Vol. VII No. 40 - Tuesday
September 30 - October 6, 2008



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by Saichon Paewsoongnern


NEWS
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Chiang Mai pro-democracy group promises continuing protests

Mae Sai border market traders caught selling contaminated confectionery

Chinese investors discuss opportunities in Lamphun

Political situation seriously affects Northern exports

Phayao border security committee welcomes Chaiyaburi governor

New traffic police checkpoints to focus on foreign drivers

Wichai Wittaya Bilingual School celebrates Ramadan at Holiday Inn

Warning – trafficking, identity theft, or just plain financial scam?

Environmental groups plant still more trees

City Police Chief, Major Surapong Thammapitak, talks to the CM Mail

Mae Hong Son solar cells stolen to order

Concern expressed about forced relocation of Karen villagers

“Spirits of the yellow banana leaves” create history in Phrae

Upcoming “Payap Presents” lecture series to focus on S.E. Asia issues

 

Chiang Mai pro-democracy group promises continuing protests

Saksit Meesubkwang
A demonstration and march was held by a Chiang Mai pro-democracy group on September 19, the anniversary of the September 2006 military coup. The protest, by members of the Northern Peoples’ Union for Democracy (NAD)’s Group 51, began in front of the governor’s residence and progressed down Thapae Road to the Thapae Gate Plaza.
Demonstrators called for the re-establishment of the 1997 constitution, destroyed after the military coup, stating that it was a peoples’ charter for democracy and demanding its reinstitution. In his speech, Jirapat Ruankaew, the coordinator of the Northern Union for Democracy, stated that the coup had destroyed not only Thailand’s image abroad, but also the confidence of foreign investors, leading to the present economic crisis. He maintained that the coup was against the democratic administration, and that it was unacceptable to the international community.
He encouraged all Northern Thais to understand the meaning of democracy, and to support those who are fighting for rights and freedoms and are against national dictatorship as proposed by the PAD.
Later, Phetchawat Watanaphongsirikul, chairman of NAD’s Group 51 and its Northern representative for democracy in Chiang Mai, submitted a letter to the governor of Chiang Mai, Wibun Sa-nguanphong, concerning the duty of the new Thai PM, Somchai Wongsawat, requesting that it be presented to Somchai. The letter stated that the PM should administrate for national unity under the law, and that infringements of the law should be punished without compromise. It further stated that group 51 is ready to cooperate to achieve true democracy under the rule of His Majesty the King. Phetchawat announced that his group will continue to assemble in front of the Grand Wararos Hotel to express their feelings in support of democracy until the 9 PAD leaders surrender themselves to the due process of law.

 

Mae Sai border market traders caught selling contaminated confectionery

CMM Reporters
Complaints have been received from tourists about the sale of outdated Chinese manufactured chocolate and biscuits on sale in the Mae Sai border market. The packaged confectionery is reported to have sell-by dates going back as far as April, and to be contaminated with minute insects.
Inspections were carried out by the authorities, which found that many stallholders in the market were selling the contaminated goods. Officials have issued a warning to tourists that they should carefully check sell-by dates on products for sale in the market, and should report any violations. Mae Sai’s local radio station also alerted tourists to the danger, stating that all consumer goods should be inspected for sell-by dates, as the sale of outdated goods could well impact on the tourist trade in the upcoming high season.


Chinese investors discuss opportunities in Lamphun

CMM Reporters
A recent visit by Chinese investors to Lamphun was aimed at discussing business opportunities within the province.
The chairman of the Communist Party of Kui Chow, Hliw Li Muen, together with the chairmen of the Shuan and Kunming Chambers of Commerce and a group of business operators, visited Lamphun Industrial Park on September 22 in order to study prospects of investments to promote business between China and Thailand. The group was welcomed and shown around by the governor of Lamphun, Amornphan Nimanan.


Political situation seriously affects Northern exports

Saksit Meesubkwang
The political situation, combined with the worldwide economic slowdown, has affected exports of Northern handicrafts to the tune of 3 million baht, according to Natthapong Hanpatarachaiyakul, the president of the Northern Handicraft Manufactures and Exporters Association, who added that business people were having to cut their profits and personal drawings to avoid bankruptcy.
The situation has also affected the annual Bangkok International Gift, Souvenir and House Decoration Fair, with foreign buyers cancelling their trips due to safety and financial concerns. The economic crisis is affecting other South East Asian economies, including Vietnam, which has suspended exports, and Chinese exports are dropping due to the contaminated milk powder scandal and concerns about safety issues of other Chinese products. Due to the political uncertainty and the level of the baht, Thailand seems unfortunately unable to take advantage of the favourable situation regarding Thai exports.
Natthapong believes that all Thai people and particularly political parties should consider the benefits to Thailand’s economy of reconciliation and concentration on the good of the country in general rather than merely considering their own interests.


Phayao border security committee welcomes Chaiyaburi governor

CMM Reporters
At the September meeting of the Thai/Lao/Phayao /Chaiyabouli Border Security Committee held September 23-26, the governor of Chayaburi, Dr Lien Thikaew, and his wife Phengchit together with their team of 33 people were welcomed by the governor of Phayao, Ruongwan Buanuch, at the Phayao Gateway Hotel. Later, the Chayaburi governor and his entourage visited Phayao’s tourist attraction and Chiang Rai.


New traffic police checkpoints to focus on foreign drivers

CMM Reporters
A recent statement by the Chiang Mai traffic police’s deputy superintendent, Pol. Lt. Col. Sawat Lahkat, promises the installation of a large number of checkpoints to catch drivers who ignore traffic laws, in the hope that this measure will help to deal with the ever-increasing amount of traffic on Chiang Mai’s roads.
The deputy superintendent considers that the number of trucks carrying immigrant workers to and from construction sites and other places of work during the rush hour period exacerbates the problem. Immigrant workers are not permitted to buy their own transport, unless their employer guarantees a loan, and often drive company –owned vehicles, usually either trucks or motorcycles. Because of language difficulties and lack of information and training given, they may not be aware of Thai traffic regulations and are therefore unable to comply. Examples include parking illegally, carrying too many people in one vehicle, and, in the case of motorcyclists, not wearing helmets, although this last offence seems not to be confined to immigrants.
Pol. Lt. Col. Sawat stated that vehicles are able to be confiscated by law, and high fines will be levied. Offenders’ details will also be passed to the immigration department for checking as regards their legal status within the kingdom. He also confirmed that the increased number of checkpoints will target and arrest mainly immigrants, legal or illegal. Tourists are not expected to be affected.


Wichai Wittaya Bilingual School celebrates Ramadan at Holiday Inn

Members and guests of the Thai-Turkish
Business Associateion at the Holiday Inn.

CMM Reporters
The Muslim occasion of Ramadan Iftar was celebrated September 19 by Wichai Wittaya Bilingual School at a special dinner held at the Holiday Inn.
The guests of honour were the governor of Chiang Mai Wibun Sa-nguanphong and his deputy governor Chumporn Sangmanee, the district chief of Muang, Chiang Mai and other dignitaries. The aim of the dinner was to bring Muslims together to celebrate Ramadan; the school has a policy of supporting the holy days and festivals of all religions. The occasion also brought about good relationships between the community, the honourable guests, the students’ parents and the teachers at the school.
The dinner was supported by the Thai-Turkish Business Association, the secretary of which, Yilmaz Ari, attended the celebration.


Warning – trafficking, identity theft, or just plain financial scam?

Elena Edwards
Most internet users should, by now, be aware of the “Nigerian scams,” which promise massive amounts of money from an unknown source, and of their many imitations.
They are, in the main, easy to detect as such, and there are many online warnings.
An email received recently, promising a US green card and visa, however, may well have been generated closer to home, and seems to be aimed at Thais, rather than foreigners. At first glance, the header, giving the address of the US Consulate in CM, and the notification and requirements purporting to come from that source, could be very convincing, especially to a reader with only adequate knowledge of written English. A demand for a small amount of money is made, for “processing charges,” plus a request for scanned copies of passport and personal details. Identity theft? Maybe. At the foot of the text, though, is an accommodation and job promise, with a salary which may well attract the unwary or uninformed. Is this trafficking? Probably not, but, again…The clue, however, is in the paragraph above the list of job benefits, and is the usual “be careful, there are many fraudsters on the internet” text we know and love from the Nigerian scams and their many imitations. The expat community is, in the main, internet-savvy and alert to the incorrect use of language and will not be fooled by this; however, there may be local Thai residents who do not have these skills and knowledge, and who may be tempted to contact these fraudsters. The text of the first paragraph is reproduced below, complete with spelling and grammar inaccuracies.
Embassy of the United States of America U.S Consulate General,387 Wichayanond Road, Chiang Mai 50300,Thailand
Attn Winner, Congratulations, you have been selected as one of the lucky winners of the US VISA through our internet email extracting and screening machine,your application was applied and processed by our internet email extracting and screening machine which randomly extracts and scans millions of email adresses across the world. This Special visa programme is new and was innovated by the US embassy in Kuala lumpur Thailand last year november. The US Consulate in Chiang Mai launched the programme last November 2007,. The aim and objectives of the programme is to give free visas to citizens of developing countries around the world to enable them travel to the US and start a new life and work.The Chiang Mai consulate released 12 visas in this regards and hopes to increase the visa number to 24 by November 2009,you are among the 12 lucky people that won the visa and among the 5 foreigners that won the visa,7 visas were won by Thai nationals.Your visa winner’s identity is:MM-52047 and your serial net visa passport with us is:JM-102648,your visa type permits you to travel with your family.Your visa duration is 10 years multiple entry to the U.S,it is renewable upon expiration and it permits you to work,study and own properties in the US. In this respect you are directed to forward the following requirements for the immediate processing of your visa certificate and acknowledgement card.


Environmental groups plant still more trees

Dave Arthurs
A small village just outside Doi Saket was the location for a hopeful collaboration between a forward-thinking village head, Chiang Mai business leaders and local environmental campaigners. It provided a good model for what can be achieved if these different elements of society work together. The project was a tree-planting initiative that served, not only to increase the leaf cover of the area but also to provide an important location for the growth of some of Northern Thailand’s most threatened lowland trees.
The village of Baan Ba Pai is already famous for its organic farming and it was the Mae Luang village head who decided she would like to increase the village’s environmental efforts. Dao Reung Tatinchan was pleased to be able to provide a site suitable for planting, along with numerous willing hands to help with the hard work. There, advising with the planting, was I.C.C.M. member Ricky Ward, whose methods of tree planting have proved very effective in previous ventures. “Tree planting is so simple,” he said, “but many efforts fail because people plant the wrong types of tree. These trees we’re planting are lowland Lanna trees, trees that are supposed to be here; they’ll flourish and will help restore some of the most depleted forests in Thailand.”
There also, to lend a hand, were representatives of the Chiang Mai Friends group and Green Chiang Mai; both are organisations which have shown a devoted interest in environmental issues. The day was a great success and proof of what can be achieved through collaboration.


City Police Chief, Major Surapong Thammapitak, talks to the CM Mail

Andy Archer
As part of a series of interviews with local leaders, undertaken with the aim of giving foreign residents in Chiang Mai a better insight into how their adopted city works, Duenpen Chaladlam (Boong) of Chiang Mai Friends and the Chiang Mai Mail’s reporter recently spoke with Police Major Surapong Thammapitak, Chiang Mai’s Police Chief.

Police Major Surapong Thammapitak, Chiang Mai’s Police Chief.

Pol. Maj. Surapong, thank you for agreeing to this meeting. Could you please explain, briefly, the manner in which the Chiang Mai police force is set up –  how many police stations, officers and different departments exist within the city and its surrounding areas?

There
are 36 police stations, covering a 35 square kilometre area radiating out from the centre of the city. The four main stations are Muang, which is my station, Paping, Mae Ping and Chang Puak. Altogether, there are 4,000 police officers, of whom 200 are women, spread between 4 separate departments; the city police, the tourist police, the traffic police and the border and immigration police.
How do you see your role?

My role
is to protect the citizens of Chiang Mai by preventing crime.
What should a foreign resident do and who should be contacted if, for example, they witness or are involved in a traffic accident, have a break-in at their home, or suffer a personal attack such as a mugging or theft? Is there English language help available?

In all cases,
foreign residents or tourists should contact the tourist police by phone on 1155 – there should be an English speaking officer available. For the Thai language, the phone number is 191. The tourist police should be notified of all incidents in which foreign residents or tourists are involved.
The tourist police’s volunteer force seems to have gone very quiet recently – is this true?

That section
is not under my control; for an answer to this question you would have to speak to the chief of that department. However, although the volunteer force is mainly used during festivals such as Loy Krathong and Songkran, the tourist police offices in the Night Bazaar are manned by 3 to 4 volunteers per day.
As a senior member of the Thai community, what ‘mistakes’ do you feel the farang community or individuals make on a regular basis?

Even when
I travel to the south of Thailand, I have to consider the different cultural aspects of the region, therefore I would say that foreigners may well be unaware of Thai culture, which may result in misunderstandings and problems. Also drunkenness can often lead to problems.
There seems to be great confusion about the anti-smoking laws – particularly in
restaurants and bars – what is the law? And have any establishments been fined in court yet?
Regarding
restaurants and bars, no smoking is allowed in air-conditioned areas, a 2,000 baht fine applies. The smoking status of other areas is up to the owners – it is their decision.
What do you see as your role in fighting corruption within the police force?

At present,
a nationwide promotion,”Virtue in your Job,” is in progress. National and local media are being used to identify this kind of problem. If a case is serious, the officer or officers in question could lose their jobs. Both residents and the media are able to report instances of corruption to the Assets Examination Committee.
What progress is being made to stamp out sex tourism, either involving adults or children?

This is
very important to the whole police force. Nationwide it is taken very seriously and punishment is severe, especially if government officials are involved. Brothel keepers and their agents, who control and transport victims, can expect double the sentence.
What should a person do, if they have knowledge or suspect a child is being abused?

Again,
contact the Tourist Police on 1155, and also, if it involves foreigners, report it to Immigration.
What do you think is the major causes of road accidents, and what steps are being taken to prevent road deaths and injuries?

In 2007,
out of a population of 1,558,298 in Chiang Mai, there were 377 deaths on the roads. It is national policy to crackdown on motorists who do not use their car’s seat belts, and motorcyclists and pillion passengers who do not wear helmets. Also, alcohol plays a large part in road deaths and injuries.
Chiang Mai Mail’s online newspaper is read by many tourists and expats before they come here. Given the current political climate, what is the city’s police force doing about the protesters, and what should expats tell their friends from their home countries which may encourage them to visit?

Even though
people have different political views, most of the citizens of Chiang Mai have been born and bred here (unlike places further south where people move to find employment). Therefore there is much more of a community and ‘family spirit’ and most just want to continue living here safely.
There have been recent reports of muggings in Chiang Mai – does this happen often?

It is very rare
for a mugging to take place in Chiang Mai, particularly one involving foreigners. We have CCTV and police patrols throughout the night, especially in the tourist areas where there are many bars and guest houses. As in any large town around the world, vulnerable groups such as ladies should try not to go out alone after dark, and also for example, when walking on the pavement, handbags and valuables should be kept away from the road.
Police Major Surapong, thank you for taking the time to talk to the Chiang Mai Mail and the Chiang Mai Friends Group.


Mae Hong Son solar cells stolen to order

CMM Reporters
A report of the theft of a Mae Hong Son sanitation station’s solar cell resulted in a checkpoint being set up by police at the Burmese border, leading to the arrest of a man on September 18.
At the checkpoint, police attempted unsuccessfully to detain two motorcyclists and one pillion passenger who was carrying the stolen solar cell. After following the men, and noting that the solar cell had been thrown onto the side of the road, they were able to stop Paler Waipotsomporn, Chatae, and his pillion passenger, Aelao, who was arrested and taken to the Pangmapa police station. During questioning, Aelao admitted that he had received orders for solar cells from across the Burmese border, and had already stolen several from local villages. Owners of the stolen cells had been afraid to file claims for their property, as they feared that their families would be in danger from the thieves. Police are pursuing the case.


Concern expressed about forced relocation of Karen villagers

Saksit Meesubkwang
A meeting between Pol. Lt. Col. Kan Kiankaew, president of the Military Sub-Board Commission of the House of Representatives, and representatives of Karen village residents in the water resource forest area of Omkoi district took place on September 21.
During the meeting, villagers were informed that a relocation to the plains of at least 200 Karen families was being planned. Reasons given were that their present area of residence is a water resource zone, and that protection of the forest against trespassing and the planting of illegal narcotics was necessary. Reports state that the villagers agreed to the relocation, and that the Agricultural land Office would grant each family 5 rai of land for agricultural purposes.
However, Waiying Thongbue, coordinator for the Karen culture, the environmental network, and an economic advisor to the National Economic Council, reacted strongly to the news, stating that he had serious concerns about the relocation of the villagers, including the amount of land whey would be granted and the fact that their traditional ways of life relied on a forest location. Karen culture, he added, is very different from that of plains dwellers, involving traditional and ancient ceremonies and different ways of looking after animals. After harvesting rice the Karen people return to a self-sufficient lifestyle in the forests, and may have difficulty adjusting to life in the plains where every necessity requires money. As regards the planting of opium, suppression is not difficult, involving a suppression station being set up by the military, and tribespeoples’ replacement income being provided by organic agriculture with a supporting market or price guarantee. If this is done, relocation would not be necessary.
Waiying also requested that the relocation project be re-examined, and that the Karen families’ agreement to relocate might have been based on insufficient information or have been forced by the quoting of a law. The Military Sub-Board Commission of the House of Representatives had not seen fit to discuss the project with the area’s Karen advisor or with the Hill Tribes Association. In Waiying’s experience, many such projects are decided at high government levels without consultation with the people involved. Most relocations had failed, as no follow-up advice had been given to the villagers, and no-one was concerned about their sufferings.


“Spirits of the yellow banana leaves” create history in Phrae

CMM Reporters
A big victory for a small group of hill tribe people was won recently at a Hmong village committee election held during the monthly meeting of residents in Ban Huay Hom Pattana, Rongkwang district, Phrae.
The 152 members of a former nomadic hunter-gatherer tribe, known as the Phi Tong Lueang or Mlabri people, have lived amongst the 1,000 or so villagers for some years. Their Thai name translates as “spirits on the yellow banana leaves,” and refers to their habit of roofing their temporary forest shelters with banana leaves. When the leaves turn yellow, the Mlabri move on to another forest site and build new shelters.
At the village committee election, 13 candidates stood and 10 were elected, including three members of the Mlabri, Tu Srichaopa, Sunthorn Sriphonsuk and Vira Srichaopa.
As their own people comprised a very small percentage of voters and their election was dependent on votes from the Hmong residents, their success meant that their tribe had finally been accepted into the local community without prejudice. Udom Suksaneh, who has lived with the Mlabri for 20 years, reported that “The Mlabri have taken a big step forward, and have been accepted by the rest of the village as equal neighbours, because of their honesty, ability and willingness to cooperate in the development of our village.”
The Mlabri were traditionally forest-dwelling nomadic hunter-gatherers, about whose lifestyle and belief systems little was known, except that they considered that they were not entitled to cultivate the land. They are reputed to have encyclopaedic knowledge of the medicinal uses of plants and herbs, particularly for the treatment of snake and centipede poisoning, and for fertility and contraception. Mlabri women traditionally change their partners every 5 or 6 years, taking their children with them.
Experts suspect that very few Mlabri now maintain their migratory pattern of life; most have moved to villages, where they word as field labourers for Thais or other hill-tribes such as the Hmong, in return for pigs and cloth. There is concern that the few remaining members of the tribe may become a slave society in an increasingly materialistic rural Thai society, due to their anti-materialist beliefs. The acceptance implied by the election of the three Mlabri candidates in Ban Huay Hom Pattana may, it is hoped, go some way to calming these fears.


Upcoming “Payap Presents” lecture series to focus on S.E. Asia issues

Andy Archer
The Thai and Southeast Asian Studies Program at Payap University is proud to announce the second installation of “Payap Presents,” a fortnightly lecture series in English, featuring scholars working with Southeast Asian issues. The lectures are open to the public, free, and will be held from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. in room 201 of the Graduate and International Studies Building on the Mae Khao Campus of Payap University on the following dates:
Thursday, October 2: “The incorporation of fresh tactics and technology by the new generation of Burma’s freedom fighters. Is this enough to overcome a military dictatorship?” Speakers: Megan Libby, NSEP David L. Boren Fellow
Thursday, October 16: “Thai-US Relations in their 175th Year.” Speaker: Alexander Barrasso, Political/Economic Officer, Chiang Mai Consulate General Office of the U.S. Ambassador to Thailand, United States Department of State
Thursday, October 30: “The Transformation of Chiang Mai’s Urban Space – from Kawila to Kaew Nawarat.” Speaker: Taylor Easum, Ph.D. Candidate, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Thursday, 20 November: “China’s rising economic power and its implication on Southeast Asian economies.” Speaker: Dr. Ho Nguyen, Professor of Economics, St. Mary’s College of Maryland
Thursday, 4 December: “Internally Displaced Persons in Eastern Burma.” Speaker: Lyndy Worsham, Thailand-Burma Border Consortium
Payap’s 6th annual International Day will be held from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the lawn area behind Chalermprakiat Building on Mae Khao Campus on December 3. This is a fun event with food, activities, and performances from around the world to showcase the diversity of the Payap community. For further information please visit http://ic.payap.ac.th/.



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