Chiang Mai in flames -
but this time it’s serious
Huge fire near Doi Saket
Following last week’s FeMail article about illegal burning, a
dramatic example of the very real dangers of this traditional practice took
place last Wednesday night adjacent to the southbound carriageway of Highway
118, approximately 3 kilometres south of the Doi Saket turning and
dangerously close to Bor Hin village, the Horizon resort complex, and
several large modern moo baans (village estate). By 10 p.m. the fire was
raging over an area of many rai of land, with palls of smoke illuminated by
the flames visible from the city itself. Flames reached high into the night
sky; at ground level the smoke was so dense that drivers on Highway 118
could not see the fronts of their own vehicles. Flashing lights were
everywhere, confirming the presence of the police, the fire services, and
the paramedics, although it is not yet known if there were any casualties,
nor if any properties were damaged. In the midst of the chaos of vehicles
and emergency services, sightseers wandered about, careless both of their
own safety and of the fact that they were hampering efforts to douse the
flames. Police seemed not to be monitoring either the traffic or the
Whilst we all hope that no injuries were sustained, and no property was
damaged or destroyed, the night’s trauma was a graphic illustration of how
the burning of fields can easily get out of control. How long before a
similar conflagration kills and destroys? How long before the people who use
this method of clearance realise that there are less deadly ways of
fertilising for the next crop? How long before we all take responsibility,
both for the environment and for the safety of its inhabitants? How long?
We would like to ask readers to send in their own experiences, their own
comments, and their own suggestions. In this way FeMail can join with the
environmental groups and organisations who are working towards a solution to
this perennial problem.
Gung Hei Fat Choy
Chiang Mai welcomes in the Year of the Rat
Chinese New Year is Thursday, February 7. People of Chinese ancestry
will pay respects to ancestors at temples and individual homes, and many
venues around town will hold their own celebrations for visitors. May good
luck, good health and prosperity be with you throughout the Year of the Rat.
Thai-Myanmar border post
at Kiew Pawok Pass is reopened
Situation in the area now regarded as normal
The Kiew Pawok Pass post on the border between Thailand and Myanmar at Ban
Arunothai, Tambon Muang Na in Chiang Dao district was officially reopened on
January 31, following a visit by the Secretary General of the National
Security Council, Lt. Gen. Sirapong Boonpat. Vichit Boonkangwan, Chief
Officer of Chiang Dao district, and Col Somkiart Malkorn, deputy commander
of the 2nd Calvary Regiment, Pha Muang Task Force, jointly presided over the
opening ceremony of the border pass on the Thailand side only. For the
Myanmar side to also open, it is necessary to obtain official agreement
regarding its opening from the Myanmar government.
Boonkangwan, Chief Officer of Chiang Dao district, and Col Somkiart Malkorn,
deputy commander of the 2nd Calvary Regiment, Pha Muang Task Force, jointly
presided over the opening ceremony of the border pass on the Thailand side
The Kiew Pawok pass, was ordered closed by the governments of Thailand and
Myanmar in 2003, following difficulties and problems with smugglers and
When the post is fully reopened, crossings will be able to take place on
Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.
Recently, Gen. Sirapong Boonpat attended a briefing with the Deputy Governor
of Chiang Mai, Pairoj Saengphuwong, to discuss continuing problems in the
Also in attendance were military personnel, police officers, administrative
officers, government units, investors from private companies, and the Office
of Narcotics Control Board. Speakers from Pha Muang Military Task Force, the
National Security Council, and the Third Army Region summarised the
problems, including the continuing attacks on hill tribe personnel and
villages by the Myanmar army, the existence of drug transportation routes
between the two countries, and the routes used by illegal immigrants to
escape from Myanmar. It was stated that the several years’ closure of the
border post at Kiew Pawok Pass had resulted in a considerable reduction of
these problems; as a result, it was felt that it was time for its reopening.
Two main reasons were given for this, the first being that there would be
commercial benefits both for the province and for the country, and the
second being that both national and local security would remain stable, as
the situation in the area now seemed normal.
Recycling plans for Chiang Mai
Mayor backs new system as quantities increase
A new campaign initiated by the Chiang Mai Municipality will
encourage the separation of different types of waste before collection. Dr.
Duentemduang na Chiengmai, the Mayor of Chiang Mai, recently revealed that,
due to the growth of the city, the increased number of migrant workers, and
the increased number of students from outside the province, the amount of
waste generated daily has risen to 320 tons. This has an impact on the
community, and, if not correctly managed and disposed of, could directly
affect public health.
Duentemduang na Chiengmai, the Mayor of Chiang Mai
A public relations campaign is being organised by the Municipality’s
Environment Office which will hopefully instil a sense of awareness of the
importance to health and the environment of separating out the various types
of waste before disposal. This will also reduce the Municipality’s expenses
in this area. A competition is being organised in which the public will be
invited to submit slogans. The winning entry will be placed on all rubbish
bins in the hope that it will increase awareness of recycling.
Bird Flu alert continues
No human cases yet confirmed
Following the recent outbreak of Avian Influenza in Nakhon Sawan,
public officials in Phrae have ensured that checkpoints have been set up to
monitor all fowl and fowl carcasses entering or leaving the province. Random
inspections of chicken farms in the area have also been carried out since
the new outbreak, although the disease has never been identified in birds in
Phrae. The checkpoints, however, have proved useful - a recent check
resulted in a haul of 26 turtles being transported from Chiang Rai by locals
from the Phitsanulok, who claimed that they had caught them at a friend’s
ginger plantation and were planning to cook and eat them! Officers also
check for smuggled drugs and logs.
now in place in Chiang Mai
Residents note that burning continues unchecked!
Further to the recent issuance by the Governor of Chiang Mai, Wibun
Sa-nguanphong, of a Public Order banning burning of all kinds in open areas,
an announcement has been made that all preventative and safety measures have
now been implemented.
The head of the Chiang Mai Office of Public Disaster and Prevention, Prachon
Prachayasakul, stated that his office has co-ordinated with forestry
officials and local organisations in order to ensure that last year’s
disastrous pollution problems are not repeated in 2008. Personnel and
equipment to deal with fires are at present on standby, and the public are
requested to call the relevant call centre number, 053-409345 to report any
burning of stubble, rubbish, etc. The press release does not mention whether
the personnel at the call centre are able to take calls in English, but
states that the centre will be able to co-ordinate with the police and fire
departments to ensure an immediate response.
The report also states that the preventative measures which have been put in
place will only be successful if local citizens and the general public
respond to and co-operate with the local government’s call to eliminate this
traditional practice and to adopt other, more modern methods of land
clearance, fertilisation and rubbish disposal
2007’s pollution problems caused massive disruption and damage to the local
economy, as tourists cancelled or foreshortened their visits to the entire
Northern area of the Kingdom, and residents left the area for fresher
locations. Some, no doubt, decided not to return. It is difficult to
understand how this problem can be solved when, in at least one other
Northern province, Mae Hong Son, “controlled” burning seems to be permitted
providing local headmen are informed and give their approval.
Bird Flu outbreak - Chiang Rai
Governor orders strict monitoring
Possible new outbreak on Burma/Thailand/China border
Reports by monitoring officials at the Mae Sai border crossing of a
new Avian Influenza outbreak at Chiang Tung, on the Burma/Thailand/China
border, may be based on fact, although the Burmese government has not
confirmed that an outbreak has occurred in the area. As a result, the
Governor of Chiang Rai, Preecha Kamolbut, has issued instructions to
livestock and customs officials at three border check points to increase
strict monitoring of fowl coming from China, Burma and Laos. Checkpoint
officials at Mae Sai, Chiang Saen, and Chiang Khong have been ordered to
search all trucks coming from Tachilek, and the movement of fowl across the
Mekong River from Bo Keo province, (Laos), into the Kingdom is now
forbidden. All imported goods arriving by this route are being inspected.
The legitimate export of fowl to the three neighbouring countries is
continuing as normal, but imports are being treated with increased
vigilance, as it is not certain whether checks for the disease are being
carried out before arrival in Thailand. Officials at the Mae Sai crossing
are also concerned that, as many Burmese from the Chiang Tung area use the
crossing to visit relatives in Mae Sai, the virus may be carried into
Thailand by either illegally imported fowl or infected humans.
Thailand expresses sorrow to
families of weather victims in China
60 dead, millions stranded
The Thai government has expressed condolences to the
relatives of those who have lost their lives as a result of China’s
abnormally heavy snows, considered the worst in five decades, and hopes that
the situation will return to normal soon. The message from the Bangkok
government was conveyed yesterday during a meeting between Wirasak Futrakul,
Thailand’s permanent secretary for foreign affairs, and the Chinese
ambassador to Thailand, Zhang Jiuhuan.
Wirasak reportedly told the Chinese ambassador that the government and
people of Thailand were concerned about the tragic effects of the heavy
snow, the worst in the past 50 years in the Eastern, Central and Southern
parts of the country. He stated that the Thai government would extend morale
support to the Chinese government and its people.
According to official Chinese figures, the heavy snows have already caused
at least US$7.5 billion in damage, led to the deaths of at least 60 persons
and has impacted the lives of another 105 million. Millions of Chinese have
been stranded at railway and bus stations, unable to join relatives and
friends for the Chinese New Year celebrations, which fall on February 7, due
to storm-related power blackouts.
The Chinese weather department said Saturday that the extreme weather could
last another week. (TNA)
Too much dining out causes
bulging Thai tummies
Concerns over the heath risk of obesity
A Public Health Ministry nutritionist said recently that
Thais were now dining out far more often, and warned that increasing numbers
of people are suffering from bulging bellies.
Dr. Sa-nga Damapong, a senior public health officer in the Health Ministry’s
Nutrition Division said that during the past 18 years the number of Thais
with weight problems had increased 7.5 fold, bringing the total to between
10-12 million. According to the World Health Organization, excess weight and
obesity are major risk factors for a number of chronic diseases including
diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer. Obesity is the result of life
style and bad eating habits, including dining out too often!
A leading think tank, the Kasikorn Research Centre, recently reported that
Thais on average dine out on 13 meals per week. Bangkokians were the biggest
group who took their meals at food shops or restaurants, whilst the
population in the northeastern provinces preferred to have home-cooked food.
Dr. Sa-nga said that dining out cost Thais on average 927 baht per household
per week, and that Thais dined out more often than people in Singapore and
Malaysia. Such lifestyles helped boost food-related businesses, particularly
fast food. Dr. Sa-nga added that the value of the food business sector in
2008 could hit 100 billion baht (US$3,030 million).
This leading nutritionist advises the public to remember that dining out
offers the risk of ending up with bulging bellies instead of trim tummies,
and that when dining out, consumers should also make certain that the food
shops or restaurants they patronise are managed hygienically. Menu items
having low or medium calorie counts should be selected; steamed, boiled and
grilled Thai food is preferable to fried dishes, and coconut milk as an
ingredient should be avoided. Carbonated soft drinks are also taboo. Dr.
Sa-nga mentioned that our bodies send us signals; if we feel full, we should
stop eating, and further advised that men should not consume over 2,000
calories daily while women should limit themselves to only 1,500 calories.
Opium fields destroyed by 200 officers
Four men arrested and charged
Officers raided and destroyed
2 rai of Hmong-cultivated opium fields in the Suthep - Pui national Park
area. Four men were arrested and charged. All four are brought for
questioning at Hang Dong Police Station.
On January 24, 200 officers from the Narcotics Suppression Bureau,
the Special Operations Police Division of the Provincial Police Bureau, the
Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plants, and Suthep Pui National
Park, together with representatives of America’s Drug Enforcement Authority
in Thailand, raided and destroyed 2 rai of Hmong-cultivated opium fields in
the Suthep Poi area. 4 men were arrested and charged; Chang Tanomworakul and
Ut-ten Tanomworakul, both of Hmong nationality and also the owners of the
opium fields, together with Japue Jalor, a Muser, and a Burmese national who
gave his name as So. Both Japue and So were employees of the Hmong owners.
All four are being questioned at Hang Dong Police Station.
The opium plants which were destroyed had ripened and were ready for
harvesting; the area, having a cool climate which is appropriate for the
cultivation of opium, had been used during the last ten years for this
purpose by the Hmong. Each year, searches are made in the area, and when
opium crops are found, they are destroyed and the perpetrators arrested and
His Majesty the King approves crematorium design
His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej has approved the
design of the crematorium for Her Royal Highness Princess Galyani Vadhana,
according to Culture Minister Khunying Khaisri Sri-aroon, who recently
chaired a meeting of representatives of various agencies involved in the
funeral services for the King’s recently deceased elder sister.
During a press conference after the meeting, the Culture Minister said that
HM the King had approved the crematorium design submitted by the Fine Arts
Department. According to Group Captain Arvuth Ngernchuklin, chairman of the
Crematorium Designing Subcommittee, the roof of the crematorium would
resemble that of a heavenly residence in Thai cosmology. An additional
second elevator will be installed in the crematorium, which will be
constructed at the Royal Ground, (Sanam Luang).
The National Resources and Environment Department was expected to donate
sandalwood to the Fine Arts Department on February 11. Sandalwood is an
important material in the making of a royal urn. (TNA)
Thai stock market turns bullish on clear political direction
Investor confidence returns
The Stock Exchange of Thailand has turned bullish with
the composite index breaking through a 800-point level again in Friday’s
morning trading session, boosted by both a clear political direction and by
foreign investors shifting money into the stock market after the United
States Federal Reserve’s decision to further cut key interest rates by 50
base points. The index opened more than 10 points up and gained momentum to
close at 805.95 points, up 21.72 or 2.77 per cent, with a heavy trading
volume of 20.81 per cent, led by a continued heavy purchase of blue-chip
stocks in the energy, banking, and communication sectors by both foreign and
Charoen Iampattanatham, senior executive vice president of KTB Securities
Co, said the SET index made a strong rally perhaps because the FED had made
a sharp interest cut, which encouraged foreign investors to shift money into
stock markets including SET. Late last year, he said, foreign investors had
dumped shares in the Thai bourse because of concerns over the sub-prime
lending crisis in the US.
Now, they appeared to be returning to accumulating Thai stocks, which remain
very cheap, since the political situation seemed to be clear after the new
cabinet lineup is reportedly in the pipeline.
Investors seemed confident the new government is in a good position to drive
the country’s economy. Mr. Charoen said the SET index had a strong
resistance and support at 820 and 780 points in Friday’s trading. (TNA)
Mae Hong Son prepares anti-pollution measures
Will laws be strictly implemented?
The Deputy Governor of Mae Hong Son province chaired a meeting held
last week of the Mae Hong Son Forest Fire Control Sub-Committee. His
statement, which was also aired on Thailand National Radio’s Mae Hong Son
service, included the fact that at present the entire province is under a
pall of smoke, which is seriously affecting both public health and the
general economy of the area. In an effort to greatly reduce the problem,
residents of each village are being made to enter a public agreement which
states that they must not attempt to start fires in the forests. They must
also seek approval from the district chief through the local village headman
if they wish to commence burning of agricultural land. Such burning will be
strictly monitored by the village headman.
All local administration organisations in the province have been ordered to
set aside 5% of their budget to be used to remedy this problem, and all
relevant laws will be strictly administered. Penalties and fines for
breaking these laws can be as high as 50,000 baht or 5 years’ imprisonment.
If the owner of land where illegal fires have taken place cannot be found,
title to the land will revert to the state. Funds have also been made
available to enable local residents to introduce methods of making
fertiliser from leaves and twigs in order to minimise incidents of burning.
It would seem, however, that total eradication of burning and its
replacement by modern methods is not on the agenda in Mae Hong Son. It has
been seen in Chiang Mai in this last week how easily a monitored fire can
become a major conflagration; fortunately, in the affected area, there were
no forests! Should this happen in Mae Hong Son, the North may well be facing
the same pollution issues caused by the massive forest fire on the Burma/
Thai border last year.
Incoming Prime Minister Samak announces Cabinet appointments are now finalized
Changes made to 12 portfolios
On Saturday, Thailand’s incoming Prime Minister Samak
Sundaravej announced that the composition of his six-party coalition
government’s Cabinet is now finalized, and will be forwarded to His Majesty
the King for royal endorsement. Changes have been made to 12 ministerial
portfolios. Samak declined to comment on which portfolios were involved in
the last-minute changes; however, he promised to make an announcement to the
media after royal approval had been given. Admitting that he was not fully
satisfied with his cabinet line-up as there were certain limitations from
the coalition parties, he said that his cabinet ”perhaps is not too
beautiful, but certainly not too ugly.” The People Power Party, of which Mr.
Samak is leader, gained the largest number of seats in the recent general
election, but did not gain a clear majority in its own right.
The new Prime Minister said that even though he would also take the post of
Minister of Defence, he would not intervene in the Defence Ministry’s annual
reshuffle. His remarks were made after a new Defence Ministry law, which
came into effect today, barred the Prime Minister and the Minister of
Defence from making unilateral decisions in annual military reshuffles, as
had been the case previously.
The annual reassignment of military officers with the rank of general which
usually takes place from October 1, the start of the government fiscal year,
is now subject to a review by a seven-member committee, consisting of five
permanent government officials and two political appointees.
Mr. Samak also took the opportunity to apologise to the Thai media, after it
transpired that details about his appointment to Minister of Defence and
other ministerial matters had been given during his interview with a
Japanese news team before he had released them to the Thai media. In
apology, he invited the Thai media to a working lunch at his home and
promised that he would cook a special lunch in reparation. During the meal
he would be prepared to discuss every topic with his media guests, except
that of the Cabinet line up as, he said, it would be inappropriate to
discuss that issue until royal approval had been given. (TNA)
Conman operated “money for government jobs” scam
Arrested man gives false name
The suspect, giving his name
falsely as Somsak Chaiwong, had operated
the scam for some time, mainly in the North and North Eastern provinces.
On January 23, a man was arrested by the Tourist Police in
conjunction with the Chiang Mai Provincial Land Transport Office, in
connection with a “money for jobs” scam. The suspect, giving his name
falsely as Somsak Chaiwong, had operated the scam for some time, mainly in
the North and North Eastern provinces. His modus operandi was to rent a
house in order to appear as a respectable citizen, and to present himself as
a C8 rank government inspector from the Land Transport Department who was
searching for employees to serve as drivers for the Department. He would
then request payment of many thousands of baht from each applicant. On
receipt of these monies, he would then hurriedly move to another area and
He was finally arrested after he arrived in Chiang Mai and rented a house in
Mae Wang district, intending to commence his fraudulent operations again by
stating that drivers were required for the Chiang Mai Transport Office. On
searching the man’s rented house, officers found fake government documents
used in the scam to defraud his victims. They also found fake ID which
identified him as a government inspector, which had enabled him to travel
free on buses around the country.
When questioned, the accused denied every charge, and said that he would
only issue a statement in court. He also refused to give his real name;
officers cannot proceed with the case until he is identified.
Suspect in year 2000 drive-by shooting of newspaper owner arrested and charged
After 8 years’ hard work, police finally get their man
An investigation team from the Provincial Police Bureau’s region 5
offices has finally caught up with a wanted man who was involved in the
shooting eight years ago of the owner of the Northern Daily newspaper, a
well known, highly respected and ethical journalist.
from the Provincial Police Bureau, Region 5, arrest Prapan Kladsombat for
his involvement in the shooting, 8 years ago of the owner of the Northern
Daily newspaper, Amnaj Jongyosying.
The attempted murder of Amnaj Jongyosying took place in April 2000, after
the newspaper owner had published a comment about the expense budget of the
then Chiang Mai Provincial Administrative Organisation. At the time, rumours
were circulating, due to a lack of clarity in administrative procedures,
that the organisation was corrupt. Shortly after the publication, a vehicle
pulled alongside of Amnaj and fired a shot, seriously injuring him. Officers
investigated the shooting and arrested 4 men, all of whom were military
officers, on charges of attempted murder. Later, the Chiang Mai Provincial
Court dismissed the charges on the grounds of there being insufficient
evidence to convict, although an appeal process is still ongoing today.
On January 25 at Maeping police station, Pol. Col. Montree Sampunanon,
together with Pol. Col. Thanarat Chumsawat, arrested Prapan Kladsombat,
(reputed to be a hitman for an influential local high ranking officer), and
charged him with being an accomplice in the attempted and premeditated
murder of another person. It would seem that, after the shooting incident,
Prapan fled to Bangkok, and only recently returned to Chiang Mai, thinking
that he would not be discovered. He proceeded to open a restaurant in Chiang
Puak without realising that police were still looking for him; however, his
carelessness eventually led to his arrest. Only one man involved in the
shooting incident, Wicharn Paomonkol, is still unable to be traced, although
a warrant was served for his arrest at the time.
Investigating officers stated that now Prapan was in custody, they were sure
that information and evidence they were expecting to receive from him would
enable them to locate Wicharn, and close the case. Prapan, at present, is
denying all charges made against him.
Amnaj Jongyosying, who is now a member of the National Press Council of
Thailand and the chief newspaper owner/reporter in the northern regions,
congratulated the police officers involved for their tenacity in keeping the
investigation going for 8 years, and for finally arresting Prapan. He
believes that, because court procedures must always be straightforward, the
case must continue in the courts according to the law.
US likely to resume
military aid to Thailand
The resumption of democratically-elected government in
Thailand means that the United States will soon resume military aid to the
kingdom, according to US ambassador Eric John. The installation of the new
Cabinet - expected in days - will signal to the U.S. Congress that democracy
has returned. As a result, the US dollars in military aid and related
programmes can be resumed as well as trade and commercial relations
disrupted by the military coup.
Eric John met with Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej last Friday and
afterwards met with the media, saying that the US sanctions imposed on
Thailand after the September 2006 coup d’etat will be lifted soon.
“Technical assistance for military operations will be able to be
re-established once you have a democratic government back in place. We will
able to lift mandatory sanctions.” Losing the US military funding pipeline
meant cutbacks in Thailand’s involvement in overseas military education and
training, and funding of Thailand’s participation in international
peacekeeping operations.The US sanctions were imposed automatically under an
American law forbidding aid to governments formed in the wake of coups which
have ended democratically-installed governments.
US military assistance for the international war on terror, combating
weapons of mass destruction and international health emergencies were not
affected.Thailand’s new Cabinet is expected to be announced early next week.
Government should prepare for
possible global economic downturn
Outgoing Deputy Prime Minister advises caution
Outgoing deputy prime minister and industry minister
Kosit Panpiamras cautioned Thailand’s new coalition government to be
prepared to cope with the possibility of world economic volatility besieging
the country in the years ahead. He said the outgoing Surayud government had
paved the way for the new government to proceed with measures to restore and
stimulate the economy.
Kosit called on the Samak government to address the volatile economic
situation by building on the groundwork to resolve problems already provided
by the outgoing government which had run the country over the last 16
months. He likened the problem-solving potentials of the new government to a
multi-engine apparatus which would be able to drive the country out of any
economic slump brought about by a possible world recession.
Though the rate of exports had slowed down considerably, other
economy-bolstering factors, including government budget spending, domestic
consumption and foreign investment, were able to be promoted and increased
by the Samak government. Up to 700 billion baht (US$21,212 million) in
foreign investment capital had already been granted promotional privileges
by the Surayud government.
Kosit also suggested that the Samak Administration combat corruption among
government personnel and refrain from applying any double standards. It
should also extend diplomatic and trade missions worldwide to revive the
country’s export revenues. The outgoing minister forecast that the national
economic growth would reach 5 per cent by the end of this year in spite of
possible problems ahead.
Though the baht currency has remained strong against the US dollar with a
sustained surplus in current accounts, the government was advised to promote
the upstream steel industry and eco car manufacturing. A suggestion was also
made that it should open Southern Seaboard industrial estates in the Andaman
Sea coastal provinces. (TNA)
Nok Air welcomes
Thai Super Model 2007
Patee Sarasin, Nok Air’s CEO,
receiving flowers from Banthita Phuwijan,
(3rd right), winner of Thai Super Model 2007.
Nok Air, the “Truly Thai” airline that flies smiles,
recently welcomed the winners of the Thai Super Model 2007 contest to its
office in Bangkok. The models came bearing flowers to show their
appreciation for Nok Air’s support, and to thank the popular airline for its
sponsorship. The Thai Super Model contest encourages Thai models to become
major players in the international arena while supporting Bangkok as one of
the world’s fashion cities.