HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Saraburi editor arrested in biggest drug bust this year

Call for new strategies to fight drug trafficking

Monks and academics condemn use of Buddhist decor in hotels

The MICE Market

Thai Truck Center tackles waste of fuel and money

PAO splashes out 216 million baht from special fund

Good news to warm not just the heart

Lanna OTOP products come out tops

Democrat Party campaigns in Chiang Mai for 2005 elections

Concentrated crackdown on youth sex traffickers

Night Safari construction 70 percent complete

Czech entry into EU good news for Thailand

Poultry runs cleaned to thwart return of bird flu

Expect beefed up security during Loy Krathong and New Year festivals

Economy in the North improved up to September

Spotlight falls on gunmen, influential persons and corrupt police

Chiang Man community ‘a model for others’

Care and treatment for People Living with HIV/AIDS (PWHAs)

Ex-student arrested for stealing to pay for gambling

Student dies in freak accident while playing basketball

Monk arrested on charges of using and trafficking drugs

Public officials implicated in selling fake IDs

Saraburi editor arrested in biggest drug bust this year

Nopniwat Krailerg

The editor of the “Pa Loke” newspaper of Saraburi province, Wichen Puapun, 49, and Sawat Sornsawan, 50, a resident of Chiang Mai’s San Pathong have been arrested in possession of 480,000 ya ba tablets.

The tablets were found in Wichen’s car while they were driving along the Chiang Mai-Lampang Superhighway to Bangkok in Hang Chat district, Lampang on November 6. The two men were sent to the Provincial Police Bureau Region 5 for questioning.

Police learned there were another six dealers involved when the two confessed they bought the drugs at Ban Pang Mai Daeng, in tambon Keud Chang, Mae Taeng district, Chiang Mai.

The next day, the police looked for the other six at tambon Toong Khao Puang, Chiang Dao district and arrested Arle Sinchawang, 23, a resident of Pai district, Mae Hong Son. The other five managed to escape, but police did find 210,000 tablets inside a bucket buried in the forest.

Arle said he and the other five who escaped had been armed with two M-16s, an AK-47 and shotguns to defend themselves against the police while transferring the drugs.

The three arrested men were taken to the Narcotics Suppression Bureau for further criminal proceedings. This capture of 690,000 ya ba tablets is the biggest drug bust in the North this year.

Call for new strategies to fight drug trafficking

Saksit Meesubkwang

The Office of Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) has called on all anti-drug networks to meet to devise new suppression strategies. Pittaya Jinawat, director of the ONCB, made the call in preparation for the “Second War on Drugs” on November 3 at the Tarin Hotel in Chiang Mai.

He addressed 100 participants from the Provincial Police Bureau Region 5, Office of Primary School Education, student representatives from both government and private universities, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working with youths in slum communities and hill tribes.

Pittaya said that the NGOs had volunteered to work with the ONCB in trying to prevent the proliferation of drugs in slums and hill tribe communities. “Economic problems are behind hill tribes getting involved in the drug cycle,” said Pittaya. Having worked with hill tribes for over 10 years, he said that discouragement from non-productive farming and loss of investment were major causes for their involvement in trafficking.

Pittaya said the government should make more money available to improve the standard of living of hill tribes to keep them from being involved in the drug trade.

He said that the “First War on Drugs” had helped reduce the amount of drugs in hill tribe villages. The campaign had also led to many properties being confiscated from drug dealers.

Monks and academics condemn use of Buddhist decor in hotels

Inappropriate Buddha images in hotels can cause offence

Nopniwat Krailerg

Monks and some academics have condemned the use of Buddhist decor in many hotels in Chiang Mai. They have petitioned Chiang Mai Governor Suwat Tantipat and the National Buddhism Office to express their objections. Some of the architecture and decor used in hotels might cause misunderstanding in tourists, according to the petition.

The action was sparked by the seminar on “Moral Precepts in Building Chiang Mai City” that was organized by Chiang Mai University’s Social Research Institute and Art and Culture Office of Rajabhat Chiang Mai University on October 30 at the Maha Chulalongkorn University at Wat Suan Dok.

Monks watch video recordings showing temple-like decor claimed as being misused in many hotels in Chiang Mai.

According to the seminar, the opposition was raised to the use of Wihara pillars to decorate lobbies and use of Buddha image and tiered umbrellas as decorations. Seminar participants also criticized hotels whose decor simulated temples. Nagas and Singhas, which are also symbols of Buddhism, are often used in places of accommodation and restaurants and are deemed inappropriate and offensive by many followers of Buddhism.

Gerk Akkrachinores from Maha Chulalongkorn University said that all decorations of Buddhism art and architecture might be eye-catching for outsiders and tourists, but it was improper for Lanna people to use them.

Sarin Hinkong, a lecturer at the Maha Chulalongkorn University, proposed further discussion on the improper uses of Buddhist architecture and decoration at the monthly meeting of Chiang Mai monks held at Wat Pra Singh on November 2. Over 150 senior monks took part and voiced strong criticism.

Chamlong Kittisri, director of the National Buddhism Office, said that he was informed about the conflict but had not yet inspected the hotels. Chamlong admitted that the hotel industry made a significant contribution towards solving unemployment, but the use of Buddhist architecture and arts at these hotels needed to be inspected by specialist officials. He sent a petition to Governor Suwat and the National Buddhism Office for further inspection and discussion.

“Deciding whether Chiang Mai hotels have acted incorrectly will take time,” said Chamlong.

The Act of Ancient Ruins (1992) covers only prohibition of reproduction of ancient objects but not ancient places, so the Act could not be enforced on the hotels, said Sahawat Naennar, director of the 8th Fine Arts Office, Chiang Mai. Reproduction of Buddhist decoration on any buildings therefore had to be considered on a matter of appropriateness only, said Sahawat.

The MICE Market

Chasing meetings, incentives, conventions, exhibitions

Reinhard Hohler

Did you know that the average meeting has 23 participants, the average congress has 122 participants, and the average incentive has 58 participants?

Did you know that innovative hotels are organizing an average of 24 events per year and event marketing is the newest trend in hospitality and tourism?

Now general managers, sales directors and F&B directors can learn the basics of marketing, organizing and delivering MICE and Event “happenings” during a two day seminar of implementing “Chasing MICE and Events” presented by Bert van Walbeek in Chiang Mai on November 22-23, 2004.

In 10 separate modules, that involve interactive communication, case studies, role playing and many handouts, this training program will be executed in a combination of theoretical information and realistic, market orientated feedback.

General managers, who are looking for new marketing opportunities, sales directors and managers, who want to increase yields through niche MICE marketing, F&B directors and managers, who want to promote their services through Event Marketing can join this interesting seminar.

Investment fee is 5,555 baht p.p. (excluding 7 percent Vat) for full 2 day conference registration. Fee includes lunch (x2), coffee/tea breaks (x4) and complete documentation/work book.

Conference Venue is Rydges Amora Tapae Chiang Mai Hotel, both days from 9.00 a.m. - 5 p.m. For further information, contact Bert van Walbeek by e-mail [email protected]://

Thai Truck Center tackles waste of fuel and money

Autsadaporn Kamthai

Did you know that about 33 million trips are made around Thailand by empty trucks every year? That is equivalent to almost half of all the truck transport in the country, according to the director general of the Land Transport Department.

Piyapan Champasut, director general of Land Transport Department.

In light of the high cost of the 1.5 billion liters of fuel (about 22 billion baht) used by empty trucks on our roads, a “Thai Truck Center” has now been established to reduce the waste of government money and fuel, the director general, Piyapan Champasut, has announced.

The department arranged a seminar on “Reduction of Fuel Waste from Empty Trucks” at the Empress Hotel, Chiang Mai on November 9 to introduce the center and new measure to Chiang Mai people.

“It aims to reduce the occurrence of empty trucks by 40 percent within five years with the support of the Energy Policy and Planning Office in the Ministry of Energy, which has allocated 9.8 million baht to the department,” Piyapan said.

The coordination center of the project includes the website and Bangkok-based call center 0-2272-5222.

“The center will benefit both customers and transport companies because previously there were no centers to communicate and exchange details of their needs,” said the director general.

The seminar was also held in other major centers to assist in co-ordinating loads for return trips for the trucking companies.

PAO splashes out 216 million baht from special fund

Political interference intimated

Nopniwat Krailerg

A proposal to spend over 216 million baht of the Chiang Mai Provincial Administration Organization (PAO) special savings fund to relieve flood-damaged areas in Mae Ai and Omkoi districts of Chiang Mai has been given the green light.

Thawatwong Na Chiangmai, the president of Chiang Mai Provincial Organization Administration (PAO), presides over its extraordinary assembly.

Thawatwong Na Chiangmai, president of the PAO, proposed the capital expenditure, and 28 of the 41 members voted for the measure. The PAO special fund now stands at 127 million baht.

The money will be spent to repair damaged bridges and roads, especially in Omkoi that has been made a pilot district for the government’s poverty eradication campaign.

Apart from helping rural areas, part of the funds will be used to promote tourist attraction sites in Chiang Mai. Some of the money will also be used boost PAO infrastructure, since it has been appointed to administer and supervise more organizations, which requires more personnel, equipment and hardware.

PAO members who voted against the budget allocation, however, claimed lack of transparency. Narong Chunkaew, member for Mae Taeng district, Zone 2, said the way 17 million baht was allocated to Phrao district, 15 million baht to San Sai district and five million baht to Muang district was “not transparent”.

Areas which received bigger budgets are said to be in a constituency where the Democrat Party has run an intense campaign and the candidate for this constituency zone is reported to be a relative of the PAO president.

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.

Lanna OTOP products come out tops

Nopniwat Krailerg

Almost 50 percent of Lanna One Tambon One Product (OTOP) products have been given a five-star rating.

This year’s OTOP selection was made between November 4-8 at the Chiang Mai Phucome Hotel, one of 17 venues countrywide designated by the OTOP selection committee.

Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Lampang, Lamphun, Mae Hong Son, Payap, Phrae and Nan were grouped together.

Dr Pornchai Luengarpapong, chairman of the OTOP selection committee, said that 4,404 products in six categories were entered in this year’s selection.

1,969 items of all approved products scored more than 70 points, including 309 food products, 99 beverages, 459 clothes, 849 decorations, 218 arts and souvenirs and 35 herbs.

Dr Pornchai said that, in the Lanna cluster, Chiang Mai had the largest number of OTOPs and the committee will help in promoting all products that have earned five stars. All chosen OTOPs will be sent to the summit OTOP selection that will be held in Bangkok.

Democrat Party campaigns in Chiang Mai for 2005 elections

Points to rising debt levels throughout the country

Saksit Meesubkwang

Campaigning for next year’s elections has started, with the Democrat Party holding a rally at Chiang Mai University’s Art Museum on November 4.

Democrat Party leader Banyat Bantadtan (right) shakes hands with Thawatwong Na Chiangmai (second left), president of the Chiang Mai Provincial Administration Organization (PAO).

Democrat Party members, including party leader Banyat Bantadtan, deputy leaders Apisith Wetchachiwa and Kanyanee Sophonpanich, party secretary Pradith Rattanaprasith, and party administrator Dr Surin Pitsuwan, took part, with over 10,000 Chiang Mai residents attending the rally.

The five policies of the Democrat Party were announced - scholarships for students, employment opportunities after graduation, eradicating both legal and illegal debts, a special allowance for over 60s and free medical treatment.

Candidates for Chiang Mai constituency zones were introduced including Dr Duentemduang Na Chiangmai (Zone 1), Jakkawarn Wannawong (Zone 2), U-dom Worawal (Zone 3), Kingkarn Na Chaingmai (Zone 4), Pongprayoon Rach-a-pai (Zone 5), Silpachai Kumchoo (Zone 6), Saneh Surin (Zone 7), Supachai Nimmanhemin (Zone 8), and Prasith Wuttinamchai (Zone 10).

Deputy leader Apisit Wetchachiwa compared the Chuan and Thaksin administrations to show that the former had not caused as much debt among Thai people as Thaksin’s policies.

Before the Thaksin government, the average value of debt of Thai people was only 65,000 baht per capita. After three years of the Thaksin administration and his economic policy, however, that figure had risen to 110,000 baht, according to Apisit. More government loans taken out by the people had increased their debts.

Apisith also pointed out that economic growth has benefited only a few companies that operate mobile phone and vehicle businesses, not people at grassroots levels. He claimed that trade agreements that Thaksin has signed with China and other trading partners on behalf of the country only benefit satellite and mobile phone companies.

“Thai Rak Thai is a real mafia party that uses state authority to force politicians to join it,” criticized Apisith. “This goes against its policy of eradicating all influential or mafia persons from the country.”

Apisith denounced PM Thaksin’s personal aircraft that cost 2 billion baht, which was bought with Thai people’s taxes. “The money could have been shared with local people and helped develop many rural areas instead of being wasted,” said Apisith.

Other Democrat Party regional campaigns were staged in Lamphun, Lampang, Chiang Rai, Phrae and Nan.

Concentrated crackdown on youth sex traffickers

Saksit Meesubkwang

The World Vision Foundation of Thailand and other non-governmental organizations as well as government agencies are working together to assist youths under 18 experiencing sexual abuse in Chiang Mai.

Jaruwan Siri, coordinator of the World Vision Foundation of Thailand, announces the launch of the Child Sex Tourism Prevention Project.

“World Vision has coordinated efforts with another 10 NGOs to establish the ‘Child Sex Tourism Prevention Project’ to assist and rescue youths under 18 from sex trafficking,” said the coordinator, Jaruwan Siri, at a press conference in Chiang Mai on November 2. “Initially, it is being run in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chonburi and Phuket and will expand to other cities to combat the problem of child sex trade,” Jaruwan said.

The Social Development and Human Security Ministry, Tourism and Sport Ministry and the Royal Thai Police are also involved in the project.

The primary aims of the project are to protect children from being sexually abused by foreign tourists and to establish networks to work on the issue and strictly enforce the law against pedophiles.

“The number of sexually abused children in Thailand has gradually increased,” said Jaruwan. Some children have been tricked by offers of selling garlands, but in fact they were sent out into the sex trade, especially females, according to Jaruwan.

Chiang Mai Deputy Governor Kwanchai Wongnitikorn said that the project corresponds with government policy to suppress international sex trafficking. He asked all organizations to work strictly on the problem to achieve the goals. “We don’t want any tourists looking for child sex workers in our province any longer,” said Kwanchai.

Night Safari construction 70 percent complete

Nopniwat Krailerg

Deputy Prime Minister Suwat Liptapanlop and Plodprasob Surassawadee, advisor to the prime minister and chairman of the Night Safari Study and Working Committee, visited Chiang Mai’s Night Safari construction site on November 7. Located in tambon Mae Hia, Muang district, the construction is 70 percent complete.

The animal enclosure is set to be finished by next month and some areas of the Night Safari will be opened to the public on April 13 next year.

Deputy PM Suwat suggested to the Night Safari committee that the entrance road was too narrow and an environmental impact study should be conducted to guarantee there was no negative effect on the local people.

He also suggested the committee submit a proposal to the cabinet to promote the Night Safari under the supervision of the Organization of Special Area Development for Sustainable Tourism and propose a 300 million baht budget for administration and management on animals and another 600 million baht for construction of an elephant display zone.

Suwat also urged the committee to draw up a summary for appropriate administration of the Night Safari.

The complete construction is expected to be completed within next two years. A total of 1.1 billion baht has been spent on the Night Safari project to promote it as a new form of eco-tourism.

Czech entry into EU good news for Thailand

Autsadaporn Kamthai

The entry of the Czech Republic into the European Union could provide great marketing channels for Thai entrepreneurs to other European markets. So says Petr Kolar, deputy minister of foreign affairs of the Czech Republic, explaining that exportation is crucial to strengthening competitiveness of both countries.

He was speaking on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of Czech-Thai diplomatic relations at a seminar entitled “New Opportunities for Thai Businessmen in the Czech Republic after the entry into the European Union”. It was held at the Sheraton Hotel and arranged jointly between the embassy of the Czech Republic, the Chiang Mai Chamber of Commerce and Chiang Mai Tourism Business Association.

“Subsequent to the Czech Republic entering the EU, the Czech Ministry of Industry and Trade aims to draw more foreign investment to the country,” said Stanis Lav, the ministry’s representative.

Thailand is the biggest trading partner of the Czech Republic in Southeast Asia, and annual turnover of Czech-Thai trade is over 14 billion baht.

Thai exports to the Czech Republic include auto and computer parts, jewelry, fresh fruit and IT goods. Entry into the EU will benefit other trade partners as its duty is decreased on goods like silk yarn, switch relays, jewelry and furniture.

Main imports from the Czech Republic include machinery (metal cutting and shaping machines), power equipment, defense systems, milk powder and products, textile and leather machines, transport equipment (electric vehicles), glass, crystal and beer.

“The Czech Republic has farsightedness in terms of trade, and Chiang Mai has great potential that will lead to more trade between the two countries,” said Chiang Mai Mayor Boonlert Buranupakorn.

Poultry runs cleaned to thwart return of bird flu

Autsadaporn Kamthai

To prevent a recurrence of the bird flu epidemic, Chiang Mai municipal officers and public health volunteers cleaned and disinfected all poultry runs within the municipal areas on November 9.

Chiang Mai Mayor Boonlert Buranupakorn (second right) talks to municipal officers before they go out to clean poultry runs in Chiang Mai municipal areas.

In all, 1,201 poultry runs in Nakorn Ping, Sri Wichai, Meng Rai and Kawila zones were cleaned.

“Though there have not been any reports of bird flu within Chiang Mai municipal areas, the municipality has taken precautionary measures since September,” Mayor Boonlert Buranupakorn said.

Almost 400 local residents have been trained as public health volunteers to keep a watch for any sign of the epidemic, observe poultry and report to the municipality.

“All poultry infected by bird flu would be destroyed in the municipal incinerators,” the mayor said.

Expect beefed up security during Loy Krathong and New Year festivals

Saksit Meesubkwang

The Provincial Police Bureau Region 5, led by Pol Lt Gen Panupong Singhara Na Ayutthaya, has called on commanders of provincial police divisions in the eight northern provinces to plan to ensure tourist security during Loy Krathong and the New Year festivals.

Pol Lt Gen Panupong Singhara Na Ayutthaya (second right), commissioner of the Provincial Police Bureau Region 5 discusses safety precautions with officers and commanders from eight northern provinces.

Pol Lt Gen Panupong said on November 4 that all police commanders must institute 24 hour patrols at important tourist sites during the festivals. Many visitors would arrive in Chiang Mai for these events and the police have to also prepare measures to prevent traffic jams.

The Provincial Police Bureau Region 5 would study the previous year’s operation to learn from mistakes and improve its working system, said Pol Lt Gen Panupong.

He appealed to everyone to be careful when handling fireworks. Police will keep a watch on festivities in order to prevent injuries to others.

Economy in the North improved up to September

Saksit Meesubkwang and Autsadaporn Kamthai

The overall economic situation of the North in the period between January and September has improved significantly, thanks to investments by the private sector, especially in construction and exports.

Warodom Nuntanawongsa, manager of the Banknote Management Center, Chiang Mai, Bank of Thailand (BoT).

Warodom Nuntanawongsa, manager of the Banknote Management Center, Chiang Mai, Bank of Thailand announced this at a press conference on November 1.

Investments of the private sector for approved projects increased by 73.4 percent, a record improvement in the last four years. More investment money has been put into the production of electronic parts, agricultural products and vehicle parts in the North. However, there was a slowing down noted due to the escalation of risk caused by an upsurge in the oil price and decline of investors’ trust in the stability of global economy,” said Warodom.

Between January and September, exports of electronics parts and electrical appliances produced by the Northern Industrial Estate in Lamphun increased by 34 percent. The exports resulted from increasing demand during the first half of the year when the football European Cup and Olympics took place.

Service industry growth showed satisfactory levels because of both governmental and non-governmental seminars that were held in the North, intense competition of low-cost airlines and less anxiety from the SARS epidemic, declared Warodom. Because of these factors, hotel room occupancy rose by 45.5 percent, and the volume of tourists arriving at Chiang Mai International Airport increased by 44.1 percent.

But the rising oil price and uncertainty in adjustment of the excise tax rate and waiting for a new series of vehicles triggered a 13.9 percent drop in the amount of vehicle registrations over the same period compared to last year, and 33.8 percent drop in motorcycle plate registrations. However, electricity consumption of households in the North increased year-on-year by 2.4 percent.

Spotlight falls on gunmen, influential persons and corrupt police

Saksit Meesubkwang

Gunmen for hire and other influential persons are being hunted by the police ahead of the forthcoming elections next year, the commissioner of the Provincial Police Bureau Region 5 has revealed.

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

Pol Lt Gen Panupong Singhara Na Ayutthaya said police have studied the backgrounds and are keeping watch on gunmen and influential persons in the region.

Police would be able to keep all of them under control to prevent crime during election season, he said. Some had already been arrested and incriminating evidence seized.

“A small number of them are still under suspicion and the police have tried to move them out of the region,” said the commissioner. Some of them are reported to have moved to Myanmar to escape police observation.

“All gunmen and influential persons will be charged if they are found guilty of having committed any crimes,” Pol Lt Gen Panupong said.

Regarding corrupt police who assist politicians, Pol Lt Gen Panupong said these would be removed to posts at the Provincial Police Bureau Region 5. So far, this has already happened to three allegedly corrupt policemen after petitions from the public were submitted. A committee will be formed to investigate the accusations.

“Regional Election Centers and Provincial Election Centers in eight northern provinces have been opened by the Provincial Police Bureau Region 5 to receive petitions from the general public alleging police corruption,” the commissioner added.

Chiang Man community ‘a model for others’

Autsadaporn Kamthai

The Chiang Man community has been designated a pilot village for the government’s new SML fund scheme.

It was the first community in the Chiang Mai municipal area to gain government approval to receive SML funds of 250,000 baht to spend on developing the community, according to Prakorn Buranuprakorn, chairman of the Thai Rak Thai advisors in Chiang Mai.

“The community has great potential and good administration systems,” Prakorn said. The SML funds will be used to increase the potential of the community and for the construction of a community center.

Chiang Man is a medium sized community in tambon Sri Phoom. Temple, households and schools are crucial factors for its administration. The community has been a model for administrators from other provinces and communities to study its internal administration system.

After Chiang Man, other communities will receive the government’s SML funds. Small communities will get 200,000 baht, medium sized ones 250,000 baht and large communities 300,000 baht.

The funds will be managed by the communities themselves. While someone must benefit from the Thaksin largesse, it is hard to imagine that 250,000 baht will go far to build a community centre. Or perhaps it will be a very small one?

Care and treatment for People Living with HIV/AIDS (PWHAs)

Health Development Network (HDN)

On October 26, the Health and Development Networks (HDN) hosted its monthly NGO forum in Chiang Mai to discuss the topic “A needs assessment: what is good care for people living with HIV/AIDS?” This topic arose from the September discussion of holistic health care for people living with HIV/AIDS (PWHAs).

Three panelists discussed their perspectives based on their background in psychology/emotional health, herbal medicine, as well as TB and HIV/AIDS.

Sivalee Kasemsilpa, the first panelist specialized in psychology and emotional health, raised the importance of understanding the function of one’s mind and body. It was noted by the speaker that it is important to keep our mind positive to keep from drowning.

People must understand that the source of happiness is caused by external and internal factors, according to Sivalee. Experience, knowledge and attitude shape how their mind will process and react to external and internal factors. People can prevent these factors from affecting their mind by (1) not approaching them (external); and (2) controlling how our mind will process and react to them (external and internal). It is suggested that it is crucial that people’s minds remain positive in order to lead them healthy life.

The second panelist, Colonel Chainarong Na Chiangmai, provided his perspectives as a practitioner of Thai traditional herbal medicine. He discussed how treating the “mind and body” should be the priority in caring for PWHAs. The theories of Thai holistic treatment argue that human body is made up of earth, water, air, fire and metal. The climate and consumer behavior of people are some factors that cause imbalance of these five elements. So, it is possible to prevent opportunistic infection and help PWHA cope with pain by addressing the imbalance along with the use of herbal supplements and acupressure.

Through traditional holistic approach, he explained that patients who were successfully treated for opportunistic infections maintained a healthy lifestyle by observing their food intake and living in a clean environment. Those who underwent treatment but succumbed to the opportunistic infections were those who came at the final stages or did not maintain the recommended healthy lifestyle.

The third panelist from the tuberculosis (TB) and HIV/AIDS health sector, Sumalee Amarinsangpan, said that healthy individuals and PHWAs both carry the risk of contracting various types of opportunistic infections including TB. The probability of successfully treating such infections depends on early detection and receiving continued treatment. PWHAs require longer treatment and have higher risks of contracting and succumbing to opportunistic infections due to a weaker immune system (i.e. low white blood cell count).

TB can arise in different parts of the body and is contagious through respiratory and digestive system. The symptoms of TB range from coughing heavily for more than two weeks with phlegm, coughing up blood, or running a high fever. If these symptoms are identified, immediate medical check-up is recommended and is covered by the national 30 baht Health Scheme.

It is important that patients with TB symptoms do not share utensils, as well as close their mouth when coughing or sneezing in preventing others from contracting TB. Since TB virus found in phlegm has a life expectancy of three days after leaving the body, it is recommended to burn clothes of TB patients instead of throwing them away. Patients should receive continued care and live in clean and dry environment in order to be successfully treated. If patients are not consistent in their drug intake, they risk the chance of affecting others and will not be cured.

The discussion that followed the presentation of the panelists mainly concerned addressing the problem of TB or HIV/AIDS infected individuals being treated as pariah in the society.

Sansoen Duangdee, the moderator, concluded that infected individuals should continue to lead a normal life. As long as they practice the recommended preventive measures to not infect others, they can live normally with their family and in the society.

Ex-student arrested for stealing to pay for gambling

Saksit Meesubkwang

A former student has been arrested for stealing equipment worth over a million baht from Mae Jo and Chiang Mai universities to pay for football gambling debts.

Chakrit Pikkhunee (left), a former student of Mae Jo University’s engineering faculty, was arrested for theft. A press conference announcing this arrest was held by Pol Lt Gen Panupong Singhara Na Ayuthaya (right), commissioner of the Provincial Police Bureau Region 5.

Chakrit Pikkhunee, 23, a former student of Mae Jo University’s engineering faculty, was arrested on November 6. Three computers, a Honda Civic car, projector, university student’s uniform and equipment to jimmy open doors were seized.

The two universities earlier had notified the police 20 items of equipment costing about two million baht had been stolen.

Pol Lt Gen Panupong Singhara Na Ayuthaya, commissioner of the Provincial Police Bureau Region 5, said that Chakrit was no longer a member of the faculty but he still wore the university’s uniform to wander around the campus. He allegedly stole from the university for over two years during lunchtime or breaks.

Chakrit said that he sold the stolen equipment to a middleman in Bangkok to pay for his football gambling habit. He would bet at least 15,000 baht on every important match, especially during the Premier League and the German Bundesliga.

Pol Lt Gen Panupong said he believed there might be a gang behind Chakrit. “It is incredible that he would perform this illegal job alone,” he said.

Pol Lt Gen Panupong also said Chakrit’s behavior showed that there were still many football gambling dens in Chiang Mai. He appealed to the public and press to inform the police about the existence of any gambling dens.

“If any police officers fail to act against gambling dens in their areas of responsibility, they will be transferred - irrespective of their position,” said the commissioner.

Student dies in freak accident while playing basketball

Saksit Meesubkwang

An 11-year-old Santi Suksa School student, Ratchanont Pratarn, died of a brain haemorrhage after playing basketball with his school friends.

After hitting his head, he was sent to the school’s medical care room for basic treatment, where a teacher gave him a pill to relieve his pain. After that, he attended Muslim prayers as usual, but after 10 minutes he complained of severe head pains and was sent to the Mother and Child Health Hospital.

However, he died before arriving at the hospital, said Dr Weerachai Jitrapiangkarnkar. He had stopped breathing on the way. Dr Weerachai put the cause of death as a brain haemorrhage.

The boy’s parents, Winai, 35, and Malee Pratarn, 28, expressed dissatisfaction with the school and teachers. Winai said that the school lacked a safety system and neglected to observe his son’s symptoms thoroughly.

“My son should have been sent to the hospital earlier,” said Winai. He plans to send a petition to the Ministry of Education.

He also notified the police at Muang District police station. The police will investigate the case but cannot apportion blame at this stage.

Sornchai Chokchaiwong, owner of Santi Suksa School, said that he had to hear details of the incident from witnesses before he could comment, as he was not present when the accident occurred.

“Nobody wished this tragic incident to occur and the school will compensate the parents if there is any evidence to prove the school’s negligence,” said Sornchai.

Monk arrested on charges of using and trafficking drugs

Some people have dirty habits

Nopniwat Krailerg

A 33-year-old monk, Narin Tosedthee, known as “Narin To”, was arrested on November 4 at Wat Ram Peung Tapotaram in tambon Suthep, Chiang Mai in connection with using and trafficking drugs.

Pol Lt Maj Boonyawat Kerdklum, deputy commander of Phuping police station, and other officers armed with a warrant searched the monk’s room at the temple. They found 20,000 baht in cash, pornographic VCDs and photographs, as well as condoms. Narin was made to undergo a urine test which showed he had taken drugs.

The accused confessed to having bought the drugs from another monk for his private use and to sell to other drug addicts. However, no drugs were found at the scene.

Narin said the money had been donated and belonged to the temple, so he handed it to the abbot, who thanked him and promptly asked him to leave the monkhood.

Narin confessed that he took ya ba pills with another monk named Somkit at his room the night before the arrest. He obtained 20 tablets when he went out to study at Wat Pra Singh. He shared the ya ba with other monks, he claimed, and sold the rest to some teenagers at 200 baht a tablet.

The police revealed they have secretly bought ya ba tablets from Narin many times in an undercover operation and observed his behavior for months. During this time, they have been investigating him to catch other monks involved in the drug trade.

Public officials implicated in selling fake IDs

Nopniwat Krailerg

Seven public officials in Mae Chaem district, including a senior assistant district chief officer, have been fingered for producing fake ID cards which they were selling at 200,000 baht each.

The seven consist of four government officials and three residents, made up of administration officials in the census registrar section, village headmen and middlemen in Chiang Mai.

They were implicated in producing counterfeit ID cards for alien laborers and drug traffickers after a suspected Burmese drug trafficker carrying a fake card with a Thai name was apprehended on Loi Kroh Road, Muang district, Chiang Mai on October 9.

An investigation team under the supervision of Pol Col Chamnarn Ruadrew, deputy commander of the Chiang Mai Provincial police station, was appointed to investigate the case. It has now been referred to the Office of National Counter Corruption Commission as four of the alleged wrongdoers are government officials.

Police with an arrest warrant searched a room on Kotchasarn Road for a young Burmese woman named Arporn Sey Sian, who was suspected to be a marijuana trafficker and alien laborer carrying a fake ID card.

In the room, the police became suspicious when her Thai ID card gave her age as 19 years although she appeared to be older, and because she could not speak, read or write Thai.

It was later revealed that her real name was Pan, 23 years old, and she is a Thai Yai with Burmese nationality who entered Thailand illegally through Mae Hong Son province and worked there for two years.

She previously worked at a beer bar on Loi Kroh Road eight years ago and has a New Zealand husband who visits her occasionally.

Pan confessed that officials in Mae Chaem district earlier this year produced her fake ID, for which she paid 200,000. She also confessed that the marijuana was bought from a man in tambon Mae Ta Man, Mae Chaem district. She sold it in portions to foreigners on Loi Kroh Road for between 150-500 baht.

After the arrest, the police discovered that a gang had hired village middlemen to trick house owners into signing child admission documents. After this the ID was made up to have the aliens’ photos and bogus Thai names.

A news source said that the gang had done this several times, cashing in large amounts of money. Most fake ID buyers are rich drug traffickers.

Chiang Mai Governor Suwat Tantipat said that he had set up a committee to examine the evidence and strictly enforce the law in every district. If public officers were found to have taken part in this illegal activity, they would face criminal charges as it dealt with the government’s reputation and national security.