NEWS
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Visakha Bucha procession to Doi Suthep Temple attended by thousands

Election Commissioners issue “red card” to Boonlert

First Practical Seminar for the future development of Chiang Mai

Bangkok police arrest former UK policeman for human trafficking

Oil price surge forces 4,000 Northeast trucks to halt services

Smugglers of well-known erectile dysfunction medication arrested

New Mae Hong Song-Burmese border road to go ahead

No baby panda this year for Lin Hui and Chuang Chuang

Poll shows sharp drop in PM’s popularity in Bangkok

Women prisoners to staff “vocational training” public restaurant

New Cabinet Ministers announced

More arrests on drug smuggling charges

 

Visakha Bucha procession to Doi Suthep Temple attended by thousands

Traditional ceremony goes back more than 637 years

Saksit Meesubkwang
The traditional procession from the city up to Doi Suthep on Visakha Bucha Day, May 19, was thronged this year with thousands of celebrants, as it has been in Lanna for almost 700 years. Khru Ba Srivichai, who led the Lanna people in the construction of the 11 kilometre road up the mountain, is especially remembered and honoured on this special day in the Buddhist calendar. The festival follows a sacred tradition amongst the inhabitants of the Lanna region, and culminates in the ceremony of walking three times around the sacred stupa containing the Lord Buddha’s relics. It is believed that those who undertake the procession and the walk will attain great peace and happiness for their families and success in their business life.

 

Election Commissioners issue “red card” to Boonlert

Newly elected PAO president must resign

Saksit Meesubkwang
Last week the Chiang Mai Election Commission voted 3-1 to issue a red card ordering his forced resignation to Boonlert Buranupakorn, the newly elected President of the Chiang Mai Provincial Administration Organisation. The result will be submitted to the Central Election Commission for further review and consideration. Of the 5 members of the Election Commission, one did not attend the meeting.

The Chairman of the Chiang Mai Election Commission, Manop Sakdaporn, at the press conference on May 23, where the rumours concerning the red card issued to Boonlert Buranupakorn were confirmed.

Boonlert won the election, held on May 11, with a landslide victory, gaining 270,836 votes; however, a complaint concerning a possible breach of article 96 of election law was received on May 19, alleging that in the run-up to the election Boonlert had distributed CDs advertising his campaign at an entertainment event held at Wat Ched Yod on April 17.
Reports of the Commission’s decision, which were circulating within the community, were denied by its chairman until May 23, when the decision was made public at a press conference.


First Practical Seminar for the future development of Chiang Mai

Municipality listens to both Thai and foreign citizens

Yongyuth Ouipropassom, Deputy Mayor of Chiang Mai,
pictured here opening the seminar.

CMM Reporters
Last week, on May 23 at the Novotel Hotel, over 400 guests were invited to the “First Practical Seminar for the Strategy and Planning to Develop Chiang Mai City”. Guests from all walks of life were invited, and included municipality officials, traders, hoteliers, business people, and representatives of the local community. Yongyuth Ouipropassorn, Deputy Mayor of the City, opened the seminar, with the consultant to the Mayoral office, Sudchai Kannakulsoonthorn, also in attendance.
Guests were assured that ‘the Municipality is listening’ and all Chiang Mai citizens, whatever their origins, are invited to put forward their suggestions on how to move forward in the years ahead. The seminar’s agenda comprised seven major topics.
The first topic discussed concerned road and traffic problems, and also included public transportation, drainage and the lack of traffic lights. Second on the agenda was the environment, with an emphasis on the lack of adequate garbage collections, the pumping of sewage being straight into the moat and canal, the increase in vehicle pollution, unregulated tall buildings, the messy appearance of cable and telephone lines, the lack of green spaces and the lack of enough trees to produce adequate oxygen to sustain the population and improve air quality.
The third topic, human & society problems, included drug use, HIV/Aids, entertainment venues, (too many, too noisy, too late opening, no enforcement of proper rules of operation,), the increase in homeless children and the numerical imbalance of the local population towards old people, problems caused by the shrinking local economy, too many illegal immigrants and refugees, cheap and inferior products from China, and the poor maintenance of tourism venues and areas.
The fourth topic, the economy, a cause at present for much concern, raised comments that incomes are falling and prices are rising, resulting in too low an income for many citizens to buy necessities. The lack of career information was also mentioned as was the influx of immigrant labour, and the flood of cheap Chinese imports, making local products difficult to sell.
‘Safety in Life’, the fifth topic, concerned the increase in crime in the city, especially amongst teenagers, an increase in road rage, and a lack of early warning systems in place which would stop violence and trouble before it takes place.
Sixth on the agenda was the preservation of historical arts and cultures - essentially important in an area which relies on tourism for a significant part of its annual revenue. Times, obviously, have changed; as a result of changing ways of life and other influences, residents, particularly the younger generation, seem either to be no longer aware of the old customs and cultures, or to be ignoring them. Historical sites are not being correctly maintained, and there are few places showcasing the arts, culture and heritage of the city and province which are being controlled by the municipality, as most are in private hands.
The seventh and last topic concerned city management structures; comments included complaints about too much bureaucracy and the unsuitability for public access of municipality offices. A lack of co-operation from local residents was mentioned, as was a lack of local government evaluation of projects, which are often started but seldom, (or inadequately), finished.
Attendees at the seminar were invited to write down suggestions to address the problems above. Citizens who were not able to attend and who would like to make suggestions on how to solve the many problems of Chiang Mai and its future development may either write to ‘Chiang Mai Friends Group’ at retirein [email protected] or to the Chiang Mai Mail at [email protected] The mayor’s office have asked that names and contact details be provided with suggestions. The Mayor will hold another “meet the citizens” question and answer session on Wednesday, May 28, at the Art Museum behind the Three Kings’ Monument. To confirm attendance and submit questions, please email in advance to [email protected]


Bangkok police arrest former UK policeman for human trafficking

Link to UK sex slave investigation led to arrest

Tess Itura
A Liverpool ex-police officer was arrested last week in Bangkok on suspicion of people trafficking, after earlier arrests were made last month in London following an investigation by the Metropolitan Police into the alleged sex slavery of Thai nationals. Nine Thais were arrested and have appeared in court at Westminster, charged with conspiracy to traffic women within the UK for sexual exploitation, running a brothel and money laundering. During the police raids in London, 30 Thai women were freed, many of whom were being forced to work as sex slaves to pay off huge debt claims made against them by the gang, some of which were as high as 28,000.
Further investigation and co-operation between the Thai and UK authorities led to the arrest last Tuesday in Bangkok of Ian Shuttleworth, 42, who is accused of persuading women to travel to the UK with promises of restaurant work, but selling them to a brothel madam on their arrival. A statement from a UK Foreign Office spokesman indicated that they were aware of an arrest having been made, but that “we understand that charges are yet to be specified”.
Shuttleworth, who was arrested at his Bangkok apartment, is understood to have been operating a security company in the city which supplied bodyguards to prominent Thai personalities. His arrest followed a statement made by one of his unidentified victims in the UK, who told police that Shuttleworth had seized her passport and forced her to into prostitution in London and two other UK cities.


Oil price surge forces 4,000 Northeast trucks to halt services

Surging oil prices, particularly diesel fuel, have begun to take a heavy toll on transport operators in Northeast Thailand, with almost 4,000 trucks already idle, as their operators cannot take to the road under the circumstances, and are halting freight transport services.
Pramote Kongthong, president of the Northeastern Transport Operators Association, revealed that 449 members owning more than 10,000 trucks, had taken almost half of their trucks out of service Thursday because their businesses could not keep pace with the rising cost of fuel. Some operators have already closed their doors and shifted their commercial attentions to other kinds of businesses, having already sold their trucks to other major operators with larger amounts of capital.
Should the diesel price continue to surge to 40 baht per litre, he believed, the transport operators would have 1,000 more trucks out of service, causing a bottleneck for transport in the region. Pramote said the association was not indifferent to the situation, and had already begun to complain about the operators’ hardship to the government when the price of diesel fuel was 25 baht/litre. The earlier complaints had gone unheeded by the government, despite the fact that the transport sector is a key part of the economic system. “Some operators remain able to do business until now only because they have other supporting businesses to help,” Pramote explained. “They have attempted to adjust to the situation by adopting all available strategies, including using alternative energy for survival, but they still have a problem with having access to enough capital because installing natural gas for vehicle kits and the modification of truck engines requires high investment. Government intervention on this issue is essential”. (TNA)


Smugglers of well-known erectile dysfunction medication arrested

Viagra-derivatives found at Mae Sai “safe house”

Saksit Meesubkwang
At a recent press conference held in Mae Sai, local police announced the arrest of two Burmese suspects, Sor Nae and Yetu, both from Tachilek province, who are accused of smuggling derivatives of the prescription medicine Viagra across the Thai-Burmese border. At present, both the well-known medication for erectile dysfunction and its derivatives are prohibited imports.
Police had apparently received information concerning an address in Mae Sai which was being used as a safe house for the distribution of smuggled goods from Burma. On raiding the rented house, they discovered the two suspects and arrested them. 120 boxes of various brands of Viagra-derivative medications and a number of cartons containing various brands of foreign cigarettes, together worth approximately 50,000 baht, were found in the suspected smugglers’ possession, and were confiscated.


New Mae Hong Song-Burmese border road to go ahead

Environmental impact studied

Khajohn Boonpath
A feasibility study was recently commissioned by the Mae Hong Son Provincial Authority in order to study the environmental impact on local road networks of a plan to develop the interstate road from Ban Mae Nam Laeb to Tambon Daohin, on the Burmese border. The aim of the new road is to facilitate cross-border trade.
All roads in the area, which contains national forest land, national parkland, watershed areas, and wildlife sanctuary areas, must by law be constructed in line with 11 precepts, to ensure the preservation of the environment of the entire area. For all proposed new roads and roadworks, local environmental effects must be studied, and the correct permits applied for.
On May 13, a seminar was held in Mae Hong Son for interested parties and local authorities to discuss the findings of the feasibility study as regards both the proposed new highway and other roads in the area. Opinions were sought concerning the effects of actual construction on immediate areas, with three local roads at present under development selected as examples for discussion. It was agreed that the proposed new highway should be developed, within the limits of the allocated 2009 budget.


No baby panda this year for Lin Hui and Chuang Chuang

CM Zoo’s breeding pair may be affected by Chinese earthquake

Lin Hui and Chuang Chuang, Chiang Mai Zoo’s pair of Giant Pandas.

Saksit Meesubkwang
In spite of Chiang Mai Zoo’s veterinary experts’ concerted efforts over the last five years, it seems that, yet again, female panda Lin Hui has no intent of becoming a mother just yet. With only 10 days left in the present breeding period of March through May, her partner Chuang Chuang is reported to be “not calm”! Techniques used in China to stimulate Lin Hui’s readiness for breeding, including warming the exhibition area, allowing more sunlight and the administration of vitamin E, will continue to be tried up until the last minute, but officials at the zoo are admitting that it will take a miracle to get the reluctant panda to accept her mate.
Pandas have proved to be extremely difficult to breed worldwide; the main reason seems to be the reluctance of the female to mate, although there may well be a different reason right now, connected with the recent devastating earthquake in Sichuan Province, China, the original home of both Lin Hui and Chuang Chuang. Since the earthquake, both pandas have been very unsettled, and the head of the Panda Research Project in Thailand feels that it is possible that they may have some form of communication with the pandas in Chengdu. Reporters noticed that, after the recent press release was issued, zoo officials exhibited a board with photos of the earthquake zone and a donation box in the pandas’ exhibition area. Lin Hui and Chuang Chuang ate some bamboo leaves, looked at the photos on the board for a while, then lay down and put their paws on each others’ foreheads, after which Lin Hui climbed a tree and rested her chin on a branch. The breeding pair both looked very sad.
The Wolong Giant Panda Reserve is situated some 20 miles from the epicentre of the earthquake; recent welcome reports have stated that, although the facility itself has sustained serious damage and two of the pandas are missing, the rest, around 60, are safe and unharmed. Tragically, though, five of the sanctuary’s staff members were killed. An emergency shipment of 5 tons of bamboo leaves, the pandas’ primary food, together with apples, soybeans, eggs and milk powder has already been delivered. 8 pandas at a sanctuary in Ya-an, west of Chengdu, are reported to be safe, as are another 60 at the Chengdu Panda Research Project, although the project itself has sustained major damage.
Concerns are being expressed about the emotional state of 8 pandas from the Wolong Reserve, who arrived by air with their keepers in Beijing in preparation for their display during the Olympic Games in August. A spokeswoman for the US-based organisation Panda International said that as they seemed nervous and were eating and sleeping less since the quake, they will be carefully monitored. It was also stressed that, although 6 million tourists are expected to visit them during the period of the Games, the focus of the exhibition will be on the conservation, breeding and protection of this rare and endangered species rather than on the provision of just another tourist attraction.
Because of the severe damage and loss to the Chengdu Panda Research Project, several Zoo authorities across Thailand have set up a support fund, which will be able to receive donations at Dusit Zoo, Khao Kiew Open Zoo, Chiang Mai Zoo, Nakhom Ratchasima Zoo, Songkhla Zoo, the Siam Paragon Department Store and all branches of The Mall Department Store.


Poll shows sharp drop in PM’s popularity in Bangkok

The popularity of Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej amongst the Thai capital’s residents has dropped sharply, with more than half being unhappy with the behaviour of politicians in general, according to a survey by the Assumption University ABAC Poll.
The survey was conducted in order to seek the opinions of people living in metro Bangkok and its environs with a random sample of 2,008 persons on “The Current Political Situation in the Eyes of the Public,” and found 87.8 per cent of people surveyed felt uneasy with the conduct of politicians across the board at present. 61.5 per cent believe that proceeding with the constitutional amendment process will lead to violence, with 60.6 per cent saying they think there might be a coup, and 59.9 per cent fearing there will be a seriously disruptive incident in Bangkok.
Asked how they felt about the performance of the political parties they elected as regards solving people’s hardships, 58.6 per cent said they were disappointed while 41.4 per cent stated they were satisfied. When asked which ministers should be removed in a cabinet reshuffle, 39.5 per cent opted for PM and Defence Minister Samak, and 37.8 and 33.9 per cent chose Interior Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung and Prime Minster’s Office Minister Jakrapob Penkair respectively.
The survey also showed public support for the premier had dropped significantly to 21.4 per cent in May from 45.4 per cent in February, whilst public discontent had increased to 47.3 per cent from a previous figure of 36.8 per cent. When asked to suggest the best way out of the current political impasse, 38.6 per cent said there should be a cabinet reshuffle, 26.6 per cent stated there should be a new election and 17 per cent thought the constitution should be amended. (TNA)


Women prisoners to staff “vocational training” public restaurant

Varied, tasty menu and fresh coffee

Saksit Meesubkwang
May 17 saw the opening of a vocational training facility at Chiang Mai Womens’ Prison, in the form of a restaurant open to the public between 8:30 am and 5 pm.
Women prisoners will be trained in both cooking and serving, and will be offered on-the-job training to improve their skills after their release.

A cookery lesson at Chiang Mai Womens’ Prison in preparation for the opening of the new public restaurant.

Vocational training in trades including dressmaking, hairdressing, painting and traditional massage techniques is offered at the prison, and is aimed at helping offenders to have the opportunity to lead normal lives after their release. Products manufactured at the prison by the women are already being sold to Night Market traders.
The newly opened restaurant is the second of its kind in Thailand, the first being in Bangkok, and intends to offer a varied and tasty menu together with fresh coffee and fruit juices at fair prices. It boasts an attractive setting in a traditional wooden Thai house in a peaceful area in the grounds surrounded by mature trees. Proceeds will be put towards the women prisoners’ expenses.


New Cabinet Ministers announced

In a cabinet reshuffle announced May 23, Deputy Public Health Minister Chavarat Charnvirakul was appointed Minister of Social Development and Human Security and Wicharn Meenchainant was appointed as Deputy Public Health Minister. His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej endorsed the appointment of both men in a Royal Command announced on Friday. Chavarat replaces Sutha Chansaeng, taking over a portfolio which largely deals with social affairs.
Sutha resigned May 8, citing poor health as his main reason for leaving the six-party coalition government. He was the first minister to have called it quits since the coalition led by Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej took office on February 6. Earlier, it was alleged by the opposition Democrat Party that he had a problem with his educational credentials, which may have cost him his job. (TNA)


More arrests on drug smuggling charges

50,000 amphetamine pills seized

CMM Reporters
On May 17, information received by Chiang Rai police led to the arrest in Mae Sai of a Burmese national and two Thais, and the confiscation of 50,000 Yaba pills.
Sombat Tanoi, 31, a resident of Phrao, had been employed by the dealers to transport the drugs from a house in Mae Sai belonging to members of the gang, Hom Heng, 34, and Sitthichai Kunsuwan, 25, to distributors in Chiang Mai province. After collecting the drugs, Sombat had stopped at a local garage, where he was arrested and his car searched, revealing the pills hidden under a rear seat. Subsequently, police arrested Hom and Sittichai at the Mae Sai house where the drugs were being produced.
During questioning, Sombat agreed to make the promised delivery to the distributors in Chiang Mai, in order to aid police in arresting them. The remaining gang members, however, made their escape, having been informed of the raid by an unknown person. Police are aware of their identities, and are expecting to arrest them at a later date.