Vol. VII No. 52 - Tuesday
December 23 - December 29, 2008



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by Saichon Paewsoongnern


NEWS
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

‘Unlucky Landing’ at Mae Hong Son’s Father’s Day celebrations

Important archeological find by Lahu villager to be authenticated in USA

New deputy superintendent of Traffic Police talks to the Chiang Mai Mail

CMU to celebrate its 45th year in 2009

‘Too many visitors’ threaten fragile environments in Chiang Mai’s national parks

Police arrest suspect in murder of PAD leader’s father

Disgruntled ‘Red Shirts’ at Chiang Mai rally miss out on Thaksin phone-in

Bangkok protests may continue

Serious mumps outbreak at Chiang Mai University

Chiang Mai may lose out on February’s ASEAN Summit

Mae Hong Son governor promotes border trade with Burma

Chiang Mai and Lamphun business sectors discuss solutions to Thailand’s recession

Winter visitors flock to Doi Inthanon National Park

SRT increases train service for New Year’s travellers

Corn growers stop protest after satisfactory talks

 

‘Unlucky Landing’ at Mae Hong Son’s Father’s Day celebrations

Parachutist Sgt Maj Panitharn Chumkanthorn, who broke his ankle on landing, gets treatment from rescue workers.

Khajohn Boonpath,
Mae Hong Son

An accident occurred recently at a display given by 2 teams of army parachutists during Mae Hong Son’s Father’s Day celebrations, when the 7th man to jump, Sgt Maj Panitharn Chumkanthorn, slipped on landing and broke his ankle.
The injured man, from the long-distance patrol troop of the 4th Infantry Division, had made his jump, intending to land safely and softly within Mae Hong Son’s municipal stadium, but lost his footing and came into contact with a concrete footpath. He was sent to Srisangwarn Hospital for treatment.
Another accident had occurred during a practice session held a day earlier, with one parachutist’s lines becoming entangled in an overhead power line when the strong wind suddenly changed direction. The unfortunate man had to wait 20 minutes before being cut down by his team members.

 

Important archeological find by Lahu villager to be authenticated in USA

The cave cavity with the ancient human skeleton,
 tools and utensils – possibly a burial site.

Khajohn Boonpath,
Mae Hong Son

A human skeleton believed to be around 2,000-3,000 years old, was found on December 12, together with ancient utensils, inside an unnamed cave at Baan Nam Huphaser in Pangmapha district, Mae Hong Son.
A Lahu resident of the nearby village discovered the ancient remains, tools and utensils by chance, lying in a cavity 2 metres above the cave floor, whilst on a hunting trip in the Huay Nam Pong forest. He took one of the pottery utensils back with him to his home, only to find the following day that it had disappeared. On returning to the cave, he discovered the utensil, mysteriously returned to its former resting place.
Very frightened, he reported his find to his local district officer. The report led to a full inspection and investigation of the finds by local officials, medical personnel, a representative from the local cultural centre and a group of archeologists.
The condition of the human remains, the tools and the utensils is reported to be 90% complete. After examination, the archeologists are assuming that the discoveries are from the same period as the human remains and artefacts discovered in the ‘Spirit Cave’ (Phi Maen Cave) in the same district. In order to confirm the dating, it was decided to send examples to America for evaluation and testing; however, local villagers tried to stop the artefacts’ removal as they feared it would lead to bad luck. However, after negotiation by the archaeologists, this was allowed. The results are due within 3 months.


New deputy superintendent of Traffic Police talks to the Chiang Mai Mail

Saksit Meesubkwang
During an interview given to the Chiang Mai Mail by the recently promoted Pol Lt Col Doi Wongphum, deputy superintendent of Chiang Mai Traffic Police, the new deputy superintendent stated that, “This is a big agenda for me because Chiang Mai streets have a large amount of traffic and attract more tourists, especially as the New Year approaches.” Of paramount importance to Pol Ltd Col Doi will be strict law enforcement as well as control and suppression by the traffic police. This is considered to be the main key in preventing congestion and road accidents.

Pol Lt Col Doi Wongphum, deputy superintendent of Chiang Mai Traffic Police

The deputy superintendent added that, “Police officers must not ignore disobedient drivers and riders. On the other hand, if any officers are untruthful or corrupt, citizens can also report their behavior at the Chiang Mai Police’s traffic headquarters.” He continued that all police officers must treat citizens as if they were their own relatives, using polite and friendly words.
Regarding the New Year road safety campaign, more checkpoints will be set up on all main roads leading to Chiang Mai to check all passing vehicles. According to the deputy superintendent, if any public transportation vehicles are found in imperfect conditions, they will not be allowed to service passengers.


CMU to celebrate its 45th year in 2009

Saksit Meesubkwang
At a recent press conference, the president of Chiang Mai University (CMU), Prof. Dr. Pongsak Angasith, outlined plans for the celebration of CMU’s 45th year serving the educational needs of the north of Thailand.
Under the slogan, ‘The 5th decade: the University of Excellence,’ academic exhibitions, special celebrations on CMU’s establishment day, and alumni activities held throughout 2009 will all reflect the importance of CMU’s nationally and internationally respected contribution to the academic world.
Chiang Mai University was established in 1964, and was the fist university in Thailand to receive the honour of being opened by His Majesty King Bhumibol at a ceremony on January 24, 1965. Its reputation for producing graduates of fine quality with a sense of social responsibility, together with its highly rated academic activities in research and community service and its sponsorship of arts and culture, have made it the third highest ranking university in Thailand, after Thammasart and Chulalongkorn. It is also ranked amongst the top 10 universities in the ASEAN countries. The CMU president promises that in the future, CMU will continue to develop its academic services in order to produce graduates who will be both a credit to the university and a valuable asset to society in general.


‘Too many visitors’ threaten fragile environments in Chiang Mai’s national parks

CMM Reporters
Officials have admitted that recently introduced controls on the daily number of visitors to the fragile environments of Thailand’s national parks seem to have failed, putting the parks’ ecologies again at risk due to their popularity during the New Year break.
Recently, visitor numbers have far exceeded the recommended amounts, with the two Chiang Mai province’s parks being badly affected. Huay Nam Dang received up to 8,000 visitors per day, against a recommendation of 1,600, and Doi Suthep-Pui national park, with a recommended maximum capacity of 850, received over 1,000 per day. Other national parks affected are Doi Inthanon, Phu Kradung, Erawan, Khao Yai, Mu Ko Surin and Mu Ko Similan.
The regulations, which came into effect last July, not only aimed to control the number of tourists, but also required visitors who wished to book overnight accommodation within the parks to do so 60 days in advance. At present, all accommodation in of the named parks is now fully booked for the upcoming New Year period, although outdoor camping pitches are still available.


Police arrest suspect in murder of PAD leader’s father

CMM Reporters
Chiang Mai Police have recently arrested Nopparat Sangpetch, 38, a suspect in the murder of Settha Jiamkijwattana, 60, the father of the leader of the PAD faction in Chiang Mai. He has also been charged with attacking a court official at Chiang Mai International Airport earlier on the same day.
Nopparat was reported by witnesses to have been seen at the site of the murder at Raming Nives housing estate, Chiang Mai, wearing a red shirt and holding a knife. Arrest warrants for seven other protestors believed to have been involved were previously issued. Warrants have also been issued for 6 more protestors involved in the disturbance at the airport.


Disgruntled ‘Red Shirts’ at Chiang Mai rally miss out on Thaksin phone-in

Thousands of disappointed red-shirted followers gather in Chiang Mai hoping
to hear a phone-in from ex-PM Thaksin.

Peter Garwood
Ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra was to have taken part in a live phone-in on December 13 to supporters massed in a Bangkok stadium, relayed to rallies around Thailand, including here in Chiang Mai. However, there was both anger and disappointment amongst the several thousand strong crowd in Chiang Mai, when the authorities allegedly blocked transmission of his satellite phone call, made from “somewhere in a neighbouring country.” At this stage, there is no evidence that the phone-in was deliberately blocked; however, it has been reported that pressure, even from within the political groups he used to lead, was put on Thaksin to avoid further provocation.
The anger was pretty muted in the circumstances. Thailand’s democracy is stuttering, and the prospect of real freedom of expression is even more remote after tonight, according to one of the Chiang Mai organisers of the rally.
What has been very striking is the composed and orderly nature of every rally here in Chiang Mai. Some red-shirted followers present at the latest gathering expressed an articulate understanding of the issues involved.
Not a single major Thai TV network broadcast the pre-recorded speech, only showing brief clips of the 50,000 strong gathering at the Bangkok stadium. In his pre-recorded address, Thaksin suggested that Thailand was undergoing a ‘coup d’etat,’ targeting the newly formed democratic institutions, and accused the military of directly intervening in the discussions over the formation of a new government. He also berated PAD for their occupation of the main Bangkok airports, Suvarnabhumi and Don Muang, and appealed for unity.


Bangkok protests may continue

With Chiang Mai’s pro-Thaksin supporters’ presence

CMM Reporters
Following recent ugly scenes outside the parliament building, missiles were thrown at cars by red-shirted protestors who had broken through police lines in an effort to prevent voting for a new PM taking place. Several cars were damaged and 2 Democrat MPs were slightly injured.
Meanwhile, in Chiang Mai, preparations were being made by Rak Chiang Rai 51 to transport a total of 12,000 supporters to a planned mass rally in Bangkok to be held when the Abhisit-led government delivers its policy statement in parliament. Previously, in October, the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) had used similar tactics to prevent ex-PM Somchai from making his statement, with the result that violent clashes had broken out. Similar pro-Thaksin groups in Chiang Rai and Udon Thani also expressed their intention to travel to Bangkok as, according to one leader, people in the North cannot accept Abhisit as the new Prime Minister.
Abhisit’s Western educational background, including Eton College, the UK’s most famous public school, and Oxford University, where he graduated BA in philosophy, politics and economics and went on to gain a master’s degree in economics, have raised some criticism amongst the media, who see him as being ‘aloof,’ and a poorer politician as a result of his academic background. North-Eastern activists see him as being on the opposing site, and group him with the PAD and other Democrats. However, the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, a friend of Abhisit’s since schooldays, considers that he is ‘a man of intense integrity and high intellectual gifts.’


Serious mumps outbreak at Chiang Mai University

CMM Reporters
Reports are coming in of a serious outbreak of the viral disease mumps at Chiang Mai University, with a high number of infections and isolation of patients. It seems that the infection is being transmitted though the air conditioning system. Although swelling of the salivary glands is the most typical presentation, painful testicular swelling and rash may also occur. In teenage and adult males, complications such as infertility or sub-fertility may result.
Although a triple vaccine (MMR) against mumps, measles and rubella, similar to the vaccine used in the West, is freely available in Thailand, there would seem to be similar concerns to those in the West as to its safety. As a result, the take-up for the vaccine is low, leaving many young people at risk.


Chiang Mai may lose out on February’s ASEAN Summit

CMM Reporters
A tentative agreement to hold the postponed 14th ASEAN Summit between February 23 and 26 was reached by foreign ministers from the ASEAN countries at a recent meeting in Jakarta. An earlier than recently announced date for the summit was considered necessary as, by March 2009, other international agendas would take precedence. The agreement also confirmed that the summit would be held in Chiang Mai.
However, the newly elected Thai Prime Minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva, has expressed his reservations about the suitability of Chiang Mai as host for the event, saying that, “There may be many problems if the meeting is held in Chiang Mai.” It is thought that he may be referring to the staunch support for ex-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in the North and North-East.
The summit will involve the leaders and representatives of the ASEAN countries together with their dialogue partners China, South Korea, Japan and India, and will also be attended by the United Nations Secretary-General.


Mae Hong Son governor promotes border trade with Burma

Khajohn Boonpath
Mae Hong Son governor Thongchai Wongrienthong led press, government officials and local entrepreneurs on a recent visit to the border coordination unit at Ban Tham Kham to meet up with traders from Burma’s Loikaw province. The aim of the meeting was to promote border trade in the area.
According to Loikaw merchants, the most popular imports from Thailand include vegetable oil, shoes and second hand clothes. Of the two border posts available, Nampiengdin in Muang district is preferred, as the Mae Sariang border crossing is further away and involves higher transportation costs.
The head of the Loikaw’s border coordination unit confirmed that the Burmese government had given the green light for local Burmese traders to continue border trade with Thailand. However, the Thai local authorities are concerned about the prevention of human trafficking and narcotics smuggling.
The Mae Hong Son governor stated that, although benefits to traders on both sides of the border would result from the arrangement, national security needs to be strongly enforced. He is confident that the volume of goods traded will increase, and that the area will become more attractive to visitors due to its natural charm, saying that, “Border trade will remain as simple and traditional as always, and larger trade issues will be discussed following the Burmese general election in 2010.”


Chiang Mai and Lamphun business sectors discuss solutions to Thailand’s recession

Saksit Meesubkwang
A meeting between business sectors in Chiang Mai was held recently at the Green Lake Resort, with the aim of finding solutions to the dire economic situation in which Thailand finds itself, due to the sub-prime crisis and the closure of the Bangkok airports by PAD protestors. Attendees included the Chamber of Commerce, various tourism associations, representatives of hotels, exporters in the north and concerned parties. The meeting also welcomed the Japanese Consul General in Chiang Mai, in his capacity as chairman of Lamphun Industrial Estate’s association.
The economic slowdown has caused direct impacts on the country’s tourism, manufacturing and export sectors whilst political turmoil raised more concerns amongst tourists planning to enter Thailand, with 95 per cent cancellations being reported. Exports are also in trouble, with losses higher than 20 billion baht.
According to Naroung Tananuwat, the chairman of Chiang Mai Chamber of Commerce, there is an urgent need for government measures, including the establishment of specific centres for business resolution and campaigns to encourage domestic tourism and business seminars nationwide. Medium and long-term plans require the approval of the new government to hold the 14th ASEAN Summit in Chiang Mai, as are measures to promote Chiang Mai International Airport as a hub both for logistics and international aviation. In addition, during the meeting, a system of high-speed trains and preparations for emergency situations were suggested.
The Chiang Mai Provincial Administrative Organization (PAO) has allocated a budget of 10 million baht for tourism campaigns in the province in order to secure more confidence amongst tourists wishing to visit the north, and a steering committee will be established to ensure effective communication between business organisations for their mutual benefit in trade and investments.


Winter visitors flock to Doi Inthanon National Park

CMM reporters
Famous winter sites in Doi Inthanon National Park have been crowded with visitors as the cold season sets in, with temperatures on the mountain tops reaching 5 degrees Celsius, and 11 degrees Celsius lower down in the park itself.
All the overnight visitor rooms have been pre-booked until early next year. Small stoves and extra blankets for hire are in short supply as a result - although visitors have been warned not to use the stoves inside tents as the fumes may cause suffocation and death. Visitors have also been advised to wear warm clothing and drink warm water.
The famous ‘Pine Garden’ on Doi Inthanon mountain was crowded with visitors on the holiday weekend recently, and many campers visited Chiang Mai province’s Ob Luang National Park in Hot district to view the beautiful scenery along the banks of the Jaem River. National park officers are on duty at the site to ensure security and to facilitate visitors. Many more tourists are expected to visit the sites during the long weekend at the year’s end.


SRT increases train service for New Year’s travellers

An additional 18 train runs will be provided to serve more passengers during the New Year holidays, according to a senior executive of the State Railways of Thailand (SRT).
SRT Governor Yuthana Tapcharoen announced that the extra trains have been scheduled for the northern and the northeastern lines to support the normal service of 264 trains, and will be operated during the year-end holidays.
Additional outbound trains leaving Bangkok will be offered December 29 and 30, while extra inbound services will operate on January 4.
More carriages will be added to all trains to meet the passenger demand\ expected to jump around 10 per cent. Normally, about 110,000 travellers use the train services each day nationwide.
Yuthana told reporters that the number of train passengers currently has grown about 30 per cent due to free train services offered by the economic package initiated by the Samak Sundaravej administration, and traveller’s uncertainty about air traffic following the occupation of Bangkok’s two airports in early December.
Free services for third class trains under the economic package will remain in effect during the New Year holidays.
All tickets during the New Year break are fully booked. It is estimated that the demand in train services will continue rising sharply, the governor said.
SRT officials at all train stations have been ordered to step up security measures, to check closed circuit television cameras (CCTV) and to limit entrances and exits at the stations for thorough checks on passengers and visitors. Safety coordination centres have also been set up to cover every part of the country including Bangkok, Nakhon Ratchasima, Uttaradit, Chumphon and Hat Yai. (TNA)


Corn growers stop protest after satisfactory talks

Corn growers in the northern provinces of Chiang Rai and Phrae dispersed last Wednesday following a two-day road blockade in which they were demanding that the government extend time and increase quotas for their produce mortgage.
The Public Warehouse Organisation announced the closure of the government’s corn mortgage scheme last Monday, saying its quota of 500,000 tonnes was full. That prompted corn growers to block roads in several provinces in the north and the northeast.
Negotiations among local authorities, silo operators and corn growers brought about a satisfactory end to the protest, with the demonstrators agreeing to dismantle the road blocks and disperse.
Silo operators have accepted to store produce for one month without charge but farmers will have to pay 320 baht per tonne of corn to cover the cost of keeping their produce in good condition with no excess moisture. Their produce will be stored until the government launches a new mortgage scheme to help the growers. If the government has no new scheme, silo operators will buy produce at the market price.
The government’s previous guaranteed price of corn in the mortgage scheme was eight baht 50 satang, about two baht higher than the current market price. (TNA)



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