HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Chiang Mai awash during Songkran celebrations

Motorbike thugs ambush Australian resident and Thai girlfriend

PM gets clean bill of health

Heroin bust in Pai yields 3 kilos

Man from Lampang, first Songkran casualty

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 air shower.

Mine’s bigger than yours!

All abroad the Songkran Express

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 year.
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 all sides.
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 sites.
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 government spokesperson.
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. (TNA)

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

Saksit Meesubkwang
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 Mai.
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.