NEWS
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Protestors gather in Chiang Mai and Lampang

Chiang Mai Mail settles into new home

Infamous Chiang Mai ladyboy gang arrested

Gang warfare at temple compound prevented by police intervention

New border regulations cause drivers’ protest demo

New border drug-detection technology to target foreign tourists and hill tribes

Chiang Mai national parks to host private businesses

Convicted ladies invite us for coffee or lunch

“Drugs by post” plot foiled

Phrae police “on their bikes” to prevent crime and riots

Founder of Chiang Mai Prostheses Foundation receives “Asian Nobel Prize”

Chalerm Phra Kiat flag arrives in Mae Sai

New TAT director talks with CM Mail and CM Friends’ Group

Taking giant strides forward

Chiang Mai Friends learn about Theravada Buddhism and the Thai people

 

Protestors gather in Chiang Mai and Lampang

Saksit Meesubkwang
Local political networks loyal to the banned Thai Rak Thai party and to the People’s Power Party (PPP) mounted a demonstration August 31 in front of City Hall, attended by protestors bussed in from all districts by over 100 songthaews hired for the occasion. The protest, in support of PM Samak Sundaravej and his government, requested that no force be used against PAD demonstrators and that Samak stay in office.
A local community radio station run by the owner of the Grand Wararos Hotel and president of the advisory committee to the “Rak Chiang Mai” group 51, Phechawat Watanaphongsirikul, has been broadcasting appeals for the general public to turn against the PAD and support Samak’s government.
A further pro-government demonstration was subsequently organised by Narisuan Thongyaem, chairman of the “Rak Chiang Mai” group 51 together with Phetchawat, in his capacity as chairman of the Northern Peoples’ Union for Democracy. Details of the new rally were broadcast on air, resulting in members of the public gathering in front of the Grand Wararos Hotel August 30, wearing red shirts. Phetchawat stated that, although demonstrations are allowed under the constitution, the 9 leaders of the PAD for whom arrest warrants had been issued should turn themselves in to police.
Later, on September 3, as the anti-PAD pro government groups continued their protest at the Grand Wararos Hotel, it was stated that donations were being accepted for the funeral costs of the man killed on the morning of September 2 during the Bangkok riots. Protestors were encouraged to resist any efforts by PAD supporters to cause disruption in the city or to occupy buildings. The rally is set to continue daily until the crisis is resolved.
In Lampang, more than 3,000 residents from 13 districts gathered in front of the town hall September 1 in support of PM Samak Sundaravej and his government. Many waved banners saying “Prime Minister, please fight on”, others waved the national flag, and some carried placards attacking the PAD and the Bangkok riots. Police ringed the rally, causing traffic jams around the area.
The Governor and Deputy Governor of Lampang spoke with the protestors, and stated the rally seemed to be a reasonable expression of democracy to which all have rights, according to the law of the land. The provincial authorities had been given previous notice of the rally, and were prepared to pass on the wishes of the people to the government.

 

Chiang Mai Mail settles into new home

With shoulder to the wheel and nose to the grindstone, we move forward to a brighter future

Buddhist monks consecrate the new CMM offices.

CMM Reporters
On the morning of Sunday 31 August, Buddhist monks from Wat Sam Khayom temple performed religious ceremonies to bless and ordain the new offices of the Chiang Mai Mail.
The ceremony was a joyful one attended by a small group of management and staff led by Kamolthep Malhotra (Prince) the General Manager and Director of Sales and Marketing and Khun Suthasinee Maneekul, chief accountant.
This bodes well for the Chiang Mai Mail and the people of Chiang Mai, for it shows our strong will and conviction to carry on and make a success of this incredible yet challenging venture.
Like all businesses, the growing up years is tough. We are no different. Chiang Mai Mail was established in 2002 with the intention of serving the Chiang Mai and the northern communities with news, information and entertainment, by being an honest yet objective voice of the people.
But getting to this point is no easy task. Good management is hard to get, especially someone who understands the trials and tribulations of the newspaper business and the needs of the community. But the most admirable quality of a winner, is someone who is willing to take punch after punch and still move forward to take some more.
We’ve made a few changes in these past 6 years and at times we wondered to ourselves whether it is all worth it.
But the Pattaya Mai Media Group, which is the mother company of the Chiang Mai Mail has a very strong conviction to carry on for the sake of the English speaking community in the north.
Someone asked Pratheep Malhotra (Peter) MD of the Pattaya Mail Media Group (PMMG) during one of our most difficult times, why he was prepared to lose more money in keeping the Chiang Mai Mail on the news stands week after week. “Because I’m passionate about the newspaper business and I promised the Chiang Mai community that what ever happens, we will hold on for as long as we possibly can…and we are holding on” he said boldly.
Prince Malhotra the GM, said, “After graduating from the Mahidol International College with a degree in Hotel and Business Management, I worked with my father for the past 6 years in Pattaya, managing the Pattaya Mail, Pattaya Blatt and the Pattaya Mail on Television departments of our media group. With all that experience, I can with determination say that I have learned the ropes of practically every aspect of this business.
I am looking forward to these new challenges and responsibilities in Chiang Mai.”
“With the help of our staff and especially the business and social circles, we can work together to improve the quality of lives in our communities through advancement of businesses and social caring of the needy.”
“Please stop by our new office to meet with me and discuss avenues of advertising and promotions of your businesses, announcements of your social events or just for a cup of tea or coffee and a few minutes of conversation.”
Our new office is much easier to find now. Located on 3029 highway, not very far from Mee Chok Plaza. The address is 209/5 Moo.6, T. Faham, A. Muang, Chiangmai 50000. The new telephone number is 053-852-557, and the fax number is 053-260-738. You can find the exact location on the map posted in our web site www.chiangmai-mail.com.
My e-mail address is: [email protected] and phone number is: 085 905 7661.

Suthasinee Maneekul (left) and Prince Malhotra preside
over the blessing ceremonies.


Infamous Chiang Mai ladyboy gang arrested

CMM Reporters
Revellers in the Chiang Mai late-night bars who sensibly decided not to drive home but sleep in their cars may have had an unpleasant shock recently, due to the activities of a rather unusual gang. The four person Gang katoey khwai, (Buffalo Ladyboy Gang), so named after one of their portlier members, would roam the city’s bar area looking for drunks resting in their cars after a heavy night out in order to rob them. The unpleasant shock would come when the gang, having removed any valuables from the car, would perform on the confused victim a certain service usually reserved for more private locations.
Until recently, possibly because of acute embarrassment on the part of said victims, police were unable to amass enough information to make arrests; however, all this changed on August 20, when a 34 year-old man walked into the local police station and blushingly admitted what had happened to him. Unfortunately for the gang, he had sobered up considerably by the time they found him, and was able not only to fight them off, but to identify his assailants from mug shots shown to him by police. Breathing a collective sigh of relief, police arrested the entire crew, including the obese member who had given the gang its distinctive name. When questioned, the perpetrators admitted everything – yes, everything – including the fact that they had robbed and molested at least 40 victims. Stolen property and pawn tickets were found and seized as evidence and the fumbling four were charged with robbery. It is not known, however, whether they will also be charged with sexual assault.


Gang warfare at temple compound prevented by police intervention

Saksit Meesubkwang
A violent confrontation between 2 Chiang Mai youth gangs was prevented by Saraphi police August 29, who arrested 34 gang members between the ages of 12 and 19.

Police arrest 34 youth gang members to prevent violent confrontation at temple.
A rival gang of youths had threatened the leader of the first gang, Soi, (an alias), several days earlier at the Wat Ping Noi mobile Dhamma Fair, and challenged him and his gang members to a fight to be held at Wat Khua Mung August 29. On receiving information about the planned violence, police arrived at the Wat concurrently with the first gang and arrested them. A sword, 4 home-made bombs, a quantity of fireworks and 19 motorcycles wee seized. During questioning, Soi, (an alias), told police that he had gathered together all his gang’s members and their weapons in order to fight the other gang.
After the arrested gang members, including one girl, had been warned not to congregate again and their details had been filed, their parents were summoned to the police station, charged with an offence, and told to take their children home. The weapons were confiscated and the motorbikes held for further checks.


New border regulations cause drivers’ protest demo

CMM Reporters
More than 200 cross-border transfer drivers based on the Thai/Burmese border at Ban Saohin Pass near the Salawin Wild Animal Reserve and Protected Zone blocked the road with 30 6-10 wheeled trucks last week in protest at new regulations introduced by the chief of the reserve, Somchai Prangnak.
Somchai had instigated a new requirement involving boarding passes for drivers taking goods vehicles across the border. It seems that some groups of drivers received passes valid for several days in order to make the trip to their destinations within Thailand, others received passes for just one day, not enough time to make the return journey from Mae Sariang to Saohin. The protesting drivers set up tents in the middle of the road, and demanded that Somchai and his deputy be removed from their jobs and that the checkpoint be opened on weekends. In reply, Somchai stated that he had acted within the law, and had given notice of the changes in advance.
Subsequently, on September 2, a meeting took place between the deputy chief of protection in Mae Sariang, Apiwat Promkhan and Somchai, at which it was decided that Somchai would take a day off and leave the reserve so that the drivers could pass through the checkpoint in the normal way. The protestors were partially satisfied with this, but insisted that their protest would continue until their full demands were met.


New border drug-detection technology to target foreign tourists and hill tribes

Kajohn Boonpath
Mae Hong Son’s Office of Narcotics Control Board, (ONCB) has recently received state-of-the-art drug detection technology, which is being introduced into northern Thailand after first being trialled in the south.
The device, known as Alpha 6, detects vehicles carrying narcotics, and was introduced as a result of reports that there were literally millions of amphetamines waiting to be shipped across the border in Mae Hong Son. It will be used to target foreign tourists and hill tribespeople who exhibit suspicious behaviour at checkpoints both in Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son provinces.
Mae Hong Son officials from the ONCB’s Narcotics Intelligence division and the local Provincial Defence Office have informed Myanmar officials across the border in Ratchan State of the new technology. It is known that drugs gangs in Myanmar traffic their wares into Thailand by means of transfers of small amounts on vehicles with hired drivers. Once through the border checkpoints, the drugs can be moved safely to distribution centres such as Chiang Mai. It is hoped that the introduction of the new technology will lead to more arrests and the confiscation of drugs.


Chiang Mai national parks to host private businesses

CMM Reporters
In an effort to improve facilities in national parks and boost tourism, the Ministry of Natural Resources has announced that a pilot scheme which will grant concessions to privately owned businesses, allowing them to operate within the parks is under consideration by the government.
According to Vichit Pattanakosai, deputy chief of the National Park, Plant and Wildlife Conservation Department, the 30 year concessions will allow entrepreneurs to provide restaurants, lodgings and shops within the parks’ boundaries. Recently, there have been complaints about the quality of the facilities available in the parks, with restaurants often closed and accommodation becoming run-down. Vichit, also the chairman of a government panel working on investment and tourism in Thailand’s national parks, stressed that the scheme would boost both sustainable tourism and local economies, and provide a regular source of income for local residents, who will be able to be employed in the new business ventures. Four national parks in Chiang Mai province have been selected as part of an initial10 nationwide – Doi Inthanon, Doi Suthep-Pui, Nam Dang, and Pha Hom Pok.
In addition to the pilot scheme, which is still in the planning stage, the ministry announced the creation of 17 new national parks, bringing the nationwide total to 148.


Convicted ladies invite us for coffee or lunch

Jan Verwers
Almost in the centre of Chiang Mai’s old city, just behind the Three Kings Monument, a group of impressive buildings houses the Chiang Mai Women’s Correctional Institution – the women’s prison, with about 1400 inmates.
Their sentences would be a lost part of their lives, were it not for the prison’s director Nawarat Tanasrisutarat and her dedicated staff, who encourage the inmates to take part in activities and learn skills which will serve them after their release. At present, the women can choose from courses in Thai body massage, handicrafts, cooking and baking, wood carving, gardening, computing, and many other skills. The prison runs its own massage parlour and gift shop.
Recently, a new project has been added - “Chaun Chom” - a restaurant and coffee shop. The menu shows an extensive list of Thai dishes, and the coffee shop serves several types of brewed coffee and fresh fruit juices, plus, of course, a variety of delicious cakes. Customers are served by a group of very friendly inmates who, by working in the shop, are being trained as waitresses.
Chaun Chom has indoor tables in a pleasant and bright setting, and a shady garden with an old Thai wooden house as a backdrop. By visiting for coffee or lunch, you will help to brighten up the daily lives of the trainees as they gain experience which will help them find employment after their release. Statistics show that that, particularly with female offenders, training or re-training inmates in preparation for their release reduces the chance they may re-offend by a considerable percentage, as having a skill to offer the jobs market means that poverty will not cause the temptation to return to criminal behaviour.
Chaun Chom is located on Ratvitee Road, 100, just behind the Three Kings Monument and the Chiang Mai Cultural Centre and is open from 8:30 a.m to 4:30 p.m. Next time you’re in the area, please do drop in for coffee and cakes, or for lunch. You’ll enjoy the experience and be helping the women as well.


“Drugs by post” plot foiled

CMM Reporters
A clever idea by border drugs gangs based on the Thai/Lao border which involved sending concealed amphetamines by parcel post was foiled September 1 by Chiang Rai police.
A tip-off that a reputable parcel delivery company, Siam First, was being used by smugglers resulted in a raid on the company’s Chiang Khong premises and vehicles, which revealed a consignment of speakers due to be delivered to Bangkok. Packed inside the speakers were 46,000 YaBa pills in 23 rolls, arranged so that no vibration could be heard when the parcels were moved. Police confiscated the drugs, and requested Viang Kaen police to investigate the sender, Prasit Amatachivanont, a Viang Kaen resident.
On investigation of the haul, it was found that the serial numbers were identical to those on a similar, larger haul found on another Siam First truck August 31 as it was approaching Bangkok.


Phrae police “on their bikes” to prevent crime and riots

CMM Reporters
As unrest grows across the kingdom following the Bangkok riots, Phrae province’s Bicycle Patrol Project is to be upped by another100 officers, who will patrol the Muang Phrae district on the lookout for criminals and potentially violent protestors.
Local police authorities are concerned that, although at present political gatherings are being held according to the law, things may turn ugly unless the countrywide crisis is resolved. As a result, numbers and frequency of police patrols have been increased, and are carefully monitoring the activities of protest groups. Checkpoints have been set up, and the public has been warned to be alert and to contact local police if any potentially criminal behaviour is noticed.


Founder of Chiang Mai Prostheses Foundation receives “Asian Nobel Prize”

CMM Reporters
Modern day commercially made artificial limbs are as far from the traditional image of the wooden leg as wooden ships are from modern ocean liners, but equally inaccessible to poor people here in the north of Thailand. Amputees from Thailand’s remote areas had no choice but to make their own prostheses from bamboo, spare metal parts or plastic pipes or to resort to using crutches. Until, that is, in 1992, the work of a young Thai surgeon, a graduate from Chulalongkorn Hospital’s Medical School, came to the attention of the late Princess Mother, who lent her patronage and support to establish the Prostheses Foundation in Chiang Mai. With support also forthcoming from private donors and the Thai national lottery fund, the young surgeon, Therdchai Jivacate, was able to expand his work with the poor, which continues providing free artificial limbs to the present day. When the Princess Mother died, the foundation’s Royal Patronage was taken over Princess Galyana Vadhana, who, sadly, died at the beginning of 2008.
As a tribute to his achievements, Therdchai was presented last month with the 2008 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Public Service, often referred to as the “Asian Nobel Prize”
His methods are straightforward and simple, although innovative at the time the foundation began 16 years ago – he relates his prosthetic limbs directly to the medical and lifestyle requirements of the amputees. In an early breakthrough, he recycled plastic yoghurt bottles to fabricate the artificial limbs, thus hugely reducing costs. Bearing in mind amputees’ occupations he designed a “farmer’s foot” for working in the fields and rice paddies, another for climbing hills and another for wearing flip-flops. Most importantly, he established field clinics for amputees in remote locations, with teams of doctors, technicians and volunteers, in order to bring his essential services to those who needed them. In one week, each clinic can measure, design, make and fit between 150-300 artificial limbs. To date, there are about 100 mobile clinics working in Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar, dealing with amputees who have lost their legs in accidents, from landmines, diabetes, snake bites or congenital disabilities. The technicians are often amputees themselves, trained by the foundation, which has established the first and only occupational therapy school in Thailand at CMU.
Therdchai himself, at 68 now officially retired but showing no signs of reducing his involvement, states that, “Seeing my patients smiles when they are able to walk on two legs – I just feel happy”.


Chalerm Phra Kiat flag arrives in Mae Sai

CMM Reporters
The flag representing the “116 days; National Mother’s Day to National Father’s Day“ events inaugurated to honour Thailand’s King and Queen and build unity amongst Thai peoples was received by the Governor of Chiang Rai from HRH the Crown Prince on August 30, and transferred to Mae Sai amidst much celebration on September 1.
Members of local and official organisations, businessmen and the Mae Sai general public assembled on the communal area in front of the King Prommaharat monument to welcome the flag and join in the celebrations, which were held September 2-8. The flag remained in Mae Sai until the last day of the celebrations, when it was handed over to officials from Mae Faluang district, who will continue the celebrations. From there it will pass through another 16 Chiang Rai districts before leaving the province.


New TAT director talks with CM Mail and CM Friends’ Group

CMM Reporters
At an interview kindly given to the Chiang Mai Mail and the Chiang Mai Friends’ Group last Wednesday, the new director of the Tourist Authority of Thailand’s northern region, Chalermsak Suranant, stated that local media should concentrate on promoting the city as a safe place to visit, and emphasise its varied attractions and events.
Upcoming events mentioned included arrangements for this November’s Loi Kratong festival, which include an expansion of the famous celebrations held annually at the meditation temple in Maejo, set in grounds behind the university. No-one who has attended the event will ever forget the awe-inspiring sight of 5,000 kratongs simultaneously rising into the night sky and drifting gently away, carrying with them the wishes and hopes of the huge crowd.
This year the celebrations, held on November 11-13, will begin at other temples and venues in the San Sai and Maejo areas with a huge festival on November 8, and regular designated songthaews will run from Wararot Rod up to San Sai and back during the festivities.
Several food festivals are due to be held in the next two months; the first, Kitchen of Lanna-Kitchen of the World, will run from October 9 to 15 at Airport Plaza, featuring both Thai and northern Thai food. The Chiang Mai Restaurant and Entertainment Association will be holding a food festival between October 31 and November 8, centred along the Canal Road between Huay Kaew Road and Suthep Road, featuring local dishes, entertainment and cabaret.
October 15 marks the end of Buddhist Lent, and will be traditionally celebrated at Wats throughout the Chiang Mai area. Special ceremonies led by local abbots and monks will take place at Thapae Gate and CMU.
During the interview, the director was asked if TAT could consider regularly providing for publication English language information regarding upcoming events of interest both to residents and visitors. It is difficult for foreigners who do not speak Thai to find the smaller cultural and traditional events for themselves, and many visitors would prefer to visit such events rather than to take the often commercially focused local tours offered by city agencies.
For travel information, please contact TAT Chiang Mai on 053-248-604, or 053-248-607, 8:30 am until 4:30 pm or their call centre on 1672, 8 am to 10 pm.


Taking giant strides forward

The Croston House fundraising walk

Pictured is Glen Croston with friends at Tuskers Bar’s benefit night,
held before he set out on his walk.

CMM Reporters
On Sunday 28, Glenn Croston, founder and director of Lamphun’s Croston House Children’s Home, and his wife, Rosjana, left the twenty-eight currently resident children and their own three children in the capable hands of Rosjana’s mother and father and traveled down to Banglamung in Chonburi province. There, they made the final preparations for a journey that they hope will raise enough money for their foundation to be able to buy land and much needed transport. They are also hoping to raise more awareness about their foundation, and to attract regular sponsorship from businesses and individuals both here in Thailand and overseas.
Glenn, originally from north-west England, has lived and worked in Thailand for nearly ten years, and intends to walk the return journey from Banglamung to Lamphun with Rosjana acting as his support vehicle driver-cum-cook/masseuse/photographer/nurse and much needed provider of moral support. After a farewell fund-raising party at Tuskers Bar on the previous Friday, the walk got under way at 7 am September 5 at Glen and Rosjana’s home in Banglamung, where they first started taking in disadvantaged local youngsters nearly three years ago. The first leg will take them to Ban Chang in Rayong province; with around 1,400 km to travel. In order to complete the walk in 45 days, they need to cover around 30 km a day to arrive on schedule at the foundation on October 19. Being away from the children for so long will be harder than the walk itself, according to the couple, but Glenn and Rosjana believe that, should they be successful, they will be closer to achieving their long-term goal of a permanent, purpose-built children’s home in Lamphun, making the separation worthwhile.


Chiang Mai Friends learn about Theravada Buddhism and the Thai people

CMM Reporters
The regular monthly meeting of the Chiang Mai Friends’ Group, held on August 27, was more than fortunate to have as its speaker Professor Dr Saeng Chandra Ngarm, highly regarded in northern Thailand as a “Diamond and guardian of the Buddhist faith”. Dr Saeng is also the chairman of the “Wisdom Bank” of northern Thailand, a project inaugurated and supported by Her Majesty Queen Sirikit, which focuses on reforestation, irrigation and forest reclamation.
Members of the group met up at the Maninarakorn Hotel, an attractive new building just up from the Imperial Mae Ping, and were welcomed with a tasty and varied buffet dinner, as well as by friends old and new. After the meal, Khun Boong and members, together with the hotel’s GM, planted 4 trees on wasteland opposite the hotel. The original trees along the borders of the land had been cut down; planting will continue until they are all replaced. The hotel staff will ensure the saplings are taken care of and watered.
After the planting, the member gathered in the conference hall, where Khun Boong announced that the new Chiang Mai Friends website was almost completed, and would be a bridge of understanding for all. The good news that 10 rai of unused city land had been donated to the Friends’ new Edible Garden Project was received with much enthusiasm. The land will be planted with indigenous trees along its borders; the interior will be used to plant organic “Tom Yam” vegetables. After explaining the project to new members, Khun Boong introduced the evening’s speaker.
In his introduction, Dr Saeng, speaking in excellent English, first explained the nature of Theravada Buddhism, which is practiced in Thailand, and said that it had been the philosophy of life for the population for over 1,000 years and had provided the foundation of Thai culture and civilisation. He mentioned that 92% of the 62 million Thais are Buddhists; therefore, their characters have been moulded by Buddhist thought. He continued with the question, “What is religion?” to which his answer was, “A philosophy of life”, and went on to describe the basic tenets of the Buddhist way of life practiced here in Thailand. The simple, unadorned clarity of his thoughts, expressed in a way all present were able to understand, made for a very unusual and thought-provoking talk. After he had finished, he answered written questions on Buddhism from his audience, so ending a fascinating and very enjoyable evening.