Thousands gather to protest against Thai-US FTA talks
Nopniwat Krailerg and
Thousands of protesters gathered in front of Chiang Mai
railway station on January 9 to protest against the free trade negotiations
due to begin that day between Thailand and America.
against FTA holding wreaths with the Thai Prime Ministers and the US
President’s names, passing the US Consulate in Chiang Mai.
Many local organizations were represented, including the
Thai Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS, the Alternative Agriculture
Network, the Federation of Consumers (Lumpang), the Federation of Northern
Farmers, the 4 Regions Slum Network, the Council of People Organizations of
Thailand, the Assembly of the Poor, the Student Federation of Thailand, the
Southern Community Forest Network, the Southern Land Reform for the Poor,
Confederation of State Enterprise Labor Union and the FTA Watch.
Protesters demanded that Thailand cancel the 6th
FTA negotiations with the US that were due to be held in Chiang Mai between
January 9 and 13, at the Imperial Mae Ping and Sheraton hotels.
They said that the US’s requests concerning
intellectual property, free trade of service and investment and an opened
agricultural market will have a negative effect on local citizens and that
agriculturists will go bankrupt.
In addition, medicine patent rights that the US wishes to
extend from an initial 20 years to 25 years will cause patients and
consumers to pay higher prices, for example HIV, cancer, diabetes and
patients with other chronic illnesses who need to take medicine continually
will be in trouble if medicine prices increase.
Additionally, plant seeds and biological resources in an
opened agricultural market will impact agriculturists. Demonstraters said
that Thailand will lose its abilities in self-sufficiency in food production
if the country needs to import from overseas.
Thousands of protesters from throughout the country
crowded into the area in front of Chiang Mai train station in the morning
before moving on foot along Charoenmuang Road to Waroros Market to present a
petition to the US Consulate appealing the FTA talks be canceled. A traffic
jam built up because of the crowds, and two effigies of Thai and US
negotiators were beheaded in front of the consulate. The petition was
presented to Scott Hansen, US Consul in Chiang Mai. Hansen said he would
present it to the US government and
commented that people have the right to peaceful protests
under Thai law. After handing in the petition, the crowd moved on to Thapae
Gate, with some branching off to gather outside the two host hotels.
Phat Apaimoon, president of the Alternative Agriculture
Network, said he disagrees with Thailand negotiating with the US because
Thailand is a developing country and that citizens would be affected very
disadvantageously by any agreement.
Kamon Upakaew, president of the Thai Network of People Living with
HIV/AIDS said that he would like FTA negotiations with the US canceled
because he believed that Thailand’s technology development potential
cannot be compared to that of the US and that Thailand will lose in every
way. It is, he said, not beneficial for the poorer citizens and will help
only some people.
Road toll down over New Year
Chiang Mai Operation Center for Prevention and
Reduction of Highway Accidents during New Year Festival has advised on
the number of deaths and injuries (15 and 157 respectively) during the
“seven precautionary days” of the festival (December 29, 2005 to
January 4, 2006).
The death toll is marginally lower than last year (17
deaths in 2005) while
the number of injuries has dramatically dropped to only one-third of last
year’s figure (516 injuries in 2005).
Year Festival’s road toll was down in 2006.
The highest recorded statistics were in Fang district
(six deaths) followed by Mae Taeng and Hang Dong districts (two deaths
Hot, Saraphi, Chom Thong, Chiang Dao and Mae Chaem recorded one1 death
each. There were no deaths reported in Muang district where the New Year
celebrations were at their highest and the traffic congestion was acute.
However, this district in the heart of Chiang Mai had the highest number
of road accidents reported (50 incidents and 56 injured). Doi Tao and
Wiang Hang districts reported no accidents at all.
Motorcycles were the type of vehicle involved in most
in accidents. Those injured were reported as having been speeding, under
the influence of alcohol and not wearing a crash helmet, or all three.
Most deaths occurred on a main road.
The largest accident happened in Fang district in
which five persons were killed including three adults and two children. A
pick-up truck driver lost control and ran into a group of people who were
celebrating New Year Festival by launching a candle balloon to get rid of
The decrease in the road toll is partly through the government’s
public relations policy through various media “When Drunk Don’t
Drive”. It also showed the success of the cooperation among personnel
from different agencies such as the police, administrative officials,
public health personnel and the staff from pro-vincial transport office
in setting up checkpoints and checking alcohol level of motorists.
“Heaven on Earth” in Mae Hong Son?
Bio-Tourism in Long Neck Karen Hilltribe Villages
stay house built with bamboo and tree leaves for tourists.
Yuthachai Pansri, President of Community College, Mae
Hong Son, is advocating Bio-Tourism, a new concept in tourist homestay in
a the Long Neck Karen village of Baan Huay Poo Kang,Tambon Pha Bong in
Muang, Mae Hong Son. This type of tourism is aimed at attracting visitors
according to strategies devised by the Mae Hong Son Provincial Committee and
according to the Mae Hong Son Governor, Direk Konkleep, is for visitors to
the villages to experience, “Heaven on Earth in Thailand.”
long neck Karen guides waiting to serve tourists
Yuthachai Pansri said that the villagers of Huay Poo Kang
would be instructed in the requirements of its foreign visitors at a non
formal education center in the Province. He stressed the importance of
educating all tribes in how to best establish Bio-Tourism and maintain a
homestay style of vacation for its visitors which would provide a steady
income for the village.
This type of tourism would provide its guests with B&B accommodation
in houses or tents. A good standard of service would be provided and guests
would be assured of their personal security. Recreational activities would
be available in the form of bamboo rafting, exploring caves and visits to
local World War II museums.
Thailand in accord with Burma over timber imports
The Township Border Committee (TBC) is to allow a Thai
company to invest in the timber business in Chan State.
It was announced in Chiang Rai on December 29 that Gen
Somsak Nilbanchertkul, commander of the 3rd
Cavalry Task Force, Patcharadit Sinsawat, head of the Chiang Saen
customhouse, and Anon Maksin, a frontier businessman, had been authorized to
import teak across the Chiang Rai border.
At the 44th
conference of the Thailand-Burma Committee at Mae Sai municipality office,
Chiang Rai, the director of the Burmese side has permitted the importing of
620 logs of wood, valued at about 100 million baht. All logs have to go
through Chiang Saen customs storehouse.
Patcharadit said he believed that in the future if there
is wood imported from Burma, it can increase the tax revenue for the
government. Previously, Chiang Saen imported teak from China to the value of
almost 100 million baht per year.
Anon Maksin, a director of Siwa Co Ltd, said that there are big timber
businesses in Burma exporting wood from Yang Kung city to 167 countries
around the world. If Chiang Rai permits Burma to export the wood, it will
bring in a large income because Thailand lacks timber.
Concert raises funds for blankets and clothing
Chiang Mai municipality in cooperation with Thai and
foreign musicians and companies in Chiang Mai organized a free concert
on January 7 to raise funds for sending blankets and warm clothes to
three villages in Mae Chaem, Chiang Mai.
People living in remote areas are especially at risk
during the current cold weather and the government and private sector
have been organizing support missions. However, help is still needed
because many residents are lacking sufficient blankets, warm clothing
and medicine. The concert, which included other activities and food
sales, was therefore an effective way of supplementing the relief drive
The three villages were Baan Khun Yuam, Baan
Samawjabon and Baan Samawjalang at Tambon Mae Suek in Mae Chaem, Chiang
Mai. Funds raised for the 73 households here totaled 150,000 baht.
Projects will be continued to reach other villages.
Government “Blue Flag” cheap food arrives in Chiang Mai
Another populist policy to make people vote with their stomachs?
Food vending carts carrying a “Blue Flag” symbol to
indicate “economy price”, are to be found in several locations of Chiang
Mai City. The food will be sold at a real economy price, as low as 10 baht
per serve. Initially, there will be 29 carts during this pilot period, with
more carts promised to cover all districts of Chiang Mai in the near future.
Of the 1,000 carts planned as the target for covering all 76 provinces
across the country, 580 are already in place. It is anticipated that this
target can be completely met by the end of this month (January 2006).
buying food from the Blue Flag vending carts.
On January 5, Chiang Mai Deputy Governor, Kongeak-wilad
Rujiwattanapong, presided over the opening of the “Thong Fa (Blue Flag)
Economy Cooked Food Project” at Chiang Mai City Hall. Food vending carts
were handed over to vendors participating in the project.
This new project is being implemented with the
cooperation of the Department of Internal Trade (Ministry of Commerce), the
Government Savings Bank, PTT Cooking Gas, Chiang Mai Skill Development
Center and Chiang Mai Vocational College. Vendors with proven ability in
cooking Thai food are eligible for the project. The vending carts and
equipment are prepared for them to standard specifications, at the price of
12,000 baht, which they can pay by monthly installments to the Government
Savings Bank, (600 bath per month for 20 months). More than 40 items of
popular Thai dishes have been listed on the cart menus. The government
believes each vendor in this project can earn 400-500 baht each day from
selling these cooked foods.
Fuengfah Tulathamakul, head of the Office of Internal
Trade Chiang Mai, stated that this project is being implemented by the
Government as an effort to reduce the cost of living for people. The project
started on October 4th, 2005,
and a total of 63 people applied to participate in the project. So far, 29
have completed training courses on “The Hygienic Way for Cooking Standard
Dishes” and “Production and Distribution of Quality Products” through
the Chiang Mai Skill Development Center and Chiang Mai Vocational College.
These courses aim to ensure that the food sold at the Blue Flag carts will
be cooked properly, hygienically and to a high standard.
Currently, people can buy food from these vending carts stationed in
Muang, San Sai, San Khampaeng, Hang Dong and Mae Rim districts. It has
already been observed that the usual food carts have already had to lower
their prices in these regions. The government believes this situation can
only be beneficial to all (other than those previously trying to make a
living selling food).
Chiang Mai brings in 45 tons of sugar to sweeten the market
Apparently Thailand is in the grip of a sugar crisis, but
this is more imagined, than real say government spokespersons. Fuengfah
Tulathamakul, head of the Office of Internal Trade Chiang Mai, revealed that
she did not find a scarcity of sugar in Chiang Mai, because there are many
shops and department stores in the city where people could buy sugar for
14.50 baht per kilogram.
and brown sugar are running short in the market-place all over country.
To resolve the perceived shortage of sugar in the
marketplace, however, Chiang Mai Provincial Office of Internal Trade has
brought 45 tons of sugar, to add to the present stocks. This sugar will be
trickled into the market gradually.
Fuengfah also advised people who could not buy sugar, to
please contact her Officers at the Office of Internal Trade Chiang Mai,
Chiang Mai City Hall, where they could buy sugar for 14.50 baht per
kilogram. From surveys conducted by the larger Supermarket chains,
consumption of sugar by Chiang Mai’s citizens is around 300 tons per week.
On December 27, 2005, the Office of Internal Trade Chiang Mai issued a
communiqu้ requesting all businesses that held stocks of sugar of more
than 10,000 kilograms or 10 tons, to inform her office of the quantity and
location of their stocks. Officers sent to check these stocks found nothing
unusual. If people find sugar being sold at an unreasonable price, or
shop-keepers hoarding sugar, they should ring the Hotline (1569), and report
Chiang Mai has never experienced a sugar shortage before. Checks on shops
have revealed that even stocks of brown sugar are running low, but white
sugar can be substituted in its place. The Office of Internal Trade Chiang
Mai has provided staff to inspect and monitor the sugar price
situation in markets everyday.
Hmong New Year cart racing injures spectator
Manufacturing wooden traditional carts, used by the
Hmong, is a traditional Hmong skill, the carts being used for transporting
goods and produce over difficult jungle terrain. As well as practical use
the local vehicle is used during the Traditional New Year Fair. They are
brightly painted and used for racing.
The races were keenly contested by 44 participants from
12 Hmong villages. It was a knockout competition of 22 races over a 300
meter course, during which both drivers and spectators suffered minor
injuries. The only serious injury reported was to a 40 year old spectator
who fell down the mountain and had to be taken to hospital for treatment.
This years winner was Montri, a Hmong from Ban Nong Hoi
Mai, who retained his championship trophy, having also won last year, and
pocketed 13,000 baht which can be used for more racing modifications.
Thawatwong Na Chiang Mai, President of Chiang Mai Provincial
Administration Organization, presided over the opening of the Hmong New Year
Traditional Fair at Ban Nong Hoi Mai, Mae Rim District, Chiang Mai. There
were cultural parades, local recreation and a wooden cart parade. The Fair
also featured sports competitions such as playing tops. Each year the venue
of the fair changes, next years hosts will be Ban Mae Sa Mai, Mae Rim
District, Chiang Mai.
Government supports sweet pepper farmers offering 200 rai for pilot plan
On January 5th, Sudarat Keyuraphan, Minister of
Agriculture and Cooperatives visited hydroponic sweet pepper farms at Baan
Pong Yang, Tambon Pong Yang in Mae Rim, Chiang Mai . These farms are managed
by Lanna Oriental Hydroponics overseeing 174 farmers working 200 rai of
The company and each of the farmers have jointly agreed
to farm the land, and will receive financial support from the Department of
Agriculture. At present, sweet peppers are being promoted as an OTOP
product, raising the Mae Rim district to 4 star status. It is anticipated
that the project could realize an income of 50 million baht per annum.
The Minister said that sweet peppers would be grown as an
alternative crop to garlic and onions in northern regions due to the
favorable climate. Furthermore, because of a shortage of sweet peppers in
the world market and the higher reward realized from the product as opposed
to that of onion and garlic it made pepper growing a far more lucrative
The 200 rai plot set aside for this project is a pilot
area to study the economics of growing this crop. The Government has already
contacted five companies in Japan for sweet pepper trading. The Ministry of
Agriculture and Cooperatives is also to support a favorable low interest
loan for the farmers.
The sweet pepper growing period lasts for nine months. Harvesting
commences three months after planting and goes on for five to six months. An
investment of 100,000 baht per rai is needed with an expected return of
600,000 baht per rai which equates to 9,600 KG of produce harvested every
three days. The current price for sweet peppers is between 15-50 baht per
kilo, depending on quality, when exported to Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan and
Villagers stage protest and demand resignation of district chief
A hundred villagers gathered in protest against the Doi
Tao district chief officer on January 6, saying that he is ignoring a
miscarriage of justice.
The villagers of Tambon Pong Toong in Doi Tao were led by
their headman Boonpeng Talue, and gathered in front of Chiang Mai City Hall
to appeal to the governor.
Talue, the village headman from Doi Tao district presented a petition to
Kongeak-wilad Rujiwattanapong, Chiang Mai deputy governor.
Doi Tao Police Station had earlier accused Boonpeng of
trespass in national parkland without a permit and possessing more than 20
cubic meters of modified wood without permission. Officers had seized 23
pieces of timber along with a car and motorcycle. Villagers however said the
car and motorbike did not belong to Boonpeng and they asked for help from
Suraphon Satayarak, the Doi Tao district chief officer. Suraphon, they
claim, ignored them and denied Boonpeng any help. Consequently they staged
the demonstration and asked that he be removed from his post for ignoring
his duty as district officer to help residents.
The villagers are also asking for the government to
manage their land for doing agriculture, as they have worked on this
national park land for more than 50 years.
Kongeak-wilad Rujiwat-tanapong, Chiang Mai deputy governor, listened
to the villagers’ complaints and said he will act upon them.
Mae Hong Son survey reveals that 20 villages are stateless
A survey of stateless people in Mae Hong Son has revealed
that as many as 20 villages are officially located outside Thai territory and
that their residents have no nationality, says Santipong Moonfong, director of
the Children and Community Network Development Center in Mae Hong Son province.
One example is Ban Mae Dee in Tambon Mae Kong, Mae Sariang
district. There are 26 families in this village and a total of 38 children who
are not holding the nationality of any country. The villagers do not hold blue
cards either (the card officially issued to highlanders) except for two persons.
It seems that the government has not been able to extend its services to cover a
number of villages, said Santipong.
The current number of stateless children in Mae Hong Son
province is estimated at ten thousand. They are living in the forest along the
Thai-Burmese border in places such as Sop Moei, Mae Sariang, Mae La Noi, Khun
Yuam, Pang Mapha and Pai districts. Though they were born on Thai soil they have
not been nationalized as Thai citizens. Their parents are uneducated and unable
to speak Thai. When they contact Thai government agencies, they cannot
communicate well with officials. Hence, their children have missed the
opportunity for nationalization.
There are 4,777 stateless children currently enrolled in
schools, excluding those who are enrolled in non-formal education systems and
those being taken care of in childcare centers in Mae Hong Son. The government
must take action immediately otherwise this problem will be more complicated
and difficult to solve, said Santipong.
Sitthichai Prasertsri, Mae Hong Son deputy governor, said
that chief officers of all seven districts of the province have been assigned to
check for the persons who have missed the chance for nationalization. They are
advised to investigate these persons again with the assistance of village or
district headmen in confirming the length of stay on Thai soil of such persons.
This is to prevent ineligible persons from using their names to apply for
nationalization. When the process is completed, these persons will be
It is also reported that a lot of hill tribe children have
finished primary and secondary school (Por 6 and M.3 respectively). However,
they cannot enroll in senior high schools because they do not hold any official
document certifying Thai nationality.
These stateless persons include people from various ethnic
minority groups such as Karen, Tai tribe, Musso (Lahu) and some other tribes.
ONCB catches more drug runners, but Ya Ba amounts down
Pol. Lt. Gen. Kritsana Pol-anan, Secretary General to the
ONCB reported a 50 percent reduction in drug related activities for 2005, which
he attributed to the increasingly hard line, zero tolerance approach, adopted by
transferred in Burmese wall hangings discovered in 2005.
He added that due to efforts of his officers although a
significant increase in cases was reported, the actual amounts of Ya Ba seized
were considerably less, indicating a reluctance by traffickers to be caught
possessing large quantities. There were 81,953 cases reported by officers in
2005 an increase of 20,000 on the previous year. Most of those caught
were alien laborers and tourists.
Thailand provides a gateway for three other countries for other substances
including heroin, hashish and ice. Ever changing consumer habits and the laxity
of the law in neighboring countries makes Thailand aware of its vulnerability to
the movement of these drugs. The area of greatest risk is considered to be the
Northern Border where officers must be continually on alert to the tricks
employed by the traffickers. In an effort to discourage drug dealers, officers
are calling for a change in the law giving them greater powers to expropriate
the personal property of those found guilty of drug related crimes.
Notorious drug dealer Jack Chang Klan killed by border police
A notorious drug dealer known to narcotics control officers
as Jack Chang Klan was killed in a Mae Taeng lychee orchard on January 6, by
border police patrol.
Mae Taeng Police Station officers were called out directly
after the shooting, and being in remote hill country between Baan Ton Kham and
Baan Pha Poo Jom, it took two hours for them to reach the scene.
The body of Anuwat Meklom, 33, a resident of Muang Chiang Mai
was found next to a motorcycle. Anuwat was known to be a primary drug dealer,
going by the alias Jack Chang Klan, and police had been hunting him for a long
time. He was holding a .32 weapon in his right hand and had been shot in the
neck and face. Small Buddha images, magic charms and one homemade grenade were
found on the body, along with 4,000 Ya Ba pills.
Police reports state that the 33rd
border police learned there would be a drug transfer passing through Chiang Dao
and Mae Taeng district. A patrol was sent there and found a man riding a
motorcycle, who they stopped with the intention of searching. Abandoning his
motorbike the man had run into the lychee orchard and shot at the officers seven
or eight times. They returned his fire for five minutes until silence fell.
Checking the scene, the officers found Jack Chang Klan dead, another example of
the pin-point accuracy of the upholders of the law.
Two dead in Nan bus crash
Chiangmai Mai Reporter
Two people were killed and more than 40 injured when a Chiang
Mai-Nan bus came off a steep road 20 kilometers from Nan city.
The accident occurred at a curve in the road, with the driver
unable to change gear and brake sufficiently to slow the bus, which was loaded
with 70 passengers.
The vehicle, a green bus, belonged to Pattanakit
Transportation Co., Ltd. On January 3 it had left Chiang Mai en route to Nan and
had reached Tambon Sa Nian when the accident occured. Nan police and rescue
officers sent 42 injured people to Nan Hospital, where 12 were detained for
treatment. Two others were killed in the crash.
Driver of the bus Khamnuan Chapat, 47, said that he was
driving at high speed on the steep road and that he could not brake sufficiently
on the curve.
Vanished couple were drug dealers, police believe
A husband and wife couple who vanished mysteriously leaving a
pickup truck packed with 30,000 speed pills are urgently being sought by police.
Chai Pakarn Police Station officers found the pickup with a
Chiang Mai province license plate abandoned at Baan Mai Nong Bua. The vehicle
had been there several days. Hidden inside the space cab were 15 packets
of amphetamines totaling 30,000 pills. The owner was identified as Manote
Thepwong, 40, of Tambon Sri Dong Yen. He and his wife Buakiew have disappeared.
Police have applied for an arrest warrant.
Manote and his wife had driven the pickup from their house to
city, after which relatives informed Chang Puek Police Station in the beginning
of January that both had disappeared. Police found the truck parked in the
Chinese Haw village in Chai Pakarn district, and after checking believed the
couple were involved with a Northern drug dealer network.
A drug dealer arrested with 49,000 speed pills in
Kamphaengphet told police that the couple were drug dealers, but no one is yet
able to ascertain whether or not they are still alive.
Bomb at Chiang Mai Winter Fair with six wounded
On January 3, 2006, there was a bomb explosion at the Chiang
Mai Winter Fair during the Bodyslam concert, which was attended by around 1,000
people. The incident occurred at the end of concert, when fighting broke out
between several teenagers at the front of the stage. The police quelled the
fracas and arrested three of the protagonists.
was taken moments before the detona-tion.
At the same time, there was the sound of explosion, causing
the audience to scatter in panic. Of the six people wounded in the incident,
one of them was Niphon Chaicheun, 16, a Chiang Mai resident, who suffered
injuries to his head. Jetsada Ruengwit. 26, and Yiamyut Deetermkaew, 19, were
also seriously injured and another three were found to have sustained damage to
Investigation by police officers revealed that the bomb was a
home-made device, which they believe was assembled by a group of teenagers, to
cause disruption at the concert. Three teenagers are under investigation.
Chiang Mai people are angry, as something like this happens every year during
the winter fair. They blame the event organizer’s lax security, insisting
that, with the event’s prior record for trouble, all people entering the venue
should have been subjected to a body search. Many people have stopped attending
the event, in fear of their safety from the mindless, disruptive actions of a
small number, whose childish behavior is both malicious and anti-social.
Prompt arrest of Chiang Mai thief pleases residents
Lt. Gen. Panupong Singhara Na Ayuthaya, commissioner of the Provincial Police
Bureau Region 5 and Pol. Maj. Gen. Jiruj Promobol, Chiang Mai Provincial Police
commander checking the evidence.
A series of robberies in the Muang area of Chiang Mai were
investigated by Police Officers from the Muang Chiang Mai Police Station, led by
Pol. Col. Yuthachai Puaprasert. Following information from local residents,
their enquiries led them to an address in Tambon Padad in Muang Chiangmai, where
they suspected that the occupier, Thanad Chai-nganmuang, 26, was the perpetrator
of these crimes.
With search warrant, the police descended and found 122
stolen items, including a black Mitsubishi car, gold ornaments and computers
with a value of 50,000 baht, awaiting sale.
Pol. Lt. Gen. Panupong Singhara Na Ayuthaya, Commissioner of the Provincial
Police Bureau Region 5, praised the officers whose efforts had led to the arrest
of the offender. He also thanked the many residents who had lost their
possessions for assisting the Police in their enquiries. He promised to continue
his investigations, with the aim of locating the offender’s accomplices and
bringing them to justice.
New Year’s Eve drugs haul for Mae Sai customhouse
Officers at the Mae Sai-Tachilek customhouse, having received
intelligence that a drugs transfer was to take place across the border on New
Year’s Eve, remained on duty until midnight with the intention of catching the
Led by Mae Sai customs officer Choochai Udompod and his
assistant Kitti Suthisamphan, narcotics control officers kept a discrete
vigilance. Around midnight, a foreign man was heard conversing with a Burmese
man at the inbound gate. Officers intervened and detained the two, identified as
a Taiwanese named Hung Chiang and a Burmese named Ajung.
Searching the men, officials found 400 grams of pure heroin
and 20,000 cash. They were taken to Mae Sai police station. Ajung confessed that
another Taiwanese, who lives in Tha Chi Lek, introduced him to Hung who asked
Ajung to deliver heroin to him at the Thai border. They were foiled by the
customhouse extending its usual office hours.