Traditional Nan Boat Races promote togetherness, tourism and health
The annual Nan boat races, a traditional symbol of the province,
were held this year on September 13, presided over by the province’s
governor, Somphong Anuyothaphong, and the city’s major, Suraphol Thiensuth.
A grand turnout of 28 large boats of phyanak (dragon) form, 37 medium-sized
boats and 46 small boats competed, with huge numbers of local people from
all sectors cheering them on.
This year, the objective of the traditional event, which helps to promote
tourism in the area, was to campaign against substance and alcohol abuse, to
encourage community relations and promote the concept of health and exercise
amongst the youth of the area. The event was sponsored by Nan municipality,
the Thai Health Promotion Organisation and other local organisations.
The history of the races reflects the way of life of the people of Nan over
the centuries, and their traditional relationship with their life-giving
Glutinous rice farmers protest again
Promised government payout not made
Angry glutinous rice farmers surrounding the
Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives’ Chiang Mai headquarters,
protesting that promised government payouts have not been made.
Earlier this month angry local glutinous rice farmers, whose
previous protests had resulted in a promise to meet their demands,
surrounded the Chiang Mai headquarters of the Bank for Agriculture and
Agricultural Cooperatives, insisting that payments be made for rice already
delivered to the Siripinyo Rice Mill.
Sommai Chaiyawongse, representing the farmers, stated that a meeting had
been held in August between himself and the Minister of Commerce, at which
it had been promised that the bank would set aside government money received
for the rice to reimburse the farmers. As they had received no payments to
date, they demanded that, if an agreement was not immediately reached, the
director of the bank, Suthep Saitiong, should resign within 24 hours.
Protestors displayed an image of Suthep and tied the bank’s entrance and
exit doors shut, preventing customers and employees from leaving. Police
were called, and negotiated an agreement that leaders of the protest would
meet with bank officials to seek a compromise. Later, it was agreed that the
Ministry of Commerce would transfer 17.9 million baht to the bank before
October 14, which would be used to pay the farmers.
Private sector investment in National Parks
plan causes controversy
The recently announced plan to allow the private sector to bid for
concessions to provide tourist facilities in 10 national parks has provoked
concerns from environmental groups, who state that the parks’ fragile
ecological balance may be at risk.
conservationists airing their concerns over the impact of commercialisation
on the parks.
At a recent and hastily organised seminar held at Chiang Mai’s Payap
University, the Rak Chiang Mai group cooperated with a Thai wild animal
protection network to express their concerns. Nikom Puttha, representing the
protection network, stated that is was inappropriate for private sector
investors to construct hotels and shops within the national parks as the
parks belong to the Thai people. His concerns included the possibility that
private projects might be aimed at high-end tourists, thus excluding the
majority of Thais from participating. Nikom further stated that research
should be undertaken to determine the needs of visitors to the parks, and
that deforestation and lack of concern for the environment is already taking
its toll in Thailand’s precious natural resources. National parks and
wildlife sanctuaries are in place to protect the numerous species of plants
and animals, not for their exploitation for private gain.
It was reported that many scholars, private conservation and tourism
organisations and communities country-wide are against the proposed
measures, and are preparing to submit notices to the government requesting
the cancellation of the new policy.
However, Jongklai Worapongsathorn, head of Doi Inthanon National Park,
stated that strict conditions and regulations will be set up to ensure that
there are no negative effects on the ecology of the parks. Concessions would
only be granted in the present service areas; no new development would be
permitted in any other areas, thus protecting the parks’ ecology. Jongklai
explained that the reason behind the measures was that visitor numbers to
the parks are rising, resulting in more attention having to be paid to
providing suitable facilities for the increasing number of tourists. It was
considered that the private sector’s experience in managing this aspect
would be preferable.
The National Parks involved in the scheme include 4 in Chiang Mai province;
in July this year, restrictions on the number of visitors allowed in the
parks at any one time were introduced.
CM hosts educational visit by
Myanmar drug suppression officials
The Commissioner of Region 5’s Provincial Police
Bureau, Pol. Lt. Gen. Sathaporn Duangkaew (6th left), seen with Region 5’s
Director of the Office of Narcotics Control Board, Chanya Sramatcha (7th
left) and Pol. Col. Phone Kyaw Shwe, Myanmar’s Director of the Law
Enforcement Division Office (4th left) at their recent meeting.
A policy of cooperation between the Burmese and Thai governments,
agreed during the 12th bilateral conference on narcotics suppression held
December 2007 in Naypyidaw, resulted in last week’s educational visit to
Thailand by 8 border narcotics suppression officers.
A meeting was held in Chiang Mai between Pol. Lt. Gen. Sathaporn Duangkaew,
Commissioner of the Provincial Police Region 5, Chanya Sramatcha, Director
of the Narcotics Control Board Region 5, Pol. Col. Phone Kyaw Shwe, Director
of Myanmar’s Law Enforcement Division Office and his team of 8. The Myanmar
delegation also visited with the Region 5 Narcotics Control Board, the
Region 3 Royal Thai Army and the Region 3 Border Patrol Police.
In a move to facilitate the growing of replacement crops amongst Hill
Tribes, the Burmese visitors were shown the Royal Thai Agricultural Project
at Doi Inthanon, and agreed to submit details of the project to their
government. Attempts to provide economically viable alternatives to growing
opium have been ongoing for 20 years.
Chanya stated that cooperation between the two countries regarding the
problem of illegal drug smuggling is proceeding successfully, involving
cross-border cooperation in the tracing of offenders, and the exchange of
information. A new narcotics suppression centre has been established by the
Myanmar authorities across the border from Tak province, but progress from
this point will depend on the will of the Myanmar government to proceed and
the level of its intention and further cooperation.
Royal Ratchapruek Expo 2011 gets cabinet approval
The International Horticulture Exposition panned for 2011/2012 was
recently granted cabinet approval. Its goal will be to attract 2 million
Thai and foreign visitors from 10 countries worldwide to the area used for
the original exposition held in 2006.
Kowsurat, Minister of Tourism and Sport, at the press conference announcing
cabinet approval of the Royal Ratchapruek Expo 2011.
470 rai of land will be allocated for the new exposition, to be held from
November 9, 2011 until February 15, 2012, and its organisation will be
managed by the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives’ Highland Research
and Development Institute. The event will be held as a celebration to honour
the 84th Birthday of His Majesty the King, and will also honour Her Majesty
the Queen and the Crown Prince.
Features will include an international exhibition, an outdoor garden
exhibition, international and Thai art including cultural events and
international and Thai competitions. An agricultural technology exhibition
and a technological seminar concerning garden plants, plus the distribution
of agricultural products, will also be featured.
Golden teak wood seized
from Mae Hong Son warehouse
A report sent to Mae Hong Son’s Office of Natural Resources and
the Environment (ONRE), resulted in a warrant being issued for a
September 12 raid on a warehouse supposedly belonging to the Mae Hong
Son Agricultural Cooperative. Police were unable to serve the search
warrant as the owner of the warehouse could not be found, as a result,
the local deputy village chief and other local officials were called as
witnesses and entry was gained by climbing a wall. During the search,
ONRE officers and local police discovered 200 square metres of golden
teak logs hidden under a pile of garlic. After the discovery, a man,
Kasem Mangkorn, told police that the logs belonged to the Region 3
Deputy Army chief, and were not to be removed under any circumstances He
It seems that the owner of the warehouse, Prapan Kanyuma, had already
left the area, having first contacted the Deputy Army chief, who had
instructed him not to allow the logs to be seized. He was therefore
unable to be served with a second court warrant to extend the time of
seizure due to the large amount of logs found, Kasem then ordered
workers at the warehouse to photograph all officers and media personnel,
to be used as evidence in a claim to be filed at court. He was invited
to sign an acknowledgement of the search warrant, but refused to do so.
Officers surrounded the warehouse to prevent any of the illegal logs
being moved out, and the search was completed the following day.
It was discovered later that the logs had been illegally imported
September 11 from Burma by Kasem, without the necessary certificate of
origin, in the name of the Mae Hong Son Agricultural Cooperative.
Storage of the wood in the warehouse, therefore, was illegal, as was an
unlicensed wood mill where the logs were to be processed.
Road rage at damaged traffic lights results in 4 convictions
The case against a local actor and his accomplices who attacked
a driver and passenger last November at the airport crossroads in the
city was finally closed earlier this month after mediation.
A classic road-rage incident, the attack took place on the night of
November 3, when Somchai Kemklad and three of his associates in his car
with him became involved in an argument with Chalermchai Saengsuwan, 24,
and Busara Intapanya, 35, at damaged traffic lights on the airport
intersection. A fight ensued, during which Chalermchai and Busara
sustained bruising to their faces and bodies. A police report was filed,
and Somchai and his associates were arrested and charged with criminal
The defendants, who had pleaded guilty as charged, attended the Chiang
Mai District Court in Doi Saket on September 10, and were initially
sentenced to a fine of 4,000 baht each and a 6 months jail sentence.
During mediation, the two sides were able to reach agreement. As a
result of having admitted their crime and having no previous
convictions, their sentences were reduced to fines of 2,000 baht each,
one year suspended sentences during which 4 reports to probation
officers were mandatory, and 12 hours’ community service.
Chiang Mai hosts inaugural
National Transgender Meeting
The 1st National Transgender Meeting in Thailand, chaired by
Nattee Terrarojjanapong, was held at the Royal Peninsular Hotel in
Chiang Mai on September 14. The event, entitled, ‘What type of
transgender do you want to be?’ was sponsored by the Podology Center
MFT, recently opened in San Sai, Chiang Mai by Dirk and Wuttipong
Terrojjanapongs (2nd left) with the other speakers at the meeting.
In his introductory speech, Nattee expressed his hope that the meeting
would be the first step in a process which would eventually lead to
equality for transgenders in Thailand. Next to speak was Dirk who, as
president of the human rights organization Thailandfreunde e. V., stated
his desire to concentrate on building a bridge between Europe and
Thailand. He quoted Dr. Martin Luther King’s famous “I have a dream”
speech, and emphasised that his dream was that transgenders in the
kingdom would no longer be subject to discrimination. He also suggested
that, on passports, as well as “Mr,” Mrs” and Miss,” there should be a
class “T,” denoting transgender.
A speech by Dr Kriengsak Jitvatcharanun, advisor to the Thai government
on transgender issues, followed. Having noted the That Medical Council’s
rules and regulations regarding the procedure, Dr Kriengsak gave details
about castration and its after- and side-effects. He explained that,
although there are physiologists and psychologists available to discuss
all aspects of the procedure, patients should realise they have to make
the decision themselves, in the full knowledge that the operation is
The final speaker of the meeting was Preempreeda Pramoj na Ayutthaya,
who stated that her research had identified 5 differing types of
transgenders (katoey), including those who wish to actually become
women, those who wish to look like women but keep their organs for
sexual purposes and those whose only wish is to be beautiful.
Preempreeda stressed that transgenders feel that they are discriminated
against in the Thai employment market, and that she felt international
media misrepresented them by only quoting those who frequent the bar
scene. She reported that many transgenders now feel the need for a
national organisation which takes care of and protects their interests.
After the speeches, three transgenders present at the meeting were
welcomed and shared with the audience their personal experiences. Nattee
rounded off the meeting with his thanks to all attendees of this first
meeting. A pilot project aimed at disseminating information about
transgenders is being considered, to be held at several specially chosen
Chiang Mai educational establishments. Dr Kriengsak will put forward a
paper to the Ministry of Education and Health which will hopefully
result in funds for the project.
“Engineers without Borders” students provide sustainable water to Lahu villagers
The Villanova University, Pennsylvania, chapter of Engineers
without Borders travelled to Chiang Mai province recently with the aim
of providing two remote Lahu villages and an orphanage with a
sustainable source of water, both for drinking and agricultural
purposes. The trip, which followed an initial earlier visit to determine
needs and plan solutions, involved 10 engineering students and two
professors from the university’s Faculty of Engineering, all of whom
During their time in the villages, the volunteers installed a new
filtration system, built a 4,000 liter break pressure and distribution
tank, constructed tap stands and buried over one kilometre of pipe to
bring drinkable water from a distant stream. The students also educated
the villagers on how to maintain and use the new systems. Fresh and
plentiful water, it is hoped, will lead to increased agricultural
production and more income, which will allow the orphanage to house more
Senior student Sarah Arscott described the communities as being
welcoming and grateful for the project, and said that many people had
willingly joined in the work. On its completion, a party was thrown for
the young engineers and their professors. Sarah confirmed that the group
had enjoyed themselves enormously, in spite of not being able to talk
with the villagers, either in Thai or in Lahu. Many lessons were learned
as a result of the project, including that of using local knowledge to
modify the students’ original designs. Senior Ashley Ferguson described
the trip as “absolutely incredible” and “truly rewarding,” and recounted
new experiences such as taking bucket showers and watching bug fights,
as well as “learning new uses for a rubber band and all the games you
can play with it.” Overall, she said she built “amazing relationships
with the community.”
The trip was funded by a combination of private donors, corporate
sponsors, the engineering alumni society, the College of Engineering and
student fundraising. Because of their work throughout the year, the
students were able to raise enough money to cover 90 percent of the
costs for the trip, including the flights.
rocks choose wrong target
A group of Phayao teenage vandals went on the rampage in the
early hours of September 14 after a heavy drinking session. Having
decided to throw rocks at passing vehicles, one lucky lad landed his
rock in the right rear window of a Mazda van, shattering it. The group
then dispersed in a hurry, thus missing one vital piece of information
which became all too clear very soon – the van was being driven by Pol.
Cap. Nirut Luangdang, a Deputy Inspector in Payao’s Investigation Group.
As if that wasn’t tough enough for the young criminals, the passenger in
the van was Pol. Col. Sutheera Punnabut, the Regional Deputy Commander
of the Payao police.
Not surprisingly, the gang of 8, were soon found hiding in a road
shelter and other unreliable refuges, and were arrested in short order
by Phayao police. On questioning, they admitted to not only throwing
rocks, but also marbles and table legs, and placing pieces of wood in
the road with the intent of causing accidents. They also admitted to
being extremely drunk. All were charged with vandalising property, and
are probably still cursing their bad luck. Police 8, vandals 0.
Floods update – 6 more die, trains paralysed, 36 provinces affected
At the end of a very wet week, Thailand’s Meteorological
department warned that the unusually high level of rainfall is set to
continue, and issued more flood warnings for 29 provinces in the north,
north east and central areas of the kingdom. Many areas are already
badly hit, with food shortages, illness, injuries, loss of life and
damage to agricultural land and properties.
In the north-east last Friday, floods caused by heavy rain paralysed
transportation networks and washed away rail tracks in the Khon Kaen
area. All train services from the city to Nakhon Ratchasima, Nong Khai
and Udon Thani have been suspended for safety reasons until the
situation improves. The Mitraparb Highway bridge in Ban Haed was swept
away and major areas of the road were flooded, causing traffic chaos.
Reports that Khon Kaen municipality had failed to open a sluice gate
causing severe flooding in Ban Ped were met with denials by the city’s
deputy mayor, who insisted that the gate, although not fully open, had
been left ajar. Residents in flooded areas are being forced to travel by
The Pak Chong district of Nakhon Ratchasima province has been declared a
disaster area, with one person missing as raging flood waters deluged
more than 300 homes. The town itself and surrounding villages have also
been inundated with flood waters, and the local dam is nearing full
capacity. In Tak province, on the Burmese border, a flash flood
inundated a village, damaging farmlands and crops and leaving at least
50 homes under water. In Phetchaburi, flash floods from nearby hills
covered roads to a depth of 60 cms, leaving many vehicles stranded and
roads impassable. The rising water inundated communities in the Tha Phon
municipal area; sandbags were passed out to residents in an effort to
minimise damage to homes.
In the south, a national park in Surat Thani was closed for safety
reasons, to prevent the possible recurrence of a tragic accident in 2007
when 8 people drowned after having been trapped in a cave by rising
In Lopburi municipality, local residents were evacuated to temporary
shelters after their homes were flooded and emergency supplies of
drinking water, food and medicines were distributed by boat. As a result
of continuous rainfall and inadequate run-off, flood waters were as much
as 2 metres deep in places, and affected more than 500 homes. Local
residents already suffering from waterborne diseases have threatened to
withhold tax payments in protest against the lack of action by the
authorities. In Lampang, although the waters are subsiding at present,
250 homes need repairs and the removal of mud and debris.
In Phitsanulok, 4,000 acres of agricultural land flooded after a local
river overflowed its banks, with three districts being declared disaster
zones. An emergency relief budget has been allocated. Local residents
are suffering from flu-like infections and shortages of food and
drinking water. HRH Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn has ordered the
distribution of 1,500 relief kits to residents in Wang Thong, Muang and
Noen Maprang districts. Mukdahan province experienced 4 days of
flooding, with 14 roads destroyed and homes damaged. In Loei province,
communities along the Loei River were flooded to a depth of between 2
and 5 metres, with 460 houses, public parks and a stadium under water.
In the central province of Ayutthaya, low-lying areas along the Pasak
River have been hit by floods, forcing local residents to move their
belongings and themselves to higher ground. In Uttaradit province, 13
people have contracted leptospirosis, resulting in one death. Officials
have warned residents to avoid walking in flooded areas due to the risk
In Prachinburi, 300 residents in flooded homes are without drinking
water, and in Phichit, run-off from the Phetchaburi mountain range
inundated villages in its path. A 72 year old Pitchit woman died as she
was trying to move her belongings to higher ground. Local reports
suggest 4 more deaths in Nong Bua Lamphu. In Nong Bua Lamphu
municipality, forest run-off affected 8 communities, 400 acres of
agricultural land, the city’s outer ring road and a rice mill.
In Mae Hong Son last Friday, a flash flood from a local klong swept away
a motorcyclist and his female passenger, who is presumed dead.
The floods have affected 12 north-eastern provinces, 13 northern
provinces, 4 central provinces, 6 eastern provinces and 1 in the south,
and have caused damage estimated at approximately 700 million baht.
750,000 rai of land has been affected, as have 2.7 million farm animals,
according to the Minister of Agriculture, Somsak Prissanananthakul.