NEWS
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

18 tourists injured in tour bus crash

Locals protest against high-rise building projects

Cheers turn to screams at Chinese New Year celebrations

Warning from Military Commander “they will be punished”

Drug suppression operation destroys 4 rai of opium poppy fields

American tourist arrested for possession of marijuana

US fugitive busted in Nan

Hollywood star on his way to Chiang Mai

A New World Record?

18 tourists injured in tour bus crash

Group was returning to Chiang Mai from a day at an elephant camp

On lookers and rescue teams at the scene of the road carnage.

Staff reporters
A tour bus loaded with Polish tourists on their way to Chiang Mai collided with a pick-up truck on the Mae Ping-Sa Moeng Road. The driver of the pick-up truck, Mr. Eed Pongsuk died while being transported to Nakorn Ping Hospital. A passenger in his vehicle is still recovering from his injuries.
The accident occurred on February 21 when the tour bus, operated by M. Manja Travel Company was returning from a visit to the Mae Sa Elephant Camp in Mae Rim District.
The group of tourists had begun their bus tour of Thailand in Pattaya and was traveling through Northern Thailand when the collision occurred.
Police and local residents spent more than three hours providing rescue and first aid treatment to the injured.
According to initial reports the bus driver was unfamiliar with the roads and encountered the pick-up truck traveling at a high rate of speed.


Locals protest against high-rise building projects

Residents of the Wat U-mong community protest against the high-rise building projects.

By Saksit Meesubkwang
Representatives of Wat U-mong community, located behind Chiang Mai University, petitioned the Governor of Chiang Mai calling for the halt of a high rise building project that may destroy the landscape and cause environmental problems for the surrounding area.
Earlier this month, about 50 community members in Tambon Suthep, Chiang Mai, led by Assoc. Prof Dr. Thanes Charoenmuang from the Faculty of Political Science at Chiang Mai University, called on Chiang Mai Deputy Governor Krisadaporn Siempakdee to follow this case, which was already proposed to Deputy Governor Wongchai Wongrianthong,
Dr Thanes said the high-rise buildings were causing environmental problems.
The construction projects had been approved several months ago by the Tambon Suthep Administration Organization for these buildings, which are more than 4 stories tall.
Many projects are currently under construction, resulting in problems for people living nearby in dormitories, apartments, hotels, and condominiums. A major problem was the water supply, which has become scarce because of the influx of many new residents to the area.
They also limit the parking space in the area of dormitories, resulting in students parking their cars on the roadsides, causing traffic jams.
Protestors complain that the community used to enjoy a traditional way of life in a peaceful place with fresh and clean air. They say this life-style is now threatened by noise and air pollution because of the huge and crowded high-rise buildings.
The community representatives will also call on the Chiang Mai Administration Court to ask for suggestions, advice and guidelines for further actions. They hope to find laws that could help to force investors and authorities to stop constructing high-rise buildings.
Meanwhile, Deputy Chiang Mai Governor Krisadapon Siempakdee admitted there were other problems concerning the high-rise buildings. He said having received the complaint lodged by Dr Thanes, he would ask officials to look into the case, and investigate the scene of the ongoing construction projects, seek guidelines for solutions to the problems, and work with community members and nearby villagers who have been affected.


Cheers turn to screams at Chinese New Year celebrations

By Saksit Meesubkwang
Celebrations mixed with tragedy lands a 3 year girl in the hospital during the Chinese New Year festivities in Chiang Mai.
As locals and tourists gathered to watch the celebrations hosted by the Chinese Descendants Association, smiles turned to horror as a 3 year old girl plummeted 6 meters to the ground after a stunt went terribly wrong.

The 10 meter high acrobatic pole, similar to the one from which the 3 year old fell.

The tragic ending began when the performing group took a frightened-looking girl and pulled her to the top of the 10 meter-high wooden column. The girl was crying the entire time she was being pulled up by the tiny belt.
Many onlookers expressed concern about the girl’s safety, but the commentator told people that the girl was just pretending to be afraid. The commentator announced that there will be a special trick and that the people should not miss the highlight.
An adult on the top of a wooden column brought a green belt to tie the girl’s ankle to a piece of towel. Then the performer suspended the girl over the stage and began lowering her down, supported only by the towel he held. When the girl was still suspended 6 meters over the stage, the adult dropped the 3 year-old. Many screams were heard as the girl fell to the ground below.
It was reported that the piece of towel that tied the girl’s ankle slipped from the belt and the performers on the stage failed to safely catch the girl during her fall.
As the injured girl’s mother rushed to her to Maharaj Nakhon Chiang Mai Hospital the Mayor Boonlert of Chiang Mai stated that children may no longer perform in such risky performances.
The Mayor also paid a visit to the injured girl who is recovering from head injuries and fortunately did not suffer any brain damage.


Warning from Military Commander “they will be punished”

Staff reporters
Military Commander Col. Sutat Jarumanee of the 7th Infantry Region (Naresuan Taskforce) based in Mae Hong Son issued a stern warning during a special session with government officials.
“If there are any government officials involved with those networks, actions will be taken, and they will be punished,” said Col Sutat Jarumanee.
He has called on provincial administration officers, regular police, immigration police, and officials to inform them about the human trafficking networks who smuggle humans, especially laborers and young women, to enter Thailand illegally from Burma through Mae Hong Son, Chiang Mai, and transport them to Bangkok.
Apparently a military tip-off led authorities to believe that there are government officials involved with the smuggling and human trafficking, he said. “These problems were also reported by the regiment’s high ranking officers on the Thai-Burmese border.”
Col. Sutat disclosed that there are groups of foreign laborers, especially Burmese aliens moving from the central and southern parts of Burma’s Shan State. Those people then contact Thai agencies who help them enter into the country illegally through Ban Namon inside Burma, and then crossing the border to Ban Huay Pueng, Tambon Huay Pha, in the Muang district of Mae Hong Son.
A military intelligence source noted that, during the past two years, about 5,000 laborers, children, and young women were smuggled into Thailand through the Mae Hong Son border with Burma. This was done by human trafficking syndicates who charge 5,000 baht a person, totaling 25 million baht in revenue.


Drug suppression operation destroys 4 rai of opium poppy fields

Staff reporters
The combined forces of local administration officials and border patrol policemen launched an operation last month to suppress and destroy opium poppy fields illegally grown by hill tribe people on the mountains in Ban Palo, Tambon Mae Na, Chiang Dao district of Chiang Mai.

A make-shift shed is burned to the ground.
Local villagers had lodged complaints with Chanachai Settapat, Chiang Dao district officer informing him of the illegal activities on the mountain. Based on these complaints the combined forces of the Suppression Division and the combined forces of volunteers and 335th border patrol police launched the search and destroy operation.
The task force trekked along the treacherous jungle routes for more than three hours before arriving at the poppy fields. The illegal plant was found to be thriving on over 4 rai of land scattered over the mountains. The government forces destroyed and burned all the plantings. During their operation, there was neither sign of nor any resistance from the poppy farmers.
A spokesman for the combined forces told reporters that the poppy fields belonged to Hmong hill tribes in the Chiang Dao area. He said that more areas were being investigated by government officials to possibly widen the scope of the operation.
The source added that, at present, there are still many hill tribesmen who illegally grow opium poppy deep in the forests on the mountains in the Chiang Dao district area. Investigations are progressing to uncover these areas so that further action can be taken.

Soldiers destroy the poppy flowers by thrashing the plants with a stick.


American tourist arrested for possession of marijuana

Kajorn Boonpat
Pai policemen in Mae Hong Son arrested an American national and charged him with possession of marijuana.
On February 11, the drug suppression police division of Pai Police Station in Mae Hong Son charged American Darius Conrad Klein, 27, for possessing 20 grams of marijuana and detained him at the Pai Police Station for interrogation.

Klein detained for questioning at Pai police station.
According to the Pai police, they encountered Klein during a routine patrol along the village and town roads in the Pai district. Klein, who was driving a motorcycle from Ban Ya Po village, was searched for illegal products when police found the marijuana hidden in his backpack.
The police held him for further investigation and said Mr. Conrad had confessed to the crime he was charged with, stating that he had purchased the marijuana from the Lisu hill tribe people at Ban Ya Po for his own personal use. Klein had been staying at a guesthouse in Mae Hong Son.
Meanwhile, The Northern Office of Narcotics Control Board has begun an investigation into the practices of some travel agencies’ who apparently encourage foreign tourists to purchase drugs.
These tour agencies will be punished under the law, the ONCB source noted, and added that these activities lead to a bad reputation for Thai tourism.


US fugitive busted in Nan

Accused molester was posing as a school teacher

Staff reporters
A joint FBI -Thai Interpol operation led to the arrest of an escaped cross-border criminal (Trans-national crime) accused of rape in the USA
The accused, Brian Michel Jones apparently worked as an English teacher at a secondary school in Nan province for over 6 months before being detained.

Brian Michael Jones (right) being questioned at the Nan police station.

Pol Col Veerachai Bang-ngern, commander of the Nan provincial police division, revealed that the FBI informed the commander of Thai International Police that the alleged criminal from the United States was living in the Pua district of Nan Province.
The Muang Nan police commander and the Pua district police commander initiated an investigation based on the information provided by the FBI. Mr. Brian Michel Jones had been allegedly in hiding due to the FBI issuing a warrant for his arrest and from an arrest warrant issued by the Thai court dated December 24, 2004.
The man was accused of a trans-national crime, which meant that with the cooperation of the FBI and Thai police teams, he could be arrested while he was resting in his mansion room. Mr. Jones declined to speak to investigators so the police decided to hold him for further questioning.
Using subpoena #75/2550, dated February 10, 2007, Pol Col Viroj Veerasakul held Mr. Jones as they searched his apartment in Prang Mansion. The police team found several forms of identification, including a Canadian passport issued on February 24, 2000 with an expiration date of February 24, 2005. A second passport, this one from the United Kingdom, with an issue date of August 29, 2000 and an expiration date of August 24, 2010. Also confiscated was a driver’s license issued by the state of Nevada in the United States.
In addition, the searching team also found a large amount of pornography, both photographs and VCD’s. Police were able to verify that Brian Michael Jones had been living in Nan for over 11 months. Jones also worked as a tutor at Ban Prang School in Nan province for over 6 months.
Brian Michael Jones was being hunted by the FBI to answer charges he allegedly sexually harassed children, and that he allegedly raped a woman in Las Vegas, Nevada in 1999.


Hollywood star on his way to Chiang Mai

Rambo 4 to be filmed around Chiangmai

Staff reporters
The producers of ‘Rambo 4’, have chosen Chiangmai as their base for the duration of the filming of the latest installment of the Vietnam war veteran action drama.
The director and his crew scouted the northern areas for locations in mid–January for the hit movie series and decided to use Ban Kidchang in the Mae Taeng district of Chiang Mai as a base and location for the film.
Local auditions that took place last month resulted in the choice of Jaiharn Suamao, 40, Thai Yai man and a former Shan State Army (SSA) soldier to play the gang leader who has to deal with John Rambo, played by Sylvester Stallone.
Stallone a veteran of the first three Rambo action films took it upon himself to train the cast to hunt and handle snakes in the forests of northern Thailand.
The story line of the film has a Christian priest who brings medical supplies to the Karen people and preaches Christianity to them. The pastor is then kidnapped by Burmese soldiers. Rambo is assigned to go deep into the jungles to try and free him. Rambo 4 is scheduled to be released in Thailand next year.


A New World Record?

Weird Stunt on Elephant may make it into the Record Book

AP/ Staff reporter
When New Yorker Ashrita Furman looked around for a record he could break, he settled on doing the most squat thrusts in one minute on the back of an elephant at the Maetaman Elephant Camp located 50 kilometers north of Chiang Mai.
He achieved his goal Thursday as he climbed onto a platform on the back of an obliging pachyderm named Kamee and powered through 40 of the vigorous kicks in a minute. The previous squat thrust record performed on level ground in Britain without an elephant in sight - was 30.
A squat thrust is a great exercise routine for the heart and circulatory system. To start, put your hands on the floor, shoulder width apart. Stretch your legs out behind you as if you are about to do a press up. In one movement, bring both legs into a tuck position, bending the knees into the chest and then repeat first movement.
Furman, 52, is accustomed to setting bizarre records. By his own count, he holds 54, and has held 144 in total. These include the record for the fastest 11 yards on a space hopper - a heavy rubber balloon on which children bounce - and the fastest mile balancing a cue pool on his finger.
“To me the real beauty of this record is that I did it on the back of a live elephant,” he said. “I’ve had this dream of doing a record on the back of an elephant for many, many years but I’ve had no way of really accomplishing it until I came to Thailand.”
The movements of Kamee, a 40-year-old female elephant, initially created difficulties as Furman practiced his routine. But for the actual record-setting bid, Kamee was solid as a rock.
Furman’s new claim for a record will be forwarded, along with witness statements, to the Guinness Book of World Records.