NEWS
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

2000 orchids planted to mark HM the Queen’s birthday

Night Safari to remain open

Foreign Minister assures US of election schedule

Ex-attorney general to chair extrajudicial killings probe

Flood warning system installed in Mae Hong Son

Police Commission approves 20,000 positions

PM speaks out on unresolved problems

Economy set to improve after general election

Not everyone in favor of the draft constitution

Governors lobby voters for upcoming election

Opium plantations to disappear next year

Nan hit again by flash floods

Prime Minister and CNS chairman urge vote for newly-drafted charter

 

2000 orchids planted to mark HM the Queen’s birthday

Members of the Karen hilltribe took part in planting over 2000 orchids at the future botanical garden in Mae Hong Son province.

Khajohn Boonpath
Joining hands to return orchids back to nature and marking the birthday of Her Majesty the Queen, Mae Hong Son provincial authorities and residents of the Karen, Mae Samat, and Huay Maklang villages planted wild orchids in the area called Doi Uang Sae mountain.
This mountainous area is the source of orchid breeding where it can be developed into an ecotourism project in the future, according to Mae Hong Son Governor Direk Kornkleeb.
General Niphon Parunnit, Advisor to the Royal-Initiated Project, graciously presided over the opening day by joining hands to return numerous orchids to this wildlife area, marking the auspicious occasion to celebrate the birthday of HM Queen Sirikit.
About 2000 orchids from various species were planted by the highlanders and Karen hilltribe who participated in this event.
Gen Niphon said this gathering was in response to the Royal-Initialed Project of HM the Queen, who realizes the importance of trees, forests, wildlife species, flora and fauna where ‘man can live together with nature.’
Governor Direk added that next year the provincial authorities will open up its orchid plantation area, to be named Uang Sae orchid botanical garden as another tourism attraction in this province.

 

Night Safari to remain open

Elephant Reserve and Cable Car projects postponed

Deputy PM Paiboon Wattanasiritham, center, chairing the recent meeting where some answers about the future of the Night Safari were provided.

Saksit Meesubkwang
More than 100 representatives of the local community, academics, government organizations and business operators attended a forum to discuss and obtain some answers about the future of the Night Safari, the Elephant Reserve and the cable car project.
The forum was chaired by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Social Development, Mr. Phaiboon Wattanasiritham, who admitted the Night Safari and the pending projects have created conflicts and consternation in Chiang Mai.
The Deputy Minister added that the Special Zone Development (Public) Organization for Sustainable Tourism was created to provide participation from all sectors who can work together on the present and future projects in order to benefit all concerned.
As for the future of the Night Safari the Deputy Prime Minister said that at this time it would be difficult to close it down, but changes and improvements are needed and the end result would be to satisfy all parties who have objected to the tourist attraction in the past.
The Chiang Mai Night Safari will be transferring management to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and suggestions for the creation of an advisory committee made up of local residents was put forward as one way to involve the community.
Mr. Pisal Vasuvanich, Director of the Special Zone Development (Public) Organization for Sustainable Tourism, said that the Faculty of Business Administration at Chiang Mai University is developing administrative plans for the Chiang Mai Night Safari in order to make it more efficient.
As for the controversial Elephant Reserve and the Cable Car to Doi Suthep project—postponed for the time being.


Foreign Minister assures US of election schedule

Foreign Minister Nitya Pibulsonggram assured United States Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negroponte that Thailand would have a general election late this year.

United States Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negroponte (left) meeting with the Thai Foreign Minister Nitya Pibulsonggram at last week’s ASEAN Regional Forum last week in Manila. (AP Photo)
He gave the assurance during a bilateral discussion on the sideline of the ASEAN Regional Forum being held in Manila.
The ASEAN Regional Forum brought together the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and officials from 27 other countries, including China, Australia, Japan, EU, Russia and the two Koreas.
The Foreign Minister said one of the main issues raised for discussion with the US Deputy Secretary of State involved democratic developments in Thailand.
He told Mr. Negroponte the general election would be definitely held in Thailand on December 16 or 23 and what the Thai government had done in the past eight months.
The US deputy secretary acknowledged his explanation and told him the US government had monitored the political development in Thailand all along.
Mr. Nitya said he also told him that the current Thai government had never used force as had earlier military-installed ones. (TNA)


Ex-attorney general to chair extrajudicial killings probe

Former Attorney General Kanit Na Nakhon has agreed to chair a special committee to investigate some 2,500 extra-judicial killings carried out during former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s ‘war on drugs campaign’, said Justice Minister Charnchai Likhitjittha.
Mr. Charnchai added that he already signed a proposal to be submitted for Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont for consideration.
“The special committee will be tasked with an investigation to find out the truth about the deaths as well as to identify remedial measures for their relatives,” said Mr. Charnchai.
Another major reason to set up the special committee, the minister said, was to provide clarification on this matter among international community.
“The community formation has been initiated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” the minister said. (TNA)


Flood warning system installed in Mae Hong Son

Khajohn Boonpath
Mae Hong Son provincial authorities along with NECTECH have set up an electronic warning system to deal with the unexpected flash foods during this rainy season. The authorities also ordered tambon administration organizations (TAO), and provincial administration organization (PAO) to be on alert.
The warning systems have been installed in Pai and Pangmapha districts, where they will sound every two hours in case there is an excess in rain. The warning will alert officials stationed at the provincial center at city hall.
This hi tech equipment will help inform the provincial authorities to be on alert in time for coping with the floods and landslides and provide them with two hour advance notice.
Governor of Mae Hong Son Direk Kornkleeb disclosed that the provincial authority has instructed 80 at risk villages on how to prepare for flash floods and landslides.
In addition, the Governor ordered volunteers forces of military, police, foundations, relief units and rescue teams in the at risk areas to prepare their equipments, tools, materials, and relief kits and to be on alert.
Meanwhile, Mr. Thada Sattha, the chief of meteorological station in Mae Hong Son said that the rain volume at present is increasing as well as underground water sources. If rains continue for several days at a time flash floods from the forests and landslides are likely to occur.


Police Commission approves 20,000 positions

Interim Royal Thai Police Commissioner General Pol. Gen. Seripisut Temiyavet reported that the Office of the Police Commission has authorized the appointment of 20,000 commissioned police officers to positions ranging from police superintendent and inspector in police precincts nationwide. 1,500 police positions will be for criminal suppression positions, while 156 will be for precinct superintendents.
Pol. Gen. Seripisut added that police positions will gradually be opened, with the Cabinet having already approved the appointment of 8,000 police officers with more officers expected to be appointed by the end of the year. Officials will take seniority into account for the placement of police officers. (NNB)


PM speaks out on unresolved problems

After administering Thailand following a military bloodless coup 10 months ago, interim Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont admitted that two major problems — politics and the continuing violence in the restive South — could not be solved during the tenure of his government.
Speaking during his weekly television program, Gen. Surayud said he still could not say what were major successes achieved by his government even after administering the country one year, and that the two major tasks which he wanted to solve could not be solved within this administration.
The premier said he never set the timeframe that problems could be solved within a short period because political developments had to be conducted on a continual basis and that this government’s duty was to set the direction and rules for the future.
Gen. Surayud said he would be happy and relieved on the day that the duty is handed over to an elected government.
Touching on the achievement of reconciliation among the people after his government had come into office, he said it was difficult to measure as it is clearly seen that it is not easy to change people’s thought on politics.
However, people at the family level now want to see the country’s problems to be honestly tackled.
People are not talking about reconciliation and they are pondering how the country could sail through the current crisis, on the upcoming general election and on the new constitution which could solve national problems, he said.
“I think this is important,” said Gen. Surayud. “Having differences in thinking is not important, but people should look forward and try to solve the (overall political) problem for the long term.” (TNA)


Economy set to improve after general election

Thailand’s economy is expected to improve after the general election as investors gain more confidence, but the new elected government must give more attention to solving problems of poverty and restructuring the industrial sector, according to a cross-section of senior Thai economists at a seminar held last Saturday in Bangkok.
Voraphol Sokatiyanurak, vice chairman of the National Economic and Social Advisory Council, said the problem of poverty and indebtedness will be an immediate concern of any new government formed after the general election later this year. Consumer spending has slowed while household debt has doubled to 120,000 baht (US$3,640) from 60,000 baht (US$1,820) listed earlier, Mr. Voraphol said.
The new government must provide programs to generate income and issue transparent laws regarding retail trade, foreign investment and reduce the large and growing income gaps between the rich and the poor.
Karun Kittisataporn, Permanent Secretary for Commerce, said the new government must restructure the industrial sector and the country must become the owner of more brands instead of simply being a hired producer.
Thai industry has not advanced greatly after the 1997 financial crisis, Mr. Karun observed, noting that most major local plants are hired by overseas manufacturers to produce their brands until the machinery is worn-out and the plants are closed.
In reality, the problem of Thai industry is not simply a result of the strong baht, said Mr. Karun, but an accumulation of factors made worse by the recent condition of the baht.
Another speaker, National Economic and Social Development Board secretary general Amphol Kitti-amphon said the Thai economy still depended on exports for the time being.
Although the country enjoyed a trade surplus of 200 billion baht during the first six months this year, 80 per cent of the surplus came from industries set up by foreigners in Thailand which benefited only little to Thai people.
The new government must restructure both Thailand’s system of income distribution system and the social structure, added Mr. Amphol. (TNA)


Not everyone in favor of the draft constitution

Saksit Meesubkwang
A network of allied organizations gathered recently to reject the constitutional referendum stating it was authored by a dictatorship and placed restrictions on mass media reform.

Suriyan Thongnoo-iad, one of the many who aired their views on the upcoming public referendum for adopting the new draft constitution 2007.

About 60 people representing a number of non-governmental organizations, foundations, volunteers, news agencies, radio, media reform committees, and the Chiang Mai and Lamphun land reform committees gathered to exchange ideas and explain why they were voting against the draft charter which takes place on August 19.
Mr. Suriyan Thongnoo-iad, Secretary General of the Northern Private Development organization, said this new charter and the present government did not promote media reform and also disagreed with the government efforts to push up drafting the internal security act.
He added that they were not campaigning for the side of former deposed government, but they just want to inform the public regarding their rights.


Governors lobby voters for upcoming election

Flags, stickers and books on the 2007 draft constitution are being distributed to all Provincial Governors to be used to educate the public regarding the draft charter and to encourage eligible voters to cast their ballots for the national referendum on August 19.
The educational materials will be distributed to the public nationwide and will explain to them why the constitution should be approved by the voters.

Chiang Mai governor Wichai Srikwan receiving the flags from the village representatives, at city hall, among the district volunteers, from 24 districts,
These flags were then presented to the PM Gen. Surayud Chulanont at the Government House in Bangkok on August 2.

The Council for National Security and the interim government of Prime Minister Gen. Surayud Chulanont has said that one of the kingdom’s previous constitutions would be used if the electorate rejects the draft charter.
Without a constitution in place, the general election set to be held in November or December cannot be conducted.
However, the Prime Minister’s Office Minister, Mr. Thirapat Serirangsan, says he believes the 2007 constitutional referendum will endorse the 2007 charter draft. However, if the draft is rejected, Mr. Thirapat says the Council for National Security (CNS) will have a meeting to discuss which constitution will be used instead.
CNS Chairman Sonthi Boonyaratglin has indicated that if the 2007 charter draft has not been approved, then the 1997 constitution would be used instead. Mr. Thirapat says it is only Gen. Sonthi’s opinion. Mr. Thirapat says many sides have spent considerable time in revising and correcting the new charter draft, and he believes it will be accepted by the public.
However, if the referendum on August 19th does not endorse the draft, then the CNS will have a meeting on this matter again.
Chiang Mai Governor Wichai Srikwan said after reviewing the promotional materials, including booklets and flags, that portions of the draft charter were difficult to understand and it was necessary to summarize vital points so all voters could become educated on the changes.
He said he expected that at least 60 per cent of eligible voters in Chiang Mai province would vote on that day.
Meanwhile, Chiang Mai Provincial Authority organized a jogging parade through the streets of the city to launch the promotional campaign to create awareness among the voters. The national government launched a similar campaign throughout the nation.
In addition an exhibition on democratic awareness has August 2nd through the 5th at the City Hall.
Chiang Mai province has a population of 1,100,000 of who 60% are eligible voters. (CMM Reporters/TNA)


Opium plantations to disappear next year

This file photo shows US Ambassador Ralph L. Boyce visiting a poppy plantion in Om Koi district, in February this year. The diplomat was briefed on the drug situation by Lt Gen Jiradet Khotcharat, the commander of the third Army region.

Saksit Meesubkwang
Chiang Mai authorities plan to swoop in and clear up the opium poppy plantations by next year.
A disturbing revelation has found an increasing number of farmers are growing poppies, the source for opium and heroin.
Over 1,000 rai of plantations have been found growing poppy in the Om Koi district of Chiang Mai. Other fields have been discovered in Chiang Dao and Mae Chaem districts.
The government authorities indicated that the drug situation gets worse when social and economic problems increase.
Mr Chumporn Saengmanee, assistant Governor of Chiang Mai disclosed at a meeting that drug addiction is coming back and due to economic and social difficulties.
Chiang Mai authorities plan to eradicate the plantations and institute projects in 9 districts with a budget of 2.28 million baht. These projects will include working on prevention, monitoring, suppression, eradication, rehabilitation, career promotion, and public relations.
The 9 targeted districts are Koi, Mae Chaem, Chiang Dao, Fang, Mae Ai, Chaiprakarn, Wiang Haeng, Mae Taeng, and Phrao where most of the plantations have been found.
Chiang Mai province leads the country as the number one grower of poppy.
The authorities have been working closely under United Nations guidelines to eradicate the number of plantations and create so called free zones within a year.


Nan hit again by flash floods

Three days of heavy rains in Nan province left 120 homeless as homes, crops and businesses were ravaged by floods last week.
Several roads were cut off by landslides and numerous towns and village became inaccessible to rescue workers who were trying to reach them to provide help.
The Nan provincial authority has ordered all agencies to be on standby and alert for more flooding.
The flooded canals and rivers of Songkwae District produced damage to many homes and many hilltribe villages were also flooded.
The rains and floods damaged some 1,000 rai of corn fields, fruit orchards and vegetable gardens. The cost of damage is under review by Nan provincial authorities.
Colonel Montri Jinsen of the Nan provincial Army led 100 soldiers to help victims collect what they could salvage and evacuate residents to higher ground. Food, drinking water and other supplies were also distributed.
In September of 2006, Nan province was hit hard by flash floods that inundated a record number of villages and left tens of thousands homeless and some 600 million baht in damages. (CMM Reporters)


Prime Minister and CNS chairman urge vote for newly-drafted charter

Prime Minister Gen. Surayud Chulanont and Council for National Security chairman Gen. Sonthi Boonyaratkalin called on the Thai people to participate in the public referendum scheduled for August 19 to decide whether or not the nation accepts the newly-drafted Constitution.
Addressing an estimated 10,000 civil servants and others at Muang Thong Thani exhibition center, Gen. Surayud launched a Democratic Development Declaration of 2007 under the terms of which, he assured his listeners, that democratic rule will return and the people will be able to constructively participate in running the country by electing a government whose performance will be subject to public scrutiny.
Gen. Sonthi said that the people, regardless of their religious, political and social preferences, will peacefully co-exist on the basis of national reconciliation.
Constitution drafting committee chairman Noranit Sethabutr made assurances that the new Constitution provides and promotes human rights and freedom of expression, contains the monopolistic powers of government, combats corruption and abuse of power, fosters transparency in government and political activity and establishes an efficient process for checks and balances within government.
Gen. Surayud called on the people not only to cast their votes for the new Constitution but also to go to the polls for the general election yet to be scheduled at the end of this year. (TNA)