NEWS
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

December 10 is Constitution Day

Consulates set up help desk at CNX for stranded travellers

Chiang Rai seminar to stress advantages of doing business in Laos

New 15-day visa rule to clamp down on border runs

Skal monthly meet incorporates AGM

Cold snap results in government relief

Arrest warrants issued against protestors involved in murder

CM World Aids Day targets young people as infection rates increase

Ex-PM Somchai performs his last official function at Royal Flora Expo

Campaign looks to tackle pollution and bush fire problem

 

December 10 is Constitution Day

Wednesday, December 10 marks Constitution Day in Thailand. The holiday is celebrated annually to commemorate the advent of the Constitutional Monarchy in Thailand in 1932. Constitution Day is a public holiday and, as such, all government offices, banks and many businesses close. Shopping centres and bank currency exchange booths, however, are open. Places of entertainment are usually open without restriction.

 

Consulates set up help desk at CNX for stranded travellers

The Help Desk for foreigners was established at Chiang Mai Airport after protestors occupied the Bangkok hubs.

Andy Archer
Since the occupation by the PAD of the two Bangkok airports began two weeks ago, there has been a fully manned desk at Chiang Mai International Airport ready to assist travellers & tourists who are unable to get home as their long-haul flights are routed from Bangkok.
Gareth Phillips from the Australian Embassy in Bangkok, along with the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), the Airports Authority of Thailand (AOT), Jon Glendenning and Panita Inthasan from the British Consulate, and representatives from the Hotels Association, the bus company and the tourist police have manned the desk during CNX’s opening hours.
Recent media reports of governments chartering aircraft in order to fly stranded nationals home did not include the UK, whose officials categorically stated they were unable to help.
The Chiang Mai Mail asked the honorary British Consul, Jon Glendenning, to comment. He replied that the UK was indeed working with the airlines to ensure that the estimated 6,000 stranded UK nationals could return without further delay, and explained that the large number of UK citizens who needed assistance has been part of the problem as regards the chartering of aircraft. He added that, as the British government considered that the stranded passengers were being inconvenienced rather than placed in a dangerous situation, the need for the UK taxpayer to fund a full evacuation was not considered urgent.
Gareth Phillips, who had been at the desk since the start, explained that the first weekend had been very busy, but that things had calmed down since that point. For people whose priority was to return home, flights were available through other Asian hubs, although tickets had to be purchased by the individual. Silk Air and Air Asia had provided extra flights to Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, and Swiss Air had provided an extra daily flight to Zurich.
Passengers were advised to purchase tickets and claim the cost back on their travel insurance, although it is not clear at present whether this situation could constitute an exclusion on their policies. Overall, no passenger had to wait more than 24 hours for a flight. Gareth also pointed out that the AOT and all others concerned with the assistance provided were very well co-ordinated.


Chiang Rai seminar to stress advantages of doing business in Laos

CMM reporters
A seminar to discuss the investment and business potential of the China-Lao-Thailand trade route will be held December 22 at the River House Hotel in Chiang Rai, and organised by the Chiang Rai Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Quadrangle.
The meeting, ‘Investment Opportunity and Potentiality in the upper Mekong sub-region and Laotian northern region’, will be attended by representatives of the Chambers of Commerce from the 10 affected northern regions. Subjects under discussion will include promotion policies, assistance to be granted to Thai entrepreneurs for materials and labour, the tax advantages of business expansion and Thai policies for the operation of businesses in the Greater Mekong sub-region.
According to Pattana Sitthisombat, the president of Chiang Rai’s Chamber of Commerce, Thai entrepreneurs are lagging behind their Chinese counterparts when it comes to doing business in Laos. “Investment in Laos has good potential for Thai entrepreneurs, as northern Laos is located on the main Thailand-China trade route, is abundant in natural resources and is a good source of cheap labour,” says Pattana, “(yet) despite these obvious advantages, few Thai investors seem interested, thus leaving the opportunities to be seized by Chinese investors.”


New 15-day visa rule to clamp down on border runs

In order to limit the amount of foreigners using “back-to-back” border runs, Thai Immigration has issued a new regulation regarding the 30 days tourist exemption.
Starting with immediate effect, travellers arriving through a land-based border checkpoint without a visa obtained in the neighbouring country will only be allowed a 15-day stay. Passengers arriving via an international airport will, as usual, be given a 30-day stay, as will travellers with Malaysian passports who cross at a land border.
For 60-day stays, travellers will need to obtain the correct visa from the Thai Embassy or Consulate in each country before entering Thailand.
The police order number 778/2551 confirming the changes has been issued by the Royal Thai Police Immigration Bureau in Bangkok and the above information has been verified by Chiang Mai Immigration.


Skal monthly meet incorporates AGM

Members and guests at the Skal dinner held November 26
at the Manderin Oriental Dhara Devi.

Andy Archer
The regular monthly Skal dinner, held November 26 at the Manderin Oriental Dhara Devi, was preceded on this occasion by Skal’s Annual General Meeting. Whilst guests of members enjoyed a longer than usual cocktail hour, the members themselves assembled to elect a new board and discuss motions.
The outgoing Skal committee was returned for another year with the addition of Naphat Nutsati of Tamarind Village, who takes over as Hon. Sec. Also voted onto the committee as a supernumerary was Sarah Leelaphat. Meanwhile Mohamad Jesr was returned as vice-president and will be a great support for Madame President, Anchalee Kalmapijit.
Following the AGM, members rejoined their guests and everyone adjourned to the magnificent Sala Jum Ngern. Over 70 people enjoyed a delicious Chinese Banquet, with an extra treat being provided by local entertainers John Smith on guitar and banjo and Mark Walder, vocalist.
The next Skal dinner will be the Gala Christmas Dinner, being held at the Amari Rincome Hotel on December 18, beginning at 6 p.m. All the traditional Christmas fare will be served, with wine, entertainment and lucky prize draws. Tickets will cost 1,200 baht per person.
For further details, or to book, please contact any Skal member or visit the website at www.skalchiangmai.com.


Cold snap results in government relief

CMM reporters
During last week’s cold spell lasting several days, the Governor of Chiang Mai, Wibun Sa-nguanpong, designated all districts in the province as a temporary disaster zone, as mean temperatures had fallen below the recommended level for a period of 3 days.

Governor of Chiang Mai, Wibun Sa-nguanpong.

The announcement allowed the state fund to be accessed to provide relief for needy residents suffering from the cold.
The Northern Meteorological Centre stated that high pressure from mainland China had resulted in temperatures in Chiang Mai between November 29 and December 1 being recorded as between 11.5 and 14.6 Celsius in the early mornings, with mountainous areas being even colder.


Arrest warrants issued against protestors involved in murder

CMM Reporters
Following the murder on November 26 of Settha Jiamkitwattana, the father of the leader of Chiang Mai’s People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) group, Therdsak Settha Jiamkitwattana, police have issued 5 arrest warrants and announced that they have enough evidence to mount a prosecution.
Investigating officers have concluded that at least 10 protestors were involved in the murder, and have insisted that proceedings against the accused parties will be conducted fairly and according to the law.


CM World Aids Day targets young people as infection rates increase

CMM reporters
On World Aids Day, December 1, an event aimed at educating local young people on the prevention of HIV/Aids and the awareness of the need to practice safe sex was held at the BP Chiang Mai City Hotel.
The event was attended by 150 young people, and presided over by the Chiang Mai deputy mayor, Soonthorn Yarmsiri. Activities included a demonstration of the correct way to use a condom, and information designed to counter a general lack of awareness of the transmission patterns of the disease.
A report by Chiang Mai’s Public Health office states that there are currently 30,488 sufferers from HIV/Aids in the province, 2,085 of whom are between the ages of 15 and 24. Total deaths to date from the disease number 12,420.
Studies have shown that a lack of awareness of the disease amongst younger people coupled with a reduction in the age at which sexual activity begins has resulted in an increase in infections.


Ex-PM Somchai performs his last official function at Royal Flora Expo

Saksit Meesubkwang
Before the Constitutional Court removed him from office on December 2, the now ex-PM Somchai Wongsawat visited Chiang Mai’s Royal Flora Expo to preside over a ceremony in honour of His Majesty the King’s 81st Birthday. The ceremony marked the opening of several exhibitions scheduled to run between December 1 and 10, featuring Royal Projects, orchid farms, herbal plants, cultural performances and other activities.
During the ceremony, which also showcased a celebration of the Lord Buddha, 399 hot-air balloons were released in honour of the King, with, the same evening, a firework display being given. It is hoped that the 10-day event will promote the beauty of Thailand and its culture and traditions to visitors.


Campaign looks to tackle pollution and bush fire problem

Chiang Mai firefighters carry out a drill to demonstrate there readiness to deal with forest and bush fires during the up-coming dry season.

Saksit Meesubkwang
The deputy governor of Chiang Mai, Pirot Saengphuwong, together with concerned organisations, has scheduled a campaign to commence in 2009 with the aim of providing effective solutions for pollution and forest fires during the 4-month dry season. The campaign will be undertaken to inform residents of the negative effects on the environment and its air quality of burning, particularly of rice fields, and to seek their cooperation in banning the practice.
It is hoped that confidence amongst tourists as regards pollution issues in Chiang Mai will be bolstered by the campaign.