NEWS
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Residents protest against proposed Chiang Mai airport extension

Prominent society gambler caught cheating

Continued support for Saturday and Sunday walking streets

Air pollution deaths on the rise claims researcher

Electoral contenders listed

Ancient Lanna mirror painting skill revived

Poverty endemic in the North

Trials of Bio-diesel underway

Chiang Mai and Baguio City cooperate on environmental issues

Converted Burmese Buddhist hill tribesmen benefit from donation

Crackdown on contract killers in the North

Pathum Thani car theft gang member arrested in Chiang Mai

Fire destroys houses in the Famai community

AMLO confiscates accused drug baron’s properties

Residents protest against proposed Chiang Mai airport extension

Relocate rather than extend, says citizens meeting

Autsadaporn Kamthai

A meeting to hear the views of the public on the proposed 300 meter extension of the Chiang Mai International Airport was held on January 11 at Chiang Mai University. The meeting was called by the Airport of Thailand Public Company Limited (AOT) in collaboration with the Southeast Asia Technology Co., (SEATEC).

Arguments for the extension on the grounds improving logistics and economic growth were opposed by some fearing noise pollution and city congestion. However, a SEATEC survey claims that over 50 percent of residents in tambon Suthep and tambon Mae Hia agree to the 300 meter runway extension, said Jakkrapob Jarussri, a SEATEC environment specialist.

Earlier, an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) carried out by SEATEC was proposed to the National Environmental Committee for approval. The National Environment Committee (NEC) then assigned SEATEC to reconsider the noise pollution impact on residential areas and any change to Chiang Mai’s Aviation Global Positioning System (GPS) as a result of the runway extension.

At the latest meeting, SEATEC gave the EIA result. According to SEATEC, the runway extended by 300 meters will not cause noise pollution to people residing in the possibly affected northern areas such as Suan Dok temple, Chiang Mai University and other schools. SEATEC also stated that the extension would not affect Chiang Mai’s GPS.

In spite of these assurances, a group of university lecturers and the general public voiced their disagreement. Instead, they suggested that Chiang Mai International Airport should be moved to outside the city to improve sustainable development. They feared uncontrollable air and noise pollution caused by frequent landings and take offs following the increase in flights to Chiang Mai Airport.

Montri Wongkasem, vice president of the Chiang Mai Chamber of Commerce (CCC) said that the runway extension would increase traffic congestion in the city. He added that the airport should be removed to an abandoned area in Doi Lor sub-district of Chiang Mai. He noted that several years ago, the CCC had proposed the removal project to the Chuan government. However, Montri said he preferred the RAF Wing 41 not to be removed as it is exclusively used by the royal family, VIPs and for governmental purposes.

Dr Thanes Charoenmuang, a lecturer at Chiang Mai University’s Faculty of Social Sciences said, “It is time for the airport to be removed from the inner city area before it induces more pollution to the area.”

Arguments for the extension came from the director general of the Department of Civil Aviation, Chaisak Angkasuwan. “The extension would boost the potential of the logistics business, which was one of the driving factors of the aviation hub’s growth. With the current aviation policy of the Thaksin administration, the number of direct flights to Chiang Mai Airport had increased by 30 percent and would accelerate at the rate of 20 percent a year,” said Chaisak.

According to the Director General, the extended 300 meter runway would also increase cargo transferred via Chiang Mai Airport by an estimated 10 tons per day.

The construction of a new airport for Chiang Mai would take an estimated 5–10 years and 300 million baht, said Chaisak. The government is pushing Chiang Mai to be an aviation hub by 2007 and a logistics hub by 2008 and the runway extension is necessary to support the growth of both, he maintained.

The extension will be carried out on the south end of the airport which is the area now occupied by Wing 41. With the extension, the current 3,100 meter runway would extend to 3,400 meters.


Prominent society gambler caught cheating

PAO president’s sister accused

Staff reporters

Chokaew Wisuthiseriwong, 60, a sister of Chao Thawatwong Na Chiangmai, president of the Chiang Mai Provincial Administration Organization (PAO), is one of the nine Thai gamblers detained at Poipet’s Star Vegas Casino in Cambodia on January 12 for using electronic equipment to cheat at cards.

By the use of electronic equipment the nine gamblers are accused of having made up to 90 million baht from the betting spree.

Another three Thai gamblers who joined the scam are reported to have fled to Thailand with the 90 million baht, but casino staff detained the nine other gamblers. The casino is holding the nine hostage until the return of the money.

The casino’s closed-circuit camera recorded the gang burying microchips in gambling tokens that they had bought from the casino. The microchips then sent signals to small computers that the gamblers attached to their legs to reveal what cards the others players held.

It is reported that the group ran similar swindles at another casino in Koh Kong and cheated the casino out of an estimated 200 million baht.

Col. Somkuan Saengpatranet, spokesman of the Royal Thai Army, announced that Thai officials are trying to negotiate with the Cambodian government for the release of the nine gamblers but as the casino has clear evidence to prove the scam, the negotiation would be difficult.


Continued support for Saturday and Sunday walking streets

Nopniwat Krailerg

To promote Lanna culture and sustain Chiang Mai’s role as city of handicrafts, Chiang Mai Municipality has decided to continue the two walking street projects of Saturday Wualai and Sunday Walking Street, said Chiang Mai Mayor Boonlert Buranupakorn.

The Sunday Walking Street on Ratchadamnoen Road, with local handicrafts and OTOP goods for sale, is a popular shopping venue.

The two walking streets correspond to Chiang Mai City’s development strategies and have helped a lot in promoting tourism and improving the community economy, said Boonlert.

Mayor Boonlert, reaching a bit, said walking streets indirectly help promote the value of energy saving and provide a pollution solution as they encourage people to use bicycles and get used to walking again. The Saturday Wualai Walking Street helps in reviving and promoting the long-established handicraft production center situated on Wualai and Nuntaram Roads where silver and glassware is produced.


Air pollution deaths on the rise claims researcher

But unable to interest authorities

Saksit Meesubkwang

The main causes of air pollution are burning garbage, grilling food, traffic on the roads, and building constructions and industry, revealed Dr. Duongchan Apavatjrut Charoenmuang, a researcher of the Social Research Institute (SRI) of Chiang Mai University.

Dr Duongchan Apavatjrut Charoenmuang, a researcher at the Social Research Institute (SRI).

Dr. Duongchan said that SRI researchers had informed Chiang Mai citizens about the negative aspects of air pollution in many communities. Leaflets on the subject have been produced and information broadcast over several radio channels.

The SRI has asked for cooperation from Tambon Administration Organization (TAO), Chiang Mai Provincial Administration Organization (PAO), government departments, and 27 educational institutes. Cooperation from groups with temples around Chiang Mai has been formed to attempt to raise awareness of the problems. The latest air pollution surveys show a slight decrease in the number of emissions, but it is still far too small.

It was found that in 2004 there was an increase in sickness and deaths caused by air pollution, revealed Dr. Duongchan. She declared that a behavioural study project on the participation of Chiang Mai citizens in air pollution solutions has only a two year budget and will finish in August 2005.

In spite of researchers trying to recruit participation from every organization, only a few are interested, such as secondary and high schools, and some villages outside the central district.

It is surprising, said Dr. Duongchan, that provincial and community government departments, and even the CMU administrators are not really interested in supporting the project. Although the project will be soon over, Dr. Duongchan will continue working voluntarily to serve the city, she said.

Interested people who want to join the project or the activities can contact Dr. Duongchan Apavatjrut Charoenmuang by mail at 239 Chiang Mai University 50200 Thailand, tel. and fax 0-53942564, email: sixxo005 @chiangmai.as.th or visit [email protected]


Electoral contenders listed

Fifty MP candidates from nine political parties compete for the ten constituency zones in Chiang Mai

Saksit Meesubkwang and
Autsadaporn Kamthai

The 50 MP wannabees from 9 political parties who entered their names onto lists for the 10 constituency zones in Chiang Mai were announced by the Chiang Mai Provincial Election Committee.

Candidates per zone are:

Zone 1: Capt Dr Duentemduang Na Chiangmai Democrat, Santipob Suwanseri Prachachon Thai, Prakorn Buranaprakorn Thai Rak Thai (TRT), Sanya Sukrasorn Rak Thin Thai.

Zone 2: Capt Pinoon Pothacharoen Chart Thai, Jakkawarl Wannawong Democrat, Udom Sangtham Kon Kor Plod Nee, Payap Shinawatra TRT, Charnchai Rattanapornnukul New Aspiration, Somsak Boontrakulpoontawee National Democracy.

Zone 3: Bussara Photisook Chart Thai, Udom Worawal Democrat, Terdsak Chatkham Prachachon Thai, Wachiraporn Rattanaburi Kon Kor Plod Nee, Boonsong Teriyapirom TRT, Thanawat Nakajad New Aspiration, Sawas Wongwajasoonthorn Mahachon.

Zone 4: Kingkarn Na Chiangmai Democrat, Witaya Songkham TRT, Narong Niyomthai New Aspiration, Kriangkrai Parn-ong Mahachon.

Zone 5: Pongprayoon Rach-a-pai Democrat, Pornchai Athapreeyangkul TRT, Kriangkamol Srima New Aspiration, Banjong Tariyo Mahachon.

Zone 6: Silpachai Khamchoo Democrat, Putthinunt Khoonthi Prachachon Thai, Noppakhun Ratphatai TRT, Boonchuay Poojinaphun Mahachon.

Zone 7: Somchai Tangsathayaban Chart Thai, Saneh Surin Democrat, Surapol Kiatchaiyakorn TRT, Soradech Manamee-nguenthong New Aspiration, Narong Phooitthiwong Mahachon, Pornchai Pornprateepkul National Democracy.

Zone 8: Chaichian Sompornchokchai Chart Thai, Supachai Nimmanhemin Democrat, Pattana Mongkolpun Prachachon Thai, Prathom Larprabang Kon Kor Pold Nee, Phaninthara Pakkakasem TRT, Norapol Tantimontri Mahachon.

Zone 9: Yongyuth Suwapak Democrat, Jullapun A-mornwiwat TRT, Susak Dara- nguen New Aspiration, Thorasak Kantaros New Aspiration, Chawalit Tamraksa Mahachon.

Zone 10: Prasit Wuttinunchai Democrat, Pit Ake-amorn Prachachon Thai, Parak Ruenpech Kon Kor Plod Nee, Santi Tansuhat TRT.

Theerawat Sintuboon, director of the Chiang Mai Provincial Election Committee, said that the lists of MP candidates have been sent to the Northern Region Election Committee to check their qualifications. If the committee finds that any candidate is not qualified, it has to inform the candidates before January 20.

At this moment, there are no petitions regarding violations of election regulations and laws raised by any candidate. However, the Chiang Mai Provincial Administration Organization, the police and the military have positioned personnel at each constituency zone to observe each candidate’s behavior, said Theerawat.


Ancient Lanna mirror painting skill revived

Nopniwat Krailerg

Whilst the origin of paintings on the back of small mirrors is unknown, reproductions of these Lanna-style antiques are popular. The skill to make them has now been revived by the perseverance of Sujai Reungnam, 32, a young artist from Song Kaew, Chiang Mai.

Sujai graduated from the Rajamangala University of Technology, Chiang Mai, receiving a bachelor degree in Fine Arts. He then became a poorly paid ceramic painter at Ban Tawai in Hang Dong district and was frustrated by not being allowed to develop his own style; however, military service in Mae Sariang district of Mae Hong Son led him to that opportunity.

Sujai Reunngam, the mirror painting artist.

Visiting a Thai temple there he was inspired by the Burmese mirror paintings. He examined them and sketched the patterns and managed to purchase some antique paintings from the locals for himself. Returning to his hometown after military service, Sujai began to copy these paintings, trying many kinds of media and techniques. The first painting was finished after a couple of months. Soon he was able to sell these reproductions to decorators.

Encouraged by the sales, he explored the exhibition at the Rajamangala Pisek Library. Learned about balancing the elements and traditional patterns, he adapted these techniques to his own works.

A mirror painting for those born in the year of the pig which is unique in depicting an elephant and the Doi Tung Buddha shrine.

Sujai appears to be the only one producing these beautiful objects today, always depicting the stories of the Lord Buddha’s life, and they are in great demand. Some works go directly to interior decorators at 400-500 baht.

Antique paintings on the back of mirrors collected by Sujai.

People in Lanna, or the northern region, pray at the famous Buddha shrines said to contain Buddha relics situated in every town. Notable ones are found in Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai and the Haripunchai Buddha shrine in Lamphun. Northern people believe that they should worship at shrines for merit and long life according to the year they were born.

Appropriate shrines are given here:

Year of the rat - water element - Chom Thong Buddha’s shrine in Chom Thong district, Chiang Mai.

Year of the ox - earth element - Lampang Luang Buddha’s shrine at Kho Ka district, Lampang.

Year of the tiger - wood element - Sho Hae Buddha’s shrine in Muang district, Phrae.

Year of rabbit — water element - Shae Hang Buddha’s shrine in Muang district, Nan.

Year of the big snake - earth element - Wat Phra Singha Buddha’s shrine in Muang district, Chiang Mai.

Year of the small snake - water element - Buddhagaya in India or the pipal tree at Wat Ched Yod in Chiang Mai.

Year of the horse - fire element - Tha Kong or Shwe Dagon Buddha’s shrine in Rangoon, Burma.

Year of the goat - earth element - Doi Suthep Buddha’s shrine in Muang district, Chiang Mai.

Year of the monkey - earth element - Phanom Buddha’s shrine in Nakhornphanom province.

Year of the cock - steel element - Haripunchai Buddha’s shrine in Lamphun.

Year of the dog - earth element - Wat Ket Karam in Chiang Mai.

Year of the pig - water element - Doi Tung Buddha’s shrine in Mae Sai district, Chiang Rai.

You can obtain more information or order the paintings directly from Sujai Reungnam at 053 367 037 and 01 289 5755.


Poverty endemic in the North

Mae Hong Son is the poorest province in the nation

Saksit Meesubkwang

Following surveys of 17 Northern provinces, Surapunt Joonpicharn, director of the National Economic and Social Development Bureau, Northern Region has admitted that almost 10 percent of the population in the North (over 1 million people) qualifies as being poor. This was the follow up in the “War against Poverty”.

Surveys brought out that the national mean income was 922 baht/person/month but the North has a mean of 830 baht/person/month. The minimum income of a household is only 20,000 baht a year.

From the survey carried out in 14,980 Northern villages in 2003, Ban Kor Soom Nue in Mae Sa Riang district, Mae Hong Son is the poorest village of the North with an average income of 658 baht/person/month. Ban Toong Ting in Om Koi district, Chiang Mai is ranked second poorest with 690 baht/person/month and the third is Ban Mae Ra Mid in Om Koi district, Chiang Mai with 744 baht/person/month.

During 2004, over eight million Northern people registered with the government as being poor s. Chiang Mai has highest number of registered poor while Chiang Rai, Petchaboon and Nakon Sawan follow.

Residential areas are the main problem and is worst in Mae Hong Son and Tak provinces. The lowest per capita incomes are in Mae Hong Son, Chiang Rai and Tak respectively. Om Koi is the poorest district of Chiang Mai due to the great number of hill tribe people residing there.


Trials of Bio-diesel underway

Chiang Mai’s Red minibuses using bio-diesel

Saksit Meesubkwang and Autsadaporn Kamthai

Targeting the 1,000 red minibuses of the Nakorn Lanna Transport Cooperatives, the ongoing trial of bio-diesel use in vehicles includes municipal cars, to promote the use of bio-diesel in both government and private sectors in Chiang Mai. Bio-diesel in this trial is produced from used vegetable oil and it is hoped this will reduce oil imports.

The project is being undertaken by the Department of Alternative Energy Development and Efficiency (DEDE), Chiang Mai Municipality and the Nakorn Lanna Transport Cooperative to campaign for the use of bio-diesel fuel in Chiang Mai. A budget of almost 40 million baht from the Fund for Energy Conservation Promotion has been allocated to support the 8 month project.

Bio-diesel fuel is popular among red minibus drivers in Chiang Mai, said Pranee Rintrawitoon, deputy director general of the Department of Alternative Energy Development and Efficiency (DEDE), as it is cheaper than ordinary diesel fuel by 0.3 baht a liter.

In Chiang Mai, over 100 thousand liters of the bio-diesel (B2) fuel has been sold at Bang Chak petrol station on Mahidol road and the PTT petrol station on Padaed road from July to December 2004, reported Pranee. So far, 300 mini buses have signed up to be part of the project.

Meanwhile, the construction by the DEDE of a community-based bio-diesel plant where used vegetable oil will be transformed into bio-diesel fuel is underway in Sansai district and is expected to be completed in February 2005. Another plant, based in Central Thailand to supply the fuel to Chiang Mai is managed by the Navy Dockyard Department and Prince of Songkla University. The two plants will be able to supply up to 2,000 liters of bio-diesel a day to Chiang Mai drivers.

Rudolf Diesel’s original engine used peanut oil, so the diesel wheel has gone the full circle!


Chiang Mai and Baguio City cooperate on environmental issues

Saksit Meesubkwang

On January 12, Chiang Mai Mayor Boonlert Buranuprakorn signed an agreement on environment conservation with a representative of Baguio, the summer capital of the Philippines.

Chiang Mai Municipality has worked in cooperation with the International Council of the Local Environment Initiatives (ICLEI) and the Thai Environment Institute to campaign for air quality protection and against the greenhouse effect that induces global warming and climate change.

Mayor Boonlert said that as Chiang Mai and Baguio City faced the same problem with air pollution, both cities had cooperated to exchange knowledge and experience regarding air pollution solutions. Throughout the three year cooperation, representatives of Baguio City had often visited Chiang Mai to learn of Chiang Mai’s garbage management, waste water management and air pollution solutions (such as they are).


Converted Burmese Buddhist hill tribesmen benefit from donation

Nopniwat Krailerg

Warm blankets and roof tiles were given to Buddhist hill tribesmen on behalf of the chairman of the Thai-Burma Border Committee (TBC) of Mae Sai-Tachilek at the Sai River-Tachilek bridge in Mae Sai district, Chiang Rai.

The donation resulted from a project of Maj. Gen. Thein Sein, commander of the Triangle Region Command, who was arranging conversion of 1,200 Akha and Lahu hilltribesmen, who were former Christians and deists, to Buddhism and to practice meditation at Wat Jom Jang Hua Nam in Burma. This temple is 30 kilometres from the Thai-Burmese border. The Burmese government and clergymen also held a Buddhist declaration ceremony and asked for donations to help these tribes.

Many interested persons made merit at this ceremony, and donated more than 1,000 blankets and 1,000 roof tiles valued at 100,000 baht.


Crackdown on contract killers in the North

Provincial Police Bureau 5 hunting 10 gunmen to ensure a “clean” election

Nopniwat Krailerg and
Saksit Meesubkwang

Coinciding with the approaching general election, the Provincial Police Bureau is hunting 10 known gunmen, of whom four are included in the Crime Suppression Division’s (CSD) national blacklist.

Narin Yongyai (right) was arrested in Hat Yai.

Two are already in custody - Charun Kampin, a resident of Chiang Rai who was arrested in Chonburi on December 14, 2004, and Narin Yongyai from Phrae who was arrested on January 12, 2005 in Songkhla.

Considered the “norm” in the campaign process in Thailand has been the hiring of gunmen to assassinate rival candidates and their canvassers. The present crackdown is in the hope that such killings may be prevented.

If you see these men at your election booth, run! (Above left) Vichan Paomongkol, (above right) Thongya Choomjai, (below left) Narin Yongyai and (below right) Sompech Chimparos. (Photos from Crime Suppression Division files)

Nine of the wanted gunmen are the subject of arrest warrants, including two Chiang Mai residents Somboon Potha and Wicharn Paomongkol; two Chiang Rai residents Kam Panchaliaw and Weerachai Roongpechrangsri; two Phrae residents Narong Nimarat and Sompech Chimparos; two Lampang residents Thongya Choomchai and Somboon Yongkij and a Lamphun resident Pongsak Laryoo. Pinyo or Charnsak Suepech is also sought. The police have some clues to their hiding places and the movements of these men.

Four of the blacklisted killers include the 9th-most wanted, Wicharn Paomongkol who shot a local journalist Amnart Jongyosying in 2003; the 29th most wanted Thongya Choomjai from Lampang; the 44th most wanted Narin “Rin” Laokwang or Yongyai from Phrae, wanted for the killing two people and the 50th most wanted Sompech Chimparos, also wanted for a shooting spree.


Pathum Thani car theft gang member arrested in Chiang Mai

Nopniwat Krailerg

Thanatcha Temthanakit, 47, a member of a gang of car thieves operating in Central Thailand, was arrested in Chiang Mai on January 14, according to details released by the commissioner of the Provincial Police Bureau Region 5, Pol Lt Gen Panupong Singhara Na Ayuthaya.

Cars stolen from Central Thailand were stored in Thanatcha’s house in Padaed, Chiang Mai’s Muang district. Police searched the house on January 14 and found a 4-wheel truck with a forged car license from Bangkok province. The owner of the car, Pratuan Ratuek, had notified police of the car theft from Klong Luang district, Pathum Thani province. Thanatcha claimed that she had bought the car but had no evidence to indicate lawful possession.

Also found were seven counterfeit car license books. One of them was the real book for the confiscated 4-wheel truck. The police discovered that the gang had also changed tax labels from the Department of Transport to disguise the cars.

To start proceedings, police have charged her with forging government documents and as an accomplice of the gang.

Thanatcha previously ran a second-hand car business but now only trades at the Sunday Walking Market in Chiang Mai. She has an estimated 100,000 baht movement in her bank account every day. Her account balance appears to be unusually high to the police who suspect that she might be processing funds for a nationwide network of car theft gangs that sell stolen cars to neighboring countries.

Thanatcha’s husband, Para Timoo, is currently serving a jail sentence in Lard Yao Prison in Bangkok after being arrested on drug charges in 2000, so visiting might become easier for her.


Fire destroys houses in the Famai community

Nopniwat Krailerg

A fire broke out at the Famai community in tambon Haiya, around the Kom Gate in Chiang Mai’s Muang district at 1 a.m. on January 12 causing 300,000 baht damage. One person suffered smoke inhalation and was rushed to hospital.

Seven fire engines from Chiang Mai Municipality and volunteer fire fighters rushed to the scene to put out the fire but were hampered by the narrow roads preventing fire engines entering the area and they had to use extension hoses to reach the conflagration. It took about an hour to put out the fire.

The fire started in a two storey wooden house belonging to Assaporn Sartthachang and quickly spread to other houses belonging to Daeng Chanhom and Som Muakkaew. Assaporn’s house was destroyed and the two neighbouring houses slightly damaged.

Assaporn said that he was sleeping in the house when the fire occurred. He woke up when he heard neighbours shouting and saw the fire at the rear of his house. He alerted his family members and called the police for help but the fire spread very quickly.

Police initially suspect the fire might have been due to an electrical short circuit but they are awaiting the forensic investigation.


AMLO confiscates accused drug baron’s properties

Will they have to return them like last time?

Nopniwat Krailerg and Saksit Meesubkwang

The Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO) in cooperation with the Provincial Police Bureau Region 5 has confiscated property worth more than 117 million baht belonging to Anek Sudirat (aka Oran Sudirat).

The recent movements in the case have accelerated with the shift of the former deputy governor of Chiang Rai, Sripohm Homyok. Anek, suspected of drug dealing, was arrested in 2002 on the charge of laundering drug money. At that time, the police seized several properties from Anek but were obliged to return them to him when the prosecutor dismissed the case for lack of evidence.

Anek was arrested again at the end of December 2004. Following the arrest, the police found that Anek still had several properties in the North. They have since been collecting evidence and witnesses to the fact that Anek, fearing confiscation, has transferred, hidden, and laundered the money from drug dealing into property.

Pol. Maj. Gen. Wutti said that some of this confiscated property had been transferred to others as a cover up. However, this time police feel the case for the prosecution is water-tight. “If somebody claims that the evidence is not sufficient to accuse Anek, it would be better to read the court file of the case carefully. At the same time, we emphasize that Anek has been arrested on the charge of laundering money, not the charge of drug dealing,” he said.

The confiscated properties include 400 rai of orange orchards in Chiang Rai’s Muang district valued at around 80 million baht; a two storey three bedroom house and land in the Koolpunt Ville Property Housing Estate in Hang Dong district valued at 3 million baht; a two storey hotel with thirty-two rooms, and land close to the Mekong River in Chiang Rai’s Chiang Saen district valued at 20 million baht; two four storey buildings near the Golden Triangle market in Ban Sob Ruak valued at 6 million baht and a nine rai plot of land near the Golden Triangle valued at 2.6 million baht.