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HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

PM Thaksin visits Chiang Mai as imminent trouble brews between pro and anti-Thaksin factions

Influential criminal groups and arms dealers under central police scrutiny

Air pollution brings out the exhaust police

Mae Ping residents opinions sought concerning the river wall

Tai tribe army denies US drug factory claims

Karen people take offence at radio presentation

The dry season predicted to be cooler than in 2005

Artificial rain, action for solving drought crisis in the North

40 Mae Maw residents refusing to relocate until government valuation

Chiang Mai Airport to be finished for the International Horticulture Exposition

Recruitment company sued after deposits not returned

158 villages in Mae Hong Son likely to face drought

Drug traffickers take advantage of the political situation

Chiang Rai police to apply new strategies for narcotics suppression

More North Koreans detected illegally entering Chiang Rai

PM Thaksin visits Chiang Mai as imminent trouble brews between pro and anti-Thaksin factions

Saksit Meesubkwang and Staff Reporters

TRT staged a rally at Chiang Mai 700 Year Anniversary Stadium on March 4, attended by large crowds of people from both Chiang Mai and Lamphun provinces to listen to caretaker PM Thaksin Shinawatra. Before Thaksin arrived at the stadium, several other members of the party took turns to address the assembly, including Yongyut Tiyapairat, Warathep Ratanakorn, Adisorn Piangket and Ladawan Wongsriwong.

Later, Thaksin reiterated his reasons for dissolving parliament, saying that he wished to give back authority to the citizens, to give them the opportunity to use the ballot box to choose whether or not they would continue to support him and TRT. He said it was the democratic right of every citizen to freely and privately cast their vote to choose who would govern the country and form the next parliament.

He accused the opposition of resorting to smear tactics by accusing him and his family of unethical behavior over the sale of shares to the Shin Corp organization. He confirmed that he had complied with the law over the sale of the shares and had not done it to escape paying tax, even though that was the end result.

A defiant Thaksin said that he would not simply resign from his post as PM just because his detractors weren’t happy with his performance in leading the country. He promised to solve the country’s poverty problem rapidly, if he was offered a further chance to be PM once more. He vowed that every government policy would be continued, amongst others, the 30 baht medical treatment scheme and the village budget. He finally added that his present visit to Chiang Mai was to keep faith with his many supporters in Chiang Mai; and that he felt humbled by the local residents’ obvious encouragement for him to continue working for the country.

On the other hand, Thaksin is not having it all his own way, because a group of 95 academics and reputable persons in Thailand have presented a petition to the King, requesting His Majesty to choose a government minister to act as temporary PM for a period before a new PM can be elected.

Meanwhile in Bangkok, Resident Alliances for Democracy gathered on March 5 at Sanam Luang, headed by Maj. Gen. Chamlong Srimuang and Sonthi Limthongkul. The assembly was attended by a huge crowd of around 200,000 persons, made up of businessmen, students and general citizens. They gathered calling for Thaksin to step down from his political role, promising their actions would be maintained until such times that he quit. This assembly was also simultaneously broadcast to a 500 strong crowd gathered at the Faculty of Social Science, Chiang Mai University.

While the anti-Thaksin lobby crusades for Thaksin Shinawatra to stand down, the caretaker PM continues to muddy the waters by involving the Thai Rak Thai party (TRT) which has not been asked to stand down.

With widespread reports in the media of villagers being paid to attend the TRT political rally, it seems that Thai politics have not managed to become free of outside influences, and we have returned the “Good Old Days”.


Influential criminal groups and arms dealers under central police scrutiny

Saksit Meesubkwang and Preeyanoot Jittawong

A crackdown on organized crime is being advocated by Thailand’s police Inspector-General, Pol. Gen. Seriphisut Temiyawej, who is highlighting crime and corruption in the North. With it being more than obvious that there are still shady figures behind human trafficking, prostitution and drugs, the police Inspector-General addressed police from the eight northern provinces.

He outlined his policies concerning influential criminals and arms suppression. The Inspector-General said that he was deeply concerned about the many violent crimes that took place in the Provincial Police Bureau Region 5 area and the Northern provinces. He said that much of the evidence pointed to certain individuals and groups who were influencing crime in the region. They were known to be involved in human trafficking, drugs, prostitution, smuggling and arms dealing, but always managed to escape prosecution. He urged police commanders in the eight Northern provinces to compare information with each other to check if these people were influencing crime just in their own backyard or if they were building new connections elsewhere. He warned the regional police commissioners of each area that they and their officers were under close scrutiny and if any were discovered to be taking bribes or turning a blind eye to the activities of these people, they would be removed from duty and punished severely.

He urged the assembled commanders to keep a close watch on prostitution and human trafficking and to investigate thoroughly any persons suspected of being involved in these activities. He advocated the creation of a special task force of police to gather information on these international groups who conduct their human trafficking activities as part of a large organization. The victims of these illegal traffickers are mostly from the North and the Thai-Burmese border, some are willing and aware of what they are getting into, but most are deceived into parting with hard earned cash and then abandoned once they are over the border.

The Inspector-General requested residents to immediately inform the police if they learned of any clue or information concerning criminal activity of any kind, no matter how insignificant it might seem to the individual. This information would be sent to the National Office of the Inspector-General and investigators would be sent from central office to pursue each case. He gave his personal assurance that any information would be confidential and the informant’s identity would not be disclosed.


Air pollution brings out the exhaust police

Preeyanoot Jittawong

Officers checking black smoke from vehicles.

Chiang Mai Municipality has requested policemen and environment academics to set up checkpoints on every main road in the city to check black exhaust smoke from diesel vehicles. The first route to be checked is on the Chiang Mai-Mae Rim Road, in front of the National Bank. These measures were decided after air quality in city was measured and found to be as much as 90 percent unburnt carbon particles. Further campaigns are in the pipeline to attempt to reduce Chiang Mai’s rapidly worsening pollution.

On March 6, Boonlert Buranupakorn, Chiang Mai Mayor, said that the main problem causing pollution in Chiang Mai city is the large amount of dust that occurs especially on waysides of dense traffic routes. This dust is constantly stirred in the draught caused by passing traffic and mixes with the unburnt carbon emitted from the exhausts of poorly maintained diesel engines.

If any vehicle is detected emitting excessive black smoke, measured at more than 75 percent, that vehicle will be considered to be below the minimum standard and the driver will be fined 1,000 baht and the vehicle put off the road. Vehicle owners will be forced bring the engine up to standard and have it checked again before it will be allowed back on the road.

It is hoped that these measures if rigorously enforced, will encourage vehicle owners to spend more time keeping their engines properly maintained and reduce the life threatening pollution in Chiang Mai Province. Drivers who do so will find their efforts well rewarded when they discover that the price of keeping a well maintained efficient engine will be amply offset by reduced fuel costs.


Mae Ping residents opinions sought concerning the river wall

Chiangmai Mail Reporters

A conference was held to discuss the proposed plans to construct a riverbank wall along both sides of the Mae Ping River. It was presided over by Wilat Rujiwattanapong, Chiang Mai Deputy Governor on behalf of Department of Public Works and Town and Country Planning, who said that the purpose of the conference was to study the plans and come to conclusions concerning the advantages and disadvantages of proceeding with the project. The riverbank wall along both sides of the river was 19.4 km long and would be constructed in seven stages at a cost 1.3 billion baht.

Wilat said that he would like those people living alongside the Mae Ping River to share their opinions and if they disagreed with the five forms created by the Department of Public Works and Town and Country Planning, they should say so. He said that if most of the people concerned disagreed with the plans for the riverbank wall and construction did not go ahead, resulting in Chiang Mai economic province being flooded once more, local government could not be held responsible for it.

The government had authorized a budget to solve the flood problem, based on the plans submitted by the Department of Public Works, and he felt that these plans should be complied with and adjusted for the best. He agreed that Chiang Mai residents, especially people living along both river banks should have their say and that some changes may need to be made in order to satisfy them. This is one of 30 projects to deal with flooding problems; and since the projects have been publicized the department has received objections by e-mail and by letter and phone calls. This period will continue for one further month to clarify any outstanding issues before plans will be finalized. During this time everyone concerned will try to come up with the most practical solution.

The results will be published for everybody to be informed of what will happen before any construction actually commences. The predominant opinion of many residents is that local wisdom should be listened to instead of just knee-jerk reaction to the problem. They felt that instead of trying to contain the river inside ugly concrete walls, a more practicable solution would be to dredge the river to an appropriate depth to contain the excess floodwater. Furthermore, steps should be taken to stop or reduce alluvial runoff further upstream, which will reduce the silting of the riverbed which is causing the flooding in the first place. The costs of a future program of dredging would be more than offset by selling the sand the dredging would recover. The deputy governor said he would consider their ideas and perhaps both methods might be applied together.


Tai tribe army denies US drug factory claims

Chiangmai Mail Reporters

Col. Chao Yodsuek speaking to journalists on Doi Tai Lang (Photo courtesy SHAN)

SHAN News Agency reported on March 3 that the SSA-S (Shan State Army-South) denied accusations made by the US on March 1, 2006 claiming that the UWSA, troop of Wah and SSA-S had an amphetamine and heroin factory.

Kruasaen Heng-on, spokeswoman for the RCSS said her organization was the political wing of the SSA and strenuously asserted that the SSA had six primary rules; and one of the most rigorously enforced of these was drug suppression. The SSA had cooperated fully with the Thai authorities in their joint efforts to eliminate drugs along borders of Thailand and Burma and has destroyed several ya ba and heroin factories, sending both evidence and the offenders to the Thai authorities.

“However, we are willing to participate with any international country, if they would like to prove the true situation regarding the American’s false allegations concerning this area”, she said.

Col. Chao Yowdsuek spoke to foreign journalists on January 28, 2006 on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the founding of the SSA, concerning drugs in Shan State. He said that heroin dealing in the Golden Triangle was still spreading, but the true extent of the situation was concealed from international countries by the deceit and trickery of the Burmese authorities.

Col. Chao Yowdsuek disagreed with the report of the UNODC, which claimed that less and less opium was planted yearly in Burma and was decreasing continually, saying that this claim was untrue. The study carried out by the UNODC was limited in scope as it could not reach to the root of the heroin problem, because the Burmese authorities did not reveal the true situation.

He, nevertheless, accepted that although the SSA had tried to eliminate drugs, unfortunately some officials of the army were corruptly involved with drugs, due to the fact that the high rewards that came from drug trafficking made participation hard to resist. However, if any official was discovered to be involved with drug trafficking, he or she would be punished according to regulations of the SSA Army.

He observed that concerning the report of the US, that it was highly unlikely and even impossible that drug factory could be set up on Doi Tai Lang, because that area was the base of the SSA and was surrounded with Thai, Burmese and Wah troops, manning several roadblocks to prevent the transport of drug ingredient substances.


Karen people take offence at radio presentation

Saksit Meesubkwang

Representatives of the Karen people from 18 organizations present a petition at Chiang Mai city hall.

A passage in a book written by two monks has caused outrage in the Karen hill-tribe community. The book, entitled “Kham Khom Hang Lanna”, contains a passage on page 88 that defames Karen women saying that “Karen women are not good at doing housework. They like dirtiness and do not clean their houses or their bodies; and have a disgusting smell and messy hair.” To make matters worse, this passage from the book was read aloud on air by DJ Amnuay Klamphat.

30 Karen people from 18 organizations throughout the country, including the Karen Network for Culture and Environment of Chiang Mai, Tak, Kanchanaburi, Ratchaburi and Mae Hong Son, the Karen Social Development Association, Karen KBC Church, Hill Tribe in Thailand Education and Culture Association and Indigenous Knowledge and Peoples Network (IKAP) headed by Waiying Thongbue, consultant to the Human Rights Federation presented a petition to the media at Chiang Mai City Hall.

Waiying said that this paragraph presented the Karen tribe in a negative light and it was a slur upon their good name. It was intended to make Karen people feel ashamed and caused Karen students to be mocked by their peers. Furthermore, some students were frightened to inform their friends that they were Karen. The hurtful comments in the book caused outrage among the Karen people, who called for the two monks and the DJ to proclaim publicly, they were not how the book described them.

The Karen petition requested the book’s authors and the DJ to publish an apology in at least two newspapers for seven days; the radio stations which employed Amnuay should broadcast a similar apology for seven days; as well as publishing the apology on their website for one month. Moreover, Amnuay should be ordered to stop defaming the Karen people, otherwise these 18 organizations would take further action and sue the radio station.


The dry season predicted to be cooler than in 2005

Preeyanoot Jittawong

Kannikar Puranaphan, director of Northern Meteorological Center.

The Northern Meteorological Center, the Meteorological Department of Thailand and the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology offered their predictions concerning the climate during the forthcoming hot season of this year (middle February to May).

Kannikar Puranaphan, director of Northern Meteorological Center said that she anticipated that the climate during the hot season this year would be sultry in the daytime and would be most hot during March and April. However, she forecast that temperatures would be lower than last year due to the likelihood of rain coinciding with those two months. Rainfall in the hot season will be heavier than usual, but still not sufficient for consumers and agriculture.

The meteorological center warned residents to be careful of tropical storms predicted for March and April this year, especially in the upper parts of Thailand. She stressed that although the drought this year was not expected to be as severe as last time, nevertheless people should save water and plan to minimize its use. Great care should be taken when lighting fires so as not to cause forest fires, especially in the final weeks of April to May.

There is a likelihood of rain if the temperature reaches 40-42 degrees Celsius in Mae Hong Son, Lampang, Lamphun, Nan, Uttaradit, Sukhothai, Tak and Phetchabun.


Artificial rain, action for solving drought crisis in the North

Nopniwat Krailerg

The Northern region is now facing a drought and several provinces are already experiencing water shortages. Recently, villagers of Doi Tao, Chom Thong and Hot districts of Chiang Mai and Pa Sang District of Lamphun reported that they were running short of water and the Artificial Rain Center for the Upper North, Chiang Mai was preparing to help these areas.

Somchai Ruansuthinaruepap, Director of the Artificial Rain Center for Upper North, Chiang Mai disclosed that so far the drought situation was not as severe as last year, but some areas were already reported to be in crisis. However, the staff of Royal Rain Making Office was prepared for the drought situation and had already taken steps to alleviate the drought for residents in the seven Northern provinces, Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai, Mae Hong Son, Phayao, Lamphun, Lampang and Tak. Over the last two months they have stockpiled around 1,000 tons of the chemicals needed to make artificial rain and are ready to swing into action the moment the atmospheric conditions are suitable.

This year, the budget set aside for artificial rain making is 7-8 million baht; and if necessary the process will be carried out until September. A small base has been set up in Tak so as not to waste time and money traveling back to Chiang Mai after every sortie. Mountainous areas in Hot, Chom Thong and Doi Tao districts will be damped down first to prevent forest fires in these heavily forested locations. Artificial rain is to be made over and around the catchment areas of various reservoirs to increase the levels in those reservoirs.

However, at the moment the Artificial Rain Center is one aircraft short of its original complement of four, with one plane undergoing repairs. Once repairs are completed, the full squadron of four will take to the skies and bring welcome rain to the thirsty folk of the North.


40 Mae Maw residents refusing to relocate until government valuation

Chiangmai Mail Reporters

Wanchai Sutthiworachai, Lampang deputy governor issued a report on the progress of building new homes for the 493 residents who are affected by the construction of the new Mae Maw Powerhouse. He said that it was not clear which organization would be responsible for ascertaining the cost of the residents’ possessions. Nevertheless, the province is to present a petition to Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment to assign an organization to take care of this issue.

Provincial Public Works and Town and Country Planning together with property officers are now jointly surveying the area provided for those people and zoning the land. The Office of Natural Resources and Environment has announced that 72 squatters have been ordered to remove the buildings they have illegally constructed on land designated for the new town before March 17, 2006 or they will be charged with trespass and prosecuted. 40 squatters have already moved out and the rest are still negotiating.

The Department of Rural Roads has surveyed and designed routes for the new homes of those displaced people and construction is expected to start very soon. The Department of Mineral Resources has already drilled three artesian wells and will lay the pipes to carry the public water to the new homes when the sites have been established.

The deputy governor added that because of the recent dissolution of parliament, there could be delays in finding a suitable organization to be responsible for estimating the value of the residents possessions, which must be done before construction can go ahead. He hoped that the matter could be swiftly resolved, when and if parliament resumes after the April elections.


Chiang Mai Airport to be finished for the International Horticulture Exposition

Saksit Meesubkwang

Officers working on the northern extension of the runway of Chiang Mai International Airport.

Flt. Lt. Pradit Mongkonapiban, director of Regional Airports together with Serirat Wisutanon, deputy director and Flying Officer Suthara Huangsuwan, Director of Chiang Mai International Airport addressed a press conference on the occasion of the 18th anniversary of Chiang Mai International Airport. Flt. Lt. Pradit announced that the airport was being brought up to international standards and when completed, would be able to provide a better service for residents and tourists.

Flying Officer Suthara reported that Chiang Mai International Airport was capable of supporting 24 flights per hour, but at present there was a total of only 70 flights per day. Income of the airport area, from rents and landing fees etc. in the previous year, came to 345.32 million baht. This is forecast to increase this year after the ongoing work to extend the runway by 300 meters at the northern end has been completed. A new terminal building is under construction, which when finished, will be capable of supporting 6.5 million passengers per year. Construction commenced in 2004 and is expected to be completed in 2007. A budget of two billion baht has been granted enabling it to support Chiang Mai’s role as the hub of the Northern commercial center.

The extension of the runway at the northern end of the airfield has become necessary to cater for the larger modern aircraft that will be flying into Chiang Mai. This work is now in progress with a budget of 153 million baht for the construction. Further extensions are in the pipeline for the southern end, which will necessitate an underpass being constructed on route 108, according to the 2006-2007 year plan.

The Director expressed his concern about how the runway expansion would affect nearby households, but he reported that studies had confirmed that nearby residents or households would not be affected if noise abatement measures were set up alongside the runway to control the level of noise from the aircraft.

The director added that after the new passenger terminal was completed, the old one would be improved to more modern and attractive standards. The entire process was expected to be completely finished before the start of the International Horticulture Exposition at the end of this year. It will be interesting to see if this new airport construction can meet the timetable.


Recruitment company sued after deposits not returned

Chiangmai Mail Reporters

Maleewan Lowithee, head of Lamphun Provincial Employment Office was informed by the Department of Employment that people in the North and North-east had applied for jobs with Siam Overseas Recruitment, each person parting with 60,000 baht for the privilege. This company had promised to find them well-paid jobs in factories and farms; and to work as tradesmen’s assistants in the USA. The jobseekers were guaranteed wages of 80,000-120,000 baht per month, with a contract of employment for three years, but the company failed to live up to its promises and refused to give back the money to the people who had paid them for the service.

Having verified the truth of these complaints, the Department of Employment concluded that Siam Overseas Recruitment had acted illegally under the Employment and Worker Protection Act 1994 and revoked the company’s permit for 120 days. The whole matter was referred to the police and the company was sued.

She warned job seekers to beware of this recruitment company and if that organization or any other, advertised for people to apply for jobs abroad, anyone wishing to apply should first of all check the information by calling 0-2272-2913, 0-2272-2915 or 0 5356 1090-1 on weekdays.


158 villages in Mae Hong Son likely to face drought

Chiangmai Mail Reporter

Mae Hong Son Province announced that 158 villages in four districts are likely to be facing drought. This places around 47,000 villagers in trouble, requiring the provincial authorities to provide a fund of 116 million baht to deal with it.

Chana Naksuriya, Mae Hong Song Deputy Governor reported that communities concerned were 77 villages in seven Tambons of Mae Sariang district, 38 villages in four Tambons in Pang Mapha district, 32 villages in six Tambons in Khun Yuam district and 11 villages in five Tambons in Sop Moei district. Plans have been put in place to bring assistance to these villagers when and if the need should arise.

The deputy governor added that during the final weeks of March and April, seven districts of the province were expected to be affected but the province had provided 116 million baht to solve the drought problem in Mae Hong Son. Water tanks would be set up in the villages, as well solar cell pumps to relieve the water shortage both for human consumption and for agriculture


Drug traffickers take advantage of the political situation

Saksit Meesubkwang

Pol. Lt. Gen. Panupong Singhara Na Ayuthaya, Provincial Police Bureau Region 5 commissioner giving information at the press conference.

ONCB and Police in Chiang Mai, becoming more aware of the increased activities of drug traffickers in the area, finally swooped on a food shop at the side of the reservoir in Lanna Raw 9 Public Park on Chotana Rd., Tambon Chang Puek in Muang, Chiang Mai.

Here they found five members of a gang engaged in selling drugs. The five men were all Tai tribesmen from various communities around Chiang Mai province and were identified as Thun Chaimongkol, 33, from Tambon Pong Yang in Mae Rim distict; Ta Lungthun, 30, living at Tambon Piangluang in Wiang Haeng district; Thun Pong-ngam, 34, living at Tambon Pong Yang in Mae Rim district; Aw Lungkham, 28, resident of Tambon Thungkaopuang in Chiang Dao district and Gam Loongloi, 28, living at Tambon Mon Ping in Fang district. They were all arrested and their possessions seized, which included 28,000 speed pills packed in a brown plastic bag, together with three motorbikes and five cell phones. The gang were sent to Chang Puek Police Station and charged with possessing drugs.

Before their arrest, investigation officers of Provincial Police Bureau Region 5 had become aware of the activities of a group of Tai tribe drug traffickers living in Chiang Mai, who were involved with drug dealer networks in different provinces. They were bringing narcotics from the Thai-Burmese border into Chiang Mai before continuing to distribute them in Bangkok.

Pol. Lt. Gen. Panupong Singhara Na Ayuthaya, Provincial Police Bureau Region 5 commissioner said that the drug dealers always followed the political situation and the government’s movements, to choose an appropriate time to transfer the drugs. “However,” he added, “the drug dealers were wasting their time, because the police had prepared a special task force to pursue them and the officers were ready on 24 hour standby.” This case is being investigated further to identify other Thai drug dealers involved, who will be arrested and brought to justice.


Chiang Rai police to apply new strategies for narcotics suppression

Chiangmai Mail Reporters

New strategies are to be applied in the constant war to suppress narcotics in Chiang Rai, while still maintaining initial tactics to combat drugs, to search and arrest dealers and to ask for participation from local residents.

Pol. Maj. Gen. Chamnong Kaewsiri, Chiang Rai Provincial Police commander reported that after receiving the governments policy to eliminate drugs for the fifth period, that there was evidence of diminished drug trafficking in Chiang Rai as a result of suppression by the police and increased participation from the police forces of neighboring countries.

In the 5th period in the war on drugs, new strategies have been created to intercept drugs at the border area and on highland locations especially at Tambon Huay Chompoo, Tambon Mae Yao and Tambon Doi Hang in Muang, Chiang Rai including Wiang Pa Pao and Mae Suai districts. An additional 200 officers have been sent to these areas to assist with the drug elimination process.

Nevertheless, around 1,000 known drug offenders are still being sought by the police locally, but in the meantime several are believed to have escaped into neighboring countries. Because of the shortage of the proper facilities many drug addicts are being treated in police custody by a special task force due to the fact that there is no other place for them to go.

The commander offered his sincere thanks to residents for their participation and valuable assistance in helping to prevent narcotics spreading; and for the information they passed on to the police which was so necessary in helping the officers to eliminate drug trafficking in Chiang Rai Province.


More North Koreans detected illegally entering Chiang Rai

Chiangmai Mail Reporters

Hearing rumours of the presence of illegal aliens in Chiang Rai, on February 28, Pol. Lt. Col. Dared Kanlaya, superintendent of Muang Chiang Rai Police Station together with Pol. Sub. Lt. Supoj Suwan, deputy superintendent headed a posse and arrested seven North Koreans who were found to have entered Chiang Rai illegally. The group comprised of two elderly females, a three year old child, three men and a woman, none of whom were holding any kind of travel card.

The tourist police were contacted to investigate them and it was later learned that they traveled from the Chinese border to the Mekong River; continuing down the river before entering Thailand at Chiang Saen, Chiang Rai; and then seeking asylum with the Thai authorities. They had paid an agent 5,000 baht per person to arrange their passage from South Korea to Thailand.

A senior border official disclosed that Chiang Rai was a popular route among aliens wishing to enter Thailand illegally and was the final destination for many North Koreans who had chosen a roundabout route to flee to South Korea. There are now many North Korean on the Chinese border waiting to cross the Mekong River, their goal being to get to the Golden Triangle port of Chiang Saen, Chiang Rai and then seek asylum in Thailand and eventually get deported to South Korea.