NEWS
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

New Year road fatalities unchanged from last year

Earthquake causes no damage to Doi Suthep main pagoda

Skirmishes with Red Wa result in two deaths

Ex-PM Chuan Leekpai canvasses in Chiang Mai

KNPP leader afraid Burmese will attack using chemical weapons

Chiang Mai Public Health Office cracking down on smokers

Chiang Mai Municipality prepares to revamp the Night Bazaar

Medical staff training school fire results in 600,000 baht damage

Chiang Mai police arrest copy watch dealer at Night Bazaar

Influential government officials in drug case fingered by police

Xmas fatalities start the end of year carnage

Entertainment outlets closed through the social order campaign

Sex trade in the North

Skal International opens account to help tsunami victims

Mobile Cabinet meeting at Mae Fa Luang University

Almost 300 killed and 3,000 injured in road accidents in 12 months

New Year road fatalities unchanged from last year

However injuries down 50 percent

Nopniwat Krailerg

The 9th Narenthorn Center, Chiang Mai province (the 1669 hotline) reported that 17 people died in Chiang Mai and 516 were injured during the period December 29, 2004 to January 4, 2005.

The number of fatalities has remained as per the 2004 New Year Festival, while the number of injured fell by almost 50 percent (1034 in 2004 to 516 in 2005).

The main factors in the road toll are motorcycle riders and drunken drivers. The worst accident in the North took place at Tak province where a Chiang Mai-Bangkok tour bus accident killed 11 passengers.

Dr Theerawut Komutbutra, head of the emergency medical staff at the 9th Narenthorn Center, told Chiangmai Mail that the decrease in the number of injured is a good sign. However, he said the main cause of the accidents was drunk drivers. According to Dr Theerawut, most of the motorcycle riders and pillion passengers die at the scene of the accident because of their refusal to wear helmets and they ride at high speed.

Most of the accidents happened outside of downtown Chiang Mai. Some accidents occurred at the road intersections where traffic lights were out of service.

Of the 17 dead in Chiang Mai, 14 were motorcycle riders and passengers while three were pick up truck drivers or passengers.


Earthquake causes no damage to Doi Suthep main pagoda

But causes fire at Ratchapradith Temple

Nopniwat Krailerg

The earthquake with an intensity of 9 on the Richter scale that was felt on the morning of December 26, 2004 did not cause any damage to the main pagoda of Doi Suthep temple as many people had feared, declared Wallop Namwongpohm, Public Relations Committee of the Doi Suthep Temple after a thorough inspection at the main pagoda.

No damage was detected, even at the spire of the pagoda where some cracks have appeared in the past, said Wallop. This is because thorough repairs to the pagoda’s spire had been done earlier.

However, the tremors from the earthquake brought about tremors in both Thai and foreign tourists as they ran from the viewpoint balcony fearing it might collapse. According to Wallop, the earthquake also caused the bells around the temple to ring.

The earth tremors did cause a fire at Ratchapradith (Pabong) Temple in Chiang Dao district, Chiang Mai. Phra Athikarnkamtan Thanisro, an abbot of the temple, said that in the morning of December 26, when the monks and novice left the vihara for meals, the earth tremors caused lit candles to fall over, starting the fire. Two fire tenders from the Chiang Dao District Municipality took 30 minutes to put the fire out. The fire caused estimated 50,000 baht damage to the temple.


Skirmishes with Red Wa result in two deaths

One Thai ranger injured

Saksit Meesubkwang

Two clashes between Thai forces and drug runners happened over the new year. The first occurred early morning of December 30. 11 military rangers of the 3607th Ranger Camp, led by ranger Thongchai Loka, ambushed a Red Wa drug gang between Ban Pang Wua and Ban Nam Pla Moong in tambon Mae Na Terng, Pai district, Mae Hong Son after receiving information that drugs were going through the area.

Ranger Sorapong Srikoomlao of the 3607th Ranger Camp injured after the clash with the Red Wa drug network receives treatment at the Kawila Camp Hospital in Chiang Mai.

While waiting for the gang, ranger Sorapong Srikoomlao noticed one man walking around a cow shed but at the distance, mistook the man for the owner.

The drug gang member did not confuse the ranger’s identity and shot him in his right leg, so Sorapong returned the fire. Another ranger came to his assistance and a ten minute fusillade ensued. In the end it was found that the drug runner had been killed.

The man was aged 35-40, wearing Lisu clothes, and was armed with an AK 47 and a grenade. The injured ranger was sent by helicopter to the Kawila Camp Hospital in Muang district, Chiang Mai, to receive treatment.

The second clash happened on January 1 at 8 p.m. The soldiers of the 71st Special Task Force, 7th Infantry met with upwards of 10 unidentified armed men at the route between Ban Manora and Ban Gued Sam Sib in Pang Ma Pha district, Mae Hong Son. The gun battle ended with one armed gang member being killed. An AK 47, 80 rounds of ammunition, 400 ya ba tablets, 50 grams of crude opium, and drug taking equipment were found with the dead man. The rest of the gang fled but the 71st Special Task Force is cooperating with the 336th Border Patrol Police Camp in Mae Hong Son’s Muang district to hunt for them.

The Commander of the 3rd Army Region, Lt. Gen. Picharnmeth Muangmanee and Pha Muang Task Force’s Commander Maj. Gen. Manus Paorik visited the injured ranger and said that he would be promoted due to his courage and outstanding work.

He added that the frequent drug transfers during the New Year Festival signaled the return of drug smuggling along border areas. It is apparent that the northern Thai border is still a main transfer route for drug traffickers.


Ex-PM Chuan Leekpai canvasses in Chiang Mai

Election only a month away

Saksit Meesubkwang

Former Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai, who is an advisor to the Democrat Party, came to the North to assist the Democrat candidates in the region.

On December 25, Kingkarn na Chiangmai’s campaign began in Sansai district, Chiang Mai where 5,000 people attended to listen to ex-PM Chuan. Following this, Chuan moved to help Udom Worawal, another Democrat Party candidate in Mae Taeng district, Chiang Mai, after which he moved on to Prao district to campaign among the people there.

Chuan Leekpai addresses the party faithful in Sansai district.

It was a long day for the ex-PM, for at 9 p.m. he was campaigning for his candidate at Muang district, Chiang Mai. He and his crew started the fight for Dr Duentemduang Na Chiangmai, the daughter of Thawatwong Na Chiangmai, the president of Chiang Mai Provincial Administration Organization, at Walking Street in Wualai.

Chuan defended his record when the Democrats were in power, saying that although his policies were low-key compared to the Thaksin administration’s populist policies, each Democrat policy was carefully thought out before being introduced to the people. On the other hand, he viewed the TRT policies as being unrealistic.

He finished by saying that Thailand belongs to every Thai citizen, not only to the country’s leader. Consequently, every political and economic activity done by the government needs to give benefits to all Thais equally, not to just a few.


KNPP leader afraid Burmese will attack using chemical weapons

Saksit Meesubkwang

Chief of staff of the Kayinni National Progressive Party (KNPP), Col. Pong Nai revealed that an estimated 5,000 Burmese soldiers and 1,000 soldiers of the Kayinni National People’s Liberation Front (KNPLF) and the Karenni Solidarity Organization (KNSO), and another 800 soldiers have taken control of an area close to the KNPP army camp. They’ve controlled the area since December 22.

The KNPP chief of staff believes that the Burmese regime is getting ready to attack, and seize, the KNPP camp. He predicted that the attack would start shortly and the KNPP soldiers were afraid that the Burmese regime would use chemical weapons to attack the KNPP camp, as it did to a Karen National Union (KNU) camp.

The chemicals they allegedly use during these attacks “can make people lose their balance and become stupefied for a few hours. With this chemical weapon, the Burmese regime troops could seize the KNPP camp easily,” said Col. Pong Nai.

On December 26, KNPP troops attacked Burmese regime longboats carrying weapons and ammunition on the Salween River at the Ban Sob Pai and Ban Nam Pai areas. During the skirmish, the KNPP troops seized two longboats. 16 Burmese soldiers were killed.

A military intelligence source said that if the Burmese troops attacked the KNPP using chemical weapons, Thai people living at the border, especially at Ban Mae Suay Au, would be affected. This village is just one kilometer from the KNPP camp.

Ban Mae Suay Au was established in 2004 under the patronage of Queen Sirikit and has an estimated 30 households. 136 Kaya Karen stay there, of whom twenty percent are children under 12, and 40 percent are aged people.

With this threat from the Burmese regime, Thai officials have to keep a close watch on the KNPP situation.


Chiang Mai Public Health Office cracking down on smokers

Autsadaporn Kamthai

Chiang Mai Provincial Public Health Office is strictly enforcing the law that prohibits selling liquor and cigarettes to youths under 18, following His Majesty the King’s concern voiced on National Father’s Day.

Since December 1, the Chiang Mai Provincial Public Health Office has inspected shops within the Muang district and has distributed stickers to advise shopkeepers and youth of the under-18 ban.

Before His Majesty’s pronouncement, implementation of the law last year was poor. Only four shopkeepers were penalized for selling cigarettes to minors, four restaurant owners were charged with not providing non-smoking areas and one diner was caught smoking in a public area (air-conditioned restaurant).

Rattawut Sukmee, the head of Chiang Mai Provincial Public Health Office, said that public places include government and private hospitals, all academic institutes (except universities and graduate schools), government and government enterprise offices, air-conditioned restaurants and stores, which are all designated as non smoking areas.

Smokers caught smoking in prohibited areas will be fined up to 2,000 baht and owners of any restaurants or stores which do not have non-smoking notifications may be fined up to 20,000 baht.


Chiang Mai Municipality prepares to revamp the Night Bazaar

Saksit Meesubkwang

Poonsawas Warawal, Chiang Mai deputy mayor said Chiang Mai Municipality plans to improve and organize the Night Bazaar in 2005. Towards this end, vendors and shop owners at the Night Bazaar were called in to discuss the improvements.

The reorganization will focus on two points. Firstly, all electricity cables and water pipes will be put underground to improve the look of the Bazaar. This has started already. Secondly, vendor stalls will be improved. The Night Bazaar has been operating for over 20 years but no improvements have been done in that time.

“These improvements and reorganization of the Night Bazaar is a good example of Chiang Mai development which can give benefits to both Thai and overseas tourists. However, the removal of the electricity cables and water pipes might cause some annoyance to passersby and tourists, and the municipality would like to apologize in advance,” said Deputy Mayor Poonsawas.


Medical staff training school fire results in 600,000 baht damage

Nopniwat Krailerg

Fire in the two storey Nakornping Aphibarn School in front of the Phra Singh Temple, which is used for training medical staff, broke out on December 29 at 3.30 p.m. causing 600,000 baht damage.

Five firefighters from Chiang Mai Municipality rushed to the scene to contain the fire, but it had spread rapidly because the building was made of wood. The firefighters extinguished the blaze in 20 minutes. The 2nd floor and roof of the building were extensively damaged.

Firefighters at the scene.

It was fortunate that the fire happened when school was out, and there were no injuries reported. Police suspect the cause of the fire was an electrical short-circuit. The rooms on the second floor were used as storerooms only, not for study purposes.

Aphiprach Kuendee, 50, the school administrator said that he and other staff were taking a rest in the nearby area. They sensed fire when they smelled smoke and then saw the fire on the 2nd floor.

Ken Santitham, permanent secretary of the municipality who observed the firefighting said that the municipality firefighting unit was well prepared to cope with fire 24 hours a day. During the festive season the firefighting unit would take only 5-10 minutes to reach any area.


Chiang Mai police arrest copy watch dealer at Night Bazaar

Twelve police swoop and collect 77 fake ‘brand name’ watches

Saksit Meesubkwang

Twelve police from the Muang District Police Station, led by Inspector Pol. Lt. Col. Narith Sorndith, charged Pongpeera Boonnark, 29, with copyright violations after police searched his house in tambon Mae Hia and found 77 counterfeit watches with many famous brand names and 17 fake Luis Vuitton hand bags.

Pongpeera Boonnark (left) and his illegal Burmese employee (right) arrested with 77 counterfeit watches.

Pol. Capt. Nattapol Jaikanta, deputy inspector of the Muang District Police Station said that the Pongpeera gang was known to sell counterfeit products at the Night Bazaar, and police had been keeping them under surveillance. They had previously apprehended Pongpeera, but they only found two copy watches. The police then pretended to ignore him, hoping he would bring more counterfeit items for sale.

Police found that Pongpeera’s modus operandi was to display an empty box with the ‘exclusive’ brand name in the Night Market, and would take orders for the fake merchandise for his gang members to deliver later to the clients.

The seized products came from Mae Sai district in Chiang Rai and they were probably produced in China. The police said that Chinese entrepreneurs could produce copy goods of many luxurious products and their prices were cheaper than those produced in Thailand, in a rare admission that copy goods are still produced here as well!

While the police were questioning the suspect, one ‘influential’ person came into the investigation room and talked to Pol. Lt. Col. Narith, suggesting that police were making false accusations. The man acted as if he would like to clear up the case with the police and to defend the suspect.

The inspector told the man and the press that the police had performed their duty and nobody intended to make false accusations.

Pol. Lt. Col. Narith added that there were more counterfeit products being sold at the Night Bazaar and the police would continue cracking down on the sellers. However, he asked that the companies who owned the copyrights to understand that the police had other types of criminal activity to attend to as well.


Influential government officials in drug case fingered by police

Saksit Meesubkwang

10 governmental officials in Chiang Rai are being investigated by the police after it was asserted that they had been assisting Anek Sootrat, a drug trafficker with his lawsuit.

The investigation is under the command of the Provincial Police Bureau Region 5’s commissioner, Pol. Lt. Gen. Panupong Singhara Na Ayuthaya, and Pol. Maj. Gen. Wutti Wittitanon, Deputy Commissioner of the Provincial Police Bureau Region 5.

Anek managed to have the case against him dismissed, with the assistance of 10 officials. However, he was re-arrested with the evidence being shown as 1 million ya ba tablets and 400 million baht in property which was confiscated.

Anek claimed that a group of officials, including Sripohm Homyok, Phrae deputy governor, had helped him to fight the lawsuit, with the court dismissing his case. The Phrae deputy governor is the first to be relocated to take an inactive post at the Ministry of Interior.

To trace the other involved parties, Pol. Maj. Gen. Wutti formed an investigation team at Mae Ping Police Station including Pol. Lt. Col. Tossaphum Charoenporn, Pol. Lt. Col. Samnao Suthornpun, Pol. Lt. Col. Soonthorn Jantarangkul and Pol. Lt. Col. Somkid Man-ngan who will review the evidence in the case.

Pol. Maj. Gen. Wutti said that so far the investigation discovered 10 government officials in Chiang Rai, including high-ranking officials, local politicians, correction officials and doctors who were involved with Anek’s case. About 30 million baht was allegedly spent to help Anek fight the lawsuit.

With this assistance, the case was delayed for 11 months until the court eventually dismissed it.

Pol. Maj. Gen. Wutti said there were other drug lawsuits being dismissed by the prosecutors, so that the police had to work on each case very carefully. If they found any officials or police helping the accused, they would be penalized by enforcement of the law, he said.


Xmas fatalities start the end of year carnage

Nopniwat Krailerg

A collision between a pick-up and a motor scooter on December 25 resulted in one death and three injured, a grim start to the ‘festive’ season.

The pick-up was driven by Ampan Momkaew , which crashed into the scooter on Autsadathorn Road (in front of Thananon Autosale shop).

The scooter burst into flames during the collision.

When the Chang Puek Police led by Pol First Lt Pipat Naradech and the Nakorn Ping and Ruam Jai rescue teams reached the scene, they found the scooter had burst into flames. Rescue teams took the three people who had been riding on the scooter to hospital. They were Pallop Nunkhawong, 41, and the passengers, Pakphum Nunkhawong, 6, and Aphinut Leeweerapan, 36. Unfortunately, Pallop Nunkhawong was pronounced dead on arrival. One of the passers-by, Puttipong Laosee, 24, who attempted to extinguish the flames from the scooter was also slightly injured.

The police investigation revealed that the driver, Ampan Momkaew, was under the influence of alcohol, and he was taken and charged accordingly. In his defence, he claimed that it was dark and he did not see the scooter come out from the side soi in time to pull up.


Entertainment outlets closed through the social order campaign

Nopniwat Krailerg

Chiang Mai provincial officials have closed many entertainment outlets, such as Friend Party Pub, Question Pub, Forte Chiang Mai, Tradex, Kosumosu and Khum Nam Ping.

Chiang Mai Excise Office has also found 28 unlicensed shops selling alcohol, 45 places selling alcohol surreptitiously and 15 outlets that have invaded the footpath and three encroaching on to the state highway. Of these 81 outlets, two were fined while 79 were cautioned.

Pasadech Hongladarom, Chiang Mai provincial chief clerk, reported that following checks at 24 entertainment outlets throughout the province, the following outlets had judgments made against them.

The Friend Party Pub was closed for a period of 30 days from December 1-30, 2004 because it had operated without a license. This is the first violation for the Friend Party Pub.

The Question Pub has been closed for a period of 60 days from December 1, 2004 to January 29, 2005 because it was operating with no license, and sold alcohol and cigarettes to youths.

The licenses of the Forte and Tradex have been seized for a period of 30 days (December 18, 2004 to February 15, 2005) and 60 days (December 18, 2004 to February 15, 2005) because they have allowed youths under 20 to enter and failed to check ID cards or other documents to certify age. This is the second violation for both outlets.

The process to close the Kosumosu Restaurant for a period of 30 days is underway due to its unlicensed operation.

The Khum Nam Ping Restaurant has been closed for a period of 30 days, as it also had no license. This is Khum Nam Ping’s first violation.


Sex trade in the North

Saksit Meesubkeang

Boonmee Sawangtham, an official of the Chiang Mai Home for Boys, said that Thai women being deceived and led into prostitution after marrying foreigners to work aboard is a concern. Hill tribe women are the target group most at risk with this problem.

According to Boonmee, the number of Thai girls aiming to travel abroad to work or get married with foreigners has been increasing. The main causes are poor family background, the lack of education and family failures.

She added that social welfare and security protection has been implemented to attempt to prevent this problem, and to help the victims; women and children from Burma, Cambodia and Laos emigrating to Thailand, as well as Thai girls facing the same problem in other countries. However, the solution needs cooperation from government and private agencies to give more detailed information to the public and to help these pitiful victims of human trafficking.

At present, the government has dealt seriously with human trafficking gangs and set it as one of the national policies to eliminate this problem as soon as possible. Deputy Prime Minister Purachai Piumsomboon is responsible for this issue. The National Police Bureau, embassies from various countries, the Social Development and Human Security Ministry, and the cooperation from UN was seen at a seminar in Chiang Rai in the middle of 2004 to discuss the trafficking of women and children in the Mekong Sub-region.

Purachai said that this problem is crucial; however, human trafficking has been increasing and the solution is difficult. Human trade is considered a severe crime since it violates human values and rights which is contradictory to the Thai Constitution.

In 2000, the number of alien children saved by the public welfare department was 166. The amount jumped to 414 persons in 2002. 66 Thai girls were rescued from trafficking in 2002, which increased to 95 Thai girls in 2003.

Deputy PM Purachai stated in the seminar that these figures are not the real numbers of women and children in human trade. Many are being taken advantage of and become victims. They are waiting for the government to help. Thailand is a starting point of male and female children trafficking to the whole world. The traffickers have abused Thailand to violate human rights. It is important to protect children and find the right solutions.

Lately, it has been discovered that some local leaders, such as village headmen or general district officers are helping the traffickers and bribe the locals to turn a blind eye. Also, there are some high-ranked government officials participating with them.


Skal International opens account to help tsunami victims

Skal International, the world’s largest association of travel and tourism professionals, conscious of the devastation caused by the earthquake in the Indian Ocean, followed by the tidal wave, has opened a bank account to accept donations from interested members and others, to help with the relief effort currently underway.

Skal International, with its approximately 22,000 members worldwide appeals to the generosity of its members and others who may wish to contribute to help those who have been affected by this tragedy, especially those in the travel and tourism industry.

The fund has been opened at the Organisation’s Bank in Torremolinos, Spain, the details of which are as follows:

Bank: Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria (BBVA)

Address: Plaza Costa del Sol 9, Torremolinos, Spain

Name of Account: Skal International Asian Earthquake Relief Fund

Account No: 0182/0481/67/0201603416

IBAN Number: ES02 0182 0481 6702 0160 3416

Swift Code: BBVAESMM

Donations may also be made by all major credit cards by e-mail to [email protected] stating type of card, name, card number, expiry date and name as it is appears on the card.

Again we appeal to the generosity of our members and friends.

For further information please contact the general secretariat of Skal International, tel. 34 952 389 111, fax: 34 952 370 013, email: [email protected]

Website: www.skal.org


Mobile Cabinet meeting at Mae Fa Luang University

Nopniwat Krailerg

PM Thaksin Shinawatra has set Mae Fa Luang University in Chiang Rai for the mobile cabinet meeting that will be held on January 11, 2005.

To prepare for the meeting, Loyleuan Boonnak, deputy secretary to the Prime Minster and his crew examined the university on December 4 and conferred with associated organizations in Chiang Rai to assist in preparation.

Assoc Prof Dr Wanchai Sirichana, rector of the Mae Fa Luang University said that this was the first time that the mobile cabinet meeting would be held in Chiang Rai. He hoped it would bring great benefit to the Northern provinces in both economic growth and social development.


Almost 300 killed and 3,000 injured in road accidents in 12 months

Nopniwat Krailerg

Chiang Mai’s Ruam Jai Rescue Foundation has reported dreadful statistics from January 1 to December 31, 2004, with 295 people (242 males and 53 are females) killed in road accidents within Muang district, Chiang Mai.

Injuries hit almost 3,000 with 2884 people (2036 males and 848 females). Dissection of the injury figures show a predominance of motorcycle riders, no helmets worn and alcohol.

May was the worst month for fatalities with 37 killed followed by August and July with 32 and 31 respectively. March had highest number of injured at 437 (295 are male and 142 female). Other months average 200 injured.

Collisions between cars and motorcycles were the most common followed by crashes between motorcycles, pedestrians hit by motorcycles, incidents between cars.

The accident ‘black spots’ were the Nimmanhaemin intersection, Sarndek intersection, Khuang Singh intersection, Three Kings Monument intersection, Jed Yod intersection, Pa Paeng intersection, Toonghotel Road, Charoenmuang Road, the foot of Rama IX Bridge, Patan Bridge and Chiang Mai-San Kamphaeng.

The Ruam Jai Rescue Foundation is ready to help at any time. Contact number for the Foundation is 0-5321-8888 with 24 hour coverage.