Funeral rites for former Abbot held at Wat Suan Dok
Crowds pay their last respects
as flames rise from the funeral pyre
of Phra Amornweti at Wat Suan Dok on December 28.
The funeral of Phra Amornweti (Wan Khemjaree), Wat Suan Dok’s former
abbot, who died at the age of 79 after a 2 year battle with lung cancer, was
held on December 28. The funeral rites at Wat Suan Dok were led by Chiang
Mai’s senior monk, Phra Wisutthikhun, accompanied by senior and high-ranking
monks in Chiang Mai together with Phra Amornweti’s students and followers.
Phra Amornweti was born to a small family in tambon Baan Paen, in Lamphun’s
Muang district, on April 28, 1929, and spent 59 years as a member of the
Sangha. He was ordained at his local Wat Pasang Noi, and resided there
before he began his intensive studies. In 1953, he gained the por tor 5
level from Wat Phrathat Haripunchai, and in 1981, he graduated with a
master’s degree in sociology from Benaras Hindu University, India. He was
famous for his expertise in reading Lanna sermons.
capsizes in Kok River
Rescue workers on the river bank stretcher
an injured passenger from the capsized long-tail boat.
A long-tailed boat transporting a group of tourists along the Kok
River in Chiang Rai province capsized after crashing into underwater tree
stumps, resulting in 2 injuries. The boat was one of a group of 3 which had
been hired to take visitors from a village in Mae Sai district to the 5th
Chiang Rai Beautiful Flower Festival being held at Had Chiang Rai. The
injured were taken to a local hospital for treatment.
41 year old Pensri Moonil told reporters that she and a group of her friends
had planned to visit the flower festival after touring the Karen Ruammit
village and riding elephants and had hired the boats to transport them to
the festival site. She had been flung into the water when the boat capsized,
but had suffered no injury, although the group had lost digital cameras and
As a result of the accident, the local police commander is calling for more
safety measures on long-tailed boats during local festivals, including
life-jackets. He also stated that, if it was found that the owner of the
boats had been negligent, he would be prosecuted.
New Year park visitor numbers exceed control recommendations
Thai and foreign revellers flocked to Chiang Mai
province’s top tourist destinations for the New Year holiday. Popular
destinations in the area were Doi Inthanon National Park, the number one
visited site in the country, and the San Kamphaeng hot springs, where
visitors bathed and soaked in the thermal pools.
Doi Inthanon National Park was ranked ‘most visited’ during the New
Year holiday period, with visitor numbers totalling 69,319 over the 5 days,
16,627 of whom arrived on January 1. The high numbers exceeded the National
Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department’s visitor control measures
introduced last July, which allow only 3,000 visitors per day.
The ‘top ten’ national parks are Doi Inthanon, Huay Nam Dang, Doi Pha Hom
Pok, Doi Suthep-Pui, Phu Kradung, Khao Yai, Kaeng Krajarn, Erawan, the Surin
islands and the Similan islands.
The third-ranked Huay Nam Dang welcomed 60,319 visitors over the 5 day
holiday, against a daily allowance of 850; Doi Suthep-Pui accommodated
32,985 during the 5 days against the recommended 2,790 per day. Only Phu
Kradung did not reach the maximum allowance of 5,000, with just 3,000
visitors staying at the park, mainly due to the deterrent effect of the
tough walk to the park’s famous cliff.
Upai Wayupat, the department’s director general, has admitted that the
control measures were ineffective, but added, “Despite the ineffective
measures, the parks have provided measures to tackle possible problems.
Staff have been assigned duties to facilitate visitors, more camping areas
have been provided for their convenience, and the use of songthaews to
transport visitors on Doi Inthanon mountain has helped relieve the crowds.”
He did not, however, touch on the effect on the parks’ environments and
fragile ecosystems of the extremely high level of visitor numbers overall.
Former US President to help build homes for needy in Chiang Mai
Habitat for Humanity plans to build 82 homes for Thai families in need as a
present to the His Majesty the King in honor of his 82nd birthday in 2009.
The 82 homes, to be built in Chiang Mai, will be the centerpiece of the 2009
Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project.
“We plan to honor His Majesty with this important project, which will focus
on how we work with families to transform their lives and those of their
children for themselves and for their country,” said Dr. Chainarong
Monthienvichienchai, a member of Habitat’s international board of directors
and vice chancellor of St. John’s University in Bangkok.
Every year since 1984, former US president and Nobel Peace Prize laureate
Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn have donated one week of their time – and
their building skills – to Habitat.
The Carters will join thousands of volunteers in building houses and
bringing attention to the need for decent and affordable housing to
countries along the Mekong River. The event will also launch a five-year
Habitat for Humanity campaign to assist families across this part of
The site in Muang Lane sub-district of Chiang Mai will be the main location
for the 2009 Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project. The event runs from 15-20
The week-long 2009 building project will secure homes in partnership with
more than 200 families, and will initiate projects to provide tens of
thousands more homes.
Several Thai and international companies have already indicated their
support for the project. Early sponsors are set to include Thai-based G
Steel Public Co. Ltd, a leading Southeast Asian steel maker. Others
indicating their support include US based Delta Airlines, Citigroup Inc.,
The Dow Chemical Co. and Cisco Systems Inc., along with Nissan Motor Co. of
During the week, Habitat volunteers from around the world will also be
building in four other countries which border the Mekong River. Builds will
take place in rural communities in Yunnan, southwestern China; outside
Vientiane, capital of Laos; in slum areas of the Cambodian capital Phnom
Penh; and in a fishing village in northern Vietnam.
The Mekong region – defined to include Vietnam, Yunnan province in China,
Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia – has seen significant economic growth in the
past 20 years. Yet it is still home to some of the poorest families in Asia.
Nearly one third of the population of an estimated 250 million lives in
poverty, many living on less than the equivalent of one US dollar a day.
The 2009 Carter Work Project will mark the fourth time the former US
president and his wife have built with Habitat for Humanity in Asia.
Previous Carter Work Projects were held in India in 2006, in South Korea in
2001 and in The Philippines in 1999.
(Source Habitat for Humanity)
Kayan hill tribe aid road safety campaign
A road safety campaign timed to coincide with the New Year week was
launched December 30 at Mae Hong Son’s ‘Fish Cave,’ headed up by members of
the Kayan hill tribe. Thongchai Wongrianthong, Mae Hong Son governor and the
head of the province’s Land Transportation Office, presided over the opening
The province’s mountainous terrain and narrow, curved roads are known to
cause problems for visitors unused to the driving conditions, resulting in a
high level of accidents in the area. Two hours after the campaign’s opening
ceremony, two further accidents occurred in the locality, with a visitor
from Yala province being severely injured after he lost control of his
motorcycle, and two pick-up trucks colliding and slightly injuring a number
ASEAN Summit to be
held in Hua Hin
Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has announced that the
14th ASEAN Summit will be held from February 27 to March 1 in Hua Hin,
the fourth change of venue for the meeting. The southern resort, 150
kilometres from Bangkok, is the site of His Majesty the King’s summer
palace, and a stronghold of Democratic Party supporters.
PM Abihist stated that his reason for the change of venue was to avoid
possible protests by demonstrators either in Bangkok, the recently
announced site of the summit, or in the alternative venue, Chiang Mai.
Government committee will inspect entertainment venues
Thailand’s Ministry of Interior has issued stringent new measures,
including the establishment of a special committee to inspect
entertainment venues monthly, to prevent tragedies as happened in the
fire at Santika Club on New Year’s Eve.
Interior Minister Chaovarat Chanweerakul chaired a meeting last week of
agencies relevant to fire and safety procedures at entertainment venues
to lay out stringent security and prevention measures.
He said special units will inspect entertainment venues once a month and
will take legal action against offenders, including the possible
revocation of their licenses.
A special committee has been set up to head entertainment venue
inspections, with sites having an area of over 200 square metres being
required to submit certificates of building inspections having taken
place. The meeting also approved criteria for fire prevention systems
and visitor limitation.
Minister Chaovarat ordered governors of all provinces to inform the
owners of entertainment venues to take more care with the safety of
their patrons and pay particular attention to lighting, fire prevention
systems, stage performance equipment and the limitation of visitor
Random drug-screening urine tests
carried out on Mae Hong Son students
Mae Hong Son province has targeted 15,000 students in 80 schools
and colleges for random urine tests to screen suspect drug users, in an
effort to control student narcotics usage. The local Drug Combating
Centre, in cooperation with the Education Commission, recently carried
out tests at the Nawamintrachinee Vocational College as part of its
anti-drug campaign aimed at academic institutions.
Fuel shortages in Pai affect tourists over New Year
Heavy traffic in Mae Hong Son over the
holiday period led to severe fuel shortages in Pai district.
Mae Hong Son’s Pai district suffered a severe fuel shortage for
two days over the holiday period due to supplies from Chiang Mai being
held up because of traffic congestion on narrow roads in the area, and
the effect of the New Year celebrations on employees at Chiang Mai’s oil
reserve station, which was out of service. More than 50 cars were
marooned at gas stations, and benzene and gasohol were in short supply.
Global economic slowdown hits SMEs in Chiang Mai
The global economic slowdown has bitten into the revenue of SMEs
in Chiang Mai, many of whom are struggling to stay afloat due to
rapidly dwindling sources of income.
Chiang Mai’s House of Celadon is currently holding a massive
sale in an attempt to attract more buyers in order to reduce
high stock levels caused by a sharp drop in foreign customers.
The owner, Thatsanee Yaja, admitted that exports had decreased
by 80%, after export markets in the USA and Europe were hit hard
by the financial crisis, saying “I’ve never been in this
situation since I started this business twenty years ago. In the
past, we still had some opportunities in crisis but this time we
face both internal and external factors. For each 100 pieces we
used to sell, we are now selling 40.”
According to a report by the Chiang Mai Chamber of Commerce, the
city’s SMEs cover mostly the handicraft, textile and tourism
sectors. Some 200 factories and businesses, out of 30,000 in the
city, have already closed down. The rest are trying to adjust
their operations to survive.
“Laying off workers is not an option now. Companies, especially
those in the hotel and service sector, are trying to survive by
reducing overtime and working hours and days,” said Arkom
Supangpao, Chiang Mai-Lamphun SMEs Association President.
The Chiang Mai chapter of the Federation of Thai Industries
(FTI) had reported previously that SME business in the city was
valued at approximately 110 billion baht each year. For 2009,
however, it is projecting that the figure is expected to shrink
by 20 percent, as most SMEs rely on exports. Concerned business
operators have urged authorities to take the matter into account
as it could affect the overall economy of the city.
“Our businesses will survive if low interest loans with the
extended payback period of non-performing loans are provided,”
said Veerayuth Sukwattako, Chairman of the Chiang Mai FTI.