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HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

A most happy birthday to Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn

Thailand’s costly political stalemate likely to continue after Sunday’s elections

First day of senate candidate enrollments in the Northern region

Chiang Mai air pollution is getting worse

Greenpeace campaigns against GM rice in Chiang Mai

Ministry of Culture looks for culture in karaoke bars?

North Koreans enter Thailand, hoping to be sent to a third country

Property seizures in five areas around Chiang Mai

Christy Sarah Jones murder investigation continues vows commissioner

Drug trafficking analysis center for Chiang Mai

A most happy birthday to Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn

The entire Chiangmai Mail staff joins the Kingdom of Thailand in humbly wishing HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn a long, healthy and happy life on this occasion of the Royal Anniversary of Her Birth.

Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn was born on April 2, 1955, the third child of Their Majesties the King and Queen of Thailand.
HRH the Princess studied from kindergarten to high school at Chitralada School in Bangkok. She ranked first in the National School Examinations in the primary level (grade 7) in 1967 and in upper secondary level (grade 12) in 1972.
Ranked fourth in the National University Entrance Examination, HRH the Princess enrolled in the Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree, first class honor, and a gold medal in History in 1976. She continued her studies in two graduate programs concurrently, obtaining an M.A. in Oriental Epigraphy (Sanskrit and Cambodian) from Silpakorn University in 1978, and an M.A. in Pali and Sanskrit from Chulalongkorn University in 1980. She enrolled in a doctoral program at Srinakharinwirot University (former College of Education) in 1981, and was awarded a doctoral degree in Developmental Education in 1987.
The principle of using education as a means for community and social development, which HRH the Princess acquired during her doctoral studies along with her former experiences in the field, has provided her with a solid base for her subsequent involvement in community development activities.
In addition to her formal degree programs, HRH the Princess has attended several training courses and workshops to enhance her knowledge and skills in effective integrated development. These subjects include computer, cartography, meteorology, survey and photogrammetry, remote sensing and geographic information system and nutrition.
HRH the Princess has acquired first-hand experiences in working on development projects initiated by Their Majesties the King and Queen. These projects involve a number of diversified fields including health and hygiene, education, water resource development, agriculture and cottage industry by regularly accompanying Their Majesties on visits to remote areas since the age of sixteen.
From these experiences, HRH the Princess has developed special interests in agricultural extension to improve school children’s nutritional conditions; supports education from pre-school to tertiary levels; and mother and child care. She has also concentrated on helping the handicapped, especially in using information technology (IT) to develop independent living and learning skills.
HRH the Princess runs several philanthropic organizations and foundations. She has been Executive Vice President of the Thai Red Cross Society since 1977; Executive Chairman of the Chaipattana Foundation (in charge of His Majesty’s development and environmental preservation projects), Ananda Mahidol Foundation (to promote higher education), the King Rama II Foundation (to conserve and promote Thai Culture); President of the Sai Jai Thai Foundation (to support disabled veterans), Prince Mahidol Award Foundation (to award prizes annually to members of the international community for outstanding performances in the fields of medicine and public health); and Adviser of the Committee of Thai Junior Encyclopedia Project by Royal Command of H.M. the King.
HRH the Princess began her teaching career in 1979 when she started teaching the General Education Program at Chulalongkorn University. A year later, she joined the Department of Law and Social Sciences, in the Academic Division of Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy. Presently she is Director of the Department of History, and has played an active part in revising its curriculum. She also supervises the Thai Music Club at the Academy. Occasionally HRH the Princess gives special lectures at several other institutions and regularly attends academic conferences and seminars both in and outside the country.
In addition, HRH the Princess represents Their Majesties in various royal functions. She also presides over ceremonies as well as other social and charity functions all through the year. In 1991, HRH the Princess was awarded the Magsaysay Award for Public Service.
HRH the Princess likes to travel around the Kingdom and abroad to obtain knowledge of physical geography and peoples’ varied lifestyles. One of her favorite pastimes is writing articles, poetry and short stories. Proceeds from her written accounts of her overseas travels are the main source of income for the Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Foundation which was set up in 1979 to support needy students in schools, vocational colleges and universities.
HRH the Princess loves Thai literature and studies literature of other countries. She enjoys playing classical Thai instruments and practicing Thai classical dancing. She also paints and is keen on sports, including jogging, swimming, biking and trekking - which gives her an opportunity to learn about plants, trees and geographical features of the areas.
In addition to her knowledge of Pali, Sanskrit and Cambodian, HRH the Princess is communicative in both English and French and has been learning Chinese, German and Latin.


Thailand’s costly political stalemate likely to continue after Sunday’s elections

By Denis D. Gray
Associated Press

With a defiant prime minister and tenacious opponents confronting one another through daily street protests and backroom maneuvering, Sunday’s parliamentary election appears unlikely to end a prolonged stalemate that is taking a political and economic toll on Thailand.
The election was called by Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, a telecoms tycoon turned politician, who hopes to reassert his popular mandate in face of a strident but so far peaceful movement working for his ouster and accusing him of corruption, abuse of power and damaging the country’s democratic institutions.
With a mass following among rural voters who benefit from Thaksin’s populist policies, his party is almost certain of victory at the polls. But neither the activists nor opposition parties, who are boycotting the election, are likely to bow quietly to the verdict of the ballot box. The election could well exacerbate the crisis.
“Most endgame scenarios paint a bleak outcome, with a high risk of political paralysis regardless of the election result,” a recent report by DBS Vickers Securities said.
For a start, the new lower house of Parliament might not even be able to convene since the law requires that all 500 of its seats be filled, an unlikely event given the boycott and complicated electoral rules. A hamstrung government, hounded by its opponents, might widen divisions in Thai society and further damage the already suffering economy.
Rifts between the advantaged urban classes and the rural poor, between political groups that once could have compromised and even, as sociologists point out, among family members have grown worse since late last year when the anti-Thaksin movement began to coalesce.
“The current political crisis, if protracted, could hurt investments, confidence and tourism.... Delays in infrastructure spending, privatization and liberalization will be inevitable,” the analysis by the securities firm said.
Thailand’s gross domestic product growth could slow to as low as 3.2 percent from the earlier projected 4.5 percent if the conflict is not resolved, with the country unable to move forward with several free trade agreements and a portfolio of infrastructure mega-projects worth up to 1.8 trillion baht (US$46.2 billion; €38.4 billion), according to the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce.
The street protests are also scaring away some tourists and more cancellations are expected. The Tourism Authority of Thailand, which oversees the country’s biggest foreign exchange earner, says 65,000 people, mostly Chinese and Singaporeans, have already scrapped planned trips.
Thaksin’s opponents say the country would spring back on track if he simply exited the political stage. But the prime minister has vowed not to give in to “mob rule,” as he calls the protests, and repeats that he was democratically elected by a landslide in the 2005 elections.
However, he has complained about feeling old and tired and hinted he may leave politics at some date in the future possibly a face-saving move that would allow the proud Thaksin to step down after he wins the election.
“I think the premier is seeking a way out. Let’s give him time to step down. Don’t kick him out. Why don’t we wait another couple of weeks as he won’t resign before the general election as that would make him appear as if he had lost,” says Wasun Potipimpanon, a prominent businessman.
But another scenario has the opposition simply running out of steam and Thaksin riding out the storm and lasting until his term expires in 2010.
The anti-Thaksin forces are pushing for another finale to the crisis: Thaksin resigns and the highly revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej appoints an interim government until elections can be staged.
But the constitutional monarch prefers to stay above the political fray and has so far given little indication he might step in as he did in 1992 when he put an end to a violent clash between protesters and the military, ushering in an era of democratic rule.
“Royal intervention is the wrong way and sets a bad precedent for the future of our democracy. I think royal intervention would amount to throwing the years since May 1992 into the wastebasket,” says Thongchai Winichakul, a Thai historian at the University of Wisconsin.
But others, like the opposition Democrat Party, argue that to save democracy one must rid the country of a leader who has tried to subvert it, muzzling the media, eroding the system of checks and balances and corrupting institutions that would allow the people to replace a leader through strictly democratic means.
“The status quo we have now, the prolonged stalemate cannot last indefinitely because Thailand has become ungovernable,” says political scientist Thitinan Pongsudhirak. “Our policy-making apparatus has stalled. As long as Thaksin is forced to fight for his survival on a daily basis he cannot be running Thailand.”


First day of senate candidate enrollments in the Northern region

Saksit Meesubkwang
Yuparaj Wittayalai School was designated by the Election Commission of Chiang Mai and 36 senate candidates enrolled on the first day.
When applying to enroll, a former Chiang Mai member of parliament also presented a letter to the commission, asking them to keep a close eye on all candidates to make sure they campaigned properly. He said that he had known various candidates to campaign illegally; therefore he would like the commission to make sure that all candidates stayed within the rules.

First day of senator candidate enrollment in Chiang Mai


Sathaporn Santiboot, the Deputy Secretary-General of the Commission said he believed that the current political situation had polarized the electorate, but predicted a turnout of over 70 percent of residents who would exercise their right to vote in the polls. He added that the Election Commission had not received any reports of illegal acts, but nevertheless, would monitor the situation closely.
In Chiang Rai, 24 candidates enrolled on the first day, amidst huge crowds of cheering supporters, whilst in Mae Hong Son, Ekkachai Ruankam, the Director of the Election Commission of Mae Hong Son said three candidates applied in the first few minutes of opening.


Chiang Mai air pollution is getting worse

Nopniwat Krailerg
The Regional Environment Office in Chiang Mai tested the atmosphere in the city and found that there is more than 200 micrograms per cubic meter of air pollution, a large increase over the acceptable norm of 120 mg per cubic meter. This has in turn seen a speeding up of a campaign to prevent further pollution caused by smoke from fires, by asking people who witnessed illegal burning off to telephone the call center and report the incident.
Apiwat Kunarak, director of Regional Environment Office 1, agreed that during the last few weeks, air pollution in Chiang Mai, Lamphun, Chiang Rai and Mae Hong Son had risen alarmingly. Recent evaluations of air quality in the area of Chiang Mai on March 21 showed that the pollution had risen to 210-215 microgram per cubic meter which was considered as being in crisis and had exceeded the figures for the previous year.
In another response, Suwat Tantipat, Chiang Mai Governor issued orders to the Local Administration Organizations in Chiang Mai to set up special organizations. These organizations are to be ready to help local people who phone in to the Call Center in Chiang Mai, concerning any illegal incineration that occurs in the province. Any one found lighting fires during this crucial period will be asked to stop immediately, with disobedience liable to punishment from the Chiang Mai Governor.
The Director of Regional Environment Office also said that there is a Call Center for air pollution at the Regional Environment Office 1, located inside Chiang Mai City Hall, phone number 0-5389-0000 with people on 24 hours standby ready to answer calls. Upon being called, officers will act within 30 minutes. If it is found out that there is any illegal burning taking place, those persons will be warned and ordered to cease their activities. In the case of any disobedience, they will be threatened with legal proceedings.


Greenpeace campaigns against GM rice in Chiang Mai

Green Peace traveled to Chiang Mai to give advice to farmers.

Preeyanoot Jittawong
Green Peace in cooperation with the Alternative Agriculture Network (AAN), Chiang Mai, brought Northern rice to display in the “Lanna Yoo Dee Mee Heng” event that was organized by 16 NGOs of Chiang Mai at JJ Market on March 25, 2006.
This activity was held to express the importance of rice in everyone’s diet and to warn people that Genetically-Modified (GM) rice was likely to be grown in Thailand and enter the food chain without the consumer being aware.
GM rice was already being grown extensively in China with little or no regard for the long term effects of consuming this product. It is claimed that without extensive testing in the field there is a distinct possibility of cross-pollination with other less desirable species of plant creating a monster that will spread out of control and be resistant to conventional pesticides and herbicides.
At present, Thailand has no biological law on the statute books to prevent contaminated, or Genetically Modified Organisms being imported into the country. Furthermore, there is no law preventing the importation of GMOs in food, so because there is no easily discernable way to distinguish these products, it is extremely likely that GM rice could enter undetected into Thailand.
This activity was held to demonstrate to Thai farmers that GM rice was unnecessary, because there were conventional ways of planting rice naturally, achieving substantial crops without using chemical fertilizers; and by this method, making it safe for both farmers and consumers.
This activity was organized in three provinces of the Northern region, Phayao, Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai. The activity also offered information about GM rice and supported organic agriculture and permanent agriculture. These two kinds of agriculture were presented in an unusually entertaining way in the form of a play; and farmers who were involved with organic agriculture were invited to share their knowledge with the audience. There was also an exhibition of different rice species and advice on planting and husbandry offered to farmers as well.


Ministry of Culture looks for culture in karaoke bars?

Saksit Meesubkwang
Borphit Wittayawiroj, the director of Chiang Mai Cultural Office reported that the Cultural Office is the provincial organization responsible for controlling online games and Internet services, in order to protect the interests of children who use these services, and karaoke bars.
This organization ensures that online games and internet shop businesses comply with the rules laid down in the Tape and Television Medium Control Act, 1987, and monitor the ages of children playing online games, including controlling the time they spend playing them. The Minister of Culture issued his 3rd ministerial orders to the Provincial Cultural Offices on March 12th, 2006, urging them to inspect the premises of game and Internet-service centers more regularly and ensure that the regulations were being enforced.
Chiang Mai Cultural Office has issued orders that every online-game and Internet-service center will have to register their business, or submit a request for their service permission. This act applies to karaoke, game and Internet centers, which will have to request permission to provide a service involving the use of tapes and television medium.
In the Muang Area, the application form can be submitted at the Coordinator of Culture, Muang district located at Tilokaracha Hall, Muang District, opposite the Three Kings monument. In other areas outside the Muang area, the application form can be submitted at the Coordinator of Culture at the district office in each district. Videotape rental shops, stores, and exchanges have to fill in an application form for their tapes and television rental, exchanging, or selling business; and submit the form at the administration office, Chiang Mai Cultural Office, on the 4th floor of Chiang Mai City Hall, tel. 0-5311-2595.
Undoubtedly this will now keep a small army of clerks in work for the next three months.


North Koreans enter Thailand, hoping to be sent to a third country

Chiangmai Mail Reporters
Five North Korean women voluntarily surrendered themselves at Chiang Rai Provincial Court on March 24th, after entering Thailand illegally. A North Korean interpreter was located to assist the police with translations and the five women admitted entering Thailand with the hope that the Thai authorities would order that they be sent on to a third country. The women said they had left North Korea and had traveled by boat down the Mekong river; eventually coming ashore in Thailand at the port of Chiang Saen. They then caught a bus to Chiang Rai and chose the Provincial Court to surrender themselves to the authorities.
Earlier this month on March 13, officers from Muang Police Station, Chiang Rai also arrested two North Korean men and four women. They were each fined 2,000 baht but none of the illegal immigrants had any money. They were put in jail for ten days instead of paying the fine and had just been released on March 23rd. The group was sent to Mae Sai Immigration for further processing. North Koreans entering into Chiang Rai have become a growing problem for the province owing to the fact that they firmly believe they can pass through Thailand into a third country.


Property seizures in five areas around Chiang Mai

Nopniwat Krailerg
Senior police officers in Chiang Mai recently reported on drug-related property seizures that have occurred in five areas around Chiang Mai; namely Chaiprakan district, Mae Ai district, Fang district, Hang Dong district, and Tambon Na Wai. They gave details of houses and property that has been seized, as a result of 11 lawsuits, with 17 people being accused. The value of the property is approximately 35 million baht.
The officers responsible for these seizures come from the police forces in the afore-mentioned districts, with Chaiprakan Police Station chalking up one lawsuit and a massive total of 100 impounded properties worth 30 million baht; three lawsuits from Mae Ai Police Station and six impounded properties worth 683,870 baht; three lawsuits attributed to Fang Police Station; with three properties seized worth 450,000 Baht; two lawsuits brought by officers from Hang Dong Police Station and four impounded properties worth 168,500 baht, and finally, two lawsuits fromTambon Na Wai Police Station; with five properties seized which were valued at 329,500 baht.
The Chaiprakan police station’s exceptionally high tally of 30 million baht was due to the fact that the Chiang Mai Governor, together with the commissioner of the Provincial Police Bureau Region 5, were able to seize the contents of Sarana Saetang’s house, as well as his business selling construction accessories, including a cow farm in Tambon Nong Bua, Chaiprakan district. They also impounded property belonging to other drug-lords in the Wei Hseuh-kang and Haw networks in Fang and Chaiprakan district. Impounded properties included houses, land title deeds, cars, and trucks; and also included an orange and lychee farm.
There was an urgent investigation after Chaiprakan police officers found a Toyota car parked beside a road in See Dong Yen district. They discovered 100,000 ya ba pills hidden in the car; and a check of the car registration number revealed that the vehicle was owned by Sarana Saetang and Pornkamon Thepprathana, who unfortunately escaped arrest. Officers decided to issue a warrant for the arrest of these two persons and seize the car and seized both the criminal’s properties.
These police activities are part of their ongoing war against the drug-dealers, with the concept “All together, eliminating illegal drugs”, which was set by the top echelons of the drug-suppression police for the period March 1 – August 31, 2006. This emphasizes serious hard-line operations in order to completely eliminate illegal drugs.


Christy Sarah Jones murder investigation continues vows commissioner

Nopniwat Krailerg
Pol. Lt. Gen. Panupong Singhara Na Ayutthaya, Commissioner of Provincial Police Bureau Region 5 talked with Chiangmai Mail about the progress in the investigation of the violent death of Christy Sarah Jones, 23; an English tourist found murdered at a guesthouse in Chiang Mai.

Christy Sarah Jones.
The murder occurred over 5 years ago on August 10, 2000. This case is still attracting attention from various people, including the press agencies in Europe and her relatives in England who are pressing the Thai authorities to continue searching for the perpetrator in order to bring him to justice.
The Commissioner of Provincial Police Bureau Region 5 revealed that although this investigation has been transferred to the Department of Special Investigation, Ministry of Justice (DSI); officers of the Provincial Police Bureau Region 5 will also still continue to investigate this case. After he had been promoted to his present position at Provincial Police Bureau Region 5, he has been searching for clues to the murder in cooperation with the investigation being conducted by the DSI on the orders of Pol. Gen. Sombat Amornwiwat, director general of the DSI.
“At the time of the murder we did everything we could; such as interrogation and DNA examination suspects, but there was insufficient evidence to build a case strong enough to identify the accused. In a case of murder there must be sufficient evidence to sufficiently identify anyone to make an arrest; especially forensic evidence and eye-witnesses,” said Pol. Lt. Gen. Panupong.
Last year, Sue and Garrett Jones, the mother and elder brother of Christy Sarah Jones, together with English Police Officers and consulate officials, laid a wreath at the crime scene to commemorate the five years since Christy was killed.


Drug trafficking analysis center for Chiang Mai

Saksit Meesubkwang
Suwat Tantipat, Chiang Mai Governor reported the seizure of property owned by the Wei Hseuh-kang’s drug dealing network in Chai Prakan, Chiang Mai.
Chiang Mai foresaw the importance of gathering intelligence in tackling the drugs problem, so Chiang Mai Provincial Police Station was approved to house the proposed Narcotics Center, where information and intelligence concerning illegal drug trafficking could be collated and analyzed. This will be the first narcotics intelligence analyzing center in Thailand with its own data base, which will cross-reference many aspects of information concerning drug-dealing networks, communication, news, and finance and delivery routes.
The new Narcotics Center will be a great aid to the police in their efforts to eliminate drug dealing. The center’s modern equipment and technology will give them swift access to up to the minute intelligence about drug trafficking networks, communication, and money laundering through the banks, drug transfer routes, and drug delivery. Police officers will undergo training courses at the center to enable them to make full use of its facilities to bring drug offenders to justice.
The Chiang Mai Governor also said that Chiang Mai is one of main drug trafficking routes for narcotics coming from the nearby Northern provinces, who share over 200 km of common border with neighboring countries. Although the amount of illegal drugs being transferred is obviously decreasing, the drug-suppression officers are still on high alert and will continue their efforts to rid the country of the scourge of illegal drugs.