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Nightmare at the Night Safari

Safety measures stepped up after nightclub fire tragedy

Chiang Mai opens combat centre to fight pollution

Masters degree graduate charged with drug dealing

Chiang Mai youngsters arrested for stealing motorcycles

Shan woman’s injury compensation fight moves to world arena

Thai Army chief visits border patrols

Major new Nimmanheaminda Road developments will include Cineplex

Motoring for free…well, almost

Thailand’s Burma policies may be more proactive on human rights

First impressions count – especially at bus stations

Night Safari gives warm welcome to two new-born white tiger cubs

 

Nightmare at the Night Safari

CMM Reporters
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 site.

Protestors 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 August.
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 Lalit)

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 concluded.
“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

CMM Reporters
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

Saksit Meesubkwang
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 registration
numbers whilst one of the apprehended thieves looks on.

Saksit Meesubkwang
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 compensation fight moves to world arena

CMM Reporters
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 inspection visit
of the Pha Muang Task Force, stationed near the Thai-Burmese border.

Saksit Meesubkwang
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.

Andy Archer
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

Mike Scanes
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.

Could 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 hydrogen.
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 Astra 65mpg.
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

CMM Reporters
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

Michael Davies
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.

Dr. Duentemduang na Chiengmai, Mayor of Chiang Mai (right) with the representative of the superintendent’s office of the Transport Division.

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 right!


Night Safari gives warm welcome to two new-born white tiger cubs

One of the white tiger cubs at the Chiang Mai Night Safari.

CMM Reporters
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.