Vol. V No. 22 - Saturday May 27, - June 2, 2006
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by Saichon Paewsoongnern
 

 


NEWS
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

More than 100 feared dead in northern Thailand flash floods

500 merchants oppose Tesco Lotus

New road on west of Chiang Mai-Lamphun railway

63 Little Guides get ready to assist large tourists

Number plate auction brings in 7 mio baht

Singhkham Nunti reply to critics

Forget the rains we have just had – the wet season is just beginning!

Red Wa preparing to occupy area along Thai border?

Gangs steal motorcycles to buy ya ba

Night Safari adjusts plan for low season

Leading-brand handbags and pirate CDs seized in Mae Sai

Mudslides predicted for Mae Hong Son

Gas station shut down after adulterated fuel discovered

Getting ready for the earthquakes

Angry customer wreaks revenge on ATM

Chiang Rai police blame drug escalation on oil price increase

Corn farm growing grenade crop

No illegal gambling on the Footy World Cup!

War on drugs V

Fatal bus crash in Lampang

More than 100 feared dead in northern Thailand flash floods

Apichart Weerawong
Associated Press

Lablae, Thailand (AP) -
More than 100 people were feared dead Wednesday as searchers recovered corpses from a sea of mud spawned by flash floods in northern Thailand, local officials said.
Rescue teams in helicopters or on foot tried to reach thousands of people stranded in their houses, on trains and in open terrain devastated by floods triggered by days of heavy rain across several northern provinces.
The official toll stood at 26 people dead and 92 missing, but Boonriang Chuchai-saengrat, chief health officer of Uttaradit province, said he feared more than 100 had perished in his province alone.
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra inspected the disaster scene in one of Uttaradit’s worst-hit districts, Lablae, and blamed the high number of casualties on the lack of any warning system for flash floods.
“It is fortunate that you have survived. I will do my best to help you,” Thaksin told about 2,000 people who met him at an auditorium in Lablae, about 420 kilometers (280 miles) north of Bangkok. Many were in tears.
Thaksin, who resumed his official duties Tuesday after a seven-week leave of absence, was accompanied by the agriculture and labor ministers. He was scheduled to visit other stricken areas by helicopter.
Dozens of houses in Lablae were engulfed in mud, their residents trapped within. Others were stranded on the roofs of their houses or in trees.
Boonriang appealed to government authorities to set up a disaster identification center like one established following the 2004 Asian tsunami to record unclaimed bodies and temporarily bury corpses for later identification.


500 merchants oppose Tesco Lotus

Nopniwat Krailerg
500 merchants in Mae Malai Market, Mae Taeng district, Chiang Mai, rejected plans to construct a Tesco Lotus supermarket in the locality. Many of the market traders were afraid of getting less income, which is quite understandable when you realize that nearly all the merchants buy goods from Tesco Lotus to sell on their stalls.
Tesco Lotus is proposing to construct a 900 sq meter supermarket near Mae Malai Market, on an area of five rai, causing great alarm to the local merchants.
Tambon San Mahaphon Municipality, Mae Taeng district will arrange a public hearing with local people if the plans are rejected. Representatives from Tesco Lotus will also be notified if the plans will not go through.


New road on west of Chiang Mai-Lamphun railway

Saksit Meesubkwang
A Department of Public Works and Town and Country Planning conference was attended by many groups including Department of Highways of Chiang Mai-Lamphun, EGAT of Chiangmai and Lamphun, Irrigation Department and local administrative organizations, to share opinions about a road alongside the Chiang Mai-Lamphun railway.
Phojanee Khajornpreedanan, head officer of Department of Public Works and Town and Country Planning said that a road along the east side of the Chiang Mai-Lamphun had been constructed from Mahidol junction to Saraphi junction and vehicles had run on that route for a year.
The department is now planning to construct another road on the west side for 14 kilometers, from Mahidol junction to Doi Ti in Muang, Lamphun, and predicted it will finished in 2008. However, there are several aspects needing discussion such as land provision, transportation and traffic system, water draining and economy, social and tourism management. Therefore, the conference was organized to hear the opinions from all concerned.
On completion, the road will be beneficial for the community residents by reducing traffic jams and easier driving. Benefits would also accrue to trading and tourism.


63 Little Guides get ready to assist large tourists

Students in Prathom 3 (grade 3) at Baan Khob Dong, Doi Angkhang who study the Little Guide curriculum. (File Photo)

Nopniwat Krailerg
Sarawut Thaicharoen, Fang senior assistant district officer opened the 5
th Little Guide program. There were 63 students from five schools participating in this project.
The Little Guide program was established in 1998, with cooperation from many organizations on Doi Angkhang; such as Angkhang Royal Research Center, Mae Pheur Water Source Managing Center, Angkhang Nature Resort, and Baan Nor Lae Military Special Force.
The Little Guide curriculum is used for children in Prathom 3 (grade 3). These children go to the camp to be trained; and on passing, receive a Little Guide ID card and work as a Little Guide for at least one year.
There are now over 35 Little Guides operating at Baan Khob Dong and Baan Nor Lae Military Special Force. These young people will introduce tourists to the attractions of the community, including their tribal way of life. The aim of this program is to instill a sense of honesty in the Little Guides, to love their home country, to conserve their unique tribal culture, and to live happily in Thai society.


Number plate auction brings in 7 mio baht

Nopniwat Krailerg
Lamphun held an auction of special number plates during May. The 301 number-plates were consecrated by Bhuddist monks using holy water from Doi Kha Mor, Lampuhn give luck for those who managed to secure one of the plates.
Bidding was enthusiastic, and the highlight of this auction was the sale of two special plates, number 8888 and 9999. The winning bid for plate number Kor Khor 8888 was 335,000 baht, but the most auspicious number which everyone wanted to own was Kor Khor 9999. After keen bidding from several interested buyers, Prasert Phupisit former Lamphun PAO president was successful and offered the final bid of 710,000 baht.
Piyaphan Champasut, director general of Department of Land Transport said that he was more than satisfied with this auction and thought it was a huge success. He had expected to get around 5 million baht for this auction, but many people keenly contested the bidding and pushed the prices higher. The 7 million baht proceeds of the number plate auction will be given to the Driver’s Safety Foundation.


Singhkham Nunti reply to critics

Saksit Meesubkwang
Singhkham Nunti, president of Nakorn Lanna Transport Cooperatives of red minibus blasted his critics at a press conference he gave recently.
He had been accused of lack of transparency and of occupying the post of president longer than the prescribed period. Visibly upset about the accusations, he claimed that he had administered the cooperatives from the period when they had only 700 baht in the kitty until now when they have 22 million. He claimed that the protesters were jealous of his successes and confirmed that they were not members of the co-operatives nor had they been since the year 2000.
As an example of his foresight, he I cited his visit to Berlin in Germany to see the mass transport system there so that he could improve the one in Chiang Mai.
He reiterated that he has been running the presidency according to law and has brought many benefits to the cooperatives. He denied there was any large debt as had been claimed.
He said, “ . . . some of those protesters were old administrators and wanted to return now as the cooperatives had good income.” In reply to the accusation about the term of service, he said that the bylaws called for two terms of four years each, but that, if the board agreed, the president could serve longer. He, however, was now in his second and quite legal term
Singhkham concluded that he is not worried about the protest because the accusation are not true and he intends to prove them wrong.


Forget the rains we have just had – the wet season is just beginning!

Chiangmai Mail Reporters
Thailand is nearing the beginning of rainy season, with south-west winds likely to give continuous rain through to June.
Supharat Tansrirattanawong, Director-General of the Meteorological Department said that Thailand is now is at the beginning of the rainy season, with storms in the South-West bringing high humidity from the Andaman Sea to cover most of the country. This weather influence will continue into June, especially affecting the North-Eastern region before gradually moving off to Southern China.
Troughs of low pressure will cause rain throughout Thailand especially in Central parts, bringing continuous rain to the beginning of June, and then further sporadic downfalls from the end of June to mid July.
The low-pressure area that earlier moved to Southern China will return to Thailand during August to September, bringing heavy rain to the North, Central parts and East of Thailand.
The Director-General added that his department had contacted the TAO’s to warn residents that if there is heavy rain, those living in river flood-plain areas or at the foot of hills should be prepared for rivers bursting their banks.


Red Wa preparing to occupy area along Thai border?

Chiangmai Mail Reporters
SHAN news agency reported that the United Wa State Army (UWSA) is preparing to spread out and occupy areas along the Thai border and send military forces from the north to southern regions of Burma. Since the middle of April, the Red Wa army had moved about 2,000 people to the south of the Shan State. It is claimed Thailand might be affected by drug smuggling and refugees.
A news source close to Wa soldiers said that Wa army does not have plans to fight with anyone in Shan state. Nevertheless, there is a tendency for the Wa army to be allied with many armed military forces in Shan state.
Recently, there was a report from reliable news sources quoting Thai security officers, Tai tribe military forces, and observers who traced UWSA’s movement; that one third of the Wa population who were moved since the middle of April were soldiers, and most of them are able to speak only Chinese. Moreover, the Red Wa army plans to occupy a northern border area of Thailand close to Shan state.
Critics said that if there is an area expansion by the Wa army, fighting along the border area will be increasingly possible because the areas are occupied by Lt. Col. Yowd Suek’s SSA and there will be many problems from refugees and drug smuggling.


Gangs steal motorcycles to buy ya ba

Playing ‘Double Jeopardy’?

Police officers with three of the accused.

Saksit Meesubkwang
Police intercepted a gang of thieves who used stolen motorcycles to exchange for illegal drugs at the Thai-Burmese border. Police arrested members of three gangs; amongst whom were Malysian and Chinese miscreants as well as the usual crop of not-so-bright locals. Four motorcycles and an 11 mm. homemade pistol with 10 bullets were confiscated.
Before the arrests, Chiang Rai police officers had received numerous complaints from people in Muang district, Chiang Rai that motorcycles were being stolen in Chiang Rai municipal area. Officers investigated and found there were three gangs involved. Police sent undercover officers who apprehended the thieves in the act of stealing a motorcycle. One fled on a stolen motorcycle but was intercepted by the checkpoint at Mae Chan Police Station.
Pol. Col. Charan said that these three gangs were considered as part of a network with drug dealers at the Thai-Burmese border in Mae Sai district. For the Malaysian accused, police officers found that he was wanted on many counts in Malaysia and lived in Thailand by motorcycle theft. Another two gang members had previously stolen from houses belonging to a judge and a district officer and had been imprisoned many times. But obviously were slow learners.


Night Safari adjusts plan for low season

Perhaps they should adjust the dual pricing policy also

Nopniwat Krailerg
Phisan Wasuwanit, director of Chiang Mai Night Safari Office disclosed that there are 1,000 visitors to the safari and these could bring in 100,000 baht a day. However, numbers are down due to the rain and low season, and a marketing plan to reverse the trend has been prepared.
The safari park has been contacting hotels and places holding seminars or conferences to invite people to visit the safari. The entire income since first opening the safari is around 20 million baht, less than the target meanwhile expenses stand at 200,000 baht a month.
The safari park has made contracts with travel agents and tourism businesses to share commission fees if they can bring in tourists but there is no plan for road shows in overseas countries. Fundamentally, the safari depends on domestic tour agents even though earnings are not good in the initial period.
The director told the International Horticultural Exposition 2006 that there was no cooperation concerning marketing between the exposition and the safari park as the exposition has its own marketing plan to organize road shows overseas. During the International Horticultural Exposition 2006, he predicted there might be 2-3 million visitors or more because that period is high season and the safari park will take advantage of the exposition to attract visitors. A tour package is also proposed.
However, the ever-growing ground swell against ‘official’ dual pricing policies will eventually mean that overseas tourists will not visit the Night Safari.


Leading-brand handbags and pirate CDs seized in Mae Sai

Beware of Burmese bearing boxes

Chiangmai Mail Reporters
On May 17, Customs and police officers in Mae Sai district, Chiang Rai said they had seized pirated products delivered from Burma at Phaya Nak Port and Wa Port, Mae Sai district, Chiang Rai opposite Tachilek in Burma.
400 women’s Louis Vuitton clone handbags, 1,000 Thai and foreign DVDs and karaoke VCDs valued at approximately 500,000 baht were seized.
Mai Sai custom officers had been informed that Thai financial backers purchased pirated goods from merchants in Burma and hired Burmese mules to transfer the goods into Thai ports. They found Burmese laborers transferring goods packed in boxes from Mae Sai River to deliver to both ports. When the officers came, all fled to the Burmese shore leaving the counterfeit goods behind.
Many factories producing pirated goods are located in neighboring countries. Thailand loses millions of baht each year in customs duty from these pirated goods. Customs officers are keeping a close watch on the Burmese ports and other ingress points.


Mudslides predicted for Mae Hong Son

Removing mud from highway 108 Chiang Mai-Mae Hong Son.

Saksit Meesubkwang
Khomsan Suwan-ampha, head officer of the Department of Public Disaster Prevention and Relief issued a warning to residents living in the valleys and on the river flood-plain to watch out for mudslides and mountain torrents following the recent heavy rains.
Heavy and persistent rainfall may cause mountain streams to swell and give rise to flooding on the plain area. He also cautioned drivers who use highways number 108 and 1095 to beware of mudslides on these routes and to watch out for fallen trees obstructing the roads.
On May 16, although the rain had only been falling continuously for four hours, it had caused mudslides obstructing several roads, but the District Highways Office had managed to reopen the road.
Thada Sadtha, head officer of Mae Hong Son Provincial Meteorological Center disclosed that 22.2 mm of rain had fallen since 4 a.m. on May 17, so residents should be ready to move their belongings and livestock to a safer location.


Gas station shut down after adulterated fuel discovered

Nopniwat Krailerg
After a complaint about water contaminated fuel, the Office of Energy Region 10 and police checked the benzene 91 pumps and underground stock of the MP gas station at Sang Tawan crossroad in Muang, Chiang Mai. The check was initiated after several drivers complained that their vehicle motors were damaged after refueling from that station.
Fuel oil tanks underground were clean before officers arrived there, nevertheless the officers commanded the station to close temporarily. Fuel oil was taken for verification and the station was compelled to clean the tanks again.
A tourist police informed that he refueled with benzene 91 for his private car at that gas station. He then drove to his office but only one kilometer from the station, his engine stopped and could not be restarted. After that, he called for a technician and learnt from him that the cause was water mixed in the fuel, so he informed the officers.
Sorarak Jarujuranon, officer of Office of Energy Region 10, Chiang Mai disclosed that it was probably the underground tank leaked, so water got into the tank. However, he needs to wait for confirmation which will take seven days.
If it is discovered that the station deliberately mixed water with the petrol, the owner will be punished according to Fuel Oil Act 2000 with jail for ten years or fines up to 200,000 baht. Customers are also able to sue for damages from the station.


Getting ready for the earthquakes

Nopniwat Krailerg
To prepare the citizens of Chiang Mai, to be prepared for all disasters, is a mammoth task. However, the Joint Civil Affairs, in association with the Ministries of Defense and the Interior are attempting to do this with training courses to be held between May 31 and June 2, 2006 to learn about how to manage a disaster headquarters (CPX); followed by fieldwork training (FTX) on June 5-7, 2006.
The training will simulate an earthquake and collapsed buildings, taking place firstly in the city of Chiang Mai; and then outside of Chiang Mai when the province will call for help from central HQ to deal with the disaster.
The training will take the form of rehearsing certain techniques, rescue demonstrations and medical attention being swiftly applied to those rescued by the medical teams of Chiang Mai province, region and central administration. The purpose of this training is to get ready to confront any situation and to coordinate the actions of local organizations and central administration.
The training courses will be held in Chiang Mai Municipality Stadium and the Physical Institute of Chiang Mai will be set up as administration HQ.
There will also be demonstrations by the municipal Fire Department of how to extinguish fires, as well as how to locate victims buried under fallen buildings.


Angry customer wreaks revenge on ATM

Police officers checking the scene at the Krung Thai Bank’s damaged ATM machine.

Nopniwat Krailerg
An ATM machine belonging to Krung Thai Bank, in front of Chiang Mai Municipality Office near the north fence, appears to have taken the brunt of customer dissatisfaction.
Investigating police found that the ATM had been heavily hammered at the front and the control panel had been pushed in with signs of leverage under it. There was no trace of the machine being broken into at the rear, so it was assumed that the person who committed the crime went away empty-handed.
Local people who regularly used this ATM informed the officers that this machine was always causing problems. It often refuses to return the ATM cards and sometimes did not issue the money after the customer had requested a withdrawal. A similar such incident might have caused the person who committed this damage to get angry; and in their frustration, damaged the machine. Police officers said they will check the surveillance camera attached to the machine to find the person who committed this crime.


Chiang Rai police blame drug escalation on oil price increase

Chiangmai Mail Reporter
Pol. Maj. Gen. Chamnong Kaewsiri, Commander of Chiang Rai Provincial Police said that statistics showed that the drug problem is getting worse. During March – April, Chiang Rai Provincial Police arrested many more drug couriers and seized about 200,000 ya ba pills, most of which were imported from neighboring countries. The main factor leading to the recent escalation in drug smuggling is the economic crisis caused by the rising oil price seriously affecting the cost of living, resulting in more smugglers trying to carry more drugs.
The Commander also said that they had observed more smuggling attempts during the recent political uncertainty, with the drug runners attempting to take advantage of the attention of the police being drawn elsewhere. However, the police were well aware of this possibility and even increased their vigilance during this time; and many drug dealers were arrested.
Pol. Maj. Gen. Chamnong said they have also installed CCTV cameras at a cost of approximately five million baht, at 10 important points in the Chiang Rai Municipal area; such as the Provincial Bus Terminal and other sensitive locations to provide security. Police officers will be able to videotape the situation and use the tape as evidence.


Corn farm growing grenade crop

Rangers of Pha Muang Task Force and the evidence.

Saksit Meesubkwang
Local people have found large amounts of explosives in a corn field on Doi Baan Lao Fu, Mae Chan district, Chiang Rai about three km from the Thai-Burmese border, and informed the 3104
th Rangers. Maj. Opat Khaengkhan, Commander of the local Pha Muang Task Force and Lt. Col. Khamron Taengkaew, Deputy Commander, went to check the corn farm about 1.5 km from the Mae Chan – Mae Ai Road, owned by Akheur Muelae, 43, resident of Mae Chan district, Chiang Rai. The officers confirmed the far more lethal crop than corn, when they saw grenade heads sticking out above the soil.
Digging gingerly just below the surface, they unearthed over 200 60 mm. mortar Type 82 grenades and several rocket propelled grenades (RPG), including the RPG launcher. Nearby, they also found many hand grenades buried in the ground, but discretion finally overcame their enthusiasm; and they coordinated with 327
th border patrol police officers to salvage the grenades, who ascertained that all of the grenades were still in perfect working order.
Lt. Col. Khamron Taengkaew diplomatically said that all of the grenades probably belonged to a drug gang from other countries, and they had hidden the grenades in the corn farm which was on their drug transfer route.
He believed in an interesting hypothesis that increasing surveillance by his troops probably caused the drug couriers to lose their nerve and hide the grenades in that location. With so much ordnance at their disposal, one wonders why they would be worried at all.


No illegal gambling on the Footy World Cup!

Save your gambling money for the government lotteries instead

Pol. Lt. Gen. Panupong Singhara Na Ayuthaya, commissioner of the Provincial Police Bureau Region 5 giving an interview.

Saksit Meesubkwang
A special task force had been set up to suppress football gambling and arrest the bookmakers before the start of the World Cup in June. The special task force has already discovered that football bookies have set up near educational institutes, and entertainment places. 120 agents have already been discovered in the eight Upper North provinces and most of them are in Chiang Mai.
Pol. Lt. Gen. Panupong Singhara Na Ayuthaya, commissioner of the Provincial Police Bureau Region 5 reported that each of the 152 police stations will be responsible for their own area and warned police not to get personally involved in the gambling or accept any back-handers. As a deterrent, if police from other areas arrest anyone for football gambling, officers who should have been taking care of that area will be deemed to have been suffering from selective blindness and will be punished, probably by being transferred to an inactive post where they can continue to draw a salary, without having any responsibilities. Officers have been warned to keep an eye on restaurants providing large screen TVs for customers, as these places are highly likely to be a venue for gambling.


War on drugs V

Get the body bags ready

Saksit Meesubkwang
Commissioners, commanders and head officers of police stations in the Upper Northern provinces, together with around 200 narcotics suppression officers have been advised on the fifth phase of the continuing war on drugs.

Police and narcotic suppression officers at the conference.
Pol. Lt. Gen. Wongkot Maneerin, assistant to the Commissioner-General, who is leading the local effort for drug suppression, outlined policies that have been put in place since March and will last until August, 2006.
Pol. Lt. Gen. Wongkot reported that this meeting was to make everyone involved aware of each other’s part in the war on drugs. He stressed that the police would confiscate the possessions of all offenders caught dealing in narcotics and would continue to come down firmly on drug takers and sellers. By arresting these people, police are able to reach the wholesalers and those who are involved behind the scenes. The aim of the drug suppression police was to eventually eradicate narcotics, and he praised all the officers for their unstinting efforts in this regard, with the result of achieving far more than the target.
The number of drug users on police records in Chiang Mai at the moment is 800 persons with 100 pushers. Drug takers will be sent for rehabilitation at public health centers; and the 100 pushers will be arrested and their possessions confiscated, provided they have not read this advance notice in the newspapers.
Like all ‘commodities’, the cost of Ya ba in the market at present has gone up, but this time does not reflect the oil prices. According to the police sources, the increase is because the transfer process has been made more difficult; but the price is still 50-70 baht along border. “If we can reduce the supply, it will cause the demand to increase slowly, and we will set a target of 100 drug dealers to be arrested,” said the assistant to the Commissioner-General.


Fatal bus crash in Lampang

Chiangmai Mail Reporters
On May 21, an accident occurred when a bus skidded out of control on the Denchai – Lampang Road Lampang, resulting in many injuroes and a fatality.
At the crash site, officers found the Nakornchai Air Tour bus covering the Ubon Ratchathani-Chiang Mai route had overturned. The bus had crashed into a fence and a nearby tree, and the back of the bus was partially submerged in a stream.
Daeng Dokbua, 74, an Ubon Ratchathani resident was pronounced dead. There were many injured passengers lying nearby. Ambulances and rescuers sent 14 injured to Mae Tha Hospital.
The driver, who was also injured, said 18 passengers and three bus company employees were on the way to Lampang. It was raining all the way and on a downhill curve, the bus skidded and crashed into the barrier and a tree. Police officers are keeping Uthai, the driver, in custody to conduct legal proceedings.



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