Songkran frenzy comes to Chiang Mai
Thousands celebrate the new year with traditional blessings and water fights
The crowds begin to gather
along the Moat Road ready to brave the elements
Looks fun but many
motorcyclists lose control when splashed on. Mai pen rai!
Temporary stages in front of
Kad San Kaew Shopping Mall attract thousands.
Foam blowing machines add to
the excitement as performers yell a tune.
How long does this go on?
Merchants were out in force
selling the latest in high tech water pistols.
The moat served as the city
swimming pool and for refilling buckets.
It’s a sing-a-long in an open
Mine’s bigger than yours!
All abroad the Songkran
Stuck in traffic is one of the
many ways to celebrate Songkran
Kimono clad women do their
best to promote sushi.
Drought? What drought?
Songkran, (derived from Sanskrit) meaning “move into or
change”, marks the end of a 12 month cycle and the start of a new solar
The city of Chiang Mai has long been a favorite destination for tens of
thousands to celebrate Songkran and this year was no different.
Though the number of visitors to Chiang Mai was down this year due to the
recent pollution and smoke filled skies, the water splashing began at least
two days before the official April 13 start.
Sanuk (fun) was the key word as young and old on foot, on motorbikes and
flatbed trucks took to the streets of the city to dowse anyone and
everything in sight.
The traditional courteous sprinkle of water which still goes on in some
areas had turned into who can get their hands on the largest and most
powerful water pistol.
The moat surrounding the old city was the gathering place for thousands and
many even braved the murky waters by jumping in to cool off.
The local authorities claimed the moat water was safe for swimming and the
banners overhead only warned swimmers of the depth of the water.
Huay Kaew road by Kad San Kaew shopping Center could only be described as a
war zone as thousands crowded the sidewalks to take aim at the passersby’s
with high pressure water hoses, buckets of water filled with ice and water
pistols strong enough to put out major fires.
Big name sponsors on specially built platforms transformed the front of the
shopping center into an ear piercing music extravaganza of hip-hop, techno
and Thai favorites.
Sanuk and smiles all around despite the potential for injury as motorbike
drivers fought to keep control of their wheels while being hit by water from
For many, young and old, Songkran seemed to be a good excuse to drink…and
drink they did from the early hours until sundown.
Despite the many warnings that crackdowns on drinking would take place the
beer and whiskey was poured as easily as the water around town.
The official death count and number of injuries during the Songkran period
will be tallied in a few days.
Songkran though is much more than just water throwing- for many it is a time
of reflection, thanksgiving, compassion and happiness. It is a time to bring
families together and pay respect by visiting the many temples. It is also a
time to offer food to the monks and a time to beautify the local temples.
Performing good deeds, community involvement and expressing generosity and
acts of kindness still take place but perhaps away from the mayhem of the
streets of the city.
The five day festivities have come to a close but no doubt a few stragglers
will remain faithful to their water hoses and ice filled water buckets for a
few more days.
After all, who wants the sanuk to end? (CMM Reporters)
Motorbike thugs ambush Australian resident and Thai girlfriend
An evening motorcycle ride to dinner ended up in a visit
to the hospital when a long time Chiang Mai resident from Australia and his
girlfriend where ambushed by thugs on motorbikes.
On April 6 the victims (names withheld at their request) were traveling by
motorbike south on Maninopharat Road (the moat road) just past Icon Computer
Plaza at about 10:30 at night. Out of nowhere two motorcycles, each with a
driver and passenger appeared on each side of the victims. The Australian
and his girlfriend traveling at about 40 kilometers per hour were sandwiched
in between the two motorbikes.
Suddenly one of the thugs, all of them between the ages of 18 and 22,
driving on the right side of the victims reached out and shoved them forcing
them to lose control and come to a crashing halt on the moat road.
The shocked and injured victims came to and saw the motorcyclists speed
away. It took them a few seconds to realize they had become targets of some
thugs endangering the lives of innocent people.
Within minutes a Thai passerby stopped and offered assistance on the busy
thoroughfare. A Thai policeman arrived on the scene in two minutes directing
traffic around the site and taking testimony from the several witnesses.
The Australian’s Thai girlfriend suffered a bad injury to her knee and three
days later still has trouble walking.
The injured visited the Emergency room at the Chiang Mai Ram Hospital only a
few blocks away and were surprised to learn from the attending nurses that
this unprovoked attack on motorcyclists is not uncommon in Chiang Mai. The
Emergency room staff is seeing more of more victims of motorcycle assaults.
One of the nurses admitted that some of these thugs use swords to injure
their victims and the purpose is to rob them of their cell phones and
wallets when possible.
Two hours later the victims headed home, physically injured but still in
shock that crimes like these are now occurring in Chiang Mai.
The Chiangmai Mail contacted Pol. Lt. Col. Thanet Viboonkiat, inspector at
the Chiang Mai police department, who stated that the recent assaults of
foreign tourists and also bag snatchings have mostly been carried out by
laborers from Myanmar and Thais working in restaurants and construction
The number of Thai youth gangs has clearly fallen after efforts of Chiang
Mai Police in making arrests and bringing them in for questioning and
background checks, calling in parents to issue warnings about their behavior
and instructing teachers to take disciplinary action added the Inspector. He
said that the gangs have literally disappeared as a result.
As for the foreign laborers, the Chiang Mai Police have coordinated with the
Labor Department and requested records of registrations and employer
details. This will facilitate police in carrying out background checks in
the event of incidents or crimes being committed.
Pol. Lt. Col. Viboonkiat stated that crimes must be reported to the police
in order that the criminals can be tracked down and brought to justice. He
added that the public and tourists should also take care of themselves and
not enter areas or places that look unsafe. There are good and bad people in
all countries and Thailand shouldn’t be seen as a place of villains he
concluded. (CMM Reporters.)
PM gets clean bill of health
Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont was discharged from the
hospital last Wednesday, two days after being hospitalized, affirming he is
healthy and ready to return to work as usual.
Gen. Surayud was admitted at Bangkok Hospital last Monday reportedly for a
medical check-up as he was said to have had an unspecified problem with his
colon which caused an illness some eight years ago.
However, a team of doctors told a press conference that they had found
nothing amiss in his colon, and gave the Prime Minister a clean bill of
health to return to work.
His absence from his official duties happened to come amid rumors that he
was disheartened and planned to quit his job due to pressures from many
sides. The rumors, however, were denied by his cabinet members and the
With cheerful smiles on his face, the Prime Minister told the press before
leaving the hospital that the results of medical check-up found nothing
wrong with both his heart and colon. He stressed that he was healthy now and
was able to carry on his duty without any problem.
“According to the medical check-up results, my health is in a normal
condition and I can continue my work with no problem”, said the Premier.
Heroin bust in Pai yields 3 kilos
A special task force of the Army Division 7 in cooperation with Mae Hong
Son police investigators in Pai nabbed more than 3 kilograms of heroin
valued at millions of baht as it was being allegedly smuggled into the
province from Myanmar by the Red Wa Army who apparently were hoping to elude
the authorities during the Songkran festivities.
General Virayit Kavayapanik, Deputy Commander of Special Task Force of the
Army Division 7, led his soldiers and a team of Mae Hong Son police
investigators and arrested Apichart Laoli along with 9 bars of compressed
heroin weighing just over 3 kilos. The arrest took place on a road near Taal
Jed Ton Village in the Mae Nating District of Pai in Mae Hong Son Province.
Prior to the arrest the investigators learned that the heroin was to be
smuggled in from Myanmar in the vicinity of Ban Khai Luang which is an are
under the control of the Red Wa Army.
At the appointed time the suspect and four accomplices drove past in a
pickup truck and the officers signaled for the vehicle to stop and be
searched. The four alleged accomplices managed to evade arrest after an
exchange of gunfire took place.
Apichart Laoli was arrested and is being questioned at to the possible
whereabouts of his alleged accomplices.
An informed source of the task force said that the heroin smugglers use this
route in Pai before handing it over to international drug traffickers who
then transport it to the US via Chonburi and Phuket. (CMM Reporters)
Man from Lampang, first Songkran casualty
Chiang Mai Police received a report of a drowning at Ku Muang, Chaeng Kha
Tham, Hayya, Chiang Mai. Police coordinated with rescue workers and rushed
to the scene. After dragging the body out of the water, rescue workers
attempted artificial respiration without success and the victim was sent to
Chiang Mai Hospital where doctors tried their best to save him, but to no
avail. The deceased was later identified as Phongpat Plathong, 18, of
Lampang who worked for Beta Grow Company at their Mae Jo Branch in Chiang
The deceased’s elder brother, Prinya Plathong told officers that he had
invited friends and his brother for a drinking session in Ku Muang. While
the four were drinking, the water throwing had already started. They started
the second bottle and most in the group were fairly drunk especially
Phongsak. He suddenly shouted “I’m hot” and jumped into a body of water.
Nobody paid any interest because they knew that he could swim. Later they
looked over and saw the victim’s hand moving as if calling for help.
Everyone jumped into the water try to drag him out without success.