Chiang Mai unites in royal mourning
Thousands flock to Wat Suan Dok to pay last respects to the late Princess Galyani Vadhana
The Governor of Chiang Mai,
Wiboon Sa-nguanpong is seen performing religious rites to mark the royal
cremation ceremony in front of a portrait of Her Royal Highness Princess
Galyani Vadhana at Wat Suan Dok in Chiang Mai.
Saksit Meesubkwang/Elena Edwards
Whilst the beautiful and traditional ceremonies associated with the
funeral and cremation of HRH the late Princess Galyani Vadhana were being
conducted in Bangkok, black-clad mourners here in Chiang Mai were gathering
at Wat Suan Dok in their thousands to lay sandalwood flowers in front of the
crematorium and join, in support of HM King Bhumibol, Queen Sirikit, the
Royal Family and the whole of Thailand, in grief and remembrance of the life
and works of the greatly-loved Princess.
In attendance at the ceremony were the Governor of Chiang Mai, Wiboon
Sanguanpong, the Chiang Mai Consul Generals, members of the Northern
aristocracy, government officials and groups of volunteer medical
professionals who had participated in the many projects, sponsored by
Princess Galyani Vadhana during her visits to the province, which gave
medical assistance to the poor in rural areas.
Whilst the ceremonies of mourning were taking place in Bangkok and here in
Chiang Mai, another poignant commemoration of the Princess’s life and works
was taking place high in the mountains surrounding the city.
The Black Muser hill tribe, although mostly unable to speak Thai, are deeply
grateful to the Thai Royal Family for allowing them to live in peace on the
land. Although their travel to Bangkok to attend the ceremonies is forbidden
by law, the local village shaman held a day-long tribal ceremony, in which
the entire village joined, to elevate the soul of the late and greatly loved
Princess to eternal peace. They are reported as being sad that they could
not go to Bangkok, but felt that they had to do something to show their love
for the Royal Family and to be part of the national mourning.
The Chiang Mai expat community, many of whom were aware of the kindness and
concern towards the poor and underprivileged shown by the Princess, joined
in the mourning at the loss of a great and generous lady, who, since her
death, has been sadly missed by all. Many of us, uncertain about the correct
mourning procedures at local Wats, preferred to stay at home and watch with
sorrow the elaborate ceremonials in Bangkok. A sad day for all, but also a
commemoration of the life of a selfless and compassionate human being.
The 3-Million Baht Baby
Proud father-to-be, Tadeng, is pictured
by the overjoyed members of the research team.
A press conference was held November 18 at the National Elephant
Conservation Centre near Lampang to announce a major achievement - the
world’s first elephant pregnancy brought about by means of artificial
insemination with the use of frozen semen, and the expected arrival of a new
“miracle baby” as a result.
The project itself began 8 years ago, motivated by a desire to reverse the
decline in elephants worldwide. At present, here in Thailand, there are only
approximately 3,000 domestic and 2,000 wild elephants remaining. The
breeding of elephants in the camps is fraught with problems of inbreeding as
usually only one bull is kept who mates with all the available females, many
of whom he is already related. It was, therefore, essential to perfect a
procedure which would introduce new genes into domestic herds, and which
would allow the transportation of semen between areas.
The project is a joint effort between the Elephant Conservation Centre‘s Dr
Sittidet Mahasavangkul, Dr. Ronnachit Rungsri of Mae Sa Elephant Camp, Dr.
Sitthawee Thongtipsiridech at Kasetsart University and Chiang Mai
University’s Dr Chatchote Thiraram, together with the involvement of
numerous other persons and organisations. After extensive trials and
research, it was eventually confirmed that elephant semen can be stored in
liquid nitrogen at -196 degrees Celsius for a length of time without
The next step in the project was to select a bull and a cow elephant to be
the prospective parents of the miracle baby. Tadeng, a 31 year old bull at
Conservation Centre and Sao, a 26 year old female from Mae Sa Camp, were
selected for the process. Sperm was taken from Tadeng in July 2007 and
frozen. In November 2007, 10 veterinarians performed an operation on Sao,
and in January this year an ultrasound confirmed that Sao was carrying a
15-week-old baby elephant.
The pregnancy of an elephant takes between 18 and 23 months, varying
dependent on whether it is a first or second calf, on the age of the
parents, and on their health. The project team, having not wanted to release
the good news until there were sure that the AI had been completely
successful, were overjoyed to be able to announce that the baby elephant is
due between August and November next year
This project has so far cost over 3 million baht, and has involved many
people in Chiang Mai province and throughout Thailand. The team will report
their amazing achievement a the World Elephant Conference in Pattaya, to be
held November 24 to 26. The Chiang Mai Mail wishes to congratulate all
involved, including, of course, Tadeng and Sao!
Chiang Mai aquarium reopens
Sophon Damnui, director of Zoological Park
takes a tour of the newly reopened Chiang Mai aquarium.
Asia’s largest aquarium, which recently opened at Chiang Mai Zoo and
was immediately closed due to faults in the filter system and ticket
machines, has now reopened after a three-week closure.
The reopening, on November 17, attracted a good number of visitors and local
residents and was presided over by the director of the zoological
organisation of Thailand, Sophon Damnui, and the president of the private
company which is in partnership with the zoo in the project, Roj Thuwanalin.
Sophon expects that the aquarium will attract at least 800,000 visitors per
year, with 17,500 tickets already reserved, and that pre-booking numbers
will be boosted by the re-opening of Royal Flora Ratchapruek.
Tour agents enjoy their visit to the newly
reopened Chiang Mai aquarium, Sunday, November 17.
Protestors demand review of new water gate plan
The protestors hold up their banners and
placards outside City Hall.
A government project that involves the building of a new water gate
to solve flooding problems in Chiang Mai city has resulted in a protest by
50 Saraphi villagers, who consider that the current Phaya Kham weir is
essential for their agricultural needs.
The protestors gathered outside City Hall on November 17 and a petition was
presented on their behalf to the Chiang Mai deputy governor, Pairoj
Saengphuwong, by their leader, Somboon Boonchu, with the request that the
matter be passed on to the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives for
reconsideration. The petition also requested reconsideration of the scheme
by the province’s dam and irrigation working group.
Somboon stated that the local agricultural lifestyle would be severely
affected, and that objections to the scheme had previously been presented
without success. He stressed that government claims that the majority were
in agreement with the plan during its presentation at the public hearing
were “untrue.” He said the hearing was not properly conducted as the views
of affected people were not considered. The only voices listened to were the
minority who were in agreement as it would not affect them, concluded
One family’s Loy Krathong goes up in smoke
Following the Loy Krathong festivities on November 12, a serious
fire broke out at approximately 2.30 a.m. in a one-storey house in Saraphi
district. The owner, Supaknang Photharam, her two sons and neighbours
attempted to douse the flames without success.
house in Saraphi district was completely gutted by the fire.
The fire was finally put out by the local fire service 30 minutes after
their arrival at the scene, but the 20-year old house, a car and 3
motorbikes, assessed at a value of 500,000 baht, were severely damaged.
Police and a forensic team believe the fire was caused by an old and unsafe
electrical appliance. Kanong Tonlek, head of the local Tambon’s
administrative organisation, promised to provide aid to the family.
results in death of smuggler
Drug dealer Prachai Kamnerdkaruna, 27, was the subject of an
extra-judicial killing by Mae Hong Son border patrol police during a
shoot-out in November 17. Two accomplices of Prachai, Amnart and
Pornthip Pornpanbuaklee, were later arrested.
Information was received by police authorities and the army in Pai that
an attempt was under way to smuggle YaBa pills from Mae Hong Son to Pai.
Police apprehended the three dealers, and ordered a body search, during
which Prachai pulled out a gun and a shoot-out began which saw Prachai
hit twice in the head and chest.
Police subsequently found 10,000 YaBa pills in a bag. Prachai’s
accomplices fled the scene but were arrested later. On questioning, they
admitted the drugs had originated from a Burmese producer and were aimed
at Pai residents and tourists. The Mae Hong Son area in which the couple
live is well known for the sale of illegal drugs.
It was reported that Prachai had been on the wanted list for drug
dealing and selling stolen motorcycles for some time, with the stolen
bikes being exchanged over the Burmese border for illegal drugs.
Residents of the dead man’s tambon, Pang Kong, which was formerly
designated as a border guard village, are mostly from the Black Lahu and
Thai Yai tribes. Many Lahu inhabitants are reported to be working on
Burmese opium farms, whilst the Thai Yai inhabitants do not. As a
result, it has been difficult to fulfil the border guard village
Doctors issue health warning to New Year’s motorists
Doctors from Maharaj Nakorn Chiang Mai Hospital have identified
well in advance the “7 dangerous days” of the 2009 New Year festivities
and are issuing last year’s death and injury statistics as a warning to
this year’s revellers.
According to the statistics, problems began on December 28, and
continued until January 3, with a nationwide death toll of 449 and an
accident total of 4,456. Drink- driving and speeding were the main
causes of accidents during the period.
Chiang Mai itself reported 948 accidents, with the highest daily number
being, not surprisingly, reported on New Year’s Eve. Some 267 of the
victims were admitted to hospital, and 12 people died from their
injuries on that day.
Again, not surprisingly, motorcyclists were the main victims, with 50%
having consumed alcohol.
The Ministry of Public Health will address the annual increase in
accidents with a campaign encouraging drivers to abide by the laws of
the road, to wear helmets, not to drink and drive, to obey the speed
limits and to drive cautiously and safely over the holiday period. It
will also advise motorists and passers-by who may wish to help accident
victims on the best ways to proceed, such as not moving victims in case
of spinal injuries, stopping bleeding if possible, and applying first
aid where necessary.
For road accident rescue, please call Wieng Ping Rescue Team on 1669 -
if an accident occurs inside Chiang Mai University’s campus or near
Maharaj Nakorn Chiang Mai Hospital, call the hospital’s accident centre
Steps taken against avian
flu virus as migrant birds arrive
As winter approaches and migrant birds begin arriving, an avian
influenza prevention and clean-up campaign has been launched in the
city, presided over by Chiang Mai Governor, Wiboon Sa-nguanpong.
The campaign is beginning in Chiang Mai’s Muang district and will
continue to other districts, promoted by district and public health
offices as well as the local administration. All concerned parties are
being urged to inform the provincial administration immediately of any
outbreak of avian influenza in their area, in order that immediate
action to eradicate the virus can be taken and the public protected
against any likelihood of infection. Daily reports from poultry farms
are also being requested.
According to the head of the Chiang Mai Provincial Livestock Office,
Weerachart Kuenrat, the province is currently clear of infection and
livestock officers are presently controlling and inspecting all incoming
and outgoing poultry shipments.
Any attempt to illegally import poultry into the province will result in
legal action and fines.
Livestock officials spray chemicals to
prevent the outbreak of the bird flu virus in a village in Saraphi
district, Chiang Mai.
Cold snap sees new thermometers installed in mountain villages
A recent and urgent request by the Governor of Mae Hong Son
province to the local meteorological office has resulted in the
installation of thermometers in remote mountainous and outlying
villages, which will be used to verify the low levels of temperature
necessary for a natural disaster area to be declared.
The winter chill, forecast to be worse than usual this year, has already
settled over the province, with areas already experiencing low or even
Previously, records were compiled using thermometers installed in city
locations and were used to calculate whether the 3-day 15 degrees
Celsius level, at which a natural disaster could be declared, had been
reached. But the outlying and mountainous areas which regularly
experience much lower temperatures were being ignored, and that resulted
in much-needed relief from the freezing conditions not being given.
Subsequently the new thermometers have now been installed and budgets of
up to 21 million baht have been allocated to serve more than 100,000
people in the province with blankets and warm clothing, demands for
which are expected to be higher this year.
However, the cooling weather is bringing one benefit to the province;
that of increased tourism with visitors arriving in larger numbers from
both the central and southern regions of the kingdom.
New Mae Hong Son border
post to facilitate teak imports
Mae Hong Son’s Provincial Chamber of Commerce has authorised the
opening of a new border pass between Burma and Thailand, following
earlier trade negotiations with the Burmese government and a visit by
the Governor of the province to a Burmese logging factory reportedly
owned by Gen. Than Shwe’s son-in-law.
According to the deputy governor of Mae Hong Son, Wanchai Suttiworachai,
the checkpoint at Ban Nam Piang had been scheduled to receive teak logs
for import supplied by the Karenni National People’s Liberation Front,
(KNPLF). However, the recent surrender of the KNPLF’s leader to the
Burmese army, with the subsequent dissolution of the organisation,
resulted in Burmese laws which prevent the export of teak under any
circumstances being reapplied.
Problems had also occurred at the Ban Huay Phueng checkpoint, with the
importation of illegally logged wood combined with unfair trading
practices and rising prices.
Construction of the new checkpoint will be expedited in order to
facilitate border trade.
Chiang Mai Bike Week’s here again
As the motorcyclists amongst you potter around Chiang Mai saving
fuel on your Honda Dreams, many of you may be dreaming of the days when
you had a “real” motorbike. At this time of year, these thoughts may be
more to the front of your minds than at any other, just as you’re
overtaken by a huge Harley Davidson. Yes, it’s Chiang Mai Big Bike Week
For 2008, the show promises to be the biggest ever, and will be held at
the Sirinart Garden Hotel on Canal Road (Route 121), on your left as you
head south. The dates are December 6 and 7, with the 6,500 square metre
exhibition area open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., jammed with displays of the
newest big bike models from Harley Davidson, Kawasaki, BMW, Yamaha,
Triumph, and KTM.
The theme for this year’s Bike Week is ‘Old School Choppers’, and
antique bikes from all over the world.
The welcome party will take place from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on December 6,
and the main party will be held the following day from 7 p.m. to
midnight; that is for those who have the stamina after indulging in one
or more of the ride tours around the Chiang Mai mountains, and even as
far away as the Golden Triangle.
The Golden Triangle run will take 2-3 days, but the organisers are
providing several shorter runs in addition. The Samoeng Loop to the west
of the city is the most popular short ride at 75 kilometres; to the
east, the Tharon Thong/Mae Kum Phong ride is 114 kilometres. The run to
Khun Tan in the south east is 150 kilometers, and for bikers who prefer
a little more comfort, the 160 kilometre southbound Mae Ya Waterfall run
is all on highways, rather than dirt tracks and mountainsides.
Funds raised from this year’s event will be donated to the Pong Yeang
village school, for kids between 3-7 years old, and to the Wat Don Chan
Orphanage, well known around the city for its work with the 500 children
For further information on this event visit the Bike Week’s website at
www. chiangmaibikeweek.com, but be warned, the site’s a lot slower than
Prague hosts 1st European exhibition of paintings by Chiang Mai elephants
Traditional Thai dancers surround
dignitaries at the TAT exhibition in Prague.
The very first exhibition of elephant paintings in Europe was held
recently in Prague, featuring paintings by 3 elephants that reside at
the Elephant Life Experience (ELE) in Maetaman Valley. The exhibition
was held as part of a Tourism Authority of Thailand presentation at the
Hilton Prague Hotel entitled “The amazing Thai night 2008”.
During the event, ELE artistic director, Cholasinth Chorsakul, who had
collaborated with the elephants on their acrylic on canvas painting
techniques, presented an elephant painting to H.E. Thanarat Thanaputti,
Thai ambassador to the Czech Republic.
Two Chiang Mai University
researchers win Japanese awards
Members of a research team at Chiang Mai University were
honoured recently by awards from the Japanese Association for Flow
Injection Analysis, (JAFIA).
Prof. Dr. Ket Krudpan, head of research for analysis tool development at
CMU’s Institute of Sciences and Technology, also a lecturer at the
university’s faculty of chemistry, was granted the JAFIA’s FIA Honor
Award for Science. He is the first Thai and second Asian researcher to
receive a JAFIA award. CMU researcher Dr. Jaroon Jakmunee, from the same
team and a lecturer at the faculty of chemistry, was presented with the
FIA Honor Award for Younger Researchers. Dr. Jaroon is the first Thai
researcher to receive this JAFIA award.
The presentation of the two awards was staged as a part of the 15th
International Conference on Flow Injection Analysis held last month in
Retirement visa concerns aired at US consulate
The U.S. Consulate General Chiang Mai was host to a fantastic
and well-attended “American Town Hall” style meeting on Saturday,
Amongst the topics discussed, one matter that drew quite a passionate
response was the issue of Americans who reside in Thailand on a
retirement visa being legally barred from doing volunteer work out in
the community - be it English teaching, community support projects or
whatever. Reportedly, engaging in such work as a volunteer violates the
terms of the retirement visa and subjects the visa-holder to having
their visa revoked. Thus many potential contributors are frustrated and
afraid to offer their various talents to the betterment of the local
community, both Thai and expat.
Democrats Abroad promised to raise this subject with the U.S. Embassy in
Bangkok and have reported back with their findings, which were stated at
the meeting as follows.
“The U.S. Embassy in Bangkok has heard this same complaint from the
Embassy wardens who live all over Thailand. In fact, at the Embassy’s
recent warden conference on Sept 26, the wardens asked a guest speaker
from Thai Immigration about this matter. The Thai Immigration official
told the wardens that if they are on a retirement visa, they should not
do any work, volunteer or otherwise.
“Given the obstacles facing American retirees who wish to do volunteer
work in Thailand, the Embassy will look for an opportunity to raise this
issue with the Foreign Ministry to see what might be done about it. We
do not anticipate a quick solution, however.”
So it seems the short answer for now is that foreign persons wishing to
do volunteer work must follow the Immigration Act and the Employment for
Foreign Workers Act by requesting a work permit and changing his/her
visa type from non-immigrant visa class O to non-immigrant visa class B.
For additional information please contact Dr. Peter J. Foley, Chair
Democrats Abroad Thailand Chiang Mai Chapter, [email protected]
US ‘Town Hall’ meeting to become annual event
A special “Town Hall” meeting was arranged recently, aimed at US
citizens living in Chiang Mai, and taking place before the start of the
fortnightly Expat’s Club gathering at the Shangri La Hotel. The US
Consul General, Michael Morrow, was joined by the consular chief, Vu Le
and the regional security officer Jessica Moore, at the “full house-
standing room only” event.
Michael Morrow explained that both his and the Consulate’s 150
employees’ main role is to ‘be there’ for US citizens in Chiang Mai.
Latest figures show that around 7,000 Americans are living in Northern
Thailand. Another important role is that of working with Thailand’s drug
enforcement agencies in countering narcotics dealing and use, although,
at present, very few shipments of illegal drugs reach the US. The
promotion of trade, investment and commerce is also essential, as is the
Consulate’s responsibility towards Burmese exiles in Northern Thailand.
Vu Le apologised for any inconvenience caused due to the renovations
being carried out at the Consulate and said that the ‘service hours’ for
American citizens have now been extended. The Consulate is now open for
ACS on Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 8.30 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. to 2
p.m. for full service, and 2 p.m. to 3.30 p.m. for limited services,
including picking up forms, benefit checks, new passports, consulate
reports of birth abroad and registration. Consular ‘report of birth
abroad’ interviews are by appointment only.
Thirty minutes of questions from the audience followed, with some
interesting points being made. The first question concerned,
unsurprisingly, visa issues and the various policies, with topics
including US citizens volunteering in Thailand. The reply, as always,
was that all work, either paid or as a volunteer should have the
relevant work permit. This topic is covered fully elsewhere in this
week’s CM Mail.
Another issue raised was ‘out of hours’ emergencies, to which Vu Le gave
the relevant number to call, 081 881 1878. Michael Morrow added that,
although the office hours for ACS are limited to Tuesdays and Thursdays,
both he and his staff are available should there be an emergency – which
has happened many times in the last year.
Questions were also asked about personal access to the Consulate,
pedestrian safety in the city, especially when crossing roads, and the
attitude of the security personnel at the Consulate towards US citizens.
The vast majority of the audience agreed that the meeting was a success,
with Michael Morrow, in his closing speech, saying that he hoped this
would become an annual event from now on.
Chinese dams: did they flood the Greater Mekong Sub-region?
At a forum held recently in Bangkok and attended by
representatives from concerned organisations including community
leaders, activists and environmentalists, it was suggested repeatedly by
delegates that the Chinese reaction to safety threats posed by the
Sichuan earthquake in May had resulted in the devastating floods in the
GMS region. Millions of tons of water were released from the Manwan,
Dachaoshan and Jinghong dams after the earthquake struck; shortly
afterwards, massive floods destroyed many thousands of homes and
agricultural land in Mekong River communities.
The forum, entitled, “Mekong Mainstream Dams: Voices across Borders,”
was a two-day affair held at Chulalongkorn University with attendees
from the six GMS nations: China, Burma, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and
A speaker from Chiang Rai accused the Chinese of being responsible for
the devastation, saying that affected areas of Northern Thailand had yet
to receive compensation for the financial loss of approx. 85 million
baht. However, a CEO from the Mekong River Commission denied that the
Chinese dams were responsible and blamed the Laotian authorities.
Also under discussion was the fragile environment bordering the Mekong
River, and of the river itself. The dams have severely affected the flow
of the river’s water, and consequently the spawning habits of many
varieties of fish. Even more dams are at present being built in China,
Laos, Thailand and Cambodia, with Laos planning to build at least 7, and
The majority of the seminar’s speakers continued to urge the GMS’s
governments to lessen their reliance on hydropower, and to have due
regard for a unique ecosystem and its inhabitants.
Chiang Mai to host seminar on climate change
As we all must by now be aware, climate change is a growing
global crisis. Already around the world changes in climate patterns are
affecting communities and here in Thailand, many of the global threats
may well have intense local effects such as intense storms like Cyclone
Nargis, long droughts or desiccated rivers due to melting Himalayan
glaciers, all of which may cause drastic changes to lifestyles and
For this reason, a group of concerned activists in Chiang Mai founded
the Northern Climate Change Network (NCCN) in August, 2008. NCCN will
hold a public seminar on climate change on December 3, at the Chiang Mai
Christian Church, located on the Mae Ping River near the Riverside
The seminar will examine the causes and potential effects of climate
change, both globally and locally. The causes have already been well
documented; the natural variations of the planet, deforestation
worldwide and the burning of fossil fuels at a rate that has raised
atmospheric carbon dioxide levels by 30% already, with a potential
doubling by 2050. The impact will be felt worldwide, with, for example,
the melting of arctic ice forecast to raise sea levels everywhere.
However, local impacts will also be felt, with changes in local rainfall
patterns significantly altering agricultural endeavours.
Most Thai people are unaware of the potential costs of climate change;
therefore, the seminar will also examine the response of the Thai
government and businesses to the crisis and also try to raise public
awareness of its nature and extent. It will also urge residents to take
action to mitigate the worst impacts of the changes, and to adapt to
those changes that cannot be avoided.
Thai Air increases flights
CMM reporter and Khajohn Boonpath
AirAsia, the leading and largest low-cost carrier in Asia, has
become the first airline in the world to abolish fuel surcharges on all
its international and domestic flights. Beginning immediately,
passengers flying with AirAsia and AirAsia X will only have to pay
fares, airport taxes and administration fees.
Meanwhile Thai Air has recently increased its Chiang Mai- Mae Hong Son
flights to 3 per day, using ATR 72 planes, to promote the approaching
tourist seasons in Mae Hong Son and the Buatong Flower festival at Mae U
Additionally, as a specific service to tourists in the Mae Hong Son
mountainous area, the local Land Transportation Office has introduced a
“Save your life by checking your car” campaign, with private sector
operators offering free car-check services.
Workshop studies the issues of migration in GMS
According to Reiko Harima, Coordinator for the Secretariat of the Mekong
Migration Network (MMN), there are at least 3 million migrants currently
living in the Greater Mekong Sub-region. She added that, “GMS is home to
more than 240 million people, however, accurate data concerning the
number of migrants in the GMS is hard to obtain as many migrants cross
borders without any official documentation or record of their journeys.”
Harima, Coordinator for the Secretariat of the Mekong Migration Network.
Harima made her remarks at the opening of a regional training course on
labour migration management in the Greater Mekong Sub-region, at Khon
Kaen’s Mekong Institute (MI) on November 10.
MI, together with the MMN, is conducting the workshop with the aim of
educating both policy-makers and implementers in government agencies
both in correct labour migration management and in cooperation with
The three-week course has been sponsored by NZAID, with the Rockefeller
Foundation providing financial assistance for curriculum development and
action, and will involve the study of all aspects of labour migration
Thailand is the major receiving country for migrants in the region,
hosting around 2-2.5 million, while Cambodia and Yunnan province in
China also host a significant number. Laos, primarily a transit country
for migrants to Thailand, is also home to a small number of immigrants
from Vietnam and China, although numbers are reportedly increasing as a
result of Chinese development projects in Laos.
Reiko stated that migrants in the sub-region cross borders to seek
better work or to find safety and refuge. Migrants constitute equal
numbers of males and females, with most being of working age, and
families will often migrate together.
The immigration status of long term residents in the host country is
often difficult to determine. A unique characteristic of cross-border
mobility in the sub-region is that ethnic groups residing along the
borders are often related to the same ethnic group on the other side of
the border. As a result, cross-border travel has long been a part of
their daily lives.
As each migrant carries a story with him or her, they also carry a
culture, a history and a collective and individual identity. Each
migrant works and contributes to both the host country and the country
Efforts to manage migration of workers in the sub-region are increasing,
bringing a new set of challenges such as creating safe migration
channels which are accepted by migrants as being the best option, and
creating multi-sectoral responses to migrants’ needs such as housing,
sanitary issues, education and healthcare.
Individual migration may be temporary, but the collective migrant flow
is constant and permanent, requiring long-term planning by relevant
authorities. The challenge is the capacity of government departments and
the need for increased cooperation between countries in the region.
Key issues on this subject have already been discussed in 2006 and 2007
by the region’s policy-makers, officials from the 6 countries involved
and researchers at a series of Mekong Institute forums. Welfare and
social issues were discussed, as well as pre-migration issues, return
and reintegration, and the needs of ethnic minority groups.
According to Sanda Thant, the Mekong Institute’s Regional Cooperation
Department Manager, “(migration) is accepted as having both benefits and
cost. Benefits include a source of foreign exchange for the country of
origin, the reduction of poverty and unemployment amongst migrant
communities and the sharing of skills. Social costs include the
possibility of people trafficking, exploitation of labour, legal status
vulnerability and multiple forms of discrimination.
“Increased connectivity in the GMS, together with globalisation of the
capitalist economy facilities the movement of people in both directions
within and outside of the region in the search for a better life,” she