NEWS
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

White elephant fountain moved after seven year dispute

Cyber crime law goes into effect

Simon Cabaret says goodbye to Chiang Mai

A farewell message from US Consul General Beatrice Camp

Government to give Chiang Mai a much needed tourism boost

Protesters try to serve a coal lunch

Stall owners up in arms as city orders them out

All vehicles, remove stickers by August 1

Push for ban on alcohol ads continues

Italian arrested for not paying hotel bill

Talks with atomic agency underway

Lets all get happy

Funds sought to predict earthquakes

Dengue fever warnings issued

Government web site hacked

Surveillance systems to be installed countrywide

 

White elephant fountain moved after seven year dispute

Saksit Meesubkwang
One of the city’s famous landmarks which was first built in the 1950’s then mysteriously disappeared in the 1990’s and then was rebuilt in 1999 has been relocated after a seven year dispute between the Municipality and the Fine Arts department.
The white elephant fountain which marked the entrance of the Chang Puak North gate was quickly removed last week and will be re-built at its new location at Suan Lanna Rama IX Park.
Famed astrologer Sukit Phutasin led the dismantling ceremony with a ritual apologizing to the spirits before workers began to bring down the famed fountain.
The city received a final order to remove the fountain as it obstructed the city’s ancient wall and prevented the work on uncovering ancient artifacts believed to be buried in the area.
The North gate is a historical site and was used as the entrance to the old city by royals and their guardian spirits in the times of the Lanna kingdom.
When the Fine Arts department completes their work the area will be transformed into a tourist attraction similar to that found at Tha Pae gate.
The original fountain which graced the area for 40 years disappeared overnight in the 1990’s and has never been found.

 

Cyber crime law goes into effect

The Information and Communications Technology Minister Sitthichai Pookaiyaudom said the new cyber crime law, implemented for the first time last Wednesday, to counter cyber crimes, will not affect the public’s use of computers or Internet services and was only designed to combat crimes involving national security, lese majeste, medical and pornography offenses.
The ICT minister said the new law will by no means violate individual freedom to surf cyberspace or deny normal public access to Internet and E-mail services, only content considered detrimental to national security and the monarchy or violating medical ethics and pornography will be scanned and tracked to those who may have generated it.
Controversial content may be logged in files for future probing by the authorities during a 90-day timeframe. Penalties for individuals, who may have committed such offenses, including those who live overseas, will be severe, according to the ICT minister.
However, he said, under the 2007 Computer-related Crimes Act, the authorities cannot seize any computer system, personal or corporate, on such criminal charges without court orders.
The cyber content to be controlled by the law does not only refer to messages in the computer but also pictures, sounds and files purveyed to an individual’s websites as well as short-message and multi-media systems currently available with cellular phones. TNA


Simon Cabaret says goodbye to Chiang Mai

A file picture of Simon Cabaret which it opened in Chiang Mai five years ago.

The long time venerable tourist must see show stopper closes its doors on July 31st after a five year run entertaining crowds with their “I can’t believe those are not really women” venue.
Simon got its name from the former Mayor of Pattaya more than 20 years ago, whose nickname used to be ‘High Sigh’, which turned into ‘Simon’, and stayed as such ever since.
Simon at that time was founded to show stage beauty, acting, dancing and light, and it became so successful that it quickly became an institution and famed tourist attraction. Simon moved to Phuket and opened its doors in 1990 and 12 years later Simons Cabaret came to Chiang Mai. The Phuket venue will remain open and the management from Chiang Mai will be transferred there next month. CMM Reporters


A farewell message from US Consul General Beatrice Camp

It has been a great honor to represent the U.S. in Chiang Mai for the past three years.   I want to thank the Chiangmai Mail for giving me this chance to say goodbye and reflect back briefly on these years.

Beatrice Camp
Having first come to Chiang Mai University on a teaching fellowship over 30 years ago, I felt extremely fortunate to return as Consul General in 2004.  Although I often hear people say how much the town has changed, in fact I tend to notice the similarities more than differences. The rainy season sunset is just as stunning and the sight of Doi Suthep just as comforting.  Speeding motorcycles still constitute the biggest threat to life and limb while wats still offer a quiet refuge. Although there are many problems facing Chiang Mai and Thailand today, this remains a special place. I am happy that the Chiangmai Mail and groups such as the Expats club exist today to help foreign residents and visitors appreciate the rich culture and opportunities here.
The U.S. Consulate was established in 1950, in the historic compound of the last prince of Chiang Mai.  One of our primary missions is the protection of American citizens. We began issuing visas in 1986 and are now the sole U.S. consular presence outside of Bangkok.
 Over the years we have developed strong cooperation with Thai partners on everything from agricultural development to narcotics suppression to HIV/AIDS research. We have also been active in educational and cultural areas, supporting English teaching, organizing a U.S. election watch party in 2004, inviting students to create Earth Day murals in 2005 and hosting the New Orleans All Star Band in 2006. More recently we celebrated the completion of the first project in northern Thailand funded by the Ambassador’s fund for Cultural Preservation and published a small book, American Threads in the Lanna Fabric, in recognition of the many valuable connections between our two countries. The booklet and other information is available on our website at   http://bangkok.usembassy .gov/consulcm/index.htm
My stay here has spanned the tsunami of 2004, the floods of 2005, and the coup of 2006.  In all these crises, as well as in the good times, I have learned to appreciate the support of this community and in particular the superb staff of the U.S. Consulate.  David and I will always treasure memories of Chiang Mai and the many wonderful people that we have come to know here.       
 Thank you and goodbye for now,
Bea Camp
U.S. Consul General


Government to give Chiang Mai a much needed tourism boost

The Minister of Tourism, Dr Suvit Yodmani, announced he will accelerate the construction of a dedicated Chiang Mai Convention Center by pushing for the completion of the venue’s blueprints to be finalized by the end of this year and for the project to be finished within two years.
He made his comments at a meeting in Chiang Mai, which was attended by Thai-based airlines, representatives of the city’s leading international hotel brands, Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Chiang Mai office officials, the Thai Hotels Association Northern Upper Chapter and members of the local press.
Discussions for the long-delayed project took place long before former Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, was ousted in a coup last September.
Apart from the initiative to push for the construction of a Chiang Mai Convention Center, Dr Suvit also announced the re-launch the Royal Flora Ratchaphreuk site as a botanical garden on August 3rd and the introduction of a Walk Street Festival next year. It is also likely the minister will endorse a plan by international branded hotels to launch an International Food Festival in September next year to be promoted by TAT.
Tourism in Chiang Mai has been facing a decline since the end of the Royal Flora Ratchaphreuk expo. While the three-month expo attracted about 2.6 million local and international tourists between November 1, 2006 and January 31, 2007, the city experienced a sharp drop immediately in February.
Chiang Mai Tourism Business Association president, Mr Songvit Ittipattanakul, said May was the worst month, with the number of tourists falling 30 to 40 per cent to a 10-year low. CMM Reporters/TTG


Protesters try to serve a coal lunch

Saksit Meesubkwang
Over 100 anti-coal protesters gathered in front of the Novotel Hotel on Chotana road where an ASEAN Forum on coal was being held.

An impromptu coal lunch placed at the entrance of the venue was then removed by hotel staff.
The protesters wanted to send a message to the ASEAN delegates about the hazards of coal use and the benefits of developing and using alternative energies that do not produce health hazard.
To stress their point the protesters from Mae Moh community and civil society groups laid out a coal-buffet for the delegates’ lunch.
The lignite fired power plant of Mae Moh is considered to be the worst of its kind in Asia and according to the protesters has had adverse and irreversible effect on the health and environment of the local community.
The protesters also submitted petition letters to the Governor of Chiang, Mai Wichai Sriwan and the President of Chiang Mai University Prof. Dr Pongsak Angkasit.
The orderly activists stressed they did not need coal mines in the country were representing the communities they said are negatively affected from the coal mines such as Mae Moh district of Lampang, Wiang Haeng District of Chiang Mai, Bor Nok Tabsakae community of Prachuab Khirikhan. Members of Green Peace were also present and organized parallel meetings to provide their points on the hazards of coal use.
Dr. Boonrod Satchakulnukitch, the expert on renewal energies of the Renewable Energy Development and Energy Preservation Department, said the meeting was held to consult and exchange ideas and experiences with representatives from 10 countries in the ASEAN group. Representatives from China, India, Japan and USA also were invited to take part in the meeting.
Up for discussion at the meetings was how to implement new technology to control the emissions and provide for cleaner sources of energy.
At present, electricity generated by coal in Thailand is regarded to be well under control for its standard, he added.


Stall owners up in arms as city orders them out

Saksit Meesubkwang
A group of 800 stall owners who sell their wares to tourists at Tha Pae Gate and the “Sunday Walking Street” are incensed by the Municipality’s decision to have them ordered out of the area while renovation projects take place.
The city government issued an order which took effect July 23 ordering all sellers to suspend their activities as city workers will begin repaving streets, install street lamps and build barriers.
The incensed stall owners have petitioned the Governor pleading that they will lose their only source of income during the renovations. They have also asked the Governor to provide them an alternate area in the city where tourists can have access to their goods while works are made to beautify the Tha Pae and Walking Street areas.
Apparently the stall owners were taken by surprise as Tasanay Saechue, Chairman of the Tha Pae Traders Club, said they had no advance notice about having to suspend their activities.
Saechue added that more than 1000 families will be affected as they depend on tourists who purchase their products. He wants the city government to put the renovation projects on hold until viable options can be provided to the traders who will be put out of work.
The city did not state how long the renovations would take or when the stall owners would be able to return to the area.


All vehicles, remove stickers by August 1

Saksit Meesubkwang
Mr. Chanchai Keelapaeng, the Head of the Chiang Mai Provincial Land Transport Office has issued a statement stating that all private transport vehicle operators whether transporting passengers, animals or other goods, must remove their stickers and paintings on the vehicles by August 1.

Stickers on all vehicles must be removed.
He said that due to all the fancy designs on cars, it was impossible to identify the original color of the vehicles when they came in for their regular checks.
The decorations have also made it difficult to identify them when accidents take place or when the vehicles flee the scene. Camouflaged vehicles can also be used for illegal activities to hide from the authorities. He added that there were plenty of pictures painted on the vehicles which are deemed inappropriate to be seen on the streets.
He said that there are 221 vehicles registered are in Chiang Mai for the purposes of tour operations and passenger transport. In addition there are 9078 registered 6, 8 and 18 wheel trucks.
Chiang Mai ranks second after Bangkok in vehicle registrations, followed by Nakhon Rachasima, Chonburi, Nakhon Pathom and Songkla.


Push for ban on alcohol ads continues

The Anti-Alcohol Network has asked an ad-hoc committee overseeing the alcohol control bill to ban alcohol advertisements on all forms of media, including television, publishing, and billboards.
More than 100 representatives of the Anti-Alcohol Network gathered in front of the Parliament House in Bangkok, calling on the committee to pass the ban and allow people to take part in the drafting process of the alcohol control bill. They propose that the committee appoint representatives of non-profit organizations against alcohol, children and women groups, as well as consumer protection organizations, to be its new members.
The network earlier kicked off a campaign to send letters and postcards warning of the adverse effects of alcohol consumption to the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) and requested it to support the alcohol control bill.
In August the network is scheduled to call a meeting of regional anti-alcohol networks to prepare measures to deal with distortion of the ban on alcohol advertisements. NNB


Italian arrested for not paying hotel bill

Police in Chiang Rai charged an Italian tourist for refusing to pay his hotel bill.
Police Lt. Col. Yuthasit Bunkla, a Chiang Rai Tourist Police Inspector, received a call from the Star Bright Hotel on Wang Kham Road informing him that a tourist had checked out without paying. For unknown reasons the tourist refused to pay his room bill and then vacated the hotel. Two Tourist Police Patrol officers were instructed to track the tourist down and soon after the suspect was spotted standing in front of 7-Eleven, next to Pizza Hut Chiang Rai.
According to the police the suspect tried to evade arrest, but was taken into custody for questioning. He was identified as Leonado John Fisaniaw, 41, of Italy. His passport had for 6 days prior to his arrest. The hotel staff was called in to identify him and they provided a positive confirmation.


Talks with atomic agency underway

The Prime Minister announced that discussions are underway with the Director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to construct a nuclear power plant in Thailand.
Prime Minister Gen Surayud Chulanont reported that the IAEA Director General Dr. Mohamed El Baradei recently attended a seminar on the development of science and technology in a bid to construct a nuclear power plant in Thailand.
Gen. Surayud said that preparations are underway to train personnel and create understanding among citizens on the issue. The IAEA Director General affirmed his belief that Thailand will be fully capable of developing nuclear technology for peaceful endeavors.
The Prime Minister said that the world is undergoing radical changes, many of which can be attributed to scientific and technological causes.
Gen Surayud advised adherence to the self-sufficiency economic principle, grassroots development, the establishment of a regional market, environmental conservation, and strengthening of all sectors. NNB


Lets all get happy

Deputy Prime Minister Piboon Wattanasiritham emphasized the government’s commitment to include the happiness index into Thailand’s next National Economic and Social Development plan for 2007-2011.
The minister offered his assurance in his opening speech of a two-day international conference on Happiness and Public Policy, organized by Thailand’s Public Policy Development Office at the regional United Nations Conference Centre.
Bhutan’s Minister of Home and Cultural Affairs, Lyonpo Jigme Thinley, meanwhile, stressed the significance of Gross National Happiness (GNH) as contrasted with Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as a contribution to measuring the development and implications of public policy.
He said that Bhutan has for decades adopted the approach of GNH to measure the progress of development, adding that economic, social, environment and culture are the four indicators to the country’s sustainable development. TNA


Funds sought to predict earthquakes

Smith Thammasaroch, advisor to Thailand’s Information and Communication Technology Minister, is preparing to request a budget of 200 million baht for studies of 14 potentially disruptive faults in the earth’s crust nationwide within 2008.
The budget would be allocated to four leading institutions, Chiang Mai, Khon Kaen, and Chulalongkorn Universities and the Asian Institute of Technology with each receiving 50 million baht.
“All of these institutions are ready to conduct the studies as soon as the government approves the budget allocation,” said Mr. Smith, the former Meteorology Department head.
Chiang Mai University will assess faults in the country’s upper northern region, Khon Kaen University will study the lower northern and western regions, Chulalongkorn will probe faults in Kanchanaburi and Bangkok, while the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT) will probe faults in the southern region.
In addition to 13 previously existing faults, Mr. Smith added, an additional fault was identified recently, extending through some areas of Bangkok.
“We know very little about these faults, despite the fact that they can cause violent earthquakes and hence serious destruction. That’s why we must conduct a thorough study of them,” according to Mr. Smith. TNA


Dengue fever warnings issued

Deputy Public Health Minister Morakot Kornkasem expressed his concern that dengue fever this year is more widespread and is likely to worsen during the continuing rainy season.
“Dengue fever is still critical because it is likely to spread even further during the rainy season,” Dr. Morakot said.
The rainy season usually runs from June through August.
In the first six months of 2007, there have been 23,653 dengue fever patients and 21 of them died. The central region is the hardest hit area with 8,177 patients, followed by the northeastern region with 6,816 patients. Eighty per cent of them contracted the deadly disease at home. TNA


Government web site hacked

The Ministry of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) has traced and identified unnamed hackers who violated the ministry’s website despite a new law just enforced to counter cyber crimes, according to the Ministry spokesman.
The hackers had inserted pictures of ex-prime minister Thaksin and coup leader Gen. Sonthi Boonyaratkalin, Chairman of the Council for National Security, on the main page of the ICT ministry’s www.mict.go.th web site.
The intruders also added criticisms of the military junta and the recently-drafted Constitution.
The cyber raids occurred one day after a new law was enforced to combat cyber crimes considered detrimental to national security, the monarchy, medical ethics and pornographic.
Ministry spokesman Wissanu Meeyu said the authorities had traced three unidentified computer hackers but declined to say if they were within the country or overseas.
However, the ministry planned to ask police to take legal action against the hackers who might face a maximum five-year jail term or a maximum fine of 100,000 baht or both.
Mr. Wissanu admitted the ministry’s website security was not state-of-the-art and is to be enhanced shortly. TNA


Surveillance systems to be installed countrywide

The Thai cabinet meeting gave the green light to a project to install a surveillance and censor system across the country, said Prime Minister’s Office assistant spokesperson Chotechai Suwannaporn.
Closed circuit television cameras and other surveillance systems used at London’s Heathrow airport will be installed to increase Thai efficiency in preventing smuggling, checking suspicious parcels and collecting information.
A facial scan system and infrared cameras to scan vehicular license plate numbers will be included in the surveillance network proposed by the Ministry of Finance.
CCTV cameras will be installed at 1,199 spots at permanent border checkpoints, customs checkpoints, ports and international airports.
The government has a five-year contract with state-run CAT Telecom and a budget of 740 baht million to run the project.
Meanwhile, The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) in cooperation with the private sector is installing closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras in a prime shopping area for the safety of Bangkok residents and tourists.
Bangkok Governor Apirak Kosayodhin and Ratchaprasong Square Trade Association Chairman Chai Srivikorn signed an agreement for a safety system development project at the shopping street in the Ratchaprasong area.
Under the phase one project, a budget of more than 20 million baht will be spent on CCTV camera installation in public areas, including sidewalks, and pedestrian bridges connecting building to the BTS elevated train stations.
The CCTV surveillance system will be linked to the Metropolitan Police Bureau to monitor the area around the clock. TNA