NEWS
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

All Thai Rak Thai candidates elected in the North, despite low turn-out and high numbers of “no-voters”

English garbage muncher still on its way

Revolution in Chiangmai Mail?

Beware of human traders during Songkran

Moat water purified to reassure tourists before Songkran Festival

Local Northern New Year Angel to be invited to bless Chiang Mai

Journalists up in arms over TRT supporters

Grisly find points to missing Hmong

Drinka Pinta Milka Day – but check the contents first

300,000 baht blaze at a Wing 41 officers residence

Hygiene failure in Nan sends 32 to hospital

Pha Muang Task Force intercept drug runners at Chiang Khong

All Thai Rak Thai candidates elected in the North, despite low turn-out and high numbers of “no-voters”

Saksit Meesubkwang

Chiang Mai people returned to their home city to cast their ballot in the snap election on April 2, 2006. Chiang Mai province is divided into 10 election areas and Thai Rak Thai members were standing for election in all 11 areas. All TRT candidates were elected in the ‘one horse’ race.

There were a total of 1,162,970 constituents who were eligible to vote in this election, but only 872,135 of them bothered to vote. Of these, there were 215,000 voters who put their cross in the “No vote” box and 115,482 voided ballots.

The turn-out in other electoral areas in different provinces of the Northern region was equally poor. The reason for voter apathy was that the electorate felt that the election was not as interesting as previously, because most of the TRT candidates stood unopposed. In many polling stations, the disgruntled “no-voters” outnumbered those who voted for the unopposed TRT candidate.


English garbage muncher still on its way

Nopniwat Krailerg

Boonlert Buranupakorn, mayor of Chiang Mai Municipality.

About two years ago Chiang Mai Municipality signed an MoU with the SEFCO Company from England, placing an order for a steamed garbage processing machine. This is a device which is capable of processing over 400 tons a day (ChiangMai produces around 300 tons of garbage a day). An added bonus is that the machine can also generate electricity during the elimination process.

As far as residents are concerned, this cannot come quickly enough. On March 29, 2006, 50 residents of Thipanet community set up a blockade at the Hai Ya Graveyard which is close by Chiang Mai Municipality’s garbage dumping area. They also prevented garbage trucks from entering the waste dump in protest at the increasingly offensive odors emanating from the garbage dump, causing respiratory diseases to many residents.

On March 30, Boonlert Buranupakorn, mayor of Chiang Mai reported that he had called SEFCO in England, requesting a progress report on the machine. The SEFCO Company responded and coordinated with a distributor in Thailand to deliver some equipment to Chiang Mai, which had been manufactured in Thailand. This should arrive by the end of April and SEFCO confirmed that the machine is 99 percent ready for shipping, which will take approximately 28 days. As soon as the machine arrives in Bangkok, Chiang Mai will be notified and the installation will take a further 35 to 45 days.

Boonlert expressed his concern about the garbage disposal problems at Hai Ya Graveyard. He stressed that the municipality was very careful about moving, transferring, and eliminating garbage in the best possible way, but there was little they could do to solve the problems of the bad smell. However, he had ordered his officers to install a ventilation alley on the upper side, to help prevent the bad smells that were irritating the local people. He said that especially during the hot weather, garbage only requires 1 day before it starts to decompose.

In case the installation of the device from SEFCO is delayed for any reason, Boonlert also said that Chiang Mai received permission from the Treasury Department to use a 1,200 rai area of land as a garbage dump in Doi Lo district. Local people living in Doi Lo have been informed that the garbage from Chiang Mai is non-toxic and not from industrial factories.

“Also, during the forthcoming Songkran Festival, the amount of garbage will be increasing. Chiang Mai has made preparations to increase the number of garbage trucks to swiftly dispose of the daily garbage,” said Boonlert.


Revolution in Chiangmai Mail?

Social scientists will tell you that if you stand still, you are in reality going backwards. We live in a constantly changing world, and change is what produces progress. With a newspaper, this is just as true.

Some of the readers have noticed changes at Chiangmai Mail, and this has been construed by certain sections of the community as meaning imminent collapse of the paper. Undoubtedly there will also have been rumormongers who feast on innuendo. They will be disappointed.

Chiangmai Mail has seen some internal personnel changes of late, and there will be more to come with new local personnel and expat appointments coming to take up positions in an expanded Chiangmai Mail Publishing Co. As in any company, staff come and go, but this does not herald closure. Far from foundering, the Chiangmai Mail is going through a period of consolidation and growth, which will become apparent over the next three months.

There has been no revolution. However, there is evolution. All of it will be good for Chiangmai Mail, and for Chiang Mai’s local coverage of news and events.


Beware of human traders during Songkran

Chiangmai Mail Reporters

Phayao Provincial Women and Children in Human Trade Prevention Center warned parents to beware of daughters being lured away in the forthcoming Songkran Festival. They are concerned because there are numerous people who work in entertainment places visiting the area. Because of this situation, there may be networks actively engaged in luring vulnerable children and young people away from their parents for immoral purposes.

From previous experience the center had been informed about the activities of these persons in Phayao, especially in Phu Kam Yao sub-district, Dok Kham Tai district, Choon district, and Chiang Kham district.

These networks enter a community and attempt to persuade children and youths to work in other provinces by offering gifts or promising to find them jobs with high wages; especially young female teenagers who are often lured away on false promises of lucrative jobs and end up working in brothels in Bangkok or Malaysia. Another method used by the traders in humanity takes the form of procuring young girls to marry with foreigners or getting them to go abroad with their relatives.

During the extraordinarily dangerous period of this summer vacation, parents should keep a close eye on their children. They should also take steps to ensure that they are in the care of responsible individuals or organizations, especially when they send their children to study in other provinces. If anyone sees or becomes suspicious of any activities involving human trade, they should immediately inform the Phayao Provincial Women and Children in Human Trade Prevention Center or their nearest police station, Tel. 054-484430-1, 054-411146-7 or hot line 1300 Prachabordee Center.


Moat water purified to reassure tourists before Songkran Festival

Nopniwat Krailerg

Moat around the city of Chiang Mai being improved before the Songkran Festival.

Boonlert Buranupakorn, Chiang Mai Mayor said that in preparation for the Songkran Festival, Chiang Mai Municipality had asked for the participation of Wiwat Polamuang School, who had responded by sending over 100 pupils to help clean up and dredge the moat that encircles the city.

After the clean-up operation, water from Mae Taeng and Nong Kiew irrigation channels will be purified and used to fill the moat with the water quality further verified at eight randomly selected points. The samples will be checked at the Regional Medical Sciences Center, Chiang Mai to guarantee the quality of the moat water and reassure tourists who enjoy leaping into the moat during the forthcoming Songkran Festivities.

The mayor expressed his belief that the current political conflict would not affect tourism during Songkran Festival. Hotel rooms were fully booked as in previous years and there had been no reports of cancellations. He confidently predicted that more than 1,000 million baht would be spent by visitors during this festival.

Phoonsawat Worawan, Deputy Mayor confirmed that the municipality had rigorously checked water quality around the moat. This year was the 60 year anniversary of the HM the King’s ascension and the 710th anniversary the founding of Chiang Mai, therefore, the municipality was putting a lot of effort into organizing this year’s festival.

Several years ago, Acanthamoeba was discovered in the water, but since then the moat has been regularly dredged and the municipality has monitored the water quality exhaustively; checking the volume of oxygen, and other biological tests to make sure that the water in the moat is hygienic and safe.


Local Northern New Year Angel to be invited to bless Chiang Mai

Chiangmai Mail Reporters

Pornchai Jitnavasathien, Chiang Mai Deputy Mayor disclosed that Chiang Mai Municipality in cooperation with TAT would hold this year’s Songkran Festival 2006 to promote the Chiang Mai culture. This year, the theme of the occasion will concentrate on presenting Lanna wisdom, more clearly and in various styles, in celebration of the 710 year anniversary of the founding of Chiang Mai.

On April 12, the municipality will invite 710 monks to bless the city at Thapae Gate and there will be a ceremony of pouring water onto the statues of the Three Kings who jointly created Chiang Mai, at the Three King’s Monument. The next day, on April 13th, Chiang Mai will have been the Capital of the North for fully 711 years; and a merit- making ceremony is to be held at Thapae Gate, by presenting breakfast for 711 monks.

To mark HM the King’s 60 year anniversary of ascending the throne, this Songkran Festival is to be given further impetus by inviting Khun Sang Khan, the Local Northern New Year angel, who will ride on the back of Mahingsa (wild buffalo); leading monks of 58 temples in Chiang Mai while calling for residents to come and worship (this ceremony has not been observed in any previous year). There will also be many colorful parades and art and culture shows.


Journalists up in arms over TRT supporters

Saksit Meesubkwang

The Northern Newspaper Association of Thailand headed by Insom Panyasopha, President, and Chiang Mai Journalist Club have issued a bulletin criticizing acts of a group of people perpetrating violence at Chiang Mai University Art and Culture Museum on March 30.

During the fracas Prajuab Wangjai, editor of Nation Channel Chiang Mai was injured and he has made a police report of the incident.

The bulletin declared that local politicians were behind this movement combined with a lack of security guards resulted in this violence. The Chiang Mai Journalist Club stated that the demonstrators who they claim were from a Thaksin Shinawatra support group that protested at the Democrat Party platform affected the image of Chiang Mai. Both organizations blamed the supporters who were not controlled by their leaders, did not abide by the law and trespassed on the right and work of the media. They appealed to government officials to act according to their duties and control such situations.


Grisly find points to missing Hmong

Saksit Meesubkwang

Pol. Lt. Gen. Panupong Singhara Na Ayuthaya, commissioner of Provincial Police Bureau Region 5 displays pictures of the eight missing Hmong.

About a month ago Thadpong Phapwiwat, 28, living in Muang, Chiang Mai, informed San Sai Police Station, Chiang Mai that his family members had disappeared mysteriously on March 2, 2006. On March 28, after police had conducted exhaustive but fruitless enquiries, Pol. Lt. Col. Sombat Panya, Pai Police Station duty inspector was informed by residents that they had found a number of sacks giving off a disgusting smell in a deep overgrown ditch alongside highway number 1095; the road from Mae Malai to Mae Hong Son nearby Huay Nam Dung National Park.

The inspector reported this information to Pol. Col. Thanet Chaonathung, superintendent of Pai Police Station before rushing to the scene with other officers. The officers had to spray perfume to reduce the stench before they were able to check inside the sacks, which were found to contain human remains. The sacks and their grisly contents were sent to Pai Hospital for verification and Dr. Pranomporn Siripakdee, director of the hospital, came to the conclusion that the bodies had been dead for a minimum of 20 days. The cadavers had become dessicated, revealing the bones and were identified only by gender as being two females and two males.

Later the next day, police discovered two further sacks nearby; and on Dr. Pranomporn’s instructions cordoned off the crime-scene to prevent evidence being disturbed. Forensic officers of Provincial Police Bureau Region 5 were called to check the venue and a human corpse was found in each of the sacks.

Pol. Lt. Gen. Panupong Singhara Na Ayuthaya, commissioner of Provincial Police Bureau Region 5 confirmed that six sacks containing human remains had been found in the area of Huay Nam Dung in Pai district, Mae Hong Son. At this point the six bodies were unable to be identified, but the cadavers would be sent to a forensic institute for further examination and the results would be published shortly. However, the police suspected that these bodies might be six of the eight Hmong who were reported missing the previous month, but they needed to wait for DNA testing to verify this.

The commissioner added that he hoped the post mortem would reveal the cause of death, because all they knew at the moment was that the victims hands and legs had been bound. He surmised that the killers may have seen a police checkpoint up ahead and decided to get rid of the bodies on the wayside.

In their earlier enquiries, the police tried to check if the missing Hmongs were involved with any illegal act or concerned with drug trafficking and may have had a conflict with other gang-members. Despite exhaustively pursuing this theory the police could not identify the cause of the crime; nevertheless, the commissioner said that they would follow any leads and would continue to look for evidence that would lead them to the criminals. He added that this was a very offensive and ruthless case, and hoped that the post mortem examination would reveal evidence that would assist the police in bringing the perpetrators to justice.

The names of the eight missing Hmong are, Yialao Wang, holding American nationality; and Yeng Saewang, Jirasak Phapwiwat, Renoo Sippawat, Sirima of Tee Sinmalanon, Decha or To Suwanachat, Lachai Sinmalanon and Paeng Wang. After making enquiries, it was learned that Yialao had emigrated from Laos to the USA over 30 years ago; and he had worked there and saved his money before returning to Asia and built four houses in Thailand for his relatives. Two months ago, he visited Chiang Mai, Thailand for his vacation, before disappearing along with seven other Hmong.


Drinka Pinta Milka Day – but check the contents first

Nopniwat Krailerg

Whilst on regular duty at a busy checkpoint at Tambon Sri Dong Yen, Chai Prakan district Chiang Mai, drug-suppression officers from Pha Muang Task Force together with police officers from Chai Prakan Police Station stopped a bus on its way from Fang to Bangkok.

The bus was carrying a full complement of passengers and the officers requested every passenger to submit to a search. On hearing this request, one particular passenger, later identified as Suthep Upara, a resident of Chai Prakan district Chiang Mai, immediately looked nervous and started acting suspiciously. The officers decided to bring him and his baggage out of the bus, and started a detailed search, eventually finding that Suthep had hidden 1,019 ya ba pills in an empty milk box and a cigarette case.

Suthep confessed that he received the ya ba pills from the neighboring country of Burma; intending to sell them to his colleague laborers in Bangkok. He was taken into custody and sent to Chai Prakan Police Station to await legal proceedings.


300,000 baht blaze at a Wing 41 officers residence

Nopniwat Krailerg

Municipality fire fighters extinguish the blaze.

A fire broke out in an officer’s residence at Wing 41, located opposite Chiang Mai’s Maharaj Hospital and dangerously close to a Petronas petrol station and a nearby five storey dormitory. Four fire engines were dispatched to extinguish the blaze.

The conflagration occurred in a two storey concrete and wooden house, owned by SMS Nattawut Preechum, an officer stationed at Chiang Mai Wing 41. He was not at home when the fire occurred, but the fire started on the upper wooden floor and spread to the lower floor. It took about 20 minutes for fire-officers to extinguish the blaze.

Once the fire had been extinguished, fire fighters and police officers examined the damage. It was found that the upper floor was completely destroyed, but the lower floor had suffered only minor damage. However, the value of the property lost to the fire and the cost of rebuilding was put at around 300,000 baht. The investigating officers assumed that the incident might have been caused by an electrical short-circuit; however, Wing 41 sent a group of their own officers to coordinate at the scene and to ascertain the cause of the blaze in detail.


Hygiene failure in Nan sends 32 to hospital

Chiangmai Mail Reporters

A local tradition in Nan is for residents to be provided with slap-up meal to appease the spirits. However the last feast caused more than just indigestion when everyone who ate the food experienced diarrhea and vomiting. Local people had bought pork to be cooked for the feast; and every one who ate the cooked meat became ill, resulting in 32 people being sent to hospital.

Neighbors had to use their own vehicles to bring them to Nan hospital, where it was found that most of the patients had eaten a meal in a Pee Pu Ya Feast arranged for spirits, which was a local tradition organized by three families in Tambon Namkian. The feast was a three-day affair and commenced at noon on March 27th, going on until March 29th, 2006. This incident was very similar to the recent occurrence of people becoming ill after eating toxic bamboo shoots last month.

Sarerk Surit, head of Tambon Namkian Public Health Center revealed that after the initial investigation, it was found that the diarrhea was likely to have been caused by eating the meat that was part of the celebratory meal. He questioned people who had participated in the feast and learned that the meal was made up of many different local delicacies. Dishes on the menu included uncooked minced meat, cooked minced meat, chicken spicy salad, and pork head soup. The meat was bought from a local butcher, who when questioned, said that the meat from that particular animal had been on sale since March 26, with that meat which was still left, sold the next day on March 27. The three families who bought the meat said that it was pale. One particular dish in the feast was the uncooked mince meat; which, if the pork was contaminated, became highly toxic when eaten. However, some people said that they had prepared the food, but had not eaten the uncooked pork; and they too had become ill.

Sarerk observed that this was a classic case of food poisoning, caused by many circumstances. Firstly, the meat was at least two days old when purchased; and without refrigeration during this time was in all likelihood contaminated when the families bought it. Then, with one particular dish remaining uncooked, the bacteria it contained were not killed by the cooking process. The people who prepared the food handled both cooked and uncooked food alternately; and probably did not wash their hands or knives and utensils after touching the raw contaminated meat, thereby passing the contamination from one to the other. Finally, the meal was a leisurely protracted affair over three days. In this exceptionally hot weather, food that is allowed to get warm and not kept refrigerated, provides the ideal conditions for bacteria to grow rapidly and become highly toxic; so that consuming even the smallest morsel, can cause a person to become extremely ill.


Pha Muang Task Force intercept drug runners at Chiang Khong

Chiangmai Mail Reporters

After receiving a tip-off from an informer, Pha Muang Task Force, together with officers from Chiang Khong Police Station, Chiang Rai set up a checkpoint on March 29, at the Baan Don Thee guardhouse, Chiang Rai, in anticipation that there would be a drug shipment passing through.

The officers spotted a suspicious silver Nissan pickup-truck heading towards Chiang Saen district in Chiang Rai. They decided to signal the car to stop, but seconds before giving the signal, the car parked in front of a nearby house. The two occupants got out of the car and entered the house, which belonged to Thanat Chaichorfa, the village headman of Baan Don Thee. The officers followed the suspects into the house and a search revealed 4000 orange ya ba pills contained in 20 blue plastic bags, hidden in a fridge inside Thanat’s home.

The two drug-couriers turned out to be Supachai Kednawa, 50 and his wife Sumitra, 49. When interrogated, they confessed that they were delivering the package to a buyer who they had arranged to meet in front of Chiang Saen Hospital, Chiang Rai. Armed with this information, officers went to the meeting place and were able to arrest Sumet Nuamin, 50, a resident of Chiang Saen district. All four people involved were arrested, and along with the seized evidence were sent to Chiang Khong Police Station Chiang Rai to face charges.

The drug- suppression units of the police require the cooperation of the local people to be effective in stopping drug trafficking in the area. The operation, “All together Thai power to eliminate illegal drugs”, asks local residents to keep their eyes open for anyone they believe to be involved with narcotics; and report their suspicions to the police.