Air quality improves but burning continues
Soldiers from the Army’s 12th Calvary Battalion, The Thai
Royal Air Force, the employees of the Office of Disaster Prevention and
thousands of volunteers joined in to extinguish the thousands of fires that
have polluted the skies over Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Mae Hong Son since
the beginning of the month.
Provincial authorities estimate there are still upwards
of 4000 fires burning or smoldering in the three provinces that were
declared disaster zones by the Government of Thailand last week.
Government officials in Bangkok are considering removing
the three affected provinces from the emergency disaster zones, according to
Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister and Social Development and Human Security
Minister Paiboon Wattanasiritham.
Mr. Paiboon, who also heads the smoke response program
for the disaster areas, said the situation has improved and the haze
blanketing northern Thailand has thinned in the past week due to better
weather and the cooperation of agencies concerned.
Chiang Mai Deputy Mayor Praphan said that the
municipality has been distributing some 70,000 face masks and air filters
with plans hand out an additional 30,000 if needed in the coming days.
Though local statistics have not yet been compiled it is
estimated that the number of people sickened by the polluted air will reach
into the thousands. In Mae Hong Son province, over 15,000 have sought
medical help. (See story on page 2).
The air quality index monitored by the Pollution Control
Board has shown a steady decline in air contaminants and the improvement has
been attributed to the decrease of fires being set to clear brush.
From a dangerous level of dust particles reaching 303
micrograms per cubic meter registered on March 14, the levels dropped to a
healthier number of 64 at the time of this printing.
The Thai Royal Air Force planes are still flying over
Chiang Mai dropping tons of water in an effort to reduce the choking smoke.
This was the first time the Royal Air Force was used in this type of
operation. A C-130 and a BT-67 were loaded with thousands of gallons of
water to then be dispersed in the air over Chiang Mai.
In addition, airplanes from the Artificial Rain Making
Center are also carrying out flights using chemicals to seed clouds in an
effort to produce much needed rain over the city and surrounding areas
Worried about the negative effect on the local tourism
business and a decline in arriving visitors, Chiang Mai Deputy Governor
Wilas Rujiwatthanapong will be issuing an official letter to the consulates
in the city and to all embassies in Bangkok detailing the current situation
and the improvements that have been made in the past week to combat the
The US Consulate General in Chiang Mai has posted a
“message alert” on their website stating “American citizens living in or
visiting northern Thailand need to take appropriate health-related
precautions due to the unhealthy air quality northern Thailand is currently
No more money and lawsuits add to legal quagmire
No end in sight
Parked cranes on the stopped construction site of the
underpass at Kuang Sing intersection.
Financial troubles have been plaguing construction work
on the underpasses at Kuang Sing and Juvenile Court junctions on the locally
known Superhighway. Liquidity issues with the private contractor hired to
manage the work have halted construction because the Krung Thai Bank has
refused to release additional monies needed.
Jirathep Partnership was the original private contractor
for the two underpasses in question, Kuang Sing and Juvenile Court on
Highway 11 crossing Highway 107. Terms of the contract stated that the
company would face a fine of 150,000 baht per day if the work was not
completed by the expiration date of April 10, 2006, but these payments have
not been made.
Noparat Aiempanit, the engineer controlling the 2
construction projects, has stated that it was not the fault of the
contractor as they were ready and willing to do the work, but were forced to
wait for budget approval from Krung Thai Bank, after they requested an
additional 150 million baht loan. He claims the bank approved the loan, but
insisted the contractor provide assets valued at 20 million baht as
collateral before releasing the funds.
Noparat went on to say that Jirathep Partnership were not
in possession of the necessary assets to guarantee the loan and so were
unable to receive the monies to continue the work for which they were hired.
In January of this year, the contractor was able to acquire some materials
to continue the construction, but by the end of March they had only
completed an additional 2 or 3 percent of the work – far below the target of
16 percent progression.
Jirathep Partnership shut down construction on February
5; and has not done any work since that time. Krung Thai Bank, who had
agreed to provide financing for the two projects, must find a new contractor
to complete this project. They believe that this would happen within the
next 6 months.
The underpass at Kuang Sing Junction is now 70 percent
complete and the underpass at Juvenile Court Junction is at 65 percent
completion. Approximately180 million baht is still remaining from the
original budget to complete the two projects.
Jirathep Partnership intends to sue the Department of
Highways and ask for arbitration to settle the fines. Noparat said he
believes that none of this will affect the project going forward. Krung Thai
Bank is still looking for a new private contractor to complete the work as
The construction engineer added that if no new contractor
were found in the next six months, the Department of Highways would use the
remaining budget to continue construction themselves, and sue Krung Thai
Bank for damages and for any surplus funds needed to complete the project.
It would then be up to Krung Thai Bank to sue Jirathep Partnership to
recover its losses.
Not to be lost in all this, is that while construction starts and stops,
and various agencies sue each other, the one constant is that motorists in
the area continue to be burdened with incomplete underpasses, traffic
snarls, parked cranes and dangerous debris being blown onto the roads.
Mayor’s Office confirms
Songkran set for
A comment made earlier last week by Chiang
Mai Mayor Boonlert Buranupakorn suggesting Songkran be moved forward to
April 1 was only an idea he believed would help improve the air quality in
The official starting date for Songkran is April 12 and
will continue through April 17.
Full coverage of the annual event including details of
the Moat roads being closed to all vehicles will appear in next weeks
We were curious to know
58 people were arrested and fined for burning of garbage
during the month of February in Chiang Mai. Each was fined 2,000 baht.
Numbers for the month of March will be available in April.
Praphan Buranupakorn, Chiang Mai Deputy Mayor for Public
Health Work has urged all related officials to strictly perform their duties
and campaign to help reduce the number of cases related to indiscriminate
burning. If there is resistance, the officials must enforce the law and
29 burned to death in bus accident
The board of the state-owned Transport Company may revoke
the license of a bus operator after its Bangkok-Ubon Ratchathani bus caught
fire last Tuesday, burning 29 passengers alive and leaving 31 others
According to the initial investigation, the accident was
caused by the driver’s ‘human error’, as he reportedly knew the brakes
failed to work properly but didn’t inform the company to find another bus to
The bus, traveling from the northeastern province of Ubon
Ratchathani to Bangkok, caught fire in Saraburi.
Piyapan Jampasut, deputy permanent secretary of the
ministry of transport, will chair a Transport Co. board meeting to consider
punishment for the Srisanguan Yanyon Company. It may revoke the company’s
license if it is shown to have a record of careless accidents in the past.
Transport Co.director Wutthichart Kanlayanamitr ordered
the Srisanguen Yanyon to halt its Bangkok-Ubon Ratchathani service for one
Mr. Wuttichart said the Transport Co. Ltd. will initially
pay 10,000 baht to each victim or their family. Then the victims will
receive compensation from the operator’s insurance provider and the
government, totaling 400,000 baht for each death and 250,000 baht for each
of the injured.
He asked other travelers not to be frightened, explaining
that the Department of Land Transport normally checks public buses when
owners renew their licenses. (TNA)
15,000 seek treatment
in Mae Hong Son
The air quality index in Mae Hong Son has improved in
recent days but dust particles remain at an unhealthy. The Pollution Control
Board recorded 166 micrograms per cubic meter at the time of this printing
down from 284 micrograms per cubic meter last week.
A nurse at a Mae Hong Son hospital provides treatment to
one of the thousands affected by the smoke in that province.
The thick smoke that has covered much of the province has
had a devastating effect on the residents with 15,000 people seeking medical
treatment in the past two weeks.
Dr. Suwat Kittidilokkul of the Provincial Public Health
Office of Mae Hong Son has warned that the elderly and children should
remain indoors until the health hazard has subsided.
Nok Air and Thai Airlines flights to and from Mae Hong
Son have also been disrupted over the past two weeks as the polluted skies
have prevented them from using the airport. At last count 24 flights had
been cancelled due to poor visibility.
This past week the Royal Thai Air Force could not conduct
water drops over the city as visibility was so poor it presented a danger
for the flyovers.
Drugstores and pharmacies have been inundated with
customers seeking medicine and face masks. But while these shops have seen
an increase in business it is estimated that tourism related businesses will
lose up to 10 million baht due to the pollution and health hazards.
At least 100 firefighters in Mae Hong Son and an
additional 100 firemen from Fire Control Units from Northeastern region of
the country are still battling forest fires but extinguishing them has
proved more difficult as many of them are burning in remote areas and
In an effort to educate the residents of Mae Hong Son province, the
Governor has taken to the airwaves asking for cooperation from everyone and
demanding a halt to the setting of fires.
300 million in antiques seized
Mae Sai Custom’s officials seized Burmese antiques worth
more than 300 million baht that were to be sold illegally at a border town
Authorities display the 300 million baht worth of
smuggled antiques seized on the Thai-Myanmar border. (CMM Photo)
The haul of 370 items included marble Buddha images,
wooden crafts, and head parts of the Buddha images made from good grade
Chuchai Udomphote, the chief of Mae Sai Customs Office in
Chiang Rai and his control and suppression team were tipped off about where
the smuggled goods would be making their way into Thailand. The alleged
smugglers were caught at the Kalam river landing area in Mae Sai bordering
between Thailand and Burma in Tambon Mae Sai. Chief Chuchai did not say how
many alleged smugglers had been arrested.
Mae Sai Custom’s officials said that the identification and inspection of
the seized items would be performed by antiques experts while authorities
are still trying to determine if any of the smuggled goods were obtained
legally in Myanmar or if they had been stolen. Customs officials from
Myanmar are cooperating in this investigation.
Don Muang Airport back in business
Don Muang Airport re-opened for domestic flights last
Sunday with three airlines shifting their services from Suvarnabhumi Airport
back to Don Muang.
The three airlines that will initially operate from Don
Muang are Thai Airways, Nok Air (a subsidiary of Thai) and Orient Thai
The three airlines will offer 140 daily flights
transporting 18,000 passengers. Should additional airlines return their
operations to Don Muang in the future, the airport would be ready to
accommodate their needs.
Recently decommissioned Don Muang was reopened to help
alleviate congestion at the new airport while repairs are carried out.
The domestic terminal will be the main terminal at Don
Muang and will accommodate 5 million passengers annually.
A sixth month evaluation will take place and the study
will then determine if international flights should also use Don Muang in
Flight Lieutenant Pinit Saraithong, Don Muang’s general
manager, said all facilities are operational, including parking lots, taxi
service, restaurants and souvenir shops.
The first four commercial flights to return to Don Muang
Airport were Thai flight TG 1020 Bangkok-Ubon Ratchathani, Nok Air flights
DD 9200 Bangkok-Udon Thani, DD7804 Bangkok-Nakhon Si Thammarat and DD 7102
Passengers should note that the airport code of Don Muang Airport has
changed from BKK to DMK. (TNA)
Put a cow in your tank
Groundbreaking research turns cow’s fat into a new diesel fuel
After years of research cow’s fat can now be processed
For many years, Chiang Mai University (CMU) has been at
the forefront of biological research to find new solutions to today’s
problems. They have just announced their latest accomplishment, the
development of a new bio diesel formula using cow’s fat as the raw material.
This new bio -diesel fuel can be used in exactly the same way as regular
diesel, without the harmful effects to the environment.
Initially, CMU officials and staff tested the fuel in
their vehicles. After noting the positive results, CMU’s director expects
CMU will become a bio diesel demonstration and development centre. There is
also the potential for Chiang Mai University to be a regional hub for the
development of renewable energy, and to publicize their findings to the
Associate Professor Prasert Ruekriangkrai, Director of
the Energy Management and Conservation Center at Chiang Mai University,
revealed the progress of their research and announced the creation of a bio
diesel production machine (CMU-3) that can produce bio diesel from cow’s
This machine was developed from the research and
development of the Mechanical Engineering Department. The experimental work
began in 2001 with a small 1-liter model. From that initial machine, they
built a much larger version (CMU-2) that could produce 150 liters per cycle.
This led to the latest model, the CMU-3.
The CMU-3 can produce 500 liters of diesel fuel per
cycle. The production process consumes 12 hours and costs 18 baht per liter
to produce. The professor guaranteed that the quality was identical to that
of traditional diesel fuel.
Associate Professor Prasert added that the bio diesel
production from animal’s fat uses the same process as bio diesel production
from used vegetable oil and animal oil. The difference is only the material
and the reaction process.
He stated that this new fuel poses no danger to normal
engines. The CMU-3 fuel is now available for government officials and
internal staff’ vehicles. This pilot project could help save energy and
money and be a noteworthy response to the Government’s policy to turn to
substituted, renewable, or alternative energy. Once the pilot project is
complete, the fuel will be made available to the country’s communities to
Associate Professor Prasert added that they were
expanding their research by opening more training courses to produce the bio
diesel. Participants will build a bio diesel machine that can produce fuel
from used vegetable oil and animal’s oil. The project is supported by the
National Energy Policy and Planning Office of the Ministry of Energy in
For more information, people who are interested in bio
diesel production can ask for more details or apply for the bio diesel
training course at the Energy Management and Conservation Center. The
courses will train 3 groups of 6 – 8 students per week. 300 people have
already been trained, and there are only 200 seats remaining for new
For further details, please contact the Energy Management and
Conservation Center of Chiang Mai University, Tel. 053-972007-9 ext.106
Monday-Friday 8.00 a.m. - 4.30 p.m.
Four foreigners busted for pedophilia
Four foreign men have been charged with having sex with
children following a police sweep conducted on a single day, March 19, by
Pol Maj Gen Kamronwit Thupkrajang, commander-in-chief of the Division for
the Suppression of Crimes against Children, Juveniles and Women.
Police investigations had revealed the identities of four
foreign pedophiles currently active in Pattaya, and arrest warrants were
applied for at Pattaya Provincial Court. The warrants were granted on March
Officers searched a house in South Pattaya on March 19
and arrested Maurice John Praill, a 76-year-old British national. He was
charged with sexual activities against children under the age of 15. Praill
denied all the charges, but he was taken to the police station for further
questioning. Police said that prior to this charge, Praill had been arrested
for sexually abusing two girls, aged 13 and 14, in Pattaya in the year 2000,
and was sentenced to 14 years imprisonment. On that occasion he was released
on bail, and the case is still in process. In 1997, Praill was arrested for
sexual offences against a 14-year-old boy when a suspicious police officer
followed and caught him with his pants around his ankles, and in an agitated
state, with the young boy behind a popular shopping mall. He was fined and
Also on March 19, 2007, at around noon, officers from the
Suppression of Crimes against Children, Juveniles and Women Division
searched a house near the Hanumarn Roundabout in Jomtien and arrested Ilkka
Antero Ylikojola, age 63, a Finnish national. He was charged with sexual
activity against children under 15 years of age. Police searched the
premises and found a video camera, digital camera, VCDs, and a recording
device. They said there were records of Ylikojola involved in sexual
activity with children.
Police said a girl was brought into Ylikojola’s house by
a woman known only as Mon. Mon had met the girl at the Royal Garden Plaza on
the second floor and asked her to come along on a motorcycle to have her
photograph taken. At the house the girl was asked to take a bath. Ylikojola
then took photographs and a video of her, and asked her to dance and perform
lewd acts in front of the camera. He paid her 1,000 baht and another 500
baht to Mon, who sat in another room waiting for about 30 minutes until
Ylikojola had finished.
The third arrest was that of Stephen James Ellison, a
British national age 55. Police confiscated a computer, CDs, and digital and
video cameras. Police said the equipment showed pictures of him engaging in
sexual activity with children aged under 15 years.
The fourth arrest took place at the Mark-Land Hotel, on
the 24th floor. Glenn Richard Allen, age 60, an American national, was
charged with sexual activity with children aged under 15 years. Police
seized a computer, CDs, and digital and video cameras as evidence.
Police said that those arrested had paid between 500 and 3,000 baht to
children between the ages of 11 and 15 for sexual activity and for picture
and video recording. A police spokesman said that they now know who the
procurers were and are searching for them.
Border clashes lead to tightened security
Thai ranger killed
Following clashes on the border provinces of Tak and Mae
Hong Son, both Thai and Myanmar armies have placed their border units on
full alert, according to Thai and Shan sources.
Thai officials in Tak province have tightened security
around the clock after the Myanmar-based Democratic Karen Buddhist Army
(DKBA) reportedly threatened to burn down a Thai police station in Tak’s
The Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) is the military
wing of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Organization (DKBO) which split from
the Karen National Union (KNU), the largest and oldest of Myanmar’s
Thai villagers closed the border after some DKBA forces
crossed the border into Thai side and began shooting at cattle in Banwalley
Closing the border led to disgruntlement on the part of
the DKBA forces, who reportedly have threatened to torch the Pobphra
district police station, located 15 kilometres away from the border.
In Mae Hong Son province, a clash between Thai Army
Rangers and an unknown armed group occurred at Banhuayfan village in
Khunyuem district last Wednesday night.
Ranger volunteer Chertsak Thranunthawitthaya was killed
in the clash.
Thai authorities have reinforced border patrols to
prevent a repeat of the incursion.
Thai army sources have pointed fingers at Haiwo (Heho)
based Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) 117, commanded by Maj Ye Tun, one of
the 10 battalions under the command of Brig-Gen Aye Khaing, Commander of the
Kalaw-based Light Infantry Division (LID) 55. (TNA/ Shan Herald Agency/