HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Public asked to help fight water pollution

Chiang Rai struck with worst natural disaster in 20 years

A million dams for every year of HM the King’s reign planned

Fire fighters unable to reach top of high rise buildings

Milan to display Chiang Mai OTOP items

Ideas on farming on sloping land exchanged

Integration operation review shows lack of progress

Construction of new municipality building faces delays

Orchids to line road to Phuping Palace

Feeling the petrol price pinch? Try a tricycle

Only one case of Meningococcal disease reported in North

Pedal power saves fuel and money

Multiple service providers now all under one roof

XV International AIDS Conference wash-up

Night Safari plan dogged with problems

Four Burmese monks sentenced for shoplifting

Enormous numbers of drug related arrests in the north

Naval officer charged with trafficking in 11 Bangladeshis

Youths caught smuggling drugs

Accept gays and transgender persons more fully, workshop hears

Cabinet expected to slash Chiang Mai air pollution funding

Public asked to help fight water pollution

Autsadaporn Kamthai

Chiang Mai Municipality has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Portland Municipality in the US state of Oregon, Phuket Municipality and Khon Kaen Municipality to work together on a project of sustainable environmental management.

The project will be conducted with the support of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and US-Asia Environmental Development (US-AED).

Its primary aims are to raise people’s awareness of water pollution and encourage public participation in polluted water management.

The municipality recently drafted the project of sustainable environmental management for approval by higher authorities and conducted a study on Chiang Mai’s water pollution and its management.

Public participation is being encouraged by allowing people to take decisions on the direction of sustainable management in their communities and suggest implementation plans.

The municipality plans to invite participants from 1,219 governmental and private organizations and local people from 77 communities to take part in a conference to discuss and share ideas on the subject. It should be a packed house!

Chiang Rai struck with worst natural disaster in 20 years

Mudslides and flash floods destroy

Staff reporters

Chiang Rai suffered its worst natural disaster in 20 years when it was hit by mudslides and flash floods this week.

Rocks and earth from the mountain at San Pa Doi Pui tore down in overflowing rivers on tambon Mae Sai after several days of heavy rain, destroying villages in its path.

Boonlom Deesermyos, assistant district officer of Muang district, accompanied by Tambon Administration Organization chairmen, kamnans and village headmen from tambon Mae Sai inspected the devastated areas, especially at Wat Koh Kaew.

Villagers in the affected areas going up the mountainous region in search of forest products have been warned of the risk of going up the hills, and to prepare for evacuation in case of emergency if there are more heavy rains.

Flash floods and mudslides from Doi Nangnon Mountain in Mae Sai district also struck villages in tambons Wiang Pangkam, Pong Ngarm, and Phongpha.

Schools in the Mae Sai municipal district area were temporarily closed because of high water levels. Floodwaters also covered residential areas on Phaholyothin Road, causing extensive damage to households, and mudslides brought traffic to a standstill.

An official of the provincial authorities claimed this was the worst natural disaster in 20 years. “Provincial authorities have sent their rescue teams and officials to help the victims,” he added.

A million dams for every year of HM the King’s reign planned

That’s a lot of dams

Phitsanu Thepthong

Thailand has been invited to help build a targeted 60 million dams to honor HM the King celebrating the 60th anniversary of his reign next year.

The target date for completion of the project is 2006, and the construction of the first of 30,000 check dams in the Upper North is said to have started already in Chiang Mai, helping to slow down flash floods in the rainy season. After a trial period for the successful construction of check dams at the Huay Hong Krai Royal Development Study Centre, the plan is to extend the project nationwide.

An example of a check dam to help slow down the flow of water in Ban Huay Ngoo in tambon Sansai, Fang district.

“They have already begun this huge project, without spending any money from the government budget,” said Pallop Seamanlike, chairman of the Office of the Working Group for Joint Operations on Developing Rural Villages under the Royally-Initiated Projects.

“This project will restore a sustainable ecology,” he stressed. It would hopefully lead to the conservation of the soil, streams and forests so that the land can become fertile again.

“We want to expand the project to 30,000 dams in the Upper North, to the benefit of the local villagers,” said Pallop.

It would be a collaborative effort involving the government and private sectors, students from universities and other education institutions, and volunteers from the general public who would help keep expenses down by bringing their own food and drink to construction sites.

With support from the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand, they would work on dam construction in the Fang and Chai Prakarn districts of Chiang Mai, and in the Mae Tha district of Lampang.

“About 400 check dams are currently being built in the north of Chiang Mai and more are to be undertaken in the southern districts in Mae Chaem and Omkoi, according to our strategy,” said Pallop.

He added that more than 20,000 people would be participating in check dam construction at any one time.

Fire fighters unable to reach top of high rise buildings

And can’t get under low bridges

Nopniwat Krailerg

Chiang Mai Municipality is concerned that it does not have fire tenders to deal with fires above the 10th floor of the mushrooming high-rise buildings in the city.

Poonsawas Worawal, deputy mayor of the Engineering Division of Chiang Mai Municipality, said that even though the municipality’s fire-fighting division had received a national award for efficiency, the increase in high-rise buildings and the lack of modern equipment is a cause of great concern.

Municipality officials are also looking for a suitable site to locate the operation centre to cover all 40 square kilometres of the municipal area. They hope to expand into the Pa Tun and Mae Yuak areas.

“However, this faces an obstacle in that the new fire engines will not be able to pass under the low bridges located in these areas,” he said. Water trucks currently have to use indirect routes, which causes fire fighters to lose time in getting to the scene of the fire, he said.

Milan to display Chiang Mai OTOP items

Staff reporters

Nine of Chiang Mai’s OTOP products have been chosen to be part of the World Products Display in Milan, Italy in mid-September.

These nine products were chosen by the Industry Ministry and include silk, cotton clothes, Saa paper, mango wood products, lacquer ware, scented candles and silverware.

There are 42 OTOP products in Chiang Mai that have been given the community product standard label and in June, 13 more products, four in the clothes and nine in the souvenir sectors, received certificates.

During the last eight months, OTOP goods have earned the province 890 million baht.

Chiang Mai Provincial Industrial Office is inviting all OTOP entrepreneurs to register at the Industrial Office, located at the city hall or call 0-5389-0509 and 0-5322-2493 to be approved for the community product standard.

Ideas on farming on sloping land exchanged

Nopniwat Krailerg

The International Conference on Innovative Practices for Sustainable Sloping Lands and Watershed Management was held from September 5-9 in Chiang Mai.

Kukiat Soitong, director of the Bureau of Agricultural Commodities Promotion and Management, Department of Agricultural Extension (DOAE).

The meeting was aimed at developing a technology transfer system in agriculture in Thailand and other Asian countries and learn from the extensive experiences of those working abroad.

More than 260 academics attended from China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Indonesia and the Philippines. Also present were the Asian Development Bank (ADB), Swiss Agency for Development (SDC) and Thai government representatives.

Kukiat Soitong, director of the Bureau of Agricultural Commodities Promotion and Management in the Department of Agricultural Extension (DOAE), said the department, Thailand Soil and Fertilization Association and The International Water Management Institute would further develop the system of agricultural extensions on sloping lands with financial support from outside organizations.

The function was held at Chiangmai Hills Hotel.

Research and networking had shown problems in the agricultural sector. Therefore, the Swiss government had offered to finance projects to develop appropriate new methods that can be applied by farmers with sloping lands and in watershed areas.

More than 40 papers on research in various countries were presented at the conference. Guest speakers were from the Swiss government, ADB, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and Prof Dr Santad Rojanasunthorn of Thailand’s Royal Project.

Thongchart Raksakul, director-general of the DOAE, said that Thailand was ready to act as the donor country for the transfer and exchange of information with other countries in the Greater Mekong Sub-Region. “Thailand’s networking is very useful for development projects in communities, and especially for the policy makers and we should be more aware of these sloping and watershed management areas,” he added.

Integration operation review shows lack of progress

Confusion reigns supreme

Saksit Meesubkwang

The results from eight northern provinces to the integration operation 11 months after it was started by government offices was detailed at a meeting in Chiang Mai, chaired by Jadoon Apichartboot, inspector of the Office of the Prime Minister. It was attended by 480 government officials.

Jadoon Apichartboot, inspector of the office of the prime minister, who chaired the conference.

Officials from the Office of Bureaucracy Development Board also sat in as observers and evaluated the integration progress of each province.

Chiang Mai Governor Suwat Tantipat, as chairman of the Lanna group of eight provinces, said that the final summary of the integration operation would be ready in the next two months, as he found some inaccuracies in the initial report.

Chiang Rai Deputy Governor Direk Konkleeb said the officials both from the provinces and the Office of Bureaucracy Development Board had “not understood the real system and operation of the integration system”. Besides, the plan of the Office of Bureaucracy Development Board did not correspond with the provincial plans, he claimed.

Furthermore, there had been delays in financial support from the government although the provincial plan had been well prepared and launched. This delay has caused hiccups in the implementation of the integration operation.

Direk also claimed it was noticeable that in all the provinces, the deputy governors had failed in handling the integration system, despite their having put in more effort than the governors. This led to the deputy governors being “very upset”.

People who attended the meeting agreed that the officials both from the Office of Bureaucracy Development Board and the provinces needed to improve their coordination.

Construction of new municipality building faces delays

Looks as if it will have to go underground

Nopniwat Krailerg

Construction of new municipality building is facing delays, as building plans have been sent back to the drawing board. It will be at least another month before new plans will be ready for review.

The sticking point remains the height of the building, with insistence that the new office building must be under 12 meters in height and it must also be constructed in Lanna style. The only good news was that the measurement excludes the roof and two storey underground parking lot.

The Chiang Mai provincial authority on August 31 called municipality representatives and the 11 opposition groups together to discuss the new municipal building. Chiang Mai Deputy Governor Prinya Panthong refereed the meeting.

Deputy Mayor Poonsawas Worawal, as the municipality representative who is responsible for the engineering division, pledged to redesign the building within a month, after which it will be tabled for approval.

Officials expect that there will be considerable delays before actual construction begins. The opposition groups still want the new building be erected at an alternative location, on the site of the abandoned hotel in front of the railway station. They also want the municipality to relocate some of its departments and offices to municipal district offices for greater convenience for the public.

Orchids to line road to Phuping Palace

Autsadaporn Kamthai

Orchids are being planted along the road from Huay Kaew Botanical Park to Phuping Palace to beautify the view along the road leading to Doi Suthep Mountain.

This is part of the royally initiated project to return orchids to the forest and increase public awareness in the beautiful flowers, said Asst Prof Dr Pisuth Niamsup, president of the project. It is being carried out by Mae Jo University and associated organizations. The orchid planting is also part of HM the Queen’s birthday celebration.

Young orchids being rooted on a tree in front of the Chiang Mai Zoo to beautify the route up to Phuping Palace.

About 7,200 orchids from 10 strains were cultivated by Mae Jo University and were planted on September 5. The first batch of 2,500 orchids was planted by a group of the city’s VIPs. Chiang Mai Governor Suwat Tantipat also joined the planting on that day. The planting started at the botanical garden and continued to the viewpoint at the 13 km marker on the way up to Doi Suthep-Pui National Park.

On September 12 and 19, the remainder of the planting will take place up to Phuping Palace.

Feeling the petrol price pinch? Try a tricycle

Phitsanu Thepthong

Following the Chiangmai Mail’s feature on the fate of the ‘samlor’, several bodies, including public transport authorities in Chiang Mai, have voiced their concern. Since motorists and commuters are facing increased fuel prices, the call has gone out to save energy by the greater use of the samlor and bicycle.

A meeting to prepare for training courses for samlor tours and services, chaired by Pol Lt Col Sompong Chamroonphan (center), of the Chiang Mai Provincial Traffic Police. (Photo by Nopniwat Krailerg)

Autsathai Rattanadilok na Phuket, chief of the Chiang Mai Provincial Lands Transport Office, told Chiangmai Mail that a meeting on the samlor issue was held at the transport office on August 27, and with the governor now promoting a revival of this mode of transport, training courses have been planned for September. Today there are only about 150 samlor riders left, aged between 50-70 years old.

A common sight in Chiang Mai - samlor drivers waiting for customers. (Photo by Nopniwat Krailerg)

Chiang Mai Provincial Lands Transport Office has discussed further training for samlor drivers and other related issues, such as improving their vehicle’s appearance, rules and regulations on using public roads as well as traffic laws and signs.

Other issues to be raised include safety, good manners in serving the public and the use of English to communicate with customers.

One TAT official remarked that training courses have been planned because of fears the city’s samlor tour operations might fade away like Lampang province’s horse-drawn carriages. Under the samlor promotion project, to be run by Governor Suwat, the 150 samlor riders will take part in three training courses with 50 riders at a time.

Only one case of Meningococcal disease reported in North

Nopniwat Krailerg

A two month old Hmong baby in Phayao province has been diagnosed with Meningococcal disease, the only case in the six Northern Provinces between January and August, according to the 10th Disease Prevention and Control Office.

Dr Sompot Borwornsin, from the Disease Prevention and Control, Chiang Mai.

Fortunately, the baby from tambon Pha Chang Noi, Pong district, Phayao responded to treatment and has recovered.

To date, 22 people in 15 provinces around Thailand have contracted the disease. A 6 year old Burmese boy in Kanchanaburi province in the west of Thailand died five days after he contracted the disease.

There were no reports of Meningococcal infection in the Northern region last year, while in 2002 only two patients were diagnosed in Chiang Mai and Phayao.

Dr Sompot Borwornsin, from the Disease Prevention and Control, Chiang Mai, explained that Neiseria Meningitidis was the cause of the disease. General symptoms are initially similar to other febrile diseases. It is spread through droplet infection in saliva, coughing, sneezing, sharing a cigarette, using the same glass and close contact like kissing.

There is a vaccine to protect against the illness. Concern has been raised about Muslim pilgrims going on hajj to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. They can get vaccinated free of charge at the 10th Disease Control Office, said Dr. Sompot.

He also said all Public Health Offices and the 10th Disease Prevention and Control Office have paid close attention to the situation. If an outbreak of the disease is found in any area, the public will be informed immediately through the media.

People who suspect they may be infected should observe their symptoms closely. If they have a high fever for more than two days, they should see a doctor to determine the cause and be treated. However, Dr. Sompot advised that the Dengue Haemorrhagic Fever and Leptospirosis could cause similar symptoms.

Pedal power saves fuel and money

Saksit Meesubkwang

Chiang Mai University has launched a campaign to promote energy saving awareness on campus.

The “CMU-DIV 2” (divide by 2) campaign, announced on September 1 at CMU’s Convention Hall, will be promoted to help the country save energy in view of rising prices for oil and consumer goods.

CMU president Dr Nipon Tuwanon (center) inspects the ‘Golden Bin’ made from recycled garbage and waste materials. Turning it from the garbage to Gold.

CMU president Asst Prof Dr Nipon Tuwanon presided over the launch and presented 455 bicycles to student representatives from each campus dormitory for students to use on campus.

Prior to the campaign, a “Golden Bins” competition was held. This was to make useful objects from recycled garbage. The winner was called “Elephant Chair” from the Kindergarten team comprising Jetsada Intapunt and Naratchada Sriwichai from the Fine Arts Faculty. They received a 15,000 baht prize.

A “golden bin” named “Elephant Chair” from the Kindergarten team, formed by Jetsada Intapunt and Naratchada Sriwichai from the Fine Arts Faculty was the winner. Jetsada was presented with the prize from the CMU president Dr Nipon Tuwanon.

The work of the “Look Chang Yuthahatthee” team from the Science Faculty was first runner-up, while the second runner-up award went to a team from the university’s Energy Administration and Saving Institute. They won 8,000 and 5,000 baht respectively.

A cheerleader show and a performance by the “ETC” band and “Koh” Mr Saxman were staged to entertain the audience during the campaign launch.

Multiple service providers now all under one roof

Government, state and local administration

Saksit Meesubkwang

Chiang Mai can pride itself for being the first province in the region to establish a public services center bringing many bureaucratic offices under the one roof.

Chiang Mai Governor Suwat Tantipat signed an agreement establishing the center with Tossaporn Sirisamphun, secretary-general of the Thai bureaucracy system reform committee, on September 2 at the Duangtawan Hotel.

Tossaporn said that the joint services center was an innovation of the local administration, which combined services of government, state enterprises and local administration organizations.

It will provide more convenience for people, especially when they request building permits, electricity and water services, and telephone numbers. “These basic services will be provided all at one spot,” Tossaporn said.

The public services center in Chiang Mai is one of only three centers set up in regional provinces. Initially, it will provide advice and business registrations. Later, it will provide loan services as well.

Governor Suwat said at present the center was available during working hours at Chiang Mai City Hall for people residing in the Muang district area. In future, Chiang Mai will establish more joint services centers and more varied services.

Thirteen organizations signed agreements and have become part of the service center, including the Chiang Mai’s Business Development Office, Office of Commerce, Industry Office, Social Insurance Office, Provincial Administration Organization, and Municipality.

XV International AIDS Conference wash-up

Do politician’s promises mean commitment?

Health Development Network (HDN)

Perspectives on the 15th International AIDS Conference (IAC) held in Bangkok on last July 11-16 were reflected at the monthly NGO Forum on August 31. The forum focused on conference highlights and invited a panel of conference participants to share their perspectives on key developments, commitments made and other emerging issues that were (or were not) raised during the conference.

The panellists included representatives from harm reduction, youth, sex workers, treatment and human rights. Based on media reporting, publications, delegate comments and e-Forum postings developments in these areas reflect many of the potential successes, controversies and omissions that occurred during the conference.

At the beginning, the negative impact of restrictions on attendance despite the seemingly inclusive conference slogan “Access for All” was lightened somewhat when the Global Village - open to the public - became a unique meeting place for all, contributing to interactions that would otherwise not have occurred.

The specific needs of groups like drug users, sex workers and many ethnic minorities, as well as migrant workers received more attention, with sessions, marches, exhibitions and stage shows effectively raising awareness about their situation. Life-extending treatment (such as TB prevention, nutritious food and accessibility to pharmaco-therapy for drug users) while they wait for antiretroviral drugs was also identified as a crucial element of upcoming initiatives. Finally, the call for a paradigm shift in leadership was widely heard, urging a greater focus on leadership at all levels: decisions by project implementers, young people or village heads should carry as much weight as those made by heads of state or the wealthy and famous.

The representative of youth activities at the IAC addressed the issue of access for youth attendees from Thailand, whose participation was severely limited due to the prohibitive fee of up to USD 1000 as well as inadequate translation services from English to Thai. The country’s youth network called for better awareness, education and fundamental policies created with a thorough understanding of young people and their needs, a call the prime minister answered with a promise to follow-up.

The panellist from the Faculty of Nursing at Chiang Mai University addressed treatment issues, noting that PM Thaksin Shinawatra had at past AIDS conferences promised ARVs to all those in need, regardless of the cost. He had planned to extend Thailand’s support to neighbouring countries. It is only now that the practical implications of implementing his promises are being put to the test and the entire process remained unclear.

The representative of EMPOWER Chiang Mai commented on the “a-go-go” show, staged by male and female sex worker representatives in the Global Village, that was intended to show the lack of adequate support for sex workers everywhere. Yet, journalists failed to show any interest in what they were trying to communicate about sex worker’s rights and needs in the AIDS epidemic, including decriminalisation. The ensuing misrepresentation of sex workers in the media led to social stigmatisation and discrimination not only in Thailand but in every country.

The representative from the Asian Harm Reduction Network (AHRN) noted that harm reduction figured prominently in this Bangkok IAC.

PM Thaksin stated in his opening speech that in Thailand, drug users were now considered to be patients instead of criminals, although drug use is still officially illegal and drug users face much stigma and discrimination by society. When the PM claimed that Thailand was already implementing a harm reduction programme, a protest march resulted, listing the four main elements currently not in place: methadone, ARVs, clean needles and no more “war on drugs”.

The panellist from the Chiang Mai Community Rights Commission noted that all of the issues discussed were closely linked to human rights (or a lack thereof) and that the conference had not delivered any concrete, practical answers on how to solve or prevent HIV/AIDS problems in Thailand with regard to human rights violations. He called HIV/AIDS a “social disease” for which society must take responsibility.

Issue of access to information and resources for the elderly was emphasized at the end as they were often the main caretakers of orphaned children or other family members in need of care.

The next monthly NGO Forum meeting will be held on September 28, 2004. It is open to everyone. For more information, please contact [email protected] or tel. 66 53 418 438.

Night Safari plan dogged with problems

Looking for a lease a llama deal

Nopniwat Krailerg

The Night Safari Committee has decided to rent animals from private companies rather than purchase them because of the high costs involved.

The committee met in Chiang Mai on August 28 to discuss the Night Safari project and related tourism activities. Plodprasob Surasawadee, adviser to the prime minister, is the committee chairman.

Officials at the meeting discussed the high cost of acquiring animals and the problems associated with importing them. The committee also expressed concern that the difference in climate and geography could distress the animals.

They agreed to hire the animals from either domestic or foreign private companies, for which 37 million baht was set aside, rather than buying them.

However, the rental contracts would have to be for between 3-5 years and the hiring companies would need to provide treatment and replace the animals in case of death or disease.

Four Burmese monks sentenced for shoplifting

Saksit Meesubkwang

One 19-year-old monk and three 17-year-old monks were arrested in Mae Sot district, Tak for stealing goods from a grocery store on September 5. The four Burmese monks reportedly resided at Wat Manee Prai Son.

The grocery shop’s owner, Wassana Ninklai, told Mae Sot police that her goods were stolen during the night. The police searched for thieves and found the four monks at Mae Sot fresh market. The police searched them and found 1,000 baht in coins, 24 cigarettes cartons, four bottles of coffee and four pairs of canvas shoes. The four were then arrested.

The monks admitted they stole the goods, saying they had done so because the temple did not have enough food for them. They also confessed to previously stealing consumer goods from other shops in the Mae Sot municipal area.

The four were sentenced according to Thai law and will be repatriated to Myanmar after they have completed their sentences.

Enormous numbers of drug related arrests in the north

Autsadaporn Kamthai

July was a ‘productive’ month for the police, as 700 people allegedly involved in drug trafficking in the eight northern provinces were arrested, according to the Provincial Police Bureau Region 5. The two provinces that yielded the most arrests were Chiang Rai (301) and Chiang Mai (192).

Of these, four were actual drug producers and 10 were simply ‘mules’ who carried drugs into Thailand from other countries. In those figures there were also 318 drug users and 161 others were caught in possession of drugs.

In July alone, police confiscated 312,994 ya ba pills and over 12,000 grams of methamphetamines, heroin, opium and fresh and dried hashish.

The Provincial Police Bureau Region 5 confirmed that police will continue to control all 101 checkpoints throughout the north to block drugs being smuggled into Thailand.

Compared to the figures for July last year, the number of arrests increased by over 50 percent. This either points to increased vigilance by the law enforcement officers, or increased trafficking, or both.

Naval officer charged with trafficking in 11 Bangladeshis

Staff reporters

A Chief Warrant Officer from the Royal Thai Navy has been charged with smuggling 11 Bangladeshi illegal workers into Thailand, on their way through to Bangkok.

Police on September 3 arrested 43-year-old Banyom Walwin, stationed at Sattahip naval base in Chonburi province, in connection with the trafficking of the Bangladeshi, who were holding fake passports and caught at the Chiang Rai border.

The Chiang Mai Immigration Police Office and Sobprab district police caught Banyom while he was driving the van after picking up the aliens at the Ban Lai Hongpu checkpoint in tambon Sobprab in Lampang.

Banyom told police he had been hired by a man named Somsak (surname unknown), to take what he described as “Bangladeshi tourists” from Chiang Saen district in Chiang Rai province to Bangkok. After that, he was to take another group of 11 Bangladeshi from a hotel in Chiang Khong district to the airport in Bangkok. He would be paid 10,000 baht.

He claimed other people would take the 11 “tourists” on to Malaysia. The police also charged the 11 “tourists” with holding fake passports and entering Thailand illegally.

Youths caught smuggling drugs

Hired as ‘mules’ but more like donkeys

Staff reporters

Two teenagers were hired to smuggle more than 7000 ya ba tablets by hiding them in their shoes. They were apprehended at the Mae Sai border checkpoint, according to the Mae Sai police.

The Customs House Office in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai along with the special task force of the first Calvary Regiment, Pha Muang task Force, had already set up the checkpoint for searching for contraband brought in and out through the border pass.

After behaving suspiciously, the two teenagers were searched and the ya ba tablets were discovered in their shoes. They were identified as Anant Saisanong, 21, a resident of Si Saket province and Sawaeng Mo-in, 21, from Thapla district, Uttaradit province.

The drug suspects admitted to the Mae Sai police that they were hired by drug gangs to act as mules for 15,000 baht each. This was their second border run. The ya ba drugs were received from a Chinese Haw woman from the Red Wa group in Burma.

Accept gays and transgender persons more fully, workshop hears

Autsadaporn Kamthai and staff reporters

Transgender people should not be considered just in the framework of gender roles and sex classification but through their abilities, and transgender sex education should be included in the school curriculum. These suggestions came out of a workshop entitled “The Journalist and How to Make Appropriate Communication on AIDS and Issues Concerning MSM (Men who have Sex with Men)”.

The Rainbow Sky Association of Thailand (RSAT) in collaboration with Population Services International (PSI) Asia, Thailand, the Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH), M Plus, FASID and Chiang Mai Provincial Public Health Office organized the workshop.

One participant, 21-year-old Chumporn Kaewsom, believes Thai society in general does not provide space for the MSM group to disclose themselves. Despite a constant campaign to promote acceptance of the MSM existence, most Thais still show latent resistance or bias towards this group of people.

Chumporn said that, generally, Thai people have a “narrow vision of reality” and lack freedom of their own thought, which makes it difficult for the MSM to “come out”. However, he admitted that the Thai media accepts their existence and helps by showing activities of the MSM like transgender beauty contests to the public and showing many MSMs in the entertainment world.

Pongthorn Chanleran, president of the executive board of the RSAT, Northern Regional Center, feels that Thai society is increasingly open-minded to listen to the MSM. However, acceptance should be based on real understanding towards the transgender group, so that they would be fully recognized.

As the Mental Health Department in the Public Health Ministry officially stated in 1992 that the MSM and other groups of transgender persons are not considered abnormal, people should change their biased attitude towards them.

Sex education for the young generation should include the matter of the third gender sex to promote the acceptance of the MSM at grassroots level in Thai society and solve the problems arising among young transgender persons at an early stage, suggested Pongthorn.

Pongthorn added that the media should present the transgender person in a non-biased way and admitted that third gender people have enjoyed a favourable response by the Thai media.

“The media should look beyond the frame of gender and sex to consider the value of their humanity and abilities, as more and more transgender persons have played significant roles and gained more power in Thai society, especially in many service-related industries,” Pongthorn said.

Cabinet expected to slash Chiang Mai air pollution funding

Editorial staff

A management plan for tackling the air pollution in Chiang Mai and Lamphun is now with the Cabinet for approval. However, it is expected the budget will be whittled down to only 100 million baht, from the initial proposal of 500 million baht.

Meanwhile, Chiang Mai University will submit a budget request of about 17 million baht to the Thai Research Fund (TRF) to carry out research on the air pollution in Chiang Mai encompassing five projects: a survey of the dust volume in the city, an analysis of the air particles, tests on air hazards, the daily air pollution levels, and the effects of air pollution on lung cancer. Details of the proposed research were given by Apiwat Kunanurak, the director of the Office of Environment, Region 1, Chiang Mai.

The working group is confident that it will meet the target of reducing the air pollution problem in Chiang Mai next year by 90 percent. The working group has been divided into six categories:

* control vehicle emissions (Highway Department, Office 1; and Chiang Mai Provincial Police);

* control outdoor burning (Chiang Mai Provincial Administration Organization);

* control forest fires (Office of Forest Conservation Forest);

* control emissions by factories (Provincial Industrial Office);

* control the burning of agricultural materials and products (Provincial Agriculture Office); and

* control public burning (Provincial Public Health Office).

However, since all these bodies already have the power and the legislation is in place to carry out the controls the working group feels are necessary, it is difficult to imagine how the situation will be 90 percent better in 12 months.