NEWS
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

World outraged as Myanmar troops regain control

Thailand denounces violence in Myanmar

Chiang Mai gathers to protest actions in Myanmar

Sunflowers to kickoff tourist season

Motorcycle accidents kill 27 people a day

Analysis: A wind for change

Ladyboy roundup continues

Royal Flora Park gets 90 million baht

One-Two-Go victim files first lawsuit

Business as usual at Tachilek border crossing

Thai soldiers on alert at border

 

World outraged as Myanmar troops regain control

Residents worried pro-democracy protests could be weakening after soldiers and police in Myanmar took control of the streets, firing warning shots to scatter the few demonstrators who ventured out and sealing off Buddhist monasteries. The Internet was also cut.
The streets were quiet early Saturday and monks, who have provided the backbone of recent rallies calling for an end to 45 years of military rule, were penned in behind locked gates in the two largest cities, Yangon and Mandalay. Additional troops arrived overnight, consolidating control of urban areas.
“I don’t think that we have any more hope to win,” said a young woman who took part in a massive demonstration Thursday that was broken up when troops opened fire into a crowd. She was separated from her boyfriend and has not seen him since. “The monks are the ones who give us courage.”
Daily protests drawing tens of thousands of people had grown into the stiffest challenge to the ruling junta in two decades, a crisis that began more than a month ago when people in the desperately poor nation of 54 million started rallying against a massive fuel price increase.
Security forces started to crack down on the demonstrators last Wednesday, when the first of at least 10 deaths was reported, and then let loose on Thursday. Small groups of die-hard activists and angry residents have turned out since then, some taunting troops and then scattering into alleyways, soldiers in pursuit.
“Bloodbath again! Bloodbath again!” a Yangon resident yelled Friday while watching troops break up one march by shooting into the air, firing tear gas and beating people with clubs. Participants in the protests asked that their names not be used, fearing retribution.
On Saturday, soldiers and police were stationed on almost every street corner in Yangon. Shopping malls, grocery stores and public parks were closed, and only a handful of residents ventured out.
“People are living in a state of fear and hate,” said one onlooker, who asked not to be named. “A few days ago, everyone was friendly. Now no one wants to talk to strangers.”
Hundreds of people have been arrested, including Win Mya Mya, an outspoken member of the country’s main opposition group, the National League for Democracy, who was taken overnight, according to family members.
Images of bloodied protesters and fleeing crowds have riveted world attention on the escalating crisis, prompting many governments to urge the junta to end the violence. A video broadcast by Japan’s Fuji Television Network showed a soldier directly shooting a Japanese cameraman during the crackdown Thursday.
The United Nations’ special envoy to Myanmar, Ibrahim Gambari, was to arrive in the country Saturday to promote a political solution to the crisis, and the United States urged “all civilized nations” to urge Myanmar’s leaders to end the crackdown.
“They don’t want the world to see what is going on there,” White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said, as soldiers searched hotels for foreign journalists, who have been largely barred from entering the country.
But analysts said it was unlikely that countries with major investments in Myanmar, such as China and India, would agree to take any punitive measures. They also noted the junta has long ignored criticism of its tough handling of dissidents.
Although the crackdown raised fears of a repeat of a 1988 democracy uprising that saw an estimated 3,000 protesters slain, the junta appeared relatively restrained so far.
The arrival of additional troops in Yangon strengthened the government’s hand, said an Asian diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity, citing protocol.
The corralling of monks was also a serious blow. The maroon-robed clergymen carry high moral authority in the predominantly Buddhist nation, and the protests had mushroomed when they joined in.
The government has said police and soldiers killed 10 people, including the Japanese journalist, in the first two days of the crackdown, but diplomats and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown the toll was probably greatly understated.
They provided no estimates of their own and cautioned that witness reports had not been verified.
Authorities also shut off the country’s two Internet service providers, although big companies and embassies hooked up to the Web by satellite remained online. The Internet has played a crucial role in getting news and images of the democracy protests to the outside world. AP

 

Thailand denounces violence in Myanmar

Thailand and ASEAN have both denounced the Myanmar government’s use of violence against demonstrators and called on it to exercise the utmost restraint and resume efforts to end street protests through peaceful means.
“As a neighboring country sharing a land border of more than 2,400 kilometers and currently hosting more than a million Myanmar citizens, Thailand is gravely concerned with what we are seeing and hearing in Myanmar.
“Both Thailand and Myanmar, being predominantly Buddhist, share in the belief of nonviolence and tolerance. So, Thailand finds unacceptable the commission of violence and bodily harm to Buddhist monks and demonstrators,” Thai Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont said on behalf of ASEAN in his address to the 62nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly which was held from September 22-29.
He said ASEAN members have discussed the situation in Myanmar and were informed of the military regime’s resort of weapons against the demonstrators.
The group expressed hostile resistance on the report of violent suppression which led to the loss of lives and called on the junta to end of the use of violence immediately.
“We strongly urge Myanmar to exercise utmost restraint and to seek a political situation and resume its effort at national reconciliation with all parties concerned, and work towards a peaceful transition to democracy.
“We call for the release of all political detainees, including opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi,” Prime Minister Surayud said.
He said ASEAN supported the decision by UN Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon to send special envoy Ibrahim Gambari to Myanmar and wanted the military regime to cooperate with the world body.
Mr. Ibrahim will serve as a mediator to find ways to ease the aggravating situation. ASEAN wants the regime to allow the special envoy to meet with all parties concerned to discuss the best way out for the situation.
He said the Thai government is worried about what is happening in the neighboring country, particularly human rights violations, because the problem could lead to a further influx of refugees into Thailand in the future.
Asked whether the Thai government would press the Myanmar junta to end the use of violence against people, he said his government is not in a position to do that.
What it could do now is to negotiate with the junta, which is the only channel ASEAN members could use to help end the violence in Myanmar, the Thai prime minister said. TNA


Chiang Mai gathers to protest actions in Myanmar

Mark Whitman
Over the weekend, beginning late on Friday afternoon with a rally at Three Kings Monument, a series of protest demonstrations and religious observances were held in Chiang Mai against the ruling junta In Myanmar and in support of the Burmese people now suffering a brutal crackdown against their peaceful demonstrations for freedom.

Several hundred Chiang Mai residents gathered at the Three Kings monument to protest the actions of the Myanmar junta.

The first rally was hastily planned on Thursday evening and, because of the absence of the Mayor of Chiang Mai on business in Bangkok, only received official support at 4pm. The rally, organized by Peace in Burma and Labor Sans Frontieres among others – attracted several hundred supporters dressed symbolically in red.
As the evening wore on numbers grew and a small police presence went largely unnoticed. A series of speeches were made in both Thai and English and a blessing and short speech was made by a monk. Songs of protest were sung by a women’s group from Myanmar and another song, “Only if We Stand Together” expressed the mood of the peaceful crowd of students, activists and well wishers made up of Thais and foreigners.
The event ended with a candlelight vigil as people contemplated the significance of the messages written and read on the banners and posters, they asked for a free Burma and the release of their elected leader – still under house arrest after many years- Aung San Suu Kyi.
On Saturday morning a special prayer meeting was held at Wat Suandok, Suthep Road where the chief Monk addressed a devout group of Thais and farangs in a prayer meeting with the hopes of a peaceful end to the problems facing Burma.
A second meeting at Three Kings Monument was arranged for the Saturday afternoon and the organizers are hoping for further meetings and actions in Chiang Mai and elsewhere in Thailand to help put pressure on the military junta in the neighboring country.


Sunflowers to kickoff tourist season

Hot air balloon to be launched

The famed Mexican sunflowers are expected to begin blooming in early November. (CMM file photo)

A hot air balloon will be launched in Mae Hong Son to provide tourists with an aerial view of the upcoming sunflower blooming season.
The Mae Hong Son Provincial Administration Organization (PAO) allocated a budget of 1.5 million baht to build and operate the balloon which begins operations when the sunflowers begin to bloom in November.
Over 500 rai of Mexican sunflowers draw thousands of tourists every year and has become one of the major attractions in the province.
The hot air balloon ride will transport up to 5 passengers, who will be charged 100 baht each. Each tour takes approximately 15 minutes and guests will be offered a cup of locally grown Huay Hom coffee. The hot air balloon will be available from 8:30am to 4:30pm until the end of the festival.
Wisut Buachum, the head of the Mae Hong Son Tourism Coordination Center stated that “the balloon predicts a good fortune of the province’s tourism and it will become the first balloon tour at flower field in Thailand. The balloon will be indeed a real magnet to tourists.” He expected the balloon to generate at least 500 million baht during November and December this year.
Wisut reported that 367,869 tourists visited Mae Hong Son in 2006, which is an optimistic rise from 2005 of 11.62%. Average length of stay stands at 2.5 days while average expenditure is at 1797.20 baht a person. In 2006, tourism generated the city 1,629.48 million baht, accounted as a 8.18% increase when compared with 2005.
Wisut continued that the top 10 nationalities who visited the province are Israeli, Spanish, Belgian, American, French, Dutch, British, German, Danish and Canadian.


Motorcycle accidents kill 27 people a day

According to the Public Health Ministry (PHM), motorcycle accidents claim the lives of 27 Thais and injure 438 every day. Of those drivers involved in accidents 80% were not wearing crash helmets.
The statistics released by the PHM stated that motorcycle accidents was one of the leading causes of deaths among Thais in 2005 with 159,867 severely injured and 9,877 killed. In 2006 - 164,836 were seriously injured and 8,908 were killed.
More than 50% died instantly at the scene of the accidents and were aged between 25-45 years of age.
Road and transport accidents were the second major cause of deaths among children after drowning, with 65% of the road accident deaths involved children as motorcycle passengers.
Asst. Prof. Dr Adisak has six safety recommendations for children passengers on motorcycles, 1. Find a better mode of transportation, especially with children under 2 years old; no amount of safety equipment will lessen injury; 2. Children over 2 years old should wear crash helmets; 3. Children aged less than 5 years should not sit on the back unsupported because they could fall asleep and fall off; 4. There are no statistics to prove that the use of cloth or belts and other equipment to tie the passenger to the driver increases safety; 5. Use of special seats might prevent the child from falling off or getting its legs trapped in the wheels, but it doesn’t help in accidents, presently no designs are perfect; 6. If a child is a passenger the driver should not go over 40 kilometers per hour. CMM Reporters


Analysis: A wind for change

Mark Whitman
A small, cool breath of clean air blew westwards from Chiang Mai over the weekend, towards Myanmar, also known as Burma. Hundreds of ordinary people – Thais, Burmese and others including many westerners – met together to express support for the Burmese people and to condemn the violent and corrupt regime that is committing atrocities against them.
There were speeches and songs, petitions to sign and donations to be made. But above all there was a message of hope- if not optimism- from the assembled crowds. The banners said it all: “Free Aung San Suu Kyi” and “End Fascism in Burma” simple and direct messages to the generals who care nothing for the plight of their people.
But will the generals and their bully gangs take notice? After all they ignore the cries of agony of those being tortured for their beliefs. They condone the killings and amass private fortunes so will they care what the world thinks?
We can only hope – and believe – because these protests are not made in isolation. Throughout the world hundreds of thousands, probably millions, of people have echoed the sentiments of the residents of Chiang Mai. Each one may only represent the sound of a butterfly’s wings when compared with the rumble of tanks. But when the sound of millions of beating hearts and beating wings is combined it could eventually drown out the gun fire and the batons used on shaven heads.
Importantly those in power in other countries who remain silent should remember that dictatorships will one day fail. In Burma the end is in sight, maybe on a far horizon or perhaps nearer than many believe.
Recent history has shown that ‘people power’ finally overrules illegal repression. In Spain, Portugal, in South Africa, throughout South America and Eastern Europe change has eventually come. The tide turns as it will one day in Burma. Whatever happens in the weeks and months to come we must hope that the tiny gestures made in Chiang Mai and everywhere else will not be ignored.
The people of Burma need to be free for our sake as well. Allowing the contamination that their junta spreads is like leaving an insidious virus loose on the world to infect us all.
The words of the Thai Prime Minister over the weekend and of other world leaders during the past days must represent the beginning of the end for those who rule in Burma.


Ladyboy roundup continues

Chiang Mai police investigators are continuing the cleanup of transvestites fearing that they will commit crimes against tourists as the city enters the tourist season.
On the 25th of September Police Lt. Col. Prachaub Vongsuk, Superintendent of Chiang Mai Police Station ordered Pol. Lt. Col. Chanavut Vibulkiat, Pol. Capt. Opart Vonghong, Pol. Capt. Anuparp Chaisiri and a team of investigators out on the streets to arrest transvestites again after an earlier operation the previous week.
The team of officers descended on Loy Kro Road and a group of ladyboys began fleeing in different directions.
Police gave chase and were able to detain three who were charged with prostitution.


Royal Flora Park gets 90 million baht

The Agriculture Department has allocated 90 million baht for maintenance of the Royal Flora Park.
The Agriculture Department’s working group has prepared to establish the Royal Flora Park 2007 Foundation to administrate and promote the park as a botanical park and natural attraction. “The idea of establishing the foundation was initiated after the government and the senate approved the 2008 fiscal budget act which will be spent from 1st October onwards,” said Adisak Srisapkij, the Director General of Agricultural Department.
“The foundation will operate and administrate the park by applying the same techniques of those applied at the Suan Luang (Rama IV Park) in Bangkok. While waiting for the approval from the cabinet, a special working group will be assigned to administrate the park,” explained the director general. Administration of the park is estimated at 90 million baht. The 90 million baht budget will be a part of remaining 130 million baht in revenue generated during the Royal Flora Exposition. Some 45 million baht will be spent on renovation while the monthly maintenance is estimated at 6 million baht.
“When the foundation is formed, the administration of the park will be comprised of a working group between the foundation and local organizations such as Tambon Mae Hia Administration Organization, Tambon Nong Kwai Administration Organization, Chiang Mai Municipality, Chiang Mai Provincial Administration Organization and private sectors as representatives of the Chiang Mai Chamber of Commerce.” “However, the operation of each organization has to be set to share the same directions,” continued Adisak. Thai News


One-Two-Go victim files first lawsuit

A Thai air crash victim filed the first lawsuit in the United States against the Boeing Company, the US manufacturer of the aircraft which crashed at Phuket International Airport on September 16 which left 90 people dead.
US Chicago-based Ribbeck Law Chartered filed the lawsuit on behalf of Mr. Parinyawit Choosaeng, one of the victims, who survived the crash with first degree burns.
US lawyers Manuel von Ribbeck and Mike Eidson said the lawsuit was filed at the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois (Chicago) with the first hearing scheduled for November 5.
The defendant has to show relevant evidence concerning design and manufacturing records of the aircraft in the accident as well as any records about its maintenance to legal representatives of families of the injured before the records disappear.
Mr. Ribbeck said the law firm couldn’t reveal the claim damages because it needed to consider losses and injuries of each victim.
Besides Mr. Parinyawit, other victims of the One-Two-Go aircraft accident will also file suit against the Boeing company and other US agencies concerned.
The lawsuit might also be filed in Thailand, Mr. Ribbeck said. Whether or not a lawsuit would be filed against One-Two-Go Airlines depended on the outcome of the evidence.
“Through our lawsuit we seek to find the real cause of this crash. Our goal is to avoid similar accidents in the future from happening again”, said Mr. Parinyawit. TNA


Business as usual at Tachilek border crossing

It was business as usual at the Mae Sai-Tachilek border crossing and Thai authorities confirmed that the border checkpoint in this province remained open despite the Myanmar regime’s violent crackdown on popular protests against military rule.
Col. Sompong Chaengchamras, chairman of the Thai-Myanmar Township Border Committee (TBC) said the Myanmar TBC assured that the Tachilek border crossing, at the Thai-Myanmar town will remain open.
Both Myanmar and Thai nationals needed to cross the border for trade while tourists traveling in the northern provinces of Thailand also intended to visit the bustling Tachilek market in Myanmar.
Myanmar authorities stressed that tourists remained safe in Myanmar’s Tachilek province, and that the violence being shown elsewhere had not affected the border area.
Meanwhile, some Myanmar nationals were seen crossing the border to buy necessities in Thailand’s Mae Sai district as usual, while tourists traveled from Thailand into Tachilek. TNA


Thai soldiers on alert at border

Saksit Meesubkwang
Thai soldiers stationed along the Thai-Myanmar border at Tak, Mae Hong Son, Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai have been placed on alert following the conflict in Myanmar.
In Mae Hong Son, Col. Nopporn Ruengjan, the commander of the 7th Infantry Special Task Force, said infantry soldiers had been assigned to keep 24 hours watch at several border points in Mae Hong Son including Baan Sao Hin in Mae Sariang district, Huay Pueng in Muang district and Mae Sarm Laeb in Sobmoei district.
Tak Governor Chumporn Polrak stated that Tak has adjoining crossings with Myanmar at five districts. So far, there is no report of intrusions into Thailand through the Moei River.
Temporary refugee areas have been prepared in case residents of Myanmar might flee the country and seek humanitarian assistance from Thailand. Medicines and food are being supplied to support these possible refugees.
Maj. Gen. Wanthip Wongwai, the commander of 1st Cavalry, Pha Muang Task Force, has also assigned more soldiers at border points in Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai. “If they enter the Kingdom of Thailand, they will be sent back to their country but in humanitarian ways. Violence should not be used against them,” said Maj. Gen. Wanthip.