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HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Kantoke Feast for elephants

Chao Kokaew Prakaykavil na Chiang Mai passes away in Bangkok

Royal artificial rain to be used to dampen forests and prevent fires

Busy insects the bees knees, says Department of Agriculture

Ton Lamyai market vendors trained in food hygiene

Brainstorming for Regional Development

World Vision to reduce AIDS amongst migrant workers

Two die and 756 contract Dengue Haemorrhagic Fever

Garbage treatment machines to generate electricity

Nationwide rain may break cycle of drought

Elephants raid drought-stricken villages in search for food

Revolutionary medical discovery at Chiang Mai University

Authorities confident bird flu outbreaks under control

People urged to remain calm amid earthquake rumors

Karen workers underpaid on local government contracts

Police train police teachers

Phantom drainage ditch bandit detained

Fake car license books on stolen cars found in Chiang Mai

Prominent local family killed in private plane crash

Senior police threatened with tougher penalties

More than 10,000 drug dealers targeted

Kantoke Feast for elephants

Sandy Clark

The 6th National Elephant Day was held at the Maesa Elephant Camp in Mae Rim district on Sunday, March 13. It was a tribute to an amazing animal, which plays such a great part in Thailand’s culture and tradition.

National Elephant Day is supposed to be a day with an extensive meal for all elephants and it was pure joy to watch large, small, old and young elephants, with their mahouts, majestically walk down from the mountain to take their place at the huge banquet of bamboo shoots, grass and all sorts fruits which was set up at the grounds of the Maesa Nursery.

When the hunger was sated, the spectators were treated to a painting exhibition which left more than one person wishing they were as artistic. Following this, the Thai Elephant Orchestra, surely the world’s finest animal harmonica players marched in, joyfully dancing around the grounds.

Finally as a ‘digestive’ exercise there was a football match, a basketball match and a ‘must’ for a Thai elephant - the Muay Thai Boxing show that left the crowd laughing, gasping for air. It was as festive as it was a great way in helping the endangered species to preserve this huge part of Thai heritage.


Chao Kokaew Prakaykavil na Chiang Mai passes away in Bangkok

Nopniwat Krailerg

Chao Kokaew Prakaykavil na Chiang Mai, a prominent member of Chiang Mai society, died on March 13 from a cerebral hemorrhage. Her relatives moved her body to That Thong Temple, Bangkok for funeral rites, for which HRH Princess Soamsawalee granted water for bathing the body.

Chao Kokaew Prakaykavil na Chiang Mai, a descendant of Chao Kaew Nawarat, a former king of Chiang Mai.

Chao Kokaew Prakaykavil na Chiang Mai was born on May 16, 1935, the youngest of three daughters of Chao Kawilawong and Princess Siriprakay na Chiang Mai, who were descendants of Chao Kaew Nawarat, a former king of Chiang Mai City.

Having attended school at Mater Dei boarding school, she later attended secondary and high school in Raven’s Croft, Eastbourne, England and Southampton Technical College. Later, she moved to London to study typing at Pitman College and etiquette with Lucy Clayton, London. She later attended a finishing school in Paris.

Chao Kokaew was apprenticed to CTO Lines Company during her studies in Paris. She worked for CTO Lines and various other companies in Thailand after returning 1956, mainly in public relations.

She was a committee member of Mater Dei Alumnae Association, a committee member of Europe Alumnae Association, subcommittee of Thai Red Cross Society, Chaoneua Association committee, advisor of Puan Ruam Jai Rak club, governor of Lady’s Lion region C in 1988, president of Lion-Ram, Bangkok between 1995-1669 and president of Zonta International Association, Bangkok between 1992-1998. She established “Sixth Century Anniversary of the King” building in Chiang Rai completed in 1999. She was the first governor of Zonta Thailand Association between 1999-2001.

She has been survived by one son, Thinnakorn Aussawarak.


Royal artificial rain to be used to dampen forests and prevent fires

Saksit Meesubkwang

Wetting the forest to prevent forest fires is the main consideration in making rain said Somchai Reungsuthinaruphap, director of the Northern Royal Artificial Rain Center, although topping up dams is obviously another good effect.

Somchai Reungsuthinaruphap, director of the Northern Royal Artificial Rain Center.

“There are nine Northern provinces under care of the center and artificial rain is to be made to add water in the four dams Mae Ngad, Bhumibol, Mae Guang and Kewlome, as these dams can keep enough water to meet requirements,” he said.

He also said, “There are 9 districts facing drought, Chomthong, Hod, Omkoy, Mae Jam, Mae Aon, Mae Taeng, Chiang Dao, Mae Ai and Prao. The Office has planed to make artificial rain for 200 days from March to July, using aircraft belonging to the Air Force operating from Chiang Mai. However, to be able to create artificial rain depends on the general climate,” he added.

Problems facing them, he said, are insufficient rainmaking instruments and the aircraft still operable lacked proper maintenance. Nevertheless, it is not proposed to invoke the rain dancers yet.


Busy insects the bees knees, says Department of Agriculture

Honey pot is large enough for everyone to get sticky fingers

Watcharapong Jingkaujai

A training workshop was held from March 8-11 at Chiang Mai Hills Hotel for almost 100 participants, covering concerns such a bee farm structure, farm management, efficiency, and other beesness.

Vet. Yukol Limlaemthong, director general of Department of Livestock presides over the opening ceremony at Chiang Mai Hills Hotel.

Vet. Dr. Vimolporn Thitisak, director of Bureau of Livestock Standard and Certification, said the Department of Livestock would certify the qualifications and assess the standard of bee farms, in cooperation with the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives.

Vet. Yukol Limlaemthong, director general of the Department of Livestock said, “Bountiful food sources such as lychee, longan and sunflowers gives an opportunity to expand bee farming in Thailand. Thailand is able to produce 10,000 tons of honey per year, of which 2,000 tons are designated for export.” He added that bee farming is an affordable activity, giving the lie to the maxim, “No money, no honey.”


Ton Lamyai market vendors trained in food hygiene

Nopniwat Krailerg

Locals and tourists enjoy the tasty eats on sale from stall vendors at Ton Lamyai market, the main market in Chiang Mai and soon they will be able to do so in confidence after the training in food hygiene provided by Chiang Mai Provincial Public Health Office and the “Rak Talad” (market protection) club.

Trainees receiving certificates from Dr. Rattawut Sukmee, the head of Chiang Mai Provincial Public Health Office.

The training is aimed at improving standards of manufacture, cleanliness, and food safety. There were 69 vendors at the training session on February 22, each receiving a certificate on March 9 at Chiang Mai Provincial Public Health Office.

In future, Chiang Mai Provincial Public Health Office will cooperate with Chiang Mai Municipality to improve and modernize vendor’s stands and the taste of the food, so wait for the golden arches on wheels.


Brainstorming for Regional Development

Department of Public Works holds seminar for action in northern areas

Watcharapong Jingkaujai

In a repeat of the same event last year, the Department of Public Works and Regional Planning, Ministry of Interior, held a seminar on March 8, entitled “Country and Regional Plan and Vision to Develop Northern Area”.

Prinya Panthong, vice governor of Chiang Mai, presides over the opening ceremony.

This was to be accomplished by brainstorming and receiving advice for future planning as well as to explain the plan for developing the country and the six regions: Bangkok and boundaries, Eastern, Central, North East, Northern and Southern regions. The plan would be applied as a strategy for several sections development in relation to the economy, social circumstances and environment.

Prinya Panthong, Vice governor of Chiang Mai, presided over the opening ceremony and 250 participants of government, private sector and other organizations attended the seminar at The Empress Hotel, Chiang Mai.

Surapol Kadchamath, director of the National and Regional Plan department, said, “This seminar serves to develop our country to be stronger, whilst realizing cultures and environment resources such as providing Eco-tourism. In future, discrimination between city and suburbs will be solved, agricultural areas will be protected, transportation will be improved to minimize pollution, local wisdom will be encouraged, and there will be experts to serve peoples needs as the development plans.”

“The first problems necessary to be solved in Chiang Mai are traffic, ancient places conservation, and the Ping River’s purification,” said Prinya Panthong. “Thai culture and ancient places, especially in the North, need to be revived. Have you ever heard about ‘Taksa Muang’, it means to watch over the city’s eight areas, and know how to satisfy people.”


World Vision to reduce AIDS amongst migrant workers

World Vision Foundation Thailand

The prevention of HIV/AIDS was the subject of a Joint Strategic Management Committee meeting held in February 2005. World Vision Foundation of Thailand attended the first session this year at the Novotel Chiangmai Hotel under the theme of “PHAMIT” or Prevention of HIV/AIDS Among Migrant Workers in Thailand. Other organizations participating were MAP; Pattanaruk Foundation; Care Foundation; Center for AIDS Rights (CAR); Stellar Maris (SM) and Empower.

The discussion was about work guidelines and desirable results in the 5-year plan for the AIDS epidemic involving migrant workers. Each organization reported on performance and achievements based on PHAMIT’s prime goal of reducing the number of HIV infections among migrant workers, families in Thailand, the population in general and impending danger areas in the fishing industry and factories.

WVFT informed the meeting that the organization has sent teams of Thai and Burmese volunteers to help migrant workers and refugees in Ranong, Chumporn, Mae Sot, Tak and Tup Lamut district, Phangnga province. The volunteers have taught about sexual relations, safe ways for protection against sexually transmitted diseases and health care and personal hygiene, especially for pregnant mothers and post natally. This knowledge is disseminated through various media such as leaflets, posters and documentary videos produced in different languages and, in addition, public health services are also offered to migrant workers and those affected with AIDS, as well as sending them to the hospitals for further treatment.

World Vision also advises on family planning, skills for living, ways to solve problems and supports in fishing livelihood. It coordinates in helping migrant workers and refugees to set up self-help groups among themselves.

For more information please contact World Vision Thailand tel.0 5340 4182-4.


Two die and 756 contract Dengue Haemorrhagic Fever

Nopniwat Krailerg

Dengue hemorrhagic fever this year is twice as prevalent as last year reports Dr. Ratthawut Sukmee, head of Chiang Mai Provincial Public Health Office. He stated that this is due to the earlier hot season leading mosquitoes to breed faster. Normally, a mosquito is fully grown within seven days but the hot climate has enabled the process to speed up to three to four days.

Mosquito “fogging” has been undertaken in some areas to reduce the threat of dengue haemorrhagic fever.

He requested people to eliminate breeding grounds for mosquitoes in their own houses such as water ponds and particularly their cherished swamps, and even to add chemicals to prevent mosquito larva growth.

There were two deaths and 756 patients with hemorrhagic fever in the previous year. Dr. Ratthawut accepted that there were many sectors responsible for preventing hemorrhagic fever but lack of cooperation from responsible parties prevented this scourge being solved. In 2005, the Public Health Department requests Chiang Mai Municipality to set up a team to control hemorrhagic fever by using chemical substances to eliminate mosquitoes.

However, people sometimes do not cooperate with the team due to their concern for pets such as ducks and chickens, and some families even let mosquito larva grow for feeding fish. “Nowadays there is no new technology to eliminate mosquitoes better than what the team use,” he concluded.


Garbage treatment machines to generate electricity

Refuse no longer considered revolting

Nopniwat Krailerg

Two garbage treatment machines arriving from England next month can convert 200 tons of garbage into electric energy per day, consuming 400 tons of garbage in the process.

Chiang Mai Mayor Boonlert Buranupakorn

Boonlert Buranupakorn, Chiang Mai mayor signed a cooperation contract with SEPCO Company, England, on October 14, 2004 to purchase these machines, which are now being shipped from England, and will arrive in April. After one month installation at Haiya graveyard in Chiang Mai, the machines will be ready for use in May.

The mayor said, “The two machines have no affect on the environment because they are designed not to create toxic emissions. People will be satisfied with them, as garbage will be cleaned and electricity produced after only four hours of processing.”

The machines will also serve other provinces and will reduce reliance on imported fuel oil. They can reduce the expense of garbage elimination from 590 baht per ton to 300 baht.


Nationwide rain may break cycle of drought

On March 15 the Meteorological Department said that the much-needed rain that fell across all regions of Thailand over the following two days brought relief from one of the country’s worst droughts in decades.

According to Chalermchai Egkantrong, acting director-general of the Meteorological Department, a depression moving over from China to Thailand’s northeastern region coupled with a westerly wind passing over the northern region brought thunderstorms and rain across much of the country through March 16.

Temperatures in the northern region fell by as much as 4-5 degrees Celsius, with a 10-degree drop in the northeast. A repeat of these weather patterns is likely to occur on March 18-19.

The southern region will, meanwhile, see heavy seas, and Chalermchai urged vessels in the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea to exercise caution. He also hinted of further rain in mid-April.

The current drought encompasses over 60 of Thailand’s 76 provinces, and has already led to huge economic losses and suffering for local people. (TNA)


Elephants raid drought-stricken villages in search for food

Elephants in Thailand’s northeastern province of Loei are descending from their mountain homes to raid villages for food, as the north-eastern province becomes firmly gripped by drought. Farmers, villagers and animals are all suffering from severe drought conditions, which have pushed water levels in 13 of the province’s reservoirs to under 20 percent.

Streams and rivers have dried up, and villagers are being forced to purchase expensive bottled water from itinerant traders, who set their prices in accordance with how far they have to travel.

Soy beans growing in thousands of rai of local fields have dried up, while thousands of fish being raised in fish farms have died due to lack of oxygen.

In Phu Rue district, roads that were once lined with fields of cultivated flowers are now lying barren, as farmers in this mainly agricultural province have no water with which to sustain their crops.

Residents’ woes are compounded by the fact that the lack of water has led to the build-up of highly concentrated agricultural chemicals in local water sources, which have already killed off the animals drinking from them.

According to Adisorn Sunthararak, deputy head of the Loei Conservation and Development Foundation, the drought this year has come sooner than normal, and has lasted longer.

Mountainous areas have been particularly badly affected, and animals living in the Phu Luang conservation area have found themselves with insufficient food and water for survival. As a result, two large herds of elephants have descended into villages, where they are destroying any remaining crops. (TNA)


Revolutionary medical discovery at Chiang Mai University

Can Thai herbs stop cartilage degeneration?

Staff Reporters

A team of researchers from Chiang Mai University claims it has discovered a method that is able to stop the degeneration of cartilage. It will be assigned a patent for supporting the use of Thai medicines and herbs.

Asst. Prof. Siriwan Ongchai, lecturer of Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Medicine, Chiang Mai University, who is the head of the initial testing development project revealed that the research team succeeded by utilizing a “Cartilage Explants Culture” method.

The team tested the medicine by using pig cartilage tested in a bacterial culture. They tried many bio-molecular substances both in the bacterial culture and in the pig’s cartilage. A substance was found that they claimed could stop the degeneration of cartilage.

The project has also succeeded in separating and proving the effect of a substance to search for type, structure and order inside cells. The research result finds that several Thai herbs are effective and could become modern medicines. Several medical companies abroad are interested in the studies.

The project was supported by the Research Governance, the Thailand Research Fund Regional Office and PERCH.


Authorities confident bird flu outbreaks under control

Thai authorities insist they can contain the latest outbreaks of deadly bird flu in the country. Seven provinces are currently under quarantine for three weeks in a bid to stem the spread of the disease.

Livestock Department director Yukol Limlaemthong told journalists that most of the quarantined provinces were in the lower north of the country, namely Phitsanulok, Kampheangphet, Nakornsawan, Pichit, and Uttaradit. The other two provinces were Suphanburi, Nonthaburi.

“In many provinces, officials found local fowls infected with bird flu. All were destroyed to prevent the virus spreading. Now we will find ways to manage ducks,” he said.

He also said the provincial governors had reported that culling programs and a ban on the movement of fowls had been strictly implemented.

In a related development, the livestock chief unveiled a plan for the strict quarantine of all animals being imported for the proposed Night Safari Zoo in Chiang Mai. The zoo is due to open to the public next month on Songkran Day, April 13. (TNA)


People urged to remain calm amid earthquake rumors

On March 11, the disaster prevention and mitigation office in Chiang Mai urged local residents to remain calm amid rumors that there might be an earthquake and cave-ins in the province.

There have been rumors about the cave-ins in Jom Thong districts and adjacent areas, a chief disaster official, Phattharawan Sadudee, admitted. This has led to local residents evacuating to other areas.

She dismissed the rumors as groundless, saying if there were any earthquake or cave-ins, local authorities would inform the local residents. She said, however, that areas where the earth is mainly limestone could be vulnerable to cave-ins. She dismissed fears that the cave-ins could happen on a large scale.

Phattharawan urged local residents to report to local authorities any geographic irregularities, including abrupt emergence of fountains or turbid water in wells. Planned evacuation drills had been scheduled for March 16 after being postponed from March 5. (TNA)


Karen workers underpaid on local government contracts

Lawyer claims influential builder just said “Sue me!”

Saksit Meesubkwang

Claiming government influence and threatening reprisals, P.R. Construction (1993) Co., Ltd., working on the Heuypooling Sub-district Administration Organization office, is reported as having terrorized its 200 Karen workers into submission and underpaid them.

On March 7 the worm turned and they presented a petition to Sitthichai Prasertsri, vice governor of Mae Hong Son, claiming they had been paid no wages for six months for work on the building that had been completed in September 2004.

Chadchai Ummarin, a lawyer for the Labor Protection and Welfare Office said that the company was informed about the wages owed and had said that it would negotiate with the Karens, but no action was taken. Later, the case was sent to court. He believed the court would uphold a ruling that the employer had to pay the rest of the wages and, failing compliance, they would be sued in a criminal court.

It is known that the company has been assigned to build almost all the government sector offices in Mae Hong Son and has close relations with almost all provincial heads of the government.

Perhaps benefiting government officers obfuscated when appeals were made with claims that they could not contact the owner of the company, although he had been seen prominently moving about the city and visiting these officers. The company has several times had similar conflicts, especially concerning the Karen tribe. Previously when wages owed were demanded, the owner did not deny his debt but arrogantly replied, “Sue me.”


Police train police teachers

Want to make an example at police stations

Nopniwat Krailerg

Provincial Police Region 5 training entitled “Training 152 Teachers of Non-Commissioned Police Officers to be an example of each police station” (TOTOPOTETEPS) was held to teach other police officers how to cooperate, use weapons, and fight using modern methods.

Pol. Lt. Gen. Panupong Singhara Na Ayuthaya, commissioner of the Provincial Police Bureau Region 5.

Pol. Lt. Gen. Panupong Singhara na Ayuthaya, commissioner of the Provincial Police Bureau, explained the concept of the seminar to the 152 participating trainees, that the training also aimed to lift the standards of Non-Commissioned Police Officers to be more efficient, as the Commissioned Police Officers were frequently moved to other police stations, whilst NCOs were not.


Phantom drainage ditch bandit detained

Nopniwat Krailerg

Police were aghast when they were told that a drainage ditch had been stolen in the municipality area in broad daylight, but, on rushing to the scene of the crime, found that they had been misinformed and it was only the ditch cover that was missing.

Boonlert Buranupakorn, Chiang Mai mayor

Following some intensive sleuthing, a daring ditch lid detacher was arrested and confessions showed that it was not a solo effort, but a team of brigands were in the process of taking the items to be melted down at a factory in Rayong province.

Pipat Oonkam, 38, a dealer in second hand items and specializing in ditch lids, was located muscle-bulged with evidence such as the cover stolen from Arak Road Soi 5. He was interrogated and soon ditched his accomplice saying that a certain Wilai had received the stolen cover first. The police searched Wilai’s shop and found eight more covers. The dealer confessed that the items were to be sent to a factory in Rayong for melting down. With this information, and in cooperation with Rayong police, a truck from Chiang Mai with 47 covers was stopped and Suwit Ketprom arrested with evidence valued at almost a million baht.

Boonlert Buranupakorn, Chiang Mai mayor, said that the government lost several million baht each year due to theft of drainage ditch covers, currently selling at 7 baht per kilogram. It was also a decided nuisance to unwary residents and tourists who fell into the uncovered ditches.

Following the apprehension of the 47 covers, the price of ditch lids fell on the SET by several points to end up as 6.5 baht per kilogram, though experts expected them to be lifted by the weekend.


Fake car license books on stolen cars found in Chiang Mai

Saksit Meesubkwang

Scamsters are using a new twist to sell stolen cars in Chiang Mai. The cars are real, but the license books are not.

On routine checking of registration police officers found that the license book was a fake. The purportedly unwitting owner told them he had purchased the car from second hand dealers who had approached him at home with an offer he could not refuse, several hundred thousand less than main dealers. Ingenuously he agreed and they returned with the car license book in a shorter time than normal.

Autsathai Rattanadilok Na Phuket, head of Chiang Mai Provincial Transport Office compares a fake and real license.

Chiang Mai Provincial Transport Office is now warning residents to beware of a gang of fake license book makers. A great many cars are smuggled in from abroad or stolen from other cities and sold with fake license book at a ‘bargain’ price.

The car owner only discovers he’s been duped when he tries to renew the road tax and compulsory government insurance and learns that the license book was not registered and the car probably stolen.

The Land Transport Office is collecting evidence with police investigators to pursue and arrest the gang.


Prominent local family killed in private plane crash

Nopniwat Krailerg

A weekend pleasure jaunt for the CEO of Niyom Panich Co., Ltd. and his family ended in tragedy when their plane crashed near Bhumibol Dam runway on March 12.

The party flew from Lamphun and enjoyed the scenery around Bhumibol Dam when the pilot, CEO Apichai Ratanawanit, 51, radioed the tower to prepare for landing. At that time, there was no indication of trouble.

However, a very rough landing caused the aircraft to bounce hard and slew into a wooded area. It caught fire and the fuel tank exploded only 100 meters from the Air Traffic Control office.

The pilot was the secretary-general of Chiang Mai Provincial Flying Club but, even though a licensed pilot with many hours flying time, he appeared to be unfamiliar with this borrowed 4-seater Cessna aircraft. His wife Ratchanee and his adopted son Patipol Taotrakul also perished in the accident.

Cremation rites will be held at Wat Prasingh in Muang, Chiang Mai.

Apichai Ratanawanit, a millionaire businessman, was well known in Chiang Mai. Niyom Panich Company is a car, electricity supply and motorcycle agent, which has many branches in and around Chiang Mai and in other provinces.


Senior police threatened with tougher penalties

Gambling dens main target

Police commanders and commissioners will face tough disciplinary action if gambling dens are found in their jurisdiction, National Police Chief Pol. Gen. Kovit Watana warned.

“Senior police officers must be aware of what is going on in their areas,” Pol. Gen. Kovit said. The national police chief said he would not buy the usual excuse that senior officers were unaware that the gambling dens exist in their jurisdiction. He said he had received several complaints accusing police officers of taking bribes to turn a blind eye to the gambling dens in their areas.

In the past, when a gambling den was raided, usually by the Crime Suppression Division, the five top officers at the station were punished for inefficiency, Pol. Gen. Kovit said. These officers were the superintendent, his deputies for suppression and investigation, and the suppression and investigation inspectors. The police must also be less lazy and treat the public more politely, he added. (TNA)


More than 10,000 drug dealers targeted

Thailand’s anti-drug authorities will target more than 10,000 major drug dealers in the next phase of the government’s “war on drugs”. Most of the dealers are believed to be hiding somewhere in Thailand, while others have fled to neighboring countries, the deputy secretary-general of the Office of the Narcotics Control Board (ONCB), Pinyo Thongchai, told reporters.

The third stage of the government’s “war on drugs”, due to begin in April, will also involve increased cooperation with neighboring countries in a crack down on drug producers and traffickers. The government aims to make Thailand free from illicit drugs by 2008.

Drug smugglers have shifted their smuggling routes from the north of the country to the northeast, as well as the eastern and central regions. “These include Ubon Ratchathani, Surin, Sa Kaew, Trat, Kanchanaburi and Chantaburi,” Pinyo said.

Drug addicts have turned to ecstasy and crystal methamphetamine, known as “ice” because of the shortage of previously popular drugs, including heroin and methamphetamine, known locally as ‘ya ba’ (or crazy drug), as a result of the government’s continued crackdown on drugs, according to Pinyo. (TNA)