NEWS
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Thai, Cambodia armies agree to joint border patrols

Rising costs and fixed wholesale corn prices result in farmers’ protest

Thai-manufactured melamine-tainted ‘Mali’ condensed milk seized countrywide

Night Safari’s animal feed suppliers protest against unpaid bills

Songthaew driver turns to theft to make ends meet

Late night motorcycle crash results in death and serious injury

TAT predicts high numbers of winter visitors to Mae Hong Son

Medical professionals confirm ethical stance to protestors

Chiang Rai border area to get CCTV

Chiang Rai reports 6 dengue fever deaths

Multicultural traditions celebrated in Yunnan music and dance festival

Trade falls, tourism declines at Thai-Cambodia border

Simple Change – Nimmanhaemin Art and Design Promenade 2008

FERC to hold annual fundraiser at Shangri-La Hotel

Charity Run begins “Cancer Care Family Day” at the Four Seasons

Loy Krathong Yee Peng festival 2008

Remembrance Day – Tuesday November 11

Chiang Mai city streets’ major clean up for Loy Kratong and tourist season

 

Thailand, Cambodia agree to joint border patrols

Cambodian government disagrees

Senior army officers of Thailand and neighbouring Cambodia agreed last Thursday to joint patrols in their disputed border areas following bloody clashes between soldiers of the two countries, according to Lt. Gen. Wibulsak Neepal, Thai Second Army chief.
Lt. Gen. Wibulsak, who oversees security affairs in northeastern Thailand, said the agreement was made by ranking army officers of the two countries at a meeting which lasted more than four hours in Si Sa Ket province on the borders of Cambodia.
The meeting was held following Wednesday’s clashes between soldiers of both countries near the ancient Preah Vihear temple which left two Cambodian soldiers dead and five Thai soldiers wounded. Lt. Gen. Wibulsak said although there was not clear agreement and progress to end border disputes, both sides agreed to introduce joint patrols to avoid armed confrontation.
A policy level meeting between the two countries was scheduled for October 21.
The deputy governor of Si Sa Ket province, meanwhile, met urgently with the heads of three villages adjoining the Cambodian border to map out an evacuation plan in case clashes between soldiers of the two countries erupt anew. The overall atmosphere in the two countries’ border towns was very quiet on Thursday with many Cambodians living in Poi Pet seen packing their personal valuables and heading for their hometowns deep inside the country.
However, the joint border patrol operation between soldiers of the two countries, believed to be a solution to a temporary cease-fire, failed to begin Friday as agreed, amid reports from official sources that the Cambodian government disagreed with its concept. In spite of this, soldiers of both armies remain stationed at their bases, the situation seems normal, and de-mining operations are continuing in the immediate area. Meanwhile, local residents in Si Sa Ket are hoping the next round of negotiations due Tuesday will produce progress, enabling them to harvest crops around the Preah Vihear temple. (TNA)

 

Rising costs and fixed wholesale corn prices result in farmers’ protest

Saksit Meesubkwang
An appeal to the Ministry of Commerce was submitted by the leader of a large group of local corn farmers during a protest October 10 against increased growing costs which had resulted in losses on the sale of their crops and considerable financial difficulties.

Pictured at Chiang Mai City Hall are a number of the 1,000 local farmers who staged a protest against the low price of corn.

The rising price of fertiliser and other expenses had increased farmers’ costs to 7 baht per kilo of corn, whist the agreed wholesale price continued to be fixed at 4 baht, leaving 100,000 tonnes of corn unsold. A protest had already been made to the Prime Minister, to no effect.
On October 11, the Commerce Minister, Songkhram Kitlerdpairoj, met with the protestors’ leaders, and agreed a government pledge of 8.5 baht per kilo, 50 satangs below the farmers’ demanded price of 9 baht per kilo. It was felt that the support of the farmers during the present political crisis was important. The protest ended after the agreement was reached.


Thai-manufactured melamine-tainted ‘Mali’ condensed milk seized countrywide

Thai Public Health Ministry food and drug officials have seized canned unsweetened condensed milk manufactured by a Thai firm from shelves throughout the country after the milk product was found to be contaminated with melamine far exceeding acceptable safety standards, according to Vicharn Minchainant, Deputy Public Health Minister.
The seizure was made after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was informed by the ministry’s Medical Sciences Department that tests found Mali brand condensed milk tins weighing 385 grammes with an expiry date of 160109 and manufactured by Thai Milk Industries Co., Ltd. to be melamine-tainted. According to Vicharn, the tested sample of Mali milk contained 92.82 mg/kg of melamine, far exceeding the maximum safe level of 2.5 mg/kg. He stated that Mali milk, as well as other products using similar raw materials, were recalled from stores nationwide.
FDA officials visited the company’s factory in Ayutthaya, where they were told that raw materials were imported from Belgium, Switzerland, Australia, Germany and India. Vicharn said the company’s owners could face a maximum two years in prison, a fine of Bt 20,000 or both. The FDA earlier collected samples of 10 products for tests, with six testing as having acceptable levels. Three other product results are yet to be released.
The tainted milk scandal began in China, where four babies have died and about 54,000 infants became ill from melamine in baby formula. (TNA)


Night Safari’s animal feed suppliers protest against unpaid bills

Suppliers of animal feed and grass from three Chiang Mai tambons with their banner at the protest against the present non-local Night Safari management team’s actions.

Saksit Meesubkwang
Providers of animal feed and grass to the Chiang Mai Night Safari gathered in protest against unfair trading practices and failure to pay for produce, blocking access to the attraction and demanding the resignation of its 4 executive board members in charge of food supplies.
Protestors from the community enterprise, which involves three tambons, had presented a letter of complaint and request for immediate resolution of the dispute to the Prime Minister during his recent visit to Chiang Mai. As no result had been obtained to date, the protest went ahead, and, according to the community enterprise’s chairman, Dee Chantakaluk, will continue until a satisfactory answer is received.
Complaints, specified by Dee, include the non-payment of some 1.1 million baht due for the provision of animal feed and grass, delayed for 2-3 months after promises of payment on a weekly basis had been made, and the non-payment of a promised cheque due on September 29. The total cost of the feed, supplied weekly, is 130,000-150,000 baht per week.
The demand for the removal of the Night Safari’s 4 executive directors, including the director of animal management, was a result of unfair trading practices, namely the Night Safari’s claim that the feed, supposedly being of low quality, had caused the deaths of many animals. The suppliers strongly reject this claim, stating that the methods of feeding by the Night Market’s staff had caused the deaths. The protestors are calling for a team of specialists to oversee the feeding of all animals kept at the facility, and believe that a conflict of interest exists between themselves and the Night Safari authorities.


Songthaew driver turns to theft to make ends meet

Prasert Namthep (centre) with police and a number of the items he had stolen.

Saksit Meesubkwang
A red songthaew driver was recently caught selling stolen goods at the roadside, after a complaint had been made to local police concerning the theft of car tyres.
Prasert Namthep, 37, was arrested in possession of 6 stolen tyres and other items including a 20 litre oil drum, one shotgun and 5 bullets, found during a search of his house. During questioning, the accused stated that, due to the Bangkok protests and the political situation, he had been unable to support himself and pay the monthly installments on his vehicle by driving for a living, so had turned to crime simply to make ends meet. Prasert was charged with theft and possession of firearms.


Late night motorcycle crash results in death and serious injury

Saksit Meesubkwang
A late night crash between a motorcycle and a bicycle on October 6 left an English national, Michael Currey, 65, dead and a Thai national, Somsak Tongpruek, 57, in a coma.
Currey, a resident of Home in Town housing estate, Muang, was found lying dead on the road by local police responding to a report of the accident. Somsak, seriously injured, was lying nearby and was immediately taken to a local hospital, where he was discovered to be in a coma. It would appear, from preliminary investigation, that Currey, who had apparently been returning home after visiting a friend, may have been speeding over a bridge when he crashed into Somsak’s bicycle, which was ahead of him on the road. The cause of the fatal accident is still under investigation.


TAT predicts high numbers of winter visitors to Mae Hong Son

CMM Reporters
The natural beauty of Mae Hong Son’s winter season is set to attract a high number of tourists this year, according to local Tourist Authority of Thailand (TAT) representatives.
The season will begin November 6 with the Buatong flower festival, co-organised by the Khun Yam and Mae Au Kor districts’ administrative offices. New for 2008 will be the opportunity for visitors to camp on the mountain to enjoy the cooler weather and the beauty of the Buatong flowers in their natural setting. The flowers will bloom until early December, and are expected to attract many visitors. Parking facilities, toilets and healthcare services will be provided, along with special security patrols provided by police officers and volunteers. Hotel occupancy in Mae Hong Son is already at 90% capacity, visitors planning a trip from November are asked to book in advance to avoid disappointment.
In the mountainous areas of Chiang Rai’s Terng district, the weather is already changing and becoming colder; as a result, many tourists are already visiting the Phu Chi Fah cliff, famous for its mysterious and beautiful mists. The local administration are planning further attractions, including requesting a budget allocation from the Thai sports authority to be used to create recreational facilities, and organising an exhibition from 14 local hill tribe villages. Tourists will be able to visit the Pha Pueng cave nearby, and volunteer guides have been trained to give advice and help on security and safety in the area. Local officials are also working with the World Vision Foundation to establish a cultural centre at Phu Chi Fah.


Medical professionals confirm ethical stance to protestors

Chiang Mai’s pro-government group presenting a letter of complaint against the ethics of medical professionals at Maharaj hospital who had previously refused to treat injured police personnel.

Saksit Meesubkwang
Following the Medical Council of Thailand’s action Thursday October 9 in calling on Thai physicians to consider their code of ethics when refusing to treat injured police after the Bangkok riots, the Chiang Mai pro-government group Association of Northern Peoples for Democracy submitted a letter of complaint to Maharaj hospital executives during a hastily organised protest in front of the building a day later.
Jiraphat Ruenkaew, the protest’s coordinator, claimed that treatment of the injured should be fair, with no exceptions, thus conforming to medical ethics and avoiding discrimination. The presentation of the letter of complaint was made to Assoc. Pro. Dr. Chairat Kunawiktikul, deputy dean of CMU’s Faculty of Medicine, also the officer in charge of the director of Maharaj hospital. Dr. Chairat commented that, although the letter of intent not to treat had been sent out by medical staff, doctors had not, in fact, refused to treat sick and injured police, and had cared for them in a professional manner. He also pointed out that the refusal to treat had been called off by all medical professionals after the Medical Council of Thailand’s appeal, and that CMU academics had also reversed their stance. One member of staff at Maharaj had been assaulted by protestors from the Rak Chiang Mai 51 group during a protest several days earlier.


Chiang Rai border area to get CCTV

CMM Reporters
At a recent seminar held in Chiang Rai with the aim of drafting the province’s narcotics prevention and suppression policies, it was announced that the border areas of Chiang Rai will be equipped with CCTV security cameras, due to the doubling of the influx of narcotics from across the Thai border. Chiang Mai provincial police are cooperating with a mobile networks service regarding the installation of the cameras.
During the last year, 3 million Yaba pills and other narcotics including ice, heroin and raw opium, were confiscated, and 2,226 dealers and smugglers were arrested. 2,278 drug addicts were placed in rehabilitation centres by police and provincial authorities.
The Chiang Rai governor, Traisit Sinsomboonthong, stated that he was satisfied with the year’s result, but that the installation of CCTV along the borders would make it even more difficult for smugglers to infiltrate the province and transport illegal drugs. At present, drugs gangs seem to be moving their transportation routes in the north of Thailand to the Mekong River’s border areas.


Chiang Rai reports 6 dengue fever deaths

CMM Reporters
The dengue fever epidemic in the Mae Sai district of Chiang Rai has claimed 6 victims to date, with 127 residents contracting the disease, according to the director of Mae Sai hospital, Dr. Sura Khumkongpan. The figures do not include local non-Thai patients or fatalities. The numbers of infections and deaths have been reported to the area’s office of public health, and are higher than in previous years.


Multicultural traditions celebrated in Yunnan music and dance festival

CMM Reporters
A truly multicultural music and dance festival was held recently in the Chinese city of Jinghong, in the south-western province of Yunnan, featuring artistes from four neighbouring countries, China, Laos, Burma and Thailand, which was represented by the Chiang Rai City Art Group. The festival opened with an evening gala, which showcased song and dance from all four participating countries. For this very special evening, the stage set, lighting and sound effects were arranged to suggest a scene in the tropical forest of Xishuangbanna. The Chiang Rai City Art Group entertained with traditional dances; from Laos came the Luang Prabang Art Group, showing their own traditions with pride and skill, whilst the representative group from Burma performed dances in the tradition of their homeland, the Shan State.
Yunnan province’s Honghe, Yuxi, Pu’er, Chuxiong and Xishuangbanna autonomous prefectures merited special representation as the hosts, with performers from those regions presenting the traditional performing arts of the Yi, Lahu and Dai minority groups. Asked if she had enjoyed the show, a member of the large audience said, “It’s great to see performances with such diversity. I love it!” The performers themselves seem to have enjoyed the diversity equally, with a dancer from Chuxiong prefecture saying that “This festival gives us the opportunity to appreciate and exchange arts music and dance styles from different cultural backgrounds. We are glad to learn from each other.” The festival itself was regarded by all, both performers and visitors, as more than just entertainment – it was a valuable lesson in difference and diversity amongst many different ethnic styles and origins, and a rare opportunity to give and receive ideas.


Trade falls, tourism declines at Thai-Cambodia border

The number of visitors passing through the border check-point at Aranyaprathet in Sa Kaeo province on the Cambodian border has declined significantly, whilst export volumes at the border crossing fell 30 per cent. Tourists and traders feared that the border would close due to clashes between Thai and Cambodian soldiers.
The border opened normally on Thursday but travel operators said their tours were cancelled due to fears and uncertainties regarding the border situation and the possibility of the checkpoints’ closure. The assistant chief of customs at Aranyaprathet said Thai exports to Cambodia have dropped sharply, as Thai traders are uncertain whether there would be problems with exported items sent to the neighbouring country.
Thai exported goods to Cambodia saw a positive trade balance of 17 billion baht in 2007 and 26 billion baht in 2008, a 52 per cent increase as a result of Cambodia’s economic growth and increasing purchasing power. Whilst the main items being exported from Thailand were motorcycles, construction materials, and consumer goods, imports included used clothing, agricultural products, scrap iron and aluminium for recycling.
The value of imports from Cambodia has risen in 2008 from 130 million baht to 2.1 billion baht.
At Aranyaprathet’s Rong Klua Market, a Cambodian trader said the value of his sales had fallen more than 50% to 1,000-2,000 baht per day, but that he was not afraid of the tension and would continue to trade. Tourism, however, has been badly affected, with more than 10 tour companies experiencing cancellations and all tours cancelled last Thursday. Cross-border traders are also deserting the area at present, although the border remains open, with stricter controls and 24- hour guards. Reassurances have been given that Cambodian traders’ goods in Thai territory will be safe until the situation returns to normal. (TNA)


Simple Change – Nimmanhaemin Art and Design Promenade 2008

Andy Archer
This year’s popular annual Nimmanhaemin Art and Design Promenade is scheduled to take place between December 5 and December 9, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.
This year’s title is “Simple Change,” and points out that, “with a simple gesture, one can simply change – to ‘greener’ living, beginning in Soi 1.” An apposite message for these days of climate concern and environmental angst!
As usual, Soi 1 on Nimmanheimin is the focus of the event, crammed full of art exhibits, design items and home decorating goodies, both in the many boutiques and on street stalls, with the opportunity to see the colourful homes of local residents in the soi, and others who admire the environment. As in previous years, there will be plenty of bargains on offer. It’s a great place to get your Christmas presents!
After the inevitable shopping spree, the plethora of bars and restaurants in the immediate area will provide tasty answers to the “what shall we eat” question. Shopping is such hungry and thirsty work! As part of the event, afternoons and evenings in the area will be enlivened with fashion shows, beauty pageants, Lanna dancing and great live music events – something for everyone. The promenade, as always, will be a “don’t miss” event for local residents and visitors alike! For further info, please contact the Amari Rincome Hotel on 053-221-130.


FERC to hold annual fundraiser at Shangri-La Hotel

Elena Edwards
The Foundation for the Education of Rural Children (FERC) will hold its annual fundraising event on November 22 at the Shangri-La Hotel, beginning at 7 p.m.
The event, entitled “Let Us Entertain You” will take the form of a cocktail party with a musical review provided by Tangerine Blue, local expat musicians, whose repertoire will include familiar and much-loved songs from famous Broadway musicals. The evening’s menu will include “heavy” hors d’ouvres and wine, plus home-made desserts from the kitchens of FERC’s culinarily creative members! A silent auction and a raffle will also be featured. Tickets for the evening will cost 1,000 baht, and can be purchased from any FERC board member or, from November 17th, at the Shangri La.
Proceeds for the evening will be used to buy books and educational supplies for the school at Baan Huay Pa Hon, a Lahu village in the Chiang Dao area, and to fund scholarships for students in the Thailand Department of Education’s San Patong region.
For those who cannot attend but would still like to be a part of this endeavour, FERC welcomes your in-kind donations for the silent auction, or any other contribution you would like to make. Please visit FERC’s website, www.thai-rural-education. org, and contact them with your wishes. As always, FERC’s members are grateful for your support of its projects, and look forward to seeing you at the party.


Charity Run begins “Cancer Care Family Day” at the Four Seasons

Michael Davies
Chiang Mai’s Four Seasons Resort has announced details of their second annual “Cancer Care Family Day” to be held at Huay Tung Tao Reservoir on November 1, in conjunction with the Queen Sirikit Centre for Breast Cancer and the Thai Red Cross.
The day will start with the Cancer Charity Run, held over a 3.5 kilometre course. To take part will cost 250 baht per adult and 180 baht per child under 13, including a free T-shirt and a breakfast box. Registration to run begins at 7 a.m., with the race itself starting at 8 a.m. Huay Tung Tao Reservoir is on the Canal Road, travelling North past the 700 year Stadium, approximately 7 kilometres out of town.


Loy Krathong Yee Peng festival 2008

Andy Archer
This year’s Loy Krathong 2008 festival in Chiang Mai is officially scheduled to run for four days, from November 10 to 13 inclusive. On November 8, prior to the festival itself, 5,000 khom loys will be released into the evening skies from the grounds of Mae Jo University’s Meditation Centre following a special Buddhist ceremony, an amazing sight which, once experienced, will never be forgotten. TAT is planning a special songthaew service from the city to Mae Jo, and asks that visitors should arrive at the university’s grounds by 5 p.m. If visitors are planning to use their own transport, earlier arrival is advised to give plenty of time to park.
In the city, on November 10, the main events will take place at the Three Kings Monument from 6 p.m. onwards. Apart from the Grand Opening of Loy Krathong Yee Peng 2008 between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m., there will be a children’s beauty contest, Lanna music performances which will continue for the full 4 days, and even a beauty contest for pigeons! The main festivities will take place from the 11th to the 13th; as a result, Ratchadamnoen Road will be closed to traffic from 4 p.m. onwards and Thapae Road from 6 p.m. onwards on those days.
November 11 will see the 17th Yee Peng lantern parade starting 6 p.m. at Thapae Gate and moving down Thapae Road to Wat Sri Don Chai, where it will finish at midnight. At the Three Kings Monument, there will be the Miss Yee Peng beauty contest, and the beginning of the three-day “Legend of Yee Peng “competition.
The following day, November 12, will feature the ‘Small Krathong Parade,’ from 6 p.m. to midnight, and on November 13, the last and main parade, the ‘Giant Krathong Parade’ will take place. These two parades will both start at Thapae Gate and continue down Thapae Road to the Municipal Offices, and are expected to start at 6 p.m. and continue well into the night.
As with most Loy Krathong Festivals, on the evening of 12th and 13th, there will be a large firework display for the Buddha Bucha on the Ping River in front of the Municipal Offices from 7 p.m. onwards, together with Krathong floating Lanna style, also from 7 p.m.
On the 12th, from 9 a.m. through 5 p.m. on (or rather, in) the river, bamboo rafting and diving competitions will take place. The west side of Narawat Bridge, in front of the Governor’s Residence, will see traditional Lanna merit-making ceremonies, Phra Siri Mong Ka La Yee Peng. On 11th, 12th and 13th, Wat Jed Lin will display the folk art of 6 ethnic races.
The two main areas from which to release your own khom loys are at Thapae Gate and in front of the Governor’s Residence. On 13th, Wat Muang Sart Noi will feature the conservation of traditional Yee Peng Wisdom from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m., and Wat Inthakin will feature a traditional display of Lanna lanterns throughout the period.
If you feel you would like to help, Chiang Mai Friends Group, on the instruction of the mayor, Dr Duentemduang na Chiengmai is looking for ‘safety volunteers’ to work with the local tourist police. For further information, please visit www. retireinchiangmai.com.


Remembrance Day – Tuesday November 11

For those who wish to observe Remembrance Day in the traditional manner, a non-denominational service will be held at the Chiang Mai Foreign Cemetery in memory of all those who gave their lives in war in the service of their countries. The service will commence at 10.45 a.m.; a two minute silence will be observed at 11 a.m. After the service, participants are invited to the Chiengmai Gymkhana Club for refreshments. The cemetery is located on the Chiang Mai/Lamphun Road approximately 1 mile south of Narawat Bridge, opposite the offices of the Electricity Company.


Chiang Mai city streets’ major clean up for Loy Kratong and tourist season

Roads in Chiang Mai city being given a major clean-up
in preparation for Loy Krathong and the upcoming tourist season.

Saksit Meesubkwang
Streets and drainage channels in the Chiang Mai municipal area are undergoing a massive clean-up by 40 municipal employees in preparation for Loy Krathong and the upcoming tourist high season, with the remaining four municipal offices also being encouraged to clean their areas. Suthep, Huay Kaew, Charoenmuang and Chang Klan Roads have already been cleaned, as reported by the Mayor’s secretary, who stated that the cleaning would also help to eliminate dust which causes pollution in the dry season. The Mayor and the municipality consider that tourism is essential to the province and to the city, and are prepared to do everything they can to protect the health of both visitors and residents.