Chiang Mai and northern provinces flooded again – more deaths
A villager gathers his
family’s valuables in the aftermath of the flood.
The strong current even washed
Many people in the affected
area are now in need of immediate help.
Storms and torrential rain have again been threatening lives,
livelihoods and property in the north. Chiang Mai’s Office of Disaster
Prevention and Mitigation has stated that Fang, Mae Ai and Wiang Haeng
districts have experienced flood conditions, with the water level in Fang
recorded as dangerously high, with local villagers urged to move to higher
ground for protection. Chiang Mai city and its surrounding areas have also
been affected, although at the time of writing the level of the Ping River
is still 1 metre short of its critical point.
Drainage problems are making the problems worse in outlying areas, with 40
pumps being made available to remove stagnant water. Suthep Road and Huey
Kaew Road together with the surrounding low-lying areas were flooded to a
height of 3 metres in places, causing traffic chaos, and the Mae Kha canal
overflowed, causing severe flooding to homes in its area.
Streams in the area rose rapidly and overflowed during three hours of
torrential rain, vehicles were carried away by the water, and electricity
services were cut.
Two more deaths were recorded in Tha Wang Pha district, Nan province, with
another person reported still missing, and many residents sustaining
injuries as a result of floods. Homes and businesses were damaged, flood
relief kits were handed out to villagers and mobile medical units were sent
to the flood-hit areas.
In Chiang Rai province, the Mae Sai River, which forms the border between
the Thai town and Tachilek in Burma, burst its banks September 7 and flooded
surrounding low-lying land and commercial district on both sides of the
Vendors and tourists were advised not to cross to visit the Thalor market,
as it was again inundated with flood water and cross border trade was badly
affected. Thai and Burmese authorities are cooperating in providing help to
victims of the floods.
In Wiang Pa Pao district, a reservoir has overflowed, causing serious
flooding the area. Local officials are waiting for the water levels to
recede before they can estimate the damage. The Mekong River is again
showing abnormally high water levels, posing the threat of further severe
floods across its basin.
Chiang Mai Friends
meet with Immigration
Chief helps promote understanding
Police Colonel Prayut Chommalee (5th left)
pictured with guests of honour
at the CMF/Immigration meeting and lunch at the Shangri-La.
Last Wednesday, September 10, residents of Chiang Mai and CEC
members joined the Chiang Mai Friends group (CMF) at the Shangri-La Hotel
for a meeting with the Superintendent of Chiang Mai Immigration, Police
Colonel Prayut Chommalee.
Guests of honour at the meeting were the Mayor of Chiang Mai’s
representative, Sudchai Kannakulsoonthorn, Panupan Chandhrapanya from the
Tourist Authority of Thailand, Kittikorn Jeewongsuriyakul from the Chiang
Mai Tourist Police, Chalermchart Nakarungkul from the Chiang Mai Chamber of
Commerce, Alan Hall, president of CEC, and Dr. Carolina Thompson, president
of the Chiang Mai branch of Soroptimists International.
Having welcomed the Superintendent of Immigration and the special guests,
Duenpen Chaladlam, president of the Chiang Mai Friends group, gave a brief
description of its work both in the educational and environmental fields and
in the all-important task of continued integration between the Thai and
expat communities in the city. She stated that the aim of the meeting was
not just to receive an outline of immigration law and have questions
answered, but to promote harmony and understanding between Immigration and
other municipal departments and the foreign community in Chiang Mai.
Finally, she introduced the interpreter, Pinyo Duangcham, attorney at law
and former president of Rotary Club Chiang Mai Airport District 3380.
Colonel Prayut began his talk by explaining that he had transferred from the
south of Thailand to take up his Chiang Mai appointment just 9 months ago.
He welcomed the opportunity to have an informal talk with expat residents,
as there had been some recent changes in immigration law which had caused
He went on to highlight several issues, including work permits, the 90 day
reporting requirement of the “retirement visa,” the financial requirements
for first-time applicants for a retirement extension, the rules regarding
charity work and volunteering, and other related issues.
The audience’s submitted questions and the answers given by Colonel Prayut
focused mostly on clarification of visa issues. He stressed first that
although expats in many cases were granted visas in their home countries
before emigration to Thailand, only the interior Immigration service could
grant them the right to actually stay in the kingdom after the initial
period, dependent in the visa, usually 90 days.
A valid reason has to be given to ensure an extension of stay. He explained
the process of changing a Non-Immigrant “O” visa to a “retirement” visa, and
confirmed that, for first-time applicants, the three month deposit of
800,000 baht requirement does not apply. It applies, however, for subsequent
Colonel Prayut explained that, at the present time, the only visa change
that Immigration in Chiang Mai are allowed to make is from Non-Imm O to a
retirement extension; any other changes must be in Bangkok or outside
Thailand. However, a new law will be announced soon which will allow Chiang
Mai Immigration to do everything in-house.
As regards the at-present controversial issue of work permits, Colonel
Prayut stressed that no work, either paid or voluntary, can be legally
undertaken by foreigners in Thailand unless a work permit has been granted
by the Labour Department. Those awaiting the issue of a work permit are not
allowed to begin work until the permit has been granted. As regards
volunteers, it may be possible to obtain a letter from Immigration detailing
the nature of the volunteer work and the charity concerned. This letter
should be presented to the Labour department, who can then issue a 30 or 60
day permit. It was not made clear whether this temporary permit could be
extended. The Colonel also stressed that if a foreigner invests in a company
and owns his legal maximum of 49%, even if he only attends board meetings
and does no other work, he is legally required to obtain a work permit. This
is to satisfy Thai labour law, which differs from Immigration law.
Colonel Prayut reminded residents that they most carry their passports at
all times, as it is their ID in Thailand, and also issued a reminder that
those who have relatives or friends from outside the Kingdom visit with them
must report their details to local police. The Colonel is also concerned
that expats understand the necessity of complying with the 90-day reporting
requirements, and stated that if an expat is unable to report in person due
to sickness, etc, he/she is able to use a friend, (a power of attorney is
required), or to send the relevant details by post. If a person is planning
to change a Non-Imm O visa to a retirement visa, they should apply one month
before the expiry date of their original visa to allow time for the
necessary paperwork to be completed.
Many more minor points were made and individual problems discussed; at the
end of the session, the more than 130 attendees agreed that the meeting had
been a success, both in clarification of important issues, and in
encouraging communication. Many thanks were given by Duenpen to both Police
Colonel Prayut and the other special guests, with particular gratitude to
the interpreter, Pinyo, for his clear, exact, easy to understand and
It is to be hoped that this will be the first of many such meetings between
CMF and representatives of other Chiang Mai authorities, as understanding of
and compliance with legal and civil requirements is essential to the process
Ex-Chiang Mai Kayan women arrested
in Sattahip tourist village
A number of women members of the Kayan sub-tribe of the Karen
minority group were arrested September 10 at their specially constructed
replica village near Khao Cheejan, Na-Jomtien, Sattahip. Their sponsor, who
had persuaded the women to relocate, was also arrested.
Police stated the 11 women were officially regarded as aliens, who had been
temporarily allowed into Thailand from Burma, but who had not registered
themselves at their new location within the legal time limit. The accused
man argued that his replica village complete with Kayan women wearing neck
rings had encouraged tourism in the area, giving visitors the opportunity to
witness the Kayan lifestyle and buy Kayan-made souvenirs without the
necessity of travelling to Chiang Mai for the experience. He also insisted
that the Kayan women had benefitted financially from the increased number of
tourists visiting the village. He was charged with moving the women to
Sattahip, and with helping them to avoid arrest. At the time the replica
village was set up, Western media reported that they were being exploited,
an accusation vigorously denied by a local politician, who stated that they
were better off there than starving to death in their home region. It was
not stated whether the women would be returned to Chiang Mai as a
consequence of their arrests.
Political situation costing Chiang Mai 100 million baht per day
According to Narong Tananuwat, the president of Chiang Mai’s Chamber
of Commerce, the PAD protests in Bangkok combined with the high level of
political uncertainty and the threat of further violence are affecting the
economy of Chiang Mai to the tune of 100 million baht per day.
Tananuwat, president of the Chiang Mai Chamber of Commerce.
The tourist industry is particularly badly hit, with reports of a high
percentage of cancellations affecting both hotels and airlines. Prior to the
demonstrations and the declaration of a state of emergency in Bangkok, 12
flights per day were arriving at CNX; these have now dropped to 6 per day,
some of which were not full. Narong asked that the state of emergency be
rescinded and that parliament be dissolved in order to bring the situation
under control. He stated that the city of Chiang Mai does not want
demonstrations to disturb the peace, and that if people felt they must
protest, they should do so in a lawful manner without resorting to violence.
Help with visa and
Immigration law is perhaps the most important issue for expats
resident in Chiang Mai, whatever their status. Complicated and frequently
changing both in the law itself and in the issues surrounding it,
interpretations by advisors are often varied or oblique, leading to
confusion and insecurity.
The ultimate reference point is the Immigration service here in Chiang Mai.
With that fact in mind Chiang Mai Friends, the Expats’ Club and the
Chiang Mai Mail would like to request that anyone who has specific
questions regarding visa and work permit procedures and laws submits them by
email to their preferred organisation, which will then pass the query on to
Immigration. When the correct answer has been received, a reply will be sent
to the inquirer. The Immigration office has suggested that questions and
answers clearly expressed in the English language could also be displayed at
their offices for quick reference. Please send any questions to either
[email protected] .com, e[email protected] or info
Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai to benefit from new Laos-Thailand route
A Memorandum of Understanding, (MOU), was signed between
Thailand and Laos Friday 6, confirming a transport agreement between the
two countries which will hopefully cut transportation costs, improve
efficiency and boost tourism in the northern provinces of Chiang Mai and
The MOU, signed by the Thai Land Transport Department’s acting
director-general, Chairat Sa-nguansue, and his Lao counterpart,
Viengsavath Siphandone, relates to a new route from Luang Prabang in
northern Laos to Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai. Private bus companies will
be encouraged to invest in and use the route, and the government-owned
Transport Co., Ltd. will be asked to set up services. In a boost to
tourism, new routes for buses travelling between Laos and the
north-eastern province of Nakhon Ratchasima to Pattaya in the south will
also be established, as, according to Chairat, both destinations are
popular with Laotians.
The transit of goods between the two countries, vastly increased during
the last year and presently involving 452 companies and approximately
10,000 trucks per day, is also expected to receive a further boost. The
two countries have an agreement which permits vehicles to pass border
checkpoints using a special license plate.
Chiang Rai ethnic teenagers’ film wins Ministry of Culture prize
A short film entitled “Buddy,” made by a group of ethnic
teenagers in Chiang Rai for entry into a competition run by the Thai
Ministry of Culture, has won one of 11 awards and will be shown abroad
as well as in local schools.
The 5 minute film’s production team, comprised of 8 boys from Therdthai
village in Mae Fah Luang district, Chiang Rai, are all part of a youth
group which is active in forest conservation and environmental
protection. When they were told about the training workshop and
competition, they decided to join, as they believed that using modern
media techniques would be an effective way in which to show their
attitudes towards their cultures and communities. Some of the boys’
parents were not so keen, and regarded the entire exercise as a waste of
time; one Muslim family was afraid that their son would miss out on his
The intensive 10-day workshop taught the group about all aspects of
short film-making, from writing a screenplay to filming and editing. It
proved quite a challenge, to which the Therdthai boys adapted with
enthusiasm. Their winning film, produced within the allowed two days at
the end of the workshop, tells of an old man’s search for a friend with
whom he had lost touch, and deals with the changes which have taken
place in Chiang Saen city in the years since the friends had parted. The
sympathetic way in which it was handled by the youngsters speaks volumes
about their bonds with their communities and their social awareness.
Out of the 44 entries, “Buddy” received an award for best picture, a
tribute to the talents and hard work of the group. But, according to the
boys themselves, the most valuable lesson they learned whilst working
closely together on the project was the true value of friendship.
Traditional Lanna arts skills taught at Chiang Mai temple
As the traditional Lanna areas in the north of Thailand embrace
even more Western ideas in order to pursue what is seen as a “modern”
lifestyle, the danger that skills relating to traditional Lanna arts and
culture will be lost is becoming more acute.
To counter this disturbing trend, Wat Lok Molee, located in the heart of
the city, has given over its compound to become a living museum where
local artists in wood carving, lacquer gilding, silverware embossing and
porcelain decoration can not only display their masterpieces, but can
teach local people their crafts.
A spokesman from Chiang Mai’s cultural council said, “In the old days,
every kind of art was born in the temple – it was like a school. Now, in
modern times, a temple is just a temple, and the old skills are not
being passed on to the younger generation. Here, we are hoping to revive
awareness of those traditional skills, and make Wat Lok Malee a learning
centre for the practice of Lanna arts”.
A local woodcarver, Petch Viriya, affirmed that “The northern arts will
definitely vanish if the younger generation does not carry them on”.
Both locals and visitors come to the Wat to be trained in skills new to
them by the artists, who hope that the folk wisdom of Lanna arts, having
survived for more than 700 years in the city, will be protected and
preserved by the new initiative. They believe that the disappearance of
Lanna traditional arts will result in the disappearance of the identity
of the northern culture itself.
Lampang to bid for
in regional logistics centre
Lampang governor Direk Kornkleeb is hoping to attract Chinese
investors to the province in a bid to establish a regional logistics
centre and transport hub in the wake of the Industrial Estate Authority
of Thailand’s cancellation of a similar project in Chiang Saen.
At a recent meeting between government authorities and the private
sector, Direk stated that the provincial administration planned to
acquire over 5,000 rai of public land to accommodate the planned
project. The land, located in tambon Ban Ueam, Muang district, is at
present under the administration’s supervision. “We will also prioritise
‘green’ industrial estates and job creation schemes for Lampang
residents,” the governor added.
It is expected that the proposed new industrial site will benefit from
the government’s ongoing project involving the establishment of Lampang
as a major transport hub of the economic development zone in the Mekong
sub-region. Laos, Vietnam and Thailand are to be linked with China via a
bridge, yet to be built, across the Mekong River on the Thai/Laos
The project has the full support of the private business sector in
Lampang, and Chinese investors have expressed interest in setting up
premises to process agricultural products arriving from China for
distribution in Thailand.
Help needed for new CM residential project for cerebral palsy victims
A new residential project run by the Chiang Mai Disabled Centre
will open in Chiang Mai on October 1. The home, located near Mae Kue
market on the road between Bor Sang and Doi Saket, will at first house
three severely disabled boys suffering from cerebral palsy and
hydrocephalus. Two of the sufferers are aged 12, the other is aged 14,
and all three come from extremely poor and disadvantaged backgrounds.
One of them, a hill tribe child, was abandoned by his mother and kept in
a bamboo cage, the second’s father has TB; his mother is mentally
disabled and unable to look after him. The third boy was formerly living
with his disabled father after his mother had deserted them. The new
project desperately needs a serviceable refrigerator, wall fans and
donations to support the cost of an ongoing supply of Pampers and soy
milk. Please, if you can help, contact the centre on 086-185-5852.
As the Mekong rises again,
controversy over dams continues
As the Mekong River’s water levels rise once again, Lao
villagers and residents on its banks are afraid that this year’s floods
will rival or even surpass the devastation caused in 1966, when the
river burst its banks without warning. During the resulting chaos,
Vientiane itself became a huge lake, tens of thousands of homes and
agricultural land were under water and residents rescued their
possessions and livestock by boat. Much of central Laos was badly
Last month’s floods were the worst since 1966, and caused damage to
homes, businesses and farmland. Whilst the clean-up goes on, the
question in locals’ minds is not the weather, but concerns the Chinese
dams constructed 15 years ago further upstream. The fact that release of
water from a smaller Laotian dam in August exacerbated flooding in its
area is not lost on residents along the Mekong’s course.
Although the Mekong River Commission, (MRC), stated that such
speculation is unfounded, saying that the storage capacity of the
Chinese dams is too small to make a difference, and that tropical storm
Kammuri and its wind direction was to blame, Chiang Mai based Living
River Siam told the Bangkok Post late August that the three dams’ total
storage capacity is a massive 16,683 million cubic metres, enough to
regulate water flow in the northern Mekong River areas, including a
large part of northern Thailand.
Environmentalists continue to slate the blasting of rapids and the
dredging of the river to allow passage to large Chinese ships as a cause
for the severity of the recent floods. Deforestation in Laos is also
thought to be contributory, with forest areas reduced from 70% to 40%,
causing rain to run off rather than be absorbed and held in the ground.
Lao authorities, unwilling to risk their relationship with China, are
backing the MRC’s stance.
As the controversy continues and the water rises again, the Lao
authorities have announced that 150,000 people in 7 provinces were
affected in August’s floods, with 5 people being killed, a cost of
damage of approximately 300 million dollars and the very real threat of
a rice shortage due to damage to farmland.
Chiang Mai pharmacists targeted by
border drugs gangs seeking ingredients
According to several sources, a shortage of “Ice,” the crystal precursor
used for producing methamphetamine pills, has driven clandestine
chemists along the Thai-Burma border to look for drugs used in northern
Thailand for the relief of colds and coughs.
“Not all of the popular medicines are serviceable,” according to a
pharmacist in Chiang Mai. “Only those that contain pseudoephedrine are
useful for the drug producers. I think they have an expert chemist over
there,” she remarked, “because extracting pseudoephedrine from these
drugs is not a simple job.”
The price of “Ice,” 580,000 baht per kilogram in early August, has
rocketed to 900,000 baht. “However, there are only buyers – no sellers,”
said a trader in Tachilek. The situation is such that gang leaders
across the border are dispatching agents into Thailand to rummage the
drugstores and purchase all drugs that contain the required ingredient.
“Sulidine (a cold-relieving tablet) is only 1.5 baht here,” said a
driver in Mae Hong Son. “But they are offering me 2.5 baht each plus
expenses to send them to Mae Sai on the border with Tachilek.”
Meanwhile in Tachilek, according to an informed source, the buyers are
even offering one YaBa (methamphetamine) pill for every two cold relief
pills. “Ice,” known as pingkoi in Chinese, is imported from China and
India. “I’m not sure what’s going on,” said an anti-drug official in
Chiang Mai. “But maybe China is getting more serious now.”
Methamphetamine can be produced from ephedra, a plant known in China as
mahuang which is at present not subject to legal restrictions of any
kind, unlike the opium poppy. Its alkaloid ephedrine can be replaced by
pseudo-ephedrine, an active principle widely used in nasal
decongestants, and can even be obtained from benzaldehyde during the
sugar-refining process, according to “YaBa: Production, Traffic and
Consumption of Methamphetamine in Mainland Southeast Asia,” a report
published by the Institut de Recherche sur l’Asie du Sud-Est
Contemporaine (IRASEC) in 2004. (SHAN)
Drunken bag-snatcher caught red-handed
On September 9, an Austrian tourist, Gernot Langmann, (27), on
holiday in the city with friends, became the victim of a drunken
bag-snatcher whilst sitting with his friends at a restaurant on
is the bag-snatcher, Sa-Ard Buachum, who was immediately arrested for
Gernot had placed his bag, containing a digital camera, documents,
credit cards and cash, on the seat next to him when it was snatched by
the thief. Police were immediately called, traced the robber, Sa-Ard
Buachum, 25, to nearby Mulmaung Road, and arrested him.
After being identified as the thief by Gernot, Sa-Ard told police that
he had been drinking with a new friend, Kuk, until they were both drunk
and had run out of money. They decided to rob a tourist in order to be
able to continue drinking. After the theft, Kuk, who had been waiting
with his motorbike, saw the police and drove away, only to be arrested