Global House totally
destroyed by raging fire
Thick black smoke billows up from the
ill fated warehouse,
sending people running for their lives.
The Chiang Mai branch of Global House in Saraphi was totally destroyed last
Friday when fire broke out at 10 a.m. in the roof area of the store and
spread to cans of thinner and paint stacked below, causing it to rage
through the building at an incredible speed.
At least 40 fire engines raced to the scene, but frequent explosions and the
fierceness of the flames prevented them from stopping the spread of the fire
across the entire building. The about 250 employees at the store, after
attempting to use fire extinguishers and trying to save some of the stock,
were forced to run for their lives, together with a number of early
shoppers. There have been no reports of injuries amongst the staff or
shoppers, although a side wall of the building is reported to have collapsed
onto a fire engine, injuring two firemen.
An employee stated he saw the fire start when a spark flew from a welding
torch being used by a worker attempting to repair an air-conditioning unit,
and said that the plastic wrapper of the ceiling thermal insulator had
quickly caught fire, with the flames spreading to nearby areas containing
highly combustible material. The building has now partially collapsed, and
has been declared a hazardous zone. Damage to and loss of stock is estimated
at between 2 and 3 billion baht, and the building itself cost approximately
500 million baht. Police have since confirmed the source of the blaze.
Withoon Suriyawanakul, the store’s owner, was in Khon Kaen when the fire
broke out, and has since returned to Chiang Mai. He stated that his
employees would not be laid off as a result of the disaster.
San Sai pro-government protest sparks national repercussions and concerns
Protestors gather outside the premises of the
TPBS in San Sai.
Another siege by political faction protestors took place in San Sai
on Monday November 3, when a group of approximately 200 members of the
red-shirted pro-government Rak Chiang Mai 51 group descended on the Thai
Public Services Broadcasting’s premises, intent on its occupation. Tents
were set up, a truck with bottled water arrived, as did a lorry equipped
with toilet facilities, and local food stalls moved in. A sound system was
installed, and was soon broadcasting music and speeches. Around 50 local
police were sent to the venue; shortly afterwards the road was closed and
protestors were seen at the junction with highway 118 waving flags at
A spokesman for the protestors told reporters and bystanders that the
protest had been mounted against TPBS because of the outrage caused to his
group by the TV station’s alleged payments of 2,000 baht to 200 Rak Chiang
Mai 51 group members to travel to Bangkok and attend a rally held by the
Truth Today talk show, at which a phone-in from ex PM Thaksin Shinawatra was
the major feature. The group demanded a public on-screen apology, according
to a prepared script, from Thepchai Yong, the TPBS’s director, and from the
news-reader, and threatened to cut off power and water supplies and remain
in the building if it was not forthcoming. Wichaiwat Somkham, the head of
the San Sai office, ordered the evacuation of the majority of the staff as a
At a later meeting, attended by Thepchai as requested by the protestors, it
was agreed that an on-screen apology would be made the same evening. It was
explained that the news report was produced in Bangkok without the source
being known to the Chiang Mai staff. The reconciliation resulted in a
broadcast being made at 11 p.m. in which an apology was made by Thepchai, by
which time the protestors had left the premises.
The following day, having been dissatisfied with the apology as given, the
protestors planned to return, but abruptly called off the further protest. A
source stated that pressure from provincial authorities and a senior
military official forced the group to reconsider. Later the same day,
Phetchawat Watthanaphongsirikul, Rak Chiang Mai 51’s leader, gave a press
conference, stating that he was still unhappy with the apology, deeming it
“insincere” and required another, which has since been given. Legal
proceedings were threatened by the protestors, as was further occupation of
the premises later in the week.
The deputy governor of Chiang Mai has expressed his concern about the
negative effects of the protest on the city during the upcoming tourist
season and the ASEAN Summit, and has asked that the protestors reconsider
any further planned action. An official from the Democratic Party has
suggested that the protestors should be prosecuted, and the Thai
Journalist’s Association is unhappy that “media members are again being
threatened as a result of political conflicts within the country.” TPBS
staff in Bangkok have formally asked PM Somchai for police protection, as
they feel that the threat to their safely is now real.
City afloat with Loy Krathong festivities
Tens of thousands of residents and tourists are
enjoying perhaps the most anticipated, and certainly the most romantic
holiday on the Thai calendar: Loy Krathong. Activities are being held
throughout the city, and indeed throughout the Kingdom. So, buy or build a
biodegradable krathong and bring your loved one to the river, or wherever
there is water, and float your troubles away.
Northern farmers call for political peace, rejecting coup rumours
The Northern Farmers’ Alliance has teamed up with lecturers from
Chiang Mai University and the Midnight University to state their opposition
to what they regard as a “silent coup,” and to urge for justice and equality
in the kingdom.
The group regards the current political conflict as a divergence between
opposing political factions which is mainly due to bias on both sides. The
current conflict has grown without rationality, triggered violent incidents
which should not have occurred in the kingdom, and caused fears of another
coup. They also state that the 2007 constitution was created by the military
coup’s members without any participation by the electorate. Political reform
should promote social equality and economical justice and should not be
undertaken solely for the benefit of specific factions. Constitutional
revision should involve public participation, and not rely solely on the
mechanism of government.
The Alliance presented their objection towards any coup or movement which
could lead to rebellion. They also emphasized the value of democracy and
refuted any moves intended to create hatred and violence. They stated that
political reform should solve the problems of poorer members of society, a
majority amongst the Thai peoples, and promote proper welfare such as health
insurance and provision, education and infrastructure. The basic problems of
farmers include land ownership, land reform by community, debt liberation,
natural resource management, crop subsidies, progressive tax collection, the
amendment of article 291 of the 2007 constitution and the appointment of the
Constitution Drafting Assembly of Thailand. The Alliance also urged the
Constitution Drafting Council to promote public participation and provide
space on the council for people from various walks of life, including
farmers. The group affirmed its strong support for political reform.
International environmental seminar provokes Mayor’s comments
Guests of honour attending the opening ceremony
in Chiang Mai of the International Conference on Sustainable Urban
An environmental seminar was held October 28 in Chiang Mai, attended
by academics, experts, NGOs, representatives of local organisations
countrywide and delegates from 11 countries, including Australia, Canada,
India, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam and Japan. The emphasis of the meeting,
jointly organised by Mae Fah Luang University, Chiang Mai municipality and
other concerned organisations, was on finding solutions to environmental
threats posed by increasing urbanisation.
Following the meeting, Dr Duentemduang na Chiengmai, the city’s Mayor,
focused on 3 major aspects of sustainable environmental management,
urbanization and land use, which may result in effective resolutions for
environmental pollution issues. She placed considerable emphasis on the
provision of green and clean cities for residents, and said that close
cooperation with government and private sectors had resulted in an
improvement in Chiang Mai’s environmental quality. For example, the case of
the Mae Kha canals was effectively resolved by considering water resources
for the needs of households in the immediate area of the canals’ banks. She
considers that the municipality is still facing challenges in the area of
effective management of air and water pollution, and would like to see more
environmental awareness and participation from local communities, together
with awareness of the law. In this manner, solutions to the present deadlock
may well be arrived at, according to the Mayor.
CMU dean anticipates another coup
Midnight Uni’s rector disagrees
Dr. Somkiat Tangnamo, the dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts at
Chiang Mai University, considers that the political deadlock in Thailand
is reaching a critical stage which will only be able to be resolved by
another military coup.
Speaking at a recent talk held at CMU’s Women’s Studies Centre, Dr.
Somkiat anticipated the recurrence of a coup, to happen after November
15, but which he considered will be of short duration due to military
leaders’ inability and unwillingness to manage the resultant chaotic
social issues. Dr. Somkiat continued, “Once the first coup happens,
another group will try to raise a rebellion in an attempt to retain and
protect the military institute.” He urged the public to be vigilant
regarding the political changes.
However, Somchai Preechasilpakul, rector of Chiang Mai-based Midnight
University, considers that a coup is unlikely, due to the current
political state. He believes that reform of the Thai political system is
likely as the current system does not allow all groups to speak their
minds. “More people want to express their opinions, but local villagers
do not have sufficient participation or resources allocation,” said the
rector. The two possible changes would be the increase of bureaucratic
polity and of public participation. Somchai is suggesting a style of
politics which would promote public participation through an electoral
system in which the voice of the people outweighs the wishes of the few.
Atthajak Sattayanurak from CMU’s Faculty of Humanities also said that
the current conflict in which two opposing factions each have a large
group of supporters is unlikely to lead to a coup. “If a military coup
takes place, another will follow shortly, and the second coup leader
would gain more benefits than the first. The political chaos which would
follow would also trigger a further decline in the country’s economy.
Thus, the way out of this economic crash is to separate farmers and
innocent people from both of the present warring factions,” said
On the same day, a group which refers to itself as the “King’s
Musketeers,” burnt images of PM Somchai Wongsawat and exiled ex PM
Thaksin Shinawatra in Chiang Mai. Led by Terdsak Jiamkitwattana, the
group cited its dissatisfaction with Thaksin’s phone-in at Truth Today’s
talk show rally, during which the ex PM is reported to have hinted at a
Royal pardon for his recent conviction. The group considered Thaksin’s
actions are an attack on and an insult to the monarchy.
US and Thai military forces hold joint training exercises
Col Ataphun Paoprajak and David Danic
preside at the opening ceremony of Balance-Torch-09-1.
David Danic inspects the US troops taking
part in the exercise.
A joint US-Thai military training exercise took place recently,
under the code name “Balance-Torch-09-1,” in which the focus was on
enhancing the military skills of the Thai army. The exercise was
presided over by Col Ataphun Paoprajak, Commander of the 5th Battalion
of the Special Forces Regiment and David Danic, a representative from
the US Consulate in Chiang Mai. During the training, first-aid
techniques were taught to the Thai battalion by US army representatives.
Following the 19-day training period, the Thai army engaged in exercises
in forest and mountainous terrain combat techniques, using pack animals
for transport of supplies and weapons. The theory and practice of the
training period was seen to have tightened US-Thai relationships as well
as improving the efficiency of the Thai army.
besiege Chiang Mai Orchid Hotel
More than 100 red-shorted members of the Rak Chiang Mai 51
group, representing the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship,
gathered recently in front of the Chiang Mai Orchid Hotel to protest
against a meeting of Democrat Party executives’ schedules to take place
the same day. Cardboard cut-outs of several of the key executives were
displayed, and tight security was provided by 50 police officers.
Attending the regional meeting were Chuan Leekpai, chairman of the
Advisory Committee, deputy leader Trirong Suwannakiri, party-general
secretary Suthep Thuaugsuban and other key members, although the party’s
leader Abhisit Vejjajiva was not reported to have attended. The
protestors dispersed after the participants at the meeting departed for
Bangkok. However, guests at the hotel were seriously disturbed by the
protest, with some checking out as a result.
Japanese Government gives grant
assistance to Mae Hong Son hospital
Pictured on the occasion of the signing of
the funding contract is Junko Yokota, the Japanese Consul-General in
Chiang Mai, with the director of the Sop Moie hospital, Mae Hong Son.
The Government of Japan, under its Grant Assistance for
Grassroots Human Security Projects Scheme (GGP) is providing funds
amounting to 1,735,000 baht for a project entitled “Improving Medical
Services for hill tribe people in remote areas in Mae Hong Son
On October 28, Junko Yokota, the Japanese Consul-General in Chiang Mai,
together with the director of Sop Moie hospital in Mae Hong Son, signed
the funding contract at the Japanese consulate in Chiang Mai.
Minority groups such as the Karen and Thai Yai hill tribes form the
majority of residents in the mountainous areas of the province, living
hard lives, often with no running water or electricity, and surviving by
farming the poor ground of the hills. Often suffering from malnutrition,
food poisoning, malaria and parasitic diseases, they endure extremes of
temperature from summer to winter.
Sop Moie hospital is the only government-funded hospital in the area,
and treats, on average, 200 patients per day. It provides treatment
regardless of expense, as there are many refugees and stateless people
in the area, living far below the poverty level. The hospital also
provides a mobile clinic which visits patients in remote areas. The
hospital has no operating room, and only has one ambulance to transport
the seriously ill to the nearest fully equipped facility in Chiang Mai.
In emergencies, a pick-up truck is being used for the purpose. Many
patients lose vital treatment time in this way.
The grant assistance from Japan will be used to remedy this appalling
situation by providing a second ambulance, together with life-support
equipment; it is hoped that many patients will be provided with better
chances of survival and recovery through this generous gift.
The Mayor gives two thumbs
up for upcoming ASEAN Summit
Last week, Dr Duentemduang na Chiengmai kindly agreed to give a
statement about the ASEAN Summit, set to take place December 15-18, to
the Chiang Mai Mail.
“I believe that Chiang Mai is able to accommodate and facilitate the
ASEAN Summit in a very successful manner. Chiang Mai has been ready for
highly important events of this kind for many years, and is a safe,
secure and beautiful city.
This is a great opportunity for our city to be on the World Stage and to
promote itself, especially in these difficult economic times. I have
great hopes that the ASEAN Summit will encourage organisers of similar
events to consider Chiang Mai as their venue. This, in turn, will help
local businesses of all kinds.
Before the summit takes place, I intend to ensure that a clean-up and
beautification of our city takes place, with attention to the placing of
bushes and flowering plants in many appropriate areas. On behalf of the
people of Chiang Mai, I would like to extend a warm welcome to the
leaders and delegates from the ASEAN countries and other distinguished
Northern floods disrupt
train traffic at Phrae
Portions of the Northern rail lines in Den Chai district were
damaged and flooded on Sunday, with eight north-bound trains halted and
unable to proceed, according to a senior official at the State Railways
of Thailand (SRT).
SRT Northern officer director Charn Tansiri said no-one had been
stranded, as SRT had provided 20 coaches to transport rail passengers
from Uttaradit to Phrae. The service was resumed Monday when flood
waters had receded and damaged tracks had been repaired.
Continuous rain triggered flash flooding in mountainous Den Chai
district, with some areas are under metres-deep floodwater. Pongsak
Plaivej, Phrae governor, and Somrit Wichaita, the head of the local
disaster prevention and mitigation office, visited flood-hit areas and
issued a warning for local residents living along the river to be
prepared to move to higher ground if the rains continued.
Truth Today show to
head for Chiang Mai
“Truth Today,” a controversial talk-show with the accent on
pro-government political sentiments which broadcasts regularly on NBT,
will take to the roads next week on a tour of the north and
north-eastern provinces, in an attempt to encourage anti-coup support
and reinforce the PPP’s position and the possibility of re-writing the
2007 constitution. The organisers of the show recently held a gathering
in Bangkok at which convicted exPM Thaksin Shinawatra spoke by phone to
the crowd, and expect to replay his comments at demonstrations in Chiang
Mai, Udon Thani and, possibly, Khon Kaen. The tour will begin in Chiang
Mai, on November 16.
During his Bangkok phone-in, Thaksin, sentenced recently to 2 years in
prison and now resident in the UK, commented that he could only return
to Thailand by the grace of His Majesty the King, fuelling rumours that
he was considering asking for a Royal pardon at some stage in the
Reports that some community radio stations involved in the present
political arguments are making comments which might be considered as
lese-majesty have drawn a response from the military. The Defence
Ministry are warning that any such stations which allow offensive
material to be broadcast would face investigation and possible charges,
and has asked the Thai media to assist in identification of possible