NEWS
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Chiang Mai safe from drought - or is it?

AIDS, influenza and SARS

Chiang Mai develops energy strategy

24 hour Call Center set up for pollution problems

Orange orchard gives Fang the pip

Ministry of Public Health holds workshop on booze, bungers and bangs

Fire breaks out on undeveloped land

Second year CMU Fine Arts students display works at Central Kad Suan Kaew

Fire risk high for Chiang Mai suburbs

Pha Muang Task Force counters Mekong route for drug runners

Speedy rock group bombs in bar

The number you are trying to call cannot be connected

Burmese lady leaps from building

300 Mae Taeng residents cause big stink over garbage

Chiang Mai safe from drought - or is it?

Two main dams contain enough water but rainmakers prepare

Nopniwat Krailerg

Sangrat Benjapong, the director of Chiang Mai’s Irrigation Office said that the volume of water in the two dams, Mae Ngad Som Boon Chon dam in Maetang district and Mae Guang Udom Tara dam in Doi Saket district, is sufficient to distribute water to agricultural areas in Chiang Mai and Lamphun provinces throughout the drought season.

Heavy rains during past rainy seasons have ensured that the Mae Ngad dam is at 91 percent of the dam’s capacity, and the water reserve in Mae Guang dam is also higher than the previous year.

It is expected that a drought would not occur this year with careful use but, if farmers continue to expand agriculture areas, the water quantity would not be adequate and a drought could occur, he said, seemingly backing both horses in the race.

He asked the farmers not to grow non-seasonal rice as this would lead to a shortage. 80 water pumps are being prepared to help farmers in the three provinces of Chiang Mai, Lamphun and Mae Hong Son.

Somchai Ruangsudnaruprap, the director of the Royal Rain Making detachment, commented, “The drought this year might be more serious than several years ago. There will be a climate and water quantity watch on natural water sources and in Mae Ngad Sirikit and Bhumibol dams.

“This year the drought does not appear to be very serious,” he continued with a conflicting statement, “but it could be worrisome in the long term. The southern artificial rain detachment has prepared an aid program for the drought situation in the northern part of Thailand and assistance will be provided with the use of chemical substances and aircraft to create artificial rain. However, the overall success of the operation depends on the general climate.”


AIDS, influenza and SARS

Nobel Laureate Prof. Peter C. Doherty’s address

Sandy Clark

The Dialogues towards a Culture of Peace series continued at Chiang Mai University (CMU), featuring Prof. Peter C. Doherty, Nobel Laureate for Medicine.

Nobel Laureate Prof. Peter C. Doherty addresses more than 500 medical students, urging them to face the challenges of the 21st century (Photo by Saksit Meesubkwang)

Prof. Doherty, whose current research focuses on aspects of immunity in influenza and AIDS, both being diseases without borders, began by sending out a strong appeal as to preserving the environment. He said, “Manipulating the world for our advantage has created extraordinary selective forces that both impact on other life forms and are beginning to backfire on us.” He mentioned global warming, industrialization with all the negative environmental consequences that accompanied the modern lifestyle. He acknowledged the ‘clean and green’ approaches of Europe which seems to be lacking even in high industrialized countries like the United States.

Peter C. Doherty, Prof. of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Melbourne. (Photo by Saksit Meesubkwang)

He spoke on the practice of “fire stick” harvesting in Australia which was used to drive kangaroos onto the spears of the hunters, and which is thought to have shaped both the biology of the Australian eucalypt seeds that germinate following fire, and the nature of the open grasslands. He said it is high time for behavior change as nature has already started to fight back.

From agricultural problems in regards to population size and stabilization, he focused on the consequence of globalization and the internationalization of both e-business and the manufacturing industries. He warned that even if the population size is stabilized, environmental pollution will increase dramatically unless new approaches and technologies are developed and adopted.

But his major point addressed AIDS, influenza and SARS and how the world reacts to it. While some countries still deny it, he said Thailand was a very impressive example as regards the effective response made here to the AIDS pandemic. After the magnitude of the problem was recognized, Thailand rapidly organized itself to limit the spread of the human immuno-deficiency virus (HIV). And it has proven that it is possible to promote behavioral change, including the use of condoms.

He highlighted the enormous numbers of deaths from AIDS globally, estimated in 2002 at 3.1 million and approximately 42 million carrying the disease. He said, “The way that HIV works biologically is almost a mirror of the social consequences. AIDS eliminates the helpers and facilitators in society. In Africa, the high mortality rates among school teachers, political leaders, police officers and public officials has had devastating consequences.” He expressed the opinion that the lucky ones were children raised by grandparents, but farmers die before they can pass on the skills needed by the next generation.

He urged his mostly young medical student audience to face the challenges of the 21st century, to become the much needed leaders who facilitate a process of cultural evolution towards equitable, ethical solutions and sustainability.


Chiang Mai develops energy strategy

Most residents are wasting energy

Saksit Meesubkwang

Fifty percent of Chiang Mai residents are wasting energy, a seminar was told in Chiang Mai on February 25. The Science and Technology Research and Development Institute, Chiang Mai University, in cooperation with the Ministry of Energy held the seminar at Chiang Mai Orchid Hotel on the strategy of Chiang Mai’s energy development. 200 local administrative officers, members of Tambon Administration Organization of Chiang Mai attended.

Prinya Panthong, Chiang Mai vice governor (2nd left) at the seminar on Chiang Mai’s energy development.

Chiang Mai’s vice governor, Prinya Panthong, made the profound and insightful statement that in the past Thai people did not need as much energy and technology as in these days. The weather was also not as hot as it is today, he added.

People are now too dependent on energy and use it extravagantly, as can be seen in many entertainment outlets and restaurants. He requested the younger generation especially to help conserve energy and realize that Thailand has limited resources.

Prof. Dr. Thanongkriat Kraitsiriroj, from the Science and Technology Research and Development Institute, said that Chang Mai still has natural resources for energy that have never been utilized, such as coal, natural gas, wind, sunlight and tidal energy that could be used if Chiang Mai had a sea coast. No organization has yet invested to transform these resources into energy even though they could be used as energy supply for a period of 100-200 years, and save trillions of baht.

50 percent of energy is used extravagantly by Chiang Mai residents, so that campaigning to promote the value of energy and energy saving is necessary. He added that seminars for community leaders would be held to create awareness and pass the message on to the villagers.


24 hour Call Center set up for pollution problems

Nopniwat Krailerg

Smoke blanketing Chiang Mai has prompted Chiang Mai Governor Suwat Tantipat to institute a 24-hour Call Center (telephone number 0 5389 0000), to receive information about forest fires and burning off garbage and agricultural waste.

Chiang Mai Governor Suwat Tantipat

The Call Center is located at Chiang Mai City Hall, and its staff will deal immediately with the situations.

Suwat said if the smoke problem in Chiang Mai is not urgently solved, it will affect people’s health, the economy and environment, and especially the image of Chiang Mai and thus tourism.

Anyone who deliberately burns any item will be branded a heinous “forest burning criminal”, as it is such people who destroy the natural resources and environment.


Orange orchard gives Fang the pip

MP peels away the problem

Saksit Meesubkwang

A conflict between villagers of San San Klong Noi, Chiang Mai and Thanathorn orange orchard workers occurred after the orchard workers removed fences encircling a public irrigation ditch adjacent to a Thanathorn orange orchard. The villagers were incensed as it was a public place and it had been agreed earlier that the orchard workers would build a road beside the ditch but did not do so. To counter this, the villagers blockaded the orchard.

On February 24, Chan Nonghin, a village headman, stated that the villagers had made an agreement that they would put fences around the irrigation ditch again after they were removed by the workers. Prior to the replacement of fences, the district chief officer and heads of many organizations and Santi Tansuhat, a member of parliament of the 10th constituency zone, tried to negotiate between the villagers and the orchard’s representatives.

The officials and MPs suggested the orchard owner build a road to link the irrigation ditch and remove water pipes that are connected to the irrigation ditch to make the area a public place for other villagers to use. This suggestion satisfied both sides.

After making an agreement, the villagers stopped building fences and allowed the workers to commute to village areas. Chan said that the conflict was not of their making. He had planned to bring the villagers to apologize to the orchard owner in order to improve relationships.

MP Santi said that during the conflict, a rumor had been spread that an influential person threatened a leader of the protesting villager’s group and that caused so much fear among them that some villagers asked for a police guard to ensure their security. Eventually, however, the conflict was solved and he wished them to live together in peace for evermore.


Ministry of Public Health holds workshop on booze, bungers and bangs

Watcharapong Jingkaujai

Dr. Kittisak Klabdee, from the Ministry of Public Health, region 2, presided over a workshop on alcohol and tobacco consumption and sound pollution on February 24 at the Central Duangtawan Hotel, Chiang Mai.

Dr Kittisak Klabdee (left) from the Ministry of Public Health, region 2, presides over the workshop at Central Duangtawan Hotel, Chiang Mai.

The National Statistics Office reported that alcohol consumption amongst Thais is increasing and during the last ten years, 300,000 Thais had begun to drink alcohol. This behavior caused over 70 dangerous diseases. (Incidentally, the population is estimated to have grown by 3,900,000 during the same period.)

The Disease Control Department Ministry of Public Health has realized the severity of the problem, especially its impact on youth and children. The workshop was held to develop measures to control alcohol and tobacco sales and sound pollution.

He admitted that to reduce alcohol and cigarette consumption and sound pollution from entertainment outlets is a difficult task due to poor cooperation from influential owners.


Fire breaks out on undeveloped land

Threatens Tesco Lotus

Watcharapong Jingkaujai

On February 19, a fire blazed out on an abandoned area behind Tesco Lotus Kamthiang branch close to the Assadathorn intersection. Dry air and strong winds caused the fire to spread quickly. People living nearby called the fire fighting unit to control the fire.

Fire fighters from Chiang Mai Municipality try to control the fire behind Lotus Kamthiang.

Two fire trucks from Chiang Mai Municipality rushed to the scene and six fire fighters spent around 20 minutes to extinguish the fire. A fire fighter commented that fires in that area were regular occurrences especially during the drought season, usually from outdoor burning by nearby residents.

There are many undeveloped areas in Chiang Mai and some of them are close to residential areas. These areas lack attention from their landowners and become deserted, grass covered and untidy. The doughty fighter said that Chiang Mai municipality should pay more attention to these deserted plots, as they can be sources of fires ravaging populated areas.


Second year CMU Fine Arts students display works at Central Kad Suan Kaew

Watcharapong Jingkaujai

Second year students of the Faculty of Fine Arts, Chiang Mai University are holding an exhibition entitled “Open Heart” from February 24 to March 10 on the B1 floor, Central Kad Suan Kaew, Chiang Mai.

The exhibition atmosphere

The main objective of the exhibition is to present students’ work to the public. The exhibition was officially opened on February 24 by ML Surasawas Sukhasawas, dean of CMU’s Faculty of Fine Arts.

Amporn Jittranarin, a representative of the students said that the exhibition has 60 works from second year students majoring in painting, printing and sculpture. She added that it gives students experience in organizing exhibitions and promotes self-esteem.

ML Surasawas presented a souvenir to Amporn to congratulate and encourage all students on the occasion of their exhibition.


Fire risk high for Chiang Mai suburbs

Dry hot weather predicted

Saksit Meesubkwang

Chiang Mai suburban residents face many outbreaks of fire, like the one that broke out on February 20 and threatened Chang Puek - only prompt action by Arnon Yana, a member of Tambon Chang Puek Municipal Council, averted a disaster.

The forest fire fighting units of Chang Puek Municipality and Chiang Mai Provincial Administration Organization (PAO) responded to his call and rushed to the undeveloped land. Tinder-dry grass led to the rapid spread of the fire and many adjacent houses were threatened. The narrow road leading to the site made access difficult and the fire had covered almost the whole area when fighters finally fought their way to the blaze.

Fire fighters try to control a fire on a 30 rai area of Doi Suthep.

Arnon said that the fire might have been caused by a man on a motorcycle who was seen in the area when the fire started. A search for the culprit continues.

Issares Sitthirojanakul, head of the Doi Suthep fire fighting unit said that the officers had to conduct preventative control on forest fires that might occur on Doi Suthep, as well as Phuping Palace which is very significant to the province. HM the Queen will reside at the Phuping Palace for a period of three months at this season.

Strict control is practiced for a one kilometer radius surrounding Phuping Palace. Forest fire fighters are educating villagers and students living in 36 villages near Doi Suthep about the impact of forest fires and a fast-moving motorcycle operation is established to patrol risky areas and inform the fire fighting unit immediately a fire is spotted.

Surapol Leelawaropas, director of the Upper Northern Forest Fire Control Unit, revealed that from October 2004 to February 19, 2005, 868 forest fires had occurred within the Chiang Mai-Lamphun area and caused damage to 3,878 rai of land. The main cause of forest fires is from careless humans or farmers burning grass.

He admitted that previous attempts that had been made to solve the problem such as a psychological workshops were not effective. The main cause of the fires is actually rooted in the people annually setting fires and those doing so inadvertently while gathering forest flora to sell, he said.

He suggested that policy change could help solve the problem at its root, “Most people who set forest fires are poor hunter-gatherers and do it to earn a living,” said Surapol. He added that government should find them occupations or else forest fires would continue to burn every dry season.

He also emphasized that 400 fire fighters were insufficient for the needs compared to the area of 700,000 rai they have to cover.

The Northern Meteorology Center predicted that this year’s summer would arrive earlier than previous years and the temperature could be as high as 40ฐ C in Tak. The highest temperature in Lampang would be 39-40ฐ C. Temperatures will rise in March and April. He warned farmers to conserve water as this year’s drought will be severe.


Pha Muang Task Force counters Mekong route for drug runners

Saksit Meesubkwang

A smuggler bringing drugs by small boat into Thailand from Laos at Tha Kham Sob Kham, Chiang Rai on February 23 was apprehended by soldiers from the 956th Rangers, lying in wait after a tip-off.

The boatman fired at the soldiers attempting to stop him and they returned with massive fire for five minutes. Not unsurprisingly, when the dust settled, the man was found dead.

He was later identified as a Chinese Haw. By his body lay 9,400 ya ba tablets and a shotgun. His bullet riddled remains were sent to Chiang Saen District Police Station for processing.

Maj Gen Manus stated that a number of drug networks have begun to use the Mekong River as a route for smuggling drugs into the country. In the rainy season when the water level is high, water transportation will be even easier. The Mekong River serves as an effective route as it adjoins Laos, Chiang Saen district of Chiang Rai, Nong Kai in the Northeast and enters Cambodia, said Maj. Gen. Manus.


Speedy rock group bombs in bar

Nopniwat Krailerg

Members of the teenage group, “Forward”, performing at Qoo bar on the Chiang Mai-Lamphun Road, were arrested on February 26 for possession and dealing in drugs.

Korakod ‘Ton’ Jiradechakul, 23, and Jesada Ubolsri, 20, were found with ya ba pills and Itthipol ‘Toe’ Boonchompoo, 22, had a 0.38 Smith and Wesson revolver with 6 cartridges, and a homemade pipe bomb in his car.

The group was in the habit of making drug sales during performances and delivering the drugs to customers after the show. Customers were mostly musicians and young denizens of the night.

The police, using gentle musical percussion methods, extracted confessions from the youths. They claimed to be keeping the gun and bomb for self defense. Police, however, found the bomb to be similar to those used in southern provinces.

Charges have been pressed against Korakod and Jesada for the possession of and illegal dealings in drugs. Itthipol was also charged with the possession of weapons, bullets and a bomb.


The number you are trying to call cannot be connected

Nopniwat Krailerg

A 500,000 baht hoard of mobile phones, digital cameras, cash and 300 phone cards were discovered in the home of grilled pork vendor Kongsri ‘Aree’ Infagtha, 53, when police searched his house after his arrest on February 28.

A local informant told police to watch Kongsri as his lifestyle did not equate with his pork barrel. He also ran a phone card and mobile phone business and always had several mobile phones on offer to purchasers.

The police followed Kongsri until he was found in front of a 7-11 on Huey Kaew Road, and after the police politely requesting a search, Nokia and Samsung mobile phones were found. The mobile phone numbers matched a list held at the police station, reported as stolen from a company store with another 31 mobile phones stolen from Jarong Karahong.


Burmese lady leaps from building

No bad surprise from low-rise

Nopniwat Krailerg

Quarrels over SMS messages from a lover led to Mai Siripong, 21, leaping from a deserted building in front of Chiang Mai-Arcade transportation terminal on Chiang Mai-Lampang Super Highway.

Mai Siripong, 21, at the emergency room after not-so high jumping.

On February 22, the lady was admitted to the emergency room at McCormick Hospital in Chiang Mai with facial injuries and bruises from her “suicidal” leap from the second floor to the creek. She ended up shaken with some bruises only.

Yodchai Siripong, 21, the lady’s husband said both worked legally at Fueng Fah Restaurant in Chiang Mai, where the husband is a bus boy and his impulsive wife worked as a waitress.

The reason for her cautious jump appears to be that they had argued several times because of SMS messages from another man to the wife, so the husband became jealous.

On February 6, she moved to her sister’s residence but the husband asked her to return. She did as he requested on the day the event happened, but instead of a reconciliation, requested a divorce. Yodchai disagreed, an argument ensued and Mai tried to open the door of the building to jump. He saved her the first time but when he relaxed for a minute, she did it again.

Yodchai said that she was always promising to jump from the building whenever they had an argument and he often prevented her from doing so. He did not reveal what they were doing in the deserted building.


300 Mae Taeng residents cause big stink over garbage

Watcharapong Jingkaujai

A large garbage pit, dug in secret in Ban Pang Kwang, has raised the ire of villagers who did not want a garbage dump in their vicinity. Three hundred villagers gathered on February 21 at Muang Kaen Pattana Municipality to protest.

300 villagers from Ban Pang Kwang in Mae Taeng district protest against garbage pit.

The villagers claimed that the garbage was unsanitary. The owner of the hole, Singh Arun, 46, who is village headman of Ban Pang Kwang, admitted that he had allowed the garbage to be buried on his land. He claimed, however, that before burying the garbage, he had conducted a public hearing in his village.

However, Prasert Indee, Mae Taeng district chief officer, argued that Singh had to ask permission from people who lived in other villages but in the same tambon before going ahead as the villages were close to each other and the garbage could affect people in other villages as well. He therefore asked that the garbage burial to be halted.

Singh agreed to stop and Narong Jankaew, a member of the Chiang Mai Provincial Administration Organization (PAO) drafted an agreement which Singh signed to guarantee his compliance.

The district has a regulation that garbage can be buried only when the operator has a legal document indicating his right to the land and the dump is approved by most of villagers and government officials.