Vol. VII No. 9 - Tuesday
February 26, - March 3, 2008



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by Saichon Paewsoongnern


NEWS
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Fire breaks out at French student’s rented house

Amphetamine smuggler arrested at recently reopened border post

Opening of important archaeological exhibition in Mae Hong Son

Regulations for registering dormitories and rooming houses for students

UK man dies in Mae Sai rooming house bathroom from head injury

Clampdown on sales of counterfeit products

ICCM plans clean-up of Huay Kaew waterfall area

Railway police seize 100,000 speed pills on Bangkok-bound train

Cabinet approves appointment of new government spokesman

Chiang Mai to enforce new ban on smoking

Young motorcyclist disappears in canal after crash

Chiang Mai to host ASEAN meeting on long-term smoke eradication

Mayor of Chiang Mai to speak at Chiang Mai Expats’ Club

New British ex-servicemen’s club holds inaugural meeting

Government policy presentation poll reveals public disappointment

Another Chinese “twin town” for Chiang Mai

 

Fire breaks out at French student’s rented house

No injuries, but house burned to the ground

Saksit Meesubkang
On 18 February at 11.30 pm a fire broke out at a rented house in Baan Phai Lom, a small moo baan of 15 houses, built over 20 years ago and located behind the Hong Hor military training grounds in Tambon Changpuak, Chiang Mai. Although the owner had called the local fire brigade, the house in question was located outside the city’s municipality area and in a narrow street through which the fire engine was unable to drive. Firefighters were forced to use a 200 meter long extension hose to reach the blaze, and by the time they were in a position to tackle the fire, it had already burnt the wooden house to the ground leaving just smouldering cinders. Before the firefighters arrived, a foreigner living nearby had tried to put out the fire without success, using water from neighbouring homes. Everything in the house was destroyed, causing 300,000 baht’s worth of damage. Firefighters suspect that the fire was started by faulty electrical wiring in the 20 year old house, which was being rented by Cecile Medial, a French art student at Chiang Mai University. Fortunately, she was not at home when the fire started, being out at dinner with friends.

 

Amphetamine smuggler arrested at recently reopened border post

40,000 pills seized, one man escapes

Saksit Meesubkwang
The Kiew Phawok border checkpoint, recently reopened on January 31, was the scene of a chase resulting in the arrest of a drug smuggler.

On February 14, Maj Gen Chaowarit Sirikitch, Commander of the Pha Muang Task Force of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, was on hand to welcome Gen. Anupong Paochinda, the Commander-in- Chief of the Royal Thai Army, on his visit to the army base at Doi Kiewhung in Mae Ai border district, Chiang Mai. This Thai - Myanmar border area is infamous for drug smuggling and for the eruption of frequent gunfights between the Thai army and the drugs gangs.

On February 13, an army patrol at the border post noticed two men on a motorcycle who began acting suspiciously when they saw the military. The two men ignored orders to stop and be searched, and sped off, pursued by the officers. After a short chase, the driver of the motorcycle lost control, causing it to crash. One man was arrested, the other escaped. The arrested man, Noi Lungsai, 33, from Chai Prakharn district in Chiang Mai, was carrying 40,000 amphetamine pills in packs of 2,000 strapped round his waist. Noi later told Ban Nawai police that after hearing about the reopening of the Kiew Phawok border checkpoint, he had contacted a friend in Myanmar and arranged for the delivery of the drugs, which he had intended to sell.


Opening of important archaeological exhibition in Mae Hong Son

30,000 year old site reveals oldest skeletons found in Thailand

Khajohn Boonpath
in Mae Hong Son

On February 15, on behalf of Eric John, the US Ambassador to Thailand, an exhibition of artefacts from a unique archaeological site in Mae Hong Son province was opened by the ambassador’s first secretary for cultural affairs, Kenneth Foster. The research project, also based at the site, will be funded by a grant already received from the US Embassy in Thailand. Also present at the opening ceremony were the deputy governor of Mae Hong Son, Thaweesak Wattanathamrak, associate professor Rasamee Chusongdech, and the Pang Mapha district chief Suchart Theekhasuk, together with archaeologists, village headmen and elders. Mr. Foster stated that the artefacts on display were of importance in historical research, and must be preserved for the benefit of future generations.
The site, known as Perng Pha Tham Lod, is estimated to be at least 30,000 years old, and is located at Ban Tham Lod, in the Pang Mapha district of Mae Hong Son. Phases 1 and 2 of the excavations took place between 2001 and 2006; the present project is mainly concerned with archaeological research and renovation. Many artefacts and remains have been excavated, amongst which are the two oldest human skeletons as yet discovered in Thailand, dated as being at least 13,000 years old. Traces of stone age human habitation in the then cooler and densely forested area from as long ago as 32,000 years have been found, together with stone tools.
On higher ground, cemeteries containing golden teak wood coffins placed on stone tables deep in caves have been discovered, the first time such funerary arrangements have been found in Asia. Dating of the coffins places them at approximately 2,500 years old.
The project also aims to study the relationships between the then inhabitants of the area and their environment, and to examine their social and cultural development.


Regulations for registering dormitories and rooming houses for students

Students under 25 years of age “should not live together”

Owners of dormitories and rental houses listening to expert advice on registration and correct conduct.

Saksit Meesubkwang
A symposium was held recently which involved 300 owners of rooming house and dormitories mainly let to the large student population resident in Chiang Mai. This meeting was called by the Chiang Mai Provincial Social Development and Human Security Office in order to make clear the regulations regarding student accommodation as outlined in the Registration Act of 1964. It appears that 800 dormitories, 60% of the total available, are registered under the relevant laws; however, the remaining 40% are not. Owners were told that from June 1 this year, non-registered dormitories will be the subject of investigation and possible prosecution.
Regulations which must be complied with by owners on registration include the separation of areas of occupation into male and female dormitories, with no men and women living together, as this is deemed not suitable for students under 25 years of age, and is against Thai culture. There are also fears that this may lead to drunkenness, consumption of drugs, gambling and other anti-social behaviour. In previous inspections of dormitories which have taken place across the country, students have been found to be living together as couples.
It has been decided that officials from the Social Development and Human Security Office should be able to join with local police offices in order to enforce registration regulations and thus discourage the operation of illegal dormitories in the Chiang Mai area.


UK man dies in Mae Sai rooming house bathroom from head injury

Foul play not suspected although autopsy will be performed

Staff Reporter
On February 19, local police in Mae Sai were informed that a 56 year old British man had been discovered lying dead in his bathroom, having suffered a fatal head injury.
He was later identified as Anthony Evans, who had lived in the Mae Sai district for some years. Police could see no signs of a struggle, nor any signs of criminal activity.
28 year old John Paul, also from the UK and a friend of the deceased man, told police later that Mr. Evans had been a retired businessman whom he had regarded as a second father. He had gone to his friend’s room earlier that morning, and had discovered his dead body lying in the bathroom. The previous evening, he and Mr. Evans had been drinking heavily; it has been assumed that heart failure following a fall due to drunkenness may have been the cause of death. However, Mr. Evan’s body has been sent to the Medical Jurisprudence Institute in order that an autopsy can be carried out to confirm the cause of death. The British Consulate has been notified in order to enable them to contact the dead man’s relatives.


Clampdown on sales of counterfeit products

Arrests “without exception”

Saksit Meesubkwang
Complaints have recently been received by the police from manufacturers concerning the amount of counterfeit tapes, CD’s, and other copyrighted products which are either for sale in Chiang Mai itself, or are being exported to other countries. As a result, a meeting has been held between the Deputy Commissioner of the Provincial Police Bureau in region 5 and concerned parties, at which assurances were given that the law pertaining to counterfeit goods would in future be strictly enforced. Any persons found violating the law would be arrested without exception.
On a national scale, it being apparent that counterfeit products were still being exported to other countries, (the USA in particular), an announcement has been made by the National Police Commissioner General, Pol. Gen. Seripisuth Temiyavej, that police officers throughout the Kingdom will be instructed to address the problem in an urgent manner.
The authorities are aware that a very large quantity of counterfeit goods of all kinds are being brought into Thailand from China via the Thai-Burmese border areas, particularly at Mae Sai and Mae Sot, many of which are intended for sale at outlets in Chiang Mai.


ICCM plans clean-up of Huay Kaew waterfall area

New group is making headway on conservation

The International Citizens of Chiang Mai group, which is fast becoming an actively influential voice in local environmental matters, is issuing a call to action.
The group has joined with Lanna International School and has organized a clean-up operation for one of the area’s most popular - and thus most polluted - waterfalls. Most of us have visited Huay Kaew waterfall and no doubt noticed that it is far from the idyllic natural paradise it could be, so why not do something about it? Just by volunteering a few hours of your time you can help restore some of the natural beauty of this area.
The I.C.C.M sees the clean-up as a great opportunity to promote local awareness and is pleased that this civic interest has been matched by that of the city’s young people. The I.C.C.M has also been busy establishing a role for itself in various areas; its representatives have already been working with the municipality on proposals to deal with the problems of pollution in the city and reforestation of both Doi Suthep and in Chiang Mai itself.
The clean-up will take place on the March 4 at 12:30 pm and anyone interested in participating need only show up on the day. See you there!


Railway police seize 100,000 speed pills on Bangkok-bound train

Fingerprint the only clue to owner

Thai railway police on Saturday seized 100,000 methamphetamine ‘speed’ pills on a train bound from Chiang Mai to Bangkok.
Following a tip, railway police found the drugs in a bag stowed above the passenger seating of a train in Nakhon Sawan province. No arrests were made as officers were unable to associate the bag with a particular passenger. The commander of the Railway Police, Maj. Gen. Kowit Wongrungroj, later stated that a fingerprint had been taken from the bag. No-one was sitting near the bag; as a result the fingerprint will remain the only way to trace the owner. It is believed that the drugs were produced at a laboratory in Myanmar and were intended for unidentified buyers in Bangkok. Street value of the seized pills could be as high as Baht 30 million. (TNA)


Cabinet approves appointment of new government spokesman

Former career police officer and lecturer at Mahidol University

Pol. Lt. Gen. Wichianchot Sukchotrat, the former head of the National Counter-Corruption Commission, has been appointed as the new government spokesman.
His appointment was confirmed by Chakrapob Penkair, the acting government spokesman and cabinet minister, following the regular weekly cabinet meeting.
General Wichianchot began his police career in 1971, and was the first Thai police officer to gain a doctorate in criminology. His last post in the service was as Deputy Commissioner of the Police Cadet Academy, after which, in the year 2000, he was appointed Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Justice. He helped establish the Special Investigations Department, and has lectured in judicial procedure and criminology at Mahidol University.
His two deputies, appointed at the same time, are Nattawut Saikua and Suparat Narkbunnum. Nattawat was a core leader of the United Front for Democracy and against Dictatorship, which staged anti-coup protests in Bangkok, and Suparat is a well-known former news anchor for Thai TV Channel 7. (TNA)


Chiang Mai to enforce new ban on smoking

Concerns about “secondhand smoke”

Saksit Meesubkwang
The new ban on smoking in all public spaces, including places of entertainment, offices, restaurants, bars and pubs, and also open air market venues, will be immediately and strictly enforced, according to Chumporn Saengmanee, the permanent secretary of state for Chiang Mai province.

Chiang Mai to enforce new ban on smoking.

This extended version of the original law which was published in November last year, was announced on February 11, and took effect here on February 17. Penalties for disobeying stand at 2,000 baht per violation. There is some concern about notification of the new law to short-term tourists in the area; however, many businesses whose customers may be affected seem to now be providing specific smoking areas. Most foreign residents and tourists are believed to be cooperating with the new law.
The Chiang Mai Provincial Public Health Office has reported that a large number of patients in the area suffer from lung disease, many of whom are smokers. This, combined with the effects on health of pollution and burning, has encouraged the enforcement of the new law. It has also been reported that children as young as 13 years of age have started smoking, causing concern amongst medical professionals about the long-term effects on health.


Young motorcyclist disappears in canal after crash

Police unable to find body as yet

Saksit Meesubkwang
On February 19 around midnight, locals and food sellers at Phu Kham intersection on 700 Year Anniversary Road watched in horror as a motorcyclist sped across the intersection, hit a wall fencing off a canal, and fell into the water, disappearing immediately. Police were called from the nearby Chang Puak station, and rescue workers entered the water to try and find the rider. Unfortunately, the current was quite strong, as water was being pumped into the canal to enable local irrigation; as a result rescuers were unable to locate the man.

The crashed motorcycle after having been examined for clues to the rider’s identity.
Subsequently, officers searched the motorcycle, (which was still lying at the side of the wall), for documents which would identify the missing rider. He was later identified as Sornchai Thammasart, 18, of Chiang Dao District, Chiang Mai.
Police believe that he may have been drinking with friends before the accident. They also believe that he did not survive the crash, and are coordinating with other police stations in the area in efforts to find his body.


Chiang Mai to host ASEAN meeting on long-term smoke eradication

5 country working committee to be established

Staff Reporter
During a recent meeting between the 5 Lower Mekong Delta countries who are party to ASEAN’s convention on smoke pollution, an agreement was reached regarding the formation of a group working committee which will cooperate between countries on this issue and its possible solutions. The 5 countries concerned are Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Myanmar. According to Suthak Wangwongwattana, the Director General of Thailand’s Department of Pollution Control, all 5 countries involved will cooperate with each other on smoke pollution issues, and will submit an analysis of their individual problems and proposed methods of eradication for discussion at a meeting to be held later this year in Chiang Mai. Suthak stated that the total control of pollution by smoke, whether it is caused by agricultural activities or by forest fires, is of the greatest importance and is relevant to all the five Mekong River Delta countries.


Mayor of Chiang Mai to speak at Chiang Mai Expats’ Club

Topics will include policies, safety and the environment

On March 8, Dr. Duentemduang na Chiengmai, Mayor of Chiang Mai, will be the guest speaker at the Chiang Mai Expats Club. The meeting, as usual, will be at the Chiang Mai Orchid Hotel from 10:30 until noon.
Her topics will include the policies of the Chiang Mai Municipality, plans for the city and activities in which foreigners may wish to be involved. She will also speak on safety and tourism issues and the environment of Chiang Mai. The Mayor is a keen supporter of the ‘Green Chiang Mai Project’, and is involved in the new ‘Feel at Home in Chiang Mai Project’ which aims to facilitate friendship between foreigners and Thai people in order to create a better understanding of life in Chiang Mai.
The meeting is open to members (80 baht) and non-members (100 baht) and it is advised that people should arrive at 10 am. Coffee and cake are included in the admission charge. For further details www.chiangmaiexpatclub.com.


New British ex-servicemen’s club holds inaugural meeting

View to becoming sub-branch of Royal British Legion

A local club for former British forces members has been formed with a view to becoming a sub-branch of the Royal British Legion.
The inaugural meeting was held at The Olde Bell public house, Loi Kroh Road, on February 17, where landlord Pedr Fawkes is the local contact. Welfare Officer for the Pattaya branch of the Legion, Glenn Croston, emphasised that membership at 1,200 baht per year was open to any British national who supported the Legion, whether they had served in the forces or not. The next meeting will be held at The Olde Bell at 2 pm on March 2 and more information comes from Pedr over the bar or on e-mail: pedrfawkes @hotmail.com


Government policy presentation poll reveals public disappointment

Bangkok voters have their say

Public satisfaction over the three-day presentation of the new Thai governments policy package to members of the House of Representatives, which ended Wednesday, failed to reach the 50 per cent mark as respondents of a poll said that too much time was spent quarrelling during the session, satisfying less than half of those who responded. Assumption University’s ABAC Poll, which queried 1,404 eligible voters in Bangkok and surrounding areas, showed that out of 10 possible points on a scale of satisfaction, the government scored 4.83 points while the opposition Democrat Party earned an even lower performance evaluation of 4.25 points. The military-installed National Legislative Assembly, which had been asked to act in a neutral capacity during the entire session, received 4.43 points.
Up to 38.8 per cent of the respondents said they were unhappy with the session as the opposition party tried to transform the government’s policy presentation opportunity into a no-confidence debate against the six-party coalition government which attained power on February 7. One in ten of the respondents - 9.6 per cent - said that speakers had openly boasted of their personal achievements but did not address the country’s problems, whilst 8 per cent said the session was not creative.
Regarding satisfaction concerning parliamentary speeches made by Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej and Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva, the latter received 5.19 points out of 10 on the topic of controlling emotions, whilst Samak received 4.47 points. However, regarding clarity of answers given to members of the Lower House, Samak edged ahead of the opposition leader, gaining 5.13 points out of 10, whilst Abhisit achieved just 4.94 points. (TNA)


Another Chinese “twin town” for Chiang Mai

Chongqing City and Chiang Mai City sign a “memo of understanding”

Staff Reporter
At a recent meeting between representatives of Chiang Mai, led by Wibun Sa-nguanphong, the Governor of Chiang Mai and his deputy, Ruangwan Buanuch, and their counterparts from Chongqing City, central China, led by Hao Ming, Director General of Chongqing’s Office of Foreign Affairs, a memo of understanding was signed, thus recorded the proposal that Chiang Mai and Chongqing should become “sister cities”. During the meeting, a consultation was held between representatives of government, organisational and private sectors within the province, during which Ruangwan presented and summarised the basic economic status of both Chiang Mai province and the 8 upper Northern provinces.
In reply, Hao Ming described Chongqing City, which consists of 8 joined urban and suburban areas with a population of 31 million people, and is situated on the main transportation route connecting the Yangtze and Yangtzekiang rivers. Regarded as one of the largest cities in China, its geographical situation has helped create a successful regional economy over the last 10 years. Exports are mainly industrial products, technology, food products, herbs, and machines. Development is continuing towards the government-set goal of making the city and its surrounding rural districts the economic focus of the upper Yangtze River area.
Somewhat similarly, the aim of Chiang Mai province is to be promoted as a large city with unlimited potential, both for business and for trade linkages and investments.
The city itself is well served with transportation links by road and air, and is close to the Northern provinces with their geographical links to China. Both Chiang Mai and Chongqing should be able to benefit considerably from the proposed agreement.
Previously, both Shanghai City and Yunnan province have been linked to Chiang Mai City and province in the same manner.



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