Nightmare at the Night Safari
A hurriedly organised protest took place recently at the Chiang Mai
Night Safari, following the publication in a Bangkok newspaper of reports
that over 300 animals have died at the attraction due to incorrect feeding
and lack of expert veterinary care. The following day, Dr Rungsrit
Kanjanavanit, a cardiologist at Chiang Mai University’s faculty of medicine
who is also the president of the Lanna Bird and Nature Conservation Club,
agreed to speak to the Chiang Mai Mail. Dr Rungsrit had been involved in the
protest and is very concerned about the reported number of deaths on the
in costume mimic some of the dead animals at the Night Safari.
When asked to clarify the situation as regards facts and figures, he stated
that, according to an internal undisclosed source and several relevant
documents, 300 animals had died in 2008, including 46 Rusa deer, 29 giant
flying squirrels, 17 Hog deer, 12 zebras and 3 cheetahs. He strongly
suggested that an independent auditing body should be set up, and that the
facility should only be allowed to continue in business if it is able to
show a significant improvement in animal welfare. He also confirmed that,
although it has been reported that 6 veterinarians are employed at the Night
Safari, none are qualified in the highly specialised care of wildlife. Dr
Rungsrit also stated that the CEO of the facility has said that he is aware
of the problems and that he is trying to correct them. At present, he has,
apparently, arranged insurance for the animals, although it has not been
specified whether this is for veterinary costs.
The Night Safari has attracted controversy and comment both locally and
worldwide since before its opening, when a plan to serve wildlife meat in
its restaurant aroused condemnation in many countries. Although the plan was
abandoned, the facility has been in the news several times since. Earlier
this year, it was reported that a baby white tiger had died, and that the
death had not been announced until a later date because of a publicity
campaign based on a ‘white tiger cub naming contest.’ When reporters tried
to verify the date of the 2 month old cub’s death, they found the facility’s
administration unsympathetic and unable to comment, possibly due to concern
about a budget approval of several hundred million baht due for
consideration by the Central Administrative Board at the beginning of
On another occasion, local animal feed suppliers demonstrated outside the
facility, claiming that they had not been paid for several months’
deliveries, and that the quality of their feed was being blamed for the
death of several elephants and other animals. The feed suppliers claimed
that it was the method of feeding which had resulted in the fatalities.
The article which provoked the demonstration noted that Preecha Ratanaporn,
the zoo’s director, had stated that the 300 animal deaths had been the
result of a chronic lack of experience amongst zoo keepers, together with
poor diet and lack of expert veterinary care. Preecha also stated that,
‘Most of the dead animals were small, and included birds, flying squirrels
and deer. We don’t think this is a big issue.’ He added that a number of the
animals had been imported from Africa and were exhausted by the journey, and
that some had eaten too much and died. As regards the lack of expertise of
his employees, Preecha stated that the zookeepers needed to learn more about
the habits and needs of imported animals.
Nikom Putta, secretary-general of the Wildlife Protection Network, has urged
the government’s environment minister to curb the expansion of zoos in the
kingdom, stating that, ‘The new minister should prevent the establishment of
new zoos, and focus on the protection of forests, which are the natural
habitat of wild animals.’ He also urged the Night Safari’s administration to
clarify the true causes of the deaths of the 300 animals.
Safety measures stepped up after nightclub fire tragedy
Fire and Rescue officials collect victims
following the night club fire in Bangkok. At least 60 people were killed
when fire broke out during New Year’s Eve celebrations. (AP Photo/Sakchai
Thailand’s Minister of Interior has ordered authorities involved to inspect
safety measures at entertainment venues in Bangkok and throughout Thailand
and outline measures to prevent possible accidents following the New Year
fire at a packed Bangkok club which killed at least 61 partygoers.
Interior minister Chavarat Charnvirakul said during his visit to
Chulalongkorn Hospital where blaze victims from the New Year’s blaze at
Santika Club were being treated, that law enforcement in fire safety and the
building code must be stepped up.
“We should learn from this tragic event and come up with measures to avoid
repeating the same mistakes. There should be random inspections on safety
measures to be conducted by Bangkok Metropolitan Administration officials,”
said the interior minister.
At press time officials said so far 11 charred bodies were still
unidentified from the Santika blaze and the death toll had risen to 61.
Thirty-five foreigners were among the nearly 250 people injured in the fire
on New Year’s Eve. According to Chulalongkorn Hospital director Adisorn
Pataradul, his hospital was treating 12 people injured in the blaze, and one
of two critically-injured patients was a Japanese national, Keiichi Wada.
Department of Information director-general Tharit Charungvat said Chinese
ambassador to Thailand, Zhang Jiuhuan, had sent a message of condolence
regarding the loss of lives and injuries in the fire. China was also to send
medical supplies worth US$500,000 for treatment of the fire victims, due to
arrive in Thailand last Saturday.
Police Maj. Gen. Jongrak Jutanont said police had interviewed witnesses and
survivors to establish the cause of the blaze, which was yet to be
“Now the initial allegation is the club operator broke the law by allowing
people under the age of 20 to enter the club,” he said.
Gen. Jongrak said a seventeen-year-old was found dead in the fire. Police
will press charges against the club’s owner, who was reportedly being
treated in a hospital. The Police Chief added the incident was not likely
arson, as the club’s insurance had expired in mid 2008. (TNA)
Chiang Mai opens combat centre
to fight pollution
Pairoj Saengphuwong, Chiang Mai deputy governor, announced recently
that a combat centre to fight pollution caused by burning during the dry
season has been set up at the Chiang Mai Disaster Prevention and Relief
Office in Muang district.
The combat centre will receive complaints about illegal burning, and will
also distribute information for the prevention of forest fires and outdoor
burning to ensure public participation in the reduction of pollution.
Organic management of garbage and the use of agricultural waste for
fertiliser will be promoted to local villagers, along with information about
the damage to health of high levels of pollution.
Pairoj stated that, ‘provincial authorities have instructed local
administration organisations to provide crushing machines in their areas to
deal with leaves and wood which would otherwise be burned. The crushed
material should then be used as fertiliser. A pilot project initiated last
year in Hang Dong, Mae Rim and Mai Taeng has proved successful.’
Editor’s note: Unfortunately, the telephone number of the combat centre was
not provided, nor has it been made clear whether English is spoken.
Masters degree graduate charged with drug dealing
Chonticha Jarnkao, a 37 year-old masters degree graduate, was
arrested December 23 at her condo in the Nakornping building on Huey Kaew
Road, on suspicion of dealing in illegal drugs.
A search by police revealed 10 ecstasy tablets, 10 bags of ketamine, 2 bags
of ‘ice’ and a pack of dried cannabis leaves. A land title deed and a bank
book showing 700,000 baht were also seized. A further search of the
accused’s house in Muang district resulted in evidence of a safe deposit box
held at Kasikorn Bank’s Thapae branch.
Chonticha has been refused bail on the grounds that, as a masters degree
graduate, she would fight the case, and her properties will be confiscated
according to the law. It is also believed that she is part of a major drugs
ring with wealthy clients. Police are continuing their investigations.
Chiang Mai youngsters arrested for stealing motorcycles
San Sai police check motorcycle serial and
numbers whilst one of the apprehended thieves looks on.
Three Chiang Mai youngsters, aged between 17 and 22, were arrested
recently by San Sai police over the theft of a large number of motorcycles
and motorcycle parts.
Local police had received complaints about thefts of motorcycles from
dormitories in Santitham and the Sunday Walking Street, which led to the
arrest of Chen and Navin, and, later, another member of the gang, Kittipong.
All admitted stealing motorcycles from the areas in which the theft were
reported to have taken place. Following the arrest, 22 motorcycles, a large
number of spares, and 3 license plates were seized.
According to a police spokesman, at least 140 motorcycles were stolen during
October, and another 87 in November. Gangs of thieves hired youngsters to
steal the machines, which were either sold in the border areas of Tak,
Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai provinces, or broken up for spare parts. Police
are continuing their investigations.
Shan woman’s injury
moves to world arena
The petition to the Supreme Administrative Court on behalf of
Nang Noom Mae Saeng, paralysed whilst working on the Shangri-La Hotel
construction site when a broken sling sent a 300 lb mould crashing down
on her, was denied earlier last month, according to the Thailand-based
Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF). The HRDF has confirmed
that it will take the campaign to gain meaningful access to work
accident and disease compensation to the international arena.
The disabled migrant worker again claimed disability compensation from
Chiang Mai’s Social Security Office (SSO) the following morning.
According to an HRDF report, the Bangkok court also supported the Chiang
Mai Administrative Court’s previous ruling that it had no power over a
circular issued by the SSO denying access to work accident compensation,
according to the HRDF’s report released this morning.
Nang Noom has the support of the HRDF and the intervention of the
National Human Rights Commission for her appeal to the Workmen’s
Compensation Fund (WCF) against the court’s decision. Somchei Homla-or,
secretary-general of HRDF, stated that, ‘Migrant workers are human
beings with flesh and blood and a life and a mind the same as Thai
people, so they deserve some level of security in their lives. They have
given benefits to our economy.’ The group’s first petition for
compensation on Nang Noom’s behalf was submitted locally last April.
Thai Army chief visits border patrols
Gen Songkitti Chakkrabarti shown during his
of the Pha Muang Task Force, stationed near the Thai-Burmese border.
Gen Songkitti Chakkrabarti, Commander in Chief of the Royal Thai
Army, recently visited soldiers of the Pha Muang Task Force stationed in
Mae Ngon, Fang district, near the Thai-Burmese border. He was presented
with a report on conditions in the area, and gave financial support to
the troops. In his speech, he urged them to patrol the area strictly for
the sake of the kingdom’s security, and to dedicate their New Year
celebrations to the guarding of the territory.
Major new Nimmanheaminda Road developments will include Cineplex
Phairoj Saengphuwong, Chiang Mai deputy
governor (3rd right) at the recent opening of the Ring Community Mall.
The first of three major new development projects by local
design and construction company Lighthouse Project Co., Ltd. was
officially opened December 30 by Phairoj Saengphuwong, Chiang Mai deputy
governor. The new ‘Ring Community Mall,’ is, as its name suggests, a
circular two storey building on Nimmanhaeminda Soi 17, containing 20
retail outlets, mainly serving food, on the first floor. The second
floor will be given over to a new art school, Artino.
Ponlakrit Sorgsakul, MD of the Lighthouse Project, told the Chiang
Mai Mail that the two further developments in the Nimmanhaeminda
area would be located on the Amari Rincome Hotel junction of the
superhighway and Huey Kaew Road. On the south-west corner, opposite the
Amari Rincome, will be an entertainment venue to be called ‘Think Park.’
On the north-west corner, diagonally opposite the hotel, the company
will build a Cine Complex which will include a cinema, a new shopping
mall and a food court. Development will being next June and will take
approximately a year to complete.
Motoring for free…well, almost
Whilst in Chiang Mai in late 2008 I heard tales of people
driving cars powered by water, which sounded unlikely and similar to an
unproven fable about running cars on water that had been around for
years. This time, though, there was more substance to the rumour, as the
substance turned out to be a motor fuel in the form of hydrogen gas
generated from water in a simple, attachable unit.
paying high prices for gas be a thing of the past?
Having heard, as part of the rumours, stories of a 60% improvement in
fuel consumption – thus my curiosity level was raised, and resulted in
my requesting a proposal to supply me with an interesting looking kit
from an internet supplier. The internet, of course, is littered with
people who enthusiastically publish their experiences in generating free
fuel with which to power their cars. Most are very amateurish and, in
some cases, positively dangerous – to the extent that any Health and
Safety officer would not recommend purchase! However, the intriguing
fact was that several could show a vehicle operating on self-generated
It soon became clear that, within the mishmash of online information,
there was a good deal more to hydrogen as a fuel source – particularly
if you could create it yourself for free. The problem was that designs
were varied in both style and performance – some so poor as not to be
worthy of consideration, but a great many that actually worked. Some
better than others, admittedly, but most did seem to work.
Plainly, what I needed was a well thought though unit which was nicely
engineered and worked as efficiently as possible.
The offer to supply me sounded professional and well thought out, except
that the design was pressurised. By this time I had learned a
pressurised system was neither essential nor desirable and could under
some conditions prove dangerous. There was an inherent risk with the
unit which I was not prepared to take.
It is important to remember that, if you want to follow this route, most
fuel cell builders and developers are amateurs. Their enthusiasm for the
project can often exceed their engineering skills and training. It is
vital that a potential buyer understands what he is buying and becomes
knowledgeable on the subject before parting with his money, particularly
as there were (or at least I could not find any) no recognised and
published results proving the benefits of hydrogen as a power source.
Eventually, and by word of mouth I finally found a nicely produced unit
which was both low pressure, with good hydrogen production, and well
engineered. I also talked to a couple of users and drove two cars using
the fuel cell. I immediately bought one and christened it Gas4Free. A
close friend, Maurice, became so excited when I told him about it that
he sent me the money to buy one for him as well! Coincidentally, both
Maurice and I would shortly be driving our motor homes from the UK down
through France to Spain on a 2-3 day journey of around 2000 kilometres.
We decided to use this journey as a fully documented and evaluated trial
of our Gas4Free units.
I own a 2004 Dethleffs 2.8 Turbo Diesel Fiat motor-home, and Maurice has
a 2.9 Turbo Diesel Mercedes. We both get 22-25 miles per gallon from
vehicles weighing about 3.5 tonnes, so a hydrogen fuel savings boost
giving better mileage would be very welcome to us both. Both of us are
very experienced motor engineers; as such we decided our testing
programme had to be honest, reliable and representative both of our
plans and of the possibilities. We also wanted to test some of the
things we had heard, which needed either confirming or disproving.
The first was that a hydrogen-powered engine would run cooler than
petrol or diesel-fuelled engines. We also wanted to see if there were
any problems or penalties involved in using hydrogen as a fuel – or,
more correctly, as a supplement which mixed with conventional diesel
fuel. Hydrogen is thought to be 40 times more powerful than petrol –
this, in theory, would give us more power.
The grey area was the issue of pre-ignition on our diesel engines. If,
as we suspected, hydrogen has a lower flashpoint than diesel fuel, would
we get ‘diesel knock’ or some other unwanted condition? This is a
question which has regularly concerned supporters of hydrogen as a fuel,
but in practice has almost never happened. I drove both a
hydrogen+diesel mix-powered diesel Toyota pickup and an Opel Astra car
with a1.6 petrol engine car, both of which gave excellent knock-free
performance. I was told the Toyota gave 40 miles to the gallon and the
There was also the question of design. Some designs create their own
problems, and, in this context, problems can be avoided if simple design
practices are followed. I saw one installation where the fuel cells were
hot to the touch, which is definitely a very unwanted condition. The
reason was simple. The fuel cells had been made too small, and were
overheating badly. A properly designed cell would be larger and cooler
to the touch. This hot little number went on to use a small radiator to
cool the gas which, of course, it didn’t do too well either, and its
addition glossed over the real problem without offering a solution.
So we will know more in February after our run to the sun in Spain,
which will be published here as soon as the results are known. Watch
this space – it’ll be very interesting!
Thailand’s Burma policies may be more proactive on human rights
During a recent series of interviews, Thailand’s Prime
Minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva, has given indications that he would
be speaking to representatives of other ASEAN nations regarding
the importance in the international community of due regard to
human rights. He considers that unless a believable stance
worldwide is taken by ASEAN member countries, the group may have
problems achieving its stated objectives, and that both the West
and Asia should unite to bring change to Burma.
Meanwhile, it has been reported that a group of armed Burmese
nationals who were arrested in Mae Sot, on the Thai-Burmese
border, are claiming that they were working under the orders of
the military Junta. Sources in the area have confirmed that, in
the past, prominent opposition leaders in exile have been
targeted for assassination by the Junta, as have leaders of
ethnic groups and human rights organisations working in the
border area. Opposition sources have also stated that armed
undercover agents have been deployed by the Burmese government
in assassination attempts.
First impressions count –
especially at bus stations
On December 30, Dr. Duentemduang na Chiengmai, Mayor of
Chiang Mai, held a joint municipal meeting and press conference
to inform media and citizens that the municipal office is taking
over control of Chang Puak Bus Station and Arcade Bus Station.
Duentemduang na Chiengmai, Mayor of Chiang Mai (right) with the
representative of the superintendent’s office of the Transport
Prior to this announcement, the two bus stations were under the
Transportation Division of the Provincial Office. The senior
adviser to the mayor explained that the bus stations, and in
particular the Arcade Bus Station, are two of the first entry
points for many visitors and tourists who come to Chiang Mai.
The aim of the municipal office is to provide greater access for
the handicapped, to ensure comfortable, clean and safe
surroundings and to beautify the stations. According to Dr.
Duentemduang, ‘First Impressions Count’ and she’s absolutely
Night Safari gives warm welcome to two new-born white tiger cubs
One of the white tiger cubs at the
Chiang Mai Night Safari.
The birth of a pair of white tiger cubs to Li Zhen, who,
with her mate Zhao Zhen, was given to the Chiang Mai Night
Safari by China, was announced recently at a press conference by
Narong Tananuwat, chairman of the Chiang Mai Chamber of
Commerce. Earlier this year, shortly after here arrival at the
Night Safari, Li Zhen had given birth to three cubs, one of
which died of malnutrition at two months old, although the death
was not announced until a later date.
The White Tiger (Panthera tigris) has a genetic condition
which nearly eliminates the original orange pigment of the fur,
although it still shows dark chocolate coloured stripes. It is
not considered to be a separate sub-species, as it is able to
breed with orange tigers. Its natural habitat is grassy or
swampy areas and forests, where it can be well camouflaged.
There are several hundred in captivity in zoos, and are rarely
found in the wild, with an estimate of around 8,000 remaining
worldwide. Pregnancy lasts for only 15 weeks, and the most
common litter size is 2. In the wild, cubs stay with their
mothers for a period of up to 3 years.
The Night Safari considers the birth of the two cubs to be a New
Year’s present for the Thai people, and hopes that it will bring
luck to the facility. The cubs will be shown to the public for
the first time in February.