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Trans-border issues in the Greater Mekong Sub-region

Taking a break after TTM

Thai Horse Farm

Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai ranked top hotel in Thailand in 2005

United Airlines offers ‘Dreamy USA’ Summer and Fall packages

Trans-border issues in the Greater Mekong Sub-region

Mekong River “Robin Hood” syndrome

Reinhard Hohler

An international conference was organized by Ubon Ratchathani University to updated the knowledge in our global world and to promote discussion among scholars, institutions, organizations and community leaders in the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS).

The Mekong River in Ubon Ratchatani province where huge sandstone cliffs dominate, marking the border to Laos.

Supported by the Rockefeller Foundation, the conference “Trans-border issues in the Greater Mekong Sub-Region” was held at the Nevada Grand Hotel in Ubon Ratchathani on June 30 - July 2, 2005 and was attended by almost 200 participants.

In an opening plenary session, it was revealed that since 1992 the Asian Development Bank’s GMS Program facilitated infrastructure development by integrating the six countries of China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam with a system of economic corridors, energy grids and power interconnections as well as telecommunication linkups.

Consequently, this has raised a series of transnational border issues which were discussed at the conference, such as the sex trade, labor migration, HIV/AIDS, natural resources and environmental management, regional market economy, regional relations and co-operation, tourism development, human rights, and cultural studies. As an executive member of the GMS Business Forum, Dr. Jingjai Hanchanlash singled out the Mekong River’s reverse “Robin Hood” syndrome, where you rob from the poor to give to the rich.

The Mekong River is the busiest in the Vietnam Delta.

Interesting to note is that the Mekong River is imagined as an international border and as a border is constructed politically. To use its natural resources is a geographical matter and as such combines and does not divide. Logically, the Mekong River becomes a method to think out of the box. Geographer Philip Hirsch, Director of the Australian Mekong Resource Center, University of Sydney, promoted the whole GMS with its 240 million inhabitants as a sphere of prosperity and peace. The Mekong River is already a corridor of commerce and there will be a “Mekong” citizenship in the future.

Under the theme on tourism development and consequences, Miss Li Wen from the Yunnan Research and Co-ordination Office for the Lancang-Mekong Sub-regional Co-operation stressed that future tourism co-operation among the GMS countries must be cross-border community-based tourism. Also, there will be a foreseeable clash between mass tourism and sustainable tourism.

Dr. Hans-Dieter Bechstedt, employed by the University of Hohenheim, Germany and based at the Faculty of Agriculture, Chiang Mai University since 2001, presented an important paper on case studies concerning ethnic minority women from Shan State/Myanmar. These women have crossed into Pang Ma Pha District, Mae Hong Son Province in Northern Thailand over the last 20 years, fleeing from both increased poverty and gross human rights abuses.

During the closing plenary session, Charles F. Keyes, Professor of Anthropology University of Washington, addressed the forgotten peoples of the GMS, who live mainly in the hilly borderland of Laos and will be inevitably integrated in the cash economy of the lowlanders.

But it was to Thai historian Dr. Charnvit Kasetsiri, Thammasat University, Bangkok to reflect on the future of the Mekong River, a river that is very remote for most of the Thai people.

Mentioning the 11 rapids from Sipsong Panna in Yunnan/China to Chiang Khong in Thailand, where the giant catfish abound, Angkor in Cambodia as a gift of the Mekong River and the very busy Mekong Delta in Vietnam, he aptly announced that whatever, the river will survive.

The conference included a field trip to the controversial Pak Mun Dam and the Chong Mek border crossing to Laos. The author of this article thanks the organizer Natalia Scurrah for the invitation to attend the conference and to ThaiAirAsia for air travel between Ubon Ratchathani Chiang Mai. ThaiAirAsia flies daily from Bangkok to Ubon Ratchathani and return.

Photographs from the CD “Mysterious Mekong” made by Reinhard Hohler.


Taking a break after TTM

Travel professionals from different parts of the world visited The Legend Chiang Rai Boutique River Resort and Spa following Thailand Travel Mart. Marc Dumur (second row second from right), general manager of the resort, is shown here with the travel industry group.


Thai Horse Farm

For horsing around on horses

Preeyanoot Jittawong

After spending almost two years in preparation, Baan Ma Thai (Thai Horse Farm) is open for visitors who love adventure and nature.

Boris Niemitz and his son Aron traveled on horseback from Phrao to Chiang Mai.

To promote his horse farm and show that it is ready, owner Boris Niemitz and his son Aron traveled on horseback from Phrao to the city of Chiang Mai on July 8, reaching Walking Street on July 10. Boris said that he carried all necessary travel equipment in a horse cart for the 100 km trip. He traveled leisurely and slept wherever he was, when night fell.

Visitors wishing to interact with nature and reminisce over the horse and buggy days can do so riding horses at Baan Ma Thai. The farm has provided several packages for visitors and accommodation is ready. Details available at 0 5347 4399, 0 6919 3846 or view his web page at www.thaihorsefarm.com


Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai ranked top hotel in Thailand in 2005

Travel and Leisure Magazine poll gives accolade

Duenswang Suwaphrom

Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai was named No. 4 World’s Best Hotel (up from No. 10 last year), No. 3 in Asia and No. 1 in Thailand by the readers of Travel and Leisure Magazine in the 2005 Annual Reader Survey.

Andrew Harrison, general manager of Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai

In addition its spa was voted No. 3 in the top 10 International Hotel Spas following its sister spas at Four Seasons Resorts Bali.

A questionnaire in Travel and Leisure was made available to subscribers from January 21 to March 21, 2005, at www.tlworldsbest.com.

Hotels were rated on rooms/facilities and location to service, food and value.

To protect the integrity of the data, only recognized subscribers were allowed to complete the survey. Any subscribers who were identified as travel-industry professionals were not invited to participate and their completed surveys were eliminated from the finally tally of votes.

“We are very proud to have received this fantastic accolade by the readers of Travel and Leisure,” said Andrew Harrison, General Manager of Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai. “It is gratifying for my team and me personally that our dedication to service combined with the unique setting here in Northern Thailand has been recognized by the world’s most sophisticated travelers.”


United Airlines offers ‘Dreamy USA’ Summer and Fall packages

United Airlines is launching ‘Dreamy USA’ Summer and Fall packages for Thai travelers visiting the U.S. from July to October. ‘Dreamy USA’ Summer and Fall allows travelers to visit up to three different landmark cities during one holiday.

Thai travelers can now choose visit popular US cities such as Boston, Chicago, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York, Orlando, New Orleans, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington D.C. The packages include a United economy class ticket, 3-4 star hotel accommodation, private transfers between airport and hotel and sightseeing tours in each city.

‘Dreamy USA’ packages will allow travelers to experience some of the world’s top attractions, such as Disney World in Orlando, Beverly Hills and Hollywood, San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, or the historical backdrop of Boston.

The packages are ideal for families, couples, students or business people who will appreciate an exciting, all-inclusive travel experience to the US.

United Airlines Thailand has joined Krung Thai Bank card to offer special promotions to customers who purchase the package through KTC’s Flexi program – with 6 month payment without interest.

For more information contact United Airlines’ appointed agents for its ‘Dreamy USA’ packages, KTC travel Tel. 0-2665-5888, Majestic Travel International Tel. 0-2652-2000, Reliance Holidays Tel. 0-2203-0088 and Tour Lines Tel. 0-2676-2200.