Vol. VI No. 18 - Tuesday
June 26, - July 2, 2007
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by Saichon Paewsoongnern


NEWS
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Series of quakes rattle Chiang Mai

PM swings through town to inspect flood controls

Turkish man posing as student arrested

Pojaman ill – Seeks postponement again

Thai nationality for 20,000 baht

Petition drive by ex-TRT members irks military

Baby giraffe born at the zoo

Landmark bill against marital rape

“Mr. Clean” favored for next PM

Series of quakes rattle Chiang Mai

Saksit Meesubkwang
A 5.4 magnitude earthquake, centered in Myanmar just south of the Chinese border rattled Chiang Mai on Saturday afternoon.
The first quake measuring 5.5 on the Richter scale rocked the city at 3.17 pm. A second quake was felt 10 minutes later and was a 5.4 magnitude tremor according to the US Geological Survey. The epicenter was registered some 356 kilometers north of Chiang Mai’s seismic measurement station.

Abbot Boonsong Kantathammo points at the damaged exterior of Wat Saohin.
A few aftershocks followed the quake but there have been no reports of damage or casualties at press time.
Last week’s 4.5 quake that rumbled through the city on Tuesday did produce damage as cracks were found in the walls of the 400-year-old assembly hall and the principle Buddha image in Wat Saohin.
Murals of the former incarnation of Buddha that were painted more than a century ago were also damaged.
Abbot Boonsong Kantathammo said that the cracks were present prior to the earthquake as the temple is four centuries old, but the cracks are widening following several tremors this year.
The temple has officially requested the Fine Arts Department to restore its structures because they are now vulnerable to further earthquakes which could more easily cause extensive damage to the temple, or even collapse the assembly hall.
Dr Samphan Singhrachvaraphan Director of the Earthquake research center at Chiang Mai University said that the epicenter was 3 miles to the north of Mae Jo University, which was strange because the area had not experienced an earthquake in over 40 years. He added that the recent quake was not located on the Mae Tha fault line as reported by the Meteorology department, but was caused by a crust movement that passed through the center of Chiang Mai from the north of Mae Taeng, Mae Rim districts to Lamphun province.
Elsewhere in the province, the Royal Irrigation Department has inspected two dams and found no damage.


PM swings through town to inspect flood controls

PM Surayud inspects the Ping where it is to be widened at the Provincial Police Bureau, Region 5. He was joined by Chiang Mai Governor Wichai Srikwan and Police Lt. Gen Kittithat Ruentap, Commissioner of the police bureau. CMM Photo

Saksit Meesubkwang
Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont paid a visit to Chiang Mai last Thursday to check on the progress of the dredging work at the flood prone Ping River in front of the Provincial Police Region 5 headquarters.
The dredging of the Ping River was initiated by the Cabinet of the previous government but the Chiang Mai Municipality is still widening the river. The total cost of the dredging is estimated at more than 500 million baht. Infrastructure items, including water taps have been removed from the area of the dredging. The narrowest part of the river, which is in front the police headquarters on Mahidol Road near the Padaed Bridge, is being dredged.
The width of the Ping River at the Police headquarters is only 60 meters across compared to the average 90 meters elsewhere along the river. The narrowing of the Ping at this location has been a constant source of flooding for homes and businesses in the area.
Former government officials had recommended the entire police department be moved to a different location as the site had encroached on the natural flow of the Ping and added to the severe floods during the rainy season. But the police station will remain in place and the dredging will continue.
Following his inspection of the flood prevention work the premier traveled to the Sankampaeng Provincial Government Center to preside over an opening ceremony of a Thai handicraft and wisdom center which will provide personnel development training services for local entrepreneurs.


Turkish man posing as student arrested

Twenty one year old Ihan Torun was arrested by Chiang Mai police who have charged him with a string of robberies around the city.

The stolen stash found on Ihan Torun displayed at Police headquarters.
Police say the Turkish national was passing himself off as a foreign student but instead of attending classes he was allegedly snatching valuables from Thai women and then selling them at pawn shops.
His last apparent victim showed up at the Provincial Police Bureau number 5 and told officers she was robbed while walking along Kalae reservoir in Tambon Suthep. The victim, 20 year old Juthamas Saensupa lost her handbag containing a mobile phone.
Following a detailed description of the capper police caught up with him at a mini-mart on Huay Kaew Road and promptly arrested him.
After the mandatory but gentle police questioning procedures the alleged bandit confessed to several crimes including bag snatching at Kad Suan Kaew department store. The young Turk admitted to police that he would stop unsuspecting Thai women, ask them for directions and using he apparent talents he didn’t learn in school was able to rid the victims of mobile phones, cash and wallets.
Police seized evidence including sim cards, four cell phones, Thai currency in the amount of 20,250 baht, a camera, fake student ID cards from Payap University and Kawila School. (CMM Reporters)


Pojaman ill – Seeks postponement again

In a separate legal case, the counsel of Khunying Pojaman Shinawatra, wife of ex-prime minister Thaksin, submitted a request on her behalf asking for postponement of her testimony regarding last year’s controversial Shin Corp share deal to next month, citing her illness as the primary reason.
Mrs. Pojaman’s lawyer Somporn Phongsuwan told reporters that the request of the ex-premier’s wife was not aimed at prolonging the case. She wished to postpone the testimony to July 19, because she needed to be hospitalized abroad as a result of multiple symptoms including headaches and irregular heartbeat.
“Khunying Pojaman cannot come to testify because she is ill. She is only exercising her fundamental right as a defendant who is entitled to a postponement due to a sickness,” said Mr. Somporn.
AEC spokesman and sub-committee member Sak Korsaengrueng said that the medical statement produced by the lawyer was merely a document signed by a medical doctor named Ng Wai Lin of Raffles Hospital in Singapore.
As a result, the AEC sub-committee ordered him to produce additional evidence to support the claim that Mrs. Pojaman was very ill within seven days. (TNA)


Thai nationality for 20,000 baht

Saksit Meesubkwang
Two young men from Myanmar were arrested for attempting to become Thai citizens by forging identification cards at 20,000 baht a piece.
Sansai police officers detained Rung Duangyot and Suthep (surname unknown), both 18 years as they both claimed to be Thai citizens and attempted to obtain ID cards illegally.
Police investigators discovered that Suthep, who claimed to be Phongsak was actually a Myanmese citizen living in Mae Chaem District since he was a child. Apparently someone had contacted the real Phongsak’s father and he had agreed to sell his son’s rights as a Thai national for 20,000 baht.
In April the real Phongsak, aged 15, turned up at the Chormthong district office requesting an identification card. Officials then realized one had been granted in his name at the Sansai district office. This is when the police were notified and began to investigate.
According to the police some district administrators in Mae Chaem may have also played a role in this attempted citizen switch and apparently gave advice to the parties involved. Police have now compiled enough evidence to carry out criminal proceedings.


Petition drive by ex-TRT members irks military

Saksit Meesubkwang
Ex-members of Thai Rak Thai Party in Chiang Mai and Lamphun provinces will continue their petition drive to collect one million signatures despite attempts from the military to derail their efforts.
Former MPs in the North launched a signature campaign at the Statue of Three Ancient Kings in the old city but the military quickly moved in and removed their tented set-up.
Two former MP candidates of Thai Rak Thai party (TRT) Surapong Towichakkul and Julaphan Amonwiwat said people were eligible to exercise their rights by providing their signatures. They also claimed that their actions were lawful in accordance with the current temporary constitution.
Members of the banned political party are seeking an appeal to the recent Supreme Court ruling but the 33rd Military Circle Royal Thai Army decided that a petition requesting His Majesty the King to grant amnesty to the 111 members of the Thai Rak Thai party was not proper.
Colonel Patinun Saihasadi, Deputy Commander of the 33rd Military Circle Royal Thai Army, said the military disagreed with the activity to collect the names since it might somehow bother the HM the King. The political activity run by TRT in Chiang Mai was acceptable if it was not against the public order or adding to the restless situation in the country.
“Although the operation to collect the name lists was to comply with the democracy, an appeal to the King was still not suitable”, he noted.
The military has been keeping close tabs on the movements of the ex-TRT members in Chiang Mai in order to protect them and keep public order.
The former MP’s added that they will continue their campaign from the former headquarters of the TRT party office in Chiang Mai.


Baby giraffe born at the zoo

Linda Ratchai
The Chiang Mai zoo welcomed a new baby giraffe which weighed in at 100 kilos.

The baby koala still safely hidden in mother’s pouch.
Kwuan Wiang the father and Bai Mhon the mother are doing fine according to zoo officials. The parents are from South Africa and have been at the zoo since 1997.
Meanwhile, Chiang Mai Zoo’s director Thanapat Pongpamorn delivered a progress report on the baby Koala born at the zoo last January.
Zoo attendants were able to spot the little koala’s foot peering from the mother’s pouch and hope that within two months time it will begin to show its head.
Australian koala experts have recommended that Coco, the mother, be weighed every month to monitor its progress and health.
The zoo will ask the children of Chiang Mai to come up with a name for the baby koala. The winner will receive a trip to Australia.


Landmark bill against marital rape

Under the terms of a new legal provision of the Thai Penal Code, a husband no longer can physically abuse his wife, nor engage in involuntary sexual relations against his spouse’s will.
Thailand’s National Legislative Assembly (NLA) approved an amendment providing that a marital rape is now subject to a maximum jail term of 20 years.
The Thai Penal Code Section 276 currently exempts punishment for a husband who has sexual intercourse with his wife against her will, an understanding which is widely seen as gender discrimination against women.
There have been many attempts to change this legal provision, but NLA action represents the first time that a wife’s rightful willingness will be protected by the Thai Penal Code.
Following promulgation of the amended Section 276, a marital rapist will face a minimum jail term of four years, up to a maximum 20 year incarceration, or a minimum fine of 8,000 baht up to 40,000 baht or both. (TNA)


“Mr. Clean” favored for next PM

Purachai Piamsomboon, former deputy prime minister who resigned from politics in January 2005, has emerged as the favorite choice for prime minister in a survey conducted by the ABAC Poll.
The Assumption University survey – better known as the ABAC Poll – interviewed 1,750 Thais and 558 foreigners in Bangkok and surrounding areas. It found that 41.7 per cent of the respondents wanted Mr. Purachai, dubbed “Mr. Clean” for his staunch anti-corruption line while he served during the first term of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
Slightly over one third of the respondents – 37.7 per cent – wanted ex-prime minister Anand Panyarachun to head the new government after a general election, likely to be held this November, while 34.6 per cent favored Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva.
As many as 59.3 per cent of foreign respondents said they agreed that the ousted government of Mr. Thaksin was engaged in rampant corruption while 7.4 per cent disagreed.
Almost half of the foreign respondents – 49 per cent of the foreigners – also believed attempts by an ongoing demonstration to drive out the Council for National Security from power would lead to violence in the country, while 8 7.9 per cent of them believed that a general election would be the best way to solve the country’s political impasse. (TNA)



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