NEWS
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Wolf recaptured after month on the lam

Mae Hong Son sees high numbers of malaria patients whilst bird flu is under control

Earthquake centred in Myanmar detected in Chiang Mai

Water wall project rejected again and again and again…

River encroachment a cause of floods

Website attracts thousands of visitors checking Ping River water levels

Petition protests polluted water

Thai workers advised to quit Israel now

Ping River encroachers face legal proceedings

Chiang Mai Longan to help sell surplus

South East Asia’s biggest telescope coming to Doi Inthanon

Captured drug dealer implicates two more offenders

Malaysian police visit Chiang Rai Provincial Police

Scenes of chaos as police arrest fake credit card gang

Chiang Mai hosts ASEAN drug meeting

A thousand people escape blaze at Carrefour

Wolf recaptured after month on the lam

Blamed for eating over 200 chickens

Staff Reporters

A Canadian Gray Wolf that had been missing from the Night Safari for over a month has been recaptured. Villagers from Baan Ram Peung, Tambon Suthep, Muang Chiang Mai, trapped the wolf on Saturday night and returned it to the Night Safari. The wolf is alive, though weak, and has injured its leg and genitals.
Ten villagers, led by village headwoman Pornthip Utama, hid themselves at five points waiting for the wolf to appear from the forest. At around 11 p.m. the wolf appeared on a trail near the village where villagers shot it with a chloroform dart. They then trapped the wolf in a net before it could escape. The veterinarian team from Chiang Mai Night Safari shot the wolf with another chloroform dart before it fell unconscious.
Pornthip attributed her success in capturing the wolf to her prayers. She said that she had previously used this method, with some success, to find a lost elephant.
Plodprasop Suraswadee, chief of the Chiang Mai Night Safari, presented Pornthip and her team with 10,000 baht at a press conference held the next morning. Pornthip is now compiling a list of people who had owned the 200 chickens eaten by the wolf to present to the Night Safari administration.
Supoj Methapiwat, director of the Chiang Mai Night Safari administration, said that the wolf escaped from the controversial zoo about a month ago whilst it was being fed.
Supoj said that the wolf was one of six Canadian gray wolves and that staff at the night safari had assumed that it had died 2 or 3 weeks after its escape. In his statement, Supoj also denied rumours that two hyenas had escaped from the night safari, saying that hyena numbers had been checked and none found to be missing.
Nikhom Puttha, coordinator of the Northern Wildlife Conservation Foundation, criticised the night safari administration, saying that this was not the first time animals had escaped due to poor management. He went on to say that staff were inadequately trained for taking care of the animals and that there was a chance, however slight, that the wolf, since it is from overseas, could have introduced foreign diseases to the wildlife around Chiang Mai. He also criticised the night safari management for not informing the public of the escape as soon as it was discovered.
Pol. Lt. Gen. Panupong Na Ayuthaya Singhara, commissioner of the Provincial Police Bureau Region 5, revealed that police officers had been assigned to ensure the safety of local residents and investigate how the wolf had escaped. He said that if it was discovered that the wolf escaped due to negligence then the people responsible would be punished.
Plodsrasop Suraswadee accepted that the Night Safari had made mistakes in allowing the wolf to escape and promised that it would not happen again in the future.
The wolf is now in hospital and expected to remain there for two weeks.


Mae Hong Son sees high numbers of malaria patients whilst bird flu is under control

Staff Reporters
Head officer of Mae Hong Son Provincial Public Health, Suwat Kittidilokul, in a report on the efforts of the disease control department, said that there are high numbers of malaria cases for the first 6 months of 2006. Despite the increase, there were no reports of loss of life.
Between January 1st and July 1st of 2006 there were 832 malaria patients in Mae Hong Son Muang district, 92 in Pai, 419 in Mae Sariang, 79 in Mae La Noi and 99 in Pang Mapha. Suwat went on to say that although the malaria numbers were high, there had been no further cases of bird flu in the province.
The Mae Hong Son Provincial Livestock Office, on orders from the provincial governor, has been implementing strict rules to prevent further outbreaks or spread of bird flu. The movement of winged livestock and chicken eggs has been strictly monitored and controlled. These measures follow a human death from bird flu in the Phijit district. On the discovery of the bird flu case the Livestock Office had the nearby area and chickens sprayed with a disinfectant agent.


Earthquake centred in Myanmar detected in Chiang Mai

Saksit Meesubkwang
At around 12:15 p.m. on August 6th an earthquake measuring 3.4 on the Richter scale was detected in Chiang Mai, said Santanee Chaichiangpin, head forecasting officer of the northern region.
The quake had its epicenter in Myanmar; the region most affected by the earthquake in Thailand was Chiang Dao district, though it was also felt in areas 58 kilometres north of the Muang district.
The quake was strong enough to knock over glasses and ornaments, but no serious damage or injuries have been reported.


Water wall project rejected again and again and again…

As waters rose during the August 1 rains, Nawarat Bridge in Chiang Mai was nearly inundated. (Photo by Nopniwat Krailerg)

Krirkkit Kanchanakorn
As the heavy rain continued to fall and floodwaters once again covered many areas of Chiang Mai, concern amongst residents living or working near the Ping River grew. City authorities are once again seeking contractors to tender for the job of building the controversial flood-prevention wall. Local citizens’ networks have strongly opposed the wall construction, reasoning that it will destroy both the beauty and ecological balance of the Ping River and, in all probability, not work effectively.
A study of the flood prevention wall showed that the disadvantages considerably outweighed the advantages, and would not solve Chiang Mai’s flooding problems. The large volume of water which floods over the Ping riverbanks during the rainy season is also likely to flow over the wall, damaging adjacent buildings. Once over the wall, it would be unable to flow back to the Ping River. Opponents of the proposed construction have cited hygiene concerns that would be raised by the stagnant water, to say nothing of the smell.
A state enterprise employee whose home was affected by the floods said that the flood-prevention wall project cannot solve the flooding problems. He added that if the province wants to seriously tackle this situation, the Ping River must be dredged and the areas of the river which have been made narrower by encroachment must be taken back, starting from Nawarat Bridge. The province also has to address drainage problems in the many areas where there is still stagnant water. He said that if there was heavy and continuous rain, there would be stagnant water and floods in many streets and small roads, leading to traffic jams. Efficient water drainage systems must be constructed where necessary to remove the stagnant water. This, coupled with dredging the riverbed, would be a far better solution to the flooding problem, instead of wasting taxpayer’s money on a flood-prevention wall.
A survey conducted by local citizens’ networks, of those who were directly affected by the flood, highlighted the advantages and disadvantages of the flood-prevention wall project and noted the replies of those that were questioned. According to the survey, 84% of the 2,000 respondents said that building a wall was not the answer to the flooding problems.
Recently, local citizens’ networks have filed their objections to this controversial project and requested the authorities to stop the construction of the flood-prevention wall. They also asked the authorities to reconsider their plans to destroy 3 dams; Phyla Kham Dam, Than Wang Tan Dam, and Thaana Dam.
Instead of a wall, they proposed the following alternative prevention measures and flooding solutions: (1) Widen the Ping River to at least 90 meters in Chiang Mai Municipality area; (2) Dredge the Ping River from the Muang district to Doi Tao district; (3) Dredge old mines in Chiang Mai so that the water can flow to the main river; (4) Modify the water and sewage system along the Chiang Mai-Lamphun Railway Parallel Road and Ring Roads.


River encroachment a cause of floods

Saksit Meesubkwang
Head officer of Marine Transport Office Region 1, Wichian Pemanukornrak, told Chiangmai Mail that the four large floods of last year and the smaller flood at the beginning of August were in part caused by illegal encroachment into the river. He explained that the river had become so narrow in some places that it could not flow as quickly as it needed to.

Head officer of Marine Transport Office Region 1, Wichian Pemanukornrak said he intends to fulfil his duty in searching for a solution to the encroachment problem.

Wichian added that despite this, the problem of encroachment had not been taken seriously until recent years. The situation is made more difficult due to the fact that some residents along the riverbank have been using areas of the river for over ten years. They claim that because they have been using the river for so long with no action taken against them, they now have a legal right to be there.
Nonetheless, the Marine Transport Office Region 1, together with the Marine Department, have brought almost a thousand cases of illegal encroachment before the courts since 2001, with 31 going on at present. Places accused of trespassing on the river include Phet Ngam Hotel, Chai Mongkol Temple, Monfort College and Provincial Police Bureau Region 5.
Wichian said that despite the difficulties and legal complications he faces, he intends to fulfil his duty in searching for a solution to the encroachment problem.


Website attracts thousands of visitors checking Ping River water levels

Nopniwat Krailerg
With last year’s wide-scale flooding still fresh in Chiang Mai residents’ minds, and the smaller floods of August 1st and 2nd provoking concern, a website dedicated to checking the water levels of the Mae Ping River is receiving thousands of hits per day. The website, www.hydro-1.net, received 50,000 visitors during last year’s floods and almost 30,000 visitors on August 1st of this year.

www.hydro-1.net; Chiang Mai’s flood alarm website.

The website is run by the Hydrology and Water Management Centre for the Upper Northern Region, Hydro and Water Management Office of the Royal Thai Irrigation Department. The centre’s main responsibilities are to survey areas with the aim of improving water sources and to anticipate and inform the public regarding water-related disasters.
During the rainy season the centre updates the website’s information on the Mae Ping water levels hourly. Last year this enabled many residents and businesses to anticipate the floods and move their belongings to safe places.
The director of the centre, Thada Sukapunapan, whilst pleased that their website was providing a useful public service, added that the centre was still a small organisation and needs to increase its budget in order to properly maintain the website. He said that last year the server went down twice, but added that nevertheless, they were able to maintain accurate information on the river’s water levels. He also wishes to improve the website and include an English version for tourists and expats in Chiang Mai.


Petition protests polluted water

Jakrawan Wannawong, chairman of Democratic Party Area 2 Branch (right), surveys the polluted canal with members of the press.

Saksit Meesubkwang and Preeyanoot Jittawong
Chairman of the Democratic Party Area 2, Jakrawan Wannawong, received a petition on Saturday from five thousand disgruntled residents of the Nong Hoi area. The petition was to protest that for over five years their water supply had been affected by polluted water from hotels, restaurants, condominiums and Nong Hoi housing estate.
Jakrawan took members of the press to a canal behind the offices of Provincial Police Bureau Region 5. The water of the canal was black from cooking oil dumped by nearby restaurants. A resident of the Nong Hoi area revealed that the water from the canal had been used for agriculture, but in recent years had become too polluted for this purpose. He said that previous complaints to the relevant organisations had been ignored.
Jakrawan pointed out that this area was under the jurisdiction of Chiang Mai Municipality, and as such it was the municipality’s responsibility to force polluters to abide by the environment act. He went on to say that the municipality had taken no such action.


Thai workers advised to quit Israel now

Staff Reporters
Due to the war going on between Israel and Lebanon, Thai labourers who work in Israel quite naturally feel uncertain about their future. The Thai government has made plans for bringing back those who wish to escape the fighting and return to Thailand. Orachorn Rattanamanee of Chiang Mai Employment said that some Thai labourers do not want to return to Thailand, having established homes in Israel after 10 years of work.
Concerned about the safety of Thai labourers, employment officers have gone to the embassy in Tel Aviv and drawn up plans with employers and employment companies in Israel and Thailand to move Thai workers to safe places. If they are unable to move away from the danger zones, the labourers should seek shelter by moving into bunkers and not go to work.
At present, there are still many Thai workers working in the troubled Northern Region of Israel. Those who work in restaurants, especially in agricultural areas where the harvest is now taking place, face problems from their employers if they ask to be moved to safe places. Some employers threatened their workers with deportation if they asked to be moved. Problems have also arisen concerning cooperation between Israeli employment companies and Thai workers. The Department of Labour has stated that if any Israeli employment agency does not agree to this cooperation, they will no longer be sent labourers to work for their companies.
If Thai families are worried about their relatives working in Israel, they should inform them immediately to move to a place of safety. They can also contact the embassy, tel. (03) 6958984, (03) 6958980, (03) 6092915, (03) 6092916 during office hours or 0505 483547, 0545 669459, 0544 693476, 0544 693477, 0544 318830, and 0547 990771 (24 hours).
For more information call Chiang Mai Employment, 1st floor, Chiang Mai City Hall, tel. 0-5311,2742-6 ext. 18, Mon-Fri, during official working hours.


Ping River encroachers face legal proceedings

Nopniwat Krailerg
After the floods that occurred in Chiang Mai on August 1 had subsided, Sermsak Pongpanit, deputy interior minister, Suwat Tantipat, Chiang Mai governor, and Boonlert Buranupakorn, Chiang Mai mayor, inspected the damage. It was evident that damage had been inflicted in many areas, especially near the Ping River and areas that have been flooded in the past such as Baan Pa Phrao Nok, Chang Klan Road and Baan Pa Daed.

Sermsak Pongpanit, deputy interior minister, inspects the flooding situation in Chiang Mai.

Luckily, there were no floods at the Night Bazaar, but the threat of flooding caused concern amongst business owners and shopkeepers on Chang Klan Road. Many of them built walls in front of their shops using sandbags and, in some cases even concrete, in an effort to prevent their premises being flooded.
Sermsak said that in order to implement long-term flood-prevention solutions, the Ping River should be widened, especially in 7 areas that have been deemed too narrow. Also, the problem of dealing with the encroachment of the river has to be addressed immediately. The recently proposed concrete wall rejected by the public was discussed and despite the objections, bids from contractors are being sought.
Chiang Mai Governor Suwat Tantipat issued orders to dredge the narrow area near Provincial Police Bureau Region 5 and negotiated with residents to demolish the Tha Wang Tarn dam. If this is done, it will reduce the height the Ping River and will enable the water to flow up to 600 cubic meters per second.


Chiang Mai Longan to help sell surplus

Staff Reporters
The first Chiang Mai Longan Festival is to be held at Thapae Gate, Chiang Mai, on August 16. The festival aims to promote Longan consumption and help Longan farmers develop markets for their crop.

Chiang Mai Governor Suwat Tantipat said he welcomes the first Chiang Mai Longan Festival.

The festival is an initiative introduced by the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives following last year’s massive surplus of Longan. Thawatchai Samronwatana, speaking as a representative of the ministry, said the eight upper northern provinces were expected to produce between 300,000 and 500,000 tons of Longan during July and August.
The ministry hopes to develop export markets for both fresh and processed Longans and has earmarked 70,000 tons of Longan for use in processed products. The ministry also hopes to persuade farmers to reduce the total area of Longan orchards from 800,000 to 300,000 rai before 2009.
Chiang Mai Governor Suwat Tantipat welcomed the festival, adding that the province will promote its Longan produce at a similar festival in Bangkok from August 7 to 9.


South East Asia’s biggest telescope coming to Doi Inthanon

Nopniwat Krailerg
A telescope measuring 2.4 metres in diameter is to be installed at the National Planetarium at Doi Inthanon National Park, Chiang Mai. The telescope, which is almost the size of the Hubble telescope, will be the largest in South East Asia and is capable of viewing objects in the solar system over a thousand light years away from earth.

An artist’s rendition of the 2.4 meter telescope.

The cabinet authorised the Ministry of Science and Technology and the National Astronomy Research Institute (NARI) to install the telescope in honour of HM the King Bhumibol Adulyadej on the occasion of his 80th birthday. The installation of the telescope is expected to be finished by the end of 2008.
The National Planetarium, located at the peak of Doi Inthanon, sits at a height of 2550 metres above sea level. Its location provides clear skies for up to 8 months of the year and, due to its height, does not suffer from ambient light pollution.
The Ministry of Science and Technology signed a contract with Australian firm EOS Space Systems Pty Co. Ltd. on July 24, 2006, to produce a telescope capable of viewing distant stars and galaxies. The images produced by the telescope will be available online for the public to view.
NARI hopes that the installation of the telescope will provide a much needed boost to Thailand’s standing in astronomy research circles. It has been suggested that NARI, along with Thai educational institutes, could cooperate in the teaching of astronomy and the sharing of research and data with other astronomical institutes around the world. NARI also hopes that the telescope will increase interest in astronomy amongst the general public.

The Ministry of Science and Technology signs a contract with EOS Space Systems Pty Co. Ltd., Australia, to produce the largest telescope in South East Asia.


Captured drug dealer implicates two more offenders

Pol. Lt. Gen. Panupong Singhara Na Ayuthaya, commissioner of the Provincial Police Bureau Region 5 (right), with the offender at a press conference.

Saksit Meesubkwang
A drug dealer who had escaped arrest on July 31 was recently captured. He had originally evaded arrest when undercover officers pretended to purchase 3800 ya ba pills from him at the entrance of Mae Rim Wittayakom School. Eakapong, or Boy Nontee, was charged with possession of a controlled substance with intent to supply.
During the course of the investigation, two other suspects were also arrested. Husband and wife, Somkid Tongping and Pramuan Manus, have denied accusations that they were involved in Eakapong’s drug dealing activities. The couple have previously been arrested and were sentenced in February 2000 over a drugs-related case.


Malaysian police visit Chiang Rai Provincial Police

Saksit Meesubkwang
The commander of the Perak State police in Malaysia, along with 40 Malaysian police officers, visited Chiang Rai Provincial Police on August 5. The purpose of the visit was to gain information on weapon and drug trafficking gangs operating in the north of Thailand.
The officers were welcomed by Pol. Maj. Gen. Chamnong Kaewsiri, Chiang Rai Provincial Police commander, and Pol. Maj. Gen. Somkid Bunthanom, deputy commissioner of education for the Royal Thai Police.
The northern region of Thailand is one of the transit routes for weapons and drugs entering Malaysia from Cambodia and Vietnam. The problem is compounded by various paramilitary and guerrilla organisations that operate along the border, including the Karenni, the United Wa State Army and the Tai. Sometimes drugs are exchanged for weapons and smuggled into Malaysia through Thailand.
The commander of the Malaysian police said that he was aware of the dangers posed by drug and weapon trafficking gangs and hopes to be able to apply techniques the Thai police use, to suppress such gangs in Malaysia.


Scenes of chaos as police arrest fake credit card gang

Nopniwat Krailerg and Saksit Meesubkwang
Scenes of chaos erupted at Chiang Mai Gate Market on Friday as police attempted to arrest a counterfeit credit card gang. Four members of the gang were captured, whilst one managed to escape.

Two members of the counterfeit credit card gang, despite their best, or worst, efforts are now on their way to the monkey house.

The police, after monitoring the gang’s movements in Chiang Mai, attempted to arrest them as they were buying gold ornaments at Chiang Mai Gate Market. The two suspects tried to escape, biting a police officer on the breast in the process of doing so, before being overpowered and arrested.
The three remaining members of the gang were waiting nearby in a green Volvo and, on seeing the arrests, sped off, ramming whatever happened to be in their way. Unfortunately, this included two police officers who tried to block the car’s path with their motorbikes.
The car was chased to outside an old house, where two more members of the gang were arrested. The fifth member remains at large. The officers who were rammed were not seriously injured.
Chiang Mai police originally became aware of the gang when Pol. Lt. Col. Narit Sorndit, duty inspector of Chiang Mai Provincial Police, received information from Kamphaengphet Provincial Police that the gang, previously operating in Kamphaengphet, had moved to Chiang Mai. Narit assigned police officers to trace the gang’s movements.
The gang, consisting of one woman and four men, arrived in Chiang Mai on August 3 and stayed in the Kasalong Hotel. The following day they ate lunch at Kad Suan Kaew department store before surveying shops around the city. At 4 p.m. they entered Jaruwat Gold Ornament shop where the arrests took place.
Following the arrests police confiscated a car, 10 fake credit cards, 50 business cards and 5 cell phones. The gang was charged with manufacturing fake credit cards and driver’s licenses with the intention to defraud. Wanchai Phimsombun, the driver of the car, was also charged with attempted murder and obstructing police officers from performing their duty.
Inspector Narit revealed that the gang also had five outstanding arrest warrants in Khon Kaen province. Likhit Khamsingh, the leader of the gang, has already been arrested several times in the past.


Chiang Mai hosts ASEAN drug meeting

Representatives from 10 ASEAN countries attended the ASOD press conference last week

Nopniwat Krailerg
The 27th Meeting of ASEAN Senior Officials on Drug Matters (ASOD) was held August 1 and 2 at the Imperial Mae Ping Hotel, Chiang Mai. Speakers at the meeting emphasised the importance of cooperative network-building and strict law enforcement. They also proposed the development of a learning centre on alternative development, particularly regarding narcotic crop surveys and monitoring.
Representatives of the 10 ASEAN member countries made presentations on behalf of their own countries regarding the current drug situation and the development of the drug suppression efforts, including information on arrests, drug smuggling trends, rehabilitation of drug addicts and developing viable alternatives to opium cultivation. Each country reported success in their efforts to reduce drug supply and demand as well as in the areas of drug treatment and rehabilitation.
Both the Philippines and Indonesia expressed their interest in the alternative development program employed widely in Thailand, particularly the Doi Tung Development Project. Representatives from both countries visited the Doi Tung Development Project in Chiang Rai Province after the end of the meeting.
During the meeting many countries, including Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand stated their concerns of the emerging threat of ketamine abuse and trafficking. The representative for Thailand recommended that ketamine be regarded as a narcotic and controlled under the UN convention for mental and nerve agents. It was also proposed that ASEAN members should introduce stricter measures to control ketamine abuse in their own countries.
Also discussed was the importance of involving local communities in drug suppression efforts and the possibility of using herbal remedies to treat drug addicts. All countries restated their goal of making ASEAN a drug-free region by 2015.
His Excellency Police General Chitchai Wannasathit, deputy prime minister and minister of justice, chaired the opening ceremony. Pol. Lt. Gen. Krisna Polananta, secretary-general of the Narcotics Control Board, was the chairman of the meeting and Pol. Lt. Col. Hoang Anh Tuyen, deputy director of the Standing Office of Drugs Control of Vietnam, was nominated as the host of the next meeting.
Lt. Gen. Krisna urged ASEAN member countries to give priority to the control of ketamine under their own legislations. He also emphasised that ASEAN member countries should pay more attention to the monitoring of the new types of drug abuse including pharmaceutical products.
The meeting followed up on the implementation of decisions and recommendations taken according to the 26th ASOD Meeting that took place in Singapore last year.


A thousand people escape blaze at Carrefour

Nopniwat Krailerg and Preeyanoot Jittawong
A fire at Carrefour Store, Chiang Mai caused more than a thousand staff and customers to flee for safety. The fire occurred on August 5. There were no serious injuries, but a number of people sustained cuts and bruises as they ran from the blaze.

Fire engines rush to Carrefour Chiang Mai to extinguish the fire.

Smoke from the fire gathered in the parking lot underneath the store, attracting a crowd of onlookers while Carrefour security guards tried to prevent the press from taking photos of the event. Firefighters from both Chiang Mai Municipality and Fah Ham fire stations arrived at the store, located on the Chiang Mai-Lampang Super Highway, and had the blaze under control in only 10 minutes.
Firefighters believe at present that the blaze was caused by a short circuit in the electrical control room, but police say they are still investigating the cause of the blaze.