NEWS
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Ministers of State check progress at Ratchapruek Royal Flora

Hang Dong textile and jewellery museum gives glimpse into Lan Chang culture

Burmese Army offensive plans to wipe out Karenni

Explosion in fireworks factory kills owner

Chiang Rai disaster relief office allocates 50 million baht emergency fund

Public Health inspectors continue to check for melamine contamination

Chiang Rai tree-planting marks HM the King’s 84th Birthday

Phrae police intercept drug traffickers, confiscate 136,000 amphetamine pills

Chiang Mai and Bangkok rated “Best Asian Cities” in Conde Nast survey

Burmese immigrants evicted from illegal forest land settlements

Thai Minister of Culture promotes sale of phallic amulets to tourists

Mae Hong Son welcoming ceremonies kick-starts tourist season

Chiang Mai to host ASEAN summit due to security concerns

Bahrain school’s charity project for Lahu hill tribe children

Thai Airways and TAT hold reception for visiting media and travel agents

Thai Airlines to operate between Chiang Mai and Udon Thani

Chiang Mai Photographic Group’s first exhibition

 

Ministers of State check progress at Ratchapruek Royal Flora

Saksit Meesubkwang
Thai cabinet ministers and the head of the Chart Thai Party made a brief visit to Chiang Mai on October 20 to check on the progress of the upcoming Royal Flora Exhibition to be held as part of the Birthday celebrations for His Majesty the King on December 5.
Coalition Chart Thai Party leader Banyan Silapa-archa, Somsak Prisanananthakul, the Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives, and Weerasak Kowwasurat, the Minister of Tourism and Sports, were briefed by Royal Ratchapruek Garden’s management on the use of the land and management procedures as well as the progress of construction of the International Exhibition and Conference Hall.
All three stated that, in their opinion, the work was progressing satisfactorily, and was expected to be finished on time. The gardening contractors are planning to show 700,000 trees and plants, of which number approximately 130,000 have been planted so far. Refurbishment of the site and its buildings is also well under way, and expected to be completed by the time of the official opening.
It is expected that total tourist revenue from the exhibition will top 1,000 million baht.

 

Hang Dong textile and jewellery museum gives glimpse into Lan Chang culture

Saksit Meesubkwang
A small museum in Hang Dong, Chiang Mai, focuses on ancient silks and jewellery from the time of Lan Chang dynasty, ancient rulers in Luang Prabang. Visitors have the opportunity to study and learn about Lan Chang culture, its artisan lifestyle, and its spiritual beliefs.

Chao Soimala na Champasak, showing her antique silk clothes and textiles.
A direct descendent of the Lan Chang rulers, Chao Soimala na Champasak, was given permission by the family to offer the artefacts in the museum as a rare chance for visitors to be able to study her dynastic inheritance.
The museum contains many ancient textiles, including Buddhist silks, gold and silver-embroidered fabrics, shoulder cloths, and a breast cloth belonging to Chao Soimala’s ancestor, Chao Yamkhamphang, as well as jewellery, hairpins and other ornaments.
Visitors will be able to purchase textiles and jewellery, with a 200 year-old hairpin costing 50,000 baht, and items of antique jewellery costing from as little as 10,000 baht up to 200,000 baht. Antique textiles will cost from 600 baht up to 100,000 baht. The income from sales will be given to the needy, with an amount reserved for Chaimongkol Temple in Lampang and another amount for the sponsorship of Phapa ceremonies at other temples. Donations will also be given to funds for Buddhist study and used to buy clothes for needy women.
Those who wish to visit the museum should first call on 053-832-854, 081-472-9039, or 083-470-818. The location is 103, Moo 2, Baan Nong Soi, Soi 4, Harn Kaew, Hang Dong, close to the front gate of North Chiang Mai University.


Burmese Army offensive plans to wipe out Karenni

Kajohn Boonpath
Reports suggest that the Burmese Army is in the early stages of an offensive intended to wipe out ethnic minority groups located along the Burmese-Thai border. Newly purchased and sophisticated Russian weaponry is reported to have been issued for use against Karenni soldiers located at a base close to Ban Mae Suay in Mae Hong Son. Thai Army commanders are monitoring the situation as, according to a Karenni leader, fighting is expected to break out in the location.
Maj. Gen. Bee Tu, the leader of the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP), has reported that information received indicates that attacks by the Burmese military have already occurred at a base in Doi Luang, and that several nearby bases were under threat. The information confirmed that the Burmese 135th Battalion had fired shots from a 60mm rocket launcher in order to determine the strength of the Karenni resistance.
The Special Unit of the Thai Army’s 17th Infantry’s Naresuan Task Force is monitoring the situation, and a planned visit by the KNPP to a Thai Army base located close to Doi Luang has been cancelled.


Explosion in fireworks factory kills owner

The site of the small firework factory,
pictured after the explosion which killed its owner, Nipon Inkham.

Saksit Meesubkwang
An explosion in a small fireworks factory in Saraphi district destroyed the building, damaged a house 100 metres away, and caused minor injuries to a neighbour and the death of the owner, Nipon Inkham.
According to Nipon’s wife, Puangtong Inkham, 54, her husband had been working on a large Loy Krathong firecracker order when the explosion occurred. She had immediately called the police, but her husband had later died as a result of his injuries. Police are investigating whether the fireworks factory was licensed.


Chiang Rai disaster relief office allocates 50 million baht emergency fund

CMM Reporters
Chiang Rai’s Office of Natural Disaster Relief and Prevention has allocated the sum of 50 million baht for emergency situations, and is assessing the need for disaster relief in mountainous areas during the approaching cool season.
Out of 18 districts at risk in the province, Wiang Pa Pao and Tueng districts have already requested 30,000 blankets, and, because of present problems caused by high humidity due to persistent downpours, have also requested accurate and up to date weather forecasts. Several Chiang Rai districts are already experiencing cool winds. 20,000 blankets are being donated by government and private organisations across the Kingdom; more donations are being sought in order to deal with the expected worsening of the situation.


Public Health inspectors continue to check for melamine contamination

CMM Reporters
Following reports by the Thai Food and Drug Administration of high levels of melamine being found in Malaysian manufactured desserts and cheese sandwiches, Chiang Mai Public Health inspectors visited local markets and supermarkets, including the wholesaler Makro’s Hang Dong branch, whose managers stated that they had already returned a quantity of the contaminated products to the manufacturers.
Shops on Charoen Prathet Road were also inspected, due to their proximity to schools, but no contaminated products were found. There is still concern about more than 7 foreign manufactured products with similar brand names and types to the Malaysian products. Shopkeepers who are found to still be stocking the products will be subject to fines and imprisonment according to the law.


Chiang Rai tree-planting marks HM the King’s 84th Birthday

Saksit Meesubkwang
One thousand people, led by Lt. Gen. Thanongsak Apirakyothin of the Thai 3rd Army, recently planted trees and constructed check dams in the mountainous watershed area of the Kok River along the Thai-Burmese border in Chiang Rai province. The area is protected, and was once a well-known route for cross-border drug smugglers.
The event, held to mark the 84th birthday of His Majesty the King, was attended by several famous Thai singers, which encouraged many volunteers to join in. Lt. Gen. Thanonksak stated that the aim of the event was to prevent global warming, to instil environmental awareness in the general public, and to discourage deforestation activities. He added that, “The main weapon against deforestation has to be the local administration authority, the closest government agent to the people themselves. Officials are aware of investors who engage in this activity, and will be supported by soldiers from the 3rd Army region in its eradication in order to protect the precious forest environment.” A variety of trees were provided for the occasion by the Ministry of Natural Resources’ 15th Conservation Area Administration Office.
The area, Baan Huay Keed in Chiang Rai’s Muang district, is now being used as a Buddhist meditation retreat after the establishment there of Phra Khru Wibul Thamtecho, the abbot of Doi Intree Buddhist Park and Doi Kong Khao temple. Monks and Buddhist meditators have also been planting trees and building dams in the immediate area.


Phrae police intercept drug traffickers, confiscate 136,000 amphetamine pills

CMM Reporters
Phrae police have arrested two drug traffickers and blocked a major drugs haul from being transported from the Chiang Rai border area to Bangkok.
Villagers had reported to police that a man had been seen getting down from a pick-up truck 300 metres from a manned police checkpoint in Ban Huayrai on the Denchai-Uttaradit road, saying that they had been alerted by his nervous manner. The truck was stopped at the checkpoint and the driver, Chaiwat Mahikee, 30, was arrested. It was reported that the other man, Thanachai, a member of the Akha hill tribe, had disappeared through a cemetery into a forest area, but had been traced by villagers and officers and arrested in possession of a bag containing 136,000 yaba pills, worth more than 20 million baht.
During questioning, Thanachai admitted to possession of the illegal drugs, saying that the delivery was his first, and that he was being paid 700,000 baht to transport them from Mae Sai to a dealer in Bangkok. He also stated that he had not yet received the payment.


Chiang Mai and Bangkok rated “Best Asian Cities” in Conde Nast survey

CMM Reporters
The leading upmarket USA travel and lifestyle magazine, Conde Nast Traveller, has rated Chiang Mai and Bangkok as the best cities in Asia, based on the results of its 20th annual “Readers’ Choice” survey. Bangkok narrowly beat Chiang Mai, with a score of 82% against Chiang Mai’s 81.2%.
The magazine has a readership of 3.1 million; poll results take into consideration atmosphere, ambience, culture, historical and other sites, friendliness, accommodation, restaurants and shopping. The actual scores represent the averaging of the number of “excellent” ratings received from readers.
The presentation of the coveted awards took place earlier this month at the Readers Choice Awards 2008 Ceremony & Gala Dinner held in New York. Weerasak Kowsurat, the Thai Minister of Tourism & Sports, accepted the award on behalf of the entire Thai travel and tourism industry. Phuket and Koh Samui were also ranked, coming 3rd and 6th on Conde Nast’s list of “Best islands in Asia,” with Thai Airways receiving a mention as no. 7 in the list of the top 25 airlines. Tourists, please note!


Burmese immigrants evicted from illegal forest land settlements

Kajohn Boonpath
Reports that a new community of Burmese immigrants had moved into the lower regions of Mae Pai National Park, Mae Hong Son, resulted in a raid by border patrol police, army and territorial volunteers, during which 30 Burmese were arrested and charged with illegally occupying forest land without permission.
A recently erected settlement comprising 60 households was found at Ban Huay Pok Jan, within the confines of the park’s conservation area. The development was in breach of the Forestry Act B.E. 1941 and the National Parks Act B.E. 1964, and had raised concerns about damage to the park’s protected environment similar to those caused by a previous group of 100 immigrants who had moved to the area in 2003. At that time, officials had ignored the settlement, which had resulted in the ecology of over 1,000 rai of forest land being compromised.
Several further Burmese immigrant communities have been noted in areas behind Mae Hong Son’s City Hall. A settlement of 1,000 persons established 500 metres behind the building has been largely ignored by officials, leading to difficulties in finding a resolution.


Thai Minister of Culture promotes sale of phallic amulets to tourists

CMM Reporters
Worawat Ua-apinyakul, Thailand’s Minister of Culture, in a bold attempt to stimulate spending amongst tourists, is suggesting that amulets associated with Brahmanism and magic (possibly of the darker form), rather than the more usual Buddhist versions, be sold mounted on key chains to curious tourists. Worawat particularly favours phallus-shaped amulets, together with those depicting buffalos, and also suggests that manufacturers should provide certificates of authenticity to reassure purchasers that their products have been properly made. The phallus-shaped Palad Khik is considered amongst local people to protect against danger; the Kwai (buffalo) Tanoo is believed to be a strength-enhancer. The minister insists that these, and others similar, should be regarded as cultural products and considers his idea to be unprecedented enough for it to be accepted without derision. He also suggests that the legends behind the traditional amulets should be publicised as they might then inspire big-budget movies, which would be made, hopefully, in Thailand.
More conventionally, the recently-appointed minister is suggesting using cultural ambassadors to invite trade, investment and, of course, tourism, to the Kingdom, and is planning to cooperate with the Ministry of Education to focus on local wisdom and tradition. Using a legend from his own province of Phrae as an example, he notes that, “The romantic Phra Lor folk tale, properly publicised, could well make Phrae province a holiday destination for couples in love.”


Mae Hong Son welcoming ceremonies kick-starts tourist season

Khajohn Boonpath
Mae Hong Son recently hosted a welcoming ceremony for visitors to the tiny Northern province, aimed at giving the tourist season a much-needed kick-start. Booking for the 2008/2009 season are already showing signs of an increase over last year.
Local people wearing Tai Yai costume provided an added attraction at the ceremony, held on October 17 at Mae Hong’s airport for visitors who had arrived on Thai Airways flight TG 190 from Chiang Mai. Thongchai Wongrianthong, the Governor of the province, accompanied by representatives of local tour companies and other officials, presided over drinks and refreshments and supervised the presenting of badges and Buatong flowers to the new arrivals, whilst Tai Yai traditional cultural performances aroused great interest and enjoyment. A similar event was held simultaneously at the local bus terminal.
The majority of advance bookings in Mae Hong Song are expected to have come from visitors who are looking for natural beauty and traditional lifestyles, focusing on the area’s many ethnic groups.


Chiang Mai to host ASEAN summit due to security concerns

CMM Reporters
Following a 2 day Asia-Europe meeting in Beijing last week, the14th ASEAN Summit, originally planned to take place in Bangkok from December 14 to 18, has been relocated to Chiang Mai due to security concerns caused by the ongoing political unrest. The organisers of the summit, which will involve the 10 ASEAN countries of Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, the Philippines, Myanmar, Malaysia, Laos, Indonesia, Cambodia and Brunei, have authorised the move as a result of concerns about the likelihood of a further outbreak of violence in Bangkok during the event. UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, the heads of the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) have been invited to join a special session aimed at finding ways to mitigate the effects in the region of the global financial crisis.


Bahrain school’s charity project for Lahu hill tribe children

CMM Reporters
Students and teachers at a Bahrain school are planning to travel to Chiang Rai at the beginning of December to help disadvantaged hill tribe students by building a classroom and medical room at their school. The 33 student volunteers from St. Christopher’s Senior School, together with 4 of their teachers, will also take time to teach English to Thai children between 3 and 11 years old.
St. Christopher’s students in the 16-18 year age group have been raising money for the construction of the new rooms at Ban Huaymuang School by means of a 160 kilometre relay swim, and will, under the supervision of the 4 teachers, help with the build itself. Last year, 28 students made the trip, helping to build a cafeteria at the same school.
Geography head Steve Martin, whose department organises the projects, said that the aim of the trip was to have the students become aware of the unique geography in Ban Huaymuang’s immediate area, to give of their time and effort freely to children far less fortunate than themselves and to experience the differing lifestyles and needs of hill tribe people in northern Thailand. It is also hoped that St. Christopher’s will be able to maintain its contact with these Lahu children over the years in order to improve their quality of life, even to the extent of being able to support talented youngsters in their studies at Chiang Mai university.


Thai Airways and TAT hold reception for visiting media and travel agents

CMM Reporters
A reception was held recently at the Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi in Chiang Mai by Thai Airways International (THAI), led by Pandit Chanapai, the THAI commercial department’s executive vice-president, to welcome overseas media and travel agents as part of a “Thailand Invitation” familiarisation trip. The trip, co-hosted by Thai Airways and the Tourist Authority of Thailand (TAT), was planned as part of a drive to boost tourism in the Kingdom and to publicise TAT’s “7 wonders of amazing Thailand” promotion. Guests of honour at the reception included Wanchai Sarathulthat, TAT’s president, Chuchart Geelapang, the deputy governor of Chiang Mai, Santichai Euachongprasit, TAT’s deputy governor of international marketing, and Mom Luang Ajcharaporn na Songkhla, THAI’s director of corporate communications.


Thai Airlines to operate between Chiang Mai and Udon Thani

CMM Reporters
Thai Airways International will operate a new route between Chiang Mai and Udon Thani, beginning October 26 with a one-way promotional fare of 1,305 baht. According to Pandit Chanapai, the airline’s executive vice-president, the service is expected to provide a convenient and comfortable journey for both business travellers and tourists. A daily flight from Chiang Mai will operate, using a 66 seat ATR 7. The outbound flight, TG181, will depart from CNX at 8.05, arriving in Udon Thani at 9.25. An inbound flight, TG182, will depart Udon Thani at 09.50, arriving at CMX at 11.10.


Chiang Mai Photographic Group’s first exhibition

CMM Reporters
Jon Glendinning, the Honorary British Consul, will open the Chiang Mai Photographic Group’s first exhibition of members’ work at Northern Village on the 2nd floor of Central Airport Plaza at 5 p.m. on Saturday, November 1. This diverse collection of arresting images from all over Asia celebrates the group’s first birthday and illustrates that there’s a lot more to be photographed than the usual fare of temples, hill tribes and sunsets! Fifty or so contributions by members hailing from more than half a dozen countries using equipment ranging from simple point-and-shoot cameras to the latest digital SLRs will quickly convince you that it’s a keen eye for the picture that counts. Also featured in the show is “Faces of Asia,” a selection of memorable portraits in black and white. Many pictures featured in the exhibition are available for sale through Northern Village. The exhibition will run from November 1 through November 9 and will be open from 11 a.m. to 8.p.m.
The Chiang Mai Photography Group meets on Wednesdays at 7 p.m. every fortnight in Tuskers Bar. All those with an interest in photography, be it film or digital, are warmly invited. For details of meeting dates, please visit www.cmpg .igroops.com; for more information, please contact Wyndham Hollis on 085-121-7414 or email on wyndham @wyndhamhollis.com. Meetings are conducted in English.