Vol. VI No. 43 - Tuesday
December 18, - December 24, 2007



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by Saichon Paewsoongnern


NEWS
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Monorail at zoo rolls into service

Road accident leaves 1 dead and many injured

Alcohol ban over election weekend

Chiang Mai hosts First Astronomy and Physics Olympics

Child kidnappers caught red-handed

Third bogus shares investment case handed over to DSI

Opium plantations on Doi Wawee and nearby mountains destroyed

Transport Ministry targets less New Year’s traffic accidents

Drug smugglers killed in shootout with police

Thai and Burmese authorities meet to discuss various issues

Election Commissioners job is never done

 

Monorail at zoo rolls into service

Newest thrill to come to the city

Saksit Meesubkwang
The long awaited Chiang Mai Zoo monorail has finally rolled out into service. Trial runs are being conducted between December 12-20 when visitors can enjoy the thrill of riding one of Chiang Mai’s newest attractions at no charge.
Thanaphat Pongpamorn, Chiang Mai Zoo director and Prasert Kasemkomes, Monorail Project director introducing the new project on December 11 said, “The monorail allows visitors to ride around the entire perimeter giving an elevated view of Chiang Mai city, as well as watching all the animals below. The operation of the tram service will cause no ill effects on the animals and generate no noise and air pollution. The tram operation is controlled by the latest and safest technology available.”
This monorail system was developed under a joint venture of the Thai Monorail Company and Ampan Technology. Research on the tram system began in 2003 and its first trial run was conducted in 2005 followed by initial test runs at the zoo the following year.
The zoo’s monorail track is 47 centimeters wide. The total length of the route is 2 kilometers with four stations along the way. The air-conditioned tram has a capacity of 50-70 seats.
The operators of the monorail have established fees at the following rates - 50 baht for children, 70 baht for adults and 150 baht for foreigners.

 

Road accident leaves 1 dead and many injured

Saksit Meesubkwang
A Chiang Mai-Chiang Rai bound tour bus swerved to avoid two motorcycles that cut across its path causing it to lose control, hitting an oncoming pickup truck, toppled over crushing another vehicle, leaving one dead and over a dozen injured.

A rescue worker points at the pickup truck crushed under the bus, while another wrecked vehicle is seen in the background.
The accident took place at 10.20 a.m. on December 13 at the kilometer 9 marker on the Chiang Mai-Chiang Rai highway.
Pol. Col. Chartchai Niewsakul, superintendent of Doi Saket district police station, led a police force of 20 policemen accompanied by a rescue unit team to the scene of the road carnage to provide emergency medical attention to the 17 injured passengers, who were transported to Maharaj Nakhon Chiang Mai Hospital for further treatment.
The dead man was identified as Thitipong Nakayon, 44, the driver of the crushed pickup truck.
Police said there were 24 Thai and foreign passengers on the bus heading for Chiang Rai when the accident occurred.
Mr Sarawut, the bus driver, was detained by police for more questioning and charged with reckless driving.


Alcohol ban over election weekend

The Election Commission has issued a letter warning the public that serving alcohol during the election weekend is punishable by law.
Notices have been sent out to business operators that they are to refrain from selling alcoholic beverages between 18.00 hrs on December 22 until 24.00 hrs on December 23.
This ban includes sales, distribution and organizing any parties serving alcoholic beverages.
Violators face a fine of up to 10,000 baht or a maximum of 6 months in jail or both.


Chiang Mai hosts First Astronomy and Physics Olympics

Thai students win individual and team gold medals

Professor Dr. Vichit Srisa-an, (right) Minister of Education, presided over the closing ceremony and awarded certificates and prizes to the winners.

Professor Dr. Vichit Srisa-an, the minister of Education, presided over the closing ceremony of the 1st Astronomy and Physics Olympics, hosted by Lotus Pang Suan Kaew Hotel, Chiang Mai. Competitions had been held during the previous week, involving 87 students from 21 different countries. Thailand’s entrants were Suwan Suwanratt, Bunnawit Khongpitaksakul, Chayanont Ruamcharoen, Sirivit Surapruk, and Theerasit Isaranont, all of whom were upper secondary students. The Thai team, managed by Dr. Arachuree Muanwongs and Dr. Krisanadaech Charoensuthasinee, was highly successful, scoring not only the highest accumulated team points and the highest accumulated individual points, but also winning three Gold Medals. The entire team said that the awards were the highest accolades of their young lives, and wished to present them to His Majesty the King and to the people of Thailand.
Thailand and India each won 3 Gold medals, China and Poland collectet 2 Gold medals each from a total of 17 awarded. Poland won the most silver medals with 3 whilst Iran won the most bronze medals with 4, followed by Belarus with 3. There were also 16 awards of honour presented.
In the accumulated points Thailand won gold, Poland won silver and China won bronze. Poland won the gold in the theoretical event. China won the application event and the innovative event was won by India and Azerbaijan.
The Minister of Education said the success of the Thai team is an important step in the development of Astro Physics in Thailand, which is fundamental to the improvement of human resources and is the start point of the study of science. He praised the high standards of the individual students, particularly in this relatively new field of study and also praised the organizers for their success in hosting the event
Suwan Suwanaratt said that he was happy and proud of his gold medal, having studied hard for 6 months prior to the competition. He thanked his parents, friends and sponsors for helping him achieve success, and gave a message of encouragement to all new and existing students in the field. The competition next year will be held in Indonesia.


Child kidnappers caught red-handed

Police plan succeeds in foiling evil plot

Saksit Meesubkwang
Police arrested two Thaiyai men on charges of kidnapping and holding for ransom the 2-year-old son of a Chiang Mai businessman.

The arrested kidnappers sit dejected at the police station after police foiled their get-rich-quick plan.

At the time of the arrest the accused, Muang Loonglu and Tom Sookjai, both 21, police found two mobile phones, 20,000 baht, and a motorbike in their possession. The 2 year-old boy’s mother, also of Thaiyai ethnicity, had died several weeks earlier, apparently having owed the kidnappers the sum of 60,000 baht, which she was unable to pay.
On November 24th, the two men came to the village nursery and on the pretence of having permission from the child’s father convinced the nursery caretaker to allow them to pick up the child from the school to take him home. But that was not to be, as the boy’s father soon discovered.
The kidnappers subsequently demanded a ransom of 65,000 baht but the amount was bargained down to 20,000 baht. The boy’s father agreed to take the cash to an agreed location, but not before police were informed and a plan to catch the kidnappers was put into place.
At the agreed location of the meeting and as the exchange was taking place, police sprung out of their hiding places and pounced on the perpetrators. The child was rescued unharmed.
Two charges have been filed against the kidnappers. The first, separating a child under 15 years of age from a parent or nursemaid without reasonable cause, and the second of kidnapping a person with intent to obtain a ransom.


Third bogus shares investment case handed over to DSI

Staff reporters
The Share Case Investigation files have been delivered to the Department of Special Investigation (DSI). The deputy director of the DSI said that the public has been defrauded for some time and it will take some time to recover the public’s property. The governor of Chiang Mai is to instruct district chiefs and village headmen to warn the public.
On 11 December at the Mae Ping Police Station, Phinyo Thongchai, Deputy Director of the DSI, Pol. Lt. Gen. Theerasak Chukijkhun, Commissioner of the Provincial Police Bureau Region 5, Phairoj Saengphuwong, Deputy Governor of Chiang Mai, Col. Piyawat Kingkate, Commander of the Special Criminal Investigations Bureau, Pol. Maj. Gen. Suwat Krungkrai, Deputy Commissioner of Region 5 Police and Pol. Col. Krich Kittilue, the Superintendent of the Mae Ping Police Station, held a news conference on receiving the share case files of Somkid Turakij Company Limited.
Pol. Col. Krich Kittilue said that early November, investigations commenced when 800 claimants filed complaints at Mae Ping Police Station against Somkid Turakij Company Limited, through Somkid Taengtang, the managing director of the company, for having defrauded the public.
Investigations proved that the company had committed the crime and police requested Chiang Mai Provincial Court to issue arrest warrant 780/2550, dated November 8, 2007 for the arrest of Mr Somkid Taengtang. Because the case involved millions of baht, police handed the case over to the DSI who came to compile evidence and take the case files, prosecute the offender and recover the public’s property. The case involving Somkid Turakij Company Limited is the third public fraud case to occur in Chiang Mai.
Previously DSI investigators had investigated the cases involving Golden Gate Group (Thailand) Company Limited and Ruam Thun Kha Pleek Company Limited.
The cases were all similar which involved placing of advertisements offering shares in the herbs and grain rice businesses for 650 baht each and after 25 days the 650 baht per share would be returned with 550 baht per share interest. To help deceive the public, the company sold sacks of rice for 800 baht per sack which was cheaper than the normal market price. The company refused to repay the shares and eventually disappeared, resulting in the complaints.
Phinyo Thongchai said it was found during investigations that the companies had conned the public and therefore warned the public not to fall for the sham again. The public is instructed to promptly notify the police if they feel they are being swindled. Not even 10% of the property has been recovered and the process will take some time.
The Ruam Thun Khapleek and Somkid Companies have caused no less than 200 million baht worth of damage and 900 claimants have pressed charges with Mae Ping Police. Mae Ping and Chang Puak Police Stations have obtained arrest warrants for the offenders. They have warned those acting as agents for the companies to return the money that they have stolen. Questioning and investigations will be completed within a month whereby the cases can be brought before the courts.
Phairoj Saengphuwong, Deputy Governor of Chiang Mai, said that the crimes occurred in Chiang Mai and the Provincial Authorities understand that the public need to be informed and not to fall for the scam. District chiefs and village headmen have been ordered to warn the public and not become victims of these people and companies.


Opium plantations on Doi Wawee and nearby mountains destroyed

Cultivating of illegal crops continue in spite of last year’s eradication strategies

A combined force of Chiang Rai police officers and over 50 Army rangers destroy more than 10 rai of illegal opium plantations in and around the mountainous area inhabited by Muser hill tribes.

On December 8, a force comprised of Chiang Rai police investigators together with more than 50 Army rangers discovered and destroyed more than 10 rai of illegal opium plantations in and around the mountainous area inhabited by Muser hill tribes. During the previous year, officers had implemented opium eradication strategies on mountains in Mae Suay district, resulting in growers disappearing and certain district administration officers being arrested and punished. However, it transpired after investigation, that this year criminals from Fang district, Chiang Mai province, had hired Muser growers to illicitly plant and harvest opium for delivery to drug traders on the Thai-Burmese border. The raw opium was then processed and distributed.
At the time of the raid, a Muser man, Mr. Ja Mo Laba, was found in possession of 1.1 kilos of raw opium, concealed in a bamboo pole. During questioning, he admitted that he had been hired to transport the opium to Chiang Rai for sale He was charged and remanded in custody.


Transport Ministry targets less New Year’s traffic accidents

The Transport Ministry’s Land Transport Department has set its target to reduce road traffic accidents by 12 per cent during the “seven dangerous days” period of the New Year’s celebrations, starting December 28.
Deputy Director General Ronnayut Tangruamsap told journalists after attending a meeting with representatives of bus operators and drivers that he had asked them to check their buses’ engines and the condition of the drivers before driving during the upcoming holidays.
Reckless driving and driving while intoxicated are seen as the cause of a large portion of Thailand’s road accidents during the festivities, including New Year.
The Department intends to reduce road accidents during the seven-day period by 12 per cent from last year’s total, Mr. Ronnayut said.
Also, starting from January 1, operators of public buses must have their buses inspected twice a year, instead of annually, in order to ensure safety of passengers, according to an announcement issued by the department. (TNA)


Drug smugglers killed in shootout with police

Border police, military and the narcotics suppression police inspect the contraband and weapons seized from the smugglers.

Saksit Meesubkwang
In a sting operation the combined forces of the border police, military and the narcotics suppression police foiled the plans of drug smugglers from delivering a large cache of heroin to Chiang Mai.
Early this month, Border Patrol Police Region 3 received a tip-off that there would be a caravan delivering drugs from the Thai-Myanmar border to the Wiang Haeng District, en route to Chiang Mai. Pol. Lt. Col. Noppakao Kokilawathee, the Chief Investigator of the Border Patrol Police Region 3 was assigned to cooperate with a contingent of 30 men from Narasuan military force and Narcotic Suppression Police officers to lie in wait to arrest them at the ridge of a hill in Ban Paksaem.
At approximately 03.00hrs on December 5, ten people carrying the illegal drugs were seen approaching on foot along the ridge of the hill. The officers gave a signal them to stop for a search to be conducted. But as expected the smugglers opened fire with automatic weapons at the officers. After 15 minutes of exchanging gunfire, officers were still not able to secure the area. Both parties were pinned down throughout the night keeping a close watch over each others movements.
At 07.00 hrs the combined forces made another attempt to storm the area but were met by a barrage of gunfire that lasted 5 minutes. This time the smugglers retreated and the officers were able to enter and secure the area.
In the mean time word was sent back to Pol. Lt. Col. Chamroen Chaimongkol , Inspector on duty at the Wiang Haeng Police Station in Chiang Mai that police officers had engaged in a shootout with the smugglers delivering drugs in the forest of Ban Paksaem, Tambon Piangluang, Wiang Haeng District on the Thai-Myanmar border. He immediately mobilised a team of Wiang Haeng police, prosecutors, administrators and a doctor to fly to scene by helicopter.
At the scene of the shootout, they found 2 dead men, their bodies riddled with bullets and a trail of blood obviously of the wounded smugglers who were carried away by their comrades back across the border. Near the corpses were eight bars of heroin weighing a total of 2.6 kg, with a street value of 3 million Baht in Thailand, one AK-47 rifle and 1 magazine containing 3 bullets, one empty 7.62 x 39 mm bullet cartridge and a sharp 17" knife. It is presumed that they were delivering more than 100kg of heroin.
Maj. Gen. Surachet Chaiwong, Commander of the Naresuan Military Force, positioned along the borders from Tak, Mae Hong Son to Chiang Mai, stated that his group had the task of strictly controlling people’s movements at strategic areas along the border. It was a well know fact that Paksaem Village in the Wiang Haeng district on the Thai-Myanmar border had many amphetamine and heroin production factories.
‘We have strict orders to use every resource available to prevent the movement of drugs into our country and to distribute them elsewhere, but the smugglers keep coming up with new methods to try to deceive us.” the general said.


Thai and Burmese authorities meet to discuss various issues

Lieutenant Colonel Soe Nai-u and Col. Phadung Yinphaibunsook shake hands as both delegations pose for a group photograph. (Photo courtesy of Army officers of the Special Task Forces, Infantry Regiment 17, Naresuan Force)

Saksit Meesubkwang
On December 5, Lieutenant Colonel Soe Nai-u, commander of Infantry Battalion 430 and also Chairman of the Thai - Burma Border Committee (Mae Jae) welcomed Col. Phadung Yinphaibunsook, Commander Special Task Forces Infantry Regiment 17, and Chairman of the Mae Hong Son Local Thai – Burma Border Committee and his 15 member team to the 14th TBC Meeting which was held at Mae Jae District Office, Loi Ko Province, Myanmar.
One of the points brought up for discussion was the problem of heavy smog in Mae Hong Son during the summer. The Thai party claimed that the smog which emanates from the Burmese side of the border is severely affecting the economy, especially those who have to fly in from Chiang Mai and Bangkok. Tourists sometimes have to cancel their travel programs, stating that last year many tourists had done so. Lt. Col. Soe Nai-u said he would take the matter to his commander.
The Burmese side submitted a proposal to the Thai side to repatriate the Long Neck Karen Hill Tribes peopl who are presently living in Ban Huay Pu Kaeng and Ban Huay Sua Dao villages. Burma claimed that the long neck people were an ancient Burmese tribe and fled the fighting between Burmese government forces and minority insurgents. The Burmese said that they would guarantee their safety. Col. Phadung Yinphaibunsook said that he would take the matter to the Governor of Mae Hong Son and the next step would be to notify the third Army Region Commander.
On a positive note, TBC meeting agreed that they would try to create peace and harmony along the border allowing coordination and cooperation between military forces. They would also hold mutual relation-enhancing meetings and sports competitions. They also agreed to cooperate to suppress or control drugs and other illegal activities and will notify each other’s counterparts of any findings. The meeting was held in an orderly and friendly atmosphere, both sides promising to cooperate and forge better relationships between their two countries.


Election Commissioners job is never done

Wrongdoers use every trick in the book to evade detection

Staff reporters
The Chiang Mai Election Commission held a training course on 9 December for defence officers in order that they can perform their duties more efficiently in the final run up to the elections.
It was also reaffirmed that there had been vote buying, but there are no witnesses at present. Manop Sakdaphorn, Chairman of the Chiang Mai Election Commission, said that the training should increase the efficiency of officers. Violence during the elections requires that defence officers be out on the streets and strictly perform their duties to prevent breaches of the election laws.
He reiterated that election laws had already been broken in Chiang Mai, but no arrests have been possible as there are no witnesses. There are rumours that candidates instruct their people to give out money after they have finished campaigning and have left the location. The Election Commission is continually investigating these reports and seeking ways and means to arrest the wrongdoers.
The political parties are emphasizing on campaigning in order to making direct contact with the public, rather than doing stage shows.
It is noticeable that there are not too many bill boards erected on the streets of Chiang Mai. Candidates prefer to compete with each other by personally knocking on doors of the citizens to drum up support. This was quite evident as party leaders abandoned their plans to speak on stage preferring the knock-on-doors strategy.



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