Chiang Mai pro-democracy group promises continuing protests
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
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outdated Chinese manufactured chocolate and biscuits on sale in the Mae Sai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
Chinese investors discuss
opportunities in Lamphun
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
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
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
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
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.
The Muslim occasion of Ramadan Iftar was celebrated September 19
by Wichai Wittaya Bilingual School at a special dinner held at the
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?
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
“Spirits of the yellow banana leaves” create history in Phrae
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
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
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/.