NEWS
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Continuous rainfall causes Chiang Mai wall to collapse

Firefighters arrive too late to extinguish pickup blaze

322 flooded villages in Nan Province urgently need help

Fine Arts officers prepare to rebuild pagoda at Phan Own Temple

Mekong cargo ship and ten thousand logs swept away by raging torrent

Chedi Luang Temple’s Buddha image hall being restored

New Samoeng-Mae Hong Son route to be constructed

Chiang Mai provides 24 million baht for online tourism

Chiang Mai Zoo welcomes White Bengal Tiger

Pai organises service training for tourist sector businesses

Chiang Mai transportation is ready for Ratchaphruek 2006

Central Airport Plaza practicing public disaster prevention plan

Wang Bua Baan Waterfall claims another victim

Soldier busted with 160 ya ba pills

Suspects arrested in Grammy representatives’ shooting

Former Chang Puek councilor injured in attempted assassination

Continuous rainfall causes Chiang Mai wall to collapse

Nopniwat Krailerg
Part of the 700-year-old wall at Chang Puek Gate collapsed after the continuous rainfall on the night of August 31. After several hours of rain it was no longer able to support the weight of water-logged bricks. Additionally, a 50 metre stretch of concrete wall on Manee-Noparat Road collapsed and a number of communities experienced flooding.
The wall was built in the King Mang Rai period, sometime after 1276. It was previously known as “Pra Tu Hua Wiang” (City Gate).
Chiang Mai MP Pakorn Buranupakorn and Chiang Mai Mayor Boonlert Buranupakorn inspected the damaged wall. Boonlert revealed that many historical sites in Chiang Mai suffered from cracks, making them susceptible to this kind of collapse. He said that at present the Office of Fine Arts Region 8, Chiang Mai, is in the process of checking and repairing damaged sites. The repair of the wall at Chang Puek gate will begin as soon as possible and the cost is estimated at around 2 million baht.
The 30-year-old city canal concrete wall was also damaged on Manee-Noparat Road. A 50 metre stretch of the wall collapsed, leaving the lane closest to the canal blocked and causing traffic jams. The province has requested 63 million baht to repair the wall as soon as possible, in order to prevent erosion to the Manee-Noparat Road.
The rainfall also caused a number of floods around Chiang Mai. Around Doi Suthep houses were damaged at Baan Chang Khian, Baan Pa Ngae, Baan Sala and the road to Baan Na Huek-Saluang. On the Chiang Mai-Fang Road, in front of Tambon Khee-Lek, a flood prevented access to two of the road’s four lanes. The flood damaged over 100 homes, with water levels rising to 30 cm.
A 40 cm high flood at Sri Ping Muang in Hai Ya sub-district blocked access to the Khuang Singha intersection, causing heavy traffic congestion.
Although the water levels had decreased to normal conditions by September 1 residents were still anxious. Many closely monitored the water level and built sandbag walls to prevent flood damage.


Firefighters arrive too late to extinguish pickup blaze

Saksit Meesubkwang
Firefighters were called to the scene of a burning pick-up truck on the evening of September 1 at Don Chan overpass on Chiang Mai-Lampang Road.

This burning Isuzu on Don Chan overpass became a fiery issue for Chiang Mai’s fire department.

The pick-up truck was spotted ablaze at the side of the road approximately one kilometer from the Nong Hoi intersection. The engine was on fire and it appeared that the driver had fled into the crowd.
Onlookers alerted Chiang Mai Municipality police and fire departments, yet it took officers over half an hour to arrive at the scene. On arrival, officers found that a water valve on the fire engine was broken, rendering it useless.
Firefighters then attempted to bring the blaze under control using five hand-held fire extinguishers. Despite their best efforts the car continued to burn.
Admitting defeat, officers contacted Thasala Tambon Administration (TAO) for assistance. They arrived on the scene within five minutes, bringing with them a fully functioning fire truck, which enabled them to extinguish the fire in less than a minute.
Onlookers criticized Chiang Mai’s fire department, and speculated as to what would happen if they were called to a house fire.


322 flooded villages in Nan Province urgently need help

Staff Reporters
Officials in Nan Province, which suffered heavy flooding recently, surveyed the damaged area and found that 322 villages in 60 sub-districts urgently need help. Although donations of cash and necessities have been continually coming into relief organizations, the devastation caused by the floods are making distribution extremely difficult.
The flash floods that took place in Nan Province caused immense loss of possessions and many people to lose their lives, since the waters rose on August 19. Now that the floods are starting to subside, the province is trying to survey the damaged area. They discovered that 151,294 residents, 43,436 houses have been severely affected by the flooding. 30,170 occupants of 11,796 houses were moved to safer places by rescue teams and two dead persons were found. 46,046 patients have needed treatment for diseases caused by the flooding, which has severely stretched the medical facilities in the province.
Rescue efforts and aid distribution have been made even more difficult by the fact that 191 routes have been disrupted by the destruction of 65 concrete bridges. The rising waters also burst 153 dams and caused damage to 141 weirs, 113 drains and destroyed 2,075 fishery wells.
Farmers have reported the loss of 72,988 winged livestock, 4,176 cows and buffalos and 4,176 pigs, which have either drowned or been swept away by the floodwaters.
78 schools and 61 government offices have been severely damaged or destroyed and 78,956 rai of farmland is under water. 14 houses have been destroyed completely and 715 houses have been damaged. 411 vehicles have been washed away and have disappeared.
The flooding situation is now easing, although water is still covering some low-lying plain areas.


Fine Arts officers prepare to rebuild pagoda at Phan Own Temple

Officers have been collecting valuable artifacts from the ruins of Phan Own Temple’s collapsed pagoda and have designed a new pagoda to replace the old one.

Nopniwat Krailerg
Officers of the Fine Arts Department have started removing artifacts from the Phan Own temple pagoda, which collapsed last week. After the artifacts have been removed a new pagoda will be built to replace the old one. The artifacts themselves will be registered and maintained in Chiang Mai National Museum.
On August 30, officers of the Office of Fine Arts Region 8, Chiang Mai, together with a committee from Phan Own temple, Chiang Mai municipality officers and soldiers from the 7th Infantry Regiment, Kawila Camp, began to remove the rubble from the 500 year-old collapsed pagoda. They also searched for artifacts that were stored in the pagoda.
The initial search has recovered hundreds of artifacts, such as a bronze Buddha from the Chiang Saen age, Singha Nueng Buddha figures and assorted pieces of chinaware.
Trakoon Hanthongkoon, chief of the Office of Fine Arts Region 8 Historical Places Department, said that it would take approximately one week to completely remove the remains of the old pagoda, after which it will be examined by Fine Arts department officers for information about the era in which it was built. The new pagoda is still in the design process and will take approximately six months to build. It is being designed to look exactly like the old pagoda. Architects are basing the blueprints on photographs of the old pagoda.
Officers have made a record and taken photographs of all artifacts recovered from the site of the old pagoda. After they have been registered they will be on display in Chiang Mai National Museum.


Mekong cargo ship and ten thousand logs swept away by raging torrent

Staff Reporter
A Chinese cargo vessel, out of control in the fierce current of the rain-swollen Mekong River, recently collided heavily with a Thai tourist ship near the port of Chiang Saen. The raging torrent was made even more hazardous by around 10,000 logs that were being swept along by the swiftly moving water.
On August 29, heavy and continuous rain during the previous week caused the water-level in the Mekong to rise sharply at Chiang Saen district of Chiang Rai province. The already fast flowing torrent was made even more dangerous by whirlpools and eddies, making navigation of large vessels extremely difficult, especially where the river flows through the Golden Triangle, along the border of Thailand, Myanmar and Laos.
Caught in these hazardous conditions, a Chinese cargo vessel crashed into a Thai passenger ship, which at the time was transferring tourists at the port of Chiang Saen. The tourism ship was damaged but there were no reports of anyone killed or injured.
At the same time that this incident occurred, local boatmen also reported that a large number of big logs were floating downstream in the swift current and two men were seen holding on to the logs. Fishermen braved the hazardous conditions and rescued the two men, and used their long tail boats to pull the logs from the river and hauled them onto the riverbank near the Thai border. Between them, they managed to salvage about 10,000 logs, which will be made into various products and distributed to businessmen for sale.
During the rainy season, villagers around the area will earn extra income from the sale of the products they fashion from the salvaged timber.
Suthep Dechaisri, head officer of the Department of Public Disaster Prevention and Relief, Chiang Rai informed there were several risky points on the slopes of Doi Kew Satai in Mae Chan District. He warned the Akha tribes-people living in three villages to be aware of the danger of mudslides, owing to the fact that their houses were situated on highlands and near high-risk locations.
Warnings were also sent to the villages of Tambon Mae Sai, Tambon Wiang Phang Kham and Tambon Pong Pha of Mae Sai District that they should watch out for potential disasters.


Chedi Luang Temple’s Buddha image hall being restored

Chedi Luang Temple’s Buddha image hall that is being restored.

Nopniwat Krailerg
A 50 million baht restoration of the Buddha image hall at Chedi Luang Temple is expected to be finished in time for HM the King’s 80th birthday. Phra Kru Palad Wichiarn Samathiko, secretary of Chedi Luang Temple revealed that the abbot of the temple, Phra Phuttapoj Waraporn, together with the temple’s committees had agreed to restore the Buddha image hall there. It was hoped that the work would be completed in time for HM the King’s 80th birthday next year and the abbot’s 90 year anniversary.
Around 50 million baht is to be spent on the restoration, which was commenced in 2005; and up to now, around 4 million baht has already been used.
The Buddha image hall is an ancient Lanna place, expressing the beauty and identity of local art and culture. It will be restored to good condition and strengthened where required and made suitable to practice Buddhism activities.
Temple monks would like to see all local Buddhists participating in the restoration; and for them to jointly protect and conserve their own art and culture in the temple. This year the temple has requested 20 million baht of the budget and a further 30 million baht will be asked for next year, coming to a total budget of 50 million baht.
The restoration process will be applied more vigorously this month, after tenders were accepted from specialist constructors at the end of August.
Phra Kru Palad Wichiarn Samathiko added, however, that the budget requested from authority might be not sufficient to complete all the necessary work, so Buddhists could make donations for the restoration of the temple. More information is available by phone number 053-814309, 053-814119, 053-814308 and 09-9999380.


New Samoeng-Mae Hong Son route to be constructed

Staff Reporters
Despite financial concerns, a study has found the proposed construction of a new road between Samoeng and Mae Hong Son to be a worthwhile investment.
At a meeting presided over by Mae Hong Son Governor Direk Konkleep, the results of a study into the economic, engineering and environmental impact of the new route were announced. The proposed new road will be 175 kilometres long and link Samoeng and Mae Hong Son. Epison Co. Ltd., Plan Pro Co. Ltd., Thara Consultant Co. Ltd., and Asia Lab Consultant Co. Ltd. were hired by Mae Hong Son Department of Highways to conduct the impact study. The study estimated the budget for the road building to be around 100,000 million baht.
Direk ordered a review of the studies in order to assess whether the budget could be reduced. He told reporters that he would present the results of the study to Chiang Mai governor before presenting it for approval before parliament. He said that he hope the new road would lessen the time of the journey between Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son.


Chiang Mai provides 24 million baht for online tourism

Staff Reporter
The College of Arts, Media and Technology, Chiang Mai University, has been granted a budget of 24 million baht with which to establish and run an e-tourism and e-handicrafts (2Es) program. The aim of the program is to enable the tourism and handicrafts industries in the eight northern provinces to reach out to new markets and potential customers via the internet.
Initially the funds will be used to set up a training program to teach participants the theoretical and practical basics of communications technology. Applicants who pass the training program will then spend an additional 2 months being trained on how to apply their knowledge to tourism and handicrafts industries, working with leading companies of the two sectors. The aim of the training program is to develop IT professionals who will have the skills and knowledge to develop the region’s tourism and handicraft sectors into world-class industries operating on a global scale.
The College of Arts, Media and Technology will cooperate with www.Thaicom.com and www.ThaiTradePoint.com in developing export markets for Thai handicrafts, with the new online business “Last Minute Sales - Thailand.”
“Last Minute Sales - Thailand” will also enable hotels, resorts, and guest houses to contact potential customers in order to fill vacant rooms during low season. New businesses will also be able to promote themselves on a global scale.
Businesses interested in services offered by “Last Minute Sales - Thailand”, which include website design and online promotion, can do so for a minimal service charge. Online sales officers of “Last Minute Sales - Thailand” have claimed that they can boost Thailand’s global competitiveness by bringing local businesses to the attention of world-wide customers.
Tourism business owners or people who are interested can ask for more information at the public relations department of Last Minute Sales - Thailand program, College of Arts, Media and Technology, Chiang Mai University, tel. 0-1287-4276, 0-6913-6888 or e-mail: [email protected] tradepoint.com, lastminute [email protected]


Chiang Mai Zoo welcomes White Bengal Tiger

Saksit Meesubkwang
Chalakka, a 6 year-old male White Bengal Tiger made his first appearance at Chiang Mai Zoo on August 29. He had come from Khao Kheow Open Zoo in Chonburi as part of a wildlife conservation and breeding project.

Chalakka, a 6 year-old male White Bengal Tiger is a new member of Chiang Mai Zoo.

Chalakka was received by Thanaphat Pongpamorn, director of Chiang Mai Zoo, who held a welcoming ceremony attended by the media. Chiang Mai Zoo already has 2 female White Bengal Tigers, named Kheaw Muk and Kheaw Kaew who have been in residence at the zoo since 2005. Both female White Bengal Tigers have achieved breeding age and it is hoped that if Chalakka mates with them it will be beneficial to White Bengal Tiger breeding as they are considered one of the world’s rarest animals.
White Bengal Tigers live in India and have white fur on their body with black stripes and blue eyes. Their preferred habitat is jungle or dense bush and they are good swimmers, but like lions, are not good at climbing trees. They are meat-eaters and usually hunt at night time. They reach maturity at around 3-4 years of age and they can breed throughout the year. The gestation period for a female tiger is between 98-110 days and they usually produce 2-4 offspring.
They have been hunted almost to extinction and are rarely seen in their natural habitat. They were hunted so severely because many people, especially the Chinese, will pay large sums of money for their flesh and other body parts, which they mistakenly believe have curative powers or even possess aphrodisiac qualities. Their skin is also in great demand and is made into handbags and other ornaments.


Pai organises service training for tourist sector businesses

Staff Reporters
The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), in cooperation with business owners in Pai district, organised a service and welcome training program for businesses operating in the tourist sector. The program was organised in the hope of attracting tourists back to the district following a mudslide in 2005.
The training program was held at Baan Krathing, Wiangthai sub-district in Mae Hong Son and attended by 300 Pai business owners. Aphichat Damdee, television producer and lecturer at the program, said that Pai had suffered a downfall in tourist numbers following the mudslide in 2005, which damaged houses and tourist attractions. The TAT said that it hoped the training program would help entice tourists back to Pai.


Chiang Mai transportation is ready for Ratchaphruek 2006

Red mini buses will be provided for the International Horticultural Exposition Ratchaphruek 2006.

Preeyanoot Jittawong
The head of the Office of Land Transport recently announced his confidence in the plans being put in place ahead of the forthcoming Ratchaphruek 2006. Chiang Mai Tourism Business Association, Provincial Police Bureau Region 5 and the Office of Land Transport, Chiang Mai are jointly preparing to welcome visitors during Ratchaphruek 2006 and ensure that transportation and sufficient accommodation are provided.
Adisak Srisanphakit, director general of Department of Agriculture said that in preparation for the International Horticultural Exposition Ratchaphruek 2006, which will start in 10 weeks time, the Office of Land Transport and Provincial Police Bureau Region 5 have devised plans to provide 3 forms of transportation to facilitate visitors traveling to the expo. There will be 3 “Park and Ride” parking areas, located at the 700 Year Anniversary Stadium, the Winter Festival place and Chiang Mai City Hall; and there will be 30 buses supplied by Chiang Mai Mass Transit Authority, providing a free service throughout the duration of the exposition.
There will also be 20 mini red-buses operating from each of the following locations: From Tesco Lotus, Hang Dong Branch and Central Airport Plaza Chiang Mai department store to the location of the International Horticultural Exposition, for a fare of only 20 baht; from Tesco Lotus, Kham Thiang Branch, Carrefour and Big C to the exposition, for a fare of only 30 baht.
Chiang Mai Municipality has also added two further routes, operating minibuses with a 15 baht service charge along the way. The designated routes are from the Arcade Bus Terminal, running along Thapae Road calling at Chiang Mai International Airport and terminating at the International Horticultural Exposition; the second route starts at the Railway Station, along Thapae Road, calling at Maharaj Nakhon Chiang Mai Hospital, and then proceeding along the Irrigation Canal to the International Horticultural Exposition.
On arrival at the exposition, visitors who pass the entrance to the 470 rai exhibition ground can choose to walk around the exposition or ride on the trams provided to transport people around the showground. There will be 15 of these vehicles and each tram can carry 60 passengers with a service charge of 10 baht for children and 30 baht for adults.
To ensure that there is sufficient accommodation, Chiang Mai Tourism Business Association in cooperation with North-Chiang Mai University has created a website www.cnxtourism.com to gather information on every kind of available accommodation in 600 places (approximately 25,000 rooms). Visitors can log on to this website and ask for information and make a reservation online or access www.royalfloraexpo.com to see details of the exposition.
Since the websites have been open, they have received more than 1,000 hits per day from both Thai and foreign tourists. Visitors who plan to attend the exposition are strongly advised plan their trip well in advance and make reservations as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.


Central Airport Plaza practicing public disaster prevention plan

Public disaster exercises are practiced inside the store.

Staff Reporters
Chiang Mai Department of Public Disaster Prevention recently organized fire-drills and other emergency exercises to show people what to do in unexpected circumstances. These emergency exercises were held in the motorcycle parking area of Central Airport Plaza, in association with trading partners like Robinson, Top Supermarket and Major Cineplex, to train staff in the correct procedures in case of fire or other unexpected emergency situations.
Orachorn Chanwiwattana, general manager of Central Airport Plaza said that training plaza staff was extremely important so that they knew what to do in case of fire or other unexpected emergencies. The Plaza had a duty to train its staff to be able to assist its customers to evacuate the building swiftly and safely and prevent panic by remaining calm and helpful should an emergency situation arise. This applied to the staff of cinemas and supermarkets and any venue where large numbers of people gather in an enclosed space.

Rescuing victims from a tall building.

Members of the public were invited both to watch and join in the demonstrations of the fire drills and practice the emergency procedures. Orachorn said that after the training, she was confident the staff was ready and knew what to do in the face of unexpected events. They were also able to show customers that the plaza would be able to assure their safety if unexpected events occurred in reality.
The GM concluded by thanking the members of the public that watched and participated in the demonstration, the fire fighters and everyone concerned, including Phuping Police Station, BIG C, Central Department Store, Department of Public Disaster Prevention and Relief of Chiang Mai, Chiang Mai Municipality, Chiang Mai Gate Fire Station, Lanna Hospital, Wing 41 and Border Patrol Police 33.


Wang Bua Baan Waterfall claims another victim

Staff Reporters
A weekend visit by a group of students to Wang Bua Baan Waterfall on Doi Suthep turned into a tragedy when one young man drowned there. One of the students left the group to swim alone at the waterfall. However, recent rains had swollen the stream and the strong current swept him into a deep whirlpool, from which he was unable to swim clear.
A rescue team was called from Phuping Police station, but although they managed to recover the student’s body and apply resuscitation, they were too late to save the young man.
Police interviewed the students and Suriyapong Sinjai, a friend of the deceased disclosed that he had tried to reach his friend’s hand but the strong current swept the body into a 3-meter deep whirlpool, where he disappeared under the surface.
The police continued their enquiries and the students admitted they had been drinking alcohol before the tragedy took place on August 29. The dead student was known as Aroonrit Pratheoungsawat, 18. He studied at Technology Asia School.
The police came to the likely conclusion that Aroonrit, his sense of danger diminished by consuming too much alcohol, went swimming in the stream and the strong current immediately caused him to be swept into deeper water from which he was unable to escape.
Wang Bua Baan Waterfall attracts many visitors throughout the year. The waterfall cascades from a high cliff and during the rainy season, becomes even more spectacular, drawing increased numbers of visitors to enjoy the spectacle. Unfortunately, each year several of these visitors lose their lives when they rather foolishly attempt to swim in the dangerous waters.


Soldier busted with 160 ya ba pills

Staff Reporters
Police officers arrested a soldier and the driver of the car he was traveling in after discovering 160 ya ba pills in his luggage. The arrest took place after police pulled over a bronze Toyota at a checkpoint in front of Mae Ma sentry box, Tambon Sri Don Moon, Chiang Saen.
Once stopped, the car’s passenger produced identification revealing himself to be Private Withaya Mingkhwan, in hope of avoiding the search. Private Withaya, 21, is a soldier of the 2nd Infantry Battalion Division, 7th Infantry Regiment, Chiang Dao. On searching the car police found 160 ya ba pills concealed in the luggage. Private Withaya and the driver, Wasut Kheereewong, 23, were arrested and taken to Chiang Saen police station.
During the subsequent interrogation, Private Withaya confessed that they were hired by a financial backer in Chiang Rai and given 6,000 baht to buy the ya ba pills from a group based in Mae Sai. They were then to deliver the ya ba to Chiang Rai where it would be collected and distributed to customers.


Suspects arrested in Grammy representatives’ shooting

Saksit Meesubkwang
Two suspects in the case of the shooting of two GMM Grammy Co. Ltd. representatives have been arrested, while two others managed to escape. As reported in last week’s Chiangmai Mail police searched several houses in Mae Rim and Saraphi districts. The searches produced shotguns, pistols and ammunition.
The arrests followed the shooting on August 17 of two GMM Grammy Co. Ltd. representatives as they were leaving Chang Puek police station. Earlier that day the Grammy representatives, together with Pol. Lt. Col. Narueban Jittayanun, had searched a number of restaurants at the Im-Boon Market behind Lotus Khamthiang branch. Three restaurant owners were arrested for owning unlicensed karaoke boxes on which they played pirated Grammy music CDs. Police took the restaurant owners to Chang Puek police station to be charged. Just as the record company representatives had left the police station they were shot in their car. Both were admitted to hospital and treated for wounds.
During the investigation police learned that individuals with licenses to set up karaoke boxes were setting up more than their allocated amount. The boxes they set up over their quota were supplied with fake authorisation stickers and pirated music. Police suspect the restaurant owners, disgruntled over their arrests, arranged the shooting.
Following the searches in Mae Rim and Saraphi, police arrested Sasithorn Fuangfukitjakarn and Thongdee Ngaotu. Police are also searching for Somdej Ngaojin and Wirat Thongborisut in connection with the shooting, but so far the pair have managed to evade arrest. A press conference following the arrests was held on August 31 presided over by Pol. Lt. Gen. Panupong Singhara Na Ayuthaya, commissioner of Provincial Police Region 5, and Pol. Maj. Gen. Jiruj Promobol, Chiang Mai Provincial Police commander.
At the press conference Panupong said that music piracy was a never-ending problem and that officers had been assigned to investigate gangs responsible.


Former Chang Puek councilor injured in attempted assassination

Saksit Meesubkwang
On September 2 a bomb exploded under the pick-up truck of Pratheep Kaewsuwan, or “Sia Pae”, former municipal councilor from Chang Puek sub-district, Chiang Mai. Pratheep suffered injuries to his leg. His poodle, which was with him at the time, was also injured in the blast.

Pol. Lt. Gen. Panupong Singhara Na Ayuthaya, commissioner of Provincial Police Bureau Region 5, together with forensic police officers inspect the crime scene.
Police officers from Chang Puek police station arrived on the scene to find the wounded Pratheep and two damaged vehicles. The initial investigation by forensic officers of Chiang Mai provincial police and the patrol police discovered that a quantity of M26 explosive had been hidden under the front right wheel of Pratheep’s car. The bomb had been set to detonate when the car was moved.
Pratheep was the municipal councilor of Tambon Chang Puek sub-district until he was compelled to resign last year. Recently he has been awarded a contract to deal with garbage incineration by Chiang Mai municipality. He has also expressed an interest in running in the 2007 elections. It’s believed that the assassination attempt is linked to Pratheep’s business and political activities.
Pol. Lt. Gen. Panupong Singhara Na Ayuthaya, commissioner of Provincial Police Bureau Region 5, said that he believed the bomb was planted by a professional assassin with the aim of killing Pratheep and his family. Panupong went on to say that he had ordered officers to investigate Pratheep’s political and business rivals, with the hope of bringing the perpetrators to justice.