HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

ICTC opens at Chiang Mai Immigration

Chiang Mai Municipality has 763 million baht budget for 2005 fiscal year

Pigs, pigs and more pigs coming from Belgium

The effect of FTAs on Thai Education

New Year’s road toll discussed, alcohol indicted

Afghan delegation visit

The Japanese Emperor’s 71st birthday marked in Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai Winter Fair almost here

Minister of Natural Resources and Environment visits Chiang Mai Zoo

Claims of skeletons and buried treasure in Mae Hong Son

Entertainment outlets hit with noise abatement

Buddhists still up in arms on hotel’s use of Buddhist items

Burmese regime actively suppressing Kaya Karen, close to Mae Hong Son

Chiang Mai students star in pornographic video

Four kidnappers arrested in Mae Ai

ICTC opens at Chiang Mai Immigration

The new Thailand Immigration Bureau Commissioner, Pol. Lt. Gen. Amarin Niemsakul opened the Information, Communication and Technology Centre (ICTC) at Chiang Mai Immigration on Airport Road on December 9.

‘Friends of Chiang Mai Immigration’ after the presentation of plaques.

The new computer network links the administration, investigation and service (visa) sections in preparation for the introduction of the National Data system currently under development and trial in Bangkok.

More than 200,000 baht worth of equipment was donated by local businesses and “Korr-Torr-Torr-Row” (KTTR - the National Police Monitoring Committee). Pol. Lt. Col. Kanokpun Roobkajorn, inspector in charge of administration said, “Local companies and individuals were happy to help with equipment and services for the new computer room, and we are most grateful for their assistance.”

Foreign Advisor and KTTR committee member Alastair Connon demonstrated the new system and gave a PowerPoint presentation to the commissioner.

The commissioner and Chiang Mai’s new superintendent, Pol. Col. Phirojana Paresakul, presented letters of appreciation and a commemorative plaque to the ‘Friends of Chiang Mai Immigration’ after the opening ceremony.

A new coffee shop “De Tor Mor” was also opened next to the visa section for visa applicants.

Chiang Mai Municipality has 763 million baht budget for 2005 fiscal year

Estimates 741 million in expenses

Nopniwat Krailerg

Chiang Mai Municipality has estimated it will receive 763,857,000 baht in revenue but also has 741,217,250 baht expenses for this coming 2005 fiscal year.

The budget will be divided into: 229,256,580 baht for the Public Works office, 145,334,870 baht for the Permanent Secretary’s Office, 74,278,560 baht for the Health and Environment Department, 774,640 for the Medical Department, and 724,170 baht for the Internal Audit Offices.

Bird’s eye view of downtown Chiang Mai and municipal areas.

In 2005, 31 projects are expected, including roads, footpaths, drainage, crossing lights and cremation furnaces; school buildings and other maintenance.

Part of the budget will be used for buying two blocks of two storey detached buildings for 7 million baht, constructing smokeless cremation furnaces at Sun Ku Rek graveyards for 6.7 million baht, and installing crossing lights for 5.2 million baht.

Munus Sirimaharaj, Chiang Mai deputy mayor declared that most of the expenses for the upcoming year would be for improving the standard of living of urban citizens. More green areas would be reserved to make Chiang Mai a non-pollution city. The public utilities and benefits would be developed. Chiang Mai would be encouraged to become a developed city with pleasant tourist sites and preservation of local cultures.

Chiang Mai citizens would also be encouraged to participate in administration, where some of the budget would be poured into social and communal services, domestic and community projects, public heath plans, education, and social welfare.

These plans are aimed to develop the environment, electricity, health of Chiang Mai people.

The budget will strengthen the efficiency of the garbage disposal system, decrease air pollution and improve water purification, traffic management and mass transport in the city area.

The 2005 budget expenses will be decentralized to four areas of the municipality: Nakhornping, Kawila, Meng Rai, and Sriwichai districts to distribute public services to urban peoples. These areas can be managed freely by the locals under the Chiang Mai municipality committees’ policies.

Pigs, pigs and more pigs coming from Belgium

Nopniwat Krailerg

The Belgian government has given 16 Pietrain pigs, weighing approximately 800 kilograms, to the Royal Project of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

16 Pietrain pigs from Belgium

The 16 pigs arrived at Chiang Mai International Airport on December 16. The pigs will be given to the Royal Project for breeding purposes.

Initially, the pigs have undergone health checks by the Livestock officials at the Animal Pedigree Research and Improvement Center in San Pathong district, Chiang Mai.

After 30 days quarantine, the Belgian government will carry out the official handing over ceremony to bestow the pigs to the Royal Project.

Komchak Pichaironnarongsongkram, an advisor at the Livestock Department, said that the pigs resulted from contact by Kamthon Sinthuwanont, with the Belgium Embassy to ask for the Pietrain pigs. His main aim is to help improve the pedigree of Thai mountain pigs because the Pietrain pigs have more muscle and less fat than Thai mountain pigs.

Pietrain pigs originated in Belgium and previously Thailand only received pigs from the United States and elsewhere, but never directly from Belgium.

The effect of FTAs on Thai Education

Saksit Meesubkwang

Assistant Prof Pong-in Rakariyatham, vice president of CMU’s academic department, says that most people view Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with Thailand as good for trade, investment and economic growth.

However, being a scholar who is familiar with Thai education for 30 years, he believes that FTAs will have both positive and negative effects on education.

In terms of business, foreign investors can put money into setting up universities with competitive tuition fees; resulting in more foreign universities to give more choices for Thai students.

As for the negative side, if our current Thai private universities fail to adapt their course syllabus or fail to buy modern educational equipment to compete with foreign universities, they must certainly be obliged to close down. As a result, this will all affect university education.

For the positive side, these foreign universities will give more chances to students because, so far, the competition between educational institutes is not obviously very great in Thailand. When the FTA begins to become implemented, foreign institutes will invest more and, as a consequence, this will stimulate all private and government Thai universities to develop their educational quality. In addition, parents of students who aim to continue to higher studies will have more choices on where to let their children study. It is not necessary go abroad to study as in the past. They can save a lot of money from travel expenses.

Assistant Prof. Pong-in Rakariyatham added that foreign universities that would like to join our Thai system should be prepared, concerning their academic personnel. They should open up more educational fields which our system still lacks, such as medicine, engineering and computer sciences studies. The costs involved in these fields are too high for the Thai system to invest. If the overseas universities are interested in launching these fields of study, it will give better chances for Thai students. However, the tuition fees will be higher than Thai government universities since the investment cost is comparatively high.

New Year’s road toll discussed, alcohol indicted

Go by bus – it’s safer

Saksit Meesubkwang

A meeting took place at Chiang Mai City Hall to discuss the New Year festival local road toll, which last year was recorded as 16 fatalities and 1,646 injured. The majority of these were in the city of Chiang Mai.

Chiang Mai deputy governor, Prinya Panthong holds a wreath in memory of last year’s victims.

Those present at the meeting included the Chiang Mai Provincial Disaster Relief Office, the Chiang Mai Provincial Lands transport Office, Chiang Mai Provincial police, Chiang Mai Public Health Office, the Department of Highways and Monk committees. The meeting was held for planning preventive measures to decrease the road toll.

The meeting was presided over by Prinya Panthong, Chiang Mai deputy governor, who said, “Accidents, casualties and property loss during the holiday festivals have been increasing each year. The cause of these road accidents is mostly due to drunkenness.” He added that during the festivals, people should not drink and drive.

Autsathai Rattanadilok Na Phuket, the Chief of the Chiang Mai provincial Lands Transport Office said, “The department always checks the mechanical condition of every vehicle used for public transport before it can go into service for the public and tourists during the New Year’s holidays. There are now 3760 buses from private companies to provide more services. The bus station will be open 24 hours a day from December 29 until January 4, and blankets are provided for passengers waiting at the station. For any request for information or emergencies, call 1584 to ask and to speak with our officers.

“Tourists coming to visit Chiang Mai should not be concerned about the bus service as all bus drivers will be checked for alcohol consumption. If there has been any consumption, the driver will be changed. For all destinations over 400 kilometers, a new driver will be substituted in each leg,” he added.

20 police checkpoints will be manned over the holiday period and public health officers will help inspect buses and private cars. High speed radar speed detectors will be used all around Chiang Mai. Coffee and drinking water will be provided for private cars.

(Considering that all previous statistics have shown that motorcyclists are the group most killed, it is doubtful that the emphasis on buses will affect the figures very much.)

Afghan delegation visit

Looking towards self development

Reinhard Hohler

In the context of a high-powered European Union development project, a seven person delegation from Afghanistan arrived in Chiang Mai to study alternative lifestyles, comparing the Eastern region of Afghanistan with conditions prevailing in Northern Thailand.

The Afghan delegation at Chiang Mai’s Tribal Museum.

Heimo Posamentier, adviser to the project and employed by the German Technical Co-operation (GTZ) International Service Asia, was welcomed by German Honorary Consul Hagen Dirksen, who arranged the program for the study tour.

As well as visiting the cultural jewel of Chiang Mai, Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, the group was introduced to the Northern Narcotics Control Office (NNCO) in Mae Rim. Its director, Pithaya Jinawat, gave an overview of the significance of the Golden Triangle opium production and Thailand’s successful opium eradication program. Very enlightening was the visit to the Chiang Mai Drug Dependence Treatment and Rehabilitation Center (CM-TRC) in Mae Rim, where Dr. Thirawat Wongtan revealed that there are 300,000 drug addicts in Thailand. The center treats 3,000 inpatients and 6,000 outpatients, and has a 50 percent success rate.

The highlight of the study tour was a two day excursion from Chiang Mai to Mae Hong Son to visit the project area of the former Thai-German Highland Development Program (TG-HDP). Leaving for Pai District in Mae Hong Son province on December 12, the group was welcomed by the ‘nai amphur’ and the Imam of the Al-Israa Mosque in Pai to underline that in Thailand members of different religions can peacefully live together (in the North at least).

Arriving in the Nam Lang area of the TG-HDP in the Pang Ma Pha District of Mae Hong Son, the Afghan delegation inspected the drug-free Lahu villages of Ban Bo Khrai and Ban Pha Charoen where the introduction of alternative development strategies had ultimately changed the livelihoods of the people.

The TG-HDP was established there in 1983 and is a showcase of an application of participatory, community-based approach to highland development throughout Southeast Asia. The TG-HDP ended in 1998 and was a joint effort between the Royal Thai Government and the Federal Republic of Germany conducted by the Office of the Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) and the German Technical Co-operation (GTZ).

In the final phase of the project, the focus was on assisting the villagers to manage their own natural resources, implementing an effective drug abuse control strategy, developing non-agricultural activities and disseminating technical know-how to institutions and areas beyond the targeted villages in the project.

After visiting the Tribal Museum in Chiang Mai’s Rama IX Park on December 14, the Afghan delegation left Chiang Mai with valuable insights and experiences. It is hoped that the lessons learned in Thailand will also apply to conditions in Afghanistan and that the Afghan government can successfully follow the path of development of its country for the foreseeable future.

The Japanese Emperor’s 71st birthday marked in Chiang Mai

Michael Vogt

Japan and Thailand have had a long association, much longer than most realize, going right back to the Ayutthaya period. There is also a closeness between the Imperial family of Japan and the Royal family of Thailand.

Since the Japanese Consulate General was established in Chiang Mai almost one year ago, the friendship between the two countries has expanded into Northern Thailand, and will be strengthened through a number of cultural festivities in early 2005.

CG Shinohara and his wife Tamiko meet the guests. (Photo by Nopniwat Krailerg)

Eight days before the Japanese Emperor’s official birthday on December 23, Chiang Mai’s diplomatic and business community, supported by dignitaries from Lamphun, Lampang, Mae Hong Son, Phrae and Phayao, assembled at the Sheraton’s Grand Ballroom to be individually met by Japanese Consul General Katsuhiro Shinohara and his wife Tamiko. After the two loyal toasts, everyone enjoyed a banquet of Japanese food and each other’s company.

The Japanese ladies also showed their pride in their culture with a most colorful display of beautiful traditional Kimonos.

Chiang Mai Winter Fair almost here

Saksit Meesubkwang

The Chiang Mai Winter Fair will be held over 13 days from December 29 to January 10. The area behind the Chiang Mai City Hall is the venue for the fair.

The fair will provide opportunities for governmental and non-governmental organizations to show their works and strategies to general public and for the Chiang Mai Red Cross to raise funds for its charity activities.

This upcoming Winter Fair will be more special than in previous years in that it would include census registration, tax payment, air ticket, train ticket and bus ticket purchases and petitions to the governmental organizations.

Intensive occupational training courses from the Chiang Mai Labor Skill Development Center and Chiang Mai Non Formal Education Center will also be available at the fair. Another activity is the orchid competition. The Miss Chiang Mai Pageant is another highlight.

Chiang Mai province is prepared to solve the problem of dust at the fair with what is hoped to be a dust-free car parking area for visitors.

Minister of Natural Resources and Environment visits Chiang Mai Zoo

Nopniwat Krailerg

The Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, Suwit Khunkitti, visited Chiang Mai Zoo on December 18 to review the Chiang Mai Zoo operation and development plan. He was welcomed by Sophon Kamnui, director of the Zoology Park Organization of Thailand and Thanaphat Pongpamorn, director of Chiang Mai Zoo and the zoo staff.

Minister of Natural Resource and Environment, Suwit Khunkitti with Chiang Mai children after visiting the pandas.

After the report on the zoo operation and development plan, Minister Suwit was taken to the Thai-Chinese friendship ambassador pandas Chuang Chuang and Lin Hui who have been resident in Chiang Mai for over one year. Chuang Chuang is now 140 kilograms in weight and Lin Hui is 90 kilograms. Both pandas’ weights have increased as they dine on bamboo leaves from the Ang Khang Royal Project.

Minister Suwit also visited the proposed construction site of the zoo’s aquarium. The government has earmarked 300 million baht of the year 2005 budget to support the project to be added to another 300 million baht from private investment. It is planned to start construction in 2005 and it will be completed by 2007.

Claims of skeletons and buried treasure in Mae Hong Son

Japanese government sends experts to investigate

Saksit Meesubkwang

The Japanese government has sent a team of experts from Japan’s Ministry of Public Health and Ministry of Environment to investigate claims that skeletons and brassware found in a cave in Pang Ma Pha district, Mae Hong Son are the remains of Japanese soldiers from WW II.

Tarakuso, one of the experts said that a Lahu living at Ban Kao Larm, Pang Ma Pha district, Mae Hong Son, sent a document to the Japanese government. He claimed that, while searching for bee hives last summer, the he and other hill tribe men found skeletons and brassware at the Pha Daeng cave which is on the old route used by Japanese soldiers during the WW II.

This month, Sahawat Naennar, director of the 8th Fine Art Office, Chiang Mai was assigned to inspect the area. Shinawut Winyalai, a C-6 archeologist has been sent to assist the Japanese and cooperate with the 336th Border Patrol Police Camp in tambon Pang Moo, Muang district, Mae Hong Son. The border patrol police were sent to guide them to the scene and take care of security around the cave.

The expert team entered the 30 meters deep cave with ropes and in front of the Pa Daeng cave, they found a hole 20 meters deep. Excavating the hole they found four skulls and other utensils, such as pots, axes, stone bracelets, and a crucible.

They will examine the skulls to see if they are the remains of Japanese soldiers from WW II. The skulls have been sent to the Fine Art Department for a detailed examination.

Lahu hill tribesmen living in the area said that they always find skulls in the cave. The elders said that the caves were refuges and a place used by Japanese soldiers as a treasure trove before the war ended. The villagers also believe that there are other caves where Japanese hid treasure and popular rumor says they are full of gold bars and valuable gems.

Entertainment outlets hit with noise abatement

Nopniwat Krailerg

Starting from December 18, entertainment outlets that produce noise over 91 decibels will be closed under the direction of Thailand’s Act of Public Health.

The X-Zone pub on Chiang Mai-Lamphun Road is the first outlet being charged under this provision of the Act. Its case has been submitted to Chiang Mai Governor Suwat Tantipat for consideration.

On December 12, prior to enforcement of the Act, 400 entertainment outlet owners were informed about the Public Health Act. This strict enforcement was a consequence of His Majesty the King’s concern on the light and sound in some of the entertainment outlets.

Apart from noise levels, the light from the outlets has to be safe for the club goers and each outlet has to furnish firefighting equipment and have clearly marked fire exits for customers. Despite warnings, some outlets still ignore the provisions of the Act.

During December 13-17, 30 district officials and municipal police were random checking outlets within Chiang Mai’s Muang district and found many of them did not keep the noise below the stipulated 91 dB, under the newly announced regulation. At that stage, the officials and municipal police just warned them to bring their places in line with the regulations.

Chiang Mai’s Muang District Chief Officer Chumporn Saengmanee said that the law would be strictly enforced after December 18. Apart from the noise control, if any outlets still violated the law by remaining open after 1 a.m., allowing teenagers to enter, have obscene shows, allow weapons inside or are not in possession of a license, they will be officially closed. The closure might be permanent.

Songsak Ma-ou, assistant to the Muang district chief officer, said that the licensed beer bars on Loi Kroh Road have to close at 1 a.m. He said that no more licenses would be issued for new outlets outside the zoning area.

Restaurants with no license that sell alcohol can continue to operate but must close at midnight. Restaurants could not be located nearby any temples, schools and hospitals, said Songsak.

Another prevalent problem was restaurants with hostesses for the customers that could be classified as entertainment outlets and would be also breaking the law, said Songsak.

Buddhists still up in arms on hotel’s use of Buddhist items

Autsadaporn Kamthai

The Buddhism Office and Chiang Mai Provincial Public Works and City Planning Office held a seminar on the “Buddhist Art and Lanna Architecture in the Globalization Age” at the Wat Loke Molee on December 8 to give the general public a better understanding on the appropriate use of Buddhist items and Lanna architecture.

Phra Buddha Pojana Varaporn, abbot of Chedi Luang Temple and Chiang Mai monks participate in the seminar to provide better understanding and raise awareness on appropriate use of Buddhist items at Wat Loke Molee.

During the seminar, Chiang Mai Buddhist Networks distributed a questionnaire asking participants’ opinions on the use of Buddhist items and symbols in commercial ways at many hotels in Chiang Mai. According to the questionnaire, 93 percent of respondents (of whom 26 percent were government officials, 20 percent were monks, and 13 percent were students), answered that the commercial use of Buddhist items is inappropriate while only 3 percent said it was suitable.

After this survey, suggestions were ranked in priority, beginning with one that the hotel should change the location where the Buddhist items are used, secondly move the hotel, third the hotel should be changed to become a museum for educational and conservation purposes and the hotel pay compensation to the local community as it violated residents’ rights in preserving their wisdom according to the Thai Constitution.

Some participants suggested that permission to allow hotel construction was improper. That reflected the weakness of the Monk Institute, the Office of National Buddhism and the Cultural Council.

On the other hand, Dhara Dhevi Chiang Mai assistant managing director, Wipawanee Buakheaw, revealed that the hotel intends to reproduce the Buddhism architecture for its staff and guests to pay respect, not to be used commercially, and have a strong intention to promote Buddhist arts.

Wipawanee added that following criticism about misplacement of many Buddhist items at the hotel, all of the items were removed.

Burmese regime actively suppressing Kaya Karen, close to Mae Hong Son

Saksit Meesubkwang

The suppression of minority groups took a turn for the worse after an incident 12 km from the border, when Burmese troops fired on a Kaya Karen camp. According to information received, the Burmese aggression was carried out according to the policy of Lt. Gen. Soe Win, Burma’s new prime minister. According to the intelligence source, Lt. Gen. Soe Win has begun hunting down the minority following the demands of Senior Gen. Tan Shwe.

Previous Prime Minister Khin Nyunt’s administration was said to compromise with the minority groups too much and went against the ideas of Senior Gen. Tan Shwe.

The latest attack took place on December 18, when Burmese troops positioned opposite Ban Na Kwai in tambon Pang Moo, Muang district, Mae Hong Son, attacked the Kaya Karen group which resided 12 kilometers from the Thai border, southward to Mae Hong Son’s Ban Nai Soi.

The Burmese troops fired on the Karen camp with mortars and the Karens responded with gunfire that could be heard in the Thai villages along the border areas. The attack went on for three hours.

During the attack, 500 soldiers from the 71st Infantry Division, 336th Border Patrol Police Camp, Mae Hong Son Territory Security Volunteers had been sent to positions at the borderline in case of invasion.

Decha Satthaphol, Mae Hong Son’s Muang district chief officer, has directed Thai officials to keep watch on the Burmese students who reside at the refuge camps in Mae Hong Son. Decha said he is confident that the attack would not affect Mae Hong Son tourism.

Chiang Mai students star in pornographic video

Staff Reporters

Former students of a famous Chiang Mai secondary school were hired by the producers of X-rated videos to perform sexual intercourse at the Huay Kaew Waterfall in tambon Suthep, Chiang Mai. The video has been distributed in Chiang Mai, selling for 200 baht.

Following the release of the pornographic videos, the school informed police that the young couple was former students who used to study at grade 8 level and had been dismissed from the school before they entered the X-rated film business.

Pol. Col. Prachuab Wongsukh, superintendent of Phu Ping Police Station, commanded the investigation police to trace the production team and its distribution network. After checking, the police ascertained the names of the two young students.

Pol. Col. Prachuab warned all parents, school and academic institutes and student superintendents to keep a watch on their student’s behavior. The police were also commanded to observe the Huay Kaew Park, Doi Suthep areas, and other entertainment outlets to prevent this incident from recurring.

It is reported that other university couples have acted for the X-rated video production team.

Four kidnappers arrested in Mae Ai

Asked for 10 million baht ransom

Staff reporters

Four kidnappers were arrested after abducting the son of a well known orange orchard owner in Mae Ai district, Chiang Mai.

The four men, a Chinese Haw Ped Poolar, two Lahu Java Jajae and Pranae and a Lisu Apeta Laoyeepar were arrested on December 19. They had 4 AK 47 rifles with them in Mae Ai district, Chiang Mai. Apeta claimed that he was a relative of the drug dealer, Laota Saenlee.

The four kidnappers dressed in Red Wa uniforms were armed with rifles when they abducted Chaiwat Kwanmorn, 19, the son of the orange orchard owner.

After the abduction they contacted Chaiwat’s parent to exchange his son for 10 million baht cash or else he would be killed. His parents asked for assistance from the commissioner of Provincial Police Bureau Region 5, Pol. Lt. Gen. Panupong Singhara Na Ayuthaya.

However, on their own, Chaiwat’s parents compromised with the kidnappers to reduce the ransom to six million baht. The parents handed over the agreed ransom and received their son back. The parents had not informed the police about handing over the ransom as they were worried about their son’s security.

After releasing Chaiwat, the police questioned him about his kidnappers and police set up a plan to arrest the gang.

The kidnappers confessed that they used the Red Wa uniforms to disguise themselves and shift the blame on the Red Wa troops.