Vol. IV No. 1 - Saturday January 1 - January 7. 2005
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HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Earthquakes and tidal waves bring 2004 to a close

Entertainment venues to stay open all night for New Year

Organic crops on display

Intellectual property on show during Xmas Fair

Chiang Mai Flower Festival 2005 and the general election to clash

Russian ambassador to promote Chiang Mai tourism

French government sponsor ONCB in eradication of narcotic crops

More taxis planned for Chiang Mai in 2005

Public Health Ministry wants us to be ready for expected casualties

Hill Tribes make merit on UN international rice day

The solution to pollution is not high on the public agenda

Cartoon characters coming to Kad Suan Kaew for National Children’s Day

Mae Ngad Dam has sufficient water to outlast the drought

Residents invited to improve the water quality in the Mae Kha Canal

Petrol stations are allowed to open 24 hours during festive season

Border drug suppression results in another death

Italian tourist dies from cold-induced asthma in Mae Hong Son

Differ Pub puts on unexpected Xmas illuminations

Earthquakes and tidal waves bring 2004 to a close

Burmese earthquake activity felt in Chiang Mai

Staff reporters

An earthquake with the magnitude of 6.4 on the Richter scale was felt in the northern part of Thailand at 8.30 a.m. on December 26. The epicenter of this earthquake was reported to be in Burma.

One tourist in Chiang Mai was reported injured after slipping down the stairs while she was running out of her condominium during the earth tremor.

There were two main shocks, and many aftershocks reported. The first earthquake, which only registered 1.8 on the Richter scale, hit Mae Moh district of Lampang, and the second, 2.0 on the Richter scale, reached Long district of Phrae. There were no reports of injuries or damage in the two provinces.

Almost simultaneously a huge earthquake registering 8.9 on the Richter scale, with the epicenter off Sumatra in Indonesia, caused tidal waves that swept across the region to Thailand, India and Sri Lanka.

Tens of thousands were killed and injured, including hundreds killed and thousands injured in Phuket when tidal waves 5-10 meters high tore through the coastal resort.

Other areas reporting injuries and devastation from tidal waves were Songkhla, Krabi, Phang Nga and Surat Thani.

Note: Chiang Mai Immigration has set up boxes for donations of all kinds, be it clothes, blankets or money, for the victims in Phuket. People can contact them if they want to assist.

Entertainment venues to stay open all night for New Year

The director-general of the Department of Provincial Administration, Sujarit Patchimnum announced that all night entertainment venues across the country will be allowed to extend their opening hours on New Year Eve, December 31, until 06:00 a.m. on January 1, 2005. (TNA

Organic crops on display

Royal Project introduces new vegetables

Saksit Meesubkwang

The Royal Project’s Organic Vegetables and Fruit Fair was held from December 23-26 at Chiang Mai University’s Art Museum, and was presided over by Khunying Chao Rawiporn Sujaritkul and HSH Prince Bhisadej Rajani, chairman of the Royal Project Foundation.

HSH Prince Bhisadej Rajani (3rd left), chairman of the Royal Project Foundation, and Ornnadda Tantipat (4th left) at the opening of the Royal Project Fair of organic vegetables and fruit at Chiang Mai University’s Art Museum.

Organic vegetables and fruits from the Royal Project Foundation were on sale at 20 booths and demonstrations of organic crops and winter crops were given.

Celebrities Warut “O” Woratham, Methanee “Nino” and Kelly Thanaphat demonstrated their favorite dishes using organic vegetable and fruits.

HSH Prince Bhisadej said that the new healthy vegetable from the Royal Project was a red carrot and this was introduced to people at the fair. The red carrots are sweeter than other types.

According to HSH Prince Bhisadej, the crops grown by the Royal Project have increased and at present there are approximately 80 types of crops plus other winter crops.

Sales of Royal Project produce bring in around 1 million baht a day to the project and its members, said HSH Prince Bhisadej.

Intellectual property on show during Xmas Fair

Nopniwat Krailerg

The Department of Intellectual Property (DIP) Fair was held at the Duang Tawan Hotel in Chiang Mai December 22-24, to provide information about copyright law. The fair was held for the benefit of the Thai Intellectual Property Defense Volunteers Association, special representatives of Thai Intellectual Property, OTOP and SMEs manufacturers, bank officers, and another 600 concerned people.

Anutin Charnveerakul, deputy commerce minister (right) and Suwat Tantipat, Chiang Mai governor.

Anutin Charnveerakul, deputy commerce minister, presided, with Kanitsorn Nawanukroh, DIP director general and Suwat Tantipat, Chiang Mai governor also assisting in the fair.

Deputy Commerce Minister Anutin said, “The DIP will encourage people to realize the importance of copyright. It is anticipated that, in 2005, copyright registrations will go up by 20 percent.

“DIP is now emphasizing youth education; therefore it’s crucial to coordinate with the Ministry of Education to make children realize the importance of intellectual property and creative thinking. This is a national concern,” said Anutin.

The DIP has a five year plan, from 2003-2008, to create the correct mentality and attitude towards intellectual property and to enlarge cooperative links between client countries, such as China, the United States, and Japan, including the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The Thai Rak Thai administration under PM Thaksin Shinawatra declared intellectual property to be an important policy in 2001. From then, the government has been strict on the policy and suppresses the issue of pirate CD and other items. In 2003, there were 5,509 cases of copyright infringement and more than five million copy merchandise items were confiscated.

Whilst the administration may be congratulating itself, it appears there are just as many vendors selling pirated goods to tourists as there were before.

Chiang Mai Flower Festival 2005 and the general election to clash

Organizers ask the MoI what to do

Staff Reporters

Chiang Mai province is contacting the Minister of Interior (MoI) and the Election Committee of Thailand (ECT) because the final day of the Chiang Mai Flower Festival (February 6, 2005) clashes with the election day.

There was concern that some candidates might use the festival for their election campaign by sponsoring activities. On the other hand, if the festival is postponed by a week, the festival organizers and the province will be affected as the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has publicized the festival dates worldwide.

Unsure of what to do, Chiang Mai Governor Suwat Tantipat called a meeting on December 19 to discuss the situation with other associated organizations. The meeting agreed that the province should contact the MoI and the ECT to ask for suggestions and consideration of the date.

“The province will follow the resolution from the MoI and the ECT regarding the flower festival and the nationwide general election,” said Suwat.

However, Suwat suggested that while waiting for the suggestion, the festival organizers should continue preparing for the festival or it would not be ready in time.

Russian ambassador to promote Chiang Mai tourism

Saksit Meesubkwang

Russian Ambassador to Thailand H.E. Yevgeny D. Ostrovenko met Chiang Mai Governor Suwat Tantipat on December 20 to discuss investment opportunities in technology and tourism between the two countries.

Governor Suwat suggested the ambassador should handle investment in technology and discuss this with the minister, since the matter is at a national level. The ambassador said Russia is looking at investments of up to one billion dollars in 2005.

The ambassador suggested that Chiang Mai and Russia could have tourism exchanges as they have such different weather and geography, said Suwat. The Russian ambassador and Chiang Mai governor plan to launch direct flights between Moscow and Chiang Mai to stimulate Russia-Chiang Mai tourism.

The Russian government grants 24 scholarships each year for Thai students to further their education in Russia, but scholarships are only for residents of Bangkok. The ambassador said it is his intention to extend these to regional students from Chiang Mai.

French government sponsor ONCB in eradication of narcotic crops

Autsadaporn Kamthai

Office of Narcotic Control Board (ONCB) called on all countries facing illicit narcotic crop cultivation problems to join a workshop on Utilization and Application of Satellite Imageries for Narcotic Crops Survey held during December 21-22 at Duang Tawan Hotel, Chiang Mai.

Initially, the ONCB knew of around 2 million hectares of potential opium poppy areas, covering 12 provinces of the Northern part of Thailand. It is noted that most people involved with the illicit crops are hill tribes in remote areas.

The ONCB has operated their Opium Eradication Campaign since 1984. Six years later the United States government introduced ground and aerial survey for opium poppy cultivation in remote areas. In 1987, the French government assisted the ONCB by sponsoring the use of SPOT Data to search for narcotic plantations.

The opium eradication campaign reduced narcotic crop areas from 8,776.64 hectares (54,854 rai) during 1984-1985 to 128.53 hectares (803.31 rai) in 2003-2004 so far, said Pol Maj Somchart Sawangnetr, deputy secretary-general of the Office of Narcotic Control Board.

The ONCB report shows that the most effective opium eradication during 2002-2004 was Loei, with 100 percent of opium crops eradicated, followed by Phitsanulok with 99 percent eradicated, Mae Hong Son with 98 percent eradicated and Chiang Mai with 91 percent of crops eradicated.

Conversely, the worst area for narcotic crop cultivation is Kampaengphet, as within the period of 4 years the area under cultivation has increased 260 percent.

With the support of the French government, the Regional Training Center for Narcotic Crops Survey has trained officials from both Thailand and neighboring countries. Lao PRD has eliminated 45 percent of its narcotic crops and Burma has reduced its cultivation by only 30 percent.

More taxis planned for Chiang Mai in 2005

But the drivers have to go to charm school

Nopniwat Krailerg

In the middle of January, a taxi call center will be established in front of the Chiang Mai Plaza Hotel on Sri Donchai Road, in the downtown area, instead of at the Nakorn Lanna Transport Cooperatives. More taxis will be put into service, and training courses will be held every Sunday for taxi drivers to ensure good service, politeness, and ability to communicate in English.

Singhkham Nunti, president of the Nakorn Lanna Transport Cooperatives and Taxi Service in Chiang Mai.

Singhkham Nunti, the president of the Nakorn Lanna Tranport Cooperatives said that currently there are 13 taxis, 2,791 red minibuses and 37 air-conditioned buses.

In 2005, the cooperatives aim to launch another 50-100 taxis because the demand has been gradually increasing, with now an average of 20 calls to call center and 50 calls directly to the taxi drivers. An agreement has been made with the Provincial Traffic and Transport Committee, that for every new taxi, they will decommission one red minibus.

The new taxi services are being equally used by both Thais and foreigners, said Singhkham. The daily income after deducting expenses is around 1,000-1,500 baht per taxi. Every taxi can be contacted through radio communication.

In 2005, good service is the most important, then vehicle condition, service, politeness and ability to speak English. The Gems Gallery is supporting the company by hiring an English teacher to teach 40 cooperative members every Sunday. They also want a community radio station and the company is now seeking a license from the government department.

To contact the call center, telephone 053-279291and 053-271242 from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Public Health Ministry wants us to be ready for expected casualties

Nopniwat Krailerg

A meeting of provincial Public Health doctors, emergency room doctors and 500 other people concerned with the traffic accident situation, was held to ensure all facilities are well prepared.

Chiang Mai Ram Hospital and the rescue team from Ruam Jai Foundation plan for emergencies.

The rescue organizations were told by the Public Health Department that they could expect 1,500 call-outs per day instead of the usual 300 casualties per day. Public and private hospitals are to keep their emergency services on full alert.

Prof. Suchai Charoeanrattanakul, deputy public health minister, presided over the meeting and spoke on medical emergency services in 2005. Prof. Suchai said that emergency problems have been increasing by a factor of three to five over the past 10 years.

It could be seen that there were many casualties from motorcycle accidents; however, there are more problems arising with chronic diseases. The top causes of death are: 60 percent accidents, then heart attacks, diabetes, and strokes.

Rescue teams need to be developed to ensure a better standard of first aid treatment at the roadside. The deputy public heath minister also assigned public doctors in Thailand to cover all remote areas. Each province should have a medical office to help people in emergency.

The emergency services have to be ready for the influx from New Year holidays during December 29 - January 4. They also need cooperation from the military and the police for equipment and medical helicopters.

In emergencies call the help-line on 1669 which has links in 38 provinces, and in 2005, throughout the country in every tambon and district.

Hill Tribes make merit on UN international rice day

Sunthon Wongjomporn

The Karen’s Rice Merit Donation Network Committee held their rice merit making and donation ceremonies to celebrate the United Nations “International Rice Day” on December 16 at Ban Khun Tae in tambon Doi Kaew, Chom Thong district, Chiang Mai.

After the rice harvest, the Karen people will pay respect and show their gratitude for the rice.

This rice donation has been done for 16 years, aiming to help orphans, elderly people, and other disadvantaged persons living in the high mountains.

The Rice Merit Donation is an ancient tradition and is considered an important social event for the Karen people. The Karen believe that rice is sacred since it gives life to every human, making merit with rice is far better than with money because rice is closer to humans than money and it is appreciated by the poor.

Karen network celebrates the UN International Rice Day.

The solution to pollution is not high on the public agenda

Burning off still the number one cause it seems

Autsadaporn Kamthai

Public participation in the solution to Chiang Mai’s pollution problems has been negligible, a meeting of the Provincial Pollution Working Group was told at Chiang Mai City Hall.

The working groups covered the areas of forest fires, outdoor burning, industrial atmospheric contamination, burning agricultural materials, BBQ food, construction sites and vehicle emission.

BBQ cooking, prevalent throughout the city, is reputedly the second worst air pollution offender.

According to data from Chiang Mai University’s Social Research Institute (SRI), outdoor burning off is the biggest cause of pollution in the Chiang Mai-Lamphun basin area, while BBQ food roasting by local vendors is second. Other potential causes, such as vehicle emissions, construction sites, and industrial pollution are ranked lower on the list.

The fact that people don’t know that outdoor burning causes pollution and that it violates the Public Health Act, plus poor law enforcement, are some of the main obstacles to solving Chiang Mai’s pollution crisis, said Dr Duongchan Apavajirut Charoenmuang, an SRI researcher.

With such poor public participation, Chiang Mai’s air pollution problem cannot be solved. Outdoor burning of leaves and garbage could be observed at some schools and government areas, like the areas behind Chiang Mai City Hall, said Dr Duongchan. Worse than that, some local administration organizations keep promoting outdoor burning to their villagers by appointing a ‘burning day’ for the communities.

Assistant Muang district chief officer, Pongsak Wangsamur, admitted that local people’s way of life in disposing of leaves and garbage is a great barrier to solving the air pollution problems and their attitude needs to be changed.

Poor public garbage management is also given as one cause of air pollution, as leaves are not included, so local people and organizations feel they must burn them to get rid of them.

According to the Chiang Mai Provincial Resource Office index, the average air quality in Chiang Mai from November 2 - December 22 was 57 micrograms per cubic meter, which is considered ‘safe’ (the world ‘acceptable’ level is not greater than 120 micrograms per cubic meter).

The Pollution Control Department randomly checks Chiang Mai vehicle emissions and have found that 80 percent are belching black smoke into the environment.

Cartoon characters coming to Kad Suan Kaew for National Children’s Day

Staff reporters

Central Kad Suan Kaew is going ahead with plans to give children the happiest National Children’s Day on January 8, with a Cartoon World Fair.

The Cartoon World Fair is led by the children’s favorite master of ceremonies “Na Toi” and is held annually to let the children experience the cartoon characters, play and games.

This “Girl Team” participated in the Cosplay contest in last year’s Cartoon World Fair. Children are invited again this year.

The Cartoon World Fair will allow the children’s imaginations to run free in the cartoon world and encourage them to be self confident and creative.

Some of the activities on the day are performances from 20 schools, meeting many popular cartoon characters, and a display of animated cartoons from IT City and other games.

Another interesting activity is the animated cartoon called “Chiang Mai Rascals Episode 1”. Children should not miss this because it is produced by the Northern production team Creative Kingdom and is sent to television stations overseas.

The highlight of the fair is the Cosplay contest. Children who are interested in participating in the Cosplay contest please call the Central Kad Suan Kaew public relations counter at 053 224 444 ext 19008 or apply in person at the fair.

Mae Ngad Dam has sufficient water to outlast the drought

Nopniwat Krailerg

So far, the Mae Ngad Dam in Mae Taeng district, Chiang Mai has stored 290 million cubic meters of water for the dry season, which is greater than the previous year’s water needs of 265 million cubic meters, said Arjit Suwanichwong, head of the Mae Faek-Mae Ngad Water Distribution and Maintenance Project. The dam can contain a maximum volume of 325 cubic meters of water.

The Mae Ngad Somboon Chol Dam in Mae Taeng district, Chiang Mai has enough water to last the dry season.

Arjit assures all Chiang Mai dwellers to forget their worries that only 60 percent of water needs could be supplied to face the drought. According to Arjit, the water supply will be adequate for tap water and farming during the dry season. He also said that the weirs which receive water from Mae Faek, Tasala, Pya Kham and some dams in Lamphun would not dry up.

However, the area supplied by the Mae Taeng Canal would experience some effects from the drought because the Mae Taeng Canal does not have a reservoir to supply water and annually dries up, said Arjit. This might produce a shortage of tap water at U-Mong in tambon Suthep. Other tap water reservoirs using water from the Ping River will not be affected by the drought.

The Mae Faek-Mae Ngad Water Distribution and Maintenance Project has planned out water distribution methods in advance of the dry season and encourages farmers who have planted their paddy fields to use water sparingly.

Residents invited to improve the water quality in the Mae Kha Canal

Autsadaporn Kamthai

Aiming to improve Chiang Mai’s environment, the Chiang Mai Municipality has again poured Effective Microorganism (EM) to improve the water quality in the city moats and Mae Kha Canal.

Students pour EM into the Mae Kha Canal to improve the water quality.

The municipality did this with some pomp and circumstance and an attempt to involve the community, with government officials, private company employees, teachers and students gathering at the Mae Kha Canal on Autsadathorn Road to pour the EM Solution to the canal.

“People gathered today to pour the EM Solution to revive the canal and make great merit to honor His Majesty the King’s 77th Birthday,” said Chiang Mai Mayor Boonlert Buranupakorn.

Petrol stations are allowed to open 24 hours during festive season

Santa might need to refuel on trip back to North Pole

Nopniwat Krailerg

The Ministry of Energy will allow petrol stations to stay open 24 hours from December 25, 2004 to January 5, 2005 to serve travelers during the New Year festival. Pohmmin Lertsuriyadech, energy minister, made the announcement on December 23.

Countrywide petrol stations can stay open for 24 hours from December 25, 2004 to January 5, 2005.

According to the minister, the purpose is to accommodate road users who travel during the Christmas and New Year festivals.

After the festival period, all petrol stations have to shut again from midnight to 5 a.m. to continue the national energy saving campaign.

Previously the minister had said there would be no exemptions, but he has finally changed his mind. Perhaps Santa sent him a letter?

Border drug suppression results in another death

Nopniwat Krailerg

Maj. Gen. Manus Paorik, commander of the Pha Muang Task Force, has commanded his soldiers to increase their activities and patrol the border areas to suppress drug trafficking gangs.

As part of this Xmas spirit, the soldiers of the 2nd and 127th Cavalry Divisions set up a sting operation at Ban A-runothai in tambon Muang Na, Chiang Dao district, Chiang Mai, purporting to buy drugs from one of the drug gangs in the region. When the dealers appeared at the appointed time, the soldiers were ready to continue the subterfuge, but the two dealers sensed a trick and began firing at the soldiers.

However, since the other soldiers had surrounded the area, they opened fire, and after the smoke cleared ten minutes later they found that one of the dealers, Laowoo Sawyang had been killed, but the other had escaped. A search of the body turned up 60,000 ya ba pills.

The ya ba tablets were sent to tambon Na Wai Police Station for further investigation into their origin.

Italian tourist dies from cold-induced asthma in Mae Hong Son

Saksit Meesubkwang

Drazia Peria, a 44-year-old Italian woman, apparently died of asthma complications brought on by the cold weather.

Pai Hospital in Pai district, Mae Hong Son reported the death to Pol Lt Col Suthat Chaimongkol, a Mae Hong Son tourist police officer on December 15.

The police said that initial investigations revealed no evidence of a struggle or foul play. The physician concluded that the cause of death was as a result of her personal illness of asthma, most likely exacerbated by the extreme cold at this time of year.

The woman’s husband told police that they had arrived in Pai district, Mae Hong Son, on December 14. Shortly after their arrival, the asthma flared up. This had occurred previously when she had been exposed to cold weather. He took her to Pai Hospital, but she succumbed to the acute asthma attack.

Pisit Puangsuwan, head of the Mae Hong Son Meteorology Station, has warned Mae Hong Son citizens and tourists to rug up warmly, especially on the high mountains where the weather is very cold at present.

Differ Pub puts on unexpected Xmas illuminations

3 million baht damage in blaze

Nopniwat Krailerg

On the day before Xmas, a fire broke out at the Differ Pub situated on the 2nd floor of 12 Huay Kaew building (adjacent to the Central Kad Suan Kaew department store) causing 3 million baht damage.

Firefighters battle the inferno at the Differ Pub.

The fire took hold when the pub was closed in the afternoon. The police suspect an electric short circuit was the cause.

10 fire engines were sent to the scene. The firefighters spent 40 minutes extinguishing the fire but were hampered in their efforts by a large crowd of people and the traffic on Huay Kaew Road.

After the fire was doused, forensic police searched the 150 square meter pub area, which was extensively damaged but fortunately the fire did not spread into other buildings.

The owner of the Differ Pub, Supawat Baibua, 32, said that he rented the pub from Thichakorn Sukhasawas, an owner of the 12 Huay Kaew Building. He also claimed he always turned off the lights before closing the pub. Supawat said that he did not know the cause of the fire. He didn’t believe that it was arson as he doesn’t have any business conflicts.

Supawat also said that he was unlucky to suffer the fire during the high season.

The forensic police are continuing with a detailed investigation.

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