each year, and the public health officer has asked people not to panic. The disease is spread through droplet infection with nasal discharge or saliva.

“Results of detailed investigations as to whether it is a Meningococcal disease or not should be available in about a week’s time. We have already reported the incident to the Ministry of Public Health. The result of the test must be reported to the World Health Organization as well,” said Dr. Ratthawuth.

Spoiled onions leaving a bad smell everywhere

Nobody caring about the growers’ tears

Saksit Meesubkwang

Chiang Mai deputy governor Thongchai Wongrianthong presided over a smelly onion meeting at Chiang Mai provincial cooperative office. The meeting included representatives from Chiang Mai provincial cooperatives office, the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Co-operatives, the Department of Internal Trade; chief of Chiang Mai provincial agricultural office, chief of provincial commerce office, and all other cooperatives in Chiang Mai.

Sophon Suphasarp, chief of Chiang Mai provincial cooperatives office, spoke on the results of the onion mortgage project in Fang and Chai Prakarn districts. It appears that 206 million baht is required urgently for implementing the onion mortgage project from the “Farmers Assisting Policy and Measures Committee”. The province would also request for an appropriate amount to compensate the loss due to the spoiling of onions caused by the nature of storage.

It appears that the quantity of onions accepted for mortgage by the government from farmers in Fang and Chai Prakarn districts was 260,000 tons. Unfortunately only half this amount was sold, the rest going into storage. These onions became spoiled during the wet season and the foul smell soon showed which villages were storing wet onions.

People living in these areas could not stand the smell. Some of them even sent emails to Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra requesting someone in authority to solve the problem.

Chiang Mai deputy governor Thongchai said, “The issue about onions either in Mae Wang, San Patong, Fang, Phrao or Chai Prakarn districts has been addressed. The onions have been sold to various provinces all over Thailand. Some provinces have settled their payments already while some other has not. However, with regard to spoiled and smelling onions, we have coordinated with Fang municipality to take an urgent action. If the municipality does not have enough trucks available for transporting the spoiled onions, trucks from private sector can be hired. A total budget of 3 million baht has been allocated for transportation cost at the rate of 1.5 baht per 1 kg.”

The rotten onions will be disposed of by landfill, or by being used as fertilizer in the forests. That should stop the forest encroachment for a while!

Early release for prisoners

Merit making for HM The Queen

Autsadaporn Kamthai

149 female prisoners were released from the Chiang Mai Women’s Correctional Institute on the August 12 to make great merit for their beloved Queen and to allow them to celebrate the national Mothers Day with their own mothers and children.

A monk sprinkles consecrated water over the inmates at the Chiang Mai Women Correctional Institute, to bless them and get rid of all evil before sending them home.

In Mae Hong Son, 60 inmates (57 males and 3 females) were also freed as were many other prisoners in other provinces.

Preparing to go home to celebrate Mothers Day with their mothers and their children whom they miss so much.

The release of prisoners is based on Thailand’s Royal Decree on Amnesty that was first applied on August 11 to mark this auspicious occasion. Apart from releasing these prisoners, some other inmates who were not freed had their incarceration period shortened.

Before these prisoners were released, they had been taught occupational skills and morality to enable them to return to society.

Marry for love, not employment says Provincial Employment Services

Quick way to lose money, and not gain a spouse!

Nopniwat Krailerg

Entering arranged marriages to get work overseas is dangerous, the Chiang Mai Employment Services Office has warned.

“Thai workers should not take a risk by arranging marriages with foreigners in exchange for an opportunity to work in other countries,” said Orachon Ratanamanee, chief of the Chiang Mai Provincial Employment Services office. “Apart from being a possible victim of deception and losing money, they may be charged with violating overseas laws. A number of Thai workers wanting to go work aboard have been persuaded that they can get jobs in Taiwan if married to a Taiwanese. They are fooled into believing they can then live and work there as permanent residents.” The persons making the arrangements would ask for a large sum of money as a service fee and for other expenses.

“To protect the lives and assets of Thais wanting to work in Taiwan, we urge them to think about this very carefully. Do not believe people who suggest the marriage options. This will never help anyone gain marriage status and rights. Instead, you may be charged with using fake documents and lose a lot of money.”

Potential workers can ask for detailed information about working aboard from the Chiang Mai Provincial Employment Services office on the first floor of Chiang Mai City Hall, or by phoning 053-222 865/-6 during office hours, Orachon said.

Two road accidents claim three lives

One driver flees the scene

Staff reporters

A tour bus overturned in Chiang Rai, killing two people and injuring 28, while in another separate accident, a car was pushed off the road into a tree, killing the driver and seriously injuring the passenger.

In the bus accident, the driver of the bus, carrying group members of saving cooperatives from Sri Nakharintrawiroj University, Chonburi, lost control when he hit an oncoming motorcyclist. The bus then left the road and overturned.

The accident took place at 6.30 p.m. on August 13 in front of the Institute of Rajamangkhla Technology campus in tambon Sai Khao, Parn district, Chiang Rai.

The passengers who died were identified as 62 year old Thawee Charoenpol and 36 year old Banthiom Mainongkloy.

The injured were admitted to the nearby Mae Lao Hospital in Parn district and Chiang Rai Prachanukhrao Hospital in Muang Chiang Rai.

The second fatal accident in Lampang took place at 4.30 a.m. on August 14 on the Lampang-Chiang Rai Road, between km markers 5 and 6 in Ban Pong Saentong, tambon Pong Saentong, Muang district.

A vehicle, which did not stay at the site of the accident, drove into the back of a sedan coming from Lampang, causing it to leave the road and hit an electric pole. The car burst into flames and exploded, killing 42 year old Kasem Chaisuwan instantly. Kasem was an air conditioning instructor at the Skills Labor Development Institute, Region 10. His wife, 36 year old Angsana Chaisuwan, who was also a staff member at the Institute, was seriously injured. She was rushed to the Muang Lampang Hospital by the Lampang rescue team.

According to police investigations, Kasem had picked up his wife, who was coming from Bangkok, to return to their residence at the Institute. The accident occurred about 500 meters from their destination.

The Lampang police are searching for the hit and run driver.

Municipality acts on advertising billboards

But does not get rid of the eye-sores

Nopniwat Krailerg

The draft municipal regulation relating to large billboards was a top agenda item for the most recent Chiang Mai Municipal Council meeting.

The draft regulations proscribe that all the roads inside municipal areas and areas along both sides of Mae Ping River are determined as control areas for installing large billboards. All billboards must be made from fireproof materials and they must be strong and firmly installed. Illustrations and advertising text must not be contrary to good taste.

Some of the billboards in Chiang Mai City now subject to the Building Control Act.

The other factor invoked by the new regulations are that according to the Building Control Act, any large billboards or any structures built for installing billboards are considered as “buildings”. Therefore, permission for the construction must be requested and granted. The heights of billboards installed on the top of high buildings must not exceed 6 meters measuring from the roofs of such buildings. The height of billboards installed directly on the ground must not exceed 16 meters and their length must not exceed 32 meters. For billboards installed beside the roads along the banks of Mae Ping River inside the municipal area, their height must not exceed 12 meters.

Mayor Boonlert Buranupakorn said after the municipal council meeting that the regulation was invoked to control the scenic views of Chiang Mai City and to prevent the views from being obscured by large billboards. That is, unless they are only 16 meters high from ground level, or six meters higher than the roof line!

Chiang Mai Tech College threatening lock-ins for students

Stopping Internet access is the plan

Nopniwat Krailerg

In an attempt to curb internet use and web surfing for pornographic sites by students, a meeting will be held to seek serious cooperation from related agencies including police, provincial administrative officials, student inspectors and Internet shop owners.

Since truancy results in playing on-line games at Internet shops, strict measures are being proposed for next year, including closure of college gates and students will not be allowed out of the campus during school hours.

Pravit Paibon, the director of Chiang Mai Technical College (CMTC), said that in the initial stage, he would like to seek cooperation from Internet shops around the campus to give a priority to controlling material being selected by the students. It was fine for students to play games for relaxation; however, they should not be allowed to play for long periods of time.

The director said, “I understand that the shop owners will be affected when students are not allowed to come out, as they have already invested in their business. Indeed, we do not have the authorized power to command them to open or to close. What we can do is to request them to help overseeing pornographic materials or media, which we don’t want students to be exposed to at all. Shop owners should also have a monitor to keep track of web pages being searched by students.” He also pointed out that Internet services are available inside the campus for students to use for educational purposes.

CMTC teachers responsible for overseeing student behavior cannot cover all the Internet shops, so the CMTC director is requesting that the police or student inspectors should oversee this issue strenuously.

His final words on the matter were, “Students who are found playing games outside the campus, by student inspectors or teachers, will be taken back to the college for an official warning and documenting in their records. With repeat offenders, the college will suspend their study immediately, as an example for other students.”

Thai-Burmese border situation along Chiang Mai rim

More than just the Thai and Burmese armies on patrol

Nopniwat Krailerg

Several problems exist at the northern border, including minority groups, illegal entry of aliens and human trafficking as well as illicit drugs.

Pha Muang Task Force’s Col. Somsak Ninbancherdkul, the commander of the ad hoc unit of the 133rd Cavalry Battalion, showing the location of Thai-Burmese border lines at Nong Ka Lang hill.

Despite the much publicized War on Drugs (that has brought Thailand to the adverse notice of human rights groups around the world), problems continue to exist because there are several narcotic stockpiles in areas inside neighboring countries, especially Myanmar, where there are Wa group soldiers located at the border to protect the benefits for their government. And there are still orders from drug dealers on the Thai side so there is movement from other countries.

Thai military forces located along the border consist of two Ad Hoc units from 3rd Cavalry Department, Phetchabun province. The first is the 133rd Cavalry Battalion responsible for the area of Wiang Haeng, Chiang Dao, and Chai Prakan districts of Chiang Mai, while the second is the 133rd Cavalry Battalion responsible for the area of Fang and Mae Ai districts of Chiang Mai and Mae Chan districts of Chiang Rai province.

A Thai troop trench.

Col. Somsak Ninbancherdkul, the commander of the Ad Hoc unit of the 133rd Cavalry Battalion, said that the current situation in the area was not considered to be border clashes, unlike those which happened during 2001-2002 that were very serious.

He believed that the skirmishes were not directly related to Thai-Burmese hostilities, but were incorporated in fighting among Burmese minority groups inside Myanmar when some of their shelling missed their targets and fell on Thai soils. Another indirect clash was due to Thai Yai who crossed the border into Thailand fleeing from the fighting. These incidents then brought about confrontation between the two countries.

Following PM. Thaksin Shinawatra’s visit to Myanmar in 2003, there had been a much better relationship between Thailand and Myanmar both at higher levels and between military personnel in local areas.

Cross-border trafficking still exists in the area under responsibility of this unit, but less frequently. Previously there were trafficker caravans five to six times each month, but this is down to one or two a month at present.

Although these are pleasing figures, the amount of drugs being smuggled across the border is still very high. From October 2003 to present, Pha Muang Task Force has captured almost two million tablets amphetamine, 150,000 kilograms of heroin and 7,000 kilograms of opium.

The important drug depots close to the Thai frontier are at Ban Thai Luang opposite Mae Hong Son province. In this area, they enter Thailand via Ban Nam Lee Sor Boh Mai, Ban Lee Sor Dong Sam Muen, and Huay Nam Dang. Traffickers in the township of Jod opposite Wiang Haeng district enter the kingdom through Man Alu pass. Ban Huay Orh and Ban Na Gong Mu 30 kilometers opposite Wiang Haeng district is another important drug depot.

Traffickers in Ban Phya Kid and Ban Huay Yod opposite Fang and Mae Ai districts enter through passes at Ban Pha Hom Pok and Ban Na Ma Ouen, as well as Doi Sam Sao pass in area of Mae Ai district. They will go further to Ban Santisuk in Pai district of Mae Hong Son province. Some of them come from Ban Pang Fang from the Wa group located above Chiang Rai province.

Military officers admitted that traffickers were able to sneak in through many spots along the Thai-Burmese border.

According to current assessment there are around 2,600 Burmese troops along their border regions.

Another problem is the lack of clearly defined boundaries, so the regions can see Thai, Burmese and Wa all on patrol. Myanmar authorities have two objectives in locating troops in this area. The first is to put pressure and suppress the ethnic minority group army forces of the Shan State Army (SSA) or the Thai Yai people. The second objective is to control checkpoints with the attendant benefits along the border from people and goods passing through.

There are two major ethnic minority forces. The first group is from the Wa which looks after the area for the Burmese government. This group has the United Wa State Army (UWSA) responsible for the southern part at Ban Hong. This army has stationed 250 of its soldiers in the area of Lak Taeng pass, Doi Fai area opposite Wiang Haeng district; another 180 soldiers opposite Kiew Pha Wog; 1,000 soldiers opposite Chai Prakarn district; and 1,200 soldiers opposite Mae Ai district.

The second ethnic minority group is the Shan State Army (SSA) led by Col. Yodsuek. This army has Khun Saeng Ton Hung Group (250 soldiers) located in Doi Kham area opposite Wiang Haeng district; Don Joeng Group (100 soldiers) at Doi Mayom Men opposite Wiang Haeng district; and Sua Khan Fah Group (200 soldiers) at Doi San Ju of Fang district.

The minority groups are using guerilla tactics while the Burmese Army is putting pressure on the SSA. In the meantime, Thailand remains watchful.

Ride-by bag snatchers prowling city’s streets

Thawil Sakrew, Public Relations Department, Chiang Mai

Residents, visitors and tourists in Chiang Mai have been warned by police to beware of gangsters who prowl the streets as ride-by thieves.

Phuping Investigative Police announced on August 15 that police arrested alleged gang members Paruak “Benze” Veera, Phuwadol “Belle” Uparee, Pradit “Por” Panyalan and Polawat “Tee” Saeng-anong - all from Hot District, Chiang Mai - in possession of purses, gold necklaces, mobile phones, T-shirts, clothing and two motorcycles. They were arrested at a house in Ban Sanpuloei, Doi Saket district and charged with theft.

The police said that the suspects admitted to the charges. They called themselves the “Code of Mangkorn” (Dragon) and had tattoos of a dragon on their arms. They would roam the streets of the city in the evenings in search of both Thai and foreign pedestrians whom they would target.

The police said they would ride by two-up on motorcycles, and strike at intersections.

The last victim was school student Laddawal Paokham, who had her handbag snatched at the Rincome intersection.