Elephants find warmth
at jumbo camp fires
Extreme cold causes problems for mahouts and their charges
As local temperatures drop as low as 1.5 degrees Celsius in
mountainous areas such as Doi Inthanon National Park, the unusually cold
weather in the north of Thailand this year is causing problems for
agriculture and animals.
Elephants in particular are being affected, both in the wild and in elephant
camps. In the camps at Mae Rim, Mae Tang and Chiang Dao, the giant
pachyderms are eating less food as the temperature drops, and they are
reluctant to go into the water as it is very cold, resulting in mahouts
having to bring them heated water twice daily. Also, mahouts are having to
light fires at night to provide warmth for their elephant charges.
In addition, exceptionally low temperatures on higher ground are causing
frost to form in fields and rice paddies, making it difficult for the
elephants to feed.
According to Chiang Mai’s Public Health Department, the cold is also causing
problems amongst residents, with many suffering from flu and breathing
People living in mountainous areas have been advised to wear extra clothing
in bed, and, if they wish to light fires, to do so outside their homes for
safety reasons. A warning has also been issued about the dangers of drinking
excess alcohol to stay warm, as drinking heavily decreases the body
The Northern Meteorology Centre has stated that the extreme cold is being
caused by a strong high pressure system from China covering Thailand and the
Gulf of Thailand. The upper northern areas are being hit hardest, with thick
fog in places and frost on higher ground.
Troops and police destroy
local opium plantations
CTroops from the Third Army Region
destroy an opium plantation
in the Om Koi district of Chiang Mai.
A combined force of local police and volunteers have destroyed more
than 16 rai of opium plantations in Phrao district of Chiang Mai, and seized
a quantity of raw opium. Police investigations are continuing as it is
unclear who owns the planted land.
The chief of police in Phrao has stated that illegal distribution,
transportation and smuggling of narcotics is on the increase in the
district, with plants being regularly smuggled in and planted amongst other
varieties for concealment during both the harvesting and growing seasons.
Also, in a separate operation launched by the Third Army Region, troops
destroyed a poppy field in the Om-koi district areas of Chiang Mai, where
one suspect, Tisu Musor, a 33-year old hilltribe man, was arrested for
cultivating the opium producing plants.
PM feels kinship with Obama’s
“politics of hope”
and Denis D. Gray
Bangkok (AP) –prime minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva, has said
that President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus package, buttressed by his
“politics of hope,” may help Asia’s battered economies get back on track.
Noting that the current global crisis started in the United States, Abhisit
has expressed optimism that the new U.S. president could bolster the
region’s flailing markets.
Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva talks to the Associated Press during an interview
in Bangkok on Wednesday January 21, 2009. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
“The new president has handled this transition in a way that has strong
approval. That will help. And I am sure that the economic package in the
States will also help the economy (in Asia), including Thailand,” he said in
an exclusive interview with The Associated Press last week.
Abhisit has been called “Thailand’s Obama” by some commentators hopeful that
he can unify the country polarized by years of political turmoil and address
the nation’s current economic woes.
“The comparison (with Obama) would be very flattering for me,” he said. “But
I also share a number of his views and ideals and approaches. I believe in
participation of people. I believe in the politics of hope. I believe that
you should use your youthful energy to get to work to solving the country’s
Abhisit said that new, less military-focused strategies would be taken to
end the separatist Muslim insurgency in the south, which since 2004 has
taken the lives of more than 3,300 people.
“It makes no sense to be running the provinces under continuous application
of the emergency decree. At the moment, we have actually also martial law
there. We also have the new security law,” he said. “We should be aiming at
lifting these special laws.
“We cannot obviously solve this problem in a month or in a year. But we want
to see the problem substantially reduced and we are making clear progress,
setting clear directions,” he said.
Abhisit said he has asked authorities to investigate recent allegations by
Amnesty International and others of widespread use of torture by the
military in the south as well as alleged abuse by Thai authorities of
illegal migrants from Bangladesh. He pledged that any officials found guilty
will be punished in both cases.
A Bangkok-based advocacy group has alleged that the Thai navy last month
forced as many as 1,000 migrants - mostly stateless Rohingyas from
Bangladesh - back out to sea in rickety boats, where as many as 300 later
Abhisit said that the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees would be allowed
to have a role in the migrant influx but did not specify whether the agency
will be granted access to those still under Thai custody.
“Certainly we cannot allow illegal immigrants to threaten our security and
certainly we will respect the principles of human rights and we will try to
find that balance,” he said.
UK expat found murdered in Chiang Mai, house looted
A UK expat resident in Chiang Mai was found dead at his home on the
morning of January 22. His throat had been cut, and his home looted. The 54
year old victim, David Crisp, originally from Derby, UK, was well-known in
Chiang Mai as a composer and music teacher.
Police were alerted when neighbours noticed that his car had apparently been
abandoned, blocking the road at another gated community in the area.
Officers went to the victim’s house, but could get no reply. When they
gained entry, they found his body, which had sustained deep cuts to the
throat and bruises to the head.
Forensic examination showed that the killing had occurred two days before
the body was found. When questioned by police, the gated community’s
security guard said that, two days previously, he had noticed two Thai men
driving the victim’s Citroen car out through the gate, but had not checked
The murdered man was the leading light, composer and conductor for the
recently formed choral group, the Spirit House Singers. Steve Werner, owner
of the Spirit House restaurant, praised his musical talent and said that
police had spoken with all David’s friends and acquaintances.
“The police left a few hours ago’, he said. “They may already have a
suspect. Dave and I have been friends for a long time - I haven’t been able
to take it in. I just know he’s gone.”
According to reports, a young man had been staying at the house, but has
disappeared and is being sought by police.
David Crisp - an Obituary
On Friday January 16, after giving a driving lesson, I dropped in to
see David for coffee, a weekly arrangement which gave us a chance to talk
and listen to music. David was looking forward to hosting a party the next
day and with his usual generosity of spirit and he described his
arrangements including cooking and baking. We listened to some of his new
musical arrangements which he hoped to include in a future performance.
David always described himself as a composer, an arranger, a conductor and
lastly a piano player, although he also played and composed music for wind
and brass instruments. His Saturday party was successful and once again he
proved himself a generous host.
When I bade him goodbye until the next Friday, little did I realize I would
never see him again and he would suffer a violent and cruel death a few days
David was educated at Trinity College and the Royal College of Music in
London but spent his teaching career in Edinburgh where our paths crossed
occasionally. He became head of music at a community school where he passed
on his love of music and composition to generations of teenagers during his
30 years of teaching.
But his musical enthusiasm spread further into the Edinburgh community in
which he set up choirs and a symphony orchestra, both of which enjoyed
widespread support. He composed symphonic poems for them including Scottish
Fantasia for the opening of the Scottish Parliament, the Doi Suthep Symphony
in a tribute to Chiang Mai, another describing the different animals he had
kept and loved and others publicly performed. Many arrangements of
traditional music including his specialist subject, madrigals, proved
However, increasing stress in teaching and his general workload made him
seek early retirement and Edinburgh’s loss became Chiang Mai s gain. In the
city, David found peace and inspiration in his beautiful house and garden,
his cats and ducks, and in entertaining his friends frequently.
It was not long before David became involved in choral music and the Spirit
House Singers, originally a madrigal group, gained great popularity as shown
by their last Xmas concert in which David introduced new arrangements and
musical items. The members of this group learned much about music from his
arrangements and conducting. He planned for more future musical concerts and
I was fascinated to see how he used the computer technology to help him.
David was a humourous and generous man in every respect, whose sensitivity,
gentleness and caring attitude towards the needy made him a cherished
friend. He was a talented composer and arranger, looking forward to many
years in Chiang Mai and his audiences looked forward to sharing his future
He was, in the old Scottish saying, “a Lad of Parts” and I shall miss him -
as will many others in Chiang Mai, who will feel robbed of his musical
presence by a cruel fate. But David has left us memories, and a hint of a
musical future which he will never see but which his family and friends will
Anti-bird flu campaign involves poultry producers in 8 provinces
A campaign was launched recently by the Chiang Mai Provincial
Livestock Office, to ensure that consumers were protected from bird flu
during the Chinese New Year festivities.
Public relations material was circulated and a press release given out
promoting the office’s campaign to ensure that all poultry sold was
clean, safe and certified by the Livestock Department. The certification
will be marked by a coded leg band affixed to the carcass.
It was also confirmed that, at present, poultry in all 8 northern
provinces were free of bird flu. Monitoring of poultry farms and
preventative measures will continue to be carried out.
Labour minister scraps rice social security programme
After a barrage of criticism from the public and the media, Thailand’s
Minister of Labour Phaithoon Kaeothong announced last Thursday he had
scrapped a plan to offer 5kg of rice to each of 9.3 million people
insured by the government’s Social Security Fund.
The Social Security Committee had recently approved a plan to set aside
Bt1 billion to be spent on buying rice to offer to 9.3 million citizens
covered by the Fund.
Reiterating that the programme was initiated by the previous government
and was sent to the Social Security Committee six times for
consideration, Phaithoon said if the programme took effect, it would not
offer significant benefit to those who are insured as 5kg of rice costs
little more than Bt100 in the markets. Critics also questioned the
economics of running an entire programme that would cost the government
Bt1 billion, far more than the total cost of the rice.
Now, the government plans to help social security recipients whose
monthly income is less than Bt15,000 by simply distributing Bt2,000 in
cash to each individual.
Phaitoon said he had ordered the Permanent Secretary for Labour, Somchai
Choomrat, to ask the Council of State to consider whether it is legal to
give away cash to those who are insured by the state.
According to Phaithoon, the Social Security Committee plans to reduce
the cash contribution by employers and employees to the Social Security
Fund to 2.5 per cent from the current 5 per cent each party is paying
now. It will not adversely affect the Fund in future, asserted
Phaithoon, as the scheme will help business players and employees only
for this year. (TNA)
New criminal information centre to be set up
A criminal information centre is due to be opened by the Region
5 Police Bureau, in order to improve the transmission of information to
all local networked police stations.
Information available will include details of arrest warrants, car
registration numbers, ID numbers, personal histories and criminal
records, with police stations simply requesting SMS to the centre. The
required information should be able to be sent back within 5 minutes.
The service will be available to police stations nationwide.
Bahrain students visit Northern Thailand on charity trip
A charity trip by 33 students of St. Christopher’s Senior School
in Bahrain, which was cancelled earlier due to political unrest, will
now take place at the end of this month.
The trip will be the second sponsored by the school, with the first
being undertaken in order to build a cafeteria for Ban Huaymang School
for hill tribe children in Chiang Rai. The group and their teachers will
take part in community activities in Ban Tha Ton village, including the
building of a medical room for a local school.
Steve Martin, St. Christopher’s School’s assistant head teacher and the
co-ordinator of the trip, feels that the students will find it
invaluable as a learning experience, in terms of cultural differences,
stating that, “The students will work closely as a team to make a very
real difference to the lives of children less fortunate than
US high school holds
to aid Chiang Rai orphanage
Students at a high school in Troy, Michigan, recently
held a volleyball marathon which raised $7,000 for an Akha
orphanage in Chiang Rai.
The House of Light orphanage, which opened last year, was itself
built by the Akha Life Foundation, together with contributions
from a local Troy church, which also sponsors the 25 children
now in residence at the orphanage.
On behalf of the orphans, 28 teams of Oakland County high school
students took part in the marathon, with the appropriately named
‘Tropic Thunder’ team winning the championship. Before the
tournament began, the orphanage director, Pastor Akha John
Panthawit, gave a multimedia presentation featuring the orphans
to nearly 300 students from 25 schools across the county.
Ahka John described the plight of Ahka hill tribe children, who
are often sold into the Thai sex trade by their impoverished
families. “The women and children are imperilled,” he said,
“because they have little means to support themselves. A
thriving sex trade and the need for cheap labour in Bangkok
makes the disappearance of young girls and boys a frequent
occurrence. We say ‘thank you’ for the love in your hearts and
the support you give these children.”
Colin Orrin, a high school student who took part in the
tournament said, “We have a lot of money here, so it’s great to
be able to share the wealth with those that need it.”
Another student, Michael Sketch, said that, “It’s a really fun
way to help others and most would never think that it would be
that easy to help people.”
The proceeds of the tournament will enable another 25 orphans to
be housed during 2009.
British Ambassador to Thailand makes busy visit to Chiang Mai
The British Ambassador, HE Quinton
Quayle (2nd left)
at the Chiang Mai Expats Club.
Early last week, the British Ambassador to Thailand, HE
Quinton Quayle, paid a brief but very busy visit to Chiang Mai.
One of his first public ports of call was a hastily arranged
talk, given to the Chiang Mai Expats’ Club at the Shangri-La
Hotel last Monday, in which the Ambassador detailed his life in
the diplomatic service and his earlier connections with Chiang
Quayle and Jon Glendinning show the city map of Chiang Mai.
His Excellency first came to the city 30 years ago, when he came
to study Thai, staying in a house on Huey Kaew Road which, at
that time, was surrounded by paddy fields. 2 years ago, prior to
taking up his Bangkok appointment as Ambassador, he returned to
brush up on his Thai at Chiang Mai University, and found the
city greatly changed. Describing the developments which have
taken place during the last 30 years, he expressed his concern
that one of his favourite cities is moving too fast to pay any
attention to a lack of adequate city planning.
Describing his role as Ambassador, he stated that one of his
priorities is to look after the 1 million UK citizens who visit
Thailand every year, as well as the 40,000 or so Brits resident
in the kingdom. He encouraged those who had not yet registered
with the Embassy’s online service to do so, if only to ensure
that numerous enquiries from friends and families who have lost
touch with their relatives could be answered, and also stressed
that the best way to apply for a UK visitors’ visa for a friend
or Thai family member is to use the Embassy’s online visa
application service. The Embassy grants, on average, over 90% of
UK visas applied for.
Another important aspect of his job is the promotion of UK
investment and business interests in Thailand. The UK is the
largest EU investor in the kingdom; successful British-owned
businesses here include Tesco’s and Boots the Chemist, whose
presence here represents their second largest sector worldwide.
Shortly after his talk ended, Quinton Quayle was set to arrive
at The Ring on Nimmanhaeminda Soi17 as the guest of honour at
the final ‘Breathless in Chiang Mai’ party, hosted by Jon
Glendinning, the director of Chiang Mai’s British Council and UK
honorary consul in Chiang Mai, and held to mark the successful
ending of the environmental awareness project, ‘Art for the
Environment’, which had been aimed at the city’s young people.
Over 100 guests, both Thai and foreigners, were presented at the
party with exclusive maps of the city, showing a number of large
and venerable trees still growing inside the moat in the old
city. The map will also be presented to the Mayor of Chiang Mai,
in the hope that she and the Municipality will agree on
legislation to protect the trees from the effects of pollution
and from destruction or damage due to future development
Representing Parkee Hug Chiang Mai, Khun Akanee spoke on air
pollution in the city, followed by Joe from RabbitHood who
talked about the impact of both parts of the project. A
Municipality representative, Khun Sudchai explained steps that
the authorities are taking to combat the city’s pollution
problems, followed by a speech by the British Ambassador, who
reiterated much of his talk at the Shangri La earlier in the
Following the speeches, the fun part of the evening began, with
a disco which resulted in many of the partygoers dancing until
late in the evening.
The Ambassador also paid an official visit to the Mayor of
Chiang Mai, Dr. Duentemduang na Chiengmai, during which the
topics under discussion included the economic situation and the
dearth of tourists in the city.