HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Student mob forms over decision to discontinue student loans

Provincial politicians quit PM’s party after claims of intimidation

Fresh blood to target criminals and the corrupt

Fat cows make fatter profits

Tambon Mae Nawang residents want flood-damaged bridge repaired

No to GMO and FTA, say experts

Thailand threatens to resign from World Horticultural Club

Strategic development plan pushed through by PAO

Public warned about rogue insurance agents

Nan northern province eyes becoming golden gate to Indo-China

Tourists not scared of bird flu, says official

Ya ba drug ring broken

Tour bus driver arrested after tourist finds money missing from luggage

Candle for Buddha worship sets building alight

Woman accused of stealing bag from market vendor

Lampang villagers enlisted in second “War on Drugs”

Student mob forms over decision to discontinue student loans

By Nopniwat Krailerg

About 150 higher vocational students and teachers from 10 government and private institutions are angry at the decision to discontinue student loans.

They assembled in front of Chiang Mai City Hall on September 28 to submit a petition to PM Thaksin Shinawatra through Chiang Mai Deputy Governor Kwanchai Wongnitikorn.

The students have faced difficulties in furthering their study for vocational diplomas (4th and 5th year study in vocational education) after the educational loan committee decided not to continue their study loans.

According to the petition, Pannipa Yaemchuti, chairperson of vocational education division of the Chiang Mai Private School Association said that the loans committee this year altered some regulations and affected a number of students, who were unable to pay for their studies and who were therefore forced to quit school.

The loan concept was established in 1996 to support needy students and provide them the opportunity to further their study in higher levels. The loan had helped many and relieved poor parents, said Pannipa.

Chiang Mai and Lamphun vocational institutes had earlier conferred and agreed to submit the petition to PM Thaksin to call for change of the regulation. The petition asks the committee to permit former borrowers to continue getting a loan while studying.

Somsak Tarchai, deputy director of Educational Area 1, said that the committee stopped supporting these students because it had an inadequate budget to support all needy students.

He said that the committee had to give priority to students at vocational certificate level (students in the first three years in vocational education) due to the 43rd article of the Thai Constitution which states all Thai students have to attend school for at least 12 years. The vocational certificate level is still included in these 12 required years so that the committee has to provide the loan to new borrowers in vocational certificate level first, explained Somsak.

The central government knows about the problem and is preparing to address it, stated Somsak.

Provincial politicians quit PM’s party after claims of intimidation

Saksit Meesubkwang and Nopniwat Krailerg

All 24 members of the Chiang Mai Provincial Administration Organization (PAO) have walked out of the incumbent Thai Rak Thai party.

Council chairman Chaichatree Limcharoon (seated center), and PAO members at the press conference after the council meeting.

Led by Chaichatree Limcharoon, the PAO council chairman and PAO representative for Mae Wang district, they announced their resignation at a press conference after the 2nd extraordinary assembly of the PAO Council on September 30.

(Right) Thawatwong Na Chiangmai, president of Chiang Mai PAO reading a prepared statement during the council meeting.

Two resignation letters - one to party leader PM Thaksin Shinawatra, and the other to the public were tabled, giving their reasons for resigning. They said they quit because the Thai Rak Thai MP’s in Chiang Mai had caused internal interference and conflict within the PAO.

“Unbearable conflicts” that arose, forcing them to resign, included the rejection of the 133 million baht budget to repair a bridge and build dams in Om Koi and Mae Ai districts.

Some members said that these MPs, whom they claimed had a close relationship with PM Thaksin, forced the council to refuse the budget submission. When the budget vote was taken, 10 PAO members “who were under the supervision of these MPs” were absent and five were forced not to vote.

The result was that only 25 members supported the proposal, while at least 28 votes out of the 42 members in attendance were needed for it to be adopted.

When on September 27, the council met to put forward the budget again, 10 border patrol police were observing the meeting, the letter stated. It said they claimed a soldier with close ties to the MP’s had ordered them to be there.

Chaichatree said something like this had never happened within the organization before and it was as if these MP’s were using state power to threaten the PAO members. He added that the behavior of these MP’s was “dangerous for the local administration organizations” and against the government’s policy to eradicate influential persons from society.

He and his members decided to resign from the ruling party to make PM Thaksin aware of the behavior of these people close to him and tell to him this incident would affect his party’s future in the upcoming general election.

Fresh blood to target criminals and the corrupt

Aims to counter corruption, not a corruption counter

Saksit Meesubkwang

If new brooms sweep clean, criminal elements had better beware: the new commissioner of Provincial Police Bureau, Region 5, took up his position in Chiang Mai on October 1.

Pol Lt Gen Panupong Singhara na Ayutthaya, the new commissioner of the Provincial Police Bureau, Region 5.

Pol Lt Gen Panupong Singhara na Ayutthaya has replaced Pol Gen Lt Chorlor Chuwong, who is being promoted to take over the new position as the commissioner of Provincial Police Bureau, Region 1 in central region.

Pol Lt Gen Panupong said when he initially arrived in Chiang Mai that his policy would be to stress good governance and counter corruption as his main tasks.

He instructed police under his command to carry out the same policy, which has been drawn up by the National Police Bureau chief, and provided them with guidelines.

The new commissioner said he would administer the police work here through the decentralization concept, and support public participation in police work and operations.

He would “wage war on corruption”, as well as increase the trust and confidence the public had in the police. He said justice and fairness were paramount, and an attitude of service.

Pol Lt Gen Panupong said the police were involved in about 63 working projects and 198 activities that he would support.

Fat cows make fatter profits

Staff reporters

Mae Hong Son provincial authorities are encouraging their villagers in all seven districts located along the Thai-Burmese border to raise healthy and fat cows for sale, so they can get better prices and raise the income among the 15,000 lower-income households. Governor Suphote Laowansiri said a survey showed most of the villagers were Thai hill tribesmen.

An increasing number of very lean cattle are being imported into Thailand from neighboring countries for farming and breeding here. Governor Suphote said about 60,000 cows are imported into Mae Hong Son from Myanmar each year.

About 600 farmers, owning 2,000 cows, have applied to attend the three-month breeding promotion run by the provincial authorities. A fatter cow is worth at least 3,000 baht.

Tambon Mae Nawang residents want flood-damaged bridge repaired

Despite PM’s recent largesse, nothing to make bridge safe

Autsadaporn Kamthai

A hundred residents in tambon Mae Nawang in Mae Ai district, Chiang Mai have asked the province for 22 million baht to repair the ruined Mai Sueb bridge.

Prasit Wuttinunchai, a former member of Chiang Mai Provincial Council, (holding a microphone) negotiates with Chareonnit Sa-nguansak (second right), an official of the Chiang Mai Provincial Administration Office.

Chareonnit Sa-nguansak, an official of the Chiang Mai Provincial Administration Office, negotiated with them in front of the city hall on behalf of Chiang Mai Governor Suwat Tantipat, who was attending an urgent bird flu conference.

Prasit Wuttinunchai, a former member of the Chiang Mai Provincial Council who acted as leader of the protest group, said that the residents wanted to know why the governor had rejected their previous request for 22 million baht for repairs.

One hundred residents from tambon Mae Nawang, Mae Ai district, Chiang Mai, gathered in front of city hall to call for a 22 million baht budget to repair the Tah Mai Sueb bridge.

They were dissatisfied as Chiang Mai Provincial Administration Organization president Thawatwong Na Chiangmai had assured them during his visit to Mae Ai on September 20 that the money to repair the bridge had already been earmarked, said Prasit.

However, when tambon Mae Nawang submitted the budget proposal to the governor, it was rejected by both the governor Suwat and a majority vote of Chiang Mai PAO’s Council by 3-2.

Chareonnit replied that the governor had to deny the request as he could not raise the money right now.

However, after he spoke to the governor on phone, Suwat pledged to make a request to the PAO to take from its special saving fund to repair the bridge.

The 20 year old Tah Mai Sueb Bridge is the only access for students to commute between home and school, and for farmers to deliver their crops to be sold outside. But parts of it were damaged by the flood in September 2003, said Prasit. This had caused great inconvenience to locals for more than a year and recently two students were injured while crossing the dilapidated bridge on their way to the school, he added.

After receiving the assurance from the governor, the crowd dispersed.

No to GMO and FTA, say experts

But yes to acronyms!

Saksit Meesubkwang

The volatile subjects of free trade agreements and genetically modified foods touted by PM Thaksin Shinawatra’s Thai Rak Thai party have given rise to heated discussion.

A seminar on Free Trade Agreement Areas (FTA) and Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) took place at the Women’s Study Center, Chiang Mai University on September 24.

Participants included Witoon Lianchamroon, director of the Bio-diversity and Thai Local Wisdom Institute; Kiartti Sitthi-amornporn, president of the International Chamber of Commerce of Thailand; and Suwat Horachaikul, a lecturer in the Political Science Faculty of Chulalongkorn University.

Director Witoon said that the United States had tried to reach an agreement on foreign trade involving GMO with other countries, including Thailand.

“It is hoped that the US will sign an FTA of crop seeds with Thailand because the US companies occupy over 90 percent of GMO markets in the world. If Thailand does not correspond to the FTA with the US, Thai farmers will be at disadvantage by only importing the seeds from them,” he said.

Kiartti added that the Thai government was determined to sign the FTA with 13 other countries. “This is interesting because even a developed country like the US only signs free trade agreements with not more than two countries at the same time because many details have to be thoroughly considered and negotiated first,” said Kiartti.

“Besides, what the Thai government has been doing is different from the developed countries like USA,” said Kiartti. “In the US, the details of an agreement will be proposed to the council to consider and approve and a mutual study of the impact is done and a measure to cope with the problems have to be stated before its government signs the FTA with any allies.”

In contrast, the Thai government did not pay any significance to these matters. However, it provided 11 million baht to be spent on impact studies into doing free trade with other countries.

After the US conducted research on GMO tree plantations between 1996-2002, the GMO plants were shown to have increased the amount of crops but caused the required amount of chemicals used in the farming to increase by 23 million kilograms. “This is not really a good outcome,” he said.

Many countries, including India and Indonesia, were also good examples of the failure of GMO tree plantations. From this, it was evident Thailand did not need GMO for farming.

“Thai people have local wisdom as a strong point in operating plantations on their own, like organic agriculture and farming which can give higher productivity rate of crops, if appropriately managed,” Kiartti said.

For examples, by putting fish in their rice fields as a form of integrated farming, farmers could produce yields between 30-50 percent higher than if they used chemicals, pesticides, insecticides or chemical fertilizers.

“These crops from integrated farming of organic plants can be sold at a higher price and the fish become another source of income of the farmers,” he said.

Thailand threatens to resign from World Horticultural Club

China proposing to host a world expo six months before Thailand

Nopniwat Krailerg

Thailand’s World Horticultural Club has threatened to pull out of hosting 2006 International Horticultural Show after China announced it would also hold one six months before the event.

Chaiwat Wattanachai, director of Agriculture Research and Development Office, Region 1, Chiang Mai.

Thailand’s World Horticultural Club would announce its decision to resign to the Thai Cabinet because China had violated the club’s agreement, said Chaiwat Wattanachai, director of Agriculture Research and Development Office, Region 1, Chiang Mai.

However, PM Thaksin Shinawatra has asked the group to stay the resignation and insisted that Thailand will go ahead and host the event.

“The Prime Minister has not responded to China’s action yet but has told the organizers to continue preparing for the event,” said Chaiwat.

PM Thaksin and associated organizations are to hold a press conference in the near future to inform the public about the problem and its resolution, either in Chiang Mai or at Government House in Bangkok.

Chaiwat said that the cabinet had approved 1.5 billion baht for the event and improvement. Construction of the Agricultural Research and Development Office on 470 rai of land has been completed, and work preparations for the World Horticultural Show have progressed by 40 percent.

Thailand is preparing to host the International Horticultural Exposition Ratchaphruek 2006 after it was appointed to do so in 1990 and all member countries of the World Horticultural Association had agreed to this. However, China now has announced it would hold a similar event from May 1-September 30, 2006 at Xian Yang district, said Chaiwat.

The official Thai event is scheduled to be held in Chiang Mai from November 1, 2006 - January 31, 2007 in honor of the 60th anniversary of his Majesty the King’s reign and his 80th Birthday in 2007. Over 25 countries have indicated they will exhibit and exchange horticultural knowledge and technology at the show. An estimated six million people would be expected to attend, 30,000 visitors daily.

Strategic development plan pushed through by PAO

Nopniwat Krailerg

A three year city development plan involving eight projects costing a whopping 6.4 billion baht has been approved by the Chiang Mai Provincial Administration Organization (PAO).

PAO members at the meeting held on September 30 to approve the strategic development plan.

An urgent motion for the 2005-2007 development plan was passed by thirty-three to one with eight abstentions during the second extraordinary assembly held at the PAO on September 30.

The plan concentrates on eight areas to be developed: public infrastructure and transportation (1.775 billion baht); economic development sector (47 million baht); development of tourist spots (334.7 million baht); natural resources and environmental improvement campaign (1.451 billion baht); education, religion and culture (174.4 million baht); quality of life and health, as well as strengthening the communities (516.83 million baht); administration and internal organization management (582.4 million baht); and disaster relief (110.6 million baht).

However, some members expressed their displeasure at council chairman Chaichatree Limcharoon, as he sent the draft plan to them just two days before the meeting. They said they were unable to read the whole draft and asked for a postponement before they were asked to vote on it. However, he rejected the request.

Chaichatree said they could submit further proposals for other projects at a later date. He also said, “The plan will cover all 22 districts and two sub-districts in Chiang Mai.”

Public warned about rogue insurance agents

You think you’re covered till you claim

Staff reporters

Chiang Mai Provincial Insurance Office has issued a warning about agents claiming to represent Eua Arthorn Insurance. It is claimed they are keeping insurance payments instead of forwarding them to the company. At least 231 people in Chiang Mai and 709 in Lamphun provinces have been taken in by this scam.

Piyanart Kusumoljan, head of the Chiang Mai Provincial Insurance Office, has warned the pubic to beware of Eua Arthorn Insurance agents run by Jirapob Manoros. Jirapob has allegedly asked customers to pay 490 baht and given them fake receipts issued on Nationwide Insurance. The company cannot issue the insurance policies because they have not been forwarded the money collected.

Piyanart said that people who had been duped could show their receipts to the Insurance Office at Chiang Mai or Lamphun for further resolution. She insisted that the 490 baht payment was not for the government Eua Arthorn Insurance but was pocketed by the agent. General agents were not empowered to sell the Eua Arthorn Insurance. “Please be careful and check all agents carefully before deciding to sign a contract with them,” she urged.

People can contact the insurance office for more information on insurance fraud. For more details, please call the Chiang Mai Provincial Insurance Office, tel. (053) 222469, 214065, 357441.

Nan northern province eyes becoming golden gate to Indo-China

Editorial staff

The Upper North province of Nan is being developed to become the “Gateway to Indo-China” when the road linking Nan-Huay Koan to Muang Ngern and Pakbeng in Laos is completed in the next two years.

The Huay Koan border checkpoint between Thailand and Laos in Chalerm Phrakiart district, which is being promoted as the Golden Gateway to Indo-China.

More foreigners have shown interest in investment projects in this region, according to officials who attended a seminar on September 27 at Dhevaraj Hotel, organized by the Nan provincial authorities, on promoting foreign trade and investment project in Nan province.

Nan Governor Dr Suwat Choksuwattanasakul said that Nan had great potential for investment and development, and was getting ready to be the “Golden Gateway” to countries in Indo-China.

Investors were interested in settling in Nan, because of its low investment costs, inexpensive land prices, low wages, sufficient raw materials - especially appropriate for poultry farms for food and canned food production for export.

Japanese businessmen have shown interest in farms and factories for farming products such as corn to be used in animal food production.

“As well as this, Nan province has a very low crime rate,” said Governor Suwat.

He added that the road construction from Nan through Chalerm Phrakiart district’s Huay Koan border checkpoint to Laos’s Muang Ngern and Pakbeng towns – which covers a distance of only 50 kilometers - will begin by the end of this year. “Construction will take two years. After that, Nan province will be booming as regards trade and tourism,” he predicted.

The Huay Koan border checkpoint would be upgraded to permanent and international status to serve a large number of visitors and tourists wanting to cross into Laos.

More hotel and investment projects are expected, as well as public transportation and services, earning more revenue for the people of Nan, including those active in agricultural production.

Nan’s promotional products such as hill tribe silverware, pha lai nam lai cotton and other textiles are expected to bring in more than 10 million baht a year.

Tourists not scared of bird flu, says official

Not even any sign of ruffled feathers

Autsadaporn Kamthai

The return of bird flu to Thailand will not affect Chiang Mai tourism during the coming peak season believes Boonlert Pelera, president of Chiang Mai Tourism Business Association. “There have been no signs of foreign tourists canceling advanced bookings,” he said.

Boonlert Pelera, president of the Chiang Mai Tourism Business Association.

“Media reports on the re-emergence of bird flu in Thailand has not frightened tourists, as they are now more educated about the disease. They understand it cannot be easily transmitted from either animals or other humans,” Boonlert said.

Official figures would indicate the number of advanced bookings at Chiang Mai hotels for the coming peak season has increased by 10 percent over last year.

However, there was no noticeable increase in statistics of domestic tourists to Chiang Mai booking in advance because Thai tourists were inclined not to do so.

Boonlert said good marketing and organizing many activities in Chiang Mai were the chief motivators attracting more foreign tourists to the province.

The municipality had allocated more money for the upcoming Loy Krathong festival than in previous years because it was also a significant tourist attraction, according to Boonlert.

Ya ba drug ring broken

Dealers were supplying students

Staff reporters

Two alleged drug pushers who sold ya ba pills to students at dormitories have been arrested in the heart of Chiang Mai City.

Following a tip-off, police attached to the Chiang Mai provincial police sub-division, led by Pol Lt Col Thawatchai Yoomak searched the dormitory behind Wat Suan Dok Temple, Soi 7, and charged Sukhum Thathip and Adirek Yarangsri, both from Chiang Rai, who were caught in possession of 33 ya ba tablets.

They confessed they had been selling the tablets to students at nearby dormitories for a long time. They also indicated that they had dealt with some Muser hill tribe drug traffickers in Chiang Rai.

Both of them were charged for possession with intent to sell and arrested for further questioning.

Tour bus driver arrested after tourist finds money missing from luggage

Smart thinking by tour guide foils theft

Staff reporters

Vigilant tourist police have charged a bus driver with stealing money from an Italian tourist.

Sawas Buaphan, 47, a Bangkok resident who worked for the Tourism Co., Ltd. from Nonthaburi province as a tour bus driver was apprehended while driving a group of Italian tourists from Dusit Island Resort Hotel in Chiang Rai to the airport for their flight to Bangkok.

The Italian tourist had kept his spare money in euros and the tour guide had made photocopies of the banknotes as a precautionary measure. When the tourist found that the notes were missing, he complained to the tourist police, and Pol Senior Sergeant Major Sawai Deengarm was the officer to implicate the bus driver, as he believed the driver had the opportunity to look through the tourist’s luggage.

After stopping the bus, euros were found in the driver’s wallet, and the photocopy check showed that this was the money belonging to the Italian who had lodged the complaint. The amount was equivalent to 26,000 baht.

Bus driver Sawas was charged with theft and taken to the police station for further questioning.

Candle for Buddha worship sets building alight

Nopniwat Krailerg

The three storey building of Chiang Mai Advertising Co., Ltd., on Sarm Larn Road at the side of Wat Phra Singh temple caught fire on September 28.

Firefighters on the job to extinguish the fire.

Pol Capt Duangrit Thamchai of the Muang District police contacted the Chiang Mai Municipality firefighting unit and three fire trucks were dispatched to extinguish the flames before they spread to the adjacent shops.

Soonthorn Yarmsiri, deputy mayor responsible for the Public Health division, supervised the fire fighters.

The owner of the building, Nakapol Theepawisut, 46, said that the fire started on the third floor caused by a candle to pay worship to the Buddha image. After lighting some candles, they went downstairs for continue working.

The fire fighters contained the fire on the third floor, which consisted of bedrooms and a Buddha image room. The fire fighters, wearing suits and masks, had to use a ladder to climb up to the front of the building and a hammer to smash the window for their hoses. It took around 20 minutes for them to put out the fire.

They found a candle had fallen down on a towel near the set of Buddha image tables, and the fire had spread quickly.

Woman accused of stealing bag from market vendor

Nopniwat Krailerg

A 26 year old woman from Hang Dong district has been arrested after allegedly snatching a bag from a vendor at Muang Mai market on Muang Samut Road in Chiang Mai.

Police questioning Chaowanee Sukho, a suspected thief caught by vendors from the Muang Mai market.

Chaowanee Sukho tried to flee the scene, but other vendors helped to catch her. The incident occurred in front of the “Je Muay Kai Sod” shop.

Khemaporn Limthanaporn, 36, the owner of the shop, told police of Chang Puak police station that she and her employees were cleaning up before closing. She put a black bag containing 1,500 baht, ATM cards and list of her customers on the freezer at her stall and the went to the toilet.

As she returned, she saw Chaowanee snatching her bag. She screamed for help and followed her until they were in front of Sin Machinery building where the woman threw her bag under a parked pickup truck. She and other vendors managed to catch her there and took her to the police station.

Chaowanee denied having taken the bag. She claimed she had gone to the market to meet some people. On the way home, she passed the building and saw a man throwing a bag underneath the truck.

The victim brought her employees as witnesses to testify that they saw the woman wandering around the stall to observe the place before snatching the bag. The police are investigating carefully, but it seems quite clear at this stage that the bag did not run off on its own.

Lampang villagers enlisted in second “War on Drugs”

Beware of thy neighbor seems to be the concept

Staff reporters

The Drug Combating Center in Lampang Muang District, assisted by the “people’s power” is ready for the second wave in the “War on Drugs” campaign.

The Center and provincial authorities hosted an event to create more networking to keep a close watch on the drug situation. This is the response to the government’s campaign to prevent the drug problem returning to the area.

Ruangrit Chormsuek, district chief officer of Lampang Muang District, presided over the launching ceremony at the district office, together with over 500 people including the region’s Buddhist leaders, private sector, chiefs of the local government offices, including kamnans, village headmen, and the “People Power Club” in the villages.

The target of the operations will be primarily entertainment venues, services locations, dormitories, slums, educational institutions, the border and sources of international crime.

The authorities will set up X-ray scanning operations in the district areas to search for drug suspects, addicts and traffickers. Addicts will be taken to rehabilitation centers, and drug intelligence agencies will be set up.

The campaign places special emphasis on cooperation by communities to strengthen the villages in a sustainable fight against the drug problem. One in 10 households will be assigned as monitors for drug smuggling.

This second “War on Drugs” will be waged until December 3, with continual follow-up measures, according to the district officer.