NEWS
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat visits Chiang Mai

EDITORIAL: 3 dead and hundreds injured as excessive force used against protestors

Chiang Mai Zoo’s director announces new marketing strategies

Dutch tourist found dead in guest house

Chiang Mai academics send anti-violence letter to PM

Chiang Mai 2008 dengue fever infections highest for 10 years

Security concerns cause cancellation of PAD rally at CMU’s theatre

Phayao wins “10th most liveable city” award

Zonta invites you to tell your story

Raid on 6 Omkoi villages results in arrests and confiscation of drugs

Medical Council of Thailand reminds Thai physicians to observe code of ethics

Environmental concerns result in worthwhile morning for volunteers

 

Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat visits Chiang Mai

Saksit Meesubkwang
The recently elected PM Somchai Wongsawat paid a visit to Chiang Mai last week in order to inspect the renovations at Phra That Doi Suthep and pay his respects to the ancestors of his brother-in-law, ex-PM Thaksin Shinawatra.
Having stayed overnight at Thaksin’s Chiang Mai residence, Somchai headed to Doi Suthep, where he was welcomed by local authorities and a crowd of well-wishers. During his speech of welcome, the temple’s abbot expressed his wishes that Somchai would bring harmony and a successful resolution to the present tense situation.
Officials from the Fine Arts Department and members of the temple’s staff then presented Somchai with the proposed renovation plan and took him on a tour of the endangered areas, including the famous stupa containing the relics of the Buddha. Somchai agreed with the plan and pledged the government’s financial support.
During the PM’s visit, he was accosted by a female PAD supporter waving a “clapping hand” device, regarded as a symbol by PAD protestors. The woman was detained by plain-clothes police, but claimed her right of public protest.
After leaving Phra That Doi Suthep, Somchai headed out to Sankamphaeng district, and paid his respects to the ashes of ex-PM Thaksin’s antecedents, housed at Wat Samakkhee Rong Tham. He also paid a visit to Chansom Shinawatra, an elder relative of his wife, Yaowapa Wongsawat. On his return to the city, he visited Wat Chedi Luang and paid his respects to the body of the recently deceased abbot, Luang Pu Chan. Prior to his departure for Bangkok and after taking his evening meal at Xia Tong Heng Chinese restaurant, he was welcomed to Tonlamyai and Warorot markets by stallholders and a crowd of well-wishers including representatives of local authorities.

 

EDITORIAL: 3 dead and hundreds injured as excessive force used against protestors

It can be no surprise to anyone in this country and overseas that the violence which has been threatening to erupt since August 26, when supporters of the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) stormed into the grounds of Bangkok’s Government House intent on bringing down the People’s Power Party’s coalition, has finally broken out.
Until late on Monday, at which time protestors marched to Parliament, vowing to prevent newly-elected Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat from delivering his policy statement to both houses, it seemed that police had used reasonable methods of control of the flagging protest, refusing to be provoked into violent conflict. At the same time, PAD leaders seemed to be using a “Ghandi-esque” approach in order to win sympathy from the masses whilst challenging their right to suffrage.
However, all this changed when the clashes broke out early Tuesday morning as protestors gathered around the parliament compound to prevent lawmakers from attempting to enter the Parliament building, which led to the worst violence seen in Bangkok for 16 years. Police fired tear-gas into the thousands strong crowd, often aiming not over the heads of the protestors, but towards the ground and into the crowd.
The results of their actions, seen countrywide and worldwide on local and international television, were horrendous. Legs were blown off, people’s limbs burned or crushed beyond repair, hands blown off, injuries and severe burns to faces and bodies, with blood everywhere. An unarmed group, including old people, sheltering from the violence by a wall, were unable to escape tear gas canisters lobbed directly at them by police. Innocent people were caught up in the chaos, unable to escape injury. At the end of the day two people lost their lives.
There is never any justification for such excessive violence. A percentage of PAD protestors may have been prepared to use violence themselves - but the scale of the response of the police towards their own countrymen and women who see a different solution to the stalemate which has gripped Thailand for far too long, is totally unacceptable, and its economic and social consequences will be felt long after memories of the videoed violence itself have faded.
Her Majesty the Queen has shown grave concern for the injured, has instructed all Bangkok hospitals to give them special care and has donated personal funds to help the injured. Surely this has to be understood by all politicians, police commanders and other authorities involved in this crisis as a precursor to urgent moves towards the reconciliation of all sides and the cessation of any moves towards further violence?
Even as Prime Minister Somchai made his delayed policy statement, deliberately neglecting to mention with regret those horribly injured in the ongoing clashes outside, Thailand was reeling from shock at the horror of Tuesday’s events.
If this conflict is not resolved, the rest of the world, together with its tourists and investors, may well draw back from a country whose leaders apparently permit such excesses. How much longer must the Thai people suffer?
We deplore the excessive use of force last Tuesday by the riot police force in its abortive attempt to break up the PAD protest at the Parliament building, and call for a united and successful reconciliation between all the political factions.


Chiang Mai Zoo’s director announces new marketing strategies

CMM Reporters
Following the recent birthday celebrations at Chiang Mai Zoo for the female panda Lin Hui, Thanaphat Pongpamorn, the zoo’s director, announced to reporters that 5 rai of land has been set a side for a new attraction, the Adventure Zoo, which will focus on the prehistoric era of the dinosaurs. The project will be launched later this month.
New marketing strategies aimed at increasing the number of visitors to the zoo will also include “Amazing Zoo Star,” featuring a pair of pandas gifted by China, a Cape fur seal and Humboldt Penguins. Another innovation, “Amazing Only One in Thailand,” will present Kali, an Indian rhinoceros gifted to His Majesty King Bhumibol in 1986 by the then King of Nepal.
The “Seven Wonders” of Chiang Mai Zoo will also include the huge aquarium at present under construction, together with a display of orchids and the ancient Lanna historical site at Wat Ku Din Khao. A map of the location of the 7 wonders will be given to every visitor, stamped with a number and the visitor’s name and address, which will be entered into a monthly prize draw.
In spite of the worldwide financial crisis and its effect on visitor numbers, Thanaphat is still optimistic that the new marketing strategies will bring increased numbers of visitors to the zoo.


Dutch tourist found dead in guest house

Saksit Meesubkwang
A Dutch tourist, Willem Pater, 56, was found dead October 5 on the balcony of his rented room at a guesthouse on Ratchadamnoen Road.
Willem, who had arrived in Chiang Mai October 2, was discovered by a maid lying face down on the floor with blood on his head and in his nose and ears and a cigarette in his hand. Police and medical staff from Maharat Nakorn Chiang Mai hospital were called to the scene, and announced that the death had taken place approximately 10 hours previously. It was assumed that Willem had fallen victim to a seizure whilst walking onto the balcony to smoke a cigarette, and had fallen awkwardly, striking his head on the hard floor.
The owner of the guesthouse told police that the dead man had checked in three days previously, and had eaten once in the restaurant. Willem’s body has been sent to Maharat Hospital’s forensic department in order that an autopsy be performed to determine the cause of death, after which the Royal Dutch Embassy will send it home to Holland.


Chiang Mai academics send anti-violence letter to PM

CMM Reporters
A group of Chiang Mai academics, led by Wongsak na Chieng Mai, have routed a strongly-worded letter condemning the recent violence in Bangkok through Chiang Mai’s governor to Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat.
The letter’s contents stress the three deaths and more than 400 injuries which resulted from the attempt by police to break up the PAD’s demonstration outside Parliament, and the political situation and clash of ideals which caused the confrontation. It calls on the Prime Minister to ensure that weapons are not used against Thai people by Thai police in future.
The group of academics responsible for the letter also stress that the present conflict should be solved by the use of intelligence and wisdom, bearing in mind that Thai society, and in particular its younger members, were to survive this crisis, it should be by understanding the administration’s position and not by the use of violence by any party.
The letter criticised PM Somchai for neglecting to mention in his parliamentary speech the violence, deaths and injuries caused during the riot, arguing that his action was against the traditional Buddhist foundations of Thai society itself, which stress moral principles and kindness towards all living things. It continued by stating that the Thai people themselves must be continually aware of these principles and fulfil their duty to live in peace with ethics and correct development.
Finally, the letter stated that the PM’s resignation was not for its writers to demand, but that he should take responsibility for the situation and reject the possibility of further violence. The writers stated that “There are as yet silent forces in the kingdom, which will be closely watching the PM and the members of his cabinet.”


Chiang Mai 2008 dengue fever infections highest for 10 years

CMM Reporters
According to the city’s public health chief, Dr. Wattana Kanjanakamol, cases of dengue fever in Chiang Mai have risen to the highest total in 10 years, with 3,100 recorded sufferers during the period from January to September 2008. Muang and Doi Lor recorded the highest number of infections, with half of the province’s cases found in Muang district. The epidemic reached its peak during July and August, with species 1-4 of the disease being identified.
Reasons for the dramatic increase in infections range from an increase in the number of mosquitoes carrying the disease, the increased rainfall, and the increased resistance of the mosquitoes to pesticides. Global warming was also cited as a possible reason, as was human behaviour in that an infected patient who moved from one area to another could cause an epidemic to break out in a different area.


Security concerns cause cancellation of PAD rally at CMU’s theatre

Saksit Meesubkwang
Following the cancellation by CMU’s rectors of their proposed October 5 rally at the university’s theatre, 50 members of the Chiang Mai chapter of the People’s Alliance for Democracy, led by coordinators and former CMU lecturers Suriyan Thongnoo-iad and Dr. Chalermpol Saempetch, gathered to seek an explanation.

Chiang Mai PAD supporters, pictured with a wreath showing their disapproval of the cancellation on safety grounds of their on-campus protest.

Prof. Dr. Watchara Wetchpong, and Assoc. Prof. Pong-in Rak-ariyatham, both CMU deputy rectors, gave the university’s reasons for the cancellation on behalf of the rector, Prof. Dr. Pongsak Angasith. It was stated that, although CMU willingly supported academic activities, it was considered that the PAD seminar was likely to result in harm to participants and to university buildings due to the likely presence of representatives of the opposing political group. The deputy rectors also stated that the university was not opposed in principal to the PAD, and was willing to consider further PAD activities provided full prior discussions took place.
The PAD’s coordinator, Dr. Chalermpol, stated after the meeting that he was disappointed that permission for the rally had been withdrawn, and that the seminar had merely been intended to provide information on PAD’s proposed political reforms. He added that further requests would be made for use of the university’s premises at a future date.
During the meeting, a group from the pro-Thaksin Rak Chiang Mai 51 assembled outside the campus area, intending to enter and disrupt the proceedings. Police were called, and the group were refused entry to the campus.
Elsewhere, 200 members of another anti-government protest group, calling itself the “King’s Musketeers,” led by Terdsak Jiamkijwattana, assembled at Raming Nivet housing estate and signed a notice of intent to join the PAD protestors in Bangkok. Police officers kept a watch on the meeting in case of possible violence.


Phayao wins “10th most liveable city” award

CMM Reporters
According to Charnchai Pichetboonkiat, the city’s head of local administration promotion and development, Phayao has been voted the 10th most liveable city in Thailand, with its Muang district ranked the 6th most liveable district, in a recent poll conducted by the Local Community Development Institute (LDI).
The announcement and presentation of the awards to the winning cities took place October 8 at the Miracle Grand Hotel in Bangkok, chaired by Prof. Dr. Pravet Wasri, the president of the Local Community Development Foundation. The ceremony was held as part of a seminar on the 4th Strengthened Municipal Networks and Liveable Cities, jointly arranged by the Local Institute, Local Administration Department, Pattana Thai Foundation and the Office of National Economic and Social Development.


Zonta invites you to tell your story

Andy Archer
Last February, Zonta International Chiang Mai sponsored That Takes Ovaries, an evening of theatrical narratives by local men and women based on real-life stories of women around the globe and their courage and determination in overcoming adversity, discrimination, and violence. This year, That Takes Ovaries is asking local women, both Thai and expatriate, who have a story to tell, to submit it for inclusion in the play, which will be composed of entirely new stories. These are the stories that encourage other women to become empowered and speak out. Zonta invites women here in Thailand to submit their stories for consideration. They will be modified for the stage for a performance to be held in 2009. The storytellers’ names will be kept entirely confidential upon request.
You are invited to send YOUR story of your courageous and daring experiences. These stories are not just for women; they are stories for all men and women who discovered their personal power by facing danger, misfortune, prejudice, and hardship. The manuscripts should be between 500 and 1,100 words. You may use any name of your choosing, and submit by email to [email protected] .com or mail it to Laura Godtfredsen, 1/1 Moo 5, T. Mae Raem, A. Mae Rim, Chiang Mai, 50180. Please provide an address or telephone number so that we may verify your story. If you have any questions, you may call Laura at 084-042-4069. For more about That Takes Ovaries, go to http://thattakesovaries.org/htmls/homepage.html. The deadline for stories is December 1.
Zonta Chiang Mai is a chartered member (1997) of Zonta International, a worldwide service organization of executives in business and the professions working together to advance the status of women in almost 70 countries. The Chiang Mai group has sponsored various fund-raising events in support of the Adopt a Grandma Program, which helps Chiang Mai grandmothers to bring up their grandchildren, orphaned as a result of AIDS. These women in need are supported by the generosity of local donors committed to providing regular monthly support. Zonta’s mission for this year is to expand the program’s base of donors and grandmas. Estimates suggest that there are hundreds of grandmas in the Chiang Mai region that are in need of help. Zonta also conducts programs for the education of orphaned children, scholarships for young college women, and is helping to develop a bird sanctuary and nature reserve.


Raid on 6 Omkoi villages results in arrests and confiscation of drugs

CMM Reporters
Six villages in Omkoi district, known for its illegal opium cultivation, were sealed off in a recent raid by the district chief, Sittichai Sawatsaen, accompanied by the entire staff of 100 members of the 36th Ranger Regiment and territorial volunteers.
Illegal items seized during the operation included 7 methamphetamine pills, 10 opium pipes, 4 sets of opium-smoking paraphernalia, 4 sets of high-low gambling craps and several guns and bullets. More than 3,000 planks of illegally logged teak were also seized, as were 45 vehicles. 22 villagers were arrested for various breaches of the law, and almost 200 addicts were offered rehabilitation programmes.
The area has long been known for its cultivation of large quantities of illegal opium on more than a hundred thousand rai of land, which has been regularly cleared by officials and the Thai Army.


Medical Council of Thailand reminds Thai physicians to observe code of ethics

The Medical Council of Thailand on Thursday opposed the use of violence to solve any conflict, whilst urging all medical doctors to help patients without discrimination and to observe international humanitarian principles, according to its chairman, Somsak Lohlekha. Dr. Somsak said the statement was approved by council committees from 16 medical institutions nationwide, representing 38,000 doctors.
Two people died and hundreds were injured in the violent clashes in Bangkok on Tuesday after police used tear gas against anti-government protesters outside Parliament.
The Medical Council issued their statement in response to moves by some doctors who vowed not to treat injured police officers as a protest against the use of force against demonstrators.
Following the statement given last Wednesday by Dr. Suthep Koncharnwit of Chulalongkorn Hospital, announcing that the hospital’s medical teams would not give assistance to police who were injured in the clashes with PAD supporters, Dr. Somsak stated that the Medical Council would investigate the issue. Meanwhile, Thai Red Cross Society secretary-general Dr. Phan Wannamethee and executives of Chulalongkorn Hospital, the Thai Red Cross Society and Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Medicine together issued an opposing statement affirming their stance of treating patients regardless of political beliefs, race, nationality and religion.
Later, Dr. Suthep apologised for having announced a boycott of medical services to the police, and for the emotional remarks he had made at a press conference which, he said, may have had an unintended negative impact on the hospital. He added that his intentions may have been misunderstood by some, and that he had wanted only to stress that he had considered the measures used by the police and permitted by the government were inappropriate. In practice, he said, he could not deny medical treatment to any patient.
Public Health Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung explained that the physician had been speaking from anger, and that he believed that all doctors practice medical ethics and would not discriminate against patients, despite the emotions raised by this week’s events.
He assured the public that the medical institutes under the Public Health Ministry would give their full attention and assistance to all patients.
Narenthorn Emergency Medical Services centre recently reported that the number of those injured in the recent riots has risen to 478, and of those, 85 had been admitted to nine hospitals in metropolitan Bangkok. Nine people had experienced severe trauma, with amputations having to be performed, and one patient had lost an eye. (TNA)


Environmental concerns result in worthwhile morning for volunteers

Michael Davies
25 Thai and farang volunteers from Chiang Mai Friends, Green Chiang Mai and the Global Warming Watch Network, met up on the morning of Sunday October 5 at Huay Kaew Waterfall in Doi Suthep National Park to take part in a garbage clean-up session at Pha Ngerb, 500 metres above Wat Srisoda.

Volunteers during the garbage clean-up in Doi Suthep National Park.

The group were welcomed and thanked by the park’s superintendent, Ampon Paan Mongkol, who is responsible for protecting its 262 sq km environment and for educating visitors and staff alike in ways to keep the mountain in the best possible condition. He explained that there are 3 main nature trails – Mon Tha Than Waterfall past the Sai Yoi Waterfall and around the base of Doi Suthep Temple, Fai Hin Temple, by the Zoo (or from the memorial statue of Kruba Sriwichai up to the Huay Kaew Waterfall), and the top of the mountain itself, around the Sanku ruin. The park is home to Wat Phra Thart Doi Suthep (Chiang Mai’s most famous temple), Bhu Ping Royal Palace and two Hmong villages, as well as a large number of indigenous species of wild life and birds, including wild pigs and monkeys. For foreigners who wish to hike these trails, open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., there is a modest charge of 100 baht. Ampon requested that volunteers ask both Thai and farang friends who wish to visit Doi Suthep National Park, not to leave their garbage behind at the end of the day!
After Ampon’s welcome, the volunteers were driven up to Pha Ngerb, given large black plastic bags and protective gloves, and put to work. A variety of garbage was collected and, after two hours work achieved with plenty of laughing, joking and forging of new friendships, everyone agreed it was a worthwhile way to spend a Sunday morning, even after a late Saturday night out!
To take part in the next “clean up” or to find out other ways you can help with green issues, contact Duenpen Chaladlam (Boong) at [email protected]