Vol. VII No. 41 - Tuesday
October 7 - October 13, 2008



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by Saichon Paewsoongnern


NEWS
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Escalation at anti-government protest prevented by police intervention

Memorial service held for local soldier killed in South

Thai government grants 2.83 billion baht for initial flood relief

Lin Hui briefly reunited with Chuang Chuang as 7th birthday treat

Mysterious fire engulfs Lamphun lamyai warehouse

Two Chiang Mai bus stations to be transferred to municipality

Missing Kayans return home at great cost

Preah Vihear uncertainty seriously affects border economy

Soldiers posted to restive South get protective amulets and blessings

CM Narcotics Suppression officers accused of kidnapping rich widow

Teenaged prisoners escape after violent attack on guard

Demand increases for illegal imports of cheap Burmese rice

Thailand to issue new immigration card

Doi Suthep Pagoda at risk of collapse

Illegal teak logs worth 2 million baht seized after tip-off

Mae Hong Son police reluctant to close illegal gambling dens despite complaints

 

Escalation at anti-government protest prevented by police intervention

Saksit Meesubkwang
On September 28, 100 People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) supporters from Chiang Rai and Mae Hong Son, all wearing yellow shirts and led by Therdsak Jiamkitwattana, PAD’s leader in Chiang Mai, rallied at Raming Nivet housing estate, Chiang Mai, intent on making and broadcasting anti-government speeches from Wihok, the community’s radio station. An appeal was made on the air to PAD supporters in the city to gather in Raming Nivet with their vehicles prior to advancing the protest into the city.
Having heard the PAD supporters’ on-air appeal and its criticisms of Rak Chiang Mai 51, supporters of the present PPP government, Rak Chiang Mai broadcast its own appeal on another frequency owned by its leader Petcharawat Wattanapongsirikul. The opposing broadcast asked PPP supporters to meet in front of the Grand Wararos Hotel wearing red shirts, to march to and surround Raming Nivet village and the PAD group, and to shut down the Wihok radio station.
After the Rak Chiang Mai 51 protestors stormed into Raming Nivet that evening, an argument broke out and missiles were thrown, resulting in minor injuries. Police intervened and persuaded the two leaders to negotiate to prevent further violence. A temporary agreement was reached, following which the two mobs dispersed.

 

Memorial service held for local soldier killed in South

The body of Sergeant Chaiprakarn Boontha who was killed in the South by insurgents September 21, shown during the memorial ceremony at Wing 41.

Saksit Meesubkwang
A memorial ceremony was held September 23 at the Royal Thai Air Force’s Wing 41 station on the occasion of the arrival in Chiang Mai of the body of Sgt. Chaiprakarn Boontha of the Special Operations Unit 25 in Pattani under the command of the Second Battalion of the Hundred Fifty Third Infantry. Sgt. Chaiprakarn was shot and killed during an exchange of fire whilst on night duty September 21 at Ban Makham, Pattani.
The Deputy Governor of Chiang Mai, Pairot Saengphuwong, Pol. Lt. Gen. Sathaporn Duangkaew, the Commander in Chief of Region 5, and Maj. Gen. Thongchai Taeparat, the Commander in Chief of Royal Thai Army Squadron 33, together with officers and relatives of the deceased, were told at the ceremony about the attack by Southern rebels on Sgt. Chaiprakarn’s post, during which he met his death.
The body of the deceased was flown home by the Thai Royal Air Force. Following the ceremony it was transferred under an honorary guard provided by the Royal Thai Army to Pracha Kasemtong Temple in Hang Dong for a religious ceremony.
The wife of Sgt. Chaiprakarn, Nicha Tasang, 24, his two children and several army friends were too distressed by his death to attend the ceremony, although they were comforted that he had sacrificed his life for his country. Maj. Gen. Thongchai stated that the deceased will be posthumously promoted from Sgt. to Captain, and that the Chiang Mai zone’s Veterans’ Welfare Office will continue to fully support the family in addition to the Royal Thai Army’s immediate assistance. This support will ensure that Sgt. Chaiprakarn’s son and daughter, now 6 and 4 years old, will be able to continue their education up to and including university, either at government or private schools.


Thai government grants 2.83 billion baht for initial flood relief

The Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives will disburse 2.83 billion baht to help flood victims in 56 provinces whose properties and farmland were damaged by floods between August 1 and September 30, Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives Somphat Kaewpijit said Wednesday.
Speaking to journalists after chairing a meeting of the natural calamity committee, Somphat said it was decided to initially grant 2.83 billion baht to the victims. More financial assistance would be given after a thorough survey of flood damage is completed, a process which is expected to take about 30 days.
The general situation in many provinces has returned to normal after the floodwaters have receded, while the Royal Irrigation Department has dispatched teams of workers with pumps to drain water from still-flooded areas.
Somphat said that tropical depression ‘Mekkala,’ which has been downgraded to active low pressure cell status in the northeastern province of Uttaradit has benefited the national water reserves at the Bhumibol Dam as it had added substantial water to its store. The dam is still capable of storing about 6 billion cubic metres more water.
The Meteorological Department has announced that another tropical depression was heading towards Thailand from the Philippines. (TNA)


Lin Hui briefly reunited with Chuang Chuang as 7th birthday treat

Lin Hui enjoys her birthday treats.

Saksit Meesubkwang
Chiang Mai Zoo’s female panda, Lin Hui, celebrated her 7th birthday September 28. As a special treat, the zoo’s Panda Show and Research Center allowed her mate, Chuang Chuang, to stay in her cage with her after 2 years of separation. 200 excited schoolchildren sang Happy Birthday to Lin Hui in the Chinese language, and all children were allowed free entry to the zoo on her special day. A birthday breakfast of quantities of fruit and carrots was provided, and a “snow scene” was constructed from dried ice, in which the two pandas played together. They both seemed happy to be reunited, if only, sadly, for a short time.

Lin Hui, the birthday girl, and Chuang Chuang,
 during the celebrations at Chiang Mai Zoo.


Mysterious fire engulfs Lamphun lamyai warehouse

CMM Reporters
A major fire broke out September 29 at a Lamphun warehouse containing 300 tons of dried lamyai, all of which were destroyed. Damage and losses are estimated at 20 million baht and the cause of the fire has not yet been established.
Ten fire engines were summoned to the blaze, and took 6 hours to douse the flames. Police cordoned off the area and forensics officers are investigating, at present suspecting either arson or an electrical fault. According to the owner of the warehouse, Thaned Bunchert, the dried lamyai had been stored under contract since 2004.


Two Chiang Mai bus stations to be transferred to municipality

Saksit Meesubkwang
Two of Chiang Mai city’s bus stations, Chang Puak and the CM Arcade bus terminal, are to be transferred from the Chiang Mai Land Transport Office to the Municipality, effective from January 30, 2009. The transfer has been delayed for three months as construction of toilets for the disabled costing 2 million baht is behind schedule.
After the transfers are completed, the municipality will assume responsibility for the buildings, facilities and surrounding areas, and will receive the income from fares and other charges. The vehicles themselves, their drivers and presently employed staff will remain under the control of the Land Transport Office, but temporary support staff will be employed by the municipality. The Chiang Mai Arcade bus terminal will require a support budget from the Land Transport Department, as revenues are less than running costs excluding salaries.
At the same time, a proposal was put forward by the Director of the Land Transport Office that a feasibility study should be undertaken for a 3rd bus station on the Chiang Mai/Lampang Superhighway, with allowances for complete facilities including air-conditioning, department stores and hotel accommodation.


Missing Kayans return home at great cost

11 Kayans who left their village in Mae Hong Son province, lured by businessmen who planned to put them on show for tourists, have returned home with many lessons learnt.
The Huay Sue Tao village was brought back to life again with Kayans chanting traditional folksongs as a greeting during the return of the missing village members.
Two months ago, the seven adults and four children disappeared from the village. Authorities believed they were misled by businessmen who offered them a job in nearby Chiang Mai.
“We decided to go with them as they said they would pay us 4,000 baht per person per month. We just wanted to earn a living,” said Mati, one of the missing women.
With the Kayan people recognised as displaced persons and not allowed to leave their province without authorities’ permission, the disappearance of the 11 became an issue of human trafficking and prompted authorities to search for them around the clock.
Mati said she and the other Kayans faced hardship travelling to Chiang Mai. They had been on the move constantly and were hiding in the jungle for two months. Finally a man who picked them up sent them back to Mae Hong Son, after facing much pressure from authorities’ blockades. They did not get paid even one baht.
Moreover, Mati and her three companions were charged for leaving the province without permission and fined 2,000 baht each. Her husband and another Kayan faced further charges for leading the refugees out of the camp and were still detained for questioning. Mati considers their ordeal an expensive lesson.
“I won’t leave the village anymore. This causes us a lot of troubles. I can’t live in such a situation,” said Mati.
It’s not the first time Kayans have left their villages to make a living in low-lying areas. With some businessmen seeking to exploit the Kayan’s distinctive brass neck-rings, combined with their poor condition of living, it cannot be guaranteed this won’t happen again.


Preah Vihear uncertainty seriously affects border economy

CMM Reporters
Locals and business people on both sides of the Thai/Cambodia border in the area of the Preah Vihear temple complex are worried that the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the issue will continue, as its effects are seriously harming local economies.
In the two months since the row over the ownership of the temple complex erupted, business and tourism incomes have fallen to almost zero, with the presence of both side’s armies causing recollections of the deaths and injuries caused during Cambodia’s Civil War to haunt local people. The ancient temple is closed at present; locals who work with tourists feel that it should be reopened as soon as possible, and that tourism should be encouraged by the authorities. Local residents on the Thai side of the border want the new Prime Minister, Somchai Wongsawat, to visit the area in the near future to see for himself the effects on businesses of the ongoing situation and the poverty which is threatening residents as a result.


Soldiers posted to restive South get protective amulets and blessings

CMM Reporters
A ceremony was held September 28 at Wat Sridonmoon in Saraphee, attended by 64 members of the 7th Infantry Regiment stationed at Chiang Mai’s Kavila Camp.
The aim of the occasion, led by Capt. Srongwattana Saengsisod and Capt. Nathharin Sithhibunma, was to allow the troops to pay their respects to the abbot of Sri Donmoon Temple, Khru Ba Noi Taechapanyo, a Buddhist teacher, and to receive blessings and protective amulets before their departure for the South of Thailand.
The soldiers brought flak jackets, made by a local housewives’ group, and protective helmets to be blessed and marked with a mystic symbol by the abbot, and were sprinkled with holy water for their protection during combat. Each soldier was given one a new series of “Miracle” amulets for further protection, and was personally blessed and instructed to pay his respects to the “God of the Land” on his arrival in the south.


CM Narcotics Suppression officers accused of kidnapping rich widow

Saksit Meesubkwang
A second missing person report filed September 23 by Muang resident Noi Piewthong and her lawyer Diloktham Nualsamlee at Changpuak Police Station accused Chiang Mai Narcotics Suppression officers of kidnapping her daughter, Rattikul Khampeera, 33, the widow of a British Army serviceman and inheritrix of 30 million baht.

Rattikul’s mother, Noi Piewthong, and her lawyer, filing a lawsuit for kidnap against the Narcotics Suppression team with Pol. Maj. Pisanu Norapong.

Noi stated that her daughter had lived in the UK with her British Army serviceman husband for ten years, returning to Thailand two months ago after his death. On September 3, officers had raided a house on Waesalee Road in a search for drugs, and had taken Rattikul in for questioning, releasing her later the same day. On the morning of September 5, the same officers had detained her again for questioning about drugs, also seizing her BMW car. Subsequently, Noi was unable to contact her daughter and has not seen her since that date.
The first missing person report was filed September 9, at which time Noi reported her fear that Rattikul might have been kidnapped. When asked why she thought this, she told officers about the 30 million baht her daughter had inherited on her husband’s death in the UK. Hearing nothing further from police, Noi contacted her lawyer and presented a second missing persons report to police.
As a result, a search was carried out September 23 on a police safe house in Doi Saket, during which Rattikul’s BMW was found. Police officers who had previously detained her insisted that she had been allowed to go free the same evening.
A statement from Noi’s lawyer indicated that a friend of Rattikul, Chanapong Yipa, had been arrested in possession of more than 100,000 yaba pills, and that this may have been the reason for the investigation into his client’s daughter. A verified money withdrawal from a local bank was also mentioned.
The Commander in Chief of the Provincial Police in Chiang Mai, Pol. Maj. Gen. Sutheo Detraksa, stated that a police committee had already been convened to investigate Rattikul’s disappearance. If police officers were found to be involved, they would be prosecuted according to the law. The suspension of the Narcotics Suppression team prior to investigation was not ruled out.


Teenaged prisoners escape after violent attack on guard

Saksit Meesubkwang
A land and air search for 11 teenagers who broke out of a local juvenile prison after attacking a guard has resulted in the recapture of 8 of the escapees.

Prison guard Khamsan Janloy suffered a wound to his head during the inmates’ jailbreak.
Previously, the 11 youngsters all detained at Chiang Mai’s District 7 Correction Centre for drug and violence-related offences, had been allowed to spend Mothers Day at their homes, but had failed to return at the agreed time. Officers had rounded them up, and they were given urine tests for drugs and alcohol, several of which proved positive. Fearing that this would result in longer sentences, the group had decided to escape.
After attacking a prison guard, Khamsan Janloy, 50, with an 8 inch steel pipe, the 11 detainees went on the run. An immediate search was instigated, aided by a helicopter belonging to the Border Police, which resulted in the recapture of 8 of the group. The remaining three are still at large.
A statement by the injured guard blames lax security at the centre for the escape, and notes that staff benefits are poor and administrators seem not to value their staff. The group’s parents have been called in, and it is expected that the escapees’ sentences will now be increased as a warning to other inmates.


Demand increases for illegal imports of cheap Burmese rice

CMM Reporters
The illegal cross-border trade in rice, banned by the Burmese junta following the devastation of much of the rice-growing areas by Nargis, seems nevertheless to be alive and kicking, with hundreds of thousands of bags being smuggled into Thailand at the Mae Sot border crossing.
Recent heavy rains have impeded transportation, leaving a large quantity of bagged rice on the Myawaddy side of the Thai/Burmese border waiting to be loaded, according to a Burmese trader. A Burmese truck driver, wishing to remain anonymous, reports that around 30 trucks, each with up to 700 bags of rice per trip, are used to transport the grain, hidden under other produce. Bribes of 200 kyat per bag enable the trucks to pass through Burmese Army and Karen ceasefire groups’ checkpoints. Repackaging of the rice is often necessary, as Thai traders are reluctant to accept bags marked with logos referring to Burmese producers.
Demand for Burmese rice has increased during this year as the price for Thai-grown rice has increased. Amid growing concerns in Burma that the export of rice to Thailand could cause drastic price increases in Burma, local traders consider that the illegal shipments will continue in spite of fears of a poor harvest.


Thailand to issue new immigration card

A new Immigration Card (IC) will be introduced for use by those going in and out of Thailand by the end of this year, said Immigration Police chief Pol. Lt. Gen. Chatchawan Suksomchit.
IC holders will include those who travel in and out of the country three to five times in a year, regardless of their nationality. They, Thai and foreign alike, will also bypass normal procedures of the Immigration Police which include scanning for criminal suspects or those on the police and immigration Watch List.
Instead, the IC holders will have the privileges to go through fast passage at airports, Lt. Gen. Chatchawan said.
The card, which will be issued to tourists and others by the end of this year, marking the advent of a fresh tourist season, was part of the efforts to promote tourism and investment in the country.
Meanwhile, the Immigration Police will open Call Centre 1178 early next year to provide tourism-related information in eight languages. Besides, the Immigration Police will take part in the crackdown on the exploitation of foreign labour and flesh trade throughout the country. (TNA)


Doi Suthep Pagoda at risk of collapse

Saksit Meesubkwang
Following the news that the famous pagoda at Wat Phra Thart Doi Suthep is in serious danger of collapse due to water retention in the lime lining from this year’s continuous rain, and urgent meeting is being held October 7 between officials from the Fine Arts Office in Chiang Mai, members of the temple’s committee and academics from CMU’s Faculty of engineering. The meeting will be chaired by Wibun Sa-nguanphong, Governor of Chiang Mai.

The grand stupa (chedi) at the famous Wat Phra Thart Doi Suthep temple which is in danger of collapse due to continuous rains and interior dampness.

When the unstable condition of the pagoda, which contains important and highly venerated relics of the Lord Buddha, became apparent, the abbot of Wat Phra Thart Doi Suthep, Prathep Worasithachan, was immediately informed and agreed to the restoration.
There are two possible methods of restoration; the first involves removing the gold plated covering to the outside of the pagoda, and allowing the internal dampness to escape and dry naturally. A ventiduct may have to be placed in certain sections to aid the drying process, and the gold plating to the exterior will be able to be replaced when drying is complete and the structure is again sound. The second process involved introducing a chemical into the interior lime coating, which will harden it. This method, although it has been previously used at Wat Phra Thart Jomkitti in Chiang Rai, may cause further problems in the long term.
The construction of the pagoda also causes difficulties, as it slopes at an angle of 45 degrees. Heavy rain soaking into the surrounding soil with its poor drainage may destabilise the structure still further and even cause it to collapse. CMU’s Faculty of Engineering, previously aware of this possibility, have already applied for a government grant of more than 100 million baht for the stabilising of the pagoda’s foundations. The application is still under discussion.


Illegal teak logs worth 2 million baht seized after tip-off

Saksit Meesubkwang
Following a tip-off received on September 24 concerning the transportation of smuggled teak logs from Lamphun to Chiang Mai, officers of the Anti-Logging Task Force set up a checkpoint at Nong Hoy on the Chiang Mai/Lamphun Road which resulted in the arrest of three men and the confiscation of a large quantity of illegal teak.
Early the following morning, a truck loaded with wood approached the checkpoint and was stopped by officers, who found 300 planks of teak worth approximately 2 million baht. The driver, Supanya Jannuo, 51, from Chiang Mai, and his passengers Ae Nadee, a Burmese national and Daengnoi Jaikham, 26, also from Chiang Mai, were arrested for possession of teak without a permit and transporting teak without a permit.

Illegal teak logs seized during the arrest of the three smugglers.


Mae Hong Son police reluctant to close illegal gambling dens despite complaints

Khajohn Boonpath
An illegal gambling den in Mae Hong Son has been finally closed down after a number of complaints were received from a householder whose wife had bankrupted the family with her habit.
After the woman had pawned the family vehicle and cleared out their savings accounts to support her addiction, her husband complained 3 times to local police in an attempt to have the gambling den closed down. At first, he was told, inaccurately, that it had been done; subsequently he was told that it could not be done as the premises were protected by police officers and could not be touched. Finally, the husband approached the volunteer police in his area, who raided the gambling den and arrested Chalerm Maetha, Dang Moonsawat, Wanphen Nokong, and Amporn Pinmarn, all of whom had been gambling. A further 6 people were not able to be arrested due to a lack of sufficient volunteer officers. Gambling equipment and 100 baht in cash were confiscated. Reports do not mention arrests of the owners of the premises.
The Deputy Governor of Mae Hong Son reported that there were many illegal gambling dens in the area, and that complaints were regularly received and were passed on to the chief of police in the area. He stated that the “kindness and good nature” of the police chief might be the reason why the gambling dens were not closed down, and that he had personally led volunteer police on a raid at one of the properties on at least one occasion. Adding that he illegal lottery continues to be a problem, with betting slips and lists being sent to an email address in Chiang Mai via the internet, he assured reporters that swift measures would be taken to remedy the situation.



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