The Mayor of Chiang Mai speaks
at Chiang Mai Expats’ Club meeting
“Question and answer session“ proves illuminative
On March 8, at their regular meeting venue, the Chiang Mai Orchid
Hotel, Dr Duentemduang na Chiengmai responded to the club’s invitation to
her by addressing the assembled members and participating in a “question and
answer” session. The room was crowded, with not only the regular attendees,
but also with many members who did not want to miss the opportunity of
hearing the Mayor’s future plans for the city and her feelings concerning
its ever-growing foreign contingent.
Dr Duentemduang began by saying that she considered the occasion to be “a
rare opportunity to talk to global friends”. She gave a brief background of
her life to date, including her age, (36), the fact that she had been Chiang
Mai born and educated, and that she had continued her education in the
United States, gaining a Master’s degree and Ph.D in Economics. When she
returned to Thailand, she taught in a school which trained Army Cadets,
during which time she became interested in politics, and subsequently joined
the Democratic Party. At one time, she ran for Parliament, but was
unsuccessful. Finally, she was elected as Mayor of Chiang Mai. Her brief is
basically an area of 40 square kilometres, encompassing 4 districts,
(amphur) which contain 14 sub-districts, (tambon). As she put it,
her job description resembles that of a housewife, but on a much larger
scale, “Environmental, Economics, and Efficiency”. Maybe some of us from the
UK might well remember a certain lady Prime Minister who made a very similar
She explained that the Chiang Mai Municipality will be the key in the 4 year
Strategic Development agenda, which aims at development of the city whilst
retaining and sustaining its beauty. A major priority will be the issue of
pollution, closely linked with the annual burning of forest areas and
agricultural land. The call centre fire reporting facility is being
restructured on a local basis; discussions are being held with cellphone
companies regarding the issue of compliance as, in the two months since the
call centre’s inception, there have been many complaints.
Burning, she stated, involved areas outside the city, as well as the city
Amphurs themselves. Most serious fires originate in the agricultural and
farming areas on the borders, outside her area of influence, and are
traditional means of dealing with stubble, etc. It will be hard, she stated,
to change behaviour patterns established over generations, especially when
night burning often occurs, and when police are reluctant to intervene as
they do not have enough officers to cope with demand. A city-wide collection
of leaves, garden refuse, etc, has been organised, involving 8 trucks, with
subsequent removal by the Army for composting and returning. She would be
happy to take advice on this important issue, as she is aware that there are
many projects would benefit from cooperation.
Dr. Duentemduang assured her listeners that “We all live in Chiang Mai, and
are therefore all Chiang Mai citizens”. She apologised that her English was
not so good; everyone laughed when she continued, “but my staff’s English is
a lot worse!”
She mentioned her plans for the upcoming Songkran festival, and stressed
that she would wish for it to return to its more traditional form, rather
than continuing as the annual “Water Wars”. With which statement, most of
her listeners would, we suspect, agree!
Questions were asked on many topics, including motor bikes, helmets, etc, to
which her reply was that she is trying her best to enforce safety standards,
but again, police numbers are not large enough for continuing enforcement.
As regards the city bus services, the Municipality is working towards
improvements, but this will take time. On a question about street elephants,
the Mayor was, perhaps, a little less forthcoming, in that she stated that
elephants are not the Municipality’s responsibility, but that of the Thai
Government itself. She hoped, though, that maybe the local police authority
might involve itself…
On a question about the introduction of casinos into Chiang Mai, possibly
following the new Prime Minister’s statement that he was planning to
legalise gambling in Thailand and establish government-owned casinos in the
major tourist areas, Dr Duentemduang’s answer was very positive. She is
against the plan, and considers that the revenue generated by a casino in
Chiang Mai would not compensate for the social problems it would cause. She
also stated that provincial administrations and the Thai Ministry of the
Interior may not interfere with each others’ areas of governance. In a
general comment, she mentioned that, at present, there were budget
constraints which prevented her from moving ahead as fast as she would like,
but stated that “I am new in this job - things will get better!”
To her audience, one of the most important statements made by the Mayor must
surely have been that she would like to see volunteers from the Expat
community helping with many of the projects she had mentioned; for example,
one important use of this being that if an English-speaker called to report
illegal burning, there would be an English speaker on hand to take the call.
Volunteers could also consider working with the Mayor’s staff with the aim
of making them more comfortable with the English language. In another
general, but highly relevant statement, she said that “The more people care,
the more we can achieve”.
In her closing statement, she hoped that she could repeat the experience of
talking with her “global friends”, and reiterated that “We all live here -
we all belong”.
Should any readers of this article wish to volunteer to help in any way, we
would be happy to receive your contact details by e-mail, and to forward
them to the Mayor’s office.
Armed robbery at Siam
Commercial Bank, Nong Hoi
Suspect arrested drinking beer at Carrefour!
Current high fuel prices and the economic recession in Chiang Mai
would seem to be fuelling an increase in crime in the city. The latest
manifestation of this trend occurred on March 12, when an armed robber shot
the manager of a local branch of Siam Commercial Bank, and escaped with
200,000 baht, only to be arrested two days later whilst drinking beer in the
restaurant area of the Carrefour/Home-Pro complex on the Superhighway.
armed robber, with police, outside the scene of his crime.
At 3.30 pm on the day of the robbery, police were called to the Nong Hoi
intersection branch of Siam Commercial Bank. On arrival, they found
quantities of blood on the glass entrance door and the floor, together with
a spent 9 mm cartridge.
The manager of the bank, Chakapong Wiyo, 42, who had been shot in the face
by the robber, was immediately transferred to Rachawet Hospital’s intensive
A witness and employee at the bank, Pornthip Inthayot, described the
incident to police. A member of staff had opened the door to allow the final
customer of the day to leave, when a man wearing a yellow tee shirt and
sunglasses forced his way in and threatened the bank’s staff with a gun,
ordering the manager to open the cash deposit drawer. Chakapong emptied the
drawer and gave the cash, a total of 200,000 baht, to the robber, who then
shot him in the face and, placing the cash in a bag, fled the scene.
On questioning the bank’s staff, police discovered that the robber had
visited the bank earlier on the same day, presenting a cheque, and asking to
withdraw money from an account. He was refused, as the account did not have
the balance necessary. He left the bank, had coffee at a local shop, and
returned with the gun as the bank was closing. In a possibly connected
incident, a girl riding a motorbike had asked about a man answering to the
robber’s description at a nearby petrol station. Police suspect that the
robber had arranged to be picked up by the girl after the crime had been
Two days later, the robber was arrested, and identified as Tiwakorn Thalek,
27, of Chiang Mai. He has admitted to the charge. Doctors at Rachawet
Hospital have since reported that Chakapong’s condition is now stable.
Thai Elephant Day
The parade of the camp’s
elephants, with their mahouts.
It’s treats time! Sugar cane
and fresh fruits on a special day.
The Mae Sa Elephant camp celebrated Thai Elephant Day
with special activities including painting displays, elephant “football and
basketball” matches and rides. More than 80 elephants received a special
treat of sugar cane and fruit.
Thai Airways new reduced flight
schedule Chiang Mai - Mae Hong Son
Thai Airways International will reduce the number of flights from
Chiang Mai - Mae Hong Son from 3 flights to 2 flights a day, due to poor
weather conditions affecting visibility and lower passenger numbers,
effective from March 30, 2008. The new schedule will run until October 25,
2008, according to Treeroj Nawamarat, THAI Manager at Mae Hong Son Airport.
The timetable is as follows:
TG 194 departs from Chiang Mai at 10:10 am and lands in Mae Hong Son at
TG 195 departs from Mae Hong Son at 11:05 am and lands in Chiang Mai at
TG 196 departs from Chiang Mai at 4:10 pm and lands in Mae Hong Son at 4:45
TG 197 departs from Mae Hong Son at 5:05 pm and lands in Chiang Mai at 5:40
All flights use the ATR 72 type of aircraft.
Thailand’s Hill Tribes Network voices concern over Thaksin-style “War on Drugs”
Appeal to be made to Thai government to keep “within legal limits”
Following a government announcement of a renewal of the “War on
Drugs” initiative last practiced during ex-Prime Minister Thaksin
Shinawatra’s term of office, the Hill Tribes Network of Thailand have
expressed their concern that hill tribespeople may again be subject to
of the Hilltribes Network of Thailand are seen discussing the “War on Drug”
issue during the meeting held at Chiang Mai University on March 7.
The government announcement was made by Minister of the Interior Chalerm
Yubamrung, who stated that the renewal of the strategy would bear results in
the immediate future. During Thaksin’s premiership, a similar project
resulted in the killing of 2,500 innocent people, mostly of hill tribe
nationality. It was felt at the time that hill tribespeople were targeted by
army and officials because it was believed that they would have little legal
redress against the extrajudicial killings. A large number of drug dealers
were also killed during the purge.
On March 7, at CMU, the Network held a press conference to announce its
concerns, at which it stated that the Thai government “needed to bring
wrongdoers to justice and not to put innocent people on a blacklist”. It
resolved to request that government officials and their agencies keep the
“War on Drugs” within legal limits, respect human rights, do not use
violence against the public, and prevent revenge killings. Police,
prosecutors, and the courts should resist the temptation to implement
policies which would breach the human rights of innocent people. Failure to
do so would result in hill tribespeople losing trust in the judicial system,
and could eventually lead to the Network’s taking cases of human rights
abuse to the International Court of Justice at The Hague.
The Network also stated that it is fully in support of the government’s drug
suppression activities, and the punishment of wrongdoers by the courts, and
that it is well aware of the serious social problems caused by drug abuse. A
committee will be set up within the Network’s Human Rights Committee, in
order to closely monitor the government’s activities. Local volunteer
members will also monitor the activities of officers in their areas, and
will report on any illegal killings.
The Hill Tribes Network of Thailand is a public sector organisation which
works with all races throughout the Kingdom.
Thai health ministry fights
rising obesity death toll
Lifestyle-related illness on the rise
The Public Health Ministry has launched a campaign to help overweight Thais
fight obesity after the number of patients with heart disease, diabetes, and
cancer doubled during the past five years. Public Health Minister Chaiya
Sasomsab cited the World Health Organization’s report that lifestyle-related
illnesses, particularly obesity, led to almost two-thirds of all deaths in
developing countries and stated that this rising trend is a cause for worry.
Lifestyle-related illnesses have caused 96,354 deaths in Thailand in the
past five years, representing, on average, one death every six minutes.
The number of patients with heart disease doubled from 318 to 682 per
100,000 of the population; cases of diabetes have more than doubled from 278
to 587 per 100,000, and the number of people suffering from cancer rose from
80 to 124 per 100,000. The annual cost of treatment of these diseases was
more than five billion baht. In 2007, 42 per cent of Thais aged over 15
years old, about 17 million people, were overweight, averaging one in five
Thai men and three in five Thai women.
The ministry has launched pilot projects to decrease the number of
overweight people by 40,000 people in each province or about 3,000,000
people across the country. A two-year plan to counter obesity will start in
May this year, and will focus on the role of local authorities in promoting
45-minute workouts five days a week in conjunction with healthy eating
Mayor of Chiang Mai welcomes new Walking Street Committee
Goods for sale should have “real” Chiang Mai identity
The Mayor of Chiang Mai, Dr Duentemduang na Chiengmai, recently
attended a meeting of the Muncipality’s new Walking Street Committee, along
with municipal authorities and the traders themselves.
The Walking Street market, held for some 5 years now on Rachadamnoen Road in
the old city on Saturday and Sunday evenings, has always proved a very
popular destination, both for tourists and residents. In the past, however,
there were organizational issues such as clearly defined sales areas and
waste disposal, which led eventually to the formation by the Municipality of
the Walking Street Committee, whose brief is to deal with problems as they
arise. It will represent the traders themselves, and will emphasise the
stocking and sale of local quality products and goods which reflect the real
identity and culture of the city of Chiang Mai.
Critical forest fires on
Doi Suthep and in Mae Rim
“Burning” issue clearly not resolved
Last week a serious forest fire broke out in the Doi Suthep-Pui
National Park. On March 11, firemen from the Sua Fai fire control unit were
called to 5 rai of forest land in the immediate area behind Chiang Mai Zoo.
By the time they arrived, the fire had burned out of control, due to the
hot, dry weather and the covering of leaves on the forest floor. Firemen
were unable to bring the fire under control; subsequently a helicopter
provided essential support by bringing 10 loads of water from Ang Kaew
reservoir in order to extinguish the flames.
At the same time, another large fire broke out near the Huay Tung Thao
reservoir in Mae Rim district. Again, firemen were unable to control the
fire, and helicopter support was requested in order to douse the flames. An
area of 5 rai of land was affected.
Smoke from illegal burning is causing much concern in nearby Lamphun,
resulting in the governor of the province surveying the area by helicopter.
It was subsequently emphasised that burning of all types is prohibited by
law, and that local authorities must impress this on local residents. In
Lampang, although pollution is at present decreasing, it was again
emphasised that any persons starting fires would be charged using the full
extent of the law.
Further away, in Chiang Rai province on the border between Thailand and
Laos, local administrations set up a local level committee of 20
sub-district headmen and village chiefs to handle the integration of
wildfire protection amongst the communities. A protocol of cooperation was
instigated, and a firebreak is to be set up along the border and in tourist
areas such as the Pabong cave and Doi Patang. The border districts are
particularly vulnerable to wildfires started by lightning strikes during
storms, as the mountain ridges contain large areas of a certain type of
extremely inflammable grass. High winds are common in the area, with the
result that, once a fire has taken hold, it will spread very quickly.