Vol. VII No. 8 - Tuesday
February 19, - February 25, 2008



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by Saichon Paewsoongnern


NEWS
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Onion growers’ protest at City Hall turns violent

Mystery shooting of Canadian doctor puzzles police

Drought reaches crisis levels in 16 districts

Intel sponsors Thai students for Intel ISEF, world’s largest science competition

Bangkok traffic police to enforce mobile phone ban

Speaker of the House denies electoral fraud and claims he was framed

Thai Prime Minister to visit Laos on his first official trip abroad

World Bank advisor visits Lampang’s OTOP scheme

Students arrested for selling and using amphetamines

Insurance for Thai elephants at Maetang Camp on Valentine’s Day

New 24 hour emergency freecall number issued as burning continues

Greater Mekong Expo 2008 estimated to help generate 100 million baht in revenue

Mae Hong Son fire spreads out of control, threatens hospital

 

Onion growers’ protest at City Hall turns violent

Access road to be blocked by piles of onions

Saksit Meesubkwang
Following the recent presentation of a petition to the local authority by local onion growers, (reported last week in this newspaper), news that negotiations on their behalf had failed has resulted in the farmers making further protests.
Growers had requested that, as they were losing money on their crops due to a glut of onions on the market, a higher price be fixed. A proposition made by the local authority that each grower should destroy his crop on half a rai of land and receive compensation of 11,000 baht was rejected. The growers demanded that one rai’s crop should be destroyed, and that they should receive 22,000 baht compensation. This was finally rejected by the local authority.
On February 11, whilst the above was under discussion, 1000 protesters had gathered outside Chiang Mai City Hall, bringing with them a large quantity of their produce, which they piled at the entrance to City Hall, thus preventing access to and from the building. Farmers stated their case through a powerful amplification system, and were subsequently told that an answer would be given that afternoon, when officials had returned from their lunch! By 1.30 pm an answer had not been received, at which point a group of protestors tried to rush the office of the Governor. Security guards intervened, and a fight ensued. No injuries were reported.
Subsequently, the Deputy Governor of Chiang Mai, Phairoj Saengpoowong, who had been chairing the meeting, announced to the protestors that their increased demands for compensation and destruction of crops would not be met. As a result of this announcement, the protestors became angry, and made their position very clear by shouting profanities at Phairoj. They later announced that they would be taking their protest to Bangkok and placing it before the Thai Prime Minister, and that they were prepared to continue protesting and blocking the access road to Mae Wang District until their claims were met.

 

Mystery shooting of Canadian doctor puzzles police

Tourist trip ends in emergency operation

Saksit Meesubkwang
Canadian tourist Dr. Erik Griffioen and his wife Elizabeth, also a doctor, were looking forward to an enjoyable experience as the tour company’s song taew picked them up from a first class hotel in Chiang Mai. They had planned a full day out including rafting, elephant rides, and a jungle tour in Mae Wang. Unfortunately, their dream tour turned into a nightmare as, without any warning, the 49 year old Dr. Erik was shot in the back as the song taew approached Charoen Muang Road through a small soi.

The song taew mini bus that picked up Erik and Elizabeth.
Realising that her husband was badly hurt, Elizabeth immediately alerted the driver of the song taew, who drove to the nearby McCormick Hospital. Dr. Erik was admitted, the wound was declared serious, and an emergency operation was performed.
Police at Mae Ping Station, after having informed the Canadian Consulate of the shooting, went to the scene, but could find no weapon, nor any trace of an explanation of the incident. They concluded that Dr. Erik had probably been hit by a stray bullet during an altercation, but were unable to determine further.
Medical staff at McCormick Hospital have since confirmed that the emergency operation was successful and that Dr. Erik’s condition is stable.


Drought reaches crisis levels in 16 districts

500 villages affected - “zoning” may provide solution

Staff reporter
Zoning of districts in Chiang Mai province is being implemented as a measure to cope with the increasing problem of drought in the area, designated as a disaster zone since November last year. At that time, the Governor of Chiang Mai, Wibun Sa-nguanphong, ordered all districts to closely monitor the situation.
On February 12, the Chief of Chiang Mai Public Relief and Disaster Prevention, Prachon Pratchayasakul, stated that the drought in 2008 is harsher than in the previous year and is at crisis level in the most affected areas, due mainly to low water levels in the reservoirs at the beginning of the dry season. More than 500 villages in 16 districts of the province are at present seriously affected by a lack of adequate water supplies.
Special Operations Centres are being set up in each zone by the Chiang Mai Provincial Authority in order to co-ordinate efforts to relieve the situation, to make regular reports, and to work closely with each other to determine solutions. Responsibility for zoning will be divided and precautions will be closely monitored.
Zone A will consist of Muang, Doi Saket, San Sai, San Kampaeng and Mae On districts; Zone B of Hang Dong, San Patong, Samoeng, Mae Wang and Sarapee. Zone C will contain Chormthong, Hot, Doi Lor, Mae Chaem, Om-Koi and Doi Tao, whilst Zone D will consist of Mae Rim, Mae Taeng, Chiang Dao and Phrao. Zone E will hold Fang, Mae Ai, Chaiprakarn and Wiang Haeng.


Intel sponsors Thai students for Intel ISEF, world’s largest science competition

5 winning students to participate in international Science Fair

Natha Boonprasit(3rd right), Public Relations Manager, Intel Microelectronics (Thailand) Ltd. congratulates the young scientists Intel is sponsoring to participate in the 59th Intel ISEF competition in Atlanta, USA in May 2008. The students are Boonyarit Somrealvongkul (far right), grade 12 student from Mahidol Wittayanusorn School; Ronnapee Chaichaowarat (2nd right), grade 12 student from Mahidol Wittayanusorn School; Pheemadej Prasitwarawej (3rd left), grade 9 student from Montfort College and Tanavorakit Bangkeaw (far left), grade 9 student from Montfort College.

Bangkok, February 13 - To help Thailand develop the science skills of its young people, Intel Microelectronics (Thailand) Ltd. is sponsoring five young Thai students to participate in the 59th Intel® International Science and Engineering Fair in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, running from May 11-17 this year.
The five students selected to be Thailand’s representatives at Intel’s ISEF event are individual and team category winners of the recent Young Scientist Competition in the Computer Science and Engineering Project. The competition was held as a collaboration between the National Electronics and Computer Technology Centre, the National Science and Technology Development Agency, and the Thai Ministry of Science and Technology.
Three separate projects will form the basis for the Thai students’ 2008 ISEF entries - two individual projects, both by Grade 12 students from Mahidol Wittayanusorn School in Nakhorn Patong, and one team project developed by grade 9 students at Montfort College, Chiang Mai.
‘Sound Analysis and Recognition System for musical instruments’ was developed by Boonyarit Somrealvongkul and won the first prize in the computer science category. ‘Measuring Curved Path’s Radius with a Modified Motor Car’ took first prize in the engineering category, and was developed by Ronnapee Chaichaowarat. These are the two individual entries. The third project, selected from the team entries is ‘New Plywood Products from Weed Flora,’ the first prize winner in the environmental science category developed by Pheemadej Prasitwarawej, Tanavorakit Bangkeaw, and Manapas Hararak, from Montfort College, Chiang Mai.
All five winners now have the opportunity to participate in the 59th Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in the USA, the world’s only international science fair for life sciences designed for students in grades 9 to 12. Over 1,500 of the brightest young scientists from across the globe attend the fair every year, where they share ideas, showcase cutting-edge science projects and compete for more than US$ 3 million in awards and scholarships.
This is the eleventh consecutive year that Intel Microelectronics (Thailand) has supported the YSC.CS & EN event. The competition is open to all Thai students at high school or equivalent level with initiatives in science and engineering. Students demonstrate their talents by presenting projects in the national competition for selection to compete at the Intel ISEF international level.


Bangkok traffic police to enforce mobile phone ban

Hands-free accessories permitted

The law prohibiting mobile phone use whilst driving will be enforced in Bangkok from May 8, with digital cameras being used to monitor offenders. Pol. Maj. Gen. Phanu Kerdlarpphol, deputy commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Bureau, stated that the new law, which was published in the Royal Gazette on February 8, would take effect three months from that date. Violators will be subject to immediate arrest, and fines from 400 to 1,000 baht will be imposed. However, drivers are advised that the use of hands-free devices is permissible. Drivers will be informed that they should respect the new law, as it is central to the concept of road safety. (TNA)


Speaker of the House denies electoral fraud and claims he was framed

“Conspiracy aims to have ruling party disbanded by court action”

Speaker of the House Yongyuth Tiyapairat repeatedly dismissed allegations that he had been involved in the bribing of local leaders in Chiang Rai province where he contested a parliamentary seat under the People Power Party banner. Yongyuth was quoted as saying he had been framed by a conspiracy of unidentified people who aimed to have the ruling party dissolved by court action.
Deputy PPP leader Kant Thiankaew distributed a statement made by Yongyuth in Parliament and gave explanations in his defence. Yogurt was alleged to have been involved in handing out 20,000 baht in cash to each of 10 sub-district chiefs and village heads in exchange for votes from their villagers. Such accusations, if proven, would unduly discredit and damage the Speaker as well as the PPP itself. They would also confuse the public and divide society, the deputy ruling party leader said. Kant pointed out that, until the Supreme Court makes a final ruling on the case, Yongyuth is legally considered innocent and is regarded as Speaker of the House as appointed.
The Election Commission is expected to pass a ruling on the electoral rigging charges against Yongyuth next week and to forward the case to the Supreme Court for final judgment if the Speaker is found guilty as charged. Pol. Lt. Col. Kant said a person identified as Chaiwat Changkhaokham had tricked local leaders into falsely testifying against Yongyuth to a subcommittee of the Election Commission.
The local leaders had earlier been questioned by a group of police officers led by the Deputy Special Branch Police Commissioner Pol. Maj-Gen. Chaiya Siri-amphankul who, Kant said, was personally loyal to an unidentified military officer known to have close connections with anti-Thaksin media mogul Sonthi Limthongkul. Kant added that Chaiya had not only conspired with others to damage Yongyuth and the PPP, but also that he had been well aware of the doctoring of a maliciously circulated CD which groundlessly accused the Speaker of electoral fraud. (TNA)


Thai Prime Minister to visit Laos on his first official trip abroad

Press reports of Thaksin Shinawatra’s imminent return dismissed

Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej may visit neighbouring Laos on his first official trip abroad, tentatively scheduled for later this month or early March, as part of the new government’s foreign policy which aims to foster strong relations with neighbouring countries. According to Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama, the premier is emphasising that the newly elected government’s foreign policy will focus on strengthening bilateral relations with its neighbours in parallel with adopting a proactive approach to international engagements.
Noppadon, the former legal advisor to Thaksin Shinawatra, mentioned that he also would be attending the Association of South East Asian Nations’s (ASEAN) ministerial meeting in Singapore on February 19 to meet with his counterparts, but denied reports that he plans to meet with the former Prime Minister in the city state.
He revealed that he has had private discussions with Thaksin by phone, at which time the exiled former Prime Minister affirmed that he would return to Thailand before May this year. Noppadon then dismissed press reports that Thaksin was to return today, (Friday), stating regarding his visit to Singapore, “Thaksin will probably have left the city state by the time I arrive.”
It will be Noppadon’s first trip abroad since the former legal advisor of the ousted premier took office as Foreign Minister. (TNA)


World Bank advisor visits Lampang’s OTOP scheme

Increase in range of products, more aggressive marketing advised

Staff reporter
Dr. John Eriksson, an advisor to the World Bank, paid a recent visit to Lampang in order to provide advice on maximising the income generated from the “One Tambon, One Product” scheme at present running in the province. A meeting was held on February 11 at Lampang City Hall between Dr. Eriksson and members of the Lampang Economic Development Working Committee of the Joint Public and Private Sectors’ Consultative Committee.
At the meeting, Dr. Eriksson stated that he was pleased to see development in many areas in Thailand, and was appreciative that the Kingdom had begun to offer assistance to underdeveloped countries in spite of its economic slowdown. He advised the OTOP scheme organisers to consider either splitting into separate sectors, or to add more products to the range at present available in order to increase its income potential and competitive impact. He also suggested that private sector involvement in marketing strategies and a more aggressive approach to connecting with the industrial sector would help the scheme to maximise its potential.
The Deputy Governor of Lampang, Chai Phanichphornphan stated that Lampang is continually promoting the OTOP scheme to the extent that at least some of the products have now reached international markets. These include wood carvings and silk embroideries. Plans are in place to promote more planting of Arabica coffee bushes, already being cultivated in the Tambon Jae-Sorn area, and also to harvest macadamia nuts for export. Both products will be included in the OTOP scheme.
The meeting also discussed global warming, and was informed that Lampang is already promoting organic farming methods and planting trees for the production of rubber. These trees will increase green areas and also increase the income of the growers.


Students arrested for selling and using amphetamines

5 arrests made following police operation

Staff Reporter
On February 9, 5 teenaged students were arrested for dealing in amphetamines, following a transaction orchestrated by police which took place outside the private Wachirawit School situated behind the Home Pro/Carrefour shopping complex, and during which two of the gang were detained. The remainder of the gang were arrested in San Sai and at an unnamed apartment in Tambon Suthep. The accused had apparently been selling the drugs to their fellow students at 200 baht per pill, and also were using the drug themselves. All five accused are students as a well known local institution.
The arrests followed police surveillance of the gang following a tip-off, during which plain clothes officers contacted the teenagers with a request to purchase 120 pills for a price of 24,000 baht, to be delivered at the area in front of the school gates. The numbers of the bank notes were recorded as evidence before being issued to the officers. At the appointed time, two members of the gang arrived on a motorcycle, and handed the drugs to the plain clothes officers. They were immediately arrested, and subsequently informed police that they had been told by another member of the gang to deliver the cash to him in front of a shop selling video games located in Nong Khrai Luang village, San Sai, where they would receive some video games as a reward. Police instructed one of the accused to take the cash to the meeting place. When the handover had taken place, police arrested the recipient, who then told them that he had collected the drugs from the other two gang members who were living in an apartment in Tambon Suthep. Police raided the address, and arrested the two final members of the gang.
Police confiscated as evidence 120 amphetamine pills, the 24,000 baht in cash, 5 mobile phones and a motorcycle. All the arrested students admitted to the charges, and were handed over to prosecutors. The five accused, all using aliases, are Faeng, 17, Si, 18, Cha, 17, Daeng, 17, and Sorn, 19.


Insurance for Thai elephants at Maetang Camp on Valentine’s Day

Insurance company also planning to pander to pandas

The proprietor of an elephant camp in Thailand’s northern province of Chiang Mai has purchased insurance for his elephants to show kindness on Valentine’s Day to the caring and clever pachyderms. Wassana Thongsuk, owner of the Maetaeng Elephant Camp, purchased the insurance coverage for his camp’s 48 elephants from Thai Life Insurance, the first insurance company in the Kingdom to offer such insurance. This unusual premium cover package ensures that, for the sum of 3,000 baht per elephant per year, medical expenses in the case of sickness plus compensation in the event of death, (accidental or during a performance), are covered. Thai Insurance also plans to pander to pandas, proposing a free policy for the pair of pandas at Chiang Mai Zoo as a gift. (TNA)


New 24 hour emergency freecall number issued as burning continues

City authorities aware of need for public participation

Saksit Meesubkwang and Staff Reporter
As a further move in the attempts being made by the Chiang Mai Provincial Office of Natural Resources and the Environment, a new emergency call centre number has been announced. It is hoped that the new free call number – 1362 – will facilitate the reporting of burning of any kind within the city and its environs. City authorities are now making the air pollution problem an urgent agenda, and appreciate the need for public participation in its control.
Chiang Mai City’s specific problem is its geographical location on a flat plain surrounded by mountains. An inversion layer forms, preventing smoke, dust from dry earth, and fumes from escaping into the upper atmosphere, resulting in smog-like conditions and extremely poor air quality. Pollution levels are higher than, for example, USA-set safe levels, seriously affecting residents of the city who already suffer from respiratory illnesses and causing their numbers to increase. International publicity of this annually occurring problem also causes visitor numbers to drop, severely affecting the local economy. In 2007, the number of tourists visiting the city fell by 25%, and nearly 10,000 rai of forest were destroyed by fire.
The traditional “slash and burn” method of clearing and fertilising land, still employed by the majority in spite of new regulations and increased penalties, together with the burning of rubbish, including plastics and other materials which give off toxic fumes, combine, particularly during the hot season, to form a cocktail of polluted air which hangs above the city itself, unable to be dispersed. Should major forest fires or other conflagrations occur in the countries bordering Thailand, as happened in 2007 on the Burmese border, pollution levels soar still higher. So far, in 2008, there have been no such occurrences; as a result, city pollution levels are lower then in 2007. However, local burning still seems to be continuing, largely unreported and unchecked.
Plans for future solutions to the problem, to be inaugurated between 2008 and 2011, include preparations for local administration authorities to be able to buy plant debris from growers, farmers and villagers. This will be able to be processed into fertiliser and distributed back to its suppliers for use on their fields, thus obviating the need for burning. To aid in the control of forest fires, the National Parks Department has been able to lease channel time on a USA satellite which overflies the Northern area of Thailand, in order to swiftly identify and deal with outbreaks of fire. In the case of areas of forest already devastated by fires, replacement trees will be planted and supervised by the Forest Department to ensure their growth. 24 hour emergency call centres will be set up in each province and its districts, to enable residents to report fires as they occur.


Greater Mekong Expo 2008 estimated to help generate 100 million baht in revenue

600,000 visitors enjoy the first two days of the show

Siripol Yodcharoenmuang, Permanent Secretary of State for Ministry of Commerce, accompanied by high ranking officials, is seen presiding over the opening ceremony of the Greater Mekong Expo 2008 at the Royal Floral Expo Park, Chiang Mai.

Staff Reporters
The head of the Chiang Mai Provincial Office of Commerce, Wairak Walairat, has announced that Greater Mekong Expo 2008, held at the Royal Flora Expo site, has been a huge success, doubling the original estimate of its potential income from 50 million baht to 100 million baht. The event, organised to boost the economy of the Northern region of Thailand, is promoting co-operation and greatly increased trade between the neighbouring Mekong River delta countries and the Kingdom itself, according to the Deputy Governor of Chiang Mai, Ruangwang Buanuch. Focusing on “One Tambon, One Produkt” and SME enterprise export products, including handicrafts, clothing, household products, ceramics, processed agricultural products, herbs, spa products and herbal cosmetics, the exhibition drew 600,000 visitors in its first two days. Products purchased included quality and standard-selected Thai items at low prices, and goods from China and Laos. Items are for show and sale at two locations within the complex, both air conditioned for the comfort of exhibitors and visitors. In the evenings, between 6 pm and 9 pm, traditional art and culture entertainments are being performed by representatives of the Mekong River delta countries of Thailand, Laos, Burma, and China. Visitors are also invited to view without charge the Royal Flora Expo itself.


Mae Hong Son fire spreads out of control, threatens hospital

Novice monks burning rubbish were careless

The fire was under control within 10 minutes.

Khajohn Boonpath
In spite of new anti-burning and pollution guidelines introduced recently in Mae Hong Son province, a group of novice monks set fire to a pile of rubbish in an area adjacent to Srisangwan Mae Hong Son Hospital in the heart of the city. The fire quickly became out of control, igniting dry grass nearby and spreading almost as far as the hospital itself and the adjacent Meteorological Station.
When fire fighters arrived, they found the seven young monks trying to put out the fire by means of a coconut midriff broom. The fire was under control within 10 minutes; however, had the fire fighters arrived some few minutes later, it would have been quite possible that hospital buildings would have been affected.
It having been obvious that the fire had spread as a result of carelessness on the part of the monks, the Fire Station chief spent some time instructing them in the correct procedures. He also pointed out that, if anyone wishes to burn rubbish, they should inform the Mae Hong Son Municipality Fire Station by letter, in order to gain permission. If necessary, a fire engine would then be provided to help keep the fire under control.



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