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Thailand celebrates Coronation Day and Their Majesties’ fifty-eighth Wedding Anniversary

Bomb discovered inside parcel left on temple steps

International UNAIDS conference attracts controversy and protest

“No Alcohol” campaign during Songkran hits problems

Songkran road deaths in Chiang Mai total 14

Mugger assaults and robs two female tourists

Chronically ill prisoner dies from heat

Raw opium found in Chiang Rai hut

Worst storm in 50 years hits villages in Mae Hong Son

Home owner finds house ransacked, valuables stolen

Payap to host Chiang Mai’s first ever BarCamp

 

Thailand celebrates Coronation Day and Their Majesties’ fifty-eighth Wedding Anniversary

(Photo courtesy of the Bureau of the Royal Household.)

His Majesty met the future Queen in Paris in 1947, an extremely beautiful teen-aged girl. The daughter of the Thai Ambassador in London, she was in Paris to study French and classical music. M.R. Sirikit could not have been more aptly named - Sirikit meaning beauty and honour. The 20 year old King to be was enraptured by Sirikit whom he plied with music and poetry, composing a waltz in her honor entitled “I Dream of You”.
The lyrics for that blues number which Bhumibol dedicated to his future bride, “In the kingdom of my dreams, you are my queen... Please make my dreams come true,” were soon to be real. The couple were married in Bangkok on 28 April 1950. At the auspicious time of 10:24, chosen by the Buddhist astrologers, the 22 year old King of Thailand married the love of his life, M.R. Sirikit Kitiyakara.
Not even a King, however, can escape bureaucracy and, after paying the 10 baht marriage fee, the young couple received a traditional blessing from his grandmother, Sawang Vadhana, who anointed them and sprinkled them with holy water which had been blessed daily by four Buddhist monks for more than 160 years.
The young newlyweds, like any other just-married couple, ‘escaped’ to the privacy of their honeymoon hideaway - in their case the Klai Kangwol (Far from Worry) Palace on the Western Gulf, hardly pausing to examine their wedding gifts from many of the world’s leaders.
A week later, on the fifth of May 1950, Prince Bhumibol Adulyadej was crowned King, the Ninth Rama of the Chakri Dynasty.
The festivities began with a ceremonial bath after which Bhumibol, dressed in the white robes of a Brahmin monk, received sacred water over his shoulders, as the court astrologer struck the gong of victory.
The King, changed into full coronation attire, then received eight representatives who offered sacred water drawn from 18 major Chedis around the kingdom, divided into eight pitchers, with holy water from Bangkok making the ninth, after which a Brahmin priest presented a nine-tiered umbrella as the first symbol of sovereignty.
Then the five symbolic items of Kakutthaphan, the Royal Regalia, were presented. These were the Golden Crown, the Royal Ancestral Sword, the Whisk of the Tail Hairs of a White Elephant, a Small Flat Fan and the Golden Slippers.
The Golden Crown, encrusted with precious jewels, had been worn by each of the new King’s predecessors - the eight Kings of the Chakri Dynasty - at their own coronations. In accordance with tradition, the King placed the Crown upon his own head after which he took possession of the other traditional symbols of Kingship and placed the Golden Ring of Kingship upon his finger.
The King, seated on the Bhatarabit Throne at the Grand Palace, pronounced the Oath of Accession that “We will reign with Righteousness, for the Benefit and Happiness of the Siamese People”. At the same time, he poured ceremonial water to symbolize the dedication of his whole being to rule over the Thai Nation, in accordance with the Tenfold Moral Principles of the Sovereign, namely: alms-giving and charity, strict moral standards, self-sacrifice, honesty and integrity, courtesy and kindness, austerity in habits, harboring no anger or hatred, practicing and promoting non-violence, exuding patience, forbearance and tolerance, and displaying impartiality to all.
The idealistic monarch would also be imbued with four other ideals: a knowledge of food production, an insight into the ways of people, a penchant for winning the hearts of his subjects and, a soft-spoken approach.
Towards the end of the splendid coronation ceremonies, the young King elevated his new bride Sirikit to become Queen Somdej Phranang Chao. Then, a procession to the Temple of the Emerald Buddha where the Supreme Patriarch read the five Buddhist commandments and His Majesty, dressed in the regalia of the first Monarch of the House of Chakri, made his solemn vow to protect the Religion.
The King’s Coronation Oath uttered on 5 May 1950 that, “We will reign with righteousness for the benefit and happiness of the Siamese people,” has resounded continually through his six decades of Kingship.
The King took much comfort and direction from the word righteousness, looking back into scriptures to the age-old Buddhist concept of Kingship, emanating from the Sutta Pitaka of the Tripitaka which outlines the genesis of the universe and the progression of the evils which befell mankind: greed, stealing and lying, with the inevitable rebound of censure and punishment.
A King was defined as Mahasammata or, a King of Righteousness, approved by all the people. He was also called Ksatriya or Lord of the Land.
HRH Prince Rangsit of Jainad, who was Prince Regent for King Bhumibol, organized the incredible coronation ceremony, the likes of which, according to some of the chroniclers of the time, may never be seen again.
The Prince was greatly relieved that every meticulous detail in the minutia of organizing such an historical extravaganza came out correctly. He was doubly happy because, for many years prior to the coronation, he had been haunted by a prediction made by a soothsayer in 1932 at the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Chakri Dynasty, that the then King Prajadhipok (Rama VII) would be the last King of Siam. The coronation of Rama IX laid this very disturbing prophesy to rest.

 

Bomb discovered inside parcel left on temple steps

City centre roads closed, major traffic jams

A member of the bomb disposal team with
the suspect parcel which contained the bomb.

Saksit Meesubkwang
Last Friday, at 7.30 am, police at Muang Chiang Mai Station were informed by the owner of the Ronrungsap clothes shop in Wararot market that he had found a parcel which he suspected might be an explosive device on the steps leading to Wat Saenfang temple, close to the market.

The home-made bomb which was in the parcel, made using a coffee container.

Nathee Ananpanyasuth, 46, had just parked his car in Soi Kad Laojo, which leads into the market area when he noticed the parcel. Fearing for the safely of his car should it be a bomb, he placed it in a nearby rubbish bin. Having done this, he then called the police, who arrived having already alerted bomb disposal experts from the 33rd Border Patrol based in Tambon Sansai.
The bomb disposal unit removed the parcel from the rubbish bin using a robot. On opening it, they discovered the bomb inside, which was immediately removed to the open area at Thapae Gate, and exploded safely using a high-pressure water gun. Police stated that the radius of the explosion was approximately 30 metres. During the operation, roads in the city centre had been closed, causing traffic jams for more than two hours.
The Commander of Chiang Mai Provincial Police, Major Gen. Banthop Sukhonthaman, has ordered a full investigation into the origin of the device. As yet, no organisation has claimed responsibility.


International UNAIDS conference attracts controversy and protest

Concern about “war on drugs” effect on AIDS/HIV patients

UNAIDS Executive Director Dr. Peter Piot, centre,accompanied
by Dr. Mark Dybul, left, the US Ambassador for the Office of the US Global Aids Coordinator, in discussion with the protestors.

CMM Reporters
Last week, Chiang Mai’s Holiday Inn hotel hosted the 22nd meeting of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS. The annual meeting, held concurrently in Chiang Mai and New York, focuses on policies regarding both the management of the disease itself and of the drugs available for its treatment, and was attended by 350 international delegates.
Also in attendance outside the hotel were human rights protestors, AIDS/HIV sufferers and disease treatment groups, who had staged a rally out of concern that the Thai government’s “War on Drugs”, ongoing at present, would have a disastrous effect on outreach medical workers’ efforts to treat drug users with AIDS/HIV and to control the disease. The 200 activists’ concerns were based on experiences during ex-PM Thaksin Shinawatra’s previous war on drugs, on which the present initiative has been reported to be based. Karyn Kaplan, director of policy and development for the Thai AIDS Treatment Action Group, stated that, “the 2003 war on drugs is notorious for the crimes against humanity perpetrated by the Thai authorities”. During the campaign, almost 3000 people were killed, many of whom were from minority groups and almost half of whom had no connection with drugs, according to a press statement released last Tuesday by the groups. Also mentioned was blacklisting of suspected drug uses and dealers, forced drug “treatment” in military style facilities and extra-judicial killing. At the time, AIDS/HIV patients had been driven underground in fear of their lives, losing their access to support and necessary medications. As a result, the fight against the spread of AIDS in Thailand had been seriously undermined. The groups are asking the Thai government to reconsider its controversial campaign.
Another concern, particularly in Chiang Mai, was that HIV-positive men who have developed resistance to first-line drugs were finding it difficult to obtain the generic version of the second-line drug, Kaletra, in spite of a 2007 government policy decision to allow its importation into Thailand. At present, about 100,000 HIV-positive patients in Thailand depend on drugs for their survival, with 14,000 new cases every year. 12% of patients are now resistant to first-line drugs, and a large proportion of the new cases are women who have been infected by their husbands during unprotected sex. A compulsory licensing policy for Kaletra is in place, but the majority of patients listed under the universal healthcare scheme have not yet received it. The issue will be discussed by the NHSO sub-panel on May 6.
The chairman of the Upper Northern Thailand Network of AIDS/HIV sufferers, Anant Muangboonchai, the coordinator of the AIDS/HIV Network of Thailand, Praisarn Suwannawong, together with some 100 HIV-positive members of the networks, proposed a letter calling on the UNAIDS committee to encourage the recognition of the human rights of AIDS/HIV patients and drug users. The letter requests that the law on human rights be upheld during the war on drugs, that a government policy be formulated to deal correctly with the issues, that community development projects be set up to emphasise medical care, and that a working group be set up to study drug use and the development of support systems within the health service. Representatives of the UN committee received the letter from Anant, and gave assurances that its demands would passed on to a higher level for consideration.


“No Alcohol” campaign during Songkran hits problems

Alcoholism in Thailand ranks 5th highest in world

CMM Reporters
The “Enjoyment, Safety, No Alcohol” campaign which ran during the recent Songkran festival in Chiang Mai had some difficulty getting its message across to a large proportion of the revellers, according to the manager of the campaign, Teera Watcharapranee. He reported that, although some success had been achieved, a significant obstruction had been caused by the perception in Thai society that a good time could not be had without drinking alcohol. The average drinker consumes approximately 13.59 litres of pure alcohol per year, the equivalent of 220 litres of, say, Chang beer. This trend results in a high level of road accidents, more than 50% of which are caused by drink-driving. Statistics from the years 2005-2007, according to the Global Road Safety Partnership, put the overall cost of these accidents as averaging 2.8% of Thailand’s gross domestic product, and 60% more than the total government expenditure on health. Road deaths per annum during that period are recorded as being at least 12,000, but, because of possible under-reportage, may have been as high as 20,000. A high percentage of these deaths inevitably occur during Songkran, the January New Year, and other major festivals. The recently introduced Alcoholic Beverage Control Law was intended to at least reduce the number of deaths and injuries during holiday periods.
Local authorities had been hoping that, during this month’s Songkran festival, the “Enjoyment, Safety, No Alcohol” campaign might have improved the situation, however, in spite of their efforts, the number of deaths and injuries remained high. “No Alcohol” areas had been established and publicised, no extra licences to sell alcohol during the festival had been issued, licensed premises had their opening times reduced to between 11 am - 2 pm and 5 pm - 12 pm, and the distributing and selling of alcohol on the sidewalk or to those under 20 years of age had been forbidden. The consumption of alcohol on temple premises and in schools was also forbidden.
However, Teera stated that for the new policy and law to stimulate a real change in behaviour, the cooperation of all parties is required, and that the majority of people need to feel safer than at present in order to enjoy the festivities to the full. At the time of last year’s Songkran festivities, a similar campaign was instituted in two areas; Chiang Mai and Khon Kaen. Although statistics showed that a greater number of people enjoyed the festival than in the previous year, instances of inappropriate and unpleasant behaviour due to excess consumption of alcohol in Chiang Mai, although slightly reduced from 2006, still remained at an unacceptable level. Complete statistics are not yet available for this month’s festival, but will provide a basis for a policy proposal for the future which will be put to the Governor of Chiang Mai and the local administration.


Songkran road deaths in Chiang Mai total 14

Whole of Thailand totals up from last year

CMM Reporters
Total road deaths and injuries for the whole of Thailand during the Songkran festival are higher than in the previous year, and deaths in Chiang Mai are the second highest in the country.
A meeting held on April 15, chaired by the Governor of Chiang Mai, Wibun Sa-nguanphong, discussed and summarised the position at that point. The Governor stated that, in spite of strict precautions, people still seemed careless of their lives, particularly when they had been drinking. He encouraged all units to work hard to make drivers understand that they should cooperate with the new regulations in order to avoid accidents. A summary of accidents on April 14 showed 93, with 111 injuries and 8 deaths, a high proportion of which were due to drink-driving and involved motorcycles.
Visitor numbers in Chiang Mai over the period of the festival were high, with the resulting higher number of vehicles on the road. Many people were drinking to excess, with most of the accidents occurring between 4 pm and 12 pm each day. Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Centre officials reported that they were strictly controlling the distribution of alcohol to under-age drinkers, and were concentrating on riders of motorbikes. Inappropriate and wrongful behaviour, in particular drink-driving and not wearing seatbelts and helmets, was being encountered on a regular basis.
The municipality had informed residents in good time regarding their cooperation with the new rules regarding the consumption of alcohol during the festival, however, in the town itself, such cooperation only began to be received after police officers explained the new laws to possible offenders. Outside town, police received less cooperation. It will be necessary to convince both local residents and tourists that it is possible to enjoy the festivities without getting drunk and risking lives in order to ensure their cooperation in future.


Mugger assaults and robs two female tourists

CMM Reporters
A mugger who attacked and robbed two young Scots girls on April 15 seems to have disappeared without trace. The two 18 year-old tourists told police that they were walking along the Chiang Mai-Lamphun Road near Goodwill Guesthouse at 5:45 am when they were approached by a man wearing dark glasses and a hat who began talking to them. As it was still dark and they were alone on the street, they walked away quickly, but the man followed them, assaulted them and snatched their handbags containing money, a bank cash card, passports and a digital camera before running away. Police were called, and attended the two girls at the nearby Rajavej Chiang Mai Hospital, where they were having their wounds cleaned. Investigating officers have compiled evidence and have made a forensic sketch of the mugger from a description given by his victims in order to help identify him. They have also stressed that the actions of the man will harm the image of Chiang Mai as a safe place to visit.


Chronically ill prisoner dies from heat

Autopsy showed no injuries

CMM Reporters
A prisoner at Chiang Mai Central Prison, Chamnan Sirinant, 48, died from heat stroke on April 15. According to fellow prisoners, Chamnan went to bed as usual, but was found dead the following morning. An autopsy carried out at Maharaj Hospital revealed no injuries, and determined the cause of death to be an already existent chronic illness combined with the excessive heat. The prisoners’ family have taken his body for burial with the appropriate religious rites.


Raw opium found in Chiang Rai hut

CMM Reporters
After receiving a report that drugs were due to be delivered to Chiang Rai customers during the Songkran festival, local police officers and field army personnel were directed to patrol roads in the area in order to intercept any attempts at delivery.
As they were approaching a hut in Moo10, Toeng, a man was seen to come out and immediately run away when he saw the officers. A bag containing 115 grams of raw opium was discovered inside the hut, and confiscated as evidence. An official from the Toeng police station confirmed that Hill tribespeople often deliver opium to customers in this manner. The investigation is continuing with the hope that an arrest will be made in the near future.


Worst storm in 50 years hits villages in Mae Hong Son

Severe hailstorm in Phrae, more expected

Khajohn Boonpath
Severe hailstorms hit Ban Huay Pha and areas of Tham Pla Cave National Park at midnight on April 22, causing serious damage. In the village itself all 34 houses were affected, with several destroyed by falling trees. Stocks of garlic in storage, and two houses belonging to the headman of Tambon Huay Pha, were badly damaged, together with teachers’ houses in the Ban Huay Pha school compound and houses in the National Park, a major tourist attraction in the area, where 50 large trees were uprooted. The main highway, 1095, from Mae Hong Son to Pangmapha district, became blocked with fallen trees and landslides, and many other roads were also affected. Electricity cables were destroyed, resulting in blackouts in the area which lasted for over 6 hours.

A villager in Mae Hong Son, after the worst summer storm in 50 years, removing a fallen tree which had damaged his house and caused injuries.

Workers from the Provincial Electricity Authority and members of the Highway District units were immediately dispatched to clear the roads and restore the electricity supplies to the area. Teams from the Mae Hong Son Provincial Public Relief and Disaster Prevention Office were sent out to inspect the damage and provide assistance to victims of the storm. Villagers and residents in the affected areas later told reporters that the storm was the worst they had experienced for 50 years.
In Phrae district a week earlier, local people and visitors were celebrating Songkran when a sudden severe hailstorm hit, lasting for an hour, and carrying off roofs, signs and trees. A few revellers sustained slight injuries, and at least 310 houses across an area of 15 villages sustained damage, some serious. A fine example of a traditional teak house was totally destroyed, together with an entire warehouse of corn, and a school was badly affected, with 20 computers damaged.
The deputy governor of Phrae, Somchai Hataytnti, reported that urgent assistance would need to be provided to those who had been left homeless. Soldiers from a local regiment were immediately called in, together with prisoners from Phrae prison, to repair damaged roofs. The hailstorm was the second such within a month, and residents have been warned to stay on their guard as more storms are expected.


Home owner finds house ransacked, valuables stolen

Nearby restaurant owner states burglaries are rife

CMM Reporters
The owner of a home in Moo Baan Krisada House, Phrae, recently received an unpleasant shock when he returned from a family visit to find that the house had been ransacked and many items had been stolen.
On April 14, Niwat Pongsaeng, a radio operator at Long police station, Phrae, and his wife Malee, a local teacher, had been to visit Malee’s mother in another district, and had stayed overnight. On their return they found the door had been forced open, and all the lights in the house left on. The two bedrooms had been ransacked and many valuable items had been stolen, including a laptop, Malee’s cosmetics, and a collection of Buddhist amulets from famous temples in Phrae and other provinces. When asked, neighbours told Niwat that they had noticed nothing abnormal the previous night.
Police and a forensic team at the scene estimate that the burglary took place in the early hours of April 15. The owner of a restaurant at the entrance to the Moo Baan told reporters that burglaries happened frequently in the area. She is forced to bring in chairs and tables each night at closing time, as they have been stolen many times, as are soft drinks and even ice. On the night of the burglary, 20 bottles of soft drinks had been taken.


Payap to host Chiang Mai’s first ever BarCamp

New international network of user-generated conferences

CMM Reporters
Chiang Mai will host its first ever BarCamp on May 17 at Payap University’s International House. BarCamp is an international network of user-generated conferences - open, participatory workshop events, whose content is entirely provided by participants. Often, the focus is on early-stage web applications and related open-source technologies. The first BarCamp in Thailand was held on Bangkok on January 26. 150 participants and important sponsors such as Microsoft, Google and Reuters made it a huge success. Since 2005, BarCamps have been held in over 31 cities throughout the world, in North America, South America, Africa, Australasia and Asia.
Whilst being loosely structured, attendees are encouraged to present or facilitate a session, and share information and experiences of the event , both live and afterwards, via public web channels including blogging, photo-sharing, social bookmarking, wiki-ing and IRC. BarCamp is being held on May 17 from 10 am to 6 pm, at Payap University’s International House on the Superhighway/ Chiang Mai Lampang Road.
Further information and registration is available in Thai and English at www. barcampchiangmai.org.