areas hit by Big Freeze
Extra budget allowance requested for blankets and warm clothes
In Mae Hong Son, 4 districts have been declared disaster areas after
the mean temperature fell below 15 degrees Celsius for 3 full days and
nights. Approximately 120,000 residents are suffering from the cold, with
the local administration organizations providing blankets to only 70,000.
The governor of the province has requested a budget allocation from the Mae
Hong Son Disaster Prevention and Relief Office in order to be able to supply
the remaining 50,000 residents with blankets. Meanwhile, the governor, with
the local Red Cross, Tambon Pangmoo’s administrative organization and the
Disaster Prevention and Relief Office, presented blankets and warm clothes
to 115 households at Baan Pakha-lo.
Storm brewing over retirement visas
A report has come in from a retiree, a single man with no dependents
in Thailand, who last week, applied, as usual, to Chiang Mai Immigration for
a one year extension to his ‘retirement’ visa. The application was supported
by the required letter from the UK consulate certifying the adequacy of his
UK company pension paid in sterling to his UK bank account, and transferred
as needed to Thailand.
Immigration refused his application on the grounds that the present
unfavourable pound sterling - baht exchange rate gave an amount of less than
the required 800,000 baht. Until the recent drop in the value of sterling,
the applied exchange rate would have covered the legal requirements for an
A representation has been made to Chiang Mai Immigration, who have replied
that, although they have personal sympathy for affected retirees, they are
only allowed to calculate in Thai baht the total amount as required by Thai
immigration law. They suggest that more information may be obtained at
There has been no suggestion that the three-month deposit rule may be waived
for retirees who find that they now need to top up their capital in a Thai
bank to allow for a drop in the value of their pensions or other income.
We would advise those who are due to renew their permission to stay within
the next several months, and are basing their application on either a
pension or a combination of income and capital (whatever Western currency is
involved), that they should check and confirm that they will not be affected
by this decision. The alternative would be to revert to a Non-Immigrant ‘O’
visa, which has less stringent financial requirements, although it does
require 90 day visa runs to Mae Sai.
It seems unfortunate that at least three months notice was not given by the
Bangkok Immigration authorities in order that retirees here for the
long-term could rearrange their finances.
Please also note that new regulations recently announced require that new
applicants for ‘retirement’ visas must now show 800,000 baht or its
equivalent in capital and income for two months prior to their application.
Still no prosecution in tragic death of 54 Myanmar migrants
The tragic death of 54 illegal Myanmar migrants from suffocation in a
seafood container in Ranong province eight months ago has drawn great
attention to the plight of Myanmar job seekers, who are willing to risk
their lives in search of what they believe to be a better life. Yet eight
months on ... the prosecution of the smugglers has proven no easy task.
A Thai cemetery became the unwanted destination of those ill-fated Myanmar
migrants who died of suffocation while crammed in an unventilated seafood
container in April 2008. Although 66 survivors in the same vehicle have
become witnesses during the investigation, their smugglers have yet to be
brought to justice.
According to a report by the Department of Special Investigation or DSI,
migrant worker smuggling gangs in Ranong, just opposite the Myanmar
shoreline, are a thriving business, with about 12 Thai smuggling syndicates
working closely together. The criminal networks have become more powerful by
using violence against those who turn against them.
“As the trial went on, our witness was shot dead. The gangs used violence to
threaten the migrant workers,” said Pol Lt-Col Pongin Inthornkao, a DSI
Because of a legal loophole, 8 people accused in the April 10 suffocation
tragedy were filed only with a light charge - providing shelter for illegal
migrants and causing death to other persons by recklessness. The 66 Myanmar
survivors meanwhile were charged with illegal entry.
“A charge of recklessness causing death to a person can’t lead to the
seizure of the assets of any wrongdoer under the money laundering bill,”
said Thanu Eakchote, a lawyer of the Myanmar survivors.
Although a new law to strictly prevent human trafficking was enforced in mid
2008, law-enforcement agencies express concern it might not bring wrongdoers
to conviction as the new law can be enforced only if a forced labour case
The tragic April 2008 death of the Myanmar illegal migrants was not the
first time it’s happened. Since 2007, at least 92 Myanmar migrants have
died, while an unknown number have been smuggled into the kingdom. But
despite an uncertain fate awaiting them at their destination, it seems
unlikely to deter Myanmar migrants from fleeing poor conditions in their
homeland in search of a better life. (TNA)
Chiang Mai hosts
Big Bike Week 2008
Throngs of bikers, celebrities and some gleaming
on Chiang Mai last weekend for the famous Big Bike Week 2008.
Pottering gently around town on your little 125cc Honda last week, it was
impossible not to notice that it was Big Bike Week again in Chiang Mai. On
December 6 and 7, members of the North Comets MC Club celebrated not only
the club’s 10th anniversary, but also its 8th year of sponsorship of the Big
This year, Medhi Wattanasiriroj has taken over the presidency of the North
Comets from Nick Baur, ex-GM of the Imperial Mae Ping Hotel. For those who
may not realise this, it’s the club’s policy to promote anti-drugs,
anti-drink driving and, most importantly, the wearing of helmets.
The Sirinart Hotel was this year’s venue for the Grand Opening Party, with
its large car parking area taken over completely by displays of ‘famous
name’ glamorous bikes, and stalls selling everything you need to make your
very own (possibly a lot smaller) bike equally glamorous. Sadly, though, the
even more glamorous ladies on show with the mouth-watering silver machines
were as unattainable as most of the big bikes.
This year’s theme was ‘Old School Choppers and Antique Motorcycles,’ with
exhibitors including Harley Davidson, Yamaha, KTM and Kawasaki. The Britbike
Company Ltd. (the sole distributor of British bikes in Northern Thailand)
together with Niyom Panich, were on hand, celebrating the 1st anniversary of
the Triumph dealership on Nimmanhaemindha Road with a street party outside
On December 7, having hopefully recovered from the night of December 6, many
of the bikers went on a charity bike run around Chiang Mai. This year’s
beneficiaries are Pong Yeang Village and Wat Don Chan, a temple just outside
the city near the superhighway, which houses and educates over 500 kids.
Various other runs of varying length and terrain were arranged for the
intrepid bikers, including the 3-4 day ‘Golden Triangle’ run, around (and up
and down) the mountainous far North of the Kingdom.
One sour note was heard this year. Due to the immediate effect of the
changes in ‘visas on arrival’ at land border crossings announced just before
the start of Big Bike Week, it was reported that some bikers who had arrived
at such crossings expecting to be given 30-day permission to stay were only
issued with 15 days. This, it was said, had upset bikers’ plans for longer
term travel in and around Thailand after the end of Big Bike Week.
Our reporter could not establish how many bikers were affected, but it has
to be said that thousands of national and international visitors attend this
event, many travelling overland to Thailand on their bikes, or driving
vehicles carrying their bikes. Given the dearth of tourists here in the
North during this ‘high season,’ the numbers involved in this annual and
well publicised event, and its very nature, would it not have been possible
for the immigration authorities to have taken such travellers into account,
or at least given more notice of the changes?
Tennis star Paradorn Srichaphan and wife
Natalie, 4th & 3rd left,
showed up with the Immortals Motorcycle Club.
There were many gleaming custom bikes
on show for the motorcycle enthusiasts to enjoy.
The prettiest bikes attract the prettiest girls.
It wasn’t all about bikes: Lole, Terry, Bengt
and Gary (right) enjoy some liquid refreshment outside the Sirinart Garden
Mae Hong Son introduces new
marketing strategy for OTOP products
OTOP products on display in Mae Hong Son.
A regrading of Mae Hong Son’s ‘One Tambon, one Product’ (OTOP) items
took place on November 20, with 86 products passing the selection criteria,
most of which were clothing, food, souvenirs, beverages and herbs.
The hottest 5-star OTOP products are decorative items that imitate mythical
animals, which are manufactured in a Thai Yai village in Tha Pong Dang. The
product is made of aluminum which is lavishly engraved on its surface, and
has attracted high demand from overseas buyers.
The Mae Hong Son deputy governor, Wichian Jantararotai, remarked that, “4
and 5 star products have been successfully promoted by the government via
its website, with top-grade products being recognized by buyers worldwide.
However, 1 and 2 star OTOP products need to be improved in order to become
better known in the international marketplace.”
The province plans to promote OTOP products through exposure at well- known
tourist venues, such as walking street markets and hotels, which attract
Arson and gunfire attack
on Chiang Rai meditation centre
A statement made recently in Chiang Mai by Lt. Gen. Wanathip
Wongwaibegan, 3rd Army chief, in which he emphasised his concerns about
the threat from Northern area supporters of ex PM Thaksin Shinawatra,
precluded an attack carried out in Chiang Rai on a local meditation
centre by unidentified group of armed men. The meditation centre had
been identified as housing anti-government sympathisers, and contained a
local radio station which had been used to send out pro-PAD
Neither Phra Duangdee Thitapunyo, who oversees the centre, nor the
worshippers who were inside at the time, received injuries from the
gunfire, but a water tank was badly damaged. Witnesses reported that a
pick-up truck containing 4 men had been seen in the area before the
attack took place.
It has been suggested that the reason behind the attack might have been
the attendance at the Bangkok PAD rally of several of the centre’s
members and the broadcasting of anti-government material from the
centre’s radio station.
A previous attack had taken place December 3, during which Phra
Duangdee’s living quarters were set on fire. After the attack, Phra
Duangdee was quoted as saying, “Let them shoot and burn. We will not
Local government supporters have denied any involvement in the arson
attack, whilst a member of the meditation centre has speculated that the
water tank was damaged in this latest incident so that if another arson
attack was to take place, the resulting blaze would not be able to be
Special operation to prevent bird flu outbreak launched in 9 provinces
As neighbouring Cambodia now faces an outbreak of bird flu, Thailand’s
Livestock Development Department has launched a special operation to
prevent the reappearance of the potentially deadly virus in nine
provinces, in an attempt to restore consumer confidence.
Maj-Gen. Sanan Kajornprasart, deputy prime minister and also acting
minister of agriculture and cooperatives, said that from December 15 to
20, the department’s teams will disinfect farms in nine lower northern
provinces and instruct farm families to separate all poultry from human
habitations as a preventative measure against avian influenza.
The nine provinces considered most at risk are Sukhothai, Uthai Thani,
Phitsanulok, Uttaradit, Nakhon Sawan, Kampaeng Phet, Pichit, Phetchabun
Gen. Sanan said that the operation was an attempt to prevent the spread
of bird flu virus to other provinces.
Sukhothai and Uthai Thani will be under a special, closer watch because
there have been cases reported there in the past. Health officials
detected the H5N1 strain of bird flu in a dead fowl in Sukhothai’s Thung
Salium district in late October. Also, a number of birds were found dead
from unknown causes in Nong Chang district of Uthai Thai province in
Veterinarian Yukol Limlaemthong, acting director-general of the
livestock department, said that the department’s technical staff will
also inform rural families regarding self-preventative measures to
reduce the risk of contracting the virus. Dr. Yukol also advised
villagers in the nine at-risk provinces that cockfighting should be
avoided during this period.
When asked whether to use bird flu vaccine to control the outbreak, Dr.
Yukol said that he was not sure if the vaccine would be effective, as it
has been used in Hong Kong during the past six years, but poultry was
still recently found carrying the bird flu virus. (TNA)
Gov’t to file civil, criminal charges
The caretaker cabinet has vowed to file both civil and criminal charges
against the protesters who occupied the Government House for a period of
three months and inflicted damage to the building surrounds as well as
allegedly stealing property.
Government spokesman Natthawut Saikuea told a press conference last week
that the committee tasked with inventorying the assets of the Government
House, or personal effects stolen or missing during the occupation by
People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) protesters, had reported to the
Cabinet that about Bt25 million is needed to repair the landscaping and
gardens in front of the main building.
Several vehicles and spare tyres are still missing along with computer
note books. Many of the these computer note books are now found sold in
front of the Education Ministry, near Government House, and at Klong
Thom, a popular place among shoppers of used items, said Natthawut.
He said the protesters still had not paid more than Bt452,000 and Bt2.27
million on water and electricity bills, used during their occupation
between August 26-December 3, he said.
Natthawut said the cabinet had assigned lawyers to review courses of
action with the Attorney General’s Office and police investigators on
the possibility of filing both civil and criminal charges against the
Concerned government agencies have also been assigned by the Cabinet to
conclude damage assessments resulting from the seizure of Government
House and Bangkok’s two airports by the protesters, he said. The
information will be forwarded to the Administrative Court as well.
Airport closure a bigger blow
to Thai tourism than tsunami
In spite of the reopening of Suvarnabhumi International Airport
on December 5, here in Chiang Mai it is being reported that hotel
bookings are at an all-time low and cancellations are at an all-time
high. Occupancy rates at some luxury hotels in the city have fallen from
a high of 70% in the same period of 2007 to single figures in 2008, with
employees facing cuts in their working days as managers try to reduce
their operating costs without being forced to lay off trained staff.
Overall, the eight-day closure of Bangkok’s airports has had a bigger
impact on the hospitality sector countrywide than the tsunami. A
forecast by the Thai Hotels Association suggests that the slowdown will
continue until at least the beginning of the 3rd quarter, with small and
medium sized hotels bearing the brunt and a 30% loss in hotel jobs.
Working committees set up for new Doi Saket garbage disposal plant
Chiang Mai’s provincial administration organization
(PAO), recently announced its allocation of 465 million baht
from the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment to
set up a working committee on garbage management as part of the
administration’s pilot project on garbage segregation and
The project is under the chairmanship of the Chiang Mai deputy
governor, who stated that the main committee will be supported
by 6 sub-committees. Before the Doi Saket-based garbage disposal
facility runs its pilot operation, the public will be fully
informed about the project.
The plant will be dealing with garbage from 4 districts, Doi
Saket, San Sai, San Kampaeng and Mae On. The Chiang Mai PAO will
administer the facility, with local administration organisations
being responsible for the collection of garbage in their own
areas and its delivery to the facility.
The deputy governor explained that the main committee will be in
charge for the duration of the pilot project, and will provide
solutions to any problems which may arise, as well as evaluating
the plant’s performance and planning its administrative
structure. The project itself has been trialed in 2 phases, with
workers from local villages being trained in garbage management.
The deputy governor stated that, “Chiang Mai PAO is giving
priority to people in terms of lifestyle and economics. If the
facility produces a high income, this will have to be generated
as a fund for infrastructure improvement, adding to the PAO’s 20
million baht infrastructure improvement budget already
The environmental effects of the facility will be high on the
committee’s agenda, with experts from Chiang Mai University’s
Faculty of Engineering supervising the project along with the
Chiang Mai Shan community donates blood in dedication to His Majesty the King
Hseng Khio Fah
The Shan community in Chiang Mai, led by the Workers
Solidarity Association (WSA) donated blood at the Provincial Red
Cross Chapter on December 5, in dedication to His Majesty King
Bhumibol Adulyadej’s 81st birthday. Over 70 Shan people wearing
traditional clothes prayed for his Majesty’s health and
well-being along with a group of Thai people at Wat Ku Tao. They
then assembled at the Red Cross to donate their blood.
of the Shan community donate blood to the Chiang Mai Provincial
Red Cross on the occasion of His Majesty the King’s 81st
“We donated our blood to repay our debt of gratitude to His
Majesty for being allowed to live under his protection,” said
Sai Yawd, secretary of the WSA, continuing that, “On behalf of
the Shan people, we are cleansing the guilt we feel because some
of our people have made problems in our host country. As a
result, some Thai people may see us all as bad people. So, we
would like to show that we are also doing good things in order
to promote their sympathy and understanding.”
According to a migrant worker, the Shan people were not allowed
to donate blood in the past because they were migrants. However,
on this day the local authorities and the Red Cross’ officers
warmly welcomed the group to join the donation.
Surochai Longrak, secretary of Chiang Mai’s Red Cross Chapter,
said, “I am very happy to see people who are struggling to make
better livelihoods under the protection of His Majesty, paying
respect to him and showing their love for him. And they are also
showing that they love our country as much as we do. I really
He added that, “His Majesty and the royal family are very kind
to every race that lives in Thailand and have no discrimination
against any race.”
“I am very happy that I have been able to repay His Majesty’s
favour to us,” said a Shan worker during the donation. “We would
also like to set this as a precedent for all the Shans here in
The group later joined other Shans from different organizations
at the 81st Anniversary Commemoration of His Majesty, held from
6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Chiang Mai Provincial Office.
A successful first year
for the Giving Trust
The Giving Trust, founded in 2007 to bring awareness of
the needy to those with a desire to help, has celebrated its
first anniversary after a successful inaugural year.
Colburn, pictured outside his company’s new offices.
The trust was set up by Richard Colburn, MD of Sterling Assets
Co., Ltd. and provides online contact details and links for
local Chiang Mai charities, particularly those without an online
presence, through a dedicated website, www.thegivingtrust .org.
24 charities are at present represented free of charge,
including the Vienping Orphanage, Lanna Dogs and the Chiang Mai
The Giving Trust does not accept representation in any of its
featured good causes and neither does it accept donations on
their behalf; the website allows potential donors to contact
their chosen charity directly.
Richard, a UK qualified financial advisor and accountant and
also a regular contributor to the Bangkok Post’s financial
planning and investment columns, explained to the Chiang Mai
Mail: “I feel very fortunate to be living here so we decided to
make a very tangible commitment to Chiang Mai. We bought our
office building just off Nimmanhaemindha Road and set up ‘The
Giving Trust’ website to give something back to our host
community in Chiang Mai.”
If any reader knows of a good cause and would like to add them
to the Giving Trust’s website, please email the details to
[email protected] thegivingtrust.org.