HM the King asks new government
to make peace its priority
In this photo released by the
Royal Palace, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, standing front row, and his
cabinet members listen to HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej, left, during a
swearing-in ceremony at Chitralada Palace in Bangkok Monday, Dec. 22, 2008.
(AP Photo/Royal Palace, HO)
Bangkok (AP) - HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej on
Monday asked the new Cabinet to maintain stability and order. The revered
monarch has called on the new government to make peace its priority after
months of protests that divided the nation.
HM the King made the comments Monday at Chitralada Palace as he presided
over a swearing-in ceremony for the 36-member Cabinet led by Prime Minister
In his brief address, His Majesty the King said, “If you (ministers) perform
well, the country could maintain peace and this would be a blessing for the
country. It is what Thai people wish for.”
HM the King then went on to say that all Thais wanted to see the country to
stay in peace so that they can keep Thainess.
His comments came after months of silence about the turmoil in Thailand that
included an eight-day blockade of Bangkok’s airports earlier this month.
Abhisit was elected by Parliament last week as Thailand’s third leader in
By law, the coalition government under the ruling Democrat Party starts work
immediately after undertaking the swearing-in ceremony.
Pledging that he would strictly follow HM the King’s advice, Abhisit later
told journalists that he would try to bring unity back to the people so that
Thais and foreigners would have confidence in Thailand but the efforts could
“not be achieved without the cooperation of Thais nationwide.”
Abhisit said he and his cabinet wanted to assure everyone that the
government would work for the benefit of the people “on the condition that
people should help in building (the country).” (AP & TNA)
HRH Princess Maha Chakri
Sirindhorn awards degrees
at Khon Kaen University
The Princess is shown being greeted on her
arrival by Pol Gen Pow Sarasin, president of Khon Kaen University Council,
and Hon Prof Dr. Sumon Sakolchai, president of Khon Kaen University.
His Majesty the King graciously designated Her Royal Highness
Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn as his representative at a degree
presentation held December 22, at Khon Kaen University. The much-loved
princess awarded doctorate, master and bachelor degrees to all of this
year’s 6,928 graduates, at the Golden Jubilee Convention Hall in Khon Kaen
During the ceremony, the university council also presented an honorary PhD
in Clinical Science to Her Majesty the Queen, an honorary PhD in Information
Education to Prof Robert D Stuart, an honorary doctorate degree in Public
Administration (Local Administration) to Mr Somporn Klinpongsa, and an
honorary doctorate degree in Science (Agricultural Business) to Mr Issara
Wongkusolkitch. The Princess herself was presented with an Honorary
Doctorate Degree in Nursing.
15 Mae Hong Son
in illegal narcotics
A push to speed up the eradication of drug trafficking in Mae Hong
Son during the 90 days from November 3 to January 31 was reviewed recently
at a committee meeting headed up by the Governor of the province, Thongchai
Wongrianthong. During the period, 15 villages in Pai, Khun Yuam, Pang Mapha
and Mae Sariang districts were found to be repeatedly involved in narcotics
trafficking. Several individuals were arrested, and measures for property
seizures and further arrests are in progress.
New Year ‘Countdown’
festivities at Thapae Gate
A Lanna themed show will be held at Thapae Gate
to welcome in the New Year.
At a recent press conference, the Mayor of Chiang Mai, Dr.
Duentemduang na Chiengmai announced that a New Year ‘Countdown’ would take
place at Thapae Gate at the end of the year, and invited all ‘Kon Chiang
Mai’, both Thai and Farang, to join in the festivities.
One of the aims of the event is to encourage Chiang Mai citizens to write
down their wishes for 2009 and to bring them to Thapae Gate, ensuring that
the New Year begins in an auspicious manner. A ceremony will be held to
bless His Majesty the King, and to wish him a long life together with his
people. Entertainment at the event will include many stars.
On New Year’s Eve itself, the ‘Countdown’ at Thapae Gate will begin at 7
p.m., with music from Payap University students, followed at 8.15 by
Acapella 7 Band, with the ‘Tri Dheva N ramit’ (Dream of Angels) show
beginning at 9 05.p.m. Afterwards, mini- concerts will be presented by Auto
Barn, Zaza, Lanna and Bie the Star.
The countdown itself will start at 11.55.p.m, and at midnight everyone will
be asked to pray, in silence, for peace and harmony throughout the kingdom
in the New Year, and for the chaos of the past several months to be
forgotten. Traditional Thai dancing will take place until the event
concludes at12.30 a.m.
The Chiang Mai Mail would like to take this opportunity to wish
everyone a Happy and Prosperous New Year!
International Red Cross
delegate visits Mae Hong Son
In the mountainous areas of Mae Hong Son, many villagers are still
suffering from the fall in winter temperatures. The local Red Cross and
Disaster Prevention and Relief office are providing blankets and warm
clothing, but funds are limited and some areas a re difficult to reach.
Red Cross and Disaster Prevention and Relief office donate blankets and warm
clothing to villagers.
A visit to the area was made recently by a delegate from the International
Committee of the Red Cross, (ICRC), Lucia Prieto Rios, who stated that she
was impressed by the dedicated efforts of the mostly older members of the
local branch, and promised to solicit more support from the international
organisation. The ICRC, as an independent and non-biased organization, is
also currently working to assist refugees along the Burmese-Thai border, but
requires close cooperation with local organisations in the province in order
to accomplish its mission.
Circulating counterfeit banknotes raises unease in markets
A recent central bank statement regarding the circulation of
counterfeit 1,000 baht banknotes has led to problems with money
transactions in local markets. Somchai Setakornnukul, a senior director
with the Bank of Thailand (BoT), recently announced that from January
until end of November 2008, a total of 18,895 duds were found, which in
comparison to last year’s figure indicates an increase.
In the wake of the current economic turbulence, the news quickly caught
the public’s attention and raised concerns about either accepting forged
bills or inadvertently distributing them, thereby committing a crime.
However, according to Criminal Law, Article 240, only people who
deliberately use fake bank notes can be charged, and could face a
maximum 15 years in jail. Traders, however, are not reassured.
The published figure suggests that, on average, there are 57 duds per 1
million bank notes, making the likelihood of coming into possession of
one extremely low. However, worried ATM users are now careful when
making a withdrawal of a thousand baht or more, splitting it into as
many drafts of less than a thousand baht as necessary.
Apisak Tantivorawong, chairman of the Thai Bankers’ Association (TBA),
states that money withdrawn from ATM machines or bank counters is safe,
as banknotes are thoroughly checked before being placed in ATMs, which
should neither give out nor accept any false bills as they are equipped
with electronic verification devices. Should a user have proof of
receiving a fake bill from an ATM, the bank should exchange it for a
valid one. In all other cases, people in possession of a fake bill are
advised to file a complaint with the police.
Meantime, some market vendors have bought inspection tools to verify
bills themselves, while others simply refuse to accept 1,000 baht bills,
allegedly due to a lack of change, although merchants who reject bills
without verifying them can be penalized according to a spokesman from
the Metropolitan Police Bureau, who emphasized that banknotes were legal
tender for all private and public debts.
Despite the small risk, people are reminded to pay closer attention to
money transactions, especially during twilight when it is difficult to
properly examine bills. Due to the public’s uncertainty, Thai Prime
Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has addressed the issue, urging all
associated authorities to prioritize tackling the problem in order to
restore consumer confidence, and has demanded that printers and
distributors of counterfeit notes must be detected and brought to
Meanwhile, a report from a senior Wa official has been circulating on
and offline, stating that he promises full cooperation in detecting the
forgers, as they are operating from within his community. He states that
a previously convicted expert forger was recently released from prison.
A local police source on the Thai-Burmese border, interviewed last week
on Channel 3 TV, said that the counterfeit notes were being manufactured
by the Red Wa (a colloquial name for the United Wa State Army) and were
being sold along the border for 350 baht each. A Thai security officer
noted from a report that the fakes were entering Burma from China
through Mongla, north of Mae Sai.
Duds can easily be distinguished from genuine bank notes, if the
following is checked properly (see picture):
A) Held against light, the watermark of the King’s portrait is revealed.
B) Held against light, the translucent metallic thread becomes visible,
indicating the value of the bank note.
C) The value numerals change color when viewed from different angles
(only 500 and 1,000 baht notes).
Garlic auction scheduled
to improve prices to growers
More than two million tons of quality garlic has been scheduled
for auction in an attempt to achieve better prices for growers in Mae
Hong Son. Bids were requested to be submitted by December 23. The
auction is an approved measure by the Mae Hong Son committee for
agricultural products. The garlic, stored in warehouses and granaries,
was available for inspection by interested parties. At present, local
garlic growers in are preparing their land for nest season’s planting.
However, no price controls have been enforced by the authorities,
resulting in a fall in prices and local protests.
Human error responsible for Global House fire
Police forensic experts have reported that lack of awareness by
a welder working in the roof area of the store caused the recent total
destruction by fire of Global House, causing damage estimated at 800
million baht. The reports state that sparks from the worker’s welding
torch fell onto and ignited highly inflammable material, after which the
fire spread to the re remainder of the store. The interim report has
been submitted to Sarapee District Police, and to the store’s owner.
Further forensic investigations are continuing.
Shoplifter arrested at BTS, Kad Suan Kaew
An Australian national, Andrew Smith, 65, was arrested recently
for stealing books worth 3,200 baht from BTS in Kad Suan Kaew, when the
security alarm was triggered as he left the store. BTS staff prevented
him from leaving the complex; on being searched, he was found to have
stolen tourist guides to Cambodia, Malaysia and Singapore and two Thai
language books. He offered to pay in full, but was found to have only
500 baht in his possession.
One thousand new species found in Greater Mekong region
Cyanide millipede, huge spider among new discoveries
Report and photos WWF
Over a thousand new species have been discovered in the
Greater Mekong Region of Southeast Asia in just the last decade,
according to a new report launched by the World Wildlife Fund
for Nature (WWF).
Laotian rock rat is thought to have been extinct for more than
11 million years.
The study, titled “First Contact in the Greater Mekong”, reports
that among the 1068 species newly identified by science between
1997 and 2007 were the world’s largest huntsman spider, with a
leg span of 30 centimetres, and the startlingly hot pink
coloured cyanide-producing “dragon millipede”.
While most species were discovered in the largely unexplored
jungles and wetlands, some were first found in the most
surprising places. The Laotian rock rat, for example, thought to
be extinct 11 million years ago, was first encountered by
scientists in a local food market, while the Siamese Peninsula
pitviper was found slithering through the rafters of a
restaurant in Khao Yai National Park in Thailand.
the world’s largest spider, Heteropoda maxima has a colossal
legspan of up to 12 inches (30 centimeters) and was discovered
in a cave in northern Laos in 2001.
“This region is like what I read about as a child in the stories
of Charles Darwin,” said Dr Thomas Ziegler, Curator at the
Cologne Zoo. “It is a great feeling being in an unexplored area
and to document its biodiversity for the first time… both
enigmatic and beautiful,” he said.
The findings, highlighted in this report, include 519 plants,
279 fish, 88 frogs, 88 spiders, 46 lizards, 22 snakes, 15
mammals, 4 birds, 4 turtles, 2 salamanders and a toad. The
region comprises the six countries through which the Mekong
River flows including Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand,
Vietnam and the southern Chinese province of Yunnan. It is
estimated thousands of new invertebrate species were also
discovered during this period, further highlighting the region’s
purpurosea, or the dragon millipede is capable of shooting
cyanide to ward off predators.
“It doesn’t get any better than this,” said Stuart Chapman,
Director of WWF’s Greater Mekong Programme. “We thought
discoveries of this scale were confined to the history books.
This reaffirms the Greater Mekong’s place on the world map of
The report stresses economic development and environmental
protection must go hand-in-hand to provide for livelihoods and
alleviate poverty, and ensure the survival of the Greater
Mekong’s astonishing array of species and natural habitats.
“This poorly understood biodiversity is facing unprecedented
pressure… for scientists, this means that almost every field
survey yields new diversity, but documenting it is a race
against time,” said Raoul Bain, Biodiversity Specialist from the
American Museum of Natural History.
The report recommends what is urgently needed to protect the
biodiversity of the region is a formal, cross-border agreement
by the governments of the Greater Mekong.
“Who knows what else is out there waiting to be discovered, but
what is clear is that there is plenty more where this came
from,” said Chapman. “The scientific world is only just
realizing what people here have known for centuries.”
Chiang Mai Mayor expresses her New Years wishes for the city
The Mayor of Chiang Mai, shown being
presented with a birthday gift recently by Duenpen Chaladlam
(Boong) on behalf of the Chiang Mai Friends’ Group.
As the New Year approaches, the Mayor of Chiang Mai,
Dr. Duentemduang na Chiengmai, agreed to talk with the Chiang
Mai Mail about her experiences of 2008 and her wishes for 2009.
CMM: What do you consider were the highlights of 2008
Mayor: In the year 2008, the important priorities of the
Chiang Mai Municipality were the physical and social development
of our city. Green areas around the city moat, pocket parks,
pedestrian pathways and street crossings were all improved, and
illegal advertisement boards were banished. The city’s cultural
activities and festivals regained their good traditional Lanna
values and were revitalised as a result. Our Songkran festival
was mainly alcohol-free and the recent Loy Krathong festival was
free of dangerous fireworks
CMM: What were your biggest disappointments in 2008?
Mayor: My biggest disappointments were caused by political
conflicts involving incomplete news and facts regarding certain
situations, which caused misunderstandings amongst the Thai
CMM: In what ways do you think Chiang Mai has changed
for the better within this last 12 months?
Mayor: The improvements made to the city such as the
reducing of visually- polluting signboards, flood protection
improved by the canal and river developments, and the
environment improved by the increasing of green areas - these
are all changes for the better. I would like to express my
gratitude to Chiang Mai citizens for their participation which
led to the success of these priorities.
CMM: In what ways do you think Chiang Mai has changed
for the worse within this last 12 months?
Mayor: Chiang Mai has encountered several changes because of
uncontrollable factors. The worst was the negative effect on
tourist confidence caused by the political unrest, especially
the closure of the major international airports. Reservations
for more than 5,000 rooms were cancelled due to the postponement
of the ASEAN Summit in December. I think the tourist industry
in Chiang Mai may take a long time to recover from these events.
CMM: Looking forward to 2009 – what are your plans
and what would you like to see happen?
Mayor: As a result of our infrastructure and landscape
development plans, I hope Chiang Mai will become the most
liveable city in Thailand. Clean and clear canals and rivers,
green recreational areas and cleaner air - all these are what we
hope to see in the next year. However, all of the developments
mentioned might not succeed if we don’t have the strong
participation of Chiang Mai citizens. Thus, what I have seen at
present and hope to see progressing in the future is the public
participation of those who live in Chiang Mai city.
CMM: Are there any ‘new’ events in 2009 for residents
of Chiang Mai to look forward to?
Mayor: In the year 2009, we would like to present the
precious gifts of promotion of quality of life and improvement
of cultural heritage to Chiang Mai citizens. Chiang Mai City
History Museum and Chiang Mai City Art Hall, the latest arts and
cultural buildings and the pride of Chiang Mai residents, will
be opened and become a part of a cultural complex next to Chiang
Mai City Arts and Cultural Center. The new Municipal bus route
will serve tourists who wish to travel the ‘cultural trail’.
Chiang Mai Municipality also has an important role as an
organizer for the celebration of the 100th anniversary of Kad
Luang, which is one of the most important evidences of the
CMM: There have been reports of a severe downturn in
tourist and visitor numbers in Chiang Mai – will this have an
effect on your plans for 2009? If so, do you have plans to deal
with this slowdown?
Mayor: In order to recover from the effects of the 2008
crisis, we need to enhance the positive attitudes of tourists
and visitors toward the real political situation, by means of
better promotion of the Chiang Mai tourism industry. An
increase in media advertising and a public relations policy
regarding the city’s promotion of arts and cultural activities
are our plans for 2009. A peaceful society achieved by the
enhancement of citizens’ unity is another policy which will
reassure tourists that their stay in Chiang Mai will be peaceful
as well as enjoyable
CMM: Most of the readers of the Chiang Mai Mail are
‘foreigners’ – what would your specific New Year’s message be to
Mayor: I wish everyone living here to have the opportunity
to experience the good things of Chiang Mai, as the city has a
great deal to offer. Chiang Mai has a beautiful cultural
personality of her own. In addition, the city has been blessed
with much natural and majestic beauty. Moreover, we would very
much appreciate having readers’ ‘helping hands’ in the
development of Chiang Mai, thus making it a liveable city for
CMM: Dr. Duentemduang, thank you for sparing the time
to talk with us. On behalf of the Chiang Mai Mail and its
readers, may we wish you a very happy and successful New Year.