Vol. V No. 34 - Saturday August 19, - August 25, 2006
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by Saichon Paewsoongnern
 

 


NEWS
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Ten thousand animals freed in Mother’s Day merit-making ceremony for HM the Queen

Dutch woman disappears on rafting trip

Chiangmai Mail celebrates 200th edition

193 million baht budget approved for war on drugs

Change to Thailand’s mobile telephone numbers becomes effective September 1

400 deaf children visit pandas on Chuang Chuang’s birthday

Night Safari announces new births

Burmese authorities permit teak imports

Border trade lively at Mae Hong Son

Gray wolf returned to night safari after being treated for pneumonia

Chiang Mai: a wonderful city beset with problems

Young people receive AIDS knowledge training

Pol. Lt. Gen. Wutti Withitanon to take over top spot at Provincial Police Bureau Region 5

Flooded roads to be repaired and bridges to be widened

One hundred thousand speed pills discovered in Mae Sai

Mother expresses fears over daughter’s death

Bikes torched on Kamphaeng Din Road

Gang dealing in protected bird species killed

Illegal porn CDs confiscated in Mae Sai

Youth gang commits ten robberies in two days

Drug dealer killed in shootout with police

Ten thousand animals freed in Mother’s Day merit-making ceremony for HM the Queen

Preeyanoot Jittawong
Chiang Mai Province celebrated Mother’s Day with a merit making ceremony that saw 10,000 animals being freed. The animals included different breeds of cows, but mostly birds and fish. The ceremony, which took place at Thapae Gate, was to make merit for HM the King’s 60th anniversary of his ascension to the throne and to honour HM the Queen on her 74th birthday.
Chiang Mai Governor Suwat Tantipat led Chiang Mai residents and government officials to jointly hold religious ceremonies and presented breakfast for 75 monks at Thapae Gate. Many of the participants in the ceremonies wore blue shirts, the symbolic colour of HM the Queen.
After finishing the religious ceremonies and presenting supplies to 99 monks from 9 temples, all attendants jointly released 10,000 animals. Young people promised to abstain from alcohol and cigarettes to make merit from HM the Queen. During the afternoon residents of several areas of Chiang Mai joined together to clean their communities.
At night, Chiang Mai Mayor Boonlert Buranupakorn joined administrators of Chiang Mai municipality and residents of 82 communities in lighting candles to honour HM the Queen. Despite the rain, many people attended Chiang Mai’s candle lighting activity, which was also held in provinces across the country.


Dutch woman disappears on rafting trip

Body recovered next day

Khajohn Boonphat
Susan van Aremiron, a Dutch woman on her honeymoon in Mae Hong Son, disappeared on August 13 when her raft overturned during a rafting trip down the Pai River. The other occupants of the raft managed to swim to safety but Van Aremiron, 21, disappeared.

Border patrol officers begin their search for the missing tourist. Her body was found at 3 p.m. August 14.

The accident occurred on August 13 near Hin Mong Islet. Twenty two Dutch tourists had taken the rafting trip with Pai Adventure Tour Company.
At first, rescuers could only find her life vest and hat, but a day later they found her body near the Pang Noo Bridge at Tambon Pang Moo, 15 kilometers from where the inflatable raft capsized. She had been missing for 27 hours.
The trip started in Baan Pang Noo, Mae Hong Son, and was to continue 50 kilometres downstream before returning to Mae Hong Son. Pol. Lt. Col. Surajai Rungruang, superintendent of the Mae Hong Son provincial tourist police, was notified of the accident and coordinated the search party.
On August 14 Border Patrol Police 336 of Baan Pang Moo, together with tourist police and the Muang police station, took 30 officers and 5 inflatable rafts to search for Van Aremiron. Heavy rain hampered the search.
Tourist police are investigating why Van Aremiron’s life jacket was not securely attached to her body. If it is discovered that the life jacket was substandard then the tour company may be held liable. Tourist Police also stressed the importance for people taking rafting trips to check their safety equipment.
Van Aremiron’s body was sent to Sri Sangwan Hospital, Mae Hong Son, before being sent back to her home country.


Chiangmai Mail celebrates 200th edition

We don’t pop our cork for just anyone. Thanks Chiang Mai for your support as we celebrate the 200th edition of the Chiangmai Mail. Front row from left: Seksak (Aye), Chalita (Pook), Thanapat (Nan). Second row: Nopniwat (Jae), Muanfan (Fun), Murray Dickson (Muzza), Wilaiporn (Daw), Siriporn (Mai), Preeyanoot (New). Back Row: Saksit (Wang), Prasong (Ter), Kampan (Mae Noi), Suthasinee (P’Jim).


193 million baht budget approved for war on drugs

Staff Reporters
The Drug Combating Centre authorised a 193 million baht budget for local administration organisations to spend on drug suppression efforts in 2007. The budget was announced at a conference held on August 7 between various local administration organisations concerned with the battle to stem the drug trade.
The conference was attended by 650 representatives from the 17 northern provinces and presided over by Somchai Soonthornwat, deputy interior minister.
In addition to the announcement of the budget, the attendees also shared information on drug suppression efforts. Somchai talked about the increasingly varied methods of drug smuggling, which recently have included transporting drugs by motorbike, on tour buses, in the rectum and even hiding the drugs on children.
The conference also heard a report on the conclusion of the 5th period of the drug suppression effort. The report stated that 559 drug dealers and 9758 drug users had been arrested, while 2194 offenders had outstanding arrest warrants and 804 offenders had their possessions confiscated.
The 193 million baht budget will be shared between the Drug Combating Centre and the Decentralisation to Local Government Committee (DLOC).
DLOC, as an organisation with close links to local communities, will cooperate with the Drug Combating Centre to provide treatment and counselling for drug users and train them in legitimate occupations.


Change to Thailand’s mobile telephone numbers becomes effective September 1

From the Thai National News Bureau Public Relations Department: Thailand will change from a 9-digit to 10-digit mobile telephone system on September 1.
Setthaporn Khusripithak, a member of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) said the change, approved by the telecoms regulator, was in response to the rapid expansion of the use of mobile telephones.
With the 10-digit system, the country will have enough mobile telephone numbers for the next 30 years, Mr. Setthaporn said.#
Beginning September 1, users of all mobile telephone systems will have to dial the prefix 08, he said.
For example: the number 01 123 4567 will change to: 08 1123 4567; the number 09 123 4567 will be: 08 9123 4567. (Tip: a new mobile number will always start with 08 followed by 2 groups of 4 digits.)


400 deaf children visit pandas on Chuang Chuang’s birthday

The two pandas enjoy Chuang Chuang’s cake.

Saksit Meesubkwang
Chiang Mai Zoo gave 400 deaf students of Anusarn Soonthorn School, Chiang Mai, a free visit to the zoo’s two pandas on the occasion of Chuang Chuang’s sixth birthday.
Leader of the panda display research project, Prasert Boontrakulphuntawee, said that the male panda, Chuang-Chuang, had his sixth birthday on August 6. The visit was organised as a gift from the pandas to the community of Chiang Mai.
During the visit the students helped to make a giant fruit and carrot cake for the two pandas to eat. As the pandas enjoyed their cake the children sang Chuang-Chuang a birthday song.


Night Safari announces new births

Staff Reporters
Supoj Methapiwat, director of the animal display department at the Chiang Mai Night Safari, recently announced the births of two black leopards and a hyena. The new born animals are healthy and being monitored closely.
“Joey”, a three year old black leopard, gave birth to two healthy female leopards, bringing the total number of leopards in the night safari to five. The original leopards in the night safari included two males and a female. Additionally, a hyena cub was born last week. None of the new-born animals have yet been named.
Responding to recent criticism over the care of animals in the night safari, Supoj pointed out the several successful births that have occurred since the safari opened as evidence of the high standards of care given to the animals.


Burmese authorities permit teak imports

Saksit Meesubkwang
Head officer of Mae Sai custom house, Choochai Udompode, recently revealed that Burmese customs officials have allowed a Thai company, Siwa Co. Ltd., to import Burmese teak into Thailand. Siwa Co. Ltd. has already imported 270 teak logs, valued at 40 million baht, into Thailand.

The first set of teak imported from Burma at Siwa Company’s store in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai.

The teak was brought into Thailand at the Baan San Pak Hee border crossing, Mae Sai.
Choochai went on to say that a recent reshuffle of customs personnel at Tachilek, Burma led to new, stricter rules regarding Burmese exports. The new rules meant that taxes collected on imports at Mae Sai dropped dramatically, and Thai exports into Burma decreased from 155 million baht to 130 million baht. Additionally Burmese authorities had been placing restrictions on the kind of vehicles that they allowed to travel across the Baan San Pak Hee bridge, usually only allowing pick-ups transporting fruit and vegetables to cross. Following a meeting between Mae Sai customs officials and their Burmese counterparts, the officers at Tachilek agreed to consider allowing greater cross-border trade. This seems to have resulted in the decision to allow wood exports from Burma.
Burma has a large wood industry and exports around half a million cubic metres of teak to 167 countries around the world. It is believed that if Chiang Rai province lifts restrictions on legal imports of teak the economy of the area will significantly improve.


Border trade lively at Mae Hong Son

All other border trade routes closed

Border trade at Mae Hong Son has become lively after the Burmese military closed all other border trade routes.

Khajohn Boonpath
Cross-border trade at Baan Huay Phueng, Mae Hong Son, has risen dramatically after the Burmese military closed all other border trade routes.
Buncha Kaewdaeng, head of Mae Hong Son customs house, announced recently that Burmese authorities had closed all border crossing points with the exception of Baan Huay Phueng, which has been granted temporary trading rights.
Olaweng Srihiran, assistant to the Mae Hong Son Provincial Commerce Head Officer, revealed that since the border closure, Mae Hong Son province had collected almost 230 million baht in import taxes and over 363 million baht in export taxes between January and July 2006.
At the end of July, 75 Japanese cars were exported to Burma through Baan Huay Phueng, for a car factory in Tong Yee owned by Maj. Gen. Tura Suayman. Additionally, merchants from Mae Sod district, Tak, are now sending their products into Burma via Baan Huay Phueng.
Products exported to Burma include cows, buffalos, dried chili, garlic and wood, while imported products include vegetable oil, slippers, soft drinks, whiskey, used clothes and second-hand cars.
Cross border traffic at Baan Huay Phueng was especially busy on August 10 when Burmese parents entered Thailand to join their children for Mother’s Day celebrations.


Gray wolf returned to night safari after being treated for pneumonia

Staff Reporters
A Canadian gray wolf that was captured on August 8th after escaping from the night safari over a month ago, has returned to the zoo. Following the wolf’s recapture last week, night safari officials took it to the veterinary hospital at Chiang Mai University, where it was treated for pneumonia, high fever and exhaustion. The following day vets allowed it to return to the zoo.
Supoj Methapiwat, director of the animal display department of the night safari, announced that the wolf, named “Jao-Long”, had made an almost full recovery and received frequent check-ups from staff at the university’s veterinary hospital.
Visitors to the zoo will not be allowed to disturb Jao-Long until he is fully recovered.


Chiang Mai: a wonderful city beset with problems

Saksit Meesubkwang
Chiang Mai is one of Thailand’s most famous provinces and a favorite for tourists, both Thai and foreign alike. The city boasts numerous examples of its 700 year history, including art, architecture, temples and many sites of cultural importance.

A drug dealing gang is put on display with their wares.

The government has recently invested large sums of money into several projects, including the Chiang Mai Night Safari, the International Horticulture Exposition, the International Convention Hall and improvements to the International Airport. The city is also a centre of learning, with eight universities in both the private and public sectors.
Despite these many attractions Chiang Mai also has its share of problems. Last year large scale floods struck the city no less than four times. With smaller floods hitting the city again at the beginning of August, many residents fear that this year will see a repeat of last year’s devastation before the rainy season is over. Although hundreds of millions of baht have been spent on trying to solve the flooding problem, it still remains unresolved. Ironically, when the rainy season ends, the droughts begin, and many Chiang Mai residents see their water sources dry up.

Flooding is chronic in Chiang Mai.

Air pollution is another problem that affects Chiang Mai. Many residents suffer from respiratory problems caused by the increasing number of vehicles, the burning of woodland areas and domestic items and cooking, all of which cause smoke. The US Consul to Chiang Mai even receives a special allowance due to the risk posed by dust and smoke. Typically, the relevant branches of local government have been slow to address this problem.
On top of the environmental problems, Chiang Mai also faces a number of social problems. Chiang Mai has the largest proportion of drinkers in Thailand and sees the highest alcohol sales. Gangs of youths fight amongst themselves and thieves snatch handbags from both residents and tourists. There are also a number of organised criminal gangs operating in Chiang Mai. These gangs involve themselves in many activities, including drug dealing and smuggling, counterfeiting credit cards, human trafficking and money laundering. Although police have been able to arrest several such gangs, many others still remain active.
These problems are not impossible to solve. All that is required is the political will from the relevant organisations: the police, the army and the various branches of local government. Only then will Chiang Mai live up to its true potential.


Young people receive AIDS knowledge training

Preeyanoot Jittawong
550 secondary school students from schools in the Chiang Mai municipality area attended a training course aimed at giving them knowledge about AIDS. The course was organised by the Chiang Mai Disease Control Department and was held from August 8 to 10.

550 secondary school students from schools in the Chiang Mai municipality participate in the AIDS awareness training course.

Pannee Manakul, head officer of the Chiang Mai Disease Control Department, said that the course was held in order to give young people facts about what causes HIV and AIDS, and how to minimise the risk of catching them. He went on to say that it was especially important to educate young people as to the risks of AIDS as this group was more prone to engage in high-risk behaviour that might lead to them contracting the disease. AIDS researchers have recently discovered that the AIDS infection rate in youths aged under 15 is increasing.
Lectures on AIDS were given by staff from the M Plus Health Centre. Students from Wat Tasatoi, Wat Sri Don Chai and Wat Sri Ping Muang schools took part in the course.


Pol. Lt. Gen. Wutti Withitanon to take over top spot at Provincial Police Bureau Region 5

Pol. Lt. Gen. Panupong Singhara Na Ayuthaya promoted to assistant commissioner of the Royal Thai Police

Nopniwat Krailerg
Pol. Lt. Gen. Panupong Singhara Na Ayuthaya, formerly commissioner of Provincial Police Bureau Region 5, has received a promotion to the position of assistant commissioner-general of the Royal Thai Police.

Pol. Lt. Gen. Wutti Withitanon who will take the position of the commissioner of Provincial Police Bureau Region 5.

Pol. Gen. Chitchai Wannasathit, acting deputy prime minister and minister of justice, acting in his role as president of the police officers’ committee, made the formal announcement. The committee of the Royal Thai Police is responsible for arranging the promotion of police officers.
Pol. Lt. Gen. Wutti Withitanon was transferred from the Commissioner-General’s Office to take over as new commander of Provincial Police Bureau Region 5. Provincial Police Bureau Region 5 is responsible for the 8 upper Northern provinces of Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Lamphun, Lampang, Phrae, Nan, Phayao, and Mae Hong Son.
Pol. Lt. Gen. Wutti, formally second in command of Provincial Police Bureau Region 5, has always been based in the Northern Region. He has a good track record for suppressing illegal drugs, stemming human trafficking and crime detection. He has been promoted to continue Pol. Lt. Gen. Panupong’s good work. It is expected that Pol. Lt. Gen. Wutti will take over the position in October.


Flooded roads to be repaired and bridges to be widened

In the long term, the Nakorn Ping bridge will be widened and strengthened.

Nopniwat Krailerg
Following a survey of areas damaged by flooding this year, Chiang Mai Mayor Boonlert Buranupakorn revealed that a budget has been requested from acting Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in order to deal with the problem permanently. About 10 million baht will be used to repair damaged roads. In the long term, the Nakorn Ping and Meng Rai bridges will be widened and strengthened.
The two bridges will be widened to accommodate four traffic lanes. In order to do this it will be necessary to remove the old bridges and construct new ones in their place. Additionally, a two kilometre stretch of Padad Road, which runs along the riverbank in Pa Phrao Nok, is to be raised a metre. It is hoped that this will act as a barrier against further flooding.
Additional flood prevention plans include dredging the Ping River at the offices of Provincial Police Bureau 5 and widening waterways at seven other risk points. Chiang Mai municipality has also applied for a 53 million baht fund from the Government Lottery Office to help residents affected by last year’s floods.


One hundred thousand speed pills discovered in Mae Sai

Saksit Meesubkwang
On August 9, Doi Thong Force 36, in cooperation with northern region DEA officers, received information that a Burmese drug smuggling gang had hidden 100,000 ya ba pills in a Mae Sai graveyard, where a customer from Bangkok would then pick them up.

Senior police officers check the 100,000 ya ba pills.

After retrieving the pills, which were packed in plastic packs and hidden in thick grass, the officers, posing as drug dealers, contacted the customer in Bangkok. On August 11 police arrested Urairak Wongjaruworawit outside an apartment in Bangkok where she had come to receive the ya ba. Following the arrest she was sent to northern Thailand and charged with possession of a controlled substance with intent to supply.
Urairak has been arrested twice before in connection with drugs offences and is believed to work in cooperation with Thai and Burmese gangs based in Bangkok and Mae Sai. Police officers are now following up information regarding the other gang members.

Officers take the suspect to a press conference.


Mother expresses fears over daughter’s death

Staff Reporters
Somporn Wongkhom, mother of car crash victim Thasanee Wongkhom, said she fears that her daughter’s death may not have been an accident. Thasanee, 40, died in a hit-and-run car crash in mid-July.
Somporn met with Pol. Lt. Gen. Panupong Singhara Na Ayuthaya, commissioner of Provincial Police Bureau Region 5, on August 9. She said that her daughter had been in the process of gathering information about drug gangs operating in Chiang Mai’s Mae Wang district. Somporn believes that her daughter was murdered to prevent her from revealing information she had discovered on the activities of these gangs.
The crash occurred whilst she was riding her motorbike to visit her mother.
Before her death in the crash, someone had set Thasanee’s Baan Huay Niam, Mae Wang house on fire.
Commissioner Panupong said that he would assign officers to investigate the death. He also added that he would follow up on lists of alleged drug dealers that Thasanee had supplied to the police.


Bikes torched on Kamphaeng Din Road

Police examine the remains of the motorbikes.

Nopniwat Krailerg
In a case that the police are treating with suspicion, seven motorbikes parked outside Nantawaree Residence on Kamphaeng Din Road Soi 3 were burnt on Monday night. Of the seven motorbikes five were totally destroyed, leaving only the frames intact. Two other bikes were partly burnt.
Pol. Capt. Somsak Nanthong, duty captain of muang Chiang Mai police station, received reports of the blaze and went to the scene along with firefighting crews. Police found a benzene stain at the scene that led them to suspect arson.
Pakphum Piamgrap, 22, lives in Nantawaree Residence and owned one of the damaged bikes. He said he was resting in his room when he heard shouts alerting people to the fire. He awoke his friends who helped to extinguish the fire and call the police and fire department.
He went on to say that although he personally had no enemies, an enemy of one of the other motorbike owners might have started the blaze. Police are carrying out further investigations.


Gang dealing in protected bird species killed

Pol. Lt. Gen. Panupong Singhara Na Ayuthaya, the commissioner of Provincial Police Bureau Region 5, shows evidence and pictures of the two victims.

Saksit Meesubkwang
A Hmong hill tribesman has been arrested for the murder of a husband and wife who bought and sold protected bird species. Two further Hmong suspects in the murder case have so far managed to avoid police detection.
Chiang Mai residents Somsak Saeng-ngam and Busakorn Sawetsila drove their black Honda to Phayao province on July 30 to buy protected birds from the three suspects. The couple subsequently disappeared until Phayao police discovered their bodies and informed their counterparts in Chiang Mai.

A policeman takes the young offender to a press conference.

On investigating the deaths, Chiang Mai police discovered that the couple had business dealings with the three suspects, Aipan Saesong, 19, Anurak Saehue, 20 and a 16 year-old youth whose name has not been disclosed. The 16 year-old has been arrested while his two companions remain on the run.
The suspect revealed that he and his two friends had sold protected birds to the couple for a long period of time, but were frequently cheated by them. He said that they had decided to kill the couple and, at the final appointment, had knifed and shot them. After they had killed them the group stole 30,000 baht together with cell phones and other items.
The three suspects have been jointly charged with first degree murder and theft.


Illegal porn CDs confiscated in Mae Sai

Staff Reporters
Customs officers at Mae Sai confiscated several thousand CDs with a street value of almost one million baht. The CDs were mostly pirated and pornographic movies.
Choochai Udompode, head officer of Mae Sai customs house, along with the deputy director of the Customs Department, inspected the evidence, which was detected at Mae Sai Post Office.
The haul consisted of 2,530 Thai and foreign copied movies and 1,063 pornographic CDs. Gangs operating across the border allegedly manufactured the CDs in Burma before smuggling them into Thailand. The CDs were then to be posted to central Thailand, before being distributed throughout the country.
Choochai said that the manufacture and sale of illegal CDs is increasing.


Youth gang commits ten robberies in two days

Nopniwat Krailerg
Police officers arrested fifteen members of a gang calling themselves the “Saming Phraram Gang” on August 12 in Chiang Mai’s Muang district. The gang was made up largely of teenagers aged between 14 to 17, with the exception of the leader, Somkid Surat, aged 26.
The gang had committed ten robberies over the course of two days. They targeted university students and stole possessions including cell phones, cameras and motorcycles. The gang would ride motorbikes along various roads in Muang Chiang Mai. On finding a victim riding alone, they would follow the bike and kick it so the rider fell down. They would then attack the victim before stealing their possessions, including the motorbike. They sold these items and bought ya ba with the proceeds.
Chiang Mai Provincial Police deputy commander, Pol. Col. Chamnan Ruadreuw, revealed that the police, acting on information, arrested the entire gang at a hotel in the Santiham area, Tambon Chang Puek. They were charged with theft and receiving stolen goods.


Drug dealer killed in shootout with police

Staff Reporters
Police shot and killed drug dealer Ato Sermue, 43, of Mae Chan district, Chiang Rai, following a shootout with officers posing as potential customers.
On August 8, Mae Chan police station received information that Ato had been killed. He had been delivering ya ba to undercover police when, on learning he was about to be arrested, he pulled a gun and began to fire upon the police. The officers returned fire, hitting Ato, who died at the scene.
Following the shootout police retrieved a sack containing 2,000 ya ba pills, a bag of heroin and a handgun. Ato, also known as “Ato Three years”, was believed to be the head of a drug dealing gang operating along the Thai-Burmese border in Chiang Rai. The gang is believed to deliver ya ba, both wholesale and retail, to customers in Baan Pha Mee, Tambon Wiang Phang Kham in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai.



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