NEWS
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Disenchanted villagers sue EGAT

Chiang Mai mayor assigns officers to control building construction to prevent similar collapsing as in Bangkok

Future plans for Chiang Mai

September 24 is D Day for cigarette advertisements

German women complain about a Bangkok tour agent

Mae Hong Son province to promote five border villages

Reduction in border trade prompts request extend opening times

Burmese say Thailand encroaching on their territory

Mayor assures Thapae and Changklan roadwork will be completed by end of September

Chiang Mai looking at restoring 16 temples

Tree planting policeman lectures students on environment conservation

Dead mosquitoes sold for 5,000 baht

College students learn the down side of dodgy commerce

VCD shops protest against harassment

Chili shop hotter than preferred

Children forced to beg for money

Drug king pin caught red-handed in front of Tesco Lotus

Giant catfish released into the Mekong River to celebrate HM the King’s 60 year reign

Singaporean wins three but loses final roun

Thais arrested after gambling

Disenchanted villagers sue EGAT

Saksit Meesubkwang

Mae Moh villagers, seeking a halt to lignite mining and compensation for damage to health and the environment, have filed malfeasance charges in the Administrative Court against the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT), the industry minister and four TAO chairmen. The court petition was signed by 288 villagers from four tambons in Mae Moh district of Lampang.

The suit also names two departments under the minister, the Department of Primary Industries and Mines, and the Pollution Control Department.

Dr. Oraphan Methadilokul, a specialist, said that around 130 persons in Mae Moh district suffered respiratory problems because of pneumoconiosis dust and toxic sulfur dioxide.

It is asserted that the mine was the source of air pollution, endangering their health and damaging their crops. They claim those named committed malfeasance by permitting lignite to be mined for use in the Mae Moh coal-fired power plant.

They are calling for the mining concession to be revoked and compensation of 1-10 million baht each in damages, plus the rehabilitation of the environment. The villagers also asked to be exempted from court fees on grounds of poverty.

Several villagers claim that, apart from the prevalent lung problems they are suffering, pollution has also lowered crop yields. They have asked international human rights organizations to take action on their behalf, as they did not dare to sue after some who had tried to sue were shot.

Earlier, 128 villagers in the same district made a similar complaint to the Administrative Court against the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand, seeking 1.086 billion baht in compensation.


Chiang Mai mayor assigns officers to control building construction to prevent similar collapsing as in Bangkok

Nopniwat Krailerg

The collapse of a building in Bangkok, after a fire, sparked fears of a similar disaster in Chiang Mai, consequently Chiang Mai municipality is taking steps to see that the Building Control Act is adhered to.

High buildings in Chiang Mai municipality area have to follow the 1979 Building Control Act for safety reasons.

On July 29, 500 developers of buildings of more than five floors in height were invited to a seminar about the 1979 Building Control Act, presided over by Mayor Boonlert Buranupakorn.

Mayor Boonlert revealed that the collapse of the United Auto Part Co. Ltd. building in Bangkok was partly due to the fact that the building had been modified as an auto parts store; thus imposing additional weight on the structure that was not designed to support the heavy weight.

The Ministry of Interior has demanded local officers strictly adhere to the 1979 Building Control Act, not to modify or add new structures and monitor building use, including security of both construction and fire prevention systems.

Chiang Mai municipality has assigned deputy mayor Thai Rojanajinda to head the team checking high rise buildings in the municipal area.


Future plans for Chiang Mai

But it seems like nothing new

Saksit Meesubkwang

Prof. Dr. Mingkwan Khaosa-ard, director of the Social Research Institute, told a seminar organized by the Social Research Institute, Chiang Mai University, that the Ministry of Energy has demanded that each province assess development problems and how they could improve.

Prof. Dr. Mingkwan Khaosa-ard, director of the Social Research Institute.

It was hoped that the meeting could reach conclusions and establish a future strategy to improve Chiang Mai province. Even though the government had intended to make Chiang Mai a center of Asian tourism, it needs to achieve several goals, such as zone management.

The meeting threw up the usual less than revolutionary or innovative ideas including culture conservation by wearing local costumes and using the local language. Several ancient places would be rehabilitated to make them attractive for tourists. Environmental conservation was also talked about and a campaign would be mounted to get residents to take part in the process, such as to separate garbage, control advertising hoardings and to improve tourism venues.


September 24 is D Day for cigarette advertisements

Nopniwat Krailerg

Prof. Suchai Charoenratanakul, Minister of Public Health, has banned advertising cigarettes and their display in the front of shops at around 500,000 points throughout the country. Only an A4 page with “cigarettes available here” will be allowed.

Cigarette show cases will disappear after September 24 says Ministry of Public Health.

These rules will be applied on September 24, 2005, to make it more difficult for youngsters to purchase cigarettes, who apparently cannot read A4 signs.

Dr. Narong Sahamethatphan, deputy director general of the Department of Disease Control, Ministry of Public Health said at a meeting in Chiang Mai that the Ministry of Public Health had promulgated the act controlling tobacco to stop shops selling cigarettes to those younger than 18 years old, and to limit areas selling cigarettes, and other rules.

He added that the Ministry would request business owners to comply in the rules before the end of October, 2005. If the attempt were successful, Thailand would be the third country after Canada and Ireland able to control display of cigarettes. However, one difference is that in those countries laws are enforced.


German women complain about a Bangkok tour agent

Tourist police broker satisfactory agreement

Saksit Meesubkwang

On July 30, two German women, Carmen Holder, 23, and Simone Gasttysen, 23, along with a Thai lady named Pitsamorn Senthong, 53, who lived in Chiang Mai, informed Pol. Capt. Somphet Phankap, deputy inspector of tourist police of region 1, that Suwannapoom Travel Co. in Bangkok had deceived them by selling a package tour at 4,900 baht that was much higher than the general price.

The two German women who informed Chiang Mai tourist police.

They claimed that the company also purported that it was an office of the Tourism Authority of Thailand and the officers of the company were officers of the authority, which was why they believed them and bought the package to Chiang Mai.

The two tourists said that they bought the package included a room at Chiang Mai Garden House, train fare and all fees for 4,900 baht per person. The package allowed for travel to Chiang Mai on July 29 and the company said it had already signed a bill for Chiang Mai Garden House and there would be a driver to pick them up at the station. However, they decided to travel to Chiang Mai on July 30 and found no one to pick them up at Chiang Mai train station, so they made their own way to Chiang Mai Garden Guest House. They met Pitsamorn, the owner of the guest house and showed her the receipt from the company but she claimed that she had no knowledge of the company and informed the two ladies that average rate for tour package should be 3,000 baht per three nights not 4,900 baht.

Pol. Capt. Somphet called Richey travel agency in Chiang Mai, a branch of Suwannapoom Travel and the owner, Cherd Khaojao accepted that his company cooperated with Suwannapoom Travel Company. He said he had sent a driver to pick up the ladies at the train station as informed by the office in Bangkok but found no one there.

Richey agreed to refund the package tour money but charged them the train fare at 716 baht each, which satisfied the two disgruntled ladies.

Pol. Capt. Somphet later disclosed that several tourists had been similarly tricked but the new case happened before he had informed the Tourism Authority of Thailand. The guest house concerned could have sued Suwannapoom Travel for the money, he said.


Mae Hong Son province to promote five border villages

But city planning necessary too

Saksit Meesubkwang

Supoj Laowansiri, Mae Hong Son governor, said that they have stepped up a plan in seven districts of the province to impose a nine meter limit on building height, and buildings must be located 30-50 meters away from highways and rivers. However, several buildings were already built that were contrary to these bylaws and caused various problems, especially garbage pits in the province. Consequently it was prepared to impose city planning.

Kiartisak Wanakamol, deputy mayor of Mae Hong Son, said that he would like sub-committees to review the city plan regarding the distance from the highway required, because most areas in Mae Hong Son were highlands and mountains and if the residents had to conform to city planning, residents could not find sufficient flat areas on which to build.

It was also proposed to promote five border villages to be economic communities that could trade directly with neighboring countries. The province also would look at setting up a product warehouse for exporting local products.

The governor added that five villages along border were promoted because Mae Hong Son as a province had run border trade for some time and it could support another five border villages for rapid economic growth.

The proposed promotion was for Baan Huay Pueng at Tambon Huay Pha and Baan Nam Piang Din in Tambon Pha Bong, both in Muang district, Baan Huay Tong Noon at Tambon Mae Ngo in Khun Yuam district, Baan Sao Hin at Tambon Sao Hin in Mae Sariang district and Baan Mae Sam Lab at Tambon Mae Sam Lab in Sop Moei district, Mae Hong Son province.


Reduction in border trade prompts request extend opening times

Mae Sai residents want 10 p.m. closure

Chiangmai Mail Reporter

Choochai Udompode, head of Mae Sai customs house, said that TBC had presented a petition to Chiang Rai province to extend Mae Sai border closing time from 6 p.m. up till 10 pm to try to reverse dwindling trading, investment and tourism.

Several sectors feeling the pinch had discussed the positive and negative effects of an extension of the closing time and resolved in its favor. They asked the National Security Council to consider the issue but there was no response. They now have asked the council to promptly consider the time extension plan to support border trade.

An extension of trading hours would support both Chinese tourism and the export business, as export value through Mae Sai border had decreased since the beginning of this year by 5-10 percent.


Burmese say Thailand encroaching on their territory

Map is wrong, claim Burmese

Nopniwat Krailerg

The Township Border Committee (TBC) of Thailand and Burma held their conference at Lanna Palace Hotel, Chiang Mai, on July 26. The conference was held to build friendship between the Burmese, led by Lt. Col. Saw Moo Ae, governor of Tachilek, and the Thais led by Col. Somsak Nilbunjerdkul, commissioner of the special task force of 3rd Calvary Regiment, Pha Muang Task Force. Also present were the president of local Thai Township Border Committees and committees of soldiers, police, administrative departments and narcotic suppression division plus customs department officials.

Lt. Col. Saw Moo Ae, Tachilek governor (right) as representative of Burmese TBC shakes hands with Col. Somsak Nilbunjerdkul, commissioner of the special task force of 3rd Calvary Regiment, Pha Muang Task Force (left) and attendants of the 42nd Thai and Burmese Township Border Committee Conference.

The Burmese TBC began by asking Thailand to deal with 33 bases overstepping the Burmese border in Doi Lang, Mae Ai district, Chiang Mai. There are 22 Thai bases on Burmese soil while 11 bases were set up across border lines. They claimed that England had separated that area for Burmese, but in 1980 Thailand redrew the map. Burmese representatives would like Thai armies to withdraw from Doi Lang.

Meanwhile, Thai officers explained that both sides had negotiated to live peacefully and not to act by force because it may put both countries on a collision course; nevertheless, the matter would be reported to superiors to deal with it as TBC did not have the authority.

The Burmese were dissatisfied with the Thai government after learning that it had supported the SSA troop to plan, fueling rebellion in Burma. Firstly, on May 25, 2005, a meeting held in Mae Rim, Chiang Mai, led by Chao Seau Khan Fah and Chao Khun Hong, and attended by six officers, was broadcast through the internet. Secondly, SSA troops, led by Jao Yod Suek met Thai intelligence officers at Baan Pa Muad in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai. Lastly, on July 18, Thai intelligence officers, again, visited SSA at Doi Tai Lang by using TBC’s vehicle.

Col. Somsak explained that Thailand maintains a policy of resistance to terrorists and never supported any rebellion. If it appeared that any such meeting had taken place, this was a violation of policy. There might be some misapprehension and the Burmese source may be mistaken.

Thai officers requested the Burmese to contact Thai TBC if it discovered drug dealers fleeing into Burma. The Thai government had already sent a list of names to the Burmese government and the Burmese government had cooperated, sending some wanted dealers back to Thailand. Thailand would also like the Burmese to participate in drug elimination.

The Thai delegation offered a TB 1 point, or areas at Baan Arunothai and Kew Pa Wok in Chiang Dao, Chiang Mai, to be local meeting points for both sides to contact and coordinate with one another about various matters.

The Thais would like the Burmese TBC to pay attention to illegal labor smuggled into the kingdom while the Burmese TBC claimed that it had frequently prevented such efforts and monitored human trafficking.


Mayor assures Thapae and Changklan roadwork will be completed by end of September

Nopniwat Krailerg

Chiang Mai Municipality’s installation of underground cable conduits along Thapae-Changklan Road, following the prime minister’s suggestion, has been heavily criticized as it has been delayed and has caused this tourist city to lose its charm.

Mayor Boonlert Buranupakorn said that one of the reasons for the delay was that the work required coordination of many public works departments such as the Regional Electricity Department, telecommunications and water mains as well as the fact that many festivities had been organized along the route.

Thapae Road construction will be completed by the end of September (cross fingers).

Mayor Boonlert added that traffic is being diverted from Changklan Road and the road surface is being re-laid, requiring 3-4 centimeters of the existing surface needing to be dug up prior to laying the new surface. During commencement there was some heavy rainfall which also hampered progress. As for Thapae Road, the conduits are still being laid.

Mayor Boonlert also apologized to Chiang Mai locals for the inconvenience caused along these two roads, but he had asked the contractors to repair the heavily damaged parts of the roads as soon as possible to make the roads usable. The construction as well as resurfacing along Thapae Road will definitely be complete by the end of September, he said.

During this period, to make the city look fresher, the municipality and Chiang Mai District Administration are beautifying and cleaning up the city as the tourist season is arriving.


Chiang Mai looking at restoring 16 temples

Nopniwat Krailerg

Governor Suwat Tantipat and Chamlong Kittisri, director of the Office of Buddhism Chiang Mai, invited leading Chiang Mai monks to a meeting on temple restoration projects to restore 16 important temples. A two million baht budget has been allocated to the Chiang Mai office of Buddhism to restore the temples to develop tourism and set an example.

The governor stated that he was pleased to see the faith of the Chiang Mai people and their strength in Buddhism, and asked that all help. He said that the country had changed and there is more of a need for religion, and spreading the teachings to the public. Temples are the place where religious ceremonies are held and must strengthen faith.

The temples chosen for the project are Wat Phasing-voramahaviharn, Wat Buparam, Wat Chediluang, Wat Upacut, Wat Jetyod, Wat Chiang Man, Wat Suandok, Wat Chaimongkol, Wat Prathad Doi Saket, Wat Srisuphan, Wat Chetawan, Wat Chaiprakiat, Wat Dappai, Wat Chiang Yuen, Wat Duang Dee and Wat Loi Kroh. The project is to commence immediately and will end at the end of September.


Tree planting policeman lectures students on environment conservation

Saksit Meesubkwang

On July 25 Maejo University Assoc. Prof. Napaporn Mekkhayai, dean of Faculty of Agricultural Business invited Pol. Sen. Sgt. Maj. Wichai Suriyutha to lecture 200 students and staff of the university on environment conservation.

Assoc. Prof. Napaporn Mekkhayai, dean of Faculty of Agricultural Business, Maejo University presents a souvenir to Pol. Sen. Sgt. Maj. Wichai Suriyutha.

The audience learned that forest, soil and water are important to human beings but humans have destroyed natural resources to satisfy consumer demands and neglected to think about future problems.

Pol. Sen. Sgt. Maj. Wichai Suriyutha used to live in Srisaket province in Isaan (north-east) and as the province was barren, he started to plant trees along roadsides and on farms. He has planted many thousands of trees in the last 20 years. He said that people laughed at him when he started planting but now people receive immense advantages from the trees he grew. He is now well known and had received many awards for conservation.


Dead mosquitoes sold for 5,000 baht

But the seller bred them, rather than catch them!

Nopniwat Krailerg

McKene Hospital and Padad Public Health Office recently offered residents of Tambon Padad in Muang, Chiang Mai to buy mosquitoes at 25 satang each, as an attempt to eliminate all kinds of mosquitoes. The hospital campaign was to reduce dengue hemorrhagic fever in the area of McKene Hospital from July 1 to 31, 2005 and aimed for 100,000 mosquitoes.

Somneuk Kanthawong sold 20,014 mosquitoes for 5,000 baht. Next best was Rabiab Boonma with 12,534 and another 44,000 mosquitoes were zapped by 200 villagers.

Somneuk said that she used an electric mosquito killer and she got several hundred mosquitoes during the rains and had used 10 pails covered with black cloth to cultivate them. So much for eradication!


College students learn the down side of dodgy commerce

Nopniwat Krailerg and Saksit Meesubkwang

Commercial college students learned the down side of commerce when they were arrested for receiving stolen goods and modifying stolen motorbikes and selling them.

Rangsan aka Kai, 23, Nonthachai or Ne Doomteng, 22, Rachen or Yim Sa-ngathai, 19, and Pakorn of Nook Nathee, 21, all studying in a commercial college in Chiang Mai, were arrested by Chang Puek Police station officers.

Sixteen Vespas are being kept at Chang Puek Police Station awaiting the real owners.

These privileged delinquents stole Vespa motor scooters and modified them to disguise them and to then sell them at low prices. So far, three motorcycles have been removed from the new ‘owners’ who thought they were getting a real bargain.

Pol. Maj. Thapanapong said that Vespas were favorites with youngsters and are easy to steal because they can be started without using a key. Vespas cost 40,000-50,000 baht but without registration can be had for only 10,000 baht, but the buyer could be charged with receiving stolen goods. Sixteen Vespas were confiscated, and he advised that if anyone had lost one they should check at Chang Puek Police Station.


VCD shops protest against harassment

Dark influences at work again, claim shop owners

Saksit Meesubkwang

50 VCD business owners led by Pranom Panichmit tried to meet Pol. Lt. Gen. Panupong Singhara Na Ayuthaya, commissioner of the Provincial Police Bureau Region 5, to complain about the harsh and unjust action of investigation officers, who chose to search and punish only selected VCD shops.

50 VCD business owners meet the commissioner of the Provincial Police Bureau Region 5 to ask for justice.

The commissioner tried to pass the buck to his deputy but the protestors refused to talk to him, saying they had reported the matter several times and had received no satisfaction. Later, the commissioner deigned to meet the VCD shop owners so they could explain the issue.

Pranom Panichmit, VCD shop owner at Mae Malai Market, Mae Taeng district, told the commissioner that officers had searched VCD rental shops in Chiang Mai and nearby provinces for obscene and pirated movies but shops receiving movies from a lady named Je Thip, the alleged mistress of a heavyweight police officer and an influential person in her own right, escaped punishment, even though obscene movies were found. She added that any VCD shop not using Je Thip’s product was constantly harassed to the extent that some gave up and quit the business.

Pol. Lt. Gen. Panupong appeared nervous as he replied. He said he would instruct Pol. Maj. Gen. Suwat Kruengkrai, his deputy, to deal with it and said that if the matter had not been resolved to the satisfaction of all concerned and in accordance with the law, within a month, then the deputy commissioner’s position may be vulnerable.

In a rare revelation of his problems, he added that he had tasked three deputy commissioners to take care of the obscene VCD situation throughout the area of Region 5 but had yet to get results. He now expected the conflict to be resolved within a month.

Neither the formidable and influential Je Thip nor people associated with her could be located for comment.


Chili shop hotter than preferred

Nopniwat Krailerg

The Red Hot Chili shop owned by Angsucha Raisa-ang, 38, was definitely the hottest restaurant in town last week, when the microwave oven in the back of the shop erupted into flames.

The blaze rapidly spread through the three floor shophouse which had the first two floors burned out before firefighters could contain the inferno.

The damage is estimated at 200,000 baht, but the full extent of damage to chili stocks were not accounted for by the time this issue went to press.


Children forced to beg for money

Nopniwat Krailerg

A Burmese gang, which had forced children to beg for money in tourist centers in Chiang Mai City, was arrested on July 31. Police picked up 26 young beggars and their “minders”. Two of the beggars were younger than 5 years old.

The gang worked systemically around guesthouses, vehicles stalled at stoplights or traffic jams, and food stalls, and the money collected by the young beggars was taken to the gang leader.

The adults were accused of illegal entry into the kingdom and for forcing children to beg. Others were charged with providing accommodation for illegal persons.

The fate of the children concerned is not yet known.


Drug king pin caught red-handed in front of Tesco Lotus

Nopniwat Krailerg

Two Fang drug dealers, Prapan “Kampol” Wannasri and Suriyan Chingchai were arrested in front of the Lotus Khamthiang store at Tambon Chang Puek in Muang, Chiang Mai, and 120,000 ya ba pills were found seized. The men were accused of drug possession and dealing.

Later, police confiscated Prapan’s possessions at Intharachidchai Village, Doi Saket, and while inspecting his wife’s residence, in Chang Puek, Chiang Mai, more speed pills were found in a refrigerator. Almost 30 rai of orange orchards were confiscated including two plots in Lampang.

Pol. Lt. Gen. Panupong Singhara Na Ayuthaya, commissioner of the Provincial Police Bureau Region 5 said that these were king pin drug dealers who had been pursued for a long time. They smuggled ya ba from neighboring countries and distributed them via a nationwide network.


Giant catfish released into the Mekong River to celebrate HM the King’s 60 year reign

Chiangmai Mail Reporters

To celebrate HM the King’s 5th cycle on the throne next year, the Fisheries Department released catfish and other endangered fish species back to their natural surroundings in his honor.

It is also hoped this will conserve all kinds of endangered species, not only fish, and teach Thais to do likewise to keep the natural resources in balance.

The project was undertaken at the Giant Catfish Palace, Tambon Wiang, Chiang Khong, Chiang Rai with Sitthi Bunyaratpalin, director of the Fisheries Department and Nopporn Tonrap, Chiang Rai deputy governor presided over the event. Locals who earn their subsistence from the Mekong River returned a total of 12,560 endangered fish, consisting of 3,006 giant catfish, 554 Chao Phya giant catfish, 5,000 seven-striped carp and 4,000 giant carp.


Singaporean wins three but loses final roun

Nopniwat Krailerg

Officers of Muang Police Station, Chiang Mai were pleasantly surprised when Kanchana Inkham walked in and confessed to a quick frolic and flee, handing over 20,000 baht, a wristwatch and a cell phone, stolen from a Singaporean who had picked her up at a karaoke bar.

She said that the gullible and obviously ‘viagorous’ Singaporean paid her 5,000 baht to go to a hotel with him plus two of her friends joining in for round 2. While the exhausted man was sleeping, they stole his goods and fled the scene but later, after discussing the event with relatives and in fear of arrest, she quietly surrendered herself.

The Singaporean, Ang Keng Hong, 48, had already reported the theft to the police but had left Thailand by that stage. Her accomplices are now being sought by the police.


Thais arrested after gambling

Trying to smuggle ‘Speed’ into Thailand

Chiangmai Mail Reporters

Burmese police officers arrested two Thai gamblers after 16,000 ‘Speed’ pills were found and another 10 Thai citizens were questioned. This was the result of cooperation between Thai and Burmese governments in drug suppression.

On July 30, narcotic suppression officers of Tachilek province, Myanmar apprehended the 12 Thai citizens after checking them when leaving a resort in Tachilek near Mae Sai, Chiang Rai, traveling in a van licensed to Pol. Sen. Sgt. Maj. Manupong Wongnok from a special branch in Chiang Rai.

The Burmese officers found drugs on two passengers, Kiaew Promajak, 59, and Krajongjit Kirikaew, 37, both living in Mae Lao district, Chiang Rai. The two women were arrested and sent to Tachilek narcotic suppression office and the remaining ten were held for investigation.

Later, Pol. Maj. Gen. Chamnong Kaewsiri, Chiang Rai Provincial Police commander and officers in Mae Sai contacted the Burmese and learned that the two women were carrying drugs, having lost all their money gambling, and so accepted being hired as ‘mules’ to transfer drugs to Thailand. Unluckily for them, they were found by the Burmese officers before entering Thailand. Mules are notoriously less than bright animals. However, the other ten persons were sent back to Thailand after being questioned having been judged as not part of the drug transfer scheme.

Pol. Maj. Gen. Chamnong said that since the van belonged to a police officer, he might be transferred, rather than his van confiscated as would happen with a civilian.

He said that gambling in neighboring countries would be controlled more seriously in future but declined to say how, as Thais are not restricted from crossing the border, especially when traveling in privileged police-owned vans.