NEWS
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Cache of ammunition found on Ping river bank

Politicians and local leaders reject 2007 constitution

Burmese military ordered to shoot down Thai aircraft

Chiang Mai based major drug dealer arrested in Hat Yai

Seriously injured Karenni soldier gets treatment at Thai hospital

Severe weather continues across the north

Labour Day festivities for Chiang Mai workers

Mayor agrees budget of 70 million baht for municipal pawnshops

Dengue fever cases up by 80% in first quarter of year

Medical specialist issues pollution warning

Speaker of the House resigns; awaits trial for election fraud

Internet cafes face stringent enforcement of laws

Youngsters march to inform on consumer protection

 

Cache of ammunition found on Ping river bank

Burma’s ethnic groups strongly deny involvement

Saksit Meesubkwang
A cache of ammunition consisting of 867 bullets contained in a sack was found last week on the Ping river bank, underneath the walking bridge which crosses the river from Chang Klan Road. Residents had spotted the sack and, suspecting it might contain hazardous material, called local police. When the ammunition was examined, it was found to be from two categories - 88 mm bullets for use with an outdated weapon, and 93 mm machine gun ammunition. All had been engraved with the letters RTA - Royal Thai Army - and a serial code.
Police theories as to the reason that the ammunition was dumped include its being in the process of being moved from one location to another and hidden when a police patrol was spotted; ownership by a group who became afraid that they were about to be discovered; its being thrown away by teenagers who had found it originally, or its having been stolen from the military.. Initial reported theories based on the 88 mm bullets involved ethnic military groups operating along the Thai/Burma border, as these groups are known to be supplied with the outdated weapon which uses such ammunition. However, leaders of the Karen National Union, the Karenni National Progressive Party and the Shan State Army all reject the report, and suggest that the discovery was deliberately linked to them to coincide with the visit to Bangkok by the Burmese Prime Minister.
The Thai military have now been asked to inspect the cache in order to determine the origin of the ammunition from the engraved serial code.

 

Politicians and local leaders reject 2007 constitution

“Demon with a pipe in his hand” burnt in protest

A protester wearing the “demon with a pipe in his mouth” mask,
glaring at a copy of the 2007 constitution.

Saksit Meesubkwang
Praesang Mongkolsiri, a former Thai Rak Thai MP, together with local leaders, held a protest meeting and demonstration at the Mora Hotel last week, at which a notification of rejection of the 2007 constitution was issued and the organising of a petition was announced. The petition will call for the reinstatement of the 1997 constitution, and is expected to collect at least 16 million signatures nationwide.
Praesang referred to the 2007 constitution as “a dictatorship document”, and stated that his group’s moves were partly motivated by a wish to attack the drafter of the present constitution, Prasong Sunsiri, whose draft, delivered with the intent of destroying former PM Thaksin Shinawatra, had severely affected the lives of people throughout the country.
Praesang described Prasong as “a demon with a pipe in his mouth”, and said that from this point on he would coordinate with People’s Power Party politicians across the country in order to warn the electorate of the dangers of the present constitution.
Dr. Phomsak Saenphote confirmed that the former Prime Minister had no involvement in the present moves, and added that “Thaksin remains in the hearts of the people of Chiang Mai”. Phomsak announced that a further protest and demonstration would be held on May 10-11, in order to give Chiang Mai voters the opportunity of expressing their feelings and rejecting the 2007 constitution in public. More than 5000 people are expected to attend.
At the conclusion of the demonstration, an image of the “demon with a pipe”, (obviously representative of Prasong), holding article 309 of the constitution, was placed on a copy of the full document and set alight in front of representatives of the media.


Burmese military ordered to shoot down Thai aircraft

Air space violations may lead to disasters

Khajohn Boonpath
The Burmese Eastern Region Military Commander has ordered all units stationed along the Thai border in Mae Hong Son to immediately shoot down any Thai aircraft which are found to be invading Burmese air space.
The order was issued following a meeting between Thai officials and Burmese military leaders during which a petition was handed to Thai officials concerning Thailand’s night use of unmanned spy drones which had allegedly been penetrating 80 km into Burmese air space between February and April this year. Officials at the meeting had earlier discussed the many deaths of Burmese workers who were attempting to enter Thailand illegally.
Subsequently, a source at Mae Hong Son Airport’s flight communications department reiterated that no Thai aircraft had entered Burmese air space, and an official from the National Security News Agency stated that Burma had not yet acted on Thailand’s recent complaint that Burmese aircraft had been carrying out spying missions in Thai air space around Ban Pang Tong in Mae Hong Son two weeks previously. On receipt of the complaint, Burma had denied that it had carried out the missions.


Chiang Mai based major drug dealer arrested in Hat Yai

Houses and assets seized

One of the houses seized after the arrest of the drug dealer Anant Salae.

Saksit Meesubkwang
Police and officials from the Office of Narcotics Control board last week seized three houses in Chiang Mai and Lampang, valued at 15 million baht and belonging to suspected major drug dealer Anant Salae, who was arrested April 30 in Hat Yai, Songkla province, with two of his accomplices. At the time of the arrest, Anant was in possession of 1.4 kilos of the drug heroin, which was confiscated by the arresting officers and is being held as evidence. Assets including furniture and a large quantity of household items from the three houses were also seized.
Police have been tracking Anant’s movements for some time, and had established that he was instrumental in the trafficking of heroin and amphetamines, which were being smuggled into Thailand from Myanmar and delivered to dealers in the south of the country. Investigations continue in an attempt to trace the remaining members of the gang.


Seriously injured Karenni soldier gets treatment at Thai hospital

Fighting between Karenni and Myanmar armies intensifies

Khajohn Boonpath
A Karenni soldier who had been shot in the throat during a battle with Burmese army forces was taken on 20 hour journey to the emergency room of the Sri Sangval Hospital in Mae Hong Son, where he was examined and said to be in a critical condition. Local police have been informed.
Pay Lae, 36, whose unit had been on patrol six kilometres from their base when they were discovered by a Burmese army unit, was shot during a fierce 20 minute battle. A spokesman from the Karenni National Progressive Party said that the fighting between the Burmese military and the Karenni forces had intensified in spite of the heavy rains. The Burmese military has recently been moving supplies and weapons, including 50 mm machine guns, up to Burmese army units based at the Thai border.


Severe weather continues across the north

Landslides, serious floods, high winds cause damage

Heavy rain, high winds and storms in the Payamengrai district of Chiang Rai province on April 28 caused a flash flood to sweep down from Doi Mountain early that morning. The water level in 4 local villages reached 1 metre in some areas, and carried away stores of rice, fertiliser, property and domestic animals. At least 500 houses were affected, and many people had to be rescued from their homes. Pontoons were provided by the local administration to enable residents’ property to be salvaged.
In another area in the same district, severe floods gauged out a 50 cm trough in one of the main local roads, rendering the road impassable and causing difficulties for support and rescue vehicles. Water levels were estimated to have been between 50-70 centimetres. The heavy rains also caused a landslide on the nearby mountain.
In Chiang Mai, in the evening of April 28, storms and heavy rain caused damage to local Longan orchards, which had already suffered badly from the drought, with trees losing much of their fruit as a result. The rains, however, will enable the trees to recover quickly, and will also benefit rice farmers, whose current crops had begun to die through lack of adequate water.
Officials from the Meteorological Department in Mae Hong Son confirmed that the rainy season had begun one week earlier than expected. It is estimated that there will be more rain than usual this year, and that floods will occur in many districts as a result. Several cyclones are expected to move from the South China Sea to the north western areas of Thailand during August and September. The tropical cyclone Narisa has, at the time of writing, passed from the Andaman Sea through Myanmar, and is at present over the Chiang Mai area, causing exceptionally high winds and torrential rain. Reports of damage occurring as a result have not yet been received.
Residents over the entire northern and north western areas have been warned to safeguard their property against high winds, storms and flooding, particularly in watershed areas in mountainous regions.


Labour Day festivities for Chiang Mai workers

500 labour groups enjoy their day

Workers enjoying the entertainments
at Chiang Mai’s Municipal Stadium on Labour Day.

Workers from all over the city gathered on May 1, Labour Day, at the Three Kings’ Monument and the Municipal Stadium to enjoy activities, games, entertainments, fun, sports and a Miss Labour Day beauty contest, all aimed at fostering unity and closer relationships between all present, whether employers or employees.
The annual festivities were organised by the Provincial Labour Welfare and Protection Office together with private companies, and were attended by over 500 labour groups from state enterprises, private companies, factories and Hill Tribe groups.
The director of the Labour Welfare and Protection Office, Withala Withayasai, stated, however, that Chiang Mai was at present attracting large number of refugees and migrants from Myanmar, and that a survey had reported that a number of businesses were still breaking Thai labour laws by illegally employing migrants and alien workers. Both public and private companies are being asked to cooperate in registering with the authorities, and to closely follow rules and regulations related to such employment. Should they fail to do so, further action will be taken against them.


Mayor agrees budget of 70 million baht for municipal pawnshops

Parents pawn possessions to pay school fees

The Mayor of Chiang Mai, Dr. Duentemduang na Chiengmai, has agreed a budget of 70 million baht, more than in previous years, to enable the three Chiang Mai Municipal pawnshops to be able to service parents attempting to fund their children’s studies for the new term. The present economic situation has led to fears that more parents than usual will be forced to resort to pawning their possessions in order to enable the children to continue with their education.
The amount will be divided between the three shops according to their needs and the needs of the three overcrowded areas in which they are located; Thapae, Chang Puak and Chiang Mai Gate. A fourth pawnshop is under construction and is expected to open in the near future. Residents in need prefer to use the Municipality shops as the interest charged is at a lower rate than that charged in private concerns.
30 million baht has already been advanced to customers; the agreed budget will be topped up should it prove insufficient. Rates charged by the municipal establishments increase with the amount borrowed, and are set at 75 satangs per 100 baht up to 5,000 baht and 1 baht per 100 baht for amounts over 5,000 baht.


Dengue fever cases up by 80% in first quarter of year

10,910 infected, 12 die

CMM Reporters
Chaiya Sasomsub, Thailand’s Public Health Minister, reported last Monday that the number of cases and deaths from dengue fever during the first quarter of 2008 have increased by 80 percent when compared with the first quarter of last year. From January 1 to April 19, cases of dengue fever totalled 10,901, with 99 per cent of those infected making a complete recovery; however, 12 dengue fever patients have died during that period. The minister warned the public to be on the alert for symptoms of the illness, and to take preventative measures. He has also instructed local health authorities to instigate campaigns in order to eradicate the breeding grounds of the mosquitoes which carry the disease. Dengue fever is also known as “break-bone fever”, because the pain it causes to sufferers resembles that of broken bones.


Medical specialist issues pollution warning

Over 50% in Chiang Mai suffer from respiratory disease

Dr. Chaichan Photirat, a specialist in allergy and respiratory diseases based at Chiang Mai Hospital, announced recently that data from a lung health check program carried out amongst residents in Chiang Mai in 2002 showed that 30% of the population was suffering from respiratory disease. In 2005 numbers had risen to 42%, in the following years to 50%, and are still rising He attributes the increase to the growth of the city, the resultant increase in vehicle use, the increase in industrial plants and overcrowding, as well as to continuing illegal burning.
Chaichan stated that, as in all large cities, further growth and expansion inevitably results in a deterioration of air quality, which causes damage to the environment and an increase in pollution and the number of recorded sufferers from respiratory disease. He emphasised that burning of refuse, plastics, agricultural debris and forest areas should cease, and that residents should seek immediate medical help for any kind of respiratory problem.
The World Health Organisation’s levels of not more than 50 micrograms of dust per cubic metre of air are significantly lower than those, (120 mcg per cubic metre), set in Chiang Mai. For the vast majority of days in March and April, levels in the city were above the WHO’s recommended maximum. Medical experts in the field feel strongly that Chiang Mai’s levels are set too high, and should be significantly reduced.


Speaker of the House resigns; awaits trial for election fraud

2007 constitution “a trap to dissolve PPP”

Thailand’s Speaker of the House, Yongyuth Tiyapairat, who is facing trial on charges of electoral fraud during the general election held last December, resigned from his post last Wednesday.
Yongyuth, a deputy leader of the People Power Party, told a press conference that the main reason for his resignation was that he wished to uphold his own dignity as well as that of the parliamentary institution. The ex-Speaker said that he also needed time to fight his case in the Supreme Court, which is due to start Friday. The Election Commission has already issued him with a red card charging him with electoral fraud in his home town in the northernmost province of Chiang Rai.
Charging that the 2007 constitution, which was drafted by the coup-makers’ legal experts, is a trap to dissolve the PPP, Yongyuth said he wanted to be the “last prey of this constitution”. He also insisted that there was no hidden agenda behind his resignation. He had already taken, he added, temporary leave from his post, dating from February 26, and said his resignation would have no impact on his court case. He wished to clear the way for the appointment of a new Speaker who could influence MPs in approving constitutional amendment, which is being pushed by the PPP.
The PPP itself could be dissolved if Yongyuth is found guilty by the court. Since he has taken temporary leave, Speaker of the Senate Prasopsuk Boondej, who is also deputy Speaker of the House in accordance with the law, has been performing Yongyuth’s duties on several occasions. Most importantly, Prasopsuk will have to preside over the House when the government-pushed constitutional amendments are forwarded to parliament if MPs have not elected a new Speaker by that time. (TNA)


Internet cafes face stringent enforcement of laws

Fears of assembly for unlawful sexual purposes

Wibun Sa-nguanphong, Governor of Chiang Mai province, has announced a ruling by the Minister of the Interior, Chalerm Yoobamrung, concerning the strict control of internet cafes. There are fears that the cafes, popular with youngsters, are being used as assembly points for unlawful sexual purposes and the viewing of pornographic material by minors.
The Film and Video Act is to be forcefully used in the province in order to protect youngsters and to punish owners of internet cafes who operate outside the law. Police are to be instructed to regularly patrol the shops, particularly at night, and to ensure that the law is not being broken by way of staying open after permitted hours, allowing youngsters to assemble for unlawful pursuits, providing unsuitable video games and movies and allowing minors under the age of 18 to enter.
The Minister of the Interior considers that orderly management of such venues is essential to control and solve what he believes is a significant problem in today’s society. The city of Chiang Mai itself has an unusually large number of internet cafes.


Youngsters march to inform on consumer protection

Many problems, no help from officialdom

Children on the march on Consumer Protection Day.

Saksit Meesubkwang
Thai Consumer Protection Day falls annually on April 30, marked this year with a march by 50 children with the aim of informing local people about their rights in law concerning scams, dangers, victim situations, and the use of the law in consumer protection. Advice was also offered on the correct way to file complaints.
The march began at Thapae Gate, and was organised by Suparadat Suthipornwirot, cooperator with the Consumer Protection Club together with the local Public Health department and the Consumer Protection department in Chiang Mai. Suparadat stated that she hoped all Chiang Mai residents and all throughout Thailand would become aware of how to protect themselves against the many scams and frauds at present being operated, and to know the correct manner to in which to seek their rights and legal redress.
Ten major problems exist at present: the “rice share fraud”; so-called developers taking deposits and absconding; telephone scams offering prizes and requesting funds for transfers, (a variation of the notorious Nigerian internet scams), excessive advertising and sales of motorbikes without after-sales service provision; offering IOU’s to Buddhist monks or donations made by quotes as merit-making; the selling of sweets and desserts with no nutritional value outside schools; gyms which pre-sell memberships and fail to open; low quality, unclean and unsafe food sold in markets and roadside stalls; poisonous puffer fish being used in cooked foodstuffs without knowledge of correct and safe methods of preparation, and low quality foodstuffs with high pesticide content imported from China.
Suparadat stated that the above problems seem to be increasing daily. Efforts by consumer protection organisations to involve the relevant local authority offices have been unsuccessful, as officials seem to be avoiding taking responsibility for the legal rights of consumers.