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HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Mugger strikes on Changklan Road

Mayor’s monthly discussion meeting determines future of city

Fault lines under Chiang Mai confirmed by university study

New high-tech waste disposal plant opens in Doi Saket

Child Sexual Exploitation in Travel & Tourism

Threat to use force was ‘a tactical move’

It’s not over yet…Burma update

New TV Thai pilot station network for upper northern areas

Airport noise and air pollution continues at unacceptable levels

German Minister of Economy and Technology visits Chiang Mai

Huge quantities of illegal drugs to hit Thailand from Burma

Prisoners’ teak products criticised by Minister of Justice

 

Mugger strikes on Changklan Road

810,000 baht snatched from female employee

Saksit Meesubkwang
Last week, police were called to the scene of a mugging on Changklan Road, during which 810,000 baht was snatched from a female employee of a local karaoke bar.
Duangporn Saikamlue, 31, had withdrawn the amount from a local bank as wages for workers at her employers’ nearby karaoke bar, when the mugger, a teenager wearing a black shirt, had attacked her, knocking her to the ground and grabbing her handbag containing the cash whilst waving a fake revolver. He then fled the scene on a motorbike ridden by an accomplice.
Police investigated the robbery, and later arrested Id Tiangwan, 38. On questioning the suspect and the employees of the Karaoke bar, they discovered that a female worker was the girlfriend of a third accomplice, Bic, who had devised the strategy for the mugging, having received inside information about the timing of the payment schedule.
Id admitted under questioning that the robbery had been committed to obtain money to clear his gambling debts in various local casinos, and named the driver of the motorcycle as Chai, stating that he did not know either accomplice’s full name or location, only that Bic had previously been arrested and imprisoned for committing lewd acts. After the robbery, Id had redeemed his own motorbike from a local pawn shop, continued on to a casino, and lost most of the money gambling.
Police are investigating further in order to trace the two accomplices; however, they are convinced that Id is covering up for them by lying.

 

Mayor’s monthly discussion meeting determines future of city

Good thoughts for Chiang Mai at 712th anniversary

The second of the monthly meetings of residents of Chiang Mai with the Mayor and her representatives was held last week at the Chiang Mai Art Museum in the old city. Many people, both foreign and Thai, attended, and, as usual, many points were raised, some of which had been mentioned on previous occasions. Dr Chao Duangduan na Chiengmai, the Chiang Mai Cultural Council’s president, noted that April 12 had been the 712th anniversary of the founding of the city, and that projects at to establish the needs of Chiang Mai residents had been concluded. Many ideas and requests had been submitted, all of them expressing concern for the future development of the city.
Points noted were as follows: that the Womens’ Prison at present located in the Old Palace should be moved, and that the palace should be renovated and its immediate area should be given over to a “city field”, both to give more green space and to be used for special celebrations. Chiang Mai International Airport needs to be moved away from the city, as at present the number of flights is increasing, resulting in serious noise pollution and damage to homes in adjacent residential areas.
Central government should be approached regarding the need for another railway line, to facilitate an increase in services, which would result in more train journeys and less cars on the road, reducing accidents and the amount of fuel used. Public transportation should be improved over the entire area of the city and its environs; private car usage should lessen as a result. The local authority should work closely with the local community, and stop the destruction of dams and waterways which is threatening the livelihoods of local farmers in Chiang Mai and Lamphun. Green areas, the “lungs of the city”, should be increased; more trees should be planted along the Ping River banks, the roads, and at the historical sites. Renovation of the ancient city walls should be prioritized, and Chiang Mai’s many temples should be regarded as places of peace and contemplation, not as car parks! Hotels should not be decorated in traditional temple styles, out of respect. The city footpaths should be kept for walking only, and not used by vendors to sell their wares. The local authorities should develop strategies for dealing with the city’s garbage; recycling should be encouraged, as should using garbage to produce electricity. Residents should be encouraged to visit Wat Chedi Luang at the time of the City Pillar and Flower Offering ceremony, and roads which cut across temple grounds should be closed. The road between Chiang Mai and Lampang should be planted with new trees, and the field in front of Wat Jed Yod renamed as Tilokarach Field in respectful memory of the great King of Lanna of that name on his 600th anniversary. The local authority should be stricter as regards solving the problems of the city and enforcing its laws. Alcohol should be completely banned at Songkran; a correct dress code should be legally enforced during cultural ceremonies, and cars should be banned from the moat road during the festivities. Lastly, business owners in Chiang Mai should not be allowed to erect high rise concrete buildings - the city should not, under any circumstances be allowed to resemble Bangkok!


Fault lines under Chiang Mai confirmed by university study

Buildings over 15 metres tall at risk of collapse

Saksit Meesubkwang
A recent study and underground oil survey carried out by academics and researchers from the Earth Science Institute at Chiang Mai University has confirmed the existence of two horizontal fault lines running underneath the city at a depth of approximately 4-6 kilometres in the areas of Chiang Saen, Mae Chan, Chiang Khon, Fang, Mae Ai, Sansai, and Hang Dong districts, extending into Mae Hong Son province.

Prof. Dr. Samphan Singharajwarapan, Director of the Earth Science Institute.
Minor tremors in the area are quite common, particularly in Hang Dong and Mae Rim districts, the last being a 4.6 magnitude quake which occurred last year, the epicentre of which was under Maejo University in Sansai.
As a result, local authorities have been warned that, if an earthquake occurs, buildings over 15 metres tall, including schools and hospitals, may be, depending on their construction, at serious risk of collapse. Local administration authorities and the provincial office of public works are being warned that they should strictly enforce legal requirements for taller buildings under construction or at the planning stages.


New high-tech waste disposal plant opens in Doi Saket

Process capability of 350 tons of waste daily

Workers at the new waste disposal plant in Doi Saket.

Saksit Meesubkwang
Advanced technology and equipment including separators, bio-fertiliser and composting mixers, and waste water treatment facilities are features of a new hi-tech waste disposal plant constructed in Doi Saket on land leased from the Ministry of Agriculture to serve the needs of the 4 Chiang Mai districts of Doi Saket, San Kamphaeng, Sansai and Mae Orn. Experts from Chiang Mai University acted as consultants and overseers during the design and construction of the plant, which can process 350 tons of waste per day, and should cope easily with the 300 tons produced daily in the 4 districts. The 465 million baht cost of the project was provided by the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment.
The plant will be handed over to Chiang Mai’s Provincial Administration Authority, and is likely to be managed by a private company overseen by local administration officials, together with involvement by the Pollution Control Department and the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment.


Child Sexual Exploitation in Travel & Tourism

Protection workshop held at the Chedi Hotel

Staff Reporters
Last week, a workshop for the implementation of a code of conduct for the protection of children entitled ‘Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism’ was held at Chiang Mai’s Chedi Hotel, organised and supported by Kuoni Travel Ltd., in association with ECPAT, a Chiang Rai based NGO dealing with the prevention of child prostitution, pornography and trafficking. The event was the 5th workshop held in Thailand; the others having taken place in Bangkok, Pattaya, Phuket and Koh Samui.
Fausta Borsani, head of corporate responsibility at Kuoni, and Pravit Ekcharoensook of ECPAT hosted the seminar, with Lt. Col. Panya Cheamted of the Royal Thai Police in Bangkok briefing delegates on Thai law. Representatives from the Chedi, Shangri-La, Amari Rincome, Royal Princess, Dusit Hotel Chiang Rai and Legend Chiang Rai attended, although, as this was the first workshop of its type to be held in Chiang Mai, the organisers had expected a low turnout.
Fausta explained the company policy of the Kuoni Group, which includes a clause in all their contracts with hotels and businesses stating that child exploitation will not be tolerated. If a hotel or business is found to be in breach of this clause, the contract will be automatically terminated. She emphasised that, although the problems are not initially caused by tourism, they are fuelled by it. Hoteliers in Chiang Mai should take part in the eradication of the commercial sexual abuse of children by training and informing staff, and by immediately reporting any suspicious behaviour to the local police. Flyers, leaflets, and posters, etc are available to help achieve this goal.
Pravit then explained about ECPAT, a Thai NGO with international links, and stated that child prostitution, child pornography, child trafficking and child sex tourism is often connected. Thailand, sadly, is a major player in global trafficking; being both an origin, transit and destination. The demand for child prostitution is directly linked with discrimination, weak laws, corruption, irresponsible behaviour, (especially amongst peers), poverty, consumerism and supply. Anyone can be an offender - male or female, situational offenders exploit and abuse children, as well as international paedophiles. This can involve families, recruiters with promises of good jobs, pimps and organised criminal networks.
Lt. Col Panya explained that the government has signed the UN Convention agreement on child protection, and that as a result, police will enforce Thai laws to international standards. Such laws now include Section 276, which covers rape involving any penetration including same gender and also sex tools. Section 277 covers sexual intercourse with a child under 15, and 278 with a child over 15 and under 18. All of the above carry a penalty of imprisonment, as do the laws involving trafficking children with or without the parents’ consent. A recently passed law now coming into effect states that hoteliers, airlines, tour operators etc are also punishable if it is proven they are aware of the situation, even if they are not involved.
After lunch the group discussed various cases and scenarios. An emphasis was placed on making sure that hotels have a practical and understandable policy against the exploitation of children in tourism, and that all hotel staff have up-to-date knowledge about this policy and what to do should the situation arise. All guests should receive this information at reception when booking in, and posters, international campaign logos, hotline numbers etc, should be visibly displayed. Unsupervised children and youths should not be allowed to wander or loiter in hotel public areas, and all hotels should work with local law enforcement agencies and NGOs. All suppliers such as taxi companies, tour groups etc, should be made fully aware of the hotels’ policies. An Asian saying puts it neatly, ‘Tourism is like fire, you can cook your dinner on it, but it can burn your house down’.


Threat to use force was ‘a tactical move’

Staff Reporters
Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej’s aggressive approach against the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) has been seen as a bark more than a bite.
Deputy government spokesman Natthawut Saikua said Mr Samak’s announcement of his intention to use force to end the rally at Makkhawan Rangsan bridge was meant only as a threat.
“If he had had the intention to disperse the rally, he would not have waited until the rally grew,” he said.
A source close to the government said Mr Samak’s threat to disperse the demonstrators was “a tactical move to keep the demonstration at bay”.
“It will make the protesters not move, while discouraging others from joining. The government is not stupid enough to use violence and let things go the way the PAD wants,” said the source.
According to the source, Mr Samak’s threat was made after he learned the PAD planned to move to lodge a petition at Chitralada Palace yesterday.
A source close to the military said army commander Anupong Paochinda and First Army commander Prayuth Chan-ocha did not look worried after Mr Samak’s televised speech.
They were heard saying the situation would not require military intervention.
However, it was reported that a draft emergency decree was prepared. It would be imposed in Dusit, Phra Nakhon and Pomprap Sattruphai districts in Bangkok.
Mr Samak’s aggressive approach, which heightened tension, drew heavy criticism and was seen as a provocation.
Prinya Tevanaruemitrkul, a law lecturer at Thammasat University, called on Mr Samak to use a political approach to defuse the tension, saying the use of force would encourage more people to take to the streets.
However, he added that the PAD should also take a step back.
“The PAD’s objectives have been met. The charter rewrite motion has been dropped and PM’s Office Minister Jakrapob Penkair has decided to resign. It’s time to retreat and come back when something is amiss,” he said.
Human rights activist and lawyer Somchai Homla-or said Mr Samak should not violate the people’s basic rights to hold a peaceful rally, which is endorsed by the constitution.
After Mr Samak’s television broadcast, several civic groups yesterday issued statements calling on both the government and the PAD to avoid violence.


It’s not over yet…Burma update

Staff Reporters
After several days praising the outside world’s relief efforts, the Burmese military junta seems to be changing its tune again, according to its media mouthpiece, the New Light of Myanmar. Concurrent with reports that the military are evicting survivors from the hastily-constructed relief centres and forcing them to return to the devastated Irrawaddy Delta, the so-called “newspaper” is warning that foreign aid workers would snoop inside homes, and is condemning donors for linking aid with freedom of movement inside the worst-affected areas. Rejecting further aid, the junta stated that its people were able to feed themselves by fishing and by catching edible frogs, common during the monsoon season. Aid workers state that at least 39 camps have been closed down as part of a total closure plan.


New TV Thai pilot station network for upper northern areas

Decision follows good response from viewers

Saksit Meesubkwang
The chairman of the policy committee for the Thai Public Broadcasting Service announced recently that the TV Thai network would be introduced in the upper Northern Thai area in cooperation with TV Thai Northern Region, following local consultation exercises. If successful, the pilot scheme will be extended to other areas of the country. He stated that the upper northern area provides a variety of residents from all stratas of society, with differing financial situations and occupations. Factors which influenced the Public Broadcasting Service’s decision included location, equipment, personnel, and budget considerations; the new service is intended to support local communities by providing data, information, features and entertainment. It is hoped that the new service will be up and running within a few weeks.


Airport noise and air pollution continues at unacceptable levels

Local residents suffering from impaired hearing and concentration

Saksit Meesubkwang
A discussion was held recently between representatives of Chiang Mai International Airport, the Chiang Mai Environmental Bureau, and owners of homes in adjacent residential areas to consider solutions to the ever-increasing noise pollution from commercial flights.

A representative of the home owners in adjacent residential areas holds up a sheaf of photographs showing damage to homes caused by low-flying aircraft.

During the meeting, the president of the management committee of Nimmanoradee Village, situated close to the airport’s runway, stated that over the last 10 years, noise levels have risen to an unacceptable level due to the increasing number of daily flights and the extension of the runway to accommodate larger aircraft. Residents’ lives are becoming untenable, with children unable to study at home, people being unable to make telephone calls, leisure pursuits being interrupted, and people being woken up by late flights taking off at 12 noon and 2 am every night. As reported recently, the roofs of homes are also being damaged by the airstream of Thai Air 747’s on landing.
Requests are being made to airport authorities to suspend or cancel late night flights, and to seriously consider compromise measures that will improve the quality of nearby residents’ lives, many of whom are now suffering from impaired hearing and lack of concentration. A noise level study is due to be undertaken in the village in order to ascertain whether the noise level exceeds recommended limits.


German Minister of Economy and Technology visits Chiang Mai

Transportation development essential to fulfilling area’s potential

Saksit Meesubkwang
Last week, the Governor of Chiang Mai, Viboon Sa-nguanphong welcomed the German Minister of Economy and Technology, Michael Glos, and his entourage on the occasion of their visit to Chiang Mai to participate in a conference to promote northern Thailand as a strategic hub in the Greater Mekong sub-region. In his welcoming speech, Viboon noted that Chiang Mai is placed as a natural hub connecting the GMS as well as an established centre for industry, tourism, hotel and conference services; all of which play a major role in attracting Thai and foreign investment in the area.

German Minister of Economics and Technology (left) and Governor Viboon Sa-nguanphong on their way to the meeting.
Investment statistics for the upper northern regions show 237 projects have received investments to the value of 29,000 million baht, and employ 38,000 people each year. 129 of the project involve foreign investment, 55% of the total. 9 of the projects are German; trends indicate that this will increase in the future, especially in the software and electronics sectors, as Germany is expert in power, environmental management, communications and medical technology. The Governor added that tourists from all over the world visit the northern region and Chiang Mai for its beauty, its varied arts and culture its history and its friendly people. Chiang Mai is also a production center for the GMS and is therefore highly suitable for investors. It is hoped that the conference will encourage future more German investment in the area.
The German minister replied that he had first visited Chiang Mai 34 years ago, and was happy to return, although the city has developed a great deal since his first visit, and will no doubt continue to do so. He agreed that Chiang Mai is an investment and tourism hub and a production centre, and is well located for connections to the GMS region. More importantly Thailand’s long-standing democratic system can help to unite neighbouring countries, and has great potential as a result. He noted that, during the recent natural disaster in Burma, Thailand was the Aid center for many countries, and assured the Governor that he would recommend the area to the German government and to investors. However, he pointed out that development of all areas of transportation, air, rail, sea and land would be necessary before the area could fulfill its true potential.


Huge quantities of illegal drugs to hit Thailand from Burma

Wa drugs gangs believed to be increasing output

Saksit Meesubkwang
The Thai Office of Narcotics Control Board warned recently that up to 2 million amphetamine pills and large quantities of heroin may be smuggled into Thailand in the immediate future by members of the ethic minority Wa tribe, major players in the manufacturing and distribution of illegal drugs. From information gathered during recent arrests and interrogations, it would seem that the manufacturing of illegal drugs has been stepped up inside the Burmese border in response to increased demand, funded by eastern and central region drug barons.
The ONCB stated that scanners will be set up along all known border drug-smuggling routes and border posts, and that undercover teams will be sent into known areas to monitor information received. Since the second round of talks between Thailand and Burma concerning methods of suppression of the drugs trade along the borders, both countries are working together towards its control and final eradication.


Prisoners’ teak products criticised by Minister of Justice

Proceeds of sale go to prisoners’ expenses

At the recent sale of mostly teak products made by inmates of the 8 northern provincial prisons, held annually at Kham Tieng Market, the Thai Minister of Justice stated that he was unhappy with the present practice of using forest wood in the prison workshops. Although he approved of the efforts to instil vocational skills into prisoners in order that they would be able to find jobs on their release, he recommended that future sales should feature goods made from other woods, thus protecting the forests in line with the government’s natural resource preservation policies. If his advice is accepted, it remains to be seen whether alternative types of wood will be adequately protected against termite infestation, as salas and garden furniture comprise a substantial part of the prison workshops’ output.