Vol. IV No. 44 - Saturday October 29 - November 4, 2005
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NEWS
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Governor places wreath in memory of King Rama V on Piyamaharaj Day

Met Center again warns of thunder showers and plunging temperatures

Public Health Minister visits Chiang Mai to implement bird flu prevention measures

More tourists visit Doi Inthanon to experience cool weather

Villagers block access to garbage pit at Huay Tung Thao Lake

Marine Office crackdown on over 100 Mae Ping trespassers

Zoo open for business but with heavy precautions against avian flu

Hill tribe fair offers low-price products and cultural shows

Panda partners prepare for their big day

Specialists meet for brainstorming session on Mae Ping River Basin development

Public demanding more say in major projects1

Municipality buses will start running soon

Hospital struggles to deal with influx of patients from the region

Governor steps up alert on bird flu

Northern villagers becoming more militant

Archaeologists uncover 600 year old crockery at city center

Wat Jet Yod prepares for 550-year anniversary celebrations

Secondhand stalls moved to new area

Animal exchange discussed with Guangzhou Zoo

Chiang Mai province provides 50 million baht to help residents facing cold weather

Drug dealer with 3 kg of heroin shot dead during police sting

American prisoner flees from psychiatric hospital

Nine missing in Mekong boating accident

Armed robber who took wife and kids along gets 13 years

Italian seized with 1.4 kg of heroin

Two drug dealers killed in shootout with Pha Muang Task Force

Husband and wife fruit sellers caught with 22,000 ya ba pills

Voodoo cursed villagers club together to hire killer

Governor places wreath in memory of King Rama V on Piyamaharaj Day

Saksit Meesubkwang

On October 23, Piyamaharaj Day, Chiang Mai Governor Suwat Tantipat headed foreign consulates, MPs, senators, government officials, police, soldiers, students and residents to place a wreath in respect of the memory of King Rama V at the monument in front of Chiang Mai City Hall.

The occasion began with a religious ceremony followed by the wreath laying and then an address by the governor.

Piyamaharaj Day is the day that King Rama V passed away. One of Thailand’s most beloved monarchs, he was a great reforming King, improving education, the military and communications, and abolishing slavery. His passing on October 23, 1910, was followed by a period of great national mourning and Piyamaharaj Day is a time all Thais reflect upon the immense changes he brought to society.

Activities always organized on this day include seminars and exhibitions, and public buildings and private households display the Thai national flag.


Met Center again warns of thunder showers and plunging temperatures

Nopniwat Krailerg

The Northern Meteorological Center is warning residents that clouds, thunder showers and heavy winds will cover the region before the temperature plummets in the middle of November. There will be fog in many areas and the cold spell will last until early January.

The weather will be at its coldest during the latter part of December through to the beginning of January, hovering around 13-15 degrees Celsius. Winter will end in the middle of February when the cold winds from China will lessen.

Thunder showers in November and December may be accompanied by heavy winds and hail that could cause damage to homes and agriculture, and endanger life, warns the Met Center.


Public Health Minister visits Chiang Mai to implement bird flu prevention measures

Nopniwat Krailerg

Suchai Charoenratanakul, Minister of Public Health, has visited the Regional Medical Science Center in Chiang Mai to discuss bird flu prevention measures and to implement the government’s new policy of monitoring and control.

Director of the center, Sutheewan Sri-upayok said that to date 42 people from Chiang Mai, Phayao, Lampang, Mae Hong Son, Lamphun and Phrae had been tested for possible bird flu, but that in none of the cases had the virus been found.

The minister said the government has set up 1,300 mobile teams that can be dispatched to areas of a suspected outbreak within 24 hours. Doctors are on continual alert in every hospital and in the 12 regional medical science centers throughout the country so they can immediately spot any suspected symptoms of the disease.

Suchai said that 300,000 doses of vaccine were being provided for those who work closely with winged livestock.

The day after his visit to the center, the minister checked bird flu prevention measures in Lamphun Hospital.

Dr. Choochat Pornnimit, head of Lamphun Provincial Public Health Office, reported that two patients had been suspected of suffering from bird flu. One man was 49 years old and living in Baan Hong district, coming into daily contact with chickens, but tests had revealed he was suffering from pneumonia, and not bird flu. The other man was 35 years old and living in Muang, Lamphun. He was earning income by selling grilled chicken. The man had died but tests proved it was pneumonia that killed him and not bird flu.


More tourists visit Doi Inthanon to experience cool weather

Temperature on peak drops to 8 deg C

Saksit Meesubkwang

The cool weather is bringing an extra number of visitors to Doi Inthanon National Park, most of them staying overnight so they can see the early morning fogs shrouding the peak and visit the Phra Maha Thad Napa Methaneedol and Phra Maha Thad Napapon Phumsiri pagodas shortly after dawn.

Tourists visit Doi Inthanon to experience cold weather.

Temperatures on the summit of Doi Inthanon have sunk as low as 8.7 degrees Celsius over the past couple of weeks, so the 30 baht blanket and 50 baht stove rental business is booming amongst those camping out. Hill tribes are also making a good income from selling fresh fruit and vegetables to the visitors.

Turn on your headlights in the thick fog.

To reserve a residence in Doi Inthanon by phone, call 0 5326 8550. A small house for three persons is 1,000 baht, and for seven persons the charge is 3,000 baht. A tent for six persons costs 300 baht and for three persons the charge is 225 baht per night. Anyone staying in a tent is reminded not to place a stove inside in case of fire or carbon dioxide poisoning.


Villagers block access to garbage pit at Huay Tung Thao Lake

Nopniwat Krailerg

Villagers of Don Kaew in Mae Rim led by TAO president Nopadol na Chiang Mai blocked the route to a garbage pit near Huay Tung Thao Lake on October 17 in protest at the pollution the garbage is causing.

About 30 persons gathered to demonstrate against the transfer of waste from both within and outside the city to this area, which has seen almost 10 trucks per day unloading rubbish here for the past several months.

The villagers say they have tried presenting petitions before but nothing was done, and so the only option was to close the route themselves.

Kamon Ruanthong, Tambon Don Kaew chief officer, said that in talks the villagers had made it clear they could not stand the disgusting smell emanating from the dump any longer. In addition, during the flooding in the beginning of October a mountain torrent from Doi Suthep washed some of the garbage into villages, causing a health hazard and threatening their well water. They are now demanding that the garbage pit business owner dumps garbage in other places instead.

Garbage pits are a continuing problem for Chiang Mai, both in the city and outside. Dumping is regularly and strongly resisted by residents but administrators of organizations such as the Chiang Mai municipality and Chiang Mai PAO, and even district administrations, still do not give the issue the attention it so clearly needs.


Marine Office crackdown on over 100 Mae Ping trespassers

Nopniwat Krailerg

River trespassers are being targeted by the Chiang Mai Marine Office in an attempt to keep the Mae Ping River clear of any obstructions and consequently reduce the likelihood of flooding when water levels rise.

Choochoke Thongtaluang, head of Chiang Mai Provincial Public Relations Office, has announced that the Marine Office has prosecuted 31 persons for trespassing, and that evidence is being prepared against another 75.

Of the 31, the PR Office says that eight cases have been successfully completed, in seven cases the charges were dropped, 12 cases are currently being considered, and four cases will be decided during November.

The Marine Office has set up 2,000 piles at areas of the river in Chiang Mai and Lamphun to prevent unauthorized entry by trespassers, but it seems they are not 100 percent successful.


Zoo open for business but with heavy precautions against avian flu

Saksit Meesubkwang

Chiang Mai Zoo director Thanapat Pongpamorn said he has placed all officers on alert for bird flu symptoms amongst the zoo animals and ordered the spraying of antiseptic and disinfectant at bird display zones.

Thanapat Pongpamorn, Chiang Mai Zoo director.

There are 2,000 birds of 300 species on display and they will continue to be on show during the school vacations, when many parents take their children to visit the zoo. However, strict precautions are being taken to prevent the bird flu virus from entering the zoo, including the installation of an antiseptic barrier through which vehicles and pedestrians must pass before they can enter the bird display areas.

Bird and fowl donations are no longer accepted, and Thanapat said that officials have been briefed to keep a lookout for birds flying into the zoo grounds. If any wild bird is found it has to be reported and will probably be destroyed.

All of these preventive methods are being pursued rigorously, said Thanapat, to ensure the safety of everyone visiting the zoo.


Hill tribe fair offers low-price products and cultural shows

Nopniwat Krailerg

Hill tribe products will be displayed during the high season in Chiang Rai at a fair that will offer low prices along with hill tribe cultural performances.

Anuwat Weerachat, director of Chiang Rai Hill Tribe Development and Welfare Center said that many tourists, Thai and foreign, would visit Chiang Rai during the winter, with Doi Mae Salong being especially popular. This is therefore an ideal time to be presenting hill tribe products.

The fair, named Kad Chao Khao Chon Phao Chiang Rai, will offer products at lower prices than found in the marketplace, with the added attraction of cultural performances that will be staged by the youngsters of Baan Saen Sook.

The shows, to be called Akha Khon Phoo Khao, will be held for the first time on October 29 at the Chiang Rai Hill Tribe Development and Welfare Center, which is located at Baan Pa Meang Tambon Pasang in Mae Chan.

Kajornsak Phromboot, head of the social development department at the center, said that the cultural performances will continue through to April. Both Thai and foreign visitors would be charged 150 baht for a ticket and 150 baht for a meal, and there is a special flat fee of 12,000 baht for large groups contacting the center in advance.

Accommodation can be provided in Hmong households, for individuals and groups of up to 70 persons. More information is available at 0 5391 4471 or from Kajornsak directly on 0 1796 3734.


Panda partners prepare for their big day

Although some say it’s just pandering to commercialism

Saksit Meesubkwang

It’s all happening at the zoo, as pandas Lin Hui and Chuang Chuang prepare to make their vows.

Sophon Damnui, director of the Zoological Park, said that preparations for the big day - or the big days, as the celebrations will last from November 8 to 12 - are going according to plan.

The two pandas, gifts from China, have lived at Chiang Mai Zoo for two years. With the couple now ready for breeding, the Zoological Park in cooperation with Chiang Mai province and Chiang Mai municipality is organizing a ceremony intended to stimulate interest and tourism.

Activities begin in the morning of November 8 at Thapae Gate. Visitors are invited to join in the celebrations at Chiang Mai Zoo from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. On November 9, a parade will start from Watthanothai Payap School at 10 a.m. and proceed around the city before entering Chiang Mai Zoo. Participants will wear Lanna and Chinese costumes.

Voices have, however, been raised against the idea, with some saying that the Lanna theme of the event is pandering to an insensitive form of commercialism. As a result of negative opinion, the “wedding” aspect is being played down slightly.

The happy couple does not, however, show any signs of being perturbed. Our correspondent at the zoo says that they are prepared to grin and bear it.


Specialists meet for brainstorming session on Mae Ping River Basin development

Saksit Meesubkwang

A conference to discuss ways of utilizing and developing more land in the Mae Ping River Basin was held on October 20 at the Chiang Mai Hills Hotel.

The agenda revolved around the proposals to build a new airport and industrial zone, and to create a new city area that would support 500,000 residents.

Pichai Kruepinit, director of Department of Public Works and Town and Country Planning.

About 200 delegates took part, with representatives from PAO and TAO along with academics and the private sector. The meeting was presided over by Pichai Kruepinit, director of the Department of Public Works and Town and Country Planning.

Pichai said that opinions need to be heard from every sector to apply the plan to meet everyone’s needs. To make beneficial land at the river basin area needs wide consultation with all and the entire scheme should be planned to avoid problems with flooding. Residents’ lifestyles, the local economy, culture and tradition all need to be taken into account, and such a large project would need special consideration in the sectors of transportation, public utilities, tourism, and environmental management.

Assoc. Prof. Manope Pongsatad, lecturer of Mahidol University and town planning expert is explaining how to expand city area.

Assoc. Prof. Manope Pongsatad, lecturer at Mahidol University and a town planning specialist, said that the city area would be expanded, as per the prime minister’s policy, to the area between Chiang Mai and Lamphun, in San Kamphaeng, Saraphi and Baan Thi.

The Department of Public Works and Town and Country Planning have studied the flooding possibilities in the area and is suggesting the idea of draining some of the water from the rivers so that it by-passes the city and goes instead to San Sai and San Kamphaeng. The water could be used in the expanded city area without troubling the old city residents.


Public demanding more say in major projects

Nopniwat Krailerg

Khon Rak Muang Chiang Mai Alliance has met with Chiang Mai’s governor to ask him to release more information on large-scale projects planned for the province, stating that they want more of a say in the decision making process.

Residents are uneasy about the proposed cable car at Kroo Ba Sri Wichai Monument, the Night Safari, the International Horticultural Exposition at Tambon Mae Hia, and other projects in which they feel they have not been consulted.

The alliance, led by Phra Maha Sa-nga Theera Siwaro and comprising monks, businessmen, academics, students, artists and residents gathered at city hall on October 17 to present a petition to governor Suwat Tantipat.

Information has been requested on major projects such as the proposed cable car at Kroo Ba Sri Wichai Monument area, the Night Safari, an elephant camp and a crocodile farm. They want to know how these projects would affect residents and agriculture. They said that the governor who was responsible for these projects should let them know the details.

Although voicing their support for promoting tourism and helping the economy, the alliance believes that development should take into account the local environment, culture and traditions. Residents should be a part of these projects to jointly determine the direction of development processes.


Municipality buses will start running soon

Unless there is another unavoidable delay!

Nopniwat Krailerg

Chiang Mai’s long awaited municipality buses will begin serving citizens soon, so says Mayor Boonlert Buranupakorn. Postponed several times already, the most recent reason being the flooding.

Chiang Mai Mayor Boonlert Buranupakorn

Mayor Boonlert said that the municipality buses would serve on four routes and 100 red minibuses would serve on two routes. The municipality will support these 100 red minibuses at the rate of one hundred baht per day each, or 300,000 baht per month.

The mayor explained one postponement, saying that the municipality had to manage the budget for fuel oil and reparation expenses including capital loss.

He added that the 100 red minibuses that will serve jointly with the municipality buses would be selected according to specification and must be no older than five years. The drivers had to be polite, gentle and collect bus fares at the standard rate, the mayor said. How this was to be monitored was not revealed.


Hospital struggles to deal with influx of patients from the region

New building and coordination center at Maharaj Nakorn Chiang Mai Hospital will ease pressure

Saksit Meesubkwang

Maharaj Nakorn Chiang Mai Hospital is suffering from overcrowding brought on by the transfer of too many patients from other hospitals throughout the North. It is hoped that a new coordination center in the hospital along with the new building that will open next year will help to ease this situation.

At a press conference, Dr Wichan Lawwithaya, director of the hospital and Dr Chaiwat Bumroongkit, deputy director, described the circumstances that have placed immense pressure on the staff and facilities at the hospital.

Dr Wichan said that under usual circumstances this hospital could support 1,400 patients and that other hospitals both public and private throughout the Northern region have sent patients to Maharaj Nakorn Chiang Mai if they were unable to treat them.

Patients sent from other hospitals are flooding the hospital resulting in 50 beds per zone, when normally it can support only 25 beds per zone. Doctors and nurses have to work harder as a consequence. The pressure has led to the resignation of 96 nurses already this year, and as a result patient care is not as efficient as it should be.

Dr Chaiwat said that a major problem is in the coordination needed when transferring patients, and the lack of staff to do this effectively. Patients transferred to the hospital during the past nine months have totaled more than 6,600, and they have been sent from Chiang Rai, Lamphun, Lampang, Phayao, Nan and Mae Hong Son when hospitals in these provinces have said they were unable to treat the patients themselves.

This coordination center, which becomes operational in November, will improve the quality of service and act as an information center to coordinate the regional hospital network.

Another reason for the overcrowding is the reputation of the hospital itself, with patients having great trust in the doctors and the facilities. If the coordination process is improved then this particular problem can be eliminated, said Dr Chaiwat.

Regarding the construction of a new building for the hospital, Asst Prof Supachai Chueratanapong, deputy dean of the Faculty of Medicine at Chiang Mai University said that work was proceeding on schedule and will be finished next year. The complete cost is 357 million baht. More than 300 million baht is needed to provide medical equipment but so far only 43 million baht has been donated.


Governor steps up alert on bird flu

Nopniwat Krailerg

Chiang Mai Governor Suwat Tantipat has urged all organizations concerned to be on the alert for bird flu during the coming winter.

He said that the climate during this cold period was conducive to the spread of the disease, and that any sign of it would have potentially grave consequences for public health and for tourism.

The governor said that the Chiang Mai Provincial Bird Flu Center that was established in the previous year was keeping an extremely close watch for any signs of the disease but that nothing has yet been found in any area of Chiang Mai.


Northern villagers becoming more militant

Mae Maw powerhouse at the center

Saksit Meesubkwang

Residents affected by the lignite being burned at Mae Maw powerhouse are to issue legal proceedings against the operators and also plan to march on Government House in Bangkok to protest that plans to move their households have not been implemented even though a year has passed since the decision was made.

Villagers affected by Mae Maw powerhouse gathered to sue the Provincial Electricity Authority (Public).

On October 19, 56 villagers of Baan Huay Fai, Baan Huay King and other villages near the Mae Maw powerhouse in Mae Maw district, Lampang, gathered at Chiang Mai Provincial Court to initiate legal proceedings against the Provincial Electricity Authority (Public).

The villagers say their health is being affected by the burning of lignite used in the electricity generating process, and that animals and plants are dying.

Maliwan Nakwiro, leader of the villagers and secretary general of Mae Maw civil rights network, said that 113 villagers are suing the company. Chiang Mai Provincial Court has requested 56 of the villagers to pay court fees totaling 3,669,698.25 baht, waiving payments from the remaining 57 persons who are considered too poor to find the money.

However, the 56 villagers had insufficient money to meet this amount, and could only afford to pay about 1,000 baht each. Maliwan said they would be satisfied if only a few of their cases were heard, as the important aspect was to see that justice was done.

She added that what was most necessary for the villagers was not money but the fact they had an organization to take care of their health, which had been affected by the building of the powerhouse.

Powerhouse construction throughout the country had to be done in a way that was environmentally responsible and took into consideration the health of local residents instead of only paying attention to the company’s benefits.

Maliwan said that a plan to move 694 households away from the vicinity of the powerhouse, as per a cabinet resolution of November 9 last year, had still not taken place, even though almost a year had already passed.

“We have presented petitions to Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra seven times and every time he claimed that the problem had already been dealt with. Residents would like him to check for himself to see how the problem is being solved. Otherwise it is just a deceiving resolution of the cabinet”, she said.

Maliwan revealed that almost 600 families now intend to travel to Government House to appeal for justice.


Archaeologists uncover 600 year old crockery at city center

Saksit Meesubkwang and Preeyanoot Jittawong

Crockery dating back to the early days of Chiang Mai has been discovered by archaeologists digging at a site opposite the Three Kings Monument.

Workers excavating the site.

Archaeologist Supachai Nawakanpisut said that Chiang Mai Provincial Archeology Office had organized the excavation at the site of the former Chiang Mai City Hall. About 60 pieces of crockery estimated to be 600 years old were uncovered when a trench one meter deep and five meters wide was dug at the site. The items have been sent to Chiang Mai Museum for further study.

Supachai added that the area was still only partly excavated and that further exploration is being made by digging to the same depth.


Wat Jet Yod prepares for 550-year anniversary celebrations

Nopniwat Krailerg

Wat Jet Yod is about to hold celebrations for its 550th anniversary, and Phra Ratcha Kemakorn, temple abbot and deputy head of Chiang Mai monks has said that as part of the festivities 80 boys will become novice monks to make merit for His Majesty the King.

The temple was established in the reign of Phra Jao Tilokarat, the 9th king of the Meng Rai Dynasty. Initially a royal temple outside the Chiang Mai city walls it later became a residential temple. Several important structures were added, notably Puttha Kaya Pagoda, built in the image of one of the seven pagodas in India in which the Lord Buddha stayed, resting for seven days in each or altogether 49 days.

The 550-year anniversary celebrations will take place between December 1-7, and 80 boys will become novices to make merit for His Majesty King Bhumibol.

Wat Jet Yod or Wat Jedi Jet Yod is named as such because of its seven pagodas, although initially it was known as Wat Maha Photharam or Wat Photharam Maha Wiharn.

Upon its founding the temple gained immediate recognition as King Phra Jao Tilokarat invited senior monks from temples throughout the Lanna Kingdom to a conference here that discussed the Buddhist scriptures. Major gatherings like that had been organized before in India and Sri Lanka, but it was a first for Thailand.


Secondhand stalls moved to new area

Nopniwat Krailerg

Chiang Mai municipality has cracked down on the secondhand stalls along Ratanakosin Road, but they are being given the option of moving to an area on Bamroongrat Road, from the Prince Royal’s College junction to the Ratanakosin T-junction, where they will be allowed to operate from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Mayor Boonlert Buranupakorn said that the stalls have been cluttering up Ratanakosin Road and interrupting the flow of traffic. Rather than banning them, however, and causing financial difficulty to the owners and depriving the public of the opportunity of buying secondhand goods, city regulations have been implemented to move the stalls into the new area, beginning on October 29.


Animal exchange discussed with Guangzhou Zoo

Nopniwat Krailerg

The possibility of an exchange of some species of animals between Thailand and China was discussed when representatives of Guangzhou Zoo in China visited Chiang Mai Zoo.

The Chinese visitors were shown around the zoo, and director Thanapat Pongpamorn said that animal exchange was one of the main topics of discussion. Chiang Mai Zoo would particularly like to have golden monkeys and red pandas, animals that are rarely seen anywhere, while China would like to have Thai elephants. However, stressed Thanapat, this was just a discussion and any exchanges would need to be authorized by both governments.


Chiang Mai province provides 50 million baht to help residents facing cold weather

Nopniwat Krailerg

Chiang Mai Governor Suwat Tantipat said that the province is preparing to help residents when the cold weather arrives. Government organizations and agencies and private organizations will provide aid, as they have done in previous years.

“Chiang Mai province has provided 50 million baht, and in addition each district is also arranging 1 million baht to help residents, especially those living far away from the city and in the highland, border and distant areas,” he said.

In addition, the governor has commanded local leaders such as district chiefs, TAO presidents, village headmen and police in every area and in tourism places to pay attention to the security of tourists who visit Chiang Mai during the winter. The accident rate through cold-weather incidents has been decreasing but is still high.

So it’s winter blanket time again. Now where did we put last year’s hand-out?


Drug dealer with 3 kg of heroin shot dead during police sting

Saksit Meesubkwang

A drug dealer was killed in a gunfight that ensued when he was caught in a police trap. The police sting operation was set up on October 23, with Pol. Maj. Gen. Uayporn Jittakanon, commander of Narcotics Suppression Division 2 and Pol. Lt. Col. Chinapat Sarasin acting as buyers for a quantity of heroin.

The two officers waited on the Chiang Mai-Samoeng Road and a man riding an unlicensed motorcycle appeared and led them to Baan Pang Paka at Tambon Mae Ram. There, a Hmong tribesman carrying a brown bag emerged from a grove. The officers negotiated a deal for 10 packets of heroin weighing 3 kilograms, at a price of 1.5 million baht. With the deal having been agreed, the police posse appeared with the intention of arresting the Hmong man but he shot at the officers and they returned the fire, killing him. The guide, meanwhile, fled. No police were injured in the shoot-out.

It is believed the heroin was imported from Burma through Pai district.


American prisoner flees from psychiatric hospital

Claims the therapy was revolting

Saksit Meesubkwang

Almost 100 police officers set off in pursuit of an American who escaped from a Chiang Mai mental hospital, eventually catching him near a security checkpoint where he was apprehended. He was found in a state of confusion.

Garry Pearlroll, 44, was found nearby Thipanet security checkpoint.

Garry Pearlroll, 44, had been working as a teacher in Bangkok for three years before moving to Chiang Mai where, while waiting for the result of a job application, he was arrested on June 15 for stealing a camera. His mental condition caused concern and he was sent by the prison authorities to Suan Prung Psychiatric Hospital at Tambon Haiya in Muang, Chiang Mai, from where he made his getaway on October 21.

He said he had run away while being examined by doctors because he had been subjected to electric shock therapy to his head, and he couldn’t stand it. Pearlroll has now appealed to the US Embassy for help.


Nine missing in Mekong boating accident

Chiangmai Mail Reporters

Nine people are missing, feared drowned, following an accident in which a boat hit a rock in the Mekong River.

The boat crashed into a rock in the middle of the stream opposite Baan Kang Kai at Tambon Wiang. At first it was believed that all on board had been swept away, but then it was discovered that six people were still alive, having been picked and taken to the Lao side of the river at Baan Tui in Baw Kaew. They were brought back to Thailand and admitted to Chiang Khong Hospital with minor injuries. Amongst them was the pilot of the boat, Winai Imkaew, 45, with the other five being villagers from Baan Muang Kan, Chiang Khong.

The pilot said that 15 people, including himself, had taken the boat out to join a boat race organized on the Lao side. The accident had occurred on the way home, because it was too dark to see properly. Winai had been controlling the rudder but failed to see the rock. The six saved had been rescued by another boat, but he said the other nine had sunk under the surface.

The missing have been named as Somphaeng Imkaew, Suriyon Srisawat, Wasana Srisawat, Yui Srisawat, Phatcharin Rong-anan, Saisunee Anoma, Sao Kanyana, Maneejan Anoma and Suchat Darak. They were all from the same village.

Officers from Chiang Khong Police Station were called out to the scene on October 18, where they joined river patrol police in searching for the missing persons.


Armed robber who took wife and kids along gets 13 years

Chiangmai Mail Reporters

A Malaysian man who robbed a Chiang Rai bank at gunpoint while his wife and two children waited in their car has been sentenced to 13 years in prison.

Hoi Fooj Seng, 39, waved a 9 mm revolver to force bank officers to pack 825,680 baht into a bag and then fled in a car together with his Thai wife Waraporn Lamoonphan, 24, and two children.

Hoi was captured at Tambon Huay Sak together with the weapon, 58 rounds of ammunition and the bag of money. Later, Waraporn was arrested on charges of receiving stolen goods when only 768,680 baht of the money was recovered.

Chiang Rai Provincial Court ruled on October 18 that Hoi was guilty of all charges and he was sentenced to prison terms totaling 26 years, 6 months and 10 days. The armed robbery charge carried a term of 22 years and 6 months, and Hoi was given extra time for charges of entering and staying in Thailand illegally, possessing a weapon without a permit, and carrying and discharging the weapon in a public place.

The court did, however, reduce the total prison term to 13 years, 3 months and 5 days as Hoi had accepted the charges. He has also promised to pay back the missing 57,000 baht.

Pol. Lt. Col. Tosaphum Jaruenpon, deputy superintendent of Muang Chiang Rai Police Station, said that the evidence against Hoi had been quickly gathered, allowing the court to make a fast decision. The case against Waraporn was still being investigated and a decision is expected soon.


Italian seized with 1.4 kg of heroin

Nopniwat Krailerg

An Italian caught transferring heroin from the Thai-Burmese border was arrested at a police checkpoint in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai, while on his way to Chiang Rai Airport.

The arrest happened on October 18 when police and Pha Muang Task Force officers set up a checkpoint at Tham Pla, Tambon Pong Pha. Stefano Pelliccia, 50, was in a rented car being driven by Jamrad Insrijan, 58, traveling from the Saithong Hotel to the airport.

Pelliccia was found to have two bars of heroin tucked into his socks and two more bars in his trouser pockets. Total weight of the heroin was 1.4 kilograms and its value in Thailand stood at 750,000 baht.

Pelliccia said he had purchased the heroin from a man at the Thai-Burmese border and planned to distribute it in Chiang Mai.

The driver is being investigated to see if he had any knowledge of the drugs that he was carrying.


Two drug dealers killed in shootout with Pha Muang Task Force

Nopniwat Krailerg

Two drug dealers were killed in a shoot-out with officers from the Pha Muang Task Force on October 21.

Under Col. Anantasak Treelao, commander of the special task force of the 2nd Calvary Regiment, the soldiers were patrolling an area to the east of Baan Sui Thang, Tambon Mae Ngon in Fang, Chiang Mai.

Two men aroused their suspicions and the officers asked to search them. The men, however, shot at the troops, who fired back. The gunfight lasted about five minutes after which the task force withdrew because it had become too dark.

Next morning the officers returned to the scene and found the dead bodies of the two men. One appeared to be a Chinese Haw while the other was a Wah. Neither had ID cards. Beside the bodies was an AK-47 together with 18 bullets, a knife, two backpacks, a tube or a gram of opium, and a flashlight. The officers informed Fang Police Station and a doctor arranged for removal of the bodies.


Husband and wife fruit sellers caught with 22,000 ya ba pills

Chiangmai Mail Reporters

A husband and wife couple delivered a quantity of fruit to Mae Sai and then hid 22,000 ya ba pills in their pickup for what they thought would be a profitable return journey.

Despite their fruity cover, Phrae Provincial Police commander Pol. Maj. Gen. Phoomra Watanapanee received intelligence that there would be a drug transfer in Phrae on October 23, and directed Rong Gwang Police Station to set up a checkpoint at Rong Khem on the Yantrakit Koson Road.

The couple’s pick-up was stopped and officers asked the driver, Plai-ngam Samranwong, a 41 year old Kalasin province resident, if they could search the vehicle. Also in the car was Plai-ngam’s wife Nongluck Nakjan, 38, of Samut Prakan province (who was out of luck), and two children.

Officers also asked to test the couple for drug use, and took urine samples, both of which proved positive by turning purple. Under the vehicle the officers found packages wrapped in plastic, which when opened were found to contain 22,000 speed pills. The pills were confiscated together with three cell phones, one gold necklace and 25,000 baht in cash, all of which was sent to Rong Gwang Police Station for the prosecution process.

Plai-ngam said that after they delivered fruit to clients in Mae Sai they were hired by a businessman for 100,000 baht to transfer the ya ba to a gas station in Bangkok. Officers are now seeking this businessman.


Voodoo cursed villagers club together to hire killer

Hit man’s fee cheaper than doctor’s visits?

Saksit Meesubkwang

Villagers from Tambon Kongkoy, Sop Moei, clubbed together to pay the fee of a killer they hired to dispose of a Karen tribesman who was allegedly using voodoo to make their people sick.

Apparently, Jaw Yoklaprasameerung, a 53-year-old resident Karen tribesman was practicing voodoo and many of the Baan Mae Phae villagers had become sick. They had spent money on doctor’s fees but had not recovered. Following the failure of medical science, the villagers decided on a more primitive method to rid themselves of the voodoo curse. Ten villagers put their money together to hire a killer.

This time they were indeed successful, but the September 22 murder of Jaw Yoklaprasameerung aroused great public interest, which the local police could not ignore. Officers from Kongkoy Police Station investigated and made the arrest.

The hired killer was identified as Naboo or Jareun Paw, age 30. His driver and lookout man was Yuthana Phochanakarnden, age 31. Both men are from Tambon Baw Luang in Hot, Chiang Mai. The villager who commissioned the hit was identified as Barome Yoklap-udomsri, 24, living at Tambon Kongkoy in Sop Moei. Yuthana admitted he was hired by villager Barome for 11,000 baht, which he and the killer shared.

Mae Hong Son Governor Direk Konkleep and Provincial Police commander Pol. Maj. Gen. Suthep Dechraksa jointly organized a press conference on October 23 to announce the arrest of the culprits.

Pol. Maj. Gen. Suthep said that those who were involved in the business of hiring the killer would be pursued and all brought to justice. However, it has been reported that after Jaw’s death, those who were sick suddenly became well again.



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