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HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Key witness in abbot murder intimidated - police implicated

“Panda stamp” celebrates 30 years of diplomatic relations between Thailand and China

Chiang Mai province to attend `China-Asian Expo 2005

Election Commission ready for TAO elections

Nearly 500 malaria deaths in Mae Hong Son

Chiang Mai and Lanna provinces’ development strategy analyzed

Supreme Commander of the Royal Thai Armed Forces plants trees

Chiang Mai to parade a special candle made for Buddhist Lent

Night safari is 100 percent complete says Plodprasop

Leeches found in nose cavity and throat of two children

Foreign media finds no base to claims of ill treatment of Tai tribesmen

Checkpoint Charlies told to be more vigilant

Night Safari animals given a Lanna welcome

Want a cool number plate?

Tourists report famous Makha Mong fossil tree buried in mudslide

Construction costs increase with price of fuel oil

People up in arms at fuel oil costing 26 baht per liter

A man hiding speed in rectum arrested in Mae Sai

Barber shorn in armed robbery in broad daylight

Jealous pickle merchant commits suicide

Young monk shot dead and novice wounded on hunting trip

Minister of Interior makes a security check

Three Hmong schoolchildren killed and 31 injured in bus crash

Key witness in abbot murder intimidated - police implicated

Deputy abbot prepared to name names

Staff Reporters

In a possible attempt at intimidation, the home of a key witness in the murder of a Buddhist abbot in Chiang Mai was burned to the ground late on Monday last week.

A house panel investigating the murder was told by Phra Kittisak Kittisophano, deputy abbot of the Mettadhamma Buddhist Centre in Fang district, that the house of Khum Laowan, a local woman who looks after the grounds of the centre and who discovered the dead body of Phra Supoj Suvacano, was burned to the ground on June 17.

No one was seen entering or leaving the area, the monk told the panel headed by Thai Rak Thai MP Premsak Piayura.

"Luckily, Mrs Khum had been spending nights at the homes of her friends as she feared for her own safety. Mrs Khum claims that, since the abbot’s murder, police officers frequently came around midnight and took her to the Fang police station for questioning and returned her in the morning," the deputy abbot said.

Phra Kittisak said the local police purported to suspect that the house fire was an accident caused by Mrs Khum herself - but he believed it was arson.

The center owns about 1,500 rai land. The centre itself occupies only 75 rai, while 800 rai serves as a community forest and the rest is a campus of Maha Chulalongkorn Ratchawitthayalai Buddhist University.

The desire of greedy influential persons to gain this land is thought to be the motive for the murder of Phra Supoj, as there had been several violent attempts by influential figures, allegedly including local politicians and border patrol police, to force the late Phra Supoj to sell the land. Witnesses questioned by the police had complained of "inappropriate behavior" and verbal threats from some of the police and some villagers had already fled their homes following repeated threats against them, claimed Suchart Khunraksa, who lives near the Mettadhamma center.

Nothing has been heard at this late stage from the MP representing Fang district, Santi Tansuhat of Thai Rak Thai.

Phra Kittisak yesterday rejected the Fang police’s theory about the motive for the murder of the abbot, which is that it stemmed from his personal conflicts with some of the locals. However, the local police chief, Pol. Col. Thanasarn Phlaitho, said Fang police would continue to base their investigations on this.

Phra Kittisak said that if the committee could provide sufficient witness protection, he would be willing to name names. He affirmed that the death of Phra Supoj was not caused by conflicts with villagers, "because we have enjoyed a good relationship with all the locals."


“Panda stamp” celebrates 30 years of diplomatic relations between Thailand and China

Thailand’s first circular stamps

Preeyanoot Jittawong

Thailand Post in cooperation with Chiang Mai Zoo have organized the "Panda Stamp" fair, producing the "30 years of diplomatic relations between Thailand and China" collection. These are Thailand’s first circular stamps and went on sale on July 1.

Chiang Mai Governor Suwat Tantipat (seated centre) presided over the "Panda Stamp" fair opening ceremony at the Airport Plaza Shopping Centre.

Chiang Mai Governor Suwat Tantipat presided over the "Panda Stamp" fair opening ceremony at the Airport Plaza Shopping Centre, Chiang Mai. The fair gives information about the Chinese pandas, now proud residents of Chiang Mai, so much so that they are now like a symbol of Chiang Mai.

The new stamp is a popular item.

The stamps are special in that they are circular with a diameter of 33 mm showing the panda bears in a teak forest setting, representing Chiang Mai and the North. Another shows them eating bamboo in a bamboo grove. The stamps cost 3 baht each and 2 million of each design have been printed. The stamps are available in 3 packages - sets of 20 costing 60 baht per set, collector set of two stamps costing 15 baht and an envelope with the pandas on the front and reverse, costing 13 baht and are available for Chiang Mai locals. The stamps are available now from Charoen Muang Road Post Office, Chiang Mai.


Chiang Mai province to attend China-Asian Expo 2005

Nopniwat Krailerg

Chiang Mai province plans to attend the China-Asian Expo 2005 at Nanning, Guangxi Autonomous Region, China, to promote Chiang Mai and tourism and to present unique local products to the international public this coming October.

Chiang Mai Governor Suwat Tantipat presided over the Chiang Mai planning conference regarding the China-Asian Expo 2005, scheduled for October 19–22, to push Chiang Mai as a "City of Thai Charm".

The expo coordinators have requested Chiang Mai to prepare a Road Show concerning tourism, unique products such as handicraft works, agricultural products and other investments between Chiang Mai and China. The province would encourage cooperation with Yunnan province and Guangxi by concentrating on air and land transport that could support trade and closer relationships.


Election Commission ready for TAO elections

Elections scheduled for July 31

Saksit Meesubkwang

The Election Committee is ready for the July 31 TAO elections, said Theerawat Sinthuboon, director of Office of the Election Commission of Chiang Mai. TAO presidents and members in 121 Chiang Mai areas will be elected.

Theerawat Sinthuboon, director of the Chiang Mai Election Commission’s Office, provides information about the upcoming election during the press conference.

Theerawat said 376 presidential candidates and 6,341 potential members are running for election; however, one candidate had already been barred, following his behavior in the last electoral jousting.

The office will cooperate with the private sector to verify candidate’s qualifications and will accept calls about election problems 24 hours a day. Approved candidates were proclaimed on July 7.

Pol. Maj. Gen. Pimon Sinthunawa, officer of central investigation, said that the office had requested participation from the entire police force in Chiang Mai to verify candidates’ qualifications and to guard against cheating, by working with the TAO election coordinators. Some candidates who wish to present petitions to sue other candidates were warned to have sufficient proof.

Each candidate was limited to 30,000 baht in the amount of money he could spend on the election, while the presidential candidates could multiply that amount with the number of villages in each area for campaigning and, after the election results were proclaimed, each candidate had to report on his expenditure.

With another election coming, it sounds like manna from heaven for the locals.


Nearly 500 malaria deaths in Mae Hong Son

500 more expected

Saksit Meesubkwang

The malaria situation in Mae Hong Song is grave, says Suwat Kittidilokul, head of Mae Hong Son Provincial Public Health Office. Over a thousand villagers were suspected of harboring the disease and it is spreading along the border due to the incursion of alien laborers.

Suwat Kittidilokul, head of Mae Hong Son Provincial Public Health Office.

He disclosed that 442 malaria patients had died and he expected more, owing to the high rate of infection.

Malaria is one of the main problems in Mae Hong Son, where the rate of infection is one of the top ten in Thailand. Disease control cannot be relaxed, as local forests are ideal for mosquito breeding.

Another factor is the number of aliens moving into the province. Officers at a refugee camp in Mae Hong Son said that at least 3,000 of the 40,000 refugees are suffering from malaria.


Chiang Mai and Lanna provinces’ development strategy analyzed

Nopniwat Krailerg

On July 5, Yaowapa Wongsawat, advisor to the prime minister, and her team analyzed the results of Chiang Mai and Lanna provinces’ development strategy to solve poverty and to improve communication networks, water sources and public health medical services. She was joined by Chiang Mai governor, Suwat Tantipat.

Suwat Tantipat reported that in the nine months since October 2004, poverty solving has been underway, the trade value of the province was nearly up to target, 4,068 new SME producers were operating and OTOPs increased in value to 85 million baht. However, industrial production was below target. Health business promotions brought in less than half the target.

Yaowapa considered that the whole image of Chiang Mai according to the planned strategy was looking good; nevertheless district chief officers should concentrate on detailed areas to survey local problems to prevent overlapping budget spending and to search for attractive tourism points in each area. Good cooperation from every sector is required for this to happen. Residents should be encouraged to support stronger communities and to realize the importance of nature, the environment, culture and conservation.

The governor suggested canceling the CEO budget if it appeared non-beneficial but he would instead support projects approved by the PM and cabinet while they were on their mobile trip and would report continually to government about the progress.


Supreme Commander of the Royal Thai Armed Forces plants trees

Saksit Meesubkwang

Gen. Chaisit Shinawatra, supreme commander of the Royal Thai Armed Forces, and Assoc. Prof Thep Pongpanit, president of Maejo University, cooperated to re-forest 907 rai of land on the occasion of the 80 year anniversary of HM the King in 2007.

Gen. Chaisit said that the government has a policy to re-forest degraded areas, and government organizations, private sectors and all citizens were invited to re-forest the area with the help of Maejo University.

There were 200 Maejo University participants plus 400 people from education organizations and 500 residents.


Chiang Mai to parade a special candle made for Buddhist Lent

Nopniwat Krailerg

This year’s Asarnha Bucha and Buddhist Lent will be commemorated at Buddhist Place, Chiang Mai, said Pornchai Jitnavasathien, Chiang Mai deputy mayor, adding that Chiang Mai municipality would cooperate with the Chiang Mai Buddhist organizations to organize a Buddhism week.

The activities are scheduled to take place on July 21, and will be entitled "Hae Tian Watsa Paweni Chiang Mai Muang". The highlight of the activity will be a special candle parade. A Lent Day candle competition would be held for educational institutes, communities, and both government and private sectors. The municipality would support each organization attending the candle competition with 10,000 baht.

The deputy mayor added that the municipality had provided 20,000, 15,000, 10,000 and 7,000 baht, along with trophies, as rewards for the winner and other runners-up. The municipality invites interested residents to view the parade and join the activities on that day.


Night safari is 100 percent complete says Plodprasop

But like the ark, we are waiting for the animals

Nopniwat Krailerg

A leading government official said that construction is finished and the Night Safari Zoo is 100% ready. The assistant minister to the Office of the Prime Minister, Plodprasop Surasawadee, who is responsible for the construction of the zoo, made the announcement last week, adding that "we are just waiting the delivery of the animals."

Plodprasop Surasawadee, assistant minister of the office of the prime minister at the press conference.

Chiang Mai Governor Suwat Tantipat and Deputy Governor Prinya Pantong concurred.

The first animals to take up residence at the safari will be giraffes, scheduled to arrive on July 7. A welcoming ceremony was planned for them on that day.

The 1,600 animals, covering 100 varieties, will arrive gradually and barring any hiccups the new Chiang Mai Night Safari will open on Loy Krathong day in November this year. On first opening, important guests and schoolchildren will be invited. The schoolchildren will be admitted free of charge and meals will be provided.

Plodprasop added, "Total investment so far has reached 1.2 billion baht, which is one third of what the Singapore night safari cost 10 years ago. It is also more beautiful and better than the Singapore night safari both academically and in other aspects.

"OTOP products from three districts will be promoted within the grounds. Eventually an OTOP village will be opened so that other villages in Chiang Mai can also take part.

The Night Safari is scheduled to open by Loy Krathong in November.

"Furthermore, good quality restaurants will be opened providing delicious food. Most of the income will be gained from restaurants, the sale of goods and entrance fees. Ticket prices will vary for foreigners, Thai nationals and children. Profit and loss has not been considered, at this point, for the first seven years, but in the eighth year the project must be self-sustainable with no funding by the government."

A cable car to the night safari, the elephant sanctuary and shortcut to the foothills of Doi Suthep, passing Chiang Mai Zoo and on up to the Khru Ba Srivichai Monument or Huay Kaew Waterfall is proposed. This 15 km, eight station and an investment of 1,000 million baht project is presently being studied for viability at this time. This is a great opportunity for Chiang Mai residents as Thailand has never before had a cable car network. The area around the Khru Ba Srivichai Monument will remain untouched, just beautified. The cable car will also bring more people to pay their respects to Khru Ba Srivichai, said Plodprasop.


Leeches found in nose cavity and throat of two children

Nopniwat Krailerg

Two boys, seven and ten years old, from Mae Taeng, Chiang Mai were treated in Nakornping Hospital after one of them coughed and sneezed blood. Doctors found a leech in his nose cavity and another in his throat.

The two leeches were five and nine cm in length. The two boys had drunk water at a creek and Dr. Laddawan Hanpairote warned people, especially young children who swim and drink water from creeks, to beware of leeches.

Doctors at Nakornping Hospital have recently treated two other patients for leeches in the throat and fly worms in the nasal cavity.

Using leeches in medicine has almost been forgotten; however, doctors in the north have obviously to be on the lookout for non-medically applied blood-suckers.


Foreign media finds no base to claims of ill treatment of Tai tribesmen

Saksit Meesubkwang

NGOs and Tai tribal leaders presented a petition to members of the foreign media claiming that Thai soldiers had forced them to leave Doi Tai Lang without consideration of human rights. This resulted in Maj. Gen. Manus Paorik, deputy commander of Third Army Region, leading members of the foreign media to visit Tai tribesmen being evacuated from Burma to live at Doi Tai Lang.

Members of the commission survey Doi Tai Lang.

The deputy commander told the media commission that Doi Tai Lang was in Thailand and the watershed for Pang Ma Pha district. If people were allowed to live there it might cause a decrease in natural resources, affecting many people. The Tai tribes were asked to leave the area while reforestation took place, and they agreed. The Tai tribe moved to an area only 500-600 meters away from Doi Tai Lang.

Dr. Kraisak Chunhawan, president of the commission of foreign media said that, having learnt from NGO and Tai tribal leaders and even diplomats from several countries that Thai officers had forced the tribesmen to leave the area without their agreement, he and the commission visited Doi Tai Lang on a fact-finding mission. The commission was satisfied with the officers’ actions and did not discover any untoward events as had been rumored.

Dr. Kraisak Chunhawan, president of the commission, listens to the Tai tribe.

"The members of the foreign commission pay attention to human rights, and after the border situation had altered, resulting in many complaints about human rights issues, we had to find out the facts - starting from Ratchaburi, Prajuabkirikhan, Tak and Mae Hong Son. Having seen Doi Tai Lang, we are all relieved that no violence has been used as reported in both Thai and foreign media," the president said.

He added that although this tribe was not Thai, Thailand realized they were world citizens and needed to be taken care of, especially for health, food and education related reasons.. However, the members would appoint a committee to press Burma to adjust their policies to be democratic, so that Burmese citizens could have freedom and would not have to flee the country.

Mong San Jong Dee, administrative department leader of the Tai tribe, requested the members of the commission to help Tai orphans and women because the orphans would probably be pressed to return to Burma to serve as army servants, while the women were at risk of sexual exploitation.

There are 2,400 Tai tribes people living at Doi Tai Lang including 700 children, of whom 218 are orphans. A Buddhist temple and school has been set up there with 20 teachers. One of those teachers said that children were anxious to study but the school had insufficient food for them. The teacher asked people to donate funds or necessary goods for these children.


Checkpoint Charlies told to be more vigilant

Nopniwat Krailerg

Pol. Lt. Gen. Panupong Singhara Na Ayuthaya, Provincial Police Bureau Region 5 commissioner, ordered local police officers in the eight Northernmost provinces to be more vigilant at permanent checkpoints and search for illegal substances.

Currently there are over 100 on the routes from Burma and Laos into the main towns and the lower northern provinces. Police were told to be watchful of suspect vehicles that may have been modified to contain concealed compartments to store drugs.

This exhortation came as the result of the arrest in the beginning of July of Alay Saenhliaw, a Lahu tribesman, by Lampang police in Sobprab district. He was in possession of more than 300,000 amphetamine pills hidden in a modified pick-up truck and who managed to pass through checkpoints in both Chiang Rai and Phayao provinces.


Night Safari animals given a Lanna welcome

Nopniwat Krailerg

On July 7, Chiang Mai Night Safari organized a welcoming ceremony for three species of animals, the first to arrive at the park. The ceremony was held as a local "Bai Sri Soo Kwan" Lanna ceremony by ceremonially parading the caged animals of the Savanna zone.

Plodprasope Surasawadee, director of the safari project presided over the welcoming ceremony before feeding the nine animals: giraffes, zebras and blackbucks (possessing beautiful horns).

It was promised that 150 types of animals, totaling 1,600 head, will soon be transferred to the safari zoo. Plodprasope said that Chiang Mai Night Safari would be a night nature study center where people could see wildlife at night and it would be an attraction for nightlife tourists. It was also about developing a world class tourism destination to maintain Thai Lanna culture and identity, he maintained. He did not mention at the time that this tourist attraction will yet again be another practicing double pricing, with tourists being disadvantaged once more.


Want a cool number plate?

Nopniwat Krailerg

A tender for car license plates with 301 Kor Ror letters and lucky numbers will take place October 13-14, according to Autsathai Rattanadilok Na Phuket, head of Chiang Mai Provincial Transport Office.

The previous auction for Kor Yor license plates painted with panda pictures was very successful, and raised 22,850,000 baht. The highest price for a license plate in the previous year was the one with Kor Yor 9999 Chiang Mai, at 1.8 million baht, while the cheapest was Kor Yor 6611 Chiang Mai at 8,000 baht. The auction bids started from 500 to 50,000 baht, depending on the number. The Kor Yor 9999 license plate last year was the highest price ever achieved in Thailand.

The second tender this year is predicted to generate much interest. The office will use the previous four groups and same opening bids starting at 50,000 baht, second starting at 10,000 baht, third at 3,000 baht and the last group starting at 500 baht. The auction is expected to make as much as last year.


Tourists report famous Makha Mong fossil tree buried in mudslide

Saksit Meesubkwang

Tourists reported that an eight hundred thousand year old Makha Mong fossil tree discovered in Tak was partly buried under a mudslide.

The fossil tree is over four meters wide at the base with a two and half meter trunk and is 21 meters long. It is thought that another 20 meters may still be buried.

When it was discovered, villagers dispensed with all thoughts of conservation, and had tried to sell the tree but had been prevented.

The area used to be virgin forest and it is thought that the Ping River flowed through there but later trees fell causing the waterway to change and trees were buried and fossilized.

It is considered an important discovery and a key to knowledge of geography, botany and evolution, especially in Asia, as long as it doesn’t end up on the sales table.


Construction costs increase with price of fuel oil

Sales are decreasing

Saksit Meesubkwang

Nopadol Anonthawilad, managing director of Nopadol Company, said that the high cost of fuel oil is affecting the price of construction materials. However, the company could not increase its prices too much as the market would not stand it and, in the rainy season, sales have decreased by 30 percent and may tumble even further.

"In fact, material prices should be increased by 10-20 percent as the fuel oil price is increasing, but the company is able to add only 5 percent more. It is necessary to increase prices by 3 percent each time fuel oil increases by 10 percent," he added. He admitted that material costs depend on supply and demand and that factories producing the goods are also affected and were suffering cash flow problems.


People up in arms at fuel oil costing 26 baht per liter

Preeyanoot Jittawong

Fuel prices have been increasing, causing malcontent amongst the people of Chiang Mai. Yet another recent increase in fuel price has been imposed which will result in an imminent increase in the price of goods, despite "official" denials.

The price of fuel has increased and Chiang Mai is hurting.

As a result, a few people have taken to riding bicycles and some students are car pooling. Minibus drivers said that they could not collect more fares even if the fuel oil price had been increased, resulting in more hardship. Drivers have stopped the practice of cruising for passengers and now park at fixed points. In spite of this, people are unsure about the quality of gasohol and bio diesel, so they pay higher prices for fuel oil.

A measure to save fuel oil by closing gas stations after 10 p.m. as a government policy will shortly be imposed in spite of opposition. One night worker said that he had to wait for gas stations to open at 5 a.m. and it wasted his time.


A man hiding speed in rectum arrested in Mae Sai

But it wasn’t pre-digested

Chiangmai Mail reporters

On June 2, Choochai Udompode, head of the Mae Sai immigration office, intercepted and captured a drug mule at the Mae Sai border opposite Tachilek, Burma. After gentle interrogation, 560 ya ba pills were deftly, if perhaps messily, extracted from the prisoner’s rectal orifice.

The man was identified as Ekachai Hathiya, 34, from Nakhonsrithamarat. He said he had to commit the crime as he had huge debts and so agreed to transfer drugs to the southern region for 15,000 baht for each uncomfortable trip.

Choochai revealed that Mae Sai - Tachilek was still the most popular place for smuggling drugs in spite of official claims to the contrary. Officers tried to suppress drug smuggling but apparently Burmese laboratories are still working flat out to produce as much drugs as were required by Thai addicts, so smuggling through Mae Sai continues.


Barber shorn in armed robbery in broad daylight

Nopniwat Krailerg

On July 9 at 10 a.m. local barber Sao Sudtham was mugged while getting ready to give a customer his haircut. The brazen robber made off with two gold chains, weighing five baht, and two amulets, which apparently were not too lucky that day.

Police officers question Yupin, the victim’s wife.

Chiang Puek Police received a report of the mugging in which a gun was used and that the attacker had escaped in a blue car after carrying out the attack. The injured victim was taken to Chiang Puek Hospital for medical treatment.

Pol. Lt. Amnaj Thamasarn, carrying out preliminary investigations at the scene, found the front window was broken with a bullet hole still visible. Nearby was a pink barber’s cape caked in blood stains.

Questioning of Yupin Sudtham, the victim’s wife, revealed that after opening as usual a young slim male (about 30) came in acting as a customer. Sao put on his cloak to prepare to cut his hair, but while he wasn’t looking the attacker used the handle of a 12 mm. gun to hit him over the head. The villain then snatched off the two necklaces, one weighing 2 baht and the other 3 baht, along with two amulets in gold cases.

Sao grabbed his attacker and a wrestling match broke out, during which the gun went off hitting the window. The attacker ran out with the necklaces and jumped into a blue car that was parked on the opposite side of the street and sped off towards the municipal sports stadium. Police radioed colleagues hoping to block its escape.

Yupin added that her husband liked to wear many gold necklaces and this may have attracted the attention of the attacker who may have called around on numerous occasions waiting for the right opportunity. He was lucky not to be shot.

After only 20 minutes police spotted a suspicious car at the Ruam Choke market intersection and signaled to the driver to pull over. The police found an armed man and took him to the police station for questioning. It appears that the attacker got out of the car along the route before police stopped the driver, who naturally denies all charges. From the evidence uncovered, the police are certain that two men were involved and are following up the case.


Jealous pickle merchant commits suicide

Nopniwat Krailerg and Preeyanoot Jittawong

On 10 July Duangkaew Potharam, 48, a pickle wholesaler in Muangmai market, Chiang Mai shot himself and was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital.

The rescue team rush to transfer Duangkaew to hospital.

The rescue team found Duangkaew’s body lying in a pool of blood with a bullet wound in his head. His wife, Sriphan Somsanguan, 46, was embracing the body. Beside the body lay a .38 revolver.

Buncha Phothram, the 25-year-old son of the couple, told reporters, "My father and mother had been together in a wholesale business for many years. They divorced about a year ago, but Sriphan, who had another man, came back to live with my father again. My father was unable to get the thought of his rival out of his head and got jealous and they had arguments, which led to this tragedy."


Young monk shot dead and novice wounded on hunting trip

Another ‘magic bullet’ theory?

Nopniwat Krailerg

Phra Somboon Sampunno, 27, of Wat Phrabat Sii Roi, Saluang, Mae Rim, Chiang Mai was killed, having been shot in the head whilst hunting in Huayphamu forest in an area connecting Mae Rim and Mae Taeng, Chiang Mai, about five kilometers from his temple. Sithichai Sasat, a novice, was shot in the thigh and taken to Nakhorn Ping Hospital, Chiang Mai.

The two had left the temple with a guide, in search of herbs and to hunt animals in the depths of the forest on the evening of the July 6. Wirat Sasat, 42, a resident of Saluang, Mae Rim, Chiang Mai acted as their guide.

Wirat admitted under questioning that Phra Somboon had hired him as he knew the forest area. While they were hunting, he tripped over a log in the dark and the gun he was carrying went off, killing the monk, and apparently injuring the novice. He said he carried the injured Sithichai out of the forest by the next morning and asked locals for help to take him to the hospital.

Whilst he claimed the incident was an accident, the police were not convinced and have charged Wirat with murder.


Minister of Interior makes a security check

Chiangmai Mail reporters

On June 6, Deputy PM Pol. Gen. Chitchai Wannasathit; Minister of Interior Sermsak Pongpanit; Interior Ministry Permanent Secretary Sujarit Patchimnun and Siwa Sangmanee, director general of the Department of Provincial Administration traveled to Chiang Rai for an official inspection. Worakiat Somsoi, Chiang Rai governor, and Pol. Maj. Gen. Chamnong Kaewsiri, Chiang Rai Provincial Police, took them to check situations of security, drugs and smuggling in local areas.

The first stop was at the Kew Thap Yang checkpoint in Mae Chan district, a point to intercept drugs and illegal items on Pahonyothin Rd. Police officers, K-9 and x-ray vehicles were prepared at that point, so Pol. Gen. Chitchai donated sentry-boxes for the officers on duty.

They then visited Tham Pla checkpoint in Tambon Pong Pa, Mae Sai, and secondly, Mae Sai Bridge at Baan San Pak Hee, Tambon Mae Sai, linking Thailand and Burma. As the Burmese situation was below par, Thailand had offered to construct immigration offices and a customs house for them and were awaiting their permission, so the bridge opening was postponed.

Pol. Gen. Chitchai said that Chiang Rai would be the gateway to neighboring countries after the Thai government had concluded negotiations with countries such as Laos about constructing a bridge crossing the Mekong River from Chiang Khong to Baw Kaew, and a road linking southern China through Laos into Thailand. Chiang Rai had offered the Chinese the opportunity to set up an industry settlement in Chiang Khong, Chiang Rai and more investment is predicted to occur in the province.

The deputy PM stressed that officers should concentrate on combating drugs, human trafficking and smuggling into Thailand. He requested the officers to think about how to prevent crimes effectively.

Pol. Maj. Gen. Chamnong reported that the province is the route used for drug smuggling and arrests often take place in the area. The Lahu tribe is more involved in drugs now, but officers are continuing to suppress smuggling.


Three Hmong schoolchildren killed and 31 injured in bus crash

Chiangmai Mail Reporters

A bus filled with Hmong schoolchildren returning from a sports meet crashed on the Chiang Khong - Chiang Saen route in the vicinity of Baan Muang Karn, Rim Khong-Chiang Khong. Police, medical and rescue teams were alerted and attended the scene of the accident.

40 Thai Hmong hill tribe schoolchildren, aged between 6-12 from the Border Patrol Police School Baan Kiwkarn, Rim Khong, Chiang Khong Chiang Rai had been in the bus and trailer. When the rescue crews arrived they found the children screaming and crying, and three were found dead having been thrown from the trailer.

31 injured children were taken to Somdej Prayuparaj Hospital in Chiang Khong, but the more seriously injured were then transferred to Chiang Rai Prachanukroh Hospital.

Preliminary investigations showed that the driver was Mana Sae-lee, 29, a Thai-Hmong hill tribe and village headman of Baan Kiwkarn, Chiang Khong, Chiang Rai, who had fled the scene. He had borrowed the vehicle from his younger brother to take students to the school sports competition organized by the Supanimitr Foundation at Baan Sub Som, Wiang, Chiang Khong. At the time of the accident he was carrying the schoolchildren back home to Kiwkarn over mountainous roads. The police think that the brakes failed and it hit a barrier and overturned.