Vol. VII No. 11 - Tuesday
March 11, - March 17, 2008



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by Saichon Paewsoongnern


NEWS
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Election of Chiang Mai senators passes without incident

More purges at Department of Special Investigation

High winds and hailstorms cause damage in three Chiang Rai districts

Chiang Mai smog expected to ease within several days

Mayor of Chiang Mai inspects progress of moat-dredging project

Replica of biblical Noah’s Ark for sale

Japanese bank to grant 700 billion baht loan for Thailand’s mega projects

Mae Hong Son police to use bio-diesel for their vehicles

Governor of Nan province to outlaw alcohol during local festivals

Successful use of contact with elephants in autism therapy

Thai Elephant Day at Mae Sa Elephant Village

20 million baht in assets seized from illicit drug dealer

Chiang Mai smog causing health hazards

Chiang Mai Zoo welcomes visit by red pandas from Dusit Zoo

Forest fires in Mae Hong Son area are on the increase

 

Election of Chiang Mai senators passes without incident

800,000 voters go to the polls

Saksit Meesubkwang
On March 2, polls to elect 70 of the 140 Senate members were held nationwide, including here in Chiang Mai. The election passed without incident; in the morning polling stations were quiet, as many voters are not sure about the actual role of senators in the structure of government. The director of the Chiang Mai Election Commissioners, Phongphan Riewthingthavee, commented that the election process itself had been well managed, particularly as there had been problems prior to the polling day itself. Turnout averaged 70% of over one million eligible voters, of whom 800,000 cast their votes, with 120,000, (12%) abstentions. Damaged ballot papers accounted for 4.6% of the total votes cast.
The highest number of votes, 175,573, went to a local lawyer and social worker, Chuchai Lertphong-Adisorn, (No.1), followed by 141,051 votes cast for the businessman owner and director of the Chiang Mai News, Sarawut Saetiew (No.11). The Deputy Governor of Chiang Mai and former Governor of Tak province, Sawas Srisuwandee, took 82,206 votes. Complaints have been made concerning the fact that 2 candidates are still being investigated; these will be forwarded to the Central Election Commissioners. Verification of the results will be announced within 7 days.

 

More purges at Department of Special Investigation

31 officials transferred to new agency

On Thursday, Justice Minister Sompong Amornwiwat transferred two deputy directors-general and 29 other officials of the Department of Special Investigation to a newly-formed anti-corruption agency, just a week after the abrupt removal of former DSI chief Sunai Manomai-udom. Amongst those being transferred was Pornchai Assawawattanaporn, the DSI deputy director-general who was handling a major case involving ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra and his wife Pojaman over alleged concealment of their shareholdings in SC Asset Corp, a listed property company.
DSI spokesman Police Colonel Narat Sawetanant defended his superior’s order, saying the officials had been only temporarily transferred, at Sunai’s request, to assist with work being carried out at the Office for the Protection and Suppression of Corruption in the State Sector under the Justice Ministry. Some of the transferees would be able to return to the DSI at any time in the future. Sunai, the former DSI chief, had earlier been abruptly transferred by an order effective February 25, and was to serve as acting secretary-general of the newly formed agency. The Justice Minister had stressed earlier that the decision had nothing to do with the cases involving the ex-premier as those cases now rested with public prosecutors, and also dismissed criticisms about his motivation in ordering the transfers.
This was the largest in a series of reshuffles of senior government officials since the six-party coalition government led by the People Power Party took the country’s helm in early February. (TNA)


High winds and hailstorms cause damage in three Chiang Rai districts

Chiang Rai governor stresses need for emergency assistance

Staff Reporter
Recent high winds and hailstorms have caused damage to a total of 835 homes and affected over 2000 residents, mainly in the Mae Chan, Doi Luang and Pong Noi districts of Chiang Rai province. Local administration organisations immediately mobilised materials to repair the damaged houses, and allocated budgets to assist the affected residents. On March 3, the Chiang Rai Governor, Preecha Kamolbutr, issued warnings and instructions to all areas of the province to monitor and prepare for similar storms in the near future. He also ordered local administration officials to provide immediate assistance in the event of storm damage occurring. The head of the Meteorological Department’s Chiang Rai station, Somphol Supakan, also called for strict monitoring of weather conditions, especially in areas where previous severe storms had occurred.


Chiang Mai smog expected to ease within several days

Recent rains helped increase humidity

Chiang Mai’s governor on Friday insisted that the level of smog in the city was not critical and expressed confidence that the province’s air quality would soon improve. Governor Wibun Sa-nguanphong said that even when the situation improves, no burning was permitted in open areas, and noted that he had asked the nearby provincial administrations to prevent burning during the coming days. However, the level of dust particles measured Friday morning was at 141 microgrammes per cubic metre, above the maximum safe level of 120 mg.
Meanwhile, Chiang Mai municipality officials have been spraying water three times a day around the city’s heavily-travelled roads alongside the historic moats, to reduce toxic fumes and dust particles in the air. Pollution Control Department director-general Supat Wangwongwatana said weather conditions were improving due to falling temperatures.
“The situation this year is not as critical as that of last year as the rain helped to increase humidity. Moreover, many related agencies have worked closely together to control wildfires, open-air burning and toxic fumes emitted by vehicles,” the director-general said. He added that, as part of the campaign to reducing pollution in Chiang Mai city, car users would soon have to pass a toxic fumes emission test. (TNA)


Mayor of Chiang Mai inspects progress of moat-dredging project

Work to be completed in good time for Songkran

Saksit Meesubkwang
On March 5, the Mayor of Chiang Mai, Dr Duentemduang na Chiengmai, together with administrators and local councillors, inspected the progress of the moat-dredging project in the city, and assured all concerned that the work would be finished in time for the Songkran New Year celebrations in April. Two phases of the project have already been completed; the third phase, to dredge and clean up the moat around the old city centre and the waste water pipes, will solve the problem of polluted and dirty water. This final phase is expected to be completed by the middle of March.

Dr Duentemduang na Chiengmai, together with administrators and local councillors, inspects the progress of the moat-dredging project in the city.

The city’s Songkran festival, (Pee Mai Muang Chiang Mai), will take place this year between April 13-15, and as a result of the project, revellers, visitors and residents will be able to enjoy the water festivities without concerns about health.
Dr Duentemduang stated that the sectors concerned had cooperated efficiently in the work, and that the Provincial Administration Authority was committed to improving the quality of life in Chiang Mai in order to benefit both residents and visitors.
She also apologised for any inconvenience the work might be causing, and asked for the public’s indulgence, particularly on the roads around the moat, until the completion of the project later this month.


Replica of biblical Noah’s Ark for sale

Funds needed to spread Christianity in Middle East

Saksit Meesubkwang
Recently, this newspaper was contacted by an American living in Chiang Mai, Scott Noble, 35, who has been an English teacher here for some 6 years. He told our reporter that his friend, Bill Cook, a retiree of 72 years of age and a committed Christian, had an Ark to sell, and wondered if the paper could help…

The Ark that Bill built - taking into account biblical instructions!
It seems that Bill Cook is determined to spread Christianity in the Muslim countries of the Middle East in an attempt to put an end to killing and violence, but, unfortunately, has no funds with which to travel to these areas. To partially solve this problem, he has built, (taking into account biblical instructions), a wood and fibreglass ark, some 4 metres long and 80 centimetres wide. He wishes to sell the ark for the sum of 14,000 baht, this amount to be put towards his travel costs. Interested parties should email Bill on waterpark77 @yahoo.com. Donations are also welcome.


Japanese bank to grant 700 billion baht loan for Thailand’s mega projects

Suvarnabhumi International Airport to benefit.

The Japan Bank for International Cooperation affirmed on Friday that it was ready to grant a 700 billion baht loan to finance Thailand’s mega projects. Speaking after talking to a senior JBIC official, Transport Minister Santi Prompat said the Japanese agency would grant a loan to be used to extend nine electric train routes. Other countries have also shown interest in extending loans for similar projects, he said, adding that the Ministry of Finance would accept loans from the source which presented the best offer. JBIC is also interested in loaning 5.6 billion baht to the Thai government for the second phase of construction at Suvarnabhumi International Airport. The Airports of Thailand Public Company Limited is planning to extend the Suvarnabhumi terminal later this year in order to serve the rapidly rising number of passengers. The final decision in this rests with the new AOT board which will be announced on March 14.
Santi said that as well as seeking loans from JBIC, AOT might issue new shares to help finance the airport extension project. Mass Rapid Transit Authority of Thailand governor, Prapat Chongsanguan, said that JBIC and the MRTA will sign a contract for the18 billion baht first portion of a total loan of 300 billion baht, earmarked for the construction of the Purple Line electric rail project which will begin later this month. (TNA)


Mae Hong Son police to use bio-diesel for their vehicles

Project to be set up to honour HM the King’s 80th birthday

Khajohn Boonpath
Police stations in Mae Hong Son are to instigate a bio-diesel project at their premises, not only to produce fuel for official vehicles, but also to encourage local shops and residents to bring used vegetable cooking oil for recycling into bio-diesel. A payment of 5 baht per litre of the used oil will be made. The project is being introduced as a response to His Majesty the King’s well-known philosophy of the “Sufficiency Economy”, and is in honour of his 80th birthday.


Governor of Nan province to outlaw alcohol during local festivals

Pilot study last year showed cooperation

Staff Reporter
On March 18, in Nan province, a seminar will be held by representatives of the provincial authority at the Dhevaraj Hotel. The seminar will discuss the policy recently announced by the Governor of the province, Sompong Anuyuthapong, which stated that alcoholic beverages should be banned at all Nan provincial traditional, annual and charitable festivals. During two provincial festivals in September and December last year, it had been noted that the local population had responded with a degree of cooperation when asked to avoid alcoholic drinks. This had resulted in a decrease in crime, disputes, injuries and traffic accidents. The seminar will gather information to help monitor the situation in the province, and is expected to confirm the prohibition of alcohol at all future festivals. The decision will be announced on the Nan local radio station, which broadcasts on 94.75 MHz. Cooperation is expected from all parties involved, in order to help people to realise the dangers and hazards of drinking alcohol. Local authorities consider that the decision will improve the quality of life in the province and will result in peace and happiness!


Successful use of contact with elephants in autism therapy

CMU study is the first in the world

Researchers, academics and members of the Department of Occupational Therapy at the Faculty of Associated Medical Science, CMU, at the March 3 press conference which announced the startling results of their research.

Staff Reporter
An innovative research project conducted by members of the Department of Occupational Therapy at the Faculty of Associated Medical Science, CMU, has concluded that interaction between autistic children and elephants has, amazingly, proved highly effective in improving the symptoms of autism. Conventional treatment for autism has been previously based on human physical contact both by parents and therapists.
On March 3, a press conference was held at CMU to announce the results of the research project, which will be the subject of a presentation at the International Asia-Pacific Occupational Therapy Congress in 2011. The results will also be presented to HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, as two of the elephants used in the study are under the patronage of the late Princess Galyani Vadhana. Other elephants were from the Thai Elephant Preservation Centre in Lampang. This study was the first in the world to use contact with elephants as a method of treatment.
Certificates were presented to the technicians and academics involved in the study by Assoc Prof Daorung Kangwanphong, CMU’s vice-president for research, and by Manoonsak Tantivat, director of the Industrial Forestry Organisation of the Ministry of Natural Sources and the Environment. The project was supported by Siam Cement, Khem Communications, and the Industrial Forestry Organisation itself.
Currently, Thailand has some 200,000 children affected by autism, a ratio of 1 in 150. Male children are 4 times more likely to be affected than female children.


Thai Elephant Day at Mae Sa Elephant Village

Special activities and shows planned

Staff Reporter
There will be several special activities on the programme at Mae Sa Elephant Camp on the 9th Thai Elephant Day, March 13, including an afternoon show to be held at 1.30 pm in addition to the two usual morning shows.

Also featured will be the elephant, “Satok”.

On the day, admission will be free from 12 pm to 4 pm. Also featured will be the elephant, “Satok”, and a traditional welcoming ritual, Bai Sri Soo Kwan. There will be an exhibition on preserving ivory, a “Knowledge and Recreation” stand supplied by the Medical Faculty of CMU Students’Club, a large screen on which the biology of elephants will be demonstrated, and a painting show by 6 Mae Sa Village elephants. The “Guide for Dreaming and Sharing Love with Youngsters” will also be presented. The elephant painting exhibition made it into the Guinness Book of Records in 2005. The Elephant Village invites residents and tourists to visit and enjoy this special day, which celebrates the importance of the elephant in Thai tradition as the symbol of the Kingdom.


20 million baht in assets seized from illicit drug dealer

Attempts being made to trace other gang members

On March 3 at Chiang Rai Police Station, it was announced that assets worth approximately 20 million baht had been seized from the estate of Phacharee Sunklang, who had been found in possession of 45,800 methamphetamine pills and arrested as a result. Amongst the assets seized were three pick-up trucks, valued at 1,250,000 baht, four rai of land worth 4 million baht, another 3 rai land title deed , two sand boats, 6 million baht in a savings account in the accused’s name, cash and gold jewellery, and various household items including electrical goods. Phacharee is a former health worker at Mae Suay Hospital in Chiang Rai. Police are continuing their enquiries in order to trace other members of the gang.


Chiang Mai smog causing health hazards

High pressure system is preventing dispersal

Smog in Chiang Mai is causing health problems, with the level of dust particles exceeding the set standards in many spots. Motorists have also been recommended to exercise caution because of worsening visibility.
Vorapoj Khunawiwattanakoon, an official at the Meteorology Centre’s Northern Office, said the level of dust particles in many places in Chiang Mai was above the accepted standard level; as a result, residents in downtown Chiang Mai have already started to suffer from respiratory irritation. He added that a high pressure system was preventing the dust particles from dispersing, reducing visibility to only 3-4 metres.
Whilst aviation was not yet affected, motorists were being recommended to exercise caution. The high pressure system was likely to persist for two or three more days. (TNA)


Chiang Mai Zoo welcomes visit by red pandas from Dusit Zoo

Three month stay will benefit tourism

A pair of Red Pandas arrived at Chiang Mai Zoo on February 25
 from Dusit Zoo on a three month visit.

Saksit Meesubkwang
A pair of Red Pandas, natives of the Himalaya regions of Nepal, India, China and Bhutan, arrived at Chiang Mai Zoo on February 25 from Dusit Zoo on a three month visit. Both the male and the female panda are 5 years old; the species itself enjoys “protected endangered species” status in China and Nepal. Only a few examples remain in the wild as they have been hunted almost to extinction. The pair came originally from Pretoria Zoo in South Africa to an Australian zoo, and hence to Dusit Zoo; their 3 month stay in Chiang Mai will enable both residents and tourists to view these rare creatures.


Forest fires in Mae Hong Son area are on the increase

Cooperation requested from local residents

Khajohn Boonpath
Recently it has been reported that there is an increase in the number of forest fires in the area of Highway 108, (Mae Hong Son-Khun Yuam), and also in other areas. In the hotter weather now being experienced, smoke from the covert fires is accumulating in the atmosphere. Large fires have occurred, resulting in traffic problems due to poor visibility and heat. There is now a concern that health and provincial tourism may well be affected, particularly as the “La Niņa” effect this year has resulted in drier conditions than is usual. The area Forest Fire Control Station chief has stated that the control of wildfires depends strongly on a high level of cooperation from local inhabitants, and that, although at present the situation in Muang district remains at a moderate level, it can be expected to worsen as the dry, hot weather continues. Last year, due in part to a major forest fire in the border areas of Myanmar, exacerbated by a high pressure weather system in southern China, the situation became critical, causing more than 1 million people to suffer respiratory problems.



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