Vol. VI No. 2 - Tuesday March 6, - March 12, 2007
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by Saichon Paewsoongnern
 

 


NEWS
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Royal Flora to Re-Open Next Month

Rimping Supermarket closing Chotana Branch

Travel Executives Promoting Chiang Mai

Border trade at Chiang Saen expected to boom

Road block leads to Sweet Bust

106 kms of roads in Chiang Mai could be torn up

Mysterious Disease rattles Mae Hong Son

Government eyes New Management for Night Safari

Fighting along the Border Intensifies

Fake credit card scam could reach 100 million baht

Better training for hotel security guards needed

Chiang Mai – Siem Reap Nonstop

Suspect arrested in murder of 2 female Russian tourists

Royal Flora to Re-Open Next Month

Entry fee set at 50 baht

The Royal Flora Exhibition which attracted millions of visitors will reopen next month. The 470 rai park will become a dedicated botanical center and one of Chiang Mai’s newest permanent tourist attractions according to the Ministry of Agriculture.
The exhibition was named after the Ratchaphruek or the Golden Shower Tree and despite the many attempts to have the tree bloom out of season and during the three months of the original show the experts gave up. Soon visitors will be able to enjoy the trees with their majestic yellow flowers.
The Ministry of Agriculture will set up a foundation who will administer the site as of July of this year when the current management agreement ends.
A 50 baht fee will be charged per visitor and the exact opening dates and times of operation will be set at a later date.


Rimping Supermarket closing Chotana Branch

Staff Reporters
One of Chiang Mai’s favorite ex-pat supermarkets is closing its Chotana Branch next to the Novotel Hotel within the next two weeks.
According to the owner Khun Phairoj, the closure comes after Rimping failed to reach a renewal agreement for the building it now occupies.
Currently Rimping operates four stores, the Narawat on the Chiang Mai- Lamphun Road, Mee Chok on Mae Jo and Middle Ring Road, Chotana next to the Novotel Hotel on Chang Puak Road and the Kad Farang branch in Hang Dong.
Not giving up his market share in the city Khun Phairoj will open another branch on March 15 across from Airport Plaza next to the Amway store as it continues to expand it services in the city. The site is currently under construction and should be ready by March 15.
The new 900 square meter location will be named Rimping City Daily, about 300 meters smaller than the Chotana branch.
Khun Pairoj told the Chiang Mai Mail that the doors at Chotana will close the evening of March 14 and all products will be immediately transported to the City Daily location.
The doors at the new location will open the morning of March 15 followed by an inauguration event on the 16th.
The Bangkok based supermarket chain Tops is taking over the Chotana building but no word on when it will be open to the public.


Travel Executives Promoting Chiang Mai

Anchalee Kalmapijit, (5th left) president of Skål International Chiang Mai and North Thailand, and Mohamad Jesr, MD of Lotus Hotel (5th right) flanked by members and guests after the emperor’s dinner.

Members of Skål International Chiang Mai and North Thailand gathered recently at the China Palace Restaurant of the Sheraton Hotel for their monthly meeting.
The Skål organization is a global group of travel and tourism professionals that now exceed 22,000 members worldwide.
Over 40 members and guests indulged on a Chinese banquet style dinner while networking and sharing the latest happenings in the travel industry.
Skål’s special guest was the entertaining Ashrita Furman of New York who was in Chiang Mai to break a Guinness World Record. His stunt was to perform 40 squat thrusts on top of an elephant at the Maetaman Elephant Camp. Furman’s lively description along with a movie and slide show kept the captive audience smiling as he triumphantly announced he had secured another world record earlier that afternoon. He claims to currently hold 54 world records.
Mr. Ken Hill, a long time Skål member provided a brief history of Skål for those attending for the first time.
Also in attendance was Skål International Pattaya and East Thailand founding member Peter Malhotra.
Malhotra is the managing director of the Chiangmai Mail and the Pattaya Mail. Malhotra spoke to the Skål colleagues about the re-launch of the Chiangmai Mail and asked everyone for their support in making the community weekly newspaper a fundamental source of news and information for Chiang Mai.
The next Skål meeting will take place at the Imperial Mae Ping Hotel on March 29th. Travel managers and tourism executives who work in the tourist industry in the North of Thailand and would like to join Skål may contact the secretary of the club, Mr. Armin Schoch at: armin. [email protected]


Border trade at Chiang Saen expected to boom

Staff Reporters
The Chiang Rai Chamber of Commerce plans to accelerate the establishment of an information service center for the quadrangle economic development zone situated at the Chiang Saen border.
According to the vice president of the Chiang Rai Chamber of Commerce, this would showcase the available resources for investors, adding more value and expanding channels of trade and product distribution.
International currency exchange booths and services for kip of Laos, kyat of Burma, yuan of China, and baht of Thailand would be included at the location site.
Mr. Boontham Thipprasong, the Vice President for the border trade division, disclosed that the information service center will help boost border trade, especially the investment projects in the special Quadrangle Economic Development Zone in the Mekong sub-region.
He added that the construction project named “Home Center”, would help spread information and resources for border investors from southern China, Laos, Burma, and Thailand. This resource center will serve as a special economic development zone of Chiang Rai province.
Chiang Saen supporters believe in its potential for boosting trade, investments, and transportation systems, especially from southern China to Thailand. These factors have encouraged operators, investors, and entrepreneurs to expand their businesses by setting up their companies or offices in Chiang Rai, Mae Sai, and Chiang Khong district towns.
This center of ‘economic development zone’ is located about 30 kms from the Mae Sai district town, and about 40 kms from Chiang Khong district. It’s also easily and conveniently accessed by road.


Road block leads to Sweet Bust

Chinese products fail to make it to Chiang Mai

This time around it wasn’t yaba but everyday products that were seized north of Chiang Mai. A police road block yielded 20,000 baht of chocolates, coffee and biscuits packed in 20 boxes without the proper sales tax documents.
The detained pick-up driver and his passenger admitted they had purchased the Chinese made products at the Doi Wow market in the Mae Sai district and wanted to re-sell them in Chiang Mai. The Doi Wow market is well known for selling products that are smuggled in from China.
According to the police the two Thai nationals were charged with avoiding tax payments and their confiscated products were seized. No word on where the Chinese chocolates will end up.


106 kms of roads in Chiang Mai could be torn up

Could this be an answer to the City’s traffic problems?

Staff Reporters
The Faculty of Engineering at Chiang Mai University say they have come up with a solution to the worsening traffic situation in the city.
The Bus Rapid Transit would be the most compatible transportation system in Chiang Mai city.
The proposed project includes 4 traffic routes with 8 billion baht of investment cost. Chiang Mai Municipality will be the mainstay to push this project to completion. Mayor Boonlert of Chiang Mai said he plans to meet the transportation minister to propose the supported budget.
Last month Maitree Srinarawat, the director of Transportation and Traffic Policy and Planning Office chaired a meeting for the final model scheme and the mass transportation construction plan in Chiang Mai.
The Office has hired the information service center of the Faculty of Engineering at CMU to study the feasibility of the project with a budgeted investment of 47.4 million baht.
Dr. Rangsan Udomsri, the head of the project study, concluded that Bus Rapid Transit (or BRT) was the most suitable system for Chiang Mai city. There are 2 phases of the development plan with the first phase lasting 3-10 years, and the second phase 11-20 years.
The first phase would include the planning and construction of a network of 4 traffic routes, 106 kilometers in length. The cost for construction and system installation of all networks is expected to be about 8 billion baht.
After listening to the report, the director of the Office said that, at present, the mass transportation in Chiang Mai is incomplete and inconvenient, forcing residents to use their personal vehicles. The number of motorcycle users was especially high, around 700,000-800,000.
Dr. Rangsan added that motorcycles have caused pollution and heightened risk of road accidents, adding the he is looking for transportation that is appropriate, safe, and environmentally-friendly.
When the discussions have been concluded and the plans approved, the city can indicate the starting date. The office director would propose the project to the Transportation Ministry and government agencies concerned in order to receive the approval to move forward.
Meanwhile, Chiang Mai Mayor Boonlert Buranupakorn said providing a budget is the main factor for pushing on mass transportation in Chiang Mai. The mayor emphasized the importance of blending and adapting the BRT style with northern local art and culture design, especially in the inner city area.


Mysterious Disease rattles Mae Hong Son

Myanmar may be to blame

Khajohn Boonpath
Imported livestock from Myanmar, mostly cows and water buffalos are being afflicted by a mysterious disease and locals in the Mae Hong Song area are concerned.
The Provincial Livestock Office provided 20 cows to 10 households in early February as part of a project to help local farmers raise and then sell them for profit.
The assistance program known as the “Cow Project” has been operating for over two years with apparently no infected bovines. The Livestock Office purchased the livestock in Myanmar and then had them transported to the Mae Hong Song area.
A strict quarantine law which requires all livestock to be held for 21 days apparently was not enforced.
The affected villages are Ban Toong Makhampom and Ban Sorkaetha, a satellite village of Ban Nongkhiew.
The Livestock office was ordered by the Governor to remove the infected cows and investigate what has caused them to become infected.
If it is determined that this group of cows did in fact come from Myanmar then importation will be halted until further notice.
An investigation continues throughout the affected areas to determine if other livestock have been infected.


Government eyes New Management for Night Safari

Neighbors Set to Protest

Saksit Meesubkwang
Citing a need for better management and promoting the Chiang Mai Night Safari as a world class destination the Minister for Natural Resources and Environment, Mr. Kasem Sanitwong na Ayuthaya has initiated an in-depth study as to who will operate the park in the near future.
The Night Safari opened last year after numerous setbacks and has yet to attract the projected visitors to make it a more profitable venture and world class destination.
More than 400 animals from 50 species roam the 140 hectare park which sits on government property.
One of Minister Kasem’s proposals would be to lower ticket prices in order to attract more visitors. Currently ticket prices range from 50 to 500 baht per person depending on the time of day and venue selected. He added that he would prefer it to be managed as a private run business with less bureaucracy.
A working committee has been set-up by the Minister and results of their recommendations will be known in about a month. What was made clear is that the Night Safari will remain open.
Meanwhile villagers neighboring the Night Safari are preparing to protest any changes that may be implemented by the government.


Fighting along the Border Intensifies

Burmese Troops trying to Purge KNPP Rebels

Khajohn Boonpath
in Mae Hong Son

Myanmar military forces from the 55th Infantry Division are moving closer to Thai-Myanmar border, opposite to Mae Hong Son provincial town in an attempt to quash members of the Karen National Progressive Party (KNPP), one of rebel groups at war with the Government of Myanmar.
The latest offensive took place in the jungles of Ban Naron about 3 kilometers from the Thai border near the city of Mae Hong Song. The fierce clash lasted some twenty minutes and the Karen Rebels seized 3 soldiers’ bodies from Myanmar in addition to weapons and ammunition. One KNPP soldier was wounded during the clash.
According to Thai Military Intelligence the KNPP were heavily armed with 81mm mortar shells, heavy artillery and machine guns.
According to the Third Region Army‘s sources’, a large number of Myanmar soldiers had deserted their posts and crossed into Thailand seeking protection. Other soldiers apparently surrendered to the rebel groups claiming oppression and racial discrimination.
Thai military sources added that Myanmar has secured additional weapons from China to be used in their war against the rebel groups along the northern Myanmar-Thai border. They expect the fighting to intensify during the next several months.


Fake credit card scam could reach 100 million baht

2 foreigners and 1 Thai arrested in Chiang Rai

More than 500 credit card holders’ data from numerous countries has been compromised according to the Chiang Rai Police following the arrest of 2 foreigners and 1 Thai in that city.
Mr. Svein Wamesen, 19, of Norway and John Dang, 23, a Norwegian-Vietnamese are
in police custody and being questioned. Wamensen has told police that his intent was not theft but his actions were only part of an experiment in allegedly using stolen credit cards. His friend Dang admitted to police that he transferred data to fake credit cards and then sent his Thai wife to test them out. She is also being held pending further investigation.
According to the police reports the two foreigners had withdrawn cash in excess of 1 million baht but their investigations have led them to believe the sum could reach as high as 100 million baht as only 68 of the apparent 500 stolen credit cards had been located.
The Chiang Rai police added that there are several foreign syndicates that are hacking into Internet sites and obtaining bank data. The data is then transferred onto the magnetic strips of fake credit cards and used for purchases and cash withdrawals.
Meanwhile, Mr Pongsit Chaichatpornsuk, president of Credit Card Fraud Prevention Committee revealed that 10 criminal groups involved with credit card forgery are operating in Thailand.
The accused face charges of one year in confinement for each stolen credit card or up to 68 years if they are found guilty on all counts.
Investigators are continuing their search for the remaining missing cards.


Better training for hotel security guards needed

Expert says better standards are needed

(Seated l-r) Luzi A. Matzig, Chairman, Marketing Committee of PATA Thailand Chapter, Paul Rogers, SNV, Bob James, Chairman and Vic Plessner. (Standing l-r) Sethapon Chindanon, Ken Scott, Malai Sakolviphak, Richard Brouwer, Danai Wansom, M.L. Hathaijanok Kritakara and Vincent Tabuteau.

Staff Reporter
Senior representatives of Thai tourism have been told that the industry needs to upgrade its security standards.
Security consultant Mr Vic Plessner of the Bangkok-based VHP Group told the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Thailand Chapter AGM, that hotel security staff should hold monthly meetings to network and exchange insights in a structured manner.
“In Thailand, hotel guards are often treated like janitors and not given the training and authority to do their job properly,” he said.
Mr Plessner said that hotels should rigorously pursue “what if” scenarios and implement “aggressive security comfort” measures such as sending a hotel representative to meet passengers at the airport. In the airport arrivals hall, hotel guests could be given a pre-programmed mobile phone with important phone numbers in it.
Mr Plessner, a 38-year security veteran who moved from the US to Thailand last year, said that while the conflict in the deep south of the country seemed to be geographically contained, the violence sullied the national image of Thailand and affected people’s decisions of whether to visit the country or not.


Chiang Mai – Siem Reap Nonstop

Finally an easier way to get to the famed temples

Staff reporters 
As of May 15 travelers in Chiang Mai will now have another nonstop international destination to choose from.
Bangkok Airways has announced a trial run of a new route connecting Chiang Mai to Siem Reap, the gateway to Cambodia’s Angkor temple complex.  
The aim is to serve passengers who want to fly to multiple destinations without an extra stopover in the Thai capital, the airline said.
The airline will fly from Chiang Mai to Siem Reap twice a week from May 15 to October 27, and then decide whether to introduce permanent flights between the two tourist hotspots.
“We chose to operate flights linking Chiang Mai with Siem Reap because of growing demand from tourists,” said Puttipong Prasarttong-Osoth, the airline’s senior executive vice president.
Bangkok Airways has not yet announced their flight times or fares.
Other nonstop international destinations departing from Chiang Mai include Luang Prabang on Lao Aviation, Jinhong on Bangkok Airways, Chittagong and Kunming on Thai Airways, Taipei on Mandarin Airlines, Mandalay on Air Mandalay, Kuala Lumpur on Air Asia, Hong Kong on Hong Kong Express and Singapore on Silk Air and Tiger Air.


Suspect arrested in murder of 2 female Russian tourists

AP/CMM Staff Reporters
A 24-year-old Thai man was arrested Thursday and has confessed to the murders last weekend of two female Russian tourists in the Thai seaside resort city of Pattaya.
The suspect, Anuchit Lamlert, was arrested in Chonburi province, about 110 kilometers or 70 miles southeast of Bangkok, where Pattaya is located, the iTV television network, FM98 Business radio and other media sources reported.
The suspect confessed that he shot Tatiana Tsimfer, 30, and Liubov Svirkova, 25, whose bodies were found Saturday morning slumped in lounge chairs on a beach.
A duty officer who answered the phone at the Pattaya police station said there had been an arrest but refused to give other details. Calls to the mobile phone number that served as the police hot line for the case went unanswered.
One media source reported on its Web site that the suspect had a criminal record for robbing foreigners in Pattaya.
He reportedly told police that robbery was the motive, but doubts remained because the women’s belongings were untouched, and a video of the killing taken by a surveillance camera showed no attempt to take their property.
The suspect said he fled by motorcycle and tossed the alleged murder weapon, a 9 mm pistol, into some roadside bushes as he rode. Police were using metal detectors Thursday night to search for the gun.
Local police came under heavy pressure to solve the murder, under threat of losing their jobs. They circulated a computer-generated sketch of a suspect and conducted an intense search for the motorcycle shown in the surveillance video.



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