NEWS
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Flood wall decision stone-walled by residents

Myanmar agrees to negotiate with Thailand over helicopter

Flood abatement conference. Perhaps hot air will keep the rain clouds away!

Chiang Mai Transit System debate continues

Earth tremor felt in two districts of Chiang Mai

Centenary Orchid Botanical Garden honoring HM the King

International Convention Center construction falling behind time

Trat-Koh Chang appeal to Chiang Mai for more tourists

Chiang Mai Police arrest a monk living with a laywoman

Drug dealer arrested with raw opium in Phrae

Policeman in uniform shot and killed

Female drug dealers caught

Pha Muang Task Force finds more than 7,200 amphetamines

Storms coming for August

Flood wall decision stone-walled by residents

Krirkkit Kanchanakorn
As reported in the Chiangmai Mail, the saga of the Ping River Flood Prevention Wall seems set to go on and on. A seminar to discuss the problem was attended by a large group of people led by Duangchan Aphawatcharut-Charounmuang, secretary of Muang Chiang Mai Development Foundation.

People rejecting the flood mitigation project holding the sign “Love Ping River - No Walls”


Approximately 500 people were seriously affected by the floods last year and many who live alongside the Ping River in Chiang Mai Municipality area came to express their opinions. The principal topic was the Ping River Flood prevention wall, which was designed by Department of the Public Works and Town and Country Planning in response to the devastating floods last year. This concrete wall will be 19.4 km long; and will cost approximately 1,385 million baht. However, residents who live along the banks of the Ping River strongly disagree with the project because it will affect them directly.
Residents calling for the rejection of the wall said that they want those who are involved with the design of this project to go back to the drawing board and come up with a new plan. There is no assurance for these residents that if this project goes ahead, the floods will not damage the their buildings. They say that because of the considerable investment of tax-payer’s money in what in their opinion is an extremely doubtful project that is unlikely to achieve the desired outcome, further studies should be made. Also, the construction of an unsightly concrete wall on both river-banks will destroy the city’s image, because the Ping River is regarded by many as one of Chiang Mai’s seven most important natural features. In the opinion of the residents, the idea of a flood prevention wall was a knee-jerk reaction to the flooding of last year. Instead of admitting the drawbacks of the plan and seeking an alternative solution to the problem, the designers insisted on constructing a concrete wall as though they were unable to think of anything else.
Local residents invited Vilas Rujiwattanapong, Deputy Chiang Mai Governor to be president of the flooding solution committee and Pochanee Khajohnpreedanon, Department of the Public Works and Town and Country Planning to act as secretary of the flooding solution committee. Vilas said that the province has already received approximately 60 million baht to cover the cost of designing the Ping River flood mitigation project. He said that if the full amount of this fund is not applied to the project, the unused portion would be returned to the government. Pochanee said that there had been two public hearings. Initially, it was suggested that the wall would only be constructed at crucial locations where the flooding actually occurred; such as Meng Rai and Nhong Hoi area, which was heavily affected by the floodwater. However, residents who live alongside the Ping River in the Wat Gate Community protested that they had never been informed or invited to any public hearing. Residents who rejected the wall idea also offered the more reasonable suggestion that the best way to solve the flooding problem is to widen the Ping River and take back the areas on both sides which have been encroached upon over the years. They also suggested that the Department of Public Works should dredge the river bed to remove the silt that is constantly causing the river to become so shallow as to be unable to cope with the increased flow during the annual rainy season.
One former official who lives beside Ping River and was badly affected by the floods last year, said that he totally disagreed with the project, because the construction of a wall will cause the floods to get worse as the flood water cannot spread out. Also, if the flood prevention wall is constructed, the water flow will become heavier and higher, which will overflow the wall, damaging the areas located behind the wall. He said that the water trapped behind the wall would be unable to flow back into the river even when the flood-waters recede. He added that the Ping River will surely become like a large sewer in the middle of Chiang Mai, destroying both the Ping River’s and the city’s image. He substantiated his reasoning by pointing out that the Ping River’s channel is not straight. If the flood wall is constructed, the areas located at the curve will be in the most dangerous locations because the water flow is almost certain to undermine the concrete wall and severely damage the areas behind the wall.
Another resident also affected by last year’s floods said that the Ping River is one of most important natural features in Chiang Mai. Residents who have lived near the Ping River for a long time support the many traditions that depend on the Ping River; such as Songkran, Loy Kratong, Kon Sai Khao Wat (transferring sand to temple). The construction of an unsightly concrete wall will block residents access to the Ping River and will adversely affect Chiang Mai’s image. The residents who live alongside the Ping River will not able to see across to the other side.
With arguments for both sides, it was very apparent that a conclusion for this issue would not be reached. Duangchan said that the network and residents along the Ping River would continue their rejection of this project. In the evening of the same day, there was another forum held at the Night Bazaar. People invited Yongyut Tiyapairat, from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Pramote Maiklad, former director general of the Department of Royal Irrigation, Boonlert Buranupakorn, Chiang Mai Mayor, and Nikhom Phuttha, Wildlife Fund of Thailand to give their opinions and explain the situation. Bonlert said that there may be a wall constructed in some places that had been affected by the floods. Personally, he disagreed with the project because residents who live in his area of responsibility area are strongly against it. He felt that dredging was more appropriate.


Myanmar agrees to negotiate with Thailand over helicopter

Thai chopper which was shot down by the Burmese soldier.

Khajohn Boonphat
Myanmar finally accepted Thailand’s repeated requests to come to the negotiating table and sit down with Thai military forces to discuss the recent unprovoked attack on a Thai Army helicopter, shot down by Burmese forces. The Burmese Army asked for the negotiation to take place at Tachilek opposite to Mae Sai district, Chiang Rai. However, Thai military forces do not fully trust either the actions or word of Myanmar and beefed up security in readiness to move into the border area. They also brought in extra heavy arms and equipment with the intention of blockading the Burmese military base if Burmese troops attempt to trespass into Thailand.
On July 13, Col. Suthas Jarumanee, commander of 7th Infantry Regiment Special Task Force was ordered by 3rd Army Region to negotiate with high-ranking Burmese officers at Tachilek. This negotiation was offered after Thai Army units had surrounded the Burmese military base at Baan Pang Khong in Pang Ma Pha district since July 11, after a Burmese soldier had fired at a Thai Army helicopter, forcing it to perform an emergency landing and grounding it. Col. Suthas immediately filed a request to Lt. Col. Teng Mha to hand over the soldier who had shot down the Thai chopper, to the Thai side at Baan Pang Khong channel, but the Burmese commander denied the request. In retaliation to the unprovoked attack on their helicopter, Thai military forces prepared to attack the Burmese military base until the Burmese side agreed to negotiate with the Thai Army. Units of the 7th Infantry Regiment Special Task Force are still in place surrounding the Burmese base and they won’t be called off until a satisfactory outcome to the negotiations is reached.

Bullet hole in the chopper’s hull.

The commander of 7th Infantry Regiment Special Task Force also issued orders for four companies of 3rd Army Region including an artillery company to go on standby and to hold themselves in readiness in case the incident escalated. “If it comes to a real fight, the Burmese military forces will be overwhelmed and outnumbered by a superior military force and more advanced armaments,” the commander said.
This additional military strength is considered necessary by the Thai commander because of his mistrust of the Burmese military force’s attitude. At first, the Thai side had petitioned the Burmese side to negotiate and peacefully resolve the issue of the damaged helicopter, but the Burmese side refused to negotiate and dismissively told the Thai side to file their complaint with the Consulate of Myanmar in Bangkok. 3
rd Army Region did as requested and filed with the Consulate of Myanmar in Bangkok, but at the same time, they sent a heavily-armed military force to push back the Burmese Army’s 66th Light Infantry located on the mountain and other units which had trespassed into Thailand. The Thai side also requested the Burmese side to send a representative to apologize for the attack on the helicopter and to hand over the soldier who had fired on the Thai chopper. Along with the request, the Thai commander warned his opposite number that if there was no cooperation with these requests, he would attack the Burmese base with overwhelming military force. Upon receipt of this dire warning, the Burmese commander asked for negotiation with the Thai side at Tachilek on July 14th, between the commander of the 7th Infantry Regiment Special Task Force and Col. Tin Lui, commander of the strategic office of three provinces in Myanmar.
However, on the evening of July 12, Burmese people at Baan Pang Khong informed Thai soldiers at Baan Thong Na that Burmese soldiers at Lak Taeng military base had threatened to shoot Thai civilians if Thai military forces open fire. This quite naturally caused panic among the Thai people living at Baan Pang Khong. Many Thai civilians fled from the village and sought refuge with their relatives at Baan Na Pu Pom and Baan Thong Na because they were in fear of their lives if fighting broke out. These civilians are only ordinary men and village security guards armed with shotguns were patrolling with military officers.
A source from Thai Army reported that Col. Suthas Jarumanee, who emerged after an hours talk with his counterpart, Col. Myint Han in Tachilek, announced the successful conclusion of the negotiations. He said that the Burmese were very conciliatory and explained that the man who fired the shot at the helicopter was only a private who was still learning the ropes. He would be punished as requested and full damages would be paid by the Burmese Army.


Flood abatement conference. Perhaps hot air will keep the rain clouds away!

Saksit Meesubkwang
Deputy Minister of Interior, Sermsak Pongpanich presided over a conference to brainstorm how to prevent flooding during the rainy season this year, attended by the governors of 17 Northern provinces and 150 representatives from various concerned organizations.
The Deputy Minister said that since the rainy season was now fully upon them, this conference was needed to find ways to prevent flooding, especially in high-risk areas where flooding and mudslides occur regularly. He stressed to the governors of each province to find proper methods to prevent disasters in each different area, and provide warning alarms at important points in each province.

In Chiang Mai last year

He added that it did not depend only on administration organizations to solve these two problems, but all organizations, both government and private sector including residents, must jointly help one another. Each province had to put emergency schemes in place for each sector, using every available organization such as soldiers, police, civil defense volunteers and local administration organizations. If a disaster occurred, all organizations should be trained and ready to respond to any emergency and have facilities to rescue residents immediately.
In the meantime, Chiang Mai Governor, Suwat Tantipat said that he had consulted with the mayor of Chiang Mai and several local organizations about flooding in the municipality area. Everybody had been assigned responsibilities according to a preset plan according to the situation, so he was sure they would respond swiftly should there be flooding in Chiang Mai.


Chiang Mai Transit System debate continues

Nopniwat Krailerg
Dr. Rangsan Udomsri, manager of the Chiang Mai Transit System study group, reported on the progress regarding the suitability of various transport systems and presented recommendations to the Office of Transport and Traffic Policy and Planning (OTTPP).

Graphics by the Chiang Mai Transit System study group showing Chiang Mai Transit System in the future.

The study revealed that the most suitable transit system for Chiang Mai was a wheeled tram which will operate on specific routes. OTTPP also assigned the project study group to look into the feasibility of a rail system and was asked to compare the two systems and present their findings to OTTPP by the end of July.
“Speaking from my personal experience, the wheeled system might be the most suitable system for Chiang Mai because it can be accomplished without the need to invest a lot of money, as well as being cheap to maintain,” Dr. Rangsan said. “It will be beneficial in the future when local organizations take over the running of this transit system from the government,” he added.
Dr. Rangsan also said that a rail system is a good system as its lifetime is far longer than a wheeled system. It operates by electricity which causes no pollution and saves energy. However, the investment to build the supporting infrastructure such as rail lines and stations is about five times higher than for a wheeled system. Maintenance is also very costly and difficult due to the complicated technology.
The bus-routes of the Chiang Mai Transit System will be approximately 50 km. around Chiang Mai. If the construction is started in 2007, it is expected that it can be up and running within two years. The estimated cost of a wheeled system will be approximately 6 billion baht. If Chiang Mai Transit System is successful, it will be the first city transit system in the northern region and used as a model for other provinces.


Earth tremor felt in two districts of Chiang Mai

Nopniwat Krailerg
Worapoj Khunawirankhun, Head Meteorologist of the Northern Meteorological Center reported that an earthquake occurred in Chiang Mai on the morning of July 13 at 7.28 a.m., measuring 3.0 on the Richter Scale. The epicenter was in Hang Dong district, Chiang Mai, about 14 km south of the Chiang Mai Vibration Measuring Center.
During the earthquake, people felt the vibration in Hang Dong and San Patong district in Chiang Mai. However, there were no reports of damage or injuries.
“The center of this earthquake is near the epicenter of the earthquake that occurred last year. That also was a very slight earthquake and they both occurred along the seam of the earth’s crust in the Northern Region, which moves ever so slightly,” said Worapoj.


Centenary Orchid Botanical Garden honoring HM the King

Saksit Meesubkwang
Dr. Saran Phermphun, former-president of Maejo University has been put in charge of decorating 16 rai of area inside HRH the Princess Mother’s Orchid Botanical Garden at the Agricultural Garden of Maejo University.

Dr. Saran Phermphun, former president of Maejo University, in charge of the Centenary of HRH the Princess Mother’s Orchid Botanical Garden.

There will be native and local plants arranged in naturally rich conditions in different species. This is particularly suitable for young people and students to study nature and the environment and to honor HM the King celebrating the 60th anniversary of his accession to the throne.
Dr. Saran said that this development is a place to gather Thai orchids, hybrid orchids, and, rare orchids so that students and people will be able to visit and experience their beauty and diversity at Maejo University. The committee planned to add more plants to the botanical garden by decorating the whole area with many diverse plants suited to the environment; such as the neem tree, palm, bamboo, toddy palm, white champaka, sonchampa, Diospyros, Choremorpha Fragrans, Talauma Candollei, Agarwood, tembusu, Burmese ebony and teakwood. There will also be a natural pathway, shelter, and other necessary facilities to provide accommodation for those who want to come and study.
Maejo University has provided more than 3 million baht for this purpose. The construction started in July and will be finished in December 2006. The project is to honor the centenary of HRH the Princess Mother and honor HM the King.


International Convention Center construction falling behind time

And they haven’t even started yet!

Chiangmai Mail Reporter
Assistant Director of TAT Northern Office Region 1, Angsana Phumphaka revealed that the construction of the International Convention, Display and SME Center was falling behind schedule. TAT is proposing to ask construction companies to submit tenders to construct the center according to the plan of Prime Minister’s Office. This process should be completed by September this year and the construction started in October. It has now been estimated that the job will take two years to be completed by the target date of two months before the opening in November, 2009.
The reason given for the project falling behind schedule is that some unforeseen problems have been experienced, necessitating an adjustment to the details of construction, which meant that it would take 24 months to construct instead of as per the original plan, which only allotted 15 months for construction.
The International Convention, Display and SME Center was planned for Chiang Mai Province by the Prime Minister, with a budget almost 1,900 million baht.


Trat-Koh Chang appeal to Chiang Mai for more tourists

Preeyanoot Jittawong
Trat Province in cooperation with TAT Central Region Office: Region 5 held the “Trat-Koh Chang Road Show” in Chiang Mai, hoping to boost tourism by linking the two regions. Organizers are sure it will bring in around 900,000 tourists this year, spending in excess of 4,000 million baht; a welcome addition to Trat’s economy.

Chuchart Oncharoen, Director of Tourism Authority of Thailand Central Region Office: Region 5 (Trat)

Chuchart Oncharoen, Director of Tourism Authority of Thailand Central Region Office: Region 5 (Trat) brought 100 tourism business owners such as travel agents, hoteliers, restaurateurs and souvenir shop owners to Chiang Mai to promote tourism in Trat province.
Chuchart disclosed that this year Trat province would stress bio-tourism, giving the opportunity for tourists to dive on corals at Koh Chang or Koh Kood and to enjoy other bio-tourism activities such as trekking to see birds and nature.
Several new hotels with a total of almost 4,000 rooms have recently opened in Trat to support both Thai and foreign tourists. Last year, around 800,000 tourists visited Trat, bringing about 3,000 million baht in revenue to the province. This year Trat, in association with TAT Central Region Office: Region 5 has been promoting the province to the northern and north-eastern regions, as well to countries such as England, Japan, China, and Korea.
The purpose of this trip to Chiang Mai and nearby provinces in the northern region was to target groups of government organizations and private companies to hold seminars in Trat.


Chiang Mai Police arrest a monk living with a laywoman

Nopniwat Krailerg
In the evening of July 12, Phra Khru Wisitseelaporn, Head monk of Tambon Pa Daed, in Muang Chiang Mai was informed by local residents that one of his junior monks was renting a room at Phatcharin dormitory and co-habiting with a laywoman, which the residents regarded as indecent behavior. Upon receiving this information the abbot coordinated with police to have this monk checked.
At the dormitory, officers found that the monk was indeed living in the same room with a woman. When officers tried to arrest him, he suddenly shut the door in their face. After a short period of negotiation, both he and the woman admitted the officers and they were taken into custody.
The monk was identified as Phra Pud Thanathammo, 26, who was a monk of Lao Pao Temple, Doi Lor sub-district, Chiang Mai. He was inducted at Pa Phrao Nok Temple, Tambon Pa Daed in Muang Chiang Mai.
Phra Pud then confessed that he was Burmese and said he was first ordained in Myanmar and had then crossed the border in Chiang Saen district, Chiang Rai and lived at the Lao Pao Temple. At the same time he rented a room and lived with Ya (supposed name), 22, a Tai tribe woman. She earned a living by selling ice-cream in Chiang Mai and Phra Pud claimed that she was his younger sister. He said they were always very close and he missed her, so he had to live with her. A monk living together with a lay-woman (even though related), is considered to be a violation of the monk-hood discipline.


Drug dealer arrested with raw opium in Phrae

Chiangmai Mail Reporters
The Commander of Phrae Provincial Police was recently informed that a foreign drug network intended smuggling illegal drugs from the border area near Chiang Rai and bringing them into Phrae. On July 15, he coordinated with narcotic suppression police and set up a checkpoint at Baan Daen Chumpol, Song district in Phrae.
The officers manning the checkpoint stopped a blue BMW with a Malaysian license plate and called to have it checked. The male driver showed his Malaysian passport, which identified him as Tohhitaa, 52. He had a female passenger in the car, identified as Mheeju Yherpia, 26, an Akha tribeswoman from Chiang Rai. The man was unable to speak Thai, but the woman told the officers that she worked as a waitress in a Chiang Rai restaurant. She said she had not long become acquainted with the Malaysian nan, and they were going to Malaysia.
The Malaysian was behaving nervously, so the officers asked to check the interior of the vehicle. The search revealed 27 packs of raw opium hidden under the chassis totaling 40 kg, with an estimated street value of 2 million baht in Thailand. If the drugs were delivered to foreign countries, for instance Europe or the US, they would be worth more than 100 million baht.
Officers seized the packages along with 40,000 cash, 800 Malaysian ringgit, and two cell phones. The drug runner was taken into custody to face legal proceedings. Phrae police officers coordinated with Office of Narcotic Control Board (ONCB) to investigate and conduct further enquiries. The accused is believed to be a big international drug dealer having both Thai and international network connections.


Policeman in uniform shot and killed

Saksit Meesubkwang
A uniformed police officer was shot and killed while on patrol in Baan Luang Village, Tambon Baan Luang, Chom Thong district in Chiang Mai. Officers went to the scene and found the body of the patrol officer who had been killed beside a black Honda motorcycle that had crashed on the road. He was identified as Pol. Sgt. Maj. Boonchuay Raksadee, 37, a police patrol officer of Chom Thong Police Station. He had been hit several times including his back, right cheek and his right temple.

Pol. Lt. Gen. Panupong Singhara Na Ayuthaya, Commissioner of Provincial Police Bureau Region 5 on the press conference.

A passer-by who witnessed the shooting said that the assailants drove a dark-colored pick-up truck and fled the scene at high speed immediately after committing the murder. Police officers radioed to other cars to pursue the murderer, but there were no reports of sightings.
Officers made enquiries and it was found that before the crime, Sgt. Maj. Boonchuay had patrolled up until midnight, finished his shift and was on his way home. The murderer or murderers in the pick-up truck had followed him and suddenly shot him from behind.
Pol. Lt. Gen. Panupong Singhara Na Ayuthaya, Commissioner of Provincial Police Bureau Region 5 had a meeting with his officers and exhorted them to make a supreme effort to solve this heinous crime. Initial enquiries revealed a witness that suggested that two men had been monitoring the victim’s movements in front of the police station on the night of the shooting. When the victim left the police-station on his motorcycle, the murderers followed him. The Sgt. Major tried to draw his pistol, but died before he was able to return their fire.
It is believed that there may be three possible motives for the crime. Firstly, the victim was good-looking and that may cause women to fall in love with him and may cause misunderstanding with the murderers who possibly were the women’s husbands or boyfriends. Secondly, in the victim’s line of duty, he was assigned to monitor teenagers’ behavior in local academies in his patrol area and may have earned the displeasure of a group of teenagers whilst carrying out his duties. Thirdly, this crime may turn out to be a drugs issue, where the victim’s duties have brought him into conflict with a local drugs network.
This case is very serious offense of a police officer being shot whilst in uniform. Pol. Lt. Gen. Panupong issued orders to spare no effort to trace and arrest the murderers of Sgt. Maj.Boonchuay. His fellow officers vowed to leave no stone unturned to find the criminals and bring them to justice.


Female drug dealers caught

Chiangmai Mail Reporters
Investigation officers from Muang Chiang Mai Police Station recently arrested two women known as Siriwan Nawik, 33, living at Tambon Chang Klan in Muang of Chiang Mai and Wanutcha Settawut, 31, resident of San Sai District, Chiang Mai. At the time of their arrest they were in possession of 1,325 ya ba pills and 15 miscellaneous stolen items such as a gold necklace and ring, and electrical equipment.
Before arresting the two women, the police learnt that the woman and her girlfriend, who was a singer in a restaurant in Muang Chiang Mai, had been observed dealing drugs and delivering them to clients in various entertainment places. The officers followed both women and hid on Srichandorn Road, Tambon Chang Klan. Siriwan was observed driving the pick up on that road, but when police tried to arrest her she drove away at high speed. However, the police caught up with her and discovered 1,000 speed pills concealed in her pick up. A search of her residence revealed 325 more speed pills. They were both placed in custody and the possessions in their room were seized, because the two women were suspected of having bought these things with money gained from drug dealing.


Pha Muang Task Force finds more than 7,200 amphetamines

Nopniwat Krailerg
Soldiers of the Pha Muang Task Force and Police from Mae Ai Police Station Chiang Mai arrested Suwinai Chaywan, 29, and Prasoot Chaywan, 19, residents of the town, at checkpoint Baan Huay Pha Chang, Mae Ai District, Chiang Mai
The two were driving towards Fang District on their motorcycle and were acting suspiciously. They were stopped, searched and officers found 7,266 amphetamines and other equipment hidden in the motorcycle.
During questioning Suwinai admitted that the drugs had been bought from a hill tribe man in Tha Ton, Mae Ai District and were on their way to deliver them to an agent in Chiang Mai. The two were arrested and handed over to police at Mae Ai.
Even though police are clamping down on drug trafficking in the North, drugs are still getting through, especially amphetamines along the Chiang Mai – Fang route into Chiang Mai because of the large gains to risk being arrested. Traffickers that have been arrested told police that they buy the amphetamines for 30 baht each and sell them for 300-350 baht.


Storms coming for August

Chiangmai Mail Reporters
The Northern Metrological Department of the Ministry of Technology, Information and Communications has issued a weather forecast for August.
Overall low pressure throughout the whole of Northern Thailand and South Westerly winds coming in from the Gulf of Thailand into the country will be moderate to high throughout August resulting in more rainfall, with heavy to very heavy rains in some regions, especially in the North and North-east. In other regions rainfall will be heavier than the previous month. The region may see some tropical storms (depressions, tropical storms, typhoons) moving in from the Pacific Ocean spreading from the Philippines to the South China Sea and will strengthen the South Westerly storms already around the Gulf of Thailand bringing heavy storms to the eastern and western coasts of South of the country. This could very well result in more severe tropical storms in the North and North-east. The public should keep an eye on weather forecasts. More information can be obtained at the Metrological Department on 0 5327 7814, 0 5327 7815 and 0 5327 8175.