NEWS
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

People Power Party sweeps the board in Chiang Mai

World condemns Bhutto assassination

Three years on, victims of the devastating tsunami remembered

Former US Ambassador Ralph Boyce returns to Chiang Mai

The Martians are coming

Three restaurant owners charged with violating law prohibiting sales of alcohol on Election day

Convoy laden with warm clothing dispatched to help villagers hit by severe cold weather

Exit poll shows massive support for People Power Party

Newly installed LPG gas tank in car explodes

Police report crime on the rise in the north

 

People Power Party sweeps the board in Chiang Mai

9 Chiang Mai PPP candidates elected to Parliament

Saksit Meesubkwang
The electorate of Chiang Mai came out in force on Sunday to support the People Power Party, resulting in 9 PPP candidates being elected to serve as Members of Parliament. 2 further candidates were also elected from smaller parties, one from the Ruam Chai Thai Chartpattana Party, and one from the Pua Paen Din Party. No Democratic Party candidates were elected.
Turnout of voters surged to 83.2% of the electorate, much higher than the predicted target figure. Eligible voters in the Chiang Mai area number 1,149,326; with 824,281 persons recorded as having cast their vote at the numerous polling stations around the city. 26,418 ballots, approximately 8.36% of the vote, were reported as being cast wrongly, and 91,1155 people failed to cast their vote.
Chiang Mai is the home town of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, and a large number of local people had supported his Thai Rak Thai party in the past. The People Power Party’s election manifesto contained similar populist policies and supported the former Prime Minister, which led to its ultimate success in the Chiang Mai area.
In Electoral Zone 1, the winners were Ms. Chinnicha Wongsawas, with 135,701 votes, Mr. Surapong Tereyapirom with 135,098 votes, and Mr. Krisadaporn Siempakdee with 116,234 votes. All three were PPP candidates.
In Electoral Zone 2, the winners were Mr. Boonsong Tereyapirom with 135,098 votes, Mr. Wittay Songkham with 124,984 votes, and Mr. Nopakhun Ratphathai with 118,848 votes. All three were PPP candidates.
In Electoral Zone 3, the winners were Mr. Chulaphan Amornwiwat with 75,716 votes, and Mr. Prasit Wuthichainan with 26,506 votes. Both these candidates represented the PPP. Dr. Krai Dabtham, candidate for the Ruam Chai Thai Chartpattana was also elected, gaining 68,792 votes.
In Electoral Zone 4, the winners were Mr. Suraphol Kiartchaiyakorn, the PPP candidate, with 51,304 votes, and Mr. Noraphol Tantimontri, from the Pua Pendin Party, with 55,538 votes.
The Director of the Chiang Mai Election Commission, Mr. Pongphan Riewthongthatwee, congratulated the Election Commission members on a job well done, although he noted that two cases had been submitted to the Commission prior to the election itself. These cases were in the process of being considered.

 

World condemns Bhutto assassination

By Andrew O. Selsky
Associated Press
From Moscow to Washington to New Delhi and points in between, dismay and condemnation poured forth over the assassination of Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, along with concern for the stability of the volatile region. World leaders lauded her bravery and commitment to democratic reform.

Benazir Bhutto
The U.N. Security Council voted Thursday unanimously to condemn the killing and urged all nations to help bring those responsible for “this reprehensible act” to justice.
In India, which has fought three wars against Pakistan, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Bhutto is irreplaceable, and noted she had striven to improve relations between the two nuclear-armed countries.
“I was deeply shocked and horrified to hear of the heinous assassination,” Singh said. “In her death, the subcontinent has lost an outstanding leader who worked for democracy and reconciliation in her country.”
In Texas, a tense-looking President George W. Bush demanded that those responsible be tracked down and brought to justice.
“The United States strongly condemns this cowardly act by murderous extremists who are trying to undermine Pakistan’s democracy,” Bush told reporters at his ranch in Crawford. “We stand with the people of Pakistan in their struggle against the forces of terror and extremism.”
He later spoke briefly by phone with Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf but White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said he had no details.
Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai, who met Bhutto earlier on Thursday in Islamabad, said he was “deeply pained” by the assassination of “this brave sister of ours, a brave daughter of the Muslim world”
“She sacrificed her life, for the sake of Pakistan and for the sake of this region,” he said. “I found in her this morning a lot of love and desire for peace in Afghanistan, for prosperity in Afghanistan and ... Pakistan.”
From Iraq, a country that has struggled daily with terrorism and assassinations since the 2003 ouster of Saddam Hussein, President Jalal Talabani condemned Bhutto’s killing and said Pakistan had lost a courageous politician who stood firm against “the forces of darkness and terror.”
“We in Iraq know (the impact) of the blind terror that has become a global plague, killing innocents and shaking the foundations of stability” in nations, Talabani said in a statement released by his office.
In a letter to Musharraf, French President Nicolas Sarkozy called the attack an “odious act” and said “terrorism and violence have no place in the democratic debate and the combat of ideas and programs.”
Sarkozy said Bhutto had paid “with her life her commitment to the service of her fellow citizens and to Pakistan’s political life” and urged Pakistan’s elections be held as scheduled on Jan. 8.
Bhutto, a former two-time prime minister of Pakistan, was killed in a suicide attack in Rawalpindi just 10 weeks after she returned to her homeland from eight years in exile. A suicide attack on her homecoming parade killed more than 140 people. The articulate, poised 54-year-old had lashed out at the spread of Islamic extremism as she campaigned for next month’s parliamentary elections.
The United States had been at the forefront of foreign powers trying to arrange reconciliation between Bhutto and Musharraf, who under heavy U.S. pressure resigned as army chief and earlier this month lifted a state of emergency, in the hope it would put Pakistan back on the road to democracy.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for “all Pakistanis to work together for peace and national unity.”
The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said Pope Benedict XVI was immediately informed of the “terrible news.”
“One cannot see signs of peace in this tormented region,” Lombardi said.
In Britain, where Bhutto had attended Oxford University, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said she “risked everything in her attempt to win democracy in Pakistan and she has been assassinated by cowards who are afraid of democracy.”
“The terrorists must not be allowed to kill democracy in Pakistan, and this atrocity strengthens our resolve that the terrorists will not win there, here, or anywhere in the world,” Brown said.
EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said the attack “is clearly aimed at destabilizing the country.” He beseeched Pakistanis to refrain from violence.
Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi extended his condolences and urged the people of Pakistan to remain calm. “I pray that the situation in Pakistan will soon stabilize,” he said.
U.S. Congressman Patrick Kennedy was in Pakistan and on his way to dinner with Bhutto when he heard about the attack. Kennedy told The Associated Press in a telephone interview that Pakistanis are setting fires in the countryside “that are lighting up the sky tonight.”
Italian Premier Romano Prodi said he was filled with grief and called Bhutto “a woman who chose to fight her battle until the end with a single weapon _ the one of dialogue and political debate.”
“The difficult path toward peace and democracy in that region must not be stopped, and Bhutto’s sacrifice will serve as the strongest example for those who do not surrender to terrorism,” Prodi said.
New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark said Friday she was deeply shocked and saddened at the news of the “cowardly assassination.” Clark, in a statement, said Bhutto’s death “is a great loss to Pakistan and to the region.”
Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, during a speech south of Santiago, paid “sincere tribute to a woman ... who fought her entire life for a better Pakistan.” President Cristina Fernandez of Argentina called the assassination “an abominable act,” while Venezuela’s government condemned what it called an “act of blind violence.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the “cowardly terrorist attack ... also targets the stability and democratic process of Pakistan.”
Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo called the attack “an assault on democracy.”
“The Philippines joins hands with the entire civilized world in solidarity against such mindless barbarity and in unwavering defense of peace, freedom, law and order,” Arroyo said.
In Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin sent a telegram to Musharraf saying Bhutto’s murder is “a challenge thrown down by forces of terrorism not only to Pakistan but also to the entire international community,” Russian news reports said.
Anatoly Safonov, Putin’s envoy on international cooperation against terrorism, expressed fears the assassination would trigger violent repercussions.
“The already unstable situation in Pakistan will be further exacerbated by this powerful factor,” Safonov said, according to the Interfax news agency.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, who personally knew Bhutto, said he hails her memory and called on the international community to support Pakistan and its democracy.
Sweden’s Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said he had felt disgust when receiving the news of Bhutto’s murder, which he called “bestial.”
“I feel a strong worry for the consequences this will have for Pakistan,” he said.
Japan’s government “strongly condemns these cowardly and unforgivable acts of terrorism, which aim to destroy Pakistan’s efforts to instill democracy through fair elections,” according to a statement from the country’s Foreign Ministry.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said in a statement Thursday that China was shocked and strongly condemns the terrorist attack, the government’s Xinhua News Agency said.
Israeli President Shimon Peres said Bhutto “feared nothing and served her country with valor.”
AP writers Fisnik Abrashi in Kabul, Afghanistan; Jenny Barchfield in Paris; Matthew Rosenberg in New Delhi; Jill Lawless in London; Marta Falconi in Rome; Matthew Lee and John Henry in Washington; John Heilprin at the United Nations; Eduardo Gallardo in Santiago, Chile; and Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed to this report.


Three years on, victims of the devastating tsunami remembered

A foreign couple and their child lay roses in remembrance, Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2007, in Khao Lak, on the third anniversary of the Asian tsunami.

By Fakhurradzie Gade
AP Photos by David Longstreath

Calang, Indonesia (AP) Survivors prayed at mass graves and mosques last Wednesday to mark the third anniversary of the Asian tsunami, while warning sirens sent hundreds fleeing beaches during a drill to test an alert network established since the disaster.
The waves on Dec. 26, 2004, spawned by the mightiest earthquake in 40 years, killed around 230,000 people in 12 Indian Ocean nations, just under half of them in the Indonesian province of Aceh on Sumatra island.
Coastal communities in Sri Lanka and India lost some 45,000 people between them. The waves also crashed into tourist resorts in southern Thailand, killing more than 5,000, half of them foreign vacationers.
The disaster overwhelmed authorities in Aceh, where bodies littered devastated neighborhoods for weeks. Most victims were never formally identified and tens of thousands were buried in mass graves.
Nur Aini lost her husband and one of her two children to the waves.
“We are praying for them today even though I don’t know where they are buried,” she said. “My remaining child still calls out for his father.”
The disaster, one of the deadliest of the modern age, promoted a global outpouring of sympathy, with governments, individuals and corporations pledging more than U$13 billion in aid.
In Aceh, more than 100,000 houses, scores of schools and hospitals and kilometers (miles) of roads have been rebuilt. Whilst there have been complaints of corruption and waste, most people involved in the reconstruction process say it has gone well.
“I hope we can turn a new page now and leave sadness, cries and tears behind us,” Aceh Governor Irwandi Yusuf told hundreds gathered at a prayer ceremony in the hard-hit town of Calang. “I hope one day we can pay our debt to the world by becoming a donor to other countries hit by disasters.”
Thailand held ceremonies throughout the day along its white-sand southern beaches.
Survivors and families of victims were invited to Phuket’s Patong beach, a popular strip of hotels and restaurants, to lay flowers in the sand. Chanting Buddhist monks were to light incense and lead an ecumenical prayer service.
The tsunami drill in Indonesia took place on the western tip of Java island close to the capital, Jakarta. It was attended by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and other top government officials.
Those taking part ran or walked around two kilometers (a mile) inland after the siren sounded.
Foreign governments are helping Indonesia establish a nationwide network of buoys and high-tech communications equipment that would give coastal communities warning if there is a tsunami. The network is up and running in several regions of the country, but 20 more buoys are due to be launched in 2008.
Indonesia is frequently rocked by powerful earthquakes because of its position on the “Pacific Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanoes and tectonic fault lines encircling the Pacific Basin.
The observances came amid widespread flooding in parts of Indonesia. Heavy rains triggered landslides that killed dozens of people on Java island, though far from the scene of the tsunami and last Wednesday’s drill.


Former US Ambassador Ralph Boyce returns to Chiang Mai

Plans to enjoy his retirement in Thailand

Former US Ambassador Ralph Boyce receives a token of appreciation from senior members of the media in Chiang Mai.

Saksit Meesubkwang
On December 19th, the US Consul General in Chiang Mai invited representatives of the Northern mass media to meet with the recently retired US Ambassador, Mr. Ralph L. Boyce.
Mr. Boyce remarked that he had lived in Asia for more than 20 years, and that he had gained a great deal of experience during that time. He intended to stay in Thailand to enjoy his retirement, and would be acting as an advisor to a large company based in the USA. He thanked the Thai authorities for their efficient co-operation in suppressing narcotics, particularly heroin, and mentioned his admiration of the special democratic process inaugurated and supported by His Majesty the King.
When he had first arrived in Asia, he had supposed that the economies of both Myanmar and the Philippines would develop more quickly than that of Thailand; however, he admitted that he had been wrong, as the Thai economy had grown much faster than that of the two other countries. In his opinion, the mass media within Thailand enjoys more freedom that its counterparts in many other S.E. Asian countries, although the previous government led by ex- Prime Minister Thaksin had interfered more with the media than had the current government. It had, however, publicised more information than the present government, as the Council for National Security had not utilised the mass media to full advantage to disseminate information about its operations.
As regards the situation in Myanmar, Mr. Boyce assured his listeners that the USA would continue to impose sanctions in the field of business, and also by refusing support to exporters of gemstones, teak and other materials. Companies in the US would continue to be forbidden to undertake investments in Myanmar. These sanctions will, Mr. Boyce hopes, encourage the regime in Myanmar to move more swiftly towards a true democracy in its country, and will continue to be applied despite any opposition, which may arise from other countries.
“What I think is that our policy is important for the people who are struggling inside Burma. We don’t follow policy necessarily to try to impact the generals; they are fairly impervious-impermeable even- to outside pressure, for good or bad, it seems.
“Even some of the countries that people call ‘enablers’ or their ‘closest protectors’ or whatever-it’s unclear, at the end of the day, just how much influence even they can have.”


The Martians are coming

Staff reporters
Mars, the fourth planet from the Sun in the Solar System and the closest to earth, comes even closer to us every 26 months.

On December 18 this year earthlings had the opportunity to take a close look at our neighbour, which came to within 88 million kilometres of our planet.
Dr Sarun Posayajinda, the deputy director of the National Astronomy Research Institute of Thailand (NARIT), Thai Ministry of Science and Technology, said, that the closest that mars has ever come to us was in 2003 when it was only 55 million kilometres away.
Dr. Sarun said its location is only 15.9 degrees to the Earth’s surface this year, and will remain closest to Earth until 2016. During this period astronomers could study the planet through small sized telescopes to get a better knowledge of the Red Planet.


Three restaurant owners charged with violating law prohibiting sales of alcohol on Election day

Staff reporters
On 23rd, December, three restaurant owners were arrested and charged with violating the law prohibiting the sale of alcohol on Election day. During a night patrol, an investigative team from Muang Police Station, commanded by Superintendent Pol. Col. Prachuab Wongsuk, discovered alcohol being sold at the premises known as the Babilon Restaurant ,situated in Boonyoo market, and arrested the owner, Mr.Peeraol Mekmethanond. In the same area, Larb Isaan Restaurant’s owner, Mr. Sakda Suwannamano and the owner of the Used Pear Restaurant, Mr. Sornchai Hiranpot, were also arrested on the same evening. All three owners will be prosecuted for illegally selling alcohol inside designated election zones.


Convoy laden with warm clothing dispatched to help villagers hit by severe cold weather

Phairoj Saengphuwong, Chiang Mai Deputy Governor and government officials watch as the convoy of mercy prepares to leave city hall bringing relief to the to the rural people afflicted by the severe cold weather.

Saksit Meesubkwang
On December 25 at Chiang Mai City Hall, Phairoj Saengphuwong, Chiang Mai Deputy Governor, presided over a ceremony to release a convoy of cars and trucks laden with blankets, warm clothing, sweaters and other amenities for delivery to the villagers in the 9 districts, which have declared as severely hit areas.
The afflicted areas are Mae Ai, Fang, Chai Prakarn, Chiang Dao, Mae Taeng, Wiang Haeng, and Phrao districts. Chiang Mai Deputy Governor Phairoj noted that those areas were the hardest hit and make up 10 % of the province’s areas.
The 146,105 items consisting of blankets, clothes and sweaters will be further allocated to the villagers by the Chiang Mai Provincial Office of Public Relief and Prevention together with the 33rd Military Circle of Chiang Mai.
Another 100,000 articles of clothing are expected to be purchased with funds from donations made by local administration organizations, the general public and representatives from the private and public sectors.
However, officials said that this year there had been a delay in the purchasing of blankets, clothes, and sweaters. He went on to explain that the reason for this was because the Ministry of Interior refused to buy from garment manufacturers, preferring instead to buy from village laborers, housewife groups, and other local groups in the rural areas, so as to help them earn more money to sustain their livelihoods.


Exit poll shows massive support for People Power Party

Grassroots voters continue to support the party’s populist policies

Saksit Meesubkwang
The exit poll conducted by the Political Sceince and Public Administration Faculties of Chiang Mai University showed that the vast majority of voters nominated candidates from the People Power Party as their preferred choice of MP for Chiang Mai.

Associate Professor Pairat Trakarnsirind, and the Chairperson of the Political Science faculty, Dr. Chantra Suthicharee, both stated that the reason for the party’s high level of support was that there still existed a great deal of belief and faith in the populist policies.

The Dean of the Public Administration Faculty, Associate Professor Pairat Trakarnsirind, and the Chairperson of the Political Science faculty, Dr. Chantra Suthicharee, both stated that the reason for the party’s high level of support was that there still existed a great deal of belief and faith in the populist policies of the former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s Thai Rak Thai party, on which the PPP’s election manifesto was based.
These policies included the “30 baht medical scheme” and the “one million baht per village scheme”, both of which were highly appreciated by residents, including farmers and labourers, in the Chiang Mai area. During the run-up to the election, it was obvious that the electorate as a whole believed that, if the PPP were elected to form the next government, they would provide a better standard of living and more benefits at the grassroots level than would the rival political parties.
Lecturers in political science at Chiang Mai University also commented that, as a result of the Thaksin administration’s policy of placing Thai Rak Thai supporters in positions within the local, district and provincial administration structure, the PPP was able to successfully reassure the electorate that it would continue with the populist policies of the former Thai Rak Thai party.
The overwhelming support by local voters for the PPP was also seen as
a confirmation of loyalty to Mr.Thaksin, who was born in Chiang Mai and has always been highly regarded in his home town.


Newly installed LPG gas tank in car explodes

Garage admits faulty workmanship, agrees to compensate

Staff reporters
With the soaring price of gasoline, which seems to go up all the time, Kasemsarn Kantala of Hang Dong decide that it was time to switch from using expensive gasoline to the more economical LPG.
Having had the new fuel system installed, Kasemsarn happily drove to a gas station to fill up his brand new LPG tank. As the attendants went about their business of filling the tank, there was a loud explosion at the rear of the car. The shocked owner of the vehicle watched in horror as his car went up in flames.
Frantically, he tried to put out the fire before the flames could engulf his beloved car, burning his left hand in the process. Quick thinking station attendants ran to the rescue and the fire was put out quickly.
Fortunately, damage to the car was estimated at only 10,000 baht, for which the embarrassed LPG shop owner who installed the system, agreed to pay for. He said that he would re-install the LPG tank, but this time he assured Kasemsarn that the work would be done properly.


Police report crime on the rise in the north

Chiang Mai has highest number of llegal alien workers

Saksit Meesubkwang
On December 16, 2007 at the Provincial Police Bureau, Region 5 in Muang Chiang Mai, Pol. Lt. Gen. Theerasak Chookitkhun, commissioner of the Provincial Police Bureau, Region 5, confirmed that 26 illegal alien workers had been arrested, and 150 motorcycles were confiscated as evidence.
The Commissioner said that the number of criminal cases in Chiang Mai and in the Northern provinces involving crimes such as snatching, stealing, breaking and entering, and motorbike thefts was steadily increasing.
A crackdown of illegal aliens, showed that most of them owned motorbikes, but admitted to the fact that they had very little knowledge of traffic regulations and that accidents were subsequently caused.
Police said that they are checking to see if the motorbikes had been reported stolen.
But if the bikes are found to belong to their employers then the owners will be fined 2,000 baht for allowing the alien to use them. If the offence was committed again then the bikes would be confiscated.
Chiang Mai has the highest number of illegal alien workers in Thailand, as it is the first large city that they arrive at, before continuing on to work in other provinces.
The three main routes used by illegal aliens are, Mae Hong Son to Chiang Mai, Mae Sai in Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai and from Chiang Dao district to Chiang Mai.
Illegal entry is made easier by dishonest officers who charge between 5,000 and 8,000 baht each who help them from being detected and arrested by the authorities.

Police in Region 5 look over more than 150 motorbikes
confiscated from illegal aliens.