NEWS
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

US election outcome will not affect Thailand

Local activists show disapproval of govt action in deep South

Remembrance Day service next week in Chiang Mai

Tanks to supplement water supplies during dry season

Zoo takes precautions against bird flu

Good news to warm not just the heart

Lignite mine igniting Lampang residents

Thais, Burmese combine to maximize water resources

Cigarette factory to relocate to Chiang Mai

New center makes dealing with municipality easier

Chiang Mai starts gearing up for election

B-r-r-r-race yourself for winter,is the forecast

Organic food producers get organized

New Burmese strongman good news for Thai war on drugs

Tax man smiles as Mae Sai trade booms

New commander-in-chief encourages Pha Muang Task Force

Anti-drugs police swoop in early morning raids

Tourist found dead

Drug-busters have field day

Fang businessman arrested on suspicion of drug smuggling

US election outcome will not affect Thailand

US Consul-General reassures Chiang Mai locals

Staff reporters

This has been a nail-biting week for millions around the world, including people in Chiang Mai and the rest of Thailand, as Americans voted for the man to lead the US for the next four years.

“In fact, these have been probably the most important elections in history because so much of the future of the world depend on them,” Dr Tanet Charoenmueng of the Political Science Department in the Faculty of Social Science at Chiang Mai University said in an interview on Wednesday.

Serious panel discussions with live telephone conference to Washington. From left: Dr. Sompong Wittayasakpan, Consul Henry Jardin and Dr Tanet Charoenmueng.

“US foreign policy affects the whole world, but only Americans are allowed to vote,” Dr Tanet said. A ‘straw poll’ amongst Thais during the week showed a 50-50 split between Bush and Kerry. Urban Thais with a greater global outlook pinned their hopes on Kerry and change for “a safer world”, while rural Thais in the main supported Bush, whom they perceived as a strong leader in the face of terrorism. This reflected similar voting patterns and demographics in the US, according to Dr Tanet.

Asked what the results would mean for Thailand, he said Bush needed allies in Asia in his “war against terror”, and therefore was more generous in terms of economic relations with the region.

“There was the fear, however, that economic policies under a Kerry administration would hurt Thailand and the region with more protectionist trade decisions,” he said. “There would be more trade conflict as Kerry is perceived as representing US industry.”

However, the world could become the scene of more international conflict under Bush. “Kerry was more open to world opinion, while Bush would become more confident and arrogant towards Europe and the rest of the world,” threatening hopes for global peace.

Dr Tanet was speaking at the AUA (American University Alumni Association) in Chiang Mai, where hundreds of US and other expats, as well as Thai students gathered on Wednesday, November 3, to follow live television coverage of the incoming election results and commentaries, as well as state-by-state updates.

The US Consulate-General in Chiang Mai hosted the monitoring event with the AUA.

US consul-general Beatrice Camp told Chiangmai Mail that, whoever had won this week’s elections, US policy towards Thailand would not change.

“Thailand and the US have been partners for over 150 years, and we appreciate that this country is a strong ally. We are particularly happy that we have had strong and positive relations with northern Thailand for a long time, with the US being able to offer support in the fields of education, hospitals and clinics.

“We look forward to continuing our friendship with the people of Chiang Mai, the rest of northern Thailand and the country,” the consul-general said.


Local activists show disapproval of govt action in deep South

Saksit Meesubkwang

Around 50 members of United for Peace have gathered to show their discontent towards the government backed military action in the recent unrest at the Tak Bai district in Narathiwat province in southern Thailand.

This non-governmental organization’s members walked around Thapae Gate to give their message to the general public and a performed candle-lighting ceremony in front of the governor’s residence to call for peace and express their demands.

The “Candle-lit walk for democracy” was held on the evening of October 29, from Nawarat Bridge to Thapae Gate, to express solidarity with, and sympathy for, the families and friends of almost a hundred Thais killed, and thousands of others arrested during the Oct. 25 Narathiwat massacre in the South.

Their immediate demands to the Thaksin government included the unconditional release of the 1,300 detainees, acceptance of responsibility for the Narathiwat massacre, that the perpetrators of the violence be brought to justice, a stop to the use of violence and replacing it with a peaceful process to address the issues in the South, a stop to the claimed distortion of the facts, and full disclosure of information through the media.

They also demanded that the Thaksin administration create an independent investigative body to look into the incident and report the real circumstance of the October 25 massacre back to the public.

Finally, they called on all Thai people to remain vigilant and courageous in standing up for their rights and to be united in their pursuit for a peaceful and democratic Thailand.


Remembrance Day service next week in Chiang Mai

A Remembrance Service will be held at the Chiang Mai Foreign Cemetery, on Thursday November 11, in memory of all those who gave their lives in war and in the service of their country.

A two minute silence will be observed at 11 a.m. This will be preceded by a non-denominational service, commencing at about 10.45 a.m. After the service visitors are invited to the Chiangmai Gymkhana Club for refreshments.

The Chiang Mai Foreign Cemetery is on the Chiang Mai – Lampoon Road about 1.5 km south of Nawarat Bridge, opposite the Electricity Company offices.


Tanks to supplement water supplies during dry season

Nopniwat Krailerg

The Chiang Mai Waterworks Office plans to spend money next year on building 6,000 cubic meter tanks to supply tap water during the dry season.

Announcing this, Chok-umnuay Saipao, manager of the waterworks office, said it had received 230 million baht from the government to expand its service. The Provincial Waterworks Office is currently drafting a plan for this expansion.

Chok-umnuay Saipao, manager of the Chiang Mai Waterworks Office.

At present, it supplies water to residents in the districts of Doi Saket, San Sai, San Pathong, Hang Dong, Sarapee and Muang.

“Last year, the Mae Ngad dam, the main water source, did not have sufficient water to serve residents, especially those living on high-lying areas on Suthep Road and tambon Mae Hia, because the contents of the dam had to be shared with farmers,” said Chok-umnuay.

This year, the amount of water in the Mae Ngad dam in Mae Taeng district and in the Mae Guang dam in Doi Saket district was greater than last year. The Waterworks Office would use less than five percent of water in the dams as tap water for 50,000 people in Chiang Mai, he said.

Mae Ngad dam is to be closed shortly for repairs at its canal which delivers water supplied by the waterworks office. The Irrigation Office has therefore been asked to find alternative water sources for it during the repairs.


Zoo takes precautions against bird flu

Autsadaporn Kamthai

Chiang Mai Governor Suwat Tantipat has expressed his satisfaction with measures to prevent outbreaks of bird flu at the Chiang Mai Zoo, according to zoo director Thanapat Pongpamorn.

The governor visited the facility last weekend.

All vehicles entering the zoo are sprayed with a solution which kills germs and viruses. The same solution is sprayed onto the shoes of visitors to the Nakorn Ping Bird Watching Garden.

Ostriches at the Chiang Mai Zoo are guaranteed free from bird flu, following precautionary measures taken against the epidemic.

The zoo has also stopped giving chicken feed and chicken bones to animals and is feeding them pork instead. Any non-zoo resident poultry is prohibited from entering.

All staff members have to keep themselves sanitized and use gloves and masks while working with animals. “All poultry at the zoo are in a healthy condition and there have not been any reports of animals dying from bird flu,” Thanapat said.


Good news to warm not just the heart

Saksit Meesubkwang

The Chiang Mai provincial authorities are preparing the help those facing the coming chilly weather. And if you can help, please do.

Wassana Wapinanond, chief of the Chiang Mai Provincial Disaster Prevention Office, said the authorities are on the alert to especially help villagers in the Upper North.

“From now until February next year, officials are prepared to offer relief from the cold,” she said.

About 22 districts and two sub-districts in the province have been identified to be provided with blankets and warm clothing. It is predicted that people in Omkoi and Mae Chaem districts will be hardest hit by cold spells.

Wassana added that the Public Disaster Prevention and Relief Department this year has allocated a 1.7 million baht to Chiang Mai province to buy 11,000 blankets.

Officials are currently buying the blankets to hand out this month to villagers needing them.

The public and private sectors as well as department store are being asked to donate further blankets and warm clothes. “The appeal comes with the cooperation of the Thai Red Cross Society, the Third Army Region and ITV, which would like to donate the items,” she said.

Items may be dropped off at the Chiang Mai Provincial Disaster Prevention Office during office hours.


Lignite mine igniting Lampang residents

Staff reporters

Residents in Mae Moh district, Lampang have made an urgent appeal to be relocated because they cannot tolerate the pollution from the local lignite mine any further.

Residents from almost 700 households in Ban Hua Fai, Ban Huay Ped, and Ban Huay King villages met at the Mae Moh community center on October 31 to submit a petition to Yongyuth Tiyapairach, secretary to Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, asking for urgent assistance from the government.

They complained about mine excavations that have caused movement of the ground which causes cracks in the walls of their houses, as well as acrid odors from sulfur and air pollution that causes numerous deaths from respiratory illnesses.

They said they had previously directed their complaints to relevant organizations, to no avail. The PM subsequently appointed Yongyuth to attend to the residents’ complaints on his fact finding mission.

Initially, 60 government officials will be assigned to monitor the situation. However, the residents claim it is long past the time for monitoring the situation. They want residential areas of 1.3 rai and a further 15 rai for farmland per household, for subsistence farming, as well as financial compensation. They also want a fund to be set up for occupation development and mobile medical services for regular health checks.

Yongyuth pledged to submit all their requests to PM Thaksin. The residents dispersed, satisfied with the promise - for now.


Thais, Burmese combine to maximize water resources

Staff reporters

Thailand has signed an agreement towards cooperation with the Burmese government for water resource management to fight floods and drought along the border.

Deputy Prime Minister Suwit Khunkitti signed the agreement with Maj Gen Htay Oo, the Burmese Minister for Agriculture and Irrigation at the Dusit Thani Islands Resort in Chiang Rai on November 1.

The agreement is to provide the best utilization of water resources for agriculture, industry and energy generation for both countries.

“The agreement is a good sign of the close ties between Thailand and Myanmar, the deputy prime minister said. “Droughts and floods will be tackled for the good of both the Thai and Burmese people. This integrated management of water resources hopefully will make farming more productive.”

A joint committee will study and collect information involved with management of all water resources and irrigation canals located close to the Thai-Burma border.

Maj Gen Htay said that the Burmese government was willing to cooperate for the benefit of its people. For water management at least.


Cigarette factory to relocate to Chiang Mai

Govt chooses Chinese builders

Nopniwat Krailerg

The Cabinet has given its approval for the construction of a tobacco factory at Ban Mae Jo, Chiang Mai.

Government spokesman Dr Jakkapob Penkae announced the resolution of the Cabinet meeting on October 26, giving the go-ahead for the Finance Ministry’s proposal to build the factory in San Sai district.

At present, the cigarette factory is based in Bangkok, but the cabinet decided in 1991 to relocate it to another region and convert the area into a public park. Thirteen years later, it looks as if it might happen.

The new factory will have a capacity of manufacturing 25 billion cigarettes a year.

The billions of baht required to build the factory have been approved by the Cabinet, along with an advisor payment fund of 200 million baht to support the construction.

The Finance Ministry chose the Mae Jo area because it is close to tobacco leaf plantations. These factors will help the factory be a money-saving investment.

Despite some coughing from opponents to the deal, the CYC Company from China will be hired to construct the factory. The construction is a joint undertaking between the Thai and Chinese governments which will lead to further trade networks and stronger economic ties.


New center makes dealing with municipality easier

Nopniwat Krailerg

Fed up with inconvenience and inefficiency when dealing with civil authorities?

Chiang Mai Municipality, in an attempt to offer a better service to the public, has opened a “Service Link Center” to make life easier for people applying for residential construction permits, housing census registration, and requests for public utilities.

Chiang Mai Mayor Boonlert Buranupakorn cuts the ribbon at the ‘Service Link Center” at the Chiang Mai Municipality, flanked by representatives from the Chiang Mai Provincial Electricity Authority, Chiang Mai Provincial Waterworks Office and Customer Service Division of TOT Corporation.

The center, which opened on October 28, offers various services under one roof, saving the public time and travel. Advisory and information services and follow-ups on applications are also available at the center.

“This is part of government policy to improve Thai bureaucracy,” said Chiang Mai Mayor Boonlert Buranupakorn.

Members of the public at the newly opened ‘Service Link Center’ at Chiang Mai Municipality, while Mayor Boonlert Buranupakorn (right) looks on.

He has signed an agreement with the Chiang Mai Provincial Electricity Authority, Chiang Mai Provincial Waterworks Office and Customer Service Division of TOT Corporation to make their services available at the municipality offices.

Boonlert said that the municipality has studied the project of setting up the center over two years. It was first called “One Stop Service Center” but now will be known as the “Service Link Center”.

“The center shows good coordination between the government and private sectors to serve the public, and is a pilot project in the province,” said the mayor.


Chiang Mai starts gearing up for election

Saksit Meesubkwang

The Chiang Mai Provincial Election Commission is all set for applications from candidates who wish to stand for Parliament in next year’s election, announced its director Nirand Kamsemanant.

He also asked current government officials not to interfere with the independence of any candidates by trying to persuade them to align themselves with particular political parties. “If found guilty, he or she may face immediate disciplinary action,” he said.

The general election is set for February 13. Chiang Mai has 10 constituency zones, with 2,013 voting stations. The Election Commission said it has about 40,000 personnel ready for polling procedures, and all the election material is ready.

Parliamentary candidates may apply at city hall or the Chiang Mai Provincial Administration Organization.

About 16 independent organizations that have registered with the Election Commission will monitor the election process.

The commission will soon launch a public relations drive to encourage voters to cast their votes by distributing election campaign leaflets, brochures and running radio and television infomercials.

Nirand said one cause of concern was that article 57 of the Constitution prohibits kamnan, village headmen, government officials and local administration organization members from trying to influence any candidates.

In this regard, according to the election law which will be enforced from November 10, if any complaint is lodged with the Election Commission and has grounds for action to be taken, it will be followed up.


B-r-r-r-race yourself for winter, is the forecast

It will be dark this evening, but should brighten up by tomorrow morning!

Nopniwat Krailerg

Winter has arrived in the Upper North. The Northern Region Office of the Meteorology Center announced that this year’s winter in the North has begun this month and will last to mid-February or March next year.

The weather is getting a somewhat cooler in the North and Northeast regions of the country the cold moves in from China. Temperatures are forecast to drop appreciably next month.

Despite these portents of gloom, the Met Office predicts that this year’s winter season will be slightly warmer than usual.

From December, some areas of the Upper North and northeastern parts on the top of the mountains and in hill valleys will be cool, with the winter winds that cover Thailand weakening in early March next year.

This year’s temperatures are forecast to range between highs of 16-22.9 degree Celsius and lows of between 8-15.9 degree Celsius, so get your thermometers calibrated accurately.

At present, there are morning fogs, which will last until next January. Some areas in Mae Hong Son, Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai, Phayao, Nan and Tak provinces will be cold on the mountaintops with morning mist.

The weather forecast center has announced a warning about health care and the necessity of remaining warm, as well as to be wary of road accidents caused by the thick morning mist.

For more information, please go to the Web site http://www.cmmet.com or www.tmd.go.th


Organic food producers get organized

Nopniwat Krailerg

Discerning diners will be happy to know of the establishment of an organic vegetable garden project to encourage the use of organic vegetables in Chiang Mai restaurants.

The Chiang Mai Restaurant and Organic Vegetable Garden Club launched the project at city hall to promote the growing of organic vegetables for restaurants.

Deputy Governor Kwanchai Wongnitikorn said that six groups of organic vegetable growers had registered with the government to be part of the project. It is envisaged that 40 percent of the project members will be organic vegetable garden planters, 30 percent restaurateurs and 30 percent garden owners.

The garden owners will buy vegetables from the planters and deliver them to the restaurateurs. Prices of the vegetables will be fixed to prevent exploitation.

However, the planters need maintain the standard of their produce to meet restaurateurs’ demands. In the case of over-supply to participating restaurants, they will be allowed to sell their vegetables elsewhere.


New Burmese strongman good news for Thai war on drugs

3rd Army commander feels confident

Staff reporters

The political change in Myanmar is expected to have positive effects in Thailand’s drug prevention and suppression efforts, says the commander of the 3rd Army Region, Lt Gen Picharnmeth Muangmanee. He believes the new Burmese leader, Lt Gen Soe Win, is tough and against drug dealers and traffickers.

“Because the new Burmese leader is strong and decisive, and does not support drug trafficking, suppression action will be taken very seriously, which will help Thailand’s anti-drugs drive,” he said.

Lt Gen Picharnmeth added that the Burmese authorities must realize that its national security and dignity are also at stake.


Tax man smiles as Mae Sai trade booms

Staff reporters

Border trade at Mae Sai this year has increased over previous years. Increased imports and exports means a rise in tax collected, said Chuchai Udompoch, head of the Mae Sai customs house.

It is to the country’s advantage that that the value of imports at Mae Sai border is less than exports, according to Chuchai.

The value of imports so far this year is 498.39 million baht as compared to 85.20 million baht last year. Exports were valued at 1.915 billion baht, a jump from last year’s 1.564 billion baht.

Main products imported at the Mae Sai border are ready-to-wear clothes, blankets and garlic, while exports are fuel, rubber, tyres and building materials such as cement and iron.

The total value of this year’s tax collection is 151.63 million baht, which is considerably higher than last year’s 24.53 million baht. “These statistics reflect the growth in the Mae Sai border trade,” said Chuchai.

Next year, border trade at Mae Sai is expected to increase after the second bridge is opened for public use on December 5. Entrepreneurs and traders who have been trading with Southern China will use this bridge as a new transportation route instead of water transportation that is dependent on the water level of the Mekong River, predicted Chuchai.


New commander-in-chief encourages Pha Muang Task Force

Nopniwat Krailerg

The new commander-in-chief, Gen Prawit Wongsuwan and his crew visited the Pha Muang Task Force, part of the 3rd Army Region, in Chiang Mai on October 30 after he took up his position.

The commander of the task force, Maj Gen Manus Paorik, gave a brief report to Gen Prawit on the situation on the northern border, including the problem of drug trafficking and minority groups.

New Commander-in-Chief Gen Prawit Wongsuwan visits the soldiers at the Pha Muang Task Force.

Gen Prawit said that his visit was mainly to encourage soldiers positioned on the border. The overall situation of the North was “not at a level to cause concern,” he said.

Regarding the threat against minority groups by the Burmese government, Gen Prawit said that Thai officials would not interfere and insisted that Thai-Burmese relations remained the same.

Strict suppression on drug trafficking along the border would continue as usual, added Gen Prawit. He admitted that cooperation by and tip-offs from Thai residents along the border were crucial for the task of the soldiers. The army’s efforts to strengthen communities had helped in drug suppression.

“The task force has set out operations for national security which include suppression of alien laborers and drug trafficking in both the short and long term, and the commander-in-chief and the task force will monitor the border areas more carefully,” said Gen Prawit.


Anti-drugs police swoop in early morning raids

Nopniwat Krailerg

Police attached to the Muang district police station raided 10 venues in Chiang Mai on October 27 in operations to track down drugs.

That included a rented room in a hotel situated on Ratchawong Road, a guesthouse near Thapae Gate, houses and a garage on Charoenpratet Road.

Pol Lt Maj Narit Sorndith, investigation inspector, and ten officers conducted the raids after the Chiang Mai Court issued search warrants.

Police claimed teenagers and students were buying drugs at the addresses, some of which had already been blacklisted. They discovered 106 ya ba tablets in a house owned by Sophon Wannarat, a.k.a. “Ake Duan”, on Nuntaram Road in tambon Hai Ya. Sophon was allegedly taking ya ba when the police arrived at his house. The drugs were found hidden in a loudspeaker. The police also found a Samurai sword.

Sophon told police that he brought ya ba tablets from hill tribes in Mae Rim district, Chiang Mai to sell to teenagers at 200 baht each. He kept some for his personal use, he said.


Tourist found dead

Police presume Viagra overdose

Nopniwat Krailerg

An overseas tourist, Delor Dol Sus, 69, was found in his hotel room on Moonmuang Road, Chiang Mai on October 31.

Pol Lt Maj Boonlert Jantanudech, investigating officer at the Muang district police station, colleagues and a doctor from Maharaj Nakorn Chiang Mai Hospital went to the scene after being informed by the hotel.

Police found a bottle of drugs and a hypodermic needle next to the body. The doctor identified the drug as Viagra. They also found many blood spots on his arms that seem to have been caused by intravenous injection. Nothing was stolen.

A maid at the hotel told the police that Sus had stayed at the hotel for two days and the night before he died, she saw him bring a bar girl from Loy Kroh Road to his room. On October 31, she knocked on his door to clean it but he did not respond.

Hotel staff broke into his room and found his body. However, there was no sign of the girl.

The doctor presumed that Sus had died from an overdose of Viagra resulting in heart failure before having sex with the girl. The police are looking for the bar girl to question her.

The body was taken to Maharaj Nakorn Chiang Mai Hospital for an autopsy to ascertain the exact cause of death.


Drug-busters have field day

Staff reporters

The Pha Muang Task Force, working in concert with local police and soldiers, has made several drug busts in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai provinces.

On October 27, the task force under Gen Maj Manus Paorik made several arrests and confiscated a large quantity of drugs. With the cooperation of the 3rd Cavalry Special Task Force and Mae Sai district police, the task force arrested a Hong Kong citizen, Chang Fong Chuen, 44, as he was leaving a hotel in Mae Sai district, Chiang Rai.

Aware that Thai officials were strictly enforcing drug suppression, he swallowed 51 heroin filled condoms before flying back to Hong Kong. However, the soldiers noticed his nervousness and made him pass through an X-ray machine which showed up the packages in his stomach.

Chang Fong Chuen confessed that he was hired to carry the heroin to Hong Kong for 20,000 Hong Kong dollars. Instead, he was taken to the Mae Sai district police station cells.

Meanwhile, four others were arrested on the same day at Ban Huay Luek, tambon Ping Kong in Chiang Dao district, Chiang Mai in possession of over 2,000 ya ba tablets plus an amount of opium in a joint operation involving the task force and the Chiang Dao district police station.

The law enforcement officers also seized 20,500 baht in cash and a mobile phone to be used as evidence.

Another group of 10 people was charged with using drugs, also on October 27. The 31st Ranger Special Task Force cooperated with village headmen and the committee of Huay San in tambon Tha Ton, Mae Ai district, Chiang Mai in running urine tests on 11 blacklisted residents. All but one tested positive for drug use. They were escorted to the Narcotics Combating Center in Mae Ai district for rehabilitation.


Fang businessman arrested on suspicion of drug smuggling

Saksit Meesubkwang

Assets worth 10 million baht have been confiscated in the arrest of an alleged major drug network member in Fang district, Chiang Mai.

On October 30, the Provincial Police Bureau, Region 5, assisted by Fang police and Chiang Dao police, arrested Somrot Kulwong, 36, and seized a 10-wheel truck, pickup trucks and other assets and property at his home in tambon Wiang.

Drug suspect Somrot Kulwong (left) and Lt Gen Panupong Singhara na Ayuthaya, commissioner of the Provincial Police Bureau, Region 5 (seated right).

Somrot operated a company to transport agricultural products, Krongkarn Namchoke, with six 10-wheel trucks, two pickup trucks, six motorcycles and six mobile telephones used on the Chiang Mai-Bangkok route.

The police said they arrested him while he was gambling with five friends, who also were using ya ba tablets. They seized equipment for drug use, a .38 pistol, six rounds of ammunitions and 185 ya ba pills.

Haul of cash, bank accounts, and weapons.

Lt Gen Panupong Singhara na Ayuthaya, the commissioner of the Provincial Police Bureau, Region 5, said that Somrot was in the same network as Somjit Srichai who was previously charged with the possession of 70 kg of heroin several months ago.

He said these network members were often hired to smuggle drugs from the Northern drug dealers along the borders to drugs peddlers in Bangkok. It was found that Somrot used his trucks to transport drugs.