HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Bird flu health alert again in Chiang Mai Province

Lord Buddha’s relics come to Chiang Rai

Chiang Mai province responds to human-to-human spread of bird flu

Night vigil highlights International Peace Day celebration

The world clamoring for the taste of ‘Royal’ Thai veggies

TOT celebrates its 100,000th Wireless Local Loop telephone subscriber

Stop smoking, start smiling

Air pollution figures improving?

Thai-Burmese cooperation in fighting drug trafficking evaluated

Motorbike Club donates bicycles for disadvantaged rural students

Mae Hong Son to wage war on corruption

U.S. grants USD 4.5 million assistance to Thailand

Chiang Mai’s “Getting Ugly” city problems addressed

Helmet motorcycle bandits arrested through quick police action

Thieves take more than a fancy to OTOP fair

Two drug trafficking suspects arrested after gun battle

Assets worth 20 million baht seized from Lisu drug suspect

Four injured in bomb explosion on Burmese border

Bird flu health alert again in Chiang Mai Province

Checks for human-to-human transmission

Staff reporters

Public Health officers are keeping a careful watch on the re-emergence of the bird flu virus in the lower northern provinces subsequent to an outbreak in Kamphaeng Petch province and the fear of human-to-human transmission.

The Chiang Mai Public Health Office reported there were no bird flu-affected patients and poultry in the province, but is keeping a watch on the situation. The Provincial Livestock Office has been inspecting the suspected areas to make sure the disease is not spreading.

The Ministry of Public Health reported that from July 1 - September 25, one patient was confirmed as having bird flu, and five were suspected cases. Four of them lived in Kamphaeng Petch and one in Nonthaburi. Three of the five have died.

The epidemic in Kamphaeng Petch province is considered the worst outbreak, as another two infected persons are still carrying the disease.

The possibility of human-to-human transmission is under investigation after Pranee Thongchan, a 32-year-old patient in Kamphaeng Phet, possibly contracted the disease from a relative who may have died of bird flu. Her son is also infected.

However, Public Health Minister Sudarat Keyuraphan said there was no evidence of human-to-human transmission from a patient called Pranom after tests results from the Medical Science Department and Siriraj Hospital failed to show virus mutation.

Pranom and her relatives Pranee, 26, and Sakuntala, 12, are reported as having had direct contact with chickens at Pranom’s house.

Charal Trinvudhipong, Health permanent-secretary, gave the assurance that the government and Public Health Ministry would inform the public if the lab test showed human-to-human transmission occurred.

Lord Buddha’s relics come to Chiang Rai

Final resting place overseen by HRH Princess Ubolratana

Staff reporters

HRH Princess Ubolratana was in Chiang Rai this week to accept relics of the Lord Buddha that have now been housed in front of the Phra Buddha Nava Lantue image in Chiang Saen district.

This Buddha image, also called the four-nation Buddha, is one of the most revered and respected in Chiang Rai province.

The Supreme Patriarch presented the relics to the Chiang Rai provincial authorities to preserve. They were flown up from Bangkok and the Chiang Rai provincial governor Dr Narin Panitchakitch, Buddhists, and residents of Chiang Rai and neighboring provinces joined with the princess to pay respect to the relics, sent from Chulalongkorn University through the Thai Red Cross Society in Bangkok.

The relics were first worshipped at a ceremony held in front of the King Mengrai monument allowing the general public to pay their respects. The relics were then taken to the four-nation Buddha image which in Chiang Saen district.

While in the North, the princess also presented 1,500 survival kits of dried food, drinking water and other necessities to victims of recent floods around Chiang Khong, Wiang Kaen and Chiang Saen.

She later flew by helicopter to Bhud Tarn farm in Doi Mae Salong in Mae Fa Luang district to present 2,000 sports kits and other items to students of the Border Patrol Police School, planted tea bushes and presented high grade strains of the tea plant to villagers. This was done to promote tea-growing so that the local people can produce extra income from the highland agriculture and development projects.

Chiang Mai province responds to human-to-human spread of bird flu

Fighting cocks to be issued their own ID cards

Nopniwat Krailerg and Autsadaporn Kamthai

Bird flu could spread during the coming winter season, the head of Animal Health Development in the Chiang Mai Provincial Livestock Office, veterinarian Somporn Pornvisetkul, has warned.

Vet Somporn Pornvisetkul, the head of Chiang Mai Provincial Livestock Office has warned the public to be aware of the spreading epidemic and the fears of the human-to-human transmission.

Flock of birds from countries like China would migrate to Chiang Mai and could cause a recurrence of the avian influenza here, Deputy Governor Kwanchai Wongnitikorn added. This could affect Chiang Mai’s tourism season, which starts in early October.

Somporn gave an assurance that the Livestock Office had ordered all districts to set up special working groups to keep a watch on the epidemic, control the movement of all poultry, eradicate infected poultry and cooperate with relevant organizations.

All districts have to report the bird flu situation in their area to the Livestock Office which would forward the information to the Ministry Agriculture and Cooperative, Livestock Department and Chiang Mai Governor Suwat Tantipat.

According to the examination of birds in the five districts - Mae Rim, Mae Taeng, Chorm Thong, Doi Lor and Hang Dong - the virus found in the poultry is called “Newcastle” which is the strain mostly occurring in Thailand, not the H5 N1 virus.

The Livestock Office has culled a thousand chickens in Hang Dong and Doi Lor districts after the bird flu reemerged. Its officials are also on standby with medicines, antibiotics, protective clothing and vehicles.

Of greatest concern are fighting cocks and free-range poultry, as they are considered the main vectors for the spread of the disease, as opposed to farm chickens. This concern was raised during a conference between the Public Health Offices and Livestock Offices in six Northern provinces at the 10th Disease Prevention and Control Office, Chiang Mai.

It was noted during the conference, held on September 28, that free-range poultry and fighting cocks are more robust, so they can carry the virus longer, giving rise to a greater risk of spreading the disease.

Veterinarian Wittaya Timsard from the Animal Health and Hygiene Office in Chiang Mai said that fighting cocks would have to have ID cards and before they were relocated, their owners had to inform the Livestock Office.

All poultry being transferred out of the province have to have their droppings checked at the Veterinarians Promotion and Development Center in Lampang first, said Somporn.

All poultry has to pass two checks over eight days to make sure they were free of the virus. Poultry owners would not be allowed to move them before the expiry of the two week period.

The Livestock Officials are also coordinating quarantines and local police are setting up checkpoints in many districts to verify all poultry being transferred are healthy. The Livestock Office is also running its own checkpoint at Khun Tarn and Li district in Lamphun to prevent poultry being smuggled out of the province.

Somporn asked all residents to be alert if they suspected poultry to be infected. “If they find a large group of poultry dying, they should please inform the office at 0-5389-2516,” he said. “When destroying poultry, people should wear gloves, masks, bury the carcasses, and thoroughly wash their bodies and change their clothes afterwards.”

He also suggested people should not buy cheap poultry meat from any vendor without knowing the source.

Night vigil highlights International Peace Day celebration

Women’s League of Burma calls on EU to act

Saksit Meesubkwang

Activities to show solidarity with peoples in Iraq, Russia, Myanmar, the south of Thailand and elsewhere in the world beset by conflict, were held at the Thapae Gate in Chiang Mai on the evening of September 21 to mark International Peace Day.

One of the music performances on show at Thapae Gate grounds on September 21 to present the “Anti War” campaign.

Music, dance and art performances created by a range of artists including Tuk Brasserie, Sudsanan and Karen singer “Chichi” were provided to celebrate the day. Statements on peace issues in Thailand, Myanmar and across the world were read out to raise public awareness. The highlight of the evening was a candlelight vigil and the release of peace balloons.

The peace movement Women’s League of Burma (WLB) said that 42,000 people from Myanmar and the international community had signed their petition urging the European Union to refuse to invite the Burmese military dictatorship (SPDC) to attend the upcoming Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) in Hanoi, Vietnam.

According to the WLB, the petitioners also urge ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) to reevaluate “the constructive engagement” policy towards the military regime and recommend that the EU and ASEAN put in place a process to ensure the 2006 chairmanship is filled by the democratically elected leaders in Myanmar.

The WLB presented the petition to the EU chairperson, EU and ASEAN member nations on International Peace Day, said Thin Thin Aung, joint general secretary of the WLB.

Member organization of the WLB who are based in Myanmar, Thailand, India and Bangladesh collected thousands of signatures in their countries and at the People’s Forum in Hanoi for its “Campaign to Shame ASEAN for SPDC’s Participation” and to demand ASEAN hold the SPDC accountable to honor its commitment to implement the “Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women in the ASEAN Region”, signed in June 2004.

A recent incident of sexual assault on girl nuns in Karen State provides indicates the impunity taken by the troops of the military regime in Myanmar. It was reported that on September 5, troops from SPDC IB 51 on a military operation in the southern Karen State entered a monastery and stripped six young girl nuns, aged between 8 and 14, attempting to rape them. “Fortunately, the girls were able to escape,” a source said.

“That the troops dared commit such a crime against young nuns in the sacred grounds of a Buddhist temple validates conclusively the assertion in the WLB’s recent report ‘System of Impunity’ that a climate of impunity exists for military rape in Myanmar. The regime on September officially denounced the WLB report as baseless, insisting that action is taken against those who commit rape, regardless of status,” the source asserted.

The WLB has strongly condemned the regime for its continued sexual violence against women and called for genuine political reform in Myanmar.

The world clamoring for the taste of ‘Royal’ Thai veggies

Royal Project now supplying 40 airlines

Nopniwat Krailerg

The Royal Project is rushing to produce more vegetables to supply over 40 international airlines worldwide. The Royal Project is supplying Thai Airways International’s kitchen and other carriers. On the menu are red cabbage; red, yellow and green sweet peppers, celery, Japanese cucumbers, Chinese cabbage, aubergine (eggplants) and zucchinis.

White asparagus, until some years ago unknown in Thailand, can now be supplied to international kitchens worldwide.

Next year, the Royal Project plans to add carrots, tomatoes, and sweet white Chinese cabbage.

Due to an increasing demand of organic vegetables in both domestic and overseas markets, the Royal Project has had to increase production. During July-August, this year, the Royal Project produced 193 types of vegetables with a total weight of 666.25 tons, generating 5.16 million baht to be ploughed back to the planters.

Meanwhile, more export companies have contacted the Royal Project to export its vegetable products to Taiwan and Singapore. They include sweet corn, cabbage, sweet peas, lettuce and Chinese kale. Australia has also proposed to visit the Royal Project vegetable and herb plantations with an eye on imports to Australia.

Important planting areas for vegetables are the Royal Project centers Nong Hoi, Inthanon, Angkhang and Mae Phae. Each center will plant vegetables according to the planting season. Only Grade 1 and Grade 2 crops will be selected to be exported, with emphasis on their quality and being chemical-free.

Royal Project’s planting and production process were qualified and recognized by the Agriculture Department in the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, and its food production process and food packaging system were approved by the Office of National Agricultural Products and Food Standardization.

The Royal Project was initiated by His Majesty the King many years ago, with the intention of developing highland agriculture, improving the standard of living of hill tribes, eradicating opium plantations and reviving water sheds and resources. The Royal Project has assisted many hill tribe people living in the highlands by showing them how to be financially independent.

TOT celebrates its 100,000th Wireless Local Loop telephone subscriber

Phitsanu Thepthong

A celebration was held in Duangtawan Hotel, Chiang Mai last week, after subscriber numbers met TOT’s target of 100,000 in the initial phase of its operations before expanding nationwide.

Deputy Finance Minister Varathep Rattanakorn said that this success story would mean greater cash flow in the country and raise the standard of living for the community and the nation, especially for people in the remote and rural areas.

He said that TOT had installed wireless telephones for 100,000 subscribers under the Wireless Local Loop (WLL) system designed and developed by Kyocera Corporation. It has a potential of up to 240,000 telephone lines for its clients, mostly targeted in remote and rural areas throughout the country.

“TOT is working with the Ministry of Finance to develop the economy and help decentralize the cash flow from the cities to communities and villages.

Wasukree Klaiparee, deputy managing director of TOT and chairman of the working committee on the wireless business project, added that the figure of subscribers would soon pass 100,000 as there was good feedback showing a great public demand. “Some of the features are the special discount rates for telephone installation and special rates for local calls,” he said.

Wasukree added that to help the rural population with a lower income, TOT would offer a discount rate of 1,500 baht for wireless telephone installation until December. New subscribers would also get a free telephone set.

Stop smoking, start smiling

But it’s diesel engines, not cigarettes

Autsadaporn Kamthai

A “Stop Smoking, Start Smiling” campaign has kicked off in Chiang Mai City with the aim to reduce air pollution caused by vehicle emissions.

The Pollution Control Department in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Chiang Mai province and municipality, and Beloil Co., Ltd. are behind the project.

Deputy Governor Thongchai Wongrianthong (center), and Mingkhuan Witchayarungsarit (3rd from left, standing in front), director of the Air and Sound Pollution Management Office among the air pollution campaigners.

It was launched at a press conference on September 22 at Lotus Pang Suan Kaew Hotel and promoted in front of Central Kad Suan Kaew department store and Waroros Market.

The campaign targets diesel-engined vehicles predominantly pick-up trucks and delivery vans and encourages owners to maintain their engines to help reduce emissions. It has already been promoted in Bangkok where air pollution is a major problem, almost as much as in Chiang Mai.

Sixty vehicle emission clinics were offered at car service outlets in Chiang Mai between September 22-30, with engine checks and oil change free of charge.

Last year, 950,000 new vehicles were registered in Chiang Mai with 250,000 of them cars and the rest motorcycles. “These figures show that Chiang Mai has many sources of pollution, including diesel-engined vehicles like the red minibuses,” said Deputy Governor Thongchai Wongrianthong.

Mingkhuan Witchayarungsarit, director of the Air and Sound Pollution Management Office also pointed out that pollution increased during winter because of forest fires. “The air quality usually exceeds the recommended levels by a factor of four, during wintertime.”

“Checks in Chiang Mai show 54 out of 100 vehicles emit black smoke,” stated Mingkhuan. A study conducted in Bangkok showed good maintenance of a vehicle’s engine could reduce air pollution by 14 percent and reduce fuel consumption by five percent.

Singhkham Nanti, president of the Lanna Transport Cooperative, sprang to the defense of the red minibuses, saying people should not accuse them as being the main source of pollution, as the number of personal cars in Chiang Mai (about 700,000) far outnumbered minibuses (about 2,000). He also claimed that all minibuses had to pass engine checks every six months according to Transport Office regulations, while private motorists rarely have their cars checked.

Air pollution figures improving?

Less burning off – but it was the wet season

Nopniwat Krailerg

If you are an extremely positive person, the good news is that the level of air pollution in Chiang Mai has dropped, according to the latest tests.

A fourth survey conducted over the two two-day periods August 21-22 and August 30-31, taken between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. showed that pollution caused by burning in open spaces - the supposed main source of air pollution - dropped by 3.27%.

Traffic congestion in Chiang Mai City last week.

During the latest survey, 355 incidents of burning off took place, especially on August 30 when people burnt gold paper as part of the ancestry worship ritual. The survey recorded a total of 726 incidents where smoke resulted: The 355 incidents of burning off in an open space plus another 253 times at grilled food stalls, 55 times in traffic, 36 times at construction sites, and 27 times from industry and garages.

The Behaviors Study Project is addressing the air pollution problem in Chiang Mai City with the Social Research Institute of Chiang Mai University obtaining a support budget from the Thailand Research Fund (TRF) to conduct surveys in the city for the 12 months leading up to August 2004.

According to them, the main source of air pollution is burning leaves and twigs, garbage, and weeds in open spaces. The reason for the recent drop in burning-off is most likely related to the rainy season or perhaps because of the public awareness campaign that it is illegal to dispose of waste in this way. However, some people have changed their time of burning to after 7 p.m., when it was not obvious to those who conducted the survey.

Some government agencies such as universities, the Forestry Department, the Highways Department, some schools in the city area and temples are still burning off (and crematoria, though it would be difficult for them to continue their work without it).

People living in small streets and sois said that municipal officials do not collect garbage so they are obliged to burn it. The Behaviors Study Project called on the municipality and tambon administration organizations better manage waste.

Thai-Burmese cooperation in fighting drug trafficking evaluated

Saksit Meesubkwang

The Third Army Region has evaluated the cooperation in Thai-Burmese border village development, as part of the drive to stop the trafficking in drugs.

The Third Army Region’s deputy commander, Maj Gen Pravit Klinthong and Pittaya Jinawat, the director of the Office of Narcotics Control Board (ONCB), Northern Office chaired the evaluation that was held at Nakhonping Palace Hotel, Chiang Mai on September 23. 150 commanders and officials of the Third Army Region attended.

Deputy Commander Maj Gen Pravit said Thailand had developed villages in Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Mae Hong Son and Tak provinces.

“This project was initiated early this year … so far we have found that the people living in the border region have learned about village self-defence, resulting in greater national security,” said Major General Pravit.

Third Army Region commander Lt Gen Phicharnmeth Muangmanee has also put army troops under his command on alert and to patrol the border villages.

Furthermore, prevention measures have been stepped up to help control drug smuggling along the border. Thai and Burmese troops now jointly patrol the border villages.

Pittaya Jinawat, director of the ONCB, said that he met with high-ranking Burmese officials many times and the Burmese authorities assured him that they agree with and support the Thai initiative.

The Burmese say they have a limited budget and have asked for support from the Royal Thai Army. “We can give the Burmese side more help with regard to crop replacement programs with various cash crops and seeds to replace the opium crops,” Pittaya said.

He added, “Sometimes the Burmese authorities arrest drug suspects inside Myanmar and hand them over to the Thai authorities. This shows good cooperation by our neighbours. This kind of close cooperation has put pressure on drug traffickers along the Thai-Burmese border. We expect the drug trade and smuggling along the border to decrease in the near future as the Burmese authorities have begun to take serious action against dealers. This is a good sign for Thailand,” he said.

Motorbike Club donates bicycles for disadvantaged rural students

Autsadaporn Kamthai

The North Comet Club in Chiang Mai has donated 20 bicycles to the Pha Muang Task Force for poor students in rural areas. These bicycles will go to students of Wat Pa Daeng School in Chaiprakarn district to commute between home and their classes.

Officers of Pha Muang Task Force and members of the North Comet Club with the donated bicycles.

The donation was part of the “Bicycles for Needy Students” project that the Pha Muang Task Force has been operating in many schools in rural and border areas. It hopes that the ability to get to school will encourage them to continue their studies.

Anyone who is interested in donating bicycles to the project should contact the Pha Muang Task Force at 0-5321-1054 ext 15.

Col Chartchai Chuenbandit, Chief-of-Staff of the task force presided over the handing over ceremony on September 23. “The Pha Muang Task Force realizes that these students are new hope of the nation,” said Col Chartchai.

Mae Hong Son to wage war on corruption

Staff reporters

Mae Hong Son provincial authorities have announced a “War on Corruption” against official corruption. The war was set to be launched on October 1 with the inspection of work done by local administrative organizations.

“If found guilty of corruption, an official will be sacked or face further investigation by the Anti Money Laundry Office (AMLO), which may seize his or her assets, and criminal procedures may be instituted,” said Mae Hong Son governor Suphote Laowansiri.

He added that from now on, the provincial authorities would take serious action against corrupt officials, especially in the provincial administration organization (PAO), tambon administration organizations (TAO), and municipalities. “Many letters of complaint have been lodged by the general public against allegedly corrupt officials in these organizations,” he said.

Governor Suphote said at present four local administration organizations were being investigated. “Many people have approached me with complaints about the lack of basic infrastructures and corrupt government officials.”

He said that after he set up his PO Box 101, in Muang district, Mae Hong Son, he received on average more than 10 letters of complaint every week.

“To date, I have got more than 2,000 letters. Some issues dealing with public and social problems like roads, accessing remote villages, power supply shortage, illegal alien workers, nationalization among the tribal group members and corrupt officials have been tackled,” he said.

An average of one letter of complaint a week needs to be forwarded from Mae Hong Son to PM Thaksin Shinawatra, the governor reported.

U.S. grants USD 4.5 million assistance to Thailand

For anti-narcotics, law enforcement, regional activities

U.S. Embassy Information Resource Center

U.S. Ambassador Darryl N. Johnson and Department of Technical and Economic Cooperation Director General Ambassador Piamsak Milintachinda has signed an agreement through which the U.S. will provide more than USD 4.5 million of assistance to nine narcotics and legal projects in Thailand.

The projects cover the areas of criminal justice, law enforcement, trafficking in persons, intellectual property rights, drug crop control, demand reduction and regional cooperation.

Since 1974, the U.S. government has provided a total of over 85 million dollars to Thailand under the bilateral assistance program for anti-narcotics and law enforcement activities. Thai-U.S. bilateral cooperation in narcotics control is in the four program areas of opium crop control, demand reduction, law enforcement, and regional anti-narcotics activities.

Assistance under the Crop Control Project began in 1978 to help the then newly organized Office of the Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) establish a crop control division. This was to provide hill tribe farmers with viable alternative crops. After economic alternatives were in place in most areas, the Royal Thai Government (RTG) in 1984 initiated the opium eradication campaign. Thailand has now emerged as a leader in the drug control area and has begun to provide alternative development assistance and information sharing and training programs of its own for officials in neighboring and other countries.

Assistance under the Demand Reduction Project provides modest funding support for RTG and NGO anti-drug community outreach through a nationwide network. Funding also supports epidemiological and drug prevention studies in selected hill tribe villages and provides small grants to public and private institutions throughout the country in order to maximize impact at the community level. Finally, it provides assistance in establishing a methamphetamine outpatient treatment program based using the Matrix model, as well as a support for a Narcotics Control Technology Center.

The Law Enforcement project’s main thrust is institution building. Through training and capacity building programs in investigation and intelligence, support for development in the criminal justice system and provision of limited equipment such as computers, radios, GPS, vehicles, and body armor, the project aims to find and bring to justice significant traffickers.

The Regional Project supports the RTG leadership role in working with regional states on narcotics control issues by funding regional meetings, workshops, and training.

The International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) in Bangkok is a joint Thai-US endeavor, which supports international cooperation and developing skills among Asian law enforcement professionals to confront the problem of transnational organized crime. Since this bilateral agreement was signed September 30, 1998, over 3,000 law enforcement professionals from around the region have been trained at ILEA. A new training facility was completed last May.

The project against Trafficking in Persons provides training and limited commodity support to a variety of Royal Thai Government agencies or non-governmental organizations that have responsibility to investigate and prosecute persons involved in trafficking of persons, especially women and children. Resources may support training, production of instructional manuals, establishment of specialized facilities such as interview rooms or shelters.

Measures against Intellectual Property Rights protection provide training and technical assistance to Thai police and customs officials to combat intellectual property piracy. Measures against money laundering are designed to provide technical support to AMLO, the Royal Thai Police and the Department of Special Investigations to prevent money laundering and meet the requirements of the Financial Action Task Force.

The project on Criminal Justice Sector Development is designed to enhance integrity in all sectors of the Thai criminal justice system.

Chiang Mai’s “Getting Ugly” city problems addressed

Nopniwat Krailerg

The government and private sectors in Chiang Mai are still smarting from the criticism given in the March 2004 issue of the National Geographic traveler magazine which ranked Chiang Mai and Phuket as “Getting Ugly” cities.

Front row, from left, Jumpol Chutima, president of Chiang Mai Chamber of Commerce, Governor Suwat Tantipat and Mayor Boonlert Buranupakorn during the brainstorming session.

A seminar was held in July20 to address this, but did not come up with any solutions. Another seminar last week continued to look at the local situation, with people being appointed to present solutions to the three main problems: environment, culture and tourism management.

Chiang Mai Governor Suwat Tantipat said that government had chosen Chiang Mai to be the regional center of economy, trade, investment, aviation business and foreign trade. “To attract investors, Thai traditions, merchandise and service are important, especially public infrastructure,” he said.

Chiang Mai is being upgraded to be a representative city to compete with other cities in developed countries.

He cited Shanghai, Beijing, and Tokyo as examples of cities which had been developed into tourist and industrial cities with targeted development plans. “We will do the same. Chiang Mai is being upgraded to be a representative city to compete with other cities in developed countries. Provincial government sectors and its people are helping to improve it. It has only just begun. From now on, a CEO management system will deal with the problems. Specific people will be appointed, and a time period will be fixed,” he added.

Assistant Professor Teerapat Wannarumon, deputy dean of the Faculty of Humanities at Chiang Mai University, as a culture representative, said that the new generation refused to speak the northern dialect for fear of sounding old-fashioned. There should be a dialect course in the school syllabus.

Government and private schools should found a “hometown-loving camp” to give youth the proper awareness. Moreover, a PR campaign to promote native costumes and give information about Lanna architecture should be launched. Temples, homes, and schools should teach youth morals, he added.

Montri Wongkasem, vice-president of the Chiang Mai Chamber of Commerce’s environment development section, as an environment representative, said, “We should solve the problems of neglected advertisement signs, waste water emission into the Ping River; as well as traffic and public transport problems, especially red mini-buses belching black exhaust smoke.”

“It is not clear either how they pass the checking center tests - or maybe these centers are not qualified. The town plan should be strict regarding tall buildings near the Ping River, city canals and religious venues as buildings may cause an imbalanced city view. A municipal law should be issued for all of these problems.”

He added that burning garbage in open spaces caused air pollution. One excuse that people made was that there were no garbage trucks to pick up cut leaves and branches. All divisions of tambon, municipality, and province are responsible for providing people garbage trucks for this purpose. The law should be strictly implemented, he said.

Junnapong Saranak, director of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, Region 1, Northern Office, said that tourist attractions should provide brochures since most tourists lacked proper information about visiting religious sites, such as opening hours and improper clothing.

Community members should help tourist guides by giving correct information about sites. Advertising signs on footpaths should be managed. Taxi car parking should be disciplined. The Night Bazaar market should improve its goods and style to have a northern uniqueness.

Lanna cultural performances should be held for tourists. Thai massages should have higher standards. Tourist police, local police, and entrepreneurs should better assist tourists enquiring about services, accommodation or tour packages, he said.

Helmet motorcycle bandits arrested through quick police action

Not thinking about road safety, just trying to avoid recognition

Saksit Meesubkwang

Two young miscreants from Lampang who wore helmets to conceal their identity, were arrested on September 16, through the joint work of police in Chiang Mai and Lampang, in connection with a robbery three days earlier.

Lampang residents Sittipong Manarat, 21, and Chartchai Pingmuang, 20, were arrested in connection with a robbery in Chiang Mai.

Sittipong Manarat, 21, and Chartchai Pingmuang, 20, robbed Petch Udomsuk at gunpoint in early morning of September 13 in front of Dumrong Aommuang Gas Shop in tambon Hai Ya, Muang district, Chiang Mai. They had worn helmets to hide their faces.

The victim notified the police at Muang district police station. After questioning the victim and witnesses, the police deduced that the names of the suspects were “Moo” (later revealed to be Sittipong) and “Chart” (later revealed as Chartchai) and that they rented a room in a dormitory in tambon Tasala.

Police checked the room but the two had fled to Lampang. Police found a white helmet and spare parts of the gun in the room and impounded the motorcycle they used.

Arrest warrants for the two suspects were issued by the Chiang Mai Court on September 15. Police found they were staying in a rented house in tambon Sobtui, Lampang’s Muang district, and coordinated with Lampang’s Muang district police station to arrest them.

The two were returned to Chiang Mai for further police questioning.

Thieves take more than a fancy to OTOP fair

PM’s presence no deterrent

Nopniwat Krailerg

An overseas trader was robbed during the recent OTOP (One Tambon One Product) Summit Fair which was presided over by PM Thaksin Shinawatra at Chiang Mai University’s Convention Hall.

On September 18, Rohunni Russell, a 57 year old Malaysian trader who brought her Malaysian-made souvenirs to the fair notified the police at Phuping Police Station that she had been robbed of 10,000 baht cash.

Rohunni said she left her wallet, together with her passport, in a drawer at her booth. Later she found the wallet was missing. Other traders in the area said they did not know anything about this, which led her to believe it was stolen. She asked the Malaysian consul to help her in notifying the police. Police have questioned her and sent a team to investigate, but so far there have been no arrests.

Two drug trafficking suspects arrested after gun battle

But three others escaped

Staff reporters

Two hill tribe members have been arrested on suspicion of dealing in drugs after a border conflict with the Pha Muang Task Force, 133rd Cavalry Battalion Special Operations Unit, Office of Narcotic Control Board (ONCB) officials and police.

The Task Force officers clashed with five hill tribe drug traffickers at the border in Wiang Haeng district, arresting two while the others managed to escape.

The authorities had lured a group of Kokang drug dealers into a trap while they were smuggling the drugs, accompanied by armed men at Ban Piang Luang village in tambon Piang Luang. A five-minute gun battle ensued. None of the Thai officers were hurt.

Two of the gang, 30 year old Ata Laonor from Ban Khunkong, tambon Tungkaopuang, Chiang Dao district, and 38 year old On Pintakam from Ban Piang Luang Wiang Haeng district, were caught with 300,000 methamphetamine tablets. Both are Thai Yai hill tribesmen and both are on a blacklist of 20 suspected drug dealers who have previously escaped to neighboring countries.

Maj Gen Manus Paorik, the commander of Pha Muang Task Force, and Pittaya Jinawat, director of ONCB, Northern Office, said the suspects confessed that they have been dealing in drugs for a long time.

The commander said the ya ba tablets bearing various brand names like WY, Chinese letters, or embossed as 888 tablets, were from old and hidden stockpiles which were smuggled from the Kokang minority group, Thai Yai and Wa groups.

Director Pittaya said an increasing number of drugs was being trafficked so the authorities had to employ more efficient measures to stop drugs pouring into Thailand which needed the cooperation of neighboring countries.

Assets worth 20 million baht seized from Lisu drug suspect

Staff reporters

Property and a luxury vehicle, valued at 20 million baht, property of a Lisu suspected drug dealer have been confiscated by the Provincial Police Bureau, Region 5 in San Sai district, Chiang Mai.

On September 24, police seized three houses belonging to 27 year old Narong Sinchao of J.R.AIR. Chiang Mai Co., a BMW and 21 other items found in his houses.

The houses are located in Suan Nam Sai Housing Estate, San Sai district; Pimuk Housing Estate in San Sai district; and Muang Thong City Home Housing Estate in Saraphi district.

However, police were unable to locate Narong either at home or his business, and assume he was tipped off and escaped.

The police action followed the arrest of three alleged Lisu drug dealers, 30 year old Sorasak Saesuan, 27 year old Akaradech Mussayapanich, and 21 year old Issara Saewang, found with six bags of heroin weighting 2,100 grams, and a pick-up truck, a Honda motorcycle and five mobile phones were seized on September 18.

The three were captured while they were transferring heroin to a house in tambon San Sai Noi, San Sai district, Chiang Mai.

They told police their boss was Narong, who they claimed coordinated drug dealing and trafficking. He allegedly launders money from the drug trade by purchasing new houses and investing in his own business.

Pol Col Sarawut Chantraprasert, superintendent of the investigation division, said that Narong had become rich by trafficking in drugs and acting as a coordinator in a drug cartel that smuggles the drugs from the north to Bangkok.

Four injured in bomb explosion on Burmese border

Karen National Union blamed

Saksit Meesubkwang

A bomb explosion at the Mae Sam Laep market on the Thai-Burmese border in Mae Hong Song resulted in three Burmese Army personnel being wounded and one Thai man critically injured.

The explosion occurred in the Sri Thong Restaurant. Details from witnesses were sketchy, but reports would indicate that eight Burmese soldiers had been sitting in the Sri Thong Restaurant where they were seen drinking. The initial feeling was that the bomb, presumably a hand grenade, was thrown by another customer in the restaurant, annoyed by the Burmese soldiers’ behaviour. Hand grenades can easily be found on the Thai-Burma border.

Pol Maj Noppadol Sanpuan at Sop Moei district police station was investigating the incident.

In the explosion, a Thai man who had also been sitting in the restaurant was wounded by bomb fragments. He was identified as 51 year old Ea Joo from tambon Sob Mae Sam Laep. He was critically injured and was taken to the Sop Moei Hospital, but was later transferred to Mae Sariang Hospital because of the severity of his wounds.

The three injured Burmese were sent by Thai authorities to the Mae Sam Laep health center near the scene for first aid. After they received first aid treatment, other Burmese soldiers immediately took them back across the border.

Thongchai, a son-in-law of the injured Thai, Ea Joo, said that the explosion took place at the Mae Sam Laep weekend market, where Thai and Burmese merchants bartered their goods. Many cattle traders were present at the time.

An informed source, that declined to be named, said that the bomb was thrown by members of the Karen National Union (KNU), a minority group dealing with the Burmese. It was alleged that the Burmese soldiers received levies from livestock traders but refused to share the money with KNU members as agreed. This dissatisfaction among the KNU members resulted in retaliatory action.