Vol. VII No. 4 - Tuesday
January 22, - January 28, 2008



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by Saichon Paewsoongnern


NEWS
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Task Force units find and destroy opium plantation

Chiang Mai - “User-Friendly City”?

Stateless children in Chiang Rai beg Interior Minister to grant Thai nationality

Hill tribes sign book of condolences for the late Princess Galyani Vadhana

Thai Cabinet to encourage extended period of mourning for government employees

HRH Princess Galyani Vadhana’s Project presents hearing aids to the deaf

Tourist visit to view morning mists ends in tragedy

Investigators arrest the owner of the “Rice Share” direct sales company

Teenage drunks arrested for attempted murder

Their Majesties attend religious ceremony for late Princess

Nan police lose Class 1 drugs case suspect

Hmong New Year celebrations attract more than 2000 participants

Major motorcycle theft gang arrested

Thai Public TV makes surprise visit to airwaves

 

Task Force units find and destroy opium plantation

Over 1 Rai of land given over to illegal crop

Saksit Meesubkwang and staff reporters
Task Force units in the northern area of Chiang Mai province were recently instructed to search the Chai Prakarn District for illegal opium fields, as there is still a major problem with cultivation of this illegal crop in the area. As part of the search program, on January 7, 50 ground troops supported by 2 helicopters from the 33rd Precinct of the Royal Thai Army entered the area.
The terrain was extremely difficult, resulting in vehicles being unable to enter the area of the search. An illegal opium plantation of over 1 Rai in size was found (partially disguised by the planting of lettuce and parsley) in a valley at Khun Huayfang, Chai Phrakarn district. The plantation was immediately destroyed, and was subsequently found to belong to a Lisu hill tribe. Police are at present searching for the owner of the land on which the opium was being grown.
Traditionally, the hill tribes regularly grow opium in the valleys every winter, as the cooler weather suits its cultivation. Forces have to be sent in every year to destroy the crop. Unfortunately, this year’s crop appears to be bigger than in previous years; however, the Royal Thai Army, in co-operation with the Office for Protection and Suppression of Narcotics and the Border Police estimate that they can find and destroy the illegal opium plantations by March this year.
At around the same time, Protection and Stability officers together with the police and 20 soldiers destroyed an opium field in a valley located in the Jaehom district near Lampang. Hill tribe persons had been hired by a member of a drug gang to cultivate several plots of land in the forest of Khun Huay Maetang. The opium poppies found were fully grown, in bloom and ready to be harvested. All were destroyed. The street value of the illegal crop when processed was estimated at hundreds of thousands of baht.

 

Chiang Mai - “User-Friendly City”?

2005 government survey doesn’t think so!

Staff reporters
The Social Development and Human Security Ministry is encouraging all municipalities throughout the country to work on making their cities as “user-friendly” as possible by concentrating on five aspects – safety, cleanliness, good governance, quality of life, and culture. At present, latest research figures show that smaller cities are more successful in this than are their larger rivals. Chiang Mai, unfortunately, only scores on the last, and to many, the least important issue, that of culture!
A seminar was held on January 7 at the Green Lake Resort Hotel to discuss ways of promoting social services in municipalities using the concept of “Liveable Towns - Liveable Communities”. More than 100 Chiang Mai and northern city, town and district administrators attended the seminar, which was presided over by Dr. Pholdech Pinpraweep, the Deputy Minister of Social Development and Human Security.
Dr. Pholdech stated that making towns and communities “liveable” is a major government policy and a goal of the Ministry, hence its promotion and support of the concept throughout the 1200 municipalities in the Kingdom. Assistance is provided with strategies, techniques and policy, and Dr. Pholdech believes that it is the direct duty of all municipal administrators to develop and improve their towns and communities. However, a survey carried out by the Ministry in 2005 found that smaller towns were more comfortable to live in than larger ones.
Chiang Mai itself had a good average rating in the survey, but needed improvement in all aspects including the strengthening of its communities. Environmental concerns were paramount, and over-development was a problem; both aspects needed monitoring. The only ranking Chiang Mai actually received was for culture, where it came first; in the rest of the requirements for “liveability” the city failed to gain a rank. Readers should remember, however, that this survey was carried out two years ago.


Stateless children in Chiang Rai beg Interior Minister to grant Thai nationality

10,000 children request secure status

Staff reporters
On Children’s Day, a very special celebration in Thailand, one sees boys and girls of all ages enjoying enormously the events held for them. However, for the thousands of stateless children in the north of the Kingdom, such celebrations must surely be tinged with strong feelings of insecurity and hopelessness. This year, however, concerned citizens drew together to highlight their plight.
From January 10 to 12, the Ban Mae Chan School, Mae Chan, Chiang Rai, the Plans Thailand Organisation, Chiang Rai Education District 3, and representatives of Payap University, Chiang Mai organised a two day event at Ban Mae Chan School aimed at giving advice about stateless childrens’ rights and status under the present laws.
The meeting was divided into four sections, dependent on the present status of each child. Class 1 held children who were truly stateless, with no ID card, Class 2 held children of specific other nationalities, but who had no rights in Thailand, Class 3 held children born in Thailand but with parents born outside the Kingdom, and Class 4 held children who were born in other countries, as were their parents. Each class was given information by their teacher on their particular status and basic rights.
Miipha Moesae, 14 years old and a student at Mai Sai Prasit Sart School, told reporters that she implored the Minister of the Interior to give her Thai nationality on Childrens’ Day, as she wanted to be able to apply for a study grant to finish her education, in the same way as a Thai student.
Malae Mayoe, 16 years old and a second year student at Ban Thoed Thai School, said that he was an orphan living with his grandparents, as both his parents had died when he was young. Being stateless had destroyed his young life, as he did not understand why he could not have the same rights as his Thai counterparts. His dream was to finish his education and go on to be a doctor or a teacher, but he realised that this would be virtually impossible for him whilst stateless. He pleaded with the Thai government to pay more attention to the thousands of children affected in this manner.


Hill tribes sign book of condolences for the late Princess Galyani Vadhana

Karen tribes people mourn HRH the Princess’s passing

Karen ethnic groups in Chiang Mai sign condolence books
for Her Royal Highness Princess Galyani Vadhana at the Chiang Mai
Provincial Hall on January 13.

Saksit Meesubkwang
On January 13 at Chiang Mai City Hall, the book of condolences for the late Princess Galyani Vadhana was signed by Pakageryor and Pow ethnic people, representatives of 500 Karen tribes people, who had travelled form their villages on order to perform this service for the late Princess.
The Coordinator for the Karen Affiliation for Culture and the Envorinment, Waiying Tongbue stated that the Karen people greatly mourned the loss of HRH the Princess, as she had dedicated herself throughout her life to the welfare of the Hill Tribe peoples through the Princess Mother’s Medical Volunteer Project. She also worked to introduce education, art and management strategies in the hill tribe villages, and performed many other kindnesses.
The representatives of the Karen said that the death of HRH the Princess was a great loss for all people in the Kingdom, and that they very much appreciated the opportunity to sign the book of condolences as a remembrance of a great lady and her works.


Thai Cabinet to encourage extended period of mourning for government employees

Voluntary 100-day mourning period to mark death of Princess

Last Tuesday the Thai Cabinet resolved to encourage government employees to observe a 100-day mourning period for the death of Her Royal Highness Princess Galyani Vadhana on a voluntary basis, according to Prime Minister’s Office Minister Khunying Dhipavadee Meksawan.
His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s elder sister passed away on January 2 after a long battle with abdominal cancer. She was 84.
The government earlier instructed government employees to observe mourning for 15 days and that Thai national flags at government offices and public buildings should be flown at half-mast. (TNA)


HRH Princess Galyani Vadhana’s Project presents hearing aids to the deaf

Nakornping Hospital, Chiang Mai, receives presentation

Saksit Meesubkwang

During the ceremony, 84 hearing aids were presented to the hearing impaired, followed by a training session for the recipients.

On January 14, the director of Nakornping Hospital, Dr. Chatchawan Siriniwan, along with doctors, nurses and dentists working with the Princess Mother’s Medical Volunteer Foundation Project held a merit making ceremony in honour of the late HRH Princess Galyani Vadyana. During the ceremony, 84 hearing aids were presented to the hearing impaired, followed by a training session for the recipients. If used correctly, such hearing aids can be of use for five years or more.
In an address given later, Dr. Chatchawan said that loss of hearing is the 6th most common problem found in patients in 2006. During that year, 149 people were diagnosed as needing hearing aids. Those presented at the ceremony were sponsored by the Sirindhorn Centre, as part of a drive to revive the efficiency of national medical services.


Tourist visit to view morning mists ends in tragedy

Staff reporters
Panchita Sakhornjan, a nurse from Bangkok, sustained fatal injuries when she fell 200 feet from a cliff at Puchifa, Chiang Rai province. She had been travelling with a party of friends who had set off early in the morning in order to view the morning mist. Being unfamiliar with the area, she had lost her footing in the dark, with fatal results.
Forestry Department and Field Army officers, along with a number of volunteers, searched for her for three hours, finally finding her body at the foot of the cliff, just inside Lao.
Puchifa is popular with tourists because of its forest location and beautiful views, but is steep and dangerous if care is not taken. A notice will now be placed near the point from which Panchita fell, warning tourists to avoid the immediate area.


Investigators arrest the owner of the “Rice Share” direct sales company

Hundreds of victims countrywide defrauded by scam

Saksit Meesubkwang
Nit Chavala-Akanit, the owner of the now notorious Rice Share company, responsible for defrauding hundreds of victims countrywide with his “pyramid selling” scam, was finally arrested on the Thai/Cambodia border by DSI officers and Region 2 police after he had been on the run for almost a month. Seven others who were involved in the scam, including the owner’s wife, Preach Chavala-Akanit and their son, are still at large. The suspects are responsible for at least 200 million baht in damages.

Nit Chavala-Akanit
The case has attracted interest all over Thailand because of the huge number of people who fell for the scheme and lost money as a result. Hundreds filed complaints with the police at almost all the police stations in the north and south of the Kingdom.
After Nit became aware that complaints against him were being filed, he went on the run with his family. His whereabouts became known to DSI officers on January 8 and he was finally arrested later that day as he arrived back from Ploy Pet, Cambodia, where he had been visiting a gambling house.
The suspect told representatives of the media that he had started the Rice Share business with an investor, and that at first, all had been well. After only a few months the public were investing between 300,000 and 400,000 baht per day. However, the company representative in the south of the country then refused to transfer the invested cash to Nit, leaving him unable to pay due dividends in time, which caused complaints to be made to the police by the public. He also said that the reason he went on the run was not that he was afraid of the police, but that he was afraid that certain persons of a particular type in Chiang Mai would kill him. If he was allowed bail, he would encourage his wife and son to turn themselves in and fight the charges.


Teenage drunks arrested for attempted murder

Volunteer paramedic attacked with sword

Staff reporters
Six teenage hooligans have been arrested following an incident in Khungtapao, Muang Uttardit which resulted in serious injury to a volunteer paramedic. The crime occurred on January 8, when the drunken youths rampaged down Road 11, threw a beer bottle into a passing tour bus, and then attacked a volunteer paramedic with a Samurai sword.
Officers were quickly on the scene, and arrested two of the youths, but the rest fled. Three days later, after questioning the two, police were able to trace and detain the four remaining gang members.
Four of the youths were under 18 years old; consequently their parents are guilty of the offence of influencing, supporting or allowing their children to behave in an inappropriate manner, an offence for which the penalty is a maximum of three months in jail or a fine of not more than 30,000 baht.
The six teenagers were charged with intentionally cooperating to injure another person, throwing a bottle into a bus, and with the serious charge of attempted murder. The Samurai sword used in the attack was found, and will be used as evidence.


Their Majesties attend religious ceremony for late Princess

Muslim spiritual leader pays tribute and expresses deepest sorrow

Their Majesties the King and Queen presided over a Buddhist rite at the Grand Palace to mark the 15th day after the passing of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s elder sister, Her Royal Highness Princess Galyani Vadhana on January 2.
Also on Wednesday, Dato Imam Pattana Langputeh, a representative of the Sultan of Kelantan Tuanku Ismail Petra and his consort, laid a wreath in front of the royal golden urn of HRH the Princess, also at the Grand Palace.
Imron Maluleem, a representative of Chularatchamontri (the country’s Muslim spiritual leader) and the Central Islamic Committee of Thailand led senior Muslim officials to the Grand Palace to pay tribute to the late Princess. A statement from Chularatchamontri conveyed the deepest sorrow of Muslims in Thailand over her death.
On Thursday, for the first time, members of the public have been allowed to pay their respects at the throne hall between 6pm and 10pm. Starting from Saturday January 19, foreigners who go to the Grand Palace in order to pay tribute to the late Princess will receive a copy of her biography in the English language. Some 50,000 copies of the book, printed by the Ministry of Culture, will also be sent to foreign embassies in Thailand. (TNA)


Nan police lose Class 1 drugs case suspect

Lao man goes on the run from jail

Staff reporter
Nan police are still looking for Si Ngoenngam, a suspect in a case involving Class 1 drugs, who escaped from his cell in Ngob Police Station in the early hours of Thursday January 10 and quickly disappeared.
Lao authorities have been contacted for assistance in tracking him down, and the police officers who were on duty at the time have been investigated.
Pol. Col. Surachate Thopunyanont, the commander of Nan Provincial Police, said that after preliminary investigations he does not believe the rumours that the police on duty at the time of the escape were bribed.
He added that the cells at Ngob Police Station are in a state of disrepair, which may have helped Si to escape. Si is at present still on the run.


Hmong New Year celebrations attract more than 2000 participants

Annual celebrations held this year at Khun Chiang Khian Village

This year’s Hmong New Year celebrations were held
at Khun Chiang Khian Village in Chiang Mai.

The celebrations included traditional “look kang” local games, competitions, and “wooden trolley” rallies.

Saksit Meesubkwang
This year’s Hmong New Year celebrations, organised by the Chiang Mai Hmong Association, were held at Khun Chiang Khian Village, Chang Puak, Chiang Mai, and were attended by over 2000 Hill Tribe people from all over Chiang Mai. The celebrations included traditional “look kang” local games, competitions, and “wooden trolley” rallies.
Hmong New Year celebrations are held at different villages each year; members of the Chiang Mai Hmong Association vote to decide which village will host in any one particular year. Costs for the celebrations are contributed by association members with support from the local administration. The Tourist Authority of Thailand also contributes, as the celebrations attract Thai and foreign tourists.


Major motorcycle theft gang arrested

Countrywide network being investigated

Saksit Meesubkwang
On January 14, a six-wheeled truck licensed in Chachoengsao province was impounded by Pol. Maj. Gen. Jiruj Haprommobol, Deputy Commissioner of the Provincial Police Bureau, Region 5 and Pol. Col. Montree Samboonyanon, Deputy Commander of Investigation of the Provincial Police Bureau, Region 5.
The truck had been stopped at a police checkpoint on the Superhighway two days earlier. On investigation, officers found that it had been modified, containing two separate levels intended for the transportation of motorcycles. 9 machines were found in the first level, all of which were licensed in Chiang Mai province, and all of which had been reported stolen in Chiang Mai and the surrounding areas.
Police detained the driver of the truck, Apirak Saengpraisan, 24, and Chan Saekang, who is believed to be the financier of the illegal operation. Both of the suspects deny all charges, and named a woman, Kamelporn Suriyakod, as the person responsible, who will also be charged if further investigation proves her involvement.
Pol. Col. Montree Samboonyanon revealed that police had been aware for some time that a gang of motorcycle thieves had been targeting the Chiang Mai area as part of their countrywide network. Motorcycles were being stolen to order, stored, and trucked in large numbers to neighbouring countries such as Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia. The trucks were camouflaged to resemble trucking company vehicles, but were modified to be able to carry a quantity of the stolen motorcycles.
Further investigations are being undertaken, with co-operation from police countrywide.

Police officers look over the stolen motorbikes
before returning them to their owners.


Thai Public TV makes surprise visit to airwaves

Unexpectedly scheduled talk show lasts nearly two hours

The Thailand Public Broadcasting Service (TPBS), announced only days ago to be launched on February 1, abruptly kicked off a live talk show Thursday afternoon in an apparent move to clarify a torrent of questions regarding the birth of the new public station.
Entitled “Count One on TPBS,” a panel moderated by former Channel 11 announcer Nattaya Waeowirakupt who was joined by TPBS interim committee chairman Kwansuang Atibhoti, TPBS committee member Apichart Thongyoo, as well as Anusorn Srikaew, Dean of Rangsit University’s Faculty of Mass Communications, and Chatchai Chuaraman, a representative from the Friends of Public Television, made a sudden appearance navigating the airwaves. Admitting that the establishment of the five-member interim panel was rather sudden, Kwansuang said the committee members initially agreed to broadcast news from Feb 1.
Mr. Apichart, however, added, that “on March 1, we should see other programmes apart from news on TPBS. By that time the programme schedule should be 60-70 percent completed.”
Kwansuang said about 2,000 hopeful TV personalities, programming and technical specialists, as well as prospective office workers, have applied for jobs at TPBS, and that acting director Thepchai Yong would be in charge of the recruitment.
Apichart promised to take good care of former employees of the shut-down TITV, but did not elaborate. Kwansuang said a live talk show, similar to Thursday’s surprise offering, would need to be organised again in the future to give further clarification to the public, but that he did not know exactly when this would happen. The show lasted nearly two hours and was broadcast from the Public Relations Department’s studios on Vibhavadi Rangsit Road.
In the latest development, the Administrative Court has rejected a request for an injunction to continue TITV’s broadcast as requested by former TITV employees.
The court gave the verdict following Tuesday’s petition by former TITV employees who said an order by the Public Relations Department (PRD) to suspend the channel’s broadcasts from Monday midnight was not legitimate. (TNA)



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