Vol. VI No. 42 - Tuesday
December 11, - December 17, 2007



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by Saichon Paewsoongnern


NEWS
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

His Majesty the King calls for national unity

Hill tribes suffering winter ailments

Visitors encouraged to view sunflowers in the hills

Tourists flock to Doi Angkhang and Doi Inthanon

“We can not forbid them from crossing borders”

Chiang Mai Immigration disputes recent “Immigration Requirements For Retirement Visa” story

Thailand OKs building 3rd Thai-Laos bridge

Police carefully monitoring lead-up to elections

Mae Jo University rector awarded with Gusi Peace Prize 2007

Three drug dealers arrested

Convention hall project delayed

32 provinces declared as disaster areas due to cold weather

7-Eleven to raise retail prices of over 500 products

Foreigners showing interest in Thai elections

 

His Majesty the King calls for national unity

His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, gives his annual birthday speech to senior government officials led by Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont, 2nd from left, at Chitralada Palace in Bangkok, Thailand Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2007.
(AP Photo/Bureau of the Royal Household) (AP/TNA/NNB)

His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej called for the people to be united to safeguard the nation in his annual birthday speech last Tuesday.
His Majesty likened the country’s situation to difficulties he has recently had in walking.
“Whether soldiers or civilians, (we) must be united, like our legs that must be united _ which means one goes forward and one pushes back before moving forward,” he said. “This way, we could walk without falling. Without unity, the country will face disaster.”
The King made his address to Cabinet members, privy councillors and high-ranking officials at Dusidalai Pavilion in Chitralada Palace on the eve of his 80th birthday. It was broadcast live on national radio, and later on television
His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej emphasised the country’s need to boost its spending in light of the strengthened Thai currency.
“Now that the baht is exceedingly strong and the government has plenty of cash, it should spend more. Sufficiency economy means those who have money should spend. There is no need to be stingy,” His Majesty said.
He also seemed to encourage spending by the public at large, at the same time cautioning people who cannot afford to.
Heightened uncertainty after the coup left consumers reluctant to spend and businesses wary of making new investments, hurting economic growth despite a series of interest rate cuts.
He noted that it might not be appropriate for the present government which has only a few months in office to spend on arms and ammunition but the next government should feel free to do so.
“I raise this issue because we must seriously consider how to purchase arms and munitions which are necessary,” the monarch said. “These days the army also must help the people when there are floods.”
“You have good ideas; so don’t feel inferior. If you want to buy ships, aircraft or tanks, do it,” the King said.
The King also urged the Thai people to unite, otherwise the country would collapse and “if that happens, many consequences will follow.”
His Majesty used his yearly address to ask that all Thai people work for the security and betterment of the nation.
His Majesty also referred to the sufficiency economy philosophy stressing for people not to forget the concept and also citing the use of bio-fuels as in line with the ideology.
Comparing the nation to a body, he said if bones in the body were broken, the person would need to be hospitalised.
“If we are not careful, the country will collapse. If the country collapses, where shall we live?” the King added.
Touching on the construction of dams, King Bhumibol said the issue has always been criticised due to misunderstanding, indicating that a dam must be well managed after it is built.
“In order to operate a project, management is the key,” he said. “Everything has to be well managed, be it the project itself or the financial aspects.” 
Speaking with a mix of advice and humor His Majesty reassured the Thai people of his health and concern for the forward movement of the nation away from current political uncertainty.
His Majesty also addressed his recent penchant for wearing bright blazers. He has stepped out in pink, baby blue, light green, lavender, red, and other bright sport coats. Each outing has set instant color trends among his devoted subjects.
“Wearing a uniform all the time is boring,” he said, adding that there was no reason for an old man to dress in dark suits.

 

Hill tribes suffering winter ailments

Khajohn Boonpath
Mae Hong Son Public Health Office warns its people, especially hill tribes, to beware of winter ailments. So far, 150,000 people are suffering respiratory diseases caused from smoke and cold weather.
Dr. Suwat Kittidilokkul, the head of Mae Hong Son Public Health Office, said that the low temperature and cold weather could easily lead to sicknesses, so people in mountainous areas should take great care of their health and stay warm. This is especially important for the elderly and children.
Records of patients seeking medical treatment at health care centers and hospitals in the province are reported below:
From October 2005 to September 2006, there were 153,198 people who suffered respiratory diseases.
From October 2006 to September 2007, the number decreased to 151,044 people suffering respiratory diseases.
Between November 2005 and February 2006, 52,501 people were identified as patients with respiratory problems, and from November 2006 to February 2007, the number increased to 58,843.
A 62-year old Karen resident of Pakhalo village in Muang district, Mae Hong Son, who goes by the name of Na Rue, said that the cold weather had caused many elderly to suffer respiratory ailments and influenza. A high number of children are also facing these health problems. Most residents are poor and lack warm clothes and blankets. These people end up setting fires to give themselves warmth and sleep around the fire. “All of these people still need assistance from the government,” she said.
Thada Sattha, the head of Meteorological Station, Mae Hong Son reported that the lowest temperature recently measured at Kew Lom Mountain in Pangmapha district was 10.2 degrees Celsius. He mentioned that the temperatures on other mountains could be lower than the reported point but since temperature monitoring equipment is not installed on these mountains, the station can’t report the temperature at other locations. The station is considering providing more temperature sensors at more locations in order to report the temperature from various areas of assessment.


Visitors encouraged to view sunflowers in the hills

Khajohn Boonpath
At the end of November an event was held to mark the opening of a programme of tours in Pang Ma Pha district, Mae Hong Son, to include sunflower viewing, visits to local hill tribe villages, and tours of the many interesting caves in the area.

Visitors to local hill tribe villages can see fascinating demonstrations of this indigenous arts and culture.

At the event, representatives of the local hill tribes, including the Lisu, Hmong, Lua, Muser Dam, Muser Daeng, and Tai Yai, gave fascinating demonstrations of their indigenous arts and culture, after which the Governor of Mae Hong Son, Thongchai Wongrianthong the honoured guests and the hill tribe people themselves released many floating lanterns to celebrate.
This was the second event of its kind held in the area in order to encourage tourists to visit the local attractions and places of interest. The tour will cover a total distance of 26 kilometers, and, in addition to the hill tribe village visits will include stops at Pang Ma Pha, Mae Lana Cave, Nam Bo Phii Luk Khaw Lam, and Phii Maen Cave. This last is of particular interest since it holds ancient burial grounds in good condition. Situated 50 kilometers north of Mae Hong Son, the area also has a hill tribe handicrafts centre and a local organic food market. On weekends local hill tribe customs and activities are on display.
It is hoped that the tour will encourage many visitors to the area, which will result in much-needed income for the local hill tribe communities.


Tourists flock to Doi Angkhang and Doi Inthanon

Saksit Meesubkwang
A record number of tourists are planning to visit Doi Angkhang to view the sakura (cherry blossoms) and other flowers which are blooming spectacularly on the mountain as the temperature drops and the Mae Kaning (frozen dew) becomes visible.

The Mae Kaning (frozen dew) phenomenon on Doi Angkhang.

As a result, all accommodation at the Doi Angkhang Agricultural Station Project is fully booked, although rooms and facilities are still available at nearby resorts and attractions.
At a meeting held earlier in Fang District, all businesses serving tourists were specifically requested not to overcharge visitors during the high season. Two main routes, the Chiang Mai-Chaiprakarn and the Chiang Mai-Chiang Dao-Chaiprakarn-Fang roads, provide access to the Doi Angkhang area, but visitors who are not familiar with the roads are advised to use the frequent and comfortable bus services.
On arrival at their destination, tourists can enjoy a visit to local Palong villages, shop at the Doi Angkhang Royal Project for locally grown fruits, and experience the beautiful sunrise at the Baan Khob Dong viewing station.
Other famous tourist destinations such as Doi Inthanon itself, together with Huay Nam Dang National Park in Mae Hong Son are also reporting record visitor numbers.
The Northern Meteorological Centre reported that morning temperatures in the area would gradually decrease in mountainous areas to a low of between 1-2 degrees Celsius, with a range of between 2 and 10 degrees.


“We can not forbid them from crossing borders”

Mekong Institute, International Cooperation
and Communications staff

Dr. Suchat Katima, Mekong Institute director, believes that it is difficult to prohibit migrants from crossing borders. Meanwhile, Consul General Sisavath Donlavandy of the General Consulate of Lao PDR in Khon Kaen, Thailand also said in a separate interview that, “We can not forbid them (migrants) from crossing borders.”
“Trans-border migration cannot be avoided in the Greater Mekong Sub region (GMS) and the Thai government recognizes this as well,” MI director Dr Suchat noted in an interview with the “Manager”, a Thai national newspaper following the policy dialogue on migration.

Dr. Suchat Katima, Mekong Institute director, believes that it is difficult to prohibit migrants from crossing borders.

The policy dialogue on “Trans-border Migration Policy Implementation and Monitoring: Its Effectiveness and Current Policy Gaps in the Greater Mekong Sub-region” was organized by MI with the support of the Rockefeller Foundation late November in Khon Kaen. The meeting was attended by 52 delegates composed of policy makers from the GMS governments, representatives of NGOs and INGOs, and academic and research institutions in the region.
Dr. Katima said after he delivered the welcome speech during the opening ceremony of the policy meeting, that certain GMS governments have agreed in principle to open border checkpoints for inbound and outbound movements of goods and people.
“They can go in and out of these countries without obstruction, although conditions for cross border travel vary in each country,” he stated. For example, Thai and Lao people can go through Savannakhet on the Lao side and Mudahan in Thailand, or the Vietnamese can get into Laos through the Lobo border.
“However, border crossing also brings such problems as the trafficking of humans and drugs,” he added.

Consul General Sisavath Donlavandy of the General Consulate of Lao PDR in Khon Kaen says, “We can not forbid them (migrants) from crossing borders.”

He noted that the increase in trans-border migration is due to a higher demand for migrant labor abroad, as well as the lack of livelihood and employment opportunities in the home countries. However, unscrupulous persons take advantage of the situation and victimize the migrants, who become prey to human trafficking and illicit trade of drugs.
Dr. Katima added that, “Without effective border control mechanisms and pro-active preventive measures for illegal migration, the problems of human trafficking and illicit drug smuggling is exacerbated.”
“Today’s meeting does not intend to prevent the trans-border crossing. We are here to discuss with representatives of GMS government decision makers on polices that will hopefully affect and improve trans-border migration management. Thailand and Lao PDR have an existing, bi-lateral agreement on migrants. There are some problems concerning migrants from Myanmar and Cambodia that should be considered at the policy level,” Dr. Katima explained.
According to Dr. Katima, Thailand accommodates about 1.2 million immigrants, of which about 71% are from Myanmar, 14% are Cambodian, and the rest Lao immigrants.
He said after his opening remarks that the GMS governments are concerned about the escalation of transnational crimes such as drug smuggling and human trafficking as trans-border crossing becomes easier.
“A number of Thais and Laotians go through the borders, sometimes illegally. Some enter the country because their relatives, who have previously migrated, pick them up from the border,” Consul Donlavandy indicated.
According to the consul, Thai and Lao immigration offices have recorded about 90,000 persons who have legal permits to cross the Lao-Thai borders. However, they represent a little less than half of the people who cross the borders, with the volume of cross border movement estimated to be up to 180,000-200,000 migrants.
Consul Donlavandy mentioned several measures to counter migration-related problems. These measures include bi-lateral or multi-lateral cooperation, community education or awareness raising and implementation of national-level migration management systems.
He informed that the Labor Ministries of the both Thai and Laotian governments have permitted private recruitment agencies in their respective countries to run labor and employment business services. Moreover, in Laos, two ministries, one of which is the National Police, are responsible for migration management at the national level.
The consul general also noted that the possibility of developing and implementing a GMS-wide migration management standard should be explored. There are existing bi and multi lateral agreements, and practical mechanisms that are currently operating in the region. Experiences from these country-to-country agreements and systems provide rich material for designing a region-wide migration management system.
“Representatives from Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam should sit and talk so that they can recommend good policy responses to migration problems to their respective governments,” he remarked.
In response, Dr. Suchat said that a high-level GMS Summit will be held in March 2008 in Vientiane, wherein the outcomes of the MI policy dialogue series, including trans-border migration issue, will be presented to senior level policy makers from the six GMS government countries. There is a likelihood that the GMS Summit will be held every four years to serve as a platform for the leaders of GMS governments to listen and respond to policy proposals from various stakeholders, as well as to engage with counterparts from the GMS governments on the issues at hand.


Chiang Mai Immigration disputes recent “Immigration Requirements For Retirement Visa” story

CMM Reporters
A recent Chiang Mai Mail issue contained an article stating that “The Immigration authorities have issued new requirements for foreigners wishing to apply for a retirement visa, including the need to have an ATM card and a credit card.” A representative of Chiang Mai Immigration has stated that it is not necessary to hold a credit card in order to obtain a retirement extension, nor is it necessary to present a copy of the details of any cards you may hold. Current requirements for the issuing of a retirement extension have not changed. As the remainder of the article may possibly cause confusion, current requirements are as follows:
The applicant must be aged 50 years or over, and must hold a Non-Immigrant Visa.
Proof of income of not less than 65,000 baht per month, or, 800,000 baht held in a Thai bank account for the past three months, or, annual income plus Thai bank account deposit totalling not less than 800,000 baht at the date of application. Letter from Thai bank confirming amount in account, bank pass book plus copies of all pages. Letter from consulate or embassy stating confirmation of income if applicable. Proof of residential address, rent book, or letter from consulate or embassy. Completed form TM7, passport and copies of passport visa and ID pages, plus 4 x 6 cm photos as required.


Thailand OKs building 3rd Thai-Laos bridge

The Thai Cabinet last Tuesday gave a green light to a draft agreement on the construction of the third Thai-Laos Friendship Bridge across the Mekong River, connecting Thailand’s Nakhon Phanom and the Lao province of Khammoune.
The pact between the two countries is expected to be signed by the end of December 2007, with financing to be provided by the Thai government.
The two parties will set up a committee to coordinate the planning, policies and project administration.
According to Thai Ministry of Commerce’s figures of the two countries’ border trade, from January through September 2007, Thailand’s imported goods from Laos was worth almost Bt1.5 billion and Thailand’s exports to Laos valued at more than Bt30 billion.
The second Friendship Bridge between Thailand and the Lao PDR was opened in December last year.
Linking the Lao province of Savannakhet with northeastern Thailand’s Mukdahan province, the second Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge is boosting economic development and to facilitate transportation, trade, investment, and tourism, not only between Thailand and Laos, but facilitating trade and tourism with central Vietnam.
The first Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge over the Mekong linking the Thai province of Nong Khai and the Lao PDR capital of Vientiane was opened in 1994. (TNA)


Police carefully monitoring lead-up to elections

CMM reporters
The Commissioner of the Provincial Police Bureau, Region 5, Pol Lt Gen Theerasak Chukitchkhun has stated recently that a meeting was held to implement policies determined to be of use before, during and after the upcoming elections.
Police officers were instructed to carry out their duties with understanding and neutrality towards candidates. They were also instructed to offer the services of a specially trained group of officers should any candidate request police protection at any time during the election process. Although at the present time no candidate has actually applied for police protection, it is known that at least four groups comprising more than 100 individuals are at this moment providing protection to certain candidates.
The groups include plain clothes and uniformed police, all of whom have now been recalled to duty, military personnel, former uniformed government personnel, men who are impersonating uniformed personnel, and gunmen. It would appear that the police are closely watching these groups. Region 5 police have apparently determined the identity of those in the group of gunmen, and would appreciate being informed if any other persons of that ilk arrive in their area of jurisdiction.


Mae Jo University rector awarded with Gusi Peace Prize 2007

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Thep Pongpanich attended the Gusi Peace Prize Award presentation 2007 which was held at Manila, Philippines on 21 November 2007.

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Thep Pongpanich, Mae Jo University’s rector, attended the Gusi Peace Prize Award presentation 2007 which was held at the Meralco Theatre, Pasig City, Philippines from 19 to 22 November 2007.
The rector was awarded the Gusi Peace Prize 2007 for his outstanding and widely accepted agricultural research and study. The Gusi Peace Prize Foundation’s headquarters is situated in Manila and the award was initiated to honor people with outstanding social activities that promote peace and respect in humanity. The prize is comparable to the Nobel Peace Prize of Norway and Pulitzer of the United States..
15 honored people from 11 countries were awarded with the Gusi Prize this year. Those people are from the United States, Brazil, Micronesia, Republic of Palau, Japan, Korea, China, Hong Kong, Greece, Philippines and Thailand. Assoc. Prof. Dr. Thep is the only candidate from Thailand who was awarded this year.
The Vice President of the Philippines, Noli De Castro who represented President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, presented the award to the 15 honored people. Former president Fidel V. Ramos also gave a congratulatory speech at the ceremony.


Three drug dealers arrested

Police officer alleged as a gang member

Saksit Meesubkwang
Ms Wethanee Charuengdech, 33, a resident of Chiang Mai’s Hang Dong district, Ms Yuwathida Kanay, 19, a resident of Wiangsra, Surat Thani and Mr Wichet Komjit, 19, who is a resident of Songkla’s Hat Yai district, were arrested with 9000 tablets of ya ba and 3 grams of ice (methamphetamine) on 1st December.
The first two women were arrested while they were about to send a postal parcel consisting of those drugs at the Chang Puak Post Office. The parcel would be delivered to a receiver named Aksornnee Kanay in Surat Thani province.
The arrest was carried out and led by Pol Col Thanaratch Chumsawas, the superintendent of the Provincial Police Bureau Region 5’s investigation team, and the Narcotic Control police team.
The three dealers, two women and one man, admitted to the charges and informed the police team that a 29-year-old police officer at the Chaiprakarn Police Station, Chiang Mai supported the gang. The police officer was identified as Pol Sgt Sutthipong Kaewta, a suppression police officer.
The three arrested were held at the Chang Puak Police Station. The police team requested an arrest warrant from the Chiang Mai Court to charge the alleged police officer, after which Pol Sgt Sutthipong was arrested. Possessions of the arrested were also confiscated, including 2 two-storey houses in the Regent Housing Estate Project in San Sai district, a Toyota Wish car, cash in the amount of 579,300 baht and some gold. These possessions are worth approximately 10 million baht. The houses belong to Wethanee and Yuwathida respectively.
The investigations are ongoing.


Convention hall project delayed

Saksit Meesubkwang
Cancellation of the national convention hall in Nong Hor would cause at least 2 billion baht loss to the city’s tourism industry, says Vorapong Muchaotai, secretary of the Chiang Mai Tourism Business Association. He added that some Chiang Mai hotels have ended up investing in conference rooms to serve the Meeting, Incentives, and Exhibitions market demand.
Vorapong indicated the postponement of the project to construct the national convention hall at the military premises, located along the Irrigation Canal road, tambon Chang Puak. Chiang Mai’s Muang district would incur a minimum loss of 2 billion baht to the city’s tourism industry.
The mega project had earlier been included as part of the agenda for the city’s development and latterly halted by the government. “The MICE market is highly productive and has great potential as the market can generate tourism income three times greater than other sections,” explained Vorapong.
Since the construction project was postponed, many seminars and conferences scheduled ahead to use this brand new convention hall needed to find new locations such as the association’s conference and exhibitions and the ASEAN Tourism Forum 2008 in January next year.
While the convention hall project was brought to a standstill, the relevant private sectors were unable to launch the promotion plan of domestic tourism. This will affect the promotion of the city as an aviation hub. Seminars and conferences are another magnet that could draw more tourists to the city.
Sangvorn Santisuk, the president of the Thai Hotel Association, Northern Region, said that the uncertainty of the convention hall had inspired many hotels to invest in building their own convention halls to satisfy the demand. Recently, the Empress Hotel constructed a 2000 seat conference room because its management felt insecure and unconfident about the unscheduled resumption of the construction project.
“Tour agents have also not targeted the MICE customers due to this uncertainty and they were afraid that they would bear compensation costs if the project was not completed in time after they included the convention hall in their programs,” explained Sangvorn.


32 provinces declared as disaster areas due to cold weather

The Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation reports that 32 provinces affected by cold weather have been declared as disaster areas.
The Director-General of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation, Mr. Anucha Mokkhavesa says more than three million people are suffering from the cold weather and most of them are in the North and the Northeast. The department has set up a center to assist them and provided more than 16 million baht for 46 provinces to buy warm clothes for them.
He also encourages people to contact the disaster hotline (#1784) around the clock for immediate assistance. (NNB)


7-Eleven to raise retail prices of over 500 products

7-Eleven, one of the largest chain of convenience stores in Thailand, announced it would raise the retail prices of over 500 consumer products next year, due to higher transportation costs, according to a senior executive of CP All, which operates the stores.
CP All managing director, Piyawat Thitasatthaworakun said the producers and wholesalers of consumer products for 7-Eleven had requested to adjust product prices, because of the higher price of goods mainly resulting from rising oil prices.
“Transportation costs have increased 30-50 percent because of the skyrocketing oil price. CP All has asked the traders to delay the product prices rise until Jan 1,” said Piyawat.
Piyawat said the price adjustment would not have any impact on the sales performance of the stores, as the products available at 7-Eleven are necessities.
He said the price rise would not affect the target the company had to expand at the amount of 450-500 branches annually.
There are now 4,300 7-Eleven branches nationwide. (TNA)


Foreigners showing interest in Thai elections

Phongphan Riewthongthavee, director of the Chiang Mai Election Commission said that the parliamentary elections are drawing a lot of attention from foreign countries. Consular officials from numerous countries such as the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Japan have asked for information about the election in order to understand the work of the Election Commission.
The Chiang Mai Election Commission has explained the processes in the past. Most recently, students from Singapore have contacted the Commission requesting information about the elections and have asked to meet with the Chiang Mai Election Commission director this month.
Along with helping foreigners understand, one of the major duties of the Election Commission is to help Thai nationals living in Thailand who don’t understand the Thai language, such as hill tribes, because materials and CDs in forms of video, text, pictures or brochures explaining the elections are all in Thai, Central Thai and local dialects.
The Election Commission arranged training for hill tribe leaders and announcers on the National Broadcasting Association Chiang Mai and local radio stations which took place on December 4. (PRD)



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