Vol. V No. 26 - Saturday June 24, - June 30, 2006
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by Saichon Paewsoongnern
 

 


NEWS
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

USA pressing hard for US-Thai FTA

Lampang to get its own Mounties

Lord Buddha’s relics from nine countries on display

Provincial police slow down energy use

Caretaker PM checks the progress of Ratchapruek 2006

Tai tribal style Bus Terminal for Mae Hong Son

Taxi pick-ups to be discarded in favor of minibusses

The long story of the Long-Neck Karen

Drug smugglers from Burma run out of product

More locals claim poisoning by Mae Moh Power Station in Lampang

Mae Hong Son prepares for evacuation in case of mudslides and floods

One killed in traffic accident. Alcohol and speed blamed

Safe theft prevalent in Chiang Mai and Lamphun

Police catch counterfeit credit card gang

Human trafficking gang in Mae Sai escapes arrest

Drug dealing Mien couple arrested and property worth 2 mio baht seized

Human traffickers arrested in Mae Hong Son

Despite warnings, football gamblers arrested

Former Tambon headman arrested

USA pressing hard for US-Thai FTA

Nopniwat Krailerg and Chiangmai Mail
Editorial staff

It is believed that the US was behind the unexpected transfer of William Aldis, who published an article in the Bangkok Post on Jan 9, urging Thailand to think carefully before signing the Free Trade Agreement with the US, because restrictive intellectual property rights under the bilateral trade agreement would prevent Thailand from using affordable locally produced generic drugs. He said anti-viral HIV drugs would be extremely expensive after the FTA went into force. Local manufacturers are of the same view.
In the wake of the sudden and unexpected transfer of William Aldis from his post as WTO representative in Thailand after warning the Thai government to think hard before signing a Free Trade Agreement with the USA, Bea Camp, US Consul general to Chiang Mai presented Howard F. Rosen, a researcher from the Institute for International Economics and executive director of Trade Adjustment Assistance Coalition at a press conference in the Imperial Mae Ping Hotel, Chiang Mai, urging quick acceptance.
The subject of discussion was “The US–Thailand FTA: if Now, When?” Howard, despite the fact that the US is pressing hard to conclude the 6th round of talks and he was presented by the US consul general, said that he did not come as a representative of the US government, but as the representative of an NGO and was only a professional in world trade economy.
When asked what Thai farmers or Thailand will get from an FTA with the US, Howard Rosen, ignoring what has happened in other countries, replied that farmers all over the world are facing the same problem; that is lack of skills, knowledge, and product development due to living in remote areas. If there were an agreement for an FTA, there will be cooperation between two governments. Products and food prices will drop and other improvements will occur; such as education, roads, product development moving from cottage industries to industrial factories. Farmers will gain advantage in time and higher income. He continued to say that we should not look at an FTA just as free trade, but we have to look at it as trade negotiation. He gave the example that, at this time, Thailand is facing trouble exporting shrimps to the US. If there were negotiations, there will be no problems.
The US sees Thailand as a big market, but the signing of an agreement has been delayed, due partly to the series of crises that have hit the Thai government and to protests from the people. The US is trying to persuade Thailand to sign quickly by dangling the carrot of, as Howard Rosen said, being able to export more products in a globalized economy, being a One World Market. Signing the agreement will ensure that there will be buyers and product taxes in the US will be low; the Thai textile industry was cited and it was promised that they will be better-known in the world market if the agreement is ratified.
However, this FTA faces strong opposition in Thailand amid concerns a deal would hamper Thailand’s development of cheap anti-AIDS drugs, disadvantage Thai farmers and allow foreigners to control privatized state enterprises and raise prices of basic services.
These objections were summarily dismissed by Howard Rosen who responded that, previously, there were no negotiations, so people got confused. Negotiations have to take place and everything will be dealt with. Importantly, Thai people will get more US medicine. He continued obscurely, “it is not only about politics, but also about humanity.”
After the carrot came the stick. For many reasons; including the US President leaving office in 2007, if there are changes in other ways, Thailand will lose this opportunity and have to start from the beginning again. Or the US may negotiate with other countries and Thailand will lose this good opportunity.
The US — which is also in FTA talks with South Korea and Malaysia — hopes to send all three FTA deals to Congress for approval by July 1, 2007, though Korean labor leaders have told their government to slow down negotiations of a U.S.-Korea Free Trade agreement. There is little chance that Thailand, with a lame caretaker government, will be able to do much before that date.


Lampang to get its own Mounties

Nopniwat Krailerg
Rising crime statistics and a recent trip to Europe to see mounted police in action has encouraged Pol. Col. Nantwit Thiamboonthong, Superintendant of Lampang Police Station, to introduce mounted police in Lampang, long a place famous for its horse-drawn carriages.
Since October 1, 2005 – May 31, 2006, there were 51 cases of assault, but only 49 percent resulting in arrest. Assault on property numbered 86 but only 54 arrests were made. Police currently patrol in cars, motorbikes, bicycles, and on foot.
Pol. Col. Nantwat said that using mounted police patrols may deter crime while saving fuel. A training program for police officers is being instigated and officers will be trained by professionals from Chiang Mai for seven days. They will then be sent for training at the Faculty of Animal Science, Chiang Mai University to learn how to properly take care of horses and more training by Mounted Police in Bangkok..
After graduating, mounted police officers will operate in pairs in many areas. They will patrol in community areas at dawn and dusk; in parks where people take exercise. If the operation goes well, expenses for vehicle maintenance and fuel will be reduced, however there will be new expenses for hay, nose bags and pooper-scoopers.
Lookout for mounted police officers in Lampang in about a month. Lampang will be unique in being not only the only city with horse drawn carriages but also a province with mounted police.


Lord Buddha’s relics from nine countries on display

Lord Buddha’s relics from nine countries

Preeyanoot Jittawong
Chiang Mai residents will be able to worship the Lord Buddha’s relics collected from India, Sri Lanka, Burma, Nepal, China, Laos, Cambodia, Bhutan and Thailand, at Chiang Mai’s Buddhist Place from June 4 to 30, 2006. The exhibition is open from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. and there is no admission charge.
These relics were first exhibited in Muang Thong Thani on March 4-12, 2006 and there are also nine Buddha images, Phra Phutta Shinarat, Phra Phutta Sihing, Phra Phutta Thaksin Ming Mongkol, Phra Mongkol Bophit, Luang Pho Wat Baan Laem, Phra Phutta Sothorn, Luang Pho Wat Baan Rai Khing, Luang Pho Thong and Luang Pho Phra Sai on display from different locations.


Provincial police slow down energy use

Nopniwat Krailerg
The Energy Policy and Planning Office, Office of Energy Region 10 (Chiang Mai), held a seminar for Northern region officials in Chiang Mai to discuss saving energy. In 2005, Thailand was able to save the energy worth 34 billion baht, partly due to the cooperation of officials and government personnel.
The organization showing the largest reduction was the Provincial Police Bureau Region 5 who reduced their energy consumption by 27 percent. The Office of Academic Promotion and Support 10 (Chiang Mai) was able to reduce its fuel use by 37 percent. The responsible areas of the Office of Energy Region 10 (Chiang Mai) consist of six Northern provinces.


Caretaker PM checks the progress of Ratchapruek 2006

Caretaker PM Thaksin Shinawatra (center) checks the progress of the International Horticultural Exposition at the Royal Pavilion.

Preeyanoot Jittawong
On June 14, caretaker PM Thaksin Shinawatra checked the progress of the preparation of the International Horticultural Exposition “Ratchaphruek 2006” and opened the Expo Service Center as its coordination center. He also met with several involved organizations and heard the report on the preparation from the Chiang Mai Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT).
The Prime Minister said that 2006 and 2007 are years of two great occasions; honoring HM the King celebrating the 60th anniversary of his reign, and HM the King becoming 80 years old on December 5, 2007. The next event to honor HM the King, will be the “International Horticultural Exposition Ratchaphruek 2006”. The PM also introduced the “Royal Pavilion”, the exhibition building honoring HM the King, the centerpiece of the main area. The pavilion will emphasize HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s graciousness and understanding of agriculture and projects under his royal patronage. This building is constructed in Lanna architectural style and the interior is decorated with golden pipal or “Phra Borom Pho Thi Sompharn tree” which consists of 21,915 leaves, equal to the number of days of HM the King has been on the throne. Also, there will be an exhibition for “HM the King, the farmer with his understanding for Siam people’s happiness” in 3D including light and sound.
32 countries from five continents have already confirmed their participation in the event; 14 from Asia, five from Europe, eight from Africa, and three from the Middle East. It is expected that there will be approximately two million Thai and foreign tourists attending this event that will boost business and tourism in Chiang Mai.
The International Horticultural Exposition “Ratchaphruek 2006” will be held between November 1, 2006 – January 31, 2007 (a total of 92 days) at the Royal Agricultural Research Center, Tambon Mae Hia in Chiang Mai.


Tai tribal style Bus Terminal for Mae Hong Son

Chiangmai Mail Reporters
Phaiboon Phraesricharoen, Mae Hong Son Transportation officer said that Mae Hong Son Transportation Office had received 18 million baht to construct a Bus Terminal in Mae Hong Son. It is to be in traditional style (Tai tribal style), to make an attractive and unique building in Mae Hong Son.
The Mae Hong Son Bus Terminal is located on Nawakochasarn Road, Tambon Jong Kham, Muang district about 1 km. from Mae Hong Son City Hall on the west. The construction will commence mid 2006 and will be completed mid 2007.
Wisoot Buachoom, chief of Mae Hong Son Tourism Coordination Center said that when Mae Hong Son has a provincial bus terminal, it will help to stabilize transportation fees for tourists because officers will be able to check all the busses that use the terminal. At present, some taxi-buses are charging more for tourists. Yet another form of discrimination!


Taxi pick-ups to be discarded in favor of minibusses

Saksit Meesubkwang
Chanchai Kilapaeng, head officer of Chiang Mai Land Transport Office met with the drivers of pick-up taxis from 24 districts to inform them about the intended change from pick-up taxi to minibusses.
The pick-ups have been the mainstay of taxi transportation in the outlying regions for the past 20 years but roads have improved and other aspects of the province have developed. Now, he said, it is time to change the method of transportation of passengers to inprove Chiang Mai Mass Transport.
The drivers will be able to buy their air-conditioned minibusses on credit as the office has negotiated with a company providing the minibusses to sell them at reasonable prices.
The Chiang Mai Land Transport Office will invite the company to show a sample minibus and announce the cut price very shortly.
It is expected that when the company’s representative comes to an agreement with the drivers, minibusses will serve from November 2006. The office has also planned to train the drivers in the English language so they can communicate with the many foreigners visiting Chiang Mai.


The long story of the Long-Neck Karen

Chiangmai Mail Reporters
SHAN news agency reported that Mae Hong Son officers had informed the Long-Neck Karen village headman of Baan Huay Pu Kae, Muang district Mae Hong Son, close to the Burmese border (Kayah state) that the province will move three Long-Neck Karen villages; Kayah Nai Soi Village, Huay Sua Thao Village, and Huay Pu Kae Village into one big village.
The Baan Huay Pu Kae village headman said that officers informed him that they will move Long-Neck Karen, but they did not state the reason. They will only provide accommodation and land, and the move will be done within three months.
Local people said that if they have to move out immediately, they may be faced with many problems; way of life, children’s education, and health, due to living in the old village for decades. However, if the reason for moving is still unclear, they will not move.
Meanwhile, many local people say that officers do not want Long-Neck Karen to move to developed countries according to a file that was submitted to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) by Long-Neck Karen. Recently, 61 Karen have been interviewed by UNHCR, and six of them have already been accepted by Finland.


Drug smugglers from Burma run out of product

Chiangmai Mail Reporters
The Red Wa assault on a heroin factory two weeks ago at Baan Huay Salop, opposite Pang Mapha in Mae Hong Son, leaving 20 persons killed, has had the effect of cutting off its supply and the main drug market, Baan Na Kong Moo in Shan State, 42 kilometers away is out of drugs.
The assault was made on the factory as it refused to pay local taxes to the Red Wah, not to prevent drug production, and a Lahu tribesman has revealed that the Red Wa used six wheel trucks to transfer a huge stock of drugs, chemicals and weapons seized from the factory and gave them to a deputy commander of the Golden Triangle Region of Burma, so drug production is expected to resume shortly.
A villager from Baan Na Kong Moo surmised that the Red Wa was only pretending to suppress drug dealers following an announcement to make the Wa area free of drugs, but their real motive was to eliminate competitors.
The Red Wa have several drug production factories well known to locals at Baan Kai Long and Muang Jod.
The Drug market at Baan Na Kong Moo had been lively since the Khun Sa MTA forces surrendered to the Burmese authority in 1996, so former allies of Khun Sa, Red Wa, Gogang and hill tribes combined to open markets there. In the past, there were only 70 households in Baan Na Kong Moo but now almost a thousand households have been established there.


More locals claim poisoning by Mae Moh Power Station in Lampang

People affected from Mae Moh Power Plant in Lampang listening to the judge at the administrative court, Chiang Mai.

Saksit Meesubkwang
Local people claiming to be affected by the toxic discharge from the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand’s (EGAT) plant in Mae Moh district, Lampang filed a suit on behalf of 12 patients at the administrative court in Chiang Mai.
Prasai Phookphan, President of the patient network of Mae Moh patients, said many other local people affected by this power plant had filed cases in the administrative court in two suits. The first case was filed in 2002 by 246 people, and the second case was in 2003 by 128 people. These new 12 people brings the total to 386.
However, many people who were affected did not register their complaint to the court because the administrative court said that those who want to file had to pay 200,000 baht for each person. Initially people could not afford the payment so most quit. However, recently the court had reduced the payment to 1,100 baht for each person to file complaints to the court.
Prasai also said that they had fought with the power plant for a long time. He had had meetings with the ruling cabinet many times, but this matter has still not been considered. At this time, the caretaker government cannot do anything and the network will wait for a new election to discuss the matter with a new cabinet. They will not give up on this matter as they have lived there for a long time. They started resisting in 1992. There are more than 100 patients including children and seniors who had died from the toxic discharge from Mae Moh Power Plant in the past decade.
The cabinet had previously offered to build houses elsewhere for those who were affected but there is still no progress. Also, there is a rumor that executives of this power plant have borrowed from the ADB to expand the plant and it is believed that a large amount of money had been approved. The network has filed an objection but again there was no progress.
Thong Thongwang, 62, one of those who affected told reporters that she had been sick since she was 45 years old. She cannot work hard after inhaling the power plant’s toxic discharge. Many symptoms have occurred; respiratory disease, easily exhausted, etc. At her house she has a vegetable and fruit plantation, but all plants have shriveled and died. In previous years, hundreds of local people had their blood examined at Ratchawithee Hospital in Bangkok. All of them were found with a toxin in their blood. The hospital told them to move away from the village otherwise they will absorb more toxin.


Mae Hong Son prepares for evacuation in case of mudslides and floods

Chiangmai Mail Reporters
Mae Hong Son, being located in an area at risk from floods and mudslides is making plans for an evacuation drill in case the expected happens. The Mae Hong Son Disaster Problems Prevention and Solution Center will conduct the drill at Baan Mae Lana, Moo. 1, Tambon Pang Ma Pha, Pang Ma Pha district, Mae Hong Son on June 23, between 1-3 p.m.
Pongdej Thipdej, Mae Hong Son Assistant governor said that 90 percent of area in Mae Hong Son is mountain and forest. Most inhabitants are hill tribes. If there is a real incident, it may cause danger to people, domestic animals, and properties. He informed people to keep in touch with Radio Broadcast of Thailand. A serious disaster of this sort has never happened in Mae Hong Son but people should be aware and be prepared at all times.


One killed in traffic accident. Alcohol and speed blamed

Nopniwat Krailerg
An accident occurred at 2 a.m. at the Pack Squadron Intersection, 3
rd beltway in Mae Rim district on June 17. Police found one man killed and two injured, who were sent to Nakornping Hospital.

Mae Rim police at the accident scene.

At the scene they found one car had crashed into a new signal light post. The car had then rolled off the road. Beside the car, was the body of Anupong Rattanathongpong, 20, a resident of Suphan Buri. His neck had been broken.
Thasanai Kaewthongma, 30, the driver of an Isuzu pick-up belonging to the Chiang Mai Cooperatives which was involved in the accident, was sent to hospital. A female passenger was not hurt.
Chaichana Sri-ura, 21, told reporters that he was the driver of the car and had been at a pub in Chiang Mai with two friends. On the way back he drove at excessive speed. At the Pack Squadron Junction the pick-up truck coming from Huay Tung Thao, approached, also at excessive speed, and collided sending Chaichana’s car into the signal light post. A friend traveling with him was sent to the hospital but Chaichana was only slightly injured as he had fastened the seatbelt. After the interrogation, officers sent Chaichana to Mae Rim Police Station to conduct legal proceedings on a charge of causing injury and death, driving while drunk, and damaging official property.


Safe theft prevalent in Chiang Mai and Lamphun

Chiangmai Mail Reporters
Sarotch Rattnawadee of the committee of the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) has offered a reward of 50,000 baht cash to anyone able to apprehend thieves who stole 1.2 million baht of foreign cash, ornaments, land title deeds, stock registration documents, official documents, and many contracts which were worth 10 million baht from the safe of Chiang Mai Malting Co. in Saraphi district, Chiang Mai.
Sarotch said that over a month had passed since the arrest and police were still not able to arrest the accused. All that was known was that the safe was dumped in the company’s garbage cart and the thieves sped off on a motorcycle.
He also offered that, if his property is returned, he will give 50 percent of the value of the returned property to the person who returns it.
Police said that in Chiang Mai and Lamphun in the past three months there had been more than 10 safe robberies and property valued at 100 million baht had been taken. Police are still not able to trace the robbers as the time taken searching for evidence has apparently allowed the perpetrators to flee the scene, and the most likely the province.


Police catch counterfeit credit card gang

They never left home without them

Nopniwat Krailerg
Three men using counterfeit credit cards were arrested after police had been slowly building up a case against them. This had been prompted by numerous complaints from shop owners that fake credit cards had been used to buy products.
Police officers coordinated with Suwit Muendej, Asst. manager of the Counterfeit Credit Card Prevention Department, Krung Thai Card Public Co., Ltd. to check. It was found that all the accused bought products from department stores in Chiang Mai and drove off in an unregistered pick-up truck. Police officers traced the men, eventually catching them red-handed using a counterfeit credit card to buy products in the Mobile Shop in Computer Plaza on Manee Nopharat Road, Chiang Mai.
Evidence confiscated included 18 credit cards, cell phones, and dockets for credit card purchases. They confessed to using the cards, after receiving them from a Malaysian. The accused were sent to Chiang Mai police Station to conduct legal proceeding and to try, with a bit more prodding, to find other perpetrators.


Human trafficking gang in Mae Sai escapes arrest

Chiangmai Mail Reporters
At midnight on June 13, Pol. Maj. Gen. Khamronwit Thoopkrajang, commander of Children, Juveniles and Women Division led police officers to search for a human trafficking gang along the Thai-Burmese border in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai after being tipped off that alien young women would be brought in from Burma. Mae Sai Police Station was apparently not officially informed of the raid.
The police spread out to check several restaurants at Tambon Wiang Phang Kham and Tambon Mae Sai, but the alien women were already hidden because news of the raid had somehow leaked. However, at a restaurant known as Bua, at Tambon Wiang Phang Kham, they found an alien woman being trained for singing without a work permit. Both the restaurant owner and the woman were arrested, so the massed police force did not go home empty-handed.


Drug dealing Mien couple arrested and property worth 2 mio baht seized

Chiangmai Mail Reporters
Chiang Rai police officers arrested Sermsak Parnphawong, 35, and Patch Saefung, his wife, both of whom are Mien, residents of Chiang Khong in Chiang Rai who were apprehended with 60,000 orange ya ba pills at the Chiang Saen beltway, near the Mekong River on the east side.
They were arrested while driving a pick-up truck to pick up a package hidden in the forest to deliver to the officers’ informant. When the officers stopped them, they fled into deep forest. Police had to blockade the area and it took a long time to search but finally they found them.
An arrest warrant to impound their properties was issued and a car, land title deeds and a bank account book of total value 2 million baht were seized.
After interrogation, Sermsak said that he planted corn at Baan Mae Rai Luang, Chiang Saen district. When he married Patch, they sold ya ba pills because Patch’s relative, who lives in Burma, persuaded them. Patch’s relative also delivered all ya ba pills to Thailand at 15 baht each and ready to sell to a customer at 30 baht each.


Human traffickers arrested in Mae Hong Son

‘Durian’ left them with a bad smell

Chiangmai Mail Reporter
Border Patrol Police sub division 337, Mae Sariang set up a checkpoint between Sob Moei district, Mae Hong Son and Tha Song Yang district, Tak but were evaded by a silver Toyota pick-up truck heading for Mae Sariang district. The officers radioed ahead to Mae Sariang Police Station to intercept the vehicle.
Second time lucky as the police were able to stop the truck and arrest the driver and two passengers at the Baan Jorm Jaeng Junction on Route 105. They detained all three suspects who were identified as Durian Jaiklah, 31,a resident of Phitsanulok; Suthipong Jaiklah, the driver and Durian’s son; and Monchai Praphasom, 26. All of them admitted that they were bringing in alien laborers who were in another car, following them.
The Border Patrol Police officers were then able to arrest the other driver and three Mon alien laborers in the following sedan car. All of them confessed that they had each paid 4,200 baht to the broker whom they identified as Durian. The broker picked up the alien laborers at the Refugee Center at Tha Song Yang district, promising to take them to Mae Sariang district and drop them off at the Bus Terminal, to catch a bus to Chiang Mai. Officers arrested all seven of the accused and sent them to Sob Moei police station to face further legal proceedings.


Despite warnings, football gamblers arrested

Nopniwat Krailerg
Crime Suppression Division police, on June 16, arrested Sumeth Khlowuthiwat and Danuphan Mankatanyoo, security officers at Chiang Mai International Airport. They were found in the airport’s parking lot with a World Cup timetable covering three matches with 60 betting slips. The amount of money gambled was between 300-1,000 baht.
After gentle interrogation, Danuphan confessed that he took bets from customers at Chiang Mai International Airport, which he sent to Sumeth to send on to a big bookmaker and received 30 percent commission. Police officers sent Danuphan for further interrogation at Phu Ping Police Station where legal proceeding on the serious charge of football gambling will be conducted.
It is the policy of the Chiang Mai Governor and the Commissioner of Provincial Police Bureau Region 5 to closely monitor any football gambling, especially by teenagers, as they believe football gambling may lead to other invidious crimes.


Former Tambon headman arrested

Nopniwat Krailerg
On June 15, police arrested Prasert Chanthrasrimui, 54, a former Tambon headman in Doi Lor sub-district, Chiang Mai, and his four accomplices. Confiscated were 600 ya ba pills, one Mitsubishi pick-up truck, 80,000 baht in cash and five cell phones. Officers sent the men to Saraphi Police Station to conduct legal proceedings.
Before the arrest, police had watched Prasert’s behavior for a while and knew that he was in a drug network. On day of the arrest, police were informed that there would be drug transfer from Prasert to a customer in Chiang Mai. Police officers intercepted the pick-up truck on the road from Doi Lor sub-district to Chiang Mai.



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