Vol. VII No. 33 - Tuesday
August 12 - August 18, 2008



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by Saichon Paewsoongnern


NEWS
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Ethnic group’s non-Thai ID cards challenged by villagers

Alarming results of major Unesco/Bureau of Social Development survey

Thieves concentrate on estate houses

Avian flu concern prompts prevention drills in Mae Hong Son

Driver’s narrow escape as car catches fire

Chiang Mai company donates rice seeds and tents to Burma

CM Zoo’s giant new aquarium causes environmental concern

Night Safari success in breeding Bactrian camel

Last suspect in attempted murder of Chiang Mai editor arrested

Biggest ever meth seizure; Ayutthaya drugs bust; link to Red Wa broken

New Green Project announced at Mayor’s monthly meeting

 

Ethnic group’s non-Thai ID cards challenged by villagers

Local headman accused of dishonesty

Protesting members of Moo 2, Wiang Haeng’s village committee,
shown examining the letter of complaint.

As many as 600 members of ethnic groups resident in Wiang Haeng sub-district who were recently issued with non-Thai ID cards allowing them to seek work are having their status challenged by their local district administrative organisation on the grounds that the majority of the documents were issued illegally without the necessary approval of local Thai residents.
Kham Toonlah, a member of Wiang Haeng’s Moo 2 local organisation, together with 5 other committee members, handed in a letter of complaint addressed to the governor of Chiang Mai province, Wibun Sa-nguanphong, who was, at the time, away on official duties. Villagers’ complaints were based on two issues, firstly, the issuing of non-Thai ID cards to 513 immigrants, claimed to have been done illegally and dishonestly by the village headman, Chakrapong Chariya and two others, as villagers were not consulted. Consultation and voting had previously taken place concerning 72 other successful applications. Secondly, Thai residents in Wiang Haeng sub-district number 20,000; it was claimed that currently a further 50,000 immigrant’s names had been registered for processing in the district.
Villagers’ concerns expressed in the letter include the possible, but not confirmed, destruction of forest areas in order to provide homes, and the possibility of expanding areas being given over to business premises in order to provide work. There are also concerns about droughts in the area as a result of over-population. The letter requests that the government reconsiders the list of registered names with a view to the possible impact on the local environment.

 

Alarming results of major Unesco/ Bureau of Social Development survey

3 million northern Hill Tribe and stateless people living in poverty

A major survey, carried out over three years by the Bureau of Social Development and Unesco amongst residents of 192 villages in Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Mae Hong Son provinces has revealed that the lack of citizenship and ID cards is the main reason why up to 3 million Hill Tribe and stateless people are living in abject poverty, lacking access to education, health care, the right to buy land, and the right to vote. During the survey, over 63,000 people in the north were interviewed by a team of researchers, who were forbidden to enter a further 700 villages situated in military zones along the Thai/Burmese border.
David Feingold, an anthropologist and expert in the study of human trafficking, states that lack of citizenship and proof of identity makes Hill Tribe people particularly vulnerable to human trafficking and exploitation. Hill Tribe men are often driven to commit crimes such as drug-smuggling due to their inability to travel and find work to support their families, he says. Many long- time migrants have never been registered because the original surveys were never carried out in the hills, and many policies were not translated into other languages, leading to lack of understanding amongst migrants and long-term residents as to their rights.
According to former Chiang Rai Province senator Tuenjai Deetes, the problem has been recognised by previous administrations, but there had been difficulties in determining between new arrivals from Burma and tribal people whose families had lived in Thailand for generations. Tuenjai said, in addition, that the laws were complex and some officials “had bad attitudes”. However, since 2006, 50,000 ethnic students have been given ID card so that they can attend school and travel to different areas to study.
A key problem would seem to be that tribal people are not aware of their rights.
Chutima Morlae-kul, an Akha expert on legal status and minority rights, has suggested the government hold seminars for officials in order to train them in professional and objective conduct. She states that officials often allow their personal feelings to interfere with their jobs.
Even when there are legal grounds, citizenship can take up to 10 years to achieve, causing many to simply give up and resort to male or female prostitution. “Without citizenship there is nothing else we can do; all other roads are closed”, Chutima said.


Thieves concentrate on estate houses

Three drug addicts used cash to feed their habits

A Thai couple and their Burmese friend who had concentrated on robbing houses on estates after residents went out for the evening were arrested July 29 by Region 5 police. Chao Panyawongse, 34, of Chiang Mai Kittiphong Singku, 33, of Lamphun and Mun, 19, of Burma, who admitted to 10 burglaries undertaken to feed their drug habits, were caught in possession of a Canon camera with lens, flash and bag, a Dell Inspiron notebook, a Nokia mobile phone, a Seiko wristwatch, a Yamaha motorcycle and two amphetamine pills.

The three accused, pictured as the owner identifies his stolen items.
The three drove around at night, looking for empty houses to rob; two climbed over walls and broke in and the third waited outside to warn his accomplices by phone of any danger. The stolen items were sold to pawn shops in the city’s moat roads and the money was used to buy drugs and visit entertainment complexes.
The seized items were stolen from the Lanna Park Village home of Peter Wolk, (65) a retiree from the USA, who had contacted police to inform them of the burglary. He was surprised to receive a phone call asking him to come and identify his property the next day, and stated that he was very impressed with the prompt arrest of the culprits.


Avian flu concern prompts prevention drills in Mae Hong Son

Refugee camps to be monitored

Kajohn Boonpath
Although the province’s birds are at present virus-free, increasing concern in Mae Hong Son that the disease may be introduced from Burma has resulted in a raft of preventative checks and measures being implemented.
Concern is focused on the refugee camps along the border, as the numbers fleeing from persecution are increasing and more are being moved into the camps, often bringing their livestock with them. World Health Organisation reports of outbreaks in neighbouring countries are also on the increase. Preventative measures which will be carried out at Ban Nai Soi and Ban Mai Mae Surin refugee camps include monthly spraying of the localities, and all livestock delivered to the camps will undergo rigorous testing before it can be certified as disease-free by the Livestock and Public Health Departments. If unexplained livestock deaths occur, inspectors will be sent in to discover the causes.
Phongdaech Thipdaech, Mae Hong Son District Chief, chaired a meeting on July 29 of local and provincial government authorities, at which Avian Flu prevention drills were presented by Chamlong Ariyachak of the Mae Hong Son Livestock Department. Tourist promotions are being undertaken, guaranteeing the safety of foreign visitors by certifying that the province is virus-free.


Driver’s narrow escape as car catches fire

LPG gas installation is blamed

A cost-conscious motorist from San Sai, Somchai Klasuthirang, (48), received an unpleasant shock when his Volvo, recently modified to burn LPG gas, erupted into flames as he was driving into town. The police, who had been called by Somchai after he had put a safe distance between himself and the fire, arrived to find a team of rescuers attempting to put out the fire, which was contained in the car’s engine compartment. After 20 minutes using chemical extinguishers, the volunteers managed to extinguish the flames; however, it soon became clear that the engine had been badly damaged. The likely culprit, of course, is the LPG gas tank installation. Poor Somchai could now be thinking that a few more baht per kilometre would have been cheaper than a new car or a new engine!


Chiang Mai company donates rice seeds and tents to Burma

Bantoon Jirawattanakoon, the CEO of Chiang Mai Thanathon Ltd, with his wife Saijit, journeyed to Mayangon township, Burma on August 2 to donate 1500 baskets of rice paddy strain seeds and 100 tents to the victims of Cyclone Nargis. The generous gift was received at the town’s Fire Service Department’s head office by Brigadier-General Kyaw Myint, the Junta’s Deputy Minister for Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement, on behalf of the Cash and Kind Accepting and Supervisory Committee. Kyaw later presented certificates of honour and his thanks to the couple.


CM Zoo’s giant new aquarium causes environmental concern

Exploitation of marine animals to bring in the tourist dollar

The giant new tunnel aquarium at Chiang Mai Zoo, due to open in October, is a cause of growing concern amongst environmentalists worldwide over the issue of exploitation of marine animals to benefit the tourism industry. Over 8,000 species of marine life are expected to be housed in the huge structure, which is being built by the Zoological Park Organisation, (ZPO). A ZPO spokesman recently reported that the aquarium is 95 % complete, and promises to become a major attraction for both foreign and Thai visitors.
The project was started during Thaksin’s premiership, and is a joint operation between the Thai government and an Australian company, Marine Scape, which will be in charge of its management and the selection of marine inhabitants it will contain.
The Thai authorities, is has been reported, do not have the skills necessary to undertake responsibility for such a large installation. 60% of profits made will go to Marine Scape; the remainder to the Thai government.
However, marine wildlife advocate Nikhom Puttha has stated the growth of aquariums as a tourist attraction is posing a serious threat both to the survival of marine life in its natural habitat and to the ecological systems which depend on a balance between species. He rejects Marine Scape’s claim that breeding farms will be able to sustain the aquarium, and notes that the original breeding stock will have to come from the wild, mentioning that marine parks worldwide have reported a decline in exotic marine life in its natural habitat during the past several years. He suspects that the cause may be that many have been captured and sold to aquariums across South-East Asia.
Nikhom accuses aquariums and zoos of focusing on the tourist dollar rather than on the welfare of the animals in their care, and of missing out on educational opportunities, the creation of environmental awareness, and the protection of endangered species. In reply, the ZPO chief said that at least 90% of the species on show would be local and not protected, and that imported species would need to have the correct certification to prove that they had been legally obtained and not from the wild.


Night Safari success in breeding Bactrian camel

Species critically at risk in the wild

Saksit Meesubkwang/Elena Edwards
At a recent news conference held at Chiang Mai Night Safari, veterinarian Chatree Kuhatheparak announced the birth of a rare bay Bactrian camel, the first successful birth in Thailand. The baby has been named Sai Nam and was born to Sai Fon, its 12 year old mother, and Sai Fa, its 9 year old father. At present, baby Sai Nam is being cared for in the Night Safari’s Animal Hospital’s nursery, where it will remain for one year before being released back into the fold. According to Chatree, Sai Nam’s weight has rapidly increased since birth to 52.4 kilos. The team of veterinarians is understandably overjoyed at the birth!

Pictured here with Chatree Kuhatheparak is the cute baby Bactrian camel recently born at Chiang Mai Night Safari.

The two-humped Bactrian camel, (Camelus bactrianus), is native to the steppes of North-Eastern Asia, and is one of the two surviving species of camel, the other being the well-known single-humped Arabian dromedary. Nearly all of the 1.4 million Bactrian camels alive today are domesticated—less than a thousand are known to be living in the wild in north-west China and Mongolia; as a result the species has been placed on the critically endangered list. In 2007, the Edge Project, led by the Zoological Society of London, identified the Bactrian camel as being one of the 10 most “at risk” mammals, all of which are now the focus of a unique conservation effort being undertaken by British scientists. The Edge Project is the first global-scale programme specifically developed to focus on one-of -a -kind critically threatened animals in the wild, and is working to protect some of the world’s most extraordinary species. The domesticated Bactrian camel is on the verge of extinction in India.


Last suspect in attempted murder of Chiang Mai editor arrested

Gang hired to kill prominent newspaperman in 2000

Special investigation team police officers from region 5 arrested Chan Paomongkhon (53), wanted since the year 2000 for the attempted murder of Amnaj Jongyosying, editor/owner of the Northern Thailand Newspaper, and chairman of the Chiang Mai Journalist Association. Amnaj, who had been reporting corruption in the Provincial Administration Organisation in his newspaper, was shot and seriously injured in April 2000 by a gang hired to kill him. Three of the gang, Sgt. Suchon Sueprem, Sgt.

Amnay Jomyosying, owner/editor of the Northern
Thailand News, the victim of the attempted murder.

Pongsakorn Inthong and Sgt. Maj. Wannapoj Wannawut, all of whom were members of the military, had been arrested earlier; a fourth, Prapan Kladsombat, was finally arrested in the Chang Puak area earlier this year. Suchon, Pongsakorn and Wannapj were brought to trial; after 2 years the case was dismissed and the suspects released due to “lack of evidence”, as the instigators were not identified by the accused— a decision which, at present, is under appeal.
After his arrest, Chan Paomongkhon stated that he had been on the run for 9 years, mostly hiding out and working in gambling shops and casinos, first in Bangkok and later in Cambodia. When the Cambodian casino had closed due to the crisis regarding Preah Vihear, he had decided to surrender to the police. He denied being an accomplice in Amnaj’s attempted murder, and said he was determined to clear his name. Chan stated that he had only been hiding to avoid being killed on discovery by the Thai police as he had been incorrectly branded the most wanted gunman in the region.


Biggest ever meth seizure; Ayutthaya drugs bust; link to Red Wa broken

Police, pictured with the huge haul of drugs seized
after the arresat of Afa and Somsri Saenleaw.

Saksit Meesubkwang/CMM Reporters
Chiang Mai police have made Thailand’s biggest ever haul of crystal methamphetamine, seizing 10 kilogrammes of the illegal drug commonly called ‘’ice’’, as well as 370,000 speed pills. A married Lisu couple, Afa and Somsri Saenleaw from Chiang Dao, were arrested in the bust, according to Police Region 5 commissioner Sathaporn Duangkaew. Three vehicles, a bank account worth over one million baht, and 390,000 baht in cash were also seized, together with 70 million baht’s worth of assets including 4 houses, 97 cows, jewelry and watches. The couple denied any involvement in the drug trade. Sathaporn said the crystal meth seizure was Thailand’s biggest ever and that the two suspects belonged to a major drug trafficking gang. The route of the drugs out of Thailand is believed to have been through an agent in Bangkok; the destination is thought to have been Taiwan. Information received suggests that there may be another 1 million methamphetamine pills yet to be found in the Mae Taeng area.
In Ayutthaya province, more than 10,000 speed pills were seized during a two-day crime crackdown in 16 districts. More than 100 suspects were held on charges ranging from drug dealing and robbery to illegal possession of firearms.
A drugs bust in Chonburi last week netted three traffickers suspected of being linked to Red Wa suppliers, together with 294,000 “speed” pills and assets worth more than 5 million baht. Thanakorn Nontyos, Puek Saeti and Piya Supaejit were arrested on their way from Chiang Mai to dealers in the province. Speaking at a press conference, Pol Lt-Gen Wut Liptapallop, commander of the Narcotics Suppression Bureau, confirmed that Thanakorn was a major player in the Red Wa drug distribution network


New Green Project announced at Mayor’s monthly meeting

Use of vacant land will encourage self-sufficiency

A project to encourage the use of all spare and vacant land within the city for growing indigenous herbs, flowers and other plants was announced at the most recent of the Mayor of Chiang Mai’s monthly meeting with residents, held August 5.
The meeting began with a light buffet meal of Pad Thai and fruit for all attendees; from then on it was “standing room only” in the meeting hall, as numbers were up to 135, 15 of whom were foreign residents. Several representatives of various local organisations stood to ask questions; to the relief of the farang attendees, a translator provided a resume after each question and answer. Amongst the subjects discussed were the appearance of the city, a design contest to regenerate some of the city’s Lanna buildings, a one-way traffic system on the old city, problems with wheelchair access on sidewalks if trees are planted, and the state of the paving in the Walking Street. The answer to this last issue was given by the Mayor, in that, as there are not enough municipal workers to deal with what is considered an urgent job, a budget will have to be allocated in order to use a private company. The large buses which are causing a great deal of traffic congestion will, according to the Mayor, be removed, and an attempt by a representative with a slide show who tried to compare the Wararot Market area with a similar area in Germany, was gently rebuffed with the words, “It’s like comparing apples with oranges”! It was also mentioned that, at present, there are “areas of conflict” within the local authority, which are causing problems getting things done.
The last item on the agenda was Khun Boong’s presentation of the new project, which will involve the cooperation of Chiang Mai Municipality, Chiang Mai Friends group and local companies. The main aim is to enable low- income individuals to plant indigenous herbs, flowers and other plants on unused ground in schools, temples and on both private and public land in the Municipal areas. The principle of self-sufficiency can thus be supported, together with environmental improvement. An initial one –year duration with a three month test period to be carried out, is proposed. It is hoped that hotels, restaurants, international schools, etc, will purchase the products as part of their community service activities, and booths at various events and organic markets could also be used. Low-income growers will be offered loans from the project, which they will be expected to pay back at the end of the first year. During the second year of the project, regular growers will be expected to rent the land. Product quality control will be carried out by the Royal Project Foundation and Chiang Mai and Maejo universities; the produce will then be packed and labelled as organic.



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